Happy 150th, Jo March! (and a giveaway)

Ladies and gentlemen, today’s word is “sesquicentennial.” Isn’t that a terrific word? It really rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?

Next Sunday, September 30, 2018, marks the 150th anniversary — the sesquicentennial — of the publication of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women.

I doubt she could have foreseen her book’s enduring popularity, or have guessed that her story of four young women coming of age in the aftermath of the Civil War would one day be considered a classic — reprinted countless times with countless covers, adapted for film somewhere around a dozen times already, with not one but two more movies heading to the screen shortly.

Nor could she possibly have known the impact that her book, and in particular the character of Jo March, would have on generations of aspiring young writers.

I was one of them.

I spent seven formative years of my childhood and young adulthood in Concord, Massachusetts, the small New England town where Louisa lived when she wrote Little Women.

I used to save my babysitting money (I earned a whopping 25 cents an hour back then!) and ride my bike the mile to her home — which is called Orchard House — and treat myself to the tour. The ladies who led the tours were always so nice to me, and if they thought it was weird that I was there all by myself, they didn’t say so.

Orchard House

It’s a wonderful old historic house, filled with treasures from the Alcott family, which is easy to mix up with the March family, her fictional characters, because so much of the book was inspired by her own life, and her own family. Anyway, I remember just standing there staring at the little half-moon desk that her father had made her, and thinking, “Wow, that’s where she sat when she was writing Little Women,” and thinking that maybe I would have a writing desk of my own one day.

I desperately wanted to be a writer just like Jo March, Louisa’s headstrong fictional alter-ego, even back then.

And now, here I am, lo these many years later, and I do have a writing desk of my own, just like Louisa did, and my dream of being a writer did come true, and there are books with my name on them sitting on shelves in bookstores and libraries and actual readers’ homes across the country and beyond! And I have Louisa to thank for it.

https://www.heathervogelfrederick.com/blog/2010/04/fan-mail-friday/the-mother-daughter-book-club-2/I did thank her, in the only way I knew how — by honoring her in a book. The Mother-Daughter Book Club is my homage to Louisa and her Jo. It’s the tale of a group of middle-school girls in Concord, Massachusetts, whose mothers force them to join a book club and read Little Women. They soon discover how timeless the book’s themes are, and are surprised to find so many echoes of the March sisters and their trials and triumphs in their own lives.

So happy sesquicentennial, Little Women! I fully expect you to be around for at least another 150 years!

To celebrate this remarkable milestone, I think we need to have a giveaway, don’t you? I have a complete boxed set of all seven books in the Mother-Daughter Book Club series that I’ll be happy to autograph and send to one of you! Just leave a comment below, letting us know your connection to Little Women, and the impact it’s made on your life. If you haven’t read it yet, that’s OK, you can just leave a post telling us that you plan to (we’ll hold you to it!).

The winner will be chosen at random at midnight on the September 30, 2018, the 150th anniversary of the publication of Little Women! Share this giveaway on your blog or Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest or other social media for additional entries. (If you share on social media, please leave a link in the comments so that I can assign you an extra entry.)  U.S. and Canada only, please. Have fun!

Fan mail Friday

I am w-a-y overdue with a fan mail update (and w-a-y behind on answering my fan mail, for all of you waiting so patiently to hear back from me), and a recent flurry of absolutely truly FABULOUS photos some of you sent in has given me just the nudge I needed.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, right? Well, the pictures I’m going to share with you today are worth more than that — they’re worth their weight in gold! It’s hard to put in words how much it means to me to receive your letters and beautiful drawings and lovely photos. To say that it touches my heart is the understatement of the 21st century! But that’s exactly what it does, and I treasure each and every one of my readers who so generously take the time to thank me in this way.

The connection between reader and writer is a special one, isn’t it? I ponder it often. In a way, reading a book is a long conversation between the writer and the reader — at least I like to think of it that way. It’s a conversation that transcends time and place, that can reach across the centuries. Just think of it, Jane Austen wrote Pride and Prejudice for me! Someone she would never know; someone living in a world she couldn’t possibly have imagined at the time she was writing. And E.B. White — could he have dreamed of the impact that Charlotte’s Web would have on me?

