Back up at Huffpo! MFA vs. NYC Vs. CT

So I’ve been blogging pretty nearly monthly at the Writing Geek on Huffpo since last year  but I haven’t posted any links in a while.  It’s hard to blog on both sites, especially when the Huffington Post blogs often take a long time to write and perfect.  But I do want to keep this page open and communicating so I’ll be posting links to my pieces their over here as well.   Hoping I can get back to posting more regularly here as well but until then,

Bye y’all,


Over at Huffpo: Heading to AWP

The Geek’s Guide to the Writing Life: Dear AWP First Timer is up over at Huffpo.

Wordamour and Wordamour Jr. are currently in Worcester, MA smack dab in the middle of the Great Mother Son College Tour of 2013, heading in to Boston to check out Northeastern University tomorrow and checking in to AWP.   The dance card is pretty full for the conference; our panel is on Saturday, check us out


Room 309, Level 3 S178. Creative Writing Under Siege: Setting the Record Straight. (Stephanie Vanderslice, Anna Leahy, Dianne Donnelly, Tom C Hunley, Tim Mayers) Detractors of creative writing, via sweeping generalizations and straw men, have long criticized the field. What is the responsibility of those within the field to demythologize and demystify creative writing to the public? Find out happens when, in response to Anis Shivani’s particularly scathing criticism in the Huffington Post, a group of writers representing a wide cross-section of the field (undergraduate and graduate writing, public and private universities) set the record straight.Bye y’all,


Wordamour does The Next Big Thing

Wordamour was thrilled to be tagged by Anna Leahy (of “Six Degrees of Anna Leahy” fame) and her writing and life partner Doug Dechow in The Next Big Thing, a writer’s meme going around the internet that promotes the projects we’re working on and that, one day, hopefully, you can look forward to reading.  Check out their Lofty Ambitions blog here and the post that describes their book, Generation Space, here.

And now, without further ado, my answers to the meme’s questions about some of the “big” things I’ve been working on.

Looking down on part of the record crowd at Coney Island from the Ferris wheel.

Looking down on part of the record crowd at Coney Island from the Ferris wheel.

What is your working title of your book (or story)?

The working title is The Lost Son.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

The seed for The Lost Son comes from a family story I learned when I was in my twenties.  I discovered that my Great Grandmother, Julia, was actually my step great grandmother and that her first husband left her right after the birth of her second child.  He and the baby’s nurse kidnapped the baby and ran away together to Germany, their home country,  leaving Julia with their older son, who was only 3.  Somehow she survived, but of course, decades  later she had to cope with the fact that her sons were fighting on opposite sides in World War II.

The scope of her trauma was difficult to even comprehend and became more so when I had my own children, and then after 9/11, when we were all traumatized.  I found myself trying to imagine how Julia could have endured the loss of her child while having to fend for herself and a toddler in a foreign country and then, decades later, how she was able to trust my great grandfather enough to fall in love with him and marry again. I also struggled with how and if she could even have forgiven her first husband.  I was obsessed with these questions and conjured The Lost Son to answer them for myself.

I had very little to go on, just what I’m telling you here, in creating the story, so beyond that kernel, everything else is complete invention.   This, I think, is a good thing; as a writer I wouldn’t have wanted to be limited by the real story.  The novel even ends differently from the way it did in real life and that’s all I’m saying about that.

What genre does your book fall under?

