{pinned post: book events in september}

Thanks for your interest in my book events!
(This post will be continuously updated.)

Essay • “Checking the Weather” Teen Librarian Toolbox Blog @SLJ

Interview • “Writer Q&A” @NerdDaily

Interview • “Author Q&A” @Confessions of a YA Reader

Interview • Author Q&A @ at Karen B. McCoy’s

Interview • Conversation @ Edie’s Cotton Quilts

BOOK GIVEAWAY • from September 16th – 21st: CLOSED Recipients have been contacted on Twitter and Instagram. If you were contacted, please use the drop down the menu on the left “About This Site” and leave your address in the contact form. Thanks!

ICYMI: View the Crowdcast of my book launch with Janae Marks here.

View the Shelf Stuff conversation with Saadia Fauqi and Shanthi Sekaran, and educator, Dr. Dawn Bolton at Brave & Kind Books here.

View the Princeton Children’s Book Festival’s Book Jam with Damian Alexander, Kathryn Erskine, Lee Durfey-Lavoie and Veronica Agarwal here.

{slowly we begin}

My little sister texted me to ask what we were doing for Thanksgiving.


Writing a novel that has a deadline Wednesday, December 1 means that you don’t want anything to do with NaNoWriMo, nothing to do with Thanksgiving, and panic at the idea of Black Friday. I really don’t have time to do this! And yet, Thanksgiving 2020 didn’t happen at all, except in terms of a series of phone calls and waving at each other briefly over Zoom (which is its own special level-of-hell annoyance).

Thanksgiving has always been our family’s one holiday. Growing up poor, we didn’t do Christmas, which requires an outlay of funds to buy things – and we didn’t get that much into Easter. Our extended family is made up of very religious and very anti-religious people, so Thanksgiving – and, oddly, Labor Day – to us the least religious holidays – have always been the time for the biggest family get-togethers. Courtesy of Covid, our big Thanksgiving do will likely for many years be a thing of the past, so this year, a much smaller holiday-esque mystery party thing might have to happen.

AFTER Thanksgiving. Say, maybe December 12th?

Baby steps. We’ll get things back to some version of “normal” eventually, right?

At least that’s the dream…

P.S., Just in case my editor is reading this: I WILL FINISH. I’m fine. No worries! I’m going to make that deadline! Really! Promise!

P.P.S., Just realized looking at the picture I found for this that I really miss babies. All my book nieces and nephews are either not yet born or toddling/running, so their little thighs are no longer quite so pillowy. Bittersweet! But, they chew and drool much less, and are differently destructive with books, so that’s a win? Progress. Baby steps, as it were…

{fire season}

It’s been cold when I wake up for the last several nights, and we’ve had a brief rain – so this idea of autumn is not a fluke. “Fire season” is almost over.

Like the mother in PARTLY CLOUDY, I used to hate the idea of a season for wildfires. Fire doesn’t seem like a natural part of the natural world – but it is. Fires, insects, and tree blights are part of a natural cycle of replenishment and growth in a forest. Lightning ignited wildfires used to simply burn, but now people go through a lot of effort to make sure that don’t … and without wildfires to scour the forest floor to thin out the deadfalls and competing vegetation, to encourage certain tree species seeds to fall and certain flowers to bloom, to break down and return certain nutrients to the soil, the forest isn’t as strong and healthy of an ecosystem as it needs to be.

Even knowing all of this, it’s hard not to hate the fires. The climate changes that create severe drought make them worse, and the fires are burning hotter and longer, creating a changed landscape and ecosystem as trees don’t have time to grow back before the next big blaze. On top of all the other changes we’re facing as a society, this comes with the additional trauma of people losing their homes. It isn’t within our natures not to fight for what is ours, and it’s going to take a lot to move past our ingrained responses to fire and loss. But every time this seems like a hopeless tangle, I remind myself that human beings are flexible and creative, and because we are also deeply stubborn creatures, we will figure out a way around this. We’ll relearn managing the forests and learn new ways of using water and our natural resources to everyone’s benefit. We will manage this. We don’t have any choice.

In the meantime, we welcome autumn – a chance to breathe and recover, and hopefully, to await the rain.

{pf: poetry peeps share tankas}

Greetings! Welcome to another Poetry Peeps adventure on Poetry Friday!

First, let’s take a moment to scream, “AAARGH! WHAT HAPPENED TO SEPTEMBER!?” quietly into a pillow. *Ahem*

You’re invited to our challenge in the month of October! Here’s the scoop: We’re taking advantage of the rich bounty of the Poetry Friday Universe and writing ____is A Word Poems, wordplay invented by poet Nikki Grimes and shared by Michelle Barnes. Once you’ve read a few examples, you’ll get the hang of it. Have a word in mind? Good! You’ve got a month to craft your creation(s), then share your offering on October 29th in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals.

