Books -- reading and writing.
Home, cooking, the weather.
And whatever connections I can make between them.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Writing Notebooks

I still remember Carolyn Coman at one of the earlier HIGHLIGHTS Whole Novel workshops showing us her writing notebook. The one she scribbled ideas in when she was gardening- or doing all sorts of things that didn't seem like writing. 

That was a while ago (okay, it was early fall, 2005). I was just beginning the story that would eventually become THE WAY TO STAY IN DESTINY (Coming January, 2015. Don't do the math. It takes me a while.)


To this day, I've never used just one notebook for my pre-writing scribbles. And that's a problem. I have notes everywhere! 

Including in a Scrivener document. Which is where I always end up. But you can't drag your computer to some of the places where you do your best thinking, right? And you never know when an idea or a thought will need writing down.

It would be helpful if all those brilliant thoughts ended up in the same notebook.

So I'll steal some of Linda Urban's excellent ideas.

Have you been following her "notebook" posts about writing? I love how she shares details about what's in those notebooks. Here's a LINK.  There are several. Follow them all!

And just before we departed New Jersey, I popped in on Elizabeth Eulberg et al. and their "YA Romance" panel at the Morristown Festival of the Book. Elizabeth held up a notebook, complete with tabs. That's the look I'm going for!

Aside: Elizabeth has a very good post on her blog about what authors have control over and what they have NO control over. Mostly I agree with her. It's worth reading if you've wondered about things like book jacket art, festivals and promotions, etc. Read it HERE. 

What kind of notebook do you use for your important pre-writing scribbles? Or do you start right up sitting in front of your computer? 
Is it different for each project?
Do you love a certain type of paper, a beautiful notebook, a regular 3-ring binder?
Inspire me with your ideas, please!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Quaker Motto Calendar

It's that time of year.  2015 Calendar Ordering Time!

Actually, I kind of missed the suggested order date. But it's not too late and I'm placing my order today for the QUAKER MOTTO CALENDAR.

Here's the 2015 order form.
AND most importantly, the contact info should you need to reach out.

I don't actually sell/ write/ produce these. My sister-in-law Marion Ballard is the one to call/ email. Her contact info is right there.

You may also want to read:
Each year I post about these calendars. Here's one of the first, with a quote from Aunt Margery about the family's connection to them:

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Glory Game!

How much do I love this very cool game?

Eli made it for his outside reading project at Jackson Prep. His mom, who's a teacher at the Mississippi School for the Deaf and uses GLORY BE with her students, shared it.

Some of the stops along the way--

Segregated water fountain, move back two spaces. 
Freedom Riders come to Mississippi, move forward four spaces. 
Glory writes a brave letter to the newspaper, move forward six spaces. 
Swimming pool is closed because of integration, move back four spaces. 

I'm totally impressed. Thanks, Eli and Mom for sharing and for your clever creativity!

Monday, October 6, 2014

FIGS! Oh joy~

Anybody who knows me knows my fig fetish.
I particularly love eating them when someone like my friend Lee, AKA Kitchen Goddess on her fabulous blog, presents them so beautifully.

Like Lee, I had a grandmother who put up fig preserves.
Our big sprawling fig tree was a perfect spot to hide under and pick the figs right off that tree.

Today's blog from Lee has sent me back to those days.
How I wish I were eating them wrapped in prosciutto and stuffed with cheese right now (my current adoration).

CLICK HERE to read her recipes and remembrances.

I'm so jealous that she has a tree, complete with figs.

To tempt you even more, here's a picture from today's post.
You know you want to read how to make your food look so beautiful.
Go ahead, click away.

Fig Appetizer

 I've written about figs before, in case you hadn't noticed...
You can type FIGS into the search box of this blog or click the link in the previous sentence.
Or just read Lee's post and enjoy. Big time YUM.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Skink- No Surrender

Carl Hiaasen's first Young Adult novel (He's written middle-grade and of course, all those grownup books) has just been long-listed for the National Book Awards.