I’ve been calling it upmarket women’s fiction or commercial literary fiction.  My agent seems to agree.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

That is really hard.  The easy answer would be Ryan Gosling for the male lead, Paul, because he’s so good at those earnest, heartthrob roles but Paul is actually Black Irish so I’d look for someone more along those lines.  On the one hand, Liam Neeson (especially for the intensity, though he’s not really dark enough), and Gabriel Byrne come to mind but that’s because I don’t have a strong sense of who the great younger Irish actors are right now.  I hear Allen Leech, who plays Tom on Downton Abbey, is a big heartthrob across the pond at the moment and he’s experienced in playing a chauffeur ( Paul’s occupation) so he might be good, although he’s still not dark enough (maybe I just have to get over my Black Irish obsession, although if you know anything about my husband, you know where it comes from–and truth be told, my weaknesses for  “tall, dark and Irish” began long before I met him. Anyone remember Tom Fitzsimmons or Boyd Gaines?).   As for Julia, she’s German but she’s also a darker German.  Perhaps Rachel Weisz or Julianna Marguilies. Thinking about this is really making me feel old because to answer this question I think I might need to have, in general, a better sense of who the great actors are who are about ten years younger than I am.  Julia and Paul are in their early forties, but their stories begin when they’re in their early twenties, so the actors need to be able to span quite a long period of time.  I guess that’s what casting directors are for.


If I could choose a theme song for the book it would be Christina Perri’s  “A Thousand Years.” When I first heard it I couldn’t believe how perfectly it fit  Julia and Paul’s love story, and I often listened to it when I was re-writing.  For a number of reasons, I was disappointed to discover it’s the theme for one of the Twilight movies.  Can a theme song be used twice?  I wish.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

The Lost Son is the story of one woman’s struggle to overcome heartbreak, find her own peace and risk love again later in life.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? 

I’m very lucky to be represented by Anne Bohner at Pen and Ink Literary.  I trust her completely; she reveals at every turn just how much she knows what she’s doing.  She used to be an editor at Penguin and her editing instincts are razor sharp; she really helped me see how to revise the book.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

A long time, because I was also working on 3 other academic books (all published) that seemed, believe it or not, more time sensitive.  I started writing it in 2005-06, finished a first solid draft during NaNoWriMo in 2009, revised peripatetically and then full on in the summer of 2011, did another revision in sumer 2012 and started sending it to agents then.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

In terms of subject matter, The Lost Son can be compared to The Postmistress and the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society though I like to think the love story in my novel is more intense.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I think I’ve answered that already but ideas about loss and heartbreak, not just in terms of romantic love but in terms of other kinds of love, have always been an obsession of mine.  It’s also the subject, reduced to a nutshell of course, of my next novel, which is a generational story that begins in the aftermath of the 1904 General Slocum steamship disaster in New York City, in which almost 1500 people, mostly women and children, died, and ends in the aftermath of 9/11.  How do people find the strength go on after unthinkable loss?  I want to tell those stories.


What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

The Lost Son is not just a romantic love story but also the story of the love between parents and children and the love between brothers, what it means to search for someone and the long term, ripple effects of a kidnapping.  It’s a story of World War II from both sides.  Baking, Coney Island and Incubator Babies also play roles in the book.

In keeping with the rules of The Next Big Thing, I’m pleased to introduce to you four more authors and their work.  Click on the links below next week and find out what they’ve been up to:

Garry Powell

Mimi Thebo

John Vanderslice

John Gallaher

Bye for now, y’all


Writing What Only You Can Write

The Geek’s Guide to the Writing Life, on envy, competition and writing what only you can write is up over at the Huffington Post this week.  Check it out.

 I am very pleased to announce that I’ve been tagged by my generous friend Anna Leahy to participate in The Next Big Thing, an author/book promotion meme, and so that’s what you can look forward to in next post, on February 4, which will include some deeper reveals (including who should play the main characters in the movie) about the novel and other irons I have in the fire.  But for now, it’s been at least five minutes since I checked my email, so I gotta go.

Bye y’all,


2012 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 2,700 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 5 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

Revising, revising, revising and the Writing Geek returns


So Wordamour has been quiet the last several months, aside from occasional cross postings when I put up a Huffington Post Geeks Guide to the Writing Life essay (like I did today–if you’re interested in the story of my creative writing Ph.D. or considering one yourself).  That’s because I’ve been busy, busy, among several other projects (including directing the Arkansas Writers MFA Workshop), adding 23,000 words to my novel, The Lost Son, under the advice of my agent.

