Saturday, September 29, 2007


Today I took the Marta train to mid-town Atlanta and walked a half block to the former home of Margaret Mitchell at Peachtree and 10th. The one hour tour taught me a lot about Mitchell that I didn't know. She loved life, had a great sense of humor, and was a relative of Doc Holiday. From childhood on, she wrote stories and was one of the first women journalists at the Atlanta Journal.

Encouraged by her husband, Mitchell started to write a novel. She was still rewriting it, when she met Harold Latham from McMillan Publishing Company at a literary luncheon in 1935. He was in Atlanta, scouting for new talent and asked her if she had a novel. For whatever reason,(possibly fear) Mitchell told him she didn't have a thing.

Later Latham packed his suitcase and began to check out of the hotel. Margaret Mitchell rushed in with seventy envelopes, holding a chapter a piece. She handed him the envelopes, saying, "Take the @&## thing before I change my mind."

Latham bought another suitcase and carried the manuscript back with him.

Gone With The Wind was published the next year. It went on to win the Pulitzer Prize and later was made into a motion picture movie.

An editor may not come up to you at a luncheon and ask if you are working on a novel. But know this--I've never met an editor that wasn't looking for a new voice. That voice could be yours. Are you ready?

Friday, September 28, 2007


Some good news for Benny and Brownie(and for Saaf and Holt, too):

Skinny Brown Dog has received an Oppenheim Gold Toy Award.

Thursday, September 27, 2007


I'm packing again. Tomorrow I leave for Atlanta to attend SIBA(Southern Independent Booksellers Association) and for a signing at Little Shop of Stories in Decatur, Georgia. But before I leave, I want to share two more detours I made on my way back from Oklahoma.

This water tower has always amused me. A lot of towns have water towers that kids climb and cover with graffiti. But I'll bet people in Groom, Texas tip-toe around this one and try not to sneeze. To my understanding there is no Britten, Texas. Someone told me the tower was located where a former truck stop once stood.

The other picture was taken from a Panhandle rest stop off I-40. Some people might not think of the Texas Panhandle as beautiful. But I beg to differ. The proof is in that picture.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


Yesterday I visited two elementary schools in Edmond, Oklahoma--Clegern and Charles Haskell. Later Sequoyah Middle School sponsored an after-school event where I presented to some nice folks. Several of the people have supported my work from the beginning. Julie and Linda from Best of Books are two of those people.

After the presentation, my friend Merri Lynn and I joined some family members for dinner where we caught up on the last few years. My nephew's wife asked me if I liked driving to my events. I told her that I usually fly, but that I loved driving.
Interstate driving relaxes me. My mind usually drifts to the story I'm currently working on. And sometimes I find the answers to something I've festered about.

When I left Edmond this morning later then I'd planned, I decided to stick to the interstate. I filled the gas tank, bought my cappuccino, and headed west. At Erik, Oklahoma, I tried to ignore the billboard that beckoned to me--The Roger Miller Museum.

But life is too short to always stay on the interstate. Sometimes you have to detour. So I took Exit 7 off I-40 in Erik and drove south until I reached the museum on the corner of the town square. Erik is a small, but charming town with old ranchers that eat lunch at Sisters Cafe. It's also the home of Roger Miller.

My parents played Roger Miller albums when I was a young girl in the sixties. That's why I know the words to King of the Road, Dang Me, and Chug-A-Lug. But Miller was not only a country singer that wrote lighthearted songs and beautiful ballads. He also wrote the music to the Broadway hit, Big River.

Miller left Erik, Oklahoma at 17 with a stolen guitar. He struggled, but eventually wrote and recorded hit songs. One of his smash hits,Dang Me, took him four minutes to write.

Another time, he scribbled the first words to a song on the back of an airline advertisement. Those words came quickly, but unlike Dang Me , King of the Road took him six weeks to finish.

While at the museum, I forgot about rushing home, and settled down to watch an hour long documentary about Miller. The producer of Big River said, "Roger was a procrastinator. He didn't write to order." He said that Miller was dangerously late getting one of the songs to him for the musical. He couldn't think of anything else to do, but to lock Miller in a room and demand that he write the song.

When the producer checked on him an hour later, Roger said, "Look if you want something instantaneously I can give you a Sheb Wooley song, but if you want a Rembrandt, that takes time."

The producer released him and he eventually got the song. It was worth the wait. Big River won seven Tony Awards, including best musical of 1985.

Before I left the museum, I looked at the first display case again. A form that Roger Miller filled out in high school hung there. It asked: What do you want to do when you graduate? He answered: Write songs and sing. Next to the form was the first song he wrote, written on a page from a yellow pad. He was fifteen years old. He was already living his dream.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


Today I received a question from a fifth grader that I wished I'd answered differently. Earlier, during my PowerPoint presentation, I spoke about writing from the heart. I also shared some of my rewriting techniques.

Afterwards, the young man asked, "How do you write a first draft?"

I told him to ask the question, "What if?" and explore the possibilites. It was an okay answer, but this is what I wish I'd said:

Young writer, relax and be brave. If you can't think of a perfect first sentence, don't worry. Give yourself permission to write a lousy first sentence. Keep moving your pen across the page. Make a movie in your mind. See it, smell it, hear it. Write it down. Fill the page with words. Keep writing. Keep writing. Don't worry if your draft doesn't sparkle. If it does, that's terrific, but it's not the goal of this draft. That comes later.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Sunday, September 23, 2007


I spent the day primping my manuscript:cleaning up typos(how did I call a leg a lake?), eliminating contradicting feelings(he's confused, but not that confused), figuring out chapter breaks(yes, I waited to the last minute!). Then I printed out three and a half copies:
1 for my editor
1 for my agent
1 for my parents
1/2 for Charlotte who I begged to not read another word of the current draft
until she received this draft of the second half.

