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When this movie ended, everyone in the audience just sat there for a few minutes, trying to pull ourselves back together. As we filed out, still blubbering, the theatre manager said she’d seen it three or four times and fell apart at each viewing. 

“Under the Same Moon” is the story of Carlito, a Mexican boy who will do anything to be reunited with his mother, who is working in the U.S. It’s a classic hero’s-journey tale, but it also puts a beautifully-drawn human face on the immigration issue. My friend Carol and I are both working on novels that touch on the issue of immigration in some way, so we had the perfect excuse to play hooky.

From the perspective of writing craft, it’s my favorite kind of story. It features classic archetypes–the plucky, unstoppable kid you can’t help but root for, the cranky guy with a heart of gold, various mentors, allies and enemies along the way. In the best possible way, this movie doesn’t care what you think of the immigration issue. It just presents this one situation, knowing you’ll draw your own conclusions. I bet there are reviewers out there who despise this movie, the way there are critics who despise commercial fiction. Some people are so uncomfortable with genuine sentiment that they can’t possibly be fair about a film like this.

There is a class of movies I tend to file under “Films every American Should See.” There aren’t very many of them. Off the top of my head, I can think of a few–“Hoop Dreams,” “Glory,” “Apollo 13,” “The Color Purple,” and “October Sky” come to mind. “Under the Same Moon” belongs on that list. Go see this movie. It’ll stick with you for a long time, guaranteed.

Wishing everyone a joyous Cinco de Mayo!


Win a trip to Willow Lake! I’m not kidding. Check it out here:

Win a trip to Willow Lake!


Field’s End Writers’ Conference 2008Photo by s.j. luke, onsetimagery

WHO: This year’s line-up of authors and speakers includes: Roy Blount, Jr. (keynote speaker), Stephanie Kallos (opening speaker), Knute Berger, Alice Acheson, Lyall Bush, Laura Kalpakian, Thomas Kohnstamm, Rosina Lippi aka Sara Donati, Jennifer Louden, Nancy Pagh, George Shannon, Charley Pavlosky, Sheila Rabe aka Sheila Roberts, Suzanne Selfors, David Wagoner, and Timothy Egan (closing speaker). Professional actor Ron Milton will be on hand for the Page One sessions.

WHAT: Third annual Field’s End Writers’ Conference, “Writing in the Garden of the Gods.”

WHEN: Saturday, April 26, 2008
9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

WHERE: Kiana Lodge
14976 Sandy Hook Rd. NE
Poulsbo, WA 98370

DETAILS: This one-day conference, held at the spectacularly beautiful Kiana Lodge near Bainbridge Island, is a combination of lectures and breakout sessions presented by an eclectic group of people in the literary world.

The day offers three groupings of breakout sessions. Guests will select three workshops to attend according to their interest (literary fiction, poetry, nonfiction, screen writing, dialogue, genre, travel writing, editing, journalism, historical fiction, and commercial fiction). Each breakout session will also offer a Page One workshop, where conference guests can anonymously submit the first page of something they’ve written for possible live reading and critique by the guest authors.

Lunch is provided and there will be an early evening wine and cheese reception and book signing providing conference guests, authors, and speakers a chance to mingle. Shuttle buses will be available to carry walk-on ferry passengers to and from Kiana Lodge.

Registration begins February 1, 2008. Early registration is recommended as the conference is limited to 250 guests and has sold out in the past. Cost to attend is $135 if you register before February 28, 2008 and $150 after March 1, 2008. Groups of 5 or more can register for $130/person. To register for the 2008 Field’s End Writers’ Conference, visit

Founded in 2002, Field’s End is a writers’ community whose mission is to inspire writers and nurture the written word through lectures, workshops, and instruction in the art and craft of writing. Located across the Puget Sound from Seattle on beautiful Bainbridge Island, Field’s End is an affiliate of the nonprofit Bainbridge Public Library, which is located at 1270 Madison Avenue on Bainbridge Island. For more information, call (206) 842-4162 or visit


Kirsten Graham
Concept 2 Launch
(206) 890-3435

kirsten graham
c o n c e p t 2 l a u n c h, LLC
creative consultants

NoveList logoNoveList logoNoveList is a service you can find at your local library. It’s a reading recommendation database most libraries subscribe to. You can enter the name of an author you like, and NoveList will recommend similar authors. It’s called a “Read-alike” page. You can access it from your library’s web site. Here’s the entry for yrs truly. I really like Lynne Welch’s insightful analysis. Thank you, Lynne, wherever you are!  NoveList logo

