The Divining Wand

Discovering authors beyond their pages…

Claire Cook and Seven Year Switch

July 26, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books

From the Front Cover

“Reading Claire Cook might be the most fun you have all summer.”
–ELIN HILDERBRAND, bestselling author of The Castaways

Although Elin Hilderbrand’s quote may sound somewhat exaggerated, what would be more fun this summer than sitting on a beach with your arms spread wide to embrace sand, surf, and blue sky? In fact one might imagine that’s how Claire Cook (Must Love Dogs, Life’s A Beach, and the rest in Bibliography) enjoyed her trip to Costa Rica where she researched Seven Year Switch.

Simply put, this bestselling author of seven book believes in having fun while embracing life and her characters reflect that attitude….at least by the end of their tales. Is this art imitating life? Well in her recent post, Guest Claire Cook on Buried Dreams and YOUR Seven Year Switch, she admits that before following her dream: “…I pretended I wasn’t feeling terrible about not writing a novel, and did a lot of other creative things.” However, during the July 9, 2010 LitChat — where the topic of the week was reinvention — Claire explained further:

Change is hard, so I think being miserable is good incentive.

For me the procrastination became more painful than actually writing a book.

I majored in film and creative writing in college, then totally choked. I hid from it for
over two decades.

I’d gotten by on potential and suddenly I actually had to do something.

Those are all insightful and wise statements from a successful author thrilled to have her novels labeled as “beach reads.” However, when dipping into the pages, readers discover the content is anything but shallow. Instead Claire Cook writes: “The main characters in my novels are all trying to find a way to their own next chapters. I’m not sure any journey feels “‘standard'” when you’re the one who has to go through it, fictionally or in reality!”

It’s also not an easy journey when change is forced upon you as it is in Seven Year Switch, described here in the author’s own words:

Seven Year Switch is the story of a single mother whose husband ran off to join the Peace Corps, leaving her with a three-year-old. Seven years later, just when they’ve figured out how to make it on their own, he’s ba-ack – proving he can’t even run away reliably! Now Jill has to face the fact that there’s simply no way she can be a good mom without letting her ex back into her daughter’s life. They say that every seven years you become a completely new person, and it takes a Costa Rican getaway to help Jill make her choice – between the woman she is and the woman she wants to be.

Knowing that Claire’s books are more about the characters rather than about theme, setting, or plot, The Divining Wand asked where Jill Murray came from? Delighted with the author’s response on her free association imagination, it’s only fair to share her thought process:

“Seven novels in, I stop to think what haven’t I tried before, and I realized that while some of my narrators have been single women, I’ve never written from the point of view of a single mom. I’ve been married for a zillion years (to the same guy, no less!) so I started reaching out to friends and friends of friends who were single moms. I was a teacher for sixteen years, and I remembered some of my students’ experiences as their families navigated the waters of divorce. Then I started thinking about how our lives never turn out quite the way we planned. And I’ve always been fascinated by other cultures, and I was dying to take a research trip to Costa Rica. And it was my seventh novel, so I started thinking about the significance of the number seven. And somehow into all this Jill was born! I’m never quite sure how it all comes together — I just feel my way through.”

With such natural common sense, it’s not surprising that Claire confesses her writing goes “flat” if she analyzes too much. Analytical and critical thinking is saved for revisions, but in the first draft she needs to feel it, not think it. Hmm, a gift of talent? All the author knows is she was surprised to learn that everyone’s brain doesn’t function the way hers does. And, while other writers can’t understand how her process can be successful, she just loves that this proves there is no one way to write a book.

To read Praise for Seven Year Switch please read the right column of the page. To read an Excerpt: Chapter One, please scroll down this same page.

Skipping the beach scene to read Seven Year Switch within the air-conditioned comfort of home did prove to be fun as well as thought-provoking. In truth this story focuses on Jill Murray’s two reinventions, the first brought on seven years earlier when her husband left. Literally abandoned, without an income and their three year old daughter to support, Jill transforms herself into a survivor and earns her dues to be startled and confused — though stronger and wiser — on his surprise return. And that’s when the time comes for another seven year change.

The writing showcases an entrepreneurial single mom who is bright, bold, and determined to do what’s best for her child. Also the serious issues of a “deadbeat Dad,” scrimping to get by, and a child missing/loving her father are treated with a respectful light touch. How? Well the author has infused her protagonist with humor, sass, and enough quirky supporting characters to brighten the journey and even create laugh out loud moments — Great Girlfriend Getaways’ headphone, Cynthia, Spanx….

Delivering her message of reinvention, with more than a spoonful of sugar, Claire Cook allows the reader to have fun with Seven Year Switch, while perhaps thinking of changes in their own future. Hmm, enjoy!

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Announcement: The winners of Keetha DePriest Mosley’s Culinary Kudzu(s) are: Alicia and Elizabeth Varga. Congratulations.

