The Divining Wand

Discovering authors beyond their pages…

Camille Noe Pagán: Why I Write

May 30, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[One year ago Camille Noe Pagán debuted with The Art of Forgetting (presentation/review), complete with its stunning book cover and fascinating storyline of forgiving/forgetting for the sake of friendship. However, as of yesterday, The Art of Forgetting is available in paperback with another lovely cover for the same intriguing tale.

Interestingly, in today’s guest post, Camille admits that she doesn’t forget and that helps to explain why she writes.]

Why I Write

There was a guy. I’d call him a man, but I knew him long before he became one, and I loved him then, too. But I didn’t know what to do with that love; I was afraid of it, paralyzed by how I thought it would limit me. You know this story: We moved on. We married other people.

There was an acceptance letter: Harvard School of Public Health welcomes you. A letter followed by a difficult decision: I’m going to give this writing thing a try. A real try, instead of squeezing it in between classes and roping myself down with thousands of dollars of debt, debt that would influence my future career choices, and not necessarily in good ways. You can always reapply, I told myself as I mailed off the reply: Thank you, but no.

There was a city. The city: New York, the only place I’d ever felt at home. But I was about to have my second child, and I wanted to give him and his sister more than I’d be able to if we stayed. So my husband and I packed up and moved to the Midwest, where we had space, more educational options, and at least some of our extended family nearby.

I’ve never regretted choosing my husband—not once. I have a career that even on the worst day is better than I could have ever imagined. My children adore their home, with its attic playroom and grassy yard where they kick around soccer balls and splash in their kiddie pool. And I adore it, too, even if I occasionally wonder if they’d be just as content with Brooklyn as their backyard.

Some people claim they never look over their shoulder, back at what they left behind in order to be where they are now. I am not one of them. Even now, in this blessed life I’ve forged, I still sometimes think of that guy, and graduate school, and New York.

For me, looking back is not about regret. It’s just how I think—and it is exactly why I write.

It’s no news flash that life doesn’t come with do-overs. It’s all forward motion, and it’s faster and faster with every passing year.

But writing: that comes with track changes; multiple drafts; a delete button. It is chance to live many lives, to make many choices, to explore things freely and know that in the end, even though I have created them, they are not my own. Each time I return to the blank page, I am choosing a new adventure. An adventure I can revise as many times as needed before it feels just right.

* * * * *

Forgive and forget—but not necessarily in that order.

The Art of Forgetting is a story about the power of friendship, the memories and self-created myths that hold us back from our true potential, and most of all, the delicate balance between forgiving and forgetting.

Here’s an eclectic sampling of praise since its debut:

“Pagán writes with both a subtle sense of humor and great wisdom about the power of friendship and the importance of forgiveness in her quietly compelling literary debut.”
 —Chicago Tribune

“Fast-paced, painful, funny, and renewing at once.”
—Daily Candy

“A cathartic, thought-provoking story of unconditional friendship and the choices we make on the road to becoming who we’re meant to be.”
Shelf Awareness

Camille Noe Pagán can be followed on Twitter, liked on Facebook and enjoyed through her writing of The Art of Forgetting.

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of The Art of Forgetting by Camille Noe Pagán — 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.

Camille Noe Pagán and The Art of Forgetting

May 30, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books

Camille Noe Pagán’s debut novel The Art of Forgetting — with its stunning cover and intriguing title — bows down from bookstore shelves next Thursday, June 9, 2011.

The book, based on a seemingly simple premise of forever friends, is actually a complex, multi-layered tale that both fascinates, frustrates, and fills a reader with questions to what it means to be or who is a friend?

The idea for the storyline came first from the author’s desire to write a book about the nitty-gritty of female friendships and then combine aspects of what she had learned from writing a magazine article about brain injuries. For example, brain injuries are very common — yet very overlooked — in young women and even a relatively minor trauma can have a drastic impact on one’s personality.

