The Divining Wand

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Archive for the ‘Debs’

Presenting Debutante Emily Winslow and
The Whole World

May 24, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books, Debs

With a BFA in acting from Carnegie Mellon University’s elite drama conservatory, and an MA from Seton Hall University’s Museum Professions program, Emily Winslow adds novelist to her professional background when her literary mystery, The Whole World, debuts tomorrow May 25, 2010.

And the title of novelist may be the most personally rewarding for this member of The Debutant Ball (Class of 2010 ) who moved to Cambridge, England three years ago. Although her husband grew up in the city, Debutante Emily was a foreigner fascinated by “the most physically exquisite places” to which she’s ever been. Further describing Cambridge as “rich with honest, passionate, unsnobbish intellectual curiosity,” she suddenly found words for her new home and created an American protagonist to describe and explain it. Which is is how the novel’s backstory came to be:

Two American girls come to study at Cambridge University. They become best friends, they fall for the same charming grad student…and he disappears.

About the “missing student?” Emily admits, “it’s just one of my favorite plots. It’s a fascinatingly awkward situation for the other characters. How long to keep hoping? When to choose to

She also explains the major theme, format and title of her mystery:

“You know how someone says ‘”That means the whole world to me.”‘ Maybe they’re talking about a job, or a romance, or some kind of victory or achievement. That one fraction of life feels to them to be bigger than everything else, and that skew can lead to poor judgment and disproportionate reactions. I have five narrators sharing the plot, but each of them has only their own small ‘”whole world”‘ fraction of it, limited by their obsessions, assumptions and expectations.”

In The Debutante Ball’s April 5, 2010 post, Backstory Feast, Emily details the goal of backstory for her narrators by writing:

“THE WHOLE WORLD begins with a narrator struggling to get past memories that actively get in her way. For the first two chapters, we watch her struggle against these invisible enemies. Finally, in chapter three, she’s forced to confront them. Only then, when she stops resisting, is the reader let in on what those memories specifically are. Their release into her present consciousness is as present an action as anything physical that had come before.

My hope is to show how the past affects the present for all the characters, how it informs their choices and skews their perspectives.”

Indeed this literary mystery is a first-rate psychological drama that initially has the reader wondering “what happened?” and then eventually “whodunnit?”

From the book jacket:

At once a sensual and irresistible mystery and a haunting work of rich psychological insight and emotional depth, The Whole World marks the beginning of a brilliant literary career for a superb, limitlessly gifted author.

Set in the richly evoked environs of Cambridge, England, The Whole World unearths the desperate secrets kept by five complex people–students, professors, detectives, husbands, mothers–secrets leading to explosive consequences.

Two Americans studying at Cambridge, Polly and Liv, become quick friends, strangers to their new home, survivors of past mistakes. They find a common interest in Nick, a handsome, charming, seemingly guileless graduate student. For a time, the three engage in harmless flirtation, growing closer while doing research for Gretchen Paul, the blind daughter of a famed novelist. But betrayal, followed by Nick’s inexplicable disappearance, brings long-buried histories to the surface.

The investigation raises countless questions, the newspapers report all the most salacious details–from the crime that scars Polly’s past to the searing truths concealed in the photographs Gretchen cannot see. Soon the three young lovers will discover how little they know about each other, and how devastating the ripples of past actions can be.

Would you like a sneak peek into The Whole World? Please read the first page.

For years Emily Winslow wrote logic puzzles for Games magazine, embedding traditional logic into longer and more complex stories. And her debut mystery novel might well be thought of as one jigsaw puzzle pieced together by the five narrators. Occasionally their perspectives overlap in the present time yet the key factor here is that their pasts don’t.

Are there red herrings? Not really, but there are secrets along with evasive behavior. The charm of this story is that it’s set in the elegantly described confines of Cambridge — another whole world unto itself. There, five other whole worlds meet and collide based on almost inevitable, personal motivation. It’s logical yet surprising and, in the end, shocking.

Perhaps the book’s most fascinating aspect is realizing that what happens in The Whole World could happen anywhere at any time…and does. For each individual views their respective circumstances and personal priorities as the whole world — and it’s not.

Intriguing, thought-provoking and entertaining, Debutante Emily Winslow’s literary take on The Whole World is available tomorrow. Do read it to discover how slices of life become entangled to complicate the world as a whole.

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of Emily Winslow’s
The Whole World 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, May 26, 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.


Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of Barrie Summy’s
I So Don’t Do Makeup in a random drawing to anyone who comments only on this specific post, Barrie Summy and I So Don’t Do Makeup. Comments left on other posts during the week are not entered into the contest. The deadline is Wednesday, May 26, 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.

Presenting Debutante Joëlle Anthony and Restoring Harmony

May 12, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books, Debs

While getting to know Debutante Joëlle Anthony through her Friday posts, visitors to this season’s Debutante Ball have been treated and enlightened by somewhat of a Renaissance woman. Truly it’s difficult to imagine a challenge this writer can’t resolve (in a practical or unique way) and one needs only to read her YA novel, Restoring Harmony, debuting tomorrow — May 13, 2010 — for proof positive.