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


Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of Claire Cook’s Seven Year Switch in a random drawing to anyone who comments only on this specific post. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, July 28, 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 Claire Cook on Buried Dreams
and YOUR Seven Year Switch

July 20, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[Bestselling, prolific author Claire Cook (Seven Year Switch, Must Love Dogs, Life’s A Beach, and the rest in Bibliography) is everywhere. Whether featured in print newspaper’s, magazine’s, or on online publication’s “must read” lists, Claire’s novels of being the best you can be resonate with a universal readership. And to think she’s become this popular with seven books in ten years. Yet why not? After living life with a buried dream, she finally “Just Did It!” by pursuing her dream of becoming a novelist. In today’s guest post, Claire describes her successful journey — one that we all can achieve too.]

Buried Dreams and YOUR Seven Year Switch

I write because I can. I’d love to be a musician or a painter, but writing is the place where my urge to create and my ability intersect. I think we all have that place. For some, the trick is finding it. For others, it’s all about having the courage to live the dream.

I’ve known I was a writer since I was three. My mother entered me in a contest to name the Fizzies whale, and I won in my age group. It’s quite possible that mine was the only entry in my age group, since “Cutie Fizz” was enough to win my family a six-month supply of Fizzies tablets (root beer was the best flavor) and a half dozen turquoise plastic mugs with removable handles.

At six I had my first story on the Little People’s Page in the Sunday paper (about Hot Dog, the family dachshund, even though we had a beagle at the time — the first clue that I’d be a novelist and not a journalist) and at sixteen I had my first front page feature in the local weekly. I majored in film and creative writing in college, and fully expected that the day after graduation, I would go into labor and a brilliant novel would emerge, fully formed, like giving birth.

It didn’t happen. I guess I knew how to write, but not what to write. Looking back, I can see that I had to live my life so I’d have something to write about, and if I could give my younger self some good advice, it would be not to beat myself up for the next couple of decades.

But I did. At the same time, I pretended I wasn’t feeling terrible about not writing a novel, and did a lot of other creative things. I wrote shoe ads for an in house advertising agency for five weeks, became continuity director of a local radio station for a couple of years, taught aerobics and did some choreography, helped a friend with landscape design, wrote a few freelance magazine pieces, took some more detours. Eventually, I had two children and followed them to school as a teacher, where I taught everything from multicultural games and dance to open ocean rowing to creative writing.

Years later, when I was in my forties and sitting in my minivan outside my daughter’s swim practice at 5 AM, it hit me that I might live my whole life without ever once going after my dream of writing a novel. So, for the next six months I wrote a rough draft in the pool parking lot, and it sold to the first publisher who asked to read it.

My first novel was published when I was 45. At 50, I walked the red carpet at the Hollywood premiere of the movie version of my second novel, Must Love Dogs, starring Diane Lane and John Cusack. I’m now 55, and my seventh novel, Seven Year Switch, is off to a great start, with beach read shout outs from USA Today, The New York Times, and the New York Post. I sometimes take a deep breath and remind myself that this is the career I almost didn’t have.

So many readers have approached me after book events or emailed me through my website,, or messaged me on Facebook or Twitter to share their buried dreams. They tell me that my own journey has been an inspiration to them. I love the idea that someone reading this right now might take a minute to think about dusting off her own dream.

Seven Year Switch is the story of a single mom whose husband ran off to join the Peace Corps. Seven years later, he’s ba-ack – proving he can’t even run away reliably! If there’s an overarching theme in my seven novels, it’s that each of my main characters is trying to reinvent herself. I think that’s what I bring to the table from my own life, and I think it’s something most of us face at one point or another. Here are some tips to help you find what’s next for you.

Seven Simple Steps for Finding YOUR Next Chapter

Self. You can’t have self-awareness, self-confidence, or any of those other good self words until you decide to like yourSELF, and who you really are.

Soul Searching. Sometimes it’s just getting quiet enough to figure out what you really want; often it’s digging up that buried dream you had before life got in the way.

Serendipity. When you stay open to surprises, they often turn out to be even better than the things you planned. Throw your routine out the window and let spontaneity change your life.

Synchronicity. It’s like that saying about luck being the place where preparation meets opportunity. Open your eyes and ears – then catch the next wave that’s meant for you!

Strength. Life is tough. Decide to be tougher. If Plan A doesn’t work, the alphabet has 25 more letters (204 if you’re in Japan!)

Sisterhood. Connect, network, smile. Build a structure of support, step by step. Do something nice for someone – remember, karma is a boomerang!

Satisfaction. Of course you can get some (no matter what the Rolling Stones said.) Call it satisfaction, fulfillment, gratification, but there’s nothing like the feeling of setting a goal and achieving it. So make yours a good one!

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Lauren Baratz-Logsted’s The Education of Bet in a random drawing to anyone who comments only on this specific post, Lauren Baratz-Logsted and The Education of Bet. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, July 21, 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.

The Revealing of Claire Cook

June 30, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles

Bestselling author Claire Cook (Must Love Dogs, Life’s A Beach, and the rest in Bibliography) is celebrating the publication of her seventh book, Seven Year Switch — selected by US TODAY and The New York Times as their Top Summer Book Picks.

