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The Coincidence of a Love Story

[This post is the fourth in a six-part series of Book Reviews of books by some of our 2016 Midwest Writers faculty. The MWW interns wrote the reviews as one of their assignments for the Ball State University class “Literary Citizenship in a Digital Age,” taught by MWW Director Jama Kehoe Bigger.]

 

Warning: Do not read on an empty stomach. Amy E. Reichert’s debut novel The Coincidence of Coconut Cake not only contains descriptions of food that makes you want to taste them yourself, but is also a delicious meal containing perfect servings of humor, romance and drama.

Coincidence bookLou is the owner of a small French restaurant in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Lou is living the dream, owning her own kitchen, despite the conflicts with her fiancés plans. Her dream is shattered when she decided to surprise him on his birthday with a coconut cake, only to find him with a half naked intern. She tried to get her mind off the betrayal by working, but ended up only making the worst dish she had ever made (unknowingly) for the snarky new restaurant critic in town. When Lou goes to a bar to wallow in the sorrow of her broken relationship, she meets Al, a British newcomer. After some drunken flirtation she promises him to show him the best of Milwaukee. After a series of non-dates around Milwaukee, Al falls in love with Lou and the city, only to find out her true identity and to discover his review of her restaurant had ruined her business while also crushing her dreams.

Amy Reichert’s own experience in the kitchen served her well when writing this novel. She gives a look at what happens backstage in the kitchen, while also showing the different kinds of people that work there. Her many descriptions of food making making readers want to try the dishes she described. I do like the pace in the book because it shows a realistic sense of dating and falling in love. The plot was well written, with two plot lines being mixed into one, one plot about romance, the other about Lou trying to save her restaurant. The story keeps you interested in the plot while leading up to the climax. Reichert wraps up the ending quickly with a glimmer of hope, which works well for this book. The novel focuses on building their relationship, until they finally realize they were truly in love.

By Kara Harris

Meet Karma Brown, popular Women’s Fiction author

Karma Brown is a National Magazine Award-winning journalist, freelance writer, and author of the international bestseller (and listed as one of The Globe & Mail’Top 100 books for 2015) Come Away With Me (Mira/HarperCollins). She spent her debut year blogging at The Debutante Ball, and is a proud member of the Tall Poppy Writers group. A former marketing director and copywriter, Karma now spends her days writing fiction in coffee shops, coloring (outside the lines) with her daughter, and perfecting her banana bread recipe. She’s also an avid runner, skier, and bucket list chaser, who believes coffee cures all. Karma lives just outside Toronto, Canada with her family. Her second novel, The Choices We Make, hits shelves July 12, 2016.

MWW committee member Shelly Gage recently interviewed Karma about her MWW sessions.

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MWW: What should we expect from your sessions at MWW and how will they be structured?

KB: In our Women’s Fiction session Amy E. Reichert and I will discuss the genre’s definition and scope, common (and often overused) tropes, and what makes Women’s Fiction such a vital part of the publishing landscape. The workshop will explore different writing styles seen in Women’s Fiction, tips for your own writing, and ideas for helping your story stand out–including characterization, pacing, and conflict. We’ve also asked attendees to do a bit of pre-work, which is to read Forever, Interrupted and Maybe In Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid, who we’ll be using as one example of how variable Women’s Fiction can be. The session will be interactive and hands-on, meaning you won’t have to listen to us drone on as though we’re delivering a lecture! It’s meant to be a fun yet intensive workshop, with significant takeaways for those writing within this genre. [NOTE: STILL TIME TO REGISTER AND TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THIS: For those with complete story ideas, you’re welcome to submit a 2 page, single-spaced synopsis to Karma and Amy, along with your first 250 words by July 1 (midwestwriters@yahoo.com/subject line: Women’s Fiction Intensive). All submitted synopses and writing samples will be given feedback, and a few will be discussed in class.]

MWW: What achievement are you most proud of and why?

KB: Outside of my marriage and becoming a mother (a major achievement as we had an extraordinary path to parenthood, which involved cancer and  gestational surrogacy  (http://www.redbookmag.com/life/mom-kids/features/a44046/my-sister-was-my-surrogate-and-i-am-a-mother-because-of-her/), I would say seeing Come Away With Me on the bookstore shelves (and bestseller list!) is the thing I’m most proud of. Whenever someone tells me how lucky I am to be an author and writer, I like to point out that luck had little to do with it (but thank you!) — that book showcases a lot of hard work, frustration, rejection, and grit.

MWW: What writing tip or two has had the most positive impact on your career?

KB: There are two writing tips that have stuck with me over the years: one,  you can’t edit a blank page (this seems to be attributed to a number of authors, but the first time I heard it was from Jodi Picoult); and two,  write every day. This last one is from Stephen King, whose memoir and writing craft book On Writing remains my favorite, and the one I go to whenever I need a boost. I’m fairly diligent about setting my alarm for a 5 a.m. wake up call, especially when I’m heavy into drafting, and knocking out a thousand words or so before everyone else gets up. It keeps me sane (as long as I have coffee) AND keeps the momentum going.

Mac or PC?

Mac. I can’t even use a PC anymore. My MacBook Air and I have a serious relationship (the keys are basically illegible because the letters have been scratched off from so much typing), and I don’t even like other people to touch it.

Plotter or Pantser?

I like to call myself a “Plantser” – part plotter, part pantser. I create a fairly in-depth synopsis before I even start writing, and then map out the chapters and scenes using a writing tool called Scrivener (there is nothing better for drafting a book, though I do final edits and revisions in Word). But once I have this roadmap I allow myself some freedom, and see where the characters take me. Also, I never have the end sorted out until I’m about two thirds of the way through the book.

