Tag Archives: interview

WeekEND Reading: How quickly life can spin out of control…Jennifer Kitses talks about this, how she is constantly buying books, her literary inspirations, time loops, and more in this stunning look at 24-hours in a suburban marriage SMALL HOURS

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By Leslie Lindsay

A tipping point of a novel with tense domestic vignettes leading each character deeper and deeper into destructive behavior. 

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SMALL HOURS is a slow-burn, ‘tinderbox’ of a debut novel (Matthew Thomas, WE ARE NOT OURSELVES) in which we are just waiting for the inevitable to explode. We follow the lives of a married couple, Tom and Helen for 24-hours. Told in alternating POVs (Helen and Tom), we dive into a myriad of secrets, promises, deadlines, children, neighbors, etc. It’s one small step into the danger zone with each paragraph read, with each flip of the page, each turn of the hour.

I kind of wanted to shake these people.

Perhaps that is what makes Jennifer Kitses’s debut so palpable. We can *feel* the tensions arising, see the outcome before her characters and we just want to thrust an arm out and say, ‘Stop!’ But the reading is propulsive; I wanted to keep reading. It was like a bad accident on the side of the road: you don’t want to look, but you do.

Tom and Helen have left NYC for a life in a former mill town to raise their twin daughters. Helen is juggling work, kids, the home and none of it is coming together. There are teenagers from the ‘wrong side of the tracks’ who torment her and her young daughters at a local park, deadlines and more. Meanwhile, Tom is struggling to keep afloat at his newspaper job in the city, 90-minute train commutes, and a big secret.

What SMALL HOURS does so well is capture the mundane in a universal look at parenting, suburbia, the workforce, marriage, secrets, and so much more. I couldn’t stop reading; I so wanted to see what kind of train wreck they were going to walk into.

I’m honored to welcome Jennifer to the blog couch. Pull up a seat and join us.

Leslie Lindsay: Jennifer, when I first learned of SMALL HOURS, I knew I had to read it. Number one, I was taken with the cover. It gives this torn and mangled look at a domestic setting, much like the story within those pages. Was this your intention all along? Did the design team nail your overall look and feel for the story?

Jennifer Kitses: Thank you so much, Leslie! I love the cover, too and I had no idea what the publisher was planning until I saw the first version. I remember being so happy and excited when I first opened the file, because I loved everything about it: the torn-page illusion, the colors (especially the green, which gets mentioned a lot throughout the book; in my head, that was the color of the novel), and the photo itself, which to me looks just like my fictionalized Hudson Valley town.

The cover designer, Brian Lemus, surprised me by coming to my launch at the Astoria Bookshop in Queens. It was great to meet and thank him in person!storefront cropped

L.L.: I kind of feel like SMALL HOURS is about how little time it takes for our lives to spin out of control. While the premise of the story is to be set within a strict 24-hour time frame, it doesn’t, not exactly. There are some lingering decisions, instances that have occurred in the past (maybe up to three years earlier than the ‘present’ story), yet it all seems to come to a head on this particular day. Can you talk about the structure of the novel?

Jennifer Kitses: Very early on, and to me, this seemed like one of those rare good-luck moments that sometimes happen when you’re writing, I realized I wanted the story to unfold over one day. Back then, when I was starting on my first draft, my own twin daughters were three years old. I was freelancing as a writer and editor, and trying to take care of them at the same time. It wasn’t that unusual for both my husband and me to have work emergencies on the same day, and meanwhile one of our daughters was sick and the other was about to catch it, and then one of us would have a near-explosive encounter with a stranger on the subway or on the street. In those early years, every day felt like a marathon. That was one of the things I wanted to capture with this story, the feeling of how much could happen in a single day.

But I did allow myself a little leeway with the structure. There’s the backstory to get in, how they wound up in these situations, and what they’re already feeling as this day begins, and that’s woven through the early chapters. And even though the clock is pretty much always moving forward, there are a couple of small zigzags in the middle. But I felt that loosening the constraints of the structure made it stronger. At least, that was my hope!

L.L.: I couldn’t stop reading. Your prose is sharp and well-tuned, but it was more of the comedy of errors, the way my eyes would bulge as I read sentence after sentence of what these people were doing (or not).  Were they based on anyone in particular? Inspired by any real stories or people you know?

Jennifer Kitses: A lot of the smaller images and details were borrowed from my own life or moments I’d witnessed, but those details and moments have weird ways of recombining in your head. One of my daughters once spilled Cheerios in a playground and was immediately surrounded by pigeons, and that became part of the story. But the rest of what happens in that scene was drawn from different moments, and also from wondering about what could have happened next.

In her debut novel, Jennifer Kitses spins an intriguing tale about this couple in particular, but also about the choices people make, and what happens when plans go bad… Kitses skillfully builds the tension as our protagonists slide from one crisis to the next. As in a thriller, the reader wants to yell, ‘No! Don’t do that!’
Star Tribune

L.L.: There were some instances that I sort of had the sense SMALL HOURS was a collection of short stories, or even a linked novel. Is this a form you’d be willing to try?

Jennifer Kitses: That’s a really interesting question, and reminded me of something I’d almost forgotten. I did write, or tried to write, a short story that focused on the major problem faced by Tom. At that point, the main character wasn’t Tom, and the other characters weren’t there. Instead of filing the story away, I decided to expand the idea and go bigger.

