Thursday, September 24, 2009

And the winner is. . .

Thursday, September 24, 2009 Who won the book, Lizard Love?

Wendy and I met for tea in the charming Cafe Divine on the Delaware River in Callicoon, NY. We came to talk shop, and for Wendy to pick a name written on a green slip of paper out of my straw hillbilly hat. Ten readers posted comments on FB, direct e-mail, or right here on my blog. Some of you posted two, so you got two chances to win. Thank you all for participating. It was an exciting moment when Wendy pulled a name out of the hat! And the winner is. . .
Kathleen Taylor

Congratulations, Kathleen! Your book will be on its way shortly. Please send your address to me via e-mail:

Also, welcome new members, Nancy Eisele, Hilary Wagner, and Albie Hazen.

Barbaranne also sent me this comment via e-mail: "This by far [post of Wendy's writing wisdom] resonated most deeply within me. I found this section to be most encouraging. Thank you, Ms. Townsend, for your willingness to "write the bones".

Thank you again, Wendy, for being so generous with your time.

Coming up next is the author interview with picture book author, Kay Winters, and a chance for three of you to win an autographed book! Check back October 1st for details.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Writing Wisdom & Advice--Author Interview cont'd

Wednesday, September 16, 2009 Don't miss this invaluable final post in the interview with the author of Lizard Love, Wendy Townsend:

I asked Wendy why she became a writer and what were her influences, and I was stunned by her reply. What she wrote is so emotionally honest. I believe that what she says will inspire and encourage all of you to persevere in your writing journeys. In Wendy's own words:

Wendy: Hmmm. . . I hated to write all through high school and into college. I was a perfectionist and scratched out every word I wrote as soon as I saw it on paper. But I had something I really needed to say. Animals, especially maligned reptiles, were dear to me; I loved then and identified with them. I saw iguanas coming into the pet industry by the thousands and then dying horribly because there were no books on care. I rescued a LOT of iguanas. I typed up a two page care sheet and delivered it to pet shops. Then one day, I took an iguana to Dr. Frye (a veterinarian who wrote a lot of books). He read my care sheet and three years later, we had coauthored a book about iguana biology and husbandry. The writing (mine!) was terrible, but it did come from my heart; it was what I desperately needed to say. In the process of working on my part of the book, I learned that I did want to keep writing. I also learned that for me, a story was the best way to say what I needed to say. I stuck with it and wrote a lot of bad stuff. But sixteen years later, Lizard Love was published. I see it as a beginning, not a point of arrival!

Q: What advice can you give aspiring writers?

A: Advice? Well, to quote Harry Mazer: "The way you become a writer is to get a pen and paper and start writing." It really is like that, because if you stay with it, you follow a path that leads you to where you need to go. But, also, you have to be very conscious and aware--you can't just show up at the page and grind out words forever and expect to get published. You have to witness your process. You have to open your eyes and mind and heart. Ask yourself, 'what do I really want to say? What is the story I need to tell? How do I really feel?'

I've worked with aspiring writers and one thing I've seen a lot are writers who have a great idea for a story and are passionate about it. But the writers haven't yet realized that they are avoiding the real story, which usually has to do with something much more personal or deeply buried. The mantra at Vermont College is: "Find the emotional core."

Q: What is your next book about?
A: It's called The Sundown Rule and my editor has the complete draft. It's not a coming-of-age story and there are no lizards in it, but there are lots of animals! And I'm working on a third novel, definitely YA, about the Blue Iguana murders that took place in May '08 on Grand Cayman Island. That one's about coming to terms with cruelty to animals.

Wendy also recommends these books on craft: Writing Down the Bones and If You Want to Write.

Thank you again, Wendy, for sharing with us from your heart! Quick reminder: Be sure to leave a comment this week for a chance to win an autographed copy of Lizard Love.

Author Lindsay Barrett George wrote on FaceBook:
"Loved Loved your interview with Wendy! Write on!"

Librarian Carriann wrote in an e-mail: "You deserve chocolate for your blog!"

Thank you for joining the blog: Please welcome, Barbaranne and Kathleen!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Author Interview with Wendy Townsend

Monday, September 14, 2009 Interview and exciting news about a new publisher!

You've met YA author, Wendy Townsend; you've learned about her book, Lizard Love. This week you're going to get an inside look at Wendy's writing process and writing thoughts.
But first, there's some exciting news you'll want to check out: Wendy's book is now available as an e-book at This is not just any publisher. The president and publisher of Namelos is none other than the highly acclaimed publisher/editor: Stephen Roxburgh (Front Street Books). Stephen has agreed to talk to you about his company in a future post. In the meantime, check out the link above and look around. There's a wonderful article in PW (Publisher's Weekly) posted on the Namelos web-site about his company and his philosophy. Spend some time looking over the Namelos site. It has a lot to offer writers and readers. And now, on to the INTERVIEW with Wendy Townsend.

Q: Is Lizard Love based on your life?
A: Yes, though only the grandparents are real; the mother is based on my mother, but everyone else is made up. Most of the animal characters are real.

Q: Are there scenes in the book that really happened?
A: Most of the Prologue is pretty real. I did walk out of a pet shop with a baby reticulated python who had lost most of his skin. I got a tour behind the scenes at the Bronx Zoo. My iguana friend at Grace's age was a female; Spot came later in my life and he never did bite me. Oh, and I did ride the subway to a friend's school.

Q: What books influenced your work on Lizard Love?
A: The Language of Goldfish and Rascal. In the first story, the girl is struggling so hard with becoming a young woman that she has to go into therapy. Rascal is about an extraordinary friendship between a boy and a raccoon--it is totally autobiographical and the author even uses his own name for the boy character. As with Grace and Spot, the boy, Sterling, sleeps and plays with Rascal.

Q: Are you the protagonist, Grace?
A: No and yes. It's true that first books are particularly autobiographical. Lizard Love started out as a memoir and I wrote the Prologue while I was in the Vermont College MFA Program. Making the leap into fiction was very difficult for me. Grace took on a life of her own, but it was a struggle, and I'm not so sure I really succeeded.

Q: What was the hardest part of writing the book?
A: The fact that I didn't know what it was all about while I was writing it. I wrote the Prologue and then didn't know what to do.

Q: What did you find the easiest part to write?
A: Nothing about the book was easy. But if I had to pick something, it would be working with an editor. I was just so thrilled to get any kind of guidance, anything to go on.

Q: Technically, what was the most difficult part of writing?
A: Getting bogged down in fixing sentences, instead of trusting the images in my head. I had to write the whole novel to learn that that's not the best way to write fiction!

Q: When did you decide to write for children?
A: I didn't decide; it turned out that what I was trying to say had to do with issues around that time in a person's life. When you're a child you see things for the first time and that is charged for me and more interesting to write about than the trials and dramas of adult life.

Thanks for joining us today, Wendy. You'll all be happy to know that Wendy will be back here on Wednesday to share thoughts about writing, including some excellent tips for writers. Don't forget to post a comment this week to be included in the drawing for a free autographed copy of Lizard Love. The winner will be announced on Thursday, September 24th.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Facebook Comments about Lizard Love

September 9, 2009 Lizard Love by Wendy Townsend


Cherie Matthews posted this comment on FaceBook:
"I have her book, Lizard Love. Would encourage all to read! I loved it. . .even have the t-shirt!"

Carriann Shultz posted this comment on FaceBook:
"Nice that you are doing this for us. By the time I am able to take time to get the book, your challenge will be over, but that's okay. As an elementary teacher would say, 'Keep up the good work', if she were writing a note on your paper!"

