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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