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By Leslie Lindsay (image source: www.alphabetart.com on 9.4.13)

When it comes to priorites, you could say Matt Wertz has them; he’s pretty driven.  You could also say the guy can belt out some tunes, resulting in a fantastic melding of melodies ripe for this era.  His new album, HEATWAVE was released yesterday, August 27th.  You may say Mother Nature was on his side.  Seems the nation is being swept with a heatwave–whether that is the acid-washed, jangly pop sounds of his new album, or the actual searing heat, but it’s fair to say the two events are a trippy coincidence. 

With tracks like Shine and Sunny Day, you may think Matt was channeling the giant star in the sky, but in reality the album isn’t inspired by any one event, person, or theme, but rather a general sound he was shooting for–that of the late 1980′s.  Think Richard Marx and Bryan Adams.  Think boom boxes (hey–weren’t those once called ghetto-blasters) and lace.  Matt admits that to get the sound he wanted he had to change the way he wrote songs, which was  bit challenging.  But the sound–and the feeling–these tracks evoke are positively epic. 

Although I did reach out to  Matt to provide a little piece on defining home, he graciously declined.  “Practice for tour is really eating up at lot of time, plus there are a slew of publicity events…” all of which I can completely appreciate. 

But I can tell you this:  Matt Wertz likes his Tennessean home, a 1920s-era bungalow  where he’s lived for the last twelve years writing, practicing, and entertaining.  In fact, there are several YouTube videos showing Matt doing just that (I adore the friendly banter between band-mates, and the acoustic sound is fantastic).  Take a peek into his life: the mindless ring game on the front porch (Matt indicates this is his favorite place  to unwind and let the new lyrics and sounds percolate–it’s also where he wrote new track, “Get to You”).  You’ll also glimpse the bike riding, the coffee gulping, and a peek at his ever-growing shoe collection in these videos. (He once wanted to design shoes for Nike).   www.youtube.com/watch?v=wsI6SmMwUnk

But there’s more:  be sure to read this Trib article from years past–same house, same musician, another little look inside the place he calls “home.”  http://www.chicagotribune.com/classified/realestate/chi-matt-wertz-snoop-1012oct12,0,3258691.story

In the meantime, be sure to pick up a copy of HEATWAVE, pop it in your computer, iPod, or cassette player (yes, there is a cassettee version) and see what writing inspiration you get from this number–I assure you, it’s a throw-back, and a good one at that!

So, Write on Wednesday! 

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By Leslie Lindsay (image source: www.alphabetart.com 9.4.13)

How do we define home?  Is is an actual building?  The people we surround ourselves with, or is it tangible pieces of things that bring to mind the comfort and stability of home?  Today, we hear from author Amy Sue Nathan on just that:

“For me, home means things I can see and touch. Photos on shelves, pre-school artwork next to high school graduation pictures, a china platter that belonged to my grandmother that sits on the middle of the dining room table. Home is being surrounded by sights and sounds and also, by textures. I often sit with a crocheted blanket on my lap as I write. It’s made up of squares, and baby-size. My grandmother made it when my son was born almost twenty-two years ago.
 
Let’s face it, crocheted blankets can itch! I never put it on him as a baby, but it has follow us through five homes in five states. It hung over the back of the rocking chair in the nursery when my daughter was born too. And while it’s not the softest blanket in the world, it’s the best one I have. And I think as long as I have it with me, I’ll be home.”
 
For the sake of extending Amy’s concept of home, here’s an exercise to help you hone in on the things that remind you of home:
 
  • Close your eyes and drum up some of the items from your past that signifiy “home” to you.  For you me, it’s the water-logged Baby Beth doll I carried everywhere–even the bathtub.  There was also my imaginary friend, Jenn-Jenn, but also the antique dining room table, the old sewing machine, and the slanty part of my closet where I used to hide out and read. 
  • Now go a little deeper.  What were some to the items you held onto into your adolescence and college years?  Was there a particular item that went with you to your first apartment?  Was there an item that stayed with you for a season, only to let it go once you felt more comfortable, confident? 
  • How about your characters in your work-in-progress?  What do they hold onto?  An old key?  A diary?  A person?  A memory?  A book?  A photo?  Make a list for each of your characters, but especially your protagonist and antagonist.  It can be very telling what these “people” hold onto in various parts of their life.  Go ahead…what did your protagonist value when she was a child?  A teenager?  Young adult?  Adult?  Now, in your story?  Can you see a pattern 

[Exercise created by Leslie Lindsay] 

Special thanks to Amy Sue Nathan for sharing her lovely words about her son’s blanket.  For more information on Amy and her books, please see:

 Up Next Week on Write on, Wednesday: Memoirist Tanya Chernov talks about her place of home…at summer camp.
 
Till then, Write on, Wednesday! (image source: www.amazon.com 9.4.13)
 

Write On, Wednesday: Interview with author Sarah Cornwell of WHAT I HAD BEFORE I HAD YOU

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By Leslie Lindsay

I am just thrilled to have Sarah Cornwell debut author of WHAT I HAD BEFORE I HAD YOU. Mothers. Daughters. Family bonds. Throw in a little bipolar and psychic action and I’m so there. A writer myself, these are often themes and questions I love to explore in my own writing, but they are tough subjects! WhatIHadBeforeIHadYou hc c

Be sure to enter for the Give-a-way copy of this lovely book!* Sarah and HarperCollins has graciously provided one copy up for grabs for TWO different readers. All you gotta do is share via social media, or comment on the blog. Let me know you shared** by dropping me an email at leslie_lindsay@hotmail.com. Okay…and now with the interview! Apraxia Monday:  He Talks Funny Author Jeanne Buesser & Give-a-Way

Leslie Lindsay: What can you tell us about the type of research you drew upon to create such a compellingly honest composition?

Sarah Cornwell: Thank you for that description! So much of the research that goes into my writing is simply lived life—observing people, pocketing details, taking on odd jobs that might grant some deeper access. For a while as I finished this book I worked part-time as a research interviewer for a psych study, interviewing mother-daughter pairs about their mental health and emotional lives—what a perfect research job that was! I steer my life toward my subject matter; I went to a range of psychics as I wrote this book, for example, to better understand how Myla might present herself in that part of her life.

