Wednesday, September 30, 2009

and the winner is…

I’m still catching up on scheduling and conducting additional author interviews for the Wednesday Q&A series. Since I know that’s a favorite amongst the blog readers, I hate to disappoint with no interview today.

The only thing I can think of to make it up to you is to give stuff away!

But... you already knew I was planning on giving away a book at the end of September, so how about I make it more interesting?

First, I’d like to announce the randomly drawn winner from the current list of blog-followers is… (drum roll, please)….. Kaitlyn Stone.

Congrats, Kaitlyn! Please email me to a) let me know if you prefer to receive my new poetry book, stains: early poems, or perhaps one of my fiction titles (The Profiler or Moving Target). Also be sure to tell me your postal address so I know where to send it!

Second, I’m happy to announce I will again be doing a random draw during the month of October. So if you’re listed as a ‘follower’ on this blog (you can click to sign up now, if you haven’t done so already), you are automatically entered into October’s draw for a signed copy of one of my books. Follow the blog, get a chance to win. It’s really that simple.

But… I’m feeling generous today, so how about….

One more chance to win! The first person to email me today will receive a signed copy of stains: early poems. Just ‘cause. Yup. In your email, let me know your postal address and I’ll get a signed copy of stains out and on its way to you immediately.

Phew. Talk about freebies. Who knows what I’ll do next? Actually, I do! Friday’s blog is coming up and I have some events and news to share with you, some new writing links and tips, and yes… I’ll be posting the updated author interview schedule shortly, so please do check back on future Wednesdays for the latest Q&As.

Thanks, and congrats to all the winners!

Monday, September 28, 2009

standing room only… for poetry!

The adrenaline has settled, the hype has calmed, and the photos are making memories last. To all those folks who made it out to Friday’s launch party, thank you for your support and for sharing a pretty cool night with me. Not only was this the launch party for the inaugural issue of The Ambassador Poetry Project, this was also my book launch for stains: early poems. I am so very, very pleased to report we had a wonderful crowd of nearly one hundred people… and yes, we were left with standing room only!

Suzanne Schneider Ross, of Marick Press, did a wonderful job as MC for the night, introducing such poets as Mariela Griffor, Ken Meisel, Dan Ames, and Amy Stilgenbauer. Ten poets read throughout the evening, with yours truly closing out the night with selections from my new book. The audience was a gem… truly supportive and enthusiastic about the launch of Ambassador and I couldn’t have been happier. We made the press, we made some friends, and I think we made a tough act to follow for any of my future events. I was truly impressed and humbled.

As if that weren’t enough, I was so pleased to see another wonderful thing today: a new review of stains: early poems. The review is at The Smoking Poet, a rockin’ review site where founder and editor-in-chief Zinta Aistars personally took the time to review my latest release. It’s really such a wonderful review, I hope you’ll click on this link and see what Zinta had to say about stains. Thank you, Zinta, for making me blush.

More events are in the works but for right now I am just going to take in all the wonderful moments of this past weekend…

Friday, September 25, 2009

new season, new look

Amidst all the busywork I’ve been up to lately, one of the things I am pleased to have checked off of my to-do list is updating my website. If you haven’t visited lately, go on over and have a look. I’ve revamped the entire site with a whole new look and added lots of new content, so I hope you’ll enjoy the transformation.

One of the things I am pleased to include on my site is a page dedicated to resources for writers. We writers always want to hear from others about the writing process, publishing, and tales of success so I put together a page that lists off some of the best resources I can name. I’ve included a few titles of books I have particularly enjoyed; these books are for writers about writing. I’ve also added some links to some great writing magazines, organizations, and workshops, so hopefully this page is a good starting point for useful info. Let me know what you think.

While I liked my old site well enough, I find there comes a time to switch it up. Not only does it serve the viewer – you – by providing something new to look at, it also helps me to redesign from time to time. That way I am always keeping things fresh, adding new content, and increasing the user-friendly features. My hopes for the new site is that you find it informative, entertaining, and worth visiting again.

Hands down, one of the most important tools a writer has in sharing their work with others is a website. Yes, social media tools like facebook, twitter, and communities such as have a big role in connecting with others, but a website is a must. Why? Because you have to have something static. Something that always exists and shows off your work, your style, and reflects what you are doing as a writer. Not only do readers want to know more about you as a person and what work you have on the go, but it’s also one of the first things an agent or an editor will look at when considering your work.

