Tuesday, September 30, 2008


It's Banned Book Week. This week we celebrate the freedom we have to read a book, any book, we choose.

Although I've never dictated what book my daughter could or couldn't read, I have to admit I did practice censorship with some magazines someone gave her. They were given with good intent, but I didn't think they were appropriate for a ten-year-old. I put them away in a trunk, but I felt guilty. The person who sent them to Shannon was trying to cheer up a little girl with chicken pox. What right had I to not even tell her about the gift? I told Shannon about the magazines and said she could read them if she wanted. She said she didn't want to. She wanted to read Harriet the Spy.

Several years ago, one of my books was challenged. They wanted it removed from a state list. The people objecting to my book pointed out a lot of things about the story that I didn't even know. They found hidden messages in the title and accused me of trying to attract readers with an MTV attitude. Thank goodness they didn't succeed in removing my book from the list. The reason they didn't is because ALA is armed with information to support librarians who face these situations.

Years ago when I was visiting a school, I asked a librarian if she'd ever had a parent want to remove a book. She said the only one that she'd had trouble with was Go Ask Alice. I couldn't believe it. When I was twelve I read that book. It scared the *@&# out of me. That book is the reason I never took drugs. I didn't want to end up like Alice. Books can inspire us to do things, but they can also introduce us to lives we never want to have to experience first hand.

Monday, September 29, 2008


but Amarillo is starting to become more bicycle friendly. A few years ago I noticed that the city was striping the right side of the roads for bicycle lanes in some neighborhoods. I was delighted to discover our neighborhood was included. Now if only we can train the cars and pickups to respect the lanes.

***Congratulations September Giveaway winners--Gwen Green from Amarillo, Texas and Jennifer Craiker from Edmond, Oklahoma. You each won a signed copy of My Louisiana Sky.

Sunday, September 28, 2008


Is it okay to have a good time at a funeral? Coleen Salley wouldn't have had it any other way.

From the standing-room only church services, the 11 block jazz precession to her French Quarter condo, to the milk punch toasts in the courtyard--we celebrated our friend's life.

There were sweet moments throughout the day. One of my favorites was watching Freddi William Evans sign Coleen's wall. She'd always meant to join her name along side the other writers and illustrators.

After the reception I had lunch with Deborah Wiles and Walter Mayes at Willie Mae's where we told our Coleen stories.

Later the stories continued as we joined with Joan Stevenson, Traci Todd, and Terry Young at Irene's, a favorite eating spot of Coleen's. It is amazing how one person can truly touch so many lives and bring so many people together.

Earlier when I left Coleen's condo to meet Debbie and Walter, two tourists stopped and asked me, "What's going on?" Part of Chartre Street had been blocked off for the reception. I'm sure with the upbeat music playing and folks gathered in the street, laughing, the two women thought there was a big party going on. And there was.

I tried to answer them with a straight face. "It's a funeral reception."

"Oh," they softly said, walking away with confused expressions.

Coleen would have loved it!

For more Coleen coverage, visit my friend, Deborah Wiles' blog:

Thursday, September 25, 2008


The first words of My Louisiana Sky came to me while I was taking a bath. Later I read somewhere that three places inspiration strikes the most are right before sleep, while bathing, or during transportation.

I remember the day inspiration struck me. It was the summer of 1994 and I'd started writing the month before. That day I decided to take a soak after my morning writing session on the screen porch. For weeks, I'd been trying to write an adult story that meant nothing to me, a story that I thought my sell. I had an important lesson to learn. A writer must care deeply about the story they are writing.

While I struggled to move the story forth each day, a childhood memory returned to me. I was nine. My mother and I were riding to my grandmother's home when we passed a woman walking on the road. My mother mentioned that the lady was mentally retarded and that she had children. That moment stayed with me throughout my life. Occasionally I would think about the woman and wonder about her children. But the summer I began to write, the moment visited me each day, usually while I wrote.

It was as if the moment was saying, Pay attention. This is where your heart is. Then that day while I relaxed in the tub, I heard Tiger's voice. Before that, I'd never experienced hearing a character's voice. Now days, I call that experience heart meeting imagination. But that day it was magic.

My heart pounded. Without drying off, I put on my robe and dashed to my office. I searched for a pen, opening drawers and glancing at the floor. I felt desperate, as if I didn't quickly catch the words, they would disappear. Then I remembered my typewriter. I slipped in the paper, pushed the feed button and began to type the first words to the story that would one day become my first book. A story that I cared about then and still do today.
(Click on image above to enlarge)


***September Giveaway: To enter the drawing for a signed copy of My Louisiana Sky, send your snail mail address to kwhevents@suddenlink.net. The deadline is Sunday, September 28, 2008 at 5 pm central time.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


This summer, I fell into a routine of writing seven days a week. I was working on my rewrite for the historical novel, preparing it for the second round with my editor. After I sent in the manuscript, I started the new Piper book and stayed with the seven day pace.

