“First Course,” Jenn Bouchard’s debut novel, is about food – and a lot more.
Bouchard, a Bedford resident for almost eight years, teaches social studies at Needham High School.
She is looking forward to the book’s release on June 21 with a virtual launch through a Belmont Books webinar. The novel will be available in paper and electronic format from the store’s website and other online and over-the-counter sources.
Although an in-person release and signing would have been nice, Bouchard noted that “the advantage for me is I have friends and family from around the country who are now able to be part of it.”
The publisher, TouchPoint Press, describes “First Course” as “a romance novel” and offers this synopsis: “When four life-altering catastrophes hit in just one day — including the loss of her parents in a tragic plane crash – 24-year-old Janie Whitman retreats to her family’s summer house in Cape Elizabeth, Maine. Here she tries to provide stability for her older sister Alyssa and two young nieces by cooking them amazing food.”
Bouchard said she began the book almost seven years ago. “It took me about two-and-a-half years to write a first draft. I was writing mostly in the summers, and a little bit on some holidays.”
Her children, now 14 and 10, “were very young when I started this. I think it has been a great experience for them to see me work really hard and have an interest at this point in my life — and see me bounce back from rejections.”
“I have learned so much about writing and the publishing industry,” she said. “I have been working with Grub Street, the writing center in Boston. I worked with an instructor on how to move forward with my book. Through a number of workshops there, I connected with other writers and really immersed myself about the business of writing.”
Bouchard worked with a Grub Street consultant editing the first four chapters. She also turned to a personal connection, a close high school friend who teaches English in Wayland “and reads everything I write. She was very helpful.”
Then “I started sending it out in the world. I started talking to agents, to publishers, and had a lot of very close calls.” It took 10 months, but finally a publisher asked for the full manuscript. After four months I got an email offering me a contact. It just came out of left field.”
Bouchard’s father was a Navy officer, and “I think I moved eight times before college.” She went to high school in northern Virginia, and then chose Bates College in Lewiston, ME, where she spent four years – “I had never lived anywhere that long before.”
“My favorite place growing up was Washington State, and going to Maine I found a lot of similarities.” She chose Cape Elizabeth, just south of Portland, as the setting for “First Course.”
Sherman’s Book Shops along the Maine coast will be carrying “First Course,” as will C Salt Gourmet Market in Cape Elizabeth. “I have a friend in the area who is trying to work me into some events in southern Maine over the next year or so.”
After receiving a master’s degree from Tufts University, Bouchard lived in the Chicago suburbs for more than a decade before landing here, close to the geographic midpoint between Needham and her husband’s workplace in Andover. “We looked at the map and said, ‘Let’s look here,’ and we feel we really lucked out and made incredible friends. Our kids are so happy here, and I do feel Bedford is a special place
Growing up, Bouchard said, she enjoyed books like “Catcher in the Rye” and “The Outsiders.” “But as I got older I began reading books like the genre I’ve been writing in. I am a big fan of Jennifer Weiner and Emily Giffin and Elin Hilderbrand.”
Bouchard noted that “stories I have written have all taken place in locations where I have lived.” She also has been writing short fiction; next month her fourth short story will be published. They appear in various literary journals, like Bookends Review, Litbreak Magazine, Penman Review, and Little Patuxent Review.
“That has been a fun avenue; I enjoy writing short fiction,” Bouchard said. “But I really want to start drafting another novel this summer. I’ve got some really solid ideas.”
Mike Rosenberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 781-983-1763