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

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Goodby 2013, Hello 2014!

How did we get here?
Way too fast!

A few days ago I saw a great blog post about cleaning up your writing space to get ready for the new year. I like tidy work spaces, so mine doesn't need a lot of clearing out. But that blogger's before and after were quite revealing.

Unlike my desk, my bulletin board gets really messy though.

So today I took some of the "extras" off my Bulletin Board. It's not too big to begin with. There's no room for stuff I don't need to read, be inspired by, and laugh about on a fairly regular basis.

Here's the 2013 version:

Taking up most of the space is the FACT SHEET I've been working on. Finished today, taken down.

All those little notes to the side are inspirational quotes. The Rose Window, from the National Cathedral, reminds me of how much I love that church. The little wooden cross is from a trip we took with our friends Frank and Ivy, to New Mexico. Although I don't need anything to remind me of Paris, I always have the EiffelTower.

Here's the 2014, streamlined version. I kept some of my nametags. Especially the frilly one on top. That's from my very first Tampa Bay Critique Group, organized by Sue Laneve, hostessed by Sylvia Salsbury-- two writers who are still my friends. My Blue Angels postcard, buried by the end of 2013, has re-emerged!
With my new Motto Calendar, my "crutch words" postcard from last January's SCBWI Miami conference, I am ready to write.
Oh, and I'll never lose the little inspirational notes.

The cartoon, now years old, says
"Master, how will I know which direction to take?" 
"Easy. Begin with the end in mind."

Not a bad idea for writing a book either.

May all your writing dreams have great beginnings, middles and ends.
And may 2014 be the best year ever!

(I'd love to hear of your efforts to get ready for the new year. New desk? New storage bins? New manuscript? All of the above?!)

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Quaker Motto Calendar

Some of you may know of the Scattergood connection to this wonderful little wall calendar.

They are small. They hang perfectly over a writer's desk, a kitchen drawer, a bedroom chest. Or they tuck nicely into notebooks, totes, briefcases. 

The quotes are pretty ecumenical. You know those Quakers.
Everybody from Sirach (I'm sorry. I had to google that. I was raised in the Episcopal church and we didn't know much about Bibles...If all my friends hadn't been Baptists and Methodists and I hadn't regularly attended BTU and MYF and VBS, who knows if I'd ever learned a thing.):

"May the Lord grant you wisdom of mind to judge his people with justice."

Maya Angelou: "Let nothing dim the light that shines from within."

I've blogged about these before. Several times. 

For example

And guess what? I over-ordered this year. I have a few motto calendars to spare.
If you'd like one, leave me a comment. I'll see what I can do!

(Depending on how many comment, I may have to draw names. Or see if my amazing sister-in-law, Marion Scattergood Ballard, has any extras to share.)

Let's let this run from right now until December 31st. Comment here or on FACEBOOK, and I'll add your name to the hat.

Thanks, and have a happy, healthy, productive, fun 2014!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The End, Pt. 3

As we wind down into 2014, I'm once again pondering a few writing things.

Isn't today a good day to think about ENDINGS?
Those perfect final sentences that make readers go Ahhhhh.

I've pulled out my favorite books to how some of the best authors pull it off. Not just what they say, but the way they say it. How the words look on the page, how they sound.

Listen to a few. Try reading them aloud.  Last sentences are often magical and poetic.

BEHOLDING BEE by Kimberly Newton Fusco.
(I'm secretly pulling for this one to win the Newbery next month.)

Chapter 126. Yes, you read that right. 126 chapters.
Only 329 pages. A lot of short chapters, including the final one which is not quite two pages long.

"And then, in the blink of an eye, they are gone.
Just like they said they would be."

PINNED by Sharon Flake.

"At the fountain by the bridge, drinking at the same time. Our lips ice-cold and warm. I think I hear him say, 'I love you, Autumn Knight.'"


FLORA & ULYSSES. by Kate DiCamillo

The very last lines are from the Epilogue.
Here's part of the poem Ulysses the squirrel has type-written: Words for Flora.

are the ever-expanding 
to me

Finally,  another new favorite of mine.
The entire last chapter reflects back to the first chapter in OUT OF MY MIND, by Sharon Draper.

