Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Happy Book Birthday for VINCENT and THEO with Author Deborah Heiligman + Giveaway

Dear friends,

Please welcome the always delightful, Deborah Heiligman, and join in the celebration of her new book, Vincent and Theo, the Van Gogh Brothers, released into the world today! Many of you will recall that Deb shared with us several years ago for her book, Charles and Emma: The Darwins' Leap of Faith, a National Book Award Finalist. Deb is generously donating an autographed copy of Vincent and Theo for the comment contest. All you have to do is leave a comment for Deb at the end of the post to congratulate her or share what resonated with you in her post. Now, here's a little about Deb!

Author Deborah Heiligman

Deborah Heiligman graduated from Brown University with an A.B. in Religious Studies. While that might not seem like an obvious major for a children’s book author, it turned out to be a perfect one! Reli stu taught her to ask questions. She now spends every day asking lots of questions, mostly about dead people.  (With whom she also tends to fall in love.) 
Deb counted up her books recently and discovered that Vincent and Theo: the van Gogh Brothers is number 31. Her last few have been: Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of FAITH;  INTENTIONS (a novel); THE BOY WHO LOVED MATH: THE IMPROBABLE LIFE OF PAUL ERDOS (a picture book) and COOL DOG, SCHOOL DOG (also a picture book). 
Deborah grew up in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and lived in Bucks County, PA for many years. She now lives in New York City with her husband, Jonathan Weiner, an author and professor, and their Cairn Terrier, Ketzie. Her two grown sons live in Brooklyn, thankfully only a subway ride away. For more information, please visit www.DeborahHeiligman.com


Writing from the Inside Out. . . .  Author Deborah Heiligman shares about the research and writing of Vincent and Theo, The Van Gogh Brothers


A writer spends a lot of time in her own head, and the challenge is to take the weird ideas/out-of-the-box conclusions/ connections/ themes/obsessions/aha moments/insights/etc.from inside and find a way to share them with others. Readers love to see themselves in a book, to get that feeling of being known. Readers also love to be stretched—to have a book take them beyond where they thought they could go. 
It is our job as writers to help readers achieve both kinds of connections. And the way to that, I feel, is to, essentially, as someone once said, open a vein and bleed. Writing from the inside out, indeed. 
Fiction writers do this, in large part, by inhabiting the characters they create. I remember while working on a novel about an insecure thirteen-year-old, I walked in a bathing suite from my chaise to the bathroom and thought everyone was looking at me! I confessed this to my non-writer best friend and she said nobody noticed me at all. Right. I was a middle-aged woman in an oversized t-shirt! But inside I was a 13-year-old girl. 
What about when you write nonfiction, when you write about a historical person’s life? How then to write from the inside out? 
It’s not that different. When I write biography, I inhabit real people. Though the process is slightly different--because I cannot make anything up. I can’t change something to suit my storyline or my plot, or even my wishes. I can’t make someone less or more mean. I have to discover who that person really was. 
I do that by using primary sources. What better way to get inside someone that to read his or her journal entries, diaries, letters? How better to understand how a person thinks than to listen to him or her give a speech, answer interview questions and interact with others? It helps to stare at photographs if you have them, or watch video of someone walking down a hallway. 
As you can probably guess, writing about Vincent van Gogh was daunting. He is, arguably, the most famous and beloved artist in the world. Many other people have written about him, have their own ideas and biases about him and his life. How was I to get inside of Vincent van Gogh to make him my own? The phrase elbow grease comes to mind. I first heard about elbow grease when my mother criticized someone for not using enough of it while cleaning. (That someone was me.) For a long time I thought that Elbow Grease was something you could buy in a bottle. Ah don’t we wish? Elbow grease is just hard work. Scrubbing scrubbing scrubbing. 
Writing a book from the inside out needs a lot of elbow grease.
And time. 
And sometimes stepping away.
I spent five years on Vincent and Theo. The first couple of years all I read was primary sources: Vincent’s letters to Theo and to some other people; Theo’s letters to Vincent; and Theo’s letters to his fiancĂ© and hers to him. After a bit I found and read the condolence notes to Theo after Vincent died. 
I took notes while I read. First impressions. Thoughts. Ideas. Questions. Lots of questions. 
Then I reread much of the above. While I was reading, I also painted. When I say painted, I mean I fooled around with watercolors. I am not an artist at all, but I wanted to know first-hand what it feels like to paint. Trying to get inside Vincent. 
I did all of this without reading any books or articles about Vincent or Theo. (I did have a timeline from this wonderful big volume set of Vincent’s letters.)
The secondary sources—and there weren’t that many that I trusted—came much later. This is the best way I know to get inside someone else—to meet my people in their own words, and not anybody else’s. 
Over the years of writing I have discovered this to be the best process for me. It’s not the easiest way to write a book, but it is the only way I can do it so that I achieve my goal.  
My goal is to inhabit these real people so that when I write the book I am inside their heads and souls and lives—to write about them from the inside out.  
But that doesn’t happen on the first draft. Or the second draft. Or the third… 
It takes elbow grease in the form of rewriting, thinking, and also stepping away to get perspective. 
With Vincent and Theo I was only truly inside them during the last big revision, what became the penultimate draft. It was then and only then that I knew those van Gogh boys were mine. And I was truly writing from the inside out. 

