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Christy Catherine Marshall

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May 27, 2010

We’re in for a treat today — a visit from Georgia author, Deborah Wiles. I cannot begin to tell you what an influence this woman has had on my desire to write for kids. She was the keynote speaker at the 2008 SCBWI conference in Atlanta, and ever since then, I’ve wanted to share some of her advice with you. This month marks the release of her newest novel, Countdown!

How did you get started writing a trilogy about the 1960s?

I started one story that took place in 1962, and then another that took place in 1966. They weren’t related, although they both took place in the sixties.

At some point, I realized that, with one more story — I chose 1968, it’s such a rich year — I would have a look at the entire decade, so I proposed a trilogy of connected novels about the sixties to my publisher. This evolution took place over several years. I had lots of stops and starts. I started Countdown as a picture book in 1996, while freelancing and being a full-time mom as well. It grew up as my children (and I) did.

What do you hope kids will learn about the ’60s while reading your book?

I hope they see themselves in these novels. I hope they understand that history is really biography — personal narrative — and that their stories are important.

I always say that all stories come from three places: what you know and remember, what you feel, and what you can imagine. I hope kids will understand that, in the sixties (and in all of history), there is context for the life they live today, that there is choice, that they can make choices in their own lives today and tomorrow, that make a difference in the world.

I also hope that they laugh and love, right along with Franny.

Some people have referred to Countdown as a graphic novel or a documentary novel. What are they talking about, and how do you use the images to enhance your story?

As I wrote Countdown, I began collecting primary source materials in my research, and I started a file, a Word document, to house all these photos and sayings, newspaper clippings and song lyrics, etc. Soon, I discovered that I was using them to help me tell the story, and I could see that they belonged in the story, and — more than that — they were an actual part of the narrative. So I began to use them in that way, and you’ll find that Countdown is full of photographs and clippings and the social and political commentary of the early sixties.

Did you enjoy growing up in the ’60s?

I loved growing up in the sixties. Of course, I wasn’t aware that it was “the sixties,” but I surely knew that things were changing fast, right under my nose. One day Elvis was in, the next day it was the Beatles. The same with fashion and food and movies and culture — it was an exhilarating time to be alive.

Our kids today are surrounded by bad news — wars, terrorists, bombings, natural disasters. Yet, each generation must find reason to hope. How does learning about our past give students a better vision for the future?

The 1960s was one of the most turbulent, changing, challenging, and defining decades in American history. There was so much dire news then, as well, especially surrounding the war in Vietnam and the civil rights movement. There was cause to be afraid. And there was always hope.

And love. With Countdown, I hope to grab the reader’s imagination and heart and let her know that there is always cause to be afraid in the world, and yet, there is always, always hope.

There are heroes. And we are they. Each of us, individually, can be heroic in our own ways. And are. The way we live through hard times is by coming together.

Do you have an idea for what the next book in the series will be about?

Oh, yes. The next book takes place in 1966 and revolves around the civil rights movement in this country, and the escalation of the war in Vietnam. That’s the larger history arc. The story involves two girls, cousins, who are making a trip from Mississippi to Memphis to find Elvis Presley, whom one of the girls is convinced, with reasonable proof, is her father.

One last question. Many of us here are parents trying to balance a desire to write with managing our homes and families. You didn’t start out as a novelist, did you? Can you share how your writing journey evolved and give us a couple of tips for hanging in there when we’re jotting stories on the back of the box of animal crackers at the playground?

I love this question. It speaks to the heart of my writing life. I knew, when I was in my twenties and had two young children, that I wanted to be a writer, but I didn’t understand what I had to write about — the desire was so strong, but I didn’t have a story. Or, more accurately, I didn’t understand my story.

In the library, I stumbled across the great essayists — E.B. White was my favorite — and began to see that I could write about my everyday life and turn that into story. I read and practiced for a long, long time. I wrote with a toddler holding onto my leg and saying, “Play, Mommy!” and I wrote at 2am. I wrote with a kindergartener doing his homework beside me. I wrote in fifteen-minute snatches.

I also read what I wanted to write — I checked out bags of books from the library and studied them as I read them to my children. Two books that meant a lot to me were WHEN I WAS YOUNG IN THE MOUNTAINS by Cynthia Rylant and HONEY I LOVE by Eloise Greenfield. I took those books apart, to see how they were structured. I so admired Molly Bang’s TEN NINE EIGHT, that I took it apart as well, and — years later — wrote ONE WIDE SKY.

