Who says what?

Novelist, mother, minister, and yoga teacher muses on books, babies, motherhood, and what matters with reverent humor.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Another Writing Mother

I love mothers who write. And I'm always thrilled to hear of another one.

Here's Melissa Senate. She's gorgeous. Her latest novel, THE SECRET OF JOY, has just come out.

It's her EIGHTH novel! (Since 2001, no less.) Below is some advanced praise for the book.

"The Secret of Joy by Melissa Senate opened my heart, made me laugh, cry, and smile all at the same time. A don't-miss read!" –New York Times bestselling author Carly Phillips

"The Secret of Joy is a warm hug of a book. Insightful, wise, and romantic, it's as inviting as the small-town life it depicts." –Claire LaZebnik

"A wonderfully heartfelt story about hope, possibilities and the yearning for real connections. Senate's latest will take you on a much needed vacation, while sneaking vital life lessons in when you're not looking." –Caprice Crane

"The Secret of Joy is a heartwarming story that hits all the right notes. Senate has you cheering for more." –Cara Lockwood

What could be a better read for this time of year?

I had a chance to virtually interview Melissa. Here's what she said.

Give us a brief synopsis of the book.

A: 28-year-old New Yorker Rebecca Strand is shocked when her dying father confesses a devastating secret: he had affair when Rebecca was a toddler—and a baby he turned his back on at birth. Now, his wish is that the daughter he abandoned, Joy Joyhawk, read the unsent letters he wrote to her every year on her birthday. Determined to fulfill her father’s wish, Rebecca drives to a small town in Maine—against the advice of her lawyer boyfriend who’s sure Joy will be a “disappointing, trashy opportunist” and demand half her father’s fortune. But when hopeful Rebecca knocks on her half-sister’s door, Joy—a separated mother who conducts weekend singles tours out of her orange mini-bus—wants nothing to do with Rebecca or the letters her father wrote to her. Determined to forge some kind of relationship with Joy, Rebecca sticks around, finding unexpected support from Joy’s best clients—the Divorced Ladies Club of Wiscasset—and a sexy carpenter named Theo . . . .
If you could only own and read 5 books for the rest of your life, (excluding your own) what five books would you choose?

The Portable Dorothy Parker; the collected works of William Shakespeare; To Kill A Mockingbird; Anne of Green Gables; The Color Purple; and I can’t leave off this gem: Why I Like My Mommy by Max (my son’s latest work in first grade!)
Any tried and true tricks for beating procrastination?
Tried but not true: taking laptop to a library or coffee lounge without wi-fi. I can’t handle more than an hour or two without checking email or reading through Twitter or Facebook. Tried and true: a deadline, whether self-given or publisher-given.

Which 'craft' book has inspired or helped you the most throughout your writing career?

The most inspiring, to me, is Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. But I also love Stephen King’s On Writing; Carolyn See’s How To Make A Literary Life, and Elizabeth Berg’s Escaping Into The Open.

What’s next for you?

Next up is my second novel for teens, The Mosts, which will be published by Random House in June 2010. Then, my next women’s fiction novel from Simon & Schuster, The Love Goddess’s Cooking School, about five people in an Italian cooking class, will be published November 2010. I’m staring down a 1/1 deadline (the worst deadline to have!) And I’m being poked at by a new idea . . . .
Thanks, Melissa! I wish you continued success and more happy times in Maine.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thank You

For thanksgiving, I would like to thank all the little people who made it possible.

Just kidding. I'll save that line until I'm on Oprah. In the meantime, I find this Thanksgiving that I have friends everywhere I go. Literally.

My experience of my debut novel has given me the chance to reconnect and connect with so many people I love. This is not what I thought would come out of my book talks and book signings and frail attempts at publicity. But it is what has happened nonetheless.

At my book launch back in June, a crowd filled the small space to overflowing; the books were sold out. This doesn't happen with a debut novel because as a new author, nobody knows you. The space was filled with friends and family and neighbors, yoga students and those who know me in my work as a minister.

Before each of my book signings, I worried that no one would come. The thought of sitting at a table piled high with stacks of my novel while people simply walked past me, sent my ego into tremors of despair. Instead, every single one of those events (eight of them), were attended, and attended with love. In Connecticut, my dear friend arrived with friends of hers in tow; we sat in a small circle and talked about books, motherhood and life. In Vermont, two friends I met years ago while at Kripalu came to sit with me (and brought friends). In Concord, three of my high school teachers filled the seats, and their presence brought out great tears from me. I felt so honored to have them there. At all of these venues, and the others, "people" showed up too. Regular, interesting people who were not my friends, but instead of crowds waiting at the door at 6 a.m. (as they do for Harry Potter books), I drew in a small circle. One of love.

