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Interview with Meg Mitchell Moore on
So Far Away

May 29, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Books, Interviews

[When Meg Mitchell Moore’s wrote The Arrivals (presentation/review), she focused on adult children going home to a safe haven for love and comfort. However in So Far Away — available in bookstores today — the author turns her attention to characters searching/yearning for home, family, or a sense of belonging.

Described in one sentence, the novel is about: The lives of a wayward teenager and a lonely archivist are unexpectedly joined through the discovery of an old diary.

The following synopsis provides a bit more detail:

Thirteen-year-old Natalie Gallagher is trying to escape: from her parents’ ugly divorce, and from the vicious cyber-bullying of her former best friend. She discovers a dusty old diary in her family’s basement and is inspired to unlock its secrets.

Kathleen Lynch, an archivist at the Massachusetts State Archives, has her own painful secrets: she’s a widow estranged from her only daughter. Natalie’s research brings her to Kathleen, who in Natalie sees traces of the daughter she has lost.

What could the life of an Irish immigrant domestic servant from the 1920s teach them both? In the pages of the diary, they will learn that their fears and frustrations are timeless.

And here is a sampling of Praise:

“This sweet and thoughtful novel is both tense and elegiac, exploring the damage we inflict on ourselves and each other, and the strength it takes to heal.” (Publishers Weekly )

“So Far Away is the moving story of three very different women whose lives improbably intersect. Meg Mitchell Moore effortlessly moves among a teenage cyber-bullying victim, a mother who longs for her lost daughter, and a 1920s Irish domestic with a shocking secret. The result is a powerful page-turner about love, loss, motherhood, and friendship.” (J. Courtney Sullivan, New York Times bestselling author of Maine and Commencement)

“Meg Mitchell Moore has taken the hot button topic of cyber bullying and crafted a story so compellingly real you will never forget her thirteen-year-old heroine, Natalie Gallagher. Moore’s pitch-perfect rendering of this girl’s voice is nothing short of stunning.” (Laura Harrington, author of Alice Bliss)

TRUTH: So Far Away captured my heart from the first page and the story of Natalie, Kathleen, and Bridgett never let it go. With genuine characters, experiencing painful, profound feelings throughout an intertwined — yet not complicated — storyline, the novel reflects both the past and present. But read on and allow Meg to explain much more in the following interview.

TDW: Writing/publishing two novels in a year is impressive, when did you have this story’s idea? Before, during, or after writing The Arrivals?

M.M.M.: I started thinking about this story after I had completed The Arrivals and while I was sending out queries to find an agent. I sold So Far Away as part of a two-book deal with The Arrivals, and I had written nothing but a descriptive paragraph at that point. It changed a lot in the course of the writing but whenever I was stuck I went back to that original paragraph to see if the original theme was still viable.

TDW: How much — if any — did the suicide of Phoebe Prince spark your writing?

M.M.M. Consciously, it didn’t. Subconsciously, maybe. That story was certainly in the news as I wrote the first draft, especially in Massachusetts. I had already decided to make Natalie a victim of cyberbullying before Phoebe Prince’s tragedy occurred, and it retrospect I set the story in the same year, but that was more because I was tying in a different historical event (that I will not reveal here) and had to set the book in a certain time to do that. I do think all of the terrible, heartbreaking suicides related to bullying influenced my story in one way or another.

TDW: The voices and entire storyline are dark yet not depressing. In other words it made me care about all the characters, not just Natalie and Kathleen. How did you manage to avoid being “too dark?”

M.M.M.: Thank you! I think that is a fine line and I’m happy that you think I found it. I tried to use humor where appropriate to keep the story from getting too dark. That dark humor is something I think of as a very Boston trait (witness any movie starring Ben Affleck) and I tried to create characters who were going through difficult times but still might be able to appreciate something funny or sarcastic.

TDW: Victims of cyberbullying, runaways, even immigrant outcasts were all characters on the outside looking in. These were also prominent young adult characters based in an adult novel and I wondered if this had always been your intention?

M.M.M.: I think that theme built itself as the story went on. There are several times where I write about girls in trouble, girls in danger, etc., and looking back I think a lot of that really came out in the revision process. As the mother of three young girls those fears are sort of always lurking in the back of my mind anyway.