Tomorrow--address the envelopes. Writing is a slow process!

For details of this Monday's Giveaway, read below.

Saturday, September 22, 2007


Today my posting will simply have to be this picture that shows how my hours are being spent as I do my last lap through the manuscript.(At least for this round.)Happy weekend!


MONDAY GIVEAWAY: A signed copy of Skinny Brown Dog to the first five people who email me with their name and mailing address. At the end of the month all entries will be eligible for a special prize. You can start emailing Monday September 24. Good luck!


Friday, September 21, 2007


The clock is ticking. I have two important goals ahead of me this weekend--Finish another draft of the story so I can mail it to my editor and agent on Monday, and finish preparing my presentations. I feel like a tortoise transforming into the hare, trying to make it to the finish line.

Today I received input from two of my friends about the story, and, goodness, their remarks make sense. That means as I read, I have their comments next to me or in my head. Some are details that had nagged at me before, but I wasn't ready to make the change. Other comments give me something new to consider. Whatever makes the book better. So thank you, Charlotte and Jeanette. Thank you, Kathi, too, who also is reading my manuscript.

Penni is my PowerPoint lady--creative and focused on getting my slides right. She's opened a whole new world to me. For years, I resisted changing my old-fashioned slides to PowerPoint. Two years ago, I changed over and threw away my slide carousels. Mainly because a librarian said, "You know, they don't even make these dinosaurs anymore."

That was a scary realization. Now I only wish I'd switched sooner. PowerPoint offers a lot of flexibility and I don't have to worry about the airport security dumping the slides when they inspect my carousel. Why am I so resistant to change when it comes to technology?

Yesterday I searched for the journal I kept in college. I wanted to add it to my presentations. To my surprise, I not only found that journal, but also journals I kept as an expectant mom, a mom, and for gardening. I wrote long letters to friends and family back then, too. So even though I wasn't writing for publication, I was writing. Yesterday's discovery felt so reassuring to realize that I didn't end up here accidentally. I've always belonged to a world of words.

UPCOMING EVENTS: If you live in the Oklahoma City or Atlanta areas, I hope you will consider attending one of my events next week.

Tuesday, September 25, I'll be at the Sequoyah Middle School, speaking and signing. My presentation begins at 4:00 and the signing ends at 5:30. Thank you Best of Books and Sequoyah Middle School for making the event possible. It's open to the public so I hope you'll attend.

Sequoyah Middle School
1125 E Danforth Rd
Edmond, OK

Saturday, September 29, I'll be signing books at Little Shop of Stories at 7 pm. If you live in the area, please stop by and say hello.

Little Shop of Stories
515 North McDonough
Decatur, Georgia

FREAKY MOMENT: Right after I posted this, I realized the date on the page displayed above of my college journal is exactly 29 years ago to the day!!!! How strange is that? Almost as strange as my old handwriting with circle dots on the i's.

Thursday, September 20, 2007


Please excuse me as I step up on my soapbox and do my part to pass on some important information.

In less than two weeks Congress will be voting on legislation that will:

1. Get much needed funding to school libraries.
2. Requires that every school in every school district of every state employs at least one state certified, highly qualified school library media specialist.
3. Provides monies for training and professional development for school library media specialists.

What does this mean?
1. It means more monies for schools to buy books and educational materials.
2. It means that young people will have access to more and better books because informed, knowledgeable librarians will be making book selections for their schools and will have more input and influence on trade and educational publishing for young people because they will have more purchasing power. (Many schools' libraries are run by parent volunteers and/or a teacher or other educational professional who may or may not have the skills and knowledge of a certified school librarian.)
3. It means that young people will have a knowledgeable librarian to teach them how to be informed consumers of information and critical thinkers.
4. It means that those wonderful people who are running school libraries who are not trained as professional librarians, will have access to professional develop monies to help them to get the professional training they need to help our kids.

1. FAX or email or call your congressional representatives in support of this legislation: the Strengthening Kids' Interest in Learning and Libraries (SKILLs) Act. You can find out who your Congressional and Senate representatives are at:

2. Copy and paste this email and send it to everyone you know, especially: friends, family members, neighbors, colleagues, editors, publishers, authors, illustrators, teachers, librarians, parents---everyone and everyone you know. Add your own short personal note and ask them to please contact their congressional representatives today by fax or email to support the SKILLs legislation. Encourage them to write a very few short words in support of this legislation. If you use a formula message it will not be taken as seriously as a more personalized fax or email. REMEMBER- YOUR VOICE AND YOUR VOTE DO COUNT---THESE POLITICIAN/LEGISLATORS KEEP ACTUAL TALLIES OF FAX , PHONE, AND EMAIL MESSAGES FROM CONSTITUENTS!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


Is there such a thing as presentation block? Today I put my manuscript aside to update my PowerPoint presentations. My travel schedule begins next week and I needed to prepare. My problem is not that I can't think of what to say, but that I have too much I want to say. I have two new books, Skinny Brown Dog and Piper Reed Navy Brat. That means I need to eliminate some slides to make room for those stories. And I have something else to add about the writing process.

