The Divining Wand

Discovering authors beyond their pages…

Julie Schumacher: Why I Write

May 08, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[Julie Schumacher (complete listing of author’s books) has written one of the most appropriate books for summer — her latest YA novel The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls available in bookstores and online retailers today. After all, what could be better than a book about a mother/daughter summer book club?

According to The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, May 2012:
“The result is a story that explores the way books can and can’t inform lives, as Adrienne’s summer leads to some surprising, even tragic events; that makes this a natural for book-club discussion by reluctant and eager attendants alike.”

If reading can and can’t inform lives, what about writing? In today’s guest post, Julie Schumacher explains why and what writing does for her.]

Why I Write

There are two terrific essays called “Why I Write,” one by George Orwell and the other by Joan Didion. In his essay, Orwell confesses that as a boy, “I had the lonely child’s habit of making up stories and holding conversations with imaginary persons.”

Didion, who begins her essay with “Of course I stole the title for this talk from George Orwell,” notes that “In many ways writing is the act of saying I, of imposing oneself upon other people, of saying listen to me, see it my way, change your mind.”

Writers, I think, are both shy and egotistical. On the one hand, they like being left alone, hermit-like, scuttling into their libraries or burrows where they can chew on the bones of their own odd thoughts; on the other hand, they want to exercise god-like powers, re-ordering the world according to their liking – killing a character off here and there, inventing a new, pink planet, slowing time down. And once they’ve re-ordered the world, they want to emerge from the burrow and show it off to other people.

I usually start writing a piece of fiction because I find that my thoughts are stuck on a particular remark or event or idea. There is something in my head that I keep returning to – something that makes me feel restless. It’s as if I’m staring at a painting, and I’ve been told that if I look at it carefully enough, I’ll see the “magic eye” 3-D image hidden inside it. I write to try to find my way to that image. Through draft after draft, I wait for it to rise up off the page and announce itself – here I am, in plain sight, you idiot – and make sense to me.

“How do I know what I think until I see what I say?” That was E.M. Forster’s more sophisticated way of phrasing the same concept. Perhaps Forster didn’t know about the magic-eye image.

If I had to come up with a list of reasons why I write (and lists are incredibly gratifying, aren’t they?), it would have to include the following:

1) I write because stories take the random and bewildering stuff of our lives and try to make sense of them. (And it seems to me that we’re supposed to make sense of them.)
2) I write because not writing is worse.
3) I write because my ninth grade English teacher, Mrs. Pritchett, read my short story out loud in front of the entire class, and I thought, “This is the highlight of my life.”
4) I write because it’s hard to talk about the weird and misshapen things that lurk in the underlayers of my imagination – but I can write them down.
5) I write because I am not good at math or other reasonable things that make sense to most people.
6) I have no idea why I write.
7) I write because, when I was ten, I composed a rhyming elegy for a litter of orphaned, newborn rabbits that I tried to raise in a cotton-lined box in my bedroom, but all of them died, refusing the eyedropper of lukewarm milk and stiffening into tiny beautiful brown tufts one after the other so that I had to bury them in the back yard during individual funerals, and I was so heartbroken I couldn’t stand it – and I found that the elegy made me feel better.
8) I write because writing is:
a) infuriating
b) fulfilling
c) demanding
d) ever-changing
e) all of the above
[Hint: the answer is e]

Julie Schumacher, can be found on Facebook, and please remember that The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls is highly recommended for all ages.

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls by Julie Schumacher — in a random drawing — to anyone who leaves a comment on this post by 11:59 p.m. EST tonight! The winner will be notified by email tomorrow.

Suzanne Anderson: Why I Write

May 01, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[Although Suzanne Anderson (Mrs. Tuesday’s Departure in paperback and Kindle Edition) had enjoyed success in competitive sports and business, she became aware that her life needed something more. But what?

In today’s guest post, the author reveals how she discovered why she writes.]

Why I Write

On a warm summer afternoon in 1994, as I walked home from my job as Assistant Vice President in Corporate Finance for a Japanese Investment Bank, I paused, looked at the wall of skyscrapers that surrounded me, and had an epiphany. As much as I loved working on Wall Street, I suddenly understood that when it was my turn to retire, my absence would not be noteworthy. There would simply be someone else to take my place.

Then I thought of my mother who was retiring that year, who’d spent her entire career in early childhood education, and who, upon retirement boarded a plane to work in an international school in the former-Soviet Union. When she got up from her desk, she left a living legacy of children who had learned to read through her efforts.

Then I thought of my brother John, who is a building contractor, who could drive me around his hometown and show me the historic homes that he’d brought back to life, the clients he’d helped to create a dream home. He is an American success story. With his wife Heidi, he’s built a business that operates on principles of integrity and quality work. His legacy is as tangible as the windows that open up to a water view.

