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

Friday, February 27, 2015

Love these schools!

Still thinking about what a great visit I had to Ponte Vedra and Clay County, FL last week.
I'll share my pictures of some truly fun schools. Even when you have just a brief time to stay, it's amazing what talented and committed media specialists can make happen!

My first stop was pretty special. 

A very long time ago, I was a brand new librarian at a new school in Orange Park, Florida. The facility was state of the art. The principal was innovative. Open space, year-round school, LRC (we called the library the Learning Resource Center then!) at the middle of everything.
I had a lot to learn, but I loved working there.

 I got to sign the library's books right above the stamp I remembered using way back when!

 Going back to S. Bryan Jennings Elementary truly felt like I'd stepped back in time.
Thank you, Susan Ford-Hudson, for inviting me.

Next stop was the Charles E. Bennett Elementary School in Green Cove Springs, Florida.
When I first communicated with the media specialist there, I knew I'd like her.
Her email signature says a lot.

"Once you learn to read, you will be forever free."  
(Frederick Douglas)

The former principal, Evelyn Chastain, came to meet me. She'd loved Glory Be so much, last year during Literacy Week, they'd decorated her door in honor of my book!

The media specialist, Janie Lloyd, arranged for her Morning News Team to interview me!
SO much fun!

THE NEXT DAY I got to spend time with some super students at PV/PV Rawlings School in Ponte Vedra, Florida. A truly memorable school visit. So many great questions from those readers!
Thank you to Kathleen Furness, one of the best principal's I've ever met-- and I've met quite a few!-- for buying books for her students, for introducing me with such aplomb, for reading my book herself! The teacher, Melanie Wall, the librarian, Vance Edeker- and all those smart readers. Wow. What a day.

I made two presentations to groups of kids who had read books on Florida's SUNSHINE STATE READERS list. Here I am sharing my inspiration for writing Glory Be.
(That's my Junk Poker box on the screen!)

The school bought several copies of THE WAY TO STAY IN DESTINY for the classrooms, the library, AND they gave them to a few lucky winners.

Can you tell I'm delighted to chat with these bright kids?

Oh, and the moms treated Ms. Wall's class to this for lunch! 
Among other delish things.

 A baseball and a piano for Theo. Be still my heart.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Welcome, Bobbie Pyron and LUCKY STRIKE.

I was excited to get an early copy of Bobbie's newest book. I'd read (and loved) her previous novels for middle-grade readers. But THE DOGS OF WINTER was snow-filled. This one's full of Florida sunshine. I have so many questions!

Welcome, Bobbie. Since you're up the road a piece from me for another day or so, let's have a glass of sweet tea and chat a while.

Augusta: What are you doing down here anyhow? Other than escaping to Florida in the middle of the winter like a lot of us.

This is an artist-in-residence program called Escape ToCreate in Seaside, Florida. The purpose of the residency is to provide artists of all types a month of space and time to create, uninterrupted. They only take a few artists (6-9) each session. They provide you with a place to live and work (usually a lovely little cottage within an easy walk to everything, including the beach) and explore your craft. It’s all kinds of artists—film makers, composers, visual artists, musicians—not just writers. During your residency, you do a couple of projects to give back to the Seaside community. It’s just an amazing opportunity!

Augusta: A perfect spot to write from!
What made you choose Florida as a setting for LUCKY STRIKE? And how did you capture the feeling of a sleepy little Florida town when you live in anything but?

Place is really important to me when I write a book or am planning a book, and usually the muse (at the risk of sounding all woo-woo) will tell me where the story wants to take place. I’d just finished writing THE DOGS OF WINTER and sent it off to my agent when I decided to get down to work on this book I’d been thinking about for a while—the book that would become LUCKY STRIKE. THE DOGS OF WINTER was set in Russia. In my mind, I’d been “living” for months in this cold, intense place. It was such a joy to be able to live in Florida, at least in my imagination! 

