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Diary: One Author's Life 

Sequel to DREAMSVILLE Will Continue Storyline in 1960s Florida

The magical word "sequel" was first mentioned by an editor at Simon & Schuster last fall, a mere three weeks after Miss Dreamsville and the Collier County Women's Literary Society arrived at book stores. This was a good sign because it meant the pre-sales and early sales figures were very strong. I was just starting my book tour, however, and trying to cope with a tragic death in my family. I didn't even want to hear the word "sequel." Read More 
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Miss Dreamsville: An American Novel?

Literary, Historical, Women's, and Southern Fiction: My novel, Miss Dreamsville, has been described as all of the above. I don't mind what it's called as long as people read it, yet looking at how reviewers and readers categorize fiction is intriguing.  Read More 

Are Writers Superstitious?

Who me, superstitious? Just because I sign all of my book contracts on my "good luck" clipboard? I prefer to think of it as a tradition but, yes, it is in fact a superstition. The story behind my special clipboard is this: I signed my first book contract on it, as did the Delany Sisters, and look how that turned out! More than two years on the New York Times bestseller list. You don't want to mess with that kind of karma, so ever since, I sign contracts on it. Not that it's the prettiest clipboard around - it's made of wood, with no metal parts, which, my dad says, means it was probably made during World War Two. It was one of several clipboards my dad had hanging around his home office, and when I was in junior high and for some reason needed one, the humble clipboard with the scuffed edges was assigned to me. A more common superstition among writers is that many (myself included) will not talk about a pending deal, no matter how juicy. My friend Audrey and I are in absolute agreement that we must speak only in hushed voices, if at all, about something great that may or may not happen, lest we jinx it. And then there's my friend Kaya: for good luck, she writes her novels while wearing a pair of wool socks knitted by a librarian. I admit that I am somewhat relieved to hear of other writers' superstitions. Makes my magical clipboard seem a little less peculiar!  Read More 

Advice on Book Signings for Debut Authors

I've done book signings at Native American powwows, and I've done them at venues such as Borders Park Avenue in Manhattan. I've had great book signings and disastrous ones (like the time that a Borders in North Carolina forgot I was coming). Not all book signings are created equal. Much rests on the store (or other venue) that is hosting the event. If the organizers fail to let their customers know, or forget to send out a press release, the author is in a terrible position. Unfortunately, you don't always find out until it's too late, no matter how pro-active you are. You arrive and discover all is not well. In twenty years as an author, I have concluded that the best approach is to be open-minded and keep my expectations in check. Sometimes, events are spectacular; sometimes they're not. My philosophy is to go and make the best of it. I will be gracious regardless of being upstaged by a goat (yes, this happened to me). Sometimes, the book signings that seem the least promising are the ones that turn out the best. About five years ago, for example, I agreed to a book signing in a tiny, historic town in New Jersey on the Delaware Bay. When I arrived, there didn't seem to be a soul in the entire town. Finally, I spotted a volunteer fire house with an actual person walking around outside. I pulled up and asked where I could find the "community center." He smiled (South Jersey people being very friendly) and said, "You're looking at it." I smiled back but my heart sank. I didn't even understand where I was supposed to speak. (On top of the fire truck?) Well, prior to my talk, the volunteer firefighters moved their equipment (one fire truck and one ambulance) outdoors, thereby creating indoor space for my event. They set up rows of chairs, a podium, and a table for my books. I filled every one of those seats, sold about forty hard cover books (not bad for hard cover), and had a great time. To all of you debut authors out there: You will have lousy book signings, and you will have splendid ones. It's all part of the journey. Just keep smiling.  Read More 

A Southern Accent Does Not Mean You're Stupid

Ladies and gentlemen, newsflash from this here rare bird who is just as comfortable living in the South as the North: Having a Southern accent does not mean you're stupid. I don't know why it's necessary for Southerners, and friends of Southerners, to have to explain this all the time, but it's very painful. I lived in South Carolina during my formative years, age six to 12, during the 1960s. I went to college and began my career as a newspaper reporter in Florida, covering alligator festivals and the like, and learning that Florida is almost as "rebby" as South Carolina. A pivotal moment for me, however, was earlier, when I was 12 and my family moved back north from South Carolina. I lost my accent (learned to hide it) by lunchtime on the first day of school.  Read More 

Finding a Balance with Social Media

I took a break from social media last week. There are three occasions when this seems necessary for me: When I'm writing fiction; when I'm taking a day off for no reason at all except to clear my mind (in order to write fiction); and when I'm visiting my elderly parents. I love social  Read More 
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The Mysteries of Book Publishing

Publishing is a business in which everything has to be explained to you, or so it seems. Even if you go to workshops or get an MFA, and have the best training in the world, you're going to make mistakes. Last month, for example, I went to a book signing for a debut novelist  Read More 
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Florida, the Most Misunderstood State?

When most people think of Florida, what comes to mind is Disneyworld and beautiful beaches, yet that's a very narrow view of a very complex state. As a writer who lived in different parts of Florida, and whose husband grew up in the far-southwest part of the state, these misperceptions are so intriguing to  Read More 

"I Think You Are My Best Friend's Sister..."

Strange how a book can reunite friends from long ago. After the Columbia, SC newspaper, The State, ran a story about me, I received an email through the link on my website. "I think you are my best friend's sister," the subject line stated. The message was polite: "Please forgive my contacting you electronically.  Read More 

ASJA Conference Underscores the Importance of Meeting in Person

Old friends, new friends, Facebook friends, Goodreads friends...I am beginning to think I know the whole world! Last Thursday, as a panelist at the annual conference of the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA), I was surprised by the number of familiar faces in the audience at the Roosevelt Hotel in Manhattan.  Read More