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Interview with Eileen Cook on
Her (e)Book Do or Di

February 21, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: ebooks, Interviews

[In the last four years, Eileen Cook (The Education of Hailey Kendrick YA, Unpredictable, What Would Emma Do? YA, Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood YA, Fourth Grade Fairy, Gnome Invasion, and Wishes for Beginners ages 9 -11, and most recent Unraveling Isobel) has been productive and prolific, entertaining adult, YA, and middle grade readers. However, at the end of January, Eileen debuted her first ebook — and first adult novel since Unpredictable — with Do or Di available on Kindle and Smashwords.

Fun, thoughtful, and poignant, Do or Di is a refreshing reading escape. Yet it caused this Fairy Godmother to wonder how long the author had this up her sleeve? To discover, all I needed to do was ask. Enjoy!]

A laugh out loud romantic comedy, from the author of Unpredictable and Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood. Erin Callighan has given up on the idea of a fairy tale romance. Having dated her own version of the Seven Dwarves (including Grumpy and Sleepy), she’s letting go of the idea of Prince Charming and settling for Prince Good Enough. Erin’s focused on reaching her dream of having her own talk radio show, even if it means having to temporarily co-host with the annoying “Voice of Seattle”, Colin Stewart. To score points with her station manager, she agrees to be a part of the Positive Partnerships program that matches her with Diana, a troubled pre-teen who swears she’s channeling the spirit of the late Princess Diana. She’s supposed to be mentoring Diana, but the channeled princess has a lot to teach Erin about love and happily ever after endings.

TDW: When did you find the time to write thIS novel? UNPREDICTABLE, REVENGE, EMMA, EDUCATION, UNRAVELING, plus the FAIRY GODMOTHER series has kept you busy and in bookstores for for years, did you write in between these books?

E.C.: The original version of this book was written right after I completed Unpredictable. At that time the market for “chick lit” or any funny women’s fiction novels dried up and I couldn’t sell the book and I turned to writing YA. I’ve always loved this book and wanted to see it find it’s way into the world. One weekend I pulled it up on my computer and re-read it. With the growth of ebooks I knew I could put it up myself. I hired an editor to give me some feedback, polished the book and put it up. I’m so happy to see it out there on the virtual shelves.

TDW: Yet you’re established author, readers of all ages love you and would be thrilled to find an adult novel on the bookshelves?

E.C.: There’s been a lot of change in the publishing landscape. I’ve seen other authors go the indie route with books and I was curious to try it out. By self publishing the book I could set the price quite low at $2.99. Heck, that’s less than buying a latte! By having a book that is low in cost it tempts people who haven’t read my books before to give it a try and hopefully then become interested in my other books. For readers who know they like my book this becomes a way to say thank you.

TDW: For your YA novels, inspiration/backstory is taken from a “classic,” so did you follow the same pattern here?

E.C.: The inspiration for this book was a chance to tap into the fascination I had with Princess Diana. When I was young I got up at dawn to see her wedding and thought it was the most romantic story ever. As I grew up watching her marriage and eventual divorce I realized that love isn’t about fairy tales. She was such an iconic figure for women that I wanted a chance to write a character who has a connection to her. Erin in the book has given up on love and romance. She needs to discover that love, real love, isn’t always pretty, but it does last.

TDW: Astrology, magic, the supernatural and, now, channeling are elements woven into your storylines. In first glance of your books’ synopses, a reader might think you’re writing fairy tales and yet these mystical powers are actually used to support the true power of human strengths and talents. Is this the theme or end goal?

E.C.: People are fascinated with magic and the supernatural. While I agree it is fun, I want to show that the real magic in the world isn’t supernatural, it’s everyday. Real magic is how you feel when you see someone you love, how roses bloom, the sounds dogs make when they dream. We need to open our eyes and see the magical things all around us and also the power that we have to impact change in our own lives.

TDW: Where did the fresh workplace setting of a radio station come from? Was there much research needed?

E.C.; I’ve been fortunate enough to do some readings on CBC, Canada’s version of National Public Radio. The first time I went I was enthralled with the whole process, the chance to wear giant headphones, the call board the entire idea of being live. I was quite certain I would be struck with Tourette’s once the microphone went on. I ended up asking lots of questions and even took some pictures of the space on my phone. I had a sense it would end up in a book someday.

