Amy Carol Reeves: Author and Scholar

I got to know Amy Carol Reeves this year when we served on a panel discussing YA literature at the SC Book Festival. In a way, we write in opposite genres. My middle grade novel, The Boy Project, is a funny contemporary story. Amy’s YA novel, Ripper, is dark historical fiction. To tell you the truth, I was initially too chicken to read Ripper, the story of Jack the Ripper with a paranormal twist. But then I liked Amy so much that I knew if she wrote it, it had to be good. Bravely, I cracked open the book. I could hardly put it down! Amy’s PhD in nineteenth-century British literature prepared her to write a compelling book set in that time period. Soon, she will be dividing her time between writing additional novels and serving as Visiting Assistant Professor at Columbia College in Columbia, SC. She is looking forward to teaching freshmen composition courses and British lit courses there this fall.

Thanks for joining us Amy! An author with a PhD clearly has brain power aplenty! Can you share your favorite way to flaunt it?  Definitely through my teaching! I sort of geek out in the classroom I have an audience of twenty to thirty students and they have to listen to me talk about what I love. I’m at my “worst” when I give a lecture on the Romantic writers (i.e. Mary Shelley, Lord Byron) or the Pre-Raphaelites.  I love to tell the side stories about these writers’ personal lives and adventures.

Those interesting lives are the reason I used to love teaching about Romantic writers too (to high school students). Can you share with us how your PhD in nineteenth-century literature helped you with the writing of and the research for Ripper? I feel like the heavy novel reading load in my graduate classes helped to give me a good feel for the time period. Rereading books like Jane Eyre and Great Expectations and reading books that I hadn’t read before graduate school such as Lady Audley’s Secret and Middlemarch, helped to show me how gender roles and the  dialogue of the period worked; also, I got into the minds of some awesome strong Victorian heroines. Furthermore, in my Victorian seminars, I remember learning about the crazy stories of the Rossettis (i.e. Dante Gabriel Rossetti having his wife’s body exhumed.) Truth really is stranger than fiction. I remember thinking that I just had to include this in a novel somehow.

Christina Rossetti wrote that beautiful poem “Hurt no Living Thing”. She’s briefly featured in Ripper. I just realized she is a perfect opposite to your villain! What inspired you to add a paranormal twist to the story of Jack the Ripper?  I wanted my story to be more than a whodunit. This is as much of a story about a teenage girl unraveling her family’s past, falling in love for the first time, and making difficult ethical choices. I wanted there to be more at stake in the plot than simply finding Jack the Ripper. Adding the paranormal element helped me to branch out from just the murder mystery. The psychic connection with the Ripper was a particularly important element for me—mainly I wanted Abbie to feel his thoughts and to see his viciousness. She needed to understand him and his motivations, and she needed to be tempted by the elixir before she could confront him.

Your strategy above worked! Since you are both a scholar and an author, can you tell us some of your favorite things to read? Oh, so much!  I read (and reread) nineteenth-century novels. I’m teaching a Brontë seminar this fall, so at the moment, I’m the ultimate “nerdy chick” now reading Agnes Grey, Villette, and Jane Eyre; I’m also relishing once again in the dysfunctional Wuthering Heights love story.  (That Heathcliff really was a rat!)

 I also really love reading YA books. Some of my favorites that I’ve read this year have been Gwen Hayes’s Dreaming Awake, Mike Mullin’s Ashfall, and Neil Gaiman’s Coraline. Currently, I’m reading this very fun middle reader book called The Boy Project😉

Thanks Amy! What is one of your favorite achievements that you can credit to being a nerdy chick?  Snagging my husband. (Tip: the best guys are readers.) The first time I met my husband, he asked me what my favorite book was. (Pride and Prejudice of course!) He read the book and then he asked me out. During our first date, we talked about books the whole time. We’ve been together for almost ten years now!

Hey, great tip! We always hear about men who don’t like smart women. It’s great to hear a story about how nerdiness worked to your romantic advantage! Can you tell us about a well-known nerdy chick you admire and why you admire her. I’ve always been a big fan of Amelia Earhart. She completely fascinates me. She was definitely one of the best nerdy chicks of the last hundred years. Not only was she one of the first female aviators, but she was also a feminist, she loved to read, and I think I read somewhere that she played the banjo; she also had a phenomenal sense of style. (I’ve always loved her clothes, shoes, etc.)  My fascination with her was one of the main reasons I named my daughter Amelia.

Awesome. Amelia Earhart was included in my first post ever. Do you have a favorite hobby? Details please.  I love baking and decorating cakes. My mother-in-law used to make wedding cakes, so she has taught me a lot about making cakes over the years. I particularly have a lot of fun making my kids’ birthday cakes. I’ve made a towering Dr. Seuss cake, a castle cake, a Star Wars cake, and lately I’m experimenting with gluten free cake recipes. It’s a lot of fun. But I’m trying to take up knitting because the sad thing about spending so much time on a cake is that it’s well…eaten very quickly. I need a hobby with a more lasting product.

