Lookout Mountain, Chattanooga

Friday, July 27, 2012

Talent abounds in the Huntsville area

Huntsville's known for its engineers. But guess what? Plenty of authors and illustrators live here, too. Find out more about them by clicking on the links.

I'm taking my new role as Local Liaison for Southern Breeze to heart. In arranging my first schmooze--a gathering of like-minded, children-book-centric individuals for the purpose of mingling and connecting--I've come to the realization that  success flows all around me. Starting with my own critique group, comprised of prior and current educators, an engineer, an artist, and an attorney, we can claim a few successes of our own. Annie Laura Smith has been published more than 250 times with her novel Twilight of Honor coming out in September. Mark Hubbs, with numerous magazine articles under his belt, will see his first historical fiction novel The Secret of Wattensaw Bayou in print in late 2012. Both Nellie Maulsby and Gail Hopson have read their stories on Public Radio, and one of Gail's stories appeared in a Chicken Soup book. Heather Montgomery, an author of fabulous kids' nonfiction books, has hit gold with Wild Discoveries: Wacky New Animals as Scholastic has targeted it for book fairs. Kay Casteel is a published illustrator. A prior member, Mary Ann Taylor, has to deal temporarily with family drama--no, make that family comedy. (Tune into National Geographic's Rocket City Rednecks, and you'll see her son and husband launch their acting careers--and various items!) And I personally have a  love/hate affair going with my only published book; Alicia Saves the Day is not my best work, but it filled a particular niche--that of a bilingual book with a moral--and won a prize of $1000--and, best of all, it's for a great cause! Besides the few articles I wrote for The Huntsville Times way back when, it's the only money I've netted in the publishing world, so who am I to quibble? The remaining members--and I--continue to write feverishly . . . because it's what we love to do. (And maybe the successes of the H's in Huntsville--Heather, Hester, Hubbs--will rub off on this particular H.)

Then there's the ever-expanding circle of success that surrounds me. Of course, you've heard me rave about  Hester Bass. (You'll find more about her "Show, Don't Tell" retreat in the Southern Breeze newsletter.) Her book The Secret World of Walter Anderson will represent Alabama at the Pavilion of the States at the National Book Festival on September 22 in Washington, D.C. What I hadn't been aware of before setting up the schmooze was the presence of two more very talented YA authors within our area: Beck McDowell and R. A. Nelson. (Be sure to read his very entertaining bio.) McDowell's exciting new novel This Is Not a Drill comes out on October 25. And Nelson's novel Teach Me made the recent NPR's Best Ever Teen Books list!

After sending out an initial enthusiastic flurry of emails in my new role as Local Liaison to a cast of a hundred, I was delighted with the many positive responses I received--and no negative, thank goodness. I connected with the illustrator, Danaye Shiplett, new to the area. And I discovered that my daughter's friend's father likes to write children's books. :-) I certainly didn't know that about him, and he wasn't aware of my interest either.

So being a Local Liaison has its pluses--ready-made friends and a window into the lives of some pretty exciting, talented, PERSISTENT writers and illustrators.

And that's just fun.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

It's a small world

It's a small world, as verified once again by my son and me. He works at an architecture firm in Norfolk, Virginia. As part of the team chosen to research new 401k plans, he met with delegates from four different financial institutions. When a Vice President of Suntrust said, "Nathan? Remember me?" he looked more closely. He didn’t recognize her immediately because he hadn’t expected to see a prior classmate from Madison, AL. Being fourteen hours from their hometown didn't prevent them from a chance encounter.

Then there's the flurry of e-mails I exchanged with an SCBWI member from Ohio. Living equidistant from both Nashville and Birmingham, I'm a member of SCBWI Southern Breeze but a visitor to SCBWI Midsouth events. As such, I'm on both listservs. An Ohio SCBWI member, Kerrie Logan Hollihan, sent an e-mail seeking information about the Southern Festival of Books as she was invited to sit on its panel in October. (She’ll be signing her latest book, Rightfully Ours: How Women Won the Vote). Her name rang no bells, but I recognized her hometown and promptly wrote back, admitting my ignorance about the festival but commenting that I, too, lived in Blue Ash once upon a time. In return, she asked if I were Nathan's mom. When she told me her son's name, going on to tell me he majored in music, I knew exactly who she was. (Her son had played the lead in Oklahoma the year we lived there.) Our children shared the same grades and schools, and we mothers knew and liked each other. Our connection stemmed from 1996.

Traveling another path, I’ve been actively reconnecting with my friends from where I grew up, my small town of Arlington, Ohio. (There were 47 in my graduating class.) Although I attended most of the reunions and two of us steadily exchanged Christmas cards throughout the years, with the advent of e-mail, I reconnected with another classmate and then one more. The five of us are jumping onboard the friendSHIP that’s sailing down to Gulf Shores this fall. Five grown women, giggling over the past and cementing the friendship of the future—nothing quite like it.

My point is that it is, indeed, a small world. You never know when you'll reconnect with old friends. You never know where your journey will take you.

So keep your ears and eyes open for adventure.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Daisy Dog Sings of Love

You slowly came to me with bone in jaws.

You laid the bone upon the kitchen floor.

And out you padded gently with your paws.

You touched my heart by way of doggie door.

I saw you first across the meadow green.

You looked my way and bounded in delight.

We met and sniffed with sense of smell so keen.

We slobbered, glad we didn’t have to fight.

Love at first smell, we frolicked when we met.

Owners schmoozed with leashes at their sides.

I must thank mine. I’m deeply in her debt—

She let me loose—against the law she normally abides.

To love like this with body all a’quiver.

You should be by my side, like kidney next to liver.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Gearing up to the challenge

I’m taking on a new role: Local Liaison for Southern Breeze, the AL/GA/MS faction of SCBWI. For those of you not in the know, SCBWI stands for the Society of Children Book Writers and Illustrators. Everyone involved in some facet of children book production either is or should be aware of this great organization.

My new duties include keeping members informed of what’s going on within the writing community locally as well as . . . well, from here to infinity! I need to take responsibility for arranging at least one speaker in the next year to lead some sort of workshop—called a schmooze—but I hope to line up more. It’s my goal to encourage people to meet and talk about the art of writing and illustrating by setting up a regular time and place in which to meet and critique each other’s work. I’m researching the possibilities right now.

This is a job that’s good for me. Although some of my friends might dispute this, I’m basically shy. Put me at a cocktail party, and conversation is likely to dry up like yesterday’s bread left outside its plastic bag. But I have great organizational skills, pretty darn good writing skills, and an association in which I believe. That’s a recipe for success.

We writers and artists so often live within our heads because imagination is the key to productivity. Meeting with other writers and artists allows us to get beyond ourselves and make new friends; and, of course, critiquing may shed some light on what’s lacking within our work—why hasn’t it been published? Because, no matter how much we try to convince ourselves that it’s the delightful process of putting something on paper that’s important to us, we all want to be recognized.

After all, what’s wrong with craving immortality?