I studied writers I admired. I took a writing class from a good teacher at the local community college, and then another one. I sent stories to New York publishers for ten years before someone was willing to work with me… and then it took another five years before FREEDOM SUMMER and LOVE, RUBY LAVENDER were published.

In those ten years, and in the ten years before that, I freelanced. I wrote essays and magazine features, and I was largely self-taught. I worked for free at first, in order to gather clips. I took those clips to larger papers and magazines, and eventually got paid. I got into a routine that had me up at 4am, writing, every day. It’s a habit I still adhere to today, and it serves me well. No one was awake at 4am, and I could get in two good hours of writing time before it was time to make breakfast for four children and see my husband out the door.

Wow. That’s an amazing schedule. I admire you for being able to get up that early.

A good friend told me once, “you have to want it more than sleep.” I’m not sure about that. What I do know that I was compelled to tell my story. I needed to tell it. Over and over again. And I still feel that compulsion today. I’m still writing out of my life, telling my story. I appreciate the chance to tell some of it here, at Mom2Mom. Thanks very much.

Thank YOU, Deborah, for taking time out of your busy schedule to speak to us here and encourage us in our reading, writing, and parenting journeys. You have blessed us here more than you’ll ever know!

You can read more about Deborah Wiles’ novels on her website. And here’s a book trailer where you can also SEE an interview with the author:

May 26, 2010

Those of you who’ve been around me in real life know I’ve been on a Harper Lee kick lately. For a while, I managed to bring her name into just about every conversation.

It looks like rain today. Hey, that reminds me of the weather in Monroeville where Harper Lee lives.

Are you going on the field trip next week? Hey, did you know Harper Lee was from Alabama and moved to New York in her 20s?

Have you read any good books lately? I’m reading To Kill a Mockingbird again. Have you ever read it?

I can blame it on my local public library. Back in March, they hosted the first annual BIG READ event, inviting the whole town to read To Kill a Mockingbird together.

I couldn’t believe it. People of all ages reading the same book together! (Can you hear the harp music now?) Our library used some grant money to buy dozens of copies of the book, as well as DVDs of the movie, and recent biographies of Harper Lee by author Charles Shields.

If that weren’t enough, there were special speakers and events every week. I almost made it to everything. It was heavenly for me, since everything was local and FREE.

The first major event was a public showing of the movie, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” starring Gregory Peck. I gathered a group of friends and their kids, and we all went together. It was my third time seeing the movie that month, since I’d watched the DVD twice already, with and without the director commentary. So you see, I was a little obsessed.

At the movie night, we listened to guest speaker, Mary Badham, the actress who played Scout in the movie. Oh, she was wonderful. She told us funny stories about how she got chosen to play Scout and how she and Philip Alford, the boy who played Gem, used to fight and tease each other with squirt guns.

Before the movie started, she signed a copy of the photograph below for us, which I’ll always treasure:

Mockingbird atticus scout

Mary Badham was so gracious. I know she has been answering the same questions over and over for decades, but she made it so fresh and new for all of us. She did tell us that she can’t watch the movie anymore “because everybody in it is gone now. It’s just me and Philip (Gem) who are left.” Gregory Peck passed away in 2003.

A couple of weeks later, we were visited by Charles Shields, the author of the best biography you can find on Harper Lee. She really is a mysterious writer, refusing to do any interviews since the ’60s. Shields took four years writing his book about Harper Lee, completely without any cooperation from her. He conducted over 600 interviews, which make this a thoroughly fascinating read.

She only wrote ONE BOOK, by golly. It took her ten and a half years to finish it. She moved from Alabama to New York to be near her friend, Truman Capote (who is the character Dill in the novel), and to start a writing career. She lived in a tiny apartment with no hot water and wrote on a homemade desk made from a closet door.

Shields told us, at one point, Lee became so frustrated, that in the summer of 1957, she threw her manuscript out the window! She called her editor and said, “I give up.” Her editor told her to get out there and collect the pages of her manuscript or she’d have to pay back her advance. Lee couldn’t afford to do this, so she finally turned it in.

To Kill a Mockingbird was published in 1960, and it became an instant success, earning her the Pulitzer Prize. The movie version, with a screenplay by Horton Foote, won four academy awards in 1962. It has never gone out of print, has sold 30 million copies, and still sells a million copies yearly. The book is required reading by nearly every public high school in America.