For more information and links, please visit my website page: http://deborahheiligman.com/books/vincent-and-theo/research/ 

And now, please welcome to the world, Vincent and Theo, The Van Gogh Brothers Henry Holt and Company, LLC. Books for Young Readers, Imprint of Macmillan Children's Publishing Group. 


"A remarkably insightful, profoundly moving story of fraternal interdependence and unconditional love." —Kirkusstarred review
"A breathtaking achievement that will leave teens eager to learn more." —School Library Journalstarred review

"In fittingly painterly language, Heiligman offers vivid descriptions of Vincent’s artwork and life, which grow more detailed and colorful as Vincent’s own artistic style becomes richer and more refined . . . This illuminating glimpse into the van Goghs’ turbulent life and historical period will add compelling depth to readers’ understanding of the iconic painter. " —Bookliststarred review, on Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers

"A unique and riveting exploration of art, artists, and brotherly love." —The Horn Bookstarred review

"An intensive exploration of their turbulent lives" —Publishers Weeklystarred review


"This title is a treasure for readers who want to immerse in a roiling domestic drama and who don’t back away from a good cry" —The Bulletinstarred review


Thank you so much, Deb, for sharing an inside look at the writing of VINCENT and THEO, The Van Gogh Brothers. Thank you, dear readers, for stopping by to celebrate with us.  The winner of the Comment Contest will be announced next week! In the meantime, please check out these links to learn more about Deb and her books or to follow her on social media:




Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Announcing the WINNER of ONE AMAZING ELEPHANT by Linda Oatman High

Dear friends,

It's Valentine's Day and also the release date for Linda Oatman High's new book, One Amazing Elephant. What an outpouring of love on FaceBook and Twitter and lots of Love here for Linda and her new book. Thank you so much, dear readers, for your AMAZING support this past week!

The LUCKY WINNER of ONE AMAZING ELEPHANT is: ***Ariel Bernstein***
***Congratulations, Ariel!***
(Ariel, Please e-mail me with your mailing address and let me know for whom you'd like the book personalized: claragillowclark(at)gmail(dot)com. Or send a direct message on Twitter.)

