Development officer debuts novel set in Galveston

Feb. 1, 2013

Elizabeth "Tiggy" Garrett
Elizabeth "Tiggy" Garrett

When Elizabeth "Tiggy" Garrett of BCM's Office of Development was raising her daughters, the trio would often head to Galveston for family vacations. The sandy beaches and charm of the Strand were attractions, but Garrett and her daughters were even more drawn to the historic homes on Broadway. These grand homes, survivors of the Great Storm of 1900, as well as the lure of an island that refused to follow the rules of its mainland counterpart, captured Garrett's imagination so firmly that she was compelled to write about it in a book.

Now, more than a decade after she was first inspired by Galveston's colorful history and intriguing residents, Garrett's novel, "The Drowning House," has been published by Nan A. Talese/Doubleday. The book centers around Clare Porterfield, a photographer from the island who has suffered personal tragedy. She returns home to curate a photography exhibit and at the same time uncovers pieces of her past.

The book, which Garrett has described as "dark" and "suspenseful," hit the shelves Jan. 15. It can be found at local bookstores such as Blue Willow Bookshop, Brazos Bookstore, River Oaks Books, and Murder by the Book as well as large booksellers and Houston-area libraries.

Beyond expectations

Garrett, who publishes under the name Elizabeth Black, her maiden name, says the experience of writing and publishing her book has "wildly" exceeded her expectations.

"I wanted to see if I could write something of that length, and I did," she said. "After carrying it around for a while, I thought, ‘I might as well see what I can do with this.' I've been incredibly lucky. It's hard to believe it's real."

She had a full-time career while writing the book, and for some of the time her daughters Genevra and Francesca were still at home. For a while, she experimented with writing only on weekends but discovered that she wasn't likely to finish the book in her lifetime at that rate. So she found time to write each day, and when her youngest daughter left for college, she was able to devote more time to it.

"In the early stages, you ask yourself why on earth you are doing it," Garrett said. "But in the end, there are people who gamble, people who drink, and people who write. You can try to ignore it but the desire will assert itself. And you're happier and more fulfilled if you do it. You make sacrifices but you get back something wonderful, too."

She said there is virtually no autobiographical content in the novel. Instead, writing it gave her the opportunity to have experiences she wouldn't have otherwise.

"I write because I'm only going to live once. This is my way of having experiences, living lives, that I won't have," Garrett said.

After four years of writing, she had a completed manuscript and decided to pursue getting an agent. She went to the annual Agents and Editors Conference in Austin, where she met Mollie Glick with Foundry Literary + Media. They found a publisher, and the process of bringing the book into print took place over about two years.

The book has generated positive buzz, including being named one of the best new books of the week of Jan. 14 by Publisher's Weekly.

BCM Role

The Rhode Island native has lived in Houston for 30 years. She has had a successful career in development, and has worked at BCM for just under a year. As a development officer, she helps create relationships with donors to secure funding for BCM's strategic priorities.

"Baylor College of Medicine is a remarkable place, and my office is such a team-based environment. The group pulls together, and you can accomplish so much that way."

Garrett is already working on her second novel.