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

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Learn From the Best

Wendy Mass writes books kids love to read. I've followed her progress since she first stepped into the library where I worked with a reference question (she's a fellow Jersey Girl). I've have seen her books grow in popularity--Jeremy Fink= Major Motion Picture?--and I've been a fan since the very beginning.

While writing this blog, I clicked over to her blog and discovered the most fun thing! Wendy from A to Z. 
One of these days I may have to do this myself. I love her L thought, in particular.

Here's a bit of advice she gives to beginning writers, via the always interesting and helpful Cynthia Leitich Smith's blog:

Besides the usual advice to read, take classes, keep a notebook for story ideas, go to conferences, network with other writers, I'd say to tell the story you want to tell, the story that only you can tell. Don't give up unless it's not fun anymore.

Related post: Outlining or Not?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Thoughts from Home

 Mississippi, that is. Bolivar County, to be exact.

Thank you to my friend Ivy for pointing out the Mississippi Museum of Art's blog. I love this thought:

"...while you can get lost on any corner of the globe, when you take a wrong turn out of Yazoo City or cut through the little town of Shaw, in Bolivar County, it ceases to be a detour and becomes part of the destination.  Things will spring out from the world around you, whether sunken cypress knees, deserted churchyard cemeteries, or, most often, manifestations of art in all its many forms."

Related post: Mississippi Summer Re-Reading

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Friday, June 24, 2011

Another Thing I Love

Looking forward to a reunion of our original New Jersey critique group next week. We moved in different directions when one moved to MA, one to TX and I mostly to FL.

But I learned so much and have so many terrific memories from our weekly meetings. GLORY BE was born on those Wednesday mornings.

Our primary mover and shaker, Leslie Davis Guccione, will visit via travels from her tenure at Seton Hill's MFA residency. Can't wait to hear all she learned, all she taught,  AND hear more about the upcoming publication of her book.

This quote, made perfect by Leslie's gift, on a razor clam shell (Did I say she's very creative?!) is the thing I'm loving today:

"Whatever our theme in writing, it is old and tired. Whatever our place, it has been visited by the stranger, it will never be new again. It is only the vision that can be new, but that is enough.”  
~ Eudora Welty

And that's seaglass, collected from a visit to her Massachusetts beach. What a treasure- all three!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

This is getting exciting! GLORY BE...

Big UPS box arrived this morning, filled with GLORY BE.

I'm going slowly through this stage of edits. But it's pretty exciting to see what the actual book's pages will look like.

I'm up to Chapter Four.

So far, so good...

Monday, June 20, 2011

Good Blog is Hard to Find: Luna Madness

That's the name of my group blog made up of some amazing Southern writers. Yesterday was my turn to post. We are given assigned topics, totally voluntary. This time it was "living with a lunatic."

When I told my husband what I was writing about, and that I was certainly not a lunatic writer, there was silence from the other side of the car. Sometimes that means he didn't hear what I was saying. This time he totally heard. "Well, sometimes..." he started to answer.

You mean those days I locked myself in my room and glared if he dared disturb me? Hauled all my stuff to the quiet of the library? Read aloud to my computer? Scribbled crazy sayings on the back of our checkbook? What, me a crazy writer?

In my post I did not admit to true craziness. Click here if you'd like to see what I confess to.

And thanks, Julie, for the Luna inspiration. Not to mention for understanding creative craziness. Maybe it takes one to understand one?

Related posts: Blizzard!
Lime Curd

Thursday, June 16, 2011

What's on Your Stickie Notes?

Back to work, re-thinking/ working a new/old storyline. Needing all the advice I can get.

So, what am I thinking about? Right now? 

These words of wisdom from my Glory Be editor and a writer friend, both creative geniuses. If I can only live up to my stickies.


What's on YOUR stickie note?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Things I Miss

Which, yes, could also be labeled Things I Love.

My favorite bridge. It's breathtakingly beautiful. At the end of my journey across the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, I'm greeted by my friend Janet. We meet often, eat a mostly healthy lunch and discuss our writing projects. She tells me when I'm being illogical (in my writing, of course) and I tell her when she needs more description. We are two sides of the writing craft puzzle.

It helps to have a writing buddy who complements your style. She even reads Tarot cards! And best of all, she lives on the other side of this structure.

Do you have a writing partner? A critique buddy? A bridge this beautiful to pass over occasionally?

Saturday, June 11, 2011

What I'm Reading Now...

I'm contemplating a post about Summer Reading. But really, isn't everybody writing about books doing that this month?

Instead, for now, I'll tell you what I'm reading.  For once, there's not a single kids' book in my stack. That will soon be remedied when I pick up Fanny Billingsly's CHIME later today.

I'm reading three books at once. Which I don't truly recommend. It just happened.

1. John Hart's new thriller/ psychological mystery. IRON HOUSE.
So far, all I can say is Wow. Page turner!

2. BEACH TREES by Karen White.
Set in post-Katrina New Orleans and Biloxi. Enjoying it a lot. About halfway through.

Reading this one on my Kindle because I downloaded the beginning for "free" and got hooked. I've just started so not sure whether I'll be recommending it or not, but here's another reviewer's take on it.

The weird thing about Kindle books? You never know what the jacket looks like. So when I googled the book to get that link just now, I see the cover. Do I love it? Hmmm.
Then again, the cover on CHIME made me think I didn't want to read it. Then I read all the raves.

