Some Winners…

Sorry for the delay in the winners announcements. I hope I don’t forget anyone. I’ve been a bit bogged down with work and other things this month.

The winner of The Unexpected Miss Bennet by Patrice Sarath was Beth Fish Reads!




The 2 winners of You Are My Only by Beth Kephart were Michael of Middle Grade Mafioso and Evangeline from Sugarpeach.  I am sorry for the delay in shipping these books out.  I’ve run into some issues that have precluded me from mailing them, but I hope to get them in the mail to you sometime after the holiday on Dec. 25.  Please accept my sincere apologies.



The winner of Christmas at Pemberley by Regina Jeffers was Cynthia Wong.




Congrats to all the winners.

Interview With Beth Kephart

Earlier today, I posted my review of You Are My Only by Beth Kephart, which I thoroughly enjoyed, and later on in the interview, I’ll let you know how you can win a copy of your own.

I’ve read Beth’s work for the last few years, and I’ve enjoyed her books very much, and I’ve come to understand her writing process through her blog posts and her email conversations.  I just adore her spirit and she’s very motivating even if she doesn’t realize she’s being so.  I was so happy when she agreed to be interviewed about her stellar novel about child abduction, a tough topic for adult and young adult readers alike.

Many of you may have read enough reviews of this book, and some of you may be avoiding the book for one reason or another.  I hope that this interview will help those on the fence about the book to jump off and give Kephart’s work a try.  Without further ado, please welcome Beth.

1. You Are My Only is a haunting title with an equally haunting cover. Was it your intention to create a story that would haunt its readers and get them thinking more in depth about child abduction?

Thank you, Serena, for asking such a great first question. First, the cover credit belongs entirely to Neil Swaab, whose work is exquisite. He reads the books he illustrates and that makes all the difference. Second, this book was evolved over such a long period of time that I cannot say that I set out, from the start, to get people thinking more about child abduction. I was thinking about heartbreak—the loss of a child—and how one manages to survive it. I was thinking about the compassion we must have for people whose hearts have been broken.

2. Some readers have said that Sophie’s voice is stronger and the most engaging in the novel. Do you see one voice as stronger than the other? Why or why not?

I am delighted that readers are distinguishing between the voices, for that, I think, is one of the hardest things to do—to make certain the characters sound just precisely like themselves. Sophie is 14 and while she lives an unusual life, she has not been crushed; she is also gaining an education, however unorthodox. Emmy is not nearly as educated, but she has her own poetic intelligence, and she is heartbroken. I love the characters equally. I typically hear a greater preference for Emmy from adult readers and a greater preference for Sophie from teen readers. It never occurred to me that readers would choose one voice over the other; the two voices are necessary to complete the story.

3. Of the scenes that your wrote in the novel, the soaked feet of Emmy swimming like fish in the pond of her Keds has stayed with me longest, in effect symbolizing the disembodiment of her from the life she knew before her child was abducted. Is there a particular scene that woke you from sleep or came to surprise you as you were writing?

Thank you, Serena. This entire book kept me awake for a very long time. The truth is that, while You Are My Only is a novel, some women do live the terribly bereft life of a lost child, and some children are growing up inside airless homes. I felt a great desire to get this right, a great urgency to keep reworking the stories until they honored the emotions (if not the precise storylines) of what real people have endured. I hardly ever sleep when I am working, which is to say: I sport some pretty dark circles under my eyes.

4. Your work often has a poetic feel and I know that you’ve written poetry before. Did/do you have plans for a poetry collection in the future? If not, have you read any great poetry collections that you’d recommend?

I do not have a poetry collection pending, though years ago I thought (for a brief moment) about trying to package a book of poetry and art. It still sits on my computer. I love Neruda, Stern, Gilbert, Ondaatje, Kunitz.

5. Poetry is often considered elitist or inaccessible by mainstream readers. Do poets have an obligation to dispel that myth with their writing styles? Or what other solutions do you see to get more mainstream readers interested in poetry?

Oh, my goodness. This is a great question, but I am not sure I have a good answer for it. Poets have an obligation to be rigorous with language, to imagine deeply, to feel deeply, to know. The rest of us are impoverished souls if we can not find our way to the work of these poets. (And please know that I am not counting myself among these poets; real poets do more than I can do or have done.)

6. Finally, your blog often covers writing struggles, shares photography, and some of your recent reading. How do you find time to balance the blog, writing, and your job teaching? Are there particular habits, routines, or obsessions that help you accomplish that balance?

