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Camille Noe Pagán: Why I Write

May 30, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

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

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

Why I Write

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *


Forgive and forget—but not necessarily in that order.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summer’s TBR Lists, IV and
Alison Pace’s A Pug’s Tale

June 22, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Favorites, Book Presentations, Books, Q&A

It’s officially summer — time for relaxing and getting lost in those TBR books. While other summer book lists were being compiled and published, The Divining Wand decided to offer its own lists by asking our authors:

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

This week the following writers replied:

~Katie Alender (Bad Girls Don’t Die YA, and Bad Girls Don’t Die: From Bad to Cursed):

“Unfortunately, a lot of what was on my spring ‘”must read”‘ list has made it through the spring unread (d’oh) and therefore will be joining me this summer. I’m looking forward to Myra McEntire’s “Hourglass,” which came out in May, and Carrie Ryan’s “The Dark and Hollow Places” which was released in March. Also Megan McCafferty’s “Bumped”, released at the end of April. Plus, of course, all the great books I bought recently but haven’t gotten to yet–“Cryer’s Cross,” by Lisa McMann, “Will Grayson, Will Grayson” by John Green and David Levithan, “Please Ignore Vera Dietz” by A.S. King, and “Recovery Road” by Blake Nelson.”

~Eleanor Brown (The Weird Sisters):

“I’m not a big re-reader, but summer means re-reading to me, so I’ll be diving into some of my old favorites: Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell, The Stand by Stephen King, Evening Class by Maeve Binchy, and The Lords of Discipline by Pat Conroy. I always find comfort and inspiration in those books!”

~Laura Dave (The First Husband The Divorce Party, London Is the Best City in America):

“I’m about to delve into an advanced copy of J. Courtney Sullivan’s new novel, Maine. And have been wanting to read Laura Munson’s, This Is Not The Story You Think It Is.”

~Jael McHenry (The Kitchen Daughter):

“Oh, so many books! For starters, Sarah Jio’s The Violets of March, Camille Noe Pagan’s The Art of Forgetting, and Meg Mitchell Moore’s The Arrivals. And there’s a new book out in Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series, so I definitely want to pick that up. I have a tradition of buying those for my mom’s birthday, and sneakily reading them before I give them to her.”

~Camille Noe Pagan (The Art of Forgetting):

“My TBR pile includes Jennifer Egan’s A Visit From The Goon Squad and Sarah Henry’s Learning To Swim. I’m also eagerly awaiting some of this spring and summer’s new releases–Jael McHenry’s The Kitchen Daughter, Rebecca Rasmussen’s The Bird Sisters and Claire Cook’s latest, Best Staged Plans. (I could go on and on!)”

~Emily Winslow (The Whole World):

“Right now I get to read the new Sophie Hannah psychological suspense novel in draft form, which won’t be coming out to the general public for another year. Lucky me!”

* * * * *

And now a BONUS book for your summer reading pleasure!

Essayist/novelist Alison Pace has followed her highly successful novel, Pug Hill, with the June 7th release of A Pug’s Tale.

This critical Praise describes another wonderful, dog lover’s adventure:

“A charming mystery-lite with abundant personality.”Publishers Weekly

“Pace is the alpha writer of feel-good, girl-in-the-city-with-dog novels….a winningly affectionate tribute to art, love, New York City, and pugs.” Booklist

Here is the synopsis:

There are pugs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art!

Hope McNeill has worked at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for years, but this is the first time she’s been able to bring along her pug, Max. (Officially at least. Previously she’s had to smuggle him in inside her tote bag.)

The occasion: a special “Pug Night” party in honor of a deep-pocketed donor. Max and his friends are having a ball stalking the hors d’oeuvres and getting rambunctious, and making Hope wonder if this is also the last time she gets to bring Max to the museum.

But when a prized painting goes missing, the Met needs Hope’s–and Max’s–help. In her quest for the culprit, Hope searches for answers with an enigmatic detective, a larger-than-life society heiress, a lady with a shih tzu in a stroller, and her arguably intuitive canine. With luck, she’ll find some inspiration on her trips to Pug Hill before the investigation starts going downhill…

Now read an Excerpt: Chapter One.

