Message From The Author
Books and Blessings
DEBBIE MACOMBER BUILDS A COMMUNITY ON LAND AND ONLINE
By Stephanie Klose
Debbie Macomber needs no introduction to fans of mainstream fiction. Her books have rocketed to the top of bestseller lists, won awards and touched the hearts of countless readers.
But she's hardly one to rest on her laurels. Despite continuing to write new books, including May's Summer on Blossom Street, the latest in her series centering around a yarn shop, Macomber is branching out. The author has new books and new endeavors that should please current aficionados -- as well as garner her even more fans.
Debbie's hometown, Port Orchard, Wash., on which the fictional town of Cedar Cove in the wildly popular eponymous series is based, has seen a huge increase in the number of tourists who want to visit the real-life locations of their favorite fictional events.
There have been so many visitors, in fact, that the Chamber of Commerce called the author one day last year and complained that they were tired of having to draw maps directing readers to the locations mentioned in the books. So Macomber commissioned a map of her own.
Locals thought they could do more than that, however, and formed the Cedar Cove Association, a nonprofit organization dedicated to stimulating literacy, education and the economy through various events and activities.
One way to reach their goals, association members decided, was to bring tourists to town in a more organized way, so they planned a Macomber-themed festival they're calling Cedar Cove Days. The event will run from Aug. 26-30, 2009.
Though the author will be participating in many of the events, Macomber wasn't involved in organizing the festival and calls the planners' efforts "absolutely amazing."
The events, many of which are free, include bus tours, scavenger hunts, a "character parade," Victorian tea with Debbie, concerts, an arts and crafts festival and a gala cruise with the author. Her publisher, Mira, will be rushing publication of her September title, the ninth book in the Cedar Cove series, 92 Pacific Boulevard, to have it available for the Cedar Cove Days festival. (A complete agenda can be found at CedarCoveAssociation.com.)
Also coming out this October is a book for children ages 9 to 12, The Truly Terribly Horrible Sweater ... That Grandma Knit, which Macomber co-wrote, from HarperCollins imprint KX. "We had to fight for that title!" she says, laughing, but points out that it's a feeling anyone who knits for kids will understand. The book came into being because Macomber's friend Mary Lou Carney, who writes children's books, suggested a Blossom Street book for kids. The friends batted around some ideas, took the story they developed to an agent and sold it on the first try.
Inspired by Macomber's grandson Cameron, the young boy in the book receives a hand-knit sweater from his grandmother and tries to get rid of it. Then the grandmother sits down with him and tells him about the hidden meanings that she knit into the garment, i.e., that part of it is yellow because he is the sunshine of her life and part of it is red because he's always close to her heart and so on. Needless to say, it becomes the boy's favorite item of clothing -- and the book will include the pattern.
And in November, Howard, an inspirational imprint of Simon and Schuster, will release a nonfiction title, One Simple Act, in which Macomber extols the rewards of generosity.
She came up with the idea after dropping and spilling a full cup of coffee in an airport. While she was cleaning up the mess, a man nearby saw what had happened and bought her a fresh cup. It made her feel good to be on the receiving end of such simple, direct kindness -- and she points out that generosity is "empowering" for the doer as well.
"When you are blessed and give it away, that's when you're happiest," she says. Macomber adds that she also was inspired by the book of Genesis, in which God tells Abraham that He will make him a blessing.
Ultimately, the author says, the goal of One Simple Act "is to show people how to be a blessing."
Macomber is considering writing another nonfiction title at some point about the business lessons she learned from her father, who was an upholsterer. He made a point of including something extra with every job he did, whether it was a pillow or covers for the arms of a chair, a practice that formed the backbone of her philosophy as a writer.
"My goal is always to provide a really wonderful story that's going to stay with them -- and something more."
That "something more" has meant including knitting patterns and recipes in her novels, where relevant. For Debbie Macomber's Cedar Cove Cookbook (Sep., Harlequin), the author decided that the something extra would be handwritten notes from one of her characters, Charlotte Rhodes, the grandmother whose recipe collection the book ostensibly is.
"About every third recipe has a note," the author says, pointing out that the notes will range from tips and tricks to serving suggestions and encouraging words. Charlotte's note accompanying a recipe for Creamy Tarragon Chicken Salad reads, "Don't tell anyone, but I have been known to buy one of those roasted chickens from the grocery!"
To compile the cookbook, a "test-cook read every book and pulled out every food mentioned and found a recipe -- if the characters went out for Chinese food, she found a recipe for that."
Macomber adds that working on the cookbook was a fantastic experience. "I want to do cookbooks for the rest of my life!"
Just as sharing meals and recipes has always been an important part of her books, recipe exchanges are a special part of Macomber's interactions with her fans as well. Her website, DebbieMacomber.com, currently features the "Frequent Eaters Club," a virtual cookbook of hundreds of reader-submitted recipes that the author readily mines for new cooking ideas, mentioning a "sausage and rice casserole my grandkids love" as an example.
Another community-building resource on the site is the Knitters' Club. Readers send in information about their current and completed projects, while Macomber posts her own. Free patterns are provided by Leisure Arts, which publishes the Knit Along With Debbie pattern books that correspond to her Blossom Street series of knitting-related novels.
It's no coincidence that food and knitting play such a large part in Macomber's books. Both activities bring people together, build common ground and promote sharing ideas and learning from others. Much like the stories she chooses to tell.
TIME MANAGEMENT WITH DEBBIE
Simple Tips for Greater Productivity
One can feel overwhelmed just reading about the sheer number and variety of projects Debbie Macomber is involved in. Here she shares her top five tips for balancing all elements of her life.
1. Make a list. "Every morning, I make a list of things to do so I have it in my mind. Then I go from one thing to another until they're done and I can relax."
2. Reserve time for things you might otherwise put off. "I set aside one day a week to do appointments, correspondence, go out to lunch. I do that every Wednesday."
3. Be clear about your goals. "At the beginning of the year, Wayne and I sit down and write out our goals for the year. Last year, we had 63 actionable goals."
4. Multi-task as much as possible. The author aims to help readers out with this one, by including "a Crock-pot recipe and a knitting pattern" with her audiobook releases.
5. Find creative ways to keep in touch with loved ones. Macomber and her husband made a scrapbook for each grandchild and mail letters and postcards to them for the six months they're in Florida and away from all of their Seattle-area family. Macomber also hosts "Grandma Camp" each summer, taking her granddaughters for a week and doing special activities with them. This year, they're going to New York City!
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