Goes Without Sayin'

The information on the back of the bill from the lawn service tickled my funny bone.

“WILD ONION/GARLIC WAS FOUND IN YOUR LAWN. This weed is difficult to control. . . Weeds were found. . . ”

Some statements are foregone conclusions and don’t need to be said:
•    The lengthiest miles of a journey are the last fifteen.
•    Santa Claus wears a beard.
•    Our daughter dislikes cockroaches.
•    Squirrels can outsmart any idea or contraption humans devise to keep them out of bird feeders.
•    Hummingbirds will fight over the feeder even though there are plenty of drinking slots to go around.
•    At any writing conference, a presenter will say, “Show, don’t tell.”
•    Weeds were found.

Really, now. This is South Mississippi. It is springtime! I could have told the lawn service the wild onions were also in my flower beds where they know all kinds of tricks. After I dig up entire bulbs with my trusty spade, more appear in their place or pop up somewhere nearby.

Truthfully, these are not the only weeds in my flower beds. I’ve had a busy spring filled with book events, and the beds have been neglected. Multiple weeds have burst into bloom. My calendar appears to finally have time to get after them this week. In the meantime, I’m hoping my neighbors across the street take them for flowers. 


Edible Book Festival

Celebration of National Library Week took a tasty turn with the Edible Book Festival at the University of Southern Mississippi’s Cook Library this week. Librarians, students, and patrons turned out appetizing (well, mostly) takes on favorite books. With honor to the old saw that a picture is worth a thousand words, this blog will major on entry pictures of winners and one participant (me).

Winner of Most Creative was Claire Thompson’s “Moveable Feast or The Pun Also Rises.”

  Winner of Best in Show was “The Walking Dead” by J J Crawley and Amanda Myers.

 Winner of “Most Nutritious” was Rachel Calhoun’s “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”

 My entry, which comes as no surprise to anyone who knows me, was “The Snowy Day.”

My creation did not win a prize, but I think I can speak for all participants and observers that the event was great fun and demonstrated just how creative book people can be.


Beware This Book!

As is my custom, I picked up a new book and headed to bed, thinking I would read until sleep called. Better than sleeping pills, this practice almost always induces a good night’s sleep. Be forewarned – not with this book.

I’d seen periodic enticements on Kimberly Willis Holt’s Facebook page about her upcoming middle grade novel Dear Hank Williams to be released tomorrow (April 14). The title alone filled me with anticipation so I was thrilled to get an autographed advance reader’s copy in the mail. Since I'm a one-book-at-a-time reader and had a couple of must-read-now books ahead of it, it had to wait. Now the time had come, and I was eager.

The book, a series of pen pal letters from Tate P. Ellerbee of Rippling Creek in Rapides Parish, Louisiana to her idol Hank Williams, let me know right away that the effect would not be soporific. (I’ve been looking for an excuse to use that word.) I laughed out loud twice before I finished the first letter. Soon I was having arguments with myself that involved one more chapter versus the need to wake up the next morning.

The story, set in 1948 in the parish next to Vernon Parish where I lived for nineteen years, has entertaining characters that ring true to their time and place. I wondered early about Tate’s reliability as she tells Hank her story in the letters. I felt Tate’s hero worship and Mrs. Kipler’s frustration as the teacher whose pen pal project goes awry. I knew Tate’s relatives and neighbors but had called them by different names. The ending took me by surprise and made me want to go back and reread Tate’s letters with the truth in mind.

In the author’s note, Kimberly says a trip back to her grandfather’s house when she thought she’d lost her love for writing brought her to this book. I’m glad she went. You will be, too, and so will any middle grade school girl for whom you buy the book. Just don’t expect it to help you sleep.


Coming Soon - National Library Week

I’ve been mistaken for a librarian several times – really! Since next week is National Library Week, I’ll admit I take the error as a compliment. Many of my friends and my favorite daughter are librarians.

To celebrate the week, I’m remembering some libraries I’ve known. As kids, my sisters and I were thrilled to see the approach of the bookmobile. Truthfully, the selection wasn’t large, and I completed reading my choices and often my sisters’ long before it returned. When life was good, the books were worth repeat readings.

In the tiny rural high school I attended, study hall for one period every day met in the approximately 100 square foot library. With no librarian, my English teacher drew study hall duty and made it her business to hand me books, especially selected for my reading pleasure. As you might guess, there were no new books, just well-worn classics. I was soon a Bronte-Austen-Dickens fan.

My children fared better with well-stocked post libraries wherever Uncle Sam decided was home. The weekly library trip with preschoolers gave them time to test out which books were coming home and allowed me a few minutes to make my own choices while they were busy.

Their favorite school librarian kept the latest titles in stock and plied my children and my students, since I taught in the same school, with both old and new books that fit the personalities of her readers. The coveted reward for good behavior or test scores in that school was extra time in the library.

Small wonder that I find myself a member of two Friends of the Library groups – one at my community Oak Grove Public Library and the other at The University of Southern Mississippi Libraries. Nor is it a surprise that I have sought out an annual book festival where I rub elbows with librarians from all over the country.

I like a Ray Bradbury quote passed along in a Facebook post by poet Rebecca Kai Dotlich,  “When I graduated from high school . . . I couldn’t go to college, so I went to the library three days a week for ten years.” It evidently worked for him. And if you should mistake me for a librarian, that’s quite all right.


Before and After

Workshops put on by Highlights Foundation in the Pocono Mountains promise and deliver expert advice, beautiful surroundings, excellent food, and quiet writing time. Sometimes, there’s a surprise as well, like the one that turned up at our August 2014 Carolyn Yoder Alumni Workshop.

Our editor/instructor Carolyn used the galley of Like a River by Kathy Cannon Wiechman as an example of forthcoming works published by Calkins Creek. The next morning, one of the attendees brought a copy of an entry in her cabin’s guestbook – written by Kathy in March 2011 BEFORE she had a published book. One of her back-to-back workshops was “Life in the Spotlight” with Peter Jacobi.

Her comment about the workshop reads in part, “It seems as though I’ve put the cart before the horse. When an opportunity comes along to fill your cart with valuable stuff, sometimes you just have to do it and hope you’ll get that horse soon. Or maybe I’ll have to buy a mule.”

Four years and one month later, almost to the day, we get to AFTER. Like a River has a release date of April 7. I’ve read that galley of an intriguing novel of two Union soldiers who should not be in the Army – Leander who is underage and Polly (AKA Paul) who manages to keep it secret that she is a girl. Kathy takes the reader through hunger and thirst, death, and Andersonville Prison compelling the reader for “just one more chapter” in hopes of finding some relief for Leander and Polly/Paul. The satisfying conclusion leaves the reader thinking of where they proceed from here, not quite wanting to let them go.

I’d say Kathy doesn’t need to buy that mule. She already has a thoroughbred heading into the home stretch of the Derby.