Tuesday, June 30, 2015

#EveryBrilliantThing JUNE Roundup

This year I am keeping a virtual gratitude list, inspired by the play Every Brilliant ThingHere's my post about it. 

And here is my list for JUNE... most of these did not appear daily on Twitter, as I haven't been online much this summer!

Air conditioning.
All my boys in one place.
Mimosa trees.
The word “precious.”
Red walls.
Sourdough bread.
Cell phone camera.
Beta readers.
My writing chair.
Heardmont Park.
Snowball hydrangeas.
Fried pork chops.
Night walks.
Playing the cello.
Baby tigers.
The beach at night.
Screened in porches.
Quilt shows.
Monte Cristo hotdogs.
Doctors who say, “it's not going to kill you.”
A friend reaching out.
Reaching back.
Sliced tomatoes.
KFC Original.
Blue bowls.
Harry Potter.
Fresh ground pepper.
Rearranging the furniture.

Thursday, June 25, 2015


I've just finished book 3 in my Summer of Harry Potter.  You can read about my experience so far:


It's interesting, because I didn't enjoy this one as much as the previous 2 -- and I think it's related to my personal reading preferences for a SIMPLE story. All these names and places -- so, so creative, but just a little too much for my brain to comfortably juggle! I'm still not sure I understand all the twists and turns.

What I DO see is how book 3 proves the depth and breadth of J.K. Rowling's imagination. I mean, the tricks just keep coming: biting books, the Marauder's map, secret passageways, time travel, wizards morphing into animals... and so much more!

What sticks with me about this book is the deepening emotional connection the reader has for Harry. As he learns more about his parents, the more we care about Harry. And when his Patronus ends up being his father in stag form -- well, yes, of course! It's a perfect example of the "unexpected inevitable." Wonderful storytelling.

Once again, my favorite passage comes late in the book and from the mouth of Dumbledore:

"You think the dead we loved ever truly leave us? You think that we don't recall them more clearly than ever in times of great trouble? Your father is alive in you, Harry, and shows himself most plainly when you have need of him."

What a beautiful thought. I do believe it's true.

No poem today... though I have been writing poems for other purposes. Perhaps I will return to the task at a later date. Right now I'm off to get a start on book 4!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Birmingham Quilter's Guild 2015 QUILTFEST

Every other year the Birmingham Quilters Guild has a show -- and I love sharing pics of the amazing creations. See quilts from 2011 show here!

This year I found myself saying, "WOW" at nearly every quilt. So much beauty! About halfway down the first row, I decided to collect some images of animal designs... and now I will share them with you. Amazing, amazing work!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Baby Tigers!

Last week at the beach we played with baby tigers at the Alabama Gulf Shores Zoo!

We are all cat lovers, so when we heard about this opportunity, we were like YES, SIGN ME UP. NOW. (Funny thing: baby tigers are featured in my book DON'T FEED THE BOY ... I'm just a little later getting the actual experience. :)

And it was so much fun. They were playful, even in the heat, and reminded us all much more of puppies than kittens. We learned that once they reach 35 pounds, they cannot be handled by people the way we handled them. So it really was a precious time. Here are 6 week old cubs Boris and Sonya together:

Here's a pic of Sonya displaying the "false eyes" on the back of the tiger's ears that serve to warn off predators (because it looks like the tiger is staring them down.)
Below are some more shots of our family enjoying our time with the cubs... the only instructions we were given (aside from wear long pants, long sleeves, shoes-n-socks) were to not pick them up or restrain the cubs in any way:

They loved biting at Eric's hair!


mmm...snack time

my, what big paws you have...

Ball or ice, ball or ice?


Retreating to the coolest corner...

 Finally, the babies got tired, as babies do... and we left them to lounge around with each other. :)

Friday, June 19, 2015


Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Mary Lee at A Year of Reading for Roundup.

We've been at the beach this week -- beautiful Gulf Shores, Alabama! And I've just finished book 2 in my Summer of Harry Potter.

As in most sequels, much of the first chapter is a re-cap of book 1 -- which makes it not all that great a candidate for a Very Short Book Report ... which is why I've create my found poem from chapter 2 instead. :)

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

without warning.


Harry in danger.

Friends, birds

Great magic.

- Irene Latham

I've decided that Harry's Invisibility Cloak is not only one of his best tools, but one of J.K. Rowling's best tools as well. It's this that allows her to provide the reader with information otherwise unavailable when writing in close 3rd person. Plus, it's just plain fun!

The book ends with another great piece of wisdom passed on to Harry by the incomparable wizard Dumbledore:

"It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities."

And here's a favorite passage, because how many times have I wanted to be INSIDE a book??