I hope you enjoy the new look and find the content useful. Please feel free to share your thoughts and reactions. If you come across any stumbling blocks, let me know so I can fix it.

Time to get ready for today's launch party… hope to see you there!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

are we having fun yet?

With the fall publication season upon us, I am currently lining up my author Q&A schedule so stay tuned for more great Wednesday interviews. I’ll post the schedule of authors asap!

Today, though, let’s talk about fun things. Oh, yes, sure this blog is ever so serious (ha!) and we are all serious writers and readers here (ahem), but perhaps one day of frivolity won’t hurt. Actually, it might do us all some good.

I don’t want you to think about this; I want a quick answer (in your head is fine, you don’t need to share): when was the last time you had fun?

Yes, when was the last time you had a seriously good, fun time? Or, put another way, when was the last time you laughed so hard you nearly cried?

The importance of having fun is sometimes shoved to the side as we all aim to get things done, be more productive, work harder, work faster. Lately, I’ve had a few blog posts about the ever-popular to-do list, how to be a productive writer, how to tap into that creativity we all thrive on. But in order to relish in the creativity, we need to free the mind and let ourselves live a little. This is where the fun comes in.

In writing – and in life – there must always be a time to breathe, a time to play, a time to let our minds relax. Otherwise, in a congested brain, how else can creativity break free from rules, restraints, and crazy to-dos? Our minds (and hearts and souls and relationships) need some lighthearted moments to be real, to be loose, to be open to what’s out there in the world.

For writers, it’s especially important to embrace opportunities for socializing with people we may not usually consider our crowd. Being that writing is such a solitary profession, it can be especially beneficial to get out of the house and have a good time. Interact with others. Be social. Not only does stepping outside the brain give us a mental break, it can also provide an opportunity for inspiration when least expected.

By doing something out of our comfort zone we gain new experiences, new insights, and new perspectives. We feed our creative brain by taking in new information. The inspiration may not come that same day, or the next day, but when we feed our brain new information and experiences, we build on what we know. When it comes to writing ‘what you know,’ then, isn’t it best to know a good deal? Or to be open to experiencing what others know?

Here’s an example: last week I took an unexpected opportunity to go bowling. I’m not a bowler, by any means, but a team I know needed a sub for their league for one night. I thought… sure, why not. Without much knowledge of what was required of me, I went for it and… apart from not doing too shabby, I also managed to have a heck of a good time. Not only was this a great escape from my monster to-do list and not only was this a great social break out of my usual realm of interaction… I also managed to surround myself with a few interesting characters. In fact, I bowled on a team made up entirely of cops. Yup. Cops.

What made this interesting, however, was not their profession. Because - as is the case for most of us - cops aren’t one-dimensional. They aren’t wholly defined by what they do in their day jobs. They also happen to be people with real lives, real families, real ups and downs like the rest of us. So, while it would be easy to say my team talked shop all night, it simply wouldn’t be true. In fact, I don’t think the topic of work came up once during the evening.

As a writer, this was a good night for remembering the importance of character development. In reading fiction, isn’t it much more interesting to learn about a three-dimensional character than seeing a cookie-cutter stereotype? It’s easy and cliché to have a cop be work-focused and hard-edged; a waitress who is working double shifts to support her kids; a woman who’s closed to relationships because of all the bad break-ups she’s been through. These are obvious and overdone clichés. In real life, any of these characters would be much more than that. As readers, we want to know more. We want to know the person.

As writers, it should be our goal to dig deeper and get real. However, there is only so much enlightenment to be found at our desk. There’s a large and complex world of characters out there just waiting to be discovered.

Inspiration comes through experiencing life outside of our own bubble. Inspiration may not always be something we can find when we want it, but it can come to us unexpectedly so it’s important to break free from our routines and get out of the house. It’s important to experience life. It’s important to have fun and open the mind to opportunities. And, sometimes, that means putting on a pair of rental shoes and bowling with a team of cops.

Monday, September 21, 2009

one week: two launches

It’s hard to believe that September is about to come to a close. Before it does, however, I am pleased to share some information about two really cool launch events. And, yes, I am biased.

