Books -- reading and writing.
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And whatever connections I can make between these chapters of my life.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Good advice

Like Linda Sue, I also believe in learning from the best.

In this instance, Linda Sue Park together with Lois Lowry.
That's some serious writing firepower there!

Years ago, I took a short workshop with Linda Sue and she explained the way she begins a novel.

This link is from 2000.

I wonder if it still holds true for her process. I bet it does.

One of my favorite parts of this advice:

What I like best about Ms. Lowry's outline is that there is NO step labeled “Theme.” I think she believes as I do: That theme should grow out of the character and the story. If a writer begins with theme, the story is likely to be heavy-handed and messagey ... the kind of book kids run away from. And I'm running right beside them!

(from my desk, my inspiration for today...)

Monday, December 2, 2019

Happy Monday! Happy December!

I wish I were better at #MWAYR (It's Monday, What Are You Reading?) posts.

I love connecting with teachers and librarians and other bloggers.
But sometimes Mondays get away from me. Especially the Monday after a holiday.

I did read a lot of books this week. I'm still working on a couple but I'll add them. 
If something terrible (or wonderful) happens in the end of these two books, please don't tell me.

I love the beginnings!

This one's on the list of New York Public Library's Best Books of the Year.
Here's the link. Lots of great titles.

I read a few chapters with a young Thanksgiving visitor. He loved it. I loved it. But it was his book and it went home with him. Now I've reserved it from our library because I need to know what happens. Such a strong beginning.

I've never read a book by SARAH ARONSON. My loss! She's a super writer. She also is an excellent writing teacher.
What I love about this book, so far, is how she creates a kid who's Jewish, a soccer player, a younger brother with big shoes to follow, and he's a great character. Good strong family dynamics.
I also love the quotes from presidents at the head of each chapter. Perfect!

Follow her on various social media and maybe even take a class. Here's her website:

My fall round-up appeared recently in the Christian Science Monitor.
I loved all the books I reviewed. Then again, I only review books for them if I like them. Often they'll assign the books, sometimes I add one or two.

One picture book really touched me.

Here's my review. You can click that link up there if you want to see my reviews of the other books, a bit of middle-grade and a collection of picture books.

The Love Letter (ages 4-8), written by Anika Aldamuy Denise and illustrated in lovely muted colors by Lucy Ruth Cummins, is a joyful celebration of friendship. Hedgehog, Bunny and Squirrel, three unlikely chums, each receive the mysterious letter telling them “You are a joy, a light, a secret hope.” The power of this simple thought carries these three through their day, feeling cheerful or helpful or carefree. And, in the end, loved. A perfect picture book to be treasured and read many times.

Another of the books I reviewed introduced me to an artist I didn't know.

Love this photo of my friend Jeu Foon reading to his grandson.
This is how he describes PAPER SON:

"This book is the best I have ever seen or read about Tyrus Wong’s life and the creativity he expressed in his Disney Bambi artwork and in his magnificent flying kites. 
The author, Julie Leung, and the artist, Chris Sasaki, honor Tyrus’ journey as a “Paper Son” in historic detail and with much heart. The book’s artwork reminded me of Tyrus’ sublime style of painting foreground and background around his subjects.
If you know who Tyrus Wong is, then you know he is a legend. Please read this book ... you will be inspired by a truly gifted man ..."

So, there you have it! My kids' books for the week. 

I'm still plowing through quite a few grownup mysteries and even a writing craft book.
I reread a bit of PARDONABLE LIES (Maisie Dobbs- I've read them all!) because a friend and I have been talking about ole Maisie and how we love her.

I'm almost finished with Michael Connelly's DARK SACRED NIGHT. This is the second book that features Renee Ballard. Love his new female character. 

I'll look forward to jumping around to a few blogs this Monday morning. Hope everybody had a lovely Thanksgiving, filled with turkey, dressing, and tons of books.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Books! Books! Books!

And hey, it's Monday!
I can join the IT'S MONDAY, WHAT ARE YOU READING gang.

I've been thinking about Boy v. Girl books. I don't like that division but I'm willing to admit that there are some girls and some boys who like certain types of books better than others. Often, publishers push this with their cover designs.

