Busy, busy, busy...

October 14, 2010
Wow, it's been a busy couple of weeks.  I spent several days signing copies of my latest book, Dream of Night, at the World Equestrian Games (WEG) in Lexington, Kentucky.  People from all over the world traveled to Lexington to participate in many different equestrian events.  I signed books at both the Joseph-Beth Bookseller booth and the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation.  I also traveled to Cincinnati for the annual Books by the Banks Book Festival, a terrific event.  Got to share a table with Sharon Draper, fellow Atheneum author -- lots of fun!  And then it was back to WEG for one more signing before the closing ceremonies.  Now I'm preparing for my trip to San Antonio, TX, to visit schools.  Can't wait!  Have never been to SA.  Looking forward to it.  More soon.

WEG Update

October 05, 2010
Last night I signed books at the World Equestrian Games (WEG) in Lexington, Kentucky.  It was rainy and a little cold for Kentucky in September, but there were thousands of folks there, people from all over the country and all over the world.  Roaming the various pavilions before my signing, I heard many different languages being spoken.  The Games continue for the next two weeks, and I'll be signing books on Thursday, September 30 at the booth for the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation and their local branch, the Maker's Mark Secretariat Center.  Keep checking back for updates!  Also I head to Cincinnati on Saturday, October 2, for Books by the Banks, the annual book festival there.  Lots of travel, lots of books, lots of fun!

Books by the Banks

October 05, 2010
I will be at the Books by the Banks Book Fair in Cincinnati, Ohio on Saturday, October 2, sponsored by one of my fav book stores, Joseph-Beth.  This is the second year I've been invited, and the fair was a highlight last year, so I'm really looking forward to participating again.  Lots of great authors, lots of great books.  If you live near Cinci (a terrific little city, btw!) come and check it out!

A wonderful surprise!

September 20, 2010
I've just found out that The Kentucky School Media Association has chosen me to receive the 2010 KSMA Jesse Stuart Media Award, an award presented to an author/producer who has created outstanding media related to Kentucky. This was a huge surprise, as well as an enormous honor for me. Jesse Stuart was a writer whose work I deeply admire.  He was a poet and short story writer who spent his life living in and writing about Kentucky.  The awards are this Saturday, September 18 in Louisville, Kentucky.  I can't wait!

What's WEG?

September 13, 2010
The World Equestrian Games, or WEG for short, is kind of like the Olympics of the horse eventing world.  The Games have never before been held in Kentucky, or anywhere in the US, for that matter, and so everybody around here is pretty excited.  WEG starts at the end of September and runs through mid-October at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington.  During the many events there will be hundreds of booths with all things Kentucky and horsey.  I am excited to say that I will be at the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation booth signing my latest book, DREAM OF NIGHT.  Proceeds will go to the local chapter of TRF, the Maker's Mark Secretariat Center, in order to help raise awareness for their cause:  taking care of Thoroughbreds after their racing career is over.  I'll write more about the amazing people at the TRF, and give details of the signing soon, so keep checking back!

August Means...Back to School

September 07, 2010
Yes, it's true.  While the rest of the country, or at least those living in the northeast, are taking their vacations, going to the beach, enjoying their last days of summer, we here in the south (or at least in Kentucky) have already bought the school supplies, splurged on the new school clothes, packed the lunches, loaded up the kids in the minivan or school bus, and...breathed a sigh of relief.  Don't get me wrong.  I adore my children.  But summer is long.  And even though I miss the whole vacationing in August thing, I'm ready for school to start when mid-August rolls around.  After all, I have a new novel to finish!  And the silence I'm enjoying in my home now is bliss!

Great time in Nebraska

August 10, 2010
I'm just back from the Norfolk Literary Festival in Norfolk, Nebraska.  Flew into Omaha, and then drove north.  Beautiful countryside!  I had no idea Nebraska was so green and rolling.  The folks at the Norfolk Library were terrific.  I had some talented kids in my workshop -- we had lots of fun writing and sharing what we wrote.  I found out from our host that Norfolk is where Johnny Carson grew up.  We drove by his old house and heard stories about his favorite teacher from grade school.  On my last night we drove back to Omaha to have dinner before my flight out.  What a lovely city!  Thanks to the Norfolk Library folks for making my time there so special.

Waiting in Chicago

August 02, 2010
Here I am waiting in the Chicago/Midway airport, on my way to Omaha, Nebraska.  Smooth sailing so far.  I'm on my way to the Norfolk Literary Festival.  Will give a writing workshop with kids and then talk about That Book Woman with librarians and teachers and other literary types.  I'm really thrilled that That Book Woman is a Golden Sower Award nominee.  Thanks, Nebraska!  More about my travels later!

Heading to Nebraska!

July 22, 2010
I have been asked to speak and give a writing workshop at the Norfolk Public Library's 16th Annual Literature Festival on Saturday, July 31 from 9-4 pm.  I've never been to Nebraska before, and am looking forward to flying into Omaha and staying for a couple of days.  I was invited since my book That Book Woman is a 2011 Golden Sower Award nominee -- yay!  If any of you are from Nebraska or planning a trip to the area, you can call the Norfolk Public Library at 402-844-2108 to find out more about the event.