First off, thank you to all blog readers who have managed to put up with the amount of blatant self-promotion for the release of stains: early poems. It’s the release month, so naturally it’s topical. Which is why I am so excited about the release party happening this weekend. I’ll be reading selections from stains: early poems and there’s a signing to follow.

This night is not all about me, however. This Friday is also the official launch party for The Ambassador Poetry Project, a new online periodical featuring poetry from and about Michigan and Ontario. With ten poets reading selections from their work and a great musical performance, this is a not-to-be-missed event.

The evening will include readings by poets John Jeffire, Laurence W. Thomas, Olga Klekner, ML Liebler, Amy Stilgenbauer, Eric Torgersen, Ken Meisel, Dan Ames, Mariela Griffor and, of course, yours truly. Music will be provided by singer/songwriter Carly Keyes.

Here are the details:

Friday September 25th, 2009
7pm, free
Grosse Pointe Art Center
16900 Kercheval
Grosse Pointe MI 48236

Co-hosted by Marick Press &
Wayne State University Press
Refreshments will be served.
Email for more details

I hope you’ll be able to join in on the celebration! Let me know if you have any questions or need directions to the event.

Thanks for all the support!

Friday, September 18, 2009

nerd alert: the queen of to-do lists

I’ve just finished organizing my to-do list. Perhaps I should be embarrassed to admit this list is five pages long. However, within these five pages are some really great opportunities to follow up on, projects I am working on that require attention, and well… it’s like five pages of hopes and dreams awaiting my focus.

Someone who doesn’t know me very well may be inclined to think such a list is out of control and unmanageable. Yet, here’s the thing: it’s totally organized and I am not the least bit panicked. Why not? My list is very straightforward, managed, and easy to work with. Because I made it with me in mind. Meaning… I know how I work, what I respond to, and what sort of structure I need to see on paper in order to get things done.

Thus, my list contains headers such as the following:
  • to-do today
  • to-do tomorrow
  • to-do this week
  • to-do next week
…and then, after the immediate attention items, I have broken down other ongoing projects and tasks into categories such as submissions, projects, website updates, etc. By breaking down the task into its category, when I need to refill my ‘today’ to-dos it’s easy to see where work needs to be done and in what order of priority.

Okay, so maybe it seems a bit much to have five pages of headers staring at me. But the thing I have learned about to-do lists is that they are only useful if they mean something to the owner. For me, it’s a matter of keeping everything in its priority sequence, with actual dated assignments next to each task. Maybe this doesn’t work so well for deadline-oriented folks or anal taskmasters, but it’s what works for me. So, I shall continue to relish in my nerdy glory.

What about you? How do you keep the to-do list in check?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Q&A with author Angela Henry

I’m pleased to present today’s Q&A feature. Angela Henry is the author of Diva’s Last Curtain Call, Tangled Roots, and The Company You Keep. She has a great website (with a gorgeous design!) at so be sure to check that out after you read what Angela has to say about her work. Without further ado…

Hi Angela. Can you tell us about Diva’s Last Curtain Call?
Hi Lori! Diva's Last Curtain Call is the 3rd book in my Kendra Clayton mystery series. In this outing, Kendra's self-absorbed, spoiled, actress wannabe, younger sister, Allegra, is in town to try interview aging, reclusive, legendary actress Vivianne DeArmond for the TV show Hollywood Vibe. When Vivianne ends up dead, with a letter opener in her back, Allegra is the prime suspect and Kendra has to find the real killer to clear her sister's name.

Okay, but what’s it really about?
It's really about how family can drive you completely crazy but they're still your family and you have to be there for them in times of crisis. Or something like that. ; )

What inspired you to write the Kendra Clayton mystery series?
I've been a lifelong lover of mysteries, especially small town Agatha Christie like murder mysteries where secrets lurk behind every closed door. But there aren't many that feature African-American sleuths in a small town setting. So I decided to write one myself.

What are you working on now?
I'm working on a proposal for a supernatural YA novel, getting ready to publish Schooled in Murder, the 4th book in my Kendra series, and trying not to drive myself and my agent crazy while waiting to hear about a new project of mine that has been on submission for the past few months.

