Friday, September 26, 2014

Irene Irwin Literary Festival

Unlike 112 years ago, when the Conyers Civic League was founded, the written word has fierce competition winning the hearts and attention spans of today's kiddos. With a unique roster of inter-active author presentations, the League aims to engage youth with a book's possibilities during The Irene Irwin Children's Literary Day on Sunday, Sept. 28, 12:30 - 3:30 p.m. at the Olde Town Pavilion. The day will also serve as tribute to Irene Irwin, a former teacher and CCL member whose generous legacy continues to fund League endeavors today.

"We are excited about our slate of accomplished authors," said Event Chair Julie Rogers. "We've planned for it to be an engaging afternoon activity for families."

12:45 - 1:30  Chris Rumble, artist, musician and author of "The Adventures of Uncle Stinky" series

1:30 - 1:45 Susan Rosson Spain, author of "The Twelve Days of Christmas in Georgia," as well as "Deep Cut," a historical fiction work for middle-schoolers set against the back drop of the Civil War

1:45 - 2:30 Michael P. White, illustrator of many award-winning books including, "The Library Dragon," involves audiences in the illustration

2:30 - 2:45 Mary Cunningham, author of the award-winning five book 'tween series, "Cynthia's Attic"

2:45 - 3:30 Danny Schnitzlein, author of "The Monster Who Ate My Peas" and "The Monster Who Did My Math"

The event is free. Authors will have books on hand to sell and sign, cash or checks only accepted. Mellow Mushroom pizza will be available for $1 per slice. Children must be accompanied by an adult. For more information, please visit the Facebook page ~ Irene Irwin Children's Literary Day.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Talk Like A Pirate Day!

It's International Talk Like A Pirate Day!
AARRRGHH! The day snuck up on me! Captain Buzzard Jack LaBuse, herrre, mateys!

And, just in case you're not sure how to Talk Like a Pirate, here are some key words ye be 'wantin' ta r'memberrr.

Ahoy! - "Yo!"
Avast! - "Check it out!"
Aye! - "Yes."
Arrr! - "That's right!" (often confused with arrrgh...)
Arrrgh! - "I'm VERY miffed."

So, weigh anchor. Hoist the mizzen. It's a terrrrrific day!

And, in case yer hankerin' ta read about me mis-adventures, ye be a'clickin on this link to Cynthia's Attic: Curse of the Bayou
(Don't make me come after ya!)

Heeeerrr's one of me treacherous scenes from Curse of the Bayou!
Gasp! I was soaked and struggling for air, but there wasn't any! Coughing…that's a good sign. At least my lungs were trying to work. Had a huge wave come over the side during the night? I nudged Cynthia with my elbow.
"Ahhhh! Where did that water come from?" she cried.
"So, you're finally awake, eh?" Buzzard Jack's voice chilled the air even more. "Nice job, Snags." The shadow of the captain fell over us, blocking out the morning sun. His helper, Snags was grinning idiotically, holding a wooden bucket. An empty wooden bucket, I might add.
I spit out the remaining drops of water I'd ingested, and glared.
"Don't blame me," Snags laughed. If yer mouth hadn't been hanging open like a newborn guppy, you wouldn't a choked."
I felt a confirming nudge in my back, but Cynthia didn't laugh. Nothing was funny.
Captain Jack didn't think so, either. He leaned down until the brim of his black hat was inches from making contact with Cynthia's forehead. "You will tell me where to find the watch. It may be now. It may be later. But, I can assure you, the longer it takes, the more uncomfortable you will become." He stood up. "So, what's it going to be? I promise to untie you and your little friend, give you a good meal, some water, and send you back to land, unharmed."
Oh, sure. That'll happen. I may only be twelve, but I wasn't born yesterday.
Neither his threats nor his "promises" had any effect on Cynthia. "I told you last night. I don't have it."
I knew when Cynthia was telling the truth and…she was telling the truth. Thinking back to finding the watch in the Conners' barn, I remembered watching Cynthia put it in her pocket. What happened to it after that was a mystery. But, we'd better find out, and soon, because the captain was now standing over me.

And, in case this doesn't interest you, I hear there's a free doughnut to be had at Krispy Kreme Facebook! Free Doughnut!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Offsides - Kerry Madden-Lunsford

The best advice I ever got, as an author was, "Write what you know." Kerry Madden-Lunsford takes that to a whole new level with her debut novel (republished - 2014), Offsides.

The daughter of a college football coach, Kerry Madden-Lunsford grew up in a series of hometowns, transplanted from one place to the next with the changing of the football season, uprooted from childhood friends with almost no warning. It is this hectic, whirlwind lifestyle which Madden-Lunsford draws upon in writing her first novel, Offsides.

The first thing Kerry will tell you is, "No, my father isn't John Madden." She does, however, pull memories-some good, some bad-from her days as the oldest child of a football coach, being uprooted from one football-crazy college town, to the next.

I found Madden-Lunsford's characterization of an awkward, self-critical, defiant Liz Donegal, refreshing and believable. While she protests every move, we know she will eventually give in and pick up roots, once more, in order to follow her father's never-ending search for that elusive head-coaching job.

On the surface, Liz appears to be an island; never quite fitting in, even with her family, but in between the lines, you feel the love and loyalty the Donegal family possesses, even when her closest confidants, her mother's sister and her father's brother, appear to leave her behind.

While I'm a dog lover, and cringe at the thought of losing a beloved dog, Madden-Lunsford writes an especially vivid scene in which the grave of "Bear Bryant" is dug up by his replacement, "Halfback". Equally traumatic is that all this takes place during Liz's boyfriend's first meeting with her family.

I highly recommend this book for YA and mature teens.