Me, happily connecting with E.B. White

And now, my books are going out into the world, and connecting with many of you — and in turn you reach out to connect with me, whether it’s through the pure and wondrous experience of reading itself, or whether it’s through your letters, your emails, your comments on this blog, your artwork, or your photographs.

Thank you, each and every one of you, from the bottom of my heart!

And now, this Friday’s fan mail:

Do you love this sweet smile or what?!  Wow!

And how about this one? Heart-melter, right?

And look at this amazing mother-daughter book club! Don’t they look like they’d be fun to read with? 

Come back and visit again on future Fridays, as I have more fun fan art and photos to share. And meanwhile, it’s JULY! National ice cream MONTH! What are you doing sitting here reading this blog? You should be out there rustling up some ice cream. Go! Now! Do it!



And the winners are…

Salma and Shelby!

Congratulations — look for an email from me soon, with details.

Loved reading EVERYONE’S maple memories!  I wish I could invite you all over to my house for homemade sourdough waffles and maple syrup, just like Truly’s father makes for her in YOURS TRULY…

Believe it or not, there’s another giveaway just around the corner, to celebrate the paperback release of MOTHER-DAUGHTER BOOK CAMP. Stay tuned!


See you in Hadley & a giveaway!

It’s a beautiful sunny Saturday morning in Boston, and I’m looking forward to seeing some of you at a book signing this afternoon (2 pm) in Hadley, Massachusetts, where I’ll be at the Barnes & Noble as part of their B-Fest Teen Book Festival!  It’s the biggest weekend of author events in B&N history, and promises to be great fun! Click here for more information.

For those of you who live far away and can’t join us, fear not, I’ve thought of a way you can participate … with a giveaway!

One of you will win a FULL SET of the Mother-Daughter Book Club series — yes, all seven of them, including hot-off-the-press MOTHER-DAUGHTER BOOK CAMP!

Mother-Daughter Book Camp

And that’s not all (as they say on those obnoxious TV commercials) — there will be other surprises in your box o’ goodies…

So, here’s the challenge for you: Come up with a Mother-Daughter Book Club trivia question and enter it in the comments section below. (Feel free to answer each other’s questions, too, if you want to, just for fun!)

The winner will be chosen at random at midnight on June 25, 2016. Share this giveaway on your blog or Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or other social media for additional entries, using the hashtag #MDBCgiveaway. (If you share on social media, please leave a link in the comments below so I can assign you an extra entry.) U.S. and Canada only, please.

CANADA and CONCORD, here I come!

I’m thrilled to announce two upcoming bookstore appearances, in two of my very favorite places!

To help celebrate the launch of MOTHER-DAUGHTER BOOK CAMP, the seventh and final (sniff) book in my Mother-Daughter Book Club series, I’ll be heading first to Vancouver, British Columbia (yep, that’s right, my first appearance in CANADA!), and then on to Concord, Massachusetts, the town that started it all (the books are set in my old hometown, in case you didn’t know — talk about bringing it full circle…).

If you’re in either area, I’d love to see you! Please come join me on Monday, May 2, at 7 pm at Kidsbooks in Vancouver or Sunday, May 22nd at 3 pm at The Concord Bookshop in Concord (full details on both events here).

Warning: there may be dorky pictures of me at summer camp involved…

Mother-Daughter Book Camp



Saturday Story Starter

Well hellooooooo there!  It’s been a while, hasn’t it? I have a really REALLY good excuse, though — we’ve been in the middle of a move. A BIG move. An all-the-way-across-the-country-from-Oregon-to-Boston kind of move! Things are still pretty topsy-turvy around here, but we’re starting to feel settled. It’s really fun to be back on home turf (I grew up in New Hampshire and the Boston area), and I’m especially loving the snow!

On the book front, MOTHER-DAUGHTER BOOK CAMP is in the pipeline and ready to go. Look for it on bookshelves near you May 3rd. Wheee! This is the 7th and final (I know I said that last time but really truly final) book in the series. Click here to read a sneak peek. And fear not, although it’s the last hurrah for my book club girls, there’s more fun ahead for you with a book that will be out in early 2017 — YOURS TRULY, the sequel to ABSOLUTELY TRULY. I’m putting the finishing touches on that this spring.

What do you say we dive into a little Saturday Story Starter? I can’t think of a better way to spend a cold and snowy weekend (at least it’s cold and snowy here in Boston).