Tell us a bit about your journey as an author.
My journey has been a series of ups and downs. I've written short stories since I was in high school. But I didn't attempt a novel until I was in my late twenties. It took me four years to write it. But I did manage to get an agent within a few months of finishing it. Unfortunately, she was unable to sell it and we eventually parted ways. I was unable to get a new agent and started submitting directly to publishers, which worked. BET Books, a division of Black Entertainment Television, picked up the book in 2004 and I also signed with a new agent. A year later, BET Books was acquired by Harlequin and renamed Kimani Press. I wrote three books for them before they changed direction and stopped doing mysteries. So, I'm in a regrouping/reinvention phase right now.

What advice do you have for emerging authors?
Don't give up! Keep writing and honing your skills. Educate yourself about the publishing business because it is indeed a business and you really need to know how things work.

How does social media and technology play a role in how you connect with readers?
It plays a big part in connecting with readers. When MySpace was still all the rage, I was able to connect with a lot of readers, reviewers, and fellow writers and not just in the states but all over the globe. There's nothing cooler than finding new authors to read or getting an email from a reader or a bookseller who found out about my books on MySpace. I haven't signed up for Twitter but I'm going to. I also think social media is a great way for writers to see what's going on the publishing world. Many publishers, editors, and agents blog or are on Twitter and it's fun to see what titles they are working on and acquiring. Writers who are just starting out really need to check out all the agents and editors who are blogging. There is wealth of info on those blogs.

How can readers learn more about you and your books?
My website

Thanks, Angela. I appreciate you taking the time to talk about your latest news!
Thanks for having me, Lori!

Stay tuned for more later this week regarding my trip to Kentucky, The Ambassador Poetry Project launch party news, and info about the book release party for stains: early poems. Remember to click to follow the blog to make sure you’re entered into this month’s random drawing for a signed copy of one of my titles!

Happy reading….

Monday, September 14, 2009

books, bards, and bourbon

I’ve just returned from spending five exhilarating days (and my first time ever) in Kentucky. While the focus of the trip was to attend the 30th annual Kentucky Women Writers Conference, I made sure to maximize my stay in the areas of both Lexington and Louisville and everywhere in between. Thus, you’ll soon be reading a bit more about my adventures at Spalding University, where I met with the wonderful creative writing MFA directorial staff; I’ll brag about the incredible indie bookshops where I happily emptied my wallet in support of local lit; and I fully intend on sharing some in-depth pearls of wisdom I picked up during the conference.
Of course, since I just returned from the trip, my brain is both well nourished and overwhelmed from the time away. Thus, I will keep this post short and sweet, meant only to tempt you for what’s to come. After all, there is much unpacking to tend to… especially when you consider this photo here depicts only a small fraction of the literary souvenirs I acquired at shops such as Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Lexington, Carmichael’s in Louisville, and Poor Richard’s in Frankfort.

Oh, and who goes to Louisville without meeting The Colonel? Yes, here I am in my nerdy tourist glory and happy to have spent some time with Colonel Sanders. But y’all should know (no, no, of course I can’t pull y’all off quite so well, can I…), there is much more to Kentucky than KFC. There is a thriving literary circle or two I must tell you about…. after I unpack.

Undoubtedly, I will increase my frequency of posts this week in order to share some gems from the conference, the Spalding MFA program, bookshops and more, but for now I hope I have offered enough of a teaser you’ll look forward to hearing about my escapades.

While I’m at it, I must offer a big thank you to the lovely Miss Hatfield (Kentucky Women Writers Conference) who organized the reading series at Natasha’s last Friday evening. It was a pleasure and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to share some work from stains: early poems with a very kind audience. Another huge thanks is due to Julie Wrinn, the Director of KWWC, who must be congratulated on such a stellar program of events!

It’s time to unpack and get my list of to-dos in order, but don’t forget to check in again for more about my adventures in Kentucky.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Q&A with author Jennie Nash

One of the benefits of socializing on sites such as is getting to know other writers. It wasn’t that long ago I had the pleasure of meeting Jennie Nash, author of The Only True Genius in the Family. Naturally, I recruited her for an interview and am pleased to share this Q&A with you today. Please join me in welcoming Jennie Nash!

