Fragile 9-year-old boy misses his mother dearly in THE BOY AT THE KEYHOLE, plus Stephen Giles talks about writing for adults vs. kids, his love for isolated homes, more

By Leslie Lindsay

Sinister and intense story of melancholy and loneliness with an imaginative 9-year-old boy at the center in THE BOY AT THE KEYHOLE. Plus, it’s just been picked up by New Agency for film! 

Stephen Giles is here chatting about his love for country homes, his distaste for the dentist, and how he misses an old cubby house  in the backyard when he was a kid. 


Locked doors. An atlas. Attics. Cellar. England. Mystery and, maybe murder. 

Samuel Clay is living in a crumbling old estate in England with his housekeeper, Ruth Tupper. He’s missing his mother terribly, who has ‘gone away’ to America for the last 119 days (he’s been keeping count). Mrs. Clay is now widowed and the family’s finances have fallen to disarray–perhaps there’s some money or bankers in American who will help her get the ‘capital she needs.’ What’s worse, is Samuel’s mother left in the middle of the night, without so much as a word of good-bye to her son, leaving him in the care of the housekeeper.

Beyond sporadic postcards from his mother in America, Samuel hears virtually nothing of his mother. He’s lonely, yet highly imaginative and inquisitive. Samuel’s only friend is Joseph and a little rabbit in the garden he calls Robin Hood.

THE BOY AT THE KEYHOLE is a precarious dance between truth and perception, childhood and adulthood, ‘there’ and ‘not-there,’ and so much more.

I found the writing absolutely glimmered. I was immediately thrust into this drab world created by Stephen Giles and wanted to know what happened to Samuel’s mother. This is a perfect, swiftly-paced novel for this dreary time of year as we become a little more turned inward, a little more contemplative, and the fear of little deaths around.

Please join me in welcoming Stephen Giles to the author interview series.

Leslie Lindsay:

Stephen, it’s a pleasure. I always want to know—what question were you hoping to answer in THE BOY AT THE KEYHOLE—and did the answer satisfy or lead to more questions?

Stephen Giles:

This is such an interesting question. I suppose the most elemental question I had to ask myself was  why. I had the basic plot outlined and I knew where I was heading but I didn’t know all the whys. Why did Samuel’s mother go away? Why is the housekeeper Ruth the way she is? Why is Samuel so psychologically fragile, so fixated on his mother’s absence? The wonderful thing about questions like these is that they often lead you into places that take you by surprise and demand more of the narrative and that is incredibly exciting for a writer. I think ultimately I was satisfied by the questions though there is no doubt that this is a story that throws up more questions than concrete answers. Rather like life, it seems to me.

antique architecture art castle
Photo by Pixabay on

Leslie Lindsay:

I understand this is your first book for adults. In what ways do the forms differ? Plus, I can see a nice cross-over between readership. I’d imagine some ambitious YA readers might be intrigued. Can you speak to that, please?

Stephen Giles:

I think the primary difference between adult and middle grade fiction is one of tone. My middle grade books were primarily comic adventures and writing for a readership of 9 – 12-year-olds informs both the type of story I am telling and the way I tell it. So the tone is light and breezy. The challenge with writing my first book for adults with a child as one of the main protagonists, was telling a much darker and very adult story through the eyes of nine year old boy. Your observation about the book crossing over into YA is very interesting and I did wonder about that as I was finishing the book. It’s always hard to know what will appeal to YA readers but I’d be delighted if that happened.

“A fiendishly efficient, gorgeously written, nasty little thrill ride of a psychological thriller. I couldn’t put it down, and it’s entirely possible that I’ll never sleep again. A true tour-de-force of a debut novel.”

—Lyndsay Faye, author of The Gods of Gotham and Jane Steele 

Leslie Lindsay:

I’m a sucker for old homes, estates, mansions…you name it! Was the house in THE BOY AT THE KEYHOLE modeled after any actual estate? Did you play around with setting, or was it always to be set in England?

Stephen Giles:

I’m a sucker for isolated country houses too and I’ve written one into every book I’ve ever written which is probably a little excessive. The house in THE BOY AT THE KEYHOLE wasn’t modeled on any particular estate, it only lives in my imagination, but I’m sure it was informed by countless 19th century novels like JANE EYRE or UNCLE SILAS. In terms of the English setting, I did toy with a few other locations including the Hudson Valley but having just finished a middle grade trilogy set largely in England, I felt more comfortable sticking with the same setting. Which is incredibly lazy!

architecture boating canal cottage

Leslie Lindsay:

Samuel is a 9-year-old boy longing for his mother. But also his father’s old toys and things are in the attic—which he sometimes drags down into the house to play with. Is there anything from your childhood that you long for, even occasionally—and what is it exactly about these old things that stirs such nostalgia?

Stephen Giles:

It’s not a toy but the house I grew up in had a cubby house in a far corner of the backyard – it was a ramshackle structure that was barely standing but it had a blackboard along one wall and a bunch of old discarded bits and pieces and I spend countless hours playing there. I can still picture it in great detail and sometimes as the adult world crowds in on me, I long for the simplicity and comfort of that cubby house. I think the power of old things or old memories is that they are assure us that there once were better days or less complicated times. Which probably says more about the deceptively warm glow of nostalgia than anything else.

Leslie Lindsay:

What’s on your to-do list this week? What are you most looking forward to and dreading? It doesn’t have to be literary.

Stephen Giles:

This week I have a bunch of interviews to get through in my hometown and I’m also up to my neck in writing a new book, so that is where my real focus is. I’m most looking forward to seeing Crazy Rich Asians and catching up on my reading. I’m dreading the dentist and the feeling of utter defeat at week’s end when I realize I’ve failed yet again to live mindfully or be even slightly in the moment.

brown wooden desk table
Photo by Stephen Paris on

Leslie Lindsay:

Stephen, it’s been a pleasure. What question should I have asked, but may have forgotten?

Stephen Giles:

I’ve enjoyed all of your questions, so thank you. What should you have asked me? Well, if you were like every other interviewer on the planet you would have asked me what advice I would give to aspiring writers. And as I’m never sure how to answer that adequately, I’m very glad you didn’t!

For more information, to connect with the author via social media, or to purchase a copy of THE BOY IN THE KEYHOLE, please visit:

Order Links: 

31kedQKjMqL._US230_ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Stephen Giles is the author behind the Ivy Pocket children’s series, which has been translated into twenty-five languages. He lives in Australia. The Boy at the Keyhole, now out from Hanover Square Books, is his first work for adults.

