Books -- reading and writing.
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And whatever connections I can make between these chapters of my life.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

As promised. More Book Reviews

BloodrootBloodroot by Amy Greene

In anticipation of a January paperback release, the publisher sent a copy of this story set in Appalachia. Having nothing to read on a trip, I grabbed it up, hoping for the best, but I was worried. There's nothing worse than being stuck on an airplane with a dull book. I needn't have worried.  It was the best, and more.

Different characters, spanning generations, interweave their stories in such distinct voices that the novel just sings. For example, here's Byrdie whose granddaughter Clio has her worrying about the company she keeps: "I reckon nary one of them has ever set foot in a church house, but they sure do spend plenty of time in the jailhouse."

Now, that one line just says so much.

This is Amy Greene's first novel. I can't wait to read her next. Great book.

View all my reviews

Friday, January 28, 2011

Catching up on my Reading today...

"Naw, y'all is in-between people...  Part southern and part Yankee. And the part that's Yankee is good Yankee."

I just love that line. 

From Mama, in Teresa Nicholas's amazing upcoming memoir of growing up in Yazoo City: BURYIN' DADDY: Putting My Lebanese, Catholic, Southern Baptist Childhood to Rest (University Press of Mississippi, March, 2011)

The book's not out until March, but the publisher sent me a review copy for Delta Magazine's next issue. And what a terrific, funny, poignant book. Just so much to rave about here! Trot on over to your independent bookstore or public library and be first in line for this one.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Writers Search Engine

For all the time I've wasted on Facebook, finding something like this makes it all worthwhile (OK, there are other things that make it worthwhile, too, but I'm writing about writing now).

A Facebook friend actually created this amazing way to search a huge database of articles, blogs, what-have-you about writing.  
Click here for the link to Writer's Knowledge Base.

Since I'm working like crazy to get my revision back to my editor today, I searched a couple of words that I thought might be helpful. Wow! Tons of great links. I could have read all day about "Humor," "Titles" and a few other topics of interest. Great new site. Way to go Elizabeth Spann Craig!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

I Love Scrivener, Pt. 1

My critique group must tire of my ravings about Scrivener. I think I'm such an admirer of this writing software because the first time I tried it, I gave up in failure. This time I was more persistent. And considerably more motivated. Now I'm Scrivener's biggest fan.

I am revising historical fiction and there's just not a better way to keep track of all the photos, web pages, lists, books-- you name it-- than Scrivener. Not to mention your entire manuscript, and all those note cards.

Today I vaguely remembered notes from a hymnal of very old songs, a book I'd seen during a faraway summer but not one I'd owned. I'd carefully printed titles I loved, but where was that notebook? Where was my hymn list? When you've been writing at a story for almost ten years, off and on, you have way too many notebooks.

But I found it. And now I wanted to be sure it was someplace handy for reference. I took a picture, saved it to my computer and imported it right into my "research" notes in the binder.

Never to be lost again! By the way, I chose #5, Rock of Ages, from the list. Now I know all my hymn-ish stuff may not make this revision cut, but for now, I can't get the words out of my head, or the tune.

For my next novel, I will begin with Scrivener. I will transcribe into Scrivener as soon as I write a note on the back of a recipe card, scribble reminders with my grocery lists, or photocopy something from a book. Yes, I do love Scrivener.

Related post: Click here for a cool picture of my corkboard with note cards, from a previous posting.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Martin Luther King Day

This piece from today's Christian Science Monitor-- and the picture-- sent me back to my first year of teaching. I was a school librarian at the Harris Street Elementary School in East Point, Georgia. A suburb of Atlanta, in Fulton County-- one of the best counties in the country for novice librarians-- the school's population was entirely white, considerably working class, largely terrific kids. We were under federal order to desegregate at the time, which basically meant the county transferred three of its best, most experienced African American teachers to the school.
But that's another story.

Today I'm remembering the little girl in a class where I shared a book about Martin Luther King. He had been killed a couple of years before, but that day, no one in the group knew who he was. As I explained what he'd done for our country, the little girl's hand went up. "Is he the man whose casket was carried by a mule train?" she asked shyly. She'd watched the funeral with her family and it had made a tremendous impression on her very young mind. Her parents had told her what a great man he was, and she hadn't forgotten what they said, even if she couldn't remember his name.

I suspect no child forgets his name anymore. I often wonder what happened to students of mine who are now old enough to be parents themselves. I hope today that little girl, and her grown-up classmates, are remembering their own stories of Dr. Martin Luther King.

Quotes from Dr. King, from the Christian Science Monitor:

“Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.”

