Thursday, July 31, 2008


My brother MJ is just back from a trip to Port St. Joe, FL, which is great for a whole bunch of reasons, not the least of which is this pic. Is he good, or what?

It reminds me of my editor's notes last draft... something about how I needed not to refer to light so much. That things were always "catching the light." Apparently my mind is quite fond of that image.

"Light be the earth upon you, lightly rest."

- Euripides

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


So I just finished The Devil's Arithmetic by Jane Yolen. It's about the Holocaust, and you might think with the black cloud that has settled over my 2008 that it's much too dark a subject for me right now. But here's the thing: books like these are infused with a hope so strong it actually makes me feel better.

Also, specifically in this book, there is a idea that I've really latched onto. The main character has time traveled from present day back to 1942, and she wants to warn those around her that the Germans are lying, that the "resettlement" will tear their families apart, that the ovens are not for baking, but for death. But as she watches those around her, their faces lit with hope, she realizes she can't take that away from them. She realizes her knowledge of the future will not benefit them at all. Ultimately she cannot strip them of the only thing they have left.

I'm thinking hope is quite a gift to give someone. And who knows what all a person might overcome when armed with such a powerful emotion?

“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”

- Oscar Wilde

Sunday, July 27, 2008



I believe if you follow
the wall far enough
you will eventually find a door
that no god is going to open for you –
just you with your gnarled fingers
curling around the knob.

I believe in dirt under fingernails,
do-it-yourself mud puddles,
the smell of fresh-cut grass.

I believe in serendipity,
coincidence, random
accidents that defy explanation
because there is no explaining pain
or the lack of it.

I believe whatever is, is;
“meant to be” is fig growing
on an imaginary tree.

I believe Adam and Eve still
inhabit our gardens, whisper
to serpents and savor apples,
make wild love one minute,
drop their eyes and cover
themselves the next.

I believe in cliffs that become canyons,
canyons that cradle rivers,
rivers that leave
and keep on leaving
every day there’s earth, air, sky.

I believe the ocean is the womb
where we begin and end,
the shore with its grit and shards of shell
the battlefield where we fight
our most natural impulses,
our tongues parched, our skin blistered
and raw, our voices crying
to be heard and understood,
for someone, anyone, to
save me, goddammit, I’m drowning here.

I believe the wind carries
our secrets like seeds,
plants them on deserted islands
where they grow into trees with coconuts,
sweet milk waiting for the washed-up,
the down-on-their-luck, the ones
whose cups are empty
but who somehow find
the strength to climb.

I believe there is nothing more real
than love you can’t see,
nothing more powerful than our minds
surging in dream,
our sleeping legs pumping like pistons
until almost, almost…
then waking in a bed with the one
you love more than anything,
aching to touch him
but not touching him
because there is such sweet
torture in waiting.

I believe in dust to dust
and grey skies and choices
that are neither right not wrong.

I believe forgiveness is the best way
to lighten a load, yet without the yoke
one never learns all he is capable of.

I believe everything will be okay,
and even when it’s not
if you follow the wall far enough,
you will find a door.

- Irene Latham

This poem is a few years old and first appeared in POEMS FROM THE BIG TABLE. I try to write a creed poem every couple of years, as I find my belief system is constantly changing and evolving. Of course, there are elements that remain the same. Like how I have always and WILL always believe in doors.

"Say little and say it well."

- Irish proverb

Saturday, July 26, 2008


Okay, well much as I loved the artsy black, I decided I needed to lighten the place up. And what better day to do it than a rainy Saturday morning when I have just helped my father out the door and watched him drive toward the next leg of this new journey?

Also, there's this new award to celebrate. It's from Alison who always ALWAYS brightens my day. Thanks for being there, Alison! And I am sending it to Michelle whose attitude about life inspires me. She WILL be heard.

Thanks also for all the sweet messages about my father's illness. So nice to know I am not alone.

"What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us."

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday, July 25, 2008


Ever heard of this book by Margaret Wise Brown? It reads like music, or poetry.

Here is my favorite part: "The important thing about an apple is that it is round. It is red. You bite into it, and it is white inside, and the juice splashes in your face, and it tastes like an apple, and it falls off a tree. But the important thing about an apple is that it is round."

The important thing about today is my father is coming. It is July. The sun is blazing, and it is steamy outside, and the hands on the clock click click click, and it feels like there is not enough time. But the important thing about today is my father is coming.

“The apple tree never asks the beech how he shall grow, nor the lion the horse, how he shall take his prey.”

- William Blake

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


I have a new LEAST favorite word. Or perhaps it has always been my least favorite word, only I am just now aware of it.


We just found out my father has colon cancer. And there is nothing I can say about it that hasn't already been said. Anyone whose life has been touched by cancer knows it has the power to change all sorts of things. Things you can't even imagine until it happens.

Ironically my father is the Executive Director of Bismarck Cancer Center. So he is pretty much in the best place he could possibly be in terms of treatment. But I don't guess I have to tell you it's a long way from Alabama.

