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Summer’s TBR Lists, V

June 23, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Favorites, Q&A

Thank goodness for summer and its lazy, hazy days of being carried away by a book. Reaching out to discover what our authors/friends would be reading, The Divining Wand asked them:

What’s on your summer “must/want to read” list?

And, in this final wrap-up post, the following writers replied:

~Elise Allen (Populazzi YA coming August 1, 2011):

“The next book I can’t wait to get my hands on is Allen Zadoff’s My Life, The Theater, and Other Tragedies. I recently finished his Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can’t Have, and I adored it. He also has a memoir coming out called “Hungry” that I’m… well… hungry to read.

“Big picture though, I have to admit that the book looming over my future doesn’t come out until October: Rick Riordan’s Son of Neptune. My daughter and I devoured every book in the Percy Jackson series so far (and let’s be honest, the “new” series is not a new series — it’s a wonderful continuation of the same series), and we’ve been counting down the months until the next installment. Four more months to go!!!!”

~Robin Antalek (The Summer We Fell Apart):

“Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake and Year of the Flood, some books by Sue Miller, whom I’ve never read, The Local News by Miriam Gershow, Pictures of You by Caroline Leavitt, The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer.”

~Tawna Fenske (Making Waves coming August 2, 2011):

“My reading tastes vary widely, but there’s something about summertime that makes me want to read something fun, frothy, and sexy. The book club I’ve belonged to for 10+ years even makes a special effort to read at least one “summer smut” offering during the warm months. I adore author Victoria Dahl’s sexy, funny contemporary romances and look forward to her string of new releases starting in September. I’m also looking forward to attending Romance Writers of America (RWA) Nationals in June/July so I can scope out all the upcoming releases!”

~Randy Susan Meyers (The Murderer’s Daughters):

“The moment I can I plan to read Meg Wolitzer’s new book: THE UNCOUPLING. Also, on my catch-up list is CLEOPATRA by Stacy Schiff, MALCOLM X: A LIFE OF REINVENTION by Manning Marable, FAITH: A NOVEL, by Jennifer Haighand SO MUCH FOR THAT by Lionel Shriver. Hmm…I better get some beach books in here.”

~Ivy Pochoda (The Art of Disappearing):

“Hmmm….so very much.

Barry Hannah’s “Long, Last, Happy”
TC Boyle’s “When the Killing’s Done”
I also want to read “The Pale King” this summer by David Foster Wallace

And I’m also planning to reread the four Sherlock Holmes novellas.”

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

“I have so many books that I’m looking forward to – Elin Hilderbrand’s Silver Girl, Laura Dave’s The First Husband, Courtney Sullivan’s Maine, Gwendolen Gross’s The Orphan Sister, Meg Mitchell Moore’s The Arrivals…it feels like there’s an amazing wealth of smart writing for women these days, and it’s all culminating this summer. There’s also Diana Spechler’s Skinny, which I read an advance copy of, and truly adored.”

~Melissa Senate (The Love Goddess’ Cooking School, The Mosts YA, The Secret of Joy, the rest in Bibliography):

“SO many. My little “‘check out this book’” notebook is full of great sounding books that I can’t wait to laze around with this summer. One in particular: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness.”

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

“Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake and Year of the Flood, some books by Sue Miller, whom I’ve never read, The Local News by Miriam Gershow, Pictures of You by Caroline Leavitt, The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer.”

~Wendy Tokunaga (Midori By Moonlight, Love in Translatio , and ebook, Marriage in Translation: Foreign Wife, Japanese Husband [Kindle Edition]):

“I’m looking forward to reading “Bossypants” by Tina Fey who I think is one of the sharpest writers around these days. Also “French Lessons” a new novel from Ellen Sussman that I think comes out this July.”

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Announcement: The winners of Making Waves by Tawna Fenske are Julie Mann, Charlene Ross, and Monica B.W.. Congratulations!

Please email diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address and your book will be Pre-ordered to be sent on its release of August 1, 2011.

