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Meet Lucky 13 Golden Heart Finalist Talia Quinn Daniels

It’s a special treat for me to welcome our latest Lucky 13 guest blogger, Talia Quinn Daniels. She’s not only a 2013 Golden Heart Finalist in Single Title Contemporary, she was a finalist in that category in 2012 as well with her manuscript NO PEEKING, so she’s also one of my fellow Firebirds. And she’s wicked smart and funny and awesome in so many ways. Oh, and did I mention she WON the Golden Heart last year? And gave one of the most moving speeches of the night?

Her 2013 Golden Heart manuscript, WHAT’S YOURS IS MINE, is a sexy contemporary romp. Here’s the blurb:

Darcy Jennings just bought a one bedroom condo, a gorgeous cliffside property in a coastal community north of Santa Barbara. It’s the first time in her life she’s ever had a permanent home, and it means everything to her. It’s especially sweet after what happened four years ago. That’s behind her now, and the rat who nearly ruined her career, one Will Dougherty, is history.

Will Dougherty just bought a one bedroom condo. He helped build the property with his green, clean designs, and he earmarked this unit to make his own. It’s up the road from his newly divorced sister, and it means everything to him. He’s come a long way since the day four years ago when his underhanded coworker, one Darcy Jennings, got him fired.  Thankfully, he’ll never have to see her again.

They couldn’t be more wrong. Darcy finds this out the hard way when she stumbles into her condo after a long business trip, crawls into bed, and discovers a man there. Will Dougherty. And he says it’s not her bed, it’s his.

It seems they bought the same condo.

Now Will and Darcy have to live together twenty four hours a day until one of them admits defeat. When these two strong willed people are stuck together, sparks fly, in more ways than one. They get under each other’s skin and then some.

Don’t you just want to snuggle down into the couch with that one?? Okay, Lucky 13s, you all really, really, REALLY need to get these books published soon!

You can read about NO PEEKING at at Talia’s website: http://taliaquinndaniels.com. Be sure to check out her bio while you’re there–it’s very cool.

Talia grew up in a New York City loft with her artist mother.  Since then, she’s lived in a Craftsman house in Los Angeles, a carriage house in New Jersey, and now lives in Queens with her husband and son, not far from Archie Bunker’s old digs.  She fantasizes sometimes about opening a sinfully healthy grain-free bakery, but then wakes up and realizes how much work would be involved.   So instead she writes contemporary romance and YA.

Take it away, Talia!

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talia.editedIn three months, September 9th, to be exact, my son will enter high school. This is obviously a huge milestone for any kid, but it’s particularly significant for us. I’ve been homeschooling him since the end of fourth grade.

I don’t know how much you all know about homeschooling, but the home part is something of a misnomer.  We’re constantly out and about, heading to homeschool classes, field trips, and park gatherings. And when we’re home, there’s a ton for me to do.  My husband works long hours.  My son has some learning issues. I’m primary caregiver magnified tenfold.

This particular high school looks to be really good for my kid. It will be amazing for me. I’ll have time to write every day. I’ll be able to work at home.  In my little home office. WIth music playing, the window open to the autumn breeze, a cat snoozing on the comfy chair nearby.  Bliss.

Over the years, I’ve written in some strange places.  In a way, these places tell the story of my life as a mom.  For instance:

I wrote a commissioned synopsis for a children’s TV pilot (which didn’t get picked up) while sitting on the floor in the corner of a preschool classroom, my laptop propped up on a low bookshelf as I surreptitiously watched the kids playing and it sank in just how out of place my boy was.

I wrote much of my first novel (literary, heaven help me) in a library in Santa Monica, California during the three hour window while my son was in a therapeutic preschool getting much needed interventions.  I had to keep moving away from the homeless man who muttered imprecations under his breath.

I wrote in the back seat of my car, which was parked on a side street near the beach.  Same three hour stint.  Less stink.

I wrote in a local cafe. Same three hour stint. Much opportunity to eavesdrop on discussions between producers and wannabe screenwriters.  Hugely distracting, even with earbuds and my own music.

I wrote longhand in a notebook, my feet propped up on the dash of our minivan, working on a small writing gig as the scenery around us changed from dry scrub to astounding mountains to lush green vistas. My husband drove us across country to our new home while our seven year old son chattered happily in the back seat about the exciting changes ahead.

