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

Sunday, June 29, 2014

First Pass Pages

For those of you who might not know how the editing process goes (I sure didn't!), I'll tell you what I'm doing to my new novel right now. Novel-to-be. Coming, January, 2015.

We've been through copyediting. That was about a month or two ago. Time flies. 
During that stage of the process, I changed sentences, checked time frames, made sure my characters' names, hair colors, etc, were consistent. Answered all the copyeditor's questions. There were a few. Okay more than a few.
Now I have in front of me an actual printed copy, sent by Scholastic, of what the book's pages will look like. FIRST PASS PAGES.
Chapter headings, italics, the "handwritten" notes set off in different fonts, etc.


(No, that's not what the actual cover art will look like. Stay tuned for that as soon as I can share.)

Now this is our chance to fix tiny things. Like whether a question mark might be better than that period I originally thought worked.

Or whether it's possible that a bucket of night crawlers would cost $.50 in 1974.
(Yes, because my brother and his fishing buddy Galen told me so. It's a big bucket.)

This time I didn't get as many Stets as before. 
That means should we leave it as is, for voice? 
For example, "I swan"-- which we all recognize as a real word, right?
Maybe because this novel isn't as southern as GLORY BE was. 
Or maybe this editor grew up in the South and has a southern granny in her family. 

Tomorrow, off it goes. Back to my editor. 
All 170-plus pages of THE WAY TO STAY IN DESTINY!

PS If you're still reading...
After meticulously going over the entire manuscript for the zillionth time this weekend, I decided I could finally toss out some of the old printed chapters I'd saved during revision. And I discovered some interesting (to me! Possibly to no one else!) things. 

1. The first time I showed it to a professional in the book business was in 2004 at a Rutgers One-on-One conference when my mentor was Sally Keehn. 
My agent, Linda Pratt, was also there. Fun to imagine what would have happened if our paths had crossed way back then. 

2. One of my longest critiquing friendships has been with my buddy Janet McLaughlin. She's now in my actual Florida writers group (Go, Skyway Writers!). But I bet she doesn't remember seeing THE WAY TO STAY IN DESTINY when we were in that now defunct online group, many moons ago. Many titles ago. Many character deletions and renamings ago.
The group didn't last long for us, but I continued to tap away at this book and Janet continued to comment.

I also smiled to see other familiar names critiquing my early versions. 
When Sue Laneve organized a new Pinellas County Florida group, I found my people.
My very first SCBWI Critique group. 

Hello, Denis, Sylvia, Lenore et al.
Thanks, Sue.

(Old chapters, ready for recycling!)


Friday, June 27, 2014


In its great generosity, SCHOLASTIC has sent me not one but two ARCs of Kathryn Erskine's new novel for ages 8-12. Perhaps it was unintentional. But I'm going to share the wealth.

 (very cool cover, no?)

Since they just arrived, I've not read the book yet. 
Though the first few pages made me want to hide under a shady tree, forget my To Do list, and read.

Since it's not available for sale until August 26, perhaps you haven't read it either?

Would you like one of my Advanced Reader Copies?
Go ahead, leave me a comment!  Here or on Facebook.
I'll draw ONE name tomorrow and whisk it in the mail ASAP. (You didn't think I was going to share both copies, did you? I can't wait to read it!)
NB: if you're the winner, I'll need to have a shipping address no later than Monday. 
So stay tuned, please.

Here's what you might want to know about this intriguing novel:

National Book Award winner Kathryn Erskine presents a unique novel about a sickly boy's epic journey through England and Scotland at the height of Medieval times.

Adrian is small for his age, even for an almost thirteen year old. It doesn't help that  he has albinism, which makes those he meets wonder if he's an angel or a devil. His father is a bowyer, and all Adrian wants to do is become apprenticed and go off to war as an archer. But that's not what his father wants for him. Since Adrian can write, his father wants him to be a scribe. That's just about the last thing Adrian wants. When the Scots invade England and Adrian's best friend Hugh runs off to find his father and fight in battles, Adrian soon follows, intent on finding Hugh and joining him in glorious warfare against the pagans invading England from the north. When Adrian finds Hugh, who is caring for a wounded Scotsman, he's horrified that Hugh would aid an enemy. But soon, as Adrian gets to know Donald, he begins to question what he's been taught about the enemy and the nature of war. In this epic journey an afflicted boy finds an inner strength he never knew belonged to him.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Another list

A To-Do list for your revision:

I'm trying #4. 

