Tag Archives: Anna Leahy

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.

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This photograph is actually very close to a scene from the book.
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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.

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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  http://garrycraigpowell.com/blog.php

Mimi Thebo  http://myglamorousliterarylife.wordpress.com

John Vanderslice http://creatingvangogh.blogspot.com

John Gallaher  http://jjgallaher.blogspot.com

Bye for now, y’all

Stephanie

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And so it begins. . .

The library edition of Rethinking Creative Writing, actually the ebook being made available to libraries worldwide, is out!

And your library wants to order it, right?  Right! Information on ordering is available here.

If you just want to see the link to the e-reader edition on the Sony e-store, that’s here.  And for more general information about the book, check here.

Word has been pretty positive so far, so I’m pumped.  My friend Erika Dreifus over at one of my favorite writing blogs,  Practicing Writing, has read it and sent along kind words.  And she wants to interview me about it for Practicing Writing; more on that as it develops. . .

My friend Anna Leahy, who administers the Creative Writing Pedagogy facebook page, was kind enough to put word out there and the response was good!  And when I put a link to the book in my own status, the response was truly encouraging.  I am lucky to have such friends.

Anthony Haynes, my brilliant editor at Professional and Higher says we’re taking the John the Baptist approach with the book, announcing the e-reader/library edition first, drumming up buzz.  Next will be the hardcover.

All in all very exciting stuff. . .with more to come!

Bye for now y’all!

SV

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Looking Ahead: AWP in DC

So Wordamour and husband are headed to DC this week for the Associated Writing Programs Conference with lots to look forward to.  So much, in fact, that we are going to have to pace ourselves.  And we’re at a hotel that’s a whole metro ride away from the conference so there will be very little going back to the room between events to de-stress by lying on a hotel bed staring at mindless tv (my de-stressing MO, if you haven’t guessed).

I’m on two panels which I’m very much looking forward to.  Fiction Writer’s Review gave me a shout out as a contributor when they listed contributor’s panels here.  I love Fiction Writer’s Review–if you’re at the Book Fair, check them out.  Better yet, subscribe to their blog.

Besides the panels:  Focus group on creative writing books for Bedford St. Martin’s with a free lunch and a stipend, dinner at Meskerem (a fondly remembered Ethiopian restaurant from my salad days in DC) with Anna Leahy and Cathy Day and friends, dinner with grad school pals Kelly Stern and Deb Moore, dinner with my mother-in-law and sister-in-law in from Maryland one night as well.

A publication party for Erika Dreifus’ Quiet Americans, which my husband reviewed here.

A whole group of students is going from UCA this year (and I know they will behave themselves so others can follow in future years.  Right? Right.).  Colleagues Mark Spitzer and Garry Powell. Former student, current Roosevelt MFA Heather Cox.

The Toad Suck Review will make its debut!

Glimpses of my British friends, Graeme Harper and Paul Munden among them (and the annual payment of my NAWE dues).

And the bookfair.  And more panels.  And somewhere in there, my birthday!

Good Lord!

I’ll be blogging about it all!

Bye y’all!

SV

PS A shout out to my mother, who is making all this possible by staying with my kiddos!  Thanks, Mom!

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A Quiet Moment

In which to reflect and blog. John and the boys are at a Yugioh sneak peak 45 minutes away. Someone had to stay home so the new puppy wouldn’t face hours in the crate. Since I had work to do (procrastination from yesterday) I made the ultimate sacrifice. Hmmm. Attending a Yugioh sneak peak vs. a quiet day reading (blogs and books), working and wrapping my soon to be 14 year old’s (tomorrow) birthday gifts with the loyalist of little dogs lying at my feet and keeping me company all the while (even waiting patiently for me to come out of the bathroom). Not much of a contest there.

What am I working on? Finishing the edits for Rethinking Creative Writing in Higher Ed, which I should have done yesterday but put off, as seems to be my practice these days. Overall, the editors liked what I sent, which was a huge relief, but they still have things they want me to change. Which is fine by me. Been working on it all week but I have a big revision on Chapter 3 to do today. The bigger the writing task, the more I procrastinate, it seems.

Keeping a list of what I’m working on. Three panels I’m on got accepted for AWP in DC this February ( I think that might be one more than officially allowed, but I’m not saying anything about it just yet) and one of them is called essentially, “What Do Writers Do All Day?” I decided to start keeping track so I can do some sort of data analysis and have something to say.

Also this summer: Wrote a conversational essay with poet Anna Leahy and fiction writer Cathy Day on teaching creative writing that was pure joy to write and, I think, will be fun to read wherever we can get it published. We’re shooting for AWP first.

Before I start the revision today (yes, more procrastination) I am going to fool around with a new course platform called Nixty, which I’m considering using in the fall. And, of course, I wrote this blog post. And did my weekly blog read (@ 250 posts).

Looking ahead: A 3 day trip to NWP Berkeley to start work on curating a new online project called Digital Is. Not completely sure what the work is going to be but I’m exited about it and will blog more when I know. Also, Friday, BargainsGaloreon64, Arkansas premiere yard saling event. Oh yeah, baby.

It’s been a rough couple weeks, house-selling, large check bouncing due to a technicality that sent our bank account into a tailspin that took over a week to work out, relentless 110 degree heat that engenders exhaustion in ways I never knew, and, worst of all, our brand new shelter puppy, Mario, was deathly ill (parvo–need I say more)and in puppy ICU which brought on 6 days of worry and hand-wringing.

So now, as I write this in the quiet of the afternoon with a sweet healed puppy at my side I am mostly just gratfeul.

It’s a wonderful feeling.

