Saturday, March 29, 2008


When I learned that my grandfather would accompany my parents to our home in December, I was thrilled. My delight was not only because my grandfather had never visited this house, but because the timing of the trip was perfect. Panhandle gardens go dormant during the winter. I was relieved my grandpa would not discover how negligent I'd become with gardening tasks. At 92, my grandfather works in his yard like a man thirty years younger.

Some of his neighbors called my mom last spring and told her, "Your dad was shoveling a load of dirt out of his pickup." He'd fallen in love with amaryllis and was building a huge bed for bulbs in his front yard.

Years ago, before I started writing, I, too, was a passionate gardener. A bed filled with roses, plumbago, periwinkles and crepe myrtles curved along my back fence. Our dinners included dishes with rosemary and mint grown in my herb garden outside the kitchen door. I greeted each day by watering my plants. I even planted the grass in my backyard from seed.

No one had to tell me when to pull the weeds or prune my rose bushes. I knew. Those years, tending my garden was my bliss.

Then I moved to Amarillo and began to write fiction. I still piddled in the yard, but more and more, pens replaced shovels and pruners. I toiled with words instead of soil. Writing had become my bliss.

I'm not suggesting that writing should replace all other pleasures. As writers we must remain participants in life. Or how would we have anything to write about? But, I believe, to do one passion well demands selfish amounts of time. For me, that passion is writing.

In her book, Writing Alone and With Others, Pat Schneider tells how she came to this same conclusion. "Suddenly I saw that I had to make a choice. I said to myself, you can't have it all...that day I folded up the quilt patterns and scraps of cloth. I stopped making jelly; I gave up sewing forever. Because I wanted most to be a writer."

Knowing that writing deserves my attention doesn't keep me from wincing at the weeds surrounding the grape hyacinths. And I occasionally dream of the day I'll return to the garden with the same gusto as years before.

Last winter, when my grandfather arrived at our home, he studied our backyard and said, "Your roses need a good cutting back. You should do it now before spring settles in."

It is spring. The roses will bloom soon. I didn't heed my grandfather's warning. But last month I did finish a new manuscript.

Thursday, March 27, 2008


You are the recipient of the first Mitchell-Willis Scholarship!

The Mitchell-Willis Scholarship is named in honor of my grandparents, Henry and J.P Mitchell and Howard and Zora Willis. This scholarship awards a Texas Panhandle school an author visit from me in the next school year.

If you are a Texas Panhandle school that has not had an author visit in four years and would like to be considered for the 2009 scholarship, contact me at for the requirements.

See you next year, South Lawn Elementary.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


I met Kathy Patrick eighteen years ago when she dropped by her sister's bed and breakfast in Jefferson, Texas. My husband and I were having a romantic getaway while my mom watched our two year old. Kathy and I spoke briefly about the upcoming birth of her first child. Back then, she owned a bed and breakfast and I was a decorator. But years have a way of twisting our lives into something different.

Nine years later I received a phone call from Kathy. By then, she was a publishing rep and I was a writer. She'd read my first book and was excited about it. She asked if my publisher was sending me on tour.

I told her, "No, but I've planned a two week book tour in Louisiana on my own." I'd spent six months putting together events at libraries and bookstores.

"Would you start the tour here in East Texas?" she asked. She wanted to arrange two book signings and a talk at the Friends of the Library in Jefferson.

Of course I said, "You bet!" We chatted a bit more and by the end of the phone call, we remembered our earlier meeting. Today we still talk about being moms, but our interests have spread to other subjects, mainly books. We've become the best of friends. And I'm thrilled to announce that this woman with a generous heart now has a book of her own. I asked Kathy if I could interview her so that others could have insight into her fascinating life.

You are such a huge supporter of books and authors.
What was the first book that made an impression on you as a

The first book was Honestly, Katie John by Mary Calhoun. This book
was given to me by my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Boulden. It was the first
book that really made me want to read as it was about a little girl who
was exactly like me. She was a tomboy. She didn't want to grow up and
her friends were growing up right before her eyes. She felt left out
and I knew exactly how she felt. That was the first time I felt I was
not alone in the world. I could not wait to read another book just like
that one. Fortunately for me, Mrs. Boulden, handed me another Katie
John book and I was hooked on reading.

You've worked in almost every field of the book world. Please share the
variety of jobs you've held in that world and a lesson that each job taught you.

