Thursday, November 29, 2012


As part of my Cybils panelist responsibilities, I've been reading Julie Andrews' TREASURY FOR ALL SEASONS: Poems and Songs to Celebrate the Year.

Generally I am not in favor of "celebrity" books, because they hog the media attention and publisher's marketing dollars, and the masses buy them simply because they're familiar, and the not-yet-famous, perhaps never-to-be-famous have an even more difficult time finding readers for their oh so beautiful books....

But. This one has such cheerful illustrations and so many lovely poems, and I like the way it is organized first, by month, then with special sections for "other celebrations & special occasions." And hello, there's song lyrics. Some of the best poetry EVER is found in songs, so I especially appreciate its inclusion here.

My favorite? Yep, a song. Lyrics and music by Fred Ebb and Jon Kander, from the section in the book titled "Coming of Age/Rites of Passage"

A Quiet Thing

When it comes all true,
Just the way you planned,
It's funny, but the bells don't ring.
It's a quiet thing.
When you hold the world
In your trembling hand,
You'd think you'd hear a choir sing.
It's a quiet thing.
There are no exploding fireworks
Where's the roaring crowds?
Maybe it's the strange new atmosphere,
'Way up here among the clouds.
But I don't hear the drums,
I don't hear the band,
The sounds I'm told such moments bring,
Happiness comes in on tiptoe.
Well, whatd'ya know!
It's a quiet thing,
A very quiet thing.

Listen to Eileen Farrell singing it on youtube!

And, because I've been wanting to share them, and Julie Andrews brings them to mind, here are a few of my favorite recent things, all somehow related to the release of DON'T FEED THE BOY:

"elephant" quilt from Pat

Framed signatures & messages from friends
and readers and loved ones who came to book release events

"Whit" doll from Phyllis

...and here's Whit with Ludelphia, the heroine
from LEAVING GEE'S BEND (also a gift, and one
of my favorite things). Don't the look cute together?!

Wishing everyone a happy Poetry Friday! Roundup is with one of my favorite poets Amy at The Poem Farm.

Monday, November 26, 2012


Last month in Baton Rouge at the Louisiana Book Festival, I had the opportunity to meet and speak with the current National Ambassador for Young People's Literature, Mr. Walter Dean Myers.

I loved listening to Myers' speech about children's literature, most especially the parts about his own life. (He dropped out of high school not once, but twice! And look where he is now!) He speaks to kids in a way that they can hear, because he WAS that kid.

Myers also had some great advice for writers. When asked about his writing process, he said he was very good at finishing books. Not all of them were good, or sale-able, but the man can get 'er done.

He also offered a method for determining whether a mere idea has enough potential for an actual full-length book: write a scene a day for 30 days. If you can write 30 scenes, it's a book!

So. Guess what I'm doing this holiday season? That's right: writing a scene a day. Today is day 7! It's not quite as loft a goal as you amazing NaNo writers, but hey, it's progress...........

Happy day to all of you, and thanks Mr. Myers for the inspiration!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


What to say about my first-ever, amazing, inspiring, crazy NCTE annual convention?

Yeah. Amazing, inspiring, crazy.

Here are some of the highlights:

Attending the Nerdy party and meeting so many awesome book-lovers, including the one and only Colby Sharp!
Lindsey Leavitt, Colby Sharp, Irene Latham

Attending the secondary section luncheon with keynote Sherman Alexie

Yes, Sherman is as good a presenter as he is at writing books. He was all sorts of inappropriate, had us all in the palm of his hand as he told an amazing story that started with a snowy morning in Minneapolis with he in only cotton and included a Somali cab driver... then he landed the big reveal: it was only a story after all, an example of how the writing mind is always working, creating, witnessing.

In fact, that was his big message: a writer's job is to witness, to pay attention, and of course, to write it down.

Another something that caught my ear: "we celebrate the ones who leave, but what about the ones who are left behind?" His companion book to DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN will address this very thing. Can't wait!
Irene Latham & Sherman Alexie

Meeting the amazing marketing folks at the Macmillan booth! Thank you THANK YOU Angus, Emily, Michelle and Summer for showing me some book-love and sharing your stories!

