six cool things on a monday (including giveaway winner!)


1. JULIE PAPRIKA is here! If, like me, you’re a fan of award-winning painter and children’s book illustrator Julie Paschkis, the good news is that now some of her work is available for purchase online as archival prints. I just ordered “Eat Pie,” which I’ve loved for several years because, well, PIE! ūüôā I love the shop name too (“Julie Paprika: Art Adds Spice to Life”). See more here. (Julie will be stopping by soon to talk about her new book,¬†P. Zonka Lays An Egg, which is gorgeous!)

“Baskets Full”

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2. New book alert! Jeannine Atkins’s adult novel, Little Woman in Blue: A Novel of May Alcott (She Writes Press, 2015) is now available for pre-order!

May Alcott spends her days sewing blue shirts for Union soldiers, but she dreams of painting a masterpiece‚ÄĒwhich many say is impossible for a woman‚ÄĒand of finding love, too. When she reads her sister‚Äôs wildly popular novel, Little Women, she is stung by Louisa‚Äôs portrayal of her as ‚ÄúAmy,‚ÄĚ the youngest of four sisters who trades her desire to succeed as an artist for the joys of hearth and home. Determined to prove her talent, May makes plans to move far from Massachusetts and make a life for herself with room for both watercolors and a wedding dress. Can she succeed? And if she does, what price will she have to pay? Based on May Alcott‚Äôs letters and diaries, as well as memoirs written by her neighbors, Little Woman in Blue puts May at the center of the story she might have told about sisterhood and rivalry in an extraordinary family.

As a big fan of the Alcotts and Jeannine’s books (especially¬†Borrowed Names), I simply can. not. wait. to read this one. It comes out in September 2015, and till then, I’ll be drinking many cups of anticipation tea, daydreaming about Concord. Click here to read Jeannine’s post about the book (isn’t that a stunning cover?), and here to pre-order!

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3. New bears in the house! We now have three additions to our growing Paddington family! A 6″ Paddington “Little Bitty” magically appeared in the Alphabet Soup kitchen one morning, and I won a giveaway for an 8″ Movie Paddington from Movie Mom’s blog.


Biggest surprise was a knock knock knock at the front door, where I discovered this charming 20″¬†Rugby Paddington, made by Gabrielle Designs in England back in 1985. He was a tad tired after his long journey from California via Denver, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, but quickly revived with marmalade toast and tea. He still won’t tell me what’s in his duffel bag.

And speaking of Paddington, he made this list of the¬†All-Time¬†100 Greatest Toys.¬†He’s included in the 70’s decade with the nerf ball, Rubik’s Cube, and Magna Doodle. It was fun looking through the entire list to see which toys I had or longed for (Chatty Cathy, Barbie’s Dream House, Easy-Bake Oven). As an adult, I acquired Teddy Ruxpin and a Care Bear, and have very fond memories of hula hoops, Play-Doh, Mr. Potato Head and Gumby. ūüôā

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4. Love these CakeSpy prints: “ABCs of Sweetness” and “Pop Tarts That Should Exist.” She always comes up with the coolest ideas! Click on each image to purchase at Etsy (zoom in to see the fine details). You may remember that we previously featured both of Jessie Oleson Moore’s books, CakeSpy Presents Sweet Treats for a Sugar-Filled Life and The Secret Lives of Baked Goods (autographed copies available). My interview with Jessie is here.

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5. And now, the winner of our CHINESE FAIRY TALE FEASTS GIVEAWAY! 

Once again, we called upon the services of the dashing, erudite, elegantly mustachioed, ever-reliable Monsieur Random Integer Generator. When he heard the book featured Chinese food, he insisted on a big feast before picking a winner. To satisfy his enormous appetite, we ordered 105 pieces of his favorite dim sum, 34 bowls of rice porridge, 568 platters of stir-fried beef and baby bok choi, 43 pounds of shrimp fried rice, 69 gallons of egg drop soup, 5,478 pieces of crispy won ton, and 54 salted duck eggs.

Naturally the cozy but pedestrian Alphabet Soup kitchen didn’t seem like quite the right venue for such a feast, so we had the food delivered to the Great Wall at Badaling (Beijing Province) where he could enjoy his meal al fresco (now that’s what I call Chinese take-out!). ūüôā


Fully sated, M. Generator was finally up to the difficult task of selecting just one winner from among a bevy of beauties and one always-hungry stud muffin. He cracked open 18 fortune cookies before one name called to him. It was:


Congratulations, Margie!!

Please send your snail mail addy to: readermail (at) jamakimrattigan (dot) com so we can send out your book pronto.

Thanks, everyone for entering. Maybe Margie will invite us all over for dinner when she makes some of the recipes from the book. ūüôā

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6. Sigh. It is definitely¬†not a cool thing that Season 5 of Downton Abbey is already over. Seems like it just started — why don’t they make more episodes per season? There’s a Christmas episode and then we’ll have to wait till January 2016 for Season 6 (an eternity). And Season 6 is supposedly the very last. Sigh.