4. Highlight the Surges
Some passages will stand out as being particularly stunning; pay attention to them in each chapter and apply their energy to the rest of your writing.

And #10 is excellent advice:

10. Remember to pace yourself when revising; otherwise you may become overwhelmed and discouraged, even confused into incessant rewrites. Your story needs to settle between revision stages. As my colleague said, “you don’t need to beat up your nice friend all at once.”

(Not sure I am to that STUNNING thing yet, but that's the process, right? )

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Amazing Andrea and her Arbuthnot Lecture

Maybe it was because the Bible of children's literature in my day was written by May Hill Arbuthnot.  I used her textbook in my children's lit classes at Simmons College. 

Or maybe it's because I own a copy of The Arbuthnot Anthology of Children's Literature, given to me by my grandmother, a 4th grade teacher, when I was a mere babe. 

For whatever reason, Arbuthnot rolls off my tongue with familiarity! 

And now, I'm so happy to share this. My editor, Andrea Davis PInkney, was chosen by the American Library Association to deliver the lecture at the University of Minnesota.

(Click here to see all the other giants in the world of children's books who've lectured before.)

I don't know how anybody could be so amazing for as long as Andrea did. The requirements alone would do in a lesser person.

There's singing! Drama! Laughter!
It's touching, poignant, and informative.

Pour a glass of tea. Settle in. You are in for such a treat.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Those Tabs Up There?

If you're a teacher or a libraian reading this, be sure to click on the FOR TEACHERS tab at the top of this blog.

I've heard from several teacher/ librarian connections that blogs are verboten on some school computers!
So there's also info about me and my book(s) on my website.  

But here on this blog, I just updated a few things.

Because of some of the letters and requests I get from kids asking what the voices of the characters sound like to me (!), I put up a new (hopefully better) link to my reading of the first chapter.
Here is is:

And this short list of books that HORN BOOK recommended about Freedom Summer.

Thanks for checking in and for sharing my book with your young readers.

I almost titled this blog post: GLORY BE FOR TEACHERS AND LIBRARIANS.
That sounded pretty darn good. Any way you look at it.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Meaning of Maggie

Here are some of the things I love about this book.

The cover.

(and not just because it has a library card and date stamper on it. But that's part of it.)

Maggie's attitude toward her sisters. How it changes and is so very true to real sisters.

The wisdom she develops as the story progresses.

And certainly not least of all. The book trailer. Wow.

Click HERE to see what Mr. Schu has to say and to read Megan Jean Sovern's interview. 

Click HERE to read my thoughts on whether something that takes place so recently is truly historical fiction. 

Linda Urban just wrote the greatest blogpost about The Meaning of Maggie. CLICK HERE to go there. 

(My copy was from the library. I was lucky. I understand there's a long reserve list now. If you've read it, do let the rest of us know what you think. If you haven't read it, get thee to a library or a bookstore asap!)

Here's Maggie's amazing trailer. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Kids Say the Greatest Things

Which perhaps I've failed to report in sufficient quantities this year.
But I've had a great time hearing them, noting them, smiling and realizing kids' book writers are the luckiest ducks in the world!

5th Grade Boy, Orlando. Buying 2 copies of my book.
"Just sign one of them to me. Only need your name on the other. I'm selling it on Ebay."

My last school visit of 2013-2014 was bittersweet- hate for the year to end!-  but great fun. 
Thanks, Scholastic and My Very Own Library, for inviting me to talk to the kids at two schools in Newark, NJ, and for giving those kids some awesome books. 
Such great kids, so well prepared, the best listeners.

Here I am, signing books, schmoozing with a terrific librarian at Ivy Hill School.

The boys at Eagle Academy helped me stand on a chair in the back of the room so I could be seen in this group of young men, standing tall.

I do love this part of being a writer. 
Now summer's here and it's back to the other part- the actual writing.
Have a great vacation, kids, and I hope you read a ton of books!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Accidental Metaphor

Oh, how I love Anne Tyler.

A few random descriptions to learn from.
Though the Anne Tyler bar is mighty high.

Chips of cloudy sky.

Jeans with stiff, hard seams.

The watery blindness of rain.

Exuberant hair  
(Love this! Can't you see it?)

And perhaps the best of all?
She was the sort of woman who stored her flatware intermingled.

Check out this Writer's Digest interview: 

Since she's long been a favorite writer of mine, I've blogged about Anne Tyler before.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

A Thing I Totally Love

School has ended in Florida and some of those last letters are just reaching me, possibly written in the final, fun, hectic days.
A batch arrived just now- written by an after-school Book Club's very enthusiastic, Book-Battling readers. 
Near the end of the year, we'd had a fun afternoon together.