Hi Jennie. Can you tell us about The Only True Genius in the Family?
It’s a story about three generations of artists and the concept of whether or not talent is inherited. There is a famous landscape photographer, a prodigy painter, and a mother in the middle who is having a crisis of faith about her ability to make art. In the opening sentence, the famous photographer dies, and the book is very much about what his legacy will be, both in a traditional public sense and in a private sense for his progeny. The characters in the book are constantly creating – sweeping photographs of majestic mountains, paintings of the sea, commercial photos of high end chocolate, the perfect roasted chicken – and they struggle with what it means to succeed, creatively speaking.

Okay. But what’s it really about?
A woman in search of her creative voice, the resentment a daughter has for her father, the jealousy a mother feels for her child – how, in other words, your family can really mess with your creative impulse.

What sources of inspiration led you to write this novel?
I was originally inspired by a magazine article about the 12-year-old prodigy painter from Russia known as Petit Picasso. Her paintings were being sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars – and all I kept thinking about was her mother. What would it be like to be the mother? I did quite a lot of research on prodigies and genius, and was particularly moved by the Joan Aconcella book, Twenty Eight Artists and Two Saints. (Aconcella is the dance critic for The New Yorker, and is something of a genius herself.) One thing I learned was how much the people around very talented people tend to suffer – especially if they have the impulse to create themselves. I began to visualize my characters, and very quickly ended up with three generations of artists who each had very different ideas about the source of creativity.

That’s the “technical” answer. The personal answer –and really, the one that is by far more important -- is that The Only True Genius in the Family was the second novel in a two-book deal. The novel that came before it, The Last Beach Bungalow, was my first novel, but it was my fourth book. I had made a genre switch, and I wrote for three years not knowing if I could even finish a work of fiction, let alone sell it. The agent I had worked with on my non-fiction was not interested in representing my fiction, which was another big worry. So getting a new agent, and then getting the two-book deal on the first novel was just a huge vote of confidence. I had an editor who was waiting to publish whatever I wrote next, and was paying me in advance, to do so. Talk about being given permission. I felt absolutely validated as a writer, completely “legitimate,” and free – for a blessed short time – of any doubt about what I was doing or my ability to do it. I know what it’s like not to feel that; every artist does. And so The Only True Genius in the Family is, simply, a story about that – about a woman coming out of the darkness of creative doubt and into the light of creative sureness. At its heart, it’s a story about my getting to write the story.

What can you tell us about The Last Beach Bungalow?
It’s the story of a breast cancer survivor coming up on her five year cancer-free anniversary and not knowing why she survived – not knowing what the point of surviving really was. She falls in love with a quirky old house, because she thinks that it will give her life -- and her marriage -- the meaning it lacks. You know the way an old house feels – comfortable, and lived in, and resonant with story? That’s what she’s after. The house in question is being sold in a contest by a recent widow who has lived her whole adult life within its walls. The widow wants someone to buy her house who will cherish it the way she has because she, too, is looking for an external validation that her life had meaning. In the end, both women find what they need, but not in the way they expect.

I’m a breast cancer survivor – ten years now, actually – and I was very interested in what happens after you make it. I wrote about the illness part of the story (in a memoir called The Victoria’s Secret Catalog Never Stops Coming and Other Lessons I Learned From Breast Cancer) but that wasn’t the whole story, in my mind. The Last Beach Bungalow was the continuation of the story – and I loved wrestling with these questions in fiction rather than non-fiction. I loved creating drama and imagining possibilities. I was tired of writing about my own life, and was ready to break free.

Tell us a bit about your journey as an author.
I always knew I wanted to be a writer. My dad was a professor and a writer, and I loved the sounds of his typewriter and the quiet in his study. When I was in fourth grade I had some poems published in a school book – mimeographed pages, a cardboard cover – and I was just completely taken with the whole concept of my words underneath my name and other people being able to read it.

I had my first piece published the summer before I went to college, in the Wellesley alumnae magazine, which was the institution where I was headed. I was an English major and I wrote an honors’ thesis that was a collection of narrative essays. I thought that the next step was to go to graduate school, but I had a very wise advisor. He refused to write me a recommendation. He said he thought I would hate it. He said he thought I should go to New York and try to make it as a writer.

