Ballet dancer. Lawyer. Writer. Three professions with wildly different levels of certainty, not often found in the same person, but Leigh Abramson, a Quechee writer whose first novel “A Likely Story” is coming out with Simon & Schuster this March, has already been all three.

Growing up the daughter of two creatives – an artist and children’s book writer – in downtown New York City, Abramson was always interested in writing.

However, her first major creative passion was dance; Abramson was a serious ballerina studying at the American Ballet School. But, at age 15, missing school and other typical teenage activities for dance while attending the Professional Children’s School, Abramson decided to make a change. “I started to feel like I was really giving up on a lot of experiences I might regret. I felt it wasn’t necessarily a sacrifice that I wanted to make.” While Abramson loved dance, she felt she knew she wasn’t going to “be the star of the New York City ballet.” Abramson mused, “It felt like giving up a lot for a lot of uncertainty.”

So Abramson hung up her toe shoes and started down a new path. She wanted to do something totally different from her parents. “Sort of ironically,” she said, “My act of rebellion was to go to law school and become a lawyer.” Law, Ambranson felt, is often a very regimented field where practitioners are on a conveyor belt moving from law school to summer associate and so forth. “There’s not a lot of creativity. You just get on this sort of track,” Abramson said. Unlike dance, “Law is something with a lot of certainty.”

Immediately after college, Abramson began working at a law firm and quickly found it wasn’t for her. The one part she did enjoy was writing legal opinions, enough so that she felt maybe this was something she wanted to actually pursue. She began freelance writing in her spare time, using her law background as an “in,” penning articles on law and lawyers.

About ten years ago, Abramson submitted an article to the column in the New York Times called “Townies.” Pulling from her roots, her piece explored how it felt growing up in downtown New York. The story was accepted. “I got incredibly lucky,” Abramson said, “In retrospect now I know that’s really not typically how it works.” But this gave her the confidence that she could make this a serious career.

The Abramson family at Quechee Club New Year’s Eve

Around this time, massive life changes were in store: Abramson fully stopped practicing law, had a baby, and made writing her full-time profession.

Flash forward to 2019. Abramson had already begun work on her novel, coming up with characters and bouncing ideas off her agent. She knew there was a reveal she wanted to build toward in her plot but was still fleshing out the story. In coffee shops in New York, she wrote drafts. Many, many drafts: “I started doing different versions and it got to the point, I don’t even want to know how many versions I’ve done,” Abramson laughed.

Then – a plot twist with which we are all familiar – the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic pulled the air brake and slowed everything to a stop. For five or six months, Abramson was barely able to work on her book. The thought that no one might ever read this book, ever-present for first-time authors, became even more acute. “I’m never working again, “Abramson recalled thinking, “I’m never selling this book.” No one knew what was going to happen with the publishing industry as no one was, at the time, buying books.

After a stay with relatives for several weeks on Long Island, Abramson and her family found Quechee. Abramson’s husband, a Dartmouth graduate, had a friend from Hanover suggest the village.

Now we Quechee residents know this was an excellent move, but Abramson had only ever been to Vermont once. The family rented a house sight unseen, enrolled the kids in school, and drove up. “The night before I remember thinking, what am I doing? I don’t know if this is a good idea. And it turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made, so I’m very grateful.”

Quechee not only ended up being a great move for her family, but a great move for her book. Abramson had written most of her book when she arrived in Vermont, but being here sparked a revelation. Much of her plot revolves around a manuscript that is referenced frequently by characters, “and I realized if I were the reader, I would want to know what was in it.” So she interspersed scenes of the manuscript within the story. Abramson credits Quechee with helping create the different voice for the manuscript pieces: “The snippets I wrote in Vermont were written in a very different scene. Instead of a busy coffee stop, I was alone in my kitchen in this very quiet place.” The change of scene helped Abramson bring a new perspective: “I credit Quechee with the space and quiet to do that.”

Abramson was in Quechee, in the summer of 2021, when she found out her book was going to be published. She was alone in the house with her son when she found out she had an offer from a publisher. “To my son, who was six at the time, I said, ‘Mommy’s going to sell her book!’ and he said, ‘Is it about baseball?’ I said no, and he was like, well, whatever who cares,” she laughed. “I felt, ‘Ok well, it’s good to stay humble!’”

Abramson with her book at the front door in Quechee,
which she painted yellow to match her book.

Now, on the cusp of being a published author, Abramson is, excited to finally have readers for her story. “The thing that is hard is the uncertainty when you’re writing, especially as a first-time author. You feel like, is anyone ever going to read this? Is this just my weird hobby no one is ever going to care about?” First-time authors devote so much of themselves, their time, and energy into something they don’t know will ever see the light of day.

This is a feeling Abramson channeled into her characters, especially her protagonist, also a female writer in her 30s living in New York and furiously struggling for that first published novel, all while living in the shadow of her very famous author father. “I’ve always been interested in the interplay between ambition and creativity within a family,” Abramson said, “and in stories about only children (because I’m an only child) and that triangular dynamic with parents.” When fomenting this idea for the book, Abramson had two children and was wondering how creativity works as a parent: “You can’t be a slave to your creative aspirations anymore.”

As is clear from comparing her own story to the plot of her book, Abramson likes to begin writing by pulling from her own experiences: “I like to be grounded in a place and be able to add those details that will ring true. Then,” she adds, “I usually go very far afield from own experiences.”

While both of Abramson’s parents are successful in their creative fields, neither of the parental figures in “A Likely Story” resemble them. However, an only child like her protagonist, she did spend a lot of time amongst successful artistic people – some even with narcissistic tendencies, a theme she plays with in her story – so it is a world with which she is familiar.

Abramson also finds her training in ballet and law also play into her writing. While dance is a different form of creative expression, Abramson finds she’s “tapping into the same emotional pockets in yourself trying to connect with what is the essence of this emotion or expression.” “That feels similar to writing,” Abramson said, “like you’re cutting away the unimportant parts trying to really distill down to a theme or an emotion.”

In terms of law, Abramson learned how to be clear, organized, and make your point in a way that other people will understand and can easily follow. While undoubtedly different from creative writing, “It is important to realize that someone else is on the other side of what you’re doing and you want them to be able to easily digest, understand, follow where you’re going and not get lost.”

Months away from her book’s release date, Abramson is feeling a range of emotions: “Writing can feel so private, and then all of a sudden, it’s not. Other people are reacting to it and it’s sort of not yours anymore.” The shift from solitary writing to marketing is abrupt: “You go from being alone at your computer in this bubble and no one really knows what you’re doing,” Abramson said, “to then having to be in touch with lots of different people, selling your book and selling your story. It’s not something that I’m used to, and it’s two very different skills.”

Nonetheless, she is looking forward to having conversations with readers and is excited for readers to grapple with the characters. She hopes the book sparks conversations and becomes a story readers will think about after turning the last page.

What’s next for Abramson? Well, continuing her stay in Quechee, for one. The family bought a home on Hillside Road and is up here as often as they can be, especially during summers and ski season. “Quechee has been just such a supportive community. We’ve met so many wonderful friends. We really love being here and we’ve all felt very uplifted. Having that community has really made us genuinely happier people. It has affected all aspects of our life, really.”

Even with her first book not yet out, Abramson is already starting on another. Part of it will be set in Vermont, she thinks, and it may involve New Yorkers moving to Vermont. The similarities to her story will end there, though, and “then,” she says, “as they do in books, things go awry.” No longer a first-time author, diving into another book and another story, Abramson is getting comfortable with uncertainty.