A Dad, a Day, and a Book Giveaway

I’m writing this post on Father’s Day. To all of you dads out there—a toast to you! I live a thousand miles away from my dad, so I didn’t see him today. Instead, I talked to him on the phone and gave the requisite greetings. My younger brother, who also is a father, went there to be with him—his Father’s Day present from my sister-in-law.

The desire to be eloquent rises within me as I think about Father’s Day. But whenever I try to be what I’m not, I come off sounding phony. So, if you don’t mind, I’ll ignore that desire and just be myself.

Know what I think of when I think of my dad? I think of how he taught me to draw, how he read fairy tales to me at bedtime, and taught me to ride a bike. And every Christmas, like clockwork, I could expect the latest Stephen King novel from him.

I remember as a teen how embarrassed I was to buy feminine products at the store. If the cashier was male, I’d balk and refuse to make the purchase. But my dad had no problem buying what I needed.

“Got you some on sale,” he’d say proudly, as he plunked a bag on the kitchen table.

I remember my first car—a Hornet station wagon. (Yeah, I’m old. But it was old when I got it, so, yeah.) It had a tendency to break down on various roads. Dad would have to come get me, sometimes in the dead of winter. Dads do things like that, see.

The test of a father’s influence is when you still love something when you become an adult. My dad infused within me a love of animation, science fiction, and mysteries, fortified by the books I discovered on the bookshelves at our old house (Ray Bradbury; Isaac Asimov; Agatha Christie; Erle Stanley Gardner) and the shows we’d watch together (Doctor Who; Looney Tunes, Star Trek in various forms).

    

    

Each week, my father and I discuss books that we read or are currently reading. Right now, he’s into a series by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child.

I’m also reading a mystery:

So, though I’m not with my dad on this special day, we’re still together, sharing the love of a good mystery book.

Speaking of good books, I have one to give away: The Worst Fairy Godmother Ever! by Sarah Aronson. (Click here if you missed the interview with Sarah.)

    

The winner of The Worst Fairy Godmother Ever! is

Is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Marie of 1WriteWay!

Marie, please comment below to confirm.

While we wait for Marie, do you have a great dad story you’d like to share? Please comment below!

Small critters wishing their dads a Happy Father’s Day

P. S. Thank you, Dad, for everything. 😀

Book covers from Goodreads, with the exception of the ones photographed by L. Marie. Father’s Day image from clipartpanda.com.

Check This Out: The Worst Fairy Godmother Ever!

Today Sarah Aronson is in the hizz-ouse. She is an author, teacher, mentor, and all around awesome person. She wears a ton of hats, some I haven’t even mentioned! She’s here to talk about book 1 in her Wish List middle grade series, The Worst Fairy Godmother Ever! which was published by Scholastic with covers illustrated by Heather Burns.

      

Sarah has written these young adult novels . . .

   

. . . and is represented by Sarah Davies. Now, please give it up for Sarah!

El Space: Four quick facts about yourself?
Sarah: I am the oldest of three sisters, but was no Clotilda!
My first favorite book was The Carrot Seed. I am still an effort girl—not so much into momentum.


I met my husband when I mistook him for someone else, and before I could stop myself, kissed him on the cheek.

I am very fond of shoes! And handbags!

El Space: This book is very different from your other novels. What inspired you to write it?
Sarah: A lot of people have been asking me that. The short answer is, I wrote this for myself. For fun! The idea made me laugh. I like the idea of fairy godmothers, and I wanted to see if they still fit into my feminist mindset. When I thought about them, I realized: they didn’t do that much! And that today’s princess needed a godmother with more skills. Training was imperative!

But I also wrote it because I had come to a turning point in my writing life. Up until September 2014, I was a writer who grappled with tough topics. I went for it all—unlikable characters, themes filled with conflicts, questionable morals, provocative endings. Although I found these books grueling to write, I told myself that the work was worth it—these characters and ideas were calling me. And up until then I felt pretty good about it. I had a great agent. There were editors willing to read my next WIP. My family might have been confused about why I wrote such dark, sad books, but they supported me. 100%. I was not deterred by the mixed reception my last novel received.

That changed, when I got some bad news that had followed other bad news: the editor who loved my newest WIP—a story I had taken two years to write—could not get it past the acquisitions committee. The novel needed to go in a drawer. I began to doubt myself. I don’t know a writer who hasn’t experienced doubt and fear, and yet, when it happened to me, I felt unprepared. I wondered if perhaps my writing career was coming to a close.

