Posts Tagged ‘books’

Huge, huge, HUGE thanks to SIBA…

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

Honestly, when I headed off to SIBA, I didn’t really understand what I was attending.  On several levels.

I was, of course, happy to be invited, and excited to meet people (that’s always fun).  But it didn’t occur to me that SIBA is, really, where all the most devoted and committed book lovers gather.

When you go to a writing conference, it’s all about your own writing.  That’s fun and the conversations are smart, but everyone is there for themselves. To promote themselves. That’s what I’m used to.  As a writer, I was worried nobody would come to my SIBA reading, which was late at night, at the end of a long day.

Boy, was I wrong!  It was a wonderful reading!  All the other readers were amazing, Marjory Wentworth was a wonderful host, and the audience was fabulous, excited, still listening at the end of 12 hours of conference.

Because SIBA is where all the indie booksellers in the south go, each year, to connect and refuel. They  talk about books and how best to get them out into the world, and into the hands of the right readers.  But unlike professors or authors or publicists or editors (who are all awesome, of course) booksellers like this don’t HAVE to promote books.  These are small-businesspeople, who could, if they wanted to do so, sell something else. They could sell beer. They could sell widgets. They sell BOOKS!  They are devoted.  They have made a choice.  They’re doing a kind of mission.

It was inspiring and touching and important for me to meet these people. Many of them, like my new BFFs in Forest City, NC, serve (and it IS service, what they do) small populations in out of the way places.  Where they organize author events and function as a kind of cultural center.

Meeting them, I was reminded of the (sadly now gone) incredible Louie’s Bookstore Cafe. As a kid in Baltimore, my life was altered by the poetry and punk-rock comics I found at Louie’s.  I felt I owned the place. It belonged to me, and I belonged to it.

For kids all over the south, the dedicated booksellers of SIBA are providing that sort of experience. They’re selecting books carefully, talking to their customers, maybe even permitting kids-without-money to sit on the floor and read books they can’t afford to buy. From Malaprops to Park Road to Regulator to Gothic Bookshop to Fireside to Bound-to-Be-Read to Acapella to… ah, hell, just go visit them all over at Marc’s site! I only wish I’d had a chance to meet everyone.

Can you imagine the difference between being a nerdy-reader-eleven-year-old (like I was) in Forest City, NC… and being that same girl, WITH a wonderful caring Indie bookstore in your town?  It’s a HUGE thing. It might be the difference between becoming a writer, and not becoming a writer. No way to tell. But it matters.

Now, for the first time, I’m thinking about the constellation of such stores, in small places.  And how vital they are to intelligent human discourse and education in general. How they build culture. I’m thinking of booklovers, young readers, writers. Particularly in out of the way places.

What Wanda Jewell has built with SIBA is astounding, and exciting, and it reminded me of who I want to be.

Of course, the conference was just plain fun, too. I got to eat nachos with Deb Wiles, and Ken Wheaton introduced me to the sweet pain of Booker’s (ironic, no?) bourbon.  Marc Fitten was my (as always) partner in crime, and I ran into old friend Ted Lee. I got to meet Twitter pals Nikki Leone,  Rich Rennicks and Robert Gray.  And made new friends in Susan Gregg Gilmore and Janet Geddis. There’s no way I can mention it all here. I got to meet and see so many wonderful people.  If I met you, but haven’t mentioned you, I mean to. I didn’t meet anyone who didn’t inspire me.  It was THAT kind of experience.

Because that’s where the wonderful people are, in bookstores.

And I’d like to promise, now, that I will come visit any store affiliated with SIBA. By golly, I will! I will get there on my own steam, at some point, in some way. I will bring silly craft projects and talk to kids.   Small groups are fine.  Or one lonely girl who dreams of being a writer.  I will be there, devoted.  If the bookstores can do it, I’ll do it too.

I just might have to bring my kids…

Thanks, SIBA!  Really.  For all you do.


Tuesday, August 12th, 2008

They’re HERE!!!!

The BOOKS are here! (confirmed after Mose “read” the packing slip and Lew contemplated chewing the bubble wrap)  The glorious, beautiful, amazing, shiny books full of pages and words and pictures.  And it only took 8 years for them to get here!!!!


A lot of “important” moments along the way.  The initial chat with Lisa, the letters of on-spec revisions, the day it went to committee, the agent-getting, the acceptance, the first round of official edits, the second round, copyediting, last-minute fact checking, blurb hunting, contracts arriving in the mail, checks arriving in the mail, arcs arriving in the mail, the first review, etc. etc. All of them HUGE  moments. And with the arrival of each, this feeling of “I’m about to be an author”.

But checks and agents and deals and reviews do NOT make you an author, whatever some people may think.