Further proof that Offsides is written from experience? Check out this picture from one of the author's latest booksignings.

Kerry Madden-Lundsford with Lynn Majors, wife of famed Tennessee football coach, Johnny Majors

Offsides: Amazon Kindle
Kerry Madden Books

Mary Cunningham, author, Cynthia's Attic Series,
The Adventures of Max and Maddie Series

Monday, September 8, 2014

Christine Eldin Memorial Fellowship

I haven't blogged in awhile. You know how life gets in the way. But, this is too important not to share.

Two years ago the children's writing community lost a dear friend, supporter, and fabulous writer.

Chris Eldin wanted, more than anything...well, other than spending as much time as possible with her two be a published author. In working toward her dream, she established a blog called The Book Roast. I had the privilege to be roasted, on more than one occasion, and never tired of reading her wonderful interviews that included many, diverse books and authors.

A year ago, a small group of her friends decided to honor her contribution and her passion. We've created the Christine Eldin Memorial Fellowship, designed to:

1. Honor the memory of Chris Eldin.

2. Provide recognition and financial assistance to an unpublished middle grade fiction writer whose work-in-progress reveals potential for a successful writing career.

In order to make this an annual event, however, we need to raise funds. The Eldin Memorial Fundraising Page accepts contributions for this worthy cause, and also give you the opportunity to snag autographed books, by a group of excellent authors, writing courses, SKYPE visits, and even a video with Travis Erwin (founder of Lettuce is the Devil), actually eating a leaf of lettuce! What more could you want?
Whether you're a writer, aspiring author, or an avid reader, please consider donating.

You'll also find a link to the submissions page, so get those manuscripts ready!

Two things I know, for sure. The world was a better place with Chris in it, and how proud she'd be of the fellowship created to carry on her work.

Hope we're making you proud, Chris!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Remembering Rhubarb Pie and Bingo

My ears perked up at the familiar thud…thud…thud on the staircase, followed by the slam of the screen door. My brother was fourteen — six years older than I — and we didn’t communicate much, other than to fight and say dreadful things to each other. But I could always count on him to indirectly let me know when it was time to go to our grandmother’s house for lunch. “Tom!” I’d yell, scrambling to tie my sneakers and get through the door before he was out of sight. “Wait for me!”
My grandmother and grandfather lived in our small town “down by the creek,” and even though it was only a couple of blocks, there was a busy street that I was forbidden to cross alone. Tom would allow me to go with him…as long as I stayed at least half the distance to the moon behind in case he ran into one of his buddies along the way. Nothing would be more humiliating to a high school freshman than to be seen walking anywhere with his dumb little sister. It was worth the effort to stay out of his way because at the end of our journey was the promise of a table full of the greatest food in the world.

May Blume Rainbolt and Grover Cleveland Rainbolt planted an “award-winning” garden. Each year they’d grow corn, green beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers, cabbage, fresh mint, and much, much more. But best of all…they grew rhubarb. My grandmother was the best rhubarb pie baker in the county, which was proven by the stash of blue ribbons she kept “inconspicuously” in an old Ball canning jar on the windowsill. Oh pshaw, she’d blush. Those old things? I’m just saving them for quilt scraps. She even made her own piecrust — an art she passed on to me (for which my husband is eternally grateful). Come to think of it, the quality of our grandmother’s rhubarb pie was one of the few things my brother and I ever agreed on when we were kids.
Lunchtime was a real event at her house, especially since my mother worked, which meant I’d usually settle for baloney or tuna sandwiches at home. And besides, Mom insisted I was too young to stay by myself. I wonder what she’d think if she knew my “babysitter brother” threatened, on a regular basis, to hang me by my heels out his second-story bedroom window. I overlooked that since we always managed to arrive in Mamaw May’s kitchen just as she was filling the table with bowls of mashed potatoes swimming in real butter, pinto beans seasoned with country ham, stewed okra, sliced tomatoes — still warm from the garden sun — and cucumbers smothered with onions. Although peas weren’t a favorite of mine back then, I enjoyed the days I watched my grandfather gracefully eat them with a table knife. He’d somehow manage to fill the entire length of the knife with little round peas, then tilt back his head and let them slide into his mouth. I tried this once, to my grandmother’s dismay, and ended up spending the better part of the afternoon picking peas up off the linoleum floor.
More exciting were the August days we’d spend together at the Harrison County Fair playing bingo. Come to think of it, I probably acquired my taste for gambling — without the risk of losing much money — from her. We’d sit for hours under a dusty tent on the Midway, playing two and three cards at a time, and competing for valuable prizes. I suppose it must’ve seemed strange that I preferred playing bingo with my grandmother to riding on the Ferris wheel or the tilt-a-whirl with my friends. I can still remember the excitement of winning a rainbow-striped pitcher and matching iced-tea glasses to proudly present to my mother. After all these years, I’m still not sure whether the tears in her eyes were from joy at the sight of my gift, or from wondering where in the world she was going to store another set of worthless glassware.
My grandmother lived well into her 70’s, but in my family, that’s like being struck down in the prime of life. She should’ve lived at least ten more years, but a freak auto accident was responsible for her early decline in health. My main regret is that, because she died when I was in my teens ― I wasn’t able to truly appreciate and enjoy her company in my adult years.  Still, I learned some valuable lessons. For instance, the best piecrust is made with vinegar. Yes…vinegar. And if we’re persistent, the true bingo professionals, like us, will beat the socks off the amateurs every time.
But the most important thing she taught me, is that sometimes, especially on a steamy, Southern Indiana evening, it’s best just to sit on the front porch and rock gently back and forth in the swing.
Add a slice of warm, rhubarb pie…and it’s perfect.


Mary Cunningham ©2007