December 29, 2007

Most Addictive Game . . . Ever!

Don't say I didn't warn you . . . Traveler IQ Challenge.*

*Thanks to Dan's Distractions for finding this gem.

Aargh (stuck on level 6 -- after lots of practice),

Shine a Little Light . . .

Having lived in South Florida for over a decade, we sometimes forget to appreciate the wonders around us -- beaches, the Everglades, animal sanctuaries, fascinating species of birds, etc.

With glorious winter weather upon us, I’m determined to enjoy some of the special places in our area this year.

I played tourist today, grabbed our youngest son and climbed 105 steps to the top of the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse.

What a view! Boats cruised through Jupiter Inlet from the ocean to the Intracoastal Waterway. The lighthouse was one of the first to use the Fresnel lens. And it was erected because boats kept crashing into the reefs that extend two miles beyond Jupiter’s shores.

I’d never been in a lighthouse before. Have you?

It was fun to do something different. We even received a certificate stating that we climbed to the top of the lighthouse . . . and survived!

Can’t wait to see what other adventures await this winter!

December 25, 2007

Happiest of Holidays

Wishing you a peaceful, joyous holiday.

“Family is what it’s all about,” my father-in-law said.

“Couldn’t agree more, Pop.”

Holiday hugs,


December 14, 2007

Duck Butts, Santa Anarchy and a Supreme Court Associate Justice in D. C.

I took a break from novel revisions, parenting and pet care to spend a glorious long weekend in D.C. with Hubby.

Don’t we look relaxed? Well fed? And happy? We had actual conversations that weren’t interrupted every third word.

And we walked and walked. And walked! And saw amazing things.

The Lincoln Memorial

The White House (from really far away because of security fences)

The Washington Monument (“Hello, up there!”)

The Capitol (I was in awe that the laws of our land are crafted and debated here.)

We were humbled by the WWII Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Then we strolled through a park with a pond full of ducks.


But most of the ducks had their heads in the waters, so it was actually a pond full of . . .


As if that weren’t funny enough, when we reached the Smithsonian "Castle," a hundred people dressed as Santa marched to the carousel. They were delighted and let up a whoop when they found out they could all ride the carousel for sixty bucks. When asked by a bystander what was going on, one of the jolly santas said, “It’s like anarchy, but with Santas.”


They provided lots of laughs and candy for nearby children.

We explored a few Smithsonian museums and saw the Hope Diamond, Archie Bunker’s chair, one of the first airplanes, an incredible nature photography exhibit and so much more all for free.

The man who started all of this, James Smithson, had never set foot in the United States, yet he loved our country and wanted to promote the "increase and diffusion of knowledge." He did all this with an initial investment of $508,318. Thank you, James Smithson!

The next day, it was off to the National Zoo where I saw . . .


And pandas, iguanas, an octopus, lions, a baby hippo and a tarantula so large it eats small birds.

And butterfly butts! (Okay, I don’t think butterflies have butts.)

In South Florida, these are called rat snakes. In D.C., they're called politicians.

This is Lucy, a friendly orangutan who interacted with visitors and enjoyed eating.

Before we knew it, we were enjoying our last meal in Georgetownpizza -- and heading home.

It turns out that a Supreme Court associate justice shared our plane from D. C. to South Florida. Can you guess which one? (Hint: I think I saw him sipping a Coke in first class.)

December 5, 2007

Who Says Boys Don't Read?

Every year for the past eleven years, our family has collected children’s books for the Wood Memorial Book Drive.

People know about our book drive and often hand us bags of wonderful books. Area schools and businesses have helped our collection efforts as well.

But we’ve never had anything like this happen:

A couple weeks ago while volunteering at our school’s book fair, I met Lucia, a fellow volunteer. When a student was a few dollars short, Lucia reached into her pocket. That child left with the book she’d wanted. And I left with a great impression of Lucia.

Two days ago, Lucia called. “Do you still need books for your book drive?”


“My son, Todd, has some he’d like to donate.”

With a couple plastic bags in hand, hubby and I showed up at their home. We should have brought a Mack Truck.

Stacks of books covered their dining room table. Hardbacks. Paperbacks. Fantasy. Mystery. Humor. Classics. Current favorites.

“309!” said Todd, a sixth grader, standing beside the books.

“Did you read all these?” I asked.

He nodded. Then he helped us load his books into our car so we could bring them to the Palm Beach County Literacy Council to be distributed to children in our area.

Todd’s a charming kid who collects author’s autographs. He handed me a card and asked for mine. I put my signature at the end of sincere thank you note.

Thank you, Todd, for proving the naysayers wrong. Boys do read! Thank you for generously donating your books so other children can have good books to read. And thank you for being the kind of kid who makes me glad I’m a children’s book author.

