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Posts Tagged ‘Lisa Van Allen’

Author Spotlight: Thanksgiving Recipe from Lisa Van Allen, author of THE WISHING THREAD

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

Allen_The Wishing Thread In a pinch for a savory side dish? Never fear! Lisa Van Allen, author of The Wishing Thread, shares her grandmother’s no-nonsense and humble turnip recipe. Enjoy!

I have to admit that turnips aren’t exactly a “sexy” food. I had a high school teacher who occasionally used the phrase “as dumb as a turnip.” And although I love the word “napiform,” I’ve never really been able to get away with using it in anything I’ve written because there aren’t too many opportunities to say “shaped like a turnip.”

But my grandmother’s favorite thing about Thanksgiving was turnips. And so they will always have a special place in my heart.

My grandmother was a no-nonsense kind of woman — she appreciated simple pleasures. So it will come as no surprise that the food that she loved most on Thanksgiving was simple and unembellished.

Here’s her recipe for turnips: She simply peeled, boiled, and then mashed together equal parts turnips and potatoes. That’s it! Humble and warm, just like my gram. Lisa-Van-Allen-this-one

Do you have a Thanksgiving recipe- sweet or savory- to share with us? Let us know on our Facebook page! We have one final recipe to share with you. Tune in tomorrow for a homemade Thanksgiving staple you won’t want to miss from Nancy Thayer!

Giveaway Opportunity: THE WISHING THREAD by Lisa Van Allen

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

Allen_The Wishing Thread“Reader to reader, knitter to knitter: You’re going to love this book.”—Debbie Macomber

For fans of Jennifer Chiaverini and Sarah Addison Allen, The Wishing Thread is an enchanting novel about the bonds between sisters, the indelible pull of the past, and the transformational power of love.

The Van Ripper women have been the talk of Tarrytown, New York, for centuries. Some say they’re angels; some say they’re crooks. In their tumbledown “Stitchery,” not far from the stomping grounds of the legendary Headless Horseman, the Van Ripper sisters—Aubrey, Bitty, and Meggie—are said to knit people’s most ardent wishes into beautiful scarves and mittens, granting them health, success, or even a blossoming romance. But for the magic to work, sacrifices must be made—and no one knows that better than the Van Rippers.

When the Stitchery matriarch, Mariah, dies, she leaves the yarn shop to her three nieces. Aubrey, shy and reliable, has dedicated her life to weaving spells for the community, though her sisters have long stayed away. Bitty, pragmatic and persistent, has always been skeptical of magic and wants her children to have a normal, nonmagical life. Meggie, restless and free-spirited, follows her own set of rules. Now, after Mariah’s death forces a reunion, the sisters must reassess the state of their lives even as they decide the fate of the Stitchery. But their relationships with one another—and their beliefs in magic—are put to the test. Will the threads hold?

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Reader’s Guide: THE WISHING THREAD by Lisa Van Allen

Monday, August 26th, 2013

Allen_The Wishing Thread Random House Reader’s Circle has exclusive materials for you and your book club to enjoy! SARAH ADDISON ALLEN is the New York Times bestselling author of Garden Spells, The Sugar Queen, The Girl Who Chased the Moon, The Peach Keeper, and the upcoming Lost Lake, interviews debut novelist Lisa Van Allen.

Sarah Addison Allen:  The Wishing Thread is a delightful novel about the bonds of sisterhood, the transformational power of love, and the pleasures and perils of knitting. What sparked your idea for this novel?

Lisa Van Allen:  It started with the knitting. When I knit a gift for someone, I always say a few prayers for the recipient. It’s about sending deliberate thoughts of love and kindness, along with offering a gift. So it wasn’t a far jump from there to “Wouldn’t it be cool if somebody could knit a magic spell into the fabric of a hat or a scarf so that it rubs off on the wearer?”

Of course, in The Wishing Thread, the people who go to the Stitchery looking for magic never know what they’ll get. Sometimes the spells don’t work as expected. Sometimes they don’t work at all.

Many people in the town think that the Van Ripper sisters are swindlers, preying on people who are desperate enough to turn to “magic” to fix their problems. But others think the sisters are the real deal and will defend the Stitchery’s magic, tooth and nail. Each sister in the story approaches the idea of magic in her own way.

SAA:   The way you write about magic is so unique. What are your favorite books with magic in them that have influenced you?

LVA:  I’ve always loved books that offer fun, imaginative plots along with a certain “makes you think” element—-going all the way back. As a kid I adored The Little Prince for its enigmatic characters, magical surprises, and emotionality. Recently I fell hard for Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus. And, Sarah, your latest, The Peach Keeper, was one of those reads that had me sitting down thinking “just for a few minutes” and then realizing hours had gone by. This is always the sign of a great read.

SAA:  Thank you! I’m glad to be in such great company! Magic is so wonderful to write but also so tricky. I think every writer approaches writing in a different way. What are your writing habits? How do you write best?

LVA:  More and more, I find myself collecting things. I make a regular practice of writing lists with titles like “things you find that could change everything” and “reasons you might become stuck in a tree.” Sei Shōnagon inspired this habit for me when I read her eleventh–century collection of writings called The Pillow Book. She makes beautiful, breathtaking lists.

