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

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Selling Books is Fun!

Not to mention, hard work

Here I am with Lisa Unger, my fellow Author Bookseller today at INKWOOD BOOKS in Tampa. 

 Inkwood was very busy! 

I'll be visiting Melinda's school soon, and she came by to say hello!

Thank you to the kids who came to meet me. And to eat cupcakes. And buy lots of books.

Thanks, INKWOOD, for inviting me to share your Small Business Saturday. I had a blast!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Giving Thanks

Today seems like a good day to think about all the things we're grateful for. 
And what better place to begin than the Acknowledgments in some of your favorite books.

The Acknowledgments of one of my top-ten books, HOUND DOG TRUE, begins
"This novel, like my first, began as a picture book..." 
And then Linda Urban goes on to thank the real friends who steered her in the right direction.

If you love a book and are yourself searching for an agent, check to see for whom that author's most thankful. 
(I can bet, we all thank our agents, big time.)

Click here for a few funny, poignant, interesting acknowledgments. 

Including this one:

Franny & Zooey, by J.D. Salinger
“As nearly as possible in the spirit of Matthew Salinger, age one, urging a luncheon companion to accept a cool lima bean, I urge my editor, mentor and (heaven help him) closest friend, William Shawn, genius domus of The New Yorker, lover of the long shot, protector of the unprolific, defender of the hopelessly flamboyant, most unreasonably modest of born great artist-editors to accept this pretty skimpy-looking book.”

And sometimes, it's worth reading the comments on posts. 
That's where I found this:

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
"The dedication of this book is split in seven ways: to Jessica, to David, to Kenzie, to Di, to Anne, and to you, if you have stuck with Harry until the very end."

Monday, November 25, 2013

Indies First!

Where better to hang out for a few hours on a Saturday morning 
than your local independent bookstore?

If you're in the Tampa Bay area, that would be INKWOOD BOOKS.

If you haven't been in a while, you may be surprised. 
Lots of fun, new stuff there.

And me. I'll be there on Saturday, November 30th, 11 til 1:00 for 


(All the authors coming to your local indie.)

It all started with Sherman Alexie:

Small business Saturday was founded by American Express in 2010 and is celebrated every year on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Show your support for the businesses in your community and SHOP SMALL on Small Biz Saturday.

Indies First is a grassroots campaign spearheaded
by author Sherman Alexie.

Alexie has rallied authors around the U.S. to become booksellers for a day at their local independent bookshop. He'll be spending the day at his local indie in Seattle.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

BROTHERHOOD by A.B. Westrick

The post-Civil War Reconstruction Period fascinates me.

You'd think I'd know a lot about this sad, turbulent time in our country's history. I studied Mississippi history at least twice before graduating from junior high school, and we usually made it through the ill-fated reconstruction. Then there was American History with Mrs. Brown and a college class in Southern History and one on the Civil War.

Now I don't miss an episode of HELL ON WHEELS.

Even as a seventh grader studying the Reconstruction, I loved the sound of Scalawag and Carpetbagger.
Oh, and I loved that we were allowed to say Damn Yankees in our classroom. Outloud. Even the teacher said it. In context, of course.

My grandmother recalled stories passed down from her own parents. How her grandfather was pardoned by President Johnson for fighting, so that he could vote and own land.
That's how fresh the history was to Southerners of her generation.

But I can't think of a lot of well-written, gripping stories written for Middle Grade, set during this time period.

Now there's a new one, just out, that I couldn't put down.

My latest fascinating read is BROTHERHOOD, a debut novel set in Richmond, Virginia right after the War Between The States.

(Okay, call it what you will. The War of Northern Aggression was a particular favorite in that Mississippi history class.)

But back to BROTHERHOOD, a novel I truly loved.
Westrick does an admirable job of portraying the period and the city. I felt like I was right there with the brothers. The character of Shadrack was so well written--conflicted and tortured by his older brother and by his allegiance to his family.

(ages 10 and up, though it's one adult readers will appreciate)

Be sure to read the Author's Note, especially the information about the Ku Klux Klan.

My ties to Virginia go way back. I recently spent time reading and writing there.
Can you imagine watching this sunset every evening?

Or being surrounded by old books? Lots and lots of old books. I can't keep my hands off.
Wouldn't you be inspired?

And I love the city of Richmond, walking the streets, hearing the sounds, visiting the museums.
Now I'll look at that city with fresh eyes.

BROTHERHOOD recreates it so vividly.
Isn't that what you want a good book to do?

Here's a link to the author's webpage:

For an excellent interview with A.B. Westrick, click HERE. 

(Thank you to the publisher for an Advanced Reading Copy. )

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Revision: Quote of the Day

A writer's best friend is a wastepaper basket.
Isaac B. Singer. 

Mine's been emptied five times today.
Revision, I love it.

Pretty much everything you need to know about a great way to revise, via Laurie Halse Anderson:

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Come say hello!

 You’re invited
The Children’s Authors Panel
Discovery Night

Barnes & Noble
213 North Dale Mabry
Tampa, Florida

Friday, November 22
7:00-9:00 p.m.


Augusta Scattergood


Shannon Hitchcock


Nancy Cavanaugh


Rob Sanders


< Hear from the authors >
<Learn about writing for children >
< Get answers to your questions >
< And get your hands on some great books >

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Desperate Adventures of Zeno and Alya

just out this month.
Such a good book! 
An adventure, a talking animal story, a family who loves being a family, a parrot separated from his owner, a girl who's close to giving up, a brother who loves her, a worried mom, and a lot of appealing animal characters to lighten things up.