(I know, I know. Late to this party. I may be the only person who's just now reading this one.
I liked this story so much. Such a perfect book on many levels. Kidlike. Great voice. Surprising plot twist.)

The last sentence unexpectedly took my breath away. What a perfect way to end, as she began:

"I have never spoken one single word. I am almost eleven years old..."

Two of my previous ponderings on writing endings can be found

And Here:

Monday, December 23, 2013

Merry Christmas to All!

This is not a new post. But this time of year, I always think of my grandmother, Carrie Byrd Russel, reading Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol to my brother, sister, and me.

Today I'm sharing this short post from Christmases past
(December 15, 2009 to be exact) while I look at my little decorated, fake tree, and the palm tree reflecting the bright sunshine outside the window. 

It is so not beginning to look a lot like Christmas. 

A Christmas Carol

When my brother, sister and I were quite young, our grandmother started a Christmas tradition. Thinking about it now, I'm astounded at the number of years we continued this, not to mention how quietly we sat and listened. But each December, she read Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol aloud to us.

When I discovered that you can actually see the manuscript online, each page in Dickens' own handwriting or the typed version, I clicked right over. All 66 pages are right here for your viewing.

I've seen the actual manuscript at the Morgan Library in New York. To be more precise, I've seen one page. The Library puts just one page each year on public display. Of course, seeing the online version isn't quite the same as seeing the real thing, but still well worth the view if you love the story as I do.

All those ghosts, all those frightening people, appropriate for young children? But a grandmother reading a story with a happy ending? A perfect Christmas tradition!

"It is a fair, even-handed, noble adjustment of things, that while there is infection in disease and sorrow, there is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good-humour." - A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens

Merry Christmas from our house to yours!

(my tree, with Blue Suede Shoes ornament)

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Why Read?

While hanging out on Laurie Halse Anderson's excellent blog, perusing her advice on revision, I clicked over to her recommended link, a Washington Post article mostly about what kids are reading and why, or why not.

James Blasingame is an English professor at Arizona State, among other things. And he's reporting in from the recent National Council of Teachers of English conference. Great posting, including a couple of gems like this:

We read books for many reasons. Sometimes we read books to access information and to broaden our knowledge.
Sometimes we read books just for fun, to escape from the world for awhile and indulge our imaginations.
And sometimes we read to make sense of our lives, to better understand the world and our place in it.

And from one of my favorite writers of all-time:
Katherine Paterson, United States Library of Congress Living Legend Award winner, once explained that literature allows young people to prepare for life’s difficulties by experiencing them from the safe distance of reading.

The Safe Distance of Reading. Don't you just love that?

Here's hoping Santa brings you and yours lots of wonderful reading this holiday season!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Oh What Fun

I don't often have a chance to really and truly focus on fabulous picture books.
Not like the Olden Days of school librarianship when I'd read a book over and over, plan activities, share with teachers. Not even like reading aloud at bedtime to little ones, the same book begged for each night.

So it was a treat to get to review these. (My usual assignment is Middle Grade novels.) I adored each of these gorgeous books in different ways.

And I'm still thinking about Brownie.

(An aside: it always cracks me up to see what some Cyber Brain thinks are "if you liked that, try this." Salted caramel brownies? Yummy, yes. But PLEASE. Do not eat Brownie Groundhog. Not even close to the same thing.)

Monday, December 16, 2013

What I'm Reading

THE YEAR OF THE BOOK, by Andrea Cheng.

I'm picking a few Sunshine Young Reader Books and giving them a whirl. When I visit schools in Florida, I often ask the kids what they're reading. And if it's 3-5th grades and the students are getting ready for Battle of the Books, the answers are frequently "Battle" books. AKA Sunshine Readers.

THE YEAR OF THE BOOK is a perfect little middle-grade read. 
What I like about it:
1. The way it looks and feels when you pick it up!
>146 pages
>Just enough illustrations scattered throughout, including a bookshelf at the chapter headings.

2. The main character. Not too good, not too bad, Anna is just right.

3. The quiet story. Yes, quiet is not for everybody. But I've heard from enough readers to know they like these complicated friendships, the school scenes, the family story. 

