Friday, February 27, 2009

In a pickle

I don't know about y'all, but I have plenty of other things to do besides clean out my refrigerator.

But eventually, there comes a time when it just has to be done.

This activity can be a little shocking.

You know....those things you discover in there....

The bottle of mint sauce that expired 2 years ago.

The 8 bottles of nonfat salad dressing that nobody likes.

The mystery thing wrapped in foil.

And then, there's the stuck pickle jar.

That's right....that jar of pickles was stuck to the shelf...


It would NOT budge.

Stuck like CEE-ment (as they say down South).

I had to pour boiling water on it to get it off.

My husband bought those pickles last summer at a flea market in Maine.

All I've got to say is, if he's planning on eating them, I hope his life insurance policy is paid up.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Mutual Admiration Society

I imagine most of y'all are too young to remember a song called "Mutual Admiration Society."

Alas, I am not.

I used to sing it a lot as a child.

And now I always feel like singing it when I see the name Kirby Larson.

We definitely have a Mutual Admiration Society going on.

I mean, how can I not adore a gal who writes books like Hattie Big Sky and says things like THIS. (You have to click on the podcast. You should certainly listen to the whole thing, but if you've got mashed potatoes on the stove that need to be tended to, you can jump to 7 minutes and 13 seconds, when the good stuff really starts.)

Oh, Kirby, Kirby....if I could send you money, champagne, roundtrip tickets to Europe, or my only son, I would. Instead, I send you a mere hug.)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Gone, baby, gone

Off to my editor and agent.....

Dublin Literacy Conference

What a great weekend - immersed in children's literature - surrounded by folks who share a common passion!

The BEST part was meeting all the children's lit bloggers who have become my cyber friends and who are now my REAL friends! I felt like I knew them all before I even met them, but to give them all a real life hug was great.

Mary Lee Hahn took such good care of me - attending to my every need; not falling asleep while sitting through both my programs; being patient with my neurotic worry over technical equipment; being my taxi service; and laughing at at least one of my redneck jokes.

All of the committee members were so friendly and efficient - Franki Sibberson, Bill Prosser, Laura Douce (the other taxi service), Patty Whose-Husband-Is-a-Pilot, Karen Terlecky (thank you so much, Karen, for coming by to meet me!), Megan Germano (my cyber-bud!) and all the others. (Forgive me for leaving out so many!!!!! I left my handout with all the committee members in my hotel room. Duh!)

I got to spend time with authors. What's more fun than that? It was great to hang with Grace Lin. We had fun talking shop and sharing stories - and I'm sure I'll never forget seeing that little bitty girl eat the world's largest cream puff. (Well, okay, she only ate half of the world's largest cream puff, but still....). I also got to see an ARC of Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, which looks fabulous.

I enjoyed meeting newly published author, Amjed Qamar, whose YA book, Beneath My Mother's Feet has been receiving lots of notice.

I also had a blast with Pat Johnson, author of One Child at a Time: Making the Most of Your Time with Struggling Readers.

(l to r) Bill Prosser (Literate Lives), me, Mary Lee Hahn (A Year of Reading)

Me (left) and Megan Germano of Read, Read, Read

Karen Terlecky (Literate Lives) and me

(l to r) Bill, me, Karen

Grace Lin and me

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Dublin Literacy Conference

I'm at the Columbus, Ohio airport on my way home from the Dublin Literacy Conference.

SO much fun!

I finally got to meet so many of my blogger friends - amazing teachers and reading specialists. Honestly, I felt like I'd known them forever.

Got to spend time (finally) and share bread pudding with the lovely Grace Lin and others.

Pics and details to come.

Thank you, Dublin!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Checking out and heading off

I'm checking out for a few days.....

....and heading to Dublin, Ohio for a literacy conference.

I'll finally get to meet so many online friends....

....and reconnect with friend and fellow author, Grace Lin.

See you later!


I got this for Christmas and it finally bloomed.

So pretty - worth the wait.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Good in bed

Remember when I told you I was writing in bed?

Well, it seems I'm not the only one with that decadent writing process! Yay!
Thanks, Kimberly Willis Holt!

Die! Die! Die!

You know how I decided to save this dead matter from Greetings from Nowhere?

Well, then I had to make room for that dead matter.

So I went through dead matter that was deader than dead.

I mean, D.E.A.D.

And I did it....

I threw it away!

But I see a new project coming if I ever have the luxury of time: Organizing this closet.

I know to some of you, this looks organized.

But to me, you can NEVER be too organized.

I want it to be all color coordinated, like this:

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Writing Tip Tuesday

I've been reading Nobles' Book of Writing Blunders by William Noble and making a list of all the blunders I make.

Here's one:

Blunder #13: Don't add adverbs and adjective to prettify your prose.

My first thought was: Oh, I never do that.

But then I read this:

The key is, adjectives should be used only when they highlight something the noun can't highlight.
For example: He slipped into the darkened alley.
Not all alleys are dark, so now you know this one will be.

But suppose this had read: He slipped into the narrow alley.
Alleys are usually narrow (if they aren't narrow, they're called streets or road), so the adjective isn't telling any more than is offered by the noun. This is "prettifying" the prose, and it isn't pretty at all.

