May 3, 2013 at 8:00 am , by Sonia Harmon
Alison Sweeney is one hardworking woman. Not only does she star on Days of Our Lives and host The Biggest Loser, she’s also mom to son Ben, age 8, and daughter Megan, age 4. In our July/August issue she answers your questions about how she lost weight and gained self-esteem, but even with everything else she has going on this busy mom still found the time to fulfill another dream: becoming a novelist. This month she releases her new book, The Star Attraction, which is about a Hollywood publicist who scores a dreamy big-name client, but she lets her love life become intertwined with her work. Sounds juicy, right? We agree—that’s why we’re giving five away copies signed by Alison herself! Just leave a comment on this blog post and you’re automatically entered to win.
Only one entry per person, per email address. Official Rules
March 29, 2013 at 8:00 am , by Sonia Harmon
Parenthood star Lauren Graham has come a long way since she began pursuing acting—she once played a dog mascot at the World Cup!—but she never gave up on her dreams. (Read our full interview with her in the May 2013 issue.) In fact, she turned those difficult moments into inspiration for her first novel, Someday, Someday, Maybe, about a struggling young actress in New York City. The book hits shelves on April 30th, but three lucky winners will get a free copy of the book signed by Lauren herself! All you have to do is leave a comment on this blog post and you’re entered to win. Good luck!
Only one entry per person, per email address. Official Rules
January 15, 2013 at 8:00 am , by Sonia Harmon
Hoda Kotb is mostly known for her Today show antics with co-host Kathie Lee Gifford (check out their February cover story here!), her award-winning broadcast journalism, and her battle with breast cancer, all of which she wrote about in her memoir Hoda: How I Survived War Zones, Bad Hair, Cancer, and Kathie Lee. Today she’s releasing her next book, Ten Years Later: Six People Who Faced Adversity and Transformed Their Lives, and this time she gets back to her news journalism roots by telling the amazing and inspiring stories of six others. Interested yet? Because we’re giving away three copies signed by Hoda and all you have to do is leave a comment on this blog post to enter. Good luck! Only one entry per person, per email address.
June 28, 2012 at 12:08 pm , by Lauren Piro
It’s summer time and the livin’ is officially easy … doesn’t a glass of lemonade (or chardonnay) outside on the porch with a great new book sound idyllic right about now? I can hear your sighs of relief already. We’re sure you’ve got the drinks covered, but we’d like to recommend the read that accompanies you during your next moment of peace this season. BK Fischer is a poet from Sleepy Hollow, New York, and her novel-in-verse Mutiny Gallery is just the engrossing book you need. New to poetry? Fischer’s thoughtfully crafted poems bring everyday life into a new, intriguing light—the perfect introduction to the genre.
We caught up with Fischer about the inspiration for the book, her life as a writer, and what to do if you feel like you want to be a poet … and you didn’t know it. (Couldn’t resist!)
Tell us a little bit about Mutiny Gallery. What was your inspiration?
Mutiny Gallery tells the story of a woman who leaves her suburban home and takes her 10-year-old son on a cross-country road trip, stopping at offbeat museums along the way. Two things inspired me to write the book. In 2007, I wrote a short play about a woman named Claire and her toddler son, Max, which was performed at the Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art in Peekskill, New York. When that production wrapped up, I was looking for a new project, and I wondered what would happen to those characters ten years later. At the same time, I picked up a book a friend had given me called Little Museums: Over 1000 Small (and Not-So-Small) American Showplaces, and I started to imagine Max and Claire visiting these strange places. Their visits to these museums began to tell the story of their experiences.
Readers new to poetry might be surprised to learn that your collection is actually a ‘novel-in-verse,’ a full story told through poetry. What makes poetry the best medium for this story?
I liked that telling the story through a series of poems allowed room for gaps—leaps in time, place, and emotion. Our lives are not usually one continuous story, but rather a series of memories, episodes, events, and intense moments (with long dull stretches in between). Lyric poetry is especially suited to conveying moments of extremity, fear, quest, and revelation, and for capturing the intensity of a stopping place in the mind.
Guest Blog: The Author of The First Husband On The Search for a Place Called Home (Plus: Win a Copy of Her Book!)
April 23, 2012 at 2:19 pm , by Ladies' Lounge
Laura Dave, whose wonderful piece about her chronic sleeplessness appears in the current issue of LHJ, is a California-based writer whose third novel, the critically and popularly acclaimed The First Husband, arrives in bookstores in paperback tomorrow (April 24). Here, Dave tells us how she came to write what USA Today called a “playful, unpredictable and emotionally resonant” story about Annie Adams, a conflicted young career woman who finds herself torn between two wildly different men and two equally different lifestyles.
Bonus: Be one of 20 lucky readers who will win a hot-off-the-presses copy of The First Husband! Leave a comment on this post to enter.
I began writing The First Husband almost by accident. I was knee-deep in a different novel that took place in Big Sur, California. That novel was about fathers and daughters. Or, I should say, it started out as a novel about fathers and daughters. But the book had turned out to be about many disparate things including the American west, identity theft, and broken hearts. All of which is to say that the deeper I got into the writing of that book, the further away I seemed to be moving from why I’d wanted to write it.
