Thursday, November 25, 2010

Guest Post: Author Barbara Delinsky

Today Barbara Delinsky is dropping by Library Girl Reads as part of her blog tour.  I received a copy of her latest book, Not My Daughter, and can't wait to read it.  Be sure to drop in at Barbara's other tour stops as well. I know she has some great guest posts and giveaways going on.  Thanks so much to Barbara for dropping by today and sharing with us how she got into writing.

Barbara Delinsky... the Unlikelist of Writers.  What About You?

I’ve written almost 80 books that together have sold millions of copies, so many that even I have a hard time coming up with an accurate count when someone asks. But underneath all that literary success I am as unlikely a writer as any you’d ever meet. Really. I was never even an avid reader as a child, despite my dad’s urging. He was a lawyer in Boston, and any visit to his office included a stop at the beautiful old Lauriat’s bookstore down the street. There was no limit to the number of books I could buy, though I never bought more than two or three at a time. I read in spurts – those two or three, then maybe another two or three in quick succession, like the Laura Ingall’s Wilder series, then nothing at all for a few months.

I struggled with writing in school – actually had my first experience with writers block in sixth grade. The teacher was Miss O’Donnell, and the assignment was to write a descriptive piece on … the sun. I was totally stuck – until an aunt of mine, a former teacher, suggested that I speak my thoughts aloud while she wrote them down – and it worked. To this day, that’s what I do when I’m stuck. I talk into a little cassette recorder, usually while I’m driving around in my car. My mind is clear then – when I’m halfway between points A and B, in a kind of wide open, creative limbo.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Back to school. Here’s the best part about how unlikely a writer I am. I was kicked out of Honors English in high school because I couldn’t keep up.

That said, I wrote beautiful letters home from summer camp, and lyrical letters home from Europe during that summer-long tour when I was twenty-one. Writing was a practical thing for me, a way to describe what I was doing, a way to express my thoughts. The latter was particularly useful when I became a mom. My first son was a dream – the easiest child in the world to raise. Then came the twins. We’re talking noise and mess and disobedience. The oldest became a terror, and, I swear, the twins were born that way.

I kept a journal. That was my therapy. Beloved as my rambunctious children were by me and the rest of their family, I wouldn’t have survived those years without that journal.

By the time the twins were ready to start school, I was ready to go back to work, but nothing in my field at the time interested me. Then, one morning, I read an article in my local paper, the Boston Globe, about women who wrote genre fiction. These writers made their work sound very do-able for a woman with young children, so I researched books like theirs, read a bunch, and wrote one. The writing took me three weeks – at which point I had a completed manuscript and no clue what to do with it. So I picked up the phone and called one of the women who had been profiled in that Globe article. It was probably one of the bravest things I’ve ever done, but it set the scene for what was to come. Pick up the phone and call publishers, she said with a generosity of time and spirit that, to this day, I’ve never forgotten. Ask if you can send them your book, she said.

If there are any publishers reading this blog, you’re probably shuddering. Today, one works through an agent—cold calling publishers will get you nowhere. Publishing is meaner and leaner, and the slush pile is nearly extinct. But this was back in the 80’s, when the book world was a different place.

So I picked up the phone and called publishers. I sent material to eight that published the kind of book I’d written. Six weeks later, one called and made an offer. Frankly, I was stunned. So was my dad, the one who had always pushed me to read. He was, bless him, a product of the Great Depression, so he wasn’t counting any chickens before they hatched. His response to this news? Could be a fluke.

And he was right. As I said at the start, I was an unlikely writer. I was a housewife, a full-time mom, and back then it still wasn’t the norm for women to set out to have careers. Nor did I think I was doing that, even though it turned out that I was. I just wanted to earn a little money of my own.

But something interesting had happened. By the time I got the offer on that first book, I was halfway through the second, because I was having a ball! That’s when I began to believe that maybe writing books was something I could do well after all. So, Reader, what about you? What might you discover that you can do, if only you try?

Not My DaughterConnect with Barbara Delinsky:

Barbara Delinsky official website
Facebook page

and of course check out her latest book, Not My Daughter, just released in paperback.

Don't forget to check out my giveaway of titles from Vintage Books and Anchor Books as part of the tour stop today.  There will be 5 lucky winners!

Note: All opinions provided on this blog are my own. If a product was given to me for review, the source of that product is noted in the post. Links to are affiliate links and I do earn a small percentage for each item purchased through those links. Any other referral or associate links will be noted within the post.


  1. That was really interesting. My son is severely dyslexic, I won't even talk about school, but I worked hard to instill a love of reading in him. Now he reads two or three different books at the same time. He wants to be an author. It is funny how things that can be difficult when you are younger, can be wonderful to do as an adult.

  2. What a fascinating post about Barbara Delinsky's writing journey! And how inspiring it is for me, as someone who dabbles in writing, to know that I can find it in me to try, despite the fact that I have three (busy) boys and a house to keep and a part-time job.

  3. That was an interesting story. It shows why Barbara Delinsky is such a good and interesting writer. Books like The Vineyard, Coast Road, and An Accidental Woman, for example, capture real and remarkable women in relatable situations. Plus, she does great amount research to add elements of real life experience in different walks of life.
    I always learn about something new; from maple sugar harvesting to lobstering.

  4. A very interesting storyline and lots to learn for anyone.

    cenya2 at hotmail dot com

  5. Wow, that's some journey for you, Barbara! It's great to know someone who was kicked out of Honors English made such a success at writing.

  6. Congrats on following up with your first manuscript! I think it's wonderful that happened for you and that we get to read all of your great stories!

  7. What an interesting story! Thanks for sharing, Barbara :)
    I am an obsessed reader, but never have ventured into writing (yet!)

    - Dee, from e-Volving Books

  8. Congrats!!! I'm very happy to have found your blog!!!

  9. I really like the idea of using an audiorecorder when you are stuck, I may just do that! Thanks! :)

  10. A perfect example of why parents should never discourage their children, but, rather, should always tell them that they can do anything they want to do if they work hard enough!! Imagine if the author had been discouraged as a youngster . . . things might have turned out very differently. Instead, she received guidance, supportive, encouragement, a solution . . . and a career. Great story!


    jhsmail at comcast dot net

  11. Talking it out is truly such a good cure for Writer's Block! What a great post!

    TaraTagli at gmail dot com

  12. I pray that when I publish my books are taken this well. Congrats!
    yospinks at booksand dot net

  13. Great interview Barbara! You are right; never give up on your dreams. You can accomplish anything you set your mind to!

  14. That is truly inspirational. I love it!

  15. I love hearing about triumps. Especially writers that struggled with either writing or reading in school. My son is that way and wants to be a writer.

    Wonderful interview.

    danellejohns at gmail dot com


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