The Divining Wand

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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, V

April 21, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Favorites, Profiles, Q&A

Before, during and after a work-in-progress, a published/debut 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 — including fiction and poetry — 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, for the final week of this question, the following authors replied:

~Eleanor Brown (The Weird Sisters):

“Stephen King’s On Writing to remind me why I do what I do, and anything by Maeve Binchy to remind me how to create loveably flawed characters and keep multiple plotlines going.”

~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):

“My favorite writing books include: Save the Cat by Blake Synder, On Writing by Stephen King and Elements of Story by John Truby.”

~Beth Hoffman (Saving CeeCee Honeycutt):

“WORDS THAT MAKE A DIFFERENCE by Robert Greenman.”

~Allie Larkin (Stay):

“Sometimes, it helps to check back with BIRD BY BIRD by Anne Lamott, to remind myself to trust my process and listen to my characters.”

~Judy Merrill Larsen (All the Numbers):

“I’ve recently become a fan of Donald Maass’ THE FIRE IN FICTION. I also like John Dufesne’s THE LIE THAT TELLS A TRUTH, and of course Anne Lamott’s BIRD BY BIRD. For sheer inspiration, I look to poetry.”

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

“I love Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey. I use it to brainstorm plot points when I write myself into a corner, I also periodically reread Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird and Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.”

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

“Lately I always have Claire Messud’s THE EMPEROR’S CHILDREN and Elizabeth Strout’s OLIVE KITTERIDGE near me. Within reaching distance, for sure. Any page of either of those books contains too many gems to count. Also Alice Munro. If I am writing away from home and don’t have access to my books sometimes I’ll just pull up any Alice Munro excerpt online and be so struck by the beauty and exactness of her descriptions that I am humbled and inspired to keep writing. ”

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

“I keep a Childcraft dictionary on my desk. Santa brought it the Christmas I was seven years old. Sometimes I thumb through it, enjoying the feel of the slick pages. Any time I open that dictionary, I’m taken back to the way I felt when I was a child looking at it: words were so much fun.”

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

“My bible is Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell. I go through it with each book, scribbling notes and plot points in the margins. It’s fun to go back, now that I’m working on my third book, and see how the process evolved for the first two! I also really like Writing the Breakout Novel by James Scott Bell, On Writing by Steven King, and Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott. I have stacks of books on writing but those are the ones I always come back to. As for what I read when I’m writing, I zip through thrillers! ”

~Ivy Pochoda (The Art of Disappearing):

“Carson McCullers’ “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter” is almost always on my desk. James Woods’ “How Fiction Works,” because James Woods’ is both THE MAN and a genius and a great drummer. David Gates’ “Preston Falls” because he doesn’t mince words or suffer gilded lilies.”

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

“I love to read and re-read THE GREAT GATSBY and BIRD BY BIRD, though my copy of the latter is currently loaned out. I may turn that loan into a gift and just buy myself a new one. I miss it.”

~Emily Winslow (The Whole World):

“For the book I’m currently working on, math text books and a volume of Nabokov short stories.”

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Announcement: The winner of The Four Ms. Bradwells by Meg Waite Clayton is Jane Cook. Congratulations!

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

Fictional Characters as Best Friends Forever, V

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

No matter the age or stage in life, a best friend forever could be made at any time and the same appears to hold true for bonding with fictional characters. Whether it’s in a children’s book or a chapter in a YA or adult novel, there are those characters who — 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, in this final week, our authors replied:

~Stacey Ballis (Good Enough to Eat, The Spinster Sisters, Room for Improvement, the rest in Bibliography):

“Eloise. No question.”

~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 coming April 19, 2011):

“There are so many great characters to choose from. How do I pick just one? I’ll go with Charlie from Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory- he’s got a never ending supply of chocolate after all.”

~Dee DeTarsio (The Scent of Jade [Kindle Edition]):

“I cannot think of any better BFF than the lovely Luciana Vetra! She is the star of The Botticelli Secret by Marina Fiorato, and I have never been so captivated by any character! She is a part-time model and full-time prostitute in 15th-century Italy with the most hilarious look at life via her inner dialogue. She is irreverent, foul-mouthed and so earthy it is a sheer joy to see what she does next. I would love to share a cup of espresso with her at a little piazza in Florence…although I am sure she would give me three reasons, Ragione Uno, Due, Tre, why I should pay and then leave her alone!”