Seriously, poets: wither September? I’m not exactly averse to the conclusion of this ENDLESS season of chaos and smoke, but goodness, does it seem as if it was August five minutes ago! The month has brought challenges and changes for many and a louder pitch to the usual machines of industry churning around us, producing media and news and drama and nonsense. I’m now happy to welcome the rain (please, please, PLEASE) and the gloriously bright, crunchy (not engulfed in flames) leaves; the long seasons of rest before renewal… Somehow, it seems it has been such a manic summer and I am so pathetically eager for autumn that I will even put up with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, allspice and ginger being added to a hard orange squash and then that flavoring being slopped indiscriminately on pretty much everything, without too much complaint. (I never said NO complaint, though, so don’t @me with those lattes…)

With my love of this season of change, it’s not much of a surprise where I ended up with our challenge this month. Tasked to choose material from poets within the Poetry Friday Universe and write a tanka in response or in conversation with the poem of our choice I found myself choosing instead of a single poem, an entire project – the Poetry Sisters autumn hymn poems from 2017. Hymn meter is repetitive and simple, and autumn is pretty straightforward. Those two things together allowed us to really polish a single thought. Now, a tanka is meant to evoke a mood or an event, so the process here is wholly different. After a quick read I discovered that most of us chose to imbue seasons with a female energy female:

  • Tricia: Summer sheds her cloak (Fall Fashion, 101)
  • Liz: Slipping on wisdom’s dress (Though Folly’s overalls fit better)
  • Sara: Leaves rake our cheeks with gold smear (Contoured & highlighted?)
  • Laura: Maple wears her scarlet blooms (Coiffed couture!)
  • Kelly: I whisper it through rustling leaves (Gossip, girl!)
  • Me: When kissed by nighttime rime… (Maybe not quite feminine energy here, [& I’m not using mine anyway] but…close enough)

With this trove of imaginative imagery (though admittedly, with less time than I wanted this week), I came up with a nod to Liz’s poem that incorporated everyone:

Lady Libra

a stunner – that one
trails whispers like rustling leaves…
years rest gold as light
bearing scarlet blooms – cloaked in
wisdom’s borrowed dress, she winks 😉

Nobody expects the season decline before the sleep of winter to go quietly, do they? Lady Libra is stepping over her sister’s cloak, borrowing a dress, shoving some blossoms in her hair, and coming in reallllly late – or is it early? – with gold-smeared cheeks…

This one is in conversation with “If Apples Were Dappled And Sweet,” Sara’s ode to endings and the violence of the harvest before the decline of winter, which just didn’t really blend as easily ideologically. It jarred me when I first read it, but in a true way, resonating with the abruptness of the end of bee-loud glades and dappled shade that makes a summer… To everything there is a season and a time, and today it’s time to bring in the apples and wrench the honey from the hive, and it’s gonna get messy, there will be a lot of rage (largely from the bees) and it might get loud. Leave off the idea of bringing in the sheaves with some light rejoicing – even vegetarians end up slaughtering the peace a bit to bring in the harvest:


this, how it begins:
goodbye. redden, crumble, dry
swift twist, snap, an End
as daylight bleeds from the fields,
harvest is waged ’til it yields

Poetry Friday is hosted today Poetry Sister Laura, whose round-up is right here. You can check out Sara’s poem here, and Cousin Mary Lee’s is here, and you’ll find Tricia’s here. Andi‘s poem and Kelly’s poem is here. Michelle’s tanka is here; Linda B’s is here. Carol’s autumn offerings are here, and Irene’s poem is here. Even more Poetry Peeps might pop in throughout the day, so stay tuned for a round-up of links.

I’m flat exhausted right now, but the last week, we had the first nights in the low fifties, and they were exquisite. Summer is dragging her skirts, kicking up the last fuss, but remember, perhaps soon – this too shall pass. Paz, mis poetas.

{poetry peeps in september: tanka-traders}

You’re invited to try our challenge in the month of September! We’re writing tanka in response to a poem we love from the Poetry Friday universe. Choose to respond to an original poem of any sort, from anyone who participates in Poetry Fridays – give us a link to the original poem, then go tanka-trading away, and make something tanka-true and new. Are you thinking of a poem you love? Good! There’s still time to play with your 5-7-5 creation(s), then share your offering with the rest of us on September 24th in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals.

{pf: poetry peeps know what the ____knows}

Greetings! Welcome to another Poetry Peeps adventure on Poetry Friday!

You’re invited to try our challenge in the month of September! Here’s the scoop: We’re writing tanka in response to a poem we love from the Poetry Friday universe. Choose to respond to an original poem from anyone – give us a link to the original poem, then go tanka-tangoing on. Are you thinking of a poem? Good! You’ve got a month to craft your 5-7-5 creation(s), then share your offering (or someone else’s) with the rest of us on September 24th in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals.

