The Divining Wand

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Archive for July, 2010

Author News and New Authors

July 29, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Advance News, News

Welcome to The Divining Wand’s last post of July and, while not dismissing summertime in August, there is a feeling of fall around here! That’s correct, fresh and new ideas have either recently launched or will soon, beginning with the multi-talented Katie Alender (Bad Girls Don’t Die YA).

On Tuesday, July 27, 2010, Katie and fellow YA writers took “getting to know authors beyond their pages” to a vlog level. Here’s a portion of the Press Release for AuthorMix:

“AUTHORMIX” WEB VIDEO SERIES TAKES THE TEEN READER-AUTHOR CONNECTION TO A NEW LEVEL
A new web-based video series aims to give teen readers a “fly on the wall” look at their favorite authors.

Los Angeles, CA — July 27, 2010 — In an effort to reach out to their web-savvy readers, many authors now turn to video, releasing video blogs (“vlogs”), book trailers, and even virtual book tours (as recently mentioned in the New York Times: A new web video series takes this one step further by bringing together a group of authors in a roundtable format, letting readers eavesdrop on conversations about life, love, high school, writing, and publication. AUTHORMIX is like listening in on the green room at a book festival–personal, honest, and unrehearsed.

“The whole thing started because I would read blogs or tweets about authors who got together for one reason or another,” says creator/host, author Katie Alender. “And what I really wanted to know was–what do they talk about when they’re just hanging out?”

In an effort to find out, she came up with the idea for an off-the-cuff style video series that would give authors a chance to chat in a relaxed environment.

Participating authors are Melissa de la Cruz (New York Times best-selling author of The Au Pairs and Blue Bloods series of novels for young adults); Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl (New York Times best-selling authors of Beautiful Creatures, also one of Amazon.com’s Ten Best Books of 2009); Cecil Castellucci (author of Beige, Boyproof, Queen of Cool, and The Plain Janes series for DC Comics); and Katie Alender (author of the Bad Girls Don’t Die series).

[For more information, please visit the site and follow AuthorMix on Twitter. Congratulations, Katie!]

As for this site’s news, regular visitors may have noticed that TDW recently has featured three “new” authors:

~ Claire Cook (Seven Year Switch, Must Love Dogs, Life’s A Beach, and the rest in Bibliography)

~ Keetha DePriest Mosley [formerly Reed] (Culinary Kudzu: Recollections & Recipes from Growing Up Southern, More Culinary Kudzu: Recollections & Recipes from Growing Up Southern)

~ Julie Buxbaum (After You, The Opposite of Love)

And, now, I proudly announce the following authors have also joined our community and will be appearing on these pages soon:

~ Kate Ledger (Remedies)

~ TanyaEgan Gibson (How to Buy a Love of Reading)

~ Leah Stewart (Husband and Wife, The Myth of You and Me, Body of a Girl)

~ Beth Hoffman (Saving CeeCee Honeycutt releasing in Trade Paperback October 26, 2010)

~ Katharine Davis (A Slender Thread, East Hope, Capturing Paris)

Also expect more guest author posts and (hopefully) a weekly Q&A with readers asking questions of the featured author. Indeed fall is in the air….

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Announcement: The winner of Claire Cook’s Seven Year Switch is Amy Chase. Congratulations.

Please email diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address and your book will be sent out promptly.

The Revealing of Julie Buxbaum

July 28, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles

Julie Buxbaum (After You, The Opposite of Love) knows life’s universal truths and explores them with deft insight and heartfelt honesty in both of her novels. Debuting with The Opposite of Love — earning a Starred Review from Library Journal –, she followed with After You in fall, 2009. Released in Paperback last month, here’s a brief overview of that second novel:

The complexities of friendship. The unraveling of a neglected marriage. And the redemptive power of literature…Julie Buxbaum, the acclaimed author of The Opposite of Love, delivers a powerful, gloriously written novel about love, family, and the secrets we hide from each other, and ourselves.

The Divining Wand has scheduled a full presentation/review of After You for Monday, August 9, 2010. In the meantime let’s meet this author through her “official” bio:

Julie Buxbaum is the author of The Opposite of Love and After You. Her work has been translated into eighteen languages, and The Opposite of Love has been optioned to film with Anne Hathaway set to star. Julie is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard Law School. She currently lives in London where After You is set.

Now here’s Julie revealed:

Q: How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A: Blessed. Fulfilling. Silly, exhausting, and sometimes ridiculous. Happy.

Q: What is your motto or maxim?
A:I wish I was organized enough to have a motto.

Q: How would you describe perfect happiness?
A: Making my daughter giggle. Should I up the ante? How about making my daughter giggle on the day I reached number one on the New York Times Bestseller list while vacationing on an exotic island wearing shorts that fit in high school.

Q: What’s your greatest fear?
A: Something happening to the people I love.

Q: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A: Wherever my family is, but if they happened to be on a sandy beach in Kauai I wouldn’t complain.

