Books -- reading and writing.
Home, cooking, the weather.
And whatever connections I can make between them.

Sunday, August 17, 2014


All writers I know love to eavesdrop. I tell kids when they ask What Does it Take to Be A Writer? that they must listen and remember.

Or in my case, listen and write it down.

The best place for eavesdropping is one where you'll blend in. A train ride, for example.
I like to name characters seen on the train and imagine their stories.

Here's an exchange between a boy in a Yankee cap and another kid, possibly his older sister.

I don't think I'll be using this. Go ahead and steal it if you'd like.

BOY (as we pulled into the South Orange stop on the NJ Transit Mid-Town Direct to NYC):
"This looks just like New York!"

GIRL: You've never even been to New York.

BOY: "Well, it looks just like what I've seen on Cash Cab."

What's the best eavesdropping conversation you've heard? 
Or are you really going to tell me you never eavesdrop...

Check this site for even more confessions of writers eavesdropping.

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Value of Notes

A zillion years ago, I went to one of the very first "whole novel" workshops sponsored by the HIGHLIGHTS FOUNDATION. Carolyn Coman led the entire thing, with help from her husband Stephen Roxburgh.

The workshop was SEEING INTO YOUR STORY.

I have an entire legal pad filled with notes.
Obviously, my story needed a whole lot of seeing into.

But some of the notes reflect exactly the same things my now editor, Andrea Pinkney, told me when I began revising THE WAY TO STAY IN DESTINY.

Which, by the way, was what I worked on during that long weekend in Honesdale with Carolyn.
Back when I barely had a rough draft.

And the main character's name was Shelton. (now Theo)
And his uncle's name was Chester. (now Raymond)

I had no clue what the time period was though I thought it was the present.

The baseball player the kids loved was Mickey Mantle. (now Henry Aaron)

Don't even ask.

Some of the advice Carolyn gave me.
1. Make a bigger deal of the piano scenes.
2. Shelton doesn't have to be quite as sad if his parents died a long time ago and he's been living in a happy situation ever since.

Some of the excellent, quick tips I wrote, filling my entire legal pad.

1. If possible, have characters already knowing each other. Introductions are difficult.
2. Re: PACING. Err on the side of brevity. You can always add. But your potential editor or agent may get bogged down.

Some of the exercises we did (the ones I liked. I'm not crazy about all writing exercises...):

Who were the voices that made you laugh in your childhood, or in the present?
What were some of the expressions you grew up with?  * (see below for answers)

I wonder how many of my writer friends have attended a Highlights Foundation Workshop?
Did you learn as much as I did?

Here we are in our class photo. All those years ago.
The beginning of a great journey that thankfully turned into a book.
Coming, January 2015.

Answer to *
1. Hotter than a depot stove.
2. That ole' peckerwood. (My childhood word's meaning is totally not what some of the current slang dictionaries say it means...)
3. If you don't behave, I'm getting a switch off that switch tree.

I wasn't blogging back in those days, but you can read about some of my Highlights writer friends HERE.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Things I Love: Old and New

Can you think of anything better than a Writers Reunion?
My original critique group, sans one important member, happened to be at the same place at the same time yesterday.

So I dusted off (figuratively speaking) two favorite old things, my tomato server and a silver compote. Not to mention a story or two.

They are favorites because they were wedding gifts I've used a lot.
And love a lot.
The tomato server was a gift of my grandmother's lifelong best friend, who shared her "S" initial with me and gave me her engraved server.

The compote came from one of the funniest ladies I've ever known. Annie B. Gipson.
When I was a middle-grader, I worked with her and we laughed all the time.

 Here's the reason we gathered. Our friend Leslie Guccione was in town.
Look at those yummy New Jersey tomatoes!

 Here we all are!
Lee Stokes Hilton, Leslie, and Kay Kaiser.
(Lee's excellent food blog can be found

The GLORY BE M&Ms fall into the realm of new favorite things. Leftover from one of my last school visits.
And the idea came from an amazing Mother Daughter Book Group dinner, a connection made through a teaching colleague many years ago when I worked in Baltimore.
A job I loved.
With people I truly loved (and still do!).

