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Entries in SheWrites (4)


WRITERS on WEDNESDAY--Meg Waite Clayton

Today I have the honor to present Meg Waite Clayton during the launch week of her brand new novel. Meg has been an inspiration to many on SheWrites, with a long history of welcoming and taking newcomers under her wing through her 1st Books site as well. Last fall she ran "Dawn Chorus", my essay on writing that is also a tribute to my late mother-in-law--you can read it here.   Please welcome her and then, if you are so inspired, run right out and pick up this fabulous new book. 

Meg Waite Clayton: In Praise of Writing Friends … and Publishing and Bookselling Ones, Too


The history of my own writing starts with a purse. Like the character of Linda in my second novel, The Wednesday Sisters, my first writing teacher—at a college extension class—dumped hers out over the table and told us to write for five minutes about anything that spilled out. She swore we wouldn’t have to read (just as Linda does in The Wednesday Sisters when she’s pushing the sisters to write at the picnic table in the park). Then she called on me to read first.

Which is the good news. If she hadn’t, I’d have ducked out before she could. It had taken all the nerve I had just to get to that class, to admit that, yes, I dreamed of writing novels.

To make a long story short from that point, I’m just going to say it: Ten Years. That’s how long it took me from dumped purse to first novel on bookstore shelves. The thing that kept me going: writing friends. Like the Wednesday Sisters in the book, none of my early writing friends was published when we started out, but we now count – as of the publication of The Four Ms. Bradwells yesterday – seven books between the four of us, and an eighth under contract. We’re a stubborn bunch—which, if you’ve read any of the guest posts I’ve been honored to host on 1st Books—seems to be what it takes. So it seems fitting that the first Four Ms. Bradwells sighting was by my best writer-pal, Brenda Rickman Vantrease.

It took me another five years to get a second novel published after my first, The Language of Light, sold “modestly.” (I’m absolutely thrilled, though, that Ballantine will be releasing it in paperback for the first time this June.) In the interim, I learned the hard way that while just being published is lovely, book sales are important, too. I have come to see that booksellers are the front line in helping new voices find audiences, and I do my best to support the booksellers who support writers. Selling books is as much a labor of love as writing them is.

And so is publishing. I know the publishing world can seem impersonal. Believe me, I know what a form rejection looks like. But I also know that most people in publishing stay there because they love books, and work really, really hard. I feel incredibly lucky to have a wonderful team helping me negotiate the turbulent waves of these changing publishing days.

Which leaves me with readers.

C.S. Lewis once said, “We read to know that we are not alone.” It’s a funny thing to think that a solo activity connects us in ways that little else does. But I know reading has made me feel understood, and helped me understand myself in ways that nothing else does. I hope that my writing will make you feel understood, too. And I appreciate all the precious time you commit to reading. Without readers, there would be no books. – Meg

P.S. If you’re leaving here to take a look at The Four Ms. Bradwells – thank you! And will you take a look at The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen as well? It came out yesterday, too, and is a wonderful novel. Thanks!




Meg Waite Clayton is the bestselling author of The Four Ms. Bradwells, The Wednesday Sisters, and The Language of Light, which was a finalist for the Bellwether Prize. Her work has been heard on public radio and appeared in magazines including Runner’s World, Writer’s Digest and The Literary Review, and online at theHuffington Post. Her novels have been translated into languages from German to Chinese, and her short works have been presented in staged reading and anthologized. A graduate of the University of Michigan and Michigan Law School, she lives with her family in Palo Alto, California.




Writers on Wednesday--Diane Lockward

Today, on International Women's Day, I am excited to welcome a first here to Writers on Wednesday- a female poet. On the site SheWrites, a gathering place for female writers, members received messages encouraging us to shout out another female writer today, to promote the success of women. I am happy to shine a light on Diane Lockward with her essay on her unique journey to poetry and following that, publishing success. This is a tribute to never giving up, to the value of all the elements listed in her title below. Enjoy!


Patience, Persistence, Belief, and a Bit of Serendipity



I'm in a place of high excitement these days. Temptation by Water, my third full-length poetry collection, was released several months ago. That hardly seems possible when not too long ago I wondered if I'd ever have a first full-length collection.


I am not one of those poets who has stories about what a splendid poet she was in third grade. No sixth grade teacher encouraged me to gather my poems into homemade booklets. No high school English teacher recognized my gift for words. I served as editor of no literary journal in college. In short, I was without any early poetic promise whatsoever. But then, I never had a single teacher who asked me to write a poem, never had an opportunity to fall in love with poetry until years after I'd graduated college, had taught high school English for four years, married, produced three children, then decided, in spite of my lusterless undergraduate performance, to apply to graduate school. And they took me in. There I discovered, quite to my astonishment, that I had a brain! I also discovered poetry—not the writing of it, but the study of it. I fell in love with, of all things, Renaissance poetry. I could not get enough of John Donne.


