The Divining Wand

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Archive for May, 2012

Claire Cook: Why I Write

May 31, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Books, Guest Posts

[It simply wouldn’t be summer without a new Claire Cook novel to inspire/entertain and this Tuesday, June 5th the New York Times bestselling author (complete book listing) offers readers her ninth book, Wallflower in Bloom

For those (few) who don’t know Claire’s story, writing and publishing nine books in a career might seem easy. Ah, but finding the dedication for her desire took a bit of work and that is all a part of why she writes.]

Why I Write/Claire Cook

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 half a 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 forty-five. At fifty, I walked the red carpet at the Hollywood premiere of the movie version of my second novel, Must Love Dogs. I’m now the bestselling author of nine novels, including my about-to-be released Wallflower in Bloom.

Writing is still that place for me where my urge to create and my ability intersect. And not many days go by that I don’t take a deep breath and remind myself that this is the career I almost didn’t have.

* * * * *

In addition to being a June Indie Next Pick, Wallflower in Bloom has been praised by these two distinctly different raves:

“A fun and inspiring read . . . Cook’s humor and narrative execution is impeccable; Deirdre’s increasing self-consciousness elicits support for her to overcome insecurity and endure in her journey to find happiness and fulfillment on her own terms.” —Publisher’s Weekly

WALLFLOWER IN BLOOM is a Cool Reads for Summertime pick — Atlanta Journal-Constitution

In other words, this book is a winner!

Here’s the synopsis:

A winning and witty novel about a woman who emerges from the shadow of her overbearing family and finds herself “dancing with the stars.”

Deirdre Griffin has a great life; it’s just not her own. She’s the round-the-clock personal assistant to her charismatic, high-maintenance, New Age guru brother, Tag. As the family wallflower, her only worth seems to be as gatekeeper to Tag at his New England seaside compound.

Then Deirdre’s sometime-boyfriend informs her that he is marrying another woman, who just happens to be having the baby he told Deirdre he never wanted. While drowning her sorrows with Tag’s vodka, Deirdre comes up with an idea. She’ll use his massive online following to get herself voted on as a last-minute replacement on Dancing with the Stars. It’ll get her back in shape, mentally and physically. It might even get her a life of her own. Deirdre Griffin’s fifteen minutes of fame has begun.

Irresistible, offbeat, yet with a thoroughly relatable and appealing heroine, this is an original and deeply satisfying story of one woman who’s ready to take a leap into the spotlight, no matter where she lands.

Read and/or listen to Claire read Chapter One….enjoy!

Visit the one and only Claire Cook at her website, follow her on Twitter, like her on Facebook, and enjoy the reading fun of Wallflower in Bloom!

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of Wallflower in Bloom by Claire Cook — in a random drawing — to anyone who leaves a comment on this post by 11:59 p.m. EDT tonight! The winner will be notified by email tomorrow.

Camille Noe Pagán: Why I Write

May 30, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[One year ago Camille Noe Pagán debuted with The Art of Forgetting (presentation/review), complete with its stunning book cover and fascinating storyline of forgiving/forgetting for the sake of friendship. However, as of yesterday, The Art of Forgetting is available in paperback with another lovely cover for the same intriguing tale.

Interestingly, in today’s guest post, Camille admits that she doesn’t forget and that helps to explain why she writes.]

Why I Write

There was a guy. I’d call him a man, but I knew him long before he became one, and I loved him then, too. But I didn’t know what to do with that love; I was afraid of it, paralyzed by how I thought it would limit me. You know this story: We moved on. We married other people.

There was an acceptance letter: Harvard School of Public Health welcomes you. A letter followed by a difficult decision: I’m going to give this writing thing a try. A real try, instead of squeezing it in between classes and roping myself down with thousands of dollars of debt, debt that would influence my future career choices, and not necessarily in good ways. You can always reapply, I told myself as I mailed off the reply: Thank you, but no.

There was a city. The city: New York, the only place I’d ever felt at home. But I was about to have my second child, and I wanted to give him and his sister more than I’d be able to if we stayed. So my husband and I packed up and moved to the Midwest, where we had space, more educational options, and at least some of our extended family nearby.

I’ve never regretted choosing my husband—not once. I have a career that even on the worst day is better than I could have ever imagined. My children adore their home, with its attic playroom and grassy yard where they kick around soccer balls and splash in their kiddie pool. And I adore it, too, even if I occasionally wonder if they’d be just as content with Brooklyn as their backyard.

Some people claim they never look over their shoulder, back at what they left behind in order to be where they are now. I am not one of them. Even now, in this blessed life I’ve forged, I still sometimes think of that guy, and graduate school, and New York.

For me, looking back is not about regret. It’s just how I think—and it is exactly why I write.

It’s no news flash that life doesn’t come with do-overs. It’s all forward motion, and it’s faster and faster with every passing year.

But writing: that comes with track changes; multiple drafts; a delete button. It is chance to live many lives, to make many choices, to explore things freely and know that in the end, even though I have created them, they are not my own. Each time I return to the blank page, I am choosing a new adventure. An adventure I can revise as many times as needed before it feels just right.

* * * * *

Forgive and forget—but not necessarily in that order.

The Art of Forgetting is a story about the power of friendship, the memories and self-created myths that hold us back from our true potential, and most of all, the delicate balance between forgiving and forgetting.

