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

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Ghosts and Goblins

Whether you're celebrating Halloween today, later (like my town in NJ), or never,  here are two books I've shared with some of the ghouls I know this season.

I adore this little vampire.
I believe even very young children can enjoy VAMPIRINA BALLERINA and not even know she's a vampire, or get some of the subtle, funny, smart references.
They will love the story and the fabulous illustrations.

Kathryn Erskine said it perfectly in her blog interview with the author. CLICK HERE to go there.

Advice that's good for life, not just Halloween, for all ages. For story times, for sharing:

 Michael Rex has a new board book version of GOODNIGHT GOON.
Fun for grownups and the SuperHeroes in our lives.
(Michael's mom shared this book with me--Thanks, Kathy! He grew up in our little NJ borough.)

Here's the video:

 And here's my reading Superhero. Scary, no?

Other Halloween Posts:  Tabletops and Cookies!

A Poem and a Book

Sunday, October 28, 2012


The Texas Bluebonnet Award Master List was revealed yesterday in Austin. (My friend Lee tells me the big Texas Book Festival is the place to be this weekend.)

Batman and Robin made the announcement!
That would be Batman (Jon Scieszka) and Robin (Adam Rex).

(Photos courtesy of the Texas Library Association's website:

GLORY BE was named to the list of twenty books for grades 3-6.

Here's the link. An excellent reading list, lots of variety.  I'm honored and awed.

Thank you, Texas!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

It's official-

If you read it in Publisher's Weekly, it must be true.
 My next book has officially been announced:

Andrea Pinkney at Scholastic has acquired the tentatively titled The Way to Stay in Destiny by Augusta Scattergood, author of Glory Be. In her new story, 12-year-old Theo comes to a small Florida town in 1974 with Uncle Chester, his new guardian whom he doesn't really know, to take up residence in Miss Sister Grandersoles's Rest Easy Rooming House and Dance Academy; there he discovers piano, baseball lore, friendship and a renewed sense of family. Publication is scheduled for 2014. Linda Pratt at Wernick & Pratt Agency did the deal for North American rights.


Wednesday, October 24, 2012


Okay, I'd love it if my tiny office looked like this-

But it doesn't.

However, it looks better than it did last week.

I had no bookshelves in my working space, but tons of books.
Not good for a former librarian to have books willy-nilly.

Rocky the Rock Star dog did not approve.

 And writers have TONS of notes. At least I do.

 I keep all my writing ideas in bags. Easy to transport.

(At least till I have time to transfer them to Scrivener.)

So we cleared out a closet.

(Husband is handy. He painted, spackled, and got it ready. Thanks, Jay!)

And now- VoilĂ ! I can see everything I need to see.

Of course, the books keep coming. I think I will need more shelves. Very soon.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Tweens Read 2

One more word.
Specifically my panel.

 Debut Authors, four of us, were questioned by some really smart Tweens.

I'm sharing a couple of their brightest questions.

(Not counting one from the little girl on the front row of our last presentation who nibbled at a  PayDay bar and asked us our favorite candy.)

Here are just four of the questions, asked and answered by each of us.

1. How did you decide what author name to use?

2. Are you nervous about your next book?

3. Do you write the entire book through, or in bits and pieces?

4. How did you come up with your title?

Fellow authors, who might find yourselves on the answering side of smart kids' --and a few grownups who waited patiently till the kids finished-- questions,  how would you answer these?

 Dare to Debut Books! All four of us.

Sunday, October 21, 2012


I offer you a quick photo tour of this amazing event. I mingled, I learned, I ate, I talked.
Highlights? Too many to list?
But meeting and sharing the panel with my fellow Debut Writers was up there.
Lynne Kelly, W.H. Beck, Deron Hicks, and me.

Here are our books:

All the authors gathered at the Bobby Shaw Middle School in Pasadena, TX for a full day of kids and books. What could be better.

Here we are being briefed by the amazing Cathy Berner, bookseller extraordinaire, of Blue Willow Books in Houston.

This was where we ate and hung out between sessions. (Did I mention the fabulous food?)

That's Cathy on the right, in blue. Trent Reedy's the tall guy in the back. (Oh, and Cynthia Leitich Smith and her husband Greg- who presented on the Guys Write panel- were also there. Every aspiring author needs to know about Cynthia. Her connectivity is phenomenal. Her advice exhaustive and totally professional.)

But more about the food.

A librarian and her husband made these precious things.

 (for all 21 authors!)

This was in our goody bag. Yes, not really food. 
But it reminded me so much of the little holders my grandmother and her friends slipped over their "co-cola" bottles that I had to share.

Hand knit by a volunteer. 

For a list of all the authors attending TWEENS READ, click here.

Tons of Tweens!

