Sunday, November 28, 2010


Not the flamigos, although Stella in my new book DON'T FEED THE BOY really loves them -- and they are gorgeous.
Not the gorillas, although I do love the story of the Birmingham Zoo's Babec, who is no longer with us except in spirit.
Not the macaws, although wow were they talkative this visit! And colorful, as ever.
Not the zebras, which were way too busy enjoying their hay to pay us much attention.
Not even this guy, who posed just for me.
THIS FELLA. He's the one.

So, yes, part of our Thanksgiving holiday included a trip to the zoo. I'm so excited about TRAILS OF AFRICA, coming Spring of 2011. Meanwhile, I do believe it is still National Family Stories Month. Which means I have a prompt for you:

Share a story about an encounter with a wild animal (human or otherwise!).

Tell your story.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


This is one of my treasures: a favorite recipe written out for me in my grandmother's own handwriting.

I love the way she made the recipe her own and noted her changes.

I love every stain on the paper, because it shows how well-loved this recipe has been by my family all these years.

I love how my youngest son lists this recipe as his very favorite and made sure I was making this year, even though I am not cooking a traditional Thanksgiving meal.

And this year, the first Thanksgiving Grandma Dykes is not with us, I especially love the many ways she injected sweetness into my life.

Notice I've made her recipe my own as well: balls instead of logs.

Now. In honor of FAMILY STORIES MONTH, I offer you the following prompt:

Share a story about a memorable family meal.

Tell your story!

Thursday, November 18, 2010


Tonight I'm traveling to Huntsville to talk quilts and stories with the Heritage Quilters! I'm super-excited, because I love talking quilts and stories. Especially during FAMILY STORIES MONTH.

One of the props I am bringing is the little green dress featured in a photograph of wee me:

Isn't it sweet?

My mother made it - smocking and everything.

When I think about her as a young mother of two active sons and still-nursing infant me, I wonder where in the world she found the time to do the stitching. Was it while we were all sleeping? Why did she choose green gingham? Where did she get the smocking pattern? Was she taking a class?

These are the kind of questions I need answers to in order to preserve this family story. Fortunately my mama is still around to answer them. But she won't always be. That's precisely why it's so important to tell these family stories now.

So today's writing prompt is this:

Share a story about a handmade garment or quilt or some other something made out of fabric.

I'd like to write a whole series of these. Perhaps I will!

Tell your story.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


One of the things I discovered during our Girls Weekend Devoted to the Preservation of Memories was that one of my early favorite books was WALDO THE JUMPING DRAGON. I loved it so much that my mother brought it with her for my 18 month photograph session. Here I am "reading" it.

How strange and wonderful, because I have no recollection of this book! But, I thought, surely my psyche does. And being a writer, I am all about delving into the psyche.

So. I contacted my friend Jim Reed, booklover/writer/owner of more memorabilia than can possibly fit into one room (but somehow does) at REED BOOKS and said, hey, can you find this book for me?

Jim answered within minutes and said simply, "I'm holding it in my hand."

JOY!! He didn't have to hunt for it, he already had it there on his shelves, waiting for me.

I picked it up right away. And what I found was a whimsical tale with lots of action (I mean, come on, Waldo is a JUMPING dragon, after all), and an ending that made me think, yes, this has definitely been in my psyche all along.

Here's one of my favorite pages:

Which brings us to our prompt in celebration of FAMILY STORIES MONTH:

Share a story about a favorite childhood book.

Tell your story!

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Ready for another great family story? Me too! Gosh, I am loving FAMILY STORIES MONTH! Thanks to everyone who has been sending me stories in response to these posts. I love it!!

Okay, today's writing prompt:

Share a story about a secret hiding spot from childhood.

My story involves this movie:

Our family had this movie on disk -- some movie technology that was popular for a very short time before they came up with VHS. And a movie we watched over and over again was THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.

We were fascinated by the story of Moses, of his relationship with Queen Nefertiti and Rameses. So fascinated that we created a whole imaginary world inspired by this movie and all things Egypt.

We lived across the street from a giant pasture with a creek winding its way through the middle. That was The Nile (of course), and we named the two giant oak trees that straddled the creek Nephertiti and Rameses. We rode the ponies over and created all sorts of magical scenarios, all inspired by what we knew of Egypt from this movie, our trip there when we were younger, and what we could learn in books.

And this became our secret hiding spot. Our very own kingdom where we made the rules and everything happened according to our imaginations.

Our Egypt.

Lynn and MJ, I seriously cannot imagine my childhood without it. As much as I think I'd like to write about our experiences in a novel, I fear I could never do it justice.

