Writer’s retreat at the beach.

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If you teach English you probably have a story in you that has yet to find its way onto the page–you’re just too busy to write it down.

Every January I lead a pair of women’s writing retreats on beautiful St. George Island, Florida. There are daily workshops, time to work on individual projects, and I critique pages all day long.

The gathered writers share their work, encourage and support each other and the food is, well, writers have been known to gain weight while on retreat at “Fiction Among Friends.” We have nothing against male writers, they are some of our favorites–but by limiting enrollment to women we feel relaxed enough to do things like handstands on the beach.

Perky Granger and Gina Edwards are the organizers of the gatherings, and they will make you feel right at home.

If your writing needs a time and place to grow, I hope you’ll take a look!

 

NCTE Conference

15171266_10211712740280568_8287699116376553829_n.jpgDid you notice that there were NO ENGLISH TEACHERS at school for days and days? That’s because they were all in Atlanta meeting authors and trading the secrets they have come up with for getting YOU to write.

See if you can find me, and authors Chris Crowe, Jon Scieszka,and M.T. Anderson in this photo, along with student teachers about to start teaching in a school near you, and Dr. Joan Kaywell, USF professor and champion of YA literature. Hint: I am not the bald guy.

New book?

bead.jpgWriters disappear between books, kind of like moles, we go underground. While out of sight we work on–you guessed it–the next book.

The next book for me is not at all what I expected. It is not realistic fiction–I would call it unrealistic fiction (you might call it fantasy).

Here is the premise:

Imagine there is a bead that is the portal through which all of time flows. It has been passed down from generation to generation by the women of the Summers family–a man may never be the guardian of time, such power turns men into monsters.

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Summer sure went fast!

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Teachers and students, you are either in school with new back packs, sharp pencils and great lesson plans, or shopping last-minute for school supplies and putting away your flip-flops for the sensible shoes that will let you stay on your feet all day.

I have had a summer of flip-flops, and family, and vegetable gardening, and playing lots and lots of music.

And I finished a new novel which has everything but a title.

It is a YA set in Manhattan and on the Wakulla River in North Florida–and it is incredibly romantic. If only I could come up with the right title. So far the only word floating in my brain is “river,” and that is not enough!

I guess all of us are in the season of homework! Mine is just coming up with that title. It’s harder than it looks.

A goodbye poem for Cass, Jemmie and the gang.

My friend, Gary Crew, just retired from his job as a children’s librarian at the Leon County Public Library here in Tallahassee.

Recently, something big came to an end for me too. The “neighborhood series” that started with “Crossing Jordan”is now complete with a sixth book, “Some Kind of Magic.”

I went to Gary’s retirement party, and he wrote a farewell poem for my series–a sonnet!

 

I often visit Jemmie, Cass, and Ben,

And Justin, Anna, Cody, Nana Grace…

I am quite happy when I’ve come again;

This really is the warmest, real-est place…

 

These children with their problems and their fears

With which they, like us all, must somehow cope,

Are porducts of such love and thought and tears,

I know inside my heart they won’t lose hope…

 

These characters from your imagination

Are real to me, and never will be gone…

While books exist, these folks of your creation

Eternally will live lives of their own.

 

So thank you, Adrian; your series ends,

But you have left me many lifelong friends…

Need a little music?

IMG_2558When I am not writing books I’m usually making a lot of noise.

I mean, music.

I’m half of a duo called “Hot Tamale.”

Yes, it takes two of us to make one hot tamale–and one decent song writing team.

 

 

Craig Reeder and I write music about everything from falling in love on a Greyhound bus (if you’ve ever ridden the Greyhound you know the bus is more smelly than romantic) to watering okra (somebody had to write about it).

Craig at FTHWe recently wrote a song that covers a life from age 5 through, well, the end.

Then we decided to make a video. It was harder than we thought. We begged everyone we knew for photos and Craig put the whole thing together.

The girl standing in front of the lighthouse is me at 19. The woman dancing with her new husband is my daughter, Josie. The older couple walking along with their arms around each other is my parents.

The voices you hear are mine and Craig’s. We are both playing guitar–but if a lick sounds really good, Craig is definitely the one playing it.

Take a look. Take a listen.

Italy!

IMG_9922_edited-2My sister said, would you like a free trip to Italy?

I said yes.

Then she made the same offer to my brother, Chris.

He said yes too, so Claudia took us to Italy for twelve days.

We stayed in Vicenza, which is near Venice. We saw snowy mountains, men skulling gondolas around canals, we ate gelato and more pasta than you can shake a stick at (why would you shake a stick at pasta?).

Claudia and I practiced our very bad Italian. My brother only speaks English and German. Fortunately many Italians speak English and German too. Not to mention Italian.

This photo is one of my favorites from the trip. The stone lions are guarding a fountain in Bergamo. I think the dog is pretending to be a lion too.

If your sister ever says, would you like a free trip to Italy? say yes.

The Front Porch Library on TV!

WFSU segment on FPLSo many of the characters I write about begin as real kids in my real neighborhood. I get to know most of them because of The Front Porch Library, the very local kid’s lending library that now fills all of what was my dad’s house until he passed away.

Our Tallahassee public television station, WFSU, did a piece about the library for their “Local Routes” show. Click here to watch the segment and meet some of our kids and volunteers.

Authors in Missouri!

12805856_10153575041653786_7891030413469590644_nTruman State University gathered a fine mess of authors (including me) and then brought in busloads of kids so we could tell them about our best-job-in the world as writers–not to mention John Parra, our one illustrator.

Okay, so who are all these authors?

Back row, left to right: Angela Cervantes author of “Gaby Lost and Found,” a volunteer whose name I forget (so sorry), Mike Graf, who writes beautiful books about the national parks, John Parra, our lone illustrator, me, and Maryrose Wood, author of the Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series.

Front row, left to right: Michelle Houts (Miss Red Shoes) author of “Kammie on First,” Shelley Pearsall, author of “Trouble Don’t Last,” Mary Casanova, who writes “American Girl” books and many others, Gennifer Choldenko, author of the “Al Capone” novels, and Phil Bildner whose latest picture book is “Marvelous Cornelius” set in New Orleans circa Hurricane Katrina.

I wish you all could meet these folks–they put out great books, but they are also funny and boy can they eat a lot of brownies!