I know today’s post is supposed to relate to arts and crafts. But when I think about arts and crafts, I think about creating things — about gluing and building and putting pieces together. And when I look at all of the devastating photos of the destruction in Oklahoma, all I can think about is how much rebuilding will need to be done there, and how for many of the people who live in and around Oklahoma City, no amount of glue will make their lives whole again.
So, with that in mind, I wanted to provide a list of organizations lending a hand on the ground in Oklahoma, in case any of you want to help.
Red Cross (especially if you want to give blood)
Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief
The Salvation Army
I’m sure there are other organizations doing important work on the ground as well, so if you know of any others, please feel free to mention them in the comments. With disasters like this one, people are always looking for ways to help.
It’s Saturday, which means it’s time to open up the dance floor to a Guest Deb! Today we welcome Alison Heller, author of THE LOVE WARS. Currently a divorce lawyer, Alison lives in New York with her husband and two young daughters. THE LOVE WARS is her first novel. Here is a little about the book:
Breaking up is hard to do. At least the first few times.
Even though Molly Grant has only a handful of relationships behind her, she’s already been through more divorces than she can count.
At the premier Manhattan law firm where she’s a matrimonial attorney, the hours are long, the bosses tyrannical, and the bonuses stratospheric. Her clients are rich, famous, and used to getting their way. Molly’s job—and primary concern in life—is to work as hard as possible to make sure they do. Until she meets the client who changes everything….
Fern Walker is the desperate former wife of a ruthless media mogul. Her powerful ex is slowly pushing her out of her young children’s lives, and she fears losing them forever. Molly—haunted by an incident from her own past—finds herself unable to walk away from Fern and sets out to help her. She just needs to do it without her bosses finding out.
Now, as complications both professional and personal stack up, Molly can only hope that her own wits, heart, and instincts are enough—both in and out of court.
Alison has offered to do a little Q&A with us this morning, so pull up a chair, curl up with your coffee, and join us in welcoming Alison to the Ball!
As an author have you ever been star struck by meeting one of your favorite authors? If so who was it?
I met Susan Isaacs once briefly in upstate New York. I’m a huge fan of hers, but out of respect for the fact that she was on vacation with her family, I tried to play it cool. (Not really a strength of mine, playing it cool, but I think it went alright.)
Do you prefer to write during the day or during the night?
In an ideal world, I would wake up, have a lovely fortifying breakfast and, clean and alert, sit at the computer with a perfect music playlist. (All other noise would be obliterated through a cone of silence.) In reality, I write whenever I can, except late at night. I generally shut down at eight p.m., and to accomplish anything after that—writing or otherwise—I have to be pushed beyond my normal level of motivation (i.e., scared of missing a deadline or completely in the throes of the story.)
When becoming an author, did you have any speed bumps along the way? If so, how did you overcome them?
Yes, for sure – perhaps the biggest speed bump to becoming an author was those thirteen years I focused solely on getting a law degree and being a lawyer. (What was a I thinking?) I’m kidding, of course (a little bit). I still enjoy lawyering, but there’s something very satisfying about the creative outlet of writing.
Even after clearing away the space and time to write, there have been bumps along the way – rejections and self-doubt and frustrations with everything from the writing process to some industry practices. Overcoming them, thus far, has been pretty simple. I just listen to that little voice that wants to keep writing and continue, however slowly, over the speed bumps.
What 5 things do you have to have with you when you are writing?
Very pertinent question! I live in New York City where space is at a premium. My writing desk is the size of a postage stamp and in my bedroom, so I take to the streets a lot and before today might have answered this question by saying, just my computer. After today, when I sat at a coffee shop completely surrounded on all sides by vocal and enthusiastic Italian tourists (seriously, about 12 of them, all with shiny hair and lovely scarves), I revise. I need:
1. Background noise not to exceed 110 passionate decibels
2. My computer
3. My phone, to rest my fears that nothing is happening to one of my children while I’m absorbed writing
4. The Internet for quick research and breaks
5. Pants. I think I would be distracted otherwise.
What is next on your plate?
I have a book coming out through Penguin/NAL next year and I’m really excited about it. And I’ve started drafting the next one after that.
Thanks so much for joining us, Alison!
Alison has offered to give away a copy of THE LOVE WARS to one lucky reader (US only)! Just tell us in the comments — have *you* ever had a tyrannical boss?
Visit Alison’s web site Find Alison on Facebook Follow Alison on Twitter
From the moment I met Evie Glass, the protagonist in Deb Amy’s engrossing debut, THE GLASS WIVES, I felt as if I knew her. She seemed so…well, so real. Evie is a Jewish woman who went to Northwestern and likes to bake cookies. I am a Jewish woman…who went to Northwestern*…and likes to bake cookies. Hmm…
Okay, so there are numerous ways in which Evie’s struggles and crises are different than my own (thank goodness!), but Amy portrays Evie’s story so vividly that I could identify with all the challenges Evie faced throughout the story.