Here’s an eclectic sampling of praise since its debut:

“Pagán writes with both a subtle sense of humor and great wisdom about the power of friendship and the importance of forgiveness in her quietly compelling literary debut.”
 —Chicago Tribune

“Fast-paced, painful, funny, and renewing at once.”
—Daily Candy

“A cathartic, thought-provoking story of unconditional friendship and the choices we make on the road to becoming who we’re meant to be.”
Shelf Awareness

Camille Noe Pagán can be followed on Twitter, liked on Facebook and enjoyed through her writing of The Art of Forgetting.

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of The Art of Forgetting by Camille Noe Pagán — in a random drawing — to anyone who leaves a comment on this post by 11:59 p.m. EDT tonight! The winner will be notified by email tomorrow.

Interview with Meg Mitchell Moore on
So Far Away

May 29, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Books, Interviews

[When Meg Mitchell Moore’s wrote The Arrivals (presentation/review), she focused on adult children going home to a safe haven for love and comfort. However in So Far Away — available in bookstores today — the author turns her attention to characters searching/yearning for home, family, or a sense of belonging.

Described in one sentence, the novel is about: The lives of a wayward teenager and a lonely archivist are unexpectedly joined through the discovery of an old diary.

The following synopsis provides a bit more detail:

Thirteen-year-old Natalie Gallagher is trying to escape: from her parents’ ugly divorce, and from the vicious cyber-bullying of her former best friend. She discovers a dusty old diary in her family’s basement and is inspired to unlock its secrets.

Kathleen Lynch, an archivist at the Massachusetts State Archives, has her own painful secrets: she’s a widow estranged from her only daughter. Natalie’s research brings her to Kathleen, who in Natalie sees traces of the daughter she has lost.

What could the life of an Irish immigrant domestic servant from the 1920s teach them both? In the pages of the diary, they will learn that their fears and frustrations are timeless.

And here is a sampling of Praise:

“This sweet and thoughtful novel is both tense and elegiac, exploring the damage we inflict on ourselves and each other, and the strength it takes to heal.” (Publishers Weekly )

“So Far Away is the moving story of three very different women whose lives improbably intersect. Meg Mitchell Moore effortlessly moves among a teenage cyber-bullying victim, a mother who longs for her lost daughter, and a 1920s Irish domestic with a shocking secret. The result is a powerful page-turner about love, loss, motherhood, and friendship.” (J. Courtney Sullivan, New York Times bestselling author of Maine and Commencement)

“Meg Mitchell Moore has taken the hot button topic of cyber bullying and crafted a story so compellingly real you will never forget her thirteen-year-old heroine, Natalie Gallagher. Moore’s pitch-perfect rendering of this girl’s voice is nothing short of stunning.” (Laura Harrington, author of Alice Bliss)

TRUTH: So Far Away captured my heart from the first page and the story of Natalie, Kathleen, and Bridgett never let it go. With genuine characters, experiencing painful, profound feelings throughout an intertwined — yet not complicated — storyline, the novel reflects both the past and present. But read on and allow Meg to explain much more in the following interview.

TDW: Writing/publishing two novels in a year is impressive, when did you have this story’s idea? Before, during, or after writing The Arrivals?

M.M.M.: I started thinking about this story after I had completed The Arrivals and while I was sending out queries to find an agent. I sold So Far Away as part of a two-book deal with The Arrivals, and I had written nothing but a descriptive paragraph at that point. It changed a lot in the course of the writing but whenever I was stuck I went back to that original paragraph to see if the original theme was still viable.

TDW: How much — if any — did the suicide of Phoebe Prince spark your writing?

M.M.M. Consciously, it didn’t. Subconsciously, maybe. That story was certainly in the news as I wrote the first draft, especially in Massachusetts. I had already decided to make Natalie a victim of cyberbullying before Phoebe Prince’s tragedy occurred, and it retrospect I set the story in the same year, but that was more because I was tying in a different historical event (that I will not reveal here) and had to set the book in a certain time to do that. I do think all of the terrible, heartbreaking suicides related to bullying influenced my story in one way or another.

TDW: The voices and entire storyline are dark yet not depressing. In other words it made me care about all the characters, not just Natalie and Kathleen. How did you manage to avoid being “too dark?”

M.M.M.: Thank you! I think that is a fine line and I’m happy that you think I found it. I tried to use humor where appropriate to keep the story from getting too dark. That dark humor is something I think of as a very Boston trait (witness any movie starring Ben Affleck) and I tried to create characters who were going through difficult times but still might be able to appreciate something funny or sarcastic.

TDW: Victims of cyberbullying, runaways, even immigrant outcasts were all characters on the outside looking in. These were also prominent young adult characters based in an adult novel and I wondered if this had always been your intention?

M.M.M.: I think that theme built itself as the story went on. There are several times where I write about girls in trouble, girls in danger, etc., and looking back I think a lot of that really came out in the revision process. As the mother of three young girls those fears are sort of always lurking in the back of my mind anyway.

TDW: The journal was a brilliant element, not just as a means to connect Natalie with Kathleen, but to connect Natalie with her past and another brave young ancestor. How early did the idea of Bridget and the journal come to you?

M.M.M.: Thank you! That’s a funny story. I originally set Bridget’s story in 1925/1926 and told it from the third person. I alluded to the journal but never actually wrote it. Early readers including my agent and my editor kept gently “suggesting” that I really needed to write the journal, but I resisted for a long time; I thought Bridget’s story would lose its urgency and sense of history if I told it in journal form. Of course they were exactly right, it just took me a little time to come around and to force myself to do the work required to write the journal.

TDW: I thought of So Far Away as a tale of people helping people by pulling them out of their own troubles. Would you agree?