If you’d like to drop Todd a line, leave a comment on this blog, and I’ll make sure he reads it. A gift certificate is on its way to Todd so he can begin to replenish his supply of books.

Happy reading everyone and hope your holiday happenings are happy ones,


November 28, 2007

Two Blogs and a Web Site


Check out this interesting discussion posed by Laurie Halse Anderson on her blog. And let me know your thoughts.

I'm excited to announce a new blog -- Dan's Distractions. I've always been inspired by hubby's eclectic taste in books, music, cinema, etc. Now, he's sharing those finds on his brand new blog.

One of the interesting sites mentioned on his blog is this -- a great find for word nerds who have generous spirits. Have fun. I promise it's not quite as addicting as this site.

Have a great day,

November 20, 2007

Tis the season to give . . . the gift of reading

Here are a few ways you can give that precious gift this holiday season . . .

1) If you live locally, please consider donating to the 11th annual Wood Memorial Book Drive. New books for children 6 months to ten years will be distributed to children through the Palm Beach County Literacy Coalition. There will be a donation box at the Tree Lighting Ceremony in Delray, Thursday, November 29th at 6 p.m. at Old School Square. (Live entertainment begins at 5 p.m.) If you can't make it to Delray, there are other collection sites around the county, and I'd be happy to collect and deliver any donations you have.

Three cheers to Christina Wood for spearheading this wonderful drive every year in memory of her parents.

2) Or for something decidedly NOT local, check out the Camel Book Drive that brings books to children in remote parts of Africa.

3) To give the gift of reading that truly lasts a lifetime , contact your local literacy council about teaching someone to read.

4) Finally, to provide books, clothing, toys, food, etc. to a Palm Beach County family for the holidays, contact Angela Feaman, of the school district police, at

Happy and Healthy Thanksgiving!

Donna & Family

November 16, 2007

Favorite Book Friday

Writers know the only way to grab agents, editors and most importantly, readers is to craft a first chapter so tight it sings. Better yet, a first page that plunges its talons in and won’t let go.

I’ve discovered a novel that managed to hook me like a side of beef with the first paragraph. (And I’m a vegetarian!)

From Mary Hershey’s THE ONE WHERE THE KID NEARLY JUMPS TO HIS DEATH AND LANDS IN CALIFORNIA. (Mary and I are in a heated battle for the award for longest book title.):

“I first became famous when I was eight years old and my dad took me skiing at Lake Rochester with his old-lady boss. My picture was on the front page of all the newspapers for miles around. Heck, Aunt Clem said she even caught me on the national news. And it wasn’t because I was such a hotdog skier. The real story was that I took a dive out of the ski lift chair. Broke my right leg so bad they had to cut it off.”

The second paragraph is good, too, and the one after that and . . . But I’ll allow you the pleasure.

Ms. Hershey’s writing is not only compelling, it’s laugh-out-loud funny. Yep, she wrote a book about an amputee so hilarious it’ll make you snort milk out your nose . . . when you’re not reaching for the tissue box because of the sad parts.

If you’d like to read an interview with Ms. Hershey, check out this link.

Now, excuse me, I’m off to polish the first paragraph of my new middle grade novel. Ms. Hershey’s set the bar kind of high, don’t you think?

November 9, 2007

Teacher Appreciation Day!

Everyone has one. A teacher who made a positive impact.

Mine was Myra Durlofsky, my 10th grade Language Arts teacher. (We called it “English” back then.)

The first day of class, Stu Cohen, a football player, leaned over and said, “You’ll love this class. She’s excellent!”

And she was. And still is!

Mrs. Durlofsky moved through the classroom with energy and purpose. She gave us interesting activities, like writing and performing a modern-day version of Romeo and Juliet. (“Yo, Romeo, wherefore art thou, Dude?”)

I worked extra hard when doing an assignment for her. She once scribbled at the top of a page of vocabulary sentences I’d written: “Your sentences brighten my day.”

I still have that paper.

Today, in “retirement,” Mrs. Durlofsky teaches English to Russian students and volunteers at a local cancer hospital and hospice. I still imagine her moving through her days with energy and purpose.

I know what she’s doing today because after twenty-seven years, we still write letters to each other on a regular basis.

So, when you read my novel this February, you’ll recognize the name of the Language Arts teacher who has my main character make a diorama of a scene from Romeo and Juliet.

Thank you, Myra Durlofsky!

November 7, 2007

Who Needs a Conference?

On the Writer's Digest Web site, I found this video of Jodi Picoult's keynote address at the BEA Conference. Ms. Picoult, best-selling author of adult novels, talks about how she became a writer and some of the fascinating research she's done for three of her novels.

Here are a couple gems from her speech:

"Writing isn't about waiting for the muse; it's about discipline."

"It's easier to edit a bad page than a blank page."