"The pages of the diary began to blow as though caught in a high wind, stopping halfway through the month of June. Mouth hanging open, Harry saw that the little square for June thirteenth seemed to have turned into a minuscule television screen. His hands trembling slightly, he raised the book to press his eye against the little window, and before he knew what was happening, he was tilting forward; the window was widening, he felt his body leave his bed, and he was pitched headfirst through the opening in the page, into a whirl of color and shadow."  

Monday, June 15, 2015


So I just finished Book 1 in my Summer of Harry Potter. This is the only one of the books that I've read before, and I gotta say, having seen all the movies, it's kind of a microcosm of the whole series. We learn when Harry looks in the Mirror of Erised that what Harry really wants is family. And by the end of Book 1, he's found a family of sorts in Hagrid, Ron, Hermione and the Hogwarts family.

Something that stuck out to writer-me is how much HAPPENS in this book. It's very active, each chapter bringing some new, exiting adventure. No wonder so many readers love it!

My favorite passages come late in the book:

"The truth." Dumbledore sighed. "It is a beautiful and terrible thing, and should therefore be treated with great caution."

"Your mother died to save you. If there is one thing Voldemort cannot understand, it is love. He didn't realize that love as powerful as your mother's for you leaves its own mark. Not a scar, no visible sign... to have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection forever."


Friday, June 12, 2015

The Summer of Harry Potter (& a Very Short Book Report)

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Please visit Jama at the ever-delicious Jama's Alphabet Soup for Roundup.

Confession: while I have oft professed love for Harry Potter (and even freaking CRIED when I rode the ride at Universal Studios), the only Harry Potter book I have read is the first one. (I have seen all the movies. More than once.)

So this summer I am going to remedy that. For the next 7 weeks, I will be reading a book a week -- and blogging about it. (Okay, it may take me longer than this -- I do have travel and family plans that may prevent me from keeping that schedule for the later/longer books.)

To start my Summer of Harry Potter, I'd like share a poem I wrote in a series of “found” poems from classic children's books. I selected words from the first three pages of a book (keeping the words in order of their appearance, as in blackout poetry) with the aim of creating a poem that kind of tells the whole story. Think of it as a very short book report!

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Proud Dursleys
had a secret.

Years shuddered,
story hummed –

owl, cat, corner.
People in cloaks.

- Irene Latham

Monday, June 8, 2015

Celebrating Children's Books, Edited by Betsy Hearne and Marilyn Kaye

Recently at the library bookstore, I picked up CELEBRATING CHILDREN'S BOOKS, edited by Betsy Hearne and Marilyn Kaye. I read it right away cover to cover. It includes essays by authors, editors, publishers, and reviewers of children's books. Here are some of the quotes that spoke to me:

Lloyd Alexander

"Creation, whatever its form, is not an act of will, but an act of faith."

".when a story has ended rightly: [it is] not a question of happy or unhappy ending, but the rightness of it."

Susan Cooper

"We small people enjoy reading – need to read – about big people;"

"Every book is a voyage of discovery."

Jil Patton Walsh

"[the author-reader relationship] is the relationship of willing listener to loving narrator"

E.L. Konigsburg

"But because I retain this ability to see myself as the center of the universe, I can write for children. And because the adult part of me can see how absolutely ridiculous I am when I am doing it, my writings are readable."

Arnold Lobel

"A good picture book should be true. That is to say: it should rise out of the lives and passions of its creators."

Milton Meltzer

"The child needs to sense that this world stretches far behind him and far ahead of him, that societies change, that people evolve during their own lives, that he himself is a blend of experience and memory. He needs to know that the past as well as the present holds meaning. He needs to listen to the tales of past human suffering and hope. The young have trouble locating themselves in anything except the here and now. But they can be helped to see over the walls of their own personalities."

"As historian he does not invent that past, but he must give it artistic shape if he is to connect with the reader."

Laurence Pringle

"Doing science means being curious, asking questions. It means having a healthy skepticism toward authority and announced truths. It is both a way of looking at the world and a way of thinking. It values both fantasy and reality, and provides a framework for telling the difference."

"To do science is to acknowledge that the world is a complex place but that the complexity can be explored and understood, and that there is order and unity in its diversity. At its core, science is a hopeful activity."

Ursula Nordstrom

"Curiosity is not limited to personal inquiry. It is a good idea for an editor to ask questions and keep asking them if there is a place in a manuscript that doesn't seem to be exactly right."

Betsy Hearne

"Read like a child, freshly; think like an adult, fully."

John Rowe Townsend

"Not the least important thing about good reviewing is that it's good for authors, who need to be encouraged, stimulated, disciplined, needled, and challenged into doing their best."