Hi all,

What were you doing a year ago?

I was on a plane, headed to the wedding of Arielle Jacobs — a Broadway actress who was, in a month, going to star in the Between the Lines that was opening off-Broadway. There was a dull buzz about coronavirus at the time, but I distinctly remember how, in Mexico at the wedding, it all seemed very far away, and very extreme. I remember sitting with my co-librettist, Tim McDonald, on a beach with our computers and tweaking the script for our upcoming show. Just the week before, I’d done a speaking engagement in the midwest — deciding it was still safe, as long as there was Purell available. After the wedding, I flew to Aspen, where I met my husband and my son Jake — who was proposing to his beloved girlfriend Melanie and wanted us to be there. Again, this virus seemed very far away from real life.

Then we got a note slipped under the door of our hotel room: a guest had tested positive. I remember washing my hands like Lady Macbeth. Touching elevator buttons with my elbow. I remember how, on the plane home, a man coughed and my head whipped around to stare at him. This was March 11. The next morning, my husband and I went food shopping and stocked up for a lockdown. March 12, 2020 was the last time I was in a public store. 

Then I found out that of the six people sitting at my table at the wedding in Mexico — I was the only one who did not contract the virus. Some were hospitalized. Some had milder cases. When my co-librettist Tim recovered, we started talking about how we could chronicle the story of this pandemic in real time. Theatre has a long history of examining public health crises from a unique perspective — think of The Normal Heart, and Rent. We began by writing five short stories about how the pandemic affects different couples whose lives are loosely woven together. Then we invited 5 different songwriting teams to join us in turning these into musicalized vignettes. We attached five different directors to bring the pieces to life. Our show attracted the attention of some Broadway royalty, who became our cast. We mobilized a team of backstage professionals and music savants. 

It turns out that creating a musical about a pandemic during a pandemic is — well — challenging. Every time you watch something that is streamed, now, you are not seeing the added costs of safety — rapid Covid testing, Herculean feats of scheduling, thinking outside the box. We cast real-life couples that could be closer than six feet apart. We workshopped each vignette with its own stage manager and music director, so that there wasn’t cross-contamination. We worked to a piano track, knowing that the orchestrations would be filmed separately and safely and added later. And somehow, in spite of this damn pandemic which has gutted theatre, we created a new musical called Breathe - at times funny, at times painfully real, at times inspirational, and at times heartbreaking. I don’t think there is anyone who will watch Breathe and not see themselves somewhere in it. Last week, we filmed a truly beautiful concert version that is being edited. In the next couple of months I will reveal our cast and some teaser footage, as well as when and where you can stream it. I truly hope you’ll all join me.

This past year we’ve lost so much: milestones, savings, jobs, and loved ones. But as we turn the corner of an abyss of a year, I am trying to remind myself how things have changed for the better. A year ago, I was so overwhelmed and scared that I couldn’t even read; now I’ve finished a manuscript, started another, and completed a new musical. None of that compensates for what this pandemic has taken away — but it is a sign of resilience. We’ve all been knocked down in a big way, and here we are a year later — battered, bruised, still aching — but struggling to our feet.

Oh, and one last thought. Put stage managers in charge of vaccine distribution. With their skill set, we’d all be inoculated in a month.

XO
Jodi

If your life flashed before your eyes, what would you see?
Who would you see?
Is it the one who got away?
What if you had a chance to take the path you didn't take the first time?

Everything changes in a single moment for Dawn Edelstein. She's on a plane when the flight attendant makes an announcement: prepare for a crash landing. She braces herself as thoughts flash through her mind. The shocking thing is, the thoughts are not of her husband, but a man she last saw fifteen years ago: Wyatt Armstrong.

Dawn, miraculously, survives the crash, but so do all the doubts that have suddenly been raised. She has led a good life. Back in Boston, there is her husband, Brian, her beloved daughter, and her work as a death doula, where she helps ease the transition between life and death for patients in hospice.

But somewhere in Egypt is Wyatt Armstrong, who works as an archaeologist unearthing ancient burial sites, a job she once studied for, but was forced to abandon when life suddenly intervened. And now, when it seems that fate is offering her second chances, she is not as sure of the choice she once made.


