The Divining Wand

Discovering authors beyond their pages…

Our Writers’ Myths or Not

September 24, 2009 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles

Writers, creative by nature, are well-known for comforting themselves on their lack of productivity (or success) by citing writing myths which include:

*There’s No Such Thing as Writer’s Block
*I Have to be in the Mood to Write
*I Need the Perfect Space to Write
*I Need the Perfect Tools to Write
*I Have no Time to Write

Wondering how true these were, The Divining Wand asked two of its established authors and two of its debut authors what one writing myth didn’t apply to them?

Mia King (Table Manners, Sweet Life, Good Things):
“That it’s next to impossible to get published without an MFA.”

Maud Carol Markson (Looking After Pigeon, When We Get Home):
“I don’t know any writing myths…. (are they out there and I’ve missed them?!)”

Ivy Pochoda (The Art of Disappearing):
“Writers Block is something I’ve never suffered from and it is something I don’t quite understand. I always have a little too much going on in my mind, much of it irrelevant. I can certainly procrastinate translating ideas into words, but I never suffer from lack of inspiration. I may write in circles and into dead ends, but I’ve never sat down and said to myself, “‘I can’t think of a single thing to write.'” As Alice Mattison once told me,”’Don’t be afraid to invent hundreds of possibilities for what comes next. Make lists of events.'”

Lara Zielin (Donut Days):
“I’ve heard that “’a writer writes every day’” but that’s just not true for me. With a full-time job and a busy schedule, I can’t hack it. So instead I carve out bigger chunks of time on the weekends and I write then. I also take “’writing vacations’” where I do nothing but write for days on end. I would argue that my productivity level is just as high as someone who writes every day.”

And, finally for this week, the winner of the Looking After Pigeon Book Giveaway is Debutante Alicia Bessette! Congratulations. Please contact me with your mailing address and Pigeon will be winging her way to your home.

Books That Made Our Authors, Authors, Part II

September 08, 2009 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles

Once again here’s an opportunity to discover what one book influenced our authors’ careers, allowing them to dream of writings their own book pages.

Meredith Cole (Posed for Murder): “The book that most influenced my life and career as a writer? I really don’t know. I’ve always been a big reader and loved books. A book that was a huge influence on me as a kid was The Greengage Summer. Rumer Godden is an incredible storyteller. The book would be classified as YA today, but it’s really a romance, a mystery, and a thriller all rolled into one. She described the taste of the greengages so poetically, I wanted desperately to taste them. And I wanted to spend the summer in France.”

Jenny Gardiner (Sleeping with Ward Cleaver, Winging It coming Spring 2010): “The book that probably most influenced me: Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger. The first person voice, that protagonist who just splayed himself out there, it just struck a chord with me and have always
loved first person POV since.”

Kristina Riggle (Real Life & Liars):
“Anne Tyler’s Pulitzer Prize winning BREATHING LESSONS taught me that a book could be entirely about inner lives and still be compelling.”

Wendy Tokunaga (Midori by Moonlight, Love in Translation coming November 24, 2009):
“Probably The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan. It showed that readers would respond to novels with Asian themes and gave me confidence to take the plunge into writing fiction — first short stores and then on to novels.”

Lara Zielin (Donut Days YA): “My copy of Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawles was so dog-eared and tattered, it hardly held together. I must have read that thing 50 times as a kid. I think this book imparted to me ideas about what a true work ethic was, since the main character had to labor so very hard for everything he had. Plus he loved his dogs, and I, to this day, love animals like a fiend. I also loved the spiritual elements of the book too. God, faith, myths … I think reading this book prompted me, for the first time, to truly wonder about a force bigger and grander than what our eyes could see.”

[Note: The Crazy Beautiful Book Giveaway remains open until tomorrow night so please post your comment for a chance to win this lovely novel.]

Summer Vacations by Our Authors

August 31, 2009 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles

Have you ever wondered what authors do on their summer vacations? Since this is the last “official” week of the season, let’s discover how some have (or wish they had) spent their summer vacations.

Eileen Cook (Unpredictable, What Would Emma Do? YA and Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood YA, coming January 5, 2010):
“In a perfect world devoted husband and I would have rented a flat in London. In the mornings I’d head out to a cafe and get some writing done while munching tea and scones. In the afternoon we’d head over to the gardens in Kensington rent a chair and sit and read while watching people wander by. In the evening a pub with a cold beer. Sounds great doesn’t it?”

Jenny Gardiner (Sleeping with Ward Cleaver, Winging It coming March 16, 2010):
“This summer I wish I was either in Italy, or sailing in the British Virgin Islands, two of my favorite places.”

Lauren Baratz-Logsted (Crazy Beautiful YA coming September 7, 2009)
“Going on vacation! It may yet happen, but so far the economy is getting in the way. Really, at this point I’ll take almost any vacation, even a Chevy Chase/National Lampoon one with a dead body strapped to the top of the van.”

