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Claire Cook: Why I Write

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

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

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

Why I Write/Claire Cook

I write because I can. I’d love to be a musician or a painter, but writing is the place where my urge to create and my ability intersect. I think we all have that place. For some, the trick is finding it. For others, it’s all about having the courage to live the dream.

I’ve known I was a writer since I was three. My mother entered me in a contest to name the Fizzies whale, and I won in my age group. It’s quite possible that mine was the only entry in my age group, since “Cutie Fizz” was enough to win my family a six-month supply of Fizzies tablets (root beer was the best flavor) and half a dozen turquoise plastic mugs with removable handles.

At six I had my first story on the Little People’s Page in the Sunday paper (about Hot Dog, the family dachshund, even though we had a beagle at the time — the first clue that I’d be a novelist and not a journalist) and at sixteen I had my first front page feature in the local weekly. I majored in film and creative writing in college, and fully expected that the day after graduation, I would go into labor and a brilliant novel would emerge, fully formed, like giving birth.

It didn’t happen. I guess I knew how to write, but not what to write. Looking back, I can see that I had to live my life so I’d have something to write about, and if I could give my younger self some good advice, it would be not to beat myself up for the next couple of decades.

But I did. At the same time, I pretended I wasn’t feeling terrible about not writing a novel, and did a lot of other creative things. I wrote shoe ads for an in house advertising agency for five weeks, became continuity director of a local radio station for a couple of years, taught aerobics and did some choreography, helped a friend with landscape design, wrote a few freelance magazine pieces, took some more detours. Eventually, I had two children and followed them to school as a teacher, where I taught everything from multicultural games and dance to open ocean rowing to creative writing.

Years later, when I was in my forties and sitting in my minivan outside my daughter’s swim practice at 5 AM, it hit me that I might live my whole life without ever once going after my dream of writing a novel. So, for the next six months I wrote a rough draft in the pool parking lot, and it sold to the first publisher who asked to read it.

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

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

* * * * *

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

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

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

In other words, this book is a winner!

Here’s the synopsis:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go-to Writing Books, III

April 07, 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. Yet not all motivation or inspiration comes from books on writing, in fact favorite novels are just as likely to be kept close at hand. With this 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 — including Laura Dave, the most recent addition to TDW — replied:

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

“I think of it as self-medicating with writing books. I keep a pile of them beside me as I write a novel, and flip through them as needed, not really for specific info but for their calming properties. The two I pick up again and again are Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird and Carolyn See’s Making a Literary Life: Advice for Writers and other Dreamers.”

~Laura Dave (The Divorce Party, London Is the Best City in America, and The First Husband coming May 12, 2011):

“Slouching Toward Bethlehem, The Great Gatsby, Pride and Prejudice, The Feast of Love, The Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing, Everything Changes, Something Borrowed, The Lost Legends of New Jersey and On Writing.”

~ Shana Mahaffey (Sounds Like Crazy):

“I keep books of poetry by W.B. Yeats, Rainer Maria Rilke, and Mathew Arnold to read when I need beautiful words to inspire me. I always have my online dictionary and reference website open. I consult both, but especially the latter, often throughout the process. For regular reading, I try to keep a good mystery by my side, and if there are none, I will always go back to The Chronicles of Amber* by Roger Zelazny.”

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

“I always keep Mary Oliver’s poems close to me when I’m writing. Sometimes I read a poem or two before I get started on my own work to remind myself to be mindful of my word choice and to enjoy the process even when it is frustrating me. Mary Oliver often celebrates life in her writing, from birds and trees to people and great loves, sometimes losses, which is what I am trying to do in mine.”

~Lori Roy (Bent Road):

“I have a well worn copy of Janet Burroway’s WRITING FICTION A GUIDE TO NARRATIVE CRAFT. The pages are highlighted, paperclipped and flagged with sticky notes. I also have several novels from favorite writers that I will open at random and read from whenever I find myself stuck.”

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

“It depends on the book I’m writing. For my last, because it was first person and relationship-driven, I kept looking at Nick Hornby’s HIGH FIDELITY, Curtis Sittenfeld’s PREP, and Richard Ford’s THE SPORTSWRITER.”

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Announcement: The winner of Friendship Bread by Darien Gee is Janel. 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, IV

March 10, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Favorites, Profiles, Q&A

Since a best friend forever could be made at anytime as well as any place, it’s not surprising that they even might exist within a book’s pages. True, these are merely characters yet — if only real — would be chosen as our BFF.