Q: With whom in history do you most identify?
A: Wonder Woman. Wait, she wasn’t a historical figure?

Q: Which living person do you most admire?
A: I’m a big fan of the work of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. And I have a major writer crush on Nora Ephron.

Q: What are your most overused words or phrases?
A: Since moving to London, I use the word lovely way too often.

Q: If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A: To dress myself. And to sleep ten hours a night. (I guess that’s less a talent and more a superpower.)

Q: What is your greatest achievement?
A: Being able to call myself a novelist.

Q: What’s your greatest flaw?
A: Anxiety. It can consume me, if I’m not careful.

Q: What’s your best quality?
A: I’m ferociously loyal. There are few things I wouldn’t do for the people I love.

Q: What do you regret most?
A: When I don’t take the time to appreciate my life.

Q: If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A: I am not sure I would want to be anyone or anything else permanently, but I would like a sneak peak into pretty much anyone else’s mind from time to time. I think that’s probably why I write. I’m intensely curious about everyone else’s inner life.

Q: What trait is most noticeable about you?
A: My upper lip disappears when I smile, which is often.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A: Am I cheating if I say Wonder Woman again? Okay, how about Nancy Drew?

Q: Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A: Gargamel, because it takes a certain amount of evil to hate Smurfs.

Q: If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A: The Williams sisters, and I would tell them they rock.

Q: What is your biggest pet peeve?
A: When my baby is crying and people ask me if she is hungry.

Q: What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A: Reading, of course.

Q: What’s your fantasy profession?
A: Other than what I do now? Writing for Grey’s Anatomy.

Q: What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A:Kindness, humor, loyalty.

Q: If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A: Mashed potatoes. Mountains of them.

Q: What are your 5 favorite songs?
A: Anna Begins, The Counting Crows
She Talks to Angels, Black Crowes
Hallelujah, (I’m partial to the Jeff Buckley version)
Crazy Love, Van Morrison
Tangled up in Blue, Bob Dylan

Q: What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A: The Secret Garden, Francis Hodgson Burnett
Gilead, Marilynne Robinson
Immortality, Milan Kundera
Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoevsky

Charming, funny, and very wise, enjoy more of Julie Buxbaum by following her on Twitter, becoming a friend/fan on Facebook, and visiting her recent creation, julie has writer’s blog.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of Claire Cook’s Seven Year Switch in a random drawing to anyone who comments only on this specific post, Claire Cook and Seven Year Switch. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is tonight at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winner to be announced here in tomorrow’s’s post. If you enter, please return tomorrow to possibly claim your book.

Guest Alicia Bessette on
Gladys Knight and the Pips and Me

July 27, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[When Alicia Bessette (Simply from Scratch coming August 5, 2010) responded to the Revealing Q&A of, “What are your 5 favorite songs,” she said:

For someone who craves music like it’s oxygen, answering this question is impossible. Impossible! Instead, could I offer some songs off the “soundtrack” to Simply From Scratch? They’re all performed by Gladys Knight and the Pips:
“Didn’t You Know (You’d Have To Cry Sometime)”
“Every Little Bit Hurts”
“Every Beat of My Heart”
“All I Need Is Time”
“Neither One of Us (Wants to be the First to Say Goodbye)”
For more information on the connection between Simply From Scratch and songs by Gladys Knight and the Pips, please visit The Divining Wand on Tuesday, July 27, and read my guest post.

Today is the day and Alicia is true to her word.]

Gladys Knight and the Pips and Me

Matt and I both believe in singing in the car. A few winters ago, we were on our way to a friends’ house in Pennsylvania, driving up I-95, singing along to a new soul mix Matt had made for his iPod. We belted out tunes by Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Marvin Gaye.

Then a song came on that I’d never heard before. Though I wasn’t familiar with any Gladys Knight and the Pips songs besides “Midnight Train To Georgia,” I recognized her velvety voice. She was singing, “Why, why don’t you make me the woman you go home to, and not the one you leave behind? Not the one that’s left to cry, and die?” And the Pips echoed her, “Why, why?”

So pleading, so spurned.

Just like something I had written that morning: a passage about a woman who missed her deceased husband so much that she stood back and watched her kitchen nearly burn to the ground around her. I didn’t know it then, but that scene would eventually become the first scene of Simply From Scratch⎯and that grieving woman would become my narrator, Zell, short for Rose-Ellen.

In the car, Matt hummed along, drumming his thumbs on the steering wheel as Gladys promised, “Total acceptance is all you’ll get. Knowing this you won’t ever regret finding yourself homeward bound.”

Matt glanced over at me. “Are you crying?”

I looked out my window, at the trees whizzing by. “Shut up.”

“You’re totally crying.”

“It’s a sad song, okay?”

He reached over and squeezed my hand. “That’s why I love you.”

I told him about the scene I’d written that morning: the firefighters tromping through Zell’s house to douse the flames; the friends who came to check on her; her nine-year-old neighbor, who announced her desire to become a celebrity chef; and Ahab, Zell’s greyhound, stalwart witness to everything.

