Joan Bauer - On
   Writing Stand Tall Joan Bauer - On
   Writing Stand Tall
Almost Home   Sugar Mae Cole doesn't often get downhearted, but lately it's been a struggle to keep up her hopes. Newly homeless, Sugar and her mother, Reba, have come to Chicago to make a fresh start. But everything goes wrong, Sugar and her mother are separated, and Sugar and her beloved rescue dog, Shush, are put into foster care. Through poems and letters and memories and grit, Sugar holds onto her dream of someday having a real home again.

Once long ago, a girl lost her home,
        but she didn't lose her dream.
She hung onto it as the wind kept trying
        to blow it away,
But that just made it stronger.

Close to Famous   When you've been chased out of Memphis by a scary Elvis impersonator and end up in the tiny town of Culpepper, where nothing much seems to happen, it's hard to hold onto a big dream. And Foster has a really big dream: one day she hopes to have her own TV cooking show like her idol, Sonny Kroll. Meanwhile, she'll keep on doing what she does best — baking.

Soon Foster discovers she's not the only one in Culpepper with with a dream of fame. Macon desperately wants to make documenary films. Miss Charleena longs to return in triumph to Hollywood, and Foster's mother hopes to be a headliner instead of a backup singer. Meanwhile, Culpepper seems to provide a safe haven. But Foster and her mother can't hide forever.

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Peeled   There is so much coming at ace reporter Hildy Biddle that she's not sure what's true anymore.  The big story in town is that a ghost is on the loose and plenty of people are scared.  It doesn't help that the local newspaper is running frightening headlines.

Hildy is the kind of reporter who is determined to stick to the facts.  That is the only way she can find out who or what is really threatening her town.  But what are the rules of good journalism, anyway?  Does the truth have a chance of being heard over all the buzz?

For the buzz about the book...

Read the Moss Green Interview

Best Foot Forward   Corporate lies, dealing with an alcoholic father, managing a juvenile delinquent, and romance -- what a combination!  But that's what Jenna Boller faces in this story about what it means to do your best when close to everything around you is spiraling out of control.

In Rules of the Road, Jenna declared that she was a survivor.  Now in this companion novel, she moves beyond surviving to prevailing.  For more about the book...

Stand Tall   How does a boy named Tree cope?  He's too tall, his Vietnam vet grandpa is in the hospital, his parents' divorce is all too new.  How does divorce affect a family -- from siblings to parents, grandparents, and the dog?  What can we learn about our personal wars from old soldiers who have seen battle?  How can hope be found in the midst of tragedy?  Is it possible to love an iguana almost as much as a dog? 

These are some of the questions I asked myself when I was writing Stand Tall.  It's an exploration of the worst year in a family's life and how they slog through it.  It's about old memories, too, and the shadows they leave behind.  But mostly it's about the hard, necessary work of restoration and rebuilding, and how to find purpose in tough times.

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For the New York Times Review

Hope Was Here  

A Recipe for Hope


  • One tough-talking waitress
  • One equally tough perfectionist comfort food chef
  • One heart-wrenching move from their beloved Brooklyn to a dinky dairy town
Fold in:
  • One great Quaker battling leukemia
  • One nasty mayoral race
  • Romance; serious food
  • A courageous sheriff's deputy, a cute short order cook, a team of teenagers fighting for truth
Let rise:
  • Because when hope gets released in a place, all kinds of things are possible.
For all about Hope...

For the story behind Addie's apple pie: Life with Pie.

Backwater   Have you ever known someone who was so unusual they had trouble living around other people?  Maybe youre a bit like that.  Ivy Breedlove is a little (at least around her family), but her Aunt Jo wins the prize.  Is Jo still alive?  Thats what Ivy wants to know.  And if she is, what can she tell her about the Breedloves?

Backwater is a wilderness adventure about pursuing historical truth, about learning where the roots of our families -- normal and otherwise -- can take us, and its about the times in life when we struggle to survive against the odds.

Backwater Secret Revealed: The Real Ivy Breedlove Speaks Out

Hear Joan's interview on Backwater

Rules of the Road   Alcoholism in a family -- its a life of pain, and often, denial.  Jenna Boller, ace shoe salesperson, knows this too well.  Her dad cant stay sober.  But shes learned the secret to living with his dysfunction -- speak the truth, keep loving him.  And for one summer, she gets out of town -- hired by her aging rich boss, Madeline Gladstone, to drive her to Texas. 

Rules of the Road is a story about how lifes toughest tests can make us stronger.  Its about single parenting, shoes, honor, corporate responsibility, and how a new haircut makes all kinds of things better.  Its about the difference remarkable people can make in our lives in a very short time.  Its the book that changed me as a writer.  My dad was an alcoholic -- Id never written about such personal issues before. 

Sticks   Pool -- I love the game.  And I layered my love for it onto Mickey Vernon, age 10.  He is desperate to win the pool tournament at his familys pool hall, determined to beat the vile Buck Bender -- Cranston, New Jerseys king bully who has been after him for years.  Mickey needs a coach, but his pool champ dad died young.  Hes got Arlen, his best friend, to help with the geometry of the game.  His grandmother, Poppy, owns the hall and is a good shot herself.  Hes got videos of his dad playing, but what would it be like to learn at his side?

Sticks is about a young man who faces loss and injury and doesnt quit.  Its about winning, losing, and the people from our past who can show up at just the right time to help.  And it shows the power in things that we dont always expect can make a difference -- like math, forgiveness, and pot-bellied pigs.

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Thwonk   Be careful what you wish for.  Any self-respecting cupid will tell you this.  But A.J. McCreary learns things the hard way.  Even when eyeball to eyeball with an official winged being, she refuses mythological truth, and follows her heart which leads straight to Peter Terris, drop-dead gorgeous all-out popular guy, who doesnt know shes alive.  At least, not yet.

Thwonk is a story about romantic desperation, artistic integrity, and how to look at people through the eyes of the heart.  Theres a great deal of me in A.J.s mother, the Emotional Gourmet; like A.J.s father, I worked in advertising.  I swear, I have never once been approached by a cupid, but I wonder how I would have reacted back in high school if Jonathon had flitted into my life.

Squashed   My first novel.  Ellie Morgans voice burst from me full-toned.  This is a story about a teenager and her vegetable, about having a gigantic dream and trying to fulfill it, about people we love not always understanding our passions, about being ourselves when most of the world says to conform.  Its about the power of grandmothers, the magic of seeds, the triumph of agriculture, and a towering dad who learns who his daughter really is. 

I wrote this story after a serious car accident.  The laughter in Squashed, I assure you, helped me heal.  The metaphor about growing a big dream is with me always.

copyright 2012 Joan Bauer