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

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Just another ordinary day...

(I wish!)

Lunch with my editor today, a special treat. I got there early and popped in the Scholastic bookstore downstairs. Kids everywhere! Loving the books!
Now keep in mind, I'm trying to be Cool Author Lady. Not starstruck tourist.

But it does kind of take your breath away.

First stop? I'm drooling over Brian Selznick's new fabulous book, WONDERSTRUCK --smack dab in front. Which by the way I'm totally dying to read.

(Sorry about the photos. As I said above, trying to be C.A.L. and didn't want to be so obvious in my photo-snapping.)

Then I moseyed over to another enticing shelf. All sorts of familiar faces and names on these books.

Yep! There you are Kimberley! Front and center!

And then I had to pinch myself. Will my very own book be in the S section come January?!
Swooned all the way upstairs. Awestruck, starstruck, AND Thunderstruck.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Celebrity Guest

That would be me. At least, if you take the word of Ms. Casey's 4th graders. She was a winner of a GLORY BE Advanced Readers Copy. I popped in yesterday to say hello to her brilliant students.
They don't know me. They didn't know I was going to be there. They have not read the book. But I felt like a celebrity when I presented them with the book.

Here is why I think they are brilliant:

1. I packaged the book with ribbon, stars, and stickers. I showed them the stickers (guitars) and told them the book takes place in 1964. I asked if they had a guess about why I'd given them shiny guitar stickers. About 5 hands shot up, all with the right answer: ELVIS!

2. We talked about the cover art. One bright boy nailed it. "Maybe it's about a swimming pool that wouldn't let black people and white people swim at the same time."

3. They know a lot about history. They can define historical fiction.
4. They asked amazing questions, and not just whether my name was really mine or not. Though we did talk about pseudonyms and they know the word.

Impressive bunch. This is the huge poster right at the front door.  No wonder they are so brilliant.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Book Reviewing, or whatever you want to call it

I love Eudora Welty's short stories. But I know not everybody "gets" her. Just now I was trying to decide which edition to pick as a gift for someone, and I was rambling around the Barnes and Noble and Amazon sites.

This is what bugs me about random commenters, whether it be rating restaurants, TVs or news stories on websites. You don't know whom to trust. Is what you are reading coming from somebody who has a clue as to what they are saying? A reputable voice? A furious customer? Does it matter?

Eudora Welty is arguably one of our most esteemed writers. I could go on forever listing her awards and accolades. Yet, not everyone cares for her stories as much as I. (Though how could anybody resist her famous photographs? This lady looks exactly like my grandmother...)

My point? If you don't know what you are talking about and you really don't "get" something, should you just stay-the-heck off the review sites?

Am I being snarky? Does anybody agree with me? Can any good come from this review? Other than maybe giving us something to chuckle about at our Book Group discussion? True confessions- The 15-word description of a favorite story of mine, Why I Live at the P.O., did make me smile. For about a second.

This is what some random Amazon reviewer person says about the most famous of Welty's stories. At least he adds a disclaimer: "Everyone's taste is different."
I'll say.

What do you think? Helpful or mildly humorous? And what's the point,


Do not read this book unless you like short stories or are required to do so. Each story is like reading the exposition of a novel, which is the most uninteresting part. Here are some of what the stories are about: 1) A woman who lives at the post office and has male relatives who wear dresses 2) A man who's wife said she drowned herself because he came home late, so the man went to look for here body in the river AND 3) Two mentally challenged people who want to get married and one is a xylophone player If these sound interesting to you get the book. They certainly weren't for me. Yet everyone's taste is different.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Great Beginnings

Today I re-read a truly terrific piece of advice from a blog all Middle-grade writers should have on their radar:
FROM THE MIXED UP FILES. Click this link and you'll be taken there in a blink!

In the numerous comments to Sarah Aronson's fun-to-read, helpful post about beginning sentences, one writer quoted Richard Peck:

He claims he always throws away his first chapter when he finishes his first draft and then  
“writes the chapter that goes at the beginning. Because the first chapter is the last chapter in disguise.”

Richard Peck may be onto something. But now that I've re-written a first paragraph, oh maybe FIFTY times, I don't think I'll throw it out just yet.

But you never know.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Hearing Voices

It's my turn over at my Southern Writers group blog. I'm pondering voice, big-bosomed English teachers, bug men, Louisiana bayous, nabs, New Jersey lady preachers. You name it, they are speaking to me. Much as I'm trying to shut a whole lot of them out.

Click here if you want to go there.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

We Have a Winner!

Because so many of you entered my Giveaway for the GLORY BE Advanced Reader Copy, I decided to part with two of them. I'm saving one forever and have one to share with my Tampa Bay critique group who guided me through most of the revisions. (Thanks, Teddie, Sue and Melissa!)

It's drizzling outside so I didn't photograph the drawing this morning. But I tapped into my completely unbiased neighbor's goodwill and the lucky winners are...




I know how to find Pat. Christina, I'll look for a message on Facebook with your mailing address, please. 
Thanks, everybody, for your enthusiasm. Pat and Christina, I hope you like GLORY BE!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Free! Free! GLORY BE!