4. The title. Titles are important. This one fits the book. 

5. The books Anna reads. I love it when an author sneaks kids' books into the story. In one illustration, Anna is reading From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. In a bathtub. Every detail, including the cover art from my favorite, well-loved hardcover edition of The Mixed-Up Files is perfect.


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

What Fun!

Skype. I love it.
And I especially love it when the kids are well prepared, bright, articulate.
Like this group of third graders from Gwin Oaks Elementary School in Gwinnett County, GA.

Ms. Sharon Amolo always takes pictures of the Skype screen 
and a select group of kids. That's me back there holding up GLORY BE.
Kind of like being there!

They asked some very challenging questions.

For example:
What part of the book changed after it was sent to the publisher and before it became a book?
Is there anything you'd write differently if you had to do it all over again?
Besides being a librarian and writer, what other jobs did you have?

They asked questions for the entire period. 
There were over 100 of these smart cookies!
I had to really pay attention and think hard.

Thank you, amazing teachers and librarians, for all the work you do to prepare kids to Meet The Author!

Here's a link to the school's blog. Check out those kids stepping up to the microphone. Such poise. I'm impressed!

Here's my earlier post about Skyping, with pictures of my flipflops, as well as a link to a good post by author Kate Messner about Authors Who Skype for free:

Monday, December 9, 2013

Shopping and Remembering

Today the UPS guy showed up with a box from Scholastic. 

Yes, hard to believe if you could see my bookshelves, but maybe I ordered a few books. They were such a great deal. It was hard to resist. 

I ordered DUKE by my friend Kirby Larson.
World War II. Dog story. I know just the person!
(I'm proud to say that Kirby and I now actually know each other, in person. Unlike so many author friends that I think I've spent time schmoozing with when all I've done is chat on Facebook and Twitter. But I digress...)

Back to my shopping.
Black Friday, Scholastic Store. Deals were to be had!

When the box arrived and I saw the Jefferson City, MO return address, 
I had to smile.
Remembering my trip to "Jeff City"!
All those nice people packing our holiday purchases? 
I might have met one or two!

(Here's the link to my 24 hours in Missouri post.)

In case you're wondering, I've also bought books from 
Barnes & Noble and Inkwood Books this holiday season. 
Some to donate, some to wrap, one to read.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Books for All

Did you see the Wall Street Journal article about grownup readers embracing Middle-Grade novels?

If not, take a minute and CLICK RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW.

(Clever title: "See Grownups Read." Wish I'd thought of that.)

Of course, most everybody knows about the Wonder phenom.  
I've recommended that book to plenty of friends who possibly haven't read a kids' book since they were or had kids. And they've been bowled over.

It sure makes my job easy, fun, and hardly like work that part of the requirement to write for kids is to read for them.

But I often feel a tad guilty when someone asks me for a recommendation and all I can give them is novels for ages "ten and up."
Or maybe ages 9-12.
Because that's what I'm mostly reading. 
And that ten and up, I'm usually quick to point out, means Way Up.

Recently I've read or am reading a ton of books that span the ages, so to speak.

Counting by 7s features a couple of adult characters that outshine any in a novel written for adults.

Even the decidedly child-friendly newest from Kate DiCamillo, Flora & Ulysses, I'd easily recommend to child-less adults. And by that I mean those with no current connections. You may not have taught, parented, or written for kids in the past ten years, but you'll love this novel.

Perhaps historical fiction falls into a category of its own here. But so much I've read truly defies age categorization. Check out these novels and I challenge you to say they are "only" written for middle-grade readers.

The Ballad of Jessie Pearl

Hattie Ever After 

Whistle in the Dark

What I Came to Tell You

CLICK HERE for an interview with the author, Tommy Hays
("I did set out to write a novel that my children would relate to, but I didn’t think to myself this is going to be a YA novel or a middle grade novel, which is actually how it’s technically classified.  I set out to write the best novel I could for whoever would like to read it.  I consider it a novel as much for adults as children.  I just met a wonderful author named Holly Sloan who has a wonderful middle grade novel out called Counting by 7s.  We presented together at the Southern Festival of the Book.  And she said she wrote her book the same way ..)

I could go on and on. But you get the drift.

I'm not saying this is a new development in the world of reading. And I'm not talking about the Young Adult crossover books that we know are being read by adults and "new adults."

