Monday, November 30, 2009


Continuing with the Author ABCs...

The most important word an author needs to sling around is YES.

When an agent says she needs a proposal for a sequel: YES

When an editor says she needs the revisions by next Monday, and it's late Friday afternoon, and you were planning to go on an overnight date with your husband: YES

When a library wants to book your program, but doesn't have the funding: YES

When a striving writer asks you to read their first draft, and you don't really have time, but you remember being a striving writer... heck, you still ARE a striving writer: YES

When a brand new book blogger requests an interview: YES

Of course there are times when the answer needs to be "no," but choose wisely, my friends. You will get much farther in this writing business with YES.

Friday, November 27, 2009


Continuing with the Author ABCs...

Okay, X is a tough letter to deal with. I considered "Xanadu," because it's such a cool word AND the best books invite us into a magical, unique, extra-special world... but then I decided it's not just about the world. It's about the characters within the world.

Which means, ultimately, it's about the magical, unique, extra-special undefineable something that exists within the AUTHOR.

And here's the thing: we've ALL got the X factor. Every single one of us. It just takes a little digging sometimes, a little re-frame, some dust and polish.

For instance, Hester Bass, author of THE SECRET WORLD OF WALTER ANDERSON composes original songs and sings at her school visits. Thomas Lakeman, author THE SHADOWCATCHERS (and others) uses theater techniques and will even dance (badly) to get a point across.

And while I can't do those particular things, that doesn't mean I don't have my own special thing to offer. And you do too.

Today, take some time to think about your own X Factor. Then tell me, because I want hear all about your magical, unique, extra-special undefineable selves. :)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


First up: THE MARK by Jen Nadol. I can't say enough about the main character Cass -- I want to know her in real life! This book tackles some heavy philosophical matters with such grace... I was thoroughly entertained and did NOT want this one to end.

Next: A MOST IMPROPER MAGICK by Stephanie Burgis. Stephanie's love of Jane Austen comes through loud and clear in Kat, the adorable, spunky unladylike girl who can't shake that magic mirror, even if she tries. Such a fun read!

Monday, November 23, 2009





It was a wonderful night -- kind of surreal talking about MY book, and holy goodness, was I ever touched and surprised by the sweet-family heirloom-totally appropriate-yellow quilt themed-one of a kind gift! I hung it right beside my desk so I gaze upon it all the time.

And for a girl who sometimes forgets to celebrate her successes, it was really wonderful to have friends make sure I didn't let this accomplishment slip by without sharing the joy!

Phyllis, Lori, Lisa, Randee, Vonda, Carol, Martha, Rhonda and Trina: Thank you thank you thank you!!!

Friday, November 20, 2009


1. Book club tonight. And we're talking about MY BOOK!!

2. NEW MOON tomorrow night. With the book club. We just can't get enough of each other. :)

3. Reading THE SMALL ADVENTURES of POPEYE AND ELVIS by Barbara O'Connor to Eric. Reading two Tenner ARCS to myself. And loving!!!

4. Thinking about turkey-n-dressing for Thanksgiving and missing my mother-in-law because she put so much LOVE in it, none of us wanted to leave the table ever.

5. Feeling like "grateful" is too wee a word for all I want to shove into it.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


I was at a poetry reading recently during which someone asked the poet, "What's the cure for writer's block?"

And the poet said something along the lines of, I don't know because I don't get it.

We in the audience kind of rolled our eyes, because, yeah, right. And how un-helpful is that? It just seemed a high and mighty response to a really troubling issue for writers.

Here's my response: Get away from your desk. Go out into the world and find something interesting. Take a walk. Visit a museum. Fall in love. Spend time with a three-year-old or a ninety-three-year-old. Love the world, and you will be flooded with things to write about.

And while I'm here, I'd like to poke a hole in that whole "write every day" theory. You know those people you see on vacation who video every single moment? They are so busy trying to capture the vacation on film "so they can remember it" that they don't fully immerse themselves in the experience before them.

Well, for me, writing every day is just like that. It is my most fervent belief that the most important writing takes place in between sittings at the computer, in the quiet places, in the stillness. If you write every day, then those thoughts, feelings and ideas don't have time to properly marinate, they don't become a part of you. And let me tell you, they NEED to become a part of you to translate effectively to the page.

So, today, writers, let give ourselves permission to step away from the computer, to go out into the world and soak up some goodness -- to live a life worth writing about.

pic found here

Monday, November 16, 2009


1. I just found out Ginger Rue, author of BRAND NEW EMILY is one of the Gingers I went to high school with!!

We were in this sorority-like group together called SAs (Service Association), and and I am just tickled that we are both introverted blondes who graduated class of 1988 Hewitt Trussvile High School and went on to publish our first midgrade novels within 6 months of each other! (She always was a little ahead of me :)

2. Billy Collins is coming to Birmingham! Southern Voices Conference, Feb. 18

3. Thanks to Corey-who-is-also-a-writer at Digital Marketing, my book trailer is almost ready! Now about distribution... goodness, do I have a lot to learn. Meanwhile, meet the Class of 2k10! Book trailer here.

4. I went to a wedding Saturday that was SO beautiful and SO romantic... the bride really did look like a princess. And my niece, who is an actual princess, was there too. Reminded me of my own sweet wedding, oh about 18 years ago.

