Thursday, September 30, 2010


Okay. Who hasn't wanted to wake up, just once, in someone else's body? Well, Ginger Rue has written a book about that very thing... only It-Girl Brinkley Harper doesn't want it to happen -- which makes her "jumps" all the more fun! You've got to read this book. Great writing, and really fun. And have I mentioned Ginger is a dear friend of mine from way back in high school? Yep. Show her some love!

Now. About these Jump Starters. Here's the skinny, straight from Ginger's blog:

"JUMP Starters will be 25 people who will be selected to help spread the word about JUMP in their communities. They’ll receive a free kit in the mail with a copy of the novel, a poster of the book jacket, and bookmarks to hand out to whomever they choose. If they can convince a bookstore or library in their town to hang up the poster, and then send me a picture of themselves beside the poster, they’ll get another freebie: a JUMP t-shirt. And let me just say that this is a pretty cool t-shirt: a crimson color similar to the background on the book jacket, with yellow print. I have to pay for mine, but JUMP Starters will get theirs FREE!"

Now, go! To be selected you have to visit Ginger's blog, like, right now!! GOOD LUCK! And Congratulations, Ginger, on a wonderful new book!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


A question came up during an intense discussion among pre-published and published authors at Midsouth SCBWI conference (see blog for all the good stuff) in Nashville: Does a writer ever outgrow writing conferences?

My answer is YES.

But that's not to say a writer ever stops learning. Just that once you've broken into the industry, you have all sorts of other avenues to feed that growth.

Writing conferences open the door, but over a writer's lifetime, I don't think writing conferences have the power to sustain. Ultimately, writing conferences serve beginners best. And even though every writing organization I've been associated with strives to keep writers coming back, I think that energy is really misplaced. We should be courting the beginners and pushing the more accomplished out the nest. Tiers like SCBWI's PAL membership only serve to divide the membership, when the whole point is to support and educate budding careers.

Also, there is something to be said for the the turnover of power in these organizations. The fastest way for a group to become stale and useless is to maintain the same leadership over the course of many years. We need new voices, new ideas, new energy. Which means the more established writers should of course make themselves available as mentors, but should also move out and on.

I got much of my education on craft and industry through attending writing conferences, so I continue to be wildly grateful for their existence. But I realized this weekend that the best thing for me to do now is to offer my chair to someone else.

Take it. It's yours. And if you need any help... give me a holler. And to my dear writing friends who have also outgrown conferences, two words: WRITING RETREAT. I am so there!!

Friday, September 24, 2010


First of all, it's Poetry Friday!! Dust off your verses, and share something at Roundup: The Blog With the Shockingly Clever Title.

Next up: We've just had a wonderful visit with Papa. I'm sorry to see it end. But he does live in Bismarck, and he does have other children, so he simply MUST hit the road. So. A little sadness today. But happiness too. Time together is so precious.

Besides, I'm skipping town myself. Heading to SCBWI Midsouth conference. Ellen Hopkins will be there! And lots of writing buds, too. I'm excited!

I'll be back next week with updates and exciting news. Meanwhile, here is a timely
poem I've loved for many years:


Tonight there must be people who are getting what they want.
I let my oars fall into the water.
Good for them. Good for them, getting what they want.

The night is so still that I forget to breathe.
The dark air is getting colder. Birds are leaving.

Tonight there are people getting just what they need.

The air is so still that it seems to stop my heart.
I remember you in a black and white photograph
taken this time of some year. You were leaning against
a half-shed tree, standing in the leaves the tree had lost.

When I finally exhale it takes forever to be over.

Tonight, there are people who are so happy,
that they have forgotten to worry about tomorrow.

Somewhere, people have entirely forgotten about tomorrow.
My hand trails in the water.
I should not have dropped those oars. Such a soft wind.

- Jennifer Michael Hecht

from her book,
"The Next Ancient World"

available from or Tupelo Press

Sunday, September 19, 2010


A few weeks ago my son announced that The Best Book He EVER Had to Read for School was THE GIVER by Lois Lowry.

I nodded sagely, having enjoyed that book myself, and I located the book on the shelf, moved it to the tower on my nightstand and thought, I need to read this one again, not just as a reader, but as a writer who wants to write books that matter.

A few chapters in, I received an email from a middle school teacher who was requesting a school visit AND announcing that she had paired LEAVING GEE'S BEND with THE GIVER, because they are so much alike.

I was like, wow, really?

And I made it a priority to finish the book so I could see what she was talking about.

Here's the thing: all that Jonas gains through the memories he receives from the Giver, all the ways his world changes from this safe, mundane, sterile existence leads him to a world like Ludelphia's: heartache, pain, striving, love, family, stories, COLOR. When at the end, Jonas and Gabe sled down that hill and arrive... they could be arriving at Ludelphia's cabin.