Oh, Serena, I have no balance. I am grabbing at time, getting up very early, despairing that I will never finish or sell another book. The only thing I know for sure right now is that I cannot work on the computer when I am writing a novel. I have to go to another room and find a slice of sun and some silence. The vast majority of my time is spent running a business—a boutique marketing communications firm called Fusion. The next big chunk of time is spent making sure the house is in order—the bills paid, the floors swept, the meals on the table, and (when my beautiful son is home from college, I try to spend as much time as I can with him, of course). During spring semesters at the University of Pennsylvania, I spend about twenty-five hours each week teaching, preparing for class, working with new students and former students. Finally, to relieve the pressure of things, I dance. And so I write far more slowly than anyone realizes. Weeks will go by without a novelistic or memoiristic word. The blog is my outreach, my way of writing at least some one thing each day.

Thanks, Beth, for answering my questions; it has been a pleasure conversing with you in last year or so. As a bonus to my readers, Beth agreed to share a picture of her writing space; isn’t it gorgeous!

Beth Kephart's Office

To Enter to win 1 of 2 copies of You Are My Only by Beth Kephart, leave a comment on this post.

For a second entry, let me know that you commented on my review.

For up to 3 more entries, share this giveaway with people on Facebook, Twitter, and/or your blog and leave a link.

Deadline Nov. 18, 2011, at 11:59 PM EST. Perfect holiday gift.

You Are My Only by Beth Kephart

You Are My Only by Beth Kephart tackles the tough topic of child abduction from two perspectives — that of the young victim, Sophie, and that of a mother, Emmy, whose child is stolen.  In this powerful, yet quiet novel, Kephart explores how one unexpected event can devastate entire worlds.

While the topic is ripped from the headlines, there is no sensationalism here.  Through carefully selected words in her poetic prose, Kephart builds tension and suspense, like the quiet vibration growing louder on the railroad tracks as the train approaches.  It also provides a quiet space — like the air between the branches of a tall tree — for readers to contemplate what each voice is saying, what each voice is struggling to address, what pain is closed inside of them and just clawing to get out.

“My feet are two pale fish inside the tight ponds of my Keds.  I leave the street for the train station.  I leave the station and cross onto the tracks, slick-backed and shiny as snail glisten.  The black gauze of the clouds flap at the moon, and from the tracks I can see into the backs of people’s houses, the private places where the lamps have not gone off.  It’s like looking through snow globes, worlds behind glass.”  (page 21)

Kephart’s prose is very lyrical and imagistic, and readers need to pay careful attention to her lines.  For instance, the above passage perfectly demonstrates Emmy’s frame of mind after losing her child.  She is lost, drowning, unmoored.  She has become separate from those who have “normal” lives because that’s what she believed she had with her child and husband, no matter how imperfect the marriage.

Emmy and Sophie have strong voices, both with stories to tell, and having one without the other here would have left too much unsaid.  Kephart is a masterful storyteller, building characters from the inside out, ensuring readers receive well-rounded men and women with strengths and weaknesses.  But there is always a mystical element to her novels, something in the background that is left unexplained.  She trusts the reader to uncover the truth of these relationships she’s building and the mysteries of what motivates them to keep moving forward even when things are at their most dark and uncertain.

“But my voice skids away, rides the slippery tracks.  Far away, at the bend in the rails, the night is lamped.  It is yellow and growing brighter, and now I understand:  the train has big yellow eyes.  Lovely ocher liquid eyes.  They put the shimmer down on the tracks and splatter the dark.”  (Page 22)

Beyond the main story, there are Helen and Cloris a devoted couple of aunts to a young boy, Joey, who is as normal as can be to Sophie.  Like Joey who supports Sophie, quirky Arlen and fantastical Autumn support Emmy in ways that are unexpected.  Although Emmy’s scenes, which are told from her point of view, limit readers’ knowledge of how she becomes institutionalized, it is not how she got there that is important to the story.  What is important is what happens there and how it transforms her.  Some of the hospital scenes are reminiscent of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest — minus the booze, floozies,and Nurse Ratched — in that she is there against her will and wants to escape, but for a while she merely is.  The relationship Emmy builds with Autumn helps her repair her broken psyche, and in this way, Kephart’s hospital is the antithesis of what happens in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

You Are My Only is an emotional powerhouse drawing redemption out of the shattered pieces of lives rendered asunder by a single event.  Through faith and love these characters can begin the heal, rebuild, and flourish.  What more could readers ask for?  Stunning, precious, and captivating from beginning to end.

About the Author:

Beth Kephart is the author of 10 books, including the National Book Award finalist A Slant of Sun; the Book Sense pick Ghosts in the Garden; the autobiography of Philadelphia’s Schuylkill River, Flow; the acclaimed business fable Zenobia; and the critically acclaimed novels for young adults, Undercover and House of Dance. A third YA novel, Nothing but Ghosts, is due out in June 2009. And a fourth young adult novel, The Heart Is Not a Size, will be released in March 2010. “The Longest Distance,” a short story, appears in the May 2009 HarperTeen anthology, No Such Thing as the Real World.