So not putting cover art on my list of ways to choose books.

Related post: Welcome Summer! 
Edgar Awards: John Hart

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Historical Hair

Lots of interesting discussion happened when I posted a recent blog pondering what really is Historical Fiction anyhow. One commenter brought up how kids parse out the meaning. To them, a book such as Mixed-up Files could be classified historical because it took place in a time the young reader might not understand. Prices, hairstyles, clothing, music= all part of the past to a child born in 2000.

I know, I know. I'm still (over?)thinking the topic.

But speaking of hair...

When a group of friends gathered last weekend, something about a certain movie confounded us. We all lived in Mississippi in the early 1960s, the setting of one of the most popular books in recent memory, The Help. Soon to be a major motion picture, the movie's rendition of Skeeter's hair is bugging us all. I know, I know. It's a small detail. And we've only see the trailer for the movie. I can't wait to see the movie and I'm sure I'll love it, as I loved many things about the book. But I wish they'd consulted somebody actually alive during the time for hair advice.

Like us maybe!
Since our small gathering was hosted by fabulous cooks and very creative women, the party favors were "church fans" featuring a likeness of each of us, circa 1963.

About the hair. Do you see a single picture without straight hair? Flips predominate.

We ironed our hair, people! We slept on big rollers to get the curls to straighten out!
We were not alone. Check out any college yearbook, even those outside the South. 
I doubt you will see many hairstyles of Emma Stone's/ Skeeter's movie frizziness.

While I'm sharing pictures, and since it was so delicious, here's one of our many gourmet meals. Pictured- shrimp salad, artistically accented by blanched asparagus spears. Key lime pie, chocolate mousse. Wonderful bread. I could go on.

(Photos by Eileen Harrell, Artline Graphics)

Related posts: Kathryn Stockett
The Help, The Movie

Sunday, June 5, 2011

2 More Favorite Things

This huge scented geranium and the normal sized pot of lavender grow in a sunny spot in my not-so-big garden. The scented geranium was a gift from my mother-in-law's garden, over 20 years ago. She claimed it kept mosquitoes away. If it gets any larger, it will keep everything away. Last spring I cut it back so much that I thought it would never return. Ha. I live in a tropical rain forest. It came back.

It loses something in the photo. I wish you could stick your nose into the computer and breathe deeply. Then you would appreciate why I love this.

Oh, and I also love this because lavender and scented geranium are two of the main ingredients in Fairy Soup...

Related Posts: Things I love.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

What the heck is historical about it anyway?

Somewhere in the deep dark past.

Okay, let me start over.

A few years ago when I was still a working school librarian, my fellow teachers and I had a lot of fun teaching together. One of my favorite things to do with the third grade was historical fiction. I dutifully taught them what exactly was historical fiction. I had a very erudite definition, gleaned from some college professor. One of the requirements, so it seemed, was that the history surrounding the story happened at least 50 years ago. That was also what I'd learned in my study of children's literature, a few decades earlier. The students loved it. Fun times.

That was then. Fast forward to one of my favorite recent Newbery winners, When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. Loved the book. Read it twice (at least). But historical fiction? Huh?

Turns out, maybe it is.

In her review on Goodreads, Betsy Bird considered the possibility:
Heck, you could even label this book historical fiction since it takes place in 1978-79. And not the fake 1979 that you sometimes seek invoked in bad television shows and movies either. This is an accurate portrayal of a time period when a person really could spend their days helping their mom prepare for a stint on the $20,000 Pyramid. A time when a girl could be handed books with pictures of spunky-looking girls on the covers... and subsequently reject them because they are not A Wrinkle in Time.

I mused over this very dilemma when I reviewed it for The Christian Science Monitor, pondering what genre the book was. The story had no true historical events tied to it. But it was set in the past. Turns out lots of folks were pondering that very topic, including this blogger about historical fiction. She, like many of us, realizes that perhaps history is in the eye of the beholder. To children, that just isn't that long ago.

And now, from what I'm learning, you can make most anything "historical" if it happened before the reader was alive, or even aware. For kids, that would be anything pre-1990. Wow.

Check out an interesting blog discussion happening over at Caroline Starr Rose's blog on the topic.

Carolyn Yoder, editor of a whole lot of historical fiction and someone I'd consider an expert on the matter says this:

At a recent Illinois writing workshop sponsored by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), Yoder encouraged all historical writers to make their stories real by anchoring them in time and place. Your reader should be able to tell when and where the story is set from the details you give. More than that, your story should not be able to happen anywhere or anytime else.

And here's a bit of what James Alexander Thom, in his book The Art and Craft of Writing Historical Fiction says on the topic of Is My Story Old Enough?

When you have a story in mind, you might ask yourself whether it's old enough to be historical.  Among those of us who write of historical events, there's a joke. "The last eyewitness is dead at last! Now we can tell it the way we know it was."...
You'll decide if you're writing a historical novel if it seems "past" to you... It's history if you say so.

If a book has an "old fashioned" feel to it and is set in the 1950s or the 1970s or even the 1990s, say in a small midwest or southern town where they might still say things like bloomers and what in tarnation-- can we call that historical fiction?

Shall we throw my old definition of historical fiction right out the window?

Related posts: Historical fiction?
and Historical Fiction, Maybe