Thursday, May 28, 2009


Welcome, poetry lovers! Roundup is here... so leave your name and link and a little bit about your post in comments and I'll corral them periodically throughout the day. This little tradition has been a wonderful addition to my week... I truly believe poetry makes the world a better place, and I have so enjoyed the posts on all of your sites in recent weeks.

As for my own contribution, I give you a steamy poem I wrote after listening and listening to Norah Jones. I was so pleased and honored when it appeared in Motif: Writing by Ear. If you enjoy writings about music, this is a must-have anthology. Seriously. Excellent stuff.

After Listening to Norah Jones’ Come Away with Me

I remember your weathered
mouth at daybreak

how it disappeared
over a steaming hill
and my ears filled
with a fierce humming.

Go tend the barbed wire.

I will wait for you
on the shuck mattress
red roof unpinned
and ripening.

I will hold the heavy
bucket, fill it
with golden sagebrush
and puffs of cinnamon smoke.

You be the nightingale
and sing us a song.

- Irene Latham

Mary Lee features a cecropia moth that we found in our school garden earlier this week.

Laura has 15 Words or Less poems up.

Sara has some thoughts some puzzlement over Wallace Stevens' line "I wish that I might be a thinking stone."

Stella wrote a poem about Mother Reader's coming up event 48 Hour Reading Challenge.

Tricia has a poem by Gregory Orr.

The Write Sisters look at Write Your Own Poetry by Laura Salas.

Kurious Kitty is in with "Lost" by Carl Sandburg.

Gregory K. has a post on made up words and invites you to share yours.

Diane suggests differentiating haiku from haiku.

Andromeda has a couple or original poems for her children's teachers today.

John Mutford has favorites from Henry Reed.

Violet has an original poem on sewing (girl after my own heart!)

Blackeyed Susan shares a poem by Nita Penfold.

Color Online offers an original poem.

The Stenhouse Blog has two poems by Olivia Varner.

Kelly has an original poem.

At Wild Rose Reader, poems in limbo.

At Blue Rose Girls, a Marie Howe mother-daughter poem.

Kelly offers a Ben Jonson poem.

Ray has an original poem.

At Bildungsroman , song lyrics.

At Knocking from Inside, an original poem entitled "Mad Birds."

Janet has NPR's recession haiku and a Wendell Berry poem.

Tabatha offers haiku (and haiku-ish). Love it! :)

TS offers an original poem.

Readertotz offers Around the Green Gravel.

Lorie Ann has an orignal poem.

Mitali also has an original poem.

Karen has Billy Collins' Workshop (one of my faves!)

Serena offers an original poem.

Liz's poem has gone to the DOGS!

Chicken Spaghetti shares a Mark Doty poem.

Jill shares an original acrostic poem.

Julie's got an original sonnet. !!

Susan shares an original award-winning poem.

Erin shares an original "california" poem.

Sherrie shares an interview with Thalia Chaltas, author of verse novel BECAUSE I AM FURNITURE.

Sarah has a (not autobiographical) original poem. :)

Jennie shares a review of I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME by Lisa Schroeder.

Sylvia is in with a review of COME TO THE CASTLE (and a contest -go see!!)

Bri shares a William Carlos Williams poem and a link to other poems inspired by art.


Today I am using this pattern

and this fabric

and this woman (my mama) whom I love so very much

to create something beautiful.

It's the little things, isn't it??

Sunday, May 24, 2009


HOW I LIVE NOW by Meg Rosoff: I'm a little late jumping onto this bandwagon, but I love the voice in this one. Also the love story. It'll break your heart.

WATER STREET by Crystal Wilkinson: These are inter-related short stories, and I loved them. Isn't there always a story behind the story?? This book tells both the surface stories we show our neighbors and the really deep stories we sometimes aren't even quite aware of ourselves. I would love to write a book of short stories in a similar vein (kind of like Paul Fleischman did with SEEDFOLKS).

THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH by Carrie Ryan: Zombie apocalyse stories are not usually my thing, but this book held my attention in spite of that particular detail. It really is all about the characters. I was rooting for Mary the whole way down those creepy trails.

SHINE COCONUT MOON by Neesha Meminger: I love a book that introduces me to a new world, and this one sure did. The best part was discovering it WITH the main character. I think we all struggle with this "who am I?" issue at multiple points in life... good stuff.

THE WELL AND THE MINE by Gin Phillips: This one is set in Birmingham 1930's West Jefferson County, Alabama, which, of course, is coal mining country. And with my book LEAVING GEE'S BEND also being set in 1930's Alabama, I was particularly interested in this story. What I found was that the coal mining families in Gin's book weren't nearly as impoverished as the sharecropper families in Gee's Bend. I am really looking forward to July when Gin presents "Making History Come Alive" and delivers the keynote at Alabama Writers Conclave.