When I graduated, I returned to teaching. Several years later I saw an advertisement in the English Journal. William Stafford was writing a poetry textbook for high school students, and he wanted teachers to volunteer to test the assignments. What the heck, I thought, and volunteered. Every two weeks for the next six months I received one or two poetry prompts. From the very first one, I was hooked. I had never experienced anything so emotionally intense. Poems danced around in my head all day and often all night. I tucked drafts inside my grade book and worked on them during lunch. Poetry became an irresistible temptation. Then to reel me in even deeper, Stafford took one of my poems, an acrostic, as a sample poem for his textbook, Getting the Knack: 20 Poetry Writing Exercises (NCTE). In 1992, that poem, aptly titled “Serendipity,” became my first published poem.


I wanted more. I spent weekends going to workshops and readings. During summer vacations, I attended the Frost Place Conference, the Catskills workshop, and the Fine Arts Work Center. I worked with poets who encouraged me to believe I could be a poet. I began sending my poems out for publication. Every once in a while some editor took a poem. Then an entire year went by with no editor taking anything, but that didn't stop me—I told you I was hooked. I've never minded the inevitable rejections all that much. Early on I developed a theory that it takes twenty rejections to get an acceptance, so I viewed each rejection as just one step closer to an acceptance.


As acceptances started coming in again, I stepped up my game and aimed higher. In 1997, Beloit Poetry Journal took two of my poems. I was thrilled. That was by far the most prestigious journal I'd been in. The people at Poetry Daily saw the poems and sent me a letter—they were in their early days and still using snail mail—asking permission to feature both poems. When “Vegetable Love” appeared, it was sandwiched in between poems by Tom Lux and Pablo Neruda. Not bad. When “My Husband Discovers Poetry” appeared, Garrison Keillor spotted it and featured it on The Writer's Almanac.


I also won a local contest in 1997. My prize was the publication of a first chapbook, Against Perfection. Of course, that set me to thinking that if I could have a chapbook, maybe I could have a book. I put a manuscript together and began sending it out to contests. I spent a significant amount of money on postage. I spent a lot of time waiting. For the first few years, I received only rejections. Each summer I devoted a few weeks to revising the manuscript, taking out what seemed to be the weaker poems and substituting with what I hoped were stronger poems. Every new poem I wrote was headed for that manuscript. Then I had a semi-finalist response from Sarabande. Not an acceptance but enough to encourage the belief that if I just persisted it would happen for me. But six more semi-finalist or finalist spots and it still hadn't happened. The initial thrill of the gee-I-almost-made-it had worn off, and I was feeling like I'd never get beyond that one manuscript. Not to mention the money flying out the door.


In 2001, I decided to leave teaching and spend my days living as a writer. That summer I took another workshop in Provincetown. One day I checked my email and found a message from some guy in Kentucky who wanted my snail mail address. Hm, whatever for? But his name was vaguely familiar, so I sent the address. When I returned home, there was a letter from that guy, a publisher, inviting me to submit a manuscript if I had not yet published a first book. I remembered why the name had seemed familiar. The publisher used to be the editor of Wind Magazine where two of my poems had previously been finalists in the journal's yearly contest. Since then, he had begun his own small press, Wind Publications, and was publishing books by poets from Kentucky and the Appalachian region. He’d remembered my name from the contest and had been following my work. When he wanted to expand his roster beyond his established region, he’d decided to contact me. And that’s how, in 2003, my first book, Eve's Red Dress, came into the world.


In retrospect, I am grateful that no one ever took those earlier incarnations of the manuscript. I know there were poems in them that I subsequently would have wanted to suck out with a vacuum cleaner. I am also grateful to have ended up where I did as my publisher stuck with me for the second book, What Feeds Us, and now for the third. That rarely happens with contest wins.


Now I'd be grateful for some new poems. I find myself in that odd state that's a mixture of exhilaration over the new book and anxiety about the next one. Right now the folder is pretty empty and the blank page leers at me. I need some self-imposed discipline. I need the thrill of creating, of laying down those words, of getting high on the poems, of capitulating to temptation. I want that back. And I'm going to get it. Patience, persistence, belief, and a bit of serendipity.


Bio: Diane Lockward is the author of three poetry books, most recently, Temptation by Water. Her previous books are What Feeds Us, which received the 2006 Quentin R. Howard Poetry Prize, and Eve's Red Dress. Her poems have been  included in such anthologies as Poetry Daily: 360 Poems from the World's Most Popular Poetry Website and Garrison Keillor's Good Poems for Hard Times, and have been published in such journals as Harvard Review, Spoon River Poetry Review, and Prairie Schooner. Her work has also been featured on Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, and The Writer's Almanac. She lives in northern New Jersey. 