My epiphany that day was that I wanted to leave New York and find my own legacy. Of course, at the time, I had no idea of what it would be.

It was actually my other sister-in-law, Kathy, who provided a nudge in the ‘write’ direction. After I’d left New York and spent more time poolside than I care to admit, with a glass of wine in one hand and a book on ‘discovering your perfect career’ in the other, Kathy called and shared a newspaper article she’d read about romance authors and suggested that since I obviously liked to read, perhaps I should try writing.

Did I start to write just because Kathy told me to? No. Actually, I wrote my first book at the age of 5 and have had a life-long love affair with writing. However, Kathy’s encouragement was the impetus to overcome a history of what Brenda Ueland called ‘helpful criticism’, in her classic work, “If You Want to Write”. As my mother loved teaching, as my brother loved building, I have always loved books. But after one high school teacher discouraged my early writing efforts, I buried the revelation I experienced when I read a book, the singular desire to ‘do that too’, for the more practical pursuit of a career in business.

Unfortunately, recognizing a desire is not the same as creating a new life. I spent the next several years writing, submitting, getting rejected, and getting discouraged. I wrote four novels and several children’s books. And while I loved writing, my books found no home, so back I went into business.

Then last year with a desire to simply see my work in print, I took the plunge into self-publishing. I published Mrs. Tuesday’s Departure in a much edited form, changing the setting from World War Two Budapest to a dystopian European city, changing the First Person POV to Third Person, and completely eliminating the original spiritual message. All in the name of creating what I thought would be a more commercial version of the book I’d originally written. And as what happens when something is not its true self, it went nowhere.

In February of this year, I re-published Mrs. Tuesday in her original version and finally discovered my authentic writer’s voice….a cross between literary fiction and religious fiction, a contemporary woman who loves God passionately, but sometimes wonders if He’s really listening. As a result, I discovered that this was the underlying voice in all of my books and one that I was ready to share. Once I embraced this authenticity, I felt more confident about my work and my purpose.

Finally, let me leave you with two quick illustrations of Why I Write: The other day I was reading Cynthia Rylant’s children’s book The Heavenly Village. Its unflinching beauty brought tears to my eyes and filled me with an overwhelming hope that I will someday write a book that will have a similar impact. And then, a week before, I was at my desk working on the final draft of my next book and as I looked up from my desk and out the window, I realized that if I had a week to live, this is how I would choose to spend it. I would want to publish my next two books. These books would be my legacy. I have finally found the answer to the question I asked nearly twenty years ago on the Brooklyn Bridge.

To learn more about Suzanne, please follow her on Twitter, become a friend on Facebook, and experience her story of Mrs. Tuesday’s Departure in paperback or Kindle Edition. In fact, this novel as an ebook will be available in a Free Giveaway this Friday, May 4 – Monday, May 7.

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one paperback copy of Mrs. Tuesday’s Departure by Suzanne Anderson — 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.

Laura Dave: Why I Write

April 24, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[Last May, Laura Dave’s (The Divorce Party, London Is the Best City in America) third novel The First Husband (see presentation/review) was published and described as: “A fresh, funny take on the search for a soulmate.” —People.

It’s also brilliant, witty, and poignant yet the best news about the novel is that today it comes out as a paperback! Both the content and the flow of Laura’s writing are so natural that one might stop occasionally and wonder how does she capture that effortless magic? In today’s guest post, the author describes the simple (and successful) reason for why she writes.]

Why I Write

I write because I love to read.

Can it be that simple? Maybe yes, and maybe no. In thinking about the reasons I write, there are so many answers that immediately came to mind. Writing helps me answer questions, it is my primary way of reaching new understandings, it provides me a sense of joy, and it has (long before I did it professionally) helped me figure out my place in the world.

All of those answers are true. But the most true answer is the first one. I write because I love to read. I have loved to read since I was too young to even know what I was reading. For me, writing is the natural extension of reading. It is the other side of the same conversation about what makes our narratives feel special—the unique ways we experience joy, work through relationships and figure out what we want our lives to be. Writing is another way to experience stories, another way to share them.

While working on my novel The First Husband, I often returned to the notebook I’ve kept since I was in High School—which is really a testament to my love of reading. It is a notebook of quotes and ideas from things I’ve read that touched me. Things that I didn’t want to forget. Ideas that came from a variety of reading sources: favorite novels and biographies and memoirs and plays and poetry collections. Bad magazines and beautiful story collections. All the words that stuck with me, like only music or words can.