You can connect with me, Leslie Lindsay, via these websites: 



#neoGothic #amreading #England #homes #boys #mothers #authorinterviewseries





WeekEND Reading: Mira T. Lee talks about her luminous family saga, EVERYTHING HERE IS BEAUTIFUL, touching on sisters, mental illness, immigration, and so much more. Plus, her inspiring TBR, and how fiction is a great place to develop empathy and reconcile nuances

By Leslie Lindsay 

A brave, unflinching debut about the tenuous bonds of mental illness, how we define ‘family,’ immigration, and so much more. 

Everything Here Is Beautiful
EVERYTHING HERE IS BEAUTIFUL is one of those literary masterpieces that will captivate and enthrall readers everywhere, perhaps for very different reasons. There’s so much about this book I love–the razor-sharp writing, the way I was transported to another world (South America/Ecuador, Switzerland), and back again (NYC, Minnesota), and then there’s the breadth of scope: mental illness, sisters, love, who we call ‘family,’ life and death, as well as loss and rejuvenation.

Told in alternating, highly distinct POVs from several main characters: Miranda: the older sister who has always been the “responsible one”; Lucia: whose free-spirited nature is dampened by her mental illness; Yonah: the Israeli shopkeeper and first husband of Lucia; Manuel: Lucia’s boyfriend, and father of her child.

EVERYTHING HERE IS BEAUTIFUL may be best described as a literary family drama (spanning years and continents) with a mental illness theme (and its butterfly93.jpgtreatment) as well as an immigration (and cultural displacement) undercurrent. 

I’m in awe with Mira T. Lee’s ambitious novel. I found it emotional and touching, raw and brave, and skillfully drawn. EVERYTHING HERE IS BEAUTIFUL is about trying to do our best without fully losing ourselves. 

I am thrilled and honored to welcome Mira to the blog.

Leslie Lindsay: I just finished reading EVERYTHING HERE IS BEAUTIFUL and I have so many thoughts rumbling around. This is a very multilayered, complex novel, but it’s so well done. I have to ask: what sparked this particular tale, why now?

Mira T. Lee: Hi Leslie, thank you so much for your kind words! So I started off writing short stories, and found that many of them dealt with the same recurring themes – family dynamics, illness, the interplay of different cultures. One story in particular, How I Came to Love You Like A Brother (published by The Missouri Review) contained characters I loved, who I knew I could develop further. Then when my kids were very young, I went through a fallow period where I didn’t write for almost two years, but I had a series of predicaments brewing in my head. I’ve always been drawn to “gray areas,” those murky kinds of situations where good people are in conflict with each other even though no one’s at fault, and I’m forced to see things from more than one person’s perspective. By the time my younger son turned one, I was ready to write, and what emerged was this big, messy, cross-cultural family drama that explored several different relationships, and how the ripple effects of mental illness test family bonds.

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L.L.: Much of the book deals with what it’s like to have a mental illness—and what it’s like to love someone with a mental illness—I so appreciate both of those perspectives because they are often not explored in literature (though we often see the manifestations of ‘crazy behavior’). You take a slightly different angle, that of a more interior experience of mental illness. Can you expand on that, please?

Mira T. Lee: I’ve seen mental illness up close through the struggles of my own loved ones, and I’ve also heard countless stories of mental illness in family support groups I’ve attended. From these experiences I can say that psychotic illnesses (like schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder differ from most physical illnesses in one very significant way: the patient, loved ones, and medical professional(s) often disagree on what should be done. Sometimes this is because the patient doesn’t believe they have an illness at all, other times it may be because they disagree with the recommended treatments.  This makes for a tremendous amount of conflict, and creates situations that are fraught and intractable, with no clear right or wrong answers. I wanted to explore multiple sides of multiple conflicts, so this involved delving into the interiors of my main characters and understanding their frustrations, as well as embedding Lucia’s illness within broader storylines. You’re right, the issues involved with psychotic illnesses (e.g. medications, “lack of insight”) are rarely explored in literature – it’s not that surprising, because they’re tough concepts to understand, but that’s part of the reason I felt compelled to tell this story.

L.L.: Along those lines, I really like how you’ve taken the experience of mental illness and shifted it culturally from a white, middle-class incident to that of someone who is Chinese-American. Sadly, mental illness does not discriminate, yet it’s often not represented in other demographics. How did that come about in EVERYTHING HERE IS BEAUTIFUL?

Mira T. Lee: Narratives of mental illness (both memoir and fiction) have been getting a lot more attention in general, which is fantastic, but most do still center around white, middle-class families. I think partly this is because stigma can be especially strong in non-white communities. I didn’t set out to explore mental illness in communities of color, but I’m Chinese-American myself, and multicultural worlds like the ones in the book are what’s most familiar to me. I do hope conversations around the topic become less taboo.


L.L.: My own mother (white, middle-class), had schizoaffective/bipolar with psychotic features/narcissist personality disorder…I saw many of her symptoms overlap with Lucia’s. Yet in the narrative, the diagnosis is a bit abstract. Was this intentional on your part?

Mira T. Lee: Yes, the vagueness was intentional for a couple of reasons. First, diagnoses often fluctuate from one doctor to the next and change over time, and nowadays schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, and bipolar with psychotic features are often thought of as being on one continuous spectrum (rather than discrete illnesses). Second, I didn’t want this novel to be pigeonholed as a “mental illness book” or Lucia to be thought of only as “that schizophrenic woman.” There is so much stigma attached to those labels, and so many preconceived notions about what they mean. So by foregoing clear labels, I hope readers will be more open to seeing Lucia as an individual, and will come to understand the illness in the context of her entire life, as well as the lives of the people who love her most. I do hope this book will reach readers who might not typically pick up a “mental illness book.”

“A tender but unflinching portrayal of the bond between two sisters—one that’s frayed by mental illness and stretched across continents, yet still endures. With ventriloquistic skill, Mira T. Lee explores the heartache of loving someone deeply troubled and the unbearable tightrope-walk between holding on and letting go.”

–Celeste Ng, New York Times bestselling author of Little Fires Everywhere and
Everything I Never Told You

L.L.: I know you’ve said you don’t want this book to be ‘about’ mental illness and here, I’ve asked all kinds of questions about that very theme! There’s also immigration, cultural differences and displacement. Those are some big issues and yet they’re handled so well. How did you structure this novel? Did you know ahead that this was the direction you were headed, or did it sort of evolve?

Mira T. Lee: Oh, that’s okay! I think you’re right in saying that this book appeals to different readers for different reasons. Some people gravitate toward the bond between the sisters, others to Lucia’s struggle to balance family and career, still others to the sisters’ relationships with the men in their lives. One interesting thing I’ve found is that I can almost always tell whether a reader has had personal experience with mental illness by the way they comment on the book. It just hits differently, and I’m glad for that. I hope the book finds its way to many more readers like you!

