The Divining Wand

Discovering authors beyond their pages…

What If….Kristina Riggle and Sarah Pekkanen?

July 13, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Favorites

What a day — or more — for a daydream in the summer heat of July. In fact it feels like the perfect time to wonder “what if” The Divining Wand possessed magical powers and could grant authors, who create their own magic with “what if,” the following two questions:

Based only on their writing, what author would you want to be?


If given the opportunity to have written ONE book in your lifetime, what would that title be?

~ Kristina Riggle (Real Life & Liars and The Life You’ve Imagined coming August 17, 2010):

“There are many authors whose talent I admire — Anita Shreve, Anne Tyler, Elizabeth Berg and Jennifer Weiner leap to mind — but I want to be distinctly and only me. I want to have a writing voice so unique that people can read my words without looking at the cover and be able to say: “‘That sounds like a Kristina Riggle book.'” I’m working on that.”

“Interesting question! I have titles floating around in my head I love, but I hope to write a book that will match up with them someday, therefore I don’t want to spill them publicly. Wish I’d thought of THE HOUR I FIRST BELIEVED before Wally Lamb. What a great title. How about: THE BEST BOOK KRISTINA RIGGLE COULD EVER POSSIBLY WRITE.”

~ Sarah Pekkanen (The Opposite of Me):

“I’d want to be Jane Austin – and have written Pride and Prejudice!”

* * * * *

Presenting Debutante Sarah Pekkanen and The Opposite of Me

March 08, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books, Debs


From the book’s front cover:

“Fresh and funny and satisfying. A terrific book about
sisters that actually made me laugh out loud.”
#1 bestselling author of In Her Shoes and Best Friends Forever


When Sarah Pekkanen (The Debutante Ball Class of 2010) introduced herself in the September 1, 2009 post, So nice to meet you!, she told a bit of her own life backstory before ending with these thoughts:

“I can’t tell you how honored I am to be a part of this sisterhood, and how awed I am by all the Debs that have gone before me. They’ve set the bar very, very high. I’ll do my best not to drag it down too much!”

Well, for those who may not know what happened last Wednesday, March 3rd, the Jennifer Weiner PRE-ORDER Book Giveaway was an Internet phenomenon (with sales for our Deb’s novel going far above Jen’s early recorded numbers) and that means tomorrow Sarah will officially debut as a bestselling author for The Opposite of Me!

Now how high has the bar been raised? And was this all pre-planned?

On her Facebook page, Sarah commented:

“I’ll be forever grateful to Jennifer Weiner for turning me into a bestselling author yesterday, a week before my debut even came out! Jen is the new Oprah!”

So how did it happen?

“Jen and I have the same editor, but this was all Jen’s idea – not our publisher’s at all! We’ve never even met, but Jen read an early copy of my book and has been following its progress. She just really wants to support other authors because she remembers what it was like to have her debut.”

A lovely and generous act of kindness more than jump-starts Sarah’s career as a novelist, yet it’s the book’s story that truly matters. Let’s take a look at what created such Praise (on the left sidebar) for The Opposite of Me.

Although the author detailed her thoughts for the storyline in this guest post — Sarah Pekkanen: In Her Own Words — she also offers a more concise backstory:

“As for getting my ideas, I’m intrigued by the notion of identity. How is it that we get assigned certain roles in our family – like the drama queen, the smart one, the funny one, the pretty one, even if those roles aren’t exactly right? I spun that idea around in my head for awhile and it eventually turned into the plot of my book.”‘

While many novels begin with “what if?,” The Opposite of Me began with “whys” about identity and sisters that evolved into this synopsis:

Twenty-nine-year-old Lindsey Rose has, for as long as she can remember, lived in the shadow of her ravishingly beautiful fraternal twin sister, Alex. Determined to get noticed, Lindsey is finally on the cusp of being named VP creative director of an elite New York advertising agency, after years of eighty-plus-hour weeks, migraines, and profound loneliness. But during the course of one devastating night, Lindsey’s carefully constructed life implodes. Humiliated, she flees the glitter of Manhattan and retreats to the time warp of her parents’ Maryland home. As her sister plans her lavish wedding to her Prince Charming, Lindsey struggles to maintain her identity as the smart, responsible twin while she furtively tries to piece her career back together. But things get more complicated when a long-held family secret is unleashed that forces both sisters to reconsider who they are and who they are meant to be.