In thinking about why I write, I opened it again to look through it. One of my favorite quotes (a very apropos one!) popping out at me immediately.

“Keep in mind that the only person to write for is yourself. Tell the story you most desperately want to read.” – Susan Isaacs

And as I start looking through some of the others—Ernest Hemmingway’s advice on writing (“write one true sentence”); Toni Morrison’s thoughts on love (“He can’t value you more than you value yourself”); W.S. Merwin’s thoughts on dreams (“We are asleep with compasses in our hands.”)—I get that familiar desire to sit down and start telling a new story. Or get back to figuring out an old one.

Reading does that. Which is why, when I’m stuck, when I don’t know how to finish a sentence or a chapter or how to begin one, I’ll throw my books down from the bookshelf and sit on the carpet with ten books and have a little reading party. Just to remind myself that reading and writing is a messy, wonderful business.

And that I write because it is.

For more from Laura Dave, please follow her on Twitter, become a friend of on Facebook and enjoy The First Husband available in paperback today!

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of The First Husband by Laura Dave — 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.

Allison Winn Scotch: Why I Write

April 11, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[In her profile on Twitter, Allison Winn Scotch (The One That I Want, Time of My Life, and The Department of Lost and Found) describes herself as: Novelist, NY Times bestseller, celeb profiler, goldfish killer, dog walker, tantrum negotiator, ass-kicker, pop culture junkie, superwoman. Soon the author will be adding screenwriter as yet another role but first she’ll take time out to celebrate the release of her fourth novel, The Song Remains the Same, tomorrow.

Many fans first met Allison on the popular, long-running blog, Ask Allison, where she generously answers writing and publishing related questions. Yet, when asked why she personally writes, the author confessed never having put those thoughts into words until now.]

Why I Write

Why do I write? I’m not sure that I’ve ever asked myself this question before, or if I have, I’ve never fully answered it because it is too big, too encompassing to really get my brain around. I write for so many reasons, it’s hard to pinpoint them, to hold them down and say, “aha, this is what compels me.”

But after much consideration, here are a few reasons why I put words onto a blank page and hope that, many months and many pages later, they turn into something magical:

1. I write because writing for me, is a way to connect with others. One of the best parts of being a writer is hearing from readers, when they take a moment out of their busy lives to shoot you an email and say, “The story you told is also my story,” or “The characters you drew are similar to the characters in my own life,” or anything that lets me know that we’re all part of this big collective experience together. As a reader, I read books that touch upon themes or issues that I’m dealing with in my own life, and as a writer, I try to honor that honesty: that we’re all mucking our way through together, and that a lot of times, just knowing this – that we’re not alone – can help us make our way.

2. I write because, well, I really love words. Looking back on it, I was always the kid who would use ten words to write a five word sentence. I loved adjectives, descriptions, synonyms, idioms. I was the girlfriend who gave those movie-worthy speeches while in the midst of a break-up, not because they made any difference, but because I really loved the way that I could string words together. 🙂 Seriously. I think the same is true of my writing: I can write a lot of awful sentences, but when you craft that really, really, really good one, well, it’s nirvana.

3. I write because it is catharsis. I often say that if I weren’t a writer, I’d be an actress. There is something really therapeutic about spending time in someone else’s head, at least for me, whether that is writing a character or saying a character’s dialogue, as an actress would. When I’m writing, I honestly forget about wherever I am in my real life – I lose minutes, hours to the page, and in those minutes and hours, I really step outside my own life. Now, don’t get me wrong, my own life is pretty great. But in that time I spend on my manuscript, I’m able to pour out whatever quirks or issues I might be wrestling with onto my own characters, and a lot of times, I emerge wiser, calmer, happier. It’s my personal therapy session, just without the couch and the therapist’s bill.

4. I write because I love it. How lucky am I that I get to spend my days creating something from nothing, creating fictional lives and people and places and calamities and resolutions? I am so, so lucky, and not a day goes by that I don’t realize this. Sure, some of the bad days are dreary, but mostly, this career is heaven, and I love nearly everything about it. That may really be why I write – simply, because I love it. That I then have people to read my work is just the cherry on top.

* * * * *

In refreshing details from the post, Picture the Book: The Song Remains the Same, this a novel that asks:

Who are we without our memories? And how much of our future is defined by our past?

One of only two survivors of a plane crash, Nell Slattery wakes in the hospital with no memory of the crash – or who she is, or was. Now she must piece together both body and mind — with the help of family and friends who have their own agendas. She filters through photos, art, music and stories, hoping something will jog her memory, and soon – in tiny bits and pieces –Nell starts remembering…
It isn’t long before she learns to question the stories presented by her mother, her sister and business partner, and her husband. In the end she will learn that forgiving betrayals small and large will be the only true path to healing herself — and to finding happiness.

