Tag Archives: John Vanderslice

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.


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

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.


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


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When good things happen to good people. . . A Very Special Giveaway


At last, I can tell the happy news. Not only did my husband just get tenure, but he just received word that his comic novel, his first [published] novel, Burnt Norway, has been accepted for publication by Florida Academic Press.

I could not be more thrilled. Not only is Burnt Norway a hilarious romp that now, people are finally going to get to enjoy, but this has been a long time coming to one of the hardest working writers I know! And the best!

Well, it’s possible I might be biased on that last part (but soon you’ll have a chance to judge for yourself!) But not on the hard working part. As anyone who’s ever driven by our house at 4:30 am and seen the light on can attest!!!

Since it’s a small press, I have appointed myself his publicity director!   In my first act in this capacity, I am announcing another giveaway.  I will be conducting a drawing for 3 $25 Barnes and Noble gift cards from anyone who announces the news on their blog or website and lets me know about it between June 10 and July 30th.  I’ll put a few sentences that can be cut and pasted below to make it easier.  In addition, I’ll be offering lots more publicity prizes and opportunities in the future.
Bye y’all


Fiction writer John Vanderslice (not to be confused with the Indie songster of the same name)  announces the publication of his first novel, Burnt Norway, with Florida Academic Press. Vanderslice has published numerous short stories in journals such as Crazyhorse and the South Carolina Review and been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, but this is his first published book.  A comic, metafictional romance (or, novel within a novel), Burnt Norway will be published sometime in the fall as an inaugural book in their New Voices series and will be available online and through various other sources.  Look for more updates soon.


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Arkansas Literary Forum. . .and, a contest!

The Arkansas Literary Forum, the annual online journal of Arkansas writing edited by Marck Beggs, has hit the wires, so to speak.  And what a liteary smorgasboard.  Great stuff from great writers, too many to list without repeating the table of contents.  A special section by and about Damien Echols, one of the West Memphis Three, incredible art from Nancy Dunaway.  And, yes, a personal essay from yours truly and a story from my husband, John Vanderslice.  Check it out.

In the midst of workon my book, Burning Down the Garrett: Revising Creative Writing in Higher Education, I am knee deep in reading about every MFA program listed on the Associated Writing Programs website, with the goal of creating an honor roll of programs breaking the mold and spotlighting a few particularly cutting edge programs.  About halfway through the fifty states (with several big states to go, phew), I can make a couple of perhaps not-so-suprising observations, namely that: programs housed in schools of art tend to be particularly forward leaning, as are programs in universities that in or near cities (though this is not always true).  It’s the rural programs that tend to be more old school.  More on this as it develops. 

In other news. . .

It was a good weekend: crafting, bread baking, chili-making, flu-shot obtaining (we’re all covered now), library visiting, UCA football (we won although my son’s favorite player, Brent Grimes, didn’t get the kind of playing time he usually does), and cruising the Sunday holiday open house downtown.  In spite of the fact that I was fighting crankiness about heading off to a conference this week.  Not that I don’t love conferences once I’m there, but I miss my husband and kiddos.  Also, this is the beginning of my annual November push where I’m away from home three weekends in a row; National Writing Project conference, Thanksgiving in Fayetteville  (with some of my favorite relatives), then Memphis for the St. Jude’s marathon my husband runs in.  Even though the latter two are great family fun, it’s hard to be away three weekends in a row just before the Christmas season begins.  Keeping one’s clothes laundered, for example, is a particular challenge.  The only time of year when I wish I had more underwear.

I am looking forward to the book fair at the conference, though, and am leaving LOTS of extra space in my suitcase for all the goodies I will inevitably bring home.  This year I even plan to bring a poster tube for all the gorgeous children’s book posters the publishers give out.  Last year’s highlight was the advance reader ‘s copy of Trenton Lee Stewart’s current bestseller, The Mysterious Benedict Society.  Tell you what, keep checking back at this blog and next week I’ll post some particularly choice goodies and have a drawing among people who post on this blog from November 19-December 19.  Sound like fun?

I’m off to pack, even though I don’t leave till Weds. on an ungodly seven am flight.  Some years back, my very well-organized sister-in-law, Polly, pointed out that if you pack a few days before you leave, you avoid all that last minute laundry/allnighter/packing stress.  Although I will never be as organized as she is, I do take this advice to heart and find it really does make for a much better leave-taking experience.   

More soon, ta for now.



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