Wednesday, August 31, 2011


PAPA !!!

Yep, all the way from North Dakota, via his hometown of Port St. Joe, Florida. (Drive much??) We're so glad he's here!!

... and here he is with some other good-looking fellas I love very much.

We've some adventures planned for tomorrow... stay tuned!

Monday, August 29, 2011


So, copyedits.

I love this stage of the publishing process. It's polishing time, agonize-over-just-the-right-verb time. Now is the time to make these words not just sing, but belt it out, baby! (That's Billie Holiday, by the way.)

It's also humbling. I mean, how many times have I been over this manuscript, and there are still three incidents of the word "go" in that paragraph??

Also, I get a kick out my dear editor's comments, esp. this one: "Really?" Translation: what you just wrote is pretty much impossible, but if you can prove it to me, I'm with you. :)

So think of me with furrowed brow, a thesaurus ever-open on the internet screen. Good stuff!

Thursday, August 25, 2011


Dear Fellow Word Lovers,

Happy last Friday of August!

I guess I've had "roundup" on my mind this week... I've been working a horse-inspired quilt. And while I've been working, I've been thinking about poetry.

More specifically, I've been asking: What is the poem's object? What is it supposed to do?

This week, to the hum of the sewing machine, I came to this conclusion:

The poem's object is to BURST.

As Walt Whitman said in his poem "Beat, Drums! Beat!"

"Through the windows--through doors--burst like a ruthless force"

complete poem found here

This bursting is really just a variation on something I've written here before, about the poem "exploding the moment."

And it's sort of the same thing my friend Joan Broerman reported that Laurie Halse Anderson said in her keynote at SCBWI LA earlier this summer.

So: Burst. Explode. Disturb.

Anyone else noticing a theme here?? I'd love to hear your thoughts on the topic in comments. And don't forget to add your link below. Happy Poetry Friday, all!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Yet another reason I love ODE magazine: The promote joy an optimism with days like today!

So join me, won't you? Get out your chalk and draw some rainbows and stuff. Anyone who sends me pictures, I've got a little something happy to send to YOU. xo

Monday, August 22, 2011


It's not everyday one gets named a hurricane.

HOWEVER: I must confess: it's not my first time.

See, there was another Hurricane Irene, back in October, 1999.

Here are the headlines my sister and I collected:

One of my favorite memories of that experience was my Grandma Dykes who told me in her precious voice that it was a "sweet hurricane," and how could it NOT be, with my name?

That's the kind of loving I've been fortunate to have my entire life. Is there any more important gift we can give one another??

So. Here's hoping the 2011 Hurricane Irene is also a sweet one. Thinking about all those on the trajectory... stay safe!

Thursday, August 18, 2011


Welcome to my 700th blog post! Who knew back in 2005 when I started this blog that six years later I'd still feel compelled to share in this way?!

A quick look at my stats shows that my activity here has been somewhat mercurial: in 2007 I only posted 18 times. Then, the very next year, I sent a whopping 222 notes out into the cyberworld.

My topics of interest have remained pretty consistent: life, love, books, writing.

My most-visited post is one from my 2009-10 series of Author ABCs: Z is for ZZZZZ. Not for the content, but for the jeweled "z" image!

One of my favorite posts I ever wrote was from last year: Dear Julius Lester, in which I talk about the challenges of writing a book across cultures, and how Julius Lester provided an open door for my heart.

This blog actually started out as "Daytips for Writers," but I soon realized a post a day was too ambitious for my lifestyle. Also, I quickly realized I wanted to talk about things other than writing.

Like, choosing one little word as a focal point each year. I've actually been talking with my mother about a quilting project that will incorporate all my "one little words" as the years pass. Look for a post on this in the not-too-distant future!

Meanwhile, to celebrate being a member of the 700 CLUB, I thought it might be fun to show you some pictures of things in my house that I have 700 of. While I am not a hoarder, I am sentimental. And I have a hobby or two. See for yourself:

BOOKS! (even after I donated about 3000 last summer)

NATURE ITEMS (I'm a poet, okay? Lovelovelove walks on the beach, in the woods, down the street, by the pond...)

