Friday, April 30, 2010


Eating Poetry
by Mark Strand

Ink runs from the corners of my mouth.
There is no happiness like mine.
I have been eating poetry.

rest of poem here

And that's exactly how I feel after this wonderful poetry-filled month! Pure happiness. Especially as I achieved my goal of a poem a day. They're not all great poems, but some of them are on their way. And even on my worst day when I wrote a poem called "Thirteen Reasons Why I am Unable to Write a Poem Today," I still managed to eke out a likable line or two. And it was fun!

Also, I came up with a new (brilliant) name for my next collection. And I made an important decision about the direction of my poetry career. More on this later.

Meanwhile, I do believe I promised one last giveaway in celebration of National Poetry Month 2010. Here's what the lucky winner will receive (and the volume with CD where the above Mark Strand poem can be found):

Leave me a comment, and you're entered to win! I'll announce a winner Friday, May 7. And don't miss today's Roundup over at Great Kids Books!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


Keep your eyes peeled for some great new books hitting the shelves this week:

MISTWOOD by 2k10 classmate Leah Cypess. Haven't read this one yet, but it's gotten some great reviews. Also, it's about a Shifter. And who doesn't secretly wish for that power?? Actually, it's the themes of loyalty, betrayal, etc., that have got me really wanting to read this one. Can't wait!

THE LAST GREAT GETAWAY OF THE WATER BALLOON BOYS by Scott William Carter. A boy book! Woohooo!! And it involves a road trip. And has been called "touching." Yep, I am THERE.

WHISPER by Phoebe Kitanidis. LOVE THIS BOOK. Also love Phoebe. And the cover! Seriously, don't miss this one. Anyone who's ever said they wish they could be inside someone else's head.... well, think again.

Sunday, April 25, 2010


Okay, so it's Sunday. And yes, I am aware that I failed to post a)winner's name b)new giveaway c)poem for Poetry Friday.

In my defense, I was up at 4 a.m. that morning, hauling it back to Birmingham, after a FANTASTIC few days in Arkansas. Why was I in such a hurry?

Well. A few Tenners were coming to town, and we had plans for lunch. Here we are:

moi, Guadelupe Garcia McCall, Lindsey Leavitt and sweet baby Logan, Jennifer Cervantes and Christina Diaz Gonzalez

I'm really not that tall, by the way. It's totally a trick of the camera. And these gals are AWESOME. Could have talked for days!

Now. Backtracking a bit. I had an awesome time in Blytheville, Arkansas, not just at THAT BOOKSTORE (where I signed and talked and joined the regular book club meeting to discuss The Optimist's Daughter by Eudora Welty), but also at the schools.

Here's a pic from Central Elementary, where I was greeted by a room-full of Ludelphias:

In Bryant, I visited Collegeville Elementary, and I gotta tell you, those 5th grade teachers have got it going on! Awesome visit. And here is a pic of what I found in the hallways:

Great job, kids! You were a pleasure to talk to. And it was SO FUN to share it all with dear friend Pam... and Steph, THANK YOU! We are totally going back to Brave New Restaurant next time I come to town.

What about the POETRY, you're asking. Well, we have a winner:

HEIDI MORDHORST who said she could use another copy of POETRY SPEAKS FOR CHILDREN in her Listening Center. Heidi, it's yours! Contact me by email with your address, and I'll zip it your way.

And for those poetry lovers out there, I promise to make it up to you this Friday with an awesome AWESOME anthology giveaway for the grand finale of National Poetry Month. Seriously. Awesome.

Hope everyone is enjoying the month as much as I am!!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


That would be Arkansas, folks.

First stop: That Bookstore in Blytheville, where I will be signing books TODAY at 5 pm.

Wednesday: School visits arranged by Marvel from That Bookstore. I can't express what a wonderful thing this is. As much as I LOVE school visits, I spend entirely too much time setting them up and making contracts and corresponding about said visits. It can be crazy-making. So big BIG thanks to the booksellers/librarians of the world who take this job off my plate.

Wednesday night: Hanging out with my Very Best Girlfriend and her family at their home near Little Rock. (You know that friend who knows everything about you and still loves you? Yep. That's her.)

Thursday: School visit at Collegeville Elementary in Bryant. This is super-cool because one of my early beta-readers works there. And she's the one who made this whole visit possible. So I am especially thrilled to talk with her 5th graders about LEAVING GEE'S BEND!

Friday: It's POETRY FRIDAY... which means another poetry anthology giveaway!! I can't believe we're in the homestretch of National Poetry Month... I'm happy to report I am still going strong with a poem a day!

