Sunday, November 30, 2008


And There Was an Orange Moon

Last night I waited six hours
for the sound of your key in the door
my body curled in a tight ball
and I thought, this is what it's like
to know you'll soon be born,
here in this white-sheeted world
its walls rising and falling
with each fluttering breath

and you driving toward me
down highways made unfamiliar
by darkness and time
then out of nowhere
(you told me this morning)
moon like a pumpkin
your hand turning the knob,
heart thrumming in its iron cage.

- Irene Latham

My most favorite thing to write about in poetry or prose, is love. And as a reader, one of my most favorite things to read is fresh, new descriptions of love - ones that make me say, yes, EXACTLY....

"It is never too late to be what you might have been."

- George Eliot

Friday, November 28, 2008


1. I'm hungry. Was Thanksgiving really just yesterday?

2. It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas 'round these parts. All day we've been dragging out a box at a time. Funny what the guys choose to display and not display. (To all of you out there with little bitties, don't go secretly giving away that Bubble Santa that plays endless Christmas songs and leaves an annoying film of soap scum on the floor. Yep, still a hit a dozen years later.)

3. I'm one-third of the way through the latest draft of ESCAPE FROM FIRE MOUNTAIN, my historical fiction midgrade set in Martinique during the eruption of Mt. Pelee. This go around I've been concentrating on those little nitpicky details that lend authenticity to the story. Things like 1902 fashion and French words of endearment. Big thanks to La Belette Rouge for all your help! I've got a few more questions for you - will send you an email.

4. I am just about finished with a book called THE EGYPT GAME. It won a Newbery Honor Award, and it was recommended to me by another author when I was recounting a very important part of my childhood in which my youngest brother and sister and I created this whole play world based on what we knew about Egypt (knowledge largely collected during our many many viewings of the movie THE TEN COMMANDMENTS). Turns out, we weren't the only ones whose imaginary play was inspired by all things Egyptian. So, yeah, I am loving this book.

5. Must go nibble on some leftovers... peanut butter balls, anyone?

"Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding."

- Kahlil Gibran

Monday, November 24, 2008


The very best part of getting a blog award is passing it on.

And as soon as Kirie sent it my way, I knew instantly who I wanted to send it to: Sarah Frances and Katie at Plot This.

They are gorgeous, they are talented, they are dreamers, just like me. Even better, they are dreamers who actively go after those dreams. They are writers I am so happy to be reaquainted with, and they also have a really REAL blog. Know what I mean? Plus they live in the great state of Mississippi and found the movie TWILIGHT as comical as I did. :)

Check them out. You won't be disappointed. And mark my words: these two are going places in the kidlitosphere. It's just a matter of time.

"There is luck in sharing a thing."

- Irish proverb

Sunday, November 23, 2008


Many thanks to the lovely Kirie at 3 Little Chickies for giving me this award!

Kirie is an amazing woman who is a mom and artist -- and she is a continual inspiration to me.

Take today's poem, for instance. It was completely inspired by the above link, in which Kirie writes about the gorgeous gown she created for her daughter's Halloween costume.

I have often been moved/touched/inspired by textile arts, no doubt because I grew up in a house where my mother was often bent over a sewing machine making miracles. So when I saw Kirie doing the same thing... well, what do ya know, a poem popped out.

Here it is, Kirie... hope you enjoy my work in progress as much as I enjoyed yours.

Simplicity 8953
- for Kirie

The pattern promises to make a princess
so I gather together tulle, organza,
duchess satin and dupioni silk
to spin a girl’s dream: flouncy slip
beneath shimmering skirt, puffy sleeves,
bodice edged with beaded rosette trim.
I don’t warn her about the clock
or tell her how glass slippers sometimes shatter.
I stay up till dawn, add a tuck
so that it fits just right
and later as she prances and twirls
I vow to hold her close
should white steeds dissolve into skittering mice,
the royal coach to a rotting pumpkin,
the prince lost in moonlight, then
caught dancing with someone else.

- Irene Latham

"Life is pure adventure, and the sooner we realize that, the quicker we will be able to treat life as art."

- Maya Angelou

Friday, November 21, 2008


Well... I didn't hate it exactly but I sure didn't love it.

The best part was being a part of such excitement. You should have seen the crowd, many of them dressed up as characters in the book or wearing Twilight-related clothing. THAT was fun.

The worst part was how disappointed I was. My most favorite scene - the one where Edward takes Bella to the forest and shows her how his skin sparkles - did not translate at all to film. And I don't know who's brilliant idea the soundtrack was. The whole thing just struck me as cheesy. And hey, I enjoyed the book!

Anyhow, I'm glad I saw it. But I'm also glad it's over. :)

"the soul should always stand ajar,
ready to welcome the ecstastic experience"

- Emily Dickinson

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Okay, for those of you who don't know, I have two favorite poets: Mary Oliver and Sharon Olds.

So when I found out Sharon Olds was going to be at the Margaret Mitchell House in Atlanta for a reading to promote her new book ONE SECRET THING, I started contacting other Alabama poets about travel plans.

Well. You know how sometimes you can love an author's work so much, that you somehow feel you know that person, then you actually meet them or hear an interview and feel this overwhelming sense of disappointment, like this person had been stringing you along all the while and now you knew the dirty rotten truth, that they aren't so wonderful after all?

I gotta tell you: Sharon Olds is every bit as wonderful as I imagined. What a delightful person! She was everything I expected her to be, and more.

I think I was most surprised by her girlishness... is she really 66? She made a comment on discovering her "quirkiness," and you know, she was funny! I guess I just see her body of work as so serious and bold and meaningful that it sort of took my by surprise when she read a poem about looking at her sagging, dimpled butt in a hotel mirror.

She's not only a real poet, she's a real person. Who gets rejection slips and questions her ability and worries about what she's going to wear to a reading in Atlanta, Georgia. (J. Crew jacket, bought at the mall, that day.)

And you know what, she made me cry. Check out the book. Turn to page 80. Read "Little End Ode."

And look for more odes in her next collection. She said she's been reading Neruda and writing ode after ode. Can't wait!

"See everything; overlook a great deal; correct a little."

- Pope John XXII

Sunday, November 16, 2008


Letter from Malta
- with thanks to Raymond Carver

This is the letter
I was going to write earlier but didn’t
because I was watching an airplane
fly in from the West, dustcloud maroon in the pink sky,
imagining it was you come to fetch me,
how I would find you on the tarmac,

you’d be wearing a white shirt with buttons
waiting and knowing exactly what to say
but not needing to say it.
We’d kiss then, if it was really you.
We’d tremble and kiss
and exclaim our good fortune.
We’d forget this letter
and the one before
and all the ones you meant
to write but never did.
This island would grow in that moment,
the earth would rise up at the point
of our lips touching,
we would overthrow the ocean.
Snow would drift from another continent
and cover our shoulders.

But it wasn’t you flying in
and here in Malta they have no word for snow;
it is simply the thing that never comes,
the thing impossible even to imagine.
Loving you has never been as simple as that.
I know your face. I know the taste of your skin,

I know the words you would have written
had your pen found paper.
If you dropped from the sky
I would know just what to call you.

- Irene Latham

This poem was inspired by Raymond Carver's poem "The Poem I Didn't Write." It starts "Here is the poem I was going to write/ earlier but didn't..."

I read a bunch of Carver when I first started getting serious about writing and publishing poems. I am really drawn to the simplicity of his writing style -- it's a good reminder to we word-lovers who can get so clever sometimes (and be so pleased with the cleverness) that it distracts from the poem/story/whatever. So often less is more.

"One very important aspect of motivation is the willingness to stop and to look at things that no one else has bothered to look at. This simple process of focusing on things that are normally taken for granted is a powerful source of creativity."

Edward de Bono

Saturday, November 15, 2008


Let's get the rejections out of the way first: Rattle and Indiana Review. Sigh. I sent them my best work and still, I'm just not there yet. WILL TRY AGAIN.

Also, I was super-excited about a picture book manuscript I had been working on, so I sent it to my agent for her feedback. Apparently I am not there yet on this, either. Her comment was that it was still too message driven and that I should concentrate on character development and figure out how old my main character is.

And you know, when she said all that, I was like, yes, EXACTLY. She nailed all those concerns I was too enmeshed with the manuscript to verbalize.

On top of that, I realized the whole focus on the picture book manuscript was just my brain creating an amazing decoy to distract me from what I really need to be working on, which is the next draft of ESCAPE FROM FIRE MOUNTAIN (midgrade historical fiction set during the eruption of Mt. Pelee in Martinique, 1902).

I don't know why I've been avoiding it so heartily. Probably has something to do with feedback I received from Carolyn Yoder way back in June. See, she was right on target too. But fixing a novel is so much heavier than fixing a picture book. It's like almost drowning, the way it grips you from the inside.

Now for the happy-making news: Glass: A Journal of Poetry accepted two of my poems -- "The house on Baltimore Street was not built for battle" and "In my mother's dream." Many thanks to editors Holly and Anthony! Word is they will appear in the December 1 issue. I'll keep you posted.