"That's the danger of working for yourself," Jerry said. "You forget to take a day off."

"It doesn't seem like work," I told him. At least most days, it didn't seem like a job.

"Still you should take a day off."

I agree with him. Although I also know the dangers of losing touch with a story, I think it's important to keep a bit of balance in my life.

So after writing Saturday morning, I took the afternoon off and went to the Tri-State Fair.

There are a lot of reasons to go to the fair.

The rides,

the blue ribbon pumpkin

the first prize quilt

the petting zoo

and if you must, the storm shelters

But I go for other reasons:

a corn dog

Tornado Tators(what a nice husband!)

and to seal a nice afternoon off--a funnel cake!

Monday, September 22, 2008


Until this year, my next-door neighbor, Ray, gardened on the empty lot across the alley. It was an ambitious garden--tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, peppers, and corn. He always told us to help ourselves, but we never did. So every month, in the summer, I'd find a bag near my door filled with some of his produce.

Around this time each year, the mammoth sunflowers, he grew at the edge of the garden, towered above our fence line. The sunflowers served as a reminder that the season was coming to an end. And when those plate sized blooms bowed toward the ground, I knew Ray would soon drop by with something that made this southern girl smile--green tomatoes.

Even though he always made it clear I could pick from his harvest, I kind of suspected Ray didn't see the sense in green tomatoes. He never offered them to me until early fall. But whenever the weather man predicted our first frost, I could always forecast green tomatoes from Ray. And I'd be 100 percent right.

Early spring, Ray told Jerry that his bad knees were going to keep him from gardening. He'd decided to sell the lot. The news truly felt like the end of an era.

Then the other day, when I returned from my New Mexico trip, I discovered some vegetables in the refrigerator. Jerry told me that Ray had given them to us. He'd decided to keep a smaller garden in his backyard. There were peppers, zucchini and, of course, tomatoes. Most of the tomatoes were red and juicy. But as I pulled out the produce, my heart lifted. Tucked among the other vegetables were three perfect green tomatoes. I wonder if I should be preparing for an early frost?


3-4 Green tomatoes
1 egg
2/3 cup of flour mixed
1/3 cup of cornmeal
bacon grease or butter

Slice green tomatoes
Dip in beaten egg
Mix flour, meal, sugar, salt and pepper
Fry in bacon grease or butter
Bake in 350 degree oven for thirty minutes

Sunday, September 21, 2008


It sure is nice to discover two of my favorite baristas wearing a Piper pin. Get off the bus! Thanks, Mindy and Clayton from the Hardback Cafe.

Thursday, September 18, 2008


When I travel around the country doing events, I often ask people if they know Coleen Salley. If they say, "I think I might have met her," I know they have not. Because you never forget meeting Coleen.

The first time I saw her was on an American Express commercial when they showed her telling a story to some children at Maple Street Book Shop in New Orleans. She was captivating--her raspy voice telling the story of an alligator. That was a few years before I attended a party at her home in the French Quarter. Lucky me, our encounters kept happening over the years. And I'm so thankful for the stories.

The one that I kept asking her to repeat was the story of her father as an orphaned boy. Some relatives had taken him in and put him to work on their farm. One time they sent him with one of their young children to visit some older aunts. When the aunts learned of how her father was being treated, they refused to put him back on the train and decided to raise him themselves. I've simplified the story, but when Coleen told it, she placed me on that train with her father. She was a great storyteller.

The story I wanted to hear repeated, but never did, was the story of her husband and how she fell in love with him in Germany. In their short marriage, they had three children. The marriage ended tragically when her young husband died in a car accident. She told the story with such a range of emotions, the last words ending softly. There was no denying it, he was her one great love.

She returned to Germany. I had assumed she was visiting friends there, but when I asked her about it, she said, "Oh, no honey, I go back for the memories."

I've only met two of her children briefly, but I know them well from her stories. She raised them to embrace life with gusto. They each have inherited her strength and adventuresome nature.

To Coleen, life was an adventure. She traveled often and had just returned from a cruise when I spent a few days with her in April. She was the kind of person who didn't let the parades pass her by. Heck, she was the grand marshall of the parades. She even had a Mardi Gras parade named after her.

