Friday, December 07, 2007

Heaven for the Holidays

The day after Thanksgiving, we were bombarded with cheery strings of lights, angels hanging from streetlamps, Santas showing up at shopping malls, and rampant thoughts of gift-giving. For most of us, the idea of buying presents fills us with joy. But for those of us who have grievers on our gift list, the idea of buying presents can fill us with dread. I know. I’ve been there.

Back in 1996, my family lost two of its cherished members. My grandfather died in September and three months later, just weeks before Christmas, my beloved aunt passed away unexpectedly. We were having what I now fondly refer to as “that terrible year”.

Some of you out there are having a “terrible year.” There’s no way to get around it. For the ones left grieving, the holidays are a difficult, often miserable few weeks. Yes, many times it’s good to go through the normal routine of giving and getting gifts, but sometimes it’s best just to spend time with family, trying to remember the blessings in life.

I will admit that I am horribly inadequate when it comes to giving sympathy. I have a hard time knowing what to say to a friend who is grieving or ill, let alone coming up with a gift! I imagine there are many of you who feel like I do. You want to console and inspire, but you don’t know how. Well, this feels a bit odd, seeing that it’s my book, but I’ll just say it. I wish I had written The Spirit of Sweetgrass a long time ago. I wish I had had it back in 1996 when my family was mourning the loss of our loved ones. It would have come in handy. It is because of that “terrible year” that I wound up writing my debut novel. You see, my eyes turned to Heaven for the first time in 1996. And they have not turned back down since.

I wrote The Spirit of Sweetgrass when I was expecting my son three years ago. Long story short, there were hospital stays, bed rest, and then an emergency birth where my son and I nearly lost our lives. We are both happy and healthy today, but I came home from the hospital with a renewed sense of purpose and the voice of my main character, Essie Mae, louder and more persistent than ever. She would wake me up in the middle of the night. I simply had to tell her story, that of sweetgrass and Heaven and family. I did not know why then. But I know why now.

Since The Spirit of Sweetgrass came out in March of this year, I have been blessed to meet readers. Readers are amazing people who love books as much as I do, and every time I speak to one of my own readers, I am fueled and inspired to keep writing. The reason I wrote The Spirit of Sweetgrass is simple. I know now that it was all about the readers. Take for instance Rhonda from Kingstree who read my book and approached me in tears at a book signing, thanking me for “bringing back” her beloved African-American nanny for just a short while. Then there was Heather, the bookstore manager who had miscarried the year before and was touched by a certain child character in my book. There was Cindy who had lost her husband to cancer and longed to sit with him like Essie Mae did her husband, Daddy Jim. But the one reader who amazed me the most, the one who showed me that God works in beautiful, mysterious ways, was a woman in Hilton Head Island who said she finished my book one day and the very next day her mother passed away unexpectedly. She thanked me for my depiction of Heaven since she’d never been able to imagine it before. She said now she could picture her mother in a better place. That was the most humbling, awe-inspiring moment of my writing life. That was my gift to her, and her gift to me.

There are many books this season that are inspirational, that may point eyes to Heaven and fill with hope. Just ask your local bookseller for suggestions. If you are looking for a gift for a loved one who is suffering, consider fiction. Sometimes, I’ve learned, fiction can say things you’d never be able to say yourself. And fiction allows the reader to go on a very personal journey. For those who are having a “terrible year,” I can’t imagine a better gift than the comforting thought of Heaven.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Blessings of Meeting Readers

Last night, I drove home down the dark two-lane roads from Edisto Beach under a blanket-covered moon. I was tired, but I was fulfilled. You see, I was coming home from the quaint Edisto Yacht Club having dined and spoken with the Edisto Women's Club. Thank you, Gina, for inviting me and Nakia, a Mount Pleasant sweetgrass basket maker. The Edisto ladies learned about sweetgrass from an authentic source and then I told them about my journey to becoming a writer. I read from The Spirit of Sweetgrass and my upcoming novel, Trouble the Water.

Before we ate supper, the sixty or so ladies held hands in a large circle and one woman read a lovely prayer. In it, among other things she asked God that we not be 'self-seeking'. I remember this because, here I was, speaking about my books and having the Edisto Bookstore selling them after the talk. Wasn't that a bit self-seeking? I find it completely strange, this being a writer and selling things. I understand, of course, that if my books do not sell, a publisher will not ask me to write another book. But the business of books is daunting and uncomfortable to me, quite honestly. If I were to stand before those sixty women last night and try to sell them a book, I would have fallen on my face. And it would have done them absolutely no good.

So this is what I've learned: that prayer about 'do not be self-seeking' is important. I've found that if I do not seek my own gains, but instead, seek to share my journey, share what God has done in my life and let Him have the glory, I can speak much easier. The words flow. Yes, my books must be bought by readers, and I'm grateful that you do buy them. It allows me to continue writing, to continue doing what I feel I've been called me to do. We all have something like that in our lives. Often, we just don't know it yet or it hasn't been revealed to us. But it will come.

I suppose this is all to say that the people I meet when I talk or sign books is what this writing gig is all about. Here I am, sitting behind a computer in my house, alone, writing a novel. It seems solitary and short-reaching. But then, like last night, after I tell my story about hearing the call to write and telling about the near-death experience that brought me there, a woman, Sharon, comes to me afterwords with tears in her eyes and says the very same thing happened to her. She heard the same message. Or another thanks me for writing a book that allowed her to envision Heaven after her mother passed away--to picture her in a better place. It's these things, these non-self-seeking things that make me keep wanting to write. I truly believe that if I follow my heart, someone, somewhere out there will be touched by what I have to say.
This holiday season, try with me to not be self-seeking. It's not easy at all. You and I will be amazed at what blessings come back to us though when we simply do what's right for others.

