Carrie’s Conversation with Lynne Griffin, Author of SEA ESCAPE
Carrie: Without giving too much away, give us an idea about what SEA ESCAPE is about.
Lynne: SEA ESCAPE is a story inspired by my parents love letters; it’s about the ties that bind mothers and daughters. Laura Martinez is wedged in the middle place, grappling with her busy life as a nurse, wife, and devoted mom to Henry and Claire, when her estranged mother, Helen, suffers a devastating stroke. In a desperate attempt to lure her mother into choosing life, Laura goes to Sea Escape, the pristine beach home that Helen took refuge in when her carefully crafted life unraveled years ago, after the death of her beloved husband. Believing the beauty and sway of her father’s words have the power to heal, Laura reads the letters bedside to her mother–a woman who once spoke the language of fabric; of Peony Sky in Jade and Paradise Garden Sage–but who can’t or won’t speak to her now. As Laura delves deeper into her tangled family history, each letter revealing patchwork details of her parents’ marriage, she finds a common thread. A secret, mother and daughter unknowingly share.
Carrie: What inspired you to write SEA ESCAPE?
Lynne: After my own mother passed away in 2000, I found love letters written to her by my father. As I read, I went so far as to imagine excerpts of my father’s beautiful writing shining within a novel I might someday write. In those musings, SEA ESCAPE was born. The letters were then and are now a treasure. The love captured within, pure and sincere. Yet to my storyteller’s heart, reading them then, I couldn’t help but think–not enough conflict, no secrets, no dramatic reveal. Certainly I didn’t want those things to come by way of my parents, but right then I started imagining a different story belong to a different daughter. That story is SEA ESCAPE.
Carrie: Is there an underlying theme of SEA ESCAPE?
Lynne: I’ve been a family life expert for more than twenty years, and there’s so much about my work counseling parents, observing children, and teaching educators about families that I use in writing fiction. My desire to capture family life in authentic ways feeds the themes of all my novels. There’s no shortage of seeds from my work that I use to inform my writing. Anton Chekhov called them little particulars. Right there in my everyday life are organic details that give genuineness to the stories I create. I’ve had my own grief work to do over the years; I lost my father when I was fifteen and my mother when I was forty. As a professional who’s taught classes and counseled parents and children about healthy grieving, I’ve always been struck by the choices people make related to the loss of a loved one—the healthy and unhealthy ways grief work gets done. So I write about the choices people make when faced with unbelievable pain. What really holds a marriage together when it’s tested. I examine the impact of loss on all kinds of relationships—mother, brother, sister, daughter, friend. If they start off strong—or don’t—what happens? Why do some people thrive after a loss, finding true purpose, while others don’t come out of it stronger?
Carrie: Which character do you identify with the most in SEA ESCAPE? How much of yourself did you put into these characters and did you realize you showed up in SEA ESCAPE? If so, while you were writing or only afterwards upon review?
Lynne: I truly care about all my characters—in all their shades of humanity—yet the one I love the most is Helen. Like my own mother did, Helen struggles with what’s called prolonged grief disorder, a specific kind of depression brought on by loss. For some, grief refuses to follow the typical trajectory toward healing. In my years as a grief counselor, I’ve met countless people who simply can not move through the grieving process. I empathize with Helen, stuck in the past, gripped by the pain of loss. I have enormous compassion for her because of what my mother experienced after the death of my father. For this reason, SEA ESCAPE is a deeply personal and emotional novel for me. Helen is a character I will be forever connected to.
Carrie: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received about writing fiction?
Lynne: Close the door on the marketplace while you write. Writing to trends–trying to guess what readers want–isn’t for me. I feel an obligation to write for the story, to let the characters tell me about their lives. I believe if my story and characters are authentic, the novel will find its audience.
Carrie: Can you offer a glimpse into your “real life” and share with us a bit of your personal life—Outside of writing, what’s important to you?
Lynne: I live in a seaside town much like Anaskaket depicted in SEA ESCAPE. I’m married to the most supportive husband a woman could have, and we have two college age children; a daughter studying vocal performance and music education, and a son studying jazz piano and music sound recording. My family provides me my greatest joy in life—and there’s a lot of music in my life too. My husband and children support, encourage, and ground me in unbelievable ways. I am very blessed. If I’m not spending time with them, or writing, I’m reading. The to-be-read piles of books in my home are an embarrassment of riches.
Carrie: What authors, books, or ideas have influenced your writing?
Lynne: Everything I read influences my work. If a novel isn’t working for me, I try to analyze from a craft perspective, why that’s the case. And if I love it, the same applies. I want to know how and why it sings. There are so many novels on my keeper shelf, books I dip in to, to be inspired. Wally Lamb’s, The Hour I First Believed; Margot Livesey’s, Eva Moves the Furniture; Nicole Krauss’s, The History of Love. I love everything by Ann Patchett, Sue Miller, and Jonathan Safran Foer. Novels I’ve recently read and adored include Day for Night by Frederick Reiken, and Little Bee by Chris Cleave.
