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Archive for February, 2011

The Revealing of Kristina McMorris

February 09, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles, Q&A

Kristina McMorris, a former child television star and public relations professional, admits that she was barely a fiction reader when first discovering her grandparents’ World War II correspondence. However those written exchanges inspired her to write and become a novelist as Letters From Home debuts on February 22, 2011.

This one sentence description tells: Letters from Home is a story of hope and connection, of sacrifices made in love and war–and the chance encounters that change us forever.

And Early Praise claims:

“Ambitious and compelling…[a] sweeping debut.”
PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

“An absolutely lovely debut novel.”
KRISTIN HANNAH, New York Times bestselling author of Firefly Lane

“A novel to savor and remember.”
BEN SHERWOOD, president of ABC News and bestselling author of The Death & Life of Charlie St. Cloud

“Skillfully written… sweeps the reader away.”
LYNN “BUCK” COMPTON, “Band of Brothers” WWII vet

The Divining Wand has scheduled a presentation/review of Letters from Home for Monday, February 21, 2011 but, for now, let’s meet the author through her “official” bio:

Kristina McMorris penned her first novel, LETTERS FROM HOME, based on inspiration from her grandparents’ wartime courtship. The recipient of a dozen national literary awards, this debut is scheduled for release March 2011 from Kensington Books (US) and Avon/HarperCollins (UK). Kristina has worked as a weekly TV host since age nine, and currently resides in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two sons.

And now it’s time to get to know Kristina, much more upclose and personal:

Q: How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A: Happy, full, loving, blessed, busy, rewarding, adventurous, memorable

Q: What is your motto or maxim?
A: “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.”

Q: How would you describe perfect happiness?
A: Spending a fun day with my husband and two young sons with no deadlines or thoughts about work; only the sound of the kids giggling at each other, topped off with lots of hugs.

Q: What’s your greatest fear?
A: Outliving my children.

Q: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A: In Italy, eating tiramisu and sipping a cappuccino on a terrace overlooking Florence, where I used to live. 🙂

Q: With whom in history do you most identify?
A: Martin Luther King, Jr. — for the racial views we share on peace and equality

Q: Which living person do you most admire?
A: Any number of the WWII veterans I’ve had the privilege of interviewing in the course of my research. When it comes to humility, there are no better teachers.

Q: What are your most overused words or phrases?
A: In real life. probably the word “crazy” — just because it’s so dang versatile. “Kids, stop acting so crazy!” “Wow…that’s crazy.” See what I mean?

Q: If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A: Speaking articulately to large crowds without the burden of jittery nerves.

Q: What is your greatest achievement?
A: My children, without question.

Q: What’s your greatest flaw?
Perfectionism

Q: What’s your best quality?
A: Optimism

Q: What do you regret most?
A: Caring so much about what others thought while in junior high and high school. Don’t we all wish that?

Q: If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A: I’d have to say Oprah, though just for a day — long enough to experience her fascinating yet hectic daily routine and, of course, to choose my novel for her book club. Duh.

Q: What trait is most noticeable about you?
A: Physically, that I’m a combination of races (Japanese and Irish-American); personality-wise, that I’m very social.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A: In hopes that film references are allowed, this one is a toss up between Maximus from Gladiator and Captain Von Trapp!

Q: Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A: Death, the witty and incredibly compelling narrator in The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Q: If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A: I’d have to name a group of athletes: the 1919 Chicago White Sox; and I’d say, “Don’t do it, fellas. Believe me, you’ll regret the decision forever.”

Q: What is your biggest pet peeve?
A: Drivers who refuse to let you into their lane for no good reason.

Q: What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A: Hosting television shows

Q: What’s your fantasy profession?
A: Playing the lead in Miss Saigon on Broadway

Q: What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A: A good heart, funny, approachable

Q: If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A: Handmade gnocchi (potato pasta) – yum!

Q: What are your 5 favorite songs?
A: One For My Baby (And One More For The Road) by Frank Sinatra; White Christmas by The Drifters; The Dance by Garth Brooks; I’m Yours by Jason Mraz; and Believe by Josh Groban

Q What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A: The Book Thief, Water for Elephants, The Help, The Kommandant’s Girl, and Devil At My Heels

Charming, multi-talented, and “very social,” Kristina McMorris is definitely a new author to follow on Twitter and friend on Facebook.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Lauren Baratz-Logsted’s The Twin’s Daughter AND the entire Sisters 8 Series, including Petal’s Problems in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Lauren Baratz-Logsted and The Twin’s Daughter, Petal’s Problems. PLEASE indicate which book(s) you prefer. As always, comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is tonight at 7:00 p.m. EST with the winners to be announced here in tomorrow’s post. If you enter, please return tomorrow to see if you’re a winner.