I followed his advice – but only halfway. I think what he thought I should do was go and really dig in and write a meaty book. I went to New York and got a job as an assistant editor at Random House, and then I got a job as a magazine editor, and then I began writing for magazines. I was too scared to really just write. I published a memoir (about getting married) at age 25, but honestly, it wasn’t a very good book. I wrote the breast cancer memoir, which I am very proud of and which allowed me to reach a large number of readers, but I followed it with another memoir (about parenthood) that wasn’t very good, either. I didn’t trust my voice, didn’t know what I wanted to say. I was writing out of fear – fear that I would be known as “cancer girl,” fear that I better write another book fast. The Last Beach Bungalow was very healing because I allowed myself to go back to cancer as a topic, and I allowed myself the freedom to write fiction, and I allowed myself the time I needed to get it right. It was a big risk for me, and it paid off. It was a thrill to land that two-book deal.

I have just finished my third novel for the same editor who bought my first two (see below for details), and I feel incredibly grateful for her trust and support. I know that she wants me to succeed, and that she is doing everything she can possibly do to help me build an audience and a career. It’s everything a writer could ask for.

What advice do you have for writers starting out?
Make sure you have something to say and give yourself permission to say it. These things sound very simple, but of course they’re not. It took me about 25 years to finally get it.

I also like the advice Elizabeth Gilbert (of Eat, Pray, Love fame) gives, which is to forgive yourself – for your false starts and wasted pages; for wanting to be a writer in the first place; and if you’re lucky enough to achieve it, for your success. Being a writer takes a lot of self-forgiveness.

As for practical matters, I’m something of an evangelist for Twyla Tharp’s book, The Creative Habit. Tharp teaches you how to do it – how to actually live a creative life. It’s all well and good to have a story to tell or a facility for putting words together on a page – or both – but you have to also know how to pin down an idea, how to organize your day, how to open your mind to inspiration.

How has social media and technology changed the way you connect with readers?
Social media has made me realize that it’s my job to reach out to readers, to answer their questions, to pique their interest. It’s not something I squeeze in when I’m not writing; it’s an important undertaking in its own right—and becoming even more so. Readers no longer want their favorite writers to be unreachable. They want to interact with them, learn about their creative process, know something of their lives. I’m desperately trying to learn how to be an effective blogger and twitter-er while still being a good writer – oh, and a good wife and mother, too! I feel like I’m scrambling to figure it all out, but I also know that I’m hardly alone in the struggle.

You’re also a fan of meeting readers at book clubs. Care to share some experiences?
I love visiting book clubs, both in person and virtually. It’s just such a thrill to be in a roomful of people – usually woman, in my case – who have shared the experience of reading my work. I feel very humbled by it, because people see things in my work that I never knew was there. My oldest daughter’s AP English class read The Only True Genius in the Family this year, and it was an amazing experience. I walked away being simultaneously humbled and boosted up – humbled by their ability to analyze text and boosted up because I was able to clearly see what my subconscious had wrought! They kept saying things like, “I loved how you brought back the light/lightning motif in the storm scene,” and I would be thinking, There’s a light/lightning motif? Really? I couldn’t wait to get out of there to go check out all the places where I had mentioned light and lightning.

What title(s) can we look forward to next?
I just finished my third novel, which is called The Threadbare Heart. It’s a love story inspired by something that happened to my mother on her first weekend at Wellesley College in 1956. There’s also a mother-daughter component to this book – an intergenerational disagreement about what love is, and how you get it and hold onto it and what it means when it’s gone. It’s due out from Berkley Books in May 2010.

I feel the stirrings of my fourth novel, but they haven’t yet taken shape.

How can readers learn more about you and your writing?
Visit me at Write me emails at Invite me to visit their book clubs.

Thanks, Jennie! I appreciate you taking the time to talk about The Only True Genius in the Family and your latest news.

There are more great interviews with authors around the corner. I look forward to the many insider tips, personal stories, and successes upcoming authors will share. Too, if you have any suggestions for the author Q&A – or any other aspect of this blog – feel free to let me know your thoughts. I always welcome mail from readers!

Thanks for joining in today. Until next time…

Monday, September 7, 2009

books, books & more books

There’s no other way for me to begin this blog today than by bragging about one of the coolest reviews I have received yet. At Gender Across Borders, writer Elizabeth Kate Switaj shared her wonderfully close reading and review of my latest release, stains: early poems. It was posted over the weekend and I had a hard time waiting until today to share it with you. Please do read the review Elizabeth wrote. You’ll find it here.