IF THE LEGENDS FADE by Tom Hendrix: Now here is a fascinating tale. Young native American girl marched off to the Indian Nations in Oklahoma then escapes and walks for five years to get back to the place where the river sings (Tennessee River in Florence, Alabama).

What's next? Oh, the list is very long. But I think it will be THE HELP by Kathryn Stockett. I've heard good things... I'll let you know.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


My mind is just full of poetry after Kentucky, and I am devoting Poetry Friday to polishing up some pieces to take with me to next workshop.

Meanwhile, here is my contribution to Poetry Friday, another in the historical women series that appears in EINSTEIN AT THE ODEON CAFE. Be sure to check out Poetry Friday Roundup hosted by Susan Taylor Brown at Susan Writes.

Picasso’s Widow Ends Her Life

It seemed a river of crimson ran
even before Jacqueline fired the gun --

the wild roses that once climbed the trellis
now spilled across the kitchen tile

and bloomed on the carpet in the next room.
In the beginning they loved with the purity

of sunlight and slept with child-like abandon,
but love finds its true voice in time.

Without him her skin fell into blue lines,
her eyes were shattered by ghosts,

her neck and arms plundered by those
innocent of the simple faith

of women who choose to love the unfaithful.
He was good to me, she thought,

just before she pulled the trigger.
He painted me with flowers.

- Irene Latham

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Just back from The Gathering at Greenbo Lake State Park in northeast Kentucky.

Gorgeous, I tell you.

And the artists, writers, musicians I had the privilege and honor to meet and share space with... generous, amazing talented folks. Now I've got mountain music going all through my brain thanks to Kate Larkin and Sue Massek and Silas House and many others. Wonderful, wonderful. Don't have better words for it quite yet.

And now it's just one more day of school till summer vacation. My kids are busy planning all the things they are going to do with all that sweet time. Do I ever remember what that's like...

Friday, May 15, 2009


I am loving this Poetry Friday thing! I love reading other people's words and what they have to say about other people's words. Check out the Round Up here.

And here is my contribution -- another in the historical women series that appears in EINSTEIN AT THE ODEON CAFE. Ever wondered what a ship might say??

The Nina Remembers Columbus

Three sisters, but I was the one he loved best.

His wife? She may have borne him a son
but I taught him to swim in possibility.
I baptized him in a hundred oceans
and introduced him to the New World.

He favored me, ask anyone.
Voyage after voyage we sailed, my ropes
taut in his hands, his boots claiming my deck,
his voice a booming song to lift my sails.

For him, I conquered warring currents,
discovered Cuba and placed him upon her shore,
delivered him from the eye of a hurricane.
And when he dropped anchor

I did not cry like the open-mouthed gulls.
I counted each bruising stroke as he rowed
away in his launch, then waited for his return
with the patience of wood.

My sisters, they meant nothing to me.

- Irene Latham

Thursday, May 14, 2009


It’s what we all want: something fresh. And yes, perhaps it is true that every story has already been told. But obviously we like those stories or we wouldn’t keep reading and writing them! So the key is to take an old idea and put a new spin on it. Make it new and exciting. Make it your own. And that, precisely, is where things get imprecise. Because there is no recipe for fresh. It just is. And editors (and readers) know it when they read it.

But. There is a way to open up those fresh channels in the old noggin. The first is to quit being lazy -- don’t lean on tired clich├ęs. Even in your daily writing - your email to your best friend or your notes to self -- make it fresh.

And when you’re feeling stale, go out and have a fresh experience. Go to a park or exhibit. Try a new food or store of drive to work. Read on a subject you’ve never read before. Play with perspective -- look at a rose under a magnifying glass, then admire the whole garden from a second story window. Put that mind to work making new connections. Your writing will be fresh as a result.

This post is a continuation of my series of Author ABC's. Click on tag to view A is for Agent, B is for Beginnings, C is for Change, D is for Danger, E is for Everyman.

Oh! And speaking of fresh, check out 5th generation Alabamian Ginger's interview of me at Deep Fried Kudzu! Lots of yummy recipes there too....

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


You know what's great about spring? All the art shows!

I had a blast with son Eric and artist Liz Reed in the children's tent where we helped young artists draw flowers and fruit and ducks.

Of course Eric had to be different and drew something really special. Check out his rendering of Regalia, the underground city in his current fave book GREGOR THE OVERLANDER by Suzanne Collins. Now you KNOW a book is good when it can inspire something as detailed as this!

And how sweet is this little family?

