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

Friday, October 31, 2014

Even More from Mississippi

Mississippi appreciates its writers, big time.

Of course, there's Miss Eudora Welty.

On this trip, I visited her garden and a new, temporary exhibit inside her house.
The special exhibit featured her high school and colleges, one of which we share.

The flowers are still blooming. Beautiful.
We also said hello to her Night-Blooming Cereus, on the front porch. Not blooming.

I read this in her garden, a favorite quote, always has been:

But this time, my friend Ivy and I also popped into 

Check out the chairs! I love the way the shade and the sun play against these benches.

 Here's my own Willie Morris story.

I was a librarian-in-training at Simmons College in Boston. My first adventure outside the South. It snowed on November 19, hard, and again on Easter Sunday, not so deep. I loved Boston. I loved Simmons. I did not love the weather, but the people were fascinating and I loved living there.
I was always running into Yankees who knew little about my homeland.

While studying at Simmons, I worked a couple of days a week at the Harvard Medical School Library. The director was smart and well-read. And completely puzzled by me.
One day he called me into his office and held up a book. "I'm reading a good story," he said. "Willie Morris wrote it. It's about a fictional town called Yazoo."

Well, of course, as most of us know, it's Yazoo City. 
It's real. 
And it's still there.

While I'm remembering Mississippi and its writers, I can't resist re-sharing this. 
Ivy's table decorations way back when Glory Be was new.

And soon I'll have another book, The Way to Stay in Destiny, to add to her table. 
Some days it feels like a miracle.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Mississippi Delta Chinese Heritage Museum

What an amazing weekend!
From the lectures to the ribbon cutting, the friends who returned and the ones who live in Mississippi and worked so hard to make this weekend perfect- outstanding in every way.

(Don't you love that logo?)

Here's a link to some of the highlights from the blog of Dr. John Jung. 
Be sure to click on the link at the end of his post and scroll through the pictures. You'll feel like you were there! 

This is one of my favorite pictures from the weekend-- of my friend Bobby Joe Moon and my parents' friend, Mrs. Jane Dunlap.

She's been instrumental in beautifying our little town and personally oversees and tends the gorgeous roses near the Railroad Museum.

When I told Mrs. Dunlap how much I loved seeing her roses every time I come to visit, she said, "Go out there and talk to them and tell them you love them!"

So I did.

Bobby and one of the weekend's organizers, Frieda Quon, filled me in on the details and encouraged me to attend. And am I ever glad I did! Although I'd read Dr. Jung's book, I learned so much about the history of why we had many Chinese groceries in the Delta and about the significant contributions made by these hardworking families.

If you're in the Delta, plan a stop on the campus of Delta State University and take time to visit the museum. 

 (This one's for my many friends who've recently taken up MahJongg.
 I may have to learn. A beautiful display, don't you think?)

Sometimes research is so much more than that. It's uncovering stories and digging deeper, yes. But it's also about people. This Homecoming week was all about friends- old and new- and family. I loved it.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Quote of the Day

One of the reasons we keep plugging away, no?

(And thank you to the friend who shared this and whose identity I have forgotten/lost/misplaced...)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

More from Mississippi: Porches- A thing I love

Because I love screened-in porches and good friends as much as anything.

Here's a post from my great friends' neighbor's terrific blog. Check out the pictures and you'll understand why I love that porch.

They live in Eudora Welty's neighborhood filled with wonderful old houses and tons of front, back, side, screened porches. 

Since I don't want to <steal> one of Marsha's terrific blog pics (click on that link up there and see for yourself), here are my friend and I sitting together at a different table. A few years ago. We've been friends since before we were born.

This week we found a corner of the porch and sat. Talked. Sipped. Worked a crossword puzzle. Read. Talked some more.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


Although I left Mississippi for college a few years ago (hahaha), it's where my family is, where my heart is. Home.

Spending a week here for a reason I'll call research is pretty special.

Even if <research> means sitting on the porch listening and talking.
Riding around places I remember but thought I'd forgotten.
Not writing a single thing down.

This weekend I'll spend time listening to authorities speak about things I'm interested in, and I'll take plenty of notes. 
I'll hang out with a friend of my mama's. 
I'll sit in libraries. 
I may even sit under a tree or two.

Last weekend I took a few pictures. 
I'll share so you can enjoy, too.

Sunset over the Mississippi River. That's Arkansas over there.

 Artifacts unearthed and on display. 
From some deep dark filing cabinet, I assume.

Historic marker unveiled on the campus of Delta State University, the site of my first school. My  memories of nursery school include taking a field trip across campus to see the "Science Museum," which consisted of a two-headed lamb and a tapeworm that had been removed during surgery. A very long tapeworm. I'm sure there was more. That's all I remember.

I have no idea what I'll do with this thought, but it's percolating. 
Historic Jackson.

