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

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Quote of the Day

Must share today's inspiration.

Ah, Wallace Stevens. Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.
Reminding me of an afternoon spent with my friend Ivy, 
having lunch and strolling along the New York Public library walk. 
Something to look forward to when I return next month!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Flora & Ulysses Giveaway

 Who'd like my copy of this Newbery Medal winner?
 Just leave me a Facebook comment or a comment here on the blog. I'm paying it forward.

Because thanks to the generosity of John Schu, I now have two. Sorry, I won't be sharing my autographed copy, complete with Newbery Medal sticker. 
(But maybe you'll be lucky enough to hear Kate speak and can get your own autograph.)

Let's make this quick because I know you need this book. I'll draw tomorrow, so let me know by 7 AM, April 28th, EDT.

 Speaking of Mr. Schu, uber-librarian. You really should be following him on Twitter and friending him on Facebook. He gives away books, shares fabulous projects, and knows everything there is to know about the latest and greatest books.

 Two of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite writers:

"Life is difficult and literature should reflect that. Life is beautiful and literature should reflect that."

“Reading should not be presented to children as a chore or a duty. It should be offered to them as a precious gift."
Kate DiCamillo

An interview from Publisher's Weekly, soon after she won the award, is HERE.

Click HERE for my own review in the Christian Science Monitor. Which is how I happen to own two.
Thanks to the publisher for that first review copy.

Here's a closer look at that famous squiggly autograph:

The contest is over! Thanks to all who entered. My Hot Dog Johnny cap overflowed with names.

And the winner is...

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Kids Write...

I've had a lot of fun Skyping this school year. 
I don't always get a packet of thank-you notes, but when I do, they make me smile.

The class I Skyped with in Vermont recently sent me a Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children's Book Award bookmark. I'm so proud to be on that list. 

Another group in State College, PA, asked some great questions. Including "Are you wearing shorts?"
(I showed them the palm trees outside my window.)

A few excerpts from my new friends:

 "You are very nice and kind! I love the story behind the story of Glory Be." 

"I was really looking forward to your answers. I really liked your answers."
(and there's a HUGE Thank You! in his signature.)

"I was very curious about the book so now I am not curious."
(also followed by a big Thank You!)

"I was not there to Skype with you but from what I have heard it was very nice and interesting. I heard there was a technology problem...But for the people who got to Skype with you, it was a good experience...because you just do not walk into the store and see your favorite author."

(For the record, the technology problem was minimal and involved about 2 minutes of changing things around so they could both hear and see me on their big screen, and Bingo! we were live. Skype is very user-friendly, for those of you who haven't taken the plunge yet.)

Seriously, don't you just love kids' letters?

And the illustrations that accompany them...

A previous post about Skyping is here, with a link to Kate Messner's list of Authors Who Skype:

Friday, April 18, 2014

Freedom Summer, 1964

I'm proud to see GLORY BE on this excellent booklist from the Children's Book Council.

50 years since Freedom Summer!

For teachers interested in sharing GLORY BE and other resources about the civil rights movement, please visit my blog page, "For Teachers" -on the tab.

Or click below to go right there! 

Thanks for all the amazing things teachers and librarians do to make School Visits so meaningful to their students- and to me and my fellow visiting authors!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

GREG ILES Giveaway! Sharing my book!

Tomorrow will be somebody's lucky day.

I have an "extra" ARC (Advanced Reader's Copy- Thank you to the publisher, William Morrow) of NATCHEZ BURNING. Greg Iles's new book is a big, bold page-turner. 

I won't even tell you how many pages, but I will say I was never a bit bored. 

Coming to everybody, everywhere at the end of April. 
But I'm willing to pass this copy to one lucky winner. Only a couple of my underlinings and I'm pretty sure I removed all my stickie notes.

Let's do this quickly, folks.
Leave a comment, here or on Facebook. Or answer my Tweet.
I'll draw a winner on MONDAY MORNING, April 14.
That's tomorrow.

You know you want to say you read it first, right?
Leave me a way to get in touch, or check back on my blog and Facebook post tomorrow. If the winner isn't readily available, I'll go on to the next. 
(I want to mail this ASAP.)

Food for thought this morning, a Shelby Foote quote, spoken by Dr. Cage (p. 310):

"Old Shelby said something interesting about facts: 'People make a grievous error thinking that a list of facts is the truth. Facts are just the bare bones out of which truth is made.'"

Friday, April 11, 2014

Hanging with a bunch of famous people.

I love hanging out with kids' books authors.
Seriously. They are the best.
Today I got to meet some of my Facebook, email, Twitter friends IN PERSON!

Danette Haworth, for example. We meet on Facebook at all hours.
Little did she know, I'm a big fan of her books. I can prove it! Way back when, I followed her blog:

I read her first book in 2008. I've read others. I love them.

Lisa Graff and I crossed actual paths in 2008 at the fabulous SCBWI Maryland event.  And I was delighted to actually meet Lynda Mulally Hunt today. The list goes on and on. I am honored to be hanging out with these fun, creative, smart folks.

If you happen to be hanging out near PALM BEACH FLORIDA tomorrow, please check out the APRIL IS FOR AUTHORS schedule and pop in to say hello to all of us.

Here we are!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014


When Scholastic sent a review copy of this, I knew I'd love it. 
That cover! That title!

And then I opened the book and fell inside.

Such a terrific book.
My review from the Christian Science Monitor. 

If you don't believe me, check out what the  
New York Times Book Review said.

I mean, that's some serious praise going on.

In a recent discussion among some kids' book writers I know, the topic of 
Check out this very clear, cut-to-the-chase explanation from Kimberley G. Little, who knows what she's talking about.
See that list of books at the end of the blogpost? Yep, Snicker of Magic, right there. A perfect example.

CLICK HERE for a look at Natalie's own blog. 

Natalie's done a ton of interviews for other blogs. This is one of my favorite. And not just because of the ice cream...

So, what do you think? Does a "snicker" of magic make for magical realism? Does a cover like this and a great title tempt you, or do you open right up to page one and jump in?

Monday, April 7, 2014

Growing an Evergreen

Random Notes from a recent workshop with JOYCE SWEENEY.
(Some paraphrasing going on here.)

An "evergreen" book is one that stands the test of time. 
It doesn't have to be a best seller, an overnight commercial success, a hot book.


"You must entertain children for a very long time."

Have a moment (or more!) in the book where the character can be special.
These touches should be positive, places the character is at her best, true to himself.

My editor calls these AHA! moments.
The things kids write to you and say "That was my favorite part."
The things they go back and reread.

True, sacred, transcendent, luminous moments.

(Ah, if it were all so easy, right?)

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Happy School Library Month

When I was asked, along with a lot of writers, to share something from my early memories of my school library, truthfully I couldn't remember just one. I can't remember NOT having a library in my life. School, public, college.
I hang out in libraries like some of my friends do at Starbucks!

So instead, I thought about why I became a librarian. 5th grade.
Hill Demonstration School, Cleveland, MS.
Mr. D.T. Oakes asked me to be the librarian. Which meant I got to check out all the newest books, first. And then decide which of my friends would be next.
I liked the power.
But truly, I loved to read.

Here's a link to all the authors from this year's School Library Month tributes:

My grandmother was one of our town library's founding fathers. Mothers. (You know what I mean.)
There's a plaque in the Bolivar County Library.
Makes me very proud to see that each time I visit!

One of my best book moments was talking about GLORY BE in the Founders Room at the Bolivar County Library.

(You can read about it HERE.)

Do something nice for your local school library this month!
Sadly, so many of them are disappearing, losing support, and losing professional librarians.

Can you even imagine a school without a library?