But these days, aren't there are more older-than-Middle-Grade readers out there adding their names to the reserve lists at libraries, downloading them to their e-readers, or buying them as gifts but reading them first?

My humble opinion? Yes, there are. 


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

How To Write

Pretty much everything you need to know about writing is 
RIGHT HERE.  ☜ (click this link)
(Well, almost.)

Love this. One of my favorites.

Monday, December 2, 2013


Or as my friend Caroline Starr Rose calls it, Fake-o-NaNo.

Click HERE to see what she has to say about National Novel Writing Month. Good stuff. 

Three years ago, when I was between projects and needed to jumpstart something new, I did NaNoWriMo. 
Mine, too, was Fake-o.

Here I am, back fiddling with that "Azalea" project. 
For the zillionth time.
But if you're a writer who needs inspiration. Or wants to try something new, give it a whirl.
Promise a friend cookies, team up with an online writing partner, or heck- just bake your own cookies and don't admit to a single soul what you're up to. Don't sweat it if what turns up is unreadable.

Or as Caroline says:
The "draft" I finished with is quite possibly the messiest, worst thing I've ever written.

But it's a beginning. And sometimes that's all it takes to create something worth revising. And revising. Over and over again.

Check these links. And next year, maybe you'll give it a try?

Oh, and a big congrats to those of you who finished NaNoWriMo! 
Any great wisdom learned from your month?

The official National Novel Writing Month site. 
For those brave enough to admit you're in.

Good stuff via MEDIA BISTRO, with links to previous posts on The Month.

Here's a little of my own fake NaNo.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Selling Books is Fun!

Not to mention, hard work

Here I am with Lisa Unger, my fellow Author Bookseller today at INKWOOD BOOKS in Tampa. 

 Inkwood was very busy! 

I'll be visiting Melinda's school soon, and she came by to say hello!

Thank you to the kids who came to meet me. And to eat cupcakes. And buy lots of books.

Thanks, INKWOOD, for inviting me to share your Small Business Saturday. I had a blast!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Giving Thanks

Today seems like a good day to think about all the things we're grateful for. 
And what better place to begin than the Acknowledgments in some of your favorite books.

The Acknowledgments of one of my top-ten books, HOUND DOG TRUE, begins
"This novel, like my first, began as a picture book..." 
And then Linda Urban goes on to thank the real friends who steered her in the right direction.

If you love a book and are yourself searching for an agent, check to see for whom that author's most thankful. 
(I can bet, we all thank our agents, big time.)

Click here for a few funny, poignant, interesting acknowledgments. 

Including this one:

Franny & Zooey, by J.D. Salinger
“As nearly as possible in the spirit of Matthew Salinger, age one, urging a luncheon companion to accept a cool lima bean, I urge my editor, mentor and (heaven help him) closest friend, William Shawn, genius domus of The New Yorker, lover of the long shot, protector of the unprolific, defender of the hopelessly flamboyant, most unreasonably modest of born great artist-editors to accept this pretty skimpy-looking book.”

And sometimes, it's worth reading the comments on posts. 
That's where I found this:

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
"The dedication of this book is split in seven ways: to Jessica, to David, to Kenzie, to Di, to Anne, and to you, if you have stuck with Harry until the very end."

Monday, November 25, 2013

Indies First!

Where better to hang out for a few hours on a Saturday morning 
than your local independent bookstore?

If you're in the Tampa Bay area, that would be INKWOOD BOOKS.

If you haven't been in a while, you may be surprised. 
Lots of fun, new stuff there.

And me. I'll be there on Saturday, November 30th, 11 til 1:00 for 


(All the authors coming to your local indie.)

It all started with Sherman Alexie:

Small business Saturday was founded by American Express in 2010 and is celebrated every year on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Show your support for the businesses in your community and SHOP SMALL on Small Biz Saturday.

Indies First is a grassroots campaign spearheaded
by author Sherman Alexie.

Alexie has rallied authors around the U.S. to become booksellers for a day at their local independent bookshop. He'll be spending the day at his local indie in Seattle.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

BROTHERHOOD by A.B. Westrick

The post-Civil War Reconstruction Period fascinates me.

You'd think I'd know a lot about this sad, turbulent time in our country's history. I studied Mississippi history at least twice before graduating from junior high school, and we usually made it through the ill-fated reconstruction. Then there was American History with Mrs. Brown and a college class in Southern History and one on the Civil War.