Not often that I see this much cotton ready to be picked.
I remember when the fields were full of it though.
Quite beautiful. Even if the stories may not be so beautiful.
Know what I mean?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Writing Notebooks

I still remember Carolyn Coman at one of the earlier HIGHLIGHTS Whole Novel workshops showing us her writing notebook. The one she scribbled ideas in when she was gardening- or doing all sorts of things that didn't seem like writing. 

That was a while ago (okay, it was early fall, 2005). I was just beginning the story that would eventually become THE WAY TO STAY IN DESTINY (Coming January, 2015. Don't do the math. It takes me a while.)


To this day, I've never used just one notebook for my pre-writing scribbles. And that's a problem. I have notes everywhere! 

Including in a Scrivener document. Which is where I always end up. But you can't drag your computer to some of the places where you do your best thinking, right? And you never know when an idea or a thought will need writing down.

It would be helpful if all those brilliant thoughts ended up in the same notebook.

So I'll steal some of Linda Urban's excellent ideas.

Have you been following her "notebook" posts about writing? I love how she shares details about what's in those notebooks. Here's a LINK.  There are several. Follow them all!

And just before we departed New Jersey, I popped in on Elizabeth Eulberg et al. and their "YA Romance" panel at the Morristown Festival of the Book. Elizabeth held up a notebook, complete with tabs. That's the look I'm going for!

Aside: Elizabeth has a very good post on her blog about what authors have control over and what they have NO control over. Mostly I agree with her. It's worth reading if you've wondered about things like book jacket art, festivals and promotions, etc. Read it HERE. 

What kind of notebook do you use for your important pre-writing scribbles? Or do you start right up sitting in front of your computer? 
Is it different for each project?
Do you love a certain type of paper, a beautiful notebook, a regular 3-ring binder?
Inspire me with your ideas, please!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Quaker Motto Calendar

It's that time of year.  2015 Calendar Ordering Time!

Actually, I kind of missed the suggested order date. But it's not too late and I'm placing my order today for the QUAKER MOTTO CALENDAR.

Here's the 2015 order form.
AND most importantly, the contact info should you need to reach out.

I don't actually sell/ write/ produce these. My sister-in-law Marion Ballard is the one to call/ email. Her contact info is right there.

You may also want to read:
Each year I post about these calendars. Here's one of the first, with a quote from Aunt Margery about the family's connection to them:

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Glory Game!

How much do I love this very cool game?

Eli made it for his outside reading project at Jackson Prep. His mom, who's a teacher at the Mississippi School for the Deaf and uses GLORY BE with her students, shared it.

Some of the stops along the way--

Segregated water fountain, move back two spaces. 
Freedom Riders come to Mississippi, move forward four spaces. 
Glory writes a brave letter to the newspaper, move forward six spaces. 
Swimming pool is closed because of integration, move back four spaces. 

I'm totally impressed. Thanks, Eli and Mom for sharing and for your clever creativity!

Monday, October 6, 2014

FIGS! Oh joy~

Anybody who knows me knows my fig fetish.
I particularly love eating them when someone like my friend Lee, AKA Kitchen Goddess on her fabulous blog, presents them so beautifully.

Like Lee, I had a grandmother who put up fig preserves.
Our big sprawling fig tree was a perfect spot to hide under and pick the figs right off that tree.

Today's blog from Lee has sent me back to those days.
How I wish I were eating them wrapped in prosciutto and stuffed with cheese right now (my current adoration).

CLICK HERE to read her recipes and remembrances.

I'm so jealous that she has a tree, complete with figs.

To tempt you even more, here's a picture from today's post.
You know you want to read how to make your food look so beautiful.
Go ahead, click away.

Fig Appetizer

 I've written about figs before, in case you hadn't noticed...
You can type FIGS into the search box of this blog or click the link in the previous sentence.
Or just read Lee's post and enjoy. Big time YUM.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Skink- No Surrender

Carl Hiaasen's first Young Adult novel (He's written middle-grade and of course, all those grownup books) has just been long-listed for the National Book Awards.

Having read three of the nominees, I think I'll attempt to tackle them all.

Skink- No Surrender was a quick read, nothing even your motivated middle-grader couldn't handle if he or she is a fan of Hiaasen's books. This one's an adventure and a mystery, of course. But the kids are truly kid-like, something all writers who crossover from adult novels don't always figure out so well.

Then there's the reclusive ex-governor Skink with that gross fake eye. 
("Skink ignored her and closed his good eye. He looked like a grizzled old iguana." Don't you love how he says so much in so few words?)
Yes, there are plenty of shots fired. And one of the lead players runs away with a faker she's met online.
Hmm. Somehow it didn't seem so scary though. Must be the humor. 

Here's a good writing quote from Hiaasen:

True even for Young Adult fiction, wouldn't you say?

Anybody out there predicting who'll take the National Book Award this year?