Friday, July 30, 2010

How to write a follow-up to a widely praised debut novel...

... with patience!

This week, I visited with a terrific Richmond book club (pictured here). Thanks to Wendi and Dan for hosting. And thank you to (pictured from left) Katherine, Karla, Wendi, Lloyd, Sherry, Kim, Tracy, Susan and Karen for great questions and enthusiasm. I had a wonderful time! (That's me fifth from the left.)

And last night, I read and spoke at the Hopewell Library. I had the best time talking with the audience and the friends of the library, who presented me with a wonderful beautiful pen and a bag of great library swag. Thank you!

Last night, Chris Wiegard, the librarian, asked, "Do you feel pressure writing the second book?"
Ironically, for the last couple months, I've been struggling with this second book. Just last night on the way to the event, I was trying to decide if I should right the new ending to my second novel (or attempt it) or if I should take a few days off and then start at the beginning of the book to make sure the ending is dead-on and has more convergence, pulling together all the threads from earlier chapters. I am feeling a little panicked because I am seriously on the 22nd draft of this novel. SERIOUSLY. I do not want to follow up The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors with anything that will disappoint. I don't want to write a dud. I have to keep in mind what my audience will be expecting, but I also have to be true to myself and my vision and voice. Fortunately, I think these components are in league with each other.

It's very difficult writing this second book. I thought I was finished with a solid book (at one point)--only to realize that the pacing and plot were lacking.

Visiting with libraries, bookstores, and book clubs, I know that my characters have struck a chord with readers. The characters mean the world to me! I still get choked up talking about them. I don't want my second book to achieve any less: by my standards or by readers'.

*On a very different and very personal note, my best friend from 2nd to 1oth grade came to the reading last night. Mari "Brubaker" is all grown up with a teenage daughter of her own. It was wonderful to see her. She sees herself in The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors. I see her there too. I'm so glad that she came to the event. Thanks, Mari, and thank you for the wonderful card.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Win a free autographed book!

My son the pirate drew a name, and the winner of a signed book is Caroline. My silly pirate giveaway comes to a close. Congrats, Caroline!!!!

*I'll draw names from the first ten people who comment on this post and send you an autographed copy of The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors. Tell me whether you like pirates, wenches, pirate lore... Why or why not? Do you like Johnny Depp? I do...

Dear Readers,

After the experience of seeing my book in a bookstore and having the opportunity to share it with my son and my husband, the GREATEST thing about releasing a book into the wild is the response I get from you!

Recently, a reader emailed me to say how much she wanted to hate the character Patty-Cake, but that she couldn't hate her. I emailed back: "When I wrote her, I wanted to hate her too, but I couldn't either. She's a strong woman who knows what she wants."

It's incredible that readers (you) are connecting with the characters inhabiting my head, making their way onto the page. A big huge THANK YOU to all the readers and bloggers who continue to reach out to me.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

Feeling the need to share: excerpt from Conversations with Dead People

“There’s too many lambs in the world. They’re being slaughtered. But not us.” He made a fist. “We’re going to live.” He shot his lean arm toward the ceiling, toward the shimmering light that seemed to cascade from the chandelier when they looked at it straight on.

“Come to Chelsea. Meet me in Chelsea.”

“What’s in Chelsea?”

“The poets and the queers.”

Gloria looked wide-eyed at him.

“I’m going to meet Jack Kerouac.”

“Who’s he?”

“You’re kidding.” Across the table, they held hands.

She shook her head that she was not.

“He’s a man’s man. He’s the kind of man who needs me but doesn’t know it yet. Look at me,” Sheff said, fanning himself with Gloria’s notebook. “I’m hot all over now.”

Gloria laughed. “Do you really want to meet in Chelsea?”

“Why not? I’m supposed to meet this guy Sal who happens to look like the famous Sal Mineo. I’m supposed to meet Sal at the Chelsea Hotel which happens to be where Dylan Thomas died. I’m Sal’s muse or something. Sal is a writer. I doubt that Sal is his real name. He’s no Sal Paradise or anything.”

“Who’s Sal Paradise?”

“From Jack Kerouac’s book On the Road!”

“I don’t know it, but I read Madame Bovary.”

Sheff said, “I’ll loan you some books.” He leaned in and kissed her right smack on the lips. She felt flush. Sheffield Schoeffler, “the faggot menace,” sent fire through her limbs. He lit a fuse. For Gloria, it was kind of like being Erik, being stuck on that Ferris wheel beneath a black sky when all of the sudden, the world moved again. Life resumed, and Gloria was oh so grateful for that jolt.

Sheff sighed deeply. With his chin resting in his palm, he said, “You know, I have to be amorous of girls to shake this place from my heels.”

“I know.”

He took Gloria’s hand in his and gently parting her fingers, kissed her palm, pressing it to his lips. His breath was warm on her hand. “I should write a poem about you.”

“I’d like that.” And Gloria loved him. She understood that love is not about penises or having babies. It’s about poetry and lines that weave and hold lives and skin together.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Richmond Young Writers

I am inspired by the young writers I had the privilege to work with this past Thursday afternoon. Sometimes, it's too easy to overlook the talent and passion that young people have--and not just for video games--but for storytelling. I was blown away by the talent these folks possessed and by how much they wanted to write! The writers ranged in age from elementary school to high school, and Jessica (16) has completed her first novel and is currently submitting it to agents! Thanks to Valley Haggard and thanks to Ward at Chop Suey Books, and most importantly thanks to Bean (Hannah), Carla Adams (Kaavya), Jessica, Henry, Ryan, Maddie, Chico, Eli and Emily. Thanks again, Richmond's young writers!