And a vlog of Alison talking about A Pug’s Tale:

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

To contact Alison online, follow her on Twitter and friend her on Facebook.

Despite this abbreviated book presentation, please know that A Pug’s Tale is smart, wry, and delightfully fun. Best of all, though, it’s a story on intrigue and unconditional friendship….a perfect addition for your summer TBR list!

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Book Giveaway: To celebrate summer The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of A Pug’s Tale by Alison Pace in a random drawing of comments left only on this post and ONLY until tonight at 7:00 p.m. EDT. If you enter, please return tomorrow when the winners will be announced.

AND

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away three copies of Making Waves by Tawna Fenske in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Presenting Debutante Tawna Fenske and Making Waves. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, June 22, 2011 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.

Camille Noe Pagán and The Art of Forgetting

May 30, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books

Camille Noe Pagán’s debut novel The Art of Forgetting — with its stunning cover and intriguing title — bows down from bookstore shelves next Thursday, June 9, 2011.

The book, based on a seemingly simple premise of forever friends, is actually a complex, multi-layered tale that both fascinates, frustrates, and fills a reader with questions to what it means to be or who is a friend?

The idea for the storyline came first from the author’s desire to write a book about the nitty-gritty of female friendships and then combine aspects of what she had learned from writing a magazine article about brain injuries. For example, brain injuries are very common — yet very overlooked — in young women and even a relatively minor trauma can have a drastic impact on one’s personality.

Of course what makes Camille’s novel ring true are the well-defined characters that she’s created. Her two main friends, including every one of the supporting cast, are believable in their intentions and motivations….in other words, they’re humanly flawed. Here’s the synopsis for The Art of Forgetting:

Forgive and forget—but not necessarily in that order.

Marissa Rogers never wanted to be an alpha; beta suited her just fine, thank you very much. After all, taking charge without taking credit had always paid off: vaulting her to senior editor at a glossy diet magazine; allowing her to keep the peace with her critical, weight-obsessed mother; and enjoying the benefits that came with being best friends with gorgeous, charismatic Julia Ferrar.

Sure, coming up with 15 different ways to lose five pounds month after month could be mind-numbing. And yes, Julia was a walking, talking reminder that Marissa would never be the type to turn heads. So what? There was no reason to upend her perfect-on-paper life.

But when Julia is hit by a cab and suffers a personality-altering brain injury, Marissa has no choice but step into the role of alpha friend. As Julia struggles to regain her memory—dredging up things Marissa would rather forget, including the fact that Julia asked her to abandon the love of her life 10 years ago—and to return to the sharp, magnetic woman she once was, their friendship is shaken to the core.

With the help of 12 girls she reluctantly agrees to coach in an after-school running program, Marissa will uncover an inner confidence she never knew she possessed and find the courage to reexamine her past and take control of her future.

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

The Praise is here and a highly recommended Excerpt — Chapter One. Although a brief chapter, this is the introduction and set-up to the tale.

For it’s in those first few pages that the accident occurs and the lives of both friends change forever. Also, by jumping right into the action, the author makes certain that Julia is only known and described primarily through Marissa’s perspective. Camille intentionally did this because she believed, “[it] would help readers understand both Marissa’s loyalty and frustration towards Julia as a person.”

And learning the truth about this friendship is at the heart of this story. With major kudos to the author, The Art of Forgetting is not a tear-jerker, not at all. While Marissa feels/displays genuine empathy and a sadness that Julia will never be the same again, the accident loosens their bond enough to allow Marissa to see her friend objectively. She grieves the loss, accepts what was, and hesitantly moves on. What friendships give — or what we let them take — is not always for the best. Without *spoilers*, it can be told that Marissa forgave her friend and herself, forgot what hurt had been done, and forged a new equal friendship with Julia.

Because, yes, Julia — pre/post-injury — is a controversial character, even a dangerous one at times. However, since she still needed to be somewhat likable, how did Camille handle that fine line? She says:

“A few (early) readers have said they wished Julia had been more likable, but for me, it was crucial to show just how dangerous and reckless her charisma—the very thing that made her likable to others!—could be. I do think that those closest to Marissa were most able to see Julia’s flaws, because they were looking out for Marissa’s best interests. In my mind, the outside world, including Julia’s colleagues and circle of friends, weren’t really privy to her dangerous, unlikable side until after her accident.”