 Review from Publishers Weekly:
       High’s (Planet Pregnancy) well-balanced novel about love, forgiveness, and the tightrope walk of friendship and family is centered in Gibsonton, Fla., “the strangest town in the nation.” Unlike the flamboyant circus side of 12-year-old Lily Rose Pruitt’s family—including her dear Grandpa Bill, dubbed “the Giant” at more than seven feet tall, and her estranged mother, Trullia, a trapeze artist—cautious Lily bottles up her emotions and avoids risks: “Keep it inside. That’s my motto.” Lily lives with her father in West Virginia, but when her grandfather dies unexpectedly, she flies to Florida alone for the funeral. There, she confronts her fear of the Amazing Queenie Grace (her grandfather’s elephant), forms friendships and makes a few enemies, tries to protect Queenie Grace from harm, and eventually comes to terms with her mother. The chapters alternate gracefully between Lily’s and Queenie Grace’s perspectives, and High effectively sketches how Lily gradually champions the elephant and recognizes larger issues around the ways performers abuse circus animals. Ages 8–12. Agent: Rosemary Stimola, Stimola Literary Studio. (Feb.)


Learn more about Linda and her books: www.lindaoatmanhigh.com


Thank you, Linda, for sharing with us! 



Coming soon is a debut author and MG Historical fiction published by HarperTeen. 


Wishing you all a very happy Valentine's Day!   ~Clara

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

It's a Book Birthday Party with Linda Oatman High + Giveaway

Dear Readers,

Our guest today, author Linda Oatman High, shares an inside look about the story behind her NEW book from HarperCollins, ONE AMAZING ELEPHANT, released on February 14th! And, YES, Linda is generously donating a copy of One Amazing Elephant to a lucky reader who leaves a comment for her! Please help spread the word by sharing on twitter and you'll get two chances to win her book. Winner picked by Random.org. (The winner of last week's giveaway of Twice Betrayed is announced at the end of the post.)

 Writing from the Inside Out. . .  by Linda Oatman High

I wanted to write about an animal that had come from a sad place, a time of neglect or abuse, but then found a good home. I chose an elephant, one of my favorite creatures on earth.
             The first thing I heard while thinking about this book was the voice of the elephant, echoing in my head. “Bill The Giant has died and I cry,” the sorrowful voice said. “Elephants do cry.”
             I named this elephant Queenie Grace. I wanted her to be a stately and elegant elephant, royal, majestic as a queen. I gave her Grace, because I knew that she’d have much to forgive. She had to be full of dignity, able to pardon past mistreatment. Queenie Grace had to be compassionate and kind, not bitter, and she needed to be an elephant that readers could adore. I loved her from her first words.
             I decided to go with alternating chapters of the elephant’s first-person voice. I wanted not only to get inside Queenie Grace’s head, but within her soul. I hope that readers get to know Queenie Grace, too.
            Scientists know that many animals grieve much as humans do. By helping children to understand this, I believe that we assist in developing empathy for all creatures great and small, human and otherwise.

Plot Summary From HarperCollins:
     A poignant middle grade animal story from talented author Linda Oatman High that will appeal to fans of Katherine Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan. In this heartwarming novel, a girl and an elephant face the same devastating loss—and slowly realize that they share the same powerful love.
     Twelve-year-old Lily Pruitt loves her grandparents, but she doesn’t love the circus—and the circus is their life. She’s perfectly happy to stay with her father, away from her neglectful mother and her grandfather’s beloved elephant, Queenie Grace.
     Then Grandpa Bill dies, and both Lily and Queenie Grace are devastated. When Lily travels to Florida for the funeral, she keeps her distance from the elephant. But the two are mourning the same man—and form a bond born of loss. And when Queenie Grace faces danger, Lily must come up with a plan to help save her friend.

Review from Publishers Weekly:
       High’s (Planet Pregnancy) well-balanced novel about love, forgiveness, and the tightrope walk of friendship and family is centered in Gibsonton, Fla., “the strangest town in the nation.” Unlike the flamboyant circus side of 12-year-old Lily Rose Pruitt’s family—including her dear Grandpa Bill, dubbed “the Giant” at more than seven feet tall, and her estranged mother, Trullia, a trapeze artist—cautious Lily bottles up her emotions and avoids risks: “Keep it inside. That’s my motto.” Lily lives with her father in West Virginia, but when her grandfather dies unexpectedly, she flies to Florida alone for the funeral. There, she confronts her fear of the Amazing Queenie Grace (her grandfather’s elephant), forms friendships and makes a few enemies, tries to protect Queenie Grace from harm, and eventually comes to terms with her mother. The chapters alternate gracefully between Lily’s and Queenie Grace’s perspectives, and High effectively sketches how Lily gradually champions the elephant and recognizes larger issues around the ways performers abuse circus animals. Ages 8–12. Agent: Rosemary Stimola, Stimola Literary Studio. (Feb.)