Those cake will last in your children’s memories! Now for the question I try to ask everyone: If you could give your middle school or high school self one piece of advice, what would it be?  Don’t worry about so much!  I was very Type A and so much of what I worried about didn’t really matter in the long run.  (Oh, and to my middle school self—puffed bangs were REALLY not cool! What were you thinking?)

Great advice Amy. I still need a dose of “stop worrying” every now and then. Or every day. Or every hour.

Amy lives and writes in Columbia SC. To learn more about her, visit her website at And stick around for a minute and watch this trailer for Ripper with the absolutely perfect creepy music!

Psst: This Friday’s featured Quotable Nerdy Chick will be a woman whose name is mentioned in this post! 

The Quotable Nerdy Chick: Shirley Temple Black

Shirley Temple Black, (b.1928) is most famous for the many roles she played as a child actress, but she went on to do many amazing things in her adulthood too. She served on the boards of organizations including The Walt Disney Company and the National Wildlife Federation.  She ran for congress, and though she did not win, she was appointed US Ambassador to Ghana in 1974 and later to Czechoslovakia. Shirley Temple Black, a cancer survivor, was also one of the first public figures to speak openly about breast cancer and to heighten awareness of the disease. I really like what she says about the removal of risk below. To read more about her at her website.

Shirley Temple Black Quotes

  • I stopped believing in Santa Claus when I was six. Mother took me to see him in a department store and he asked for my autograph.
  • One has to handle these negative experiences alone. You can’t get help from your friends or family. You’re finally alone with it, and you have to come to grips with misfortune and go on.
  • Our whole way of life today is dedicated to the removal of risk. Cradle to grave we are supported, insulated, and isolated from the risks of life- and if we fall, our government stands ready with Band-Aids of every size. 
  • The U.N. acts as the world’s conscience, and over eighty-five percent of the work that is done by the United Nations is in the social, economic, educational and cultural fields.
  • We would have to invent the U.N. if we did not have it, which is not an original thought.
Isn’t that first quote kind of sad? Santa-for-hire FAIL!

Writer’s Conference: SCBWI NJ

I’ve been home from the SCBWI NJ conference exactly a week, and since it is a week that I’m not featuring an interview, I thought I’d talk a little about my recent trip to New Jersey. In fact, I kind of planned ahead to do this. I wrote the rest of this post a week ago on the plane flight home:

What a weekend! It started with a smooth flight  from Savannah to Philadelphia. You just can’t complain about a two hour direct flight on a new airplane even if the dude next to you thinks the space under your seat is big enough for your backpack, your legs, one of his legs too.

Me, Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen, and Ame Dyckman

So I got to Philly and was picked up by the fabulous nerdy chick Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen. We would be spending a lot of time together as roomies at the SCBWI NJ conference, during which time I would give 11 critiques and run three workshops. This actually left me little time for anything else! But as always, I met some wonderful people including super agent Scott Treimel, who asked me about my career, gave me advice, then asked why I wasn’t telling this to my agent instead of him. Um… because you asked me about my career, Scott! I also got to meet nerdy chick Ame Dyckman and honorary nerdy chick Dan Yaccarino.

I was so busy running my own workshops that I didn’t make  it to many others, so I thought I’d give you a glimpse of what I talked about here, especially because I went to the trouble to draw some sketches for my presentations!

The first workshop I led was called the Yin and Yang of Character Development and for that I designed this very cool logo:

The premise of the workshop is that your good characters have to have flaws and your bad characters have to have traits that endear us to them on some level. (Hence the frowny face in the yang zone and the happy face in the yin.)

My next workshop was called Tension in Revision. For this, I drew this  cute (I hope) little illustration to show how a writer needs to add tension to make a story interesting.

Think of this as a metaphor for your own writing! In order for Red-Riding Hood’s story to be interesting, she has to break rules, go through the woods and meet the wolf! In other words, your character’s emotional and physical journeys needs to be full of twists and turns that are reflected in plot, character development, dialogue, and setting. We talked about a ton of stuff!

Finally, I led a Chick-lit for Chicklets workshop with Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen. Here we discussed the essentials of writing chick lit for a girl audience. We discussed character traits your MC needs, who her supporting cast should be, how to write dialogue, and more. We distributed a Chick-lit for Chicklets Checklist. Here is the first question from our checklist:

Is your main character is a strong female who bucks authority to follow her dreams?  ___ yes ___no

If you answered yes to this question, you might be writing chick lit!

The weekend wrapped up with a speech from Kate DiCamillo, who shared five contradictoray statements about being a writer. I had to agree with all five… or maybe I disagreed with all five. I guess it depended on which part of the contradictory statement we were talking about.

A very blurry Kate DiCamillo gives her speech!

Kate’s contradictory advice:

  • Be absolutely rigid; Be loosey-goosey.
  • Write only for others; Write only for yourself.
  • Hide yourself; Reveal yourself.
  • Compromise; Never compromise.
  • Listen to what other people say; Don’t listen.

Of course she explained all of these contradictions, to a lot of head nodding. The bottom line, I think, is balance. Knowing when to wear which of the hats above.

All in all, it was a great conference. I loved meeting so many great writers: new writers with promising manuscripts, established writers contemplating genre changes, and those who’ve been writing in their comfort zone for years.  Thanks to Kathy Temean and her dedicated team of volunteers for hosting such a great event.

If you’d like to read a much more indepth version of what happened at the SCBWI NJ conference, head on over to Tara Lazar’s blog. She has featured several posts full of information!



The Quotable Nerdy Chick: Gilda Radner

 Gilda Radner (1946-1989) was an American comedienne and an original member of the Saturday Night Live cast. She won an Emmy for her work in 1978. I spent a lot of Saturday nights when I was in high school hoping that she would be featured on the show. We all loved Rosanne Rosannadanna. Radner was married to Gene Wilder. Cancer took her when she was still very young and Radner, who understood her disease, had many beautifully introspective things to say about life, in addition to the humorous bits she left us.

Gilda Radner Quotes:

  • I’d much rather be a woman than a man. Women can cry, they can wear cute clothes, and they’re the first to be rescued off sinking ships.
  • Dreams are like paper, they tear so easily.
  • I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle and end.
  • Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next.
  • The goal is to live a full, productive life even with all that ambiguity. No matter what happens, whether the cancer never flares up again or whether you die, the important thing is that the days that you have had you will have lived.
  • While we have the gift of life, it seems to me the only tragedy is to allow part of us to die – whether it is our spirit, our creativity or our glorious uniqueness.
  • You feel completely in control when you hear a wave of laughter coming back at you that you have caused.


Ann-Marie Adams of AquabetPR

Once upon a time we were trying to organize a literary conference in Beaufort SC. I met Ann-Marie Adams when she started heading up the planning for the event. I was immediately struck by her vivacious personality and quick thinking. I also liked the crazy-looking-in-a-cute-way dog she brought with her to the meeting. I discovered that Ann-Marie knows tons about publicity. After all, she does run her own PR firm, AquabetsPR. Prior to breaking out on her own, she held a number of public relations related positions including Executive Director of the Hilton Head Hospitality Association, event planner for the US Department of Agriculture, Public Relations Director for Technical College of the Lowcountry, and she worked in PR for Cornell University and Ithaca College as well.  She was nice enough to share some PR tips with me and I asked her to share a few with you today too. Additionally, she is a great artist who has designed her own alphabet letters with a nautical theme. 

Thanks for joining us today Ann-Marie! I know a lot of nerdy chicks out there would love to know more about PR. Can you share one piece of advice with the readers about presenting a great public image? Perfect your pitch.  If you are unable to deliver a 30 second elevator pitch at the right moment your story will never find the opportunity to thrive under any other circumstances where the luxury of time prevails. Compelling stories start with a pitch.

Great advice. And many writers have heard something like this before. What’s the one thing people frequently do to promote themselves or their work that doesn’t seem to work? One size does not fit all.  That’s true in leaping to a solution without thoroughly analyzing, designing and developing your story as well as in the convenience of automating processes across the board.  If you are unwilling to do the work it takes to get to the appropriate delivery and you are not willing to understand the value each tool offers to deliver your message then you don’t really understand your audience nor can you tell your story well.

I see you on Twitter, Facebook, and Linked-In. How important is social media to people wanting to promote something? It all boils down to “content.” Presence is everything. As well, understanding the nature and application of the available tools is key.  Thus, the right content strategically placed can make all the difference in your social media presence, but poor content can make very little impact.

For you, what is the best thing about your career? I have had the good fortune at every juncture along my career path to have or to create the opportunity to work with next geners ~ the two way street of learning and sharing ideas is always accentuated by generational differences.

You’ve been Executive Director of Hilton Head Hospitality Association, served on Redevelopment Commissions, and continue to organize big events. How do you use your brain power to ensure events run smoothly? Surround yourself with the right people. That is, the individuals that are as passionate about the event as you are and in addition to those passionate peeps those that have the skills to carry it off.  That’s smart business.

The letter Z from Aquabet

In addition to your PR work, you’re also a talented artist. You’ve created Aquabet, which you describe as an original art series derived from coastal living that embodies the 26 letters of the American Alphabet. How do you use your brain power to create your art? I tend to think that one never stops creating and thus each year I’m thinking forward to “what’s next” for the twenty six piece art series called Aquabet: is it commercial, is it charitable, is it educational?  The possibilities are unlimited even when financial capital does not exist.

