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

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Sweeping out The Old Year(s)


    What else does one do on a cold-for-Florida Sunday afternoon but clear out files, right? 
    Most of our neighbors with kids have boxes and boxes piled in their recycling bins. I have pages and pages.

    I sent a lot of the more interesting ephemera from my books to the University of Southern Mississippi's deGrummond Children's Literature Collection. But I kept a few "gems." 
Like a whole file of rejection letters for GLORY BE. The original title was Junk Poker. No wonder it was rejected. 
Actually, it was rejected also because 
1. The time wasn't right. 
2. Historical fiction wasn't selling. 
3. Nobody wanted to read about the 60s. 
4. That editor who requested your manuscript has left the publisher. etc etc etc. 
    I also found many, many chapters with comments from various writer friends/ critique partners/ cold readers. It was like a walk down memory lane as well as a reminder that this journey didn't happen overnight. Or even over-a-year. 
But I loved that story a lot so I refused to give up. That, I suspect, was the trick. That's how you have to feel about what you've written. You have to feel in your heart that it's a book kids need to read. A book teachers will want to share. A book families can read together. And a book that, with a new title like GLORY BE, will end up in school libraries and classrooms. You'll get letters from kids telling you they love it, telling you what you messed up, telling you you need to write more stories about Glory, her sister, her sister's boyfriend, and Emma. Even if you can't do that, the letters make you feel like a million dollars.
    So for all you writers out there. Turn the calendar page to a new and glorious year and write like kids are waiting.  You never know what 2021 will bring. 
On one of my favorite, ever, Author Visit days, a boy gave me his very realistic drawing of the fabulous cover art. He told me he'd originally left out the "L" in Glory. But not to worry, he said, and he laughed, "It's fixed now."  It makes me smile every time I remember that day. Titles are pretty important. Not sure Gory Be would have caught an agent's eye any better than Junk Poker.



Monday, December 7, 2020



It's been a very long time since I posted any IT'S MONDAY! WHAT ARE YOU READING? reviews. 

 But that doesn't mean I haven't been reading.

Hats way off to my teacher and librarian friends who've managed to read, review, and blog about so many books.

Two middle-grade novels stand out in my reading month. The first is a novel told in two voices by my friend Shannon Hitchcock and her co-writer, N.H. Senzai, FLYING OVER WATER. I bought this one at their launch party, complete with a signed bookplate. (I think you can get the same by checking with our fabulous local independent bookstore, TOMBOLO BOOKS in St. Petersburg, FL.) I bought it for a young reader who's a competitive swimmer and I've already mailed it off so I can't quote from it, but it was a very fast-moving story, with excellent depictions of real kids. The Florida middle-grader in the book (Shannon's voice) is a swimmer whose family supports a newly-arrived Muslim family, refugees from Aleppo. The telling feels real, it's fast-moving, and the background of the 2017 immigration restrictions takes the story even deeper. 

The second fascinating, couldn't-wait-to-read Middle Grade novel finished this week is by a favorite author, Shelley Pearsall. I've read a couple of her other books and heard this one recommended by lots of bloggers and readers. THINGS SEEN FROM ABOVE lived up to the hype! 

Such an unusual and interesting topic. Lots of Food for Thought and character growth and the kids mostly turn out to be just fine. There are two voices in this one also, but Pearsall writes them both. The two characters interact, mostly on the playground, as April fulfills her duties as Buddy Bench volunteer. JoeyByrd (his preferred way of signing his name) is a fascinating kid with much to teach his classmates. I particularly loved the school maintenance guy, Mr. Ulysses. And April's new friend, Veena, from the Buddy Bench, who started out as a shy newcomer and found her way and a friendship. Shelley Pearsall has the perfect touch with her secondary characters. My copy gets returned to our library today where I hope it will be snatched up by a young reader.

I was assigned a Winter Round-Up of picture books by the Christian Science Monitor so I got to read a few picture books these past few months, something I don't do often enough. My reviews are HERE

One wasn't exactly a picture book but I fudged my assignment and sneaked in a book I loved, suitable for younger kids. :)Hey, it had wonderful illustrations and I was absolutely delighted by the words, too. Have you read Amy Timberlake's SKUNK AND BADGER? Yes, that Amy Timberlake, the one who's written mostly for older kids. 