Such good memories.
Now I'll stop strolling down memory lane and get back to the fabulous writing ideas this group generated. 

(You may be interested in this post, about one of my trips back "home" to Baltimore.)

Saturday, August 9, 2014

And another perspective...

Following on my post yesterday, great minds thinking alike and all that, my friend Caroline Rose has posted a perfect quote on her blog:

We need books — and I want to publish books — that reflect the whole range of a child or teenager’s emotional experiences and take us through those experiences with them. So the stories come through a child’s heart and speak to a child’s heart; so they have the bravery and honesty to look at a muddle* and acknowledge its pain, and not to be moralistic or easy; and, in the end, to help us all make it through.


Friday, August 8, 2014

Solving the Problems of the World Through Literature...

Or not.

I've had such great talks with kids about my book. Some of their questions about GLORY BE, about the 60s, about integration, even about my opinions, have blown me away.

Still, I feel very strongly that writers shouldn't set out to solve the problems of the world in a book. Or to teach young readers all the answers. That's not why I write. But if a book's topic relates to something going on in a child's life, in her school, on a sports team, make that connection. Just understand that the author probably didn't sit down one day and say "Hmmm, let's teach kids to be nicer to each other."

In a good book, it just happens that way.

For tips on the topic, especially as your younger child begins a new school year,
check out this article from Scholastic via Parent and Child.

I've probably only written about this one time, an interview with Children's Literature Network, linked HERE:

Of course, I know writers look for ways to connect their books to kids, teachers, parents. But a good book stands on its own. No preaching necessary!
The connections, when they are made, happen magically- or so it seems.

Opinions are welcome. That's what the comment box is for.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Way We Write

I so love this:

"We prewrite. We unwrite.  It’s messy."

from Linda Urban's blog about writing THE CENTER OF EVERYTHING. 

Here's the post: Click right on over-

There's more, here:

And be sure to check back. Linda promises she's going to tell us more about her writing process. Every writer is different, but what fun to watch those wheels turn, right?

One of my favorite books ever is HOUND DOG TRUE by Linda Urban. Here's a short review, plus more:

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Dancing to the Oldies

Today I'm excitedly reading what's known as Second Pass Pages for my new book, THE WAY TO STAY IN DESTINY. This is a PDF of exactly what the pages will look like. I'm searching for typos. I'm finding none so far.
(Oh, how I love you, Scholastic production team!)

There's a dance theme to this book.

Growing up in Cleveland, Mississippi and taking tap and ballet classes forever, I adored my teacher, Ruth Hart.

A little while ago, my friend and fellow childhood dancer, Beth Boswell Jacks, wrote an essay that pretty much speaks to how a lot of us felt about our dance teachers. You can read it HERE

I'm sharing this quote from the head of that essay. 
I think it speaks to a lot of the arts- hey to a lot of life lessons, right?

                     “Nobody cares if you can’t dance well. Just get up
                       and dance. Great dancers are not great because
                     of their technique, they are great because of their
                               passion.” – Martha Graham

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Secret Hum of a Daisy

 Funny, tiny remarks that still make me smile:

Jo saying, "I come here all the time when it gets warm and film the wildlife, which includes people."

"That's how it had always been with Mama. Taping things up in a way that was easy to take down."
(She used double-sided tape. What a great image.)

First line: All I had to do was walk up to the coffin.

(I'm thinking a lot about First Lines these days. So important!
Re: Richard Peck's talk at Books of Wonder.  And another Richard Peck beginning thought is HERE.)

Won't give away last line but it does refer back to the title. Which I always like. Titles are also tough. I kept forgetting this one while I was reading the book. Afterwards, not so much.

