From Books

Kitchen Couch Summer Reading Club time!

It’s time for one of my favorite author activities — our annual Kitchen Couch Summer Reading Club.

This might be the easiest club ever — you don’t have to sign up and you’ll never need a name tag. From the green kitchen couch right here, we can chat about what we’re reading and recommend books to each other.

Whether summer will take you to faraway places, down the street to the neighborhood pool or to the sofa with a fan blowing on your face, the season is at hand for extra reading.

What’s on your list? Leave a comment below, and you’ll be entered in a drawing for a $25 gift certificate to Barnes & Noble or Amazon (your choice). We’ll draw at noon Central Time on June 30.


Gone to Green e-book free

To kick summer off, I’m giving away “Gone to Green,” my first novel, free, as an e-book on Amazon from June 15-19. You can download this onto a free Kindle app and read it on your smartphone, tablet or laptop—or your Kindle, of course.

“Gone to Green” starts a 5-book series about big-city journalist Lois Barker who winds up running a small newspaper in rural Louisiana and falling in love with the town and the people. The series is upbeat, which perhaps we all can use these days, but it also tackles hard topics such as racism and social injustice.


A summer special on Magnolia Market

For more summer reading fun at a bargain, “Magnolia Market,” my Trumpet & Vine novel from HarperCollins, is on sale throughout June for $1.99.

Avery Broussard needs a fresh start, but finds that’s not as easy as the self-help books make it sound. Running a corner grocery store in the fictional town of Samford—named for the street on which I grew up—she finds that she can recover from loss and move on to a second chance at love.


Working on the third book in the Wreath series

This summer I’m finishing the third book in the Wreath Willis series and enjoying Wreath’s journey.

Both teen and adult readers tell me how much they’ve enjoyed watching Wreath grow in “Wreath, A Girl” and “Wreath, In Summer.” Each of these books is available in digital and paperback formats.

Wreath is a 16-year-old whose mother has just died; committed to graduating from high school, she lives alone in a junkyard in rural Louisiana until she can finish school, running from an evil man and trying to make a home with new friends.


Summer Reading Photo Contest

We’ll also have our second annual Summer Reading Photo Contest too! Take a “reading” shot of you or a friend or relative (with their permission, of course) and e-mail it to me judyatjudychristiedotcom (trying to fool the spammers with that).

Last year’s entries ranged from a reader photographing herself in a hammock to a friend reading in her motor home. A judge with photo experience will pick the winner, which will be announced the week after Labor Day. The deadline for e-mailing your entries is 5 p.m. Central Time, Wednesday, September 7. No worries! I’ll remind you again.

What are you reading this summer? Leave a comment for a chance to win a $25 gift certificate to buy books!

P.S. I love reading, writing and talking about books and have launched a Facebook author page. Please stop by to like it and keep up with contests, new books and other news.

A Southern sense of place in stories: A conversation with Kimberly Willis Holt

As a reader and writer, I’m partial to southern stories. I live in Louisiana, a state full of so many tales that an author could spend a lifetime capturing them. Each of my eight novels is set in a fictional Louisiana town. So I particularly enjoy reading the middle-grade stories of author Kimberly Willis Holt, woven from her Louisiana roots.

Kimberly Willis Holt
Kimberly Willis Holt

Kimberly, who moved frequently as a child in a Navy family, considers Central Louisiana her “emotional home.” She draws on this setting and her Louisiana family’s gift for storytelling in each of her books—including her new middle-grade novel, “Dear Hank Williams.”

I first encountered Kimberly years ago at a book festival at the site of the iconic Louisiana Hayride where musical giants such as Elvis Presley got their start—a spot that plays a key role in Kimberly’s new book, “Dear Hank Williams.” (Sitting in the green room used by such musical stars offers a thrill all its own, but that’s a blog for another day.)Book Column Dear Hank Williams

“Dear Hank Williams” is set in Central Louisiana in 1948. Tate P. Ellerbee’s teacher has given her class an assignment–to learn the art of letter-writing. (As an avid letter writer, this is yet another thing I love about this book.) Tate’s chosen pen pal: Hank Williams, a singer she heard on the Hayride.

Kimberly has written such great novels as “My Louisiana Sky,” “When Zachary Beaver Came to Town” and “The Water Seeker.” She’s a National Book Award winner and has had her books made into movies. She pulls me in to stories with her keen sense of place and the emotions she evokes.

How she approaches settings

“When I’m writing a story, I want to make the reader feel like they are in the setting. That’s achieved by many layers–not just the way a place looks, but the way the people interact with each other, what they talk and care about, too.”