5. Would the GOOD movies get here already?! Wanted to see COCO BEFORE CHANEL, but it was only showing past my bedtime. I am in need of a beautiful, emotional film....

Friday, November 13, 2009


This week on Friday Night Lights, Matt, who is interning with a cranky artist, asked this question: what is the most important tool an artist needs?

And the answer was SELFISHNESS.

It sounds harsh, but it's also honest. Creating art does require selfishness. Ultimately, that's what art is about: the self. And that's who we should create for: ourselves.

That doesn't give us permission to be jerks, though. There's an art to the selfishness. It means we've got to carve out time to create, we've got to tell our kids, "No, Mom is working." We've got to tell friends we've had for twenty years that yes, we would love to get together, but no, we've got a deadline and just can't.

But then, at some point, we've got to come out of that cave and act like regular people. Which means remembering and expressing appreciation for those essential people in our lives who endure and support our creative efforts.

Otherwise we'll end up like the guy on the show, drunk most of the time, and alone. Or worse. And no art is worth that.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Continuing with the Author ABCs...

So, voice. Really, it is my most favorite thing as a reader AND writer. And it's sort of difficult to describe -- it's kind of like the "it" factor Simon Cowell talks about on American Idol. When a book's got it, you know it. But it's sort of hard to say what IT is or how it came to be there in the first place.

All I know is that it's essential. And in my experience, you recognize it instantly. Like with the first draft of LEAVING GEE'S BEND, when I decided to change the main character in my Gee's Bend story to a girl. Then, quickly, decided to change pov from third person to first. All of sudden I had an authentic voice coming not from my head, but from the heart of my character. The difference was so profound and moving I can't adequately describe it here.

Okay, well, I guess it's like falling in love. You don't just fall in love with any old words on the page. It's got to be special. Voice is what makes a book special.

If you're having trouble with voice, keep at it. Yes, there are a lot of frogs out there. But there's also a prince....

Monday, November 9, 2009


Diane over at The Book Resort is featuring a "Tenners Extravaganza" this month, and today I'm up! If you want to know how tweezers play into it, check it out. And while you're there, check out all the other great Tenner interviews!

Meanwhile, I am pushing my way through the last forty pages of Excellent Editor's edits on ESCAPE FROM FIRE MOUNTAIN. Huge changes going on... I'm at that point where my mind is working way faster than my fingers. This could be because I have been so busy catching up from my lovely long weekend, that I haven't had all that much time to be here, at the computer.

Today. I promise.

Thursday, November 5, 2009


1. My nephew Christopher who fell down a ventilator shaft six weeks ago comes home from the hospital today!

2. My mom is here. Fabric has been bought and as soon as possible the sewing machine will be humming.

3. We leave for Lake Guntersville today, where my amazing sister and sister-in-law will join us for scrapbooking and photography and food and other fun I probably shouldn't mention here.

4. My 2010 calendar is positively bulging! Thank you teachers and media specialists and parents who've invited me for school visits. It's gonna be fun!

5. My mouth is still garlicky from the spanakopita and other Greek wonderfulness I shared with Lindsey Leavitt and Kerry Madden at Do Di Yos. Yum!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Continuing with the Author ABCs...

As much as we writers spend time alone at a keyboard (or notebook or whatever), being an author is really about collaboration -- about taking the "me" and turning it into an "us."

This is not always easy, because let's face it, we writers generally like solitary. But when you get lucky and there's an agent whispering in your ear, or God bless you, and Excellent Editor, oh my, that is when the magic happens.

I really had no idea how much trust is involved in the Author/Editor relationship, or how the simple act of someone caring enough about my story to ask questions and make insightful comments would help that story become so much more.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, ignore that fierce desire to hold your story close to you and not change a thing. Allow the US to happen. You will look back on the experience with such joy and gratitude as you watch your story-seeds grow under all that Excellent Editor TLC.

And here's something else: as hard as it is, especially if your are introverted like me, involve others in your process. Tell people what you're doing, even when it's in the early stages. Let them be a part of your adventure. People will care about your project if only you'll invite them in...

picture found here

Monday, November 2, 2009


Well, we have a winner of the GO YOUR OWN WAY HALL OF FAME CONTEST. But before we get to that, I want to share some pictures with you.

First, here's the whole class dressed up like characters from LEAVING GEE'S BEND. Don't they look wonderful?!

Here are some who chose to dress like Mama or Daddy or Baby Rose:

Next up, we have Ludelphia Bennett, the hero of our story:

Then Ludelphia's brother, Ruben, who has a secret:

Watch out for Mrs. Cobb and that shotgun!

Now meet Etta Mae, aka "the girl in the yellow dress":

And last but not least, Doc Nelson and Mrs. Nelson (Ludelphia meets them in Camden):

I was so touched to see so much creativity and enthusiasm from Mrs. Young and these kids! What a special day. Thank you, Mrs. Young's Yacht Club!!!

And now, drumroll please: the last ARC of LEAVING GEE'S BEND goes to... GLENDA BYARS of Gadsden, Alabama!! And I'll be sending $52 to the Gee's Bend Foundation. Thanks, everyone, for your wonderful suggestions! I will continue to invite nominations to the GO YOUR OWN WAY HALL OF FAME, and you can find the latest list here.