In my visits to book groups, I have had such an marvelous, hilarious, heartwarming time. Being with the women and mothers who have read the book and appreciated it, has made all the difference in the world to me. It has reminded me why I wrote it in the first place.

And then on this totally impersonal blog, and through my hapless attempts at publicity, I have come into contact with some amazing women, including the powerful feministbreeder and more recently the wonderful mother who reviewed my book for 5minutesformom. (You can see her site at 5minutesforbooks.) Susan at bizymoms was a delight and a great support getting a page set up over there.

Really, love is all around. Love is everywhere we go.

So if you STILL haven't got your hands on a copy of THIS LITTLE MOMMY STAYED HOME, there's a give-away going on at 5minutesformom. Enter to win a signed copy. I happen to think there's some love in that book also. I don't think it will automatically turn me into the Patron Saint of New Mamas, but maybe some day?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Are we ever good enough?

I was asked, for an interview, what advice I could offer other writers now that I have finally "got there."

My advice? You never get there.

I received a statement of my royalties in the mail the other day. That means my publisher told me how many books I've sold so far. Boo-hoo is all I can say. A big, fat boo-hoo.

All we ever want, we think, is for this one thing to happen. And then it does, and we change our minds and now we want this one thing to happen.

"You got a book published!" my husband says. Boo-hoo. Boo-hoo. "Oprah didn't read it," I said.

"Imagine all those books you sold lined up in the living room. There wouldn't be room!" he says. Boo-hoo. "I didn't make the best seller list."

"Think of all the people you've made laugh." Boo-hoo. Boo-hoo. "Is that enough?"

Is that enough?

And the sun rises and falls, and the children laugh and scream, and the bloggers keep on blogging into the vast quiet of the internet.

I look at these children. They are already good enough. We come out good enough. Boo-hoo, boo-hoo. We just forget.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Love Under Cover

I am so excited to be blogging about my friend Jessica Brody, whose second novel, LOVE UNDER COVER, is hot off the press. In addition to being a fantastic novelist and a fellow Smith alum, Jessica has been a great source of support to me as a writer. She created and runs the fantastic website freebookfriday. If you haven't found it already, you have a chance every week to win a book. She's such a big hit that her first novel, THE FIDELITY FILES is being made into a TV series. (Wow.) But really, I love her for helping me so selflessly so many times as I have gone through the publishing process. Not that you should read her novels simply because she is good. You should read them because they are good.

Here's a brief summary of the new book:

In her job, she’s an expert on men…
In her own relationship, she doesn’t have a clue.
Boyfriend behaving badly? Suspect your husband of straying? Jennifer Hunter can supply the ultimate test. She runs a company which specializes in conducting fidelity inspections for those who suspect their loved ones are capable of infidelity.An expert on men, Jennifer can usually tell if they're single, married or lying... Unfortunately, her new boyfriend, Jamie, is one of the few men that she's never been able to 'read.' Has she finally found the perfect man or is he too good to be true?
And some advance praise:
"With a complicated, sympathetic protagonist, worthy stakes and a clever twist on the standard chick lit narrative, Brody will pull readers in from the first page."
– Publisher’s Weekly

"Those who enjoyed Brody's debut will be eager to catch up with Jennifer, but newcomers will be intrigued, too...an honest, witty portrayal of modern love."
- Booklist

Okay, Jessica. Here's what we really want to know:

Since becoming a writer, what’s the most glamorous thing you’ve ever done?

When my first book, The Fidelity Files, came out in France last year, my French publisher actually flew me out to Paris to promote it! It was a dream come true! I speak French almost fluently so I was able to conduct all my interviews in French, which was both nerve wrecking and exciting at the same time. Paris has always held a special place in my heart. I was a French major in college and I lived in Paris my junior abroad. Plus, I spent a month in Paris in 2005 finishing the novel so it was all very magical and kismet to be back there to see it in French book stores!

If you could be a superhero, what would you superpower be?

Calorie Immunity. That would definitely be my super power. The ability to eat anything I want and be completely unaffected by the calories contained within. That would be really awesome. And I guess that would automatically make my nemesis cupcakes. Although, if this were a comic book, he would be called “Dr. Cupcake” and his side kick would be called “Sprinkles.”

