Friday, February 26, 2010


... and I am so very grateful for every single one!

Yep, it's my birthday, and I was planning this fabulous post, but then I woke up this morning and I had a poem in my brain, this poem, the one below. So, since it's Poetry Friday, I give it to, with gratitude and love. Always ALWAYS love. More poems at Roundup.

i carry your heart with me
by e. e. Cummings

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

Thursday, February 25, 2010


Gosh, there is just no way a blog post is going to do the Fairhope/Mobile/Jackson Tour justice. I mean, it was awesome! And I am CERTAIN my mother's presence had everything to do with it. (Also, all her sweet cousins! Who knew I had relatives in Fairhope?!) Magic, I tell you. And here she is, all bursting with maternal pride when we spied LEAVING GEE'S BEND at the Books-A-Million in Daphne.

And here we are getting all clever at Page & Palette in Fairhope. Emily is Awesome, and we had a great turnout, thanks to the Pensters, who showed up with smiles and hugs and general merriment. Thanks, PT, for putting the word out!

What to say about the Dauphin Island Parkway Library DIVAs?? Well, let me say something about the library staff first. I was so impressed and touched by the way they care about these kids. I mean, they are working HARD to make a difference in these kids' lives. I was thrilled and honored to be a part of. And hey, that cake was delicious! Thanks, y'all, for making me feel so welcome!

Wait till you hear this: my mom and I are SO on the same wavelength. While she was at home making me this quilted pillow (cut from all the fabrics we used to make the clothesline props I use for school visits), I was at home making her this quilted sunflower wallhanging! We were both quilting for each other. Cool, huh?

Okay. Monday night I was the guest of honor at Sue Walker's home for "Tavia's Salon." The place was packed, and Russ from Bienville Books was pretty happy about selling out of books... and I had fun talking about and reading from the novel to folks I have met/seen on the poetry circuit. (I just made that up -- I guess when you go to a "salon" you start thinking you need a fancier vocabulary.) Anyhow, it was a lovely evening, and I am so grateful to Sue and Ron for being such wonderful hosts!

Last stop on the Tour was Lemuria Books where I was greeted by yet another Awesome Bookseller Named Emily and stacks and stacks of books! Unfortunately there was a threat of snow, so not many people ventured out... but I had a blast with Sarah Campbell and media specialist/cool person Julie Owen and young Sami, who was celebrating her eleventh birthday, and I got to be the first author she's ever met. :) Good times, I tell you! They just keep coming!!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


So I'm back at home, having slept soundly in my very own bed, after a wonderful FABULOUS few days of book events I was so very fortunate to share with my mama. More on this tomorrow.

Meanwhile, I want to share with you a little something special. Yesterday, while driving from Mobile to Jackson, MS, I listened to THE WORLD ACCORDING TO MR. ROGERS. And it was emotional for me, in a big way, which came as something of a surprise. See, I remember watching the program as a child, but I didn't know how much it was embedded in my psyche until I heard the music on the CD, then Mr. Rogers' voice. And his words, that are oh so validating -- and I found out just how important Mr. Rogers has been to my developing person.

One bit that sticks with me this morning was a story he tells about listening to a sermon while he was in seminary, how the preacher was doing everything wrong (according to what Mr. Rogers was being taught), and how the woman beside Mr. Rogers was so moved by the message that she was crying. Mr. Rogers said that he learned something so important from that experience, that he, Mr. Rogers, had come from a place of judgment, but this woman, this listener in need, was open to what the preacher was saying.

Mr. Rogers said this "space between the person doing his or her best to deliver a message of good news and the needy listener is holy ground."

And having been a needy listener... and a person who has delivered a message badly... AND a person who has stood in judgment...I love that.

So, pictures tomorrow. And today, a Tenners Tell All post on the Ups and Downs of publishing. Check it out!

Sunday, February 21, 2010


Before I get to my review of Billy Collins' visit, let me share with you a few pics from the past few days:

at Springville Road Regional Library

...where Youth Department manager Grace Slaughter has installed a gorgeous and informative quilt collection (yes, I got her for Stitching Our Stories!)

at Leeds Jane Culbreth Library, where they are raffling off this quilt to help raise funds for a new building!

at University of Montevallo, with the Shelby County Poetry Players, who were a-MAZ-ing!

Okay, now back to Billy.

He was everything I expected him to be: funny, gracious, cocky one minute, self-deprecating the next... my "take away" was what he said about how his poems don't usually arrive via some sort of divine inspiration -- usually it's "irritation" that gets him writing. He said this before reading the poem "Hangover," found here.

Oh, and guess which poem he closed with?? I couldn't believe it, but it was the poem I posted for Poetry Friday!! Cool, huh? See, I told you me and Billy share a very special connection. Maybe if I hadn't been so exhausted after all the above reported activities, he and I might have discussed it over coffee. Alas.

