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

Wednesday, May 28, 2014


I wish I knew the origin of this. 

Obviously, it was a list of writing inspiration ideas. I wish I had the rest of them.
Anybody out there have a clue?

This was tucked away in an email from myself to myself!
May, 2008. 
Which is embarrassing to admit.
(Yes, I'm deleting old emails as fast as I'm tossing out old journals and scribbles.)

I already keep a weather journal and a name journal and a journal about writing. But I love the other thoughts. 

"No snow today" sounds downright poetic!

30. Structure a poem or prose writing according to city streets, miles, walks, drives. For example: Take a fourteen-block walk, writing one line per block to create a sonnet; choose a city street familiar to you, walk it, make notes and use them to create a work; take a long walk with a group of writers, observe, make notes and create works, then compare them; take a long walk or drive- write one line or sentence per mile. Variations on this.

31. The uses of journals. Keep a journal that is restricted to one set of ideas, for instance, a food or dream journal, a journal that is only written in when it is raining, a journal of ideas about writing, a weather journal. Remember that journals do not have to involve "good" writing-they are to be made use of. Simple one-line entries like "No snow today" can be inspiring later. Have 3 or 4 journals going at once, each with a different purpose. Create a journal that is meant to be shared and commented on by another writer--leave half of each page blank for the comments of the other.
Meditate on a word, sound or list of ideas before beginning to write.

42. Take a book of poetry you love and make a list, going through it poem by poem, of the experiments, innovations, methods, intentions, etc. involved in the creation of the works in the book.

47. If you have an answering machine, record all messages received for one month, then turn them into a best-selling novella.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Quote of the Day

"I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves."

Anna Quindlen

(On the other hand, are there EVER enough bookshelves? I am sorting through books today and dropping a few off at the library, sharing with friends, deciding what stays in my own pile. Ah, the problems of a booklover...)

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Ruby Holler

One of my all-time favorite books to recommend to kids was RUBY HOLLER.
As a librarian, I thought it had everything. I loved to book talk it, read from it, share it.

But that was a while back, as we say. And this is now. Sadly in some ways, I don't always read books just for the sheer enjoyment. I often tear them apart and put them back together to figure out why an author told a story that way or this.

I've probably read RUBY HOLLER at least three times. But I'd never listened to it. Till now.

(True confessions- I don't listen to books that often. This may be the third, ever. The last book I listened to while driving many, many miles to school visits this year was ELEANOR AND PARK. Another true confession. I did not love that book as much as I hoped. I totally didn't get the guy reader of Park's chapters.)

I was a little worried about the Ruby Holler audiobook. Would the story be as amazing as my memory of it? Under my sharp writer eyes, would the writing still sing?

OF COURSE! Hey, it's Sharon Creech. What was I even thinking.

The character nuances. Like Florida telling Dallas he's bossy. (Ha. Who's bossy?)
The character names. Mr. Trepid? Really? Yes, really!

The villains are so very villainous! And yet, Zee turns out to be not who we think he is.

I picked up this audiobook from our public library's Main Library branch. As I was chatting with some of the teachers and kids who'd come to hear me speak there recently, the discs caught a teacher's eye. "Oh, you've got RUBY HOLLER," she said. "My all time favorite book to read aloud."

Well, I'd second that and say it may be my all-time favorite book to HEAR read aloud.
Way to go, Sharon Creech.

And of course, I also checked out the REAL book. Ahem, the print book. So I could go back and re-read my favorite parts, a real disadvantage of an audiobook.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

What's in a Name?

I've met so many kids this year and have considered borrowing so many of their names.

I tell them about my Name Notebook and warn them that I may just use their names if one speaks to me. So to speak. 

I know, I obsess over naming characters. I can't help it. If you type Character Names, or even names, into the search box on my blog, you'll find an embarrassing number of posts on this topic.

(Don't tell my Writers Group but I'm thinking of changing a character's name. He's got the best name in the manuscript. So good -I think- that I'm considering saving it for a leading man, later. I've been lying awake in bed at night going through the remaining letters of the alphabet trying to find a good name for this fellow.)

Recently a writer friend told me how a name and the resulting book title just magically came to her.  On a walk. I won't give more details-- they are hers to share-- but it involves the name IVY. Two members of my immediate family as well as my lifelong best friend are named Ivy. I thought it was a "normal" name until I moved out of the South and realized no one could even understand what I was saying. And that there were no book characters named Ivy!

