Friday, November 29, 2013


As promised, I'm back with a book suggestion. I've read lots of good books this year, but the one that stands out as my most favorite is ELEANOR & PARK by Rainbow Rowell. I envy those of you who have yet to read it! What a great experience. And kind of old-fashioned, which is so refreshing!

Be sure to visit your favorite indie bookseller tomorrow... Hope to see you at Alabama Booksmith on Saturday from 12-1!

AND since it is Poetry Friday, be sure to visit Carol at Carol's Corner! 'Tis the season for gratitude, and there is so, so much to be thankful for. It truly is a wonderful world.

Here is an excerpt form "A List of Praises" by Anne Porter:

Give praise with the skirting of seagulls
And the rattle and flap of sails
And gongs of buoys rocked by the sea-swell
Out in the shipping-lanes beyond the harbor.
Give praise with the humpback whales,
Huge in the ocean they sing to one another.

Give praise with the rasp and sizzle of crickets, katydids and cicadas,
Give praise with hum of bees,
Give praise with the little peepers who live near water.
When they fill the marsh with a shimmer of bell-like cries
We know that the winter is over.

Give praise with mockingbirds, day’s nightingales.
Hour by hour they sing in the crepe myrtle
And glossy tulip trees
On quiet side streets in southern towns.

Read the complete poem. Doesn't it make you want to write your own "praise" poem?! Let's do it!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


image found here
I almost titled this post "SHOP TIL YOU DROP ON SMALL BUSINESS SATURDAY," but I am not a shop-til-you-drop kind of gal! I'm more of a make-a-list-and-dash-in-and-out shopper, and I adore entrepreneurs and independents, especially book sellers. So.... I accepted Sherman Alexie's challenge and volunteered to help out one of my most favorite independent booksellers THE ALABAMA BOOKSMITH, right here in Birmingham!

Owner Jake Reiss specializes in autographed books, which make oh such special gifts... and on Saturday I will be joining other authors Don Keith, Keith Thomson and Michael Morris in the store! I'll be there from 12-1 pm. I'd love to see you!

And what books are on my shopping list? I'll be back to tell you on Friday. :) Meanwhile, HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Monday, November 25, 2013

MOVIE MONDAY: About Time & The Spectacular Now

As we walked out of the theater after seeing ABOUT TIME with two of our teenaged sons, we were all grinning -- and both the boys said it was one of the best movies they'd ever seen. I think (perhaps) they related to the main character who experienced a bit of trouble with girls, only to triumph in the end -- after the family time-travel legacy allowed him to correct some of his mistakes. The movie was funny and sweet, and the father-son relationship was exactly what I wanted it to be. I wasn't as wild about it as the boys were, but their enthusiasm is infectious, and I have thought about the movie a number of times since we saw it. Wouldn't mind seeing it again.

THE SPECTACULAR NOW is another movie we viewed with two of our teens in tow. I was pretty excited about it, having loved 500 DAYS OF SUMMER. I was thinking "romance," which made the actual subject-matter a bit of a surprise. Yes, there was romance, but mostly there was a high school senior deconstructing under the influence of alcohol. The movie is much more about his struggles with family and relationships than it is about love, and my heart hurt as I watched it. So much pain in the world, so much we hide. The "Now" in this movie is not the healthy now, but it is the now a lot of people experience. Which makes it an important, realistic movie, but not an easy one to watch, especially for parents of this age group.


Thursday, November 21, 2013


For the past several years, my friend Pat has given me cowboy boot ornaments. Finally, this year, I got myself a little tree to hang them on. And of course, once they were hung, I realized I needed a tree topper and a tree skirt and some garland.... so I got busy!

I bought some red burlap and cut a skirt. (My original thought was denim, but frankly, I was in an instant gratification kind of mood, and that seemed like too big a project. Maybe next year.)

I searched (briefly) in the trunk of Halloween costumes for a cowboy hat, but it was too big for my small tree. Fortunately I found a shiny red star at Hobby Lobby. And then it was time to make some garland. I had it in my mind to use bandanas. Here's what to do:

1. Buy 3-5 bandanas. 
2.Fold one bandana at a time.

3. Cut strips 2 1/2 to 3 inches wide (doesn't have to be exact- I ended up with 6 strips per bandana)

4. Tie together two strips with a simple knot.

5. Tie another knot in the center of each strip (do this before you add another strip to the garland, or else it is hard to place the knot in the center of the strip).