AND

Announcement: The winners of A Pug’s Tale by Alison Pace are Sunny and Jane Cook. Congratulations!

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

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, III

April 07, 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. Yet not all motivation or inspiration comes from books on writing, in fact favorite novels are just as likely to be kept close at hand. With this in mind, The Divining Wand asked its authors:

What books do you keep nearby or go back to as you’re working?

And this week the following authors — including Laura Dave, the most recent addition to TDW — replied:

~Claire Cook (Seven Year Switch, Must Love Dogs, Life’s A Beach, and the rest in Bibliography, and Best Staged Plans coming May 31, 2011):

“I think of it as self-medicating with writing books. I keep a pile of them beside me as I write a novel, and flip through them as needed, not really for specific info but for their calming properties. The two I pick up again and again are Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird and Carolyn See’s Making a Literary Life: Advice for Writers and other Dreamers.”

~Laura Dave (The Divorce Party, London Is the Best City in America, and The First Husband coming May 12, 2011):

“Slouching Toward Bethlehem, The Great Gatsby, Pride and Prejudice, The Feast of Love, The Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing, Everything Changes, Something Borrowed, The Lost Legends of New Jersey and On Writing.”

~ Shana Mahaffey (Sounds Like Crazy):

“I keep books of poetry by W.B. Yeats, Rainer Maria Rilke, and Mathew Arnold to read when I need beautiful words to inspire me. I always have my online dictionary and reference website open. I consult both, but especially the latter, often throughout the process. For regular reading, I try to keep a good mystery by my side, and if there are none, I will always go back to The Chronicles of Amber* by Roger Zelazny.”

~Rebecca Rasmussen (The Bird Sisters coming April 12, 2011):

“I always keep Mary Oliver’s poems close to me when I’m writing. Sometimes I read a poem or two before I get started on my own work to remind myself to be mindful of my word choice and to enjoy the process even when it is frustrating me. Mary Oliver often celebrates life in her writing, from birds and trees to people and great loves, sometimes losses, which is what I am trying to do in mine.”

~Lori Roy (Bent Road):

“I have a well worn copy of Janet Burroway’s WRITING FICTION A GUIDE TO NARRATIVE CRAFT. The pages are highlighted, paperclipped and flagged with sticky notes. I also have several novels from favorite writers that I will open at random and read from whenever I find myself stuck.”

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

“It depends on the book I’m writing. For my last, because it was first person and relationship-driven, I kept looking at Nick Hornby’s HIGH FIDELITY, Curtis Sittenfeld’s PREP, and Richard Ford’s THE SPORTSWRITER.”

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Announcement: The winner of Friendship Bread by Darien Gee is Janel. 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, IV

March 10, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Favorites, Profiles, Q&A

Since a best friend forever could be made at anytime as well as any place, it’s not surprising that they even might exist within a book’s pages. True, these are merely characters yet — if only real — would be chosen as our BFF.

With this in mind The Divining Wand wondered who the authors felt bonded to, and asked:

What fictional character would you choose to be your BFF and why?

And this week’s authors replied:

~Claire Cook (Seven Year Switch, Must Love Dogs, Life’s A Beach, and the rest in Bibliography, and Best Staged Plans coming May 31, 2011):

“The protagonist of the book I’m currently writing is always my BFF. If I didn’t like her that much, I don’t think I’d bother to tell her story.”

~Kate Ledger (Remedies):

“Maybe it’s the kind of books I read, but I think I’m still looking for a fictional BFF.”

~Randy Susan Meyers ( The Murderer’s Daughters):

“Wow, I have such a love of intense and dark books I’m not sure I’d want any of the characters of my favorite books to be my best friend. Maybe Atticus Finch—who wouldn’t want him there for advice and caring? Additionally, I’d love to see the adult side of him that was hidden from Scout.”

~Sarah Pekkanen (Skipping a Beat and The Opposite of Me):

“Bridget Jones, because she’s fun, funny, and would share her chocolates and wine.”