~Beth Hoffman (Saving CeeCee Honeycutt):

“Oletta Jones (Saving CeeCee Honeycutt) for her wisdom, and Tom Wingo (The Prince of Tides) for his wit and sarcasm.”

~Judy Merrill Larsen (All the Numbers):

“I think Elizabeth Bennett would be a hoot. She’s smart and funny and sarcastic–and also, deep down, a romantic.”

~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):

“From my recently released novel The Twin’s Daughter, I’d pick Kit. He’s the most purely heroic character I’ve ever written.”

~Catherine McKenzie (Arranged, Spin):

“Elizabeth Bennett. Because she is awesome. And maybe I could steal Mr. Darcy from her.”

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

“Can I have all four of the Ya Yas from THE DIVINE SECRETS OF THE YA-YA SISTERHOOD? If forced to pick one I guess I’ll pick Vivi. I’d hate to be married to her, but she’d be a helluva friend. I’ve been a fan of that novel since long before my own publication.”

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Writing Rituals, Secrets, and Superstitions, V

February 10, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles, Q&A

Yes or no? 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?

This week provides the final responses, including one from new TDW author Catherine McKenzie:

~Stacey Ballis (Good Enough to Eat, The Spinster Sisters, Room for Improvement, the rest in Bibliography):

“Never underestimate the power of a nap, particularly with the television on. The weird midday dreams that sneak in can be very inspiring. And if nothing comes, at least you are well rested.”

~Dee DeTarsio (The Scent of Jade [Kindle Edition]):

It’s “show and tell” on video.

~Tawna Fenske (Making Waves debuting August 2011, Believe It or Not in January 2012, and Let It Breathe August 2012):

“Chianti. Sangiovese. Sometimes Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay.”

~Beth Hoffman (Saving CeeCee Honeycutt):

“I go for a walk in the woods.”

~ Shana Mahaffey (Sounds Like Crazy):

“I have all three. First, because I am inspired by my grandfather, Joseph McGrath, especially since on his deathbed I promised if he’d help me from the “’other side,’” I would dedicate everything I write to him. He was a writer and a coach. At the start of each day, I touch his old IBM Selectric for good writing when I begin. When I begin, I always close my eyes, imagine him there, and then start. For when I am really stuck, I keep his old sweater in my office. I will wrap it around my neck on those occasions where slogging through mud in cement shoes is easier than writing.”

~Catherine McKenzie (Arranged, Spin):

“Nope. I use many things depending on the day. A certain song. A certain place. And to crib from James Frey: When all else fails, I turn to Dylan. And when Dylan fails, I call it a day.”

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

“At one time I would have found this infuriating advice but the one thing that always, no matter what, always works, is writing. Sometimes I take a break from the project I’m working on to do something different, such as write a letter to a favorite teacher or an ode to caramel. I remind myself that playing with words is fun, that writing is fun. Writing something – anything! – helps jolt anything loose that has me hung up: doubts, that evil internal editor, or just a thorny plot snafu.”

~Ivy Pochoda (The Art of Disappearing):

“I stare at my bookshelves.”

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

“I’m not the least bit superstitious about my writing, but I have been known to switch from the keyboard to writing longhand on paper when I’m really stuck. Not so much a secret or a ritual, but it’s a little trick that jumpstarts a sluggish brain somehow.”

~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.”

~Kim Stagliano (All I Can Handle: I’m No Mother Teresa: A Life Raising Three Daughters with Autism):

“I prefer to write on an old laptop while propped up on pillows on my bed.”

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

“I change my surroundings–go from my office to a coffee shop, say–and switch from the computer to pen and paper.”

~Therese Walsh (The Last Will of Moira Leahy):

“Yes, to never, ever talk about my secret rituals. Just kidding. I don’t really have any—unless lucky pencils count. For The Last Will of Moira Leahy, I used a whole box of natural pencils by Focus (#2s, of course). For my current project, I’ve been using angular soft-to-the-touch pencils by Dixon . When I feel stuck in my manuscript, I almost always transition to pencil and paper to work through the problem.”

* * * * *

Announcement: The winners of Lauren Baratz-Logsted’s The Twin’s Daughter are EJ Knapp and Heather. And the winner of the Sisters 8 Series, including Petal’s Problems is Megan. Congratulations!