November 1, 2007

Halloween Fun

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. Our neighborhood is flooded by hundreds of trick-or-treaters. Some neighbors turn their garages into haunted houses, their lawns into graveyards and their roofs into spider's nests.

We always run out of candy, but this year we managed to buy enough -- 400 pieces! With a few Snickers bars left over for yours truly.

Here are some photos from the festivities:

"Save us, Spidey! Someone stuck raisins in our candy bags again. Ugh!"

"Glamour girl!"

"My future's so bright, I need to wear shades!"

"But they were on sale at Lens Crafters."

"Those pesky zombies are biting again. Where's the undead repellant?"

"Okay, who's the joker who replaced my coffee with decaf?"

"Way to put on my thinking cap!"

"Wanted: For impersonating sane people. Sheesh!"

October 24, 2007


My publisher, Random House, has created a promotion to showcase new voices in fiction. I’m delighted that my book has been included in IT’S A FIRST!

And I’m excited that today I completed my middle grade novel. I’ve plodded along steadily for three months, gritting my teeth through the muddled middle, waiting to be swept away by my quirky characters and their story.

And then it happened. This week, I averaged thirty-two-feverishly written pages a day.

This is where most of the magic happened.

There are plenty of revisions ahead – miles to go -- but right now I’m celebrating the fact that I completed another novel.

And I’ll leave you with this quote by Horace Mann (1796-1859): “A house without books is like a room without windows.”

October 19, 2007

Favorite Blog Friday

Q: What is my favorite blog this Friday?

A: Mary Hershey’s, of course.

Check it out to find out why.

And have fun with her latest contest on Monday's blog. If you're morbidly funny, you could win a copy of the hilarious new novel, Spanking Shakespeare by Jake Wizner.

October 16, 2007

A Presentation and a Poem

Just had a great classroom visit at Independence Middle School.

Thanks so much to Ms. Franklin for inviting me and to Ms. Petroccia for taping the presentation. And a big thank you to the students for being so enthusiastic and for asking such great questions.

During my presentation, I mentioned a poem I had sold to Highlights Magazine for Children about four years ago. You can see and hear that poem here.

Thanks again to the great students and faculty at Independence Middle School for making me feel so welcomed!

Happy reading,


October 15, 2007

Motivation (and a Dancing Bird) on a Monday

Edwidge Danticat, author of Brother, I’m Dying and other fine works, says this in Oprah Magazine’s “A Million Ways to Save the World” section:

“I would teach every child to read and write, give them access to stories about their potential, their power, their ability to contribute to the world. I would tell them that the future is as infinite as their dreams, and when they don’t quite reach it, they are not failing but rehearsing. And I would tell them that when their heart is broken, it heals back stronger with each tear. I would ask each child to plant a tree in her or his name and not uproot those that already exist. I would send each child to school and pray that she or he learns, among other things, to speak even when silence is the law, to cry even when tears are condemned and to laugh whenever laughter is crucial.

And speaking of laughter . . . here’s that dancing bird.

Have an inspired week,


October 10, 2007

Save the World on a Wednesday

“In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations.” -- From the Great Law of the Iroquois Confederacy

This wisdom came from a box of Seventh Generation facial tissues.

There’s more:

“If every household in the U.S. replaced just one box of 85 sheet virgin fiber facial tissue with 100% recycles ones, we could save:

o 283,000 trees

o 730,000 cubic feet of landfill space, equal to 1,000 garbage trucks

o 102 million gallons of water, a year’s supply for 800 families of four

o and avoid 17,000 pounds of chlorinated pollution”

And I had time to study these statistics because I’ve spent the last two days clutching a box of tissues because of my nasty cold bug.

Fortunately, it didn’t keep me from seeing Neal Shusterman at our local Barnes and Noble earlier this week with my dear friend and writer extraordinaire, Linda Salem Marlow.

After listening to him speak and read from his latest novel, I realize he’s an imaginative and passionate children’s book author.

At age 23, Mr. Shusterman sold his first book. He now has 35 books to his credit, not to mention short stories, screenplays, etc. And the book he read from, Everlost, has a fascinating premise.

So, here’s to imaginative and passionate children’s book authors and . . . to saving the planet one tissue at a time.



October 5, 2007

Celebrate Good Times

My dad spent the week with us. We celebrated his 80th birthday. What a wonderful visit!

Here’s a photo of him reading the advanced reader’s copy of my new novel.

Dad wasn’t the only one celebrating.

Books and Books, a wonderful independent bookstore, celebrates its 25th anniversary this month. Congratulations!