After I had my first daughter and we realized when she reached toddler
age, we could no longer run a bed & breakfast. She was just too
rambunctious and noisy. My husband, Jay, told me I would have to find
another job to help out with the finances. I chose to do something I
had never done before, one in which I could throw all my passion into
and that was to become a bookseller. I started out as a lowly
bookseller and by the time of the three month employee review, I was
made Children's Manager and Buyer of the independent bookstore. I
embraced this new job with my heart and soul hosting children's events
and children's authors. For seven years, I drove round trip 75 miles to
do just that including to almost full term of my second pregnancy. I
consider my time at that bookstore kind of like my first twelve years of
school. I learned all the basics of bookselling and the world of
books. I was now ready to graduate.

Now with two daughters, I had to start thinking about getting a job that
would pay enough to ensure my children would get a decent education.
Book selling is my passion but working in a bookstore doesn't allow the
luxury of any big savings. So when a publishers representative offer
was made to me, I jumped at the opportunity. For two and a half years I
worked as a book rep, calling on independent bookstores in a four state
area. Though I could be gone for some extended periods of time for
sales conferences and to call on my bookstores, mostly I was home for
the girls. I learned that travel was to become an important part of my

Then when my independent bookstores started closing due to the influx of
the big box chains, I was the first to be let go from the sales team as
I was the last one hired. I was completely depressed as I loved that
job. But isn't it as they always say, when one door closes, another
window of opportunity opens. I learned when life hand's you one big ole
lemon, forget plain ole lemonade, mix up a batch of margaritas! Embrace
change and see where that life leads you. Now when a door slams, I look
for that window of opportunity.

Indeed, it was my sister came up with the brilliant idea of me going
back to doing hair, (I put myself part of the way through college
working in college hair salons), and opening a Hair Salon/Bookstore that
I called Beauty and the Book. Being the only one in
the country, the media has been calling on me every since.

January of this year, I published my first book ever of the story of my life in
books called, The Pulpwood Queens Tiara Wearing, Book Sharing Guide to
I have been a bookseller, a children's
manager/buyer, book publisher's representative, bookstore owner, and now
author. The only two things I have not done concerning books is become
a literary agent and publisher. Since I am only 51, I have the second
half of my life to see if that too is in my future. I have learned that
what is in important in life is not just the destination, it's all about
the ride. For now, I will continue to own and operate Beauty and the
Book and continue with my stories in the wonderful world of books.

Please tell us about how and why you started the Pulpwood Queens.

I have always wanted to be in a book club. In the past, I neither had
the time nor the money for that luxurious endeavor until I opened my own
shop. The local book club then invited me to attend one of their
meetings. I was thrilled beyond words and could not believe how lucky I
was to not only be invited, but had read the book they were reading and
loved it. After we shared a meal and discussed the book, I blurted out
how thrilled I was to be asked to join their book club. The hostess
jumped up, grabbed me by the elbow and led me to the galley of her
plantation home. She whispered, "I am so sorry Kathy, but you cannot be
in our book club. Our book club is eight people only and unless,
someone dies or moves away, that is just the way it is." I stumbled
back to my seat horrified at my breach of southern etiquette. I had
invited myself to their book loving party.

As I drove home mortified at my brashness of asking to join, I soon
found out that the embarrassment turned to so what am I going to do
about this. I mean who says that a book club is only eight people. Who
made up that rule?

When I got home I got out some paper and pencil and thought if their
ever is to be a book club that I would enjoy being a part of, then I am
going to have to start one. I thought, The Pulpwood Queens as pulpwood
is the industry of the area. We grow super seedling pine trees that are
cut and ground into pulp, pulp is made into paper, and paper into
books. Though we weren't going to read "pulp fiction", our motto was to
be "where tiaras are mandatory and reading good books is the RULE!" We
would crown ourselves "beauty within" queens as we were readers. We
also were going to be an inclusive book club, no exclusive membership
for us! I threw out all the rules! Anybody could join our book club as
long as they crowned themselves Queens and read the book, everybody welcome.

That was eight years ago, we started with six women who were all virtual
strangers to me. This same women and more I can now not imagine not
being a part of my life. We have now have grown to become the largest
"meeting and discussing" book club in the world! We have members and
chapters running coast to coast and also in eight foreign countries.

Now we have men in our book club too. We call them Timber Guys we just
don't have a lot of them yet! But I have hope that someday their
membership will be as strong as the women in my book club chapters. Our
sole mission is to promote literacy, get the world reading, and help
undiscovered authors get discovered in a big way.

What was the most difficult part of writing your book?

The beginning. Where do you begin on the story of your life. My
literary agent was the catalyst for that auspicious beginning. She told
me to write the ah ha moments. The times when something clicked in
my life where everything began to make sense. The moments when you knew
what direction you were suppose to go on your life's journey. The
beginning of my book was actually smack dab in the middle. I began my
book with the story of Joyce Jackson Futch who I first met when I did
her hair after her hair had grown back in from chemotherapy. The story
of The Pulpwood Queen who changed the way I looked at life and death as
you see the last time I did Joyce's hair was for her funeral.
That chapter is the one that hardly changed from when I wrote it. The
other chapters I must have rewritten thirty times.

