Writing En Plein Air

 How many times have I stumbled across an artist on a dock or in a garden perched before her easel, paint brush poised in hand, and felt a wave of envy? The artist is bathing in natural light and fresh air, transforming them into images on her canvas. Painting en plein air. It even sounds  romantic and exotic. I’ve tried painting and learned that indoors or in the wild, I have no talent.            But I can write, which some say is an art form, while others debate it’s a craft. There are those who say it’s both. I just know I’m driven to write and wondered what would happen if I took my act outdoors. Why not write en plein?My first attempts were during vacations. I remember sitting in a lemon grove in Sorrento, the sun warming my back and shoulders, smelling citrus, but no sense that other people were present while I wrote in my notebook. I breathed in the salt tinged fog on a dock in Maine early one morning writing with cold cramped fingers. I’ve always taken my journal with me to the beach, no matter which beach I was headed to.            When I began spending my winters in St. John in the Virgin Islands, I struggled with how to balance my writing time with beach time. I resisted the thought of sitting indoors at a desk while the sun and a palette of blue skies with enormous marshmallow clouds and emerald green seas beckoned me. My husband and I always seek a spot under a shady tree at the beach, knowing unfortunately what too much sun can do to your health. We began frequenting a spot at the end of a beach with a generous canopy of shade, which fortunately doesn’t attract most beach goers. The ocean is several feet away and most days our only companions are a rooster and an occasional band of donkeys. With a small lightweight laptop with a waterproof cover, a few pens, a notebook and some index cards, writing became more portable than painting at an easel. Welcome to my writing room.           Writers are often encouraged to be open to their senses. See, smell, taste, touch and listen to all that is around you. Becoming conscious of all that was around me, I noticed the rhythm of the lapping waves playing like music, the Tradewinds brushing over my arms and legs, and the smell of the ocean ever present. I became lost in a place somewhere between where my story was taking place and the natural environment in which my body seemed suspended. And I wrote. Lots.            Of course, I didn’t invent writing en plein. Many writers before me have borrowed the practice often attributed to painters from the Impressionist era. While writing en plein is frequently used to inspire the writer’s description of a particular place, I see no reason to limit it. My grandmother used to urge us to “get out in the fresh air.” She was right about it being good for human beings to get out of the house. My agent and writer teacher Paula Munier, who is almost as wise as my grandmother, agrees. “The next time you want to fire up your writing brain, go outside and get some Vitamin D. You know it’s good for you – and your ideas.”             Where would you like to write en plein?  Save

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Postcard from Three Pines

I’ve been in Three Pines, where Louise Penny sets her Chief Inspector Gamache mystery series, for about six weeks now. I’ve suffered through several long winters, endured a few hot summers, and relished as many perfect springs and autumns in that short time. On January 20th (the date is no coincidence), I fled to this village in Canada just above the Vermont border, a place safe and filled with hygge. The Oxford Dictionary defines hygge as “a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being.”            Oddly, it hasn’t matter that in each of the twelve books I’ve read during my sojourn, a murder has occurred because Louise Penny has created Armand Gamache, whom I grew to trust and revere. I knew each time I opened a new book that  Chief Inspector Gamache would ultimately expose the murderer, along with a few lessons about the human condition. The murders were much less disturbing than never-ending alerts on my telephone or the incessant chatter on television about what the daily disaster was back on the home front.            I fell into Three Pines like it was the puffy feather duvet my grandmother had washed so many times you couldn’t tell what the original colors were. I tried to pace myself, remembering there are only twelve books so far. I gobbled chapters faster than the characters devoured croissants, omelets, and chocolate chip cookies. I imagined drinking whisky, beer, and countless bowls of café au lait with my new friends, even though I have never had anything but dark roast black coffee my entire life.            I was drawn to the roaring fireplaces in the bistro with mismatched chairs and sofas waiting for me to plop down into with a good book. I knew I would find no shortage of reading material in Myrna’s bookstore and that Olivier would bring me a glass of red wine with a bowl of nuts without being asked.I hoped I would be invited to another of Clara’s potluck dinners where I might be treated to beef bourguignon, warm apple pie, and a glimpse of Ruth, the crusty foul-mouthed poet who always brings her pet duck to village affairs. Poetry is part of the normal conversation in Three Pines among many of my new friends, while some prefer cussing, or a combination of both.            I’d finish one book in the Gamache series, vowing to take at least a few days off before starting another. But I didn’t want to leave Three Pines knowing what awaited me when I hit  the “on” button on the remote control. So I hit the “purchase the next book in this series” button instead.            I worried a little about what would happen when I ran out of books and could not longer descend from the great lookout above the valley into Three Pines, which is uncharted on maps. Was there a twelve-step program for my addiction? To prepare for my withdrawal, I read a little about Louise Penny’s background and learned she created the series and the setting after 9-11 because she wanted to provide a place where readers felt safe and comforted, offering them a cast of characters who would feel like friends.            And that may have been the biggest gift from my retreat to Three Pines. What I learned is how powerful good writing can be. It doesn’t have to be dark, disturbing, provocative, or revolutionary, although many of the Gamache books include these elements. Good writing need only reach the heart and soul of the reader. What writers have reached your heart and soul? Save