Guest Sarah Pekkanen on
Is writing an art or a craft?

February 08, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[Are writers literary artists or simply skilled (and talented) individuals who tell stories? In today’s guest post Sarah Pekkanen (The Opposite of Me, and Skipping a Beat coming February 22, 2011) asks that provocative question and answers it in regard to herself.]

Is writing an art or a craft?

I’m an author, but I’m not the slightest bit artistic. I don’t paint, dance, sing, or sculpt. My husband chooses the colors for the walls in our house, because if it were up to me, I’d pick Benjamin Moore’s Most Boring Beige. Don’t get me wrong; I love experiencing someone else’s art. I can appreciate Monet’s flowers and Picasso’s quirky lines and Georgia O’Keefe’s erotic flowers. And I love listening to music, anything from opera to Coldplay. I just can’t create it myself.

I don’t consider my writing art, either -it’s pure craft. Writing to me is messy, exhilarating, frustrating, joyful and depressing. The emotions all pile up on each other as I sit down at my keyboard, fighting for dominance like those swirling ping-pong balls at a televised lottery drawing. I never know which one is going to surface first.
It’s the steady, methodical side of my mind that takes control when I’m feeling frenzied and overwhelmed.

“Just write 1,000 words today,” it instructs me. A thousand words is four pages. It seems like a reasonable goal. But I’m not ready yet. First I re-read yesterday’s pages, backspacing over an ill-considered adverb and realizing a character needs one more telling detail to make him come alive. Then I try to drown out the voices in my head – they can be really mean, like a pack of middle-school girls – that tell me my prose is criminally bad, and that what I’m writing will never be published.

“Push on,” my methodical mind whispers reassuringly. “You can always fix it later.”

I get up to make a cup of tea, and think about folding a load of laundry. Sorting socks has never been so appealing. And I really need to exercise more – shouldn’t I go for a jog, then try to write?

But Craft won’t let me get away with procrastinating. It coaxes me back to the keyboard with its simple directive: Four pages. A thousand words. They don’t have to be beautiful. They really don’t even really need to make sense. I just need to pin them down on paper, because if I give in to the excuses, my book will remain unwritten.

If I were an artist, I might depend on a muse. But what would I do if she started sleeping in– or worse, developed mononucleosis? What if her fairy dust suddenly lost its sparkle?

I used to think I’d write a book when I had more time. I imagined myself breezing into the perfect little coffee shop, where, after sipping a steaming espresso, I’d poise my fingers above my laptop’s keyboard and watch as a flawless novel unfurled. I wouldn’t write the whole thing in a single day, of course – it would probably take a few weeks. But as long as the conditions were just so, creative inspiration would emerge, almost like a separate entity, and I’d sit back and watch it go to work.

Huh. I’ve since learned writing, at least for me, doesn’t work that way. I have to write when I’m exhausted. I have to write when I’m grumpy, when I’m bored with writing, and when I’m convinced I’m the worst writer in the entire world. I can’t make writing too… precious, for lack of a better word (and I’m a writer; I really should have a better word), or I’ll never get it done. It’s the equivalent of a runner faithfully getting out there on freezing cold days, on rainy days when every passing car splatters a puddle’s worth of water on her, and on days when her shin splints cry out for mercy. Sure, there will be days when she feels like she’s flying; when the sun is gentle and so is the breeze, and she could run forever. Those golden days exist in writing, too, but I know I’ll never stumble upon them unless I’ve done the gritty, painful training.

That’s why I like Craft. Unlike the muse, it’s no-nonsense; it gets up at 7 a.m., yawning and stretching, then has a solid breakfast of scrambled eggs and black coffee before heading off to battle traffic and curse at the guy who makes a left-hand turn and forces everyone to miss the light. Craft isn’t fussy. No mean middle-school girl would try to mess with Craft’s mind. Craft shows up, gets the job done, then heads home to have a well-deserved Budweiser in front of the television.

Ooh – television. Maybe I should see what’s on before I write?

