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

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Welcome, Kathy Cannon Wiechman

I'm delighted to welcome Kathy Wiechman to chat about her brand new book. LIKE A RIVER is a Civil War story, but it's so much more than that. The characters, the setting, and a story with such heart that truly leaps off the pages. 

She and I met at a terrific Highlights Foundation workshop. Your own cabin in the woods. Fabulous food. Great camaraderie. Walks and talks.
Oh, and all that uninterrupted writing time!

Is there anything you’d like to share with your fellow writers about the experiences you’ve had there?
Kathy:  I have been to many Highlights Foundation workshops, and I love them! I have never been to any other workshops that provide as much one-on-one attention with faculty members. I have learned so much from the faculty there, from people like Rich Wallace, Joy Cowley, and Patti Gauch. 

And the setting there seems to be magical for finding the Muse. It’s also a great place for making contacts. I met my editor at a Highlights workshop. I have made many friends there too, who have the same love for children’s literature as I do. Some of the friendships I made there have blossomed into lasting ones. And I met you there, Augusta, and discovered the wonderful GLORY BE.

Augusta: Thank you, Kathy! Now let's talk books. Yours, in fact. You did such an amazing job of describing the wartime situations in a war so few young readers know much about. Can you tell us a bit about your research process?

Kathy: I studied the Civil War long before I decided to write this book, but once I mapped out my plan for it, I read dozens and dozens of books on specific aspects of the war.  I visited the sites where my book takes place, sites in Georgia, Ohio, Tennessee, and Mississippi. I learned to load and fire a muzzleloader (at the Highlights facility in PA, where the workshops take place). I even had one arm tied behind my back and went swimming, so I could see how hard it would be for someone with an amputated arm.

Augusta: Now that's what I call research. Wow. Was there one thing about writing that was more difficult than anything else?
Kathy: I like happy endings or at least, hopeful ones. It was somewhat difficult to find the right balance, to write a novel that was accurate to the time of war and to do justice by those who suffered in Andersonville Prison and died on the Sultana without making the ending bleak. I hope I have achieved that.

Augusta: I think young readers will agree that you created the perfect ending. Now, what’s next for Kathy Wiechman?

Kathy: I recently signed a contract with Boyds Mills Press for a second novel and am still working on revisions of that. It’s called EMPTY PLACES and takes place in Harlan County, Kentucky during the Great Depression.

Augusta: I think I may have heard a tiny thing or two about that book! Another intriguing topic young readers will be eager to know more about.
Are there any other things about writing your debut novel that you'd like to share?

Kathy: During the early stages of writing the book, I found out that the husband of a friend is the great-great grandson of  a survivor of Andersonville and the Sultana. He shared with me the family papers on his ancestor, and that ancestor (Jacob Zimmerman) became like an angel sitting on my shoulder as I wrote, urging me forward.

Augusta: That's a terrific thought to inspire other writers, Kathy. We never know what we'll turn up when we embark on a subject, but it always helps to have an angel sitting on our shoulders.

Here's Kathy's website:

You can order her book from your all the usual places, especially your local independent bookstore. Thank you to her publisher and editor, Carolyn Yoder at Calkins Creek, for supplying me with an advance reader copy. 

Here's one of my favorite passages from the book. Powerful words.

      "The army isn't a lark, son," the doctor said. "Our country is at war, and you'll be expected to work hard."
      "Yes, sir," Leander said and forced the grin into hiding. But deep inside he was still smiling, thinking only of what folks would say when they saw him in uniform.

Monday, April 27, 2015


Hurry on over to FROM THE MIXED UP FILES blog.
Wendy Shang and I are chatting about our 70s books.

And giving them away!

All you have to do is leave Wendy a comment about your favorite 70s memory.
If you weren't around way back then, you can leave her a memory from books, TV shows, whatever you think is fun. 
(So far Pet Rocks seem to dominate.)

Giveaway ends Wednesday!

Here's the link:

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

More from Mississippi

Who says you can't go home again?
NOBODY who ever lived in Mississippi.
Maybe no true southerner.

(Oh, wait. There's that whole Thomas Wolfe thing.)

But I did go home. And I spent some terrific days visiting bookstores, schools, and friends and family. Here it it, in large living color!

After a great time at the Kaigler Book Festival, I headed north to family, a morning gathering at Square Arts in Batesville, and a whole lot of good food. I'll leave that to your imagination since I didn't take pictures of the fried green tomatoes and shrimp and grits, etc.

Then off to Square Books Jr., on the square in Oxford. 

 We loved the sign!


I signed a lot of books.
If you'd like a signed copy, I'm sure
SQUARE BOOKS can accommodate.