I don’t know if I’d ever try to do a collection of short stories or a linked novel, because it’s pretty rare that I’ll work on something short. When I do, I think it’s my way of testing an idea. But Elizabeth Strout is one of my favorite writers, and I couldn’t love OLIVE KITTERIDGE more. And her recent book, ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE, would be a close second for a favorite linked novel.

L.L.: I want to talk about the ending a bit—but I don’t want to give away too much! There’s a bit ambiguity and can be interpreted in many different ways. My take: there is no ‘re-setting;’ the concept of sleep is elusive; a perpetual time loop. Can you speak to this, please?  timeloop1

Jennifer Kitses: I did want to leave the ending ambiguous, though I think there are hints about how Tom and Helen might move forward, though readers are free to interpret those hints however they’d like. (I can think of a few very different next days or even years in their lives.) But I think it’s fair to say that Tom and Helen aren’t the same people at the end of this day; what they’ve gone through has changed the way they see each other, and also how they see themselves. To me, that’s a big part of the story: the difference between how we see ourselves and who we really are.

You mentioned a perpetual time loop, and I think feeling like you’re stuck in one is also part of the story: you might experience a life-changing day, but it’s not like you can stop the clock and fix all your problems. Now there’s a new day to face, with all of its usual tasks and problems that you have to deal with in addition to whatever you’re facing below the surface.

L.L.: What from you real-life might be a big secret or mystery that would make a good plot for a novel?

Jennifer Kitses: I’ve thought a lot about this, and I am truly stumped! Maybe that’s because I have trouble facing my biggest secrets and mysteries. Actually, this relates to some of the questions I had in mind when I was writing. How are we able to fool ourselves, even for years, about essential problems in our lives? I’m fascinated by self-delusion, and also by an almost optimistic lack of self-perception: how we sometimes tell ourselves that everything is going to be fine, even when we know it won’t.

L.L.: You’re a fabulous, no frills writer with an ear for dialogue, human behavior, and I’d compare your storytelling style to that of Lauren Acampora (See summer 2015 interview: THE WONDER GARDEN), Tom Perrotta (especially LITTLE CHILDREN), and Catherine McKenzie ( See fall 2016 interview: FRACTURED). Others have compared your writing to Richard Russo. What do you think about the comparisons and who/what do you read to keep inspired?

Jennifer Kitses: Thank you very much for those comparisons! Tom Perrotta is definitely an influence, I’m a big fan of writers I consider storytellers, the ones who pull you into a story so completely that you forget you’re reading, and he’s a master of that. I’m also very influenced by writers I discovered relatively recently (in the last 10 years), like Elizabeth Strout and Kate Atkinson. And I’m a huge fan of crime novels, especially those by Richard Price, and I think that genre has influenced how I handle tension, pacing, and suspense.

As this book was going through copyediting and production, I went on an Elena Ferrante tear. I find her books not only addictive, from a reading perspective, but also inspiring, because Ferrante is not afraid of anger. I love the angry women in her books.

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L.L.: Jennifer, it’s been such a pleasure and I am so, so glad we had the opportunity to chat. Is there anything else you’d like add—like  your summer plans or what your working on next, or something I completely forgot about?

Jennifer Kitses: I wish I had elaborate summer plans, but I think Im going to take it somewhat easy. With kids, summer seems to be about family trips (though there’s plenty of opportunity for drama there). I am working on something, but it’s in early stages. What I’m really looking forward to is getting back to reading. I have an enormous stack of books that I’ve been waiting to read, I buy books constantly, whether I have time to read them immediately or no, and among the ones I’m most excited about are Liz Moore’s THE UNSEEN WORLD, Hope Jahren’s LAB GIRL, and Roxane Gay’s HUNGER.

Thanks so much for these compelling questions, Leslie! It’s been a pleasure.

To connect with Jennifer via social media, or to learn more about SMALL HOURS, or purchase a copy, please visit: 

Jennifer Kitses_credit Timothy KuratekABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jennifer Kitses grew up in Philadelphia. She received an MLitt in creative writing from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, and has worked for Bloomberg News, Condé Nast Portfolio, and Columbia Business School. She lives with her family in New York. Small Hours is her first novel.

 

You can connect with me, Leslie Lindsay, via these social media sites:

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[Cover and author image courtesy of Grand Central Publishing and used with permission. Image of bookstore front from Astoria Bookshop website, image of Hudson Valley stone house via NYTimes ‘great houses’ section, all on 6.26.17 twisty clock from,] 

Write On, Wednesday: Author Kimberly McCreight of RECONSTRUCTING AMELIA (2013) with GIVE-A-WAY!!

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By Leslie Lindsay Product Details

I am super-excited to spend some time chatting with NYT bestselling debut author, Kimberly McCreight of RECONSTRUCTING AMELIA.  While this book was a Target Book Club pick and my local book discussion group selection, I am in awe as to how this literary wonder woman does it all.  She’s a mom to two young girls, runs marathons, and has several unpublished manuscripts just lying about. Oh, and she’s a former attorney. To accomplish all of that, you’d have to say the woman is driven, hands down.

RECONSTRUCTING AMELIA appealed to me for several reasons: it’s been compared to Gillian Flynn’s GONE GIRL, has a Jodi Picout-like quality in that it alternates between view points, and perhaps most importantly, the storyline is ripped right from current trends in mean girl behavior, also know as social aggression–a trend I am not proud to associate with the female culture. So, without futher ado…please welcome Kim McCreight.

