The Divining Wand

Discovering authors beyond their pages…

Presenting Debutante Kim Stagliano and
All I Can Handle: I’m No Mother Teresa

November 01, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books

Debutante Kim Stagliano has the honor of being the first Class Member of the 2011 Debutante Ball to waltz across the ballroom floor and into bookstores with her memoir, All I Can Handle: I’m No Mother Teresa: A Life Raising Three Daughters with Autism, officially launching today. And ironically the author may be the most reluctant Deb, never imagining her life as it is or that — in a September 1, 2010 post, Wenesday’s with Deb Kim — she would write:

“My book is a “’Kimoir’” (memoir makes me feel O-L-D) and sure to make you laugh, even if you have to grab a tissue once or twice while you read. I started writing in 2003 when my husband Mark was out of work. It was cheaper than therapy and healthier than overdoing the cocktail hour, if you know what I mean. Mark and I live in Fairfield County, Connecticut and have three beautiful daughters – who have an autism diagnosis. Mia is 15, Gianna is 14 and Bella is 9. Our lives are anything but typical, never boring (how I long for boredom!) and often upside down and inside out.”

How did her life story evolve? Here’s a synopsis:

How one woman raises three autistic daughters, loses one at Disneyworld, stays married, Has sex, bakes gluten-free, goes broke, and keeps her sense of humor.

“Dr. Spock? Check. Penelope Ann Leach (Remember her?)? Check. What to Expect When You’re Expecting? Check. I had a seven-hundred–dollar Bellini crib for God’s sake!” So begins Kim Stagliano’s electrifying, hilarious tale of her family’s journey raising three daughters with autism. With her funny, startling, and illuminating first book, Stagliano joins the ranks of bestselling memoirists like David Sedaris and Augusten Burroughs. With her willingness to lay everything on the table—family, friends, and enemies to basement floods to birth days to (possible) heroin addictions—she eviscerates and celebrates the absurd.

Whether she’s going commando to rescue a daughter from a potentially embarrassing situation or accidentally stealing electric fans, she and her family are seemingly always on the edge of a Stagtastrophe. From her love of Howard Stern to her increasing activism in the autism community and exhaustive search for treatments that will help her daughters, she explores her life with vigor and humor. Always outspoken, often touching, and sometimes heart breaking, Kim Stagliano is a powerful new voice in comedic writing—her “Kimoir” (as she calls it) will be a must-read for everyone within the autism community. More than that, it’s the debut of a new voice that will entertain everyone who reads it.

Unlike other books on autism, Kim promises hers is different because “it’s very funny.” And it is, despite these two sobering statistics: In 2010 there will be 1 in 110 children diagnosed with some form of autism, and couples with an autistic child(ren) have an 80% divorce rate. Yes, it’s a bit overwhelming and yet it makes for the best of reality reading. In fact think of the “Kimoir” as better than anything reality TV has to offer since the Stagliano’s experiences are unscripted, unedited, and Kim is not Mother Teresa. As she explains:

“The first and biggest difference between my book and many of the others out there is that it’s very funny. My style and voice lend themselves to writing humor, even when the topic isn’t all that funny. Also, mine combines our family life outside of autism – meaning our financial trials, including when my husband lost his job twice in one year. That was fun….”

Now here’s an example of a “fun” Stagastrophe from an Excerpt of All I Can Handle.

And be sure to read the heartfelt Reviews.

There is no cure for autism — which has been under the field of psychiatry since it was first seen and defined by Leo Kanner in the 1930s. However Kim, in her role of Mom/advocate/activist, believes parents should explore every option for their child, even when it’s difficult (like radically changing their diet.) While all this author wants is the best for those with autism, there are those who condemn her efforts towards hope. Still the “Kimoir” is not meant to be controversial, rather it was written for readers to understand autism and thus be more accepting of those who have it. In fact the author’s message can be applied to everyone with differences and challenges, particularly in these days of “bullying.” Simply put, Kim’s hope is that the book will promote the following:

“Just follow the Golden Rule. Do unto others…. If you see a behavior that’s funky, like gorgeous Mia sucking her thumb, which she does sometimes, take a second to wonder if Mia might have “’something’” (you don’t have to know it’s autism) instead of staring and making a face in her or my direction. It’s OK to be startled or even aghast at a meltdown or inappropriate behavior, just pause for a moment before reacting. If you’re horrified, I’m horrified times a million and I really appreciate when people are kind. So do my girls, even if they cannot tell you so. They are people – do not refer to them autistic or autistics – any more than I would call someone with cancer, cancerous. Autism is not who they are – it’s what they have.”