While at their Coral Gables location, I purchased and look forward to reading the following books:

1. The Name of This Book is . . . by Pseudonymous Bosch

2. If a Tree Falls at Lunch Period . . . by Gennifer Choldenko

3. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian . . . by Sherman Alexie

4. Deadline . . . by Chris Crutcher

5. The Castle Corona . . . by Sharon Creech

Sharon Creech was speaking and autographing at the bookstore this past Tuesday.

Here’s a photo of Sharon Creech with another excellent writer, my dear friend, Sylvia Andrews (in pink).

And the celebrating didn’t end there.

Our youngest son became a teenager this past weekend. To celebrate his 13th birthday, I took him and a friend to STOMP. What a performance!

Using everything from tape measures to lighters to brooms to – yes – the kitchen sink (literally, filled with water and dishes and pots and pans), they created humor and movement and music that astounded.

These strong, young, imaginative performers are a testament to the magic of the creative spirit.

Here’s hoping you feed your creative spirit, read a good book or two and celebrate someone or something special.

Happy weekend,

September 28, 2007

Favorite Book Friday

I’ve kept a record of books I’ve read for the past five years. Each year, I average about fifty books.

This past year, one book from my list stood out.

Although long, this novel left me wishing it wouldn’t end. I lingered over language, so beautifully rendered. The narrator of this book was Death.

With wisdom beyond his years, Markus Zusak created a phenomenal piece of literature in The Book Thief.

You can see an interview with Mr. Zusak here.

This weekend, I’m looking forward to reading one of his earlier novels – I am the Messenger.

What’s on your reading list for this weekend?

September 26, 2007

We Have a Winner!!!

This past weekend, when our son said he wanted to shave, my hubby left the room and returned with these . . .


“Hold still, son. I’ll get those hairs on your chinny, chin, chin.”

“What’s this thing for, and why doesn’t it come with an ipod?”

“Oh, please, don’t let us be next!”

I’m delighted to announce that our winner is: ENA! She posted the winning answer a mere three hours after the contest began.

Thank you all for your funny, creative (Did I mention funny?) and clever responses. They were so much fun to read . . . when I should have been reading my work-in-progress and making revisions. (Ah, the little elves in my head will get to that later.)

Ena will win a book of short stories compiled by the inventive folks at McSweeney’s, with, what I believe, is the longest title ever created.

Noisy Outlaws, Unfriendly Blobs, and Some Other Things That Aren’t as Scary, Maybe, Depending on How You Feel About Lost Lands, Stray Cellphones, Creatures from the Sky, Parents Who Disappear in Peru, a Man Named Lars Farf, and One Other Story We Couldn’t Quite Finish, So Maybe You Could Help Us Out. (Stories by Nick Hornby, Neil Gaiman, Jon Scieszka, Jonathan Safran Foer, and more.)

*No animals or teenagers were hurt in the making of this blog.

September 25, 2007

Better, Shorter, Faster Contest

To everyone who called, e-mailed and commented about the addictiveness of Wordy, I apologize. But it is a fun word game, isn’t it?

Since no one commented about beating my score by the deadline, I’ve got ANOTHER CONTEST for you. This one requires about fourteen seconds of your time. (And that’s only if you type slowly.)

I’ve still got a prize, people, and I want to give it away.

So, here’s the new and improved better, shorter, faster contest:

This past weekend, our teenage son told hubby he wanted to shave for the first time. So exciting. I found our camera to record the big event.

Instead of grabbing a razor (for our son to trim the few hairs on his chin), my comedian hubby left the room and returned with _______.

Fill in the blank with your guess. It’s like The Match Game Show with Gene Rayburn, except with better hairstyles.

The first person who posts the correct answer in the comments section of this blog wins the prize.*

The prize still consists of paper and words (and is not a restraining order). The title of the prize is actually much longer than the title of my novel. (You can guess what the prize is, too, if you’d like. But there’s no extra prize for guessing the prize. Hmm. I’ll announce the prize the same time I announce the winner.)

*This offer void for those with psychic ability and those in my Sunday critique group because, well, I already told you guys!

Okay, people – start guessing!

September 21, 2007

Favorite (Food) Book Friday

In Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, Barbara Kingsolver intelligently chronicles her family’s foray into eating more thoughtfully. In an effort to reduce their carbon footprint, they commit to either growing their own food or buying it locally for a year. Throughout the book, her husband writes about important global food issues, and her older daughter provides insights and recipes.

Last night, using one of the recipes, I made “Eggs in a Nest.”

That recipe, and several others, can be found at

And for a great list of favorite books, "Books That Linger," check out Cynthia Lord's blog here.

Finally, for those of you whom I’ve managed to addict to, I apologize. Sort of. But keep at it, fellow word nerds! There are still two days remaining to break my record and win a prize. I’m not Joe King.

September 19, 2007


Warning: This contest may cause carpal tunnel syndrome, severe word nerdiness and cause you to lose time from more important activities, like writing, reading, communicating with other human beings and playing other word games like Scrabble.