Of course by introducing herself with “Deb Joëlle’s real talent is…,” expectations were set high:

“My name is Joëlle Anthony, and I’m pretty sure I was chosen to be a Deb because I know how to make butter. It’s true. You see, when I applied, there was a section on the application for ‘“other things we should know”’/ or something like that, and since I didn’t really think I should admit right then that I have trouble with commas, I decided to explain how to make butter. I am thinking that the 09 Debs read that and thought, ‘“Now there’s a well-rounded girl.”’ Or not.” More…

Her comma trouble (there’s an editor for that) became a non-issue for this superb storyteller who read an excerpt from James Kuntsler’s book, The Long Emergency, that predicted the end of oil and discussed a transition period. Joëlle’s interest wasn’t in the end of oil but of the time period where people dealt and bounced back from it.

The idea for Restoring Harmony was born from that, although Joëlle believes Mr. Kuntsler would say the world she created is much too tame.

Here’s the synopsis:

The year is 2041, and sixteen-year-old Molly McClure has lived a relatively quiet life on an isolated farming island in Canada, but when her family fears the worst may have happened to her grandparents in the US, Molly must brave the dangerous, chaotic world left after global economic collapse—one of massive oil shortages, rampant crime, and abandoned cities.

Molly is relieved to find her grandparents alive in their Portland suburb, but they’re financially ruined and practically starving. What should’ve been a quick trip turns into a full-fledged rescue mission. And when Molly witnesses something the local crime bosses wishes she hadn’t, Molly’s only way home may be to beat them at their own game. Luckily, there’s a handsome stranger who’s willing to help.

Restoring Harmony is a riveting, fast-paced dystopian tale complete with adventure and romance that readers will devour.

The critical literary reviews are glorious despite the fact that some have categorized this as a dystopian novel. For Joëlle tends to disagree by noting: I think of dystopian as some sort of natural disaster or something that happens way off in the future, in a different world. Restoring Harmony is set only thirty years from now, and is very much this world. The problems people are dealing with are mostly from economic collapse, not something wild or futuristic.”

Also one reviewer pointed out that in most dystopian novels it’s the collapse of technology that affects the characters’ daily lives, not new technology. And as this debut author says, “…that’s why I never thought of it as dystopian. It seems like things are sliding backward in RH, instead of moving forward.”

Indeed, backwards to core family values. In fact Joëlle Anthony describes her book in this one sentence: “It’s an adventure story about music, family, and food.”

And the Book Trailer — featuring musician/model Sarah Tradewell with photography by Victor Anthony — captures the storyline perfectly.

The October 16, 2009 post, Leap by Deb Joëlle, tells:

“Writing Restoring Harmony was one of the biggest chances I’ve ever taken. It is a departure from everything I’d ever written before. I had been a safe writer. I’d taken “Write what you know” to heart and never strayed from the familiar path of my own self-knowledge and life experiences. But Molly’s story is different. It’s an adventure. It required research. It made me work.”

Those words piqued my interest and remembering them long after reading The Advanced Reader Copy, I asked the author what type of research she did for this amazingly authentic adventure tale and if she ever considered changing Molly into a Michael? Her response is amazing too:

“I did actual physical research, like traveling Molly’s route. And I listened to a lot of fiddle music. I chose tunes I knew for the book, not just random fiddle tunes. Although one serendipitous thing happened as far as the tunes go. There is one in the book called Peekaboo Waltz. When I lived in Tennessee, I heard it on a CD of my husband’s and I asked him to learn it on guitar because I liked it so much, and he did. When it came time to pick a waltz for the book, I knew exactly which one to choose. What I didn’t know is that, ‘“every Western Canadian fiddle player knows the Peekaboo Waltz.”’ I sat in on a fiddle workshop with the master fiddle teacher Gordon Stobbe, and that was what he told his students. And then he taught it to them. I knew it was a traditional tune and played all over, but I didn’t know it was considered something any Western Canadian fiddler should definitely know. That was pure luck.

Also, pretty much all the gardening in the book was research. I now know a lot about gardening as we’re growing a lot of our own food, but at the time I wrote RH, I didn’t know anything about gardening.

Molly was always Molly. I do think that it’s interesting that while most children’s writers are women, a strong female character is considered noteworthy. It seems to me that as a woman, it’s my responsibility to write strong female characters. It doesn’t mean I can’t tell a story from a boy’s POV, but I do consider gender roles very carefully when writing. Like the principal of a school is so often a man, but why? Habit. That’s something I like to challenge with my writing.”

Simply put, I adored this book and Joëlle’s writing of Molly. This realistic character — imbued with enough innocence to be a 16-year old “farm girl” — is also bright, resourceful, caring, hardworking, brave and ready for anything. The truth is that the more YA novels I read, there’s more feeling of hope restored. Molly restored harmony, changing the lives of so many, by her own confident optimism and action. No supernatural powers were necessary, no gimmicks, Molly was merely being the best she could be and what a message to convey to adolescents. Or, for that matter, to anyone.

