Thursday, February 26, 2009

13,880 DAYS

That's how long I've been alive. And thinking of it in days really changes my perspective. It makes me realize how very important each and every day is.

Want to know how old YOU are in days? Check out Peter Russell's way-cool website. There's also a 3 minute meditation there that's awesome. And to think I didn't even know Peter Russell existed until I read an article by Michael Shapiro about Mr. Russell in Ode Magazine, my absolute favorite mag. (The subtitle is "FOR INTELLIGENT OPTIMISTS." Really great stuff every month.)

"They say that time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself."

- Andy Warhol

Monday, February 23, 2009


It's a strange thing writing a book. We create characters we grow to really love, and sometimes that makes it hard for us to do all the terrible things to them that we really must do if the story is going to work.

There must always be something at stake. And it must be something BIG, like life or death. As difficult as it is, we must put our characters in serious danger, so that the reader cares enough to see what happens next. And it's through this sort of danger that our characters evolve and overcome (or not) the awful circumstances that we, the evil awful author has thrust them into.

In my book LEAVING GEE'S BEND, the main character sets off for Camden to fetch the doctor for her deathly-ill mother. Only she's never been out of Gee's Bend before. And the only way out of Gee's Bend is by ferry. And there's been a storm, so the river is swollen. And the ferry operator is no where to be found. And when she boards the ferry, it busts loose, sending her crashing down the river. And she can't swim. And...

See? DANGER. :)

"There is no frigate like a book to take us lands away..."

- Emily Dickinson

*photo by Marion Post Wolcott, FSA, Gee's Bend, 1939

Friday, February 20, 2009


Hello! So happy you're here!!

You know what's great about a new house? All that POTENTIAL, right there, waiting for you to realize. Sure it's a lot of work, but if it's where you really want to be.... and yes, this is the house I always wanted.

The house in the picture is a painting on my wall, right here, in this room where I type. It was inspired by the last house we lived in, way out in the country, on a big hill. I loved it there. LOVED it. But it was best for our family to move into a neighborhood closer to my husband's work that also had lots of children for ours to play with. It's been 11 years now since we've lived here, and I still miss that house on the hill. But I love the convenience of where we live. Always a trade-off, right? And the trade-off in the cyberworld is that I might lose some of friends by moving to this address. But I'll make new one, too.

Now. Must get busy trying the furniture out in different places. Happy weekend to all! And for those just joining, I've been blogging at Word Lovers Unite! for quite a while now but just moved everything to my new permanent residence. :)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Yes, what you may have suspected is actually true: I hear voices. And being a writer, I am fond of creating analogies to describe those voices.

For instance, in the latest revision of LEAVING GEE'S BEND, I described one character's voice as "jagged as a saw blade." Then I thought of this: "gritty as greens that ain't been washed too good." (Obviously rural Alabama, right?)

Anyhow, turns out there are others who enjoy describing voices. Check out NPR's Vocal Impressions series. I particularly love this description of Morgan Freeman's voice: "Hash browns being grilled in olive oil" — Bill Isenberger

Anyone got a good one for Norah Jones?? Love her.

"Silence is more musical than any song."

- Christina Rossetti

Sunday, February 15, 2009


We've all heard the old adage, "be careful what you wish for." Well. I've been wishing for my edits, and now I'm buried under them! Will come out soon.

Meanwhile, check out my friend Jessica's brilliant blog that's all about Keeping it Real. She is seriously awesome, and you will love her outlook on life.

Now, back to it....

Instead of a quote today, check out your very own Perseverence Quotient. Do you have what it takes to make your dreams come true?

That's what I thought. :)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


For those of you who love to read, we've got an interview series going on over at the Odyssey. In the past week, three new books from three new authors have hit the shelves:

Check out interview (by Heidi R. Kling) with Saundra Mitchell here!

Check out interview (by Holly Hoxter) with Erin Dionne here!

Check out interview (by moi) with Jenny Moss here!

