Monthly Archives: February 2013


March 6 is World Read Aloud Day.  Could there be a happier, more thrilling prospect than adults and kids across the globe making a hubbub as they share their favorite stories? So far I’ll be Skyping and reading with schools in Illinois and  Texas. If you’d like to have me, or another author, read with your favorite kids, contact me through this site or go to

From time time to time I publish an essay, and the most recent one, about what it’s like to sit behind the desk in the children’s room of the public library, is in the February issue of Cleveland magazine–the issue with the giant beer mugs on the cover. Here’s that link: (wow, I hope that really works)

A blog you’ve heard me mention before–From the Mixed Up Files– has a post I wrote up now. It’s about literary islands, home to baby dragons, wild ponies, red-haired orphans, notorious convicts and, of course pirates. You can read it at 

 And lastly, if you haven’t yet entered the giveaway for an ARC of my new picture book, it’s not too late. See the post below. There will be a giveaway for hardcover copies coming up soon on Goodreads.

Stay warm!

A First for Me

I’ve never done this before, but hear it’s fun, so…

Here on my desk sit two lovely ARCS (also known as lithos) of my new picture book PHOEBE AND DIGGER, which publishes March 26. For a chance to win one,  please leave a comment below by March 1. What would make this especially fun is if you shared some memory of your favorite, beloved toy.  Mind if I go first?

Saucy Walker!  I adored that doll, from her bouncy curls to her white plastic shoes. My grandmother sewed her a complete and exquisite wardrobe–I especially remember the turquoise corduroy overalls and silky print blouse to match. If any bully had tried to take her away from me, like the mean girl who snatches Digger, what would I have done? Cried my head off, probably. I was nowhere near as plucky as Phoebe.

I’ll personalize the giveaway copy for you or the child in your life. Thanks in advance for taking part! 

Moveable feast

I just did an interview for a blog called Creative Spaces–I’ll post when it’s up–and it got me thinking about all the writing places I’ve had over the years.

In the beginning and for years to come, it all happened on my  kitchen table, where each night after dinner I’d sweep away the crumbs, haul out the manual typewriter, and get to work.  We bought the table at a  tag sale, like pretty much everything else we owned (except for our bed, $35 at a country auction).  Every time we moved to a new rental, the table came along, and it didn’t always wind up in the kitchen.  I remember writing on it on a back porch, by a fireplace, in a bedroom we painted green, in the basement of a hundred and fifty year old house surrounded by dairy farms. 

I can remember, too, the view, or lack of one, in each of th0se rooms. From that back porch, I once saw a kingfisher. From that bedroom, I watched a blizzard of bees swarm out of the house–it turned out they had a hive in the walls. A beekeeper came and collected the queen, but the bees returned next year anyway. I became convinced I could smell honey while I worked.

Once our first daughter was born, the hunt for a place where all children would be left behind began. Here in Cleveland, I acquired a new desk, a door laid across two stacks of drawers. As the three girls grew up, the main requirement of any work place was another door–one I could close. I taught them that the words “Mama’s work place” were to be spoken with only the utmost reverance.

But now, behold! I work out in the open, beside three glorious windows that let me distract myself with the  neighborhood kids and dogs and bike riders, and for three seasons of the year, my blooming perennial garden. I have a real official desk, happily so beat up that spilled coffee doesn’t matter, book shelves, the full deal! These days the intruders have four legs instead of two.

I’m not a laptop person. Ideas happen anywhere, but there’s something about having a spot, one spot, that beckons my sustained imagination from its burrow.  I love thinking of all the places I’ve sat, staring and waiting, mumbling and scratching, and where, eventually, a story has emerged. We gave that kitchen table away to a friend, and have long since lost track both of him and it. One of these days, I may write a story about it.    

Yet Another Ingenious Way to Avoid Writing

I love Verlyn Klinkenborg. His very name, of course, but also the little essays he posts in the NY Times on his life in the country, which allow me to feel as if I, too, have crunched across the snow beneath a full moon, carrying an armload of wood, noting the tracks of the red fox and the screech of the owl, all while sitting on my suburban couch with my Ikea aghan and  glass of red wine.

And I adored his one novel, “Timothy, or Notes of an Abject Reptile”, again for that name but more for the voice of the tortoise, a far-from-abject fellow whose powers of observation and patience I can only envy.

Now Klinkenborg has a new book, “Several Short Sentences About Writing”. So far I’ve only dipped into it, which I don’t think he’d mind. It seems meant to fall open anywhere to a koan-like nugget of advice or wisdom. There’s  a wince-inducing section where he analyzes weak sentences. Sentences! The  book takes up for them. For each one standing bravely on its own, no matter what comes before or after it. All the vitality and meaning a piece possesses begins there.

To be truthful, I’m almost afraid to read the book. Much as I admire him, I’m worried he’ll reinforce my habit of honing and revising as I write. I’ve been working to be more the kind of writer who forges full steam ahead, getting that first draft done no matter how leaky and messy.  I’m too whatever to ever be a true  by-the-seat-of-my-panster, but I’d like more of that in my drafting process, which tends, too often, to favor the words themselves over the story.  

And yet, Verlyn and me, we both have faith in the words.  I just never know what a fortuitous phrase might unlock, where a well-made sentence might lead. While I can’t always follow my imagination, which just this morning tried to weasel a totally new character, an unemployed dolphin trainer, into a story where she most definitely does not belong, I do trust my inner voice.

I’m pretty sure, though, that he’d find most of the sentences in this post way too long.

Writing advice for the week, from Elliott Holt in Poets and Writers:

“I love big cities for the energy, the people-watching, the access to art and culture, the ability to feel anonymous. But I also need a daily ‘forest bath,’ as the Japanese call it. I take a long walk in the woods almost every day to clear my head…There is something about being on the trails, in the silence, under all those trees that does wonders for my brain. (A couple of years ago, The New York Times noted the health benefits of ‘forest bathing’:  apparently time spent among trees and plants reduces stress and boosts immune function.) I take my dog with me and sometimes I sort out character and plot problems on my walks. But more often than not, the walk is just a way to let go—of anxiety, of ego—and recharge my creative batteries. I always work better after I’ve been in the woods.”

Happy February!