6. Keep going until you've used all your strips. (On my five ft. skinny tree, I used 3 and a half bandanas, or 21 strips)
7. String your garland around the tree.
8. Smile, and say "Yee-haw!" or whatever other cowboy phrase you prefer.

Decorating the "Western" tree was so much fun, now I'm thinking about what theme I might want to create next year. Hmmm... I may end up with a tree in every room! But I'm pretty sure I will never have as many Christmas decorations as Pat. Her house will really get you in the spirit! :)

p.s. Until this blog post, I thought "bandana" had three n's instead of just two. Good thing I googled it. :)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


Fresh from the Walmart parking lot!

A lovely contrast to the effusion of red and green bedecking the aisles this time of year...

and proof that beauty can be found anywhere!

Monday, November 18, 2013


So we've seen some good movies lately. While it's tempting to throw them all at you at once, I'm going  break it up into today's "intense" version and next week's "families & relationships" version.

First, GRAVITY. What a great premise, and yes, Sandra Bullock gives a performance worthy of the attention its received. I'm kind of a space nut, so I was super interested in how this "lost in space without a ship" storyline would play out. Did I enjoy it? Ummmmm.... not exactly! It was TOO tense, too suspenseful to really enjoy. And that's saying something, isn't it? There's a moment in the movie where I thought, oh, here we go, movieland express. And then, the movie righted itself, or rather the movie let us know we'd been hoodwinked. It was a pretty brilliant move, and I'm sorry I can't discuss further without spoiling it for those who haven't seen it yet.
Go see it. You won't be sorry.

Next, CAPTAIN PHILLIPS. This one kind of reminded me of last year's ARGO, in that we know from the outset what happens, but the movie does a fine job of creating suspense so that you are on the edge of your seat anyhow. Tom Hanks earned it in the final scene, and I appreciated the effort toward providing backstory and motivation for the Somali pirates. Interesting. Again: did I enjoy it? Again: no exactly! Where's that easy breezy rom-com when you need it?! But an excellent movie, if intense is what you're after. :)


Thursday, November 14, 2013


Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to check in with Jama to see what deliciousness she's dishing up for Roundup at Jama's Alphabet Soup!

I am thrilled to share with you today my newest book love: VIEWS FROM A WINDOW SEAT by our very own Jeannine Atkins!

I LOVE THIS BOOK. Jeannine's voice is so beautiful and resonant, and there is so much wisdom packed in these pages.

For our purposes today I am sharing some bits that relate to the poetic life, but please know that this book spans several genres (picture books! historical fiction! novels) and is as much about being a human in this world as it is about being a writer. There's love and pain and fear and loss and always, always hope and beauty. And the book is divided into the seasons, which act as wonderful metaphors for the writing life. The essays are accessible and wise, and you can read them as you see fit.

Writers, READ THIS BOOK. You will feel nurtured and more courageous as you venture forth into whatever comes next on your particular path. Also, Jeannine is one of the loveliest people on the planet, both on the page and in person. You have so much to look forward to!

Straight from the pages, in no particular order:

I wish writing poetry were more like baking.

We work in a field with no finish lines so we make our best guesses as to when to let a poem rest, then come back with fresh eyes. If the poem can surprise me, or if I sense that the words were already tossed and shaken, that's a good sign.

Words should follow each other in clear ways, but leave some sense of an imperfect hand doing the arranging and room for readers to do their own shuffling.

We may say “I remember” with a swagger, but if we're truthful, much of what we claim is faint or broken. Which is all right. We can find a lot even on dim paths.

Not every mystery will be solved, but wondering may connect us as much as answers.

Sometimes we have to be the well rather than just worry about filling it.

Ideas may fall as quietly as feathers or clatter like a teacup on a saucer.

Sometimes just stopping is the best way to end.

The world is inspiration, and art is not a mirror.

We are who we are, and it shows up on our pages.

Here is where I am: green grass, yellow and black bees, white blossoms. My not-great-but-could-be-worse back on the wicker chair.

The unknown can hold more wisdom that what seems certain.

I work line by line, reeling in vagueness, trying to put small gifts in every one. A word that glimmers, a shock in the rhythm, the smack of two clashing things coming together.

My aim is to invite readers to make their own interpretations, leaving them guessing, but not deeply puzzled or lost.

There's illness and too much snow, but also friendship and somewhere singing, and another cardinal at the bird feeder.

Really the only rule is to pay attention.  
And now, a word from Jeannine! 

IL: "What surprised you about self-publishing?"

