Sunday, June 29, 2008


I Remember the City

Not for fried eggs
and andouille sausage at Mother’s

not for the palmist at Jackson Square
who declared our life lines identical

not for our sore feet or the humidity
or the slow stride of the Mississippi.

I remember the city for The Famous Door
at the corner of Bourbon and Conti:

You were wearing a green dress
and you were dancing

with a boy you’d just met,
smiling the way a girl smiles

before she believes in hurricanes
or experiences rising water,

before she knows how completely
everything changes once levees are breached,

how a decade of friendship is not the first
thing lost, but the one

that swells after the waters recede –
the door that sticks,

the mold that makes a garden of the ceiling
and the boy not quite a memory.

- Irene Latham

Ever lost a friend to something that seemed to come out of nowhere? Sigh. It happens.

"Many people die with their music still in them. Why is this so? Too often it is because they are always getting ready to live. Before they know it, time runs out."

- Oliver Wendell Holmes

Saturday, June 28, 2008


Could I be more excited? It'll be a quick visit, but I've learned it doesn't take much sister time to totally rejuvenate me. And someday I WILL write a sisters novel. I promise. But right now I gotta go devil some eggs!

"Learn the wisdom of compromise, for it is better to bend a little than to break."

- Jane Wells

Thursday, June 26, 2008


Here's one of the guys at Gettysburg... they all thought the cannons were pretty cool. And I can vouch for that whole thing you've heard about boys and guns: you really can make a gun out of just about anything. I guess boys are just hard-wired for warfare.

"I am looking for a lot of men who have an infinite capacity to not know what
can't be done."

- Henry Ford

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Ever heard of the word "turmotion"?

You heard it here first: check out my friend Michelle's new blog... she's a poet in Tennessee who's braving the cyber-waters and "exploring her artistic side." Let's give her some love!

"There is only one journey: going inside yourself."

- Rainer Maria Rilke

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Saw this on my drive downtown this morning: "Reagan 2008."

Do I detect a bit of political disenchantment? :)

Politics is so not my thing... but if it is YOUR thing, I sure hope this political season has lived up to all its promise.

"These are but wild and whirling words."

- William Shakespeare

Monday, June 23, 2008


After watching another episode of the HBO John Adams miniseries, I've changed my mind about Ben Franklin. He's not interesting - he's a jerk! He does have some really great quotes though. But I'm through with him. My thoughts turn now to Mr. Jefferson. Now here's a man with depth. I think surviving great loss does that to a person...

"Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed."

- Benjamin Franklin

Sunday, June 22, 2008


Boy with Cello

Rescued from a pawn shop
where it stood for years
with its neck broken, body nicked
and stripped of strings

it arrives in a box
restrung, refurbished
and the boy cradles it in his arms
the way one holds a sleeping child,
fingers caressing ever so slightly,
breath the only sound.

Then the boy takes the bow,
pulls it across the strings,
and the cello begins to tell its story,
each deliberate stroke a query
the cello answers in its clear, resolute voice.

When does love begin? The first note,
or the second, in the lonely corner,
the unopened box, the Beethoven the boy
absorbed while still in the womb?

Perhaps in the merging of one’s half-
formed dream and the other’s awakening,
when one speaks without speaking
and the other begins to sing.

- Irene Latham

The movie we saw last night - Get Smart - featured Beethoven's Ode to Joy. It was a fun movie, and the big orchestra scene reminded me of this poem. I wrote it a few years ago when my son first start playing the cello.

Speaking of joy: I am off to poetry workshop in just a bit, and I've got three poems ready to workshop. This, after a sizeable drought brought on by my work on the novel. I'm so excited!

"Don't compromise yourself. You are all you've got."

- Janis Joplin

Friday, June 20, 2008


Now that it's out on DVD, we have been watching the HBO miniseries John Adams. What's great about it is there's a special feature that puts these little pop-ups on the screen that provide extra historical information. I'm loving it! And I gotta tell you, these are not the men I was introduced to in school. These guys have personality, wit, attitude. Talk about making history come alive.

So far, I am most interested in Ben Franklin. What a character he was!

"I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night."

- Sarah Williams

Thursday, June 19, 2008


Here's the view from the front drive of Eisenhower's Farm in Gettysburg.