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

“Goldy Schultz from the Diane Mott Davidson catering murder mysteries. She’s fun, fearless and never fails to have something delicious to share with friends. Plus she drinks gallons of coffee. We’re a perfect match! I call my middle daughter “’Miss G.’” (her name is Gianna) because that’s what Goldy’s husband Tom calls her. I like it.”

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

“Elizabeth Bennett, because she’s sharp and funny.”

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

“Pippi Longstocking because she’s the eternal child, and Harry Potter because he has access to butterbeer. I was in Orlando recently and spent part of a day at the Harry Potter park at Universal. Believe me, you want to experience butterbeer at some point in your life, described as “‘reminiscent of shortbread and butterscotch.’” The whipped-cream head on a butterbeer puts any root beer to shame. Pippi would’ve had hidden trunks full of the stuff.”

To be continued….

* * * * *

Announcement: The winners of Arranged by Catherine McKenzie are Wendy Burd Kinsey and Mary Ward. Congratulations!

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

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.

Best Writing Exercises, Part I

October 07, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Favorites, Profiles

Whether it’s to warm-up, jumpstart, or let their imaginations wander, many of our authors/friends use a writing exercise. Being interested in what works for them, The Divining Wand asked: What have been some of the best writing exercises you’ve used in your writing process?

The following replies lead off with Tawna Fenske, a 2011 Class Member of The Debutante Ball:

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

“I’m a big fan of #1k1hr. That’s the official hashtag for those of you on Twitter, but tweeting isn’t a requirement for participation. I was introduced to the idea by author Patrick Alan, who explains it like this: “The object is simple. Sit down and write until you have one thousand words and one hour has passed. You have to accomplish both. The challenge isn’t to write 1,000 words in an hour. It’s to write for at least an hour and at least 1,000 words.”

I love this concept because it forces a writer to switch off his or her internal editor. It’s fast and furious and very rewarding for such a small investment of time. I enjoy the motivation of the challenge, particularly if I’m playing with other authors under the #1k1hr hashtag on Twitter. Most importantly, it’s a good way to get words on the page. They won’t always be good words — in fact, some of what I’ve written playing #1k1hr is truly awful. But you can’t edit a blank page, so it’s a good way to nail down a starting point with something I can edit later

You can read more about #1k1hr here.”

Allie Larkin (Stay):

“STAY started as a writing exercise in a college class. We had a sheet with two columns of words, and were asked to take a word from column A and one from column B. We had to make a sentence with them – A is a B. My sentence was “Separation is a battle.” We wrote for 3 minutes, using that line as the first sentence. Later in the semester, we had to revise one exercise three different ways, changing something major like point of view, tense, or setting. By the third round of revisions, I’d found my main character.
I still do writing exercises when I’m looking for new ideas. Often, I’ll take a song lyric – something short enough to not be too specific – and use it as my first sentence. Then, I free-write for a set amount of time. And, I still love going back and revising my exercises by rewriting them from a different point of view or tense. It’s easier to play with those things in order to find the right character and the right time and place when the idea is new and messy and there are so many different directions it could go in.”

Ivy Pochoda (The Art of Disappearing):

“I don’t really use exercises, but I tend to write and write and write excess background, excess scenes, stuff that I know will fall on the cutting room floor. This helps me know my characters better. I also try to rewrite scenes from another character’s perspective if something doesn’t feel right.”

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

“Writing from the point of view of a character whose point of view I’m not using in the actual manuscript.”

Therese Walsh (The Last Will of Moira Leahy):

“In Robert McKee’s book on the craft of writing, STORY, he talks a lot about the “controlling idea.” What is it that your characters are struggling over throughout the course of the book? In the story I’m working on now, the controlling idea is that hope—no matter how foolish—can lead you to a better future. The opposite force at work is death of hope. McKee asks us to play out those contrasting forces, using each to create tension, back and forth, throughout the scenes and chapters, so that the reader is never entirely comfortable, never really sure what’s going to happen next. That’s an extremely simplified explanation of the controlling idea, though; to fully understand it, I recommend reading McKee’s book.”