JA:  Thanks for asking about what surprised me. It was fun working on design and craft sorts of things, and satisfying to look at my book the way I have at scarf or two I’ve knitted, or the African violets I’ve coaxed into flourishing, or banana bread that’s just the right shade of golden brown.  Here was something I had made from inside to out. Not perfect, but I felt proud.

Another surprise was that the day my book became available, I found
myself less worried than I had when books came out that other people
had argued for or over, edited, chosen covers for, or made up cost and
balance sheets. Would we sell enough? Does anyone, ever? Now remarks,
reviews, and sales accounts come straight to me. I get to be in my own
self, which, thank goodness, is only partly a sales rep. And thanks to
print-on-demand, I don’t have to worry about stored boxes of books
either. The book can take its own pace into the world.


Okay. You want a copy, don't you. Not just for yourself, but for your writing friend who is struggling with revisions or beginnings or the muddly middle. You can purchase the book .... and.... if you'll leave a comment below for Jeannine by midnight CST Saturday, November 16, you will be eligible to win a copy! Good luck!! And thank you, Jeannine, for writing (and publishing!) this lovely book. xo

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


I captured this sky on Veteran's Day when I was at the Botanical Gardens. It made me wonder about what it's like to be a seed-eating bird, how the eyes would always be on the lookout for color. And then I thought, hmmm, I might be a little bit bird. (My father used to say so... he said I ate like a bird. Which of course means I ate A LOT, as some birds eat twice their weight in a day!) Also, birds are constantly popping up in my work. Something about their beauty and freedom and fragility....

Sunday, November 10, 2013


Last week I had the most marvelous school visit with creative writing students at Shades Valley High School/JCIB. We talked about the writing life, and the students told me about their works-in-progress. We did some writing exercises and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves -- thanks largely to dedicated librarians Carolyn Starkey and Carla Crews, and to teacher Becky Dobelstein. Thank you!

One of the students said she loved poetry because "it's a puzzle."

Isn't it?!

Thank you, students, for your brilliant words, and for sharing your stories with me and the world. Hope to see you submissions at Birmingham Arts Journal!

Here's some pictures from the event.
Carla, me & Carolyn

yes, I do the writing exercises, too!

chatting with students over pizza

students writing brilliant pieces

Poets: Sarah, me & Maria

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


I took these within minutes of each other ... same tree, same sky. And yet... not the same at all!

 Also, allow me to introduce you to Jenny Paynter, fabulous librarian at Fairview Elementary in Heiskell, TN. Please read her response to my sensory query, "What does 1,000  sound like?"

look like? crows sitting on a power line
sound like? a playground filled with squealing children
smell like? the loose powder my grandmother used to powder her nose
taste like? a cherry tomato right off the vine 
feel like? a cool breeze after an uphill hike

Thank you, Jenny! You're a poet!! Happy November, all.

Monday, November 4, 2013


Saturday was a perfect day for quilts! I loved walking around the charming town of Columbiana, Alabama, looking at all the art and color --- and meeting quilters and quilt-lovers at every turn! And yes, I took pictures, so, you too, can enjoy these wonderful works of art:

display in front of the courthouse, during the Quilts of Valor presentation

inside the library

close-up of one of my favorite "patterns"

doesn't this remind you a bit of a Gee's Bend quilt?

outside Mayor Handley's office

inside Mayor Handley's office! (for you, Pat Weaver!)

Mayor Handley with a Civil War quilt - what stories this guy has!

inside the Shelby County Museum & Archives (housed in the old Courthouse)

cardinal in stitch!

one of the many fabulous volunteers (with quilt) for this amazing event!

my new treasure: a gift quilted by Sheila with blocks created by kids! Also pictured: Dutcha Lawson, Amazing Library Director! THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU
an old-fashioned sampler quilt that includes quilters' names (both stitched and inked)

SUCH a beautiful day! I loved meeting so many new friends and sharing a few hours celebrating the creative art of quilting. Do this again next year, I will be there!

Friday, November 1, 2013


Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Lovely Linda has Roundup at Teacher Dance. Linda is one of those people who brightens the planet with a verse, a smile, an inspiring thought.... I know all of you know what I am talking about!

I'm excited to share with you a poem inspired by history: "Titanic Remember April 16, 1912," as it appeared in Scholastic's Storyworks magazine. Elementary teachers, if you are not getting Storyworks, you should! It's an awesome classroom publication, covering all sorts of high-interest topics. I am super-proud and honored to have my own work appear in their pages. Enjoy!