But back to your question: the novel evolved pretty organically. I rarely sat around making conscious decisions about who my characters were or what the plot would be. I also never consciously thought about “big issues” like immigration or cultural displacement, or wrote with any kind of agenda, for example, around mental illness. People from all different backgrounds have always been a staple of my adulthood, so to me, my characters are very much a reflection of America. My focus was purely on exploring how my characters would cope with the dilemmas they faced, and how their decisions would affect their relationships with the people they loved. I always thought of this as an intimate family story – albeit a messy one!


L.L.: I could probably ask questions all day, but I won’t. Is there anything else you’d like to add? Something you hope others take away from reading EVERYTHING HERE IS BEAUTIFUL?

Mira T. Lee: I do hope readers will gain a sense of the issues surrounding schizophrenia, which is perhaps still the most severe and stigmatized of all the mental illnesses, but one deserving of just as much compassion. And I hope people see that these illnesses are only one component of a person’s life, and can relate to the humanity at the core of each of these characters – as sisters, mothers, husbands, lovers, as modern women, as deeply flawed human beings who yearn for love and belonging. But most of all, I hope readers will disagree over what these characters should or shouldn’t have done. The world is gray, full of ambiguity. Where is the line between adventure and recklessness? Compromise and resignation? Selfishness and self-preservation? Fiction is a great place to examine nuances, and to challenge ourselves to exercise our powers of empathy.

L.L.: What’s on your TBR list for 2018?

Mira T. Lee: My TBR list is ridiculously long. Anne Raeff’s Winter Kept Us Warm, Elizabeth Strout’s Anything Is Possible, Jillian Medoff’s This Could Hurt, Chloe Benjamin’s The Immortalists, Claire Goenawan’s Rainbirds, Shanthi Sekaran’s Lucky Boy, for starters. I wish I could spend an entire year just reading!

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L.L.: Oh, and one last question: are you working on anything new?

Mira T. Lee: I have bits and pieces of a few different projects, including some childrens’ picture books. We’ll see what happens…

For more information about the book, to connect with the author, or to purchase a copy of EVERYTHING HERE IS BEAUTIFUL, please see:

Mira T. Lee - © Liz Linder PhotographyABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mira T. Lee’s work has been published in numerous quarterlies and reviews, including The Missouri Review, The Southern Review, Harvard Review, and Triquarterly. She was awarded an Artist’s Fellowship by the Massachusetts Cultural Council in 2012, and has twice received special
mention for the Pushcart Prize. She is a graduate of Stanford University, and
currently lives with her husband and two children in Cambridge, Massachusetts. This is her debut novel.

You can connect with me, Leslie Lindsay, via these websites:


[Author and cover image courtesy of Viking/Penguin/Random House and used with permission. ‘Stop the Stigma’ from, ‘Family Drama’  from ‘Empathy and compassion’ image from, winter reading  from  , butterful image from, all retrieved on 1.08.18]

Wednesdays with Writers: #1 New York Times Bestselling Author Elizabeth Kostova Takes Us on Cultural Wandering Through Bulgaria, Music, Mystery, and More

By Leslie Lindsay 

#1 New York Times Bestselling Author of THE HISTORIAN, Elizabeth Kostova takes us on a cultural wandering the troubled hills of Bulgaria seeking truth and peace in the mesmerizing THE SHADOW LAND. 

Alexandra Boyd is a 26-year old American who is seeking for something: truth, peace, belonging. She finds a job teaching English in Sofia, Bulgaria, a country she knows little about, but was a ‘beautiful green country on a map her brother found fascinating.’ With Jack no longer living, Alexandra sets forth on her adventure, in part to finally put her brother to rest.

Immediately, I was drawn into Alexandra’s story as she arrives jet-lagged and forlorn at a rustic hostel in the heart of Sofia. An encounter with a Bulgarian family, an accidental switch of bags, and a taxi propels the story into present-day action. Alexandra is left holding the bag, quite literally, of another man’s ashes.

We continue along a jaunty journey meeting various Bulgarians, a monastery, and horrors of a century of civil unrest.

Alexandra will have to uncover the secrets of the talented musician who is was shattered by political oppression, his dreams crushed—yet, she will find that in doing so, she is ultimately in danger.

Please join me in conversation with Elizabeth Kostova, a gifted storyteller, whose characters are constantly evolving, looking to connect past with the present, in the hope that perhaps meaning can be found in the rubble.

Leslie Lindsay: Elizabeth, it is a pleasure and honor to host you today. Thank you, thank you for being here. You visited Bulgaria in 1989 just a week after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Subsequently, Bulgarian communist dictatorship crumbled then, too. You were taken with this ancient place, so much that you fell in love…in more ways than one. Am I right in saying this experience shaped your narrative for THE SHADOW LAND? Can you shed a little more light on your inspiration behind the book?

Elizabeth Kostova:  I first went to Bulgaria in 1989, when I was twenty-four, to do fieldwork on traditional singing in villages there, with two American friends.  It was an incredible experience, especially as the Berlin Wall fell a week before we arrived, bringing down with it the 45-year Bulgarian communist dictatorship.  The country was in turbulence, but also much more open to foreigners, especially in the villages, than it would have been just weeks earlier.  We were able not only to travel to beautiful and remote places but even sometime to stay in people’s homes while we interviewed them about how they’d learned the old songs of their regions.  It was amazing.  While I was there, I met my future husband, and we’ve returned to the country together many times over 28 years.

L.L.: I’ll be honest, I know very little about Bulgaria. But I do know [from reading your author’s note in THE SHADOW LAND] that this land is one of the first settled by Homo sapiens. Can you tell us more? I find that really fascinating.Devetashka-Bulgarian-Cave

Elizabeth Kostova:  Well, those early settlements are among the first settled by our species just in Europe—you can see the remains of those very early humans in several parts of the country, including some cave digs In fact, Bulgaria is a hotbed for archaeologists, because it contains remnants of so many different cultures from over millennia—not only Neolithic, but also ancient Greek, Thracian, Roman, Byzantine, and medieval Bulgarian, to name some of the major ones.  Bulgaria has always been a crossroads, culturally and geographically.

L.L.: Alexandra Boyd, the 26-year old American protagonist in the story has a secret [revealed fairly early in the story]. Was her character based on anyone in particular? Is there some symbolism between her story and the one of Stoyan Lazarov? I found that they mimicked one another in several ways. Was that intentional?

Elizabeth Kostova:  Alexandra isn’t based on anyone in my own life, but I did try to imbue her with the sense of newness, strangeness, and excitement I felt when I first went to Bulgaria at about her age!  (Fortunately, I never got into as much trouble as she does in the story.)  And I have a very vivid picture of her in my mind.  I did indeed want her 21st-century story and the story of my older character, from the 1940s and on–Stoyan Lazarov–to be parallel.  She is a stranger in a strange land, and he becomes a stranger in his own land.

