Thursday, July 31, 2014

Art & Love & Buttercups for Poetry Friday!

John Singer Sargent painting,
"Carnation, Lily, Lilly, Rose"
Hello, and happy Poetry Friday! How can it be August? Be sure to buzz on over to Margaret Who Lights Up Louisiana and Beyond at Reflections on the Techie for Roundup.

Here, I am celebrating with what I received from one Robyn Hood Black as part of Tabatha's Summer Poem Swap.

Now, in order to full appreciate the beauty of this poem and understand what a gift it is to me, you have to know about Camp Buttercup.

Camp Buttercup is a little something I do with three Very Important Little Girls in my life -- it grew out of my need for girl-time in the midst of raising three sons! I am very fortunate to have some lovely nieces and a little sister to share time with. And Robyn, dear friend that she is, knows how much this means to me. So she took that theme, along with Tabatha's photo prompt (pictured above left), and wove in all these wonderful lines from other poems (no easy feat! I've linked to the complete poems so you can enjoy even more buttercup-themed poetry!!) to create this thing of beauty:

Have You Seen my Buttercup?
by Robyn Hood Black

Robyn's gift for me, ready to be framed!
Don't you love it? I am fascinated by how Robyn creates these found pieces. It's like a puzzle. Or basket weaving. Braiding? I don't know exactly! But amazing, yes?
For those who don't have time for the links, here's a list of the poets whose lines are included in Robyn's poem.

Pink… Wallace Stevens
Art … Emily Dickinson
While … William Blake
my … Robert Burns
I rose … Robert Louis Stevenson
somewhere … Mary Howitt
Orchard, …Emily Dickinson
every … Shakespeare
goes … May Sarton

Robyn also sent along some of her goodies, so I sort of feel like the Most Artsy Girl on the Planet! If you haven't shopped Robyn's store, go. Now. Great gifts for yourself or your artsy/literary friends!
gorgeous bookmark!
"Dearest Book... I shall return..."
An "I" typewriter key ring. LOVE. :)

And this post would not be complete without a picture of the Buttercup Girls, so here it is:
BrenLeigh, Georgia (Aussie puppy!), Anna & MadiLynn
Camp Buttercup, 2014
Thank you, Robyn. Wishing everyone a wonderful first day of August... bring on the Dog Days!!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

#bookaday Week Ten

 A Boy and a Bear in A Boat by Dave Shelton. The boy is not named. Neither is the bear. Yet they have an adventure and become friends, despite boredom and storms and the last sandwich. I'm not sure what the point was exactly... I like that it was different, but it wasn't quite for me.

 Landline by Rainbow Rowell. Another great read from Rowell! Love how she writes real characters... high schoolers in Eleanor & Park, college students in Fangirl and now the married-with-children crowd in Landline -- career-driven funny-writer Georgie and stay-at-home dad Neal. When their marriage is failing, the magic landline phone allows them to communicate as their younger selves and remember all the reasons they gave their marriage a go, despite their many differences. Really sweet read.

 Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock. The book opens with a gun. Unfortunately our narrator plans to use it -- and not just on himself. It's kind of a disturbing book, but also relevant with the awful shooter stories in recent years AND with the CDC reports suicide as the #3 killer of youth ages 10 -24. Breaks my heart that this is true. The book feels like a realistic peek inside a depressed teen's head.
Neither a fun nor easy read for me, but raw and honest, and I can appreciate that.

The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm. This middle-grade novel is a celebration of science with a crazy premise: main character's grandfather has discovered the fountain of youth and lives with the family not as himself, but as visiting cousin Melvin. I loved all the sciency-stuff, including famous scientists (like Marie Curie) and using a microscope to investigate mold on a hunk of cheese. Nice, as we've come to expect from 3 time Newbery Honor winner Jennifer Holm. It leaves one with a positive feeling about change (and don't we all experience change, at every age?), and I think teachers are going to love sharing it with kids.

Monday, July 28, 2014

A Day in Gee's Bend

sampler quilt that appears in the Gee's Bend side
ferry terminal
We had such a lovely time visiting with quilt lovers and quilters and each other on our trip last Friday to Gee's Bend. After an informative presentation about the Black Belt Treasures' Kristin Law (who told us Wilcox is one of 19 counties designated as cultural Black Belt counties -- the former economic designation only included 12 countines), we hopped the ferry for Gee's Bend!

