Patti is a contributor to the Southern Authors blog A Good Blog is Hard To Find.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

More Word Wondering -- "REVIEW"

Sometimes a simple word can change its meaning at different points in life.
For example: REVIEW.
Simple word. Until you're an author and it is a week until book release. Then this word suddenly morphs and becomes this monster with sharp teeth and an evil grin OR a gentle giant with kind words and sweet smile.
One word: Many meanings.

So here is an example of the kinder, gentler review.
I love it.

Novel unfolds against romantic beach backdrop in Georgia. Sisters confront issues from the past.

By Don O'Briant
For the AJC
Sunday, May 24, 2009
Some families, in fiction and real life, seem to have trouble dealing with the past. Incidents as insignificant as an overcooked Thanksgiving turkey or a remark about a relative’s drinking habit can fester into a family feud that lingers for years until somebody either dies or apologizes.

The Sheffields in Atlanta writer Patti Callahan Henry’s sixth novel, “Driftwood Summer,” have problems with the past and present. In the past, a romantic rivalry between sisters Riley and Maisy resulted in Maisy leaving their small Georgia coastal town and moving to California to become an interior designer. A younger sister, Adalee, has left home for college, where she treats life like one big party.

Riley, who became a single mother after one impetuous act, has stayed to run the family’s Driftwood Cottage Bookstore with Kitsy, her widowed —- and controlling —- mother. Doubtful that she will ever find anyone as good as her lost true love, Riley instead seeks comfort in the pages of novels where everyone lives happily ever after.

Maisy has troubles of her own. Although she’s a successful designer, she seems to be attracted only to men who are married or otherwise unavailable. She has refused to return to her hometown for years, but now she has no choice. Her mother is celebrating her 70th birthday during a week of special events to mark the 200th anniversary of Driftwood Cottage and the 12th anniversary of the bookstore.

Like many independent bookstores, the Sheffields’ business is in financial trouble and Kitsy is hoping the celebration will raise enough money to keep Driftwood open. Before the festivities can begin, Kitsy is hospitalized after a fall and diagnosed with a serious illness. Riley is asked to summon her sisters to help with the celebration, but she is sworn to secrecy about her mother’s medical condition.

This begins a bittersweet tale of long-buried family secrets, misunderstood motives and the return of Mack Logan, the man who created the rift between Riley and Maisy during one pivotal evening. Mack, whose family previously owned Driftwood Cottage, had fished and sailed with Riley when they were teenagers. Mack and Riley were best friends until Maisy decided she wanted him.

“Since that night thirteen years ago, Riley had spoken to her sister only when necessary. The gulf in their relationship was easy to blame on Maisy —- after all, she’d been the one to leave Palmetto Beach and move to California, then refuse to come visit. But Riley understood that mere physical distance was not what kept them apart; their bitterness and anger did.”

The author skillfully weaves the stories of the sisters against a romantic backdrop of a beach town and the kind of bookstore any reader would appreciate. In addition to a cafe with fresh-baked muffins, the Driftwood Cottage Bookstore is the social center of the community with comfortable chairs and a meeting place for the Beach Babes Book Club, the Blonde Book Club and the Page Turners Club.

As in “Between the Tides,” “When Light Breaks” and her other novels, the coastal setting is as much a character as the people. Her descriptive prose evokes a lush landscape of oaks draped in Spanish moss and the scent of the sea on soft breezes. Most of all, her keen insights into relationships and the healing power of storytelling questions the statement that Scarlett O’Hara’s father made when he insisted that land was the only thing that mattered.

In Patti Callahan Henry’s world, it’s family.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Back Up Plan

If the Writing Thing Doesn't Work Out

I am always a bit frantic the week before the book release and book tour: organizing, setting kid's schedules, arranging, etc...
In the meantime, my kids are going through end-of-year exams, emptying lockers, dropping stuff ALL over the house. I try to calm our schedules and just sit with them when I can. So my son took a break from studying (that's what he calls it -- I called it staring at his Math book), and came into the kitchen and asked for a snack. I made him a killer sandwich -- toasted, melted cheese, the works.
He sat down next to me, took a bite and in complete sincerity looked at me and said, "Mom, you make the best sandwiches in the world. You should open a sandwich shop."
So there you go -- if this writing thing doesn't work out: Sandwich Shop.
It's always good to have a back up plan....

Friday, May 22, 2009

Wondering About Words

Wondering about Words

I was out yesterday, and I left my teen daughter home with my teen son. She texts me (this part is not unusual, she'll actually text me from another part of the house), and her words made me laugh and then wonder about the origin of our "sayings". You know those things we say that we've heard a million times and we "know" what they mean even if the words don't really add up to that exact meaning.
For example  -- "Can of Corn" -- means an easy catch in baseball. How can those words -- next to each other --  possibly mean an easy pop fly catch by a baseball player in the outfield?
So here is what she said in her text -- "He (her brother) keeps screaming at me to get a life. Whatever that means he keeps screaming it at me."
You're laughing, right?
How did the combination of  "get a life" come to mean "go away" "leave me alone" and "you're a loser."
Just wondering.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Love, Etc...

