BRATTLEBORO — As she recovers from a recent stroke, Jessica Sticklor is preparing for the release of her sixth novel.
Sticklor, the executive secretary in the Brattleboro town office, said she asked the publisher to push the date back for releasing “The Weary God of Ancient Travelers.” But since reviewers and bloggers already had advance copies, they ended up just keeping it scheduled for June 15.
“I wrote this book about six or seven years ago,” Sticklor said. “It’s about a girl who has temporary amnesia and brain damage, which is something I researched very heavily.”
Since learning a lot about the brain after her stroke in late April, she said the release of a book exploring similar topics feels “very poetic.”
Lydia Warren, the book’s main character, loses memory and experiences trauma. Sticklor said Warren goes to a Greek island to find herself and meets someone with “a very strange, checkered past.”
The book could be considered contemporary literary fiction, a genre in which Sticklor uses the pen name Jessica Stilling. For youth adult books, she goes by J.M. Stephens.
Her first book, “Betwixt and Between,” was published in 2013. She said she learned a lot about writing through a master of fine arts program in New York City.
“I think it takes a lot of trial and error,” said Sticklor, who teaches creative writing online. “That trial and error is about figuring out what works and what doesn’t, and it takes a long time.”
She called writing “a great way to speak to the world.”
Before moving to South Newfane in October, Sticklor grew up in Illinois and lived in New York City for about 18 years. She said the decision to move had a lot to do with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The more we looked at properties, the more we wanted to live in Vermont,” she said, adding that her family searched for a rural area that was politically blue “and it was not easy to find.”
In December, Sticklor began working for the town. She replaced longtime secretary Jan Anderson, who helped Sticklor learn the job before retiring.
Retirement lasted about a month before Anderson was called in to fill in for Sticklor for about three weeks following the stroke.
“It was funny because this is something that runs in my family,” Sticklor said.
She described how an artery tore and caused the stroke, which also happened to her uncle when he was 48. She’s 38.
They shared similar symptoms, said Sticklor, who woke up feeling nauseous and like the room was spinning. She called Brattleboro Memorial Hospital “responsive and quick,” which she believes kept her from losing any physical function.
The stroke slightly delayed some of the work involved in her next contemporary literary fiction book, which is slated for a November release and set in Iceland. She said she spent a lot of time in the country and loves it there.
Sticklor has another young adult book coming out next year and she’s at work on another contemporary literary fiction book. She’s also playing with some ideas for a book set in Vermont.
“I would like to figure out what that novel actually is and write it,” she said. “This place is definitely inspiring. It’s so much fun being in Vermont.”