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To contact me about manuscript editing, talking to your group about writing or self-publishing, my email address is

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Poem for the New Year

Bird Houses

We planted seven trees yesterday,
out my kitchen window
I watch...anxious,
like a new mother watches her child,
rain falls on them
rooting each to its spot,
making ready for spring,
and birds,
needing nothing
but a branch
to call home.

Kathleen E. Fearing

Friday, November 11, 2011


I'm sure I've said this before, but it's worth repeating - it's worth reminding myself every now and then. You may look at others who write/have written and say to yourself 'I will never be as good as they are. I'll never be able to write like they do.' My response to that is bull! We as individuals are not alike - we don't think alike, we don't visualize the world in the same way...we're all different. Consequently, we will all write differently. And thank goodness. How boring books would be if they were all written the same way. I love going back and forth between writers who visualize things differently. And I look at my own writing and think 'I am not like them. I do not write the way they do. I am me! I am different! I write like no one else writes! I am special...unique!' And so are you. Write the way you want to write. Be yourself. Celebrate your individuality.

Saturday, October 29, 2011


Looking back at what I've written, it's funny how little things I never noticed come to the forefront. At one point I had my protagonist sitting in her bed, and in the next instant she was in a chair.  Editing is a necessary thing. What I have trouble with...what I've always had trouble with, is focusing. So when I'm editing I'm forced to focus. It's a skill some people are born with. And I envy them their ability to naturally concentrate on what they're doing. Some might call what I have ADD. But I'm not sure just what it is that causes me to skip over details. I've finished my second edit of my manuscript "Voyage of Dreams". I'll go over it again before I send it off to the publisher. He may want more changes. That's okay with me. I'm just happy to have someone besides me say that I've written a good story. Most of this accomplishment is not talent or luck, most of it is determination. Keep at it. If you love to write, keep at it. Something good will happen.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Be Careful What You Wish For

I've often heard this said by people whose most desired wish had come true. And then it turned out to be more than they had bargained for. I'm about to see just what getting my wish will mean to me. My manuscript "Voyage of Dreams" has been accepted by Celtic Cat Publishing in Knoxville for publication some time next year. Now I'm thinking 'Just what is this going to mean for me?' Am I going to have to do a lot of speaking to groups and maybe schools? The thought sometimes terrifies me. I'm not always that comfortable in front of a crowd of people who I don't know. But, I'm also thinking, 'Do you want to change your mind? Do you want to tell the publisher forget it?' The answer is No. But it still makes me nervous and thrilled at the same time. My husband tells me I'll be great - not to worry. Okay. But I think I'll do a lot of practicing between now and then. I love this problem.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Support your local Middle School

Proceeds from my book "My Friend The Werewolf" go to the Art Department at the Norris Middle School in Norris, Tennessee. Help Support art in the schools. Go to

Monday, September 19, 2011

From prose to verse

Changing a story I've already written from prose to verse is a fantastic exercise in essential word usage. Time and time again, as I pause at each paragraph, I consider word usage: what words do I really need to convey what I want the reader to "see"? And this exercise is not done just once, but many times, until I've discovered the right meter, flow, sound - the right words that do justice to what I'm trying to say. I find that doing this has made me a better prose writer as well. I believe that really good prose should flow the same as well thought out poetry. And I find that I am asking myself, "What word can you substitute for that ordinary word you just used - one that will say what you want to say much more precisely?" It keeps the brain working. Just what I need at my age. Try it yourself. Change a story you've written in prose to verse. It doesn't have to rhyme. In fact, it's better if it doesn't. Read poet Mary Oliver for inspiration.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Reading for Inspiration

I've been reading "Writing the Breakout Novel" by Donald Maass. It was recommended by a friend, although at the time she did not know she was recommending it, she just mentioned the book in passing. But I've found the book irresistible. Maass seems to hit the proverbial nail right on its proverbial head in each chapter.  Maass says there should be conflict on every page of your novel. The characters and story must live for you intensely. People must be able to identify with a character in some way. Most important: raise the stakes throughout the story. The reader must understand, or find out, what drives the characters to do the things they do. What's at stake here, and who cares? His answer is that the writer must care deeply before the reader will care. Transferring that to the written page is the challenge. But if it works, Wow!