I pray you have a wonderful, safe holiday season. Feel free to visit me at and keep in touch.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Books for Xmas!

Lowcountry Women Authors Holiday Book Signing
Presented by the Center for Women and Barnes & Noble of Mt. Pleasant

Over 30 fabulous Lowcountry women authors will assemble at one downtown location in time for holiday gift purchases. The public is invited to meet their favorite local authors, make purchases and have their books personally signed!

“The Center for Women wants to celebrate the wonderful women authors in our community whose talents contribute enormously to our quality of life,” said Jennet Robinson Alterman, Executive Director.

This special event will be held Sunday, December 2 from 2pm – 5pm at the Citadel Holliday Alumni House on the Citadel campus. Admission is $10 at the door and includes light refreshments. 20% of all book sales benefit the Center for Women.
Gift wrapping will be available.

For additional information, visit or call us at (843) 763 – 7333.

The following local women authors will be there:

Joyce Coakley, Sweetgrass Baskets and Gullah Tradition
Stacey Crew, The Get Organized Guide for New Moms
Ruth Cupp, Portia Steps Up to the Bar
Carol Ann Davis, Psalm
Nathalie Dupree & Marion Sullivan, Nathalie Dupree's Shrimp and Grits
Linda Ferguson, Bird Missing from One Shoulder
Cathy Forrester, At Home-Charleston
Dottie Benton Frank, The Christmas Pearl
Mary Edna Fraser, A Celebration of The World's Barrier Islands
Nikki Hardin & Caitlin McPhilipps, PMS- Problems Men Started
Beth Webb Hart, Grace at Low Tide / Adelaide Piper
Josephine Humphries, Nowhere Else on Earth
Fran Hawk, The Story of the H.L. Hunley and Queenie's Coin
Trish Hutchison (co-author), Girlology/ Hang-Ups, Hook-Ups, and Hanging Out
Harriet McBryde Johnson, Accidents of Nature/ Too Late to Die Young: Nearly True Tales from a Life
Allison Keller, While You Were Away, Daddy
Sue Monk Kidd, The Mermaid Chair /The Secret Life of Bees / Firstlight
Ann Kulze, Dr. Ann's 10 Step Diet
Dorothy Perrin Moore, Island in the Storm/ Careerpreneurs
Susan Romaine, Cornices of Charleston
Nicole Seitz, The Spirit of Sweetgrass
Sue Shankle & Barbara Melton, What in the World Are Your Kids Doing Online?
Toby Smith, Goofy Things Girls Do To Get Guys
Sally Hughes Smith, The Circle: A Walk with Dementia/ Rosebud Roams Charleston
Shari Stauch, Precision Pool
Mary Caroline Walker, Managing Life with Kids
Andrea Weathers, Hermy the Hermit Crab Goes Shopping
Marjory Wentworth, Noticing Eden/ Despite Gravity
Mary Whyte, Alfreda's World / An Artist's Way of Seeing

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Who Says Bookish Ain't Beautiful?

I stumbled across a photo taken last month at the Charleston Country Library after a panel discussion on Writing and Spirituality with Denise Hildreth, myself and Beth Webb Hart. Our lovely publicist who happens to be the SC Poet Laureate, Marjory Wentworth, was our moderator. She's on the left. And the little cutie in Denise's arms is Marjory's beautiful god-daughter. Click here to take a peek. Who says "bookish" can't be beautiful too?

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

A Good Blog is Hard to Find

A few weeks ago, I met some fellow Southern authors at the book festival in Nashville. Today, I'm pleased to say I'm a guest blogger on the "A Good Blog is Hard to Find" blog maintained by author Karin Gillespie. There's a saga involving my next book cover. If you're interested, jump on over and take a peek. There's a ton of amazing authors on her blog.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

With Just a Few Simple Words

Last night in downtown Charleston, South Carolina Poet Laureate Marjory Wentworth celebrated the launch of her new book of poetry, Despite Gravity. Despite the wet weather, many came to catch up with one another, drink coffee and listen to moving words and music at the East Bay Meeting House. I was one of them, and to be honest, I didn't know what I was in for.

I suppose I should preface by saying I've never been to a poetry reading event. I imagined it might be something akin to a book reading/talk from a novelist or non-fiction writer...something with which I'm very familiar. But it was not. To the sounds of a strumming guitar, Marjory read aloud her poems and some poems of others in honor of United Nations Day. Poems about Vietnamese refugees, brave men, tyrants.

To put it bluntly, what I strive for in an entire 300 page novel, Marjory Wentworth was able to do in about 300 words.

It's rare for me to cry while reading a novel. It does happen, but not very often and only after I've digested pages upon pages of character and circumstance. Not so with Marjory. While listening to a poem about a love encounter with a political prisoner, I felt the first stirrings of emotion. I stared at a place in the wall above the coffee counter and pushed the tears down. But when Marjory read prose, a "found" poem as she called it, about a mother in a strawberry field in Gaza watching her two small sons get blown to pieces, I simply lost it. Tears flowed uncontrollably. If I were watching the footage on TV I would have spared myself and changed the channel. But I could not change the channel. Marjory held her audience captive and relayed the utter humanity that is common to us all--no matter who we are--and the horrors and brutal realities of the world in which we live.