Therese Walsh (The Last Will of Moira Leahy coming October 13, 2009):
“I wish I were writing like crazy, and balancing that writing with everything else—time with my family and friends, time for self-pampering, and time to prepare for the publicity of The Last Will. Unfortunately, time is not something that can be controlled, and right now it’s going very fast.

Lara Zielin (Donut Days YA):
“Waaeeeelll, if all bets were off and I could do anything, I’d get a house in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and write, write, write surrounded by the prettiest landscape anywhere. (I love the U.P.!) “

Lara Zielin Offers Up Donut Days

August 05, 2009 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Contests

For many today may feel like one of those “dog days of summer,” but on the eve of her debut as a YA novelist Lara Zielin is only thinking Donut Days. Yummy title, isn’t it? And how appropriate that it comes from someone who grew up in Eau Claire (French for “clear water”), Wisconsin and thought that “’clear water’ in French was Evian.”

Yes Lara is an engaging, witty and charming young woman who radiates enthusiasm and a visit to her website will confirm her fun-loving nature. As a self-described “writer on the verge of…something,” she loves her day job as the editor of LSAmagazine, a University of Michigan alumni magazine. It provides her opportunities to meet wonderful people, discuss cutting-edge research, visit interesting locations — and then go and write all about it. Michigan is not the author’s alma mater (that would be Carleton College ‘98), yet she bleeds blue!

Sound as though Lara Zielin is confidence personified? Ah, it wasn’t always that way, and thus her inspiration for writing in the YA genre as she explains:

“Middle school and high school weren’t always easy for me, so I often turned to books to escape. The challenges I faced, coupled with the books I read, left a significant emotional imprint on my heart. And that’s why I think writing YA has always been my first love — because I can remember how being a teen can be so crappy one minute, and then so amazing the next. It sounds like a terrible cliché, but having books with characters I could identify with really helped me feel less lonely, and that I wasn’t the only teenager who had ever struggled with things like friendship, love, and acceptance.”

It’s not surprising then to learn that the backstory of the novel, along with the theme/message, is – according to Lara — semi-autobiographical:

“I wrote DONUT DAYS based off my own personal experiences in the evangelical church, but the issues Emma faces in DONUT DAYS transcend any particular denomination. Many teens have doubts about what they’re being asked to believe in a variety of contexts, church being just one among many. My great hope is that DONUT DAYS encourages teens to thoughtfully question what they believe, and why, and to remember that even if people suck, that doesn’t necessarily mean that faith (or God) sucks, too.”

Here’s a brief synopsis:

DONUT DAYS’ main character, Emma Goiner, has a lot going on. Her best friend’s not speaking to her, a boy she’s known all her life is suddenly smokin’ hot, she’s at a camp-out for the opening of a donut shop, and oh yes—her evangelical pastor parents may lose their church. And that’s just this weekend. Suddenly, sixteen-year-old Emma has to make some serious choices: creationism or evolution, faith or freedom, Harley bikers or Frodo wannabes, and of course, cruller or glazed.

And then a wonderful literary trade journal review:


“In this spirited—and, in an offbeat, somewhat irreverent way, spiritual—offering, readers meet Emma, who, despite the fact that both her parents are ministers at an evangelical church, finds her desire to feel the power of God in a direct and immediate way continually frustrated. Emma’s relationship with God becomes even more troubled when a wealthy church member challenges Emma’s mother’s right to preach based on her gender. Add to this the terrible fight that Emma has had with her best friend Nat, her budding relationship with the son of the man who instigated the church trouble and her attempt to get around her parents’ decision that she attend a Christian college by winning a scholarship contest for the best article on the Crispy Dream donut camp, and complications abound. The whimsical plot stretches credulity in places, as does the virtuousness of Emma’s crush, Jake, who never flinches in his loyalty to Emma, but Zielin’s lighthearted yet substantive portrayals of Emma’s struggles with God, family and friendship ring absolutely true.”_Kirkus Reviews

Tomorrow Lara will celebrate the publication of Donut Days and you can too by purchasing this fun but thoughtful read. In fact there’s not a better way to introduce a teen to a new author/friend. Lara Zielin’s career is just beginning, with her second novel, PROMGATE, tentatively due in summer 2011. She admits: “It feels like a long time away but I know the editing process will eat up a lot of that time, and the book will be here before I know it!” And to understand exactly what this author means, merely watch her video, Editing Letter.

Congratulations Lara, may your success be sweet!

To win a FREE copy of Donut Days, simply leave a comment and you’ll be entered in the contest. The deadline is 11:00 pm EDT tonight when a random drawing will be held and the winner announced in tomorrow’s post.

You Could Be a Winner

July 27, 2009 By: larramiefg Category: Contests

With one week left before debuts and new releases start filling the bookstores – and these pages –, why not try to win a free book or a gift card? Below are four contests currently underway and, since three of them end on different days of this week, visit now and play your luck.