The original steps for the Sidman Deeper Wisdom poems included: a.) Choose your subject, b.) think about the overarching Truths relating to your subject, c.) state six of the strongest truths into two stanzas, and d.) make your end words rhyme – but you don’t have to. While the mentor poems we used – Jane Yolen’s vs. Joyce Sidman’s – differ slightly, at least on the surface, this is a short, simple vehicle for thoughtful poetic description. That said, I still choked on the first step.

During our Seven Sisters meetup the previous Sunday, I had written one poem off the top of my head, but realized it might be somewhat controversial, so I shelved it. However, since sharing an office in a 1959 bungalow means help (READ: constant Zoom meeting distraction) is just two inches away, I glanced over my shoulder and said, “Hey – I need you to tell me ten things.” Once we determined that “things” in this case meant nouns, Himself said, “Fine,” and began to recite: “An emu egg. A hummingbird. A geode. A monocle. Lilies. Squirrels. Garam masala. Swim fins. Cuttlefish. Moose nuggets.”


“What?” he protested. “Don’t you remember that dried moose poop potpourri stuff we saw in Alaska that time?”

Erm… no, I did not, actually, but …aren’t travel memories precious? Or …something?

ANYWAY, thanks to this very helpful list, I did find a couple of things which were intriguing enough to warrant further study. But, that’s the problem with me – these poems are deceptive. Sure, you can find six facts about most anything, but how many of them are worth calling “deeper wisdom?” Plus, it’s a bit addictive to play with the idea of fact poems, because my rabbit-hole is research. I barely got my poem written because I was chasing the history of garam masala (every state in India has their own blend!!!)… Which tells me I’ll revisit these someday! But for now, did you know that cuttlefish can see into infrared, but they’re colorblind? And, that they have three hearts? And, did you know that they don’t have ten arms at all? And, and…

What Does the Cuttlefish Know?

hearts trio-thumping, three downbeats
two tentacles, eight arms to greet
a spy’s disguises and deceit!

What Does the Cuttlefish Know?
Through colorblinded eyes, the heat,
Mimicking objects, to defeat
Its foes. Nothing else can compete.
(A bonus line: they’re really neat)

This doesn’t really count as a “deeper wisdom” poem, per se – but this is just the first poem I came up with during my free-write. No matter what you feel about masks, though, I hope you read it in the spirit it’s intended: as just a thought, not an indictment of anyone, about anything.

What Does the Mask Know

The silken slide of facial skin
The snubness of a nose
A cloud of damp from breath held in
Being your newest “clothes.”

The shrouding of a friendly smile
The shielding of the Earth…
Perhaps a hint of runway style?
What I think you are worth.

Poetry Friday this week is hosted at Unexpected Intersections, and our hostess this week unexpectedly joined us in our Poetry Peeps challenge! And now I know something new about marmots! Thanks for joining the fun, Elizabeth! If this is your first time joining the Peeps, welcome! You can check out Sara’s poem here, and Cousin Mary Lee’s is here, and you’ll find Liz’s here. What Kelly knowss is here, and you’ll find Michelle’s poem here. Bridget joins us here, Heidi’s poem – well, the second one she wanted to write – ☺ -is here. Rose joins us here. Margaret’s heron is here, and you’ll find Linda’s poem here, and Denise’s poem here…and, joining us a bit later, Kat’s poem is here. What a fun bunch! Even more Poetry Peeps might pop in throughout the day, so stay tuned for a round-up of links.

It’s been a mentally-crowded kind of week, and I hope you find the time this weekend to geek out over some new and previously silent deeper wisdom that speaks to you. Have a lovely weekend! Hope you join the fun in September!

{poetry peeps challenge: what the ___knows}

It’s STILL the month of August, simultaneously the longest and shortest month of the year! This month, the Poetry Peeps are writing after the style of Jane Yolen’s eight line, unrhymed poem, “What the Bear Knows,” a poem written in honor of her 400th book, Bear Outside. Poet Joyce Sidman, who started it all, gave us some neat guidelines for thinking and writing through this poem: a.) Choose your subject, b.) think about the overarching Truths relating to your subject, c.) state six of the strongest truths into two stanzas, and d.) find an end rhyme – but you don’t have to. This sounds straightforward, but why do I have a feeling we’re all going to have so many good ideas we’ll trip over at least four of them???

There’s still time! We’re sharing our pieces August 27th on blogs and social media with the tag #PoetryPals. Hope you join the fun!

{merriam-webster’s word matters}

I’m such a fan of “the beautiful nightmare” that is the English language (and occasionally it is a nightmare. I overheard Himself discussing comma splices with one of his coworkers for whom English is her third language, and she said, “Oh, NO! that’s a THING!?” Yes, dear. We all feel that way) that I’m also a fan of Word Matters, a podcast put out by Merriam-Webster. This week they take on the etymology of “introvert” and you can bet I’m deeply interested in THAT!

Happy Monday.