Visit her website at:
Visit her blog at:




Writers on Wednesday--Thelma Zirkelbach

This week I welcome romance writer Thelma Zirkelbach and her guest blog; the story of how she and writing finally found each other...


A Writer's Meandering Path

When I was four, I composed a poem that went like this:

            Happy as a chicken,

            Happy as a pig,

            Happy as a rabbit

            That danced a little jig.

I announced that when I grew up, I would be a writer.  My parents showered me with praise but they never believed for a minute I would become anything but a wife and mother.  In my day, that was the only option open for a girl.  However, I did intend to become a writer…someday.


Did I scribble poems in the margins of my school tablets?  No.  Did I pen stories after the rest of the family went to bed?  No. I did win third place in an essay contest about Texas statehood when I was in fifth grade, but that was the extent of my writing life until I was grown and had become the housewife I was destined to be.


One day in a bookstore I discovered a book called Someday You’ll Write.  I bought it, read it and put it aside for “someday.”


Days came and went, and I occasionally gave writing a nod, to no avail.  I was busy with babies, organization work, cooking, bridge games, carpools.  Then I got a divorce, went back to school for a Master’s, went to work, remarried, opened a private practice in speech pathology and became busier than ever.  “Someday” was a long way off.


After a few years I began traveling back and forth to Austin to visit my father, whose health was failing.  Because I don’t drive on the highway—I fall asleep the minute the car leaves the city limits—I took the bus.  Nothing is more boring than a four-hour bus ride; I needed reading material.  One day as I walked through the book department of a discount store, I noticed a little book, a romance.  I’d never read one.  I was a literary snob.  After all, someday I was going to write the Great American Novel.  But this book was just the right length to get me to Austin and back, so I bought it, read it, and was hooked.  Every time I went to Austin, I read a romance, and soon I was reading them between trips as well.  The light dawned.  I would become a romance novelist.  “Someday” had come.


I joined Romance Writers of America, began attending workshops and conferences and entered RWA’s national contest for unpublished writers, where I finaled in two categories.  I sold my first book, Blessing in Disguise, written as Lorna Michaels, to Harlequin Superromance and eventually wrote twelve other romance novels.


The death of my husband five years ago propelled me from romance to creative non-fiction.  I’ve written a memoir, Stumbling Through the Dark, about our last year together.  So far it’s unpublished, but someday…


I’ve also written essays for several anthologies and for the past year I’ve become a dedicated blogger.  I hope you’ll visit me at  where I ponder widowhood, review books of interest to widows and sometimes just books of interest.  A couple of weeks ago I review Room, a fascinating new novel that was short-listed for the Booker Prize.  I also post a quote for the week each Tuesday. 


Why do I write?  I answered in a six-word memoir posted at She Writes:  Live to write; write to live.








Sisters in Writing...

I have recently met some new fellow moms/writers on the website SheWrites. 

I feel so fortunate to be sharing the journey with these two debut novelists, Lori Tharps and Ilie Ruby and just wanted to take a moment to shout out their books:


Lori Tharps

Though Lori has other publishing credits to her name ("Hair Story" and "Kinky Gazpacho") "Substitute Me" is her first novel. It has been called "The Nanny Diaries" meets "The Help". We recently met up and swapped novels since ours both released the same day (Aug 24). Lori is a professor of journalism at Temple, has an interesting resumé that includes work in publicity for some big names, living abroad in Spain, and is mom to two boys around the same age as Hayden and Max--you can imagine we had so much to talk about that we were still hanging around the Barnes and Noble parking lot at midnight. We take each other's promo cards to events and I have had lots of people curious about "Substitute Me". 


Brief summary:

Set in modern-day Brooklyn, Kate and Zora are women who could be friends, but are inhibited by their own issues of culture, race and power—Zora is nanny to executive Kate’s baby and 'Substitute Me', the title of the ad Kate places to find a nanny, takes on a whole new meaning in this domestic drama. The meals in this book will make you hungry and the questions it raises are food for thought.


Lori and I are in the process of putting together an event where mothers of young kids  can attend a kid-friendly play place and have a conversation about books with us as moms and writers.


Ilie Ruby is another writer with credits to her name, but the recently released "The Language of Trees" is her first novel. I'll confess I haven't read it yet as I have been in full-on CHOSEN release mode and it's birthday week at the Hoffstead, but the reviews are all raves and make me want to dive in as soon as I get a moment. 

Ilie was also recently reviewed in USA Today-- find that story here


Ilie and I have found so many parallels in our lives that it is creepy. Born a day apart, mothers of three, both fell in love in Grand Cayman, connected to Honduras, and she is book-touring with her kids as well. 

We are hoping to do an event that highlights the new novelist, hands-on moms who write and parent, who take the kids on tour, who are rocking the reviews...

I'll keep you posted on when and where this might be happening. Or send me an email if you want to host this event--promises to be lots of fun. 


In the meantime, please check out the websites of these two new friends: