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One of the first blogs I read on a regular basis was that of author Jo B. Knowles. I realized recently that I’ve been reading her posts for about five years. I “discovered” Jo through a classmate (and now most excellent writing buddy and friend, Cindy Faughnan). She recommended Jo’s new book at the time – Lessons from a Dead Girl – and her blog.

Cindy, as usual, was right. Jo’s book made me ache and wonder and worry – the kind of reading I adore.

On her blog, I was able to “see” Jo go through the experience of having her book come into the world. Articulate and generous, Jo shared steps of the journey. The joys, the uncertainties, the hopes and even the hurt when some readers couldn’t get beyond the discomfort they felt reading her beautifully written take on a tough topic – the kind that’s often swept under the rug or stashed in the closet with the family skeleton.

And then Jo went on to write more books. Each one is heartfelt and powerful in the best of ways. She’s not afraid to reach deep inside – herself, but also into the heart of her readers – to ask hard questions, to perhaps shift someone’s view of the world. All the while, on her blog she shares pieces of her writing journey and also writing prompts and exercises to inspire and motivate other writers who are stumbling along their own creative paths.

Her most recent book, See You at Harry’s is a masterpiece of joy and love and family and heartbreaking grief. (Sorry, SBB, you absolutely can’t read this one.)

Even though Jo always comes across on her blog as being open-hearted and dedicated to making connections within the community of literature for children, I have been shy to respond to her posts. That’s just me.

But now, for my first time, I’ve joined Jo’s JoNoWriMo+1.5. This is a kind of support group for making fall writing goals – inspired by and similar to the NoWriMo, but more sane. In setting my goals, I didn’t take on anything I didn’t want to do anyway; but for me, it’s a big step to publicly share my goals.

So here’s my public shout out. Thanks Jo! You’ve kept me hopeful all these years.

Sarah Wones Tomp

WRITING ON THE SIDEWALK

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