Friday, May 29, 2015

I've joined the Inprint blogging team with a celebration of young writers

One of Houston's most important literary resources is Inprint, the fabulous literary non-profit organization that supports and engages Houston's readers and writers. I am delighted to have just joined the team contributing to the Inprint blog - An Open Book

My first contribution was posted today and is a celebration of the first graduating class of Creative Writers at the High School for the Visual and Performing Arts and you can read my article on An Open Book.

The HSPVA Creative Writing Class of 2015

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Writer’s Voice – Never Met, Never Parted

I am thrilled to have won a place in The Writer’s Voice. Thanks to Brenda Drake, Mónica Bustamante Wagner, Elizabeth Briggs, and Krista Van Dolzer for hosting the competition and for giving so many of us the chance to take another step towards literary representation and publication.

My Query

In the spring of 1945, a severely burned German prisoner-of-war is delivered to a Scottish farm to work. Lorna, the farmer’s teenage daughter, soon discovers that in wartime, your family and your allies might not actually be your friends, and your enemy might turn out to be the love of your life. Lorna’s friendship with Paul, and their developing love for each other, is challenged by Lorna’s own prejudices and by the intolerance of her soldier brother and her friends in the village. Ultimately, the events which bring peace to Europe will tear Lorna and Paul apart.

Never Met, Never Parted is a YA Historical novel of 107,000 words. The first book in a pair, it ends as Paul is taken away with the other POWs from Lorna’s village. The second book will follow Lorna across war-ravaged Europe as she tries to find him again.

I am a Scottish writer now living in Houston, Texas. I am an active member of SCBWI, and in 2014 won the SCBWI Joan Lowery Nixon Award for this story. As my prize, I have had the honor of a year's mentoring from Newbery Winner, Kathi Appelt. I am the mother of three teenage readers and writers.

Never Met, Never Parted - First 250 words

Lorna was ankle-deep in cow-shit and milk when she first saw the boy with the steel-gray eyes and only half a face.
Only dimly aware of the rumble of a truck lurching up the lane, Lorna tried to push Caddy and Canny away from the reeking, steaming mess with the broom. The dogs, however, dodged around her and continued to lick up the milk from where it had puddled in the deep crevices between the cobbles, a rare treat for them. Like the dogs, Lorna kept her head down. Her father was raging at Nellie, which made a nice change since it meant that, for once, Jock Anderson’s ire wasn’t directed at Lorna.
“What in the Devil’s name did you think you were doing, you glaikit girl? Can you not even carry a bucket without dropping the damn thing?”
The great farmer’s bulk cast a threatening shadow over Nellie who looked so petite, even in her Land Army uniform of baggy fawn breeches and thick green sweater. Lorna felt a little guilty about not sticking up for her, but Lorna knew Nellie was made of stronger stuff, so she carried on sweeping.
“But Mr. Anderson,” Nellie began, “it was an accident, I—”
“If you’d been concentrating on the matter in hand, lassie, you wouldn’t have all these accidents. Particularly when the matter in your hand is a big bucket of my cows’ milk. This is not an accident, let me tell you, it’s a tragic waste.”

Monday, May 18, 2015

Happiness for Beginners - and having tea and cake with the author is a good start

Katherine Center
Photo credit: Karen Walrond
 What more could a writer and book-lover like me ask for on a sunny Saturday afternoon but the chance to spend a couple of hours sitting at a table covered in sandwiches, cakes and tea, listening to an author tell us about her new book? Not much more, I can tell you.
I was delighted to be included this weekend in what, I suppose, might have once been called a literary salon. Houston author, Katherine Center, gave a group of book-loving women the chance to hear about her new book, Happiness for Beginners, and about her approach to her work
She told us about how she had written her first novel when she was in 6th grade – a blockbuster about how all the members of Duran Duran had fallen in love with her when their car had suffered a flat tire right outside her home. Though it occurred to me that some of the younger women at the table might never even have heard of Duran Duran, there were certainly several more like me who nodded vigorously, no doubt having shared similar fantasies themselves round about 1983 or ’84.
Katherine also admitted to becoming a closet Romance novel fan in recent years, and she talked about the profound effect that had on her own writing in general and on her approach to Happiness is for Beginners in particular. 

“I like the feeling of being happy when I read a book,” she told us, “and that is something I got from reading Romance novels. I started thinking about it with regard to my own writing. Though I don’t write actual “Romance” novels, I do always have a nice juicy, highly delicious love story in anything I write, because frankly I like that stuff. I’m interested that magical connection than can happen between people, because there’s something very special about those moments, so I started trying to harness that goodness in my own books.”
“I realized that in a lot of the books that I’ve read in my life, the thing that has pulled me through the book is worry. Writing teachers will actually tell you to do that, to make your character worry or make your readers worry about the character. But when I became a mom, I discovered that I don’t like to worry. I do a ton of worrying now that I have kids, living with that constant churning in my stomach, and I don’t like it.  What I like about those Romance novels is that what pulls you through them is not worry, but a delicious sense of anticipation, and the knowledge that you are moving towards something good. Even if the hero and heroine have been thrown into a dungeon by pirates, you know it’s going to be okay in the end. Bad things might happen, but you do have this overwhelming feeling that you are moving towards something good.  Though I suppose it’s the bad stuff that gives the good stuff its meaning.”
But how did this epiphany made a difference to Katherine’s approach to her new novel?
“Happiness for Beginners is the first book I have created as a writer since having that realization as a reader. Writing a story is really something you do to a reader. You are making them have feelings so that they invest in your characters, and you lead them through a simulated experience. You are in charge of what you want your readers to feel. I want my readers to feel hope and happiness, and perhaps get a little misty-eyed, but I want them to come out of it feeling grateful and inspired.”
“I try to give people hope, to make them happy, and to make them laugh. And perhaps I can offer them a way to look at the worst situations and see the best way through them.  When I was reading as a kid, it was all about trying to have something to look forward to, and that’s what I’m now trying to give to the world now. If I’m doing it right, I am putting out the kind of books that a reader just can’t stop reading once they’ve started, but also ones that will offer them a new perspective on their own life too.”

Katherine Center’s new novel, Happiness for Beginners, is published by St. Martin’s Press and is her fifth book. Her previous novels are The Bright Side of Disaster, Get Lucky, Everyone is Beautiful and her 2013 novel, The Lost Husband, which is recently been optioned by a movie production company.

For more information about Katherine and all her novels, please visit her website at

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Inspiring Houston Women - Dorothy Gibbons of The Rose

I am delighted to have posted another interview on my other blog, Inspiring Houston Women.

Dorothy Gibbons is co-founder of The Rose, a non-profit that provides high quality breast healthcare to women regardless of their ability to pay.  

“For every three insured women who come through our doors for a mammogram we can take care of one uninsured woman. We could do more free screenings, if one diagnostic exam was all that was needed, but by the time they come to us, many of these uninsured women are also certain to need ultrasound and biopsy too. I always tell my staff that until we don't see women with late stage cancer anymore, our job isn't done.”

To read my interview with Dorothy, visit the Inspiring Houston Women blog