Any writers out there have a similar feeling about some real-life adventure? Like it was so very important that you can't fictionalize it?

Sacred. I guess that's the word I'm thinking. So sacred I know I must tell my story. But maybe not as fiction??

Tell your story!

Sunday, November 7, 2010


I'm not sure how it happened, but here we are in week #2 of FAMILY STORIES MONTH!

I didn't plan this exactly, but talk about living the blog theme: I just spent a lovely three days with my mother and sister in a quiet little cabin where we talked family stories, scanned old photographs, scrapbooked AND took new family photographs. It was precioussweetwonderfulunforgettable.

Since I was the one driving, it got me thinking about the following prompt:

Share a story about being pulled over for speeding.

I have more of these stories than I should probably admit to. The good news is not many of them actually resulted in tickets. But I do have a "lead foot," as my papa used to say. He also was quick to say I inherited that trait from my mother. And I do recall from driving lessons that my mom told me it was okay to drive five miles over the speed limit --- but my dad said I should drive five miles under the limit.

So, yeah, I like to GO. Driving, for me, has always been a great time for setting things in order. My mind responds well to the monotony, and lordy, I have schemed and dreamed and conjured and remembered for many a mile! Every now and then the lead foot does fall.

So, let's see, the last time: March of this year, somewhere in Virginia. I was alone, on my way to Charlottesville for the book festival. That cop was just itching to pull someone over... and perhaps my Alabama tag was just too much enticement. Anyhow, I used to feel all embarrassed, like oh man, someone CAUGHT ME DOING SOMETHING WRONG. The shame!!

The older and wiser me is like, yeah, whatever, let's get this over with so I can move on.

Tell your story!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


Welcome to another edition in celebration of FAMILY STORIES MONTH!

Today's story prompt: Share a story about how you or someone in your family spent school recess.

I do remember playing hospcotch and jacks, but I avoided all other games/sports because I didn't think I was very good at them. I hated PE so much that I would do pretty much anything to get out of it.

Actually, I think this is due more to the fact of my introversion than athletic abilities. To be at bat? *shudder*

So I made creative arrangements with teachers through the years: I cleaned chalkboards, banged erasers. In high school I helped Coach with the bus schedules. I learned early that making myself useful in other ways was a strategy to avoid doing the things I didn't particularly like.

But my most memorable recess was a story I tell when I make presentations about LEAVING GEE'S BEND. It has to do with how my mom made clothes for me, and how they were NOT cool. So everyday I changed into other clothes on the school bus. And this worked beautifully! Until one day.

I was on the monkey bars at recess. I looked up, and there was my mother, sauntering down the sidewalk. She flashed me a smile. I looked down at my clothes and remembered what I had done. I'm sure my face was enough to give me away, but I silently prayed, don't let her see.

But she did see. All she said to me was, "that was not what you wore to school today." Then she continued on her way to check out my brother who had gotten sick and called her from school.

I had the rest of that school day to worry about what was going to happen to me when I got home. Recess was never the same after that.

Tell YOUR story!

Monday, November 1, 2010


Hello, and welcome to November, aka FAMILY STORIES MONTH!

And since I adore family stories, I am dedicating my blog adventures this month to promoting the recording of family stories. I hope you'll join me -- because everyone has a story to tell.

The way it will work is this: every post I create during November will include a FAMILY STORIES MONTH prompt. Your job is to write. And share. Very important, that sharing part!

Okay. Here goes. Prompt #1:

Share a story about a funny moment you witnessed at a wedding.

The funny moment that leaps to my mind is not from a family wedding -- well, not technically family. It was the wedding of a girl I once babysat. She looked SO BEAUTIFUL, and the church was one of those out of a fairy tale... then the priest got up there and asked the groom: "Do you take this woman, to be your lawfully wedded HUSBAND?"

Ummm, hello, that would be WIFE to you, Mister! The congregation laughed, and it probably helped make everyone more comfortable. Heck, now that I think about it, the priest may be onto something!

Another wedding (besides my own!) that comes to mind is my parents'. That's them pictured above... at their FIRST wedding. Yep, they got married, got divorced, got married again, then got divorced again! I (along with all my siblings) was there for the second wedding. And I remember it as such a special day. It was like our whole family got married. I would imagine that I am still in a minority when I say, "hey, I was at my parents' wedding!"

Love is such an intensely personal thing. When Paul and I look back on our own wedding, which was small, we think we should have done it even smaller. Like, just hop on down to that little chapel at Bellingrath Gardens, just the two of us. Sweet....