Writerly Etiquette

As I waited for my first novel to launch, I was told by the experienced:

1) “Don’t expect to get on Oprah.” (I wasn’t.)
2) Waiting for launch was “the quiet before the quiet.” (Hey, thanks for depressing me!)
3) “You don’t need to spend money on an outside publicist.” (Very glad I ignored that one.)

And my very super favorite warnings:

4) “Don’t get too excited.” and “Don’t pay attention to reviews or Amazon numbers.” (To which I should have answered: “And where should I get the lobotomy?)

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“Ask The Author” for Independent Bookstore Day at Papercuts

ask the author chicken 2

Have a question—about anything?
Publishing? Love? Finding an Agent? Best Mascara? What Tie to Wear?
I’m yours for an hour
And the questions can be anonymous!

I must give out the whiff of “yes, let me tell you what to do!” each time I leave the house. Or even when I don’t. (My daughters will attest to this.) That must be why Papercuts, the newest Independent Bookstore in town, right here in my Jamaica Plain, Boston neighborhood asked me to be their anonymous (you, not me) “Dear Abby” for Indie Bookstore day.

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ask the author chicken 2
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Book Club of the Week: Hickory Stick Bookshop

Hickory Stick Bookshop

While not a typical book club, per se, after having the great good luck to be invited to two of their intimate author luncheons, all I can say is: Yes! Yes! Yes! Owner Fran Keilty of The Hickory Stick Bookshop has designed a perfect marriage of delicious food, great readers and hungry authors. What else does together so well? (Yes, after being alone in our sweat pants, eating cereal and milk for as many as three meals a day (oops, is that only me? TMI?) what could make me happier than a bookstore in a gorgeous setting in Connecticut, artfully prepared real food and talking to sharp fun women who love to read?

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Hickory Stick Bookshop
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Book Club of the Week: Club Red in Braintree

Club Red in Braintree MA

Club Red in Braintree MA

One of the best parts of being an author is getting to eat cake . . . wait a minute, I meant visiting book groups. Who also happen to have the best cake, gossip, wine & ideas for new books to read. Of course, when I meet with a group by Skype I don’t get to drink the wine, but I do get to be invited into beautiful living rooms all over the country.

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Raised by Books

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn_

Perhaps every insatiable reader has a book so thoroughly imprinted at a vulnerable age, that they carry those characters like family of the heart forever. Some marked me for horror. IN COLD BLOOD assured I’d never stay alone in a country house. Others taught me about the awful mixes of fear, revulsion, and sadness we can barely tolerate, like OUR GUYS, by Bernard Lefkowitz, a book which assured I’d look at any boy my daughters dated with more judgment than I wanted.

And some taught me faith in the future.

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The Ben Chart

wheel with ben font


From Accidents of Marriage. Read an excerpt here.


Posted in Accidents of Marriage, Book Postcards | 1 Comment

How To Use Critique & Advice


When it comes to criticism from my writer’s group, I need to hear or read the same idea two, three, or four times before I can incorporate it into my work-in-progress. Months after arguing with my fellow writers, (so blind! so ignorant!) I re-read their notes and am struck by wisdom where I formerly saw idiocy.

How do you decide what to keep and what to leave behind from critiques? One sure bet is the power of all yea or nay. I can’t say it any better than Stephen Koch did in A Guide to the Craft of Fiction:

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Writer’s Groups: Don’t Drink and Read

Randy with wine glass vignette boosted cropped

“No child could possibly be happy about her father moving out!”

The above was said to me at a writing workshop, in a discussion about my then unpublished novel (it eventually became The Murderer’s Daughters.) The ‘child’ in question lived with a selfish, sarcastic, angry mother and an oft-drunk “mooning around” father. In the questioned scene this 10-year-old protagonist voices guilty relief at finding a less troubling atmosphere after her father moved out. A workshop member, adamant in his belief that no child would ever feel relief at her father leaving the house, expressed insistence bordering on disbelief (that I would write such an emotion)! bordering on disdain (that I would be able to dredge up such an emotion)!

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How Besteller Lists Are Made, Authors, & A Bit of Crazy


“My agent and editor started talking about ‘the list’ from the start, virtually ensuring that I’d consider myself a failure if I didn’t make it. At first, when they talked about it, I didn’t even know what “the list” was—didn’t know there was truly only one ‘list.’

You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” Ray Bradbury 

The New York Times Bestseller list (AKA “the list”) is the writer’s holy grail. Despite being rife with methodology that many claim to comprehend, but none can swear to understanding; despite not being a measure of selling the most books, but of selling the most books that week at those stores, every author wants the honor.

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Debut Books by Writers Over 40

(first published in 2011)

Originally, I tried to resist writing this—especially after my plea against categorizing authors.  Plus, so many of us hide our age in this world of never-get-old, unearthing this information, even in our Googlized world, was difficult.

But when , along with the plethora of lists of writers under 40, I was faced with the declaration that, as headlined in a Guardian UK article about writers, ‘Let’s Face It, After 40 You’re Past It.”

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Posted in Cultural Politics, My Opinionated Self, Writing | Tagged , , , | 62 Comments