For those of you who haven’t participated before, Saturday Story Starter is purely for fun, just a way to exercise those writing muscles (think of it as Heather’s Literary Gym). I rewrite my essay a lot but lately I’ve been lacking inspiration so I started this. There are no prizes, only the simple joy of putting words on paper (well, OK, on the computer screen). Also, I won’t be offering critiques, just brief words of encouragement, but I will read all your entries, that I can promise! (And if you’d like to read some of the earlier stories that have been shared, click here and click here and here and click here and here and click here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here to browse to your heart’s content.)

Let’s get started, shall we?

Snow day in Boston

Ah, pink tulips and snow. Two of my favorite things! And even better together!

But what are they doing here? Who brought them? Who are they for? And what’s the story behind the tulips and the snowy winter scene we glimpse through the window? You’re the writer, so it’s your decision. Set the scene for us, and tell us a story…

Ready, set, WRITE!

A Mother-Daughter Book Club quiz for you

Here’s a little quiz sent in by one of my readers — thank you, Sabina!  How fun is this?!

Which mother (or grandmother) are you?

You’re in charge of dessert for your family today. You…
a) Bake a chocolate volcano cupcake
b) Make macaroons
c) Bake whole wheat, sugar free rhubarb cookies
d) Go to the local ice-cream shop and bring some ice cream home
e) Bake a coconut cream pie
f) Bake brownies

You like…
a) Cooking
b) Paris and fashion
c) Making the world a better place
d) Literature
e) Gardening
f) Acting

It’s your child’s (or grandchild’s) birthday! You give them…
a) Sports-themed jewelry
b) A trip to Paris
c) 100 trees planted in your child’s name
d) A boxed set of novels
e) An educational trip
f) A cake decorating class with you and your child

You and your child (or grandchild)…
a) Have different interests, but not very distant
b) Are super close
c) Are VERY different!
d) Are super-duper close!
e) Aren’t very close
f) Except occasionally, close

If you answered mostly…
a) You are Mrs. Sloane-Kinkaid!
b) You are Gigi!
c) You are Mrs. Wong!
d) You are Mrs. Hawthorne!
e) You are Mrs. Chadwick! (Isn’t that fantastic?)
f) You are Mrs. Deleany!


Which daughter are you?

Your house is…
a) An ultra-modern house
b) A cozy Cape Cod-style house
c) A little house on a farm
d) A victorian “Painted Lady”
e) A stiff, formal house with a stiff, formal garden

People would describe you as…
a) Fashionable
b) A bookworm
c) Super smart
d) Sporty
e) A frenemy

Your hobby is…
a) Sewing and designing clothes
b) Reading and writing
c) Helping rehabilitate animals
d) Playing sports
e) Cheerleading

You’ve had a bad day at school. To cheer yourself up, you…
a) Read a fashion magazine
b) Work on a poem
c) Volunteer at an animal shelter
d) Go to the rink or other place to play sports
e) Go to the mall

It’s your turn to pick a book for book club! You pick…
a) A book on the history of fashion
b) Jane Eyre
c) A story about a horse or other animal
d) A biography of a famous sports star
e) A “diary” book about middle school drama

If you answered mostly…
a) You are Megan!
b) You are Emma!
c) You are Jess!
d) You are Cassidy!
e) You are Becca!
Which father (or stepfather) are you most like?

Your job is…
a) An accountant
b) You don’t have a stable job yet, but for now, pizza delivering!
c) You work on a farm
d) A writer
e) A computer whiz

You like to…
a) Watch sports
b) Play volleyball
c) Do farm work
d) Read and write
e) Fiddle with technology

If you answered mostly…
a) You are Stanley Kinkaid!
b) You are Mr. Chadwick!
c) You are Mr. Delaney!
d) You are Mr. Hawthorne!
e) You are Mr. Wong!

Anybody want to share who they got?  Feel free to comment below!  

And the winner is …

Kylie Wakulat!

I totally agree with Kylie about sometimes just wanting to cuddle up in your favorite pair of sweatpants. In fact, guess what I’m wearing right now?

Ha! Busted.

Congratulations on winning the audio version of DEAR PEN PAL, Kylie!

DPP Audio

Check your email inbox for official notification, as I’ll be contacting you directly soon to make arrangements to send it to you.

