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Hi friends,

I feel so lucky that I get to do what I love, a fulfillment of a lifelong dream. A lot of people ask me what the most surprising things are about my job–things I never predicted along the way. Here are a few:

*Getting published internationally: To date, I think my books are translated in more than 20 languages and sold in about 30 countries. That fact, to me, is still staggering! I remember getting a phone call when I was shopping at Trader Joe’s from my agent telling me that several German publishers were in a bidding war for my first novel. My first response was, “Wow!” And my second response was, “wait, really?” I had no idea that I could sell books outside of the US, let alone become a bestseller in other countries, both of which have happened for me. Such a pinch-myself moment, even still.

*The joy of hearing from readers: I always say that the best part of my job is not the writing, but connecting with people who have read my stories. There is no greater feeling as a storyteller than hearing from someone who was touched by your words. It never gets old.

*How seriously people regard stories: I once received a long letter from a reader who felt that the flower on the cover of my first novel, THE VIOLETS OF MARCH, was a pansy and not a violet, and how it bothered her greatly. I get lots of reader mail, from people all over the world about things big and small. And while most of the mail is lovely and positive, sometimes readers get really bogged down in details. They MUST KNOW what happened to a lesser character in this book, or someone’s labrador retriever in another. I don’t always have answers for them, but it makes me smile to know that people truly do take books seriously and that they crawl into the pages of my books and really feel like they are living there.

*How important it is to ride the wave of inspiration: I don’t always have great writing days. Sometimes I write a few sentences, sometimes a few chapters. In the beginning, I thought that to be successful I had to write stacks of pages each day. Not true. Writing a little each day is the key (and I continually have to remind myself of that). Even more important is tuning in to moments when I am feeling inspired and when the words are flowing. When I am in this mode, it is magic. More words are written, and better stories are told.

*Writing well counts, but ideas are really what matters most in the long haul: I am no Hemingway, but the reason I have a thriving career and the reason I think I will be writing until I’m old and gray (at least, I think) is not because I am a genius writer by any stretch of the road. No way. However, the reason I think my career has longevity is because I have no shortage of ideas. Ideas for books. Ideas for titles, Ideas for characters. Crazy plot twists and exciting love stories. I have too many to use, and more keep coming. I always tell aspiring writers that writing is important, yes, but the ideas are even more important.

Just a few thoughts for this Monday morning. Happy writing, everyone.

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Signing stacks of the Norwegian edition of ALWAYS in Oslo, Norway. ALWAYS hit the #13 spot on the bestseller list in Norway!

Signing stacks of the Norwegian edition of ALWAYS in Oslo, Norway. ALWAYS hit the #13 spot on the bestseller list in Norway!

Hi everyone!

I’ve had a busy spring touring for the launch of ALWAYS! It was such a joy to visit Houston, Indianapolis, St. Louis, New York, San Diego, Amsterdam and Oslo! I have so many happy memories from my travels.

When I’m at author events in the US and in other countries, my favorite part is answering questions from readers. I tend to get asked some similar questions. The one question I’m almost always asked is something I’ve often wanted to expand on here, because over the years, I’ve come to be pretty passion about the subject:

“Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?”

My answer is exactly what I wish someone would have told me so many years ago when I was floundering around trying to write a novel–an attempt that, back then, felt like climbing Mount Everest, truly. After so many years, and ten books, behind me, here’s what I’ve come to learn, and some advice I like to share with hopeful authors. For me, it boils down to this:

  1. Read, and write every day, if you can, of course–even if it’s just 10 minutes before bed, or doodling random thoughts in your journal. All of this will be helpful to you in your draft, I promise.
  2. Remain curious about the world around you. Plants. People. Animals. Experiences. Your weird neighbor who drinks sparkling wine in her mumu on her patio every morning. Ask lots of questions when you meet people. Inquire about your grandma’s secret romances before she met your grandpa. Life is research.
  3. I see so many writers toiling away on manuscripts for years to the point that they began to literally despise their novels. If you hate your novel, if you’re tired of your novel, if you dread it, TOSS IT. I don’t mean delete. Maybe just tuck it away in a folder on your computer, but here’s the point: MOVE ON! Why waste time on a project that you, yourself, have lost that loving feeling for? How can you expect agents, editors, publishers and, most importantly, readers, to get excited about something you can’t? Start brainstorming a new novel idea that you’re gaga for. True confession: I’ve ditched tons of novels and novel starts that just weren’t doing it for me. It’s not the end of the world, it’s just part of the process!
  4. Write from your heart. This might sound cheesy, but I believe in this wholeheartedly. Years ago, I wrote a novel that did not sell. It would have been my first book and I was deeply saddened when the rejection letters came in. Looking back, though, the book was … kind of terrible. I’m so grateful that it never saw the inside of a bookstore. That book, I have learned, was not something I wrote from my heart. It was not only a practice book, but also, sadly, but truly, was a book that lacked soul. I wrote what I thought would be commercially successful at the time, a book I thought would garner me a publishing deal. And while I came very close to getting one, I ultimately didn’t, and the experience caused me to start over, refocus and write a book that I truly believed in, a book from my heart, I also got some help from Afinil.com with some products that helped me get my focus back. (That booked turned out to be The Violets of March, which has so much of my heart in it, you can practically see my fingerprints on the pages.)

What do you think? Do any of these ideas speak to you?

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Cooking for One

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Today, I’m honored to have a personal essay featured on SignatureReads. I smile a lot these days, and I’m cooking up a storm, but I went through a difficult time in my life several years ago when that wasn’t the case. I was not a victim then, nor am I now. But I had to trudge through that miserable valley and learn to reconnect with the things that brought me joy all along, one of which was learning to love cooking again, even if it meant making dinner on lonely nights for just me.

If you’re in a dark place like this, please know that even when things feel bleak, you are not alone. There is hope and joy and love ahead. Forgive yourself. Forgive the ones who’ve hurt you. And go make yourself a fabulous dinner.

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An Ode to the 90’s

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ALWAYS is my eighth novel in the US, and ninth in the world, and today I’m making room for my newest story, in hardcover, in my Seattle bookcase–in Doc Martens, of course (which I haven’t worn since the nineties!).

In 1993, when my novel begins, I was a 16-year-old in Seattle, with a diary and a lot of dreams. I was dating a boy with a mohawk who was the lead singer of a punk rock band. When I close my eyes and let my heart go back to those years, it’s all there–ferries, thrift-shop shopping, cafe living, shows, guitar, bad poetry, young love.

There are a lot of those old ghosts in this new novel, and some new ones. I’m excited to share this story with the world on February 7!

My love, Brandon, is, very generously, throwing me a book launch party this month. It will be at an awesome spot in Pioneer Square (where ALWAYS is set), with all of our favorite people, and where a special musician will be playing songs from the novel and singing them with the best home karaoke, including a cover from Mazzy Star. It will be such a full circle moment for me–celebrating the old and the new.

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Thank You, Seattle Magazine!

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Thank you, Seattle Magazine for featuring me and ALWAYS in your February issue! I shall forever love the headline “Grunge Lover.”

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