The Divining Wand

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Guest Julie Buxbaum on
The Terror of the Blank Page

August 03, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[Imagine Julie Buxbaum (After You, The Opposite of Love) being afraid to share her insight, honesty, and humor in writing! It’s true and — in today’s guest post — she not only confesses but explains how/why her “transformation” to being an author took place.]

The Terror of the Blank Page

I’m pretty sure there are only two kinds of writers in this world. The ones who spent their childhood dragging around piles of journals and their free time actually writing, and the ones like me, who for years only wrote in their heads. The biggest difference between the first and the second, I think, besides using paper, is that the first embraced what I like to call their inner writerdom, while the latter succumbed to the fear. When an option, fear seems to suit me.

For those of us who fancy ourselves writers, but have never written anything (and I was one of those people for a very long time, so believe me when I say I’m not judging) there is nothing more terrifying than the blank page. The idea is so terrifying in fact, that we choose to ignore it altogether and pursue alternative means of spending our lives. For me, I ran from the page by going to law school, and spending four years as an attorney, where I could fill pages by regurgitating case law, slewing together other people’s sentences. And only in the dark hours of night, or sometimes in the shower, would I write for myself, rearrange words until they meant something, only to get lost by morning, or when I put my foot on the bathmat, as if writing was some sort of dirty secret. Ah, it’s amazing what fear can do.

In college, my roommate took a fiction-writing course, and because I was too scared to share my work—no worse, I was too scared to create any work—I didn’t take the class, but read her syllabus again late at night, as if it was something to be shameful of. Neither did I turn my love of reading (and my distaste for numbers) into a major. Nope, again the fear kept me away and I embraced Philosophy, Political Science, Economics (Economics, really?), anything to avoid having to put my own thoughts, my own words onto paper. And still the paragraphs would line up at night, march into order, where I played with them, as if they were a game, not a way of life.

The funny thing is that when I finally embraced my identity as a writer, quit my job and plunged head first, I suddenly wasn’t scared at all. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that I really, really hated my job, but I like to think that I needed to do all these other things first to know I was ready. Come to think of it, maybe there are two kinds of writers in the world. The ones who are born ready, and the rest of us who need to struggle just a bit first before we can face that terrifying blank page.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of Alicia Bessette’s Simply from Scratch in a random drawing to anyone who comments only on this specific post, Presenting Debutante Alicia Bessette and Simply from Scratch. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, August 4, 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, ClaireCook.com, 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.

Our Authors Journey, IV

June 17, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles

Beginning with a late January post, The Divining Wand has revealed how its successful authors have traveled their personal road to publication. And now the remaining five answer the questions of how they handled rejection and what kept them going to reach their destination?

Alicia Bessette (Simply from Scratch coming August 5, 2010):

“Years passed between the day I really got serious about writing, and the day I signed a publishing contract. There is no general time-line for when you “should” have something published. Everyone’s on her own path. It takes some writers decades to achieve publication.

“During the submissions process, I became very familiar with rejection. What kept me going? A husband who believes in me, and an inner refusal to quit. Too, I surrounded myself with positive people who made me feel as though I was bound to succeed. And I tried to avoid negative people whose comments, questions, or attitudes made me second-guess myself.”

Carleen Brice (Orange Mint and Honey, Children of the Waters):

“I’ve been very lucky. Very lucky. My first book was nonfiction and I sold it myself, getting a publisher only after a handful of rejections. My first novel was sold about 4 months after it went on submission. That is remarkably fast. However, it didn’t feel that way at the time, and the novel was rejected by about a dozen publishers. As those rejections were coming in, it felt awful. I started to lose hope. I am a Gemini so I feel uniquely qualified to be on submission. Half of me has complete faith that I will be successful and the other half completely believes I’m a big fat failure. What kept me going is the optimistic half of me. That and my agent’s belief in me, and my husband and my friends.”

Eileen Cook (Unpredictable, What Would Emma Do? YA and Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood YA ):

“The answer to this question depends on when you want to start the clock ticking. I always wanted to write and my parents have one of my earliest “works” dating back to second grade. If we use that as the starting point then it took me a looooooong time. If we start from the time I finished Unpredictable, it took me about five months to find an agent and about six months with her between revisions and when I sold. Once I sold it was two years before the book came out. This is my way of pointing out that writing makes a lousy get rich quick plan.

“Rejection is a part of the publication process. When writers gather they show off their rejection scars like old war veterans. My approach to rejection was to feel sorry for myself for a maximum of 24 hours and then pull up my big girl panties and move forward. There is a saying that the difference between an unpublished writer and a published writer is perseverance. Rejection was just the world’s way of trying to figure out how serious I was about this publication plan.”

Judy Merrill Larsen (All the Numbers):

“From the day I wrote the first sentence of my first draft, to the day my book was available in stores was almost exactly 7 years. I learned to have a very thick skin to deal with the rejections (teaching high school and having kids had already helped me with that!), and I even learned to use the rejections as inspiration to keep going, to get it right. My friends and family also helped, encouraging me every step of the way. And I also knew that giving up simply wasn’t an option–this mattered, my story mattered, and I had to keep going.”

