Tuesday, February 28, 2012

59 SECONDS by Richard Wiseman

So I've been reading this nifty little book by Richard Wiseman, and I knew I would like it from the subheading: THINK A LITTLE, CHANGE A LOT.

With topics like

how the real route to happiness involves a pencil

why rewards fail

how to give the flawless interview

convince anyone of anything by using your pet frog

how to get in touch with your inner Leonardo,

the book's contents is applicable to all aspects of life: parenthood, personal relationships, work, the creative life, etc.

I love it. And it's also got this journaling plan I immediately put into practice:

Monday: Thanksgiving (write down 3 things you are thankful for)
Tuesday: Terrific Times (remember a terrific time and describe in detail)
Wednesday: Future Fantastic (imagine you have become the person you want to be and write about it)
Thursday: Dear... (write a short letter to a person who has made a big impact on your life)
Friday:  Reviewing the Situation (note 3 things in the past week that have gone well for you)

Really good stuff. Try it!

Friday, February 24, 2012


So I've been thinking about bridges.

In particular, about this quote: “The hardest thing to learn in life is which bridge to cross and which to burn.” - David Russell

This is a variation, I think, on what I often claim is the primary challenge of parenthood: knowing when to push and when to let go.

I like thinking about these things, about how true they are, how they apply to my life. It seems I've done my share of crossing and burning lately. It's not easy.

Did you know there is a bridge engraved with poetry in Minneapolis, MN? Minneapolis, where I just visited a few months ago. How I wish I'd known about this at the time! I totally would have put it on the itinerary, even though reports are that it is very LOUD. (I'm not a big fan of LOUD.)

Anyhow, the poem is by John Ashbery. That first sentence is a brilliant jumping-off place for anyone's poem. In fact, I'm borrowing it for my morning work. We'll see what happens.

And now I cannot remember how I would
have had it. It is not a conduit (confluence?) but a place.
The place, of movement and an order.
The place of old order.
But the tail end of the movement is new.
Driving us to say what we are thinking.
It is so much like a beach after all, where you stand
and think of going no further.
And it is good when you get to no further.
It is like a reason that picks you up and
places you where you always wanted to be.
This far, it is fair to be crossing, to have crossed.
Then there is no promise in the other.
Here it is. Steel and air, a mottled presence,
small panacea
and lucky for us.
And then it got very cool.

—John Ashbery 

What are your thoughts on bridges, burning and/or crossing? Let me hear from you in comments. And don't forget to visit Jone at Check It Out for Poetry Friday Roundup!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


Quick update: Wee Writing Retreat in Utah was WONDERFUL. And yes, there was snow! And laughter! And I completed the first draft of my latest poetry project! Woohooooo! Here's some pics:

Something I loved: you know how in holiday cards sometimes the artist will cast the snowy world in blue? Well, at dusk, IT REALLY DOES LOOK LIKE THAT. So beautiful.

 And we have a winner for THE LIONS OF LITTLE ROCK by Kristin Levine! booksreachthestars Congratulations, and let me hear from you about that mailing address.

Finally, I wanted to share this: I had my blog converted to a printed volume (well, TWO volumes, actually...I've been doing this blogging for a long time!) at Blog2Print, and It. Is. Awesome. Funny thing: I'm reading back over my posts from 2005, and I'm like, ooh, I love that! I needed to hear that! That's it, exactly. It sort of verifies my claim that the person I am writing for ultimately is ME, at all my ages and incarnations. Anyone else out there feel that way?

Oh, and this morning I got a Hold Notice from my library for THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN. I'm excited!

And one more thing: if you noticed some changes on my blog, that's because Youngest Son has been experimenting. (He likes to switch up blog design the way some girls like to change clothes. I love it!)

Wishing everyone a happy day!

Thursday, February 16, 2012


1. Snow Don't get much white stuff here in central Alabama -- which is yet another reason I'm excited to be traveling this weekend to Park City, Utah, where I will be hanging out with all sorts of lovely author-friends for a wee wintry writing retreat. I've got the mittens and earmuffs in my bag!

2. Downton Abbey Hubby and I will watch this week's episode TONIGHT, thereby getting us all caught up for the season finale next week! This is happy AND sad news. Unless there's another such series we can find on Netflix and latch onto...

3. Birthday February is all about ME, 'round here, and even though my birthday doesn't come till late in the month, there have already been some sweet celebrations. Yesterday I got THE COOLEST handmade book bag in the mail from THE COOLEST friend who knows I adore handmade, thoughtful things. Thank you, Pat! (I would post a pic, but I don't want to inspire any thieves or stalkers. Mine. All mine!)