LL: Thank you, Kim for taking the time to chat with us about your book, RECONSTRUCTING AMELIA (Harper Perennial, 2013). I am currently in the last quarter of the book and find myself racing to the end to find out what really happened to young Amelia. Without giving away too much, did you intend for the book to be a mystery?

Kimberly McC: Reconstructing Amelia was inspired first and foremost by my experiences as a mother, specifically my fears for my daughters as they grow older.  And I don’t think I set out to write a mystery per se.  I didn’t set out to write any particular kind of book.  But as much as I cared about the characters while writing Reconstructing Amelia I was also very interested in the puzzle aspect of the story.  And I knew from the outset that a central question driving the narrative would be the “why” of what happened to Amelia.  For me, that’s the question at the heart of all great mysteries.

LL: Cyber-bullying has become such an unfortunate trend in young people’s lives—from texts to blogs, to Facebook. You tap into this environment surprisingly well—the teen slang, the secrets, their mannerisms, yet your own children are young.  Can you give us a glimpse into your ‘research’ for the book?

Kimberly McC: I was certainly influenced by many news accounts of bullying, though the book wasn’t inspired by any one story in particular.  I also did a fair amount of Internet research, exploring what teenagers talk about and what mediums they use.  There was a lot that surprised me about the ways teens use social media these days, for better and for worse.  I’m amazed how different their definitions of “privacy” and “friend” are from mine.  I also talked to local teens while writing Reconstructing Amelia.  I grew up in the suburbs, so I needed to get a sense of how the details of life differ for an urban teenager—where they go one weekends, after the school, etc.  But much of Amelia’s character was inspired by my own memories of being a teen.  And her voice came very naturally, which maybe should concern me more than it does.

LL: Speaking kids…as an author, how do you structure your writing time while still remaining an engaging parent? My own kids are 7 and 8 and I write like mad while they are at school, but sometimes that’s not near enough!  My characters keep “talking” to me as I help with homework, prepare dinner, etc. Can you share some tips for ‘trying to do it all?’

Kimberly McC: Ever since I left the practice of law to write fiction, I’ve tried to treat writing as a full-time job with regular hours and a clear structure.  That was less complicated, of course, before I had children.  But then, life for any working parent is a constant juggle.  I feel very lucky that I at least have the flexibility (and proximity) most days to be at school at the drop of a hat to pick up a sick child.

These days, I write from 9-6 pm, five days a week, which means my girls are in aftercare or with a sitter after school.  Having lots of strict deadlines (and sub-deadlines, and sub-sub deadline helps) and I rely heavily on a great to-do app.

But you’re right that even that isn’t always enough.  Just last night, I had to sit across from my older daughter revising something as she finished her homework because I had a deadline.

Also, I am always jotting story notes in my iPhone—while watching my kids play sports or while cooking dinner (which might explain why I’m such a terrible cook) and, yes, sometimes even when they’re talking to me.  In that case, of course, I feel totally guilty, but mostly do it anyway).

McCreight Kimberly ap1_credit Justine CooperBecause you can’t control when a new idea or the solution to a vexing narrative problem will come to you.  And if you don’t grab it, it can disappear.  But I find that as long as I’ve made a detailed note, it will usually keep until whenever I can return to it during my regular work hours.

LL: I understand your first manuscripts are stored someplace under your bed or in your hard drive; RECONSTRUCTING AMELIA is actually your fifth attempt at writing a novel, right?  You must have really, really been determined to get a book out. What advice would you give to emerging novelists?

Kimberly McC: Keep writing.  That’s really obvious, but it’s also an incredibly important point.  And by that I mean don’t give up, but also:  write to get better at writing.  My work has certainly improved over the years.  I think feedback is critical, too.  Find a great critique partner or, better yet, a terrific writers group.   Then listen to what they have to say about your work.  That doesn’t mean you have to do everything they say, but keep an open mind.  There is no way to improve in a vacuum.

LL: Moving on to agents. You say you’ve gone through several, yet we struggling writers would be happy with just one!  What tips might you offer for finding that perfect fit, crafting a stellar query letter, and ultimately getting a book in the hands of readers?

While it’s certainly important to approach agents who represent your kind of work and who are accepting new clients, I think it’s easy to get bogged down in the research phase of finding an agent.  The “who to approach” part, instead of getting to the “actually approaching” phase.

I would recommend casting a wide net.  Part of finding an agent is a numbers game: sending out enough queries to enough agents (keeping in mind always to notify them that yours is a simultaneous submission) until you find that perfect match.

I’d start with a group of ten agents and see what response you get to your query letter.  If only a very few (or none) ask to see pages, your query letter probably isn’t strong enough.  Stop and revise it.  Writing a great query letter takes a lot of time.  More than you’d ever think a single letter could possibly take.

It’s also really hard.  How to write a good query is something I would recommend researching extensively.   You can start online, there are lots of great articles there. Then imagine you’re writing the jacket copy for your book.  You don’t need to tell the reader everything, you just need to grab their interest.  On that note, be sure that your letter is written in the same tone as your book.  If your novel is funny, make your letter funny.  Wrote a mystery?  Make sure your letter is suspenseful.  And don’t be gimmicky.  Agents get more queries then you can possibly imagine.  You want to stand out, but not for the wrong reasons.

LL: What’s next for you?  When will we see more of your books on the shelves?

Kimberly McC: I’m at work on revisions for my next book, another mystery with a strong character element.  Don’t know when it’ll be out, but I’d expect in about a year or so.  I’ve also started the first book in a YA trilogy that I’m really excited about. 

Thank you so very much for being here today, Kim! It’s been an absolute pleasure. Best wishes!

THANK YOU!! Apraxia Monday:  He Talks Funny Author Jeanne Buesser & Give-a-Way

And now for the book give-a-way!!  One lucky winner will be drawn at random to WIN a FREE copy of RECONSTRUCTING AMELIA. All you have to do is share this interview via email, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. and let me know you shared (if you don’t let me know, I can’t enter your name).  How do you do that?!  Easy. Just leave a comment on this blog or shoot me an email at leslie_lindsay (at) hotmail.com with subject line, “I shared…enter my name!” *

For more information, please follow Kimberly’s social media:

Twitter:   @kimmccreight

Facebook:  www.facebook.com/mccreight.kimberly

website:  http://www.kimberlymccreight.com

*Fine Print: Give-a-way is open to US residents only. Must comment or email leslie_lindsay@hotmail.com so I know to enter your name after you’ve shared via social media. Contest runs Wednesay, January 22-Saturday, January 26. Please check your in-box/junk/spam for an email from me indicating you won. Please respond promptly with your mailing address. Book will be sent to you from HarperCollins Publishers. Good luck!!

[book image retrived from Amazon.com on 1.21.14; author image courtesy of Harper Collins Pub with permission of Kimberly McCreight]

Write On, Wednesday: Author Emily Liebert of YOU KNEW ME WHEN

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By Leslie Lindsay 2012.02.20_Emily Lieb_5CE0B

Have I got a treat today!  Debut novelist Emily Liebert is here to talk about books, friendship, social media, agents, and nailpolish. Oh, and that includes a give-a-way! Not just one, but TWO lucky winners will receive a copy of her book, YOU KNEW ME WHEN (NAL Trade, 2013) and custom-designed nailpolish.

LL: Emily, thank you so very much for agreeing to be on Write On, Wednesday!  The fun part of our connection is we found each other on Twitter.  In what ways has social media brought the world of books closer to readers, and do you ever consider social media to be a burden to book lovers?

Emily Liebert: My pleasure! Love that we found each other via Twitter. 😉

I don’t consider social media to be a burden in any way! I think it’s opened up a worldwide conversation that’s truly revolutionary. My first book, FACEBOOK FAIRYTALES, which is narrative non-fiction is an anthology of 25 amazing stories that evolved from Facebook connections. So I’ve done a good deal of research in this area. As far as the literary space, there’s nothing I enjoy more than interacting with my fans via social media, learning what books people are reading and loving, and meeting amazing colleagues like yourself!

LL: Your book, YOU KNEW ME WHEN is about the staying power of female friendships. In such a connected world today, what factors do you think contribute to lost friendships?  Do find the phenomenon somewhat ironic given all of the devices we have to stay connected?

Emily Liebert: As you point out, it’s pretty hard to “lose” anyone these days. Unfortunately, people still fight, which leads to falling outs. I think it reminds us that, despite all of these devices to stay connected, fundamentally you still need to be able to get along!

YKMW--CoverLL: The women in YOU KNEW ME WHEN reconvene at a Victorian mansion.  How does the house become part of the landscape, and/or contribute overall character development?  In some stories, inanimate objects become personified; do you feel the mansion becomes a character in a sense?

Emily Liebert: Well, Luella’s Victorian mansion is in Vermont…[and] I do think it became a character in a way. I love this question, because it was something I gave a lot of thought to when considering what the cover might look like. One idea (the one we didn’t end up using) was to have the house on the cover. Luella’s home and the inanimate objects in it embody her in so many ways, from start to finish. Her home also played an intricate roll in the relationships formed between Luella, Laney, and Katherine/Kitty.

LL: Many folks can only dream of writing a book.  What advice would you give to serious writers on pursuing their dream?

Emily Liebert: Write what you know. Write what you’re passionate about. Write often. Develop a thick skin. There will be rejections. There will be doors slammed in your face. Kick them in!

LL: Let’s move into agents.  What do you think you did right when looking for representation?  Tips?

Emily Liebert: I’ve had two agents and loved both of them. My current agent, Alyssa Reuben, at Paradigm is a literary goddess. I call her this often. She gets me. She gets my writing. She reads the kinds of books I write by other authors. She’s not only my agent, but a dear friend. You have to work with someone you’re comfortable with. Someone who pays attention to you and will fight for you. Alyssa is all of that and so much more.

LL: What are you currently reading?

Emily Liebert: ALL THE SUMMER GIRLS by Meg Donohue. I can’t wait to read Jane Green’s new novel, TEMPTING FATE, which comes out in March! Her writing is genius.

 LL: If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing?

Emily Liebert: Therapist or chef.

LL:Finally, what’s next for you? More books?

Emily Liebert:My next novel WHEN WE FALL will publish with Penguin Random House in September 2014. After that, the plan is to write a novel every nine months. Livin’ the dream!

[image source: www.squidoo.com on 12.04.13.  Author and cover images courtesy E.Liebert]

And now for the give-a-way!  Emily has graciously offered TWO copies of her book, YOU KNEW ME WHEN and matching/cutomized nailpolish created for the book to TWO lucky blog readers.  All  you have to do share this interview via Facebook, WordPress, Twitter, Email, etc. and then let me know you shared by sending me a quick email at leslie_lindsay(at)hotmail.com, or by leaving a comment on this blog page.  It’s that easy!!*  Good luck!

*The Fine Print: Open to US resisdents only. Contest runs now (12.04.13) thru Friday (12.06.13 at 5pm). You will be contacted via email if your name is randomly selected.  Please be sure to check your “junk” or “spam” folders for an email from me. Respond promptly with your mailing address.  Books (and nailpolish!) will be mailed to you by an agent of Ms. Liebert.

Fiction Friday: Matt Wertz’s Music Meets Leslie’s Novel

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By Leslie Lindsay 

Hope y’all liked the interview of singer/songwriter Matt Wertz yesterday…you’re in for another treat as I share a little more about his newest album, HEATWAVE “coming in hot” August 27th, 2013.  MWertz_Heatwave_CVR

As a writer (and music lover), I knew I was onto something when I stumbled across Matt’s music several years ago–quite honestly by accident.  It was one of those “if you like this, then you may like that…”  I clicked on the preview, liked what I heard, and have been a fan since. 

Novelists have all sorts of tricks up their sleeves for writing inspiration.  For some, it may be an on-going journal, an idea drawer filled with scraps of paper, remnants of writing, a collage of images one hopes to evoke through words. 

For me, it’s music (okay, I confess–I use all methods above as well).  I downloaded Matt’s tunes onto my iPod, slipped a moniker on the playlist: “Slippery Slope Inspiration” (working title of my novel), and plugged my ears.  I closed my eyes and got lost in the lyrics, the beat; an entire chapter unfolded in my mind’s eye, my fingers itching to get to the keyboard breaking my so-called “writer’s block.”

Before I share the excerpt from Slippery Slope, thought you’d want to know which Matt Wertz’s song is the backdrop for this scene:  GET TO YOU. (To listen and watch video of Matt, his truck and guitar, click here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K83RJdDhgU8)  So, I asked Matt about it, specifically if the song was written for–or with–anyone in mind.   Here’s what he said:

“Honestly, that song wasn’t written about any one person in particular, but rather an emotion that I think all of us have felt to some degree, whether it’s a literal ‘I need to get to this location where this person is’ or a more figurative ‘I’m trying to get through to you- trying to reach your heart, to understand you, to connect on a deeper level.’ That song was written to the drum groove that I had programmed out, and it really acted as the inspiration. Myself and Brandon Hood and Melissa Peirce sat on my front porch in Nashville and wrote that one- we knew we had something great right away!”

Without further adieu, here’s a glimpse of my chapter…

“My truck cruises through the blackened night, memories of Annie Kelley pulsing through my head.  Another open highway, another midnight road.  My thumbs pound the steering wheel.  I’ve got the windows down, cool air blowing through the cab.  I stroke my chin and slip in a CD. 

The Wallflowers.  College—Freshman Year.  Me and Cinderella— that was me and Annie.  We weren’t always right together, but that didn’t mean we were wrong.   Annie feels like this old truck—comfortable, worn, full of memories.  Mine. 

The headlights from an oncoming vehicle shine on my left hand, bringing my wedding band into focus, a blinding reminder that I am a married. To someone other than Annie Kelley.  I shake off the thought and press on.

I’ve got to get to her.  I throw the truck into fifth, heading east on I-74 She’s still in Georgia, I’m sure.  She’d never leave; it’s all she’s ever known.  The green mile-markers pass me by, my heart beats in my chest and I grip the wheel a little tighter.  Inhaling through my nose, I fling my head back onto the headrest.  I’ll need a Red Bull soon.” 

WERTZ-9032a.thumbFor more information about Matt’s upcoming album, check out this article on his vintage-inspired, acid-washed 1980’s jangly–pop sound.  It’s a Heatwave, alright.  http://bullhornpublicity.com/archives/837

To learn about Matt’s fall tour dates, check here:  www.mattwertz.com

This old-school Matt Wertz infomercial, reminiscent of Time Life music just cracks me up.  Must Watch! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pvTWwjXNZRQ

To Follow him on Twitter@mattwertz

And this…absolutely, 100% sweet.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zbpgb4LbOak

Special thanks to Matt Wertz and Bullhorn Publicity for the opportunity to collaborate.

The Teacher is Talking: 1-2-3 Magic with Dr. Thomas Phelan

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By Leslie Lindsay

When I was a young R.N. working at the Mayo Clinic in Child/Adolescent Psychiatry, we used a program called 1-2-3 Magic by Thomas Phelan.  I had no idea what it was all about at the time…but I quickly learned –and loved it.  In fact, it’s America’s #1 child discipline program!  Years later, as a mom of an almost 8-year old and 6-year old, it definitely comes in handy.  (image source: http://www.123magic.com/?gclid=CPGrj5KZm7YCFcWPPAodtCUAxQ)

 

Here’s how it works:

  • Your child is engaging in an activity or behavior you don’t like or want to redirect (change).  For example, “Kate, you need to make your bed.”  (Grumble, grumble).  As a parent/caregiver you say, “That’s one!”  and pause.  (1)
  • If your child doesn’t make any progress towards the goal you initiated (they are still grumbling, stomping feet, etc.) you say, “That’s two!”  And pause.*  You are watching to see your child make some movement towards the goal/direction given.  (2)
  • Hopefully she is moving her buns in the right direction (setting her book down and moving towards her bed, or whatever).  If you have to say, “That’s three!” then a consequence results.  That consequence should be something you have predetermined and your child expects, a five-minute time-out, for example is what we typically do around our house.  (3)
  • MAGIC!!  The task is done, your child avoided danger, or the behavior/attitude was redirected.  See how easy that was? 

