Tag Archives: life

Last Post, but certainly not The End.

What do Betsy Lerner, author of The Forest for the Trees, puzzles, and raison d’etre have in common? Find out by clicking over to the new site: ChristiCraig.com.

After today, that’s where you’ll find all the new posts — on writing, on life, on life as a writer (which means more author interviews and more guest posts). I hope you’ll join us!

Welcome Jenna Blum, Bestselling Author of The Stormchasers

Go get him, Karena, he said. You’re the only one who can.

And Karena knew this to be true, from the nights she was the only one who could sing Charles to sleep, the only one who could coax him off the roof, keep him from climbing the water tower, make him stop chanting that song, stop bouncing that ball, stop kicking that door. She ran out into the lot, tasting the dirt in the air, positioning herself…where Charles would either have to stop or run her down….
~ from The Stormchasers

More than once, I’ve fallen victim to the belief that I could save someone: a friend in despair, a parent on the brink, a loved one chasing a false god down a dark road. I’ve set my voice on an uncomfortable high note in hopes that enthusiasm was contagious, played counselor during marathon phone calls,  stood in the way of the inevitable and gotten pinched in the middle. Painful lessons are never pretty.

But in Jenna Blum’s amazing novel, The Stormchasers, we find a story that mixes the agony of mental illness with the beauty of landscape, the power of devotion, and the miracle of unexpected healing. A novel as much about mental illness as it is about storms, The Stormchasers gives readers vivid images of how both phenomena mirror each other in the way danger brews and crescendos, then crashes and leaves a path of destruction.

The main character, Karena Jorge, is driven in her work as a journalist and in her search to save her twin brother, Charles, from himself. She sets out on a stormchasing expedition, one that puts her in danger at times and brings her closer to a different discovery: Charles is not the only one who needs saving.

The Stormchasers, touching and poignant, is a story that I will read again. I’m so honored to host Jenna Blum today for an interview about her novel, about writing, and about karma. At the end of the interview, leave a quick comment to be entered into the drawing for a copy of The Stormchasers. Random.org will choose the winner on Tuesday, August 30th, at high noon.

**UPDATE: Because of Irene’s visit to the East Coast, and subsequent power outages over the weekend, I’m going to postpone the drawing for a copy of Jenna Blum’s novel until Thursday, Sept. 1st.**

CC: In a recent and compelling essay on the website, Style Substance Soul, you talk about a childhood fascination with tornadoes and reasons why you chase storms (even after the novel has been published). Did the idea for THE STORMCHASERS stem from your personal experience on the road with Tempest Tours, or was it your research with them that took root and sealed your strong connection with the chasing community?

JB: That’s a great question! I had the idea for THE STORMCHASERS–a novel about a bipolar young man who chases tornadoes when he’s manic and his twin sister, who basically chases him–long before I started chasing storms with Tempest. In fact, I wrote an abbreviated draft of the novel in my graduate MA program at Boston University, back in 1996.  I didn’t have a stormchasing community before I started chasing with Tempest to research subsequent drafts of the novel, and what I didn’t expect were the lifelong friends I would make chasing.  I chase with the same people every year, my esteemed mentors and friends like me who are still learning, and they are my storm family. THE STORMCHASERS continues to introduce me to new folks in the chasing community, for which I’m profoundly grateful.

CC: All of the characters in your novel are written in such a way – authentic and relatable – that readers will think of them long after they close the cover of your book. Do you have a special technique you use, early on in your writing, for developing characters?

JB: Thank you for the generous comment about my characters!  I suppose they come off as real because to me, they are real.  They just happen to exist in a dimension halfway between the ether and the paper, hovering somewhere above my head.  My first job as a writer is to get them out where others can come to know and love them the same way I do.  I’ve been told that my characters are lovable despite their flaws–or sometimes hateful because of them or sometimes just plain flawed–and I take that as proof I’ve succeeded in getting them down as real people.  Because who among us isn’t flawed?

When I’m first getting to know the characters, I start by writing down everything I know about them, which ranges from macro big-picture stuff–basic family history–to the fact that Charles Hallingdahl, for instance, the brother in THE STORMCHASERS, ate only green food as a child. Not all the details make it into the novels.  But because they’re part of the character, I write them down.  More details reveal themselves as I go along, and the biggest struggle is to remain true to the characters’ characters, to not graft behaviors onto them because it suits the plot or it’s something I myself would do.

CC: In your career, you’ve traveled all over and seen a variety of landscape. Do you have a favorite place that you’d love to call home or visit time and again?

JB: Again, a great question, and one that strikes a poignant chord with me these days, because although I’m proud to say I have a home in Boston and a house in rural Minnesota where my mom and grandmother were born, I’ve been on the road at least 300 of 365 days in the past year.  One night, when I was checking into a hotel in Florida, the desk clerk looked at my MA license and said, “Wow, you’re far from home.” I thought: Yes, I sure am, both literally and metaphorically. I’ve traveled and divided my geography so much that I’m not sure where my central home is.  But I love my writing community and friends in Boston.  And geographically, my heart belongs to the heartland.  The landscape of the Midwest and the High Plains makes sense to me and allows me to breathe freely–all that space and big sky.

