Thursday, May 31, 2012


So I was reading in Smithsonian Magazine the other day this profile on Roseanne Cash by Ron Rosenbaum.

That's Roseanne, daughter of Johnny.

It's a great article about love and physics and songmaking. Which means it's about me and you and what it means to live and create in this world.

One of my favorite parts in the article really speaks to me right now, when I am working working working to get a story just right:

Then she remembers something her mentor told her about songwriting. John Stewart "always said, 'Where's the madness?' You know, if I would try to write a perfect song. 'Where's the madness, Rose?'"

Wishing all you your own brand of madness, whatever your creative endeavors!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


As many of you know, I've spent the last calendar year homeschooling my youngest son.

Educating him has been an adventure from the start: he spent K-3 in public school and 4-5 in a Montessori school. When we became aware of his passion for percussion (about 3rd grade), we set our sights on Alabama School of Fine Arts, a specialty public school for grades 7-12 that requires an extensive audition process and only accepts about 1/3 of applicants into their music department.  With that as our goal, we chose to spend this last year, 6th grade, homeschooling.

I've homeschooled in the past, so I wasn't fearful about the legalities or curricula. I learned the first go-around that unschooling is the best approach for our family. While I did print out the Alabama curriculum standards for 6th grade, I did not worry one iota about testing. That's right: Eric has not taken a single test the entire last year. Our goal has been learning. And given Eric's interests, it should come as no surprise that the majority of his learning has been in the area of music.

Great news: he auditioned for ASFA and was accepted into their program for next year!

For his final homeschool assignment, I asked him to write a paper about the best and the worst parts of his homeschool year.

On his worst list: "no friends"

On his best list: "being able to triple my abilities music-wise"

And here is my most favorite part of his paper:

"Otherwise, I have created myself into me."

He went on to explain all the things he learned about himself. The paper sounds like it was written by a college student. This has been a year of self-discovery for him. And how thrilled am I to have been such a big part of that??

For me, the best part has been spending time with my kid, getting to know him better, all the great talks while driving in the car. The worst part has been feeling like I haven't quite been able to give him everything he needs. He's beyond me in so many ways. And I worry some about how he will adjust as he moves back to a traditional school setting after all the mad freedom of this year.

He loves music so much, I have to trust he'll be just fine.

I know this for sure: I wouldn't trade this past year with him for anything.

Monday, May 28, 2012


Most Memorial Days we are on family vacation.

Last year we were in Washington, D.C.

It was hot.

It was crowded.

We were miserable.

Did I mention it was hot?

We were so miserable we cut our trip short and went home a day early.

Which is why, I guess, that this year it feels like a vacation not to be on vacation.

It's quiet.

Even Hwy. 280 is relatively empty.

I've had like 14 naps.

Everyone seems happy.

This may be our new Memorial Day tradition! Hope whatever this day holds for you is exactly what you want. xo

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


The other day lovely, gracious, talented Lori Degman honored me with a "Versatile Blogger Award."

Thank you, Lori! (sweeping bow here) I'm honored. and I'm so pleased to know you. Readers, you'll want to know her too. She's awesome. And she too wrote a zoo book! That's right: the award-wining picture book 1 ZANY ZOO.

And the whole thing got me pondering that word "versatile." According to the Free Online Dictionary, it means  
"1. Capable of doing many things competently. 2. Having varied uses or serving many functions"

I like it. It's about what one is able to offer the world.

It seems closely related to another word I like even better: ECLECTIC.

Again, according to the Free Online dictionary, it means
 "Selecting or employing individual elements from a variety of sources, systems, or styles"

 I don't know why I like this word better. Maybe because it's more artsy, less utilitarian-sounding? Eclectic, to me, feels like getting to the source of things.

Eclectic feels like a centerpiece whereas versatile feels like something you store in the kitchen drawer and pull out from time to time.

 And as I was having this conversation with myself about the difference between the two words, I thought, hmmm. Lori is exactly the kind of person who would appreciate the difference. And there are a number of other bloggers I can think of who would too.

So in honor of that, I hereby take the liberty of altering this award. I'm giving it a new name and altering the "rules" ever so slightly. Because that's what we versatile/eclectic bloggers do!

