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Sarah Pekkanen: Why I Write

April 10, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[Considered one of Atria Books’ rising stars, internationally bestselling author Sarah Pekkanen (Skipping a Beat and The Opposite of Me) promises to add to her success with a third novel, These Girls, releasing today in bookstores and online retailers.

There are fortunate individual born knowing what they want in life and having the talent to do just that. In today’s guest post, Sarah explains that’s why she write.]

Why I Write

I write because, even though it can be frustrating and ego-crushing and difficult, not writing would be so much worse. I write because it can be magical and uplifting and nurturing, too. I write because it’s what I’ve wanted to do ever since I was a little girl.

Writing has always been a part of my life, except for one dark period in my early thirties. My husband and I had two young boys by then, and I’d left my job as a features writer for The Baltimore Sun newspaper to stay home with them. I’d imagined I’d be able to free-lance for the paper, but the type of stories I did for The Sun – like racing to catch a plane the day of the Columbine school shootings, and locating and interviewing a boy who transformed from the class clown into an unlikely hero who saved dozens of lives – had suddenly become impossible for me to cover. I felt completely adrift; I’ve often described the sensation as similar to discovering my best friend had moved away without leaving a forwarding address or phone number.

Then one night, I began to type fiction. The words poured out of me, like water gushing from a garden hose once a kink in its middle is untangled. I wrote and wrote and wrote, and discovered something incredible: As much as I’d loved being a reporter, I enjoyed fiction even more.

Nowadays, if I’m away from my laptop too long, I feel itchy. I write a novel every year, along with a short story, newspaper reviews and articles, and a regular magazine column. There’s rarely a day when I’m not writing. It’s completely addictive: the more I write, the more I want to write. The thing that thrills me the most about writing fiction is that there’s always room for improvement – I can toil away at this craft for decades, and still have so much room to learn and grow.

I also write because it connects me to people. I adore going on Facebook, and interacting with readers and learning about their lives. I love popping onto Twitter and exchanging jokes with folks I’ve never met. And I love being able to interview real people about their jobs and lives, then weave those details into my novels. For example, for THESE GIRLS, a magazine staffer snuck me into the New York headquarters of a glossy women’s magazine and gave me a behind-the-scenes tour that was fascinating. Much of what I observed that day made it into THESE GIRLS.

I write because I’m lucky enough to have found the job of my dreams, and I can’t ever imagine letting it go!

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Family secrets may shape us all, but it’s the rich, complicated layers of friendship that can save us.

That one sentence describes Sarah Pekkanen’s most compelling, true-to-life novel yet tells the story of three very different women as they navigate the complications of careers and love—and find the lifeline they need in each other.

And critics praise:

“A fun and engaging romp…Pekkanen’s authorial voice is sweetly snappy, the plot is character-driven, and the book ends satisfactorily without tying up every loose end. Fans of Sophie Kinsella and Jennifer Close will enjoy this refreshingly introspective, sharply realistic, and tenderly humorous novel.” —Booklist

“Pekkanen’s characters are sympathetic and familiar, and readers are likely to identify with aspects of each protagonist. Fans of Jennifer Weiner, Sarah Dessen, Liza Palmer, and Emily Giffin will strongly appreciate this smart novel by a rising star in women’s fiction.” —Library Journal

Now “picture the book” as the author talks to six sets of best friends about the healing power of female friendships.

(If the video doesn’t appear on your monitor, please view it here.)

Sarah loves social media and can be followed on Twitter and friend(ed) on Facebook. And for your reading enjoyment, These Girls is available right now!

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of These Girls by Sarah Pekkanen — in a random drawing — to anyone who leaves a comment on this post by 11:59 p.m. EDT tonight! The winner will be notified by email tomorrow.

The Beginning of Spring’s Coming Attractions

April 05, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Advance News

Next week spring releases begin to bloom with two favorite authors.

Tuesday, April 10th: Sarah Pekkanen (Skipping a Beat and The Opposite of Me) and her third novel, These Girls appear here to be followed by….

Wednesday, April 11th: Allison Winn Scotch (The One That I Want, Time of My Life, and The Department of Lost and Found) will be at TDW on the eve of publication for The Song Remains the Same.

