Starting Over, Again

Well, hello there! It’s been a while, hasn’t it?

For all intents and purposes, I stopped blogging in the fall of 2013, after I posted the book tour details for The Impossible Knife of Memory. I didn’t talk about it too much, but that was when my father took a turn for the worse. He had enjoyed ridiculously robust health, but suddenly he suffered some strokes and started having terrifying delusions. In March of 2014, he fell and hit his head, and died two days later.

To say that I was devastated doesn’t begin to describe my state of mind.

My father was my hero; a WWII veteran who became a minister, marched for Civil Rights and faced down the Klan, wrote poetry, raged at injustice, and tried to make the world a better place. He was also plagued by PTSD, depression, and alcoholism.

When I was a kid, I adored him. As a teen I was afraid of him, angry, and terrified he was going to kill himself. After I left for college we entered the Cold War phase of our relationship.

One of the most delightful aspects of my adult life was moving my parents back North from Florida so we could take care of them.  I went to the gym and then breakfast with him a couple days a week, talked with him constantly, and basked in the good fortune that we had so much time together.

When he died, I needed to withdraw a bit. Blogging did not happen and updating my website was not a priority.

We tried to get on with the business of living. Our children started to have children. We hosted my oldest daughter’s wedding at our house. I finally finished Ashes, and went on adventures to China, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. I tried to write and threw out a lot of horrible pages.

But I finally learned how to walk with my father in my heart.

So I’m back. My website has been rebuilt from scratch thanks to my wonderful assistant, Jenn, and Deena Warner.  I have a lot of fun travel coming up, am working on several new books, and have Many Big Thoughts that require blogging again.

Do you have specific topics you’d like to see me blog about? Writing advice? American history? How to live out of a carry-on during book tour? Put your ideas in the Comments, or reach out to me on social media and I’ll see what I can do.

Thanks for your patience, my friends!


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?



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!!


Fresh Starts – WFMAD Day 20


That adorable baby in the photo is our first grandchild, born yesterday afternoon. Welcome to the world, Logan!!

It’s a good thing I got in about five hours of writing yesterday morning, because from the time we left for the hospital, my head has been a total muddle.

What do you do about your writing when life throws you a curveball? The entrance of a grandchild is a glorious, positive thing, but it does distract a bit from my intensity and focus on my novel. Getting bad news; a car accident, illness, death of a loved one, are even more distracting. If you are taken away from your project, it often feels impossible to find your way back into it.

First things first – give the people you love the time and attention they deserve. If you are caring for a sick child, or a terminally ill parent, that’s where your energy and heart goes. If it’s a joyful distraction, like a new baby, same thing, though in my experience, it’s easier to stay connected to creative work during the happy times than the sad.

That being said, try to keep a window into your creative soul open. You might hear lines of poetry in your head. Drawing might soothe you. If you have enough concentration, look at a small piece of your work-in-progress. Just a chapter, or maybe a scene. Polish it; add some detail, trim the dialog, make sure your transitions are solid. The key is to stay connected with your work in a small and consistent manner.


Today’s Quote

“The one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can.”

Neil Gaiman


Today’s prompt: Look at the photo of a newborn (say, for example, that incredibly handsome and intelligent fellow above) and write a list of possibilities for his life. Instead of the “what ifs” you’re writing “what could bes.”

Then take a baby photo of someone you know well, someone whose life story you are familiar with. Pick one or two of the possibilities you already listed, and freewrite about how that possibility did or did not develop for the person you know. Don’t feel compelled to stick to the facts at hand; if your imagination takes off and invents a fictional character, run with it.


  Scribble… scribble… scribble…

Birthdays, Marathon Running, and Life

This time last year I turned 49 years old – a few weeks after our youngest kid went to college and in the middle of the FORGE book tour. Immediately I started to think about what it would mean to turn 50.

In the decade between my 40th and 50th birthdays, I wrote and published six novels and three picture books. I also spent roughly one thousand days – 2.7 years travelling to schools, conferences, and on book tour. And I got divorced, remarried, moved twice, took care of dying parents, cheered from the sidelines as our first three kids navigated the shoals of high school and college, survived cancer, and read a lot of books.

I was tired.

As I hurtled towards my 50th, it was time to recover, reevaluate, and regroup. One of the first things I did was to give myself permission to exercise as much as I wanted. Shortly after that, I signed up for a marathon, something that I’ve always wanted to do.

My Beloved Husband is a born runner; he nearly qualified for States in high school, and is not all that much slower at age 53. Me? Not so much. I am a turtle. The back-of-the-pack runner. When God was handing out speed, I was in the library reading. But running does not have to be about winning. Running is best enjoyed when you stay in the moment, the child-like moment of play, heart pounding strong, hair flying, grinning from ear to ear. Zen running. It’s much like writing, when it works.

BH and I decided that we had two marathon goals: 1) to complete the darn thing, and 2) to complete it without needing medical intervention. We decided to try to run the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, DC.

We headed down to DC well before dawn last Friday. I was nervous. I had trained hard this summer, but had it been enough? I was so nervous, I ordered a big plate of fettucini Alfredo for dinner the night before the race.

I also forgot to eat or drink anything between my 3am breakfast and the 8 am start of the race. I was nervous about everything, but I was super-nervous about the Beat The Bridge rule. Anyone who didn’t make it to the bridge at Mile 20 by the cut-off time would suffer the heartbreak of having to ride the Straggler’s Bus to the finish line.

Given my natural lack of speed, this was a distinct possibility.

And of course, I was nervous about the notion of running 26.2 FREAKING MILES!

Thankfully, the race started before I collapsed from anxiety. It was cool, crisp, and sunny, perfect running weather. The first seven miles flew by, then the fettucini Alfredo kicked in. I will spare you the graphic details. Let’s just say I now hold the record for Number Of Panicked Port-A-Potty Stops During A Marathon.

But racing alongside so many soldiers and veterans, in the capital of the United States, kept my belly woes in perspective. I was surrounded by people who sacrificed more than I could even imagine. It was an honor to run alongside them.

One of the best parts of the day for me was that we shared it with two of our daughters and their partners. This is me catching my first glimpse of the whole crew around Mile 9 in Georgetown.

I ran into my family a few times on the course, which was a much-needed boost, especially between Miles 15 and 19.95 when I was having serious doubts about my ability to Beat the Bridge. But I had no idea what they had prepared for me. They had changed into these shirts….

…..pointing out that 26.2 Is The New 50. I did not start crying until I was past them. I cried because I was so happy. My blessings overflow my cup; love, family, friends, health, country, the chance to do good work, the joy of being very, very alive. I was, and am, deeply grateful.

We made it! Both my husband and I finished the race and neither of us needed medical intervention. The sight of him running down the hill to greet me as I crossed the finish line will stay with me forever.

Running a marathon felt exactly like writing a novel. I was scared. I was exhilarated. I doubted myself. I had supreme confidence. I cursed myself for a blind, arrogant fool. I leaned on my family for encouragement. I whined. I dreamed. I struggled. I took inspiration from the people around me. I laughed. I sang. I prayed. And I celebrated.

Here’s to the next fifty years!!