M.M.M.: Absolutely. If fact, the working title for a long time was Solace and I still consider that a major theme, that solace can come from unexpected or unlikely sources.

TDW: What is So Far Away? Love, worthiness, a sense of belonging and/or all that along with more?

M.M.M.: I think the title refers to so many different themes in the book. For starters, Bridget is far from her home in Ireland and I wanted her nostalgia about that to be nearly palpable. Other characters are far from the people they loved, or emotionally far from people who might even be in the same room.

TDW: The descriptions of Boston were amazingly detailed. Now that you’re moving, will this novel be your ode to Boston?

M.M.M.: Thank you! That’s very perceptive, and I think it has become that. We didn’t know we were leaving the east coast until the book was complete, in fact it was going through copyediting when we found out, and in retrospect I like to think of the novel as an ode and a goodbye to a town (Newburyport) and a city (Boston) that have both meant a lot to me over the years. There are a lot of descriptions of driving up and down Route One north of Boston, which is a drive I do often, and one that I find so rich with odd details and strange businesses—it feels very particularly Boston to me. If there is another place like it in all the world I don’t know what it is.

TDW: What are you most proud of in So Far Away?

M.M.M.: I am most proud of the work that went into it, which hopefully doesn’t show too much. The stories of the three main characters were always very clear in my mind but knitting them together was absolute torture and took many, many revisions. I’m proud that I stuck with it until it felt right and true.

Meg Mitchell Moore can be followed on Twitter, liked on Facebook, and read in So Far Away.

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of So Far Away by Meg Mitchell Moore — in a random drawing — to anyone who leaves a comment on this post by 11:59 p.m. EST tonight! The winner will be notified by email tomorrow.

The Revealing of Nichole Bernier

May 23, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles, Q&A

Contributing editor/features writer/journalist, Nichole Bernier — inspired by a family friend’s healing following the September 11th attacks — becomes a novelist when The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D. debuts on Tuesday, June 5, 2012.

Selected as one of BookPage’s Most Anticipated Debuts of 2012, the novel’s introductory description explains:

Before there were blogs, there were journals. And in them we’d write as we really were, not as we wanted to appear. But there comes a day when journals outlive us. And with them, our secrets.

Intrigued? Consider the following stellar blurbs and reviews:

“The question of what makes a life, secrets shared and secrets kept, and the complete makeup of a single human being are the cornerstones of Bernier’s introspective debut… Even best friends can withhold shattering secrets, the kind that can forever change the lives of loved ones and make everyone question the fine nuances of what it means to be a parent, a spouse, a friend, a community member, and a resident of this earth for only a finite, unknown amount of time. Bernier’s tale blends bittersweet heartaches with soaring truths in a style reminiscent of Jodi Picoult and Anita Shreve.” —Booklist

“An absorbing, bittersweet novel that examines the vast grey area between protecting and deceiving the ones we love.” — Vanessa Diffenbaugh, New York Times bestselling author of THE LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS

“I loved this bittersweet novel, which manages to be both a compelling mystery and a wise meditation on friendship, marriage and motherhood in an age of great anxiety. Bernier will have you thinking about her characters long after you’ve turned the final page.”
J. Courtney Sullivan, New York Times bestselling author of COMMENCEMENT and MAINE

“Nichole Bernier writes as though she were born knowing how to do so. She understands the fragility of the human heart and also the enduring strength of even imperfect relationships. The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D is a gripping book with a delicate, tender core. You will read on to unravel a mystery but also to be moved on page after page.” — Robin Black, author of the story collection IF I LOVED YOU I WOULD TELL YOU THIS

“Written with exquisite grace, depth, and honesty, THE UNFINISHED LIFE OF ELIZABETH D explores decisions driven by motherhood and marriage. I was transfixed as Kate read the journals she’d inherited from Elizabeth, peeling back the layers of her friend’s life, and in the process grappling with her own choices and terrors. Women have secret lives—sometimes hidden in the corners of our minds, sometimes in dreams unrealized. One mark of friendship is when and whether these nightmares and ambitions can be revealed. This riveting novel fiercely captures this fulcrum of the public and private lives of American mothers.” -– Randy Susan Meyers, International bestselling author of THE MURDERER’S DAUGHTERS

“A smart, poignant novel about the bittersweet choices women make and the secrets they keep. This is one of those rare novels that’s so real you forget it’s written; I literally carried it around with me, and I missed the characters when I was done.” —Jenna Blum, New York Times bestselling author of THOSE WHO SAVE US and THE STORMCHASERS

Even more intrigued? Explore the book and read the first chapter.

The Divining Wand has scheduled a visit with Nichole on Tuesday, June 5, 2012 but, for today, let’s meet the author through her “official” bio:

Nichole Bernier is author of the novel THE UNFINISHED WORK OF ELIZABETH D, and has written for magazines including Elle, Self, Health, and Men’s Journal. A 14-year Contributing Editor for Conde Nast Traveler, she was previously on staff as the magazine’s golf and ski editor, columnist, and television spokesperson. She received her master’s degree from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, and is one of the founders of the literary blog Beyond the Margins. Nichole lives west of Boston with her husband and five children.

And now it’s time to get to know Nichole much better:

Q. How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A. Failed yogi. Shower thinker. Human zamboni. Happiness seeker.

Q. What is your motto or maxim?
A. You never know. Because you never really know what makes another person do the things they do. All you can do is give them the benefit of the doubt.

Q. How would you describe perfect happiness?
A. Holding your newborn. Solitude with productive thoughts. That sweaty pacing contentment after exercise is done and you feel like you could take out an army. Flipping a perfect crepe. Feeling understood. Watching a Kindergarten basketball game, and seeing that moment of panic when a kid hugs the ball to his chest and flat-out runs down the court.

