Tagged Reading

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 http://www.kimberlywillisholt.com.

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: http://judychristie.us9.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=381f56b0d0227bce67e22f87c&id=70b82b1335

6 Ways to Catch Your Breath as the Year Ends

You probably feel like you don’t have time to read this post.

You really should be doing something else. Or a bunch of something elses.
photo 1 - Copy (5)
Maybe you’re wondering how you’ll make it to the end of the year without pulling out your last hair, spending your last cent or losing your last hint of joy.

A few reminders

Let me remind you of six simple ways to catch your breath. Most of us know what we need to do. We just find it tough to follow through. I, who wrote an entire series of Hurry Less Worry Less books, have to do a course correction every year at this time.

When I started preaching the Hurry Less Worry Less gospel, I hoped we were headed toward a calmer simpler world.

I was wrong. We continue to overschedule, overspend, overeat—and wind up overwhelmed.

But we can change. It takes ongoing effort–but it’s oh-so-worth-it.

By deciding to make a few changes now, we can enter the New Year with optimism and purpose:

1. Don’t try to do everything. Let some things go. Saying “no” to one thing is saying “yes” to another. Choose how you will spend your time, energy, emotions and money these next few days..and next year.

2. Set aside an hour and do as many of the little things on your to-do list as you can. You’ll be amazed at how much you can get done and how good it makes you feel. Do this a few times, and you’ll breathe easier.

3. Don’t fret. Instead go with the flow. Don’t agonize over whether you must get this sweater or that candle, whether you’ve bought enough for the children or need to get something for your ex-cousin-in-law. Your house does not have to be perfect. Don’t worry over the dust under the sofa or the spider web that appears when the sun shines into the den.

4. Don’t try to take care of everything you’ve let slide all year. You’re not going to finish a novel, lose 20 pounds and paint the bedroom in the next few days. Give yourself a little grace. You can begin to set new goals for a new year.

5.Look for the good in each day. Focus on what is working and what’s right, instead of what’s messed up or what’s wrong. Have some fun!

6.As you head into the New Year, believe you can make needed changes. Decide what you want your life to look like next year; write down a few steps to make happy changes happen. Consider what gives you energy and what drains your energy. Do more of the former, far less of the latter. Enter the year with a positive attitude. It can change your life!

How about you? What steps help you slow down and enjoy each day more? Leave a comment for a chance to win a signed copy of one of my novels. I’ll draw a winner from the comments at noon CST on December 26.
And congrats to reader Stephanie who won the great print (see below) from Louisiana artist Don Cobb.

Where Wreath lives!
Where Wreath lives!

Adobe Photoshop PDFP.S. If you’re looking for a book to give as a gift, hope you’ll take a look at the new edition of “Wreath, A Girl,” released earlier this month. It’s easy to wrap and inexpensive to mail. http://www.amazon.com/Wreath-A-Girl-Judy-Christie/dp/1502932326

“I do not know where I would be if I hadn’t read ‘Wreath'” — a new edition of a favorite book

A teenaged stranger wrote an essay about how a character in one of my books changed her life.

The new cover!
The new cover!

And this reader’s words helped change mine. Today I ask you to celebrate with me the result—a revised edition of “Wreath, A Girl.”

Fueled by this girl’s feedback and that of other readers—teens and adults—I’m launching a revised edition of “Wreath, A Girl” today. The book has a slightly different name (so readers won’t think it’s a Christmas decorating book) and a new cover. But it has the same message of resilience, perseverance and love. As part of today’s launch party, I’m giving away downloadable gifts when you buy the book. More on that here: http://tinyurl.com/WreathSpecialOffer

The Wreath Willis Series

And this revised version paves the way for the second Wreath Willis novel to release in spring 2015!

More moving words from the reader

The teen reader who inspired me said she was failing four out of eight classes in the eighth grade and had been told she would likely be held back from high school. In an essay contest on www.stageoflife.com some months ago, she wrote:

“It was soon after this when I started reading ‘Wreath,’ a book about a teenage girl who lost her mother and was doing everything she could to avoid going into foster care and still get a scholarship into college. She led a miserable life for a few months, living in a junkyard and working four hours a day in addition to school. However, she also had to learn to ask for and accept help when she was in desperate need.

