Books -- reading and writing.
Home, cooking, the weather.
And whatever connections I can make between these chapters of my life.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Delta Magazine

Those of you who don't live in the Deep South may not have seen this one. I review books and write the occasional backpage essay for the magazine.

Occasionally, I've noticed they post content to the internet. So, if you don't know Delta Magazine, here's your chance. Book reviews! Including a really good read you'll have to wait a month to buy.  Recipes! (and also a link to where you can buy the magazine.)

Saturday, February 26, 2011

What Did We Do Without Blogs?

Scouring my resources for blog info this anniversary week, I've been thinking about my Pre-Blog world. Or, more precisely, the Writing World Before Blogs.

The first writer I hosted at a school book fair, very early in my career (S. Byran Jennings Elementary School, Orange Park, FL, in case you're wondering) was Elaine Konigsburg. She signed books, talked to kids, breezed in and out and was absolutely terrific. She also lived nearby. Even in a public school where a large portion of our students didn't have a lot of pocket money to buy books, the Book Fair was very successful, an exciting day for kids and teachers alike.

Back then, computers were unheard of, except where they filled an entire room on a college campus, so there was no internet. No Blog Tour. No websites for authors. Still, success in terms of books sold.

Later, in other schools, other authors visited. Katherine Paterson (I lived in Maryland, and so did she), Cynthia Voigt, Gail Carson Levine-- my list could go on and on. I moved again; my library was a train ride from New York. Our resources were plentiful.

But that's not the case with all school libraries. And thankfully, blog tours have emerged, right up there with Skyped author visits. Schools now have the ability to know writers via cyberspace. How exciting that must be for kids!

But somewhere, deep down inside, I wonder if it's the same for kids. Is sitting on the edge of their desk, peering up at a manuscript stack as tall as the author (granted, Cynthia Voigt isn't terribly tall!), listening to her explain how many times she revised Homecoming, the same as seeing her on a computer screen? Will students miss the sparkle in Wendy Mass's eyes as she rolls out a zillion rejection letters, now laminated and turned into a long stretch of "Nice but not for us" letters, to show young writers how hard she worked? Can anything match being in the very same room with Katherine Paterson as she apologizes for missing the annual 5th Grade Newbery Lunch the previous week-- because she had to fly on the scheduled day- to the real Newbery announcements. Now that's excitement!

Still, I suspect blog tours are a close second to those real live visits. A great way to get to know a book. Terrific publicity, especially for a new writer. Would I like to move back to the pre-blog world? No! Would I trade sitting next to a real-live author, in a classroom, with kids lining up to have actual books signed? Never!

Friday, February 25, 2011

More Blogging about Blogging

Continuing with this week's Blog Theme-

Something for fellow bloggers to consider when leaving comments, this post by Writer's Digest's Jane Friedman is worth noting.

I'll lift two of her suggestions. You can click the link above to read the entire post. She always has good advice for writers, so it's worth a click in that direction.

To really impress, offer a targeted resource. Some of the best comments I've ever received pointed me to a very specific blog post or resource that I hadn't seen before.

Ask questions. If you didn't understand something that was discussed, there's a good chance someone else didn't understand either. So bring it up in the comments. Get clarification. Most people love the chance to elaborate, or they can address the question in a new blog post.

So, comment away, folks! Here, there and everywhere in Blogsville.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

It's My Party I'll Invite Who I Want To!

(okay, okay WHOM just doesn't have that certain ring...)

I'm three and I get to invite three friends to this party, right?
Here are some of my Blog Buddies. My Writing Blog Buddies.

A Good Blog is Hard to Find
(Yes, that's my group blog. And here's my recent post. But if you love southern books and their writers, scroll around and you'll be delighted and impressed.)

From the Mixed-up Files of Middle Grade Authors
Great posts, always consistent. Interviews, giveaways, writing tips.

And because I never was very good at narrowing guest lists, I'll cheat and share the granddaddy of all blog lists. You can pick your favorite. Check out Jen Robinson's blog, Shelf Elf, Fuse #8, Brooklyn Arden, Cynsations- See, I could go on and on with my birthday party!
Best Book Blogs for Kids, Tweens and Teens

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Blog Birthday #3: The Trouble With Blogging?