I would have struggled nine months to birth a novel that might have the same effect of just one of Marjory's poems last night. So today I realize the pure power and importance of poetry. It can reach across cultural lines. It can cross emotional barriers. And I admire the bravery and skill of those who write it. Marjory Wentworth didn't just stand behind a microphone and read some words to us last night. Her poems were arrows, penetrating hearts, and our toasty coffee shop nestled in downtown Charleston was transformed into one that might have been found in any nation on earth.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Southern Festival of Books

Having been back from Nashville less than a week, the memories of the Southern Festival of the Book are still fresh in my mind. It's a wonderful feeling, being surrounded by book lovers. We shuffled from one room to the next, listening to authors discuss their innermost secrets, in the beautiful Legislative Plaza, Korean War Memorial and marble-laden Congressional rooms.

I ate much-too-expensive hotel food, watched cloggers dancing to bluegrass and met some fascinating authors to boot. What a thrill it was when, after speaking to a room-full about my books with Denise Hildreth, we sat down for a signing at the Colonnade and up walked J.L. (Jackie) Miles to say hello. Here is a woman whose writing I adore AND she blurbed my first novel, The Spirit of Sweetgrass. Not many people would blurb a new novelist, but Jackie did. I won't forget it. It was amazing to finally meet her in person.

Jackie then introduced me to author Karin Gillespie, and on the elevator to the seventh floor of my hotel, I'd invariably meet a poet or novelist or author of some sort.

"Oh, what do you write?" I would ask, he/she would ask.
"That's fascinating," he/she/I would say back.

It's fairly surreal to bump into so many talented people at once. I met other authors at various stages in their careers, River Jordan and Tim Callahan. And on the way home, I began reading Callahan's charming novel, The Cave, the Cabin, and the Tattoo Man. I think my laughter scared the poor guy next to me on the flight home when the main character who has a speech impediment, nine-year-old Timmy, tried to recite Bible verses in front of the church congregation.

Yes, it was expensive. Yes, the trip took me away from my family, and I suffered guilt over that. But I was able to meet readers and authors and publishers passionate about what they do. I was able to give away advanced copies of my next novel, Trouble the Water, and hopefully, to generate some good buzz. And I was able to feel a part of something, in the often isolating and lonesome business of writing books. There was a true sense of community in Nashville last weekend and that, in my book, is priceless.

And don't worry--my kids were fine. In fact, they fared better than their daddy did. God bless you, Brian. I couldn't do this without you.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Guest Blogger for Fat Show

I'm headed to the SIBA conference (Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance) tomorrow in Atlanta to introduce my upcoming novel, Trouble the Water. The book is very close to my heart, and if you want to read the origins of it (quite possibly WAY more than you ever wanted to know), take a peek at Wanda Jewel's blog, Fat Show--she's the executive director of SIBA.

Booksellers, authors, friends, I look foward to seeing you there!

Monday, September 10, 2007

On Heaven and Fiction

When I was twelve years old I played "Meg" in A Wrinkle in Time at the little community theater on Hilton Head Island. No big-time acting gig or even good acting, for that matter. But the experience made an impact on me. What I remember most about becoming Meg's character was the love I was to have for my little brother in the play. Funny that that's what I remember most--not the fantastic, imaginative storyline, but the caring for another character.

I learned this morning that the author of A Wrinkle in Time, Madeline L'Engle, died last Thursday at age 88. I read the memoriam by Jennifer Brown in Shelf Awareness. Here is an excerpt from that article that I found most interesting:

"L'Engle won the 1963 Newbery Medal for A Wrinkle in Time, one of the most banned books in the United States. When asked in a 2001 interview with the New York Times what she thought of the accusations by religious conservatives--that she "offer[ed] an inaccurate portrayal of God and nurtur[ed] in the young an unholy belief in myth and fantasy"--she replied: "First I felt horror, then anger, and finally I said, 'Ah, the hell with it.' It's great publicity, really." (Readers familiar with all of her work might find such accusations ironic, since L'Engle is also widely admired for her titles for adults with Christian and biblical themes, including Glimpses of Grace, and her Crosswicks Journals, begun with A Circle of Quiet.)"

Reading that Madeline L'Engle, someone who incorporated Christian themes in her work, had her book banned and criticized by religious conservatives back in the sixties makes me think that perhaps not much has changed since then. J.K. Rowling has been criticized for her Harry Potter books having other-than-Biblical and potentially "dangerous" content. However, reading her books, from a Christian worldview, I was able to see in each of the seven, Christian themes. Was this all in my head? I thought perhaps, except when I got to book seven, it was utterly clear that there was an underlying Christian theme throughout. And it was done very nicely, I thought.

I have no problem with people sharing their own opinions about my book or any other. What is interesting to me is that the label "Christian fiction" seems to be quite limited or rigid. Some critics of The Spirit of Sweetgrass spend much of their reviews discussing the theology of the book--whether this is correct, or that is not Biblically correct, or if such-and-such is a dangerous thought to have, et cetera. Once making their way past these things, most reviewers can appreciate the story for what it is, fiction, a story, hopefully one that makes the reader think and leaves him/her inspired in some way.

I do not criticize books that have overt Christian themes in them. These are good. We need books such as these. I do not criticize the critics or the writers. I do, however, pose this question: Do all books labeled "Christian fiction" need to have sound theology or can a Christian write something that is purely fantastic? Is this not "fiction by a Christian?" Can not such a book also teach us things about ourselves? About God?

I do not claim to know what heaven is like. I do love to dream about it though. Perhaps that's why it found its way into my first book. I have heard many meaningful comments from readers, but the best comment about The Spirit of Sweetgrass was this: Recently, a woman in a book club approached me and said "Thank you for writing The Spirit of Sweetgrass". She said thank you because she finished reading my book one day and on the very next day, her mother passed away unexpectedly. She said thank you because she had never thought about what heaven might be like, and she said that my book helped her in some way to get through that most difficult time because now she could imagine the unimaginable. I was completely humbled by this woman's gratitude.