There may be writers who have already inspired you as a writer. A couple of my favorites are Gary Paulsen and Karen Hesse. Each time I read what these two authors have created I become inspired all over again. Find who inspires you and visit that inspiration often.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Book Excerpts

Here's a small excerpt from my latest book "My Friend The Werewolf, What Would You Do?"

"Frazee Olin was different. He was, by far, the strangest kid I'd ever met. The thing was, my friend Jack Axel - I called him Ax - Ax and I didn't know how different Frazee was. And just when we discovered his awful secret, he disappeared right off the face of the earth.  There were two questions Ax and I had to find the answers to, or bust a gut trying. The first was, what in the world happened to Frazee Olin? The second and most mysterious question was, what was that big hairy thing lying dead in front of the school bus?"

"My Friend The Werewolf..." is about friendship and how it might feel to be different from everyone you know.

See it at 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


I've been considering (with some reluctance) writing a sequel to my book My Friend The Werewolf. The major reason for my reluctance is that many times sequels are not as good, not as fresh and exciting as the original. That may be because the sequel is forced out of an original idea, and now I must find something equally as exciting for the next step...and should there be a next step? But people have been asking me when the next is coming, so I have been considering. I have even gone as far as writing down some ideas and a story line. But, I must take a few steps back, take a hard look at what is there, and decide if it's worth the effort. Then, again, I love the characters in my original story - and there was this unanswered question at the end of the story. In fact, there were a couple of things left unanswered after the final paragraph. So, maybe in the back of my mind I had a sequel waiting to the explored.

Oh, don't you just love writing your questions down so that you can look at them, think about them in black and white? Sometimes questions answer themselves when you take the time to write them out.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Considering Words

When trying to decide on which adjective or verb to use to describe what's going on in one of my children's stories, I try to pick unusual words, words that kids don't use every day. It not only broadens their vocabulary, but gets them thinking about different ways to say things. I believe using words that are not as well known, words that you can wrap your tongue around like a spoonful of peach sorbet, first of all has a long-lasting effect on the reader, but secondly, gives children an insight as to how delicate or bold language can be merely by changing one word. Reading beautiful poetry instills in me a sense of how versatile the English language is; and for children, maybe it can open their senses to the possibility of words. 

E. B. White said "Children are game for anything. I throw them hard words, and they backhand them over the net. They love words that give them a hard time, provided they are in a context that absorbs their attention."

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Things To Ponder

Do not seek shelter in your comfortable shell. Push your self, your talents, your aura to try something new every day.

J-P Sartre, "I suppose it is out of laziness that the world is the same day after day. Today it seemed to want to change. And then anything, anything could happen."

Let's all try.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Mary Oliver's Inspiration

Time and time again I come back to the probing poetry of Mary Oliver for inspiration in my writing. Her book Dream Work (1986) will not stay open to the page I want, so I prop it open with Virginia Woolf's thought-provoking A Room of One's Own. The poem I choose to read over and over is Dreams. Here are the first few lines.

"All night/ the dark buds of dreams/ open/ richly./ In the center/ of every petal/ is a letter,/ and you imagine/ if you could only remember/ and string them all together/ they would spell the answer."

I feel much the better for having read Oliver. I sigh then go to my own page.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Prose as Poetry

Everyone writes differently - has their own style, their own "voice" if you will. There are some writers that "speak" to me and some that never reach me. I'm sure it's the same for you. Hemingway has his own audience, Shakespeare has his. They don't necessarily speak to me. I seem to be drawn to writers like Isak Dinesen of "Out of Africa" and Michael Ondaatje of "The English Patient". Their writing is movingly poetic and achingly beautiful. Dinesen writes in "Out of Africa", "The sky was rarely more than pale blue or violet, with a profusion of mighty, weightless, ever-changing clouds towering up and sailing on it, but it has a blue vigor in it, and at a short distance it painted the ranges of hills and the woods a fresh deep blue." Dinesen's descriptions of the African plains is legendary; and while reading her words I am there, on the plains, breathing in the dry, grass-scented air, and I become her.