Q. What’s your greatest fear?
A. Sophie’s Choice. Mad Cow disease. That I won’t wake up from one of my apocalyptic nightmares.

Q. If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A. A warm uncrowded beach with a good book… I don’t remember the last time I read on a beach.

Q. With whom in history do you most identify?
A. Noah. Sometimes I want to build an arc to collect everyone and everything I love and protect them from whatever terrible thing is next down the pike.

Q. Which living person do you most admire?
A. Dedicated inner city teachers. Dick Hoyt, who runs the Boston marathon each year pushing his adult son in a wheelchair. Every parent who treks from a rural village to bring their cleft-palate child to a Smile Train medical outpost they’ve only heard of through rumors. That act of blind faith and love and determination — when so many superstitious people hide their cleft-palate children in back rooms — stops my heart.

Q. What are your most overused words or phrases?
A. Spoken: “Just a minute.” Written: “tenuous.” I’ve wanted to be able to overuse “balls to the wall,” ever since I learned it refers to the mechanics of fighter-jet throttles, and not something anatomical. But I won’t put it in print knowing my mother will see it and misunderstand.

Q. If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A. I wish I could fly. I used to have vivid dreams of flying when I was a child, and in my dreams I knew exactly how to do it: fierce concentration could make me levitate higher and higher. I’d always be disappointed when I woke up.

Q. What is your greatest achievement?
A. The greatest risks make the greatest reward. Opening my heart to the spontaneity of a blind date, and giving up my rent controlled NYC apartment to move to Boston and marry him. The decision to have five children, even though I was afraid of what it would do to a solitary person. Going out on a limb day after day for a piece of writing that was not any assignment, not anything that anyone in this world was waiting to see. Then selling it, and being able to hold it as a hardcover.

Q. What’s your greatest flaw?
A. Privacy.

Q. What’s your best quality?
A. Privacy.

Q. What do you regret most?
A. That I didn’t know my mother-in-law better before she died of multiple sclerosis last year. She was a complex package of fortitude and stubbornness and depression and mystery, and now there’s no opportunity to really understand her. I think that will continue to weigh on me more the older I get.

Q. If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A. The family of rabbits that live in our yard. My four-year-old adores them and brings them lettuce every evening. They seem to have a pretty wonderful life.

Q. What trait is most noticeable about you?
A. If you’re sitting near me in the library, it’s that I type very loudly. It makes me feel alive.

Q. Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A. Olive Kitteridge

Q. Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A. Reginald von HoobieDoobie, from Edwina The Dinosaur Who Didn’t Know She Was Extinct

Q. If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A. Amelia Earhart. I’ll call her an athlete because of her sheer strength of will. “Where did you go?”

Q. What is your biggest pet peeve?
A. People who don’t wait their turn and think rules don’t apply to them. But when I’m furious at someone who bullies through a four-way stop or cuts in traffic, I remind myself “You just never know” (see motto). Maybe they’re rushing to the hospital.

Q. What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A. Reading in a warm patch of sun. Walking the four-mile loop around our local lake carrying my youngest child in a backpack. Making pie. Laughing with my husband. He’s got a great sense of humor.

Q. What’s your fantasy profession?
A. Being the protector of orphaned baby animals at a wildlife preserve. I’d also like to have the job in Mother Nature’s factory that gets to design the color and symmetry of kittens.

Q. What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A. Kindness, kindness, and kindness.

Q. If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A. Only one thing? Then chicken korma with bleu cheese and strawberry rhubarb pie. With just enough space between them on the plate to not really be one thing.

Q. What are your 5 favorite songs?
A. They might be different tomorrow, but today: Rikki Lee Jones, We Belong Together. Van Morrison, Whenever God Shines His Light. David Bowie/Queen, Under Pressure. U2, One. Ferron, Ain’t Life a Brook.

Q. What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A. Crossing to Safety, Gilead, Gift From the Sea, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Bartleby the Scrivener (I know it’s a short story, but still).

Nichole Bernier is definitely a new author to follow on Twitter, like on Facebook, and read/pre-order her debut The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D.

Meg Mitchell Moore: Why I Write

May 22, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[Journalist/novelist Meg Mitchell Moore’s The Arrivals (presentation/review) was praised as “a promising debut” (Publishers Weekly) when released last spring. This spring — on May 29, 2012 — the author offers So Far Away praised by Publisher’s Weekly: “This sweet and thoughtful novel is both tense and elegiac, exploring the damage we inflict on ourselves and each other, and the strength it takes to heal.”

The Divining Wand has scheduled an interview with the author on Tuesday, May 29, 2012 where you’ll learn much more about So Far Away however, in today’s guest post, Meg cites a legendary journalist/author to help explain why she writes.]

Why I Write

I once heard a quote about writing that really struck me. It went something like this, “Writing is the only thing that when I’m doing it I don’t feel like I should be doing something else.” When I sat down to write this post, I thought I would try to dig out the exact quote. Laboring under the misconception that it came from Gertrude Stein, I searched through a bunch of her quotes, trying to untangle those gloriously complex sentences to find what I was looking for. Nada. (Indeed the statement seemed, in retrospect, to be a remarkably succinct one for Stein: I should have known.)