Of course what makes Camille’s novel ring true are the well-defined characters that she’s created. Her two main friends, including every one of the supporting cast, are believable in their intentions and motivations….in other words, they’re humanly flawed. Here’s the synopsis for The Art of Forgetting:

Forgive and forget—but not necessarily in that order.

Marissa Rogers never wanted to be an alpha; beta suited her just fine, thank you very much. After all, taking charge without taking credit had always paid off: vaulting her to senior editor at a glossy diet magazine; allowing her to keep the peace with her critical, weight-obsessed mother; and enjoying the benefits that came with being best friends with gorgeous, charismatic Julia Ferrar.

Sure, coming up with 15 different ways to lose five pounds month after month could be mind-numbing. And yes, Julia was a walking, talking reminder that Marissa would never be the type to turn heads. So what? There was no reason to upend her perfect-on-paper life.

But when Julia is hit by a cab and suffers a personality-altering brain injury, Marissa has no choice but step into the role of alpha friend. As Julia struggles to regain her memory—dredging up things Marissa would rather forget, including the fact that Julia asked her to abandon the love of her life 10 years ago—and to return to the sharp, magnetic woman she once was, their friendship is shaken to the core.

With the help of 12 girls she reluctantly agrees to coach in an after-school running program, Marissa will uncover an inner confidence she never knew she possessed and find the courage to reexamine her past and take control of her future.

The Art of Forgetting is a story about the power of friendship, the memories and self-created myths that hold us back from our true potential, and most of all, the delicate balance between forgiving and forgetting.

The Praise is here and a highly recommended Excerpt — Chapter One. Although a brief chapter, this is the introduction and set-up to the tale.

For it’s in those first few pages that the accident occurs and the lives of both friends change forever. Also, by jumping right into the action, the author makes certain that Julia is only known and described primarily through Marissa’s perspective. Camille intentionally did this because she believed, “[it] would help readers understand both Marissa’s loyalty and frustration towards Julia as a person.”

And learning the truth about this friendship is at the heart of this story. With major kudos to the author, The Art of Forgetting is not a tear-jerker, not at all. While Marissa feels/displays genuine empathy and a sadness that Julia will never be the same again, the accident loosens their bond enough to allow Marissa to see her friend objectively. She grieves the loss, accepts what was, and hesitantly moves on. What friendships give — or what we let them take — is not always for the best. Without *spoilers*, it can be told that Marissa forgave her friend and herself, forgot what hurt had been done, and forged a new equal friendship with Julia.

Because, yes, Julia — pre/post-injury — is a controversial character, even a dangerous one at times. However, since she still needed to be somewhat likable, how did Camille handle that fine line? She says:

“A few (early) readers have said they wished Julia had been more likable, but for me, it was crucial to show just how dangerous and reckless her charisma—the very thing that made her likable to others!—could be. I do think that those closest to Marissa were most able to see Julia’s flaws, because they were looking out for Marissa’s best interests. In my mind, the outside world, including Julia’s colleagues and circle of friends, weren’t really privy to her dangerous, unlikable side until after her accident.”

The themes of forgiving, forgetting, friendship, and embracing one’s own self-worth are interwoven with each other throughout the novel. Yet what is its message? According to this debut author, “the novel’s message is that friendship is an ongoing choice with participation of both people involved. Even in an uneven friendship…. ”

The Art of Forgetting is a gorgeous novel telling a story of individuals who are who they are — real people as imperfect as we all are. And it felt appropriate for The Divining Wand to ask Camille Noe Pagán what she would like readers to know first and foremost about her debut?

“I think that readers, even those who don’t know me, will assume that I am Marissa. She and I share many things in common—our professional backgrounds, of course, and to some degree, our insecurities. Yet writing Forgetting led me to the realization that I’ve got a dose of Julia in me, too; I think most of us do. I’ve had a few friendships fall apart (who hasn’t?!) and I often blamed the other person for one reason rather than looking at my own role. Forgetting gave me a better understanding of just how complex friendships are. Just like marriage, both parties are almost always involved in damaging or disintegrating the relationship.