It was hubby's first time on the ferry:
Eric, Paul, me

I have never seen the ferry so FULL, although the quilters told me a long time ago that she'd once seen 17 cars on the ferry. Our load was 15 (I think!).

Even though it was blazing, we all got out to enjoy the Alabama River and get to know each other better.
Mary Allison Haynie, Claudia Pettway Charley, Deb Stern, and others!

We had lunch catered by Keitsha's (thanks, ladies -- delicious!), and I spoke about my work bringing Gee's Bend to 21st century families.... and then Mary Lee Bendolph spoke to us! She is no longer quilting, but is still a marvel and a joy.
Mary Lee and me

me and Sylvia

me and Claudia
What an amazing day! Big thanks to Alabama Folklife Association for making it possible. I'm excited about the next 4 quilting symposiums!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Remembering Walter Dean Myers for Poetry Friday

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! I can't believe it's the last Roundup of July... holy firecrackers, this month is disappearing. Be sure to visit Sylvia and Janet (and read their exciting PFA news!!) for Roundup.

What's up in my world? Well. Wonderful, wonderful things! Friday I am traveling to Gee's Bend, where I am giving the keynote for the 2nd of 6 quilting symposiums across the state organized by Alabama Folklife Association. I am beyond excited and thrilled and honored. After all I've written and all I've talked about my love for Gee's Bend, I've never given a talk IN Gee's Bend before! And the quilters will be there!! VERY excited.

I'm also excited to share with you some of my favorite poems by Walter Dean Myers. For a list of all his poetry books, be sure to see Sylvia's list at Poetry for Children. What a great resource. Thanks, Sylvia!

And now, the poems:

by Walter Dean Myers

Shout my name to the angels
Sing my song to the skies
Anoint my ears with wisdom
Let beauty fill my eyes

For I am dark and precious
And have such gifts to give
Sweet joy, sweet love,
Sweet laughter
Sweet wondrous life to live

(from BROWN ANGELS: An Album of Pictures and Verse by Walter Dean Myers)

My Child
by Walter Dean Myers

There is no  math between us
no sharp angles to measure the world
No history to define
Who we are
or might become

There is no language, no
Words to stir
the moment

Only a curve
in your smile
that somehow matches mine
a familiar glint of morning light
in your eyes

All this vagueness and the
exact art of sending love
across a small space

(from ANGEL TO ANGEL: A Mother's Gift of Love by Walter Dean Myers)

Ernest Scott, 26
by Walter Dean Myers

I stood on the tree of life
Mouth gaped wide
Sucking in the music of the crosstown breeze
When I had filled my lungs near bursting (Cullen, Hughes, Hurston)
I began my song, a black melody
Gathered from the several seas
Warmed by the mistral winds
Rhythmed by the slapping Congo tide

I stood tall on the tree of life
Rapt with wonder
Listening to the resonance of the project walls
I claimed ownership of the joyful noise (Baldwin, Wright, Du Bois)
I was the chorus, the doo-wop from dim halls
My words fogged the neon night
My rhymes tamed the thunder

(from HERE IN HARLEM: poems in many voices by Walter Dean Myers)

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

#bookaday Week Nine

Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes by Jonathan Auxier. It's an engaging, fast-past read, but for whatever reason I just didn't connect with it?? I've read reviews comparing it to The Phantom Tollbooth, and that seems partly right and may explain my lack of connection, as I didn't connect to that one either! But I know some young readers who will eat this book up. Putting it in the "good, but not for me" stack.
I Kill the Mockingbird by Paul Acampora. This one really moves along, and since I am here in the Mockingbird State (ummm, NOT actually our state bird*, but because Harper Lee lives here and the book and movie are set here, yes, our state bird), I pretty much had to read it.... kinda like the kids in the story have to read To Kill a Mockingbird. :) Smart, funny writing and a real-feeling family. Kind of like a love letter to books and book-lovers... fun!
The Stepsister's Tale by Tracy Barrett. A retelling of the Cinderella story from the perspective of (ugly? evil?) stepsister Jane. It's a thorough book, kind of dark, completely enjoyable. I wasn't sure at first who to root for, we've been so conditioned to root for Cinderella, and part of the joy of reading this book is realizing how deeply these tropes are embedded. How wonderful to get a fresh perspective! And as I have a personal interest in blended families, I could really see all the sides of all the characters as Tracy portrayed them. Read it!

