Monday, May 26, 2008


"I still close my eyes and go home--I can always draw from that."

-Dolly Parton

Thursday, May 22, 2008


Young Adult author, Helen Hemphill, interviewed me for her posting on The Reader of Perfect Sympathy at the Through the Tollbooth blog.

Piper Reed The Great Gypsy doesn't come out until August, but if you would like an early peek, children's writer Katia Novet Saint-Lot reviewed this second book in the series on her blog: Scribbly Katia.

Thank you, Helen and Katia!

Monday, May 19, 2008


There's a scene in the movie of The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy reaches a fork in the yellow brick road. She wonders what to do next and the scarecrow says something like, "You can go that way or that way."

The writing journey can take writers to many forks along the road. Usually I just have to choose a direction and proceed. It's amazing how often I receive a confirmation that reassures me I'm going the right way. It's happened with every book.

During the writing of Keeper of the Night, I realized early on that Isabel would forget what her deceased mother looked like. Even though her mother had died less than a year before, she had to look at photos to remember her image. Where that came from, I have no idea. But soon after I included that in the story, I was at the hair salon and the shampoo girl asked me what I was writing. I told her I was writing a story about a girl whose mother had committed suicide.

"My dad committed suicide," she told me.

"I'm sorry," I said.

We were quiet a moment, then she spoke. "It's weird, but for awhile I was obsessed with photo albums."

"Oh?" I held my breath.

"I couldn't remember what he looked like. He had just died and I couldn't remember."

A confirmation.

Recently I added an element to my historical novel that I'm excited about. Excited and scared. I've never written anything like this before. Doubt crept into my process, a dangerous thing for a writer. Then last week I received a package from a new friend. I opened it and there it was. A feather. A confirmation. Thank you, Jennifer Profitt.


I misplaced my camera Saturday. It was my daughter's graduation day. After turning the hotel room's drawers upside down, I retraced my steps, thinking of the last time I'd used it. I remembered placing it on a chair at Shannon's apartment the day before. We called her. She did a quick search and said it wasn't there. Moments away from leaving for one of the biggest events in her life(and ours)and we'd have no photos for memories.

The realization of the missing camera gave me an even greater sense of loss. When my daughter was a baby, a friend who had adult children told me, "You start letting go of your children the day they are born." That was wise advise, but that morning my mind was consumed with regrets that extended beyond the camera.

I wished I'd realized that every moment of childhood was precious and that things I thought mattered didn't amount to a hill of beans. I wish that I hadn't traveled so much even though Shannon convinced me she was so busy that the time flew when I was away. Over the years I'd missed some of her school events. And had she forgotten about the choir dress that didn't fit the day of the recital? I was visiting a school in the Dallas area that day. Some of my regrets bordered on the ridiculous. Does it really matter that I opted for store bought birthday cakes instead of baking one? All those regrets made me feel like I'd somehow misplaced my years of motherhood.

Before heading to the coliseum we swung by my daughter's apartment complex to pick up her camera. She met us at the bottom of the stairs. I don't know who I was expecting to meet us--the little girl with a china doll cut and overalls or the twelve-year old with braces and purple rubber bands. Those girls didn't show. In their place was a lovely young woman, dressed in a white strapless dress and red shoes. Her steps projected confidence and joy. She handed us her camera and right there in the middle of the parking lot we had a big family hug. Somehow through all the missed events, ill-fitting choir dresses and store-bought birthday cakes, we'd arrived at this moment. And it was a good one.

Later my daughter found my camera. It was in the glove compartment of our rental car. I hadn't lost it after all. And the daughter? She may be grown but I haven't lost her either.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Congratulations to my retreat buddy, Lola M. Schaefer, on receiving a Children's Choice Book Award given by the Children's Book Council. We always knew you were a winner! This calls for pie!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


This month's give-away is an autographed copy of Waiting for Gregory. There will be two winners. If you would like to enter the drawing, please send your name and snail mail address to The deadline is this Friday, May 16th at noon central time.

Good luck!

Monday, May 12, 2008


Until two years ago, this historical novel I'm working on, has been the manuscript that I've abandoned and returned to season after season. A while back as I drove to a coffee shop to write, some words came to me. They connected to the story, but the voice belonged to the grandson of the main character. At the coffee shop, I jotted the words down. Maybe the words were for a future story, but certainly not for this one. I didn't even consider that they might play a role in this book.

