Wild Geese Guides

Attention, teachers, librarians, book club members, parents, and everyone else interested in literature for young readers!  My good friend Tracie Vaughn Zimmer has uploaded ALL of her amazing teacher guides onto her new blog, Wild Geese Guides.

Discussion questions, suggested activites, multiple intelligence projects, quiz questions and more abound for over 250 books (including several of mine).  This is a fabulous resource — stretching from preschool to high school — and one to bookmark, save, follow, tweet and re-tweet (I’m a twit, but Twitter-less), and share with friends.

A pearl of a film

I’m donning my movie critic hat again here briefly to let everybody know about a FABULOUS documentary we watched over the weekend:

A Man Named Pearl came out in theaters in 2006, so obviously I’m behind the times here.  If you are like me, however, and missed it, you must go IMMEDIATELY to the video store (or Netflix, or the library) and track it down.  It’s one of the most inspiring and uplifting movies I’ve seen in a long time, and as empress of the world (well, OK, of this blog), I’m hereby designating it required viewing for artists everywhere.   Heck, for everyone, everywhere.

The son of a sharecropper, Pearl Fryar bought a home on the outskirts of Bishopville, S. C., a couple of decades ago, only to learn that because he was African-American, residents didn’t think he would keep his property up.

Boy did he prove them wrong.

Pearl taught himself topiary and worked night and day in an effort to win the local garden club’s “Yard of the Month” award.  The result (which has now spilled over into downtown Bishopville and many other destinations) is a visual delight, filled with whimsical creations that have been described as “Dr. Seuss meets Edward Scissorshands.”  Pearl’s garden draws tourists from all over the world and has elevated him to the ranks of horticultural and artistic genius.

Part sculptor, part gardener, part philosopher, part philanthropist, Pearl Fryar is one of those rare human beings who lights up not only the screen, but also the corner of the world in which he’s been planted.

But I’ve given too much away already.  Watch it.  Please.  Trust me.

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!)

Louisa May Alcott on PBS

What are you doing tomorrow night? 

I know what I’ll be doing.  I’ll be watching the premiere of Louisa May Alcott — The Woman Behind Little Women.  (Dec. 28th/PBS)   

Those of you familiar with my novel The Mother-Daughter Book Club know that I spent a good chunk of my childhood in Concord, Massachusetts, the historic town where Louisa lived when she wrote Little Women.  I used to visit her home, Orchard House, regularly, hoping perhaps that some of its magic might rub off on me, and that I, too, might grow up to be a writer someday. 

Surprisingly, that someday eventually came. 

 And even more surprisingly, I eventually had the opportunity to write about Louisa herself, for in my novel a group of sixth grade girls and their mothers form a book club and dive into “Little Women,” learning about the book, its author, and themselves in the process.

I learned a great deal about my childhood hero in the process of writing The Mother-Daughter Book Club, and I can’t wait to see how the film (based on Harriet Reisen’s acclaimed biography) portrays her.  Advance buzz promises a real treat.

The indispensability of art

Earlier this week, artist Barbara Cook Spencer wrote an essay for The Christian Science Monitor entitled "Art: a basic necessity of life," in which she challenges readers to think more deeply about the place of art in our daily lives.  Beautifully written, passionate, and inspiring, it’s essential reading for writers, poets, painters, dancers — anyone engaged in the arts, in my opinion.  It’s going directly into my "keeper" file to be savored often, and shared with all my future writing students.