In reality, Deb Sarah has two brothers and three sons — no sister(s) in her immediate family –, however she’s always wondered what it would be like to have a sister and fascinated by the rich, complex relationships her friends had with their sisters. When it came time to write The Opposite of Me, she allowed the relationship between Lindsey and Alex to be “as messy and loving and complicated and competitive as possible.”

And why not include those complexities because — after all — the bottom line to this story is family. In fact that’s where Sarah’s strength and warmth come from, simply read her December 1, 2009 post, Deb Sarah’s dayjobs to fully understand.

Also, to read more of Sarah’s writing, here’s the excerpt of Chapter 1 from The Opposite of Me.

As far back as October there was good buzz about this novel which The Divining Wand received in November and read in December. Yes it was a definite holiday treat since Sarah — with her natural gift for writing and engaging voice — told a refreshing tale of two young women searching for their identities. Sisters/twins, seemingly different yet nonetheless the same, are at a crossroads in life. Rather than rely on and share with each other, they take the avoidance path and create a refreshing, believable story. Seriously who among the closest of sisters shares everything and then to be a twin…well you too would want your own identity and personal role in the world, wouldn’t you?!

With vivid description, thoughtful insight, and clever narrative, Deb Sarah elevates contemporary women’s fiction to another level. The Opposite of Me is both smart and fun. Or, as Courier Mail (Australia ) proclaims: “…it’s a winner!”

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand will be giving away two copies of The Opposite of Me in a random drawing. Simply leave a comment on this post — by the deadline of Wednesday, March 10, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EST — and you’ll be entered in the contest. The winners will be announced in Thursday’s post.

Sarah Pekkanen: In Her Own Words

March 03, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

Debutante Sarah Pekkanen — of The Debutante Ball — becomes a novelist next Tuesday, Mach 9, 2010, with the launch of The Opposite of Me.

To celebrate this first-time event, #1 New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Weiner is offering a free, autographed copy of one of her books to anyone who pre-orders The Opposite of Me today – Wednesday, March 3! Please check Jen’s March 1, 2010 post for details (which are simple to follow).

And Sarah has put together a raffle with cool prizes like a camcorder and MAC cosmetics for the same folks who pre-order today. To recap: Buy a copy of the book today, get a free, signed Jen Weiner blockbuster book AND a chance to win a cool raffle prize. Details about the raffle are on Sarah’s March 1, 2010 post.

Having read The Opposite of Me, this Fairy Godmother highly recommends pre-ordering a book that you’ll want to read because — among other reasons — this early praise:

“Fresh, appealing… the story is by turns funny and poignant.”- Booklist

“Pekkanen’s involving debut… is an honest examination of the limits we place on ourselves, with well-drawn female characters.”- Kirkus

“Fresh and funny and satisfying. A terrific book about sisters that actually made me laugh out loud.”- Jennifer Weiner, #1 New York Times bestselling author

And now here is Sarah.

When Thoughts Become a Novel

I’m a big fan of The Divining Wand, so I’m thrilled to be guest posting today to talk about my debut novel, The Opposite of Me. It’s the story of twin sisters who are complete opposites – or so they think. When people learn the premise, the first thing they ask me is whether I’m a twin. Nope; in fact, I don’t even have a sister. But I’ve always been intrigued by the complex relationships my friends have with their sisters, so I tried to make the relationship of my main characters, Lindsey and Alex, as juicy and competitive and loving and tangled as possible.

I’ve heard about twins who are so close that they create their own language, and can feel each other’s pain from miles away – but I wondered what would happen to twins who were completely different. What if two sisters had nothing in common, but were constantly being compared? How would that shape their relationship?