And, of course, these glorious critical reviews need to be repeated too:

“Bestseller Winn Scotch sparkles in her captivating fourth novel. Readers will love Nell and won’t be able to put the book down until they know how much of her past she wants to bring into her future.” – Publishers Weekly

“Scotch has drawn a fully three-dimensional heroine in Nell, and the story’s pacing perfectly mirrors the protagonist’s increasing rate of self-discovery. Scotch peppers her chapters with a number of pop-culture and musical references, giving the story a modern and lively feel. With shades of Sophie Kinsella’s Remember Me? (2008) and Liane Moriarty’s What Alice Forgot (2011), this novel is a breezy yet introspective examination of one woman’s newfound history.” –Booklist

“Readers who appreciate women’s fiction that investigates serious themes will enjoy Scotch’s fine novel. Reading groups will find much to discuss as well.” – Library Journal

As for my truth: In THE SONG REMAINS THE SAME, Allison has written the ultimate “what if?” by wiping her heroine’s mind clean. Nell can start over and become a “fabulous me.” Yet memories cannot be erased from one’s heart, especially when music triggers emotional recall and pulls Nell back to the past in order to understand her present. Writing stronger than ever — with brilliant insight –, the author tells a story of survival filled with courage and hope in discovering one’s truth.

However what Allison also does is keep the reader wondering who this woman truly is. All that is known of Nell is what Nell knows of herself, initially based primarily on “facts” from family and friends. Yet do others always share the same perspective or speak the entire truth? That, in itself, creates a fascinating, cautionary tale of choosing who to trust.

Highly recommended, The Song Remains the Same is a novel of emotional substance that will likely cause you to reflect as well as be entertained. And that’s the best in a book….enjoy!

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of The Song Remains the Same by Allison Winn Scotch — 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.

Sarah Pekkanen: Why I Write

April 10, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[Considered one of Atria Books’ rising stars, internationally bestselling author Sarah Pekkanen (Skipping a Beat and The Opposite of Me) promises to add to her success with a third novel, These Girls, releasing today in bookstores and online retailers.

There are fortunate individual born knowing what they want in life and having the talent to do just that. In today’s guest post, Sarah explains that’s why she write.]

Why I Write

I write because, even though it can be frustrating and ego-crushing and difficult, not writing would be so much worse. I write because it can be magical and uplifting and nurturing, too. I write because it’s what I’ve wanted to do ever since I was a little girl.

Writing has always been a part of my life, except for one dark period in my early thirties. My husband and I had two young boys by then, and I’d left my job as a features writer for The Baltimore Sun newspaper to stay home with them. I’d imagined I’d be able to free-lance for the paper, but the type of stories I did for The Sun – like racing to catch a plane the day of the Columbine school shootings, and locating and interviewing a boy who transformed from the class clown into an unlikely hero who saved dozens of lives – had suddenly become impossible for me to cover. I felt completely adrift; I’ve often described the sensation as similar to discovering my best friend had moved away without leaving a forwarding address or phone number.

Then one night, I began to type fiction. The words poured out of me, like water gushing from a garden hose once a kink in its middle is untangled. I wrote and wrote and wrote, and discovered something incredible: As much as I’d loved being a reporter, I enjoyed fiction even more.

Nowadays, if I’m away from my laptop too long, I feel itchy. I write a novel every year, along with a short story, newspaper reviews and articles, and a regular magazine column. There’s rarely a day when I’m not writing. It’s completely addictive: the more I write, the more I want to write. The thing that thrills me the most about writing fiction is that there’s always room for improvement – I can toil away at this craft for decades, and still have so much room to learn and grow.

I also write because it connects me to people. I adore going on Facebook, and interacting with readers and learning about their lives. I love popping onto Twitter and exchanging jokes with folks I’ve never met. And I love being able to interview real people about their jobs and lives, then weave those details into my novels. For example, for THESE GIRLS, a magazine staffer snuck me into the New York headquarters of a glossy women’s magazine and gave me a behind-the-scenes tour that was fascinating. Much of what I observed that day made it into THESE GIRLS.

I write because I’m lucky enough to have found the job of my dreams, and I can’t ever imagine letting it go!

* * * * *

Family secrets may shape us all, but it’s the rich, complicated layers of friendship that can save us.

That one sentence describes Sarah Pekkanen’s most compelling, true-to-life novel yet tells the story of three very different women as they navigate the complications of careers and love—and find the lifeline they need in each other.

