Wednesday, June 14, 2017

An Abundance of Elephants

My 2017 One Little Word is ABUNDANCE.

As a way to celebrate this word, I've posted here and here about objects I have an abundance of.

Today it's ELEPHANTS! It occurred to me yesterday when I was writing about another strand in my writer's DNA. I think elephants, too, are in my DNA. They keep coming up in my work, that's for sure! There was Millie in DON'T FEED THE BOY...
art by Stephanie Graegin

....and Miss Fancy, the real-life elephant in my forthcoming historical picture book FRANK AND MISS FANCY, set in 1913, about a black boy's quest to meet the elephant during Jim Crow Birmingham, Alabama. Wait till you see John Holyfield's art for this book... gorgeous!

Miss Fancy!

Around the house I found an elephant parade:

BOOKS about elephants...

an old one!

one I just finished!

elephant blankets (and not 
the Roll Tide variety, either... WAR EAGLE!)

... and elephant art. (This piece was a gift
from a friend who picked it up in India!)

Want to see some rescued elephants living the sweet life? Check out the elecam at The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Another Strand in My Writing DNA

This past weekend we saw a wonderful production of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF here in Birmingham, put on by Red Mountain Theatre Company.

I laughed. I cried. I hummed along. And I realized this is one of those DNA pieces for me -- right up there with LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE and THE BLACK STALLION. It's got so many of the elements I love, so many of the layers I want to include in my own stories and poems.

1. It's historical

2. It gives a glimpse of a culture different than my own

3. It's about family

4. And change

5. About quiet defiance

6. About overcoming hardship

7. Holding fast to what we believe in ("Tradition!")

8. About choosing love

9. And letting go

I'm not sure how old I was when I first saw FIDDLER. It feels like one of those that's always been with me. I looked it up, and the movie came out in 1971, after the musical's 1964 debut. So, yes, it really has been with me my whole life!

If you haven't seen it lately, give it a whirl. It stands the test of time for sure. And if you're in Birmingham, wow, go see it! Excellent production.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Five for Poetry Friday

Part of my travels included Rogersville
Public Library, where I presented
FRESH DELICIOUS, and readers
made veggie art (using asparagus
 paintbrushes and bell pepper stamps).
Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit marvelous Mary Lee at A Year of Reading for Roundup. I've been traveling and thrifting and reading and writing and traveling and thrifting and reading and writing... not much time at my desk, which is lovely, but also has me a bit scattered! That's okay, right? I know Poetry Friday folks might even appreciate a little scatteredness! :) Therefore, I'm in with a hodgepodge of poetry today. Enjoy!

1. Earlier this spring I heard R.L. Stine talk about how he came to write the Goosebumps series, and all the spin-offs. He opened his talk with this poem:

by Shel Silverstein

I dare you all to go into
The Haunted House on Howlin’ Hill,
Where squiggly things with yellow eyes
Peek past the wormy window sill.
We’ll creep into the moonlit yard,
Where weeds reach out like fingers,
And through the rotted old front door
A-squeakin’ on it hinges,
Down the dark and whisperin’ hall,
Past the musty study,
Up the windin’ staircase--
Don’t step on the step that’s bloody--
Through the secret panel
To the bedroom where we’ll slide in
To the ragged cobweb dusty bed
Ten people must have died in.
And the bats will screech,
And the spirits will scream,
And the thunder will crash
Like a horrible dream,
And we’ll sing with the zombies
And dance with the dead.
And howl at the ghost
With the axe in his head,
And--come to think of it what do you say
We go get some ice cream instead?
Now isn't that exactly what you 'd expect from R.L. Stine?!

2. Also this spring I got to meet Watt Key, author of ALABAMA MOON and a number of other books. We got to talking, and I asked him what he would read at a "My Favorite Poem" event. Right away he cited this poem:

by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
This poem has been read at nearly every My Favorite Poem event I have attended!

3. After I'd given a library presentation -- including poems from FRESH DELICIOUS, WHEN THE SUN SHINES ON ANTARCTICA and DEAR WANDERING WILDEBEEST, a little girl gave me this little stuffed giraffe:

She said it was because she loved how courageous the giraffe is in this poem:

Triptych for a Thirsty Giraffe

  1. Craving

Leaves turn
to dust,
mouth cottons,

swollen log.