Here's a nice, short review of Tracy Holczer's debut middle-grade novel, via Publisher's Weekly:

I read this one on the advice of an interesting list in the Christian Science Monitor of the best middle-grade books of the year, so far (though truthfully, some are Young Adult in my opinion) HERE.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


I'm way behind in my adult novels To Be Read list.
To whoever recommended this one, thank you and I'm sorry I didn't get to it a year ago when you raved.

A perfect vacation read, THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS is written by M.L. Stedman, an Australian living in London. 
Click to read that the novel's ->  ->
Coming soon to the movies!

The book is about many things I love: lighthouses, families, World War I. 

For a terrific interview about writing the book, click here:

As I turned the pages quickly (because it was that kind of story- hey Oprah likes it too!), I was reminded of writing advice I recently read on Janice Hardy's blog about creating conflict:

2. Offer an impossible choice

Choices move the plot, but impossible choices make the protagonist work for it. When there’s no clear answer, and both choices have terrible consequences, readers know something about the story is going to change and the stakes are going up–two solid ways to keep readers hooked. 

To read the rest of her tips, CLICK HERE.

Without spoiling the novel for those of you who haven't read it, Stedman is quite good at that impossible choice thing. 

Anything else I shouldn't miss reading this summer, which will be gone when I blink fast?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

How Many Pages is Enough?

Intriguing post over at 100 Scope Notes today.

Be sure to read the comments, too. There were 36 at my last count!

Truly, it's not only about PAGE COUNT as far as heft (or lack thereof) goes. 

My first novel was 196 pages, not counting the Author Note, etc. But the new book might be a tad longer--not much!-- AND the font's smaller. So there's that.

But Travis Jonker has a point over there on his blog. I love shorter middle-grade novels. 192 works for me!

Click right here and check it out:

Plus, it's a fun topic to think about. And he's a funny guy.

"What if a story is longer, you say? Either it gets edited down, or slap a #1 on the spine because that sucker’s becoming a series. Shorter? Beef that puppy up."

Monday, July 14, 2014

Quote of the Day

I love this from my writing group buddy, Teddie Aggeles, on a chapter I sent to my Skyway Writers SCBWI critique group last week:

"I’m not sure we can completely know a Main Character the way we need to until the story unfolds. 
...even when we think we know our characters, there’s always more to discover about them, just like in real life."

(I'm trying, really.)

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Being Still and Listening

July seems like a good time to re-post advice I'm still working on.
Of course, it never hurts to be in a place where your choices for Internet Background Noise are limited.

My husband's great-grandmother hung this where she could read it every day during the summer months she spent in this quiet place.

 (Here's a reposting from two years ago.)
"The discipline of the writer is to learn to be still and listen to what his subject has to tell him."
                 Rachel Carson

This morning I read Candice Farris Ransom's post about switching off the internet and listening Here it is. What do you think? I don't think I can completely unplug. But I'll try to strike a balance.

I'm leaning toward the advice of Laurie Halse Anderson, 
in her blogpost about Social Media.

Cut the amount of time you spent on social media and reading blogs about writing and getting published by 75%. Yep. If you spent 10 hours a week on that stuff, then from now on, spend 2.5 hours. Use the time that you get back for writing your novel and for reading great books. That will make your chances of getting published much stronger than any Facebook post ever will.

Of course, I'd spent an entirely productive time cruising around on Laurie Halse Anderson's blog.  She's got some great advice and fantastic visuals so I'll be back.  She'll be in my 25%.

It's the other internet background noise I may be able to live without. 
It's a lot easier to be still and listen when the background noise isn't clutter.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Diving In

Sharing a quote I copied from Bruce Black's WORDSWIMMER blog

"You can't cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water."
--Rabindranath Tagore


(Which seems entirely appropriate from where I sit today, not far from the water, not having a clue how to get on over and end this story.)

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Glory's Birthday!

Yes, I know, it's a little strange to wish a book character a happy birthday. Sort of like having an imaginary friend, isn't it? 