I also keep random boxes in my office of things that seem to go together somehow: pictures, objects, bits of fabric or color, anecdotes, books and pamphlets, scribbles, etc. Each box has its own kind of ordered chaos. I like the idea of all these elements marinating for a while until all the flavors marry and become a cohesive story. I have Twyla Tharp’s book The Creative Habit to thank for this.

SAA:  I hear you have a hedgehog as a pet—-is anything else in the book based on real life?

LVA:  Ha, ha. Yes! My hedgie has quite a following. I guess you could say she was instrumental in developing the character of Icky Van Ripper, the main character’s pet hedgehog in The Wishing Thread. I’m hoping my little beastie won’t sue me for using her likeness or something like that. I’ll have to pay her off with mealworms.

But seriously, I never have models for my (human) characters. That method just doesn’t work for me. I do, however, expand on my own emotional experiences, like every writer.

SAA:  How did you get started knitting? What do you love about it?

LVA:  I actually outright refused to learn to knit for many years. I so was sure I’d hate it! But one day in my mid–twenties, an aunt finally took my shoulders and sat me down, and said “watch my hands.” A few rows later, I was hooked. There’s a scene in The Wishing Thread that definitely came right from that moment.

Of course, I had some false starts with knitting. My first scarf looked like a moth–chewed roll of lumpy toilet paper. One year, I made my brother three socks (one that was okay, one with holes, and one that could only have fit a hoof). But I’m better these days. Ravelry, a social networking site for fiber nerds, helped my technique a lot (find me as “lisava”). Knitting’s a great creative outlet for when I’m away from my manuscripts. I’m not very good at sitting still.

SAA:  Are you working on something new? Can you share anything with us about your next project?

LVA:  I can tell you that my book–in–progress box is filled with bright red plastic berries, peacock feathers, beeswax candles, pictures of farm equipment, random info like “how to make a leech barometer,” and writings about whether or not plants have feelings. It’s gonna be fun!

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Discussion Questions: THE WISHING THREAD by Lisa Van Allen

Monday, August 19th, 2013

Allen_The Wishing Thread “Reader to reader, knitter to knitter: You’re going to love this book.”—Debbie Macomber

The Wishing Thread is an enchanting novel about the bonds between sisters, the indelible pull of the past, and the transformational power of love. The Van Ripper women have been the talk of Tarrytown, New York, for centuries. Some say they’re angels; some say they’re crooks. In their tumbledown “Stitchery,” not far from the stomping grounds of the legendary Headless Horseman, the Van Ripper sisters—Aubrey, Bitty, and Meggie—are said to knit people’s most ardent wishes into beautiful scarves and mittens, granting them health, success, or even a blossoming romance. But for the magic to work, sacrifices must be made—and no one knows that better than the Van Rippers.

Questions and Topics for Discussion
1.  The three sisters, Bitty, Aubrey, and Meggie, are each very different and have spent a lot of time apart, but despite everything they all find their way back home upon the death of the aunt who raised them. What does the novel have to say about the bonds of sisterhood?

2.  Each sister rejects, deals with, or embraces the idea of magic in her own way. Which sister do you relate to most? Are there themes in this book that run parallel with (or contrary to) the tenets of your faith community or your own personal ideas and beliefs?

3.  At one point, Aubrey thinks “if the Madness was real, then the sacrifice of being a guardian of the Stitchery was a bigger, scarier thing than any single sacrifice made in the name of a single spell.” What is the connection between the Madness and magic? Do you think the Madness will continue to follow the family after the Stitchery is gone?

4.  Why do you think Bitty started out so rebellious, but was so quick to embrace a socially acceptable lifestyle in adulthood and to distance herself from her sisters and the Stitchery?

5.  Aubrey struggles with confidence throughout the book. What do you think was the main turning point for her? What made her believe in herself?

6.  Meggie drops everything to go looking for the truth about her mother. Is there anything from your past you’d like to get to the bottom of?

7.  Why do you think Aubrey feels that she can’t give in to her attraction to Vic?

8.  The women of Tappan Square band together on Halloween Night to produce a feat of, if not magic, at the very least of remarkable artistry. What were the true effects of the yarn bombing? Do you feel the conclusion of the book indicates that magic is literally at work, that magic is something people choose to see, or that magic is what we make of it?

9.  Were you upset by the fate of Tappan Square? What does this novel have to say about gentrification?

10.  After Aubrey sacrifices Vic to save Tarrytown, she takes him back even though the Great Book in the Hall says she shouldn’t. How does she justify her actions? Was she right to take him back or should she have stayed true to her legacy?

11.  The old Stitchery is no more but something remarkable happens instead. What do you think is the legacy of the Stitchery and how does it live on?

12.  In the end, Aubrey comes to accept uncertainty. She thinks “The Stitchery had made a thing very clear to her—-a thing she did not see until now: Whatever the Van Ripper guardians had said magic was, was only a very small part of it, if it was part at all.” Do you feel this is a step forward in her understanding? Or is it an excuse that allows Aubrey to reshape tradition according to her own ideas? What are your feelings about embracing irresolution and uncertainty?

13.  What do you predict for the next generation of the Stitchery, Bitty’s children Nessa and Carson?

14.  There are many themes in this novel: sisterhood, love, civic responsibility, magic, and self–determination, among others. Which one resonated the most for you?

15.  If the sisters of the Stitchery lived in your town, what would you ask them to knit, and for whom? What would you sacrifice for your spell?

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