The themes of forgiving, forgetting, friendship, and embracing one’s own self-worth are interwoven with each other throughout the novel. Yet what is its message? According to this debut author, “the novel’s message is that friendship is an ongoing choice with participation of both people involved. Even in an uneven friendship…. ”

The Art of Forgetting is a gorgeous novel telling a story of individuals who are who they are — real people as imperfect as we all are. And it felt appropriate for The Divining Wand to ask Camille Noe Pagán what she would like readers to know first and foremost about her debut?

“I think that readers, even those who don’t know me, will assume that I am Marissa. She and I share many things in common—our professional backgrounds, of course, and to some degree, our insecurities. Yet writing Forgetting led me to the realization that I’ve got a dose of Julia in me, too; I think most of us do. I’ve had a few friendships fall apart (who hasn’t?!) and I often blamed the other person for one reason rather than looking at my own role. Forgetting gave me a better understanding of just how complex friendships are. Just like marriage, both parties are almost always involved in damaging or disintegrating the relationship.

Writing Forgetting also made me a better friend. As a writer, I examined the motivation of every single one of my characters, which gave me a great deal of empathy for each of them–even my villains. No surprise, I began looking at the real people in my life with more empathy, too.”

The Art of Forgetting — truly beautiful inside and out — can be yours next week. Enjoy!

* * * * *

Announcement: The winners of Fourth Grade Fairy by Eileen Cook are Kate Ledger, Dee, and Tiffany D.. Congratulations!

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

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of The Art of Forgetting by Camille Noe Pagán 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, June 1, 2011 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 Camille Noe Pagán on Reading Saves Lives

May 24, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[Reading educates, enlightens, entertains and even allows us to escape from or clarify personal problems. In today’s guest post, Camille Noe Pagán (The Art of Forgetting coming June 9, 2011) chronicles how reading also can be the ultimate lifesaver.

And, on that related note, please remember that from May 16th to June 1st, the author is donating $1 per pre-order of The Art of Forgetting to the Bob Woodruff Foundation, which provides resources and support to service members, including those who’ve suffered brain injuries.]

Reading Saves Lives

After I emailed Caroline Leavitt to tell her I loved her recent novel, Pictures of You, she mailed me a handmade bookplate. It was a photo of wings on the sidewalk in front of a brownstone. Beneath it, Caroline wrote:

“Camille, reading saves our life.”

Cute, I thought at the time.

But that saying burrowed under my skin like a tick; try as I might, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. While I was out jogging one day, I suddenly realized that Caroline was right. Reading had saved my life–more than a few times.

During my childhood, I followed in the footsteps of millions before me and escaped the misery and sadness of youth by losing myself in books. I became an Egyptologist while reading The Egypt Game; took on the White Witch alongside Lucy in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; and let the green world bring me alive like Mary and Colin in The Secret Garden.

In my twenties, after despairing of my instinct to flee a relationship that was so good for me I didn’t know how to handle it, I read Charles Baxter’s The Feast of Love twice in a row, then went around recommending it like a door-to-door evangelist offering free copies of the Bible. (Spoiler alert: I married the good-for-me guy. Thank you, Mr. Baxter, for that nudge.)

While a friend of mine was dying from terminal cancer, I dove back into my favorite novel, Barbara Kingsolver’s Prodigal Summer, a story that illustrates, among other things, the way humans are interconnected with nature and every living thing. It was a sustaining thought in a time of internal chaos.

As a journalist (my other hat, when I’m not writing fiction), I cover health and wellness. I’ve written about depression and crisis more times than I can count, and the thing I hear from physicians and therapists time and time again is this: getting out of your own head can stop your negative, depressive thoughts and help you feel better. Our self-focus can drown us if we swim in it too long. But when we participate in activities that make us look outward–whether it’s exercising, volunteering, or being with friends–it breaks through those thoughts and offers perspective. Reading does this in the most primal way: it takes you out of your head and puts you in someone else’s.