If you’re foolish enough to continue, your mission is as follows:

(Hint: These are the rules.)

1. Go to

2. Play the game. (It’s fun! And free!)

3. Submit your score with the name: JOE KING

4. No, I’m not Joking.

5. The first person to beat my score (155,580) and post that score as a comment on my blog will win a prize.

6. Yes, an actual prize. (Hint: It will involve words and paper, but not be my latest utility bill.)

7. You must live in the United States to collect the prize (because I’m too cheap to mail overseas).

8. You must be under 143 years of age to enter this contest.

9. You must like reading silly rules.

10. Deadline (because we creative types LOVE deadlines) is this Sunday, the 23rd at 6 p.m. Eastern time.

Have fun . . . and don’t say I didn’t warn you!!!

September 14, 2007

Creatively Connected

We writers often create in isolation.

But, in many ways, we are not alone . . .

We have our characters to keep us company while at our keyboards.

Or, if writing in a coffee shop or library, other patrons.

Our writing groups inspire us and gently guide us along our writing paths.

There are conferences to provide spark to our creative batteries and remind us of others creating in rooms of their own.

If all goes well, we have our readers – with whom we connect, entertain, inform, delight and keep company, so they, too, feel less alone.

And when none of that is available at the moment, we can connect via the Internet.

Here are two Web sites you might want to explore:

1. Patricia Newman interviews children’s book authors. On her Web site, you’ll find profiles of dozens of children’s book authors.

2. Claire Cook, author of books for adults, offers this advice to aspiring writers.

And Lisa Bullard’s YOU CAN WRITE A STORY! (a Story-Writing Recipe for Kids) -- a how-to book for budding authors in the form of a cookbook -- is now available.

Because we are all connected and in this together, I wish you a wildly creative weekend and the happiest of writing trails,


September 12, 2007

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

While walking our dog, Lady, I noticed a car slow and steer around a small dark lump in the road. Upon closer inspection, I saw that lump was a baby turtle.

Since developers plowed through our area with a vengeance about five years ago, we’ve seen a lot of animals in the road – opposums, raccoons, snakes, turtles and squirrels – usually dead or seriously injured. (And no, they did NOT die of natural causes, unless getting run over by someone driving a Hummer while chatting on the cell phone is considered a natural cause.)

So, I was happy to see this baby turtle’s head poking around, exploring its environment.

I tied Lady to a post just outside the Greenway – a small fenced area full of grass and pine trees and creatures (who couldn’t, despite numerous signs, figure out where their natural environment ended and massive new home construction began).

I picked the turtle up and watched it duck its head inside its shell.

Intending to place it several yards inside the Greenway, I made it only a few steps when I felt something stab at my ankle. I brushed at it. Then again, a sharp pain.

With turtle in hand, I looked down to see dozens of fire ants swarming up my sneakers, pink socks and ankles.

Sorry turtle.

I put that baby down fast and slapped the biting ants off my ankles. I ran out of the Greenway to the sidewalk and stripped off sneakers and socks faster than you can say, “Yeowch!”

Cars passed, but if the drivers were from around here, they knew exactly what I was doing. Most people in this part of South Florida have had at least one unpleasant mishap with an innocent-looking sand pile that turned out to be home to swarms of mean, biting ants.

While I was smacking ants off my skin and socks, I noticed Lady picking up first one paw then another. Strange behavior for her. I grabbed one of her paws, and my hand came away covered with fire ants.

With both of us being bitten, I stood in bare feet and worked the knot out of her leash so I could get her away from the area. She and I had been standing on top of a fire ant nest, but the ground was so wet it looked like an innocent pile of dirt.

I worked at each of Lady’s paws until I wasn’t pulling off anymore ants, just bits of loose fur.

Lady seemed no worse for the wear, and I was already mentally composing a story about the incident, so I knew we were both okay. It was then, we walked into the Greenway, picked up the baby turtle and moved it farther into the grass.

Lady is napping beside me now. And I’ve got only a few bite marks on my feet and ankles. And somewhere, there is a baby turtle happily poking it head around the grass instead of lying in the middle of a road with Hummer tire tracks on its shell.

September 10, 2007

Motivation on a Monday

“Nothing worth doing is completed in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope. Nothing true or beautiful makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore, we are saved by love.”

Reinhold Niebuhr, American theologian, 1892-1971

September 7, 2007

Birthdays and Monkey Brains

My favorite person in the universe turns 41 today . . .

No, not our dog, Lady. My hubby extraordinaire -- Dan the Man. He’s the guy who supports my crazy writing habit. He’s also the guy who keeps me sane while parenting teenagers. He makes me laugh, but is always there if I need to cry. He’s the punniest, funniest, most interesting guy I know. And I’m so lucky to be married to him. Even when he’s not playing his guitar, he rocks!

