Monday, September 28, 2009


Today is a great day. Why, you ask? Because finally FINALLY it is not raining, and when I went out to collect the morning paper, I actually shivered. Love it!

I had all sorts of wonderful adventures over the weekend, starting with a visit to the Carter House in Franklin, Tennessee, with wonderful writing compatriots Pat Weaver, Sheila Renfro and Jana Hutcheson. I found out there are lots of Civil War stories that still need to be told, and when I spied the above trail of mushrooms, I just couldn't resist pretending to be a mouse or frog or cricket and getting way down low for the shot.

Aside from exchanging books (my to-be-read pile is positively towering now) and talking about writing and life in general, Pat gave me this family heirloom:

I know! Amazing, right? Pat thinks her husband's mother quilted it sometime during WWII, out of genuine sack-cloth. So yes, it may not be a Gee's Bend quilt, but this work of LOVE is totally traveling with me as I go to schools for LEAVING GEE'S BEND.

We had fun and learned a lot at MidSouth SCBWI conference in Nashville. I came away inspired to write FAST, thanks to Caroline Cooney. If an opportunity arises for you to hear Caroline speak, don't miss it! Really a goldmine of information.

And to all those who, like Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich a.k.a Bemi, author of Eighth Grade Superzero (which I can't wait to read!), get to work with editor Cheryl Klein of Arthur A. Levine Books, wow, you lucky dogs, you! It was great to see friends and make new ones. I was especially happy to finally meet Kristin O'Donnell Tubb, author of Autumn Winifred Oliver Does Things Different. I'd love to get her to Alabama for a historical fiction workshop.

I skipped out early (and missed P.f. Chang's with friends -wah!) so I could hang out with my little brother and his sweet family, who live just a hop away from Nashville -- so very good to see 'em!

And now I'm contemplating a POV change from first person present to third person past. Stay tuned...

Friday, September 25, 2009


Thanks to everyone for your wonderful, thoughtful comments about my book banning experience. Our world is a fascinating place.

Now. Continuing with the Author ABC's...

I should admit right up front that patience is not one of my virtues. I don't like to wait, I like to get things done NOW. And while that means I can easily handle deadlines and am a genius at multitasking, it also means I have regrets. For all those times when I wasn't patient.

Like when I dashed off a manuscript before it was ready. Or submitted an unworkshopped poem to a contest and won third place, when a workshopped poem might have won me first place. Or answered an email quickly, to get it off my to-do list, then thought about it and wished I had responded another way.

So, patience for me as a writer means being patient with myself most of all. There is nothing I can do about the glacial pace of the publishing industry. And let's face it, I'm not going to change my personality -- I am, and always will be impatient. I just have to be okay with making mistakes.

Getting there. :)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


So I've just had my first experience with book banning. Turns out, some members of the "committee" at a local elementary school who were considering my book for an event were offended by the inclusion of "afterbirth" in LEAVING GEE'S BEND. The committee decided not to invite me for the event.

Last time I checked, we ALL come into this world the same way. Afterbirth is part of the deal. And it's one line of dialogue, ONE LINE, included as a way to tell the reader something about the character and setting of the novel.

It reminds me of the hoopla surrounding Susan Patron's Newbery-Award winning THE HIGHER POWER OF LUCKY. Of course on a very miniature scale.

Laurie Halse Anderson is also battling this issue. See here for recent details.

What's to be done about it? I don't know. As authors, we go into this knowing our words will not please everyone. But "afterbirth" ?? Come on!

For an interesting take on Banned Book Week, check out this post (also where I got the photo).

Monday, September 21, 2009


I have a new favorite writing quote. I found it in the latest issue of Writer's Digest magazine, thanks to my sister who has given me a gift subscription for oh, about ten years now. Every writer needs a sister like that.

The quote is near the end of an article about creating characters, which is my current challenge as I work to better develop the relationships in ESCAPE FROM FIRE MOUNTAIN (with the help of Amazing Agent).

Okay, I can't put it off any longer.

"Your highest calling is not to sell books or get famous, but to awaken mercy within your readers."

- Steve Almond

Mercy, people! I love it!!!

Friday, September 18, 2009


Ever written a poem in the voice of your main character?

I'm working on one, using the "I am from" exercise (which I adore and have used many times with students) set forth in ON WRITING ALONE AND WITH OTHERS by Pat Schneider.

For George Ella Lyon's "Where I'm From," click here. Everyone should give this kind of poem a shot -- there is absolutely no wrong way to do it!

So here's my off-the-top of my head start. It's just a list really. I'll set about organizing next.

I Am From

by Ludelphia Bennett

the triangle of denim over my right eye
scraps of cloth torn from Mama’s apron
a curve in the Alabama River
orange dirt that likes to settle right between your toes
every quilt tells a story
needle and thread in my pocket
Swing Low Sweet Chariot
Ruben’s fishing pole and Etta Mae’s yellow dress
a sliver of hickory that went flying form Daddy’s ax,
then had to go and land square in my eye
Mama always said
and Delilah braying like there’s no tomorrow
cornshuck mattress
newspaper plastered walls
Aunt Doshie and broken eggs
cotton fields

Roundup is at at Becky's Book Reviews . Check it out!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


OMG There's an email from an agent in my inbox!

OMG She likes my story, she really likes it!

OMG The revision letter is NINE PAGES LONG. Single-spaced.

OMG I can't do this. I don't know how to make this character work. I don't know why I wrote that. I don't know how to fix it. I don't know I don't know I don't know.

OMG That's it! I can do this, which will set up that, and everything else will fall into place!