Having read three of the nominees, I think I'll attempt to tackle them all.

Skink- No Surrender was a quick read, nothing even your motivated middle-grader couldn't handle if he or she is a fan of Hiaasen's books. This one's an adventure and a mystery, of course. But the kids are truly kid-like, something all writers who crossover from adult novels don't always figure out so well.

Then there's the reclusive ex-governor Skink with that gross fake eye. 
("Skink ignored her and closed his good eye. He looked like a grizzled old iguana." Don't you love how he says so much in so few words?)
Yes, there are plenty of shots fired. And one of the lead players runs away with a faker she's met online.
Hmm. Somehow it didn't seem so scary though. Must be the humor. 

Here's a good writing quote from Hiaasen:

True even for Young Adult fiction, wouldn't you say?

Anybody out there predicting who'll take the National Book Award this year?

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Poetry Sunday

As we pack up to head south, I look forward to my Florida birds.
Thank you to my friend Joan who gave me a book I love dipping into:
Mary Oliver's What Do We Know: Poems and Prose Poems

 If you click on that link, you can read a selection, from Google books.

From "Summer Poem"

...the white heron
like a dropped cloud,
taking one slow step

then standing while then taking
another, writing

her own soft-footed poem
through still waters.


Sadly, my earliest attempts at poetry share none of her beauty and lyricism.

While packing, I uncovered this in a very old scrapbook. It was published in The Commercial Appeal when I was eleven. I share so no one reading this blog should be afraid to share, no matter how embarrassing your early efforts might be. It's all about revision, which I (obviously) didn't understand at age eleven.

I've learned a lot. Maybe not about poetry. But certainly about revising.

More Mary Oliver?

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Book Character Birthdays

How very cool!

CLICK THIS LINK to see what literary characters might share your birthday.
Or to celebrate with them.

I've had letters from school classes commenting on Glory's July 4th birthday. 
An excellent project- to wish a book character a Happy Birthday!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Sandy Hormell Community Book Celebration

When an invitation came into my email asking if I'd be a part of the 50th Anniversary commemoration of FREEDOM SUMMER in Oxford, Ohio, I didn't have to think about it.
In 1964, Freedom Workers were trained on the campus of Miami University before they left for Mississippi. I was honored to be a part of this.

Here are a few sentences from the invitation:

The event honors Sandy Hormell, a longtime Talawanda and Miami employee, whose love of books and education made her a beloved teacher and colleague. Although her life was claimed by ALS in 2004, her love of reading lives on in this event. 

Many things I hold dear, in one special celebration.
I would speak at an evening meeting, sign books and greet some delightful people, and present my GLORY BE story to middle schoolers. Over 1000 books would be given to readers of all ages.
Wow. What author wouldn't love that.

Of course, I said yes.

(It didn't hurt that my college roommate, whom I really hadn't seen in a very long time, would be my hostess. Or that my daughter was a Miami University grad and I had such fond memories of the college town.)

Off I went!

After a delightful lunch, then an afternoon stroll on campus with my friend Lyn, we headed to the Oxford Community Arts Center.
There I talked to a wonderfully attentive group of readers of every age.

The Community Arts Center is in a neat building.
Former dorm rooms turned artist studios are upstairs.
I coveted one of those studios!

As soon as I walked in, this adorable reader told me she loved my book!

This group had come with their creative and inspiring teacher. She'd driven them from a nearby community. Now that's dedication!

I talked about writing the book, about Freedom Summer in my own town, about my inspiration.

Afterwards, we walked across the street to the Oxford Lane Library.

BOOK FOOD was enjoyed by all!
Red Velvet cupcakes. Emma's Lemon Cookies. Bug Juice.


One of the best parts of this weekend went on behind the scenes. Or behind my scenes. 
The 5th grade gifted students from Oxford's three elementary schools had discussed the book with seniors from the Knolls Retirement Community and the Miami University Institute for Learning in Retirement. They'd also had lunch together.  
I heard it was fabulous. I wish I'd been the proverbial fly on the wall.