Watch for both guest appearances and the Book Giveaways.

Happy Holiday Weekend!

Sarah Pekkanen Interviewed By Jodi Picoult

March 06, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Interviews

[With the hope of offering something different to The Divining Wand, today’s post was submitted by Sarah Pekkanen (Skipping a Beat and The Opposite of Me) whose third novel, These Girls releases on Tuesday, April 10, 2012.

Being interviewed by NYT Bestselling author, Jodi Picoult, (most recent, LONE WOLF), was not only a thrill for Sarah, it also delves beyond a fellow author’s blurb of praise.]

Jodi Picoult interviews Sarah Pekkanen
about writing, motherhood, and the magic of female friendships…

Jodi: These Girls explores the nuances of female friendships. How hard was it to create a sense of realism between your main characters – Cate, Renee, and Abby – and how much of that came from your own personal experience in your relationships with female friends?

Sarah: Female friendships are vitally important to me, which is why I dedicated These Girls to my girlfriends, especially one I call my “frister” (a friend who turned into a sister). I’m surrounded by wonderful guys – I have two brothers and three sons – and I adore them. But female friendships nurture and uplift me, and I find them so textured and fascinating, which is why I’m drawn to writing about them. I love it that my girlfriends and I – often aided by a bottle or two of wine – can hopscotch from serious to silly to painful topics during the course of a single conversation, and end the night feeling as if we could’ve talked forever. I drew on all of those emotions while writing These Girls.

Jodi: Your main characters in this book come to reevaluate what’s important in life as they navigate the complications of careers and love. As someone with three young children, and who has enjoyed a bit of success now as a novelist, how do you prioritize what’s important in life? Has this changed as you’ve grown older?

Sarah: I knew I wanted to be a writer from the time I was a little girl. After college, I covered feature stories for The Baltimore Sun newspaper, but when my first son was born, I left that job because it required a long commute and frequent travel. And when I suddenly stopped writing, I felt as if I’d lost a crucial piece of myself. But I couldn’t figure out how to reconcile my need to write with my need to be with my children. Then one night after the kids were asleep (by then I had two young boys), I sat down in front of on my computer and began to type. The words poured out of me, and turned into my first novel, The Opposite of Me. I never forget for a moment how lucky I am to have a flexible job that I adore, and it’s fairly easy for me to work in writing time around my kids’ schedules. My family is my priority, but I know I’m a happier – and better – Mom when I’m writing, too.

Jodi: As someone who has twists in books all the time, I get asked about my endings a lot. These Girls, too, has quite a surprise in store for the reader. Did you know it would end this way before you started writing the book, or did that evolve?

Sarah: I love books that contain twists (which is one reason why I’m a big Jodi P. fan!), and I knew even before I wrote the first line of These Girls that it, like my previous two novels, would pack a big surprise at the end. I read a lot of thrillers and mysteries and sometimes I even deconstruct them, studying how an author put together pieces of the puzzle and used tension-building techniques like foreshadowing. It’s my hope that readers feel as if my books have the same page-turning quality as a thriller – but with less blood and mayhem, of course!

Jodi: What advice would you give to someone who is trying to break into writing as a career?

Sarah: Treat writing like exercise – you need to do it nearly every day to get results. For people who say they’re too busy to write a book, I’d encourage them to search for little windows of time in their day. Maybe wake up half an hour earlier than usual, or carry around a notebook and write a few paragraphs on the bus ride into work. Jodi, I remember that you and I once chatted about how we both wrote in car-pool pick-up lines outside of our kids’ schools because it was one of the few quiet times we could carve out of the day. I’d advise other writers to fight for those little snippets of time, and the page count will pile up, slowly but surely.

Jodi: What is the most bizarre fan encounter you’ve ever had?

Sarah: I love that you asked me this question, because it was the very first question I ever asked you! Years ago, I was writing a newspaper article on strange things that happen to big-name authors at booksignings, and you told me about the time someone asked if you’d ever consider writing non-fiction. You replied that it seemed daunting because one had to be meticulous about getting every single fact straight… and then you brought up James Frey, who got into trouble for making up parts of his memoir A Million Little Pieces. And a few minutes later, the librarian in charge of your booksigning brought over two audience members to meet you: James Frey’s parents. This was during the time when Oprah was eviscerating him, but you merely brought up his situation as an example and didn’t pass judgment or make a joke. I thought it was very classy, and even his parents weren’t bothered by your comment, which says a lot.

