Archives for September 2010

An Interview with Mindi Scott



FREEFALL is a book I’ve been dying to read for a very long time now, and IT COMES OUT TODAY, PEOPLE! I’m so excited!
I’ve been reading Mindi Scott’s blog for years, and have loved following her path to publication. I got to meet Mindi while I was in Seattle this summer. She’s as lovely and sweet and funny in person as she is on her blog. If you have the chance to go to one of her book events, do it! And if you don’t, you can still read FREEFALL, so do that, okay? :)

Mindi was so kind to answer some of my questions:
1. What inspired FREEFALL?

I started writing this book because I had an idea for a love story between a boy and a girl who had each faced tragedy. Everything just evolved from there, and the emotional journal of Seth (my narrator) became the real focus for me. I loved the challenge of showing how he could change in unexpected ways by letting other people in.

2. What kind of research did you have to do to write from the perspective of a teenage boy?

I read a lot of books written in that perspective just to get started. In fact, reading LOOKING FOR ALASKA by John Green was what inspired me to tell this story from the point of view of the boy instead of the girl. Also, I had my husband read all the scenes when I’d finish them. He isn’t a teenage boy, but he used to be one, so he was very helpful in letting me know when Seth wasn’t perhaps being boyish enough.

3. You publish diary entries from your diary as a teenager on your website. What made you decide to do this? Who is Carnation?

Ha! You know, I really don’t know what possessed me to do this. I was just trying to think of some content that I could add to my website regularly. For some reason, the journals popped into my head as something I could share.

Carnation is the name I gave the journal that I used when I was 14. Anne Frank wrote to “Kitty”, so that she would feel that there was a friend out there who was reading her words. I stole that idea. Except… Carnation wasn’t an imaginary human friend at all. Carnation was the actual book’s name. Like, sometimes I’d write things like, “Carnation, did you have a nice day today, waiting for me to come home and write in you?”

Um, weird.

4. I know you’re a huge music fan and your husband is in a band. How does music influence your writing?

Music is a big deal in FREEFALL. Seth is in a band and playing music is important to him, so it’s woven throughout the story. (Although, it isn’t the main story.) Other characters that I’ve written/am writing/will write don’t/won’t necessarily have anything to do with music. But I do choose to listen to whatever helps me find a character’s essence while I’m writing.

5. What’s your writing schedule like? Do you have a specific writing spot?

I have my work schedule and personal life arranged so that I can write on Wednesdays, Thursdays, every other Friday, and some weekend days. I write many of my first drafts longhand while riding the bus. All of my revised work is done at my desk in front of my computer.

6. What’s next for you?

I have more contemporary YA in the works. At this time, I don’t have a contract for a second book, so I’m not really sure which is going to be next. I have high hopes for a certain one that I’m working on, though. We’ll see! :-)

FREEFALL hits stores today! Congratulations, Mindi!

New Addition to the Prize Pack


Orvis sent me a press release about their 2011 Dog Photo Contest Calendar:

“Great news, dog lovers! The Orvis Company’s 2010 customer dog photo contest was so successful that they designed their new calendar around the best shots. Each month features full- color images of adorable, happy dogs swimming, lounging, and jumping together in the great outdoors. In January, one dog peeks out from behind a spray of winter flowers in a snowy field; in July, another leaps playfully off a wooden dock into a crystal-clear lake. Orvis has collaborated with the Morris Animal Foundation to help fight canine cancer; Dylan, the golden retriever on the front cover, is a cancer survivor himself, and an important inspiration to the Canine Cancer Campaign. The generous donations they’ve received have helped fund research and treatments aimed at curing canine cancer within the next 10 to 20 years.


Warm your heart all year long with this gorgeous hanging calendar, knowing that the proceeds are benefitting a company that is working hard to help the animals you love. To find out more about the campaign, donate, or enter your own doggy photo in the next contest, visit orvis.com/coverdog.”


The calendar is adorable, and I love that the proceeds are going to help fight canine cancer, especially after what we went through with Argo a few years ago.

Orvis was kind enough to send along a calendar for me to give away, and I’m adding it to the STAY prize pack! The contest will close on October 31st, and I’ll be adding a new prize every Friday from now until then, so get your photos in soon!

The pants are the best part.