The song ended. Matt pushed repeat and quoted Robert Frost: “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.” We listened to “Make Me The Woman You Come Home To” again. I got teary again, and then we both laughed as I tried to reapply my mascara without jabbing myself in the eyeballs.

The next day I downloaded about twenty-five songs by Gladys Knight and the Pips and grouped them together in a special mix on my iPod. Almost all breakup songs, but their sentiments paralleled Zell’s whirlwind emotions: Didn’t you know you’d have to cry sometime? Every little bit hurts. Every beat of my heart. All I need is time. Letter full of tears. Neither one of us wants to be the first to say goodbye. It should have been me.

And on and on.

The songs are about pain, loneliness, unfairness⎯all things lamented by the brokenhearted.

All things lamented by grieving widows, too.

I listened to those songs exclusively while I wrote Simply From Scratch. One day I was in the grocery story and heard “Midnight Train To Georgia.” My response was Pavlovian: I stopped my cart in the middle of the cereal aisle to scribble a new scene on the back of my grocery list, using a box of Puffins as a writing surface. The line, “I’d rather live in his world than live without him in mine” spoke directly to the heart of Zell’s grief.

And yet, Simply From Scratch isn’t about grief. It’s about moving on. Like the music that ushered my writing process, the book contains joy as well as sadness, friendship to make solitude bearable, small good moments to balance out the dark ones.

Zell listens to Gladys Knight and the Pips when she draws her medical illustrations. She’s got her own particular bittersweet reasons for loving that great music. Doesn’t everybody?

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of Claire Cook’s Seven Year Switch in a random drawing to anyone who comments only on this specific post, Claire Cook and Seven Year Switch. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winner to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to possibly claim your book.

Claire Cook and Seven Year Switch

July 26, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books

From the Front Cover

“Reading Claire Cook might be the most fun you have all summer.”
–ELIN HILDERBRAND, bestselling author of The Castaways

Although Elin Hilderbrand’s quote may sound somewhat exaggerated, what would be more fun this summer than sitting on a beach with your arms spread wide to embrace sand, surf, and blue sky? In fact one might imagine that’s how Claire Cook (Must Love Dogs, Life’s A Beach, and the rest in Bibliography) enjoyed her trip to Costa Rica where she researched Seven Year Switch.

Simply put, this bestselling author of seven book believes in having fun while embracing life and her characters reflect that attitude….at least by the end of their tales. Is this art imitating life? Well in her recent post, Guest Claire Cook on Buried Dreams and YOUR Seven Year Switch, she admits that before following her dream: “…I pretended I wasn’t feeling terrible about not writing a novel, and did a lot of other creative things.” However, during the July 9, 2010 LitChat — where the topic of the week was reinvention — Claire explained further:

Change is hard, so I think being miserable is good incentive.

For me the procrastination became more painful than actually writing a book.

I majored in film and creative writing in college, then totally choked. I hid from it for
over two decades.

I’d gotten by on potential and suddenly I actually had to do something.

Those are all insightful and wise statements from a successful author thrilled to have her novels labeled as “beach reads.” However, when dipping into the pages, readers discover the content is anything but shallow. Instead Claire Cook writes: “The main characters in my novels are all trying to find a way to their own next chapters. I’m not sure any journey feels “‘standard'” when you’re the one who has to go through it, fictionally or in reality!”

It’s also not an easy journey when change is forced upon you as it is in Seven Year Switch, described here in the author’s own words:

Seven Year Switch is the story of a single mother whose husband ran off to join the Peace Corps, leaving her with a three-year-old. Seven years later, just when they’ve figured out how to make it on their own, he’s ba-ack – proving he can’t even run away reliably! Now Jill has to face the fact that there’s simply no way she can be a good mom without letting her ex back into her daughter’s life. They say that every seven years you become a completely new person, and it takes a Costa Rican getaway to help Jill make her choice – between the woman she is and the woman she wants to be.

Knowing that Claire’s books are more about the characters rather than about theme, setting, or plot, The Divining Wand asked where Jill Murray came from? Delighted with the author’s response on her free association imagination, it’s only fair to share her thought process:

“Seven novels in, I stop to think what haven’t I tried before, and I realized that while some of my narrators have been single women, I’ve never written from the point of view of a single mom. I’ve been married for a zillion years (to the same guy, no less!) so I started reaching out to friends and friends of friends who were single moms. I was a teacher for sixteen years, and I remembered some of my students’ experiences as their families navigated the waters of divorce. Then I started thinking about how our lives never turn out quite the way we planned. And I’ve always been fascinated by other cultures, and I was dying to take a research trip to Costa Rica. And it was my seventh novel, so I started thinking about the significance of the number seven. And somehow into all this Jill was born! I’m never quite sure how it all comes together — I just feel my way through.”

