Slider’s Son! And is anyone else sick of paranormal…?

Slider’s Son will be published September

I wish my agent George Nicholson were alive to see this happen. He “loved” this manuscript when he read it, and that meant the world to me since he never used that term with my other novels, although he certainly championed them.

I’m getting my ducks in a row–wait, no, I’m not getting them in a row yet, but I’m herding them toward rows–for publication in ten months. That means setting up some book events and making myself available for young writers’ conferences and book fairs, libraries, schools, and, and, and…and it means lots of work, which is exciting work and fun work. I love doing book events.

However, it also means lots of social media time and online promotion. THAT I’m not such a big fan of. But I’ll do it. I’m delighted that North Star Press promotes its own authors’ events. That gives me great hope. I’m excited to publish this book with them.

The BEST news right now is that I found out last week that I will be receiving a Prairie Lakes Regional Arts Grant (PLRAG) Mid-Career Artist Grant to help promote this book!  I’m excited. And GRATEFUL!

Okay, besides the excitement,  I sat down to write here because I just followed a thread of a YA book promotional publicity group, thinking ahead to that social media aspect of publication. EVERY, and I mean EVERY book in the top thread was paranormal romance, time travel, or dystopian. A few dozen books down, I found one realistic-fiction romance book. Is anybody else sick of paranormal romance and dystopia? I really do love historical fiction. That’s what I love to read, and that’s why I wanted to write Slider’s Son, based on true stories, but set in the 1930s. I’m following my own passion, and it’s not the trend right now, but that’s okay!

Okay, that’s my vent for the night. In spite of the vent, I really am EXCITED to have Slider’s Son out in the world!

Deep Valley Book Festival

Deep Valley Book Festival–Betsy-Tacy Society Calendar of Events.

The Deep Valley Homecoming is coming up at the end of June. Author Melissa Wiley (whom I met at ALA in San Diego a couple years ago) will be a featured speaker. This will be fun. Check the above calendar. Book Festival/Book Fair is Sunday at Sibley Park. I’ll be selling Chasing AllieCat, Beauty Missing, Hair Hissing: Medusa Tells All, and Girl Meets Boy Because There are Two Sides to Every Story.



The Red Pencil


This novel in verse by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Coretta Scott King Award Winner Shane W. Evans, is in some ways a Sudanese version of Out of the Dust by Karen Hess.

The parallels are numerous: loss so great it’s unbearable, including the loss of a beloved parent, and conveying the pain in words shaped into poetry. I wonder at this. Does poetry move us  a tiny half-step away from the pain so we’re able to look at something that’s unthinkable? Or does poetry let us sink into the loss, images filling our eyes and cloaking our souls with beautiful language, so we are immersed in the loss and sadness but the beauty of the language allows us to survive it? I tend to think it’s the latter.

The beautiful lyricism–and in this case the wonderful drawings by Evans–make art out of horror, and allow us to keep breathing as we read it. At least most of the time.  The Red Pencil, like Hesse’s much acclaimed, award-winning book, allows us to hold disaster in our hands, and manage to get through it.

Amira comes of age in Sudan (Darfur). We get to see glimpses of her six-year-old self, as well as significant moments along her growing years, until she turns twelve. Her greatest joy, and the passion that belongs to her alone, is drawing with a stick in the sand.  Her elder neighbor, Anwar, sees the brightness in Amira’s spirit, and encourages it.

Then the Janjaweed militia “storms her small village, shattering life as she knows it” (Jacket flap).  Her loss is too great. Amira loses her ability to speak as she feels her very spirit leaking away. (Not unlike Maya Angelou in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings). Only so much pain can be born before we start falling out the bottom of ourselves.

The long trip to the refugee camp is vivid and tragic; Amira has nothing. Nothing, that is, until she is given a red pencil and a tablet by a refugee worker. At first, Amira cannot even draw a line. There’s not enough spirit inside to complete one. The, slowly, slowly, the red pencil on the yellow paper allows her to express her loss, to draw what she’s seen, and life begins slowly, slowly to heal. She speaks again, and Old Anwar takes it upon himself to teach her to read. New possibilities finally begin to blossom.

Another delightful aspect of this book is the hedgehog imagery. Hedgehogs appear from time to time in Amira’s Darfur. She come to see herself as a hedgehog–a small creature who has the will and strength to break free.

If this doesn’t win all sorts of children’s book awards, I’ll be amazed.


Pinkney, Andrea Davis. The Red Pencil. New York: Little Brown, 2014.

Mapleton Public Library Storytime

This was quite a good summer day. This morning, Freya and I went to the Mapleton Public Library, where I always love to do storytime. This morning we read about dogs and baby duck and monsters under the bed!


Freya, as always, was a big hit with the kids. They all got a chance to pet her. She loves the attention, even when she pretends to sleep through it.

Afterward, Freya and I walked around Mapleton for awhile. She likes the shady streets. Every time we’ve been there, she wants to go for a walk before she’s willing to get in the car.

This afternoon, I spent some time with a good friend and this evening, I did the Mankato Isle of Man Time Trial staged in Rapidan. I cut about a minute off last time’s time, so I’m getting back in better shape finally. It’s a delightully fun event, thanks to Mike and Sheila Busch.

Beware the Ides of March and unrelated–Marguerite Henry

Can’t pass this day without thinking about Rome and Julius Caesar. Greek Mythology  and Roman lore are two of the staples of my Intro to Humanities Class at South Central College.

On a different note, Nikki and I took Alec to the Greenville Library yesterday. There is a terrific children’s wing. We perused books, picked a bagful for Alec, and I came across this nostalgic section:

When I was in grade school, I read every book I could find that Marguerite Henry wrote.  My fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Anderson, made us tell the class what we wanted to be when we grew up (Smile), and who would to teach us how to do it. I said I wanted to be a writer, and I wanted to learn from Marguerite Henry.

I got to hear Marguerite Henry read once at the University of Minnesota–she was the very first published writer I ever saw do a public reading–but I was too shy (believe it or not) to go  up and tell her she was my idol. I wish I could still tell her. Instead, I’ll try to do her legacy justice.

Thank you, Marguerite Henry, for all your wonderful stories.

Clive–Crestview and Indian Hills

I just spent two SPECTACULAR days in Clive, Iowa. I visited CRESTVIEW ELEMENTARY and INDIAN HILLS JUNIOR HIGH. The kids were wonderful, and we had so much fun talking about writing, dogs (Freya got to go with me!), and bikes.

I have to get ready for another school day at South Central College, so I don’t have time to write much, but I’ll post more as soon as I have some pictures. I had a TERRIFIC time. So did Freya, but she’s pretty tired right now!

Thanks, Clive students. You ROCK!