There were so many things I loved about THE GLASS WIVES, from the layered, complicated friendships to the evolving notion of “family,” but for this Jewish gal who likes to bake cookies, I particularly appreciated the references to Jewish food and culture peppered throughout the story. The book opens at a shiva and closes at a Passover seder, with a smattering of Jewish and Yiddish references in between. There’s talk of brisket and chopped liver and Tam Tams and macaroons. Be still my heart!
As you may have gathered from my previous posts, I love all things food and cooking, and Amy totally nails the importance of food in Jewish culture. Jews like to feed people. It is what we do. In the opening chapter, as people bring Tupperwares and foil-wrapped trays filled with food to the shiva after the death of Evie’s ex-husband, Amy writes, “Death was horrifying enough, but death and hunger would be a shanda, a disgrace.”
Yes. A thousand times yes.
One character brings rugelach, a cookie-like Jewish pastry, and so I figured to celebrate the launch of THE GLASS WIVES (Out TODAY!! Go buy your copy!!) I would share my Hungarian great grandmother’s recipe for rugelach. For some reason, my family always called these schnecken when I was growing up, which doesn’t really make sense because I’ve since discovered schnecken are an entirely different Hungarian pastry, but I digress…
So, without further ado, I give you the Greenspon family rugelach recipe. Let’s all bake cookies and celebrate with Deb Amy as her book baby enters the world! And if you’d like to win a copy of THE GLASS WIVES, just comment below and tell us what roll food plays in your family and/or culture!
* Okay, so I went to Northwestern for grad school, not undergrad, but for the sake of my argument, let’s not quibble over details.
Image by imperatricks via Flickr Creative Commons
Rugelach (or as my family called them, schnecken)
Yield: ~60 rugelach
You can fill your rugelach with whatever you like — raspberry jam, chocolate chips, nuts, you name it. My favorite fillings are apricot jam and golden raisins, or raspberry jam.
1/2 lb. unsalted butter
1/2 lb. cream cheese
2 cups sifted flour
1 egg yolk (save the white)
1 cup sugar mixed with 2 teaspoons cinnamon
Fillings of your choice (apricot jam + golden raisins, raspberry jam, Nutella, etc)
To make the dough, mix all of the dough ingredients together in a stand mixer or food processor until the dough comes together. Form into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.
The next day, let the dough soften slightly at room temperature before making the rugelach. Preheat the oven to 350F. Cut the dough into 7 wedges. Using one wedge at a time, roll out into a flat circle about 1/8″ thick. Spread a thin layer of preserves or other spreadable filling along the outer edge of the circle. Sprinkle cinnamon-sugar evenly all over the inside of the circle. If using apricot preserves, line the edges of the circle with golden raisins. Cut the circle into eighths. Roll each eighth from the outer edge in, forming a crescent shape. Seal the ends. Brush with the reserved egg white and roll in the remaining cinnamon sugar. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.
Please join us in welcoming author Caroline Leavitt to the Ball this weekend! Caroline is the New York Times bestselling author of PICTURES OF YOU, which was one of the best Books of 2011 from the San Francisco Chronicle, The Providence Journal, Bookmarks and Kirkus. Her new novel IS THIS TOMORROW is a May Indie Next Pick, that Vanity Fair has called “riveting.” You can find more about her at carolineleavitt.com.
Since we’ve been talking covers all week, Caroline decided to give us her take on cover art. Take it away, Caroline!
Can you tell a book by its cover?
Covers count. That’s the truth. But the other truth is that often they are out of your hands. Covers are actually a marketing decision and sometimes what the author wants is not what the publisher has in mind. The sales force weighs in, the top honchos. Everyone wants your book to sell as much as you do. I had even heard rumors that the head book buyer at Barnes and Noble would weigh in on a cover, as well.
I’ve been lucky with most of my covers, though no one has ever asked my advice until I got to Algonquin. For my novel Coming Back to Me, the hardcover was this dark beauty. It looked like an Edward Hopper painting of a young father feeding a bottle to baby late at night in a diner. Behind him, the night sky was spangled with stars. Perfect, right? But for the paperback, they went in a softer direction. The cover was pink and green, with a bathrobe hanging on a hook and in an inset of a GQ looking smiling guy carrying flowers. Now, in this particular book, the main male character was taking care of his newborn child because his wife was mysteriously ill. There was no way on earth he’d be smiling! I called my agent upset. She called the publisher but they refused to change anything except to make the guy’s smile a little less bright. Ever since then, when people ask about that book, I show them only the hardcover. That terrible paperback still haunts me.
You want a cover that will make people curious. You want a cover that has something to do with the novel itself. I loved the cover of my novel Girls in Trouble about open adoption, which showed a pair of young legs walking on a fence, but I would have loved it more if the legs were so disembodied, if there had been a whole figure.