You'd think it couldn't get much better than that, wouldn't you?

This Bulletin Board greeted me at the TALAWANDA MIDDLE SCHOOL.

First public showing of the new cover art for THE WAY TO STAY IN DESTINY!

(Awesome media specialist shout-out: Hi, Monica Greene!)

Just a few of the many books I signed!

A really remarkable thing happened.
Sitting in the media center signing books at lunch, I met a teacher who brought this in for me to see.

He'd bought it at an antique shop, a while ago.

He uses it to teach his Civil Rights unit.

The questions were pretty amazing. The students were so well-prepared. I hated to leave.

Such a super committee. So well organized. Lots of fun. Smart, smart people! 
Here we are at our farewell dinner at Kona, a fabulous restaurant in downtown Miami.

Tucked inside a delightful basket of zucchini muffins, fruits and nuts and cheeses 
was a lovely note. I love the card, don't you?

One last stop before saying goodbye Oxford Ohio, to friends, old and new, young and old.

                        (Looking cool like the Elvis fans we were a few years ago...)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Freedom Summer: 50 Years Later

This week, I've been thinking about the anniversary of FREEDOM SUMMER. My personal journey through the year-long commemoration began last February in Como, Mississippi, where I was part of a remarkable event that brought together former Freedom Workers, many of whom were still residents of Panola County.

There are a lot of fabulous resources out there.

Like this, part of  Miami University's CELEBRATING FREEDOM, year-long commemoration of the summer.

(where I'll be on Thursday! Check out the times and places HERE!)

My fictional character, Laura Lampert, began her journey into GLORY BE with my memory of sitting in the Bolivar County library in Cleveland, MS. My friend and inspiration, LePoint Smith, introduced us. We talked just that one time. And at first, she was a shadow character in my book, there for no discernible reason except to talk to Glory about her love of reading Nancy Drew books.

My critique group and others thought she needed beefing up. 
I'm glad I took that advice.
I believe one of the most powerful scenes in my book is when Glory shows her around the park and the courthouse. All added in later revisions.
Now I get a lot of questions about her from kids.
1. What does it mean when you say that she talks like that Walter Cronkite on TV?
2. Why does she dress so differently?
3. Will she and Glory always be friends?

A minor character can add so many layers to a story. Middle-grade and young adult historical fiction, in my very humble opinion, lives or dies on layers.

Do you have a supporting character who needs beefing up? If you're writing historical fiction, can the role she plays be significant to the times?

Sunday, September 14, 2014

brown girl dreaming

What I'm Reading Now.

I read Jacqueline Woodson's new memoir-in-verse because smart people said I would love it.
Then I read it again to write a review, because I did indeed love it.
Then I read it again because I loved it so much I wanted to share a poem to inspire a Writing Workshop.

So believe me, I was delighted to hear the author say she reads slowly.
And sometimes more than once.
When I'm reading for pleasure, I don't always do that. But now I will try harder.
She advises kids to do the same. Even with a book that's easy to speed through- like this one- sometimes you need to slow down, savor the words. Read it again.

Here's the author talking about her path to becoming a writer.

(You can see the link and read Betsy Bird's comments about the book HERE.)

This quote reminds me of someone. Maybe a lot of someones. So I love it (and I paraphrase):
When I was growing up, I told lies all the time. And I had a teacher who told me to write it all down. Because if you write it down, it's no longer a lie. It's fiction.

Friday, September 12, 2014

International Dot Day

This was way more fun than it should be for somebody who is clueless about anything ART-wise.

Next week, September 15, is International DOT DAY.
Have you created your own fun(ny) dot?

(Check out the huge list of illustrators' and authors' dots, HERE.)

Here's my dot!

{With a nod to my friend Eileen the Artist, to Teddie's awesome paperclips, to Lyn's mama's visit to Elvis's house and to all my shell-gathering friends.}

Monday, September 8, 2014


I'm beyond excited to tell everybody that my next book, coming in January 2015 from Scholastic Press, is now available to pre-order.