The world had changed, yet Molly only knew the good times of family, truth, and thoughtfulness. Perhaps that’s what is so compelling about this YA adventure as it takes us back to similar childhood and adolescent years.

How good to be reminded of what we had and how good of Deb Joëlle Anthony to share what our children still might recapture. Restoring Harmony, the book, can be yours tomorrow…while restoring harmony, universally, remains a work in progress.

* * * * *

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of Joëlle Anthony’s Restoring Harmony in a random drawing to anyone who comments on this post today, before the deadline of 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.


Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of Meredith Cole’s Dead in the Water in a random drawing to anyone who comments only on this specific post, Meredith Cole and Dead in the Water. Comments left on other posts during the week are not entered into the contest. 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.

Presenting Debutante Sarah Pekkanen and The Opposite of Me

March 08, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books, Debs


From the book’s front cover:

“Fresh and funny and satisfying. A terrific book about
sisters that actually made me laugh out loud.”
#1 bestselling author of In Her Shoes and Best Friends Forever


When Sarah Pekkanen (The Debutante Ball Class of 2010) introduced herself in the September 1, 2009 post, So nice to meet you!, she told a bit of her own life backstory before ending with these thoughts:

“I can’t tell you how honored I am to be a part of this sisterhood, and how awed I am by all the Debs that have gone before me. They’ve set the bar very, very high. I’ll do my best not to drag it down too much!”

Well, for those who may not know what happened last Wednesday, March 3rd, the Jennifer Weiner PRE-ORDER Book Giveaway was an Internet phenomenon (with sales for our Deb’s novel going far above Jen’s early recorded numbers) and that means tomorrow Sarah will officially debut as a bestselling author for The Opposite of Me!

Now how high has the bar been raised? And was this all pre-planned?

On her Facebook page, Sarah commented:

“I’ll be forever grateful to Jennifer Weiner for turning me into a bestselling author yesterday, a week before my debut even came out! Jen is the new Oprah!”

So how did it happen?

“Jen and I have the same editor, but this was all Jen’s idea – not our publisher’s at all! We’ve never even met, but Jen read an early copy of my book and has been following its progress. She just really wants to support other authors because she remembers what it was like to have her debut.”

A lovely and generous act of kindness more than jump-starts Sarah’s career as a novelist, yet it’s the book’s story that truly matters. Let’s take a look at what created such Praise (on the left sidebar) for The Opposite of Me.

Although the author detailed her thoughts for the storyline in this guest post — Sarah Pekkanen: In Her Own Words — she also offers a more concise backstory:

“As for getting my ideas, I’m intrigued by the notion of identity. How is it that we get assigned certain roles in our family – like the drama queen, the smart one, the funny one, the pretty one, even if those roles aren’t exactly right? I spun that idea around in my head for awhile and it eventually turned into the plot of my book.”‘

While many novels begin with “what if?,” The Opposite of Me began with “whys” about identity and sisters that evolved into this synopsis:

Twenty-nine-year-old Lindsey Rose has, for as long as she can remember, lived in the shadow of her ravishingly beautiful fraternal twin sister, Alex. Determined to get noticed, Lindsey is finally on the cusp of being named VP creative director of an elite New York advertising agency, after years of eighty-plus-hour weeks, migraines, and profound loneliness. But during the course of one devastating night, Lindsey’s carefully constructed life implodes. Humiliated, she flees the glitter of Manhattan and retreats to the time warp of her parents’ Maryland home. As her sister plans her lavish wedding to her Prince Charming, Lindsey struggles to maintain her identity as the smart, responsible twin while she furtively tries to piece her career back together. But things get more complicated when a long-held family secret is unleashed that forces both sisters to reconsider who they are and who they are meant to be.

In reality, Deb Sarah has two brothers and three sons — no sister(s) in her immediate family –, however she’s always wondered what it would be like to have a sister and fascinated by the rich, complex relationships her friends had with their sisters. When it came time to write The Opposite of Me, she allowed the relationship between Lindsey and Alex to be “as messy and loving and complicated and competitive as possible.”

And why not include those complexities because — after all — the bottom line to this story is family. In fact that’s where Sarah’s strength and warmth come from, simply read her December 1, 2009 post, Deb Sarah’s dayjobs to fully understand.

Also, to read more of Sarah’s writing, here’s the excerpt of Chapter 1 from The Opposite of Me.

As far back as October there was good buzz about this novel which The Divining Wand received in November and read in December. Yes it was a definite holiday treat since Sarah — with her natural gift for writing and engaging voice — told a refreshing tale of two young women searching for their identities. Sisters/twins, seemingly different yet nonetheless the same, are at a crossroads in life. Rather than rely on and share with each other, they take the avoidance path and create a refreshing, believable story. Seriously who among the closest of sisters shares everything and then to be a twin…well you too would want your own identity and personal role in the world, wouldn’t you?!

