Friday, February 25, 2011


1. It's Poetry Friday! And while I am not able to contribute this week, you should totally get your day off to a good start and head over to Sara at Read Write Believe for Roundup.

2. In the past week I have had speaking engagements at Tuskegee University (for ACETA), Judson College (see previous post), University of Alabama (Women's Resource Center) and today I'll teach a bunch of middle schoolers at University of Montevallo's WRITE IN THE MIDDLE conference. I've so enjoyed making new friends and sharing stories about my experience writing LEAVING GEE'S BEND.

3. Tomorrow is my birthday. 40, baby!! I will be celebrating with some super sweet fellas who said they have some surprises in store. Hmmmm.... I'm not gonna think about it too much because I don't want to accidentally think of the surprise. Hate when that happens.

4. Wait until you see the new quilt I am working on. It's in spring colors and is called "Magic Twist and Stitch 9-Patch." I love how it's turning out!

5. I'm reading an ARC of Kathryn Erskine's THE ABSOLUTE VALUE OF MIKE to my youngest, and we are loving it! Kathy and her daughter stayed with us over the summer, so reading this book feels really personal. And Kathy, if you're reading this, Eric paid you a wonderful comment when he said, "Are you sure she's the one who wrote that book?" The voice is THAT authentically Teenage Boy! Wonderful, Kathy.

Happy weekend, All!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


What a warm welcome I received today at Judson College in Marion, Alabama. Judson has its own china pattern, so this tea cup and saucer will serve as my souvenir. Don't you love it?

After I spoke to a room-full of wonderful young women, I shared a lovely lunch with Sulynn Creswell (whom I adore) of Blackbelt Treasures, Michael Brooks and President David Potts from Judson, author/poet/artist-in-residence Dr. Bille Jean Young (who was kind enough to give me copies of two of her works. I can't wait to read!) and several other gracious faculty and staff. It was such a pleasure to share time with adults so passionate about education and creativity.

Sulynn brought along this broomstick version of Ludelphia that totally warms my heart. She was created at Blackbelt Treasures as part of a recycled art project. What a great idea!

Below is a pic of the three of us: Sulynn, Ludelphia and me. Wishing everyone a joyful day!

Friday, February 18, 2011


Actually, I'm kind of partial to the beach in fall, when the heat is not nearly so brutal. And I love it at night best of all. There's just something about the cool sand and warm breeze and scurrying crabs -- in the dark. Love it.

We are, however, talking about zipping down with the kids to the beach during spring break. But we've learned from experience not to make any hard and fast plans. We'll just wait and see what the weather is like that week, then decide.

Meanwhile, my new book THE COLOR OF LOST ROOMS contains several beach poems. Today I'd like to share one that was inspired by a painting in the permanent collection at National Museum of Art by Women in Washington, DC. Perhaps you've had a "beach scene" like the one below.

Thanks for reading. And for more wonderful poetry, don't forget to visit Mary Ann at Great Kids Books for Roundup!

Beach Scene
-after the painting by Jane Peterson

Sand in drifts,
parade of skin:
peach, pink,

ruddy, lobster.
Heat prickles,
tempers flare

bare feet sink,
splash, dash
buckets, shovels

tossed aside
for waves,
sea salt, foam.

Ocean grumbles,
roars, later

I’m sorry

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


How awesome is this??

Thank you, Nancy Mercado, for wrapping it all up with a colorful ribbon and an artsy note. How could I NOT be inspired to work hard and make DON'T FEED THE BOY the best it can be??

Yep. Sometimes it really is the little things.

Wishing all of you lots of little things today!

Friday, February 11, 2011


for Poetry Friday, I want to tell you about all the juicy goodness spilling from the pages of the latest Birmingham Arts Journal.

There's Maria Coble's poem "What Color is Cancer?" which just might surprise you. (No, it's not black.)

There's Vernon Fowlkes Jr.'s poem "Say We Have Felt This" that addresses sound and touch and begins

Say this is a sound
wired in the hammer
in the ear. Say

There's Jim Reed's piece entitled "How to Murder an Author." (In case you were curious!)

There's Nick McRae's poem about what happens with goldfish entitled "The Ressurrection and the Life."

There's Kory Wells' lovely poem called "Still, My Daughter Wants to Fly."

There's even a poem of mine: "Why Hester Prynne Still Loves the Color Red."

And so much more! I hope you'll check it out. Then, send me your submissions!! Would love to publish some of my Poetry Friday friends.

Speaking of...Carol at Rasco from RIF has Poetry Friday Round up.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


You may not know this, but I am a big fan of reader's theater. I have such fond memories of watching the excitement of my own kids as they participated in reader's theater, and I've even written some vignettes myself for teachers to use in conjunction with LEAVING GEE'S BEND. So I was particularly joyous when I head about Doraine Bennett's new book entitled READER'S THEATER FOR GLOBAL EXPLORERS.

To help celebrate the release of the book, I invited Doraine (who is such a lovely person - seriously, visit her blog)to answer some questions about this fun project.

1. What are the benefits of using Reader's Theater to teach history?
Reader's Theater lets students bring a character, an event, or an unfamiliar culture to life.They have the opportunity to "become" the character without the trappings of an actual play. In order to interpret a character well, the reader has to understand the emotions that character experienced in any given scene. Getting to the bottom of those emotions gives the reader new insight into history. And of course, the side benefit to all reader's theater productions is that students develop fluency.

2. I especially love "The North Pole: Who Was First? (or Did They Really Get There At All?) because of the unexpected way the information is presented. How did you choose that particular viewpoint?