OMG I am so SICK of this story. I can't keep going. I just can't.

OMG I am totally using that (tidbit overhead in the restroom at KFC) in a story.

OMG [Insert favorite author's name here] blurbed my book!

OMG The deadline is when?!

OMG I haven't eaten or exercised or whittled away at the mound of laundry or gone to WalMart. And now it's time to pick up the kids!

OMG The cover! The cover!

OMG My mother is reading my book. My kids are reading my book. My husband is reading my book. Strangers are reading my book!

Monday, September 14, 2009


I gotta say: Tenners are awesome. What a feast of reading I had this weekend! And such eclectic fare!! I am completely inspired to write MORE and BETTER after reading these books:

THE DARK DAYS OF HAMBURGER HALPIN by Josh Berk. A Sherman Alexie-esque novel with a wonderfully funny self-deprecating boy voice. And tender too! DON'T MISS THIS ONE.

THREE RIVERS RISING by Jame Richards. Historical fiction written in verse -- do I have to say I absolutely ADORED this novel?? Great characters, and the story soars above the historical facts in a way I totally admire and strive for in my own writing. LOVED it.

The Naughty List by Suzanne Young. A FUN cheerleaders-as-spies story. I rooted for Tess all the way and will be interested to see what happens next in the series.

The Line by Teri Hall. A futuristic story full of imagination and suspense. I really did NOT want this one to end... and there's orchids! PAGE-TURNER.

Friday, September 11, 2009


I am BIG fan of notes: notes on notebooks, digital recorders, post-its, voicemail, gum wrappers, dinner napkins, kleenex... and if you're at a restaurant bathroom and somebody in the stall next to you says some juicy something on her cell phone? Well, ther's always toilet tissue.

Who knew ideas were such slippery things, one minute leaping into the air, the next, lost, gone, down the drain?

Take it from someone who has learned the hard way: catch 'em while you can.

And yeah, some people may say you're on the verge of becoming one of those extreme hoarders on A&E tv, but really, if you don't keep them, what have you got?

Nada. Nothing. And it's not like you're the woman with the year-old eggs who won't throw them away because they're "so pretty." You WILL use these notes, at least some of them.

I have notes on character names, book ideas, things to do, things to double-check in a ms., questions to ask, snippets of dialogue and great words I simply MUST find a home for, and soon.

I bet you do, too...

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


1. Revisions of ESCAPE FROM FIRE MOUNTAIN are making me sweat! I see now, eight months later, that I was working very hard to stay true to the actual facts of the 1902 eruption of Mt. Pelee. Trouble is, that eruption was very gradual until the very last devastating blow, and it kinda made the early chapters in the book a slog. Gotta speed that thing up!

2. Shannon, from the ROB AND SHANNON SHOW on 96.5 fm (means nothing unless you live in Birmingham) has left the building! The two have been together for 13 years, and I have been listening for quite a few... so I'm sad she's gone.

3. My oldest son turns fifteen on Saturday, and while this is, of course, exciting and wonderful, it also means my boy is GROWING UP and will soon move on to his own life. Makes me remember that sweet toddler he was -- and how he said "perful" when he meant "careful." Sweetness...

4. Due to the kid activity calendar, Wednesdays are always Sandwich Night around here. Have I mentioned I am SO BORED of sandwiches??

Sunday, September 6, 2009


So I've just spent some quality time with fellow Tenner Alexandra Bracken's BRIGHTLY WOVEN. Here's why you should totally read this book:

It has a magical loom. (Now you know, me of textilelove was absolutely thrilled with that! And since I couldn't find an image of the book's cover, I settled on the loom above.)

The heroine is named Sydelle, or Syd (pronounced Sid, I have verified with Ms. Bracken herself).

There's all sorts of strange weather phenomena.

And (this is the most important one): Sydelle ends up with the RIGHT GUY.

Another great read... and perfect timing as I have begun work on a FANTASY.

I know!! Craziness!

Friday, September 4, 2009


Roundup is at Crossover.

So I'm working on a manuscript that contains nonsense words, and of course, of course, I've had Lewis Carroll's bit of brilliance "Jabberwocky" on my mind.

Also, Ingrid Law's SAVVY, because I'm told it too has nonsense words, but with all the Tenner ARCS (new ALERT! coming just as soon as I get back from Decatur Book Festival!) I haven't had a chance to read it yet.

If you've got nonsense words, I'd love to hear 'em!


'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves

Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!"

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought—
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

And as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! and through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

"And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!"
He chortled in his joy.

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


We don't usually think of it that way, but just as soon as we write the first sentence, we have engaged in marketing. And then when you write a query letter, I mean, all that is, is marketing. Then comes the book, and the marketing multiplies exponentially.

Fortunately, even if you're like me and know zip about marketing going in, there are lots of ways to educate yourself. I am especially indebted to Kay Cassidy, author of THE CINDERELLA SOCIETY for arranging online classes with these two wonderful people: Jenn Stark the Branding Expert and Louise Knot Ahern, PR Guru Extraordinaire. Take these classes. Seriously, you will NOT regret it.

Of course there are lots of resources on the web, including Shelli Wells at Market My Words and R. L. LaFevers and Mary Hershey at Shinking Violet Promotions (marketing tips especially for us introverts!).

It can be really tough to fit in the marketing pieces, especially when it is not something that comes naturally to you. (Me, raising my hand!) But it is essential. What good is having a book if no one knows about it?

The point of writing is and always will be to communicate. And marketing is the vehicle to get your words in the hands of others. So go out there and work it, writers!