Linda Oatman High is an author/journalist/playwright/poet who lives in Lancaster County, PA. She holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College, and teaches at schools and writing workshops both nationally and internationally.

Learn more about Linda and her many books: www.lindaoatmanhigh.com

____________________________________________________________________


THE LUCKY WINNER of TWICE BETRAYED by Gayle C. Krause IS:

****JANET SMART**** Congratulations, Janet. I'll be in touch shortly!

Thank you, dear readers, for supporting authors and good books! You're the best!

I'll be back on Valentine's Day to announce the winner of One Amazing Elephant. 

 ~Clara


Wednesday, February 1, 2017

TWICE BETRAYED by Gayle C Krause + 1st Chapter critque and ARC Giveaway

Dear Friends,

Today we're celebrating a Cover Reveal along with an inside look at what inspired our guest author, Gayle C. Krause, to write about Colonial Philadelphia and the spirit of independence. Gayle is donating an ARC for Twice Betrayed or a first chapter critique of a YA or MG novel to one lucky winner who leaves a comment about the post. The winner will be chosen by random.org.  Last week's winner of the comment contest is announced at the end of the post.

Cover reveal of Twice Betrayed
Summary of Twice Betrayed:
The thread of friendship is stretched to the breaking point…
With the spark of independence crackling in Colonial Philadelphia, three girls dress as boys and head to the river to put a perilous plan into action, but only two return. The third, a young milliner’s assistant, is found drowned, with gold coins sewn into her hems, coded spy letters in her bodice, and a journal implicating another sewing apprentice in the treasonous plot.

All eyes turn toward Perdy Rogers, Betsy Ross’ thirteen-year-old apprentice. But she’s no spy!  With one friend dead and deserted by another, the thread of friendship is stretched to the breaking point, when Perdy is accused. With her life on the line, Perdy risks more than her freedom as a new nation struggles to be born.


The Inspiration for Twice Betrayed by Gayle C. Krause


I’ve always loved history and discovering how things came to be.

When I walked in Pompeii, I felt like I had been there before.
In the Coliseum, a new story blossomed, which I’ve yet to write about one of the entertainers.
In the Caribbean, I’m positive the long-lost pirates whisper to me with each crash of the waves, and so I also have a female pirate story I’m working on.

But Perdy’s story was different. I wrote it first, and when I visited the Betsy Ross House, after the story was completed, I froze in my tracks and my husband asked me what was wrong.
But nothing was wrong…it was right. I had described the shop, the kitchen, the bedroom Perdy shared with her sister and grandmother in great detail, with the only difference between Twice Betrayed and the real thing being the shape of the stairs. Mine are square with landings between floors and the real house has circular stairs within the walls. And since the whole story about Betsy Ross making the first flag is a legend, with no real proof that she actually did make it (ask any historian) it was a perfect setting for my story.

I come from a long line of seamstresses and am a certified Home Economics teacher, where I also taught sewing to my students, so you can see how the sewing bits in the story are relevant.

TWICE BETRAYED is a mix of fact and fiction stitched together to bring a new light to the fabric of our beginnings, told from the eyes of a thirteen-year-old girl, who fell into a web of deceit and struggled to win her freedom, just like the country being born around her.

More about the author:  Gayle Krause was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania and being the oldest girl on the block, always led the younger kids in creative dramatics, wilderness expeditions through fields, and fossil hunting in the shale piles left from the heyday of mining. Those early interactions led her to a career in teaching, where, as a Master teacher she continued to inspire teens as she prepared prospective Elementary Teachers and Early Childhood Educators at the secondary and post-secondary levels. Simultaneously, she directed an instructional Laboratory Pre-K for her students, where she worked with eager young preschoolers.