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

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

And this week’s authors replied:

~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):

“The protagonist of the book I’m currently writing is always my BFF. If I didn’t like her that much, I don’t think I’d bother to tell her story.”

~Kate Ledger (Remedies):

“Maybe it’s the kind of books I read, but I think I’m still looking for a fictional BFF.”

~Randy Susan Meyers ( The Murderer’s Daughters):

“Wow, I have such a love of intense and dark books I’m not sure I’d want any of the characters of my favorite books to be my best friend. Maybe Atticus Finch—who wouldn’t want him there for advice and caring? Additionally, I’d love to see the adult side of him that was hidden from Scout.”

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

“Bridget Jones, because she’s fun, funny, and would share her chocolates and wine.”

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

“Goldy Schultz from the Diane Mott Davidson catering murder mysteries. She’s fun, fearless and never fails to have something delicious to share with friends. Plus she drinks gallons of coffee. We’re a perfect match! I call my middle daughter “’Miss G.’” (her name is Gianna) because that’s what Goldy’s husband Tom calls her. I like it.”

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

“Elizabeth Bennett, because she’s sharp and funny.”

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

“Pippi Longstocking because she’s the eternal child, and Harry Potter because he has access to butterbeer. I was in Orlando recently and spent part of a day at the Harry Potter park at Universal. Believe me, you want to experience butterbeer at some point in your life, described as “‘reminiscent of shortbread and butterscotch.'” The whipped-cream head on a butterbeer puts any root beer to shame. Pippi would’ve had hidden trunks full of the stuff.”

To be continued….

* * * * *

Announcement: The winners of Arranged by Catherine McKenzie are Wendy Burd Kinsey and Mary Ward. 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.”

* * * * *

Winter/Spring 2011 Coming Attractions

December 09, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Advance News, Books

The year of 2010 has been a glorious one here at The Divining Wand. With our authors/friends providing first-class quality through their books and more, how much better could it be?

Well, beginning Monday, January 3, 2011, when Eileen Cook’s (Unpredictable, What Would Emma Do? YA, Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood YA) latest YA novel The Education of Hailey Kendrick — already earning a Kirkus starred review — is presented/reviewed, it will launch our exciting winter/spring season.

Look for other of your favorites to return, including:

~Sarah Pekkanen (The Opposite of Me) with her second novel, Skipping a Beat coming February 22, 2010, and praised by Emily Giffin.

~Meg Waite Clayton’s (The Wednesday Sisters) highly anticipated The Four Ms. Bradwells releases on March 22, 2011.

~Claire Cook (Seven Year Switch, Must Love Dogs, Life’s A Beach, and the rest in Bibliography) celebrates with her 8th book, Best Staged Plans, on May 31, 2011.

And, of course, there will be more!

During the past few months many about-to-be authors have been introduced to you, but now let’s put their names and titles into order of debut appearance:

~Eleanor Brown (The Weird Sisters coming January 20, 2011)

~Kristina McMorris (Letters From Home coming February 22, 2011)

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

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

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

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

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

TRUST: There’s great buzz about each one of these authors. Please explore their websites and/or Pre-order their books.

Here’s to new authors/friends and great reading in the New Year!

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Announcement: The winners of What I Thought I Knew by Alice Eve Cohen are Mary Quackenbush and Ruthie Congratulations!

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

AND

Announcement: The winners of Slim to None by Jenny Gardiner are Dee and Sarah Congratulations!

Please email diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address and your book will be sent out promptly OR indicate you’d like the Kindle Edition.

Best Writing Exercises, Part IV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ann Wertz Garvin (On Maggie’s Watch):

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

Shana Mahaffey (Sounds Like Crazy):

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

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

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

To be continued…..

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

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

Author News and New Authors

July 29, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Advance News, News

Welcome to The Divining Wand’s last post of July and, while not dismissing summertime in August, there is a feeling of fall around here! That’s correct, fresh and new ideas have either recently launched or will soon, beginning with the multi-talented Katie Alender (Bad Girls Don’t Die YA).