For the first few years of the ten that I spent, on and off, writing this book, I had no idea that bipolar disorder would play a part in the story. Myla emerged first as a mercurial, passionate, unreliable mom with a carefully guarded past (though not the past she ended up with in the final draft!) and Olivia as a sheltered teenager experiencing an accelerated adolescence. Once I saw that their moods and behaviors pointed to a family history of bipolar disorder, I let it color the story, and then I began research to make sure I rendered that illness accurately. Concerning early onset bipolar disorder, I found much of value in ‘The Bipolar Child,’ by Demitri Papolos M.D. and Janice Papolos. I read many memoirs concerning adult and adolescent experiences of bipolar disorder, and I was grateful for candid conversations with friends with the bipolar diagnosis as well as with mental health professionals. Before publication, I had a child psychiatrist fact-check the manuscript.

L.L.: Okay—full disclosure, I am the daughter of a bipolar mother. She was no picnic to live with; even as an adult daughter I struggle with her. Do you have any personal connection to bipolar?

Sarah Cornwell:Thank you for sharing that. Some of the most meaningful responses I’ve received to the book have been from people who have bipolar disorder or who have bipolar family members. It is the highest compliment to hear that Olivia’s perspective is resonating in this personal way for readers. I am the daughter of a therapist, so I grew up very familiar with mental health issues, and I’ve always been fascinated with the mind—with the variations in how we think and perceive that make us who we are. I come from a family with its own legacy of mental health issues, both diagnosed and undiagnosed (don’t we all!)

L.L.: I find it so very creepy that Olivia has to clean the nursery of her stillborn twin sisters many years after their, uh…birth. How did you dream up this scenario? Is it part of the mother’s bipolar that commands this, or is it grief? Something Olivia senses her mother needs?

Sarah Cornwell: This was one of the very first moments, or series of mental images, from which the book sprang: the nursery, the enforced relationship between living and dead siblings. My own mother had several miscarriages before my birth, and I remember wondering, as a child, whether those were brothers and sisters I’d never know, or just myself, trying again and again to exist. This thought was the seed of the book, and when I sat down to express it, the nursery tumbled out fully formed, a physical expression of that tension between ghost and child.

The ritual of cleaning the nursery is something that Myla needs in order to keep Olivia feeling connected to her invisible sisters, as a priest might ask religious believers to make offerings in a temple—to make a daily show of faith in the unseen, and so to reinforce that faith. It is Myla asking Olivia to support and participate in her delusion—a big responsibility for a child, once she begins to realize the things her mother has told her are not entirely reliable…

L.L.: You write so eloquently about mothers and children, so I have to ask—do you have children of your own?

Sarah Cornwell: Thank you! I do not, but I’m looking forward to it!

L.L.: Psychics have long been a topic that fascinate and bemuse me. In some ways I feel there’s a little psychic action driving the beast under our writerly pursuits. How did this piece drift into your novel?

Sarah Cornwell: This story is so much about the space between what is real and what is unreal. Psychic ability falls into this space for me—I want to believe in it, and other people promise they have seen convincing proof, yet I have not. I am fascinated by that sort of fundamentally human longing for magical explanations for life’s mysteries. The mind is a meaning-making machine; it will sew up holes and ignore fuzzy logic in order to see what it wants to see. As I wrote this book, Myla’s psychic ability bled together with her bipolar disorder in a way that felt meaningful—her unique and special powers come only with the destructive force of her mania. Whether or not you believe, as you read, that she truly has psychic powers, it’s that wedding of identity and talent to unmedicated mania that interested me—she believes in her powers because they make her who she is, and they make her bipolar disorder a source of strength, whereas many people in her early life treated her as a compromised person (as you find out through revelations that come late in the book!)

L.L.: Moving on to the craft of writing, can you give us a glimpse into a typical writing day for you?

Sarah Cornwell: I work best in the morning after a good night’s sleep. Beyond that, I’m completely inconsistent! I don’t write every day, and I’m always irked by the blanket statements you’ll hear that every writer must—we’re all different and we conjure different magic through different means!

My days vary quite a bit depending on where I am in a project, and depending on the form in which I’m writing. Right now, for instance, I am working exclusively on screenwriting projects and I’m under deadline, so I often spend a good four or five hour chunk in a coffee shop in the morning (where the presence of other people working hard keeps me honest), go home for lunch, and spend the rest of the day trying desperately to reach that morning-session level of productivity, failing, forgiving myself, and then cooking dinner. Rinse and repeat.

When I am brainstorming or outlining, though (which I only do preliminarily in screenwriting—in fiction I outline only when I’m already deeply into a project) my days often consist of wandering around, staring out windows, doing other jobs, puttering, complaining… I’ll spend a whole day like that, feeling miserably unproductive, and then a lightbulb will blink on and I’ll realize that I was working that whole time, in a back burner kind of way, and that I’ve accomplished a very necessary step. It has taken me years to get comfortable with handing the reins over to the unconscious part of my mind in that way. And even though I know now that it’s an indispensable part of my process, it’s always uncomfortable.

L.L.: Many of our readers are interested in agents. Can you shed a little light into the agent-getting game, what you felt you did right—and maybe some pointers as to how you would do it differently?

Sarah Cornwell: I didn’t reach out to agents until my novel was finished, in 2012, nine years after I started it and two years after it served as my graduate thesis at UT-Austin’s Michener Center for Writers. I knew that thesis draft wasn’t the best I could do (in fact the missing puzzle piece ended up being the whole present-tense timeline, which flowed out of me in months once that particular lightbulb blinked on). By the time I did turn out a draft I felt satisfied with, I had a few agents checking in routinely, who had reached out to me after reading my short fiction in literary magazines, and I had recommendations of good agent matches from writing mentors I met in graduate school. These connections are so valuable, and not in a shmoozy way—I hate shmoozy—it’s about finding allies and mentors in your own education as a writer, however you go about it, and then sharing resources so that writing you love and respect can find its audience.