Yet she never wrote another book. She’s in her 80s now and still lives a quiet life in Monroeville, which is now known as “the literary capital of Alabama.”

Since 2010 marks 50 years since the publication of Lee’s world-famous novel, Monroeville is hosting a 50th anniversary celebration in July. There will be all kinds of literary tours and events, and even a giant birthday party for the book. You can read all about it here.

Harper Lee did publish a few essays in magazines in the 1960s. If you’re curious, here are a couple of links:

Love–In Other Words, published in Vogue Magazine in 1961

Christmas To Me, published in McCall’s magazine, December 1961

I recently found out our BIG READ book for next year will be The Great Gatsby. Good thing, because I’ve also been on a Zelda Fitzgerald kick lately. But that’s a whole ‘nother story.

May 25, 2010

I just found out about a new anthology that is seeking first-person inspirational essays. The deadline is August 15, 2010, so that gives you all summer to scribble out your thoughts on faith while your kids are napping or playing in the sandbox.

You can find out more details on the Cup of Comfort website, but here’s what they say on the Call for Submissions page:

For this anthology of 40-50 inspirational true stories, we are looking for narrative personal essays (creative-nonfiction short stories) written by and for Christian women that reveal how one’s faith has provided (provides) insight, guidance, comfort, and joy in navigating one’s life. Other acceptable themes include: tests of faith; reconciling personal beliefs/behavior with those of church; impact of your ministries on others, you, your faith.

We are not interested in “preachy” stories that tell other people how to live their lives and how to practice their faith. Nor are we interested in stories that promote one branch, denomination, or form of Christianity over another. What we’re interested in is how your faith positively impacts your life and, by extension, the lives of and your relationships with your loved ones and/or the world at large. You may cite one or more Biblical passages in your story; however, please keep in mind that this is a collection of personal stories and not a devotional.

Stories must be original, unpublished, true, and positive. Stories can focus on any of life’s challenges and/or blessings, and can be either serious or humorous or contain elements of both literay tones.

Story Length: 750 to 1500 words
Submission Deadline: August 15, 2010
Finalist Notification: August 20, 2010
Compensation: $50 + copy of book, per published story

Well, ladies, let’s get busy writing! Somebody wants your stories, and at the very least, you’ll be writing a legacy you can file and keep for your family to enjoy. Don’t you wish your grandparents had written down their legacies of faith for you? If they did, you’re blessed indeed!!

May 24, 2010

One of the things I love about going to SCBWI conferences is getting to meet all the fun people who write books for kids. Kristin O’Donnell Tubb is one of those people.

Her debut novel, Autumn Winifred Oliver Does Things Different, made me laugh and want to know more about her. So here she is, coming to chat with us all the way from Nashville, Tennessee.

Welcome, Kristin! How did you come up with the idea to write your first novel?

I grew up in Athens, Tennessee, about an hour and a half south of Cades Cove. We visited the park dozens of times when I was a kid, when my cousins would visit from Chicago.

But in 2002, I went on a tour of the Cove, and was standing in John Oliver’s cabin when the tour guide mentioned that at one point, 12 people lived in the tiny log dwelling. Twelve people! This place had no running water, a handful of windows, and was slightly larger than a luxury closet. How in the world did they live?!

It occurred to me that this place that I’d visited dozens of times as a tourist had once been someone’s home. I wondered: how does one’s home become a national park?

Did you get to hang out much at Cades Cove while you researched your novel?

I’ve visited Cades Cove many times, but once I got the idea to set a novel there, I returned and took dozens of pictures and many notes. Too, I came across a research goldmine: in the basement of the Sugarlands Visitor’s Center near Gatlinburg, there is a library/archive that is solely dedicated to preserving the culture and artifacts of the people who lived in the areas that are now part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

They’ve collected everything from recipes and church hymnals to school textbooks and photographs. Land deeds, descriptions of school-yard games, farming techniques — it’s all there. Heaven for an historical fiction researcher!

Are there any locals still around who remember what it was like when the government came in and turned their homes into a national park?

All around East Tennessee, there are people who were born in Cades Cove and spent their childhoods there. I’m constantly amazed at how many people tell me part of their family is from there.