Must find water.

  1. Caution

Water hole, at last.

Rhinos, elephants,
warthogs, impalas.

Watch out for lions!

Security-camera eyes
scan water's edge.

Must be safe.

  1. Courage

Long legs contort,
widen into triangles.

Step by step by step
until, yes!

Tongue whirlpools water
into mouth.

Must not stop.

4. Another gift I received recently was from a friend Ann, who shared with me a handmade ornament with words we both consider to be a poem:


Ann shared that she'd spotted the words on a sign at a march she was participating in, and she knew she needed to share them.

5. Finally, I'd like to share a poem I clipped recently from THE THREEPENNY REVIEW:

The Capacity of Speech
It is easy to be decent to speechless things.
To hang houses for the purple martins
To nest in. To bed down the horses under
The great white wing of the year's first snow.
To ensure the dog and cat are comfortable.
To set out suet for the backyard birds.
To put the poorly-shot, wounded deer down.
To nurse its orphaned fawn until its spots
Are gone. To sweep the spider into the glass
And tap it out into the grass. To blow out
The candle and save the moth from flame.
To trap the black bear and set it free.
To throw the thrashing brook trout back.
How easy it is to be decent
To things that lack the capacity of speech,
To feed and shelter whatever will never
Beg us or thank us or make us ashamed.
Poetry is everywhere, isn't it? Thanks for reading!

Friday, June 2, 2017

Birthday Poem inspired by e.e. cummings & Kwame Alexander & Yoda

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Buffy's Blog for Roundup. 

I'm in with a quick birthday poem for my sweet husband, whose birthday is today! I was inspired to write it after reading Kwame Alexander's e.e. cummings-inspired poem in OUT OF WONDER

I love the risks e.e. cummings took with his work, how unique and unrestrained... I tell kids all the time how one thing that draws me to poetry is how there really are no rules... e.e. cummings is a great example of that! Plus his sometimes-backwards way of phrasing things reminds me of Yoda. :)

Here is perhaps my favorite e.e. cummings poem (a love poem, of course!):

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
                                                      i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

And here is Kwame Alexander's poem:
I Like Your
celebrating e.e. cummings

I like my shoes when they are with
your shoes. Mostly the comes. Leastly
the goes. I carry your footsteps(onetwothreefour)
in between today(...)tomorrow.
          and again
                          and again
                                         I like 
to feel the flowers, and the follow
to your lead
It is such a happy thing to yes the next with you
to walk on magic love rugs beneath the what
and why nots
the anythings of
liking everybloomingthing -- four feet, two hearts, one
great           GREAT          GREAT(US)

- Kwame Alexander

And here is mine:

birthday poem

to you happy birthday
on this most beautiful day
stick a candle in every island
blow your sweet breath across
oceans into my seashell ear

to you happy birthday
in my rivers a thousand thank yous
for candles oceans the universe you
on this most beautiful day
for you i wish

- Irene Latham

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Finding Joy in DAKOTA: A Spiritual Geography by Kathleen Norris

Hello, and welcome to a brand new month! For June's Spiritual Journey (first) Thursday, we're all blogging about "finding joy." Be sure to check out everyone's links over at Margaret's place, Reflections on the Teche.
In just one week it will be a year since my father died. A YEAR. How can time go on? And how grateful I am that it does!
 I miss my father every day -- so often I read or hear or experience something that I want to share with him. But I can't -- at least not the way I did when he was alive. Here's the good news: I've found other ways to keep him in my life. I talk about him whenever I can. I even talk TO him. And you know, I can feel his presence. I can hear his voice if I really, really listen.

These days I am doing a whole lot more listening. And it feels good and right and true. Books still bring me great comfort. I find my father in them all the time. Like, DAKOTA: A SPIRITUAL GEOGRAPHY by Kathleen Norris. It was my father who introduced me to the Dakotas. When he moved to Bismarck, North Dakota, that allowed us a few adventures on those buttes and plains.