I believe strongly in waiting until a piece of writing is as good as I can possibly make it before asking an agent or an editor to invest their time in it, and I think that philosophy served me well. I chose two agents to submit the manuscript to and picked the one whose vision for selling it felt right to me.

L.L.:What’s next? Will we be hearing more from you in the future?

Sarah Cornwell: Right now I am having a great time getting things up and running in my Hollywood screenwriting career. My first movie will be produced this summer by David S. Goyer, a horror movie called THE FOREST. Next, I am adapting Jennifer Percy’s amazing work of nonfiction, ‘Demon Camp,’ into a supernatural thriller for Paramount Pictures. I hope to start another novel within the next year.

Sarah Cornwell WHAT I HAD...Bio: Sarah Cornwell grew up in Narberth, Pennsylvania. Her debut novel, What I Had Before I Had You, was published by HarperCollins in January 2014, and received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist. Her fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in publications including the 2013 Pushcart Prize Anthology, The Missouri Review, Mid-American Review, Gulf Coast, Hunger Mountain, and Alaska Quarterly Review, and has been honored with a Pushcart Prize, the 2008 Gulf Coast Fiction Prize, and finalist honors for the Keene Prize for Literature. In 2010, her screenwriting was recognized with the Humanitas Student Drama Fellowship. A former Michener Fellow at UT-Austin, Sara was the Spring 2012 Writer-in-Residence at Interlochen Arts Academy and a 2011 Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation Creative Fellow for Pennsylvania State. Sarah has worked as an investigator of police misconduct, a writer in the schools, an MCAT tutor, a psychological research interviewer, a toy seller, and a screenwriter. She lives in Los Angeles.Apraxia Monday:  He Talks Funny Author Jeanne Buesser & Give-a-Way

**The Fine Print for Giveaway: Two hardcover copies of WHAT I HAD BEFORE I HAD YOU are being provided by HarperCollins, one for each of 2 winners. Contest runs from today, 4.23.14 thru Wednesday 4.30.14. You must share this link via social media of your choice and then email “I shared” to leslie_lindsay@hotmail to be entered in giveaway. Your name will be selected at random on 4.23.14. You will be contacted via email if you are the winner; please check your junk/spam folder for notification. Books will be mailed to you by HarperCollins. Please be patient while you await the arrival of your complimentary book. Good luck!

WhatIHadBeforeIHadYou hc c

Courtesy of HarperCollins

Write On, Wednesday: The Symptoms of Resistance

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By Leslie Lindsay Write On, Wednesday:  Creating a World So Believable Your Critique Partners Think You're Having an Affair

I have a serious bout of Resistance. Do you know what I am talking about? Here are the symptoms:

  • I want to work on my novel-in-progress, but I don’t think I can do through the steps of opening up the Word Document.
  • Instead, I look at everything but the novel-in-progress. Publisher’s Lunch surely will have some new book that gets me excited enough to start writing. Oh wait–I’ll just order that new book. Then I’ll drift over to my Facebook Page and add some asinine comment. Oh, but there’s email to respond to! Does that count towards my word count? Let’s summarize this symptom: distration that appears like work.
  • Self-doubt. “I can’t do this. It’s hard. I don’t wanna…hey, maybe I’ll pet the dog for awhile.” That’s self-doubt and distraction. Combo platter.
  • No one will care about my book. I’ll never get an agent. Even if I do, I’ll be that rare case in which the agent can never sell it to a publisher. Years will go by with an unsold manuscript. “Oh wait! Maybe it’s a bestseller! I think it is. Oh God…the pressure!” Symptom: Grandiosity meets self-doubt.
  • Writing  is a big ol waste of time. Why bother with something so self-involved, so cerebral, so isolated when I should be doing something for the greater good of humankind, saving wildlife, or cleaning my house. Or caring for my children. Symptom: Get off your writing butt and save the world.46b3d-bookscolorfulstack
  • Maybe I should just read. Yeah, that’s it. If I read what I want to write, my head will be filled with all sorts of great writing, good metaphors, active verbs. Symptom: Reading will cure it all.

I could go on and on about why I have Resistance. But the fact of the matter is: I have to write. There is a tiny little voice that whispers in my ear, “What about us? The charcters you created…we’re just hanging out in limbo-land.” They nag at me. They want me to do something with them. I can’t simply turn them off and go  my merry way saving the whales or rubbing my basset’s long silky ears. Because when I do, I hear the voices of my charcters, “We need to save the babies…” I hear my critique partner, “This needs clarifying and expansion.” I hear myself, “This is interesting…you need to finish this.”

Okay, okay…I will roll up my sleeves and get to work.

Write on, Wednesday!

Write On, Wednesday: Lacy Crawford, author of EARLY DECISION!

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By Leslie Lindsay

I am thrilled and honored to have Lacy Crawford, author of EARLY DECISION (William Morrow, 2013) with us today. Being a Chicago-based writer, I related to much to witnin the pages of this book [the novel takes place on the Gold Coast and in the city].photo

As a mother myself, I can honestly say it begins with daycare. Yes, I am talking about the frenzy to get your child into the best learning institution ever. In fact, as a mother, you may have sauntered into a coffee shop, a belly swollen with baby to interview a prospective nanny. Before the kid is even born! You fret over the experience, snapping knuckles and making lists, scratching things off.

Once you get that taken care of, you realize your prized preschool has a waiting list. Yes, the very one you fell in love with at a preschool fair, stuffing your plastic sway bag with every glossy brochure, every magnet, every bookmark.

“If only there were someone who could help me with this,” you muse. Ah yes…enter Lacy Crawford. For fifteen years she worked as an independent (read: discreet) college entrance mentor. She took pimply-faced peach fuzz boys under her wing, girls lacking ambition and passion and turned their personal mission statements into works of art, landing them into the school of their dreams.

But, no she didn’t write the essays for them, she merely sharpened their skills so they could write their own. Here’s what Ms. Crawford has to say about the process–and more!

Leslie Lindsay: Lacy, what do you think is the #1 reason college-bound seniors don’t know how to tackle that personal essay/mission statement?