Because she taught both young adults and preschoolers, her books fall at both ends of the Children’s Literature spectrum. You can find them on her website: www.gayleckrause.com

Gayle is most comfortable in front of students, be they four years old, or forty. She loves to teach Children’s Literature and enhance literacy skills in young readers. She is a member of SCBWI, Keystone State Reading Association, KidLit, Ink, a member of the Rhyme Revolution Best Rhyming Picture Book Selection committee 2015 and 2016, and a past member of The Poets’ Garage.

Follow Gayle’s writing journey on Facebook: Gayle C Krause
Twitter @GeeCeeK, and on Goodreads.

___________________________________________________________________

The LUCKY winner of The Jolly Regina is: KRISTIN !! CONGRATULATIONS!!
Kristin, Please e-mail me with your mailing address and how you'd like the book personalized: claragillowclark(at)gmail(dot)com






Thank you, dear friends, for your support of authors and good books! Happy reading!

I'll be back next week to announce the winner of Twice Betrayed.    ~Clara

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Author Kara Lareau talks about her exciting new Middle Grade series + Giveaway

Dear Readers,

So much was going on in the news this past week that I completely forgot about Newbery week. Then, just yesterday, I learned that our featured guest, Author Kara Lareau, had received great news about her previous book, The Infamous Ratsos. Her book was awarded a Theodore Geisel Honor. Congratulations, Kara! (See the book and learn more about it after her post about her NEW book, The Jolly Regina.)  Kara is donating an autographed copy of The Jolly Regina for the comment contest. So please leave a comment for Kara about her post or to congratulate her on her exciting award!

The winner of The Hollow Ground by Natalie Harnett will be revealed at the very end of the post.

Here's a little about Kara. . .

Author Kara Lareau

Kara LaReau was born and raised in Connecticut. She received her Masters in Fine Arts in Writing, Literature, and Publishing from Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts, and later worked as an editor at Candlewick Press and Scholastic Press. Currently, she lives in Providence, Rhode Island with her husband, their son, and their cat. You can learn more about Kara by visiting her website:  karalareau.com

Follow her on twitter: @karalareau
instagram: karalareau





The Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters 
 by Kara Lareau 

To be honest, I can be a little bit bland. I might not be as bland as Jaundice and Kale Bland, the protagonists of my new middle-grade trilogy, The Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters. But I have had my moments. Here are just a few:

1.Sometimes, I make plans to go out and take a shower and get dressed and put on makeup, then decide I’d much rather stay home.
2. I mostly drink water, or plain seltzer.
3. I like plain pizza with no toppings (just sauce and cheese).
4. My wardrobe consists of five colors: blue, black, gray, green, and tan. (And I only wear solid colors, except for the occasional muted stripe.)
5. I prefer having very short fingernails with no nail polish on them.
6. I would rather sleep than do just about anything.
7. Sometimes I write something I really like, then put it away in a drawer.

Some of these bland behaviors are harmless, or just a matter of (however-bland) taste, but that last one has been a problem for me. I kept the manuscript for THE INFAMOUS RATSOS (my new chapter book series) in a drawer for more than a year before I shared it with my agent. Why? Because I was afraid he wouldn’t like it, or wouldn’t know how to sell it, because it was different. If you think that’s bad, I hid away the manuscript for The Jolly Regina (the first book in the Bland Sisters trilogy) for waaaaay longer than that.

Jaundice and Kale might be inherently bland, but they’re also a bit too attached to what’s comfortable for them — their house, their cheese sandwiches, their dictionary — so it takes a real effort for them to get out into the world. (And in most cases, the effort is made by their parents!) Really, deep down, they’re just afraid. I relate to that a LOT — I spent my childhood (and much of my adulthood!) being afraid of many things, including (and especially) failure. That’s a tough one I still deal with now. And that’s why, for me, the challenge in being a writer isn’t in finding a good idea, or sitting down to write, or following through on a project. The hardest part is summoning the courage and the confidence to share my work with the world.