My head is swimming right now. New characters, and a fun side project with a friend, the last day of my virtual book tour, fall, laundry, bills, life, food (seriously, why can’t we just eat one huge meal once a month instead of all this three times a day every day crap?), and all sorts of other stuff. I’ve fallen into the trap of having too many random little things to blog about, so I haven’t been blogging at all. So here’s another list post.

  • Now that I’ve painted my office, the hallway is bugging me. And the basement. And the front step needs fixing, and the floor in the entry way needs tiling and maybe I can learn how to tile, and the laundry room could use new flooring and . . . There’s an episode of Northern Exposure where Maggie goes a little nuts nesting for the long up coming winter. I feel like that. I love fall, but winter in Rochester looms at the end of it making big mean snarly faces, and I’m not sure I’m ready for it.
  • Am I the kind of writer who can pull off a sentence like the last one? I think maybe not. Looms? That’s a little pompous. I’m not pompous. Goofy, yes. Pompous, no. I don’t have the energy for it.
  • I’ve been posting all my review/interview links on the Facebook page, so I don’t want to duplicate efforts here and have you be all, we know already for frack’s sake! So if you’re looking for links, that’s where they are!
  • I will add one duplicate link here though – I was on Reading With Robin last week, and in addition to my interview, she has a long list of author interview podcasts on her site. I’m in love with listening to them. Robin is so much fun to talk with and she asks great questions.
  • My book group read THE THINGS THEY CARRIED and we discussed it last night. There are several people in the group who were Vietnam vets or had family members who had been drafted. It was fascinating and so moving to hear their perspectives on the book, and what it felt like to get a draft letter. I love that group so much! I’m a bummed out because they’re reading THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU next month, but I won’t be able to make the meeting. I love that book!
  • I was asked to blurb a book and I am 1. so completely honored and 2. so engrossed in said book that it’s been torture to put it down and get anything else done. It’s just that good.
  • I just finished watching Roswell. I sobbed so hard through the last two episodes (and also the one with future Max in it – OH MY GOODNESS!). It took me about five episodes to get into the show, but I tweeted about it, and Aly said she really enjoyed it, so I kept watching. So glad I did. I completely fell in love with the characters.
  • I’m a little lost tv-series-wise now. I function better when I have a good, absorbing show I’m involved in. I bribe myself with a lunch hour episode and another one before I go to bed, and maybe even an afternoon break episode if I have a boring task that requires a good bribe. It pulls me through my day.
  • I’m back on an I hate running but I love Netflix workout videos kick again. Ellen Barrett is awesome, and I like to rotate through her Pilates workouts.
  • Which reminds me of a recent conversation I had with another writer last week.
Me: I didn’t have a lot of patience with buying clothes for my book tour. I mean, I usually wear yoga pants all day.
Him: Do you do a lot of yoga?
Me: No. I just like the pants.
I am the epitome of class, huh? But I’ve realized in the past few months that I really don’t enjoy doing yoga. I have so many friends who teach yoga and are very dedicated to their practice. I desperately want to love it, and I’ve spent years trying to convince myself that I do, but honestly, I’d rather listen to Wilford Brimley read the phone book with a fake British accident every day for ninety minutes (which you know would only be funny for the first minute or so) than do yoga. Pilates on the other hand. . . I am so all over that. I crave Pilates. I’m not sure what the distinction is. Do you know? How do you feel about yoga? Are the pants the best part for you, or do you think I’m missing something?

Fresh Paint

Before:

After:

Well, I had good reason for my blog silence. I’ve been hard at work redoing my office.