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THE PERILOUS PATH FROM PANTSER TO PLOTTER

I was a panster by default. I had three other jobs (lawyer, mediator, and adjunct law professor) when I realized what my real calling was. I was meant to tell stories. Actually, that’s what lawyers do. They tell their clients’ stories persuasively to judges, hoping to distinguish theirs from the masses of others also seeking a dose of daily justice.            I didn’t have time to sit at a desk or anywhere else poised at a laptop or with pen in hand developing an outline for the story floating around my brain cells. Oh, I’d have a notebook handy to capture a line I was sure would be unforgettable or to capture the voices of  my characters but that was about it. Because I was busy writing pleadings and briefs, my creative writing time, which I had relegated to hobby status, was when I was on vacation or  when I could “steal” a chunk of time. (More on this another time, but worth mentioning that the denial one is a writer is a huge impediment to being one.)            I wrote many books as a pantser, many of which sit in  boxes unpublished. I’m not saying they weren’t worthy endeavors but I’ve learned since have two books published that there is a give and take element to writing. As a reader, I receive the gift of the writer. When I write, I share with the reader what I have to offer. I’m not sure if anyone has studied whether pantser or plotters get published more, but my point is there are valid reasons beyond vanity to want to be published.            I enjoy the thrill of being a pantser and not knowing what I will write until my fingertips have danced over a keyboard. It’s like taking a road trip without an itinerary or a map. But we all have heard about road trips gone wrong when dazed and confused travelers stumble into a local convenience store gasping, “Where are the maps.” Or at least turn on the GPS.            Recently I found myself repeatedly lost while trying to write a book different than the ones I have written before. A lifetime insomniac, I had always relied on my middle of the night sleeplessness to brainstorm my story and tire me enough to fall back to sleep. Not this time. I never went back to sleep. The pieces weren’t fitting. My protagonist wasn’t cooperating. She refused to reveal her voice to me through my disorganized and fragmented style. I thought I heard her say one early morning around 4:00 a.m., “When you’re ready for me, I’ll be ready for you.”            Several drafts later, I admitted to my agent I might have to outline. She laughed and reminded me that in one the writing books she has written, she says “even if you are a pantser, there may come a time in your career when you need to think like a plotter, like it or not.” The time had not just come for me; it was long overdue.            I lured myself into the outlining process with fluorescent-colored index cards and post-its. I remembered outlining textbooks methodically in my days at a parochial high school and later in law school. I wondered if those experiences had fed my resistance and were a form of rebellion. Ultimately, I fell into the comfort, routine, and direction outlining was offering me. My protagonist started whispering to me. Themes rose from the mounting pile of index cards. My story unfolded. I knew the beginning,  middle, and end. Even better, I understood why.            Will I always be a plotter now? I doubt it. I love the adventure that comes with being a pantser. I may create my own hybrid, allowing myself the fun of pantsing the beginning of a book when it’s more conceptual than concrete, then permitting the story to have a proper itinerary and map.             Writers: Are you a plotter or a pantser and why?            Reade  “Writing with Quiet Hands: how to shape your writing to resonate with readers,” Paula Munier, Writer’s Digest Books. Save

