The Divining Wand

Discovering authors beyond their pages…

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.

Revisiting Tish Cohen’s Town House

July 20, 2009 By: larramiefg Category: Books

While not based on absolute fact one of the joys for any author has to be having your first novel discovered long after its debut…particularly when found, read, and enjoyed by another author. And that is exactly what Tish Cohen (Inside Out Girl, The Invisible Rules of The Zoe Lama, The One and Only Zoe Lama) experienced a few weeks ago when Randy Susan Meyers posted on her RedRoom blog, Summer Satisfaction Read This Week:

“Fourth of July weekend and I wasn’t swimming, sunning, or drinking gin and tonic. The first draft of my new novel screamed to be done (and by Sunday it was) but even the best of intentions need a break for the arm muscles.

“I needed a book juicy enough to suck me in, interesting enough to nourish, and with seamlessly transparent writing that could silence my infernal editing word-judge. All I wanted was to read, thank you very much.

“In TOWN HOUSE by Tish Cohen I found my answer. Jack Madigan has all the ingredients of a character I love: a fatal flaw of distinction (agoraphobia,) an attention-grabbing back story (dead mega rock star father) and a what’s-gonna-happen (his crumbling Boston townhouse, the only legacy of rock-dad, is about to be foreclosed upon.)

“There’s a stuck-in-the-seventies teenage son, a too-helpful ex-wife, a hapless chattering real estate agent, and a missing killer-turtle shell.

“The most important ingredient in a book seems to me, to be a main character (or characters) you just need to stay with. It’s like the perfect best friend or the ideal husband, somehow everything about their life is interesting. That’s Jack Madigan. You like being with him for the entire ride.”

If you have yet to visit Jack Madigan in Town Hosue — a Commonwealth Prize Regional Finalist –, why not read my April 30, 2007 post, Presenting Debutante Tish Cohen with Town House? And then share his company

As for the lovely and talented Ms. Cohen, she’s preparing for yet another debut with her YA novel, Little Black Lies, appearing in bookstores on October 13th and coming to this blog soon.

Presenting Debutante Tish Cohen with Town House

April 30, 2007 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations


Advance Praise for Town House

“An agoraphobe fights to save his house, his son and his sanity in Cohen’s comic, big screen–ready debut. ” — Publisher’s Weekly

“A constellation of characters whose idiosyncrasies make the family of Little Miss Sunshine look like Ozzie and Harriet.” —Kirkus review

“For someone who can’t leave the house, Jack Madigan is a heck of a guy. Town House is everything you could ask for in a novel: touching, wry, bewitching, eccentric, and riveting to the end. I love this book and eagerly await Tish Cohen’s next.” –Sara Gruen, NYT bestselling author of Water for Elephants

“An original portrait of a pathetic man that is at times sardonically comic and humanly poignant. Never straying into sentimentality or veering off into ludicrousness, Cohen’s Jack Madigan is a three-dimensional, albeit anomalous, lost soul of our modern, twisted, fractured society.” — Rex Pickett, bestselling author of Sideways

The above praise was inevitable. Even as a young child, Tish Cohen knew her fate as she writes on her website in Biography: “…when I was about six or seven, I remember sitting in my sister’s closet and staring at a particularly good likeness of Snoopy I’d drawn and knowing I was meant to not only quit ripping off other artists’ work or one day face litigation, but to develop characters of my own and write a novel. Right then and there, amongst her sneakers. I knew it right down to my toes. I knew it so strongly that I was deeply ashamed of myself when I thought, “I could never do that,” crawled out and went off to play. I’m ashamed still.”

Next Tuesday, May 8th, Tish will become a debut novelist with the publication of Town House and this July she will become the author/illustrator of a series of children’s middle grade books, the first title being The Invisible Rules of the Zoë Lama. So who is this knowing multi-talent? According to her publisher HarperCollins, it’s simple: “Tish Cohen edited an online women’s magazine and contributed articles to some of Canada’s largest newspapers, such as The Globe and Mail and The National Post. She lives in Toronto.”

However, since Tish can describe herself better than anyone else can, please read her introduction in Full-Frontal Grogging by Debutante Tish at The Debutante Ball. Witty, smart and incredibly savvy, this Deb is a writer who makes you smile at the eccentricities of life. AndTown House, her commercial mainstream novel, is a prime example. Just consider the synopsis:

“Jack Madigan is, by many accounts, blessed. Thanks to his legendary rockstar father, he lives an enviable existence in a once-glorious, but now crumbling, Boston town house with his teenage son, Harlan. There’s just one problem: Jack is agoraphobic. While living on his dad’s dwindling royalties hasn’t been easy, Jack and Harlan have bumbled along just fine. Until the money runs out…and so does Jack’s luck.

