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Kristina Riggle: Why I Write

June 20, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Books, Guest Posts

[Having written/published three successful novels in two years, Kristina Riggle (Real Life & Liars, The Life You’ve Imagined, and Things We Didn’t Say) has become a critically acclaimed and well-known/loved author who ends her third career year with Keepsake, releasing next Tuesday, June 26th.

Perhaps the best word to describe Kristina’s writing is “real.” And there’s good reason for that since it’s who she is and why she writes.]

Why I Write

Why do I write? “I love it” is the short answer, but that’s obvious and boring. I love to sing, too, but I’m not doing that professionally. I write because it’s what I know. What I am, in fact.

What I mean is that writing is “it” for me. My thing. People ask me how long I’ve been writing, and I always say, “Since I knew how to read”. My grade school, Townline Elementary, always encouraged writing, and the Young Author’s Day preparation –when we all wrote stories and made little books out of construction paper with laminated covers – was my very favorite time of year.

You know how dancers will say they’ve been at the ballet barre since they had baby teeth? Or basketball players spent dawn to dusk shooting hoops on the playground? I used to sit on my feet to better reach my manual typewriter as it sat on the particle board desk in my bedroom, in front of the window looking out over the daylilies. I would sprawl outside on a warm summer day on a blanket with a notebook and pen, and write sentences for a melodramatic story of young love, or a murder mystery.

Some kids just have a “thing”, and you watch them, and you feel like you can see their future. Is every kid like that going to be a superstar? Of course not. But you can tell they feel most alive, most in their element, pursuing that art, or sport, or study.

I was a kid like that, and my thing was writing. My eighth grade English teacher signed my yearbook, “Keep on writing!” I won a citywide writing contest when I was fifteen. Sure, I beamed for the praise – who wouldn’t? – but I would have written without it, because I loved it.

What was true then, as a child, is still true now. I feel most “me” when I write.

I didn’t jump into writing novels for a living. I was a journalist first, but that’s writing, too. Any career I chose was going to involve writing. That was inevitable.

Writing always was my “thing”. Simple as that.

* * * * *

Keepsake is a timely and provocative novel that asks: What happens when the things we own become more important than the people we love?

Trish isn’t perfect. She’s divorced and raising two kids—so of course her house isn’t pristine. But she’s got all the important things right and she’s convinced herself that she has it all under control. That is, until the day her youngest son gets hurt and Child Protective Services comes calling. It’s at that moment when Trish is forced to consider the one thing she’s always hoped wasn’t true: that she’s living out her mother’s life as a compulsive hoarder.

The last person Trish ever wanted to turn to for help is her sister, Mary—meticulous, perfect Mary, whose house is always spotless . . . and who moved away from their mother to live somewhere else, just like Trish’s oldest child has. But now, working together to get Trish’s disaster of a home into livable shape, two very different sisters are about to uncover more than just piles of junk, as years of secrets, resentments, obsessions, and pain are finally brought into the light.

Critical Praise:

“Riggle offers a marvelous and sensitive portrayal of rich, full characters, using realistic dialogue and intriguing secondary subplots. The housecleaning scenes leave the reader feeling horrified yet sympathetic at the same time. She also employs a light sense of humor, while never making fun of the disorder at hand. Highly recommended.”

- Booklist (starred review)

“Touching and timely” – Publishers Weekly

“This story of two sisters…is as unflinching as it is compassionate. I was pulled in from the first page, as Trish and Mary reckon with the devastations of loss and the bonds of family, and as they make their hard, brave, often funny journeys toward hope and wholeness.” – Marisa de los Santos, New York Times bestselling author of Falling Together

“Kristina Riggle addresses the difficult turf of the hoarder with compassion and understanding. With its contrasting sisters-one unable to let go of things, the other unable to allow clutter into her life-Keepsake immerses us in the complicated world of family and love.” – Meg Waite Clayton, bestselling author of The Four Ms. Bradwells and The Wednesday Sisters

Now here’s an Excerpt from (available for pre-order) Keepsake.

This fairy godmother has “known” Kristina Riggle since she waltzed around The Debutante Ball during the year of waiting to become a published author. What I knew then and still realize today is that her writing has never, ever disappointed because of how honest and basic she expresses the truth. Kristina captures storylines by taking a slice of life and creating them into novels to which we can all relate. The stunning aspect is that she makes it feel so easy….enjoy!