I don't have a godmother, but I'd like to think this last decade, Coleen had been mine. She offered her wisdom to me and I welcomed it. She taught me about the importance of attending events and doing school visits, but also warned me about doing too many of them. "If you don't write, no one will want to hear what you have to say."

She opened her home to me anytime I was in New Orleans(unless she was doing her taxes. Then she wouldn't even let me take her to dinner.)I'll always remember that first time I stayed there. After an evening of Coleen's stories, I fell asleep to the sounds of the French Quarter--the clomp-clomp of the horses pulling carriages, people laughing as they walked by, a sad saxophone song.

Coleen loved living in the French Quarter. She'd always dreamed of living there. One of the reasons she kept her drapes open until bedtime was that she had wished more people had done so for her when she was a visitor. So as a resident, she offered visitors a peek into her life.

When she told me that, she said, "And do you think they look in? No! They walk right on by without a glance!"

She loved food, wine, and eating in good restaurants. When she learned I took a friend to The Court of Two Sisters, she frowned and lectured me. "You took her to a tourist trap? Why, Honey, you could have taken her to NOLA's or Galatoire's..." On and on she went naming restaurants I'd never considered. I didn't have the heart to tell her, we'd eaten a good meal at the tourist trap.

When I was with Coleen, I always felt a little naughty. Maybe we laughed too loud in a quiet restaurant or ordered the creme brulee when we'd already eaten a huge meal. She had a way of coloring outside the lines. My daughter received a cussing box from her for graduation. Shannon also remembers several years ago when we were sitting in her courtyard. Coleen opened a bottle of wine. Shannon was seventeen and Jerry and I said it would be okay if she had a little. Coleen filled Shannon's glass to the rim.

She was a great cheerleader for books and writers, and had a special place in her heart for those she thought had been overlooked. She even championed an out of print book back into print. One morning, she read that book to me in her living room. To this day, I can't read Oh Lord, I Wish I was a Buzzard without hearing her voice.

Once I heard someone say that our lives were a pie and each slice represented a segment. I'd like to think the slice that included Coleen was the one with the whipped cream on top. In Louisiana we call a little something extra, lagniappe. Coleen was my lagniappe.

The title of this post may seem odd for a piece about someone who just left this world. But I didn't write this post for those folks who knew her. We all have our Coleen stories. Each of us believed we were her most special friend. Coleen was one of those rare people who made you feel that way. And she could count hundreds, if not thousands, as friends.

I wrote this for those of you who didn't have the opportunity to meet her. The nice thing is you can have a slice of Coleen pie, too. She left behind a lot of stories and some of those are in books. Aren't we lucky?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Rest in peace, dear friend. You were the Queen of Everything.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


The last few days have been filled with craziness. Crazy busy and crazy worry. When I am crazy worried, it is a blessing to be crazy busy. In all the craziness, I finished my first draft of the fourth Piper and prepared for a writing workshop for educators. I was thankful for the tasks.

I'm embarrassed to admit that I didn't pay much attention to Hurricane Ike. The television stayed off. I was busy writing. So when my daughter called me Thursday and said, "This hurricane is worse than we thought. They're closing the campus tomorrow," the fretting began.

I seem destined to encounter hurricanes. I was born during Hurricane Donna. And the years of living in Louisiana and Guam, it would have been unusual not to experience tropical storms. But now I know it is much worse to be far away from a loved one who is experiencing them.

Saturday my daughter and her roommates headed north to the Dallas area. They wanted power and showers. She is fine now.

Still it is difficult to do nothing for her. I think of the days I tried to teach her to look both ways before crossing the street. Sometimes it was just easier to take hold of her hand and help her across.

Last year, when we learned that she'd made it a habit to leave the coffee shop at midnight and walk across campus alone, my husband told her, "I wish you wouldn't do that."

I had a different way of dealing with it. I called her up and said, "Don't walk alone across campus late at night."

Several times in the last few days, my husband reminded me, "She's a grown woman now."

"So," I told him, "she's still my daughter."

"I know," he said, "she's mine, too."

Monday, September 15, 2008


A few weeks ago I posted about our worn out fence. Since then, I've been like an expectant mom who suddenly notices pregnant women are taking over the world. I can't stop noticing our neighbors' fences.

I accuse my husband of over-using the word eclectic, but there is no way around it. The fences around the block represent the eclectic flavor of our neighborhood. Some of the fences make me smile because of their whimsy. My favorite is the fence that incorporates a birdhouse.

Some serve great purpose. I'm fond of goats, but only while peering at them through a fence. (I had a bad incident with goats at a petting zoo years ago.) Other fences are elegant. Okay, maybe one is elegant. Still the fences in my neighborhood remind me of jambalaya--a little of this and that and the mix turns out just fine.

