first things first

Home, home, home. Home to ARCs of Countdown -- so lovely! Home to sleeping like the dead, reconnecting with family, and comfort food.
This time I added a sorghum and melted butter drizzle to the mix, sprinkled everything liberally with kosher salt and cracked pepper, added a half-cup of water, and slipped it all into the oven. I set a pot of grains to gently boil -- brown and wild rices, millet, barley, and some French lentils. Now for a bath while my dinner cooks.

After my soak in the deep tub, I will be more human. I'll sit and savor this gorgeous galley, listen to my daughter's entertaining stories of what happened in her life while I was away (she's an amazing storyteller), and have a luscious, restorative dinner with my family.

It's Saturday and the sun is shining. Last week was a long haul in two states, twelve schools, one library, several dinners, all laced with an amazing mix of wonderful people and places. Good work, much fun, and now... total exhaustion. Soon I will be rested enough to tell you about it.

upon arriving home late last night...



I wanted to find out if it's really the best coffee in Memphis....
It's great coffee. And look at the bonus waiting for me on this table. I confess, I didn't even thumb through it. I've been chillin' for an hour --

Full week! Ping-ponging between Jonesboro, Arkansas and Memphis, Tennessee, doing scheduled schools and making up snow days, piecemeal. I rented a car. Found my way to the hip Cooper-Young neighborhood in Memphis, where I sit now at Java Cabana, catching my breath and checking in, before meeting Hernando librarian friends for supper, just around the corner.

Then back to Jonesboro, for a final make-up day tomorrow (then back to the Memphis airport, to fly home!). Fabulous schools, wonderful teachers, and new friends -- what could be better? I'll post photos after I'm home.

back to work: 1966

Thanks, Allison, for this good book, written by a masterful writer, Bobbie Ann Mason. I'm having trouble putting the book down in order to write... but since my next book takes place in 1966 and features Elvis (or a fervent hope for him, anyway), I'm chalking up this morning to research.
Friends, here-it-is-about-to-be: the Elvis book. Not Bobbie Ann's, but mine. Y'all have heard me bend your ear about this book for literally YEARS. Now.... all that's left is to write it. HA! Or revise and rewrite. Lots of rewriting will take place. Lots of revision. And I'll chronicle it here, as book two of the sixties trilogy gets underway, full steam. I've had a couple of.. um.. unterruptions... mostly involving putting book one to rollicking bed, but now I'm back at my desk.

I have ten days before the next travels. That's plenty of time to be immersed and making good progress, so that I can take the book on the road with me. Then it will be hotel/airport/pre-dawn writing time.

So this next ten days is about diving to the deepest place I can touch and swimming along the ocean floor of this story, mapping out a terrain that I can traverse while traveling. I love this part -- everything is unknown; all is known. It's a matter of bringing it to the surface.

Happy Weekend!

what's good

Good Book, says Jim. Look at how intently he's studying the pages! My turn to read it, next.

Also good: I am safely home. Met some good friends for some good noodles on the way home from the airport last night, then slept in my own good bed, with my own good husband, in my own good home.

I am sitting by the fire, in the pink chair, surrounded by manuscript pages. Later this afternoon, paperwork awaits. Good work to do. Maybe after a good nap.

best laid plans: snow day!

So I guess I shouldn't brag "just watch me!" like I did yesterday. I woke up this morning in Jonesboro, Arkansas, to a snow day. No school.
So what happens next? The author has flown in from Atlanta, nine schools and one public library system are prepared and ready for that author, and all systems (but the weather) are go. More snow is expected this afternoon. Like a snag in a sweater, or maybe dropped stitches is a better metaphor, we're left with an incomplete program, even if we could do the next two days. And it's too hard to wedge today into tomorrow or add on a day -- schools' schedules have been set for months. So, we're working it out. Bless your heart, Kay Taylor -- all that massive organizational work, done in by a snowstorm! -- and thanks for the early morning call asking after me. I'm cozy and warm, tucked up at this bed and breakfast with Pat and her husband to tell me stories (and boy, some of them are doozies). You take care of your peeps and figure out how you want to proceed, and I'll get on the phone to Delta to see what my options are.
We'll reschedule, that's what we'll do. All is well. All is well. Why, I just saw a sand truck go by. And, honey... I've got me some delicious new stories to tell!

sense and sensibility rain, then sunshine

It has rained almost all week in Atlanta. The earth is soggy, the air is cold. The fire cracks and snaps, spits and blazes, continuously. This is the kind of damp cold that gets into the bones and won't leave. It's Emma Thompson telling Kate Winslet, "Your feet are cold!" and getting out of bed to put on a pair of socks. It's Kate tramping aimlessly across the grassy hills in the pouring rain, catching her death of cold and pining her heart out for Willoughby. Only it's not that romantic.
Then, this morning: sunshine. Glorious February sunshine. You know what I mean, don't you? It has that certain slant to it, that weaker but brighter glaze that says, I'll be blazing and beating down your back like crazy, come summer; here's a preview of coming attractions!