“The Shadow Land is thrilling, and not just as a gripping tale. It’s also thrilling to watch such a talented writer cast her spell. The central character actually begins this deft novel in an urn, only to emerge as one of the most memorable characters I’ve encountered in a long time.

— Richard Russo, author of Everybody’s Fool

L.L.: And Stoyan Lazarov, the man whose ashes Alexandra is frantically trying to reunite with his family, his past is quite storied. In fact, nearly half the book is fraught with his time in Zelenets, a Bulgarian work camp. I’m so saddened to hear of this piece of history, which in many ways closely resembles the Holocaust. Can you talk about that?

Elizabeth Kostova:  Bulgaria, like most of the Soviet East Bloc, was riddled with different kinds of persecution of citizens, including the use of forced-labor camps that the regime filled with “enemies of the people.”  This was a way to frighten the population and push people to carry out surveillance against each other, and is one of the darkest moments in Bulgarian history.  Zelenets, the camp in my book, is a fictional setting, but closely based on details of some of the real camps in Bulgaria.  I was 18428370_401inspired to include it by my unexpected experience of visiting the ruins of a real camp—dilapidated and closed to the public—while I was doing research in Bulgaria for THE SHADOW LAND.  It was one of the emptiest, eeriest places I’ve ever seen, and it made me feel a responsibility to write about it.  Stoyan’s story also includes some joyful things, like a great love—and his love of his violin.

L.L.: And music! How I loved Stoyan’s use of distraction while he was a ‘walking skeleton’ at that horrific camp. How did Vivaldi and the violin come to the forefront of THE SHADOW LANDS? Do you play yourself?

Elizabeth Kostova:  I don’t play an instrument myself but am lucky enough to have three professional classical instrumentalists in my family!  I interviewed them extensively.  I love music myself, and the Bach and Vivaldi Stoyan plays in the novel are close to my heart.

L.L.: There is so much going on in THE SHADOW LANDS, from the exquisite foreign setting, to the deep grief of a lost life, the work camp, historical and cultural significance, Alexandra’s journey…what do you hope others glean?

Elizabeth Kostova:  My hope is that readers will feel that, like Alexandra, they get to visit and travel all over Bulgaria, a place we don’t usually put on our bucket lists!  Since the book came out, I’ve been hearing from a lot of American readers who are now planning to do just that, which thrills me.203px-Oilcape

L.L.: What’s got your attention these days? What inspires you?

Elizabeth Kostova:  I missed my characters so much as I finished editing THE SHADOW LAND that I started a new novel in October—I’m excited about it, but still developing the story.  It’s definitely going to involve more research travel.

L.L: I’m eager to know a little more about your Foundation for Creative Writing. What can you tell us?

Elizabeth Kostova:  When I first went to Bulgaria on book tour, with THE HISTORIAN (one third of that book is set in Bulgaria in the 1950s), I observed that a lot of Bulgarian writers and translators were working very hard but had very few formal opportunities to apply for—there just weren’t many prizes, programs, conferences, and so on.  And it had become hard for them to publish their own work in Bulgaria after the fall of the Wall, because a flood of books translated from English came into the country.  I wanted to be part of a solution rather than part of this problem!  In 2007, with a Bulgarian publisher, I co-founded the Elizabeth Kostova Foundation,  which offers some of those opportunities on a competitive basis and also bring writers from the English-writing world to Bulgaria to meet with Bulgarian writers.  It’s been very fulfilling, and a lot of fun, as well.

L.L.: Is there anything I should have asked, but may have forgotten?

Elizabeth Kostova:  You haven’t asked if I write with a pen or a laptop!  I’m grateful.

L.L.: Elizabeth, it’s been the utmost pleasure. Best wishes on THE SHADOW LANDS.

Elizabeth Kostova:  Thank you so much—it’s been a real pleasure to think about your questions.  I appreciate everything you do for books and writing.

For more information on THE SHADOW LAND, to connect with Elizabeth Kostova via social media, or to purchase a copy, please visit these links:

KostovaPicks40flat3.jpgABOUT THE AUTHOR: Elizabeth Kostova was born in Connecticut in 1964. She is the author of three novels, The Historian (Little, Brown, 2005), The Swan Thieves (Little, Brown, 2010), and The Shadow Land (Random House, 2017). The Historian was the first debut novel in U.S. publishing history to debut at #1 on the New York Times Bestseller List, has been translated into 40 languages, and won Quill and Independent Bookseller Awards. The Swan Thieves was also a New York Times Bestseller and has been translated into 28 languages. Her short fiction, poetry, and essays have appeared in such periodicals and anthologies as The Mississippi Review, Poets & Writers Magazine, The Best American Poetry, The Michigan Quarterly, and Another Chicago Magazine.

You can connect with me, Leslie Lindsay, through these various social media channels:


[Cover and author image retrieved from E. Kotova’s website on 5.8.17. Author image credit: Lynne Harty. Image of Bulgarian workcamp retrieved from, image of Maslen nos Primosko/Black Sea Coast retrieved from Wikipedia, and images of ancient caves retrieved from, all on 5.8.17]






Wednesdays with Writers: Kate Hamer on her debut, THE GIRL IN THE RED COAT, how being a writer was a dream akin to being a rocket scientist, taking the plunge, characters as images first, a trip to Scotland & much more

By Leslie Lindsay 


 First, the reviews:

“Kate Hamer’s novel is both gripping and sensitive — beautifully written, it is a compulsive, aching story full of loss and redemption.”–Lisa Ballantyne, author of The Guilty Ones

“Hamer’s debut novel poignantly details the loss and loneliness of a mother and daughter separated”~Kirkus Review

“Telling the story in two remarkable voices, with Beth’s chapters unfurling in past tense and Carmel’s in present tense, the author weaves a page-turning narrative.”~Publisher’s Weekly

An Amazon Best Books of February 2016, British writer Kate Hamer’s THE GIRL IN THE RED COAT (Melville House, 2016) has been nominated for a Costa First Book Award, a prestigious recognition in the U.K and there’s already talk of a film. It seems THE GIRL IN THE RED COAT is the next literary sensation.

The first few chapters of THE GIRL IN THE RED COAT had me completely absorbed and frantically turning the pages to find out what happens next…but I absolutely adored the wonderful world of the bright, sensitive, and slightly dreamy 8-year old Carmel.

While THE GIRL IN THE RED COAT appears, at first blush, your garden-variety tale of child abduction, it’s so much more than that. Recently divorced British mother Beth is working hard at making a life for the two of them. Beth is caring and loving and wants the best for her daughter. They take a train to a children’s literary festival where they become entrapped in the world of fairies and make believe.