Interestingly, I had trouble finding a title for each of these poems, so I just used the first line of the poem for the title. (Something to think about if you're struggling with titles.)

"There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom."

- Anais Nin

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Remember the Mad Bluebird? Let's call this one the Grumpy Prairie Dog. :)

My father took this pic earlier this year (pre-cancer diagnosis), and for whatever reason, it makes me smile. Hope it brings you joy as well.

I've had a hard time focusing this week -- I feel like I am shooting my energy all over the place when what I need to do is grab hold of something and hunker down. I took a break from my angst by sinking into my latest thrift-store find: All Over But the Shoutin' by Rick Bragg. Now here's a quote that resonates...

"I was slowly beginning to realize that the only thing that was worth writing about was living and dying and the trembling membrane in between."

- Rick Bragg

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Have I told you about my weekend?

Talk about an other-worldly experience. It sort of reminded me of the movie American Beauty when the kid is filming the plastic bag dancing in the wind?

Truly, it was a beautiful weekend with the four of us women tucked away in a little chalet on the mountain ridge overlooking Lake Guntersville where we talked and laughed and scrapbooked and sewed and listened as the leaves hit the roof. Amazing.

So this is the lake as it can be seen from the top balcony of the Lodge, which is also home to Pinecrest Dining Room. Mmmmm.... garlic-tomato mussels, fried catfish, peach cobbler.... Which meant not only no kids, but NO COOKING. Need I say more?

And this is us: The Mother, The Original, The Great and The Boss. Sadly we were missing Number Two, but we made do.

"Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower."

- Albert Camus

Sunday, November 9, 2008


Suicide Ghazal

At Bonaventure Cemetery were warnings disguised as birds:
a swarm of Brewer’s black chittering, those birds.

I might have listened had they sounded like trumpets.
Instead I crept past you, forgot about the birds.

Father says the cardinal’s flash is like the apple in Eve’s hand.
I want to know: Is it a sin to want to be a bird?

If I could go back, I would at least crack the window.
I would blink my eyes and toss out seeds for the birds.

Listen: here is a hermit thrush, shyly calling you home.
It sings not of death but of the life of birds.

Come, spring doesn’t start till you see a robin bouncing across a lawn.
When a wedge of Canada geese fly over, I’ll say look at the birds.

And if it is a sin, let us never forget the Bird Girl
who once stood in this garden, arms extended to all birds.

- Irene Latham

As promised, here is the poem partly inspired by The Bird Girl statue that sits in my garden. Here's to all the birds out there, winged and wingless...

“A believer is a bird in a cage, a freethinker is an eagle parting the clouds with tireless wing.”

- Robert Green Ingersoll

Friday, November 7, 2008


Here's to Lori Ditoro and Troop 182 who earned their bronze award by putting on a Writing Workshop! And what an honor it was to be a part of the day. These girls earned writing badges in one afternoon, and I was so impressed by how they immediately got busy creating and really came up with some good poems, articles and stories. And hey, now I know where to get my Thin Mint cookies. :)

"Don't think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It's self-conscious and anything self-conscious is lousy. You cannot try to do things. You simply must do things."

- Ray Bradbury

Thursday, November 6, 2008


How cool is this? I told my brother I needed a pic of a hickory leaf, and this is what he did.

Don't you love the change of perspective? It's exactly what I do in the classroom with kids using the jeweler's loupe. Just try looking at things close-up, and your brain will start making all these unusual analogies... like, don't you see water here, and mountains, and a map? Sand dunes, maybe? Crop fields? Highways and neighborhoods? Talk about opening the mind and feeding your creativity.

"There is no better high than discovery."

- E. O. Wilson

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Michelle said I should share pics of my new and improved garden, so here you go.

The tree with the yellow leaves is a sugar maple (and the inspiration for the "November" poem posted last Sunday).

The Bird Girl is a favorite of mine... and she is the inspiration for another poem, one entitled "Suicide Ghazal." I'll post that one next Sunday.

The little tree that's shaped like a goblet and has a smattering of red leaves is my new dogwood. Can't wait to see how it all looks in spring!

"Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing."

- Abraham Lincoln

Sunday, November 2, 2008



Even the sky

is naked

now, brisk air

having finally

chased off

the clouds.

Trees sway

in the backyard,

wind pushes

my collar up

as yellow-brown


tear across

the lawn

in a dance

that can only

be done

when all else

has been stripped

away ---

like just before

our lips touch,

or just after.

- Irene Latham

I love November. So it should come as no surprise that of all the poems I've written, this is one of my most favorite.

"It takes courage to grow up and beocme who you really are."

- e.e. cummings