But my first main character, Gloriana June Hemphill, has a birthday that coincides with a national holiday. 
A great excuse for a blogpost, right?

I previously wrote more about Glory and her
 July 4th birthday HERE.

I'm eternally grateful for all the teachers and librarians who've shared my book, Glory's birthday and Freedom Summer with young readers.

Horn Book recently included GLORY BE in a new list of books  about Freedom Summer.

And I'm beyond excited to have been invited to talk about my book and what I know about that summer. I'll be in Oxford, Ohio, home of Miami University where so many of the 1964 Freedom Summer workers were trained. Details to follow. At least one of the events will be open to the public, so I hope to see a few Ohio friends there!

If you missed the remarkable movie, FREEDOM SUMMER via PBS, here's a link: 

Have a terrific July 4th weekend, everybody! 

(And listen to Elvis, Glory. He doesn't wish just anybody a happy birthday.)

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Welcome, Nancy Castaldo

I love it when author friends stop by. Nancy and I met last fall when we go-assisted at a Highlights Historical Fiction Whole Novel retreat. (Here's our fun group.)

Now she has a book coming- in a few days!- about a subject near to my heart: DOGS!

But not just any dog. 
These are special creatures, working dogs. Shelter dogs, Sniffers extraordinaire!

So sit with us and pour an iced tea. Feel free to jump in with questions for Nancy in the comments section.

You can also pop over to her website:

Augusta: How did you find these amazing dog subjects? Did you actually get to meet them all?

Nancy: That was the best part of the research, Augusta. These dogs were amazing and I felt so lucky to spend time with them.  It took a lot of research to connect with some, but I had serendipitous meetings with a few. Like, Rocky, for example. I met him while he was working in my local shopping mall. I felt like I was witnessing something incredible every time I went off with one of them. And to think most of them had been abandoned in shelters before their sniffer dog careers!

Augusta: I love the genre of non-fiction picture books. Any advice for an aspiring writer?

Nancy: Write about something you are passionate about and let that passion shine through in your writing.  Enjoy your research and make it count. Research is the main ingredient in writing nonfiction.  It can be easy to get lost in it. 

Augusta: Ah, research. Yes, easy to get lost.
I know you take a lot of your own photographs. Can you tell us your own background, how you came into this type of writing and illustrating?

Nancy: In my senior year of college I interned at Audubon Magazine. It was the perfect internship for me. I was finishing a double major in biology and chemistry, was co-editor of our literary magazine and was a photography student.  The internship combined everything I loved.  I stayed for the full year and realized I wanted to ultimately combine writing and photography. This is the first book that I have been able to do that and it’s been a fantastic experience.

Augusta: The story of the medical sniffers and Zack’s dog Alan was one of my favorites. Is there anything you left out of these dogs’ stories that you wish you could have kept? Anything your readers might like to know?

Nancy: Sniffer dogs are all wonderful, hard working dogs. I only wish I could have included more of them in this book. My intent was to have the reader meet each type of sniffer dog and really get to know them. I hope I accomplished that.

Augusta: You did that so well. Tell us, what are you working on now?

Nancy: I’m working on another book for Houghton Mifflin about seeds that has taken me as far as Russia for research. It will be out next year!

Augusta: Seeds! Wow. Intriguing topic. So Nancy, we'd like to know- what do you read for fun?

Nancy: Just about everything! I love all genres of kid lit, but I do have a leaning towards historical fiction.  I’m a reviewer for the Historical Novel Society and have the opportunity to dive into many great books. I also love to read nonfiction – both adult and kids.

Augusta: Why am I not surprised you like historical fiction?

Where’s your favorite place to write? Are you a coffeeshop kind of gal?

Nancy: I love working in my home office. I live in a rural area and can see everything from birds and deer out my window to rows of corn.  And I have two great office buddies, my 90 pound golden doodle, Gatsby, and my cat, Zuzu, to keep me company. They also happen to be the best first listeners! :)

Augusta: You are blessed! Have you always loved dogs and had pets?

