Category: frequently asked questions


Next across the finish line will be  MY THUMB, due in bookstores this summer. In this rhyming picture book the joy of thumb-sucking knows no bounds…or very nearly so. Inspired by my great-nephew, who, to the best of my knowledge, is still dedicated to his thumb, this book is dedicated to our one and only Asher.

DSC05364Generally, I research for approximately a year before writing the first word. Once I’ve front-loaded enough information on the time period to have a working grasp of it, I write a quick and skeletal initial draft. In the second year of a book’s creation I revise, revise, revise, filling in the gaps in the narrative, smoothing the connective tissue, obsessively inserting and deleting words, sentences, entire paragraphs, pages, and chapters. Along the way I show drafts to colleagues, and then to an editor. After each outside reader gets back to me with a critique, I rewrite again. It is not uncommon for me to go through twenty or more drafts of a book before it enters into production. And even when the book is in galleys, I still feel compelled to make changes, to tighten, to find the perfect word to replace one that isn’t quite precise enough.

For additional information:

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Join a writing group (either on-line or around a real table–or both). Travel, when you can, to writing conferences where you will meet interested (and interesting) fellow writers, editors and agents. Perhaps you will make a connection at a conference that will lead to an invitation to submit your work. Make note of the houses publishing books you admire. Consider how your work might fit with those publishers’ lists. Let editors know why you would like to work specifically with them. And keep writing! If you spend all of your creative energy waiting to hear from editors you will miss the opportunity to perhaps generate something even more exciting and polished than your present project. So get to work on your next manuscript while your first one is out to market. I wish you all the best of luck in your quest.

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 I most certainly did. The type of poetry that uses the shape of the poem to illustrate the idea behind the poem is called shape or concrete poetry. Perhaps you’d like to try writing some, too.

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While researching a book I am insatiable. I want to know everything about my subject. I read thousands and thousands of pages. My brain crunches all of that research into a single story; details gleaned from my research rise up at just the right moment to illustrate the text. Of course, less than 2 percent of what I’ve read actually makes it into the finished book, but probably 80 percent of what I’ve learned is subtly woven into the story. When the book is finished I have no desire to return to that subject again.  I feel as if I have exhausted the topic and the topic has exhausted me. And, therefore, I have little or no interest in writing sequels.

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No, Billie Jo was a seed blown by research into my imagination. She is an entirely invented character. But she was specifically crafted to carry the story of OUT OF THE DUST.


 No. I was born in Baltimore, Maryland about 20 years after the worst of the Dust Bowl.

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The inspiration for that scene came directly out of my research. The story of the accident was reported in the Boise City newspaper from the time period on which I was concentrating.  I followed the story over several days, searching each column and corner of the micro-film for any mention of the injured woman. Such an accident was not as unusual as you might think. More than a few people have spoken personally, or written to me about a similar accident befalling one of their family members.

I play, but not very well. I don’t practice nearly enough. Even so, it gives me great pleasure to spend time at the piano. I particularly love making up little songs with bits of syncopation and sweet harmony between the left and right hands.


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No, I was born in Baltimore, Maryland and spent my entire childhood there.