Sunday, March 31, 2013


So I've just been savoring Amy's first book of poems, thinking about how this spare, lovely verse is rich in exactly the same way that the woods are. I especially love thinking about how the forest and its creatures communicate with us -- if only we take the time to look and listen.

Amy writes of this in her poem "Forest News" :

I stop to read
the Forest News
in mud or fallen snow.
Articles are printed
by critters on the go.

Foxes pass.
Deer run through.
Turkeys scratch
for hidden food.
Young raccoons
drink sips of creek.
Mouse and hawk
play hide-and-seek.
Here a possum
climbs a tree trunk
with her child.
And in this place
while people sleep
a rabbit hops.
A housecat creeps.

Scribbled hints
in footprints
tell about the day.
I stop to read
the Forest News
before it's worn away.

- Amy Ludwig VanDerwater

It reminds me of a picture book I loved reading with my boys:

And this book, for adults:

If I had to pick a favorite forest of all the ones I've experienced so far, I'd pick Muir Woods. You can read a poem I wrote about it here (p. 38).

I also love the Alabama woods, but I have this not-so-little problem: I get poison ivy just by breathing it, apparently. NO FUN. But oh, it's gorgeous 'round these parts right now! Azaleas! Dogwoods! Flowering Cherry! And dare I say it: pine pollen. Allergies, anyone?? Sigh. Sometimes it's hard to be human in this world.

Happy almost National Poetry Month! The Progressive Poem will start at Amy's blog tomorrow! Meanwhile, HAPPY EASTER!!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


"One kiss and you painted a picture of heaven
It's there when I look in your eyes
Well, I swear I can see forever
Under a Michelango sky"

- chorus from "Michelangelo Sky" by Deana Carter

*photo taken in Destin, Florida, during last week's beach trip!

Monday, March 25, 2013


We did one of the coolest things ever on our recent trip to the beach: we took a family sandsculpting lesson!

Rick Mungeam of Beach Sand Sculptures came out to our beach with his wife, a bunch of buckets and an assortment of tools to get us building higher and more solid and more detailed.

We started by gathering a big circle of sand:

I should mention here that all sand is NOT created equal. For sandsculpting, it's best to use the smaller grained, more compact sand, which, Rick told us, is found back away from the shore. So keep that in mind. Also: Rick said the beaches near Sarasota, Florida, have really excellent sand for sculpting.

Next up: water! Yes, sand castle building takes lots of water. Here's some of my favorite fellas hauling it in:

So we watered down our pile to make a nice base for our castle. The base is also what gives a sculpture its height. So, yes, it's very important! And then comes the tower construction. When Rick showed us his "form" buckets, we couldn't believe it! The bottoms were hollowed out! This prevents that suction that happens with regular buckets when you try to pull them off the sand. And be sure you put the larger side of the bucket down first. Otherwise you won't be able to pull the form off. :)

Here's our first and second forms, just before Rick pulled them off:

And just what did we put in those forms? Well, there's a trick to it. You shovel in 3-4 inches of sand, then pour in a bunch of water. Use your hands to stir the mixture -- this gets a lot of the air out. Then tap tap tap all around the outside of the bucket to help the mixture settle. It gets so solid, you'll be thinking "concrete!" You keep filling that bucket in stages until you get to the top. To remove the form, you've got to do a lot of tapping to loosen it. Then you start twisting the rim of the bucket until it's loose all the way around. And then....


And then the fun begins! Break out the tools:

You'll want to spray after any carving to "set" it. The melon baller is fantastic for creating windows and doors. The hacksaw blade is great for all sorts of things. Use the straw to blow away sand more precisely than you could do with your fingers.The brush makes things pretty... and see below for what to do with that shovel:

Rick showed us how to make stone:

and brick:

And then we all made our own towers while Rick showed us how to build arches:

Here's our masterpiece:

It was one of the most fun things we have ever done on the beach. And you can do it, too! Contact Rick, and he will meet you at any of the 30-A Destin/Fort Walton area resorts.

Oh. One more tip for you builders: when people come by and ask you, "What are you building?" don't tell them. Just say, "A pile of sand." That way they'll come back later to see your progress. :)

Bonus tip: don't be afraid to carve deep. You really want to create "shadow lines." Just go slowwwwww... and spray down after you carve!

Bonus tip #2: See that sand ball on top? Mix sand and water in a bucket. Scoop some out, and toss it from hand to hand. Do not pack. It's sand, not snow. Toss it from hand to hand, like dough. Roll in fresh sand, again, like you would roll dough in flour. Toss some more. Roll some more. Then carve a divot and position your sand ball!

Thank you, Rick, for a great lesson!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


At school visits kids always ask, "Who is your favorite author?" Or, "What is your favorite book?"

And my mind goes muddy and trash-filled as a bay when the tide is out. It's the introvert in me, I guess, who wants to mull over that answer before giving it... and after I've mulled -- usually on the drive home from whatever school I've visited-- I remember Gary Paulsen and how much I love his books. Well, his older books. I'm not really a fan of LAWN BOY and those other new ones. And that's okay, because plenty of kids are.

What I love about Paulsen's books like HATCHET and all the Brian books and anything he's ever written that includes a dog, is the wisdom I find there. I enjoy a big, wise voice, something that connects me to the world and the experience of life.

Which is why I want to share with you today an excerpt from his book THE ISLAND:

The anthill almost jumped off the paper into his brain. He could see it the way it happened, see the ants taking the stew, smell the rich formic-acid metal taste on his tongue that came when they bit him, feel the sun on his back again as he had while he squatted and watched them.