Nancy: Yes!  I had everything when I was a kid – rabbits, guinea pigs, lizards, turtles, frogs, salamanders, birds, as well as a dogs and cats. In fact, I volunteered in our local animals shelter for years. I thought I’d end up being a vet, but found I enjoyed working with animals in the wild a lot more!

Thanks for hosting me on your blog today, Augusta. This has been fun!  

 Thank you for stopping by, Nancy. 

Leave us a comment about your dog, Nancy's book, the amazing service dogs and all the special animals in your lives.
And don't forget to check out SNIFFER DOGS, ready to order right now!

A link to the excellent KIRKUS review, with ordering info is RIGHT HERE.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

First Pass Pages

For those of you who might not know how the editing process goes (I sure didn't!), I'll tell you what I'm doing to my new novel right now. Novel-to-be. Coming, January, 2015.

We've been through copyediting. That was about a month or two ago. Time flies. 
During that stage of the process, I changed sentences, checked time frames, made sure my characters' names, hair colors, etc, were consistent. Answered all the copyeditor's questions. There were a few. Okay more than a few.
Now I have in front of me an actual printed copy, sent by Scholastic, of what the book's pages will look like. FIRST PASS PAGES.
Chapter headings, italics, the "handwritten" notes set off in different fonts, etc.


(No, that's not what the actual cover art will look like. Stay tuned for that as soon as I can share.)

Now this is our chance to fix tiny things. Like whether a question mark might be better than that period I originally thought worked.

Or whether it's possible that a bucket of night crawlers would cost $.50 in 1974.
(Yes, because my brother and his fishing buddy Galen told me so. It's a big bucket.)

This time I didn't get as many Stets as before. 
That means should we leave it as is, for voice? 
For example, "I swan"-- which we all recognize as a real word, right?
Maybe because this novel isn't as southern as GLORY BE was. 
Or maybe this editor grew up in the South and has a southern granny in her family. 

Tomorrow, off it goes. Back to my editor. 
All 170-plus pages of THE WAY TO STAY IN DESTINY!

PS If you're still reading...
After meticulously going over the entire manuscript for the zillionth time this weekend, I decided I could finally toss out some of the old printed chapters I'd saved during revision. And I discovered some interesting (to me! Possibly to no one else!) things. 

1. The first time I showed it to a professional in the book business was in 2004 at a Rutgers One-on-One conference when my mentor was Sally Keehn. 
My agent, Linda Pratt, was also there. Fun to imagine what would have happened if our paths had crossed way back then. 

2. One of my longest critiquing friendships has been with my buddy Janet McLaughlin. She's now in my actual Florida writers group (Go, Skyway Writers!). But I bet she doesn't remember seeing THE WAY TO STAY IN DESTINY when we were in that now defunct online group, many moons ago. Many titles ago. Many character deletions and renamings ago.
The group didn't last long for us, but I continued to tap away at this book and Janet continued to comment.

I also smiled to see other familiar names critiquing my early versions. 
When Sue Laneve organized a new Pinellas County Florida group, I found my people.
My very first SCBWI Critique group. 

Hello, Denis, Sylvia, Lenore et al.
Thanks, Sue.

(Old chapters, ready for recycling!)


Friday, June 27, 2014


In its great generosity, SCHOLASTIC has sent me not one but two ARCs of Kathryn Erskine's new novel for ages 8-12. Perhaps it was unintentional. But I'm going to share the wealth.

 (very cool cover, no?)

Since they just arrived, I've not read the book yet. 
Though the first few pages made me want to hide under a shady tree, forget my To Do list, and read.

Since it's not available for sale until August 26, perhaps you haven't read it either?

Would you like one of my Advanced Reader Copies?
Go ahead, leave me a comment!  Here or on Facebook.
I'll draw ONE name tomorrow and whisk it in the mail ASAP. (You didn't think I was going to share both copies, did you? I can't wait to read it!)
NB: if you're the winner, I'll need to have a shipping address no later than Monday. 
So stay tuned, please.

Here's what you might want to know about this intriguing novel:

National Book Award winner Kathryn Erskine presents a unique novel about a sickly boy's epic journey through England and Scotland at the height of Medieval times.

Adrian is small for his age, even for an almost thirteen year old. It doesn't help that  he has albinism, which makes those he meets wonder if he's an angel or a devil. His father is a bowyer, and all Adrian wants to do is become apprenticed and go off to war as an archer. But that's not what his father wants for him. Since Adrian can write, his father wants him to be a scribe. That's just about the last thing Adrian wants. When the Scots invade England and Adrian's best friend Hugh runs off to find his father and fight in battles, Adrian soon follows, intent on finding Hugh and joining him in glorious warfare against the pagans invading England from the north. When Adrian finds Hugh, who is caring for a wounded Scotsman, he's horrified that Hugh would aid an enemy. But soon, as Adrian gets to know Donald, he begins to question what he's been taught about the enemy and the nature of war. In this epic journey an afflicted boy finds an inner strength he never knew belonged to him.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Another list

A To-Do list for your revision:

I'm trying #4. 

4. Highlight the Surges
Some passages will stand out as being particularly stunning; pay attention to them in each chapter and apply their energy to the rest of your writing.

And #10 is excellent advice:

10. Remember to pace yourself when revising; otherwise you may become overwhelmed and discouraged, even confused into incessant rewrites. Your story needs to settle between revision stages. As my colleague said, “you don’t need to beat up your nice friend all at once.”

(Not sure I am to that STUNNING thing yet, but that's the process, right? )

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Amazing Andrea and her Arbuthnot Lecture

Maybe it was because the Bible of children's literature in my day was written by May Hill Arbuthnot.  I used her textbook in my children's lit classes at Simmons College. 

Or maybe it's because I own a copy of The Arbuthnot Anthology of Children's Literature, given to me by my grandmother, a 4th grade teacher, when I was a mere babe. 

For whatever reason, Arbuthnot rolls off my tongue with familiarity! 

And now, I'm so happy to share this. My editor, Andrea Davis PInkney, was chosen by the American Library Association to deliver the lecture at the University of Minnesota.

(Click here to see all the other giants in the world of children's books who've lectured before.)

I don't know how anybody could be so amazing for as long as Andrea did. The requirements alone would do in a lesser person.

There's singing! Drama! Laughter!
It's touching, poignant, and informative.

Pour a glass of tea. Settle in. You are in for such a treat.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Those Tabs Up There?

If you're a teacher or a libraian reading this, be sure to click on the FOR TEACHERS tab at the top of this blog.

I've heard from several teacher/ librarian connections that blogs are verboten on some school computers!
So there's also info about me and my book(s) on my website.  

But here on this blog, I just updated a few things.

Because of some of the letters and requests I get from kids asking what the voices of the characters sound like to me (!), I put up a new (hopefully better) link to my reading of the first chapter.
Here is is:

And this short list of books that HORN BOOK recommended about Freedom Summer.

Thanks for checking in and for sharing my book with your young readers.

I almost titled this blog post: GLORY BE FOR TEACHERS AND LIBRARIANS.
That sounded pretty darn good. Any way you look at it.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Meaning of Maggie

Here are some of the things I love about this book.

The cover.

(and not just because it has a library card and date stamper on it. But that's part of it.)

Maggie's attitude toward her sisters. How it changes and is so very true to real sisters.

The wisdom she develops as the story progresses.

And certainly not least of all. The book trailer. Wow.

Click HERE to see what Mr. Schu has to say and to read Megan Jean Sovern's interview. 

Click HERE to read my thoughts on whether something that takes place so recently is truly historical fiction. 

Linda Urban just wrote the greatest blogpost about The Meaning of Maggie. CLICK HERE to go there. 