And that got me to thinking that I am guilty of that blunder from time to time.

Because I'm all about the rhythm of writing, I am guilty of inserting an adjective for the sake of rhythm and maybe doing more "prettifying" than I should.

Oh, how my blunder list continues to grow....

But THEN, the very next thing that happened was that I was reading an article about Emma Thompson in More Magazine.

And guess what?

The second sentence in that article was this:

"I had my heart broken there," she says as she strides down the narrow alley beside the tavern.

Ha! What are the odds?

So, that got me to thinking.....maybe prettifying your writing isn't such a blunder, after all.

I mean, maybe those extra adjectives serve to enhance the image, contribute to the rhythm, or just simply sound nice.

Is that really a blunder?

[Note: I realize that there is not one thing useful about this supposed tip. Consider it merely food for thought.]

Saturday, February 14, 2009


The Cybil Awards were announced today.

Many congrats to all the winners.

I love this award!

My perfect day

My husband is out of town so I have the whole weekend home alone.

I've pulled the shades.

Hung out the Do Not Disturb sign.

And stopped the world.... write.

It is heaven.

Here is where I wrote.

I decadent, huh?

And if I were going before a firing squad this afternoon, this would be my request for my last meal: crabmeat, saltine crackers and cold beer.


Friday, February 13, 2009

Embarrassing moments

I had one of those moments today.

I was in the grocery store.

My coat has a zipper on the sleeve.

The zipper got stuck in the netting that was covering a crate of Clementine oranges.


So, I'm trying to act cool....

La, la, la....

Here I am with my arm stuck on an orange crate. La la la.... No big deal.... La la la....

So on the count of three, I rip my arm off, tearing the netting off of the crate.


So there I am with netting hanging off my sleeve....trying to look cool...

La la la....

Okay, on the count of three....I rip that netting off my sleeve, tuck it down in the Granny Smith apples and get the heck out of there.

I'm so cool.

Out of the mouths of babes

I don't think we can be reminded too many times about the importance of the first pages of our books.

At a school yesterday, I was reading some papers by 4th graders entitled: The Best Book I Read This Summer.

One of the students wrote:

I liked this book because it is one of those books that is good from the start.

And now y'all are going to be totally irritated with me when I tell you that I can't remember what book this was written about.


Thursday, February 12, 2009


Travis yanked a small green cantaloupe off a tangled vine beside the birdbath and tossed it toward the porch. It landed on the walkway with a thud.


A thud?

Note to self: change thud to splat


But then, on second thought, a green cantaloupe might go thud instead of splat....

Note to self: Just get on with the story, wouldya?

Note to self again: Too bad it's not summer. What a great diversion I would have running outside to toss cantaloupes on the walkway.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Children's Literature Network

For all you authors and illustrators out there, if you're not familiar with Children's Literature Network - head over that way immediately - and join!

They are major supporters of children's literature.

They are passionate about children's books.

They are wonderful folks.

Just do it.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Playing with words

So I was fiddling around with a small section of my WIP today and enjoying "listening" to the difference between two versions, based on verb tense.

Here's the version I wrote first (and which I like best - and which came out naturally):

And so it began. Owen and Travis and Stumpy and Viola maneuvering the submarine down to the pond. Owen and Stumpy pulling on the ropes. Travis and Viola scrambling to the rear of the submarine to pull out a pipe and carry it back around to the front. Inch by inch... ...foot by foot... ...yard by yard... ...they rolled the Water Wonder 4000 closer and closer to Graham Pond.

Now, I don't know what the heck you call those words, "maneuvering", "pulling", and "scrambling."

Present progressive pluperfect gerundian participlized verbs?



But then, for the heck of it, I decided to try the same thing but change the verb form to past tense.

So that I had:

And so it began. Owen and Travis and Stumpy and Viola maneuvered the submarine down to the pond. Owen and Stumpy pulled on the ropes. Travis and Viola scrambled to the rear of the submarine, etc.

But it doesn't sound as good to me.

It sort of loses the "drama" of the moment or something.

Or maybe it's just me.

But I find it so interesting how word choice affects mood.

Monday, February 9, 2009

In the name of science

For those of you who wanted to know....

...laundry detergent does freeze if you leave it in your car overnight in 18 degree weather.

And frozen laundry detergent does expand.

And expanded laundry detergent, well.... get the picture.

Don't say this blog isn't educational.

Pant, pant, pant

Ten pages today!

Ten pretty clean pages!

My brain has now officially shut down so I'm packing it in for the day.

I feel so triumphant.

But now I'll lose some steam due to a school visit tomorrow, Thursday and Friday.

Am missing my critique group on Wednesday (which I HATE doing) to grab some more hours (with yet another vet appointment with Phoebe in the middle of the day. I know, I know...sheesh.)

Small Graces

It's auction time again!

Now's your chance to own one of Grace Lin's lovely paintings and benefit the Foundation for Children's Books at the same time.

Such a deal!

