That Time A Horse Wore My Pashmina

When I woke up that morning, I didn’t know that a horse would rob me of my most prized possession, or that I wouldn’t have the nerve to report the crime.

For months, I’d been eyeing a outrageously beautiful scarf made by a Parisian fashion house. Outrageously expensive, too, of course. The pashmina scarf in the window of a boutique for weeks. One month, the price dropped. I watched as the price continued to drop over the next several weeks. Then I pounced. Armed with dollar bills from the household emergency fund and pocket change found during laundry.

And suddenly, there I was, wearing a new blue and silver pashmina shawl, one I was absolutely in love with.

Not being terribly fashion-forward, (actually, my sense of fashion has no direction) I had pinned quite a few diagrams on Pinterest on how to tie and wear a pashmina. Finally, I thought, I’ll really fit in with the swanky mom set. I’ll look like I know what I’m doing.

Ahem. Turns out…

Now, spring and summer here in north Georgia often bring intense storms. My little town sits on top of a huge run of granite, which attracts lightning strikes. The firefighters here stay busy during storm season. Add to that our enormous number of pine trees, which have shallow root systems and easily fall over in strong winds, and you have a recipe for frequent damage and blocked roads.

So I wasn’t entirely surprised when barreling down a busy road in my gold minivan (will that van ever stop sending me straight into the arms of danger?) I came up several horses wandering in the road. Two of them were normal horses, as defined by the horses I’d seen in The Magnificent Seven. But one, I knew immediately, was a Percheron. Charleston uses Percherons for carriage rides, so I’ve seen quite a few. Mainly from the rump. This other end, though, was magnificent.

Another horse was on the side of the road munching grass, one was halfway in the road, and the Percheron was sauntering across.

No one was stopping. Cars just dodged around them. To my right, I spotted a pasture fence that had been destroyed in the storm. A pine tree had fallen and smashed several posts, creating a horse-sized hole which the horses were clearly taking advantage of.

I whipped the van to the side of the road and leaped out. Scanning the house on the top of the hill at the top of the pasture, I couldn’t see any sign of cars or people.

No one was home.

I had to get these horses back inside their pasture before some idiot hit them. I had just come from the grocery store, so I grabbed a box of Cinnamon Chex, ripped it open, and ran toward the nearest horse, the beautiful Percheron. He was gorgeous beyond belief.

I offered the Chex to him like a supplicant at the feet of a Greek god. Yes, he really was that beautiful.

Turns out, horses don’t care much for Cinnamon Chex. I ran back to the hole in the fence and pantomimed climbing back into the pasture. I yelled at the horses like they were errant toddlers.

“You get in this pasture right now!”

“So help me, if you are not over here by the time I count to three….”

Turns out, horses don’t really care about being scolded by strangers. The van probably gave me an air of domesticity. They were not afraid.

Desperate now, I couldn’t believe my blessed fortune when a truck pulled off the road behind my van. A rough-looking fellow popped out, and by rough-looking, I mean a man who clearly understand the reality of the situation. He probably had never even been on Pinterest.

Scanning the road, he immediately sized up the problem. “I’ll go after them,” he called, pointing to the others that had wandered further down the road. “You get that one back in the pasture.” He was pointing to the Percheron.

“I can’t! I’ve tried!” I yelled back. What did I look like, an idiot? (Turns out…)

He glared at me, frowning. “Use your scarf.”

My pashmina! Of course! Why hadn’t I thought of that? Oh, that’s right, I’m an idiot.

I untied it, raised my hands, then paused. I started to call out to the man again but now he was out of earshot. What exactly was I supposed to do with a pashmina and a Percheron?

Thank goodness I had Pinterest pinned so many knot variations. Determined to redeem myself, I threw the pashmina over the horse’s neck, tying it off in a jaunty French bow at the side of his neck, letting the both ends of the scarf hang loose.

Suddenly the horse charged past me, off at a gallop down the road.

“Come back!” I yelled, but only half-heartedly, because the sight of his glorious black mane and that blue and silver pashmina blowing together in the wind as he ran…I was practically breathless with admiration.

“I have to say,” I murmured, “you wear it better.”

The horse galloped past the man, who turned to stare at it incredulously, then back at me.

Embarrassed by the triumph, I was about to tell him where I had learned how to tie a knot like that when he yelled at me. I mean, yelled. I will edit his words for the sake of clarity, and in case any children read this.

