The Divining Wand

Discovering authors beyond their pages…

Guest Jenny Nelson
On Food, Florence, and Inspiration

September 14, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[Ah sweet memories — particularly those deep, heartfelt ones that inspire authors to wrap a novel around them. In today’s guest post, Jenny Nelson describes how her first trip to Italy began a love affair and ultimately a setting for her debut novel, Georgia’s Kitchen.]

On Food, Florence, and Inspiration

The first time I went to Florence I was 20 years old and had just finished two semesters in Mardrid, where I majored in “mucha marcha,” the distinctly Madrileño art of partying until four in the morning, learned “un poquito” of Espanol and traveled as much as my budget and my class schedule would allow. After a month of Eurailing among Let’s Go Europe’s top college destinations, my best friend and I parted ways in Brindisi, Italy (the only reason to go there, at least then, was to catch the ferry to and from Greece), and I trained on to Florence alone. I was meeting up with my dad, whom I hadn’t seen since the previous August; it was now almost a full year later. We met in the lobby of our hotel, an elegant, turn-of-the-century mansion, where I couldn’t help but feel out of place with my giant backpack, sleeping bag bungee-corded on the side, and my proudly-purchased-in-Munich Birkenstocks, which were finally comfortable enough to wear (they’d put me through hell in Paris – no one warned me that before becoming the most comfortable, if not the most attractive, sandals, my feet would be sliced, diced and rubbed raw). If my dad was surprised by my 20-pound-heavier frame, which even my baggiest Gap t-shirt couldn’t conceal, he didn’t say anything. We were both starving, so we took a stroll to a local trattoria, a tourist restaurant, the kind whose menu offered photos of the food and a prix fixe that included insalata mista to start and a scoop of gelato to finish. I ordered a Coca Cola Light and the spaghetti pomodoro. Despite all indications to the contrary – the fluorescent lights, the preponderance of spoken English and German, the cheesy photos – the spaghetti was perfectly cooked, the sauce rich and velvety, brightened by basil and chunks of San Marzano tomatoes. I was in love.

Ten years and many trips to Italy later, I was back in Florence and back in love, this time with my fiancé, and we were there to be married. After a civil ceremony at the Palazzo Vecchio in the sala matrimoniale, a sumptuous room adorned with floor-to-ceiling tapestries, crushed red-velvet upholstery and a chandelier as big as the bathroom in our Manhattan apartment, we held our religious ceremony and reception in a villa overlooking the Duomo. We shared then, and still share today, a love of Italian food, wine, art, architecture and language (though only one of us can speak Italian, and it’s not me).

Ten years after this, my debut novel, Georgia’s Kitchen, is on sale at bookstores and online. Though I never became a chef, or a food stylist, or a recipe tester, or a farmer (unless you count the insanely delicious Mr Stripey tomatoes growing in my vegetable garden), I wrote my first book about a chef. An American chef at a trendy New York restaurant who finds herself suddenly unemployed and unengaged, packs her knives and travels to – you guessed it – Italy.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away a copy of Leah Stewart’s Husband and Wife in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Leah Stewart and Husband and Wife. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, September 15, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winner to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to see if you’re a winner.

Our Authors Journey, IV

June 17, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles

Beginning with a late January post, The Divining Wand has revealed how its successful authors have traveled their personal road to publication. And now the remaining five answer the questions of how they handled rejection and what kept them going to reach their destination?

Alicia Bessette (Simply from Scratch coming August 5, 2010):

“Years passed between the day I really got serious about writing, and the day I signed a publishing contract. There is no general time-line for when you “should” have something published. Everyone’s on her own path. It takes some writers decades to achieve publication.

“During the submissions process, I became very familiar with rejection. What kept me going? A husband who believes in me, and an inner refusal to quit. Too, I surrounded myself with positive people who made me feel as though I was bound to succeed. And I tried to avoid negative people whose comments, questions, or attitudes made me second-guess myself.”

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

“I’ve been very lucky. Very lucky. My first book was nonfiction and I sold it myself, getting a publisher only after a handful of rejections. My first novel was sold about 4 months after it went on submission. That is remarkably fast. However, it didn’t feel that way at the time, and the novel was rejected by about a dozen publishers. As those rejections were coming in, it felt awful. I started to lose hope. I am a Gemini so I feel uniquely qualified to be on submission. Half of me has complete faith that I will be successful and the other half completely believes I’m a big fat failure. What kept me going is the optimistic half of me. That and my agent’s belief in me, and my husband and my friends.”

Eileen Cook (Unpredictable, What Would Emma Do? YA and Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood YA ):

“The answer to this question depends on when you want to start the clock ticking. I always wanted to write and my parents have one of my earliest “works” dating back to second grade. If we use that as the starting point then it took me a looooooong time. If we start from the time I finished Unpredictable, it took me about five months to find an agent and about six months with her between revisions and when I sold. Once I sold it was two years before the book came out. This is my way of pointing out that writing makes a lousy get rich quick plan.

“Rejection is a part of the publication process. When writers gather they show off their rejection scars like old war veterans. My approach to rejection was to feel sorry for myself for a maximum of 24 hours and then pull up my big girl panties and move forward. There is a saying that the difference between an unpublished writer and a published writer is perseverance. Rejection was just the world’s way of trying to figure out how serious I was about this publication plan.”

Judy Merrill Larsen (All the Numbers):

“From the day I wrote the first sentence of my first draft, to the day my book was available in stores was almost exactly 7 years. I learned to have a very thick skin to deal with the rejections (teaching high school and having kids had already helped me with that!), and I even learned to use the rejections as inspiration to keep going, to get it right. My friends and family also helped, encouraging me every step of the way. And I also knew that giving up simply wasn’t an option–this mattered, my story mattered, and I had to keep going.”

Maud Carol Markson (When We Get Home, Looking After Pigeon):

“How long did it take before you finally got published? And how did you handle rejection, what kept you going? My first novel got published very quickly, but then it took me twenty years until my next novel was published. I handled rejection by getting very involved in other endeavors– not simply seeing myself as a writer.”

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Have you heard?

Allison Winn Scotch (The Department of Lost and Found, Time of My Life and The One That I Want) presents:

The Mother of All Giveaways

On her Wednesday, June 16, 2010 blog post, Allison writes:

“Yes, I use those words intentionally. Because today, I wanted to give shout-outs to some women writers (okay, they’re not all mothers) who have in some way been kind or helpful to me throughout my career, and well, throughout certain times of my life. Writing is a very solitary endeavor, but thanks to some of my friends, I always feel like I have a wide network of support. All of these women are generous – with blurbs, with advice, with open ears when we just need to complain, and just as importantly, all of them have (relatively) new books out. 🙂 And I’m grateful for them, not just for their brilliant words that go onto the page, but for their friendship.


Here’s the deal:

To enter the contest, click over to my Facebook page, where this contest is announced. Click “like,” on the giveaway or leave a comment underneath the announcement. You’ll be entered. Just like that. I’ll leave it open until Friday at 3pm EST, when I’ll choose the winners, each of whom will receive one of the fabulous books listed below. Oh, and did I mention that each copy will be signed? Yes, the lovely ladies will be sending their autograph too.

Here are the goods that you’ll be up to win:” (Scroll down.)

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Announcement: The winner of Three Wishes by Carey Goldberg, Beth Jones, and Pamela Ferdinand is Stacey.

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