So, if you get a moment, drop him birthday greetings at dangephartathotmaildotcom. Even if you don’t know him, drop him a quick note. Heck, especially if you don’t know him. It’s more fun that way.

You could also send birthday greetings to Lady. She has a September birthday as well. But she doesn’t have an e-mail address.

And now for something completely off topic . . .

Because I’m a very mature and responsible adult, I started my morning by eating something practical and good for me – oatmeal. Of course, this tasty treat came in this box:

Yes, I ate MONKEY BRAINS for breakfast. Ha ha. Take that, Selwyn! How many people can say that? Monkey Brains – what a cool way to get kids to want to eat oatmeal?! Thankfully, they didn’t call it something like, um, PELICAN POOP or DINOSAUR DROPPINGS.

I think I’d better go now. I’m getting completely out of hand. Besides, there’s a birthday to be celebrated!!!

Hugs and happy weekend,


August 31, 2007

Favorite Poem Friday

We will have a guest blogger to replace Favorite Book Friday . . . and that will be Favorite Poem Friday.

“Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost is my favorite.

According to Wikipedia (and really, folks, is there any more reliable information source on the planet?), “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" was Frost’s favorite of his poems.

So, to keep you cool on a warm summer day, here is everyone’s favorite poem (Okay, me and Robert Frost, but that’s almost everyone) . . .

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

August 29, 2007

Save the World on a Wednesday

Of course, you could help save the world on a Tuesday or even a Friday, but why would you want to? When you help save the world on a Wednesday, you not only improve our planet, but you get the added bonus of using wild, wonderful “Wednesday” and “World” alliteration.

And folks, what could possibly be better than that?

Perhaps a cappuccino . . . or a cat nap.

But since we’re all wide away. We are all wide awake, aren’t we? Zzzzz. “Um, I’m up. What was the question?”

The question was: How can we help save the world on a Wednesday?

Well loyal readers (which, I believe, consist of my friend, Christina, my third cousin on my father’s side and, if she’s not busy vomiting on our WHITE carpet, our cat, Jasmine), the answer comes in the form of some eye-opening facts . . .

From the August issue of Spirit Magazine (Southwest Airlines's publication):

We use two million barrels of oil every day to make plastic.

That represents about 10 percent of the nation's total oil consumption. Even so, 72 percent of Americans don't know that plastic is made from oil and 40 percent believe that plastic tossed into the trash will eventually biodegrade in a landfill. (It won't.) The average American believes (mistakenly) that about 40 percent of plastic is eventually recycled. The actual figure is less than 6 percent.

So, loyal readers, how can we help save the world on a Wednesday? Same way we can help save the world every other day . . .

August 27, 2007

The Ultra-Glamorous Life of a Writer

A Day in the Life . . .

1. I wake unconscionably early to take our oldest son to the school bus. He manages six grumpy words to me: "Can you pick me up today?"

2. I return home to find our adorable cat, who has deplorable aim, has piddled outside her litter box . . . again. While cleaning up, the strong ammonia odor nearly kills me.

3. Then a horrid discovery in the washing machine -- youngest son's juggling ball. The ridiculously expensive one he worked all summer to buy. "It's ruined!" he screams. I ignore his implication that this is my fault (even though he actually blames his brother) because with children, everything from pimples to poor grades to nuclear proliferation is my fault.

4. After laying the wet juggling ball in the sun to dry, we manage to get out the door so I can drive said youngest son to school. After he leaves the car, he turns to me and says six grumpy words: "I left my lunch at home." For some reason, I know this, too, is my fault.

5. Back home, after walking the dog, feeding both pets, making phone calls, cleaning cat vomit off the carpet and resisting the strong urge to take a nap or slam back a mojita or BOTH (but not in that order), I eat son's forgotten lunch -- surprisingly good -- ignore the large pile of dirty laundry and even larger pile of unpaid bills beside me and begin writing.

I wonder if J. K. Rowling begins her day this way.

August 23, 2007


Betcha didn’t even know I was gone.

Well, I was. I spent a few glorious days in PA with family and friends.

My girlfriend Jeanne, her friend Spidey and I spent three hours hiking here. It was about 67 degrees -- a refreshing departure from South Florida heat and humidity. While hiking, we discovered a covered bridge, corn fields, a small waterfall, lovely views and lots and lots of horse poop.

Also spent time with family doing the following: eating sushi (Thanks, El!), watching my brother-in-law wrestle my youngest son in the pool (Go, Jake – both of you), sipping margaritas poolside with my awesome sisters-in-law (Cheers, Alane and Janet), laughing till my sides hurt while playing Mexican train with my family (Cheating’s never been so funny, Jay) and pigging out at this restaurant (Thanks, Den & Mike) where fifteen of us shared meals and desserts that looked like this:

and got cute photos there like this:

Kim and Czar Jake

And there was the rockin’ barbeque (Thanks, Chef Den!) where my old college buddy came with her two girls (Yo, Barb!).