So… as for my most bizarre fan encounter, I’d have to say it was the time when my husband and I took our three kids out to dinner at a busy restaurant. One of our sons was very tired and cranky – we later learned he hadn’t eaten lunch at school that day – and while we were waiting for a table, he completely melted down, crying and whining. We quickly left, and then my two-year-old tripped and fell on the sidewalk and he started crying too. So there we were, this hot mess of a family, and suddenly a woman stopped and pointed at me and yelled, “Aren’t you Sarah Pekkanen? I love your writing!” And that remains, to this day, the first and only time I have ever been recognized in public. (And I’m still kicking myself for not answering, “No! I’m J.K. Rowling!”)

“Sarah Pekkanen’s latest celebrates the healing power of female friendship for three very different young women sharing a NYC apartment. At turns bittersweet, laugh-out-loud funny, and painfully real, you’ll wish you could move in with these girls.” —

Jodi Picoult, NYT Bestselling author of LONE WOLF and SING YOU HOME.

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Announcement: The winner of Rachel Bertsche’s MWF Seeking BFF is: Kim W.. Congratulations! Please email diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address and the book will be sent out promptly.

Favorite Fictional Worlds, I

May 05, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Favorites, Q&A

When Eleanor Brown (The Weird Sisters) responded earlier this year with an alternative answer for her fictional BFF, it was simply too good (and intriguing) to pass up. And so, with a grateful nod to Eleanor, TDW asked its other authors:

In what fictional world/neighborhood would you like to live? And why?

This week the following writers replied:

~ Joëlle Anthony (Restoring Harmony YA):

“I would definitely want to live in Deep Valley, Minnesota with Betsy and Tacy and the Crowd. This would be circa 1906-1910. I know Minnesota is FREEZING in the winter, and BOILING and HUMID in the summer, but they made it sound so nice and cozy with their wool dresses (and wool long underwear!) and furs (of course, my furs would have to be faux). Walking to school through the snow, or downtown to Heinz’s for hot chocolate all sounds so dreamy to me! And spring and summer sound so fun…swimming in the lake (again, in wool!) and eating lots of fresh peach pie. And picnics on the Big Hill. Sign me up! For those of your readers who are not as obsessed as I am with Betsy and Tacy, I am referring, of course, to the Betsy-Tacy book series by Maud Hart Lovelace.?

~Julie Buxbaum (After You, The Opposite of Love):

“I’d love to live in The Secret Garden. Okay, not in the garden itself, but I think it would be so much fun to live in the huge manor behind it and play on the moors all day with Dickon and Mary and frolic in that fictional and magical world. I don’t get to frolic enough in real life.”

~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):

“This is a hard question to answer- I can think of millions of books I would love to visit. I’d swing by Jane Austen’s drawing room, take a wander through the museum in The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, and put my feet up at Hogwarts and enjoy a cup of Butterbeer with Harry Potter.”

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

“Is it just too predictable to say- in Harry Potter’s world, specifically Hogwarts? I’ve always wanted a little magic in my life; and I don’t mean the magic of spring. I want to twitch my nose or blink my eyes and be the witch or genie of my television youth. When I was 7 or so, I was sure, with the right amount of determination and focus, I would be able to levitate, turn bullies into pigs and disappear. I started small, I concentrated on pencils first, sure I could move them to my side. I think now, if only I’d turned that single-minded energy into punctuation or say my abs, I’d be amazing. There would be no need for my wizard fantasies. No need to pine for a wand. But I do pine. I fantasize about joining forces with Harry; smiting evil, silencing gossips, saving the world. I would so happily bow to a Hippogriff and ride off to find terrorists; anything to get me away from grocery shopping and making meal after uneaten meal for the picky eaters in my family. Truth be told, drudgery is my terrorist so I suppose it’s predictable that I want to live in a place where food appears out of nowhere and a room of requirement exists (you know, other than Costco).”