Two of my favorite quotes-
From Alya, upon reading The Secret Garden:

She opened the book, grateful to enter its world again. She knew she was too old to believe in magic. She wished she still could.

And Zeno, the grey parrot who speaks 127 words:

"Home! Home! Home!" he said it several more times. He was always proud to have learned a new word, particularly one as important as this.

Kirby Larson loves the book, too. Here's what she blurbed for the book:

“From the moment Zeno, the African grey parrot, strutted onto the scene, I was captivated. His sense of self— ‘Zeno wants’—is battered by uncertain freedom, inferior birds, and a devastating lack of banana-nut muffins, yet he perseveres. He believes he has this freedom thing down pat. It is not until he encounters Alya, a young girl limply falling deeper and deeper into a confinement triggered by her illness, that Zeno’s vocabulary of 127 words is increased by one of the most important of all: home. This story of Zeno, Bunny, and Alya flew straight into my heart. I will be thinking about these unlikely friends for a long, long time.”

    ––Kirby Larson Newbery Honor Winner, author of  Hattie Big Sky and Hattie Ever After

Yes, very unlikely friends. But I couldn't have said it any better. Perseverance! That's truly a lesson to take away from this little story.

 CLICK HERE for an excellent review from the Page 69 Blog

Page 69- an interesting concept:

"Open the book to page ninety-nine and read, and the quality of the whole will be revealed to you." --Ford Madox Ford

But Page 69 it doesn't do this novel justice. 

Although I've known plenty of kids who ask their librarians for a "sad book," I'm not crazy about reading books featuring sick children. I'm sure there are plenty of great ones, but if you tell me that's the main focus of a novel, I may steer clear.

But I LOVED this new middle-grade novel. 
There's so much more than a sick child to this story.

HERE'S the author's website.
With a link to purchase the book. 

(Thank you to Feiwel and Friends, publisher, for the ARC of Jane Kelley's book.)

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

First Edition, First Printing

Thanks to Caroline Starr Rose's great blog, I've been trying to figure out the whole number of printings thing. I'm sure I knew this at some point in my librarian/ reader/ writer career. But only when Caroline blogged about it did I decide to read up on the whole Printing vs. Edition thing.

(Thank you, Caroline, for filling my afternoon with great googling and little writing. But it was fun!)

Here's a good explanation of how to find which printing a book's in:

And if you're a potential book collector, this might be helpful. 

I can't resist sharing an image from that link, above. 
I believe this is the copyright page from THE HELP. 
Do note how many printings that book's in...


That would be #56. And it was over a year ago. 
We should all be so lucky.

Monday, November 11, 2013


Today I typed the word NICKLE into my manuscript.
What? say you. Nickle isn't a word.
Sadly, I know this.


I learned this in 4th or 5th grade at the Hill Demonstration School where I spent my earliest elementary years. Considering myself a stand-out speller, I won the class spelling bee and moved on to the school bee. Where the word NICKEL tripped me up. I remember it like it was yesterday and it was a zillion yesterdays ago.

(And yes, as my friend Sylvia pointed out on Facebook, a nickel isn't all that important these days. That's what I love about writing historical fiction. Nickels still count. And Tangee lipstick. And bobby-sox. And 45 records. See I could go on and on. But this blog is about SPELLING. Kind of.)

Maybe that's why one of my absolute-favorite-of-all-times books is

by Barbara O'Connor.

CLICK HERE for a very early review I wrote, before I really realized what a storyteller Barbara O'Connor is. It may have been the first book I read of hers. I love the southerness of the story and the characters. I love the twist near the end. I love how everything doesn't always end with Happily Ever After in Barbara's books.

And I love the Spelling Bee parts. How hard poor Bird works to get to Disney!
To make a friend our of Harlem.
Sigh. I think I need to read that book again right now.

If you've missed it, here are links to buy your own copy:

I thought I'd never forget how to spell Nickel.
I won't ever forget the day I misspelled it.

You might also be interested in these posts.
The Page 69 Test.
Writing Tip Tuesdays

Friday, November 8, 2013


One of my favorite places, even in the cold.

Outside The Barn where we meet, eat, greet, write, think- at Highlights Foundation.

Of course, there's an LY rock.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Making History, the Fictional Kind

If you've never "done" a Highlights Foundation workshop, put this on your Wish List.
An amazing experience, and I don't just mean the food or the people. Your own cabin in the woods. Surrounded by writers. Your complete manuscript critiqued by professionals.

Check out the book I found on the shelf in the Lodge, where the faculty stays.
There are all sorts of old and odd books here!

Yesterday's sunset!

A walk to the end of the road and we discovered an office with all sorts of artifacts.
Including an original Highlights Magazine.

In anticipation of this week, I did a little Historical Fiction reading.

Thanks to Bobbi Miller, my brain is now thinking about what Avi had to say.
(Yes, I totally get the costume drama thing.)

Avi, an award-winning master of the genre, offers that some historical fiction stays close to the known facts, while others are little more than costume drama. “Ultimately, what is most important is the story, and the characters.” Facts, according to Avi, do not make a story. “Believable people do…Truth may be stranger than fiction, but fiction makes truth less a stranger.”

Check out Bobbi's article, Why is Historical Fiction Important, HERE.

Lots more quotes from authors you'll know and love. And links to other things historical!
Here's one example, re: Teaching with Historical Fiction.

And these writing tips, from Mary Sharratt, via Publisher's Weekly:
"The most innovative historical fiction, to my mind, draws obscure characters from the margins of history and sets them center stage."

And if you're interested, there's this, my previous thoughts on Historical Fiction: 

Stay tuned.  I hope to post a few quotes from our fabulous writers of Historical Fiction here this week at Highlights. Soon!