Thursday, August 28, 2008


This one is for my son who loves zoo animals, particularly the big cats. (Photo taken at the zoo portion of Hershey Park in Hershey, PA.)

What must it be like for one of these big predators to watch the world from behind a fence? Imagine being trapped inside a body with all those raging hunting/survival instincts that must constantly be denied... Sounds like a mid-life crisis waiting to happen. :)

"Fate loves the fearless."

- James Russell Lowell

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


I say this all the time in my poetry workshops: good is the enemy of great. Meaning, revise, dig deep, revise again, dig deeper. And I do believe it's true.

Please note by "great," I don't mean "perfect." Is there even such a thing as a perfect poem? I think we writers get way too caught up in trying to be perfect.

Think about it: how many novels/poems/whatever have you started, only to tinker and tinker with the first chapter/first line/first page/? How many of those same starts did you actually finish??

See what I mean? This whole perfectionistic business really is a waste of time. And readers, I've noticed, are generally very forgiving. I myself have hung in there with a book 500 pages or more before actually being hooked -- and been so glad I did! Readers want a story SO BAD, we'll plow through pretty much anything. And if a character has caught our fancy, we will keep on plowing just to see what happens. So I'm thinking now is the time to let go of perfect and remember there is a such thing as GOOD ENOUGH. And guess what's after that?


"The more you know the less you need to say."

- Jim Rohn

Monday, August 25, 2008


According to my editor, my revisions will be back in my hands this week. Which means my reading vacation will be over, at least for a while.

I mentioned before the book The God of Animals by Aryn Kyle. I really enjoyed this book -- it's told from a 6th grade girl's point of view, and details life on a working horse farm. Once upon a time I WAS that 6th grade horse-loving girl, so no wonder it spoke to me.

Also this weekend, upon the recommendation of a friend, I picked up Lance Armstrong's It's Not About the Bike. I cried and cried, and I learned a lot too. I'm putting it in the mail today to my father.

Another book I read this weekend was The Secret Life of Dust by Hannah Holmes. Talk about the interconnectedness of things... we have dust inside our bodies from dead stars. Amazing.

Today I am reading Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt, which I have never read before. So far, so good.

"If there's a book you really want to read but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it."

~Toni Morrison

Saturday, August 23, 2008


For the men out there who might be wondering: women want to be loved. It's that simple.

Now check out today's quote. It's the same thing, really...

"I love a beautiful lady, I love a beautiful piece of furniture, I love beauty... I know what women want... they want to be beautiful."

- Valentino Garavani

Thursday, August 21, 2008


Here's another MJ original taken at Port St. Joe, Florida. It is a very rare thing to see my brother without his camera, and I suppose that's one of the reasons he gets so many great shots. What good is being in the right place at the right time if one doesn't have a way to record it?

It's the same with writing. You gotta be ready to get those fleeting ideas and thoughts onto paper before they slip away again into the wild expanse of mind. Because I'm one of those writers who finds driving time = writing time, I keep a little digital recorder with me to capture those words. That way I don't have to actually stop.

"Chance favors the mind that is prepared."

- Louis Pasteur

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


"Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world."

- Percy Bysshe Shelley

Monday, August 18, 2008


So I've been meaning to post something about my experience reading Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer.

I was so so excited about this book. I just couldn't wait to find out how the whole Bella-Edward-Jacob love triangle was resolved. So for about three days I just sunk myself into the novel.

And I enjoyed it. There were certainly moments of brilliance -- the whole transformation scene jumps to mind.

And then there were parts that seemed way out of place, like the section written from Jacob's perspective. The ending was nice and neat without nearly the emotional bloodshed I was craving, and I suppose ultimately that is why I am left with sort of a flat feeling about the book.

It was a good diversion. But it didn't feed me the way New Moon did (my favorite of the saga). Hats off to Stephenie Meyer, though. The whole series is quite an accomplishment, and I cannot imagine the pressure she felt when writing the conclusion. Folks are so very attached to these characters, and so full of their own ideas about how things shoulda/woulda/coulda turned out...there's just no way to make all readers happy.

Now I am ankle deep in The God of Animals by Aryn Kyle.

"The difference between false memories and true ones is the same as for jewels: it is always the false ones that look the most real, the most brilliant."

- Salvador Dali

Sunday, August 17, 2008


- for my brother, Forrest MicaJon Dykes

You didn’t tell me
we would have to climb
in before we could climb up.
I watched you scramble down,
a lizard on mossy rock,
and I forgot my inexperience,
how slick it was,
how late. Waterfalls

trickled down temporary paths,
our shoes squished through mud
and dying leaves on the way to the climbing site.
I joked, this must be why your wife left you.
You laughed easily,
time having worn down the sharp edges,
your hands busy finding holds
and fingering rope,
booming voice urging
hold on, reach, let go.

I’m not sure now
what made me fall.
But there I was, sprawled
across a flat rock,
mosquitoes moving in slow motion,
my arm suddenly taking a different shape.

