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

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Hooray for A.L.A!

What hard work it must be to read all those fabulous books, discuss endlessly, pick one over another. But it must also be fun.

Congrats to all the winners, runners-up, and list makers for this year's Rock Star Awards, aka the American Library Association's Newbery, Caldecott, Coretta Scott King, Printz, etc etc etc.


Don't miss one of my favorite writers and people, the new winner of the Coretta Scott King Award, ANDREA DAVIS PINKNEY. 

I'm happy to report that the winner of the Newbery this year, Katherine Applegate, is one of the nicest writers I've ever met. We sat together at Anderson's Bookstore last winter when I did one of my very first book signings. (Her line was a tad longer than mine! But we had such fun.)

CLICK HERE for a short interview.

Click here for Monica Edinger's excellent explanation of what goes into the process.   TOP TEN THINGS YOU MAY NOT KNOW ABOUT THE NEWBERY. 

This should be required reading before anybody comments on what the award is all about. And what it's not.

I was totally excited to find my signed copy of  THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN, buried beneath another book or two.
And now it's famous.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Buster Brown

Often when I travel to a school or library to talk about GLORY BE, I bring along a shoebox. If you've read the story, you know Glory and her sister save their treasures (and play poker, but I really try not to over-emphasize this activity...) inside their Buster Brown shoeboxes.

I was thrilled to find this one on eBay.

It came stuffed with match covers from all over the world. Which were kind of fun, but I had to air the box out for several days. (It smelled.)

I tied it with a purple ribbon, stuffed it with my own treasures, and took it on the road. The box has served me well. I love it.

But I was getting worried. Even though I have a handy-dandy, waterproof bag to carry my Junk Poker box and its treasures around in, it's traveled from NYC to Missouri to Mississippi, twice, all on various airplanes.

My talentedly artistic friend Leslie suggested I decoupage the box to make it sturdier. But since that's not happening until she moves closer and does it for me (hint hint), I decided to stalk eBay and try to find another.

It arrived this week.
It's not nearly as pretty as the first, but it will do for now.

I have to wonder: What do the nice folks who put these things on eBay think.
Geez, I bet somebody will buy a small little shoebox for ten bucks, plus shipping.

This will never sell, but we'll put it up there for $5 and charge a ginormous amount for shipping and see who bites.

Either way, I now have a Junk Poker treasure box. And a backup. All is well.

For more on "treasures" found in books, 
check out my friend Leslie Davis Guccione's blog today!

Sunday, January 27, 2013


Although I'm not great about reviewing on Goodreads, I do try to post my reviews on Amazon and, if I remember, Barnes and Noble. (I've learned that actual buyers of books often use these sites!) 

One of my intentions for 2013 is to share more reviews on my blog. 
Here goes my first:

By Ashley Edward Miller and Zack Stentz
(Razorbill, 2012)

I sense a series in the making. And we all know how young readers pine for more books about a character who solves mysteries while makes them laugh out loud.

Colin Fischer is just such a kid. Diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, the 14-year-old doesn't want to be touched, hates the color blue, and has a mind for mysteries, the kind he can research and work out to the most minute detail. His "precious, dog-eared Notebook… had seen better days, though it had been fastidiously cared for." In it, he records facts, friends, reactions. Each entry about a new discovery is often punctuated by the simple command: Investigate.

And investigate he does. When someone shoots off a gun at a birthday celebration in the school cafeteria, Colin carefully works out the mystery. The incident leads him—and a surprising friend—on an adventure.

But at its heart, the book makes you laugh. Told in clever notebook entries, footnotes (which could possibly be a distraction to kids, but added an additional layer of interest for this grown-up reader), as well as Colin's constant flash-card facial clues to help him read his classmates' emotional states-of-mind, the novel is kid-friendly and fun to read.

But of course, there are serious layers to this story. A possible budding romance. Bullying which doesn't end well for Colin. An exceptional boy who's mostly figured out how to cope. A gun in school. As Colin copes with things he never expected to tolerate, the novel challenges many of the stereotypes about autistic kids; it could well open an avenue for serious discussion.

My criticism? I wasn't fond of the way the parents were portrayed. I wished for August's dad in Wonder. I wanted more understanding, more humor, less wine-drinking and adult behavior. And I hope if Colin continues his sleuthing into a second book, the writers will re-consider the character of Colin's younger brother. Yes, I know how difficult it would be to have a brother who embarrasses you on a regular basis, but Danny was downright unlikable.

As a writer, I was bothered some by the switches in point-of-view. These are the things that trouble writers who try to read for fun, or for any other reason! 
I don't think a young reader will notice.

Colin Fisher has much to recommend it. A funny, cleverly put together book, just right for older middle grade readers. And don't you love that cover?