The Stories We Tell by Patti Callahan Henry. When I'm craving women's fiction, Patti Callahan Henry is my go-to gal! Plus she lives here in Birmingham, so reading her books is like supporting the home team, except better. :) Her last book AND THEN I FOUND YOU knocked my socks off in the best way possible, so I was eager to read this one. It's about mothers and daughters and families falling apart -- and also about strength and new beginnings and growing out of that need to hide-our-true-selves-for-appearances-sake. Real characters, and I look forward to my book club's discussion about how things turned out for Eve.

I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You by Courtney Maum. I listened to this one on Hoopla. It's about a guy trying to figure his life out -- and yes, there's a mistress and a wife and a daughter and parents and politics and adventures in art to distract and/or aid him on his journey. I think maybe I had too high expectations of the book -- never could really dig into it emotionally. There were some touching moments, but mostly it stayed surface-level for me. C'est la vie! (did love the French/Paris parts of the book!)

Monday, July 21, 2014

Movie Monday: BEGIN AGAIN

Kiera Knightley and Mark Ruffalo star in BEGIN AGAIN as two people in the midst of new beginnings. Together they create a homegrown album -- she as singer/songwriter and he as producer -- and along the way they learn about love and music and creativity and connection and how to honor oneself.

Sweet movie. Young singer/songwriter son said it was about his life. All the New York City scenes made hubby and I want to hop on a plane and wander the city. Wonderful!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

One of the Best Parts About Being an Author

.... is working with young writers!

 Last month I spent a lovely two hours with a summer reading group at Trussville Public Library. Here they are, eager and engaged:

I was touched when, at the end of the session, a student presented me with her responses to the following prompts:

1. Mama Always Says...
2. Describe your favorite meal.
3. What is the best (or worst) thing that could ever happen to you?

I always give students the option to respond as a fictional character, if they are not comfortable sharing these things about themselves.... because I remember being that fearful young writer! My stomach got knotty and my pulse was a runaway locomotive at the mere thought of someone reading my words... what would they think??

Scary stuff! For those struggling with similar issues, hang in there. Confidence takes time. It DOES get easier.

We had a great time, and the kids wrote some amazing pieces. I always leave so inspired and filled with joy. Love it! Thank you so much to librarian Laura Edge for giving me the opportunity.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Quilts & Pears & the Summer Poem Swap!

stained glass quilt by Bettye Kimbrell
Hello, and Happy Poetry Friday! I am adventuring today with my Camp Buttercup girls, but I did want to leave a few goodies for my Poetry Friday friends. :) Be sure to visit lovely Linda Kulp at Write Time for Roundup!

As many of you know, I love quilts. I've even created a few, though none so gorgeous as those picture here and made by Bettye Kimbrell, an Alabama quilt-artist whose work earned her a National Heritage Fellowship Award.  learned about Bettye at a recent quilt program presented by Alabama Folklife Association. Her work is so amazing, and she's self-taught! Here's one using a leaf pounding technique:

And here is a postcard piece of art created by Joy Acey, to whom I sent a poem as part of the Summer Poem Swap. (She sent me the postcard as a thank you.) Isn't it lovely?? I immediately started a "pear" poem. :) Thank YOU, Joy!!! You multi-talented poets inspire the heck out of me!

And here is another bit of loveliness I received that I haven't been able to stop thinking about, both picture and poem, from Diane Mayr:

photo by Russell Lee, courtesy of Library of Congress

On the Beach
by Diane Mayr

Not a body, I have no memory
of flesh -- but a thin, faded and
worn, cotton patchwork quilt

made me stop and gape.

I wanted to shake someone,
To yell, "What are you doing?"
How could you be so

careless as to bring family

history to the beach to
cradle your Coppertone
slicked sweating bodies?

Sand, salt, and the sun

will exact a toll on the
handiwork of your mother,
or grandmother, long-gone.