With such natural common sense, it’s not surprising that Claire confesses her writing goes “flat” if she analyzes too much. Analytical and critical thinking is saved for revisions, but in the first draft she needs to feel it, not think it. Hmm, a gift of talent? All the author knows is she was surprised to learn that everyone’s brain doesn’t function the way hers does. And, while other writers can’t understand how her process can be successful, she just loves that this proves there is no one way to write a book.

To read Praise for Seven Year Switch please read the right column of the page. To read an Excerpt: Chapter One, please scroll down this same page.

Skipping the beach scene to read Seven Year Switch within the air-conditioned comfort of home did prove to be fun as well as thought-provoking. In truth this story focuses on Jill Murray’s two reinventions, the first brought on seven years earlier when her husband left. Literally abandoned, without an income and their three year old daughter to support, Jill transforms herself into a survivor and earns her dues to be startled and confused — though stronger and wiser — on his surprise return. And that’s when the time comes for another seven year change.

The writing showcases an entrepreneurial single mom who is bright, bold, and determined to do what’s best for her child. Also the serious issues of a “deadbeat Dad,” scrimping to get by, and a child missing/loving her father are treated with a respectful light touch. How? Well the author has infused her protagonist with humor, sass, and enough quirky supporting characters to brighten the journey and even create laugh out loud moments — Great Girlfriend Getaways’ headphone, Cynthia, Spanx….

Delivering her message of reinvention, with more than a spoonful of sugar, Claire Cook allows the reader to have fun with Seven Year Switch, while perhaps thinking of changes in their own future. Hmm, enjoy!

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Announcement: The winners of Keetha DePriest Mosley’s Culinary Kudzu(s) are: Alicia and Elizabeth Varga. Congratulations.

Please email diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address and your book will be sent out promptly.

AND

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of Claire Cook’s Seven Year Switch in a random drawing to anyone who comments only on this specific post. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winner to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to possibly claim your book.

The Revealing of Alicia Bessette

July 22, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles

Alicia Bessette may well have one of the most highly anticipated debuts of the season with Simply From Scratch being released on August 5, 2010. And critical praise from these bestselling authors only heightens the excitement. Consider:

“A love-letter of a novel. There’s enough warmth here to fill your house on the coldest night. You’ll wish you knew these people, this world.”
—Justin Cronin, bestselling author of The Passage

“This story of a young widow edging warily back into the world is full of vivid characters and grace. Imbued with hope but blessedly lacking in sentimentality, it is a fresh, stirring take on the devastation of grief and the holiness of friendship.” 
—Marisa de los Santos, bestselling author of Love Walked In

“In her wise and delightfully fresh debut, Alicia Bessette has composed a tender song that rises through the clouds of loss and grief until it bursts into a joyous celebration of the human heart. To read this story is to embrace life.”
—Beth Hoffman, bestselling author of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt

Also this debut novel, recently released in Germany as Weiss der Himmel von dir, is on the Spiegel Bestseller list!

The Divining Wand has scheduled a full presentation/review of Simply From Scratch for Monday, August 2, 2010 yet — in the meantime — let’s meet the author through her “official” bio:

Alicia Bessette was born and raised in central Massachusetts and graduated from La Salle University in Philadelphia. A pianist and freelance writer, she and her husband, novelist Matthew Quick, live near Philadelphia with their adopted racing greyhound, Stella. Simply From Scratch is Alicia’s first novel.

And now here is Alicia revealed:

Q: How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A: Appreciation for beauty and humor. Willingness to engage.

Q: What is your motto or maxim?
A: Listen, try, take the high road. Taped to my desk is the quote, “What we play is life,” attributed to Louis Armstrong.

Q: How would you describe perfect happiness?
A: World peace (which for me includes the protection of beautiful places and the creatures living there).

Q: What’s your greatest fear?
A: Crowds and hospitals are tied for number one. A close second: moths.

Q: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A: Southern France. Land of my ancestors! I’ve never been.

Q: With whom in history do you most identify?
A: Nobody really stands out, actually. I suppose I can relate in some small way to quite a few figures.

Q: Which living person do you most admire?
A: Someone I know: Matt; someone I don’t know: Greg Mortensen

Q: What are your most overused words or phrases
A: I have a bit of a dirty mouth, but I’m trying to clean it.

Q: If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A: Cooking without needing to follow a recipe. Also, being able to sing and play piano at the same time.

Q: What is your greatest achievement?
A: I’ve made some major life choices that were unpopular, but intensely right for me.

Q: What’s your greatest flaw?
A: I’m sensitive.

Q: What’s your best quality?
A: I’m sensitive.

Q: What do you regret most?
A: Not living abroad for a semester in college. I hope to have my semester abroad yet.

Q: If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A: I’d love to be a very large, soaring bird (provided I could eat vegetarian). Or, it would be cool to be the Loch Ness monster. I’m kind of obsessed with the Loch Ness monster.

Q: What trait is most noticeable about you?
A: A physical trait? My scar from open heart surgery, which I had as a child to correct a valve defect.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A: Anne Shirley, Amber Appleton, and Maude (from Harold and Maude).

