Maribeth Fischer is nothing if not dedicated to her craft.
A creative writing class during her sophomore year in college solidified her career path. She remembers telling her concerned father that she’d wait tables for the rest of her life if it were her only route to the writer’s life.
It hasn’t come to that, but Fischer, of Rehoboth Beach, has taken a carousel of jobs over the years to support her livelihood.
excerpt from A Season of Perfect Happiness; 2010
I’d been living in Wisconsin for three years the summer I met Erik. We met at the Y in downtown Waukesha. I noticed him because I couldn’t not notice him. He is so tall, at 6’3 tall enough that when we are standing, I have to tilt my head back to meet his eyes, which are a beautiful startling blue. Thick dark hair without any of the gray he has now; a strong athletic body. Like me, he was there at six am, as soon as the gym opened, every day during the week. He didn’t strut around as a lot of the men did, egging one another on, too loud, too aware of themselves in the mirrors, too aware of everyone else in the mirrors. Erik just paced sleepily from one machine or set of free weights to the next. We’d nod at one another in recognition, but that was it. And I liked him for this. The gym wasn’t my social life, I didn’t go there to flirt or meet potential dates or make friends. I went because I needed to, especially in the summers, when the anniversary of the accident loomed ever closer. It had been nine years the summer I met Erik, and exercise and work were the only things that kept the glacier-like depression from advancing once more across the surface of my life. Still, I did notice that Erik wasn’t wearing a wedding ring, and when we went out that first night, he confessed that he’d noticed the same thing about me.
Her latest novel, “A Season of Perfect Happiness,” is set in Wisconsin and features a protagonist from Rehoboth. (“There’s definitely some Delaware flavor to the book,” she says. “It seems only fitting, now that the actual state of Delaware, through the DDoA, is instrumental in my completion of this novel.”)
The book traces the life of a woman who drowns her daughter, serves her time and, 15 years later, tries to live her life without her past dictating her future. The challenge, Fischer says, is to make her a round, likeable character.
The seed of the story came when Fischer was sitting at a Wisconsin café with her then-12-year-old niece. They were looking through a book called “If.” They would choose a question from the book and write. One question grabbed her: If you could have a year of perfect happiness but at the end of the year would forget everything, would you do it?
Fischer began writing in response to the prompt. Soon, she found the title of the book and discovered her protagonist.
“It’s controversial,” she says. “I have had people who have said to me [in free-write sessions], ‘I hate your character. I don’t even want to read that book.'”
Child loss is familiar ground in Fischer’s work, which includes her 2001 debut novel “The Language of Goodbye” and 2007’s “The Life You Longed For.”
The grant will help her complete her third novel, a difficult undertaking during a recession that pushed Fischer to take a part-time job in a wine store, sapped available editing work and reduced the number of classes she teaches for the Rehoboth Beach Writer’s Guild, which she founded in 2005 and which has grown to nearly 100 members.
“The fellowship changes none of this,” says Fischer, 45, “but it allows me to at least buy a bit more time to finish this project—which will hopefully get published, therefore buying me a few more years to write the next thing.”
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