The new rules:

  •  Thank the person who gave you this award. That’s common courtesy. 
  •  Include a link to their blog. That’s also common courtesy — if you can figure out how to do it.  
  •  Next, select 5 blogs/bloggers that you’ve recently discovered or follow regularly. 
  •  Nominate those 5 bloggers for the Eclectic Blogger Award — you might include a link to this site. 
  •  Finally, tell the person who nominated you 5 things about yourself. 
 For those of you who care about such things: the original rules said to select "15" bloggers and tell "7" things about yourself. Ummmm, I'm introverted, okay? Even "5" (of either thing) is a bit of a challenge for me.

So. Here's the five bloggers I would like to recognize for their amazing eclectic-ness:

Pat Weaver at Writer on a Horse: Pat writes about gardening and getting older and horses and chicken hawks and you just never know what! She makes me laugh and cry.

Tabatha Yeatts at The Opposite of Indifference: Tabatha's blog is an artsy feast of music and visuals and written words. I always leave inspired.

Linda Baie at Teacher Dance: Linda has got to be one of the most gracious, generous spirits in the blogosphere. I love the real-life things she chooses to write about... teaching, living, saying goodbyes, bullying... really good stuff.

Team Swagger: Okay, to be fair, it's easier to be eclectic when you're a team. I love all the voices here and suspect you will too!

Another blog I want to mention even though it's food-centric, so not exactly eclectic, but the person who's writing it certainly seems to be and I have enjoyed the heck out of it since discovering a short while ago:

So Delushious!: Here's the tagline: "personal random ramblings from a girl who loves bacon and can't be fat." This blog is written by model Chrissy Teigen. There's something about that contradiction: model who loves to eat and also love spicy language and Pilates and taking up-close pics of food that really appeals to me. Warning: SPICY LANGUAGE.And try the chipotle marinade. Yum!


1. Once upon a time I gardened. Not anymore.That's because I realized I don't really like it. I don't like the sun, the heat, the weeds, chiggers.... so if you've got extra veggies, I am happy to give them a plate to momentarily rest upon!

2.  I'm thinking about taking a comedy/improv class. It scares me. Which is the biggest reason I want to take it.

3. I'm also thinking about taking an iron casting class at Sloss Furnace.

4. I dream about a country road like this one:

5. I love to rearrange the furniture.


Monday, May 21, 2012


Lucky me: the past two weeks I have gotten to hang out with traveling authors!

First, Vicky Alvear Schecter, author of CLEOPATRA'S MOON.

Pat Weaver, Vicky & me, on my back deck

Vicky with Drag Queen Cleo at Little Professor Books

Everyone listening to Vicky talk about her book

Book Club: Lori, Jaime, Phyllis, Vicky, Martha & Carol
Two things especially stand out to me from Vicky's talk:

1. Characters need agency. What the heck is agency? It has to do with action, forward motion. It's the character doing something to move the story, not something happening to the character. (Right, Vicky?) Vicky learned this from working with her editor, Cheryl Klein.

2. If you have a manuscript ready to go and you're looking for an agent, consider asking your published SCBWI friends to provide for you an email introduction to their agent. (This is NOT a referral or recommendation. Simply an introduction.) This is how Vicky "met" her agent.

Next up, Sarah Frances Hardy, author of PUZZLED BY PINK:

Sarah Frances with a young reader at Little Professor Books. In the background Lori Nichols, whose first picture book will be published next year!

me, Pat Weaver, Sarah Frances & all the way from California, Tina Coury, author of newly-released HANGING OFF JEFFERSON'S NOSE. Yep, that's how popular Sarah Frances is. :)

Pat & Sarah Frances on the overlook at Vulcan, Birmingham's monument to the god of forge

Sarah Frances is so cool, she presented her talk on her ipad. My favorite part was when she talked about an encounter with one of Maurice Sendak's people, who looked at her work, and said it was TERRIBLE. But Sarah Frances kept on going, kept working, kept getting better. And now here she is!

Also, Sarah Frances sings the praises of Doni Kay, southeastern sales rep for Penguin -- a sentiment I share! Doni was great to work with when scheduling book signings for LEAVING GEE'S BEND. And it's a great reminder to all you authors out there: get to know your regional sales rep. These people are passionate, hard-working and know this industry.

And now we are just days away from summer vacation here at Casa Latham. I am super-excited about the abundant white space on my calendar. Perhaps I can use the inspiration generated by these schmoozes to address, improve, complete some of my works-in-progress ??

And it's a longgggg summer... thanks to a new Alabama state law, kids won't go back until August 20!

What does your summer look like?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


...and at one of my favorite schools with some of my favorite teachers!