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Make Your Mark

   One of the cool things about being a writer is having an excuse to indulge my pen fetish. I’m forever searching for the “perfect” writing instrument, the Magic Pen of Wonder. A pen whose ink flows smoothly over the page with a solid (but not too thick) black line, a pen whose heft and shape meld with my hand to become an extension of my neural synapses. A pen that unleashes torrents of literary brilliance. I haven’t found *that* pen yet but I keep looking. I hate crappy pens (too lightweight, gloopy ink, annoying skips) even more than I hate lima beans. (I’ve hated lima beans since I was a kid.) Crappy pens stifle me. “Perfect” doesn’t mean expensive. At the moment, my go-to pens (not the ultimate but mad decent) are the Sharpie Pen and the Optimus felt tip, available at the dollar store. My fellow Miss Demeanors discuss their favorite mark making instruments. Paula Munier:A dear friend gave me a set of lovely amber lacquered Waterman of Paris Carene pens with gold-played trim years ago that I love, and to which I have since attributed magical powers. They are my lucky pens, which I use to write in my lucky red leather-bound journal with the hand-tooled Celtic roses on the front. (I write nonfiction directly on the computer like the former reporter I am, but I write all my first drafts of fiction with my lucky Waterman of Paris pens in my lucky red journal.) I go through about half a dozen ink refills and half a dozen notebook refills for every draft. It’s a ritual that keeps the story flowing–and writer’s block at bay. Michele Dorsey:I loved writing with a fountain pen when I was in parochial school where I learned to write cursive with the Palmer method. When I discovered the Uniball Gel Impact Roller with its bold 1mm line, I was in heaven. This baby writes as smooth as jelly sliding over peanut butter. My legal clients would swoon over the Uniball while signing documents. I gave a fair number away. I still buy these by the box. But I still missed the fountain pens from my youth. There is something elegant about writing with a fountain pen. It says “I want my words to be worthy of this noble instrument.” A few years ago while attending a writing seminar in Boston, I strolled into a Levenger store (sadly no longer there) during the lunch break. There it was. A fountain pen with my name on it. I bought it, returning to the workshop, poised to write notes with my long-lost friend. The feel of this pen in my hand, the sensation of the ink flowing across the page, is soothing to me. It makes writing as much as a physical act as a cerebral one. While not practical for drafting lengthy manuscripts, at least not for me, I get great pleasure taking notes and journaling with my trusty fountain pen. For me, it’s about revering an object that connects what’s in my head to the page. Now I collect fountain pens when I travel. The most recent addition is one I found in Amalfi, Italy, the site of the first paper factory. Susan Breen:My favorite pen is a Zebra Z-Grip flight. It’s smooth and flows easily and I buy them in packages of 50 from Staples. When you start a new one it has a little crust of ink on its tip, and there’s something thrilling about seeing the crust come off and the words begin to roll out. (Possibly a small thrill, but a thrill nonetheless.) Cate Holahan:So here’s my confession…. I don’t use pens except to sign books and then I use a sharpie because they’re reliable and cheap. I’m not especially attached to them, though. I take notes on my omnipresent smart phone (either by voice or typing). All my writing is done with word where it can be backed up to the cloud, reducing the risk of losing anything. All my plotting is done in excel where I can move around cells as elements of the story change. I even graph my character arcs in excel. Robin Stuart:Ha, I make mind maps of my characters to figure out how and why they intersect, and what each brings to the story. I use a pencil for that so I can erase and move people around. I used to use a dry erase whiteboard until I realized I needed something more permanent that I can refer back to and adjust as I arc out sequels/series. The drawings become touchstones so now I draw them in my notebook. I LOVE pens and notebooks. Where Paula is superstitious about her pen, I’m superstitious about the notebook. I use the same kind every time. The “when” of hand writing vs laptop is more nebulous. There’s no set rule but I carry the notebook everywhere. The laptop only comes with me on vacations or writing trips because I have another laptop I have to carry for my day job. I’ve only traveled with both computers once and I’ll never do it again. Much too stressful to keep track of both of them. Plus, I made no friends in airport security lines. As far as pens, my favorites are the ones that just feel right in my hand. Their weight distribution, width and materials vary. Friends & loved ones familiar with my stationery fetish give me pens as gifts so I have a heck of a collection. The most recent addition is from Disney World, engraved with panels showing how to draw Mickey in various poses. Tracee de Hahn:I love pens, but more as objects than as utensils. I have a few Waterford fountain pens that allow the ink to flow beautifully. Unfortunately, I only use them to write personal notes. When writing a story of any sort I pause too often and the nib dries and it’s frustrating. Instead, I resort to generically decent pens of many types and kinds. (I’m also prone to losing them, so I have dozens on hand.) Now ink WELLS, that’s another story. I have a large collection of those, ranging from silver to bronze, even a few traveling Chinese calligraphy ones made from copper and brass. Since all of the ink wells were intended for use with a quill, they don’t get real use… other than as objects of beauty and inspiration.