Summer, me, Angus, Emily & Michelle

The POETS. Oh my goodness, what a happy day it was to finally meet IN PERSON these people whose work I admire?? While Sylvia Vardell was greatly GREATLY missed, it was all kinds of fabulous meeting panel-mates Amy VanDerwater, Mary Lee Hahn, Janet Wong, Leslea Newman and Laura Purdie Salas. We've need to do it again, gals! And yeah, didn't we work the pink... Publisher's Weekly Children's Bookshelf thought so too!

Amy VanDerwater, Leslea Newman, Mary Lee Hahn,
Irene Latham, Janet Fagal, Janet Wong, Laura Purdie Salas

Last but not least: seeing a book I ADORE in ARC form just waiting for readers at the Bloomsbury booth, GOING VINTAGE by Vegas girl Lindsey Leavitt. So great to hang out with you, friend! And the OMG cookie from Max Brenner? OMG, indeed!

Monday, November 19, 2012


So there's the Strip, which everyone knows by sight and sound and reputation: the glitz & glam that's an introvert's nightmare complete with sensory overload and exhaustion and a general overwhelming-ness that really, why would I ever want to do again?

And then there's Red Rock Canyon, which I discovered on this, my second journey to Las Vegas. It's thirteen miles of bliss, right across the bridge, in the suburbs. Vegas resident & fabulous friend & amazing author Lindsey Leavitt and I went at sunset:

LL & moi!

Gorgeous, right? And serene and settling and inspiring.

HOWEVER. Some of you may not have a Lindsey to mooch a ride from. If you are stuck on the Strip, I've got another suggestion for you: The Wildlife Habitat at the Flamingo Hotel. 

It's this tiny little garden/waterfall area strategically tucked between tall buildings and rock walls and towering palms to make you feel like you are out in the wilderness. And you know what? It's small, but it works! I spent about an hour and felt all kinds of rejuvenated:

And then there's Lake Meade and the Hoover Dam, which I explored last time I went to Vegas, and yes, it's interesting and away from the excess, but it was kind of a one-n-done thing for me.

Red Rock Canyon and the Wildlife Habitat? If ever I find myself again in Vegas they will be on the itinerary.

More on Vegas with a complete NCTE Report coming later this week!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


I am super-excited to meet poet-friends Janet Wong, Mary Lee Hahn, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, Laura Purdie Salas and Leslea Newman! Oh, and one of my most favorite people ev-ah --Lindsey Leavitt -- lives in Vegas, so yay yay YAY for whatever mischief she and I can create together.

Oh, and there's a Nerdy Book Club meet-up and Sherman Alexie lunch and time with old friends and new! I'm excited!!

If you are there, please come to our poetry panel and rouse these signings... I will be signing DON'T FEED THE BOY at Macmillan booth #508, 3 - 3:30 pm Saturday! Happy travels, and full report to come next week! xo

Monday, November 12, 2012


Wow, what a great weekend in Frankfort, Kentucky, home of Kentucky Book Fair!

Frankfort is a neat little place with a charming downtown -- and they're pretty smart in Frankfort, too: it wasn't only Book Fair weekend, it was also the 31st Annual Candlelight Tour, which meant music and carriage rides and hot chocolate and Rudolph!
Pat & Rudolph

We ate supper at Gibby's (spaghetti & meatball special), then browsed the shops. Our favorite was Wilma's Linens & Lace. (Pat and I are quilters, remember?) We were thrilled to meet Wilma herself, who refashions old quilts pieces into new things of beauty, like Christmas stockings and table runners. Here she is with a piece I completely fell in love with:

Friday was Children's Day at the Book Fair, and it was so much fun to meet kids and teachers. What a great field trip! The best part was meeting the teenage volunteers. Hi Emily & Harper & Madison & Rachel, and all you others too!

And here's me & Pat keeping the booth warm:

Friday afternoon we visited the again History Center (We enjoyed Civil War music and dancing there the night before) and the Capital City Museum. We loved how everything was in walking distance of Capital Plaza Hotel, where we stayed. We also drank ourselves a little gulp of heaven when we sampled Bourbon Ball Hot Chocolate at Rebecca Ruth Candy Shop.