Ondaatje writes in "The English Patient", "She stands up in the garden where she has been working and looks into the distance. She has sensed a shift in the weather. There is another gust of wind, a buckle of noise in the air, and the tall cypresses sway.....She turns into the room which is another garden - this one made up of trees and bowers painted over its walls and ceiling. The man lies on the bed, his body exposed to the breeze, and he turns his head slowly towards her as she enters."

When I write my stories for children, I try to emulate these writers. I feel children deserve to be exposed to all that is beautiful in the English language (for it is a beautiful thing). No matter what I'm writing about - comedy, heartbreak, mystery - I try to use words that bring the situation to life so that the reader can feel what's going on, not just read about it. I don't always succeed, but I'll keep trying. It's a noble goal, I think.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Looking Back at What I've Written

Looking back at my first book, I sometimes cringe at what I wrote, thinking, Oh, I could have written that so much better than I did. But, there it is, out there for the whole world (wouldn't that be nice) to see. But, that's exactly what first books should do, I think. We want it to be perfect, but, in my case at least, it's not. Reading my first book in the local newspaper's serialization makes be go back over what I'm writing now, and helps me to check and re-check my verbs and descriptions; helps me to eliminate unwanted adverbs, unneeded phrases, and to use better, more descriptive adjectives. It's a process. Jane Yolen has written that her writing is constantly evolving and becoming better. Yolen says it never stops - this personal writing evolution. So I'm not deterred. I admit to my mistakes. There they are for everyone to see. But I'm getting better. And, hopefully, I will continue to improve at what I love doing most: writing for children. What a wonderful journey.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

My Friend The Werewolf

It's official! My Friend The Werewolf, What Would You Do? has had its coming-out party! A group of sixth graders at Norris Middle School in Norris, Tennessee illustrated my book about two friends who discover that their friend, Frazee, is a werewolf.  It was a delightful collaboration between me and some very imaginative sixth grade art students. The wonderful thing about it is that the students came up with ideas for illustrations I would never have thought of by myself.

I sincerely hope that this book will encourage those kids to try things throughout their lives that, had they not done the book, they might not have been willing to try.

See coverage of the day at

The book is available at  and

Monday, March 7, 2011

Memoirs - of sorts

I've been putting together a fictional story (based on the few facts that I have) of my maternal grandmother's emigration from Ireland to America in 1904. The story is more emotional than factual, but it is dedicated to her courage and spirit. I find it fascinating that she - who knew nothing of cities or of much beyond the small plot of land where she grew up on the shores of the Atlantic - could walk away from everything she knew, and face a huge world of unknowns. Yet she did. And she was under twenty years of age. Here is an excerpt from that story, Voyage of Dreams.

"The setting sun glowed on the horizon. All about her, the flowers were in bloom and
gave a yellow glow to the hillsides covered with scrubby wildflower bushes. The magpies
argued amongst themselves as they flew in circles and made their nasty noise. Tess stopped
for a moment and let the sun warm her face. It was home. It was. A sweet warm wind blew 
off the sea and filled the air with a restless song. She lifted her voice and sang, and it 
filled her heart with joy and with life itself. There was goodness here, and she would 
never leave it."

I hope to finish the story some time this summer. This one has to be good. Neither my grandmother nor my mother are alive; but somehow I know they would approve. And perhaps in some other dimension, they will be able to read my story.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Guest Blogger

My dear friend Linda Rhinehart Neas has done some incredible things in her lifetime. I've asked her to tell you about her remarkable book.

