Archive | Ariel Lawhon

A Moment With Our Founders

Today’s post from our co-founders, Marybeth Whalen and Ariel Lawhon | @MarybethWhalen @ArielLawhon

There’s only so much you can know about a girl by her preference in books so we decided to crack the door a bit and give you a glimpse into our personal lives and peculiar oddities. It’s a toss-up whether you’ll be entertained or scared away.

Marybeth Whalen

What’s going on at your house: I’m in denial about those back to school commercials on tv and school supplies taking centerstage at the local Target. Summer is my favorite season and I really hate to think of it ending for another year. In the meantime, we’ve got another few weeks of days in the sun at the pool, sleeping in, and the slower pace of summer that I love. And I intend to savor every moment. We’ve got our 21st anniversary and two of our kids’ birthdays this month. So it will be a little busy.

What’s the last song you bought on iTunes: “Come Over” by Kenny Chesney. None of my children can believe that I actually bought a country song voluntarily. I’ve actually bought two this summer. I also bought “Springsteen” by Eric Church. I blame it on the fact that our good ole southern neighborhood pool blasts country music over the loud speakers so I’ve been forced to reckon with it. And admit that there are some songs (very few) that I actually like.

One lame fact about you: I can’t sleep unless I have perfect hospital corners on my bed.

Any weird food preferences or aversions: I have been known to dip my dill pickle in ketchup. Sweet and sour– what’s not to like? And also, I don’t eat cheese. Of any kind.

Bad habits: Launching spit bubbles off my tongue. It might impress (and simultaneously horrify) my kids, but it doesn’t exactly go over well in public.

My four swim team swimmers celebrating their championship season

Ariel Lawhon

What’s going on at your house: We just got back from the beach (a million thanks to my in-laws who rented a house and invited our crew to join them!) and we’re getting ready to move back to Tennessee. What this means is that in addition to all the normal activities starting up again (school, swim team, etc.) we will have to put our house on the market, pack, and move across country. We’re so ready to live close to family again but lugging four children, all of our worldly belongings, and a shedding dog over eight hundred miles in one day isn’t exactly my idea of fun.

What’s the last song you bought on iTunes: “You’re Beautiful” by James Blunt. (Maybe I needed a compliment that day. Who knows.)

One lame fact about you: I end every workout with “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor. Yep, I’m an 80’s child through and through.

Any weird food preferences or aversions: I could drink balsamic vinegar straight from the bottle.

Bad habits: I eat ice. So bad for the teeth!

The men in my life, picture ready and in love with the beach.

Your turn! Answer any of the above questions and let us know a bit about you!

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Rich In Books

Photo courtesy of stock.xchng

My sister and I had this conversation the other day about how, despite growing up dirt-floor-poor, we were always rich in pets. We had dogs. We had cats. Chickens. Goats. Ducks. Rabbits. And the occasional hitchhiker that my father would bring home (Remind me to tell you about the time that I woke up at 2:00 a.m. to find a stranger throwing up in our living room. Pets and hitchhikers have equal consideration for indoor etiquette)

And while I only have a dog these days, I am rich in another way. Books. Here are just a few titles of the books in my to-be-read-pile:

  • WILD by Cheryl Strayed (Oprah just picked it for her newly reinstated book club)
  • The Underside of Joy by  Seré Prince Halverson
  • So Far Away by Meg Mitchell Moore
  • The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D. by Nichole Bernier
  • Sea Change by Karen White
  • A Good American by Alex George
  • The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski (I’m late to this party but I was busy having a baby at the height of its success)
  • Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

I also have an undisclosed, no-way-I’m-telling-you-what-it-is, biography that I’m using as research for my next novel. Mums the word on that for now.

What about you? What literary riches are sitting on your night stand or book shelf? Anything you think I must read to live a full and happy life?

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The Impatient Character

My biggest reading surprise of 2011 came in the form of Diane Setterfield’s gothic masterpiece, The Thirteenth Tale. Though published in 2008, I somehow managed to miss this novel until last summer when my family took a 1500 mile road trip. I packed five novels in the hopes that one of them would be good. I never made it past the first. And I’m not entirely sure if I spoke to my husband at all during that trip. I was consumed.

In her novel Diane Setterfield introduces us to Vida Winter, a prolific, reclusive author who chooses to tell her life story to a young biographer by the name of Margaret Lea. Vida Winter is one of the most memorable literary characters, and certainly the strongest female character I’ve ever read. She says something in the novel that felt so familiar to me that I’ve never forgotten it:

My study throngs with characters waiting to be written. Imaginary people anxious for life, who tug at my sleeve, crying, 'Me next! Go on! My turn!’ I have to select. And once I have chosen, the others lie quiet for ten months or a year, until I come to the end of the story, and the clamor starts up again.

I have experienced that demanding character, but never so intensely as while finishing my recent novel, The Rule of Three.

For months a new story had been nagging at me, creeping in during those moments when my mind was quiet. A long shower. That stretch of thought before drifting off to sleep. The dream that comes in the stillness before waking.

I recall writing a scene from my newly finished novel. It was a particularly tense argument between my Hero (her name is Stella) and Opponent that took place in an old, Jazz-era bar. There they were, leaning across the table in a dark, corner booth, both of them reaching for a tattered envelope containing a long-kept secret. I paused for a moment, fingers lightly touching the keyboard as I mulled a piece of dialogue. And then…

In the far corner of the bar was a woman delivering a baby! Of all the strange and bizarre things, the character in my next novel had walked into my current novel and set up shop. I could see it in my mind, like a fuzzy TV station that’s been caught between two channels, superimposing one face, one story, over another.

Vida describes that sensation best:

And every so often, through all these writing years, I have lifted my head from the page—at the end of a chapter, or in the quiet pause for thought after a death scene, or sometimes just searching for the right word—and have seen a face at the back of the crowd.

I knew who this character was, of course. Her name is Martha. She’s a midwife. A mother. A diarist. A strong and capable woman if ever there was one. But in that moment she was an intruder. So I gave Martha her own notebook. I scratched down what she was frantically trying to tell me, and I politely escorted her from the premises. Then I shook off her specter and went back to the bar, and my characters bent in heated conversation.

The scene turned out well in case you’re wondering. As did the rest of the novel. But now it’s done. My mind, so battered after wrestling that story to the page, is finally rested. And Martha has renewed her protests, filling all that recently vacated space. It’s her turn. Tomorrow I will open her notebook.

There are other faces in the shadows behind Martha of course. A carpenter. A hoarder. A tattoo artist. They are waiting patiently. For now.

Question for you: What was your biggest 'reading surprise’ of the last year?

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