For a while, while my kid was in elementary school, I wrote at home, riddled with self doubt, searching for my identity as a writer (I still hadn’t started to write romance).

Until I stopped writing because the school kept calling, asking me to pick up my very unhappy, very anxious boy. And then we brought him home full time.

Since then, I’ve written while sitting on a park bench as the other parents chatted in the sun and our kids played Cops and Robbers in the Central Park playground.

Written late at night, in stolen time I’d pay for the next day.  Finally discovering how fun it was to write romance.

Written on the subway, tapping away with my fingers onto my iPad while keeping the shopping cart filled with produce from the Union Square Greenmarket from slamming into another passenger.

Written at a picnic bench under a spreading tree, after checking in with the other moms to let them know I wasn’t being antisocial, I was finishing up a submission for the Golden Heart contest while our boys shot each other with Nerf darts and plotted complex strategic takeovers of each other’s territory (but mostly shot each other with Nerf darts).

Written in a chilly church basement in mid-winter, wearing fingerless gloves, while my son studied brain science with his homeschool friends.

Written while sitting on his bed last summer as he lay sick with something that looked like flu but wasn’t.  I sweated in the heat.  He wanted the covers on.

Stopped writing completely while he was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma and endured three rounds of chemo.  Last fall was a black hole. I fell in and lost my creativity entirely.

Written in the waiting room while he went in for radiation treatment. Ever so tentatively reconnecting with my muse, which then came roaring back alongside my relief that he was going to be okay.

Now I’m back to writing in that same round of church basement, park bench, library, and occasionally the back seat of my car.  But only for a while longer.

I love my son to bits. I admire him more than I can say, and I’m intensely proud of the teenager he’s become.  But there’s absolutely no question that being a mother to this child — this sensitive, sweet, formerly autistic, insanely talented cancer survivor — has made writing a challenge. And yet somehow I’ve persevered. Sometimes in strange settings, sometimes in strange moods, but I’ve managed. I’m stubborn that way. I look at my Golden Heart necklace from last year and my finalist pin from this year and they seem like badges that say, “I did this for a reason. It’s worth it.”

So yeah. This coming fall, when I get to write at home, write every day, write without carving out seconds here and minutes there, and most of all, write while knowing he’s in a perfect environment to help him mature, it will feel like an enormous luxury. The best present in the world.

I can’t wait.

This has been my compromise as mother and primary caregiver of an intense child.  But I know every one of us has had to compromise and find ways to make the writing a priority in and around everything else in our lives.

How do you manage it?  (And for bonus points, what’s the oddest place you’ve written?)

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You can find Talia  on Twitter: http://twitter.com/TaliaQDaniels

And Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TaliaQuinnDaniels

 

58 responses to “Meet Lucky 13 Golden Heart Finalist Talia Quinn Daniels”

  1. Elisa Beatty says:

    Welcome, Talia! Delighted to have you here today.

    (FYI: I don’t know why the blog is all neon blue and purple today…though maybe that will get fixed before anybody gets here. For now, I’m thinking of it as extra-festive.)

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    • I’m equally delighted to be here, Elisa! And tickled by that lavish intro, thank you!! (And your paean to Diet Coke was very, um, moving too. Or do I mean hilarious? I get those two confused. 😉 )

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  2. Cecily White says:

    Hi Talia!
    Brilliant post, my dear! You continue to be an inspiration to me. I adore you! Can’t wait to read the new manuscript!!!

    Giant hugs!
    -Cecily

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  3. Chris Taylor says:

    What a wonderfully-inspirational story, Talia! I can’t even imagine what your life must be like! I’m awestruck at what you’ve managed to achieve.

    I often write in the toilet. (Might as well put that time to good use, I say!) The kids are always complaining I take so long in there! LOL!

    Looking forward to meeting you in Atlanta! xx

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    • Thank you, Chris! I think most of the time, it’s a pretty normal life. One step at a time, y’know?

      The toilet! Brilliant. It never even occurred to me. I probably could have found enough time for a whole other manuscript! Drat.

      Looking forward to meeting you too!