Lucky for me, I was at the Highlights Whole Novel Workshop, and I was surrounded by friends. I also had the best kind of work to do—writers to counsel—writers who trusted me to help them work on their novels. I had to get over myself fast. I had to stop worrying about my ego. Product. News. All those obstacles. I had to embrace creativity the way I had when I first started writing.

So right there, I gave myself a challenge: For the next six months, I was going to PLAY. I was going to reclaim my intuitive voice. I wasn’t going to worry at all about finishing anything.

My only goal was to work on projects that made me happy—books that my ego had convinced me I couldn’t/shouldn’t write: picture books, humor, essays, an adult novel, poetry, and most important, my peach sorbet: a chapter book about a very bad fairy godmother. For six months, I was going to write fast. I was not going to edit myself. I was going to focus on accessing my subconscious with drawing and writing and listening to new music and having fun. If I liked an idea, I was going to try it. I was going to eat dessert first. In other words: think less. Smile more.

In my newsletter, i wrote about this a lot. How freeing it was. How happy I felt to be writing for the sake of story and nothing else.

When I was done, I had written a lot of terrible manuscripts. But some held promise. I dipped back into the revision cave. When i was done, The Worst Fairy Godmother Ever sold. So did a picture book biography about Rube Goldberg. And I was once again a writer with a lot of energy and ideas.

El Space: Please tell us about the girlgoyles—what they are, and how you came up with them.
Sarah: The girlgoyles came from a great moment of inspiration. Isabelle’s safe space—her cozy spot—is up at the top of Grandmomma’s tower. I pictured that tower like the churches of France and England—with ornate architecture. And gargoyles. Of course, this was a world of all women and girls. I couldn’t believe it—they weren’t gargoyles. They were girlgoyles!!! Even they don’t talk—they can’t, they’re made of rock—they are Isabelle’s friends. They’re really good listeners.

   
Illustrations by Heather Burns

El Space: How is Isabelle, your fairy godmother protagonist, like you? Different from you?
Sarah: Oh, my mom would love to answer this one!!! But since she’s not here, I’ll tell you: I was not the best student. I still have a hard time paying attention and I never read the fine print. I learn more by doing. Just like Isabelle, I can be a bit impulsive. And just like Nora, I can take things WAY too seriously!

El Space: In a Psychology Today article, “Why We All Need a Fairy Godmother,” the author gave some characteristics for the ideal fairy godmother:

The fairy godmother (or “guidemother”—or, for that matter,“guidefather”) that I have in mind here is one that would encompass a broad array of caring, nurturant qualities: such as empathy, compassion, understanding, trustworthiness, and respect.

I couldn’t help thinking of the list on the synopsis for your book. Why do you think fairy godmothers are such nurturing icons in literature?
Sarah: In theory, I think we all love the idea of a fairy godmother, a nurturing character that makes us happy and wants nothing else in return. But the truth is, there is nothing more satisfying than making the world better! Already, I have spoken to readers who want to be real-life fairy godmothers. I made a Wish Wall for families and classrooms who want to establish “Be a Fairy Godmother” programs.


I believe that today’s fairy godmother needs compassion and kindness, but also gusto! A big, big heart is essential, too. When you think about it, it’s sort of like writing a book!

El Space: What do you hope your readers will take away from this book?
Sarah: First, I hope they laugh! I laughed a lot writing it. But to be serious, I hope they’re excited about sharing the sparkle and helping each other!!! Today’s world needs fairy godmothers. Empathy makes us all happily ever after. Right?

El Space: Yup! What will you work on next?
Sarah: Well, we just released the cover of book two, Keep Calm and Sparkle On! I’m getting ready to revise book three, and book four is not far away. I’ve also got a picture book biography to finish and a brand new peach sorbet to play with. For now, that’s a secret!

Thank you, Sarah, for being such an inspiring guest!

Want to find Sarah online? Check out her website, Facebook, Twitter.

The Worst Fairy Godmother Ever! can be found at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Indiebound.

But I will be a fairy godmother to one of you! Poof! You’ll find a copy of The Worst Fairy Godmother Ever! at your home! But first, you have to comment to be entered in the drawing! Winner to be announced on June 19.

Lippy Lulu and Kirstea are excited about Sarah’s series. They’re wondering how they can get a fairy godmother.