Thanks for telling your favorite independent bookstore the news.

Here's the Amazon link:

And one for Barnes&Noble:

AND- TaDa!

The gorgeous cover.

And if you're still reading, you can actually hear me sharing an early passage and talking a bit about how I got started, lo those many years ago.

Sunday, September 7, 2014


Isn't STEW the funniest word?
My mother used it all the time. 

Recently, I realized I'd used WORRY twice in the same paragraph of dialog. 
The character is a woman, a grandmother, who could well have been a contemporary of my mother's. I grabbed my handy Flip Dictionary and looked for another word.

I couldn't believe it. STEW was listed as a synonym for worry. And it wasn't even a southern list of words. It didn't mention how old-fashioned it is.


Today I happened upon this excellent article I'd saved to read "later"- when I had time to savor it. 
So much good writing advice to think about.

Like this, from Stephen King's book ON WRITING:

A book won't stand or fall on the very first line of prose -- the story has got to be there, and that's the real work. And yet a really good first line can do so much to establish that crucial sense of voice -- it's the first thing that acquaints you, that makes you eager, that starts to enlist you for the long haul. So there's incredible power in it, when you say, come in here. You want to know about this. And someone begins to listen.

And lo and behold, there's my word STEW. From Mohsin Hamid, author of How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia. Talking about walking.

My head cleared. My energy soared. My neck pains diminished. Sometimes I texted myself ideas, sentences, entire paragraphs as I walked. Other times I just floated along, arms at my sides, stewing and filtering and looking.

(I know what he means. I often STEW over ideas while driving. Not the smartest of moves if you're in traffic...)

Now I'm sure I'll find it every time I open something. It's a fine word, stew.
And I'm not about to stew over kids today not knowing what it means. When I put my earlier blogpost on Facebook and Twitter, about the irony of finding STEW when I looked up worry, a teacher commented that she loved finding words kids might not know, challenging them to figure them out. I totally agree!
Let's hear it for new/ old words!

Have you run across an old friend in the word department lately? Did you add it to your writing?

Friday, September 5, 2014

Oxford, Ohio- See you soon!

To my buddies in Ohio. 
If you are close, I'd love to see you!
Thursday, September 18, 7 PM.
Oxford Community Arts Center.
I'm so excited to return to a college town I really love.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Kate DiCamillo

I may be the last person on earth to hear Kate DiCamillo's amazing NEWBERY MEDAL acceptance speech.

I loved FLORA AND ULYSSES. If you don't know the book yet, you can read my review HERE.

Mr. Schu gave me an autographed copy, which I treasure. I blogged about that HERE.
(Sorry, you can't click on that link and hope to win the copy, unautographed, that I gave away. That's over.)

Now I want to read the
 William Maxwell short story that inspired this speech, THE THISTLES IN SWEDEN.

Our local library owns it.  I'm off to check it out!

Here's the text from Kate DiCamillo's lovely speech:

But truly, you need to listen.

Friday, August 29, 2014


I'm not even going to attempt to describe what it's like to spend three (or more!) days at a Highlights Foundation UNWorkshop. 

Your very own room to create.

Instead, I'll show it in pictures.

 Day One. Arrival. Showing off my cabin. There's a sign in the window with my name on it. And it says Welcome BACK, Augusta. When you're a repeater, you get that Welcome Back thing. 

I thought it was appropriate that this hung in my cabin. I won't show you the top of the calendar. Just know it was a blond who resembles me in no way. But the date is approximately the time I was going to be writing about during my days UNWorkshopping.

The last time I was here, it was November and a light snow fell. This time the flowers were breathtaking.

I love the lavender!
And the sky!

Jo suggested Teddie, Janet and I sit on the porch, or inside the Lodge, if we wanted to talk about what we'd written.
We did.


Here are my writing buds, Janet McLaughlin and Teddie Aggeles. They loved it as much as I did.

One of my favorite places is the rock garden. Serenity.

Also fun to see what others have to say.