(My copy was from the library. I was lucky. I understand there's a long reserve list now. If you've read it, do let the rest of us know what you think. If you haven't read it, get thee to a library or a bookstore asap!)

Here's Maggie's amazing trailer. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Kids Say the Greatest Things

Which perhaps I've failed to report in sufficient quantities this year.
But I've had a great time hearing them, noting them, smiling and realizing kids' book writers are the luckiest ducks in the world!

5th Grade Boy, Orlando. Buying 2 copies of my book.
"Just sign one of them to me. Only need your name on the other. I'm selling it on Ebay."

My last school visit of 2013-2014 was bittersweet- hate for the year to end!-  but great fun. 
Thanks, Scholastic and My Very Own Library, for inviting me to talk to the kids at two schools in Newark, NJ, and for giving those kids some awesome books. 
Such great kids, so well prepared, the best listeners.

Here I am, signing books, schmoozing with a terrific librarian at Ivy Hill School.

The boys at Eagle Academy helped me stand on a chair in the back of the room so I could be seen in this group of young men, standing tall.

I do love this part of being a writer. 
Now summer's here and it's back to the other part- the actual writing.
Have a great vacation, kids, and I hope you read a ton of books!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Accidental Metaphor

Oh, how I love Anne Tyler.

A few random descriptions to learn from.
Though the Anne Tyler bar is mighty high.

Chips of cloudy sky.

Jeans with stiff, hard seams.

The watery blindness of rain.

Exuberant hair  
(Love this! Can't you see it?)

And perhaps the best of all?
She was the sort of woman who stored her flatware intermingled.

Check out this Writer's Digest interview: 

Since she's long been a favorite writer of mine, I've blogged about Anne Tyler before.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

A Thing I Totally Love

School has ended in Florida and some of those last letters are just reaching me, possibly written in the final, fun, hectic days.
A batch arrived just now- written by an after-school Book Club's very enthusiastic, Book-Battling readers. 
Near the end of the year, we'd had a fun afternoon together.

Loved all the messages, especially the musical notes and Elvis Rocks! Elvis Lives! etc. illustrations.

But this card might take the cake.
Something I'll smile about for a long time.

Look closely. See how cleverly he sneaked that "L" into Glory?

The teacher told me they had a great laugh over the original.

They agreed it would make an excellent follow-up title for my next book about Glory:

Gory Be! Gloriana Gets Mad

Friday, June 6, 2014

Revision Thoughts

Keep in mind that characters need to change along the way to their story's end. As a certain brilliant editor says, "A curtain must lift" and enable them to know something they didn't know when they started this journey.

And then there's this quote, from writer Richard Peck:
“A young adult novel ends not with happily ever after, but at a new beginning, with the sense of a lot of life left to be lived.”

(Thanks to Cheryl Klein's website for the quote. Here's another quote to ponder, from Cheryl herself:  Being obvious is the quickest way to be dull.)

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Happy Donut Day!

Almost as soon as I stopped being a librarian and announced (to no one in particular) that I wanted to write, my childhood friend Beth Jacks offered me a gig on her new website USADeepSouth. I'll forever be grateful to Beth, who had tons more writing credentials than I did. She suggested I write book reviews, featuring southern-themed books. What a grand idea! I jumped all over it.

Now that National Donut Day is almost upon us, I thought I'd share my
review of John T. Edge's book about DONUTS from that website.

I'm sorry to report that on a very recent layover in the Houston airport, I spotted a Shipley's and bought 2 donuts. They did not live up to my childhood memories. 

Don't you hate when that happens? 

I am certain, however, that the Donut Sundaes I remember from "The Goose" would hold up to my modern-day dessert standards= Yeast donut, ice cream, hot fudge sauce. 
I think I'll make one tomorrow to celebrate the day.