TDW: Although Do or Di is an adult novel, you wrote Diana — a YA character — in almost a co-starring role. It worked so well. Was that your initial intention?

E.C.: When I wrote the initial draft of the book Diana did not have as large of a role. Now years later I’ve written several YA books and enjoy writing teen characters. When I pulled the book out I realized that Diana had a lot to say and that her having a larger role would enhance the book and give it some balance. Erin is skeptical, but Diana represents hope. They need each other to move forward. Erin needs to rediscover the magic in her life and Diana needs to be balanced out with reality.

TDW: Can we look forward to more adult novels from you in the future?

E.C.: In the process of re-working this book I realized how much I enjoyed writing for an adult audience. There will be more adult books- just as soon as I figure out what that winning idea is going to be.

To experience instant pleasure in reading Do or Di, simply download the book from Kindle or Smashwords.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away three copies of Eileen Cook’s Do or Di — in a random drawing — to anyone who leaves a comment on this post by 8:59 p.m. EST tonight! The winners will be announced here on Thursday.

Eileen Cook Takes Pleasure in Unraveling Isobel

January 10, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Books, Recommendations

In pushing The Divining Wand’s restart button, one has to smile at how comforting it is to be greeted by Eileen Cook’s (The Education of Hailey Kendrick YA, Unpredictable, What Would Emma Do? YA, Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood YA, and Fourth Grade Fairy, Gnome Invasion, and Wishes for Beginners ages 9 -11) “almost” annual new release. And what a NEW release it is.

Described as: “A darkly comic novel that blends paranormal mystery and romance with humor,” Unraveling Isobel has charmed the literary critics:

“Isobel, all snark and sharp edges covering some intense vulnerability as she continuously checks in to see if she has crossed into mental illness (as her father did when she was young), is a compelling narrator.” —The Horn Book, January/February 2012

“Spine-tingling setting….Isobel’s sass and her steamy romance with her new stepbrother will help readers race toward the dramatic conclusion.” —Publishers Weekly

“This blend of paranormal romance, murder mystery and quirky, coming-of-age narrative offers tasty moments….Cook gives readers a fast-paced plot, a likable narrator, and interesting characters.” —Kirkus

Here’s what it’s all about:

Isobel’s life is falling apart. Her mom just married some guy she met on the internet only three months before, and is moving them to his sprawling, gothic mansion off the coast of nowhere. Goodbye, best friend. Goodbye, social life. Hello, icky new stepfather, crunchy granola town, and unbelievably good-looking, officially off-limits stepbrother.

But on her first night in her new home, Isobel starts to fear that it isn’t only her life that’s unraveling—her sanity might be giving way too. Because either Isobel is losing her mind, just like her artist father did before her, or she’s seeing ghosts. Either way, Isobel’s fast on her way to being the talk of the town for all the wrong reasons.

Eileen takes a walk on the dark comedic side of storytelling and emerges with a winner. Her writing has never been better, more current while also unique for this genre.

Unraveling Isobel is highly recommended for fun, lessons learned, and Eileen Cook’s snarkily lovable imagination.

Want a sneak peek? Read Chapter One.

[Please note that there is also a Kindle Edition.]

Summer’s TBR Lists, III

June 16, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Favorites, Q&A

With so many terrific books vying for attention, summer is the best season for a reason to relax and get lost in a new release or old favorite. And, since summer book lists are currently being published, The Divining Wand decided to ask its authors:

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

This week the following writers replied:

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

“PYM by Mat Johnson
SILVER SPARROW by Tayari Jones
THE WEIRD SISTERS by Eleanor Brown
THE FOUR MS. BRADWELLS by Meg Waite Clayton
THE RINGER by Jenny Shank
THE FULL MATILDA by David Haynes

And if I could recommend a book I’ve already read that’s coming out this month: IF SONS THEN HEIRS by Lorene Cary. LOVED it!”