Thursday, January 24, 2013


Inspired by the Florida SCBWI event in Miami and my fabulous critique group- Let's write!

There's nothing quite like a blank page/ computer screen.

Dusting off my trusty Scrivener. Putting all my scribbled notes into folders (the Scrivener kind).

I'm reading a few encouraging quotes about beginnings.

Here's a good one

That's how a good story starts. It doesn't spell everything out for you. A good story gives you something to think about. It raises as many questions as it answers.

~ Eric Kimmel
(via Bobbi Miller's website. Lots of good stuff for writers. CHECK IT OUT, HERE. )

How about this from a little notebook I scribbled in frantically during a Maryland SCBWI event. Maybe 2009? (I never throw notebooks away, do you?)

The only way to figure out who a character is is to write. Write a whole draft.
You will never know what you are doing. 
You will discover.
from Coe Booth, though possibly paraphrased, so don't quote me/her.

And another hastily scribbled note, from Roy Clark at the St. Petersburg Times Festival of Reading, Fall, 2011:
Our writing standards are too high, too quick. Lower them at the beginning of a project. After you have a draft, raise your standards.

Here's to new beginnings, 2013. As we flip our January calendars, how are your beginnings?
Your revisions and your revisits?

Here's what's on my desk this morning. Enough inspiration! And now, to write.

Monday, January 21, 2013


A quick visual recap of another fun learning weekend.

Although it was grey and cloudy one day, by the next it was beautifully sunny.
One of the many reasons writers, editors and agents love to come to Miami for our January Florida SCBWI event.

 The almost sunset view from my room (through not-so-bright window).

The fabulous bookstore,  BOOKS & BOOKS from Coral Gables, brings a roomful of fellow Florida authors' and presenters' books for signing and perusing.

Here's the Book Room at the Miami Sheraton and the Books&Books folks consulting with two authors.
(Hi, Aimee! See you next year when your own fabulous picture book will be prominently displayed!)

(Hey, Becky and Aaron! Thank you so much. )

 I got to meet, in real time and real life, some of my Facebook friends.
Here I am with Donna Gephart at the very end of the weekend (do we look it?).

I love her book OLIVIA BEAN, TRIVIA QUEEN.  
Then again, I also love Scrabble...

Oh, and Donna has a fantastic blog. WILD ABOUT WORDS.

 That's about all my over-stimulated brain can share this morning.

But I'm especially looking forward to reading more and writing more about my favorite workshop, perhaps my favorite hour of the weekend, featuring Beca Publisi, author of THE EMOTIONAL THESAURUS, 
Do you know this book? This website? So much info, stay tuned for more on that.

Click on those links, if you're so inclined, and now let's get writing everybody!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Mother Daughter/ Grownups/ Girls and Boys

I've had all sorts of requests for links, questions, and activities for Book Clubs reading GLORY BE.

In fact, I'm immensely flattered that my previous Chatham, NJ group of grownups- lots of teachers and all great readers- chose the book for their June, 2013 read.

Here are a few links, including a Pinterest board of pictures: Food from the Book.

(Yum. My friend Nancy's RED VELVET CAKE from our summer gathering in Annapolis.)

I have a Readers' Theater link tab, right up on my blog. Very short. A less serious scene that was performed last spring at Scholastic's Texas Library Association fabulous breakfast.

Scholastic published a list of questions for Book Clubs, here:

(It's on the "archive" tab if that long link doesn't work.)

I also have a Pinterest board- picture of Food from the Book!
Red velvet cupcakes, pimento cheese, etc.

 (Julie's beautiful table. Yes, it's close to lunchtime. These pictures aren't helping...)

And because sometimes that Scholastic link to the Mother Daughter Book Club questions may not work, I'll make it easy. Here they are. 
And thank you so much for reading and discussing.

Discussion Questions for Glory Be by Augusta Scattergood

  1. Glory and her older sister were once good friends, but now they are drifting apart. Why do you think this is happening?
  2. Frankie and Glory have been friends since they were very young. What difference of opinion is causing them to pull away from each other?
  3. Hanging Moss has segregated facilities like water fountains, restrooms, pools, and schools. How would you feel if the color of your skin dictated where you were allowed to go?
  4. Why do you think Glory ignores Emma’s advice to try not to worry about things she cannot fix?
  5. Glory’s choice to befriend Laura is not popular with many of the kids in town. Have you ever made an unpopular choice because you knew it was right? How did it feel?
6. Many people judged Laura before getting to know her. How do people judge others at your school? Do opinions change over time?

7. Glory is excited to know people from other parts of the country. What can you learn from becoming friends with people from other parts of the country or the world? 

8. Emma tells Glory that if she keeps her mouth closed, she cannot cause trouble. Do you think this is a good motto to live by? Why or why not? 