The ability to leave my life and enter a fictional one—even for a few minutes—has kept me from sinking so many times (no surprise, writing fiction has a very similar effect). To me, at its core every novel is about redemption. When the characters we are reading about triumph, or even just survive, we cheer along side them because it reinforces the idea that we, too, can survive and triumph.

A month or so ago, a woman emailed me. It turns out that she helped copyedit my novel, The Art of Forgetting, which is about how two friends’ relationship is forever changed after one of them suffers a brain injury. She told me that while she was working on Forgetting, someone close to her had suffered a serious head injury. Your novel was a great source of comfort to me during that time, she wrote. Thank you.

It was then I knew that writing the novel had been a worthwhile endeavor; I had finally paid forward what Barbara Kingsolver, Charles Baxter and countless other authors have done for me. I may not have literally saved that woman, but my book had been a lifeboat during her flood. I’ve had some lovely early reviews–and, of course, some less-than-lovely, too. None of those words, good or bad, have meant nearly as much to me as the email that said, Your book helped me.

Reading saves lives. If you don’t believe me, crack open a book the next time you feel yourself starting to sink.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of The Arrivals by Meg Mitchell Moore in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Meg Mitchell Moore and The Arrivals. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, May 25, 2011 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 Camille Noe Pagán

May 18, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles, Q&A

Journalist and former editor Camille Noe Pagan debuts as an author when The Art of Forgetting arrives in bookstores June 9, 2011. [However please note that from May 16th to June 1st, the author is donating $1 per pre-order of her novel to the Bob Woodruff Foundation, which provides resources and support to service members, including those who’ve suffered brain injuries.]

In this two sentence synopsis, the book is described as: A moving and insightful debut novel of great friendship interrupted. Can the relationship survive when the memories are gone?

And it’s been followed by impressive early Praise:

“This page-turner with original, likable, empathetic characters and an identifiable theme will attract readers who enjoy intelligent novels about women’s friendships.”—Library Journal

“Fastpaced and engaging, The Art of Forgetting is deliciously observant and refreshingly honest. Camille Noe Pagán is a welcome new voice.” –Kate Jacobs, author of The Friday Night Knitting Club and Comfort Food

“Charming and original…a delightful story of friendship, love, and forgiveness while exploring the surprising ways lives are forever reshaped in the aftermath of tragedy.” –Beth Hoffman, New York Times bestselling author of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt

“[A]n insightful exploration into the nature of friendship and self. This impressive debut is at turns funny, thought-provoking, and achingly sad. It is (dare I say it?) unforgettable.” –J. Courtney Sullivan, author of Commencement

The Divining Wand has scheduled a presentation/review of The Art of Forgetting for Monday, May 30, 2011. But, in the meantime, let’s meet the author through her “official” bio:

Camille Noe Pagán’s work has appeared in numerous national publications and websites including Allure, Cooking Light, Forbes.com, Glamour, O, The Oprah Magazine, Reader’s Digest, SELF and Women’s Health. A former magazine and online editor, she lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan with her husband and children.

Not very personal, is it? Well that’s easily remedied as we get to know Camille, upclose and revealing:

Q: How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A: An amazing journey that gets better every day.

Q: What is your motto or maxim?
A: Always be generous.

Q: How would you describe perfect happiness?
A: Good health for myself and everyone I love. Several personal tragedies over the past few years have taught me that health really is the most important thing.

Q: What’s your greatest fear?
A: No surprise, something bad happening to my children. I can’t read books or watch movies about children getting hurt or dying–it’s like dumping gasoline on the lit match of my anxious mind!

Q: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A: I’m tempted to say a beach in the Caribbean, but the truth is Brooklyn. My family and I recently moved to Ann Arbor, but I lived in New York for the better part of the last decade and I’d rather be there than anywhere else. Great food, interesting people, endless things to do: it’s the perfect place, if you can forget that you’re living in a shoebox in order to be there.

Q: With whom in history do you most identify?
A: I can’t say I really identify with one particular person. I’d love to spend a day in the life of Colette, Anais Nin or another great female writer from the last century or so.

Q: Which living person do you most admire?
A: Right now, journalist Lara Logan is high on my list. I admire her for speaking out about her assault in Egypt earlier this year; in doing so, she’s started a crucial conversation about sexual assault and violence against female journalists and women.

