Simply Sunday Catch-Up

This week’s Simply Saturday comes to you on Sunday. It’s been that kind of week!

 The first piece of news is for anyone who teaches Speak! Victor Malo-Juvera, who has taught Speak for years, researched and wrote his dissertation about how using Speak in the classroom changed his students’ attitudes about rape myths. He has generously written a summary for my website, and allowed me to link to his full dissertation. If you need data to take to your curriculum director or the chair of your English department, Victor has it waiting for you.

   We’ve had a Barred Owl hooting in the Forest this week.

   I prefer to call it a Bard Owl and imagine that it is composing sonnets.



 Sheila May-Stein, the new librarian at Pittsburgh’s Manchester PreK-8 school, was horrified to learn that her library had a grand total of 40 useable fiction books. She is using the power of social media to make sure that her students have the number and kinds of books that they deserve. I’m putting a box of books for them in the mail tomorrow. If you want to donate, send the books to Sheila May-Stein, Library, Pittsburgh Manchester PreK-8, 1612 Manhattan St., Pittsburgh, PA 15233. Even easier, you can order books to be sent directly to the school via Sheila’s Amazon Wish List. A longer blog post gives more information.

 You guys know that I have a very good relationship with my first husband, Greg. He runs a software company that makes patient management software for pediatricians. As part of his company’s charitable mission, Greg coordinates free health clinics in Jamaica, bringing down doctors, nurses, and medicine, and working with local medical teams to take these resources to where they are most needed on the island. Greg made this brief video about this year’s trip that I thought you might enjoy. We’re all very proud of him and the good work that he does.

I’m headed West on Thursday so I can speak to the Arizona English Teachers Association. Will I see you there?

Save A Boob, Win A Shirt

My daughter Meredith and I are walking in the Susan G. Koman 3-Day, 60-mile walk in Philadelphia in a few weeks. Meredith needs help to complete her fundraising.

Some people don’t want to contribute because in January, the Komen Foundation nearly cut off funding to Planned Parenthood’s Breast Health Services Project, which provides free breast exams to uninsured and underinsured women. When this went public, a furor ensued. I wrote to each member of the Komen Foundation’s Board of Directors. I’ve donated a lot to Komen over the years and I live in a community with thousands and thousands of women who rely on Planned Parenthood for breast health services. If Komen wouldn’t help poor women get breast health care, then I would no longer help Komen.

I was not alone in that sentiment.

Komen rescinded the decision to withdraw funding. They now give as much to Planned Parenthood’ Breast Health Services Project as they did before the uproar. Planned Parenthood received so much in donations as a result of the publicity, they just started a new breast health initiative to expand coverage of breast cancer screenings and education. There was also a shake-up of the leadership at the Komen Foundation.

So I’m still walking. And donating.

If it is in your heart (and budget) to help, I have a deal for you.

Donate at least $30 to Meredith’s walk and I’ll send you a free Mad Woman In The Forest Tee-Shirt.


When you donate, put your name (or a made-up name) that will show up in Honor Roll of Donors on Meredith’s fundraising page. Or take a screenshot of your receipt. Email me either proof of your donation at madwomanintheforest AT gmail DOT com. Please include what size tee-shirt you want, and what your mailing address is. I can’t guarantee the color, but if you want me to sign the shirt, please let me know.

Save a boob, get a shirt. Got it?



Simply Saturday

The weather has cooled down nicely up here. Our wood for the winter arrives on Monday and its a darn good thing; we’re going to need fires in the woodstove to take the chill out of the air very soon.

Banned Books Week is almost upon us. What will you be doing to recognize it this year?

 Bookmans, an independent bookstore with six locations in Arizona, created this video for the 2012 Banned Books Week Virtual Read-Out.

I have not heard any banning attempts on any of my books so far this school year. Have the censors moved on to other targets? Even though Speak was restored to the shelves of the high school in Liberty, MO, Slaughterhouse-Five was not.

In other news, Kristen Stewart named Speak as one of the three books that changed her life.

This PSA aired after the first showing of Kristen in the Speak movie. The hotline had never gotten such a tremendous response. Blew. Up. The. Phones.

Someone sent me a link to a recent interview in which she said that the response to both the movie and the PSA helped her see the impact that film can have in people’s lives. The embed code for the video is screwed up, but you should be able to see it on The Hollywood Reporter site. She talks about Speak starting at about the 3:40 mark. She was so, so young when she made the movie, but her talent was undeniable. It’s been fun to watch her develop as an actress. (Though when the press hounds her, I get really defensive and want to start yelling at people!)