Please visit Kristina Riggle’s website, follow her on Twitter and like her novels on Facebook.

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of Keepsake by Kristina Riggle — 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.

Kristina Riggle and Things We Didn’t Say

June 27, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books

From the front cover:

“Impossible to put down,
even harder to let go of.”
__Julie Buxbaum, author of
The Opposite of Love,
After You

In her first two books — Real Life & Liars and The Life You’ve Imagined –, Kristina Riggle wrote about ordinary individuals caught up in the dilemma of how to resolve complicated problems in their lives. However the author twists the scenario a bit in Things We Didn’t Say available for purchase tomorrow at your local bookstore and online retailer.

Kristina’s third novel is breathlessly insightful and emotionally charged — a book one lives, rather than reads. Its intimacy and immediacy pulls the reader into a family crisis that escalates to a shattering breaking point all within the time frame of forty-eight hours. Believable? It could not be more honest.

First, however, is the twist that the main female character has already decided what to do about a problem. She’s packed and ready to run away from the family she hoped to belong to when a sudden, frightening event causes her to stay….a while longer. Ah, but what then?

Here is the synopsis for Things We Didn’t Say:

What goes unsaid can sometimes speak the loudest . . .

What makes up a family? For Casey it’s sharing a house with her fiancÉ, Michael, and his three children, whom she intends to nurture more than she ever took care of herself. But Casey’s plans have come undone. Michael’s silences have grown unfathomable and deep. His daughter Angel seethes as only a teenage girl can, while the wide-eyed youngest, Jewel, quietly takes it all in.

Then Michael’s son, Dylan, runs off, and the kids’ mother, a woman never afraid to say what she thinks, noisily barges into the home. That’s when Casey decides that the silences can no longer continue. She must begin speaking the words no one else can say. She’ll have to dig up secrets—including her own—uncovering the hurts, and begin the healing that is long overdue. And it all starts with just a few tentative words. . . .

While that is the storyline, Kristina describes the novel as “…a messy, grown-up love story because real love must be able to endure through the worst, most confusing and difficult times. Sometimes love alone isn’t enough to sustain a couple, when the storm comes, as it always will.”

It will, it does and, without being able to speak up in common agreement, divorce usually follows. When children are involved, post-divorce couples/parents remain bound together creating (hopefully) a polite, healthy relationship. However when Michael and Mallory — the novel’s other two adult characters — are that divorced couple/parents, one can only expect the unexpected.

This also makes the book a contemporary story of a blended family in which a young woman falls in love with a man and his three children. Bearing her own unspoken, emotional scars, she is seeking to love and belong. And he is willing to try to recapture the fun and sense of true love. It’s not surprising that Kristina says:

“I’m in awe of the optimism and determination of those who create blended families. By their very nature, these couples walk into a their new relationship bearing scars of the past, moreso than those who have never been married before, and I find their willingness to give it another try inspiring. I also wanted to write about a competent single dad who has primary custody of his kids, because it goes against the grain of the pop-culture stereotype of the distant or bumbling divorced dad.”

With such good intentions, how could Casey and Michael’s relationship not at least lead to a wedding, instead of an about-to-be runaway bride? Well there are three children — two of whom are teenagers — and ex-wife Mallory to add to the mix.

TRUTH: This author raises the dramatic tension almost as high as possible with the introduction of Mallory, yet there is not one false step in her portrayal of who she calls “the first true antagonist I’ve tackled.”

She is real and, more likely than not, everyone will recognize a Mallory in their life. Nevertheless Kristina admits:

“I did my utmost not to turn her into a caricature of pure villainy. She is damaged, but I would not say she’s evil. It’s an interesting question that Michael wrestles with throughout their marriage, how much control she has over her own actions, and thus how much personal responsibility she bears. I also found the failed marriage between Mallory and Michael to have a life of its own as well, and it was a challenge to portray that relationship in a way that was understandable and relatable. Sometimes the story of a marriage isn’t easily understood, especially by those from the outside looking in, and I hoped to give the readers some insight into that story.”

Such is a prime example of Kristina Writing in Shades of Gray with complex characters behaving badly. Because, as a writer, she could not feel protective of Michael, Casey, Mallory, and the children. If she did, nothing bad would ever happen to them and a very boring story would be told. Instead the author took on the difficult task in making sure each character developed with his/her own story in order to become necessary and not just a stereotype in the general plot.

