Monday, December 26, 2011

Friday, December 23, 2011

Tis the season...

to be jolly.
to fill your heart with love.
to hope for all things.
to continue on the journey.
to dream big.
to be a blessing to someone else.

and quite possibly, to be part of a good story. May your shelves, both literal and literary, overflow with joy and wonder.

Friday, December 16, 2011

In which your spirits will be lifted by song

This video from the small Yupiq Eskimo Village of Quinhagak, Alaska was a school computer project intended for the other Yupiq villages in the area. Much to the villagers' shock, over a half million people have viewed it. Pairs well with egg nog and a good friend.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Monday Morning Inspiration: Our Deepest Fear

This scene from the movie Coach Carter features a powerful poem by Marianne Williamson. I love the sentiments within these few short words. They urge us to more forward, live big and embrace our deepest fear. My wish is that every child would "let their own light shine" as this poem encourages. My wish is the every artist who wants to create something for the world would memorize these few words.

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Gift of Books

Do give books - religious or otherwise - for Christmas. They're never fattening, seldom sinful, and permanently personal. - Lenore Hershey

Don't you love this quote? I do. I'm giving lots of books as gifts this Christmas season. I'm most excited to give my little girl a copy of THE SECRET GARDEN by Frances Hodgson Burnet.

If you do gift with books, you might also enjoy this article - Giving Books For the Holidays - which includes several ideas about specially packaging and personalizing your book gifts.

Are you gifting some of your favorite reads of the year? If so, what are they? 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Are we a good judge of our own creations?

Love the insights of this short video by Derek Sivers, which speaks to how we creative types view our own creations as lesser things. I know I fall in love with the ideas of others and sometimes sit in awe of how they came up with certain ideas.

I wonder if you, too, will have an "Aha" moment.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

"I awoke this morning with devout thanksgiving for my friends, the old and new."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thanksgiving treats delivered by a good friend. (Turns out they
were Red Velvet Cake in the center.)

Preparing the Spiced Zinfandel and Cranberry Sauce. So yummy!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Mom Files: Turkey Talk

Rejected Cook Book Titles

Are you busy getting your Thanksgiving feast in order?

Well, in the spirit of Thanksgiving cooking, here are the top 10 Rejected Cookbook titles (from

10. Getting Even: Hillary's High-Fat Cookbook

9. Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches for Dummies

8. Bob Vila's Sawdust Cuisine

7. Granny Clampett's "Yer Throwin' Away the Best Parts!" Entrees

6. Mud, Sticks, and Leaves: Cooking with a Four Year Old

5. Cooking with Condiments - An Apartment Dweller's Guide to Making Something Out of Nothing

4. 101 Ways to Wok Your Dog

3. Everything's Yogurt... Eventually!

2. Lions and Tigers and Beets, Oh My! ... and the Number 1 Rejected Cookbook Title:

1. Newman's Stone: Cooking for Older Gall Bladders

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sunday Salon: New Books

Happy Sunday to you!

My editor sent me a lovely box of books this week! Nothing like getting a surprise like this in the mail. So many great reads to share with my girls.

Speaking of my editor - I'm very close to completing the edits on the new book. Woo! Just this time last year, I had a personal deadline to finish the book before the end of the year. And now, I have a PROFESSIONAL deadline to finish the book for a bonafide publisher. What a difference a year makes! Never give up on your goals. Listen to those whispers in your ear that tell you to move onward. There is a reason!

What are you doing this Sunday? What are you reading? I'm just finishing LOOKING FOR ALASKA by John Greene and WHERE THE MOUNTAIN MEETS THE MOON by Grace Lin, which I've been reading to my daughters. Both are splendid reads.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Saturday Snapshot: Four Santas

Four carved wooden Santas I found at an antique store last week.

Don't miss this week's top posts! You'll want to read this recap of my amazing experience at Stephen King's talk in Texas, check out this fabulous, must-read mini e-book How a Book is Born., and, check out this lovely photo of an Italian bike.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Worth Reading: How a book is born

Have you read the hot new debut THE ART OF FIELDING by Chad Harbach? Even if you haven't, there's a wonderful story in this month's Vanity Fair detailing the long journey Harbach made from writing to publication in only ten years!

Yesterday, I discovered an expanded version of this article is available as an e-book on Amazon for only $1.99. Here's the link.