Y'all: BEST HOT CHOCOLATE EVER. We loved it so much we went back later for another shot!

We also took a little trip up the mountain to Daniel Boone's gravesite, which overlooks the river. I mean, if you've got to be buried, I don't think there's a better spot:

For supper we enjoyed some pizza and salad at Buddy's, popped inside Poor Richard's Bookstore and some other shops, then settled in at the old theater to view THE FEUDS OF BLOODY BREATHITT: KENTUCKY'S UNTOLD STORY, as told by life-long Breathitt County resident Jerry Deaton.

What an interesting history -- and oh how we Alabamians can relate to the way our sometimes awful history can create images and stereotypes of we, the people, that are so very difficult to overcome. 

For the record: everyone we met was WONDERFUL. Southern hospitality and grace is alive and well in Frankfort, and everyone we met was wearing shoes and could speak perfectly good English. So much strength and creativity of kindness in this state! Thanks for making us feel so very welcome.

Most of all, thank you, READERS and organizers of Kentucky Book Fair. You put on an excellent show. I was so pleased to participate.

Finally, you gotta meet three lovely authors with whom I had the pleasure of sharing the day: Bethany Griffin, author of MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH (a re-imagining of Poe's story by the same name!), Julie Cross, author of TEMPEST (an international bestseller that has been optioned for film and doesn't that cover remind you of Becca Fitzpatrick's HUSH, HUSH?) and Katie L. McGarry, author of PUSHING THE LIMITS (recently nominated for GoodReads Choice award -- winners to be announced very soon!!!):

And MOST OF ALL: thank you, Pat, for being a really excellent friend. I enjoyed so much spending the time with you and appreciate your endless support and cheer and all around goodness. In my next life I hope to be more like you. xo

Thursday, November 8, 2012


Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Ed (of March Madness fame!) for Roundup at Think Kid Think!

Me? I'm in Frankfort, Kentucky, getting ready for Children's Day at Kentucky Book Fair, but I wanted to share with you a super-cool poetic thing that happened a couple of weeks ago:

Librarian-extraordinaire Jennifer Butler Keeton of Florence-Lauderdale Public Library invited me to participate in a Poetry & Paint event.

Here's how it worked: attendees, for a fee, were provided with canvas and paints and some initial "inspiration" poems (penned by me!). Then, at the event, I read some poetry along with the talented Boxcar Voices  -- while the attendees created their masterpieces!

Here's a picture of a painting the lovely and enthusiastic Angela did for my poem "At Age Ninety My Grandfather No Longer Gardens" :

Someone was feeling saucy! Love it!! She also painted two others, one of which I told her I HAD to own, it is so freakin' gorgeous and in keeping with my own ideas about the poem. Will share when I have it in hand.

And then there was this one, which surprised me in the best way possible:

What surprised me was that THIS was a poem of mine that would inspire art. But it did! For Stephanie, it did. And isn't that what it's all about?

Here's the poem:

Einstein's Daughter Questions Her Father's Theory

It's all about timing, he says,
She watches the circling second-hand
as it marks all the moments he's missed,

says, space-time is a lump of clay
whose geometry can be changed
by the gravity of stars and planets.

And I am neither clay nor star nor planet.

It was best for you, he says.
Her jaw tightens, fists clench.
I am not a spinning orb, she says.

Must you strap the fabric
of the universe to my back,
demand that I drag it behind me?

It must be proven, he says.

She shakes her head. It's as real
as a wobbling spiral of gas 
that disappears into a black hole.

It changes nothing, he says. And she
climbs back inside her super-
luminal tunnel, leaves him to his work.

- Irene Latham

For those of you who don't know, in addition to his two sons, Einstein had a daughter. Trouble was, she was born to he and Mileva before they got married. Oh, the scandal! So, the couple opted to give this daughter away. (This was not discovered until after Einstein's death, and there is still some mystery as to what exactly happened to her.) I wrote the poem in an effort to give this abandoned daughter a voice. It appears in my book THE COLOR OF LOST ROOMS.

