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I don’t actually travel that much because the writing schedule doesn’t allow it. However, after updating the schedule of appearances on my web site, I sat back and thought, yikes.

I’ve taught myself to travel light. Not out of any particular virtue, but because waiting for checked luggage to appear is too tense for a traveler who has to catch a ferry. Those extra ten (sometimes more) minutes can mean the difference between catching the 8:I0 and the 9:00pm boats. Doesn’t seem like a huge difference, but at the end of a transcontinental journey, trust me, it matters. So my rule is that I have to fit everything for a trip of any length into a carry-on-sized rollaboard, and a largish shoulder bag. This includes my purse and laptop. If it doesn’t fit, it doesn’t come. My mother–who has been known to fly from Sydney to Seattle with nothing but a pocketbook–sometimes says, “Bring twice as much money as you think you’ll need, and half the clothes.” She’s right, of course.

Anyway, I would love to meet you! I have upcoming appearances in Bainbridge Island, Washington, Seattle, Los Angeles, Crested Butte, Colorado Ketchikan, Alaska, Sacramento and Cannon Beach, Oregon. Please see for details on these and other events.

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


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I have the best little writers’ group on the island and we’re celebrating the debut novel of one of our members. Suzanne Selfors is having a gala launch for her novel, To Catch A Mermaid, an exuberant adventure for young readers. If you’re in the area, stop by the Eagle Harbor Book Company on Sunday, September 9 at 3:00pm. Wear your Viking helmet!


Never has the term “homegrown” been more fitting. Everything about debut author Suzanne Selfors is homegrown, from her Bainbridge Island childhood to her spectacular organic garden, which surrounds the historic house built by her pioneer ancestors. On a storybook farm, filled with blooming flowers and orchards, heirloom tomatoes, free-ranging chickens, ducks and bunnies, Suzanne might seem as though she inhabits a Disney movie.

However, like many writers, she has her dark-and-twisty side, too. This is evident in her first novel, To Catch a Mermaid, a rollicking fantasy adventure with an irresistible balance of humor, the sort that’s broad enough to appeal to kids and sly enough to please their parents. Suzanne’s books also feature the sort of pathos and danger that brings to mind Roald Dahl at his very best. Maybe it’s that Nordic sensibility–Suzanne’s ancestors came from Norway and settled on Bainbridge in the 19th century.

Although she has homegrown roots, Suzanne also has a first class education. She studied at Bennington College in Vermont and graduated from Occidental College in Pasadena, California. She earned a Master’s in communications from UW, married a pilot and moved into a house on the island that has been in her family for generations.

Suzanne’s favorite library memory is of the day she found a stray dog hanging around outside the library door–an adorable cockapoo. “We ended up adopting her and she was the family dog through most of my childhood. We always joked that she was the very best thing we ever checked out from the library.”

Today, one of her favorite features of the library is the books on tape, which she listens to on long walks. “Right now I’m listening to StarGirl by Jerry Spinelli,” she reports. And of course, the library is the ideal place for this busy mother of two to get some writing done. “I use the back tables all the time. Plug in my laptop and escape from the distractions of my house. I get tons of work done.”

Note that she calls writing work. Over the years, I’ve encountered many emerging and aspiring writers. Hundreds, really. But of those hundreds, very few understand the work involved in the process and then make the journey to being published. Like Dorothy’s journey through Oz, there are all kinds of pitfalls along the way. The first time I met Suzanne, she was an emerging writer just finishing her first full-length novel. Almost immediately, I knew she would one day join the ranks of the published. She had the smarts, creativity, drive and stick-to-it-iveness that it takes to launch and sustain a writing career. And the talent.

Behind every “overnight success” is a plan that might be years in the making. Suzanne joined the first-ever novel-writing class offered by Field’s End through the library. Instructor Michael Collins, an acclaimed writer based in Bellingham, was her teacher and mentor in the class.

Suzanne’s writing quickly gained the attention of one of the top literary agents in New York City. Michael Bourret of the Jane Dystel Agency responded to the unpublished manuscript with the kind of enthusiasm a writer dreams of: “When I first read To Catch a Mermaid, I was blown away,” he says. “It’s rare to find a novel that feels like a classic the first time you read it, but that’s exactly [the way this story] reads. It reminded me so much of books and authors I’d loved from my childhood, like Mary Rodgers’s Freaky Friday or the novels of Roald Dahl, and I could imagine children for decades falling in love with this timeless story.”

Michael was not alone in his enthusiasm. The book was sold at auction–something that is exceedingly rare for a first novel–and landed with Little, Brown. Michael has high hopes for To Catch a Mermaid, certain of its broad appeal, “which feels both nostalgic and modern.”

In addition to writing an incredibly strong novel, Suzanne followed it up with not one but two encores–a second middle-grade fantasy novel for Little, Brown and a young adult literary comedy for Bloomsbury. The author’s professionalism and creativity were a huge plus for this agent. “Suzanne, as an author, is a dream,” Michael comments. “She writes from the heart, and has a burning desire to tell stories (and not just for children). She will have a long, successful career writing many kinds of books, and I’m really honored to be a part of her world.”

He has no idea. I wonder how Michael, a native Brooklynite, would fit in with the duck pond and henhouses?

Way to go, Suz! You’re living the dream! cake

How to Read Like a Grown-upSuzanne Selfors’s All-Time Favorite Books

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

The Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake

So I splurged a little on a dress for a meeting with my publisher and the very, very writer-friendly people at Barnes & Noble in fabulous downtown Manhattan.

the dress I splurged on

And okay, I splurged on the shoes, too. And, um, the bag. As a working writer, 90% of my clothes are the kind of thing you wear to clean out the garage. The other 10% of my wardrobe looks more like this. And how did I earn this hot little number?

