Monthly Archives: August 2013



What makes a book store a place you want to spend your time?

Among the treats during my time in Saratoga Springs was a visit to a newly opened independent book store called Northshire Bookstore. It is located on Broadway in the heart of Saratoga Springs. This is a second store for the Northshire Family. Their first is located in Manchester Center, Vermont. As I have said in an earlier blog about a bookstore in Petoskey, MI, a visit to such a place always makes my heart beat faster and lightens my mood.

The Saratoga store is recently opened. It is a comfortable place that draws one in; the lighting, the seating, the arrangement of the shelves, all invite. Browsing is easy. Books are everywhere before you to see and touch. One can easily read a sentence, a paragraph, a blurb or more. This makes for an experience that is at once calming and exhilarating.

On the day I visited, it was a very busy place and yet…I was able to see and hold many books. I loved being there, taking in the extensive breadth and depth of their collection.

What did I buy? My first thought was to buy five or six books and have them shipped home. But more sober thoughts prevailed. I purchased two I could easily add to my luggage.

First, I took a closer look at some of the cookbooks I mentioned in my earlier blog “Cookbook Choices.” I was especially tempted by the beauty and wealth of information in Vegetable Literacy by Deborah Madison and Mr. Wilkinson’s Vegetables by Matt Wilkinson. In the end I chose The Perfect Peach: Recipes and Stories From the Masumoto Family Farm by David Mas Masumoto and others. I am enjoying the stories as well as the recipes, and will hope to share more about this book in an upcoming blog.

Having just attended the Georgia O’Keeffe exhibit at The Hyde, I also purchased How Georgia Became O’Keeffe by Karen Karbo. The author brings a modern viewpoint and considerable wit to telling us something of the Georgia O’Keeffe story. I enjoyed Karbo’s writing and thoroughly enjoyed the read. I’d like to read more about Georgia O’Keeffe.

The bookstore website is terrific. It includes staff picks and reviews, a blog, new releases, upcoming events and more. They have a mail order business.

Among the staff picks in the brochure for August that especially interested me is More Scenes from Rural Life by Verlyn Kinkenborg. He is a New York Times columnist born in Iowa. I love his writing. Many vignettes feature his upstate New York farm. Another pick that caught my eye is They Poured Fire On Us From the Sky by Benjamin Ajak and others. This book details the journey of three lost boys, refugees of fighting in the Sudan who trek across 1,000 miles of country under extreme conditions. And what about Train Dreams by Denis Johnson or A Marker to Measure Drift? Maybe I just like to read book titles.

It is a place to celebrate reading.



August 26, 2013

This post is dedicated to my teacher friends, (whether teaching is in your past, your present or your future) who are thinking back-to-school thoughts. Probably none of them need a reminder about Katherine Paterson. But I hope all will enjoy. Any reader who spends time with a story by Katherine Paterson will be glad he or she did. You certainly don’t need to be a teacher to enjoy a book by Katherine Paterson. Nor do you need to be a young reader. Most of the time we get carried away with our tremendous need to catagorize.

Who can forget that moment in Bridge to Teribithia when……..

This author has brought, pleasure, pain, and thoughtfulness to many young readers and adult readers alike. She has won numerous awards including two Newbery Medals and two National Book Awards. Her international awards include the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, the biggest prize in children’s literature. In 2013 she was awarded the Laura Ingalls Wilder medal from the American Library Association for her substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children. Recently she has served as the Library of Congress National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. There are good reasons she and her books deserve our attention.

She was born in China to Christian Missionary parents; her first language was Chinese. However much of her growing up years were spent in the United States. She was educated in this country and today lives in Barre, Vermont with her husband, a retired Presbyterian pastor.

I will mention several of her many books, those especially dear to my heart, and the books that started my conversation with friend Judith on a bakery and books. Also, I will list her latest book, and two books of essays because I have heard her speak and think she has much wisdom on the subjects of reading and writing. First the two books Judith and I had a conversation about in the Aug. 19 post.