TDW: The journal was a brilliant element, not just as a means to connect Natalie with Kathleen, but to connect Natalie with her past and another brave young ancestor. How early did the idea of Bridget and the journal come to you?

M.M.M.: Thank you! That’s a funny story. I originally set Bridget’s story in 1925/1926 and told it from the third person. I alluded to the journal but never actually wrote it. Early readers including my agent and my editor kept gently “suggesting” that I really needed to write the journal, but I resisted for a long time; I thought Bridget’s story would lose its urgency and sense of history if I told it in journal form. Of course they were exactly right, it just took me a little time to come around and to force myself to do the work required to write the journal.

TDW: I thought of So Far Away as a tale of people helping people by pulling them out of their own troubles. Would you agree?

M.M.M.: Absolutely. If fact, the working title for a long time was Solace and I still consider that a major theme, that solace can come from unexpected or unlikely sources.

TDW: What is So Far Away? Love, worthiness, a sense of belonging and/or all that along with more?

M.M.M.: I think the title refers to so many different themes in the book. For starters, Bridget is far from her home in Ireland and I wanted her nostalgia about that to be nearly palpable. Other characters are far from the people they loved, or emotionally far from people who might even be in the same room.

TDW: The descriptions of Boston were amazingly detailed. Now that you’re moving, will this novel be your ode to Boston?

M.M.M.: Thank you! That’s very perceptive, and I think it has become that. We didn’t know we were leaving the east coast until the book was complete, in fact it was going through copyediting when we found out, and in retrospect I like to think of the novel as an ode and a goodbye to a town (Newburyport) and a city (Boston) that have both meant a lot to me over the years. There are a lot of descriptions of driving up and down Route One north of Boston, which is a drive I do often, and one that I find so rich with odd details and strange businesses—it feels very particularly Boston to me. If there is another place like it in all the world I don’t know what it is.

TDW: What are you most proud of in So Far Away?

M.M.M.: I am most proud of the work that went into it, which hopefully doesn’t show too much. The stories of the three main characters were always very clear in my mind but knitting them together was absolute torture and took many, many revisions. I’m proud that I stuck with it until it felt right and true.

Meg Mitchell Moore can be followed on Twitter, liked on Facebook, and read in So Far Away.

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of So Far Away by Meg Mitchell Moore — in a random drawing — to anyone who leaves a comment on this post by 11:59 p.m. EST tonight! The winner will be notified by email tomorrow.

Meg Mitchell Moore: Why I Write

May 22, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[Journalist/novelist Meg Mitchell Moore’s The Arrivals (presentation/review) was praised as “a promising debut” (Publishers Weekly) when released last spring. This spring — on May 29, 2012 — the author offers So Far Away praised by Publisher’s Weekly: “This sweet and thoughtful novel is both tense and elegiac, exploring the damage we inflict on ourselves and each other, and the strength it takes to heal.”

The Divining Wand has scheduled an interview with the author on Tuesday, May 29, 2012 where you’ll learn much more about So Far Away however, in today’s guest post, Meg cites a legendary journalist/author to help explain why she writes.]

Why I Write

I once heard a quote about writing that really struck me. It went something like this, “Writing is the only thing that when I’m doing it I don’t feel like I should be doing something else.” When I sat down to write this post, I thought I would try to dig out the exact quote. Laboring under the misconception that it came from Gertrude Stein, I searched through a bunch of her quotes, trying to untangle those gloriously complex sentences to find what I was looking for. Nada. (Indeed the statement seemed, in retrospect, to be a remarkably succinct one for Stein: I should have known.)

As it turns out I had the right initials, wrong writer. It was Gloria Steinem who said it, in a November, 1965, article for Harper’s called, “What’s In It For Me?” As an nonsubscriber I am not privy to the entire article but the bit that I was able to access told me that Steinem is right on the money. Here’s the quote:

But for me, it’s the only thing that passes the three tests of métier: (1) when I’m doing it, I don’t feel that I should be doing something else instead; (2) it produces a sense of accomplishment and, once in a while, pride; and (3) it’s frightening.

Yes, yes, and yes! Is it bad guest-post-writing etiquette to say, “What she said!” and move on with my day? Maybe, but I don’t think I could articulate my thoughts about writing as well as Steinem articulated hers. Really, she nails it.