To be continued.

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Announcement: The winners of Good Enough to Eat by Stacey Ballis are Janel and Wendy Kinsey. Congratulations!

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

Fan Mail: An Author’s
Most Memorable Reward, II

September 23, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Favorites, Q&A

Last month’s post on how much fan mail meant to authors surprised some visitors, while inspiring others to finally write their own personal messages. The written word is powerful in expressing heartfelt gratitude and here are more author responses to memorably touching fan mail:

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

“A man wrote to say that my depiction of alcohol and drug addiction (in a teenage character, Hunter Cay) felt very real. He’d finished my novel between classes and had been crying when his sixth grade students came in. He wrote, “Thanks for touching my heart.” Which, in turn, touched mine. It is so wonderful and kind for people to take the time to write and share like that.”

~Kate Ledger (Remedies):

“One tremendously moving piece of fan mail came from a woman who wrote that REMEDIES had resonated with her own personal tragedy. I got teary at my computer when I read her note. Like the characters in REMEDIES, she and her husband had lost a child. She wrote that the effects of that loss have continued to ripple through her marriage. She wrote that the novel had been difficult to read, and also, ultimately, comforting, and that even though her own outcome was still in progress, the book had come along at exactly the right time.”

~Meredith Cole (Posed for Murder, Dead in the Water):

“These days you receive more emails than mail, I’m afraid. I did get a request from a girl to sign my photo and send it to her for her scrapbook. It made me feel like a teen rock star, so of course I did it. I’ve really enjoyed hearing from people. It means a lot when someone tells me that they stayed up half the night, or were late because they simply had to finish my book. It makes me feel like I’ve done my job right.”

~Melanie Benjamin (Alice I Have Been):

“They’re all memorable, because I’m touched every time a reader takes the time to let me know how much they loved my book.”

~CJ Lyons (Lifelines, Warning Signs, Urgent Care, and Critical Condition coming November 30, 2010):

“I’ve gotten several letters from fans facing painful medical crises, including one woman whose cancer pain kept her up at nights, unable to sleep or get comfortable. They have written thanking me for providing them with escape from the pain of their lives as they read my books.

The fact that my stories have been able to help these people facing their diseases with dignity and courage brought me to tears…truly better than any award my books could ever win!”

~Therese Fowler (Souvenir, Reunion):

“I’ve had so many amazing letters from readers world-wide; one that I loved came from the mother of seven-year-old twin girls who, after reading SOUVENIR, was inspired to create a journal for their future benefit, and to buy each of them a copy of SOUVENIR, which she was storing away in their “hope chests” to be read when they’re teens. A recent letter of praise from a woman who is a Medical Social Worker and who deals every day with patients in heartbreaking situations was also very rewarding.”

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

“The young woman who wrote to say that she was able to finally extricate herself from both her dysfunctional marriage and her ongoing affair with her also-married boss because she read “Inappropriate Men”. She wrote from her fabulous new job, where she had met her fabulous (and single!) new boyfriend who worked in the same building. She said that she had felt completely trapped and that the book helped her find her spine. That e-mail gave me goosebumps.”

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

“My most memorable wasn’t my best, but a long letter quoting all the passages from my first book that had anything to do with sex and suggesting that I and the letter writer would really understand one another. (Oh, dear.) I also remember one I got after my second book, which was about female friendship, from a woman who’d lost her best friend in Iraq. That one was lovely and very sad.”

~ Beth Hoffman (Saving CeeCee Honeycutt releasing in Trade Paperback October 26, 2010):

“I received a letter from a 93 year-old woman who said that she loved my book and was so glad it was available in large print. She went on to say that she read it twice because, at her age, she was running out of time and didn’t know if she’d be around if/when the movie came out. It was so touching.”

