The Divining Wand

Discovering authors beyond their pages…

Summer’s TBR Lists, II

June 09, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Favorites, Q&A

A-h-h summer, how do we love thee for HOT, lazy days — the perfect reason to relax and get lost in a book? And, since summer book lists are currently being published, The Divining Wand decided to ask its authors:

What’s on your summer “must/want to read” list?

This week the following writers replied:

~ Joëlle Anthony (Restoring Harmony YA):

“As for books, I’m anxiously awaiting Nova Ren Suma’s new book, IMAGINARY GIRLS. And Deb Caletti has a new book out, STAY.”

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

“I cannot wait for Laura Dave’s THE FIRST HUSBAND.”

~Ann Wertz Garvin (On Maggie’s Watch):

“My reading list:
Laura Ryder’s Masterpiece – Jane Hamilton
Once Upon A Time There Was You- Elizabeth Berg
The Red Thread – Ann Hood
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption – Laura Hillenbrand
Bossypants – Tina Fey”

~Kristy Kiernan (Between Friends, Matters of Faith, and Catching Genius):

“My TBR pile looks a little heavy right now: Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage by Alice Munro; Moll Flanders by Defoe; Candide by Voltaire; Middlemarch by Eliot; Crossing the Safety by Stegner; Disgrace by Coetzee.”

~Kate Ledger (Remedies):

“That list seems to get longer every week. There are so many great books out there. I’m currently reading a lot of books about medicine and the lives of doctors as research for the novel I’m writing now. But two I’m looking forward to for pure intrigue and the love of the journey are: Randy Susan Meyers’s novel about a family surviving domestic violence, The Murderer’s Daughters, and Mitchell James Kaplan’s novel set during the Spanish Inquisition, By Fire, By Water.”

~Meg Mitchell Moore (The Arrivals):

“Can’t wait to read for these new releases: The Bird Sisters, The Kitchen Daughter, The Art of Forgetting and The Violets of March. Also so excited for Kate Atkinson’s Started Early, Took My Dog and for a long time now I’ve been meaning to read The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Oh, and Townie by Andre Dubus III. And of course the newest Elin Hilderbrand novel, Silver Girl. I’ll be first in line for that one.”

~Kristina Riggle (Real Life & Liars and The Life You’ve Imagined, and Things We Didn’t Say coming June 28, 2011):

“I can’t wait to read LORD OF MISRULE, the National Book Award winner Jaimy Gordon who lives here in West Michigan. I was lucky enough to meet her — she’s charming, funny and down-to-earth — and the book sounds amazing. My autographed copy is tempting me right now, but I have some library books in the queue first…”

To be continued….

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Announcement: The winners of From Bad to Cursed by Katie Alender are Eileen and Jessica Stanton. Congratulations.

Please email diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address and your book will be pre-ordered to be sent out next week.

Favorite Fictional Worlds, I

May 05, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Favorites, Q&A

When Eleanor Brown (The Weird Sisters) responded earlier this year with an alternative answer for her fictional BFF, it was simply too good (and intriguing) to pass up. And so, with a grateful nod to Eleanor, TDW asked its other authors:

In what fictional world/neighborhood would you like to live? And why?

This week the following writers replied:

~ Joëlle Anthony (Restoring Harmony YA):

“I would definitely want to live in Deep Valley, Minnesota with Betsy and Tacy and the Crowd. This would be circa 1906-1910. I know Minnesota is FREEZING in the winter, and BOILING and HUMID in the summer, but they made it sound so nice and cozy with their wool dresses (and wool long underwear!) and furs (of course, my furs would have to be faux). Walking to school through the snow, or downtown to Heinz’s for hot chocolate all sounds so dreamy to me! And spring and summer sound so fun…swimming in the lake (again, in wool!) and eating lots of fresh peach pie. And picnics on the Big Hill. Sign me up! For those of your readers who are not as obsessed as I am with Betsy and Tacy, I am referring, of course, to the Betsy-Tacy book series by Maud Hart Lovelace.?

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

“I’d love to live in The Secret Garden. Okay, not in the garden itself, but I think it would be so much fun to live in the huge manor behind it and play on the moors all day with Dickon and Mary and frolic in that fictional and magical world. I don’t get to frolic enough in real life.”