Thanks so much for reading!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


One of the most fun parts of a book release is, after months or years of living so privately with a story, seeing the book out in the wild! Here's some places I have spotted DON'T FEED THE BOY:

in the lunchroom at Underwood School

at the University of North Alabama lion exhibit (that's Leo in the background!)... and okay, this one *might* have been staged :)

at Barnes & Noble (Summit- Birmingham)

on display at Fairview Elementary School (amazing librarian Jenny Paynter made this backdrop and invited students to bring in stuffed animals. VERY cute!)

SO MUCH FUN to see Whit and Stella making their way into the lives of readers. Thank you thank you thank you!

Monday, November 5, 2012


illustration by Stephanie Graegin
In the (almost) three weeks since the release of DON'T FEED THE BOY, it has been my privilege to visit with students and teachers at six schools in Alabama and Tennessee, including Underwood School, Lauderdale County High School, Anderson School, Hibbett Middle School, Shoals Christian School and Fairview Elementary School.

Big thanks for all the enthusiasm and great questions and stacks of books for me to sign! I've said it before, and I'll say it again: connecting with readers is THE BEST PART of being an author. Thank you.

New to my presentation -- which includes all sorts of information about my life as an author and all my books -- is a re-enactment of one of my favorite scenes in BOY: Big Snake Day.

At the Birmingham Zoo, which served as the model for my fictional Meadowbrook Zoo, this event happens in June. It gives keepers an opportunity to involve guests in monitoring the health and growth of the animals -- and re-enacting the scenes give me an opportunity to involve a bunch of students at once as we learn some fun things about snakes.

It also gave me the opportunity to CREATE a big snake. Meet my new traveling companion:

And here he is all stretched out, with students:

He needs a name, doesn't he?? (In the book, there's Pete the reticulated python... hmmm.......)

Before we get to the BIG snake, we also measure a smaller snake, which I bring out in an Igloo cooler "hot box" (for carrying venomous snakes). The snake rests in an inside-out pillowcase.

Why inside-out? Because those pesky seams might damage fragile snake scales!

I also give some of the volunteers cards printed with snake jokes. The kids read the jokes, just like they do at the real Big Snake Day. (It's all about entertainment, folks!) Here's the one that gets the most laughs:

What do you do if you find a snake in the toilet?


Wait 'til it's finished.

It you'd like me to bring Big Snake Day to your favorite child's school, please contact me: irene at irenelatham dot com.

Look at all those sweet faces! THANK YOU, new friends!!

Thursday, November 1, 2012


For the last Poetry Friday before Election Day, I thought I would share some poems form Janet Wong's DECLARATION OF INTERDEPENDENCE.

One of the things I love about this book: Janet's disclosure in the Author's Note,"I am not into politics."

Neither am I! And yet here is the wonderful collection of poems about politics.

Janet graciously agreed to allow me to share two of the poems here:


by Janet Wong

If you think

of words
as tiny seeds
that take root
and hold
this earth together

then you see

why it matters for us
to scatter even our smallest
thoughts out there,
to make our voices
heard --

There are no stupid questions.

And, yes:
there might be simple answers.

The birds are chirping:

more seeds,
more seeds!


by Janet Wong

I can't wait for the election

to be over, to be done.

This president selection:

99% no fun.

The cable TV coverage

occupies too many channels

With nonstop blah-blah-blabbing

by some not-so-expert panels.

They should call these things "Duh-baits,"

the way those guys are baited

Into acting so ridiculous

they seem uneducated.

I think they must be smarter.

They simply must know more
than they're showing us - say what?
You and me in '24?


Good stuff! And don't miss the Discussion Guide, which, in addition to many other great ideas, includes this prompt:

Get Out the Vote!
What would you say to convince someone that his vote counts? 

And guess what? That's exactly the question I asked non-political me when the editor at Scholastic's Storyworks asked me to write an Election Day poem. Here's what I came up with:

Thank you, Janet! Happy voting, all. And don't forget to visit Donna at Mainly Write for Poetry Friday Roundup!