As anticipated in last Thursday’s post, Allison Winn Scotch is holding a “What If?” contest, giving away a total of 5 copies of the trade paperback edition of her NYT bestseller Time of My Life. Entries will be accepted until the end of the day tomorrow and winners will be announced Wednesday. The details can be found on the post, And Now It’s Free Books, at Ask Allison. Even if you don’t wish to enter, reading the heartfelt comments are worth your time.

Lara Zielin, YA debut novelist of Six Writers, Six Weeks contest this Thursday. Simply comment on that day’s post and you could be the recipient of a $10 Dunkin’ Donuts gift card.

This Friday, July 31st is the deadline for the GoodReads giveaway of three copies of Wendy Tokunagas’s debut novel, Midory by Moonlight. Please visit Wendy’s blog where you’ll be directed to signing-up for the contest.

Finally Masha Hanmilton offers a Contest to win a free hardcover copy of her forthcoming novel, 31 Hours. But for this, you must:

“Email a paragraph or story (500 words max) about when your intuition has been right about your child.

“The top ten stories—selected by Masha and guest judges—will get a free hardcover book and have their stories featured on this site.”

The deadline is September 30th with winners to be announced on October 16, 2009.

Enjoy and much good fortune to all!

The Sounds of Their Music

July 21, 2009 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles

Music, known as the universal language, can also be the most energetic force in inspiring a writer’s creativity. With that in mind, don’t you wonder what’s on your favorite authors’ playlists as they write?

The following writers share what and/or who they’re currently enjoying in song, and you may find their answers both surprising and revealing.

Meredith Cole (Posed for Murder)

“What’s on my playlist this week: John Legend, Sierra Leone’s Refugee All-Stars, and Lucinda Williams

“I don’t write to music normally, but I occasionally will when I’m at a cafe. Noise doesn’t bother me when I’m out like it does when I’m at home.”

Ad Hudler (Man of the House, All This Belongs to Me

“I am musically illiterate. I don’t have a playlist, don’t have an iPod. If I do have music on when I’m writing, I find it can’t have a beat or lyrics because they’re too distracting.”

Jessica Barksdale Inclan (The Beautiful Being, Intimate Beings)

“What’s on my Playlist: I listen to books, not music. I am currently listening to “A Changed Man” by Francine Prose.”

Holly Kennedy (The Silver Compass, The Penny Tree and The Tin Box)

“My playlist is an odd mix of present and past. At the moment, I love Nora Jones, but I also enjoy Christmas music, even during summer months. I usually choose a list of 20-30 songs for each novel and while I’m writing I play them in the background over and over again. I find it helps me set the tone.”

Lara Ziielin (Donut Days)

“I am (still) obsessed with Coldplay’s “’Viva la Vida’” and I really like Kings of Leon right now too. Music definitely helps me write, and if I find the right song that’s totally a fit with what I’m penning at that moment, I’ll hit repeat on iTunes and just let it play over and over. Sometimes I’ll look at the play count for a particular song at the end of the day and it’ll be something insane, like 200.”

So, readers, what’s on your Playlists?

Sharing Good News

July 14, 2009 By: larramiefg Category: News

According to the PBS Book Review: “Alibi Junior High”,
Greg Logsted has a winner.

Carleen Brice (Children of the Waters) will host a
discussion about faith and mysticism in fiction on Litchat (via Twitter). Please join in this Friday, July 17th between 4 – 5 p.m. EDT.

Masha Hamilton’s 31 Hours, a deeply human thriller, is now slated to be published on September 8, 2009. The author has a most thoughtful Contest to win a copy of the book. The deadline: September 30, 2009…giving you more than 31 hours.

Therese Walsh and her debut novel, The Last Will of Moira Leahy, now have a film agent, Sarah Self with Gersh Agency.

And the book continues to receive the most beautiful reviews:

“A hauntingly beautiful story about grief, the language of twins, and the healing power of a bond that is stronger than death. The characters of Moira and Maeve will linger long after you finish this amazing first novel.”__Brunonia Barry , New York Times and internationally bestselling author of The Lace Reader

“The Last Will of Moira Leahy is haunting, exotic and romantic—the way Gothic tales are romantic, wrapped in luscious, dark atmosphere. It’s a magical debut and I can’t wait for more from Therese Walsh. She’s one to watch.”__Sarah Addison Allen, New York Times bestselling author of Garden Spells

And debut novelist Lara Zielin’s Donut Days will be released on August 6, 2009. To celebrate, the about-to-be author is running a contest every week until publication date. For details of ths week’s contest, please visit Lara’s Blog.

Remember, what’s good news for authors is almost always better for their readers!

[Note: I was unable to preview this post and double check the links. Apologies if any are “broken,” but my 7 1/2 year old PC is gasping for breath at the moment. That’s why The Divining Wand will only feature two posts this week as I will be offline becoming an imac owner! Hope to see you all back here next Monday.]