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

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Dreaming up characters? Telling stories?

This morning two quotes came to me quite serendipidously.

The first reminded me that I haven't read the book, and it's been on my To Be Read list since it first came out. I'm embarrassed to admit, I'd forgotten about  

Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann.

(Thanks, Carl, for the email reminder. Downloading on my Kindle right now.)

"I believe in the democracy of storytelling," said McCann in an interview. "I love the fact that our stories can cross all sorts of borders and boundaries. I feel humbled by the notion that I'm even a small part of the literary experience. I grew up in a house, in a city, in a country shaped by books. I don't know of a greater privilege than being allowed to tell a story, or to listen to a story. They're the only thing we have that can trump life itself."

Another is from a writing craft book. I'd copied this quote from Flannery O'Connor and it floated out of a notebook I just opened to ponder a bunch of new characters, while traveling in the South.

"If you start with a real personality, a real character, then something is bound to happen; and you don't have to know what before you begin. In fact, it may be better if you don't know what before you begin. You ought to be able to discover something from your stories. If you don't, probably nobody else will."

This makes great sense. Especially if you write by the seat of your pants.
Though I swore I would never do THAT again.

Instead, I'll think about stories while fleshing out characters and taking in setting these next few days.
Which comes first in your writing? Character, story, place?

Related post: Letters 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Writing Friends

Friends who write. Friends who critique. Friends who cheer you up and give you pep talks. They're the best!

Here's an interview just posted by my friend Helen Hemphill.  As she notes, I met her a while back, as we both might be inclined to say, at the excellent Rutgers One-on-One Conference. That would be New Jersey, where I happened to be living.
The way I remember it was that we were possibly the only two Southerners in the entire auditorium at the start of our day. And we found each other. After that, we both signed up for a terrific Highlights Founders weekend with Carolyn Coman. Possibly one of the best writing treats you can give yourself, by the way.

I love Helen's books (my favorite might be Long Gone Daddy- so funny and so beautifully written), and I was honored when she asked if she could interview me about my own first novel.  

Here it is! Click right here. 

Related post: Writing/ plotting is Hard Work

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Mississippi, Here I Come!

                       SQUARE BOOKS JR: Oxford, MS. Thursday, March 1 at 5 PM

      BOLIVAR COUNTY LIBRARY: Cleveland, MS. Monday, March 5 at 4 PM

      LEMURIA: Jackson, MS. Thursday, March 8 at 4 PM

     Signing, Chatting, Explaining, Happily Hugging, 
occasional Sipping and Munching       

Can't wait to see you all there.                  

Saturday, February 25, 2012


(the book)

Since many of my friends in northern climes have possibly forgotten what a Snow Day is, I give you this.

From Jack, Auggie's friend, in the amazing book WONDER by P.J. Palacio.

"...waking up to a snow day is just about my favorite thing in the world. I love that feeling when you first open your eyes in the morning and you don't even know why everything seems different than usual.Then it hits you: Everything is quiet. No cars honking. No buses going down the street. Then you run over to the window, and outside everything is covered in white: the sidewalks, the trees, the cars on the street, your windowpanes. And when that happens on a school day and you find out your school is closed, well I don't care how old I get: I'm always going to think that that's the best feeling in the world. And I'm never going to be one of those grown-ups that use an umbrella when it's snowing --ever."

Loving the book, by the way.
Oh, and I just read that it's being marketed as a crossover into the adult book market. So it's not just for kids. And it's very, very good.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Bossypants as a Guide to Writing?

Hands down, one of the funniest books I've ever read.
Loved the chapter about her father.

(Although I'm not a fan of the jacket photo, even though I guess I understand what the publisher was trying to do. )

The two pages -- THE RULES OF IMPROVISATION -- could be studied and followed as Great Dialog Writing Tips:

There are no mistakes, only opportunities... only beautiful happy accidents.

In Things I Learned from Lorne Michaels:
The show doesn't go on because it's ready; it goes on because it's 11:30.

(ie Sometimes you just can't worry about what you've written. As long as you know the difference between what sings and what sinks, let go of the bad writing for a bit, stop stressing, and Move On. Unlike live TV, writers can revise, later.)

Tina Fey is really, really funny and often very true when she takes off on motherhood.
When people say, "You really, really must do something, it means you don't really have to. No one ever says, "you really, really must deliver the baby during labor." When it's true, it doesn't need to be said.

I'm taking this to mean, we don't have to hit our readers over the head with the truth. Or make characters do something just because everybody says they should. Leave something for that proverbial Between The Lines.

Funny book. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Newpapers: Mississippi to Montreal

It amazes and pleases me so much when somebody from Far Away really seems to get Glory!

Thank you Montreal (yes, that's CANADA) Gazette:

And thanks, also, to my local hometown newspaper. I grew up reading the BOLIVAR COMMERCIAL when it was published one day a week. I was the editor of our high school newspaper, the Cleveland Hi-Lite (yes, that's how it was spelled), an insert into the weekly paper. Many things in that newspaper made me mad, even in high school. And some things were just plain fun. (What was Mrs. Glassco's "society" column called? I.C. All? Who remembers!)