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

From: Readers/Friends
To: TDW Authors/Friends

Holiday Greetings!

December 23, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Reader's Holiday Greetings


[During this Season of giving and sharing, The Divining Wand’s readers would like to thank their authors/friends for this past year and wish them Holiday Greetings. The next few weeks will feature universal as well as personal nods to writers who share with us throughout the year. Happy Holidays!]

Happy Holidays to Kristina Riggle!

I hope this holiday season brings you many things: Fun-filled days with your family. The happy music of giggling children. The scent of cookies made with loving, little hands. A beautiful, white Christmas, without any blizzard warnings, to accompany the merry jingle of Santaís sleigh bells.

In the coming year I hope your writing comes easily and plentifully. May your characters have a multitude of problems to work through, yet be a joy to write about. I hope your creative well will always be full and your books a fabulous success. Thank-you for giving us all the pleasure of reading your novels.

Janel

The Gift of Magic

I’m a seasonal person. I even have dishtowels for spring (robin’s–egg-blue and mint green stripes) and for fall (pumpkin orange and bright yellow), as well as holiday ones packed away with the Christmas decorations.

I’m the same way with books. When I read The Art of Disappearing by Ivy Pochoda, it happened to be in the fall. How lucky was I that the book fell in my lap in October, the perfect time for a book of magic and whimsy with a hint of melancholy?

The novel makes me think of that old Van Morrison song: “Well, it’s a marvelous night for a moondance/With the stars up above in your eyes/A fantabulous night to make romance…And all the night’s magic seems to whisper and hush/And all the soft moonlight seems to shine in your blush.”

I thank Ivy for the dreamy and other-worldly trip. It was quite a ride.

Here’s to her own holiday moondance!

Keetha DePriest Mosley

To Beth Hoffman

Dear Beth,

Thank you for always being so lovely and adorable. I’ve seen you at panels/signings twice now, and you’re irresistibly kind and charming and funny and interesting. As I’m reading CEECEE, I can see and hear you on every page, and that makes me smile.

I hope you have a lovely holiday season with your friends and family — including your “fur babies”! May 2011 bring you all happiness, prosperity, and peace.

Happy holidays!
Kristan

Best Writing Exercises, Part V

November 18, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Favorites, Q&A

In The Divining Wand’s seemingly never-ending pursuit to discover how our favorite authors/friends perfect their natural skills, they were asked: What have been some of the best writing exercises you’ve used in your writing process?

This week’s responses suggest that less is best. Also please welcome another new author, Meg Mitchell Moore!

Beth Hoffman (Saving CeeCee Honeycutt):

“None, really.”

Karen McQuestion (A Scattered Life, Easily Amused, and Celia and the Fairies for ages 7 – 11):

“I tend to be anti-writing exercises, not on principle, just for me personally. I never understood the benefit of doing “‘Morning Pages'” or “‘Character Work,'” or whatever. I just write and write and then write some more. I add things in and take things out, and somehow it all takes shape and becomes a novel. That’s the only way I know how to do it.”

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

“I haven’t used a lot of writing exercises, though I’m always wondering if I should. The best piece of advice I heard recently was to set a timer and commit to sitting and writing for a certain amount of time without getting up, checking email, checking twitter, snacking, etc. It’s amazing how many words you can get down in just 30 or 40 minutes if you commit to absolute concentration. I use that trick when I can feel my attention wandering.”

Ivy Pochoda (The Art of Disappearing):

“I don’t really use exercises, but I tend to write and write and write excess background, excess scenes, stuff that I know will fall on the cutting room floor. This helps me know my characters better. I also try to rewrite scenes from another character’s perspective if something doesn’t feel right.”

Kristina Riggle (Real Life & Liars and The Life You’ve Imagined):

“I don’t have a good answer for this one, I’m afraid! I’m not one to use prompts and exercises. Nothing wrong with them, I just tend not to use them. I tend to just put my head down and plow through the current manuscript.”

Kim Stagliano (All I Can Handle: I’m No Mother Teresa: A Life Raising Three Daughters with Autism):

“Ignore the clock. Ignore the Internet. Move to a quiet room. And just keep typing.”

Emily Winslow (The Whole World):

“I have a confession: I don’t like exercises. I only get excited about writing words that are part of a larger project.”