There has been a lot written about the experience of cancer, including this blog. My father is also writing about his experience, and I am grateful for that. I feel very very greedy for his words right now.

The graphic above appears on all the literature for Bismarck Cancer Center. I've always loved the inconquerable hope infused in those words. I guess ultimately that's what it boils down to. Hope. And courage.

"Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

- Margery Williams, THE VELVETEEN RABBIT

Monday, July 21, 2008


So I had a lot of fun with the high schoolers and their advisers, and the keynote went really well, EXCEPT... in my initial nervousness I forgot to include part of my speech!

The speech was titled WINDMILLS AND OTHER POTS OF GOLD, but it could have been titled EVERYTHING I NEED TO KNOW I LEARNED FROM POETRY.

One of the things I did was share poems that have guided me on this whole writing journey, and I was so annoyed when I realized I had forgotten THIS one, because it is one of my most favorites ever:

Secret Life

By Stephen Dunn

Why you need to have one
is not much more mysterious than
why you don't say what you think
at the birth of an ugly baby.
Or, you've just made love
and feel you'd rather have been
in a dark booth where your partner
was nodding, whispering yes, yes,
you're brilliant. The secret life
begins early, is kept alive
by all that's unpopular
in you, all that you know
a Baptist, say, or some other
accountant would object to.
It becomes what you'd most protect
if the government said you can protect
one thing, all else is ours.
When you write late at night
it's like a small fire
in a clearing, it's what
radiates and what can hurt
if you get too close to it.
It's why your silence is a kind of truth.
Even when you speak to your best friend,
the one who'll never betray you,
you always leave out one thing;
a secret life is that important.

For a really really long time, writing was my secret life. I wrote all sorts of stuff but I just shoved it inside a drawer. I didn't share it with anyone. Even my husband says he didn't know at the time that he married a writer. I'm thinking maybe that's a good thing? Kind of like boiling a frog? :)

"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit."

- Aristotle

Friday, July 18, 2008


So after a year of planning and some last-minute madness making nametags and stuffing conference folders, I am off to Tuscaloosa for a fun writing weekend courtesy of Alabama Writers Conclave.

But before I get there, I am stopping off with my sixteen-year-old niece at Alabama Scholastic Press Association's Long Weekend to deliver my keynote WINDMILLS AND OTHER POTS OF GOLD as well as teach some poetry editing tricks to some very dedicated high school literary magazine students. Sounds like fun, doesn't it?

Be back Monday with all the details... hope everyone has a wonderful weekend!

"Writing has laws of perspective, of light and shade, just as painting does, or music. If you are born knowing them, fine. If not, learn them. Then rearrange the rules to suit yourself."

— Truman Capote

Thursday, July 17, 2008


Okay, this one is a few years old, but I just ran across it and had to share. None of my kids take baths anymore -- they are guys who take showers. And dear Lord, do they need 'em! Between feet and armpits, it can get pretty smelly around here. Which is why I am feeling all nostalgic for that sweet little kid smell... sigh. They grow up too fast.

"At the entrance, my bare feet on the dirt floor, Here, gusts of heat; at my back, white clouds. I stare and stare. It seems I was called for this: To glorify things just because they are."

- Czeslaw Milosz

Monday, July 14, 2008


Have you seen this bit about the Chinese government removing signs with inaccurate translations before the Olympics? Some of them are pretty funny:

Having fun prohibited.
Dying right here is strictly prohibited.
If you are stolen, call the police at once.

Others are offensive, so proceed to above link with caution.

Meanwhile, I love the Olympics, especially the swimming and diving events. Back when synchronized swimming was an official event, my sister and I worked for hours and hours perfecting routines in our backyard swimming pool. Now THAT was fun.

"All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath."

- F. Scott Fitzgerald

Sunday, July 13, 2008


Like Don Quixote

You must expect some disasters.
At some point

there will be a fire.
It will eat the kitchen cabinets

stretch its long tongue to the ceiling
spit black gas into the air.

At first you will stand in wonder
you will see faces in the flames

bright eyes burning. Then you will
remember the children

their cheeks flushed with fear
their voices squeals now, high-

pitched and feverish.
You will be glad

it is only a fire. You will
be glad when no one gets hurt.

And once the painters come
to white-wash the ceiling

you will forget it ever happened.
But next time you sit down to write

sparks will fly
from your fingers.

- Irene Latham

This poem was inspired by an actual fire in my kitchen. I was talking on the phone and had closed my bedroom door for just a moment to keep out the kid-noise when they started screaming even louder. I thought I heard "fire" in there, but I seriously thought they were just being rowdy. Then I smelled smoke.

Turned out I had left a skillet with grease still in it on the stove then turned on the wrong burner to boil water for macaroni and cheese. The grease caught fire, and by the time I got into the kitchen, the microwave above the stove was melting. Scary.