To paint, he thought. Just to paint like this and see these things and make them come alive on the paper! It was strange, so strange, but all there was in a way. To paint and write in the notebook and see and feel and learn and know – to know.

He put the brush in the stew can of water, swished it around to clean it and put it away. Then he took out the notebook and the pencil and wrote:
To paint.
                To write.
                                To know.
                                                To be.


By the way: Gary Paulsen is totally on my Ideal Dinner Party guest list. Would love to meet him and not even talk, really, just BE.

Friday, March 15, 2013


I overheard a conversation the other day that went something like this:

"You know why people blog? I'll tell you why people blog."


"It's an ego trip. They post stuff so other people will tell them how smart and clever and beautiful and wonderful and talented they are."

"Oh, so it's just like Facebook."


And that got me thinking. IS blogging an ego trip? And if it is, so what?

The one thing we all want, is to be loved. We want to be seen, we want to tell our stories, we want to connect with the world. Blogging is one way to do that. So is Facebook.

The whole thing reminds me of a poem.

With that Moon Language 
by Hafiz

Admit Something:
Everyone you see, you say to them, “Love me.”

Of course you do not do this out loud; otherwise,
someone would call the cops.

Still, though, think about this, this great pull in us
to connect.

Why not become the one who lives with a full moon
in each eye that is always saying,

with that sweet moon language,
what every other eye in this world is dying to hear?

(translated by Daniel Ladinsky)

Why not, indeed.

It's pretty simple, really. If you want more love, love more.

Blog on!

Happy Poetry Friday, and don't forget to visit Jone at Check it Out for Roundup. Oh, and there's just a couple of spots left if you'd like to join us for this year's Progressive Poem! Sign up here.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


If ever you find your way to L.A. (Lower Alabama), you gotta go to Page & Palette Book Store in Fairhope, Alabama. It's exactly the experience we book lovers crave: friendly, knowledgeable staff; great selection; a beehive of activity; passionate book lovers everywhere! I even saw one of my favorite Nashville (that's right -- Nashville! Which is oh, about 8 hours away...) writers Kory Wells there with her uber-talented daughter Kelsey promoting their new CD "A Decent Pan of Cornbread." Give it a listen!

And look at my gal Ludelphia right there on the Staff Picks shelf, along with several on my soon-TBR list!

And now for a little behind the scenes action. See this shelf marked "ARCS"?
Well. It's tucked away behind a curtain. We only got to see it because Keifer Wilson who runs the store with his wife Karin invited us to come take a look. He said he saves those for Serious Readers. Which, of course, we are! And yes, we each came home with a stack. So excited to read!!!

Here's Keifer in action. He knows all the sections of the store and has recommendations for everyone.

And just what is Keifer recommending these days?
THE DINNER by Herman Koch

Here it is close up. And here is the NY Times review.

Monday, March 11, 2013


Our writing retreat in Fairhope, Alabama, evolved after I scheduled a library event at Daphne Public Library (which is just up the road).

Here I am with fabulous librarian and event organizer Louise Youngblood:

And here is Anne Morris, aka "The Library Police" who brought out the gloves for us to use while looking at one of the Gee's Bend books. (Isn't she adorable?!)

Here's a quilt for book-lovers that hangs on the library wall:

And last but certainly not least: here are some young readers and writers! Thanks so much for coming. xo

Sunday, March 10, 2013


I'm just back from a lovely trip to Fairhope, Alabama, where I did all sorts of wonderful things with wonderful people about which and whom I will blog later.

First I want to share two pics from Sunrise Cottage, our home for the weekend:



So inspiring and peaceful and everything a writing retreat should be!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


In honor of my one little word, I give you these "sky" lyrics from one of Youngest Son's current favorite songs: 

The sky is falling down
This night is calling you
A star is burning out
The sky belongs to you

full lyrics here

Friday, March 1, 2013


Last year's progressive poem was so much fun, I think we should do it again!

Here's how it works:

Poetry Friday Friends and other poetry lovers are invited to join in a community writing experience during National Poetry Month (April).

What is it? a poem that travels daily from blog to blog, with each host adding a line, beginning  April 1. Anyone who wants to join in the fun can sign up in comments below.

 Also, it would be great if you could include in your post (or sidebar) the schedule for readers to more easily follow along/look back/ look forward. And feel free to snag the above graphic.

And that’s it! We’ll all contribute our line… and we'll see where our poem takes us by April 30!

And since I am hosting Poetry Friday on April 19, I'm choosing that day for myself. And the lovely Amy Ludwig Vanderwater has graciously agreed to jumpstart us on Day one (April 1). The rest is up to all of you!

Choose your date and sign up in comments. ** Be sure to include your blog url and email address in your comment!** I will update here as we go!

1  Amy Ludwig VanDerwater
2  Joy Acey
3  Matt Forrest Esenwine
4  Jone MacCulloch
5  Doraine Bennett
6  Gayle Krause
7  Janet Fagal
8  Julie Larios
9  Carrie Finison
10  Linda Baie
11  Margaret Simon
12  Linda Kulp
13  Catherine Johnson
14  Heidi Mordhorst
15  Mary Lee Hahn
16  Liz Steinglass
17  Renee LaTulippe
18  Penny Klostermann
19  Irene Latham
20  Buffy Silverman
21  Tabatha Yeatts
22  Laura Shovan
23  Joanna Marple
24  Katya Czaja
25  Diane Mayr
26  Robyn Hood Black
27  Ruth Hersey
28  Laura Purdie Salas
29  Denise Mortensen
30  April Halprin Wayland

Thanks, and be sure to visit the fabulous Julie at The Drift Record for Roundup!