Anne Lamott, author interview, book review, Giveaway, Karen Harrington, Stephen King, Sure Signs of Crazy

Sure Signs of Crazy — Author Interview, Review, & Giveaway

Thought for the Day:

“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.  ~Ernest Hemingway in A Farewell to Arms~

Gifts for My Writer Friends:

You will find a terrific post on weaving back story into your novel if you click HERE


My friend Morgan Mussell who blogs at The First Gates always has something interesting or thought provoking or charming on his blog (click HERE). He recently posted a link to Flavorwire which has “10 of the Greatest Essays on Writing Ever Written” available for your edification and entertainment. Click HERE to read these great writings. There is certainly something here for every writer. Morgan also posted the link to the interview on the PBS NewsHour with Kate de Camillo. Very nice! Click HERE to find that. 

Ruth Harris did a guest post on Anne R. Allen’s blog that will give you great resources for finding answers. You might want to set aside a half day to poke around these sites. There is so much here of value, you simply won’t believe it. Click HERE to see it. 
Last week, I offered an ARC of Lord and Lady Bunny — Almost Royalty to one of you who left a comment. Our winner this time is Patty Hawthorne. Congratulations, Patty. I will get the book out to you this week. I have another giveaway this week, a very special giveaway you simply won’t want to miss. Make sure you read to the end for this one. 
Last year, I won a book on a blog drawing. I’m embarrassed to say I can’t remember which blog. I’m even more embarrassed to say I didn’t get around to reading it until a couple weeks ago. Then to find out what a great book it was, I wondered how I could have waited so long. I LOVE this book. I think everyone who reads it will love this book. It is Sure Signs of Crazy by Karen Harrington. Let me tell you a little about it, and then I have a special treat.

Sarah Nelson is in sixth grade. The school year is nearly over and she is dreading the seventh-grade project. It includes a family tree. Maybe her father would decide they should pick up and move before the summer was over. It happened every time there was a news story about some woman killing her children. Then, it seems, everyone in town figures out who they are, so off they go.
Sarah’s father is a college professor and a pretty serious drinker, and Sarah sometimes has to be the grown up in their home. It is just the two of them. Sarah’s twin brother is dead. Their mother drowned him and tried to drown Sarah when they were two. Sarah often watches herself carefully for signs that she is becoming crazy like her mother. 
The last day of the school year, Sarah’s English teacher gives everyone in class a composition book and tells them that over the summer they are to write letters to someone, anyone, even fictional characters. Most of the kids just groan and toss their composition books away after they leave the class, but not Sarah. She writes. She loves words — discovering new words, using new words, and writing. She chooses to write her letters to Atticus Finch. He’s a wonderful father, wise and kind, so talking to him through letters, she just might figure some things out in her own life. She particularly would like to figure some things out about her mother, a subject she has trouble discussing with her father. Her life is, well, complicated. 

I don’t want to give anything away about this wonderful story, but I do want to emphasize how much I love it. Sarah’s voice is pitch-perfect and this story is so compelling and well-written, I can only recommend that you get it and read it as soon as you can. I was so taken with the book, I contacted the author and asked her some questions which she kindly answered. I’m sharing that here today as well. 

I think ideas are so hard to come by. How did you come up with the idea for this wonderful book?
Karen Harrington
KH: For SURE SIGNS, the story came about because of a letter from a reader of my first novel, JANEOLOGY. The letter pondered what would become of Sarah Nelson, the daughter of the main character in JANEOLOGY. As it happened, this question nagged at me and I started writing a little from Sarah’s perspective. It took off from there. It’s funny because a lot of reviewers have commented, “I wonder why Harrington chose to write a children’s book following such an intense adult mystery.” The thing is, I just wrote a story about a girl with a secret and it found its way into the world. That’s how stories happen.
All writing takes research. What did you do to prepare for writing Sure Signs of Crazy?
KH: For Sarah’s story, it was really a matter of getting to know her. My first research began with a simple spiral notebook. I began writing diary entries in the notebook as if it was Sarah’s journal. I’d coax her into telling me about her days. Then I reread TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee as well as all the books written about Ms. Lee’s life.

I absolutely loved Sarah Nelson and her voice. She sounded very real to me. How did you discover your fictional characters? Are they based on real people?
KH: Thank you! Sarah was one of those rare characters that began to talk to me after I’d written several journal entries. I think we all remember a little of what it was like to be 12 and curious. We all still carry a little of our childhoods within us.
All the other characters in the book were completely fabricated, although Mrs. Dupree reminds me of so many older female mentors I’ve had the great blessing to know in life.
Writing can be a lonely business. Do you work with critique groups or critique partners? Maybe you could talk a little about your writing process.
KH: Yes, it can be lonely. I’m fortunate to have a network of writers I can call or email and get a little support. This is so essential. Every writer gets to a stage in her writing where she thinks it’s all completely terrible. It’s good to have a writer friend talk you off that ledge! I’m writing my eighth novel now and I recognize that the “my work is horrible” phase will be a part of every manuscript. Also, I have a very sweet dog who allows me to read sentences out loud to her.
Has there been a book on the craft of writing that has been really useful to you? What was it and why?
KH: Anne Lamott’s BIRD BY BIRD and Stephen King’s ON WRITING are two books I return to every year.  These are the books that feel like writing coaches to me. This year, I also discovered THE ART OF WAR FOR WRITERS by James Scott Bell and I’m loving it, too.
What were your favorite children’s books when you were growing up?
KH: I really loved LITTLE WOMEN by Louisa May Alcott and WHERE THE RED FERN GROWS by Wilson Rawls. I can still picture the room where I read both of those books. They stay with me.
What is the last book you read?
KH: THE ORPHAN TRAIN by Christina Baker Kline
What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given as a writer?
KH: Write the first draft with your heart, the second draft with your head.
Pantser or plotter?
KH: Certified pantser for life!
Chocolate or vanilla?
KH: Chocolate.
Coffe, tea, or something else altogether?
KH: Coffee
What’s next for you?
KH: My next book is titled COURAGE FOR BEGINNERS (Aug 2014/ Little, Brown), another coming of age tale about finding your own strengths and your own voice. It features a girl whose mother is agoraphobic and afraid of the world. Will she choose to be like her mother or push on?
What advice would you most like to pass along to new writers?
KH: You have to develop a writing muscle and you do this by setting a routine and writing every day or week. Don’t doubt yourself if every sentence or scene isn’t beautiful. You have to do the work the same way athletes or musicians or dancers practice every day for a big performance. If you do practice, you’ll be ready to capture the right idea at the right moment.
Thank you for so generously sharing your time and thoughts. Is there anything I didn’t ask about that you’d like to tell us?
KH: Thanks so much for inviting me to your blog. Folks can visit me at
I promised you a very special giveaway and I will not let you down. I have a very gently-read hardback copy of Sure Signs of Crazy SIGNED by the author to give to one of you. This offer is for U. S. addresses only. You need to be a follower and leave a comment on this post. If you would like an extra chance or two in the drawing, you can tweet about this giveaway with the link, or you can post the link on Facebook or on your blog or any other social media. Let me know what you have done and you will have extra chances. 

If you are interested in finding more Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday books, check out Shannon Messenger’s wonderful blog by clicking HERE.

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