The Divining Wand

Discovering authors beyond their pages…

Darien Gee and Friendship Bread

April 04, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books

How appropriate for Darien Gee aka Mia King (Good Things, Sweet Life, Table Manners) to write the novel, Friendship Bread, with her given name. For the truth is — as Darien’s guest post, The Book That Inspired a Novel, — explains this story is a personal gift, literally growing out of an Amish Friendship Bread starter kit from her daughter.

And, like the division of the starter kits, the novel took on a life of its own. Darien recalls: “As I was finishing the last piece [of the bread], I saw a woman in my mind who was reluctantly holding up a bag of the starter, regarding it with a frown. I didn’t know where she had gotten the starter but one thing was clear—she was enveloped in sadness, stuck in the day-to-day motions that mimicked life when in fact she hadn’t felt alive in years. I knew right then that I wanted to find out more, and I started writing that night.”

As the main character of Julia appeared to tell her story so, too, did all the other characters/residents of small town Avalon. In fact, when the author began writing, she didn’t know the cause of her character’s sadness. But as the story unfolded Darien realized that Julia and her sister were estranged, and that her son’s death was the reason why. Her reaction? “I felt a shock and sadness as if I were hearing the news from a friend—I experienced a kind of disbelief, a how-could-this-happen sort of response. I did think about my kids during this time, but as a writer I had to keep writing and follow the story to the end because I wanted to know if Julia would be okay.”

The author discovered more secrets and answers that evolved into the Friendship Bread synopsis:

An anonymous gift sends a woman on a journey she never could have anticipated.

One afternoon, Julia Evarts and her five-year-old daughter, Gracie, arrive home to find an unexpected gift on the front porch: a homemade loaf of Amish Friendship Bread and a simple note: I hope you enjoy it. Also included are a bag of starter, instructions on how to make the bread herself, and a request to share it with others.

Still reeling from a personal tragedy that left her estranged from the sister who was once her best friend, Julia remains at a loss as to how to move on with her life. She’d just as soon toss the anonymous gift, but to make Gracie happy, she agrees to bake the bread.

When Julia meets two newcomers to the small town of Avalon, Illinois, she sparks a connection by offering them her extra bread starter. Widow Madeline Davis is laboring to keep her tea salon afloat while Hannah Wang de Brisay, a famed concert cellist, is at a crossroads, her career and marriage having come to an abrupt end. In the warm kitchen of Madeline’s tea salon, the three women forge a friendship that will change their lives forever.

In no time, everyone in Avalon is baking Amish Friendship Bread. But even as the town unites for a benevolent cause and Julia becomes ever closer to her new friends, she realizes the profound necessity of confronting the painful past she shares with her sister.

About life and loss, friendship and community, food and family, Friendship Bread tells the uplifting story of what endures when even the unthinkable happens.

Please read The Prologue and Chapter One. Then discover what Amish Friendship Bread is, complete with a starter recipe.

Perhaps it’s been noticed that many of the winter/spring books presented here during the past months have centered on family and friends. With that in mind, Friendship Bread might be considered the literary equivalent of a welcome mat, telling the tales of an entire town. For Darien Gee (even when writing as Mia King) has the remarkable talent to transport readers into whatever world she’s created — in this novel, it’s Avalon, Illinois. The details describing the residents, their homes, streets, and landmarks are not intrusive yet combine to convey a strong sense of community. And the sharing of Friendship Bread bag starter kits only creates a stronger bond.

Populated by a multigenerational cast of characters who must cope with a range of sadness and problems, Avalon is refreshing in its sprit of hope. Hope that comes alive by the introduction of bread. Simple? Yes, except most major challenges are resolved by simple solutions. And, in truth, the novel’s message is that a single act’s ripple effect can make anything possible.

In this age of technology each one of us can choose to become connected. Cyberspace isn’t friendly Avalon, Illinois but it can promote the desire and power to reach out to share. A perfect, current example is being able to donate to the Read Cross for Japan Relief. After all bread comes in forms.