It took me six years from start to publishing finish for my book, The
Pulpwood Queens' Tiara Wearing, Book Sharing Guide to Life.
It's not a
fancy book of literary prose. I wrote my story as if I was having a
conversation with someone, someone that I was showing that reading is
just like having a conversation of sharing stories. I wrote my book so
people would understand that sharing your stories is as important to
your life as your basic needs such as, food, shelter, and water. It's
the stories that sustain us through the hard times and the stories that
lift us up even higher through times of great joy.

What are some new books by first-time authors that you'd recommend for
young readers?

The Chicken Dance by Jacques Couvillion. The book is told
from the eyes of a young boy who has moved to an island off the coast of
Louisiana. An island where everybody raises chickens.

I would also highly recommend Margaret Sartor's Miss American Pie: A
Diary of Love, Secrets, and Growing up in the 1970's
. It is Margaret's actual diaries as she wrote them and her entries are funny, poignant, thought provoking,
at times hilarious, but at the same time make you think.

Another book I am currently reading aloud with my daughter is Waiting
for Normal
by Leslie Connor. My daughter is 14 now and it's very
special to me that through this book we can have such wonderful
conversation. Yes, reading connects you to your teenagers, to your
friends, and to complete strangers.

I would like to end this interview with a something that I have learned
through a lifetime of reading. You know everybody has a gift, a talent,
and a story. No matter how simple, we must share it with others as that
is what separates man from beast. Tell your story. if you can't write
it down, record it. For the stories you don't share, are a library lost
to your family and friends. I will continue on my mission to promote
literacy, one book, one person, one author, one book club at a time to
ensure we are all on the same level playing field, the same page of
life's book. Reading is just that important. I encourage you to read
and read aloud. Not to just small children but your teenagers too.
Share the stories with your neighbors and their children. Volunteer to
read at schools, churches, libraries and nursing homes. Sometimes the
gift of time is the best gift of all. For books are the gift that keep
on giving, and isn't a book really just the sharing of a good story?

If you'd like to know more about Kathy and the Pulpwood Queens, visit her website:

Beauty and the Book

Monday, March 24, 2008


I'm visiting your area soon. If you can make one of the events, please stop by and say hello. Here's where I'll be:

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

University of Southern Mississippi Honors Forum
Bennett Auditorium
Hattiesburg, Mississippi
6:30-7:30 PM

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

de Grummond Lecture
Fay B. Kaigler Children's Book Festival
Hattiesburg, Mississippi


For More Information visit:

Friday, April 4, 2008

Arkansas Literary Festival

Authors Party
Lafayette Building
Little Rock, Arkansas

7:00 pm

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Arkansas Literary Festival

NO BRATS ALLOWED(name of session One)
Arkansas Museum
Ottenheimer Theater (1rst Floor)
Little Rock, Arkansas
10:00 AM


Historic Arkansas Museum
Peg Smith Room(2nd Floor)
Little Rock, Arkansas

1:00 PM

For more information:

Hope to see you there!

Saturday, March 22, 2008


"...true discipline is a matter of love, rather than duty. If you are in love, you make time and space for the beloved." --Pat Schneider, from her book, Writing Alone and With Others

Thursday, March 20, 2008


Get off the bus! Yesterday I received my advance copies for Piper Reed, The Great Gypsy. The cover may change a bit, but this should be very close. Christine Davenier, your work continues to amaze me. The art department at Holt did a great job, too.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


Skinny Brown Dog is a nominee for the E.B. WHITE READ ALOUD AWARD. The award is given out by the Association of Booksellers for Children.

That news makes me want to eat a raspberry muffin!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


I admit it. I'm addicted to Dancing With the Stars. So how did I forget to watch the debut show last night?

Monday, March 17, 2008


Lima held lots of surprises-- warm and kind people everywhere, colorful architecture, excellent service and, unlike Paris, each cup of coffee tasted rich and strong.

The square.

Has anyone seen Rita?

A boy who sold a pin to me when I stepped off the tour bus at the square. Then somehow he showed up at every stop on the tour.

Shannon at a cafe outside the Inca Market.

Thank you, Linda Hoiseth for inviting me to Franklin D. Roosevelt School. We had a fabulous time in Lima!

Saturday, March 15, 2008


Buenos Dias!

Destination-FDR School

Taxi driver studies map

Hablas espanol?

Un poco

Driver studies map again

Five minutes later-We're off!