Am I worried that my portrayal of heaven was not exactly as it is? Not really, no. What amazed me is that God worked through my book in order to ease that woman's suffering and to allow her to imagine her mother in a better place. Perhaps He planted a seed for Him in her heart that day. I don't know. My reader may now think of God and heaven in a different way now. Did I intend this or did I simply write a book? Truthfully, I simply wrote the book that was on my heart to write. It is my belief that God gave me that story. It is my understanding that God works in mysterious ways and in all things for good for those who love Him. Therefore, I write. And I love Him. And I explore the deepest, darkest and lightest places in the human mind and soul. And I will continue to pray. I will continue to think. I will continue to write and hopefully, God willing, to touch another soul.

God bless Madeline L'Engle, a great writer, who is now in a better place.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Mammograms (or The Joys of Being Female)

Well, I did it. I had my first mammogram last week, and do you know what? Not so bad. Not bad at all. The folks down at MUSC here in Charleston were professional and quick. The new digital equipment was (from what I was told) more comfortable than previous equipment a few years ago. And you wait right there for the results. Within minutes! How often do you get test results within minutes?

What? A mammogram before age forty, you say? Well, yes. I have in my family history instances of breast cancer or other types of cancer, so the earlier the better as I see it. The mammogram was truly painless, and if you keep your eyes straight ahead as I did, it's as dignified as can be.

Please, if you've been putting off having a mammogram (and you know who you are), well now's the time to do it. Talk to your doctor about it. It's just so simple and it could save your life.

Friday, July 20, 2007

The Early Worm Gets The Early Show

I'm a firm believer (moreso recently) in getting involved in things. Sticking your finger in the pot. As a mother of two, with business, writing, etc., I might not always "get out there" as much as I would like. Well, today I did. And let me tell you, it was bright and EARLY!

My alarm clock went off this morning at 4:15 am. Yes, you read it right. I slipped upstairs and showered, dressed, downed some coffee and headed out into the dark to be in downtown Charleston by 5:30 am. With the help of some very kind Charleston policemen, I found a parking spot along the Battery by White Point Gardens where I was to be part of the "street team" with CBS The Early Show.

I donned a red shirt and joined a couple handfuls of other college-age folks (ahem, maybe I'm a wee bit older, but no one could tell, I'm sure of it). We were instructed by some very nice producers and production people with the show to keep the audience members out of certain places, move them around to other places when Dave Price did his weather report from a horse carriage, in the park, by a statue, in front of the Winnebago...well, you get the point. Audience management. Civilized crowd control. I had the pleasure of smiling at folks, watching the beautiful hat ladies dance, thanking everyone for coming, and basically, just becoming another person for a few hours.

When Harry Smith wasn't doing his thing, the audience got to hear a live concert by Hootie and the Blowfish, our hometown heroes. It was truly a treat. Lead singer, Darius, has been suffering an infection this summer and has had to cancel much of the tour. He was back onstage, although sitting and with IVs hanging from his arm, but was in terrific form otherwise. The band will start touring again next month. Many blessings and prayers for Darius for a speedy recovery.

There was so much excitement this morning. It was an honor to work with such an unbelievable team of professionals. These amazing people from New York were a pleasure, and I suspect they felt the same way about our fair city. I'm so proud to be a Charlestonian and love the video segments that came from The Early Show today. Take a look and you'll see what I mean.

Sometimes, it's fun to shed your skin for a little while. Wake up too early in the morning. Do something you've never done before. Go incognito. Become an intern or volunteer, even if you're "over aged" like me. Here's life: insert self here. As a writer, new experiences can only add to great fiction, right? I had a ball and have a new respect for some very hard-working New Yorkers from CBS The Early Show.

Thanks, guys! I'll be watching next week!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Fear of Heights

I spent much of the day yesterday overcoming my fear of heights. Of course, the fear remains, but I made steps to prove to myself that the fear does not own me. My family is on vacation in the mountains of North Carolina. Yesterday we drove the winding, narrow road up to Chimney Rock where we proceeded to exit the truck, enter a long tunnel in the rock and then an elevator which goes something like 26 stories up in 30 seconds. Claustropobia is another fear of mine, but I couldn't even think about that. I was too concerned with keeping me and my two small children safe at the top of Chimney Rock. (My husband could take care of himself.)

Yes, I looked down. I made myself do it. And my two-year-old son didn't want to walk on his own, so I carried him up the steps across a vast chasm up to this rock perched precariously 2200 feet in the air. I didn't even hold onto the rails lest I drop my child. I was in protective mode. Mothering does wonders for making you forget about self. This includes fears. And the view? Unbelieveably gorgeous. I'm glad we did it. I have to hand it to my husband, he pushes me out of my comfort zone sometimes...and I let him. It's good for my soul.

On the way back to our mountain retreat, we stopped at the store. I told my husband I would drive the rest of the way up the mountain. Yes, me. Up the mountain that sent me into near fits of panic the first few times we drove it. This time, I was in the driver's seat with everything I love most in the car with me--my family. I was careful. I made it to the top, perhaps a little slower than my husband takes it, but you know what? I actually enjoyed it. Focusing on the safety of my family helped me get to the top without freezing up, foot on brake.