~Robin Antalek (The Summer We Fell Apart):

“I think it would have to be after I published a short story in a literary journal that was put out by a university in Florida years ago. It was handwritten – a page and a half long – from a young woman who claimed to have read the story so many times she felt like the characters were people she knew. She went on to tell me she had written a paper on the story for her English seminar class. It was a pretty cool ego boost for a struggling writer who wrote late at night after work.”

~Katie Alender (Bad Girls Don’t Die YA):

“I love every bit of fan mail I get. From the adorable one-line emails just telling me how much they enjoyed the book to the detailed breakdowns of all of the elements they liked (and why). I get a lot of emails saying I’ve inspired them to write (very flattering), a lot saying that they can relate to Alexis and her sense of outsiderness (very touching), and a lot with interpretations of the book that reflect a cinematic mind at work (very interesting). I am convinced that I have the brightest and funniest fans of any book, ever! I must say, I especially love getting snailmail (as TDW might be aware).”

~Kristina Riggle (Real Life & Liars and The Life You’ve Imagined):

“One of my favorite notes was from a reader who enjoyed my debut with a stiff drink and added, “Only wished I had a joint to join Mira” who is, as constant TDW readers will know, the flower child grandmother protagonist. I think my favorite fan interaction was in person, at my book launch event. A woman I didn’t know told me she went out and scheduled her mammogram after reading about how my protagonist delayed her own, with severe consequences. I was so touched and honored that my book prompted her to take such an important step, and that she felt moved to share that with me.”

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Announcement: The winners of Jenny Nelson’s debut novel Georgia’s Kitchen are Keetha and Maria M.. Congratulations!

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

Current and Coming Attractions

September 16, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Advance News, Book Trailers, News

Although The Divining Wand authors have been busy writing, publishing, and keeping TBR books piled high, it’s only natural to wonder what’s next for our favorite writers. And what follows is a tasty sampling to whet your reading appetite.

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As of today, Thursday, September 16, 2010, Eileen Cook (Unpredictable, What Would Emma Do? YA, Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood YA, releasing in paperback September 21, 2010, The Education of Hailey Kendrick YA coming January 4, 2011, and Fourth Grade Fairy ages 9 – 11 coming April 19, 2011) celebrates the paperback release of Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood with the first video in a series of six.

As Eileen explains:

“The idea behind the videos is that the snotty Lauren Wood has her own video blog where she offers popularity tips. You can probably imagine what great advice Lauren has! I am going to have videos come out every couple days until all six are up. Please visit Lauren’s new website and click on the You Tube icon.

And now for the future:

~Robin Antalek (The Summer We Fell Apart):

“I’m currently working on a book set on a private island off the west coast of Florida about a woman who has experienced the premature death of her mother and sets out to find the family she never knew while her mother was alive. Tentative title: The Blooms of Ella Island.”

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

“Working on a new book that is a real departure for me, much more mainstream fiction. It is a questing story of a young woman who may or may not be dying, and how it explodes her quiet life.”

~Melanie Benjamin (Alice I Have Been):

“I’ll be appearing at the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville, TN, October 8-10. The paperback release of ALICE I HAVE BEEN is December 28th and I’ll be touring for that in January, dates & locations TBA. I’ve been blogging for the Huffington Post, and just joined a new group blog called the Girlfriends’ Book Club. My next historical fiction will be released by Random House in August of 2011; I’ll be announcing the title of the book very shortly!”

~Meg Waite Clayton’s The Wednesday Sisters, The Four Ms. Bradwells coming March 22, 2011):

“The Four Ms. Bradwells, coming March 22 from Ballantine. And my first novel, The Language of Light, will be reissued in paperback in the summer.”

The flap copy:

Meg Waite Clayton’s national bestseller The Wednesday Sisters was a word-of-mouth sensation and book club favorite. Now the beloved author is back with a page-turning novel that explores the secrets we keep, even from those closest to us, and celebrates the enduring power of friendship.