With vivid description, thoughtful insight, and clever narrative, Deb Sarah elevates contemporary women’s fiction to another level. The Opposite of Me is both smart and fun. Or, as Courier Mail (Australia ) proclaims: “…it’s a winner!”

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand will be giving away two copies of The Opposite of Me in a random drawing. Simply leave a comment on this post — by the deadline of Wednesday, March 10, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EST — and you’ll be entered in the contest. The winners will be announced in Thursday’s post.

In the True Spirit of Halloween

October 29, 2009 By: larramiefg Category: Books, Debs, Movies, Profiles

What comes to mind when you think of Halloween? Costumes, candy, cats that are black? Well here’s another “C” word — creativity — that applies in a most wondrous way.

But first let’s return to the end of August when, on The Red Carpet of The Debutante Ball, The Divining Wand introduced you to Sarah Pekkanen whose novel, The Opposite of Me, debuts March 9, 2010. What wasn’t mentioned then, but will be now, is that Sarah honed her writing skills as a newspaper reporter who had to be creative to cover the most challenging assignments.

This Tuesday, October 27, 2009, the about-to-become author posted Halloween is the most magical time, for Deb Sarah — an insightful perspective of a writer’s mind and a mother’s heart. You may read the essay by clicking the link or scrolling down this page. For, with Sarah’s permission, here is why every October 31st is so much more than Trick-or-Treat:

“Halloween is the most magical time, for Deb Sarah

“Years ago, I was working as a feature writer for The Baltimore Sun newspaper when an editor told me to go find a Halloween story. I think my editor had a vague idea of me interviewing a father who was trying to convince his kids to not get a violent, bloody costume — or maybe a modern Mom who wanted her daughter to dress up like a brain surgeon instead of Cinderella.

“Armed with a pen and the trusty spiral notebook that fit so well into my back pocket, I hit a Halloween costume store and did what I loved: Wandered around and watched people. Within an hour, I had my story. But instead of the interview I expected, I stumbled across something very different.

“The woman who caught my attention was a mother of five, and her two oldest kids had suddenly decided dressing up wasn’t cool in junior high school. My article became a story about a woman who was mourning the loss of childhood. She talked longingly about how she’d helped transform her older boys into anything their imagination desired in years past – once, one of her kids had morphed into a box of popcorn, with real popcorn sewn onto his hat. But the decision to leave Halloween behind was theirs alone; that was part of growing up. So she hid her sadness from them.

“Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays, and not just because of the chocolate. Like the Mom I interviewed, I love the fact that Halloween celebrates imagination. And the reason why I’m incredulous, ecstatic, and beyond grateful that I now write fiction is because it means I never have to leave that piece of my childhood

“As a little girl, I spent hours daydreaming, happily inhabiting the colorful stories that played out in my head. Most of the time adults didn’t understand this; to them I probably appeared spacey and unfocused. But on Halloween – on that one magical day – adults joined in the celebration with me, understanding that I really was a fairy princess, or an Olympic gymnast, or a fat orange pumpkin with skinny little legs.

“This year I bought a giant, hot-pink, fuzzy hat to wear while my husband and I take our kids trick-or-treating. I’ll put away the hat for another year on November 1, but my imagination gets to stay. Because there are characters to create – people who do and say things that completely surprise me – and scenes to craft, and moods to conjure, and it all comes from the strange, shimmering place I remember so well from my childhood. The place we all get to visit, on Halloween.”


Sarah posts every Tuesday at The Debutante Ball, the same day Deb Founder Tish Cohen appeared there, in 2006 – 2007, before the debut of Town House. Many know that the book was on its way to becoming a movie when things stalled. However yesterday there was this news from Variety and Entertainment Congratulations Tish!

Announcement: The winners of CJ Lyon’s new medical suspense thriller, Urgent Care are: Jeannie from Philly, PA and Peg Brantley. Congratulations to you both! Please email: diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with a mailing address and your book will be sent out promptly.

A Love Story of Two Authors who Made Their Dreams Come True

October 07, 2009 By: larramiefg Category: Books, Debs, Profiles

Almost every aspiring writer, if asked, would probably describe their working life as a solitary one, perhaps even a lonely one on occasion. They’re usually not complaining, merely stating a fact of the hours that turn into weeks, months and years spent writing THAT novel. Which novel? The debut one of course — the one that will launch their career and realize their dream.

What happens, though, when a husband and wife share the same dream? Do they live on love, compromise one or another’s future, encourage each other through rejection after rejection?

At the end of August, on The Red Carpet of The Debutante Ball, The Divining Wand introduced you to Alicia Bessette whose novel, All Come Home debuts in August 2010. What wasn’t mentioned then, but will be now, is that Alicia is married to Matthew Quick, author of the highly acclaimed debut novel, The Silver Linings Playbook. Already translated into Italian, Spanish and Chinese (forthcoming), the book’s movie rights have been optioned by The Weinstein Company, and David O. Russell has written the screenplay adaptation. In addition to all that success, Matt will debut as a YA novelist with Sorta Like a Rock Star in April 2010.