Blogging every day is hard work!
But what three-year-old wouldn't love celebrating a birthday for a whole week? So I'll keep up the pace till I run out of blog topics about blogging. At least for birthday week.
Today I'm ruminating on the bad things about blogging, the Anti-Blog post.

Three years ago when I first considered starting a blog, I consulted my writer friends. Without naming names, let me say that a certain one I love and admire shared with me an exchange with another, unnamed but articulate writer about The Trouble With Blogging...

It went something like this:

Compared to the studied seduction of the novel, blogging is literary pole dancing. Anyone can stand naked in the window of the public’s eye, anyone can twitch and writhe and emote over the package that was not delivered, the dinner that burned, the friend who forgot your birthday.

So right then and there, I decided I would never do this. Never rant about a burned dinner or forgotten birthdays. OK, so those things don't really matter to me anyhow. But I promised, as my friend and fellow blogger Lee cautions, never to navel gaze. And I've tried really hard not to.

Except I've already admitted I've had a tad too many food posts, for somebody who is not a food writer.
And I'm guilty of filling a few blank days with travel adventures, with book connections. But I honestly try to stick to my topic. With a minimum of Navel Gazing emoting.

Here are two that came close... But even these had a passing connection to writing or books.

Our Way Home


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

What's Up With Blogging?

Wishing Joyeux Anniversaire! to my blog all week, while wondering if blogging will be obsolete in another three years.

Check out this New York Times article- Facebook replacing blogging? Yes, possibly I am more likely to read a blog post if one of my Facebook friends posts the link. Kid bloggers (bloggers who are under the age of 18?) giving up and just tweeting? Hmmm.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Happy Anniversary to my Blog!

Three years old!
My, my.
And I almost missed it. But while searching for a book title in the recesses of my blog, there it was-- my very first post.

I started this blog after a discussion following a Media Bistro class taught by editor Joy Peskin on Writing for Children. All present agreed that writers needed an internet presence. Prospective agents and editors do google!

(image courtesy of Eileen Harrell, Artline Graphics)

My original intent was to write book reviews and the occasional post about writing, writing activities, and the journey to publication. And I'm still here.

Maybe I have overwritten about a few things- Food, specifically pimento cheese...
And yes, I love quoting writers. I'm a big Eudora Welty fan. Sometimes I combine the two, like in this quote from Miss Eudora:

"When asked what kind of art would be for 'everybody' there can only be one answer: the best." 

I've blogged about libraries. I've blogged about my hometowns. I've done those book reviews and I've talked about writing conferences I attended. I got a ton of hits when I blogged about The Help. I got quite a few comments when I wrote about my dad. I've mostly tried to keep on topic so every post usually has a story attached.

Thanks for reading and I hope you'll stick around.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

More Things to Love

Here's a thing I really love. But it's not resting beautifully in a corner of my kitchen or blooming on a windowsill.

February is Library Lovers Month! 
Come celebrate! Click to find out more!
(I discovered this via Anita Silvey's website, Book-a-Day Almanac.)

It goes without saying that I'm a Library Lover. Right now there are at least 5 branches of my county library that I frequent on a regular basis here in Tampa Bay.

And my New Jersey librarians are no slouches. Check out this- great tweets from NJ to keep funding alive. One example?  “Grab the book. AND the cannoli."
Another? "Woke up this morning, got myself a library card..."

Love it!

I've been a fan of libraries since I was so young that I was only allowed to check out one book at a time. I've also had some great librarians in my life. So hats off to libraries and here's hoping they don't go away anytime soon.

Click here to read a post about someone who greatly influenced me to follow my career path to school librarian.

 Click here to see more of the world's most beautiful libaries.

(Pictured, Dublin College Library)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!

Something about those little conversation hearts has always appealed to me. So when my favorite 4-year-old presented me with this Valentine- and she only sampled a tiny taste- well, let's just say it cracked me up.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sunday New York Times

Often I whip through the paper in no time flat. Today I couldn't stop reading. Here's what I liked most:

                                                                         (Photo by the New York Times)

How e-readers try to look like the Real Thing- Love that picture!

And so many more! Check the Most Emailed list. Check the Sunday Styles.