One such person is Dr. Durwood Dunn, a professor at Tennessee Wesleyan College in Athens, Tennessee. Dr. Dunn was very patient, answering several of my questions while I wrote the book. He’s considered one of the foremost scholars on the history of Cades Cove, and his book, Cades Cove: The Life and Death of a Southern Appalachian Community, 1818-1937, was one of the most useful books I used in the research stage.

Have you always had an interest in writing historical fiction?

Absolutely! I love reading historical fiction, and research is one of my favorite parts of the writing process.

Are you anything like your main character, Autumn? Do you like to “do things different” as well?

I wish I were more like Autumn! She’s spunky and spirited and creative, and she definitely does things different! I’m much more of a rule-follower than Autumn.

Autumn is so funny. Did you ever crack yourself up while writing?

Thank you! Actually, yes, I did crack myself up a few times while writing this book. (I also cried near the end — but NO SPOILERS from me!

I think if you’re immersed in the writing that much — so much that it makes you laugh and cry and feel so deeply — your readers are much more likely to get that from the story, too. At least, I hope so! Of course, anyone who knows me knows I laugh and cry VERY easily!

What was your favorite scene to write?

Probably the opening scene. I’d been researching Cades Cove for several months, and I was itching to begin the writing process. A contest was coming up, and I wanted to enter it. I pounded out the opening scene, title of the book included, in about an hour. (Of course, it went through MANY — manymanymany — rounds of edits after that!)

Something that strikes me as odd about the writing process: I can remember exactly where I was writing, what I was thinking and feeling, when I reread sections of the book now. It’s like listening to an old song, one that transports you to a specific place and time. Just one more thing I love about writing!

That’s all so interesting, especially for an adult reader to know more about your writing process. OK, here’s a question on a different subject. I heard that you actually got to INTERVIEW one of my all-time favorite authors, Madeleine L’Engle. Can you share with us how it all happened? That is truly amazing!!

I know, right?! When I was in sixth grade, my fantastic elementary school librarian, Sheila Rollins, instituted a wonderful program: any student could read three of an author’s books, then interview that author by telephone. I remember exactly two things about the interview:

1. The interview was conducted via a speakerphone! It was the coolest piece of technology my 11-year-old self had ever seen. Very Charlie’s Angels.

2. When I told Ms. L’Engle that I, too, wanted to be a writer, she responded, “Good for you! Keep reading and you can do it.”

Wow! I’m sure she’s inspired many of her readers to become writers. Well, Kristin, after reading your book, some friends and I are trying to plan a family trip to Cades Cove. Do you have any recommendations for places we should visit?

You absolutely need to visit the Arts & Crafts Community, a loop just outside Gatlinburg about 8 miles long with dozens and dozens of artists working and living in a gorgeous, creative community.

If you have time, check out the Arrowmont School and see if they’re offering a craft class that you’d be interested in taking. There are always festivals and celebrations in nearby Gatlinburg, so check with the Gatlinburg Chamber of Commerce to see what might be going on while you’re there.

And of course, you’ll want to hike the many trails throughout Cades Cove and in other sections of the gorgeous Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Thanks for all these great tips! Can you tell us a little bit about your next book?

Sure, here’s the jacket copy for Selling Hope, which will be released November 9 from Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan. I wish I could share the cover with you, because it is SOOOO PRETTY!

It’s May 1910, and Halley’s Comet is due to pass thru the Earth’s atmosphere. And thirteen-year-old Hope McDaniels and her father are due to pass through their hometown of Chicago with their ragtag vaudeville troupe. Hope wants out of vaudeville, and longs for a “normal” life—or as normal as life can be without her mother, who died five years before. Hope sees an opportunity: She invents “anti-comet” pills to sell to the working-class customers desperate for protection. Soon, she’s joined by a fellow troupe member, young Buster Keaton, and the two of them start to make good money. And just when Hope thinks she has all the answers, she has to decide: What is family? Where is home?

Our family loves Buster Keaton! Here’s one last question: do you have any tips for parents who are trying to carve out a little time and energy to write while shuffling kids into carpools and packing school lunches? How do you manage to squeeze it all in?

I wish I could say that I have this amazing time-pause button, or a clone machine, or an inherited gene that allows me to stay awake for weeks on end. But in reality, I have a wonderful husband who knows that when I’m starting to look stressed, a little writing time will go a long way toward curing that.

I also have a sitter who watches my youngest (a very active 3-year-old boy) a couple of times a week while I write and promote. I have a voice-recorder app on my iPhone, and I record ideas on it when I can’t get to a pen (which is almost always).