Shoe shiners outside hotel

Bicycle carts with ice cream

Police stand guard on every street

Car horns blow friendly warnings

Red Light Circus-jugglers and man selling brightly colored wrapped candy

Towering plumeria tree bending over a fence

Stop for directions


Third floor window washer fanning herself

Small non-airconditioned buses packed with workers

Large airconditioned buses packed with tourists

Giant red Nescafe cup atop an apartment building

Tile mosaic of Inca dancers along the highway

Stop for directions

Pink Hibiscus bush spread against stucco fence

Purple Lantana spilling over a balcony

Blue plumbago, pink oleanders, golden day lilies

Taxi slows, then...

Backs up, backs up, backs up

FDR School, at last!

Thursday, March 13, 2008


Yesterday, Catherine, an FDR librarian, and I left to meet the taxi for our ride back to Miraflores. As we stepped outside, Catherine pointed to some clumps of golden brown hair near the doors. It was as if someone decided to get a drastic haircut before entering the library.

"It's an interesting ritual," Catherine explained. "When a boy at school gets accepted into college, his friends tackle him to the ground and someone cuts his hair." The haircut marked his passage into a new world.

I experienced my own passage June 15, 1994. I stayed in the same house, kept the same husband, tended to the same child. But that day I sat at the card table on my screen porch with a pen and yellow pad, and made the decision to be a writer.

My family's clothes still needed washing, meals continued to be cooked, and bills kept getting paid. But from that late spring day on, I greeted each morning differently because I was living my passion. I was living in a new world.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


This week I'm in Lima, Peru, visiting the Franklin D. Roosevelt School. One of the reasons that I love visiting schools is I always learn something. Many times I struggle with a clear way to explain a point about process. Often a young person shows me the way.

Yesterday a third grader asked me how she could tell if her story needed more details. I told her, "Read it again and search for places to put sensory details." Earlier I had explained sensory details in my presentation, but my answer seemed inadequate.

"Oh," she said, "like when I draw a picture and I look at it and decide this needs more dust. So I draw more dust."

Well stated, young lady.

Thursday, March 6, 2008


This month's give-away is a copy of the audio production of Piper Reed Navy Brat, read by Emily Janice Card. To enter the drawing, put March Give-Away
in the subject line of your email and send your (snail)mailing address and name to:

There will be two winners. Deadline is 5:00 pm, central time, Wednesday, March 12, 2008. Good luck!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008


In college we were given an assignment to make six graphics for a television class. I searched magazines and tore out interesting pictures. Soon, I settled on a few--several of women, one of legs and one of a pair of purple shoes. An art student friend showed me how to make the legs appear three dimensional. It was a fun project and I was excited by the outcome.

Thursday morning, I received a phone call from a classmate. She was in a panic because she hadn't started the project. "I don't even know what I'm going to write about."

"Write?" I asked.

"You know, the story that goes with the graphics."

I felt my insides flip-flop. I hadn't selected the photos with a story in mind. This was typical of me, not listening to the complete assignment.

My friend decided to skip. I glanced at the clock. Two hours until class time. I considered skipping. But I had worked so hard on those graphics. I gathered them up and headed to the campus library. After finding a cubicle, I took a deep breath and studied the pictures. What did they have in common? How could they connect?

Legs. Each of the photos, except the shoes, showed legs. But even shoes could relate to legs. Over the next hour I wrote a bizarre story about how everything in life--love, hate, work, play came down to legs. There might not have been an ounce of truth to that point, but I managed to make it sound convincing. And the teacher loved it.

Filmmaker, David Lynch, thinks it's interesting to see how unrelated things live together. In his book, Catching the Big Fish, he states, "It gets your mind working. How do these things relate when they seem so far apart?"

Lynch believes a Unified Field makes it possible for there to be unity between a Christmas tree bulb and a man from Poland wearing strange glasses, two details that helped lead him to INLAND EMPIRE.

My writing retreat pals and I apply this concept of a Unified Field every time we do our Five Words and a Pie exercise. Each of us throws out a word. Then we write for ten minutes, using those words. I love this exercise. How could I not? One night the words we offered gave birth to the beginning of my novel, Part of Me.

Once you're convinced that any two or more things create a unity, the possibilities are endless. The ingredients and directions are simple:

Take two, three, four or more items
Find their Unified Field
Then Write

Note: If you want to read more about the details of the assignment that led to Part of Me, take a look at the Writing Tips page on this website.

Monday, March 3, 2008


Never challenge the groundhog's forecast.

There are advantages to snow days though. The fire is set, the heating blanket is turned on, and my historical novel awaits.

Saturday, March 1, 2008


Phil, the groundhog, may say that we have six more weeks of winter, but this morning daffodils and crocuses greeted me. As much as I love the coldest season, there's something reassuring about an early glimpse of spring.