On November 7th, in Washington DC...An American Girl Fashion Show to raise money for the prevention of blindness. Below is a picture from last year's show in DC. The girls are darling and it's an all day event of two back-to-back fashion shows for the girls and their dolls with lots of heritage and history!
Valerie Tripp, American Girl author of the Felicity, Josefina, Kit, and Molly series and three of the books in the Samantha series
Diane Heiman, American Girl author of "See What You Can Be"
Kerry Madden, American Girl author of "Writing Smarts"
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And next Friday is the Chattanooga Friends of the Library - Here is a blurry picture of the flier but I think it's all readable! So DC and Chattanooga in a week to about the Maggie Valley books, Harper Lee, and being a storycatcher!
Julian Hazlett and the Season of Stories in Alabama [Oct. 28th, 2010|10:15 am] [Current Location |Homewood, AL] [music |Lucinda...]
This has been the month of art and book festivals or maybe simply the season. I'm going to post an assortment pictures over the fall...but the above picture is our dear friend, Julian Hazlett, who makes loveliest tiles and has the greatest laugh and tells us where to go in Birmingham to discover stories. He's about to celebrate his 25th anniversary with his partner, Cliff Simon, who is an amazing designer, painter, cake-maker, and who is now designing the UAB production of VENUS and just finished ROCKY HORROR.
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And for a quick catch-up on life! :) We are heading to New York tomorrow to visit Lucy for Parents Day Weekend. We said good-bye in July and it's such a huge relief to be going up to visit her at Sarah Lawrence. Norah has never really been to New York (except as a toddler) and so wants to see the Statue of Liberty, The Eiffel Tower, and just explore New York...I'm hoping beyond hope that we can get to a play and trick-or-treat with cousins in Park Slope on Sunday. If we hit the ground running maybe we can accomplish it all! Lucy has a swim meet on Saturday at 3:00, but mostly I'm just happy to be with both girls who have missed each other very much. I am wondering if US Air will mind a Medusa crown carried on the plane in a backpack?
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THE SOUTHERN FESTIVAL OF BOOKS
Norah's favorite panel!
"Supervillians, Eternal Darkness and Booby Traps: Authors Shed Light on Casting the Perfect Antagonist" -
Shane Berryhill, Chris Grabenstein, John Claude Bemis, and hosted by Ed Sullivan!
Loretta Ellsworth! Our panel was called:
Mockingbird Up Close: Harper Lee in Fiction and Non-fiction:
It was great to share Monroeville stories with Loretta who had AMAZING pictures, and to have Jules from SEVEN IMPOSSIBLE THINGS BEFORE BREAKFAST be our moderator!
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Jewell Parker Rhodes and her gorgeous book, NINTH WARD...I love what she said about her grandmother - Do good and it'll come right back to you in this world.
Kristin O'Donnell Tubb and Tracy Barrett, both of whom just received STARS on their new books: Kristin's book, SELLING HOPE, a Booklist Star and Tracy's book, KING OF ITHACA, A School Library Journal Starred Review! Congratulations!!
Norah meets Kathy Patrick, BEAUTY AND THE BOOK, and Head Pulpwood Queen from Jefferson, Texas who is every author's champion! (And our friend Michael Morris, who is a wonderful writer and has spoken to my students about his novels A PLACE CALLED WIRE GRASS and SLOW WAY HOME. He said he stalked Lee Smith learning to become a writer. :)
Norah capturing the beautiful River Jordan and Shellie Rushing Tomlinson! Two of my favorite ladies on the Southern Book Storytelling Storyswapping circuit! Both have new books coming out and they are just pure joy to sit down and talk to anywhere anytime.
It was also lovely to finally meet Suzanne Supplee and Marina Budhos and hear about their books, SOMEBODY EVERYBODY LISTENS TO and TELL US WE'RE HOME...
Suzanne gets up and writes at 5:00 a.m. every day winter and summer because she teaches at a magnet high school and needs that quiet in the first few hours of the morning to write. Her advice resonated with me: "Just because you close your laptop doesn't mean you've stopped writing - keep carrying your characters around with you in your head."
And it was an honor and privilege to get to be on the John Seigenthaler Show, A WORD ON WORDS...I had never met Mr. Seigenthaler before Nashville, but he was friends with my husband's family (a family of 13 kids) in Nashville and he described them this way, "They were the kind of family who came for brunch and would give an impromptu concert, singing, laughing, playing guitars and fiddle, and some kid would walk in the room quoting Thomas Wolfe, and you just wanted them all to stay for dinner."
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More pictures to come...running out of time here as I have to go meet with students...Hope to finish up later today. It's a juggle with approximately forty creative writing students and all these stories swirling around in my head.