Yes.  My agent.  I still say that with more than a touch of awe.  In fact, every time I email her and she replies, I think “Amazing.  She really does exist.  She really does.” (Writer friends with agents, did you go through this?  Does it ever go away? I kind of hope it doesn’t.).

Anyway, all of you Nanowrimo veterans (of which the novel is an alumnus) are probably thinking: “23,000 words? That’s nothing.  I can crank out 23,000 words in a long weekend.”  But this was a different type of writing, very focused on certain aspects of the novel and it took me 3 months. Well, really two months and a month of revising the new scenes and making sure they fit seamlessly with the old ones.  It was pretty intense and I was pretty exhausted by the end.  It would not be an understatment to say, however, that I loved every minute of it because I never forgot the reason why I was doing it.

Anyway, what’s interesting about revision is how it’s never finished.  For example, I read the entire novel aloud when I was doing line by line edits before I submitted to agents last summer.  It’s always the last thing I do to make sure I’ve caught everything and to make sure the lines sound the way I want them to.  It takes forever, though, at least a week of listening to the sound of my voice.  So this time I thought, “Well, since I’ve already done it once, maybe I can just read aloud the new scenes and go from there.”  I considered it but in the end, decided to start from the beginning and see what happened.

What happened was:  I caught about a dozen important typos in the first thirty pages (see the photo above with the sticky-flags; every flag represents an edit).  Mind you, this was already after the novel had been revised so many times I’d lost count AND read aloud once before.  In fact, the photo above shows the manuscript with all the edits I had uncovered after the final read aloud.

And those  are just my edits.  My agent’s response to the revision was enthusiastic  (yippee!) but she had some more suggestions.  Nothing serious but at least a few weeks worth of work, which I’m deep into right now, and STILL finding the occasional typo (although fortunately it’s become pretty rare).

So revision.  Never ending, but that is, I think, how it should be.   What writing is all about, really.

Bye for now, y’all


A Literary Wedding


There’s a new Geeks Guide to the Writing Life Post up here at the Huffington Post.  But more importantly, former student, Brianne Spicer and her soul mate, Martin a.k.a. “Bear” Sharum got married today and my husband and I were lucky enough to be at their “literary themed” wedding.

One of the perks of teaching is that we sometimes get invited to our student’s weddings and let me tell you, it’s quite an honor, right up there with watching them graduate.  A couple of years ago we had two weddings in one day, fortunately timed so we could go from one to the other.  “How is this going to work?” we wondered.  It’s going to be crazy. But we’ll give it a try.

You know what?  Getting to watch two couples, two gifted students, begin their lives together, in one day was pretty darned awesome.  At the end of the day I realized: this opportunity may never come again and I was truly lucky I got to experience it.

Fortunately we still get invited to “one wedding at a time” events and those are darned awesome too.  I never get tired of being invited and we do our best to make every one we can.

A toast to you, Bri and Martin and a lifetime of happiness!

September 11, Not Writing, and Revising

In honor of the anniversary, the Writing Geek has a post up on HP about not writing.

Eleven years ago this Tuesday.  And a Tuesday it was, a gorgeous Tuesday morning in Arkansas.  It’s hard to believe it’s only been 11 years–so much has happened.  And yet in those early days, weeks, months, it felt as if that dark time would last forever.  That it hasn’t is something to be thankful for, I suppose.  Toward the end of that month, I remember NPR playing this song and it had a whole new meaning.

In revision news, there have been some major breakthroughs, including a new motif that centers on a certain baroque napkin ring.  I just finished On Hitler’s Mountain: The Legacy of a Nazi Childhood which was absorbing and beautifully written and filled in some gaps  and I’m about to begin “I Must Be A Part of this War: A German American’s Fight against Hitler and Nazism.”  Yesterday, I liked “Quick German Recipes” on Facebook.

Those are your clues.  I’ll keep you posted.

Bye y’all,