Got to see my oldest son eat things like a two-foot hoagie (Yes, they’re called “hoagies” in Philadelphia) from this place. And I also got to watch him devour things like this plate of desserts:

Just give me a Philadelphia soft pretzel drenched in mustard, thank you very much.

Had dinner at this lovely vegetarian restaurant with this lovely friend:

Donna and Jeanne, before stuffing themselves silly at Blue Sage.

There was more. Our boys went to the King Tut exhibit. They played miniature golf and went out to eat. Often. We all laughed and hugged and ate -- all the things family and friends should do together. Often.

Spending time with family and friends has totally renewed my spirit.

And now it’s time to get back to work. That means you’ll find me here . . .

doing what I do best – banging my head against the keyboard and occasionally -- writing!

August 14, 2007

Tuesday's Time-Waster

Fellow word nerds -- Unite!

Dyslexic word nerds -- Untie!

A most addicting word puzzle: Wordy.

Have fun!

Until next week,

August 13, 2007

Motivation on a Monday

"When you look back on a lifetime and think of what has been given to the world by your presence, your fugitive presence, inevitably you think of your art, whatever it may be, as the gift you have made to the world in acknowledgment of the gift you have been given, which is the life itself . . . That work is not an expression of the desire for praise or recognition, or prizes, but the deepest manifestation of your gratitude for the gift of life." -- Stanley Kunitz

August 10, 2007

Favorite Book Friday

Mrs. Biddlebox by Linda Smith with illustrations by Marla Frazee is one of those picture books I not only borrowed from the library a dozen times, but had to purchase for myself and others.

The book won the 2002 Original Voices Award from Borders. You can read about that here.

Linda Smith wrote this book while she was undergoing chemotherapy and radiation to treat breast cancer. Her battle was ultimately unsuccessful. She left behind a husband, eight children and several books that were published (after she died). You can read more about Linda Smith here.

I love Mrs. Biddlebox because the illustrations are perfect. I love Mrs. Biddlebox because the language is surprising and delicious. (“When the fog gave her the whiffles, she held her broomstick steady, stabbed the dreary lot of it, and twirled it like Spaghetti!”) But mostly I love Mrs. Biddlebox because it captures the truth about feeling rotten, about having a really bad day. We’ve all felt like Mrs. Biddlebox and it helps to know we’re not alone in those feelings.

That’s why I was disappointed when I read on Alice Pope’s blog that Mrs. Biddlebox sold only 12,500 copies with HarperCollins then went out of print.

Harcourt recently purchased rights to the book and is reissuing it . . . with new cover art.


Children have really bad days, too. Mrs. Biddlebox gives them permission to do that. She lets them know they’re not alone in their feelings. (“On a knotty little hill, in a dreary little funk, Mrs. Biddlebox rolled over on the wrong side of her bunk.”)

The new and “improved” cover looks too cheery. The blue color is too bright to represent the feelings in this book. Although different from most picture books, the original cover art captures the essence of the story.

I’m thrilled that Harcourt is reissuing Mrs. Biddlebox so more children (and adults) can enjoy this gem of a book, but I wish they’d kept the original cover. I know I’m going to treasure my copy with the amazingly “dreary” cover.

Your thoughts?

August 6, 2007

Motivation on a Monday


As you begin a new week, here are a few quotations to think about:

"It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop." -- Confucius

"Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away." -- Antoine de Saint-Exupery

"What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

"You have brains in your head
You have feet in your shoes
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose
You're on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who'll decide where to go." -- Dr. Seuss (Theodore Geisel)

Have a happy and productive week.


August 3, 2007

Favorite Book Friday

This is my favorite children’s book that has hubby’s name in the title:

When our boys were little (and didn’t have video game controllers and telephones permanently attached to their hands), hubby would put on his best ten-gallon cowboy voice and read the PUNderful text of Deputy Dan and the Bank Robbers.

I’d overhear great lines like this: “Deputy Dan, please answer the door.”

“You want me to answer the door?”

“Yes. Please answer the door.”

“Okay, boss.” And this goofy cartoon deputy faces the door and says, “Hello, door!”

When Deputy Dan is told to “check” the bank for clues, he takes his trusty marker and makes check marks all over the bank.

The author, Joseph Rosenbloom, will never know how many laughs he provided to children (and the adults reading to them). I want to tell him that Deputy Dan brought many giggles to the Gephart household.

So, Amelia Bedelia, Queen ‘O Punderful books for young readers, sorry to tell you honey, but there’s a new sheriff in town!

