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

Monday, March 30, 2015

Mississippi, Here I Come!

I'm excited about my trip home to Mississippi. 
Please stop by and say hello 
if you are anywhere near me!

April 8-10. University of Southern MS, Kaigler Book Festival (I'm signing books on Friday morning via Barnes and Noble)

April 11 (3:00). Square Books Jr., Oxford MS.

April 14 (4:00) Turnrow Books, Greenwood MS.

April 16 (4:00) Lemuria Books, Jackson MS.

Friday, March 27, 2015

I Love Anne Tyler's New Book

I don't want to give away too much.
Because I want all of Tyler's fans and some who may not know her yet to read A Spool of Blue Thread.
It just might be her best novel yet.

And it's surely her best cover ever. 

Instead of over-sharing, I'll give you a quote from near the beginning. It's about the family patriarch.

"According to Abby, who had known him since her girlhood, he had a thin, metallic voice and a twangy Southern accent, although he must have decided at some point that it would elevate his social standing if he pronounced his i's in the Northern way. In the middle of his country-sounding drawl, Abby said, a distinct, sharp i would poke forth here and there like a brier. She didn't sound entirely charmed by this trait."

(Thank you to my friend Marilyn who took me to her favorite "independent Bookstore by the Sea," THE BOOKMARK, where I spied a display of signed copies of A SPOOL OF BLUE THREAD and of course had to have my own.)

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Outlining or Not


Here's the link to the WENDY MASS technique of semi-outlining!
Since a couple of writer friends have asked me about this, and the original link seems to be broken, I'll repost:

I still like this method and think it works on many levels. 
Getting unstuck.
Figuring out important scenes.
Adding details.

Here's my original, almost five-years-ago post:

Being a relatively organized person, the kind who loved to outline (and to diagram sentences, but that's a different story, for another blog post), I've struggled with the concept of writing fiction without outlining first. On the one hand, I'd like to know where I'm going with a story. On the other, well, I often don't.

This post by Neil Cross says all I wished I could have said! And it pretty much sums up the technique of kids' writer Wendy Mass. Check that link to her website for a similar way of brainstorming that ends up as a neat little outline. I adore her books. If that process works for her, it must be good.

From Neil Cross, I loved this especially:
Currently I’m about halfway up the mountain. If I crane my neck to look up, I get vertigo. If I look down, I feel quietly satisfied with the progress made.

Progress! Now back to that outline.

Related post: Every Soul a Star

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Book Fair Time!

Tomorrow I get to go to another BOOK FAIR. I love these days!

If you are near Dunedin (and who wouldn't want to be there on a beautiful sunny day?), stop in and say hello.

You can purchase the Scholastic Book Fair edition of THE WAY TO STAY IN DESTINY. My first book, GLORY BE, will also be available.

(Stay tuned for pictures.)

Everybody's welcome- hope to see some of you there. I'll be signing books from 1-3:00.

Curtis Fundamental Elementary
531 Beltrees St.
Dunedin, FL  34698

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Check it out!

 There is a LOT going on over at Kirby Larson's beautiful website and blog.

HERE'S the link to her blog.
I'll wait till you come back. Go ahead. Click on over.

During April, she's got a great giveaway going to celebrate strong women.


The very first on the newly-designed blog.
I am so proud.

If somehow you've missed her books, there are many. Most recently, DASH, the story of a dog and the young girl who owns him.  Set during the early years of World War II, this middle-grade novel just won the prestigious Scott O'Dell Award.

If you'd like to really get to know Kirby, here's an interview from a few years back, just as one of my favorite of Kirby's books, THE FRIENDSHIP DOLL, was about to be published.

It's tricky to navigate the world without friends! Any world!
But writers need advice, support, connections, which can be hard when you're sitting by yourself in a rooftop garret staring out the window all day long.
Well, scratch the garret thing.
Maybe Starbucks with a laptop.

If you're interested, I've written a few words about WRITER FRIENDS. Click on over there.

And once more- don't forget to enter Kirby's giveaway!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Just for fun.
A piece I wrote a few years ago about NOT being Irish but wishing I were.

Here it is, in the Christian Science Monitor.

And it got picked up a bunch of places, including this site that includes a video of a guy from Tennessee showing us how to make colcannon.

CLICK HERE for that link.  

Hope you remembered your GREEN today!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

What I'm Doing Now: Reading Wendy Shang

Although you might assume differently from the picture, no, I'm not reading while sipping a lime-flavored drink and watching the birds.

But I am doing a spring-like thing. Reading a book about a spring sport!

I just finished Wendy Wan-Long Shang's new book-to-be. Thank you, Scholastic, for sending me the Advance Reading Copy (ARC). I adored this one!

I have added it to my list of favorite baseball books. 
Which, come to think of it, consists of TWO baseball books. 

PLUNKED (by Michael Northrop).