TRUST: Julie Buxbaum’s quote on the book’s front cover tells all you need to know about Things We Didn’t Say. And then there are my words for the author: Brava, Kristina, Brava!

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Things We Didn’t Say by Kristina Riggle 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, June 29, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be notified by email as well as announced Thursday on my Facebook page.

Guest Kristina Riggle on
Writing in Shades of Gray

June 21, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[]In real life there are at least two sides to every story and nothing is either black or white. In today’s guest post, Kristina Riggle (Real Life & Liars, The Life You’ve Imagined, and Things We Didn’t Say coming June 28, 2011) explains how this same fact applies to people — whether real or fictional.]

Writing in Shades of Gray

Early in my career as a novelist, I sighed with relief that my writing no longer had to hurt anyone’s feelings.

In my newspaper days, I had to print nasty things that Politician A said about Politician B, because both were prominent and that made such mud-slinging “news.” I remember interviewing a trembling mother about her murdered daughter, and the poor choices the young woman made which the police thought contributed to her slaying. More than once I remember interviewing someone and the person would raise their eyes to meet mine and ask, “Do we have to put in the part about (embarrassing yet newsworthy background) ?” And I’d have to say yes, we do.

Oh sure, like all journalists I reminded myself that the truth hurts but is necessary. That I was just doing my job. And I still believe this to be true. Obviously, journalists can’t sanitize their stories for the sake of protecting feelings.

But when I quit that day job and began the transition to fiction writing, I thought with great relief that those days of hurting with my words were behind me.

Or, are they?

When people ask what I write, my glib answer is, “I write novels about screwed-up people.” My characters behave badly, early and often. They fumble their way toward something better by the end (most of them, usually) but to say they are “flawed” is the least of it.

I write about screwed-up people because they are interesting, even if they are not always endearing. Some of the interesting-not-always-endearing characters in THINGS WE DIDN’T SAY include a divorced father named Michael, so wrapped up in his fading career and his ex-wife’s drama he barely notices his fiancée struggling to stay above water in his stormy household.

The young fiancée, Casey, has kept huge chunks of her life hidden from the man she claims to love, not comprehending how damaging her secrets would be when spilled into the light of day.

The ex-wife, Mallory, manipulates the other characters and ratchets up the drama the minute she arrives on the scene.

To me these people are just made up and the story is made up. What could be the harm?

My mother, reading an advance copy, told me she assumed that my kid sister’s childhood tummy aches must have inspired the stomachaches suffered by the youngest child in the story, Jewel.

Oh. I hadn’t even realized I’d done that. (Sorry, Kim).

I’ve learned by now, on book three, that people will read themselves into fiction (even if they didn’t grow up in the same household as the author). And if they see themselves in my characters behaving badly, my words might sting.

The only remedy I can imagine is for me to treat all my characters with respect and sincerity, even the ones that will make readers want to throw the book across the room. Sure, my characters behave badly, but they are complex and real and rounded. In other words, even the worst ones aren’t completely bad.

Just like my journalism subjects. In newspapers and novels both, I work in shades of gray.

* * * * *

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away three copies of Making Waves by Tawna Fenske in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Presenting Debutante Tawna Fenske and Making Waves. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, June 22, 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 Further Revealing of Kristina Riggle

June 15, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles, Q&A

On June 15, 2009 the presentation/review of Kristina Riggle‘s debut novel Real Life & Liars launched The Divining Wand and last summer she graced this site again with The Life You’ve Imagined. Now, with a critically acclaimed reputation and an ever-growing fanbase, this author/friend returns with her third book, Things We Didn’t Say available June 28, 2011.

Described in one sentence, Things We Didn’t Say is: A story of a frayed blended family about to come undone completely when a teen-age son goes missing.

And the early Praise follows:

“The historic home in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where most of the book is set, takes on the presence of another character, while the constrained time period adds to the intimate feel of this absorbing novel about a blended family.”

-Booklist



“An involving portrayal of the obstacles confronting today’s families.”

- Publishers Weekly



“Riggle paints with exquisite care a not-so-pretty picture of modern life, when running away can seem like the only option if it promises just a little bit of freedom.”

Library Journal



“Don’t open the first page of this novel unless you’re prepared to sacrifice all other commitments for the next 48 hours or so! This is Riggle’s best yet. Compelling, believable, and full of delicious twists, this story will forever change how you relate to strangers, friends, and even family—reminding you that everyone you meet might be carrying her own secret struggles.”