 Also included in that round-up was SWASHBY AND THE SEA. Yes, it has a summer feeling (if you don't live in Florida, like I do, you might not think of beach books in December).  But the twist near the end made me smile and the book has so much going on in so few pages that I think young kids will love hearing this one read aloud.



Enjoy December, everybody! 

Buy lots of books for everyone you love. Happy reading!

Tuesday, November 24, 2020


 Good news!

There will be a 2021 Quaker Motto Calendar.

For this year, we're asking if you'll send your email address to

to receive an order form and an address to send your checks.

You can also leave a comment with your email address on this blogpost and I'll send the mailing address for payment and orders. 

Because of the scramble to get the calendars ready ASAP, the checks will go to Katharine Scattergood Marino this year. As soon as she receives your payment and order, the printer will get them to you.

Here is some information you may want to know:


Hearing how much everyone loves these little gems really made us try very hard to keep them going.

For those of you not familiar with the calendars, here's a page from yesteryear!





Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Learn from the Best

 Writing Tip Tuesday(s)

Yesterday was my buddy and NYT-bestselling-author, Barbara O'Connor's birthday.

For a completely non-birthday reason, I happened upon this quote on her blog:

The core of the writer's challenge is to tell a fresh story. As William M. Thackeray (Victorian novelist, author of Vanity Fair), summed it up: "The two most engaging powers of a good author are to make new things familiar and familiar things new."

(via Philip Martin, the editor of The New Writer's Handbook)

I love how she puts on her teacher face and shares such good advice.

Like- go all zen into your character's head and BE the character.

(Note:Even though she's older today than she was yesterday, this is not even close to how Barbara looks or how she teaches. But it is an image I borrowed from her blog because it made me smile. There's lots there that will make you smile, too.)

If you click over to Barbara's blog, you'll find a whole bunch of her Writing Tips. 

For a long time, she actually called them Writing Tip Tuesdays and every single Tuesday, I learned a whole lot.

So, happy birthday, Barbara, and thank you for passing along your amazing, funny, helpful writing advice.

Oh, and if for some reason, you and your kids, ages 9-12-ish, haven't read Barbara's fabulous middle-grade novels yet, you are in for a treat. A HUGE treat.

It's hard to pick just a favorite, but this is one I've read more than once.


BTW, I loved the original cover, but this new one, wow!


Saturday, August 15, 2020

It's Been Too Long



 We have a calendar for 2021. 

 Check out my latest blog on the topic for ordering info!


It's been way too long since I blogged. Almost the entire pandemic, it seems. 

There's nothing left to say about Quarantine/ masks/ social distancing/ homeschool so I won't even try.

But I did want to say that, sadly, there are no more QUAKER MOTTO CALENDARS.

The Scattergood family has produced these lovely gems for generations. But for various unanticipated reasons, 2020 is their last year. 

I'll try to share a few quotes here, as that was my favorite part of these perfectly-sized calendars.

Here's one the family loves. Perfect for late summer and early fall.

Enjoy your trees, wherever you are!

"Time is never wasted listening to the trees;

If to Heaven as grandly we arose as these.

Holding to each other half the kindly Grace,

Haply we were worthier of our human place."

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Poem of the Day

This morning I woke up determined to get more accomplished than a jigsaw puzzle (no judging! It's keeping us sane.) or baking cookies (ditto).

Outside my window the rain is drizzly and grey, but after weeks of temps in the 80s and high humidity, I welcome the rain. 

A perfect day to dust, right? 
So I'm dusting and tidying up my bookshelves.
And I ran across this gem. A skinny book, it was hiding between my thick Flip Dictionary and a very old guide to using Scrivener. 

I rescued GETTING THE MAIL by Cathy Cultice Lentes to read again.

And I found the perfect poem for today.

The first line made me put away my dust cloth: "I will never have clean windows."

The last lines made me roll up my sleeves:
"I dry my hands, reroll my sleeves, for the real work to be done."

And Cathy isn't talking about washing windows. 
She has the heart of a poet. 
Here's the book:

 (note my dust cloth, at rest)

GETTING THE MAIL, published by Finishing Line Press. You may order from your favorite independent bookstore.

Take time to enjoy a poem today.  After all, it's April and that's Poetry Month, you know.


Monday, March 30, 2020


Today's Monday, though sometimes it's hard to keep up. 
But this is not really a #IMWAYR post. It's more of a It's Monday and I want to Remember What to Read. 