What is one of your favorite achievements that you can credit to being a nerdy chick? Versatility. Not a medal, award or recognition I know, but a quality of being capable in multiple venues to contribute positively under the best or worst of circumstances.

What’s cool about being nerdy? Wearing it daily with pride.

Tell us about a nerdy chick you admire and why you admire her. That’s easy, Jane Goodall.  There’s the obvious reason because she prevailed in defining research science as touchable and doable, but then there’s her humor.  While working at Cornell University I had the opportunity to attend a public lecture where she was to deliver remarks.  The auditorium was filled, there were individuals standing along the back wall on the lower and upper floors who were also keen on hearing Ms Goodall speak about her work with chimpanzees. At the appointed time for her delivery this frumpy looking professor in a hat, thick rimmed glasses and a trench coat walked out on stage and spoke into the microphone…”I’m sorry but due to circumstances beyond her control Jane Goodall will not be able to join us this evening…” The entire auditorium gasped, people booed, several got up from their seats and walked out.  And just as those departing made their exit there arose great laughter from the podium as the frumpy professor began to shed his hat, the coat, the disguise to reveal Jane Goodall herself.  Humor paired with intelligence is sexy in my book, especially if delivered in the most unsuspecting of ways.

Can you share a favorite song, quote or movie that speaks to your inner nerdiness? I would have to refer to a book series to answer this question.  Octavia Butler wrote a trilogy called the Xenogenesis Series that fascinated me not only in the character development throughout the course of the 3 books, but for the science of genomics that it delivered in fiction.  Granted there are aliens involved, but the science of possibility was real. My interest in genomics sparked by Octavia Butler applies to the “big screen” productions of the like where human genetics plays out, i.e. Gattaca.

What is something you like to do that might be considered a little bit nerdy, but is actually really fun?
Thanks to some really cool scientists at Cornell (Carl Sagan, Steve Squyres) I fell in love with the sky; that is, the heavens above us.  I own a Celestron Nexstar 500 and love to pull out the telescope to take a peek at the constellations, satellites, planets and shooting stars. Add to that experience the mobile app “StarWalk”: on my iPad for standing or laying in my driveway to see in real time what lies above me and following NASAEdge on Twitter for the latest of all things NASA.  I should also mention my mild fascination with Richard Branson’s (Virgin) Spaceport America in New Mexico which promises commercial voyage to the stars. I would travel to space in a heartbeat!

That sounds cool! Do you have a favorite hobby?  Cooking. I love to cook. For many years my lifestyle and professions left little time for enterprise in the kitchen much less inviting people over to dinner and conversation.  When I relocated South in 2003 that was a priority to create opportunity for community through cooking. I cook every week and blog about it on line. All for personal enjoyment.

Oh yes. I’ve seen some of your mouth-watering tweets!  Now for one more question that I ask everyone: If you could give your middle school or high school self one piece of advice, what would it be?   Take the road less traveled.  Just because it seems off course or less likely to be in favor with your peers it’s your path no matter the journey it provides (good, bad or indifferent) It was designed for you and thus being different makes it unique to you and therefore not open or available to anyone else. Being special (different) is a positive thing.

Thanks Ann-Marie, for all of the tips!

Want to know more about Ann-Marie? Well, she describes herself like this:

Communicator. Storyteller. Facililtator. Writer. Advocate. Team Player. Wordsmith. Passionate Foodie. Info Junkie. Book Lover.

 (And she’s also full of positive energy and fun to be around.) You can find her all over the place, of course! Here are some of the links! (Art Gallery) (Google Profile) (Personal Tweets) (Personal FaceBook, subscribe to public posts) (Personal Blog)


The Quotable Nerdy Chick: Harriet Beecher Stowe

Did you know that Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896) wrote over thirty books? I didn’t. I knew only of one of her titles: Uncle Tom’s Cabin. It is said that when Abraham Lincoln met her, he said, “”So you’re the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war.”  Uncle Tom’s Cabin was, of course, the little book. If you visit the website for The Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, you will find out many interesting things you may not have known about this woman whose most famous book was published in 1851 and who continued working to fight social injustice for over four decades following its publication. The first quote below explains her rationale for writing Uncle Tom’s Cabin. I think it’s a beautiful statement.

Harriet Beecher Stowe Quotes

  • I wrote what I did because as a woman, as a mother, I was oppressed and broken-hearted with the sorrows and injustice I saw, because as a Christian I felt the dishonor to Christianity – because as a lover of my county, I trembled at the coming day of wrath.
  • A woman’s health is her capital.
  • Any mind that is capable of real sorrow is capable of good.
  • Most mothers are instinctive philosophers.
  • So much has been said and sung of beautiful young girls, why don’t somebody wake up to the beauty of old women?
  • Women are the real architects of society.