Friday, November 21, 2014


Belly dancing, baklava, and books!!!

Friday, November 21 was the book launch at Bookworks in Albuquerque, NM for FORBIDDEN by my good friend Kimberley Griffiths Little.

The evening started with a belly dancing demonstration. Then everyone in the audience was invited to get up and learn some belly dancing moves.  It was quite a workout and now I know how to do snake arms!

Kimberley has been working on FORBIDDEN for ten years. I remember the story from its early beginnings when we frequently brainstormed plot ideas together. Although she has published many middle grade novels, this is her debut young adult novel, and it's part of a trilogy.

FORBIDDEN starts in 1759 B.C. with a belly dancing scene celebrating sixteen-year-old Jayden's betrothal to a young man named Horeb. It's not a good match because Horeb ends up having a violent disposition and a dark past. After a terrible tragedy, Jayden's family gets separated from the rest of their group and must make it to the Summer Lands on their own. That's when Jayden meets Kadesh, a dark and handsome stranger, and begins a forbidden romance.

Jayden's family is from the lineage of Ishmael. A little Bible history-- Ishmael was the first son of Abraham by his wife Sarah's handmaiden, Hagar. Ishmael had twelve sons who were later known as the Twelve Princes. His half brother Isaac had two sons. One of Isaac's sons, Jacob, had twelve sons who became the twelve tribes of Israel. Jayden and her family are descendants of one of the twelve princes of Ishmael.

Dancing figures prominently throughout the book. Every important occasion and life event is marked with dancing in the Bedouin culture of this era. The book is similar in many ways to THE RED TENT. Kimberley did extensive research which included a trip to the Middle East. Below is a photo of some of the souvenirs she brought back.

Congratulations Kim!  I'm glad you're part of my writer's journey.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Dia De Los Muertos

Today was Dia de los Muertos and these are my photos from the 22nd annual Marigold Parade in the South Valley of Albuquerque, NM. Marigolds are the flower of the dead and they were decorating everything from hub caps to dog collars.

Dia de los Muertos is a much bigger holiday than Halloween in places with a strong Hispanic influence like Albuquerque, NM. In Mexico it's a National Holiday.

The festivities start with All Hallowed's Eve on October 31, followed by All  Saints Day on November 1,  and All Souls Day (or Day of the Dead) on November 2. For interesting insights on the differences between the three dates check out this article.

The hood of the car below is decorated with an altar honoring dead family members.

The parade ended at the Westside Park and Community Center where vendors set up tents and food trucks lined the parking lot. There were two stages for performers and more altars inside the Community Center to honor the departed.

These type of experiences are part of what makes me glad I live in such an interesting and diverse city.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

SCBWI Handsprings 2014

On 10/25/14 the New Mexico Branch of SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) held our 2014 conference in Albuquerque. Our faculty included the following: Julie Bliven - an editor with Charlesbridge, Patti Ann Harris - an art director for Scholastic, Liza Baker - an editor at Scholastic, and agent Sara Megibow.

Liza Baker and Patti Ann Harris recently moved from Little Brown to Scholastic. Although they spoke very fondly of their experiences at LB, they were excited to be working in a new department at Scholastic focusing on books for kids ages birth to 5. They have worked closely together for the last eighteen years and even referred to each other as Sony and Cher. They will oversee the Cartwheel and Orchard imprints and are looking for books with playful language that invites young children into the book experience.

Liza Baker did a breakout session on Perennial Themes in Board Books and Picture Books which included a discussion on holidays and bedtime stories among many other topics. She  strongly suggested taking ideas and combing them and gave the example of Jane Yolen's How Do Dinosaurs Say I'M MAD? Yolen artfully combines the theme of dinosaurs with the need to give kids a vehicle to talk about their emotions.

Julie Blivens conducted a breakout session on Voice in Middle Grade Fiction. She looked at several Newbery winners and the characteristics she saw in those books. In discussing how voice should illuminate a central theme, she suggested that authors ask themselves, "What is the idea I want readers to have linger with them after they close the book."

Other highlights of the conference was a Children's Book Trivia game on Friday night along with a book launch by local authors with new titles. Saturday included a First Pages Critique where the professional panel gave feedback on first pages submitted by several conference attendees.

Thanks to our Regional Advisory, Linda Tripp, our Assistant Regional Advisory, Caroline Starr Rose, and all of the volunteers who helped make this conference possible. It was another great Handsprings Event. I can't wait for the next one.