Yesterday was WEG, tomorrow is Books by the Banks. I’m headed up to Cinci (one of my fav little cities) for the Books by the Banks book festival, sponsored by one of my fav bookstores, Joseph-Beth. This is my second year attending, and I’m really excited. Love getting a chance to spend some time in Cinci. Love getting the chance to hang out with other writers and be surrounded by books, books, books. If you live anywhere near Cinci, come on down to the Duke Energy Center on Saturday from 10-4. Check out their website: www.booksbythebanks.org for a schedule of events and authors.
Yesterday signing books at the TRF booth at WEG was lots of fun. The proceeds of sales from Dream of Night went directly to the horses at TRF’s Maker’s Mark Secretariat Center, to feeding them, keeping them groomed and healthy. It was a GORGEOUS day in Lexington, perfect for strolling around the lovely fair grounds, observing lovely horses. WEG goes for one more week, and I will be back at the TRF booth on Tuesday, October 5 from 11-1 to sign more copies of my book.
Here are a coupla pictures my friend, Fe, snapped at WEG:
I will be signing Dream of Night at the Joseph-Beth booth at the Kentucky Horse Park for the Alltech/FEI World Equestrian Games on Monday, October 27th at 6:30 pm. If you are going to the Games, please look for me!
I’ve been asked to be a “guest celebrity” at the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation/Maker’s Mark Secretariat Center Booth at the Altech/FEI World Equestrian Games next week. Yippeeee!
While being a celebrity is not really one of my goals in life (writing good books is!), I’m extra excited to have the chance to promote my book Dream of Night at this international horse event. People from all over the world will be there. I’m hoping that signing books at the TRF booth will not only help promote Dream of Night, but will also help raise awareness about Thoroughbred adoption cause.
Each year thousands of Thoroughbreds end up in abusive situations, mainly because it costs so much and takes so much time to care for these gorgeous but sometimes temperamental creatures. The Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation is a national, non-profit organization that helps rescue ex-racehorses and give them a second chance at a wonderful life. The Maker’s Mark Secretariat Center (see my last post) is the flagship facility of the TRF located at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky.
The people at TRF/MMSC work soooooo hard to give Thoroughbreds a chance at a new life. I’m thrilled to help in whatever way I can — right now, by being a “guest celebrity” and signing books. Thanks to Susanna Thomas, Director of MMSC, for inviting me to WEG.
My book signing schedule at the TRF/MMMSC booth in the Main Pavilion at WEG:
Tuesday, September 28, 11-1
Thursday, September 30, 1-3
Keep checking back for more about WEG, as well as details about my upcoming trip to San Antonio for school visits!
Wow, Nebraska is gorgeous! I had no idea it would be so green and rolling. I flew into Omaha and was met at the airport by the lovely Karen Drevo of the Norfolk Public Library. From there we drove north and east, criss-crossing the wide Missouri, dipping into Iowa and South Dakota, eventually wending our way to Norfolk, home town of Johnny Carson.
I was not the only author invited to the Norfolk Literary Festival. My partners in crime were Deborah Hopkinson and Tony Varrato. It was fun sharing a car and a weekend with these two wonderful writers. Deborah’s Apples to Oregon is one of my all-time favorite picture books. Her new book, Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek is a new favorite.
Tony Varrato (who kindly provided all the photos for this post) is the author of the young adult novel, Fakie, a gritty story, boldly told. He’s the kind of energetic, funny, inspirational English teacher I wish I’d had in high school. Not only is he a good writer, he can juggle!
One of the reasons for our visit to Norfolk was to give a writing workshop for kids. I was thrilled to have three unique and talented young women in my class: Krista, Aeriel, and Mattie. We did some writing, some giggling, some sharing, some reading, some more writing, some more giggling. I was really impressed with the love of books, the interest in writing, the observations, the immediate connection these three girls had. Thanks, girls, for helping to make my day so special! And remember what I said: keep writing, keep writing, keep writing! And also: keep being you, keep asking questions, keep dreaming! I know you all will go far!
After the workshop I talked to a great group of folks about how I came to write That Book Woman, which celebrates the work of the Pack Horse Librarians of Eastern Kentucky. Many in the crowd were librarians themselves, and I always love talking to librarians about librarians, sharing the stories and photos of those early book women.
People came from far and wide for this annual festival (above are some of the attendees along with me, Deborah, and Tony on the end). The librarians of Norfolk are great organizers and motivators.
The staff of the Norfolk Public Library (pictured above) are real book lovers and troopers. (I hope you get some air conditioning soon!!!!)
Alas, at the end of the day, it was time to bid Nebraska adieu. I really enjoyed my visit. Thanks to everyone, including the Norfolk librarians and especially Karen Drevo (I’m so sorry I don’t have a pic of you by yourself because you, lady, are one stylish librarian!). Thanks to Deborah and Tony too for making it such a memorable trip.
Please check back soon because I’m going to add Deborah’s and Tony’s website to my list of fav websites (but first I have to ask my helpful husband and web monkey, Tim, how to do it 🙂
I’ve been thinking about words a lot lately, not only because I’m trying to finish a new novel, but also because I’m still in my poetry reading phase, still feeling contemplative about life.