“What are you doing? I told you to use your scarf!”

“I did!” I protested.

“I meant, use it like a lead! A harness. A rope! Use it to guide the horse!”

Oh. Well, he might have said that in the beginning.

Moments later, two more people stopped, both of whom were horse lovers and owned nearby stables. Someone said the owners had traveled south to pick up a new horse. They’d be due back in the morning.

Together, the other folks rounded up the horses and got them safely back into the pasture. The angry man put me in charge of “supervising” from a distance, which I took to be a subtle apology and an admission that the scarf really did look that good.

They put the fence back together and checked it to make sure it would hold. The owners might not even notice the damage.

But the next morning, what would they think when their prized horse trotted out of the barn wearing an expensive designer pashmina, artfully tied at the neck?

I’ll never know.

I slipped back to my minivan, quiet as a mouse, and slid the van back onto the narrow country road. And I never saw my beloved scarf again…

My favorite line from The Last Monster is….

“The world around us is filled with monsters and freaks and mysteries.
And me?
I am the Guardian, who will watch over them all.”

“Uniquely imaginative….An appealing tale for readers dealing with their own insecurities.”
Booklist

“While the fantastical elements are compelling, it’s the real-world situations that make this book stand out. A perfect recommendation for introspective kids who feel like outsiders.”
School Library Journal

Happy New Year!

Forget resolutions. They leave us cranky and preoccupied.

That’s my current philosophy, at least. I’m a goal-oriented person, though, so I naturally lean into the future. This year, however, as I made my list of goals, the goals sounded flat to my ears. They’re all good goals. Achievable, too.

Maybe that is why I am discontent. (and it’s winter…que Shakespeare on that line…)

Goals are about what we want to achieve. But does that leave room for wonder? If I am so busy looking at the work of my hands, will I remember to look up and see the stars?

This year, I choose wonder. I choose mystery. I choose to let go of the reins and let another heart, another set of eyes guide me.

Make Your Library A Haven for Teens

I recently had the privilege of speaking to Forsyth County library employees on making the library a “safe place” for teens. We run a teen author workshop that is consistently well-attended and filled with the most wonderful teens on the planet.

(Yep, I am biased. But I’m also right.)

While the teens have led the way to creating a library experience like none other, I’ve been making notes and studying what works and why. I will be posting here what I’ve learned, and hope you take every last bit to use at your own library.

Here’s the first lesson I learned:
They need us to listen. So…don’t try to make a perfect list of talking points, or a lecture, or even a plan. You won’t know what they need until the meeting is already underway.

Scary, but usually true.

Teens need to be heard. I call it Vitamin H. Vitamin H is the most life-giving, life-sustaining, and life-affirming vitamin known to humanity.

In fact, teens may not be able to tell the difference between the feeling of being loved and the feeling of being listened to. Being loved = being listened to. Being listened to= being loved.

(for more fascinating insights like that one, check out this interview: Ellin Galinsky, Inside the Teenage Brain, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/teenbrain/interviews/galinsky.html)

Second, be patient.

I understand that it’s awkward when a group first begins meeting together. I’ve led groups for twenty years, and I can tell you that the first six months may be wonderful and meaningful…but the gold comes later.

When a teen reads her work to the group, and you know you have heard her heart, a hush falls over the room. It’s a sacred moment. And sacred moments become much more common after the first few months. So jump in and let the group grow.

(And bring snacks.)

And remember, don’t put pressure on yourself to have a master plan for creating the perfect evening. I always scout a few YouTube pieces to show the teens, in case we want to branch out and talk about the mechanics of writing. I look for interviews with their favorite artists and writers, and we have had some great discussions around those.

Most of the evening, however, is devoted to listening. I listen to them, they listen to each other.

I have a list of insights I’ve gleaned from running these groups which I will be posting here in the coming weeks. Why am I passionate about this topic?

Aristotle said, “To educate the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.”

As a nation, we’re neglecting the heart. And fixing that oversight begins with the simplest of steps.

Teens need a safe space where they can be heard. Your library is that space. It’s not as daunting as you might think, and you don’t need to be a writer or a speaker to do it.

You just need to listen.
Because what you hear will change your life.
More on that next time!

What I’m Reading…

Everything, actually.