Respect is what Kim wants for her girls and the 1 in 110 other children and adults diagnosed with varying degrees of autism. No financial contributions, no sympathy or praise for being a “good Mom.” Instead she faces reality head on and deals with whatever arises with humor, faith, and the knowledge that her daily life will be filled with the unexpected.

Enlightening and entertaining, All I Can Handle: I’m No Mother Teresa: A Life Raising Three Daughters with Autism is a “must read” and even a “feel good” read as Kim and her husband care for their three stunning daughters — yes, there are 24 color pictures — with love and commitment for the long haul.

And, when you do read, consider Kim’s simple wish from a September 15, 2010 post, I’ve Never Given Up Imaginary Friends:

“You’re never alone if you can read.

That’s why every year, when I sit at my children’s IEP meetings (those are planning meetings for special ed, my three girls have autism) I say, “’I just want my girls to read.’” I know that if they can develop some level of reading skill, even if it’s “’just’” a 4th grade level, they will never be alone and will always have friends too.”

Book Giveaway: This week Skyhorse Publishing has generously provided The Divining Wand with two Hardcover copies of Kim Stagliano’s All I Can Handle: I’m No Mother Teresa to be given away 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, November 3, 2010 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.

Carey Goldberg, Beth Jones, and
Pamela Ferdinand with Three Wishes

June 14, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books

Although its title and description may sound like a fairy tale, the collaborative memoir, Three Wishes:A True Story of Good Friends, Crushing Heartbreak, and Astonishing Luck on Our Way to Love and Motherhood by Carey Goldberg, Beth Jones, and Pamela Ferdinand, is a 21st century non-fiction account of how anything is possible through traditional hope and love.

Once upon a time — ten years ago — these three successful, connected, savvy journalists began to realize a personal deadline was looming. Their careers had made headlines while relationships had been “cut” for limited time/space/interest. Although single and approaching forty, they still dreamed of “having it all”….or, at least, one baby.

Three Wishes tells the story of of these three friends who transformed their lives when they decided to take control in making motherhood happen.

Here, in Video form, is the book’s backstory:

Then the Three Wishes synopsis:

Carey, Beth, and Pam had succeeded at work but failed at romance, and each resolved to have a baby before time ran out. Just one problem: no men.

Carey took the first bold step towards single motherhood, searching anonymous donor banks until she found the perfect match. What she found was not a father in a vial, but a sort of magic potion. She met a man, fell in love, and got pregnant the old-fashioned way.

She passed the vials to Beth, and it happened again. Beth met man, Beth got pregnant. Beth passed the vials to Pam, and the magic struck again. There were setbacks and disappointments, but three women became three families, reveling in the shared joy of love, friendship, and never losing hope.

The Reviews are glowing and Three Wishes was selected as a “TOME OF THE BRAVE” Pick for the June issue of Oprah’s O! Magazine.

When Pamela Ferdinand contacted me to offer a Q&A interview or the opportunity to review this triple memoir, how could I resist what sounded perfect for The Divining Wand? Yet ARCS were piled high and the site’s posts booked solid with new releases/debuts. So before even reading the book, I was introduced to Carey, Beth, and Pamela (live) during their April 21st interview on TODAY. Please take this opportunity to meet them, too, by Launching the Video.

Would you like to browse through the book? That wish can be granted as well:

What good fortune all this information is available about the authors and their book, yet what about actual storytelling?

With each author having her own compelling and complicated experiences to tell, they take turns in sharing their journeys to motherhood in alternating chapters. Carey leads off by being the first to seek wish fulfillment by purchasing the vials of donor sperm, Beth follows, and then Pamela. Each voice is as unique as their personal circumstances along with their individual timelines. For, remember, Carey has already made her decision to opt for single parenthood via medical technology or has she?

Because when Carey meets the man who will eventually become the father of her children and her husband, that’s when wishing only for a child turns into wanting much more. True, she does use one vial of donor sperm, but the procedure is unsuccessful. Seven vials remain but now there’s a man in her life and, even if he doesn’t want to commit to being a father…perhaps a donor?

Yes all three women meet their match but even the best relationships are messy and oh so vulnerable. In fact it’s the sheer candidness of sharing everything the authors and their mates live through that makes Three Wishes most impressive. How did they manage to reveal such personal and intimate details of their lives? I asked Pamela and she replied: “It wasn’t easy to share all those details, but we felt an obligation to do so — as journalists who asked such personal details of other people; as women who want to encourage other women to be able to share their experiences; and as authors who feel the most interesting stories are the most honest ones.”