– Katrina Kittle, author of The Blessings of the Animals and The Kindness of Strangers



“In this moving and captivating novel, Kristina Riggle explores with depth and honesty the question of how we define a family, and the myriad ways we all seek to shed our difficult pasts. Things We Didn’t Say is impossible to put down, and even harder to let go of.”

– Julie Buxbaum, author of The Opposite of Love and After You

The Divining Wand has scheduled a presentation/review of Things We Didn’t Say for Monday, June 27, 2011 but, until then, let’s read an updated version of the author’s “official” bio:

Kristina Riggle lives and writes in West Michigan. Her debut novel, Real Life & Liars, was praised by Publishers Weekly for its “humorous and humane storytelling” and by Booklist as “a moving and accomplished first novel.” The book was a Target “Breakout” pick and a “Great Lakes, Great Reads” selection by the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association. The Life You’ve Imagined was honored as an “IndieNext Notable” book by independent booksellers.

Kristina has published short stories in the Cimarron Review, Literary Mama, Espresso Fiction, and elsewhere. She is also a freelance journalist writing primarily for The Grand Rapids Press, and co-editor for fiction at Literary Mama. Kristina was a full-time newspaper reporter for seven years before turning her attention to creative writing and freelancing. As well as writing, she enjoys reading, yoga, dabbling in (very) amateur musical theatre, and spending lots of time with her husband, two kids and dog.

And, now, here’s another opportunity to get to know the real Kristina:

Q: What would you choose as the theme song of your life?
A: “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” from Sound of Music because I’m stubborn with a Pollyanna streak believing in dreams that come true, etc. And I have a weakness for showtunes.

Q: Possible pseudonym?
A; My name IS a pseudonym. Riggle is my maiden name. I used to not like it — it sounds so funny — but now I’m attached to it. Plus it has given rise to a series of hilarious nicknames: The Riggler, Riglette, Wiggle, Wriggle, and this last one I shall choose if I ever do roller derby: Big Rig.

Q: Name three “bests” of being a published author.
A: Fan mail, meeting readers, and seeing my books on bookstore and library shelves.

Q: Favorite book release season of the year?
A: Summer, because mine always come out in the summer… Really, “season” is something I don’t think much about. I’ll buy books any day, any weather.

Q: If given the opportunity, which reality show would you be on?
A:Project Runway so I could meet Tim Gunn. Too bad I can’t sew for beans.

Q: Favorite childhood fairy tale?
A: I don’t remember being much interested in fairy tales as a kid, but I do remember my little sister nagging me to drive her to Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” when it was out in theaters. I grudgingly agreed, and loved the movie! I left humming the songs and loving the bookworm Belle heroine, and my sister was like, “Eh, it was okay.” Still love that movie.

Q: What U.S. city would you like to visit that you haven’t been to yet?
A:Tie between San Francisco and New Orleans.

Q: Your reward after a day of writing?
A: Another day of writing! I do like shiraz and dark chocolate if I want to reward myself after a very productive (and/or stressful) week.

Q: What 3 personal qualities are LEAST important to you?
A: Vanity, avarice, laziness.

Q: An author quote that inspires you?
A: I have such a quote in a typewriter-shaped picture frame next to my computer. The frame was a gift for my thirtieth birthday with the suggestion I put an inspirational quote in it. “A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.” (Richard Bach.) At the time I was an amateur. Now I’m not.

Q: Where do you like to read?
A: I mostly read in bed before turning out the light but if I could have my preference, I’d read in the sunshine in a lawn chair. I don’t get much “laze in the sun” time, though.

Q: Book or ebook reader?
A: Real book. I’m not an e-reader hater, but I have yet to see one which can “turn pages” well enough to keep up with my fast reading, and also be read in bright sunlight. Plus, I can drop my book in the bath or get sand all over it and it’s no big deal.

Q: Growing up, who was your teen idol? You mean, who did I crush on?
A: Jon Bon Jovi. And he still looks good!

Q: If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
A: I wish I could be more like Mira, the heroine of my first novel, and not give a damn what people think. I even edited that sentence just now to make it less profane, for fear of offending. I’m so hopelessly nice sometimes I even annoy myself.

Q: Must love dogs and/or cats?
A: This is how my husband knows I love him. I gave up cats forever to marry him, and now we own a dog.

Q: Which author – past or present – would you have chosen as a mentor?
A: My literary idols are Elizabeth Berg and Anne Tyler.