And that’s the beauty and truth of Darien Gee’s novel. Through her writing, the author took a bag of ingredients, squeezed it, added more individuals to the mix then turned it all into an enormously positive phenomenon. Warmth, genuine caring, and the fact that people need people transcends fiction, spilling out and into the Friendship Bread Kitchen. How does Darien feel about both her creations?

“We’re having fun in the Kitchen sharing Amish Friendship Bread recipes and community, and the Kitchen has taken a life of its own that includes the book but is not only about the book. I hadn’t expected it to go one way or another — I just thought it would be a fun thing to do and (like the starter) it kept growing. Amish Friendship Bread has changed my life in ways both big and small, and I know I’m not alone in saying that. I think Julia sums it up best when she tries the bread for the first time:

“’It hits the spot, as unexpected kindness often does.’”

For deliciously honest, comfort food for thought, Friendship Bread is a reading treat available tomorrow at local bookstores and online retailers. Enjoy, savor, and be sure to share it by gifting a copy to a friend!

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away a copy of Darien Gee’s Friendship Bread 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, April 6, 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 Darien Gee aka Mia King on
The Bread That Inspired a Novel

March 29, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[One of the most frequently asked questions of an author is: “Where did the idea for your novel come from?” In today’s guest post, Darien Gee aka Mia King (Good Things, Sweet Life, Table Manners) explains how her novel Friendship Bread “started.”]

Guest Darien Gee aka Mia King on the Bread That Inspired a Novel

If you’re never heard of Amish Friendship Bread, your life is about to change forever. Mine certainly was.

Amish Friendship Bread is similar to a quick bread except it’s made with a sourdough starter. If you’ve ever seen (or smelled) a bag of fermenting batter, I’m sure you’ll agree with me that it’s something you won’t likely forget.

Amish Friendship Bread is similar to a chain letter in that after ten days you’re asked to divide the starter into four portions, keep one for yourself and give the other three portions away to lucky (and unsuspecting) friends or neighbors so that they can do the same. After five rounds, there will be 1,024 bags of starter floating out there. After ten rounds: 1,048,576.

That’s a lot of starter to emerge from one bag of the stuff.

I’m often asked if Amish Friendship Bread is really Amish. I don’t know, and I’m not sure anyone else does, either. There’s no documented evidence of its origins, and I know some people’s suspicions are raised when they see instant pudding listed among the ingredients. But what I do believe is that the inspiration behind the bread is undoubtedly Amish in nature. It’s about friendship and community, about sharing what you have with others and expressing gratitude for the good things in your life.

Friendship Bread was inspired by my own experience with the bread, when my daughter brought it home along with a bag of starter she’d received from a friend. I was eating the last few crumbs when I started to think about a woman who receives the starter and just doesn’t want to do it. I saw a sadness hanging over this character and I knew I wanted to find out more. I started writing and the story quickly took shape—more importantly, it soon became clear that the book wasn’t about any one person, but an entire community ready for change and connection.

Friendship Bread is about what can happen when one person is willing to reach out and help another. It may seem like an overly simple solution, but maybe it’s not as insignificant as we think. Maybe there’s more power in it than we realize, and all it takes is one person who’s willing to give it a try.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of Rebecca Rasmussen’s The Bird Sisters in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Rebecca Rasmussen and The Bird Sisters. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, March 30, 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 Darien Gee (aka Mia King)

March 23, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles, Q&A

When Darien Gee was about to publish her first novel, her husband– Darrien Gee — was also releasing his first nonfiction golf book. Although their two genres were miles apart, to avoid any confusion Darien took the pen name of Mia King and became the author of Good Things, Sweet Life, and Table Manners. That was then and this is now, specifically April 5, 2011 when the first Darien Gee novel Friendship Bread will be released.

Although brief and simple, this one sentence best describes the novel: An anonymous gift sends a woman on a journey she never could have anticipated.