 We walked this long and winding road. Mostly at the end of one of the fabulous meals prepared by Chef Joseph.

Friends have written about their own experiences.

Stacey was also UNWorkshopping with us. She pretty much tells it all HERE.

My friend Joyce has also been to a Highlights UnWorkshop and blogged about it HERE.  She calls it Writer Heaven. I have to agree.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Books! Books! Books!

An abundance of riches.

I can't keep up. I adore middle-grade novels and want to read every single book anybody mentions to me.

One thing I really liked about Lisa Graff's latest book, ABSOLUTELY ALMOST, was the voice of Albie. So true to his stuggling/ average kid/ can't quite get it character.
And the setting, New York City. Yes and wow.
Lisa's love of the city came through with perfection. I was right there with Albie, eating, walking, checking out the museums. Or not.

Ice cream cones at Tasti D-Lite and Mr. Softee, instructions for hailing a cab and pulling the cord to get the bus to stop. Just what a real NYC kid would do.

Here's a little of Albie's voice, with his wonderfully-drawn babysitter, Calista.

"The walk signal came on, and after checking both ways twice, Calista let us cross. At least she didn't make me hold her hand like I was some kind of baby that had never crossed a street before."

If you're interested in reading a long review of the book, click here for Betsy Bird's take on it. 

I also read and reviewed DEATH BY TOILET PAPER by Donna Gephart, another favorite author whose books never ever disappoint. Check out my review, HERE.

And I departed from my usual middle-grade addiction to stay up way too late with Lisa Schroeder's THE BRIDGE FROM ME TO YOU.
If I were my younger self, this would be the book my friends and I would pass around and love.
Even my older self couldn't put it down, obviously.
Having grown up in a Friday Night Lights kind of world (and being a huge fan of the TV show), I totally get this blogger, on the topic.
Since she says it better than I can, I'll quote her and link back to her post:

"The Bridge from Me to You is one you'll want to add to your list if you want to fill that FNL-shaped hole in your heart, remember the stickiness of growing up in a small town or read a book that is good."

I agree on all counts. 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Working Space

I do not like a cluttered work space. 
Or a noisy one.
Or one right next to the laundry room.
(But that's another story.)

But sometimes you just have to spread everything out and make a mess.
After today, I'm cleaning up and putting away. But for now, here's a little corner of my desk. 
I'm working hard. ➜➜➜➜➜

I couldn't do it without my absolute favorite book for words.


Just now I went to look up a synonym for worry.
Guess what was in the list.


One of my mother's favorite words.
As in, You Don't Need to Stew Over This Revision.

(She'd be wrong about that.)

I'm smiling to think that a Writer's Digest Press book as often-used as the FLIP DICTIONARY recognizes a word I love.

Now I have to decide if I put it into a middle-grade novel, will there be a kid reader in today's world who has ever stewed over anything? 

Here's an earlier post where I'll tell you even more about FLIP DICTIONARY.
Click on over and read about Back-to-School supplies, with a great comment, too. 

Feel free to let me know if you have any other Tools of the Trade you can't live without.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Back to School

This made me smile today.
Advice for Creative Types as they begin a new school year.
Or a new writing year.
Or any kind of new endeavor. 

Here's a favorite: 

5. Find your tribe. They're out there, other creative minds who think and dream like you. If you already have a tribe, keep an eye out for artists wandering the halls alone. We artists spend so much time in our heads, it's sometimes hard to connect to the world. But without doubt, we need to.

Susan is one of the most creative of my creative type friends. And, I'm proud to say, I'm part of her tribe.

I love the art that sometimes accompanies her blogposts. 
Here's a sample, used with Susan's permission.

Does it feel like Back to School time to you? Are ideas percolating in your brain? Happy creating, everybody!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014


 My quick review.

Fabulous cover, no?

Chinese immigrants in America, 1923.
A young-ish YA, historical, a time period and topic that's fascinating. Cleverly plotted love story and mystery/ adventure tale.

