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

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Have a Super Summer!

I am in awe of two teachers who pulled off one of my best ever Skype Q&A sessions on their LAST DAY OF SCHOOL.
(Okay, officially it was Facetime, not Skype, but it worked equally well, if not better than Skype...)

Their students were literally out the door! I mean, who would even attempt this? Two super teachers from Syracuse, that's who.

These same teachers from Jamesville-DeWitt Middle School were the first Skype visit I ever had, way back in spring, 2012. They've shared GLORY BE with their sixth graders and we've Skyped ever since. What a treat.

Today the questions were serious, funny, thoughtful, and challenging. I'm still thinking about the boy who asked if I could change places with one of my characters, what would I do differently. 
Or whether I saw the "times" as the antagonist/ villain. 
And how about that age-old question, asked by every writer: How do you know when your book is finished?  

(See below for more of the questions, just emailed to me.)

I suspect these kids are great readers and I hope they (and their fabulous teachers) and ALL you amazing teachers and librarians out there have a summer filled with books, friends, and maybe even time to write.

(When they asked what I would recommend for their summer reading, I just happened to have these books on the table right next to my computer!)


After reading Glory Be, I felt that Emma kind of replaced the mom role to Glory.  Did you mean to do that?
What gave you the idea to make JT so mean? 
What made you decide to bring fact and history into your book instead of having it all fiction?
Have you written any other books?
How did Frankie's back story come to life or Who inspired Frankie's back story?
How do you know when your story is the way you want it? 
In the process of making your book how did you give (develop) Glory's personality?
Why did you choose July 4th as Glory's birthday?
How do you organize yourself for your book?
Were you a big fan, like Glory, of the Beatles, Elvis and Nancy Drew?

Monday, June 20, 2016

Margaret and Me

You know when you meet somebody and have an instant connection? That's how I felt when I met Margaret Simon. Yes, we're both Mississippians and writers, two things that drew us together. And we have a bunch of "do-you-know" friends, as do all Southerners. 

But she's also a great reader and an amazing teacher. So when she asked if I'd answer a few questions about writing my new book, I jumped at the chance. 

HERE WE ARE, chatting away! 
(Click that link to read the interview.)




Saturday, June 11, 2016

Kate Messner and The Seventh Wish

If you haven't tuned in to the book challenge of Kate Messner's new book, CLICK HERE to read what she has to say.

If you'd like to read a short, honest review, recently posted on the Barnes & Noble site, here it is.

 I'd like to add my two-cents worth. First of all, as a former librarian, I know how tricky book selection can be. You have a limited amount of funds. You want to buy books your students and teachers will check out and use, or books they need for many reasons. Books you can in all honesty recommend, either from your personal reading or professional reviews. There are all kinds of reasons not to buy every single book that has a good review, even several starred reviews.

But I have a lot of trouble understanding why this book and Kate's author visit wouldn't be allowed into ANY school.

In the interest of full disclosure, let me say I know Kate Messner.
I've met her in person at events our (shared, but not for this book) publisher has sponsored.
This summer I'm even taking part in her amazing initiative, TEACHERS WRITE.

But long ago I decided never to recommend a book I haven't read. Or at least carefully skimmed and read about. I'll "share" others' opinions/ booklists/tweets and posts with a comment that I'm looking forward to reading this book or I've heard great things. But I'd never review a book or rave about it or even blog about something I haven't actually read. No matter WHO writes it.

So yesterday, I read THE SEVENTH WISH.

If you're still with me, let me say I'm highly recommending this book.
I'm planning to buy it for at least one middle-grade reader I know. I think she'll enjoy it for many reasons, as I did. The story has wonderful layers, from Irish dancing to friendships and a humorous hint of a boy-girl crush which turns into friendship. A magical talking fish.
There's even ice fishing!
But none of those storylines are what got THE SEVENTH WISH banned from a school.
And this is where I have trouble with book selection.

There is absolutely nothing in Charlie and her sister's relationship that didn't ring true.
There is absolutely nothing, as far as I could tell, that wasn't validated by Kate's extensive research on drug addiction.
I know from personal, sad experience how families struggle with these issues. Young readers who need this book will take away a lot of truth. Nothing good comes from not talking about an addiction. If libraries and librarians are the places and people we hope kids come to for information and support and safety, THE SEVENTH WISH--and books like this-- are what they need to find there.

Today Kate shared the update on this issue and I recommend that all of us CLICK OVER TO HER POST and read about the conversation she's having with the librarian and principal at the school which cancelled her visit.
As I said before, I totally understand the difficulties of "book selection" and I applaud the open dialog between authors and schools that this situation requires.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

More Letters

As the school year draws to a close, my mailbox fills with wonderful messages, mostly from students who've read GLORY BE as part of their curriculum. Some illustrate their letters, some hope I'll write back, some are obviously part of an assignment.

But mostly what they're saying truly comes from their hearts and funny minds.

Two from today's batch:

"My favorite part of the story was when Glory hid in the back of the car and went with Robbie and Jesslyn. She was sneaky. Like I usually am."

"I think overall that was one of the best books I've read in a while and trust me I have read alot of books."

Way to make my day, kids!

When they illustrate scenes that make me think I have possibly written my descriptions well enough to show what's really happening, this reminds me always to add the details.

Five senses, fellow writers! And don't forget the sunshine!


Speaking of scenes: 
Good info for writers, including a new (to me- don't you love learning new editing words?) term: 
Soft Hiatus... Though I find fewer books use any kind of asterisk in the finished book, right?

"Visually, in a manuscript a new scene is usually signified by the start of a chapter, by a break of four lines (called a soft hiatus) between the last paragraph of one scene and the first paragraph of the next one, or sometimes by a symbol such as an asterisk, to let the reader know that time has passed."