~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, Wishes for Beginners ages 9 – 11 coming June 14, 2011, and Gnome Invasion ages 9 – 11 coming August 16, 2011):

“My to- be read list is always long. A few I’m looking forward to include, Sister by Rosamund Lupton, Bumped by Megan McCafferty, Skipping a Beat by Sarah Pekkanen and The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann

Populazzi by Elise Allen. I had a chance to read an advance copy of this and LOVED it!”

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

‘“A Visit From the Good Squad,” the new translation of “Madame Bovary” by Lydia Davis, “To the End of the Land” by David Grossman, “Skippy Dies” by Paul Murray

“The Pull of Gravity,” by Gae Polisner. (It’s a YA book.)”

~Judy Merrill Larsen (All the Numbers):

“Oh, my goodness. There are too too many. EXPOSURE by Therese Fowler. THE FOUR MRS. BRADWELLS by Meg Waite Clayton. MRS. TOM THUMB by Melanie Benjamin. Not to mention the tottering TBR pile I already have next to my bed. And, anything about Italy I can get my hands on in preparation for my first visit there in September.”

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

“I’m urging everyone to read Dawn Tripp’s Game of Secrets”.

~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):

“Silver Girl by Elin Hilderbrand. Ever since I discovered her Nantucket-based novels last year they’ve defined summer for me.”

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

“So many books, but here are a few on my must-read list. Many aren’t out until the summer.
In a Treacherous Court by Michelle Diener

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Things We Didn’t Say by Kristina Riggle

The Girl Who Would Speak for the Dead by Paul Elwork

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente

Happy reading!”

To be continued….

* * * * *

Announcement: The winners of Populazzi by Elise Allen are Dee and Sarrah. Congratulations!

Please email diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address and your book will be Pre-ordered to be sent on its release of August 1, 2011.

Eileen Cook’s Fourth Grade Fairy

May 26, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books

Truth be told, Eileen Cook (The Education of Hailey Kendrick YA, What Would Emma Do? YA, Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood YA, and Unpredictable) is among The Divining Wand’s most popular authors with her positive, common sense, and humor-filled storytelling for all ages. Case in point is Eileen’s latest book, Fourth Grade Fairy, the first of three middle school novels. (The second in this series, Wishes for Beginners will be released on June 14, 2011 followed by the third and final novel, Gnome Invasion available on August 16, 2011.)

Since this Fairy Godmother feels connected to any age fairy — especially one in training — I asked the author what sparked this magical idea? And Eileen said:

“I wish I knew! I knew I wanted to write a book for younger readers and the character of Willow came to mind. I couldn’t imagine anything more fun that someone who could talk to animals and do magic — especially since what she wants most of all is to be “‘normal.'” Willow’s world complete with sarcastic dogs, dragon farms, and flying was so much fun to play in as a writer.”

“I would love to write more middle grade books. I’m chatting with my editor about different ideas and hope to settle on something soon. Keep a little room on your shelf — I’ll do my best to fill it!”

In the meantime, let’s enjoy this fourth grade fairy who happily agreed to introduce herself through an abbreviated Q&A. Here’s Willow:

Q: Please describe your life in 8 words?
A: Complicated, busy, sometimes unfair, friends, exciting, interesting, lucky and magical!

Q; What is your motto?
A: The best magic is a best friend.

Q: What is your perfect happiness?
A: Rubbing a dog belly.

Q: What are you afraid of?
A: Gnomes. Their tiny little hands are kinda creepy.

Q: If you could have another magical power, what would you want it to be?
A: Make my older-know-it-all sister disappear.

Q: What is your greatest achievement?
A: Saving my sister’s life even though I would have been completely justified in letting her being eaten by a lizard. Also, I have the coolest best friend ever.

Q: What’s your best quality?
A: I am not afraid to try and solve my own problems, it might be better for me to ask for help sometimes, but you can’t be perfect at everything.

Q: What really annoys you?
A: Unicorns. Everyone thinks they are great, but they can be snotty. They like to toss you off if you try and ride them and then they come over and poke you with their horn when you are on the ground.

Q: If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A: Chocolate chip toffee cookies from Enchanted Sugar bakery.

Almost “normal,” isn’t she? 🙂

Here’s the Fourth Grade Fairy synopsis:


All Willow Doyle wants is to be normal, to fit in at her new school, and to have a best friend. But there’s no way Willow will ever be normal. There isn’t anything normal about her or the Doyle family.