Some really glorious writing. For example:
 When Jade Moon/ Fire Horse is trapped at Angel Island-
"The night was long and filled with the sounds of strangers' breath instead of sleep... I thought of our rice terraces, their beauty and promise built over generations, and I tried to remember that dreams, like terraces, are built one stone at a time."

About stories, her friend explains where they come from: "Deep inside of us, where we must bury what we desire most in order to protect it."

 I particularly loved the character of Neal, the Irish immigrant, Fire Horse's protector. 
Super secondary characters, all around. 
Great quote from Neal: "Your name will be on a headstone if Mr. Hon finds out about this." Neil rubbed his hand over his face. "Chinawomen have those little feet. They're quiet. They stay at home."

To this, Jade Moon replies: "Not all of them."

Sunday, August 17, 2014


All writers I know love to eavesdrop. I tell kids when they ask What Does it Take to Be A Writer? that they must listen and remember.

Or in my case, listen and write it down.

The best place for eavesdropping is one where you'll blend in. A train ride, for example.
I like to name characters seen on the train and imagine their stories.

Here's an exchange between a boy in a Yankee cap and another kid, possibly his older sister.

I don't think I'll be using this. Go ahead and steal it if you'd like.

BOY (as we pulled into the South Orange stop on the NJ Transit Mid-Town Direct to NYC):
"This looks just like New York!"

GIRL: You've never even been to New York.

BOY: "Well, it looks just like what I've seen on Cash Cab."

What's the best eavesdropping conversation you've heard? 
Or are you really going to tell me you never eavesdrop...

Check this site for even more confessions of writers eavesdropping.

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Value of Notes

A zillion years ago, I went to one of the very first "whole novel" workshops sponsored by the HIGHLIGHTS FOUNDATION. Carolyn Coman led the entire thing, with help from her husband Stephen Roxburgh.

The workshop was SEEING INTO YOUR STORY.

I have an entire legal pad filled with notes.
Obviously, my story needed a whole lot of seeing into.

But some of the notes reflect exactly the same things my now editor, Andrea Pinkney, told me when I began revising THE WAY TO STAY IN DESTINY.

Which, by the way, was what I worked on during that long weekend in Honesdale with Carolyn.
Back when I barely had a rough draft.

And the main character's name was Shelton. (now Theo)
And his uncle's name was Chester. (now Raymond)

I had no clue what the time period was though I thought it was the present.

The baseball player the kids loved was Mickey Mantle. (now Henry Aaron)

Don't even ask.

Some of the advice Carolyn gave me.
1. Make a bigger deal of the piano scenes.
2. Shelton doesn't have to be quite as sad if his parents died a long time ago and he's been living in a happy situation ever since.

Some of the excellent, quick tips I wrote, filling my entire legal pad.

1. If possible, have characters already knowing each other. Introductions are difficult.
2. Re: PACING. Err on the side of brevity. You can always add. But your potential editor or agent may get bogged down.

Some of the exercises we did (the ones I liked. I'm not crazy about all writing exercises...):

Who were the voices that made you laugh in your childhood, or in the present?
What were some of the expressions you grew up with?  * (see below for answers)

I wonder how many of my writer friends have attended a Highlights Foundation Workshop?
Did you learn as much as I did?

Here we are in our class photo. All those years ago.
The beginning of a great journey that thankfully turned into a book.
Coming, January 2015.

Answer to *
1. Hotter than a depot stove.
2. That ole' peckerwood. (My childhood word's meaning is totally not what some of the current slang dictionaries say it means...)
3. If you don't behave, I'm getting a switch off that switch tree.

I wasn't blogging back in those days, but you can read about some of my Highlights writer friends HERE.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Things I Love: Old and New

Can you think of anything better than a Writers Reunion?
My original critique group, sans one important member, happened to be at the same place at the same time yesterday.

So I dusted off (figuratively speaking) two favorite old things, my tomato server and a silver compote. Not to mention a story or two.

They are favorites because they were wedding gifts I've used a lot.
And love a lot.
The tomato server was a gift of my grandmother's lifelong best friend, who shared her "S" initial with me and gave me her engraved server.

