The Divining Wand

Discovering authors beyond their pages…

What If….Maud Carol Markson and Lauren Baratz-Logsted?

July 14, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Favorites

What a day — or more — for a daydream in the summer heat of July. In fact it feels like the perfect time to wonder “what if” The Divining Wand possessed magical powers and could grant authors, who create their own magic with “what if,” the following two questions:

Based only on their writing, what author would you want to be?


If given the opportunity to have written ONE book in your lifetime, what would that title be?

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

“I don’t know what author I would want to be because I can’t help but think about their “‘real'” lives. My father always taught me that “‘the grass is probably greener on my own lawn regardless to how it looks from my side of the fence.'” However, I truly love Anne Tyler and if I could write just one of her novels, I would feel blessed. As for the one book– I would love to have written To Kill A Mockingbird! But Harper Lee only wrote one book– I am sure that was difficult for her.

~ Lauren Baratz-Logsted (most recent The Education of Bet YA, Crazy Beautiful YA, Sisters 8 series Book 5: Marcia’s Madness):

“Arturo Perez-Reverte. He’s a terrific writer and it’s always so clear he’s having fun.”

“The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald.”

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Maud Carol Markson’s Looking After Pigeon

September 21, 2009 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books

Almost two weeks ago The Divining Wand showcased The Revealing of Maud Carol Markson, an author who debuted twenty years ago with When We Get Home. And — although this literary fiction novel earned high praise, including Andre Dubus’s (the critically acclaimed author of numerous short story collections, recipient of a Guggenheim Grant, etc.) quote: “It may be the best story we have about marital love.” — it still took two decades for Maud’s second novel, Looking After Pigeon, to be published this summer.

Of course such a time gap between two books begs the question of “Why?” and Maud graciously explained that she had put her family first…while continuing to write and send her work out occasionally. However the reality is that getting literary fiction published is difficult and, when rejections began to take their toil, the author turned her focus on being a good mother, wife, tutor, friend, dog owner and volunteer — all things she could be proud of.

Indeed it’s frequently noted that to succeed in the world of publishing one needs a “thick skin” and avoid taking rejections “personally.” Nevertheless what Maud did was brave and right for her. Besides, stepping away from the competitive field for a while gave her perspective. She continued to write without thinking of herself as a writer — both a luxury and a respite. And once her teenage son was away at college she allowed her “wonderful writer friend” — Harriet Scott Chessman (Lydia Cassatt Reading the Morning Paper — to push her into sending out her work again. Thank goodness for Ms. Chessman because that is how Looking After Pigeon came to be published.

The Reviews: Authors/Publications are glowing as well they should be from the book’s description: “In this, her second novel, Markson once again explores the sometimes humorous, and always complex, realm of family and love. Her characters struggle to answer the questions—who will care for me? How will I care for myself?”

Why should they question or worry? Please read the following one sentence synopsis:

“One spring day in New York City, five-year-old Pigeon’s father disappears, leaving her to face a new and bewildering life with her mother and older siblings in an uncle’s house on the Jersey shore.”

A perfect description of Looking After Pigeon, but what’s even better is the backstory. For Maud Carol Markson’s explanation of a backstory is fascinating:

“As for the “backstory” on Pigeon — It is the “backstory” for all my novels. A line gets into my head that I can’t stop thinking about. In this case it was “My mother named us after birds.” Then I start thinking about what kind of woman would name her children after birds. Having an unusual name myself, I think about names a lot. Then I thought about the person who “says” this line. What bird is she? How did this affect her growing up? What are the names of her siblings, the other birds? The characters build from that one line, and then the story builds from the characters.”

Who is Pigeon? Meet her in these two Excerpts from the book as she begins telling her summer story through a fictional memoir format that works brilliantly and had some reviewers wondering…autobiographical?

Definitely not! Except, as the author concedes: “But the emotions of all the characters are mine — that I can’t escape.”

And those who read Maud’s characters’ emotions will not escape their engagingly bittersweet tale. Simple and profound, Pigeon’s story is about a watershed moment in her all too young life that shapes her forever. We all have those moments — recognized at the time or not — but this little five-year old must deal with so much.

She yearns to belong, even to a dysfunctional family, and comes across as an old soul wrapped within a little girl’s body. That enough of her innocence remains intact offers everyone else both hope and strength.

