Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

As we say goodbye to 2011, I think it's good to reflect on the year's journey. I started the year in New Hampshire and I'm ending it in Colorado- with all my belongings in storage, waiting on a "short" sale house in Tucson. So things are a bit up in the air right now, but hopefully it will all be settled soon.

Each year is full of ups and downs, and this year was no different. The worst thing that happened this year was that I got my heart broken. That's obviously never fun, but at the end of the day, I really wouldn't change anything about it.

The best thing that happened this year is that I found a publisher for my books. My advance was actually wired to my account just a few hours ago, making it feel even more real. I'm in the midst of the editing process and I'm geekily excited about it.

This year has been filled with all my favorite people and lots of travel. And I'm on the cusp of a really big 2012!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Donation

This year I'm splitting my donations between the US and the rest of the world.

I'm giving to Farm Aid, which helps family farmers defend themselves against the corporate giants dominating the market and advocates for truth in labeling with the FDA, among many other things. Their website is very  informative and if you were transformed by the documentary Food, Inc., as I was, this charity is for you.

According to CharityNavigator, it has three out of four stars, 75.4% of donations go directly to program expenses, and it pays it's CEO just a bit over $40,000 a year.

The other charity is, which helps create sustainable solutions to bring clean drinking water to communities around the world. For $25, you can provide one person with clean drinking water for life.

CharityNavigator gives it all four stars. 80.1% of donations go directly to program expenses and it's CEO is paid a bit over $97,000.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

In Lieu of Christmas Cards

I'm not sending out cards this year. My address book is in storage along with the rest of my stuff while I stay with my parents in Colorado.

I just got back from another trip to Tucson. I'm trying really hard to buy a house there, but no one seems all that eager to take my money. This "short sale" is dragging into the third month. It was so beautiful in Tucson; it was in the sixties. I considered becoming a squatter. Colorado got dumped with snow just in time for a slushy, brown Christmas.

In better news, my books found a publisher! I'm just starting the editing process. The first book will be out by the summer and the next two will follow quickly after.

So I miss my friends back east and I miss my friends in Tucson, but I'm catching up with family here. Tomorrow, I'm having Christmas dinner with aunts, uncles and cousins.

All in all, not a bad year.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Canvas: My Publishing Imprint

I'm super excited to see my name on the list of authors represented by Constable & Robinson's new imprint, Canvas. Looking at this list is my new version of pinching myself. It was not all a dream; I really am getting published!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Book Review: An Object of Beauty

It is with a heavy heart that I give Steve Martin’s An Object of Beauty a thumbs down. I have thoroughly enjoyed his other books - Shopgirl and The Pleasure of My Company. Martin has a gift for creating quirky, tender characters who steal your heart. He has not done that here.

AOOB purports to tell the story of a fascinating young woman who captivates everyone she meets as she climbs the social ladder of the 1990’s art scene. On page 136, a man she’s “dating” asks her if she realizes that she’s never said one thing to him that isn’t banter.

And that pretty much sums up the problem with main character Lacey Yeager. I don’t care about her because she doesn’t care about anything. (By the way, she does not respond to this man by having any sort of revelation and letting her guard down to show us that she is actually a real person. She simply responds with more banter.) She takes nothing seriously; she wants nothing of importance; she has not one relationship that appears to mean anything to her. She’s vacant.

The narrator seems to be her closest friend, and yet it’s unclear if she even cares about him or if she just enjoys having him as an audience and partner in crime. He alludes to some borderline illegal activity they’re involved in, and the mystery hangs over the story for the next hundred pages or so. But in the end, it doesn’t matter because I don’t care about her. I don’t care what she did or why she did it or whether she gets caught. There’s nothing at stake here.

This book is full of dull, paragraph long descriptions of paintings, sometimes accompanied by prints of the paintings themselves. Anecdotes that don’t involve any central characters. Art history tangents and long-winded explanations of the business of art. If I hadn’t paid full price for this book, I wouldn’t finish it.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Holiday Shopping: American-made Kids' Clothes

It's impossible. Well, nearly. I've spent hours on internet searches. I had hoped to find many great sites to share, but I didn't.

Turns out, there are no cute, American-made clothing sites for those of us who don't believe in spending more than fifty bucks on an outfit for a two-year-old. I found two websites whose clearance/sale sections might be worth a look:

Basic Brilliance - Leggings and tops in assorted solid colors. Good basics, but not very aesthetically interesting on their own.

CDWKids - Not all their stuff is made in America, so be careful. You can select that section.