“Suddenly, the bank is foreclosing, Jack’s ex is threatening to take Harlan to California, and Lucinda, the little waif next door, won’t stay out of his kitchen. Or his life. The harder Jack tries to keep Lucinda out, the harder she pushes her way in — to his house and, eventually, his heart. Things look up when the real estate agent, Dorrie Allsop, arrives so green she still has the price tag dangling from her Heritage Estates blazer. But even Dorrie’s overworked tongue can’t hide the house’s potential and, ultimately, a solid offer thrusts Jack towards the paralyzing reality that he no longer has a home.

“To save his sanity, Jack must do the impossible and outwit the real estate agent, win back his house and keep his son at home. Town House is a sweet and serious look at one man’s struggle to survive within the walls of his own fears. And it’s through the very people he tries so hard to push out of his life that he finds a way to break down those walls and, eventually, step outside.”

But what inspired this — other than Tish’s ever curious imagination? I asked her about the backstory and she revealed:

“I’m obsessed with old houses. I had seen a dilapidated 4-storey town house on a show called Curb Appeal. The house had a dumbwaiter, gorgeous moldings, 12-foot ceilings, and the whole 4th floor was a stage. Such a house would add so much texture to the story, it would almost function as a character. And it does.

“I also had a character in mind — a lonely little girl next door who pretended she was a dog and was gutsy enough to bite her mother in the ankle. She was heavily based on myself as a child. I wanted her to push her way into the life of the owner of 117 Battersea Road–the town house.

“So then I had to create a central character with a really big problem. Jack Madigan, son of a legendary Ozzie Osborne-type rock star, raging agoraphobe, single parent fighting with his ex, was born.”

Hmm, the pieces of the storyline come together with a real town house, the little girl next door and a man who “can’t” leave his house…but how does Tish identify with Jack, if at all? In her post, The Town House Turtle, she writes about some of their shared traits as well as their differences. Still it seemed daunting to create a male protagonist, yet here is a brilliantly simple explanation:

“As to why I chose a male protagonist, I wanted to create in Jack the ultimate underdog. Someone who is the product of his own foibles. And once I knew he’d be phobic, I decided I could embody a man with more fear than I could a woman. Why? I believe we still have a double standard when it comes to eccentricity. A quirky man is more likely to be labeled by society as endearing. A quirky woman is too often called unbalanced.”

Aha, as mentioned earlier, Deb Tish is smart and savvy and her point about “a quirky woman” is well-taken. Of course her novel brims with well-taken points and according to ELLE Canada, “Tish Cohen has a cinematic eye for characters with endearing foibles in Town House.”

Yes, this is a case where you read the book then see the movie. Honest! Even Hollywood studios couldn’t wait to get their hands on the manuscript as Tish notes:

“TOWN HOUSE sold in an unusual way. My agent sent it out to editors, who then sent it off to literary scouts, who took the manuscript to Hollywood studios. By the time I found out what was happening, about a dozen studios had it. The film rights sold a week after the manuscript went out, and the book sold a week after that. The film interest was so unexpected, it launched me into panic attacks of my very own!”

The book debuts next week, but what — you wonder — is the status of the movie? This inquiring mind asked Deb Tish:

“As for the film, it’s on the fast track…Fox 2000 bought the film rights with Ridley Scott’s company, Scott Free, already in place to produce, the screenplay (by Doug Wright) is in and Fox adores it, and Fox and Scott Free are currently shopping for the perfect director.”

Could Deb Tish become a literary “Dreamgirl?” If so, she’ll think carefully about what to wear on The Red Carpet or at least as much as she reflected on What Not to Wear on New Year’s Eve. Now, seriously, after reading that post how is it possible to wait another week to purchase Town House at your local bookstore? Of course there’s also the option of Pre-Ordering today.

A visit to Tish Cohen, Official Web Site might help ease the wait and you’ll discover that Deb Tish joins in on a regular basis so do stop by this week.

This coming Saturday, though, Tish Cohen flies out to Los Angeles for the kickoff of her book tour. For those of you living in the area, please take note that her first appearance is at West Hollywood’s Book Soup on Tuesday May 8th at 7:00 pm, where Rex Pickett (author of Sideways) will be speaking with Tish at that event. Then Friday, May 11th at 7:00 pm, she’ll be appearing at Borders Brea in Orange County.

A great deal of pride goes into recommending these first-time novelists to you and Deb Tish Cohen — author of Town House — is another winner! So read her book, see the movie and enjoy…because it was all inevitable.