Now I don't miss an episode of HELL ON WHEELS.

Even as a seventh grader studying the Reconstruction, I loved the sound of Scalawag and Carpetbagger.
Oh, and I loved that we were allowed to say Damn Yankees in our classroom. Outloud. Even the teacher said it. In context, of course.

My grandmother recalled stories passed down from her own parents. How her grandfather was pardoned by President Johnson for fighting, so that he could vote and own land.
That's how fresh the history was to Southerners of her generation.

But I can't think of a lot of well-written, gripping stories written for Middle Grade, set during this time period.

Now there's a new one, just out, that I couldn't put down.

My latest fascinating read is BROTHERHOOD, a debut novel set in Richmond, Virginia right after the War Between The States.

(Okay, call it what you will. The War of Northern Aggression was a particular favorite in that Mississippi history class.)

But back to BROTHERHOOD, a novel I truly loved.
Westrick does an admirable job of portraying the period and the city. I felt like I was right there with the brothers. The character of Shadrack was so well written--conflicted and tortured by his older brother and by his allegiance to his family.

(ages 10 and up, though it's one adult readers will appreciate)

Be sure to read the Author's Note, especially the information about the Ku Klux Klan.

My ties to Virginia go way back. I recently spent time reading and writing there.
Can you imagine watching this sunset every evening?

Or being surrounded by old books? Lots and lots of old books. I can't keep my hands off.
Wouldn't you be inspired?

And I love the city of Richmond, walking the streets, hearing the sounds, visiting the museums.
Now I'll look at that city with fresh eyes.

BROTHERHOOD recreates it so vividly.
Isn't that what you want a good book to do?

Here's a link to the author's webpage:

For an excellent interview with A.B. Westrick, click HERE. 

(Thank you to the publisher for an Advanced Reading Copy. )

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Revision: Quote of the Day

A writer's best friend is a wastepaper basket.
Isaac B. Singer. 

Mine's been emptied five times today.
Revision, I love it.

Pretty much everything you need to know about a great way to revise, via Laurie Halse Anderson:

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Come say hello!

 You’re invited
The Children’s Authors Panel
Discovery Night

Barnes & Noble
213 North Dale Mabry
Tampa, Florida

Friday, November 22
7:00-9:00 p.m.


Augusta Scattergood


Shannon Hitchcock


Nancy Cavanaugh


Rob Sanders


< Hear from the authors >
<Learn about writing for children >
< Get answers to your questions >
< And get your hands on some great books >

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Desperate Adventures of Zeno and Alya

just out this month.
Such a good book! 
An adventure, a talking animal story, a family who loves being a family, a parrot separated from his owner, a girl who's close to giving up, a brother who loves her, a worried mom, and a lot of appealing animal characters to lighten things up.

Two of my favorite quotes-
From Alya, upon reading The Secret Garden:

She opened the book, grateful to enter its world again. She knew she was too old to believe in magic. She wished she still could.

And Zeno, the grey parrot who speaks 127 words:

"Home! Home! Home!" he said it several more times. He was always proud to have learned a new word, particularly one as important as this.

Kirby Larson loves the book, too. Here's what she blurbed for the book:

“From the moment Zeno, the African grey parrot, strutted onto the scene, I was captivated. His sense of self— ‘Zeno wants’—is battered by uncertain freedom, inferior birds, and a devastating lack of banana-nut muffins, yet he perseveres. He believes he has this freedom thing down pat. It is not until he encounters Alya, a young girl limply falling deeper and deeper into a confinement triggered by her illness, that Zeno’s vocabulary of 127 words is increased by one of the most important of all: home. This story of Zeno, Bunny, and Alya flew straight into my heart. I will be thinking about these unlikely friends for a long, long time.”

    ––Kirby Larson Newbery Honor Winner, author of  Hattie Big Sky and Hattie Ever After

Yes, very unlikely friends. But I couldn't have said it any better. Perseverance! That's truly a lesson to take away from this little story.

 CLICK HERE for an excellent review from the Page 69 Blog

Page 69- an interesting concept:

"Open the book to page ninety-nine and read, and the quality of the whole will be revealed to you." --Ford Madox Ford

But Page 69 it doesn't do this novel justice. 