(Sounds of a struggle as Craft wrestles the remote control out of my hand).

Fine. Craft wins again. Now I’m off to tackle those 1,000 words of my next novel.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Lauren Baratz-Logsted’s The Twin’s Daughter AND the entire Sisters 8 Series, including Petal’s Problems in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Lauren Baratz-Logsted and The Twin’s Daughter, Petal’s Problems. PLEASE indicate which book(s) you prefer. As always, comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, February 9, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. EST with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to see if you’re a winner.

Lauren Baratz-Logsted and
The Twin’s Daughter, Petal’s Problems

February 07, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books


Twins, particularly identical ones, are a story unto themselves and for Lauren Baratz-Logsted (The Education of Bet YA, Crazy Beautiful YA, Sisters 8 series Book 5: Marcia’s Madness) they became the inspiration of her most recent YA novel, The Twin’s Daughter. As the author explained:

“I love anything to do with twins and I wanted to write a story about a side of the story I’d never seen: that of someone who’s a child of an identical twin.”

The child/teenager is 13 year old Lucy Sexton, who would rather be educated than waste her time doing needlepoint and other proper, “ladylike” activities of England’s Victorian period. And it’s through Lucy’s sensibly curious, yet ultimately horrified mind that readers watch the story unfold.

Synopsis of The Twin’s Daughter:

Lucy Sexton is stunned when her mother’s identical twin sister shows up at the family’s front door one day. Separated at birth, the two sisters have had dramatically different upbringings — and have never known of the other’s existence. Lucy’s mother soon becomes determined to transform her sister Helen into the kind of lady that all of society will admire. And the change in Aunt Helen is indeed remarkable. But is it just Lucy’s imagination, or does Aunt Helen seem to delight in being mistaken for Lucy’s mother….especially where Lucy’s father is concerned? Then one day Lucy is horrified to stumble upon the scene of a brutal murder in her own house. Who is behind the vicious slaying — and who has been left alive?

The murder victim is one of the twins, however which one is it – Lucy’s mother or her aunt? In a December 2010 Red Room blog post, The Twin’s Daughter as it Was, Lauren writes:

“That question – “‘WHICH ONE?'” – drives the rest of the story.”

Of course the author thought she knew “which one” but points out that a major difficulty in writing a suspense novel is not knowing when the reader will figure things out. If the “Aha” moment comes too early, does it spoil the suspense?

Lauren called in outside readers to determine at what point they guessed “which one” and was the story suspenseful? All agreed it was suspenseful and the timing of their “knowing guess” didn’t deter from their reading. The manuscript was fine as it was, nothing had to be changed until the author began thinking, “What if I switched things around so that the ending was now a surprise even to me?”

And that’s exactly what she did, thereby turning The Twin’s Daughter into one of the most puzzling, second guessing mysteries one could ever hope to read!

As a book for all ages, this is more than a thrilling mystery. Lauren Baratz-Logsted shines in portraying Lucy as an adolescent who possesses strength and independence, while still being naive to the details of the world. Readers will watch her grow, mature, fall in love, and face a hard truth that molds the rest of life. She’s a believable character — a great role model — who bravely faces her bittersweet reality and comes to terms with it.

The Twin’s Daughter, complete with its murder mystery, is filled with lessons learned. The Gothic tale has a charm all its own, one that will linger with wonder at how Lauren fooled us all!

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For readers/visitors unfamiliar with the Sisters 8 Series, the presentation/review of Lauren Baratz-Logsted and Marcia’s Madness is the perfect place to fill in the background.

Written by the Logsted family, about a family of eight sisters, Lauren explains what she, Greg, and Jackie wanted to create:

“One thing we have strived to do with The Sisters 8, since all three of us our huge fans of Roald Dahl, we’ve tried to emulate him to the extent that we do the best to make the quirky humor work for readers of all ages in addition to the targeted audience of 6- to 10-year-olds. We hope we have succeeded.”

With the introduction of a new book featuring another sister, every six months or so, The Sisters Eight Book 6: Petal’s Problems was released in October 2010 with this synopsis

Oh, no. Oh, no. Oh, no. Oh, no! May is almost over and that means only one thing: Petal’s month is about to begin. For most people, this would be a good thing. They would look forward to discovering their gift and their power. But not our dear Petal. As far as Petal is concerned, it could stay May forever.