Now that I'm working on the rewrite, I keep thinking of that voice. Not the words, but the voice. Somehow, I believe that voice holds the key for something missing in this manuscript.

Last week, I searched and searched in my stacks of yellow pads. The words have to be in there somewhere, but I've not discovered them yet. I'll need to proceed without them. Then maybe if I work hard enough, the voice will return. This time, I won't turn it away like a guest who has arrived too early for a party. I'll welcome it and consider making it a permanent resident.


Friday, May 9, 2008


Recently I was invited to blog with a group of Southern writers at A Good Blog is Hard to Find. I'm one of the few children's writers, but there are a lot of fine writers in the group. Each day readers receive a glimpse into writing, books, and life from a different Southern point of view.

Today is my first entry. To introduce myself, I posted a speech about Louisiana that I gave at ALA. And if you know anything about me, you know that Louisiana owns an important chunk of my heart.

To read the post visit: A Good Blog is Hard to Find.

Please make sure to scroll down and read some of the other entries. There are some fine posts and you may discover a new favorite writer. After reading a few, you'll want your next meal to be chicken and dumplings with a side of turnips.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008


For the next three Saturdays, I'll be the guest story-time reader at Hastings Entertainment in Amarillo(Georgia Street location). Each Saturday, I'll read several stories. This Saturday, I'll kick off story-time by reading one of my childhood favorites--Horton Hatches the Egg by Dr. Seuss. Story-time begins at 1:00. Hope to see you there!

Monday, May 5, 2008


I'm going to risk humiliating myself to make an important point about writing picture books.The pages below are from the original draft of Waiting for Gregory that I sent to my editor, Christy, eleven years ago. Thankfully, she rejected it. The rest of the story takes place in a hospital waiting room. Can't you imagine the picture possibilities? The clock, a couch, chairs...the clock, a couch, chairs...That draft proves I didn't know a thing about writing picture books.

A year after she rejected the manuscript, Christy told me that the story had potential. I asked her, "Does the text have potential or the premise?"

She smiled. "The premise." She talked to me about making a dummy of the story, roughly sketching the pictures that would go along with the words.

I never glanced at the original manuscript again. A few years later, after reading hundreds of picture books, now as a writer, I thought of a new story with the same premise. This time I wrote the story with pictures in mind. This last page shows an early attempt at that.

The dummy idea has never worked for me. Probably because I'm not an artist. But the results of my process are the same. I break down the story with pictures in mind. What I'm able to imagine looks so much better than what I'd achieve in a sketch. Still, what Christy taught me was golden: Picture book texts must provide picture opportunities.

Friday, May 2, 2008


Saturday I went to Pete's Greenhouse. As I filled my cart with geraniums, petunias, and English ivy, I felt a little like the family that skips worship services all year long, then prances into church Easter Sunday and settles on the front pew. Months had passed since I'd shopped at Pete's for plants.

After a few strolls around the greenhouse I relaxed. When one of the workers exclaimed, "Oh, I love white flowers. Aren't you going to get some Dusty Silver?," I started to believe I belonged there.

Later at home, I added new potting mix to my window box and dug holes for the flowers. After planting them, Jerry and I trimmed back the boxwood to allow for a clearer view. The meager task paled to the daily activity of my past gardening years. But it was a start.

Yesterday I returned to my historical novel, the one that that has caused me to struggle more than any other book I've attempted. A lot had happened since I'd last looked at the manuscript. In September, the story traveled from my Texas home to New York City. I visited schools and conferences. The Christmas tree was decorated, defrocked and put away. Then in January, Christy read the story and sent me her editorial letter.

When her letter arrived, my mind was wrapped around the third Piper Reed story. I read and reread the letter, but I couldn't reenter that world. I put the historical aside and finished the Piper book.

Time is a writer's best friend. Though I haven't glanced at its pages, I've been thinking about the historical. Somewhere between sleep and dreams I discovered a missing element that needed to be added. I also realized what must be trimmed so my reader could have a clearer view.

Yesterday I opened my notebook. It took a few moments to familiarize myself with the story and the people that lived among its pages. At first I was overwelmed at the job ahead of me. Could I really do this? Then I let the pen travel across the page, marking out a timeline. It wasn't much, but it was a start. I had begun to dig in again.