One of the reasons I’m a writer is because I love words. I just love the ways words go together. Love the way words sound when you read them out loud; love the way they look on the page.
So it was kind of perfect that while I was in the library with my kids this week I happened upon the newest book by one of my favorite authors: Patricia MacLachlan. The book is called Word After Word After Word and it’s so lovely, so warm, so…Patty MacLachlan. It’s all about truths and untruths, what is said and what is left unsaid, and above all, it’s about words.
The set-up: a famous writer named Ms. Mirabel has come to spend six weeks with a group of fourth graders. Of course the back story is that Ms. Mirabel is really a stand-in for Ms. MacLachlan herself, and sometimes she (the character in the book) reads to the kids from the classics of children’s literature, including books from her own cannon, such as Sarah, Plain and Tall and the book Baby (which if you have never read, please go get it now, and have a Kleenex box handy!).
Not much happens in Word After Word After Word, and yet everything happens. The kids in Ms. Mirabel’s class all have singular personalities, and singular stories to tell, although at first they’re not at all sure that what they have to write about will be terribly interesting. But of course as the book unfolds, we learn about private sorrows and small triumphs that make our characters unique and endearing and endearingly human, and when they all finally do write down their own stories, one by one, the book itself becomes a pretty powerful celebration of how important words can be.
What I love about Patty MachLachlan’s work is how beautiful her writing is. Each novel is like a poem, every word so very important. Many of the novels are short, spare, but they pack a wallop into a few, short pages. What I also love is how she makes her young characters so interesting. They’re funny and lovable, and they live completely in the world of children, watching grown-ups from a perplexed and ultimately forgiving distance.
One of my all time favorite books, of Patty MacLachlan’s, or of anyone else’s, for that matter, is The Facts and Fictions of Minna Pratt. I love Minna’s quest for truths and untruths (as well as a vibrato). I love her quirky writer mother who is so maddening and so familiar. (Oh, how many times have my own kids wondered why their mother can’t pull herself away from the computer screen long enough to focus completely on matching their socks?) One thing I always know when I begin a Patty MacLachlan book is that I will end up, by the time the novel is over, longing to live with the family she has created, a family that is usually creative and messy, and word by word true.
As a freelancer, I’ve done a fair share of ghost writing over the years in order to make ends meet. Now, with Dream of Night, my new novel for young readers, I’ve turned to horse writing. In a way, it feels like I’ve come home.
I was born and raised in the Bluegrass, a part of Kentucky known for its rolling meadows and beautiful horses. They say what makes Kentucky Thoroughbreds the best in the world has to do with the rich limestone found in the soil. The horses here grow up strong, fast, and spirited. I think the people here grow up that way too.
Springtime in central Kentucky means that fields everywhere are dotted with mares and colts. (Most foals are born between January and April.) Springtime around here also means the Kentucky Derby and big silly hats and mint juleps.
I was not a particularly horsey girl growing up. I would ride occasionally, but not with the longing and the focus of some of my friends. In the middle of Kentucky farmland, unlikely as it sounds, I was into theater. My world revolved around acting and plays because that’s what my father did: he was an actor and producer of a summerstock theater. (I wrote about a childhood spent on stage in my novel Here’s How I See It/Here’s How It Is, 2009.) But horses were in my blood, at least on my mother’s side.
My maternal grandfather had been a horseman, a breeder and trainer of 3-5 gated saddlebred horses, one of the best trainers around. A man who knew a lot about horses. So I grew up hearing stories, seeing photos of my papa’s statuesque prize-winners. Photos and memories only. Because the stories always ended with a pounding at his front door in the middle of the night and the cry of “Fire! Fire!” Papa rushed out into the dark to find his main barn already engulfed in flames. (This was long before modern smoke detectors and sprinkler systems and telephones being commonplace in every home.) Papa – and his farmhands and neighbors – risked their lives to save the horses, but the fire was just too fast.
Papa kept a few pleasure horses after that, but he gave up breeding and training altogether. I think the horseman in him must have died along with those amazing creatures he had raised and trained and loved so dearly. He rebuilt the barn, but instead of stalls, there were open rafters for hanging tobacco while it cured. He turned his acres of grazing land into rows of crops.
I left Kentucky after high school, headed for the big city of New York. I went to college, became a writer, started a family, lived in Brooklyn before Brooklyn was cool. And then, suddenly, I wanted to go home. Papa had died a while back, but his house was still empty. My husband and I decided to take the plunge, make a go of country living.
Moving back to the family farm I had a vague notion of wanting to own horses – for myself, for my son, for future kids. So I was happy to discover upon arrival that there were already horses on the farm. The neighbor down the lane was leasing the land around the house. So there was a herd of horses, about eight or so mares and one lone black stallion, the leader of the group. They were nearly wild because the neighbor didn’t have a lot of time to spend with them. The fields curved around in a horseshoe pattern, with the house in the middle. So most times of day I could look out any window, or stand in any part of the yard, and see the horses.
They were shy at first. They ignored our offerings of apples and peppermint. But slowly, when they realized we weren’t going anywhere, they got used to us. They would watch us across shorter and shorter distances. Finally they allowed us to give them treats, sniffing at us, still startling away if we made any sudden moves.