… Wreath taught me to never let others decide what my outcome was going to be, but also to never be afraid to ask for help.

Wreath inspired me to believe in myself and do all that I did. She is the reason I got straight As that semester and could go into high school with my friends.

To be honest, I do not know where I would be if I hadn’t read ‘Wreath.’”

This essay reminds me of the power of stories. I love writing novels that show how we can make it through hard times and how we all need a little help along the way—exactly the kind of novels I like to read, by the way.

I have to thank the wonderful Pulpwood Queen Book Club, the largest meeting book club in the world, too, for naming “Wreath” a Teen Book of the Year. And my 13-year-old granddaughter, who mentioned earlier this year that she had reread Wreath “and fell in love with her all over again.” And then there is my dental hygienist who emailed me to say she had recently gone back to Wreath, moved again by this story.

I hope you’ll order “Wreath, A Girl,” help this new edition get off to a great start–and get the free gifts (an assortment of creative things you can download easily, from me, author Lisa Wingate, fantastic mom food blogger Jessica Maher and Monica Carter Tagore at Rootsky Books). The celebration offer: http://tinyurl.com/WreathSpecialOffer Or take a look at the book, in paperback or e-book formats: http://tinyurl.com/Wreath-A-Girl.

During December, a portion of all sales will go to help homeless children–very much like Wreath Willis–here in North Louisiana. I hope that Wreath will find a home in your heart and guide you over a rough spot. Or maybe show you how to help a friend.

Win this print by Louisiana artist Don Cobb
Win this print by Louisiana artist Don Cobb

And let me hear from you. Has a book ever helped you through a tough time in life? Leave a comment for a chance to win a special framed print of VW vans in a junkyard, just like the one where Wreath lived for nearly a year. The painting is by Louisiana artist Don Cobb. I’ll draw at noon CST, December 8.

From middle school teacher to National Book Award finalist

A couple of summers ago, my husband, pre-teen granddaughter and I had one of those near-perfect vacation evenings in Los Angeles. Sitting on a patio on a lovely night, we visited with friend John Corey Whaley, who had moved to California to follow his writing dream and was writing his second novel, “Noggin.”

A California visit with Corey Whaley
A California visit with Corey Whaley
Former Louisiana teaching colleagues lined up for the release of "Noggin"
Former Louisiana teaching colleagues lined up for the release of “Noggin.”

The book, he told us, would be about a teenage boy who volunteers to have his head cryogenically frozen and wakes up five years later attached to another teenager’s body–a story about letting go of the past and coming to terms with the way people change.

Talk about change!

Corey’s fantastic real-life story gives “Noggin” a run for its fairy-tale money.

This week “Noggin” was named a Young Adult finalist for the National Book Award.

Corey, a friend since his days as a middle-school teacher with my husband, is one of the hottest young adult novelists in the United States.

He gave up teaching English and has become a discussion topic in those same classes. He writes with an offbeat spirit and deft turn of phrase. Reviewers mention his “oddball” and “madcap” style–and his unique ability to connect with readers.

His debut novel, “Where Things Come Back,” is a Southern story about a missing teenager in Arkansas and the reappearance of a thought-to-be-extinct woodpecker, a la the Ivory-billed.

That novel, released in 2011, changed Corey’s life. It won the Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Fiction and the William C. Morris Award for Debut Young Adult Fiction.

What he’s learned since writing his first book:
“I’ve learned to be more patient with myself–that sometimes I need a lot of time to develop characters and ideas and that writing a book isn’t about racing against the clock, but about making sure the story I want to tell is the one I take the time to actually put down on the page.”

Surprises in the writing life:
“I think the biggest surprise about being a full-time writer is how unbelievable other people find it–always asking ‘that’s all you do?’ But I always explain that it’s the only thing I’ve ever been very good at, so it’s the only thing I can do.

Advice to someone who wants to write a novel:
“Just write it already–if you have the right idea and the talent, the book will happen for you the way it’s supposed to. It’s true to write what you know, but also don’t be afraid to research what you don’t know for inspiration. And just know that every writer/author has to edit and change pretty much everything he/she writes, so there’s no perfect first draft–don’t beat yourself up trying to write one.”

How about you? Have you ever followed a dream? Leave a comment and tell us about it.