~Eileen Cook (The Education of Hailey Kendrick YA, Unpredictable, What Would Emma Do? YA, Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood YA, and Fourth Grade Fairy ages 9 -11):

“This is a hard question to answer- I can think of millions of books I would love to visit. I’d swing by Jane Austen’s drawing room, take a wander through the museum in The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, and put my feet up at Hogwarts and enjoy a cup of Butterbeer with Harry Potter.”

~Ann Wertz Garvin (On Maggie’s Watch):

“Is it just too predictable to say- in Harry Potter’s world, specifically Hogwarts? I’ve always wanted a little magic in my life; and I don’t mean the magic of spring. I want to twitch my nose or blink my eyes and be the witch or genie of my television youth. When I was 7 or so, I was sure, with the right amount of determination and focus, I would be able to levitate, turn bullies into pigs and disappear. I started small, I concentrated on pencils first, sure I could move them to my side. I think now, if only I’d turned that single-minded energy into punctuation or say my abs, I’d be amazing. There would be no need for my wizard fantasies. No need to pine for a wand. But I do pine. I fantasize about joining forces with Harry; smiting evil, silencing gossips, saving the world. I would so happily bow to a Hippogriff and ride off to find terrorists; anything to get me away from grocery shopping and making meal after uneaten meal for the picky eaters in my family. Truth be told, drudgery is my terrorist so I suppose it’s predictable that I want to live in a place where food appears out of nowhere and a room of requirement exists (you know, other than Costco).”

~Beth Hoffman (Saving CeeCee Honeycutt):

“Right now I wished I lived on a deserted island (like the Swiss Family Robinson) so nobody could find me! I’m trying to stay focused on writing my new novel and if I could only hide for a while, I’d be able to get a lot more done.”

~Ad Hudler (Man of the House, All This Belongs to Me, House Husband):

“When my daughter was going through her mopey, teenage years, unhappy with the world around her, we came up with a game that we’d play while driving in the van: We invented our own perfect planets that we would create and rule over. Planet Ad was a pleasant place indeed: Every structure would be painted in bright, Caribbean colors. There would be no rap music, no cigarettes, no rudeness, no slow drivers in the left-hand lane, no laugh tracks on TV sitcoms. There would be no cell phones; people would actually talk to each other in person.”

~Kristy Kiernan (Between Friends, Matters of Faith, and Catching Genius):

“I would like to live on my own creation–Big Dune Island from Catching Genius. Sun, sand, the Gulf of Mexico, shrimp…ahhh, happiness.”

~Holly LeCraw (The Swimming Pool):

“I confess I am too entranced by the ordinary world around me to want to go anywhere else. Truth.”

~Lauren Baratz-Logsted (most recent The Twin’s Daughter YA, and middle grade addition The Sisters Eight Book 6: Petal’s Problems, The Education of Bet YA, Crazy Beautiful YA, Sisters 8 series Book 5: Marcia’s Madness):

“The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander. There needs to be another female character in there to give Eilonwy some competition for Taran’s heart. Plus, I’m pretty sure I’m less strident than she is.”

~Kristina McMorris (Letters From Home):

“I’m a huge fan of The Tudors, so would love to experience life as part of their royal court — but just for an evening of elegant gowns, delicious wine, and charming folk dances. In other words, not long enough to be sentenced to a beheading.”

~Sarah Pekkanen (Skipping a Beat and The Opposite of Me):

“Can I cheat a little on this question with a neighborhood that isn’t fictional but is probably very different today? I’ve always loved the neighborhoods described by James Herriott in his “All Things Bright and Beautiful” series – pubs, rolling green hills, friendly neighbors (and since I adore animals it would have been fun to go on veterinary rounds with him). But I’d have to go back in time…”

~Lori Roy (Bent Road):

“I would choose to live on Melrose Island, South Carolina, the childhoold home of Tom Wingo from THE PRINCE OF TIDES (abscent the tragic childhood.) Why would I want to live there…because Pat Conroy made it irresistible.”

To be continued….

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Announcement: The winner of Exposure by Therese Fowler is Jennifer Downing. Congratulations!