Writing Forgetting also made me a better friend. As a writer, I examined the motivation of every single one of my characters, which gave me a great deal of empathy for each of them–even my villains. No surprise, I began looking at the real people in my life with more empathy, too.”

The Art of Forgetting — truly beautiful inside and out — can be yours next week. Enjoy!

* * * * *

Announcement: The winners of Fourth Grade Fairy by Eileen Cook are Kate Ledger, Dee, and Tiffany D.. 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 The Art of Forgetting by Camille Noe Pagán 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, June 1, 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.

Guest Camille Noe Pagán on Reading Saves Lives

May 24, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[Reading educates, enlightens, entertains and even allows us to escape from or clarify personal problems. In today’s guest post, Camille Noe Pagán (The Art of Forgetting coming June 9, 2011) chronicles how reading also can be the ultimate lifesaver.

And, on that related note, please remember that from May 16th to June 1st, the author is donating $1 per pre-order of The Art of Forgetting to the Bob Woodruff Foundation, which provides resources and support to service members, including those who’ve suffered brain injuries.]

Reading Saves Lives

After I emailed Caroline Leavitt to tell her I loved her recent novel, Pictures of You, she mailed me a handmade bookplate. It was a photo of wings on the sidewalk in front of a brownstone. Beneath it, Caroline wrote:

“Camille, reading saves our life.”

Cute, I thought at the time.

But that saying burrowed under my skin like a tick; try as I might, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. While I was out jogging one day, I suddenly realized that Caroline was right. Reading had saved my life–more than a few times.

During my childhood, I followed in the footsteps of millions before me and escaped the misery and sadness of youth by losing myself in books. I became an Egyptologist while reading The Egypt Game; took on the White Witch alongside Lucy in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; and let the green world bring me alive like Mary and Colin in The Secret Garden.

In my twenties, after despairing of my instinct to flee a relationship that was so good for me I didn’t know how to handle it, I read Charles Baxter’s The Feast of Love twice in a row, then went around recommending it like a door-to-door evangelist offering free copies of the Bible. (Spoiler alert: I married the good-for-me guy. Thank you, Mr. Baxter, for that nudge.)

While a friend of mine was dying from terminal cancer, I dove back into my favorite novel, Barbara Kingsolver’s Prodigal Summer, a story that illustrates, among other things, the way humans are interconnected with nature and every living thing. It was a sustaining thought in a time of internal chaos.

As a journalist (my other hat, when I’m not writing fiction), I cover health and wellness. I’ve written about depression and crisis more times than I can count, and the thing I hear from physicians and therapists time and time again is this: getting out of your own head can stop your negative, depressive thoughts and help you feel better. Our self-focus can drown us if we swim in it too long. But when we participate in activities that make us look outward–whether it’s exercising, volunteering, or being with friends–it breaks through those thoughts and offers perspective. Reading does this in the most primal way: it takes you out of your head and puts you in someone else’s.

The ability to leave my life and enter a fictional one—even for a few minutes—has kept me from sinking so many times (no surprise, writing fiction has a very similar effect). To me, at its core every novel is about redemption. When the characters we are reading about triumph, or even just survive, we cheer along side them because it reinforces the idea that we, too, can survive and triumph.

A month or so ago, a woman emailed me. It turns out that she helped copyedit my novel, The Art of Forgetting, which is about how two friends’ relationship is forever changed after one of them suffers a brain injury. She told me that while she was working on Forgetting, someone close to her had suffered a serious head injury. Your novel was a great source of comfort to me during that time, she wrote. Thank you.