From Amazon: The highly anticipated novel The Art of Fielding, by Chad Harbach, has just been published. But what is the riveting story behind the story—and what does it take to make a bestseller these days? As author and n+1 co-founder Keith Gessen reveals in this 17,000-word e-book (expanded from the article appearing in the October issue of Vanity Fair), the passage from MFA classroom to national book tour is its own treacherous, absorbing—and wildly unpredictable—adventure. Harbach, Gessen’s friend and colleague, was a struggling writer who toiled relentlessly for ten years on The Art of Fielding, before it eventually hauled in a $650,000 advance.


This article is a fascinating study of all the different elements that go into the birth of a book - from inception to cover design and all the steps in between. It's a must read for writers. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Italian for bicycle

One of my best friends recently traveled to Italy and she 
shared many of her pics with me. This was one of my faves.
Random bike in Florence, Italy. October 2011

The Italian word for bicycle also means "to breathe life into."

bicycle {noun} (also: to vivificate, to vivify, to breathe life into, to animate)bicicletta.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: 11/22/63 by Stephen King

"I have never been what you'd call a crying man. My wife said that my 'nonexistent emotional gradient' was the main reason she was leaving me (as if the guy she met in her AA meetings was beside the point)." - page one, line 1 of 11/22/63 by Stephen King

Mmm...that's one good opening!

Read more about this book and the Stephen King event I attended in Dallas last week here.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Stephen King on writing, his fears and his new book 11/22/63

Last Friday, I had the privilege of hearing Stephen King speak to a 1,000 member audience in a Dallas suburb. 

I was delighted to find him optimistic, charming and entertaining throughout his entire 45-minute event. Like so many established writers, King is not only a talented writer, but also a natural oral story-teller.

Fears and First Recognition

Dressed in a relaxed t-shirt and jeans, King began his talk by stating he most often gets asked what scares him. Good question. He replied that his fears include "spiders, snakes, the elevator in his hotel room and death." Then he followed this subject by scaring us with the fact that "1 in 75 people will leave their homes unlocked allowing a psychopath to get in." He said that probably 50 people in the audience had left their cars unlocked and how we might want to check our backseat before we got into our cars. This drew a laugh from the audience, though I'm sure some folks laughed with unease. He went on to talk about his life as a writer, recalling the first time he was ever recognized in public. He was in Pittsburgh promoting a little book called The Shining. There, the men's room attendant recognized him and asked him for an autograph, all while Mr. King was, well, on the john. 

A few years later, he said, he was at a dinner with Bruce Springsteen when he noticed a young girl approaching their table. King prepared to demure to the singing idol, but was elated when he discovered it was HIM she wanted an autograph from!

Researching The New Book

After a few minutes, Mr. King read from his new book 11/22/63, which features the infamous Kennedy assassination and poses the question what if you could change the past? In the novel, his protagonist uses time-travel to do just that. But before setting out to write the book, he did research. He said that writing "is a visual process for me. I need to know what's on the left and on the right" when writing about a place. He came to Dallas and spent a good bit of time in the School Book Depository, even getting special permission to sit in the perch where Lee Harvey Oswald fired the fateful shots. 
Here's a short interview where King talks about this new book. 

Writing And Rituals

In the end, Mr. King concluded his talk by revealing that while most people might say, oh, he's a professional, he's a hot-shot writer, they would be wise to remember that even he approaches a new work and "has a feeling of inadequacy" at first. But he said when he gets going and "warmed up" it's as if he's under some kind of hypnosis and the work begins to flow. He shared his writing rituals, which include making hot tea and setting out his toothpicks before diving back into a story and employing that powerful admonition that a writer's job is to "get the words on the page." 

Memorable Quotes And Notes

"The worst day I had in that [writing] chair was still terrific." 

"I've never texted in my whole damn life!" 

"I feel like Rick Perry at the Republican debates." [following a forgetful moment on stage.]

He was 17 when JFK was assassinated and heard the news on the radio while driving home from High School.

He's finished the sequel to The Shining.

The new Dark Tower book will be out in June 2013.


Bravo, Mr. King! I'm looking forward to reading this new book. 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

An evening with Stephen King

Had a great time hearing Stephen King talk last night about his new book and the writing life. More on the event soon! For now, one of my favorite quotes from his talk last night was: "If you're an aspiring writer, don't worry about the business side of publishing. Just get your words on paper. After, you can think about that." 

