Children's book author breaks into adult literature
Nan Rossiter pens "The Gin & Chowder Club"
Updated 3:03 pm, Thursday, July 21, 2011
The writing career of Nan Rossiter, of New Milford, began humbly enough.
One day, as the professor, Alice Hall Petry, was returning students' essays, she praised Ms. Rossiter's literary talents and suggested she consider becoming an author.
It was a flattering notion politely accepted, but dismissed.
Yet on the 25th anniversary this spring of her college graduation, Ms. Rossiter celebrated the official release of her first adult novel, "The Gin & Chowder Club."
The novel is a tale of an illicit summer love affair on Cape Cod in the early 1960s and how it reverberates in a tight circle of friends.
She mailed a copy of the $15 paperback book -- a lead character in the story takes the same literature course in college that Ms. Rossiter did -- to her former professor, who now teaches at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
Ms. Rossiter, 47, has high hopes the book, that percolated in her mind for so long, will jump-start her adult novel career.
The publisher, Kensington Books in New York City, has already commissioned a second book, about a boy with autism.
"(The Gin & Chowder Club) has probably been in my head for about 10 years," said Ms. Rossiter, "but I didn't start writing it til 2005. Then the story took on a life of its own. ... It just came to life. I was just the vessel.
The book's namesake is a real club in Colebrook.
The fictional story has nothing to do with that club, but it does have its share of gin and chowder.
It is not Ms. Rossiter's first book, nor is it the only one she is releasing this year.
She is an award-winning children's author and illustrator -- between 1997 and 2002 she wrote and illustrated three children's books, including "Rugby & Rosie," about raising a Guiding Eyes dog; "Sugar on Snow," about making maple syrup in New England; and "The Way Home."
"Sugar on Snow" was recently reprinted in a paperback version.
So what was this married mother of two teenage sons doing for seven years?
Her freckled face breaks into a shy smile with that inquiry.
Beyond raising her family in their home in the northeast section of town, she was writing stories and answering rejection letters, including some for her just-published novel and a nonfiction children's book she wrote and illustrated, "The Fo'c'sle: Henry Beston's `Outermost House,' " scheduled for release in the fall.
That children's story is about a tiny seaside shack -- 16-by-20 feet -- on a Cape Cod dune near the Nauset beach light station.
Writer/naturalist Henry Beston named it "Fo'c'sle" -- which means the "forward castle" on a ship -- and where he spent a solitary year in 1928 observing wildlife in the four seasons.
The out-of-the-way place was named a national literary landmark in the late 1960s, but it no longer exists. It washed out to sea during a winter hurricane in 1978.
A soft-spoken woman with steely resolve, Ms. Rossiter refused to be discouraged by rejections of her story ideas. Buoyed by faith and belief in her storytelling, she persevered.
In 2009, she sold "The Gin & Chowder Club" to a publisher who now wants her to write a book a year. At the same time, she was writing and finishing illustrations for the children's book.
She also wrote -- along with such top authors as Fern Michaels -- for a women's Christmas anthology titled "Making Spirits Bright," which will be released in October.
Fran Keilty, the owner of Hickory Stick Bookshop in Washington, describes Ms. Rossiter as a "talented young woman" who she was glad she could introduce to members of the area literary community.
Those introductions helped connect her with an agent and publisher. One of Ms. Rossiter's recent book signings was at the book shop.
Ms. Tornow said she was captivated by a story that is a blend of what Ms. Rossiter said she loves to read: passion, betrayal, faith, friendship, triumph and tragedy, and redemption.
She jokes she is particularly delighted Ms. Rossiter has "come to the adult side."
"It's a beautiful love story," Ms. Tornow said.
For more information about Ms. Rossiter's latest children's book and other projects, visit her website at www.nanrossiter.com.
"I am so thrilled for her because she has worked so hard for this."
New Milford Public Library public services librarian