Along with writing like crazy, I’m getting ready for my trip to Arizona at the end of the month, where I’ll be speaking at the Arizona English Teacher’s Association Conference.

I’m also trying to pull together the Common Core Standards that can be met by using Chains and Forge in the English or Social Studies classroom. Do any of you have any experience with this?

That’s all for now. Time to dig out a sweatshirt and get ready for a bonfire tonight.

Simply Saturday



Blogging every day in August helped me get back into the blogging habit. I’ll try to blog at least once a week – on Saturdays – to keep you guys up to date about what’s going on up here in The Forest.

We are FINALLY finished with our 507-day renovation!!!! Do you want to see some pictures or would that be TMI?

I am writing again like,…. well, like a madwoman. My health has been good this summer (last year it really sucked) and although I have have a bunch of tests and doctor visits later this month, I think it will be smooth sailing ahead. I’m hoping to give my new YA to my editor by Halloween and then, AND THEN I get to dive into the historical research for ASHES, which will be an absolute delight.

The thing about writing as intensely as I am right now (12-hour days are not uncommon) is that it makes me a fairly boring person. I’m not watching movies or following celebrity gossip. My fantasy football team is in order, however. A girl must have her priorities!

I make time to read, too. Right now I’m reading

a biography of David Foster Wallace, and

which is a fascinating book about slaveholder Francis Scott Key and the race riot of 1835 which took place in Washington DC, and

fiction about the Olympics and friendship and sacrifice.

Now that the renovation is over we are beginning to plan for winter, which means any day now a truck is going to drop off 30-cord of firewood. I wish you all lived close enough that you could help stack it.

What are you reading? Why are you enjoying it?


Help Me Celebrate My 20 Year Writing Anniversary


Twenty years ago today, I put Meredith, my then-youngest child, on the school bus so she could start first grade. (Yes, that’s her above.)

She was VERY excited to go. Honestly, I was very excited for her to go, too. I loved that girl with all my heart, but she was what we call in the North Country, “a heller.” Not a mean-spirited kid, but one that was 100% energy 100% of the time. If she was awake, she needed my full attention or there would be trouble.

After the bus pulled away, all the other moms and the stay-at-home dad went to the pancake house to celebrate, as was our annual tradition on the first day of school.

I did not join them.

I went back to the house and wrote down the date in my journal: September 7, 1992. I wrote a promise to myself under the date: that I would focus my writing energies for the next five years on writing a children’s book that was good enough to be published. If I could not make that happen by September 7, 1997, I would quit writing and go to nursing school.

My first book was published in 1996. I never went to nursing school, much to my mother’s dismay. She was always suspicious of this “writing thing.”

I could never have predicted what would happen as a result of the promise I made myself that day. I’ve published seven picture books, three historical novels, five YA novels, and a middle grade series. I am working on five books right now. My career has gone places I didn’t even know existed.

Meredith has grown up, too. She earned a teaching degree and is working in software sales, waiting for school districts to start hiring again. She got married in May, and bought her first house in July.


Thirty years ago this month, my mother (seen reading to Meredith above) was diagnosed with breast cancer. Thanks to good doctors and health insurance, she survived for 27 years, though the disease dogged her repeatedly. I also have a cousin and aunt who wrestled with breast cancer. (The children’s literature world learned this week about Judy Blume’s breast cancer.)

In honor of her grandmother and as part of her ongoing journey toward her own health, Meredith has signed up for the Susan G. Koman 3 Day Walk for a Cure in Philadelphia, on October 5, 6, & 7. She will be walking twenty miles each day.

::puts hat in hand::

Would you please contribute to Meredith’s walk? Any amount is appreciated. Do in honor of someone who has had breast cancer. Do it for Judy. Do it to celebrate the power of bringing art into your life. Do it as part of a promise you make to yourself about your health or about your writing. Do it if you’ve enjoyed my books. Do it to celebrate what lies ahead.

Meredith writes: “The walk is special to me because I lost my grandmother over 3 years ago to breast cancer. She had breast cancer almost my entire life and was able to fight it for over 20 years. She has been such an inspiration to all of us, and continues to be with us daily as we need her love and guidance. I wish she could have physically been at my wedding and physically be able to see my children (in a few years!!). I’m walking for a cure so that my children don’t have to have the same loss of life with their grandmothers. I’m walking for a cure so that if the genes are in my body, I can get through the disease and live a life of 100+ years.”

Thank you for the last twenty years, my friends. Here’s to the next twenty!!