9. Glory’s father says that she is opinionated like her mother. In what way are you like your family members? 

10. What events bring Glory and Jesslyn together?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

And the winner is!

I tucked all the entries into the closest I could come to Barnyard Bookstomp, in honor of this weekend's SCBWI Miami theme.

Most of the commenters were Floridians!

But the winner of A THUNDEROUS WHISPER by Christina Diaz Gonzalez is


Virginia Butler!

A fellow Mississippian, I do believe. Virginia, send me your address via FB message or email.
Congrats to you. I know you're a fan of historical fiction. Let us know what you think.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Florida Writers: Christina Diaz Gonzalez

 I'm a fairly new member of this esteemed group but let me tell you, Florida supports its writing community. Next weekend, we'll be gathering at our annual Miami SCBWI event.

(Meanwhile, other writer friends of mine will be down the road a piece at the amazing Eckerd College Writers in Paradise week. For more about that, click here)

Today, I'd like to share- literally! I'm giving away my copy!-
Christina Diaz Gonzalez's latest novel. A Thunderous Whisper follows on the heels of her highly successful The Red Umbrella, which I truly loved. This new book is also historical fiction but set in a time and place I'll bet not that many young readers are familiar with.
That's one of the spectacular things about this book.

The Spanish Civil War, Guernica, the Basque people. The book is filled with great details. And the story is a page turner of an adventure.

I feel the need to apologize to this wonderful book. It arrived just before the holidays, and I was very excited. Then I got distracted, put it down, and sadly, my pile grew taller. But I'm so glad I unearthed it and finished it because it was well worth the read.
I learned a lot, and I loved the characters so much.

My favorite quote from A Thunderous Whisper:

"Mama had been wrong. People don't always abandon you...even if they have to leave."

(I also love the hints at the end that the story could continue. There's so much more to tell! Are you listening, Christina?)

This could be your LUCKY day. I'm giving away the copy that Random House shared with me. If you enter and win, and IF you are coming to Miami with us, I'll bring the book and you can have Christina sign it for you. (You can win even if you aren't coming to Miami, but there's still time to register if you've been on the fence.)

Just leave me a comment, here or on the Facebook post, and I'll draw one name by next Wednesday, January 16.

It doesn't matter if you've ever, recently, or never won a book giveaway here or anywhere. This is open to anybody who'd love to read A THUNDEROUS WHISPER.

Here are a few links to some of Christina's writing wisdom.

Since I'm hugely fascinated and love reading about character names, I loved this one:

Although this giveaway has ended, the interview is excellent.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

What I've Learned

My debut middle-grade novel, GLORY BE, turned one year old in January. Along with toasting the year's awesomeness, I pondered what I've learned. Miraculously, somebody asked me to write about it.

Thank you, Chuck Sambuchino and Writers Digest, for giving me an opportunity to share. 

Because what good is learning something if you keep it to yourself?

Any other tips from fellow debut authors about navigating your first year? Or those of you who remember your own very first book?

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

No Resolutions

I'm not good at New Year's Resolutions. But I do like goals, or at least thinking about goals. Especially the first week in January.

Because I have such eloquent writer friends (one of whom I actually know as an in-person, flesh and blood friend), I'm going to let them say what I've been thinking. I could not have written it better myself.

From fellow 2012 Debut Writer, Caroline Starr Rose (whom I truly hope to meet this year), good thoughts on Jumpstarting Your Writing in the New Year, with a reading list of craft books. Here's the link:

While you're there, check out her previous entry, about Goodreads and the public life of writers/ readers.

Irene Latham's first book, Leaving Gee's Bend is still one of my favorite historical fiction novels. (Her new book is on my list to read!) She, like Caroline, is a poet, so it doesn't surprise me that she chooses one word to guide her new year.

Read her blogpost about ONE LITTLE WORD  here:

Now, what could MY word be? Thinking! Hmm. Thinking? That's not my it, but it well could be.
I'm leaning toward PONDER because I've always liked that word...

And my Tampa writer buddy, Rob Sanders goes with Three Words:

Are we all thinking of new beginnings? Tossing out old calendars, expired coupons and cans, shoes that don't fit? Cleaning out the Junk Drawer and the window sills, donating to our libraries and our friends the books we know we'll sadly never read.

For me, 2012 will be hard to beat.
But here's to 2013!

Each year I toss out my previous year's Quaker Motto Calendar and hang the new one over my desk. But before I do that, I reread the quotations and often use the backs of the pages for notes. Here's an old one that seems particularly appropriate for the New Year, for writing, or just for moving ahead in a busy world.

If you're still with me here, this could be your lucky day. I found an extra 2013 Quaker Motto Calendar hiding in my stash. Leave me a comment and I'll draw a name tomorrow evening (January 3, because everybody needs an inspiring little calendar ASAP) and send it right off.