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” –Letter from Birmingham Jail
King wrote the "Letter from Birmingham Jail" on April 16, 1963 after being jailed for taking part in nonviolent demonstrations around the city.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Writing Quote for the Day...

"Revision is one of the true pleasures of writing. I love the flowers of afterthought." 
~Bernard Malamud

(and for a link to lots more writing quotes like this, click here)

Related post: Richard Peck

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

So Many Books!

I fear my To-Review stack has far surpassed my ability to read and write about these books. I'll admit I've been a tad distracted with revising. I love love love revising my own novel, don't get me wrong. But books are beckoning!

Here's what I plan/hope to write about very soon:

The book that just won the Newbery Medal: MOON OVER MANIFEST. True confession. I read half of it and got bogged down and gave up. It's not that I don't like the book, I was just very distracted. In fact, I think I'll like it a lot, and not just because on Monday it won the biggest deal in the world of kids' books.

A fabulous Southern novel, out in paperback this week: BLOODROOT by Amy Greene. Absolutely adored this book! I will review this one, top of the list. Top of the pile. Way up there.

A book being overnighted to me for review by Delta Magazine, written by a fellow Mississippian. Stay tuned for more about this, but the title really has me. (haha- a teaser!)

And last but not least. I was sent an ebook of Frances O'Roark Dowell's upcoming novel, a Galley Grab her publisher is calling it. So as soon as I download the app, I can read that one, but it's not compatible with my IPad sadly. Reading on my computer just isn't the same. Though I've loved Dowell's other middle-grade novels, I'm not sure when I'll get the process completed for this one.

So far, I've not evaluated a true ebook or a kids' book app. I'm sure they are in my future.

As Roger Sutton remarked on his Horn Book email today:
For book reviewers, evaluating these new forms of “books” presents a challenge to our criteria and critical vocabulary (a phrase such as “moves right along” acquires new meaning), one that will remain in flux just as the media continues to change.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Happy Birthday, Elvis!

When I was quite young, a Rock and Roll King began his career just up the road from where I lived. Even as pre-teens, my friends and I adored Elvis.

In the draft I'm revising of my middle-grade, to-be-published novel set in the early 60s in Mississippi,  Elvis plays a tiny part. Of course, my truly brilliant editor might cut all the Elvis references out. I'll have to wait to see. And that would be OK. But for now, this is my main character, eavesdropping on her big sister. Any clue who this big sister is loosely based on?

“I love Elvis Presley. I have every one of his records,” my sister was saying.

I heard a voice answer, “My mama loves Elvis better than anything. I’m named after him. Robbie, short for Robert Aaron Presley. Elvis Aaron Presley? Did you know Aaron was Elvis’s middle name?”

As if my sister didn’t own a scrapbook full of Elvis stuff and even a plaster of Paris Elvis statue. In fact, Jesslyn was liable to stand up and start singing Love Me Tender right about now.

See, I loved Elvis a lot. And once when we were ten, three friends and I did an Elvis impersonation. With an audience. A few years ago, I rounded up my courage and wrote about it. It was hard to admit to this oh-so-brief career choice, but my critique group thought it was a fine essay and the Christian Science Monitor published it.

So in honor of The King's birthday, here it is. You can click right here to read about our group's winning TV performance. In Memphis. When Elvis was in town.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Cheese Glorious Cheese!

Each year my sister sends me the most delicious cheddar cheese, straight from the cows at Mississippi State University. Within a couple of weeks, we will have worked our way through this entire block. We started last night with saltines and summer sausage. For breakfast I made cheese toast. And the list goes on.

Perhaps Southern writers are food-obsessed, even those of us who write books for children. Using my handy-dandy Scrivener search tool (have I said enough how I adore writing in Scrivener? Check out the new widget, top right of my blog), I realized this morning that I had no fewer than 6 references to pimento cheese in a middle-grade novel, a book for kids, not about food. I sliced 3 of them right out.

Unlike some of my friends, I'm not a fabulous cook. I don't pretend to throw parties like my friend Ivy's or write about food with the flair of my friend Lee. But it's hard to describer a July 4th picnic or Dinner on the Ground without pimento cheese sandwiches. So happy to have this cheese as inspiration today. Good food for thought and great hors d'oeuvres. Thanks, Sis!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Watch These Words!

Each year Lake Superior State University picks words they'd like to see banned from the English language. Click here for the complete list, with usage.

I'd agree with quite a few:
Wow Factor (Should have been banned about 4 years ago, IMHO)
BFF (Hmmm. I kind of like this one, but overused? Probably.)
I'm just sayin'

There are more! And we could probably add some they haven't considered...
I'm thinking. (But I'm not just sayin'.)

Related posts: Words Each Day
Even More Words