Just a Bit More About Lynne Griffin:
Lynne Griffin writes about family life. She is the author of, Sea Escape-A novel (Simon & Schuster, July 2010) Life Without Summer-A novel (St. Martin’s Press, 2009), and the nonfiction parenting title, Negotiation Generation (Penguin, 2007). Lynne teaches family studies at the graduate level and writing at Grub Street Writers in Boston. She appears regularly on Boston’s Fox Morning News talking about family life issues. Lynne writes for the blog, Family Life Stories.
**Click HERE to visit Lynne’s website
SEA ESCAPE Excerpt ~ Chapter 1
Letters are windows casting light, illuminating the ties between two people. I could’ve sneaked a peek inside my parents’ romance by reading his letters to her, but I respected my mother’s love of curtains. At forty-five, the details of their marriage remained a mystery to me; I had no desire to confirm what I already knew. Even dead, she loved him more than me. My mother spent her days drenched in memories of safe arms and sweet music, reading his precious words, faded ink on yellowed stationery. I looked for ghosts around corners, certain I was running out of time to find a way to be enough for her. An inability to live in the present was one thing we had in common.
“Are you okay in there, Mother?” Well aware she startled at loud noises, I knocked lightly on the door nearest the driveway. No answer. By the fourth rap, I couldn’t stop myself, I was pounding.
The first pinprick of worry jabbed me as I wondered if this was the day I’d find my mother dead in her double bed, cold, even though she was covered by her wedding quilt of interlocking green and pink floral circles. Juggling two grocery bags and reminding the kids to stop at the end of the boardwalk leading to Anaskaket Beach, I jiggled the lock, but she’d bolted and double-bolted the place as if Sea Escape sat on a main street in the city instead of on waterfront acreage south of Boston.
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Deadline: August 1st, 2010 ~ Midnight, EST
Easy on the Eyes (from Jane’s Website)
At 38, Tiana Tomlinson has made it. America adores her as one of the anchors of America Tonight, a top-rated nightly entertainment and news program. But even with the trappings that come with her elite lifestyle, she feels empty. Tiana desperately misses her late husband Keith, who died several years before. And in a business that thrives on youth, Tiana is getting the message that her age is starting to show and certain measures must be taken if she wants to remain in the spotlight. It doesn’t help that at every turn she has to deal with her adversary—the devilishly handsome, plastic surgeon to the stars, Michael O’Sullivan. But a trip away from the Hollywood madness has consequences that could affect the rest of her life.
About Jane (from Jane’s Website)
Born in Visalia, California, I’m a small town girl at heart. I love central California’s golden foothills, oak trees, and the miles of farmland. In my mind, there’s nothing sweeter in the world than the heady fragrance of orange blossoms on a sultry summer night. As a little girl I spent hours on my bed, staring out the window, dreaming of far off places, fearless knights, and happy-ever-after endings. In my imagination I was never the geeky bookworm with the thick coke-bottle glasses, but a princess, a magical fairy, a Joan-of-Arc crusader. My parents fed my imagination by taking our family to Europe for a year when I was thirteen. The year away changed me (I wasn’t a geek for once!) and overseas I discovered a huge and wonderful world with different cultures and customs. I loved everything about Europe, but felt especially passionate about Italy and those gorgeous Italian men (no wonder my very first Presents hero was Italian). I confess, after that incredible year in Europe, the travel bug bit, and bit hard. I spent much of my high school and college years abroad, studying in South Africa, Japan and Ireland. South Africa remains a country of my heart, the people, the land and politics complex and heart-wrenching. After my years of traveling and studying I had to settle down and earn a living. With my Bachelors degree from UCLA in American Studies, a program that combines American literature and American history, I’ve worked in sales and marketing, as well as a director of a non-profit foundation. Later I earned my Masters in Writing from the University of San Francisco and taught jr. high and high school English. I now live in rugged Seattle, Washington with my two young sons. I never mind a rainy day, either, because that’s when I sit at my desk and write stories about far-away places, fascinating people, and most importantly of all, love. I like a story with a happy ending. We all do.
Written over a period of ten years, Third Wish is an epic novel that is above all – a love story – not in the usual sense, but the story of people who love life and go to great lengths to live it in a flourishing way. In fairy tales, the third wish is the last one left when the first wish was foolish, and the second wish was used to undo the first. Now the remaining wish must be used wisely and well – with the help of co-conspirators. The story threads its way through Greece, Japan, France, England, Spain and Seattle. Woven into the fabric is cultural history, art, philosophy, archeology, poetry, theater and music. The mode of the novel is contained in these three words: SLOWLY, SURPRISE, WITNESS. The two-volume set is divided into five parts and includes over 150 illustrations by three accomplished artists.Come experience THIRD WISH and don’t forget to listen to the companion music!
ROBERT FULGHUM INTERVIEWS ROBERT FULGHUM
(from his website)
Robert: Well, Mr. Fulghum, what’s new?
