Literary Reflections

Last Saturday I gave my “Kid Lit 101” presentation to a group of writers in Gulfport, Mississippi. While what is categorized as (upper) middle grade is my first literary love, the past few years I’ve been focusing the majority of my reading time on Gothic—classic Gothic, Southern Gothic, Gothic Romance, etc.—to be sure I’m doing the category justice with my own stories.

Revisiting the books I touch on in the presentation (which are everything from baby books to young adult novels) was like visiting old friends. I haven’t given the presentation in about two years, much less dove so deep into conversation about my favorite coming-of-age genre, so it was refreshing. I remembered why I started writing—awesome books like these. And rereading Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson this weekend helped solidify that.

The past few days I’ve forced a separation for myself from The Possession Chronicles. While I’ve been writing and editing the eight books in the series almost non-stop for over two and a half years, I still love everything about it. I’m not sick of the characters or the story lines. I could happily move to round ten of edits on book six, or any other draft, but I know I need to distance myself from this epic project before I tackle professional edits for book one, Perilous Confessions (releasing January 8, 2019.)

So in the meantime, I’ll be exploring the scary world of the MG/YA manuscripts I wrote as a teenager. Maybe I’ll find a nugget of hope within one of the stories that with major resuscitation (thanks to decades of acquired experience) would be able to bring one of them to life. If not, at least I’ll be able to see how far I’ve come as a writer.

What helps you rediscover your literary roots?

Kid Lit 101

As many of you know, my first passion in the book word is middle grade literature. Though a late reader, I began devouring novels like The Babysitters-Club Series as they were published and ghost stories by Betty Ren Wright in fourth grade, but by sixth grade I was ready for more. I fell in love with the power of words in my middle school library when I found Katherine Paterson and Richard Peck. Bridge to Terabithia was the first book to make me cry and Ghosts I Have Been the first to engage me with history through the guise of my fascination with the Titanic and Gothic-feels. From there I dove into the world of teen books, eagerly awaiting the newest from authors like Christopher Pike on my trips to the bookstore in the mall.

By the time I was fourteen, I was writing my own stories and following the marketplace. I continued to read and collected these authors and never gave them up, even as I aged out of the genres. When I was twenty and landed my dream job at a Books-A-Million, I let them know I wanted the kids’ section of the store. It took a few months, but when the position opened, I embraced the colorful area from baby books to young adult reads. It took several weeks, but I physically handled every book in that corner of the store as I organized and then shelved all the new shipments during the time I was employed there. Most often when someone was looking for a book in one of my categories I could say what shelf it was on without looking. I knew the books, the authors. It was my home away from home.

All this, plus more decades of reading and following the marketplace, and five years serving as Local Liaison for my region of Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, has helped shape my knowledge of the book world as it relates to children’s literature. I’ve wrapped my years of experience and passion into a tidy presentation titled “Kid Lit 101”, which I’ve been blessed to share at several events, including multiple writers groups and a literary festival over the past few years. This Saturday, June 23, 2018, I’ll present this fast-moving, informative presentation in Gulfport, Mississippi, to Gulf Coast Writers Association at 11am at Gulfport Galleria of Fine Art. Join me if you can.

What are you literary passions?

Bibliophile Problems

If you couldn’t tell from my previous posts, I’m a book girl. There are a lot of books in my house. I’m talking more than dozens, more than hundreds, probably a couple thousand. I’ve never counted them all—that would mean math, and me and numbers don’t always get along.

This afternoon, after answering yet another a post on a homeschool page for recommendations for books set in a specific time period (happens regularly, and as a children’s literature connoisseur with a passion for historicals, I have to respond.) This time, it was a call for Civil War books. So, after going to my “favorite author” shelf in the hall, I returned to my desk area to look over my general middle grade collection for more titles. But then I remembered my middle child’s quest for all things military, and that I’ve allowed him to adopt many of my middle grade novels dealing with war, so I had to go check the bookcase in his room.

I circled all around the house to gather information I could have grouped together. What’s a bibliophile to do?

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I’m seriously contemplating putting all my books in chronological order. Even though that would mean splitting up the Katherine Paterson, Avi, Richard Peck, and Laurie Halse Anderson novels, I think at this point in my life (hello, homeschool!) it would be beneficial. But then I’d have to worry about the fantasy, science fiction, and contemporary… where would they all fit? Group the contemporary at the end of the historicals, with books like Bridge to Terabithia (and it’s 1970’s references) toward the beginning of that section. What about classics, like Charlotte’s Web? Do I place it in the era it was written?

The stress!

But it’s a happy, first world problem to deal with. Now I just need to decide if I take the plunge. Photographic journal blog will follow if it comes to pass.

World Book Night

It’s World Book Night and I’m a proud book giver. I got a jump on my giving so the twenty copies of Bridge to Terabithia that I had are already gone, thanks to an afternoon visit to a local elementary school.
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When I drove around the block, looking for the entrance to the parking lot, I was sad to see weedy lots with ugly gray buildings, complete with rusty barbed-wire fencing, directly behind the property. If anyone needs an escape, it’s kids having views like this out their windows for most of the day.
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But Maryvale Elementary itself is a lovely campus with shady trees and updated buildings, not far from where I spent my vacation time with my grandparents and great aunts in my younger years. I found out that one of my relatives even taught school there way back in the olden days… you know, before CDs—let alone MP3s—were invented.
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I was ready with my spiffy Word Book Night tote bag (full of books!) and my shiny Book Giver button.
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I thought I was mentally ready, but as I was signing in at the office, Ms. Gillespiee (from Metro Mobile Reading Council’s Young Author program) entered the building and my heart rate settled immediately. Ms. McShan, the school’s reading coach who set-up my visit called her in to attend my presentation. Having a familiar face in a new setting is great, and when the group conversation quieted down, she was there to spur more questions from the students.
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It was a great thirty minutes—and it went by fast! Happy reading, Maryvale students!

Love books? Sign-up to be a giver in 2015 and we’ll paint the town READ because geeking out over books is awesome!

Three Confessions

Confession #1: I have a lot of books.
Confession #2: I have a lot of bookshelves (but I could always use more.)
Confession #3: I keep my most treasured books behind closed doors.

I first started hiding my books after my eldest child started to “wear out” his own books. Lift-the-flap books with no flaps to lift. Using books as bridges, literally walking on them across the floor, was a favorite activity. And with his books, spines were optional. I feared for my beloved books, as well as my husband’s collection.

Our favorite books went from the top shelves—he could scale the bookshelves—to high levels inside cabinets. I could hear the cabinet doors opening, but I didn’t always hear him at the bookcases until it was too late.

In the past three years that I’ve been homeschooling, the book population has hit overdrive.

The main wall of books--about a third of what we have.

The main wall of books–about a third of what we have.

The non-fiction area has doubled and the sum of the middle grade novels that my oldest son reads every night is greater than anything I ever held as the lone reader of them. My youngest has a two shelf bookcase of picture books and all things pink while the middle child hoards The Magic Tree House and military history.
Last year I wrote a post about my oldest turning into a reader and he hasn’t slowed down. The other night, when he came looking for another book amid the post holiday explosion, I realized he hasn’t read Bridge to Terabithia or A Wrinkle in Time. All of the Katherine Paterson, Madeleine L’Engle, Laurie Halse Anderson, Terry Brooks, and Orson Scott Card books are behind closed doors. Not to mention Narnia, Green Gables, Hogwarts, and The Shire.
Parenting fail!
So, my goal this month—hopefully this week—is to get these books out and into circulation among my household. No more restricted section in the family library. I’ll document this effort with photos, so stayed tuned!