On Tuesday, July 27, 2010, Katie and fellow YA writers took “getting to know authors beyond their pages” to a vlog level. Here’s a portion of the Press Release for AuthorMix:

“AUTHORMIX” WEB VIDEO SERIES TAKES THE TEEN READER-AUTHOR CONNECTION TO A NEW LEVEL
A new web-based video series aims to give teen readers a “fly on the wall” look at their favorite authors.

Los Angeles, CA — July 27, 2010 — In an effort to reach out to their web-savvy readers, many authors now turn to video, releasing video blogs (“vlogs”), book trailers, and even virtual book tours (as recently mentioned in the New York Times: A new web video series takes this one step further by bringing together a group of authors in a roundtable format, letting readers eavesdrop on conversations about life, love, high school, writing, and publication. AUTHORMIX is like listening in on the green room at a book festival–personal, honest, and unrehearsed.

“The whole thing started because I would read blogs or tweets about authors who got together for one reason or another,” says creator/host, author Katie Alender. “And what I really wanted to know was–what do they talk about when they’re just hanging out?”

In an effort to find out, she came up with the idea for an off-the-cuff style video series that would give authors a chance to chat in a relaxed environment.

Participating authors are Melissa de la Cruz (New York Times best-selling author of The Au Pairs and Blue Bloods series of novels for young adults); Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl (New York Times best-selling authors of Beautiful Creatures, also one of Amazon.com’s Ten Best Books of 2009); Cecil Castellucci (author of Beige, Boyproof, Queen of Cool, and The Plain Janes series for DC Comics); and Katie Alender (author of the Bad Girls Don’t Die series).

[For more information, please visit the site and follow AuthorMix on Twitter. Congratulations, Katie!]

As for this site’s news, regular visitors may have noticed that TDW recently has featured three “new” authors:

~ Claire Cook (Seven Year Switch, Must Love Dogs, Life’s A Beach, and the rest in Bibliography)

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

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

And, now, I proudly announce the following authors have also joined our community and will be appearing on these pages soon:

~ Kate Ledger (Remedies)

~ TanyaEgan Gibson (How to Buy a Love of Reading)

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

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

~ Katharine Davis (A Slender Thread, East Hope, Capturing Paris)

Also expect more guest author posts and (hopefully) a weekly Q&A with readers asking questions of the featured author. Indeed fall is in the air….

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Announcement: The winner of Claire Cook’s Seven Year Switch is Amy Chase. Congratulations.

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

Claire Cook and Seven Year Switch

July 26, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books

From the Front Cover

“Reading Claire Cook might be the most fun you have all summer.”
–ELIN HILDERBRAND, bestselling author of The Castaways

Although Elin Hilderbrand’s quote may sound somewhat exaggerated, what would be more fun this summer than sitting on a beach with your arms spread wide to embrace sand, surf, and blue sky? In fact one might imagine that’s how Claire Cook (Must Love Dogs, Life’s A Beach, and the rest in Bibliography) enjoyed her trip to Costa Rica where she researched Seven Year Switch.

Simply put, this bestselling author of seven book believes in having fun while embracing life and her characters reflect that attitude….at least by the end of their tales. Is this art imitating life? Well in her recent post, Guest Claire Cook on Buried Dreams and YOUR Seven Year Switch, she admits that before following her dream: “…I pretended I wasn’t feeling terrible about not writing a novel, and did a lot of other creative things.” However, during the July 9, 2010 LitChat — where the topic of the week was reinvention — Claire explained further:

Change is hard, so I think being miserable is good incentive.

For me the procrastination became more painful than actually writing a book.

I majored in film and creative writing in college, then totally choked. I hid from it for
over two decades.

I’d gotten by on potential and suddenly I actually had to do something.

Those are all insightful and wise statements from a successful author thrilled to have her novels labeled as “beach reads.” However, when dipping into the pages, readers discover the content is anything but shallow. Instead Claire Cook writes: “The main characters in my novels are all trying to find a way to their own next chapters. I’m not sure any journey feels “‘standard'” when you’re the one who has to go through it, fictionally or in reality!”

It’s also not an easy journey when change is forced upon you as it is in Seven Year Switch, described here in the author’s own words:

Seven Year Switch is the story of a single mother whose husband ran off to join the Peace Corps, leaving her with a three-year-old. Seven years later, just when they’ve figured out how to make it on their own, he’s ba-ack – proving he can’t even run away reliably! Now Jill has to face the fact that there’s simply no way she can be a good mom without letting her ex back into her daughter’s life. They say that every seven years you become a completely new person, and it takes a Costa Rican getaway to help Jill make her choice – between the woman she is and the woman she wants to be.