Although I've known plenty of kids who ask their librarians for a "sad book," I'm not crazy about reading books featuring sick children. I'm sure there are plenty of great ones, but if you tell me that's the main focus of a novel, I may steer clear.

But I LOVED this new middle-grade novel. 
There's so much more than a sick child to this story.

HERE'S the author's website.
With a link to purchase the book. 

(Thank you to Feiwel and Friends, publisher, for the ARC of Jane Kelley's book.)

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

First Edition, First Printing

Thanks to Caroline Starr Rose's great blog, I've been trying to figure out the whole number of printings thing. I'm sure I knew this at some point in my librarian/ reader/ writer career. But only when Caroline blogged about it did I decide to read up on the whole Printing vs. Edition thing.

(Thank you, Caroline, for filling my afternoon with great googling and little writing. But it was fun!)

Here's a good explanation of how to find which printing a book's in:

And if you're a potential book collector, this might be helpful. 

I can't resist sharing an image from that link, above. 
I believe this is the copyright page from THE HELP. 
Do note how many printings that book's in...


That would be #56. And it was over a year ago. 
We should all be so lucky.

Monday, November 11, 2013


Today I typed the word NICKLE into my manuscript.
What? say you. Nickle isn't a word.
Sadly, I know this.


I learned this in 4th or 5th grade at the Hill Demonstration School where I spent my earliest elementary years. Considering myself a stand-out speller, I won the class spelling bee and moved on to the school bee. Where the word NICKEL tripped me up. I remember it like it was yesterday and it was a zillion yesterdays ago.

(And yes, as my friend Sylvia pointed out on Facebook, a nickel isn't all that important these days. That's what I love about writing historical fiction. Nickels still count. And Tangee lipstick. And bobby-sox. And 45 records. See I could go on and on. But this blog is about SPELLING. Kind of.)

Maybe that's why one of my absolute-favorite-of-all-times books is

by Barbara O'Connor.

CLICK HERE for a very early review I wrote, before I really realized what a storyteller Barbara O'Connor is. It may have been the first book I read of hers. I love the southerness of the story and the characters. I love the twist near the end. I love how everything doesn't always end with Happily Ever After in Barbara's books.

And I love the Spelling Bee parts. How hard poor Bird works to get to Disney!
To make a friend our of Harlem.
Sigh. I think I need to read that book again right now.

If you've missed it, here are links to buy your own copy:

I thought I'd never forget how to spell Nickel.
I won't ever forget the day I misspelled it.

You might also be interested in these posts.
The Page 69 Test.
Writing Tip Tuesdays

Friday, November 8, 2013


One of my favorite places, even in the cold.

Outside The Barn where we meet, eat, greet, write, think- at Highlights Foundation.

Of course, there's an LY rock.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Making History, the Fictional Kind

If you've never "done" a Highlights Foundation workshop, put this on your Wish List.
An amazing experience, and I don't just mean the food or the people. Your own cabin in the woods. Surrounded by writers. Your complete manuscript critiqued by professionals.

Check out the book I found on the shelf in the Lodge, where the faculty stays.
There are all sorts of old and odd books here!

Yesterday's sunset!

A walk to the end of the road and we discovered an office with all sorts of artifacts.
Including an original Highlights Magazine.

In anticipation of this week, I did a little Historical Fiction reading.

Thanks to Bobbi Miller, my brain is now thinking about what Avi had to say.
(Yes, I totally get the costume drama thing.)

Avi, an award-winning master of the genre, offers that some historical fiction stays close to the known facts, while others are little more than costume drama. “Ultimately, what is most important is the story, and the characters.” Facts, according to Avi, do not make a story. “Believable people do…Truth may be stranger than fiction, but fiction makes truth less a stranger.”

Check out Bobbi's article, Why is Historical Fiction Important, HERE.

Lots more quotes from authors you'll know and love. And links to other things historical!
Here's one example, re: Teaching with Historical Fiction.

And these writing tips, from Mary Sharratt, via Publisher's Weekly:
"The most innovative historical fiction, to my mind, draws obscure characters from the margins of history and sets them center stage."

