Thursday, July 2, 2015

Things I Love Thursday


So, I've been pretty absent from this blog lately.

But there's been a lot going on.

Because, well.....this....


After 26 years in New England, my husband and I are heading back to my beloved South....right there at the edge of the Smoky Mountains, my heart's home.


Specifically, to Asheville, North Carolina...one of the most beautiful and coolest places ever.

So happy.

But.....

Sigh....

So hard to say goodbye to things and places and PEOPLE I love dearly.

Starting with my house.

My son grew up here.

We have 26 years worth of amazing memories.

My husband's hippie carpenter friend came out from Arizona to help us build our screened porch:


Where we spent so many magical summer nights:


We built a swimming pool:


My son on the right



Which brought us lots of happy times:

With my dearest pal, Gucci, who shared almost daily walks and talks with me. (And sewed for me and picked me up when I wrecked my cars and was always there for me and on and on and on. BFFs forever.)

Ruby

In the cement beside the pool

There is still chewed woodwork in our house caused by puppies who grew into gray-faced old dogs.

Murphy, the first puppy we brought to this house. (She lived to be 14) Son on the left.

There are guinea pigs buried in the backyard, where neighborhood children held somber-faced funerals and left wilted clover flowers.
 

My son brought a chestnut home from the cemetery beside our church when he was very small. It was in a paper cup. We said he could plant it anywhere he wanted to, never dreaming it would become this beauty:



This is the gate between my yard and my neighbor's, who is also the dearest of friends one could ever want. That friend who GETS me. On countless summer nights, she came through that gate to dance to disco music with me under the moonlight or listen to owls in the Adirondack chairs in the yard (snuggled together under a quilt like little girls instead of grown women), or laugh and cry and gossip on the porch. (Because that's what you do with your besties.) Pool Girl, you know I love you.



A gift she gave me. Perfect

So, yeah, lots of memories in that house



 I'll miss my gardens.




I'll miss my summer writing office:



 
So on this Things I Love Thursday, I'm loving my house.

And loving my dear, dear friends here, including:


Janet Zade (left), so wise and honest and punctual (three of the greatest traits of a friend, I think.) How lucky am I? Thank you, Janet.

My writers' group (There is no greater treasure for a writer than a group like this. We've been up, down, and all around together.)


BUT

I'm looking forward to making new friends

and building memories in a new house

in a new place.

Turning the page.

New chapter.

So, by the way, school teachers and librarians of the Carolinas, I'll be ready to come to YOUR school this fall. (I know, buzz kill, right?)

And, now, I'll close with a song that makes me cry
Every
Single
Time



Thursday, May 14, 2015

Things I Love Thursday



I love my son's "writing" when he was 3 or 4 years old.




I used to write at the kitchen table. 

He would sit at the table and "write," too!
 

Friday, May 8, 2015

How Lucky Am I?


I'm so lucky to have readers who write wonderful reviews like this!!!

My favorite parts:

"I'm begging you to read it."

"It's addictive. Pick it up, never put it down."


Thanks so much for this wonderful review!!!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

And the winner is...



And the winner of the classroom set (25) of

The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis

(chosen via www.random.org)

is

Tanya Hudson

of

Chase Street Elementary School

in Athens, Georgia.

Congratulations, Tanya! 


Monday, April 20, 2015

Quote of the Day



I absolutely love this quote:



If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.

 —Elmore Leonard

Friday, April 17, 2015

Student Interview Video



Here's a short video of students from Gibson-Neill Memorial Elementary School in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada.



Thursday, April 16, 2015

Quote of the Day



If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. 

--Stephen King


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Want books? Classroom set giveaway


Because I'm so happy that spring is finally here....

....and the snow is finally gone....

.... I'm going to celebrate.

How?

I'm giving away books.

Yep.

Just givin' 'em away.

To whom?

Teachers and school librarians, that's who.

How many?

Twenty-five.

What?

TWENTY-FIVE.

That's right.

I'm giving away a classroom set - 25 hardcover copies - of

THE SMALL ADVENTURE OF POPEYE AND ELVIS





All you have to do is leave the following in the comments section of this blog:

1. Your name
2. Your school name
3. Your email address

That's it!

The giveaway starts:

Now! (April 15)

The giveaway ends:

April 22 (midnight)


(Please note: I'll ship the books anywhere in the U.S. No international shipments. Sorry.)

 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Thank you, Canada!!


I recently spent three days visiting schools in Fredericton, New Brunswick.

To get there, I had to fly on an itty bitty little plane like this, that kind of freaked me out.

But I survived. Phew!

 

My first stop was Gibson-Neill Memorial Elementary, where they know that it's the little things that count.  A reserved parking spot! (I love all those different-colored letters.)



I was greeted by Alex and Quinn. A nice welcome!


The students had decorated the gym. Love this greeting sign.




Students had made book trailers and illustrated booklets.


Such great pictures of dogs!



More dogs



More drawings and trailers



More drawings! The school was so festive.