Knowing that Claire’s books are more about the characters rather than about theme, setting, or plot, The Divining Wand asked where Jill Murray came from? Delighted with the author’s response on her free association imagination, it’s only fair to share her thought process:

“Seven novels in, I stop to think what haven’t I tried before, and I realized that while some of my narrators have been single women, I’ve never written from the point of view of a single mom. I’ve been married for a zillion years (to the same guy, no less!) so I started reaching out to friends and friends of friends who were single moms. I was a teacher for sixteen years, and I remembered some of my students’ experiences as their families navigated the waters of divorce. Then I started thinking about how our lives never turn out quite the way we planned. And I’ve always been fascinated by other cultures, and I was dying to take a research trip to Costa Rica. And it was my seventh novel, so I started thinking about the significance of the number seven. And somehow into all this Jill was born! I’m never quite sure how it all comes together — I just feel my way through.”

With such natural common sense, it’s not surprising that Claire confesses her writing goes “flat” if she analyzes too much. Analytical and critical thinking is saved for revisions, but in the first draft she needs to feel it, not think it. Hmm, a gift of talent? All the author knows is she was surprised to learn that everyone’s brain doesn’t function the way hers does. And, while other writers can’t understand how her process can be successful, she just loves that this proves there is no one way to write a book.

To read Praise for Seven Year Switch please read the right column of the page. To read an Excerpt: Chapter One, please scroll down this same page.

Skipping the beach scene to read Seven Year Switch within the air-conditioned comfort of home did prove to be fun as well as thought-provoking. In truth this story focuses on Jill Murray’s two reinventions, the first brought on seven years earlier when her husband left. Literally abandoned, without an income and their three year old daughter to support, Jill transforms herself into a survivor and earns her dues to be startled and confused — though stronger and wiser — on his surprise return. And that’s when the time comes for another seven year change.

The writing showcases an entrepreneurial single mom who is bright, bold, and determined to do what’s best for her child. Also the serious issues of a “deadbeat Dad,” scrimping to get by, and a child missing/loving her father are treated with a respectful light touch. How? Well the author has infused her protagonist with humor, sass, and enough quirky supporting characters to brighten the journey and even create laugh out loud moments — Great Girlfriend Getaways’ headphone, Cynthia, Spanx….

Delivering her message of reinvention, with more than a spoonful of sugar, Claire Cook allows the reader to have fun with Seven Year Switch, while perhaps thinking of changes in their own future. Hmm, enjoy!

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Announcement: The winners of Keetha DePriest Mosley’s Culinary Kudzu(s) are: Alicia and Elizabeth Varga. Congratulations.

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

AND

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of Claire Cook’s Seven Year Switch in a random drawing to anyone who comments only on this specific post. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winner to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to possibly claim your book.

Guest Claire Cook on Buried Dreams
and YOUR Seven Year Switch

July 20, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[Bestselling, prolific author Claire Cook (Seven Year Switch, Must Love Dogs, Life’s A Beach, and the rest in Bibliography) is everywhere. Whether featured in print newspaper’s, magazine’s, or on online publication’s “must read” lists, Claire’s novels of being the best you can be resonate with a universal readership. And to think she’s become this popular with seven books in ten years. Yet why not? After living life with a buried dream, she finally “Just Did It!” by pursuing her dream of becoming a novelist. In today’s guest post, Claire describes her successful journey — one that we all can achieve too.]

Buried Dreams and YOUR Seven Year Switch

I write because I can. I’d love to be a musician or a painter, but writing is the place where my urge to create and my ability intersect. I think we all have that place. For some, the trick is finding it. For others, it’s all about having the courage to live the dream.

I’ve known I was a writer since I was three. My mother entered me in a contest to name the Fizzies whale, and I won in my age group. It’s quite possible that mine was the only entry in my age group, since “Cutie Fizz” was enough to win my family a six-month supply of Fizzies tablets (root beer was the best flavor) and a half dozen turquoise plastic mugs with removable handles.

At six I had my first story on the Little People’s Page in the Sunday paper (about Hot Dog, the family dachshund, even though we had a beagle at the time — the first clue that I’d be a novelist and not a journalist) and at sixteen I had my first front page feature in the local weekly. I majored in film and creative writing in college, and fully expected that the day after graduation, I would go into labor and a brilliant novel would emerge, fully formed, like giving birth.