Sorry, but I ain't writing your book report for you, kid! [Oct. 22nd, 2010|01:04 am] I received an email today from a possibly addled kid who needed a quick fix on his or her book report for school. This is what the young reader wrote:
I really like your book 'Gentle's Holler"I have a question, would the climax of this story be when Livy Twos father gets into a coma? Also who is the antagonist and the protagonist in this story? Thank you
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I was in a hurry, so I wrote back:
I'm glad you like my book, but I'm not about to write your book report for you. :) I hope you get to write your own stories too!
PS Be a storycatcher!
True Story - Football Coach & Mama & Loss [Oct. 20th, 2010|09:55 pm] An excerpt from OFFSIDES, my first novel, that I read to the Mountain Brook Garden Club this morning because it's football season in Alabama, and even though this book is only available for sale on Amazon for one cent, it just seemed like the thing to read to this group of women whom I felt would understand "coachwives" - (my sister used to think "coacheswives" was one word. And the coacheswives were the first and finest storytellers in my life.)
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OFFSIDES (published by William Morrow, 1996.)
Mama fixed an eye on Peaches. "IF your big sister would simply try to have a good attitude, she might seeing that moving to Cincinnati is not the end of the world."
"It would be the end of the world for me. I've lived in eight states in seventeen years. I'm going to be a senior in high school. I told you I wasn't moving again."
"Peaches," Mama cut in ignoring me, "you tell your big sister that I know she can do it. She can handle ANY difficult situation. All of y'all can! You are the children of a college football coach!"
"When am I going to be old enough to be a cheerleader?" Peaches asked.
"We will look into cheerleading squads when we move to Cincinnati, sugarpig." Mama smiled at Peaches. "At least you are trying to be positive." She glared at me. "If there is one thing I won't tolerate it's a bad mood!"
That wasn't news to me. My mother didn't believe in moodiness and insisted upon the same lack of it from her four children. "Life's too short. Here's fifty cents. Now CHEER UP!" As the wife of a football coach, Mama was expected to maintain an upbeat demeanor, no matter what the circumstances. One football season, after she had a bad miscarriage, the head coach, Donny Mac, caught up with her outside the locker room, jawing, "Hell, Sally, heard you lost that baby. I know what loss is like, honey. Game today was so important, and we had it and blew the sumbitch. Fumbled on the one-yard-line. Talk about grief. Whooo-doggie! But you gotta look ahead now, sugarpie. Get a new game plan. Hell, you can be pregnant by the time we plan 'Bama if you get to work, little gal."
After Mother told me the story when I was old enough to understand, I could never look Coach Donny Mac in the eye again. When I tried to explain why, she said, "Liz, he meant well. Now I didn't care for his comparison either, but sweetie, most men are under way too much pressure to be sensitive. They got ball games to win!"
Rainy Tuesday night in Alabama, Lucinda playing on the radio... [Oct. 19th, 2010|11:01 pm] Well tonight, the car bucked and choked and flashed a few unhappy lights, (and it's been such a good car too!) so I stopped by the Homewood Rec Center to inquire about an upstanding mechanic in the community. The coaches conferred and sent me to Dimitri, a Russian mechanic, with a great reputation, who told me he knew the levees were going to break in New Orleans way back in 1990. He and his engineering friends left the city for Birmingham where he's been for twenty years and loves it. At least he's in walking distance of the apartment. It's the pesky realities like mechanics and doctors that are a part of the "other" life in Los Angeles, and I wonder, do we need two doctors, one in LA, one in Alabama? We certainly need two mechanics, but two doctors? For now, I'm clinging to the "no getting sick allowed" school of thought except on trips back to California where we are covered (and we are officially covered everywhere under Kaiser.)
We had a wonderful visit with Kiffen who left yesterday. It was just too short, but we fit in as much as possible from the Kentuck Folk Festival to Kathryn Tucker Windham at the Birmingham Library to Maya Angelou speaking at a UAB Medical Luncheon on Minority Health. After we dropped him off the airport, we consoled ourselves by going to Alabama Booksmith to buy Patti Callahan Henry's beautiful new book, THE PERFECT LOVE SONG and Sonny Brewer's hilarious collections of stories, DON'T QUIT YOUR DAY JOB, (ACCLAIMED AUTHORS AND THE JOBS THEY QUIT).
I've actually been thinking a lot about "day jobs" recently, because my creative writing students have/had so many different jobs - Wal-Mart, tutoring, lawn services, Outback Steakhouse, Target, liquor store clerk, bank, UAB student services, vet clinic bathing animals, freelancing, etc...I had very similar jobs at their age, (Danvers Burgers, Purple Cow, Women's Athletic Department stuffing envelopes and waiting on pizza in the locker room for the Lady Vols, writing obits, freelance organizer-filer for psycho cheap lady, night desk clerk in dorm, slew of word processing jobs from Gulf Oil to Saab to "Dominion-Mortgage-Funding-Corporation-May-I-help-you?"