Q: Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A: Heath Ledger’s Joker.

Q: If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A: I admire Hannah Teter and her charity work.

Q: What is your biggest pet peeve?
A: Snobbery. And stickers on fruit.

Q: What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A: Hiking mountains, playing piano, meditating, reading, watching movies, being outside, and listening to beautiful music (especially live).

Q: What’s your fantasy profession?
A: Concert pianist or large animal veterinarian. Wildlife photographer would be cool too.

Q: What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A: Sincerity, artistry, humanity.

Q: If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A: Brownies, hands down.

Q: What are your 5 favorite songs?
A: For someone who craves music like it’s oxygen, answering this question is impossible. Impossible! Instead, could I offer some songs off the “soundtrack” to Simply From Scratch? They’re all performed by Gladys Knight and the Pips:
“Didn’t You Know (You’d Have To Cry Sometime)”
“Every Little Bit Hurts”
“Every Beat of My Heart”
“All I Need Is Time”
“Neither One of Us (Wants to be the First to Say Goodbye)”
For more information on the connection between Simply From Scratch and songs by Gladys Knight and the Pips, please visit the Divining Wand on Tuesday, July 27, and read my guest post.

Q: What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A: Again: Impossible! I’d say three very formative books were Anne of Green Gables, Annie John, and She’s Come Undone. L.M. Montgomery gave me a love of headstrong, imaginative, earnest heroines. Jamaica Kindcaid taught me about verbs’ power and the potential potency of sensory details. And Wally Lamb’s writing is a lesson in creating fully realized, original characters, while building suspense and sympathy on every page.

I love Robert Cormier. Susan Cooper’s books are totally satisfying. I always dig Justin Cronin and Agatha Christie. Nevada Barr mysteries are awesome. The Art of Racing In The Rain made my heart swell. So did The Corrections and The Lovely Bones and Life of Pi. My favorite five fantastical novels are Watership Down, The Hobbit, A Wrinkle In Time, Frankenstein, and Dracula. I love to read far and wide!

To become even better acquainted with lovely, thoughtful and most talented Alicia Bessette, please follow her on Twitter and become a friend/fan on Facebook.

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Announcement: The winners of Lauren Baratz-Logsted’s The Education of Bet are: Marcie Turner and Helen Joy. Congratulations.

Please email diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address and your book will be sent out promptly.

AND

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of Keetha DePriest Mosley’s Culinary Kudzu and one copy of More Culinary Kudzu in a random drawing to two separate individuals who comment only on this specific post, Keeth DePriest Mosley and Culinary Kudzu(s). Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Friday, July 23, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in Monday’s post. If you enter, please return Monday to possibly claim your book.

Keetha DePriest Mosley and Culinary Kudzu(s)

July 21, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books


From the Book’s Back Cover

Kudzu. That quintessential Southern vine that seems to envelop everything in its path and can’t be deterred. Much like this indefatigable creeper, Southern culture seems to have ingratiated itself into every aspect of our daily lives. Nowhere is that presence more apparent than in the kitchen. Long have Southerners appreciated and embraced the joys and memorable times that accompany good food and good friends.

Almost five years ago, Keetha DePriest Mosley [formerly Reed] (Culinary Kudzu: Recollections & Recipes from Growing Up Southern, More Culinary Kudzu: Recollections & Recipes from Growing Up Southern) enjoyed her freelance catering jobs, while working in public relations for her hometown hospital and writing a food/entertaining/growing up life column for the Clarion-Ledger newspaper. She didn’t need Julia Child to be her inspiration for a cooking/essay book, instead it was the favorable responses from her newspaper readers that encouraged her to write
Culinary Kudzu.

The wonderful, visual title…where did it come from, Keetha?

“I don’t rightly remember how I came up with the title. I wrote down a bunch of words, southern words. I knew I wanted the title to be immediately identifiable as being southern. Kudzu is such a strange thing and specific to the Deep South (I believe) and I like alliteration. So it just worked!”

Here’s an example of kudzu from Keetha’s blog post, Don’t stand still.

Now, by reading the book’s description, you’ll understand how perfectly kudzu applies to culinary dishes and times that wrap around one’s heart:

A charming mix of tips and ideas for entertaining and gifts of food, coupled with rich tales of growing up in the small-town South. This lively book reads like a kitchen conversation with an old friend.

It’s homey and loving as both professional and book buyer reviews agree:

“More than a cookbook, [Culinary Kudzu] is a delightful collection of essays with seasonal themes, each one accompanied by a recipe or two…Reed takes readers on nostalgic trips…this book is a winner,” Today in Mississippi

“Culinary Kudzu is a fantastic find. As I read, I was reminded of my own childhood growing up in the south. Reed’s recollections were entertaining, her tips useful, and recipes fantastic. Whether you were reared on such southern foods and stories or just interested in exploring samplings from the region, Culinary Kudzu leaves a satisfying taste. I can’t wait for Reed to serve up seconds,” says Laura in Oxford, Mississippi

Laura in Oxford, Mississippi only had to wait two years for More Culinary Kudzu: Recollections & Recipes from Growing Up Southern.