I gotta tell you, me and Ike have the same vision of retirement. There is a barn nearby where they raised Angus cattle, but mostly it feels like being on an island with no other structures (besides the home!) in sight. I loved everything about it.

Plus, as part of the tour, they let kids (ages 7-12) train and then "apply" to be Junior Secret Service Agents. So now Eric is official. :)

"One look ahead is better than two looks behind."

- Irish proverb

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


My youngest son loves art. Yesterday in his drawing class he created yet another self-portrait. I asked him what new thing did he learn about drawing faces, and he launched into this whole explanation about how you place the ears. He amazes me.

And it got me thinking about Normal Rockwell's Triple Portrait that appeared on the cover of Saturday Evening Post in 1960. It's such a great piece because it says something about our human-ness, how we see what we want to see. And how sometimes what we see in ourselves is completely inaccurate. Maybe it's wishful thinking, or UN-wishful thinking.

So how does this relate to writing? One the great great things about writing is you can create characters that are as much like you or unlike as you desire. You can become what you see in the mirror without all the risk and potential heartache of ACTUALLY becoming that person. And if it doesn't turn out well in your manuscript, you can delete it. You can be absolutely anybody you want to be, including your actual self. I mean, how great is that?

"Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death."

-Anais Nin

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


Probably I am one of the last people on the planet to read this book by Stephanie Meyer, but better late than never, right?

Don't know why it took me so long to dive in. Wait, let me rephrase that: I am terribly sorry it took me so long to dive in, because I am loving this book! I guess it's the whole vampire hook that turned me off initially -- just not my thing.

But you know what IS my thing?

Love. Big bad ridiculous defcon 5 total all-out thermonuclear rim rocking mother of all LOVE. And turns out that's what this book is really about. And you know what else is great? The story goes on. I understand the fourth book in the series will be released very soon. VERY exciting.

"Gravitation cannot be held responsible for people falling in love. How on earth can you explain in terms of chemistry and physics so important a biological phenomenon as first love? Put your hand on a stove for a minute and it seems like an hour. Sit with that special girl for an hour and it seems like a minute. That's relativity."

- Albert Eistein

Sunday, June 15, 2008


Peeling an Orange

After years of no words
you came for the weekend,
prodigal father spotted now
by sun and age, hair a beach
of white sand, bare in places.

This is what's real, you said,
when it was time for you to leave.
Not meaning we should forget the past,
just, this is what's important now.

I reached for your hand
across the oak table with its
nicks and scratches, our shared
history and separate ones etched
in each knot and blemish.

This is what's real:
I pulled your car around so that you
might avoid the flight of stairs,
watched your knee nearly
give way on the one front step.
Carried your bag, tucked it in
the trunk, gave you a kiss.

You waved, then I watched
your car disappear below the hill,
street empty, birds silent.
Went inside and peeled an orange.
Let the pieces drop to that place
where our hands had been.
Savored the sweetness.

- Irene Latham

For you, Papa. Of course. Happy Father's Day!

"You can't cross a sea by merely staring into the water."

- Rabindranath Tagore (1913 Nobel laureate for literature)

Friday, June 13, 2008


I've just been thinking about my writing habits, and I realized something that might be important: most all of my prose pieces have their roots in a poem. Somehow it helps me to at first think small, to work to contain an idea in just a few lines.

Perhaps there's something about that sparseness that allows the idea to grow? Maybe it's like rests in music -- maybe for me writing is really all about the white space on the paper. Something to think about...

"I would sooner live in a cottage and wonder at everything than live in a castle and wonder at nothing."

- Joan Winmill Brown

Thursday, June 12, 2008


Here's another pic from our trip to Pennsylvania.

Clotheslines like this one were everywhere in Lancaster County, usually with the clothes arranged by color and organized by size. It spoke to me of life with children and work and love. Such an intimate thing, really -- washing clothes that protect tender skin.

"The best way to know God is to love many things."

- Vincent van Gogh

Monday, June 9, 2008


What a great time we had at the MAKING HISTORY COME ALIVE writing retreat! Carolyn Yoder was an endless source of information, and you could not ask for a more nurturing group of writers than this bunch. Big thanks to Sarah Campbell for all her hard work in pulling off such a great event.