Even the following early praise offers a taste of the story:

“As comforting, warm and delicious as a slice of freshly-baked friendship bread.”— Jane Green, New York Times bestselling author of Promises to Keep

“The wonderful characters in Friendship Bread face life-changing adversity of the sort that either brings us down or transforms us into better people. Darien Gee has a writer’s heart and a baker’s sense of mixing it all just right. The result is a book you will read over and over.”—Nancy Pickard, New York Times bestselling author of The Scent of Rain and Lightning

“Deliciously entertaining! You’ll root all the way as these characters stumble toward forgiveness, understanding, and, ultimately, celebration. A perfect book club selection, Friendship Bread is a treat worth sharing with all the women in your life.”—Kate Jacobs, New York Times bestselling author of The Friday Night Knitting Club

The Divining Wand has scheduled a presentation/review of Friendship Bread for Monday, April 4, 2011 but, in the meantime, let’s meet the author through her “official: bio:

Darien Gee is an author, wife, and mother of three. She’s a Libra Monkey, a chocoholic, and of late, an Amish Friendship Bread addict. A former California resident, Darien served on the board of the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library and ZYZZYVA, an award-winning literary journal. She’s an alum of Squaw Valley Community of Writers. Her next Avalon novel, Memory Keeping, will be published in 2012 by Ballantine Books.

And now let’s get to know Darien, upclose and personal:

Q: How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A: Learning more and more about myself every day.

Q: What is your motto or maxim?
A: Do the things that bring you joy, and let go of the things that don’t.

Q: How would you describe perfect happiness?
A: Being true to yourself and feeling good about it—no guilt, no anxiety, no second guessing, no explaining.

Q: What’s your greatest fear?
A: Fear. Fear has a way of turning you upside down, of making you stop listening to yourself. It is, both figuratively and literally, a killer.

Q: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A: Let’s see … I live in the rolling green hills of a beautiful tropical island in the middle of the Pacific with a husband and three children I love and who love me … I think I’m good! But if pressed, well, France or Italy would be runner-ups, provided I have my gang with me.

Q: What are your most overused words or phrases
A: Really? Seriously? No, really?

Q: If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A: I’d love to be musically gifted with a gorgeous singing voice and the ability to play guitar and piano.

Q: What is your greatest achievement?
A: I had a home birth after a cesarean. I’m such a wimp when it comes to pain that I never thought I’d consider this option, much less go through with it. But I did, and it was an incredible experience.

Q: What’s your greatest flaw?
A: I don’t say no when I should.

Q: What’s your best quality?
A: My intuition.

Q: What do you regret most?
A: When I get into other people’s business. There’s always a tendency to render an opinion or get involved in a situation that you may have strong feelings about, but it really has nothing to do with you. If anything it just makes things worse—you think you’re helping, but you’re really not.

Q: What trait is most noticeable about you?
A: I’m told I talk fast and have a lot of energy.

Q: Who is a favorite fictional hero?
A: For me, every protagonist is a hero whenever they overcome odds and have a stronger sense of themselves by the end of the book. I just finished Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman—CeeCee is a wonderful, sweet character that you root for all the way.

Q: Who is a favorite fictional villain?
A: General Woundwort from Richard Adams’ wonderful novel, Watership Down.

Q: If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A: Tiger Woods. Was it worth it?

Q : What is your biggest pet peeve?
A: Overflowing laundry hampers. It’s just not right.

Q: What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A: Homeschooling my kids or possibly starting up another business. I’m an entrepreneur at heart.

Q: What’s your fantasy profession?
A: Movie producer.

Q: What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A: Kindness, compassion, intelligence.

Q: If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A: Kale. But I’d have to have access to olive oil and an oven, too.

Q: What are your 5 favorite songs?
A: I’m always changing so my tastes are always changing. Here’s what I’ve been listening to the past year:

Begin Again by Colbie Caillat
Bottle it Up by Sara Bareilles
I Gotta Feeling by Black Eyed Peas
Never Know by Jack Johnson
Somewhere over the Rainbow by Israel Kamakawiwoʻole

Q: What are your 5 favorite books?
A: I’m always changing so my tastes are always changing—even favorite classics move to the back burner from time to time. I’m happy to crack open any of the following books, anywhere in the book:

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Life and Death in Shanghai by Nien Cheng
Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Volger
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

Friendship Bread is more than a novel, discover what Darien is planning by following on Twitter, becoming a fan on Facebook, and a friend at the Friendship Bread Kitchen.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of Lori Roy’s Bent Road in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Lori Roy and Bent Road. 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.