Thursday, October 31, 2013


Happy Halloween!!!! 
When we visited Mentone, Alabama, earlier this month during ColorFest, they were having a scarecrow contest. Here are the ones we voted for:

Edgar Allan Scare-Poe

Mermaid (my favorite!)

 Cheerleader (Paul's favorite)

Artist (artsy-kids' favorite)

...and here is a close-up of what he was painting. :)

Monday, October 28, 2013


me &  Sherman Alexie in Las Vegas (2012 NCTE)
Earlier this month I read an article in The Atlantic entitled "The Poem that Made Sherman Alexie Want to 'Drop Everything and Be a  Poet.'" It's part of as series in which authors share works of literature that meant a lot to them. 

It reminds me of Robert Pinsky's Favorite Poem Project, of which I have long been a fan, and after which we model our own My Favorite Poem event here in Birmingham every year.

Alexie reveals the poem and talks about his literary life, and he also says something that really resonates with me (and apparently with the editors of The Atlantic, because they use the quote as a pull-out):

"I think every writer stands in the doorway of their prison. Half in, half out. "  - Sherman Alexie

Alexie's prison is his culture, his upbringing. 

I know what mine is.

What's yours?

Thursday, October 24, 2013


Hello, and welcome to Poetry Friday Roundup! I'm so glad you're here. So much to celebrate in this gorgeous, inspiring world... and today is my 1,000th blog post!

A little blog history: When I started this blog, it was called DAYTIPS FOR WRITERS and usually included a quote. I love quotes! Here's the first one I posted... advice for a life:

1. Never Quit.
2. Be Yourself.
3. Don't Put Too Much Flour in Your Brownies.

- Katharine Hepburn

Later my blog was called LIVE. LOVE. DISCOVER!

It's current incarnation LIVE YOUR POEM still feels good to me. Who knows what will happen next?

Some stats: My most viewed post of all towns, mountains and planets was posted back in December 2009, as part of my Author ABCs series: Z is for ZZZZZ (I suspect the reason for the views is actually the "z" image! Here's to the power of pictures!)

My most viewed post for 2012: TORNADO POEM
for 2013: my page, HOW TO LIVE YOUR POEM

Top three tags, in order: writing, poetry, travel

Special Blog Things:
1. Kidlitosphere Progressive Poem. (See 2012 and 2013 tabs above!) I love collaborating with all of you! This Poetry Friday community is one of the Best Things Ever.
2. Valerie Worth poem series. (See top left sidebar.) I want to do more of this... featuring classic poems/poets to inspire. Suggestions, anyone??
3. Getting a bound, printed copy of my blog from It took two volumes to do it... and now I am on the "every two years" plan and will be printing another one as 2013 comes to a close. (For whatever reason, it is often easier for me to find a post by looking through my bound books rather than using the search feature on Blogger.)

Words, words words:
The word "thousand" has appeared in my poems a number of times, including the following two phrases:

"After One Thousand Miles the Road Rises"
"the weight of a thousand birds" (from a poem "If Not for Starlings")


Whit had heard the story a thousand times. It was his parents’ third trip to Africa. Along with the two white rhinos they helped capture, they brought home a bad case of dysentery and a tiny bunch of cells that would eventually become Whit.
That trunk is composed of tens of thousands of muscles. Lila here can pick up a penny with that trunk. Or pull a tree right out of the ground.”


I was on the river! For the first time in my whole life there wasn’t a bit of solid dirt under my feet. Just thousands of buckets of water.
"Over three thousand chapters of the Red Cross all across the country, but every year ours is one of the most generous.”

And that's enough for the number 1,000! Thank you so much for sticking with me. Please leave your links below, and have the happiest of Poetry Fridays! xo

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


Check out these wondrous works of art we spotted in Mentone, Alabama. The first three shots are all by the same artist: Scott Thomas. Love how he transforms ordinary items into beauty:

These final three shots were taken in our rental cottage, High Horse Lodge. The owners are artists, and it shows in the decor. All the iron work was crafted by them! Lovely! (and yes, you might notice a horse-y theme... right up this horse-girl's lane.) Art immersion... definitely transformative for the creative spirit that resides in all of us.

Coming Friday: I'm hosting Poetry Friday's my 1,000 blog post!!

Monday, October 21, 2013


We traveled this past weekend to Mentone, Alabama, which, if you don't know, is a charming mountain town right on the Georgia border and not far from the Tennessee border. It was ColorFest weekend, which meant a nice arts festival. No real color yet -- late this year, I guess because of the alternating drought and flood weather over the summer months. 
Anyhow, here's some sky pics. The first is at a pond located on the property near our rental cabin, which was named High Horse Lodge and was such a fantastic place to stay that we've decided it's where we will stay from now on!

