Breast Cancer Awareness month and big news...

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Hello everyone--

Well, here I am, writing to you from paradise. My last day in paradise, as a matter of fact. Even as I write this, I'm packing up my suitcase and getting ready to fly out. I'll be home sweet home in no time. Back to gray skies and rain that doesn't take your eye out. :) No beaches, no hula dancing...

It's been a month of changes for me, I must say. First of all, I had a birthday this week (a fun time was had by all--mai tais in the tiki port with girlfriends), and it was a really significant birthday. I have officially outlived my mother. It makes for a lot of thoughts and memories and fears. I'm sure it's a big part of what led into the other big change for this month. I've talked about it before on the blog--in fact, I was inspired by this blog to really DO something--and I'm sure that none of you will be surprised to find that my BIG NEWS is tied to October, which is breast cancer awareness month. Those of you who guessed--right on!

I'm totally honest when I say that the conversation on this blog inspired me to take action. As you all know, Firefly Lane was an intensely personal book for me, and it has achieved a success that I never even dared to dream for. That, combined with our conversations over the past year, really showed me that this is my year. I wanted all this great talk of ours to convert into action as well. I wanted to give back in an appreciable way. I know we all support each other and our friends, but I thought maybe there was a way to go bigger than that. A way to bring us together for a truly important cause.

With that hope in mind, I have started a new project. Go to on October 1st and see what it's all about. I don't want to tell you--I'd rather you see it. I can't wait to hear what you all think. I know you'll have LOTS of thoughts and opinions. That's what I adore about this blog.

You are the very first people I'm telling about this because, really, you guys helped make it happen.

Anyway, I'm nervous and hopeful that you like it. :) Let me know.

Now I'm off for the mainland. I'll return with birthday photos. I promise.

aloha for now,


Check out this great Youtube video from Seattle

Friday, September 25, 2009

Something new on the way

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Aloha everyone!

Well, here we are the end of the summer. It has been glorious in Seattle this year, with more golden sunshine than I can remember in ages. And now, as you know, I'm in my beloved Hawaiian Islands; I came over to speak to a big crowd of aspiring writers. As I've said before, it is so inspiring to me to talk to people who are just embarking on this journey. It takes such courage and passion to try something new. I always come away with some resolution of my own--to work harder or play harder or try something that scares me.

Surprisingly, this seems to be a year of changes for me. As you know, Firefly Lane was my first novel to roll over into trade; I discovered that I love blogging; I dared to venture into with a fansite and have found it to be a lot of fun; and my upcoming novel, Winter Garden is a real departure for me. But that's not all.
This month, I am involved in perhaps the biggest change--something brand new and exciting, and it all started with this blog. For the past few months, I've been working hard behind the scenes to put together a new program for all of us who stay connected on this blog. You inspired me. I can't yet tell you what it is (although you can guess if you want, and I'll tell you if you're getting warm). What I can say is this: our conversations in the past year have inspired me to tackled a project that I've wanted to do for a long time, and honestly, I think I was afraid to go it alone. But I have--hopefully--figured out a way to not be alone, to bring you all with me. So, thank you!

And that's all I'm going to say for now. :) How wicked of me, huh? Picture me grinning. It will all be revealed on the website on October 1. I hope you'll all check in and tell me what you think. Just remember, Fireflies, we're in this together.

Other than that, not much is going on over here in paradise. I got my critique partner's take on the first 300 pages of my book for 2011. Sigh. And I had thought it was pretty good. Turns out it was--pretty good. But not good enough. So I've been doing the hardest part of writing--thinking. Trying to work out the problems in the story and characterizations. It makes me a dang poor conversationalist at the dinner table. :) Thank goodness I can go to the beach to think. In a few days, though, I'll be back in Seattle. I can honestly say that I hope it's raining and gray. It's always easier to dive into work when the beach isn't calling my name...

What have you all been doing this summer? Like me, you've no doubt been reading voraciously. I've read The Help by Kathryn Stockett (loved loved loved it), The Book Thief (great idea, really different--a World War II novel narrated by Death), The Lost Symbol (should definitely satisfy Da Vinci fans), and a BUNCH of non fiction research for the w-i-p. (I think that's internet-speak for work in progress). Do you all have any more recommendations for me? And how about movies? I am totally out of the loop. I went to a ton in August, but I've missed everything since. I did LOVE District 9 and I can't wait to see Inglorious Basterds.

Thankfully, our fall TV line up is beginning. I've already been sucked in to Survivor and The Biggest Loser. I'm looking forward to Flash Forward and Fringe. Don't quite know how I feel about Ellen on Idol. What do you guys think?

