Wednesday, January 30, 2013


The sky is turtle-back grey today as storms approach from the west. School are operating on a three hour delay, so I still have kids asleep in the house. But that's not what I want to talk about.

This past weekend I drove to Chattanooga for a scrapbooking retreat. My  mother rode with me, and we got caught in a traffic maelstrom that doubled our travel-time. It was okay -- we were safe, and we had each other. And when we finally FINALLY arrived at our destination, there was this sky waiting for us:

Gorgeous. Within seconds we were all radiating that same light.

Later on, I had a chance to read again through The Poetry Friday anthology, in preparation for an upcoming presentation with April Halprin Wayland and Robyn Hood Black at Fay B. Kaigler children's book festival in Hattiesburg, MS. And I found this:

"One of my teachers told me, 'Never let a day go by without looking on three beautiful things.' I try to live up to that and find it isn't difficult. The sky in all weathers is, for me, the first of these three things."  - David McCord

What are your three beautiful things today?

Monday, January 28, 2013


So I've been on this reading kick lately: author memoirs. The latest is one my sweet husband gave me for Christmas, called BAD BOY by Walter Dean Myers. It was the title I most wanted after listening to Mr. Myers speak at Louisiana Book Festival -- only it sold out at the festival before I could get my hands on it!

And now I've read Mr. Myers describe himself as a scrappy young poetry-lover with a speech problem, trying to make his way in 1940s and 50s Harlem. It's a great read, even if you're not a writer. But for those of us who share Mr. Myers' particular passions, it's beyond treasure; it's necessary.

Here's what great about author memoirs: they remind us that every writer's story is different. There's no right way or wrong way. There are many paths.

Every writer's story is special, as every human's story is special. It's encouraging to hear about the confusion and struggles and failures of an author we admire, especially one as prolific as Mr. Myer's. Books like these provide a recipe for the writing life. They show how we each make decisions to make this life work. It's encouraging and uplifting and inspiring -- with a healthy dose of reality thrown in.

Something that jumped out at me, from the last chapter, which is titled THE TYPIST: "Killens, the author of Youngblood, And Then He Heard the Thunder, and other novels, also brought me into the Harlem Writer's Guild, an organization of black writers. He counseled me always to think of my body of work rather than to concentrate too heavily on a particular book. It was, I believe, good advice."

Why is this awesome? Well. It IS good advice. It's a variation on the "marathon not a sprint" metaphor. And also it speaks to the importance of community. And shows how all authors learn from those who come before.

Which is why it's important to be generous, whatever stage of the writer's life you currently occupy. Share your story somewhere. Remind people that they are not alone, and however unique our experiences, we are all part of the same fabric. And maybe most of all, allow yourself to be inspired and enriched by other writers -- especially the ones you secretly (or not so secretly) envy.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


a picture I will be putting in my scrapbook!
This weekend I am going on a scrapbooking retreat with some of my most favorite women. We've been doing this for about 18 years now (thank you, Creative Memories for getting us started!), gathering at least once a year to focus on organizing our memories. And it's got me thinking: Why?

I could say, because it's fun! It IS fun. It suits the artsy-crafty me, the gal who loves to arrange and quilt and collage and write captions. Even though now I have switched to all-digital scrapbooking. And wow, do I. Love. It. In just one weekend I will likely complete my 2012 Family Album. (Check, check. I love getting things done!)

But you know, scrapbooking changes your life. You start thinking about events in photographs. You pay more attention to angles and setup, you're more careful about photographing everyone who attends an event. You use your camera to record road signs and letters. You hone in on the tiniest details, like a picture of someone's socks that made you laugh or the spread of food on the picnic table or the overturned juice box that within half an hour attracted a wave of ants.

Once I was showing to friends a scrapbook I'd created from a trip to Grand Teton and Yellowstone, and one of them said in a mocking kind of way, "I bet it took you longer to make this scrapbook than how long you were on the trip."