Maybe my favorite quote of the day? Keynote speaker Heather Brewer, on being bullied and finding a safe place in school:
 "Libraries are lined with bully kryptonite!"

I loved the large, spacious, new, heavenly library.
I especially adored this mural's poetry.

I really intended to save my cupcake forever. Really, I did.
I'm glad I took the picture. After going through airport security, it was flattened. But it still tasted amazing. I tried to save the book, at least. However, it also was squished. So of course I had to taste it. (Fondant.)

The cake was Red Velvet. The icing creamy and light. 
I'm sure they made the cupcakes with Emma and Glory in mind...

THANK YOU Blue Willow Books and Tweens Read. An amazing group of volunteer librarians and teachers and booksellers. 

Word to my fellow authors. If anybody ever invites you to a book event in Texas, say yes. 
Don't even bother to ask questions. 
Just go.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Happy birthday, Dr. Jack!

For a couple of years, on this day, I've posted the same piece about my dad.
He was a character. He was entertaining, irreverent, brilliant.

I was going to write something new this year.
Something about him teaching his kids so much. How to dance, pray, debate, tie our shoes not in double-knots. He taught me to drive his jeep over the levee, clean a fish, back up a boat trailer.

But instead of writing a thoughtful blogpost, today I'm thinking about my trip this weekend to Houston. To talk to kids and their teachers on a panel of writers about our debut books, at the Tween Reads Festival.

I think Daddy would understand.
And I think he'll really smile down when I write that book about fishing.

If you care to read my previous thoughts about Dr. Jack, CLICK right here, please.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Every Day

Writing book reviews is easy, right? Read a little bit, google the author, jot down your thoughts and Bingo! A review.

If only.

It's harder than it might look. At least for me.
The reading, the pondering, the writing. I agonize way too much over tiny word choices. Edit a zillion times for a 400-word review. ACK! But I love doing them.

And I mostly review books I love a lot. Almost all "Middle Grade" for the Christian Science Monitor and adult for Delta Magazine. Anything goes on the blog.

 That said, I couldn't resist this book marketed as Young Adult.  

It's not a long book. It's an intriguing one. Its premise, page-turning and fascinating.

Here's my review. 

EVERY DAY by David Levithan.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Celebrate Everything

About halfway through a little book I like (Click here for more on this book: THE POCKET MUSE), I found the story about the bottle of wine.

How they'd saved a really great bottle of wine for something worth celebrating. And it ends with the advice, pretty much Don't Save the Wine-

Celebrate everything immediately.

Celebrate a rejection that includes a personal note. 
Celebrate finishing something hard. 

And when publication finally comes, celebrate everything.
The initial acceptance.
The galleys coming in.
The editor calling to tell you the publication date.
The day you get the final copies.


For me, this has been a year of celebration.

I love what fellow debut author Caroline Starr Rose says she's learned in her first year of publication. (She even created a poster on the topic, free for the asking! CLICK HERE TO GO THERE.)

I'm pondering GLORY BE's first year, in anticipation of traveling to Houston's TWEEN READS Festival where I'll be on a panel along with these other debutantes...

Panel 5:  Dare to Debut
Lynne Kelly
W.H. Beck
Deron Hicks
Augusta Scattergood

 (Can a guy be a debutante?)

Any other debut authors out there with sage advice? Are you celebrating even the small successes? Thoughts on your own first book's publication? Or anticipation of it?

What do you think kids- "tweens"- would like to know about our first books?
Comment away!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Advice from The Best

I've been thinking a lot about this past year, my book's debut. 
So of course, I love this Cynsations interview, filled with advice 
from Rita Williams-Garcia via Cynthia Leitich Smith. 
Here's a bit of it:

What advice do you have for the debut authors of 2012?

My advice is hypocritical, but it is still good. Put at least one third of your energy into creating your online presence when your book comes out.

I know, I know. I shrink from blogging, I tweet modestly, and you won't catch me on radio. But do these things, anyway.

While you’re doing that, you should be deep in the throes of writing your next book. Write 40,000 good words every year. Always have a story going.

CLICK HERE to read every single word of that interview!

CLICK HERE to read my review of her terrific book One Crazy Summer.

Here's another review of and a few of my thoughts, as shared on Joyce Moyer Hostetter's history blog.

When I speak to kids, at the end of my talk, I love to tell them:

Now go right home and ask your grandparents, your neighbors, anybody who lived through these interesting, challenging times, to tell you all about it.

I stole that idea from Williams-Garcia's Horn Book interview:

"I’m hoping younger readers will uncover more personal stories through the “live historians” in their homes and neighborhoods." Rita Williams-Garcia

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Welcome, Shannon, and another October giveaway!

Okay, I admit it. I'm a pushover for books written about the South, with true Southern characters, told in an authentic Southern voice.