By mid-afternoon my brain was fried. I sought an excuse for procrastination. When my mail carrier came to the door, I felt tempted to ask her in for milk and cookies. But she just wanted my signature for a package. Then she zipped away. She's like that. She never stays long.

My mood lifted though when I realized who the package was from. Donald Saaf, the illustrator of Skinny Brown Dog and I had recently decided to do a little bartering. And as you can see, I got the better end of the deal.

Several times today, when I passed by the painting, I caught myself smiling and winking at the characters. I selected that illustration because I love that Donald painted Miss Patterson winking at Brownie when Benny says, "That's not my dog," and she replies, "Yes, I can see that."

The first time I saw Donald's art for the story I was excited because I realized he viewed that moment like I did. Only he made it better.

Last night one of the students, in the creative writing class I spoke to, asked how I picked my illustrators. I told her that writers don't tend to select their illustrators. The editor plays the matchmaker.

Like most people, who ask that question, she seemed a bit taken back by my answer. However I maintained that I like the arrangement. My editor knows more illustrators than I do and has a vision of whose work best fits my story. I don't have to control everything. I have enough to worry about with words and sentences(and PowerPoint presentations.) Today I was reminded of the glorious results that can happen by letting go.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


Time is a writer's best friend. The passing of a few weeks or months provides a clearer perspective of our work and the courage to proceed where we may not have been able to tread before.

A year ago one of my friends suggested that I cut a couple of early scenes from my novel. "I'm afraid you're going to confuse the reader on what this story is about."

In my gut, I knew Jeanette was probably right, but I had a humorous line later in the chapter that depended on one of those scenes. I wasn't ready to do the necessary surgery.

Because I've been concentrating on the second part of the book the last six months, the first part had been hibernating since spring. Today I took it out and read. Jeanette's comment came back to me. Now there was no doubt. Those scenes had to go, and it didn't even hurt when I drew a long line from one corner of the page to the other. The decision felt good.

Tonight I was invited to speak to a creative writing class at Amarillo College. I told them about how I had to find a new second half of my first novel after it sold.

"It was difficult," I said, "but eventually I was able to do it." The gift of time made it possible.

The answers to the problems in the novel I'm working on now have not come to me quickly, but they eventually arrived. They arrived in their own time. I'm glad I waited.

Monday, September 17, 2007


Okay. I'm resurrecting Pajama Day. Somehow I forgot its attributes and went astray. Mondays used to be Pajama Day. The idea came to me years ago when I was working on a rewrite for MY LOUISIANA SKY. The day after Christmas I absentmindedly stayed in my pajamas all day, working. The rewrite was going so well, I didn't bother to change the next day either. Or the day after that. I stayed in my pajamas for four days straight.

You are probably getting a picture of me with dirty hair and no makeup. That's an accurate description. I admit it. I did not bathe during that time period, but I did brush my teeth. It's amazing how much work I accomplished. No one bothered me. All right. Maybe there was another reason they stayed away besides my WRITER AT WORK posture. It doesn't matter. I covered a lot of ground.

After that, Mondays became my official Pajama Day. I always work in my pajamas at home in the mornings, but having an entire day spent working in pajamas is a luxury. Wearing pajamas all day keeps my mind focused on the work at hand, it reminds me to keep a playful attitude, and it's just plain comfortable. How could I have forgotten that?

Today I remembered though. Fuzzy slippers, soft camies, cotton bottoms, I'm back!!!!

Sunday, September 16, 2007


Tomorrow's giveaway is a signed copy of PART OF ME. The first five people who email with their name and mailing address will receive a copy. And as a bonus, everyone who enters will go into a drawing at the end of the month for a special prize. You can start emailing anytime tomorrow.


Good luck!


Sunday is usually my day off, but my travel schedule begins the week after next. My goal is to send off my manuscript to my editor before I leave. So this afternoon I rewrote for three hours at a bookstore. I splurged on an Autumn Harvest Breve(I'm not perfect)and headed to my little corner in the art section, the corner with the leather chair that always seems to be waiting for me.

I don't know what I'll do if they ever take that chair away. It's a comfortable leather chair. Maybe it's too comfortable. When I was deep into my revision, I caught myself sitting with one leg slung over an arm. I don't think 47 year old women are supposed to sit that way. Also I really appreciate the little stool next to the chair where I can rest my coffee. Something about that spot helps refuel my rewriting engine. As soon as I sit there, I get with it.

It's like the chair in my bedroom, I accidentally called "my chair," one day when my husband was sitting there, reading.

I corrected myself, "I mean our chair."

He smiled and said, "I know it's your chair and I appreciate you letting me sit here sometimes."

For the last four hours, I've been working on my travel details for the upcoming trips. I try to get the best rates for the kind people who are hiring me. I use my AAA card and hunt down the best flight and car rates. That takes time. I'm not griping. I'm just giving you a peek into this "typical day."

PICTURE NOTE: Remember the nice picture I posted of my office a couple of weeks. This is what happens when I have a manuscript due and and I'm a week from traveling.

Saturday, September 15, 2007


The morning glories belong to my neighbor, Ms. Texas Smith. I just love saying her name. Texas Smith. With cool days around the corner we won't be seeing those purple beauties for awhile. So enjoy!