“Keetha DePriest Reed’s second book, More Culinary Kudzu: Recollections & Recipes from Growing Up Southern, is as warm and light as a buttermilk biscuit and refreshingly sweet as your grandmama’s iced tea with a sprig of mint…Keetha skillfully and tenderly looks to her past while driving forward to provide the same sense of wonderment and security for her son.” Delta Magazine

Keetha shares her life moments in a conversational tone that jogs the reader’s own memories from everything to catching lightening bugs on a hot summer night, sitting around a Thanksgiving table and listening to relatives tell their stories, and how Fall — though brief in the Deep South — is her favorite season as it well may be yours. And, while she writes without pretense, the author writes with a confidence that comes from honesty and caring. It’s no wonder that the following observations made me smile:

“This book is as sweet as a Smith County watermelon on the 4th of July; as fresh as spring water; as tender as the first greens in winter. Keetha is way too young to be so knowing and so good at what she’s doing. More Culinary Kudzu has terrific recipes combined with wise, finely crafted essays…” says Judy Tucker, writer and playwright.

Ah, regarding the 4th of July, take a look at what Keetha posted on July 5, 2010, as Oh, Yeah:

“Four cups chopped frozen watermelon, 1/3 cup vodka, two mint leaves, and a handful of ice whirred around in the blender until it’s slushy.

Summer in a glass.”

Notice, no cooking required! In fact during summer in the Delta — from April though mid-October — the key is to avoid kitchen “heat” as much as possible. Mother Nature helps with this by providing an abundance of home/state grown fruits and vegetables always ripe for a variety of salads and other cold dishes. Of course exceptions are made and on Sunday, July 11, 2010, the author posted the recipe for Tomato Tart and even confessed:

“Up until I made this tart, I didn’t like tomatoes, not even a little bit. Not on a burger or sandwich or salad. Now, though…”

If you read The Divining Wand’s Guest Keetha DePriest Mosley on Creating Time, you’ll remember the author’s feelings:

“It’s funny about living in a small town, and loving it so much, because when I was younger, I knew Manhattan is where I would live. I would have a sophisticated job and buy flowers from the little carts on the way home. I’d live in a loft and go to art galleries and whatever else it was sophisticated people did. I was going to be fabulous.

I realized – in time – that I could be fabulous right here in Mississippi but finding time, or, rather, making time to do what I really wanted to do was a challenge.”

Keetha DePriest Mosley is making her life fabulous as she turns her sights from writing about real life to pure fictional storytelling. Working now on her first novel — set in the Delta –, she’s on target to finish writing it by the end of the year. Then, she says, “all I have to do is revise, edit, get an agent, and get it published.”

And when that happens, the novel is certain to be fabulous and heartfelt. Yet for now, there are Culinary Kudzu: Recollections & Recipes from Growing Up Southern, and More Culinary Kudzu: Recollections & Recipes from Growing Up Southern, both to be enjoyed!

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Lauren Baratz-Logsted’s The Education of Bet in a random drawing to anyone who comments only on this specific post, Lauren Baratz-Logsted and The Education of Bet. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is tonight at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winner to be announced here in tomorrow’s post. If you enter, please return tomorrow to possibly claim your book.

AND

The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of Keetha DePriest Mosley’s Culinary Kudzu and one copy of More Culinary Kudzu in a random drawing to two separate individuals who comment only on this specific post. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Friday, July 23, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in Monday’s post. If you enter, please return Monday to possibly claim your book.

Guest Claire Cook on Buried Dreams
and YOUR Seven Year Switch

July 20, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[Bestselling, prolific author Claire Cook (Seven Year Switch, Must Love Dogs, Life’s A Beach, and the rest in Bibliography) is everywhere. Whether featured in print newspaper’s, magazine’s, or on online publication’s “must read” lists, Claire’s novels of being the best you can be resonate with a universal readership. And to think she’s become this popular with seven books in ten years. Yet why not? After living life with a buried dream, she finally “Just Did It!” by pursuing her dream of becoming a novelist. In today’s guest post, Claire describes her successful journey — one that we all can achieve too.]

Buried Dreams and YOUR Seven Year Switch

I write because I can. I’d love to be a musician or a painter, but writing is the place where my urge to create and my ability intersect. I think we all have that place. For some, the trick is finding it. For others, it’s all about having the courage to live the dream.

I’ve known I was a writer since I was three. My mother entered me in a contest to name the Fizzies whale, and I won in my age group. It’s quite possible that mine was the only entry in my age group, since “Cutie Fizz” was enough to win my family a six-month supply of Fizzies tablets (root beer was the best flavor) and a half dozen turquoise plastic mugs with removable handles.