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  4. Kay Hudson says:

    Great post, Talia. In my caregiver days, I spent a fair amount of time in waiting rooms with my AlphaSmart, but now I mostly write at home. Plotting, however, often happens in my car. Safer than texting or talking, but I have been known to miss an exit once in a while. Looking forward to seeing you again in Atlanta!

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    • The car, ah yes. Second only to the shower for solving knotty story problems. I’ve never actually missed an exit, but I can totally see that happening!

      Waiting rooms are both good and hard places to write, I’ve found. But you do what you have to, right?

      See you soon, Kay! And congrats again on your third final in a row!

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  5. Jean Willett says:

    Congratulations, Talia! You’ve shared an inspirational story of perseverance and mother-love! Every writer knows that to keep going, you must write. You’ve shown the courage to push through the tough times. You’re a Firebird, first, so don’t forget you’re flying high now! Wishing you the best of luck in Atlanta.

    As for how I manage and the weirdest place I’ve written… When my boys were young, I wrote 10pm-midnight every day since I worked a day job. That consistency helped me through two books. The years go by, several moves, teenage years gobbling up my Mom moments and I’m staring at finding that same consistency and pace again. I will say it’s tougher, but perseverance and determination keep me going.
    I have napkins from Taco Bell with plot notes in my files. I’ve written on airplanes, airports, fast food joints, soccer fields, the car, Starbucks, the library. Hmmmm, maybe staying home is the problem 🙂

    Good luck, Talia. I’ll be cheering for you.

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    • Jean, I think this is why the Firebirds name resonated so strongly with me. I’ve been through enough adversity, it’s time to fly up out of the flames!

      And wow, I think you have it covered when it comes to writing locales! But I think you’re right, and consistency is absolutely key, when it’s possible. I’ve occasionally managed (for brief spells) to write at the same time every day, and it’s astounding what happens. It’s like that part of my brain turns on on schedule. I completely trust that when you settle into what you’re working on — and what your focus is with it — that it’ll happen for you again. And I look forward to reading the result!

      See you soon!

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  6. AE Jones says:

    Talia –

    What an amazing life you have led! I am awed by your dedictation. Enjoy your writing time this fall.

    Compared to you, my writing places have been VERY vanilla. Probably my car would be the craziest place for me, but that’s boring…

    Can’t wait to meet you in Atlanta.

    AE

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  7. Leslie Lynch says:

    Ah, Talia… I’m SO glad your son has survived and thrived. Of course, he had a mama tiger on his side. 🙂

    I’ve written in all those places, too. One of my best memories is the gift of six hours of uninterrupted writing while my husband drove across Saskatchewan. Other than that, it has been snatches of minutes here and there. Five minutes in McDonald’s while everyone else is finishing their food. Fifteen minutes while waiting for a doctor to come into the exam room. As long as I can tolerate pecking away at a computer that’s awkwardly perched between me and the reclined airplane seat in front of me…

    Wishes for your career to take off, fellow Lucky 13s Sister Talia!

    Hugs,
    Leslie

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    • Ha, I guess my little girl playing tiger phase was foreshadowing after all! That never occurred to me. I’ve become the tiger after all. Huh.

      And yeah, sounds like you’ve got it covered on the grabbing-moments front. In fact, you may even have me beat. In the exam room? That’s impressive. And wise. It can take a while for the doc to show up!

      Thanks, Leslie. Looking forward to meeting you!

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  8. Amy Deluca says:

    Talia, I loved your post. I knew a little about your son’s story, but this was poetic, learning about your life from coast to coast through the years. Your story is a brilliant example of how as mothers we find a way to do whatever it takes for our kids. My nephew has autism, and your story is inspirational in that regard. Your story as a writer is, too, because you’ve found a way to be true to yourself and your dream in the midst of all the rest. Like Kay, I’ve found my little take-it-anywhere Alphasmart to be so helpful. I’ve written at the playground, the Y pool, on airplanes, hotels, anywhere and everywhere on that little thing.

    Thanks for sharing a little of your life with us. See you soon!

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    • Thank you, Amy! I think I held onto the writing through everything else partly because it was often the only thing I did for myself, that was about who I was separate from everything else going on. And I needed that. Desperately, sometimes.

      I never had an Alphasmart, but I use the iPad the same way. It’s great to have something that portable!

      See you in Atlanta!!