When we arrived at the mountain house, another challenge awaited. We found that one of the children had locked a door that should not be locked. Now we couldn't get in. We tried jimmying the lock with a candy stick to no avail. At the thought of spending the night outside with the bears, I walked around the side of the house to find my husband, six-feet-five, over two hundred pounds trying to climb the lattice to the second story balcony. He was too big. I knew he couldn't fit his feet in those little holes and if he did, the lattice would not hold his weight.

So I did it. With husband and two children watching, I dropped my purse, grabbed onto the lattice...and climbed, no, SCALED the wall. Looked like Spiderman is what they told me. Mama saved the day. Little Mama who's afraid of heights.

Mamas, I've learned, can do anything when the welfare of family is involved. We're having a ball. Can't wait till the next family vacation.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Back from the Peach State

I just got back from the International Christian Retail Show in Atlanta. Wow. To see all those books, products, authors, agents, editors, publishers, musicians together in one place was at times overwhelming. Often inspiring. Always entertaining. My favorite part was meeting fellow authors--people I know only by name and work--and meeting my lovely editor, Rachelle Gardner, finally in person. Just a thrill. Hey, here's something I might never get the chance to do again. Yes, that's me on a Segway wearing a silly blue helmet. (No persons were injured in the shooting of this photo.)

Roadtrips can be good. I found that I was able to do some good "writing in my head" on the drive over and back. And then there was the quiet hotel with no family beckoning every 30 seconds. That was good for writing too. And sometimes you need a little space in order to appreciate fully your life at home.

All in all, it's great to be seen but very good to be home.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Summer Read-In

This month, the Christian Fiction Blog is holding "The Spirit of Summer Read-In" featuring The Spirit of Sweetgrass from Thursday, June 21 - July 28 2007. Owner Dee Stewart asked me some of the most interesting questions I've had so far... Check it out here.

Friday, June 22, 2007

A Day of Mourning, A Glimmer of Hope

My husband and I watched the movie Blood Diamond last night. Very disturbing. If there could be something more upsetting than watching innocent African people slain in their homes and villages, it was the kidnapping and recruiting of young boys to be brought into the rebel militia. Now this was horrifying to me--that people would claim young spirits for themselves, teaching them to kill, brainwashing them into doing evil acts. One of many important concepts discussed in the movie was this: Are people inherently good or inherently bad? One character suggested that people are just people; that it's the choices we make, the things that we do, that make us good or bad.

In my town, we've had scandals in the news lately about some businessmen who've been accused of going astray, breaking the law. Seems it's been day after day of watching the news, reading it, and only seeing bad things happen, watching people self-destruct, bringing shame to those around them. But this week, something else hit the front pages, something truly hard to wrap your brain around. There was a fire at a local furniture store warehouse, and nine of our Charleston firefighters lost their lives on Monday.

Today has been declared a day of mourning in our city. A slow procession of fire engines and motorcycles made its way through town to the Coliseum where thousands of people from all over the country have come to pay their respects at a memorial service. I am saddened when I think of the families these men left behind and their fellow firefighters, the ones who became their second families at the fire stations. But in this day of mourning, after being reminded of all the corruption and evil that takes place all over the world--in far away countries or in our own back yards--celebrating the lives of these nine brave men gives me hope: hope that perhaps there is goodness in the world--in people--afterall. There exists true bravery. There exists Valor. These men died doing what they loved to do--fight fires and save people and property. Our city and our world is missing nine heroes today, but these men give us all the hope that there are more like them. Real people. Regular people. Doing extraordinary things.

My prayers go out to the families of the nine firefighters who lost their lives in Charleston this week. My continued prayers and blessings go to all of our firefighters who clean their trucks and wait on shifts...waiting for the day when they can save a life. Selflessly choosing to do what is noble and good. They are what is right in this world. God bless them.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Good Times, Good People

My past few events have been extremely rewarding! Last weekend was the highly-anticipated 3rd Annual Sweetgrass Cultural Arts Festival. Emily Morrison of the Mount Pleasant Barnes and Noble gets kudos for sitting in the near hundred degree weather with me. Mind you, we were in the best shady spot under a gorgeous oak tree, but here's to you, Emily (see photo)! Now we can appreciate what sweetgrass basket makers endure on a daily basis...

Before that was a wonderful weekend further up the coast. I spoke at the Conway Library and one book group, Myrtle Trace South, brought 18 members! Nice to see you all! The next day was Litchfield Books' Moveable Feast at Blowfish Restaurant in Pawley's Island. What an incredible time. Thank you Tom and Linda! My mother and sister-in-law, Pawley's residents, came to that one too, so it was a special treat for me. That evening I met with the lovely ladies of the Prince Creek book club in Murrells Inlet. They outdid themselves with good food and great conversation. Thank you, Donna, for inviting me.
Truly, I get more out of each event than the folks who come to see me or buy The Spirit of Sweetgrass. Each reader fuels me. Thank you, thank you, everyone.

Saturday, June 02, 2007


Many thanks to the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance for reviewing The Spirit of Sweetgrass this week. I've read lots of interesting comments about the book. Here are some of my favorites:
The Spirit of Sweetgrass is, as of this moment, #6 on for popular books. Thank you, everyone!

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Do You Hear Voices?

I once spoke at an event for the Gullah/Geechee Nation about how I came to write The Spirit of Sweetgrass. I told the group how my main character, Essie Mae, basically wrote her own story. I simply penned it for her. When it was time for questions, a hand raised. It was attached to one of my favorite fellow writers, Fred Robinson. Fred was there in my writer's group when I first began sharing my work several years ago. Matter of fact, he's still in that group. It was a pleasant surprise to see his friendly face there, supporting me.