See for yourself. This is a shot of me at a booksigning–yes, a booksigning–at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. The day was organized around an air show, and there were tables and booths set up in the hangars along the air strip. I found myself sharing a table with an army ranger and his pet, Roxanne the Snake. The ranger wanted me to hold his snake. I said no. I hid behind my tower of unsold books. He insisted, so I told him I would only hold his snake if I sold all these books. (I never sell out at a signing.) But people kept buying books, and I was down to 3, so the ranger bought them all and I had to make good on my promise to hold his snake.

The snake seemed to like me. The ranger did not, because I told him his snake felt like a purse.

Anyway. Here I am with Roxanne, smiling through my inner silent screams of horror, earning any damn dress I want. For life. So there:

Roxanne the snakeRoxanne the snake


Diane von Furstenberg has to get her inspiration somewhere, right?

Shop on!

 Special bonus material–I spotted this on Story Broads:
I want a red dress.
I want it flimsy and cheap,
I want it too tight, I want to wear it
until someone tears it off me.
I want it sleeveless and backless,
this dress, so no one has to guess
what’s underneath. I want to walk down
the street past Thrifty’s and the hardware store
with all those keys glittering in the window,
past Mr. and Mrs. Wong selling day-old
donuts in their café, past the Guerra brothers
slinging pigs from the truck and onto the dolly,
hoisting the slick snouts over their shoulders.
I want to walk like I’m the only
woman on earth and I can have my pick.
I want that red dress bad.
I want it to confirm
your worst fears about me,
to show you how little I care about you
or anything except what
I want. When I find it, I’ll pull that garment
from its hanger like I’m choosing a body
to carry me into this world, through
the birth-cries and the love-cries too,
and I’ll wear it like bones, like skin,
it’ll be the goddamned
dress they bury me in.

–Kim Addonizio

Book people. You know the type. They read. They remember, they have their favorites, they have a gift for matching up books and readers. They can tell you where they were when they first read [fill in groundbreaking title here]. They know exactly where a certain book is shelved, even if it was put there months and years ago.

You’ll be happy to know that the people in charge at Barnes & Noble are extreme book people. I had a very happy meeting with Tommy Dreiling, Antoinette Ercolano and Bob Wietrak in New York this week and I have to tell you, it’s a treat to sit down and visit with people whose careers are dedicated to selling books. Dating myself: I was able to share with them the fact that I’ve been a B&N customer since before there were B&N stores. As a student, I used to order from the B&N catalog every month. Bob & Tommy have worked for bookstore chains nearly all their adult lives and know them inside and out. Antoinette, too, and she has visited some 500 of the 800 B&N stores. You can mention “Bellevue, Washington” and yes, she’s been there. We are in very good hands.

And P.S.–I got to dine at two unforgettable restaurants: The Modern and Beppe. Not to be missed if you’re in Manhattan.

That’s entertainment–Levy Home Entertainment: I attended the Levy National Meeting last month. Outside of publishing, people might not be familiar with this firm, but it is one of the biggest players in the industry. And once a year, they have a meeting at a great resort. [Note: This year, the locusts were out in their 17-year cycle, which I’d never seen (or heard) before. These bugs are so huge and fly in such impressive force that they look like alien invaders. In fact, at the airport, they would periodically explain the phenomenon over the PA system, so people wouldn’t look out the window and panic that something very Old-Testament was taking place.]

Back to business–My publisher arranged for me to attend the Levy meeting. Think about it. A week of meetings completely dedicated to getting books into readers’ hands. Meetings attended by people at the highest level of publishing and book distribution, like Louise Burke of Simon & Schuster and Donna Hayes, president of Harlequin–every major publisher sent their top people. The workshops and seminars were designed to maximize the exposure of our book to readers. That’s what Levy Home Entertainment, based in Illinois, is all about. If you bought a paperback at a big discount store, chances are, it was placed there by Levy. Their main warehouse, in the appropriately-named Romeoville, is the size of an airplane hangar and staffed by the nicest people you’d ever want to meet. I know. I was lucky to meet them when I went to the warehouse to sign 6000 books. What 6000 books looks like

That’s not a typo. I signed 6000 books. Levy is going to distribute them to their accounts so 6000 readers can have a signed book. Then I rushed back to the hotel for–wait for it–a booksigning.Yes, I seriously signed 6000 books.

I didn’t know whether or not I could survive signing so many books. On my best day, I’ve written maybe 5000 words in longhand. But the Levy people made it easy. They had us set up assembly-line style so helpers would open the carton, sticker the book, open it to the title page and put it in front of me for my hasty–but legible–signature. Picture the candy-factory scene in “I Love Lucy,” and you get the idea. To make the time pass, we took breaks to dance to the incredibly cheesy disco music being piped into the room. We played with my screaming monkey slingshots. We guzzled bottled water. Tamar Kipper of Levy showed me some chiropractic exercises for hands and I am none the worse for the wear. There is something so special about meeting people whose entire job involves getting my books to readers. Also about attending a banquet with fellow authors Dave Barry, Carol Higgins Clark, Mary Jane Clark, Joanne Fluke, Laura Lippman, Ridley Pearson, Deanna Rayburn, JR Ward. We were all privileged to hang out with the Levy people.

God, I love this business.

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