Thanks to all of you who entered this giveaway — and look for another giveaway next week, to celebrate the release of the audio version of the fourth book in the MOTHER-DAUGHTER BOOK CLUB series, PIES & PREJUDICE!

Behind the scenes with EMILY WOO ZELLER and a GIVEAWAY!

Oh my goodness! Life got away from me here — I’m in the middle of a cross-country move (more on that in another post) and things are topsy-turvy and I have sorely neglected this blog as a consequence.

Meanwhile, the rest of the Mother-Daughter Book Club series has been released in audio! Which means we have some catching up to do with spotlight interviews and giveaways!

Let’s start with DEAR PEN PAL, shall we?

DPP Audio

I am having SO MUCH FUN listening to these books. It’s almost like I didn’t write them. Seriously! Listening to a story is just a completely different (though equally wonderful) experience from reading one.

And I have been enormously blessed with a FANTASTIC cast of actors reading the parts of my book club girls. Wow, is all I can say!  The audio versions are produced by Ideal Audiobooks, and the stellar cast includes Amy Rubinate, Cris Dukehart, Kate Rudd, Emily Woo Zeller, and Shannon McManus. I’m truly honored to have these five AMAZING voice actors playing the parts of Emma, Jess, Cassidy, Megan, and Becca!  When you listen, I hope you’ll agree that they’ve beautifully captured the girls’ individual characters, which spring to life in a new way in their excellent hands … er, voices.

In past posts, I spoke with Amy Rubinate, the voice of Emma Hawthorne; Cris Dukehart, the voice of Jess Delaney; and Kate Rudd, the voice of Cassidy Sloane. Today, we’re going to meet Emily Woo Zeller!

Emily Woo Zeller

I’m just bowled over not only by Emily’s voice, but also by her grace and beauty and TALENT! In addition to her work as an audiobook narrator (Audiofile Magazine named her one of the “Best Voices of 2015” — go, Emily!), she’s an actor, singer, dancer, and choreographer.

So Emily, how did you get into audio work? We’d love to hear about your career path.

My performance training started when I was very young, in dance and in music, and eventually theater.  I’ve also always been a big reader. I just love getting caught up in a story that I can read or listen to. While watching movies is fun and great in its own way, there’s something special about reading or listening to or acting out a story. Anyway, I’m getting distracted!

I started full time voiceover work in Hong Kong when I moved there after I got my B.A. I was dubbing film and television in Hong Kong. It was primarily animation, but we sometimes did live action films or series. I loved getting to play so many different characters and having fun with lots of different voices and emotions. When I moved back to the U.S. in 2008, I sent an audition in to what was then BBC Audiobooks America, when I heard that they were looking for people – and I auditioned and booked my first book in 2009! From there, it was a slow progression of training and doing the best work I could do and being connected to others doing the same. Even though both types of voiceover really use a range of characters, one of the ways animation is different from audiobook recording is that in animation, you can be expected to go really far with one character and bring it to a cartoonish level immediately. With audiobooks, characters are of course important but telling the whole story – communicating all the narrative parts in between character lines – is usually the bulk of the job.

What’s your process in preparing to record/read a book aloud?

Always read the book first. I take notes about characters, dialects, accents, unknown words, and the author’s and/or character’s personality. Over the years and certainly to this day, I am always working on improving my skills and adding different characters to my repertoire.  I take notes because I usually have more than one book going at one time. 

What does a typical day look like for you? (if there is such a thing!)

There is no real typical day for me overall. I run my own business so I wear many hats. Always, I am striving to eat well and get enough sleep and rest so that I can have my brain and body working optimally. I learned the hard way that my body needs a break. If I don’t take care of myself, I get sick … and then I can’t work! While the bulk of the work is recording, I spend a time reading the stories and preparing them, sometimes I take care of the business side of things, sometimes I spend time connecting with the audiobook community, such as getting to connect with you!

 On a typical recording day, which can be for many, many days in a row, I make sure I am extra hydrated the day before, and during the recording day, I stay hydrated and drink herbal tea that soothes the throat. I eat foods that won’t make my tummy grumbly or my mouth dry.  I give myself a little time in the morning for my body to wake up and I do a vocal warmup before I get into the booth. The hours are long in there when you’re recording books and it can be very taxing in both the short and long term.  I sit on a yoga ball in my booth to help me keep good posture and keep up the energy while recording.