Q: What are your most overused words or phrases
A: I hate when people misuse “literally” … but I say “seriously” all the time and it’s almost as bad. You’d think I was stuck in an episode of Grey’s Anatomy, circa 2005.

Q: If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A: I’d have an amazing singing voice. As it stands, I sound like Julia Robert in Pretty Woman, yodeling in the bathtub with her headphones on.

Q: What is your greatest achievement?
A: I’d like to say my daughter, 3, and son, 5 months, but they’re really gifts I can’t take credit for. So I’ll say that my greatest achievement has been my writing career as a whole. I was the first on both sides of my family to attend college, and there was a lot of pressure to do something “useful” with my degree–think law or engineering. I’m so glad I ignored the “shoulds” and followed my dream.

Q: What’s your greatest flaw?
A: My obsession with getting things done–I’m an achievaholic. Which means enjoying “now” is a daily struggle.

Q: What’s your best quality?
A: My drive, or I guess you could call it ambition (see above :). If I set my mind to do something–whether it’s running a marathon, writing a novel or just figuring out how to make some complicated pastry–I almost always do it.

Q: What do you regret most?
A: I regret very little–I think most mistakes help guide us to where we’re supposed to be–but the few things I do regret, I could never put in print. 🙂

Q: If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A: I wouldn’t mind having Nora Ephron’s career, but I can’t say I’d want to trade places with another person.

Q: What trait is most noticeable about you?
A: I’m 5’1″ (although you’ll rarely see me out of heels). When I meet people I know from the internet, they’re often surprised to discover that I’m, ahem, a little person.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A: Hmm. I love Holly Golightly in the book version of Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s. She’s a high-class hooker with a heart of gold–the original flawed protagonist.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A: Who doesn’t love The Evil Queen in Snow White? So vicious! So vain! Without her, there’s really no story.

Q: If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A: I’m so not a sports fan, but I am a long-time runner and I’m so impressed by Paula Radcliffe, a British distance runner who won the New York marathon less than a year after giving birth. I’d love to have a conversation with her about her determination.

Q: What is your biggest pet peeve?
A: Wishy-washiness. I love the saying “Let your yes be yes and your no be no.” I’d rather have an honest rejection than a halfhearted “maybe”.

Q: What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A: Baking is a huge stress reliever for me. (Here’s my latest favorite. )

Q: What’s your fantasy profession?
A: Writing is really it for me, but if I couldn’t write a word, I’d probably be an interior designer or real estate investor. I love design, architecture and real estate. Almost all of my favorite must-read blogs that aren’t about writing are design-related.

Q: What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A: Kindness, curiosity and work ethic. Although loyalty is a close runner up.

Q: If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A: Technically coffee isn’t edible, but I live on espresso with steamed milk–I don’t think I’d survive a day without it.

Q: What are your 5 favorite songs?
A: There’s no way I could pick five. I will say that I adore Nina Simone’s version of “I Shall Be Released” and I was crushed–crushed!–to learn that it was written by Bob Dylan. I like him just fine, but it completely changed the way I thought about the lyrics. Every once in a while, my husband will put on the Dylan version to tease me.

Q: What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A: Prodigal Summer, by Barbara Kingsolver. I can’t adequately quite explain why, but this book is just magical for me–even more so than The Poisonwood Bible, which is another favorite. I read it almost every year.

The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. If you can believe it, I read this for the first time during the summer after college, when I was at Radcliffe for a publishing program. I remember life being so full of possibility and yet disappointment, too, and this book always brings me right back to that time.

The Bible. Religion aside, this was one of my earliest sources of story and it’s had a huge influence on my love of the written word.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. This is one of the books that made me the voracious reader that I am (which, of course, turned me into a writer). I remember cracking it open and being whisked into a whole other world–and to my delight, there were six more Narnia books to lose myself in when I finished!

Like Life, by Lorrie Moore. I love all of Moore’s short story collections, but this is the one that I’ve opened countless times to turn a bad day around. I love how she combines funny and sad in the perfect way.

Smart, determined, and ever thoughtful, Camille Noe Pagán is another new author to follow on Twitter and become a friend/fan of on Facebook, allowing you to say you knew her when….