Robert: I’ll answer with a joke. An old geezer is sitting in the confessional booth of a Roman Catholic Church. The priest is surprised. He’s seen the man in the neighborhood, but he’s not a member of the parish. “What can I do for you?” asks the priest. Exuberantly the old man blurts out, “I’m eighty today and I’m in love with a beautiful 25 year old woman who spent the night with me. And she’s moving in to live with me.” The priest replies: “Aren’t you Jewish?” “Yes,” says the old man. “So why are you telling me?” The old man shouts, “I’m telling EVERBODY!”
Robert: Crude, but I get the point. You’re excited about . . . ?
Robert: The publication in English of my novel, Third Wish. At last. Something I was beginning to think would never happen. (Hence the joke.)
Robert: But wasn’t Third Wish published first in Czech – several years ago?
Robert: Yes. And that’s a lovely story you’ll find elsewhere in this revised website (Third Wish – Czech Edition). But having it published in English was my great hope. I’m telling EVERYBODY!
Robert: Keep going . . .
Robert: So the next day, the same priest finds the same old man sitting on a park bench, holding his face in his hands. The priest walks up and says, “I thought you were very happy.” “I was,” whispers the old man. “Weren’t you telling me you had a beautiful young girl friend who moved in with you?” “It’s true,” whispered the old man, “she’s at my house now.” “Then what’s wrong?” The old man looked up, tears streaming down his face, and said, “I don’t remember where I live.” MORE
- Robert’s wonderful blog post on the Emergency Meeting of the Security Council ,p>
- Robert’s Other Books, including All I Really Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten and It Was On Fire When I Lay Down On It
- Robert’s Favorite Author: Chaucer
- Robert loves reading so much, he spent $9,000 on books last year! That’s NINE THOUSAND DOLLARS!! Wow!
- Robert’s next book: IF YOU LOVE ME STILL, WILL YOU STILL LOVE ME MOVING? Tales from the Century Ball Room
- Play Fulghum’s game to get to know people better: Left, Right, Surprise!! Share and find out things about one another you’d never think to ask…and you’ll be amazed what you never knew you never knew!
- Visit Robert Fulghum’s Website:
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Deadline: May 15th, 2009 ~ midnight, EST
Upon editing my chat with Josh, I realized this interview is as much for writers as it is readers. Josh, folds his life philosophies and his writing tips adeptly into MATRIMONY and our interview. He is an engaging conversationalist and a natural teacher, not to mention, of course, a gifted writer.
How would you summarize Matrimony?
Jonathan Franzen once said that the better a novel is, the more difficult it is to summarize. The protagonist in Martin Amis’s novel The Information says something similar. He’s a writer himself and he’s being interviewed about his novel and the interviewer keeps asking him what his novel is about. Amis’s protagonist, who, like many Amis protagonists, is a pretty difficult fellow, says something to the effect of, “It’s 150,000 words, and if I could have said it in any less I would have.” I sympathize. But if I had to describe Matrimony, I’d say it’s about the twenty-year history of a marriage (it’s about two marriages, actually–arguably three) and that it’s about love and friendship, and the pleasures and perils that attend to those things. More generally, the novel is about what it’s like to be in your twenties and thirties–even your forties in some cases–when you’re waiting for life to begin and you find to your surprise that it already has begun and that the decisions you make have consequences that you’re not even aware of yet. This is particularly pronounced in the case of my protagonists, Julian and Mia, since they get married at twenty-two, right out of college, and find themselves a year later living in Ann Arbor among friends for whom marriage is the last thing on their minds. College towns can perpetuate an eternal adolescence–I know; I’ve lived in a lot of them. And there’s a real divide between married people and single people, the way further down the line there’s an even bigger divide between people who have children and people who don’t. So Julian and Mia have done what seems like the supremely adult act–getting married–even as in other ways they are far from fully formed. This is certainly true professionally. Julian is struggling to finish his novel; Mia is slogging away on her psychology dissertation. In that sense, the book is about what happens when life calls even when you’re not ready for it to come calling. Read an Excerpt
Josh’s advice about writing that first draft:
“Write by hand…to move forward and not back” and “Write, write, write and read, read READ!”
Oops, one question from Mari I missed (Thank goodness Josh was willing to answer via email):
Mari: The dialog was so meaningful throughout the book, I would like to know if the author was able to reflect his life (did his parents share tidbits of wisdom or is this his creativity)? Here’s an example: Page 59 – “My father’s always saying that college is the great equalizer. Here, we’re all taking the same courses and eating the same meals. But then we graduate and gravitate toward our own kind.” What a strong statement/wisdom. I noted several phrases in the book that read like “ah-ha” moments to me.