Q: What book did you fake reading?
A: Never! Faking that you know something when you don’t is the quickest route to sitcom-level hijinks as you try to bluff your way through conversation. I am sheepish about never having read certain books, though. Like The Old Man and the Sea.

Q: What is your favorite scent?
A: Campfire smoke. To me it means peace, quiet and calm.

Q: What is your favorite movie adaptation of a novel?
A: Tie between Sideways and the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Q: Name two books you always give or recommend, knowing they’ll be loved?
A: I’ve loaned out both Bird by Bird by Ann Lamott and Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler and have had to replace them because they never came home!

Q: What are (a few) five of your favorite things?
A: 1) My kids’ laughter.
2) Christopher Guest’s mockumentaries.
3) Adele’s latest album.
4) Showtunes.
5) Books.

Genuine, insightful, and always entertaining, Kristina Riggle is an author to enjoy following on Twitter and becoming a friend/fan on Facebook.

* * * * *

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Populazzi by Elise Allen in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Presenting Debutante Elise Allen and Populazzi. 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.

Summer’s TBR Lists, II

June 09, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Favorites, Q&A

A-h-h summer, how do we love thee for HOT, lazy days — the perfect reason to relax and get lost in a book? 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:

~ Joëlle Anthony (Restoring Harmony YA):

“As for books, I’m anxiously awaiting Nova Ren Suma’s new book, IMAGINARY GIRLS. And Deb Caletti has a new book out, STAY.”

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

“I cannot wait for Laura Dave’s THE FIRST HUSBAND.”

~Ann Wertz Garvin (On Maggie’s Watch):

“My reading list:
Laura Ryder’s Masterpiece – Jane Hamilton
Once Upon A Time There Was You- Elizabeth Berg
The Red Thread – Ann Hood
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption – Laura Hillenbrand
Bossypants – Tina Fey”

~Kristy Kiernan (Between Friends, Matters of Faith, and Catching Genius):

“My TBR pile looks a little heavy right now: Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage by Alice Munro; Moll Flanders by Defoe; Candide by Voltaire; Middlemarch by Eliot; Crossing the Safety by Stegner; Disgrace by Coetzee.”

~Kate Ledger (Remedies):

“That list seems to get longer every week. There are so many great books out there. I’m currently reading a lot of books about medicine and the lives of doctors as research for the novel I’m writing now. But two I’m looking forward to for pure intrigue and the love of the journey are: Randy Susan Meyers’s novel about a family surviving domestic violence, The Murderer’s Daughters, and Mitchell James Kaplan’s novel set during the Spanish Inquisition, By Fire, By Water.”

~Meg Mitchell Moore (The Arrivals):

“Can’t wait to read for these new releases: The Bird Sisters, The Kitchen Daughter, The Art of Forgetting and The Violets of March. Also so excited for Kate Atkinson’s Started Early, Took My Dog and for a long time now I’ve been meaning to read The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Oh, and Townie by Andre Dubus III. And of course the newest Elin Hilderbrand novel, Silver Girl. I’ll be first in line for that one.”

~Kristina Riggle (Real Life & Liars and The Life You’ve Imagined, and Things We Didn’t Say coming June 28, 2011):

“I can’t wait to read LORD OF MISRULE, the National Book Award winner Jaimy Gordon who lives here in West Michigan. I was lucky enough to meet her — she’s charming, funny and down-to-earth — and the book sounds amazing. My autographed copy is tempting me right now, but I have some library books in the queue first…”

To be continued….

* * * * *

Announcement: The winners of From Bad to Cursed by Katie Alender are Eileen and Jessica Stanton. Congratulations.

Please email diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address and your book will be pre-ordered to be sent out next week.

Favorite Fictional Worlds, II

May 12, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Q&A

Once again thanks to Eleanor Brown (The Weird Sisters) who responded earlier this year with an alternative answer for her fictional BFF. Since Eleanor’s “twist” was simply too good (and intriguing) to pass up, TDW asked its other authors her question:

In what fictional world/neighborhood would you like to live? And why?

This week the following writers replied:

~Robin Antalek (The Summer We Fell Apart):

“I would love to inhabit the very distinct world of the Manning clan and all the generations and their many offspring in Arkansas and Mississippi that Ellen Gilchrist has created over the span of eleven short story collections, seven novels and four books of poetry. Her writing gave me the courage to become a better writer. The world she has created in her prolific career is more magical and mysterious to me than anything I have ever read, and I return to her work when I am stuck in my own, and when I want to escape.”