And then–poof–she’s gone.

Today I’m thrilled and honored to welcome Kate Hamer to the blog couch. Welcome, Kate! Please, grab a cuppa  [tea] (or coffee!) and join us.

Leslie Lindsay: As a writer myself, I often get “the bug” to write through an image that comes to me—from my waking life, a dream, or perhaps just a name. What was it for you that propelled you to sit down and write THE GIRL IN THE RED COAT?

Kate Hamer: It was exactly that – an image. I kept ‘seeing’ a young girl in a red coat. She looked lost and sad but strangely also with a strong sense of her place in the world. She was there for several weeks before I sat up in bed one night and wrote the first chapter straight off. It wasn’t in her voice though – it was her mother’s, Beth. Beth spends the first chapter talking about her daughter – missing, remembering her. Something painful has happened but we’re not sure just what. That was the introduction to that little girl, Carmel, in the red coat – it was through her mother’s eyes.

L.L.: This is your first novel—congratulations! I understand you have two grown children, and I presume, a career before THE GIRL IN THE RED COAT. How did time and perspective prepare you for your breakout novel? Can you speak to that, please?

Kate Hamer: I’ve always written – even at a very young age I was writing my own stories, images (4).jpgillustrating them and stapling them together into books! But when you are eighteen or so and deciding what to do with your life the idea of being a writer sounds in a similar league to being a rocket scientist. Over the years I continued to write – short stories and fragments of novels and in all honesty life experience is very good material. I worked for many years in the media and that helped too because in a way it’s still storytelling in a different way. But it was only when my children left home that I really thought, this is my life’s ambition – it’s now or never – and I made the leap.

L.L.: I have to say, I adore the distinctively beautiful prose of both Beth and young Carmel, but I love, love, love Carmel’s voice. Can you talk about how you created those characters? Were they drawn from anyone you know? Personal experience?

Kate Hamer: Once I had the image of Carmel her Mum came very soon – almost like she was chasing after her. I think Beth has a little bit of me in her – she’s a worrier too but Carmel is not based on anyone I know in particular. She was fairly fully formed right from the start almost as if she was telling me what she was like rather than the other way round!

L.L.: I’m interested in structure these days. THE GIRL IN THE RED COAT is told in alternating POVs, how did you come to that decision? Did it grow organically from the story you wanted to tell, or was there more thought behind that?

Kate Hamer: Ah, yes! For me structure is a major, major thing too. Happily with this book the structure happened very organically. Once I had Carmel, then the first chapter in Beth’s voice it seemed the only natural thing to do to tell it in both their voices – to hear their stories side by side. Plus I always knew I wanted to tell a story about mothers and daughters and this seemed the best way to put their relationship at the heart of it.

“Keeps the reader turning pages at a frantic clip . . . What’s most powerful here is not whodunnit, or even why, but how this mother and daughter bear their separation, and the stories they tell themselves to help endure it.” —Celeste Ng, author of Everything I Never Told You

L.L.: Carmel’s captors are not exactly “bad,” they feel Carmel has spiritual gifts. This is a diversion from your typical child abduction thrillers. Can you talk more about that?

Kate Hamer: It’s hard without too many spoilers! What I would say is that from the get go Carmel is quite an unusual child. Her parents think that she might be on the autistic spectrum or similar. As the book goes on we begin to realize more and more that the key to the mystery of Carmel’s disappearance lies in that very strangeness. To anyone who worries that this might not be a book for them because of the subject matter I say: ‘it goes in a direction you might not be expecting.’

download (7)L.L.: A handful of reviews are comparing THE GIRL IN THE RED COAT to LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD. Somewhere else I read that you were essentially raised on Grimm’s fairy tales. Was that your intention all along?

Kate Hamer: It’s funny how it worked out. I was steeped in fairy tales growing up. We had lots of old books in the house (my Mum is a second hand book fan) so I had a really old version where the stories are not sugar coated one bit, they were really very dark. While I was writing the red coat was such a potent image for me, but it was only when I’d finished the first draft that the penny dropped. I have an old Victorian print of Little Red Riding Hood hanging in my hall and I looked up at it and thought, ‘ah, of course!’ I find writing works like that because you are working at such a subconscious level.

L.L.: What are you working on now?

Kate Hamer: I’ve such finished my second novel and I’m working with the editor on it which is incredibly exciting. It’s a dark coming of age tale about family secrets set in a forest in Britain and is out in the UK in February next year. I can’t wait to see the cover designs – this time I feel I can consciously enjoy it all more. With ‘The Girl…’ it all happened so quickly I didn’t really know what hit me sometimes!

L.L.: What is obsessing you?

Kate Hamer: Oooh, good question. Does it have to be literary? If so at the moment it’s Elena Ferrante and her wonderful books set in Naples. They’re quite unlike anything I’ve read before and the fact that no one knows her true identity really intrigues me. On a personal note I’m renewing my wedding vows with my husband in October on the West coast of Scotland and I’m currently obsessing about what to wear! hidden-treasures

L.L.: What question should I have asked, but forgot?

Kate Hamer: What I’m currently reading? It’s ‘Our Hearts Will Burn Us Down’ by Anne Valente. It’s a proof copy I’m reading as it hasn’t been published yet but I think it’s going to be a very exciting debut.

L.L.: Kate, it was lovely having you. Best wishes on your literary journey!

Kate Hamer: Thank you so much. It’s been great fun. Best wishes on yours too.

For more information, or to follow Kate Hamer on social media, please visit:

kate-hamerAuthor Bio: Kate Hamer grew up in Pembrokeshire. She did a Creative Writing MA at Aberystwyth University and the Curtis Brown Creative novel-writing course. She won the Rhys Davies short story award in 2011 and her winning story was read out on BBC Radio 4. She has recently been awarded a Literature Wales bursary. She lives in Cardiff with her husband. The Girl in the Red Coat (March 2015) is her first novel and has been shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award and is a finalist for the Dagger Award. 

[Special thanks to J. Fleischaker at Melville House. Cover image retrieved from Melville House Publishers, author image retrieved from , western coast of Scotland retrieved from, finally child writing image retrieved from, all on 6.23.16]

Read On, Wednesday! Summer’s Best thru History

By Leslie Lindsay

If you’ve done any shopping of late, you may be thinking summer is over.  The back-t0-school supplies are shiny and new in the aisles of your favorite stores, fall fashion icons are slowly filling the store windows–backpacks, boots, and blazers.  Yet in your mind, there’s still a good month to six weeks of summer left. I couldn’t agree more!

If you’re heading out to beach or the cottage “up north” you might like to snag a book to take along.  And who am I to blame you?!