I also think it’s very common in families for children to get certain labels, either spoken or unspoken – like the “pretty sister,” the “smart one,” the “drama queen,” or the “peacemaker.” I’ve always been curious about how those labels are formed – are they really a true reflection of who we are inside? It’s interesting to me that we can go out into the world and re-invent oursevles as adults, yet when we go home to visit our families, they still see us through the lens our childhood roles. And sometimes, despite our best efforts, we get dragged kicking and screaming back into those roles!
So I took both of those notions and spun them around in my mind for a while before they turned into the premise of my novel. The intersection of those themes – sisterhood and identity – is the heart of my novel. And the funny thing is, in writing it, I developed a new identity of my own: novelist.

When I started my book, I was a stay-at-home Mom, spending my days cutting the crusts off sandwiches and chaperoning school field trips. But I’ve always dreamed of writing a novel, so I began bringing my laptop with me whenever I went. I even wrote some of The Opposite of Me at Chuck E. Cheese (I used to work in loud newsrooms so I find background noise oddly comforting). It was my own secret project – the little bit of “me”- that wasn’t consumed by taking care of my family.

Next Tuesday is my debut day, and I’m going to go into a bookstore to find my novel on the shelf and just stare at it. In my purse, I’m going to carry the letter I wrote on Raggedy Ann stationery to a New York publisher long ago, asking when my book called “Miscellaneous Tales and Poems” would be published. It’s my favorite reminder that dreams really do come true.


Please visit next Monday for The Divining Wand’s presentation/review of The Opposite of Me and do Pre-order now!

The Revealing of Sarah Pekkanen

February 24, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles

SarahresizIn less than two weeks Sarah Pekkanen will become a true Deb at The Debutante Ball when her first novel, The Opposite of Me, is released on Tuesday, March 9, 2010. There’s already great buzz about this thought-provoking story of twins and REDBOOK Magazine, which has picked it as a “Bookmark” selection for its March issue, writes: “With her smart, soulful novel, author Pekkanen explores the place where self and sisterhood intersect.”

The Divining Wand’s full presentation/review of The Opposite of Me is scheduled for Monday, March, 8, 2010, but until then, let’s learn about Sarah from her professional 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 three young sons.

Impressive writing credentials to be sure, yet what could be better than Sarah revealed?

Q: How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A: Chaotic, chocoholic, comedic… messy, madcap… Martha Stewart’s nightmare!

Q: What is your motto or maxim?
A: A group of girlfriends, a bottle or three of wine, and chocolate can make just about anything easier to bear.

Q: How would you describe perfect happiness?
A: Happiness can’t be perfect – you need lows to appreciate the highs. I just hope I have many more good moments than bad in life, and so far, I’ve been lucky.

Q: What’s your greatest fear?
A: Being in a plane crash; I pity the person sitting next to me, because at the first bump, I’m digging my nails into their arm.

Q: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A: Under an umbrella on a sunny beach with a tropical drink in hand and my family by my side. My husband must be made to understand that the cabana boy comes with the private island. We can’t return him!

Q: What are your most overused words or phrases
A: “That’s what she said!”

Q: If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A: Singing so well on “American Idol” that Simon is reduced to a stuttering, quivering mess.

Q: What is your greatest achievement?
A: Helping my three young kids turn into the funny, loving, quirky people they were meant to be.

Q: What’s your greatest flaw?
A: I just love the wording of this question. It’s like, “We know there are MANY flaws — probably too many to count — but if you could only choose one (and it must be so hard to narrow it down), think of your greatest flaw, the one that makes people run away from you screaming.”
Um, I get distracted easily? Think impure thoughts about certain movie stars? Scarf down chocolate in front of my children and lie to them, telling them I’m eating fruit?

Wait, there ARE too many to chose from!

Q: What’s your best quality?
A: I like most people, and I don’t take offense easily. Unless you mess with my kids. Then I’m like the Mob.

Q: What do you regret most?
A: Not appreciating my education more when I was in college. Plus certain fashion and grooming choices (that spiral perm was not my friend, and when it grew out, the top half of my hair was stick-straight, and the bottom half was pure frizz).

Q: If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A: I’d love to dip into the lives of people who are completely different from me -but only for a day.

Q: What trait is most noticeable about you?
A: I usually have chocolate in hand and a book in front of my nose.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A: Hannibal Lecter. He’s chilling.

Q: What is your biggest pet peeve?
A: People who eat a meal without drinking a beverage. I know, I know; it’s bizarre.

