Hot off the Press

I am over the moon that Elinormal is featured on the Children’s Book Council’s Hot off the Press list!

This book began years ago as a few scribbled lines across a newspaper page as I sat in the lobby of a ballet studio, watching and waiting. A seed of a story that nestled in my writer’s brain, and continued to grow.

And now here it is, fully formed, making its debut next month.

The sequel, New Girl: The Further Adventures of Elinormal will follow in April.

Dreams really do come true!

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L.F. Tantillo
I sent my aunt a Mary Oliver poem that spoke to me
about the futility of worry. It ends with the lines 
Finally, I saw that worrying had come to nothing.
And gave it up. And took my old body
and went out into the morning,
and sang

She responded in kind, a line worthy of a poet.
I try to sing but end up crying.  Maybe that's my song? 

My aunt is eighty-seven. 
She raised ten children. 
Sent them out into the world, one at a time
to bloom and grow like flowers.

I want to tell her, if she must cry, 
let tears fall like gentle rain, nurturing
the garden that she’s grown. 

Her life is still in full bloom, and
she surrounds herself with beauty.

A wall of paintings. 
Still life and cityscape. 
Seaside and countryside.
Antique treasures. Everywhere, 
inside and out, flowers bloom, despite the season
a cascade of color, to wake to each morning

There are flowers yet to bloom, 
There are stanzas yet to write.
Her song is a garden.
Her life is a poem.
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I grab a cup of coffee early,
new steam rich and thickly rising 
as daylight rises over distant hills
entering the quiet garden,
fully awake now in the flowering –
I wait among those that are 
just what they are
and those yearning to be something more 

overnight – blooms yield to transformation 
yellow squash, lemons, bright and bitter
tomatoes & strawberries red as love
linger in each morning’s ripeness
before the squirrels and birds arrive
to strip the branches bare
to claim what they want and will
while I sit idly by.

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A real estate listing 
sent in a text
29 photos, inside and out
our very first house
around the corner from the womb 
of our parents
the place we began
here is the odd-shaped room 
where our babies slept
here is the wooded expanse 
where they played
memories updated in hardwood 
and steel, wallpaper measured and hung
late into the night, replaced with bright paint. 

Forty years since we called it our own —
we don’t know these owners 
who don’t know of us, our memories 
hidden in closets, climbing the stairs
they don’t know of the cross we found 
etched into the wall, don’t know of the plastered hole 
punched in the hall, crayoned measurements 
marking the years, long ago dreams, disappeared. 
They’ll never know this house is alive, 
bursting with promise, forever mine.

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.I love this New Yorker article.“You know when botanists bisect a tree, and can tell by the thickness of rings what the conditions were like that year? This feels like we had that year, and this is what happened.”

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What Love Tastes Like

When we first moved from Buffalo, we’d have Sunday dinner with my grandparents every week. My father was their only remaining child – his brother had drowned years and years before, leaving a wake of sadness to seep into everything. You could feel it the moment you stepped out of the car, walked up the cement walkway, and opened the front door. The house was all dark polished wood and silence – a place that whispered grief.

There was not much there for a child, so we’d sit on the back stoop and listen for birds before dinner, or sit stiffly on the sofa after dinner enduring Lawrence Welk. One rainy Sunday I stole into the kitchen out of boredom and sat at the kitchen table to watch Nanny Mac peel the potatoes. She did it slowly, with precision, in a sort-of meditative trance. She didn’t shoo me away that day, and soon I went from watcher to helper. She let me pull a stepstool over to the stove and taught me how to stir real chocolate pudding over low heat until it was perfectly smooth, then pour it into little class parfait dishes to cool in the refrigerator until a chocolate skin formed. Later we’d whip cream with sugar to dollop on top. She told me it was her favorite dessert, but she’d never take even a bite, having given up chocolate as a sacrifice the day her Billy died. 

Dessert at Nanny’s was always some sort of pudding. Bread pudding. Butterscotch custard. Rice pudding. I loved them all. Tapioca pudding took the most patience and concentration – the rich spiced smell filling the space between us as we worked in silence at the stove. I treasured being in the kitchen with her which always felt so solemn and ceremonial. We’d set the dining room table together with the good china and crystal even though it was just us. Feeding our family was a sacrament for Nanny. 