A BOOK makes you an author!!!

There is something in the actual concreteness of the thing. The THING!  It is a thing, not an idea. I had an idea, and I worked at it, and now, 8 years later, the idea has become a thing. An object.  It’s an incarnation.  It’s CRAZY!

I can wrap it up and give it as a gift. I can burn it for firewood. I can barter it for goods and services. It is a thing.  I can touch it.

MY BOOK!!!!!!

(which the boys–THING 1 and THING 2– helped me, joyfully, to unpack. I’m a lucky lady, to have such helpers.)


Thursday, July 31st, 2008


(no, I am not pregnant. The other kind of big)

You are going to freak OUT…

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

When I tell you just *who* is illustrating my next book.

Yeah, WOW!  (And you haven’t even seen the sketches I got yesterday!!!)

When I was asked, years ago, who my dream illustrator would be for Scratchy Mountains, I said quickly, “N.M. Bodecker.”

“He doesn’t work much these days,” I was told.   “He’s dead,”


So I tried again. “Hilary Knight?”

“We’ll try…” they replied with a knowing snicker.  “But dont get your hopes up.”

Indeed, Mr. Knight never responded to any of my fan letters.

So… given that Tenniel is also unavailable, I COULD NOT BE MORE EXCITED!!!!


Pham’s work reminds me of my favorite artists, actually. There’s something funny and smartypants and artsy at the same time.  Something off kilter.  Everything looks a little too big or a little too small, and everything looks like it has a touch of vertigo.  Everyone she draws look like they just heard a good joke.

(Yeah, you could say I aim for the stars… but how else you gonna fall  to the moon?)

Brideshead Re-re–re-revisited…

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

Okay, so in order to write this post I have to confess something– I have an obsession with Brideshead.

I know a lot of you will be saying, “Oh, me too… nothing to be ashamed of..”

But no.  I have an OBSESSION.  I’ve read the novel about 20 times. I own the entire miniseries (on VHS, a legacy from my grandfather, who taped it from TV). I own and have read “Charles Ryder’s School days”, Waugh’s book that preceded the actual novel (more than once). I have the soundtrack to the miniseries on both vinyl and CD.  And to top it all off, I wrote my senior paper in high school about the dang thing.

I like it a LOT!

Not just because my mom made me watch it as a kid. Or because its lush and rich and aristocratic.

But because it really really ROCKS.  There are lines of real poetry. The characters  are so incredibly multifaceted.  And watching Charles and Julia and Sebastian change and grow as they aged, in different ways, had a profound effect on me in my twenties, as I tried to think about what it meant to get older, and how that related to pleasure and obligation– silly things like that.

It was a very different book for me when I was 18 than it was when I was 28.  As I grew into who I wanted to be as a partner, parent, person.

The beginning and the end of the book are so different. Youth and age, innocence and experience. exuberance and nostalgia and wisdom.


When I heard they were making a movie I got very excited. But this morning, watching the trailer, I was sad.

The film appears to be watchful from the get-go. In the book and the miniseries, eden turns.  But from the looks of this trailer, the snake is slithering around the garden before the movie even starts.  This won’t work for me.  Without the sacred, the profane just isn’t that interesting.

And this is so much a book about faith and grace, as well as our base instincts, our passions, our complexities..

When the book opens, Charles is looking at the house, remembering his youth there.  As the book proceeds, he moves from remembering with nostalgia what he calls “halcyon days” (his life at Oxford, his finding of the “low door in the wall”) to remembering with sadness the demise of his friend, and his awareness of the complications and dysfunctions of the Flyte/Marchmain clan.  His loss of youth, etc…

But without the halcyon days in arcadia, this will all fall very flat.  We don’t need another movie about the dirty underbelly of the bored and twisted British aristocracy.  The point about Brideshead is that you read it and you experience his process, his growing-up, his realizations.

I find it telling that the music in this film is SOOOOO different from the astoundingly beautiful score to the miniseries. It is ominous. It foretells.

In my case, it disappoints.

This may be a situation like Bridge to Terabithia, where the marketing is just awful and the film is not, in fact, the film being advertised. Maybe they did capture the youth and love and nostagia, the magic. The garden before the fall.

Let’s hope.

Here’s the new trailer, and bit of the old…  a scene I feel captures the loveliness, the dappled youth, the light…

What say you?

Oooh! Oooh!

Sunday, March 30th, 2008

It’s up online!  For all the world to see.  My very first picture book!

I have known for a looooooong time now that I would, in theory, have a picture book coming out in September of 2008.  But now I finally, fully, truly believe it.


I am so so so so so excited about traveling the country with the boys, reading this book to little kids in amazing bookstores areound the US.

Can we sleep on your couch?