Willow comes from a long line of fairy godmothers and she’s expected to be one too when the time comes. (At the moment she’s merely sprite status.) Maybe that would be cool if it were like the old days when the humans — known as humdrums — knew fairy godmothers existed and the fairies didn’t have to keep their fairy status secret. Now they’re stuck helping humans who don’t even believe in them. Rather than help normals, Willow would rather be human. She’s sick of being weird.

When she’s given the chance to attend a humdrum elementary school for two weeks, this is Willow’s chance to finally experience a normal life — but will she be able to fit in? And can she find her best friend there, even if her parents discourage making friends with humans?

Also, as a reluctant fairy-in-training, can she keep her newly acquired powers a secret? Or, perhaps more importantly, can she get along with her older sister?

Take a brief peek from Chapter One:

Why having an older sister is a pain:
She never lets you touch her stuff

She bosses you around all the time

She acts like they know everything

Your parents will let them do all kinds of things that you aren’t allowed to do

She get all the new outfits and you have to wear hand-me-downs (even though her favorite color is green, which you hate)

I can think of a lot more reasons, but I would need more paper. Everyone is always surprised to find out Lucinda is my sister. This is because never has stuff spilled on her shirt and her hair never sticks up. She always remembers to say thank you, please, and excuse me. My sister always has her homework done on time, she never snorts when she laughs. Oh, and she can fly.

My sister is a pain.

Willow has become popular in the past five weeks since her story’s been in bookstores as fans write snail mail to Ms. Eileen Cook c/o Simon & Schuster.

Of course that’s just the envelope. According to the author, the actual letter was covered in crayoned hearts. Her reaction? “I love it. I keep it on my desk. All writers are in love with their readers. We so appreciate that people take the time to read our books, especially given how many great books are out there. The best thing about writing for teens and young readers is that they love to reach out to their favorite writers.”

Fourth Grade Fairy is fun, charming, and gives a slight nod to the supernatural books that adolescents are reading….without the scary elements, of course. Instead it’s pure magic mixed in with human (humdrum) life.

It’s delightful and the book’s message is told in Eileen’s ultimate wish for Willow:

“What I wish for Willow (and for so many others out there) is that they learn to love who they are and what makes them special instead of focusing on how they feel they don’t fit in or match up to what is “‘normal.'” Normal is way overrated.”

Now how much would any young girl you know love to spend the summer with the Fourth Grade Fairy? Willow welcomes all human friends!

* * * * *

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away three copies of Fourth Grade Fairy by Eileen Cook 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 Sunday, May 29, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in Monday’s post. If you enter, please return Monday to see if you’re a winner.

Announcement: The winner of The Arrivals by Meg Mitchell Moore is jennifer downing. Congratulations!

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

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….

* * * * *

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.”

* * * * *

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.”

* * * * *

Writing Rituals, Secrets, and Superstitions, II

January 20, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles, Q&A

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

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

And this week the following authors replied:

~Robin Antalek (The Summer We Fell Apart:

“I write everyday whether I feel like it or not. If something isn’t working I play a game of what if and turn the story around so the characters react in a manner opposite than what I expected. Even if I don’t end up using it, the different approach helps me get words on the page. The thing about rituals or superstitions is that they don’t get words on the page. I know this sounds simplistic – but to be a writer you must write.”

~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):

“I don’t have any rituals, but if anyone has any that work I’d be happy to give them a whirl. I find what works is that I don’t let myself give up. Keep showing up, keep trying different approaches, but the most important this is to keep trying. As the famous saying goes- you can’t fix a blank page. If I get something down then there’s always a place to start.

“If all else fails a tea and cookie break don’t hurt. I’m not sure they help, but a cookie is never a bad thing.”

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

“I do almost all of my writing via computer, but when I hit a wall, I pull out my writer’s ‘journal’ (a plain, college-ruled, wire-bound notebook) and write by hand. Something about writing on paper with a pen helps me break through. I’ll start by giving myself a little update about where I’ve been with the story, where it is now, and where I want to go with it. I then try to figure out what’s stopping me from getting from here to there. I’ll try different solutions in the notebook, writing out a scene or two in longhand, before returning to the keyboard.”

