Tuesday, March 30, 2010


...by which I mean, books released in spring -- not necessarily books about spring. But just as fresh and lively! Big CONGRATULATIONS to the following debut books and their authors:

THE SNOWBALL EFFECT by Holly Nicole Hoxter. Read it. Loved it. And PW did, too!

BRIGHTLY WOVEN by Alexandra Bracken. Also read this one. Rich fantasy!

BIRTHMARKED by Caragh O'Brien. Wow. That cover. Dystopian never looked so good!

GUARDIAN OF THE DEAD by Karen Healey, who is an awesome Tenner living in Australia.

UNDER MY SKIN by Class of 2k10 co-pres. Judith Graves. Woohoo, Judith!

THE WITCHY WORRIES OF ABBIE ADAMS by Rhonda Hayter. This one is so much fun! I fell in love with Abbie.

Sunday, March 28, 2010


Thanks Mrs. Paynter for calling THREE times... and thanks Chris of the Knoxville News Sentinel for getting quotes from the kids and my sweet sister to make this a "family" story!

For a pic from my trip to Square Books, Jr. in Oxford, MS, head on over to Sarah Frances and Katie Anderson's blog PLOT THIS. These gals are on the verge, and it was so fun to talk "the biz" with them!

Also, can I just say that I lovelovelove Jill, the girl with the guitar?! Yep, she's the awesome children's book buyer at Square Books, Jr. And she can make up songs on the fly! So much fun.

By the way, SF and Katie, I totally stole the name of your blog for a workshop I am teaching later this year at Auburn Writers' Conference. Thanks for the inspiration. :)

Friday, March 26, 2010


I've always loved the word "radiant." Blame Charlotte and that terrific web.

And "terrific," too. For the same reason.

But today's poem is not about a pig. It's about life and love and the hopes we have for our children. And it comes from Julianna Baggott, who not only writes great poetry, but books for kids (under the pen name N.E. Bode), too. AND novels for women as Bridget Asher. (LOVED "The Pretend Wife." Check it out!)

Anyhow, for Poetry Friday, meet Marie Curie and her daughter Irene. (Who knew? Another Irene!) Oh, that last line...

For more poems, The Drift Record has Round Up here.

Marie Curie Gives Advice to her
Daughter Irene Before her Wedding

I remember this moment--the pram distilled,
its sediment was an infant,
no longer something born from me,
not residue, not pitchblende,
but its own particle,
an open mouth, a cry,
within its head, a mind wrestling with thoughts
--my motherland could be there,
driven into the skull,
some ancient homing.
Years I have soaked
in radium.
I've begun to bleed light.
I see your father again
crossing streets in rain--
the doors are locked,
his umbrella fills with wind,
the horses approach,
hauling a wagon of soldier's uniforms--
something to dress the dead--
it's come to crush him.
My navy suit with solid stitching crushes me.
And since then I've begun to confuse
the glowing test tubes
with wicks of the moon, a dazing field of stars,
my own soul, and a moment goes by
when I forget the brutish charm of work.
My hope, daughter, is that
what you love doesn't come to kill you,
eye by eye, ear by ear, bone by radiant bone.

Julianna Baggott

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


This, my friends, is the something extra special I was talking about:

Isn't she gorgeous? And what a surprise!! Librarian Jenny Paynter directed me to the table where I would sign books, and there she was. Jenny said it's an old doll made by her grandmother, and after reading the book, she thought, that's Ludelphia. So she added the eye patch.

Do I have to tell you I cried?

And then I smiled. And smiled and smiled and smiled.

Thank you, Jenny! And thank you, sweet sis for capturing everything on film. SO sweet to share this with you (and those sweet nephews and one wild Anna!). xxoo

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Okay, so I am just brimming with ideas, inspiration, etc., after a fabulous few days.

First, my visit with W.J. Carroll Intermediate School. Get this: they read on the jacketflap bio that I learned to stitch on sewing cards, which, unfortunately, they don't make any more.