Friday, September 12, 2008


Recently I was asked by TeachingBooks to do some readings from my books. TeachingBooks is an online source that helps brings authors into classrooms. I appreciate the chance to do this. Thank you TeachingBooks!

If you would like to listen, here they are:




And a little something about my name

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


Whenever Shannon helps me clean my office, she tries to convince me to get rid of the M&M dispenser.

"You never put M&M's in it," she says.

It's true. I've never filled the globe with M&M's. Years ago, the dispenser was given to me by a school who knew I had a penchant for the little candies. Like some other writers I know, I call them brain food. The fact of the matter is I don't trust myself. To me, eating one M&M leads to eating another M&M, until every piece is gone. I lack the discipline. But today I'm going to test that discipline. I'm going to fill up that globe with plain M&M's. We'll see how it goes.

When folks ask me about writing, they rarely inquire about discipline. And that's a shame because it's an important part of writing. Someone can have all the talent in the world, but if they don't routinely sit down in a chair and put words on a page, they will never be a writer. Time and time, again, I witness talented people with brilliant ideas who think about writing, but approach it with a careless attitude.

Before I was published, I enrolled in some writing courses. I was in awe of the talent in those rooms. After listening to some of them read their work, I remember dreading my turn. My writing paled next to theirs. But every week, I brought something to read. Something I'd worked on since the last class. And that's where we parted company. Many of those talented writers didn't bring something to every class. They wrote on a whim. I've been writing for fourteen years now and I can tell you with certainty that whims don't come along very often.

The act of putting words on a page when I don't feel inspired is hard. But I want to be a professional writer and sometimes being a professional means doing what I know needs to be done even when I don't feel like doing it. It takes discipline. The reward is that even when I've had a day of writing awful prose or moving the story forward by only a scene instead of a chapter, I'm happy. The discipline of showing up allowed me to call myself a writer for one more day.

Monday, September 8, 2008


Friday I grabbed a New York Times at the Albuquerque airport while I waited for a friend's arrival. What a nice surprise to see a full page article on my city. Jim Atkinson's piece will take you beyond my block, but it will give you a taste of the city where I hang my hat these days.

The Other Grand Canyon

Sunday, September 7, 2008


"Stories are relics, part of an undiscovered pre-existing world. The writer's job is to use the tools in his or her toolbox to get as much of each one out of the ground intact as possible." --Stephen King, from his book On Writing

Friday, September 5, 2008


If you are an educator that lives in the Texas Panhandle, I hope you will consider enrolling in my workshop day at Region 16 on September 16. I'll begin the day showing my journey as a writer. But this is also a hands-on workshop. We'll write in the morning and in the afternoon, I'll take you through my rewriting process-Whittle, Whittle, Whittle.

Tuesday, September 16
Region 16
5800 Bell Street
Amarillo, Texas 79109

To enroll: Workshop with Kimberly

For more information: Contact Susan Poteet at susan.poteet@esc16.net
or call (806)677-5182

Thanks! I hope to see you there.

Thursday, September 4, 2008


When I gave Shannon my copy of The New Cookbook for Poor Poets, I replaced it, ordering a used copy online. A few days ago, I received the book in the mail and was delighted that someone had signed it. Not the author, but the original purchasers. The inscription offered me a glimpse into their lives.

It read:

To Tim,

May you have use for this cookbook
one day.


Grandma & Grandpa

Happy 19th birthday

Since the inscription was dated 2-9-87, Tim would be about 40 years old today. I doubt he ever used the cookbook. The pages are free from butter stains and soup drippings. They're immaculate. But I do wonder, did he ever cook?

Some of you may be thinking, who cares? I do. I'm a writer.

Another treasure I found was in a recent purchase from a local used bookstore. It's the kind of store where Doris Day music plays in the background and all the books are laminated. The book I discovered is titled Letters of Flannery O'Connor, The Habit of Being. When I brought the book home, I started to read and noticed a newspaper clipping, tucked midway through the book. The article was a review written in 1979 about the same book which was published the same year.

I could just imagine a woman who fancied herself a bit like Flannery O'Connor. Maybe she'd read A Good Man is Hard to Find. Or maybe like O'Connor, she owned a peacock that pranced around her yard. Or maybe she just awoke one morning, fetched the newspaper from her yard and read it while she sipped her first morning cup of coffee. The review sparked something in her, and she opened her junk drawer, dug out her coupon scissors and cut out the article.

