Tuesday, May 31, 2011


JANUARY (for James, who is 6 and loves Lightning McQueen)

FEBRUARY (for me, who loves the Quilts of Gee's Bend and was excited to try this kit put out by Windham in cooperation with the Gee's Bend Foundation)

MARCH (for Julie, who will be turning 5 loves pink and purple)

APRIL (for Phyllis, just because the fabric with all its happy yellows made me think of her)

MAY (for Vonda, although she hasn't seen it yet, and if you knew her, you'd know why I had to use a whole bunch of fabrics!)

JUNE (coming soon... for my sister Lynn and niece Anna, in shades of purple)

and I must give a shout-out to Pat Weaver who sends me fabric packages on just about a weekly basis -- she scavenges yard sales and always ALWAYS shares. Love you, lady!

Friday, May 27, 2011


Confession: I have never read any of Sarah Dessen's books.

This is probably a character flaw, but my thinking is this: once an author hits the NYT list, they don't need me anymore. I prefer to champion those invisible authors, the not-yet-discovered, perhaps NEVER to be discovered. THOSE are the authors I feel most connected to, those are the stories I like to talk about.

You're probably thinking, well, that's crazy!

I won't argue. It MIGHT be crazy. But I think it has a little something to do with the fact that before a writer is discovered by the masses, I feel closer to the story, like it is mine and mine alone.

I felt this way about Suzanne Collins' GREGOR THE OVERLANDER. Way back before she was famous, I loved Gregor and Boots and Ripred. It pleased me to discover that world and to feel like I had an experience that others hadn't.

HUNGER GAMES? Yes, I enjoyed it. But Suzanne Collins wasn't my secret anymore. The whole world loved her. She had plenty of readers without ME.

So back to Sarah Dessen. There is a fantastic interview of her in this month's Writer's Digest magazine. (Aside: my sister, who is The Most Awesome Sister in the Whole Wide World has bought me a subscription to WD for my birthday for the past TWENTY YEARS. No lie. She is very cool like that.)

She talks about being a "slow" writer. She talks about the slow build of her career. She talks about all the books she's written between published books that will NEVER BE PUBLISHED. Because her agent or editor or gut said, that's not your next book.

As a gal who has written 5 books in the past four years - 2 of which have sold, 2 of which aren't the next book, and 1 of which *might* be.... I loved reading that part of the story.

And it made me wish I'd picked up one of Sarah's books ten years ago, before the rise to bestsellerdom. When she needed me. And I could claim her as my own.

Anyone else out there feel that way about the underdog/undiscovered? Let me hear from you!

Monday, May 23, 2011


Jane Eyre. Anne of Green Gables. Pollyanna. Orphans have long been the subject of great stories. For Tuesday Book Talk, I want to tell you about two new orphans that have come along and made my heart expand in true Grinch-style. Gracious hostess Kelly will gather the book talk links at The Lemme Library. Go on over and add yours!

First, Maud from A DROWNED MAIDEN'S HAIR by Newbery medal winner Laura Amy Schlitz.
The thing about Maud is, she's "plain, clever, and bad." She's also desperately in want of love. So when she's plucked away from the orphanage by the elderly Hawthorne sisters, she thinks her life will be rosy. Instead, she's a "secret child," banished to the attic, brought out only to work in the Hawthorne sisters' money making schemes, which happen to involved pretending to commune with the dead during seances.

I loved being inside Maud's head. I was also taken by her relationship with the deaf maid, how she continue to doubt and disobey and eventually finds love, in spite of everything. I think the book would have benefited greatly from a more engaging title. But don't let this shortcoming prevent you from getting to know Maud. She's quite the memorable, inspiring character.

Next, meet Betti, or Babo, from BETTI ON THE HIGH WIRE by Lisa Railsback.
I enjoyed an audio version of this one, and again, we've got a "bad" orphan desperately in need of love. The focus of Babo's journey is her immigration to America from an unnamed war-torn country where she has lived with the circus. She wants to be bad and unloveable so the family will send her back, so she makes all sorts of missteps during her adjustment.

The family renames her Betti (is this common? It seems awfully cruel to change something so vital about a person, even though I understand the intentions behind such a decision), and I was captivated by the sense of wonder and confusion this child experiences -- it seemed very real to me, and I enjoyed the misinterpretations and adventures of a child learning a completely new way of life. She's a funny kid, Babo... any person struggling with finding a place to belong (and who doesn't?) will relate to her story.

