The Power of Music in Prose

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

This week we’re talking about our “writing superpowers” here on the Ball, and I’ve been struggling to decide whether I have one. I don’t think of myself as mastering any aspect of the writerly craft at a superlative level; I muddle along, doing the best I can, and manage through lots of dogged slogging to put together something that’s solidly in the 85th percentile. Which is an achievement to be…


Owning What My Book Says About Me, and Denying What it Does Not

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

I’ve heard it said that all writing is autobiographical. Even if you’re not writing the true story of your own life, the assumption goes, you’re inflicting your life experiences on the people you make up, or writing their relationships to mirror your own. One way or another, your purportedly fictional story is really a blueprint of your own darkest desires, fears, and memories. It’s true that many fiction writers do…


The Five Things I Can’t Stop Talking About

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

This week’s topic is “favorite things”, but since Louise and Jennifer already wrote clever lists of favorite things, I’m not going to do that. I hate to compete in games I know I’m going to lose. It’s a character flaw, and I’ll never change. So instead,I spent the past two days listening to my own endless blather and coming up with a list of my favorite things to talk about….


Who’s Your Role Model? A Long Overdue Homework Assignment

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

When my kids were in elementary school, every couple of years they’d get an assignment that asked, “Who’s your role model?” I always wanted them to pick me. Me, their mother. You know, the one who wiped their noses and packed their lunches and drove them to soccer practice and found their cleats at the bottom of the laundry bin. They never picked me. They always picked their dad. Well,…


Joining the Hive to Write Book Two

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

A month ago, I wrote a post about how difficult it was for me to write a new novel during this anxious period before my first book launches. I hadn’t looked ahead on the Debutante Topics Calendar, obviously, because “writing book two” is the assigned subject of this week’s posts. Fortunately, I don’t need to rehash that earlier lament, because — though progress on Book Two is still glacial and…


Listening to MODERN GIRLS

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

I read MODERN GIRLS two months ago, thanks to an early review copy I tore through in about 48 hours. The book is — as I said in my Amazon review — a rich, complicated, often heartwrenching tale of two women living in the Jewish immigrant community of New York’s lower East Side in 1935 whose unwanted pregnancies expose exactly how far they are from being “modern girls.” But what…


AWP Junior High School: A Survivor’s Tale

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Tomorrow I’m flying to Los Angeles for my third foray into the overpopulated slushpile that is the Conference of American Writers and Writing Programs, or AWP. This time, I might actually get it right. The first time I went to one of these things was in 2012, in Chicago. I’d gotten my MFA the year before, and I was muddling through my novel. It was right about the time when,…


Where’s In a Name?

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

This week we’re talking about names: character names, our own names, book names. I’m lousy at character names — I have a terrible case of Monoletter Fixation Syndrome, which makes me give all my characters names that start with the same letter, then fail to notice this until the middle of the third draft. I’m not much better at naming books, if you ask my agent and my editor. But…


Bad Metaphors and Other Musings on Being Halfway to Publication

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

It’s halftime in the Big Game and I’m taking a moment to chill in the locker room and reflect on the touchdowns and fumbles of the first half in what is possibly the worst football metaphor ever. Although — bear with me here — there is something to the “halftime” analogy, because I’m learning that the period from four to five months before a book comes out is a period…


Being an Author, Not a Writer

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Something horrible happened to me the day I became an author: I stopped being a writer. I spent six years working on THE LOST GIRLS. It was the great pleasure of my life, second only to raising my children. Each morning I woke up and immediately started figuring out how I could avoid as many of my obligations as possible so I could spend more time writing. Days when I…