It didn’t happen. I guess I knew how to write, but not what to write. Looking back, I can see that I had to live my life so I’d have something to write about, and if I could give my younger self some good advice, it would be not to beat myself up for the next couple of decades.

But I did. At the same time, I pretended I wasn’t feeling terrible about not writing a novel, and did a lot of other creative things. I wrote shoe ads for an in house advertising agency for five weeks, became continuity director of a local radio station for a couple of years, taught aerobics and did some choreography, helped a friend with landscape design, wrote a few freelance magazine pieces, took some more detours. Eventually, I had two children and followed them to school as a teacher, where I taught everything from multicultural games and dance to open ocean rowing to creative writing.

Years later, when I was in my forties and sitting in my minivan outside my daughter’s swim practice at 5 AM, it hit me that I might live my whole life without ever once going after my dream of writing a novel. So, for the next six months I wrote a rough draft in the pool parking lot, and it sold to the first publisher who asked to read it.

My first novel was published when I was 45. At 50, I walked the red carpet at the Hollywood premiere of the movie version of my second novel, Must Love Dogs, starring Diane Lane and John Cusack. I’m now 55, and my seventh novel, Seven Year Switch, is off to a great start, with beach read shout outs from USA Today, The New York Times, and the New York Post. I sometimes take a deep breath and remind myself that this is the career I almost didn’t have.

So many readers have approached me after book events or emailed me through my website, ClaireCook.com, or messaged me on Facebook or Twitter to share their buried dreams. They tell me that my own journey has been an inspiration to them. I love the idea that someone reading this right now might take a minute to think about dusting off her own dream.

Seven Year Switch is the story of a single mom whose husband ran off to join the Peace Corps. Seven years later, he’s ba-ack – proving he can’t even run away reliably! If there’s an overarching theme in my seven novels, it’s that each of my main characters is trying to reinvent herself. I think that’s what I bring to the table from my own life, and I think it’s something most of us face at one point or another. Here are some tips to help you find what’s next for you.

Seven Simple Steps for Finding YOUR Next Chapter

Self. You can’t have self-awareness, self-confidence, or any of those other good self words until you decide to like yourSELF, and who you really are.

Soul Searching. Sometimes it’s just getting quiet enough to figure out what you really want; often it’s digging up that buried dream you had before life got in the way.

Serendipity. When you stay open to surprises, they often turn out to be even better than the things you planned. Throw your routine out the window and let spontaneity change your life.

Synchronicity. It’s like that saying about luck being the place where preparation meets opportunity. Open your eyes and ears – then catch the next wave that’s meant for you!

Strength. Life is tough. Decide to be tougher. If Plan A doesn’t work, the alphabet has 25 more letters (204 if you’re in Japan!)

Sisterhood. Connect, network, smile. Build a structure of support, step by step. Do something nice for someone – remember, karma is a boomerang!

Satisfaction. Of course you can get some (no matter what the Rolling Stones said.) Call it satisfaction, fulfillment, gratification, but there’s nothing like the feeling of setting a goal and achieving it. So make yours a good one!

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Lauren Baratz-Logsted’s The Education of Bet in a random drawing to anyone who comments only on this specific post, Lauren Baratz-Logsted and The Education of Bet. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, July 21, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winner to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to possibly claim your book.

The Revealing of Claire Cook

June 30, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles

Bestselling author Claire Cook (Must Love Dogs, Life’s A Beach, and the rest in Bibliography) is celebrating the publication of her seventh book, Seven Year Switch — selected by US TODAY and The New York Times as their Top Summer Book Picks.

Publishers Weekly might have had the initial endorsement when beginning its review of the novel with, “Roll out your beach blanket for this sweet summer read about making mistakes and moving on.” The Divining Wand has scheduled a full presentation/review of Seven Year Switch for Monday, July 26, 2010. But, until then, let’s meet this “late starter” novelist by reading a shortened version of “official” bio:

Raised on Nancy Drew mysteries, Claire Cook has wanted to write ever since she was a little girl. She majored in theater and creative writing at Syracuse University and immersed herself in a number of artistic endeavors (copywriter, radio continuity director, garden designer, and dance and aerobics choreographer), yet somehow her dreams got pushed to the side for more real-life matters — like marriage, motherhood, and a teaching career. Decades passed, then one day she found herself parked in her minivan at 5 AM, waiting for her daughter to finish swim practice. She was struck with a now-or-never impulse and began writing on the spot. By the end of the season, she had a first draft. Her first novel, Ready to Fall, was published in 2000, when Cook was 45.