Yes. Yes, it did. And that's a GOOD thing. Because it puts a person right in touch with one of the two very best things in life, in my opinion: SAVORING. (The other, I would say, is ANTICIPATION, which is just another brand of savoring, and why I have never understood parents who "surprise" their kids with a trip to Disney World. I mean, so much of the joy is in the anticipation, the talk, the excitement! Likewise, afterwards, the savoring. Which is why, yes, we have a few Disney scrapbooks lying around, even though it's been years since we went.)

So, yes, one of the reasons I love to scrapbook because it's an excuse to savor. And that's not all: it's not just a record of events, of things that happened. It's a record of ME. Because I make all the choices. Just like in writing a book or creating a quilt, these scrapbooks look the way they look and include the details they include because they are a picture of me, of what's important to me, my sense of humor in the captions, the photos, the journaling.

Maybe that's not all that important to anyone right now. Maybe it never will be. But I know myself better for it. And dear sons of mine: it's all there should it ever become important to you. When that day comes (as it will) when you want to ask a question, but I'm not there to ask it -- maybe you will find the answer in these scrapbooks. And maybe you won't. But you WILL find me, and you, in all your younger versions.

And then there are the weekends. The communion of women who love to savor. All of us creating separately, yet together. Admiring and sharing and remembering together. What's not to love?

Friday, January 18, 2013


A couple of months ago I visited Frankfort, Kentucky, for Kentucky Book Fair (which was awesome, especially as my good friend Pat was with me!). One afternoon we explored downtown and of course spent some time in Poor Richard's Bookstore, where I headed straight for the poetry section.

I was looking for one book in particular: ANIMAL EYE by Paisley Rekdal. I'd not read any of Paisley's work, but I'd seen her book as one of the finalists on Goodreads' annual reader's choice awards.

Imagine my delight when I found it, right there, front and center, on the shelf! I cracked it open and started reading.

And then I had to sit down. No lie. I was so moved by this one poem, I had to find a chair and read it again. And again. It's one of those poems I feel like was written just for me -- or rather, I am just the reader for that particular poem.

And maybe -- especially if you were once a horse-loving gal like I was -- maybe you are the reader for this poem, too.

Why Some Girls Love Horses

by Paisley Rekdal

And then I thought, Can I have more
of this, would it be possible
for every day to be a greater awakening: more light,
more light, your face on the pillow
with the sleep creases rudely
fragmenting it, hair so stiff
from paint and Sheetrock it feels
like the dirty short hank
of mane I used to grab on Dandy’s neck
before he hauled me up and forward,
white flanks flecked green
with shit and the satin of his dander,
the livingness, the warmth
of all that blood just under the skin
and in the long, thick muscle of the neck-
he was smarter than most of the children
I went to school with. He knew
how to stand with just the crescent
of his hoof along a boot toe and press,
incrementally, his whole weight down. _ e pain
so surprising when it came,
its iron intention sheathed in stealth, the decisive
sudden twisting of his leg until the hoof
pinned one’s foot completely to the ground,
we’d have to beat and beat him with a brush
to push him off , that hot
insistence with its large horse eye trained
deliberately on us, to watch-
Like us, he knew how to announce through violence
how he didn’t hunger, didn’t want
despite our practiced ministrations: too young
not to try to empathize
with this cunning: this thing
that was and was not human we must respect
for itself and not our imagination of it: I loved him because

Wow, huh?

Be sure to visit Violet Nesdoly for Poetry Friday Roundup!
AND... National Poetry Month is coming!

Caroline Starr Rose is seeking poets to create guest posts throughout the month. Pop on over and sign up!

One more thing: In honor of my one little word for 2013:

The bluebird carries the sky on his back. 
-Henry David Thoreau 

Happy day, friends. xo

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


According to Amy Tan, in her book THE OPPOSITE OF FATE, our best stories come from "our worst life experiences."

I don't know about you, but I don't spend a lot of time thinking about my worst life experiences. Whatever happened, happened. It's done. Over. I choose to live now, press onward.