This next one I took on our walk down to the waterfalls at Cloudland Canyon State Park:

...and this last one was taken on the East Rim of the canyon, which is the deepest canyon east of the Mississippi River. Really beautiful place, and I have lots of warm, wonderful childhood memories here. So fun to enjoy it with some of the people I love best!

Friday, October 18, 2013

POEMSTARTS from Jack Prelutsky

Hello and happy Poetry Friday! Short and sweet for me this week... October is always such a busy month. I'm missing my favorite blogs and promise to pop in very soon! Be sure to visit Cathy at Merely Day by Day for Roundup.

In Jack Prelutsky's book PIZZA, PIGS AND POETRY: HOW TO WRITE A POEM, he includes a list of 10 poemstarts. I think they are a fabulous way to loosen up, and for me, to get that wise adult out of my poems for children. Here's three to get us started... feel free to share your results in Comments!

Eleven yellow elephants
Were sitting on the floor.

This pic came up when I googled "Bandersnatch"
(from JABBERWOCKY)...found here
A Blobboloon is chasing me.
It's hot upon my trail.
That Blobboloon.....

"Tricycling Triceratops" found here
If I could have a dinosaur,
Which I do not have yet,

copyright 2008 by Jack Prelutsky

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


"Finally, ahead of him- a hole in the forest. A swath of gaping sky where there should have been none. Like someone had taken a sword and put a great slash in the world." 
 -- THE REAL BOY by Anne Ursu

And here is a "sky" picture I took the other evening in Tuscaloosa, Alabama:
Magical, isn't it?!

Monday, October 14, 2013


Laura Golden, me, Andrea Beaty
What fun to be part of this year's Southern Festival of Books! I was on a panel with Andrea Beaty and Laura Golden, each of whom are just fabulous and should you ever get a chance to meet them you should. And if not, at least sample their awesomeness by taking a peek at their wonderful books!

Our moderator Melissa helped keep great questions coming on the topic of resilience. (Isn't every MG novel somehow about resilience?) I talked a lot about Katherine Paterson, whose book of speeches continues to be one of my favorite books ever. I also shared a letter from a reader who was thanking me for writing about "real" issues kids have to deal with. The letter helps me remember why I write what I write --- and why my work is important, even my books never hit the NYT list or win a Newbery.

I was thrilled to see some of my favorite writers in the audience, including Beck McDowell and Kristin Tubb... and several of my most favorite librarians were there too! Here's a few pics from the event:

Yes, ours was a serious topic! But we also had fun with it. :)

Our signing table, on the Plaza

Many thanks to all the organizers... what a great time, and how well-run! Special thanks to Pat for helping make it a good time. xo

Friday, October 11, 2013

FALL POEMS by Valerie Worth

Hello, and happy Poetry Friday. Be sure to visit the ever-delightful Laura Purdie Salas at Writing the World for Kids for Roundup.

I'm back with one more post of Valerie Worth poems, all celebrating fall. More Valerie Worth can be found on the left sidebar.

I've always loved fall. And I love these poems!


After its lid
is cut, the slick
Seeds and stuck
Wet strings
Scooped out,
walls scraped
Dry and white,
Face carved, candle
Fixed and lit,

Light creeps
into the thick
Rind: giving
That dead orange
Vegetable skull
Warm skin, making
A live head
To hold its
Sharp gold grin.

- Valerie Worth

autumn geese

One long

The whole

- Valerie Worth


Is it the
Curve of their
Breezy ribs, the
Crook of their
Elegant fingers,

Their eyeless
Eyes, so wide
And wise,
Their silent
Ivory laughter,

The frisk and
Prance of their
Skittering dance
With never a
Pause for breath,

That fills us
With such
Delicious delight,
While scaring us
Half to death?

- Valerie Worth

haunted house

Its echoes,
Its aching stairs,
Its doors gone stiff
At the hinges,

Remind us of its
Owners, who
Grew old, who
Died, but

Who are still
Here: leaning
In the closet like
That curtain rod,

Sleeping on the cellar
Shelf like this

Jelly jar.

- Valerie Worth

I'll be back next week with a report from the Southern Book Festival in Nashville, TN, where I am presenting a panel entitled "Budding Resilience: Navigating Adult Issues in a Young Adult World" with authors Laura Golden (EVERY DAY AFTER) and Andrea Beaty (DORKO THE MAGNIFICENT). To make things extra-fun, I am traveling with my better-than-ice cream friend Pat. Yippee!!!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013


 Every year Inverness Elementary displays scarecrows made by each of the K-3 classes. This is largely a "mom" project, but the kids seem to enjoy the festivities too. And the community certainly enjoys seeing the creative fall offerings. Here's some pictures from this year's collection. Which one is your favorite?