Josh: That’s a great question. That actual line of dialogue, like all the dialogue I wrote–like everything in MATRIMONY, in fact–is made up. but a writer is always on the lookout, always thinking, always observing, and you absorb the things that people say to you. Certainly my parents shared tidbits of wisdom with me over the years. It’s hard to imagine a parent who doesn’t, and perhaps my parents especially–my father was a professor for 50 years, so teaching came naturally to him, and to my mother as well, even if in a different way. But neither of my parents ever said that line of dialogue. Almost everything I write comes to me only at the moment I write it, though of course there are years of having lived and thought about things stored away somewhere in the recesses of my brain. In general, I love writing dialogue. How people speak characterizes them so deeply. it’s interesting to me (and pleasing) that you chose the line of dialogue you did. It’s not a major moment in the novel, it would seem, but to me it is a major moment and one that I often bring up when I talk with book clubs. I’m more than twenty years out of college now, and I’m struck by how different many of my college friends are from what they were like in college, but how similar they are to what they were like before college, and to what their parents are like. I think college is a time of real experimentation for a lot of people. Economic concerns, while still present, may be less pressing than they are later, and so people are more on the same playing field. It’s the great equalizer, as Carter’s father says. And in some ways, though I didn’t realize it as I was writing the book, this idea, this tension, is the driving force behind everything that happens in MATRIMONY. You take a couple that meet in college, you take friends that meet in college, and you subject them to what life is like after college, and interesting things happen. What is it like to fall in love in college and to try to stay in love many years later? That, to me, is what MATRIMONY is about.”
Josh’s Suggested Reading:
- Empire Falls, Richard Russo
- Cost, Roxana Robinson
- Helen Garner
- Lorrie Moore
- Mystery Ride, Robert Boswell
- The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen
Josh enjoys discussing MATRIMONY with book clubs, so be sure to check out his website for details.
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Deadline: April 30th, 2009 ~ midnight, EST
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Deadline for entry – February 30th, 2009 midnight, EST
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STILL ALICE Synopsis:
Still Alice is a compelling debut novel about a 50-year-old woman’s sudden descent into early onset Alzheimer’s disease, written by first-time author Lisa Genova, who holds a Ph. D in neuroscience from Harvard University. Alice Howland, happily married with three grown children and a house on the Cape, is a celebrated Harvard professor at the height of her career when she notices a forgetfulness creeping into her life. As confusion starts to cloud her thinking and her memory begins to fail her, she receives a devastating diagnosis: early onset Alzheimer’s disease. Fiercely independent, Alice struggles to maintain her lifestyle and live in the moment, even as her sense of self is being stripped away. In turns heartbreaking, inspiring and terrifying, Still Alice captures in remarkable detail what’s it’s like to literally lose your mind…
“The book is about a young woman’s descent into dementia. And of course, we see her struggle against this horrifying and inevitable descent. But interestingly, as her cognitive capabilities diminish, we also get to see her grow. As her symptoms worsen, Alice loses her cerebral life at Harvard, where she’d placed her worth and identity, where she’d been valued and respected. Without it, she embarks on a desperate search for answers to questions like ‘Who am I now?’ and ‘How do I matter?’ and is forced to search for meaning and intimacy beyond career success in her relationships with her husband and children, relationships previously neglected or on autopilot. But has too much time and distance passed in those relationships, and has Alice already lost too much of herself to reconnect before she dies?” Lisa Genova
Lisa Genova’s Bio:
Lisa Genova graduated valedictorian from Bates College with a degree in Biopsychology and has a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Harvard University. She has done research on the molecular etiology of depression, Parkinson’s Disease, drug addiction, and memory loss following stroke. She is a proud and active member of the Dementia Advocacy & Support Network International and DementiaUSA and is an online columnist for the National Alzheimer’s Association . She spends a considerable amount of time acting on stage in Boston and in local independent films. She is currently working on her next novel, LEFT NEGLECTED.
Click HERE to read an excerpt of STILL ALICE
For questions or comments about STILL ALICE or if you’d like to invite Lisa to attend your book club by phone or in person, email Lisa at: Lisa@StillAlice.com
Books Lisa Mentioned:
- The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, Oliver Sacks
- Thirty-Six Hour Day, C. Rayner
- The Lace Reader, Brunonia Barry
- Don’t Leave Me this Way, Julia Fox Garrison
**Thanks, as always, to Natalie Brown for her song You Gotta Believe from the Podsafe Music Network.
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- Deadline – February 15th, 2009 (midnight EST)
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“I truly believe we are as sick as the secrets we keep,” shares Paul.
“It’s all about relationship, not religion”
Mackenzie Allen Philips’ youngest daughter, Missy, has been abducted during a family vacation and evidence that she may have been brutally murdered is found in an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness. Four years later in the midst of his Great Sadness, Mack receives a suspicious note, apparently from God, inviting him back to that shack for a weekend. Against his better judgment he arrives at the shack on a wintry afternoon and walks back into his darkest nightmare. What he finds there will change Mack’s world forever. In a world where religion seems to grow increasingly irrelevant “The Shack” wrestles with the timeless question, “Where is God in a world so filled with unspeakable pain?” The answers Mack gets will astound you and perhaps transform you as much as it did him. You’ll want everyone you know to read this book!
