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

Monday, May 30, 2011

Not sure when I've read a more amazing story than this one of Victoria Ford who grew up in Memphis, part of the political Ford family.

Click on this link to read it in today's New York Times. And there's also a link to one of the poems by the winner of a $10,000 scholarship and a Scholastic Art and Writing Award, an honor previously won by Truman Capote, Joyce Carol Oates and Sylvia Plath.

Here's a bit of her poem. You can read it all here.

To a Restless Little Brother Calling for Mama in His Sleep

You may not understand this now, but she isn’t coming back. Not tonight. Not tomorrow. Day after that. And no, she hasn’t left anything behind — a sticky note on the refrigerator door or a quick message for the answering machine, her voice a distant echo calling your name and mine. Nothing.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Summer Reading

What's on your list?

I'm finding a lot of the same books showing up on these "beach reads" lists. So far, I think I'll give Jennifer Haigh's novel, FAITH, a try. Having read The Condition, her previous novel, I think I'll like this one. I know I'll like it better than some of the other oddities on the NYTimes list...

Click right here for a link to the New York Times' Summer Reading List.

Hmm. And I'm not so sure about John Grisham's kids' book listed in the "Old Pros" section. His first in the Theodore Boone series was pretty widely panned.

Maybe I need to make my own Summer Reading List. Recommendations, anyone?

Oh, and Happy Beginning of Summer Memorial Day Weekend!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Learn Something New Every Day

A urinal? Really?

I love to learn new oddball facts. Especially while reading the newspaper.

Like today's New York Times article about a new statue of Pope John Paul II. 

I can't really tell from the photo provided and I'm not sure if I care enough to delve deeper or to join in the "crescendo of outrage," but I do like learning new words and factoids.

Here's my Fact of the Day:

"The starkly spare sculpture by a Rome-based artist, Oliviero Rainaldi, depicts the pope condensed into a massive mantle as if to envelop the faithful. It has been alternately described as a sentry box, a bell and a papal vespasiano, as Romans call a urinal. (Vespasian was the first-century emperor who levied a tax on urine, which was used for tanning leather.)"

Who Knew?
(Or maybe Who Cares?)

Possibly Related Post: Word A Day

Monday, May 23, 2011


 Hooray! Done!

At least I hope they are done. I've been working hard all week on copyedits for GLORY BE. (copyedits? copy edits?)

Here's a pictorial look at my week.

Day 1: I'm optimistic. I have taken over the dining room table. I will not be distracted. I have a neat work space. I'm putting pink stickie notes on places that need my attention. So far the genius copyeditor for Scholastic hasn't forced me into too many unwanted commas. (Okay a few...)
I'm even thinking she may have a Southern granny somewhere in her history. She's getting it!

Day 2: I will especially not be distracted by those binoculars on the side of my workspace. I don't care what kind of bird moseys up to my window...

Day 3: Wow, look at this. Ms. Fab Copyeditor has some questions about my Time Frame. Aha! I have June and July 1964 calendars. Chapters noted. Dates and times. Counting down to July 4, 1964, Glory's birthday.

Day 4: My workspace moved back into my office. (Messy desk, I know.)

I'm inspired by that picture frame that says WORDS-- a gift of a favorite student-- and the cute little girls inside it, and by my rock paperweight made for me by Molli. It says WRITE ON.

Day 5: More mess. But that pile of pink stickies grows smaller with each day that passes. (Note to copyeditor: PURE D is so a word. It's different from PURE... And lightning bugs LIGHT on your hand. They do not ALIGHT. Sorry, Mr. Webster.)

Copyeditor asks if it's really three blocks from the park to Glory's house. In chapter two, I said across the street. GRRRRRR.

This is the map I drew of Hanging Moss, Mississippi. (Don't laugh, Eileen...)

And yes, I corrected the manuscript. Now all the houses, the pool, the Courthouse, the football field are in the right place!

Day 6: I head to the only library in Pinellas County open on Sundays. I've spent a lot of time in quiet rooms at my local libraries this spring.

I do better there than at my neighborhood Starbucks. Though the green tea is nicer at Starbucks. If I don't get to the library early, I may have to share a table. I do not like sharing tables...

(Note the crumpled up Kleenexes and cough drop papers. A good way to be sure nobody tries to sit with me?)

I got a lot done yesterday at the library. Funny, nobody wanted to share my table.

This is the serene view from the big comfy chairs in the library that's open on Sundays. Lots of birds. A lake. Spanish moss.

I do not sit in the big comfy chairs. I sit by myself upstairs in a straight chair at a table facing empty metal shelves.

And that's how I was able to hit the send button this morning.


Saturday, May 21, 2011

And the Winner Is!

Neighborhood kid doing the drawing.

And the winner is!

Sheila- email me or Facebook message me to let me know who you are and how to send your books!

(I also have a backup winner, in case Sheila doesn't materialize.)

Thanks for entering, everybody. Enjoy the book, Sheila.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Last Chance! Gary Schmidt's new book!

OKAY FOR NOW. Going, going, gone. Check earlier posts for details.

Late tomorrow, I'll track down a neighborhood kid or a friendly pet, stuff all the names in a brown paper sack and draw one of my lucky commenters. Winner announced on Saturday.

Facebook and blog comments- all count!
Good book to read, donate to your library, give as a gift. And I'll include an extra bonus book or two from my ever-growing stack of review books!

Consider it a celebration of Summer Reading.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

National Nurses Week

 In celebration of National Nurses Week, I'm celebrating local author, nurse, and researcher Theodora Aggeles' book about the nurses of World War II- ANSWERING THE CALL: Nurses of Post 122 .   
Click here to find the book on Amazon.