And critics praise:

“A fun and engaging romp…Pekkanen’s authorial voice is sweetly snappy, the plot is character-driven, and the book ends satisfactorily without tying up every loose end. Fans of Sophie Kinsella and Jennifer Close will enjoy this refreshingly introspective, sharply realistic, and tenderly humorous novel.” —Booklist

“Pekkanen’s characters are sympathetic and familiar, and readers are likely to identify with aspects of each protagonist. Fans of Jennifer Weiner, Sarah Dessen, Liza Palmer, and Emily Giffin will strongly appreciate this smart novel by a rising star in women’s fiction.” —Library Journal

Now “picture the book” as the author talks to six sets of best friends about the healing power of female friendships.

(If the video doesn’t appear on your monitor, please view it here.)

Sarah loves social media and can be followed on Twitter and friend(ed) on Facebook. And for your reading enjoyment, These Girls is available right now!

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of These Girls by Sarah Pekkanen — 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.

Randy Susan Meyers: Why I Write

April 04, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[Although it’s been well over a year since Randy Susan Meyers debuted with her international bestselling novel The Murderer’s Daughters (see presentation/review), her writing continues to inform/enlighten in Beyond The Margins — a multi-writer blog, a sounding board, a daily dose of essays on the craft of writing — and The Huffington Post.

In today’s guest post, the author explains the need to share emotional truth in all her writing and also provides a glimpse of a second novel to be published in January 2013.]

Why I Write

When I was a kid, nothing was better than listening to my Aunt Thelma’s stories. She’d take humiliating awful situations and transform them into eye-popping, comic-tragic tales. Her pain was our gain.

Stories bang around my head and crowd my mind. I’m stuffed with ‘what if’ and ‘why did s/he do that?’ As a child, I made twice-weekly trips to the library. Writers were gods to me, purveyors of that which I needed for sustenance. Food. Shelter. Books. Those were my life’s priorities.

As an adult, I still feel that way. I’m constantly foraging for books that offer glimpses into a character’s psyche, that go deep enough to make me part of the choir, saying, “Oh yeah, me too, tell it, writer. True that, uh huh.”

As a writer, I’ve learned that reaching deep isn’t always comfortable. (My daughters will read this! My husband will think I’m portraying him!) And, honestly, there is a place on my shelf for soothing books. Sometimes I want a comfort read, a total escape, a warm place to rest. But my favorite books, the ones I return to time and again, are those gritty enough to have emotional truth (which is very different than the truth of events.) Thus, I work to write with a knife held to my own throat, so that my work will hold as much emotional truth as possible.

Do writers of dreadful happenings all come from dysfunctional families? I wrote a book that begins with two sisters who witness their father murder their mother and goes on to explore the myriad ways this event shapes their lives. Did my father kill my mother?

No. But he tried, and my sister and I were there. My sister let him in (after being told ‘don’t open the door for your father’) and somewhere in the background I stood, a silent four-year-old. Did that shape my work? I’m quite certain it did. Even though it is only the first chapter that holds my family DNA, the ongoing emotional tenor and the themes are all ripples from my past: invisibility, abandonment, neglect—much that was drawn on.

My next book, coming out in January 2013, The Comfort of Lies tells the story of three women connected by one small child: one gave birth to her, one’s husband fathered her, and one adopted her. The year their lives collide, they’re forced to make decisions about the child, their marriages, and face the damages of infidelity.

Did I give a child up for adoption? No. Did I adopt a child? No. But I struggled with issues of infidelity in ways that allowed The Comfort of Lies to come alive in my mind (and hopefully on paper.)

How does this happen, this weaving of truth and imagination? Does it always happen? One wouldn’t know without x-raying each writer’s past, but it’s a question I wonder about when reading my favorite books. What was that writer tapping into when they brought such depth to the page? Can a wrenching book be written without the writer taking a visit to their depths?

For me, writing transmogrifies fact into fiction, and thus, soothes my soul.

I used to play a song for my daughters, from Free to Be You and Me that swore that crying got the sad out of you. That’s kind of what writing does for me—it gets the sad, the mad, and the glad out of me.

Writing calms me. Writing excites me. Writing sorts out my world.

And writing lets me tell stories. Just like Aunt Thelma.

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Enjoy much more of Randy on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.

Peter Golden: Why I Write

April 03, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[Peter Golden — journalist, historian, and biographer — realizes his dream come true today with the release of his debut novel Comeback Love.

Although it may have taken years for this honest and realistic love story to be written and published, Comeback Love is a book to be treasured. For, as curious as this fairy godmother usually is about discovering the backstory, where or how the characters were developed, the novel’s message, and how much of the storyline might be autobiographical, I realized I did NOT want to know the answers to this book. Being pulled into pages where everyone and everything felt and looked (the descriptive writing is memorably vivid) genuine is more than enough. And how refreshing to read about a relationship that is based on the individuals involved as opposed to events that drive their story. Simply put, this debut is a “keeper.”