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  9. Sonali Dev says:

    Talia,
    Beautiful post.
    I’m inspired beyond words, both as a mother and a writer. Possibly the two most challenging and wonderful jobs in the world, right?
    Your two time GH final and win couldn’t be more well-deserved. Dedication and love like this can only result in success.

    Huge hugs
    Sonali

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    • When I lived in LA, I used to pass a billboard on one of the major boulevards that said, “Being a parent is the hardest job you’ll ever love.” Boy, did that resonate. Still does. And yeah, writing is like that too, isn’t it?

      It took a while to realize I should be as dogged about my career as I was about getting my kid the right services, etc. But I get it now. (Mostly.)

      Anyway, thank you! Looking forward to meeting you in person!

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  10. Sharon Wray says:

    Hi Talia!
    As a mother and a writer as well, I’ve found myself writing away in some very odd places. Blistering hot baseball practice fields, church sanctuary while my kids attended CCD, sitting on cold indoor pool bleachers during swim team practice, baseball batting cages, and of course in the car while waiting for piano lessons (and all sorts of other activities) to end.
    Congratulations on your second final! I am so happy for you.

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    • Sharon, yes, it sounds like you know exactly what I’m talking about; it’s a secret sisterhood of writer moms, this common experience. My son isn’t into sports, so I haven’t had those particular experiences, though I’ve written by the pool, constantly worried that my laptop or iPad would get wet.

      And thank you, and congrats again on your third and fourth! You rock.

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  11. Elizabeth Langston says:

    I homeschool my daughter (who is on the Autism Spectrum). I didn’t start, though, until she was in high school. She’ll be graduating soon–and I’m already looking forward to the extra time when she heads to college, even though I’m going to miss her like crazy. (But hey, if you’re a parent, you do what you have to do!)

    Weirdest place I’ve ever written: I was at a banquet–all dressed up. There was a fancy printed menu of the meal lying next to my plate. I flipped it over and wrote a whole bunch of dialogue for my WIP. 🙂 Someone asked me if I was taking notes from the keynote speaker–and I said, NO, I’m working on my next book.

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    • Elizabeth, homeschooling is a real blessing, isn’t it? Or it can be, anyway. I know it helped my son heal emotionally in a way that nothing else could have. Kudos to your daughter for going off to college! I hope she has a wonderful experience there. I admit, I’m nervous about that phase, but he continues to grow into himself more every year, so maybe he’ll be ready in four years too.

      Ha on writing at the banquet! That’s completely delightful. I can totally picture it, too. When that bit of dialogue or plot point or pivotal conflict in a scene shows up, it has to get down on paper ASAP, doesn’t it?

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  12. My hat goes off to you, Talia, for being so darn awesome!

    My writing locations pale in comparison to yours, so I won’t even bother naming them. 😉 Can’t wait to meet you in Atlanta!

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    • Aww, thanks, Bonnie! I don’t know, you should see me when I have PMS and haven’t gotten enough sleep. (Not always so awesome then, heh.)

      Looking forward to meeting you and your cadre of cabana boys!

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  13. Gail Hart says:

    You’re quite the survivor, Talia! I’m so happy for you and for your son that he’s reached a point where his need for your time will be less intense. Enjoy getting to use that home office!

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  14. Sandra Owens says:

    Perseverance you have in spades, Talia! I, too, have to say that my writing spots pale in comparison to yours. Enjoy that home office. Sounds like you’ve earned it.

    Atlanta bound! See you there!

    Sandra

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  15. My life is extremely uncomplicated compared to yours, Talia. I commend you for continuing to write through all your challenges. Glad your son is now happy and healthy – a mother’s dream come true. Glad you will soon get to write at home & write every day – a writer’s dream come true!

    I occasionally write while at my day job in the bookstore. But the job is such a busy one that at most I get a 15 second pause to jot down (and tuck in my back pocket for when I get home) an interesting piece of overheard conversation or a sudden idea for a crazy plot twist.

    Can’t wait to meet you in Atlanta and give you a hug, my fellow Lucky 13 sister, and honorary Canadian 🙂

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    • Thanks, Jacqui. Uncomplicated is good. Seriously. I think I needed to be writing during a lot of this, if only to feel like I was still moving forward with my own agenda, not subsumed by the maelstrom, but sometimes it felt like shouting into the wind.