Mia, Laney, Betts, and Ginger, best friends since law school, have reunited for a long weekend as Betts awaits Senate confirmation of her appointment to the Supreme Court. Nicknamed “the Ms. Bradwells” during their first class at the University of Michigan Law School in 1979—when only three women had ever served full Senate terms and none had been appointed to the Court—the four have supported one another through life’s challenges: marriages and divorces, births and deaths, career setbacks and triumphs large and small. Betts was, and still is, the Funny One. Ginger, the Rebel. Laney, the Good Girl. And Mia, the Savant.

But when the Senate hearings uncover a deeply buried skeleton in the friends’ collective closet, the Ms. Bradwells retreat to a summer house on the Chesapeake Bay, where they find themselves reliving a much darker period in their past—one that stirs up secrets they’ve kept for, and from, one another, and could change their lives forever.

Once again, Meg Waite Clayton writes inspiringly about the complex circumstances facing women and the heartfelt friendships that hold them together. Insightful and affecting, The Four Ms. Bradwells is also a captivating tale of how far people will go to protect the ones they love.

~Meredith Cole (Posed for Murder, Dead in the Water):

“I’ve just finished up the third Lydia McKenzie mystery, tentatively called “‘An Artful Death.’” Lydia is hired by a real estate company to help catch illegal tenants. She finds an elderly Russian woman murdered in her apartment and suspects that the landlord got impatient. In the midst of her investigation, her parents arrive with another mystery to solve.”

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

“I’m working on a novel set in an underwater-themed amusement park. The main character is an eighteen-year-old former competitive figure skater whose now skates in the park’s ice show wearing a full-body jellyfish costume. One of the most fun parts of writing this so far is brainstorming ideas for amusement park rides! (My five-year-old daughter has been helping me.)”

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

“I’m working on my new novel, A THOUSAND CRANES.”

~Allie Larkin (Stay):

“I’m working on a piece for an anthology of dog-related essays that Wade Rouse is editing called I’M NOT THE BIGGEST BITCH IN THIS RELATIONSHIP. Published in 2011, proceeds will benefit The Humane Society and other animal causes.”

~Kate Ledger (Remedies):

“I’ve begun a new novel. If it were a pregnancy, I’m in that hesitant phase of the first trimester, and I’m not ready to discuss too much. I can tell this: The next novel also centers on family relationships and has medical themes because that’s what I’m interested in. Having finished a book, I feel I have a good sense of the arc of a novel, the overall shape it will take. I also know how long and hard the process is. My hope is that this gestation will be briefer than the last.”

~ Shana Mahaffey (Sounds Like Crazy):

“I am working on my second novel right now. I can tell you that the book is about a woman who has to correct a mistake she doesn’t know she made and guiding her through this process is her best friends dead brother.”

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

“I’m working on a book about adult siblings. It started out being about location and identity (I was going to call it ELSEWHERE) but it’s gotten further and further away from that theme to become about all the complex emotions of siblinghood. Which, alas, probably means I have to think of a new title.”

~Wendy Tokunaga (Midori By Moonlight, Love in Translation):

“I’m working on a non-fiction book called “‘Marriage in Translation: Interviews with Foreign Wives of Japanese Husbands,’” which takes an intimate and sometimes surprising look at the rewards and challenges of cross-cultural relationships. I’m also teaching an online class this Fall through Stanford University Extension called “‘Writing Novels About Women’s Lives.”‘

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Announcement: The winner of Leah Stewart’s Husband and Wife is Shannon. Congratulations!

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

And thank you all for entering. If my wand was truly magical, there would be a book for everyone.

Leah Stewart and Husband and Wife

September 13, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books


As both a writer and a reader Leah Stewart (The Myth of You and Me, Body of a Girl) requires that a book offers engagement on an emotional level and, in her third novel — Husband and Wife, released in May — she provides cause for such a response.