Writing Fairies Continued

I thought of another example of how the Writing Fairy pays a surprise visit to your story and throws a monkey wrench into the flow - which turns out to be a good thing.

In Me and Rupert Goody, I was writing along and all of a sudden a sentence popped into the story about Rupert repairing a hotplate for Uncle Beau.

I hadn't planned that.

I hadn't thought about that.

I had absolutely no idea where that hotplate came from or, more important, why the heck it was there.


......the climax of the story turns out to come when Uncle Beau's store burns down.

Why did Uncle Beau's store burn down, you ask?


Dang, that Fairy is pretty smart.

(P.S. I fixed that link to Sara Lewis Holmes's blog entry that was referenced here, in case you missed it.)

Friday, February 6, 2009

Writing Fairies

I saved this blog entry by Sara Lewis Holmes because I thought it was so well written and I totally GET it.

I find it so strange and fascinating when something happens while we are writing that is totally unexpected.

And even more fun is when the unexpected thing is annoying - stops your story in its tracks - messes up your plans.

It's like this little cosmic Writing Fairy swooping down to throw dust on your story and at first you get all mad and say "Stop that, you're messing up my story"....

....but then you end up saying, "Gee, thanks, you made my story better!"


In The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis, the two main characters (Popeye and Elvis, duh) have been trying and trying and trying to convince Starletta to show them the place where dead dogs live. (I can't explain that, you just have to read the story. And trust me, no dogs are killed in this book.)

She FINALLY tells them that she will show them on Wednesday.

They can hardly wait.

Wednesday comes and they dash over to Starletta's. (Note: the "wings" referred to in the passage are these scruffy butterfly wings that Starletta wears.)

Popeye followed Elvis to the backyard and let out a sigh of relief when he saw Starletta hopping down the porch steps, wings aflapping.

Elvis didn’t waste a minute. “Today’s Wednesday,” he said. “Show us the dead dogs.”

Starletta looked him square in the eye and said, “No.”

Now - when I wrote that, I was totally, completely unprepared for Starletta to say no!!

I had PLANNED for her to show them.

But she just up and said that!

I was so shocked.

It stopped me dead in my tracks.

I'm sitting at my desk and thinking, "Well, NOW what do I do?"

My Writing Fairy had tossed that dust down there onto my paper and completely caught me off guard.

Isn't that strange and fun and fascinating?

AND - the best part is that, naturally, it made the story better because the reader wasn't expecting that to happen either - so I'm keeping 'em guessing.


Thursday, February 5, 2009

A book in one sentence

You know how "they" tell you that you should be able to describe your book in one sentence?

Well, I've always said pish posh to that. (Maybe because I can never do it. Heh...)

But then when you read those one-sentence Library of Congress descriptions for books, you realize that it can be done - at least by somebody.

Here's the one sentence description of The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis (Fall 2009):

In Fayette, South Carolina, the highlight of Popeye's summer is learning vocabulary words with his grandmother until a motor home gets stuck nearby and Elvis, the oldest boy living inside, joins Popeye in finding the source of strange boats floating down the creek.

Dang! That's pretty good!

And I thought it couldn't be done...

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Slow and steady wins the race

Chapter 21.

Making progress.... word at a time.

I guess this dang snow is good for something.

P.S. Okay, I confess....these are short chapters.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Let me clarify fingernails

You know that Scholastic Book Fair video of mine?

Well, I was watching it (again..... yeah, yeah, I know....) and I was noticing that part where some gal's hand comes up holding money....

I just want to clarify...for the record....THAT IS NOT MY HAND, PEOPLE!

Those nails!


I am 58 years old.

I have all my 58 years....had a manicure.

I will never have a manicure.

I could care less about fingernails.

I like to garden.

I never wear gardening gloves.

I LIKE the feel of dirt.

I often have dirt under my fingernails.

I just wanted to clarify that so I don't disappoint anyone if they ever meet me in person and expect that I have those nice fingernails.

Good grief

You know you love your dogs when you find yourself shoveling snow in the back yard.

Where's my Motrin?

An interesting observation

The other day I was doing a writing workshop with fifth graders.

We were on the final day and the students were reading a paragraph of their chapters out loud to the class.

I always like to stand behind them so I can see their papers while they read. (I know it probably annoys the heck out of them, but, hey, I'm the boss, right?)

A rather shy boy was reading a paragraph of a biography of his grandfather.

I could tell this boy struggled a bit with writing, but he had really listened during the workshop and had tried to use some of the techniques we had discussed.

When he was reading a sentence that was a description of his grandfather as a young boy, what he read out loud was that his grandfather had "blue eyes."

What he had written on the paper was that his grandfather had "ocean blue eyes."

I found it fascinating that he had omitted the word "ocean" when he read out loud.

Now, I'm no psychiatrist or anything, but I think that he was embarrassed to read what he might have considered to be "pretty" writing.

(Dare I go out on a limb and say "girly" writing?")

Hmmmm, I wonder.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

My bad memory earns money

Remember when I bought that tablecloth on eBay and then realized I already had that one?

Well, guess what?

I put it back on eBay and just sold it for $10 more than I paid for it!


My senility could be quite lucrative financially!