May 17, 2012

Made It Moment: Joyce Yarrow

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 10:21 pm

Code of Thieves

Joyce Yarrow’s publisher, Elizabeth Sternberg, will always hold a special place in my heart. Libby gave me my very first inkling of a Moment when she asked to publish my short story three years ago. It was the first offer of publication I’d ever received. I didn’t cash that check–I framed it.

And when Libby approached me about featuring one of her authors, it was another moment of sorts. After all, it was that first publication that made me feel legitimate enough as a writer to start blogging. And here was another Istoria Books author about to be on my now three year old blog!

But the real point here is Joyce Yarrow, whose talent drives this blog post as much as it does her book.

Any woman–no, scratch that, any one–who has been betrayed will relate to Joyce Yarrow’s Made It Moment. How do betrayal and success go together? I’ll leave it to Joyce, whose writer’s voice reminds me of an angel warrior, to explain that. And I’ll leave it to you, dear Suspense Your Disbelief reader, to share your own thoughts about when a terrible blow precedes a whole new direction in life.

Joyce Yarrow

Made. adj. Assured of success. The year was 1965, the place New York City, where a young lady of seventeen lives with her boyfriend in an apartment with an airshaft instead of a window and discovers she loves playing with words, letting them tumble on the page and jostle each other in strange juxtapositions, the weirder the better. Having emigrated to the Lower East Side from the Southeast Bronx she speaks a smattering of Puerto Rican Spanish and knows how to stare down a potential mugger in an empty subway car. Late at night, after a long day spent repairing damaged books in the New School library, she sips Chianti from a coffee mug and edits the poems she wrote on the Houston Street bus.

Six months later she comes home to her lover’s announcement that he prefers someone else, the lease is in his name, she gets the picture. “Oh there’s a letter for you,” he remembers and she snatches it out of his betraying hands on her way out the door, leaving it unopened for a week or so while she learns to breathe again and trust the air will not murder her.

The letter says we read your Bus Poems, want to publish all eleven of them in our new magazine named after a tragic nymph. How apt. She meets the editors who are delighted with her tender age. One offers to introduce her to Alan Ginsberg. When the magazine comes out it is beautifully bound, Niobe inscribed on the cover in large green letters, her poems interspersed with photographs of graffiti-spattered walls in the city she will eventually desert as abruptly as her boyfriend dumped her. She is destined to give up poetry to write mystery novels, but for the moment, she has ‘made it.’

Joyce Yarrow was born in the SE Bronx, escaped to Manhattan as a teenager and now lives in Seattle with her husband and son. Along the way to becoming a full-time author, Joyce has worked as a screenwriter, singer-songwriter, multimedia performance artist and most recently, a member of the world music vocal ensemble, Abráce.

Joyce is a Pushcart nominee, whose stories and poems have been widely published. Her first book, Ask the Dead (Martin Brown 2005), was selected by The Poisoned Pen as a Recommended First Novel and hailed as “Bronx noir”. Her latest book, Code of Thieves, takes place in Brooklyn and Moscow. It was published in hardcover (as The Last Matryoshka) by Five Star/Cengage and is now available for Kindle through Istoria Books. (

Joyce considers the setting of her books to be characters in their own right and teaches workshops on “The Place of Place in Mystery Writing.”

Read more about Joyce Yarrow’s writing journey, her P.I. brother, her childhood in the Bronx, her use of place as character in her books.


  1. I loved this. I don’t think there’s a person out there who hasn’t felt the sting of betrayal at one point or another in their life. This one in particular did eventually have a happy ending.

    I hope you rubbed the acceptance letter in his face. Just a little.

    Comment by Thomas A. Knight — May 17, 2012 @ 10:48 pm

  2. An excellent story. Hope the boyfriend enjoyed his new concubine. One door closed and a multitude opened. Well done Joyce.

    Comment by Jeff Dawson — May 17, 2012 @ 10:54 pm

  3. What a smooth and wonderful and honest voice this expresses. Thank you.

    Comment by Peg Brantley — May 17, 2012 @ 11:19 pm

  4. Thank you for that glimpse into the soul of the writer — and the reminder that life holds many surprises and twists.

    Comment by Susan Schreyer — May 17, 2012 @ 11:46 pm

  5. Wow.. 3 astute comments already!

    Thomas – thank you – as the saying goes, the best revenge is doing well and I have so much in life to be grateful for…

    Jeff.. you are so right.. many doors have opened (and closed) since that day. Until I wrote this piece, and allowed myself to re-experience this, I hadn’t realized what an impact this particular episode had on my life.

    Thank you Peg – words fail me.

    Comment by Joyce Yarrow — May 18, 2012 @ 2:06 am

  6. A unique revenge!!In the end,it’s the cheater who suffers, and not the cheated.In this case, we don’t know what happened to the former and neither do we wish to know. But we know that Life gave a new meaning to the latter and whatever change she faced after the “incident” was for good…it’s a triumph of life over unfaithfulness and betrayal…Thanks for making life win, Joyce :) :)

    Comment by Debasree — May 18, 2012 @ 3:38 am

  7. That philanderer was best rid of..his loss [and what a colossal loss] was the literary community’s gain!so every cloud,[the betraying boy friend in this story] has a silver lining.Had you settled down to blissful domesticity with this chap,I wonder where the JOYCE YARROW ,THE MYSTERY WRITER WOULD BE…or would she ever be!So let your words tumble and jostle and gush forth untrammeled to forge NEWER JUXTAPOSITIONS, STRIKE NEW FRIENDSHIPS,BLAZE NEW TRAILS, WIN MORE AWARDS,AND WEAR MORE HATS…red,blue,yellow ,and let that boy who shared the apartment with you which had” an air shaft instead of a window”

    Comment by santosh magazine — May 18, 2012 @ 3:47 am

  8. I love it! I’ve always said, some of the things you think are the worst things that could ever happen to you, turn out to be the best things that ever happened to you. You go girl! I always admire the people who succeed despite what life has thrown at them. Congrats and keep on opening new doors.