Maud Carol Markson (When We Get Home, Looking After Pigeon):

“How long did it take before you finally got published? And how did you handle rejection, what kept you going? My first novel got published very quickly, but then it took me twenty years until my next novel was published. I handled rejection by getting very involved in other endeavors– not simply seeing myself as a writer.”

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Have you heard?

Allison Winn Scotch (The Department of Lost and Found, Time of My Life and The One That I Want) presents:

The Mother of All Giveaways

On her Wednesday, June 16, 2010 blog post, Allison writes:

“Yes, I use those words intentionally. Because today, I wanted to give shout-outs to some women writers (okay, they’re not all mothers) who have in some way been kind or helpful to me throughout my career, and well, throughout certain times of my life. Writing is a very solitary endeavor, but thanks to some of my friends, I always feel like I have a wide network of support. All of these women are generous – with blurbs, with advice, with open ears when we just need to complain, and just as importantly, all of them have (relatively) new books out. 🙂 And I’m grateful for them, not just for their brilliant words that go onto the page, but for their friendship.

SO.

Here’s the deal:

To enter the contest, click over to my Facebook page, where this contest is announced. Click “like,” on the giveaway or leave a comment underneath the announcement. You’ll be entered. Just like that. I’ll leave it open until Friday at 3pm EST, when I’ll choose the winners, each of whom will receive one of the fabulous books listed below. Oh, and did I mention that each copy will be signed? Yes, the lovely ladies will be sending their autograph too.

Here are the goods that you’ll be up to win:” (Scroll down.)

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Announcement: The winner of Three Wishes by Carey Goldberg, Beth Jones, and Pamela Ferdinand is Stacey.

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

Guest Tish Cohen on Honest Choices

June 01, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[In today’s guest post the always lovely and ever prolific Tish Cohen (Town House, Inside Out Girl, Little Black Lies YA) talks honestly about the choices she made to get where she is…. Her third adult novel, The Truth About Delilah Blue, will be released next Tuesday, June 8, 2010 and The Divining Wand has scheduled a presentation/review of the book next Monday, June 7, 2010.

And now, without further ado, here’s Tish.]

During my childhood, not many days passed during which I was without a pencil, a crayon, a magic marker, or a pen. If you’d asked me back then what I wanted to be when I grew up, I’d likely have replied, “an artist.” Okay, full disclosure, if you’d asked me before age five, I’d have said, “a collie.” And there were a few summers I might have said farmer or figure skater or owner of shiny horses or a ballet dancer with really muscular calves. But mostly I saw my future self as either a cartoonist or an eccentric painter who splashes color across enormous canvases on the floor of her weathered barn—much like Delilah in THE TRUTH ABOUT DELILAH BLUE, my newest novel for adults.

I was a loner of a kid, so books were a huge part of my life, but rather than contemplate writing them (that was for special people), I simply became each heroine and spent my days wishing I was her, then pulled out another sheet of paper and drew Snoopy in yet another position atop his dog house.

The day I knew I was on the wrong track came early and I ignored it. I’d finished a rendition of Snoopy that made me so proud I drew a fancy frame around it in black marker. I sat there, on the floor of my closet, and knew to my toes that what I was good at, art-wise, was not creating art of my own, but copying the work of other artists and taping it to my bedroom walls. As I sat there knowing this, I knew something else. That I was supposed to write a story about what I’d drawn—and THAT was my real path. This I knew much further than my toes. I knew this to the basement. To the ground beneath the basement.

Yet I ignored it. That day and for the next eighteen years.

I did pursue art after a wrong turn for business school, and did wind up with a fairly successful painting business where I painted dusk skies with clouds and swallows in people’s dressing rooms, and frescoes in front entryways. I was reasonably good at what I did, but to become the artist who sold canvases in galleries I would have to be better than reasonably good.

And I wasn’t.

I was working as an editor by this time, and already knew I loved playing with words as much as I loved playing with graphite and plaster and acrylic paint. There was a point where I reached a split in the road. I knew I had to choose. I made a list of the pros and cons of each career and imagined myself at ninety-nine, sitting in my rocker, looking back upon my life. Which life made me happier?

I didn’t know.

It wasn’t until I tried writing fiction for the first time (until that point my writing had been for a third-world development agency, or in the form of autobiographical essays I’d sold to newspapers) that I knew. Fiction not only made me happiest, it came to me more easily than art. It came to me as my own creation, rather than a something that had been done before and I could only replicate. I thought about this as I wrote THE TRUTH ABOUT DELILAH BLUE. Delilah is rabid in her passion for painting, willing to model nude, even, to fund her choice. And even as this decision ruins life as she knows it, it is a thing she must do.

I learned back then the importance of honesty in my choices. It wasn’t until I took a good look at myself that I found a career that liked me back.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of Allison Winn Scotch’s The One That I Want in a random drawing to anyone who comments only on this specific post, Allison Winn Scotch and The One That I Want. Comments left on other posts during the week are not entered into the contest. The deadline is Wednesday, June 2, 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.