That's sure changed.
Witness MOONPIE AND IVY. IVY AND BEAN. And the list goes on.

 (Three of my Ivys)

I found this good advice, as well as a name generator here.

Surprisingly, there were some names to think about on that name generator.
Bo Bones, anyone?

Monday, May 12, 2014

School Visits

This spring has totally gotten away from me as far as sharing some of the fun things I've done with schools. 
But as the school year winds down, this seems like a lovely time to celebrate school libraries.

A HUGE thank-you to all the teachers and librarians who've done so much to make these days special for me and their kids.

At Windermere School in Orlando, my great-niece Augusta's 4th grade class made their own Junk Poker boxes. This is one that caught my eye! 

Niece Amy and I. Enjoying a quick photo before I start blabbing about my book.

Speaking of my niece. I'd never say no to Glory Bee honey sticks and huge hunk of chocolate shaped like our home state. (Kind of.  If somebody bit off Gulfport.) Thanks, Amy!

At a school in Tampa, these kids were showing off their GLORY BE projects to their principal. 

When both principal and teacher support an Author Visit, you know that's a great school!  

 One project, on display for me.

Some mornings, getting up before sunrise is worth the show. A short walk outside my Orlando hotel, and the view was breathtaking.  (I love a nice foggy Florida morning, if I'm not driving!)

Signing books is made better when you find a name you love. 
Ah, Story, you were meant to be a character in a book.

Only a former librarian would take a picture of the Bound-to-Stay-Bound poster in a library. Really, I am such a geek.

Or a book cart filled with Sunshine Reader books and a shelf marker... 

 One thing I've loved about my school visits in Florida are the fabulous murals, 
almost always painted by local artists. 

 Of course, I had to take a picture of the airplanes at Tinker Elementary School 
on MacDill Air Force Base.

And the skateboard rack at a high school in West Palm Beach...
Couldn't resist this picture from my April is for Authors event. 
Only in Florida?

I've learned about the concept of their morning radio shows.  
I love this from Westchase Elementary in Tampa.

Thank you for a great spring, Florida Sunshine Readers! 
And good luck as you move to your county Battle of the Books competitions. 

Saturday, May 10, 2014

School Visiting 101

At the beginning of the school year, I posted this about SCHOOL VISITS.

I don't think I realized what an exciting year mine would turn into, School Visit-wise.

As teachers and writers prepare for next year, I'm reposting.
And I'm adding yesterday's terrifically helpful blogpost from 
CAROLINE STARR ROSE on the topic:  

True confessions, I don't do everything Caroline suggests. 
But I'm thinking I should.
(extension cord emergency- yikes!)

As I begin another year of fun and fabulous school visits, with a full calendar and lots of excitement, I'm following closely the advice of those who've done a zillion of them. 

(While I'm mostly cringing at the times I was on the other side of the School Visit fence and probably the authors I hosted were totally exhausted by the end of the day. My apologies to one and all. And there were some great ones. If only I'd known...)

But now I know. And I so appreciate the teachers and librarians who've invited me and dotted every I and crossed every T to make things easier.

(Here's my post from the end of the summer, with a few more pictures.)

Those fabulously prepared teachers and librarians must have read up on 
"School Visits With Barbara O'Connor"!

Check her blogposts on the subject.

This may be her most important advice to those planning a School Visit. 

I'm happy to report that, as a librarian, I always tried to do this:
 Number 5 and Number 5. There's a reason Barbara repeats herself.

5. Prepare the students.

Let me repeat that:

5. Prepare the students. This is the single most important ingredient for a successful author visit. Hands down.

What is involved in preparing the students, you ask?

Make sure they are familiar with the author's work.

Let me repeat that.

Make sure they are familiar with the author's work.

They should have the author's books in the classrooms.
They should have read the books - or...
They should have had the books read to them.
They should see the books displayed in the library or classroom.

Nothing generates excitement and enthusiasm for an author's visit more than this.


And once again, here's a link to her previous "Advice From the Trenches."

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Writer Friends

Today I'm inspired by Barbara O'Connor's blog about Writer Friends.
And specifically her friend Kirby Larson.