~Allie Larkin (Stay):

“When I get stuck, I like to go do something active that lets my mind wander, like taking the dogs for a hike or gardening. I don’t like to sit at the computer and stare at the page when things aren’t working.”

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

“Reading it aloud. If I’m not sure if something’s working, if I’m looking for errors, if I want to know if chapters start or end in the right place, or if I don’t know what to write next, I read what I’ve written out loud. Maybe just a few sentences, maybe a whole chapter, but hearing the words is totally different than seeing them on the printed page. I don’t know if it’s that unusual, but it’s one of my favorite tricks.”

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

“You mean, besides dancing around a nightly bonfire covered in warpaint and snake oil? Ha. Probably nothing all that unusual, but I do like to write while being comfy. To me, that means fuzzy socks (the uglier, the better), a zip-up hoodie (I have three to choose from), and a warm woolen blanket to drape over my legs. Summer temperatures obviously create challenges in this regard.”

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

“I carry a little talisman for every book. Right now, it’s a tiny marcasite silver starfish charm on a delicate bracelet to represent the book I’m working on (set in a harbor town)–and to wish me luck on its fate in proposal form.”

To be continued….

* * * * *

Announcement: The winner of Eleanor Brown’s The Weird Sisters is Jonita. Congratulations!

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

Thank you to all who entered….if only The Divining Wand was magical enough to offer 24 more books.

Eileen Cook and
The Education of Hailey Kendrick

January 03, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books


If one subscribes to the adage that “a picture is worth a thousand words,” then the cover of Eileen Cook’s (Unpredictable, What Would Emma Do? YA, Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood YA, and Fourth Grade Fairy ages 9 – 11 coming April 19, 2011) latest YA novel, The Education of Hailey Kendrick, releasing tomorrow January 4, 2010, says it all. Cover girl Hailey’s bubble is about to burst!

In a most engaging and relevant storyline, the author found inspiration in the classic novel The Scarlet Letter and its question of what happens when ostracized from your community you are forced to stand alone to discover who you really are? Of course there would be widespread repercussions as Eileen noted, “…how common it is for us to describe ourselves in relationship to other people. “‘I’m so-and-so’s daughter/sister/wife/friend'” and how our view of self can go through huge change when the people in our lives change.

“I wanted to write about a character who believed in playing it safe and felt she knew her place in the world and then suddenly finds that world turned upside down. How far would she go to get that life back and would she even want it back?”

In other words, as the tagline on the front cover states: Sometimes what you don’t know is everything.

This becomes Hailey Kendrick’s education and personal journey as the novel’s synopsis explains:

Hailey Kendrick always does exactly what’s expected of her. She has the right friends, dates the perfect boy, gets good grades, and follows all the rules. But one night, Hailey risks everything by breaking a very big rule in a very public way…and with a very unexpected partner in crime. Hailey gets caught, but her accomplice does not, and Hailey takes the fall for both of them.

Suddenly, Hailey’s perfect life — and her reputation–are blowing up in her face. Her friends are all avoiding her. Her teachers don’t trust her. Her boyfriend won’t even speak to her for long enough to tell her that she’s been dumped.

They say honesty is the best policy–but some secrets are worth keeping, no matter the cost. Or are they?

Hailey is the “perfect” character to root for, just read how the literary trade reviews sing her praises:

“.. enormously appealing and great company throughout this breezy read…..the highest quality—like a gourmet truffle. Cook has whipped up a real treat.” Kirkus Starred Review

“Cook coaxes considerable empathy for the otherwise privileged Hailey as she abandons the achievement treadmill to explore her independence.” Publishers Weekly

Now here’s your opportunity to meet Hailey through an Excerpt of Chapter 1.

