Friday, August 29, 2014


Thanks to Laura Bowers for the invitation to Coffee and Conversation posted in the MD/DE/WV SCBWI newsletter here.

As Laura pointed out, there are only 22 days until the fall conference at the Claggett Conference Center in Buckeystown, Maryland. I'll be there along with these fine folks. 

Calista Brill, Senior Editor at First Second Books
Reiko Davis, Agent, Miriam Altshuler Agency 
Kirsten Hall, Founder of Catbird Productions
Ella Kennen, Agent at Corvisiero Literary Agency
Emma Ledbetter, Associate Editor at Simon & Schuster
John Micklos, Jr., Author
Miranda Paul, Author & Director of Rate Your Story
Becky Shapiro, Associate Editor at Scholastic
David Teague, Author
Marc Tyler Nobleman, Author
Ariane Szu-Tu, Asociate Editor at National Geographic
For more information and to register, click HERE.  September 20th will be here before you know it.  

Fall is a perfect time to carve out a regular writing routine.  Add the inspiration you get from a conference and you could be well on your way to accomplishing your goals.  
Hope to see you there.  

Thursday, August 28, 2014


Because several teachers have asked me where to find this information, I am re-posting my earlier entry about the renowned African American artist Henry Ossawa Tanner.  Apologies to those who have already read it.  I hope you don't mind.

One of the best parts of writing is doing research.  When I wrote All That's Missing, I needed to create a character who was an African-American artist living sometime prior to 1950.  I spent hours online and ordered used art history books and biographies.  The artist's stories were fascinating.  I loved looking at the work they created.  

Thomas Eakins, Portrait of Henry O. Tanner 1900

Ultimately, it was Henry Ossawa Tanner upon whom I focused.  I researched the details of his life in order to create a plausible biography for Solomon Brokenberry, the fictional artist in my novel. Solomon Brokenberry is not meant to be a stand-in for Henry Ossawa Tanner.  Rather, I relied upon the facts of Tanner's life to create what would seem real in a fictional character.  Purely by coincidence, it turned out that the first
View of the Seine, Looking Toward Notre Dame, 1896
 major American exhibition of Tanner's work was being mounted around the time I was doing my research.  As a result, there were new resources to consult.  The exhibit opened in January, 2012 at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and traveled to the Cincinnati Art Museum  and the Houston Museum of Fine Arts.  (Here's a link.)  

I ordered a copy of the catalogue and pored over it.    
If you are interested in learning more about Tanner and his work, I cannot recommend this book highly enough.  I included an Author's Note at the end of All That's Missing  in which I told a little about Tanner's life and included a list of resources upon which I relied in creating my fictional artist.  This book is included among those resources.

Tanner is the first African American artist whose work forms part of the White House art collection. His painting, "Sand Dunes at Sunset, Atlantic City", was purchased by the White House Foundation during the Clinton administration.
Sand Dunes at Sunset, Atlantic City 1885
Learn more about Tanner and the painting here.  (   

There is an audio clip accompanying the photo of the painting.  Please take the time to listen!  

According to several sources, Tanner's best-known work in the United States is "The Banjo Lesson," shown here.    

The Banjo Lesson 1893

It was painted after Tanner returned to the United States from Paris around 1892.  He had fallen ill and was forced to come home to recuperate.

As soon as his health was restored, Tanner auctioned as many of his painting as he could and returned  to Paris.  He received his first major recognition there when his painting "Daniel in the Lion's Den" received an Honorable Mention at the Salon in 1896.  

Daniel in the Lion's Den, 1896

Faith Ringgold created a beautiful picture book to accompany the exhibit, HENRY OSSAWA TANNER: MODERN SPIRIT.  It was published by the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and provides an excellent introduction to Tanner and his work.

There are certain gifts which come with the hard work of writing.  One of them is the reward of accomplishing a difficult task.  Another is the gift of discovery that comes as a bit of serendipity along the way.  Discovering the story of Henry Ossawa Tanner and his work was such a gift.  If you do not know about him, here is a story you need to know.

Monday, July 28, 2014


I've been silent for a long time and, if you ask why, I can tell you in a single word.  PACKING.  