~Beth Hoffman (Saving CeeCee Honeycutt):

“Right now I wished I lived on a deserted island (like the Swiss Family Robinson) so nobody could find me! I’m trying to stay focused on writing my new novel and if I could only hide for a while, I’d be able to get a lot more done.”

~Ad Hudler (Man of the House, All This Belongs to Me, House Husband):

“When my daughter was going through her mopey, teenage years, unhappy with the world around her, we came up with a game that we’d play while driving in the van: We invented our own perfect planets that we would create and rule over. Planet Ad was a pleasant place indeed: Every structure would be painted in bright, Caribbean colors. There would be no rap music, no cigarettes, no rudeness, no slow drivers in the left-hand lane, no laugh tracks on TV sitcoms. There would be no cell phones; people would actually talk to each other in person.”

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

“I would like to live on my own creation–Big Dune Island from Catching Genius. Sun, sand, the Gulf of Mexico, shrimp…ahhh, happiness.”

~Holly LeCraw (The Swimming Pool):

“I confess I am too entranced by the ordinary world around me to want to go anywhere else. Truth.”

~Lauren Baratz-Logsted (most recent The Twin’s Daughter YA, and middle grade addition The Sisters Eight Book 6: Petal’s Problems, The Education of Bet YA, Crazy Beautiful YA, Sisters 8 series Book 5: Marcia’s Madness):

“The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander. There needs to be another female character in there to give Eilonwy some competition for Taran’s heart. Plus, I’m pretty sure I’m less strident than she is.”

~Kristina McMorris (Letters From Home):

“I’m a huge fan of The Tudors, so would love to experience life as part of their royal court — but just for an evening of elegant gowns, delicious wine, and charming folk dances. In other words, not long enough to be sentenced to a beheading.”

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

“Can I cheat a little on this question with a neighborhood that isn’t fictional but is probably very different today? I’ve always loved the neighborhoods described by James Herriott in his “All Things Bright and Beautiful” series – pubs, rolling green hills, friendly neighbors (and since I adore animals it would have been fun to go on veterinary rounds with him). But I’d have to go back in time…”

~Lori Roy (Bent Road):

“I would choose to live on Melrose Island, South Carolina, the childhoold home of Tom Wingo from THE PRINCE OF TIDES (abscent the tragic childhood.) Why would I want to live there…because Pat Conroy made it irresistible.”

To be continued….

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Announcement: The winner of Exposure by Therese Fowler is Jennifer Downing. 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….

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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.

Sarah Pekkanen and Skipping a Beat

February 14, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books

From the book’s front cover:

“Original, engaging, and soulful.” –EMILY GIFFIN, New York Times Bestselling author of Heart of the Matter

When Sarah Pekkanen debuted with The Opposite of Me last March, she did so by telling a story of twins — undoubtedly the most intense of sibling relationships. For her second novel, Skipping a Beat in bookstores next Tuesday, February 22, 2011, the author chose to examine an even more complicated relationship — marriage.

Of course the storyline is not about just any marriage. Sarah’s idea for the book began with her desire to write about a married couple forced to reexamine their relationship after the husband’s near-death experience. Change is a constant in life, yet in this urgent crisis mode the couple must decide to accept almost immediate changes if their marriage is to survive. That means before moving forward they must look back at the big and small decisions that turned a marriage of love into somewhat of a business partnership. As already mentioned, it’s complicated. However, for a bit of clarification, here’s the synopsis for Skipping a Beat:

What would you do if your husband wanted to rewrite the rules of your relationship?

Julia Dunhill, a thirty-something party planner, seems to have it all: Married to her high school sweetheart and living in a gorgeous home in Washington D.C., she imagines her future unfolding very much as it has for the past few years, since she and her husband Michael successfully launched their companies. There will be dinner parties to attend, operas to dress up for, and weddings and benefits to organize for her growing list of clients. There will be shopping sprees with her best friend, Isabelle, and inevitably those last five pounds to shed. In her darker moments, she worries that her marriage has dissolved from a true partnership into a façade, but she convinces herself it’s due to the intensity of their careers and fast-paced lifestyle.