I don’t know that there is a #1 reason. But by the time seniors come to work on their applications, almost everything else is set in stone, or will be soon—their grades, their scores, their performance across so many variables. Optional interviews notwithstanding, the essay is the single opportunity for expression offered by the application process, and that makes it singularly daunting. Many students believe that their future is on the line. Writers who are familiar with the challenge of the blank page can relate to this—imagine if it’s not just your novel that might fail, but your dreams of an adult life!

In addition, the personal essay is a form not often taught in high school. Students do a fair amount of writing, but most of it is expository, and when it comes time to write a compelling piece of first-person narrative, they’re stumped. Unfortunately, of course, this piece is critically important. It’s a bit of a trap.

Leslie Lindsay: Likening that personal college essay to the publishing world, would you say that’s almost synonymous to the query letter?

LACY CRAWFORD: No, I wouldn’t. If one were to try to relate the publishing industry and college admissions, I’d say the query letter finds its closest analogue in the quick review that most applications receive in the earliest stages of the process. This varies by school, of course, but often there is a simple reckoning of data points: school, state, class rank (percentile), standardized test scores (if applicable), and various leadership positions held (standout athletic, artistic achievements included). A student who hits the mark in this initial review will be given much deeper consideration in admissions discussions. Similarly, a query to a literary agent that is well-written, concise, and intelligent will often inspire the agent to have a look at the manuscript sample attached.

This doesn’t mean that a college application essay won’t be read if the student’s grades or scores aren’t high enough, but, all things being equal, a Pulitzer-worthy personal statement isn’t going to matter much to the admissions office at Harvard if a student is applying from the bottom quartile of his class.

Leslie Lindsay: And so, it seems as if the college mission statement is almost like flirting…as if you could say, “Hey, baby—what’s your mission statement?” Or, as Joey in Friends used to say, “How you doin’ [on that mission statement?]. In fact, a perfect example in EARLY DECISION is when Anne (the protagonist/admissions whisperer) is working with Hunter on his essay, “Just pretend you’re telling Nicole all about Montana. Write it in an email, just don’t send it.” Talk about powerful! How does that work to woo an institution—or, in our writing pursuits—an agent?

LACY CRAWFORD: Anne doesn’t encourage Hunter to write as though he’s sending an email to his girlfriend because she wants a flirtatious tone in his college essay. She’s trying to help him recognize the subjects that are truly interesting to him. He’s written a first draft that is boring and aimless, and it’s going to cost him in the admissions process. In talking to Hunter, Anne realizes that he was deeply moved by his summer trip to Montana, and that there is passion and unexplored interest there. She wants him to consider those feelings and subjects with an eye to writing with more focus and authenticity. She guesses that what he would write about in an email to his girlfriend is far more likely to be something that matters to him, something that, for whatever reason, caused him to think or feel strongly. Once these subjects emerge in their conversations, Anne can help Hunter to write a well-grounded, proper, formal essay, which is what he does.

One of the aspects of the writing process that may apply to both the college essay hurdle and publishing in general is the idea of an ideal reader. Anne works with students who are laboring under the enormous ambitions and expectations of their parents. Often they’ve had a lot of tutoring, and they have been taught that their own voices are not enough—that they always must be coached and improved upon, in order to be thought worthy. As a result, Anne’s students are frightened, and they produce essay drafts as though they’re going to be graded that very afternoon—rote, dry, pseudo-sophisticated essays that don’t sound like the true voices of the students who wrote them.

Similarly, we might say that the writer who is constantly imagining what an audience wants, rather than working to develop his or her own voice and prose, will deliver work that is flat. The most consistently successful commercial writers, regardless of genre, know exactly what their audiences want, but they know how to deploy their own distinctive voice, diction, and particular dramatic tools.

Leslie Lindsay: There are other books about getting into college—Admission (Jean Hanoff Korelitz), Acceptance (Susan Coll), Dangerous Admissions (Jane O’Connor), Getting In (Karen Stabiner), and there are books about the college experience—J. Courtney Sullivan’s Commencement and The Red Book by Deborah Copaken Kogan, what sets EARLY DECISION apart?

Lacy CrawfordLACY CRAWFORD: I think each of those books is different from the others and has its own integrity and its own pleasures. Each is already set apart.

I wrote Early Decision as a deliberate piece of social commentary, with an eye to the satirical form. I did not form the plot around college or college admissions because of its dramatic possibilities, but as a deliberate effort to question the value of this rather treacherous pass in the life of a large proportion of American families. Rather than adding to the “college admissions” sub-genre, it was my attempt to dramatize the larger discussion around the value of higher education in the formation of young adults and the pursuit of a “good life.” And as with the other authors you name, I hoped to entertain readers, to make the book funny and rewarding.

Leslie Lindsay: EARLY DECISION is smart, witty—a good blend of a fast-moving story with literary fiction. You successfully pull that off by incorporating elements of classic literature into the story through Anne’s former aspirations as a journist/English major. In some regards, it reminds me of ANGRY HOUSEWIVES EATING BON BONS (Lorna Landvik, 2003). What—if any—research did you do as you wrote the book?

LACY CRAWFORD:  I’m grateful that you found it smart and witty. I didn’t do any research at all. I had spent fifteen years working with high school seniors on their applications, and prior to that I’d had my own experience at a “trophy” school, and I had some ideas about how such an accomplishment does and does not set one up for a successful life.

Leslie Lindsay: What’s currently obsessing you and why?

LACY CRAWFORD: Parenting, because I’m doing it. Also the question of genre and gender in literary publishing, because I think few people are willing to grasp the nettle and address the complicated issues of subject, style and tone that inform the way the publishing world markets and receives books. VIDA is doing excellent work, and there are wonderful readers and writers grappling with the challenge, but in a sense we are all in thrall to a rapidly shifting marketplace, and it’s a scary and exciting time for those of us who love written stories.

Leslie Lindsay: When will we hear from you again? Any new books in the works?

LACY CRAWFORD: I have a few pieces of narrative nonfiction in the pipeline, and I’ve been working on a new novel for about a year. But my children are very small and I’m their primary caregiver, so I will see what bears out.