The compote came from one of the funniest ladies I've ever known. Annie B. Gipson.
When I was a middle-grader, I worked with her and we laughed all the time.

 Here's the reason we gathered. Our friend Leslie Guccione was in town.
Look at those yummy New Jersey tomatoes!

 Here we all are!
Lee Stokes Hilton, Leslie, and Kay Kaiser.
(Lee's excellent food blog can be found

The GLORY BE M&Ms fall into the realm of new favorite things. Leftover from one of my last school visits.
And the idea came from an amazing Mother Daughter Book Group dinner, a connection made through a teaching colleague many years ago when I worked in Baltimore.
A job I loved.
With people I truly loved (and still do!).

Such good memories.
Now I'll stop strolling down memory lane and get back to the fabulous writing ideas this group generated. 

(You may be interested in this post, about one of my trips back "home" to Baltimore.)

Saturday, August 9, 2014

And another perspective...

Following on my post yesterday, great minds thinking alike and all that, my friend Caroline Rose has posted a perfect quote on her blog:

We need books — and I want to publish books — that reflect the whole range of a child or teenager’s emotional experiences and take us through those experiences with them. So the stories come through a child’s heart and speak to a child’s heart; so they have the bravery and honesty to look at a muddle* and acknowledge its pain, and not to be moralistic or easy; and, in the end, to help us all make it through.


Friday, August 8, 2014

Solving the Problems of the World Through Literature...

Or not.

I've had such great talks with kids about my book. Some of their questions about GLORY BE, about the 60s, about integration, even about my opinions, have blown me away.

Still, I feel very strongly that writers shouldn't set out to solve the problems of the world in a book. Or to teach young readers all the answers. That's not why I write. But if a book's topic relates to something going on in a child's life, in her school, on a sports team, make that connection. Just understand that the author probably didn't sit down one day and say "Hmmm, let's teach kids to be nicer to each other."

In a good book, it just happens that way.

For tips on the topic, especially as your younger child begins a new school year,
check out this article from Scholastic via Parent and Child.

I've probably only written about this one time, an interview with Children's Literature Network, linked HERE:

Of course, I know writers look for ways to connect their books to kids, teachers, parents. But a good book stands on its own. No preaching necessary!
The connections, when they are made, happen magically- or so it seems.

Opinions are welcome. That's what the comment box is for.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Way We Write

I so love this:

"We prewrite. We unwrite.  It’s messy."

from Linda Urban's blog about writing THE CENTER OF EVERYTHING. 

Here's the post: Click right on over-

There's more, here:

And be sure to check back. Linda promises she's going to tell us more about her writing process. Every writer is different, but what fun to watch those wheels turn, right?

One of my favorite books ever is HOUND DOG TRUE by Linda Urban. Here's a short review, plus more:

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Dancing to the Oldies

Today I'm excitedly reading what's known as Second Pass Pages for my new book, THE WAY TO STAY IN DESTINY. This is a PDF of exactly what the pages will look like. I'm searching for typos. I'm finding none so far.
(Oh, how I love you, Scholastic production team!)

There's a dance theme to this book.

Growing up in Cleveland, Mississippi and taking tap and ballet classes forever, I adored my teacher, Ruth Hart.

A little while ago, my friend and fellow childhood dancer, Beth Boswell Jacks, wrote an essay that pretty much speaks to how a lot of us felt about our dance teachers. You can read it HERE

I'm sharing this quote from the head of that essay. 
I think it speaks to a lot of the arts- hey to a lot of life lessons, right?

                     “Nobody cares if you can’t dance well. Just get up
                       and dance. Great dancers are not great because
                     of their technique, they are great because of their
                               passion.” – Martha Graham

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Secret Hum of a Daisy

 Funny, tiny remarks that still make me smile:

Jo saying, "I come here all the time when it gets warm and film the wildlife, which includes people."

"That's how it had always been with Mama. Taping things up in a way that was easy to take down."
(She used double-sided tape. What a great image.)

