Monday, June 29, 2009

Your Perfect Summer Read


Almost exactly ten years ago, a woman I had met but barely knew, Lu Ann Staheli, called me. I remember where I was during that call: sitting on the lid of the toilet as my two children took their baths. Lu Ann had found my name in the League of Utah Writers directory as living near her and wondered if I'd like to be part of a new critique group.

Heck, yes! But see, I was also 8 1/2 months pregnant and serving in the Young Women presidency. I couldn't, not right then. The presidency had been in almost 3 years, so I was pretty sure we'd be released soon, and I thought that when baby was a few months old, maybe I could swing it, so I asked if they'd hold me a spot. They did.

I joined up in January of 2000. It was terrifying, to say the least, but the group wasn't quite full. A dear friend mentioned an aspiring writer she knew, and we met at a League chapter meeting. She became the next member of our group.

To this day, Michele Paige Holmes seems surprised that I was so "generous" in inviting her to the group, because, according to her, she was a terrible writer. (Don't let her fool you; she was never, ever, a bad writer.)

But the truth was, none of us was great; we were all learning and hoping to some day be published. Eventually, we all were.

Week after week, Michele brought brilliant chapters to the group. It was hard not to be envious of her skill, especially when she'd say, "This is really rough; I just wrote it an hour ago." Then we'd read it, it was freaking brilliant, and I'd go home with my chapter dripping in red ink.

Michele is good at what she does. So it was hard to watch her struggle to publication and constant rejection. It was with true joy that I heard of the acceptance of her first book, Counting Stars, which won (most deservingly!) the Whitney Award for Best Romance in 2007.

I was lucky enough to be the one who read off her winning name the night of the awards gala, and I cried tears of joy for her.

The road between her first and second published books has been a longer one than her fans hoped for, but her next novel is now out, and the wait has been worth it. All the Stars in Heaven is now in stores.

It's what some people call a "spin-off" novel, in that it takes a minor character from Counting Stars and tells his story. But this book stands alone completely; there's no need to read the first one before picking this one up.

Counting Stars dealt with heavy issues and emotions and had me weeping and laughing, often on the same page.

This book is a bit different. It did have me crying and laughing, but it has an element of suspense and action; it has you on the edge of your seat as Jay and Sarah get pulled into (and need to escape from) a drug ring with their lives.

It's an exciting read, one I highly recommend.

I'm already excited for her next book. Since I'm in her critique group, I've gotten to read a few chapters, and I'm already laughing and giggling. It's gonna be good.

But you'll just have to wait for it.

20 comments:

Kristina P. said...

I love exciting, suspensful books!

Hope your summer is going well! Haven't seen you out in bloggy land as much. You coming to Crash's lunch?

Lara said...

I've seen her books. I will have to now actually pick them up and read them!

Melanie J said...

Counting Stars was one that I actually stayed in bed all day to read. I'm excited for the new one!

L.T. Elliot said...

I love that you were the one to read her name. I can only hope that I'll have experiences like that because I want to be there for the greatness that will happen with my friends.

I'll go grab a copy of the book ASAP!

Erin said...

She sounds great! I loved this description of how you get (got?) together with your writing group. Both of her books sound like the kind I would like to read.

Kimberly said...

I can't wait till my birthday this August when the ban on book buying is temporarily lifted - adding this to my wish list!

annie valentine said...

Awesome. Every success story like this sends a little tickle of thrill down my spine.

Amber Lynae said...

I will definitely add this to my reading list. I can only hope to find a critique group that is so helpful and talented.

Terresa said...

You are lucky to be in her critique group!! Sounds like a great book, I'll add it to my books-to-read list.

Julie Wright said...

I am excited to read this one and envy you your awesome group. Sigh . . . if only I lived closer . . .

wendy said...

that does sound like a good book --I sure wish I read more, I used to, I need to put some blogging aside and read more. thanks for you comment on my blog. I will try and get more "active" with my blogs as things even out

Heatherlyn said...

You were lucky to have been part of such a group. I think it would be very helpful and encouraging to have that type of peer feedback.

Josi said...

I'm so excited for Michele, it's been a journey, that's for sure. LOVE the cover!

Marivic_Little GrumpyAngel said...

My visit to your blog was very timely. I'm meeting with my book club in a couple of weeks.

Karlene said...

I bought the book when it first came out but haven't had a chance to break it open yet. :( Hopefully I will get to it soon, now that my daughter is married.

Heather of the EO said...

This sounds like something right up my alley. I actually quite like to laugh and cry on the same page :)

Shelle-BlokThoughts said...

That sounds like just the thing I need!!! Thanks!

Jo said...

I love knowing that you didn't drop onto the planet as an accomplished writer. That this has been a journey for you and has involved a lot of work. It just makes dreams so much more possible. So thanks.

Michele Holmes said...

Annette,
Once again you have my profound gratitude! And if you really think I could write well back then . . . you're getting more forgetful than me :) Maybe (just for a hearty dose of laughter) I'll pull up a very old chapter with Jacob and Rebekah sometime. Dialect anyone?

peter kenneth said...

The book is of my interest so I am going to buy it soon!!
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