Whether working as a journalist, historian, biographer or novelist, who better to ask “Why I Write” than Peter Golden?]

Why I Write

Time moves, and I find myself, frequently against my will, moving right along with it. I’m a different husband than I used to be, a different father, and a different writer. Where my family is concerned, I’m different because in so many ways, large and small, what your loved ones need from you changes with the passing years. Yet I’m a different writer because the reasons I write have shifted, leaving me to marvel at how naive I once was and, I’m happy to say, how dedicated I have remained to the craft.

As a young teenager, long before I began writing seriously, it occurred to me that I had only one life and writing would enable me to enter worlds that were closed off to me—from pitching in a World Series at Yankee Stadium to residing in eighteenth-century Williamsburg or serving as your newly elected president.

By the end of college, I was familiar with Henry David Thoreau’s observation that most people wind up mired in quiet desperation, and since I was philosophically opposed to sustained misery, I started writing on a daily schedule. Thanks to the enchanting gift the young possess for self-deception, I soon convinced myself that writing was an effective method for bending reality in my preferred direction. Absolutely ridiculous, I know. And in my case, absolutely true.

Less than ten years later, I was earning a living by writing, and I knew that I was lucky to go to an office in my own house and pay my bills by doing work I enjoyed. Still, money, like love, is usually something you think about only if you don’t have enough, and although by my thirties I felt relatively secure in my career, on occasion I asked myself why I got up every morning to face a blank page.

Honestly, I’m not sure I had a good answer to that question back then.

Now, after writing almost every day of my life for over thirty-five years, here is what I discovered: nothing, other than the joys of family and friends, gives me more pleasure than writing a sentence that informs me emotionally or intellectually. Of course, I hope others are touched or informed by that sentence. But if not, at least I tried.

And I wrote the sentence.

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Like Nicholas Sparks and Robert James Waller, first-time novelist Peter Golden knows how to write the kind of nostalgic fiction that men and women alike fall for. In Comeback Love, a universal story about lost love, he offers an evocative debut that begins in the tumultuous 1960s and ends in the feverish thrill of present-day New York City. Over thirty-five years ago, Gordon Meyers, an aspiring writer with a low number in the draft lottery, packed his belongings and reluctantly drove away, leaving Glenna Rising, the sexy, sharpwitted med student he couldn’t imagine living without. Moving between past and present, the book is a journey into the hearts of two lovers who came of age in the 1960s and is a sensual exploration of youth, regret, desire, and the bonds that mysteriously endure in the face of momentous change.

Please listen and picture this poignant and nostalgic book.

(If the video doesn’t appear on your monitor, please view it here.)

Much more about Peter Golden can be found on his website, by following him on Twitter and becoming a friend on Facebook. And remember highly recommended Comeback Love is available at your local bookstore and online retailers today!

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of Comeback Love by Peter Golden — in a random drawing — to anyone who leaves a comment on this post by 11:59 p.m. EST tonight! The winner will be notified by email on Wednesday..

Sarah McCoy: Why I Write

March 14, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[In mid-January The Divining Wand had the pleasure of featuring Sarah McCoy (The Time It Snowed in Puerto Rico) a week before the release of her second novel The Baker’s Daughter and before her hectic book tour. Although much was learned about the author in The Revealing of Sarah McCoy, the true core of Sarah’s heart and personality shines through in today’s guest post.]

Why I Write

It may surprise some to learn that for a greater portion of my childhood, I was a desperately shrinking violet. I hid behind my mother’s skirt at church, fretted over attending schoolmate’s birthday parties, took my Christmas presents to the farthest corner of the room to unwrap at family gatherings. Social settings made me anxious.

My mom, an elementary school teacher, administered the Myers-Briggs exam, which I was more than happy to do alone at the kitchen table. To no surprise, I scored on the far side of Introversion. I wasn’t much of a talker, but that didn’t mean I didn’t have plenty to say. I felt things— deeply. Some days I thought I might burst with glee or sadness, pride or shame, love or hate. But spoken words were never my thing. They spilled out too fast, too haphazardly, out of control with my tongue in the way. In addition, I had something of a temper. We jokingly credit my Puerto Rican-Irish heritage, which may have doomed me from the start. Where some might’ve erupted in a cathartic purging of whatever it was that weighted their spirit, I imploded, burning with tears I found hard to fully express. For years, I felt as if my mind were a great torture chamber—a water tank of emotions, only I was no Houdini.