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Paper Pleasures

 I finished a notebook today. I used the last page to write this blog post. Time for a new one. Another ninety-six pages representing unlimited potential. I have a thing for notebooks. Blank books, journals, notepads. The name doesn’t matter. If blank paper is bound between covers, I’m a fan. I write longhand so paper matters. It has to be smooth enough for my pen to glide across it without skipping but have enough tooth to hold the ink without smudging. It has to be thick enough to keep ink from bleeding through to the other side. It has to be small enough to be easily portable for writing on-the-go but large enough to record my thoughts without constantly flipping pages. Notebook covers speak to my imagination. I’m drawn to displays of colorful notebooks in bookstores and office supply stores as if by magnets. Soft covers, hard covers, made of leather book cloth, metal, wood and decorated with paint, embroidery, embossing, printing forming an endless variety of both representational figures and abstract patterns. As an author, I have the best excuse for adding to my collection. The more notebooks I have to write in, the more I write. Are you a notebook fan? How do you use blank books and journals?

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Divine Reading

 Today is the eighth day of Lent. For Christians, the forty days leading to Easter are a time to prepare for the holiest day of the Church year, the celebration of Christ’s resurrection. Many Christians observe Lent by giving up something such as chocolate, smoking, or social media. Others take on a spiritual discipline such as centering prayer. I wondered if there was a spiritual discipline centered around reading. There is.  Lectio divina, divine reading, is a form of prayer that dates to the sixth century. The technique is simple. Read, reflect, respond, rest. First, select a reading. Go someplace quiet and read the passage aloud. Notice if a particular word or phrase stands out or touches you. Reflect on the special feeling or insight. Reread the passage and converse with God in response to what you read. Rest. Lectio divina is specifically a form of Christian contemplative prayer. However, the technique could be applied to secular reading. How often have you come across a passage—a sentence or a paragraph—in a book or short story that struck you as powerful, that stayed with you long after you finished reading? The next time this happens, pause. Read the passage aloud and reflect on it. Notice how it makes you feel, reflect on your reaction. Read the passage aloud again and discuss your reaction with yourself. Write down your response. Or go ahead and talk it out. No one’s judging. What techniques have you used to deepen your understanding of, or connection to, what you read?

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Fair Game

 The movers brought my furniture today. Except for a few minor snafus—driver arrived, crew didn’t; car battery died so couldn’t get it off truck—everything was going well. Until. The crew parked in the nameless alley behind my house and had almost finished unloading my household goods when a cranky neighbor showed up and demanded both the crew’s pickup truck and the moving truck be removed. She “needed” them moved, she said. The movers had parked in the alley to avoid blocking the road in front of my house. They weren’t impeding traffic. They weren’t parked in the woman’s yard. They weren’t blocking her driveway or preventing her from leaving her house. Cranky neighbor was so offended by a moving truck in a back alley, she called the police. The policeman who responded did not seem overly concerned. He remained polite and professional. He simply asked the movers about how long they thought they’d be then left. Cranky neighbor stayed home and spied on the movers, looking for reasons to scold them. Welcome to the neighborhood. Being an author always alert for story ideas, I immediately thought this woman would make the perfect fictional murder victim. I fantasized ways of killing her off and created a list of suspects with a motive for doing her in. The list was long. I mentally scouted locations for the crime scene and devised a reason for my sleuth to be in this otherwise charming town. Then I stopped. I reminded myself part of what made this town charming was its small size. If I wrote a story and people read it (as I hope they would) they’d recognize the person on whom I’d wreaked fictional vengeance. That probably wouldn’t get me invited to many parties or included on any Christmas card lists. Last Spring, Richard Cohen wrote an article titled, “How Writers Will Steal Your Life and Use it For Fiction.” He explained how writers crafted characters inspired by people they met and examined how this literary identity theft impacted both writer and written about. One of my favorite episodes of “Midsomer Murders” deals with a man whose life has been turned into a novel by someone else. He feels victimized, his experiences stolen, leaving him with nothing to write about himself. There are ways to borrow someone’s life without offending them or risking libel charges. Transform males into female characters and vice versa. Borrow traits from several different people and combine them into a single character. Change your locale. Get their permission. Some people might like the idea of being an author’s muse. However we handle it, we’re unlikely to stop using bits and pieces of real people to build fictional characters. Life has too many good stories to pass up. Maybe writers should all wear warning buttons like the one I recently gave a writer friend—”Be careful. Anything you say may end up in my novel.” How do real people inspire your writing? How do you disguise them? 