So, almost surreptitiously, I opened a new document. I didn’t tell myself I was starting a new book—how could I? I told myself I was just writing one scene, which kept coming to me: a woman sitting on her couch in her house, right before her longtime boyfriend walks in and changes everything in her life.
April 17, 2012 at 5:21 pm , by Ladies' Lounge
Jill Conner Browne (aka THE Sweet Potato Queen) is the multiple #1 New York Times bestselling, laugh-out-loud funny leader of the Sweet Potato Queens—a movement that boasts some 6,200 chapters in more than 37 countries. Known for her bawdy, tongue-in-cheek humor, and for spreading what she refers to as “sparkle,” Browne started her reign when she and a few friends decided to enter the Jackson, Mississippi, St. Patrick’s Parade in 1982. The Sweet Potato Queens focus on sisterhood, self-esteem (you’re never too old or too anything to be a Queen) and positive thinking. Their annual Zippity Doo Dah Parade benefits the Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children, which just dedicated an examination room named for the group in its new ER.
The book that launched Browne was The Sweet Potato Queens’ Book of Love, a kind of manifesto for the movement, which came out in 1999. Here, Browne writes about the events that gave rise to the ninth book in the series, Fat Is the New 30: The Sweet Potato Queens’ Guide to Coping with (the crappy parts of) Life, out this month.
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Since 1999, I have cranked out a funny book about my life as THE Sweet Potato Queen every year or so and had more than my share of success. Out of eight books, all attained “bestseller” status with two actually reaching that much-coveted spot on the Only List That Really Matters: #1 on the New York Times list.
In 2009, I’d have to say my status as a writer felt pretty safe and secure—as did my whole life, truth be told. Married to a wonderful man (The Cutest Boy in the World), my only child doing well in college, a houseful of dogs and cats—happy as a pig in the sunshine would not be overstating my condition.
Life was perfect—until one day, it wasn’t anymore. “Mama fell.” How many friends have told me sad stories that began with those two words? Every minute of every hour of every day for six months, my husband and I were my mother’s total caregivers. Her hospital bed was literally in our bedroom with us until she died.
April 4, 2012 at 1:04 pm , by Ladies' Lounge
In her twelve best-selling novels (Promises to Keep, To Have and to Hold, The Beach House), British-born writer Jane Green has consistently mined the very issues that LHJ readers hold most dear—marriage, motherhood, friendship, home. Green’s latest, Another Piece of My Heart, takes on the subject of blended families. Using alternating points-of-view, Green tells the story of how Andi’s marriage is threatened by the hostility and rebelliousness of her husband’s teenage daughter, Emily. Like Green’s other books, Another Piece of My Heart immediately shot to the top of the bestseller lists and has been released in an audio version. (We at LHJ are big fans of audiobooks! Can you say “multi-tasking”?) But this time, instead of having the book read by a professional actress, Green’s publisher agreed to let the author narrate the audiobook herself. Here’s Green’s account of the experience—and click here to listen to a sample of the result.
Despite my love of performing, I would have made a horrible actress. The last time I thought about acting was at University, where I followed my gang of friends—all actors—to their auditions, and somehow found myself on stage during a student production of Cabaret, doing a rather dismal and painfully self-conscious Sally Bowles.
I laid my acting dreams to rest, but have always indulged my secret desire by throwing myself fully into character when reading my books aloud at events, dreaming of the day I might be allowed to read my own audiobook.
The publishing people in charge smiled indulgently. Every author thinks they can read their own book, they said. Few of them are any good, they said. Eventually, skepticism written all over their faces, they agreed to let me audition, and I gave it my all as I became first Andi, then Emily, switching back to the narrator.
I passed the test, despite having a very British accent, for my very American book, and blocked several days out of my diary to sit in a small cubicle in New York to read the novel I had worked so hard on.
I loved every minute of the recording, but it was an eye-opener. Reading the book out loud threw up every mistake, every repetition, every flat sentence that could have been better. I made changes where I could—I still had two weeks to get final edits in—and vowed to read my books aloud in future before handing them in, if only to catch all those mistakes. Finding unique voices for each character was also hard for me, as a non-actress. Minor characters would appear whom I had completely forgotten about, leaving me with no idea what they were supposed to sound like in order to differentiate them from the others.
The response has been mixed, the biggest criticism being the issue of having an English voice read American characters, which I understand. I’d love to try again, although I recognize now how hard it is—and, perhaps, why novels should be read by actors. They bring a unique dimension to the task. Having said that, let me remind everything that it was my first time. And were I to be invited to read the next book, I would make two changes:
First, I would ensure I have a different voice for each and every character.
And second, at least one of those characters will be English!
Want to listen to Green read her fabulous book? You’re in luck! We’re giving away 10 copies of the Another Piece of My Heart audiobook! Just post a comment below and you’ll automatically be entered to win.