But recently at our monthly workshop for the Tampa Bay area SCBWI group (The subject matter of the workshop taught so well by Nancy Stewart was Genre Jumping. We explored ways to connect your books and keep your readers, even if the books are different genres or sub-genres.), somebody asked if it was okay to write a boy character if you're female. And vice versa.

I can't imagine a hard and fast rule about this.
Having read many books written by male authors, with female protagonists, that I loved, I don't want to restrict this, not even a little bit.
(Hello, The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise! Written by a guy!) 

The best book I read this week might seem to lean toward being a boy-ISH book. 
I don't think so! Such a good book- for anybody!
Loved Esme, the female supporting character, written by a guy of course. (She has a clever connection to the story. Excellent plotting!)
Some of the many things I loved about ON THIN ICE:
1. It's funny. The main character has so many issues-- physical, emotional, family-related, school problems. But he pretty much keeps his sense of humor through everything. 
2. It's fast-paced. I have a ton of admiration for writers who know how to do this.
3. The cover is totally cool. 

Another novel I finished last week that took me by surprise. Mostly because I knew so little, really nothing, about the history behind it.
Here's a bit of the review I wrote for UNDER THE BROKEN SKY by Mariko Nagai.

Natsu lives on a farm in Manchuria where she and her young sister are lovingly cared for by their father. But when he’s conscripted into the Japanese army and the Soviets occupy their country, Natsu and Asa must make a grueling escape. The 1945 Soviet occupation and the loss of  the woman who’s cared for them create an unbearable situation, and the older sister sells Asa to a Russian woman. A detailed Afterword enhances this period in history and the resulting refugee experience.
I suspect this story will be new to young readers and to many adults. Suggested for ages 10-14. 

I'm rereading LIZZIE BRIGHT AND THE BUCKMINSTER BOY by Gary Schmidt. Everything he writes astounds me. I'm wowed by his perfect use of "close first" person. A POV I really love but man, is it hard to write well!
For the first time in eons, I read a bunch of PICTURE BOOKS. 
All so very good. More on these soon.

Grownup books I've been reading:
New to me, author Ann Cleeves's RAVEN BLACK. Because I'm still on a British detective/ mystery kick and I'm getting in the proper mindset for the new Starz series, Dublin Murders based on the books by Tana French. 
Also, THE LAST ROMANTICS for a book club. Jury is out on this one. A fast read, but I saw the plot twist coming a mile away. Hate when that happens...

And now it's time to scurry around all the fun IT'S MONDAY WHAT ARE YOU READING POSTS, which you can find and link to HERE.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Catching Up with the Links

No, I'm not playing golf today.
Or ever, for that matter. ☺
Though I do love a good game of Putt-Putt.

But I've been reading a few blogposts and writing craft articles and other inspiration, and I decided to share.

My friend Rosi Hollenbeck always does this! And I always find something helpful. Here's her link->

Just now, while gathering her link, I found this quote. 
I'm not sure if I've ever made a million think. But I like this thought.

“A drop of ink may make a million think.”
~ Lord Byron ~

(Okay, you need to hurry over to Rosi's blog. I could stay all day reading her fabulous quotes! Here's another.)

“Don’t say the old lady screamed. Bring her on and let her scream.”
~ Mark Twain ~

Just in case you have some time to Wander around the Web this weekend, here are some more ways to spend your time!
On what to do with a negative review:

For those of you who blog book reviews, check out and join up with Greg's "Middle Grade Monday" collections. I found him via Rosi's blog, too.

My writing group is headed out on a short retreat. We have lots to celebrate and plenty of work to do. I read this in preparation for the time away. Read all the way to the end for advice on ways to get into your character's head:

If you're a newly-published author, if you have a new book coming soon, you might want to be one of my buddy Kirby Larson's Friday friends. Here's her blog. You meet the nicest people there. AND check out her Wednesday Wisdom quotes. I could fill my entire bulletin board with them:
Hey, here's an idea. I'll spend/ waste quality time and re-arrange my bulletin board. Inspiration Awaits! 

(A peek at one corner of the bulletin board above my desk)

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Read all about it!

The States, that is.

If you didn't make it to the fun and fabulous NATIONAL BOOK FESTIVAL, sponsored by the Library of Congress this summer, here's a link to the books featured in the Parade of States. 