Well, that's all the news that's fit to print right now. See you here on October 1! I can't wait to hear what you think of my new plan...



ps: the flowers are Plumeria---a gorgeous, scented flower that is used in lei making here in Hawaii. One of my favorites.

Welcome Jacquelyn Mitchard to our e-gathering...

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Aloha friends---

Well, I just got home from the fabulous Hawaii Writer's conference, and what a marvelous time I had. I met some really fun, amazingly talented writers, and one of the best of them was Jacquelyn Mitchard. I know you all know her name, and I could literally go on and on about how talented she is, but I thought it would be so much more fun to hear her speak for herself. We are so fortunate that she has taken some time out of her busy, crazy schedule to pop on by and tell us a little bit about her new book, No Time to Wave Goodbye. I can tell you that I've been lucky to read an early copy and you won't be disappointed if you pick it up. The book is available for sale on September 15.

So, without further ado, here is a quick note to the fireflies from Jacquelyn Mitchard:

How The West Side Stories Came to Be

When is a series not a series?
The easy answer is … when I write it. But the real answer is more complicated.
I was scared to death to write a “sequel” to The Deep End of the Ocean. Not only is it my best-known book (It still can reduce me near to tears when someone says, “I loved your book! It’s been a while now, hasn’t it? Haven’t you been feeling inspired?”) but the first book for the Oprah Winfrey Book Club. Anything I wrote that had remotely to do with the Cappadora family would instantly be suspect. Anything I wrote would be seen as desperate as best, meretricious at worst.
What I had was a great idea I could never use.
And so I wrote another novel.
It was pretty awful.
In fact, you’ll never see it without x-treme surgical corrections.
Finally, with trembling, I did what my heart told me and tromped off into the wilderness of what I quickly realized would not be one story that would feature the Cappadoras – at least in some capacity, great or small – but perhaps more than one. Maybe three. Maybe five.
I don’t know now.
And I didn’t know when I began to write No Time to Wave Goodbye, which is not really a sequel in that it does not take up where The Deep End of the Ocean left off and continue the story – but takes place, among the same people and some new ones – thirteen years later in time.
I liked that part for the same reasons I like soap operas (which this story is not). I was meeting the first characters I ever created in real time – where they would be now – with cell phones and iPods and streamlined video cameras.
I liked “age progressing” the Cappadoras so much that you’ll see at least a couple of them in the novel I’m writing now. Far more accomplished writers than I (Louise Erdrich and William Faulkner, to whom I’m not comparing myself) have written books that didn’t so much continue the history of one or two people but dipped into a familiar universe for the next story.
Despite all that elaborate rationale (thought out as much to help me sleep as to explain myself to readers) plenty of people would still think that a “sequel” for a writer is the last refuge of a scoundrel.
At least one already has.
I envisioned review headlines along these lines: Sequel to Deep End’not so deep and Mitchard shouldn’t have gone back to the water ….
Not that real writers, in creative throes, ever really think about what the reaction to a story will be.
I did know that No Time to Wave Goodbye was a good story.
I did know that it could be read and enjoyed on its own, by people who’d never heard of the Cappadoras in another context. It begins a series of new events, not a new take on old ones. The struggles of the past are uneasily resolved. The struggles of the present are the last thing anyone expects.
What I learned from No Time To Wave Goodbye (after the starred review in Publisher’s Weekly, which, of course, I wasn’t waiting for, although while reading it, I felt a strand of muscle in my shoulder relax for the first time in a year) was I could do what I wanted – with dignity.
I also had the time of my life, writing-wise. How vital these ancient characters still were. How much real estate they still claimed in this writer’s mind and heart. I understand now why people write series. They become so involved with the characters – if the characters are dimensional enough to bear the weight and not just a freight train for a ton of plot – that they want to find out what comes next.
My pal, the great mystery writer Karin Slaughter, says that her rogue detective, Lena (whose given name is Selena and who grieves ever day for many things, among them the death of her twin sister, Sylvia) “makes bad decisions.” When Karin lets that character – and it’s true, as a reader, you either want to smack Lena or hug her – make lousy, self-destructive decisions, she says she had to let the other two characters in her Grant Count series have a passionate husband-and-wife interlude, so that she (Karin) won’t be depressed.
Spending a week last summer, teaching with Karin, I could almost feel the allure of that. I’m not a mystery writer, although my stories are dramas that don’t lack for suspense. But maybe there is something else, not a series exactly, that will let me feel that way as a writer while keeping your attention, gentle reader.
And so, perhaps not so surprisingly, my novel to be published in 2010 will turn some familiar faces toward new complexities. But the most important face of all, that of a young woman named Frances Foley, is one you’ve never seen. I guarantee that you’ll remember it. Turns out, I have a crush on my own Yokapanowtha County -- the Italian neighborhood at Taylor and Racine Streets and the exurbs beyond.
That this was a revelation to me is proof of how little we know about ourselves and why writing is the process of the inside of us talking to the outside – even at my advanced age.
In fact, it wasn’t long ago that I remembered how The Deep End of the Ocean started with a crush.
I thought it was a crush on a boy.
Back when I was a young widow with four young kids, pushing 40 and ever so alone, I began to dream at night of my high-school sweetheart, taking refuge in the endless summer nights we shared, lying on a quilt on the hood of his grandpa’s Bonneville, smoking and stroking skin that would never be so soft again.
My honey and I were plumbers’ children, but still privilege. While we had to work, it was only after school. Before our dates, we girls dropped by the cologne counter at Marshall Fields – as one of my pals put it, “renting to own” our cosmetics. Four guys once serenaded me under the window of our apartment, singing “Jackie” instead of “My Girl” in the refrain.
Yet, there were stains on that place and time, just as there were for Francie Nolan in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. A mile from our apartment, a friend parked his car on the railroad tracks until eastbound dragged him and his 15-year-old girlfriend away. She was already dead, from an overdose. Mr. Curry beat his wife so badly he put out her eye and didn’t go to jail. Our great-uncle raped my first cousin.
What I felt wasn’t really a crush on a boy, but on the past –particularly the sweet and profane world in which I grew up. When I wrote Deep End, I keened my own through the grief of another mother, Beth Cappadora. My children’s blunt suffering became the blunt suffering of Vincent Cappadora about his little brother’s kidnapping.
The book was a hit and a triumph.
I put away my west-side Chicago youth.
Or so I thought.
But the memory of those days and nights still danced from the car radio and beribboned my dreams.
Last year, I had another book ready to go – one day to be published. But I found myself writing (around the edges) about the Cappadoras. Finally, it was clear I had the answer to the question that so many readers had asked me since the publication of my first novel: What ever happened to Vincent and the rest of the Cappadoras?
Back to the beginning I went with a purpose. I rewrote and followed the strands. The book bloomed into No Time To Wave Goodbye. Not everyone who read it will have read The Deep End of the Ocean. That’s not necessary. This new story didn’t come from the previous story.
It came from that great interlaced weave of lace and chain link that is my place, my locative past. And as soon as I finished it, I wanted to go there again, because the further we get from the life we once lived, the clearer the details. Why keep that universe under lock and key?
Of course I hope readers like revisiting people who they once considered beloved – as I did. But more than that, I turn to those streets and those nights to find myself. I walk down a block of two flats, and a dog barks. A passing car trails the ribbon of a Frankie Valli song under the viaduct. Under the light in a kitchen window, a girl opens her books. Her hair is mayonnaised with Dippety-Do and wound on rollers the size of a car’s tail pipes and her princess phone is near her elbow.
I know her. I am her.
Thanks, Jackie! I wish I knew how to upload a photo of your cover--or your smiling face--but we all know that I'm techno-challenged and was lucky just to post the words. Maybe Jackie knows how to post a cover???
I'll be back in a few days with all the new news that's fit to print.
Aloha for now---