So as she arranges the molten chocolate cupcakes for the annual Opera benefit, how can she know that her carefully-constructed world is about to fall apart? That her husband will stand up from the head of the table in his company’s boardroom, open his mouth to speak, and crash to the carpeted floor… all in the amount of time it will take her to walk across a ballroom floor just a few miles away. Four minutes and eight seconds after his cardiac arrest, a portable defibrillator jump-starts Michael’s heart. But in those lost minutes he becomes a different man, with an altered perspective on the rarified life they’ve been living and a determination to regain the true intimacy they once shared. Now it is up to Julia to decide — is it worth upending her comfortable world to try to find her way back to the husband she once adored, or should she walk away from this new Michael, who truthfully became a stranger to her long before his change of heart?

The early Praise (see left sidebar) for this novel is wonderful and Emily Giffin’s “Original, engaging, and soulful,” description is spot-on.

Also there is an immediacy, an intimacy to Skipping a Beat that offers a universal appeal to everyone no matter what their relationship status. In fact experience this for yourself by reading an Excerpt of Chapter 1.

That sneak preview alone indicates that Sarah Pekkanen has taken the traditional storyline of a protagonist struggling to grab the brass ring of great job, great love, great home and literally flipped the premise over to a read about someone who already has it all and wonders about now what? Not only is this refreshing but as the author says, “I do like the sense of coming full circle, and of looking at the issue of what we want versus what we need from different perspectives.”

That sentence could well account for the truth that this is much more than Julia’s story, it is also Michael’s. Attracted to and firmly intertwined by their dysfunctional family backgrounds, the young couple dream big and leave home after high school to achieve success. Although only in their mid-30’s at the beginning of the book, their young love appears to have been replaced by the demands of excess and success. Sarah confirms this shift by explaining:

“I definitely wanted to convey that Julia and Michael’s love had been bulldozed by their ambition. Their reasons for craving success and security were understandable, but they took it to an extreme – and their relationship couldn’t survive in the face of their skewed priorities.”

Unless, of course, something enormously overwhelming would shake up their world, forcing them both to reconsider those priorities. Obviously this is the main theme of the book, though not the only one. Understanding one’s own background and how it shapes our decisions and behavior; the powerful influence of friendship, and the healing effects of forgiving someone — all three are relevant and necessary in the telling of Skipping a Beat.

Even more thought-provoking though is that as dramatic and intense as the novel might feel, these themes apply to us all as does the author’s message: “…that love is the most important thing in this world. At a time when there are so many competing demands for our attention, and so many external stressors in life, it’s easy to lose sight of that.”

Sarah Pekkanen had great expectations to live up to after her popular debut. And so she put her heart into effortless, flowing writing and created something very personal. Not that this is Sarah’s story, but all the emotions — sprinkled with wit and humor — resonate with her and she hopes with readers. TRUTH: Skipping a Beat is a Valentine from and about the heart….a book that you’ll love!

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[The Divining Wand sends out heartfelt congratulations to Eleanor Brown (The Weird Sisters) and Caroline Leavtitt (Pictures of You) who made the New York Times Bestseller List for the second consecutive week in a row as of February 13, 2011. Brava, ladies!!!]

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Sarah Pekkanen’s Skipping a Beat 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, February 16, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. EST with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to see if you’re a winner.

Guest Sarah Pekkanen on
Is writing an art or a craft?

February 08, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[Are writers literary artists or simply skilled (and talented) individuals who tell stories? In today’s guest post Sarah Pekkanen (The Opposite of Me, and Skipping a Beat coming February 22, 2011) asks that provocative question and answers it in regard to herself.]

Is writing an art or a craft?

I’m an author, but I’m not the slightest bit artistic. I don’t paint, dance, sing, or sculpt. My husband chooses the colors for the walls in our house, because if it were up to me, I’d pick Benjamin Moore’s Most Boring Beige. Don’t get me wrong; I love experiencing someone else’s art. I can appreciate Monet’s flowers and Picasso’s quirky lines and Georgia O’Keefe’s erotic flowers. And I love listening to music, anything from opera to Coldplay. I just can’t create it myself.

I don’t consider my writing art, either -it’s pure craft. Writing to me is messy, exhilarating, frustrating, joyful and depressing. The emotions all pile up on each other as I sit down at my keyboard, fighting for dominance like those swirling ping-pong balls at a televised lottery drawing. I never know which one is going to surface first.
It’s the steady, methodical side of my mind that takes control when I’m feeling frenzied and overwhelmed.