I also wanted to let all the poets out there know about the Marick Press Poetry Prize. The postmark deadline is October 15th, so there’s still a little time to polish up your book-length manuscript and send it in to be judged by poet Alicia Ostriker. This is the first annual prize, with a $1,000 cash award and publication by Marick Press. Manuscripts must be between 48 and 80 pages in length and full submission details may be found here.

I’d also like to offer a HUGE congrats to Kiersten White who recently sold her novel, Paranormalcy (and two sequels!) to Erica Sussman at HarperTeen. I couldn’t be happier for Kiersten. See, it just goes to show that it pays to contribute to this blog. Ha. I’m only kidding. But a big thanks to Kiersten, again, for contributing to the blog in August and I wish her the best of success with her future releases!

And, while I haven’t quite finished reading it yet, I have to highly recomnend this novel. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a delightful read with charming character. As it begins in 1946, the war acts as a backdrop, a character in its own right, but it’s the full-of-life characters and three-dimensional stories told exclusively through letters that has me gripping the pages every night. I’d heard many a good thing about this novel but I am more delighted than I could have imagined. It’s a fast read because I have a hard time putting it down. The style is easy, the voice is practically friendly, and the characters… what a bunch. Moving, entertaining, and thought-provoking, I must recommend it to you.

Speaking of great reads… On Wednesday I’ll be sharing an interview I did with Jennie Nash, author of The Only True Genius in the Family. Please do visit Jennie’s website and join in on this week’s discussion.

Remember, in celebration of Labor Day I am offering up a steal of a deal. You can direct order stains: early poems from me, through email, for a mere ten bucks which includes a personally signed copy and postage to your door.

Wishing you a very pleasant long weekend….

Friday, September 4, 2009

writing: dreams & reality

Last week I had the pleasure of visiting the office and folks at The Writer magazine. As a contributor, it was a joy to meet the editorial names I have come to know, up until now, only through email and telephone conversations. While the internet is certainly a great way to communicate and carry on writing business, there is something to be said for talking face-to-face with an editor.

Maybe it’s the memories of my childhood dreams of growing up to be a writer, and all the details those preconceived notions implied, that make such visits so entertaining.

If you write, what were your youthful visions of the future like? For me, I would think about the editorial meetings, the wining and dining, and the glamorous parties and intellectual conversations that would inevitably be my future if I worked hard enough. Well… some of these things have actualized in reality, and some… not so much.

I can’t say I wine and dine much, but in reality I do suppose I go out for coffee with an editor now and then - usually to discuss unrelated writing topics or just to socialize. The editors I socialize with, however, are usually locally based and not necessarily ones I work with, since I am a bit of a distance to my New York contacts. So, a small tangent on what the dream was, but a satisfying one no less.

As for glamorous events? Yes, I attend a good number of literary events in and around my area. I’d argue that they’re not that glamorous although many are, in fact, intellectually stimulating. At the very least, it’s great to meet and mingle with other writers, get to know readers, and spend a night out. Usually, the only glamorous aspect of these types of evenings is debating whether to wear make-up and fun shoes, or to go casual with sensible footwear. I’ll let you guess which usually wins the debate.
And while I’ve had my share of editorial meetings, most working discussions take place on the phone or via email. It’s rare to nab an editor’s dedicated time for a lunch or coffee, and since my proximity to the editors I tend to work with is a bit distant from home it’s even rarer. Maybe that’s why it’s so special when I do get the chance to mingle in person. I will say that editors do, indeed, like to meet their writers face-to-face when the opportunity arises.

Visiting the editorial team at The Writer office was great. After getting to know the staffers through various emails and the occasional phone call, it was a pleasant visit to just say hi as I was passing through the area. I received a great coffee shop recommendation, had a few brief chats about what I’ve been working on, but mostly the visit was just a quick social stop on my way somewhere else. Even so, I’m glad the staff were able to take a few moments to entertain me.

My youthful dreams of what having a writing career would be like were far from reality. However, I am by no means disappointed. Rather than flitting from party to party and keeping up with witty repartee, I find myself fulfilled with the real connections I have made, the ongoing work I am blessed to have, and the community of readers and writers I chat with both personally and professionally. For me, reality wins out hands down. After all, what good are imaged dreams if they never result in something tangible? Oh sure, I still daydream about the people I’ll meet and the places I’ll go. But as a working writer, I know these current dreams are within reach and not just child’s play anymore.