So, they made their own! And gave them to me!! And I love them!!!

Thank you thank you thank you.

Now this picture just doesn't do these smart gorgeous kids justice. I'm sorry it's fuzzy. Because they weren't fuzzy at all. Sharp cookies, all of them. I do hope our paths cross again.

Next stop: Virginia Festival of the Book in Charlottesville. Oh my goodness, what fun! Not only did I get to room with the lovely Amy Brecount White, with whom I have SO MUCH in common, and could TALK FOR DAYS, but I also got to hang out with 2k10 classmates Jennifer R. Hubbard and Bonnie Doerr.

And that's not all. I met so many amazing writers. And ate good food. And heard great stories. Especially at dinner Saturday night, with this rowdy crew: Bonnie Doerr, P.J. Hoover, Barrie Summey, Fran Cannon Slayton, Suzanne Williams Morgan, Stacy Nyikos.

And then there was my school visit at Fairview Elementary in Heiskell, TN.

Oh MY. Awesome is not nearly a big enough word.

The best part was my sister was there... and she took pictures! Which I will share. Especially this one AMAZING surprise librarian Jenny Paynter had in store for me. Can NOT wait to share. But need a picture to do it justice.

Stay tuned!!! Meanwhile, big thanks to Joan Broerman for featuring me on her blog. Thanks, Joan!

Friday, March 19, 2010


Writing this post in advance, as I will be tearing up the highway all day -- Virginia Festival of the Book , here I come! I am soooooo looking forward to meeting in person authors I've known only through words on pages and screen.

Now. For Poetry Friday. There was this poem yesterday that blew me away. You can read it here, on Sara Lewis Holmes' blog. Seriously good stuff.

For more great poems, check out roundup at Some Novel Ideas .

Thursday, March 18, 2010


So I've got a little thing for horses. I love horse stories. In fact, I just read a good one that has me all inspired to write: Wild Girl by Patricia Reilly Giff. Thanks, Lakelynn for putting it in my hands!

Now, about Ludelphia. She's not a horse girl... but that's probably only because there weren't horses in 1932 Gee's Bend. She does, however, have a mule named Delilah. They're good friends. And Lu has other new friends, too, all over the world wide web.

Including the Chicago Tribune, which said "Latham brings the girl, the period and the region to life."

That Ludelphia. Check out these other reviews:

Free Motion Quilting
Hope is the Word snippet and review
For What it's Worth
Book Crazy
Writing Snacks
my take on FATE at Book Lovers Inc.
and Wild Card Wednesday at fellow author Joelle Anthony's (RESTORING HARMONY) blog.

Last but not least, here's what The Bulletin for the Center of Children's Books (BCCB) had to say:

Life in 1932 rural Alabama is no picnic for African-American sharecroppers, such as the family of ten-year-old Ludelphia Bennett, who are trying to scrap by on their tiny farm in Gee’s Bend. Ludelphia doesn’t seem to mind her meager surroundings as long as she can sew quilts with her mother, but when Mama falls ill with pneumonia, Ludelphia leaves the only place she has ever known to retrieve lifesaving medicine from a town nearly forty miles away, confronting prejudice and superstition along the way. Based on real people and events, the story rings true with its quiet sense of place, and Ludelphia’s narration echoes the tradition of storytelling in quiltmaking, a nod to the famous Gee’s Bend quilting history. While most of the secondary characters are fairly simple, Ludelphia’s voice carries the reader through a treacherous landscape with determined vibrancy, adding a dash of adventure and mischief to an otherwise harrowing tale. The conclusion is at once happy and realistic—the family knows that even with Mama’s recovery and supplies from the Red Cross, the winter will still be hard—making this an enjoyable piece of fiction about an undertreated bit of American history.

Thank you THANK YOU thank you, all you wonderful readers, you!! If Ludelphia was here she'd make each of you a quilt. :)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


So we all know it's the CHARACTERS that make us keep reading a book. Well, what if the author is also a great character??