Since I happened to be nearby, of course I popped into the Convention Center to check out the Festival. 
(When GLORY BE was new, Mississippi chose my book. That was the last year I attended, and I got to sign books and it was pretty amazing.)

Each state picks a representative book to flaunt!
Now that the Festival has moved inside to the convention center, there are lots more authors and tons of kids having a ball getting their "parade" cards stamped, finding books they may have missed, enjoying the book buzz.

If you're a teacher who's tried to find a book from each state, you know it's not that easy. 
I blogged about this once before, HERE. 
And I included this list to all sorts of books, new and old, with the state(s) the books are set in. 
Here the link:

At the festival, I loved seeing Kerry Madden-Lunsford's book front and center on the Alabama table.  Set in the Great Smokey Mountains, this picture book begs to be read aloud. There's even a cornbread recipe in the back! No sugar added, I'm happy to say. At heart, Kerry, who now lives and teaches in Alabama, is a true southerner.

Thursday, August 29, 2019


This morning when I woke up, I realized it's my THIRD book's THIRD birthday.

Happy birthday to you!

I spent a lot of time with this book (Okay, true confessions, I spent a lot of time with the others, too. I'm a sloooowwww writer!). 

The history of Chinese immigration to the Deep South before the Civil Rights era surprised a lot of people. Even my Chinese American non-southern friends. 
But having grown up surrounded by the Chinese-owned grocery stores, to me, it was yet another piece of the complicated history of the Mississippi Delta where I was born and raised, a history so intriguing that I wanted to share it. 

And I wanted to tell the story of a girl who's not so brave and spunky and not totally happy to be helping a grandmother she hardly knows.
And yet, she did it. Better still, it all worked out for Azalea.

The tiny beginning of an idea for this book came from my high school friend Bobby Joe Moon. The librarian's perspective, amazingly remembered details and many deep conversations came from a newer friend, Frieda Quon. It was important to get every detail right. I asked a million questions. Frieda became my first reader. Bobby, my PR guy.
I loved that Scholastic let me include photographs shared by the two people who helped me most with getting the details right. 

I also used the remarkable resources and treasures of the Mississippi Delta Chinese Heritage Museum on the campus of Delta State University in my hometown. 

If you're interested, click on that link to the museum and enjoy the photographs. 

For those teachers who might be interested in including this book for your students this year, I have additional resources HERE, 
and a fun Pinterest page, HERE,
AND here.
(Oh, and I love Skyping with classes who've read my books. 

So bring on the cake and let's celebrate books that require a lot of sweat and even a few tears. Let's celebrate the friends who help us, the libraries we love, the editors and early readers.



Monday, August 26, 2019

A Read and a Re-Read

This weekend I had the opportunity to chat about A HANDFUL OF STARS with a young reader in my acquaintance. She'd added it to her list of summer reads. She liked the length, the story, the characters. I'd read it so long ago, I had to reread parts of it so I could have a halfway intelligent conversation.


And then tonight on a delightful walk, I thought about Cynthia Lord and some excellent advice she gave to a roomful of writers a few years ago.

When I went back to my blogpost about that conference (see above for link), it cracked me up. I named no names and kept my details to a minimum. But it was a remarkable event for me and I'm forever indebted to Naomi Milliner (who has just published her first and fabulous middle-grade novel) for setting me up with a critique with the agent who now represents me and has been a friend since that first morning we chatted.  

Some things have a way of working out really well, don't they? How lucky for me!

Cynthia told us to get in touch with feelings from your younger self. To sit and remember. Not necessarily the same, specific event or action or moment that evoked those feelings, but the embarrassment when you wore the wrong dress to a party or your big brother caught you doing something you shouldn't have, or the way your heart ached when your parents split or your grandmother died. Or as my friend Susan recently told me when I reached out with wringing hands to vent about how hard it is to write strong emotions: 
 ...the trick is to get in touch with the emotion from our memories. Really in touch, with a time in our lives that recalls the same sort of joy, anger or pain that our characters are experiencing. So in touch that if we need to write pain, we’re willing to hurt all over again to express honesty on the page.

This writing emotion things is harder than it sounds, Cynthia and Susan! 