Inspired by a recent article in Time magazine, I stumbled upon a listing of the “ultimate summer reads” dating back to 1970.  I’ll attempt to fill in some of the years Time left out (the side bar skips several years between 1970 and present).  I’m gonna pick some dates that are significant to me, in one way or another…I’ll let you determine how they may be significant! Here goes:

  • 1970:  LOVE STORYProduct Details by Erich Segal.  A Harvard Law student and Radcliffe girl fall in love and move to New York.  Sadness ensues. 
  • 1971:  THE EXORCIST by William Peter Blatty.  A mother enlists a priest to save her daughter from deomonic possession.
  • 1974: JAWS by Peter Benchley.  A small town in threatened by a man-hungry shark that’s (almost) too big to kill. 
  • 1976:  TRINITY.  Leon Uris.  The epic beauty–and struggle–of Ireland’s freedom
  • 1978:  SCRUPLES. Judith Krantz.  The ins & outs of the luxurious life of a Beverly Hills boutique and the people who work in it.Product Details
  • 1983: THE NAME OF THE ROSE by Umberto Eco.  A friar is sent to investigate a series of deaths in an Italian monastery.
  • 1985:  CIDER HOUSE RULES.  John Irving.  Rural Maine abortionist and medication addict has a dilemma in his orphanage. 
  • 1986: WANDERLUST.  Danielle Steele.  Sheltered and lonely orphan grows up to care for sister and wealthy grandfather set in 1930’s. 
  • 1989: THE RUSSIA HOUSE.  John le Carre.  Soviet physicist is into esponiage and Russian women.  A chaotic tale of Soviet defense.   
  • 1991: AMERICAN PSYCHO by Bret Easton Ellis.  Patrick Bateman is a businessman by day, but a deviant serial killer after hours.
  • Product Details1992: THE PELICAN BRIEF by John Grisham.  A law student and journalist investigate the deaths of two Supreme Court justices.
  • 1993: THE CELESTINE PROPHESY by James Redfield.  A man goes on a quest for insight after reading an ancient text.
  • 1996:  CAUSE OF DEATH.  Patricia Cornwall.  Foresnsic patholoist plumments to the depth of the seas to determine cause of death of investigtive reporter.
  • 1997:  PLUM ISLAND.  Nelson de Mille. Convealescing homicide NYPD cop learns of attractive young couple murdered to death on nearby patio.
  • 2001: P IS FOR PERIL.  Sue Grafton.  Respected nursing home phyician goes missing.
  • 2003:  THE LAKE HOUSE.  James Patterson.  A Colorado vet knows a secret that will change the history of the world. 
  • 2005:  THE MERMAID CHAIR.  Sue Monk Kidd.  Set in the Egret Islands off of South Carolina is a chair tucked away in a Benedictine Monastary.  Legend has it, the chair belonged to a mermaid before she was converted.  Product Details
  • 2007:  A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS.  Khaled Hosseini.  An unlikely friendship between two very different women. 
  • 2009:  THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE by Stieg Larsson.  The second in the series that follows a journalist and a hacker.
  • 2012:  GONE GIRL.  By Gillian Flynn.  A journalist in a troubled marriage becomes the suspect in his wife’s disappearance.  Product Details
  • As for 2013…maybe it’s Dan Brown’s INFERNO, or
  • J. Courtney Sullivan’s THE ENGAGEMENTS…time will tell! 

Which of these books have you read?  What may be fun to add to your “vintage” bestseller list?

Read on!! 

[This list was compiled with assistance from’s.  All images are retrieved from on 7.13.13]

The Teacher is Talking: Seven Men and the Secret of their Greatness

By Leslie Lindsay

You may be thinking red, white, and blue this time of year in light of American Independence Day (better known by the familiar moniker, 4th of July).  But, have you ever stopped to think about the qualities within Americans that make the USA truly great?  Product Details

In New York Times Bestselling author’s Eric Metaxas’s recent book, we delve right into that.  While there are gads of influential women, this one focuses on seven widely known–but not well understood men.  Each exquisitely crafted short portraits of these men showcase a commitment to live by certain

virtues found in the gospel. 

Of course you are curious–just who are these great men and what can I learn from them? 

Within the covers of this beautifully written, highly engageable book is seven men from all walks of life–politicians, founding fathers, baseball all-stars, athletes, and men of faith…George Washington, William Wilberforce, Eric Liddell, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Jackie Robinson, Pope John Paul II, and Charles W. Colson.

While not all of these individuals are American, we can certaintly see how their impact on the world also affected the overall democracy and spirit of the American nation. 

Within Metaxas’s introduction, he answers the question, “Why these seven men?”  His answer, “Of course this list is not definitive.  There is a great subjectivity in these choices…I was looking for seven men who had all evidenced one particular quality: that of surrendering themselves to a higher purpose, of giving something away that they might have kept…nobable and admirable, and it takes courage…and usually faith.  Each of these seven men have that quality.” 

A wonderful family teaching guide, or one which youth directors and church groups could benefit, SEVEN GREAT MEN, is a an indispensible look at what makes a man of virtue, an everyday–everyman hero.  Discussion points may include:

  • What does it mean to stand for honesty, courage, and charity?
  • How can a man (or woman!) still be a person of integrity, even when the world around us depicts other desires?
  • What does it mean to be a man or woman in today’s world?  Do you think there is a difference now, versus historically? In what ways are men and women alike in their values?
  • Who is your hero and why?
  • Have you ever considered being a role model or mentor to someone?  In what areas do you carry an inherent knowledge or skill you would like to impart for the greater good? 
  • What about fallen or false idols?  Can you identify some?  What qualities or characteristics did they proport to have, yet somehow failed? 
  • What does it take to be a true leader in today’s policical, religious, and social climate? 

As you sit back this holiday to enjoy the fireworks, the family gatherings and delicious summer harvest this holiday, I challenge you think of these great men–those who can serve as heroes and men of virtue for our nation’s children.

Who Wrote it:  Eric Metaxas is the author of NYT #1 bestseller, BONHOEFFER: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy which was named Book of the Year by EPCA in 20111.  He has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Publisher’s Weekly, The New Republic, Harper’s, Kirkus, NPR, FoxNews, Christianity Today, and others.  He was also the keynote speaker at the 2012 National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C.  He currently resides in New York with his wife and daughter.(author photo retrieved from the author’s website, www.ericmetaxas on 7.2.13)

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

Interested in a complimentary hardback copy of SEVEN GREAT MEN?  Here’s all you have to do:  Tell us–either in comment here on the blog or by sending me an email at why you’d like a copy.  A name will be selected at random on Friday, July 5th by 5pm CST.  Open to US residents only.  You will be contacted via email if your name is selected.  Please remember to check your junk mail for notification.  Your prompt response to the winning email is appreciated, otherwise another name will be drawn.  Thanks and good luck! 