But maybe with the car trouble, the one I've been remembering was working at SAAB Customer Complaints. I didn't even have a car then. I was taking the MARTA train to this job in some office somewhere in Roswell or Marietta. I took this temp job since we were waiting on our Chinese Visas to arrive, so we could go teach English in China and go have a real adventure.
I think I was hired for a week or two at SAAB, and I was known only as "Are-you-the-temp?" This offended me - to be thought of as "temporary" person. After all, I had an MFA in Playwriting (from UT Knoxville!) and was bound for China with my new husband, who was working as a waiter at RIO BRAVO in Roswell and had recently won the Halloween costume dressed as a beautiful Mexican woman, and we were very glad for the $25.00 prize.
But at my temp job when I took down customer complaints from SAAB owners, these people wanted to talk and I started asking questions. It didn't take long for them to start talking about their cars, their lives, their worries, and so it wasn't enough just to state the complaint on the form regarding the car. Instead I crafted a kind of high drama flash fiction about the car problems as in:
Mrs. Mary Elizabeth Lange was at a light when her car engine dangerously overheated at the height of rush hour in Marietta just south of the Big Chicken. The kids in the backseat started hollering (including some extra carpool kids) and cars honked in an apoplectic rage from all sides. Her face flushed scarlet, she tried ease over to the shoulder of the road, but nerves shot, she rode the brakes which caused an explosive sound in the engine and then the kids really let loose and...
You get the idea. Honestly, I can't remember what I wrote, but I remember being very pleased with the descriptive details of the story, and then I remember my boss staring at the pages and looking at me like I was crazy. Finally, she said, "Uh. You don't need to put all this other stuff in the customer complaint. Just the facts." I was "let go" shortly thereafter, but I assured them I'd send a postcard from China.
But I never could stick to just the facts...and it's probably why I quit my day job years later as a full time ESL teacher in East LA to write my first novel.
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PS...Good news! The car is fine....just needed a quick timer readjustment. Dimitri didn't charge a thing. I think I've found my Birmingham mechanic.
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A few lovely links:
PATTI CALLAHAN HENRY:
SONNY BREWER, DON'T QUIT YOUR DAY JOB (acclaimed authors and the jobs they quit)
Here is a interview with the lovely Debbi Michiko Florence on her Coffee Break Tuesday. (THANK YOU, DEBBI!)
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And finally, here is Norah playing a Polish immigrant from a sausage factory, escaping her nine brothers in search of a better life in America. (She watched a YOUTUBE clip of SOPHIE'S CHOICE to practice her accent.) Her whole sixth grade turned into Ellis Island for 90 minutes where they had to pass through all the Ellis Island stages of interview, health, language, mental exams, and more interviews until they were granted entry into UNITED STATES (except for those kids sent back to the ship to or to be quarantined.) It was a great learning experience! And the teachers threw themselves into being immigration officials and were amazing!
A Surprise Visit from Los Angeles :) [Oct. 14th, 2010|12:23 pm] When we drove to the airport last night I told Norah that the Chair of my Department had asked me to pick up a poet arriving at 9:30. I didn't expect the questions so I had to make it all up on the spot. Fast!
Norah: What's the poet's name?
Me: Uh, let me think - Maria Lopez.
Norah: What does she look like?
Me: Uh...from her website long hair, glasses, African American.
Norah: Where's she from?
Norah: Wow! Just like my teacher.
Argentina popped out because Lucy, Norah's older sister, wants to study there for her junior year, and Norah has just started Spanish class at school with a teacher from Argentina. Anyway, we got there early and played games on the I-Phone and then watched for the "Poet from Argentina" as people began arriving. Norah said, "Is that her? What about her? That might be her leaving. You'd better go check."
And then I said, "Look, I think I see her."
And this was our poet from Argentina.
Norah's father, Kiffen. :)
Right now we're a bit of an LA to Alabama commuter family. This link explains it.
A fan letter from Glory, a little girl... [Oct. 12th, 2010|09:36 pm] Sometimes a fan letter arrives just when you need it.
Dear Ms. Madden,I LOVE your books! I have written you before asking about your 3d book. I just got it because I had to order it from the library because both of the ones we go to did not have it! I just finished it after reading it 2 days! [I would have finished it in one day but school delayed me!] I LOVE it! I am glad that the daddy Tom is getting his sense back! PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE keep writing this series!!!!!!!!! I really want Tom Weems to get his mind back to working order at least before you stop!!! Will Becksie marry the Cherokee boy, Henry? Please don't stop!!!!! Thanks for giving your time to write books!!! Keep it up!!!Love,Glory Grace King P.S. No matter what people say about the first book I Love it and own it!!!! ANd I love your setting for the books! link2 comments|post comment
O. FISCHER UNDERTAKER...Signs in Alabama [Oct. 11th, 2010|08:44 pm] From Norah:
We were driving along the road out of Cullman, Alabama and Mama pointed out this sign and made me take a picture. We thought it was funny.
Norah M-L :)