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!