Some of Paul’s “future tripping” blog post ~ a term now part of my common vernacular among friends:
A couple of years ago, I decided to stop ‘future tripping’. ‘Future Tripping’ is ‘taking thought for tomorrow’, it is creating imaginations of what is going to happen and then actually take a mental and emotional trip to live there for a bit. It is ‘what am I going to do if _________ (fill in the blank), what am I going to say if __________, what would our family go through if _____________. I confess to you that I have experienced many un-realities and their attendant emotions this way.
I have repeatedly suffered huge financial losses, ended up living under one of the city bridges, been abandoned by my family, suffered the loss of each of my children, had my closest friends turn out to be villains, embarrassed myself in public, was put on the spot and said something stupid, been to my own funeral (more than once), unsuccessfully tried to stop something horrible from happening, failed repeatedly to live up to somebody’s expectations, been horribly maimed in every kind of imaginable accident known to man, lost all my teeth, lost every job I ever had, came down with every disease possible, regularly looked like an idiot, got my lights punched out for no reason, explained my driving to a police officer, lost my friends, went to school and found out I wasn’t wearing anything, got mugged, imagined the situation that I currently was in was permanent…that nothing could ever or would ever change…
…you get the idea. I have written volumes of imaginations in my own head, things that have no substance, no reality, and are empty, vain imaginations. But I treat them as if they are real. I feel all kinds of terrifying and horrible emotions, and scramble to control my life so that these imaginations won’t actually come to pass. THESE IMAGINATIONS ARE NOT REAL!!!! But I had spent most of my life in or around them. GOD DOES NOT DWELL IN ANYTHING THAT IS NOT REAL!!! In these imaginations, Papa is conspicuously absent. Why? Because Papa has no interest in living inside something that isn’t even real to begin with. So in my ‘vain’ empty imaginations, I am the only ‘god’ there is. I have to fix things, make sure things turn out right, try to get a handle on people and events…and frankly, I do a very poor job of it…this playing god thing. So, my life tended to be gripped by fear and I worked hard to get some ‘control’ to prevent these imaginations that I feared. I had a habit of treating something that had no reality or substance as if it were truly real.
A couple years ago I stopped this insanity. And here is what I discovered. JOY has a name (for more…visit Paul’s wonderful blog website).
“Back in America, little was known of my life in Jamaica,” wrote Errol Flynn
I had the privilege of meeting and cruising with the Manic Mommies back in November. One of the lovely mommies, Kim Erskine, organized an on-ship book club and we all met up in the library one afternoon to chat about The Pirate’s Daughter. It was the perfect backdrop to talk about a book set in the tropics. The conversation was thought-provoking and as with most book clubs, impressions were introduced that weren’t previously considered. Some of the questions our group had about the book went unanswered, so it was wonderful to pose them directly to the woman who penned the words. I contacted The Pirate’s Daughter author, Margaret Cezair-Thompson and asked her to speak with me about her book.
Listen in as Margaret speaks so eloquently about her book and the Caribbean island nation she adores so much. She is a gifted storyteller and simply a delightful person.
Then, join the conversation & be entered to win a FREE copy of The Pirate’s Daughter by:
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Deadline February 15th, 2009, EST
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In 1946, a storm-wrecked boat carrying Hollywood’s most famous swashbuckler shored up on the coast of Jamaica, and the glamorous world of 1940’s Hollywood converged with that of a small West Indian society. After a long and storied career on the silver screen, Errol Flynn spent much of the last years of his life on a small island off of Jamaica, throwing parties and sleeping with increasingly younger teenaged girls. Based on those years, The Pirate’s Daughter is the story of Ida, a local girl who has an affair with Flynn that produces a daughter, May, who meets her father but once.
Spanning two generations of women whose destinies become inextricably linked with the matinee idol’s, this lively novel tells the provocative history of a vanished era, of uncommon kinships, compelling attachments, betrayal and atonement in a paradisal, tropical setting. As adept with Jamaican vernacular as she is at revealing the internal machinations of a fading and bloated matinee idol, Margaret Cezair-Thompson weaves a saga of a mother and daughter finding their way in a nation struggling to rise to the challenge of independence.
A wonderful book review excerpt from BookingMama:
THE PIRATE’S DAUGHTER by Margaret Cezair-Thompson has been on my radar for over a year now so I was very excited when one of my book club members selected it for our December meeting. News about this book just kept popping up everywhere, and all of the buzz was so good. I think it was only a matter of time before I picked it up.
I first heard about this novel when Unbridled Books released it last fall. The book’s description sounded very interesting to me. Then, it started receiving some big-time praise including including the #1 October 2007 Book Sense Pick as well as 2008 Essence Magazine Literary Award for Fiction. In August, the trade paperback version of THE PIRATE’S DAUGHTER was released by Random House with a bright, gorgeous cover. And just a few months ago, Celestial Seasonings’ Adventure at Every Turn selected it as one of their book club picks. I am just so glad that someone finally selected it for us to discuss.
I wasn’t sure what I was expecting when I began reading THE PIRATE’S DAUGHTER, but I have to say that the book was a little different than I thought it would be. While I knew that the story was about a young Jamaican girl, Ida, who falls in love with Errol Flynn, I didn’t know that the book also included a lot of historical information about Jamaica. Having known absolutely nothing about Jamaica and their struggle for independence in the 1970s, I thought it was very interesting. The author did a tremendous job of incorporating the history with the characters in this novel.