Successful authors, both husband and wife (TRUST: Alicia will soar), what are the odds? Unless you have a dream, talent and a plan, they’re not not very good at all. However “Q&A” made it work as Alicia wrote last Wednesday, September 30, 2009 in her post, Persistence + Luck = Pluck…by Deb Alicia. Although this post appeared and was read at The Debutante Ball as well as on Facebook, this Fairy Godmother felt it needed to appear here too. So for anyone who believes or needs encouragement to believe in their dream, with Alicia’s permission, here is:

Persistence + Luck = Pluck…by Deb Alicia

Short version: I emailed a query to an agent at Folio Literary Management. Next day she requested the first fifty pages of my book. A week later, she requested the whole thing. Two days after that, she called and asked if I was willing to make some changes to the manuscript. I thanked her for her astute observations, and promised to resubmit the revised manuscript exclusively to her. She said that wouldn’t be necessary, because she was offering me representation.

Extended version: Rewind to the summer of 2003, when Matt and I traveled to Ireland. We were work-weary and restless, in our late twenties, and armed with books by Thich Nhat Hanh. In the pubs of Dublin and Sligo, Westport and Kilkenny, we had long conversations about our marriage; our future; our deepest, brightest dreams. Many of these conversations included some version of the following exchange:

Matt: I can’t be a high school English teacher for the next thirty years. I just can’t.
Me (quoting a paperweight I saw in a Dublin bookstore): What would you do if you knew you could not fail?
Matt: Write books.
Me: Yeah. Me too.

We were both experiencing a quarter-life crisis. And our lives needed a major overhaul.

Over Guinness, we hatched a wild plan to sell our house, quit our jobs, and move from Jersey to Massachusetts, where I’m from. He’d write, and I’d work. Then we’d switch.

And so, after the ’03-04 school year, we moved in with my parents. I taught yoga and worked for the weekly paper while Matt pursued an MFA. He spent no less than nine hours a day in his “office” (my parents’ unfinished basement), hunched at his desk, writing, revising, reading, studying, emailing authors for advice and encouragement, researching agents. About once a week, I’d wake up at 2 a.m. or 4 a.m. and realize he wasn’t in bed next to me. I’d find him in the basement, working.

As our meager savings dwindled, we questioned the wisdom of our drastic life-change. Others did, too (“So, are you going to get a real job?” “Publish that book yet?” “Gonna get your own place soon?” “What are you going to do next?”).

Two and a half years went by, Matt graduated, and we planned to venture out on our own again. But this time we had no idea what we were going to do, or how we were going to do it. Then, on a Wednesday morning in April 2007, he came bounding up the basement steps to announce that a wonderful agent offered to represent his novel, The Silver Linings Playbook. And soon after, his manuscript sold in New York, the UK, Italy, Spain, and Hollywood.

We celebrated with Guinness, of course. And Rocky Patel cigars.

With enough money to allow us both to write, full time, for about two years, we tearfully thanked my parents and rented a two-bedroom, 800-square-foot apartment outside Philly. That first year of on-our-own bliss-following, I wrote a 60,000-word spoof on the chick lit and fantasy genres. It had sword fights and Sephora, dragons and designer handbags. It was awesome.

It was rejected by more than 120 literary agents.

Oh, and five small presses.

Then, in 2008, I began All Come Home, a much different novel than my first. My goal was to write an emotionally honest book that demands to be read quickly and intensely, and that also demands to be savored and discussed. I wanted to write a book that book clubs would fall in love with.

I worked on All Come Home at least six hours a day, six or seven days a week. Full-time fury. I was determined. I also spent many hours researching agents and soliciting advice from kind writer-acquaintances.

Ten months and two revisions later, I calculated how many months’ rent remained in the bank. It wasn’t much. At the same time, I started pitching All Come Home to agents. Thankfully, I got a fantastic one: Laney Becker. She sold All Come Home to Penguin’s Dutton imprint. And she and her colleague, Celeste Fine, sold it to a German publisher too.

Matt and I picked up some Guinness and toasted a couple more years of bliss-following.

I tell my husband’s story in addition to my own because they’re inextricable; his success led to mine, and vice versa. But to get an agent, you don’t have to be married to someone who shares your dream. In fact, most writers aren’t.

You don’t need an MFA (although I greatly admire those who pursue graduate studies). You don’t need to quit your job, sell your house, or move into your parents’ or in-laws’ basement. You don’t need to “know somebody.”

Support from family and/or friends is nice, and if you have that, cherish it. Being open-minded and conducting yourself professionally helps.

From where I’m standing, what you absolutely need is tons and tons of persistence, and a little bit of luck.

Persistence + luck = Pluck. You’re going to need that, too, especially if, like many writers, you find yourself facing down rejections.