Big thanks, by the way, to everyone who posted at Roundup using my linky tool. It wasn't without its kinks, but all things considered, I think it was a success. I think I will try it again next time I hold a blog contest. Which, if you're paying attention, will probably be in April. Because I want to give away some poetry books for National Poetry Month. Billy Collins' BALLISTICS among them.

Off now to Fairhope, Mobile and Jackson, MS! Details here. SO excited!! Will be back (eventually) with more pictures!

Thursday, February 18, 2010


Wow, what a week! LEAVING GEE'S BEND made the Spring Indie Next Kids List (along with other great books like Hex Hall! The Secret Year! Split!), and a pic of little 'ol me was featured in Publisher's Weekly Children's Bookshelf!! And today I am hosting Poetry Friday Roundup, which is one of my most favorite things to do.

And after much debate, I've selected a Billy Collins poem. Because hubby and I have tickets to see Billy tonight! (Yes, Billy and I are on a first name basis. Or at least I am. When I talk to him in my head.) Will give full report tomorrow. Meanwhile, I give you...

On Turning Ten

The whole idea of it makes me feel
like I'm coming down with something,
something worse than any stomach ache
or the headaches I get from reading in bad light--
a kind of measles of the spirit,
a mumps of the psyche,
a disfiguring chicken pox of the soul.

You tell me it is too early to be looking back,
but that is because you have forgotten
the perfect simplicity of being one
and the beautiful complexity introduced by two.
But I can lie on my bed and remember every digit.
At four I was an Arabian wizard.
I could make myself invisible
by drinking a glass of milk a certain way.
At seven I was a soldier, at nine a prince.

But now I am mostly at the window
watching the late afternoon light.
Back then it never fell so solemnly
against the side of my tree house,
and my bicycle never leaned against the garage
as it does today,
all the dark blue speed drained out of it.

This is the beginning of sadness, I say to myself,
as I walk through the universe in my sneakers.
It is time to say good-bye to my imaginary friends,
time to turn the first big number.

It seems only yesterday I used to believe
there was nothing under my skin but light.
If you cut me I could shine.
But now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life,
I skin my knees. I bleed.

- Billy Collins

Now. For those of you who want to add your links: This is my first time to try a linky app, so I hope it works! It will ask for your url, then your name.

***In the name section, instead of your name, would you please put what sort of poem you have to share? Like for mine, I might have put "Billy Collins poem." Or you might put "original poem." Or whatever yours is.

Just thought that might make it more inviting for our readers! Fingers crossed it works, as I will be teaching (poetry!) all day. I look forward to checking back here later.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Remember at the start of the year when I vowed to include video on ye old blog at least once a week? Well. I sorta missed last week. And not for lack of footage! Because....

Remember also earlier this month after I visited a great little school in Florence, Alabama, how I mentioned their creativity and enthusiasm in hosting "The Quilts of Brooks Elementary?"

Basically, Connie Sparks, Media Specialist Who Sets the Bar for School Visits EXTREMELY High, asked teachers to bring in family quilts. It was wonderful! And my video camera lasted just long enough to make some wee movies to add to my series.

So, without further ado, meet Connie and her quilt. And be looking for videos of the other teachers from Brooks in the weeks to come!

Monday, February 15, 2010


Have I mentioned before that I love February? Yep. And most especially THIS February. Here's why:

1. Fan Mail!! That's right, I have fans. Well, to be more precise, I have a teacher who asked her kids to write me letters after I visited their school. Still counts. Thanks, kids!

2. Snow. All Mario wanted to do was eat it! But aren't his little paw prints SO CUTE?

3. The Bookstore in Huntsville. Had a great signing with so many wonderful folks... and Bonnie and Jennifer even brought me FLOWERS! You can just barely see the tulips and the tip-top of a gorgeous hydrangea in this pic of me and store owner Cassandra Wilson. Talk about SWEET...

4. New quilting project. Shhhhh... it's for mom, who is joining me for my South Alabama/Mississippi Book Tour. More on this later!

5. Early birthday present from my sister. EXACTLY what I needed!! LTG, you are the best sister in the galaxy!

Friday, February 12, 2010


What a good problem to have -- too many books! I'll keep my reviews Twitter-short. Suffice it to say you don't want to miss any of these!

HEX HALL by Rachel Hawkins: Witches, vamps and one very hot boy! Lots of laughs and "whoa!" moments in this one. (Which is not surprising, because that's exactly what it's like to hang out with LadyHawkins!)

NICE AND MEAN by Jessica Leader: Girls will be girls. And some think in video! Crazy-real dialogue and relationships here. Go, Jess!

THE SECRET YEAR by Jennifer R. Hubbard: Can you say "atmosphere?!" Comparisons to Romeo & Juliet and The Outsiders are especially apt. Hard to forget Black Mountain Road.

THE DEATHDAY LETTER by Shaun David Hutchinson: Really excellent premise, and Shaun puts you right inside the mind of a 15 year old boy. (Scary!)