One of my favorite moments was the time we got caught in a bison stampede at Custer State Park in the Badlands of South Dakota. It was exhilarating! And how wonderful to look over and see the light shining in my father's face?
Custer State Park, 2009

Recently, thanks to a mention by Tricia over at The Miss Rumphius Effect, I picked up Kathleen Norris's DAKOTA. Here are some of the passages that spoke to me, and where I continue to find joy:

"Maybe the desert wisdom of the Dakotas can teach us to love anyway, to love what is dying, in the face of death, and not pretend that things are other than they are. The irony and wonder of all this is that it is the desert's grimness, its stillness and isolation, that bring us back to love. Here we discover the paradox of the contemplative life, that the desert of solitude can be the school where we learn to love others."

"Telling a poet not to look for connections is like telling a farmer not to look at the rain gauge after a storm."

me & Papa, Laura Ingalls Homestead
DeSmet, SD - 2009
"Benedict, in a section of his Rule entitled “Tools for Good Works,” asks monks to “Day by day remind yourself that you are going to die,” and I would suggest that this is no necessarily a morbid pursuit. Benedict is correct in terming the awareness of death a tool. It can be humbling when we find ourselves at odds with another person, to remember that both of us will die one day, presumably not al one another's hands. If, as Dr. Johnson said, the prospect of being hanged in the morning wonderfully concentrates the mind,” recalling our mortality can be a healthy realism in an age when we spend so much time, energy, and money denying death.

But maybe denying death is something people need to do. One might even look at a medieval cathedral as an expression of that need. Those buildings, however, were also made for celebrating life with music and art, with the play of light and shadow on stone and colored glass. They are beautiful in ways that modern exercise machines and lifestyles leading to that tofu-in-the sky are not."

"Listening to the voice of the sky, I wonder: how do we tell our tales, how can we hope to record them? I'd like to believe that deep in our bones the country people of Dakota, like poets, like monks, are, as Jean Cocteau once said of poetry, 'useless but indispensable.'”

Perhaps joy, too, is like Jean Cocteau's poetry: "useless but indispensable." I think maybe the best things in life are exactly that. xo

Friday, May 26, 2017

All Aboard the Friend Ship!

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit lovely Margaret at Reflections on the Teche for Roundup.

I am traveling today, but I had to share this: I've just finished reading TOO MANY FRIENDS by our resident Aussie Poetry Friday friend Kathryn Apel. Such a a fun verse novel! Be sure to visit Michelle's interview of Kat (and book giveaway!) over at Today's Little Ditty. And it's got me thinking bout friendship and friendship books, as mine and Charles Waters' book CAN I TOUCH YOUR HAIR? Poems of Race, Mistakes and Friendship is also (obviously!) about friendship. For more on this project (and other thoughts on poetry), please join me at Poetry Tea Time!

Is it possible to have too many friends?
Yes, I do know the feeling of being spread too thin, not able to spend as much time as I'd like with the friends I'm so fortunate to know and love...

Kat gives us a clear picture of narrator Tahnee's take on each child in a group of friends -- each one distinct, from Roxanne who is "like a wind-up toy/ coiled too tight/ fit to bust!" to Lucy who's "too busy/ looking at the hole in the toe/ of her shoe/ to notice."

When the group experiences friendship problems, Tahnee comes up with a course of action that is inspiring! Her kindness creates ripples that transform this community of friends... we should all leave "

Back to me and Charles, who became friends through the experience of writing a book together, and often refer to each other ourselves as "Forever Friends." Here is Kat's poem by the same title:

Forever Friends

You are a good friend because
you have been my friend
and I like being
with you.          (Roxie)

Doesn't it make you want to share your own "You are a good friend because" notes?

There's also a snail in this book! It's one of several shape poems. It's so adorable, I have to share it here:

And now, please welcome Kat, who has responded to a few prompts:

The Delicious: The warmth of memories this story sparked. Whilst it was inspired by a friend’s mother-comment, it was very much written from my teacher-heart, spanning 20 years of classroom experiences and memories. I am very thankful for the beautiful kids and classes who have shaped my life, and it was a joy to have all those memories resurface.