Before my signing started, the Panhandle Kennel Club implanted an AKC microchip into Bronte. Later Kaurie told me, "Fifty dogs showed up for it. Only two dogs yelped and your dog was one of them." I felt like I'd picked up my child from kindergarten class and the teacher said, "All the kids had fun today except yours." What can I say? We've spoiled her rotten.

Story time was fun. The first little girl that showed up was named Lillie and when I found out that she'd never been introduced to Kevin Henkes's Lily, well... I had to do something about that. So before I read SKINNY BROWN DOG, I read LILY'S BIG DAY. I only wish my daughter, Shannon, could have been here to read. She's spectacular at reading aloud, but I did my very best at imitating her.

Thank you, Carolanne, for helping me today. Thank you friends, readers and future readers for attending. And thank you, Kaurie, for all your hard work! It was a lovely day.

NOTE: To those of you that are just dropping in for the first time, I'm posting something on this page daily for the month of September as an attempt to answer the question: What is a typical day for you? To celebrate SEPTEMBER DAYS, I'm giving away a book to five people every Monday. So remember to email your name and mailing address on Mondays for a chance to win. I'll announce this Monday's prize tomorrow.

Friday, September 14, 2007


Life really does keep happening even when I am in the mists of rewriting. That's okay because I'm reminded that I'm a real person when I have to step away from the page.

The morning started with rewriting. Then my assistant, Shaunna, called to update me on my fall travel schedule. We had another week of school visits to add to the calendar. After we spoke, I returned to the novel. I'm trying to get it ready for some of my friends that have graciously agreed to read it next week.

This afternoon I met my friend, Charlotte, for lunch at a Mexican restaurant downtown. I feasted on ceviche with tostados and a conversation about books. Talking about books really is delicious. Charlotte is one of my most well-read friends. It's a delight to hear what she says about literature that matters to her.

Then off to the hair salon I went, manuscript in hand. That's one advantage of being a writer. It's a very portable career. I can fix a dozen awkward sentences while having a root touch-up and a styling. Today my hairdresser told me how he loved going to the book mobile as a boy. Martin said it was the most exciting thing to ride his bike over and check out two books. Hooray book mobiles!

After I left the salon, I still had time for my extra-dry cappuccino with skim milk before my 3:30 caffeine cutoff--twenty minutes. I gulped it down, but it was exactly what I needed to refuel me as I returned to my story. Just as I was about to wrap it up, my daughter called from college. Another conversation about words--Bliss!

Back to work, take-out dinner with my husband, a quick first spin around the block with my new Orange Crush(see pic), and then back to work, again. Jiggity-Jig!

Today was a good example of how writing and rewriting can be sandwiched in between life's happenings. A day of nothing but writing is rare in my life and perhaps yours, too. But we can make the most of those slices of opportunities. They really do add up.

Thursday, September 13, 2007


Yesterday I spent a few hours rewriting in a cozy spot in the bookstore's art section. Among the many titles were Learning to Draw Facial Expressions, Drawing the Human Form and How to Draw What You See. Those books made me remember the times I've been in a museum and observed an art class drawing a painting by a famous artist.

Almost every writer when asked for the best writing advice answers, "Read." And though I enthusiastically agree with that advice, and have certainly repeated it many times myself, I think we can go a step further. Writers can learn a lot from those art students. They aren't just looking and appreciating the work before them. They are trying to capture each line and brush stroke, to personally experience the genius of a master.

One way a writer can do this same thing is to warm up by typing a paragraph of a work they admire. Better yet, try two writers. Then press the delete button and write your own story. Some may argue that you are stealing another writer's voice, but I believe you will find your true voice if you learn from the best.

Take the work of a master. Experience each word. Pay attention to the way one word connects with the others to form a magnificent sentence, just like the art students who sit in front of a Van Gogh. They attempt to draw each line, eventually creating a field of sunflowers. I doubt that any of those students finished that assignment and thought, now I can draw or paint exactly like Vincent Van Gogh. But they got a close up view of his genius by attempting to draw one of his brilliant works. And their own work will be better for having done so.

When I met the National Book Award Winner, Han Nolan, I told her that she taught me how to write long rhythmic sentences. Years ago as an unpublished writer, I picked up her book, Send Me Down a Miracle. At the time, I was working on a rewrite for my first book, My Louisiana Sky. When I read her wonderful book, I was awed by her use of occasional long rhythmic sentences. I remember reading them and thinking, I can try that. One morning I typed a paragraph that I loved from her book, then I deleted it and turned back to my own story. I used my words and my thoughts, but my sentences were stronger because, for a few moments, I got to try out what it was like to write like Han Nolan. I got to learn from a master.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


Do you think Bronte knows that she's getting implanted with an AKC Microchip on Saturday?

If you are a pet owner living in the Texas panhandle I hope you will consider doing the same thing for your sweet canine on Saturday, September 15 at Hastings Entertainment on Georgia Street. The Panhandle Kennel Club will be on hand from 11:00-1:00, offering this special service. And if you stick around, I'll be reading SKINNY BROWN DOG at story-time, followed by a signing. What a great tie-in!

Kaurie Jones happens to be the President of the Panhandle Kennel Club and the book manager at the Georgia Street Hastings store in Amarillo. Today she told me a heart-tugging story of an owner recently being reunited with her pet after two years. This victory happened because the pet owner cared enough to have their pet implanted with a microchip. The American Kennel Club says, "Lost pets implanted with AKC CAR's modern microchip can be easily identified." And they claim, "More than 320,000 pets have already been recovered to date." That is incredible. I'm proud to be a part of this event. Thank you Kaurie and Hastings for letting Saturday go to the dogs!

