November 27, 2008

I am thankFul For . . .

Family . . .

(Ellen, not pictured. Send photos!)

Friends . . .

Furry friends . . .

Florida fun . . .

Food . . .

Facebook . . .

That's right -- Facebook!

Thinking it would be a giant time suck, I avoided it for a long time, but friends kept asking, so I finally signed up. Guess what? It is a giant time suck -- but a fun one. I found a friend from elementary school -- "Hi, Gordon." My best bud's sister sent me a funny Thanksgiving greeting. And hubby threw a snowball at me. A snowball! Now that's a real luxury in South Florida.

So, sign up (I'll wait . . .), explore the site, friend me and maybe, just maybe, I'll throw a snowball at you!

Happy and healthy Thanksgiving!

With love and gratitude,

November 20, 2008

Happy Holiday Gift-Giving Guide

This holiday season, unless you’re a person who does this, you’ll probably spend your gift-giving dollars with care.

While planning your holiday shopping list, here are a few thoughts . . .

1) If you live in Palm Beach County, consider adopting a family for the holidays. You’d provide a gift card for a holiday dinner, toys/books/clothing for the children and practical items for the parent(s). Angela Feaman (Family Charity Foundation) coordinates this effort. To adopt a family, contact Angela at

2) All booked up? Consider donating books to an area school, your local literacy coalition, a children's hospital, etc. If you live in Palm Beach County, consider donating a new book for children ages 6 months to 10 years to the Wood Memorial Book Drive. We've participated in this effort for over a decade. It’s gratifying to deliver hundreds of books to the Palm Beach County Literacy Coalition for children in time for the holidays. If you have a book you’d like to contribute, please contact me.

3) Monetary banks aren’t the only ones in trouble these days. Food banks across the country are suffering. We’ve been delivering bags of food to the hungry in our area for over two years and find the bags lighter than ever these days. Last weekend, one man politely asked if we could find one box of cereal for him for the week. I was able to do this only by taking it out of someone else’s bag. PLEASE contact your local food bank and donate canned soup, vegetables, fruit, beans, tuna, jars of peanut butter, boxes of pasta, cereal, etc. on a regular basis. You can find a food bank in your area here.

4) Are there animal lovers on your list? You can adopt a manatee for them here. (Manatees are the only 1,200 pound creatures I know of who are vegetarians, except for hubby. Just kidding, Honey.) How about becoming a foster parent to an orangutan here? Or help out a family in need by sponsoring an animal for their livelihood here?

5) If you want to buy actual gifts for people, may I suggest some from people I know?

a) For a lovely, handmade towel to wrap your favorite child in after bath time, try My Favorite Towel by my friend, Pamela.

b) For high quality furniture and accessories, check out Style and Form. My sister and her husband are offering huge price reductions on EVERYTHING just in time for the holidays.

c) For delectable handmade soaps that smell divine and are great for your skin, visit Naked Lady Soap.

d) Do you know how handmade dolls are created? Neither did I until I read an article by my friend, Sandy. Suffice to say, the process if very labor (and love) intensive. And Sandy created these masterpieces while successfully battling stage IV ovarian cancer. To purchase one of Sandy's elegant, collectible dolls, visit her here.

6) If you’re like me, you'll be giving books this holiday season. May I suggest these gems from friends:

a) If you have a turtle lover on your list, check out Turtle Girl here, a beautiful story, by Carole Crowe.

b) When the sky's the limit, give this rhyming non-fiction book to your young star gazer: Going Around the Sun: Some Planetary Fun by Marianne Berkes and Janeen Mason can be purchased here.

c) If you're looking for a young adult novel that's sure to please, grab a copy of Skin Deep by E.M. Crane here for the finicky teen on your list.

d) Did you miss the hilarious new release from comediane, Leigh Anne Jasheway-Bryant, Not Guilty by Reason of Menopause? Grab a copy here; you can use it to cool yourself in the event of a hot flash.

e) Kieran Doherty's Sea Venture: Shipwreck, Survival and the Salvation of Jamestown recently came out in paperback. To order this exciting read, click here.

f) For a fun middle grade read, pick up Mary Hershey's 10 Lucky Things That Have Happened to Me Since I Nearly Got Hit by Lightning here. Mary's other books are a hoot, too.

g) Mary and I seem to be in competition for world's longest title. Which reminds me, there's a certain middle grade book about a klutzy spelling bee champ whose mother is, um, running for president. You can pick up a copy (or twelve or three hundred or a class set) here.

Have I left out any great books? What about any beautiful hand-crafted products? Is there a charitable organization you'd love more people to know about?

Please share your suggestions in the comment section and have a happy, healthy holiday season!

Warmest regards,


November 11, 2008

Virtual Writers' Conferences

If you're like me, you enjoy the jolt of inspiration and energy from attending writers' conferences. Unfortunately, we can't always afford the time and money to attend the conferences we'd love to.

So . . . when you need a boost of inspiration and information, explore these virtual writers' conferences until you're able to make it to the real thing.

1) Each July, the Highlights Foundation holds writers workshops at Chautauqua. At this site, you'll be able to explore offerings by topic, author or title from 2002 through 2006. I enjoyed reading some of the inspiration behind Maniac Magee from Jerry Spinelli.

2) If you can't make it to the Maui Writers Conference, here is a great selection of clips from past conferences. Dave Barry is a hoot. And I love what Frank McCourt says about teachers who teach in middle school.

3) Finally, one of the best conferences I've attended was SCBWI's annual conference in L.A. in August. Here are a collection of images from their 2008 conference:

November 6, 2008

What a Year!

2008 has been an unprecedented year so far, filled with ups and downs.

1. On a personal note, my father-in-law, Jake, passed away early in the year. His absence still haunts me. In other difficult news, a close friend was diagnosed with breast cancer and is undergoing treatment. Another dear friend, Cary, lost her six-year struggle with ovarian cancer. It's been hard on her husband, Rey, and 16-year-old daughter.

2. This sad backdrop contrasts sharply with what's happened professionally. My first novel came out this past February, only two weeks after my father-in-law's passing. I was grateful to celebrate with friends and family. And my second humorous novel sold to the talented and lovely Stephanie Lane Elliott at Delacorte Press. I also had the joy of attending the ALA this past January and sitting in the audience as the Newbery Medal and others were announced.

3. On a local level, the Philadelphia Phillies won the World Series! Even though we live in South Florida, we're a Philly Phamily at heart and couldn't have been happier about this much-anticipated win. Well, we'd have been happier if Grandpop Jake were still around to share in the celebration.

4. On a more global level, the Olympics were absolutely inspiring. Who couldn't be moved by seeing people from all over the world giving their absolute best?

5. And on a personal, professional, local and global level, I'm excited that after this historic campaign and election, we have a new president and can move forward.

As this year draws to a close, I'm delighted to wake each day with loving family and friends and a shared sense of purpose, community and hope.

November 3, 2008

Elect to Vote . . .


1. Worth 7 points in Scrabble
2. Anagram = VETO
3. An exercise that's really good for you
4. Almost the same letters as in "voice"
5. Free sticker when you're done