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

Go-to Writing Books

March 24, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Favorites, Profiles, Q&A

At one time or another, before as well as during her/his writing career, a published author has likely read more than a few books on the art and craft of writing. Whether it’s for motivation or inspiration, favorites must exist to be read and reread whenever the need arises. With this thought in mind, The Divining Wand asked its authors:

What books do you keep nearby or go back to as you’re working?

And this week the following authors replied:

~Carleen Brice (Orange Mint and Honey, Children of the Waters):

“Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott, Story by Robert McKee, Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass, The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.”

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

“I like to read John Gardner’s On Becoming a Novelist every now and then, along with Stephen King’s On Writing. They’re conversant and inspirational. I like Francine Prose’s Reading Like a Writer, Anne Bernays’ What If?, and Writing Fiction by Janet Burroway. Then there are the novels that I pull from the shelves when I need to remember what gorgeous writing looks like–we all need role models, after all: Bel Canto by Anne Patchett is a favorite.”

~Ann Wertz Garvin (On Maggie’s Watch):

“It changes. I fall in love with authors every week. I’m in no way a monogamous reader. I’d hate to be my reader girlfriend because I could never commit. So sometimes I read Erma Bombeck, Nora Ephron, Elizabeth Berg and other days it’s Jackie Mitchard, Jane Hamiliton, Elizabeth Strout. I use books to get permission for oddities in my writing. Since grammar and punctuation is often beyond me (my spell check program is so totally superior and snarky), I like to get the nod from authors who take liberties with language.”

~Sarah Jio (The Violets of March coming April 26, 2011):

“For fiction, nada. I rely on my brain and sometimes good ol’ Google to check a fact. (Though when I’m researching a new book (or even just a book idea), I try to get my hands on every relevant book I can find on my subject/time period. This is the fun part! For instance, recently, I have been researching the 1920’s and loving the book “Flapper,” for a new novel I’m working on). But when I’m doing a magazine story, I’m always referring to the latest and newest nonfiction books—self-help, diet, fitness, etc. I have a huge stack of these books on my desk at any given moment.”

~Caroline Leavtitt (Pictures of You, Girls in Trouble, Coming Back to Me, the rest in Bibliography):

“John Truby, The Anatomy of Story. Brilliant structural advice.”

~Kristina McMorris (Letters From Home):

“When it comes to an author’s voice, I connect most with Jodi Picoult. Her lyricism, analogies, and often simple statements that convey profound beauty are a great inspiration, specifically whenever I find myself struggling to write after being away from a manuscript too long. And the opening sentences of her novels? Wowsers. I dare any reader to stop after reading only the first line.”

To be continued….

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Announcement: The winner of Bent Road by Lori Roy is karenk. Congratulations!

Please email diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address and your book will be Pre-ordered for its release one week from today.

Fictional Characters as Best Friends Forever

February 17, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Favorites, Profiles, Q&A

One of the most enlightening aspects of reading is being introduced, getting to know, and gaining insight/understanding to a wide variety of individuals. Somewhere among the pages are also those special characters that create an immediate personal bond — the ones, if only real, would be chosen as our BFF.

With this in mind The Divining Wand wondered who the authors felt close to, and asked:

What fictional character would you choose to be your BFF and why?

And this week’s authors replied:

~Robin Antalek (The Summer We Fell Apart):

“I’d like to spend time with Holden Caulfield; I’ve always found the dark, moody boys to be endlessly fascinating to have as friends, but never date.”

~Carleen Brice (Orange Mint and Honey, Children of the Waters):

“I think I could be good friends with Davie Jones in 32 Candles because we’re both nerdy weirdos, and we’d make each other laugh.

The three adult sisters in Ugly Ways by Tina McElroy Andrews because they love books as much as I and I just love them so and can relate to them so.

I’d also like to be friends with Sally Owens from Practical Magic because I’ve always loved witches and I’d love to have a friend who could cook up something to make a bad man disappear.

Oh Myraleen and Lilian in This Side of the Sky because they have the type of lifelong friendship that is very rare these days, and Lilian is smart and Myraleen is funny.

Also, all these women have mother issues and I can relate!”