(You can also find this review on the website:

DONUTS: AN AMERICAN PASSION by John T. Edge (G.P. Putnam, 2006)

If you’ve ever stood outside a Krispy Kreme waiting for the flashing red light or driven across two counties to pick up a dozen Shipleys, then this fourth addition to John T. Edge’s American food series is for you. He started with fried chicken, then added apple pie and hamburgers. What could be better than topping it off with a quick dozen donuts or two?

As he combs the country in search of donut history, Edge shows us why he’s one of our best food writers. He ferrets out the corner mom and pop operations and digs into the reasons they stay in business (or not). He doesn’t just slosh through old newspapers yellowing in libraries or crisp microfilmed magazine covers to research food history. His research includes eating his way through sugar-coated donuts (or a slugburger or chicken fried in almost anything).

But we’re glad this time he chose to shed a little light on donuts. Otherwise we’d never know about the Salvation Army’s public relations coup in the First World War. As their Lassies fried donuts in a helmet, or perhaps a galvanized trash can, the mission was to help the troops feel more at home. Their doughnuts (the spelling has only recently been shortened) were made from excess rations and whatever the ladies had on hand, and after the War American soldiers returned home hankering for more. According to Edge’s research, so many planned to open donut shops that the military published a book on the subject.

My early donut memories include the superbly fat-ladened Donut Sundae at the Old Goose at M.S.C.W. (glazed yeast donut, vanilla ice cream, hot fudge sauce), selling boxes of Shipley donuts to benefit my Girl Scout troop, and standing over boiling hot oil waiting for homemade donuts in my mother’s kitchen. Perhaps. like Edge, Homer Price— that curious character from Robert McCloskey’s book--  made you laugh out loud in fifth grade with his donut machine gone awry. Whatever your attachment to donuts, John T. Edge has you covered. 

Don’t skip the chapter, or maybe even a trip, to Westport, Massachusetts, where he tempts us with a cinnamon sugar-dusted cake donut, then segueways into a chocolate-glazed yeast. But Edge is after the big prize here- the proprietor’s famous “Long John.”  As with other local donut shops, Butler’s Colonial Donut House has a following that required a visit and a taste. “Rich…sprightly with berries, swaddled in dairy,” the Long John is shaped like a hotdog bun turned on its side and does not disappoint. John T. Edge’s description makes you want to jump in the car and head for Massachusetts. Or in a pinch, the closest Dunkin’ Donuts.

(Sorry about the picture, Mr. Edge. I'm sure you'd never use a DD photo, but you have to admit, it does add a spice of color...)

Wednesday, May 28, 2014


I wish I knew the origin of this. 

Obviously, it was a list of writing inspiration ideas. I wish I had the rest of them.
Anybody out there have a clue?

This was tucked away in an email from myself to myself!
May, 2008. 
Which is embarrassing to admit.
(Yes, I'm deleting old emails as fast as I'm tossing out old journals and scribbles.)

I already keep a weather journal and a name journal and a journal about writing. But I love the other thoughts. 

"No snow today" sounds downright poetic!

30. Structure a poem or prose writing according to city streets, miles, walks, drives. For example: Take a fourteen-block walk, writing one line per block to create a sonnet; choose a city street familiar to you, walk it, make notes and use them to create a work; take a long walk with a group of writers, observe, make notes and create works, then compare them; take a long walk or drive- write one line or sentence per mile. Variations on this.

31. The uses of journals. Keep a journal that is restricted to one set of ideas, for instance, a food or dream journal, a journal that is only written in when it is raining, a journal of ideas about writing, a weather journal. Remember that journals do not have to involve "good" writing-they are to be made use of. Simple one-line entries like "No snow today" can be inspiring later. Have 3 or 4 journals going at once, each with a different purpose. Create a journal that is meant to be shared and commented on by another writer--leave half of each page blank for the comments of the other.
Meditate on a word, sound or list of ideas before beginning to write.

42. Take a book of poetry you love and make a list, going through it poem by poem, of the experiments, innovations, methods, intentions, etc. involved in the creation of the works in the book.

47. If you have an answering machine, record all messages received for one month, then turn them into a best-selling novella.