As it turns out I had the right initials, wrong writer. It was Gloria Steinem who said it, in a November, 1965, article for Harper’s called, “What’s In It For Me?” As an nonsubscriber I am not privy to the entire article but the bit that I was able to access told me that Steinem is right on the money. Here’s the quote:

But for me, it’s the only thing that passes the three tests of métier: (1) when I’m doing it, I don’t feel that I should be doing something else instead; (2) it produces a sense of accomplishment and, once in a while, pride; and (3) it’s frightening.

Yes, yes, and yes! Is it bad guest-post-writing etiquette to say, “What she said!” and move on with my day? Maybe, but I don’t think I could articulate my thoughts about writing as well as Steinem articulated hers. Really, she nails it.

Life is so busy for so many of us that it’s a very common affliction to have our minds on anything but the task at hand. I am certainly guilty of that. When I am folding laundry I feel like I should be stretching my hamstring. Walking the dog? Usually thinking about the laundry. Grocery shopping? Field trip permission slips or the Scholastic book orders. Or walking the dog. You get the picture.

But writing does not allow for that sort of divided attention: it demands all of us, for a concentrated amount of time, and giving in to that demand—and overcoming the fear the Steinem talks about—is a rare and wonderful thing. It’s something that we writers should feel very fortunate to experience, because not everybody gets to do so on a regular basis.

The next line in Steinem’s article says, “I don’t like to write. I like to have written.” Yes again! Who among us (be honest!) doesn’t agree with that sometimes? I’m a runner, and I have made the comparison between running and writing more than once, here on this site and elsewhere, so I won’t bore this audience with that again. But. I will say that usually, having run feels better than actually running. Often, having written feels better than actually writing. Bravo to Steinem for saying so, for saying all of it, and bravo to all the writers who are out there plugging away at it, day after day after day. I bet if we could ask her now we could get even Gertrude Stein to agree.

Meg Mitchell Moore can be followed on Twitter and liked on Facebook.

Jennifer Gooch Hummer: Why I Write

May 16, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[Jennifer Gooch Hummer’s debut novel Girl Unmoored could simply be described as stunning and be left at that. And maybe it should be, allowing readers to wonder, then discover on their own what makes it so.

The best news is that today’s guest post offers a sample of the author’s voice on her feelings and thoughts as Jennifer shares why she writes….(brilliantly).]

Why I Write

When my kids were still too young to taste the difference between brownies made with water and brownies made with broccoli, my husband went to Mt Everest for two months. Two months. He’s a sports broadcaster. It was a show. I talked to him once a week from base camp.

There were days when the only people I spoke to were three feet tall. Staying sane was a top priority, so I had to come up with a plan. I decided to pretend there were secret cameras in every corner of my house. That way, when I most wanted to scream my brains out, I would think twice and remember to at least smile as I did. And as nutty as this sounds, it helped. (I also taught them to address me as their “young-looking beautiful mom” whenever they asked for something.)

This is how writers go through life. Not as that insane mother, but as the hidden camera. We’re watchers. We watch people when they don’t know it. We watch people when we don’t know it. And weirdest of all, we watch ourselves and know it.

I write because I’ve always been the hidden camera. When I was seven years old, I was brushing my teeth one day, minding my own business, when the girl in the mirror smirked at me. “You’re going to be a writer you know.” “Nope,” I said. Writers were old and not pretty and not famous. Plus, I had big plans to be a professional Avon lady. There was no way I was going to be a writer. “You’ll see,” that little girl said. And by fourth grade I knew she was right.

I often wonder if whoever designed this thing called “Life” fell asleep at the wheel a few times. Why else would bad things happen to good people, and good things happen to bad? But writers can fix this. We add the motives to the craziness. Selfish, self-centered, mean? You don’t get the girl at the end. Humble, caring, funny? You do. It might be cliché, but it’s also reassuring. Writers are like ER doctors; we never know what kind of trauma we’re going to find when we show up at the page each day, but whatever it is, it’s our job to fix it.

Being the hidden camera can be solid gold at times. But it’s also a bit of a curse. When I’m away from the page for too long, my brain gets tangled and scrambled and snarled. The things I’ve seen or thought or watched in the passing wordless days make no sense. These motive-less moments get all cramped together inside that too-small space between my ears and pretty soon – we all know – it’s gonna’ blow.

I wish it weren’t this way. I wish I could stop assigning reasons as to why my mail person consistently wears a knee brace on the right knee one day, but on the left the next. I wish I would stop wondering why that guy I see at Starbucks who’s dressed in an Armani suit drives a red beat up truck. And mostly, I really wish I had just done the math on the SAT’s instead of staring off into space wondering why Jimmy had seventeen marbles while LaShawn only had six – did Jimmy steal them? Are they siblings? Is he threatening to beat her up if she tells anyone?

Okay, so I didn’t get into my first-choice college. But I’d be willing to bet my mother’s circa 1960 Pucci pants that I’m not the only writer out there whose head is in a constant state of repair. And I think we’d all agree that these brain explosions are much better splattered on paper rather than on family, friends and dentists. Personally, I need these people, I love these people (not my dentist) and even though I wish I could edit them sometimes (did I mention I have three tween/teenage daughters now?) staying sane for them is still a top priority.

So I write.

And every minute of every day I feel so lucky that I do.

* * * * *

In The Revealing of Jennifer Gooch Hummer, the phenomenal praise for Girl Unmoored was noted along with the news that the book had won the Paris Book Festival Award 2012, Best YA Fiction. Since then this unforgettable novel has also won The San Francisco Book Festival Awards 2012 – Teen Fiction, Next Generation Indie Awards for YA Fiction, Finalist in the Next Gen Indie for Best Chick Lit, and Finalist for Best Fiction Cover. Please disregard the YA and Teen Fiction labeling. This is a coming-of-age story — a tale in which lessons are learned about life and love at any age! [In fact, according to Amazon tracking, customers who purchased Girl Unmoored also bought Fifty Shades of Grey. I rest my case. 😉]

Jennifer Gooch Hummer can also be followed on Twitter and liked on Facebook.

