Also went on retreat in October. This is our seventeenth year meeting in October to write and read and cook and eat and gossip and share our work in the evenings with one another. We've grown from a few books between us to many.

Our books have won a Caldecott, been National Book Award finalists, New York Times bestsellers, unsold gems, and little loves we have nurtured as we've watched them make their ways in the world. Likewise, we have mourned some of them as we've watched them go out of print. We've celebrated every scrap of success along the way.

We write picture books, board books, early readers, middle grade fiction, non-fiction, young adult fiction, poetry -- we run the gamut. But our biggest, most important boast is our long friendship.

We are moms, grandmas, wives, single women, main/sole breadwinners, artists, dreamers, business women. As we've grown older together in these 17 years, we've had our hearts broken apart from time to time, and we've each soared to the heights. We've held each other's hands and whispered our secrets. We've laughed so hard our sides have hurt. We've cried in one another's arms.

We've birthed dozens of stories. Many have made their way into the world to young readers. Many more are being born. I've listened to the heartbeats of these stories, through the stethoscope of nightly readings, in October. They are strong, true stories that will change the world. We are strong, true women who have changed one another.

I love October.


It has been a beautiful, lingering fall in Atlanta, but I have taken not one photo of the glorious color outside my door. Instead, I have focused on the people who fill our home, create our history, and make me feel grounded here, in this place, in this year at home that's coming to a close faster than I dreamed it would.

The wild (and noisy!) joy between grandfather and granddaughter, chasing each other all over the house. Making bread with Grandma. Washing dishes. Befriending the new puppy. Simple tasks. Meals shared, friends welcomed, family come home again, traditions upheld as the earth spins 'round, one more autumn, one more time.

And somewhere in there, a novel is getting finished. Shhhhhh.... it's a much more delicate baby than the Darling screeching around our place these days. But it's becoming sturdier by the day, bones stretching, muscle growing, and a dear heart beating, ready to be born. It's almost ready for an editor's eyes. Almost. Almost.


the right to vote

Here are some stills I'm considering for book two, as I finish planning the scrapbook sections. In 1964, 45% of Mississippi's population was black, but less than 5% of blacks were registered to vote state-wide.

Below: Registering voters in Batesville, Mississippi during Freedom Summer, 1964. CORE workers began to wear straw hats at some point that summer, to distinguish them from other COFO workers (SNCC, NAACP).

This CORE worker is accompanying a woman to the courthouse, where she will try to register to vote. One of the outcomes of Freedom Summer was the Voting Rights Act of 1965, assuring the vote to black American citizens.
 photo by Robert Brand
Below: These two young men were arrested just after this photo was taken. Selma, Alabama, 1963.
Photo: Danny Lyon/Magnum
Below: A volunteer teaches a woman to write so she can fill out the registration form and register to vote in Virginia.
Photo: Eve Arnold/Magnum
Below: People line up to register to vote on Freedom Day, July 16, 1964, in Greenwood, Mississippi. One hundred eleven people were arrested as they tried to register to vote, including several Freedom Summer volunteers.
Photo: Danny Lyon/Magnum
Below: black citizens try to integrate a whites-only pool in Cairo, Illinois in 1962.
Photo: Danny Lyon/Magnum

Below: Sporting the slogan for Freedom Summer. One Man, One Vote.
Photo: Robert J. Brand
Seems impossible to believe that less than fifty years ago, the acts depicted in these pictures were dangerous and against the law in many states. The stories of these courageous people is the one I'm trying to tell in book two of the sixties trilogy. People risked their lives to be able to cast a ballot on election day, to become "a first-class citizen." People risked their lives to help others accomplish that goal.
from the Zoya Zeman collection at the University of Southern Mississippi McCain Archive
As Bob Moses said, "Citizenship is a full-time occupation." How to bring that truth to young readers? That's my challenge. You can find these photos and many more that represent the story I'm telling in book two, collected on my Pinterest boards, here.