To celebrate the sunshine, I quartered a cabbage, then quartered it again, and placed the eight wedges into a big bottomed bowl I found at Kudzu this past week and brought home with me.

I added carrots and onions.I loved the light as much as the meal I was making. I wanted to share it with you.I drizzled the whole shebang with a flavorful olive oil, added some water, and preheated the oven to 325 degrees.Coarse kosher salt and cracked black pepper were the finishing touches.
I lidded the whole thing and slipped it into the oven, where the cabbage will braise for two hours while I slip into my going-away bath in the deep bathtub.
I travel today and will be home Wednesday night. I have my going-away rituals in place: a healthy meal and a good long soak. And a gift -- the return of the light.
I'm heading to nine Arkansas schools and one public library event in three days. Don't think I can do it? Just watch me! It's going to be a whirlwind, and great good work. I'm working with fourth through sixth graders and my work is sponsored by the Craighead County Jonesboro Public Library system. I'm excited about the days ahead -- and I've got my camera with me.
But first, a good meal (I tossed some Parmesan onto the braised cabbage, and sauteed some Brussels sprouts) with a good husband and good sunshine. A soothing soak. The simple things that Marianne and Elinor Dashwood longed for as well. And got. "There is some blue sky! Let us chase it!"

on the road again

So I didn't bring the camera with me Saturday before last, when we attended a house party and were mightily entertained by the Hotlanta Dixieland Trio, all friends who have played with Jim. I didn't bring it the next afternoon, when Jim gigged at the first jazz jam in our neighbor's living room. Players were on keyboard, banjo, guitar, upright bass, clarinet, mandolin, balalaika, and the original instrument: voice.

I dearly wished I'd had my camera, so I could share with you that experience. Folk tunes, jazz standards, Russian gypsy songs, Yiddish favorites, ragtime, and Dixieland - I took my knitting but couldn't tear my eyes off the scene in front of me. It was so good to be with friends, surrounded by music.
I didn't bring the camera to Panama City, Florida this past Friday, either. Five hundred enthusiastic classroom teachers, grades K through 12, attended the Bay Area Reading Association's annual conference, and I got to open the day with a talk about books and reading, family and community. It was an exhilarating experience to stand in front of such a dedicated, amazing bunch (some called themselves "the amen chorus"!) and share stories.

I got to talk about Countdown, too -- and what a great place to tell all about this story, as in 1962, kids in Florida were ducking and covering under their desks as well. There are many air force bases in Florida, not to mention NASA and Cape Canaveral, and the little detail that the tip of Florida is a mere 90 miles off the coast of Cuba. Boy, did I hear stories, all day long.

The best part of the day was working again with Houghton-Mifflin-Harcourt's Ronda Baggett, and meeting her daughter, Hannah, who was in the middle of reading Each Little Bird That Sings. She stayed with us for half the day, until her father came to get her at lunch.

"Are you ready?" asked her father, with a wide smile. Hannah said no -- she didn't want to go. Her mother said, "But, honey, you're going to see Avatar! Don't you want to see the movie?" Hannah looked at me and shook her head. I hugged her, thanked her, and promised her she would love the movie more than she loves me. haha! But ain't it wonderful? You know you've arrived, when a ten-year-old would rather hang out with you while you sign books, than go to the movies with Dad and see James Cameron's latest blockbuster. Whoo-hoo! What a sweetie.
Jim picked me up from the airport on Saturday night, and we spent Sunday in front of the fire. Sitting by the fire in winter has become our favorite way to decompress from long weekends full of fine folks and good work.

I've been off the road since April. I finished a novel. I'm revising the next. I've established routines, and I've grounded myself in my adopted hometown of Atlanta. I've made new friends here, too -- a wonderful benefit of being home enough to do so. I am grateful.

And now it's time to go back to work on the road. I fly to Memphis on Sunday and will work in Arkansas schools next week, then have a bit of a break before heading out again. I'm so looking forward to this. It has been a long time! I have missed you. Here we go. I'll try to remember my camera!