Bread and Roses, Too (2008)
This story is based on the real events of the 1912 strike in Lawrence, MA textile mills. Hardships faced by immigrants of an earlier generation provide a history lesson, and their stories are relevant in today’s world.

Lyddie (reissued 2004)
Lyddie’s story of personal determination is inspiring and interesting. Her story dramatizes the plight of factory workers and nineteenth century poverty. It is set in Massachusetts in the 1840’s.

Bridge to Teribithia (reissued 2004)
The most well-known of Paterson’s books and winner of the Newbery Medal, this is a story of a young person coming to grips with a terrible tragedy.

The Great Gilly Hopkins (June, 1987)
I remember being absolutely taken in by this story of an eleven-year-old who is a foster child. Many of the reluctant readers I have taught formed a bond with Gilly.

The Invisible Child. (Dec. 2001)
Speeches and Essays, including some of her best known.

A Sense of Wonder (Nov. 1995)
Critical Essays on Reading and Writing give insight into the minds of children and writers.

The Flintheart (Sept. 2011) Written with John Paterson and illustrator John Rocco.
This fairy tale of an ambitious Stone Age man is retold.

I heard Katherine Paterson speak a few years ago and found her an inspiring speaker. In January she is scheduled to speak in Chicago at the Modern Lang. Assoc. Annual Convention. More information about Katherine Paterson and her books, as well as reading guides can be found at the following:
March 13, 2013
Sept. 9, 2006

Reader’s Guides can be found at

No doubt many of you have your own favorite Katherine Paterson book. We’d like to hear about it.



From Guest Blogger Judith Vitali


Paulette responded to my sharing a link today from Bread and Roses Bakery in Ogunquit, Maine….she mentioned the children’s book by Katherine Paterson, Bread and Roses,Too….and here is how the exchange went….

Paulette: Bread and Roses, Too by Katherine Paterson about the strike in the mills in Lawrence, Massachusetts, a children’s book for readers of any age.

Judith: and that is how the bakery got its name……not only is the food delicious, but the owner is obviously a very caring employer who also frequently gives back to the community.

Judith: Lyddie is another Katherine Paterson book about the mills in Lowell, Young Adult, but I recommend for adults as well…Paterson is one of my favorite children’s authors.

Paulette: I like Lyddie even better than Bread and Roses, Too. I love both. Your bakery brought them to mind. The information at the website is very interesting. Why not send me copy via e-mail for a guest blog. Everyone would love it.

Paulette started my mind going in many different directions…I had shared the bakery’s picture because it featured whoopee pies (a family favoite…and then I realized how much I admire the woman who started Bread and Roses…I first visited it when it was down an alley and extremely small in size…the business has grown, but Mary continues with her compassion and passion for high standards, her employees and the town of Ogunquit.

Then Paulette mentioned children’s literature… when I taught fifth grade, most of my reading during the school year was Young Adult fiction…fast reads, but wonderful stories indeed I often felt these novels should be shared with adults as well… such fascinating topics and outstanding writing…so many favorites…I loved Katherine Paterson and Cynthia Voight … another of my favorite books was The Cay by Theodore Taylor (read it to my class every year, and the ending still brought tears to my eyes).

So here’s to Paulette’s blog at and our quest for good food, good reading, and good times… share with good friends, of course.

Here’s to Judith, one of the first guest bloggers here. Thank you!
Oh, and I can tell you those whoopee pies from Bread and Roses Bakery are seriously melt-in-your-mouth delicious.

You are all invited to comment or send me copy via e-mail to include in an upcoming post.



In Saratoga Springs, NY beauty is everywhere. The countryside, the parks, the race track and Lake George inspire and make dreams, but good reads, good food, and good friends top any Saratoga Springs list. In between the sights and cultural activities, I found newly discovered books, delicious food, and connections with some dear friends I’ve known since college days.

