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

Monday, July 30, 2012

What an honor! I've heard Anita Silvey speak at Children's Lit conferences since I first began writing over ten years ago. I knew her reputation and her own books way before that. So to be included as today's BOOK-- wow, Glory Be is honored and awed.

Thank you, Book-a-Day Almanac!

Subscribe here for her daily updates. Get a new recommendation every day!

Read what she says about my book HERE.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Everybody needs a mentor. Or, how it all began.

A long time ago.
Okay, let's start again.
Exactly eleven years ago, I decided it was high time to pursue my dream of being a writer. I didn't have a clue what that might mean. But I did know somebody who wrote funny essays in the newspaper, maintained a great website about the South LONG before anybody coined the word Blog--at least in my existence. And she'd written books!

Besides, I was a librarian. I read books. How hard could it be to write one?

Oh, boy. I had a lot to learn.

But my friend Beth Jacks decided I could take baby steps.
She invited me to become her website USADEEPSOUTH's book reviewer. Now that was a whole lot of fun! I began reviewing for a couple of others places and sites. I got free books, and occasionally a small check in the mail.

Beth never stopped encouraging me. All the way to the publication of my first book and the fabulous GLORY BE party last spring in my hometown of Cleveland, MS.

So I guess I can forgive her for remembering the piano recital. And even for writing about that recital.
The one that I fainted dead away off the piano bench and had to be helped from the stage of the Women's Club's gathering room. Hey. It was summer. It was the South. It was hot.

I've been thinking a lot about piano playing. It figures in something I've worked on perfecting for a while now. But I'd totally forgotten about that recital until Beth's essay appeared in her Snippets column in newspapers all over the South.  I can't send you to the link but I can quote from the funny piece. Here's a bit of the ending.

By Beth Boswell Jacks

Piano recitals test fathers and fortitude

“Historians may argue that Patrick Henry said, ‘Give me liberty or give me death,’ but personally, I think it was first uttered by a daddy sneaking out of a piano recital.” ~ Anon.

(here's where I entered the essay...)

But the comedy at my beloved piano teacher Gladys Woodward’s 1957 recital was not funny at the time, at least not to my sister Kathy, then 11 years old.

Our dear friend Augusta Russel Scattergood preceded Kathy on the program. Gusty exited the cramped, hot “waiting room” behind the stage and walked to the piano to play (probably) “To A Wild Rose” or some other piano recital classic. As Gusty’s fingers hit the keys, so did her head. Kerplop. She fainted. Dead away.

Two of the daddies jumped up to haul the faintee back out the stage door into the cubicle where the other terrified pianists hovered in their dotted swiss. The men lifted Gusty gently, one daddy holding her shoulders, the other her white stockinged legs. The girl had nary a foot on the floor.

As the comatose body passed through the door, undaunted teacher Gladys pushed sister Kathy onstage to play (what else?) “Fur Elise.” Kathy recalls her fright, saying, “I stared at Gusty’s body and thought, Wow, if the folks in the audience did that to her, what are they going to do to me?”

Feeling there was no escape and ever the trouper (but not the pianist), Kathy positioned herself prettily on the piano bench and began.

Da dee da dee da dee da da da . . .

In the following minutes, the audience would hear these notes again and again and again. There was no getting past those first nine notes of “Fur Elise.”

Where did the music go next? Kathy didn’t know. What’s more, she didn’t care. She played the equivalent of three pages of those same nine notes, got up, bounced her saucy self back out the door, and told Mama later she’d jump in the Mississippi River before she set foot at another piano recital.

For a long time Kathy blamed her catastrophic performance on Gusty’s fainting spell, but personally I think the fault lies entirely with Beethoven.

Nobody should have to play “Fur Elise” or listen to it. Ask a daddy.

Oh, and while I have the floor. It wasn't quite as bad as Beth described it.
As a child, I fainted frequently. Usually in church. Always in the heat. I think my grandmother's generation called it The Vapors. My head did not kerplop onto the piano keys. I'm sure I was much more graceful than that.