All of that changed the day my mom put a blank page on the table and handed me a pencil with the instructions, “Write it down, Sarah. Write down what you’re feeling.”

I can still vividly see that clean, white paper and smell the newly sharpened pencil shavings.

Write it down. Write anything I wanted? I thought it might be a trick, so I wrote the word we weren’t allowed to use in the house. “I hate…” I pushed so hard on the page that the letters appeared debossed. Then I stopped to think about it. Did I really ‘hate’ or was it something else—anxiety, frustration, suffocation. I couldn’t put an exact finger to my feeling, but I knew I’d written hate just to test the page, to say what I was forbidden to speak and see how it felt. I didn’t like it.

I flipped my pencil and erased. Gone. You couldn’t do that with spoken word. Once out, it blistered reality like a smoldering match head against skin. But writing allowed me time, space, a chance to express and reexamine, to create and mold until my feelings showed themselves true.

I began again: “Once a girl named Clara lived in a little house in the dark forest…” I wrote a story, and by the end was unburdened, lighter, and eager to share what I’d written with my mom, dad, and family so they would know how I felt. So they could understand that I wasn’t mad at them. I was just this—there—in the story. I’d discovered the key to unlocking myself.

Why do I write, you ask?

Because even now, in my thirties and married, the pen is still my key. It’s the only way I know to open. I write about the things that keep me up at night. The emotions that feel so large and consuming that if I don’t write them down, I might burst. Yes, I’m no longer the shy girl. I’m comfortable speaking about my feelings and opinions; but 99 percent of the time, I’ve already written them out in my journal or my stories. I write to understand my world. I write to connect with people. I write to find and express my truth.

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Sarah McCoy is the author of THE BAKER’S DAUGHTER and THE TIME IT SNOWED IN PUERTO RICO. THE BAKER’S DAUGHTER was praised as a “beautiful heart-breaking gem of a novel” by Tatiana de Rosnay and a “thoughtful reading experience indeed” by Chris Bohjalian. It is a Doubleday/Literary Guild Book Club selection. Sarah has taught writing at Old Dominion University and at the University of Texas at El Paso. The daughter of an army officer, her family was stationed in Germany during her childhood. She currently lives with her husband and dog, Gilbert, in El Paso, Texas, where she is working on her next novel.

Join Sarah on Goodreads, follow her on Twitter, and become a friend/fan on Facebook.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of Drifting House by Krys Lee — in a random drawing — to anyone who leaves a comment on the post, What and Why Krys Lee Writes by 8:59 p.m. EDT tonight! The winner will be announced here tomorrow.

Sarah Pinneo: Why I Write

March 07, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[In The Revealing of Sarah Pinneo, Sarah (The Ski House Cookbook) — debut fiction author of Julia’s Child — explained that her greatest fear(s) “will eventually become the basis for a novel.”

Is that the reason Sarah writes? Well, in today’s guest post, the novelist describes working out fears and much more. Enjoy!]

Why I Write

Writing appeals to me because it is the Rumpelstiltskin career: you spin gold from straw. Before I became a full-time writer, I worked on Wall Street, where investment was everything. Capital and money were always necessary to achieve anything.

With writing, everyone starts with the same thing: a blank page. It’s the ultimate meritocracy.

That said, I have a weakness for beautiful notebooks. I love crisp covers and tightly ruled pages, blank with expectation. I love pens which flow smoothly, and I prefer blue ink to black. I’d rather look at pens and paper than at designer shoes.

However, pretty paper is only a distraction. I might as well write on old grocery bags, as the result would probably be equivalent. The blank page is intimidating, but it’s also universal. Every book starts with one, and I don’t expect mine to be any different.

Also, I write because it’s the best way I know to work out problems. I wrote Julia’s Child because I wanted to make sense of all the noisy voices arguing about food and parenting. They surrounded me. By assigning their arguments to characters in my novel, I was able to have fun with a discourse that might, on another day, have caused me anxiety.

When I was a little girl my music teacher father used to direct a high school marching band.
He liked the music, but he didn’t enjoy the fact that he was expected to choreograph the band members marching around on the field at half time. He had a set of pawns that he’d made himself, from balsa wood. He would sit at the kitchen table–one pawn for each band member–and arrange them into formations.

That’s what I do when I’m putting together a story. I don’t literally move pawns around, but it’s effectively the same exercise. My father also used to curse at the pawns. The clearest memory I have of this exercise is how frustrated he became trying to form shapes and have everything come out even.

Novels and marching bands, unlike real life, usually have to come out even. It doesn’t always go well. But I’m so lucky to be able to try.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of Julia’s Child by Sarah Pinneo — in a random drawing — to anyone who leaves a comment on this post by 8:59 p.m. EST tonight! The winner will be announced here tomorrow.