Writing News: Rewriting, rewriting, rewriting. More news tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


It's hard to be married to a writer. Or maybe I should say it's hard to be married to me.

Today was an A+ day for effort. In the morning, I entered yesterday's revisions into the computer, then yes, if you've been reading my entries the past two weeks, you have already guessed. I went to a coffee shop and revised some more. This is the fun part for me--polishing, adding more sensory details, fleshing out my characters. I felt good about what had happened on the pages today. I was ready for some positive feedback. And I didn't have to look past the recliner in the family room.

I asked my husband, "Do you mind reading fifty pages tonight?"

"Sure," Jerry answered. "Just let me get a load of clothes in the washing machine." (Yes, my husband does laundry. I raised him right.)

When he was ready, I handed him the pages. My office is next to the family room so I worked while I listened for any comments, such as, "This is great!"

It didn't happen.

When he chuckled, I hollered, "What's funny?"

"Oh, the part where he says his legs ache."

I really hadn't planned for that part to be humorous.

A few minutes later, he chuckled, again.

"What's funny?"

"Am I going to have to tell you every time something is funny?"


He sighed.

I left him alone.

When he was finished, he returned the pages to me. "There's a typo on page 101."

"Thanks, but what did you think?"

"I liked it."

"You liked it? That's poison to my ears. I'd rather you hate it."

"I loved it," he said.

"You can't say that now that you said you liked it."

As I said earlier, it's hard to be married to me. I think I'll send my mother some pages tomorrow.

Monday, September 10, 2007


Today was the first day that felt like fall. I know that it's not technically fall, but when the temps drop into the 60's for the highs, it's time to put away the sandals and dig out the clogs. Clogs are made for rewriting. And after a morning of entering Saturday's revision into the computer, I slipped on my clogs and went to a coffee shop to work on pages 99-140. My main goal was actually 120-140, but I always go back to the beginning when I rewrite. (Page 99 is the beginning of Part II of the book.) Years ago at a conference, I heard another writer say that was how she kept her book seamless. She always started back at page one when she was rewriting. I've followed her advice ever since. It's a great way to catch broken threads.

What does this have to do with clogs? It's quite simple. A writer should dress comfortably. "Buy a bunch of sweat pants," advised a couple of writers that I took to dinner when I was an unpublished writer. I work in my pajamas at home, so I guess, in a way, I took their suggestion.

When you dress comfortably, you are free to ponder plot, character and word choices without fretting over a slipping slip or pinched toes. Having stated that, I must admit, I'm guilty of breaking that rule.

Mainly, it's happened on the road, when I'm supposed to be speaking. Speaking is like writing. You should be comfortable. You want to talk to others about the process without a look of agony overwhelming your face.

Years ago, when I first started visiting schools, I bought a sensible black skirt and a cream sweater. I also bought a body-shaper. The retailer can call them body-shapers, but believe me, after a full school day visit and an evening store book signing a body-shaper is better described as a girdle. It squeezes and pinches just like one. I don't know what it does with the excess, but it punishes you for not exercising off the inches. By the time I stopped for the day, it was 8 o'clock and I hadn't eaten since that morning. I drove to a seafood restaurant, ordered my meal, then went to the ladies room and got rid of the miserable thing. Let's just say I didn't leave the restaurant with it.

Shoes are a weakness of mine and I occasionally buy shoes that have to be "broken in." Last spring I bought a pair of nautical heels that felt comfortable when I purchased them at mid-afternoon. Blue and white stripes with a red bow across the toes--they were cute!

I waited to wear them to something special. The something special turned out to be Book Expo where I would be speaking at a Holtzbrink dessert party. The party would follow a dinner with some booksellers. Maybe it was the raw clams and oysters with horseradish sauce at dinner that made my feet swell. I don't know. I do know that as the evening progressed, I felt like Cinderella's nasty step-sister who had somehow managed to squeeze her feet into Cindy's glass slippers. I was miserable.

After dinner I limped the four blocks to the party as best I could. We arrived at a festive room filled with booksellers and Holtzbrink folks. I scoped out the room. Everyone was smiling and laughing. These were smart people, I concluded. They wore comfortable shoes.

I hate to admit it, but I tried to sneak out of the party. My dear editor didn't realize that marketing had planned for me to speak that night. When I told her, "My shoes are murdering my feet," she said, "Oh, Kimberly, I'm so sorry. Let's leave then."

We were stopped at the door by a marketing person. "Kimberly, it's almost time for you to go on."

My talk was prepared. I'd timed myself and memorized the key points I wanted to make about my new book, PIPER REED NAVY BRAT. But in that miserable moment, the words escaped my head. I think my toes had kidnapped them. I tried taking off my shoes. The words didn't come back. Besides, I got a lot of strange looks in the room. A lot of people staring at my bare feet. I quickly squeezed back into my shoes just in time to hear my name called to the podium.

Somehow I managed to talk about the book. I don't remember what came out of my mouth because the only words that thumped inside my brain were, WRITERS SHOULD BE COMFORTABLE.

I'm sharing a photo of my nautical shoes with you. I bet I would look darling in them, but for the next few weeks, I'll be wearing my clogs. I'm busy rewriting.

Sunday, September 9, 2007


And she's taking the day off!