The fact that this story is based on detailed, personal emotions undoubtedly led to the interview question, “…is your work autobiographical?” in LEAH LETS LOOSE on SHEKNOWS Entertainment. There the author answered:

“I’m a believer in writing from emotional truth but not necessarily literal truth. In other words I have to put my characters in situations where I’ll understand what they feel, and to do that I mix elements of my own life with details from other people’s lives and add a healthy dose of stuff I made up.”

Leah began writing Husband and Wife when her daughter was three and her son was seven months old. Motherhood, and how it affects your self, and your marriage were the subjects on her mind yet the daily mothering routine isn’t very interesting without a conflict. That’s when she chose infidelity to throw her husband and wife characters into crisis mode. According to the author’s belief, “Nothing causes you to examine a bond like a betrayal of it.”

And, though infidelity/adultery may be one of the oldest stories, this novel takes a more contemporary, insightful look at it by asking how people change when they become adults, mates and eventually parents. Here is the synopsis:

Sarah Price is thirty-five years old. She doesn’t feel as though she’s getting older, but there are some noticeable changes: a hangover after two beers, the stray gray hair, and, most of all, she’s called “Mom” by two small children. Always responsible, Sarah traded her MFA for a steady job, which allows her husband, Nathan, to write fiction. But Sarah is happy and she believes Nathan is too, until a truth is revealed: Nathan’s upcoming novel, Infidelity, is based in fact.

Suddenly Sarah’s world is turned upside down. Adding to her confusion, Nathan abdicates responsibility for the fate of their relationship and of his novel’s publication—a financial lifesaver they have been depending upon—leaving both in Sarah’s hands. Reeling from his betrayal, she is plagued by dark questions. How well does she really know Nathan? And, more important, how well does she know herself?

For answers, Sarah looks back to her artistic twenty-something self to try to understand what happened to her dreams. When did it all seem to change? Pushed from her complacent plateau, Sarah begins to act—for the first time not so responsibly—on all the things she has let go of for so long: her blank computer screen; her best friend, Helen; the volumes of Proust on her bookshelf. And then there is that e-mail in her inbox: a note from Rajiv, a beautiful man from her past who once tempted her to stray. The struggle to find which version of herself is the essential one—artist, wife, or mother—takes Sarah hundreds of miles away from her marriage on a surprising journey.

Wise, funny, and sharply drawn, Leah Stewart’s Husband and Wife probes our deepest relationships, the promises we make and break, and the consequences they hold for our lives, revealing that it’s never too late to step back and start over.

Thanks to HarperCollins Chapters 1 – 4 are available for reading from the Browse Inside site. By taking advantage of this reading opportunity, you’ll discover that the author wastes no time in presenting the crisis. On page 6 Nathan implies his transgression and, on the following page, he tells Sarah: “I cheated on you.” There’s no hedging, he was unfaithful and so begins the story of “what now?” rather than “what if?” for husband and wife.

However, despite the “couple” title, the book is Sarah’s story of her journey to stay in the marriage or go off on her own. Not only does Leah Stewart explore the devastating effects of marital betrayal, she also focuses on the modern woman, complete with career, who has not been raised to believe in preserving a marriage at all costs. On the other hand, there is more than being financially capable of letting go. There are the perceptions of how others will regard/judge her ultimate choice.

As a result of the crisis in her marriage comes a crisis of self. Interestingly enough this isn’t based on Sarah’s physical attractiveness (though there’s mention of a need to shed more pounds of baby fat), but the real concern focuses on her artistic, intellectual attractiveness. Her identity as a poet and Nathan, the aspiring novelist, brought them together in grad school where — in truth — dreams feel as though they’re out there waiting. Except, of course, not everyone grabs the brass ring of success. After being together for ten years, and married for the last four, Nathan’s success and Sarah’s role of working mother has shifted the dynamics of their relationship. Is Sarah aware of how much they’ve changed? Is she consciously jealous of Nathan? Does she still care enough about artistic dreams to seek time to work for them?

