Monday, March 30, 2009

My Famous Oklahoma Author Friends

In spite of a snowstorm, I made it to Tulsa on Saturday for the Oklahoma SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) Spring Conference. My friend Una Belle and I zipped up there late Friday afternoon and spent Friday and Saturday nights in a motel so that we didn’t have to fight the snow on the turnpike. It was a great conference, and I’ll do a separate post on it in a day or two. For now, though, I want to introduce you to some of my favorite children’s writers (in alphabetical order so that I won’t be accused of having favorites). I’m proud to call all of them my friends.

Brandi Barnett is a young lady I met a few years ago. She has a young adult book out called GLAMOUR. I bought a copy and will be reading it soon. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a photo of Brandi with her book, as she left the conference early. I’m guessing she wanted to get somewhere before the roads turned to ice. I’m looking forward to following her career as a writer. You can see her picture and learn more about GLAMOUR on her website,

This is Darlene Bailey Beard. I’ve known Darlene since before she published her first book, THE PUMPKIN MAN OF PINEY CREEK. In fact, I’m proud to say that I actually critiqued that manuscript in its beginning stages. She went on to publish another picture book, TWISTER, and three novels, THE FLIMFLAM MAN, THE BABBS SWITCH STORY, and OPERATION CLEAN SWEEP. She has a new book coming out in the fall called ANNIE GLOVER IS NOT A TREE LOVER. Darlene’s website is

Kim Doner has been an illustrator of books for children for many years, but now she’s a writer as well. The first book she wrote and illustrated is BUFFALO DREAMS. Here she’s holding her latest book, ON A ROAD IN AFRICA, which she wrote and illustrated. (It’s wonderful!) Her website is

Gwendolyn Hooks is a special friend. We’ve been in a critique group together for over eight years, and I value her feedback on my manuscripts. Besides that, she is fun. Gwen has written a number of short and easy to read books, which are harder to write than it appears. CAN I HAVE A PET? was her first book, followed by THREE’S A CROWD, THE MYSTERY OF THE MISSING PET, and NICE WHEELS! Last year she published three books about aquatic food webs. She’s awesome! Her website is

Cynthea Liu has many friends and admirers in the world of children’s publishing. Although she now lives in Illinois, Cynthea is originally from Oklahoma, so she often attends the Oklahoma SCBWI Spring Conference. (It’s a good opportunity to combine business, friendship, and family. Also, she gets to see that beautiful red dirt.) Cynthea has written a how-to book for writers called WRITING FOR CHILDREN AND TEENS and two novels for kids, THE GREAT CALL OF CHINA and PARIS PAN TAKES THE DARE. Her website is

Susan Meyers has helped with many of my manuscripts. She is the author of CALLIE AND THE STEPMOTHER. Her new book, THE PRINCESS AND THE PEE, will be published this year. Susan is very active in Oklahoma SCBWI activities and runs a list-serve for us. Learn more about her at

Anna Myers is the SCBWI regional advisor for Oklahoma. She’s our organizer, cheerleader, mentor, and sometimes mama/teacher. (She explains that it isn’t polite to follow a visiting editor into the bathroom and shove manuscripts under the stall door, and she makes us clean up our messes at conferences. After teaching eighth grade for years, she knows how to make us behave.) Anna’s many books are wonderful; I strongly recommend ALL of them. In this photo, she was signing one of her books for Una Belle, but somehow I left the book out of the picture. (I never claimed to be a photographer.) Anna’s website is

Tammi Sauer is our local picture book queen. This young lady is incredible! Here she is with her first picture book, COWBOY CAMP. She has sold six (yes, six!) more picture books since then. Tammi was a cheerleader in high school, and somehow she has retained that energy and enthusiasm. She spends a lot of time making school visits, where she wows the kids. Read more about her on

Una Belle Townsend is my carpooling buddy. We have gone to many conferences together, including the one in Tulsa last weekend. We may have to find someone with good map skills and a strong sense of direction to accompany us, however, as both of us are lost most of the time. Una Belle is the author of three picture books, and in this photo she’s showing off the latest one, THE OKLAHOMA LAND RUN. Her other books are GRADY IN THE SILO and THE RACECAR DRIVER’S NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS.

These are all very special people not because they're published authors, but because they realize that they still have a lot to learn about writing. They are happy to help others develop their writing skills, and many of them spend hours volunteering for SCBWI.
Thank you, published friends.

Check back in a couple of days and you should find a post about the conference.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

It’s Springing! (Temporarily, at Least)

We’ve been enjoying beautiful spring weather here in Oklahoma. Flowers are blooming, birds are tweeting (not twittering), and leaves are showing up on trees. Coats have been abandoned , and even sweaters spend most of their time in the closet. The Singer and I have been walking in the park during our weekly play day. All is right with the world.

Take a look at God’s handiwork!

Here are some redbud trees. The redbud is Oklahoma's state tree. I love redbud trees.

These photos were taken yesterday at the University of Oklahoma (my alma mater). The campus looks beautiful right now.

Now take a look at our weather forecast for tomorrow and Saturday, when I’m traveling to a writing conference in Tulsa.

Tomorrow night: Cloudy with rain and snow in the evening, becoming all snow late. Low 32F. Winds NNW at 15 to 25 mph. Chance of precip 80%. Some snow accumulation possible.

Saturday: Mix of rain and snow. Highs in the low 40s and lows in the upper 20s.