At least the sisters have some excitement in their future: The wedding of Aunt Martha and Uncle George will bring them, the Petes, and the cats to Paris, where fun—and a little bit of danger—will come as surely as the changing of the month.

Rather than spoil the story, let it simply be noted that Petal is one sister reluctant to receive her “power.” Of course she can’t escape it….ah, yet that’s the story which, according to Kirkus Readers, is filled with “thrills, suspense and hijinks [that] should satisfy adventure-seeking young readers.”

The Sisters Eight Book 6: Petal’s Problems — it’s a must to either begin or add to the Sisters 8 Series!

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Lauren Baratz-Logsted’s The Twin’s Daughter AND the entire Sisters 8 Series, including Petal’s Problems in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post. PLEASE indicate which book(s) you prefer. As always, comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, February 9, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. EST with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to see if you’re a winner.

Writing, Rituals, Secrets, and Superstitions, IV

February 03, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles, Q&A

True or False? For every writer there are intangible elements — personal habits — that allow the mind to roam and find its comfort zone when the words aren’t flowing. To discover the truth, as well as what some of these practices include, The Divining Wand asked its authors:

Do you have any unusual writing rituals, secrets or superstitions that always work when all else fails?

And this week among the authors who replied are returning TDW favorite Therese Fowler and new member Cari Kamm:

~Therese Fowler (Souvenir, Reunion, and Exposure coming May 3, 2011):

“Thankfully, I’ve never reached a point with my writing when “all else fails,” maybe because the strategies I adopted when I began are sure-fire ways to keep getting the words onto the page. Those strategies: create a word-count goal and stick to it; edit the previous day’s writing before moving forward into new scenes; make copious use of a writing journal–this is where I write, long-hand, all my questions, notes, and thoughts about the work-in-progress.”

~Jessica Barksdale Inclan (Being With Him, Intimate Beings, The Beautiful Being):

“I just sit my ass down and write every morning, for better or worse. I guess that “is” my superstition? I don’t walk around the room three times and incant a prayer or read Rumi. I just write.”

~Cari Kamm (Fake Perfect Me):

“No secrets or superstitions, just tons of yellow post-it notes! I only use yellow post-its and a bright orange sharpie to create the outline, Acts, and characters of Fake Perfect Me. I’m currently “‘wallpapering'” my office now for my 2nd book. Not sure why these colors, but I find comfort in them. Also, complete silence. I can be in a cafe or at home listening to music when creating themes or characters, but to actually write I need complete silence. ”

~Judy Merrill Larsen (All the Numbers):

“When I’m stuck, I let my characters start talking. They can almost always talk me out of being blocked. Usually by saying something I never expected or by starting an argument. Or, I jump ahead to a scene I’m dying to write and then go back and fill in the gap. Coffee and chocolate help too!”

~Karen McQuestion (A Scattered Life, Easily Amused coming September 21, 2010, and Celia and the Fairies for ages 7 – 11, and Favorite YA coming April 1, 2011):

“The library is my secret weapon. When all else fails, I go to my local library and settle into a comfortable chair with a spiral notebook and pen. Even if I’m really stuck, something always comes to me. It’s magic, my library.”

~Randy Susan Meyers (The Murderer’s Daughters):

“I wish I had a no-fail secret! The only ritual I use when I am feeling unmotivated is this lecture: Write! It’s your job. Does your doctor get to say she’s not feeling particularly medically creative on the day of your appointment? I wish I could say that this always works, but it does on most days. I try very hard to remember that it’s getting in the chair and putting my hands on the keyboard that’s the trick and that writing may be creative, but it’s still a job and I have to show up to succeed.”

To be continued….

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Announcement: The winners of Caroline Leavitt’s Pictures of You are Colleen Turner and Carmela Francisco. Congratulations!

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

The Further Revealing of Sarah Pekkanen

February 02, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles, Q&A

Last March Sarah Pekkanen became a debut author with her wildly popular novel, The Opposite of Me. In less than a year, this author has made her presence/talent known and many (of you) eagerly await Skipping A Beat, Sarah’s second book coming February 22, 2011.

Described by this one sentence question, Skipping A Beat tells a story of:

What would you do if your husband wanted to rewrite the rules of your relationship?