It was then I knew that writing the novel had been a worthwhile endeavor; I had finally paid forward what Barbara Kingsolver, Charles Baxter and countless other authors have done for me. I may not have literally saved that woman, but my book had been a lifeboat during her flood. I’ve had some lovely early reviews–and, of course, some less-than-lovely, too. None of those words, good or bad, have meant nearly as much to me as the email that said, Your book helped me.

Reading saves lives. If you don’t believe me, crack open a book the next time you feel yourself starting to sink.

* * * * *

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of The Arrivals by Meg Mitchell Moore in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Meg Mitchell Moore and The Arrivals. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, May 25, 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 Camille Noe Pagán

May 18, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles, Q&A

Journalist and former editor Camille Noe Pagan debuts as an author when The Art of Forgetting arrives in bookstores June 9, 2011. [However please note that from May 16th to June 1st, the author is donating $1 per pre-order of her novel to the Bob Woodruff Foundation, which provides resources and support to service members, including those who’ve suffered brain injuries.]

In this two sentence synopsis, the book is described as: A moving and insightful debut novel of great friendship interrupted. Can the relationship survive when the memories are gone?

And it’s been followed by impressive early Praise:

“This page-turner with original, likable, empathetic characters and an identifiable theme will attract readers who enjoy intelligent novels about women’s friendships.”—Library Journal

“Fastpaced and engaging, The Art of Forgetting is deliciously observant and refreshingly honest. Camille Noe Pagán is a welcome new voice.” –Kate Jacobs, author of The Friday Night Knitting Club and Comfort Food

“Charming and original…a delightful story of friendship, love, and forgiveness while exploring the surprising ways lives are forever reshaped in the aftermath of tragedy.” –Beth Hoffman, New York Times bestselling author of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt

“[A]n insightful exploration into the nature of friendship and self. This impressive debut is at turns funny, thought-provoking, and achingly sad. It is (dare I say it?) unforgettable.” –J. Courtney Sullivan, author of Commencement

The Divining Wand has scheduled a presentation/review of The Art of Forgetting for Monday, May 30, 2011. But, in the meantime, let’s meet the author through her “official” bio:

Camille Noe Pagán’s work has appeared in numerous national publications and websites including Allure, Cooking Light,, Glamour, O, The Oprah Magazine, Reader’s Digest, SELF and Women’s Health. A former magazine and online editor, she lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan with her husband and children.

Not very personal, is it? Well that’s easily remedied as we get to know Camille, upclose and revealing:

Q: How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A: An amazing journey that gets better every day.

Q: What is your motto or maxim?
A: Always be generous.

Q: How would you describe perfect happiness?
A: Good health for myself and everyone I love. Several personal tragedies over the past few years have taught me that health really is the most important thing.

Q: What’s your greatest fear?
A: No surprise, something bad happening to my children. I can’t read books or watch movies about children getting hurt or dying–it’s like dumping gasoline on the lit match of my anxious mind!

Q: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A: I’m tempted to say a beach in the Caribbean, but the truth is Brooklyn. My family and I recently moved to Ann Arbor, but I lived in New York for the better part of the last decade and I’d rather be there than anywhere else. Great food, interesting people, endless things to do: it’s the perfect place, if you can forget that you’re living in a shoebox in order to be there.

Q: With whom in history do you most identify?
A: I can’t say I really identify with one particular person. I’d love to spend a day in the life of Colette, Anais Nin or another great female writer from the last century or so.

Q: Which living person do you most admire?
A: Right now, journalist Lara Logan is high on my list. I admire her for speaking out about her assault in Egypt earlier this year; in doing so, she’s started a crucial conversation about sexual assault and violence against female journalists and women.

Q: What are your most overused words or phrases
A: I hate when people misuse “literally” … but I say “seriously” all the time and it’s almost as bad. You’d think I was stuck in an episode of Grey’s Anatomy, circa 2005.

Q: If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A: I’d have an amazing singing voice. As it stands, I sound like Julia Robert in Pretty Woman, yodeling in the bathtub with her headphones on.