First line: All I had to do was walk up to the coffin.

(I'm thinking a lot about First Lines these days. So important!
Re: Richard Peck's talk at Books of Wonder.  And another Richard Peck beginning thought is HERE.)

Won't give away last line but it does refer back to the title. Which I always like. Titles are also tough. I kept forgetting this one while I was reading the book. Afterwards, not so much.

Here's a nice, short review of Tracy Holczer's debut middle-grade novel, via Publisher's Weekly:

I read this one on the advice of an interesting list in the Christian Science Monitor of the best middle-grade books of the year, so far (though truthfully, some are Young Adult in my opinion) HERE.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


I'm way behind in my adult novels To Be Read list.
To whoever recommended this one, thank you and I'm sorry I didn't get to it a year ago when you raved.

A perfect vacation read, THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS is written by M.L. Stedman, an Australian living in London. 
Click to read that the novel's ->  ->
Coming soon to the movies!

The book is about many things I love: lighthouses, families, World War I. 

For a terrific interview about writing the book, click here:

As I turned the pages quickly (because it was that kind of story- hey Oprah likes it too!), I was reminded of writing advice I recently read on Janice Hardy's blog about creating conflict:

2. Offer an impossible choice

Choices move the plot, but impossible choices make the protagonist work for it. When there’s no clear answer, and both choices have terrible consequences, readers know something about the story is going to change and the stakes are going up–two solid ways to keep readers hooked. 

To read the rest of her tips, CLICK HERE.

Without spoiling the novel for those of you who haven't read it, Stedman is quite good at that impossible choice thing. 

Anything else I shouldn't miss reading this summer, which will be gone when I blink fast?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

How Many Pages is Enough?

Intriguing post over at 100 Scope Notes today.

Be sure to read the comments, too. There were 36 at my last count!

Truly, it's not only about PAGE COUNT as far as heft (or lack thereof) goes. 

My first novel was 196 pages, not counting the Author Note, etc. But the new book might be a tad longer--not much!-- AND the font's smaller. So there's that.

But Travis Jonker has a point over there on his blog. I love shorter middle-grade novels. 192 works for me!

Click right here and check it out:

Plus, it's a fun topic to think about. And he's a funny guy.

"What if a story is longer, you say? Either it gets edited down, or slap a #1 on the spine because that sucker’s becoming a series. Shorter? Beef that puppy up."

Monday, July 14, 2014

Quote of the Day

I love this from my writing group buddy, Teddie Aggeles, on a chapter I sent to my Skyway Writers SCBWI critique group last week:

"I’m not sure we can completely know a Main Character the way we need to until the story unfolds. 
...even when we think we know our characters, there’s always more to discover about them, just like in real life."

(I'm trying, really.)

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Being Still and Listening

July seems like a good time to re-post advice I'm still working on.
Of course, it never hurts to be in a place where your choices for Internet Background Noise are limited.

My husband's great-grandmother hung this where she could read it every day during the summer months she spent in this quiet place.

 (Here's a reposting from two years ago.)
"The discipline of the writer is to learn to be still and listen to what his subject has to tell him."
                 Rachel Carson

This morning I read Candice Farris Ransom's post about switching off the internet and listening Here it is. What do you think? I don't think I can completely unplug. But I'll try to strike a balance.

I'm leaning toward the advice of Laurie Halse Anderson, 
in her blogpost about Social Media.

Cut the amount of time you spent on social media and reading blogs about writing and getting published by 75%. Yep. If you spent 10 hours a week on that stuff, then from now on, spend 2.5 hours. Use the time that you get back for writing your novel and for reading great books. That will make your chances of getting published much stronger than any Facebook post ever will.

Of course, I'd spent an entirely productive time cruising around on Laurie Halse Anderson's blog.  She's got some great advice and fantastic visuals so I'll be back.  She'll be in my 25%.

It's the other internet background noise I may be able to live without. 
It's a lot easier to be still and listen when the background noise isn't clutter.