Susan Wiggs
by Lynne Welch

Genre: Contemporary Romances
Historical Romances
Women’s Lives and Relationships

Susan Wiggs tackles the tough issues, and she has the awards to prove it. Wiggs, winner of both the Romance Writers of America’s RITA Award and the Romantic Times Career Achievement Award, lives on an island in Puget Sound (Washington) settled by hardy immigrants who lived close to the land and appreciated its value, and many of her stories reflect that nature-centric culture in some way. Her special focus is a woman’s journey to self-awareness, usually within the context of a romance or at the very least, with a romantic subplot. Poignant and tender, her stories focus more on the sexual tension between characters than on its explicit physical resolution, and she describes any personality quirks sympathetically, inviting the reader to join her in gently laughing at the characters’ foibles and follies.

Her protagonists are invariably intelligent, socially awkward, emotionally vulnerable women with a strong core, self-reliant to a fault because they have never been able to depend on anyone else for their security, whether financial, physical, or emotional. By contrast, their male foils — and often nemeses, at least in the beginning — may be bad boys or pillars of the community, but all have generally grown up to be strong, self-confident men who enjoy the women in their lives even while they expect them to fall in line with their plans and their timetables. Wiggs employs character to good effect in building high-stakes conflict within the confines of these relationship dramas. Her readers care deeply about her characters, and Wiggs takes both readers and characters on an emotional roller-coaster ride as the novel develops. Although the storyline centers on the woman’s journey to growth and personal fulfillment, Wiggs enriches the experience by chronicling the perspectives of other male and female characters during pivotal scenes as well.

Setting varies across time and place as well as genre, but is generally limited to the United States in her more recent work. Her Contemporary Romance Lakeshore Chronicles series is set in a fictional small town of the New York Catskills region, while the Historical Romances which form the Calhoun Chronicles and the Chicago Fire series are set in pre-Civil War Virginia and late nineteenth-century Chicago, respectively. Others, such as her contemporary fiction stand-alone title The Ocean Between Us, are focused on Women’s Lives and Relationships and set in the Pacific Northwest. Whatever the location, setting plays an important role and is evocatively described in lush, vivid terminology, creating a world of color, sensation, smell and taste for the reader’s enjoyment.

Pacing is leisurely, as befits these explorations of self-awareness by the protagonists. In many cases, the issue they face is one of having been carried along unresisting on a tide of family and career obligations for too long without stopping to draw breath, and now they are faced with a turning point which offers them a choice. Then the conflict arises because they are not in the habit of examining their own motivations and expectations: Wiggs’s heroines are caught without a plan and must pause to re-group. Description of the interior landscape while the characters mentally thrash out their dilemmas is vivid as well, adding depth and extra dimension to these tales.

The Lakeshore Chronicles, starting with Summer at Willow Lake, are a good introduction to Wiggs’s work for any reader. Avalon, NY, is a former resort for the rich, and the Bellamy family’s long-vacant summer home is now being readied for a Golden Anniversary party. During the course of renovations, daughter Olivia and former bad boy Connor, now the contractor in charge of the project, meet again for the first time in years and, of course, immediately clash. This series has several older heroines struggling with their place in the world to interest readers who enjoy relationship dramas centered around Women’s Lives and Relationships, and the skillful melding of past and present may also intrigue readers of both Contemporary and Historical Romances.


Debbie Macomber is another author who writes Contemporary Romances and relationship dramas focused on women’s issues, with a very strong appreciation for the world around her as one of life’s blessings. Her long-running, immensely popular Cedar Cove Contemporary Romance series is set in a fictional small coastal town in Washington State, and each title in the series builds on previous installments but focuses on the lives and loves of mature residents. Start with 16 Lighthouse Road to read them in order. Readers who prefer more emphasis on Women’s Lives and Relationships may want to consider her Blosssom Street series, starting with The Shop on Blossom Street, in which Lydia Hoffman opens her yarn shop in Seattle and starts by teaching a class on How To Knit A Baby Blanket to three women.