Funny dogs at the dog show, No cussing day in Middle School, Personal e-signatures for iPhones, J.C. Penney first in Google search?, great article on why marriage negotiation is like Adam Smith (or something like that).

And I haven't even gotten to the magazine or the Book Review.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Fictional Character

Thanks to my friend Eileen for sharing this image from the Oxford American, a terrific publication that's always filled with good things. In fact, it's the magazine that sits longest near my reading chair. And if you want to stroll around town wearing a teeshirt that says Fictional Character, go right ahead. Be forewarned, you might be followed by a writer, observing your every gesture.

(fictional character t-shirts from

Related post: Oxford American, anyone?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Google's Newest: Books Ngram Viewer

I heard about this on the radio. I'd even read a couple of articles about it. But it seemed like more of an intriguing thing to play around with than anything I'd ever actually use.

Then today, I had the perfect question for Google's word database. The idea is that you can track how often a word was used (in books), when its usage peaked, when it first came into the book world.

I needed to know whether characters in the mid 1970s would have said Backpack or perhaps Knapsack. And I sure couldn't remember.

Yes, I could have asked my newest writing friend Lisa, who tells me she was 11 just about the time my work-in-progress's character turned that age in 1976. Or maybe my long-term writing buddy Teddie will know.

But how much fun is it to check it out on this site.

Here's a short LA Times blogpost explaining everything you'd ever want to know about Books NGram Viewer.  

Here's the link to the actual google site- With some good info.

And here's a picture of Knapsack vs. Backback, for the decade of the Seventies!

OK, that was my break for research and development. Now back to my new writing project.
(And thanks again, Joyce and Jamie, for your weekend inspiration.)

Monday, February 7, 2011

Raring to Write! (to paraphrase my dear grandmother...)

Just back from an amazing, nonstop, totally productive, idea-filled, inspiring workshop with two remarkable writing coaches, Jamie Morris and Joyce Sweeney. This weekend's topic was Scene and Structure, just what I needed to make me think I won't toss my next Work-in-Progress into the bottom drawer, or worse yet, out the window. At least not until I play around with some of Joyce and Jamie's suggestions.

I don't think I've ever felt this enthusiastic about ANY writing event before. Well, scratch that. The SCBWI event where I met my agent would have to trump anything.

But as far as running a workshop with the perfect mix of writing prompts, craft lectures, sharing, advising, these two women have this process nailed. Just the best.

Here they are in a fuzzy photo, at the very end of two solid days and one long evening of coaching 12 writers sitting on the edge of our comfy chairs waiting for inspiration. And we got it in spades.

Oh, and did I mention we were at a divine beach house on St. Augustine Beach. With food and drink a mere inches away at all times?

As my dear grandmother would say to five-year-old me: You're raring to go. Slow down!

Not in a million years.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A Thing I Love

Uber-writer Barbara O'Connor recently started posting something she loves on her blog each Thursday, along with a little story. She calls it-- ta-da!-- Things I Love Thursday. You can click that link and search for other similar posts of hers.

I'm not promising things I love enough to make a whole year of Thursdays. But there is something in my kitchen that every time I pass close to it (often), I think to myself: That's the best thing in my house and I love it!

Since I'm copying from the best, I'll do what she does and tell the story.

My daughter and I were trapped in front of her TV for long periods of the past hot summer. We watched Giada cook. Enjoying ourselves, mostly. I casually remarked that I thought the fruit/ veggie basket holder/ thingie in Giada's kitchen was very cool.  My daughter researched it, and she gave it to me for my August birthday.

It's made by Chilewich, in Chatsworth GA, and they call it a "3-tier tray." It came in many parts with a design flaw that needed tweaking. Fortunately, I have the world's cleverest tweaker in the family. Eventually it was assembled. The tray fits perfectly in my kitchen, and it's something I definitely, truly love.

I had to move it to a sunny spot to take that picture. Here's a view of the basket where it lives in the corner, from a couple of weeks ago, posing with my Mississippi State cheese. Which I also love. Hey, maybe there's something to this Things I Love Weekly.

(I just don't like this photo so much. Maybe it's the ugly garlic. But those little tomatoes are growing in my garden, and the basil is now twice that big, in a sunny window. Maybe I should call these blog posts Things I Love in the Kitchen. Or maybe I should get back to blogging about books and writing... What do you think?)