An Incredible Talent for Existing: A Writer's Story

Pamela Jane

It is 1965, the era of love, light—and revolution. While the romantic narrator imagines a bucolic future in an old country house with children running through the dappled sunlight, her husband plots to organize a revolution and fight a guerrilla war in the Catskills.

Their fantasies are on a collision course.

The clash of visions turns into an inner war of identities when the author embraces radical feminism; she and her husband are comrades in revolution but combatants in marriage; she is a woman warrior who spends her days sewing long silk dresses reminiscent of a Henry James novel. One half of her isn't speaking to the other half.

And then, just when it seems that things cannot possibly get more explosive, her wilderness cabin burns down and Pamela finds herself left with only the clothes on her back.

From her vividly evoked existential childhood ("the only way I would know for sure that I existed was if others—lots of others—acknowledged it") to writing her first children's book on a sugar high during a glucose tolerance test, Pamela Jane takes the reader along on a highly entertaining personal, political, and psychological adventure.

Advance Praise

"Pamela Jane has more than a talent for existing . . . she has the talent for telling a compelling story. This memoir takes us through the heartbreak of her mother's mental illness and her parents' divorce, and into the heady, rollicking—and ultimately terrifying—sixties. We are right with her as she tries to find herself through sewing and sex and psychology. And we breathe a sigh of relief when she finally realizes what one of her high school teachers knew long before she did—that he would have her books on his shelf. With passion and compassion, Pamela takes us masterfully through this story of a lifelong writer struggling to emerge."

Deborah Heiligman, author, Charles and Emma: The Darwins' Leap of Faith, a National Book Award Finalist


An Incredible Talent for Existing is a poignant life chronicle, searingly honest, and richly written. Pamela Jane’s memoir is a testament to story, how its power helped her imagine, imitate, and finally create her own unique narrative. Through the beauty in her language and the empowerment in her message, Jane has given us a book that will touch the life of every woman who has ever questioned who she is, where she is going, and what the future holds.

—Matilda Butler, author, Rosie’s Daughters: The “First Woman To” Generation Tells Its Story and Writing Alchemy: How to Write Fast and Deep


“I knew I would read this book slowly to savor both the beautiful language and Jane's ability to keep moving forward as she came of age during the tumultuous 60s. . . . I read and re-read in deep appreciation of her language. . . . Jane has woven a richly empowering memoir that I highly recommend for anyone who has ever struggled with identity and/or the direction in life she wished to travel. This is a fine, five-star read!”

—Mary Jo Doig, Story Circle Book Reviews


". . . incisive, funny, and touchingly candid evidence of the power of the stories we tell ourselves."

Howard Rheingold, author, The Virtual Community and Net Smart


"An Incredible Talent for Existing is harrowing story that invites the reader to experience the thrill and danger of the Sixties from a place of safety and acceptance. It's the story of hundreds of thousands of women; our lives were huge experiments."

Tristine Rainer, Director, Center for Autobiographic Studies, author, The New Diary and Your Life as Story


"Her prose reads like poetry and her imagination is like magic!"

Jacopo della Quercia, author, The Great Abraham Lincoln Pocket Watch Conspiracy and License to Quill

About the Author


View the book trailer for An Incredible Talent for Existing



Pamela Jane is the author of over twenty-five children's books published by Houghton Mifflin, Simon & Schuster, Penguin-Putnam, HarperCollins, and others. Her new picture book, Little Elfie One (HarperCollins, illustrated by NY Times best-selling illustrator, Jane Manning) will be out this year. Other books include Noelle of the Nutcracker, illustrated by Jan Brett, and Little Goblins Ten, illustrated by Jane Manning. Pamela's book with co-author Deborah Guyol, Pride and Prejudice and Kitties: A Cat-Lover's Romp Through Jane Austen's Classic was featured in The Wall Street Journal, The Huffington Post, and BBC America. She is a writer and editor for womensmemoirs.com, and has published essays and short stories in The Antigonish Review, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and Literary Mama. She is currently at work on a humorous travelogue about living abroad with her family in Florence, Italy.