Sherryl Woods writes stories of Women’s Lives and Relationships as well as Contemporary Romances centered on family life. She has a gift for capturing the ambiance of Southern living through her multi-faceted characters and her multi-dimensional storylines, all couched in a leisurely, evocative narration deeply appreciative of the loveliness afforded by the culture and landscape of the South. Suggest the Sweet Magnolias series for a heart-warming peek at the lives of three friends, all of whom have grown up together in the same small South Carolina town and now, as they approach 40, are blindsided by changes which will affect not only their own but their families’ and friends’ lives as well. In Stealing Home, the first in the trilogy, Maddie Townsend discovers that her husband has been cheating on her for years, and she’s the last to know. But kicking him out results in her children exhibiting behavioral problems, and when her oldest son starts skipping baseball practice and failing his classes, she finds herself turning to his coach for more than one reason.

Award winning author Deborah Smith is another author who writes Southern-set romantic novels of Women’s Lives and Relationships, but her stories focus on the proud people of Appalachia, their history-rich culture, and the mountains shaping their characters. Both Sweet Hush and The Crossroads Cafe would make good suggestions for fans of Wiggs. In the humorous, easygoing story of Sweet Hush, Hush McGillan lost her husband a long time ago, and now with her children grown she is ready for a second love. By contrast, the emotionally riveting Crossroads Cafe introduces Cathryn and Thomas, both grieving recent losses. Cathryn’s cousin Delta, along with various other supporting characters, uses tactics ranging from the pathetic (requiring their support), to the strident (annoying them into making an effort) to prod them into living and loving again.

JoAnn Ross is well known for her Romantic Suspense, but she also writes emotional tales of Women’s Lives and Relationships. Homeplace and its sequel, Far Harbor, are set in the picturesque, unspoiled small town of Coldwater Cove, Washington. Sheriff Jack O’Halloran and corporate attorney Raine Cantrell tangle for the first time over the fate of her grandmother Ida’s three foster children when Ida ends up in the hospital with dizzy spells. Together with her free-spirited New Age mother Lilith and half-sister Savannah Townsend, Raine must propitiate the judge and welfare worker, while riding herd on three teenagers not predisposed to trust any adult, and dealing with Jack’s unsubtle attempts to involve her in a relationship. A romantic subplot featuring Lilith and Cooper Ryan, the forester who arrests her for indecent exposure when she and her coven celebrate Beltane by dancing around a fire in an old-forest area of the Olympic National Park, adds another layer of complexity to the storyline.

Jerri Corgiat‘s O’Malley sisters series provide another good match for readers who enjoy the women’s emotional journeys in which Wiggs specializes. From the first pages of Sing Me Home, when Corgiat introduces the entertaining, exasperating antics of the O’Malley family and the small town laid-back atmosphere of Cordelia, nestled in the picturesque Missouri Ozarks, the reader is steeped in the mystique of the country-rock music scene, contrasted with the down home practicality of a family trying hard just to make ends meet. Jonathan Van Castle is used to being recognized, admired, and pursued, and it’s a real let-down when Lily isn’t at all impressed. But between his estranged children and her meddling family — not to mention his best friend Zeke, the bass player in his band — he soon realizes that Lily has what he wants most: true love, a home, and a family. Lily, on the other hand, is not yet ready to re-enter life, preferring to sequester herself in her late husband’s bookstore in an attempt to carry on his dream, and this story details her journey to self-awareness and a new level of maturity.

Lynne Welch is an Ohio librarian specializing in Readers’ Advisory and Electronic Reference Services.

Oh, fun! The Winter Lodge is up for a Reviewers Choice Award from RT Book Reviews. It’s up against some of the best books of 2007. I am in good company–every single author in this category is one I regularly read and love, so there’s really no down side to this. Here’s the whole list:  

Best of luck to us all!

I love poring over the year-end “best of” lists, particularly the book lists. I’ve been lucky enough to see my own books on a list or two. Here’s my own list. It’s in no particular order, no particular pub date, just a list of memorable books I’ve read in the past year. Happy reading to all!What's better than reading a good book?

Quietly in their Sleep by Donna Leon. Atmospheric police drama in the most intriguing city in the world.

Dead Ex by Harley Jane Kozak. Her books are so ridiculously entertaining, and she keeps surpassing herself!

Making Money by Terry Pratchett. I love his books. Love this author. He’s an auto-buy for me.

Which Lie Did I Tell? More Adventures in the Screen Trade by William Goldman. I’ve owned this book forever but I kept misplacing it. Which is nuts, since this man is a god to me. This book actually surpasses his classic Adventures in the Screen Trade. In fact, I’m going to shut up right now and save a discussion of this book for its own post.