The Difficult: At first I couldn’t think of anything… and then I remembered! The difficult was the fact that we had an unexpected trip come up at short notice, so that the manuscript had to be ready to go to typesetters a month earlier than initially planned, and when I was supposed to be in a frenzy of packing/organisation, I was instead buried in my MS, and vice-versa. The MS was due at the publishers the same day we flew out of the country for 4 weeks cruising South America and Antarctica. (A whole other story!) 

I started back at work the day after we arrived home (a new school year) and that afternoon collected our pile of accumulated mail to find a thick wad of first page proofs - for a 10-day turnaround. Just a wee-bit of a stressful start to the year. But the holiday was definitely worth it! And so is the book! :)

The Unexpected: I’d written a shape poem for ‘Duck, Dad’, with the head of a duck, and body/legs of a man… I was so proud of it! (The level of accomplishment is weighed against my level of inability as an artist.) First pages came back and my poor duck/dad was chopped in half at the waist… I’d got my page width right… but didn’t factor in double-line spacing. (And I had loved him so!) He's now a rubber-duckie and a waterdrop… Cute - but I'm still so proud of my original duck/dad.

Anything Else You'd Like Readers to Know:  Be kind. Be yourself. Be unique. 

Friends are like lollies - so be sweet! 

[note from Irene: Kat told me that in Australia, "candy" is very specific to hard lollies, like candy canes and candy message hearts. "Lollies" is the generic name for all sweets - not including desserts, etc.. Take a look at the Lolly Warehouse.]

Thank you, Kat! You are a good friend because... you sent me your book all the way from Australia! :)

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Once There Was...

"I liked the stories best.
Once there was
a lion who could not roar. . .
Once there was
a man who sailed the sea. . .
Once there was
a child who found a treasure. . .
The stories would lift me up,
the words like a breeze beneath
butterfly wings,
and take me far from the pain in my belly
and the fight not in my heart.

I hope they will have stories
at my school.
If they don't know how,
perhaps I can teach them.
It isn't such a hard thing.
All you must do is say
Once there was. . .

and then let your hoping find the words."

- from HOME OF THE BRAVE by Katherine Applegate

I'm hearing lots of buzz about Katherine's newest WISHTREE, coming September 26, from the viewpoint of a tree (!) named Red. Can't wait!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Some Thoughts on S-TOWN from an Alabama Gal

Maybe you've heard of S-Town, the podcast presented by Serial and This American Life.

Maybe you've listened to it, or read something about it. Reports say it's been downloaded over 20 million times.

For those who haven't listened to it yet, I will not put any spoilers in this post. I do want to give you some basics, though, and also a little of my reaction to it.

The story is a complex one with a lot of pieces and a lot of social issues. It's a story first and foremost about a middle-aged man named John who lives in what he calls "S*** town" Alabama.

On the map that town is named Woodstock, Alabama, and it's just a hop, skip and a jump from where I live.

Backroads, Alabama
For seven hours, I listened to the podcast while driving Alabama backroads to various school visits. And I was riveted. The story starts out as one thing, then, like a stream that widens into a deep water hole, becomes something else.

You couldn't make up a character as layered and interesting as John B. McLemore. You couldn't conjure the conflict that erupts in this story. At first I was just curious. Later I was mad, heartbroken, disturbed - not necessarily in that order. These are my people. This is my Alabama. This is an uncomfortable story with no tidy ending.

It reminds me of something I heard recently about how the poet lives in that space between beauty and despair. I think John lived in that space. I think we all do. Some of us choose to focus on one, some on the other.

S-TOWN reminds me of another book I read recently called HILLBILLY ELEGY by J.D. Vance. Many of the issues Vance brings to light in Appalachian culture are evident in S-TOWN. The distrust of outsiders, the way people hide their problems/addictions/traumas, the way family/home is everything and how without any good examples/role models, kids have a hard time "getting out."

Brian Reed (producer/reporter/narrator of S-TOWN) didn't know what he was getting himself into when he responded to John's first e-mail. The podcast is as much his story as anyone's. We are with him as he peels back layer after layer. This is good storytelling, y'all. I wish so bad my father was still living so we could talk about this one!