Unfortunately, I didn't get a good pic of Mr. King, but I DID manage to get a signed copy of his book. There were only 250 signed copies available!

11-11-11 was indeed a lucky date for us.
Nice of these peeps to walk by just as I was snapping the pic!
Lucky me!

At 849 pages, these make a hefty read in every sense of the word.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: Nightwoods

"When Stubblefield asked about vanity - Luce's cheerleader beauty-contest days-she was surprisingly forthcoming. Right now she was about as pretty as she cared to be, considering that being pretty drew little but trouble." p. 139, Nightwoods by Charles Frazier

From the jacket: Before the children, Luce was content with the reimbursements of the rich Appalachian landscape, choosing to live apart from the small community around her. But the coming of the children changes everything, cracking open her solitary life in difficult, hopeful, dangerous ways.

I'm a long-time Frazier fan and was completely absorbed by this book. It is as detailed and rich as you hope it will be. Read an excerpt and the NYT review here

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

- Grab your current read
- Open to a random page
- Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
- Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

TSS: Frightening Book Cover Edition

Is there anything scarier than a three-handed femme fatale? (Can you find the three hands in this book cover photo?)

I don't know. I attended a Halloween party last night and the costumes were incredibly inventive. They included Betty Draper. A gold-digger. Two pirates. A wizard. A Wall Street protester. night stand.

Hope you've had a terrific week. I finally finished Charles Frazier's NIGHTWOODS and simply loved it, especially as the tension and drama ramps up at the conclusion.

I also finished a terrific middle-grade book titled CALL ME HOPE by Gretchen Olson. It features a young girl's introduction to The Diary of Anne Frank and the impression the lessons of that story impart on her as she struggles with a challenging home life.

And in writing news, I'm feverishly working on the edits to my own book for my editor. It is pure joy to write THAT sentence!

What new books have captured your attention this week?


Posts from this week: The Writer's Clock

Friday, October 28, 2011

This Writer's Life: The Writer's Clock

This has been a busy two-weeks. I received my edits from my wonderful editor last Monday. All that work and revision has taken a significant lease on my writer brain. (It's not unlike this picture of the Writer's Clock.) The consequences of this lease include:

 - Zero Halloween decorations around the house and yard.
- I'm overdue for a haircut
- Daily dinners are becoming more of "freezer surprise"
- I've developed a fondness for Starbucks Via coffee
- I've been reading the SAME book for two weeks. (Not a reflection of the book's worthiness!)

As I told one friend, the pattern of my days is best described as EAT, PRAY, WRITE!

But the fruits of my labor are starting to take shape within the novel. That's one of the great things about working with an editor who has great insights and fresh eyes. And, one of my best writer friends advised me to read through the larger edits and let my subconscious start work on them for a week while I attended to the smaller line edits. That advice has proved golden. Huzzah to supportive writer friends!! And to family who is enduring my lack of Halloween-ness and frozen dinners.

Speaking of family, my six-year-old came up with a new word the other day. Attackal - to attack and tackle at once. So, now I'm going to go attackal my edits.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Worth Reading: On Writing and Avoiding Doubt

"Save doubt for later... I have to divide my brain into two parts - one that makes art and one that judges art. They cannot coexist. When I have doubt about what I’m doing, I shut the doubt down. I tell myself that this is not the time to judge."
Read more from author Ann Patchett in this wonderful article.

Also, you might want to check out Patchett's memoir The Getaway Car: A Practical Memoir About Writing and Life.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: True Grit

My great uncle, Warren Chase, at the helm of his company's moving truck,
circa 1930s.

A dream doesn't become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.
Colin Powell

Monday, October 17, 2011

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Sunday Salon

Thanks a lot National Book Awards. As if I didn't ALREADY have a bunch of books in my TBR pile. So many great titles in the fiction and young people's fiction category. Read the complete list here.