The irony of this literary husband and wife is their failure at communicating with each other. Or does being writers limit them to expressing themselves only on paper? Even Nathan’s admission of guilt has Sarah refusing to talk to her husband, instead telling him to leave without any thought of how to live/cope without him. Impulsive, eyebrow-raising action given there are young children to care for. And while the overwhelming pain of lost trust — perhaps even lost love — is understood, irresponsibility is not.

Leah Stewart writes an all-to-honest portrait of a couple who, despite having a family, easily grow apart. Her characters are flawed, selfish and not always likable, yet are they merely victims of a modern society that encourages whims of personal gratification? Can their marriage and family be saved?

In Husband and Wife, the future lies in the wife’s hands. After all she has come-of-age as an adult and must now face the responsibility of her ever-changing roles, including “To have and to hold, for better – for worse….”

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. 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.

Guest Leah Stewart on Why Do You Read?

September 08, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[In her role as a teacher Leah Stewart (Husband and Wife, The Myth of You and Me, Body of a Girl) emphasizes and discusses the craft of a novel, while as a reader (and writer) she is drawn to the emotional impact of a book. So here, in today's guest post, she wonders why or what is most important in reading?]

One of my graduate students emailed me a few weeks ago to say he’d heard me mention Margot Livesey’s novel Eva Moves the Furniture so often in class he thought he should read it. Why, he wanted to know, did I so often use it as an example? Was it because of the way Livesey handles the magical element of the novel, keeping the question of what’s real a mystery until the end?

The answer that immediately came to mind was: it’s because I love it. But that wasn’t what he was looking for. He wanted me to say something about the craft of the book, the way Livesey structures her story. As a teacher I emphasize the use of models, telling students to seek out the books that resemble the ones they want to write and figure out how they work. It struck me as funny, then, that I had to think so hard to give him that kind of answer. When I read that book, it had such a profound emotional effect on me that that response overrode my usual thinking about a novel—how it’s put together, what the writing style is like, what points it might be making about our culture and the world.

Not long after this exchange a writer friend mentioned to me that a book should have more than emotional impact. I’ve been thinking about this comment ever since. For him, I have no doubt that this is true. For me, I’m not so sure it is. I can appreciate a novel that deliberately examines intellectual questions, but if it doesn’t engage me emotionally I’m left disappointed. What I want from stories is primal: I want to be transported, caught up, unable to stop reading even if it’s past midnight and I know my children will be up early. What I’m reading might be Harry Potter or the odd, language-driven stories of Barry Hannah—as long as it makes me feel profoundly, I’m in love.

It’s probably no surprise, then, that in my own work I do my best to create an intense emotional response in the reader. But in some ways that’s been a surprise to me. After all, I went to graduate school for writing. I spend much of my time in academia, where we encourage students to discuss what stories mean rather than what they make you feel. I hear all the time from readers that they were moved by one of my books, that they couldn’t put it down, and I love hearing that I’ve achieved that kind of effect. But the good-student part of me still wants to be told I’m smart. Recently another grad student praised a reading I’d given by saying she could hear my intelligence in it. She added, “In your novels, your intelligence is obscured by the narrative.” She didn’t mean to be insulting, and the comment amused rather than upset me, but it did offer a window on a particular perception of fiction writing, one that suggests emotion and story are not intelligent. I feel like it’s my job to remind both myself and my students that they are—that, in fact, they’re vital. Two of the many sad things about the literary/genre divide in book culture are the way it keeps readers from books they might love on either side, and the way it makes writers who want to be considered artists devalue the pleasures of plot. No matter what we’ve learned in school about how we’re supposed to read, some of our most profound reading experiences came when we were uncritical children, staying up with a flashlight under the covers to finish A Wrinkle in Time.

I wrote back to my student that he was right: I recommend the book because of my admiration for Livesey’s handling of mystery, as well as the way she finds a tone that’s both matter of fact and mystical, and achieves what she herself calls “a certain intensity about the ordinary.” And also, I said, because I love it.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Tanya Egan Gibson’s How to Buy a Love of Reading in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Tanya Egan Gibson and How to Buy a Love of Reading. 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.