Wednesday, February 25, 2015


by Kathy Cannon Wiechman

A few weeks ago, I went to the ALA (American Library Association) Conference in Chicago. I had never been to the conference before, and was going there to introduce my about-to-be-released novel LIKE A RIVER.

My flight into O’Hare was uneventful, just the way I like a flight to be. It had been many years since I’d been to that airport, and it took me a while to get my bearings, but soon I was in a taxi heading to my hotel.

I wasn’t scheduled for anything until a 7 PM dinner with folks from Boyds Mills Press, and it wasn’t even noon yet. It gave me several hours to have a reunion with dear friends (and former Swaggers), Juliet Bond and Gina Gort. I hadn’t seen them in over 3 years and getting reacquainted was wonderful!
Screen Shot 2015-02-08 at 8.27.46 PM
Kathy (far right) reconnecting with former Swaggers in Chicago.
Around seven, several of the BMP folks and I walked to the Exchequer restaurant, an old-fashioned gangland-themed place that served deep-dish pizza and ribs. The dinner was low-key and delightful, and everyone present made sure all my needs were met.

Snow was forecast, though not a single flake had fallen. But I was informed that my 5:25 PM flight for Sunday afternoon had been cancelled and I had been re-booked for a Monday morning one.

By the time we left the restaurant, snow was beginning to fall, and I chose to skip the walk back to the hotel in favor of sharing a cab with a few others.

Sunday morning found me glad for the cancelled flight. Snow was still falling, or more accurately, blowing sideways on powerful winds. The news called it “a blizzard.”

I shared a taxi to the convention center, marveling with a bit of trepidation at the way the driver maneuvered the cab through traffic on the snow-covered streets.

But the conference was extraordinary! So many booths! So many books! Just my kind of happy place. I signed Advance Reader copies (ARCs) of LIKE A RIVER, while people apologized to me for the small attendance. Since this was my first time, I had nothing to compare it to.

Boyds Mills Press hosted a luncheon to introduce its Spring, 2015 catalog. My best guess estimated the attendance at about 60, and I shared a table with some librarians from Texas. Senior Editor Liz Van Doren regaled them with the catalog’s picture books, and Gail Jarrow followed with a talk about her non-fiction book on Typhoid Mary (FATAL FEVER). I closed with a short talk on LIKE A RIVER, from which I also read a few pages.

Original plans would have seen me gathering my things together and heading to the airport, but the cancelled flight kept me at my hotel. And my flight the next morning ended up being cancelled also.

My overnight stay in Chicago ended up being a three-nighter. But the BMP folks took great care of me. And on Monday, I got a chance to visit with friend Jennifer Sommer, who had driven in from Dayton on Sunday. Driven through the blizzard that cancelled flight after flight at O’Hare! What a woman!

On Monday evening, I had a chance to discuss revisions for my next novel with editor Carolyn Yoder, who was also grounded an extra day by the blizzard. An unplanned productive use of time.
Kathy with Carolyn Yoder at the ALA Conference's Boyds Mill Press booth.

I finally got a flight home on Tuesday morning, with a not-terribly-long delay on the tarmac at O’Hare. I had books with me to occupy my wait time. (A prepared reader seldom gets bored.) 

I was glad to get home, but I have wonderful recollections of good food and great people I spent time with. My introduction to ALA is one I will never forget.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

How I doubled and diversified my reading

by Kim Van Sickler

Since October 2014, I've been working a job that requires lots of car time. Look what I've read since then:

Image result for bad monkey carl hiaasenThe Road to Grace by Richard Paul Evans
Bad Monkey by Carl Hiaasan
The Call of the Wild by Jack London
Hector and the Search for Happiness by Francois Lelord
The Witness by Nora Roberts
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
V is for Vengeance by Sue Grafton
The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Zoo Station, A Memoir by Christianne F.
Wild from Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed
A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick
Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes
Smack by Melvin Burgess
Image result for hector and the search for happiness bookImage result for anansi boys neil gaimanImage result for the call of the wild jack london
The first nine titles were listened to in my car.
The latter five titles were read while I was curled up on my bed or couch.
Conclusion: I get almost twice as much reading done while traveling.