"If you are scared, embarrassed or hurt, it means you never take chances,”

- Julia Soul

Saturday, July 12, 2008


Good news: a few of us who have children's books coming out in 2010 have found each other. Check us out at 2010: A Book Odyssey. And if you have a mg or ya also debuting in 2010, please join us!

And as we are going with a space theme (you know I am loving that!), check out this quote:

"In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time someting like that happened in politics or religion."

- Carl Sagan, 1987 CSICOP Keynote Address

Friday, July 11, 2008


1. Working on a keynote speech I am scheduled to present next weekend at the Alabama Scholastic Press Association's Long Weekend. I'm calling it "Windmills and Other Pots of Gold." It's about dreams and how to make them come true.

2. Going to see WALL-E today for the second time. My eight-year-old LOVES it. Me too, actually. What a sweet love story.

3. Been reading a book called BLUE by Joyce Moyer Hostetter. It's historical fiction, about a 13 year old North Carolina girl's experience during the polio epidemic. Good writing AND good story!

4. My newest addiction is Jiffy oatmeal muffins. You know the mix that comes in the little square box for like 88 cents at Wal-Mart? Add an egg and some milk, and voila! Seriously, these things are yummy.

5. I need a new outfit for next week's keynote. I'm thinking something red. Or blue. But not one of these maternity-looking get-ups. What has happened to the clothing industry??

"When in doubt, wear red."

- Bill Blass

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


So DeAnna picked Jesse. I would have picked the other guy, but hey, it wasn't my show. (I mean, hello! Did you see that adorable game Jason made for her?) They seem really happy, and I love what she said about choosing him because he was the one guy she couldn't live without. Oh boy, do I know that feeling! May they be happy.

“When we are happy we are always good, but when we are good we are not always happy.”

- Oscar Wilde

Monday, July 7, 2008


What's better than a fortune cookie? How 'bout a piece of Dove dark chocolate inside a red foil wrapper that is stamped with a message:

"Be mischievous. It feels good."
"Decorate your life."
"Count the stars."
"You're allowed to do nothing."

Pretty cool, eh? And tasty. Excuse me while I go have another. :)

"Strength is the capacity to break a chocolate bar into four pieces with your bare hands - and then eat just one of the pieces."

- Judith Viorst

Sunday, July 6, 2008


Sunday Drive

We’re heading south on 119
while the Spirit rover is inching
its way across Mars.

I think I’m pregnant.

Spirit parks in front of a football-sized rock.
I tell no one what I think
is happening inside my body.

Spirit pauses
then sends signals back to Earth.
You’re driving too fast.

In a day or two Spirit
is supposed to reach out its arm
and examine the rock, determine minerals and elements.

If it’s true, I’ll want to keep the baby.

Spirit should then drill into the rock
to reveal its interior.

If it’s true, I’ll have to tell you.

The President says he wants to send a man to Mars.
I say, Mars is not the moon.
You will say
our lives are going backwards.

Spirit is waiting for its twin, Opportunity.

I am waiting
for pictures that show me
more than red silt and desolate rock.

- Irene Latham

I've got a little science-geek in me apparently... I'm fascinated by all things space-related. I love reading about the mysteries of the cosmos, and anytime there's a crew in space I pay attention. Fortunately we live just a hop skip and a jump from NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, so space pics and the latest exploration info always makes the newspaper. Wish I could dash over to the other side of the world for the Aug. 1 total eclipse of the sun. Sigh. Not this year...

"From my close observation of writers... they fall into two groups: 1) those who bleed copiously and visibly at any bad review, and 2) those who bleed copiously and secretly at any bad review."

= Isaac Asimov

Saturday, July 5, 2008


One of the shows we saw in New York was RENT. I don't know why exactly I wanted to see it again-- 12 years ago when we saw it the first time I wasn't sure I would survive the noise. Plus I was pregnant with Andrew, and every time those speakers would screech, he would start jumping. But when we were standing there in the TKTS line and the choices were getting slimmer (very few shows open on Monday -- would have liked to have seen WICKED, MAMMA MIA! or even PHANTOM OF THE OPERA for the billionth time), I heard myself say, "how 'bout Rent?"

So off we went. And it was better this time. Still too loud for me and seems a little outdated now, but I was moved by it and I'm glad we saw it again. According to the billboards and the graffiti covering the outside walls of the theater, the show closes for good on September 7. Check it out. And try to wrap your head around this quote:

"The opposite of war is not peace, it's creation."

- Jonathan Larson

Friday, July 4, 2008


Where oh where has this little year gone?

We are just back from a quick trip to New York City, and on a bus tour the guide informed us that we are now closer to the next New Year's Eve than we are to the last. Is that really true?

Anyhow, we had a wonderful wonderful time... but I mean it is SO good to be back in good ol' steamy wide-open Birmingham! And once we pick up the guys tonight from camp, our family will be complete again.

Hope tonight everyone enjoys some finger-lickin' good barbeque and some snap cracklin' fireworks!

"I guess we all like to be recognized not for one piece of fireworks, but for the ledger of our daily work."

- Neil Armstrong