This is NOT me playing. But it is the piece I can now play without a mistake.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Time is never wasted...

This is hanging in the 100-year-old house where I'm listening to the trees (and also many family members) this weekend.

Good advice, well taken:

Time is never wasted, listening to the trees;
If to heaven as grandly we arose as these.
Holding to each other half the kindly grace,
Haply we were worthier of our human place.

(from a poem by Lucy Larcom)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

New Jersey event! Chatham Library! Mark your calendars!

 AUGUSTA SCATTERGOOD – The Writer’s Journey
Wednesday, August 1    
Grades 2 & up    
4:00 to 5:00 p.m.
Ever dreamed of being an author? Former librarian at The Library of The Chathams, will read from her first juvenile novel, GLORY BE.

Library of the Chathams
214 Main Street, Chatham, NJ 07928

Bring your books for to be signed, your questions, and please stop by to say hello!
There may be cake...

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Welcome, Michelle Lane!

A few years ago, at the encouragement of my New Jersey critique group member Lee Hilton, I signed up for a Media Bistro workshop taught by editor Joy Peskin. Meeting Joy and hearing what she advised each of us was the most terrific way to spend a Saturday in the city.

But I also connected with Michelle Lane that day. We've stayed in touch with the occasional How's the writing going? email, and today I get to learn all about her latest publishing venture and introduce you to her just-published debut Young Adult novel, LILI.

Isn't that one gorgeous cover? Wow!
Now, let's chat with Michelle.

Authors love to talk about our book babies, but can you describe your book in one sentence?

Lili is a memoir for girls who struggle to embrace their own flaws and personal gifts, to overcome the bullies and gossips, and to bloom into independent, creative and self-confident young women.
More simply put, Lili is a book that shares just how beautiful it can be to believe in yourself.

Can you tell us a little about your journey to publication?

I've always wanted to be a writer, ever since my 8th grade English teacher made me write a short story and submit it to a mystery magazine. Even though I received my first rejection letter at 13, I was hooked. From that point on, I dedicated every spare minute to learning as much as I could about my craft. Over the next 20 years as a freelance writer, I published two cookbooks, several non-fiction books on lifestyle and design, wrote countless articles for regional magazines, created corporate brochures and advertisements - basically anything with words. 

To develop my fiction voice, I began writing tender, traditional love stories with a strong family component. A few years ago, I wrote a middle grade novel based on an idea I developed with my son, Nicholas. In writing for tweens and teens, I discovered my true passion.

For my readers who might not know about the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest, tell us about it and why you decided to enter LILI in the competition.

The Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest is held annually. The Young Adult category was limited to 5000 entries. The entry was a pitch and a 5000 word excerpt. The prize was a Penguin publishing contract. They establish multiple milestone announcement dates. I made the first cut to 1000 authors, then the second cut to 250 authors. I did not make the cut to 50 authors. So, I choose to think I was #51 rather than #250!
I decided to enter my excerpt "The Price" (now re-titled Lili) into the international competition for several reasons. With bullying stories making the news every day, and with online scandal on the rise, I knew the time was right for a redeeming story about how it is possible to smartly put an end to such practices. Young readers needed Lili's story.

How did you get the idea for your debut novel, LILI? Was any of it based on you or your family or friends?

What a great question, Augusta! I often wondered what life would be like for the child of "beautiful people" who was not as beautiful or talented as her parents. What would happen to her confidence and self-esteem in the face of such physical success? And what would happen if life gave her more challenges than she thought she could handle?

Lili, like all of my characters, is a work of fiction, but she is also every bit as real as dozens of girls you may know. When I was growing up, I was a lot like Lili. I got my "curves" very early, and boys noticed. My situation wasn't easy, and kids could make assumptions and be really cruel. When I wrote this novel I drew on those emotions but put them into today's context of social media and viral stories and their enduring consequences.

Friendship, too, plays such a vital role in growing up. My best friend, Suzanne, stood by me through bad and good, tears and laughter.  The friendship we shared inspired me to create a similar unbreakable bond for Sophie and Lili.