And yet... this idea makes me want to pull out the old china, rub it with a dish towel and make a place-setting complete with silver and cloth napkin and sprig of wildflowers poking out of the chipped glass vase my mother gave me.

What are my worst life experiences? Am I brave enough to sit with them, to hold them in my mouth? Is this what every writer talks about when they talk about fear, about writing what scares you?

Writers, if you haven't read this book, please do. My father gave it to me for Christmas, and I have really savored it. Lots of wisdom, lots to ponder.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Lisa Schroeder's Poetry Revolution

Happy Poetry Friday! The amazing Renee La Tulippe has Roundup at No Water River.

Just finished Lisa Schroeder's latest YA, FALLING FOR YOU. You may know Lisa for her YA novels-in-verse or for her adorable MG cupcake books.

This one is a prose novel about Rae, who uses poetry to help herself deal with the not-ideal home life she's been given.

There is so much to love about Rae. You ache for her as she struggles to survive a life she wouldn't choose for herself. She so desperately wants to be loved -- as we all do -- and I just wanted to scoop her up out of the madness of awful stepdad, uninvolved mother and stalker boyfriend and tell her, everything will be okay.

This is a story about a girl saving her own life, and one of the things she uses to do that is poetry. She keeps a poetry journal, and readers get a glimpse.

Here's my favorite from the book:

What I've Learned
by Anonymous

I'm not the floor
to be walked on
or the hammer
to be used.

I'm not the choir
to sing your praises 
or the commercials
to be ignored.

I'm the baby bird
wanting to fly
and the orchid
starting to bloom.

I'm the bonfire
spreading warmth
and the poem
with something to say.

Good-bye, commercials.
Hello, poetry.
It's time to start being
the me I want to be. 

author Lisa Schroeder
How's that for girl power? And poetry power.

Notice how Rae doesn't claim this poem at first, and only allows the poem to be printed in the school paper "by anonymous." It isn't until other students start posting their most heart-felt poems anonymously that she realizes she's started a poetry revolution -- and gets brave enough to "own" her poems.

How many of us have been that girl, the one afraid to share our poems for what they might reveal about us? For what others might thing of us?

And yet, and yet... it's in the sharing that strength is earned and connections are forged and life is transformed.

A couple of other excerpts:

"I loved the sound of that - a poetry revolution. Troubles at home? Put your pen to the page? Is your boyfriend being a jerk? Instead of spreading lies all over the Internet, whip out your journal and write a poem or two."

Good medicine, right? And here's the same sentiment shared in poetic form:

by Rae Lynch

When a wound
is fresh,
my pen is
the ointment
and my paper
the gauze.

What a surprise.
I'm not the only one.

We write to remind yourselves
we have a voice.
That what we
worry about,

Scars form
and we try
to hide them,
as if they define
who we are.

They don't.

Like it or not,
hurting is part
of the human experience.
Maybe we shouldn't
be so afraid
to let the world
see our scars.

Sharing brings people

It's secrecy that can
tear people

And finally, because my one little word for 2013 is SKY, this exchange between Rae and good-guy Leo:

"You love the sky, don't you?" I asked as I lay down next to him. "You always seem to point that thing [video camera] toward it."

"I guess I do. It's rarely the same sky twice. It's always changing, always different. And yet, always beautiful."

Yep. This is a lovely book for anyone who has felt out-of-control of one's own life or trapped or worse. Rae is an inspiration because she doesn't spend a lot of time wallowing. This girl finds a way to create the life she wants.

Readers, do pick this one up. It's my new favorite Lisa Schroeder book!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013


So many exciting and unexpected things have happened since little Ludelphia made her way into the world, and this has got to be one of the very best:

LEAVING GEE'S BEND was selected as the BIG READ in Como, Mississippi. That means the whole community is encouraged to read the book, and the library has arranged related programming, including a visit with me at First Regional Library on Friday, February 8. (Hi Judy! Hi Alice!)