Meet the Pulpwood Queens: Serious book lovers who don’t take themselves too seriously

Picture a big room full of exuberant readers who talk about books with affection.

Yes, that's Pat Conroy and me waiting tables.
Yes, that’s Pat Conroy and me waiting tables.
The wonderful Kathy L. Murphy, head queen.
The wonderful Kathy L. Murphy, head queen.

Add a few feather boas and a hefty number of tiaras.

Put some of the nation’s best-known authors at the microphone.

Add a major costume party.

That’s what East Texan Kathy L. Murphy pulls together each January in what has become an epic book festival, held regionally and talked about nationally. And I’m delighted to be on the program again in 2015, this time discussing “Magnolia Market.”

Early-bird registration open

Early-bird registration for the 15th annual Pulpwood Queens Girlfriends’ Weekend, moving to Nacogdoches, Texas, for 2015, closes October 1, and I hope you have this on your book-loving radar. (Details below.)

I met Kathy a half-dozen years ago at a Shreveport book festival. She has since become a friend and the only person who can talk me into dressing up like a fried-green tomato or Reporter Barbie or a circus cotton-candy seller–for the love of books. After a divorce, Kathy relocated her Jefferson, Texas, Beauty and the Book Shop to a small salon in Hawkins, Texas, and is moving the annual book festival, too.

She chooses the book-club’s reading list and festival authors with care: “I look for a story that is well written, from a perspective I have not heard before, it has to be discussable… I love to help first-time, first-book authors get discovered.”

Fellow authors Marybeth Whalen, Lisa Wingate, Carla Stewart and yours truly.
Fried-Green-Tomato fun: Fellow authors Marybeth Whalen, Lisa Wingate, Carla Stewart and yours truly.
The festival sprang from her book club, which she founded in 2000 and fiercely shepherds, “where tiaras are mandatory and reading good books is the rule.” Girlfriends’ Weekend has drawn such authors as Fannie Flagg, “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café;” Pat Conroy, “The Great Santini” and “The Prince of Tides”; and John Berendt, “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.”

The interaction between readers and writers at Girlfriends’ Weekend takes on the feeling of a family reunion. It begins on a Thursday evening with an author dinner, where authors wait tables and attendees receive signed books. Friday and Saturday are filled with author panels, book-signings and readers chatting about favorite books. The event wraps up with a costume-party extravaganza, the “Hair Ball.”

Kathy and her members are on a mission to promote authors, books, literacy and reading—and have “some big time fun” while they are at it. “We are changing the world for the better, one author, one book, one book club member, one chapter at a time by reading and sharing our wonderful reads.”

Are you in a book club? I’d love to hear about your club and what you’re reading. Please leave a comment.

To register: Pulpwood Queen Girlfriends Weekend book festival
January 15-18, 2015
Nacogdoches, Texas
Who can attend: Anyone over age 21. The gathering is not for women only, but usually the only men who attend are authors. “We welcome all to join our book club, regardless of race, color, religion, gender or the fact they may have had cosmetic surgery or color enhanced hair,” Kathy says. “We come to this event for a time-out from all the stress and worry of normal life; it’s our escape to book-lovers’ paradise.”
Nearly 50 authors will speak, including Bill Dedman, author of “Empty Mansions.”
Early-Bird weekend-package: $350 for non-members of Pulpwood Queens Book club; $250 for members. Discount ends October 1. For a menu of registration options, see www.beautyandthebook.com.
Pulpwood Queen Book Club lifetime membership: $25

***

Magnolia Market final cover 10.24.13Don’t forget: “Magnolia Market,” my 8th novel, releases September 23. Join us to celebrate from 5-7 p.m., September 23, at Barnes & Noble Booksellers in Shreveport, La. You can pre-order “Magnolia Market” at: http://www.amazon.com/Magnolia-Market-Trumpet-Vine-Christie-ebook/dp/B00H6XM2NC/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=&qid=

More Dog Days of Summer: An author & her four-legged “helpers”

Ane dog 2Ane's dogsFriend Ane Mulligan, who writes Southern fried fiction, is a must for a Dog Days of Summer chat on the Kitchen Couch.
Ane has a new novel and two dogs of, as she says, biblical proportions.