2011 National Book Award Fiction Finalists
Andrew Krivak, The Sojourn
(Bellevue Literary Press)
Téa ObrehtThe Tiger's Wife
(Random House)
Julie OtsukaThe Buddha in the Attic
(Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House)
Edith PearlmanBinocular Vision
(Lookout Books, an imprint of the Department of Creative Writing at the University of North Carolina Wilmington)
Jesmyn WardSalvage the Bones
(Bloomsbury USA)

2011 National Book Award Young People's Literature Finalists
Franny BillingsleyChime
(Dial Books, an imprint of Penguin Group USA, Inc. )
Debby Dahl EdwardsonMy Name Is Not Easy
(Marshall Cavendish)
Thanhha LaiInside Out and Back Again
(Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers)
Albert MarrinFlesh and Blood So Cheap: The Triangle Fire and Its Legacy
(Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books)
Lauren MyracleShine
(Amulet Books, an imprint of ABRAMS)
Gary D. SchmidtOkay for Now

Aside from gathering ideas for new reads this week, I also acquired a ticket to hear Stephen King speak in Dallas next month!! He's going to talk about his upcoming release 11/22/63.

I am so excited about this that I just can't stand it. Isn't this the literary equivalent of going to see The Beatles?

Lastly, did you see this literary movie news?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A picture has how many words?

My Dad as a child with his grandfather, 1937.
There is so much to love about this picture. The grandfather. The child. The dog. The manner of dress. The shadows across the lawn. The kind of day this must have been.

When I think about writing a single scene, I try and remember how much rich detail is found in a single photograph. Then, the words come rapidly. All the senses are ignited. The word pictures form.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Go Along For The Ride

This must have been a fun day.

My great uncle carting around two cousins - Truro, MA.

In the process of writing, it can feel as if you are being dragged through a field in a wooden box. You don't know exactly where you are going. It's bumpy. But if you're willing to go along for the ride, it can be great fun.

Friday, October 7, 2011

New Reads

This is how I feel about new books arriving in my mailbox today.

Much anticipated new reads I can't wait to hug include:

The Cat's Table by Michael Ondaatje
Nightwoods by Charles Frazier
The Taste of Salt by Martha Southgate

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Blessing of the fleet

My dad and grandfather at the blessing of the fleet. Massachusetts, circa 1950s.

Never a ship sails out of the bay
But carries my heart as a stowaway.
~Roselle Mercier Montgomery, The Stowaway

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Where I'm from

Future writer in Sears polyester pantsuit

I am from being the second daughter of a second daughter.

I am from a yellow brick house with a red front door; from a yard that grew cantaloupe and tap water that tasted like dirt at summer’s end.

I am from hand-me-downs and hand-sewn stuffed animals and kitchen haircuts and mortal embarrassment and wistful nostalgia.

I am from rock and roll while house-cleaning and silence while writing.

I am from the computer keyboard is my piano and though sometimes it sings, sometimes needs tuning, I commit to make daily music anyway.

I am from Kerouac and Hemingway and Carver and Faulkner and the college writing professor who caught me in the hallway after making an example out of my bad writing and said, “I’m not telling you to stop writing. I knew you could take it. Keep going.”

I am from ten years later bringing my first published novel and a grin that wouldn’t quit to that professor.

I am from making my house smell like autumn using the trick my mother taught me: pressing cloves into oranges until your fingers almost bleed.

I am from believing my dog is fur covered affirmation.

I am from a closet that belongs to a woman with a different life, where tailored business suits have given way to jeans and a faded Mickey Mouse t-shirt.

I am from pick up your socks, put away your backpack, stop annoying your sister, is it time for Chardonnay yet?

I am from contradictions and gentle critics and second chances.

I am from using my passport, but loving my own bed.

I am from the School of Mistakes is the best teacher and hanging that degree on my wall.

I am from by the grace of God, there go I.

I am from discipline and creativity and collecting every word inside a drugstore notebook.

I am from visiting Hotel Rejection and leaving the next day in a fast car with the sunroof open.

I am from having the windows open as much as possible and getting easily distracted by that squirrel on the fence.

I am from encouraging high drama and conflict on the page, but peace in real life.

I am from sitting in the elementary school car-line and watching hope in a backpack and pink socks sprint from the school door.

I am from searching twenty minutes for my favorite pen.

I am from being the mother of one girl who wants to believe in Santa Claus, but requests proof - and another who doodles on her notebook: Wonder + Believe = Magic and how does she know this already?

I am from faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is love.


The inspiration for this post came from this poem:

Where are you from?