The first nine titles were snatched on impulse by either myself or Hubby during library visits.
The latter five titles were books I'd placed on hold at my library or previously purchased.
Conclusion: I'm more spontaneous and less genre-bound in my car reading.

Not only does my travel time fly by, but I'm discovering new authors (Evans, Lelord, Grafton, Roberts), prepping to see the movie versions (of Gone Girl and Maze Runner), rediscovering a beloved classic (Call of the Wild) and continuing my infatuation with known authors (Hiaasan and Gaiman).

Do you "read" while you drive? Or listen to books on tape at other times? What's your ratio of "reading" to "listening"?

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Put On Your Creative Cap

by Melissa Kline

Our busy world pulls us in so many directions, that sometimes it can be difficult just to sit down and create. Some of us may have no problem with allotting time, but find it tough to focus once we get there.
I struggle with both of these scenarios as a mother, wife, author, businesswoman and super creative – it’s hard not to feel pulled in so many directions!
So, how do we focus on our writing or creative endeavors, even if we’re not feeling very motivated?
I have found a really fun, yet profound way to get into a creative state of mind… and stay there.
All you have to do is put on a creative “cap” – really! It may sound corny, but there is powerful symbolism involved in a physical object that represents a creative mindset.
It doesn’t have to be a cap – it can be a pair of shoes, a shirt, a full blown costume, a pin, a belt, a necklace, a pair of funky glasses, a tie – anything goes!
The key is to find something that represents your sacred creative moment – whatever that is.
Here’s the fun part – you can get super inspired just by searching for your creative “cap”.
Rummage thrift stores, get out the sewing machine or design a creativity costume. This is all yours, so have fun with it! You can even have multiple “caps” for different tasks. You could have an art hat that you use while painting, a character costume you wear while working on a certain novel, etc. I used a pair of combat boots to feel like one of my science fiction characters and wore a necklace to get into the mind of my contemporary teen book. The possibilities are endless!
What’s most important is to become inspired by your creative “cap.” Putting it on is an affirmation that you are in that role and dedicating time to a specific task. You can even let your family members know that, “When I’m wearing this hat, I’m in creative mode and unavailable!”

A creativity symbol is a great tool for getting inspired and staying inspired. Own your creativity!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015


by Kathy Cannon Wiechman

IWSG Badge

I am and expect to always be an insecure writer. I say that in spite of my recent success with novel LIKE A RIVER, and in spite of (or sometimes because of) a few other things you might not know about me.
Fellow writer and friend Juliana Lee nominated me for the One Lovely Blog Award. What this requires me to do is:

First, tell seven things you might not know about me. So here goes.
1)  I don’t understand blog awards. Or blogs. Don’t misunderstand. I love being part of Swagger, but if not for Kim Van Sickler, I wouldn’t be. Because I wouldn’t know how. I am extremely low-tech. Thanks, Kim, for your patience. Thanks, Juliana, for the nom.
2)  I don’t text. Never have. If you receive a text that’s supposed to be from me, it’s not. If I receive a text, I respond with a phone call.
3)  Being published required me to have a website. Remember what I said about being low-tech? My nephew designed my website and takes care of it for me. (You can check it out here.)
4)  Said nephew also took care of getting low-tech Me an author Facebook page (You can LIKE it here).
5)  Nephew also started a twitter account for me (You can follow me here). I am still a novice tweeter, but I am learning.
6)  Part of my insecurity as a writer stems from the fact that it took me 39 years of writing novels to get my first contract. But I hung in, and it happened! LIKE A RIVER will launch April 7th. And the past year has been an exciting one as I watched the stages of a novel getting published.
7)  The second contract did not take another 39 years. (Thank God!) I was offered a contract in January on a second novel! Even before the first is released! And I am ecstatic!

The second thing I am supposed to do is nominate 7 other blogs for this One Lovely Blog Award. It may not be the way this award was intended, but I nominate my fellow Swagger bloggers and other followers of Swagger. (Ann Finkelstein, this means you.)

Any of you who want to pick up this challenge, tell us in a comment below, so we know where to go to read your 7 things. And all you writers, who still don’t have a published novel or a contract for one, hang in there. I am proof of what can happen.