"About these voices you mentioned," he said. All eyes turned to him. "Do you really hear voices when you're writing?" I thought it was a joke. I thought he was ribbing me.

"No, I don't really hear voices," I said politely, waving my hands around. "Not like I have multiple personalities or anything, ahem, it's more like I feel it inside. Feel the story wanting to come out." I laughed a little. Nervously. Gee, thanks, Fred.

Turns out Fred wasn't kidding. Instead, he was actually just paying attention.

This week, I learned that Fred Robinson is one of the winners of this year's SC Fiction Project. His short story "The Leaky Roof" will be published in all its glory in the Post & Courier very soon. Fred will get the recognition he deserves. I am so thrilled for him!

So I wrote him a note telling him how excited I am for him, and he wrote back. Said he finally just listened to "the voices" in his head and wrote them down. Ha. How about that?

Well, I'm working on my third novel now and the story has been swimming inside me. I've been so concerned with how this will work, or what will happen or should the story go this way....and there are multiple voices trying to be heard, but there's too much distraction lately. I can only clearly hear my two little children around me, laughing, whining, playing. So inspired by Fred, last night I asked my husband to watch the kids. I turned on the bathtub, filled it with bubbles, got in, soaked, and just...listened. Listened for anything that God would put on my heart. Listened for any story or voice that needed to be told. Then quite miraculously, I let the water out, climbed the steps to my office, and dutifully, excitedly, wrote the character--the voice--that needed to come out.

Thanks so much, Fred, for the inspiration when I needed it most. You gave me back my own advice. Boy, I needed that.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Monday, Monday

It was one year ago, May, that I lost him.

Just as soon as I uttered the words last week--admitting to God and myself for the first time that my heart was growing ready to love another cat--here comes a stray yesterday. We've lived in this house for almost 2 1/2 years, and I've never seen a stray cat, yet for some reason, less than a week after I mentioned my secret longing for one on my blog, here he comes, bright eyes and all.

Look at him. Isn't he cute? I took him to the vet this morning for an exam, shots, the works. He's such a sweet fellow. I've posted fliers in the neighborhood and have put an ad in the newspaper. Now, we just wait. In the meantime, he's got a double ear infection, so if he sticks around long enough, he'll get drops twice a day, fresh food and water, flea treatment--oh, and he has this new glow-in-the-dark collar now displaying his rabies tag. He's such a sweet kitty.

Well, Monday (that's what I've named him, temporarily of course) should be a happy kitty until his owners claim him. I want him to be happy. If his real family shows up it will be bittersweet for me--but God's will, not mine. If nothing else, Monday has shown me that my heart has room in it to love another kitty. Of course no one will ever replace my Espresso, but God commands us to love one another. I'm sure that involves cute kitties and anyway, I'm sure God had something to do with his coming to our front lawn.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

8 Things About Me

I've been tagged by my very talented editor and mistress of the blogosphere, Rachelle Gardner, to tell you 8 random things about me that you may not know. This could be frightening. Here we go:
  1. I typically work in my pajamas.
  2. I love ethnic food! Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Thai...I know I'm forgetting something...
  3. My beloved cat, Espresso, passed away last year, and I'm secretly waiting for the appropriate time to get a new one. I need to wait until my son is out of his "taunt the dog" phase.
  4. I'm afraid of heights, and I have to pray fervently when landing or taking off in an airplane to ease my anxiety.
  5. I considered switching majors in college to either cultural anthropology or photojournalism. Instead, I stuck it out in broadcast journalism. I once dreamed of being a reporter for 60 Minutes.
  6. I have a terrible memory, and I have to work very hard to pay attention to everything going on around me in order to remember the details.
  7. My side of the closet is an absolute mess. My husband's is neat and tidy.
  8. At 5 feet, 3 and 3/4 inches, I'm the largest woman in my immediate family.

I'm supposed to tag other people now, but I'd rather hear from my readers who want to share 8 random things about themselves! Please leave me a comment...

Friday, April 06, 2007

Oh, the People I Meet...

You know, writing has its challenges, but this book marketing thing is a hard gig. It's very humbling and at times exhausting. Not that I'm complaining! Give me a book signing or interview any day where I can meet folks and talk about my book, and I'm happy.

In the past couple weeks, I've been blessed to meet some pretty terrific people too--people just doing what they do best. Ric Cochran, for one, is a DJ at V100 FM in Charleston, West Virginia, and I've had the pleasure of speaking with him a couple times. He's a great interviewer and an even better editor :) He's reading my book right now (The Spirit of Sweetgrass) and has his listeners reading along. Just a super nice guy. Here's his website: The cool thing is, you can listen in from your computer!

Next, a local Charleston, SC photographer had the dubious chore of trying to make me photogenic for the Charleston Regional Business Journal. You'll get a kick out of the photo. Chris at Chris & Cami Photography made me feel at ease. A true professional and artist! Get a load of the picture on Chris' blog...

Tomorrow, I'll be at Books-a-Million in North Charleston, SC from 2:00 - 4:00pm. If you get a chance, stop by and say hello. I'd love to meet another book-lover!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Love What You Do

I had a very nice interview with Jill Coley of The Post and Courier today. We talked about writing The Spirit of Sweetgrass, and at one point she said, "You make it sound so easy. But writing a book can't be easy, can it?"

NO, I told her.

Writing is not easy. It's hard--like everything worth doing--it's hard. Raising children? Hard. Maintaining a happy marriage? Hard. Keeping one's figure? Ahem...hard. And writing a novel? Very hard. The thing I pointed out to Jill was this: for me, writing is fun. Plain and simple. I love it. I'm passionate about writing and creating art, just as I'm passionate about my family and God. I'm passionate about writing, so therefore, even though it takes a lot of time, effort, creativity, and adds gray hair (which, by the way, so do my children and wonderful husband), it truly matters to me.