It was actually quite easy for me to write about a sleepy little fishing town on the Gulf coast of Florida because that’s where I grew up! I lived mostly in the panhandle of Florida on the Gulf of Mexico in what were then small fishing towns. I know what it’s like for people to make their living from the sea and be dependent on the vagaries of nature, boom and bust cycles, and the re-routing of the interstate. I remember so well living in a little town like Paradise Beach where everybody knows everybody else’s business, where all politics are local, and during hard times folks put aside their differences and help each other out. This book is, in many ways, my personal “love letter” to all the things I loved about growing up in the panhandle: the quirky people, the fish fries and shrimp boat races, the nature all around and the magic of the sea.

Augusta:  And the book is just that- a love letter. Speaking of your loves, you always manage to work a dog into your books. I love Mayor Barney!

Bobbie: Ha, you’re right! I do always manage to work a dog or two into my books, even if it’s not technically a “dog book” like A DOG’S WAY HOME and THE DOGS OF WINTER. I love dogs so much and they are such a part of me, my life would feel empty without at least one, and so would a book I’m writing. Dogs ground me in a way humans can’t. When I was writing LUCKY STRIKE and dealing with all the complex humans and their relationships, I could almost feel that old black lab, Barney, watching with patience and doggy amusement from the sidelines. And I will tell you that having an animal as mayor of a small town is not unheard of. When my parents lived in Ramona, California the mayor was a llama and his name was (brace yourself) Tony. I’m not kidding! 

I have two dogs now, a Shetland Sheepdog named Sherlock and a coyote mix named Boo, and two cats, Mittens and Kami. All are rescues. I also do a lot of volunteer work with a couple of different animal rescue organizations in Park City and Salt Lake City.

Augusta: Aha! I detect a llama in a future story.

I love the voice of this novel. It has such a storytelling quality. I can just hear it being read out loud. How did you decide to use this omniscient narrator?

Again, at the risk of sounding obnoxiously elusive, I don’t consciously decide these things--it’s the way the voice of the story comes to me. That said, sometimes I try to go a different direction, but I always end up going back to what the story wants. For instance, when I first started writing A DOG’S WAY HOME, the voice of the story was actually two voices: the girl, Abby and the dog, Tam. The girl’s voice was in first person and the dog’s was in what I call intimate third person (or dog). After I wrote a couple of chapters, I thought it would be more acceptable (to whom, I don’t know!) to write them in consistent POVs, so I changed Abby’s to third person. Well, that just didn’t work for me at all so I went back to doing it the way the story first came to me in two different POVs.

Augusta: Sadly, I think a lot of writers have had that experience of changing tenses and voices, but I'm not naming names.
What's your writing process? Does it change with each of your books?

To some extent, the process is a little bit different for each book, but certain things remain constant. I always think about an idea for a long time before I work on it. Sometimes I’m writing one thing while another is percolating in my mind. It makes me a little difficult to live with I suspect. I used to think for me characters came first but I’m realizing usually it’s the basic plot or idea that comes first. And the idea can be sparked by so many different things: something I see or overhear someone say; something I’ve read, or even as a response to what everybody’s reading.

I never outline before I write a first draft, and I try not to edit much as I go along. Generally, I don’t show my first draft to anyone while I’m writing it unless it’s a shorter something like a picture book or short nonfiction or short story.

I think the thing I’ve learned after writing a number of books is that I don’t have a set “process” and that’s perfectly okay!

Anything else that strikes your fancy you'd like to share? No pun intended.


I often get asked by kids if this or that book of mine is based on something that really happened to me (“Did you lose your dog?”) or if the main character is really me. Of course as you know, bits of us filter through into all of what we write. That said, LUCKY STRIKE is probably the closest to me and my childhood of any of my books. There’s a lot of me—past and present—in Nate Harlow and a little bit of me in Gen. I did feel unusually unlucky as a child, I did watch shrimp boat races, I did have a beagle who was carried away in his dog house by a tornado (thankfully found unharmed two blocks away), and I did collect single, abandoned shoes. Oh, and I still love to play Goofy Golf!

Thank you for these great answers, Bobbie. It was such fun chatting.

LUCKY STRIKE debuts on February 28, in bookstores everywhere! The reviews are fabulous (see those two bright and shiny stars up there on the book?), and I agree --the story will delight young readers. Don't miss this one.



Sunday, February 22, 2015

Happy Birthday BLOG.

 In a million years when I first started this blog, seven years ago, I couldn't have dreamed I'd have two books published by this time.