And here I am, all these years later, in the Sunday Edition!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Bookmarks Forever

Today I'm inspired by this fun post about the gross, unhelpful, weird things people/ kids use for bookmarks.


Check it out. Go on, click over there and vote. While you're there, note the book whose place is being held with a crumpled dollar bill.

I love (real) bookmarks.
I especially love the ones my talented friend Eileen created for GLORY BE.

 The front.

 And the back. Ah, the mimosa blossom. Pretty, no?

Bookmarks from friends' new books inspired me. Thanks Kimberley, Caroline and Tess!

But occasionally I resort to stickie notes. Okay. Maybe too often. I wonder if the stickie stuff harms the pages.
Probably not as much as a used tissue, right?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Anderson's Annual Children's Literary Breakfast Weekend

Ten years and counting- Oh, my!

I can't even begin to describe the weekend except with pictures. I'm sure there will be many articulate blog posts from the terrific array of authors who were there with me.

☞ If you're looking for just the facts, not the words of somebody who's still floating about ten feet off the ground, CLICK HERE for a newspaper article from the Naperville Sun.

Thanks to the most amazing BOOK Enthusiasts at Anderson's Bookshops, I spent Friday morning at the terrific Woods Creek Elementary School in Crystal Lake. Although the weather was glorious (sunny and high 40s in Illinois in February?- Obviously planned just for me!), the outside of the school was hard to photograph. Instead, here's a picture that the kindergarten kids were flocking around. Tiny squares of each student's face make up the facade of the school. Note the magnifying glasses so they can pick out themselves and their friends. Note my strategically placed books. My new friend Gail from Anderson's and I conspired to get GLORY BE into all pictures.

I signed a ton of books before my presentations. 

It was such fun being back in a school. I felt like Queen for the Day! The 4th grade had done a huge project around GLORY BE. They were eager to share their character posters. Ah, the details! The boys were fascinated with J.T.'s missing finger...

On Friday night, I signed books at Anderson's (did I mention what an amazing bookstore that is? Love it.), with Katherine Applegate.
I'm about half way through THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN, her new book. So far, WOW.

Up bright and early for the Saturday morning event. Again, pictures best describe that day. Even the cellphone pics my new friends have already emailed me.

I spoke first, at 8:30. Then I got to enjoy the rest of the day! The book talks by two of Anderson's enthusiastic staff, about all their favorite new books made me wish I were still a school librarian.

Well, maybe not. Right now I'm pretty happy being Debut Author.

Here I am, as tweeted by my new favorite librarian, Mr. Schu.

(An aside, I sat next to Illinois author Barb Rosenstock at the signing. She told him her 13-year-old son checks his blog constantly for great book recommendations. I'm going to be checking that blog often. Such good info.)

During the breaks, we got to sign books and schmooze with fabulous teachers and librarians. These ladies love Elvis. Loved my stories about Tupelo and my career as a childhood Elvis impersonator.
Chris just emailed the picture (3rd grade teacher, on my left). She swears she's been to Graceland ten times! Her students love Elvis!

During our breaks all morning, we could pop over to the huge room, filled with books, next to the gigantic ballroom where we were speaking and breakfasting.  By the end of the day, frazzled but happy, I'd sold and signed every copy of GLORY BE Anderson's had brought to the event.

Now home, floating off the earth that so many amazing book lovers chose my book to celebrate. Thanks, Becky and all your buddies at Anderson's Bookshop. What a day!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Great Company

Tomorrow I head north to O'Hare.
That's Chicago.
Where it's cold.

Although I try not to share photos this time of year, for fear of repercussions from my Yankee friends, they've had such a nice winter up there, I think I can show just these teensy pics.

 Looking outside-



 Actually, the Chicago weather forecast says sunny and low 40s on Friday and Saturday. I'll take it. Especially when this note appeared at the bottom of the forecast:

Notorious February Snowstorms
It may not seem like it now, but February is notorious for some of the worst snowstorms of the year.

If you're wondering what's taking me from my sunny clime, you can read all about it on this terrific blog: WATCH, CONNECT, READ: Exploring Children's Literature Through Book Trailers.

I'm way at the bottom. Scroll through some amazing talent and you'll see me. I'm excited and honored that GLORY BE is in such good company. My bags are packed. My Junk Poker box is carefully wrapped. I even have photos loaded onto a PowerPoint presentation.

Naperville, Illinois- here I come! Anderson's Children's Literature Breakfast!
Can't wait!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Judging Book Covers

Hustle on over to Elizabeth Bird's blog for a fascinating look at book cover art. British v. American.

I know little about the topic other than what I've heard authors relate over the years about their own likes and hates, terrible experiences and not-so-bad. Authors who were astounded when the artist got something simple like Hair Color wrong.

On that blogpost, Ms. Bird (librarian extraordinaire at the New York Public Library) is sharing books from the current year's BATTLE OF THE BOOKS.