Do you have a sample chapter posted?

Absolutely! www.jessicabrody.com/loveundercover_excerpt.html

What's the main thing you hope people take away from your book?

Entertainment. That’s all I seek to do. Entertain people. The reason I started writing was because of Bridget Jones’ Diary by Helen Fielding. I read that book in college whenever I would go to the gym and I remember looking down at the elliptical and thinking, “Seriously? I’ve already been exercising for thirty minutes!?” The time would FLY by. I was so inspired and awed by the fact that a book could take me away from my life like that. I knew from that day on that I wanted to be a writer so I could attempt to do the same. So if my book can help pass the time of a long flight or a boring workout then I’ve accomplished my goal. And if some of the issues about relationships and love and trust that I’ve delved into get people thinking, than that’s just icing on the cupcake.

What’s next for you?

Although I strive to live in the moment, I can’t help but be excited about the future! I’ve got three young adult books scheduled to come out in the next three years from Farrar, Straus, & Giroux. The first, THE KARMA CLUB, releases on April 27 and I simply can’t wait! It’s about three teen girls who are tired of waiting for Karma to get off its butt and do its job, so they decide to give Karma a helping hand by getting revenge on their evil ex-boyfriends. But they soon discover that when you mess with Karma, Karma messes back. It’s a story I wanted to tell for years and I’m so glad it’s finally going to be put out to the world. The teen voice feels very natural to me (not sure what that says about my inherent maturity level, but whatever!) and the YA novels are such a blast to write. I think the teenage years resonate with everyone in some way. For me, my teen years were very painful so it’s somewhat therapeutic to be able to “go back” and relive them with all the knowledge and wisdom that I have now!

You're awesome, Jessica! May this be a huge success and may you have another trip to Paris! (But don't wear your sweatpants.)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

No Wonder We're All on Medication

It's hard to be critical of the very thing you're doing....no, that isn't true. I'm critical of blogging even while I'm blogging.

Is their any other activity of the modern age so touted for making connection that makes you feel so, well, alone?

It's like writing a diary no one wants to read. And I don't just mean me. (For the record, none of this stuff is anywhere as interesting as what I write in my real journal. That's all sex, drugs, scandal and excitement.) Some lucky bloggers get a volume of comments. Like, for example, Michelle Duggar. But then if she reads them she'll have to shift through the invective--not my cup of tea.

But then I am a touchy-feely person. Sitting alone in front of my computer is my least favorite time of day. And, too, I get it. No one has time to read this stuff, let alone comment on it. We're all too busy with our lives full of technology and medication. No wonder. A virtual community is just that. Virtual. A.K.A., not real. Not that I want to be a whistle blower, but how can it compare with sitting together in front of the fire next to our cave?

Ah, for those good old days.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Mama Needs a Time Out

It wasn't pretty here yesterday if you count the number of people screaming in relation to the number of people in the house. (Three of us. Three of us screaming.)

It drove me back to my parenting library of which I make regular use. I find a need a continual school in mothering, especially when I feel as though I'm failing.

I'm sure there are countless resources on the web, but I am a fan of the old fashioned paper book and wanted to share a few of my favorites for dealing with discipline.

Learning a Loving Way of Life
Adventures in Gentle Discipline
The Negotiation Generation
Scream Free Parenting

And, of course, This Little Mommy Stayed Home, which won't teach you how to parent, but will make you laugh.

Others you've found useful?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Origin of Grouchiness

There are so many things about motherhood that are rarely spoken of, like, for example, the loss of sleep. Not unlike the acute loss of blood.

But moms are beginning to complain about this terrible phenomenon--in a cutesy sort of way. Nobody bothers to comment on the real effects of long-term sleep-deprivation, among them, the evil and sinister perpetual grouchiness.

What's even more interesting? Even after your children have learned to sleep through the night, you will still wake, at regular intervals, like Pavlov's dog, trained to startle at the smallest sound. You will think, of course my baby hasn't strangled herself in her sleep, she's too old. She'd call out. She can talk. I have a friend who still goes in in the middle of the night to cover up her pre-schooler despite his very functioning arms and legs.

So where are the studies on the permanent effects of interrupted sleep? Mama Zombie is not a Halloween costume, but a sleep-deprived woman who will never be the same.

Enlighten me with links. I'd truly like to know.