Bye, y’all
SV

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AWP Denver 2010 Day 3-Top 10

We have an early flight out tomorrow and dinner plans tonight with old friends so I’m not sure when I’m going to get a chance to blog AWP 2010 again.  Let me leave you with some images and my own top 10 list.

1. The Book Fair.  Enormous this year, hearteningly and intimidatingly so–I didn’t pick up much swag though, because my head was just swimming.  A picture follows below–multiply it by 10 and you get an idea of just how big it was. Reading is not dead.  So there.

2. The Denver Convention Center.  One of the best convention centers I’ve gotten to tool around in.  Capacious, comfortable, good signage.  But how could a conference in the West be anything else?

3. Our panel, the Joy of Assessment.  I tried to make my small contribution but I learned a ton from my other panel-mates, Judith Baumel, Mary Cantrell, Kendall Dunkelberg, Aileen Murphy, myself and Anna Leahy (who I later learned from someone  else just got married and tenure–way to hold out on us Anna ;)).  Thanks to Kendall, our fearless leader,  it went off beautifully.  Check back here soon for the Wiki address for moew resources he’s made available on the panel.

4.  Kids and Babies everywhere, even one little pea in a pod who could not have been more than a few weeks old.  His  mother strutted around with him in a sling like she’d done it all her life–kudos to her!  All in all a very kid-friendly conference.

5. Awesome 0atmeal and pumpkin muffins from the Corner Bakery.

6. Running into so many cross sections of my life in one place.

7. This year’s incredibly handy conference bag, with pockets galore, including space for business cards and water bottles.  A definite keeper.

8. Rich sessions full of great ideas.  Fewer “clunkers” than ever before.  I’m going to need days just to process all this.

9. The blue bear in peering into the convention center.

10. Sharing a few city blocks with thousands and thousands of fellow Wordamours!  The Word is alive! Long live the Word!!
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L-R Anna Leahy, Kendall Dunkelberg, Mary Cantrell and Aileen Murphy preparing to proclaim the Joy of Assessment.

Bye y’all,

SV

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Me ‘n my Book Guys Watch!!!

You can see me posing with my Book Guys watch here. Scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page on the right. There aren’t too many people with watches on there, so I don’t think I’m too hard to find.

Unfortunately, the watch has stopped, but I’m hoping it just needs a new battery because I really love that watch. I was hoping it would last forever.

In other news, my friend and colleague, Anna Leahy has started a group on Facebook called Creative Writing Pedagogy and she’s asked me to join her as co-leader/coordinator. Fun, fun! We’ve reeled in 60 members in just two days and already people are posting questions and books. So go join already–you don’t want to miss out.

I took a seminar this morning in van driving in anticipation of driving a honking big vehicle for the writing project in November (to the annual conference in San Antonio). It was actually kind of fun; they fed us well, we watched videos, discussed hypothetical hazardous driving scenarios and then took a written test. I think I might even have gotten a perfect score–if not, I did pretty well. I wasn’t sure how it was going to go, especially after my youngest asked me as I went out the door this morning, “Well, what are you going to do if you fail?”

How’s that for a vote of confidence? He may be remembering the family legend of how I–ahem–had to take my driver’s test three times. But that’s because New York State is really tough and you can’t pass if you ride the clutch–which was a teeny, tiny issue with me back then. As in, I eventually had to rent an automatic car to pass the test.

In case you’re interested, the two most important things you need to know when driving a big honking (like 16 passenger) van are:

Avoid Backing Up At All Costs!!!!
Stopping time, acceleration time, stopping distance, you name it: YOU NEED MORE.

That about sums it up.

I think I might frame my certificate of completion.

Bye for now y’all,
Steph

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As AWP Turns: And The Dance Card Fills

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AWP has not yet begun in earnest, but after a bit of sightseeing (the MOMA and SoHo) we were able to pick up our programs and then meet with a friend, Wendell Mayo, who now teaches in the Bowling Green MFA, for dinner. Wendell was our teacher at Lafayette and a real mentor and role model for both of us, especially John.

I am exhausted from tromping hither and yon all day and catching up on some work, but I wanted to post SOMETHING.  So I thought I would post a list of the sessions I hope to attend in the next few days.  AWP does a neat thing with their conference program (hint hint, 4C’s)–they provide you with a sturdy detached cardboard foldout with a blank schedule on it where you can write in where you need to be and what you want to see in the next few days.  Called your Personal Planner it may as well be a dance card.  4C’s and NCTE give you a blank planner, but it’s on a flimsy page inside the conference book, so you can’t refer to it nearly as easily.

So, here goes:

Thursday

Breakfast with Mary Ann Cain

Inside Publishing:  Editor’s Speak

Key Developments in Creative Writing Research

The MA in the UK and the MFA in the USA

Galway Kinnell: A Reading and Conversation

Bedford St. Martin’s Reception

Friday

K-12 Poetry Pedagogy

Heather Sellers and Anna Leahy are signing at the Bookfair

From Stories to Novels: Crossing the Great Divide

The Road Not Taken: Alternative Careers with the MFA

Old York, New York: A Picture of the UK’s Literary Culture

Keeping it Real: Everything You Need to Know About Researching and Creative Nonfiction

Saturday

Recognizing Common Ground: Creative Writer’s as Comp Teachers

The Art of Writing on Craft (with one of my fave writers, Charles Baxter!)

Judging Art: The Role of Assessment in Creative Writing

A Department of Our Own: Creative Writing in Independent Writing Programs (with our own David Harvey!)

Reading and Conversation w/ Martin Amis

Whew!  Will she make it to all of these or will she be trampled enroute to a crowded session, never to be heard from again?  Find out tomorrow in the next installment of . . .

As AWP Turns. . .

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