I've seen the word HUNKER used more in the past two weeks than I have in the past two years. (Though, honestly, it never left my vocabulary, but maybe that's a Southern thing.)

So I'm hunkering down and escaping into books.
This is a post to list books everybody's recommending.
Just a list. I'll never read them all!
Possibly I'll be the only person reading the post. It will be messy. I don't really remember where most of these suggestions came from (from whom they came...), but if I do, there's a little note/ name by the book title that will mean nothing to anybody but me. 

I'll keep adding and maybe comment as I read. 

I'm not attempting to pretty it up. Or verify the titles, unless I can't help myself. (All that librarian training and experience may kick in, who knows.)

Some are books to reserve though I've maxed out my Libby reserves. (Thank you public library people for an App for e-books and saving readers during hunkering down times.) 

I'll add links that have really touched me, made me laugh, made me want to read that book! Like these!

Now, here goes my own PANDEMIC BOOKLIST (ouch, that was hard to type, sounds much too light-hearted, but I guess we have to maintain our senses of humor while hunkering).

The first few books on my list were from a social media post by Tracy Winfield Holczer asking for something easy and fun to read. I find my British mysteries do the trick. I couldn't resist jumping in with TANA FRENCH. I'd also recommend Ann Cleeves. And the Jackson Brodie books by Kate Atkinson. But since I've read almost all of the novels by those women, they aren't on my #TBR/ reserved list. And some might not think they're exactly "fun" or light! My definition of fun and light (granted, this is a stretch) is anything that keeps me turning pages and doesn't creep me out so that I can't sleep.

So, everybody, what are you reading right now?

BOOKS for my Corona quarantine

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely fine 
Goodnight, June
Princess Bride
Rachel's Holiday

Evvie Drake Starts Over

Nothing to See Here

Corduroy Mansions

Sookie Stackhouse novels

Goodnight June

Bridge of Clay

Winter Solstice

Walter Moseley. The truth of fiction

Never have I ever. Joslyn Jackson

Joanna Trollope  

if the creek don’t rise.
Peter Swanson

Len Deighton

Blum. What I learned??  (Ron)

Eliz Stroudt. Short stories. Anything is possible

Others by OVE.   (Lyn) 

The good thief
Engineer of beasts
Owl in love

Flight behavior. Audible

News of the world(Monika)
Gesture life.

Gift of rain. (Suzanne)

In the garden of beasts. Larson. Before WW2

Gary Paulson. Winter dance

Miss Jane

Recommended books

James Sallis. Drive

We love you Charlie Freeman

Almost Famous Women. Short stories

Thunderstruck. Elizabeth McCracken

Cool beautiful world

The Wangs vs the world.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Read My Book, please! Read Aloud Permission and Links

For teachers navigating the new normal, here's the link Scholastic has shared with information about reading our books to your students.

I read Chapter One of GLORY BE here:

If you'd like:
Here I am, reading a chapter from THE WAY TO STAY IN DESTINY.

There are many resources on my blog and my website. I'll continue to post here if new ones turn up.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Monday Again!

This has been my week for reading, and hiding from the world. 

The world has slowed down here in Florida. Yes, we still have our share of spring-breakers, mostly families, but the roads don't seem as crowded, the shops are empty, and spring training has shut down. 
It's a tough time for so many.
My heart goes out to all you teachers and librarians with plans for your kids that are on hold.

SO, with all the craziness in the world, let's read some good books!

First up- a perfect Middle-Grade novel. Such kid-appeal. The clever math connections, the friendships, the strong writing and plot- all make it an easy, fun, and interesting read. 
Perfect sweet spot for MG, ages 9-12. 

Here's a link to Stacy McAnulty's website with reviews, activities, a sample chapter. Good stuff! 

Another terrific middle-grade with a hint- okay more than a hint!- of a ghost story is JUST SOUTH OF HOME. This is Karen Strong's debut, and I'll be on the lookout for her next book. 
Again, this is a story with a lot of kid-friendliness. (Is that a thing?)
Family dynamics in a small southern town, some serious civil rights history woven in, kids who aren't perfect but figure things out pretty well. I loved that the narrator has a strong sense of right and wrong. 
Don't miss this one.