Although I've never written a fan letter to Barbara (or to Kirby either, come to think about it), I count them both as friends. And let me tell you, as a writer you can't do much better than to have a friend who gets it. 

Because I'm still in Florida for a little while and because the Florida writing tribe is about to host their 

great big fabulous SCBWI conference in Orlando,
this is a shout-out to my Florida writing friends. 
(You may still have time to sign up. New writers, this is a great way to dip your toes into the water. Not to mention find a writer friend.)

When you move to a place and know no one, what's a writer to do? Of course, join SCBWI and get yourself into a critique group. I have Sue Laneve to thank for that. Way back when I was new in town, she invited me into a new group. Then into her own group.


 Here we are last summer at Books of Wonder where we met (for tea and crumpets and book talk and obviously decided to coordinate our outfits).

The writing buddy I've known the longest here in Florida, Janet McLaughlin, and I met in an online critique group. Although that didn't last long, our friendship did. 
Seven years later and we're still writing buddies. 

(Check out Janet's reviews on this new site. Raves from her kid reviewers.)

Here we are, a few Tampa Bay writers!
And our fearless leader, Rob Sanders, serving his lemon cookies when I visited his school.

 Are you new to Florida, have you lived here forever but just thinking of writing, or perhaps considering relocating, whatever. Find your tribe. 
Maybe at a regional conference. Perhaps at a different event.

 I met Donna Gephart at my first Miami SCBWI conference. Just walked into Books and Books and she came right up and said hello. And that she liked my book. The feeling was mutual.

Ditto with Danette.
She and I finally met this April, though we've been Facebook best friends a long time.
And I totally love Danette Haworth's books. So much.

I don't even know what to say about this picture. See, we're a wild and crazy bunch.
Well, Ed Masessa is anyhow...

Florida writers are pretty much fun people.
Some of us even wear yellow socks, in public...

Saturday, May 3, 2014

We Need Diverse Books campaign

Such an interesting few days. There's a whole lot of chatter going on this week!

Check it out, folks. See all the great posts on the topic.

And here:

There's an excellent list of articles, precipitated by a HornBook piece on the topic HERE.

And this, in School Library Journal by K.T. Horning.
Books need buyers, that's the takeaway. 

Three terrific books I've read, recommended and reviewed recently.
Wouldn't it be great if there were lots more just like these?

 PINNED by Sharon Flake.

For DELTA MAGAZINE, a favorite novel for adult readers.

SECRET OF MAGIC by Deborah Johnson.

SILVER PEOPLE by Margarita Engle. 
(Review to come!)

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Marion Dane Bauer

Must surely be a brilliant woman.
So much of what she writes about writing makes perfect sense.

And her books. Well, I try not to have Writer Envy. But those books. I once knew a student who read ON MY HONOR at least ten times, and that was before Thanksgiving break.

Her website is here:

But what really spoke to me this morning was her BLOGPOST about Revision.

I'll give you a taste of what she says. But really, you must click over there and read it if you're anywhere near this stage in your writing. And don't miss the comments.

The secret of revision for me is to love doing it. The secret is never to look at what I’ve already written and say to myself, “Ugh! That doesn’t work. And now I’m going to have to do it again.” Rather, I begin by looking at what I have before me and loving it. Not loving it in a way that makes it sacred, something too wonderful to be touched. But loving it in a way that says, 'Oh, I like this and this and this about what I have here. Now let me see what I can do to make it even better.'"

And for clarification, there's a difference between revising and polishing. We all love that polishing stage, don't we. And some of us love the true revising part also. 
(It's the coming up with that first draft that kills me- what about you?)

Here's her gem about polishing vs. revision:

I’m talking about revising, not polishing. Most people polish. That’s when you lovingly caress what’s already there, trimming, refining. That’s a process I engage in every step of the way and devote myself to especially ardently before I send a manuscript off, and that’s the most fun of all.

Revision means exactly what the word says, re-vision, finding a new vision. It means looking at what I have in front of me and asking what more I can bring to it that goes beyond my first conception, asking what else is inside me that hasn’t yet made its way to the page.

And here's the quote that begins her post. I've been smiling all morning over this:

“Getting the first draft finished is like pushing a very dirty peanut across the floor with your nose.”                    —Joyce Carol Oates

You may also be interested in this post and link to VOICE, an interview with Bauer.