Rick and I have lived in our home for 17 years, a record for both of us and we have the "stuff" to prove it.  Now that we are moving, we are forced to confront those boxes we stuffed in the basement and the attic so many years ago, thinking we would get to them later, when we had more time.   Does anybody ever have more time?

We have cleared the attic and disposed of as much junk as possible out of the basement.  I have discovered treasures such as my father’s Army uniform and my mother’s Red Cross uniform.  They met at Fort Bragg when my dad came home from World War II and were later married in the Chapel on post.  They have both been gone for more than 15 years and it caused a tug at my heart to unearth these reminders.

I also found things I cannot believe have been saved for so long, including a letter to my grandfather from some public safety “official” in Florida reporting that the dog which had bitten him while he was on vacation had been released “in good health.”  The letter was dated November of 1961. I have no idea why we saved it or what it was doing in my basement.

When I finished my last job for the school year, a day of Professional Development for teachers in Braxton County, WV, I decided I needed to set a goal for the summer, so the move did not completely consume my life.  I vowed to write every day with the target of having a completed first draft of a new novel by the day we move.  So far, I’ve managed to stay on schedule.  Some days it’s pretty tense and there have been days when the final work for a given day was not completed until after midnight.  But, having this daily "assignment" saves my sanity and keeps me engaged with my characters and their journey.  I can tell you with complete honesty, that there have been days when escaping into the world of my novel has been a welcome refuge from the other work required on that day.  Did I mention how many boxes of books I’ve packed?

I have reached the point where I celebrate the discovery of a box of something which has been rendered completely obsolete by the passage of time.  Fifteen year-old highway maps, for example.  Hooray!  These require not one scintilla of thought or emotion.  I can toss them (recycle, actually) with abandon.  What a relief.

Most discoveries are far more complicated.  This afternoon’s find, for example – a poem written by my cousin when she was in grade school.  My aunt had apparently sent it to my father years ago and he had saved it in a special leather box he kept on his desk.  This one’s a keeper.  I'm going to send it to her today.  It’s a lovely poem.  I want to know when she wrote it.

Sunday, July 20, 2014


Like every writer, I am incredibly grateful for readers.  There is no better feeling than when a writer reads a review of her work in which a reader points out exactly a detail or theme or circumstance that the writer was hoping to achieve.  Of course, ultimately, the responsibility lies with the writer to create the world she envisions effectively enough for the reader to see it as the writer imagined  it.  Nevertheless, nothing feels better than positive confirmation that a reader "got" what you were trying to do.

When I wrote ALL THAT'S MISSING, one of my goals was for diversity to be a given in the lives of the protagonist and his contemporaries.  This reader’s words from a Goodreads review give me permission to believe I may have succeeded. 

Read-alike to "Higher Power of Lucky" in that it's about a boy's search for a family as his sole-provider grandfather sinks into dementia. I liked that some characters were African-American, but it was such not a big deal that it took a while to figure out.”
Thank you, dear reader!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


Recently, I received an email from someone who had listened to the audiobook of All That’s Missing read by MacLeod Andrews. 

Your audio book was truly remarkable,” she wrote. “I could not wait to listen to the next part.  I felt as if I were with Arlo every step of the way, and with his friends, and family members, Grandmother Ida and Poppo. I am going to recommend this book to my grand-daugther, age 9, because I think she'd love it too.” 

As I face down another birthday later this month, I have to say that email was the nicest gift I could imagine. It’s true what they say about writers.  You’re always wondering who is reading your work and hoping desperately that they enjoy it.

This listener also wrote, “What I particularly liked was your mentioning the work of the painter Henry Ossawa Tanner.  I did a brief internet search on him, and was struck both by his courage and the luminosity of his painting.” 
I was struck by these things too and was only too happy to offer further reading selections in response to this reader’s request.  In fact, it is my fervent wish that lots of people find out more about Henry Ossawa Tanner after reading All That’s Missing.  That would be fabulous. 

For young people, a good place to start might be Faith Ringgold’s picture book biography, Henry Ossawa Tanner:  His Boyhood Dream Comes True, published by Bunker Hill in Pierpont, NH in 2011. 

Then there is the beautiful book produced in conjunction with the 2012 exhibit, Henry Ossawa Tanner – Modern Spirit, published by the University of California Press.

Or, you can simply go to the website for the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts here.    




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