I’ve had paint swatches taped to my walls for over a year now. I couldn’t make a decision. And I couldn’t make myself important enough of a priority to justify the time and effort and expense of repainting. I worried that I couldn’t ever cover up the glossy dark orange-red paint on the walls. I worried I’d pick the wrong color. I didn’t know where to start.
Two weekends ago, I just started. I went into my office to file a few bills. Everything felt so dark and jumbled. I needed to reorganize and rearrange some furniture, but it was something I kept putting off, because I knew I needed to repaint. What would be the point of getting organized just to tear it all down and cover it with old bed sheets when I did finally paint? So, instead of filing, I moved all the furniture to the middle of the room and started priming the walls with a can of primer we had in the basement. I didn’t worry about picking a color. I just did it. And I’m so glad I did. I have space now. My office feels light and airy. It feels good to be in here.
And I totally picked the wrong color. The color on the swatch I chose looked like a greenish grey, and still did when they swabbed some paint from the can on the lid, but on the walls, it’s blue (the swatch in the room doesn’t look blue, btw, it’s not just the light in here). It’s not what I wanted, but it’s nice. It’s better than it was, and sometimes it’s okay to just get things almost right. Almost right is way better than feeling stalled and cramped in a dark, dreary room.
I still have to hang pictures, but I want to make sure I like the layout of everything before I do.
Here are a few of my favorite touches:
Wall decal by Shanna Murray.
I can’t get over how much it looks like it’s been hand painted! I ordered it for our living room, but never quite got around to putting it up, so I commandeered it for my office.
Before & After:
I keep my office/shipping/art supplies in an old dresser. It was scratched and dark, so I painted it with leftover wall paint. Because it blends in, I feel like I have a little more open space than I actually do.
I didn’t like the original knobs, so I refitted it with mismatched knobs I’d salvaged from our bathroom remodel and some cabinets in the basement.
The hanging lamp over the dresser came with the house and used to be in our bathroom. It looked absurd in there – a big gold and white hanging lamp right over the toilet. I rewired it, and cleaned it up a little.
I love the details of it. It’s very thick frosted glass and heavy cast metal, and it has to be older than me. It’s kitschy, but I think it’s the good kind of kitsch. I’m glad we didn’t get rid of it when we redid the bathroom.
I also saved the switch plate from our old bathroom. It has dogwood flowers on it, and it’s so much prettier than the plain white plastic ones we have in the rest of the house.
I like to outline story ideas I’m brainstorming on big sheets of paper I tape to the walls, but since I just painted and don’t want to put tape on the walls anymore, I painted the door and the closet doors with chalkboard paint. I have to wait three more days before I can write on them (according to the directions on the paint can), and I’m having such a hard time being patient!
It did take me the better part of a week to do everything. But I feel like I have a brand new room, and the only thing I bought was paint.
And this:
It’s a vintage paint-by-number painting I found at Trendy Bindi on Etsy. I think it’s probably about the same age as our house and the lamp, and of course, I love the subject.

An Interview with Author Alicia Bessette



Alicia Bessette and I share the same editor, the same nickname, and similar taste in dog names. I’m also a big fan of Quest for Kindness, the blog Alicia shares with her husband, Matthew Quick.


So, of course, I was absolutely thrilled to read Alicia’s debut novel, Simply From Scratch. It’s the sweet and soulful story of Zell, a young woman who copes with the death of her husband by entering a baking contest. Gladys Knight, goopy cooking messes, a pirate dog, a chainsaw artist, a precocious neighbor, a dessert made with chocolate and goat cheese, and a story about starting life all over again – what’s not to love?


And, because I love interviews, Alicia was so kind to answer some of my questions!


1. What inspired Simply From Scratch?

In my hometown of Holden, Massachusetts, I was hired at a small, community-centered newspaper (The Landmark) soon after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans. For months, my colleagues and I wrote feature stories about the people in our area of New England who traveled to New Orleans to help rebuild its churches, schools, and libraries.


Long after I wrote about these volunteers, their words and experiences replayed in my mind. I knew I wasn’t done writing about them.

Eventually, the novelists’ question came to mind: What if? What if one of those volunteers didn’t make it home to Massachusetts? Characters were born, and my debut novel grew from there.


2. Is the town of Wippamunk inspired by any specific place?

Wippamunk shares many physical characteristics with the real-life town of Holden, Massachusetts, my hometown. Personality-wise, I’d say Wippamunk is similar to Rutland, Massachusetts, Holden’s neighbor to the north. I covered Rutland during my reporting stint at The Landmark. The people there seem connected both to the land and to each other, much more so than other places I’ve lived.

However, in some ways Wippamunk is an ideal. Small towns aren’t always as loving as Wippamunk is. The people who live in a community, regardless of its size, determine whether it’s an unwelcoming place, or an inviting, homey one.


3. How did you decide on the recipe to include in the book?


Baking does not come easily to me! When my fantastic editor (Erika Imranyi at Dutton) suggested I include Zell and Ingrid’s recipe in the pages of SIMPLY FROM SCRATCH, I thought, how in the world am I going to do that? Answer: I followed the example of my characters and headed to the kitchen for some experimental baking.

I started out by listing a few of my very favorite things to eat — cheese, fruit, chocolate — and went from there. Trial and error, baby.