A final note about luck: One of my favorite expressions is, The harder you work, the luckier you get. That notion really resonates with some people. I’ll express it in another way, in case it gives your spine an electric flutter. Ready?

You make your own luck.

~Alicia Bessette


[Note: Two copies of Little Black Lies are being given away this week. Please leave a comment on Tish Cohen’s Little Black Lies by this evening at 7:00 p.m. EDT to be eligible for the random drawings. The two winners will be announced here in tomorrow’s post.]

The Revealing of Ivy Pochoda

September 02, 2009 By: larramiefg Category: Debs, Profiles

Ivy Pochoda knows how to make an entrance into the literary world and sweep readers off their feet. Simply write an elegant and totally original first novel – complete with a lovely “must open” cover — and then schedule its debut for Tuesday, September 15, 2009 when bookstores await their busiest day in years. The Divining Wand believes that many customers will purchase his book and hers — The Art of Disappearing.

It was that cover, the words “by a debut author,” and Amy MacKinnon’s (Tethered) blurb, “Utterly spellbinding,” that caused my immediate need to discover Ivy. And here is her brief book bio:

Ivy Pochoda graduated from Harvard University with a degree in Classical Greek and English. After graduation, she spent time in the Netherlands, pursuing a career in professional squash. She was the Spring 2009 James Merrill House Writer-in-Residence. Currently she lives in Brooklyn, NY.

A full presentation of Ivy Pochoda and The Art of Disappearing will be posted here on Monday, September 14, 2009, but for now let’s discover more about this debut author beyond her pages.

Q. How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A: An intriguing balance of literature and athletics.

Q: What is your motto or maxim
A: Someday we will look back on this and rejoice. (It’s from the Aeneid.)

Q: How would you describe perfect happiness?
A: Being able to write unencumbered by the everyday. However, there’s something selfish in this wish.

Q: What’s your greatest fear?
A: Fish and pointlessness.

Q: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you chooseto be?
A: Frenchman’s Bay, Maine, a cafe in Amsterdam, or on a train.

Q: With whom in history do you most identify?
A: I’d like to identify with Edith Wharton, but I’m afraid I haven’t
earned the right.

Q: Which living person do you most admire?
A: I’d admire anyone who takes chances on his or her beliefs or
passions—whether in public or in private.

Q: What are your most overused words or phrases?
A: Cool. I say it all the time. I usually mean it. Sometimes I don’t.

Q: What do you regret most?
A: Not daring to major in Folklore and Mythology in college.

Q: If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A Copyediting, proofreading, self-editing, self-restraint, and tennis

Q: What is your greatest achievement?
A: Writing “The Art of Disappearing”

Q: What’s your greatest flaw?
A: Carelessness and impatience.

Q: What’s your best quality?
A: I’m always available to my friends.

Q: If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A: Someone or something near water.

Q: What trait is most noticeable about you?
A: I talk quickly.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A: Josef Kavalier from “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.”

Q: Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A: Moriarty from Sherlock Holmes.

Q: If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?


Q: What is your biggest pet peeve?
A: Indecisiveness and dithering.

Q: What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A: Reading and condiment shopping. I’m also pretty fond of racket sports.

Q: What’s your fantasy profession?
A: I’d like to run a mobile hot dog cart constructed out a 3-wheeled
police vehicle.

Q: What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A: Clarity. Reliability. Honesty.

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

Q: What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A: The Wind Up Bird Chronicle. The Sun Also Rises. The Odyssey. The Age of Innocence. Wings of the Dove.

Fascinated? Captivated? Ivy invites you become her friend on Facebook or follower on Twitter.

On The Red Carpet with Debutante Joëlle Anthony

August 28, 2009 By: larramiefg Category: Advance News, Debs, Red Carpet

It’s been exciting as well as a pleasure to greet The Debutante Class of 2010 on The Red Carpet this week. And the multi-talented Deb Joëlle Anthony (Restoring Harmony YA, May 13, 2010) graces us with her presence on this final day.

TDW: My goodness, Joëlle, you look stunning! Who are you wearing?

Joëlle: You’re too kind…In my mind,Joelle I am wearing a fabulous emerald green evening dress that I knit myself after writing each day. If you saw my sweaters, you’d know this is a fantasy.

TDW: Ah but fantasy and creativity work so well together that, although this will be your debut publication, has there been another book written?

Joëlle: I have a metaphorical drawer full of manuscripts. Restoring Harmony is about my seventh novel. Some will stay buried, but I have hopes for one or two (okay, three) of the others. And I’m working on something new too, which I hope will be my next contracted book. Fingers crossed! I will hopefully know later this year.

TDW: Absolutely, fingers crossed. Have you surprised anyone by writing Restoring Harmony?

Joëlle: I’ve never done things the “normal” way. I mean, I started out my adult life as an actress, so people see me as a creative person and no one has ever really reacted to the idea of me writing a book with anything other than, “Great!” My mum’s a writer too, so it’s not like I had that experience where my family was telling me, “Oh, you should have something to fall back on!” Instead they were always really encouraging. In fact, writing is what I fell back on when I got tired of acting!