~Ann Wertz Garvin (On Maggie’s Watch):

“I think I can name a few. Love Bridget Jones and Kate Reddy (I Don’t Know How She Does It). Partly because they have a fabulous British accent and I would love to have a friend that said “bullocks” everything I said something ridiculous. I love how flawed and good they are. Nobody knows flawed like I do. Hermione Granger has such a good head on her shoulders, I think she could help me with punctuation and I could consult in ways of the heart. While being her BFF would be very difficult I know, Olive Kitterage speaks to me so strongly. I think she could tell me to get-over-my-self better than any one and I could hug her until she settled down.”

~Sarah Jio (The Violets of March coming April 26, 2011):

“Maybe Louisa May Alcott’s Jo March. I just love her spunk and spirit, but especially her principles and loyalty! Something tells me that if she were living here in the present day, we’d have a ton of fun!”

~Caroline Leavtitt (Pictures of You, Girls in Trouble, Coming Back to Me, the rest in Bibliography):

“Jay Gatsby. I think we could throw some really wild parties!”

~Melissa Senate (The Love Goddess’ Cooking School, The Mosts YA, The Secret of Joy, the rest in Bibliography):

“The bff of my dreams has always been my beloved Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables. True-blue, smart, and all that imagination.”

~Emily Winslow (The Whole World)

“Today? Mog the Forgetful Cat. I’m in the mood for playfulness and feline cuddles.” 🙂

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Announcement: The winners of Sarah Pekkanen’s Skipping a Beat are Jennifer B and Stacy. Congratulations!

Please email diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address and your book will be pre-ordered for next Tuesday’s release date.

Writing Rituals, Secrets, and Superstitions, III

January 27, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles, Q&A

Once again, for every writer there are intangible elements — personal habits — that allow the mind to roam and find its comfort zone when the words aren’t flowing. To take a look at what some of these practices include, The Divining Wand asked its authors:

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

And this week the following authors replied:

~Eleanor Brown (The Weird Sisters):

“I wish I did. When writing isn’t going well, I’m frankly likely to go play Mario Kart Wii for a while until I can bear to face the blank page again, and that’s neither terribly unusual nor terribly constructive. But one thing that does tend to work for me is going back to writing longhand. I hate it for long periods, but there’s something about the flow of pen against actual paper, even if it’s just jotting notes or writing descriptions that tends to jar things into motion for me. Sometimes I can even read what I’ve written afterwards.”

~Meredith Cole (Posed for Murder, Dead in the Water):

“Taking a break always works for me. I tell myself I will not think about the problem I’m having with my story, but I always do. Often my mind just needs to do something different in order to come back to a problem with a fresh solution.”

~Ann Wertz Garvin (On Maggie’s Watch):

“I use music to get me in the mood–music with lyrics that fit the milieu I’m working on. Sometimes I’m so moved by the melodies and words, it’s like a space heater thawing out my writing frost. I also peruse my writing note books for observations. I have a terrible memory and writing down words I like and phrases remind me how much I like to write.”

~Kate Ledger (Remedies):

“I believe if I misspell or mistype a word, my fingers are telling me it’s the wrong word. Also, I have to begin with coffee. It just never feels right without coffee.”

~Meg Mitchell Moore (The Arrivals coming May 25, 2011):

“Music! For me it’s critical that each story or book have a song or a few songs that set the mood for the story. When I wrote THE ARRIVALS I played a lot of Amy Winehouse while I wrote. My current project has to do with two characters who are each going through some dark times and searching for some solace in unlikely places. There’s a song by Josh Ritter called “Lantern” that feels like the right song for this book. I probably play that song 10 times a day, especially when I’m trying to get into the mood of the story.”

~Sarah Pekkanen (The Opposite of Me, and Skipping a Beat coming February 22, 2010):

“Not really – just stare at the screen and don’t get distracted by laundry, opening the mail, or checking my email!”

~Lori Roy (Bent Road coming March 31, 2011):

“I have no secrets or superstitions, but I do drink green tea whenever I write, and I generally write with my feet propped up on my desk.”

To be continued….

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Announcement: The winner of Linda Gray Sexton’s memoir Half in Love: Surviving the Legacy of Suicide is Andrea Miles Martin. Congratulations!