So yes, CARVING out time is exactly what I do. Writing is a priority for me, and I treat it like a career. The best career in the world!

Thank you so much for your inspiration, Kristin, and for sharing with us your behind-the-scenes process of writing!

You can read more about Kristin O’Donnell Tubb on her website and her Do Things Different blog. And here’s a really fun video I found about Cades Cove, in case you’re feeling the itch to travel to Tennessee.

May 21, 2010

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You’re on your own.
And you know what you know.
And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go.

Last Sunday, our preacher recited this entire book from the pulpit. He does this every year, and every year I cry. It’s embarrassing. My kids worry about me when my face gets all crumpled and I start plowing through my purse for tissues.

The occasion is always graduation. We had nine high school seniors graduate from our church this year, and we wished them well, sending them off to great places. As soon as we got home, I pulled this book off our shelf and read it again. It was published in 1990, the last work of Dr. Seuss.

We have a little graduate in the Class of 2010 this year. Our youngest daughter finished her preschool years. This means we’ve finished out an entire decade of preschool. Our oldest started in 2000, same school, same wonderful teacher. I can’t believe this season is behind me.

OK. When I get sad, I try to remember another quote, also attributed to Dr Seuss:

“Don’t cry because it’s over; smile because it happened.”

As I reread Dr. Seuss’ Oh the Places You’ll Go, it made me realize we’re all in the Class of 2010, aren’t we? We’re all on the move. Nothing ever stays the same. All of us are finishing up something and starting something new. Or we WANT to be starting something new, but we’re scared. We’re scared of failure; we’re also scared of success.

It’s time. Let’s graduate together. I’m holding up my mug of coffee to you. Cheers!

May 19, 2010

In high school, I used to be a cheerleader, holding up my green megaphone encouraging fans to cheer on our school team. If I were cheering now, I’d have Betsy-Tacy written all over my uniform! Go Team Lovelace!

I’ve written the people at HarperCollins Children’s Books to thank them for bringing the Betsy-Tacy books back in print, and you can too! And today I found out my post about the Betsy-Tacy houses being recognized as National Literary Landmarks made the Betsy-Tacy Society News Page!

YAY! I feel like my feet are in Georgia and my heart’s in Mankato today! Thank you, Betsy-Tacy Society, for all of your hard work!

May 18, 2010

My oldest daughter started wearing her hair in braids recently, and I wasn’t surprised to see she’d tucked a Betsy-Tacy novel into her backpack. I love it that she’s reading this series for the second time, and in the world of Betsy, cell phones haven’t been invented yet.

For anyone who is a fan of Maud Hart Lovelace’s Betsy-Tacy series, you can rejoice along with me that there’s a big celebration going on this week in Mankato, Minnesota. After years of publicity efforts, fundraising, and restoration, both the Betsy and Tacy houses will be dedicated as National Literary Landmarks in a ceremony Thursday, May 20th starting at 6 pm.

If I lived anywhere near Minnesota, this is where I’d love to be.

I started reading the Betsy-Tacy books only a few years ago, after I discovered a copy of Betsy and the Great World in a used book store on St. Simon’s Island. I recognized the series from Gladys Hunt’s wonderful book, Honey for a Child’s Heart.

I’m so happy that HarperCollins Children’s Books has brought all ten of Maud Hart Lovelace’s Betsy-Tacy books back into print. The Harper Perennial Modern Classic editions, published in 2009, are gorgeous, with covers illustrated by the original artist, Vera Neville.

I’d love to gather a whole set of these books for my three daughters to take with them someday when they leave home. I hope HarperCollins will continue to keep these books in print for fans like me who are raising the next generation of Maud Hart Lovelace readers.

Here are the ten books of the series:

1. Betsy-Tacy
2. Betsy-Tacy and Tib
3. Betsy and Tacy Go Over the Big Hill
4. Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown
5. Heaven to Betsy
6. Betsy in Spite of Herself
7. Betsy Was a Junior
8. Betsy and Joe
9. Betsy and the Great World
10. Betsy’s Wedding

There are three other companion novels set in Deep Valley (Mankato). I especially enjoyed Emily of Deep Valley. HarperCollins is due to release these new editions in October 2010. You can pre-order your copies here.