I didn't find what I wanted at either of these stores, so I went back to This time I got some fantastic dresses at DoodleBugDressShop. Since they're handmade, I was able to request a longer sleeve for one. With shipping, I'm spending less than fifty bucks on two little girls. As a gift, for something cute and unique, that's awesome and I'm happy to do it.

However, what has become very clear to me is that it would be impossible to clothe your children entirely in American-made clothing. Unless you're wealthy. Or you sew them yourself.

But what really matters is that I met my goal! I bought American for Christmas and I spent more than the $64 that Diane Sawyer claims will help create 200,000 jobs.

So I did my part. What have you done?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Holiday Shopping: Made in America

"If each one of us spent $64 a year on something actually made in America, we would together create 200,000 jobs." -Diane Sawyer, ABC News.

I'm working on it. There are a lot of great websites in that link, but I haven't yet found what I'm looking for. It's especially frustrating that when I do an internet search for "made in America, girl clothes", I come up with pages of links related to American Girl Dolls, which are made in China.

As I continue my search, these are the best sites I've found, the ones I'll circle back to when I'm no longer shopping for children:

Monday, December 5, 2011

Holiday Shopping: Dress-ups

Well, I struck out on made-in-America website searches for dress-up clothes so I did a search for dress-up clothes and emailed the websites to find out where they were made. Of those that replied, the answer was generally the same: China.

So before I give up and search for a different gift a four-year-old girl will love, I thought I'd send my wish out into the universe. Does anyone have any recommendations?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Book Review: A Visit from the Goon Squad

It's rare for me that a book lives up to its hype.

I was concerned after the first few chapters which seemed more like short stories just barely connected by peripheral characters. They were very well-written and compelling on their own, but I was disappointed by the lack of a single story. However, as I read on, I realized the way each story added to the one before it, creating a broader picture.

The format of the book makes me think of a prism: each story is a facet of the prism. An inconsequential character from the first chapter is the central character a few chapters later, proving that no one is inconsequential; everyone has their own story to tell. Also, a character who seems utterly lost in an early chapter will have figured things out in a later chapter. And, on the flip side, a character who has a simple, happy childhood will end up committing suicide.  As the stories weave back and forth in time and geography, we see the full spectrum of human experience. (Though, perhaps, a uniquely American one.)

On a writerly note: for those interested in this sort of thing, AVFTGS is a great study in point of view. Chapters are written in third person, first person, omniscient, and even the rarely seen second person. If you're trying to figure out the differences and how to successfully pull off each one, I'd recommend this book.

But, then, I recommend this book anyway.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Holiday Giving

In a previous post, I mentioned my family's Christmas tradition of donating to charity instead of buying gifts. An email is making the rounds this season that makes false claims about the proportion of donations going to services vs CEO pay for charities like Unicef. It suggests that you donate money instead to various charities that serve veterans.

Now, I think donating to veterans' charities is a great idea- especially at a time when the veteran suicide rate outstrips the number of combat deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan. But bashing other charities, lying about them, is not very consistent with the Christmas spirit.

So if you get this email, ignore it. Better yet, reply to the person who sent the email and let them know that it's bunk. And before choosing a charity to donate to this year, check out its reputation here:

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

New Books!

I never do this. I like to buy my books used on for a penny.  So how did I end up paying full price for TWO new novels?

I tagged along with my parents for a week in the mountains and I wanted something to read. I specifically wanted Jennifer Egan's Pulitzer Prize winning A Visit From The Goon Squad - partially because of the critical acclaim, but mostly because my publisher handles her British publication.

In seconds, I could have downloaded the book to my computer. But, call me old fashioned, if I'm spending ten bucks on a book, I want to be able to put it on my bookshelf. If it's available in print, I want it in print.

So I went to Bookworms in Edwards, CO. I had a lovely lunch of cauliflower cheddar soup and the Eat, Pray, Love salad with pears. And then I found the book along with another I've been wanting for awhile - Steve Martin's An Object of Beauty.

I held the books and read the opening page of each. This didn't help: they're both good...

So I splurged. I'm starting with Egan's novel. I hope to have a review up soon.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Nanowrimo: Stuck

You may have noticed my lack of nanowrimo posts lately. That's because there hasn't been much to say. I realized that it was coming out very autobiographical. Although I always blend my fact with fiction, I like to lean heavier on the latter. 11,000 words in, I realized there wasn't enough fiction for me to hide behind.