This year I think I'll follow along with the game. I've actually read a few choices.
Reading Dead End in Norvelt right now. Laughing a lot.

Now click on over to Fuse#8's book jackets. British v. American, you can judge.

What else I'm Reading Now:
May B., The One and Only Ivan, Bossypants (NOT a kids' book, for a change!), The Chick Palace (ditto, not kids') and Bestest Ramadan Ever

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Glory Gets Around

Since the launch of GLORY BE, the book's had quite a few sightings.

Just this weekend, she turned up at the brand new Los Gatos, California public library. I do love to see her hanging out at libraries.

And somehow, the book mysteriously found its way to a Massachusetts cranberry bog???

Bookstores, all over the place, from NYC to Tampa. Here we are at the Sarasota Barnes & Noble, where my writer buddy Janet and I popped into last week. I followed the sage advice of writers who've come before me (Thanks Christina, Greg and Minrose), introduced myself and signed the copies on the shelves. (Note the little sticker- "signed copy"= yay!)

And this one from  
Lemuria in Jackson, Mississippi.

I'll be signing and chatting there on March 8 at 4 PM. (Can't wait!) Come say hello, please.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Head On Over!

Okay, I love to talk. Especially about writing.
And now I'm inviting you to click over and listen, or as my great Irish friend Edel always says,

"Come on over for a chinwag and a cup of tea!"

I'm at my friend Barbara O'Connor's blog this morning. If you want to join us, there's even a prize involved.

CLICK HERE for a bit of conversation.☜

Bring your own tea!

If that link's not clickable on your first try, here it is again.
 Paste it in. Try again.
(We had a whole lot of fun talking Southern and all.)

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Come on by!

And check out the treehouse. AKA The Chick Palace.

This morning, Leslie Davis Guccione is over at A GOOD BLOG, my group blog of very esteemed Southern writers.

Here's the link:

Click on over there for some excellent writing advice and the inside scoop on writing THE CHICK PALACE.

 Learning to SEE 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

I love blog reviews!

Seriously, fellow bloggers. If you review books, writers appreciate it. So much.
You have no idea how amazing it is when somebody really understands what you were trying to say with all those characters, words, chapters.
All the difficult edits, the hard work, the gazillion hours.

(Click to read!)

it makes all the hard work worthwhile.

"This is a book that could be shared in the classroom, but I think it would read best on a blazing hot day near a swimming pool to remind everyone of what human rights are.  This is one strong, dazzling debut."

Monday, February 6, 2012

Free! Free! GLORY BE!

If you don't know the amazing writer Barbara O'Connor yet, here's a perfect excuse. We teamed up for a fun interview.

Check out Barbara O'Connor's blog.

In the meantime, pick up a couple of her award-winning, funny, southern, middle-grade novels. (That's Barbara's The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis, hanging out close to my first "real" copy of Glory Be!)

Dog lovers, adventure story readers, kids who like books that make them laugh--Really, there's something for everybody.

And this weekend, there also me and Glory sipping sweet tea on her front porch.
(Okay, she lives in Massachusetts now and it's too cold for sweet tea, but once I climbed, sat, and sipped in her Tree House. Now that was a treat!)

Click these links for possible Related Posts:  
Book Reviewing and Editing 
The Weather

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Great quotes



Two of my favorites:

Be obscure clearly. E.B. White

And another by E.B. White:

Write about it by day, and dream about it by night.

(and there's a whole lot more on that blog, for writers and readers. Check it out.)

Friday, February 3, 2012

Thank you, Kidsreads!

Or swoon. 

Here's just a little taste:

Author Augusta Scattergood tells the story from Glory’s point of view. This is very effective in conveying the thoughts, feelings and emotions of this young girl who is living in such volatile times.  

And it even gets better, if that's possible.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

FAVORITE fonts, anyone?

If you aren't already a follower of my friend Leslie Davis Guccione's blog, you must read today's post. Not only is Leslie a writer, she's an artist. So when she writes about FONTS, she knows what she's talking about.

Her CUT AND PASTE zinger put me in mind of Eudora Welty. Cutting and pasting her typewritten pages. Literally.

So click on over to Leslie's post today. A real treat.  
(yes, that's it, right here.☚ )

Here's a teaser, though it doesn't do her blog justice without the pictures and font examples:

 I went through a dozen hard covers, from the life of Churchill to The Cider House Rules. 1 from the library, 5 or 6 from the book exchange at the dump, a few Christmas gifts, and another bought for my NJ book club.
To my surprise, I only found 3 with font information & each was: A Note on the Type. Disparate titles...

Now, I just looked at the title page of the first two books on my huge pile of potential review books and found font info on each. And the title page of GLORY BE says text set in Adobe Caslon. I don't know what that is, but I know it looks great!
(But my examples are kids' books, so maybe it matters more. Or maybe because my books are all brand new, and book designers are now sharing more.)

Now click on over and follow all of Leslie's links and have fun thinking about how your book is, or might be, designed.