1. Winona’s Pony Cart
2. Carney’s House Party
3. Emily of Deep Valley

The Betsy-Tacy Society has a whole upcoming calendar of events, including a Victorian Lawn Party, Ice Cream Social Concert, Neighborhood Walk, and Victorian Christmas.

In her introduction to the new Betsy Was a Junior/ Betsy and Joe 2009 edition, author Meg Cabot writes:

How could a series of novels in which the heroine has neither red hair, a tiara, magical powers, a boyfriend who is a vampire, or a cell phone be so bewitching? Well, Betsy won my heart not just because of the humor, vivacity, and realistic emotion with which her creator, Maud Hart Lovelace, imbued her, but also because of her believable struggles to find her voice as an author…not to mention true love (both of which echoed my own struggles not just at Betsy’s age but through my twenties and even beyond.)

These books do so much toward preserving a beautiful time period of American history. I’m thinking a field trip to Mankato would be a nice way to help bring literature to life!

Update: If you’d like to contact HarperCollins Children’s Books to show your support for bringing the Betsy-Tacy books back in print, you may contact them with this email address: Let’s keep these books in print for the next generation!

May 17, 2010

Parents today face many challenges trying to raise children who are kind, respectful, and exhibit good character qualities. Sometimes it seems like an impossible task.

I’m in the thick of it, with my kids still in preschool, elementary school, and middle school. I have no idea how they’ll turn out, and I cringe at the thought of giving anyone advice on parenting.

Still I have hope, which is all we need, right? What I do is try to surround myself with amazing people who are experts in certain areas, and I seek them out for advice. So here, I want to point out to you a wonderful program that has been an immense blessing to our family.

You can read about the National League of Junior Cotillions on their website. In our hometown, this program reaches sixth through eighth grade students, and it’s one of those word-of-mouth things where you hear about it from somebody whose kids are in it. There’s a limited space, and it fills up extremely fast.

So I’m telling you about it now, because if you’re interested, you can look up your state on the website, find out if you have a local program, and contact the director. The directors are planning the 2010-11 season now, so if you want to get involved, now’s the time.

Here are a few topics the classes cover:

* First impressions
* Introductions
* Greeting and shaking hands
* Paying and receiving compliments
* Correspondence
* Telephone manners
* Family dining
* Table manners
* Polite conversation
* When to rise
* Doors and coats
* Sports etiquette

* Formal dining
* Party courtesies
* Hosting a party
* Receiving lines
* Eating unusual foods
* Instructional dinners

* Honesty
* Integrity
* Promise keeping
* Fidelity
* Caring
* Respect
* Citizenship
* Excellence
* Accountability
* Handling peer pressure

* Cell Phone Courtesies
* Phones and Digital Manners at Home
* Electronic Etiquette at Home, School, or Office
* Fax, Copier and Printer Protocol
* Digital Courtesies in Public Places
* Parent’s Guide to Electronic Etiquette

-Rules associated with the use of web surfing, emails and instant messaging
* Responsibility
* Ethicality
* Consideration

* Music appreciation
* Teamwork
* Timing
* Coordination
* Basic dance courtesies
* Current popular line dances
* Dance include the Waltz, Fox Trot, Cha Cha Cha, Shag/Swing,
Rhumba, and Tango.

Our local program hosts two balls: a winter ball and a spring ball. For all of us moms whose daughters have grown up reading books and watching movies about princesses, these balls are dreams come true. In the spring, the girls all wear white dresses, with elegant white gloves, and the ballroom scene creates a gorgeous picture of budding womanhood. The boys, I must add, look mighty handsome in their coats and ties.

In her novel, Betsy in Spite of Herself, Maud Hart Lovelace, describes the dance programs that were being created for the Leap Year Dance of 1908:

Tacy and Alice are making the programs. They’re terribly cute, with a bar from the ‘Merry Widow Waltz’ painted on the cover. But fifteen dances, Julia! Cab will ask me for one, of course, and Tony, and Dennie, and Pin, and Al, probably, and Squirrelly and Harry, but that’s only seven. I’ve fifteen to fill.

Over a hundred years later, I have the feeling that Maud Hart Lovelace would be pleased that girls are still filling out dance cards and waltzing through their coming-of-age years. As a parent, it was a happy experience for me, and I’m passing my joy along to you.

May 13, 2010

Hello. My name is Heather, and I’m a Book Blogger.