On the other hand, my Fake-South-BS-meter is pretty strong. I'm always skeptical when somebody says "You have to read this one. It's funny and honest and a great book narrated by an honest-to-goodness Southern kid. With a really great voice."

Yeah, right.

Well, yes, it is right in the case of Shannon Wiersbitzky's middle-grade novel, THE SUMMER OF HAMMERS AND ANGELS. Shannon sent me a copy when the book was published and now she's offered to answer a few questions and she's giving away a signed copy to a commenter, a re-tweeter, a Facebook sharer. Just let me know if you're interested, either here or on Facebook, and you'll be entered in the drawing. 

Spread the word! The giveaway ends next Wednesday, October 17th.

Now, let's sit with a glass of sweet tea and listen to Shannon spilling the beans about characters, place and other helpful tidbits.

You live in Pennsylvania. How on earth did you channel the voice of a young southern girl from West Virginia?
During my childhood, from kindergarten to high school, I spent summers with my grandparents in Culloden, a small speck of a town in West Virginia. So I was a young southern girl for three months of every year! I’d play with cousins, climb trees, help my grandmother can vegetables, and generally amuse myself using my own imagination. Today kids turn to devices and electronic games, but back then, we all went outside and created games for ourselves. It was a fabulous way to spend the summer.

I love the sense of community that can exist in a small town. The way neighbors meet and share gossip at the Post Office or a local coffee shop, and the way they reach out their hands to help when someone is in need. I think that comes through in the story.

I'm a fan of spunky girl characters. (Excuse that much-overused description, but really, that's what they are.)
What do you admire most about Delia?
Delia is facing a tough situation. Her mama is in the hospital, her house is about to be condemned. She could easily have thrown up her hands and said, “I’m just a kid”, then let the chips fall where they may. But she didn’t. Instead she takes it upon herself to give it a shot.

There is a scene that takes place in her church, Delia stands in front of the entire congregation and asks for help. That is an emotional one for me. I greatly admire Delia’s bravery at that moment.

Church plays a critical role in the story. Did you ever worry about that?
It crossed my mind a few times that some kids might be less interested in a story that included church. At the same time, for Delia, and the people in Tucker’s Ferry, church is an important part of life. In the end, I had to write what I felt was an authentic story for the characters. I believe readers will relate to Delia, regardless of whether or not they have any experience with church.

Your story has the same sort of feel as Because of Winn-Dixie, by Kate DiCamillo. Was that intentional?
I’ve heard that a few times from readers. First, I take that as high praise. I’ll just smile for a few minutes now before I answer. (Grin)

Kate is a wonderful author and any comparison is a compliment. If I try to step back though, I can see where readers may find similarities. Both take place in the south, have female protagonists, include quirky dogs and neighbors, and combine humor and gentle, lyrical language. They also both include church!

You’re donating part of the proceeds to Habitat for Humanity. Did the organization help inspire you?
I’ve been involved with community service since I was little and have done several builds with Habitat. Once, a woman we were helping cooked all the workers an amazing meal. In thanking us she told me, “All I know how to do is cook fried chicken.” Those words, and that woman have remained with me my entire life. Maybe it was the first seed that eventually grew to become this story. I gave that line to Miss Martha.

The Summer of Hammers and Angels is published by a new and somewhat non-traditional house, namelos. Can you tell me a bit more about them and your experience?
Stephen Roxburgh, who founded namelos, has worked in traditional publishing almost his entire career. He’s edited some amazing authors including Madeleine L’Engle and Roald Dahl. His new publishing company is similar to traditional houses in that they go through the same process of selecting manuscripts and then providing editing, production, distribution, and marketing services. What makes them different is that namelos publishes only in the new technologies of print on demand (paperback and hardcover) and e-book formats. The company has a separate services division for authors interested in paying for manuscript evaluation and editorial advice, but the publishing division does not take money from writers.

Most of the writers published by namelos thus far, including me, initially met Stephen through a writing workshop. I expect that will change as namelos publishes more novels. My first connection to Stephen was at a Highlights weekend focused on picture books. After the workshop ended he read a draft of The Summer of Hammers and Angels, and our partnership began. I’ve enjoyed working with him and the process of pulling a book together. The namelos team feels like a creative family, everyone who works on a novel is extremely accessible for questions and feedback, and all along the path, I felt they cared about my story and characters as much as I did.

I like quotations. Do you have a favorite quotation?
I’m fond of quotations too. In terms of writing, one of my favorites is from Robert Cormier, “The beautiful part of writing is that you don't have to get it right the first time, unlike, say, a brain surgeon.” I share that one with the kids when I do middle school visits. They always laugh. For both kids and adults, I think that notion of not needing to get it right the first time takes some of the pressure off.

I love that quote! I'm off to do a middle-school visit this afternoon and will totally steal that line.