Since then, this “late starter” has more than made up for lost time. She struck gold with her second book, Must Love Dogs. Published in 2002, this story of a middle-aged divorcee whose singles ad produces hilariously unexpected results was declared “funny and pitch-perfect” by the Chicago Tribune and “a hoot” by the Boston Globe. (The novel got a second life in 2005 with the release of the feature film starring Diane Lane and John Cusack.) Cook’s subsequent novels, with their wry, witty take on the lives of middle-aged women, have become bestsellers and book club favorites.

Upbeat, gregarious, and grateful for her success, Cook is an inspiration for aspiring writers and women in midlife transition. She tours indefatigably for her novels and genuinely enjoys speaking with fans. She also conducts frequent writing workshops, where she dispenses advice and encouragement in equal measure. “I’m extraordinarily lucky to spend my time doing what I love,” she has said on countless occasions. ” The workshops are a way to say thank you and open doors that I stumbled through to make it easier for writers coming up behind me.”

In fact Claire has spent this month book touring across the country (with only one event remaining on July 8th in Chatham, Massachusetts) but before she left to meet and greet fans, the author revealed:

Q. How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A. Finally living my dream and totally loving it.

Q. What is your motto or maxim?
A. Karma is a boomerang – probably the truest thing one of my characters has ever said.

Q. How would you describe perfect happiness?
A. Perfectly fleeting.

Q. What’s your greatest fear?
A. That I’m still a bartender and I can’t remember where this drink should go. Oh, wait, that’s the recurring nightmare.

Q. If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A. Exactly where I am.

Q. With whom in history do you most identify?
A. P.T. Barnum. I’m a direct descendant, and btw, he did not say, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” He said, “There’s a customer born every minute.” I have updated that to, “There’s a reader born every minute.”

Q. Which living person do you most admire?
A. It’s a three-way tie between my husband and two kids. Aww.

Q. What are your most overused words or phrases
A. My literary agent recently told me it was Aww. I think she actually called it a verbal tic. That’s the kind of agent you want to have.

Q. If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A. I’d love to be a songwriter. I used to teach the Aerosmith kids, and right around the time my first novel came out, I had this great conversation with Steven Tyler. He wanted to know how I could write a whole novel, and I said that if I could say it in a song, I wouldn’t have to.

Q. What is your greatest achievement?
A. Helping my two kids grow into people I both admire and want to hang out with.

Q. What’s your greatest flaw?
A. I can’t do anything halfway.

Q. What’s your best quality?
A. I can’t do anything halfway. And if that’s cheating, I would say kindness.

Q. What do you regret most?
A. Who has time?

Q. If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A. For me, the gift of midlife is that I’m finally being exactly who I really am. There’s great power in that.

Q. What trait is most noticeable about you?
A. People always say my laugh. They also often tell me I laugh just like one of my characters, which I think is interesting.

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

Q. Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A. I always skip the scary pages.

Q. If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A. If I really wanted to meet an athlete, I’d just find a way. I’d rather go to the gym and get a workout.

Q. What is your biggest pet peeve?
A. Mean people.

Q. What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A. Walking the beach.

Q. What’s your fantasy profession?
A. Being a novelist. It’s the career I almost didn’t have, and seven books in, it still feels like a fantasy.

Q. What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A. Humor, honesty, kindness.

Q. If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A. Trader Joe’s organic popcorn with olive oil.

Q. What are your 5 favorite songs?
A. I never play favorites. I just can’t. I’d feel too sorry for the songs I didn’t pick.

Q. What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A. The ones I haven’t written yet.

To enjoy more of Claire Cook’s wisdom, kindness, and fun (because she’s all about FUN), please become her friend on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Robin Antalek’s The Summer We Fell Apart in a random drawing to anyone who comments only on this specific post, Robin Antalek and The Summer We Fell Apart. Comments left on other posts during the week are not entered into the contest. The deadline is tonight at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winner to be announced here in tomorrow’s post. If you enter, please return tomorrow to possibly claim your book.