I had always known that Errol Flynn was a unique figure to say the least, but I had no idea how much trouble this man could cause. I found him to be extremely distasteful — he seemed to prefer under-age girls and lots of alcohol; however, I thoroughly enjoyed the descriptions of him and his actions — these scenes were excellent. He must have been such a charismatic figure because men and women alike wanted to be in his presence (although to me he just seemed disgusting.) I found it so sad that Ida fell in love with him (or the idea of him) and ended up sacrificing her entire life because of her feelings. For More . . .
Margaret’s Suggested Reading:
- Mister Pipp, by Lloyd Jones “I love and highly recommend,” says Margaret
Margaret’s favorite author (when forced to pick ONLY one!):
I had the privilege of speaking with Kim Bensen, an incredibly inspiring individual. She’s struggled with her weight her whole life and finally lost over 200 pounds and just celebrated her 5-year anniversary of keeping it off. Her book FINALLY THIN! is open, honest, and encouraging. Kim unabashedly shares her “warts and wrinkles” ~ all the embarrassing stories of her food addiction. She’s been there and relates to those who struggle. In FINALLY THIN! Kim gives an overview of all the different diet programs out there and offers her book as a companion to whichever plan is right for you. She also provides numerous Tips & Tools and over 70 Yummy Recipes.
Kim Bensen is a marketing and PR Expert, wife, and mother of four children who was obese for much of her life, weighing as much as 347 pounds. Five years ago, she lost 212 pounds on Weight Watchers and has never looked back. Her story has garnered her thousands of fans and followers as well as a host of national media: She has appeared on the Today Show, Extra, Fox and Friends, 700 Club, and numerous local TV and radio outlets, as well as in People, Women’s World, Prevention, and Cooking Light. She does a weekly 3-minute segment on Better TV (affiliated with Better Homes and Gardens) and her weekly column, “Here’s the Skinny,” runs in several newspapers across the country. Her website has over 7,000 subscribers who log on for diet tips and recipes, and her recently launched product line, Kim’s Light Bagels, is carried in 800 major supermarkets on the east coast. She continues to lead Weight Watchers groups in CT, where she lives.
The following is additional Q & A with Kim, not a transcription of our conversation, so be sure to click to listen!
Carrie: FINALLY THIN! is your journey to weight loss—and keeping that weight off. Although not always obese, you have battled a food addiction and its challenges since childhood. Tell us a little about your own personal experience.
Kim: I live with my loving husband and four children—ranging in age from 7 to 22 in Southern, CT. In high school I fluctuated up and down 10-15 pounds in a yo-yo cycle that would haunt me for years. In college the spread of pounds grew to 30, then 40. I lost weight for my wedding in 1984, but soon gained it all back and more. Shortly after we were married my eating got out of control and for the first time in my life I was over 200 pounds. For the next 10 years I struggled up and down in the 200 pound range; for 10 years after that in the 300 pound range. I tried every low carb, high protein, low sugar, shake-supplemented, pill popping, bar munching, body piercing weight loss program in existence. Guess what? They ALL worked! But after a while I would feel deprived or discouraged and fall off the wagon, gaining back all that I had lost … and then some.
Carrie: Eventually every-day activities became increasingly difficult for you. How was your health suffering?
Kim: My cholesterol was astronomically high. Eventually even my walking was limited. When I sat down my stomach came to the end of my knees. I had no lap for my children and, if I continued along the same path, my children would have no mother at all. I was eating myself to death. Then, on October 1, 2001, I cried out to God in a desperate, broken prayer which would change my heart … and my life. Three days later, with renewed determination and hope, I walked through the doors of Weight Watchers® (again) and weighed in at 347 pounds. I “knew” I would eventually quit and gain the weight back, but I was hoping to be able to breathe a little easier and – possibly – fit into plus size clothing stores again (which I had outgrown) before that happened. The idea that I might actually become thin never even entered my mind.
Carrie: What was the next step?
Kim: For two years I planned meals, counted POINTS™, drank water, weighed, measured, and kept track of my points on a “tracking bracelet” I had made. For two years I focused on changing recipes and behaviors from the inside out. For two years I watched the scales inch downward, and my once hopeless spirit began to soar. The more I put into it, the more fun it became! I was actually ENJOYING my new way of eating! Week after week I stuck with it. There were challenges and plateaus. There was hope and victory. My journey was long, but it didn’t matter any more. I loved what I was doing! I could live with this! For the first time in years I was under 300 lbs … then 200 lbs … then, on October 7, 2003, I reached my goal.
Carrie: How much weight did you ultimately lose?
Kim: In the end I lost 212 pounds, lowered my cholesterol more than 200 points, lost an inch and a half in each wrist, and went down from a size 6x to a size 6. The weight loss has made countless practical differences in my life: I can fit in any chair, buckle up in a car, and get toys out from under the middle of my boys’ beds. I can fit socks inside my shoes and can wear over-the-counter jewelry without extenders. I even joined Curves to help me with toning and maintenance.