About the dogs

“Shadrach was our first English mastiff. He was a cute puppy, but as he grew, we got concerned about his ancestry…Shadrach is half marshmallow. When the hubs bought him a new bed, he was afraid of it and wouldn’t sit on it. So Hubs laid down on it. Shadrach sat on Hubs.” Shadrach is 8 years old and weighs 220 pounds.
“Hubs and Son decided we needed another mastiff. I said, ‘Absolutely not!’ Absolutely not’s name is Oliver Twist… He’s either slobbering or he’s in the water. We’re pretty sure he’s half porpoise.”

“Chapel Springs Revival”

Ane’s novel, “Chapel Springs Revival,” will be out September 8, and it’s a small-town, big-hearted story that Anne Chapel Springs Revivalreflects Ane’s quirky humor and wonderful voice. I had the pleasure of reading an advance copy and felt like I was visiting people I’d met before:

Everybody in the small town of Chapel Springs, Georgia, knows best friends Claire and Patsy. It’s impossible not to, what with Claire’s antics and Patsy’s self-appointed mission to keep her friend out of trouble. And trouble abounds. Chapel Springs has grown dilapidated and the tourist trade has slackened. With their livelihoods threatened, they join forces to revitalize the town. No one could have guessed the real issue needing restoration is personal.

If you are thinking of writing a book

I’ve turned to Ane for encouragement and feedback many times since setting off for Green, Louisiana, in my first novel several years ago. She’s a world-class encourager! If you’re considering writing a book: “Don’t think – do. If you’ve got the gift of storytelling, then go for it. The best tip I can give is look for each character’s problem. They all have one. Play journalist and interview them until you find it.” Ane is also president of the award-winning literary site, www.NovelRocket.com, which is full of excellent writing information.

More about Ane

Ane has worn many different hats: hairdresser, legislative affairs director (a fancy name for a lobbyist), drama Ane mugdirector, playwright, humor columnist, and novelist. She firmly believes coffee and chocolate are two of the four major food groups. Ane resides in Suwanee, GA, with her artist husband, her chef son, and, of course, her dogs. You can find her at www.anemulligan.com, Google+, Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, and Pinterest.

How’s your summer reading going? Are you wrapping up and heading into fall? Leave a comment, and I’ll draw at noon CST on August 29 for an early copy of “Magnolia Market,” my next novel, also out in September. If you want to pre-order “Magnolia Market,” it’s available at your favorite booksellers, including:http://www.amazon.com/Magnolia-Market-Trumpet-Vine-Christie/dp/0310330572

An Author Friend & Her Dog During Dog Days of Summer

The Dog Days of Summer have officially arrived (yes, they really are a thing), bringing a perfect time to read on the Kitchen Couch–and an opportunity to introduce you to one of my favorite writers, Lisa Wingate, and her adorable dog and literary sidekick, Huckleberry.IMG_6051
Lisa is a hero of mine and a great southern writer. Huck makes me smile.

A free book

Lisa is the author of more than 20 books, including “The Prayer Box,” FREE now on Kindle, Nook and iTunes (to be read on one of your iThings). She’s an all-around nice person who writes “Fiction That’s Good for the Soul.” With a deft touch, she blends feel-good, inspirational stories with real-world challenges–always with characters you’d like to chat with.

“The Prayer Box” is about what happens when Tandi Jo Reese, running from a messy, dangerous past, is charged with the task of cleaning out an old-timer’s house on Hatteras Island. Tandi’s life changes when she discovers 81 carefully decorated prayer boxes from the life of Iola Anne Poole.

To download “The Prayer Box” for free for a limited time:Prayer Box cover (2)
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Prayer-Box-Lisa-Wingate-ebook/dp/B00CH7KXY2/ref=sr_1_1_title_1_kin?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1405455210&sr=1-1&keywords=prayer+box
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-prayer-box-lisa-wingate/1114893894?ean=9781414386881
iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-prayer-box/id640268312?mt=11

Read more about Lisa at www.LisaWingate.com or take a look at her blog post with background on “The Prayer Box”– http://www.southernbelleviewdaily.com/its-a-belle-book-club-week-for-the-prayer-box/ Her next book, “The Story Keeper,” will be out in September.download movie Crimson Peak

Meet Huckleberry

And then there’s Lisa’s dog, Huckleberry, the real star of this post. He’d make me want to read her books even if she wasn’t a terrific writer. Named for Huck Finn, of course, he’s her literary companion, dogging her steps (so to speak) as she writes and providing needed chuckles when she takes a break.Lisa and Huckleberry

He’s the perfect pooch to kick off a little Dog-Day Reading in our Kitchen Couch Summer Reading Club, don’t you think?