Thursday, September 29, 2011


"Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after another." Walter Elliott

See that vehicle in the distance? That's my hubby competing in a 400 mile event this past Saturday through the dust and scrub of Notrees, TX. (No trees, indeed.) They got to the 50 mile mark when part of a disc on the brakes broke.

But, they're preparing to try again!

I'm always struck by how different hubby and I are in our interests, but then I remember that both of our passions are about shoring up to try again.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Saturday Snapshot

I had a great visit with my Dad yesterday. We looked through a box of old family photos, most of which he'd taken as a young man. If you've followed my blog for a while, you know how I love old family photos for the stories they tell. So happy to have a whole new, undiscovered batch to share.

My great uncle and his moving company truck, circa 1940s.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

New Season, New Beginnings

This week I start drafting a new work. I've had the idea rolling about my brain for some time. I bought five new spiral notebooks and have been making little notes and scenes for a couple of months. (Who can resist notebooks for .20 cents each?) I've been writing journal entries in the voice of the main character so I can get to know her better. And now, as fall is upon us, I get to dive into the story. I purposefully timed the start of this writing journey to coincide with fall. Fall has always energized me as no other season does. It's the start of school for many. It's the season for new lunchboxes, sweaters and school buses. It's the time of year when I want to try new recipes, buy autumn scented candles and pull out my favorite cashmere sweater. It's the season in which I went on a blind date with a man who would become my hubby. For me, fall has always been a good season to begin new adventures.

Now listen to Monty Python's funny take on starting a new novel. While my own drafting of a new work won't have this much commotion or audience, it's just as thrilling.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Sunday Salon: College Book Discoveries

For so many, our college days are a seminal time of discovery and new direction. When you make discoveries in college, they make lasting impressions. And books! Books you discover in college stay with you, shape you, change you, challenge you and influence you. They are, as one writer friend wrote, “our literary epiphanies.”

Well, recently good friend and inn-keeper to the literati, Darla Upton McCorkle asked some of her author friends to share their own list of college discoveries.  I enjoyed reading the list of books that stayed in these author’s minds throughout the years. It's interesting to see how the classics still influence some of today's best-selling authors. 

For me, it was Jack Kerouac’s ON THE ROAD, all things Hemingway and Raymond Carver’s short stories that left a lasting imprint. 

Marybeth Mayhew Whalen - Southern authors like Lee Smith, Kaye Gibbons, Clyde Edgerton, Tim McLaurin.

Karen Essex -  Playwrights: Harold Pinter, Edward Bond, Tom Stoppard, Luigi Piradello. And Virginia Woolf. Can't grow up without reading her!

 Kathryn Casey - It was the seventies, the epicenter of the women's movement, so I was really into women authors, Doris Lessing, Margaret Atwood, Joyce Carol Oates, Sylvia Plath. Of course, THE WOMEN'S ROOM, by Marilyn French was a rallying point for many. I should reread some of those books!

Mark Benford - I recommend Robert J. Sawyer, particularly, "Calculating God" and his Neanderthal Parallax ("Hominids", "Humans" and "Hybrids"). I also enjoyed "FlashForward" which was the first book of his I discovered. This was in the last couple years, though, not college discoveries, but I think they're good for that age, too.

Kathy Louise Patrick - I had an English teacher that insisted I do a paper on Jane Austin of which I was not even excited about, been done to death. So she suggested from her list of authors Larry McMurtry! Big fan and read everything I could get my hands on. Also, Kurt Vonnegut, Jack London, Charles Dickens and Oscar Wilde. 

Jamie Ford - Harlan Ellison. More of a rediscovery.

Jenny Gardiner - Jim Morrison biography No One Here Gets Out Alive. Required reading for a class I had.

Amy Bourret -  Add Peter Taylor and Walker Percy to that Southern list. And if you really want "discovery," the kama sutra and an atlas.
 Ad Hudler -  Easy answer: The Brothers Karamazov

Judy Christie - Eudora Welty's "A Curtain of Green," which includes my all-time favorite short story, "Why I Live at the P.O." Kate Chopin's "The Awakening." "Crime and Punishment" by Dostoyevsky. This will be a fun conversation to have on your patio when the weather cools off!

Lisa Wingate  - Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee -- not sure if I read it for a class or just because, but it sticks out in my memory, and Gone With the Wind, To Kill a Mockingbird, an anthology of Will Rogers, and The Screwtape Letters


What authors and books were YOUR college discoveries?