When I got to Algonquin, I told them how I worried about my covers and they assured me that I would never have to have a cover I hated. And they asked my input. They showed me sketches and gave me choices.
For Is This Tomorrow, my editor and I knew we wanted something eerie, haunting and literary. I kept seeing an image of a boy running across a lawn, maybe in shadow. Andra, my editor, thought that might not be unique enough. And then I found a photograph, black and white, 1950s looking, of a mother and three kids looking up at the eclipse with special glasses! It even had the right sexes of the kids to fit in with my novel! Even better, Andra happened to know the photographer. I thought everything was all set, but then Andra called a few weeks later to tell me they were going in another direction and would I take a look.
Of course I was panicked.
But then I saw the cover. An eerie, unsettling image of two hands holding a box, and inside the box–right there–is the running boy I wanted. The whole cover, too, was this strange suburban green. Like grass on a hot summer day. I loved it. In fact, the truth is, I loved it so much, I bought a spring coat to match it, and I’m now wearing it on tour.
One of the aspects of cover art I find most fascinating is how one book can have multiple covers, depending on where the book is being sold. For example, here are four different covers for GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO. From left to right, you have covers from the US, UK, Germany, and Italy:
Same book. Same author. Four different covers. Here is another example, with the same countries, for Sophie Kinsella’s I’VE GOT YOUR NUMBER:
So what makes one cover work in one market, and not in another? Why would a book like Curtis Sittenfeld’s AMERICAN WIFE work better in the States with a bride on the cover, whereas in the UK the cover works better with a girl on a bicycle on a windswept plain? Obviously different cultures identify with different images and media, but beyond that, I don’t have a good answer. Particularly when it comes to the US and UK — two countries that, on the surface at least, seem so similar — I am consistently intrigued by how differently they approach cover art.
This is especially true with so-called chick lit, an umbrella under which my book seems to fall. In the States, most chick lit covers involve photographic renderings (a faceless girl, a cupcake, a group of beach chairs), whereas in the UK, illustrations (often cartoon-like and involving swirly lettering) predominate. I don’t universally prefer one over the other. Sometimes I think the US style works better; other times, I much prefer the UK illustration.
For comparison, here are four of my book covers, from the same countries listed above: US, UK, Germany, Italy. Which one do YOU prefer? Don’t be shy. I have my favorites, too!
(Also, I’d be curious to know your thoughts on different covers in different markets!)
Last week, when I saw the topic for this week’s post, I thought, “UGH. A secret I can share? Do I have any of those?”
And then I got a call from my agent on Thursday.
What was this call about, you ask? Well, I can’t tell you quite yet, making it the perfect topic for this post. But suffice it to say, our conversation involved books. Specifically, books written by me. Also, a new publisher. And maybe exciting things like…contracts.
Have I piqued your interest? If so, then you may want to follow me on Twitter and/or like me on Facebook, where I will be making an announcement in a matter of days (or, by the time you read this, possibly hours). In the meantime…I’ll let your imagination run wild…
If you read Deb Kerry’s post yesterday, then you’ll understand why I’m having trouble conveying my thoughts with even a shred of her eloquence. She nailed it. As I read, I kept nodding and thinking, “Yes, yes, yes.”
Last week’s news cycle was one of the worst I can remember in quite some time. At times, my Facebook and Twitter feeds threatened to suffocate me — one bad story after the next, everyone emoting into cyberspace, some seeking a connection and others simply seeking catharsis. I felt smothered. It was too much.
And it made me realize that sometimes it’s okay to check out. It’s okay not to tweet or post or email or watch CNN on an endless loop. Sometimes it’s okay to turn to your husband and baby and say, “I love you, and you’re what matters to me right now,” and be thankful for the small blessings in life.
Sometimes writing helps. Getting lost in a story or a cast of characters can put the real world on mute for a while, and all that matters is plot and dialogue and imaginary conflict. I can shut out the noise and lose myself in my imaginary world.
But sometimes, for me at least, I need to check out of the writing process, too. Rather than beat myself up because the words aren’t coming and the plot isn’t working and oh my gosh, on top of that the world is going to hell in a hand basket, I close my laptop, take a deep breath, and step away from my desk.
Given all the sadness and tragedy in the world, I could obviously use the “hell in a hand basket” excuse every day to avoid writing. If I did that, I would never finish a book, which is kind of a problem if I want my books published. And since I do want my books published, I don’t encourage checking out of the writing process on a regular basis.
But so often as writers we beat ourselves up if we have a bad writing day or if life gets in the way and thwarts our best-laid plans to write two more chapters. We shouldn’t. Life is full of twists and turns — some of them welcome, some of them not — and some days we need to step away from our stories and simply surround ourselves with the people we love most. Some days we have to say, “I’ll write more tomorrow. Today I’m going to take care of myself.” And you know what? That’s okay.