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Good Bad Guys

 I binge-watched “American Greed” on Hulu tonight. The show, in its eleventh season, airs on CNBC. Stacey Keach narrates each episode which details a fraud investigation. The show doesn’t focus as much on the law enforcement officers and prosecutors who pursue the fraudsters as it does on the con artists who commit the crimes. That’s what fascinates me about the show—the look inside the mind of a criminal, what motivates a person to lie, cheat, and steal. I remember someone in one of my writing classes asked about creating an antagonist. I don’t recall the exact wording of the question but the gist was, how do you create a believable, relatable villain? The answer was, make sure the villain is the hero of his or her own story. Every villain has a reason for their actions. Their motivation for doing what they do makes sense to them even if it doesn’t make sense to anyone else. When I’m plotting a mystery the first things I figure out are whodunit, howdunit, and whydunit. Literature has given us spectacular villains, some as remarkable as the heroes they oppose. Professor Moriarty,  Mr. Ripley, County Dracula, The Joker, Cruella DeVil. In 2013, The Washington Post published a list of “best” literary villains.https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-greatest-villains-in-literature/2013/09/12/fa7dd6c6-0e74-11e3-85b6-d27422650fd5_story.html?utm_term=.f6f39f348116 Who are some of your favorite bad guys? 

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Movies or books? What's your fancy?