    Comment by mountainmama — May 18, 2012 @ 5:37 am

  9. Your MIM reads like the beginning of a novel, Joyce. The boyfriend?—his lose, not yours. Thanks for sharing.

    Comment by Kathleen Kaska — May 18, 2012 @ 8:59 am

  10. Joyce, Seattle is so much nicer than Manhattan and the Bronx. All your paths have taken you in better directions. Continued good luck….

    Comment by "Doctor Barbara" - Barbara Ebel — May 18, 2012 @ 9:12 am

  11. I absolutely love this moment! There is always a silver lining in the clouds and I am glad that Joyce got hers. Good luck to you for the future and thank you for sharing your story with us.

    Comment by Kellie — May 18, 2012 @ 9:55 am

  12. Hey Mountainmama – I like what you have to say about the worst leading to the best… paradox of life we all seem to share.

    Kathleen – perhaps you’re right and this MIM is the beginning of something – maybe a short story if not the all-consuming novel :)

    Barbara – glad you like Seattle… I still love NY – have collected many new memories there that are happier than this particular one…

    Kellie – you warm my heart with your good wishes! All the best to you too.

    Comment by Joyce Yarrow — May 18, 2012 @ 11:06 am

  13. Glad that all that written there happened to you.
    the depth, maturity, feeling and the genuineness in your writings come from what you gone through.
    I understand your pain, the sense of betrayal and the near death emotional ..( i cant seem to find the word for it) that surrounded you.
    but somewhere Joyce i feel that given a choice you will go through all of it again to reach here.
    Now I know what made you what you are.
    Love you Joyce and happy to have you in my life.

    Comment by Ramaa — May 18, 2012 @ 11:09 am

  14. Ramaa.. your comment really moved me – as have many posted here. Sometimes we writers hit a universal chord without even knowing it. Thank you!

    Comment by Joyce Yarrow — May 18, 2012 @ 11:33 am

  15. well JOyce great story,every cloud has a silver lining ,they say[in this case the cloud is that guy with whom you shared an apartment, which had no window but an air shaft] THE SILVER LINING is the fact that he found someone else and left you free to create a niche for yourself in the literary world!Had you settled down in blissful domesticity with that philanderer,the world would have lost a great story teller,his loss is the gain of the literary world which is lapping up your mysteries with a lip smacking pleasure!Let the words gush forth untrammeled to form new juxtapositions,forge new friendships,fetch more awards, wear more hats and get more feathers for your HATS!infuse your words with different hues…red ,blue, and, white and we will imagine that guy of the windowless room turning green with envy!

    Comment by santosh — May 18, 2012 @ 11:39 am

  16. Thank you Debasree… I love your reference to “making life win.”

    Santosh – thanks for your supportive words — you write with the passion of the writer I know you to be and look forward to reading your new book!

    Comment by Joyce Yarrow — May 18, 2012 @ 11:45 am

  17. Joyce, a great story. Love, betrayal,and in the end,poetry triumphs. My question: Did you ever meet Ginsberg?

    Comment by Anita Page — May 18, 2012 @ 1:56 pm

  18. Hi Anita,
    Although I did not meet Ginsberg, I met several poets in his circle at that time – including Peter Orlafsky. They were not so famous yet… so I have no autographs :) – the important thing was that at such a young age I discovered whow great it felt to be part of a writing community. Crazy as NY was in those days there was a feeling of comraderie among creative people that helped me set out on a my life’s path. I hope you have found something similar yourself!

    Comment by Joyce Yarrow — May 18, 2012 @ 2:06 pm

  19. His loss, your gain. It seems like sometimes things happen for a reason, and that could have been the case for you. I really enjoyed your Made It Moment. Thank you for sharing.

    Comment by Marja McGraw — May 18, 2012 @ 6:56 pm

  20. Hi, Joyce,

    You made lemonade out of a fat, lemon. Good for you!

    Comment by Jacqueline Seewald — May 18, 2012 @ 7:21 pm

  21. Hi Marja – so glad you enjoyed the piece. I agree…and as time passes these reasons seem to emerge on their own..

    Thanks Jacqueline – tart but refreshing :)

    Comment by Joyce Yarrow — May 18, 2012 @ 8:35 pm

  22. What great comments from everyone! I’m so happy to see this–Joyce is a writer worth discovering, and it’s a unique pleasure to watch the conversation here on the blog.

    Comment by jenny — May 18, 2012 @ 8:45 pm

  23. Jenny – I was just about to write to you. Thank you so much for your hospitality. It has been a real pleasure chatting with people here and the honesty and openness is quite refreshing. I will certainly continue to follow along and read the Made It Moments as they come in! What a terrific concept for a blog.
    All the best,

    Comment by Joyce Yarrow — May 18, 2012 @ 8:48 pm

  24. Seriously–the pleasure is all mine. Made It Moments is author-driven, and you guys are a stupendous bunch.

    Comment by jenny — May 18, 2012 @ 8:59 pm

  25. Oh, that’s lovely.

    Comment by SavvyBlue — May 23, 2012 @ 12:25 pm

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