(Wow. Just noticed the great pictures on your Facebook page, Jill and others at Square Books- Thanks!)

Books. Lots and lots of books. All signed.

There was a lot going on in Oxford, MS, that Saturday. But when I arrived at Square Books, Jr., this smiling face was waiting by my table. Her mom said she'd read Glory Be and couldn't wait to meet me. I was thrilled to hear her enthusiasm.
(That's what it's all about, right? That's why we write books!)

After that amazing weekend, I took off driving through the Delta on a drizzly morning.

I promise I was the only one on Highway 61 when I took this picture.

A quick stop in Cleveland always includes a walk along the railroad trail.
When I grew up there, the Illinois Central came through town on a regular basis.
Right through the center of town. We'd have to stop at the tracks and wait for trains to pass.

Now there's a neat Train Museum.

I arrived in Greenwood in time for pie.

(I did not eat them both. My sister, always agreeable to coming along for a road trip, had the chocolate. Hers was better than mine, we agreed.)

Next stop: TURNROW Books.
What a beautiful spot!

Of course, I had to snap this shot of cute, young Elvis.

A favorite moment at TurnRow. These smart girls had come with their creative writing/ storytelling teacher from the DELTA ARTS ALLIANCE. 

(For those of us who grew up in Cleveland, that would be the Ellis Theater. folks.)

They told me all about what THEY are writing. I loved talking to them and signing their books.)

This picture of my brother, sister and me was taken by the sister of a childhood friend, one inspiration for Miss Sister.

My friend's name was Sandra. She added a lot of fun to growing up.

Next stop- LEMURIA in Jackson!

Two school visits, one fabulous party, lots of family. Does it get any better than Jackson?

We visited Mannsdale Elementary School where it happened to be Famous Mississippians Day.

Check out Oprah.
(Elvis was there, too.)

These kids were reading my new book! They'd chosen it for a book club selection!

Here I am at Lemuria, just before the skies opened up and a storm blew through Jackson. I'm reading from THE WAY TO STAY IN DESTINY.  After I read, we all gathered at my friend Ivy's house to talk about books, old times and memories, and new friends.

I returned to Lemuria the next day to sign a lot of books. I'm sure if you give Clara Martin, book buyer extraordinaire a call, she'll save a book for you!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Books That Make You Cry

What a book!

THE CROSSOVER by Kwame Alexander.

If you haven't read this newest Newbery winner, Margaret Simon's post does contain a spoiler alert.

If you have read it and loved it as I did, CLICK ON OVER THERE and see how the book worked as a class read-aloud.

Oh my goodness, such a moving a book. Everything a Newbery winner should be.

And if somehow you missed his wonderful GIFT to teachers and librarians everywhere, here's Kwame Alexander's book trailer.

Okay, not exactly a book trailer. Just an opportunity to get to know him and that amazing book. Which I loved. In case you wondered.

All of this talk about sad books stems from a Nerdy Book folks' post about BOOKS THAT MAKE US CRY.

The book is touching a lot of young readers. CLICK HERE for a review by one of them.
Fantastic. Just fantastic.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Kaigler Festival

A few observations and photos from my weekend in Hattiesburg.

The Kaigler Book Festival is a place to make new friends
 and see old ones.


The ever-lovely and brilliant Ellen Ruffin.
Sarah Frances Hardy, who signed her new picture book next to me!

Clara Martin, there from Lemuria to chat about new books with one of my favorite authors, Deborah Wiles.

See how fabulous their lineup is?

Shannon Hitchcock and I presented a workshop: 
about writing novels using family stories, memory, and research.

Gene Yang. 
Amazing presentation about his  journey from comic book kid to artist and writer.

I was taking notes fast and furiously!

I was too mesmerized by Nikki Grimes' talk to take a single picture. But she was there. Among many others.

And the food. Oh the food.

Celebrating the Ezra Jack Keats Award
With Caramel Cake, of course.

If you have an opportunity to attend the Fay B. Kaigler Children's Book Festival at the University of Southern Mississippi, 
just say yes.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Why We Write

I was reminded of this when a young man told me he'd read my new book five times. He's obviously not a kid who's never read a book on his own and that kind of reader also warms a writer's heart. 

But somebody's book made him a reader!
This truly is why we write. 
This says it all. 

What Happened to Your Book Today
by Kate Messner

Somewhere, a kid who has never read a whole book on his own
(Really. Not even one.)
picked up yours and turned a page.
And then another.
And then one more.
And it was pretty cool, turns out.

Click this link to read it all.

(And for my friends who are writing, revising, submitting. This is why you don't give up, right?)