The Revealing of Rachel Bertsche
and Why She Writes

March 01, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts, Profiles, Q&A

[Introduced in the post, Picture the Book: MWF Seeking BFF: My Year Long Search for a New Best Friend, relocated Chicago writer/editor Rachel Bertsche chronicled her search for a new, “closer in proximity” friend in MWF Seeking BFF: My Year Long Search for a New Best Friend. Due to email snafus, Rachel’s Q&A was MIA but can now be presented along with her guest post on why she writes. Yes, a double post plus a Book Giveaway and now, without further ado, here’s Rachel.]

Although Rachel Bertsche’s quest for a best friend in her new home of Chicago was personal, the author focused on a dilemma that have many searching for a new and/or another best friend.

Let’s meet this debut author through her “official” bio:

Rachel Bertsche is an author, journalist and editor in Chicago, where she lives with her husband. Her work has appeared in O, The Oprah Magazine, Marie Claire, More, Teen Vogue, Seventeen, Every Day with Rachael Ray, Fitness, Women’s Health, New York, Huffington Post,, and more. Prior to leaving the office life for the comforts of working from home (and in her pajamas), Rachel was a producer for and an editor at O, The Oprah Magazine.

And now it’s time to get to really know Rachel, quite possibly even better than some of her “trial” BFF.

Q. How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A. I am at my happiest right about now.

Q. What is your motto or maxim?
A. Do one thing at a time. (Or try, at least.)

Q. How would you describe perfect happiness?
A. I’m not sure there is such a thing as perfect happiness. To me, happiness is happiness. It looks and feels different for everyone. I don’t think one type of happiness is better than another. Even in my own life, I could have two relal happy days, but they might be totally different. Maybe happiness is like porn: You know it when you see it.

Q. What’s your greatest fear?
A. Losing loved ones.

Q. If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A. Is it so lame to say right here, where I am… which is on my couch? Yes? Ok, Sicily.

Q. With whom in history do you most identify?
A. I want to say someone super cool like Annie Oakley, but that would be a real stretch. The truth is I have no idea. I guess I feel like so many people in history went through so much so that people like me could be where we are today. So I don’t identify as much as feel really grateful.

Q. Which living person do you most admire?
A. Michelle Obama is pretty amazing.

Q. What are your most overused words or phrases?
A. When it comes to speaking: “Literally.” In my writing: “just.”

Q. If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A. To dance!

Q. What is your greatest achievement?
A. MWF Seeking BFF. That I wrote a book at all still amazes me. That I wrote one that someone agreed to publish, and that enough people read to make it a bestseller…I’m still pinching myself.

Q. What’s your greatest flaw?
A. I’m so impatient.

Q. What’s your best quality?
A. Don’t take myself too seriously.

Q. What do you regret most?
A. Any days I should have spent with my father and didn’t.

Q. If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A. JK Rowling. I just want to know—for one day!—what it would be like to walk around with that kind of imagination.

Q. What trait is most noticeable about you?
A. My curly hair.

Q. Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A. Neville Longbottom

Q. Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A. A tie! Ed Rooney (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) and Regina George (Mean Girls)

Q. If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A. Michael Jordan. I’d say: “You are awesome! Also, my husband wore Air Jordans to our wedding.” Or maybe Sheryl Swoopes or Rebecca Lobo or Hope Solo. Those female athletes who have left me in awe over the years. I’d tell them that they inspire me. That when I watched them play when I was a kid (or with Hope Solo, even as an adult) I felt like I, too, could kick some ass.

Q. What is your biggest pet peeve?
A. The sound of cardboard rubbing together. Ugh.

Q. What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A. That’s the only occupation, in some form or another, that I’ve ever had! To say editor would probably be a copout, but it’s true.

Q. What’s your fantasy profession?
A. Oh there are so many: Yoga teacher. Bookstore owner. Book editor. Pop culturist (not an actual profession, but I’d like to turn it into one). Ballerina.

Q. What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A. Sense of humor, kindness, intelligence.

Q. If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A. If calories didn’t count? French fries. Otherwise, um, still french fries.

Q. What are your 5 favorite songs?
A. Trick question! Depends on the day. If you looked at my ipod now you’d think I only listen to Glee. I’m that person who no matter what song comes on, I say “ohmygosh this is my favorite song!”

Q. What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A. The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, Harry Potter series (counting the whole series as one but if I have to choose I guess Prisoner of Azkaban is my favorite since that’s when the whole series changed for me), Little Women, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer, Zeitoun by Dave Eggers. (Honorary mentions to A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving and AJ Jacobs’ books)

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