picture stories



An afternoon drive out of Atlanta, a patriotic rest stop, a Confederate flag flying over the Columbia, South Carolina Statehouse, an arrival at Mama's house on John's Island.

O Charleston, O Youth, O History of Long Ago. The marsh, the swamp, the salt, the breeze. Falling in love with the sousaphone player in the high school marching band who would grow up to be the piano man who would lure me to Atlanta, where I've lived these past ten years.

Yesterday we traveled, like we often do, to the place where we fell in love and parted from one another for 30 years, and then reunited when we were older and after we had found our life's treasure, what we wanted most in the world: music, family, home, good work to do. And now there would be love.

So we walked the Ravenel Bridge over the Cooper River this morning and waved at the Alzheimer's walkers, then came home and watched Donald pick the pears from the tree by the road, like he does every year. He showed us his haul of blue crabs. Jim made his mother a tomato sandwich from the last of the season's tomatoes. He made sure to use the Duke's and the pimento cheese, the way she likes it.

Then I settled beside Mom and showed her the little videos of her great-granddaughter in the wading pool with Grandma (me), making a cake for Grandpa (Jim), and the 15-second birthday videos of Jim -- her boy.

I'd put a chuck roast in the oven, and while the house napped, I sneaked away by myself for an hour. I returned with a "porridge cup" as the little label said, and its red-and-white saucer -- "I will use this for my yogurt and berries in the morning," I announced, and we ate our supper with Mom and watched The Roosevelts on PBS, but only after a re-run of The Voice, which I had never seen, but which Mom knows all about.

I like being in love. I like loving (and being loved by) a man, a family, my children, my work, my community, my struggles, my life. I am in love with the small moments that make up a life. I love the meaning they give my days.

I'm telling "picture stories" over on Instagram these days. Stories with a beginning, middle, and end, mostly in a circle, made up of small moments. I don't know what I'm going to do with them yet, but I like telling them. I like experimenting -- always -- with just what a story is, and how to shape it and tell it. These "picture stories" will find ther way into my teaching, I'm sure, but for now, I'm just curious, and I'm enjoying the exercise, the practice, and the surprise.

It's kind of surprising to be blogging again. I like that, too.

birthing a revolution

Friends, I am Mississippi as I write this. I have an essay at the Nerdy Book Club blog today, about birthing Revolution in Mississippi. I wrote it on the eve of my trip. I am still in Mississippi, with family, until tomorrow, when I come home and write about my adventures in schools, in bookstores, and in my own heart. 

In the meantime, you can read the Nerdy post and then catch up visually with this past week's adventure on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Most of the photos are at Instagram.

It has been an emotionally packed week that has walloped me upside the head more than once, has surprised me at every turn, and has been one of the most gratifying experiences of my writing life. 

More soon -- I'm soaking up kinfolks today. Thank you for reading. Peace. Love. Revolution.

Love, Debbie
The Leflore County Courthouse in Greenwood, Mississippi, the location for so much of the action in Revolution, and in 1964 Freedom Summer.
I met one of my heroes.
Mrs. Jaume's second-grade class.

debbie's big adventure (the snowy days)

I flew into JFK in February knowing it was cold. I took public transportation from the airport to Great Neck, which took three train changes and about three hours. I saw Brenda Bowen on the train platform in Jamaica and we were both so frozen it took minutes (and boarding the next train) before it registered that that was really her. We wrote to each other later, "I thought I recognized that smile!"

I had come to New York to work at Great Neck South Middle School and to visit my Scholastic peeps and put REVOLUTION to bed bed BED, and I knew it was going to snow while I was there. I didn't understand that it was going to ice in Atlanta, and I wouldn't be able to get home for days, and I wouldn't be able to get out of NYC. Here's the story:

"Over there, ma'am! Over there! Get on the next train over there!"
Unthawing in my hotel room.
Great Neck South Middle School peeps. Principal Jim Welsch, librarian Catherine Graybosch, and 6th-grade teacher Gabe Carras.
Breakfast with teachers.

They all brought their notebooks and I put them to work.
Cotton Candy for dessert, dinner with teachers

From Great Neck to Manhattan on the LIRR.
David Levithan with hair. Lots of hair. John, George, Paul, or Ringo? "Brian Epstein," he says.
I think this should be Phil Falco's official portrait. Phil as Beatle. Phil designed REVOLUTION -- thank you, thank you, Phil.
Good sports. That's publicist Emma Brockway, Erin Black, and David Levithan, who is probably saying, "Don't take that picture!"
The sign says, "I am Brian Epstein." And they are the fab four. Erin Black (permissions work extraordinaire, not to mention so much else); David Levithan, who read and edited this book with me a dozen times at least; Phil Falco, who designed it from the stills and snippets I chose; Emma Brockway, who is REVOLUTION's publicist -- yay!
Antonio Gonzales, who handles school visits for Scholastic authors; me; Candace Greene, conference goddess; and Emily Heddleston, also conference goddess (we have lots of Warrior Women at Scholastic)
Going through page proofs with editor David
Heading out of town -- going north -- before NYC's big snow that evening, as I can't get home to ATL -- they are iced in.
The train was packed with people getting out of town and away from the coming storm.
Sitting at Nancy's kitchen table and talking all things books and catching up -- an unexpected treat, to be in Boston with friends while the snow and ice swirls everywhere else. Boston got a dusting.
Finally heading home.

What I loved about Great Neck South Middle School: the entire school was involved in the day, including the principal and teachers, and we concentrated on COUNTDOWN and did such good work together, writing and telling stories.

What I loved about the day at Scholastic: Beatles wigs. David and Phil with hair. Antonio with more hair. The spirit of camaraderie of the day. The hard work of going through every page of REVOLUTION, and doing it together. The kindness and consideration of everyone at Scholastic who made sure I didn't get stranded in New York City with the coming snow.

Scholastic got me out of New York that evening, on another train, to Boston, where I stayed with good friends, Nancy Werlin and Jim McCoy, for two more days, until the ice thawed in Atlanta and I could get home. It was Valentine's Day evening, as I landed in ATL. Jim and I went to the Galaxy Diner to celebrate - ha! Later, the warmth from my fireplace never felt so good. I sat in the pink chair and relived the fabulous adventure -- it really was a great good time -- and dreamed about spring.