Author photo and Wish List series covers courtesy of the author. Other book covers Goodreads. Fairy godmother from clipsarts.co. Magic wand from clker.com. Creativity image from weerbaarheidlimburg.nl. Peach sorbet photo from dessertbulletblog.com. Shopkins Shoppie dolls Kirstea and Lippy Lulu by Moose Toys. Photo by L. Marie.

Is Your Writing “Real”?

Before I get to the topic addressed in the title, let me take care of a little business first. To choose the winner of the $20 Amazon card for use in purchasing Believe by Sarah Aronson, I turned to the Random number generator instead of drawing a name out of a box. (If you’ve reached this blog for the first time and are totally mystified, click here to learn more about Sarah.)

believeLooks like everything’s coming up . . .

Brickhousechick!

Congratulations, Brickhousechick! Please comment below with your email address or contact me at lmarie7b(at)gmail(dot)com.

Okay, now I’ll tell you what else has been on my mind lately. First, let’s travel back in time a bit. Picture in your mind large dinosaurs roaming the earth. (Feel free to think of the movie Jurassic Park, if that helps.) I was an undergraduate then, writing genre fiction. But in my critique group, genre fiction wasn’t exactly celebrated, nor was writing books geared toward an audience of kids.

“That’s not ‘real’ writing,” several members of the critique group informed me.

I touched the paper on which my story had been printed. It felt real to me.

“Real writing is writing for adults. Anyone can write for kids.”

I heard sentiments like that expressed over and over through the years. The implication was that writing with “literary merit” (whatever that may mean) can only be found in books for adults.

I stopped writing genre fiction or stories for kids for many years and wrote novels for adults. Now, I shudder to think of the manuscripts I wrote—sad, pretentious things they were—in my quest to be “real.” Don’t get me wrong. I like adult fiction. I just know my heart was in none of those manuscripts.

Velveteen-Rabbit-and-Skin-HorseAs I ponder the question of what “real” writing is, I’m reminded of a quote from The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams (illustrated by William Nicholson). If you’ve never read that classic story, you can read it here. The Rabbit asked a question of the Skin Horse, another toy in the nursery.

“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”

I love the Skin Horse’s response:

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

Some might discount the love a child has for a book or a toy. They cite the fact that children don’t have fully formed frontal lobes or the fact that kids often like interesting mixtures of things—like peanut butter and eggs or peppermint and pickles. But how many of you readily recall books you loved as a child—books that were a formative part of your life? And judging by how well received the Toy Story movies have been, many people have fond memories of old toys.

My entire life changed when a librarian handed me a copy of A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. In case you’ve never read this blog before (I’ve written about this experience before) or have never seen this book, let me school you: this is a science fiction book for kids. A Newbery-award winning science fiction book for kids, in case you’re of the belief that writing a book for kids isn’t all that challenging, since even a ferret could be trained to write one. (If you truly believe that, I’ve got some swamp property to sell. . . . See me after this post.) I decided to join the ranks of writers then and produce the types of stories that transformed my existence as a kid.

So, what is “real” writing? That which is that life changing, life giving, life affirming. Whatever turns a light bulb on in your head, puts a spring in your step, or makes you laugh or weep with joy. Whatever you LOVE—whether it’s science fiction, fantasy, humorous contemporary fiction, historical fiction, poetry, chick lit, guy lit, graphic novels, nonfiction—that’s “real.” Because writing what you love makes it so.

Velveteen Rabbit image from word-ink.net

Check This Out: Believe

Because of an episode of Call the Midwife, the song, “Catch a Falling Star,” is going through my mind. And if you know the song, you probably have it in yours now. Anyhoo, with me on the blog today is a rising star to catch—the energized and engaging Sarah Aronson. (And yes, I know Sarah from VCFA.) Sarah is represented by Sarah Davies of the Greenhouse Literary Agency.

official_headshot

Sarah is here to talk about her latest book, Believe, which is available right now, thanks to the good folks at Carolrhoda Lab. She also is the author of Beyond Lucky and Head Case.

believeHere is the synopsis of Believe:

When Janine Collins was six years old, she was the only survivor of a suicide bombing that killed her parents and dozens of others. Media coverage instantly turned her into a symbol of hope, peace, faith–of whatever anyone wanted her to be. Now, on the ten-year anniversary of the bombing, reporters are camped outside her house, eager to revisit the story of the “Soul Survivor.”