But over the past few years, I’ve had some experiences (a cancer diagnosis, having a baby) that have caused me to reexamine my life, and I’ve come to realize that everything good that has ever happened to me has happened because I stepped outside my comfort zone and took a risk. So, from here on in, I’ve been trying to be a little bit braver. I try to say YES more than I say no. So far, it’s working — THE INFAMOUS RATSOS and The Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters are both on their way to becoming series, and I have more than a few other projects out on submission. I might still not like to wear nail polish or put toppings on my pizza, but if I’m going to go to the trouble of getting dressed up, or polishing up a new manuscript, you can bet neither of us is going to end up sitting around at home.

One can only hope Jaundice and Kale might learn that same lesson…eventually.




PRAISE FOR The Jolly Regina by Kara Lareau
      “LaReau serves her humor dry, adding some serious swashbuckling for good measure… Meanwhile Hill’s pen-and-ink cartoons give the book precisely the right strange and silly tone.” (Kirkus)
      “With dry humor and a touch of snark, this first book of a new series is a smart choice for readers who have mastered Bink and Gollie but aren’t quite ready for Lemony Snicket. (School Library Connection)
      “Filled with puns, intrigue, and ample evidence that women make excellent—and ruthless—pirates, it’s a promising introduction to the Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters series.” (Publishers Weekly)
      “Replete with puns, gags, and life lessons, this transgressive voyage may “ketch” fans of envelope pushers like Barry Yourgrau, Alan Katz, or Roald Dahl.”(Booklist)
      “Plenty of references to booty and poop decks make for easy humor, while more subtle comedy comes from the deadpan third-person narration.” (Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books)

Presenting The Infamous Ratsos! Just look at that shiny new sticker! Congratulations, Kara! 


  • If you'd like to read some behind-the-scenes stories about THE INFAMOUS RATSOS, here are a few from Kara's archives (NOTE: The contest/giveaway mentioned has already ended)...
__________________________________________________________________________

The winner of Natalie Harnett's debut novel, The Hollow Ground is: Annette Whipple. Congratulations to you, Annette. Please claim your prize by e-mailing me with your address and for whom you'd like it personalized: claragillow(at)gmail(dot)com.

Thank you so much, dear readers, for your continued support of authors and good books! I'll be back next Wednesday to announce the winner of The Jolly Regina. We're also having a Book Birthday and another giveaway!

Have a great week!
~Clara



Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Author Natalie Harnett shares about her journey to publication + Giveaway


Dear Readers,

Please welcome a dear friend, Author Natalie Harnett, whose debut novel and background story to publication is perfect for starting off the New Year! Natalie is generously donating an autographed copy of her novel,  The Hollow Ground--an extraordinary debut of literary fiction. For a chance to win a copy of this award winning book, please leave a comment below for Natalie. Thank you!

My Journey to Publication by Natalie Harnett

I grew up in Queens, New York and for as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to write. I think my love for language came at a young age and was fostered by the many afternoons I spent reading early twentieth century poems to my maternal grandmother. My family’s love of made up words and my paternal grandmother’s broken English—she was an ethnic German immigrant from Slovenia—also helped.

Though I did well in school, I had a poor understanding of grammar until I taught it to myself during my first year of graduate school. Oddly enough, I think my lack of knowledge of grammar and punctuation gave me a kind of freedom with language that I wouldn’t have otherwise felt. It seems strange to say, but I’m actually glad I didn’t learn grammar until I was an adult!

During grad school I wrote a novel and then later wrote several others.  Those novels won some literary awards but never got published.  In a way, I’m grateful for that. I don’t think the writing in them is as strong as the writing in my debut, The Hollow Ground, and if they’d been published, I’m not sure how well they would have done.

Those previous novels were all in third person and were inspired largely by personal experience.  By the time I was ready to start The Hollow Ground, I knew I wanted to start something new.  I wanted to try first person and I wanted to do something that I had not personally experienced.  My mom has always said that people love to learn something when they read, so I was thinking historical fiction.  I love history.  I also always start with place when I write, and the place that my imagination kept returning to was the city of Carbondale, PA.

