bookstore 2

Thoreau stands beside Hunter S. Thompson.
Picture books spill onto the floor,
left in mid-sentence by a child.
Lives lived, dreams shattered,
mountains climbed, hearts broken.
All these stories simply wait
for the reader to come
through the door.

Silence is not required
but reverence for the writer
and the arduous task
of telling one’s story
keeps the room hushed.

Beautiful covers entice
the hopeful reader.
Maybe the story that
can save a life
is hidden in these creamy pages.
Perhaps a new perspective
resides in the last line,
on the last page
of a new adventure.

Bookstores are filled with hope.
hope for understanding,
hope for connection,
hope for renewal.

The magic of a bookstore
waits just beyond the glass door.


The Fox


For the second morning this week, my dogs and I were not the only denizens of the sidewalk in the predawn hours. On Monday, we were about a block from home when the dogs stopped to smell something in the grass. I glanced up and there, across the street, less than 25 feet from us was a fox. For a glorious moment or two, the fox and I stood transfixed. My dogs were still oblivious to the wild creature so very near.

Georgia’s head popped up quickly. Perhaps she caught the scent of the fox or she was done with the smell in the grass. Max was quick to react. My dogs growled and pulled at their leashes as they lunged in the direction of the fox.

The fox, while startled, did not move immediately. He considered the dogs and then trotted up the street away from us. About half way up the block, the fox stopped, turned and regarded us with curiosity before venturing into a neighbor’s yard.

This time of year we often see a fox at a distance down the street in the evening. Sometimes the dogs pick up the fox’s scent in the dewy morning grass of our own yard. However, there is something thrilling about a close, unexpected encounter.

Today’s walk was brisk, thanks to a chill in the air. Thus, it was especially surreal to look across the street and see our friend the fox watching us. I wonder if he looks at Max and Georgia as long lost relatives? Is it coincidence or curiosity bringing us together in the early morning?

I cannot wait for our walk tomorrow.

In the present

record player

It was drizzling when I walked out this morning. The day promised to be full of activity. Thinking too much about it may exhaust me. But, one thing I love about my mornings is the trip in.  Teri Gross on the radio, Northside Social for coffee and then time by myself to write, prepare and organize my thinking.

Jazz music helps to settle and center me in the morning. Something about the rich tones and the way jazz envelops the room that makes being present so much easier.

Our brains whirl away at a hundred miles a minute: the grocery list, the pet store, tomorrow’s lesson, tonight’s dinner, the novel in my head and the harrowing story on the news. So many competing interests for attention. No wonder it is hard to stay in the present! I imagine most of us spend half of our lives living in the past or future.

I find when I am in the present, my vision is crisper, my senses more attune and my shoulders relax out the perpetual hunch a hectic day can produce. My goal in these busy days: deep breaths and centering myself.

My 3 Favorite Outdoor Spaces

Inspired by my friend Sally, who just listed her 10 favorite spaces, I have created a list of my 3 favorite outdoor spaces. There is something special and reverential about  sacred outdoor spaces. Each of my three spaces holds personal memories. I can literally step back in time just by looking at an image or catching the scent of a cool fall morning or a warm summer day.

  1. The New Jersey Pine Barrens

My grandparents were founding members of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation. In fact, author John McPhee included the story of a walk through the woods with my grandparents in his book, The Pine Barrens. My childhood was filled with canoe trips, searching for spring peepers at dusk and walking through the woods near cranberry bogs.



2. Primrose Hill, Regent’s Park, London

When I was 21 years old, I lived in London for a short while. I loved ambling through the parks and catching different views of the city I love. Fast forward 20+ years and I returned to London to visit my son who was living in London for a semester. One beautiful morning, we walked to Regent’s Park. In a corner of the park, not far from the London Zoo sits Primrose Hill, a gentle rise ending with gorgeous views of the city of London. I love the spot so much, this photo is the screen saver on my phone!


3. Lake Michigan, Chicago

Oh how I love Chicago. Another city that has come in and out of my life through the years. There is nothing better than walking along the lakefront in the early morning. I could sit by the lake for hours.


Thanks for the inspiration Sally!

Robins: Harbingers of Spring


When I was young, my mother would bring the car to a screeching halt whenever she saw the first robin in spring. I can remember my father fuming when she would yell out, “Stop the car! There is a robin!”

Today, I understand my mother’s enthusiasm. Robins are beautiful creatures. But more than simply adding ornament to the surroundings, robins are a sign of budding trees, blooming flowers and later sunsets.

This morning my walk was filled with robin sightings. I know warmer days are ahead!

NoVa Teen Book Festival: There have to be rules!


Today I attended the NoVa Teen Book Festival. This local YA book festival draws some fairly amazing writers to our Arlington, VA backyard. Jason Reynolds, Kwame Alexander, Julie Murphy, Shaun David Hutchison, L.M. Elliot, Matt de la Pena, Karen McManus and Dhonielle Clayton have shared their talents in recent years.

This morning I listened to a panel of fantasy writers talk about building new worlds and creating memorable characters. One of the authors, Tomi Adeyemi, is front of mind for the book world. This 24-year-old Harvard grad just inked one of the biggest book contracts in history. Her debut novel, Children of Blood and Bone, is set in West Africa and she likens it to Black Panther with magic. Fox Searchlight pictures paid seven figures for the right to make a movie. This is heady stuff for a young person. However, Adeyemi was charming, down-to-earth and eager to chat with other authors about fantasy writing.

My favorite tidbit from Adeyemi is that she found the idea for her fantasy tale after seeing a poster of fierce African warriors. She wanted to know them, write about them. The story idea actually came much later. I can’t wait for my students to read Children of Blood and Bone. 

Another big takeaway from the discussion had to do with the rules of fantasy writing. All four authors on the panel talked about the importance of grounding fantasy worlds in clear rules. A reader will not trust you if you change the rules midstream, they noted. For example, A.C. Gaughen has a scientist friend read her drafts. If a character has the power to move air, the character must understand that a storm will soon follow.

YA writers are wonderfully generous people. I can’t wait to share my notes with my student writers.




Student Slices


I encouraged my 8th grade students to join me in “slicing” during the month of March. But, late in the school year life can be stressful. I was uncertain if any students would jump on board.

Last Sunday morning, with coffee in hand, I popped into our class blog to see if any students had accepted the challenge. My heart soared when I saw a number of posts from students. Each writer selected beautiful, meaningful images to herald his or her post.  What’s more, the slices were true to the intention of the Slice of Life challenge. Students wrote about moments from the day: a storm, homework, volleyball practice, a doctor’s appointment.

Thanks to a wonderful teacher, Sally Donnelly, we all have SOLSC calendars and I have provided stickers so students can track their participation. Each day more students are joining the writing brigade. Our writing community is knit tighter daily as slice upon slice add up to a delectable pie.