The North Pole was the most difficult of all the scripts I wrote. The entire country was in a uproar over the events. There was controversy, backbiting, accusations swirling around both Peary and Cook. I felt like I couldn't write their story without really understanding it. Cook seemed such a likable guy, I wanted him to have won. But he truly was a scam artist. Unfortunately this fact blinded people to the accomplishments he did make in his understanding and treatment of the Native Americans. Peary on the other hand was an egotistical boor. His original records have still never been released, so there really is some question about whether he actually made it. And of course Matthew Henson was the one who got him as far as he did get. I finally came up with the courtroom scene as a way to present the facts that were known and the ones that were intentionally obscured. I think the ending gives students a great beginning point for discussion.

3. Tell us a bit about your process. How does writing Reader's Theater differ from the other nonfiction work that you have done?
The process of writing reader's theater is more like writing historical fiction than nonfiction, because you are creating a scene. And you must choose one or two simple scenes that convey the essence of the entire story. There's the same amount of research that you would expect in a nonfiction book, the facts are the facts. They are just presented in a different format.

4. You've written a slew of books for the educational market. Tell us how this particular book came to be -- from idea to publication.
I follow the blog of a wonderful nonfiction writer named Nancy I. Sanders. In March 2009, Nancy walked her readers through the process of identifying gaps in a publisher's series of books, and then sending a query to offer a proposal before writing the book. I researched Libraries Unlimited who had a series called Readers Theatre. It's a bit nerve-racking, but I found some of their books in the library and thought--okay, I could do that. I looked at the line of titles and sent an email query to editor asking if she would like to see a proposal for a book on explorers, and two other topics which I can't even remember now. I got an e-mail reply saying yes. So, I picked explorers from my list of topics, took about three months to write a proposal following the guidelines on the website. I included a table of contents and one script. In August, I got a phone call saying they wanted to offer me a contract. They gave me until July 2010 to complete the project. And the book came out in late December 2010.

5. If you could actually live in any of the scenes that you've created for Global Explorers, which story and role would you choose?
I'm really partial to Sir Ernest Shackleton. I think sledding on your bum down a frozen mountain on South Georgia Island with him would have been a hair-raising, exhilarating, once-in-a lifetime memory. Assuming you survived, of course.

Thursday, February 3, 2011


For all of you Poetry Friday folks, I have to tell you about this retreat that I am SO excited about:

Dive Into Poetry Retreat with Rebecca Kai Dotlich
Friday, June 10, 2011 - Sunday, June 12, 2011
Center for New Beginnings, Dahlonega, Georgia 30533

Sponsored by Southern Breeze SCBWI
and arranged by the lovely Robyn Hood Black
manuscript critique is included with registration! (Must be RECEIVED no later than April 25, 2011)

For more info, please see page 7 of this newsletter

I hope some of you can make it -- it's going to be fantastic! And how fun would it be to meet some of you??

On the theme of invitations, I have two invitation poems to share. They have each had a huge impact on my life, albeit at very different times.

The first, from childhood:


If you are a dreamer, come in
If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,
A hope-er. a pray-er, a magic bean buyer...
If you're a pretender, come sit by the fire
For we have some flax-golden tales to spin.
Come in!
Come in!

-Shel Silverstein

The second, as I entered adulthood. I still keep this one pinned to my bulletin board:


It doesn't interest me what you do for a living
I want to know what you ache for
and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart's longing.

It doesn't interest me how old you are
I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool
for love
for your dreams
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn't interest me what planets are squaring your moon...
I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow
if you have been opened by life's betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain.

I want to know if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your
fingers and toes
without cautioning us to
be careful
be realistic
to remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn't interest me if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.

rest of poem here

- Oriah Mountain Dreamer

Anyone else have an "invitation" poem to share? I'd love to hear about it. And don't forget to visit Doraine at Dori Reads for Roundup!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


A couple of weeks ago I walked out to the mailbox and found the most delightful surprise: an envelope with a book entitled Perfect Reader by Maggie Pouncey. Inside the book was a little note from the brilliant, generous, talented Jessica DeHart. It said that when she reads good books, she likes to pass them on. And I was the lucky recipient! (Thank you, Jess!!!) So I sank right in.

And, of course, Jessica was right: it's a good book. And with themes on poetry and father/daughter relationships and griefing and moving on, it was a great fit for me. The basic premise has main character Flora in possession of her recently-deceased father's collection of poems. She has to decide what to do with them -- publish or not, edit or not, read or not. This is all complicated by the entry of her father's secret significant other -- the woman who inspired the love/sex poems and to whom the collection is dedicated.

Flora wonders if she is her father's "perfect reader." And it's got me thinking about MY perfect reader.

I tend to be pretty guarded about my writing in general. It's a self-protective mesasure... I just can't handle other people's input in the raw stage of development. After a few drafts, I'm okay. Although I STILL am very careful about asking for help. It's got to be just the right person.

In his poem "Selecting a Reader," Ted Kooser says, "First, I would have her be beautiful."

Don't we ALL want her to be beautiful?? (full poem found here)

In Perfect Reader, Pouncey described exactly what I look for in a reader:

“But be kind to your old dad. Don’t give me the full editorial treatment. Big pictures. Favorite and least favorite lines. Triumphs and disasters. That sort of thing.“

There's time later for the full editorial treatment... and it doesn't need to come from someone I love. I guess I need the professional distance actual editors provide... because I love revising. I love it when an editor helps my work achieve its potential.

What about all of you? What do you look for in a reader?

Oh, and to pay it forward: if you think this is a book you would enjoy, leave me a comment, and I'll send it to you! First person to request it wins!