Did I say "mad, heartbroken, disturbed"? Yes. All that. And more. Give it a listen. It's worth your (tedious and brief) time.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Poetry & Play with Poet/Educator/TEDx-er Darius Phelps

Darius Phelps
Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Keisha from Whispers From the Ridge for Roundup. I am delighted to be in my own home this weekend! I love to travel, but Dorothy had it right: there's no place like home. I look forward to checking in with all of you, today. I've missed you!

If you'd like to catch up on my adventures, you can click to read about
- good eats, good friends & good B&B in Camden
- my time in Gee's Bend
- fun (and quilts!) with West Alabama Quilters Guild
- book signing at Tuscaloosa's only indie bookstore Ernest & Hadley

Poets stick together.
And now: oh boy do I have a treat for you -- an interview with Darius Phelps! I met Darius this past March when we happened to sit at the same table for the Awards luncheon at the Children's Book Festival in Athens, GA. When I told him I was a poet for children, he said, "me, too!" and that's pretty much all it took for us to know we should exchange cards and keep in touch. And since he hadn't heard of our wonderful Poetry Friday community, I volunteered to introduce him. So.... please welcome Darius!

IL: You recently gave a TEDx talk at University of Georgia. Tell us about that experience – biggest challenge, biggest reward?
DP: Honestly, the entire experience have been life changing for me. Never in a million years, did I dream that I had the both the talent and confidence to even be considered gracing the stage. The biggest reward was regaining my confidence to do anything that I set out to do.
learning to fly...
My biggest competition in life has and always will be myself. Being selected for a TEDx presentation, challenged me as a writer to come out of my comfort zone and be willing to tell such a personal part of my journey to the world. I don’t speaking on the impact of  losing my grandfather or how Burke helped me heal in more ways than one, often. Retelling the story of meeting Burke on that stage reignited my passion for teaching, helped me realize that is time to start a new chapter in my career, and say goodbye to both people and a place that no longer serve me a purpose. I’m so excited about getting back to that feeling and starting anew. Sometimes you have to let go, live in the moment, embrace every mess, and be open to accepting change.

"Embrace every mess." - Darius Phelps (yes!)

IL: Congratulations on your Child Caregiver of the Year Award (from the Georgia Association on Young Children)! How has your work with young learners changed you?

DP: Thank you! Receiving that particular accolade still feels like a dream. I’ve only been teaching for five years, with the last two being in my own classroom as a Lead Teacher so I still consider myself a “new teacher”. Working with primarily infants and toddlers have taught me to cherish the little things in life. Adults often take life way too seriously and don’t even realize it. Children can open up your eyes to a whole new world. They’ve helped me learn to laugh and truly smile again.

IL: When we met at the Children's Book Festival, you said you wanted to write poetry for children. What inspires you to write poetry for children? Would you please share some of your work with our audience? What do you most hope to achieve as a poet for children?

DP: When it comes to being a teacher, we are the ones who should know our students the best. We should be able to identify both their strengths  and challenges, so we can find a balance between the two and focus on how we should support our students in a way that teaches them a way to effectively utilize their skills. We should stress the importance of students becoming reflective learners  and what we as teachers can do to mold the child into the blossoming reader that they are meant to be.
We have the power to help students recognize that they have power. I can’t think of any better way than through language, literature, and specifically poetry! My inspiration comes from me growing up loving the arts, beginning with my childhood. Writing and illustrating has always been my form of therapy, and without it, I would not have gotten through the tough times in my life.

My goal is to combine my love of poetry, illustrating, and children’s literature all into one. I am working on a few special projects right now, including a trilogy of children’s books known as the “Our Lasting Legacy Trilogy” that deals with grief and a book that chronicles the love of two dads from two completely diverse backgrounds, all in poem format.
Mother holding tight...
My hope is that I can change the life of at least one person with any of my writing. Children, especially with the way the world is and how hard life can be, need to know and feel that they are supported. Here is a piece I wrote called, “Infants 226” that details a mother’s struggle with letting her son go on his first day at preschool.