Life is so busy for so many of us that it’s a very common affliction to have our minds on anything but the task at hand. I am certainly guilty of that. When I am folding laundry I feel like I should be stretching my hamstring. Walking the dog? Usually thinking about the laundry. Grocery shopping? Field trip permission slips or the Scholastic book orders. Or walking the dog. You get the picture.

But writing does not allow for that sort of divided attention: it demands all of us, for a concentrated amount of time, and giving in to that demand—and overcoming the fear the Steinem talks about—is a rare and wonderful thing. It’s something that we writers should feel very fortunate to experience, because not everybody gets to do so on a regular basis.

The next line in Steinem’s article says, “I don’t like to write. I like to have written.” Yes again! Who among us (be honest!) doesn’t agree with that sometimes? I’m a runner, and I have made the comparison between running and writing more than once, here on this site and elsewhere, so I won’t bore this audience with that again. But. I will say that usually, having run feels better than actually running. Often, having written feels better than actually writing. Bravo to Steinem for saying so, for saying all of it, and bravo to all the writers who are out there plugging away at it, day after day after day. I bet if we could ask her now we could get even Gertrude Stein to agree.

Meg Mitchell Moore can be followed on Twitter and liked on Facebook.

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….

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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.

Guest Meg Mitchell Moore on One Shoe Missing

May 17, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[For many authors running and writing not only complement each other, they also share numerous similarities. In today’s guest post, journalist/debut author Meg Mitchell Moore (The Arrivals coming May 25, 2011) describes what it really takes to cross a finish line and/or type “The End.”]

One Shoe Missing

I am certainly not the first writer to address the parallels between running and writing, and undoubtedly I won’t be the last. (Debut author Rebecca Rasmussen wrote a fabulous post on the topic recently for this very site: Semper Fi.)

The reason running and writing inspire so many comparisons are because, well, they have a lot of similarities. I have been doing both for a long time. Both writing and running require enormous amounts of discipline. Both are solitary pursuits—you may run with a partner or show your writing to a critique group or a trusted agent or editor, but when you’re in the middle of a long, hard slog at the desk or on the road there’s nobody else who can do the work for you. Both often feel better when complete than during the act itself. Both are painful when done to the best of one’s abilities! (I’m not selling either pursuit very well, am I?) Both produce a sort of “high” on a good day. (Better?)

One additional reason I want to write about running in this post is to tell you about an event I witnessed earlier this year at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix meet at Boston’s Reggie Lewis track. The competitors in the men’s 3,000-meter race gathered at the starting line. In the controlled chaos that marks the beginning of many elite distance races, Ethiopian runner Dejen Gebremeskel lost a shoe, probably when another runner inadvertently stepped on his heel. This was an indoor track meet, which means competitors in the 3,000-meter race run 15 laps around the track. Nobody would have faulted Gebremeskel if he had stepped off the track after losing a shoe in the very first lap. (The sock, for the curious among you, remained on.) Gebremeskel’s gait was compromised, and he risked injury that could have put the rest of his indoor season in jeopardy. Not to mention that the unshod foot was particularly vulnerable to the spikes of the other runners’ shoes. Because of the rubber track, he said later, his foot was burning. He got blisters. (Ever try running with blisters? It hurts! A lot.) But. Gebremeskel didn’t step off the track. He ran the entire 15 laps with one shoe, then, with the crowd cheering him on, he won the race, overtaking Mo Farah, the anointed favorite, in the last few steps.

Let me say it one more time. The guy with only one shoe won the race!

I thought Gebremeskel’s race was an act of extreme courage, and I find myself thinking about it every so often with a mixture of awe and envy. I also find a lot of inspiration in the memory. And here we go again with the parallels between writing and running, with a different twist. The acts of courage writing requires rarely (okay, never) happen in front of hordes of foot-stomping fans in a televised event; they are, more often than not, as solitary as the pursuit of writing itself. They look something like this. Maybe you go back into a book and revise again, again, again to make it as close to the vision you began with as you can. Maybe you abandon a book you’ve spent months or years on when you know it’s not working. Maybe you query one more agent even though you think another rejection might put you over the edge or send you running for the scotch bottle. Maybe you swallow your pride and accept a painful critique that, deep down, you know is correct. Maybe you ignore the people who wonder why you’re spending so much time and energy on something that may never see the light of day.