Three Wishes is much more than a book about choosing motherhood as a single woman. Instead it relates what can happen when a wish becomes a goal in life as opposed to an unspoken breath blowing out birthday candles. If by definition “a dream is a wish your heart makes,” then — in order to make it real — you need to share it with others. By opening your heart, you’ll be opening that wish to possibilities, suggestions, support, alternatives, and the unexpected. As Pamela wrote in her post, Guest Pamela Ferdinand Makes A Wish?:

“I fell in love only when my heart was open wider than ever because, in accepting the sperm, I had accepted the possibilities of a non-traditional route to motherhood and family. Of a non-linear life, when anything could happen, in any order.”

Three Wishes:A True Story of Good Friends, Crushing Heartbreak, and Astonishing Luck on Our Way to Love and Motherhood is for anyone who believes that, while miracles do happen and wishes are granted, most of what one yearns for requires time, extreme effort, and heartfelt strength. If you want to be reminded, inspired, or simply awed by those truths, please read how Carey Goldberg, Beth Jones, and Pamela Ferdinand created their own magic to produce three wishes.

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away a copy of the triple memoir Three Wishes by Carey Goldberg, Beth Jones, and Pamela Ferdinand in a random drawing to anyone who comments only on this specific post. Comments left on other posts during the week are not entered into the contest. The deadline is Wednesday, June 16, 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 possibly claim your book.

Guest Pamela Ferdinand Makes A Wish?

June 03, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[Pamela Ferdinand is a co-author with Beth Jones and Carey Goldberg of the triple memoir Three Wishes: A True Story of Good Friends, Crushing Heartbreak, and Astonishing Luck on Our Way to Love and Motherhood. This amazing account of real life magic already has been seen on and in: The Today Show, The New York Times, Publisher’s Weekly, WGN Chicago, WGBH Boston Greater Boston, WNYC The Takeaway, iVillage, The Boston Globe…. Yet, in today’s guest post, Pamela writes about taking control of life, rather than merely wishing for what she desired.]

Wish. So often that word conjures the idea of a genie in a bottle instead of taking destiny into one’s own hands. As a single working woman nearing 40 who wanted both love and family, I could have used a genie. I felt like I was running out of time after falling for men who either couldn’t or wouldn’t commit to me. But as much as I hoped one would show up before my biology gave out, I couldn’t count on it. I couldn’t just close my eyes and wish.

Instead, I discovered a different kind of magic in the process of transforming my life by accepting it as it was, figuring out what I truly wanted, and allowing my friends to support me, as I had supported them. It was a moment when wishes became actions, when desires became decisions, and when I stopped waiting for life to happen to me and tried to create what I wanted my life to be.

My path to wish fulfillment began when my friend Carey, alone at age 39, had purchased vials of anonymous donor sperm but never used them. She met her future husband and father of her children the very day those vials arrived at her clinic. She passed them on to our friend Beth, also on the verge of 40. Beth had expected she would have a family with her husband, but they divorced, and she decided to become a single mother. As she prepared to use Donor 8282’s sperm, Beth met her match, and together they had a child.

By the time Beth offered me the vials, I also was fully prepared to be a single mother, one way or another. I had considered the necessary resources, role models, and emotional support I thought my child and I would need. I had seen my gynecologist and spoken to my family. No sooner had I accepted the sperm from my friend than I met my love on an observatory rooftop. Today my fiance and I have a daughter.

I didn’t jump into this romantic relationship like a lifeboat because I was suddenly scared to enter single motherhood. Having a child on my own was not necessarily my first choice, but that does not mean I considered it a lesser choice. As a woman journalist who once assumed I could Have It All, and then didn’t, I took the time to think about what I really, truly desired. What I could not live without. To other women, it could be so many things that are meaningful in life, things too numerous to mention. But for me, it was a child.

I fell in love only when my heart was open wider than ever because, in accepting the sperm, I had accepted the possibilities of a non-traditional route to motherhood and family. Of a non-linear life, when anything could happen, in any order. For me, having the sperm not only severed the ties between romance and reproduction, and all the pressures that entailed, but it also represented taking control of my life. Even if there were no guarantees.

Being offered the sperm also reminded me of the power of friendship in making wishes come true. It’s far easier to create the life you want if the people around you genuinely want you to succeed and provide the emotional and psychological succor — and in this case, the actual means — to pursue it. With Carey’s help, then Beth’s, I did more than make a wish. I granted it.

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Announcement: The winner of Allison Winn Scotch’s The One That I Want is Heather Larson. Congratulations! Please email: diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address and the book will be sent out promptly.

