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About the author:
Suzanne Kelman is the author of The Rejected Writers Book Club, Rejected Writers Take the Stage and The Rejected Writers Christmas Wedding. Her writing voice has been described as a perfect blend of Janet Evanovich and Debbie Macomber. Kelman is also an award-winning writer/screenwriter whose accolades include the Best Comedy Feature Screenplay award from the 2011 L.A. International Film Festival, the Gold Award from the 2012 California Film Awards, and the Van Gogh Award from the 2012 Amsterdam Film Festival. Born in the United Kingdom, she now resides in Washington State.
What inspired you to write your book?
This book series was inspired by an author tipping all his publishers rejection letters onto a table during a book reading.
Here is a short sample from the book:
RABID ALIENS AND ELVES ON FIRE
It wasn’t unusual to see people running in our picturesque Northwest town. In fact, it was quite a commonplace occurrence, especially in the summer, when the lovely view of the Cascade Mountains and the cool shore breezes afforded a very pleasant running experience. But no sane person ran in November, when it was below freezing, at a pace akin to someone on fire, especially somebody dressed as a Christmas elf.
So when I urged the members of the Rejected Writers’ Book Club to look out the large Southlea Bay Library window at the sprinting postmistress, none of us could believe our eyes.
“Maybe she lost a sack of Santa’s letters,” I quipped from my view at the library check-in desk, where I worked daily, having been distracted moments before by the crash of flailing doors ricocheting ungraciously off the red brick walls of the post office building.
Upon my report of this small-town phenomenon, a few choice members of the Rejected Writers’ Book Club, who had gathered for a reading of Jane Eyre, scattered copies of Miss Brontë’s book about willy-nilly, like a bunch of toddlers emptying out a box of Legos, then, in one unanimous move, bounded to the window for a better view. They now congregated to stare, their mouths agape. I, too, couldn’t help but watch with amusement as I followed the little soccer ball–shaped woman as she, adorned with customary elf bells, jingled and jangled her way down Main Street, one hand placed firmly across her ample bosom.
As we all continued to track her journey, there was much discussion about whether anyone could ever recall seeing Mrs. Barber run before. This was followed by each member laying bets on where she was going.
But much to Lavinia’s chagrin, she did not stop at the Crab Apple Diner, Southlea Bay’s favorite family restaurant; nor did she head to the French-style florist, All Stems from Here, with its cheery pink-and-white-striped awnings, which Ruby had been so certain about. Or even Happy Paws Animal Clinic, which Annie would have put money on. As Mrs. Barber blew by Ruby-Skye’s Wool Emporium, all bets were off, and the assemblage shuttled to the next window for continuous coverage.
Like a herd of sheep at feeding time, they trotted behind each other as they navigated their way from window to window, winding their way around the fiction section, then history, until they ended up all the way back behind handicrafts. But as Mrs. Barber continued to sprint, the onlookers ended up stacked like a pile of kittens, peering out through their last hope: a narrow letterbox window.
As the ladies jostled for a good position, they set off a jaunty hanging sign sporting the cheery words, “It’s a Good Day to Read a Book.” The movement, in turn, disrupted a cluster of jolly miniature Santas placed atop the sign. Knocked off kilter, they tumbled down and hung precariously, trapeze-style, by their big black boots.
No one cared a jot about toppling Santas because, with noses pressed against the glass and hot breath misting up the windows, they were just able to make out the rotund figure of Mrs. Barber as she disappeared into the hairdresser’s at the far end of the street.
The ladies of the book club unpeeled their faces from the steamed-up glass. The Labette twins, dressed impeccably and identically, as usual, in smart black pants and soft blue cashmere cowl-necked sweaters, were the first to speak.
“Well, I never,” exclaimed Lottie in her extended southern drawl, and her sister, Lavinia, finished her sentence for her: “That can’t be good. Maybe they forgot to remove all the color solution from her hair or something? I mean, why race to the hairdressers’ like that? It can’t be for a cut and blow dry, now can it?”
The twins looked much younger than their sixtyish years and had always been reluctant in admitting exactly which number followed the six. Yet aside from their age and appearance, they couldn’t have been more different if you’d picked two people from the farthest corners of the planet. Charlotte, who was known as Lottie, had found Jesus at a revival meeting at the age of fourteen, while Lavinia had found James Rye and had her first French kiss behind the tent as the zealous, frothed-up preacher made his desperate altar call.