Kephart is a winner of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts fiction grant, a National Endowment for the Arts grant, a Leeway grant, a Pew Fellowships in the Arts grant, and the Speakeasy Poetry Prize, among other honors. Kephart’s essays are frequently anthologized, she has judged numerous competitions, and she has taught workshops at many institutions, to all ages. Kephart teaches the advanced nonfiction workshop at the University of Pennsylvania. You can visit her blog.  Also check out this chat.

My other Beth Kephart reviews:

Please come back this afternoon for my interview with Beth Kephart about You Are My Only and for a giveaway.

Mailbox Monday #151

First, I would like to congratulate (Ryan) on winning My Soul to Take by Tananarive Due (my review) from the last Mailbox Monday giveaway.

Mailbox Mondays (click the icon to check out the new blog) has gone on tour since Marcia at A Girl and Her Books, formerly The Printed Page passed the torch. This month’s host is the Mailbox Monday tour blog.

Kristi of The Story Siren continues to sponsor her In My Mailbox meme.

Both of these memes allow bloggers to share what books they receive in the mail or through other means over the past week.

Just be warned that these posts can increase your TBR piles and wish lists.

Here’s what I received this week:

1.  You Are My Only by Beth Kephart; finally my 5 pre-ordered books arrived (so the two of you readers who have won a copy should receive them soon from me) and 1 autographed copy from Beth after I won her Treasure Hunt, which I will treasure forever.

2.  Dreaming of Mr. Darcy by Victoria Connelly for review in January from Sourcebooks.

3.  Christmas at Pemberley by Regina Jeffers for review in December from Ulysses Press.

4.  Henry Tilney's Diary by Amanda Grange for review in December from Berkley/Penguin.

5.  The Unexpected Miss Bennet by Patrice Sarath for review in December from Berkley/Penguin.

6. Ivan and Misha by Michael Alenyikov, which I won from Unabridged Chick!

7. All the Flowers in Shanghai by Duncan Jepson from Library Thing Early Reviewers.

What did you get in your mailbox?

Some Lucky Winners….

Today, I want to congratulate some winners of some spectacular books.

The two winners of You Are My Only by Beth Kephart:

Jill of Rhapsody in Books
Janel of Janel’s Jumble

The winner of The Taker by Alma Katsu:

Johannah from A Book and a Bite

Congrats ladies!

You Are My Only by Beth Kephart Treasure Hunt & Giveaway

You Are My Only by Beth Kephart, which will be released this month and is also available for Kindle, is a book I have been anticipating for months.  I’m not a big reader of young adult fiction, but I am a big advocate for authors I adore for their consistently excellent story-telling capabilities — Tim O’Brien, Yusef Komunyakaa (yes, even poets tell stories), Robert Frost, Mary Oliver, Anita Shreve, Karen White, Christopher Moore, and others — and Beth Kephart is fast becoming one of those favorites.

I met her last year when she released Dangerous Neighbors (my review) at BEA, and we’ve since bonded over poetry, especially since much of her writing is very poetic — attracting my undivided attention.  I’ve read Nothing But Ghosts (my review), which I loved, and Undercover (my review), which is my favorite of her books so far.  So you can imagine that waiting for my pre-ordered copy of You Are My Only (plus giveaway copies) is killing me.

Recently, Beth came up with a delightful idea that has kept me occupied over the last month — a Scavenger Hunt.  All I had to do was hunt down a series of guest posts throughout the blogosphere about the behind-the-scenes of novel writing and title selection, which as any writer will tell you is gold.  Since I’ve read all of the posts, I wanted to provide the links for you to enjoy as well, so you can get a glimpse into the writer’s process.

1.  The (furious) metamorphosis of Sophie

2.  Opening the Doors to Clois and Helen by Beth Kephart

3.  When Emmy called I listened

4.  I was obsessed with an asylum

5.  What name should we give this book?

I hope that you will take the time to check out the scavenger hunt posts, learn more about Beth and her writing, and consider not only entering my giveaways later on but also buying a copy of You Are My Only for yourself or a friend.  Thanks Beth for making my Internet time more fun.

If you would like to win 1 of 2 copies (two winners) of You Are My Only by Beth Kephart from me:

1.  Please leave a comment about which of Beth’s books is your favorite or if you haven’t read any of her books, why you want to read You Are My Only.

2.  If you spread the word about the giveaway, tell me how and leave a link for additional entries up to 3.

3.  For 5 more entries, leave a comment on Beth’s guest posts and let me know you did.

Deadline is Oct. 31, 2011, at the witching hour!  This giveaway is international.