PICTURES (such a SUCKER for photographs, both framed and in scrapbooks. Love to surround myself with those I love, in all their different incarnations)

and FABRIC! (of course)

So, dear friends, that's my 700. Thanks for sticking with me. And now I'd love to know what YOU have 700 of in your house. Spill!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


You know when the publisher goes ALL OUT that house expectations for a book are high. Such was the case with THE EMERALD ATLAS by John Stephens.(View Random House's website for this book here.)

There's nothing particularly original here (think very simplified LORD OF THE RINGS and/or HARRY POTTER), but that's okay. It's got lots of adventure, magical elements, and characters you want good things to happen to (and instead, bad things happen to). Give it to your readers who enjoyed THE SPIDERWICK CHRONICLES or A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS. They will enjoy with this one too. And, as series books are often King of the Marketplace, this book is only the first. So there's the whole anticipatory factor to build upon.

I know there are plenty of readers for this book. Which is why I don't feel bad saying it wasn't for me. I just didn't feel it.

Onward! For more Book Talks, visit Kelly at the Lemme Library.

Monday, August 15, 2011


Behold the lovelies:

This one is a birthday gift for a special friend:

This one is also a birthday gift for a special friend (who loveloveloves Christmas)...and it gave me an opportunity to put the tiniest dent in my Christmas fabric stash. But you'd never know it, because since I pieced this one, Pat has sent me all sorts of new Christmas fabrics. (Thanks, Pat! You are THE BEST.) So, yes, I do believe there may be some additional Christmas quilts in my future.

And this one I'm calling my "Poinsettia Quilt." It's also a birthday gift for a Very Important Woman in my life. That's all I'm gonna say!

Oh, and here's the back of the Poinsettia Quilt. It looks a little "Gee's Bend" to me.

Stay tuned for more quilts... I've pieced four (4 !!) in the past few weeks. I am learning SO MUCH during this 2011 Quilt a Month challenge. Like, IRONING IS GOOD. More on this in at later post. :)

Friday, August 12, 2011


I've been reading a wonderful book:
POETRY FROM A To Z: A Guide for Young Writers by Paul B. Janeczko. Not only does it contain some lovely poems from all sorts of poets on all sorts of subjects, it also includes exercises and inspiring quotes from those poets.

My favorite:

"If you want to write poetry, you must have poems that deeply move you. Poems you cannot live without. I think of a poem as the blood in a blood transfusion, given from the heart of the poet to the heart of the reader. Seek after poems that live inside you, poems that move through your veins."

- Ralph Fletcher

Today I will be writing from a couple of the exercises in this book.
For more poetry, visit Karen for Poetry Friday Roundup!

Thursday, August 11, 2011


1. Back to School! Today I watched Eldest Son drive off to start his junior year. Middle Son started back this past Monday, and Youngest Son and I are two months into our homeschool adventure, which started this past June.

The alarm clock rings far too early. But it will allow us to get into some sort of a more formal routine. Which might be good. We'll see.

2. Doughnuts Guess what just moved into the building that sits in front of our Wal-Mart?


And guess who has zero willpower when it comes to doughnuts??

Oh, you lemon filled lovelies! How you tempt!

3. Why Yellow? That's the question Doraine asked about the redesign of ye ol' blog.

Short answer: my son did it. To match my business cards. (The header is only temporary -- he's working on something "cool," he said.)
Longer answer: There's something about yellow, isn't there? And because of your question, Doraine, I had to write a poem about yellow. And I liked it so much I submitted it to a magazine. We'll see what happens.

4. Picture Books Yes. Reading LOTS of these for my class. I'm finding myself to be a bit finicky... my taste has certainly evolved since reading picture books to my kids. It's really interesting to read the 2010 and 2011 releases as a writer. I'll be sharing some of these along the way, and I plan to do a wrap-up post of my top five at the end of the six week course. Stay tuned!

And what's up in your world?? Do tell!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


Last week I started a Picture Book Intensive with Anastasia Suen. As part of the class we will be reading five picture books a week. Actually, I'm reading at least twice that, but only five are required for the assignments. We're focusing on the latest releases, of course, as all of us in the class want to write and sell our own picture books.

