Writing Friends

Malawi’s Sisters by Melanie S. Hatter

Melainie Hatter

Melanie Hatter (full disclosure) was my suitemate at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference last summer. Over the 12 days we lived together I grew to know Melanie and respect her quiet, wise demeanor. And she can be a lot of fun. I started reading  Malawi’s Sisters recently, and found I could hardly put it down. The story is not about how Malawi is killed, or much about her life before. Instead, Hatter deftly juggles the multiple points of view of the surviving family members and with great sensitivity takes the reader through the experiences of grief of each one. There is a definite message in this story, too, and Hatter stays on topic without preaching. I found this book heartbreaking and also inspiring.

Lilli de Jong by Janet Benton

In March I attended several events at the Virginia Festival of the Book here in Charlottesville, Virginia. I heard Janet Benton speak about her novel, Lilli de Jong, which came out in March 2017.

At the same festival, I was fortunate to meet the dynamic and funny Suzanne Leopold of Suzy Approved Book Reviews. During Janet’s event, Suzy happened to be sitting next to me. She leaned over and whispered, emphatically, “This book is SO good!”

In her review of Lilli de Jong,Suzy writes, “This novel is a wonderful story about love and the intense bond that a mother instantaneously feels for her child. This book made me appreciate how society has changed for women and how much easier our lives are today. This is a beautiful debut novel by Janet Benton and one of my favorite reads of the year.”

When I found myself with an extra ticket to a festival event, Suzy recommended I invite Janet to join me. I did, and we had a chance to get to know each other. I started reading her book a few days ago, and it is one that I find myself thinking about through the day, anticipating returning to its pages. Janet’s prose is compelling and lyrical. Highly recommended.

Sarong Party Girls by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan

I was fortunate to meet Cheryl Tan in Scotland last March, at Hawthornden Castle. I recently listened to the audio of her drop-dead funny novel, SARONG PARTY GIRLS. It’s written in a dialect called “Singlish” and the narrator nails it. I loved this story. From Amazon: “A brilliant and utterly engaging novel—Emma set in modern Asia—about a young woman’s rise in the glitzy, moneyed city of Singapore, where old traditions clash with heady modern materialism.

On the edge of twenty-seven, Jazzy hatches a plan for her and her best girlfriends: Sher, Imo, and Fann. Before the year is out, these Sarong Party Girls will all have spectacular weddings to rich ang moh—Western expat—husbands, with Chanel babies (the cutest status symbols of all) quickly to follow. Razor-sharp, spunky, and vulgarly brand-obsessed, Jazzy is a determined woman who doesn’t lose.”

Grievous by H.S. Cross


H.S Cross is the author of Wilberforce, published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux. The Huffington Post said of it: “For fans of Evelyn Waugh or Kingsley Amis, a wry take on priggish, midcentury boarding schools. It’s a dark take on the coming-of-age stories that’ve populated the book world as of late.” say that it is utterly astonishing that a contemporary American woman could so effectively portray an English schoolboy in the 1920s.

I was fortunate to spend a month with Heather during our shared Hawthornden Fellowships. Her second novel, entitled GRIEVOUS, just came out in April 2019.

H. S. Cross returns to “a school as nuanced and secretive as J. K. Rowling’s Hogwarts” (The Rumpus) in Grievous, the sequel to her coming-of-age novel Wilberforce.

Tacky Goblin by T. Sean Steele

T. Sean Steele is a brilliantly funny young writer of blog posts and the novel  Tacky Goblin. Originally released in 2016, it was re-released in July 2018. Travis was working on a second novel at Hawthornden.


The Girl from Blind River by Gale Massey

My friend Gale Massey has her first novel out. This gritty crime mystery will keep you turning pages while you know you should be doing something that needs doing, like folding laundry or boarding a plane. I was fascinated by the inside info on gambling at cards.

I’m not from the South…by Tony Vanderwarker


My friend  and neighbor, Tony Vanderwarker, has published several funny books:


A Million Fragile Bones by Connie May Fowler

Connie May Fowler has been a wonderful teacher and advisor to me. The author of best-selling novels, she now has an emotional, gut-baring eco-memoir with a message about the stewardship of our planet. Available on Amazon: http://www.conniemayfowler.com/  


Jesse Sings by Victor Hess

Jessie Sings is by a writing buddy of mine, Victor Hess, and is available on Amazon. Victor writes with an instinctive insight and poignancy that never drips into melodrama. Jessie is a survivor! 


Done Growed Up by Mary Morony

My friend Mary Morony has written three novels in what she calls “The Apron Strings Trilogy.” You can learn about it here:  //www.marymorony.com/