I know not every reader of this site is a writer, but to those of you who are, these are all acts of courage, every single one of them. One foot in front of the other, one word after another (or, as Anne Lamott tells us, bird by bird), one day after the next after the next. Maybe nobody sees it, maybe nobody notices, but you writers know what you’re doing: you’re finishing the race with one shoe missing.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted by Bridget Asher (aka Julianna Baggott) in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Julianna Baggott (aka Bridget Asher) and The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, May 18, 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 Revealing of Meg Mitchell Moore

May 11, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles, Q&A

Journalist Meg Mitchell Moore turns her writing skills to fiction with The Arrivals, coming to bookstores and online retailers Wednesday, May 25, 2011.

To briefly describe this debut novel, consider the intriguing question it poses: What happens when an empty nest fills up again?

And, as a result, its received glorious early praise:

“Moore finds a crisp narrative in the morass of an overpacked household, and she keeps the proceedings moving with an assurance and outlook reminiscent of Laurie Colwin, evoking emotional universals with the simplest of observations, as in ‘the peace you feel when you are awake in a house where children are sleeping.’” Publishers Weekly

“Featuring sharp dialogue and witty, easily recognizable characters, Moore’s debut takes an engaging, often humorous look at a family’s struggle to cope with the passage of time and shifting family dynamics. It is a clear reminder of the changing yet changeless nature of families and the individuals who inhabit them.” Booklist

“What an intoxicating read! Meg Mitchell Moore takes on the age-old topic of parents and children and their children with a fresh perspective, a canny understanding of human emotion, and the absolute best dialogue I have ever read. Both charming and deeply meaningful, this is one book you must not miss.” – New York Times bestselling author Elin Hilderbrand

The Divining Wand has scheduled a presentation/review of The Arrivals for Monday, May 23, 2011 but let’s meet the author now through her “official” bio:

Meg Mitchell Moore worked for several years as a journalist. Her work has been published in Yankee, Continental, Women’s Health, Advertising Age and many other business and consumer magazines. She received a B.A. from Providence College and a master’s degree in English Literature from New York University. The Arrivals is her first novel. Her second novel will be published by Reagan Arthur Books in 2012. Meg lives in Newburyport, Massachusetts, with her husband, their three children and a beloved border collie.

A second novel to be published next year? It’s definitely time to get to know Meg, upclose and personal:

Q: How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A: Busy, more laundry than time, caffeinated, productive, LUCKY.

Q: What is your motto or maxim?
A: It’s never too late.

Q: How would you describe perfect happiness?
A: Three happy healthy little girls sleeping after a day at the beach, bottle of wine with my husband.

Q: What’s your greatest fear?
A: Failing as a parent.

Q: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A: Top of a ski slope.

Q: Which living person do you most admire?
A: Single parents the world over.

Q: What are your most overused words or phrases?
A: Well, you know, hurry up.

Q: If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A: A natural and flawless sense of direction.

Q: What is your greatest achievement?
A: Raising three children with impeccable grammar. Also, just raising three children—not done yet, but so far so good.

Q: What’s your greatest flaw?
A: Impatience.

Q: What’s your best quality?
A: Integrity.

Q: What do you regret most?
A: Not learning a bunch of foreign languages when my mind was a sponge. Now my mind is definitely not a sponge.

Q: If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A: My border collie running after a tennis ball on the beach—that’s pure joy.

Q: What trait is most noticeable about you?
A: Eyes.

Q; Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A: Jackson Brodie.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A: Angela Argo in Blue Angel

Q: If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A: Coach Taylor from Friday Night Lights. I know! He’s not real! But I want him to be.

Q: What is your biggest pet peeve?
A: Laziness. Or bullying. Lazy bullies are the worst.

Q: What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A: Reading, running.

Q: What’s your fantasy profession?
A: I’m pretty happy with this one. But if I had to pick another: owner of a bookstore/coffee shop. On the water. In New Zealand.

Q: What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A: Honesty, sense of humor, empathy.

Q: If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A: The shrimp, avocado and mango salad at Agave, a Mexican restaurant in my town.