Or that I would have written all these posts, all these days.

Are blogs still being read in this new age of Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc.? Are posts too long? Do we have a reason for being?

If your answer is yes and you are considering starting your own blog, check out THESE IDEAS for writing your posts. 

If you are curious about how my own blog began, here's the very first post.

And this is what I was thinking about last year on my Blog Birthday. 

Thank you, friends and family, for stopping by to see what's up in my world of books et al.

Friday, February 20, 2015

And the winner is...

Leigh Anne Eck
Clark Middle School (Indiana)

Congratulations! The giveaway was a HUGE success.
With tons of entries. Wow. We're thinking this will be an annual event. Stay tuned till next February.

And thanks for all the amazing work you do.

Authors Love Teachers
We love your hard work, your enthusiasm and your dreams!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

My Winter so far

I promise, people of the Frozen North, 
no pictures of sunshine and sand.

I spent a longer-than-planned weekend in Chicago. My first visit to the American Library Association's Midwinter Conference as a writer!

One of my very first school visits to celebrate THE WAY TO STAY IN DESTINY. The Gombert Elementary School, hosted by the great Anderson's Bookshop. I spoke at two schools but alas, my wonderful photographer and I mostly got pictures at one.

 Signing books. Their school mascot is the Gator. I felt right at home.


At the first school, Puffer Elementary in Downer's Grove, I noticed a wall filled with Dots!

A break between schools.
Time to rest and relax at the Naperville Public Library.
 This was at the check-out desk.

                        Something I have never seen in my many school visits in Florida.

A day at the Chicago Art Institute with my friend Patty. Fascinating library!

And then it started to snow. And snow. And snow. I was warm and cozy inside my hotel.

We ate some amazing food. A lot of amazing food.

AND I got to hear the announcements of all the ALA awards. A highlight of the weekend.

Thank you, Scholastic for inviting me to be a part of that terrific event!

PS: I love the signature on my Anderson's Book Fair contact's emails. So true, right?

"The more that you read, the more things you will know.  The more that you learn, the more places you'll go."  ~Dr. Seuss 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

We Love Teachers BIG Giveaway!


 Can you imagine a better Valentine's gift than a whole bunch of books? 

And what if they were brand new signed-by-the-author books just perfect for you and your students?

Here are the rules.
The giveaway is open to any teacher, any subject, media specialists, reading specialists, librarians, whatever title you possess. 
We want you and your students to have these books. Because teachers are our Rock Stars, you know.
Leave a comment to my blog.
Or tweet, using #MGAuthorsLoveTeachers. You must use that hashtag or we won't know you're out there!

You may also stop by Lynda Mullaly Hunt's blog and leave your comment there:

And some day soon, after February 19 to be exact, your mailbox will begin to fill with these beautiful books.

If you're a teacher of older kids, enter the Great YA Giveaway by clicking over to THIS BLOG, or by tweeting #YAAuthorsLoveTeachers.

Good luck and comment/ tweet soon! 


Rules: ***Giveaway ends on Wednesday, February 18th at 11:59 PM. Winner will be announced on the 19th.

1) This is to show our appreciation for teachers and librarians, specifically. Therefore, the winner must have a school mailing address and be presently employed at that school. (Sorry–no international winners this time.)

***2) Please remember this giveaway is all about appreciation. We know that teachers do not get the appreciation they deserve. This giveaway is a reminder that WE appreciate you. Yes—we write the books, but YOU get the books into the hands of our readers. For that we are most thankful.

THANK YOU for visiting our giveaway!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Book Party in Pictures

Last night we had a party!

Any excuse to celebrate books, right?

Thank you to all the great people who came. I especially loved seeing the teachers and media specialist on the front row who trekked in from Plant City and made a Girls Night Out of the evening. And bought my books to take back to their school. And to Joan, my friend from last year's school visit to her library.

For those of you who don't know this store,  
INKWOOD BOOKS has been transformed by the amazing owner, Stephanie.

I missed her last night because she was at Winter Institute (a pretty good excuse, right?).
Her daughter, a voracious reader and member of their kids' Book Club, came and told me she loved my book.

Amanda and her helpers ran the show, made the introductions, sold a lot of books.
Thanks, guys!