But I've been thinking about it as I read another book, filled with strong emotions as well as humor. Gary Schmidt is one of my favorite authors. I've loved everything I've written by him. THE WEDNESDAY WARS is one of my favorites. How's this for a first line:

Of all the kids in the seventh grade at Camillo Junior High, there was one kid that Mrs. Baker hated with heat whiter than the sun.

And now, there's a new middle-grade novel to read and enjoy. 
Have you read this one? 


Cricket? (the game not the bug)  A butler?
Really, Mr. Schmidt, where do you get your amazing ideas.
But it's not all candybars and laughs. There are some really sad things happening in Carter Jones's world. 

I've read a lot of interviews with this author. This one, about Writing the Hard Stuff, via SCBWI, says a lot.  

I'm still thinking about what he says concerning the trust he gives his readers:  "... the reader has a lot of work to do to figure out what is going on, and so has to become invested in doing part of the work of the novel."

If you don't know what SCBWI is, and you're even remotely interested in writing for kids, click on the link and check out the website. Those funny initials stand for the Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, by the way.

So, it's Monday again. Almost September. 
Hats off to my teacher and librarian friends who are saying goodbye to summer. I so look forward to hearing what you're reading with your students and to seeing the photos of your classrooms and your new libraries and your clever displays to inspire your readers. Enjoy!



Monday, August 5, 2019

Catching Up on a Monday

I love these Monday, IT'S MONDAY WHAT ARE YOU READING posts. Because it makes me actually think about what I've been reading. 
Since I'm no longer a librarian with a host of young readers waiting to share their next great book recommendations and talk about how they love the characters, I mostly read to see how they're written. Does that make sense?

So I did a little re-reading this week. 
How many of your kids have read (and loved?)  HOLES?
Wow. Talk about a fast, fun read. 

(That's a totally awesome cover, isn't it? It's not the one I'm familiar with but it's sufficiently creepy while artistic, and I really like it.
Don't get me started on the importance of cover design!)

My buddy Barbara O'Connor recently shared that HOLES was edited by Frances Foster (now deceased), her long-time FSG editor. Since Frances is basically known as a dream editor and brilliant, I took a closer look, trying my best to "read like a writer."

Speaking of closer. THIRD PERSON CLOSE is the point-of-view and man, does Louis Sachar nail it. I love reading third person close, but I've struggled to write it. In fact, I tried with THE WAY TO STAY IN DESTINY. Started that story in what I "hoped" was a Close Third Person point-of-view.
Nope, wasn't happening. While journaling in first person to get into the head of my main character, Theo, I realized it was working better in first person and I switched. 

If you haven't read HOLES in a while but want to see what I mean and don't have the book handy, check out this preview from the beginning 30 pages. The physical description of Stanley and how "close" you are inside his head. Perfect. I not only felt like I knew him from the get-go, I knew how he was being fooled and yet, there was a tiny niggle of a doubt...

If only I were Louis Sachar.
Though I didn't really like the follow-up to that book, did you? True confessions, I skimmed it so maybe I missed something.

I discovered a book I hadn't read by Kevin Henkes. Now, there's a surprise! I'm a big fan of his novels and his picture books. Publisher's Weekly called this one touching and funny, and I totally agree.
It's a book about mini-golf, sort of, which is what originally led me to it. But it's really about families and friendships and all those things that tug at the hearts of kids, big and little. Henkes really knows how to do that. And okay, while searching for an image for this book, I see he's written a couple of novels I didn't even know about. More to read! 

Can't wait to see what my teacher and librarian friends have been reading as their summers wind down!

Thanks for reading!

 A card from a student, saved from my years as a librarian.
Who would have expected I'd write three books of my own. Not me. Not in a million years.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Reading Craft Book(s). Or not.

My friend Joyce Sweeney once said--and I'm sure I'm slightly paraphrasing: "Craft books are for when things aren't going well."

But, Joyce, I have a big shelf of them!
She's right though. That's way too-much-information unless something's going wrong. Start with your story. Begin with your characters. Keep writing till you get bogged down.
That's the time to see what's helped others, to explore lots of What ifs?, to find a trick to get you out of the Muddy Middle.