And the critics praise:

“In this compelling and satisfying read, Pekkanen offers relatable characters that move you and an ending that surprises and pleases. Highly recommended.” Library Journal, *starred review*

“A two-hanky weepy… A tragic turn of events redirects what could have been a predictable romance into a drama on the fragility of love and marriage.” —Kirkus

The Divining Wand has scheduled a presentation/review of Skipping A Beat for Monday, February 14, 2011, however — right now — let’s be reminded of the author’s background through her “official” bio:

Sarah Pekkanen’s work has been published in People, The Washington Post, USA Today, The New Republic, The Baltimore Sun, Reader’s Digest, and Washingtonian, among others. She writes a monthly Erma Bombeck type column for Bethesda Magazine, and has been an on-air contributor to NPR and E! Entertainment’s “Gossip Show.” She is the winner of a Dateline award and the Paul Miller Reporting Fellowship. Sarah lives in Chevy Chase, Maryland with her husband and their three young sons.

Although The Revealing of Sarah Pekkanen provided insight, there is even more to learn about Sarah as she further reveals:

Q: What would you choose as the theme song of your life?
A: “Bless The Broken Road” because I love the message. No one’s life unfolds perfectly, nor should it. We learn from our mistakes and setbacks, and we keep moving forward, toward the place we want to be.

Q: Possible pseudonym?
A: My last name translates to “Peterson” in Finland, so I could be Sara Peterson. My parents spelled my name without an “h” on my birth certificate, but I added one in elementary school. So that’s my alias!

Q: Name three “bests” of being a published author.
A: Meeting so many amazing readers. Some of them have sent me letters about my books, and what the themes have meant to them, and I cherish those notes. I also love chatting and joking around with readeres on Facebook. And seeing my books in stores is such a thrill!

Q: Favorite book release season of the year?
A: I have to go with the cusp of winter and spring, which is when my books come out! It’s a hopeful time – we’re looking ahead to warm weather and flowers. And I think my books are hopeful, so that fits.

Q: If given the opportunity, which reality show would you be on?
A: American Idol. But only if I got a vocal chord transplant; I’m such an awful singer that my kids wail, “Mommmmm!” when I sing along to the radio.

Q: Favorite childhood fairy tale?
A: Cinderella!

Q: What U.S. city would you like to visit that you haven’t been to yet?
A: Savannah is on my dream list. I love the South – the warmth, the accents, the flowers…

Q: Your reward after a day of writing?
A: Hanging out with my family, our rescue lab Bella, and enjoying a cold glass of white wine.

Q: What 3 personal qualities are LEAST important to you?
A: Rigidity, Punctuality, and Skepticism.

Q: An author quote that inspires you?
A: “Writing is easy. Just stare at the computer monitor until blood comes out of your forehead!” (I don’t know who first said this, but it always makes me laugh.)

Q: Where do you like to read?
A: Where don’t I like to read? I read in the car, in bed, in waiting rooms, in lines… you name it. Now that I have a Kindle app for my iPhone, I’m never far from a book.

Q: Book or ebook reader?
A: Both! I’ll take books any way I can get them.

Q: Growing up, who was your teen idol?
A: I had such a crush on Shawn Cassidy! My favorite song was “Da Doo Run Run.” Okay, so the lyrics weren’t all that … lyrical. Shawn was cute!

Q: If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
A: I’d become much more motivated about exercising.

Q: Must love dogs and/or cats?
A: Both – but I’m a dog person. Can’t imagine living without one.

Q: Which author – past or present – would you have chosen as a mentor?
A: Jane Austin. I think she’d be a lot of fun.

Q: What book did you fake reading?
A: I’ve faked a few at bedtime with my kids, when I’m particularly tired and I accidentally “skipped” a few pages.

Q: What is your favorite scent?
A: Lavender.

Q: What is your favorite movie adaptation of a novel?
A: I loved “In Her Shoes.”

Q: Name two books you always give or recommend, knowing they’ll be loved?
A: “Unbroken” by my high-school classmate and dear friend Laura Hillenbrand, and a blank journal, so the recipient can write her own story.

Q: What are five of your favorite things?
A: Assuming I can’t include people, I’ll say books, chocolate, movies, long walks with my rescue lab Bella, and a delicious vegetarian dinner prepared by someone other than myself!