And more drawings....



I loved seeing these booklets the students made for How to Steal a Dog.

Some students had made these cool scenes from clay, on display in the library.



More decorations in the gym



Speaking to Gibson-Neill Memorial students


Reading to the students




This is a spring-time recess in Canada! Brrrrr




Students being interviewed by the local radio station (Canadian Broadcast). She asked them great questions about my books (and they gave great answers).



Liam, Boyd, Aiden and Conor had lunch with me and asked some great questions.




Next stop was Barker's Point Elementary, where I was greeted by this great sign.




Hannah and Amelia greeted me with this great sign.

Students had done some terrific drawings for me.

More drawings! Thank you, Barker's Point.




(l to r) The amazing Sherry Norton-Graham, who made this trip possible and treated me like a queen (Thanks for everything, Sherry!), me, and Barker's Point principal Jeanne Wood)




Next stop was Park Street Elementary, where I had the pleasure of having lunch with these super nice students. We practiced saying our names in Pig Latin.




And more Park Street students.

Thank you, Sherry (who has the same birthday as me!!)








Monday, April 6, 2015

Friday, March 27, 2015

A Way with Words

I adored my editor Frances Foster for many reasons. Her humor, her smarts, her genteel manner. She also had a lovely way with words...always eloquent, tactful, and respectful.

In my ongoing quest to purge my office of STUFF, I came across some correspondence that showcased her way with words perfectly.

Back in 2000 (FIFTEEN YEARS AGO!!! How can that be?),
Frances received a letter from an elementary school media specialist about the use of the word "hell" in my book Me and Rupert Goody.

It reads, in part:

I am faced with a real problem. Several times in the book, the character of Uncle Beau uses language that parents of elementary age children would find offensive. More and more, I am finding that this is an issue with well-written books for children this age. If the inclusion of such language were an integral part of the story, that would be at least justifiable. In this book, it is gratuitous and could easily have been deleted.

What will I do with the book? I cannot recommend it to students at my schools. The language is unacceptable - and it occurs only a few times! I am passing the book on to the middle school where students - and their parents - might not be offended. I regret having to do this as the story is appropriate for fourth and fifth graders.

What can you do? I would suggest that, when you edit books in the future, you become aware of such gratuitous language and suggest to authors that they, too, become sensitive to the inclusion of such language. No one is opposed to freedom of expression but let us be more sensitive to what language is necessary and what is not.



Frances responded in the most perfect way. Her letter reads, in part:

I can certainly appreciate the sensitivity of your position as a media specialist. We may, however, disagree on whether or not certain language is integral to a story. I don't think it's so easy to separate language from characterization, and in my opinion, there is nothing gratuitous in O'Connor's depiction of Uncle Beau. His every word and gesture make him totally believable. I suppose the occasional "hell" could have been edited out, but it seemed so utterly true to Uncle Beau's voice and character.

Are you aware that School Library Journal gave Me and Rupert Goody a starred review and a Best Book of the Year ranking? It was also named an ALA Notable Children's Book. Those recommendations, of course may not carry any weight with parents, but they do suggest that not everyone has found the language unacceptable to fourth and fifth grade audiences. 


I couldn't have said it better myself.

P.S. If it had been an e-book, the librarian could have used this Clean Reader App (eye-yi-yi) .

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Just Stop It, Jo Knowles


Come on, Jo Knowles.

Stop pretending to be a grown-up.

Because I know better.

You are a teenager.

You MUST be. 

Because you just NAIL the teen voice in your amazing new book.

Read Between the Lines

I mean, no grown-up I know writes:

"Simon!" I yell, just to harsh his mellow.

 or can create such achingly realitic teen characters...
....like Sapphie...

Whatyoulookinat
She said it loud and tough. Fast. Like the four words were one.
Whatyoulookinat

 I. LOVE. THIS. BOOK.

 Jo Knowles and I go way back.

We knew each other online and then at a conference somewhere (they all moosh together for me)....
she was going down the escalator...
...and I was going up the escalator.

We recognized each other and smiled and waved and that was the best we could do.

But then at an NCTE conference in 2009 we finally got to meet properly. (Or maybe it was the same conference. They all moosh together.)

Jo Knowles (right) and me

THEN in 2011, we were on a panel together at the Eric Carle Museum in Amherst, MA.
We corresponded by email about our presentations and we each confessed that we were freaking out a little bit.

Ever since then, we have affectionately referred to ourselves as the Freak Sisters.

And, by the way, we survived that presentation.
 No freak-out necessary.



[Note: I blurred her signature because I don't like to post signatures online.]




Read Between the Lines is AMAZING.

I loved it SO much.

From the flap copy:

The voices of seemingly ordinary teenagers speak loud and clear of the complex dance that is life in a small town. Over the course of a single day, these characters orbit one another in their innocent attempts to understand and be understood.

So run, don't walk, and get this book.

And, yo, Jo....high five, Freaky!!!