Publishers Weekly might have had the initial endorsement when beginning its review of the novel with, “Roll out your beach blanket for this sweet summer read about making mistakes and moving on.” The Divining Wand has scheduled a full presentation/review of Seven Year Switch for Monday, July 26, 2010. But, until then, let’s meet this “late starter” novelist by reading a shortened version of “official” bio:

Raised on Nancy Drew mysteries, Claire Cook has wanted to write ever since she was a little girl. She majored in theater and creative writing at Syracuse University and immersed herself in a number of artistic endeavors (copywriter, radio continuity director, garden designer, and dance and aerobics choreographer), yet somehow her dreams got pushed to the side for more real-life matters — like marriage, motherhood, and a teaching career. Decades passed, then one day she found herself parked in her minivan at 5 AM, waiting for her daughter to finish swim practice. She was struck with a now-or-never impulse and began writing on the spot. By the end of the season, she had a first draft. Her first novel, Ready to Fall, was published in 2000, when Cook was 45.

Since then, this “late starter” has more than made up for lost time. She struck gold with her second book, Must Love Dogs. Published in 2002, this story of a middle-aged divorcee whose singles ad produces hilariously unexpected results was declared “funny and pitch-perfect” by the Chicago Tribune and “a hoot” by the Boston Globe. (The novel got a second life in 2005 with the release of the feature film starring Diane Lane and John Cusack.) Cook’s subsequent novels, with their wry, witty take on the lives of middle-aged women, have become bestsellers and book club favorites.

Upbeat, gregarious, and grateful for her success, Cook is an inspiration for aspiring writers and women in midlife transition. She tours indefatigably for her novels and genuinely enjoys speaking with fans. She also conducts frequent writing workshops, where she dispenses advice and encouragement in equal measure. “I’m extraordinarily lucky to spend my time doing what I love,” she has said on countless occasions. ” The workshops are a way to say thank you and open doors that I stumbled through to make it easier for writers coming up behind me.”

In fact Claire has spent this month book touring across the country (with only one event remaining on July 8th in Chatham, Massachusetts) but before she left to meet and greet fans, the author revealed:

Q. How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A. Finally living my dream and totally loving it.

Q. What is your motto or maxim?
A. Karma is a boomerang – probably the truest thing one of my characters has ever said.

Q. How would you describe perfect happiness?
A. Perfectly fleeting.

Q. What’s your greatest fear?
A. That I’m still a bartender and I can’t remember where this drink should go. Oh, wait, that’s the recurring nightmare.

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

Q. With whom in history do you most identify?
A. P.T. Barnum. I’m a direct descendant, and btw, he did not say, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” He said, “There’s a customer born every minute.” I have updated that to, “There’s a reader born every minute.”

Q. Which living person do you most admire?
A. It’s a three-way tie between my husband and two kids. Aww.

Q. What are your most overused words or phrases
A. My literary agent recently told me it was Aww. I think she actually called it a verbal tic. That’s the kind of agent you want to have.

Q. If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A. I’d love to be a songwriter. I used to teach the Aerosmith kids, and right around the time my first novel came out, I had this great conversation with Steven Tyler. He wanted to know how I could write a whole novel, and I said that if I could say it in a song, I wouldn’t have to.

Q. What is your greatest achievement?
A. Helping my two kids grow into people I both admire and want to hang out with.

Q. What’s your greatest flaw?
A. I can’t do anything halfway.

Q. What’s your best quality?
A. I can’t do anything halfway. And if that’s cheating, I would say kindness.

Q. What do you regret most?
A. Who has time?

Q. If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A. For me, the gift of midlife is that I’m finally being exactly who I really am. There’s great power in that.

Q. What trait is most noticeable about you?
A. People always say my laugh. They also often tell me I laugh just like one of my characters, which I think is interesting.

Q. Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A. Nancy Drew.

Q. Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A. I always skip the scary pages.

Q. If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A. If I really wanted to meet an athlete, I’d just find a way. I’d rather go to the gym and get a workout.

Q. What is your biggest pet peeve?
A. Mean people.

Q. What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A. Walking the beach.

Q. What’s your fantasy profession?
A. Being a novelist. It’s the career I almost didn’t have, and seven books in, it still feels like a fantasy.

Q. What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A. Humor, honesty, kindness.

Q. If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A. Trader Joe’s organic popcorn with olive oil.

Q. What are your 5 favorite songs?
A. I never play favorites. I just can’t. I’d feel too sorry for the songs I didn’t pick.

Q. What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A. The ones I haven’t written yet.

To enjoy more of Claire Cook’s wisdom, kindness, and fun (because she’s all about FUN), please become her friend on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Robin Antalek’s The Summer We Fell Apart in a random drawing to anyone who comments only on this specific post, Robin Antalek and The Summer We Fell Apart. Comments left on other posts during the week are not entered into the contest. The deadline is tonight at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winner to be announced here in tomorrow’s post. If you enter, please return tomorrow to possibly claim your book.