Carrie: How did your weight loss change your profession?
Kim: My weight loss has not only changed my health and my looks, it’s changed my profession. In 2005 I became a leader for Weight Watchers® and began cooking for my members. Today I write a weekly weight loss column called Here’s The Skinny and I’m the Diet Editor for Better TV and Parents TV.
Carrie: How is your book a companion to any diet?
Kim: FINALLY THIN! doesn’t sell anything. No one diet. No product. Nothing. It’s written from the perspective of someone who loves food, loves eating and has always had trouble being satisfied with a “normal” portion of food. It’s written by someone who always yo-yoed and never thought maintenance — happy, enjoyable maintenance — at a healthy weight was possible. It’s a book of hope … and a book of every trick, tip, mantra and recipe I used to get where I am today. No matter what diet you are on, whether you’ve had surgery or are “just cutting back” FINALLY THIN! can help you stick with it whether you have 10 lbs to lose or 210.
Carrie: What suggestions do you give to readers trying to find the diet that’s right for them? How do they know if it’s a good fit?
Kim: FINALLY THIN!offers a “Diet Quiz” with practical questions that help readers think through what their needs are. I also have a “Diet Shoppe” which is simply a short, unbiased summary of 30 of the top diets on the market from Atkins to the Zone. There are a lot more tips and helpful guidelines, but that’s a brief overview of a few of the takeaways from the book.
Carrie: You have created some terrific recipes including Broccoli Crunch, Jalapeno Poppers, and Angel Food Layer Cake, just to name a few. Do you have a favorite recipe?
Kim: I would have to say my Hot Artichoke Dip … hands down. Or my Bruschette … definitely. No. No. Wait! Either my Downeast Chowder or my Chicken Pot Pie or my Family Cheesecake. It’s really hard to say!
Carrie: I understand you have a new bagel line?
Kim: A year ago friends encouraged me to take to market one of my favorite products – a 110 calorie, high fiber, low fat bagel — in six yummy flavors. Today we ship Kim’s Light Bagels to all 50 states and are in major grocery store shelves across New England, New York and New Jersey. Our goal? To get out of the shipping business and be in the supermarkets of EVERYONE who wants a tasty, portion controlled, New York style, kettle boiled bagel! (Yummy Bagel Recipes)
Carrie: How have these experiences shaped you? And, what will readers take away from your book?
Kim: There’s a lot about my story that isn’t easy to share, but my goal is to encourage others. You need to feel the depths of my bondage to food, so that you can see how great the possibilities are of overcoming yours. No matter where you are today, reaching your weight loss goal is possible. No weight is too much. No time is too long. The only way you’ll never lose weight is if you stop trying. Come on … it’s YOUR turn now!
WIN: Kim has not only agreed to provide a free copy of FINALLY THIN! for our book giveaway contest, she’s also throwing a bunch of FREE Kim’s Light Bagels into the mix. To be entered to win the book and/or bagels (two separate drawings), simply:
- Comment on the Words To Mouth website and/or
- Call 206-309-7318 and leave a voice mail message
- You MUST be subscribed to the Words To Mouth e-newsletter to find out who wins!
- Deadline: January 15th, midnight EST
**We’d love to hear your story ~ your challenges and successes. Whatever they are, 2009 is a NEW beginning, so I encourage you to pick up FINALLY THIN!, visit Kim’s website, and just BEGIN with baby steps to losing the weight you need to feel healthy.
Kim’s Helpful Tips for Moms:
- To foster healthy eating habits, Kim suggests asking kids “What are you going to have for your fruit and vegetable before you have everything else?”
- Kim has wonderful perspective when it comes to reconciling the role model she was at 345 pounds and where she is today. “My kids see an area where I’ve struggled and how it’s never too late to turn it around…an example of overcoming.” Kim encourages other mothers: “…don’t wear the guilt, work on yourself, and let those habits trickle down to your kids.”
On a side note: Kim and I talked a bit about emotional eating and food addiction and I got to thinking about the added difficulty of food addiction as compared to our other addictive tendencies. And, by the way, according to my therapist friend, Suzanne Maiden (Dear Zanny) we all have those tendencies, whether it’s alcohol, nicotine, even busyness or exercise–our neuroses can manifest in all kinds of “kooky” ways. Food addiction creates blatant physical side-effects that other addictions don’t ~ not to mention all kinds of judgments. As Kim shares, people can take one look at an overweight person and make all kinds of assumptions. But what about the person who spends night after night surfing internet porn sites and drinking mass amounts of alcohol and in the morning is at the office with no one the wiser? I also considered the added difficulty of beating food addiction over some other addictions. I mean, as difficult as it may be, people stop drinking and smoking cold turkey with a key component being NOT having the substance in the home. Think about it, we all have to eat ~ imagine being addicted to the very substance you need to sustain your life. My heart goes out to people who struggle with weight and food addiction and I just encourage you to read FINALLY THIN! and visit Kim’s website for added support. Even if you don’t have a weight struggle, we all can benefit from Kim’s tips and recipes for a healthier lifestyle.