4. A MONSTER CALLS by Patrick Ness. Quite an emotional read. And so full of TRUTH, I very nearly wept. Such an honest book. I love how the author allows 13 year old Conor the emotion of anger. I think we forget sometimes (or rather, push aside, because it's scary/uncomfortable) how even younger children can feel powerful, overwhelming anger. How refreshing, this book. And a good reminder to those of us writing for kids: yes, kids get angry. Sometimes, very VERY angry. It's part of life.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


One of my favorite books so far this year is THE LIONS OF LITTLE ROCK by Kristin Levine. It's Kristin's second historical novel (THE BEST BAD LUCK I EVER HAD was the first, and it too features an unlikely friendship and is not to be missed), and it's a great read.

If you'd like a summary, check out this lovely review in The New York Times and another review at Everyday Reading.

The thing that struck me about the book is that it's really about activism. (And really, how many YA titles out there include activism?) It gives kids a great picture of the kind of work it takes to actually change things in the world. And Marlee is a character you really root for. She changes a lot over the course of this "lost year" after the Little Rock Nine made headlines.

And did I mention there's a number of scenes that take place at a zoo? Yep.

Well done, Kristin! This one is sure to be a strong awards contender. Check it out. And since I reallyreallyreally want you to read it, I'm giving away a copy. Leave a comment, and you're in!

Contest will close midnight CST next Tuesday, Feb. 21.

Monday, February 13, 2012


Last Friday I had the pleasure of lunching with a local book club that selected LEAVING GEE'S BEND as their title for discussion. They graciously invited me to join them for a lovely lunch at Oscar's, the restaurant inside Birmingham Museum of Art.

What a great group of women! I am moved again and again by the generosity and goodness of readers.

Take this, for example, a gift wrapped in simple Ludelphia-style:

...and inside was this:

If you've read my bio on the jacketflap, you'll know that my mama always said, "err on the side of love." And because that quote also spoke to Kimberly, now I have a unique and gorgeous piece of art to remind me of just how important and meaningful those words are.

Thank you, Kimberly! And thanks to all of you other ladies, too. It was lovely to meet you.

Sunday, February 12, 2012


Could it BE any colder??!

Good thing the racing spirit is STRONG.

Best of luck, runners, each and every one! I'm putting on my earmuffs and gloves as soon as I sign off here.


Friday, February 10, 2012


One of my dearest friends is dealing with a sudden loss, which is hard for so many reasons, and in part because there's nothing I can do for her or the rest of the family.

And whenever I feel like there's nothing I can do, I always turn to poetry. Always.

This poem in particular speaks to me in times of grief and powerlessness:

In Blackwater Woods
 by Mary Oliver

Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars
of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,
the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders
of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is
nameless now.
Every year
I have ever learned
in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side
is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.
What poems do you turn to in times of grief? For more poetry visit the amazing Laura at Writing the World for Kids!

Thursday, February 9, 2012


When I chose "fierce" as my one little word for 2012, I didn't know why. I had no grand plan in mind, no real vision for how the word would impact my life. I just liked the word. And that mystery, I think, is part of what drew me to it.

So now it's February, and I've been been reading like a Cookie Monster. Ever time I see the word "fierce" in print, wind chimes tinkle in my head. And when I encounter an especially fierce character, it's like a tornado siren.

Which is why I'm writing today: I met a girl name Puck in a book called THE SCORPIO RACES by Maggie Stiefvater. Maybe you've heard of it, as it recently earned a Printz Honor Award.

The whole book is fierce, not just Puck. But especially Puck.

Read it. It will make you FEEL.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


Yesterday I found out something kinda cool:

Because I am a member of my alumni association, oldest son is eligible for alumni scholarships (at UAB, where I got my bachelor's degree in social work).

And guess what school is oldest son's top choice?

Yep. UAB.

So if you've wondered "what's the point?" of joining your alumni association, think of it as an investment. And if not in your own child, in the future of some other deserving child.

Friday, February 3, 2012


1. February means flowers in Alabama!

2. I posted today at Smack Dab in the Middle on the theme of "Things We (Writers) Love."

3. Anyone seen THE GREY with Liam Neeson? Ever since reading THE WHITE DARKNESS, I've been on a cold kick. This movie looks promising.....

4. After exercising restraint throughout January, I'm going to the fabric store today! My sister gave me a smooth, well-loved sheet set she wants to use as backing for a quilt. Which means I get to choose coordinates for the front. (The sheet has a tropical fish print with all sorts of vibrant color, so I'm excited!)

5. It's Poetry Friday! Roundup is at The Iris Chronicles. My days lately have been especially poetry-filled as I continue my latest poetry project... and I had that poetry reading... and I've been working on another assignment for Storyworks... and thinking about National Poetry Month, which will be here in a jiffy. Good stuff!

Wishing everyone a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, February 2, 2012


After an inspired and inspiring time with poets of all ages and experience at University of South Alabama in Mobile, youngest son and I meandered back to Birmingham by way of backroads. Here's some of what we saw:

War Memorial

A woman hanging clothes on a line

A Caboose (Frisco City)

Public Art (Monroeville)

A Young Musician

So Many Churches!

Soul Food (Ms. Kitty's in Camden)

A horse staked out beside Hwy. 29

Abandoned building on Hwy. 5

Cemetery (Selma)