TDW: What about characters, have you based one on someone you know?

Joëlle: I’ll never tell! I’ve never done this intentionally, but there’s still time. It is true that I steal all my husband’s best lines, but you know…it’s pretty obvious to everyone that knows him that a lot of my male characters are a lot like him. At least all the cool ones. It’s no secret.

[Aside: Deb Joëlle’s husband, Victor Anthony, is both a musician and photographer. In fact, her lovely picture is courtesy of Victor’s talent.]

TDW: Knowing how important music is in your life, what five songs should be on your book’s soundtrack?

Joëlle: Funny you should ask because next week we’re going into the recording studio (by “we” I mean I will just be standing around) to record some of the music from my book. My main character, Molly, is a fiddle player and in the book she plays a variety of fiddle tunes and songs (in case you have always wondered what the difference between a tune and a song is, it’s that a song has words and a tune is simply music). Eventually, these recordings will be available for free download on my website.

The ones we will be recording are:
Peekaboo Waltz
Handsome Molly
Hard Times Come Again No More
Brianna’s Reel (written just for my book by my friend and fiddle player, Sarah Tradewell)

That’s only four, so you could add the Cowboy Waltz to the list because it’s in the book, although we don’t intend to record it.

TDW: What a wonderful bonus! Your imagination appears limitless, yet what if you couldn’t write, what would you most want to do with your life?

Joëlle: Okay, don’t freak out on me here, but I might actually like to be one of those people who do your taxes. I doubt I’d ever go so far as becoming an accountant, but filling in forms floats my boat. I also like the idea of cooking (vegetarian) professionally or possibly being a home decorator (but not all Martha Stewart…more modern).

TDW: Thank you Deb Joëlle, your Friday posts at this year’s Debutante Ball are certain to be filled with surprises, we’ll look forward to them. Also the free download recordings and, on May 13, 2010, your debut as a YA novelist with Restoring Harmony.

Cheers to all the new Debutantes – Emily Winslow, Sarah Pekkanen, Alicia Bessette, Maria Garcia-Kalb and Joëlle Anthony – who have joined us on The Red Carpet this week. These charming ladies are about to enter The Debutante Ball and begin waltzing on Monday. Please join them for The Ball which is the ultimate source in discovering about-to-be authors beyond their pages!

On The Red Carpet with Debutante Maria Garcia-Kalb

August 27, 2009 By: larramiefg Category: Advance News, Debs, Red Carpet

As this week on The Red Carpet with The Debutante Class of 2010 winds down, the energy level is about to rise up a notch or two when we greet Maria Garcia-Kalb (101 Ways to Torture Your Husband coming January 18, 2009).

TDW: Hello, Maria, how elegant you look on The Red Carpet.

mariaonairMaria: It’s the black, I always wear black, unless there’s an appropriate animal print.

TDW: Well you make a statement as does your book. Although it’s your first to be published, have you’ve written others.

Maria: Believe it or not, the first book I wrote is titled “Ethan’s First Words” after dealing with my son’s speech delay. Now he makes me dizzy, barely taking a breath between sentences! I’ve written several children’s books I’d like to get out there, as well as a fun tome titled “The Fat Girl’s Guide to Fabulous Clothes that Fit,” but we’ll deal with torturing husbands first. 😉

TDW: So whose reaction was the most surprising when you announced that you were being published?

Maria: My husband’s. He was THRILLED (and apparently hasn’t realized this is a man-torturing manual).

TDW: Does that mean the character examples are based on someone you know?

Maria: All the male references are based on men who have come through my life in one way or another.

Many of them are my friend’s husbands… you know who you are!

TDW: Did you need any food or drink item to help get you through the book or was it all sweet revenge?

Maria: I am addicted to “Mike and Ike’s” chewy fruity candy. I probably plowed through 50 boxes to get the manuscript completed.

TDW: You are into big numbers, aren’t you? What is it that you promised your publisher? 😉

Maria: My goal is to have a million friends and drive the Facebook administrators nuts! Go ahead. Friend me. I also have a Facebook Group for the book, so I hope everyone joins that too.

TDW: While writing the book, what did you have on in the background?

Maria: I can’t live without my iTunes playlist. My favorite jams at the time were “Shake It” by Metro Station, Katy Perry’s “Hot N Cold,” and Beyonce’s “Single Ladies.” The SNL skit with Justin Timberlake in those tights and heels is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.

TDW: It’s been delightful, Maria, and there’s no doubt that Thursdays at The Debutante Ball will never be the same. Enjoy and have fun with it all!

And, remember, Deb Maria will be the first to be presented when 101 Ways to Torture Your Husband becomes available on January 18, 2010!