When her cousin Harold called to see if she needed anything in town, she said, "Why yes, I do." She slipped on her navy skirt and crisp white shirt and waited for Harold to pick her up and take her to the bookstore. When she arrived there she was delighted to discover the book displayed in the store window. She bought a copy and when Harold dropped her off, she put on a kettle of water. A new book, she reasoned, deserved a cup of Earl Grey tea.

She became as fascinated as I did upon reading those first letters, but then somewhere around the middle of the book, she grew tireless. Maybe she'd wanted some man to sweep Miss O'Connor off her feet and marry her. And she could tell midway through the book that this just wasn't going to be a part of this story. Something in those letters made her sad. And she tucked the review between the last pages she'd read and never opened the book again.

At least that's what I think happened.

Who cares? I do. I'm a writer.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


We've lived in this house for almost fifteen years. Our last two homes had not been mansions, by any means, but they'd been grander and in neighborhoods where housing associations dictated how often we mowed our lawn and the date we were allowed to put up our outdoor Christmas decorations.

Those houses had also caused us to feel strapped the day after payday. It was an uncomfortable existence. When we moved to the Texas Panhandle, Jerry suggested we purchase smarter this time around. "You've always dreamed of being a writer. Let's buy a one income home. Then if you want to pursue that dream, you can."

I agreed, but I started to doubt my decision during the house search. Back then, there wasn't much on the market and every house we entered held disappointments. Then we walked into a modest sixties ranch. Cookies were cooling on a tray in the kitchen, bicycles were stored on the screen porch, numerous flower beds had been carved along the fence. Someone loved living here.

We learned the owners had lived in the house for thirty years. They'd raised four kids within these walls. They'd owned numerous pets that had lived and died here. Months later, Kay, the previous owner told me her kids said they could never sell this house. There were too many dead bodies buried in the backyard.

It was not love at first sight that caused us to say, yes. The decision was more of a surrendering. We'd simply seen everything and though we couldn't quite put our finger on it, this house touched something inside us.

Though the large kitchen and backyard were impressive, the house had many shortcomings. The day we moved in, those deficiencies seemed magnified. I slipped the key in the doorknob at four o'clock in the afternoon. My daughter and I walked into the backyard and heard the nearby sounds of highway traffic. Since we'd originally toured the house in mid-morning, the nearby highway only registered at a faint hum. That first afternoon of ownership, I thought a semi truck might race through our backyard.

Now that the house was empty, I could plainly see the ugly aluminum framed windows. They were narrow rectangles that let in little light. The house seemed dreary.

Our bedroom was so tiny that making the bed was truly a chore. I'm sure dieting would have solved the problem of having to squeeze in the narrow space, between the walls and bed. But it was easier to gripe to my husband. During my first shower, the old plumbing christened me with cold water. Shameful as it is to recall now, I threw a tantrum after that brisk experience.

And I wanted to shoot the stove.

For six months I peeled off wallpaper and painted each room. We removed the heavy drapes and exchanged the old sliding glass door leading to the screen porch with a French one. At that time, we couldn't afford to replace every window, but we enlarged three. A bit more sunshine pouring into the living and family rooms made a difference. (Mainly in my disposition.)

Then June arrived. My decorating budget ran out. I picked up a pen and a yellow pad and headed toward the screen porch. Gradually, words on the page became more important and the flaws of my house concerned me less. So much so, a few years ago I realized in amusement that in ten years, I'd never changed the picture hanging over the fireplace mantle. What happened to the woman who rotated her pictures every season?

As my own books started to fill a shelf in our family room, we made house improvements. A few at a time, every window was replaced. Eventually, we enlarged the bedroom and built a walk-in closet. We bought a new stove. (Well, now it's not so new, but I still love it!)

Except for the fixtures, the plumbing in the shower is the same. But I've learned the trick. Turn all the way to the right, a minute or two, then a quarter turn to the left. There I find the desired temperature.

I don't want you to think this house had no attributes when we bought it. I've always enjoyed the charming courtyard entry, the screen porch, the large sunny kitchen. But something deeper happened along the way. And I would never have predicted it the day my husband and I signed the mortgage contract. I had not meant to fall in love with this house.

Yet with all its flaws, it afforded me a way to pursue my passion. And it offered more. Memories have been made in these rooms. We've had a first-snow-of-the-year picnic in front of the fireplace. The kitchen played host to French onion soup lunches for friends. The living room became our reading room and the place for my daughter's sleepovers. Though small, the family room comfortably held eight people for a private movie premiere. It's even difficult to hear the traffic from the backyard these days. I'm too busy listening to the birds chirping on the feeder and our neighbor's grandkids jumping on the trampoline.

Somehow in these fifteen years, I became a writer, and while I wasn't looking, this house had become my home.