I'm not quite finished with Leslie Connor's newest novel, A HOME FOR GODDESSES AND DOGS, but I'll add it to today's collection. The publisher's suggested age level is 10 and Up, and I agree. Mostly because (at least so far) though there's nothing too advanced about the topic, the language feels older. Lydia, the narrator, is 13 and has recently lost her mother, but she lovingly grieves in the care of her aunt and her aunt's wife. I love the animals, Lydia's lovely memories, the winter setting. 
It's quite different from Leslie's previous two books (All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook is as good as- or better than!- any middle-grade novel I've ever read). Her newest novel may appeal to different kids, those special readers willing to invest in a quiet-ish story with heart. 

I'm not sure what made me reread SARAH PLAIN AND TALL. I hadn't read it since I worked as a librarian and that was too many years ago to count!
What a perfect book. 
If it's been a while since you read this Newbery winner, do yourself a favor and find your copy. It will make your day. A perfectly lovely, small gift of a book that takes us away from the world swirling around us.

I'm not much of a Young Adult reader, but that may change now that I've read this one by STACIE RAMEY. 
So good!  The main character is a bright girl with cerebral palsy, a crush on a boy, a mostly/usually amazing family, and a best friend. IT'S MY LIFE will have teens turning pages and then searching for Stacie's other books.


Last but not least, may I recommend a fun book about words, and writing, and grammar and all the things you never have time to think about?

This one's been on my shelf since Christmas, when my brother gifted it to me. So happy I had time to organize bookshelves!

Our lovely little public library just announced it's closed "for the foreseeable future" so I'll be using their Libby app even more and tidying up my own bookshelves.

Sending love and great reading vibes to all my #IMWAYR pals!


Thursday, March 5, 2020

What Great Kids!

It was like Old Home Week, with new people.


A few of the fabulous moments 
from my short two days in Mississippi.

 Packed and ready!

 My new buddy, Heather Wood, super librarian, 
stacking books for me to sign!

 Front and center- lots of smiles!

Photo over the booth where we ate lunch. 

Also, the terrific music teacher at Petal Elementary played all Elvis tunes as the kids came into the auditorium. 
One 3rd grader on the front row knew all the words to Hound Dog!

Petal is just outside Hattiesburg, MS, the place my mother grew up and a town where I spent lots of summers. My grandmother took us to the zoo on the bus!  

This is the church where my parents were married and a few beautiful flowers just now blooming all over Hattiesburg.

It wouldn't be a trip to Mississippi without food! 

My brother, sister and I did some seriously good eating. But I practiced enormous restraint and didn't buy those fig preserves. 
I feared the TSA agents would grab them at the New Orleans airport.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Happy Birthday to my Blog!

February 22, 2008
My very first post!

Did I ever expect, some 1,245 posts later, I'd still have a thing to say?
Okay, that was a rhetorical question. No need to comment. ;)

What was fun while scrolling back a little bit was remembering all the books I'd read and reviewed. And all the friends I've made along the way.

Danette and our Insomniacs Club. She and I accept parallel parking challenges. I first wrote about her book in 2008 and I still love her books!

A few years ago, my buddy Eileen redid my logo. All these clicks later, I love it as much as when she designed it.

I met Rosi Hollenbeck at a Highlights Foundation Workshop, also a while back. Now I love reading her blog and she kindly comments on mine.

Just a few friends who've made this writing thing so much fun.

I started this blog before I'd published a book. But I had a dream!

 Thanks, everybody, for reading! Hope you'll stick around!

Birthday Thought for the Day:

Monday, February 17, 2020

Monday Reading

Again, I've been lax.

I read a lot of books and forget to blog about them. If it weren't for
#IMWAYR, I'd probably never remember what all I've read.

BUT this has been a great week for reading Middle-grade Fiction.

First off, a book from a writer whose books I admire so much. Susan Hill Long writes funny, she writes poignant, she writes adventure and she writes books with true heart.

This one just came out and I predict kids will love it. Publisher's Weekly agrees.

Yes, there's a baseball subplot going on. And this is my favorite time of year to read baseball-related novels. But oh that Josie! How I love her.

I also just I finished an ARC, sent by the publisher. (Pubbing early March, thank you FSG!)

I was interested in this novel because I know a woman with Turner Syndrome, and have known her most of her life. But I've never read much about it and certainly not a middle-grade book.