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of Girl Unmoored by Jennifer Gooch Hummer — in a random drawing — to anyone who leaves a comment on this post by 11:59 p.m. EDT tonight! The winner will be notified by email tomorrow.

Jillian Medoff: Why I Write

May 15, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[As an individual, Jillian Medoff (Good Girls Gone Bad, Hunger Point) knows herself well and — because of this — as an author, she knows her characters even better. I Couldn’t Love You More, her third novel, releases today and holds the promise of being your “next best read.” Seriously!

In today’s guest post Jillian admits her need to make sense of the world through writing. However, by doing so, the novelist gives voice to all of us. Enjoy.]

Why I Write

I Couldn’t Love You More, like each of my novels, was born of rage and frustration. Although the reasons for my rage differ from book to book, the underlying motivation is always the same: to have my say, usually about someone who has wronged me or someone else. (To clarify: nine times out of ten, the people who wrong me have no idea. Although I burn with the heat of ten thousand suns, I do this silently. I am painfully shy and overly nice (too nice, sometimes), but only my closest friends (and now you) know that I can also be opinionated, competitive, and when it comes to writing, very critical of myself. But because I rarely articulate my truest thoughts (not out of fear but because it’s not nice), I need some way to express them.) I also feel very sympathetic toward people who have been mistreated, marginalized, and under-represented in our culture. My husband says that I carry the sorrows of the world, but someone has to speak up for those who can’t. I realize this sounds as though I write novels about migrant farm workers or early 20th century factory workers when in fact I write tragicomic domestic dramas. Give me time, though. I’m just warming up.

Here’s the truth about writing fiction: no one asks you to write, and no one cares if you do. In fact, very often it feels as though people are actively arguing against it. As an artist, then, your challenge is to create despite (or in my case, because of) the world’s indifference and opposition. To make art is a very lonely, very isolating enterprise. Believe me, I would much rather watch crime shows and British period dramas than stare at a computer all day. But I am a writer, which means that even if I have just spent five years working on a dead book that no one wants to read, much less buy (see my Q&A), I will sit down and do it again, and again, and again.

The world is an absurd, chaotic place, and my books help me make sense of it. Writing is what keeps me tethered. When I’m not engaged in a novel, ambient sounds become deafening. There are too many sharp corners. Time moves at a dull, languid pace. I feel too present, too large and ungainly. But when I’m working, the loud noises are muffled, the edges smoothed out, and everything is cast in soft focus. Writing well feels like moving through water. It’s easy, endlessly satisfying, often exhilarating, and I can lose eight, ten, twelve hours at a clip. Writing novels is like having a conversation with every person who has ever burned you (or a mistreated factory worker), except you are the only one talking, so you can finally express all that built-up resentment and sorrow. For someone who rarely had her say growing up, this is a very heady, very powerful feeling.

I am the eldest daughter of a traveling salesman who moved his family 17 times by the time I was 17. I attended seven elementary schools, two junior highs and three high schools. At the end of the tenth grade, my family ended up in Atlanta, where—spoiler alert!—my new novel is set. After high school, I studied writing at a fancy private college, and then struggled to pay for a top MFA program while working full-time. In graduate school, I discovered I was a terrible editor, and had to first re-learn how to read before I could then re-learn how to write. Most of the writers I went to school with were talented, many far more talented than I, but talent, we all found out, was the easy part. A writer’s life is fueled by stamina, relentless self-belief, deliberate self-delusion, and absolute will (and in the end, it all comes down to the luck of the draw). Back then, I doubted myself at every turn, but to not try to succeed seemed worse somehow than failing. So I gave it a go.

Here is another truth about writing: you are rejected, in one way or another, every single day. I graduated from college in 1985, and since then, I have worked (almost) full-time at an anonymous, old-fashioned, nine-to-five corporate job. So for the whole of my adult life, I worked and went to work. While my friends went to bars, hooked up, got married, and had children, I worked and went to work. Eventually, I had children and got married, too, but I continued to work and go to work—and I continued to get rejected Every. Single. Day. Despite all the rejection, though, the idea that anyone—agent, publisher, reviewer—could say anything that would make me stop is beyond my comprehension. I may never be considered a literary icon, but my art is my art and I work at it every day. I’m a writer, ipso facto, I write.

After reading (and likely feeling) Jillian’s strength and passion, you can now watch and listen to her describe the storyline of I Couldn’t Love You More. Also another truth is that this book could not be more highly recommended!

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of I Couldn’t Love You More by Jillian Medoff — in a random drawing — to anyone who leaves a comment on this post by 11:59 p.m. EDT tonight! The winner will be notified by email tomorrow.

The Revealing of Jennifer Gooch Hummer

May 09, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles, Q&A

This fairy godmother loves to present debut novelists and their books, and it’s with special pleasure that TDW features Jennifer Gooch Hummer with her coming-of-age story of Girl Unmoored.

Why special? First there is Jennifer’s description of the book:

“Girl Unmoored is about friendship. Deep, loyal friendship. The kind that supersedes family. The kind that keeps you anchored when everything else is falling apart. The kind that can save you.”