MONDAY'S GIVEAWAY: The first five people who email me with their name and mailing address on Monday, September 10 will receive an audio recording of PIPER REED NAVY BRAT on CD.

Send your email to



Saturday, September 8, 2007


This morning I left home early to work on my rewrite at a local coffee shop. It felt good to get back to the story after working on the Piper proofs. Rewriting(with the exception of the second draft) is my favorite part of the process. The hours flew and, before I knew, it was time to meet my husband. We had a date to buy bicycles!

For the last couple of years, I daydreamed about starting this new hobby. We're recent empty-nesters, the perfect time to create something special together. Riding bikes seemed so romantic. While my practical husband researched bicycles for beginners, I searched online for long distance bike trips.

"Look," I told him, pointing to a bicycle tour company website, "We can travel along the Mississippi River."

He looked horrified. "I was thinking more of around the block."

I snapped my tongue. "It's only a seven day trip."

"Seven days?" he squawked. "How many miles does it cover?"

"I don't know, but they said some days you travel more leisurely than others. You average 70 miles a day."

Jerry looked like he was going to faint. "Can we start off riding around the block?"

Even with our polarized goals, I daydreamed about riding my bicycle. When I told my daughter, she asked, "Mom, are you sure you can still ride a bike?"

"Of course," I told her. "Haven't you heard what they say about riding a bicycle? Once you've learned, you never forget."

"Well," she said, "when I tried to ride at a friend's house last year, I ran into a garbage can. And it had only been ten years since I'd been on one."

I did the math in my head. The last time I'd ridden was in college. That was more than ten years.

The desire didn't go away though. I wanted a bike. I wanted to ride, but now I wasn't sure I'd be able to. So today at the bicycle shop my husband listened carefully as the young salesman pointed out the attributes of the Gary Fisher bicycle--Gears...ahem, seat adjustment...ahem. All the while, I was thinking I'll take the orange color.

Then Jerry announced, "Well, go try it out."


He chuckled. "Yes, in the parking lot."

My heart thumped when I straddled the bike. "Where did you say the brakes were?"

The wise young man pointed them out, then offered me a helmet.

I tried not to reflect on the years it had been since I'd been on one. I glanced around for garbage cans. I took a deep breath and put my feet on the pedals. It only took a couple of spins around the parking lot to make me realize that I did remember how to ride after all. It was a small achievement, but I pedaled in the right direction. My daydream was starting to come true.

A lot of people daydream about writing. Maybe they used to write when they were younger, but somewhere along the way life happened and they put down the pen. For some that has been so long ago that a fear has built up in them and they don't start because they're afraid they might find out they can't do it. But how will they know if they don't try? If that's you, I challenge you to pick up the pen and write the first word. Any word. Then let it lead you to a sentence. I promise I'll keep pedaling. And one day I'll send you a postcard from somewhere along the Mississippi.

Friday, September 7, 2007


It shouldn't take me three days to finish my proofs, but it did. The first day I read them and let the comments and queries sink in. The next day I took care of the small matters--getting rid of repetitive words and changing awkward word choices.

Today I tackled the details that take longer and more thinking power. I checked on a timing query that the copy editor maintained must be wrong because of circumstances in the first Piper Reed book. Of course, she was right. I found a new fictional name for a movie star(that took longer than you'd believe) and considered describing jambalaya. Also I decided what Piper got for Christmas. I'd merely mentioned that she opened her presents. Good suggestion, Marianne.

Sometimes I hold tight to what I want to remain in the book. When I do that I write STET over the word(s). For example, it seems every book I write, I mention ice tea. Maybe it's a Louisiana thing, but my family has always called the drink ice tea. The copy editor informs me each time that it should be referred to as iced tea. I think I've given in once or twice on that one. Today, I don't know if it was the way the temps dropped and the rain fell(Can stubbornness be related to the barometric pressure?), but I decided that I would write STET over ice tea. I felt kind of smug about it actually. Then a wave of insecurity came over me, and I googled "ice tea" just to make sure. Turns out there were over two million sites listed. I felt smug again.

This is stepping to the side a bit, but I have to share my favorite "ice tea" story. Usually I prefer my tea unsweetened. The only exception was my grandmother's sweet tea. I could never get mine to taste like hers. One day she and my grandfather were visiting and I asked her, "What brand of tea do you use to make yours so delicious?"

"I use any kind," she said.

I showed her the box of Lipton teabags.

"That will do," she said.

Under her watchful eye, I boiled the water, took it off the stove and added the tea bags. She nodded. So far so good.

I poured the tea into the pitcher. "That's fine," she said.

Then I began to measure the half-cup of sugar and she gasped. "Oh, no honey. You need more than that." She dumped my measly portion in, then added one and a half cups more. Two cups of sugar. I'm certain that if my grandmother was still alive, she and Paula Deen would be mutual admirers.

In honor of ice tea drinkers everywhere and in memory of my sweet grandmother, here's:

J.P.'s Sweet Tea

In a large sauce pan, bring 4 cups of water to a boil

Take water off burner

Add 8 teabags

Cover and let sit for five minutes

Add four cups of cold water

Pour into pitcher

Add two cups of sugar

Thursday, September 6, 2007


Last fall a young friend of mine interviewed me for a high school English project. She asked me, "What is a perfect day for you?"

I answered that I didn't think there were perfect days, only perfect moments. Sometimes we go too fast or have become so jaded that we don't recognize them. I wish I'd realized that a lot sooner.