      In my head, at least, a bookstore would be a great place to work, partly because — again, in my head — you’d be invigorated and inspired by all the tomes surrounding you every day. And the opportunity for overheard snippets must be almost as juicy as riding the NYC subways.

      Looking forward to that hug!

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  16. June Love says:

    Talia, welcome to the blog and congratulations on being a GH finalist this year. I love, absolutely love, your blurb. Your post reinforces the belief that if you want it badly enough, you can write anywhere.

    I’ve written in many different places, but sitting in a bar was one of my most unusual places. It was loud, dark, and distracting, but you do what you have to do, right?

    The story of your son warmed my heart. For what he’s been through, he must be one spectacular young man. I wish him the best in his school transition.

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    • Thank you, June! I’m delighted you liked my blurb. 🙂 And writing in a bar is impressive. It would require major ability to shut out your surroundings and focus. (Though I suppose if you’re feeling stuck, some of that easily available alcohol might loosen things up… just saying.) I imagine you haven’t done it it too often, though!

      My son amazes me. Even when he’s being a typical PITA teen, I think back to how he was when he was three and marvel. Not to mention what he went through this past year. He’s bounced back beautifully.

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  17. Nan Dixon says:

    I’m so glad that you are out of the black hole and your muse is overactive!
    Since I write almost everyday, I’ve written in some odd places. But I’ll go with the most fun place — Sitting on a lounge chair, in my swimsuit – looking out at the Pacific Ocean in a fabulous home in Costa Rica. I was working on revisions — but let me tell you, the wildlife, view and possible beverages were a distractions. (If Bonnie reads this — I needed cabana boys!!)
    One of my most productive places to write is on a plane. Used to get lots of writing down there when I was working!
    Amazing what writers will do to work, isn’t it!

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    • Ooh, Nan, that Costa Rican writing spot goes down on my writing retreat wish list right now! Sounds delicious.

      It is indeed amazing how we all manage to fit it in. Sometimes even make it a priority.

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  18. Terri Osburn says:

    This post makes me realize you’re the most grown up grown up I know. (And I mean that as a compliment.) Congrats again on another final. Not surprised in the least and will be cheering from the cheap seats next month.

    I can’t top the banquet notes, but I did write a sex scene while sitting in my car parked at my daughter’s elementary school. She was in volleyball practice, but the field in front of me was covered in Little Leaguers.

    Now I’m jealous of all these portable devices that let you ladies write in all those little scraps of time. Maybe I’ll put an iPad on my Christmas wish list. My kiddo will also head off to 9th grade in the fall. I’d swear I was taking her to Kindergarten just a week ago.

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    • Wow, that’s one hell of a compliment, Terri, thank you. I don’t always feel so grownup but I guess we don’t ever, do we?

      Writing sex scenes in public is the trickiest. Doing it (hey, I mean writing!) in front of Little Leaguers is kind of hysterical. If I’m writing on the subway, I tend to skip past the intimate bits. People can and do look over your shoulder there.

      The iPad mini calls to me with its tiny but usable form factor. I say definitely look into it. If you use Scrivener, WriteRoom and IndexCard play well with it — and Literature and Latte is working on a Scrivener iPad app, too.

      And OMG, yes. Kindergarten, yesterday. I keep looking at D and picturing the little kid he was. Especially now that he’s growing again post-treatment.

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  19. Welcome and congratulations, Talia! As many here have said, your story is inspirational and I’m so glad you found a school you feel will fit your child. Such a difficult decision to make!

    As for writing in odd places…not sure about odd, but definitely have done my fair share of writing in the car. And probably will again this summer, as I find myself on a deadline during a family road trip. 🙂

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    • Thank you, Anne Marie! It was hard to imagine putting him back in school, but once we saw this place, we knew it would be far better for him than any other option, including continuing to homeschool. I’m excited for him. He’s… um… not as excited. But I think he’ll adjust and have a great experience there.

      I actually find it incredibly difficult to write in a moving car. The thrum of the engine lulls me into mindlessness. I’m better sitting in the back seat of a quiet parked car, with the windows open. Much luck with the writing this summer!