And to the cooks at the Gray Center: Way to feed us a gen-u-ine Mississippi supper on Saturday night! There was fried catfish fillets, blackeyed peas, turnip greens, and cornbread. I mean, you made a southern girl proud! And it got me thinking how unique each corner of the world is... here in Alabama we'd have served hushpuppies and coleslaw with our catfish. Interesting, eh? And just the kind of details that should find their way into those "deep south" stories Carolyn wants for Highlights Magazine and Calkins Creek. I can't wait to see what all of you come up with!

"To imagine yourself inside another person... is what a storywriter does in every piece of work; it is his first step, and his last too, I suppose."

- Eudora Welty

Sunday, June 8, 2008


Rhett Remembers

When I think of her
I think of stairs:

The breathless staircase
at Twelve Oaks she climbed

in a huff, apple-green gown
the sweet to her sharp. Ashley

stood between us, the one
blockade I could not run.

Then later in our own home
when she fell and Bonnie fell

and I fell
into the universe’s black

mouth that kept one
but spit the rest of us out.

She had the same look
that last day

as she had the morning
she paraded into jail

draped in drapes. I’ve seen
Tara under her nails,

felt the callouses. I know
she’ll come after me

no matter what
I said at the foot of the stairs.

Why fight a war
that’s long since been lost?

- Irene Latham

Something about being in hot sultry Mississippi made me want to post this one about hot sultry Scarlett. :)

"I want you to faint. This is what you were meant for. None of the fools you've ever know have kissed you like this, have they? Your Charles, or your Frank, or your stupid Ashley!"

- Rhett Butler, GONE WITH THE WIND by Margaret Mitchell

Friday, June 6, 2008


I'm hitting the road today, heading for Jackson, Mississippi, where I will attend a writing retreat sponsored by Southern Breeze and facilitated by Carolyn Yoder, editor at Highlights for Children magazine (among other things). Me and thirty or so other writers are gonna write and learn and share the thing we are so passionate about.

But before all that I am stopping in Meridian for lunch with my writing pal Richelle. I'm excited!!

"Personal relationships are the fertile soil from which all advancement, all success, all achievement in real life grows."

- Ben Stein

Thursday, June 5, 2008


Here is the first pic in a series from our family road trip last week to Pennsylvania. We spent four nights in Lancaster County where we woke to the smell of sunshine and cow manure. We learned a lot about the Amish culture... turns out they choose not to use motorized transportation because they want to keep their loved ones close to home. There are certainly a family-oriented community, and I find that attractive and enviable. And imagine all the calories you'd burn getting around on one of these foot-powered scooters?

"We are each other's business: we are each other's magnitude and bond."

- Gwendolyn Brooks

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


Now that the latest draft of THE WITCHES OF GEE'S BEND is safely in the hands of my editor, I miraculously have time for other things I enjoy, like reading.

Currently my nightstand is full, but what's on top is WICKED by Gregory Maguire. I picked it up after reading Deb's post about the musical. And you know, it's really right up my alley what with the whole poems in women's voices project I've got going on. And once upon a time I was Glinda the good witch in the 8th Grade performance of The Wizard of Oz... so that's what I'm reading. Thanks, Deb, for the recommendation. I'm really enjoying it.

"Good is the enemy of great."

- Jim Collins

Sunday, June 1, 2008


Feeding the Geese

After three years they welcome
us with hiss and honk,
their necks curving like question marks,
and we wonder if they know

we are the ones
who have created their hunger
with our plastic sacks
and outstretched arms,

our voices gentle and admiring
as we exclaim over the journey
the geese make each year from Canada
to share a quarter-acre pond
with a fleet of Japanese koi
that forever swarm the surface,

their scaled bodies thick
and lethargic in the murky water
while the one an artist tattooed on your ankle
swims in ink the color of Florida,
its disposition sweeter
and no less persevering

please, I say
promise me

we’ll still visit this pond
even when the Gatsby-glow darkens
and your tattoo fades to grey,
our American dream not new
not even American
not painted on
but pressed in with needles
inside a smoky room,
neon light in the window flashing open

and the geese –
we’ll watch them waddle away
when the bag is empty,
koi left to swim
the same hopeful circle.

- Irene Latham

We have lots of goslings at the local lakes right now. Can't get too close to them though... those Mama Geese sure are fiesty!

"I used to be Snow White. But I drifted."

- Mae West