What's next in Michelle Lane's future? More YA? 

Now that Lili has been released in e-book platforms and in print-on-demand, I'm concentrating on wrapping up Andie and Mitch, my October book release. Andie and Mitch is the story of a couple of really good kids whose lives have them stuck in a rut of responsibility. A tragedy throws them together and tests their strength at every turn. But when the final straw breaks and they can't take it anymore, a bit of soul-searching rebellion is in store for the pair. They ditch their cozy Maryland digs for the bright lights and night life of New York City, and all havoc breaks loose.

So many of my writer friends have a special place to write. Mine's the local library!
Do you have a favorite spot?

Each story calls for a different setting. For Lili, my favorite place was a tiny pub in England near where I lived in Wokingham. I finished Lili in a small room with a wood-burning fireplace and a sweet lady who brought me fresh pots of tea with biscuits and jam. Here at home in Georgia, I write at my desk in my office, surrounded by my books and my three shih tzus and a treetop view of baby squirrels chasing each other from limb to limb.
When I'm out and about, I never leave home without blank index cards for jotting down characterization notes or details that might make a scene truly memorable.

Music or not? If you write to music, what inspired LILI?

For my book trailer, The Shadowboxers' "Find it Again" set just the right tone.

And we get a first look at Michelle's brand new book trailer!

 MICHELLE: I write to a backdrop of television sound, and it makes no difference what's playing -- the white noise of TV helps keep me focused.

Now that does surprise me! I'm afraid I'd get hooked on some trashy show and completely lose my train of thought!
Tell us a little about your interesting new website.

MICHELLE: is a great site for anyone who believes in creativity and wants to get inspired. A few times a week, I post "creativity sparks" -- prompts to inspire a new story, painting, culinary creation, or expressionistic piece. I also conduct interviews with famous authors and celebrities, offer plenty of writing advice, and share great stories of teens who make a difference in our world.

Thank you so much for sharing your story.

Check out Michelle's website and her book here:

Lili on Amazon  

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Mr. Schu Reads

He reads more than anybody I know!

John Schu, uber-librarian, even reads very old Newbery Medal books that most might consider better left forgotten...

And he makes cool things to illuminate his reading.
(Check out the very tippy-top left corner.)

A sneak peak at tomorrow's Newbery Challenge video

He's about to take a road trip with Ivan, 
Possibly heading your way, fellow Mississippians!

So if you see a couple of folks wandering in and out of independent bookstores
 with a stuffed gorilla, flaunt that trademark southern hospitality.
Maybe even feed them some fried okra and cornbread, please.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Greetings from Missouri!

Jefferson City, the state capital.  

In honor of adding Missouri to my Life List of states, here's a photo tour of this fun, quick trip to talk about GLORY BE.

Here's my driver for the trip from the St. Louis airport. Yes, he's 20-something. He'd been at the All Star Game the night before. He knew a lot about Missouri and he enjoyed sharing. He's a talker, I'm a listener. And this defensive end for his high school football team remembered Scholastic Book Club books with great fondness.

Fun fact: There's a Mexico in Missouri...

Our hotel, a stone's throw from the state capitol building.

My delightful dinner partners.

After dinner, I signed everybody's books
and got my picture taken WAY too many times. 
This was the last photo, and I look it...
(not a typo. I mean LOOK...)

Here's a screen shot of the Power Point.
My last slide is the fantabulous GLORY cake! 
They kept the picture up for the entire rest of the evening. 
Thank you, Allister!

And thank you to all my new Scholastic friends for inviting me to such a fun evening
and for all the terrific things the Book Club folks do
to promote so many authors' books.
I bet there are a whole bunch of grown-ups out there, like my driver, 
who remember fifth grade for the Book Club books they chose!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Fig Recipe

For those of you who saw the picture yesterday and requested the recipe, it was simply figs, goat cheese mixed with a little honey, and thinly sliced French bread.

But here's another good one!
I've also drizzled this with honey, in place of the olive oil at the end.