The Story Behind - Gogo’s Dream: Swaziland Discovered
By Linda M. Rhinehart Neas
This article first appeared on Silver and Grace on July1, 2010.
Four years ago, two things happened.  I became a grandmother for the first time and my life was touched by the writing of a young Australian doctor, who later introduced me to the Gogo’s (grandmothers) of Swaziland.
Dr. Maithri Goonetilleke is the co-founder of Possible Dreams International (PDI), a non-profit organization that brings aid to the Gogos, their families and communities.  My connection to the Gogos grew through posts on his blog, his poetry and the photos sent from his visits to Swaziland.  After all, as a grandmother myself, I could empathize with their fears and joys half way around the world.
Last year, when PDI was first established, I began brainstorming ways I could help support the efforts of Maithri and the team in Swaziland.  My greatest talent is my writing, but how could I use it to benefit the Gogos?
Interestingly, a trip to the local historic society gave me the answer I was looking for at that time.  There in the museum store was a book written by a local other.  The author stated on the back cover that all proceeds from the sale of the book would go to the museum.  Immediately, I knew what I would do.
Coincidentally, the Poem-a-Day Challenge had just begun.  The facilitator suggested that we write our poems with a theme in mind.  Swaziland came immediately to mind.  Each day, I would look at the prompt for the view of the people and places in Swaziland. 
Some of the poems illustrate the pain and suffering of the Gogos and their communities, some tell of the beauty of the land and the creatures there and some tell of life in Swaziland.  I tried to paint a full and holistic picture of this land I have yet to visit.
When inspiration was slow in coming, I would look at the pictures of the Gogos with their grandchildren gathered around them.  Almost immediately, the words would come pouring out.  By the end of the challenge, I had a book of poems.
Through contacts, I learned about, through which I published my book.  It was a great self-publishing experience.  They give you the software to set up the book.  They even offer a program for books that are fundraisers.  Readers can get a sneak peak at:
It is my hope that this book will educate, enlighten and inspire others.  All of the profits go directly to PDI.  It is amazing how far a small amount of money can go in helping the Gogos and their communities.  To learn more about PDI and the Gogos, go to
Postscript:  I had the privilege to hear Bishop Desmond Tutu speak at the college I was teaching in last year (2010).  I had hoped to hand off one of my books to him, but I could not get close enough to him.  My beloved suggested that I mail the book to him, which I did, enclosing a brief note explaining why I wrote it.  I never thought he would actually get it.  After all, he is a Nobel Peace laureate and a very busy human rights activist.  What a delight to receive an email from his office saying that not only had he read my book, it was now part of his personal library!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Here's a poem from my new, soon-to-be-out book, "Women, Poems By Heart".


A murmur in my ear,/a dream in mid-night,/a shove from behind,/decision to take a path,/or not,/perseverance,/as life's storms/bend me to nearly breaking.../strength found time and again,/though I believe all is lost.../ Each time my mind/is battered with 'no',/they surround me,/saying/how fine/I can ever be.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Book Excerpts

I am looking forward with great pleasure to having one of my books serialized in a local publication. Here is an excerpt from one not being serialized, Adisa's Basket. It is 1700 Nigeria. Adisa and one of her sisters have escaped from a band of slavers. After being rescued from the dense jungle by a man and his son from a neighboring village, Adisa and her sister Afia go back to their own village, now deserted and in ruins.

"Memories, My family's hut lay hunched over, like an old man who had stumbled, fallen to his knees. Inside, I knelt, closed my eyes against the tears. Sounds of Mother's humming, father's snoring, Adanna's laughter, all washed over me. They were there, around me, and Grandmother...poking my arm, teasing her Spider...laughing. Curious monkeys clutching thick-leafed tree limbs watched wide-eyed, quiet, waiting, as though we might tell them a story...  How did this happen?

"The Basket, ...buried beneath dirt, dead leaves, Afia found pieces of Father's basket, trampled, brutally torn by slavers who did not care about stories and designs of my people; whose hands could never feel the songs humming in the weave; whose numb hearts knew nothing about love...  Leaves and dirt fell away. It could be mended. Grandmother had taught me how, I had taught Afia."

Adisa's Basket.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Me and My Books

So, here I am again. The rest of the world, it seems, is tangled up in the far-reaching hysteria of the Super Bowl, and I am here with my children's books, marveling at the beauty of the written word. I have just read again the preface to Patricia MacLachlan's "Journey". It is poetic. I believe that all intriguing literature has imbedded within it the essence of poetry. Some may believe that it is not necessary to know poetry to write good literature. I know in my soul you cannot have one without the other. Good literature is the kind you can see, and feel, and smell, and experience without leaving your chair. Poetry. It is what you keep in your heart and carry with you in your pocket, grasping it so no one can steal it from you. Poetry. It is what stays with you forever, new and fresh each time you read the words...the words you search for on your bookshelf and say, Ah, there it is.