August 1, 2007

What a Visit!

This is my niece, Nicole:

One word to describe her and her week-long visit with us? FABULOUS!

During her stay, despite heat and summer storms, we managed to do the following:

1. Saw many animals, including an albino raccoon here.

2. Spotted a tiny frog, green lizard, skinny snake and colorful grasshopper (but no alligators) here.

3. Listened to a band play here and bought fresh squeezed lemon/limeade.

4. Played tennis and said things like:

“Maybe we should try to keep the ball on our own court.”

“Sure, whatever. This is fun.”

5. Shopped here. After only forty-five minutes at the mall, my sons got a giant bag of candy, coffee drinks and heaping bowls of ice-cream with money they’d saved. (I can imagine our dentist smiling with thoughts of paying off his Porsche extra early.) Nicole and I got a good laugh at how expensive everything was.

6. Floated in the calmest, clearest ocean and said things like:

“Ew, Nicole, there are fish swimming around my ankles.”

“Oh, Aunt Donna, they’re only fish.”

and . . .

“What’s that giant thing everyone on shore is pointing at?”

“OHMYGOD, I think it’s a barracuda.”


Here’s Nicole taking a photo of our cat, Jasmine:

Nicole loves animals and plans to have lots of them someday. For now, she helps some of them find homes here, like the dog she helped get adopted last Saturday – Hooper, which we affectionately nicknamed “Pooper” after he did you-know-what on the floor in the store.

And here’s Nicole’s favorite member of the family: Lady.

Lady is thinking: Can’t somebody please go into the garage and get me a dried chicken strip? Lady is NOT a vegetarian like her owners.

When not visiting us, Nicole goes to school here and makes some interesting pieces of art, like a giant toothbrush. (Hey, maybe our boys could use it to fend off giant cavities.)

And finally, here’s a picture of Nicole and me at the airport. I’m smiling, but inside I’m sad because it’s hard to live 1,200 miles away from someone you love so much.

July 31, 2007

Quotes for Writers

A few quotes for writers by writers:

“Writing is harder than anything else; at least starting to write is. It’s much easier to wash dishes. When I’m writing I set myself a daily quota of pages, but nine times out of ten I’m doing those pages at four o’clock in the afternoon because I’ve done everything else first . . . But once I get flowing with it, I wonder what took me so long.” -- Kristin Hunter

“It’s a reactive thing, like a Geiger counter; you click whenever you come close to whatever you were built to do.” -- Stephen King

“Today is a dawdly day. They do seem to alternate. I do a whole of a day’s work and then the next day, flushed with triumph, I dawdle . . . The crazy thing is that I get about the same number of words down either way.” – John Steinbeck

July 27, 2007

Favorite Book Friday

My feet still hurt.

Yesterday, I took our niece, who is visiting from Philadelphia, and our two sons to a rocky beach nearby. When our boys swam so far off I couldn’t see them, I left my sandals and my good sense behind and ran along the sand – the hot sand – the scalding hot sand – to find them and tell them to come back before the undertow swept them away or they were smashed into the jagged rocks or a shark ate them for a midday snack. The farther I ran, the faster they swam. Tall, jagged rocks separated me from them. The boys couldn’t see me or hear me. Up ahead, I noticed the end of the rock formation where I could enter the water and, I hoped, find our boys swimming safely. Once I saw the boys emerge from the water, I called to them and plopped down in the sand. My feet were burnt so badly it brought me to tears.

In the end, everyone was fine. (Except my sore feet.)

There are some things I love about summer in South Florida – the relaxed pace of life with no school schedules, the ability to get a table at my favorite breakfast spot without waiting in line and no traffic because tourist season is still several months away.

But there are some things I do not love about summer in South Florida – scalding sand, slithering snakes and shocking storms. (We’re the lightning capital of the world.)

But there’s one thing I love any time of the year – Scrabble.

Hubby and I play competitively with each other whenever we get the chance, studying two-letter words, working puzzles from our Scrabble calendars and keeping the scores of each game we play in a notebook, marking who won and if either of us got any bonus (7-letter) words.

Oh, look. Here’s one of our games now:

Even Vanessa, the flat-chested, forever fumbling, spelling bee whiz in my new novel, loves to play Scrabble with her mom (when she’s not busy campaigning to become president).

Vanessa learned that the man who invented Scrabble was named Butts (B-U-T-T-S). Alfred Mosher Butts. To learn more, check out this site.

And for all you Scrabble Word Nerds, have fun at this site.

And because it is Favorite Book Friday, my character’s favorite book about Scrabble (and mine and hubby's, too) is Everything Scrabble by Joe Edley and John D. Williams Jr. (I’m going to go study it now so I can get an advantage over hubby. Sh (acceptable Scrabble word) -- don’t tell!)