At six I had my first story on the Little People’s Page in the Sunday paper (about Hot Dog, the family dachshund, even though we had a beagle at the time — the first clue that I’d be a novelist and not a journalist) and at sixteen I had my first front page feature in the local weekly. I majored in film and creative writing in college, and fully expected that the day after graduation, I would go into labor and a brilliant novel would emerge, fully formed, like giving birth.

It didn’t happen. I guess I knew how to write, but not what to write. Looking back, I can see that I had to live my life so I’d have something to write about, and if I could give my younger self some good advice, it would be not to beat myself up for the next couple of decades.

But I did. At the same time, I pretended I wasn’t feeling terrible about not writing a novel, and did a lot of other creative things. I wrote shoe ads for an in house advertising agency for five weeks, became continuity director of a local radio station for a couple of years, taught aerobics and did some choreography, helped a friend with landscape design, wrote a few freelance magazine pieces, took some more detours. Eventually, I had two children and followed them to school as a teacher, where I taught everything from multicultural games and dance to open ocean rowing to creative writing.

Years later, when I was in my forties and sitting in my minivan outside my daughter’s swim practice at 5 AM, it hit me that I might live my whole life without ever once going after my dream of writing a novel. So, for the next six months I wrote a rough draft in the pool parking lot, and it sold to the first publisher who asked to read it.

My first novel was published when I was 45. At 50, I walked the red carpet at the Hollywood premiere of the movie version of my second novel, Must Love Dogs, starring Diane Lane and John Cusack. I’m now 55, and my seventh novel, Seven Year Switch, is off to a great start, with beach read shout outs from USA Today, The New York Times, and the New York Post. I sometimes take a deep breath and remind myself that this is the career I almost didn’t have.

So many readers have approached me after book events or emailed me through my website, ClaireCook.com, or messaged me on Facebook or Twitter to share their buried dreams. They tell me that my own journey has been an inspiration to them. I love the idea that someone reading this right now might take a minute to think about dusting off her own dream.

Seven Year Switch is the story of a single mom whose husband ran off to join the Peace Corps. Seven years later, he’s ba-ack – proving he can’t even run away reliably! If there’s an overarching theme in my seven novels, it’s that each of my main characters is trying to reinvent herself. I think that’s what I bring to the table from my own life, and I think it’s something most of us face at one point or another. Here are some tips to help you find what’s next for you.

Seven Simple Steps for Finding YOUR Next Chapter

Self. You can’t have self-awareness, self-confidence, or any of those other good self words until you decide to like yourSELF, and who you really are.

Soul Searching. Sometimes it’s just getting quiet enough to figure out what you really want; often it’s digging up that buried dream you had before life got in the way.

Serendipity. When you stay open to surprises, they often turn out to be even better than the things you planned. Throw your routine out the window and let spontaneity change your life.

Synchronicity. It’s like that saying about luck being the place where preparation meets opportunity. Open your eyes and ears – then catch the next wave that’s meant for you!

Strength. Life is tough. Decide to be tougher. If Plan A doesn’t work, the alphabet has 25 more letters (204 if you’re in Japan!)

Sisterhood. Connect, network, smile. Build a structure of support, step by step. Do something nice for someone – remember, karma is a boomerang!

Satisfaction. Of course you can get some (no matter what the Rolling Stones said.) Call it satisfaction, fulfillment, gratification, but there’s nothing like the feeling of setting a goal and achieving it. So make yours a good one!

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Lauren Baratz-Logsted’s The Education of Bet in a random drawing to anyone who comments only on this specific post, Lauren Baratz-Logsted and The Education of Bet. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, July 21, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winner to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to possibly claim your book.

Lauren Baratz-Logsted and The Education of Bet

July 19, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books


From the Front Flap

The young man looking back at me was handsome
and gave off an air of self-confidence.

There was just one problem; two, actually.

The barely discernible bulge in the front of
the trousers had been created by a carefully balled-
up pair of stockings.

And the young gentleman–I–was a girl.

Imagine, that “young man” describing what s/he sees reflected in a mirror is the 16-year old young woman on The Education of Bet book cover! Yes this is the latest YA novel by Lauren Baratz-Logsted (Crazy Beautiful YA, Sisters 8 series Book 5: Marcia’s Madness, The Twin’s Daughter YA coming August 31, 2010) released last week. As the author’s first historical fiction writing for teens, it’s witty, charming, funny and showcases a character determined to succeed in achieving what she wants most. And, given Bet’s background and the time period of the Victorian era, her desire for an education was an almost impossible dream.