Yeah. It's fabulous and fun and just extra-special to read those author's books.

Which is why today's new releases are so worthy of celebration:

PRINCESS FOR HIRE by Lindsey Leavitt. I adore Lindsey from her cute shoes to the funny words that pop out of her mouth. She is delightful. And of course her book is too! Desi is a character we all want to be... and maybe are someplace deep inside. She loves the old glamour of Hollywood and wears a tiara with style. Seriously, this book is awesome! Buy it. And visit Lindsey's A Very Royal Contest. Love ya, girl!

THE BODY FINDER by Kimberly Derting. While I haven't had the pleasure yet of reading this one, I know I am going to love it. Because I love Kim! And no, I haven't met Kim yet, either. But here's the kind of gal she is: she read LEAVING GEE'S BEND, and for whatever reason it spoke to her. So she went to bat for it, in a big way. Totally above and beyond. She's probably younger than I am, but dude, I so want to be as giving and generous as Kim is when I grow up. Congratulations, Kim!!!

THE REINVENTION OF EDISON THOMAS by Jacqueline Houtman. Okay, so Jacqueline is a brilliant scientist. (Seriously! phD!) And a fellow classmate in Class of 2k10. And when I read this book, I felt smart and witty and fell in love with Eddy! Having three smart boys in the house... well, this is my kind of humor. Thanks for writing this one, Jacqueline!

Monday, March 15, 2010


Forget the wild-n-crazy beach scenes and think blessed quiet: by unanimous vote we decided to stay home this Spring Break, to sleep late, eat lunch at our favorite restaurants, watch movies, go to the park.

So far it has been a delightful change of pace after the madness of book promotion that has had me appearing at more than 30 schools, bookstores and libraries in five different states over the past two months. Whew!

I've had SUCH great adventures, though. Here's a few pics from last week:

... at the press conference for Alabama Book Festival, a fabulous family event in Montgomery to be held April 17. Also pictured: authors Kathleen Thompson, Kirk Curnutt and Martha Hawkins.

...with Sulynn and Kristin, from Black Belt Treasures, who set up school visits for me at Wilcox Academy and Camden School of Arts and Technology. If you are ever in Camden, you MUST GO to Black Belt Treasures. They are a nonprofit organization devoted to promoting artists in the Black Belt area. And they are just awesome, generous, wonderful people. The whole day in Camden was like a dream!

...with the Book Club at Black Belt Treasures! What fun it was to talk to a room full of people who had read LEAVING GEE'S BEND. And not just any people: people from CAMDEN, where Ludelphia goes in the book. I asked them what I got wrong... and they were really sweet about all the things they felt I got right. Talk about southern hospitality... THANK YOU.

...with fabulous Midsouth SCBWI authors Tracy Barrett, Candie Moonshower and Kristin Tubb at the Historical Fiction workshop at Davis-Kidd Bookseller in Nashville, set up by the lovely Shelly Cook.

Looking back over these pics, I realize I am past-due for a haircut. Hmmm. Let me see if I can squeeze that in between all this relaxing, before I hit the road Friday for the Virginia Festival of the Book in Charlottesville. Can't wait!!

Thursday, March 11, 2010


What do these books -- SEA by Heidi R. Kling and RESTORING HARMONY by Joelle Anthony -- have in common with LEAVING GEE'S BEND?

All three books were edited by Excellent Editor Stacey Barney at G.P. Putnam's Sons. And while SEA is set in California/Indonesia during the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami and RESTORING HARMONY is set in the future (post-Collapse) US/Canada, they have core elements in common with LEAVING GEE'S BEND (set in 1932 Gee's Bend, Alabama):

1. strong girl protagonist
2. first person POV
3. there's a journey
4. family/love is at the heart of the story
5. the MC ends up where they started geographically, but of course different (and stronger and wiser)

Of course SEA and RESTORING HARMONY are both YA, so the "love" element involves romantic love while MG LEAVING GEE'S BEND does not. And the writing styles are different, and marvelous in their differences. I was completely transported to these other times/places! Check these books out and see what loveliness I'm talking about.