Infants 226

"Your child will be in infant classroom 226, with Mr. Darius"

the sky was an overcast that day.
no traffic plagued the streets
just the three of us, riding in silence

his tiny  chubby sausage shaped  fingers
gripped mine in the backseat
as daddy drove us to the place

where my little love bug,
oblivious to the fact,
that he would be starting a new chapter

"he's almost one",
my husband kept saying
I wasn't ready

Ready for him to take his first steps under the care of someone else
Ready for him to look at them with those round beady brown eyes
That charming smile that could melt the heart of any man or woman

those chubby little gummy toes
I wasn't ready

his love was my burden to carry,
bore him for nine long months
working on my blistered feet non stop
I wasn't ready
to let him go

- Darius Phelps

IL: What needs to you see in children's literature? Are there any “gaps” you've noticed, and what advice would you give to those of us who are writing in the field today for how best to serve our audience?

DP: There is not and never will be enough children’s books that tackle what are known as the “hush” subjects such as grief, bullying, freedom to love whomever, and most importantly being yourself. It  is critical that we expose our students to characters that looks or behave like them, as well as those that don’t.  By implementing this strategy in our classroom and in literature,  we are allowing our students to see the world and the people in it in a new perspective, opening up the door to discussions and new realizations about the world we live in.

Advice wise, I would tell them to listen to their heart and just write. Don't be afraid of where it winds up taking you. Sometimes that particular place can be very dark and depressing, but the message is one intertwined in light. Trust the process.

IL: Give us some examples of your favorite poems or books of poetry for kids.

DP: I just ordered and received the book “Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets" by Kwame Alexander in honor of National Poetry month last month. It’s a beautiful children’s picture book that shines spotlight on various poets and the poems that have brought them success. I also love “Brown Girl Dreaming” by Jacqueline Woodson and “Inside Out and Back Again” by Thahhna Lai.

IL: How/where can we find you in the future? Will you be at NCTE in St. Louis?)

Unfortunately, I will not be in St. Louis!  I wish was, but a lot of things are up in the air concerning my fall schedule, at the moment. I have a my own website for my aspiring writing career, where I will be sharing some exciting news soon. You can also find me on both instagram, twitter, and my facebook page:

IL: If there is anything else you'd like to share with us, Darius, please do!

DP: At the beginning of next month, I will be releasing a few e-book collaboration with a good friend of mine titled, “Bruised, but not Broken,”,which will be a collection of poems that explore the internal dialogue of one-sided relationships, the often romanticized negative exchanges that take place along with the hush topic of males being in abusive relationships. Abuse takes on many forms and everything I do is autobiographical/semi-autobiographical. I’ve also just relaunched an open mic night at one of Avid Bookshop in Athens, GA known as “Speaking Pages”. It’s a beautiful way to encourage and foster the arts in the community.

Thank you, Darius! We're so glad to have you in this wonderful world of children's poetry!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Stitching Our Stories: West Alabama Quilt Guild

One of my favorite things is to hang out with quilters, so imagine my delight last Saturday when I was the guest speaker at West Alabama Quilters Guild in Tuscaloosa. What a great group! When Eve Engle (and her co-v.p.) Rose Osuma invited me to attend, she said to be sure and come early for the Show-n-Tell portion of the meeting. She didn't have to tell me... Show-n-Tell is my favorite part!

Eric Carle book quilt!
Listening to the women, I was struck by a few things: 1. how many of these quilts were made as gifts for others, and 2. how talented these quilters are, and 3. quilts really do tell a story! 

One of my favorites was a mom who quilted a top created by her daughter. She said it was intended to be a Rail Fence design, but after her daughter had her way, it was a "crooked" Rail Fence. Oh boy, can I relate to that! Pretty much all my quilts are crooked. That's what makes them beautiful and unique!

Here are some of the beautiful quilts.... I was also introduced to "book" quilts, which are themed toward a child's favorite book and include in the bottom corner a pocket for storing the book! I am totally doing this in the near future. :)
Eric Carle book quilt!

The "crooked" Rail Fence. Love it!

football quilting! Only in Alabama...

Thank you, West Alabama Quilters! I do hope you enjoy Ludelphia's story!