~Tawna Fenske (Making Waves coming August 2011):

“I’m looking out the window at a spring snowstorm right now, so every fictional setting I’m imagining is set in a warm, tropical locale. Actually, this was the best part of writing my debut novel, MAKING WAVES. The book is set mostly in the Caribbean, either on a ship or an island. Having the opportunity to imagine myself in these sunny spots kept me feeling warm and tingly the whole time I wrote it. OK, setting might not have been the only thing making me warm and tingly.”

~Tanya Egan Gibson (How to Buy a Love of Reading):

“I’d love to live in the 1920’s world of Anna Godbersen’s BRING YOUNG THINGS. Gold Coast mansions! Bootleggers! Speakeasies! Flapper clothing!”

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

“I’m afraid I’ve come up short with this question, I must read too many depressing books.”

~Judy Merrill Larsen (All the Numbers):

“Well, the first one that come to mind would have to be Maycomb, Alabama. I’d play with Scout and Jem, we’d try to sneak a Boo sighting, and on hot days we’d relax with lemonade and Miss Maudie’s Lane cake while waiting for Atticus to come home. But there would also be such sadness. And lessons to be learned. All that growing up to do. But, it’s a place I’ve returned to often through the years. I’d also like to wander in the 100 Acre Wood with Christopher Robin and Pooh. Both of these places are so vivid in my memory . . . it’s like I really lived there. Which, I suppose I did.”

~Kate Ledger (Remedies):

“I don’t have a need to stay too long, but I think I’d enjoy a year at Hogwarts. I’d like to learn some spells and receive my mail by way of Owl Post.”

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

“I’d enjoy spending some time in the post-war London that Clarissa Dalloway inhabits in Mrs. Dalloway. Alternatively (or in different moods) I’d like to check out the Colorado plains of Plainsong and any of the small Canadian towns from an Alice Munro story.”

~Camille Noe Pagan (The Art of Forgetting coming June 9, 2011):

“As a child, I wanted to live in Narnia. As an adult, I still wouldn’t mind slipping between the pages of any one of my favorite childhood books–especially The Secret Garden, A Wrinkle In Time or any one of The Chronicles of Narnia.”

~Ivy Pochoda (The Art of Disappearing):

“Ok, so I’m a dork. It’s not entirely fictional, or perhaps, not fictional at all, but I would love to live in Henry James’s New York City. Man, those mansions, need I say more. I used to walk past many of the building he describes, which are now hidden behind the heinous commercialism that is Manhattan. I’d much prefer to see them back when.”

~Kristina Riggle (Real Life & Liars and The Life You’ve Imagined, and The Things We Didn’t Say coming June 28, 2011):

“Oh, I want to live in West Egg, next door to Gatsby’s mansion, on the other side from Nick Carraway. The decadence! The glamour!”

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

“I used to think I’d like to live in the older novels I read, so I could wear fancy gowns all the time, but I’ve since come to realize that both gowns and the way of life that went with them were awfully restricting. Now I think I’d enjoy a visit to Harry Potter’s world, with its wands and magical candies and flying around on brooms, but not until after all the killing’s over.”

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

“Well, my answer to this question is a no-brainer for me–but maybe it’s because I had a light lunch today. I would love to land in the world of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I’d pack a straw and hang out near the chocolate river, for sure.”

To be continued….

* * * * *

Announcement: The winner of Laura Dave’s The First Husband is Mary Quackenbush. 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, V

February 10, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles, Q&A

Yes or no? 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?

This week provides the final responses, including one from new TDW author Catherine McKenzie:

~Stacey Ballis (Good Enough to Eat, The Spinster Sisters, Room for Improvement, the rest in Bibliography):

“Never underestimate the power of a nap, particularly with the television on. The weird midday dreams that sneak in can be very inspiring. And if nothing comes, at least you are well rested.”

~Dee DeTarsio (The Scent of Jade [Kindle Edition]):

It’s “show and tell” on video.

~Tawna Fenske (Making Waves debuting August 2011, Believe It or Not in January 2012, and Let It Breathe August 2012):

“Chianti. Sangiovese. Sometimes Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay.”

~Beth Hoffman (Saving CeeCee Honeycutt):

“I go for a walk in the woods.”