Q: What are your 5 favorite songs?
A: Different for Girls, Joe Jackson
The Crane Wife 3, The Decemberists
Fly Me to the Moon, Frank Sinatra
Orbital, Josh Ritter
Kick Drum Heart, The Avett Brothers

Q: What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A: Case Histories, by Kate Atkinson
To the Lighthouse, by Virginia Woolf
The Emperor’s Children, by Claire Messud
Hateship, Frienship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage, by Alice Munro
Olive Kitteride, Elizabeth Strout

Mmm = Meg Mitchell Moore, a talented, new author to follow on Twitter and friend on Facebook!

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of The First Husband by Laura Dave in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Laura Dave and The First Husband. 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.

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.”

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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, III

March 03, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Favorites, Profiles, Q&A

At times a book offers a surprise bonus — those special characters that create an immediate personal bond and, 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 this week’s authors replied:

~Eleanor Brown (The Weird Sisters):

“Less than specific people, there are entire fictional worlds I’d like to live in – the dramatic romance of Diana Gabaldon’s Scotland in Outlander, the rebuilding of America in Stephen King’s The Stand, the wild sadness of the Greasers in S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders, the sweeping epic future of Atlanta in Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind. Each of my favorite books is populated with amazing characters who live in a world too delicious to pluck just one of them from.”

~Tawna Fenske (Making Waves coming August 2011):

“I would probably choose Fred the dog from Jennifer Crusie’s ANYONE BUT YOU. I think he’d get along nicely with my menagerie of pets (two dogs, three cats) and his fondness for stealing lingerie could help me find my bras when they go missing.”

~Therese Fowler (Souvenir, Reunion, and Exposure coming May 3, 2011):

‘Ask me on a different day and I might have a different answer, but the character who comes to mind today is Linda Voss, the protagonist and narrator in Susan Isaac’s wonderful novel Shining Through. Linda’s funny and genuine and smart and loyal–and when you need her to, she’ll tell it like it is. Who doesn’t want a friend like that?”/

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

“I would like to be friends with most of the characters in Elin Hilderbrand’s novels. She *really* nails certain things about marriage, children, families in a way I very much admire.”

~Ivy Pochoda (The Art of Disappearing):

“Hal Incandenza from David Foster Wallace’s “‘Infinite Jest.'” I’m not sure Hal and I would get along so well now, but I’m sure we would have been best friends as teenagers. It takes one truly athletic nerd to appreciate another.”

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

“I would love to hang out for eternity with Jo March of Little Women. To me, Jo is the quintessential early feminist and, dang, she’s just so full of life and personality. Who else would say no to Laurie?”

To be continued….

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Announcement: The winners of Confessions of a Rebel Debutante by Anna Fields are Gayle Lin and Tiffany D.. 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, III

January 27, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles, Q&A

Once again, 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?

And this week the following authors replied:

~Eleanor Brown (The Weird Sisters):

“I wish I did. When writing isn’t going well, I’m frankly likely to go play Mario Kart Wii for a while until I can bear to face the blank page again, and that’s neither terribly unusual nor terribly constructive. But one thing that does tend to work for me is going back to writing longhand. I hate it for long periods, but there’s something about the flow of pen against actual paper, even if it’s just jotting notes or writing descriptions that tends to jar things into motion for me. Sometimes I can even read what I’ve written afterwards.”

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

“Taking a break always works for me. I tell myself I will not think about the problem I’m having with my story, but I always do. Often my mind just needs to do something different in order to come back to a problem with a fresh solution.”

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

“I use music to get me in the mood–music with lyrics that fit the milieu I’m working on. Sometimes I’m so moved by the melodies and words, it’s like a space heater thawing out my writing frost. I also peruse my writing note books for observations. I have a terrible memory and writing down words I like and phrases remind me how much I like to write.”

~Kate Ledger (Remedies):

“I believe if I misspell or mistype a word, my fingers are telling me it’s the wrong word. Also, I have to begin with coffee. It just never feels right without coffee.”

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

“Music! For me it’s critical that each story or book have a song or a few songs that set the mood for the story. When I wrote THE ARRIVALS I played a lot of Amy Winehouse while I wrote. My current project has to do with two characters who are each going through some dark times and searching for some solace in unlikely places. There’s a song by Josh Ritter called “Lantern” that feels like the right song for this book. I probably play that song 10 times a day, especially when I’m trying to get into the mood of the story.”