What about you? Have your dreams morphed into reality? Is your real life anything like you imagined it would be? Do you still daydream about what’s to come? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

And, as promised the other day, I have something special for Labor Day weekend. Until Monday, I’m offering up copies of my latest poetry book for a deep discount. If you’ve been waiting for the right time to pick up stains: early poems, you can email me to order your (signed) copy directly, and I’ll send it out to you for a mere ten bucks (including free shipping!). Of course, you can order the book from amazon or B&N, or grab it from your local indie shop, at any time, but for this weekend I’ll be offering up signed copies at a discount. Email me at if you’re interested. Congrats to Dan Ames who posted a response to the blog the other day (on the facebook feed) and won a signed copy of stains.

Have a great long weekend; enjoy those last moments of summer; and until next time… happy reading!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

calm amidst chaos

You know that moment when you think it’s a great idea to completely overhaul a room or a section of the house that has been desperately needing attention… and then ultimately end up with a bigger mess than you started with?

Somehow, I thought it was a smart idea to finally get around to organizing my office – a space I have occupied since I moved in to this house this past February. I thought (silly me) it would be an easy task. I’m an organizational nerd, you see, and I was soooo looking forward to making sense of the final few bookshelves that needed attention, the pile(s) of to-be-read books waiting for open hands, and an assortment of to-be-sorted stacks. Well… my mistake. This is no small task.

The grand scheme was to finish up what I started months ago so that I could finally say my office was perfect; that my mental space and my writing space were in sync. The grand scheme is over-rated. Or maybe I’m just delusional. Now, not only have I created a bigger mess than I started with, I have certainly delayed my writing work for a day or two. Or at least focused writing. Oh sure, I am jotting things down, but my brain can’t seem to focus like it usually does with chaos piled knee-high beside me. But am I freaking out? Nope.

Because as a writer I know chaos. I know that half the job is getting things down on paper, but the other half is making sense of it all. Organizing my office is like editing a first draft. It’s all there, scattered around the room; I just need to zero in on the big picture, tidy up the details, and somehow it will all start to resemble something real. Like life, writing is messy. But with a calm approach and a strong cup of coffee, the horror of chaos gradually begins to make sense. It’s a challenge that can be won, and one that is almost immediately gratifying.

So, just as I do when tackling an editing marathon, I am brewing up a fresh cup of coffee every hour, stepping back for a moment now and then to reassess the big picture, and focusing on the baby steps that will gradually take shape into something fresh, orderly, and a definite reflection of me. Like editing, cleaning this office may seem like a pain in the butt right now, but in a day or two I will be very grateful for having gone through the experience and more than happy to see the results of my labors.

After all, it’s not the simple reason of cleaning my office that has me motivated. It’s the fringe benefit of clearing some mental space and cleansing the creative palate in preparation for some fun writing projects that has prompted me to purge and restore order to my workspace. A few hours of crazy chaos in exchange for a fresh start in a calm working space? Not a problem. It’s worth it.

What about you? Do you prefer to work amidst calm, chaos, or a combination? Before digging into a big new project, are there any rituals (like cleaning marathons) you do to get yourself ready? What about your workspace? Is it tidy, disorderly, or pleasantly messy? How do you keep calm amidst the chaos? How do you keep your to-be-read piles in check? Considering I’m knee-deep in books, papers, and everything else office-related, I can use all the tips I can get.

Speaking of being knee-deep in books… I’m feeling generous (and came across more postage than I can deal with). Share your stories on organizing your workspace, keeping up with clutter, or various tales from your chaotic workspace. I’ll pick my favorite posted comment today and offer up a signed copy of my latest book, stains: early poems, just because. Yup. Just because. So go on. Share. And I’ll gladly help add to your to-be-read pile. If you miss out on a signed copy today, fear not: I have something special coming up on Friday, so stay tuned for more info. Plus, everyone who clicks to follow this blog will be entered automatically in my end-of-September giveaway. Aren’t free books fun?

Next week we return to our regularly scheduled Wednesday author Q&As. Until next time… happy reading!