8 Black Mission figs
1/2 cup blue cheese, cut into cubes
8 prosciutto (thinly sliced, cut in half lengthwise)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat grill. You will need medium to high heat for grilling. The key is to crisp the prosciutto quickly and leave the blue cheese just melted with the inner part of the fig cool in temperature.

Cut the figs in half and place a piece of blue cheese on each fig half. Wrap the prosciutto around each fig half, covering the cheese. The ends of the prosciutto should overlap.

Grill each piece until the prosciutto begins to color and crisp, about 2 minutes on each side. Remove from grill, lightly drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and season with sea salt and pepper. Serve warm.

Sunday, July 8, 2012


Each summer about this time, I feel compelled to mark the fig season. 
To tip my hat to one of my favorite foods.
It may be a while before they turn up in my New Jersey Farmers Markets,
but the ones in my sister's yard are almost ready to be plundered by the birds.

I'm collecting recipes.

I no longer have a childhood backyard tree, 
and it's not that easy to time visits to my Mississippi relatives to pick figs.
Instead, I have a bowl of ceramic figs near my front door, 
and more preserves, candles, and soap than I'll use in a lifetime.

They're not really the same as ripe, juicy figs fresh off the tree though, are they?

This summer, I was sorely tempted by a small Fig Tree at our local Stop and Shop. 
In New Jersey! In early June! 

A few tiny figs had started to show themselves. 

Fortunately I came to my senses and passed up the little tree. My sister just reported that she has plenty on her tree, as yet unripened. Maybe there's time to beat the birds to her fruit.

If you care... there's a bit about my Great Fig Fiasco HERE. 
Alas, the Good Blog is Hard to Find people have disbanded that group blog of terrific Southern writers, but the old posts are still there to read. 

Or, if you're lucky and have a tree full of figs, go ahead.
Enjoy that fig and prosciutto appetizer. 
Save your reading for another day.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Happy belated birthday, Gloriana June Hemphill

I'm delighted to wish my first Main Character a very happy, if overlooked with all the hoopla of the  week, birthday.
I had a parade to attend to, fireworks to watch, family to celebrate with.

I, like some of the characters in GLORY BE, kind of forgot all about Glory's birthday!

At one of the fantastic schools I visited this spring, a student asked when my birthday was. What an odd question, I thought. That's when I realized some kids assume I'm writing about myself and surely must share Glory's July 4th birthday.

A teacher at a different school remarked that she thought the way I'd made the connection between our country's freedom and the theme of Freedom Summer by giving Glory a July 4th birthday was well thought out. Maybe she even used the word Brilliant.

Thank you! Though I'm not sure I thought that out! It just happened.
But I'm glad it worked.

My birthday is also in summer, August 6. I've always loved summer. Always had swimming parties for my own birthday. So yes, some of that part of the story was Writing What You Know.

For some July related books and activities, check out Linda Anderson's blog HERE.

For previous July 4th posts, with pictures of the parade that inspired the July 4th Hanging Moss, Mississippi event,
click here.

I hope everybody had a great holiday week, stayed relatively cool, read tons of books.

What I'm reading now: THREE TIMES LUCKY.  It's a new OKRA PICK book. Check out the rest of them at this link:

I'm also about to read CANADA by Richard Ford.

What did you do for July 4th? Anybody out there with a birthday on our country's birthday? 
Read any good books lately? 
Happy reading and happy celebrating.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

First Editions Club

Get your signed copy right here! 

Big Thanks to Lemuria Bookstore
for including GLORY BE in their Signed First Editions Club.

CLICK HERE for info.

Lemuria Books

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Pinterest for July

My New Jersey writing group members have been scratching our heads. "What IS this Pinterest thing, and better yet, how can it help us as writers/ bloggers/ readers?"

Today I discovered how fellow middle-grade writer, Kate Messner, uses it to showcase her new book in a very helpful way. She's pinned all sorts of online resources, book reviews, graphics. Very interesting! I'm off to explore.

Anybody else out there onboard with Pinterest? (pun intended...)

Look at one of her pins-- all those charts! Wow.

And check out my earlier post about her book on revision.