While I was a young child my grandfather lived in the Pocono area of Pennsylvania and through him, I became familiar with the nearby city of Carbondale.   There was something about the city’s steep, narrow streets and large old homes that called to me. From my grandfather’s neighbor I’d heard about how coal mine fires had sunk houses and poisoned people, but at that time, I’d had no intention of writing about a coal mine fire.  In fact, I didn’t even know about Carbondale’s fire until I started doing research on the city.

Gradually, as I learned more and more about that fire and the horrific conditions the residents had survived, I knew I also wanted to tell the story of the fire.  That’s when The Hollow Ground started to take shape.  Up until then, I’d thought the novel would be about a gift for healing that Brigid had inherited from her Auntie.  But the story of the fire soon overtook the story of Brigid’s healings, and I was forced to scrap the bulk of the novel I’d already written and start anew.

By that time I was pregnant and deeply concerned that I’d never manage to complete the novel once the baby was born.  As it turned out, I couldn’t have been more wrong.  My baby’s first year of life was the most productive writing year of my own life!  She had colic and I’d spend hours in a rocking chair, holding her in my left arm while writing with my right.  My incredibly supportive family also did everything they could to give me time to type and rewrite.  I couldn’t have done it without them. Now my daughter is five and it’s such a pleasure to see her get a kick out of ‘Mommy’s book’ being on a library shelf.  It’s truly a dream come true.

Currently, I have two projects in the works. One is an outline for a novel about a 64 year old woman, a former child refugee, who finally learns to love. And the other is a novel set in the 1950s that is inspired by my great grandmother’s and her servant’s lives.  My great grandmother was a diamond dealer, and she came over from Amsterdam under very shady circumstances.  Her servant was a white woman who was basically her slave.  That servant was never paid a dime, never had a day off and, once she became too old to work, my great grandmother gave her away to my grandmother.
Their story has haunted me since I was a little kid, and it’s been a very powerful experience writing about them.  What’s also been a powerful experience is learning, through my research, about New York City’s significant slave history. I knew almost nothing about it and that history gets incorporated into the novel as well. Oh, and my great grandfather’s Queens speakeasy gets some mention, too.



Review: The Hollow Ground by Natalie S. Harnett (Thomas Dunne Books). In this evocative debut novel, a 12-year-old girl narrates the story of her family's life in a mining town where the very bowels of the earth are ablaze. Brigid Hawley is as unforgettable as Francie in "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn," and hands down this is the best novel of 2014. ~Providence Journal

Plot summary: Inspired by real-life events, the underground mine fires ravaging a Pennsylvania coal town lead eleven-year-old Brigid Howley to make a grisly discovery in a long-abandoned bootleg mine shaft. In the aftermath, old secrets threaten to prove just as dangerous to the Howleys as the burning, hollow ground beneath their feet.

Honors and Awards: THE HOLLOW GROUND won the 2015 John Gardner Fiction Book Award, the 2014 Appalachian Book of the Year Award and was long-listed for the 2016 International Dublin Literary Award.


Author Natalie Harnett
Natalie S. Harnett has an MFA from Columbia and has been awarded an Edward Albee Fellowship, a Summer Literary Seminars Fellowship, and a Vermont Studio Center Writer’s Grant. Her fiction has been a finalist for the Mary McCarthy Prize, the Mid-List Press First Series Award for the Novel, the Glimmer Train’s Short Story Award for New Writers, and The Ray Bradbury Short Story Fellowship.  Her work has appeared in the Chicago Quarterly Review, The Irish Echo, The Madison Review, The MacGuffin and The New York Times.

Learn more about the author: www.natalieharnett.com

Follow her On Facebook and Twitter:

https://www.facebook.com/NatalieSHarnett

https://twitter.com/nataliesharnett

Thanks, dear readers, for stopping by to read the post and share with us in the comments below. The winner of The Hollow Ground, will be announced in about a week. (If you're new to the blog, please include a way for me to reach you if your comment number is picked by random.org. Much appreciated.)