If you have yet to do so, please follow the delightfully outgoing Sarah Pekkanen on Twitter and become a friend on Facebook.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Caroline Leavitt’s Pictures of You in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Caroline Leavitt and Pictures of You. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is tonight at 7:00 p.m. EST with the winners to be announced here in tomorrow’s post. If you enter, please return tomorrow to see if you’re a winner.

Guest Lauren Baratz-Logsted on Mixed Emotions

February 01, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[What does an author feel after successfully completing a long-term writing project? In addition to euphoria and relief, there’s usually the question of what’s next? In today’s guest post Lauren Baratz-Logsted (most recent The Twin’s Daughter YA, and middle grade addition The Sisters Eight Book 6: Petal’s Problems, The Education of Bet YA, Crazy Beautiful YA, Sisters 8 series Book 5: Marcia’s Madness) describes her feelings on writing the final book of the Sisters 8 series — a project that became a personal family affair.]

MIXED EMOTIONS

Last Saturday night, my daughter was away at a sleepover, so my husband and I spent the evening watching a DVD of the making of The Rolling Stones’ Exiles on Main Street album while enjoying some adult beverages. Afterwards, we were still in such a Stones mood, we listened to an iPod shuffle of Stones hits, one of which was “Mixed Emotions.” I did some dancing too, resulting in an injured back, but that’s another story.

“Mixed Emotions,” though – the song got me thinking.

Earlier last week, I completed the first draft of The Sisters 8 Book 9, the series for young readers that I created with my husband and daughter. The series was conceived in December 2006 when a blizzard in Colorado stranded the three of us for 10 days with no TV or other kids in sight. It’s about octuplet girls whose parents go missing one New Year’s Eve, leaving the eight of them to solve the mystery of their parents’ disappearance while keeping the wider world from realizing that eight little girls are home alone. People are always surprised to find out that there are nine books but it’s always made perfect sense to us: one for each sister and a last book to answer all the questions raised along the way.

And now, four years, nine books, 1000+ pages and 200,000+ words later, it’s finished. I’ve had 13 other books published in my career thus far, but this has by far been the longest journey both in time devoted to it and volume.

So how do I feel about the series finally being done?

Well, my emotions are mixed.

There’s happiness at having finished this individual book, just like there’s always happiness when I finish a book.

There’s sadness, because it’s the end of this particular project after living with it for so long, plus I can’t imagine doing anything quite like it ever again.

There’s curiosity about the future, both for me and The Sisters 8.

Mostly, though, right now there’s just relief. For over four years, we’ve strived to make each book even more exciting than the last. The usual experience for young readers with series written for them is one of the same pleasant experience repeated over and over again, like a blueprint for a housing development where everything is the same except minor interior deviations. We tried to do something a little different with The Sisters 8. Rather than a conventional series, it’s more like a cycle, with each adventure building on the one that comes before it. When you write a book, or at least when I write a book, there’s a constant low-grade pressure: Will I be able to go the distance? Will I see it through to the end? And, if and when I get there, will I find when I read it through that I’ve accomplished everything I set out to do? The Sisters 8 series has always presented a particular problem in that regard. For while each individual book along the way felt satisfying when we finished it, this ninth book always loomed. Sure, I felt good when finishing each of the first eight books, but that nagging worry was always there: What if the ninth book, after all this time, failed to deliver in the big way that readers would be expecting? None of the other good would matter if that happened.

But now it’s done, and even though it won’t be in the hands of readers until sometime in 2012, I think they will be pleased. I certainly hope they will be.

People often ask what the highlight has been of working on this series with my family. There have been so many. The biggest single thing is getting to work on it and share it with my daughter – how lucky am I? But a very close second is the responses from young readers. I’ve received my share of fan mail from adults and teens over my career, but there’s nothing like the letters we receive from kids because of their sheer joy and enthusiasm. Not to mention all the parents, grandparents and teachers who write to say, “X hated reading until she discovered The Sisters 8.” And don’t get me started on the girl in Canada who designed her own mystery for us: eight hand-illustrated postcards each with a cryptic message that we had to rearrange to find out what she wanted us to know; or the girls in Massachusetts who created their own board game based on the series.

So what’s next for me?

That’s a question I’d need the mystery-solving abilities of The Sisters 8 to tackle, because today, honestly, I have no idea. My emotions are mixed and the crystal ball isn’t talking.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Caroline Leavitt’s Pictures of You in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Caroline Leavitt and Pictures of You. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, February 2, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. EST with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to see if you’re a winner.