Then there are the [true] glowing, heartfelt raves:

“Love, loss, and the coming of age of one remarkable girl blaze through this haunting debut like a shooting star you’d wish upon. It’s tough and tender, funny and smart, and it frankly took my breath away. I loved it.”
— Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Pictures of You

“With stunning emotional honesty, Girl Unmoored shaves away layers of innocence to reveal the true meaning of love… Effortlessly funny and poignant, Jennifer Gooch Hummer’s masterful debut offers surprises until the very end – a must-read!”
— Elise Allen, New York Times bestselling co-author of Elixir and author of Populazzi

“This book sneaks up on you. One moment you’re laughing at the quick wit and the next you can’t swallow down the lump in your throat. An intimate story of the entanglement of love and loss, Girl Unmoored breaks through the wall around your heart, giving it room to expand.”
— Susan Henderson, bestselling author of Up from the Blue

“From the shadows of loss and uncertainty to the ultimate act of forgiveness, Girl Unmoored is a uniquely rendered and quirky coming-of-age tale that will break your heart one minute and have you laughing out loud the next.”
— Beth Hoffman, New York Times bestselling author of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt

“Fierce, funny, deeply eloquent, and unerringly honest, Girl Unmoored is all four courses and dessert. What a dazzling, satisfying novel!”
— Gwendolen Gross, bestselling author of The Orphan Sister

In fact, here’s an entire page of reviews.

And, perhaps the pièce de résistance, Girl Unmoored recently won Paris Book Festival Award 2012, Best YA Fiction.

The synopsis:

Apron Bramhall has come unmoored. Fortunately, she’s about to be saved by Jesus. Not that Jesus—the actor who plays him in Jesus Christ Superstar. Apron is desperate to avoid the look-alike Mike, who’s suddenly everywhere, until she’s stuck in church with him one day. Then something happens—Apron’s broken teenage heart blinks on for the first time since she’s been adrift.

Mike and his boyfriend, Chad, offer her a summer job in their flower store, and Apron’s world seems to calm. But when she uncovers Chad’s secret, stormy seas return. Apron starts to see things the adults around her fail to—like what love really means, and who is paying too much for it.

Apron has come unmoored, but now she’ll need to take the helm if she’s to get herself and those she loves to safe harbor.

The Divining Wand has scheduled a return visit from Jennifer Gooch Hummer for next Wednesday, May 16, 2012. However, for now, let’s meet the author through her “official” bio:

Jennifer Gooch Hummer has worked as a script analyst for various talent agencies and major film studios. Her short stories have been published in Miranda Magazine, Our Stories, and Glimmertrain. A graduate of Kenyon College, she has continued studies in the Writer’s Program at UCLA, where she was nominated for the Kirkwood Prize in fiction. Currently, Jennifer lives in Southern California and Maine with her husband and their three daughters. Girl Unmoored is her first novel.

Now it’s time to get to know Jennifer upclose and personal:

Q. How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A. Creative. Lucky. Loved. Busy. Colorful. Nurturing. Funny. Quirky.

Q. What is your motto or maxim?
A. If no one has lice or is in the hospital, it can’t be that bad.

Q. How would you describe perfect happiness?
A. Having zero expectations. And World Peace.

Q. What’s your greatest fear?
A. Anything that could hurt my children

Q. If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A. In Paris headed for Maine soon. Or in Maine headed for Paris soon.

Q. With whom in history do you most identify?
A. Any of the Salem Witches (the good kind).

Q. Which living person do you most admire?
A. My father.

Q. What are your most overused words or phrases?
A. “I’m not kidding.”

Q. If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A. Drawing.

Q. What is your greatest achievement?
A. That I taught my children to refer to me as “my beautiful young-looking mom” before I will listen to anything they need/want/wish/expect.

Q. What’s your greatest flaw?
A. Not remembering anything.

Q. What’s your best quality?
A. Not remembering anything.

Q. What do you regret most?
A. Loosing my cool and yelling back.

Q. If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A. I’d like to be a fairy next time around.

Q. What trait is most noticeable about you?
A. I’m always in a hurry.

Q. Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A. Phil Dunphy on Modern Family.

Q. Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A. Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada.

Q. If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A. Pau Gasol. “Please, I beg you, can my Lakers-fanatic daughter take a picture with you?”

Q. What is your biggest pet peeve?
A. Incompetence.

Q. What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A. Shopping (not for food).

Q. What’s your fantasy profession?
A. Fashion designer.

Q. What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A. Optimism. Humor. Loyalty.

Q. If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A. A baguette (from France).

Q. What are your 5 favorite songs?
A. “American Pie” – Don Mclean
“Heaven” – Eric Clapton
“Philadelphia” Bruce Springsteen
“The Boxer” Simon and Garfunkle
“Upside Down” Jack Johnson

Q. What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A. She’s Come Undone, Wally Lamb
The Art of Racing in the Rain, Garth Stein
Me Talk Pretty One Day, David Sedaris
The Center of Everything, Laura Moriarty
Bridget Jones’s Diary, Helen Fielding

Bold, bittersweet, and exquisitely brilliant, Girl Unmoored is a “dare you NOT to love, must read” novel. And Jennifer Gooch Hummer is an author to watch by following on Twitter and liking her on Facebook.

Julie Schumacher: Why I Write

May 08, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[Julie Schumacher (complete listing of author’s books) has written one of the most appropriate books for summer — her latest YA novel The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls available in bookstores and online retailers today. After all, what could be better than a book about a mother/daughter summer book club?

According to The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, May 2012:
“The result is a story that explores the way books can and can’t inform lives, as Adrienne’s summer leads to some surprising, even tragic events; that makes this a natural for book-club discussion by reluctant and eager attendants alike.”

