September 30, 2010

Pat’s September Travel: El Paso & DC

Much as I enjoy the quiet necessary for writing, I also cherish the energy from wonderful audiences of all ages. I’ve savored public speaking since I was a little girl as did my mom who was my first editor and my first speech coach. Lucky me.

This month I returned to my home city of El Paso, Texas, and visited its two higher ed institutions. Years ago I taught at both. I was also an administrator at UT El Paso where recently I had the pleasure of speaking to many future English educators. Some were studying ZING!, some DIZZY, and some were reading HOUSE OF HOUSES. Both of my degrees are from this institution, so you can imagine how gratifying it was to discuss my books, writing process and creativity with present-day students. I also received a Literary Legacy Award from the El Paso Community College and attended their literacy celebration. I thought children would enjoy seeing me with this clown.

How honored I was to speak for a third time at the National Book Festival in DC. Like any reader, I was thrilled to see and meet writers I so admire. Once the Library of Congress posts the video of my presentation, we’ll post it on my site. I’m grateful to the LOC staff for all their hard work. A special time was being interviewed at the media tent by some students from Virginia and Delaware. Aren’t students special?

September 23, 2010

Creativity Interview: Diane Stanley

What a pleasure to introduce my talented Santa Fe friend Diane Stanley who generously agreed to share her reflections on creativity.  Do visit her new website and do enjoy her new book Saving Sky.

An Introduction
DS: I’m an author and illustrator of children’s books. I’ve been exploring ideas in words and pictures for over thirty years. My newest book, a middle-grade novel called SAVING SKY, is my fifty-first. 

1. Do you think of yourself as creative?
DS: Yes and no. I’m very much the product of two quite different parents and those differences work in tandem in my personality.

My mother came from a long line of extremely creative people. They were always telling stories, making art, and doing craftsy things. Mostly they did these things for their own pleasure, but my mother was a professional writer and a veritable idea factory. After her death I remember going through the papers in her office, deciding what to keep and what to throw away. I found file after file of ideas for books, magazine articles, projects. Mostly they never got off the ground—she was probably too busy coming up with even more new ideas to put any of them into action. I draw from Mother’s line of creativity, but I’m not wildly inventive as she was. I have to work at it.

My father, on the other hand, was a math major, a navy pilot, a careful, precise, orderly person. Like him, I’m meticulous, methodical, and tidy.

Those two sides of my nature have proved to be a good mix—more creative than my father, more diligent than my mother, I combine inventiveness with craft. My orderly life enables me to act on ideas when they come to me.

2. How do you nurture your creativity?
DS: As I said earlier, I work at it. If I’m writing a novel, I spend a lot of time actively thinking about my characters, about what’s going to happen in the next chapter, about the overarching theme of the book. I think about these things as I lie in bed at night drifting off to sleep, or while I’m driving, or taking a shower.

I actively seek new ideas from the world around me—newspaper articles, radio interviews, personal stories can all spark something in my imagination. Anything that strikes me as interesting is run through a mental filter: can I use this in a book?

I do a lot of research, looking for rich and wonderful details that will make my settings and backgrounds more accurate and interesting. But I find inspiration there, too. A description I read of how very public death was in the Middle Ages, particularly for great personages, led to a chapter in THE SILVER BOWL: The king is brought into the great hall, carried in on a litter by his gentlemen. All the people “in his hand” have been called there, so that he can say his farewells to them, and acknowledge his heir, and say his last words to his lady wife, and urge his knights to swear an oath of peace. The image of that vast room, with tapestries hanging on the stone walls, a vaulted ceiling overhead, dimly lit by torches and candles, filled with anxious people, still rumpled from having been awakened in the night—all of that came to me from some fairly dry description of medieval customs.

3. What are your challenges in your creativity practices?
DS: My greatest challenge is carving out the time for deep concentration. It’s not that I procrastinate or have trouble finding motivation. I feel drawn to my office and my work. Often I go in and sit down at my computer in the morning—just for a little while—and at ten or eleven I’m still there, in my robe and slippers, working. If I wake early, 5:30 or 6:00, I don’t continue to lie there, hoping to drift off again. I get up and savor some quiet writing time while the sky slowly brightens.