ART, I tell you...

Monday, May 11, 2009


... at Indie bookstores, of course! Especially during May, which is National Independent Booksellers Month. And you can read all about some awesome Indies at Shrinking Violet Promotions. Today's post is by yours truly, about MILESTONE BOOKS, the best little Indie in Birmingham. Check it out!

Also, in celebration of Children's Book Week, Shelly over at Write for a Reader is giving away books! And she allowed me to guest post on the topic of What to Expect when You're Expecting a Book. Go visit!

"The world can only be grasped by action, not contemplation."

- Jacob Bronowski

Sunday, May 10, 2009


It was my pleasure to speak with these GIRLS INC. girls about what it's like to be a writer. Even my son who tagged along (and was the only boy in the room!) had fun. They were a wonderful audience, and I can't wait to read their stories someday.

As a social worker in a previous life, I find it especially gratifying to merge writing with successful social programs. And I was thrilled to walk away with a little goodie bag that included The Girls' Bill of Rights:

Girls have the right to be themselves and to resist gender stereotypes.

Girls have the right to express themselves with originality and enthusiasm.

Girls have the right to take risks, tho strive freely, and to take pride in success.

Girls have the right to accept and appreciate their bodies.

Girls have the right to have confidence in themselves and to be safe in the world.

Girls have the right to prepare for intersting work and economic independence.

In short, Girls can do ANYTHING.

Friday, May 8, 2009


So I've just joined the super-cool Kidlitosphere group, and they do several poetry things, one of which is Poetry Friday. Round up is here.

I have previously blogged my poems on SHOWCASE SUNDAY posts, but this group thing is so much more fun! So here's another of the historical women series that appears in EINSTEIN AT THE ODEON CAFE.

Available at Amazon and Reed Books and Churn Dash Press.

Abe Lincoln Speaks of Mary Todd

She’s bold as a blackberry, my Molly
and it’s true, I love her

but a man who grows up in the woods
knows a trap when he sees one

a man who’s spent whole days
chopping lumber knows pine splits

different from oak and you can’t
approach one the way you would the other.

A man who’s lived off the land
knows the cunning of fox,

the resourcefulness of bear.
As soon as she turned those sparkling

blue eyes from mine, I knew
the baby was a lie.

And that’s why tomorrow
I’m going to marry her:

she doesn’t know it, but I can
read her like I can name the track

of every animal native to Indiana.
I know where she’s been

and where she wants to take me.
A man who grows up in the woods

knows the wild will always be wild,
and love is not about taming.

- Irene Latham

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


So I've been thinking about this article by Liz Smith I read in Parade this past Sunday about actress Amy Adams, in which she (Amy)was talking about what it was like to work with Meryl Streep on the film Doubt.

Liz asked, "Did she [Meryl Streep] give you any advice?

Amy replied: "No, which I appreciated. She set an example. There was no hand-holding, no condescending. What could give you more confidence and more reason to do your best?"

I LOVE that.

Monday, May 4, 2009


Don't you love when a long-shot wins the Kentucky Derby? I mean, I have never actually put on a hat and stood in the stands at Churchill Downs, but I can just imagine the thrill of watching the horse you only bet on because you liked his name WIN. Or even if you didn't bet on him. It's still really cool to see a horse come from behind and tear up the track like that.

One of these days I'm gonna go. And I'm taking my sister with me. Meanwhile, here's a quick list of five favorite horse books:

The Black Stallion by Walter Farley (and the movie! Beautiful beautiful gorgeous. I so wanted to BE Alec on that deserted island. And then I read and re-read every single title in the series.)

Black Beauty by Anna Sewell (A story from the horse's perspective! How cool is that?)

Horse Heaven by Jane Smiley (One I've enjoyed as an adult.)

Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry (another horse-related thing on my to-do list: check out the wild ponies at Chincoteague Island)

Cammie's Choice by Jane McIlvaine (I never could decide: a racer or a jumper?? This one's about a jumper, and I LOVE it. Still have my well worn copy from childhood -- looks just like the pic above, only mine has a cracked spine and more wear on the cover.)

Would love to hear from other horse lovers about favorite horse books!

Friday, May 1, 2009


Meet Oliver, our newest addition.

Eric has a super-cool teacher who hatches eggs every spring, and he has been looking forward to it all schoolyear. So now here he is. At least for a few weeks... my sister doesn't know it yet, but this one will be calling her chicken coop home very very soon. :)

I'd do just about anything for that smile...

"Nothing you do for children is ever wasted. They seem not to notice us, hovering, averting our eyes, and they seldom offer thanks, but what we do for them is never wasted."

- Garrison Keillor