So, I've decided to put this story in a drawer and think about starting a new one. As a nanorebel, I'd have no problem adding my word count from a new project, but there's hardly enough time left in the month to bother.

I'm happy with my first attempt at nanowrimo and I'm officially calling it quits.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Holiday Shopping: First Purchase

I ended up participating in Black Friday after all - sort of. I made my first purchase online last night at, a site that came recommended by a blog reader! (Thanks, Isasmama!)

This website is so cool. It is a network of artisans, most in the US, making unique gifts that can't be found in stores. You can search for products by type, price and location.

I ended up buying some adorable handmade children's clothes at Noah and Lilah. (Remember that handmade gifts will require some advanced notice . Rush orders may be possible at an extra cost. Each artist's policy is different.) I emailed the artist to request the receipt be withheld from the shipped package - and I've already gotten a response. I spent less than $30, including shipping, and it's a product that was made in America! Success!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Holiday Shopping

I do not celebrate Black Friday. In fact, I try really hard not to set foot in a mall during the entire time between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

For a few years now, my family has decided to donate to charity in lieu of gifts to each other. We have given to Unicef, Heifer, CharityWater, to name a few. Helping someone on the other side of the world to become self-reliant feels better to me than receiving a bunch of things I really don't need. (And it saves on standing in the exchange line on December 26th.) It's much more consistent with the Christmas spirit.

My theory on gift-giving is that it's reserved for children, preferably those who still believe in Santa. I remember a sharp decline in my level of gratitude once that particular bubble was burst. (If Santa took the time to bring me socks, I was impressed; Mom and Dad should know better.)

So my shopping list is pretty short. And I'm going to try to buy American. I don't advocate a boycott of foreign products, but I believe that if we all paid a bit more attention to where our money went, we could do a lot to fix the unemployment problem without waiting for politicians to do it for us.

It's harder to find American products than you'd think. I'm starting with this website: and I'll keep you posted on what I find.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Best Book I've Read This Year

I do not have a Kindle. I spend a lot of time reading works in progress by aspiring writers on my laptop. I have read enough of these to realize that there is quality work out there that just doesn't find a publisher. Still, I have always been wary of self-published novels.

Then I found Tom's Daughters, which is available as a Kindle ebook. You can download Kindle for PC for free. I read enough of this on Authonomy to be confident that I wasn't wasting my money. There are a handful of typos, but that's not so different from a book by a standard publisher, and it wasn't enough to be distracting.

The plot here is juicy: the death of an estranged father triggers a journey into the past, revealing all kinds of family secrets. This is literary fiction with some mystery mixed in and the twists and turns will keep you guessing. But the real gem here is the characters. They're relatable and interesting, the kind of people you miss when you've finished reading.

I'm looking forward to the day this book gets picked up by a big publisher and I can buy print copies as gifts. Until then, I fully recommend the ebook.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Family Dinner

Last night, I had dinner with my favorite people in the state of Colorado: the ones I'm related to! We had a private room at Papadoux for all my aunts, uncles and cousins. It was like Thanksgiving without the turkey. Cajun-style.

My aunt asked me what my book is about and I stumbled, as always. It reminded me that even after having worked out a query letter and synopsis, I still don't have a proper "elevator pitch" - a three-sentence soundbite that explains what the book is about.

I can describe the plot: Boy meets girl. Boy turns out to be a twit. Girl leaves boy.

But that's not really what it's about.

Monsoon Season is a coming-of-age, family saga. It's about learning how to be independent without being alone. Monsoon Season explores how well we know the people we claim to love and how much every person we choose to let into our lives shapes who we become.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

NaNoWriMo: Halfway Point

In fifteen days, I have written exactly 10,000 words. Exactly. The stats say that at this rate, I'll finish by January 14th. As a NanoRebel, participating for the first time, I'm totally content with my progress.

Friday, November 11, 2011

NaNoWriMo: Goofing Off

So this was the first day of the month that I haven't done any writing: not one paragraph, not one line, not one word.

And I don't feel guilty.

Instead, I had lunch with my aunts and we celebrated the publishing of my books. I'm about to start working with my editor to get the first one ready. I'm super excited.

I'll get back to work tomorrow!

Monday, November 7, 2011

NaNoWriMo: Week One

One week down, and I have over 6,000 words. The NaNo stats tell me that at this rate I should finish at the end of December. Technically, this means I'm falling behind. But the truth is, if I have 50,000 words by Christmas, I'll be ecstatic.

