WOODBURY – The owner of a writer’s retreat in Vermont was so intrigued last year by the mother-daughter bond of Ehris Urban and Velya Jancz-Urban that he really thought the Woodbury residents were putting on an act.
Which was interesting because Velya, who won a Facebook contest for a five-day, four-night stay at that writer’s retreat, though the contest itself was a little sketchy.
But the end-result was a publishing contract for Ehris and Velya Urban with Vermont-based Green Writers Press, a women-owned company based in Brattleboro, Vermont. The Urbans’ mother-daughter memoir, “How to Survive a Brazilian Betrayal: A Mother-Daughter Memoir,” is scheduled for release on Mother’s Day.
“I was selected as a winner and invited to bring along a ‘writer friend,’” Velya Jancz-Urban told Just Woodbury. “Since I don’t have any writer friends, I brought Ehris. I had no intention of writing a book, so we planned to lie low and just work on new Grounded Goodwife classes.
Velya said that after the first dinner, everyone at the retreat gathered in the living room, around the fireplace, and were urged to read aloud what they had been working on. Panicked, she read a chapter from something she felt she was half-heartedly writing.
The owner of this retreat had no interest in my chapter, but was intrigued by our mother/daughter relationship, Velya said.
“Actually, we later learned that he thought we were putting on an act and actually had his staff spy on us during our stay to see if our close relationship was for real,” Velya said. “To cut to the chase, we were asked to write a book about our Brazilian betrayal.”
Lightening darkness with humor, Velya Jancz-Urban and her 25-year-old daughter, Ehris, introduce readers to their offbeat Connecticut family.
Motivated by an 11-year friendship with a charming Brazilian named Jose Geraldo, they spend four years preparing for their move to rural Brazil, where they will run a dairy farm and open an English school.
When they follow their hearts to Ponte Nova, an explosion of betrayal leaves them dazed and grieving.
Broke and broken, they are forced to return to the United States, and navigate their rebirth in a foreclosed 1770 New England farmhouse. An already strong mother/daughter relationship becomes indestructible when no one else is emotionally available for them.
“Beautifully written and full of love, honesty, and humor. Almost all daughters adore their mothers and make fun of them at the same time! There is no more powerful (or fraught) relationship in the world than this one. I love this relationship. Brava, you two!” penned Christiane Northrup, M.D., New York Times bestselling author of “Mother-Daughter Wisdom and Goddesses Never Age,” about their book.
The timeline of events
Although it took 4 years of planning – Portuguese lessons, amassing a herd of 200 cows because “we planned to run a dairy farm and open an English school,” selling their home of 26 years in Bridgewater, and making arrangement with the Brazilian consulate to bring their pets with them, the family moved to rural Ponte Nova, Brazil in December 2009.
Just eight weeks after moving to Brazil, they’d discovered they’d been swindled and betrayed.
“Broke and broken, we had no choice but to return to the U.S., where the next shoe dropped, and it was actually worse than the Brazilian betrayal,” Velya told Just Woodbury.
The family needed a place to heal, and in February 2011, they found “the house that nobody wanted” on Main Street North in Woodbury. It had been vacant for five years and was in foreclosure.
“We made a joke offer to the bank and were shocked when they accepted,” Velya said. “We assumed it had been built in 1850 and had no idea it was actually built in 1770 until a series of events led to that discovery.”
While it was cathartic to tell the story, Velya said it was pretty painful to force themselves to go to places they didn’t want to go as their editor kept insisting that they go deeper.
“The best thing about writing the book was doing it together,” Velya said. “Much of the actual writing and editing took place at New Morning and Ayla’s. The entire experience has made us better versions of ourselves and a dynamic mother-daughter duo.
“How to Survive a Brazilian Betrayal: A Mother-Daughter Memoir” is available for presale here.