"One new feature or fresh take can change everything."

- Neil Young

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


So I've been working on this article for a local paper on National Poetry Month (April) and why poetry is so important and wonderful and beautiful and essential. And it's got me thinking about what I can do here to make the month even more fun.

Ever heard of Robert Pinsky's Favorite Poem Project? Well. It's awesome. And I do a take-off of it here in Birmingham called My Favorite Poem, where folks from all walks of life take the stage to share their favorite famous poem and tell the audience how that poem has impacted their lives. It's an amazing event. And I would like to do something similar here during April.

Here's how it will work: every day during April I will post a poetry-loving blogger's favorite poem (and of course a link to their blog). I've already contacted some of you, but let this serve as an invitation to anyone who wants to participate. You can leave your info in comments or shoot me an email at irene (at) irenelatham (dot) com.

Hope you'll join me, because it's gonna be fun! Meanwhile, I've got a bad case of spring fever...

"It's spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you've got it, you want - oh, you don't quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!"

- Mark Twain

Friday, February 6, 2009


Last night I attended the reading/release party for the latest issue of Birmingham Arts Journal, graciously hosted by the Birmingham Public Library. As always, the room was full of wonderful writers and artists and lots of inspiring words.

Near the end of the reading, I spoke to the audience about how I select poems for the journal, and I wanted to share that information here as well.

When I review a poem, I am looking for two things:

1. Does the poem acheive what it sets out to acheive?

This of course is based on my perception of what the poem is trying to achieve. But whether or not my perception is accurate, it matters. Because I am a reader who cannot possibly know what's going on inside the writer's head. All I have to go on is the words in front of me. So, if it works, I know it works. And if it doesn't quite get there? I discard the poem.

But. If the poem works, I move on to the next Very Important Thing:

2. Does the poem make me feel something? Do I feel I've been punched in the gut? Does my throat start to tighten up? Do I gasp? Do I instantly want to re-read to better absorb that feeling, whatever it may be?

THAT is what I am looking for in a poem. And that is what I strive for when I write poems. It might be a raw piece of writing, or it might be something more polished, but if it meets those two criteria, I want it for the journal.

"One kind word can warm three winter months."

- Japanese proverb

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


Nobody tells you when you're just starting out as a writer just how much you will change and your manuscript will change and your outlook on the world will change.

I think it's sort of like how we protect an expectant mother from the reality of a colicky fitful baby and focus on the darling dress and sweet socks she'll be dressed in. Or perhaps it's more than the expectant mother simply cannot see what life with baby will be like until baby is actually in her arms, so why bring it up?

When I set out to write a book set in Depression-era Gee's Bend, I couldn't fathom the number of drafts, the number of character I would add, then later cut, the number of times I would use the "find" and "replace" features on Microsoft WORD. And that's before I ever added an editor to the mix.

Change is good. And sometimes it's scary and overwhelming too. The road is fraught with self-doubt and shifting confidence that floods the beach one moment, the next leaves it pocked with broken shells and sea glass. But ultimately change equals growth. And that's always good to see.

The latest change in my writing life is the title of my book: say goodbye to the witches, because my publisher has officially christened the book LEAVING GEE'S BEND. The thinking here is "witches" is misleading in that the book contains nothing paranormal... and they want to shift the focus to my ten year old girl's amazing adventure. Cool, huh?

"If you don't like something change it; if you can't change it, change the way you think about it.

~Mary Engelbreit

Sunday, February 1, 2009


My friend Suzanne and I have got it all figured out:

Poetry is Feline

Prose is Canine

Think about it: the cat shows up when it wants to. Sometimes it sleeps in your lap, sometimes it stays out all night. It is elegant and graceful. It watches things very closely. The dog is always there, needing you for something. It's clumsy and makes messes. When it looks at you longingly, you feel better when you pat it on the head.

"I like pigs. Dogs look up at us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals."

- Winston Churchill