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about love. With my new novel (DRIFTWOOD SUMMER) coming out in a week, this question keeps coming up: Why did you write about a bookstore on a beach? And I keep telling everyone it is because I love bookstores and I love beaches. Love? Can we really love a bookstore? A beach?
I can.
We don’t often ask ourselves WHY we love someone or something, we just do. Love that is – we just love. If I try and dissect why, the feeling or the knowing seems to move past me like fog. There is no real answer to “why”. But I have come to believe this – what and who we love helps define who we are.
For example: Why did I become a writer? I know the answer hides beneath the things and people I love; the deeper loves of my life. I grew up a bookworm; I love reading. I grew up hiding in libraries because we moved so much I didn’t have many friends: I love libraries. I love God, and doesn’t he use the word “word” to describe the Self he sent to earth? I love words – where they came from, how they sound, how they change when they are next to each other. I even risked friends by being a member of the Latin Club.
There are many more loves, yet they all add up to equal me. Who I am. And they also contribute to my upside down (or maybe it is inside out) way I look at life: others might interpret a novel through their life experience; I experience life through the stories I’ve read and known. Reading and words have changed the way I see life: Love does that.

We'll talk more about love. Check back with the blog -- send me notes at [email protected], and we'll talk about the things and people we love, and why, and how they make us who we are!

Monday, May 11, 2009


I'm here again -- that time in - between a book being finished and read. The book is done, has a release date (three weeks, or June 2nd to be exact), a cover and even a couple great reviews, BUT it hasn't been released from it's box and into the bookstore....yet.

This is when we plan book tour, send out letters, wait for reviews -- this is an unsettling time of in=between. So, like I do for anything that is on my mind, anything I need to unravel in my own gut -- I wrote about this in=between. This right-now time....

I’ve been thinking a lot about the BEFORE and AFTER. You know, those stories or pictures of the before and the after. About the HERE and then the THERE.

There is the quarterback who was a bag boy BEFORE and is a Superbowl star AFTER.
The pictures at the Dermatologist office of BEFORE the facial procedure and then the beautiful pictures of AFTER.
The story of the writer who wrote in a café and was on welfare BEFORE he/she became a bestseller with a movie deal and ten million copies in print AFTER.
The weight loss plan with the BEFORE picture and the AFTER svelte photo.
And best of all: the love story – the BEFORE they met, and then AFTER when she is in her wedding dress.
We love these stories, don’t we? But what about what is in-between the before and after? What is between the ‘here’ and then the ‘there’? The in-between, that’s what.

There’s the hours of practice, sweat, sacrifice and sprained muscles of the quarterback; the pain of the surgical recovery to look just like the picture in the dermatologist’s office. What about the writer who overcame her fear and wrote and wrote and wrote for ten years before she was willing to show her words to a single person, who then shot it down like a cheap clay bird in a shooting range?
And then there’s the woman who lost the weight because she actually didn’t eat the Easter Peeps (Can you tell what I’m fighting not to have for lunch?). And what about the story of the couple who overcame the fear and hardship to make it to the wedding altar? I think that sometimes we tend to ignore all the stuff in-between the before and after. We focus so much on result, on the after, on the there.

There is something a bit restless, maybe even scary, about the in-between places when we aren’t ‘here’ and we aren’t ‘there’. Sometimes we are forced into this place and sometimes we step willingly into this space. Either way there are gifts there; lessons and joy, I believe.

Maybe I’ve become too accustomed to the drive-thru window – I talk into the depersonalized speaker-thing and then get my hot food and move on with my life. This is so much easier than going to the grocery store, picking out the food, pushing my cart through the aisles while my ten year old throws in a box of Lucky Charms. Then I must unpack the groceries and cook the dinner – all that takes longer than the actual eating of the dinner itself. And don’t forget the clean up.

As in life, in writing: there is an in-between. I don’t get this glorious idea (aren’t all our books at their absolute best in the beginning? When they are a brilliant idea – the best idea we’ve had yet), and then wake up during a book signing for said book.
There are years of in-between: The writing part. The butt-in-chair part. The angst and fear and stuck part. The wonderful and terrible sentences part. The editing and the discussions with the editor, the PR and marketing and book tour and numbers-game part. There is just so, so much in-between.

But like the quarterback or the weight loss woman or the author, I’ve come to if not love, then respect the in-between. If we jumped right to the AFTER or the THERE every time, what would we learn, who would we be?

Yes, there are many days when I’d like to fast forward to the published novel, but it is in the writing that I learn – about myself, about life, about hard work, about what the story (and therefore my life) is REALLY about. The in-between part is where I find friends and allies, where I discover the just right word and the lost hours of immersing myself in the gift of words and writing.

How many things have passed me by during the in-between moments because I was focused on the after, on the there? So I vow -- or maybe that’s too strong a word -- I promise I’ll try and think about, notice and enjoy the in-between of everything. I won’t jump from the before to the after, from the here to the there of anything. Even when I must endure the harder and scarier parts of it all, I’ll stay right inside this space.

Maybe that’s why I love to read, why I love to write – the good stuff – the in-between stuff – is what the good stories are made of. Our stories.

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