And if you're interested, there's this, my previous thoughts on Historical Fiction: 

Stay tuned.  I hope to post a few quotes from our fabulous writers of Historical Fiction here this week at Highlights. Soon!


Thursday, October 31, 2013


Yeah, yeah, I know. Late to the party and all that.
But what better time consider graveyards than Halloween.

 The first time I started Neil Gaiman's THE GRAVEYARD BOOK, it had just won the Newbery. I had it from the library. I was busy and didn't finish. I couldn't renew it. I returned it, unfinished. Hate when that happens.

Recently, it came up in my Critique Group's meeting. A reminder I needed to read this book.

I thought it might creep me out. A lot of ghostly stuff does.
But I loved it even more than I expected. Reading it right through probably helped. And I'm a big fan of old cemeteries.

Two of my favorite quotes:

Silas, advising and teaching young Bod:

"It's like the people who believe they'll be happy if they go and live somewhere else, but who learn it doesn't work that way. Wherever you go, you take yourself with you."

Nehemiah Trot, also to Bod:

"If you dare nothing, then when the day is over, nothing is all you will have gained."

In case you missed it, click HERE FOR GAIMAN ON LIBRARIES.

And because I do love wandering through old cemeteries, reading headstones, imagining the stories as much as Alan Gurganus does, check out this. Fun reading on Halloween!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Writerly Quote of the Day

Remember all those notebooks and files I was sorting through this summer?

Here's one from a conference near and dear to my heart. 
Maryland/ Delaware/ West Virginia SCBWI, July 2008.
Where I met my agent and friend, Linda Pratt.

And got to hear Cynthia Lord talk about writing RULES.

I wrote this down, but of course had forgotten it. 
Now any time I catch myself saying (only to myself!): I'm not a big fan of fantasy, science fiction, etc. I'm remembering this.

Cynthia Lord, quoting Sarah L. Thomson, author of Dragon's Egg: 

"Fantasy is just reality wearing cooler clothes."

Friday, October 25, 2013

Friday Favorites


Love 'em or hate 'em. I love them. A lot.

So of course I had to check out the country's largest fig tree, located in Santa Barbara, California.
Where I just happened to be last week.

Click that link if you'd like to read more.

The tree looks like no other fig tree in my experience.
It's not the southern fig from my grandmother's backyard.
BUT there were figs on it.  They were terrible. 

Okay, yes, I picked a ripe one and opened it up and maybe I even kind of tasted it.

I've written about figs before.
Maybe some would say I've over-written on the topic.

But if you're a Fig Freak also, here are a few things I've said on the topic.

FIGS, on my own blog, here:

A FIG recipe, here:

And another FIG recipe, from my friend and food blogger, Lee Hilton.
I'd love to make preserves like this.
If I could get enough figs and if I could keep from eating them right out of the little baskets.

And WAY back in 2008 when I first joined a great gang of Southern Writers on A GOOD BLOG IS HARD TO FIND, I wrote this about my Great Fig Fiasco. My failed attempt to break into NPR.

And if you're still reading? Here's the essay that put the whole Fig Fiasco thing in motion:

I'll bet there are still a few figs out there just waiting to be turned into a Fig Garlic Pizza.
So easy and delish. (Recipe's on my Pinterest board.)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Thank you, Mississippi librarians

Last week I was honored to receive the Mississippi Author Award in the Children's Literature cagetory for my novel, GLORY BE.

I talked all night to such nice librarians and to my two fellow honorees, Julie Cantrell and Carolyn Brown.

I was especially flattered to be introduced by none other than Ellen Ruffin, curator of the deGrummond Children't Literature Collection at the University of Southern Mississippi.

Here we are, smiling after my speech. Note the fabulous Ellen decked out in some of our table decorations, Mardi Gras style. Librarians do know how to party, don't we...

My sister, Jane Carlson, and brother Jack Russel were my honored guests at the dinner. 
Jane and I wandered around the exhibits as only two geeky librarians would do. 
(Did I mention Jane's also a former librarian?)

At the dinner, I spoke about my inspiration for Miss Bloom-- LePoint Smith and Anise Powell.
Click HERE if you'd like to read my post about them. 


Did I mention that my celebration started at the New Orleans airport? 
Any day that begins with beignets is bound to turn out right. And this one certainly did.