Mortified by David Nadelberg. A collection of painful high school memories, painfully illustrated. As the author points out, “We were all that same strange kid.”

Hide by Lisa Gardner. I’m picky when it comes to thrillers. This one has it all–depth of characterization, a page-turning pace and spot-on procedural detail.

The Shakespeare Riots by Nigel Cliff. I’d never heard of this historic event, which took place in 1849 at an opera house in New York. Now I’ll never forget it. I’m totally writing a novel about it.

The Children of Hurin by J.R.R. Tolkein. I became a rabid Tolkein fan when I was in 7th grade and the mania continues.

The River Knows by Amanda Quick. She’s a can’t-miss author for me. Jewels and secrets, romance and suspense.

What Matters Most by Luanne Rice. An emotional saga that tugs at the heartstrings.

Truck: A Love Story by Michael Perry. A memoir about restoring a truck, but it’s really about family, nostalgia, commitment and growth.

Blankets by Craig Thompson. Me? Read a graphic novel? This one sucked me right in.

…and here are a few books I can’t wait to read in the coming year:

Oxygen by Carol Cassella

The Cure for Modern Life by Lisa Tucker

Moon Shell Beach by Nancy Thayer

Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult

Saving Juliet by Suzanne Selfors

Sing them Home by Stephanie Kallos

Bikini Season by Sheila Roberts

“The local public library is where I first discovered romance, in high school. I was such a geek that studying together passed for making out.”

–Author Erik Larson 


I bet he wishes I hadn’t heard him say that. 🙂


If you’re in the Seattle area on Thursday, November 15, please come to a reading and booksigning by noted author (and former geek) Erik Larson. He’ll be appearing at the Eagle Harbor Book Company at 7:30p.m. Erik Larson and Elizabeth George


I always learn something startling from Erik’s books, like the fact that John Philip Sousa fit an entire band into one car of the Ferris wheel at the 1892 Chicago World’s Fair, or that the original trade name for Aunt Jemima Pancake Mix was “Slave in a Box.” His latest, Thunderstruck, is an interwoven narrative of the notorious Dr. Hawley Crippen, who committed the ghastliest of murders, and the laying of the transatlantic cable.


Big historic events are Larson’s specialty, and his passion. Although New Orleans and other cities along the Gulf Coast are still reeling from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, the storm of September 8, 1900 remains the deadliest on record in this country. Larson writes compellingly of the disaster in Isaac’s Storm, detailing the terrors to which Galveston, Texas, awakened to on that long-ago September morning, from the point of view of Isaac Cline, chief weatherman for Texas and the one individual who could have saved Galveston. At the time, Galveston was one of the most important port cities in the nation, a beehive of commerce, prosperity and confidence. After the storm slammed the city, leaving the landscape decimated and 8,000 dead, Galveston never regained its stature.


On the heels of the international bestseller, Erik Larson wrote THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY, which was nominated for a National Book Award. He is a former features writer for The Wall Street Journal and Time magazine. His stories have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s and other publications. In addition to his association with Purple Amoeba, the author is also an experienced teacher, having taught non-fiction writing at San Francisco State, the Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars and the University of Oregon.


In an interview on the Random House web site, Larson explains that he first came across the subject of The Devil in the White City, the killer Dr. H. H. Holmes, while researching Isaac’s Storm. “I found his story immediately compelling, but only when I began reading about the glories of the World’s Columbian Exposition did the story take on the larger resonance that I look for in a book. Taken together, the stories of how Daniel Burnham built the fair and how Dr. Holmes used it for murder formed an entirety that was far greater than the story of either man alone would have been. I found it extraordinary that during this period of nearly miraculous creativity there should also exist a serial killer of such appetite and industry. The juxtaposition of the architect and the murderer seemed to open a window on the forces shaping the American soul at the dawn of the 20th century. The fair drew so many of history’s brightest lights, from Buffalo Bill to Susan B. Anthony, that doing my research was like crashing a very classy Gilded Age party….I found it so marvelously strange that both these men should be operating at the same time in history, within blocks of each other, both creating powerful legacies, one of brilliance and energy, the other of sorrow and darkness. What better metaphor for the forces that would shape the 20th century into a time of monumental technical achievement and unfathomable evil?”