[* the pause is actually a very important part of the program.  It allows you and your child to calm down and consider consequences].

How is this different than just saying, “Go to your room?!”  Well, your child is given an expectation (I want you to stop hitting your brother).  They have a minute to stop the action and pull themselves together before being hauled off to their bedroom.  Your child understands that you mean business and they are ultimately in control, (“hey, if I stop hitting my brother, I won’t have to go to my room.”)  If you ultimately make the descision without involving your child, they really learn nothing.  1-2-3Magic-Book_T.gif

How is 1-2-3 Magic different than just counting to 3?  Most parents count too quickly.  Know how hard it is for you to stop doing something you’re really engaged in?  Say you are reading a really great book?  Watching a good movie/television show?  Cooking?  How often to you say, “Oh, just a minute?”  Can you stop something immediately?  Probably not. So, you give your child a warning…”hey, a consequence is coming if you don’t pull it together.”  You’d appreciate the same thing, right?

That’s it!  Class Dismissed : ) 

Apraxia Monday: Interview with Kimberly Scanlon, CCC-SLP

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By Leslie Lindsay

Apraxia Monday:  He Talks Funny Author Jeanne Buesser & Give-a-Way

Special thanks to Kim Scanlon of Scanlon Speech Therapy in Ramsey, NJ and author of My Toddler Talks for joining us today.  She’s also mom of Kerrigan Grace (aka Kerri) who is 7 months old.  Without further adieu, here’s Kim!

L4K: Wow. I am just amazed at your energy.  You’re a mom, a speech-language therapist of a busy practice, and author of My Toddler Talks.  How do you do it all? 

Kimberly, CCC-SLP: I drink a lot of coffee and don’t sleep! Ha! To be honest, I really try to manage my time so I can do it all without becoming too stressed. Time management is key. The night before I go to sleep, I compose a very detailed to-do list. Then, I wake up the next morning, ready to tackle my day! Having my to-do list keeps me focused. It also helps that I love crossing off tasks as I complete them; gives me a sense of accomplishment.Professional Picture (300 dpi)

Additionally, I strongly believe in having routines because they keep my sanity. In My Toddler Talks, I write about the importance of routines and guide readers on how to create routines to facilitate language development in their toddlers.

Lastly, and probably most importantly, I love what I do! After having a great speech therapy session, I feel energized! Treating my clients makes me happy. Additionally, my husband, Ryan is very supportive and I’m super lucky that my mom babysits, Kerrigan while I work. All in all, I’m very fortunate to have such a blessed life.

L4K: You have a wide variety of skills and experiences from Early Intervention to school-based SLP, and even a medical center working with geriatric patients.  Do you have a favorite population to work with?  I bet you learn a little something about every population. 

Kimberly, CCC-SLP:  I’ve had such wonderful and varied work experiences in my career. A very wise mentor once told me that you should try your hand in each population and seek different settings to find your niche. Currently, I primarily treat children; a majority of them are toddlers and preschoolers. Although, I like to have a diverse caseload because it keeps your perspective fresh.

L4K: I love your tagline, “making speech therapy fun and effective.”  What do you find are the keys to a fun and effective speech session? 

Kimberly, CCC-SLP:  Thank you, Leslie! Whether I’m treating adults or children, it’s important to keep things interactive and exciting. Discovering what motivates a client is critical to their success. By nature, I’m upbeat and a little zany so it’s pretty easy for me to turn even a structured task into something fun.

As for effective, I also have a type A personality and strive to do my best. I invest a lot of time and money into staying up-to-date on best practices. Using evidence based strategies, devising a good treatment plan and systematically targeting goals and objectives produce effective and efficient results.

L4K: Your post on Sandra Boynton’s Book, Snuggle Puppy (February, 2013) warmed my heart, as it did many others.  Can you give us some more tips on how to make reading with your child more engaging?  How does reading really help with speech and language development?Product Details

Kimberly, CCC-SLP: Thank you! I had so much fun writing my Snuggle Puppy post.

I can think of so many ways to make reading with your child more engaging and have written several posts about this topic on my blog. Creating a reading routine and picking a time when your child is most relaxed and focused is essential. For toddlers, choose books that he can relate to and read ones that mirror some of his own life experiences. For instance, using the potty or going to the zoo.   (image source: Amazon.com 3.10.13) 

There are so many ways reading helps with speech (articulation, voice, and fluency) and language (expressive and receptive skills). In fact, I could probably write another book on it! Books can easily be used to target very specific objectives. For articulation purposes, books can provide an enjoyable context to practice certain sounds. If a child is learning to say his “f” sounds and has progressed to the sentence level, reading books that have multiple opportunities for “f” is so much more engaging then doing worksheets! For language development, you can use books to target verbs, adjectives, prepositions, following directions, answering and asking various wh questions. And, the list goes on.

