ON THE LAST DAY OF 2007, I walked away from New York City and my job as EVP/Editorial Director of Martha Stewart, a career many would describe as highly successful. But I craved different rewards: solitude, a return to the personal creativity of writing, and a closer connection to nature and my first passion, the garden I had been making on weekends for 20 years.
I moved to a rural New York State town of 300, began A Way to Garden [dot] com (called “the best garden blog” by Anne Raver of “The New York Times” and named for my prize-winning 1989 book), and wrote my dropout memoir, “And I Shall Have Some Peace There.”
After I left my fancy job, I mostly sat at the old Swedish farm table (below), staring out the window, month after month—or at least that’s how I remember it. Somehow by the summer of 2008 I had a book proposal; by that fall a book contract; and a year later a manuscript.
“Her writing is witty and elegant, proof that despite her seemingly perfect fast-lane life, she was indeed meant for more artistic pursuits,” said “People” magazine, giving the book 3.5 of 4 stars. “A moving, eloquent and joyously idiosyncratic memoir,” said “Kirkus Reviews.”
Encouraged, I kept right on writing: 1,200-plus blog posts on A Way to Garden last time I checked, and another proposal and another manuscript before long, too, for “The Backyard Parables” (publication: January 2013).
“As a passionate, hopeful and often self-delusional gardener (the only kind of gardener there is!), I loved this gorgeous book,” said Elizabeth Gilbert, author of 10-million-selling “Eat, Pray, Love,” when she read an early galley of “The Backyard Parables.” “Margaret Roach writes with intelligence, compassion, and most of all—sanity. Her work is a blessing.”
“And I Shall Have Some Peace There” was the longest piece of writing I’d ever attempted (nearly 80,000 words, about twice the length of “A Way to Garden”), which I’d named my website for, and also the most personal.
The title derives from a poem by William Butler Yeats that I have loved for many decades. It’s a story about realizing a dream I’d had for decades but always been to afraid to try for–-to live in my rural garden fulltime, and letting nature be the guide, finally.
No wonder, then, that the next 80,000 words I wrote, in “The Backyard Parables,” are about my relationship with that very garden.
Deep background: I’m the former garden editor of Newsday newspaper, and my 30-plus-year onetime career also included an editing stint at “The New York Times.” Today, I lecture and teach about what I call “horticultural how-to and woo-woo,” and help clients create websites on the WordPress platform. I also continue to stare out the window a lot, as it’s still hard to believe I am here–and not back there.–Margaret Roach
(Author photo by Erica Berger.)