The Story Behind Czar Nicholas, The Toad, and Duck Soup by Elisabeth Amaral


I was next in line to see an agent at a Writer’s Digest conference in New York City when an uncomfortable craziness overcame me. I had been standing for half an hour to pitch a mystery book I’d been working on, and I realized in the pit of my stomach oh Czar Nicholas 2no, I can’t pitch this! I don’t know where it’s going. But I couldn’t leave. I was only one person away from my first agent. And then it hit me. What do I know more than anything else? What can I talk about more easily than anything else? Me! I realized I had lived a very interesting life. Two highly unusual marriages, an entrepreneurial career that began in the unlikeliest of circumstances, and all of the freedoms and excesses of being young in the mid-60s and 70s.

Then it was my turn and I pitched my newly hatched idea. I wanted to write a memoir of my early years in Manhattan’s East Village and in Cambridge, Massachusetts. And as I spoke during my allotted three minutes, those years came back to me. How my first husband, our infant son and I left our jobs and New York City so that he could study mime in Boston. We sold our handmade earrings to support ourselves. And, during one snowstorm, we drove a few miles to sell two sticks of incense, which led us to open an upscale children’s boutique. Another snowstorm led us to open a popular restaurant in Harvard Square.

I remembered those years and the inspiration for the memoir grew. I spoke rapidly of being a young wife and mother during the sex, drugs and rock and roll era, of being at the edge of so much. And the book began to write itself.

It took almost three years to finish my memoir. A month before it was done, I suffered a heart attack. During recovery, I felt that the luxury of writing query letters, finding an agent, an editor, and a publisher was no longer mine and I decided to self-publish. I went to iUniverse, which not only did a great job but gave my book special recognition and marketing help. The entire process took about five months, and the gratitude I have in seeing my book in print cannot be measured. In addition my memoir has all of the photographs, recipes, and contributions of friends from decades ago just as I wanted them. My book on my terms. It’s more than I could have hoped for.

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Elizabeth AmaralA native New Yorker, I have lived in the city for much of my life. My first jobs after graduating from NYU were jewelry design and case worker for the Departments of Welfare of New York City and Cambridge, Massachusetts. This was followed by co-ownership of a children’s boutique (Czar Nicholas and the Toad) and a restaurant (Duck Soup) in Cambridge near Harvard Square. I then worked as an industrial purchasing agent in New Jersey, and for the last 25 years have been a real estate broker in Manhattan, accumulating stories of the wonder and madness that is this city. I published a book of short stories (When Any Kind of Love Will Do), wrote two children’s books and a memoir (Czar Nicholas, The Toad, and Duck Soup), and am currently working on a novel.

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