Several reviewers have felt that Yentl was the book’s inspiration but, when asked, Lauren says:

“The funny part is…I’ve never even seen Yentl! Nor have I read the Isaac Bashevis Singer story that the film is based on. What I have read, and what was the inspiration for Bet, is the Tom Hughes classic Tom Brown’s Schooldays. I’ve loved that book, about British boarding school life in the 1800s, since I first read it in college. I wanted to explore what it would be like to be a teenage girl who desperately wants a particular kind of education. Could girls go to school in Victorian England? Sure. But could the dead maid’s orphan 16-year-old daughter ever get that kind of education? Never. Not unless she took drastic steps to achieve her own dream. So why choose to write historical fiction? I’ve made that decision three times: with the adult novel Vertigo; with Bet; and with the forthcoming YA novel The Twin’s Daughter. Each time it’s been because the story demands it. Emma Smith’s story only works in Vertigo because of the social conventions of the time and lack of forensic science. Lack of forensic science is also crucial for The Twin’s Daughter. And The Education of Bet requires a time and place where a girl like Bet would be denied the thing she wants most. Why specifically Victorian England? I just love that time period.”

Her love for England, wit, and moody romance were all able to be explored, along with the Masterpiece Theater influences of great clothes too. So, despite the fact that the story could have been set in contemporary times in a country where women still lack rights, the author concedes that the seriocomic storyline of Bet would be missing.

Here’s the synopsis:

When Will and Bet were four, tragic circumstances brought them to the same house, to be raised by a wealthy gentleman as brother and sister. Now sixteen, they’ve both enjoyed a privileged upbringing thus far. But not all is well in their household. Because she’s a girl, Bet’s world is contained within the walls of their grand home, her education limited to the rudiments of reading, writing, arithmetic, and sewing. Will’s world is much larger. He is allowed—forced, in his case—to go to school. Neither is happy.

So Bet comes up with a plan and persuades Will to give it a try: They’ll switch places. She’ll go to school as Will. Will can live as he chooses. But once Bet gets to school, she soon realizes living as a boy is going to be much more difficult than she imagined.

TRUST: Lauren Baratz-Logsted has created a true delight by giving the reader a feisty, bright yet naive Bet whose education comes from more than books. At the Betterman Academy, she learns that a girl in a boy’s world holds more than academic challenges. Faced to deal with bullies, compulsory sports, dances, and the never imagined “falling in love” with your roommate scenario, Bet maintains her optimistic spirit and solid moral values.

Whether “acting” as a boy or a girl, she is special. An incredible role model for contemporary teens, this character will warm your heart while making you smile because everything about her rings true. The Education of Bet is not a morality tale, instead it’s an enlightening glimpse back at what used to be and, perhaps, how much young adults now take for granted. Better yet this novel of substance is simply fun and — again — oh so charming.

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Lauren Baratz-Logsted’s The Education of Bet in a random drawing to anyone who comments only on this specific post. Comments left on other posts during the week are not entered into the contest. The deadline is Wednesday, July 21, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winner to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to possibly claim your book.

What If….Therese Walsh, Holly LeCraw, and Alicia Bessette?

July 15, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Favorites

What a day — or more — for a daydream in the summer heat of July. In fact it feels like the perfect time to wonder “what if” The Divining Wand possessed magical powers and could grant authors, who create their own magic with “what if,” the following two questions:

Based only on their writing, what author would you want to be?

AND

If given the opportunity to have written ONE book in your lifetime, what would that title be?

~ Therese Walsh (The Last Will of Moira Leahy in Hardcover, The Last Will of Moira Leahy coming in Trade Paperback on August 3, 2010, also chosen as a TARGET BREAKOUT BOOK):

“Ray Bradbury. He’s simply brilliant.”

“The Wizard of Oz is a fantastical story with iconic characters. It’s inspired a classic film, unique spin-off novels, and even a Broadway play. Not to mention the millions of Halloween costumes…”

~ Holly LeCraw (The Swimming Pool):

“I’d want to be Virginia Woolf, and I’d want to have written To the Lighthouse.”

~ Alicia Bessette (Simply from Scratch coming August 5, 2010):

“LM Montgomery & Le Petit Prince.”

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What If….Maud Carol Markson and Lauren Baratz-Logsted?

July 14, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Favorites

What a day — or more — for a daydream in the summer heat of July. In fact it feels like the perfect time to wonder “what if” The Divining Wand possessed magical powers and could grant authors, who create their own magic with “what if,” the following two questions:

Based only on their writing, what author would you want to be?

AND

If given the opportunity to have written ONE book in your lifetime, what would that title be?

~Maud Carol Markson (When We Get Home, Looking After Pigeon):

“I don’t know what author I would want to be because I can’t help but think about their “‘real'” lives. My father always taught me that “‘the grass is probably greener on my own lawn regardless to how it looks from my side of the fence.'” However, I truly love Anne Tyler and if I could write just one of her novels, I would feel blessed. As for the one book– I would love to have written To Kill A Mockingbird! But Harper Lee only wrote one book– I am sure that was difficult for her.

~ Lauren Baratz-Logsted (most recent The Education of Bet YA, Crazy Beautiful YA, Sisters 8 series Book 5: Marcia’s Madness):

“Arturo Perez-Reverte. He’s a terrific writer and it’s always so clear he’s having fun.”

“The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald.”

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