Kim’s Light Bagels ~ 110 calories, high in fiber, 6 great flavors, and only 1 Weight Watchers point. 2009, unveils Kim’s Lite english muffins and breads.
Kim’s Reading & Recommends:
**Be sure to check out TheDivaCast’s conversation with Dr. Andi Hope-Forsman, Ed.D on Childhood Obesity
The Scalpel and the Soul: Encounters with Surgery, the Supernatural, and the Healing Power of Hope – Dr. Allan Hamilton, M.D.
Dr. Allan Hamilton’s career is far from linear spanning from janitor, to Harvard-graduate neurosurgeon, author, motivational speaker, Grey’s Anatomy script consultant, and Horse Whisperer. Without a doubt, he’s one extraordinary man and yet he has an easy demeanor that elicits familiarity and relaxed conversation.
Dr. Hamilton admits to almost titling his book The Spiritual Journey of a Reluctant Surgeon, because…well, that’s his truth. He comes from an esoteric hard-core science-based background. But, after witnessing how the healing power of hope trumps scientific evidence time and time again, Dr. Allan Hamilton stepped beyond denial and recognized the capability of the human soul.
In his book, The Scalpel and the Soul, Dr. Hamilton shares story after story of what he encountered in his medical career and through his own personal life experience ~ Things that cannot be explained scientifically. He shares his views on what faith means to him and his “Twenty Rules to Live By” in and outside of a hospital room.
Dr. Hamilton speaks of how to harness emotional and spiritual resources, so the soul gets as much care as the physical, and in turn, enhances the body’s healing process. He hopes The Scalpel and the Soul encourages physicians and scientists to address their patients’ spiritual needs as well as their physical requirements. I think it should be required reading for graduation from medical school, but read it and decide for yourself.
From Dr. Allan Hamilton’s Website:
The soul often needs more than an Intensive Care Unit can provide. The Scalpel and the Soul explores how premonition, superstition, hope and faith not only become factors in how patients feel, but can change the outcomes as well. The stories with in this book validate the spiritual manifestations physicians see every day. The tales empower patients to voice their spiritual needs in medical situations. When the life is threatened, the soul can exert mysterious powers, embracing that knowledge can help anyone, patient or caregiver, to cope with such difficult and challenging times.
“Allan Hamilton is a natural storyteller. His real-life experiences remind us that patients and surgeons can share in a spiritual transformation during the course of battling disease. He also reminds us that every patient presents a dramatic opportunity to see the miraculous, the inexplicable, and the inspirational at work.”
Linda Klein R.N., Producer, Grey’s Anatomy & Nip/Tuck
“A tragic error in medical education is that doctors are taught to think and not feel. The Scalpel & the Soul is a moving account of what can happen when a doctor opens his heart and his eyes to life’s spiritual lessons and the mystery that thrives amidst the terror and trauma of life-threatening illness. This book will be appreciated by everyone who reads it because we are the same at both ends of the scalpel.”
Bernie Siegel, MD author of Help Me To Heal and Prescriptions For Living
“Allan Hamilton has the whole-person perspective that I emphasize in integrative medicine. Like me he regards patients as not just physical bodies but also as metal/emotional beings and spiritual entities. In order to understand health and illness, doctors must examine and attend to those dimensions of human life as well as the physical, even when the physical body is obviously damaged or sick.” Andrew Weil, MD author of 8 Weeks to Optimum Health, Spontaneous Healing, Natural Health, Natural Medicine…and many more.
To enter to win a FREE copy of The Scalpel and the Soul:
- Leave a comment below sharing your (or someone you know) “healing power of hope” story, and/or
- Call 206-309-7318 and share a story
- You will need to be subscribed to the e-newsletter to be informed if you won ~ Best of Luck!
Thanks to Natalie Brown for her song You Gotta Believe from the Podsafe Music Network
Free Audio Books for Readers & Sage Advice for AuthorsJoin Evo and me as we talk about books, authors, and the benefits of podcasting and social media. This show is not only for published authors or aspiring authors, but it’s for readers, too. Visit Podiobooks and get a taste for just how many books are available for you to download to your computer/ipod for FREE.
About Evo (Podiobooks Bio):
From independently funded start-ups to multi-million dollar ebusiness projects, Evo Terra has been leading internet and ecommerce strategic development since 1999. His specialty is in discovering emergent technologies and adapting them to meet a variety of wants and needs. Prior to Podiobooks.com, he consulted with industry-leading search platforms as they developed their local search properties, directed ebusiness for a $2BB retail organization, and managed over $10MM of online media funds on behalf of various best-of-class advertising clients. Evo also has a penchant for good literature, co-hosting Dragon Page Cover to Cover, one of the first podcasts ever and is focused on authors of speculative fiction. Additionally, he is recognized as a pioneer in the podcasting world, and co-authored Podcasting for Dummies (TM) along with Tee Morris.