What I like about this new book (coming April 2015 but ready for pre-order now):

1. The subtle baseball references. Even the title!

2. Wendy managed to sneak in some timely (1972) references that kids might not totally get or even care about but I sure laughed.

Ms. Rowe is the first teacher at my school to use Ms., which , as far as I could figure, was meant to blend Miss and Mrs. What no one has been able to explain to me though is what Ms. is short for.

Oh, how I often wondered that myself, Peter!

3. There's a plot twist that surprised me. At first, I wasn't sure it was going to work. But under the masterful hands of Wendy Shang, it was perfectly executed. She convinced me and I know young readers will totally buy it. And love everything about this book, as I did.

Although baseball is a huge part of this middle-grade novel, THE WAY HOME LOOKS NOW is about so much more than baseball.

Anybody have more books to add to my growing list of spring sports/ baseball books? You know, we are gearing up for spring training down here!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Welcome to the world, BLUE BIRDS.

My friend Caroline Starr Rose's beautiful new middle-grade verse novel publishes today.

Thanks to her gracious publisher, I had a pre-publication sneak peak.

I've written about it HERE. But now you can read it everywhere!
Tell your library, your independent bookstore, your teacher friends. Such a good story.

In honor of all our books going out into the world this year, I'm borrowing Caroline's quote. I love this thought via Katherine Paterson.

Once a book is published, it no longer belongs to me. My creative task is done. The work now belongs to the creative mind of my readers. I had my turn to make of it what I could; now it is their turn. I have no more right to tell readers how they should respond to what I have written than they had to tell me how to write it. It’s a wonderful feeling when readers hear what I thought I was trying to say, but there is no law that they must. Frankly, it is even more thrilling for a reader to find something in my writing that I hadn’t until that moment known was there. But this happens because of who the reader is, not simply because of who I am or what I have done.

-Katherine Paterson, A Sense of Wonder: On Reading and Writing Books for Children

 (In honor of Caroline's new novel, I'll share bluebird art from Adolf Dehn,
"Winter Song," 
from a Christmas card I love.)

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Thank you, Illinois school librarians!

I'm thrilled that GLORY BE has just been named to the 2016 Illinois Readers' Choice Bluestem list.

I love the description of the award:
"Named in honor of Big Bluestem which is the state prairie grass, the award may include both timeless classics and current titles, as well as books that have appeared on Monarch and Rebecca Caudill lists."

I've visited a few schools in Illinois over the years and I've met some super media specialists and teachers. Of course, I always poke around and wishfully think about incorporating their ideas into my own school. Then I remember, Whoops, I no longer have a school or a library to call my own.

On my most recent visit, sponsored by the fabulous Anderson's Bookshop, I loved this idea from Gayl Smith at Gompert Elementary. She has a team of book wizards who write reviews and post them on the bookshelf where that book resides.

Here's one written by a third grader, which easily rivals some of the professional reviews I've read:

Glory Be is a book about a young girl named Gloriana Hemphill, who lived in the south at the time of segregation. She is used to two of everything, one for the whites and one for the blacks. Then her whole life changes when she meets a girl who moved from Ohio and doesn't follow the rules that Glory had been used to. Her name was Laura Lampert. Glory's life is whirling around her with her other friends making fun of Laura because she is from the North, her older sister has turned into a teenager and doesn't want to play with her and the pool's closing down right before her birthday to "fix some cracks". 
What is really going on? Read to find out.

Now I love that, don't you?

This is what a few other reviews look like, tacked to those bookshelves.
Those kids must feel pretty special!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Book Reviewing 101

It's hard to write about Book Reviewing. 

Yes, it's subjective. You can't love everything!

Yes, it's difficult deciding which books to review. Should we review books written by people we know (using know in the broadest sense)? 
Writing about reviewing books is a tricky topic.

Hats off to Virginia McGee Butler for this objective and thoughtful blogpost, her personal take on book reviews.

I've written often about the subject. Click HERE to read what I said about a terrible review of a Eudora Welty short story. Shame on you, most-likely-a-student reviewer!

Note: I wrote that in 2011. 
When it was still a bit of a novelty for students to trash books.

Writers work very hard, getting the words just right. 
If they're not right for me, they could be perfect for somebody else. 

As I said, it's tricky.

(And thank you very much, Virginia, 

Monday, March 2, 2015

The Page 69 Test

I've often (always) appreciated this tricky way to decide whether I'd like to invest a whole lot of time reading a book, haven't you?

Go see if you'd like to read p. 69 in THE WAY TO STAY IN DESTINY. 
And hear what I think about whether it's a good indication of the entire book.

I'd actually written about this test before I knew Marshall had an entire website devoted to books and their page 69s. 

(CLICK HERE to see some of my own tests.)

Wow. Laura Lippman's new book is right near mine on Marshal Zeringue's site!

Check it out and have fun reading.