Leslie Lindsay: Thanks again for being with us today—it was quite illuminating!

LACY CRAWFORD: Thank you, Leslie!

Bio, Social Media & More:

For fifteen years Lacy Crawford served as a highly discreet independent college admissions counselor to the children of powerful clients in cities such as New York, Chicago, Denver, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and London. Her “day jobs” included serving as senior editor at Narrative Magazine and director of the Burberry Foundation. Educated at Princeton and the University of Chicago, Lacy lives in California with her husband and two children.

http://lacycrawford.com/

To contact the author:
Lacy@LacyCrawford.com

Also on Twitter: @lacy_crawford

[With special thanks to Susie Stangland]

Fiction Friday: Children’s Books about Books!

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By Leslie Lindsay

[this piece originally "aired" on Tuesday, April 1, 2014 over at http://www.speakingofapraxia.com

I read a lot. Grown-up fiction? You bet. The backs of cereal boxes? Guilty. Just about anything with written text in a language I understand? Totally.

But my absolute favorite part of the day is wrapping my arms around my girls and reading a children’s book. And I got to thinking, there are a lot of books about books. Sounds like a lovely combination, doesn’t it?

Here are a few of my favorites in children’s literature:

Product DetailsThe Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore. By William Joyce. This book, published in 2012 may very well be my favorite. The illustrations are rich, engaging, and offer a slightly vintage nostalgia everyone can appreciate. But the story itself is sweet, touching, and terribly moving. I love it. The book also inspired an academy-award winning short film that will bring the story to life for any reader. [Amazon Prime Members can see the video free, or purchase reasonably here. http://www.amazon.com/Fantastic-Flying-Books-Morris-Lessmore/dp/B00EV6YJ9W/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1396369519&sr=8-2&keywords=Mr.+Morris+Lessmore%5D

Miss Dorothy and her Boookmobile, by Gloria Houston. When Dorothy was a little girl, she loved books and so she went to college to become a librarian. She married, left the Product Detailsbig city and lived in a rural area with little access to books. What did she do? Why she made her own bookmobile and eventually a small library. This sweet book shows the tenacity of one women’s desire to bring books to all and to share her love for the written word.

Rocket Learns to Read (2010) and Rocket Writes a Story Product Details(2012) by Tad Hillis are a complete package. First, Rocket must learn to read, which he does with the help of a sweet little bird. And then in book two, Rocket is so inspired he decides to write a book of his own. An adorable tale of learning, perseverance, and self-actualization. A winning combination!

A Story for Bear by Dennis Heasley. Oh my! This one is so sweet, thoughtful, and beautifully illustrated, one feels as if she’s right smack in the middle of the book. I absolutely adore the sentiment behind the love for books, the attention to nature and the way the author-illustrator have clearly teamed up to create this lovely story. While this is a picture book, it’s long and perhaps is best-suited for older children. My 3rd grader still loves it, and will study the illustrations for hours. Product Details

  • For more information and additional resources, please refer to the READ ALOUD Product DetailsHANDBOOK by Jim Trelease. It’s a gold-standard for parents and teachers alike who desire to share the written word with their children. In fact, research shows that continuing to read aloud to your children even after they can read on their own increases critical thinking skills, attention-span, vocabularly, and more. Select books that are just above your child’s natural reading level and make it a family tradition.
  • Just for grins and giggles, you may be intersted in taking this on-line quiz to determine which children’s book you are. I’m BAMBI. “Sweet and irresisitable and make people cry. A lot.” Not sure how true that is, but fun nonetheless!

http://www.playbuzz.com/naneah10/which-childrens-book-are-you

Write On, Wednesday: Debut Literary Thriller Author Laura McHugh!

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By Leslie Lindsay

I am absolutely, 100% thrilled to welcome Laura McHugh, debut author from my home state of The Weight of Blood - COVERMissouri! “Show Me Girls” (and boys; see Matt Wertz’s interview on song writing) have gotta stick together…kind of like family, as they do in Laura’s new release THE WEIGHT OF BLOOD. This literary thriller will knock your  socks off with the carefully crafted sentences, attention to detail, and the family saga McHugh deftly weaves throughout the pages. [Be sure to check out the end of the interview for a chance to WIN a complimentary copy of the book!]

A busy mom of two young daughters, a background in library science, and stellar reviews from prominent authors, Laura seems to have it made. But I am guessing it wasn’t an overnight success.

Laura, can you tell us how you went from idea to published book? Time involved? Critique Groups? Agents? However your journey unfolded…

Laura McHugh: I decided to write The Weight of Blood after I lost my job, and my goal was to finish the first draft in a year, which I did. I had two small children at home with me at the time, and I did not get much sleep. I worried that I was pouring all my time and energy into something that would never be read by anyone, but I wanted to see the process through to the end. After completing the first draft, I probably spent a year revising the manuscript, researching agents, and learning how to query them. Once I signed with my agent, everything went very quickly. The book sold at auction less than two weeks later. I feel incredibly lucky with the way things worked out. I love all the folks I work with at Random House.

L.L.:What is your biggest inspiration for writing? In other words, what gets the juices flowing? Piques your curiosity?

Laura McHugh: I’m a people watcher. I notice someone at the store or walking alongside the road, and I come up with a backstory to explain their behavior and appearance, and sometimes those characters or details end up in a story. I’m also inspired by true crimes. I try to figure out why people do the terrible things they do.

I spend a lot of time thinking through a novel before writing anything down. Once I start writing, I sit down in my chair every day and work, whether I’m feeling inspired or not. I think the best method might be to write the first draft quickly and then go back and revise, but I actually revise a lot as I go, especially at the sentence level. It bothers me if a sentence doesn’t feel right. I probably waste a lot of time rewriting sentences that I might cut later, but I can’t help myself.

 .L.L.:  What’s your fondest book-related memory?

Laura McHugh: For birthdays and other special occasions, my grandma would give me a book—Dr. Seuss, Shel Silverstein, Nancy Drew. I used to wonder why she wrote so much on the inside cover—my name, my address (we moved a lot), the date, the occasion, my age, her full name and Grandpa’s, etc.—but now I treasure those books and her lengthy inscriptions. She was not a big reader herself, but she saw books as the most valuable gift, and that had a lasting impact on me. I always remember the last lines of the poemThe Reading Mother, which she kept in a frame in her living room:

You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be –
I had a Mother who read to me.

Laura McH..Author Bio:

McHugh, a first-generation college student who also holds a Masters in Library & Information Science, was working as a software and web developer when she was laid off while pregnant with her second child and took the opportunity to start writing full-time. Building on her own experiences as an outsider in the small, rural community, and inspired by a true incident that took place in Lebanon, Missouri, where she attended high school, McHugh started the novel that would become THE WEIGHT OF BLOOD.  She proves herself a masterful storyteller who has created a harsh and tangled terrain as alive and unforgettable as the characters who inhabit it. Her mesmerizing debut is a compelling exploration of the meaning of family: the sacrifices we make, the secrets we keep, and the lengths to which we will go to protect the ones we love. You can connect with Laura via social media:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lauramchughauthor

 Twitter: https://twitter.com/LauraSMcHugh

And now for the…..Apraxia Monday:  He Talks Funny Author Jeanne Buesser & Give-a-WayLaura has graciously agreed to give away not just one, but TWO complimentary copies of THE WEIGHT OF BLOOD (Random House, 2014) to TWO lucky blog winners. Here’s what you have to do:

  • Share this interview link on social media and email me so I know you shared (leslie_lindsay@hotmail.com with subject line, “I shared!”)

OR

  • Leave a comment on this blog about this book/interview/Laura McHugh/the Ozarks…

The Fine Print: Winners will be selected at random Saturday, April 5th 2014 at which time the give-a-way will be over. If you are a selected winner, you’ll be contacted via email, so be sure to check your junk/spam folder for an email from Leslie Lindsay. If you did not win, you will not be contacted. Books will be mailed directly from Ms. McHugh’s publicists. Please be patient as you wait your book’s arrival. Good luck and happy reading!! The Weight of Blood - COVERWith special thanks to Laura McHugh and Random House for this interview opportunity. Book cover image courtsey of Random House. Author image courtesy of Taisia Gordon.

Thanks to all the interest in THE WEIGHT OF BLOOD.

CHRIS C. in Wisconsin and CHRIS F. in Indiana!! 
Thanks for being loyal blog–and book–readers! There are always more give-a-ways here at http://www.leslielindsay.com and awesome author interviews. Stay tuned…Wednesday’s are the day!

Coming Up: Authors! Books! Give-a-ways! Interviews!

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By Leslie Lindsay

Don’t you just love, love, love a good book?  How about when that writer is equally cool? And she graciously offers a complimentary copy? Well, then you’ll be thrilled to learn that we will soon be meeting two wonderful authors who will be doing just that! Product Details

Laura McHugh is a debut psychological/family saga thriller writer from the heartland. Missouri, that is–who will be sharing her book, THE WEIGHT OF BLOOD (March, 2014). Think gritty Ozark moutains, a missing girl, family secrets.

Lacy Crawford writes with elegence and humor in her debut EARLY DECISION, based on the college admissions process, the elusive Product Details

college essay, and the wealthy kiddos that don’t (always) have a clue. A must read for any parent about to send their kiddos off to the wild blue yonder,high school english teachers, and so many more!

Wednesdays right here are the days to watch–that’s when you just might get to “meet” one of these lovely ladies and enter to WIN a complimentary copy of their books.

Happy reading!

Leslie : )

[cover images retireved Amazon.com on 3.30.14]

Write On, Wednesday: Worldbuilding Idea 672

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By Leslie LindsayMisc Feb-March 2013 012

According to Wikipedia, worldbuilding is the process of contructing an imaginary world, sometimes associated with a fictional universe. The term is often used in conjunction with science fiction, but in no way is limited to this genre. Think about it: every good book has a sense of place, time, history, geography, etc. that pulls us right into the story. No aliens or zombies, or oobeleck needed.

As a writer, you may  think the only tool at your disposal to accurately develop a world is your words. Well, yes…and no. What’s worked best for me is to work on an idea board by gathering images, words, phrases that I feel best represent my novel’s world.

Undoubtably,  you have a host of junk mail that clogs your mailbox. Why not use some of it to build your fictional world? That Ballard Designs catalog could have a really great bedroom advertised.  Would it do for your protagonist?  Snip it out and add it to your board. How about color swatches that you’d like to have a recurring role in your manuscript? Go ahead, add those, too. My board also has photos of L.L. Bean models because that’s how I see my protagonist’s hubby. (Although he apparently needs some work–my critique partner doesn’t see him as handsome as I do). Novel idea board 002

Since my story is based on an urban legend, the board also contains real newspaper articles about the area, as well as maps. One map is actual–the other is derived from  my brain based on the descriptions I’ve given to the protagonist’s subdivision. I’ve even written her address down because it comes up from time to time and I forget it (it’s all made up, anyway!) so, instead of culling through pages and pages of manuscript where I originally made note of it, it’s on the board: 1247 Rock Hollow Lane.

I’ve also cut out book cover images (from catalogs, magazines) I think mesh with how I’d like the finished product to look–think of it as motivation.

As I write, I look at the board from time to time. What I may not be thinking of consciously, slips into the words of my manuscript almost magically. It helps to submerge myself into the work, rather than be a standby.

So, what are you waiting for?! Write on, Wednesday!

And the Winner is…

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By Leslie LindsayFront Cover_Final

Last week, we were wow-ed with debut author ELIZABETH HEITER and her crime-thriller, HUNTED (Mira, December 2013). Thanks to everyone who shared the interview link &/or commented on their favorite “Crimimal Minds” character.  One lucky winner, gets a signed copy of the book!

JULIE McVEY!!

Fiction Friday: Remains

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By Leslie Lindsay Write on, Wednesday:  Imagine a Better Writer

Working on revisions today as I tackle my second novel, Zombie Road. This one is loosely based on an urban legend in west St. Louis county.  The guys here–Chris and Kevin find themselves near an abandoned river village on a dare from their group “leader,” Jason. Bear in mind, to that this is set in 1984, but I think it reads as if it could be set in any time period. As always, comments and feedback welcomed!