Hollywood award’s season came to a close this week and I realized how many of this year’s nominated films I had missed in the theaters. Many of them looked so good I need to find a way to rent or stream over the next months (Lion and Moonlight in particular, although I noticed that the winning documentary – The White Helmets – is on Netflix so I may start with that). I love movies, but I’m not an aficionada. I simply enjoy them. Movies let us enter an unfamiliar world, inhabit the space of another person or culture. Arguable books do the same – as writers we create a world expressed through words on a page that readers can inhabit and interpret. The reader sees and tastes and feels and hears. I asked my fellow MissDemeanors if they turn to movies for things not found in a book or vice versa…..and what about move adaptations? Cate Holahan – The movies in my head that play when reading are often better than the adaptations I see, later, on screen. There are exceptions. Harry Potter was pretty great in both forms, IMHO, probably because the filmmakers took such pains to keep everything true to the book. I tend to enjoy action stories more when watching them on the screen and mysteries more on paper. That said, I think adding Amy Adams to anything makes it better. She’s like the seasoned salt of Hollywood. One of my favorite films is Fight Club which I actually think is a better movie than a book. (I know, sacrilege for a writer to say). It’s not just because Brad Pitt spends half of the flick with his shirt off either. I think Ed Norton played the protagonist in an amazingly believable manner, an incredible feat since the main character is an unreliable narrator. I also think that the script had a fluidity that the actual book, which is broken up into vignettes, didn’t. I appreciated that continuity of story that the movie brought. I LOVE Chuck Palahniuk though. He’s brilliant and his dialogue is carved with an X-Acto blade. I try to read everything he writes.  Alexia Gordon – Why choose either/or? Be greedy and choose books and movies. I don’t have a strong preference for one form over the other except action/adventure. I prefer action movies to action novels, with one caveat–the movie action sequences must have awe-inspiring choreography. I like movie adaptations of books. (TV adaptations, too. I adore David Suchet as Hercule Poirot.) Sometimes the movie really is better (Field of Dreams vs Shoeless Joe being a prime example). Seeing the movie before reading the book doesn’t ruin the book for me. I don’t much care for book adaptations of movies. Screen-to-page adaptations don’t seem to have the same depth as page-to-screen. My favorite movie is Casablanca. Laura and The Ghost and Mrs. Muir are in the top ten. So are Hidden Figures and Rogue One. Laura, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, and Hidden Figures are all based on books and Casablanca is based on a stage play. And Ring Lardner, Jr. co-wrote the screenplay for Laura. Paula Munier – This is a dangerous question because there’s nothing I’d rather do than read books and watch movies. I love books and movies and TV and theater. Which is just another way of saying I love good stories. (But if I had to choose only one, I’d always default to books.)Many of my favorite films are based on my favorite books: Enchanted April, Sense and Sensibility, Emma, The Jane Austen Book Club, The Maltese Falcon, The Godfather, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Princess Bride, to name just a few. Just as many are based on screenplays or stage plays rather than books: Raiders of the Lost Ark, Star Wars, Annie Hall, Gosford Park, Amadeus, Moulin Rouge, Singing in the Rain, anything by Shakespeare, again, just to name a few. And of course as a mystery fan I have enjoyed virtually every mystery series on television–from British cozies and Scandinavian police procedurals to New York cops and Los Angeles private detectives.But when it comes to the screen, what I love best are movies about writers: Midnight in Paris, Cross Creek, Barton Fink, Stranger than Fiction, Adaptation, Henry and June, Shadowlands, Becoming Jane, Impromptu, My Brilliant Career, Il Postino, Field of Dreams, Finding Forrester, Out of Africa, and more. These are the stories that inspire me to become a better writer…and they are the best of all! Susan Breen – The other day my daughter harangued me into going to see La La Land because she said she knew I’d love it, which I did. From the moment the story began, I was hypnotized, but part of what I loved so much about it was sitting next to her and sharing the experience. There’s something communal about movies that you don’t always get in books, though perhaps that’s why book clubs are so much fun. On the other hand, I genuinely feel as though some of my best friends are characters from books, and I don’t think you get to know actors in the same way. But the bottom line is, I’ll read or watch just about anything. I love stories. Robin Stuart – I have a go-to movie for reminders not to play games with readers. I practically studied The Departed. I have no idea how many times I’ve seen it. The audience is clued into all but one twist within the first 15 minutes yet it’s still fraught with tension. I re-watch Silence of the Lambs periodically to see how Jonathan Demme (a genius) and Ted Tally (the screenwriter) encapsulated so much backstory into compelling scenes without data dumping and just a dash of misdirection. It’s remarkably true to the book, which is one of my favorites, but I like the movie more. I also gravitate to Jake Gyllenhaal’s films because he makes interesting choices that are almost exclusively character studies so I’ll usually see them several times to catch the layered nuances. The same with Ashley Judd’s films with Morgan Freeman, based on books by Joe Finder and James Patterson. High Crimes and Kiss The Girls are two favorites that are great stories where we see the evolution of believable characters. And I second Cate’s feelings about Fight Club. The book is great but the movie stands on its own. Unreliable narrators are tough to pull off in visual form and this movie accomplishes it beautifully. Michele Dorsey – I have lots of confessions here. I have to confess that movie going and television watching were casualties in my legal career, especially since I taught evening courses for thirty years. I’m looking forward to catching up on movies and television series. Of course, I haven’t missed everything and have found reading a book before seeing a movie works best for me. I’m often disappointed by the movie version, but like Paula, I am a book lover first. One of the exceptions was Mystic River, which I thought was very well adapted. And here’s another confession. I love romantic comedies, starting with the Jane Austen movies but anything directed by Nancy Meyers will do. I adored a rocom about a mystery writer called American Dreamer. Finally, my last confession. I love Cinderella movies, especially the ones where Cinderella is feisty. Ever After is my favorite. Whew, that was a lot of confessing.  What about the rest of you? Any favorite movie adaptations? Any love lost between movies and books?    

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Mystery writers talk feminism

Last night I was privileged to join four other female writers on a panel at Book Culture in Manhattan. We all write in the mystery / thriller genre, but that wasn’t why we gathered. March 1st was the first day of Women’s History Month and our theme was feminism. In our conversation we didn’t attempt to define feminism for all women or even for ourselves; instead, we examined our books through the lens of our female protagonists – who they are and why we created them. I think that everyone in attendance would agree that it was a good conversation – and one that opened more avenues of discussion. As a writer and reader, I hope that Women’s History Month will remind us to think about the women who have influenced our lives, and the kind of influence we would like to have on the lives of others. At the same time, it is a chance to reflect on powerful women in fiction. How do these characters take the reader outside everyday life? How do they help shape our world, or create a better understanding of our place in it? There are many powerful women in literature – who are the most influential in your life? (Many thanks to my fellow panelists: Susan Breen, Cate Holahan, Kelly Oliver and Carrie Smith. Check out their books in stores and online. Great reads all.) 

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