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted by Bridget Asher (aka Julianna Baggott) in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Julianna Baggott (aka Bridget Asher) and The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted. 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.

Favorite Fictional Worlds, II

May 12, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Q&A

Once again thanks to Eleanor Brown (The Weird Sisters) who responded earlier this year with an alternative answer for her fictional BFF. Since Eleanor’s “twist” was simply too good (and intriguing) to pass up, TDW asked its other authors her question:

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

This week the following writers replied:

~Robin Antalek (The Summer We Fell Apart):

“I would love to inhabit the very distinct world of the Manning clan and all the generations and their many offspring in Arkansas and Mississippi that Ellen Gilchrist has created over the span of eleven short story collections, seven novels and four books of poetry. Her writing gave me the courage to become a better writer. The world she has created in her prolific career is more magical and mysterious to me than anything I have ever read, and I return to her work when I am stuck in my own, and when I want to escape.”

~Tawna Fenske (Making Waves coming August 2011):

“I’m looking out the window at a spring snowstorm right now, so every fictional setting I’m imagining is set in a warm, tropical locale. Actually, this was the best part of writing my debut novel, MAKING WAVES. The book is set mostly in the Caribbean, either on a ship or an island. Having the opportunity to imagine myself in these sunny spots kept me feeling warm and tingly the whole time I wrote it. OK, setting might not have been the only thing making me warm and tingly.”

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

“I’d love to live in the 1920’s world of Anna Godbersen’s BRING YOUNG THINGS. Gold Coast mansions! Bootleggers! Speakeasies! Flapper clothing!”

~James King (Bill Warrington’s Last Chance):

“I’m afraid I’ve come up short with this question, I must read too many depressing books.”

~Judy Merrill Larsen (All the Numbers):

“Well, the first one that come to mind would have to be Maycomb, Alabama. I’d play with Scout and Jem, we’d try to sneak a Boo sighting, and on hot days we’d relax with lemonade and Miss Maudie’s Lane cake while waiting for Atticus to come home. But there would also be such sadness. And lessons to be learned. All that growing up to do. But, it’s a place I’ve returned to often through the years. I’d also like to wander in the 100 Acre Wood with Christopher Robin and Pooh. Both of these places are so vivid in my memory . . . it’s like I really lived there. Which, I suppose I did.”

~Kate Ledger (Remedies):

“I don’t have a need to stay too long, but I think I’d enjoy a year at Hogwarts. I’d like to learn some spells and receive my mail by way of Owl Post.”

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

“I’d enjoy spending some time in the post-war London that Clarissa Dalloway inhabits in Mrs. Dalloway. Alternatively (or in different moods) I’d like to check out the Colorado plains of Plainsong and any of the small Canadian towns from an Alice Munro story.”

~Camille Noe Pagan (The Art of Forgetting coming June 9, 2011):

“As a child, I wanted to live in Narnia. As an adult, I still wouldn’t mind slipping between the pages of any one of my favorite childhood books–especially The Secret Garden, A Wrinkle In Time or any one of The Chronicles of Narnia.”

~Ivy Pochoda (The Art of Disappearing):

“Ok, so I’m a dork. It’s not entirely fictional, or perhaps, not fictional at all, but I would love to live in Henry James’s New York City. Man, those mansions, need I say more. I used to walk past many of the building he describes, which are now hidden behind the heinous commercialism that is Manhattan. I’d much prefer to see them back when.”

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

“Oh, I want to live in West Egg, next door to Gatsby’s mansion, on the other side from Nick Carraway. The decadence! The glamour!”

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

“I used to think I’d like to live in the older novels I read, so I could wear fancy gowns all the time, but I’ve since come to realize that both gowns and the way of life that went with them were awfully restricting. Now I think I’d enjoy a visit to Harry Potter’s world, with its wands and magical candies and flying around on brooms, but not until after all the killing’s over.”

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

“Well, my answer to this question is a no-brainer for me–but maybe it’s because I had a light lunch today. I would love to land in the world of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I’d pack a straw and hang out near the chocolate river, for sure.”

To be continued….

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Announcement: The winner of Laura Dave’s The First Husband is Mary Quackenbush. Congratulations!