If only, I could finger

the yo-yos of the quilt that
once lay on her bed and say,
"Tell me, who made this?

And when. And where. And how?"

Isn't that great?? How many times have I wanted the answers to those same questions... alas. Thank you, Diane, for putting it in a poem. I will treasure it. And thanks again and again to Tabatha for running the Swap! SO inspiring and FUN!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Camp Buttercup: for Brave & Creative Girls

The next few days I get to enjoy the company of three special girls in my life:

Anna, MadiLynn, BrenLeigh

Here, at Camp Buttercup, we are all about ADVENTURE! And since these three live in rural areas, we're going with an urban theme, and the city of Birmingham will be our playground. We've got art and parks and sewing and writing and scavenger hunts and hiking and so much more!

VERY excited!!!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Japanese Woman, Reading

Every couple of months, I visit a favorite antique mall in Chelsea, Alabama, which is just a dozen miles or so from my house. 

Two visits in a row, I spied the above piece -- a Japanese woman with a book in her hands. It's printed on some kind of fabric, and each time I saw it, I just stood there for a while looking at it. 

I love it. I want to know this woman's story. And while I may not look like her on the outside, I AM THIS WOMAN. 

But. I have no wall space. Our walls are covered up in special art already. So I left the antique store without the piece, but also remembering something my mother-in-law told me years ago: incorporating Eastern decor in the home brings good luck. (Does it? I don't know. But I sure am drawn to it.)

Last week I visited the antique mall again -- and guess what was still there?? Yep. So this time I brought her home. Third time's a charm and all that. :) 

I love her! I'm still deciding the perfect spot for her, and what will have to be taken down to accommodate our new guest. Decisions, decisions...

moral to the story: when it comes to art, if it speaks to you, LISTEN!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

My Name is Irene, and This is My AHA Moment

A couple of weeks ago I buzzed down to Tuscaloosa to take part in the 2014 AHA Tour, as presented by Mutual of Omaha. I found the trailer parked in the lot behind The Capstone Sheraton.

It was a windy, humid day, which means my hair was a mess -- and I was recovering from a nasty respiratory infection after driving home the previous day from our family vacation. NOT the best conditions under which to do a video recording! BUT. I wanted to give it a shot.

And these were the lovely faces who greeted me: Brett, Sam, Gary (l-r)

They put me in the booth, calmed me down, and asked me to tell my Aha Moment. Thanks, guys!

Well. I soon discovered it's rather hard to choose just ONE moment. But I knew in my heart the one I wanted to talk about had to do with writing across cultures in my first novel LEAVING GEE'S BEND. That experience changed my life. And it might not have happened if not for writer Julius Lester. Want to know what I'm talking about?? Click here for my Aha Moment.

And here's my parting shot:

To record your own AHA moment, check the tour schedule here!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

#bookaday Week Six

 THE THICKETY by J.A. White. The first in a series about a girl who is not a princess, no she's not. She's a witch -- and she's busy learning to use her powers. This book brings to mind Lewis Carroll's "Jabberwocky." A fantastic magical world complete with all sorts of made-up creatures and words. Great fun for the middle-grade fantasy-loving crowd. And did I mention, dark? I'm interested to read what darkness ensues in the second book.

ABSOLUTELY ALMOST by Lisa Graff. This one is my favorite middle-grade so far this year. Albie is adorable. I was reminded of how I felt when I first read WONDER. So very warm! This book's message can't be beat: kindness matters --- and we don't have to be perfect. In fact, none of us are! A quiet book for the younger MG crowd, and I can see it as a great read-aloud. Lots to discuss!

SEARCHING FOR SKY by Jillian Cantor. Great premise: Sky and her brother River have lived the majority of their childhoods on a island. When they are rescued and brought to California, everything changes. You can imagine! I enjoyed Sky's journey and found her believable and interesting.

THE MEANING OF MAGGIE by Megan Jean Sovern.
The author uses her real-life experience as a daughter of a father with MS to craft a tale about Maggie, who is such an enthusiastic narrator that I had to stop from time to time just to breathe. She's a funny girl, and it's an enjoyable read... and there's footnotes! Can't remember when (if ever) I've seen that in fiction. Fun. AND...Megan is a Georgia author! Hope to meet her in the near future.