And if you're looking for a reading list or a gift suggestion, here's a list of books on nursing and medicine.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Moon Over Manifest

The most recent Newbery Medal was announced in January for a work of historical fiction- Clare Vanderpool won this prestigious award for her debut novel MOON OVER MANIFEST.

Lucky me- I got to interview Clare. My interview and my review are both posted over at The Three R's Reading 'Riting and Research blog.  Click here to go there.

Thanks to Joyce for sharing and to Clare for agreeing to speak to us.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Reading the Paper... OKAY FOR NOW

Today's New York Times Book Review features a special section on children's books. Libba Bray's Beauty Queens, books about cats and dogs, picture books, YA, quite a variety-- including Richard Peck's review of OKAY FOR NOW.  (For those of you who don't care to click over to his review, bottom line--he liked it a lot.)

I think this quote speaks to the only criticism I've heard about any of Gary Schmidt's books-- that he has too much far-fetched activity swirling around his protagonists.

“Okay for Now” is crowded with more incident and empowerment than any eighth-grade year or novel can quite contain. Events stretch credulity. At one point, Doug turns up briefly on the Broadway stage, playing a female role, no less. But Schmidt is a master of the unlikely.

Love that "master of the unlikely" thought!

Next week, I'll be drawing names for a copy of this book. Just leave a comment on this blogpost, or the previous post about OKAY FOR NOW. Or on my Facebook page. Your name will be entered.

You can decide for yourself if Schmidt is a master of the unlikely.

Friday, May 13, 2011


My first ever giveaway!

I have a hardback, brand new copy, graciously supplied by the publisher, of Gary Schmidt's new novel.

Here's my review, just published on the Christian Science Monitor.

If you leave a comment here or in a comment to this post my facebook page, I'll put your name in a brown paper sack (see cover) and-- in a week or so-- you could be the winner.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Historical Fiction

 I signed up for the Historical Fiction challenge, following the lead of my fellow blogger and writer of the genre, Joyce Moyer Hostetter.  I knew it wouldn’t be much of a challenge— especially since I wimped out and signed up for the basic requirement: read five books in one year. I can do that.

I love the genre. I read anything I can get my hands on. After picking it up and putting it down for several years, I even tackled Pillars of the Earth last winter, all 973 pages of the paperback version.

So reading five Young Adult or Middle Grade historical fiction won't be hard.
Especially if I keep rereading books I’ve already read. Does that count? I decided it does, if I’m reading them in a completely different light. Which I totally am.

Take A CORNER OF THE UNIVERSE by Baby-Sitters Club writer Ann M. Martin.  When I was a school librarian, this book was one I loved to talk about with fifth graders. Now, I’m tearing it apart like a writer seeking guidance. Great characterization. Physical description that makes you think you are right there—Fred’s Funtime Carnival, Adam’s room, last year’s Summer Cotillion. A story that will break your heart if you let it or make you laugh if you’d rather.

This book is no Baby-Sitters Club. Far from it. But is it really historical fiction? Yes, the setting is 1960. Still, I wonder if every kid who reads the novel even realizes that. Martin says it, right off the bat. In the opening scene, Hattie Owen sits in her living room watching reels of family movies, in black and white. The canisters are marked with dates, and Hattie notes that the one she’s interested in is the summer she turned twelve. The summer her uncle appeared in her life.

But there’s not much mention of life in the 60s. Yes, her family runs a boarding house and the characters who live there are important to the story. But I just read a recent newspaper article about how boarding houses, now often called rooming houses, are making a big comeback. So that’s not exactly a dead giveaway for historical detail.

In the end, it doesn’t really matter. Unless you are trying to make your goal of reading five historical fiction middle grade or young adult books this year. I’m already up to three and I’m about to begin Black Radishes. And if I could count Pillars of the Earth, I’d be there.

But truly, what is historical anyhow? I'm inclined to go with this straightforward definition from the National Council of Teachers.

I'm intrigued by this line:
In historical fiction, setting is the most important literary element.

So, A Corner of the Universe? I think I'm fudging to count it.

Related post: Historical Fiction

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

More Tales from the Standby Lane: Baltimore/ Washington

A trip to Washington and my old stomping grounds of Baltimore turned out to be a terrific way to spend the last weekend in April. Lunch plus a moment to share my upcoming book's story with old friends and colleagues (Thanks, Julie!), two museum opportunities, family suppers, and spring flowers.

Here's what a sunny Saturday at Hillwood Gardens, the home of Marjorie Merriweather Post, looked like.

Here is my all-time favorite line spoken all weekend:

One young teen to her younger sister, strolling down the azaleas paths:
"Just wait till you're in 7th grade next year- Shakespeare Rocks!

Now how often do you hear a kid say Shakespeare Rocks? Do you think she knew we'd just celebrated his birthday?

For those of you who aren't familiar with the lingo of my former hometown, Baltimore, Maryland, "Hon" is a term of endearment spoken in certain parts of the city. There's a whole culture around the word. You can read more about this on a previous post, here.

So the bumper sticker seen on Roland Avenue near Eddie's did not surprise me. But it did delight me, especially on a day that the whole world hoped peace wasn't far away.

This trip via the Standby Lane was a good one, even with a bit of a wait at the airport-- Newish manuscript to revise. Kindle book to read. All good.

Although I often seem to pick the most challenging days to travel on an airline pass, Monday's return trip was surprisingly anxiety free.
Southwest, like Shakespeare, rocks.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Another good revision tip...

From an excellent blogpost by Anita Nolan-

Last is most. Check the last sentence in every paragraph. It should be the most important. Check the final word in every sentence, and particularly the last word of the paragraph. The sentence should end with an important or strong word to pull readers forward. (This is tedious work, but becomes automatic the more you do it.)

Tedious but surprisingly fun to do...