So here's to plucky orphans. Who are your favorite fictional orphans?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Thank you Inverness Elementary and Chelsea Intermediate! It's so great to meet enthusiastic readers/writers and teachers/librarians. I hope all of you have a fantastic summer filled with many Ludelphia-like adventures. xo

Monday, May 16, 2011


So it's my first time to participate in Book Talk Tuesday, and I'm excited! For other great book talks, please visit The Lemme Library.
First up, because I read it most recently: OKAY FOR NOW by Gary Schmidt. As soon as I heard the tiniest bit about this novel, I knew I wanted to read it. Mostly because I loved THE WEDNESDAY WARS, and this one features Doug Swietek, who was a minor character in that one.

So it's the end of the 60's, Doug has just moved to "stupid Marysville" in upstate New York, and he's got all sorts of personal things to deal with in the midst of the Vietnam war and impending moonshot.

There are so many things I could say about this novel. But I really REALLY want you to read it for yourself, because it is an EXPERIENCE. So I'm just going to tell you some of my general reactions:
Fantastic voice.
Deep, layered story.
My writer-radar was pinging away as Schmidt did a brilliant job of witholding information to the last possible moment...
and it's such an emotion-generating book without being overtly emotional.
Also, the characters: you think you know them, then the more you find out about them, you realize you had it all wrong. Just like in real life... I mean, come on, the set-up here is AMAZING.
And okay, I'm a sucker for birds. I disagree wholeheartedly with the premise here -- "a thing belongs in its assigned set" so Doug wants to return all the plates to the original Birds of America -- but I love how far Schmidt takes the bird metaphors. It made me want to write a whole series of poems based on these birds... and I just might.

Meanwhile, I am kicking myself for not attending Schmidt's talk at Kay B. Kaigler Conference in April. (It wasn't like I had a choice - I was hemmed in by a school visit and had to drive to Hattiesburg SOMETIME -- but doggone it, I would have loved hearing him talk about writing this particular book.)

Seriously: GO READ. BRILIANT. And big shout out to my dear friend Pat Weaver who sent me a copy. SO SWEET. Now I'm listening to an audio version.... fantastic!

For a more detailed review please visit Betsy Bird at Fuse #8.

Now for the second book I want to talk about: SPARROW ROAD by Sheila O'Connor. It was my great privilege to read this one as an ARC, and I gotta tell you, main character Raine still lives in my heart. The setting is unique: an artists' colony with its own mysterious past. You will fall in love with these artist-characters AND with Sheila's amazing lyrical writing. Really beautiful. And it'll inspire you to put on your own Arts Extravaganza to celebrate everyone's unique way of expressing themselves. But mostly it will make you think about family and forgiveness and how creation -art- is at the heart of EVERYTHING.

Look for this one during awards season! But read it NOW. Seriously. Don't wait. I've got it on my nightstand ready for another go. And for another more detailed review, please visit a Flashlight Reader. Congratulations, Sheila, on a beautiful debut!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


When I visit schools, I always include a bit about letters that I have received. The kids immediately assume I'm talking about FAN mail, which I'm not.

Instead, I share rejection letters. So they'll know what it's really like, and how they too can be rejected again and again, then, eventually, get that oh-so-happy news.

But today I want to share some favorite snippets from recent FAN MAIL. That's right. Little Ludelphia has made friends everywhere she goes!

"I go to Straughn Middle School and everyone is real happy you came. Not just because you got them out of class but because you inspired us."

"I really love your book...because it has mixed emotions and I can relate to Ludelphia."

"OMG! Mrs. Cobb is horrible!"

"Thank you for the bookmark. I realy[sic] need one because I was useing [sic] a stickypad."

"Ludelphia is an awesome name. I like how it goes along with Philadelphia."

And this one, from Mrs. Teresa Galbraith, Assistant Principal at Monroe County High school in Monroeville, Alabama:

"Yesterday, I was in the library speaking with our Future Teachers of Alabama, and one of the young men in that club came up to me with a signed copy of your book from the Beehive Bookstore. He was so proud of his copy of the book and he wanted to talk about the story and the characters. His excitement was refreshing and contagious. It was a wonderful thing to see. I want you to know that you definitely made a difference in at least one life."

