Reviewing the reviewers

May 11, 2008 | Leave a comment

“If there is one thing worse than being an ugly duckling in a house of swans, it’s having the swans pretend there’s no difference.”

Teena Booth, Falling From FireThe Charm School reissue 

A good book review can tell you what there is to like (or not) about a book. A great review illuminates the theme of the book and places it in the canon of literature where it belongs. I love a truly great review of my books, because they tell me what my theme was. While writing, I don’t usually know what the theme is. The most thoughtful of readers will do this, tell me what meaning they’ve taken away from the book. That’s why I love this review of The Charm School.  It’s a discussion of the book’s meaning to this reader. When I wrote the book, I was aiming for a rollicking romantic adventure, but this reviewer mentioned the deeper meaning of Isadora’s storyline, and its relation to the darker theme of the book–bondage (institutionalized, and emotional) and the terrible toll it takes, and the joys and rewards of throwing it off. When I read this bit:

Isadora’s plight and flight are plausible due to deft handling of the hero and heroine and to Wiggs’s creation of secondary characters who exist in other types of restrictive societies. Journey’s wife, Delilah, and others are shackled by the institution of slavery. They, no less than Isadora, are freed emotionally and physically while Wiggs delivers a powerful message with great moral effectiveness.

 …I realized, finally, months after finishing it, what my book was really about. So thank you, Sue Klock! You really nailed it with this one.  It celebrates everything I love to write about, including my pet theme, the power of love to transform a person’s life. 

I often tell people this is one of my “money-back guarantee” books, meaning if you don’t like it, please take it back to the store and ask for a refund (most bookstores will comply). Because honestly, it’s one of the most “likeable” books I’ve ever written, even with that naughty, naughty rain forest love scene with the funny cigars. (The review cited above offers readers a warning about that….) When you’re writing about a young woman’s sexual awakening, you find yourself thinking up stuff like this.

Doing good

May 08, 2008 | 1 Comment

garden guest house“Charity sees the need, not the cause.”

–German proverb

It’s that time of year again. The tireless Brenda Novak–writer, friend, and mother to a boy living with diabetes–is holding her annual auction to benefit diabetes research. I’m offering up my garden guest house for a weekend at the beach on Puget Sound. Last year, this item was enjoyed by a writers’ group who had met online, and had never been together in person. They had perfect weather and a great time. Here’s some information from Brenda. Knock yourself out and check out the offerings. There’s something for everyone–that’s a promise.

sunrise at the beachDon’t miss Brenda Novak’s 4th Annual On-line Auction May 1 – May 31st at www.brendanovak.com. There will be nearly 1300 items, many of which you can’t find anywhere else, and something for every budget from a drumhead signed by a whole slew of famous music artists (Michael Jackson, Ringo Starr, Elton John, Justin Timberlake, Bruce Springstein, Madonna and too many others to list) to a treasure trove of fun items donated by aspiring author Lauren Hawkeye. In addition, aspiring novelists can bid on evaluations from some of the most powerful agents and editors in the business—some with the promise of a 24-hour response (unheard of in the publishing industry). And for the person who places the highest number of bids over all (even if that person doesn’t win a single item) a fabulous prize package that includes a brand new camcorder (worth over $1000). Don’t miss this opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others. Go to www.BrendaNovak.com to register and receive a $10 gift certificate to use toward your auction purchases.

Unexpected and welcome news

May 08, 2008 | 1 Comment

The Charm School, first published in 1999, is a USA Today Bestseller again. It was the first of my books to appear on this list–I still have the printout from April 1999. Here we go again. So happy for Isadora, Ryan and the motley gang aboard the Swan. And very grateful to the readers who are embracing this book.

If it’s Tuesday, it must be Belgium…

May 06, 2008 | 2 Comments

I don’t actually travel that much because the writing schedule doesn’t allow it. However, after updating the schedule of appearances on my web site, I sat back and thought, yikes.

I’ve taught myself to travel light. Not out of any particular virtue, but because waiting for checked luggage to appear is too tense for a traveler who has to catch a ferry. Those extra ten (sometimes more) minutes can mean the difference between catching the 8:I0 and the 9:00pm boats. Doesn’t seem like a huge difference, but at the end of a transcontinental journey, trust me, it matters. So my rule is that I have to fit everything for a trip of any length into a carry-on-sized rollaboard, and a largish shoulder bag. This includes my purse and laptop. If it doesn’t fit, it doesn’t come. My mother–who has been known to fly from Sydney to Seattle with nothing but a pocketbook–sometimes says, “Bring twice as much money as you think you’ll need, and half the clothes.” She’s right, of course.

Anyway, I would love to meet you! I have upcoming appearances in Bainbridge Island, Washington, Seattle, Los Angeles, Crested Butte, Colorado Ketchikan, Alaska, Sacramento and Cannon Beach, Oregon. Please see http://www.susanwiggs.com/schedule.shtml for details on these and other events.

The human face of a hot button

May 04, 2008 | Leave a comment

When this movie ended, everyone in the audience just sat there for a few minutes, trying to pull ourselves back together. As we filed out, still blubbering, the theatre manager said she’d seen it three or four times and fell apart at each viewing. 

“Under the Same Moon” is the story of Carlito, a Mexican boy who will do anything to be reunited with his mother, who is working in the U.S. It’s a classic hero’s-journey tale, but it also puts a beautifully-drawn human face on the immigration issue. My friend Carol and I are both working on novels that touch on the issue of immigration in some way, so we had the perfect excuse to play hooky.

From the perspective of writing craft, it’s my favorite kind of story. It features classic archetypes–the plucky, unstoppable kid you can’t help but root for, the cranky guy with a heart of gold, various mentors, allies and enemies along the way. In the best possible way, this movie doesn’t care what you think of the immigration issue. It just presents this one situation, knowing you’ll draw your own conclusions. I bet there are reviewers out there who despise this movie, the way there are critics who despise commercial fiction. Some people are so uncomfortable with genuine sentiment that they can’t possibly be fair about a film like this.

There is a class of movies I tend to file under “Films every American Should See.” There aren’t very many of them. Off the top of my head, I can think of a few–“Hoop Dreams,” “Glory,” “Apollo 13,” “The Color Purple,” and “October Sky” come to mind. “Under the Same Moon” belongs on that list. Go see this movie. It’ll stick with you for a long time, guaranteed.

Wishing everyone a joyous Cinco de Mayo!