Cathy-on-a-Stick Makes a Comeback

So I could tell you all about the amazing bits of writer wisdom I sucked up from all the amazing speakers at the SCBWI conference I just attended.

Or I could direct you to the Muffin where I expounded on some of my best “After the Conference” tips and advice (and I’d love to hear yours, too).

But what I really want to dish about is this pic:

Mitchard and MacLachlan

And yes, that IS the New York Times best-selling author Jacquelyn Mitchard AND the Newbery award winner (for Sara Plain and Tall) Patricial MacLachlan. And yes, that’s Cathy-on-a-Stick right in the middle of ’em.

First, let me just say this: if you ever have an opportunity to hear either of these women, you must go. And I mean, run, don’t walk, to whatever venue they’re appearing. Because both of these glorious women–authors, moms, business persons–are simply two of the smartest, wittiest, warmest and honest women I’ve ever met.

And here’s the conversation we had about Cathy-on-a-Stick after they signed my books:

Me: Can I get a picture of y’all with Cathy-on-a-Stick?

PM (who is nearly blind so could not see details of what I was holding): What is that?

JM takes C-o-a-S.

Me: It’s just a picture of me, on a stick.

PM: Well, that’s stupid. (Or did she say silly? Ridiculous? It doesn’t matter. It was clear she thought it was stupid. And I had to agree with her. )

JM. No, it’s not. I think it’s pretty clever. (Or did she say cute? Whichever, it was clear she thought Cathy-on-a-Stick was funny. And I agree with that as well.)

PM shrugs. I tell her that Jane Yolen had the same reaction but she was a good sport about it. PM does not seem too impressed but she was not going to let Jane Yolen one up her.

JM: Take the picture!

And so now I have this wonderful picture and I laugh every time I look at it, thinking of Patricia MacLachlan dissing Cathy-on-a-Stick and Jacquelyn Mitchard coming to my pic-on-a-stick’s defense.

Oh my word, I do so love an SCBWI writer’s conference!


A Quote, A Sign, And a Conference

Comparison is the thief of joyIt’s very possible that I’ve shared this quote with you before. It’s right up there in my Top Ten Quotes and I feel like I say it, either out loud or in my head, at least once a day.

That’s how often I find myself comparing.. Whether it’s my work, my stuff, me.

Except now, I’m aware that I do it. And that’s half the battle, in getting and keeping my joy.

So a very talented friend who’s obviously amazing with calligraphy created this gift for me.(She hears me say it all the time; she’s probably thinking that Cathy and her constant quoting are robbing her of joy!) Anyway, I rushed home and set the framed quote on the dining room table and grabbed my phone to take a picture. Today, I downloaded the picture for this post and as I looked at my phone’s pics, I noticed a glare in the photo. Shoot, I thought, I’ll need to take another one.

But then I looked again, a bit more closely, and I saw it. What I mistook for a glare was the reflection of my gold cross in the joy.

Now, I don’t see how you could get a clearer sign than that, and just in time for my SCBWI writer’s conference this weekend when I really need it.

I’m thinking the good Lord wants me–and what the heck, probably all of us!–to embrace joy, to focus on all of our good gifts and blessings. And that’s just what I plan to do.

(Hope to see lots of writer friends at Springmingle’17 and I promise to tell you all about it!)

February Wrap Up


Libs in the office, watching me “work.”

You know, there’s something a tiny bit intimidating about an end-of-the-month wrap up. Or should I say knowing that your end-of-the-month wrap up is coming?

I mean, it’s bad enough if you don’t accomplish much, but blowing off the accountability report is like, Dang, Cathy, how lackadaisical can you get? So I knew the Day of Reckoning was coming and I’m not gonna lie. It motivated me.

The Good:

I read seven books this month! Full Disclosure: Several were short books by Patricia MacLachlan, but a couple of them were longer, the ones by Jacquelyn Mitchard. Both authors will be at the SCBWI Springmingle Conference coming up in a few weeks and I like to read books by people who are presenting. I want to know their style, yes, but I also think it just makes an author happy when you can say you’ve read their books. And really, I don’t think it matters if the author is a New York best-selling author like Mitchard, or a Newbery Award winner like MacLachlan, or a debut author who’s launching her first book. So I read a bunch of books and now–whee!–I’m three books ahead of my Goodreads goal. Which is a good thing as March is looking pretty busy.

I wrote up an article and sent it out and sold it! It could be a while before it’s published, but still. I sent something out into the world and received an acceptance. So yay me!

I also sent my manuscript out into the world (to an indie editor) because I’d come to that proverbial spot between a rock and a hard place. (You can read more about indie editors at The Muffin with my “It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s a Writing Superhero!”) Which leads me to the not-so-good, otherwise known as …

The Bad:

I received the most amazingly detailed and insightful editorial letter re: my latest middle grade manuscript and…I haven’t quite finished digesting all of it. In point of fact, I need to figure out what and how to revise and so far, I’m stuck between thinking and figuring it out. I’m all for letting things sit for a while while you ponder the problems but I just can’t seem to move on to actually…well, writing. Any motivational thoughts from those of you who have found yourself in that No Writer’s Land would be swell.