Here's the poems I've written in the past few days, all of them in response to works of art:

"Alligator Pears in a Basket" (Georgia O'Keefe)
"June" (Ellen Day Hale)
"The Bath" (Mary Cassatt)
"Sheep by the Sea" (Rosa Bonheur)
"Staffelsee in Autumn" (Garbriele Munter) *pictured above

Sunday, April 18, 2010


1. I traveled with my chauffer, body guard and personal assistant -- aka my three sons. This pic was taken at the end of the day. Yes, they were pretty much bored. Would have taken an appearance by James Patterson or Suzanne Collins to get them excited. But they were good sports anyhow. And it was great for me to look over and see them there. Thanks, guys! And I promise: next book festival we go to there will be more girls. (Yes, this is what they talked about on the ride home.)

2. Rachel Hawkins, author of HEX HALL was there. Turns out, she was a stand-up comedian in a former life. Funny gal! The book bloggers ate her up. And boy was she hard to follow. Great job, Rachel!

3. Ginger Rue, author of BRAND NEW EMILY was there. A little tidbit about Ginger: we graduated in the same class at Hewitt-Trussville High School, way back when! And reconnected over being brand new authors in the kidlit world. She is just as beautiful and sweet as she ever was. Really, REALLY great to see her and meet her family. And the book is AWE-SOME! Very soon to be released in paper back, about a middle school girl who is being bullied and decides to hire a publicist to change her image. Very smart writing. (Smart girl.)

4. There were so many great authors at the festival -- I regret I didn't take more pictures. But I was fortunate enough to get this shot of Kathy Patrick, that tiara-wearing, book-loving crazy gal from Texas. Heard of Beauty and the Book, that hair salon/book store? Yep, that's Kathy. She does so much to support literacy and other authors... heck, for her, I might even put on a tiara! (And, dude, check out that monster purple can of hair spray! Bringing back the 80s one Queen at a time...)

Big huge thanks to all the organizers (Jeanie Thompson, you are amazing), sponsors and volunteers who pull this event off each year! It's wonderful, and I am so proud to be a part of it.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Posting poetic goodness early this week for a couple of reasons:

1. I am going to Alabama Book Festival in Montgomery tomorrow (Y'all come! It's gonna be AWESOME!!)

2. Poetry Friday Roundup is being hosted early by 7 Impossible Things Before Breakfast. Check it out!

... and the winner of last week's POETRY IN MOTION anthology is Danielle! Danielle entered via Facebook, and she actually rides the subway every day. So yay for Danielle!

And now for this week's giveaway: another of my most favorite anthologies, POETRY SPEAKS TO CHILDREN (Book & CD) ~ Elise Paschen (Editor), Dominique Raccah (Editor), Wendy Rasmussen (Illustrator), Judy Love (Illustrator), Paula Zinngrabe Wendland (Illustrator), Nikki Giovanni (Guest), X.J. Kennedy (Guest), Billy Collins (Guest)

And here is a favorite poem:

by Lewis Carroll

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

"Beware the Jabberwock, my son
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!"

He took his vorpal sword in hand;
Long time the manxome foe he sought—
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

"And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!"
He chortled in his joy.

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

To enter for this week's giveaway, simply leave a comment!

And what have I been writing this week?

More poems based on paintings:

Beach Scene (by Jane Peterson)
Breakfast of the Birds (Gabrielle Minter)
The Cage (Berthe Morisot)
Cherries in the Sun (Doris Lee)
Call to Church and Flowers (Clementine Hunter)
Portrait of a Young Girl with a Blue Ribbon( Louise Abbema)
Abandoned Cottage (Virginia Berresford)

and, my favorite of the lot: a poem about kissing!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Yep. She exists.

Check it out over at Jessica Leader's blog. (She's honeymooning and asked a few of us to guest post on the topic of NICE AND MEAN, which is the title of her rockin'debut novel for middle-grade readers, coming in June!)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Be on the look-out for great books releasing this week, each with its own secret something:

Secret romance in THREE RIVERS RISING by Class of 2k10 classmate Jame Richards... read it... TWICE... loved it both times!

Secret society in THE CINDERELLA SOCIETY by the amazing Kay Cassidy who is so very generous... congratulations, Kay!!

Secret rooms in PALACE BEAUTIFUL by Sarah Deford Williams, which I haven't read, but am dying to!

Sunday, April 11, 2010


Wow, what a fabulous time I had in Hattiesburg, MS, at the Fay B. Kaigler Children's Book Festival. There were lots of great folks, including my roomies Hester Bass and Sarah Campbell. Check out Sarah's great pics and wrap-up of the conference here.

And yes, Richard Peck was there. For those of you who don't know, Richard Peck blurbed my book. So he was one of the first professional people to read the book and give me any sort of feedback.... so it was pretty special. And of course, now his name appears on the cover of my book.

When I met him on Thursday, I said, "my only claim to fame is your name on my cover." He hugged me and said that I was going to have plenty claims of fame all my own.

Sweet, huh?

He also signed my reading copy. And had all sorts of brilliant things to share with the audience. Things like this:

"We write by the light of every book we've ever read."