Is the grass really blue?

June 01, 2010
Lots of people (non-Kentuckians) have asked me over the years:  what's the deal with bluegrass?  Is the grass really blue down there?  My answer has always been no, it's just a name, a type of grass that grows here in Kentucky.  There's no blue tinge, no hint of color other than the regular green.  It's just grass. 

Lots of people (non-Kentuckians) have asked me why I moved back to my home state.  I've given lots of different answers over the years:  needed more space, wanted to be near family, wanted to see what farm life was all about.  But as I'm sitting here at my computer, looking out the second story window of the house my mother was born and raised in, looking out over the fields my grandfather used to till and plant year after year, I think maybe I have the answer I was looking for all along:  the grass isn't blue here in Kentucky, but maybe, just maybe, it's a little bit greener.

What I learned at my local library

May 19, 2010
To read.

To value quiet time.

To cherish books.

A few years ago I moved back to my hometown in central Kentucky.  One of the highlights of coming home was the library.  It had changed -- and yet it hadn't.  There had been renovations, but they'd kept the integrity of the building, the beauty.  I live in a small town, but we have an amazing library.  How cool is that?

So I'll be reading and talking about my new novel, Dream of Night, at the very place I learned to love books:  Boyle County Public Library in Danville KY on Thursday, May 20th at 7 pm, in the newly renovated Teen Room.  Hope to see some Kentuckians there!

One of my favorite places...a bookstore of course!

May 17, 2010
The Blue Marble Bookstore in Fort Thomas, Kentucky (just across the river from Cincinnati) is one of my favorite places to visit.  It's that kind of wonderful, old bookstore that is quickly fading away in this age of everything-at-the-click-of-the-keypad.  It's been around for about 30 years, and it focuses solely on children's books.  The folks who work there are teachers, librarians, professors of children's literature at local colleges.  In short, they know a lot about the world of children's books.  Not only is the staff perfect, the location is perfect too.  Storybook perfect.  The Blue Marble is located in a quaint old two story house on a busy but quiet street.  The downstairs has an amazing collection of books, newly published to classics, for such a small space.  The backyard has been turned into The Secret Garden.  And upstairs is The Great Green Room from Goodnight Moon -- right down to the mush in a bowl by the bed and the mouse near the hearth.  There's also quite a collection of signed first editions upstairs.  It's a ritual that after a book event, dinner is served in the homey kitchen.  The staff and other friends of the bookstore bring hot dishes, and everyone gathers around and eats and talks about books.  It's pretty special, and pretty perfect.  I wish I lived closer so I could pop over all the time, but alas, it's a 2 hour drive for me.  Luckily, The Blue Marble always invites me when I have a new book to sign, so I was just there last week, signing Dream of Night.  If you live anywhere near Cinci, please take the time to check out this gem of a store!

More about horses and writing

May 12, 2010
I think it was Winston Churchill who said, "There's something about the outside of a horse that's good for the inside of a man."  Anyone who's spent some time around horses knows this to be true.  Horses represent beauty and power; horses represent unbridled spirit.  In my new novel, Dream of Night, I write part of the story from a horse's perspective.  And it's not just any horse I write about.  It's a Thoroughbred.  A champion among champions.  A racehorse.  Once upon a time.  When we first meet Night he's a long way from what he once was.  He's nothing but skin and bones, having been starved nearly to death.  His body is nearly broken, from abuse, from neglect.  But it's his spirit that remains true, even when his body has nearly given up.  I've never known a horse exactly like Night.  But I've heard stories, I've seen pictures.  I've talked to people who spend all their extra time rescuing ex-racehorses -- something I never even knew needed doing until I moved back to my home state of Kentucky.  Why do ex-racehorses need rescuing anyway?  Well, the short answer is:  not every horse that enters a race comes home a winner.  Not by a long shot.  There's an old joke that goes, How do you make a small fortune in horse racing?  The answer:  By starting with a large fortune.  Horse racing is called the "sport of kings," but the sad fact is, it's not a palace that awaits most horses after their days on the track are over.  Keeping a horse is expensive.  It's a big responsibility.  And so each year, thousands of ex-racehorses, end up neglected and abused; thousands end up in "kill pens," which is just as tragic as it sounds.  In researching my novel Dream of Night, I found out there are lots of organizations around the country that help people rescue, adopt, foster or sponsor ex-racehorses.  One of the oldest and most renowned is the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation in upstate New York.  I got to know the director of the Kentucky branch, the Maker's Mark Secretariat Center at the KY Horse Park, pretty well.  I learned a lot from her about how abused horses behave, and how with time and care they can be rehabilitated so that they can go on to be somebody's prize eventer -- or just somebody's beloved horse.

Horse Writing

May 03, 2010
As a freelancer, I’ve done a fair amount of ghost writing over the years in order to make ends meet.  Now, with Dream of Night, my new novel for young readers publishing on May 4, I’ve turned to horse writing.  In a way, it feels like I’ve come home.
I was born and raised in the Bluegrass, a part of Kentucky known for its rolling meadows and beautiful horses.  They say what makes Kentucky Thoroughbreds the best in the world has to do with the rich limestone found in the soil.  The horses here grow up strong, fast, and spirited.  I think the people here grow up that way too. 