If reading can and can’t inform lives, what about writing? In today’s guest post, Julie Schumacher explains why and what writing does for her.]

Why I Write

There are two terrific essays called “Why I Write,” one by George Orwell and the other by Joan Didion. In his essay, Orwell confesses that as a boy, “I had the lonely child’s habit of making up stories and holding conversations with imaginary persons.”

Didion, who begins her essay with “Of course I stole the title for this talk from George Orwell,” notes that “In many ways writing is the act of saying I, of imposing oneself upon other people, of saying listen to me, see it my way, change your mind.”

Writers, I think, are both shy and egotistical. On the one hand, they like being left alone, hermit-like, scuttling into their libraries or burrows where they can chew on the bones of their own odd thoughts; on the other hand, they want to exercise god-like powers, re-ordering the world according to their liking – killing a character off here and there, inventing a new, pink planet, slowing time down. And once they’ve re-ordered the world, they want to emerge from the burrow and show it off to other people.

I usually start writing a piece of fiction because I find that my thoughts are stuck on a particular remark or event or idea. There is something in my head that I keep returning to – something that makes me feel restless. It’s as if I’m staring at a painting, and I’ve been told that if I look at it carefully enough, I’ll see the “magic eye” 3-D image hidden inside it. I write to try to find my way to that image. Through draft after draft, I wait for it to rise up off the page and announce itself – here I am, in plain sight, you idiot – and make sense to me.

“How do I know what I think until I see what I say?” That was E.M. Forster’s more sophisticated way of phrasing the same concept. Perhaps Forster didn’t know about the magic-eye image.

If I had to come up with a list of reasons why I write (and lists are incredibly gratifying, aren’t they?), it would have to include the following:

1) I write because stories take the random and bewildering stuff of our lives and try to make sense of them. (And it seems to me that we’re supposed to make sense of them.)
2) I write because not writing is worse.
3) I write because my ninth grade English teacher, Mrs. Pritchett, read my short story out loud in front of the entire class, and I thought, “This is the highlight of my life.”
4) I write because it’s hard to talk about the weird and misshapen things that lurk in the underlayers of my imagination – but I can write them down.
5) I write because I am not good at math or other reasonable things that make sense to most people.
6) I have no idea why I write.
7) I write because, when I was ten, I composed a rhyming elegy for a litter of orphaned, newborn rabbits that I tried to raise in a cotton-lined box in my bedroom, but all of them died, refusing the eyedropper of lukewarm milk and stiffening into tiny beautiful brown tufts one after the other so that I had to bury them in the back yard during individual funerals, and I was so heartbroken I couldn’t stand it – and I found that the elegy made me feel better.
8) I write because writing is:
a) infuriating
b) fulfilling
c) demanding
d) ever-changing
e) all of the above
[Hint: the answer is e]

Julie Schumacher, can be found on Facebook, and please remember that The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls is highly recommended for all ages.

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls by Julie Schumacher — in a random drawing — to anyone who leaves a comment on this post by 11:59 p.m. EST tonight! The winner will be notified by email tomorrow.

Picture the Book: The Inquisitor’s Key

May 03, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Book Trailers

[For fans of CSI type shows and medical/forensic novels, The Divining Wand is pleased to feature a glimpse into The Inquisitor’s Key available on Tuesday, May 8, 2012….enjoy!]

Meet the Authors:

Jefferson Bass is the writing team of Dr. Bill Bass and Jon Jefferson. Dr. Bass, a world-renowned forensic anthropologist, founded the University of Tennessee’s Anthropology Research Facility—the Body Farm—a quarter century ago. He is the author or coauthor of more than two hundred scientific publications, as well as a critically acclaimed memoir about his career at the Body Farm, Death’s Acre. Dr. Bass is also a dedicated teacher, honored as National Professor of the Year by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. Jon Jefferson is a veteran journalist, writer, and documentary filmmaker. His writings have been published in the New York Times, Newsweek, USA Today, and Popular Science, and broadcast on National Public Radio. The coauthor of Death’s Acre, he is also the writer and producer of two highly rated National Geographic documentaries about the Body Farm.

About The Body Farm:

On the campus of the University of Tennessee lies a patch of ground unlike any in the world. The “Body Farm” is a place where human corpses are left to the elements, and every manner of decay is fully explored—for the sake of science and the cause of justice.

And now, there’s a fascinating new fiction series based on reality…

A sample of Praise:

“The real deal.”
—Kathy Reichs, New York Times bestselling author and producer of the FOX television hit Bones

“The Sherlock Holmes for bones.”
—Katherine Ramsland, author of The Forensic Science of C.S.I.

About The Inquisitor’s Key:

The most riveting and ambitious novel to date in Jefferson Bass’ New York Times bestselling Body Farm mystery series, The Inquisitor’s Key takes forensic investigator Dr. Bill Brockton to Avignon, France, and embroils him in a deadly religious mystery that could shake the Vatican itself to its very foundations. Another sterling crime novel in the vein of Patricia Cornwell, Kathy Reichs, and Karin Slaughter, as well as TV’s C.S.I., The Inquisitor’s Key adds a touch of James Rollins and The Da Vinci Code to the typically acclaimed Jefferson Bass mix of suspense, surprise, and finely detailed forensic investigation.

Now to picture the book:

(If the video doesn’t appear on your monitor, please view it here.)

Want another sneak peek? Here’s an Excerpt

Also, Jefferson Bass can be followed on Twitter.