Even Libs is wore out with this project!

The Ugly:

I spent a ridiculous number of hours working on an SCBWI project that should’ve taken me about what? Two hours, tops? First, it involved design so I had to remember how to do all that, and second, it involved color printing and my color inkjet ran out on my practice sheets. And then once I finally got everything ready and pushed the Print button, the lovely pages came out completely hinky.

I am still not finished with this project. Ugh.


So how about you, dear writer friends? It’s your Day of Reckoning, too, and I’d love to cheer or commiserate, your choice, on this last day of February.


Things Are Not Memories


Mom and Dad in the kitchen

When my father died last year, the house at the beach was passed on to me and my brothers. At first, we planned to sell the house. But the more I thought of that house and all the happy memories I had there, the more I wanted to keep the house.

Fortunately, my oldest brother who lives in Savannah wanted to keep the house as well. So we did, and this past weekend, I met with my brother and sister-in-law to talk about the house. What we needed to fix, needed to replace, that sort of thing.

Now, left up to me, because as I may have mentioned before I’m a kind of laissez-faire person (which sounds ever so much better than lazy), everything looked just fine and dandy to me.  Mom and Dad’s furniture, Mom and Dad’s colors, Mom and Dad’s style. But it became apparent that my sister-in-law wanted to make a lot of changes. New furniture, new colors, new style.

I think she was a little nervous, too, trying to be sensitive–or maybe respectful–of my feelings. But here’s the thing: I understood her need to make the house a home for her and her family, so that she didn’t feel like she was living in some sort of shrine to my parents. And of course, she wanted me to be happy with the changes as well; mostly, she didn’t want to tread on my memories.

It’s a fact, I miss my mom and dad. But no amount of paint, or new appliances, or beachy style would make me forget my parents. They’ll always be with me in that house because they’re always in my heart.

My hairdresser–isn’t it weird how we tell our hairdressers everything?–said my attitude was unusual, that most people would have difficulty letting go. Maybe that’s so, but I was raised by a woman who was constantly throwing out or giving away my stuff. Sometimes, while I was still using it.

So maybe I learned a long time ago that things are not memories, or that letting go–whether it’s people I love, or stuff I love, or even words I love in a manuscript–helps me move on to joy rather than sadness.

What about you? Do you agree with my hairdresser? Or are you more like me? (Um….I did keep a few things, like my dad’s desk, and my mom’s secretary; I’m not a barbarian. And a few books and some pictures. Little things. A note on the fridge in my mom’s handwriting…

Okay. Well. I kept a lot of writing-related stuff. I think that’s perfectly okay, don’t you?)


Read-Aloud Adventures

Today is World Read Aloud Day–wheeee!wrad2017spotfinal

I might be a little Cathy-Come-Lately to all the fun activities that you can participate in (and the registration). But there’s still time to read aloud, even if it means grabbing a grown-up Junior Hall and reading his favorite book from long, long ago.

Reading aloud was one of my all-time favoritest activities with my kidders. “Read me a story, Mommy!” was music to my ears! And now that I think about it, each kid enjoyed reading aloud in his or her own unique way.

Oldest Junior Hall LOVED for me to read aloud! From the time he was an itty-bitty till…well, gosh, it must’ve been right before he started middle school because his little brother was in first grade then. If he heard me reading in Youngest Junior Hall’s room, he’d make a mad dash to sit on the end of the bed, just to listen. (I’m not gonna lie. I was a very entertaining reader.)

He loved funny books best of all, and though he had favorites, he craved variety. And so we’d head home from the library, arms aching from as many books as we could carry.

Juniorette Hall, now, she was independent from the get-go. She’d listen to Mom read aloud but as soon as she could read–and really, even before she could actually read, she memorized the text of her favorites and would insist on “reading”–she’d rather do it herself.

She loved ballerina books and mermaid books, and not surprisingly, she grew up to be a dancer. She still dances, and it’s very possible she thinks she’s a mermaid, too.

Youngest Junior Hall. Whew. He was a challenge. Getting that boy to sit still and listen to a story was not easy. He’d rather play baseball or build a fort or explore the woods or dig a hole. You get the picture. Fortunately, though, he LOVED dogs. And so once I found dog books–very short dog books–he’d allow a bit of reading aloud at the end of the day.

Eventually, he settled on one dog book. Every. Single. Day. I read the same book, something about counting dogs. You’d think I could remember the title, wouldn’t you? I guarantee that child remembers the title. Could probably recite the book by heart.

He’s coming by today so I’ll ask him. Maybe I’ll even find the book and we’ll read it aloud together. And I hope you’ll join me in celebrating World Read Aloud Day, maybe share one of your favorite read-aloud books or stories.

Oh, yes, please! I’d love to hear all about your read-aloud adventures. Tell me a story, friends!