So before full-blown DA withdrawal sets in, enjoy this cool little video featuring several of the cast members describing their characters in 5 words:

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Sigh. Have a nice week. Sigh.


Copyright ¬© 2015 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

the poetry friday roundup is here!

Hello and Welcome to Poetry Friday at Alphabet Soup!

Please help yourself to a cup of tea and an Apple Pumpkin Walnut Muffin (recipe here). The footed teacup will make it easier to amble from blog to blog as you savor all the wonderful poems, reviews, and poetic musings others are sharing today. The muffins are a Fall tradition in our house — no better way to celebrate the season than to bite into apples and pumpkin at the same time. ūüôā

See that beautiful book up there? Views from a Window Seat: Thoughts on Writing and Life (Stone Door Press, 2013) by critically acclaimed author, poet, historian and Poetry Friday participant Jeannine Atkins has been my constant companion all week. I was thrilled when I first heard Jeannine was publishing a book based on her blog, which I’ve been reading and loving for almost seven years.

I don’t know of many writers whose blog entries read like poetry, but I do know that her words nourish, sustain, and make me want to become a better writer and person. You could not ask for a kinder, more sensitive or astute guide as you navigate the day-to-day challenges of a writer’s life.

Cornelius crushing on Jeannine. Is he taken with her poetry or her cranberry muffins? Probably both.

This lovely collection of finely wrought inspirational essays, organized by the “seasons” of writing a book (Spring: Beginning, Summer: Moving Through the Middle, Fall: Revising, Winter: Finding an End), is a unique, intimate, revealing ‘innerscape’ laden with deep, gentle wisdom — what a privilege to peek into the soul of this writer!

As Jeannine describes the stages and different aspects of writing poetry, fiction, and biography in metaphor-rich prose, she turns your tired perspective on its head, continually challenging your assumptions.

Oh, to revel in the possibilities of language, linger with the hummingbird hovering near the honeysuckle, celebrate the discovery of just the right historical detail or turn of phrase! Then, to inevitably know the yin to the yang —¬† grief at the loss of a dear friend, staring rejection in the face, learning how to accept the vagaries of the publishing industry without losing faith or direction.

Views from a Window Seat champions the steadfast hope whose name is ‘writer.’ It is a gift to all who read, write, love words, and who might be curious about the heart and mind of a poet. Treat yourself to a copy and give it to your friends this holiday season.

Here’s an excerpt from “Slim Books,” where Jeannine discusses balancing her role as a biographer, “who needs to be exhaustive,” with the poet, “who travels lightly.”

Once I get my facts straight, once I’ve described, say, a bird, with the slant of every feather distinct, I shut my eyes and listen for what flies, flutters, or fails. I shake the poems like doormats. Phrases tumble. Some are swept past the margins and stay there. A few find places in other poems. Some spots need a bit more mystery, and I nudge them around corners, away from the bright light, to let shadows do their work.

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VIEWS FROM A WINDOW SEAT: Thoughts on Writing and Life
by Jeannine Atkins
published by Stone Door Press, 2013
Inspirational Essays for Writers, 190 pp.
*Available in paperback and eBook formats

** Click here to read Jeannine’s thoughts about self-publishing this book!

*** Visit Jeannine’s Official Website to learn more about all her books, and subscribe to her blog, Views from a Window Seat, if you haven’t already.

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Please leave your links with Mr. Linky below. Don’t forget to include the title of the poem you’re sharing or book you’re reviewing in parentheses after your name.

Thanks for joining us today!

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1. Charles Ghigna (“November”)

2. Charles Ghigna (Talking GRANDparents at TALKING STORY)

3. Michelle @ Today’s Little Ditty (“A Dirty Kitchen Secret”)

4. Myra @ Gathering Books (A Pablo Neruda Special)

5. Laura Purdie Salas (“Ice Bridge” by Jane Yolen, with audio and poem starter)

6. Steven Withrow (“Comet Eater”)

7. Keri Collins Lewis (“California” – an acrostic)

8. Laura @ Author Amok (“Forgotten Planet” and Science Poetry)

9. Matt Forrest Esenwine (“Problem Solved”)

10. Diane Mayr (“Mr. Klimt’s Garden”, an original ekphrastic poem)

11. Linda Baie (What the Heart Knows – Joyce Sidman, and an original poem)

12. Kurious Kitty (Words with Wings)

13. Semicolon (David McCord)

14. KK’s Kwotes (quote on the process of creation)

15. Margaret Simon (Stealing a line poetry exercise)

16. Irene Latham (Giveaway and excerpts from Views from a Window Seat)

17. M. M. Socks (“To Myself”)

18. Robyn Hood Black (Haiku Series continues with Tom Painting)

19. Tara @ A Teaching Life (“Emily Dickinson” by Linda Pastan)

20. Donna @ Mainely Write (“Sleepover”)

21. Violet N (“Mother Bear”)

22. Tabatha (Robert Louis Stevenson)

23. Greg Pincus (“The Terrible Time-Eating Poem”)

24. The Poem Farm (“Whirligig Cardinal” and A New Writing Friend)

25. Mary Lee (NEW Billy Collins book!)

26. Madelyn Rosenberg (Mortimer Minute and “Sing, Little Songbird”)

27. Carol (new-to-me favorite poet David Whyte)

28. Shelf-Employed (The Highway Rat)

29. Anamaria @ Books Together (On Haiku for the Hop)

30. No Water River (Iza Trapani and Little Miss Muffet)

31. Heidi (My Po Per Day comes to a skidding halt huzzah)

32. Jeannine Atkins (Poetry and Plot)

33. Becky Shillington (Autumn haiku and Halloween Poetry Recap)

34. Ruth (Suzanne Vega song)

35. Dori Reads (Water and Words from Key West)

36. Little Willow – Bildungsroman (“Arcadia” by Tom Stoppard)

37. Karen Edmisten (“Being not unlovable, but strange and light”)

38. Tricia AKA Miss Rumphius (“To Sleep” by John Keats)

39. Dia Calhoun (“Old Man Woodstove”)

40. Jone (William Carlos Williams)

41. Liz Steinglass (Ted Kooser/Essential American Poets Podcast)

42. JoAnn Early Macken (Teaching Authors – thanku for supporting quality education)

43. kort@one deep drawer (Gertrude Stein, Mary Oliver)

44. Joy Acey (“Thanksgiving Colors”)

45. Lorie Ann Grover (Snaking passage)

46. readertotz (Train, Count and Elmo)

47. Anastasia @ Poet! Poet! (“LIKE NEW”)

48. Catherine Johnson (“Bunion”)

49. Kelly Ramsdell Fineman (“A Family Thanksgiving”)

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Another muffin for the road.


Copyright ¬© 2013 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

sunday bear: jeannine atkins

“Rose” by Brenda Dewey (German mohair, antique lace collar, 1986)


Love’s language is imprecise,
fits more like mittens than gloves.

~ Jeannine Atkins (Borrowed Names: Poems About Laura Ingalls Wilder, Madame C.J. Walker, Marie Curie and Their Daughters)

‚ô• Your weekly bear hug is brought to you, as always, by the dashing Mr. Cornelius, who has a not-so-secret crush on Ms. Atkins. Have a good week!




Copyright ¬© 2012 Cornelius Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

friday feast: raspberry rapture (a poem and a recipe)

via Richard Roche

Not too long ago, while I was busy tap tap tapping on my keyboard, I picked up the divine scent of raspberries.

They beckoned like¬†shamelessly seductive sirens from¬†a far-off fairyland:¬†“Come, come to us!¬†We’re mingling with flour, sugar, eggs and buttermilk! We can make you happy! O come, and bring your butter¬†knife!”

You can see I¬†had no¬†recourse but to investigate. The aroma of something¬†wonderful baking in the oven¬†is what I live for, and I¬†absolutely love love raspberries!¬†It wasn’t coming from my kitchen, sad to say; the resident bears were all napping. So where?¬†I clicked¬†through to a few of my favorite foodie¬†websites.¬†Dorie Greenspan¬†was busy baking thousands of gourmet CookieBar cookies, and¬†CakeSpy was happily working on¬†her new book, due out this Fall!


Weakened by¬†longing, desperate with curiosity, I briefly closed my eyes and let¬†the rich¬†raspberry rhapsody wash over me. I¬†had to find those vixens! Aha! I¬†should have known. Those ruby red rascals were right here on LiveJournal! My highly trained olfactories led me straight to¬†Jeannine Atkins’s blog. Yes, she had just¬†set out a plate of freshly baked Raspberry Muffins. Oh my, what beauties! Big, bumpy, bursting with berries. Taunting and tempting, even contaigious, since it didn’t end there. Within minutes days maybe a week, those very same muffins appeared on Jo Knowles’s blog.

Have mercy.

Just as big, bumpy, berryful and beautiful.

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jeannine atkins and her friends, laura and rose

#15 in the Poetry Potluck Series, celebrating National Poetry Month 2010.

Why, yes. That would be Jeannine Atkins up there waving to us from¬†atop that¬†airplane. Of all our Potluck guests, Jeannine knows best how to make a dramatic entrance. And she’s not fashionably late or anything, which is quite surprising considering she had to travel back in time to bring us the¬†two amazing women who appear in her poem:¬†Laura Ingalls Wilder and Rose Wilder Lane.

Today, Jeannine is sharing an excerpt from her recently released verse biography, Borrowed Names. You may remember my singing its praises¬†on its official pub¬†day.¬†Since then, it has earned yet another *starred review*, this time from Horn Book! We’re absolutely thrilled for this¬†author/poet/professor who dares to defy publishing odds against poetry and historical fiction. Just as Rose Wilder Lane once flew over San Francisco Bay strapped to the wing of an airplane, these days Jeannine Atkins is flying high on well-deserved praise.

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