Now I’m the nanny, calling the family together for the sacrament of Sunday dinners. We gave them up for nearly a year, then slowly returned to the ritual – first with dinner at separate tables in the yard, then masked and social-distanced inside. Now, with the vaccine and our strict adherence to maintaining our bubble, we’re reestablishing the tradition of gathering each week to be together.

This is a long way of saying how thankful I am for those hours spent in a hot, tiny kitchen beside a stoic woman who dealt with loss by nurturing us. She taught me what it means to be strong. The first time I ordered a chai tea latte at Starbucks, I was overcome with emotion – it tastes like tapioca to me. It tastes like love.

To make real tapioca pudding, you need: 

  • 1/2 cup small pearl tapioca (you can usually find it in the baking section of the grocery store, do not use instant tapioca)
  • 3 cups whole milk (or skim milk with cream added)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Combine tapioca, milk, and salt in 1 1/2 quart pan on medium high heat. Stir while bringing to a bare simmer. Lower the heat and cook uncovered, at the lowest possible heat, adding sugar gradually, until the tapioca pearls have plumped up and thickened.

Depending on the type or brand of tapioca you are using and if you’ve presoaked the tapioca as some brands call for, this could take anywhere from 5 minutes to 45 minutes of cooking at a very low temperature.

Stir occasionally so that the tapioca doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.

Beat eggs in a separate bowl. Whisk in some of the hot tapioca very slowly to equalize the temperature of the two mixtures (to avoid curdling).

Increase the heat to medium and stir for several minutes until you get a thick pudding consistency. Do not let the mixture boil or the tapioca egg custard will curdle. Cool 15 minutes. Stir in vanilla. Serve either warm or chilled.

Note: If you want to make a more light and fluffy, but still rich, tapioca pudding, separate the eggs. Use the egg yolks to stir in first to the pan with the tapioca. Once the pudding has become nice and thick, beat the egg whites in a separate bowl to soft peaks. Remove the pan of tapioca pudding from the stove, fold in the beaten egg whites into the pudding.

                                                                                                (Recipe from Simply Recipes)

Or, if you’re in a hurry, go to Starbucks and order a Grande Chai Tea Latte. Inhale. Sip slowly.

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Vaccination Day

We parked in lot 7, as instructed

lined up single file, greyhaired and masked up

outside the humanities building, where no students currently

sit listening to lectures about post-modern anything

instead, there we were, silent captives forced to bear witness

to the indignant cries of the woman

at the very front of the line

broadcasting her position of privilege

how she’d waited and waited for the chance

to come here and stand in the sunshine

rather than risk sharing the same air

polluted by the unsavory horde she saw

lining up across the bay, waiting

for their chance to be saved


Later, I sat alone

here in this garden I planted

marveling at whatever

was happening deep inside 

my cells being schooled

by a few drops of miracle

content in this sunshine

till the songbirds grew silent

dismissed by a squawking jay

swooping in rudely, his jeering call

clearing a path to the feeder


There’s a lesson here in nature

I’m still trying to unwind

some deep and strange and ugly truth

courses wildly through blue veins

causes scientific breakthroughs

and being first in line

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Announcing Elinormal

Available October 15, 2021.By KATE MCCARROLL MOORE

Click to pre-order:

While skipping lessons at the prestigious ballet academy that her mother forced her to enroll in, 11-year-old Elinor Malcolm meets Indira, a mysterious older girl who encourages her to explore her identity and expand her world. A touch of magical realism infuses their encounters and shapes their relationship. Indira’s influence helps Elinor find a path that ultimately is satisfying for both her and her mother. Friendship, family, identity, and the importance of honest communication and being true to oneself are interwoven themes that create a fascinating tapestry and a very compelling story.

ISBN: 978-1-952536-22-9 (softcover only)

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he kept a little notebook

in the locked glovebox

of every car he owned

recording each fill-up

inking the mileage math


he kept filled-up ledgers

preserved in his office

alongside longer lists

daily highs and lows

recorded, compared

with relative birthdates

and deathdates

plotting his chances

before they ran out


he kept the tank

three quarters full

rotated the tires

counted the change

stopped smoking in old age

started swimming instead

a lifetime accounting

for chances untaken

for wishes unsaid

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Sunday Morning Haiku

the way the light falls

on ordinary goodness

waiting to be shared

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