Before we took off to find a place to escape Florida's summer heat (which is turning out to be very hard this week), I grabbed a book by one of my favorite writers and teachers, ANN HOOD. I brought CREATING CHARACTER EMOTIONS with me. 
It's a perfect book for dipping into.

(And pictured, also, is the very cool notebook our Critique Group leader, Teddie Aggeles, gave us! I'm filling mine up fast.)

One interesting thing about this re-reading is finding little notes scribbled in the margins (Yes, I do dog-ear, scribble, sticky-note books if they're mine- don't you?). 
I've found thoughts about characters from two of my previous books and one WIP that may be "in progress" for a very long time! 

I grappled with emotions, especially for Theo and Azalea, and now smile-out-loud reading my notes.

I bought this book in January of 2008 when I was lucky enough to study under Ann at the fabulous Writers-in-Paradise conference. I love her examples, which have made me want to seek out some of the short stories and novels she references. Her exercises are excellent. She picks emotions like fear or happiness or grief, and shares things that work and things to avoid. This is a good choice to pick up with your writing notebook, to sit under a shade tree without your computer or your story racing through your fingers.

And since it's MONDAY and everybody is sharing what they're reading, I also re-read a picture book tucked away on my shelf. (I love picture books.)

Have you read Brian Lies's BATS AT THE BALLGAME. Hey, it's baseball season, people! Read all the baseball books you love. Right?

Re-reading this book makes me want to stop by the library and check out another favorite from Brian (truthfully, they all are favorites. I'm a big fan): BATS AT THE BEACH. 

This is what I said when I first shared this in a gift-buying blogpost: 
"When the grownup reading it continues the story even after the two-year-old lapchild wandered off, you know the book's a winner."

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Historical fiction lives!

And we know this because of THE SURVEY just posted by my friend Caroline Starr Rose.

Here's what she concluded:

Historical fiction is still seen as meaningful.
While it might be a “hard sell,” historical fiction isn’t dead! Many adults are sharing titles with young people. Many kids are reading.

I've been reading historical fiction most of my life. Come to think of it, even the stories I heard growing up were probably mostly fiction and definitely historical. 

These are the books I cut my reading teeth on. We thought they were true! Even librarians classified them as biographies. No longer. Now most agree- there's a whole lot of storytelling going on in the Childhood of Famous Americans series.

(I've never seen these early editions. The titles haven't changed, 
but the ones I read were mostly turquoise!)

Don't forget to click on the link to Caroline's blog up there. 
It's a very interesting survey. 
So, what do you think? Is historical fiction dead? Do kids still read the genre?

Monday, June 10, 2019

It's Monday and I'm Reading


(Full disclosure: I've met the author at two terrific Maryland SCBWI conferences over the years, where I connected with two great agents and was signed by Linda Pratt so naturally I've always had a soft spot in my heart for those events' organizers, and Naomi was there. And speaking of events, if you're in NYC or MA or MD, CLICK HERE TO SEE where you can actually meet Naomi Milliner and ask her about this fun, important, beautifully-written story.)

But #IMWAYR is all about reading and sharing. 
And people, you do not want to miss this one:

There are so many reasons to buy this book. I bought it because I have a reader in the family who's into magic. He's a little young for middle-grade novels, but give him another year and I predict this will be a favorite. 

So there's magic and Jake's a magician, obviously (great cover image!). And he's funny. Perfect, right?
BUT this book is so much more. 
The brothers' connection is perfectly written. Big brother Ethan is a narrator to love. He's funny. He's mad. He's caring. He's a normal kid. 

There are three boys in the family. One is Jake, the baby brother with special needs. Jake is special in many ways, and this is another reason to own this book. 

Parents are important to the story, but they don't rule the world. I can vouch for the difficulty of having adults in the room, so to speak. It's a tricky balance. Of course, kids have parents and teachers (Jake has a really good one, striking the right balance between listening with a chocolate bar and letting a kid find his own way). But I think kids love reading the parts of a story where kids interact with their friends (and enemies!), where school scenes ring true, where birthday parties don't always turn out exactly as planned. Yep, that's Jake and his brothers and their friends. Ethan's difficult decisions feel authentic. Oh how well the author understands her characters!