"English invented childhood: Americans invented adolescence."

"Politics is not only the enemy of art: It is also the enemy of education."

"No one ever grows up until he has to. On our pages, he has to."

"Childhood is a jungle, not a garden."

"Kids are not looking for authors in books; they are looking for themselves."

"Story with all dialogue is a chatroom; story with all action is a Gameboy."

"Dialogue is best written standing up."

"A story unites what the computer divides."

"Airports and books were made for each other."

And finally, this one, which was a great comfort to me after writing LEAVING GEE'S BEND... but which generated a great deal of discussion among the attendees. Clearly, not everyone agrees:

"We don't write from experience; we write from observation."

I think maybe we write from both. And I am SO SORRY I did not get a picture of me and Richard! It never once crossed my mind. And now I am so sad. Sigh....

Friday, April 9, 2010


First, may I present the winner of last week's GOOD POEMS, edited by Garrison Keillor:

Susan Taylor Brown!!! She's doing one of those Victorian Commonplace books, which is something on my I-wanna-do-that shortlist. Susan, email me at irene at irenelatham dot com, and we'll get you fixed up.

Thanks so much to all who entered!

Now for this week's giveaway. It's a book for those of us with short attention spans or tight schedules or who just need a little pick-me-up. It's POETRY IN MOTION: 100 POEMS FROM SUBWAYS AND BUSES, edited by Molly Peacock, Elise Paschen, Neil Neches.

And for Poetry Friday, here is one of my many favorite poems in the collection:


If you have taken this rubble for my past
raking through it for fragments you could sell
know that I long ago moved on
deeper into the heart of the matter

If you think you can grasp me, think again:
my stroy flows in more than one direction
a delta springing frm the riverbed
with its five fingers spread

- Adrienne Rich

Leave me a comment, and I will announce a winner next Friday... along with another great anthology to give away!

And don't forget to check out today's Roundup at Paper Tigers.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


So I promised I'd write a poem a day for National Poetry Month. So far, so good!

I've got two ekphrastic poems, based on the following paintings:

Summer Sunlight by Beatrice Whitney Van Ness

Terrasse de Cafe, Paris by Celine M. Tabary

... and four "list" poems, with the following titles:

True Things Learned from Cats
Things that Rattle
Inside my Mother's Thimble
Things on a Breakfast Tray at the Continental Hotel

None of these is what I had PLANNED to write... go figure.

How's it going for everyone else? Any surprises?

Sunday, April 4, 2010


Okay, so I am not one to dwell on the things that go wrong in life. But there have been a few lately I've just got to share:

1. In my effort to pack light-very light, I brought just one pair of shoes to Michigan: knee-high black books guaranteed to go with anything! Well. Said boots were quite fun in the airport security line. And didn't quite work with the pajamas I wore each morning to get breakfast at the hotel. (I'm thinking flipflops for BEA in May. What do y'all think? :)

2. When I drove to Charlottesville for the Virginia Festival of the Book, I was rocking along so peacefully... until.... I got a speeding ticket. Yeah, Mr. "Do You Know How Fast You Were Going?" Thanks so much for that.

3. People ask me all the time how my kids feel about me being a "real writer," and I wish I had some great story to tell them. But the truth is, they are completely unimpressed. And the youngest, who is accustomed to me reading with him every night, got mad about it recently and said, "why do you have to go all these places?" Oh, the Working Mommy Guilt...

4. I love good food, love to eat, lovelovelove trying new restaurants in new places. So while I am so very happy for spring and sunshine and flowers, I am a wee bit scared of Bikini Season. (Do they make invisible Spanx to wear under bikinis? Because they totally should.)

5. While I have loved listening to books and music on CD, the road gets really lonely. So I pull out the cell phone, of course. Didn't realize just how much until I opened that last Verizon bill. Yikes!! If only texting while driving wasn't so freaking dangerous....

Thursday, April 1, 2010


Woohoo! It's April! Which means National Poetry Month is finally here!!

For some quick links to blogosphere celebrations, see the side bar. For an amazing, more complete resource page, visit Laura Evans at So much to do!

Here, I'm celebrating by having a GIVEAWAY!

Yep. Every Friday this month I will share one of my most favorite poems of all time... and give away one of my most favorite anthologies of all time. (What, you say? Today's not Friday? Never fear, I am not completely off my rocker. Yet. I've just been SO EXCITED, I didn't think it would hurt to get a jumpstart.)

First up: GOOD POEMS, edited by Garrison Keillor.

Just leave me a comment on this post, and you're entered to win! I'll announce this week's winner when we do it all over again NEXT Friday. Meanwhile, I will be writing a brand-spanking new poem every day this month. Yep, it's happening, folks. Starting TO-DAY.

Now for today's poem:

A Secret Life

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.

- Stephen Dunn

For Poetry Friday, check out Book Aunt who's got Roundup!