The author always works alone, eschewing a staff of researchers, assistants and support. “I need first-hand contact with my sources—for example, I found it infinitely valuable to be able to touch the original postcards on which Patrick Prendergast revealed his insane delusion, one that would bring the fair to such a tragic end.” Larson believes every book is a detective story, and his job is to reveal and report the details. One high point for the author was “coming across the actual death decree for Holmes in the files of the Pennsylvania Historical Society, complete with its ribbon and gold seal. Another occurred when I paid a visit to Holy Cross Cemetery outside Philadelphia and saw the original entry for Holmes’s plot in the cemetery’s death registry. As I stepped onto the grass in the vicinity of his unmarked grave, under dark clouds, a thunder-clap boomed through the sky. It was a little too spooky, actually, given the Holmes curse. I left soon afterward.”


The public library has long been a part of the author’s life, beginning with the fish reading club of his boyhood. “Every summer in my hometown of Freeport, Long Island, some good soul in the library would go to great lengths to cover one wall of the library with a blue sea of paper and fake seaweed and so forth, and we’d each be assigned a fish with our name on it, and our fish would ‘swim’ through the ocean in accordance with how many books we read each week. I was always very jealous of the kids, typically girls, whose books not only made it across the sea but did so even before the summer was half over.”


As a working writer, Larson is a dedicated library patron. “I love libraries for the sense of unfathomable knowledge stored in those banks of books–I always imagine that somewhere in the dustier books, typically in Dewey’s 900-level books, there are great stories yet to tell. Sometimes when I’m looking for my next book idea I’ll wander the 900 stacks at Suzallo and just pick out books at random and thumb through them, just to see what jumps out. Never very productive, but always very interesting.


“Books also are very real. Solid. I like them for the same reason I like stone. In a relativist world, the tactile power of both can help one find one’s bearings.


“And by the way, my dog loves old books too. Something about the glue in the bindings, I think–so whenever I take an old book from the library I have to be careful always to keep it up high whenever I’m out of the room. Otherwise, yes, my dog will eat the cover, as in fact occurred with a 19th-century text from the Suzallo library during the research for my next book. Happily, I found a replacement on”


To Erik Larson, the best thing about the library is “the ‘serendipity effect,’ though it applies only to open-stack libraries. You go into the stacks looking for one particular book and when you find it, you discover–thanks to the magic of Melville Dewey (who, regrettably, was a rabid anti-semite)–you discover that it lives in a kind of diaspora of other books that touch on your subject or your era-of-interest in unexpected and compelling ways. It’s something the Internet, with its too-focussed search protocols, likely will never match. I always say that every day spent in a library is like a little Ross McDonald detective story, where you go to the library hunting for something in particular and end up finding much more than you anticipated.


“I also like the smell exhausted by old books that haven’t been opened in a long time. It’s the scent of adventure!”


Phyllis A. Whitney will be 104 on September 9. Her writing career has spanned more than eighty years. She was (still is) a favorite of my mom. I often come across her books next to mine on the shelf in bookstores. Here is the URL for the virtual birthday card at her website.

A moment of silence, please. Madeleine L’Engle has died at the age of 88.

Madeleine L

A WRINKLE IN TIME was one of those books I read as a child and thought, wow. I am Meg. To this day, every protagonist I write in my own books seems to be a smart, awkward, vulnerable, strong-at-her-core female, which is the archetype Meg embodies. I didn’t know that when I was in 5th grade. I just know I related to her on every level.

Later in life I read WALKING ON WATER, one of the single best books on the art of writing ever published. It is “must” reading for every writer.

I have a signed copy of A WRINKLE IN TIME because I was privileged to meet Madeleine when she visited a school where I was teaching about 15 years ago. I loved meeting her. She was Meg, all grown up. Smart, awkward, vulnerable, strong-at-her-core. She will live to eternity in the hearts of readers.

Shrieks of elation! Dockside is #4 on the New York Times bestseller list, #3 on the Publishers Weekly list, #14 on the USA Today list and <<drumroll>> #1 on the Walden/Borders bestseller list. Also, my agent reports that the Book Page of the Boston Globe had a Box called “The Top 5” Romance Novels in New England. It went: 1.  Nora Roberts – High Noon, 2. Susan Wiggs – Dockside, 3. Liz Carlyle, 4. Jude Deveraux, 5. Debbie Macomber – Country Brides. Calloo! Callay! (I’m fainting with the news and setting a record for exclamation points in a single post!) Thanks to all for buying the book! Flowers and bubbly all around! flowers and bubbly

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July 2020