Top 10 Highlights of 2023 by Irene Latham

As the year comes to a close, it's time to take a look back at all the happy happenings. Things are tough in the book industry these days, but I'm still feeling incredibly grateful, lucky, blessed.

Here's my top 10-ish highlights, in no particular order. Thanks so much for reading!

This was my year of writing weekly ArtSpeak: LIGHT poems. Not light, ha-ha, but light, as in sun, moon, stars, candles, etc. Here's a favorite from the series:

This was also my year of selecting SPACE as my One Little Word. I reflected on what that as meant for me in this post. Quick takeaway: I am no less an author when I am not participating regularly in social media.

I wrote my first-ever 100k novel...for adults! What an accomplishment! Now, after working with a freelance editor, I have shaved off a good 15K words and am finishing up some other revisions, in hopes of hitting the next round of agents in early 2024.

Meanwhile, I have had SO MANY HELPERS for this book. So much kindness has come my way via texts and calls and emails from some dear ones who've really encouraged this project by simply asking about it or offering feedback or reminding me how tough it is in the publishing world right now, but I'll get through it if I just hang on.

I, along with my writing partner and poetic forever friend Charles Waters, got to meet Lauren Gerber, granddaughter of Scott O'Dell at the ALA awards luncheon recognizing AFRICAN TOWN for getting the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction. I wore my “African Town” dress (fabric was printed with one of the poems from the book!). There were tears. It was beautiful and validating and meaningful! It also left me feeling so grateful, like anything else that happens in my writing life is gravy.

I read some great books this year, including one that really changed how I think about myself. Learn about my Top 3 2023 Reads over at

I made some beautiful music this year and grew as a musician by making group playing a priority. This led me to attend a week-long cello camp (amazing!) and participate in Cellobration, hosted by Alabama Cello Society in which we played along with percussion, piano, saxophone...and Miss Alabama singing “Stars Fell on Alabama” and “I Look to You” (by Whitney Houston). What a special experience.

I got my first award in a photo contest! (An HM in the “pets in nature” category.) The same photo will be featured on the Bismarck Cancer Center 2024 calendar.

My mom and I got to quilt with the Gee's Bend quilters
Mary Ann Pettway and China Pettway (with whom I have a long history, thanks to my very first MG novel LEAVING GEE'S BEND).

I got to share my love for the moon and deliver to the world a book dedicated to my moon-loving son: THE MUSEUM ON THE MOON. I'm grateful it was named an NCTE Notable Poetry Book. It also meant moon jewelry and moon postcards and moon attire, including a made-by-me denim moon vest covered in Apollo and Artemis patches! Oh, and when I spoke at Homewood Library about it, they served moon pies and sun chips. (Librarians are the best!)

That's ten, but I've got to add one more: serving on faculty with Charles Waters at Highlights during National Poetry Month (April)! We had a great group, and Dean Spencer even brought his banjo and, accompanied by firesong and smores, he serenaded me with a rendition of “Good Night, Irene.” My 7-years-gone Papa used to sing this to me, so it was especially sweet, and I have remembered it often in the months since.

Wishing you every good thing as we move into 2024! 


  1. I love that you included moments big AND small here. What an incredible year it's been!

  2. Another meaningful 12 months in the Year of the Latham! Loved reading about all your goings on. The good times will continue because #lathampower is real and abiding!

  3. The year of enriching events at every turn.

  4. Quilting with Mary Ann Pettway and China Pettway? I'm swooning...

  5. A wonderful year! I hope Dean reads this and realizes how much you appreciated his song. It was a magical time at Highlights!

  6. Being at Highlights with you and Charles and the other AMAZING poets was definitely a highlight of 2023 for me!

  7. Ditto what Marcie and Tracey said. Meeting you and Charles in person was a definite highlight of 2023 for me.


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