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  20. Hope Ramsay says:

    Talia, your story is very inspirational. Thanks so much for sharing it with us today.

    I’m so boring. I write in my office. When my kids were little, I would get up at 4:30 in the morning for that two hour window before they had to get ready for school and I had to get ready for work.

    I did, however, write my first book in 1982 on an electric typewriter. I didn’t get a computer until 1986. So, yeah, I banged that sucker out on real paper, then hand edited it and had to type it clean before submitting. To this day there is only one photocopied version of that book. It was so bad I suppose I should be happy about that. But finishing it was a huge accomplishment so I keep it in a box under the bed.

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    • I’m glad the post resonated, Hope.

      As a night owl, the idea of getting up at 4:30 am makes me shudder. Color me impressed!

      And I remember writing short stories in college on a typewriter, at the tail end of the pre-personal computer days. That was hard enough, with white-out and carbon copies and such. A whole novel? Daunting. So much better this way!

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  21. Darcy Woods says:

    Hi Talia! This post was incredibly moving, so thank you for sharing that difficult chapter of your life. It is a testament to the fierceness of women, mothers, and of course…writers. (uh, anyone else want to burn their bra now?)

    Strangest place I’ve ever written? In a beat up red van that resembled a bread truck during a roadtrip adventure in Ireland. I swear, every time we pulled into a small village, the townspeople would scatter! We later learned the van we rented was primarily what the gypsies drove. Naturally, I found being mistaken for an Irish gypsy the coolest thing ever 🙂 So cool, I might have to write a book about it…

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    • Thank you, Darcy. It’s been quite a journey, this past decade. I’d burn my bra but… um… nobody wants to see me without a bra. Maybe I can buy a bra to burn?

      A YA or NA involving being mistaken for Irish gypsies? That could be pretty awesome. I have an Irish mistake story, too, as a matter of fact. Maybe they’re prone to it? My husband and I once walked into a pub in Sligo and went up the bar to order. The bartender, an older man with a heavy brogue, complimented me on my English! (I’m a Jewish New Yorker. English, it’s not exactly a foreign language, here.) He thought I was Italian. Or maybe Gypsy. Not sure. But it was pretty funny.

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  22. Piper says:

    Talia,

    This was beautifully written and I so admire your persistance. On the inspy blog I follow, we all chose our “one word” at the beginning of the year to describe our intentions for our writing year this year and mine is “persist”. I’m ashamed to say that halfway through I haven’t done as well with it as I might like, but your example shines like a beacon for me. I don’t even have an odd place to share (does football practice count? I think not), so what I said I would do in the first place–persist.

    Best of luck to you and your son on this new journey in your lives and congrats,

    Piper

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    • Persist is an awesome word for the year, Piper. I guess I’ve taken it on as my motto, huh? I’ve always been stubborn, I think. It’s finally come in handy! I wish you much powerful persistence this year.

      See you soon!

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  23. AJ Larrieu says:

    Beautiful. Thank you for this; it’s inspiring. And keep writing–I want more of your stories.

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  24. Elisa Beatty says:

    Thanks so much for being with us, Talia!!

    And, like AJ says, keeping writing, wherever you have to do it!

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  25. Joanna Shupe says:

    Talia,

    What a great story! You are definitely a motivated writer. I love that you write wherever you need to. I sometimes have trouble filtering out the background noise, but it sounds like you have amazing focus when you need to.

    Best of luck to you and your family with the high school transition, and looking forward to meeting you in ATL.

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    • Joanna, thanks! I use earbuds and a steady rotation of music I know works for me for writing. Helps me shut out the rest of the world in most, though not all, situations. It’s getting harder now that I know it’ll be over soon, ironically.

      Looking forward to meeting you too, almost-neighbor.

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  26. Each of the pieces of your journey makes me like you more, you realize? 🙂 I first chatted with you on a patio of a PF Changs in California during a pretty dark time for you. Writers are weird creatures, no? Sometimes we just “click” with a person and feel this tremendous empathy and connection. It was definitely that way for you.

    I love your honesty, Talia and wish you every success with this new (awesome sounding!) book.

    As for me, my oddest writing location was at 5:00am in the front seat of my car on a very quiet country road while waiting for help fixing a flat tire. Bizarre! Four pages done, though. 😉

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