Loved all the messages, especially the musical notes and Elvis Rocks! Elvis Lives! etc. illustrations.

But this card might take the cake.
Something I'll smile about for a long time.

Look closely. See how cleverly he sneaked that "L" into Glory?

The teacher told me they had a great laugh over the original.

They agreed it would make an excellent follow-up title for my next book about Glory:

Gory Be! Gloriana Gets Mad

Friday, June 6, 2014

Revision Thoughts

Keep in mind that characters need to change along the way to their story's end. As a certain brilliant editor says, "A curtain must lift" and enable them to know something they didn't know when they started this journey.

And then there's this quote, from writer Richard Peck:
“A young adult novel ends not with happily ever after, but at a new beginning, with the sense of a lot of life left to be lived.”

(Thanks to Cheryl Klein's website for the quote. Here's another quote to ponder, from Cheryl herself:  Being obvious is the quickest way to be dull.)

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Happy Donut Day!

Almost as soon as I stopped being a librarian and announced (to no one in particular) that I wanted to write, my childhood friend Beth Jacks offered me a gig on her new website USADeepSouth. I'll forever be grateful to Beth, who had tons more writing credentials than I did. She suggested I write book reviews, featuring southern-themed books. What a grand idea! I jumped all over it.

Now that National Donut Day is almost upon us, I thought I'd share my
review of John T. Edge's book about DONUTS from that website.

I'm sorry to report that on a very recent layover in the Houston airport, I spotted a Shipley's and bought 2 donuts. They did not live up to my childhood memories. 

Don't you hate when that happens? 

I am certain, however, that the Donut Sundaes I remember from "The Goose" would hold up to my modern-day dessert standards= Yeast donut, ice cream, hot fudge sauce. 
I think I'll make one tomorrow to celebrate the day.


(You can also find this review on the website:

DONUTS: AN AMERICAN PASSION by John T. Edge (G.P. Putnam, 2006)

If you’ve ever stood outside a Krispy Kreme waiting for the flashing red light or driven across two counties to pick up a dozen Shipleys, then this fourth addition to John T. Edge’s American food series is for you. He started with fried chicken, then added apple pie and hamburgers. What could be better than topping it off with a quick dozen donuts or two?

As he combs the country in search of donut history, Edge shows us why he’s one of our best food writers. He ferrets out the corner mom and pop operations and digs into the reasons they stay in business (or not). He doesn’t just slosh through old newspapers yellowing in libraries or crisp microfilmed magazine covers to research food history. His research includes eating his way through sugar-coated donuts (or a slugburger or chicken fried in almost anything).

But we’re glad this time he chose to shed a little light on donuts. Otherwise we’d never know about the Salvation Army’s public relations coup in the First World War. As their Lassies fried donuts in a helmet, or perhaps a galvanized trash can, the mission was to help the troops feel more at home. Their doughnuts (the spelling has only recently been shortened) were made from excess rations and whatever the ladies had on hand, and after the War American soldiers returned home hankering for more. According to Edge’s research, so many planned to open donut shops that the military published a book on the subject.

My early donut memories include the superbly fat-ladened Donut Sundae at the Old Goose at M.S.C.W. (glazed yeast donut, vanilla ice cream, hot fudge sauce), selling boxes of Shipley donuts to benefit my Girl Scout troop, and standing over boiling hot oil waiting for homemade donuts in my mother’s kitchen. Perhaps. like Edge, Homer Price— that curious character from Robert McCloskey’s book--  made you laugh out loud in fifth grade with his donut machine gone awry. Whatever your attachment to donuts, John T. Edge has you covered. 

Don’t skip the chapter, or maybe even a trip, to Westport, Massachusetts, where he tempts us with a cinnamon sugar-dusted cake donut, then segueways into a chocolate-glazed yeast. But Edge is after the big prize here- the proprietor’s famous “Long John.”  As with other local donut shops, Butler’s Colonial Donut House has a following that required a visit and a taste. “Rich…sprightly with berries, swaddled in dairy,” the Long John is shaped like a hotdog bun turned on its side and does not disappoint. John T. Edge’s description makes you want to jump in the car and head for Massachusetts. Or in a pinch, the closest Dunkin’ Donuts.

(Sorry about the picture, Mr. Edge. I'm sure you'd never use a DD photo, but you have to admit, it does add a spice of color...)