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

Ann Wertz Garvin and On Maggie’s Watch

November 29, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books

After reading The Revealing of Ann Wertz Garvin, and the guest post, Private Parts, it would be safe to expect the unexpected from Ann Wertz Garvin and her debut novel On Maggie’s Watch.

Of course, for this author, the unexpected is a very good thing as Ann confesses: “Writers are observers and I’m the noisiest observer there ever was.”

Noisy? Actually it’s being curious and having the zest for life to explore all types of interests. For example: Ann’s background is in science with a masters in exercise physiology and a PhD in exercise psychology but in between the academics she did theater, backpacked through Europe (twice), swam in Jamaica, Greece, Hawaii, Kuai, and ate her way through Egypt. And being a full professor at the University of Wisconsin Whitewater — where she teaches courses on nutrition and stress management — did not stop her from writing fiction, let alone successfully managing the journey to publication.

Ann is uniquely charming and disarming. Please meet her through this video introduction:

(If the video isn’t visible on your monitor, please view the video here.)

The inspiration for the novel came from the author’s chilling experience of watching a SWAT team arrest a world-class sex offender living in her neighborhood. That’s when she began thinking what if he had lived next door to her? What would she have done and what of the aftermath:

“I would have been so disappointed at my inability to sense or ferret out baddies and would have struggled with the knowledge that this kind of evil walks amongst us. What would/should I do with my fears?

But there are these websites that exist essentially to say…’here are the bad guys in your town. Keep away from these houses and you’ll be fine.’ So now we have this false sense of control and security. Although the websites help…it’s the dangers that can’t be seen that tend to do us in. Often on these websites they “‘offenders'” exist on a continuum. Some are sex offenders in the most terrible of senses and then there is the guy who just slapped the wrong woman’s ass. I wanted to explore the craziness in all of us when we don’t have all the information we need.”

Add Maggie — an 8 1/2 month pregnant woman on high alert for safety — and the storyline evolved into On Maggie’s Watch and this synopsis:

To Do:

Set up Crib
Carve Zucchini Boats
Fight Crime

Maggie Finley has just returned to her beloved Wisconsin hometown, quirky best friend, and eccentric mother. Life should be good, but her marriage to Martin is suffering under the strain of a recent family tragedy and Maggie’s feeling pressed for time. Before the birth of her baby she has to figure out how to fit her high-anxiety-self into a low-anxiety-life.

True to her can do attitude, Maggie hires a compelling handy-man, resurrects a defunct Neighborhood Watch and inadvertently discovers a potential threat to her house and home living just around the corner. Choosing to investigate, despite her best friend’s advice to keep her nose out of it…and despite the risk, Maggie sets her sites on discovering the stranger’s secret. As the mystery of the neighbor’s identity draws Maggie irresistibly in, her ordered life starts to unravel in surprising and hilarious ways.

Unexpectedly compelling and sparkling with wit and intelligence, this debut novel chronicles one woman’s quest for control over her surroundings, and the secrets and surprises that lie hidden in an ordinary suburban landscape.

Having read a bit about the book, let Ann tell you more in this video:

(If the video isn’t visible on your monitor, please view the video here.

Also here’s a preview of the novel with Chapter One.

Indeed there’s much more than presiding over a Neighborhood Watch group for Maggie. With the storyline dealing with the pressure of loss in a marriage, deep affection between friends, and an almost consuming desire to control everything in order to keep those we love safe, the author’s goal was to write about humanity and history then marry them with control and fear. As Ann says;

“People are complex, and happily these themes combine and intertwine until you get judgment. Whenever I judge I know it is about me not “‘them.'” I also know, when I judge something I’m going to get a snoot full of whatever I’m judging so I better just stop it. I’m interested in showing how judgement and fear are partnered.”

Or, in other words, what the consequences can be by jumping to conclusions and critical misconceptions. Maggie appears to be an expert at doing both and one might excuse her antics, dismissing them as an imbalance of hormones due to her pregnancy. Yet the author doesn’t take this easy way out because she created Maggie as “a regular person with regular fears and an over-the-top reaction” just as many would have when confronting their own fears.