“Just write 1,000 words today,” it instructs me. A thousand words is four pages. It seems like a reasonable goal. But I’m not ready yet. First I re-read yesterday’s pages, backspacing over an ill-considered adverb and realizing a character needs one more telling detail to make him come alive. Then I try to drown out the voices in my head – they can be really mean, like a pack of middle-school girls – that tell me my prose is criminally bad, and that what I’m writing will never be published.

“Push on,” my methodical mind whispers reassuringly. “You can always fix it later.”

I get up to make a cup of tea, and think about folding a load of laundry. Sorting socks has never been so appealing. And I really need to exercise more – shouldn’t I go for a jog, then try to write?

But Craft won’t let me get away with procrastinating. It coaxes me back to the keyboard with its simple directive: Four pages. A thousand words. They don’t have to be beautiful. They really don’t even really need to make sense. I just need to pin them down on paper, because if I give in to the excuses, my book will remain unwritten.

If I were an artist, I might depend on a muse. But what would I do if she started sleeping in– or worse, developed mononucleosis? What if her fairy dust suddenly lost its sparkle?

I used to think I’d write a book when I had more time. I imagined myself breezing into the perfect little coffee shop, where, after sipping a steaming espresso, I’d poise my fingers above my laptop’s keyboard and watch as a flawless novel unfurled. I wouldn’t write the whole thing in a single day, of course – it would probably take a few weeks. But as long as the conditions were just so, creative inspiration would emerge, almost like a separate entity, and I’d sit back and watch it go to work.

Huh. I’ve since learned writing, at least for me, doesn’t work that way. I have to write when I’m exhausted. I have to write when I’m grumpy, when I’m bored with writing, and when I’m convinced I’m the worst writer in the entire world. I can’t make writing too… precious, for lack of a better word (and I’m a writer; I really should have a better word), or I’ll never get it done. It’s the equivalent of a runner faithfully getting out there on freezing cold days, on rainy days when every passing car splatters a puddle’s worth of water on her, and on days when her shin splints cry out for mercy. Sure, there will be days when she feels like she’s flying; when the sun is gentle and so is the breeze, and she could run forever. Those golden days exist in writing, too, but I know I’ll never stumble upon them unless I’ve done the gritty, painful training.

That’s why I like Craft. Unlike the muse, it’s no-nonsense; it gets up at 7 a.m., yawning and stretching, then has a solid breakfast of scrambled eggs and black coffee before heading off to battle traffic and curse at the guy who makes a left-hand turn and forces everyone to miss the light. Craft isn’t fussy. No mean middle-school girl would try to mess with Craft’s mind. Craft shows up, gets the job done, then heads home to have a well-deserved Budweiser in front of the television.

Ooh – television. Maybe I should see what’s on before I write?

(Sounds of a struggle as Craft wrestles the remote control out of my hand).

Fine. Craft wins again. Now I’m off to tackle those 1,000 words of my next novel.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Lauren Baratz-Logsted’s The Twin’s Daughter AND the entire Sisters 8 Series, including Petal’s Problems in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Lauren Baratz-Logsted and The Twin’s Daughter, Petal’s Problems. PLEASE indicate which book(s) you prefer. As always, comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, February 9, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. EST 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 Further Revealing of Sarah Pekkanen

February 02, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles, Q&A

Last March Sarah Pekkanen became a debut author with her wildly popular novel, The Opposite of Me. In less than a year, this author has made her presence/talent known and many (of you) eagerly await Skipping A Beat, Sarah’s second book coming February 22, 2011.

Described by this one sentence question, Skipping A Beat tells a story of:

What would you do if your husband wanted to rewrite the rules of your relationship?