Q: What’s your fantasy profession?
A: By “fantasy” do you mean… oh, wait, is this a G-rated question? It is? Then I’ve got my fantasy profession. Writing never gets boring, I can do it in my pajamas, and the thought that I’m going to see my book in a store takes my breath away.

Q: What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A: Humor, compassion, integrity.

Q: If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A: Baked sweet potatoes dipped in chocolate. I’d eat the insides on days when I was feeling virtuous, and lick off the chocolate on my decadent days.

Q: What are your 5 favorite songs?
Q: Nooo! Only five? They change all the time, but I love “Superman” by Five for Fighting, “No One” by Alicia Keys, “Romanza” by Andrea Bocelli,”Thunder Road” by Bruce Springsteen, and “Beautiful” by Christina Aguilera.

Q: What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A:In Her Shoes by Jennifer Weiner; Little Women by Louisa May Alcott; Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen; Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand; Whatever I’m currently reading and loving!

For much more of charming, clever, and always friendly Sarah Pekkanen, become a fan on Facebook…she’ll make you smile!

Praise, Interviews, and Peeks at 2010 Books

November 10, 2009 By: larramiefg Category: Advance News

The upcoming year of 2010 promises an overwhelming number of excellent offerings by debut and many of our favorite authors. If you’re ready to begin anticipating, please take a look at the following:

Sarah Pekkanen whose novel, The Opposite of Me, debuts March 9, 2010 received this early praise from NYT bestselling author Allison Winn Scotch (The Department of Lost and Found, Time of My Life and The One That I Want coming June 1, 2010): (the novel) “hits the delicious sweet spot in its portrayal of a woman who must lose everything in order to find herself.” This is in addition to the cover quote of “Fresh and Funny and Satisfying.” __Jennifer Weiner

Joëlle Anthony (Restoring Harmony YA coming May 13, 2010) announces that she was one of the debut authors chosen to be interviewed for the Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market 2011. She will be part of a series included in the guide under the heading First Books and will be interviewed by editor, Alice Pope.

And, if you haven’t heard yet, Allison Winn Scotch (The Department of Lost and Found, Time of My Life and The One That I Want coming June 1, 2010) has posted an excerpt of Chapter One from The One That I Want on her website. To learn more about the background of the novel, please read here.

Also do remember that the books mentioned and linked in all The Divining Wand posts are available for Pre-order.

In the True Spirit of Halloween

October 29, 2009 By: larramiefg Category: Books, Debs, Movies, Profiles

What comes to mind when you think of Halloween? Costumes, candy, cats that are black? Well here’s another “C” word — creativity — that applies in a most wondrous way.

But first let’s return to the end of August when, on The Red Carpet of The Debutante Ball, The Divining Wand introduced you to Sarah Pekkanen whose novel, The Opposite of Me, debuts March 9, 2010. What wasn’t mentioned then, but will be now, is that Sarah honed her writing skills as a newspaper reporter who had to be creative to cover the most challenging assignments.

This Tuesday, October 27, 2009, the about-to-become author posted Halloween is the most magical time, for Deb Sarah — an insightful perspective of a writer’s mind and a mother’s heart. You may read the essay by clicking the link or scrolling down this page. For, with Sarah’s permission, here is why every October 31st is so much more than Trick-or-Treat:

“Halloween is the most magical time, for Deb Sarah

“Years ago, I was working as a feature writer for The Baltimore Sun newspaper when an editor told me to go find a Halloween story. I think my editor had a vague idea of me interviewing a father who was trying to convince his kids to not get a violent, bloody costume — or maybe a modern Mom who wanted her daughter to dress up like a brain surgeon instead of Cinderella.

“Armed with a pen and the trusty spiral notebook that fit so well into my back pocket, I hit a Halloween costume store and did what I loved: Wandered around and watched people. Within an hour, I had my story. But instead of the interview I expected, I stumbled across something very different.

“The woman who caught my attention was a mother of five, and her two oldest kids had suddenly decided dressing up wasn’t cool in junior high school. My article became a story about a woman who was mourning the loss of childhood. She talked longingly about how she’d helped transform her older boys into anything their imagination desired in years past – once, one of her kids had morphed into a box of popcorn, with real popcorn sewn onto his hat. But the decision to leave Halloween behind was theirs alone; that was part of growing up. So she hid her sadness from them.

“Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays, and not just because of the chocolate. Like the Mom I interviewed, I love the fact that Halloween celebrates imagination. And the reason why I’m incredulous, ecstatic, and beyond grateful that I now write fiction is because it means I never have to leave that piece of my childhood

“As a little girl, I spent hours daydreaming, happily inhabiting the colorful stories that played out in my head. Most of the time adults didn’t understand this; to them I probably appeared spacey and unfocused. But on Halloween – on that one magical day – adults joined in the celebration with me, understanding that I really was a fairy princess, or an Olympic gymnast, or a fat orange pumpkin with skinny little legs.

“This year I bought a giant, hot-pink, fuzzy hat to wear while my husband and I take our kids trick-or-treating. I’ll put away the hat for another year on November 1, but my imagination gets to stay. Because there are characters to create – people who do and say things that completely surprise me – and scenes to craft, and moods to conjure, and it all comes from the strange, shimmering place I remember so well from my childhood. The place we all get to visit, on Halloween.”


Sarah posts every Tuesday at The Debutante Ball, the same day Deb Founder Tish Cohen appeared there, in 2006 – 2007, before the debut of Town House. Many know that the book was on its way to becoming a movie when things stalled. However yesterday there was this news from Variety and Entertainment Congratulations Tish!

Announcement: The winners of CJ Lyon’s new medical suspense thriller, Urgent Care are: Jeannie from Philly, PA and Peg Brantley. Congratulations to you both! Please email: diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with a mailing address and your book will be sent out promptly.

On The Red Carpet with Debutante Sarah Pekkanen

August 25, 2009 By: larramiefg Category: Advance News, Debs, Red Carpet

In our second day on The Red Carpet with The Debutante Class of 2010 we have Tuesday’s (posting) Debutante Sarah Pekkanen (The Opposite of Me, March 2010).

TDW: Welcome, Sarah. You look glorious. Please give the details of what you are wearing.

Sarah: Thank you, but you’re too kind. Oh, no one can actually see me, can they? Sarahresiz Good. In that case, I’m wearing a size-six sleek black dress and sky-high heels. No, let’s make it a size four. My makeup is flawless, and I just had a manicure.

TDW: Perfect. Now tell us about the first book you wrote. The Opposite of Me will be your first book published, but there must be other completed works.

Sarah: My very first book was titled “Miscellaneous Tales and Poems” and I wrote it when I was about 10. I actually sent it to publishers and waited eagerly to learn when I could find it in bookstores (it has been a very, very long wait). A few years ago, my young niece borrowed one of my old Nancy Drew books and discovered, tucked between the yellowing pages, a letter I’d written on Raggedy Ann stationary asking a publisher about the fate of my story and poem collection. I’ve got that letter posted on my website, and when I went to New York to meet editors who were interested in my novel, I tucked the letter into my briefcase as a good-luck charm.

TDW: Since you’ve always wanted to be a writer, were there any surprise reactions when people heard you were writing another book?

Sarah: Well, I’ve always worked as a writer — I started at a news service right out of college — so people didn’t seem too surprised. Or maybe they were, but didn’t let on. Although I have to say my father’s shocked reaction was priceless when he read an early draft of my novel: “Hey! You might actually be able to get this thing published!”

TDW: Have you based a character in the book on someone you know, but who would never in a million years recognize themselves?

Sarah: People always think they see themselves in my novel (and occasionally get offended), but it’s fiction, people! I made it up! In fact, my book is about twin sisters who are complete opposites — and I don’t even have a sister.

TDW: Was there one food or drink item got you through this book?

Sarah: Oooh, chocolate. It gets me through everything in life! I always think there’s no problem too big for a group of girlfriends, a few bottles of wine, and some chocolate.

In fact, if I couldn’t write, I’d be the quality-control taster at the Godiva factory.

TDW: Sarah, you and Founder Deb Mia King definitely need to get together over chocolate!

Right now, though, we look forward to your dancing (especially in those heels) at The Debutante Ball every Tuesday and the March 9, 2010 release of The Opposite of Me. Enjoy the year!