Did you listen to audio books growing up?  Do you listen to them now? How does the experience differ for you from reading the printed word?

I didn’t listen to audiobooks much when I was a kid, but they weren’t as popular or available as they are now. I do remember listening to and loving Danny Glover reading “Brer Rabbit and the Wonderful Tar Baby.” I certainly listen to audiobooks now. It helps me to learn more about the industry and enjoy more books when my eyes are busy or I’m on a crowded subway and can’t hold up a book. Audio has a lot of possibilities.  How different is it to hear someone tell you a story? There are so many thoughts and experiences we have that are triggered by sound, but there’s still plenty of space for imagination and I think that’s really great. Actually, I can’t do anything that requires much concentration when I’m listening because I get totally absorbed!

Turning to “The Mother-Daughter Book Club,” did you find any connections between yourself and the character that you narrated?  

Megan is a really interesting character for me. She’s helped me to grow as a person! I never really paid any attention to fashion but seeing it through her eyes, as a way to connect to people and see as an expression of personality and form, has made me appreciate it more. It’s great that she offers her talent to her friends. Certainly, as an artist, I understand her passion and her need to participate in the world through her medium.

I love seeing her grow through the series. She was a bit of a mean girl at first but she’s slowly learning that you can still do what you love without putting anyone else down and that her awesome friends, all of whom have at least one trait I connect to, have something to offer to her and to the world. It’s so great seeing them all grow up and have fun doing it, even if it is hard sometimes.

I also love her grandma, Gigi. She totally reminds me of someone I know (I won’t say their name here!). And Megan’s mom really makes me think of what I might be like as a mom because I love eating healthy and philanthropy and have strong political opinions. It made me consider how that might be difficult if I had a kid like Megan, and think about how I would make space for someone like Megan to be herself and grow, and also let her know that I love her.

Any fun facts about yourself that you might like to share with us?

I was trained as a kid first in Chinese Folk Dance and eventually moved into Chinese martial arts in college.

I haven’t done as many triathlons as Cris Dukehart [the voice of Jess Delaney], but I have done one and I loved it!

I play the piano and a little guitar.

I dye my hair with a streak of purple because I like the look and I never dyed my hair as a kid.  See? Fashion expression!

I love the color purple.

EmilyWooZeller purple

I told you she was fabulous! Thanks so much for visiting with us, Emily. I’m so thrilled that you agreed to play the role of Megan in THE MOTHER-DAUGHTER BOOK CLUB audiobooks — your wonderful narration brought her to life for me in ways I couldn’t even have imagined. My readers and I can’t wait to hear what else you have in store for us in the future! 

For more information on Emily and her stellar work, click here to visit her website. 

Now, how about that giveaway?  

One of you will receive a free download of the new audio version of DEAR PEN PAL. All you have to do is comment below, telling us if you’re a fashionista like Megan, or a fashion faux pas like me!

The winner will be chosen at random at midnight on February 1, 2016. Share this giveaway on your blog or Facebook or Twitter or other social media for additional entries. (If you share on social media, please leave a link in the comments below so I can assign you an extra entry.) 

And the winners are…

  • Madison Cassidy, who started reading the series in middle school and is now a freshman in college
  • Sam, who confessed to feeling “unnaturally excited for this book” (there’s no such thing, Sam, I assure you)!
  • Olivia, who almost hyperventilated when she heard there was going to be a 7th book

Congratulations, everyone! Each of you won an ARC (Advance Reader Copy) of MOTHER-DAUGHTER BOOK CAMP, which will be published in May. Check your email inboxes for official notification, as I’ll be contacting you directly soon to get your mailing information.

MDBC 7 front cover

Thanks to all of you who entered this giveaway — OVER TWO HUNDRED OF YOU, I might add! Wowza! That’s a record for this blog, I think. I sure wish I had enough ARCs to send to all of you, but I’m sending my love and thanks, that’s for sure. Enthusiastic and supportive readers like you make all the hard work worthwhile.

Stay tuned, because I have several more giveaways up my sleeve, as the rest of the audio books in the MOTHER-DAUGHTER BOOK CLUB series have been released and we need to celebrate that, plus there’s a branch new paperback version of ABSOLUTELY TRULY! Lots of fun ahead!