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

Go-to Writing Books, II

March 31, 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 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:

~Robin Antalek (The Summer We Fell Apart):

“While I admire so many great writers whose books grace the shelves in my office, I cannot read or refer to fiction while I am deep into my own fictional world. As a matter of fact I have an occupational short attention span for reading anything while I am writing. Instead I would say I use visual stimulus. I find the works of the photographer Sally Mann, Tina Barney, Diane Arbus, the paintings of Alice Neel, Lucien Freud and John Currin, among many, many others to be so inspiring. For me, looking at these works is actually a different kind of “fiction” there are so many stories hidden in the pictures.”

~James King (Bill Warrington’s Last Chance):

“The Forest for the Trees” by Betsy Lerner
“Coaching the Artist Within” by Eric Maisel
“Self-Editing for Fiction Writers” by Browne & King (no relation)
“Bird by Bird” by Anne Lamott

~Catherine McKenzie (Arranged, Spin):

“I re-read Jane Austen at least once a year. The Harry Potter series too. If I need something gently, I might re-read the Laura Ingalls Wilder books or the Anne of Green Gables books. I wouldn’t say I go back to them necessarily, they are just constantly in my life.”

~Camille Noe Pagan (The Art of Forgetting coming June 9, 2011):

“For general writing advice and inspiration, I love Stephen King’s “On Writing”. To see how smart humor can be done right, I go to Lorrie Moore’s short stories (“Like Life” is a favorite). But the one book I return to again and again–both when I’m writing and when I’m not–is Barbara Kingsolver’s “Prodigal Summer”. For me, it’s the whole package: great dialogue, amazing description and, most importantly, a wonderful story with the perfect blend of tragedy and triumph.”

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

“I constantly reread four on the craft of writing: Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott; On Writing by Stephen King; Making A Literary Life by Carolyn See; Escaping Into The Open by Elizabeth Berg. I love craft books. Not so much for the exercises or how-to, but for the comfort, the yes, this is hard.”

~Wendy Tokunaga (Midori By Moonlight, Love in Translation):

“Since I’ve been busy doing teaching and manuscript consulting, I’m tending to have a lot of craft-of-writing books on my desk, which are always helpful to consult, whether it’s for my students, clients or myself. Some of my recent favorites are: “Hooked” by Les Edgerton, “The Modern Library’s Writer’s Workshop: A Guide to the Craft of Fiction” by Stephen Koch, “The Making of a Story” by Alice LaPlante and the classic “bird by bird” by Anne Lamott.”

To be continued….

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Announcement: Happy Debut Day to Lori Roy and Bent Road!

AND

With a major thank you to Rebecca Rasmussen’s publisher, Crown, there are now two copies of The Bird Sisters for the Giveaway. The winners are Jennifer Gravely and Hira H. (Enamored Soul). Congratulations!

Please email diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address and one book will be sent out promptly, while the other book will be Pre-ordered for its release on Tuesday, April 12th.

Fictional Characters as Best Friends Forever, II

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

As every book is opened, a new adventure begins. And sometimes, somewhere among the pages, there is also found 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:

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

“Nancy Drew. She always had the best adventures (and the best car). We could go zooming off and solve mysteries together, and hopefully some of her talent for picking up a skill fast would rub off. I would love to go scuba diving or surfing or skate in a roller derby, but only if I could learn to be an expert in just a few days.”

[On April 2, 2011, Meredith will be speaking at the Nancy Drew Convention while the sleuths are visiting Charlottesville.]

~James King (Bill Warrington’s Last Chance):

“Harry “’Rabbit’” Angstrom, because there’s the chance that hanging with him would make me, in comparison, look good.”

~Allie Larkin (Stay):

“You know, I think I still want to be friends with Pippi Longstocking.”

~Jael McHenry (The Kitchen Daughter coming April 12, 2011):

“Oh, I’m a Lizzie Bennet girl from way back. All of Jane Austen’s heroines are wonderful, but she’s my favorite, and just the kind of BFF we all need — smart but not superior (usually), insightful about human behavior, independent but loyal, and funny as all get-out.”