Her attention to emotional impact

“My emotions are close to the surface. I think that’s why I’m able to easily add that dimension into my work. I’m not interested in reading or writing stories that don’t explore the heart.”

Choosing ideas to write about

“When you get excited about the idea, so excited that it will hurt you if you don’t write it, it’s probably time. For me, the excitement comes when I hear the voice of a character speaking to me. Then I know it’s time.”

Coming-of-age stories (which I love)

“…Almost all my ideas are coming-of-age ideas. To me a coming-of-age story is a story about a young person who has to make an adult decision. In doing so, life is never quite the same.”

For more, including public appearances and advice for writers, see

Are you drawn to books with a sense of place? What sorts of settings appeal to you? Hope you’ll leave a comment.

And congrats to blog reader M.A. who won our April drawing for a collection of Louisiana Booklovers’ items, including a signed copy of the new edition of  my YA novel, “Wreath, A Girl.” And to e-newsletter subscriber A.R. who won 10 signed copies of “Magnolia Market,” my fiction with a Louisiana flavor, for a book discussion. Have you signed up for my e-newsletter? I announce new books and contests there and will never share your e-mail address with others:

Shower friends with favorite books—and build your to-be-read list

Bride-to-be Megan Katie
Bride-to-be Megan Katie

Megan Katie, a community sustainability planner in Chapel Hill, has loved books her entire life—so friends here in Louisiana celebrated her upcoming marriage by adding to her library.

Guests brought favorite titles and received XOXO bookmarks as favors. They played book-themed games and drew for a bookstore gift certificate.

Wouldn’t it be fun to adapt this for any occasion — book parties for babies, for graduation, for birthdays or for Mom’s and Dad’s Day?! Or, how about a book-lovers’ brunch where each person gives a book and gets a book? (I want to give one of these parties!)

Book talk spans the years

A mom and daughter hosted Megan’s party. “I love to read,” Laura, who will be a bridesmaid in Megan’s wedding, said. “Megan and I have been sending book recommendations to each other since we were little.”

“I love that people gave her a very diverse set of books…Some brought classics or their all-time favorites.”

Guests shared quotes from favorite books. “That was fun too,” co-hostess Wendy said, “because people said, ‘What book was that in?  I want to read that.’”

Megan the Reader

The bride-to-be is a member of the “Best Book Club in N.C.,” a group of women “in their late 20s and early 30s who get together to gossip and chat about books.” She always carries a book “because I never want to be without one if I have the opportunity to read.”

Shout-outs for classics & newer titles

Megan: “Hands-down, favorite author is Agatha Christie. I’m considering naming my firstborn daughter Agatha.”

Laura: “I love fiction, anything with a good plot. My favorite classic is ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’ by Alexandre Dumas. I also love the Harry Potter books, of course.” Her gift? “I wanted to give her something that I knew she hadn’t yet read, which wasn’t an easy task. I decided on ‘Where’d You Go, Bernadette’ by Maria Semple. It has been my favorite read in the past year. I took it to the beach last summer, and I didn’t want to put it down.”

Mother-of-the-bride Carla, who gets more pleasure from reading than perhaps anyone I know, gave her daughter, “The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry.”  “My problem was that Meg and I share our ‘favorites’ with each other all the time, so I had to give her a relatively new book.  I had recently read this book and really enjoyed it.  It is about a bookstore owner; Meg and I both would love to work in a small bookstore.”

Wendy gave her all-time favorite book, “The Color of Water” by James McBride, the 2013 National Book Award winner. “It is a story of a woman whose love knows no bounds, combined with the respect, tenacity, values,  spiritual  discovery  and self-realization that she passes on to her children.”

Among the books given as gifts

“All The Light We Cannot See,” Anthony Doerr

“The Day After Tomorrow,” Allan Folsom

“This is the Story of a Happy Marriage,” Ann Patchett

“Yes, Please,” Amy Poehler

“Housekeeping,” Marilynne Robinson

“The Four Agreements,” Don Miguel Ruiz

”The Giving Tree,” Shel Silverstein

“The Help,” Kathryn Stockett

“The Cape Ann,” Faith Sullivan

What book would you take to a book party and why? Leave a comment for a chance to win a Louisiana booklover’s collection of goodies, including a copy of the new edition of my YA novel, “Wreath, A Girl.” I’ll draw at noon CST on April 21.  For more on “Wreath, A Girl,” see

Congrats, too, to Annette R. of Shreveport who won my e-newsletter drawing of a set of 10 signed copies of  “Magnolia Market” for her book club or friends. If you haven’t signed up for my newsletter (on my home page), hope you’ll do so!