My high school-aged daughter and I have been battling all summer to see who can read the most books. She prefers long tomes in the fantasy genre and I love middle grade fiction which tends to run much shorter. She finally resorted to grabbing a stack of Goosebumps titles to gain a quick advantage. On the afternoon I caught her doing that, I snapped “I better not catch you with another book!” Sigh. Not my finest parenting hour, but needs must.

My favorite books this summer are classics that I am re-reading from Corrie ten Boom. I had forgotten how beautifully written THE HIDING PLACE is and how deeply moving. I have two regrets in my life, the first being that I never had a chance to meet her, and the second being that my mother neglected to take me to an Elvis concert when I was a baby so that he could kiss me. It seems that being kissed by Elvis as an infant conferred magical properties on some kind. I’m sure of it. I’ve been able to pin most of my life’s misfortunes on this tragic omission.

But as they say, if it’s not one thing, it’s your mother.

Now, get out of here and go read a good book!

Summer at the Post Road Library

Every summer, I partner with the incredible staff at the Post Road library here in my cozy north Atlanta suburb and bring young adults a super-cool writers workshop. My kids tell me I shouldn’t call it super-cool, but I think it fits.

Here’s how it works:
We watch a movie on a Saturday, then the following week, we have a discussion about the techniques used by the screenwriters to bring the story to life. There’s no homework except to watch the movie…and perhaps eat popcorn for extra credit. :) Writers will gain a better understanding of what makes each genre work, and how their own stories can come to life with the right techniques.

Here’s our schedule:

Adventure Stories
Movie: Saturday, June 4 at 2:30 p.m.
Back to the Future (Rated PG, 1985)
Workshop: Tuesday, June 7 at 1:30 p.m. Please register.

Boy Meets Girl Stories
Movie: Saturday, June 18 at 2:30 p.m.
10 Things I Hate About You (Rated PG-13, 1999)
Workshop: Tuesday. June 21 at 1:30 p.m. Please register.

Teen Against the World Tales
Movie: Saturday, July 2 at 2:30 p.m.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (Rated PG-13, 1986)
Workshop: Tuesday, July 5 at 1:30 p.m. Please register.

Detective Stories
Movie: Saturday, July 16 at 2:30 p.m.
Super 8 (Rated PG-13, 2011)
Workshop: Tuesday, July 19 at 1:30 p.m. Please register.

Teens can also bring in their own work to read to the group, but not everyone feels comfortable reading their work out loud, so there’s never any pressure….but we do promise positive feedback and plenty of encouragement.

Come join us if you can. You can register at the Post Road library or on their website at
http://www.forsyth.public.lib.ga.us/

Here’s what the media is saying about THE LAST MONSTER

“The world around us is filled with monsters
and freaks and mysteries.
And me?
I am the Guardian, who will watch over them all.”

THE LAST MONSTER, by Ginger Garrett, Delacorte Press

“An appealing tale for readers dealing with their own insecurities.”
Booklist

“A perfect recommendation for introspective kids who feel like outsiders.”
School Library Journal

Preorder now for the best price at:
http://www.amazon.com/The-Last-Monster-Ginger-Garrett/dp/0553535242

Or:

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-last-monster-ginger-garrett/1122342054

Here

“The world around us is filled with monsters
and freaks and mysteries.
And me?
I am the Guardian, who will watch over them all.”

THE LAST MONSTER, by Ginger Garrett, Delacorte Press

“An appealing tale for readers dealing with their own insecurities.”
Booklist

“A perfect recommendation for introspective kids who feel like outsiders.”
School Library Journal

Know A Kid Who Needs Encouragement?

THE LAST MONSTER, a new novel for young adults, is available for preorder from any book seller. Published by Delacorte Press/Random House, the novel is getting some great reviews…most importantly, the reviews are helping booksellers and librarians get the book into the right hands. Here’s a sample of what the media is saying:

“ An appealing tale for readers dealing with their own insecurities.” Booklist

“A perfect recommendation for introspective kids who feel like outsiders.” School Library Journal

“poignant and sophisticated…punctuated with wry humor”
Kirkus Reviews

I’m thrilled that the reviews will help the right readers find the book. Preorder now- the book releases in early April!

SCBWI SpringMingle

Just got home from the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators SpringMingle conference, hosted by my region (Southern Breeze).
If you want to write or illustrate for children or young adults, you really must join us at SCBWI:
http://www.scbwi.org/

It’s a wonderful organization and has been enormously helpful to me in my career.
That’s it for now: I have to get back to working on my synopsis for another book. Or two. :)