Today held some perfect moments. The morning started with a breakfast meeting with my assistant, Shaunna. Over bagels, we discussed my upcoming travel schedule and the information I needed to plan for my events and schools visits. It's comforting to work with someone who cares so much about her job. She makes my life easier and I can spend more time writing. As we left, I handed her a tote bag filled with items to mail. I drove away happy, knowing I could turn back to my proofs because Shaunna was taking care of the other details.

I worked on my proofs some more at a coffee shop and when I started to feel defensive about a query, I reminded myself that I have the best job in the world. I do. And how nice that I have a copy editor that will put my sentences to the test. A lot of people are behind one book.

Lunch with a good friend, an hour phone call from my daughter, a sweet card from my parents--more perfect moments.

There really are two ways to look at things. Life's craziness makes it easy to forget that. Even the smallest moment can remind us though. We have an apple tree in our backyard that grows some mighty fine apples. Just ask the worms that beat us to them each year. But late yesterday afternoon, I stared out my living room window and noticed a perfect apple hanging from a low branch. From where I sat, the fruit appeared unblemished, its skin red fading into just a hint of yellow. My mouth watered. I wanted that apple. But when I walked into the yard, a closer look at the other side quickly made me change my mind. If I'd only picked it a few days ago, biting into that beautiful crisp apple might have been a perfect moment. And it was--for the worm.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007


This morning the Fed-X man arrived with my proof pages for the next Piper Reed. I opened the door and placed the package on the buffet in the foyer. They can wait, I thought. I was ready to get back to rewriting my historical novel. I planned to rewrite pages 111-125 today. My printer had other plans. It warmed up, loaded the pages as if it was going to print, then simply refused to spit out the pages.

I tried everything any follow-the-directions resistant person would do. I turned the printer off, waited twenty seconds, then turned it back on. The same song and dance routine occurred again. This time I took drastic measures--I turned the computer off, waited an entire minute, and turned it back on. Nothing had changed.

Defeated, I marched to the foyer, picked up the package, and left to have lunch with my husband. After eating, I drove to a favorite coffee shop and began to read. Marianne's familiar green marks traveled across every page along with my editor's pencil marks. Marianne has proofread my work for a long time now and I have the greatest respect for her. I admit it. I need her. And she knows it. I can just picture her hunched over my manuscript shaking her head, a "tsk, tsk," slipping from her mouth as she marks my missed commas and misplaced modifiers.

Her fact-checking amazes me. For example, in my manuscript Piper's older sister, Tori, idolizes a movie star that I invented and named Josie Johnson. At least I thought I'd invented her. Then I read Marianne's post note on page 33---"J. Johnson died in 1987/Very sparse online info." Her comment made me smile and blush. This time I'll consult Google before I replace the name.

An added note: Later I followed the troubleshooting directions for my printer and guess what? I fixed it! Now if only I could learn where the heck to put a comma.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007


You've probably heard it said before, but sometimes you have to kill your little darlings. Whoever first said that may have been referring to cutting prose, but I think it could also apply to characters. I have a problem with putting too many characters into my early drafts. If they stay with me through several drafts it is really difficult to say goodbye. Especially if I had such wonderful plans for them.

Yesterday I had to commit murder. Not literally, of course. But after much gut-searching, I realized a character wasn't going to work. Her presence would have caused another storyline that I didn't need. And maybe most importantly, her existence caused some problems historically.

So I took a deep breath, put my index finger on the delete button and pushed. Surprisingly, it wasn't as painful as I thought it would be. That probably means I did the right thing. I loved her adopted name though and I gave it to another character whose existence makes perfect sense.

Today I was rewarded by making that choice because the rewriting went well and my story is starting to feel right. It's kind of scary to come to that conclusion this far into the process, but it's exciting, too.

I wish I could have spent the entire day rewriting, but I also had a radio interview, wrote some thank you notes, cleaned up my database for a mailing, and checked the proofs on my business cards. That's okay, I thought, tomorrow I can rewrite all day. Then I got the call. My editor told me that the proofs for the next Piper Reed book were ready and would arrive tomorrow. I think I need a cupcake.

Monday, September 3, 2007


Despite that I spent my morning sending out an email announcement for PIPER REED NAVY BRAT, I got quite a bit of writing done today. The novel I'm working on has been my most difficult. I think it's because I've gone about the process all wrong.

Usually I write a complete first draft at a quick pace. Then I let it cool before attempting the second draft. Each draft I start at page one and end on the final page before starting again.

That's not the way I've tackled this novel. The main character has been with me since 1997. I was actually working on the story of that character's son. When I realized I needed to explore the father's motivation, I took a day off from the son's story and wrote a character study on the father. My mission--What was he like as a child. I discovered he was fascinating, so much so I decided I needed to write his story first. I put the son's story aside and began to write. Then I had the crazy notion to weave the son's story with the father's. At first, I loved the idea, but soon became overwhelmed. It didn't help that my house was a complete wreck(a reflection of what was going on in my mind.)

To avoid cleaning the house, I packed my research books, my notebooks and yellow pads and rented a ranch house for a few days. The ranch was serene and snowy--the perfect setting for a writer. Unfortunately there was also a television in the house with about two-hundred stations. I avoided it for a few hours, but when I wasn't making any headway on the story, I decided to watch Oprah. The only problem was that Oprah wasn't on any of the two-hundred stations. The BBC however was. Later I found a twenty-four hour fitness station. It's so much more fun to watch people do yoga than doing it myself. Finally around midnight I turned the television off, disgusted by my procrastination. The next day, inspiration struck--inspiration for another book. I put my manuscript aside and started on Part of Me.

