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

Friday, March 29, 2013

Coconut cake!

There, I got your attention. It's Easter weekend, and I'm remembering those lamb-shaped coconut cakes decorating long ago Easter Sunday dinner tables. Remember those? I love coconut. But I don't think I'll attempt the lamb shape.

Here's a recipe, or as she surely knew it, a receipt, from Emily Dickinson. Her favorite cake for birthday celebrating. Mine, too.

 Speaking of cakes. Have you read Lisa Graff's brand new middle grade novel? A novel filled with magic, multiple characters, mysteries and quests-And cake recipes. Such fun!

My review from the Christian Science Monitor. ⬅

A link to read more about TANGLE OF KNOTS, and order your own copy.

I'm also a fan of Red Velvet cake. It made its way into my novel, GLORY BE.
My friend Nancy McIntyre made this one from scratch for our gathering in June.

While I was writing, novelist Helen Hemphill shared a story about how her editor laughingly said every time he turned a page of her first book's manuscript, somebody was cooking or eating. With that in mind, a lot of fried chicken and pimento cheese got the ax from Glory's story early on. But many food references and events stayed in.

I made a Pinterest board about the Food in Glory Be. Check it out here
I'm not so great at Pinterest but sometimes something just strikes my fancy and up it goes.

In a story I'm noodling now, there's a character who cooks. Maybe I'll include a recipe or two. Hmmm. Good idea or not?

It certainly worked in Lisa Graff's new book. Then again, she's a baker. Me, not so much.
Maybe I'll stick to writing.

Happy Easter, everyone! 

Past Posts, possibly related:
Helen Hemphill interviews me
BOOK FOOD, pimento cheese
Home Food

Thursday, March 21, 2013


I adore this project created and shared with me by Holly Mueller, teacher extraordinaire.

Her brilliant 4th graders made trailers for their civil rights project. 
GLORY BE was part of the project.

To see her blogpost about the project, and the trailers, click here.


Saturday, March 16, 2013

Amaryllis, revisted

Checking in on my amazingly beautiful flower this year.

We replanted it a month ago, from a pot right into the earth.

Here it is! 

Tons of blooms- And more to come.

If you missed my blog about Superhero karate-chopping the blooms for me,  
CLICK HERE to revisit last year's flower story.

Thursday, March 14, 2013


Not only do I have a writer I've known her entire life to interview today, I'm giving away her brand new book.

Moms, dads, grandmas, grandpas, aunties and uncles, this is your lucky day. Bayne Gibby's first board book for young children has just been published by Scholastic. Yes, you can order your own copy, of course--I've already given three as baby gifts-- but I'm giving the book to a lucky commenter.

(Thank you, Scholastic!)

An actor and comedian, BAYNE GIBBY grew up in Chatham, NJ, a few streets from where our family lived. She graduated from Kent Place School, where I worked as a librarian. Imagine my surprise and delight when I heard her first picture book, YOU MEAN THE WORLD TO ME, was coming soon.

Now she's agreed to a chat.  Thanks for stopping by, Bayne.

Tell us how you moved from a famous HBO actress to writing this sweet story for little children.

I've always wanted to be an actress, and have been very focused on that ever since I can remember. I began writing children's books and short stories when I was in college and briefly dabbled in getting published while living in New York City. I had one short story published in a collection called Regeneration: Telling Stories from our Twenties, but I didn't have much luck with my children's books. The process was so daunting and difficult, my aspirations were put on the back burner for a while. 

When my two older brothers began having children, I started making small books for my nieces and nephews for their birthdays and Christmas, getting them laminated and bound at Kinko's. That reignited my excitement for the whole world of Children's Books. My sister-in-law nudged me by claiming my books were better than some of the ones bought in stores. That got me moving! I started seriously trying to get published about five years ago. About two years ago, Scholastic looked at a whole packet of my material and chose You Mean the World to Me. It was originally written for my niece, Samantha, about being an aunt. I did a rewrite where it then became about being a mother. Samantha recently found the original version. 

