Book Review – Lost Wyoming
Just before Debra Snider’s newest novel Lost Wyoming was released in September, Leadership Board Member and Secretary Tiffany Yu interviewed Debra about her career and her new book’s relevance to the Women In Parking community.
Maggie Winslow, the heroine of Lost Wyoming, is in the throes of a quarter-life crisis. Disillusioned and sick of second-guessing just about everything, Maggie is bobbing along at the edge of her life, wondering how it all got so…uninspired. When a family crisis jolts her from her malaise, Maggie is forced to take charge, to rethink the meaning and the import of the losses that inevitably accompany growing up, and to take stock of the choices and convictions that have kept her from living the life she always envisioned. Poignant, heartbreaking, and unflinchingly honest, Lost Wyoming is an ultimately uplifting tale about the puzzles we must solve for ourselves—and the joys that await once we learn to get out of our own way.
Tiffany: To start, Debra, would you give us a brief summary of your own career path?
Debra: I’d love to. I enjoyed a 21-year legal and business career in Chicago before I retired to become a writer. As a transactional lawyer, I handled corporate and securities deals with two large law firms and a real estate syndication company, and I was Executive VP, General Counsel and Chief Administrative Officer at a $20 billion publicly held commercial finance company. For the last 15 years, I’ve been an author of fiction and nonfiction and a speaker on a variety of business and career topics. In addition to Lost Wyoming, I’ve written two business books, numerous essays and articles, and the novel A Merger of Equals, which is about a couple of smart, funny 20-somethings who discover as they climb the corporate ladder that quite a few so-called truths about work, life, and love aren’t even close to true.
Tiffany: What advice would you share with female professionals, young and seasoned, who may be struggling to thrive in their career paths?
Debra: Understand that success is not success if it doesn’t make you happy. It’s your career and your life, and the only definition of success that matters is your definition. It’s a sucker bet to define success in terms of a company or a position or a salary. Focus instead on what excites you, how you want to feel every day, what makes you want to think about work while you walk the dog or take a shower, what will inspire and satisfy you. Satisfaction is an ongoing thing, a way of feeling, a pursuit—it is not a means to an end, it is the end, and it is what you should prioritize.
It’s not only okay to be who you are, it’s really the only way to build a successful and rewarding career. I call this “suiting yourself.” If you articulate what matters most to you and then recognize that companies, like people, have personalities, core values and structure, you can choose workplaces and roles where the organizational realities work for you instead of against you. You can get yourself in positions where you believe that what you’ve set out to do can be done, that you can do it, and that it will add value. These beliefs—and the behaviors and actions they drive—are the fundamentals of thriving.
Tiffany: Thank you for that. Moving to Lost Wyoming, I’m guessing from what you’ve said that your heroine Maggie is not suiting herself.
Debra: You’re absolutely right. Maggie is someone who tends to see how things fall short. She’s a glass-half-empty type, not because she’s depressed or pessimistic, but because she has an overly fixed idea of how everything should be. Because of this mental ideal against which she measures everything, she’s more likely to be bummed about what’s not right than appreciative of what is.
Tiffany: Do you think that’s a typically Millennial characteristic?
Debra: Not exclusively, no. I think a lot of people, regardless of generation, fail to see that there is no “should” where living a good and happy life is concerned. The rules are not written in advance or by other people. Nor is happiness presented or found (like some uncharted isle where it waited all along); rather, it’s something we must create and recognize for ourselves. We’re not balls of yarn being batted around by cats—we get to direct our lives as opposed to simply letting them happen to us. It’s very liberating to recognize that each of us has the freedom to make of her life what she will, but the freedom creates a personal responsibility that can feel very demanding. I’m fascinated by this conflict, in part because I think it’s at the root of a lot of the frustration and discontent felt by people in general and businesswomen in particular.
Tiffany: What are some of the other themes in Lost Wyoming?
Debra: Maggie’s parents, her sister, and her college boyfriend are important secondary characters, and the theme of how our families and the people we love shape who we are, who we aren’t, and who we have the potential to become is central to the book. It’s also a story about the losses that come along with growing up—loss of illusions, of expectations, of love, of certainty and immediacy, and over the course of the book, of a parent as well—and the impact those losses have on our identities and our lives. And it’s a story about the nature of love, both romantic and familial, both lost and found.
Tiffany: I can’t wait to read it! And I think many of our readers will feel the same.
Debra: I hope so! Thank you so much for giving me this opportunity to reach the WIP community. And kudos on WIP! Men have always known the value of camaraderie, of business friendship and mutual support, and of working to assure one another’s success. We need to do the same. Helping other women succeed is not only the right thing to do, it’s also a highly effective success strategy. I can verify that women’s affinity groups and the women I met in them over the course of my career kept me sane, focused, grounded, and both motivated and better able to succeed.
Lost Wyoming is available in paperback and/or ebook editions at BookLocker.com, Amazon, BN.com, iBooks, Kobo, and in bookstores. Paperbacks autographed by the author are available at debrasnider.com.