The Revealing of Carey Goldberg, Beth Jones and Pamela Ferdinand

May 27, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles

Successful journalists — Carey Goldberg, Pamela Ferdinand, and Beth Jones (pictured left to right) — are the co-authors of Three Wishes: A True Story of Good Friends, Crushing Heartbreak, and Astonishing Luck on Our Way to Love & Motherhood.

This collaborative memoir is the uplifting true story of three best friends who transformed their lives by taking motherhood into their own hands. And these glowing reviews explain more:

“…like The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants for adults. Lots of women out there will want to read this book.” (Library Journal, Barbara Hoffert)

“The book is a riveting account of their journey to motherhood, which takes some unexpected twists and turns…” (Ladies’ Home Journal)

“This true story is a love story—but not a typical one….Though the idea that the “magical” sperm holds the power to transform each woman’s life is a little far-fetched (and the authors do acknowledge this), the book’s message is pretty good: when you decide to pursue your dreams, good things will find a way of happening.” (Woman’s Day)

“Three Wishes…is an incredibly wise, witty and powerful memoir written by three brave and accomplished women who had the desire to be mothers—each one, on her own terms. On their shared journey to becoming mothers, they forged an incredible sisterhood that speaks to the importance of friendship in women’s lives and shows how empowering friends can be.” (Irene Levine, The Huffington Post and Psychology Today)

The Divining Wand has scheduled a presentation/review of Three Wishes (could there be a more appropriate book and title featured on this site?) for Monday, June 14, 2010 but today let’s meet the authors through their “official” bios:

Carey Goldberg has been the Boston bureau chief of the New York Times, Moscow correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, and most recently a health and science reporter at the Boston Globe. She now writes happily at home.

Beth Jones is a freelance writer and educator who has contributed to the Boston Globe, the New York Times, and numerous academic journals. She plans to climb many more frozen waterfalls.

Pamela Ferdinand is an award-winning freelance journalist and former reporter for the Washington Post, Boston Globe, and Miami Herald. She remains an incorrigible romantic.

And now it’s a pleasure to learn more about each one in the revealing Q&A:

Q: How would you describe your life in 8 words?

A: Pamela: A beautiful adventure and unpredictable work-in-progress.

Carey: Full, and fascinating — at least to me.

Beth: Simultaneously predictable and spontaneous, which is great.

Q: What is your motto or maxim?

A: Pamela: Do what you love, and everything else follows.

Carey: The currency of love is time.

Beth: Keep your eyes open, there’s a lot to see.

Q: How would you describe perfect happiness?

A: Pamela: Simplicity. Being in my fiance’s arms. Holding my daughter in mine.

Carey: Attainable only in brief moments.

Beth: Being outside with family and friends on a 74 degree day while the rest of the world is at peace, too.

Q: What’s your greatest fear?

A: Pamela: Losing someone I love. Or being lost to them.

Carey: Harm to my children.

Beth: Danger or harm to my child.

Q: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?

A: Pamela: Hiking in New Zealand.

Carey: In an alpine forest.

Beth: It’s Saturday morning, my son’s in the bathtub, the sun is shining, the sky is blue, I can hear birds and we’re going to go hang signs for a yard sale. Right here is fine. Somewhere in Yosemite would be great, too.

Q: With whom in history do you most identify?

A: Pamela: Explorers and female writers, including Rebecca West for some things: her intellectual curiosity, love of travel, writing, and independence. (But not for other things, including her troubled relationship with her son.)

Carey: Women; refugees; writers.

Beth: My grandmother, who knew that we often need to fight for what we want, but that grace can be a part of our struggles.

Q: Which living person do you most admire?

A: Pamela: Anyone who helps someone in need without being asked.

Carey: My dad.

Beth: An San Su Kyi

Q: What are your most overused words or phrases?

A: Pamela: Lately, “What do you say?” to my toddler as we encourage her to say “Please” and “Thank you”

Carey: “Lovely”

Beth: “Cool.” “What?”

Q: If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?

A: Pamela: To sing. On key.

Carey: Math.

Beth: Singing well.

Q: What is your greatest achievement?

A: Pamela: My daughter, though her achievements will be hers alone.

Carey: My whole written oeuvre and, to the extent it can be called my achievement, my family.

Beth: Optimism.

Q: What’s your greatest flaw?

A: Pamela: Impatience, impatience, impatience.

Carey: Impatience? Laziness? There are so many to choose from!

Beth: Envy.

Q: What’s your best quality?

A: Pamela: Maybe that I wouldn’t say I have a “best” anything.

Carey: Perhaps some kind of emotional fluency?