To be continued…..

* * * * *

Announcement: The winner of The Thieves of Darkness by Richard Doetsch is Jody. Congratulations!

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

Beth Hoffman and
Saving CeeCee Honeycutt

October 25, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books


On January 12, 2010 Beth Hoffman’s debut novel, Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, was published and — only twelve days later — the book became a New York Times bestseller. Now one wonders how quickly it will take the Trade Paperback edition, releasing tomorrow (October 26, 2010) to take its place on that list as well.

The book described as, “Exemplifying Southern storytelling at its best…” received the ultimate ★ Starred Review from LIBRARY JOURNAL and endless Raves and Reviews have followed. And they’re all for a simple story that is both wise and profound.

The original idea for the novel came from when Beth, at age nine, visited her Great Aunt in Danville, Kentucky as she told bookreporter.com:

“From the moment of my arrival it was culture shock of the best kind. There I was, a shy little farm girl suddenly in the midst of a world I could have never imagined. I was in awe of the massive old homes, the towering trees, and the lush flower gardens, and I was enthralled by the Southern dialect. 

My great aunt Mildred was an accomplished, highly educated woman, and she was a true Southern lady. I’ve never met anyone more gracious, and I suspect I never will. Everyone was welcome in her home, and she greeted people with a smile that was as warm as it was genuine.

Added to that experience is my fascination with the complexities of mother/daughter relationships, so all those things became seeds for my idea. And I adore eccentric personalities and the architecture of the American South. Each of those elements built the framework of my story.”

Please click the Author Video link to listen to why and visually enjoy how important the sense of place was in defining the story. But, of course, the character of CeeCee was most important and, while outlining the novel, the author suddenly heard Cecelia Honeycutt loud and clear. In fact Beth confirms that she also heard the wise cook/housekeeper:

“Yes, CeeCee told me her story, and I was amazed by how clearly I heard her voice. The same is true for Oletta. In fact, Oletta was so real to me that I wept when I typed THE END. I knew I would miss her terribly. And I do.”

From their personal tales the storyline evolved into the following back-of-the-Hardcover-book synopsis:

Back-of-the-book blurb: Twelve-year-old CeeCee Honeycutt is in trouble. For years, she has been the caretaker of her psychotic mother, Camille-the tiara-toting, lipstick-smeared laughingstock of an entire town-a woman trapped in her long-ago moment of glory as the 1951 Vidalia Onion Queen. But when disaster strikes, CeeCee is left to fend for herself. To the rescue comes her previously unknown great-aunt, Tootie Caldwell who whisks CeeCee away to Savannah’s perfumed world of prosperity and Southern eccentricity, a world that seems to be run entirely by women. From the exotic Miz Thelma Rae Goodpepper, who bathes in her backyard bathtub and uses garden slugs as her secret weapons, to Tootie’s all-knowing housekeeper, Oletta Jones, to Violene Hobbs, who entertains a local police officer in her canary-yellow peignoir, the women of Gaston Street keep CeeCee entertained and enthralled for an entire summer.

Now read an Excerpt from Saving CeeCee Honeycutt.

As might be expected, there are reviews galore on this bestselling debut, with one blog writer even likening CeeCee to Cinderella. Hmm, if this charming — albeit occasional bittersweet — story feels like a fairy tale at all, then it’s reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland. Interestingly enough, though CeeCee is a voracious reader, she never once mentions a favorite fairy tale. Perhaps it’s her age or the reality of her life that leads her to read and reread Nancy Drew books for, after all, didn’t Nancy always solve the mysteries(problems) in her world? Also books are CeeCee’s only friends until she’s whisked away and rides by the sign that proclaims: Welcome to Savannah.

The lush, detailed descriptions of her new home, the women who surround her, and the experiences that change her all flow effortlessly through this 12 year old’s voice. Whether heartbreaking or joyous, there is emotional enchantment present on every page as well as more than a few messages/lessons for all of us to learn. As Great Aunt Tootie relates the importance of “Finding your fire” and Miz Goodpepper reflects on the power of Karma, The Divining Wand asked the author which message saved CeeCee? And Beth said:

“I believe all the messages melded together–each one helping CeeCee to heal and be able to move forward. But the one message in particular that CeeCee took to heart was when Oletta said, “’People is wise ’cause they get out in the world and live. Wisdom comes from experience—from knowin’ each day is a gift and accepting it with gladness. You read a whole lot of books, and readin’ sure has made you smart, but ain’t no book in the world gonna make you wise.’”