L4K: The concept behind your book, My Toddler Talks is to empower parents, grandparents and educators to promote language skills in kiddos through play.  What aspect of the book are you most proud of?  My Toddler Talks Book Cover (300 dpi)

Great question! There are so many parts of My Toddler Talks that I love (the 25 step-by-step play routines, the easy to remember acronyms, the troubleshooting tips, etc). I’m really proud of how well I transformed some complex “speechie” terms and concepts into something much more parent friendly and easy to digest. Of course, this book is not a replacement for speech therapy, but its hands on and helpful. I set out to design a workbook for parents to read with their highlighters and pens. One to make them think, “Yeah, I can do that! I’m going to try it tomorrow!”

My Toddler Talks is available for purchase at Amazon.  But…Kim has graciously offered to give-a-way a copy to one lucky reader.  (See below for detials). 

L4K:  Finally, what advice would you give to a parent who is raising a child with CAS? 

  • Seek out an ASHA certified and licensed speech language pathologist who is experienced in treating apraxia of speech.
  • For severe cases, teach the child some signs or how to use a picture book to reduce frustration and increase functional communication until his speech motor system further develops for speech.
  • Practice specific sounds or words in short but purposeful 10 to 15 minute bursts throughout the day.
  • Purchase Speaking of Apraxia by Leslie Lindsay! 
  • Last but certainly not least, give your child a break. He needs to have down time as well. Don’t push practicing if he’s tired, stressed, or not feeling well.

***Thanks, Kim for sharing your passion for speech!***

Now for the… Apraxia Monday:  He Talks Funny Author Jeanne Buesser & Give-a-WayWant a free copy of Kim’s book, My Toddler Talks?  Of course you do!  Drop me a line (leslie_lindsay@hotmail.com) or make a comment on the blog about how this post “spoke” to you.  A U.S. winner will be drawn at random Friday, March 15th 2013 at noon CST.  You will be contacted via email if you are the winner.  Book will be mailed to you free of charge.

Help SPEAKING OF APRAXIA win in the READER’S CHOICE AWARDS!  You can VOTERCA 2013 Logo for the book every day now thru March 19th.  Just click on the link below.  THANKS FOR YOUR SUPPORT!!  http://specialchildren.about.com/b/2013/02/19/vote-for-favorite-new-special-needs-parenting-book-2.htm

Apraxia Monday: Interview with Melanie Feller, CCC-SLP

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By Leslie Lindsay

I am excited to introduce Melanie Feller, CCC-SLP to “Apraxia Monday.”  Melanie’s article, “7 Common Myths of Childhood Apraxia of Speech” recently appeared on Special Education Advisor http://www.specialeducationadvisor.com/7-common-myths-of-childhood-apraxia-of-speech-cas/ and featured on PediaStaff as a “Worth Repeating” article.  Melanie hails from New Jersey and is currently in Oregon for a professional opportunity.  She continues to practice pediatric speech-language pathology in both locations. 

L4K:  When and how did you get interested in the field of pediatric speech pathology?   Can you tell us a bit about your educational background?  How long have you been a practicing SLP?  (image source: http://www.upwardaz.org/speech-therapy/.  This is not a photo of Melanie or her practice.  The author(s) have no relationship with this company or individuals). 

Melanie, CCC-SLP: As a senior in college. I was a history major, interested in anything but history, and desperately worried about what I would go to graduate school for.  After discovering a book on graduate schools, I came across “communication disorders” in a list of majors, and decided to do some research.  The information I discovered spoke to me, and I went on an observation to see speech therapy in action.  And then I fell in love. Watching that speech pathologist work with a tiny three year old changed my life forever. 

I have a Masters degree from Kean University in Speech Language Pathology and have been practicing for 9 years

I specialize in CAS, as well as overall language delay and disorder and see clients of all ages, but primarily those from 0-12.   For the younger clients, my model is based on play therapy, and I use many aspects of Floortime within my sessions. I am looking forward to starting the Floortime certification process soon! The goal of my practice is to provide therapy that is effective, efficient, and most of all, fun and kind!

This treatment emphasizes emotional development.

L4K: Your area of interest and expertise has a lot to do with childhood apraxia of speech (CAS). Can you tell us a little about your interest in such a complex speech disorder?  Do you have personal experience with apraxia?  (image source: http://specialedpost.com/2012/10/14/floortime-therapy-fosters-social-communication-in-kids-with-autism/ The author(s) have no known affiliation with Special Ed Post. For your information only).

My first experience with CAS came about in graduate school.  One of my first clients was a seven-year-old child who didn’t speak. No-one seemed to know why, and everyone had assumed he was unable to.  I remember thinking he demonstrated all the signs of a disorder I had recently learned about, and I thought it would be interesting to treat him as such (speech therapy for apraxia is, as you know, very specific) and see if I could be the one to get him to talk!  And the funny thing is, within a month, he started to use sounds, and within two months, he was using some words.  That’s how I first discovered the wonders of diagnosing and treating verbal apraxia, and it’s only taken off since then.  I find it endlessly fascinating and a joy to work with.  There’s something about watching someone literally learn how to move his mouth to form sounds, and how to coordinate that movement to produce strings of sounds that I find incredibly satisfying and fulfilling.

