Thursday, June 30, 2011


Ever since the rise of Creative Memories, I have been a scrapbooker. (This should come as no surprise to those of you who read this blog regularly-- I've often described our many Scrapbook Retreats.)

I love arts and crafts.
I love photography.
And I'm a wee bit nostalgic. (Although, for a great argument AGAINST nostalgia, see Woody Allen's new film MIDNIGHT IN PARIS. If the nostalgia keeps you from fully engaging in the present, then, yes, out with the old!)

So. Combine 16 years and 3 sons and 4 brothers & sisters who come complete with families, that's a lot of scrapbooks! (I estimate 2500 pages, all told.)

And those are just the family albums.

Okay, so, all great and wonderful. Until those tornadoes whipped through Alabama two months ago.

It got me thinking: what if?

What if that happened to my house, me, my scrapbooks??

So I decided I needed to make a digital record.

I decided to remove the plastic covers and photograph each page of each scrapbook.
Here's my stack for today:

It requires natural light. No shadows. So I set up shop in my bathroom. And I try to make myself available for the window of time when the light is just right.

So far I've gotten through all the family albums. Today I hope to finish with the vacation albums. Then there are the kids' baby books, which will be labor intensive, as they contain documents I'll want to remove and photograph as well.

Here's a double page spread I'll photograph (as singles) later today, from our 2002 trip to Wyoming:

And that's pretty much the end of my scrapbooking days. At least of the cut and paste variety. For 2011, I'm going all-digital. It just makes sense, you know?

Except these crafty hands MUST. HAVE. A. PROJECT.

Suggestions, anyone?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


I've read two books in recent days that feature protagonists with imaginary friends. These characters are not young children, as you might expect. One is 14, the other 31. Both girls.

Okay. The best book first: THE WHITE DARKNESS by Geraldine McCaughrean.
When I heard my friend/fellow writer/former clown/current brilliant person Ashley rave about this one, my interest was piqued. Ashley don't play; she likes GOOD books. And oh boy, THIS ONE IS GOOD.

It's Sym's story. Sym who's 14 and has an imaginary friend she calls Titus.

Titus is also Oates, one of the explorers in Scott's expedition to the South Pole. He died. But in Sym's mind, he is very much alive. He is both anchor and guide for Sym. He's funny, and he gets her. In short, Titus is her very best friend.

THE WHITE DARKNESS is a book for language lovers. And it's for those of us who crave that sense of transportation in a reading experience. You will feel the fierce beauty of the ice, you will hear see taste touch it.

This book is also for those who love adventure, history, obsession. Because doesn't discovery take all three? Ultimately it asks the question, how far should one go for their obsessions? Is discovery worth death?

READ THIS BOOK. You can view a more complete review at It's no wonder it won the Printz. Totally deserving.

And now for book two that features an imaginary friend: SUNDAYS AT TIFFANY'S by James Patterson & Garbrielle Charbonnet.
It's a great premise: girl in love with her imaginary friend from childhood. It's told in both the girl's and the imaginary friend's voice.

Do yourself a favor and just watch the Lifetime movie instead. Link to trailer found here.

Any other books you can think of that feature imaginary friends? I'd love to hear about them in comments.

For more book talks,visit the Lemme Library!

Friday, June 24, 2011


You know it's a good retreat when two weeks later you're still buzzing with words and ideas. And since I promised to pass along tips picked up at the retreat... and since it's Poetry Friday... well, here it is!

1. Keep a writing notebook. Jot down words you run across in poems, books, life in general.

I have long done this -- in fact the project that's consumed me the past two weeks is one I unearthed in a writing notebook from about a year ago. I had mapped out a whole collection using visual notetaking, which, if you haven't tried it, is a great exercise for writers who spend so much time in the Land of Words. Try pictures. It'll open your mind!

2. For teaching poetry (which I often do), use A CELEBRATION OF BEES by Barbara Jester Esbensen.

3. When considering a subject for the children's market, go back to your own childhood. Ask your 5 or 8 or 10 year old self things like this:

What did I wish for?
What did I dream of?
What was I afraid of?

Use the answers for subjects or content of poems. You basically want to mine the small moments of daily life and pack them with those emotions you remember from your own childhood.