Beth: Humor.

Q: What do you regret most?

A: Pamela: That I didn’t find Mark earlier.

Carey: Not having more time with my mother.

Beth: Losing my temper.

Q: If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?

A: Pamela: Anything in my daughter’s orbit.

Carey: A blossoming tree.

Beth: A superhero who could help save the world and stop big businesses like BP from doing such stupid things.

Q: What trait is most noticeable about you?

A: Pamela: My laugh has been compared to a pig hunting for truffles.

Carey: Frequent smiling?

Beth: Independence.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional hero?

A: Pamela: Curious George, at the moment

Carey: Meg in a “Wrinkle in Time”

Beth: Elizabeth Bennett, “Pride and Prejudice”

Q: Who is your favorite fictional villain?

A: Pamela: The Wicked Witch of the West

Carey: “It” in a “Wrinkle in Time”

Beth: George Hustwood from “Sister Carrie”

Q: If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?

A: Pamela: Olga Korbut. “What is your most treasured memory as a young gymnast?”

Carey: I just don’t speak Sports!

Beth: Billy Jean King. “How did it feel when you knew you’d beaten Bobby Riggs?”

Q: What is your biggest pet peeve?

A: Pamela: In the small picture, people who toss cigarette butts out of car windows. In the big picture, a lack of generosity of spirit.

Carey: Gratuitous meanness in any context.

Beth: Mean people.

Q:What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?

A: Pamela: Being a mom, potter, and traveler.

Carey: Exploring in any form.

Beth: My old job, teaching stress resiliency to kids and teachers.

Q: What’s your fantasy profession?

A: Pamela: Author. This is it.

Carey: I wish I could wave a wand and be great at Information Technology.

Beth: Being a writer who knows that millions of people will read what I write, and while my writing will elicit controversy, it will always be enjoyed.

Q: What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?

A: Pamela: Integrity, compassion, and an open heart.

Carey: (no answer)

Beth: Honesty, humor, deep ability to love.

Q: If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?

A: Pamela: Depends — either fresh fruit or coffee ice cream.

Carey: Salad (really! but with yummy dressings…)

Beth: Fruit and vegetable salad

Q: What are your 5 favorite songs?

A: Pamela: This is nearly impossible for me. I live in the city with the world’s greatest radio station – WXRT – and began in radio myself. I love music as much as books. But forced to answer, my favorite songs would include:
1. Boston: Peace of Mind
2. Rickie Lee Jones: We Belong Together
3. David Bowie: Life on Mars?
4. Billy Joel: Summer Highland Falls
5. New Order: True Faith
(runner-ups: Chaka Khan “Ain’t Nobody”; Dire Straits “Telegraph Road”; Bruce Springsteen “The River”; Rolling Stones “Beast of Burden”; Tom Petty “American Girl”; and Tori Amos “A Sorta Fairytale”; The Who “Baba O’Riley”)

1. “You Me and the Bourgeoisie” by the Submarines
2. “Feeling Groovy” by Big Jim’s Ego
3. “Who Knows Where The Times Goes” by Judy Collins
4. “Falling Slowly” from the movie “Once”

“Space Oddity” by David Bowie
O-o-h Child by The Five Stairsteps
“Good Day Sunshine” by The Beatles

Q: What are your 5 favorite books of all time?

A: Pamela: I hate to play favorites, but some of the books I keep going back to are:
“Romeo & Juliet” by William Shakespeare
“The Lord of the Rings” by J.R.R. Tolkien
“Mrs. Frisby and The Rats of NIMH” by Robert C. O’Brien
“The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay” by Michael Chabon
“The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke”

Carey: Too hard!! But I’m in the phase of rereading old favorites to my children, and have recently discovered or rediscovered:

“The Phantom Tollbooth” by Norton Juster
“James and the Giant Peach” by Roald Dahl
“A Wrinkle in Time” by Madeleine L’Engle
and the newer “If I Reach You” by Rebecca Stead.

“Sister Carrie” by Theodore Dreiser
“Of Men and Fire” by Norman Maclean
“Busy, Busy World” by Richard Scarry
“Love Poems” by Pablo Neruda
“Collected Poems” by James Wright

To learn more about Three Wishes and its authors, please visit the book’s website. Also, for current news regarding these three friends, please follow Pamela on Twitter and become a friend on Facebook.

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Announcement: The winner of Barrie Summy’s I So Don’t Do Makeup is Julie@my5monkeys.


Colleen Turner is the winner of Emily Winslows’s The Whole World.

Congratulations! Please email: diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address, and the book(s) will be sent out as soon as possible