I love living in Oklahoma. I spent my late childhood and adolescence in southern California, where the weather was mild and unchanging. Adjusting to Oklahoma’s bi-polar mood swings was a challenge, but now I shake my head like other Okies and say, “That’s Oklahoma!” As Will Rogers supposedly said, “If you don’t like Oklahoma’s weather, stick around for five minutes, and it will change.”

Sunday, March 22, 2009

How I Became a Cat Woman, Part Three

By the time Vernon came to us, he was on his seventh or eighth life. Dr. Lobo found him hiding under our old VW Bus in the carport, more dead than alive. Being the softie he is (underneath a rough exterior), Dr. Lobo brought food and water to him, hoping to make his last hours on earth as pleasant as possible. But Vern was tougher than we expected.

After many days under the VW Bus, he was hobbling around again, but he wouldn’t come near anyone except Dr. Lobo. Eventually he allowed Dr. Lobo to pet him.

Most likely, a car had hit him. His head seemed misshaped. (Our neighbors referred to him as “that square-headed cat.”) He had dried blood around his ear, and he appeared to be hearing impaired. He had an eye infection that we never were able to cure, and he seemed at least partially blind. His grating voice, somewhere between a growl and a screech, sounded like he had laryngitis. Since he reminded us of a little old man, we gave him a little old man’s name: Vernon, or Vern.

In spite of his flaws, I liked him. He was orange, and I’ve always been partial to orange cats. He never did become as domesticated as our other cats, but he was tame enough that we allowed him into the house. He warmed up enough to let all of us pet him.

Vern got along fairly well with our other cats, but he had social problems with cats outside our family. He often showed up with blood and scratches, souvenirs from unfortunate run-ins with cats who didn’t share our enthusiasm for him. When we tried to doctor him, he fought us, so mostly he recovered on his own.

Ultimately he used up all his lives. A neighbor accidentally ran over him. Vern had been sleeping under his car and didn’t move when the engine started. Over a year later, another neighbor told us she’d seen a dog attack Vern that day. He may have hid under the car after the attack, and he may have been dead even before the car ran over him. Since he didn’t see or hear well, even if he were still alive, he might have slept through it.

We buried him in a marked box in the backyard, where two cat statues watch over him. If we ever get another cat, I'd like for it to be orange.

Rest in peace, Vern.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Why Am I Attracted to Pisces Types?

Okay, I don't know why the picture above is lop-sided. I didn't do it. It reminds me of my house, where nothing is level except the brand new ceiling we just put in.
Anyway . . .

I’ve written about Dr. Lobo and Sweet Girl recently because they just celebrated their birthdays (February 27th and March 12th). I also mentioned my friend Margie’s birthday (March 4th), and I even threw a party for Dr. Seuss (March 2nd).

My BFF, The Singer, has a birthday on March 14th, two days after Sweet Girl’s. I wanted to write about her, but since I’d already written so many posts about birthdays lately, I decided to save her birthday post for next year. Likewise, my wonderful daughter-in-law, The Blonde, has a birthday this week (March 19th) and my sister-in-law, my cousin, and my favorite long-time neighbor share March 20th as their special day.

A long time ago I realized that I seem to be attracted to Pisces folks (those born between February 19th and March 20th). During the mid-seventies, when everyone was into astrology, I taught at a high school where the big question was “What’s your sign?” More often than not, my favorite students were Pisces. I don’t believe there’s any validity in astrology and horoscopes, but sometimes I do have to wonder.

Supposedly, these are the qualities that make me gravitate toward Pisces:

And here are the negative aspects of the Pisces personality.

Happy birthday to all my Pisces friends and relatives. Other notable Pisces are Albert Einstein (March 14th) and Michelangelo (March 6th), so you’re in good company.

I’m glad you smart, creative people are part of my life.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Happy Birthday, Sweet Girl!

My life changed forever thirty-five years ago today. On March 12, 1974, I became a mother.

In many ways, I was unprepared for the changes that come with motherhood, but what surprised me most was how I fell completely in love with that eight pound baby girl. I’d always liked kids, but I didn’t know how different having my own child would be. I didn’t know I’d be swept off my feet with love. (Yeah, I know, “swept off my feet” is a big time cliché, but clichés work well because they describe the situation perfectly.)

Sweet Girl made us feel successful. We thought she was so good because we were such good parents. Her younger brother completely shattered that myth, and we were forever humbled. We quickly learned how lucky we were to get such an easy little girl. (Interestingly, she was a low-maintenance child, but turned into a high-maintenance young adult. Kids will get you, one way or another!)

Raising her was fun. She was shy, but smart, talented, and happy. She was a wonderful big sister, even though we eventually figured out that she manipulated her brothers on occasion. Sweet Girl enriched our lives immeasureably.

But being her mother is even more fun now. Sweet Girl has done well in life. She married a fine man who loves her dearly, and she’s finishing a second master’s degree in May. She has a multitude of talents and she amazes me with her intelligence and creativity. Most importantly, she’s a kind and loving person. I am so proud of the woman she has become.

Happy Birthday, Sweet Girl. I love being your mom.

The New Living Room


After Larry and Lee finished painting, the room looked like this. We were very happy. Thanks, guys!

Then we got busy decorating, and this is what it looks like now. Notice that we covered up the doorway to the kitchen with one of our huge bookcases.

On Tuesday, The Singer and The Listener came over for the Grand Opening of the New Living Room. I really enjoyed entertaining in my new surroundings. It was a pleasant afternoon.

Now "all" I have to do is keep it clean! (Not easy for messies like me and Dr. Lobo.)

Our next adventure will be painting the outside of the house. Then we'll start remodeling the dining room. Lots of fun times ahead!