One life. That's makes every single moment worthwhile, doesn't it?

I am honored and humbled and so very grateful to know each of you, even in the tiniest ways. Thank you for being part of my story.

Friday, May 6, 2011


What to say about my visit to Monroeville, Alabama?

It was AWESOME! I was thrilled to finally FINALLY visit the "Literary Capital of Alabama," home of literary giants Harper Lee and Truman Capote.

Crissy Nettles, who owns only one of the best, most inviting independent bookstores EVER, snuck me into the closed courthouse for these pics:

Then we had ice cream and posed next to what remains of Truman Capote's house. Wow, windy day!

Later, Pat Nettles, who was my most gracious host/tour guide (also Crissy's mother-in-law), took me to visit Sam Williams the potter, where I bought a bowl we have used every single night since my return. What's super-cool about Sam (besides his gorgeous pottery) is that his accounting system consists of a legal pad and a cigar box. I was honored when he came to the bookstore event that evening. Thanks, Sam!

And now the bookstore: Beehive Coffee & Books. When Crissy showed me the before/after pics of the renovation, I saw just how much love went into this place. It's been three years, and several people told me how great the store had been for the community, how much Crissy had done for Monroeville.

Here's some pics:

Meet Pat who contributed to the spread of incredible southern tasties brought by other members of the Monroeville Friends of the Library, who were so sweet, and made me feel so at home, that by the time the evening was over, I was about ready to buy a house, just for the weekends!

And this little bit of wonderful: it reminds me of my third grade teacher, Mrs. Fattig, whose husband was a plumber, so she brought in a big bathtub, set it up in the corner of her room, filled it with cushions and made it a reading spot. Love!

And back to the Queen Bee, Crissy, who affectionately refers to her employees as "the honeybees." This is one creative, inspiring woman, folks. Please go to Monroeville and say hello and have a cup of coffee and buy that book you've been craving.
Thanks for everything, Crissy. And good luck this weekend with Alabama Writers Symposium. No doubt, it will be awesome too. xo

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


...you might want to read my post over at Smack Dab in the Middle where I reveal comparable titles as shared with me by readers.

And no, not all of them are GIRLS!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


... kids like this one who retreat to the quiet beauty of the "Tree Room" to read fairy tales from an ancient book.

I AM this kid, although this kid is not me. I met her last week in marvelous Monroeville, Alabama.

More pics and stories from my trip later this week!

Sunday, May 1, 2011


Due to my hectic travel schedule this past month, I knew I would not be able to accomplish a poem a day, as is my April custom.

Instead, I've decided to write a poem a day for May. And I'm using some prompts handed out by Alabama Poet Laureate Sue Walker at the Alabama State Poetry Society luncheon.

Today's prompt: Write about circling the edge.

At the luncheon Barry Marks' book POSSIBLE CROCODILES was named BOOK OF THE YEAR and John Chambers was named POET OF THE YEAR. (Yes, in a organization largely populated by women, the guys cleaned up!)

Special Announcement from the Alabama State Poetry Society:


A Challenge and Impromptu contest.

Any form, length up to 40 lines.

Subject: Anything about the storm, personal tragedies, surviving, living in the south amid storms.

No entry fee.

Winners’ poems will be widely circulated, including sending them to Governor’s office and local press.

Deadline: MONDAY, MAY 16.

Email poems WITHOUT YOUR NAME ON THEM to ASPS President Joe Whitten whitten93@windstream.net.

He will send only the poems (not the cover email) to Barry Marks who will select top 3-5 for final judging by a non-member. Barry will send winning poems to Joe who will compare to emails and announce winners.

If you cannot send by attachment, please leave room on email for Joe to cut and paste when forwarding to Barry.

12-point type is recommended.

Only Alabama State Poetry Society members may participate but anyone joining by May 16 (postmark) will be included.

To join, send your Name; Address, Phone # and E-Mail Address and a check or money order for $20.00 to:
Wayne DeLoach, Treasurer
2532 County Rd 57
Marbury, AL 36051

Prize: $100 to each of two first prize winners. Up to 3 unranked runners up.

There are some great inspirations such as “Dixie Storms” (song) by Lone Justice,“The Storm” by Theodore Roethke, George Herbert’s “Storm

Good luck!!