HUSH, HUSH by Becca Fitzpatrick: Girl Meets Hot Fallen Angel named Patch. Need I say more?? Congrats to Becca who is the first Tenner to make the NYT Bestseller List!

Coming next week: 3 more ARCS!! THE REINVENTION OF EDISON THOMAS by Jacqueline Houtman, WHISPER by Phoebe Kitindis and SPLIT by Swati Avasthi. Happy reading to all!

Thursday, February 11, 2010


...which made it especially awesome when I visited Wesley Lakes Elementary School yesterday in McDonough, GA, which is just southwest of Atlanta.

Here I am signing a book for a lovely young reader.

This is me laughing at something one of the kids said at the fancy lunch the PTO had set up for me and some Very Special Young Writers.

Here's a group of kids with really excellent taste in reading material. :)

And here I am with the people who made it all possible: Amazing PTO Mom Eboni Manley, Principal Lori Squires and a couple of not-camera-shy kids. Thanks, y'all, for having me! It was so much fun!!

Coming soon: fan mail, Tenner ARC reviews and early birthday goodness!! Stay tuned...

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


1. The kids. This group is from Underwood Elementary School, but they were all FABULOUS. The question each group asked that I wasn't expecting: what is your favorite book that you've written? Me: that's a little like asking your mama who's her favorite kid!

2. Media specialist Jerry Whitten and Principal Kevin Moore. Not only did they give me a big ol' welcome, but they also called in the media! If I'd known, I might have worn something different.... but, Brooke Frankel wrote a fabulous article anyhow.

3. Jennifer Butler Keeton from Florence-Lauderdale Library. What a gal! She escorted me to all my visits, hauled in stuff, video-d on demand, listened to me say the same stuff over and over and over.... and then today, after I'd been saying how much I wanted a blue coat, she sent me a link for the most perfect one ever! LOVE her!!

4. Media Specialist at Hibbett Middle School. It's kind of hard to wrangle kids at the end of a Friday afternoon, but this one pulled it off in grand style.

5. Media Specialist Holly Jolly from Riverside School, who not only hosted me, but also ran a Book Fair at the very same time!

6. Media Specialist Extraordinaire, Connie Sparks, from Brooks Elementary School. Oh my goodness, what a marvel this woman is! She was so enthusiastic, and the kids were SO excited... she even had faculty bring in family quilts for "The Quilts of Brooks Elementary!" And guess what? I interviewed a few of them for my Stitching Our Stories series! Well, Jennifer Butler Keeton helped. Did I mention how awesome she is? So, yeah, so much to look forward to!!

7. And last but by no means least: my Chair Filler and Writing Compatriots, Pat Weaver and Sheila Renfro, keeping me company at Books-a-Million. Wow. I can't even begin to express my gratitude. I need to write a whole new book. THANK YOU!!

Monday, February 8, 2010


I gotta say, after all the loveliness in Florence, I am most definitely feeling the love! And I am dying to tell you all about it.

But first, how would you like to win some great books and other cool stuff??

To enter, head on over to Class of 2k10 and give a shout-out to somebody YOU love.

And if you're driving down I-65 and see these shoes on the side of the road...

... I HAD to toss them because they did such horrible things to my feet! (Lesson learned: get a pair of cute slippers like Amazing Media Specialist from Brooks Elementary, Connie Sparks. And when doing school visits, comfortable shoes are way more important than cute ones.)

Be back tomorrow to share pics and other goodness from my trip. Meanwhile, here's a newspaper article about my visit.

And some new reviews to share: Back-to-Books , Mrs. V's Reviews , Maw Books, and News Observer.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


... where there's great art and old buildings and interesting people and food to die for. And no, I'm not talking Italy.

Florence, ALABAMA. Where this week I'm staying with dear friend Pat and visiting these fabulous schools: Underwood Elementary, Riverhill Elementary, Brooks Elementary, and Hibbett Middle School. And that's not all.

I'm also presenting a program at Florence-Lauderdale Library Thursday evening. It's a FABULOUS library with even more fabulous librarians. Jennifer and Jessica have done an amazing job coordinating things with these schools. I feel so well taken care of!

I promise to post pics as soon as possible and pop in here when I can. Just know that me and Ludelphia are out in the world having ourselves all sorts of grand adventures! And we're wishing all of you grand adventures too.

Monday, February 1, 2010


I love February. Partly because it's my birthday month, partly because it's when spring arrives in Alabama, and partly because it's shorter than all the other months and deserves some extra love.

Which MUST BE the reason they put Valentine's Day in this month.

So yay for February! And yay for the following authors and their books, soon to be on shelves near you:

by Josh Berk. I'm happy to report I've read this one. And it's AWESOME!

by Suzanne Young, who just got a brand spanking new book deal!

by Kristin Walker. And if the book is anywhere close to the coolness of her website, bring it on!

by Cynthia Jaynes Omololu. Oh man, have I heard good things about this one.

by Julie Kagawa. This one has faeries... don't you love that cover?!