Chris began walking, quickly at first, through the bushes and down a well-worn earthen trail as Kevin considered his options. The smell of the river wafted through his nose—wet rocks, slick mud, foamy river weed. The wind hollowed through the trees, rustling leaves, snapping branches. It was eerily quiet and empty. They crossed a small creek, jumping over with reckless abandon. Kevin stuffed his hands into the pockets of his jacket, but still felt a chill that made him hunch his shoulders.

In the late afternoon light, faint, stony outlines, solid and eternal stones rose from the leaf piles along the side of the trail. They appeared abandoned; an oversight.

“Hey!” Kevin stopped. “You see that?” he called to Chris.

“What is it?” he slowed, kicking forest debris with his shoes. What the…”  Trees filled the area in staggering numbers. The soil was rocky. Who would choose this as a final resting place? The trunks were thick and gnarled, and in many cases gown into the graves themselves, knocking them loose, tilting them to the sides like rotten, moss-covered teeth. Kevin’s body was racked with a sudden dizzying tremble.

Chris knelt down, brushed the leaves out of the way with a calloused hand—even at eighteen. “They’re old graves.”

Tampering with an old burial site made Kevin squeamish, superstitious in a way he couldn’t describe. “Maybe we should leave it alone.”

The sounds of the river raking over the shallow areas sent a chill up his spine. He didn’t want to be there. The sun slanted through the trees casting an ominous glow about the area. His head throbbed as he remembered their earlier experiences from that fall night. Kevin winced and rubbed his temples.

Ten feet away, Chris leaned over a pile of brush. “Hey! Check this out.” Kevin shuffled over, his feet dragging, his face turned towards the off-road area the car was parked. The clouds rolled in, closer. Darker. He wanted to get home.

As he approached Chris, his eyes landed on the hairless body of a small unborn animal—a deer fetus probably, maybe a coyote, still in the sac. Its spindle legs were folded onto itself. Its eyes were shut, translucent lids that were never going to open, ears flat against its skull, a map of blue veins threading just below the skin. Like that fetal pig in biology.

Kevin’s stomach lurched, the taste of bile filled his mouth. He swallowed.

“Momma deer’s gotta be nearby,” Chris said, poking at it with a stick.

“Yeah,” Kevin averted his eyes, “Bloody, dazed, and wounded,” he stiffened, looked around. “We gotta go. It’s getting dark.”

“Right,” Chris dropped the stick and shoved his hands in his pockets. “Guess Jason’s not showing.”

Kevin knew he wouldn’t.  It was a dare to come back. For all he knew, Jason left the dead animal there as prank. Within hours, he knew vultures would shriek the night sky, swoop down and pluck at the remains.  The thing would be gone. As if it never existed.

[this is an original work of fiction. Please do not copy, share, or submit as your own work. Thank  you]

Write On, Wednesday: Debut Crime Writer Elizabeth Heiter Shares her Profiling Love & New Book!

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By Leslie Lindsay Front Cover_Final

I’ll admit to being a voracious reader. But I have one guilty pleasure: my couch, a bowl of ice cream, and an episode of “Criminal Minds.” Since today happens to be Wednesday, debut psychological crime writer Elizabeth Heiter (HUNTED, Mira, 2013) is here with us to talk about her fascination with crimial profiling, getting that first book out, what’s obsessing her and more!  Oh, and she’s generously offered a signed copy of HUNTED to one lucky reader (see end of post for details).

L.L.: Many thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Elizabeth! A writer myself, I know there’s always a kernel of truth to every story, and a deeper reason for the drive to write. Can you give us a glimpse into your early days as a writer?

EH: Thank you so much for inviting me to visit!  I think it’s true that many writers have a “need” to write, plus a desire to entertain, to inform, and to explore themes and ideas.

From the time I was very, very young, I loved stories – both listening to them and creating them.  I started writing fiction back in elementary school and I co-wrote my first completed novel-length manuscript (with a friend who is still my critique partner to this day!) in high school.  Writing has always been a passion for me, and I always knew I wanted to write suspense in particular.

L.L.: I’m currently in the last half of HUNTED, and must say I’m dying (okay, bad pun) to know how it ends. I know you won’t give away the ending, but tell us a little about how you got interested in such gritty crimes?

EH: Thanks, Leslie!  I’m so happy you’re engrossed in the story!  You know, one of the things that has always drawn me to suspense is that at the end of the story, you get some kind of closure, some kind of justice.  And that’s something that doesn’t always happen in real life.

As for the gritty, dark crime scenes I write about, what originally interested me in telling this story was the profiling side of it.  Often, when a profiler is needed, the crime is not only particularly difficult to solve, but also particularly horrible.  Something that I noticed when doing the research was the number of this type of crime (serial murder) where the victims were women and the perpetrators were men.  Sexualized violence and violence against women, as well as the prevalence of that kind of crime in our society, is something that I wanted to talk about – especially from the perspective of a female Special Agent in a male-dominated profession (the FBI is 80% men).

Criminal-Minds.svgL.L.: You must have had to do a lot of research? So much of HUNTED reads as if it’s taken straight from a “Criminal Minds” episode or “CSI.”

EH: I did a ton of research.  What fascinates me about profiling is the idea that someone can look at a crime scene without the typical means for solving it and still tell investigators what kind of person committed the crime – and how to find him.  The type of cases that tend to get profilers are those where there’s no obvious motive, no clear suspects, and no helpful forensic evidence.  Oftentimes, the perpetrator doesn’t even know the victims, so looking at the usual suspects – people who knew the victim or people who held some sort of grudge – isn’t going to solve the case.

I knew I wanted to write about someone who could see beyond the typical – who could look at a crime scene and see things like what sort of job the perpetrator probably held, whether he was married, why he was killing.  To do that, I had to understand it myself.  So, I spent many, many, many hours studying real cases, actual profiles, and abnormal psychology.  After I did that, I started testing myself – I’d pick a solved case and go through only the information about the crime known to the investigators, then try to write a profile and see how close I came to describing the person who had ultimately been convicted for the crime.  Once I felt confident with that, I began creating the Bakersville Burier for HUNTED.

