Q&A with best-selling author Mary Alice Monroe New book, ‘A Lowcountry Christmas,’ out this week

mary-alice-monroe-2014-for-webMary Alice Monroe believes in the power of stories. The best-selling author writes about our connection to animals from her home on the Isle of Palms. Her latest book, “A Lowcountry Christmas,” will be released Tuesday. It tells the story of a wounded warrior and his younger brother who discover the true meaning of Christmas.

Read more of my interview with the author on the Post and Courier.

The Passions of Author Mary Alice Monroe

ma-monroeMary Alice Monroe always dreamed of writing a novel, but it was difficult to find the time as a busy working mom. Years before she became The New York Times best-selling author of books including “The Beach House” (which is being made into a movie starring Andie MacDowell) and “The Butterfly’s Daughter,” she was living in Washington, D.C., with her husband and two daughters, and pregnant with their third child.

She was teaching English and Japanese and making extra money with various nonfiction writing assignments, but felt the pull of a novel.

During the last trimester of her pregnancy she was put on bed rest. Her husband took the TV out of the bedroom and said, “You’ve always wanted to be a writer, so use this time to write.” Monroe laughs. “That fall I gave birth to a baby and a book!”

To read more of this article go to The Post and Courier.

Best Picture Books of 2015

I can’t help but jump on the Best Books bandwagon (every time I use a cliche I can feel my former MFA writing teacher cringing, but sometimes I just can’t help myself!) and this list is for my favorite picture books of the year. I started the tradition of reading to my boys when they were little because that’s what my mom did with me. I have such great memories of lying in bed curled up against my mom as she read stories like the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe or Little House on the Prairie; books that opened my eyes to an expansive world. How could I not want to continue that tradition with my boys? Plus, according to recent (and obvious) research, having a house filled with books makes your kids smarter 😉

That said, at the end of every hectic day, there is nothing that calms me and gives me more pleasure than reading a good book with my children. My older boys read on their own now (and they love to read I’m proud to say!) but I still get to read with my six year old, named Reid because I tell him, your mom loves to read! So here is my list of favorites from 2015:

Lenny-and-Lucy

Lenny and Lucy by Phillip and Erin Stead

When this married couple writes a book I don’t even look at it before I buy it because I know it will be great (see A Sick Day for Amos McGee). My boys and I like to play the game of ‘what superpower would you choose’ and if I could choose a superpower it would be to be a supergirl-fly-on-the-wall. That way I could travel unseen to places like the Stead’s house. I imagine that they work in some sort of fabulous creative space with a big table that is covered in colored pencils and pieces of paper that are filled with charming characters. I know that their space must be warm and energetic and brilliantly creative. Reading their wonderful children’s books makes me feel like I am spending time with a great friend.

gorillas

Gorillas in our Midst by Richard Fairgray and Terry Jones

Reid and I have a thing for gorilla books (If I had a Gorilla by Mercer Mayer, Little Beauty and Gorilla by Anthony Browne, and Little Gorilla by Ruth Bernstein) and the illustrations and subtle humor in Gorillas in our Midst makes me pull it from our crowded bookshelf time and again!

pond

Beyond the Pond by Joseph Kuefler

In Beyond the Pond a young boy is bored and dives into a neighboring pond, deeper and deeper, to emerge at last in a magical, parallel world. When he returns home, after his big adventure, he finds it wasn’t quite as he left it. This beautifully illustrated book carries out the simple theme of finding escape in your own back yard. Who doesn’t love to think there are mysteries within reach?

stanley

It’s Only Stanley by Jon Agee

Jon Agee is one of the best children’s authors in my opinion. His humor is so understated and he comes up with such fantastical ideas like for example, his latest book, It’s Only Stanley, in which a family is awakened throughout the night by their dog who is busy fixing the tv, the bathtub drain, and  building a rocket ship. Agee says the book is about grown-ups who are not clued into what’s going on, and that the story sat on his shelf for several years because of the rhyming style which is wonderful to read aloud, but challenging to create.

Tonight, after an argument with my 11 year old over his Latin homework, writing this blog post has calmed me. I’d like to thank these authors for their continued brilliance and creativity that brings my family great joy on a nightly basis!

What’s on your Bookshelf?

This essay in today’s New York Times Style section has made me so happy! Author Teddy Wayne writes about the importance of tangible artifacts (books and records or even cd’s) on the shelves of our homes. In Our (Bare) Shelves, Our Selves (a sly reference to a book that should be on all parent’s bookshelves in my opinion because it allows curious adolescent kids to sneak a healthy peek! I will never forget sneaking a peek into the alluring and disturbing illustrations in the 1970’s edition of my parent’s copy of Our Bodies, Our Selves. It was eye-opening!)

“The implications are clear: Owning books in the home is one of the best things you can do for your children academically. It helps, of course, if parents are reading to their children and reading themselves, not simply buying books by the yard as décor.”

Thank you, thank you Teddy Wayne! I wholeheartedly agree. The bookshelves in our house are overflowing, much to my husband’s dismay, but I refuse to part with them. The books are reminders to me of my past because I can pick one up and remember where I was when I read it. I may never read the book again, but maybe my kids will. In fact just last week I handed my 14 year old son my high school copy of Catcher int he Rye. It was a really exciting moment for me. He says he likes it a lot. I’m trying to sustain my glee…..some of the bookshelves in our house.