“You know, something like that happened to a friend of our mama’s,” said Lottie in a hushed tone as the ladies made their way back and retrieved their abandoned books. “Years ago, when we lived in Texas, my mama’s friend had the most beautiful waist- length blonde hair and had gone in for a permanent. The girl at the Roller Up and Dye had left her under the dryer while she popped out to get herself a Coke. Anyway,” continued Lavinia, “then she met this cute guy who worked down the street at the bakery, and they got to talking, and the girl clean forgot about Mama’s friend. When she finally remembered to go back to remove her from the dryer, her hair had fried!”
Lavinia paused for effect, allowing a communal intake of breath before continuing the story.
“As she took out the rollers one by one, her beautiful blonde hair came out with them. Just odd sprigs were left here and there. She looked like a platinum-colored porcupine. It put a scare into everyone in our little town—as nobody wanted to go about looking like bleached woodland creatures—and the Roller up and Dye went out of business because of it.”
“So it just rolled up and died, then?” I commented sarcastically as I picked up a pile of books. My humor was lost on the group.
“Exactly,” answered Lottie. “I hope that doesn’t happen to Sadie’s. I do love that little hairdresser’s.”
“I don’t think anything like that has happened,” I responded practically as I moved about the library, humming to the Christmas music and shelving books. “Besides, her hair wasn’t even wet. Something else must have happened.”
Wearing her favorite purple leisure suit, Annie, the dog lover and continuous knitter of the group, stopped casting on, her ruddy red face suddenly coming to life. Always the optimist, she gushed, “I think it must be something wonderful. Maybe someone won the lottery, and she’s rushing to let them know.”
As the group stared blankly at their pages of Charlotte Bron‐ të’s classic novel, the earlier conversation of nineteenth-century love was gone and replaced by this new village anomaly.
Ruby-Skye, a radical hippie chick in her seventies, jumped to her feet and paced, jangling the abundance of bangles that completed her dramatic, eclectic style. She floated about the library in a yellow caftan cinched at the waist with a thick belt that resembled enormous banana leaves, her hair piled up like a pineapple, crested by a plume of multicolored feathers and dotted with dried oranges and lemons. Along with her signature bangles, the handmade jewelry that adorned her arms looked as if it had been made out of twigs and string. She called this ensemble Rain‐ forest Mash-Up, whenever anyone asked her.
Suddenly, she clapped her hands.
“I do remember seeing Mrs. Barber run before!” she exclaimed. “Our postmistress once took home the prize for
second place in the three-legged race at the Fourth of July parade in 1971. I know because I was first!”
“That must have been the year before she sprouted those enor‐ mous bosoms,” said Lavinia. “And that put an end to her three- legged career and her 1972 comeback. Mind you,” she continued, “I bet they come in handy for swimming—more buoyancy than one of those noodles.”
“Here she comes again,” I shouted, having kept one eye on the window as I began rebalancing the dangling Santas.
“Go, Lorraine!” cried Lavinia, pumping the air with her fist as if cheering on a marathon runner.
Down with a unified clatter went Jane Eyre again as the ladies jumped to their feet and resumed their places at the letterbox window, moving back through the library in the opposite direction.
“Oh, bless her heart,” added Lottie. “Someone should put a number on her back and have her raise money for cancer or something.”
“She has someone with her!” I noted, screwing up my eyes, having left my place at the check-in desk to join the ladies trav‐ eling back through the handicraft section.
“Oh, is it Santa?” asked Annie excitedly.
“No, more like the Grinch,” said Lavinia flatly. “Isn’t that Doris? Our Doris Newberry?”
As the women drew closer to the window, Ruby-Skye, unabashed, pulled back the lace curtain hanging there as they all continued to peer out and watch the sprinters race up Main Street. Doris Newberry was the leader of the Rejected Writers’ Book Club and chose not to join them for their forays into nine‐ teenth-century England. She preferred more to write than to read.
Doris had formed the book club a few years before to cele‐ brate being rejected by publishers in style. Each member brought her own rotten manuscripts to share with the group and then collected rejection letters from publishers like fan mail.