But there are all these other things that tend to get in the way.

My mental image of a normal day, my intention, is to be at my desk, showered and dressed, by 8:30 or 9:00. I work, stopping only for a quick lunch, pretty much all day. At 5:30 or 6:00 I’m finished for the day and go into the kitchen to start dinner. This “normal day” rarely happens, of course. There are the dental appointments, haircuts, grocery store runs. There’s the email and the phone calls.

Writers also have to promote their books—visiting schools, giving interviews, writing articles, posting on social media, filling out questionnaires for the marketing department, updating web sites, blogging. All those things are work-related, but they aren’t the real work itself.

These distractions chop up the day, interrupting the flow of ideas and concentration. I am hardly alone in this. I suspect all authors and artists struggle with it. If they’re wise, they probably ignore the emails, let the answering machine take the call, put a sign on the door saying not to interrupt unless bombs are falling or blood is flowing. I’ve never been able to do that.

4. Do you have a space that helps you be more creative?
DS: Yes. My beautiful office, with windows overlooking my garden, a wooded hillside filled with piñon and ponderosa pines, and beyond that, in the far distance, the Sandia Mountains. My children are grown, so when my husband leaves for work it’s quiet and peaceful in the house. My room is all set up as a refuge for me, with a comfortable chair, a nice big computer screen, art and books all around me. I sit in there with endless cups of tea, soaking in the silence, thinking and writing.

"Just one of many scenes around Santa Fe that feed my spirit.  Living in a beautiful place, feeling close to nature, enriches my creativity, too."
5. In what ways does creativity shape your work and your life?
DS: It’s essential to my life. There have been times when I’ve wished I had more time for my other interests—hiking, traveling, skiing, gardening, reading—and looked around at my friends, many of whom are retired, and wondered . . . But I know I could never retire. I could no more stop creating than I could give up eating and sleeping. It’s part of who I am. It’s possible that if I’d started down a different path in my life, never becoming a published author, never forming the habit of daily creative work, I wouldn’t have missed it. I’d have found outlets for my creativity through other things, as my aunt and grandmother did. But once the natural impulse to create becomes your profession, something you sit down and actively do every day, there’s no turning back. It becomes like a seed that is planted and nurtured, fed and watered and given a sunny spot in the garden: it will grow and grow; winter might knock it back, but in the spring fresh green shoots will start pushing up under the snow. Creativity is for life.

September 20, 2010

15 Día Nuggets: #1 A Día Checklist

If you visit this blog or my web site, you know that April 2011, we’re celebrating Día’s 15th Anniversary. My web team and I were so pleased at comments about our first Díapalooza last April that we’re having a second Díapalooza in 2011. To assist those of you planning Día celebrations at your schools, libraries, etc., we’ve created a Planning Checklist that we hope will be useful whether this is your first or tenth celebration. This list is the first Día Nugget, 15 lists of 15 ideas. We’ll post the Nuggets on this blog periodically and archive them on my site as we do the Día Dynamos. During Díapalooza, we’ll showcase the 15 Día Dynamos, 15 Mora Award winners and the 15 Día Nuggets, etc. Send us your I-días!

