Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Next Big Thing World Blog Tour

I was invited to join the Next Big Thing World Blog Tour by friend and writer Deborah Prum.  Deb and I met in college and we even took a Children's literature class together.  Back then people called it Kitty Lit...very politically incorrect.  Debbie and I have only been in touch a few times since college but we both pursued our passion for writing for children.  See her new book Fatty In the Back Seat and check her out at

Or go to

Now on to my projects.  My most recent publication is Beatrice's Dream, Life in An African Slum  published by  Francis Lincoln Children's Books and now out in paperback.

With photos by Wendy Stone
this photo essay is told in Beatrice's own words as she describes how she lives in Kibera in Nairobi, one of the largest slums in the world, her school and what her dreams for the future are.

I am currently living on the Navajo Reservation in Chinle Arizona where I am working on several picture book projects including a biography of Albert Schweitzer, a hero of mine since I was a child but I was inspired to begin work on the book after living for three years in Haiti at the Hospital Albert Schweitzer named for this remarkable humanitarian.

I have also been inspired since living on the Navajo Nation to write the life story of Teddy Draper Sr. a Navajo code talker.  This story is also told in Teddy's own words as he describes how the US government once punished him for using his own language and later recruited him to help use that same language to develop a code that helped to defeat the Japanese in WWII.

Another picture book inspired by life in the southwest is Facing Fear (working title) about a young boy who is the son of undocumented immigrants from Mexico the fears he faces and how his friends stand by him.

Finally here are the answers for this blog tour about a novel I am working on. 

1) What is the working title of your next book?
Dreaming Tyson
2) Where did the idea come from for the book?
I have been wanting to write this book for a long time.  It is inspired and informed by time spent in Malawi, Africa as a Peace Corps volunteer and three years living in Haiti.  Finally on a return trip to Africa, where I spent time in Kenya, I knew how to tell the story.  
3) What genre does your book fall under?
YA Multicultural fiction.
4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Well, if I had a choice it would definitely be Dev Patel from Slum Dog Millionaire but he is getting too old for the part now.  And oh yeah, right, he is Indian, not African, never mind not Kenyan.
5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Boniface, an aids orphan in Kenya finds his way to Nairobi searching for his half brother and grandfather where he meets Tyson who takes him in and teaches him about life in Kibera slum.  They are like brothers until a tragedy happens that puts Boniface out on the streets of Nairobi, a much more desperate place than even the slum where Boniface learns much about himself and who his friend Tyson really is.  OK that is two sentences, I know.
6) Who is publishing your book?  
It is still in progress and I have not sent it out to my agent or to publishers yet. 
7) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?  
I would like to compare it to Slum dog Millionaire but even the author himself says it was not a well written book and the movie did a much better job of telling the story and anyway that was not supposed to be a YA novel.  
So I guess I would say that I hope this book will compare with works by authors like Debra Ellis,  The Breadwinner and The Heaven Shop for example.
          8) Who or what inspired you to write this book?  I have had many inspirations for this book which come from living in Malawi and Haiti, meeting and working with street kids there and time spent in Kenya as well as stories from fellow travelers and research, reading many books of fiction and non-fiction for this project.  I have always wanted to write a book that includes a library and the library plays a role in this book.  Don't want to give away what happens at/to the library but it is a turning point in the novel. 

10) What else about the book might pique the reader's interest?  
I have written a number of picture books where the main character is from another culture. Although I have published several mid grade chapter books and longer works I have been reluctant to take on the challenge of a YA story with characters not of my culture.  But I finally feel comfortable with my characters and have gotten to know them well so it is time to write this book.

Now something about Nancy Bo Flood who is next on the Next Big Thing World Blog Tour.  Like Debby, Nancy is a writer and a friend.  We have much in common, writing, four children, life in Malawi and Haiti.  We have known each other for a long time but only met three years ago when my husband and I moved to Chinle and it turned out Nancy also lived on the hospital compound where we live(another thing we have in common, husband docs).

Nancy's recent book Cowboy Up is a picture book, one of several of her books inspired by life on the rez.

You may well be familiar with her award winner Warriors in the Cross Fire.

Look for Nancy at  and check out the next stop on this 

tour at her blog

Take it away Nancy!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Italy Loves Poetry: Details From Ionian Jewel

Italians are passionate.  They love their pasta and seafood, cheese and wine.  Who doesn't?

It  turns out Italians also love their poetry.   Traveling in the southern region of Calabria we came upon this poem on the wall of a tiny cafe/bar.

Unfortunately I cannot read Italian but it was lovely to see this illustrated, framed bit of writing decorating the wall of a bar in a mountain top village.

I too am passionate about poetry.  I even write some so this idea intrigued me even without the translation.

See my recent blog about traveling in Italy with my sister-in-law,  Nancy Howard who organizes Ionian Jewel Tours, custom made tours in Italy.

Traveling with Nancy you experience the details of Italian life you might ordinarily miss.

 For example I had the opportunity to meet Calabrese Poet Alfonso Cutruzzula.

He lives in Montepeone where Nancy grew up.
There is a fresh spring fountain on the road up to Montepeone and recently the village had a celebration to honor this place.

Alfonso wrote a poem which is on a plaque there.

The people of Montepeone remember this place as an important part of life in the village.  Going up and down the road people would stop to meet and greet one another, chat and share the news of the day.

They would like their children to have this experience and keep the tradition of sharing at the spring.

Here is a loose translation of the poem by Alfonso.  It is written in Calabrese:

No one can refresh like you. You water the land and the forest from a distance with joy and happiness. It does not matter who they are or what they do. Here is where they refresh themselves. Like me they love my little fountain.

One of Alfonso's books of poems.  I hear there is an autographed copy on it's way to me. ;-)

My brother Dave Howard with Alfonse.

Dave is a jazz guitarist.  It turns out the Italians love jazz too.  Another detail of Italy Nancy will share with you.  In fact Dave has performed in Italy often and will be there this month.

Find out what passions you share with Italy and her people when you travel with Nancy and Ionian Jewel Tours.


"BACK TO FUSION" special guest DAVE HOWARD Dave Howard 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Where I Write Now: Wild and Wooly

Once in a while I do a Where I Write Now blog.  In the past I have gone to a coffee house in the Amish community of New Wilmington in PA or I have taken a few days to stay at a B and B in Confluence.

Out here in Chinle I have found it more difficult to get out of town to a place where I can write without the distractions of home.  A new place to inspire.

So what a pleasant surprise to find The Coffee House right here in "Wild and Wooly" Gallup, New Mexico on Coal street.  It has everything you could ask for in a coffee shop, real coffee and real baristas.


Art on the walls and table space.  Lots of outlets.

Quiet patrons and a play space for kids....books to barrow or take or share.

I am definitely going to get there on a Monday night and maybe even read some of my own poetry.
Other writers near Gallup reading this?  Try it out or let's plan an event.

Did I mention the food?  

Build your own salad or sandwich.

Yes it is almost two hours away from Chinle but worth the trip for a writer or anyone looking to relax in a homey coffee shop for a few hours.  Try it best thing to getting out of town for a week or more, this coffee house in Gallup for an afternoon.

Check out The Coffee House on FB