Springtime in central Kentucky means that fields everywhere are dotted with mares and colts.  (Most foals are born between January and April.)  Springtime around here also means the Kentucky Derby and big silly hats and mint juleps.

I was not a particularly horsey girl growing up.  I would ride occasionally, but not with the longing and the focus of some of my friends. In the middle of Kentucky farmland, unlikely as it sounds, I was into theater.  My world revolved around acting and plays because that’s what my father did:  he was an actor and producer of a summerstock theater.  (I wrote about a childhood spent on stage in my novel Here’s How I See It/Here’s How It Is, 2009.) But horses were in my blood, at least on my mother’s side.

My maternal grandfather had been a horseman, a breeder and trainer of Tennessee Walkers, one of the best around.  So I grew up hearing stories about his horses, seeing photos of his statuesque prize-winners.  Photos and memories only.  Because the stories always ended with a pounding at his front door in the middle of the night and the cry of “Fire! Fire!” My grandfather rushed out into the dark to find his main barn already engulfed in flames.  (This was long before modern smoke detectors and sprinkler systems and telephones being commonplace in every home.) My grandfather – and his farmhands and neighbors – risked their lives to save the horses, but the fire was just too fast. 

My grandfather kept a few pleasure horses after that, but he gave up breeding and training altogether.  I think the horseman in him must have died along with those amazing creatures he had raised and trained and loved so dearly.  He rebuilt the barn, but instead of stalls, there were open rafters for hanging tobacco while it cured.  He turned his acres of grazing land into rows of crops. 

I left Kentucky after high school, headed for the big city of New York.  I went to college, became a writer, started a family, lived in Brooklyn before Brooklyn was cool.  And then, suddenly, I wanted to go home.  My grandfather had died a while back, but his house was still empty.  My husband and I decided to take the plunge, make a go of country living.

Moving back to the family farm I had a vague notion of wanting to own horses – for myself, for my son, for future kids.  So I was happy to discover upon arrival that there were already horses there.  The neighbor down the lane was leasing the land around the house.  So there was a herd of horses, about eight or so mares and one lone black stallion, the leader of the group.  They were nearly wild because the neighbor didn’t have a lot of time to spend with them.  The fields curved around in a horseshoe pattern, with the house in the middle.  So most times of day I could look out any window, or stand in any part of the yard, and see the horses.

They were shy at first.  They ignored our offerings of apples and peppermint.  But slowly, when they realized we weren’t going anywhere, they got used to us.  They would watch us across shorter and shorter distances.  Finally they allowed us to give them treats, sniffing at us, still startling away if we made any sudden moves.

From my window on the second floor where I had set up my writing desk, I often just sat and stared out the window, watching the horses instead of working on the book I was trying to finish.  The horses were all different colors.  Their manes and tails were long and tangly.  They seemed to move as one, stopping to graze together, drinking in one big group from the spring, bolting together in a heartbeat without any obvious (to me, anyway) signal.  Many times a day this startling, graceful explosion into flight, and the gallop of so many big powerful bodies across the field would simply take my breath away.

After a while the lease came up on the land; the neighbor sold some of the horses, took the others back to his side of the lane.  My husband, son and I would walk down the road to visit them.  By this time they knew us.  They’d sidle up to the fence when they saw us approaching, they’d take the apples we offered; they’d allow their faces and necks to be stroked.

We were settling into our overwhelming new life on the farm with a big garden and chickens and cows – and skunks (uninvited but persistent guests).  The barn was in disrepair.  It would take a lot of money to make it a safe and comfortable place for horses.  So we put off the dream of having horses of our own for a while and kept visiting the neighbor horses.

I went back to sitting at my desk while my son was at school, staring at my computer now, rather then staring out at the horses.  Slowly though something started to happen, something started to click.  It was true that I could no longer see those horses I had fallen in love with from my window.  But I knew they were there.  I could feel them.  I could write about them, tell their story.  And so that’s exactly what I started to do.

Small Town Girl to City Girl to Farm Girl

October 26, 2009
I was born and raised in Kentucky, but I left when I was about 17 to go to college in NYC. I loved NYC! I already had friends and my older brother there when I moved, so I wasn't ever really alone. My first apartment was kind of in a dangerous neighborhood, way down in Alphabet City, as they call it. But I loved living there because of all the characters, and I never really felt afraid. It was actually stranger moving back to the country after living in the city for so long (17 years). I was so used to people being around me all the time in New York, it was strange to move to a house in the middle of empty fields. The first night was really scary. I was more afraid of the dark and the emptiness than I had been of the crowds and strangers. And since I'd lived in small apartments or houses in the city, I wasn't used to so many rooms. I'd hear a noise in a different part of the house and kind of freak out. My 3 year old son was the same way. It took him a while to get used to having his own room. But now we're all settled in: my son, my husband, and our twins! We have donkeys, cows, and chickens! We live in the house my mother grew up in. And I'm inspired by Kentucky, by the people and the landscape and the stories.