Early bird or night owl?

I used to be a night owl, but then I had a child and she’s the quintessential early bird (she used to wake up at 4 a.m., EVERY SINGLE DAY). She trained me to get up before the sun and birds, and I realized it was the perfect time to write. So now I’m an early bird and I can’t imagine going back to late night writing … everything feels so much more manageable in the morning, as long as there’s a lot of coffee.

Coffee or tea?

*See above!

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Karma’s Part II sessions include:What to Expect When You’re Expecting a (Book) Baby –  Taking a book from SOLD to shelf can be a long process, filled with plenty of unknowns, hard labor, and thrilling milestones. Tips and insights for what to expect through (and beyond) the debut year.
Slaying the Synopsis – Tips and tricks for how to write a killer synopsis that gets the job done…without losing your mind, or your creative energy, while you do!

Q&A with Women’s Fiction author Amy E. Reichert

Reichert AmyAmy E. Reichert loves to write stories that end well with characters you’d invite to dinner. A wife, mom, amateur chef, Fix-It Mistress, and cider enthusiast, she earned her MA in English Literature, spent eight years in the technical writing mines, and currently serves on her local library’s board of directors. Her debut,The Coincidence of Coconut Cake (Gallery, 2015), was called “clever, creative, and sweetly delicious” by Kirkus Reviews. Her second book, Luck, Love & Lemon Pie, will follow on July 12, 2016.

Amy and Karma Brown are co-teaching the Part I intensive session Women’s Fiction, Deconstructed. [NOTE: openings still available!]

In this session we’ll discuss the genre’s definition and scope, common (and often overused) tropes, and what makes Women’s Fiction such a vital part of the publishing landscape. The workshop will explore different writing styles seen in Women’s Fiction, tips for your own writing, and ideas for helping your story stand out -including characterization, pacing, and conflict. Pre-Work: Before the day of the intensive, please read FOREVER, INTERRUPTED and MAYBE IN ANOTHER LIFE by Taylor Jenkins Reid so everyone is familiar with and able to discuss the same examples. For those with complete story ideas, you’re welcome to submit a 2 page, single-spaced synopsis to Karma and Amy, along with your first 250 words by July 1 (midwestwriters@yahoo.com/subject line: Women’s Fiction Intensive). All submitted synopses and writing samples will be given feedback, and a few will be discussed in class.

MWW committee member Cathy Shouse recently interviewed Amy about what her MWW session attendees can expect, and so much more.

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MWW: Your debut novel, The Coincidence of Coconut Cake received sparkling reviews, including Booklist saying that “Well-developed secondary characters and detailed descriptions of the Milwaukee food scene will leave readers hungry for more.” Your second book, Luck, Love and Lemon Pie, and will come out on July 12. Kirkus Reviews wrote: “An enjoyable and thought-provoking exploration of a modern day marriage in midlife crisis.”
Tell us what it feels like to see those kinds of reviews. And given that you’re from Milwaukee and a food lover, will your intensive at MWW include ways for writers to incorporate their own interests in their books? What should attendees to your class expect? Lecture? Writing exercises?

AER: When I see reviews like that I feel relief that the themes I was trying to explore came through successfully on the page, at least to one person. And the intensive I’m teaching with the lovely Karma Brown will absolutely touch on incorporating personal passions into the story. Participants should expect to leave with a better understanding of Women’s Fiction, its place in the publishing world, and how to use that knowledge to improve their own storytelling. At this point, it will be mostly discussion and lecture, with the emphasis on discussion.

MWW: Please provide a thumbnail sketch of your road to publication. Next, if MWW was a part of your journey to getting published, what ways did the conference help you?

AER: The quick version of my path was write CAKE, revise it, query, get rejections, meet writing friends, learn about writing and everything I was doing wrong, revise, query, get more rejections, learn more about writing and repeat for 14 months until I finally had a presentable draft and signed with my amazing agent (who will also be at MWW), Rachel Ekstrom. She found me in her slush pile. I revised again, then we took CAKE on submission for about ten months when my fantastic editor, Kate Dresser at Gallery, snapped it up. While I didn’t meet my agent or editor at MWW, I did meet most of my close writing friends. Without their knowledge and support, I wouldn’t be where I am. MWW is great for soaking up knowledge, but meeting other writers and sharing experiences is almost more valuable. I look forward to this event every year!

MWW:  What is the best piece of advice or three you’ve ever been given about writing or a writing career?

AER: 1. First drafts suck. Accept it, then finish it so you can start making it better.  2. Don’t read reviews! When you’re immersed in the publishing world, everyone you know reads and leaves reviews, but the vast majority of readers don’t. And you can’t change a bad review, so why torment yourself. That being said, I will occasionally fall down this rabbit hole.  3. The publishing world is a small one. Professionalism, honesty, and kindness will serve you very well.

MWW: In conclusion, what are your responses to the following quiz?
MAC or PC?

My Macbook is my life.

Pantser or plotter, (meaning do you just start writing or do you plan/outline)? (For fiction)

Plotter. The more I know about where my story is headed, the more layers I can incorporate in a first draft.

Scrivener (or fancy fill-in-the-blank software) or Word?

Scrivener, though I will switch to Word once my editor and I move into copy edits because we need to keep track of the changes.

Early bird or night owl?
Night owl. Mornings are loathsome and horrible, only made better by the existence of coffee (and I’m so excited there will be a Starbucks at MWW this year). I also do my best writing between 9 pm and 1 am when everything is quiet.