WHAT STARS ARE MADE OF is a debut novel by Sarah Allen. The writer has Turner Syndrome and the book felt very authentic about the disorder. Libby, the 12-year-old narrator isn't so great at making friends or knowing the right thing to say and I loved how the author developed an unusual friendship between Libby and a new girl in her class. The story moves quickly along, and the narrator is definitely a character kids will relate to.
In the publicity material I received along with the book, the author quotes C.S. Lewis: "We read to know that we are not alone." So true.

Another Advance Reader Copy I was privileged to read is Rebecca Stead's newest


Thank you, NetGalley!

The book's publishing in April, 2020.  I'm a huge fan of Stead's, and I bet a lot of kids will love her new book.
Two dads, a loving mom who's in the picture, a big blended family, a kid with all sorts of fun things in her life, a wedding and a lot of good things to eat.  :)

And of course, she's worried that her world will change with her new family.

Here's the starred review from Publishers Weekly.
I'm sure many more will follow, or maybe already have.
Plus, love that cover, don't you?

In my grownup reading world, I finished and enjoyed another Ann Cleeves book and I'm reading my second detective/ thriller/ mystery by another Brit, Mick Heron. My guilty pleasure/ nighttime reading.

I also read a ghost story, something I don't do often. It kept me awake at night, so think I'll avoid that genre.

Can't wait to hear all the book recommendations from my It's Monday What Are You Reading? pals!

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Consider Your Heroes

Perhaps now more than ever, it's important to choose role models kids can look up to. Is it because we know more now about our heroes than we ever did? Is it the culture, the ability to read everything anybody does, good and bad?

Not that writers haven't always tried to hold up good examples! 
I started writing THE WAY TO STAY IN DESTINY over ten years ago. The seed of an idea for that book came from a childhood experience --one degree of separation from a baseball hero. But that hero had taken a big fall since my childhood memory. And an editor who read the manuscript (and rejected it with a lot of nice comments) suggested "my" baseball player might not be the best hero for the kids of Destiny, Florida.

I'd lived in Atlanta when I was a young librarian just beginning my career. I knew Hank Aaron was a hero. It was an easy switch.

So choose your heroes carefully, writers. If you're placing a character on a pedestal, be sure he or she deserves it.

There are a lot of interesting stories out there about Hank Aaron. He doesn't mind speaking up about things he believes to be wrong. 
Here's his take on the recent cheating scandals in baseball. 
He started a foundation that has helped so many kids.
He's an all-around good guy. 
A perfect book character. 
Somebody kids should remember.

My buddy Eileen, who still lives in Atlanta and follows the news, shared this resource via her local TV station and a Facebook page., on the occasion of Aaron's 86th February birthday. 
(Photos and a letter from the president via the John F. Kennedy Library.)

This is the kind of sports hero our kids need to know about.

Friday, January 24, 2020


Cleveland, Mississippi. My hometown.

The title of this movie recently changed and I love the new title: FAR EAST DEEP SOUTH.  

They're beginning to show it all over the country, including the Oxford Film Festival and of course, several places in California, where the producers live.

If you have a chance, do see it. I can't wait!

Also, this is the story behind MAKING FRIENDS WITH BILLY WONG. So, if you're intrigued by the immigration story of southern Chinese, you may be interested in my book and this movie.

Here's the trailer. Quite beautiful and what a story!

Far East Deep South Trailer from Only Won on Vimeo.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Happy Birthday, GLORY BE!

Was it really January 1, 2012? Wow.

I remember the first time I saw my first book in a hardcover, book-jacketed, fabulously cover-arted edition. It was real! It was a book!

As a librarian, it was a thrill.
As a writer who'd worked ten years, off and on, through a number (ahem!) of rejections, it was sheer joy.

Still is.

Thank you to everybody who brought this book into the world. Thank you to the teachers and librarians who've put it on their states' children choice award lists. 
Thank you for the great reviews, over all these years. 

 The sheet cake my daughter ordered to celebrate GLORY BE's beginning!

I'm proud of GLORY BE which chosen by Mississippi to represent our state at the National Book Festival, awarded the 2013 Crystal Kite Award, and given lots of other really amazing accolades.

Resources and links may be found on my blog, HERE.

Oh, and PS- There's a certain online site that has the HARDCOVER on sale for $8.
(I didn't think you could even buy a hardcover edition most places.)

 Fun Author Visit memory. My first visit "home" to a Mississippi school.

I'm a big fan of Skype visits, too! 

 Cookies! I need one of these! Right now!
(from a very special NYC Book Club night. )