On The Red Carpet with Debutante Alicia Bessette

August 26, 2009 By: larramiefg Category: Advance News, Debs, Red Carpet

Here it is mid-week on The Red Carpet with The Debutante Class of 2010 and we’re about to meet Wednesday’s Deb, Alicica Bessette (All Come Home due Summer 2010).

TDW: Alicia, you’re just lovely. Please share what this fashion statement.

Alicia: I’m wearing what I wear most days: yoga pants; Alicia one of several soft cotton tops I’ve owned for years; and dented, scratched eyeglasses that I just haven’t gotten around to replacing. My hair is rumpled, and I’m barefoot.

TDW: Aha, going for comfort so you likely have written more than All Come Home<. Care to share what you’ve done with other unpublished books?

Alicia: There is one on the top shelf of my closet, inside a dusty manuscript box. Someday I’ll shred and recycle the old beast. But it endured a fair amount of rejection, so I figured I’d give it a little respite!

TDW: It’s a bit like an old friend, isn’t it? And, on that subject, was there a character in this novel created from someone you know?

Alicia: Very much so. In All Come Home, France, the small-town police officer, was inspired by someone I met once. She struck me as smart, tough, loyal — and just a touch odd. She was very memorable, and I couldn’t resist turning her into a character.

TDW: Did you need specific food or drink to help you through the book?

Alicia: Yes Earl Grey tea, plus organic chocolate purchased most Friday afternoons from the little shop below my apartment.

TDW: Hmm, more chocolate… But what about putting a soundtrack to your novel, can you name five songs that should be on it??

Alicia: Rose-Ellen, a 34-year-old widow, listens to heart-wrenching breakup songs by Gladys Knight and the Pips — on vinyl, on an old trash-picked record player. Within the contexts of grief and widowhood, the songs take on heightened meaning as Rose-Ellen pieces her life back together.

So, All Come Home’s soundtrack would include the following hits, as performed by the great Gladys Knight and the Pips: Make Me The Woman You Come Home To; It Should Have Been Me; Letter Full Of Tears; All I Need Is Time; and Every Little Bit Hurts.

TDW: It’s no secret, after one glance at your website, that you’re a gifted musician. Is that what you would choose to do, if you couldn’t write?

Alicia: I’d travel the world either as a concert pianist or a wildlife photographer. Or maybe both.

TDW: Who knows, you may be traveling the world as an author once All Comes Home is published next summer.

Thank you, Deb Alicia. Enjoy the music of The Debutante Ball and all the “firsts” coming home to you this year!

On The Red Carpet with Debutante Sarah Pekkanen

August 25, 2009 By: larramiefg Category: Advance News, Debs, Red Carpet

In our second day on The Red Carpet with The Debutante Class of 2010 we have Tuesday’s (posting) Debutante Sarah Pekkanen (The Opposite of Me, March 2010).

TDW: Welcome, Sarah. You look glorious. Please give the details of what you are wearing.

Sarah: Thank you, but you’re too kind. Oh, no one can actually see me, can they? Sarahresiz Good. In that case, I’m wearing a size-six sleek black dress and sky-high heels. No, let’s make it a size four. My makeup is flawless, and I just had a manicure.

TDW: Perfect. Now tell us about the first book you wrote. The Opposite of Me will be your first book published, but there must be other completed works.

Sarah: My very first book was titled “Miscellaneous Tales and Poems” and I wrote it when I was about 10. I actually sent it to publishers and waited eagerly to learn when I could find it in bookstores (it has been a very, very long wait). A few years ago, my young niece borrowed one of my old Nancy Drew books and discovered, tucked between the yellowing pages, a letter I’d written on Raggedy Ann stationary asking a publisher about the fate of my story and poem collection. I’ve got that letter posted on my website, and when I went to New York to meet editors who were interested in my novel, I tucked the letter into my briefcase as a good-luck charm.

TDW: Since you’ve always wanted to be a writer, were there any surprise reactions when people heard you were writing another book?

Sarah: Well, I’ve always worked as a writer — I started at a news service right out of college — so people didn’t seem too surprised. Or maybe they were, but didn’t let on. Although I have to say my father’s shocked reaction was priceless when he read an early draft of my novel: “Hey! You might actually be able to get this thing published!”

TDW: Have you based a character in the book on someone you know, but who would never in a million years recognize themselves?

Sarah: People always think they see themselves in my novel (and occasionally get offended), but it’s fiction, people! I made it up! In fact, my book is about twin sisters who are complete opposites — and I don’t even have a sister.

TDW: Was there one food or drink item got you through this book?

Sarah: Oooh, chocolate. It gets me through everything in life! I always think there’s no problem too big for a group of girlfriends, a few bottles of wine, and some chocolate.

In fact, if I couldn’t write, I’d be the quality-control taster at the Godiva factory.

TDW: Sarah, you and Founder Deb Mia King definitely need to get together over chocolate!

Right now, though, we look forward to your dancing (especially in those heels) at The Debutante Ball every Tuesday and the March 9, 2010 release of The Opposite of Me. Enjoy the year!