Wonderful Waikiki

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Aloha everyone!

I'm in Honolulu this weekend for the Hawaii Writer's conference. Geez, I haven't been on Waikiki beach in longer than I can remember. I can't wait to walk through the International Marketplace and have a pina colada at some swanky poolside bar. But even more than all of that, I love meeting aspiring writers and talking to them about their dreams. To be honest, they totally inspire me. As we were talking about on the blog in the past few weeks, its a powerful thing to follow a dream---especially one that as impossible to believe in as becoming a published author. But these people have all followed that dream to this little Hawaiian island, and it is just magical to be in their presence. It really reminds me of when I started (can it really be twenty years ago this month that I sold my first novel?????).

So, I'm off to meet some of the other writers who are here. Jackie Mitchard (whose wonderful new book I've already mentioned), Ann Hood (whose work I absolutely adore), Mitch Albom, Diablo Cody, Patricia Wood, Karin Slaughter, just to name a few. When I know more, I'll certainly pass it along. Wish me luck for a good hair weekend. :)

For now, though, I hope you all have a fabulous Labor Day weekend. Enjoy the last moments before school starts and life gets back to normal.


Just had to share this...

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Sometimes your own little hometown up and surprises you. I wanted to share this fun YouTube video from downtown Seattle. Hope it makes you smile.