Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Writer's Thanksgiving Dinner: Jane Austen's Bringing the Madeira

Jane Austen, waiting for me to pass the wine

The other day, while driving and listening to NPR, I had the good fortune to come across the following story. Miles Hoffman, the music commentator, was answering the question about which famous composers he'd like to have around his Thankgiving table. (The only stipulation was that they had to be playing piano in the afterlife.)

Can you guess which famous musical dudes Hoffman chose? If you answered Bach, Mendelssohn, Berlioz, and Bloch you need to zoom on over to the Hoffman homestead to hobnob and help yourself to some cranberry sauce. (You can listen to the broadcast here.)

Got me to thinking. Which writers (at their heavenly desks) would I like to have around my Thanksgiving table? I love Jane Austen, and figure she'd be a lot of snarky fun. Robert Burns would be a good sport, especially if he brought along a bottle or two of Scotch. Everybody who knows me also knows I have a thing for Shakespeare. He'd be on for a sonnet or several.

Who else do you think should join the fun?
(I'm light on Americans, and it IS their holiday. Any recommendations?

[Thanks, everyone, for kind comments on my previous post. To all my faithful readers and commenters: I will be raising a glass to you this Thanksgiving, grateful that you are all a part of my life.]

Friday, November 11, 2011

What Do You Do When The Blogging Well Runs Dry?

There is a tide in the affairs of, well, everything. Shakespeare knew it; the writer of Ecclesiastes knew it. (What would he write now? "A time to tweet and a time to stay silent?") And now I know it. To run a good blog takes time, energy, and creativity. God only knows how the post-a-day bloggers do it!!

These days, I'm pretty much running on empty--at least with ideas on what to blog about. It doesn't help that I am spending every waking moment driving my son to theater rehearsals, reading 145 middle grade novels, and trying to finish the first draft of my WIP. The middle grade novels get reviewed on Middle Grade Mafioso, other ideas get lined up for Project Mayhem, and The Year of Writing Dangerously thrashes/faffs about looking for direction.

This may be how it's supposed to be at this stage of my writing life. I have no "I have an agent" stories to make a hullabaloo about; no tales to tell of the road to publication. And other writers do a much better job writing about the craft of writing (Janice Hardy, anyone?)

So I'm pulling up the drawbridge for a while, hoping that if I don't HAVE TO write something, inspiration will arrive. I'll still be a Mafioso--so pop on over there if you miss me.

Have you ever felt your blogging well run dry? What did you do: walk away or retool?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Win a Scrumptilicious Copy of The Cookiepedia!

I must be one of the luckiest writers alive. Remember my post about Stacy Adimando's book signing, where attendees got beer, books, and cookies? Well, the good folks at Quirk Books came upon this, and now I have my very own copy of The Cookiepedia:Mixing, Baking, and Reinventing the Classics.

O joy! O gustatory rapture! I am spending a happy afternoon drooling over Stacie's recipes for Cardamon Cookies and Snickerdoodles, along with photographer Tara Striano's mouthwatering portraits of Thin Mints and Poppy Seed Squares. Every writer should have The Cookiepedia to hand, because even a Muse gets a bit peckish at times.

Here's where one good turn deserves another: Comment or Tweet to @MGMafioso, introducing me to your favorite cookie (or "biscuit") and I'll enter you in a drawing for your very own copy of The Cookiepedia. Commenting AND Tweeting wins you extra sprinkles!! (International commenters and tweeters welcome--there's a nifty conversion chart at the back!)

I love this quote at the beginning of The Cookiepedia:
"Think what a better world it would be if we all, the whole world, had cookies and milk about three o'clock every afternoon and then lay down on our blankets for a nap."
                                                                                     - Robert Fulghum

Friday, November 4, 2011

I'm Talking About Guy Fawkes...

Tomorrow is Guy Fawkes' Day in England... and I'm using poor old Guy as my lead-in to a discussion about historical middle grade novels over at PROJECT MAYHEM. Come, set off a couple of firecrackers, and join in!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Rediscovering A Great Writer: Beth Kephart

My oldest son was born in 1996 at 24 weeks' gestation, weighing only 1 pound and six ounces. (He is truly a miracle, which I have to remind myself whenever I'm yelling at him to clean his room.) My wife and I wrote a book about his birth and his first couple of years, a book which is still on our computer drive. I remember going to a writing conference and being told by an editor that books about kids/babies having a hard time or with "problems" just didn't sell. (Which, of course, is rubbish--but I wasn't as confident of my opinions in those days.)

As a result, I set out to find non-fiction books about non-typical children, and one of the books I found and loved was called A Slant of Sun by a writer named Beth Kephart. Here's what it says on Amazon about this book:

Named a Best Book of the Year by Salon magazine and The Philadelphia Inquirer, A Slant of Sun was praised for its incandescent prose about the experience of loving a child who brings tremendous frustration and incalculable rewards and for its extraordinary resonance. Like Operating Instructions and The Liars' Club, A Slant of Sun is a contemporary classic.

Nearly one in five children grow up facing a developmental or behavioral challenge, and like them, Beth Kephart's son, Jeremy, showed early signs of being different: language eluded him, he preferred playing alone to an afternoon on the jungle gym. Doctors diagnosed Jeremy with a mild form of autism called Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. A Slant of Sun is a passionate memoir about how Kephart, guided by the twin tools of intuition and imagination, helped lead her son toward wholeness. Pulsing with the questions, "Is normal possible? Definable?" A Slant of Sun speaks to everyone not just parents of the redemptive power of love.
"Incandescent prose." When I read this book, I remember knowing I was in the hands of a great writer.

But time intervened, and I lost track of Beth Kephart. Recently, however, I was doing something on this great internet of ours when her name popped up. Was this the same writer? What had she been up to the past 12 years?

It turns out that Beth Kephart has written several YA novels, including one called You Are My Only.

She has a blog where her rich writing and photography shine. It's on my sidebar now, and I urge you to check her out. I promise you will not be disappointed.