CC: What are you reading these days?

JB: Galleys!  I have the privilege of reading books before they’re published to supply authors with quotes for their book jackets (you’re like Ah-ha, *that’s* where those come from). It’s a great kind of sneak preview.  I read Rebecca Rasmussen’s incredible debut THE BIRD SISTERS and Kaira Rouda’s inspiring novel HERE, HOME, HOPE.  Three novels I highly, highly recommend for 2012:  Anna Solomon’s THE LITTLE BRIDE, about a Jewish mail-order bride who ends up in the Dakotas.  Nichole Bernier’s THE UNFINISHED WORK OF ELIZABETH D., about a woman discovering her best friend’s secret life after that friend’s death.  And Jami Attenberg’s THE MIDDLESTEINS, which is about food, family, love, life, and loss–all the important stuff–and will tell you why it’s vitally important to include cinnamon in pastry.

CC: What advice do you have for writers on the rise?

JB: Usually I would cite Winston Churchill here:  “Never give in, never give in, never give in.” And that’s still true. But in today’s swiftly changing publishing landscape, it’s also important to be open to new ways of doing things. There’s no room for a lazy writer these days (if there ever was!).  Expect to do your own legwork, your own homework, your own promotion.  Use social media. Reach out to and support as many other writers as you can.  It’s good karma, and that must always come back to help you in the end.

Thanks, Jenna. And, for all you readers out there, don’t forget to drop your name in the comment section for a chance to win a copy of The Stormchasers.

JENNA BLUM is the New York Times and # 1 international bestselling author of THOSE WHO SAVE US and THE STORMCHASERS.  She is also one of Oprah’s Top Thirty Women Writers. For more information about Jenna Blum and her bestselling novels, visit her website, follow her on Twitter, or Like her page on Facebook.

Independence Day: Break Out the Coffee, We’ve Got Guests

Kiddo & Mama Victoria

Today, for your Fourth of July weekend pleasure, my friend and writer,
E. Victoria Flynn, stops by with a guest post on small town surprises.

Victoria blogs over at Penny Jars, and if you aren’t reading her stuff, you’re missing out. She whips up some amazing posts, especially on Thursdays. So, get your feet wet here, then click on over there.

The Small Time Philosopher’s Guide to House Listing

 They didn’t tell us about the parade route. Maybe they didn’t think it was important in the middle of January, a day after a snow storm, when the only parades anyone seemed concerned with was the morning traffic heading out of town. Maybe they thought it would scare us away.

We started the 4th of July weekend playing poker, Mike and I, thinking about taking a walk down to the park where we could hear the bands and the hooting, where the kick off fireworks shot from their canons, where I felt we should be becoming part of this tiny town, beer and all. We knew no one, but I loved the possibility.

These were the weekends before kids when we could sit around comfortably surrounded by dusted bookshelves and organized cupboards. Going to bed early meant before the sun came up, and sleeping in meant anything at all.

Until the siren blasted us out of bed.

Until the steady honking moved slowly, slowly, slowly past our heads.

“There are people all over our yard,” Mike said. “It looks like we’re having a parade.”

“For real? How come nobody told us?” Maybe we should have made more of an effort to introduce ourselves to the neighbors, but I had been waiting for the bunt cakes and brownies to arrive. How come nobody brought us brownies? We love brownies.

We did have coffee, and we made it strong.

We pulled out our fold-up beach chairs and set them on the porch. Mike got out the video camera heretofore used for shots of “This is the garage. Here’s the back yard. Look, the neighbors have a pile of wood. And this is…I don’t know what this is.”

It was a dark day, drizzled and damp and dimpled with small town promise. We watched green and yellow John Deere tractors, shined up red Farmalls, Dairy Queens riding the backs of convertibles, horses clomping at the road. There was candy strewn across our lawn.

It was terrific.

By the next year we had invited our family, and I was fat in the belly with our first little girl. After the parade we ate brunch—banana bread, mini quiche, lemonade, and bowls of fruit. A year later, it was a tradition.

I’m pretty sure the four days of the 4th of July is what keeps us rooted in this town. We talk about moving back to Madison, closer to my husband’s job, closer to our friends and so many places and events we enjoy. We talk about it, but we can never decide–if we were to sell our house, should we tell them it’s on the parade route, or should we just leave it as a surprise?

~

You can find Victoria elsewhere: on Twitter and on Facebook and sometimes at a small ice cream shop just west of here, when the stars align and calendars sync and writers unite.

From Here to There: Writing Under Pressure at Write It Sideways

Timing is everything.

It’s the weekend, I’m playing Single Parent for the next few days, and my guest post, a Finalist in the Write It Sideways Blogging contest, is up. The topic is one that I grapple with on a daily basis: life as Mother and a Writer.

“I love it when my kids get hold of my camera. Really.

Their photos serve as a study of daily life, and, for a brief moment in time, I see the world through their eyes.”

“The Dilemma of the Mother Writer.”

Click on over, take a peek, leave a comment.

And, Happy Writing to all you Mamas out there!