L.L.: In perusing your website, I see HUNTED is the first in a series. How did you ever get so lucky? In fact, I counted five total (upcoming) books with your name on the cover! Can you share a bit about your success?

EH: Thank you so much!  Believe me, I was definitely pinching myself when those two calls came, letting me know I’d sold two suspense books (HUNTED, and the sequel, VANISHED) and three romantic suspense (in my Lawmen Series, out next year).  It was a long journey to get to that point.  I submitted to agents and editors for nine years before I received those calls, and was rejected more than a hundred times over six or so manuscripts first.  But I love writing novels too much to give up, so I kept going, and those rejections started turning into interest, and then the “close calls” began happening.  Those years of trying weren’t wasted – I can see my progress over the course of those completed and partial manuscripts I wrote.  And I hope that journey and progress never stops!

L.L.: What advice would you give to writers slogging away on that first manuscript?

EH: My advice would be to keep working, keep learning, and get involved with other writers – if you have a local writing organization you can join, it makes a nice difference.  Not only can they offer great insight on craft and the business, but it’s nice to talk to other writers facing the same challenges.  I also think it’s important to celebrate the successes.  This is a difficult business, and sometimes we get so focused on getting to the next step that we forget to celebrate our accomplishments.

My critique partner and I used to have a system where we’d give ourselves a writing goal each week, and award ourselves a point for each goal achieved.  Then, when we made ten points, we’d go out and reward ourselves.  Having that accountability to someone else increased the likelihood of making the individual goals.  I also think it helped keep us from getting burned out or discouraged because we were reaching smaller goals along the way to the ultimate goal of publication.

My last piece of advice is something that Suzanne Brockmann said to me many, many years ago: to paraphrase, she told me that the difference between an unpublished writer and a published author is perseverance.  That really stuck with me – in fact, I wrote it down and put it on an “inspiration” corkboard by my desk.

L.L.: How about agents? How long did it take to find yours? Advice, tips? Favorite websites?

EH: I submitted for five years before I signed with an agent.  I did have an offer of representation before that, but after a lot of thought, I turned it down because it didn’t feel right to me.  Ultimately, another author who heard me read part of a manuscript recommended me to her agent, and I ended up signing with her.  (This is another benefit of writer’s organizations, by the way – this author heard me read at a local chapter critique night, and that networking led to me submitting to the agent who’s now represented me for almost six years.)

My advice for anyone agent hunting is first and foremost, to do your homework.  Before you submit, make sure you’re targeting the right agent inside that agency, and make sure the agency is reputable.  Websites I’d recommend for that would be Predators and Editors, Association of Authors Representatives, and Absolute Write Water Cooler.  When you do have an offer, read the contract carefully, and have a discussion with the agent about all the things that are important to you, including the vision you have for your writing career and how the agent plans to help you reach it.

L.L.: What is obsessing you right now?

EH: I’m in desperately-want-to-read mode right now (probably because I’m on deadline and don’t have time to pleasure read much at all!).  What that means is that I keep perusing bookstores and picking up new authors I haven’t read, and adding them to my TBR pile.  I absolutely love that feeling when you discover a brand-new author you’ve never read and as soon as you finish the first book, you go out and immediately get every other book they’ve written.  I’m in the mood for that kind of binge read, and I’m going to get back to the search as soon as I finish writing my next book!

Write on, Wednesday:  Decontrusting a NovelL.L. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

EH: Spending time with family and friends is at the top of that list.  My niece and nephews are at such fun ages right now, I’m trying to see them as much as possible.  I also recently got back into downhill skiing after a long break from it, and had a great time.  I’m not quite back to the jumps and backward skiing I used to be able to do, but I’m determined to get there!

L.L.: What are you currently reading?

EH: I’ve started Suzanne Brockmann’s DO OR DIE, but I haven’t gotten far because of that deadline I’m on.  Once I finish that book, I’ll be digging into one of the new authors I picked up recently.  I read really fast, so once I get a little stretch of reading time, I tend to race through books, meaning I like to have a few lined up!

L.L.: Thanks so much for being with us today, Elizabeth! 

EH: Thank you for having me here!  I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog and I’m thrilled to be a part of it!Apraxia Monday:  He Talks Funny Author Jeanne Buesser & Give-a-Way

And now for the GIVE-A-WAY!! Elizabeth has generously offered a give-a-way of her new release, HUNTED (Mira, December 2013). All YOU have to do is (choose one) 1) tell me  your favorite character on “Criminal Minds,” OR 2) Share a link of this interview via Facebook, email, Twitter, Pinterest, GoodReads, other.  You can do this by leaving a comment on the blog!  “I shared, please enter me in the contest.” Good luck!!*

Author Bio:

ElizabethHeiterWebELIZABETH HEITER likes her suspense to feature strong heroines, chilling villains, psychological twists, and a little bit (or a lot!) of romance. Her research has taken her into the minds of serial killers, through murder investigations, and onto the FBI Academy’s shooting range.

Elizabeth graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in English Literature.  She’s a member of International Thriller Writers and Romance Writers of America.  Fresh Fiction called her debut suspense, HUNTED, “a roller coaster ride that will twist, turn and spin you around until the very last page!”

For more about Elizabeth, her books, and appearances:

 *Give-a-way Fine Print: Open to U.S. residents only. One entry per person please. Must let us know you shared by contributing a comment on the blog (otherwise, we don’t know you shared the interview). Comments open Wednesday, March 12th thru Saturday March 15th.  You will be contacted via email if you are the winner. Please respond promoptly with your mailing address. Check your spam/junk folders. Books will be mailed from Michigan by the author when the contest closes. Please allow ample time for the book to reach you.

[phone image retrieved from http://cornerkick.blogspot.com/2013_03_01_archive.html on 3.5.14, "Crimimal Minds: logo from Wikipedia on 3.5.12, author image and cover image courtesy of Elizabeth Heiter]