Dislocated you said, and I held
it out for you, said fix itand turned away as you did
in one quick motion,
no hesitation, dislocation

a feeling you know
one never gets all the way used to,
the pop of bones settling back into place
reassuring but effortless
compared to the uncertain trail ahead,
the climb out of the canyon, the way
bad things happen
but the only thing to do
is keep going.

- Irene Latham

It's no mystery why I selected this poem to share today as I've been feeling a bit dislocated myself lately. I think anytime one is faced with life/death situations, it is a time for re-evaluation. And that, of course, leads to dislocation.

It helps to know that dislocation doesn't usually last... we do eventually find our way again. Just a couple of years after I wrote this poem I watched my brother fall in love, get remarried and become a father to two more gorgeous children.

I know my bones will eventually pop back into place. And once they have, I'll forget again what it's like to be here. Which is why it's important to write our way through the difficult times in life. So there's a record, and we can always remember the journey.

"One of the luckiest things that can happen to you in life is, I think, to have a happy childhood."

- Agatha Christie

Thursday, August 14, 2008


Isn't this a great pic? Those chairs look like best friends whispering to one another, waiting for the cute boys to come on over and ask them to dance.

Is it possible for a photograph to contain hope and loneliness at the very same time?

Indeed it is possible. Thanks, MJ, as ever.

"Dreams are necessary to life."

- Anais Nin

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


To all my fellow lefties out there, Happy International Left Handers' Day!

Despite what you righties might be thinking, it really is a very cool thing to be left handed. I've always felt kinda extraordinary to sit at the special desk and write with the "wrong" hand.

Sure spiral notebooks are agony, and the ink always smears as my hand follows behind the pen, but that's okay. I get the benefit of using my right brain more often. And I am in such good company!

Oddly, despite what I learned about genetics, none of my children are left-handed. And even though none of my siblings are left-handed, and neither are our parents, each of them has a left-handed child! So, here's to US, lefties of the world!

"Love all, trust few, and do wrong to no one."

- William Shakespeare

Sunday, August 10, 2008



The year it rained every day in November
she opened her front door wigless and browless
to anyone – neighbors, carpet cleaners,
little boys from down the street.

Her scalp didn’t shine the way you might expect,
instead begged touch like a baby rabbit,
fine whispers of hair falling across her temples
and just behind her ears.

She said I’m sorry about not wearing the wig
but I could tell she wasn’t sorry,
and why should she be? This woman,
this survivor, whom I’d welcomed
into the neighborhood with a note
and a box of brownies left on her front steps

and lived next to in perfect oblivious harmony –
watching her car come and go,
waving from the mailbox -
not knowing this was the third time
she’d fought this battle, in rooms
I might see into if the blinds were open

not knowing my good fortune
until that moment
when she opened the door
eyes blazing
you healthy bitch with all that hair.

- Irene Latham

I traveled to Tennessee this weekend to spend some time with my brother and his family, and while there, my lovely sister-in-law mentioned this poem. She is a home health nurse, and she said she has gotten this reaction before. It's completely understandable, of course... haven't we all felt that way before, when life deals us a hand that feels particularly unfair?

“Life is never fair, and perhaps it is a good thing for most of us that it is not.”

- Oscar Wilde

Thursday, August 7, 2008


To Carrie whose baby boy will be born today: give it about fourteen years and this is what you have to look forward to. CONGRATULATIONS!!

"What is genius?- It is the power to be a boy again at will.”

- James M. Barrie

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


So when times are tough, what do you do to comfort yourself? As we've been riding the awful ups and downs of my father's cancer diagnosis, I have found myself doing one of three things:


It doesn't take a psychologist to figure out I am doing my best to feel my power or have some control during a time when ultimately I am powerless and have no control whatsoever. Whatever works, right?

Mostly I've been catching up on my son's required reading from last year. Yesterday it was The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper and The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleischman (whose son and Newbery Award winner Paul Fleischman is coming to Birmingham in October!).

And just today I got my hands on a copy of Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer. I was sorry to miss all the big bookstore events celebrating the release last weekend, but this girl needs her sleep. I'll let you know what I think! Meanwhile I am avoiding any info. I want to experience what Bella experiences.

Thanks again to everyone who has sent me messages about my father. It really helps.

"Selling the piece is only and exclamation point, a spot of punctuation."

- Jane Yolen

Sunday, August 3, 2008


- after Van Gogh’s The Starry Night

That it should be
the cypress
and not the steeple
that reaches the heavens

that night should
roil electric
over the sleeping town

stars pulsing
in staccato rhythm,
across the sky
as if the breath of gods

and this is where
we find ourselves:

in blue shadows
tracing constellations
on milky skin.

- Irene Latham

In honor of the solar eclipse on the other half of the world, I give you my Nocturne. The sky is wonderfully amazing, but consider skin...

"Men go abroad to wonder at the heights of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motions of the stars; and they pass by themselves without wondering."

- Saint Augustine

Friday, August 1, 2008


Have you heard what Phoenix found? Here's why scientists are celebrating.

Hey, there's gotta be a poem in there somewhere...

"Nothing in life is to be feared; it is only to be understood."

- as found in a recent fortune cookie (Lucky Numbers 3, 5, 11, 21, 31, 40)