Beth Hoffman was wise. Wise enough to walk away from her successful interior design business and move forward to her dream of writing a book that echoed what she had heard from her own grandmother and Great Aunt. That power of women’s friendship had impacted her more than she realized and, after four years of writing, she had her novel.

The author insists, “All I wanted to do was write a story with characters that I loved and believed in–characters who, individually and collectively, had something important to give a little girl who had a rough start in life.” In Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, Beth has accomplished that and much more. Refreshingly kind, and enchanting, “CeeCee” offers an open heart to women of all ages. If you have yet to read it, oh please do. And, if you have already read it, consider this edition as a special gift for anyone…..young adult to your grandmother. Because this bestseller is truly THAT good!

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Beth Hoffman’s Saving CeeCee Honeycutt 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, October 27, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EDT 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 Beth Hoffman on
Women and the Power of Friendship

October 19, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[New York Times bestselling author Beth Hoffman wrote her acclaimed debut novel, Saving CeeCee Honeycutt (releasing in Trade Paperback October 26, 2010), based, in part, on childhood experiences. In today’s guest post, she proudly admits that everything she needed to know about life she learned in her grandmother’s kitchen.]

Women and The Power of Friendship

The formative years of my childhood were lived on my grandparents’ farm. It was a rural area and there weren’t any kids to play with. I was raised among the easy, unhurried ways of older women. From my garden-loving grandma, to the elderly widow who lived up the road and created hand-made paper dolls, each one made a powerful impression upon me.

I was exposed to the simple yet remarkable words of wisdom that came from interacting with women who had lived through decades that encompassed everything from the unspeakable hardships of the Great Depression to the unexpected joy of learning to drive a car at the age of 72. Those daily observations and interactions gave me a foundation that has held me up ever since. Never have I heard more profound truths than those that were spoken in my grandmother’s big old kitchen during the hot, humid days of canning season.

Then came the day that I entered first grade. From the moment I took my seat in that tiny classroom, I felt uncomfortable and awkward. Who were these squealing little people in lace-topped socks and crisp gingham dresses, and what on earth did I have in common with them? I was so accustomed to interacting with older women that the giggling language of girls my own age left me tongue-tied. It took me a long while to adjust to my classmates, and even after I did, I was always glad to return to my grandmother’s kitchen where, as far as I could tell, things just made a whole lot more sense.

When I left my career in interior design and set out to write a novel, it never occurred to me that I would draw so heavily on the simple but rich experiences I had with my grandmother and her friends. When a little girl named CeeCee arrived in my imagination and her story began to unfold, I knew the gals in my grandmother’s kitchen were precisely the kind of women that CeeCee needed during her summer of healing.

An email was forwarded to me not long ago, and as I read it, I kept nodding in agreement. I have no idea who wrote it, but it sums up so much of what I feel about friendship, and I’d like to share it.

Time passes.
Life happens.
Distance separates.
Love waxes and wanes.
Hearts break.
Careers end.
Parents die.
Colleagues forget favors.
Marriages collapse.

But …

Girlfriends are there no matter how many miles are between them. A girlfriend is never farther away than needing her can reach.

When you walk that lonesome valley and you have to walk it for yourself, your girlfriends will be standing on the rim, cheering for you, praying for you, and waiting with open arms at the valley’s end. Sometimes, they’ll even break the rules and walk beside you. Or, they’ll come in and carry you out.

The world wouldn’t be the same without them, and neither would I.

When we began this adventure called womanhood, we had no idea of the incredible happiness and sorrows that lay ahead. Nor did we know how much we would need each other.

Every day, we need each other still.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Melissa Senate’s The Love Goddess’ Cooking School in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Melissa Senate and The Love Goddess’ Cooking School. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, October 20, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to see if you’re a winner.

The Revealing of Beth Hoffman

October 13, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles, Q&A

When Beth Hoffman debuted in early January of this year with Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, it’s wondered how many knew the book would become a New York Times bestseller? But indeed it did and for those who missed it in Hardcover, the more affordable, easy-to-carry Trade Paperback edition releases on October 26, 2010.