Cool, huh?

So that set me on a Lois Lowry kick. Next up was GOSSAMER. And it surprised me how touched I was by it. The story comes together in this unusual way, and I was completely drawn in on an emotional level.... if you haven't read it, please do.

Also, consider these wise words from Lois Lowry's acceptance speech for the 1994 Newbery Medal:

"Let me say something to those of you here who do such dangerous work.

The man that I named The Giver passed along to the boy knowledge, history, memories, color, pain, laughter, love, and truth. Every time you place a book in the hands of a child, you do the same thing.

It is very risky.

But each time a child opens a book, he pushes open the gate that separates him from Elsewhere. It gives him choices. It gives him freedom. Those are magnificent, wonderfully unsafe things."

Lois, thanks for giving us Elsewhere and choices and freedom. I'm so pleased our books have become companions. :)

Thursday, September 16, 2010


We all know how a person can be shaped by his or her name, and how our preconceived notions about a name can be shaped by a person. Some of the best characters in literature have unusual names, and we like that, because they we feel like the character is unusual... when really, a person's name tells far more about the parent than it does the person.

I was named Irene, for my father's maternal grandmother, whom everyone affectionately called Big Mama. It's an old name, Irene... but I've always loved it. It's just unusual enough and yes, oldfashioned, which suits me. So this post is not about the name Irene.

It's about my maiden name: Dykes. You can imagine the middle-school jokes for a girl blessed with this name. Which is why I was pretty happy to banish it from all legal documents when I married. I love the name Latham. And would have wanted to share my husband's name almost no matter what it was. Not because I hated the name Dykes, but because I'm oldfashioned that way. I want to share a name with my life partner.

So the name change served me well. No more jokes. Although I have cringed on behalf of sisters-in-law and nieces on more than one occasion.

Fast forward twenty years to last week's death of my Granddaddy, Newton Emon Dykes. He's the reason I was named Dykes. That was one of his many gifts to me, my father and all my siblings. And he was one of those classic men who taught by example and loved so ardently. You could count on him, for comfort, humor, joy, anything. So today, I'm proud to bear the name Dykes.

Granddaddy, I will do everything I can to live up to it.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


You know how sometimes life comes at you so fast you can hardly keep up? Yeah. That's how things have been for me lately. Here are the highlights:

1. This adorable baby boy whom I have had the privilege and honor of loving just turned SWEET SIXTEEN!! We are currently car shopping... and taking him tomorrow to get his license. He's a responsible driver so far, but it still makes me worry.

2. Spent some quality time with one of my most favorite people on the planet: my sister Lynn (below). Love you, sweet girl.

3. Said "goodbye" to one of my other most favorite people: my granddaddy (below). He was 93. But it still didn't feel like enough time.

He died just four months after my grandmother -- his wife of 68 years. I have talked about them here before... I learned so much from them about love and how to live a life. I feel so lucky to have known them.

4. What was once FINISHING SCHOOL FOR HOPELESS ROMANTICS has been retitled: THE COLOR OF LOST ROOMS. Working very hard with editor to get this poetry manuscript ship-shape before we move to the next stage.

5. Working on the backside of my charm quilt. Yeah... decided I wanted it double-sided, so I've been cutting larger-size blocks. I think it will make a nice variation. Will share pics when I get to that point!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


What to say about Colrain Poetry Manuscript Conference?

It's tough because I still feel overwhelmed by everthing I learned. And the people were great! Session leaders Joan and Ellen, all the fabulous poets from all corners of the country... and the editors. Awesome!!

I was amazed at the way Tupelo Press editor Jeffery Levine was able to see my heart in my poetry -- he randomly chose three poems out of my manuscript to read aloud, and after he'd read all three, he said they all ended with a "missing other."

Heck, I didn't even know that!

He also commented on the sense of humor he found in my work, and see, I've never really characterized it as such. His comments made me really want to develop that quality in my writing. He also said I was good with sexy and that only one in five hundred manuscripts he gets are sexy. Maybe this is a niche I can fill? Of course, I'd have to keep it separate from my novels-for-midgrade website....

Other things I learned:

I spend too much time on set-up and need to cut many first stanzas of poems.

I have a tendency to want to be a guru of sorts, to wrap up my poems with some sage words. Those are lines I need to cut.

I use great metaphors but don't stay in them long enough. I need to stick with them long enough to "explode the moment."

My prose gets in the way sometimes. I need to get rid of time markers and transitions.

It's better to submit a short manuscript than to pad a short manuscript with mediocre poems. Only put forth your very best work.

I write great titles. Just need the poems to live up to them. :)