This might be okay except that it had already happened several times over the years. I'd put the story down and start another. "Maybe you're just not ready to write that book," some well-meaning people would tell me.

A couple of years ago, I picked up the manuscript and started again. Along the way I was tempted to tuck it away in a drawer for another story, but this time I faced my fear and told myself that if I was going to put it down, again, put it down for good. Or else this would be the book I would never write and would forever be attempting to do so.

That's all it took. I loved the people in the story too much to abandon them and from that day on, I've been committed. I'm not going to lie and tell you that I've been writing on it every day, but even the days that I didn't write, the story was with me and I was thinking about the characters.

The last two weeks I've thought about how this book has been a struggle and I've come to the conclusion that when you write a novel you should stay with the story until it's finished. Otherwise it's like a bad relationship where the guy floats in and out of your life on a whim and you let him. There's no commitment.

So today I sat in my bedroom chair and kept my commitment.

Sunday, September 2, 2007


Many writers believe you should write everyday, but I believe in taking a day off. For me, that day tends to be Sunday. One of the reasons I love Sunday is that I get the New York Times delivered. At least I'm supposed to receive the Times Sunday morning at my home before 8:30. However that has only happened once. This morning I checked every thirty minutes until 10:00 a.m. No paper. I was annoyed every time I walked outside and scanned the empty driveway. But each time I turned around I discovered Bronte watching me through the storm door. All is right with the world when you have such a faithful friend.

Since I didn't plan to write today, I decided to clean my office. My office gets into a messy state quickly, but I've learned if I clean and organize the room once a month, it only takes a few hours to get it back in shape. About twenty years ago when I was a lousy interior decorator(you have to know how to measure to be a good decorator) I paid someone to help me organize. The cheerful woman arrived with such high hopes until I opened the door to my office. We couldn't see the carpet or the desk.

She swooned, but caught her balance before falling on the pile of fabric sample books. Then her hands flew to her hips. "Everything must come out of this room except for the furniture."

"Everything?" I asked. At that time, her suggestion sounded ridiculous. Wasn't that just transferring a mess to another destination?

The organizer was right though. I felt a surge of energy when I could see the carpet and the cleared desk. We filled sacks with paper and she left after giving me a shopping list of containers I was to buy so that I never got in that situation again.

I'm afraid I did get in that situation again. And again. But she left me with ammunition, because that's the way I tackled my office today. Everything out, I heard her order. All the clutter went into the hallway. Then I listened to a podcast of a Diane Rehm show while I puttered away. Not the most fun way to spend a Sunday afternoon, but I rather like the results. And I can't wait to write tomorrow.

MONDAY GIVEAWAY: Each Monday in September I will offer give-aways to the first five people that email me with their names and mailing addresses. In addition, I'll include everyone's name for a drawing at the end of the month for something special.
This Monday's give-away is a copy of my new book, Piper Reed Navy Brat. You can begin emailing Monday, September 3. My email address is Good luck!

Saturday, September 1, 2007


Today marks the first day of my commitment to post daily for the month of September. My goal is to give my readers a peek into my daily life. I don't have a typical day. Some days I write for huge gulps of time. Other days I start out thinking I'm going to participate in a marathon writing session and I end up writing for one hour. That's what happened today.

I started out just fine--raising the blinds, sipping my first cup of coffee(truly the best cup), and writing in my favorite chair with Bronte nearby. Maybe I can blame it on my laptop. I have never been much of a laptop writer. I used one briefly years ago. It just didn't work for me--it was too heavy and I hated having to cart it with me everywhere I went while I was on the road. I quickly abandoned it and went back to my way of writing.

My way is a long process--write the first draft on yellow pads, put the awful mess into the computer, print it out, mark it up, return to the computer. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. You get the idea.

When I went on my annual writing retreat, I proudly took my yellow pads while my writing pals packed their laptops. They threw looks of pity my way and Rebecca occasionally asked, "Do you want to use my laptop for awhile?"

"No, thank you," I'd answer. "I think better on yellow."

Don't ask me why, but last month I bought a laptop. I hate to admit it, but there were times that I really wanted one. These are some examples of why I broke down and pulled out the credit card:

Example One: When I'm at a hotel and the only computer in the lobby is being used and by the time I can use it, the stupid thing has a virus.

Example Two: I'm at the coffee shop and I have to leave because I need to go check my email or I'm ready to type my revised chapter.

Example Three (this is the one, that I really hate to admit) I'm at the retreat and have to use scissors and tape to cut and paste. I know Eudora Welty probably did that, but I didn't feel like Eudora when I was doing it. And something tells me that she was probably looking down, shaking her head, saying "Get a laptop, dummy!"

So I did. And guess what? Now after using it for a month, all my suspicions have been confirmed. I delete sentences that I can't retrieve, I check my email at the coffee shop more often then I should, and even though my laptop weighs under four pounds, it's a lot heavier than paper.

Please don't misunderstand. I don't dislike my laptop. It will provide a very nice way to check my email on the road and type my revised manuscript into the computer. It's even kind of cute. Let's just say we're new friends, this laptop and I, but we'll never share the kind of moments that I've shared with my pen and yellow pads.