Happy New Year!
~Clara

Monday, December 12, 2016

Interview with K.L. Going + Winner of SECRETS IN THE SNOW

Dear Readers,

I know you're eager to learn the winner of Michaela MacColl's exciting novel, Secrets in the Snow, but THIS week the winner will be announced at the end of the blog!

First, please welcome award winning author, K.L. Going, in this special, unannounced interview. Kelly and I are co-faculty for an upcoming workshop, Novel Beginnings, from March 16-19 for Highlights Foundation with special guest editor, Andrea Tompa from Candlewick Press.
And NOW, here's K.L.!! 

Author K.L. Going and her FAVORITE distraction
Q. What makes the start of a novel so challenging?
K.L. - Whenever I'm writing a new novel, the section I read and reread the most is the opening chapter. There is so much that has to be introduced right away, and all of it has to be done in an artful way so that readers don't feel like they're receiving an information dump. Key features of the characters and plot must *pop* enough to be memorable, but they're competing with every other element that needs to be established from page one -- like setting, tone, and the most important feature of the plot: what does this character want or need? That's no small order, right?

Meanwhile, an author is also dealing with that feeling in the pit of the stomach that happens when you think about all of the blank pages ahead that haven't been written yet. Ha. Suddenly, the great idea that seemed so amazing before you sat down to actually write it, can begin to feel like maybe it's not so great after all. Especially when you read your first draft.

My solution? Recognize right from the start that the opening of your novel is going to take multiple revisions in order to get it right. It's going to take work. Editing. Taking the time to think through those fundamental decisions about what makes your character and plot tick will make your book so much stronger later on. Planning pays off, and expectations matter.

Q. What do you know now that you wish you'd known at the start of your career?

K.L. - Marketing. Groan. Many authors feel like this is the bane of our existence. I'd rather just write books. That's what I'm good at. BUT... marketing has become an indispensable part of an author's job. I wish that ten years ago I'd understood the importance of gathering names and e-mail addresses for a mailing list, but at that time having a website felt like an achievement.

Q. What is one common mistake you see when critiquing new writers?
K.L. - One of the most common mistakes I see is that the plot of the novel feels episodic. You can have a strong character, a compelling idea, and clean prose, but if the through line of your plot isn't strong and fails to connect each and every event in a meaningful way, the story will feel like a collection of events and it will fail to have that snowball effect which keeps a reader turning the pages because the story is building towards a conclusion, gaining speed and urgency as it goes along.
 
Q. What are you most looking forward to about our upcoming Highlights Foundation workshop, Novel Beginnings?

K.L. - Having a span of time removed from the demands of my daily life (child care, laundry, grocery shopping!) to focus on writing. Even as a teacher, I always come away feeling rejuvenated and inspired to write more. Write better! I always learn new things. A friend of mine, Lisa Grace Byrne, founder of Well Grounded Life, talks about giving yourself permission and graces. Attending a workshop means I'm giving myself permission to pursue my passion, and the grace to try something new, even if that means making mistakes or taking risks. If I've given myself permissions and graces, I can enjoy focused, quality writing-centered time without judgement, and that is such an amazing gift!

Learn about our upcoming workshop by clicking on the link: Novel Beginnings: Building Strong Foundations for Your Novel and Your Career 2017

Our workshop is perfect for advanced beginners. Kelly and I will review up to 50 pages of a w-i-p, give authors detailed feedback, and meet with them one-on-one. We will also be presenting several workshops on craft and career!
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The WINNER of Michaela MacColl's novel, Secrets in the Snow, chosen by random.org is: 
**SUE FRYE**
Congratulations, Sue!
(Please e-mail me with your mailing address and how you'd like the book personalized by Michaela.)
Thanks again, dear readers, for your continued support of BOOKS and AUTHORS! May your days be merry and bright!

Warmest wishes, Clara