4. Simply From Scratch is infused with music. Did you listen to Gladys while you were writing?


Actually, I listened to Gladys Knight and the Pips exclusively while writing Simply From Scratch. When heard from the context of widowhood, their breakup songs take on a particular poignancy and a new layer of meaning and heartbreak.

If you’re interested in the connection between music and the writing process, please feel free to check out my recent guest post at the Divining Wand.

5. You write music as well. Is the process for writing a song different than writing a book? Are their similarities?

Beyond weekly piano lessons when I was a kid and singing madrigals in high school, I never really studied music. So when I sit down to write a song, I depend on inspiration, intuition, and that elusive muse.

By contrast, during the process of writing a book, I’m much more analytical, more intellectually aware. The writing choices I make are more purposeful than the music choices I make.

6. Your husband, Matthew Quick, is also a writer. What’s it like having two writers in the family? Have you had to navigate having deadlines at the same time?

Right now, Matt is editing his third book, and I’m in the thick of promotional activities for Simply From Scratch. So our lives are pretty hectic. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love that Matt and I are both writers. We understand each other so well, and we read and edit each others’ work. It’s a beautiful partnership.


7. Obviously, through Matthew, you had an insider perspective on what to expect when publishing a novel, but was there anything about the process that surprised you?


A debut author usually anticipates publication day for a year or more. You might imagine that, on that magical day, you’ll open your front door to great celebration: a marching band, acrobats, reporters, an airplane sky-writing the title of your book overhead.

On publication day, I gathered my entire family together to find my book in the bookstore. My sister and her kids piled into their minivan, and my dad left work early; there were so many of us that we took three separate cars. In the parking lot we grouped together and Matt videotaped us on his phone. We marched into the bookstore …. and couldn’t find a single copy of Simply From Scratch on the shelves. In fact, the bookstore hadn’t even heard of it. That was a surprise …. a bummer of a surprise, unfortunately!

What I learned: To survive the publishing process, you have to have a very healthy sense of humor. Also, it helps to find that balance between taking yourself seriously, but not too seriously.

Thankfully, having seen Matt experience two publication days, I knew that my own wouldn’t be accompanied by overwhelming fanfare. I was able to keep a fairly level head and realistic expectations, and I think that, as a result, I avoided that post-publication depression that many authors suffer.

Matt and I try to celebrate every step in the publication process, and mark every positive occasion. We try to keep it light.


Follow Alicia on Twitter, and Facebook, and check out an excerpt from Simply From Scratch!

Thunderbolts and lightning!

We had a bit of a storm last night. Flashes of lightning and low rumblings of thunder. Argo has no issue with storms. He’ll snore away blissfully during gail force winds and thunder that makes the windows rattle. I’ve never noticed Stella being particularly afraid of storms either, but something about the one last night did not make her a happy camper.
Stella usually sleeps on the floor with her head under the bed, but when I looked down to check on her last night, all I saw was her tail. She had crawled completely under the bed and when we tried to coax her out, we realized she was stuck. So stuck that J had to actually lift the bed up to give her room to get out.
After that, the no dogs on the bed rule was broken, and Stella spent the next hour or so cuddled up next to J until the storm stopped. I wish there were a way to talk her through her fears, but at least we can be there to give her good hugs and rescue her when she gets stuck.

Virtual Book Tour, Contests, and all sorts of random links

  • Well, I’m touring again! Only, this time, I’m touring from the comfort of my office, while typing away at my next project and chilling out with my dogs. Check out my virtual tour schedule at the end of this post, and take a look at all the other authors on virtual tour this month. The tour is a mix of interviews, guest blogs, reviews and writing advice with a few giveaways sprinkled in for good measure.
  • I’m also hosting a contest at I’m Not Obsessed today and tomorrow. You can enter to win a signed copy of STAY, a copy of the audio book, and some amazing eco-friendly dog products from GoodThingsGreenThings.com (if you don’t have a dog, they’d make a great gift for a friend or local dog shelter).
  • I watched every single episode of Veronica Mars on Netflix and am now going through withdrawal. It was so damn good! How was I not watching it while it was on? Also, is it weird that I want Keith Mars to adopt me? Tweet @wbpictures about a #veronicamarsmovie if you share my addiction and maybe we can convince them to pull a Firefly.
  • I had coffee with fellow Rochester writer Peter Lovenheim last week, which I think completely flies in the face of this Hollywood Elsewhere post about Rochester. And I can’t help but feel sorry for Jeffery Wells, because I have the sneaking suspicion that no one took him to Wegmans on his visit to Rochester.
  • I am writing for Tiny Tangents, a blog about writing and things that distract us from writing, with Corinne Bowen, Ben Boudreau, NPW and Sarah Jio. Check it out.
  • I would love advice on energy boosting activities & foods. I swear, by 4PM I’m ready for bed these days. Hibernation starting early?
Here’s my tour schedule!