Somehow I missed a photo of the card catalog display but I did capture the typewriter!

I was surrounded by critique group members, past and present. And fun food and drink.

There were a lot of writerly questions.
After everyone left, I thought of some better answers.
Of course.
Doesn't that always happen?

One question still rattles around in my head.

"Was it harder writing a boy narrating this than having a girl narrate GLORY BE?"

I gave what I thought was an adequate answer.
But here's another thing. I did have to pay attention to what Theo actually sees and notes in both dialog and interior monolog, which is the same thing, kind of, when you're writing in first person. And when I stepped over the line into girlie talk that didn't fit Theo's personality, my writer friends pulled me back.

A boy like Theo might not notice Miss Sister's hair or dress or tap shoes the same way a girl would. He might describe things a bit differently from Glory. But I don't think I can only narrate stories told by girls like me. That's when research and careful reading and writing kick in. So there's a longer answer to that question.

To the person who asked about outlining in advance v. jumping right in, so to speak.

Here are the links I mentioned.

Both my friend Shannon and I can attest to this helpful kickstarter for your plot.
Here's a post I wrote about it. I still love the quote, by the way.

NANOWRIMO= National Novel Writing Month.
November. For all ages. It's fun. But prepare to re-write.   😄

My kind of tongue-in-cheek (but not really) post on TEN THINGS I'VE LEARNED FROM KIDS ABOUT WRITING lists #1 as Put a Dog in Your Book. 

I forgot to say that last night.
I didn't know about that research--really, I heard it on the news-- when I wrote THE WAY TO STAY IN DESTINY, but I did include a bit part for a dog named Ginger Rogers, owned by Miss Sister, the dance teacher.

A truly lovely moment came when Gay, a grandmother who clearly supports her granddaughter's love of reading, came with a large photograph of me and Isabella from my event at the Dunedin library. She asked me to sign it. I was so touched.

At dinner after, my fortune cookie said it all:

Thanks to Jay, for driving us over the bridge to Tampa, and to my friend Kay for manning the refreshments. Here we are at the end of the evening.

Thankfully, Kay made sure we came home with 3 delicious Chocolate Guinness cupcakes.

Who knew beer and chocolate could taste so good together...

Sunday, February 8, 2015


Today I'm thinking about setting. 

(I'll be musing even more about this topic when I share my new book on Wednesday, Feb. 11, at 7 PM at INKWOOD BOOKS in Tampa. I'd love to see you there!)

When I started writing THE WAY TO STAY IN DESTINY, I had just moved to Florida. I was a total Fish Out of Water. The flora and fauna mystified me!

Can you-- should you-- write about a place you've never visited, never lived, know nothing about? Well, here I was. Surrounded by setting.

I took a lot of walks and lots of pictures. I felt the Spanish moss, the prickly aloe plants, the fat green leaves where tiny lizards hid.

There were many houses that looked just like the Rest Easy Rooming House and Dance Studio!

And there were flowers everywhere.
Take bougainvillea.
On a walk near the library where I was writing, there it was. Gorgeous.

Look at those tiny white centers. Perfect- I'd never noticed them before.

There's a DO NOT ENTER sign at the footpath to this garden.
So at first I didn't see the fig tree. 
Just like the one I grew up playing under, low and bushy. 
Mine was a great hiding place.

But that day I saw figs. Not ripe figs, but figs.

Which reminded me to put a fig tree in something new I'm noodling.
There's already a garden in that story.
Where of course, there would be pots for raising cuttings, starting seeds, Pass-a-long Plants. 
This one's not set in Florida, but in the South where everybody had a garden, many started from plants shared with neighbors.

So work on your settings, writers young and old. 
Add that layer of richness, the color and the smells.

And for anyone freezing all over the country today, here's a beautiful Poinciana tree that will bloom in late spring near my house.

Shared Links, about setting:

Barbara O'Connor quoting Elizabeth George. What could be better?

A reminder of how the setting can change your character in this review of a book by Kimberley Griffiths Little, set in Louisiana:

And okay, I know you can't travel everywhere. 
Or even find pictures of everything. (Hogwarts, anyone?) 
So here are some tips for figuring out setting in Fantasy and Science Fiction.