Thanks for joining Día’s National Community & sharing bookjoy!
¨      1. September-November  Form diverse partnerships.  Create a Día committee that includes librarians, teachers, parents, local literacy programs, non-profits, and funders.  Also, consider faith communities, university students, media contacts, summer reading club coordinators, bookstores, etc. 
¨      2. Clarify goals and plan your Día event(s) with your committee.  Select dates(s) and form sub-committees such as fundraising, activities/speakers/programs, media & publicity, volunteers, etc.  Design many creative literacy-related activities.
¨      3. Establish your budget, contact possible funders and partners and begin to plan your fundraising events.   Research available grants and file applications.
¨      4. Review your book collections and evaluate for diversity.  Compile a wish list and order what you can.  Explore options for book donations.
¨      5. Finalize locations and reserve rooms.
¨      6. January-March  Finalize program, speakers, performers, class performances, and special guests such as local officials and celebrities.  Prepare speaker/author contracts and make travel arrangements.
¨      7.Outline the publicity and media campaign including available social media outlets, PSAs, etc.   Remember to post your Día events at
¨      8. Order promotional items, books for giveaways, and craft supplies.   Also, order food and refreshments.
¨      9. Confirm attendance by leaders of the site for the celebration—building directors, principals, etc.  Since a Día goal is to connect with new and familiar families, it’s important for leaders to show their commitment by greeting attendees.  Include a Summer Reading Coordinator to explain when, how and why to sign up. Remind all speakers to multi-generational audiences to be brief.
¨      10. Recruit and train volunteers.  Design evaluations if desired.
¨      11. April 1. Decorate library and other venues for April celebrations. Construct signage, multi-language if appropriate. Design and create book displays.
¨      12. Enjoy your program(s) and document the event(s).
¨      13. Remind attendees that Día is a yearlong family literacy initiative (día por día/day by day) with annual, culminating family celebrations in April.
¨      14. Thank your partners and hold a de-briefing session.
¨      15. Volunteer to present Día programs and share successful ideas locally, regionally, and nationally.

Before beginning your Día planning, familiarize yourself with the many planning materials and resource information on the following websites:
Pat Mora’s site --
ALSC/Día site --
Texas Día site --
California Día site --
You can also attend regional Día training if provided or organize a training session with the state library youth services coordinator.

Click here to download a pdf of the Día checklist.

September 9, 2010

National Book Festival

The 10th annual National Book Festival, organized and sponsored by the Library of Congress, will be held on Saturday, Sept. 25, 2010, on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Pat is one of over seventy featured authors at this celebration of  the joy of reading for all ages. Listen to a podcast Matt Raymond from the Library of Congress talking with Pat about her childhood reading, writing process and a new book she's writing with her daughter.

September 2, 2010

This Month's Día Dynamo!

I have good memories of visiting NC schools in 2004 thanks to the Novello Book Festival sponsored by the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library. When I returned to Novello in 2007, I had the pleasure of meeting gracious Meryle Leonard. Meryle quickly took an interest in Día and has been a champion ready to strengthen the celebration in Charlotte and also ready to share her ideas and commitment locally and in her region. Thanks, Meryle!

Meryle Leonard, Outreach Manager
I. When and how did you become interested in sharing bookjoy?
My interest in bookjoy began when I received an invitation to view the site from Pat Mora. I found it a wonderful resource to get information, resources and activities to celebrate Dia all year long.

2. How did you first learn about Día and what has been your experience with Día? When I returned to work at Charlotte Mecklenburg Library almost four years ago, I learned about the wonderful Dia celebration the library had been hosting for the past six years. I was lucky enough to be in the department that hosted the Dia activities. My goal was to bring in an author for the event to connect the literacy aspect of Dia with the celebration. Lulu Delacre, Yuyi Morales, Arthur Dorres and Keizo Kasza enhanced our celebration with school visits and parent/teacher workshops.

3. What are your hopes for Día 2011, Día’s 15th Anniversary? Like most library systems, we are facing financial challenges. With that said, I hope that we can continue our Dia celebration, with limited resources and continue to expand our celebration to all children and all cultures. Dia for our library system means, “Diversity in Action!”

Día 2010

Día 2010
4. What helpful tip(s) do you have for those organizing a Día event for the first time? Start planning for your April Dia celebration in September and collaborate with other community agencies to expand resources and reach all populations in your community.

5. What is your favorite example of Bookjoy as either a child or an adult?
As a child, I enjoyed listening to my mother read fairytales to my older brother and me. She read the classic versions, Hans Christian Anderson and the Brothers Grimm. I enjoyed the suspense and I enjoyed being frightened. Most of all, I loved the happily ever after endings. My mother died when I was six, but I still have the fairytale book she read from and I share this “bookjoy” with my children. I still cannot read The Little Match Girl, without crying.

6. What are you reading now? I just finished reading, “More Church Folk” by Michele Andrea Bowen. The author is visiting our library next week and I cannot wait to participate in the book discussion.