From my window on the second floor where I had set up my writing desk, I often just sat and stared out the window, watching the horses instead of working on the book I was trying to finish. The horses were all different colors. Their manes and tails were long and tangly. They seemed to move as one, stopping to graze together, drinking in one big group from the spring, bolting together in a heartbeat without any obvious (to me, anyway) signal. Many times a day this startling, graceful explosion into flight, and the gallop of so many big powerful bodies across the field would simply take my breath away.
After a while the lease came up on the land; the neighbor sold some of the horses, took the others back to his side of the lane. My husband, son and I would walk down the road to visit them. By this time they knew us. They’d sidle up to the fence when they saw us approaching, they’d take the apples we offered; they’d allow their faces and necks to be stroked.
We were settling into our new life on the farm with a big garden and chickens and cows – and skunks (uninvited but persistent guests). The barn was in disrepair. It would take a lot of money to make it a safe and comfortable place for horses. So we put off the dream of having horses of our own for a while and kept visiting the neighbor horses.
I went back to sitting at my desk while my son was at school, staring at my computer now, rather then staring out at the horses. Slowly though something started to happen, something started to click. It was true that I couldn’t actually see the horses anymore from my window. But I knew they were there. I could feel them. I could write about them, tell their story. And so that’s exactly what I started to do.
The Blue Marble Bookstore in Fort Thomas, Kentucky, is about fifteen minutes south of Cinci, OH. It’s the kind of place, tiny though it may seem at first, where you just might get lost. Lost in books — the very best kind of disorientation. From picture books to novels for young (and not so young) readers, from signed first editions to signed paperbacks, it’s the kind of bookstore that is becoming more and more rare in this day and age of everything-at-the-click-of-a-button.
First of all, it’s in a house, a lovely little old house on a bustling but quiet street in a friendly northern Kentucky neighborhood. The downstairs room is lined with shelves full of books. A door to the backyard leads into a Secret Garden. A staircase hidden behind the counter leads upstairs to the Great Green Room (yes, with everything from Goodnight Moon including the mouse). Upstairs is also where the kitchen is found. Because when you come to an event at the Blue Marble — a booksigning for a local or national author; a discussion of new books among librarians, teachers, children’s lit professors from local universities; a mock Newbery/Caldecott event — you will be fed. The whole staff, so knowledgeable about what’s going on in the world of children’s books, chips in and makes a dish, and everyone sits down together to good food and good talk about books and writers.
I wish the Blue Marble was just around the corner from me (instead of 3 hours away), because I would pop in all the time if I could. I would buy all my books from the Blue Marble. Because when you go to the Blue Marble to purchase a book, you’re not just getting that one book. You’re getting information about other books you might want for yourself or for your young reader or for your classroom or for your book club. You’re supporting the kind of community bookstore that is sadly slipping away. Because, yes, it’s easier to go on line and click a button, and often times it’s cheaper too. But you simply don’t get the kind of personal attention and knowledge and expertise that comes with stopping into a store like the Blue Marble, talking to teachers, librarians, writers — people who work part-time selling children’s books because children’s books isn’t just a job, it’s their passion.
Many, many thanks to Tina, Peter, Dave, and Tish for your hospitality, for your time and dedication and support! I appreciate all that you do!
Here are some pix from the Blue Marble signing and feast and from my school visit earlier in the day at St. Pius X….
Thanks to all the folks who showed up at Joseph-Beth Booksellers last night! And thanks to Brooke Raby, who always makes my visit there so special. It was a terrific event. I was so happy to see Keye’lle there. I’d met her earlier that day at Sandersville Elementary School in Lexington, where I talked to the 4th and 5th graders about Dream of Night and about what inspires me as a writer. Keye’lle brought her mom to the event at JB, and she had some really great questions to ask after my reading, like “How many books do you want to write before you die?” My answer: a hundred! Thanks for coming Keye’lle, and keep reading and asking questions!
Some of my good friends were there at the reading to support me. Here’s a picture of some of my crazy crew of gals…one of which is my oldest friend, Fe. We’ve known each other since second grade when I walked up to her at the playground and asked her to play. We’ve never lost touch through many moves and many different phases of life, and now we’re back in the same state, nearly the same town we grew up in.
Joseph-Beth has always been so supportive, and like I said, Brooke Raby is just the best. Thanks, Brooke for coming to the schools in Lex to sell books, and for making sure everything was just right at the reading!
Again, many many thanks to all of you who came to the reading, especially my friends, Keye’lle, and the woman who loves horses (I’m sorry I didn’t get a photo of you!) and who said that she demanded that they sell my book to her the day before it came out! I hope you enjoy reading about Night, Shiloh, and Jess! And please keep in touch with me via my blog!
I come from a very artistic family. My oldest brother is an artist/graphic design artist; my other brother is a filmmaker, and my sister is a stand-up comedian. In our home town, people are always getting me and my sister confused. So we’re always trying to explain that I write books and she writes jokes. (Actually it’s pretty easy to tell the difference — I’m not the funny one! 🙂