Janine doesn’t want the fame–or the pressure–of being a walking miracle. But the news cycle isn’t the only thing standing between her and a normal life. Everyone wants something from her, expects something of her. Even her closest friends are urging her to use her name-recognition for a “worthy cause.” But that’s nothing compared to the hopes of Dave Armstrong–the man who, a decade ago, pulled Janine from the rubble. Now he’s a religious leader whose followers believe Janine has healing powers.

The scariest part? They might be right.

If she’s the Soul Survivor, what does she owe the people who believe in her? If she’s not the Soul Survivor, who is she?

What a ride, huh? I’m giving away a $20 Amazon card this time with the stipulation that you must purchase Believe. More on that later.

El Space: Hey, Sarah! Congrats on the release of Believe. Please share four quick facts about yourself.
Sarah: I never read manuals. I once won a state sanctioned power lifting contest. I could deadlift 320 pounds. When I’m drafting, I also cook a lot. I delete all my first drafts. My mottos are “Try everything,” and “They’re only words. Re-imagine!” I met my husband when, thinking he was someone else, I kissed him. About the time when my lips hit his cheek, I realized I had no idea who he was!

El Space: Wow. Cool facts! I would never try to arm wrestle you! What inspired you to write Believe?
Sarah: Faith, fame, and family are themes I write and think about a lot. These themes, in some way, are important to all my stories.

camera_09I started thinking about Janine’s story when I was at the salon, reading People! There was a story about the woman who was once known as Baby Jessica. She was the baby who fell into the well. I was surprised to find out that one of the men who saved her had killed himself—he couldn’t deal with his life after his fifteen minutes of fame was over. I was also surprised how judgmental I felt about her adult life. This was a person who never asked to be famous. She didn’t seem to want it either. I decided to explore the nature of celebrity in our world today. I knew right away that I was taking a big risk making Janine a figure in the faith community. But I also knew that faith was something that would present itself no matter what I did. The more I wrote, the more I understood Janine’s skepticism and doubts and her selfishness. She lost her parents! She would naturally wrestle with the nature of faith.

El Space: What was most exhilarating or challenging about writing Believe?
Sarah: The voice. The challenge of creating a character who was not all that likeable, but still interesting, who grew up a celebrity, was a lot of fun.

El Space: What strength does your main character have in common with you?
Sarah: She’s determined. She loves her family. She’s impulsive and skeptical and can be pretty impatient. She wants to be admired for who she is, not what people want her to be.

3188580El Space: What authors/books inspire you?
Sarah: There are so many! I love books that take chances, that explore a darker side of life. When I first decided to write and was finding my own voice, these were the authors and books that inspired me: Nancy Werlin’s books. The prologue of Killer’s Cousin. The risks she took in Rules of Survival and Impossible! I was thrilled when she blurbed Believe. Walter Dean Myers, especially Monster. That book! The Rag and Bone Shop by Robert Cormier. That ending! Carolyn Coman’s Many Stones and What Jamie Saw. I still strive to write sentences as perfect as hers.
44184Of course, there are many other books that continue to inspire and motivate me! I could give you a long list!

El Space: What do you hope readers take away from after reading your book?
Sarah: I hope that people will talk about faith and how it divides us, when it should bring us together on every level. I hope that we can begin to have more interfaith conversations. Skepticism is normal. I would love it if this book gave young adults a chance to have that discussion.

Of course, I also hope readers think about our world and our obsession with fame and an unending stream of information. We idolize celebrities and at the same time, we love to watch them crash. We are a nation of rubberneckers! I hope Janine’s struggles with her celebrity get people talking!

El Space: What advice do you have for an author who wishes to write about a provocative subject?
Sarah: Be brave. Be determined. Take out an index card and write down what you want your book to say. Find a supportive reader and don’t worry about the politics. Explore your character. Be true to your story. There’s an audience for this, and they need your book.

Thanks, Sarah, for being my guest!

If you’re looking for more about Sarah, you can find her at her website, Twitter, and Facebook. Oh, and also here too. Believe is available here:
Amazon
Barnes and Noble
The Book Stall
Powell’s Books
Indiebound

One of YOU will receive the Amazon gift card just by commenting. This giveaway is for followers and regular commenters. Eligibility has reset, so past winners are now once more eligible.

POST UPDATE: The winner will be announced on Thursday!

Book covers with the exception of Believe, are from Goodreads. Camera from cliparthaven.com.