MacLachlan writes: "Mama named me Journey. Journey, as if somehow she wished her restlessness on me. But it was Mama who would be gone the year that I was eleven - before spring crashed onto our hillside with explosions of mountain laurel, before summer came with the soft slap of the screen door, breathless nights, and mildew on the books. I should have known, but I didn't. My older sister Cat knew. Grandma knew, but Grandma kept it to herself. Grandfather knew and said so."

Be a poet.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Great Beginnings

Those who give advice to writers often tell us that the opening sentences are so very important to draw the reader into the story. Here are a few I've selected from some of my favorite books.

Patricia MacLachlan's "Journey", the main character Journey tells us, "My grandfather is belly down in the meadow with his camera, taking a close-up of a cow pile. He has, in the weeks since Mama left, taken many photographs..."

Han Nolan's "Dancing on the Edge", the main character Miracle recalls, "Gigi said my guardian angel must have been watching over me real good when I was born. Maybe so, but I wish the angel had watched over me less and seen to Mama more.... It didn't seem natural, a live baby coming out of the body of a dead woman. Gigi said it was the greatest miracle ever to come down the pike."

Katherine Paterson's "Bridge To Terabithia", the narrator tells us after Jess hears his dad start up the truck, "He could get up now. Jess slid out of bed and into his overalls. He didn't worry about a shirt because once he began running he would be hot as popping grease even if the morning air was chill, or shoes because the bottoms of his feet were by now as tough as his worn-out sneakers."

Karen Hesse's "Out of the Dust", the main character Billy Jo tells us, "As summer wheat came ripe,/so did I,/born at home, on the kitchen floor./Ma crouched, barefoot, bare bottomed/over swept boards,/because that's where Daddy said it'd be best."

Bruce Hales "From Russia With Lunch", the hero Chet Gecko tells us, "I never could resist a mystery. Any mystery. Like, if Number 2 pencils are the most popular, why are they still Number 2?"

Shel Silverstein's "Where The Sidewalk Ends", the first poem reads, "Invitation, If you are a dreamer, come in,/If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,/A hope-er, a prayer, a magic bean buyer.../If you're a pretender, come sit by my fire/For we have some flax-golden tales to spin./Come in!/Come in!"

And Gary Paulsen's beautiful "Dog Song", the narrator begins, "Russel Susskit rolled out of the bunk and put his feet on the floor and listened in the darkness to the sounds of morning. They were the same sounds he had always heard, sounds he used to listen for. Now in the small government house - sixteen by twenty - they grated like the ends of a broken bone."

What seductive invitations to read on. They create a curiosity and a need to know more. I try, with all my guts, to do the same. Words are mesmerizing when positioned just so...just so delightfully intriguing.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Poetic Prose

I admit, I'm head-over-heels in love with poetic prose. And no one has ever done it better than Dylan Thomas. In his "A Child's Christmas in Wales" he wrote,

"All the Christmases roll down toward the two-tongued sea, like a cold and headlong moon bundling down the sky that was our street; and they stop at the rim of the ice-edged, fish-freezing waves, and I plunge my hands in the snow and bring out whatever I can find. In goes my hand into that wool-white bell-tongued ball of holidays resting at the rim of the carol-singing sea, and out come Mrs. Prothero and the firemen."

Of course, now you must read the little book so you will know what Mrs. Prothero and the firemen were doing.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Listening to the World Around Us

Mary Oliver is among my favorite poets. Here is a line from her poem "Marsh Hawks".

"In the morning they glide/just above the rough plush/of the marshlands,/as though on leashes,/long-tailed and with/yard-wide wings/tipped upward,like/dark Vs; then they suddenly fall/in response to their wish,/which is always the same -/to succeed again and again."

Her simple observations of life create for me an excitement about life which I cannot deny.