Q: What is your greatest achievement?
A: I’d like to say my daughter, 3, and son, 5 months, but they’re really gifts I can’t take credit for. So I’ll say that my greatest achievement has been my writing career as a whole. I was the first on both sides of my family to attend college, and there was a lot of pressure to do something “useful” with my degree–think law or engineering. I’m so glad I ignored the “shoulds” and followed my dream.

Q: What’s your greatest flaw?
A: My obsession with getting things done–I’m an achievaholic. Which means enjoying “now” is a daily struggle.

Q: What’s your best quality?
A: My drive, or I guess you could call it ambition (see above :). If I set my mind to do something–whether it’s running a marathon, writing a novel or just figuring out how to make some complicated pastry–I almost always do it.

Q: What do you regret most?
A: I regret very little–I think most mistakes help guide us to where we’re supposed to be–but the few things I do regret, I could never put in print. 🙂

Q: If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A: I wouldn’t mind having Nora Ephron’s career, but I can’t say I’d want to trade places with another person.

Q: What trait is most noticeable about you?
A: I’m 5’1″ (although you’ll rarely see me out of heels). When I meet people I know from the internet, they’re often surprised to discover that I’m, ahem, a little person.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A: Hmm. I love Holly Golightly in the book version of Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s. She’s a high-class hooker with a heart of gold–the original flawed protagonist.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A: Who doesn’t love The Evil Queen in Snow White? So vicious! So vain! Without her, there’s really no story.

Q: If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A: I’m so not a sports fan, but I am a long-time runner and I’m so impressed by Paula Radcliffe, a British distance runner who won the New York marathon less than a year after giving birth. I’d love to have a conversation with her about her determination.

Q: What is your biggest pet peeve?
A: Wishy-washiness. I love the saying “Let your yes be yes and your no be no.” I’d rather have an honest rejection than a halfhearted “maybe”.

Q: What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A: Baking is a huge stress reliever for me. (Here’s my latest favorite. )

Q: What’s your fantasy profession?
A: Writing is really it for me, but if I couldn’t write a word, I’d probably be an interior designer or real estate investor. I love design, architecture and real estate. Almost all of my favorite must-read blogs that aren’t about writing are design-related.

Q: What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A: Kindness, curiosity and work ethic. Although loyalty is a close runner up.

Q: If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A: Technically coffee isn’t edible, but I live on espresso with steamed milk–I don’t think I’d survive a day without it.

Q: What are your 5 favorite songs?
A: There’s no way I could pick five. I will say that I adore Nina Simone’s version of “I Shall Be Released” and I was crushed–crushed!–to learn that it was written by Bob Dylan. I like him just fine, but it completely changed the way I thought about the lyrics. Every once in a while, my husband will put on the Dylan version to tease me.

Q: What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A: Prodigal Summer, by Barbara Kingsolver. I can’t adequately quite explain why, but this book is just magical for me–even more so than The Poisonwood Bible, which is another favorite. I read it almost every year.

The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. If you can believe it, I read this for the first time during the summer after college, when I was at Radcliffe for a publishing program. I remember life being so full of possibility and yet disappointment, too, and this book always brings me right back to that time.

The Bible. Religion aside, this was one of my earliest sources of story and it’s had a huge influence on my love of the written word.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. This is one of the books that made me the voracious reader that I am (which, of course, turned me into a writer). I remember cracking it open and being whisked into a whole other world–and to my delight, there were six more Narnia books to lose myself in when I finished!

Like Life, by Lorrie Moore. I love all of Moore’s short story collections, but this is the one that I’ve opened countless times to turn a bad day around. I love how she combines funny and sad in the perfect way.

Smart, determined, and ever thoughtful, Camille Noe Pagán is another new author to follow on Twitter and become a friend/fan of on Facebook, allowing you to say you knew her when….

* * * * *

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 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.