Two books I spent some time with were a result of visiting the Georgia O’Keeffe exhibit at The Hyde Collection. How Georgia Became O’Keeffe. Lessons on the Art of Living by Karen Karbo gives added insight into the person who became a legendary painter of the Adirondacks and the Southwest. Born in Wisconsin she lived into her nineties and was a woman who defied convention to become one of the most interesting artists of the twentieth century.

A Painter’s Kitchen-Recipes from the Kitchen of Georgia O’Keeffe by Margaret Wood tells of her relationship with food. The book includes a Foreword by Deborah Madison and many of Georgia O’Keeffe’s recipes. “Soup is such a comfort, Miss O’Keeffe would sometimes say.” There are sections on soup, salads, vegetables, main dishes, breads, desserts, and beverages. The reader learns something of her gardens and cooking techniques.

I love to read about woman who create local history. The friend who hosted us in Saratoga Springs allowed me to borrow a book from her library titled Strength Without Compromise. Womanly Influence and Political Identity in Turn-of-the-Twentieth Century Rural Upstate New York by Teri P. Gay. I can’t wait to find out more about how these women fought for the vote in their part of our country.

On the plane and in the evening, I read Lisa Genova’s novel Love Anthony. Others had recommended this book as a possibility for one of the book clubs I like to attend. It has so much to say about life, motherhood, family, autism and loving. Most likely I will finish it today. I will hate to leave Nantucket and the characters in this story. But most of all I am excited by a book that helps readers know something of life lived with autism, and that treats that life in such a respectful way. I would venture to say that this writer has some rules for writing that are similar to Mindy Kaling’s Rules for Writing. (See previous post on the home page of this blog.)

I ate sensibly in Saratoga (not always easy for me) and fish was my theme. Our hostess cooked delicious salmon, welcoming us with a simple but very delicious meal. During our time in Saratoga, I enjoyed haddock, calamari, and lobster roll. The latter is a favorite I don’t have a chance at very often. It was totally memorable. The comforting and oh-so-tasty tomato bisque at one day’s lunch stop has me looking for a new tomato soup recipe. The egg and ham sandwich at the racetrack was not on the sensible list, but oh, it’s one of my favorites.

But for all the deliciousness of the books and food, nothing is better than making connections with friends one has known since school days. I feel especially fortunate in the five friends I joined in Saratoga. They are talented women who never stop learning and growing. They never stop giving. They never stop having fun. They all have accomplishments to be proud of, but what I love most about each one, is her strong heart and can-do spirit. Each inspires me in a slightly different way, and I am grateful. So, while Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings, Yo-Yo Ma’s cello, the Philadelphia Symphony, a boat ride on Lake George, and a day at the Saratoga Raceway added new dimensions to my life, shopping, eating and living with these woman for a few days is the dimension I treasure most.

Mindy Kaling Rules For Writing

With commentary by Paulette

Mindy Kaling is featured in the latest issue of Entertainment Magazine. She acts, she produces, she writes, she tweets and blogs. She is clearly multi-talented. She is currently a force in the Fox comedy The Mindy Project. She was previously an Emmy nominated writer and a cast member with The Office. She is also the author of Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? which came out last year.

I think her rules for writing apply to every genre, not just comedy. I believe all writers should take her rules seriously. Too many writers ignore these tenets of good writing. Those that do may look very successful, but they damage all readers and writers in the long run. So I’ll share Mindy’s rules for writers who didn’t see Entertainment Magazine this week and I’ll add my two cents.

#1 Characters are helpful and kind.
This indicates that a writer has respect for their characters and for humans in general. Characters make mistakes, they have flaws, they behave badly, yes. But I’d rather read about a character who values kindness, or laugh at one who has a good heart. Meanness gets old very quickly.

#2 No one is a moron.
Are you really interested in someone who is completely lacking in the ability to use the talents he or she was given? I’m not, nor do I wish to spend time with those who are present in a piece of writing only because they cannot think. That is not to say that mentally challenged human beings cannot be interesting characters. There are some great stories, real and imagined, about those of us with different abilities, or different disabilities. We all have our challenges of one kind and another. But stupidity for its own sake? NO.