I love this! And I love that you still have it.

Your young fans may not know you as Connie on the HBO show Enlightened, but the rest of us do!
 Are you an actor who writes or a writer who acts?
I think I'm an actor who writes, but I hope to soon be a hyphenate: Actor/Writer.

 What's been the most fun thing about having your first book published?

It's very exciting. I had gotten used to a constant stream of no's or we really really like it, but don't love it type of responses to this book and many others. I have a whole file full of the submission emails and letters and the rejections, and it's pretty astounding what goes into getting one thing published. Acting is full of constant no's also, which I'm used to, and it always feels wonderful to get a yes! Seeing the book on shelves is amazing and receiving pictures of friends who are reading it with their young children is really incredible. I'm saving all the pictures to make a big montage.

So send Bayne your pictures. Find her on Facebook, and her own website:

 What's next up in your career? Anything you haven't tried that speaks to you now? More books? Music? Theater?
Yes, all of the above! More books, for sure. More tv, film, and theatre. I better get going!

Those of us who've known you since you starred in musicals as a seven-year-old have no doubt you can do it all!

Thanks for sharing your story with us, Bayne.

If you'd like to own a copy of YOU MEAN THE WORLD TO ME, leave me a comment here or on the original Facebook post and I'll add your name to the drawing. Please enter by next Thursday, March 22.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Author Turf

Check out my interview on Author Turf.

Other than fifth graders, whose questions are mostly fantabulous, nobody's asked me about Pep Squad lately. And yes, I still remember the moves.

You can find tons of author interviews here. 

I'm sharing because the questions Brittney asked truly tickled me. 

What would you answer to the question about your most fun chapter to write?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Very End

Remember my advice from the other day?

Be Brisk. Be Brief. Be Gone.

I love endings. I love READING the final lines. Don't even mind writing them, if I hit the nail on the head so to speak. 
No cliches, no over-sentimentalizing. :)
I want an ending that makes me sigh. 
Brisk, brief, and gone.

For fun (?) today while re-writing an ending, I reached behind me and grabbed the closest stack of books for inspiration.

A sampling from some of my middle-grade novel collection. No titles, thus no spoilers.
(but if you'd like to know a title, leave me a comment and I'll share via the comment section." )

UPDATE: Several of you have asked so here are the titles. Skip this part if you don't want to know!)
1.With a Name Like Love
2. Hound Dog True
3. Touch Blue
4. Penny From Heaven
5. The Liberation of Gabriel King

"Daddy says it's his trademark, but it's not. It's our only salvation."

     "I'm Mattie Breen," she says. Her voice is quiet, but no one says Speak up. Everyone can hear.
     "I write stories."

     My hands on the wheel, my heart near to bursting, I aim the Tess Libby's bow at the horizon.
     And gun it. 

He'll grin and say, "Best seats in the house."
And they were.

Then maybe they'd figure out what love and courage were all about, and life would spring open like a lock that found its key. 

 Other places to look at last lines:

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Obeying the God of Storytelling

Always a good idea.

Rita Williams-Garcia, as quoted by her colleague, Elizabeth Partridge, on the Vermont College faculty blog:

Two favorite tidbits: She ran into a problem with a real life event she decided to put in her book at a different time than actually happened. She puzzled out how to explain her choice to us, then said,

  “You have to obey the God of Storytelling before Father Time.”
And another from Rita Williams-Garcia, via Cynthia Leitich Smith's website, on her very wonderful novel ONE CRAZY SUMMER:

The challenge was to write a novel with historical content but to not allow the Black Panthers to hijack the story from the central characters. There was so much research. So many historical comments to make, but I constantly cut away to stay within the heart and perceptions of character. Either I did it myself or my editor would ask me to do it later. 

(My mantra for today. Stay within the heart of the character. Or my editor will ask me to do it.)

Anybody out there with tips for staying within the heart of the story and your characters while struggling with real history?