Tuesday, September 7 Guest blogging and book giveaway at Night Owl Reviews

Wednesday, September 8 Interviewed at Literarily Speaking

Thursday, September 9 Interviewed at Blogcritics

Friday, September 10 Interviewed at Beyond the Books

Monday, September 13 Book reviewed at Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews

Tuesday, September 14 Book reviewed at Always With a Book

Wednesday, September 15 Book reviewed at The Journey Back Interviewed at As the Pages Turn

Thursday, September 16 Book reviewed at Teresa’s Reading Corner

Friday, September 17 Interviewed at Pump Up Your Book Interviewed at Examiner

Monday, September 20 Book reviewed by Book Reviews by Buuklvr81

Tuesday, September 21 Book reviewed at Life in Review

Wednesday, September 22 Guest blogging at Thoughts in Progress

Thursday, September 23 Book reviewed at Reading at the Beach

Friday, September 24 Interviewed at The Writer’s Life Book Reviewed at A Book Lover

Monday, September 27 Book reviewed at Colloquium

Tuesday, September 28 Book reviewed at Lit and Life

Wednesday, September 29 Book reviewed at A Cozy Reader’s Corner Reviews Book reviewed at 4 the Love of Books

Thursday, September 30 Book Reviewed at The Cajun Book Lady Book reviewed at Ohio Girl Talks Book reviewed at Pump Up Your Book

My oldest friends

On the plane back from Seattle earlier this summer, I read THE ONE THAT I WANT by Allison Winn Scotch (it’s wonderful, go order it, I’ll wait. . . ). There’s a line in the book where the main character talks about how she and her friends from high school “raised each other.” I read that line and spent the next twenty minutes fighting back tears, because it was such a perfect way to talk about that kind of friendship, and it reminded me of my friends from high school.
Last weekend, I had a reading in Poughkeepsie at the Maple Grove Restoration. I drove down on Saturday, and went to the Dutchess County Fair with 2 out of 3 of the Robs, and K. We met up with a friend we hadn’t seen in seventeen years (when did we get so old that this is even possible?) and walked around looking at pigs and prize chickens, eating maple sugar cotton candy, and catching up. And even though we were still an hour away from where we grew up, it was like being home in all the good ways and none of the bad. It was hard to leave when it was over.
The reading on Sunday was wonderful. Daphne Uviller and Amitava Kumar read too. It was great to have the opportunity to hear other writers talk about their process – what sparks an idea, why they can’t let it go. And I got to look up from reading and see so many familiar faces (including one who lives in Oklahoma and surprised us all!).
After the reading, we went out to dinner. We were talking and laughing and telling old jokes, and I had a moment where I looked at all of them and thought, these are the people who raised me. They are my oldest friends. I take after them. I grew up with them. I got my strange sense of humor from Tom and the Robs and the other guys in our group. I laugh with reckless abandon, because my friend S always has and it’s beautiful. I’ve learned so many things about compassion from K.
They’ve known me as long as I’ve known myself. I fell on my face in front of them, time and time again — the way you do when you’re growing up — and they love me anyway, or maybe even because of it. We went through the growing pains and the bad hair and the bad clothes and the bad teachers and the broken hearts together. And for the most part, if you don’t count things like the time one of the Robs threw me in the dumpster behind the school (because I don’t, you know, not really. . . or at least not very much), we were pretty kind and careful with each other. I am so thankful that I got to grow up with all of them and that I still have them in my life. And I’m so touched that they came out to support me.
Also, if you’re wondering, yes, that brave soul to the far right is, indeed, the lovely and amazing Noelle Tannenbaum. She’s now an honorary Somers grad, whether she likes it or not. It was so much fun to hang out with her again! You know, hers is the first personal blog I ever started reading, by the way, which makes her my oldest blog friend.
So, basically, I had a wonderful, wonderful weekend, and now I miss everyone like crazy and need to start planning my next trip. Also, since I was away, my canine entourage is a little more intense again. I need to go now so I can sit perfectly still on the floor next to Stella while she considers eating.

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