4. If submitting a collection of poems for a picture book, send in 24 poems.

5.If trying to shape your own career as a children's poet, read bios of other children's poets to see how their careers were shaped.

6. Write as if your audience is blind or has never seen what is in your poem.

7. Collect paint chips from paint stores for great color words.

8. Look for the unusual slant, the unique perspective. You want to surprise your reader!

9. For an inexpensive look at what children's poets are currently writing, check out, an e-anthology available for download for just 99 cents!

10. When submitting, adopt an "I'll show you" attitude regarding rejections. Allow rejections to inspire you to improve and grow as a writer. Never give up!

And, this one from me: if you ever have the opportunity to learn from Rebecca, DON'T MISS IT! I got exactly what I needed from the retreat, and I am so very grateful. I would have packed Rebecca in my suitcase and carried her home, but... she had new grandsons to meet. I love thinking about Rebecca reading the little fellas lots of poems.

Don't forget to visit Carol at Carol's Corner for Roundup!

Thursday, June 23, 2011


Earlier this week a sweet friend invited me to bring my kids and hang out at the pool with her and some other mutual friends.

Nice, right?

But I don't really enjoy the pool. Nor do my kids.

I don't like sunscreen or sunburn or "laying out." I get cranky in the heat. I don't like the noise or the splashing or the sheer busy-ness of it all. So many people!

And I know, I know, this makes me sound so very un-cool, like what's wrong with that family, don't they know how to have fun?

I assure you, we DO. It's just our definition of fun is highly influenced by the fact that we are family of introverts. (Give us the pool, at night -- or even better, a lake! or ocean! --just us... now THAT sounds like fun!)We like our space. We like quiet. Yes, we like people, but in small(er) doses.

Which is why tonight, I'm going with another friend to see the Birmingham Museum of Art's Who Shot Rock & Roll? It's a photographic journey through the history of rock & roll. Even though there will be lots of people, it will also be intimate as me and my friend experience it together, just us two. It will be stimulating and inspiring. And no sunscreen needed. :)

Sunday, June 19, 2011


On my own today, as Janet and Jame headed today for home. Miss you, Ladies!

What have I been doing?

Well, I'll tell you: I've been writing more poems. From my balcony. That overlooks the San Diego Bay. If you turn sideways.

Life is good.

But I sure do miss being with my most favorite fathers on Father's Day.

Home tomorrow, kids! Yippee!!

Saturday, June 18, 2011


Here we are at YELLOW BOOK ROAD signing books:

Here's the books I brought home: (other authors, do you have this affliction, too? Every signing I go to, I end up buying a slew of books!)

Another pic at the signing, this one with owner-extraordinaire Ann Weiner:

If you're looking for me and Jame at the hotel, go to the 12th floor and look for this Sweet & Low packet. (We are VERY sweet & low, let me tell you.)

Okay, have you ever seen a conference goodie bag with real, ACTUAL books??! Here's what each of the 300 attendees get to take home:

...and not just books. SWAG. Lots.

The best part so far: reconnecting with Jame Richards and Janet Fox. Love those gals!

Friday, June 17, 2011


1. I'm in San Diego!

Reading/signing/fun this afternoon with the lovely Jame Richards & Janet S. Fox at The Yellow Book Road, 4:30 pm.

2. Tomorrow we'll be presenting "How to Put the Y in YA Historical Fiction" at 2011 Historical Novel Society conference. For updates,etc., follow #hns11 on Twitter.

3. I have written 8 - that's right: EIGHT!!! - poems since last weekends Poetry Retreat. (Was I in a rut, or was I in a rut?! Holy moly, so very wonderful when the words fly. Or DIVE, as the case may be....)

4. I'm reading Gary Schmidt's LIZZIE BRIGHT AND THE BUCKMISTER BOY. If I'd read this one first, I would have known just what to expect with OKAY FOR NOW. I've already dog-eared a bunch of pages to revisit.

5. After San Diego, no appearances for me for a while. We are homeschooling youngest son, so I will be keeping it close to home for the next calendar year. I'm excited about this new chapter. (Aren't new chapters awesome?)