Yes I do love “quiet little novels” which roar with enormous insight and wisdom. If you do as well, visit a bookstore or online retailer to purchase Looking After Pigeon and take it home. Because home is where Pigeon wants to be.

[Note: In celebration of today, the last day of summer, The Divining Wand begins another Book Giveaway. To enter to win a copy of Looking After Pigeon, please leave a comment with the most unusual first name of a “real” person you know. The deadline for this contest is Wednesday evening at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winner announced in Thursday’s post.]

The Revealing of Maud Carol Markson

September 09, 2009 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles

Maud Carol Markson debuted with her first novel, When We Get Home, twenty years ago and Andre Dubus wrote, “It may be the best story we have about marital love.” This summer Maud — once again exploring the ever complex relationships of family and love — had her second book, Looking After Pigeon published, garnering the following praise:

“If you love superb literary fiction with a genuine and engaging voice, this book is for you.” __Harriet Scott Chessman, author of Lydia Cassatt Reading the Morning Paper

“A story about solitude, and searching, which reminds us that love is sometimes found in the most unexpected places.”__Michele Richmond, author of The Year of Fog and No One You Know

A full presentation of Looking After Pigeon will be posted here within the next two weeks, but let’s now reveal Maud Carol Markson beyond this two sentence bio:

She has taught writing at the University of New Hampshire and Cabrini College. She now lives in California with her husband and son, and her dog Molly, who is her constant writing companion.

Q: How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A: I certainly need more than 8 words! Or a lot less.

Q: What is your motto or maxim?
A: “Don’t do to others what you would not want them to do to you.”

Q: How would you describe perfect happiness?
A: Having my family healthy, happy, and content.

Q: What’s your greatest fear?
A: Something bad happening to my son or my husband.

Q: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A: I like it right where I am.

Q: With whom in history do you most identify?
A: I don’t know who I identify with, but I have always been a big fan of Amelia Earhart. I wish I could be fearless and original like she was.

Q: What are your most overused words or phrases?
A: “On the other hand….”

Q: What do you regret most?
A: I try not to have regrets, just learn and move on….

Q: If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A: My super hero talent would be the ability to transport myself anywhere– no traffic jams, no airport security. My human talent would be to be able to eat whatever I want and never gain weight.

Q: What is your greatest achievement?
A: Raising my son.

Q: What’s your greatest flaw?
A: I worry excessively.

Q: What’s your best quality?
A: I never hold a grudge and never stay angry.

Q: If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A: Myself, of course.

Q: What trait is most noticeable about you?
A: I’m nosy and I ask a lot of questions. As for physical traits– my dark brown eyes.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A: Harriet the Spy

Q: Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A: No favorites– I don’t like villains.

Q: What is your biggest pet peeve?
A: Impolite people

Q: What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A: I love to walk my wonderful dog, read, do crossword puzzles, and spend time with family and friends (preferably on a beach somewhere).

Q: What’s your fantasy profession?
A: I sometimes fantasize about being an Olympic athlete.

Q: What 3 personal qualities are most important to you? A: Intelligence, loyalty, sense of humor

Q: If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A: I love pizza, but I don’t think I would want to only eat pizza. A wonderful tomato fresh from the garden with a sprinkle of salt on top is also amazing.

Q: What are your 5 favorite songs?
A: This is my list at this moment in time (it changes): John Coltrane’s version of “My Favorite Things,” Bob Dylan’s “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go,” Joni Mitchell’s “All I Want,” Bob Marly’s “Is This Love?” Paul Simon’s “Still Crazy After All These Years”

Q: What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A: Almost impossible to only pick 5, but here are some: Ladder of Years by Anne Tyler, Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen, Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Tomas Hardy, Finding a Girl in America by Andre Dubus, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Nine Stories by JD Salinger, Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh (made me believe I could be a writer someday), Up a Road Slowly by Irene Hunt, Someone Not Really Her Mother by Harriet Scott Chessman,
Republic of Love by Carol Shields, Collected Stories by John Cheever

Intrigued by Maud’s revelations? You can learn more by becoming her friend (search MaudCarol) on Facebook and enjoy reading Looking After Pigeon.

[Note: The Book Giveaway for Crazy Beautiful remains open until 7:00 p.m. EDT tonight. Please leave a comment here for a chance to win!]