Hunger Mountain

The Vermont College of Fine Art’s journal has just been posted!

Hunger Mountain is a wonderful resource for writers and other artists, and I’m particularly thrilled about this latest edition because an excerpt from my dear friend and writing buddy Susan Hill Long’s work, Tornado, is featured in it.

Sue was a runner-up for the most recent Katherine Paterson prize, and having read Tornado in its entirety (lucky me),  I can only say that Ms. Paterson is obviously a woman of discriminating taste.  I LOVE this book, and hope that an equally discriminating editor will snap it up soon.  It’s so deserving of publication.

Go, Sue!

National Pie Day

You’ve got to love a country that sets aside a whole day on the calendar to celebrate dessert.  Yes, my fellow Americans, it’s that time of year again — get out your rolling pins and let the flour fly!

Pie just happens to be my favorite dessert of all time.  I love ’em all — apple, pumpkin, cherry, lemon meringue, blueberry, marionberry (a Northwest specialty).  My favorites, though, are strawberry-rhubarb and coconut cream.  Mmmm.

And since it’s National Pie Day, I figured this would be the perfect time to announce two forthcoming books for 2010 which, coincidentally, are both pie-related.  What can I say?  I must have been piestruck when I picked up my pen…

Drumroll, please:

My first picture book!  And no, as you can see, I did not illustrate it (I can’t even draw stick figures).  The sublime Ms. Amy Schwartz did.  Wait until you see what she has in store — I’m absolutely head-over-heels in love with her artwork.  As a writer, handing over one’s manuscript to an illustrator is akin to handing over your newborn to a babysitter the first time you venture back out into the world.  Let’s just say there’s some trepidation involved.  With Amy, though, I hit the jackpot, and I couldn’t be more thrilled with her vision for my story.

Babyberry Pie will be published next fall by Harcourt.

The second book in my pie-a-palooza of a fall lineup is the fourth installment of the Mother-Daughter Book Club series.  The cover is almost-but-not-quite-ready-for-prime-time (check back here in a few days).  The title tells it all, though.  Pies & Prejudice hits the shelves in September, and I’ll bet you can guess what the book club will be reading this time around!

All this talk of pies is making me hungry.  Fortunately, there’s one waiting for me in the kitchen.

Coconut Cream Pie

Years ago, I coaxed one of the waitresses at Heather’s Cafe in Cannon Beach, Oregon, into sharing the restaurant’s recipe for coconut cream pie.  The cafe, alas, is no longer in business, but its memory lingers on in this sweet treat.  Here’s the recipe:

Coconut Cream Pie
Heather’s Cafe — Cannon Beach, Oregon

1 c. heavy cream
3 c. milk (don’t use less than 2%)
1-1/4 c. sugar
6 egg yolks
4 T. cornstarch
Pinch of salt
1 T. vanilla
1 T. butter
3-4 cups coconut
Baked pie crust
Whipped cream

In a bowl, mix 1/2 c. milk, salt, egg yolks, and cornstarch.

Bring remaining cream, milk, and sugar to a gentle boil.  Pour a bit slowly into the egg mixture, stir, then slowly pour egg mixture back into the heated milk (the point here is to avoid scrambled eggs).  Return to medium low heat and stir until thickened and boiling (small bubbles, not full rolling boil).  Boil for about four minutes.

Remove from heat; stir in butter and vanilla.  Add 3 cups coconut (more or less, depending on your preference).  Cool.  Pour into baked and cooled pie crust.  Top with whipped cream and toasted coconut flakes.

Happy National Pie Day!

Hip hip hooray!

Today is the equivalent of the “Oscars” in the world of children’s books, with all the big awards from the American Library Association announced this morning, and I just have to give a shout out to pals Libba Bray, who won the Printz award for excellence in young adult literature for her book “Going Bovine,” and Tanya Lee Stone, whose “Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream” received a Sibert medal for non-fiction.  Wahoo to you both, and to all the other stellar authors and illustrators who were honored today!  (I was going to say click here for a full listing of winners and honorees, but I think the ALA website — www.ala.org — has crashed… hey, it happens.)

Disappearing Dulche

There are honors for writers, and then there are honors.

Over the weekend I stopped by my post office box (which I sometimes forget to do, so please be patient with me if you’ve written me a letter and haven’t received a reply just yet!).  Waiting for me inside was this:

It’s a book, written by a group of sixth grade girls whose mother-daughter book club I Skyped with last summer.  They had it printed and bound, with an elegant touch of gold leaf and everything.  Isn’t it beautiful?  But wait — it gets better.  I opened their book and found this inside:

Could a writer ask for a greater honor than to know that she inspired such beautiful young women to try their wings?  I don’t think so.

THANK YOU, girls!  (And by the way, your story ROCKS!)

New year, new page

I love New Year’s Day.

There’s something so hopeful about it, isn’t there?  It’s a clean slate.  A fresh start.  A new beginning.  Days and days stretch out ahead of us like the blank pages of a brand-new book, just waiting to be written on.

And what could make the prospect of all those blank pages even more delicious than having something fabulous to write with?   Which I do, thanks to my darling husband.  Take a look:

My Christmas pen

He had this pen MADE for me!  I didn’t even know that artisan penmakers existed, but they do, and my sweetie found one and commissioned this one-of-a-kind treasure for me.  It’s hand-crafted from maple, which means that as I write, the barrel warms to the touch.  The graceful whorls and lines of the wood grain are gorgeous, as is the sparkling crystal in the pocket clip.  I can’t keep my eyes — or hands — off of it.  Which is, of course, the whole idea…

Writers can be fanatics when it comes to the tools of our trade, particularly pens.  I have special ones just for book signings, and others for journaling and letter writing, and still others for humbler tasks like to-do lists and keeping the household accounts.  The very best ones are reserved for writing stories, though.

I can tell that my new pen is a winner already.  A thoroughbred, champing at the bit to be off and running across a blank page.  The two of us will launch our maiden voyage together come Monday, when we start my next book.

I can hardly wait.