#3 Characters are polite. Again, this shows the writer has respect for his or her creation. A stream of disrespect spewing from anyone’s mouth is likely to cause the listener to look away, and the reader to put down the text. Sometimes a struggle with politeness (it doesn’t necessarily come naturally) is the drama or the comedy of a situation. But the character is trying to figure things out, trying to be a better person.

#4 Do not fear nuance. Comedy from avoiding conflict, not instigating it.
Are you comfortable when the villain in a piece is constantly setting people up against each other. I know we see this in stories. But it seems to me that it is more interesting when we know more about the background and conflict within a character. Yes, characters sometimes cause trouble. It is more interesting and more thought provoking when the reasons are somewhat clear and we are not simply watching someone be mean and more mean. I have watched the first few episodes of Orange Is The New Black. Yes, there is conflict, some characters act in a mean way. But we are finding out about them, their lives, their feelings. That is what makes the story riveting. Not how “bad” a character can be.

#5 Characters don’t have to be maxed out to be funny.
I’d love to talk to Mindy Kaling about this one. Sometimes, a writer needs to take a character, a situation, even a setting, further than might be expected. Just how far? That is the trick. I’ve heard the Pulitzer Prize winning writer Elizabeth Strout talk about this. Now Mindy Kaling refers to it. Just how far to take the character’s personality and actions, the plot, the words. That is a question not easily answered.

At any rate, Mindy Kaling gives writers plenty to think about with her list. Your comments are welcome.



Flora is a woman I’d like to stand
beside. I’d like to drive a horse
as she does, fingers at the ready,
a wrist in conversation with the animal,
arms easy with confidence.

And Flora, if I could hear your voice,
its perfect pitch, the slight tremble
it calibrates when emotion creeps
across a word. I might know
how to drive forward with courage
along the right road.

How’s the Reading Going?

place in time small


Sometimes I get bogged down with my reading. I wonder if this happens to anybody else? I start a book with enthusiasm and then somewhere in the middle it becomes much less interesting. That is happening to me this week. Though Grant and Sherman at Vicksburg are muddling around some in the middle of The Man Who Saved the Union, they are more interesting than the endless imagined dialogue of Scott and Zelda, mostly fighting. I won’t give up on Grant, but I am considering giving up on Scott and Zelda as they are imagined in Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald.

A writer I never tire of is Wendell Berry. I probably own more books by Wendell Berry than any other author and I guess there’s good reason for that, since I claim to never tire of him. He writes essays, poems, short stories, and novels. Janisse Ray dedicated her book The Seed Underground to him. I don’t know the reason, but I do know that he has championed sustainable agriculture for decades and his writing, in every genre, is inspiring in so many ways.

Yesterday I was reading one of his short stories. In this story a character named Burley Coulter is wondering around in the hills of Northern Kentucky at night hunting with his dogs. Burley is an ordinary person, not especially known for intellect or action. And, I know nothing about hunting, I have never tramped the hills of Kentucky at night or in the daytime. I am not very interested in dogs, and certainly not hunting dogs. And yet, my interest in the story never waned. Go figure, or go read Wendell Berry.

If you have not read anything by Wendell Berry, I urge you to try a poem, an essay, a short story or a novel. Of his novels I recommend Hannah Coulter. More about Wendell Berry another time.

Those of us who write are often ask what author we would most like to meet. I’d like a round table discussion with Wendell Berry, Wallace Stegner, who I believe was Berry’s teacher at Stanford, and Louise Erdrich. Janisse Ray would like to be there too, I’ll bet.

I’ll hope my reading enthusiasm picks up. Perhaps I have too many irons in the fire, too many books on the read, I mean. One more day with Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald and then I’ll make a decision. I loved Jessica Mitford’s biography of Zelda so much, I’m surprised I’m not doing better with Z. Jessica Mitford also wrote movingly about Edna St. Vincent Millay.

Enough rambling. Back to the books.