For more information, please see the author’s website,

Write on, Wednesay: Special Guest Heather Shumaker of “It’s OK NOT to Share”

By Leslie Lindsay It's OK Book cover

Today, I have  very special guest–Heather Shumaker, mom and author of It’s OK NOT to Share (Penguin/Tarcher, 2013).  This brand-new parenting book just hit the shelves this spring and is ranked #3 by Parents Magazine.  Heather and I met at the University of Wisconsin’s Writer’s Institute this past April.   Right away, I knew her message would resonate with me.  And then she graciously agreed to participate in an interview. 

Here, she explains the writing process and some great tips and ideas for parenting.  Best yet–there’s a give-a-way!!  Complimentary copy of IT’s OKAY NOT TO SHARE is coming your way if you are the lucky one whose name is drawn at random.  (See end of post for details).  Without further adieu…

L2:   Loving your book, Heather!  I just started reading it this week—outside—which is so refreshing after the long winter we’ve had here in the Midwest.  Not only is the weather sunny and warm—so is your writing style.  How do you weave in parenting topics in such a fun and joyful way?  At times, I almost forget I am reading…

Heather S.: Ah, thank you.  I developed my tone by working with a team of test readers.  Before the book was published, I gathered a group of willing parents with young children (and grandparents and preschool teachers).  I asked them directly if my style was too preachy or boring or confusing – and they told me!  I am trying to write to you as a friend and as an intelligent, caring reader.

L2: IT’S OK NOT TO SHARE is mostly inspired by two things:  the fact that you couldn’t find a suitable preschool for your own children, 5 year old Zach and 8 year old Myles, and you had fond memories of your alma mater, the School for Young Children (located in Columbus, OH).  Can you tell us a little more about your process of writing from conception to birth [of book]? 

Heather S.:  For years I waited for teachers at the School for Young Children (SYC) to write a book about their program. It’s so unique – for instance, they give kids mini boxing gloves and allow them to stage wrestling matches and other roughhousing games in the classroom.  The teachers there are a devoted group of child professionals, but they’re not writers.  I was able to be the messenger and share the wonder of their and family

I started by interviewing teachers at SYC and deciding which elements of their program were unique (boxing) and which were universal (kids eat a snack).  I chose the topics based on the unusual aspects, the tricky areas of parenting which are controversial or unfamiliar.  Topics like social rejection, weapon play, physical risk-taking, play, artistic expression, sharing and long turns. It’s all based on child development and all backed up with 40 years’ of success.

Then I went the traditional route for publishing, found an agent, sold a book proposal and wrote the book for an imprint of Penguin

L2: Can you share, too how you managed to complete such a wonderful volume of work while raising your kiddos?

Heather S.:  Plus paid childcare.  I worked part-time on the book so I really had to buckle down and work when the daycare clock was ticking.  My kids often provided inspiring quotes or anecdotes, so that was helpful, but as every parent knows, work and raising kids don’t mix easily.  Some days I got up at 4am to meet my chapter deadlines.

L2: Do you think the style of parenting varies from region to region?  For example, are Midwest parenting philosophies similar or different from say, those in New York City or San Francisco versus Santa Fe or New Orleans? 

Heather S.: Family culture varies tremendously, even within a region.  Parents in New York City feel parenting pressure perhaps more intensely than other parents, but there is a wide mix of parenting styles.  What seems to be a growing trend in the US – no matter where you live – is a fear of childhood.  Fear that children’s play isn’t safe or kind enough, fear of what other parents will say, fear that we’re not preparing kids for the tough academics in kindergarten.  It’s not in every family, but many adults are trying to fill childhood’s empty days and accelerate stages of development.

L2: Renegade Rules are a cornerstone of IT’S OK NOT TO SHARE, can you tell us what you think the most important Renegade Rule is and why? 

Heather S.: The book shares 29 renegade rules, but the overarching rule is what I call the Renegade Golden Rule: “It’s OK if it’s not hurting people or property.”  This helps you know when to set a limit on a child’s behavior and when to relax and find a way to allow their play.  Finding the right balance in setting limits is the key to parenting.

Besides the “Golden” rule, I do think my two favorites are the title rule, It’s OK Not to Share (so easy to implement, kids love it and you can abdicate your job as constant judge and referee!) and Only Punch Your Friends (a celebration of roughhousing and its enormous benefits).   [Gotta plug Heather’s YouTube video series where you can witness Renegade Rules in action with real kids.  They’re short, less than 1-minute and offer great inight.  See end of post for direct links]

L2: While the book is mostly geared towards younger children (ages 3-6 years), what—or how—can parents adapt your philosophies to fit older children, or even teenagers?  Maybe that’s a whole other book?! 

I haven’t found an upper age-limit.  My neighbor uses the book’s techniques on her college-aged children.  Others use them on their spouses.  Many ideas are basic ones about conflict mediation, communication and healthy emotional expression – ideas that can apply to all ages.

L2: Speaking of which, can we expect to see more from you in the future? 

Heather S.: More books are in the works – though the one I’m working on right now is fiction.  A ghost story for 8-12 year olds.

Thank you, thank you Heather!  Much informative and insightful! 

The Teacher is Talking:  Saying Bye Bye to Binky

You don’t really want to let this great parenting book slip through your hands, do you?  I didn’t think so!  To enter the drawing for a complimentary copy of IT’s OK NOT TO SHARE, all you need to do is comment on the blog or drop me a line at  A random name will be drawn Monday, May 20th by 5pm.  You will be contacted by email if you are the winner.  Open to U.S. residents only.  Good luck! 

You can find more of Heather, her Renegade Rules and It’s OK NOT to Share by heading over to her website –,  author portrait Heather Shuamker

Bio –  Heather Shumaker is the author of It’s OK Not to Share…and Other Renegade Rules for Raising Competent and Compassionate Kids (Tarcher/ Penguin, 2012), named one of the Best Parenting Books of 2012 by Parents magazine.  You can learn more, watch videos and read a free sample chapter at

Write On, Wednesday: Spring Fever Getting Your Mojo Back

By Leslie Lindsay Misc Feb-March 2013 012

It’s been one of those crazy springs where I feel completly out-of -whack, and not just with my writing.  I have project ideas for the house, for my family, for my writing…but I am unable to get those ideas funneled into something coherent.  And then I sort of got my mojo back.  How I did it, I’m not entirely sure…but I am glad things finally started to click. 

Here are some ideas gleaned partially from experience and partially from a semi-recent Writer’s Digest article. 