Instead Maggie’s pregnancy is cause for another fear — a believable one from her past history. And believability is the true beauty of this book’s writing. The humor, the poignancy, the sweetness and the bittersweet have been measured out in just the right amounts to easily provide readers’ with “Aha” personal moments. For that reason alone On Maggie’s Watch is a novel to savor. Please, don’t take it lightly or gulp it down in one sitting. Because, if you do, Ann Wertz Garvin’s message might be missed:

“Listen to the people who love you. You hired those people as a friend for their unique qualifications to tell you when you are not acting like the people they love (for the reasons they love you). Our friends have a bird’s eye view of us; when we get focused in ways that are not good for us, or humanity, it is our friends’ job to pull our heads from our collective asses and get us off our Sit and Spin.”

The Divining Wand’s message: Get yourself up and out to a bookstore as soon as possible!

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Ann Wertz Garvin’s On Maggie’s Watch in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, December 1, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EST with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to see if you’re a winner.

Guest Ann Wertz Garvin on Private Parts

November 23, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[In Best Writing Exercises, Part V, Ann Wertz Garvin (On Maggie’s Watch) explains: “I like to take a phrase that strikes me as interesting or funny–something I’ve seen on a bumper sticker or heard in conversation–and figure out what is funny about it and what it relates to.” In today’s guest post, the author does just that and more.]

Private Parts

My writer’s notebook in my satin evening bag sits untouched. I stand apart from the polished, pore less, people murmuring about soccer schedules and the Indian summer we’re having. I try to join in, talk about my dress-a vintage number I thought was amazing in the store. I drink coffee to stay alert. I scan clusters of people looking for my husband. Instead, I spot a woman. This is the woman that biologists envision when classifying higher life forms and the kind high school seniors rank for Prom queen candidates (which by the way is essentially the same system but the high-schoolers labels are meaner more memorable. No mnemonics needed). She is a queen bee. She’s the slender taper on the top of a grand piano. And, lovely though she is, the lacquer that covers the classified documents that make her real, leave me nothing to talk with her about.

Earlier in the day at gate 46 in Chicago International Airport I was filled with unasked, almost irresistible questions for conversation as I watched people fumble for their boarding passes and spill lattes on their white shirts. I wanted to know what the man with the crazy-ass western boots founds so fascinating in the proceedings of the International Conference on Zebra Fish. I was dying to ask, “What’s up?” to the six very reasonable-looking women seated together wearing matching Lobstas & Beeya’s t-shirts under their practical Eddie Bauer wind breakers. Six of them. Then there was the cuddling couple with the matching spiked purple hair. I wanted to know where they met, how long they’d been together and if their song was from this era or maybe an eighties favorite. Morning Train by Sheena Eastan, perhaps.

I’d actually moved closer to a mother/daughter pair so I could eavesdrop, hoping to engage the mother in a conversation about the book she was reading. The little girl was fidgeting and pulling at her flower legging’s

“Hon,” her mother said, “Is your pocket book bothering you?”

The daughter distracted by her pants, but eager to answer her mother correctly said, “My what?”

Her mother widened her eyes meaningfully, “Your pocket book. Remember our code word?”

The sunshine of memory streaked across the child’s face and she said, loudly, “Oh! My Vagina. No my Vagina doesn’t hurt it just doesn’t smell good.”

To her enormous credit her mother said with considerable dignity, “Good to know.” Breathing deeply she said, “Maybe next time we talk about our privates a little quieter.”

With the innocence of the ages and eyes as large as Oreo cookies (probably parroting an earlier conversation) she said “Why mama? There’s nothing to be ashamed of. I like private parts.”

When the mother asked me to watch their luggage as they hurried to the rest room, I was thrilled. I got to be part of their world and guard both a Hello Kitty back pack and a book totally devoted to the microcosm of E. Coli. I took out my writer’s notebook and recorded these nuts like a squirrel’s ransom.

I’m recalling this moment, while having my own bathroom moment at the beautiful Overture Center, where I am wondering how wearing terrifically uncomfortable shoes can possibly help cancer, when I hear,

“No fricken’ way.”

I move from my overstuffed lounge chair to find The Queen Bee standing at the sink staring in horror in the mirror. She has paper towels under each arm pit and one shoved in the bodice of her strapless gown. She is holding her wrists under running water and is wearily pressing her forehead to the cool tile wall.

