"It doesn't matter if it takes a long time getting there. The point is to have a destination."
-- Eudora Welty

I never know what a book is about until I finish it. Fourteen years ago I moved to Atlanta from my long-years home in Frederick, Maryland near Washington, D.C. I thought never to leave that house. But life happens and I did leave, and at the same time I got on the road and had a work life filled with schools, libraries, conferences, and new friends along the way.

What I missed most was the time to make a home in a new place, and that feeling of putting down roots, creating community, and staying somewhere where everyone knows you.

Emma Lane Cake feels that way, too. She finds herself in Halleluia, Mississippi with her loving but chaotic family of itinerant bakers, her eleventh move in as many years as she's been alive -- or has it been more than 11 moves? She has lost track. When she meets Ruby Lavender, they hatch a plan that will allow Emma to stay. Or will it?

I've come back to Aurora County to write about coming home and finding a place to belong in the world... something I had to do as a military child grown up, and something I had to do again when I moved to Atlanta. 

On the road for 17 years it became clear to me that some children search for home and belonging, and friendship, every day. And that other children offer it, every day. I wanted to write a book for all those children, too.

A Long Line of Cakes is published this fall. It becomes the fourth Aurora County book after Love, Ruby Lavender, Each Little Bird That Sings, and The Aurora County All-Stars. I hope you take Emma to your heart in just the way Ruby does (in her Ruby way) and in the way that I did, too.

If you're a reader of the previous Aurora County novels, you'll say a new hello to Ruby, Melba Jane, Miss Eula, Miss Mattie, Declaration, House, Cleebo, Honey, Eudora Welty, Finesse, and more, along with the magic -- and mystery -- of what it means to belong, to create a home, and to find a family.

I'm welcoming myself back home to blogging, too, after a century away. Let's see if it feels like home.

xoxxo Debbie

take up your happiness

Some thoughts about life, love and happiness, after a few photos from the past two weeks of research, writing, organizing my work (on a chalk wall, no less), a couple of close-by field trips, a book festival (that's my editor, David Levithan, talking with shiny new (amazing) author Will Walton), a bit of teaching, a lot of home-making, a birthday cobbler, some celebrating, lots of gathering with peeps, and the inevitable bringing-in the last of the garden.



When I was a kid, I wanted to be a mom more than anything else. I wanted to sit at a desk and play office. I wanted to scribble on a chalkboard and teach my dolls things I didn't understand yet myself. I wanted to lie on a blanket in the clovered grass, stare at the night sky, and wonder. I wanted true friends. I wanted to keep house. And I wanted a Prince Charming to come into my life, sweep me off my feet, and love me all the days of my life, and make me happy.

I got all my wishes, in an odd and amazing order that still takes my breath away when I think about it. How perfect it has been, the grime and the glory alike. How lucky that my people are in my life, and that this life is full of good work that I love, and that there is space for wondering and dreaming, still, and that people love me and I love them, and that there really IS someone to sweep me along with devotion, into the later chapters of my life.

Slowly, slowly, I have come to understand, in a deep and steady way, that home is where you make it; that people are complex, nuanced, textured, wonderful puzzles; that work is like that, too; that Uncle Edisto's messy glory is indeed the way we live; and that I am responsible for my own happiness.

Rise up, I say to myself this morning. Rise. Take up your happiness and walk into the days ahead.

back to work

"Writing and rewriting are a constant search for what one is saying." -- John Updike.

I've got notes (once again) from a new-to-me editor at Scholastic, Ken Geist, on a picture book I've sold about Bobby Kennedy. It's exciting to work with a new editor -- David L. is a wonderful novel editor, and now Ken steps in to work on picture books with me, and I am so glad.

So today's work is about looking at these notes and writing a response to them, and then, we hope, talking next week before I head to the D.C. area for my first school visit this fall, combined with some family time. We drive to Charleston on Sunday, to celebrate Jim's birthday with his mom and sister... I am going to write in the car. Watch me do this daring feat of amazing car writing, just watch me.

In the meantime, I have these revisions this morning, a house to clean, a class to teach tomorrow at the Atlanta-Fulton County library, a birthday dinner here on Saturday night, my favorite 4-year-old spending the night on Saturday night, and then we're off to Charleston. And... it's all what I want, in this Year of Exploration. It's all good.