~Sarah Pekkanen (The Opposite of Me, and Skipping a Beat coming February 22, 2010):

“Not really – just stare at the screen and don’t get distracted by laundry, opening the mail, or checking my email!”

~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.”

To be continued….

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Announcement: The winner of Linda Gray Sexton’s memoir Half in Love: Surviving the Legacy of Suicide is Andrea Miles Martin. Congratulations!

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Winter/Spring 2011 Coming Attractions

December 09, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Advance News, Books

The year of 2010 has been a glorious one here at The Divining Wand. With our authors/friends providing first-class quality through their books and more, how much better could it be?

Well, beginning Monday, January 3, 2011, when Eileen Cook’s (Unpredictable, What Would Emma Do? YA, Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood YA) latest YA novel The Education of Hailey Kendrick — already earning a Kirkus starred review — is presented/reviewed, it will launch our exciting winter/spring season.

Look for other of your favorites to return, including:

~Sarah Pekkanen (The Opposite of Me) with her second novel, Skipping a Beat coming February 22, 2010, and praised by Emily Giffin.

~Meg Waite Clayton’s (The Wednesday Sisters) highly anticipated The Four Ms. Bradwells releases on March 22, 2011.

~Claire Cook (Seven Year Switch, Must Love Dogs, Life’s A Beach, and the rest in Bibliography) celebrates with her 8th book, Best Staged Plans, on May 31, 2011.

And, of course, there will be more!

During the past few months many about-to-be authors have been introduced to you, but now let’s put their names and titles into order of debut appearance:

~Eleanor Brown (The Weird Sisters coming January 20, 2011)

~Kristina McMorris (Letters From Home coming February 22, 2011)

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

~Jael McHenry (The Kitchen Daughter coming April 12, 2011)

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

~Sarah Jio (The Violets of March coming April 26, 2011)

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

TRUST: There’s great buzz about each one of these authors. Please explore their websites and/or Pre-order their books.

Here’s to new authors/friends and great reading in the New Year!

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Announcement: The winners of What I Thought I Knew by Alice Eve Cohen are Mary Quackenbush and Ruthie Congratulations!

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AND

Announcement: The winners of Slim to None by Jenny Gardiner are Dee and Sarah Congratulations!

Please email diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address and your book will be sent out promptly OR indicate you’d like the Kindle Edition.

Best Writing Exercises, Part V

November 18, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Favorites, Q&A

In The Divining Wand’s seemingly never-ending pursuit to discover how our favorite authors/friends perfect their natural skills, they were asked: What have been some of the best writing exercises you’ve used in your writing process?

This week’s responses suggest that less is best. Also please welcome another new author, Meg Mitchell Moore!

Beth Hoffman (Saving CeeCee Honeycutt):

“None, really.”

Karen McQuestion (A Scattered Life, Easily Amused, and Celia and the Fairies for ages 7 – 11):

“I tend to be anti-writing exercises, not on principle, just for me personally. I never understood the benefit of doing “‘Morning Pages'” or “‘Character Work,'” or whatever. I just write and write and then write some more. I add things in and take things out, and somehow it all takes shape and becomes a novel. That’s the only way I know how to do it.”

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

“I haven’t used a lot of writing exercises, though I’m always wondering if I should. The best piece of advice I heard recently was to set a timer and commit to sitting and writing for a certain amount of time without getting up, checking email, checking twitter, snacking, etc. It’s amazing how many words you can get down in just 30 or 40 minutes if you commit to absolute concentration. I use that trick when I can feel my attention wandering.”

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.”

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

“I don’t have a good answer for this one, I’m afraid! I’m not one to use prompts and exercises. Nothing wrong with them, I just tend not to use them. I tend to just put my head down and plow through the current manuscript.”

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

“Ignore the clock. Ignore the Internet. Move to a quiet room. And just keep typing.”

Emily Winslow (The Whole World):

“I have a confession: I don’t like exercises. I only get excited about writing words that are part of a larger project.”

To be continued…..

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Announcement: The winner of The Thieves of Darkness by Richard Doetsch is Jody. Congratulations!

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