Since I am in transit right now (staying with my parents for a few weeks), some of my writing notes are actually in storage. Once I get settled, I'll have access to all my computer files and not just my laptop. That'll help.

So far, so good.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

NaNoWriMo: Day Three

Okay. So I'm back in writing mode, having decided to write it all in first person. I'm at 2312 words. I'm a bit behind the daily word count target, but I'm happy with it.

And I'm going to try to shut up my inner editor. From now on. Really.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

NaNoWriMo: Day Two

At 1,186 words, I've hit my first major snag. I've written some sections in first-person and some in third-person. I know part of the NaNoWriMo challenge is to silence your inner editor, but I really need to figure out how I want to tell this story before I write 50,000 words I can't use - it isn't as easy as just swapping out pronouns.

So, I'm officially a "NaNoRebel". If you're considering becoming one, check out the site forums:

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

NaNoWriMo: Day One

Half-way through the day and I have 822 words, which is about half what they recommend. If I could maintain this pace for the whole month, I might actually have a shot of "winning."

I'm actually surprised.

If you're looking for buddies on the site, I'm registered as Katie78.

Alright, no more procrastinating. The blog doesn't count toward my word count!

Monday, October 31, 2011


It's National Novel Writing Month, known by writing geeks as NaNoWriMo. During the month of November, participants huddle over their keyboard in an attempt to write 50,000 words in thirty days. And, no editing. The point is to get out a complete first draft you can polish up later.

Official participants can join at The site provides motivational support and networking with other writers. I've considered participating before, but this just isn't the way I write. I edit as I go and when I get stuck, I read back what I have or take a break. I've heard it can be quite freeing to get rid of your inner editor, though, so I'm giving it a shot this year.

50,000 words in thirty days is daunting. That's about 5 pages a day. I want to participate, but I'm not putting that much pressure on myself. I plan to hook up with the group of NaNo "rebels" on twitter who have personal writing goals that differ from the competition, but hope to benefit from the motivational aspect.

I'll keep you posted on how it goes.

Monday, October 24, 2011


There's a great website out there for readers looking for recommendations. You rate your favorite books and the computer will make suggestions. You can take quizzes, write your own reviews and network with friends and strangers who have similar taste in books. You can even follow your favorite author, many of which are members.

So, you know, if you're not wasting enough time on facebook, check this out: And look me up there!

Sunday, October 23, 2011


Okay. So it's a week away, but since I'm moving next week, I may not be able to blog. It has been several years since I dressed up for Halloween. I've never had a store-bought costume, always relying on my imagination, the dress-up bin and how much time my mother had to help. Not all the costumes were winners. I have a picture of myself as a trashy, make-up wearing 7 year old. (I think I was going for Madonna.)

My favorite adult costume was when my friend Debbie and I went as fairies. We made our wings with wire, glue and colored cellophane. Tights. A skirt made of green felt that I hot glued myself into. I think Debbie used purple fabric in the shape of flower petals. It was fun, easy and cheap. We were adorable. I'd include a picture, but my photo albums are packed.

My favorite childhood costume was, for years, the source of immense humiliation. I begged my mother to burn the evidence. Thankfully, she didn't:

Saturday, October 22, 2011


For the past two years, I had my novel posted on, a website for aspiring writers and avid readers. I traded useful critiques with members and silly banter on the forums while my book went up the ranks. The quality of my day was often determined by whether my book had a red arrow or a green arrow. The highest ranking it got was somewhere in the sixties - not bad since there are thousands of books posted there.

Today, at the request of my publisher, I've pulled the book from the site. I was a little sad to lose my backers, some of which had supported the book for eons. But the whole point of having my work on the site was to find a publisher, and I have.

I intend to maintain a presence on the site, reading and supporting my favorites. I'm proof that agents and publishers are lurking there.

Friday, October 21, 2011


I'm using this post to respond to a reader's question. I explained what I would miss about New Hampshire; what am I looking forward to in Tucson? This has the potential to be a much longer post, but I'll try to keep it to the highlights.

Let's start with the weather. I know people think it gets too hot in Arizona- it does. But I'll take three months of too hot over nine months of New England's wet, gray, cold, snowy, icy, gray, wet fall/winter/spring. And it really does make a difference that the heat in Tucson is dry. 80 degree humidity in New Hampshire is about as oppressive as 110 in Arizona.

My house. For less than the rent on my crappy one-bedroom apartment in New Hampshire, I'll be paying a mortgage on 3 bedrooms and a yard. I can get a dog. I can have dinner parties. I'll have a washer and dryer.

The writing community. Out here, I've scraped together some writers I've met online for virtual writers groups that fall apart in about three months. In Tucson, I have actual writer friends who come over for workshopping and pizza. I can attend the Pima Writer's Workshop in the summer.

And, saving the best for last, there are my Tucson buddies. We are going to have so much fun. I can't wait!

Thursday, October 20, 2011


When I moved into this apartment two years ago, I unpacked my boxes and was left with one shoe out of a pair. I am not a shoe collector, so I have two pairs of winter shoes and two pairs of summer sneakers. This was  my favorite pair of black comfy winter shoes and I looked everywhere for it. It drove me nutty! This apartment is small. There aren't that many places it could be.

As I was packing up to leave, I came across this solitary shoe. I set it aside, planning to throw it away rather than waste space packing it. Then I pulled an empty box down from the top shelf in my closet. Something rattled around inside.

The other shoe! Reunited after two long years.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Live Free or Die

That's the state motto in New Hampshire. I grew up here but I'm about to move back to Tucson where I spent seven happy years before answering the siren call of home and wrecking my boat on the rocks. The list of things I will miss is shorter than the things I won't miss. Here it is:
  1. My girls.
  2. Their girls.
  3. My aunt.
  4. My grampy.
  5. Summer.
And we're done.

Here's my favorite NH themed youtube clip. (It's funnier if you know the Jay-Z song they're parodying, Empire State of Mind.) Enjoy.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Goodbye Dinner

I'm about to move so my two best girls came over for a celebratory send-off. Debbie cooked,  which is always a good time. I had planned to take pictures to post here, but before I remembered, we had pretty much eaten it all.

So, no pics. You'll have to take my word for it. There was lobster casserole, roasted shrimp, mussels, and scallops (which I didn't eat because just because Debbie's an amazing cook doesn't mean I have to get over my scallop hatred). There was also a salad with apples and a fancy honey dressing.

And there were two desserts! Creme Brule and peanut butter mousse in chocolate cups. I will not eat this well again until... my next trip to see Debbie. Next summer?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Chick Lit vs Women's Lit

Speaking of confusing gender-related genre tags, what is the difference between chick lit and women's fiction? I mean, I think we can all identify the extremes: if the book jacket is hot pink, has a picture of a high heel, etc- that's chick lit. And though it gets harshly judged at times for being heavier into entertainment than personal growth, this genre has nothing to be ashamed about. This is the "chick flick" of literature. It gave us Bridget Jone's Diary and The Devil Wears Prada. And although these were certainly fun, sexy romps, I remember a good dose of personal development thrown in.

What stumps me, though, are books like The Girl's Guide to Hunting and Fishing, Love Walked In, The Dive From Clauson's Pier. I enjoyed all of these and they've been referred to as chick lit but I disagree- not because they're better, but because they're more serious in tone. Chick lit is a romantic comedy where women's fiction is a drama, or dramedy.

In my opinion. And maybe genre tags shouldn't matter, but with so much reading material out there, I must admit I like having some guidance.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Sexist Genre Tags

Whenever someone asks me what kind of fiction I write, I tell them it's literary fiction. But some people want to call it women's fiction.

But what is women's fiction besides literary fiction written by a woman? And why isn't there a similar tag for men's fiction?

Is it like how it's more socially acceptable for girls to play with "boy" toys than the opposite? We can all read what men write, but if a woman writes it, only women can read it.

In his review of Sue Miller's The Lakeshore Limited, one of my favorite books, Ron Charles explains it as: "writing about families and marriages, infidelity and divorce -- what we call "literary fiction" when men write about those things."


Thursday, October 13, 2011


I’ve been writing since I was a kid. I was “published” for the first time in the local paper with a Thanksgiving story that gave away my mother’s secret stuffing recipe- she used the store bought Stove Top brand. I’ve been writing about my family ever since- I’ve just learned to call it fiction!

I was president of the litmag in high school, took poetry classes all through college. It wasn’t until I took a class on memoir the semester before I graduated that I learned about creative nonfiction and started writing short stories that blend details from real life with those from my imagination.

I would say I was raised by a couple of storytellers, though I’m quite sure neither of them would call themselves that. My parents don’t write, but they talk, and both of their children grew up to be writers. My father tells stories at barbeques, to a captive audience, holding a bottle of Sam Adams. My mother tells stories at the kitchen table, one-on-one. They talk; I write.

My novels are coming of age, family sagas. I'll be posting excerpts and updates on my journey toward publication. Stay tuned!