Here's three from this past week that strike me as especially great for boys:

THESE HANDS by Margaret H. Mason, illustrated by Floyd Cooper
Grandfather talks to grandson about what hands can and cannot do. Beautiful art. Includes historical information about discrimination in the Wonder Bread company which, in the 1940s and 50s, did not allow black hands to touch the dough. I found it touching and meaningful.

BLACKOUT by John Rocco
This one is about a city that experiences a blackout and what a family does during that time. Not a lot of words in this one, and it's really not so much about the family as it is the experience of a blackout. Which is why I think boys will be particularly interested. And it would be a good tie-in for any energy-related discussions.

EARTH TO CLUNK by Pam Smallcomb, illustrated by Joe Berger
This one is really fun! Very imaginative with a grumpy little boy as its hero. Prepare to laugh out loud as the boy decides having a pen pal (Clunk) isn't such a bad thing after all.

For more book talks, visit Kelly at the Lemme Library for Book Talk Tuesday!

Friday, August 5, 2011


Last week when I posted a poem for Poetry Friday, StableGranny had this to say:

"poetry is the picking flowers, bird watching, take a nap on your way to get some place... write me a poem that is put you foot down and get there."

I just shook my head in sadness when I read that comment. Because looking at the small things, exploding the moment -- that's pretty much the point of poetry. It requires the writer to take time and look closely at something, and it promises the reader a new perspective or awareness. If the reader will only take the time too.

And while it saddens me that our world moves so fast sometimes that poetry gets lost, I'm thinking that all of us poets can learn from this comment:

Less is more.
Say it.
Get there.
Then get out of the poem.

I've written a number of poems this week with this advice in mind. But I don't care what StableGranny says: I still love a meandering poem that picks flowers, bird watches and takes a nap. :)

For more poetry, Libby has Poetry Friday Roundup at A Year of Literacy Coaching.

painting by De Scott Williams

Thursday, August 4, 2011


Indeed, it's not something we generally like to admit about ourselves, but in the competitive world of book publishing, envy certainly exists.

Which is why today I wrote a post about it at Smack Dab in the Middle. Check it out!

And be on the lookout for more "How to Deal...." posts this month at Smack Dab... I can't wait to see what topics other authors blog about.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


... you ask your mother for a new dictionary "for nighttime reading, because the other one is out of date."

I'm talking to you, Son-Who-Thinks-He's-All-Math-&-Science!

(And thanks for giving me another example to share during my "You Might Be a Writer If" bit at school visits. :)

Monday, August 1, 2011


In the backmatter of the book I just finished-- THE HEARTS OF HORSES by Molly Gloss, one of the discussion questions is about one's moral compass. It cites how the main character uses "how people treat their horses" as her moral compass. And it asks what's your moral compass?

My mind when sorta blank at first, then started shifting through all the things I know about myself -- like common characteristics of people I like to surround myself with, what's important to me, what things in this world make sense to me and what don't.

I decided my moral compass is gray. As in, lots of gray area. I'm not particularly rule-bound, don't buy into any one political or religious framework, and definitely like to go my own way. I believe we are on this planet to love one another. I don't have a lot of patience with folks who are content to follow the herd, don't dive deep into themselves, don't value family and memory and meaningful relationships. I think one's relationship with oneself is the most important relationship of all. I get frustrated with people who wait for things to happen to them instead of going out and making it happen. But I love them anyway.

Gray enough for you?

Turns out, one's moral compass is actually a specific function of a specific spot in the human brain. I wonder if we inherit these traits or if they're pre-programmed or can be learned or shaped by environment?

Probably all of the above.

See? Gray.

Not sure about your own moral compass? Take the quiz at quiz farm.(I scored Pacifist-Conqueror-Guardian.)

Or this one, although it is more about the balance of your morals and seems geared toward business owners. (I'm pretty balanced.)

Now I'd like to read this book by William J. Bennett, also on the topic:

And yes, I should say: me and Margaret, the main character in THE HEARTS OF HORSES do have a few things in common, including using how we see people treat others as a way to form opinions about them. Great read!