I'll be back tomorrow with something special for Poetry Friday as well as an update on my travels. Thanks so much for reading!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


...and sure 'nuff, it's a rainy one in Birmingham, Alabama!

I love the sound of the rain, even the thunder, and how the light in the house is all dim and cozy. It's a great day for updating the blog, or catching up or email, or doing a skype school visit, or piecing a quilt, or writing a poem.

And guess what? I'm doing all that, and more. (Nap? Did someone say, nap? Yesssss...)

Then tomorrow I'm off to Camden, Alabama, which is that town Ludelphia winds up in. So yes, I will be visiting Blackbelt Treasures and eating at Uncle Redd's and visiting some schools. I'm excited!

Meanwhile, here's another video in my "Stitching Our Stories" series, from one of the awesome teachers I met at Brooks Elementary. Thanks, Laurel.... enjoy!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


Hip hip hooray for two books hitting the shelves TODAY, one of which I read and loved, and one I can't wait to read, because I know I will love!

First, SPLIT by Swati Avasthi.

Swati is not only my studio sib (we have the same agent), but she is also my classmate in Class of 2k10. And this book is POWERFUL. I was fortunate enough to win a signed ARC from Jame Richards, and I was riveted. Swati takes heavy subject matter (domestic violence) and shows all sides of it. I loved Jace and how his relationship with his brother (and definition of family) changed through the book. Really strong stuff.

Next, ESCAPING THE TIGER by Laura Manivong.

You may remember me gushing about Laura's book trailer. It's a book about family and history and survival and another culture... what's not to love? Can't wait for mine to arrive from Amazon!

Meanwhile, it has been my privilege to read a few other ARCs I am dying to tell you about. I'm going to start with two that were edited MY editor at Putnam: RESTORING HARMONY by Joelle Anthony and SEA by Heidi R. Kling. So interesting, the similarities in the three (vastly different) books! Will share.

Hope to see some of you tonight, 6:30 at Birmingham Public Library, where I'll be talking about Writing What You DON'T Know.

Sunday, March 7, 2010


One question you're bound to get asked at a school visit is, "What's the best part of being a writer?"

And you know, it's a tough question. Because there are many best parts. Like the personal satisfaction of getting a scene just right. Or discovering new things about yourself through your characters. Or creating characters you care about so deeply, they actually affect your daily life and how you interact with others.

Then there's this: Connecting with other humans on their own unique journeys, people with fascinating stories to tell. Like William, co-owner of Two Roads Cafe at Sherlock's Books. He said he's got the soul of a writer but gets his creativity needs met in running the Cafe.

And Sarah, pictured here. She's Kansas-born and loves to draw with colored pencils. I love that her nail polish is the same color of Eric's shirt. :)

And this young writer, Laura at Central School in Florence, Alabama. This is her book. And you know what? It's way way WAY more important than any book on the shelves in bookstores and libraries. It's her heart, before it's been trained to be a certain way. It's pure in its raw-ness. How can you NOT be inspired and touched and completely overwhelmed by the beauty that exists in other people?

Connecting with other people. That's the best part. I am so grateful this book allows me to have the opportunity to meet so many amazing people I otherwise wouldn't. THANK YOU.

Thursday, March 4, 2010


I've made lots of mistakes in my life, and I swear it's made me a better, stronger, wiser (sometimes poor-er) person. And this one I've got to share.

See, I'm super excited about my trip to Charlottesville, Virginia, later this month (March 19-21), for Virginia Festival of the Book, where I'll be on a panel called Terrific Kids' Novels Adults Will Love Too , with fellow authors Kathy Erskine, Fran Cannon Slayton, Sara Lewis Holmes and Sue Corbett.

But. I'm NOT so excited about the nine hour drive.

Now, I am no stranger to road trips, and usually lovelovelove to drive, because I can listen to books and work out plot problems and put my cell phone to good use.