Here’s a one sentence description of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt:

Steel Magnolias meets The Help in this Southern debut novel sparkling with humor, heart, and feminine wisdom.

Followed by endless, glowing Reviews, including:

“Exemplifying Southern storytelling at its best…”
★ Starred Review — LIBRARY JOURNAL

“This is one of those books that has that “it” factor…Saving CeeCee Honeycutt has all the components necessary to hit the bestseller list right out of the gate, become a book club favorite and the first novel everybody will be talking about in 2010. It’s simply the best book with which to start a new year.”—BOOKREPORTER

“A debut of uncommon grace that beautifully illuminates the power of female friendships, it will have you laughing out loud…and leave a satisfying lump in your throat.”—BOOK OF THE MONTH CLUB

To celebrate its paperback release, The Divining Wand has scheduled a presentation/review of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt for Monday, October 25, 2010. However, in the meantime, let’s meet this bestselling debut author through her “official” bio:

Beth Hoffman was the president and owner of a major interior design studio in Cincinnati, Ohio, before turning to writing full time. She lives with her husband and two cats in a quaint historic district in Newport, Kentucky. Saving CeeCee Honeycutt is her first novel.

And now it’s time to get to know Beth, upclose and personal:

Q: How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A: Holding the dream with open and grateful hands.

Q: What is your motto or maxim?
A: My old standby is “Carpe Diem”

Q: How would you describe perfect happiness?
A: To live in a world where people and animals were never abused or abandoned.

Q: What’s your greatest fear?
A: That humanity is going in the wrong direction.

Q: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A: Where I am, at home writing.

Q: With whom in history do you most identify?
A: Joy Adamson.

Q: Which living person do you most admire?
A: My girlfriend, Marlane.

Q: What are your most overused words or phrases?
A: I don’t think I have any.

Q: If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A: Tap dancing.

Q: What is your greatest achievement?
A: Rescuing animals from abuse and abandonment, and writing a novel that became a New York Times bestseller.

Q: What’s your greatest flaw?
A: I’m somewhat reclusive

Q: What’s your best quality?
A: I think I’m kind and generous.

Q: What do you regret most?
A: Not spending more time with my parents before they passed away.

Q: If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A: I’d be me. It took so long to find myself that I don’t want to let “me” go.

Q: What trait is most noticeable about you?
A: It’s a toss-up—quick to smile or my ponytail.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A: Stuart Little.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A: Darth Vader

Q: If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A: I’m not into sports at all so I couldn’t begin to answer.

Q: What is your biggest pet peeve?
A: People who are cruel and dishonest.

Q: What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A: Reading or working in the garden

Q: What’s your fantasy profession?
A: What I’m doing—writing novels.

Q: What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A: Integrity, kindness, sense of humor.

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

Q: What are your 5 favorite songs?
A: 1. The many songs of nature, particularly those of red-winged blackbirds and chickadees.
2. “Nowhere to Run” by Martha and the Vandellas
3. “Canned Goods” by Greg Brown
4. “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong
5. “And I am Telling You” by Jennifer Holiday

Q: What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A: A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote, A Gracious Plenty by Sheri Reynolds, Roxanna Slade by Reynolds Price, Illusions by Richard Bach, and The Prince of Tides, by Pat Conroy

What’s next for this talented and successful author? To keep updated, follow Beth Hoffman on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.

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

Fan Mail: An Author’s
Most Memorable Reward, II

September 23, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Favorites, Q&A

Last month’s post on how much fan mail meant to authors surprised some visitors, while inspiring others to finally write their own personal messages. The written word is powerful in expressing heartfelt gratitude and here are more author responses to memorably touching fan mail:

~Tanya Egan Gibson (How to Buy a Love of Reading):

“A man wrote to say that my depiction of alcohol and drug addiction (in a teenage character, Hunter Cay) felt very real. He’d finished my novel between classes and had been crying when his sixth grade students came in. He wrote, “Thanks for touching my heart.” Which, in turn, touched mine. It is so wonderful and kind for people to take the time to write and share like that.”

~Kate Ledger (Remedies):

“One tremendously moving piece of fan mail came from a woman who wrote that REMEDIES had resonated with her own personal tragedy. I got teary at my computer when I read her note. Like the characters in REMEDIES, she and her husband had lost a child. She wrote that the effects of that loss have continued to ripple through her marriage. She wrote that the novel had been difficult to read, and also, ultimately, comforting, and that even though her own outcome was still in progress, the book had come along at exactly the right time.”