This one is my favorite. :)

Monday, October 7, 2013

Movie Monday: RUSH

Paul and I were planning to see either DON JON or THE SPECTACULAR NOW when we unexpectedly had an opportunity to go out with all the boys, so.... we saw RUSH instead!

I confess to not being all that excited about this movie, only because we had previously seen an excellent documentary, and I remembered pretty much everything about the story.

But. I loved the movie! A great story is a great story is a great story. I love thinking about how we calculate risk and about what drives us. The competitive spirit is so much a part of the human experience, and while not all of us race F-1 cars, the same emotions develop.

At one point, I leaned over and asked our youngest son who he was rooting for. When he said, "Niki Lauda," I was thrilled. Lauda's the quiet one, the one who lived the steady life and competed, but only to a certain degree. He did not sacrifice his life for the sport -- and came back after tragedy to overcome tremendous odds. And yes, while James Hunt is exciting and oh so delicious to watch, you just know it can't come to a good end.

I'm thinking James Hunt would be a pantser and Niki Lauda a plotter. Guess what I am. :)
The real Hunt and Lauda

Thursday, October 3, 2013

DIGGER DOZER DUMPER by Hope Vestergaard

Hello, and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit delightful Doraine at Dori Reads for Roundup!

Our middle son was one of those little boys who always had a toy yellow loader or dump truck in his hands. He spent hours in our backyard moving dirt, and even more hours assembling truck puzzles. I cherish his collection of best-loved truck books, and because of him, am forever drawn to new truck books. Which is why I was pretty excited to see the poetry book DIGGER DOZER DUMPER by Hope Vestergaard with illustrations by David Slonim.

There's a truck for everyone in this book. Lots of rhyme, lots of action, and each truck seems to have its own personality. Some are even identified as female, which I love. The book ends with a question:

"Which truck would YOU like to be?"

To answer that question, I give you one of my favorite poems from the collection:

by Hope Vestergaard

The cherry picker's lanky arm
unfolds into the air,
reaching high among the trees
to find what's lurking there:
a traffic light,
a broken branch,
a kite that lost its way,
a waving wire,
a pointy spire,
a lonesome little stray.
The picker pauses in the sky,
plucks its target,
gently, slowly, gracefully
sets it down again.

Lovely, huh? And now, I have a special treat for you. I contacted author Hope Vestergaard and asked her the same question! Here's what she said:

"I think I'd say I'm most like the steam roller...not so much because I'm slow, but I am verrrry steady. Even deliberate. When tackling projects, I am usually more focused on the process rather than the product. This doesn't mean I'm unconcerned with the product, on the contrary! It's just that I believe good process yields good product...and if not good product, it provides important learning! When I say I'm deliberate, I don't mean I am rigid, more thoughtful, really. Sometimes my process might look chaotic, but I have learned that particular approaches (for example, the "tornado," or sometimes the "giant checklist")  work for me."

So, for Hope, who has given us such a fun book, here's the corresponding poem:

by Hope Vestergaard

After the asphalt's dumped and spread
in sticky, long black lines,
the road must cure. You can be sure
Steamroller's close behind.
She's broad and big, a massive rig-
molasses slow, but steady.
And after she has barreled through,
the road is smooth and ready.

Steamroller, indeed! Here's Hope again with a little more on how this book came to be:

"I wrote this book several years after the initial spark. My husband is in construction and I noticed that his big, powerful vehicles actually did quite precise and even graceful work. I'm not very interested in machinery and I find some of these vehicles very compelling so I thought preschoolers who love vehicles would probably like to explore them more in depth."

Thank you, Hope! And please, everyone, don't forget to nominate your favorite poetry books for 2013 Cybils Awards! (Yes, DIGGER DOZER DUMPER is already on the list.) 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013


 Saturday was the annual Whistle Stop Festival in Irondale, Alabama -- in honor of Fannie Flagg's FRIED GREEN TOMATOES AT THE WHISTLE STOP CAFE. It was a gorgeous morning!
Here's one of the famed railroad tracks...

It's kind of hard to tell, but there's a KID inside this giant ball! What fun!!

Lots of vendors this year....

 And speaking of kids... is there another place where you can see someone walking a pet GOAT ??? Meet Little Nanny. :)

 How 'bout these wind chimes? So creative!

...and a music-themed birdhouse. Awesome.

 I took this picture for Whit in DON'T FEED THE BOY:

...and yes, wisdom can be found at the Whistle Stop Festival, too!