“Can I help you, “I say both alarmed and I confess delighted. My God, I think, something to do!

“Two words,” she says. “Early menopause.”

“No way,” I say impressed by my eloquence. My chameleon like ability to say just the right thing at just the right time (inward eye roll).

“Way,” she says. “And in like three minutes I’m going to be cold, damp, and exhausted as a whore after her first trick of the night.

“Rock on,” I say. Again thinking, Jesus Christ, Ann. Get your head out of your ass. Recovering slightly I say, “What can I do?”

Just then she gives me a long look and says, “Nice dress.” Wiping the mascara from under her eyes she smiles, “You wanna get some drinks and just hang awhile? You can tell me why you’re hiding out in the bathroom.” Then she said, “I don’t understand a humanitarian event where you can’t see the humans for the spray tan.”

So we sat on the beige damask chairs. She told me why she hated her husband and how sick she was of shaving her legs. She asked me who did my eyebrows and what I did to keep things sexy in the bed room.

“You don’t have to answer that.” She said, “That’s exactly the kind of thing my husband shushes me for.” The tip of her nose turned red and she pressed a pretty finger to a weeping tear duct.

I touched her shoulder and said, “There’s nothing to be ashamed of, I like private parts.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away a copy of James King’s Bill Warrington’s Last Chance in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, James King and Bill Warrington’s Last Chance. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. Because of the shortened holiday week the deadline is tonight at 7:00 p.m. EST with the winners to be announced here in tomorrow’s post. If you enter, please return tomorrow to see if you’re a winner.

The Revealing of Ann Wertz Garvin

November 17, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles, Q&A

Ann Wertz Garvin made her debut only two weeks ago with On Maggie’s Watch, a novel described in this one sentence:

Unexpectedly compelling and sparkling with wit and intelligence, this debut novel chronicles one woman’s quest for control over her surroundings, and the secrets and surprises that lie hidden in an ordinary suburban landscape.

And bestowed with this praise:

“On Maggie’s Watch shows how we thrive, how we go on, in a life that’s neither perfect nor fair. Ann Wertz Garvin writes with humor and compassion so well; just when I’d feel about to cry the scene would twist and I’d laugh out loud. She has such deep understanding for her flawed and trying-to-get better characters; she obviously loves them, and so do we.”
—Luanne Rice, New York Times bestselling author of The Deep Blue Sea for Beginners

The Divining Wand has scheduled a presentation/review of On Maggie’s Watch for Monday, November 29, 2010 but, in the meantime, let’s meet the author through her “official” bio:

Ann Wertz Garvin is a full professor at the University of Wisconsin Whitewater, where she teaches courses on nutrition and stress management. This is her first novel.

Interesting background? Indeed. Yet Ann is so much more than that and it’s time to get to know her, upclose and personal:

Q: How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A: That place between too little and too much

Q: What is your motto or maxim?
A: Thank you for having me. I had a nice time.

Q: How would you describe perfect happiness?
A: My life right now, with slightly better abs (ok-totally better abs)

Q: What’s your greatest fear?
A: Disabling illness (losing my children is really number one but I can’t even think about that)

Q: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A: It’s not where you are it’s who your with, then you could be anywhere and be exactly in the right place.
….but Greece is nice too.

Q: With whom in history do you most identify?
A: Erma Bombeck (I know there are better answers like Eleanor Roosevelt or Jane Austin but I’m going for something not completely self-aggrandizing)

Q: Which living person do you most admire?
A: Nora Ephron

Q: What are your most overused words or phrases?
A: No offense (because it’s funny–if you say no offense you know offense is coming)-plus I swear too much.

Q: If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A: I’d like to be a triple threat on Broadway (sing, act, dance)

Q: What is your greatest achievement?
A: Writing fiction, hands down.

Q : What’s your greatest flaw?
A: Impatience

Q: What’s your best quality?
A: Sense of Humor

Q: What do you regret most?
A: Not realizing my value earlier in life.