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

“These days you receive more emails than mail, I’m afraid. I did get a request from a girl to sign my photo and send it to her for her scrapbook. It made me feel like a teen rock star, so of course I did it. I’ve really enjoyed hearing from people. It means a lot when someone tells me that they stayed up half the night, or were late because they simply had to finish my book. It makes me feel like I’ve done my job right.”

~Melanie Benjamin (Alice I Have Been):

“They’re all memorable, because I’m touched every time a reader takes the time to let me know how much they loved my book.”

~CJ Lyons (Lifelines, Warning Signs, Urgent Care, and Critical Condition coming November 30, 2010):

“I’ve gotten several letters from fans facing painful medical crises, including one woman whose cancer pain kept her up at nights, unable to sleep or get comfortable. They have written thanking me for providing them with escape from the pain of their lives as they read my books.

The fact that my stories have been able to help these people facing their diseases with dignity and courage brought me to tears…truly better than any award my books could ever win!”

~Therese Fowler (Souvenir, Reunion):

“I’ve had so many amazing letters from readers world-wide; one that I loved came from the mother of seven-year-old twin girls who, after reading SOUVENIR, was inspired to create a journal for their future benefit, and to buy each of them a copy of SOUVENIR, which she was storing away in their “hope chests” to be read when they’re teens. A recent letter of praise from a woman who is a Medical Social Worker and who deals every day with patients in heartbreaking situations was also very rewarding.”

~Stacey Ballis (Good Enough to Eat, The Spinster Sisters, Room for Improvement, the rest in Bibliography):

“The young woman who wrote to say that she was able to finally extricate herself from both her dysfunctional marriage and her ongoing affair with her also-married boss because she read “Inappropriate Men”. She wrote from her fabulous new job, where she had met her fabulous (and single!) new boyfriend who worked in the same building. She said that she had felt completely trapped and that the book helped her find her spine. That e-mail gave me goosebumps.”

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

“My most memorable wasn’t my best, but a long letter quoting all the passages from my first book that had anything to do with sex and suggesting that I and the letter writer would really understand one another. (Oh, dear.) I also remember one I got after my second book, which was about female friendship, from a woman who’d lost her best friend in Iraq. That one was lovely and very sad.”

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

“I received a letter from a 93 year-old woman who said that she loved my book and was so glad it was available in large print. She went on to say that she read it twice because, at her age, she was running out of time and didn’t know if she’d be around if/when the movie came out. It was so touching.”

~Robin Antalek (The Summer We Fell Apart):

“I think it would have to be after I published a short story in a literary journal that was put out by a university in Florida years ago. It was handwritten – a page and a half long – from a young woman who claimed to have read the story so many times she felt like the characters were people she knew. She went on to tell me she had written a paper on the story for her English seminar class. It was a pretty cool ego boost for a struggling writer who wrote late at night after work.”

~Katie Alender (Bad Girls Don’t Die YA):

“I love every bit of fan mail I get. From the adorable one-line emails just telling me how much they enjoyed the book to the detailed breakdowns of all of the elements they liked (and why). I get a lot of emails saying I’ve inspired them to write (very flattering), a lot saying that they can relate to Alexis and her sense of outsiderness (very touching), and a lot with interpretations of the book that reflect a cinematic mind at work (very interesting). I am convinced that I have the brightest and funniest fans of any book, ever! I must say, I especially love getting snailmail (as TDW might be aware).”

~Kristina Riggle (Real Life & Liars and The Life You’ve Imagined):

“One of my favorite notes was from a reader who enjoyed my debut with a stiff drink and added, “Only wished I had a joint to join Mira” who is, as constant TDW readers will know, the flower child grandmother protagonist. I think my favorite fan interaction was in person, at my book launch event. A woman I didn’t know told me she went out and scheduled her mammogram after reading about how my protagonist delayed her own, with severe consequences. I was so touched and honored that my book prompted her to take such an important step, and that she felt moved to share that with me.”

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Announcement: The winners of Jenny Nelson’s debut novel Georgia’s Kitchen are Keetha and Maria M.. Congratulations!

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