~Camille Noe Pagan (The Art of Forgetting coming June 9, 2011):

“It’s so tempting to take the easy way out with this one and say Marissa, the main character in The Art of Forgetting–if only because I deliberately wrote a character that I like and relate to. But I’m going to go with Rachel from Emily Giffin’s Something Borrowed. Yes, she slept with her best friend’s fiancé–but the friend deserved it! Seriously, though, of all the contemporary fiction I’ve read recently, Rachel stands out as a character who’s flawed in a way that makes you root for her, rather than against her. She’s practical and down-to-earth, too, which are great traits for a best friend.”

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

“I would choose Scout from TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. Scout embodied a longing to do the right thing, a passion for it. She was an intelligent, hard-headed tomboy who loved and protected her family and friends.”

To be continued….

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Attention: Beginning next Tuesday, March 1, 2011, MaNIC MoMMy is hosting March Madness Book-A-Day Giveaway! You’ll have an opportunity to win a book from one of many TDW authors as well as several other authors who may be new to you. Every day there’s a winner and, at the end of the month, a GRAND PRIZE WINNER. Interested? Please click the link for details.

Announcement: The winners of Letters from Home by Kristina McMorris are Elise and Keetha. Congratulations!

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

Writing Rituals, Secrets, and Superstitions, Part I

January 13, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Favorites, Q&A

During the fall The Divining Wand — in a series of six post recently honored by Suzannah Freeman of Write It Sideways — presented our authors’ best writing exercises. Tried and true, these exercises were designed to jumpstart both imagination and motivation, yet what about the intangible elements that set minds free while wrapping writers into their comfort zone?

To discover the answer our authors were asked:

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

The first in (hopefully) another insightful and helpful series begins with the following responses, including those new to TDW — ever popular Caroline Leavitt and debut novelist Camille Noe Pagan:

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

“Going for a walk almost always helps me get an idea or solve a problem. I like to tell myself the story as I walk as I would a friend or potential reader. That’s one of the things that is challenging about book-length work: keeping it all in your head. Yes, I use sticky notes and notebooks and cork boards, but still going over the story over and over and over again is necessary for me. And something about being outside and moving really helps.”

~ 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):

“After decades of procrastinating, I wrote my first book in my minivan, which taught me that if you want it enough, you can write anywhere and under any circumstances. So I refuse to believe in rituals. I take a page from Nike’s book — and just do it.”

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

“A clean office! I write so much better when my office is organized, dusted and tidy. I literally feel my creativity faltering when things are askew, so I tend to take a few minutes, before sitting down to write, to fix my piles (there are so many piles!), toss things in the recycle bin, etc. Also, I love natural light, so I like to keep my office window shade open. And, must have a big, tall glass of cold water! This trio works for me. ”

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

“Yep. Magic thinking. I tell myself if I don’t do my four hours, something really bad will happen. Like demonic possession. That always works.”

~ Camille Noe Pagan (The Art of Forgetting coming June 9, 2011):

“When I’m stuck, I tell myself I’ll just write 250 words–even 250 horrible, nonsensical words. It seems more doable than, say, 1000. And nine times out of ten, it gets my creative wheels turning and I’m able to figure out a tricky scene or keep writing until I have several pages down.”

~ Rebecca Rasmussen (The Bird Sisters coming April 12, 2011):

“I write my novels at Starbucks – okay, I said it. There.

“I am a mess when I try to write at home.

“’I’m writing,’” I say to myself at home, which means I should be writing, but instead I’m looking for inspiration in the refrigerator, in the cabinets, in the stubborn wrinkles in my daughter’s dresses. I’ll iron before I write at home. I’ll ponder the vacuum. I’ll think Bach or Yo-Yo Ma will solve this distractedness. Then a cup of tea. Yes, nice green tea. Tea cookies? Do spiders get hungry for something sweeter than gnats or flies? Maybe I should Google that. Maybe I should Google the oil spill in the Gulf and watch the robots trying to patch together the future miles beneath the surface of the sea. Maybe it’s all utterly hopeless and I should just take a nap and hope I dream about ice cream cones and spun sugar.
It’s all so daunting. So I go to Starbucks and, miraculously, the words start flowing…”

~ Emily Winslow (The Whole World):

“If a scene or chapter is really resisting me, I resort to an all-nighter. I make coffee and tell myself I can go to sleep only when I’ve finished.”

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