Q: If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A: I’d like to be a dog or a man for an hour. But only an hour and then I want a hot bath. (no offense)

Q: What trait is most noticeable about you?
A: My crazy, curly hair

Q: Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A: Nancy Drew

Q: Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A: Pepe LePew (he’s a lover not a fighter)

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

Q: What is your biggest pet peeve?
A: Small talk

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

Q: What’s your fantasy profession?
A: Teaching and writing but in cooler clothes, a better memory, and kick ass shoes

Q: What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A: Kindness
Sense of Humor

Q: If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A: Cheese (I know, really? But, yeah…it’s cheese)

Q: What are your 5 favorite songs?
A: Big Yellow Taxi – Joni Mitchell
Build Me Up Buttercup-The foundations
You’re the First, the Last, My Everything – Barry White
Hard Candy – Counting Crows
Brown Eye’d Girl – Van Morrison

Q: What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A: From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
The Deep End of the Ocean – Jacquelyn Mitchard
The Short History of a Prince – Jane Hamilton
Who Will Run the Frog Hospital – Lorrie Moore
Olive Kitteridge-Elizabeth Strout

Delightful, charming, and totally unique, Ann Wertz Garvin is definitely a new author to follow on Twitter and become a friend on Facebook.

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

Best Writing Exercises, Part IV

November 11, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Favorites, Q&A

As promised, The Divining Wand delivers yet another installment of what inspires or motivates our favorite authors/friends to perfect their natural skills, by asking the question: What have been some of the best writing exercises you’ve used in your writing process?

Also this post welcomes and introduces another new author, Ann Werrtz Garvin!

Meredith Cole (Posed for Murder, Dead in the Water):

“I wish I could remember what book I read it in, but I once advised to try drawing your story as a way to come at it from a new angle. I was stuck in my story trying to figure out why certain plot points hadn’t jelled. I wrote Lydia McKenzie’s name (my main character) in the middle of a giant piece of paper and then drew lines to all the minor characters names like some kind of flow chart. I then wrote a few words above the line about their relationship. I realized that I wanted her to have multifaceted relationships with the other people in the story, and drawing it out like that helped me see where I could make my story and relationships stronger and more complex.”

Claire Cook (Seven Year Switch, Must Love Dogs, Life’s A Beach, and the rest in Bibliography, and Best Staged Plans coming May 31, 2011):

“I’m not a big writing exercise person. I just pour all my energy into the book I’m working on. But once, I just couldn’t get the ending of a novel right, so I sat on the floor of my office and just kept pulling books of the shelves. I read the last page of book after book, thinking, “‘Okay, this is what a good ending feels like. And this. And this. And this.'” And finally my ending popped into my head! It was nothing like any of the endings I’d just read, but they definitely led me to it!”

Ann Wertz Garvin (On Maggie’s Watch):

“I like to take a phrase that strikes me as interesting or funny–something I’ve seen on a bumper sticker or heard in conversation–and figure out what is funny about it and what it relates to. Often, I can’t put my finger on it right away. So I do a stream of consciousness kind of thing. I’ll work on it like I’m whittling a log or playing cats cradle. I take a bit here, move it over there, make associations, until I figure out what I like about it. I find my subconscious is so much smarter than my conscious mind. Like it’s playing with my awareness, seeing if I can figure out the puzzle. When I do, I get a little cerebral pat and everything shuts down for an afternoon nap.”

Shana Mahaffey (Sounds Like Crazy):

“The best exercises, hands down, have been working with all the plot tools outlined in BlockBuster Plots by Martha Alderson. I used her tools for my first novel, this included plotting the book, discovering all facets of my characters, and tracking the scene progressions. I am using the tools again for my second novel, which is in progress. I highly recommend her process. It not only helps you focus your plot, but it also helps for when you get stuck.”

Melissa Senate (The Love Goddess’ Cooking School, The Mosts YA, The Secret of Joy, the rest in Bibliography):

“One of my favorite inspirational books says that if you seek clarity about something, some burning question, you should sleep on it for three nights and you’ll wake up on the fourth day with the answer. I know this isn’t really a writing exercise, but it’s my best way of working through plot and characterization problems, rough spots, and corners I’ve backed myself into. My other favorite is to just ask my character what she really wants more than anything else, heart, mind and soul–and what she’s most afraid of.”

To be continued…..

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Announcement: The winner of Chosen by Chandra Hofffman is Mavis. Congratulations!

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