Thanks readers/writers! Your names are in the "hat"! Post another comment and I'll add your name again. Be back later this week with the interview!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Celebrating Authors & Books -- Lizard Love

Tuesday, September 8, 2009 This week we're going to continue our celebration of authors and books. Last week you got acquainted with first time author, Wendy Townsend; today You'll learn about her novel: Lizard Love by Wendy Townsend, Frontstreet Books 2008
Not long after Wendy and I met, I visited her home and got to meet her unusual (for me) pets. Wendy is conscientious and caring about all aspects of a lizard's life and habitat, and it was a treat to be welcomed into their living space to meet them personally. Getting to touch such exotic reptiles, hold one, and have one take food from my fingers was thrilling!
The depth of Wendy's love and concern for her pets came home even more after I read her book, Lizard Love. Her love for these exquisite creatures is completely realized in the pages of her book. I was especially struck by how well this author developed the thoughts and emotions of a young girl on the cusp of emerging from adolescence, reluctantly shedding the skin of childhood to become a teen who accepts the unwanted changes she sees in herself. I love how seamlessly the author created the metaphor of a snake shedding its skin to the way the character of Grace sees herself. I don't want to give away more of that parallel, but those transformations were incredibly beautiful in both the protagonist and the snake she saves. It is a book about lizard love, and a book about change on many levels--from the physical to the deeply emotional. It's an excellent choice for girls going through the trials of growing up.
Author Beckie Weinheimer (Converting Kate) said this about the book: "To me, Lizard Love is a love story about Grace and her lizard, Spot. I love this book. . .because adolescence is such a hard time, and a time where it is important to feel heard, understood and loved. . . "
Here's the starred review from Booklist: *"In her debut novel, Townsend displays a remarkable narrative gift. . .[H]er language really comes alive when talking about the natural world; her sensuous herpetological descriptions are unflinching, evocative, and positively elegant. Even the minor characterizations are full and complex, and the relationships drawn among them resonate with the honesty of adolescence. Though Grace's naivete seems surprising at first, this story will still find enthusiastic audience among young people walking the daily tightrope between fitting in and growing up."
Lizard Love is a Bank Street College List of Best Books 2009
A quick a reminder that Wendy is donating a copy of her book, and has graciously agreed to personalize it to one of you lucky readers who post a comment. (See last week's post below for details!) The next post will begin the interview. You'll discover why/how Wendy became a writer, and her inspirations, and much more!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Short Short Post & Welcome!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Thanks Jeanne, Jen, and Carriann for e-mailing me with feedback about yesterday's blog post.

Delighted to welcome all of you who just joined us: Author Pam Calvert, Louise who gives free critiques, and SonshineMusic who loves all things writerly. Welcome also recent newcomers Cherie, Mandy, and Kristin Gray. Check out Kristin's blog. You'll find her link by clicking on the link to my profile page beneath my photo.

Back tomorrow with thoughts & reviews of Lizard Love.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Meet YA Author Wendy Townsend

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

As promised, I'm going to interview authors this fall, tell you a little about who they are and introduce you to some of their work, along with the bonus of giving away an autographed copy of the featured book to one very lucky reader who writes in to comment on the interview or the book. I'll put all the names in a hat and have my husband pick. He's a very honest lawyer (don't laugh); it's true. So let's get started.
In the photo above is author Wendy Townsend and friend, Sebastian. No surprise that her first YA novel is titled Lizard Love.

Wendy lives just a few miles across the Delaware River from me. She's been around here for a number of years, and even though we were both writers, we didn't know each other. We met quite by chance in March of 2008. I could meet another author in a lot of places, but Wendy and I met at a library. She was browsing the YA stacks in the Wayne County Public Library and I was there meeting with two other author friends. She overheard our kid lit chat and came over to introduce herself. Magic. Isn't wonderful how birds of a feather find each other? So, I'm delighted to enlarge the circle of friends and introduce her to all of you.

Wendy is a graduate of the Vermont College MFA Program in Writing for Children and Young Adults. She is a lifelong lover of nature [a kindred spirit], especially reptiles and snakes. [Love that we don't all love the same furry pets!]She lives in Callicoon, New York, with her husband, numerous lizards, and at least one cat! Please welcome Wendy Townsend! You learn a lot more about her by clicking on this link:

The next post will be all about her book. I'll share my thoughts along with the starred review from Booklist. I hope you'll drop by to comment. If you have trouble posting a comment (some people say it doesn't work for them), then please send me a direct e-mail: I'll gladly feature your comments in a separate post.
You can also find and follow me on Twitter, and leave me a dm there. Back in a day or so!