L4K: The early stages a parent experiences when first learning of their child’s CAS diagnosis can be very challenging.  How—and what—would you say to a parent just learning the diagnosis? 

Melanie, CCC-SLP:        

#1) I would say “Don’t Panic!!!!” That is the most important thing. Panic leads people to do all sorts of things, and that is not a good mentality when entering the world of treatment for CAS.

#2)  I would also offer that virtually every child can communicate in some manner, and no-one should be telling a parent that their child will never talk because he has CAS. That’s not just dishonest, it’s unreasonable. As SLP’s, we cannot make a final judgment as to what the outcome of therapeutic intervention will be. While we cannot offer false hope, we can also not say that there is no hope at all.

#3)  I would offer that it is important to ensure that the child received an accurate diagnosis. CAS is sadly frequently mis-diagnosed. Too many children are under (or over) diagnosed, leading to all sorts of issues.  Sometimes a second opinion is an excellent option.

L4K: With your article, “The 7 Most Common Myths of CAS,” which myth would you say is the most common? 

Melanie, CCC-SLP: I would say the most common [myth] is the first [one listed], that an expressive language delay must mean the child has CAS.    As I previously said, CAS is frequently under or over diagnosed, and as a result children with a simple expressive delay are being told they have a rather involved disorder, while those who have that rather involved disorder are told they’re just late talkers, and need to have just a little speech therapy (or maybe none at all) to be “ok.”

L4K: Your company, Alphabet Soup Speech (cute name, by-the-way), focuses on treating children (up to age 21) for speech/language disorders in a traditional in-person approach, but a large part of your practice is done remotely, a growing trend known as telepractice.  Can you tell us a little about how that evolved?  

Melanie, CCC-SLP: Thank you!  It first started when I discovered that many families were unable to obtain speech services due to time or distance constraints.  I had seen an article about telepractice, and realized that it would be great to be able to offer therapy remotely.  It’s also a wonderful option for me, as it allows me to see clients I might not normally have the time to see, or who might be too far away.

L4K: If someone was interested in telepractice (sometimes referred to as telehealth practice), how would they go about requesting those services?  Is it effective for everybody? 

Students work with Leah who is providing Speech services live from BGSU
 

Students work with Leah who is providing Speech services live from BGSU

(image source: http://wiki.hicksvilleschools.org/users/millerk/weblog/07401/Hicksvilles_Partnership_with_BGSUs_Speech_Telepractice_Program.html.  The author(s) have no known affiliation with Hicksville Schools or Bowling Green University.  For your informationation purposes only). 

Melanie, CCC-SLP: It can be a bit difficult to find. The best way may be to contact a particular therapist, and see if they offer that service. Many therapists that offer telpractice now list it on their websites as well When someone visits my website, they’ll see telepractice written, with a brief explanation. They can call via phone or email me to discuss their concerns for their child and I’ll make a determination as to whether or not teletherapy might be appropriate.  It works very well with children 6+. For younger children, I can provide parents with consultation services. If we agree that it’s a good fit, we can “meet” online and discuss their child’s particular needs.  The meeting also gives me an opportunity to watch the child communicate, and observe how the parent and child interact.   From that I can provide tips and ideas on how the family can work directly with the child.

Online parent education classes are also in the works! I anticipate that these will be very useful to individuals and small groups who want to learn more about milestones, ways to encourage language building, and red flags to watch out for; all while remaining in the comfort of their particular location.

L4K: What are some of your favorite parent-friendly resources for families walking the apraxia path? 

First off, be careful of just entering “apraxia” on a search engine! There’s lots of mis-information out there, and lots of information that seems to only serve to scare parents, and make them think they have a hopeless, never-ending situation on their hands! 

Some parent friendly resources:   

  • The ASHA (American Speech Language and Hearing Association) page on verbal apraxia offers honest, straightforward, and easy to understand information http://www.asha.org/public/speech/disorders/childhoodapraxia.htm They also provide a practitioner search engine for the public. Enter your zip code and they’ll give you a list of ASHA certified speech pathologists in your area.
  • The Apraxia-Kids website offers lots and lots of information – it can be overwhelming at times but overall it’s a great resource.http://www.apraxia-kids.org/
  • Speaking of Apraxia (Woodbine House, 2012)  There aren’t a lot of good books out there that are accurate, and specifically speak of apraxia on a friendly level (i.e. not a textbook). I’d be interested to know from your readers if there are any books they like that I haven’t heard of!

L4K: Where can readers learn more about you?  Do you blog?  Have a website?  Facebook page?  Twitter account? 

Melanie, CCC-SLP: There are lots of ways! 

  • Website: alphabetsoupspeech.com  I am in the process of updating it and am looking forward to a “new and improved” site soon 
  • Facebook: Alphabet Soup Speech Consultants, LLC.
  • Twitter www.twitter.com@iloveofspeech
  • My blog is in the process of being revamped, and I will be blogging again by early springhttp://alphabetsoupspeech.blogspot.com/
    Photo: Life is not a destination...It's a Journey.<br /><br />
However, do n't expect everyone to understand your journey, especially if they've never walked your path.

Many thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Melanie.  Your time and expertise is much appreciated.  Best wishes on your journey!—Leslie : )