An aside on writing about dogs

While I don’t own a dog, I write dogs into my novels and get attached to them: Sugar Marie. Holly Beth. Kramer. And, of course, Mannix (the beloved 3-legged dog with a starring role in “The Glory of Green”).http://www.amazon.com/The-Glory-Green-Gone-Series/dp/1426700563/ref=tmm_pap_title_0 In my next novel, “Magnolia Market,” you’ll meet Willie and Howie.http://www.amazon.com/Magnolia-Market-Trumpet-Vine-Christie-ebook/dp/B00H6XM2NC/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=&qid= To me, pets add another layer to how a character reacts–and they’re fun to name!

I also enjoy reading books with dogs in the plot. Romance Author Kristan Higgins comes to mind; each of her novels has a dog (or cat) with a starring role. For more on Kristan’s fun romances, see http://www.kristanhiggins.com/.

How about you? Do you like stories with pets in them? I’d love to hear from you–and to learn what you’re reading now that we’re in the middle of July. Leave a comment for a chance to win a signed copy of one of Lisa’s books. I’ll draw at noon CST Friday, July 18. And stay tuned for more authors and their dogs (and maybe even a cat or two). IMG_5605

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Movie ‘Casting JonBenet’ was released in April 28, 2017 in genre Documentary. Kitty Green was directed this movie and starring by Hannah Cagwin. This movie tell story about Twenty years after the modern world’s most notorious child murder, the legacy of the crime and its impact are explored.

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With love from a book launch

Judy at book signing Sept 24 2013The work of a writer is often solitary, months spent putting nouns and verbs together, inventing towns and making up people to talk to.Allegiant 2016 streaming

Then book-launch week arrives, and that sometimes lonesome life goes very public. The nervous author and the brand-new book jump into the world, ready for readers to have a look.

This experience, I confess, is both exhilarating and terrifying, filled with so much fun and a frightful case of nerves. These are the intense days when I hope extra much that a story I love will find its way into the hearts of readers.Louisiana cookies photo

Last week was launch week for “Sweet Olive,” my seventh novel, and I owe gratitude to so many of you–readers, family, friends, my publisher (Zondervan), booksellers, other writers and my terrific agent. The success of a book depends on the kindness of many, and I am richly blessed.

When I became an author, I decided that every book deserved a party–refreshments, prizes and an out-and-out celebration. I intended it as a thank you to readers, but it has become a time when readers enrich my life in ways even chatty me finds hard to describe.

The “Sweet Olive” party was held at the Shreveport Barnes & Noble Booksellers and included a book fair for Common Ground Community, a nonprofit in a North Louisiana neighborhood, an opportunity to share the joy of books with others. More than 100 guests came to greet “Sweet Olive,” and we made lots of noise as we laughed and visited. We ate  cookies shaped like Louisiana to celebrate fiction with a Louisiana flavor (see photo) and drew for prizes that included a sweet olive shrub.

To celebrate with blog visitors and other online readers, I collected an assortment of prizes, from pralines to an iron fleur d’lis to locally-made Camellia Coffee to signed copies of “Sweet Olive” and drew from your comments. Readers from all over the country won.

When I write a novel, I hole up for a while (I didn’t leave my neighborhood for nine days in August while finishing my next novel). When I read a book, I burrow up on the green couch, savoring quiet time.

But books are public as well as private. We recommend the ones we like. We collect them and show them off in bookcases in our homes. And we gather with authors to celebrate.

That fills my heart and makes me eager to sit down and start that solitary walk again. Thank you, all, for making the launch of “Sweet Olive” such a sweet time.

photo-6Have you ever been to a book-signing or to hear an author speak? What led you to do so? Are books public or private to you? Leave a comment for a chance to win a signed copy of “Sweet Olive.” I’ll draw at noon CST on Friday, Oct. 18. If you’re interested in reading,”Sweet Olive,” here’s more info:http://judychristie.com/sweet-olive.html