Step 1:  Set a word count goal for the week ahead, or for a particular writing session.   Remember, not all days are created equal.  Some days you may really pump out a generous amount of words, other days–not so much.  When you think about your writing goals in terms of the whole week, it gives you some freedom to say, “Well, Tuesday sucked, but I still have four days to pull it together.”  It also helps with the inevitable interruptions you didn’t see coming. 

Step 2:  Go to the library or bookstore.  Read some back jackets, peruse the covers.  See what gets you excited.  Look at the first five pages.  What draws you in?  The story?  The voice?  An author you adore?  Chances are, you won’t be able to stop there.  Good reading often gets you inspired to pick up a pen or mosey on over to your laptop to create something of your own.

Step 3:  It’s been said by work-smarter gurus that one should try seven new things a week.  That sounds like a lot, but when you stop and think about it, it comes to roughly one new thing a day.  You can do that, right?  Take a new way home from work.  Order a Caramel Ribbon Mocha instead of your usual Caramel machiatto.  Walk your dog down a different street.  Try grazing instead of three sqaure meals.  You get the idea.   But why?  You need to be well-rounded writer.  Infuse your life with new experiences, tuck them into the back of your head.  You may throw it into your writing. 

Step 4:  Listen to the radio.  It could be your usual morning radio show, or switch it up (see step 3 above) and try something else.  I flipped over to NPR in the car last week and came across a story and book about love being an illusion.  Guess what?  It ended up in my novel.  Or, you may just tune the radio or Pandora to something like jazz or a Spanish station.  Does your character like that music?  (along this same idea–look at People magazine to hget those sensational human interest stories, book pages, and current pop culture–sure it may change slightly as your book evolves, but some of these references make for a relatable story).

Step 5:  Do some field research.  I am always seeking out new opportunities to learn something.  Sometimes that broadens my horizons into a character’s POV, or sometimes it just gives me some real-life experience to enhance my writing.  “How do you find these things?”  For me, I signed up for a free tour and talk of a breast cancer clinic through my local medical center.  Maybe a future character will have a breast cancer diagnosis?  Who know…but Being able to visualize the place is helpful.  Check your community and see what you may be able to attend–or tag-along. 

Step 6:  Learn a new word.  Read the dictionary.  Really.  I know it sounds dull, but pick a page and skim it.  Use a new word in conversation or your work.  Often a page or two of the dictionary will trigger an idea for your current work-in-progress. 

Step 7:  Connect with a writer/author/agent you admire.  Go ahead, click the “contact” button on a website of a best-selling author.  Tell her or him you love their work.  It will make their day–and maybe yours, too.  (Modify:  Tweet or “friend” someone of this caliber on GoodReads).

What are you waiting for?!  Write on, Wednesday : )

Apraxia Monday: Reader’s Theater

  bd (4)By Leslie Lindsay

It’s been a busy and somewhat challenging 2nd grade year for 8 year old Kate, who suffers from Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS).  Having been dismissed from speech therapy during her tenure as a full-day kindergartner, we thought we were out of the woods.  But, those of you raising a child with CAS know that you may never truly, 100% be completely out of the woods.  There will likely be some twigs and branches that obstruct your view. 

When Kate’s 2nd grade teacher mentioned Kate really enjoys participating in Reader’s Theater in the classroom setting, I cheered.  Fluency with reading is one of those “branches,” if you will that may leave your child with CAS lingering in the woods.  When the Reader’s Theater Club was forming, I promptly signed my daughter up.

But wait–what is Reader’s Theater?  Simply stated, Reader’s Theater is practice reading scripts from traditional and well-loved childhood stories.  Or, you can choose your own–select stories which are lively in dialogue, have several characters, and can be fun to ‘act’ out.  Just remember, there is no memorizing, props, costomes, stages, or the like.  It is simply reading with inflection.  According to an article on, here are some of the benefits of Reader’s Theater:

bc (4)Readers Theater helps to….

  • develop fluency through repeated exposure to text.
  • increase comprehension.
  • integrate reading, writing, speaking, listening in an authentic context.
  • engage students.
  • increase reading motivation.
  • create confidence and improve the self-image of students.
  • provide a real purpose for reading.
  • provide opportunities for cooperative learning.

For weeks, Kate stayed after school and worked in small groups lead by teachers who volunteered to stay after school sharpening and honing these kiddos projection, fluency, articulation, confidence, and teamwork–all important life skills, but also skills for strengthening her experiences with CAS. 

Last week was Kate’s final performance.  I am happy to say, she was the best little “narrator #2” I ever heard.  When another parent who knows Kate’s struggles leaned over and whispered, “She did really good,” my heart soared.   You just never know how your children with CAS may surprise you!

For more information, please see these resources:

Write On Wedneday: Do you have what it takes?!

By Leslie Lindsay Misc Feb-March 2013 012

Aside from the fact that I just unpacked my bags and have a completed a revised draft of my manuscript, I am still under the (perhaps false) impression I can pull this off. 

My agent pitch session is scheduled for Saturday mid-morning.  It’s my best time, personally.  Here’s how I figure:  I’ll have all day Friday to connect with conference fiolks and fill my head with lots of really great writing tips and tricks.  By the time Saturday mid-morning rolls around, I’ll be set.  (art work courtesy of my 8year old daughter) 

I think. 

If you are like most writers, you are probably scratching your head and wondering, “Can I do this?” 

According to The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published by Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry, there are a good number of skills, criteria, personality that goes into making an author.  Do you have what it takes?

  • Can you spend many, many hours working on something that may never see the light of day?
  • Are kids, partners, job, and recreation going to be obstancles that you can get around?
  • Do you  have the discipline, focus, and attention span it takes to make a book and get it published?
  • Are you self-motivated enough to grind it out month after month?
  • Can you stand being alone in a room, staring at a blank computer screen or an empty piece of paper?
  • Can you put aside regular chunks of time to work on your book?
  • Do you have the desire to share your life to make the time you need?
  • Beside the hundreds of hours you spend writing your book, will you also be willing to set aside chunks of your day in the great time suck known as social networking, and then continue to nurture those networks for an indefininte period of time?

The authors of this book suggest you take a long, hard look at those questions and answer them brutally honest.  If you can say “yes” to a good majority of them, then you are probably on the right track. 

But, that’s only the beginning.

Next, you need to pick the right idea.  Then you need to effectively carry it out. And after it’s all said and done, you’ll need to “shop it around,” that is, get the right agent to represent it. 

And then the revisions.  (Again).  See bullet points above. 

Hemingway once said, “the hard part about writing a novel is finishing it.”  Well said, Hemingway, well said. 

[Disclaimer:  Image source: 4.11.13, and also purchased thru Amazon.  Author of this post owns this book.  She does not know the authors of the book either professionally or personally.]