Episode 5: ‘A Year in Our New Garden’ (Gerda Muller) and ‘Earnestine’s Milky Way’ (Kerry Madden-Lunsford)

via Episode 5: ‘A Year in Our New Garden’ (Gerda Muller) and ‘Earnestine’s Milky Way’ (Kerry Madden-Lunsford)

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Lucy and Trent in the magical forge in Chicago of marriage, love, and sunflowers

via Lucy and Trent in the magical forge in Chicago of marriage, love, and sunflowers

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A year ago today I met my cousin Mo

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Originally posted on kerrymaddenstories – Two-State-Life – Deep South/West Coast:
? I need the sea because it teaches me. Pablo Neruda The cure for anything is salt water — sweat, tears, or the sea. Isak Dineson Tell me, what…

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We are guests on Elizabeth Dulemba’s blogspot today talking about the making, writing, and inspiration of NOTHING FANCY ABOUT KATHRYN & CHARLIE. We are planning more library visits soon – this time in New York, California, and Tennessee. We are branching out!

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Dothan Houston County Public Library (and Olive meets the Boll Weevil)

Dothan was our last stop on the June 2013 Library barnstorming tour across Alabama. We left Monroeville at the crack of dawn and drove the back-roads to Dothan passing over a bridge outside of Evergreen called “Murder Creek” and onto the Wal-Mart in Andalusia for a camera charger for the workshop. The wonderful head librarian at Dothan, Bettye Forbus, was on her way to ALA in Chicago, but she had arranged the workshop for older kids, which really made for some evocative storytelling.

One boy made a tree for his father in Kuwait, and he’s going to Skype with his father and share it with him.

One girl said, “You know those trees that you plant when the baby is born? And it grows up with them? That’s like my tree.” She crafted a trunk of puzzle pieces and said it represented friends, hope, knowledge and love – all the pieces of life.

Another girl shaped a tree above water with a zipline, and she said, “You know how water is always moving, and it’s how life is always moving too.”

It was a lovely way to end the tour sharing stories with kids of Dothan. Then we backtracked to the little town of Enterprise, Alabama to see the statue of the Boll Weevil in the town square just for Olive. Afterwards, we made our way back to Birmingham, the stories of the road in heads and hearts, a little sad that it had to end so fast. But we’re already thinking about the next one and very grateful to have met so many wonderful young artists, storytellers, librarians, teachers, grandmothers, moms, dads, and other new friends along the road.

Thank you, Kathryn Tucker Windham and Charlie Lucas for showing the world what friendship could be and for being great Alabama explorers and adventurers.





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Monroeville, Alabama – A GOAT-ROPING (and Home of Harper Lee and Truman Capote too) and 9th Library

I’m beginning this blog with a letter from the rock star librarian of Monroeville, Alabama, Jacqueline “Bunny” Hines, who wrote us this letter yesterday:

Hey ya’ll, It was  just divine having you all here yesterday!! The program was top notch, and we had a goat roping to enjoy it!!! We are so blessed to have you all come to our Library. I cannot thank you enough!!!  You know how I love Elvis, so I’ve arranged to purchase Graceland for ya’ll as a big gift of appreciation!! There should be a television show called “The Delightful Madden-Lunsford Ladies.” It would be a great success! Please be careful on the road. We’ve got to get ya’ll a tour bus with a chaffeur so road trips won’t wear you out. Maybe we can buy one of Dolly’s used ones. Really, thank you so much for coming to our Library. Love you three to the bone!! Bunny
I met Bunny with my sister, Keely, in 2007 when I first started doing research for Up Close: Harper Lee, and she welcomed us with open arms to Monroeville back then, and I felt like I’d met an old friend. So it was especially lovely to get to bring Lucy, Norah, and Olive back to the library for a writing/storytelling/tree-making workshop, and in Bunny’s words, “We had us a goat roping!” And with close to 100 kids packed in tight for the workshop, I can’t think of a more apt description. We had to dive into the deep end.  I invoked the spirit of Kathryn and her beautiful storytelling as I do before every workshop and told the kids they were “storycatchers.” Then Lucy and I told stories, and the kids just started making their trees, and Norah documented everything talking pictures while Olive soaked up the love.
With that many kids, there was an amazing chorus of library angels who jumped in and helped us passing out buttons, scraps of material, glue, shells, ripped up paper bags, and a core of teen girls even drew their hearts.
Then we had an afternoon of “Mockingbird Moments” with the Super Institute of the Alabama Humanities, directed by Professor Nancy Grisham Anderson, a Harper Lee scholar who invited me to speak about the research of the biography. It was great to talk to the 30 or teachers gathered with Lucy and Norah, and Lucy and I shared all the research to writing and illustrating NOTHING FANCY ABOUT KATHRYN & CHARLIE too and Mockingbird Publishers too.
Anyway, I’ll add more thoughts about the day soon, but it was remarkable to be in Monroeville with my daughters and dog. We even ate a BLT Supreme at Radley’s Fountain Grille, which is on the “Bucket List of 100 Things to Eat in Alabama.” It was scrumptious and topped with what else but fried green tomatoes “maters” too! 🙂


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“Nothing Fancy” in Fairhope, Alabama – 8th Workshop on the road :)

I’m catching up on the blog this morning because we’ve been so busy crisscrossing Alabama we just fell asleep at night, too sleepy to post.

Anyway, we loved our visit to Fairhope, Alabama on Monday afternoon. This little coastal town in Alabama is a special place to me, especially PAGE & PALETTE, an indie bookstore where we go way back to 2005, our very first visit to Fairhope.


Back in 2005, when Lucy was in 8th grade and my first children’s novel, GENTLE’S HOLLER, was published, she and I traveled to Alabama together where she made a documentary of a mother/daughter book tour for an 8th grade project. And our very first visit/writing workshop together was to PAGE & PALETTE. I don’t even remember how I found the store, but I asked the owner, Karin Wilson, if she wanted a writing workshop for kids, she said yes! Then I looked at the map and discovered that Fairhope is right down on the Gulf just across the bay from Mobile, and we were flying into Birmingham. Anyway, we never dreamed that eight years later, we’d be coming back with a book we’d collaborated on together. Lucy even had her first oyster in Fairhope. (She had two and at age 14 that was enough.)

In 2005, we never even dreamed we’d ever be living in Alabama. The Harper Lee book wasn’t even on the radar, and I’d not yet heard of Kathryn Tucker Windham or Charlie Lucas. But sometimes things connect and connect some more, and Gentle’s Holler led me to write my Smoky Mountain trilogy, which led me to Nelle Harper Lee, which led me to Kathryn and Charlie. Sometimes, you can’t plan a thing but it all happens anyway.

And this past Monday, our publisher, Ashley Gordon, of Mockingbird Publishers of Fairhope came to the workshop with her two wonderful boys, and we filled the upstairs loft with kids and adults making trees and telling stories. A father also brought his five children to the workshop, and his oldest son, Daniel, told me of the novel he was writing. His little brothers and sisters made trees and told stories of their trees. Kids have been talking about the trees they love and how the leaves and branches are like stories that connect us.

We’ll be posting about Monroeville and Dothan later today. Now I’ve got to pack for Los Angeles and meet students this morning. But I will say this book tour has been so special with Lucy and Norah and Olive in tow. Lucy is also a great driver, so it’s been astonishing to hand over the wheel to her. She’s even learned to pass timber trucks on the back-roads. Brave girl! 🙂

Much more soon. And a huge thanks to Ashley Gordon for taking us down to the Gulf to wade in the water after the workshop. Fairhope is so pretty I could stay there and just write for a summer. Maybe one day. Then we had pizza and loaded up and found our way to Monroeville, Alabama – home of Harper Lee and Truman Capote. That’s coming up next!

Other links:

Lucy’s first trip to Fairhope (journal entries from 2005)



Norah’s blog about her first trip to Alabama in 2008





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