Yes, I love what I do. Not everyone does. What a blessing to have passion for something. I make it sound easy? Wonderful. That's just my passion and excitement coming through.

So what is it that you're passionate about? Are you making time for it? If not, you could be missing out on a whole lot of fun.

Family? Fun. God? Fun. Writing? Oh yeah. Whole lotta fun.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A Cure for Writer's Block

I do believe there's such a thing as writer's block. For me, my imagination should soar when trying to decide what to write next, but I've found that my little life of routine, kids, sitting behind the computer, can often have a stifling effect on the "soaring."

That's where last night comes in. My husband and I joined six of our closest friends to celebrate a couple birthdays by going to a local wine tasting at J Bistro. It was such a treat. I sat directly across from our guide, Pasquale, an Italian wine consultant. And trust me, it wasn't just about the pinot grigio or chardonnay or merlot or the excellent food, but what captivated all of us and still has my husband and I talking today is Pasquale. With his Italian accent that has you pressed close to understand along with his storytelling abilities, last night was as if we'd been invited to an intimate dinner at a private home in Italy. We heard stories of his family, of wine makers, of European traditions. I must say, by the end of the evening, we were all imagining we could whisk away for a European vacation--to a slower pace.

For those of you who don't enjoy wine or partake in it, this message is for you too. The point of it is, we did something DIFFERENT last night...out of the norm for us. And today, my imagination is soaring with other cultures, other places. I highly recommend for writers to occasionally get out and try something new. You never know who you'll meet or how you may be inspired, but I'm pretty sure occasional change is good for the writer's mind and soul. It is for mine.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Get Moving!

I read the most fascinating article in Parade this weekend about exercise. Of course, I know the importance of it (although I definitely do not get enough), but I'll admit it...I had my birthday a couple days ago and well, things just ain't what they used to be :) This article explained something that really hit home for me. It said that our cells die off and regenerate except for a few stem cells in each organ, so basically, in three months, you'll have a whole new body than you do today--literally.

So here's the kicker: this article explained that your cells can do one of two things; they can decay or get stronger. When we exercise, we tell our cells to get stronger. When we sit and are sedentary, we tell our cells to decay--including brain cells! Thus, the aging process which is supposed to be a slow, gradual thing, is actually made faster! I always knew exercise was important but this article spoke to me, ESPECIALLY as a writer who sits behind a computer for hours a day. We CAN take more control over our aging!! I plan to do it more gracefully...

For all you writers out there, get moving!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

A Poem for Writers on Deadline

Looking through my files, I found this poem I wrote a while ago to commemorate completing my first draft of my next book, Trouble the Water (early 2008). I DO NOT claim to be a poet, but I think many writers can relate to the sentiment, especially if you're under deadline!

Time Stamps Me
by Nicole Seitz

Time stamps me
Minute by minute
Body growing older
Mind expanding
No time for wasting
Words must come.

No stalling
No pressure
Keep going
Keep going
My writing is driving me crazy.

Is it finished?

Pages filling
Fingers tapping
Mind unloading
Keep going
Keep going

Six months of my life
Is done.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Gimme Some "On Ice"

When I first started sharing my work from The Spirit of Sweetgrass, I had joined a group of folks that meet at Barnes and Noble Mount Pleasant every other Tuesday, the Seacoast Christian Writers' Group. The people, critiques, work presented, everything became very special to me. It was a magical time. Soon my book would be finished and now published. I owe so much to that group.

Another writer who came to those meetings and who read from his work at the time, On Ice, has just sold that novel, his first published book, to Kunati. I couldn't be more proud of Red Evans, a man who deserves to see his dream come true. He is a very talented writer, and his young character, Eldridge Brewer, will make you cackle and cry. Brilliant. Watch for it this fall!

I was so pleased to see Red and his lovely wife and granddaughter at my books signing/art opening at the gallery last night. His support means so much to me because he believed in my words from the start. Red Evans is a true gentleman. And a wonderful friend.

Here's to you, Red.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Come See Me -- Art and Books!

Friends! I'm having an art opening/book signing at Hamlet Fine Art Gallery in downtown Charleston, SC (7 Broad Street) this Friday, March 9, from 5:00 - 7:00 pm.

Come enjoy wine and finger foods while taking in my new Gullah-themed acrylic paintings. I'll also be signing copies of my novel, The Spirit of the Sweetgrass.

I look forward to meeting you--art lovers, book lovers, and Lowcountry lovers alike!

Mommy on TV

Thank you to Melissa Villegas, Ann McGill, Bill Sharpe and everyone down at WCSC TV, Live 5 News! I was so pleased to be a guest on the News at Noon yesterday and tell a little about The Spirit of Sweetgrass. My family was at home watching, and when I returned my 3-year-old daughter had this adorable picture for me called, "Mommy on TV."

What a wonderful artist! Look how thin I am :)

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Girls' Night Out!

Last night was a ball. At least I had one. We had a Girls' Night Out at the gallery (Hamlet Fine Art Gallery, that is), and I met a terrific group of ladies. Some are from Charleston, others have just moved here, but we all love the Lowcountry.

After delicious hors d'oeuvres and champagne we settled into the main gallery where I gave a little talk about the origins of The Spirit of Sweetgrass and shared my creative process for writing and painting. Then I read the prologue and introduced my character, Essie Mae! That was just so much fun. Next Nakia Wigfall, who'd brought some of her own sweetgrass baskets, gave a wonderful talk about the plight and progress of Mount Pleasant basketmakers. The group had so many questions for Nakia we almost ran out of time for the book signing!

