Monday, May 24, 2010

Do You Believe in Magic?

I’m a sucker for romance, even if it doesn’t come in traditional packages. I don’t need the Hallmark card – I’d choose lilacs over red roses, ginger beer over champagne and sparkly cubic zirconia over diamonds.

In books, I’m fond of fantasy and whimsy; I’m willing to suspend disbelief as long as I get a happy ending. Call me shallow, but I don’t want angst or the Great American Novel. I just want to be smiling when I turn that final page.

In The Girl Who Chased the Moon, Sarah Addison Allen welcomes us to Mullaby, North Carolina, famous for its barbecue festival and not much else.

Strange things happen in this small town – wallpaper changes at will, ghostly lights peek from the woods and secrets abound. The air is infused with magic, or maybe it’s just the delectable fragrance of Julia Winterson’s hummingbird cake.

Julia, who bakes cakes the way others cast spells, is six months away from her two year goal when a case of in vino veritas messes up her plans. Sawyer Alexander is blindingly beautiful and the embodiment of all Julia knows she’ll never have. He might have inspired her passion for baking, but Sawyer is the cause of her problems – not the solution.

Emily Benedict is an orphaned 17-year-old newly arrived at the home of her grandfather, a giant of a man “tall enough to see into tomorrow.” Shocked to find herself outcast because of her mother’s past actions, Emily eagerly accepts the friendship Julia offers, and is drawn, in spite of herself, to Win Coffey.

Win, in his white linen suit and red bow tie, fits into Mullaby in a way Emily never will, and he seems to accept her in spite of the hurtful things Emily’s mother did. The lives of these four characters warp and weave together like threads on a loom, binding them in ways none of them could have predicted.

Sarah Addison Allen’s delectably light touch sparkles on the page as if she has waved a glittering wand over her words. Nothing is ever ordinary or mundane in her books; in “The Girl Who Chased the Moon,” fireflies practically flicker on the page, drawn to the glow of the Mullaby moon.

Although it’s not a romance in the sense readers may expect, this book is a love story on many levels – new loves, old loves, family love and the love only a small town can give.

The Girl Who Chased the Moon is Sarah Addison Allen's third book. Be sure to check out Garden Spells and The Sugar Queen, too. They are all on my "keeper" shelf!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Who Were You Meant to Be?

I watched this video tonight at my husband's urging. I'm glad I did, because it made me think about my own education and that of my children. I still remember when my son's kindergarten teacher sent me a note because he had colored an apple purple instead of red. She was perturbed about it. I was perturbed about her.

Luckily, we moved shortly after that and my son and daughter were blessed with wonderful teachers who helped them discover their strengths instead of trying to stuff them into rigid boxes.

Sir Ken Robinson talks about epiphanies in this video, a subject close to my heart. He asked a number of people to describe the epiphanies in their own lives, the moment in time where they realized what they were meant to do. Or, as I would put it, who they were meant to be. My husband recalls the first time he played a guitar -- that was an epiphany for him.

I don't remember when I decided to write; in fact, I don't think there was a decision involved. I've written ever since I learned how to put pen to paper. I started typing before I was 12 and haven't stopped since then. Stories, poems, letters, articles, essays, novels, non-fiction books, blogs -- I write the way others breathe. I talk a lot, but I write even more than I talk. I don't know how to not write. (Note: this doesn't mean I've mastered the art, but I try.)

Sir Ken Robinson tells the story of a girl who couldn't sit still in school, and her teachers were sure something was wrong with her. Her parents sent her to dance school and she became a top ballerina. She related her thrill at walking into a place where everyone was just like her.

That's what it was like for me when I joined RWA and my local chapter -- finding others who love to write was indescribable. I also read constantly, and I had a similar sense of coming home when I discovered the book club boards at Barnes & Noble ( To spend your life thinking you're odd and alone in this obsessive love of books, and then to discover there are thousands who feel the same way -- it's an incomparable gift.

I hate to think of others who still think they are alone, or who have not found a way to express their talents. I am not much for giving advice but I'll say this: do what you love. Don't let anything stop you. Even if you don't succeed, you'll be happier for trying.