Without question Eileen is loved by many (see My Christmas Greeting to Eileen Cook) and respected by even more because of her warmth, generosity and basic, universal values. While the latter may not sound exciting or alluring, the author’s talent makes it so. For example The Education of Hailey Kendrick offers up themes and messages galore, including accepting responsibility for mistakes. That’s a life lesson for anyone, at any age, to learn and The Divining Wand asked the author how important it was to showcase that in Hailey’s education? And Eileen said:

“Character and integrity were a big issues in my family growing up. There were few things you could do that were worse than giving your word to someone and then breaking it. I wanted to write about a character who had a clearly defined sense of right and wrong. Hailey does something wrong in the beginning of the novel, regrets it and spends a good portion of the rest of the book trying to figure out how to make things right- versus making the situation worse.

“There are no easy answers to difficult questions. Like most of us Hailey wants to do the right thing, but isn’t always sure what that would be. Doing the right thing isn’t a one time choice- it is a lifetime of choosing and when you fail, choosing better the next time.”

Adults would naturally agree with this, but what about YA readers?

Well here is part of a November 23, 2010 Review posted by YA Book Nuts, Lori and Melissa:

“It also seemed that every time that Hailey tried to do the right thing somehow it always backfired on her and she would add to her problems instead of solving them. (I think I identified with this so much because I do it all of the time.)

“Needless to say, I really liked this book! It is the perfect choice for a quick read that makes you laugh and think at the same time. I can’t wait to see when Eileen Cook’s next book comes out…”

Aha, what lovely words and even better insight into teens who do indeed identify with Hailey’s predicament. Also there’s the acknowledgement of laughing and thinking at the same time. It’s a wining combination yet one I puzzled over, questioning how Eileen managed to raise major issues, successfully deal with them, and move the storyline forward while keeping “Hailey” fun as well as profound. And, may it be noted, there is not a whiff of preachy involved.

So what is this author’s secret, how does she write about serious matters and still entertain? According to Eileen, most writers have a gift in a particular area by either writing amazing description, dialogue, pacing and action, or bringing out emotions. However her personal gift is, “being the class clown.” As she further explains:

“I’ve always been “‘the funny one.'” (And I mean funny as in ha-ha versus funny weird.) When I write I have a hard time keeping the funny out. What I want to do as a writer is to meld the funny with serious and make a book that can both make someone laugh and think at the same time. I believe that many difficult issues are easier to consider if they are served up with a sense of humour. Humour can take the edge off and allow you to get closer. I think with each book I write I’m getting better at blending the funny with the serious. Writing really is a craft, I feel there is still so much for me to learn.

Yet within the pages of The Education of Hailey Kendrick, the author — in her very best book yet — provides wisdom for fans of all ages. Please join Hailey in her life’s education, share the book with a teen, and together you’re likely to discover/remember how delightful and good each day can be!

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Eileen Cook’s The Education of Hailey Kendrick 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, January 5, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. EST with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to see if you’re a winner.

From: Readers/Friends
To: TDW Authors/Friends

Holiday Greetings!

December 21, 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!]

My Christmas Greeting to Eileen Cook

Who doesn’t love Eileen Cook? She’s smart and funny and one of my favorite virtual writery friends.

We first met through our blogs. It’s my guess, because I can’t recall with accuracy, that I most likely stalked her and not the other way around. Yet, she was always generous with her knowledge and time, most specifically about query letters.

She was so incredibly generous that she actually offered to help me hone one of those letters. WHOA! I’m happy to report, that Eileenified query got me lots of requests. An agent, who rejected it, corresponded with me concerning the manuscript and offered amazing advice on how to tweak it. I believe it was because of Eileen’s help that the agent’s initial curiosity was peaked and the conversation began.

I like to think that I take Eileen’s generosity of her craft with me, especially as I find my own niche. I will never forget that she not only offered, but was true to her word, to help a fellow blogger/writer polish a letter that amazingly opened a few doors (by rough draft #5, I’m sure she was questioning her offer). I find that as I grow as a writer, I look for opportunities to help those behind me; an Eileen Cook paying-it-forward if you will.

In honor of Eileen’s quirky blog and her where-did-she-find-that links, I’ll end with a link to a story that appeals to the runner in me. “Join us this winter for a 5k run….in a gorilla suit.”

Hope this gave you a laugh Eileen, and if it didn’t, would it help to know I am seriously contemplating participating?! Thanks for all you have done, not only for me, but for all of those lucky enough to call you friend via stalking your blog.

Merry Christmas!

Patti