I've posted photos from the evening here (!

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The First Book Signing

Well, tonight's the night! I'm having what all aspiring authors dream about--my first book signing! Thankfully it will be among friends, some old, some new, at the Hamlet Fine Art Gallery in downtown Charleston. I'll be reading from my novel, The Spirit of Sweetgrass, plus I've been working hard in the past few weeks painting new works for tonight. Here's a sneak preview of one of them, "Wade in the Water II".

I'm also excited that Nakia Wigfall, president of the Mt. Pleasant Sweetgrass Basketmakers' Association, will be there as a guest of honor and may offer some of her beautiful baskets for sale. With a group like this of artists and Lowcountry enthusiasts plus just a tiny bit of champagne, should be a good time for all. I'll let you know how it goes!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

The Best Blurb

I spoke with my niece, Sierra, today on the phone and as usual, it was a treat. She's in the 5th grade has an unbelievable imagination, and she's an avid reader. Fairy books mostly. Sierra said she started reading my novel, The Spirit of Sweetgrass. I suppose there must be one lying around her house. And I have to quote her:

"Aunt Nikki, I started reading your book. I was reading the prologue, and it was just so interesting. It reeled me in like a mouse to cheese."

First of all, when I was her age, I had no idea what a prologue was. Next, "a mouse to cheese"? Really? Wow. I think I can quit now. I've just been paid the HIGHEST complement. Although I did suggest to my sister that she might want to screen the book first --there may be some issues inappropriate for Sierra's age. Still, it meant the world to me that I was able to "reel her in." Let's just hope other readers feel the same!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Spirit of Sweetgrass on the Web

The Spirit of Sweetgrass and author interviews are featured on some terrific blogs and sites right now. Be sure to drop by and check them out!

Novel Journey

Amber Miller

The Motivated Writer

Monday, February 19, 2007

Revelations About The Pre-publication Phase

My debut novel, The Spirit of Sweetgrass, is being released this week. YES! It's an amazing, almost surreal time for me. At this stage, some authors and reviewers have read the book and have been very kind. It's encouraging to have positive feedback from people in the publishing industry whom I admire so much. But right now--before the book is fully dispersed to those who have pre-ordered or those who might pick up a copy in a local bookstore--right now is a very special time for me for this reason: the people I care most about in life are reading my novel right now.

When we write, we don't just tell a story, we write things that come from deep down in our souls. Writing a novel is an extremely personal experience, and when family members and friends read your work, you allow them into your life, into your heart in a very intimate way. I think it's hard for many of us to open up to loved ones on such level in our everyday lives.

I will always be grateful for the positive reviews and praise from experts for The Spirit of Sweetgrass. Nothing can compare with that. But allowing my loved ones into my head and heart one page at a time, is an amazing aspect of this journey that I did not anticipate, and one I'm thankful for right now.

My prayer is that Essie Mae Laveau Jenkins touches the readers of The Spirit of Sweetgrass in the same way she touched me. If for just one person, all of this hard work will have been worth it.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

The Kite Runner, Masterful

I finished The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini the other night, and I'm still thinking about it. Not only was it worthwhile to learn more about present-day Afghanistan, I also enjoyed the unique Afghan culture of honor and duty, the food, the language...I was fully immersed in this true page-turner and found myself crying at times or on the edge of my seat. The story became completely real to me, and I had to remind myself that this is fiction. That Hassan is simply a character in a novel. That Amir, Baba, and Sohrab are creations of Hosseini's mind.

The Kite Runner is one of the most brilliant novels I've ever had the pleasure of reading. It was at the same time, endearing, disturbing, haunting, and lovingly rendered. I highly recommend The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. It's not simply a novel; it's a moving experience.

Monday, January 29, 2007

What to Serve with Cabbage and Cornbread

Enjoy this short by Fred M. Robinson, a valued and hilarious member of the Seacoast Christian Writer's Group!

I put a bouquet of flowers in the cart for my wife's birthday. To add joy to the happy day, I sought a bottle of wine. At the wine display, the assistant manager asked if he might help. I told him my needs as he looked in my shopping cart and fluffed the flowers.

"Aha," he said, lifting a bottle. "This fine Chardonnay is the very thing for a special occasion. It has burned rubber and citrus aromas and a lip puckering, pear and green apple finish."

I shook my head and he went on. "Perhaps a red would go better with your pansy bouquet. Here's a riotous Cabernet Sauvignon with pipe tobacco and mint aromas that jump at you." He looked in my cart. "The pecan and wild cherry flavors are great with cabbage and cornbread."

I didn't reply and he picked another bottle. "This superb Merlot carries rich aromas of tree bark, chewing tobacco and chocolate, with a hint of after shave. Its spicy and slightly tannic butter rum finish, leading to ripe persimmon aftertaste, is sensuous. Shall I put it in your cart?"

I said, "Where do you keep the Muscatel?"

His face fell. "I’m sorry, Sir. We don't stock Muscatel, They say it tastes like grape juice."

--Fred M. Robinson, Mt. Pleasant, SC

Saturday, January 20, 2007

SCAD Auction - A Treat for Art Lovers

Each year, Savannah College of Art & Design holds a scholarship gala with a silent art auction, and this year, I'm pleased to have one of my paintings included. To bid on He Loves Me or any of the other wonderful works of SCAD alumni, including paintings, jewelry, photographs, etc., click here or go to And hurry, the bidding ends on February 3, 2007!