It's just that THIS nine hour drive will come after an evening event the night before, and I'll have to get up super early, and by the time I get there it will be supper time, and I will be worn out and bedraggled from the road -- and really I was just thinking of roomie Amy Brecount White when I started looking for flights into Richmond, VA, which is only an hour away from Charlottesville.

Imagine my glee when I found a $99 flight, which I booked right away! One-way, because I have a school visit near Knoxville, TN, the Monday after the Festival, and really, Knoxville is on the way home, so no biggee, right? I'll just rent a car and drive home. And it will be great, because I can stay with my sister, and the drive will be broken into two days, and it will just be Fabulous. Wonderful. Brilliant!

...until I checked in with the rental car companies. Turns out, it costs A LOT to rent a car one way. The cheapest I could find was a$.50 fee PER MILE on top of the daily rate (around $50). We're talking $600 or more, people! CRAZY TOWN!

So... guess who's driving to Charlottesville, after all? And guess who gets my nonrefundable $120 with taxes/fees airline ticket? Oh, DELTA, you DO own the skies, don't you??

In other news, check out what I have to say about learning from loss on Jenny Moss's blog. And check out this recent review of LEAVING GEE'S BEND at Muddy Puddle Musings.

Now, hopping in my car for a short 2.5 hour ride to Florence, Alabama, where I will shack up with writing compatriot/dear friend Pat Weaver, then visit Central School tomorrow... and sign books at Sherlock's Books in Lebanon, TN, 1-4 pm Saturday. Happy weekend to all!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


I had an amazing school visit yesterday -- at Pizitz Middle School in Vestavia, Alabama.

Yep, those kids were great! And the teachers -- what a pleasure. Big thanks to Ann Knight and the whole Author Visit Committee for bringing me flowers and ordering cake with that sweet,delicious frosting I can't get enough of and giving me a few minutes of blessed quiet after three back-to-back presentations... how did you know I needed that??

And to Principal David Miles, seriously, wanna travel with me? Your introductions were beautiful!

Finally, to Linda, photographer from The Birmingham News: so happy you got there before I'd left the building! Looking forward to that shot you took from above my shoulder. :)

Next stop: Central School in Florence, Alabama. See y'all Friday!!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


If you don't yet know Sarah Campbell and her work, you are missing out! She's amazing. And I'm not the only one who thinks so -- her first book WOLFSNAIL was awarded the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award.

And now she's back with another picture book she wrote about Fibonacci numbers in nature. Sarah and her husband Richard also get credit for the stunning photographs that accompany the text. It's a gorgeous book!

Here to tell you more about it is Sarah herself. We shot this little clip at Lemuria Books when I was in Jackson, MS, last week. I hope you enjoy this inside information. And in case you missed it, here's a link to the book trailer. And be looking for more Sarah at Elizabeth O. Dulemba's blog tomorrow!

Monday, March 1, 2010


It's MARCH! Can you believe it?? I am so ready for spring. And the air may still be nippy, but the redbuds are thisclose to popping. Which means the daffodils aren't far behind. And while I've got two school visits this week and a stack of ARCs to read, I am most excited about this week's new releases.

Big big BIG congratulations to the following authors whose books hit the shelves today and tomorrow:

TAGGED by Tenner and 2k10 classmate Mara Purnhagen. This is the only one on this post that I haven't read. Can't wait!!

HEX HALL by Rachel Hawkins. I've already raved about this one, but I happy to keep talking about it! Plus Rachel is my neighbor down there in Auburn, Alabama... and she's going on an Epic Tour starting tomorrow. Go, Rachel!!

FORGET-HER-NOTS by Amy Brecount White. I love Amy (hey, roomie!), and I love the romance and of course flowers in this book. Great read for spring!

THE LINE by Teri Hall. Great concept, and more flowers (orchids) and the main character's name is Rachel! (Are you getting all the connections here??) This one will leave you panting for the sequel.