There is a whole lot of truth inside these pages. You know those reviews that say "I laughed, I cried"? Well, I truly did while reading SUPER JAKE & THE KING OF CHAOS.
Well done, Naomi Milliner.

I'm sharing another book today: LEAVING GEE'S BEND

Okay, today I re-read parts of it. I've read it more than once. 
I was inspired to dip into this story by Kirby Larson's FRIEND FRIDAY blogpost with Irene
Irene shares some very powerful, very personal remarks about writing outside your own culture. She has a new picture book about an African American boy, MEET MISS FANCY. Check out Kirby's blog to find out more about this book. 

I've been traveling and reading a whole bunch of grown-up books on my Kindle, via my wonderful public library, but I finished one middle-grade novel and reread parts of another, and I call that a top ten day!

Happy summer to my librarian and teacher friends. Here's to joyful, lazy, feet-up, sweet tea reading days!

Friday, May 24, 2019

Kids write the MOST WONDERFUL things

Remember that (very) old TV show: Kids Say the Darnedest Things?

I have an update. Yes, they say funny things. They ask crazy questions. They often have no filters.
But they also write really great, really delightful things, and answering their letters makes me smile. A lot.

Yesterday, I opened four envelopes filled with letters from third grade classes about my novel, GLORY BE. There were so, so many thoughtful questions.

The first letter began this way: "At school, my fellow classmates and I have indulged ourselves in the literary feast that is Glory Be." 
Be still my heart. I love this kid already.

AND- it actually went UP-hill from there.

One student explained why he needed to know the answers to his questions about the Beatles v. Elvis. "I wanna know what best fits your personality."
He also added that I needed to write him back because he'd spent a lot of time on his letter and his "pencil got worn out."

Another starts off with a bang. The first sentence announces, "I like to eat hot dogs."
(and now I'm laughing and hungry.)

Another shared that her favorite part was how the girls lied a lot to Emma and to the dad. 
Another remarked that GLORY BE made her and her classmates laugh, and that was her favorite thing, the laughing together. 
Teachers, I've read a lot of books to kids over the years and I love remembering the books that made us laugh.

And in case my head is swelling from all the lovely things they say? Andre adds this, "When I first was reading, I thought it was boring but then it started to be exciting."

A writer's worst nightmare. Starting out boring. I'll work on that, Andre.
Oh, he ended his note with, "Mrs. Scattergood, you are probably the best author I know so far. I want answers."
A veiled threat? He's jumping ship if I don't answer? 
See, these kids absolutely crack me up.

Teachers don't always have time to comment, and I totally understand this. I was a school media specialist for a very long time. 
I understand how busy everybody is, especially at the end of the year.
I'm just flattered when they take the time and effort to share my book with a class. They don't need to write.
But Mrs. Arnold said such lovely things, I'm going to quote her. 

"Your book gave us so many chances for deep discussions not only about this period in our country's history, but also about the way people should be treated in the present."

And Mr. Blank from the Bethlehem Lutheran School thanked me for bringing to life this period of the South during segregation. 

It's hard writing books, but this is very writer's dream.

As the school year winds down, I'd like to thank all of you who've shared so many books with your kids this year.  Picture books, non-fiction, poetry-- It really does make a difference. You make a difference.

Now, here are some of these bright young students. 
Seeing them holding my books, I'm over the moon! 

(Kids at the Vernon Hill School in Worcester, MA. Love those smiles!)

Monday, April 1, 2019

It's MONDAY again. What are you reading?

I've sadly neglected reporting on the great books I've read recently.

Let me jump right in!

Hot off the presses, a brand new middle-grade debut. I was lucky enough to read an advance copy of this, but now everybody can buy, request from your library, read and share.

This new novel has FOUR starred reviews, and that's not surprising.  I loved Lyndie's personality, her sheer joy in research and facts, how she doesn't give up. I loved the 1980s southern setting, the Vietnam War connection via her veteran dad, the gorgeous language and strong characters. Such a good book!

Another middle-grade novel, just out: Cynthia Lord's BECAUSE OF THE RABBIT.
(Click HERE for a post I wrote ages ago and one of my favorite quotes about fantasy, via Cynthia.)
Check out this tres cool cover!

What young reader wouldn't line up to read this one?