I just wanted to write that to see how it looked. I’ve introduced myself in many ways, but never as a “book blogger.” Apparently, there are lots of us, tons of us in fact, who blog about books, and now there’s even a convention full of people who will be meeting together to discuss blogging about books.

Here are a few of the topics that will be presented:

* Professionalism/Ethics
* Marketing
* Author/Blogger Relationships
* Social Responsibility
* Writing/Building Content

I would love to be there, but since it’s May 28 in New York City, alas, I won’t. That’s the last day of school for us, and I’ll be busy loading up kids and the contents of their newly cleaned-out lockers.

If YOU would like to go, I hope you can, and I hope you have a great time. You can read all the details here. Admission to the Book Blogger Convention also allows you access to roam the celestial BEA (Book Expo America), which is billed as “the largest publishing event in North America.” Here’s a rundown of all the exciting events going on for children’s book authors, editors, publishers, agents, booksellers, and other people crazy about kid lit.

I would like to be a fly on the wall for the session entitled “Speed Dating with Children’s Authors” (for booksellers only).

Are you in a book club? Here’s a contest where you can spread the word about your ten favorite books, and maybe even win a prize in the process!

Reading Group Guides is hosting a contest in honor of their tenth anniversary. From the website:

We know what book clubs do best — the discussion of great books and great authors among readers who often become great friends, or at least feel connected by their passion for books. Through the years we know book groups have discussed books that have motivated, moved, inspired and just made for great conversation.

In honor of our 10th anniversary, we’re looking for your book group’s Top 10 Favorite Discussion Books. Share them with us and you will be entered to win one of FIFTY (50) gift certificates worth $200.

Consider this a chance for your group to buy a month’s worth of your discussion books — on us! The gift certificate can be for your group or you can opt to donate your prize to the library, school or other organization of your choice.

Hey, the contest opened up only a couple of days ago, and ends August 31, 2010. So you’ve got plenty of time to mull over your list, and get everyone in your group to enter. Then you’ll have more of a chance of winning $200 worth of free books. Details are here.

Reading Group Guides will use these contest entries to compile a list of the Top 10 Most Popular Titles. What a great idea — I’ll be eagerly awaiting this news.

I’ve been in so many “book clubs” over the years, though they’re often called “Bible studies” or “parenting groups.” I don’t know what I would have done when I became a new mom 14 years ago if I hadn’t been able to join a parenting group through my church. We met and discussed books on how to grow spiritually as moms and wives.

I learned more from the women in my group than from the books themselves, to be honest. One older woman, who had grown kids, let us meet in her beautiful, clean home once a week. She organized childcare in another home around the corner, where we paid $1 for a homeschooled teen to watch our babies. Oh, relief, joy, to be out of the house around other moms.

As the years have gone by, I’ve been in other groups where we’ve discussed Francine Rivers’ novels, Beth Moore Bible studies, and plenty of other books that give us women an excuse to get together and chat, unload, share, and eat good food.

I’m not in a book club right now because I’m mostly reading children’s novels (connecting with my kids) and books I’m weirdly drawn to for some reason or other (currently, Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward Angel.) I would love to hold a book club in my home someday with my kids and their friends. Maybe I will, now that I’ve taken the time to blog about it.

I guess I do hold my own nightly book club when I read out loud to my preschooler and first grader. Funny, how their siblings always lurk around the corner when they hear us reading out loud together, laughing. They don’t want to admit that they still enjoy a good picture book. I don’t think I’m any happier than when I’ve got kids piled all over me listening to stories. Last night, it was The Lorax, by Dr. Seuss (again), because we’re fresh out of library books. Time to make another library run.

Now, here’s an article you MUST READ if you struggle with insomnia. If you don’t fall asleep as soon as your head hits the pillow, it may be because you’re brain is still wide awake from your ipad, computer screen, or TV.

Here’s what the expert says:

“I wish people would just take a boring book — an old-fashioned book — and [read] by a lamp. Make sure that it’s not too bright — just so you can read,” said Alon Avidan, associate director of the Sleep Disorders Center at UCLA. “And if they do that, I think they’ll feel a lot better and they’ll be able to relax.”

See? We Book Clubbers have known all along that the best way to get a good night’s sleep is to read a chapter or two of our favorite book. Unless, of course, it’s something that we want to blog about, then it can be hard to turn off that voice in our head. Know what I mean?

By: Heather Ivester in: Books,Parenting | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)