As we tried to get a clear view of the elf’s accomplice, Lavinia remarked that she was definitely Doris’s build and wore the same brown wool sweater she liked to wear, but it was hard to be sure as her hair was affixed with silver foil and white goo.
As we made our way back through the history section, it was confirmed: behind Mrs. Barber, Doris Newberry was now running back up Main Street, her hair in foil and with one of Sadie’s mulberry-colored salon towels pinned and flapping in the breeze about her shoulders.
“Someone must be dead,” said Lottie, a sudden apprehension in her tone.
“Surely they wouldn’t run to the post office?” I reasoned. “Surely she would run home or to the police station?”
“Nope, something’s going on, and we need to find out what,” decided Lavinia.
“Yes, I shall never be able to concentrate on Mr. Rochester’s proposal to Jane until I know exactly what this is all about,” added Lottie.
It was decided we would go over en masse to find out for ourselves. It was a quiet day in the library, so I decided to tag along. Like a parade of ducks, we followed each other across the street and into the post office.
Doris was easy to spot: she looked like a rabid extraterrestrial with a mass of white bubbly solution and bits of foil sprouting out of her head. Some foil envelopes had worked themselves loose and dangled at the end of strands of sticky hair, rolling pendu‐ lum-like around the mulberry-colored towel, now smeared with the goo. She hunched across the post office counter, her head down as she read a letter in her hand, and Mrs. Barber nodded by her side.
“Is everything OK, Doris?” I asked, breaking the silence.
Doris threw back her hair, sending loose, fluffy gobs of color solution about the post office like wispy egg whites whipped up by an overzealous chef. She hurriedly folded the letter that Mrs. Barber had been reading from the counter and put it into her pocket.
“Oh . . . I . . . girls,” she said in an overfriendly, high-pitched manner that sounded very unfamiliar coming from Doris’s lips. “How nice to see you all.”
“Nice to see you!” responded Lavinia. “We thought someone had had a cardiac arrest over here the way the two of you were running up and down the street.”
Mrs. Barber reddened and mumbled something about sorting packages as she headed off very sheepishly back behind her desk.
Before Doris could elaborate, she was let off the hook by her hairdresser, Sadie, who appeared breathlessly at the door, a small timer in her hand.
“Doris Newberry!” she said as she leaned against the door‐ frame, puffing in and out, catching her breath. “What are you doing? I told you I was going back to sort that delivery of hair solutions, and when I came back, the timer was going off, and you were nowhere to be seen! It was like an alien abduction. The place was empty, and that solution needs to come out of your hair unless you’re planning on being a twinkle light for Christmas. I have been looking in every shop up and down the high street. If it hadn’t been for Karen Shaw at the library, I wouldn’t even know where you were!”
Ruby-Skye folded her hands across her chest. “Well, are you going to tell us what’s going on?” she asked.
Doris looked resolute.
“And why were you running up and down the street like someone was dead?” asked Lavinia of Mrs. Barber, who now stood puffing and blowing behind the counter.
“Important post office business,” she said smartly.
“How important can it be when it’s snail mail?” added Lottie.
“I had to make sure that Her Eminence got the information,” responded Mrs. Barber.
“Her what-enance?” I asked with a smirk.
“Oh, I’ve said enough,” said Mrs. Barber, and she disappeared into the back room.
We all turned to face Doris.
“Is there something you want to tell us?” I asked. “Something that your obedient servant over there wasn’t able to divulge?”
Doris stiffened. “I will tell you in good time. It’s a very wonderful surprise for Flora, something that she would never in a million years believe could happen.”
I smiled to myself; I knew Doris had been driving Flora mad as a self-appointed “wedding coordinator.” Having watched Flora’s frustration with Doris’s need to dominate every part of the wedding over the last few weeks, I knew that having Doris take a vacation would be the one thing that she’d be the most excited to have happen.
“I promise I’ll reveal all in the right time, but I want to tell Flora myself,” continued Doris. “Now, I need to get on. I have to get this goo out of my hair.” She pushed past us toward the door.
“No problem, Your Eminence,” responded Lavinia with both eyebrows raised. “We’ll look forward to an audience with you at a different time.”
And with that, Doris blew out of there. We walked back over to the library, and the women settled back at their table. Ruby shook her head. “I don’t know what it is, but whatever it is—I have a feeling we’re not going to like it.”