If there's a teacher or librarian out there who hasn't read it or has a special student just meant for this middle grade novel, I'd love to send my ARC to you. Leave me a comment and I'll pick someone and zip it off.
One thing I liked about this novel (there were many) was how accessible it is. Less than 200 pages, easy reading, appealing story-- this could be that gateway book for a reader who's been challenged by longer books and has not yet found the perfect novel to love.

The third book I recently finished is Sharon Draper's BLENDED.
Yes, there were many "issues" covered in Izzy's story. She's biracial, her parents are divorcing, and then the normal pre-teen things every kid worries about. There is also a strong theme of race, obviously, and a scene where Izzy is stopped by the police.
But they were handled reasonably well and could provide food for thought and discussion. 

I can't sign off without strongly recommending a book that's NOT middle-grade. GRADLE BIRD is really an adult book, but the narrator is a teen so I can see this one having readership among "new adults," if that's even a thing anymore.

The writing is beautiful, the characters beyond quirky, the story so unusual and funny and sad at the same time-- a must-read for many of my friends. Especially my southern friends, or those who love books set in the deep south, with all the hilarious and unique trappings of our heart-homes. I bought this book because it wasn't in my local public library. I'm recommending they buy it. So good.

Can't wait to hear what my #IMWAYR friends are up to today. Do tell!

Friday, February 8, 2019

Kids are the best!

I just finished a Skype visit with The Learning Center for the Deaf. I've Skyped with this school before and it's always such fun.

(This was one of my free Skypes, 15 minutes or so of Q&A with students who've read my book. Easy Peasy, I do it whenever I can.)

But y'all, I wanted to talk all day to these two.

Their teacher had gently cautioned me that they might need a little extra time. There would be an interpreter signing my answers. The boys were nervous about meeting an author in "real life."
Because really we're pretty scary!

Their questions about GLORY BE were thought-provoking; I'm still pondering my answers.

They wanted to see my office. (I showed them the palm trees out my window. I know, mean. They were cold up there. I'm pretty warm down here.) 

They wanted to know why there's no "Glory Be 2." (I get that a lot.)

They made a movie signing GLORY- a first! Their teacher explained that they used the sign for "laughing" because they think a lot of what she does is fun!

They sent me a thank-you letter. Which cracks me up. I hope my sister sees it.

This is truly why authors spend all those hours figuring out their stories. Mining our characters for depth and emotion, ARCS and DIALOG and INNER WISDOM. 
And then you send that book into the universe and you get this back. Kind of makes it all worthwhile, no?

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Thank you, readers!

So many fun/funny/smart things in this new year of 2019!

This week I visited a local Book Group that had just finished GLORY BE. We had a "continental breakfast" and Q&A. A donut and a book, as one boy noted, "doesn't get much better than that."

The questions were a blast. 
One of my favorites? "Do you have any family members who've read this book?"
Oh boy, do I!
Here we are, disguised as copies of GLORY BE. Fun times!

I love sharing books with kids, so when they asked me who'd inspired me and also if I could recommend another book for them to discuss, I mentioned Barbara O'Connor and WISH. The librarian hustled himself off to the library and came back with this. WISH is on the current Sunshine Readers. Win win!

And then there was the mail.
A librarian in Texas had emailed to ask my mailing address. She had a student who'd read my novel, the first book she'd completed on her own. 
Writers, this is why we spend (so so many!) years trying to publish a book. Or writing a book. Or trying to publish multiple books. It's all about the readers.

On the second page of the letter, the P.S., Isabella tells me she wants to grow up and be just like me. 
I hope that means she's going to find another book to read all by herself. 
Of course, I answered her. And of course, I mentioned a few more books she might also love.

While tidying up my files, I found a group of letters from a school in Washington state.
I'd filed them away for when I worry that nobody's paying attention. And let me tell you, that happens to all writers!
Finding them today was a gift.

"When we stopped at a chapter, I wanted to keep reading!"

"Did you have a bossy sister? Did you have a friend like Frankie? Did you live a life like Glory?"

And what librarian-turned-author wouldn't cherish a picture of the library in GLORY BE? She even remembered the "Back Room."

Did I say it doesn't get much better than this lovely way to start the New Year? 
Here's hoping you've all had a little joy in your mailboxes, too.