~ Shana Mahaffey (Sounds Like Crazy):

“I have all three. First, because I am inspired by my grandfather, Joseph McGrath, especially since on his deathbed I promised if he’d help me from the “’other side,’” I would dedicate everything I write to him. He was a writer and a coach. At the start of each day, I touch his old IBM Selectric for good writing when I begin. When I begin, I always close my eyes, imagine him there, and then start. For when I am really stuck, I keep his old sweater in my office. I will wrap it around my neck on those occasions where slogging through mud in cement shoes is easier than writing.”

~Catherine McKenzie (Arranged, Spin):

“Nope. I use many things depending on the day. A certain song. A certain place. And to crib from James Frey: When all else fails, I turn to Dylan. And when Dylan fails, I call it a day.”

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

“At one time I would have found this infuriating advice but the one thing that always, no matter what, always works, is writing. Sometimes I take a break from the project I’m working on to do something different, such as write a letter to a favorite teacher or an ode to caramel. I remind myself that playing with words is fun, that writing is fun. Writing something – anything! – helps jolt anything loose that has me hung up: doubts, that evil internal editor, or just a thorny plot snafu.”

~Ivy Pochoda (The Art of Disappearing):

“I stare at my bookshelves.”

~Kristina Riggle (Real Life & Liars and The Life You’ve Imagined, and The Things We Didn’t Say coming June 28, 2011):

“I’m not the least bit superstitious about my writing, but I have been known to switch from the keyboard to writing longhand on paper when I’m really stuck. Not so much a secret or a ritual, but it’s a little trick that jumpstarts a sluggish brain somehow.”

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

“I have no secrets or superstitions, but I do drink green tea whenever I write, and I generally write with my feet propped up on my desk.”

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

“I prefer to write on an old laptop while propped up on pillows on my bed.”

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

“I change my surroundings–go from my office to a coffee shop, say–and switch from the computer to pen and paper.”

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

“Yes, to never, ever talk about my secret rituals. Just kidding. I don’t really have any—unless lucky pencils count. For The Last Will of Moira Leahy, I used a whole box of natural pencils by Focus (#2s, of course). For my current project, I’ve been using angular soft-to-the-touch pencils by Dixon . When I feel stuck in my manuscript, I almost always transition to pencil and paper to work through the problem.”

* * * * *

Announcement: The winners of Lauren Baratz-Logsted’s The Twin’s Daughter are EJ Knapp and Heather. And the winner of the Sisters 8 Series, including Petal’s Problems is Megan. Congratulations!

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

From: Readers/Friends
To: TDW Authors/Friends

Holiday Greetings!

December 23, 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!]

Happy Holidays to Kristina Riggle!

I hope this holiday season brings you many things: Fun-filled days with your family. The happy music of giggling children. The scent of cookies made with loving, little hands. A beautiful, white Christmas, without any blizzard warnings, to accompany the merry jingle of Santaís sleigh bells.

In the coming year I hope your writing comes easily and plentifully. May your characters have a multitude of problems to work through, yet be a joy to write about. I hope your creative well will always be full and your books a fabulous success. Thank-you for giving us all the pleasure of reading your novels.

Janel

The Gift of Magic

I’m a seasonal person. I even have dishtowels for spring (robin’s–egg-blue and mint green stripes) and for fall (pumpkin orange and bright yellow), as well as holiday ones packed away with the Christmas decorations.

I’m the same way with books. When I read The Art of Disappearing by Ivy Pochoda, it happened to be in the fall. How lucky was I that the book fell in my lap in October, the perfect time for a book of magic and whimsy with a hint of melancholy?

The novel makes me think of that old Van Morrison song: “Well, it’s a marvelous night for a moondance/With the stars up above in your eyes/A fantabulous night to make romance…And all the night’s magic seems to whisper and hush/And all the soft moonlight seems to shine in your blush.”

I thank Ivy for the dreamy and other-worldly trip. It was quite a ride.

Here’s to her own holiday moondance!

Keetha DePriest Mosley

To Beth Hoffman

Dear Beth,

Thank you for always being so lovely and adorable. I’ve seen you at panels/signings twice now, and you’re irresistibly kind and charming and funny and interesting. As I’m reading CEECEE, I can see and hear you on every page, and that makes me smile.

I hope you have a lovely holiday season with your friends and family — including your “fur babies”! May 2011 bring you all happiness, prosperity, and peace.

Happy holidays!
Kristan