Thank you, Inverness Elementary students, Mrs. Bramlett, Mrs. Young, Mrs. Beavers and Mrs. Price for reading LEAVING GEE'S BEND to the kids year after year. Thanks also for the lovely gift. I appreciate you!  (here I am with Mrs. Bramlett's class)

Friday, May 11, 2012


1. Welcome to Poetry Friday Roundup! Thanks so much for stopping by. Please leave your link and name with description (there is only one space to put all the info you'd like us to know) in the handy dandy inlinkz form below.

2. Tonight is Book Club, at my house. We've been reading CLEOPATRA'S MOON by Vicky Alvear Schecter. And Vicky will be joining us for our discussion!

For those of you who don't know about this book, it's about Cleopatra's only daughter Selene. Imagine having a mother like Cleopatra -- a mother who chose the love of Egypt over everything (and everyone) else.

Haven't I said before that the mother-daughter relationship is the most complicated one ever?


3. I've added tabs to ye olde blog. Now our Progressive Poem has its own resting place. If you haven't had a chance to see how it turned out -- including a wonderful title provided by Kate Coombs, please read!

4. Also check out the "How to Live Your Poem" tab. This is something I'm working on. Basically, it's a list of personal and resonant-to-me directives pulled from poems. I'd love your suggestions for additions to the list!

5. Finally, allow me to share one of a gazillion quotes I'd like to share from A GOD IN THE HOUSE:  Poets Talk about Faith from Tupelo Press:

"So I discovered poetry is an amoeba: It has an eye for witnessing, a foot for leaving traces, and a flexible form.”

Tuesday, May 8, 2012



We put this on EVERYTHING: meat, veggies (toss with olive oil and roast in the oven), mac-n-cheese, everything!

Try it. You will NOT be sorry.

And hey, if you have a secret weapon in the kitchen, do tell! I love to eat, love to cook, love to try new things...

Sunday, May 6, 2012


For a number of years now, I have used my cell phone as a watch.

Except it's awkward, digging around in my purse to find the darn thing. (Imagine the time I have wasted, doing just that?)

For speaking engagements, I bought a cheap-o bracelet-style "Grandma" watch at Walmart. It's nothing fancy. But it works to help me find the "I'll take two more questions, and then our time is up" moment at the end of presentation.

A few months ago I spied in Sundance catalog the bold, inspiring watch that appears beside these words.

 But I don't NEED a watch. I've got the cell phone, remember? And the Grandma watch. So I've resisted the splurge.

And then I was dusting, looking at this family photo, circa 2002:

Do you see that watch on my wrist? (Hard to see at this size, but I promise you, it's there.) It was a gift from my husband. I wore it ALL THE TIME.

I couldn't remember what happened to it. Was it broken? Lost?

I found it in my jewelry box. As I held it in my hand I remembered all the reason I loved it. It's flat, light-weight, silver AND gold. Not flashy, but nice.

So I took it to the jeweler, and for five dollars and a quarter, fitted it with a new battery. And I've been wearing it ever since. And I love it! No more digging around in my purse!

And it feels so rebellious, so retro, like I am going my own way in a techno-world.

I like it. And it's validated other choices I've made, like no smart phone, no tablet, no Facebook. I feel so self-sufficient, so in-the-moment.

Sometimes all it takes is a tiny little thing to change your life. (Isn't that a lesson we have to learn and learn and learn again? Sigh.)

Thursday, May 3, 2012


Today I've posted over at Smack Dab in the Middle "On the Importance of Parents in Middle Grade Fiction."

In honor of that, I wanted to share a picture (circa 1991, and yes the bride is me!) of my parents, whom I have always considered one of my biggest blessings. I mean, you don't get to choose who you're born to. I was lucky.

But my relationships with them hasn't always been peaches and cream. I was reminded of this on the panel last Saturday in Monroeville when someone asked a question about what do you do when you've written about real people in your life, how do you handle hurting their feelings?

My answer is simple: DON'T DO IT. I've written many poems about my parents that will never be seen by anyone. That's because I value the relationships with them over the desire to get published.

It's not worth it to hurt them.

Truth is not the most important thing.

And truth is relative anyway.

Only the writer can decide. But, please, remember this: despite what the old playground rhyme says, words CAN hurt. And often those wounds never go away. Especially when they're in print somewhere to haunt forever and ever.

Good luck!

And thank you to my wonderful, amazing, inspiring, supportive parents, who have given me a life worth writing about.