And check this out: to advertise, they've put up posters around town of people reading the book! I. Love. It.

Thank you, Como! I can't wait to meet all of you!!!

Monday, January 7, 2013


Thanks to the holidays, I've got two movies to share with you this morning.

The first, LES MISERABLES, which we saw with our youngest son (he turns 13 this month).

I don't know which was more fun: my own enjoyment or watching his enjoyment.

He LOVED it. He said afterward that he wasn't lost at all, he understood everything. He asked me how long it was, and when I told him, he couldn't believe the movie had kept his attention the entire time. (This son has never been one to sit and watch ANYTHING. He must also be drawing or building lego or otherwise fiddling.)

As for me, I cried more than once and have to agree that Anne Hathaway was brilliant as Fantine. We've seen the musical twice on Broadway and once here in Birmingham as part of a Broadway traveling series, so the story and songs are of course familiar to me. The movie made everything clear-er, actually, and aside from missing the magic of the rotating circular stage, I was pretty darn happy with Hollywood's version.

Also: My son said he sure was glad Eponine finally gave Marius the note from Cosette -- he's a romantic, like his mom. :)

Next we saw THE IMPOSSIBLE. We really weren't planning to see this one -- we'd planned to see SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK. But it was at the far-away theater at an inconvenient time, so we opted for the tsunami movie instead.

I guess it's kind of hard to get excited about a tsunami movie. You know right away that's going to be some tough viewing. And you know, it was tough. I was cringing at times, crying at others. It was real and horrifying and about as close to a tsunami as I ever want to get.

Yet it was beautifully shot and acted, and oh man, I felt it. Thank goodness for some tiny happy (true story) endings in the midst of so much tragedy. Love is powerful and inspiring always.

Thursday, January 3, 2013


There were so many great poetry books nominated for this year's CYBILS, and the publishers were great to supply panelists with copies of the ones we did not have library access to. And since I believe poems should be READ and not left lonely on a shelf, I've got some poetry packs to give away to you, my Poetry Friday Friends! Don't forget Matt Forrest has Roundup!

1. History Pack

2. Young Readers Pack 

3. Funny Pack

4. Marilyn Singer Pack

You can't go wrong with any of these! Big thanks to the publishers for putting great work in print. And to the authors and illustrators, congratulations on fine work. I'm so inspired to write more and better!

Please indicate on Rafflecopter which pack you prefer. Enter by midnight, Sunday, January 6 (Downton Abbey season premiere night. Eep!) and I'll contact winners on Monday. Good luck, and happy reading!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, January 2, 2013


Every year I select one little word to be a guiding light for my year. In the past, I have chosen words like CELEBRATE and LISTEN and in 2012, FIERCE.

You probably noticed right away that these are all imperatives and adjectives.

Me, on the other hand -- I never noticed that until I started compiling a list of possible words for 2013. And that's when it struck me: my feelings of failure about "fierce" were related to the expectation and pressure in that word. Because it's an adjective, I felt like all my experiences should somehow measure up to that word. And, well, all my experienced didn't measure up to that word.

So this year I'm trying something different. The word I've chosen is one that suits my poet's soul. It's rich with possibilities and metaphor and is wide-open.


And the word is...........


Also new this year, I will be sharing sky pics and quotes on a regular basis -- starting with this one, from one of my most favorite musicians:

"Sky sky sky, can't see it all at once"  -- Ben Sollee

Here a video so you can hear Ben sing it:

Tuesday, January 1, 2013


What fun it was to read with Round One judges Carol Wilcox, Jone Rush MacCulloch, Anastasia SuenTricia Stohr-HuntMisti Tidman and Mary Lee Hahn!

It was tough to settle on our final list -- so much great poetry this year! Congratulations to our finalists:

 For more on why we chose the titles we chose, see our write-ups at the Cybils website.

Now onto Round Two! Congratulations (condolences? eek! gonna be tough!) to the following poetry people, who will select the final winner: