Robyn Hood Black - children's author, poet, artist









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Hanging with fellow Georgia writers (from top, l-r) Tracy Walker, Heather Kolich, Donna Bowman, (bottom, middle) Janice Hardy and Paula Puckett
photo by Steve Kolich

Susan Rosson Spain, Robyn Hood Black, Elizabeth Dulemba, and Myra Meade at the Hall Book Exchange in Gainesville, Ga.
photo by Mel Hornsby

Southern Breeze Kudos Kites 09 - Donna, Robyn, Heather, Sarah, and Peggy

Robyn with Kathleen Duey, author extraordinaire http://www.kathleenduey.com

Robyn with Alaska Nature Writer Debbie Miller http://www.debbiemilleralaska.com

photo by Robyn Hood Black
Paul B. Janeczko http://www.paulbjaneczko.com

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Life on the Deckle Edge

Birds on the Wing and a poem by Linda Pastan

September 29, 2011

Tags: poetry, Poetry Friday, Elachee Nature Science Center, nature, animals, birds

© Robyn Hood Black

detail from my illustration in the March 2011 issue of Berry Blue Haiku
My Master Naturalist Class yesterday at Elachee Nature Science Center Center was one I’ve been looking forward to – Peter Gordon led a session on birds, followed by all of us heading out with binoculars and optimism to see what we could see! Despite the warm afternoon and shifty winds, we checked off about 18 species in our short trek by the lake.

What fun to distinguish a turkey vulture from a black vulture, the Cooper’s hawk from the more familiar red-tailed hawk, and the persistent chatter of a red-bellied woodpecker from the almost as persistent calls of a blue jay. We saw a flycatcher and a kingfisher, both having very good luck, and more common grackles than could be counted as they moved in and took over treetops.

Fall is such an exciting time to look for birds. Each year, ten billion birds leave the northern hemisphere to head south. And a whole bunch of them fly through my state, Georgia.

By the way, if you’re looking for an excuse to read poetry this weekend rather than do yard work, here it is: “Birds abhor a clean yard.” So forget the pristinely trimmed lawn if you want to attract them. Migrating birds appreciate the simple things: space, food (feeders, or berry-filled dogwood trees and the like – even poison ivy!), water (they really love a misting feature), and shelter (unkempt trees, and dead snags if they don’t threaten your property, are wonderful).

Today I found the perfect poem for this subject and this time of year – “The Birds” by Linda Pastan.

excerpt from The Birds
by Linda Pastan

The Birds

are heading south, pulled
by a compass in the genes.
They are not fooled
by this odd November summer,
though we stand in our doorways
wearing cotton dresses.
We are watching them

as they swoop and gather—
the shadow of wings
falls over the heart. …

(
Do click here to read the complete poem – the second half is my favorite part!)

Wishing you uplifting winds and welcome spots to rest along your journey this week. Fly on over to Read Write Believe for today's Poetry Friday Roundup.


Snakes on a Blog, and a Jane Hirshfield poem

September 23, 2011

Tags: poetry, Poetry Friday, authors, nature, Elachee Nature Science Center, animals, Berry Blue Haiku, haiku

Georgia's state herpetologist John Jensen holds a king snake. I held her, too - she was quite lovely!
I am loving the Master Naturalist class I’m taking this fall at Elachee Nature Science Center . Yesterday, the Georgia Department of Natural Resource’s chief herpetologist, John Jensen, led us through a litany of reptiles.

I didn’t realize my state housed the largest venomous snake in the U.S. (the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake, which is also the world’s largest rattlesnake), as well as the smallest (the Pygmy Rattlesnake), as well as the largest snake in general in the U.S. (the gentle Eastern Indigo), as well as the smallest native snake (the Florida Crowned Snake) and the country’s smallest /shortest snake, though not originally a Georgia resident (the Braminy Blind Snake). Those lengths, by the way, range from 8-and-a-half feet or more to just six inches.

In searching for an appropriately slithery poem to share this week I stumbled upon one which does mention a snake, but is so much more. Here are a few lines from Jane Hirshfield:

excerpt from “The Envoy”

Jane Hirshfield

One day in that room, a small rat.
Two days later, a snake.

Who, seeing me enter,
whipped the long stripe of his
body under the bed,
then curled like a docile house-pet.

I don’t know how either came or left.
Later, the flashlight found nothing.

For a year I watched
as something—terror? happiness? grief?—
entered and then left my body. …


(For the complete poem, and a moving reading of it by the poet, please click here.)

Now, speaking of Jane Hirshfield, I’d also like to put in a good word for her wonderful article, “The Heart of Haiku,”
available on Kindle for just 99 cents. I downloaded it to my PC. It’s a terrific introduction to the life and poetry of Bashô.

And speaking of Bashô and haiku, let me offer a shout-out that submissions are welcome over at the Berry Blue Haiku
blog, now a general online journal celebrating fine haiku. Click here for guidelines.

Finally, for this week’s Poetry Friday Roundup , please wriggle your way to Picture Book of the Day with Anastasia Suen.

Of wee things and fairy dust...

September 16, 2011

Tags: poetry, Poetry Friday, ponderings

A cantaloupe no bigger than an apple! For dinner, I halved it and put into two wee dishes, and my hubby filled the centers with grapes. ;0)
Some of you may recall my tragic garden-variety tale of a plundered cantaloupe a few weeks back.

Imagine my delight to discover a wee little cantaloupe this week, stem drying out and ready for “picking,” near the same spot. I’ve always been fascinated by tiny things and spent endless hours pretending I was one of Mary Norton’s "Borrowers" growing up!

So this week I’m offering a nod to all diminutive folk with a poem from Rose Fyleman (1877–1957). Her Wikipedia bio states that her her first publication, "There are Fairies at the Bottom of Our Garden," appeared in Punch in May of 1917. [I also like stories of people making their first splash into publishing at age 40 or later - ;0) ]

While I wouldn’t say the writing is spectacular, I personally needed something as light as fairy dust after a week of such heavy remembrances.

Enjoy!

“The Best Game the Fairies Play”

by Rose Fyleman

The best game the fairies play,
The best game of all,
Is sliding down steeples—
(You know they’re very tall).
You fly to the weathercock,
And when you hear it crow,
You fold your wings and clutch your things
And then let go! …


For the rest of the poem, click here.

To slide down more poems, visit Amy at The Poem Farm for this week’s Poetry Friday Roundup.

Highlights Founders Illustrators Workshop

September 13, 2011

Tags: illustrators, Highlights, conferences, workshops

Eric, Suzanne, Lindsay, Melanie, Floyd, and the new "barn" inside and out
As promised, a few more words about the recent Highlights Founders workshop for Advanced Illustrators. In short, amazing!

I can't possibly recapture all of it for you, so let me serve something like the appetizers we were treated to while mingling each afternoon.

With the largest Founders Workshop group thus far (29 of us, I think), we broke in the new "barn" - a lovely, functional structure which sprouted from the imagination and planning of executive director Kent L. Brown Jr. Alison Myers kept the weekend running smoothly, and always with a smile. (And no doubt you've heard about the food! Hospitality Manager and chef Marcia Dunsmore completely spoiled us.)

We got to meet several folks from Boyds Mills and Highlights - and did I mention Highlights Senior Art Director Cynthia Smith posed for us as a model Sunday afternoon? In her gorgeous belly-dancing ensemble? What an amazing surprise!

Dinner speakers included the wonderful Alix Kennedy, executive director of the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, and the ever-dazzling Vera B. Williams. - "In my mind, you need joy to make colors."

Each of us had a personal critique with a faculty member. I was fortunate to have a one-on-one meeting with the incredible Lindsay Barrett George (link below).

Also, each faculty member led a hands-on demonstration and workshop for the group, spotlighting a particular medium. (Check out my home page for one of my efforts!) Some great photos are up on the Highlights Foundation facebook page. Oh, and methinks a couple of our fearless leaders, Eric and Suzanne?, can always use stand-up comedy as a back-up career....

From my notes, here is a gem of wisdom from each award-winning faculty member:

Eric Rohman: "I want to live an interesting life, so I want to try a lot of different things."

Melanie Hall: "Infuse your work with your personality."

Suzanne Bloom: "What we do is magic."

Lindsay Barrett George: "Make your reader care about and love your character... connect with kids on an emotional level."

Floyd Cooper: "I'm opposed to lines in my work." He also shared a few quotes, including this one by Henry James: "The best things come, as a general thing, from the talents that are members of a group...."

What a privilege it was to be a part of THIS group for a few days - the experience will forever enrich my life and my sketchbooks.

Every Second Something Happens with Melanie Hall

September 9, 2011

Tags: illustrators, poetry, Poetry Friday, writing life, Highlights, workshops

Robyn with Melanie Hall, illustrator of Every Second Something Happens and much more...
I'm still relishing my Highlights Founders Workshop in Advanced Illustration last weekend, and praying for the folks in that region facing floods this week. I'll conjure up a recap soon.

One highlight was meeting award-winning Melanie Hall, who has illustrated several volumes of poetry. I cornered her for some tips and she kindly offered insights and encouragement. Her exuberant illustrations reflect her joyous, infectious spirit. She uses a variety of media to create her colorful illustrations, which are often full of movement.

We took a close look at Every Second Something Happens - Poems for the Mind and Senses, selected by Christine San Jose and Bill Johnson (Wordsong, 2009). I particularly love the variety of pictures and the generous amounts of white space giving the poems room to breathe. Melanie designed the book with Boyds Mills's Tim Gillner.

The book offers a multiple intelligences approach to organizing the poems. From the Note to Parents: "We've organized the verse in a way that follows the natural human approaches to making sense of the world: through language, senses (eyes, ears, movement), rational thinking, dealing with others, and knowledge of ourselves. ...So this book might quite rightly be reckoned as poetry in the service of children's intellectual development. But we confess that for us it's the other way around: helping children use all their native wits and sensitivities to discover the myriad delights of poetry."

Poems by children, with names and ages listed, appear alongside works by David L. Harrison, Lucille Clifton, Dawn Watkins, and Shakespeare - just to name a few. (The book's title comes from a poem by six-year-old Sam.)

Rebecca Kai Dotlich's "A Circle of Sun" is included in the "Wiggle, Waggle, Shimmy, Shake" section. (Melanie also illustrated Rebecca's collection, Over in the Pink House.) I've used "A Circle of Sun" with very young students in school visits, and they love acting it out. Here are a few lines from the middle - for the complete poem, see Lemonade Sun or this anthology!

Excerpt from "A Circle of Sun"
by Rebecca Kai Dotlich

I gallop.
I grin.
I giggle.
I shout.
I'm Earth's many colors.
I'm morning and night.
I'm honey on toast.
I'm funny.
I'm bright.


Bright is the perfect word to describe Melanie Hall's contribution to poetry collections, including this one.

Katie has this week's Poetry Friday roundup at Secrets & Sharing Soda.

Happy Birthday to Paul Fleischman from Honesdale, Pa.

September 2, 2011

Tags: Poetry Friday, poetry, authors, illustrators, writing life, SCBWI, Southern Breeze, conferences, workshops

Robyn at the Highlights offices in 2009
Greetings from Honesdale, Pennsylvania, this morning, where I’ll attempt to find an internet connection and connect to Poetry Friday! I’m attending my second Highlights Founders Workshop up in the beautiful mountains here. My first was a poetry workshop; this time around is an illustrators’ workshop with an amazing faculty (and attendees, for that matter!).

Perusing Lee Bennett Hopkins’s DAYS TO CELEBRATE this past week, I discovered that Monday (Sept. 5) is the birthday of the one and only Paul Fleischman. We SCBWI Southern Breezers had the honor of hosting Paul for our 2008 fall conference. (This is all related, really.)

I appreciated Paul’s keynote address on “found sculpture,” in which he described his own creative pursuits outside of writing. He shared that creative energy put into something “non-writing” will “flow into your writing,” noting that: “Art is problem-solving. Art is difficult.”

I for one am thrilled he’s let his own creative energy flow into so many wonderful works. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Paul Fleischman!

Let’s celebrate with a few lines from the 1989 Newbery Medal-winning JOYFUL NOISE – Poems for Two Voices (illustrated by Eric Beddows).

Fireflies

Light    Light

        is the ink we use

Night     Night

is our parchment

        We’re

        fireflies

fireflies      flickering

flirting

        flashing


For the rest of the poem (and proper formatting!), click over to the excerpt on Paul’s website .

The scope of Paul’s work is dizzying, and he has been named by The U.S. Board on Books for Young People as the United States' Author Award nominee for the 2012 Hans Christian Andersen Award , given every other year to “an author and illustrator for a body of work judged to have made lasting contributions to children's literature.” (Back to art – the amazing Chris Raschka is the U.S. nominee for the Illustration Award!) Winners are announced at the Bologna Book Fair.

Let me close with a quote from that 2008 keynote just for Jama, in case she drops by: “Serendipity is one of your four food groups, you know? Enjoy it!”

To enjoy more great poetry, head over to the Poetry Friday Roundup hosted today by Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect .

Quick Clicks

Media
bio, photos, interview links, etc.
Poems
Explore a poem or two or five....
Haiku
Explore this genre of sparely crafted poetry which offers endless depth. Resources for students, teachers, and writers.
Author visits
In schools or other settings, Robyn shares her passion for writing and encourages creativity. Presentations for all age groups.
Magazines
In addition to writing books, Robyn has sold her writing to major children's magazines.
Books
A rhyming tale of a young boy's knightly adventure with an imagined dragon.
Nonfiction, interactive book on wolves featuring giant pop-up and tons of info!
Portfolio
illustrations