Ask Jodi: Answers To Your Questions 

Q: What are you listening to?
JP: Company, the cast recording from London (2018).

Q: What are you reading?
JP: A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas.

Q: What are you watching?
JP: Promising Young Woman — PLEASE go watch this incredible movie. I am still thinking and talking about it a week after viewing.

Order your paperback copy of international #1 bestseller, A Spark of Light, which includes a Q&A with Jodi and book club discussion questions.


Jodi’s books are my escape out of reality. It's a place where I open the door, jump in and immerse myself for long periods of time. The way she tells a story is like being in the scene yourself, as if these things are your real life.

The first book of Jodi’s I read was Nineteen Minutes. I read it once, then I read it again, and again and again, like I would a new movie I can't get enough of and need to make sure I took in every last word. I related so very much to all of the characters and felt all of their emotions as if they were my own.

All the while I was buying Jodi’s whole collection, but couldn't bear to move on from this new writing style that totally engulfed every part of me, thinking that her other books couldn't possibly be half as good as this one...

How wrong I was.

Now a massive fan girl, meeting Jodi has definitely been put on top of my bucket list, to meet a woman with such talent would be an honor. I could only dream of having such storytelling skills.

Jodi, thank you for being a friend in a book I can always turn to, when no one else is around. I can't wait to see what you do in the future. Love and light.

The paperback edition includes a reading group guide plus a Q&A with author Celeste Ng!

Have You Heard…

Did The Book of Two Ways leave you wanting to know even more about ancient Egyptian civilization? Did you love how Wyatt and Dawn argued over hieroglyphs and want your own behind the scenes tour of how to read ancient Egyptian? Dr. Colleen Darnell is offering a special hour-long webinar "How Hieroglyphs Changed the World." Hosted on Zoom, this presentation will explain how the ancient Egyptians invented the hieroglyphic script, the amazing ways in which their writing system functions at the intersection of art and writing, how our own alphabet comes from hieroglyphs(!), and the afterlife of hieroglyphs, culminating in the decipherment of the script in 1822. After this romp through thousands of years, you will understand how ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs truly did change the world.
The webinar will be offered at three different days/times (all times in Eastern Time, the time in New York City):
Monday, March 1, 10 AM Eastern Time
Wednesday, March 3, 7PM Eastern Time
Saturday, March 6, 1PM Eastern Time
The webinar costs $10 to attend, and to reserve your spot, please follow these steps:
1) Send $10 to colleen@colleendarnell.com on Paypal or @vintage-egyptologist on Venmo
2) in the note box include the email where you would like me to send your Zoom invite details
3) also in the note box indicate which of the three time slots that you would like to attend
The webinar is also free to all Egyptian citizens - you can email colleen@colleendarnell.com to receive your Zoom invite.
[Photo: Dr. Colleen Darnell reading a tomb robbery papyrus for a National Geographic documentary.]

Apparel, homeware and totes are now available in my online store!

All profits go to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, The Trevor Project, and the The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee - so you can celebrate a book you love AND support some of my favorite charities at the same time!


I LOVED LOVED LOVED this book (The Book of Two Ways) Jodi Picoult! I've said that after reading all your books. I live on the seacoast of NH and saw you speak about Small Great Things at the Portsmouth Music Hall. I love all your local/global references. I sit reading with my computer next to me to look things up, it involves me even more in your writing & the story. Thank you and thanks for all you do. I hope you and your family are healthy & content.

Congratulations to Catherine, this month's free signed book winner.

Each month, one person will be chosen from my newsletter subscribers or Facebook fans as a winner of a free signed edition of my latest book.

Fiction & Race in America featuring Jodi Picoult and Nancy Johnson
Monday, March 22

The Daily Star

Varsity

PureWow
“‘My mother, she is beautiful, softened at the edges and tempered with a spine of steel. I want to grow old and be like her.' - Jodi Picoult"

Daily Mail
The Book Of Two Ways, by Jodi Picoult, looks to the past to explore the future. As a young woman, Dawn had to drop her Egyptology studies. She married, had a daughter and forged another career.

But did she leave the love of her life, British archaeologist Wyatt Armstrong, and her life's passion, in a dig house in the Egyptian desert? A personal crisis compels her to find out.”