Would you describe your childhood as a happy one?
Definitely….which means by all measures I should be a terrible writer! I’ve read articles about how only unhappy, tortured childhoods can produce good stories. Maybe my teen years yelling at my dad helped a little. Of course my Dad and I are great friends now.
See? All ends well in my world. I think there’s a place in the literary world for that too.

Describe your usual writing day.
I dream of a day when my writing studio is done (I’m about to start construction on that – which will be a lovely space above my garage) and I can get the kids off to school and write for hours at a time. The reality is that I get up at 4:30 every morning and write until about 6:00 or 6:15. Then I make lunches, coffee, get myself ready, make sure my oldest walks out the door on time, and then I head off to the full-time job that actually pays the bills.

What is interesting about writing early and then going to work, is that in between meetings at my day job, I’ll suddenly realize how to solve a problem for a character, or a specific line to end a chapter. I’m always amazed at how the brain keeps noodling away on a story in the background. Then I’m ready to write the next morning. I love that! 

Check out Shannon's website here: 

Read a few snippets from reviews, and I know you'll rush right out to read this one. 
Or down to the comment box to enter the giveaway!

“This debut novel of self discovery and the power of prayer coupled with hard work is a must for everyone who loves story. It excites, stimulates, and, yes, it is also a tearjerker. A young adult book that would be a good read for adults, as well.”
     —Catholic Library World

 “….down-to-earth life struggles combine with inspiring generosity of spirit in this uplifting debut.”
     —Publishers Weekly

“...will leave readers hungry for fried chicken and Coke from glass bottles.”
     —Kirkus Reviews

Thank you, Shannon, for sharing your story with us. I hope my blog readers will jump right in with comments about writing, publishing, religion in kids' books, quirky dogs- whatever!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Heads Up, Houston!

Save the Date.
I'm coming back to town. Tweens Read Festival. 
October 20- Can't wait!

(Actually, if you read the fine print, it's Pasadena, TX. Close enough?)

Saturday, October 6, 2012

And the winner is...

 Ellen Ruffin, a Facebook entrant.
A copy of LIAR & SPY is coming your way.

Thanks, everybody, for entering the givewaway.

Tune in next week for an interview with SHANNON WIERSBITZKY, the author of The Summer of Hammers & Angels.

Continuing my Great October Givewaway- Shannon has offered us a signed copy of her book. 
AND she's answering a lot of questions about writing, her publisher Namelos, 
her inspiration, and tons of other great tips.

See you next week! We're off for the Big Drive south to Florida. Happy Trails!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

My Favorite Banned Book

Actually there are a lot of them. But I've always treasured this story told by Katherine Paterson when she spoke to the fifth graders at the Baltimore school where I was a librarian.

Speaking about BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA which had just won the Newbery Medal, she talked about hope and sadness and death. I wish I could recall her exact quote, but I'll never forget the gist of her answer to a girl sitting right in front of her on the floor. The student was very sad about Leslie's death in the book. Katherine said to her (not an exact quote so please don't use it as such): There are worse things than losing a friend through death.

She went on to say friends could be lost forever and never celebrated, their stories never told again, simply by moving away, through a disagreement, a falling out.

Thanks to Caroline by Line for helping me remember that day with Katherine Paterson.
And for starting a conversation on her blog about the difficult things we choose to write.

Here's a quote about hope, now on Caroline's blog:

"I cannot, will not, withhold from my young readers the harsh realities of human hunger and suffering and loss, but neither will I neglect to plant that stubborn seed of hope that has enabled our race to outlast wars and famines and the destruction of death. If you think that this is the limitation that will keep me forever a writer for the young, perhaps it is. I don’t mind. I do what I can and do it joyfully.”


Monday, October 1, 2012

October is Giveaway Month

I'm sharing my Book Wealth.

First up. An extra copy of the fabuloso LIAR AND SPY, by Newbery winner Rebecca Stead. Thanks to Random House, I have an extra copy or- sorry folks- I would not be sharing this one.

Oh, yes, I could pass a few of these brand-new, really good books around to all the October birthdays I know. I could do what I often do, pack them up and cart them over to my local library. Instead, I'm giving them away and this could be YOUR lucky day.

I recently reviewed it for the Christian Science Monitor. Read my review HERE.

Betsy Bird not only reviewed it for her School Library Journal Blog FUSE #8, she included a whole bunch of great links. CLICK HERE to go there.

Leave me a comment, below or on Facebook. You, too, can read one of my favorite books of the year. Contest will end next Sunday, October 7.

And check back often.
October's going to be Middle Grade Fiction Giveaway Month around here!

ADDENDUM : Just discovered Monday is Columbus Day. Since I'll be out of pocket that day, the drawing will be this Saturday morning, October 6. 
Hurry up and enter!