And the critics praise:

“In this compelling and satisfying read, Pekkanen offers relatable characters that move you and an ending that surprises and pleases. Highly recommended.” Library Journal, *starred review*

“A two-hanky weepy… A tragic turn of events redirects what could have been a predictable romance into a drama on the fragility of love and marriage.” —Kirkus

The Divining Wand has scheduled a presentation/review of Skipping A Beat for Monday, February 14, 2011, however — right now — let’s be reminded of the author’s background through her “official” bio:

Sarah Pekkanen’s work has been published in People, The Washington Post, USA Today, The New Republic, The Baltimore Sun, Reader’s Digest, and Washingtonian, among others. She writes a monthly Erma Bombeck type column for Bethesda Magazine, and has been an on-air contributor to NPR and E! Entertainment’s “Gossip Show.” She is the winner of a Dateline award and the Paul Miller Reporting Fellowship. Sarah lives in Chevy Chase, Maryland with her husband and their three young sons.

Although The Revealing of Sarah Pekkanen provided insight, there is even more to learn about Sarah as she further reveals:

Q: What would you choose as the theme song of your life?
A: “Bless The Broken Road” because I love the message. No one’s life unfolds perfectly, nor should it. We learn from our mistakes and setbacks, and we keep moving forward, toward the place we want to be.

Q: Possible pseudonym?
A: My last name translates to “Peterson” in Finland, so I could be Sara Peterson. My parents spelled my name without an “h” on my birth certificate, but I added one in elementary school. So that’s my alias!

Q: Name three “bests” of being a published author.
A: Meeting so many amazing readers. Some of them have sent me letters about my books, and what the themes have meant to them, and I cherish those notes. I also love chatting and joking around with readeres on Facebook. And seeing my books in stores is such a thrill!

Q: Favorite book release season of the year?
A: I have to go with the cusp of winter and spring, which is when my books come out! It’s a hopeful time – we’re looking ahead to warm weather and flowers. And I think my books are hopeful, so that fits.

Q: If given the opportunity, which reality show would you be on?
A: American Idol. But only if I got a vocal chord transplant; I’m such an awful singer that my kids wail, “Mommmmm!” when I sing along to the radio.

Q: Favorite childhood fairy tale?
A: Cinderella!

Q: What U.S. city would you like to visit that you haven’t been to yet?
A: Savannah is on my dream list. I love the South – the warmth, the accents, the flowers…

Q: Your reward after a day of writing?
A: Hanging out with my family, our rescue lab Bella, and enjoying a cold glass of white wine.

Q: What 3 personal qualities are LEAST important to you?
A: Rigidity, Punctuality, and Skepticism.

Q: An author quote that inspires you?
A: “Writing is easy. Just stare at the computer monitor until blood comes out of your forehead!” (I don’t know who first said this, but it always makes me laugh.)

Q: Where do you like to read?
A: Where don’t I like to read? I read in the car, in bed, in waiting rooms, in lines… you name it. Now that I have a Kindle app for my iPhone, I’m never far from a book.

Q: Book or ebook reader?
A: Both! I’ll take books any way I can get them.

Q: Growing up, who was your teen idol?
A: I had such a crush on Shawn Cassidy! My favorite song was “Da Doo Run Run.” Okay, so the lyrics weren’t all that … lyrical. Shawn was cute!

Q: If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
A: I’d become much more motivated about exercising.

Q: Must love dogs and/or cats?
A: Both – but I’m a dog person. Can’t imagine living without one.

Q: Which author – past or present – would you have chosen as a mentor?
A: Jane Austin. I think she’d be a lot of fun.

Q: What book did you fake reading?
A: I’ve faked a few at bedtime with my kids, when I’m particularly tired and I accidentally “skipped” a few pages.

Q: What is your favorite scent?
A: Lavender.

Q: What is your favorite movie adaptation of a novel?
A: I loved “In Her Shoes.”

Q: Name two books you always give or recommend, knowing they’ll be loved?
A: “Unbroken” by my high-school classmate and dear friend Laura Hillenbrand, and a blank journal, so the recipient can write her own story.

Q: What are five of your favorite things?
A: Assuming I can’t include people, I’ll say books, chocolate, movies, long walks with my rescue lab Bella, and a delicious vegetarian dinner prepared by someone other than myself!

If you have yet to do so, please follow the delightfully outgoing Sarah Pekkanen on Twitter and become a friend on Facebook.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Caroline Leavitt’s Pictures of You in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Caroline Leavitt and Pictures of You. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is tonight at 7:00 p.m. EST with the winners to be announced here in tomorrow’s post. If you enter, please return tomorrow to see if you’re a winner.

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!

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

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!

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

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.