Grandma Gertie always said there's not a savory dish that can't be made tastier by just a touch of tarragon.

Tsunami and Me

Tsunami and Me
too big to escape now....

Monday, March 6, 2017

Possum's Big Day

Mallory Kass, Dawne Knobbe, Steve Elders Celebrate Possum's Launch
About fifty fans and friends of Mari Lou Laso-Elders, my late daughter-in-law, gathered at Barnes and Noble in Orange Saturday to celebrate the launch of her young adult novel, Otherwise Known as Possum.

April, Mari Lou's beloved bear, her constant companion since her 1989 wedding, presided over the afternoon's agenda, perched atop the colorful pile of the hot-off-the-press hardbacks. Steve Elders, my son and Mari Lou's husband and champion, acted as emcee, reading the "afterward," which he penned and reads on the audio version, plus the initial chapter of the book.

Mallory Kass, the Scholastic Press editor who encouraged Mari Lou to resubmit her revised manuscript, spoke about how she fell in love with spunky Possum Porter, the book's heroine, from Page One. To her delight, her boss had warned the Scholastic staff that anybody who objected to the publication of this special novel would be fired!

Dawne Knobbe
Dawne Knobbe, Mari Lou's writing partner who finished the final edits after Mari Lou's tragic death in September 2015, discussed Possum's creator's dedication to making every line sparkle.

I shared the secret of how Possum sprang to life for Mari Lou as she floated on in inflatable raft in her backyard pool one sunny afternoon nearly a dozen years ago. Mari Lou had spent a decade spinning her Southern Great Depression-era story.

Steve introduces Possum

Her dedication as an editor was reflected by one of her former students in the Poets and Dreamers Tuesday Morning Group. That writer complained that she'd already rewritten a chapter three times. Mari Lou's response? "I spit on your three times."
Maria, Mari Lou's mom

"I can spend a whole morning trying to find exactly the right word," she once told me.
"It began on a rubber raft."

After the reading, we all reminisced about Mari Lou's notable skills,  her warmth and wit, and nibbled Girl Scout cookies, provided by another student. Mari Lou had been a devout Scout, and as an adult won first prize, an iPad, in a national poetry contest about how being a scout had impacted her life.

Children will be wide-eyed at Possum's pranks.
 The wonderful lreviews are coming in now. How Mari Lou would have beamed.  
Mari Lou Laso-Elders (aka Maria D. Laso)

"Laso saturates her debut novel with fresh figurative language that shapes her characters . . . and strongly evokes Possum's world."
– Publisher's Weekly

"The passage of time, a contest, and good friends help a grieving 11-year-old move on from the death of her mother and baby brother.
In the autumn of 1932, bowing to community pressure, Possum’s father sends her to school for the first time. This likable, capable child has been home-schooled well. She’s sure she already knows enough. Besides, she wants no more changes in her life. At school, she must share a desk with a jealous fellow student who suggests that her father is sweet on the new Yankee teacher, who insists on calling her LizBetty. It’s almost intolerable—but there’s an essay contest. Winning will not only get her the beautiful book of fairy tales she covets, it will prove she knows enough to stay home. Possum’s first-person voice is convincing, full of metaphors reflecting her rural Southern mountain background. Interspersed with the narrative covering the three months up to the end of the contest and Christmas are essays written by Possum, her rival, Mary Grace, and her friends Tully and June May. With distinctive, fleshed-out, mostly white characters, awkward beginning romances, and a satisfying resolution, this growing-up story seems both familiar and fresh.
Laso’s posthumously published first novel goes down smooth as sweet tea. (Historical fiction. 8-12)
--Kirkus Review

Available now on Amazon:

Wide-eyed children love Possum!

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