As promised, I'm starting the week with a giveaway of a GLORY BE Advanced Reader Copy.

I'll make this simple. Just leave me a comment on the blog or on the Facebook update.

I'll give everybody a week, and the completely-unbiased-by-a-neighborhood-kid drawing will be next Tuesday.

Thanks for entering and GOOD LUCK.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Things I Love, for a special reason

 I'm not the kind of cook who needs expensive kitchen tools.

This one wouldn't be a Thing I Love, except for the story. I love it for a special reason. It came from Paris.

My friend Kay and I bought garlic presses on the trip we made after our first stay together in Paris during the weeks around September 11, 2001.

There's a long story attached to that experience, too long for a blog. Involving family and friends in airplanes, in Washington DC, in New York. All petrified when they couldn't get in touch with me or my husband. Finally finding me, finally sending emails, cheering us up with reminders to have Berthillon ice cream and long, beautiful walks.

That story had a happy ending. But Kay and I had sad memories. So as soon as we could, we went back to Paris. We revisited our apartment and our internet cafe, the museums, the patisseries. We found garlic presses. They are pretty amazing, for a kitchen tool.

Now, every time I use this, I think of Paris. The memories are very happy now.
This may seem like a frivolous post about a garlic press. Really, it's about more than gadgets, or even Paris.

Related Post: September 11

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Circle of Secrets

 Since Kimberley Griffiths Little and I now share a publisher (Scholastic), I was able to score an advanced reader copy of her new middle-grade novel,  
coming in October.

Once again, she's nailed the Louisiana bayou setting. This time, in addition to the magic surrounding the story, there's time travel, or is it a ghost? Or maybe it's just the imagination of a young girl who's trying to figure out why her life is falling apart.

Shelby Jayne's mother walked out on her and her dad, but when Dad is sent overseas for work and Grandmother is not well enough to care for the 11-year-old, she must move to her mom's house on the bayou.

 There were many things I loved about this story.
I can never resist a mysterious bottle tree. And a new girl in school who's figuring out how to put the class bullies in their place? Good for her!
I predict this companion book will garner as many fans as The Healing Spell.

Related Post: The Healing Spell

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


The UPS guy's working late tonight! Look what just landed on my doorstep. Oh, wow.

ARC= Advanced Reader Copies.

The Real Deal.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

R My Name is Rachel

I'm using Darcy Pattison's Random Acts of Publicity Week to catch up on my blog book reviewing. One suggestion is to publicize a friend's book, and I'll do that later in the week. But Darcy also suggests we use our Acts on books we love. I love this book.

Patricia Reilly Giff is no stranger to book love, let me just say. And she doesn't really need my random act, I'm sure. But last night I picked up this book (sent from Random House) thinking I'd skim a bit. I couldn't put it down.

Oh, you might say, do we need another book set during the Depression?
(For the record, I also loved Turtle in Paradise, for the same middle-grade audience.)
Yes, we do. If it's R My Name is Rachel.

This new novel of Giff's is a love story, a survival story, a family story. The writing is exquisite. Like this, from Rachel, digging the garden:

Overhead, the sun is strong. It's much too hot for the hat. I toss it over my shoulder and hack some more. And then I start to get into the rhythm of it. Dig, dig deeper, turn the weeds up, the soil up.
And after a while, I throw myself on the warm earth. I grab a long brown weed and yank it. And then another.

A lot of things happen in this story. Bad things you'd expect from a family struggling during a time that sounds sadly like today in many ways.

And talk about flawed characters- Rachel and her sister are not exactly shining examples of sisterly love.

I love to see intriguing, amazing facts tucked into novels-- things kids take away from a book quite innocently. Edible ferns. Goats who digest curtains. Snow so high it plugs up the chinks in a house.

It's also quite short. Very easy to read. A page turner. And includes a big shout-out for kids who love to read, as Rachel does in the story.

If you want to join the fun and publicize a friend's book or a book you love, you can check out that link up there to Darcy's FAQs on the topic. Or you can just head to your Facebook account, your Amazon reviews, Goodreads or wherever you like to share book thoughts and give them a holler!

Who's in?

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Quote of the Day

 Did you ever stop to think... and then forget to start again?
A.A. Milne

Jay's birthday card, from Barbara and Al...

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Things I Love- so much!

How I love my friends! Especially the ones who just sent me this amazing gift.

It's an adorable satiny bag, large enough for my iPhone and a few other necessities. With a swingy little cord that fits around my wrist, if need be. And a cute black and white checked ribbon on the zipper. 

Oh, I adore everything about it. So I guess today's Things I Love would be Leslie and Barbara this bag they sent.
Sometimes I wonder what I did to deserve friends like this!

Here's the website info, from inside the bag. Click on that link to see all the neat things from Tory Nicole.

I see it's called a wristlet, which makes me love it all the more. It sounds like something Pooh would carry his honey jar in.

I hope every time I reach for my bag someone will ask me about it. I can tell them about my book and about my writer friends.

Oh, wow. I've been smiling all day.

Related posts: Life and Art
My Meme
Another Thing I Love