Happy Friday, all! Don't forget Poetry Friday Roundup with Jone at Check it Out.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


Leave it to poets to come up with such a fabulous way to display poetry by women! The brain-child of Danielle Jones-Pruett, the dress included seventy one poems from Boston, Connecticut, Maine, Texas and Alabama. (My contribution was on the theme: "Black Dress." An early version of this poem found here. Edited version found in my latest book, THE COLOR OF LOST ROOMS, found here.) The dress was displayed at the Massachusetts Poetry Festival in Salem, MA, last month.

Next year perhaps even more poems and a floor-length dress?? YES!

Big thanks to Danielle and all the other poets who contributed both in-kind and in-words. You are an inspiration!

Monday, June 13, 2011


And guess what? They are for CHILDREN.

Why has this never occurred to me before?!

I think maybe I just needed the mix of Robyn Hood Black, the north Georgia countryside and Rebecca Kai Dotlich.

Awesome retreat. Thanks to all the wonderful organizers and attendees and gracious Rebecca. I'll be back with some tips and lessons learned, but wanted to get these pics to you straightaway:

-me and Rebecca-

-the whole posse of poets-

-not visibly writing, but yes, writing-

Friday, June 10, 2011


This week I've been reading LUCKY FISH (poems) by Aimee Nezhukumatathil.

In a poem entitled "The Ghost-Fish Postcards," there are some very inviting lines:

“The whole planet howls – a conch blown on the beach, a pair of monkeys grate papaya rind into each other’s hungry mouths, a simple bee in a jeweled tulip. What is your sound & when & where should I listen?”

(emphasis mine)

So I've been thinking about sounds. And listening.

The first thought that popped into my head in response to the query was, "my sound is Ben Sollee on the cello."

I'll be listening to Ben as I drive today to the Poetry Retreat with Rebecca Kai Dotlich. I'm excited! And I will be back Monday to tell you about it.

Meanwhile, tell me: What is your sound? And don't forget to visit Anastasia for Poetry Friday Roundup.

Monday, June 6, 2011


Even though I totally failed to meet my goal of displaying one of my own quilts in our guild's show, it didn't stop me from admiring the amazing creations others brought.

This one might be my favorite:

This one made me think of my friend Pat, who loves horses:

I kept coming back to this one:

I'm always interested when words find their way onto quilts. And this one was titled "The Secrets of Life." Love!

This one made me miss my Grandma:

This one has buttons!

This one got my vote for The One that Made me Laugh Out Loud (seriously, there was a space on the ballot for quilt-induced laughter!)

This one is hypnotic, don't you think? In both color and form. Wow.

This one made me think of all the Housetop quilts made by Gee's Bend quilters. Great color scheme, too.

And what have I been doing since the show?

Yep. Piecing the next quilt. And promising myself that I WILL display a quilt next show (2013). Yes. I will.

Sunday, June 5, 2011


Well, it wasn't all bad.

What it was, was HOT. And miserable. And crowded.

While the fife and drum processional to honor the dead on Memorial Day was quite moving, the rest of Historic Williamsburg has taken on a Disney-esque, what-can-we-sell-them-and-for-how-much aura. Nearly every building we walked into had a cash register. Grr.

And DC. Holy madness. The Metro. The lines. The sold-out tickets. The missed highway exits. The traffic. The blistering HEAT....

You get the idea.

There were a couple of highlights:

The Natural Bridge in Virginia. There were two weddings going on while we were there. And I can see why. What an inspiring place to start a new life.

Shirley Plantation, the oldest plantation in Virginia, located right on the James River. I would not have known about this if not for Pat Weaver, who so graciously passed along her travel tips.

And the National Firearms Museum in Fairfax. I was so ho-hum about this stop and really only made it a priority for youngest son's obsession with guns. And you know what, it was really amazing. Who knew guns could be displayed so creatively? Basically the museum takes you on a trek through a history of America, using firearms. It was SO well done. I was riveted. And the museum is FREE. And parking is FREE too. Nice.

Thursday, June 2, 2011


Warning: this post will make you thirsty!

Turns out, readers really respond to the scene in LEAVING GEE'S BEND where Mrs. Cobb gives Ludelphia her very first Coke. And it shows up in the sweet notes and cards I receive. Aren't these great?

One of the stories I like to tell kids during my school visits is how I had to research Coke for the book: I had to pretend to be Ludelphia and drink Coke from a bottle, as if I had seen it advertised as it was in 1932 -- Ice Cold Sunshine -- and as it was my very first one.