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Hannah enjoying poetry workshop
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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
Robyn with Alaska Nature Writer Debbie Miller
photo by Robyn Hood Black
Paul B. Janeczko http://www.paulbjaneczko.com
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October 30, 2011
I've had the pleasure of hearing Caldecott medalist Eric Rohmann speak a couple of times, most recently at the fantastic Advanced Illustrators Highlights Foundation workshop last month. (See Sept. posts.)
In Honesdale, in addition to enjoying the incredibly fun relief printing workshop he offered, I chatted with him for a few moments about his new book, Bone Dog
(Roaring Brook Press, 2011). The Highlights folks were gracious to provide a copy of the book for attendees, but I'd already brought one in my suitcase.
I don't have an official interview to offer, but I do have to keep shouting out about how much I LOVE this book. Eric joked during that weekend about how it was standard procedure, when writing a picture book, to kill off a main character by the second or third spread. That's actually what he did in this touching (but not sentimental), humorous, heartfelt story about a boy and his dog.
Gus's beloved old dog, Ella, dies. He goes through the motions of daily activities but is grieving this loss.
"And when Halloween came around, Gus didn't feel like trick-or-treating. But he pulled on his costume and trudged out the door."
He's dressed as a skeleton, he is, and let's just say that as he makes his way home later, some real skeletons appear and they are up to no good. The text and illustrations cause just enough tension that a young reader will be wide-eyed and worried, but not terrified.
The skeleton characters are goofy and wicked and full of themselves, and the reader can sense that they might just be too big for their nonexistent britches.
I won't spoil the story by revealing how things are resolved, but Ella appears in a new form and helps to set things right, with a brilliant idea from Gus. (The book is called Bone Dog
, after all - not really a spoiler there, is it?)
Some hilarious spreads ensue, followed by a satisfying ending. Not a "happily ever after," mind you, or something tidy and sweet - but something very rich and honest. Death is a heavy subject, and this book looks it straight in the eye - but with such fun, expressive illustrations and a wacky sense of humor that readers young and old will enjoy the tale.
To learn more about the book, click here
for Eric's interview with Vicky Smith posted a few days ago on the Kirkus Reviews blog.
And to learn more about Eric, check out his brand new website
With all the starred reviews for this one-of-a-kind book, my two cents' might not amount to much - but it's Halloween and I couldn't resist sharing my favorite recent picture book treat. Go dig it up!
October 27, 2011
Irene Latham - poetic tricks and treats!
Irene is here! I’m very happy to share talented poet, friend, and Poetry Friday regular Irene Latham with you today. Her first poetry collection, What Came Before
(Negative Capability Press, 2007), was named Alabama State Poetry Society’s Book of the Year and earned a 2008 Independent Publisher’s (IPPY) Award. Irene was 2006 Alabama Poet of the Year, and that was just the beginning. She’s been busy scooping up a lot of (really) good news lately.
Before we get to that, let’s start with one of her poems, perfect for this last weekend in October:
Staffelsee in Autumn
© Irene Latham, all rights reserved
- after the painting by Gabriele Munter (Click here
to see the painting.)
When the trees kindle
their fires, when the sky
dissolves the lake and all
the small mysteries
are magnified: the scar
on your elbow, freckled
left earlobe, each line
and hollow accounted for
and made sacred.
We cannot hold onto
these days. A sharp wind
cuts the water into sheets
of ice, leaves crinkle
and curl, the easy gifts
of acorn and walnut
are buried, devoured.
Our fingerprints no
longer visible as breath.
Ah, so beautiful! This is from Irene’s latest volume of poetry, the lovely and evocative The Color of Lost Rooms, which just won the 2011 Writer’s Digest Self-published Book Award for Poetry. Congratulations! How did this particular collection come to be?
Thank you, Robyn, for sharing in my joy. This particular collection has enjoyed quite the evolution. It started as a series of persona poems in the voices of historical women. When I began to submit the manuscript to publishers, I was informed that 1. the spectrum of women I found compelling enough to write about was too broad or 2. the women I chose to feature were not diverse enough to find a readership. Talk about conflicting feedback! So I decided to choose the strongest of the historical women poems and allow them one section of a manuscript.
Meanwhile I was writing a series of poems inspired by a book of postcards featuring art on display at The National Museum of Women in the Arts
. And I was, of course, writing more personal poems about my role as a wife, mother, daughter, sister. Long story short: women’s experiences with love and loss and longing became my manuscript’s theme.
Tell us a little bit about your adventures in publishing your own collections.
Poetry is a tough market. I decided to self-publish after attending Colrain Poetry Manuscript conference in 2010. What I learned from Jeffery Levine at Tupelo Press was that “success” in terms of sales is marked by selling 1,000 books in 3 years. And that’s on a national level! I thought, well, I can do that myself.
What was it like to learn about the Writer’s Digest award?
Wow, it’s just so validating. Those Writer’s Digest contests are so competitive… awards can really give a book new life. I feel like I’ve been out on the ocean with sharks circling the boat and now, all of sudden, the sails are billowing again.
Many writers feel that having another arts outlet helps their creativity. You’ve posted pictures of some gorgeous quilts on your blog. How did you get into quilting?
I’m the daughter of a seamstress. I went to sleep many nights to the hum of a sewing machine. And while my mother didn’t quilt, she did create beautiful things out of mere scraps. As soon as I learned from my husband’s grandmother (a quilter) that there really are no rules when it comes to quilting, I knew I had found my sewing home. And then I met the Gee’s Bend quilters… this year I took on the Quilt a Month Challenge, and I’m happy to say I’ve completed it!
Good for you! Speaking of quilting, tell us a little bit about your novels. LEAVING GEE’S BEND (Putnam, 2010) explores an isolated town in Alabama in 1932 through the one good eye of young Ludelphia Bennett, desperate to get her mother the medical care she needs. It’s a terrific read and has garnered the Alabama Library Association 2011 Children's Book Award. It was nominated as a 2011 ALA Notable Children’s Book and for the 2010 Cybils, among other accolades. Booklist called it “authentic and memorable.” How did you come to write Ludelphia’s story?
When I saw the Quilts of Gee’s Bend exhibit at the Whitney Museum, I fell in love with the quilters and their stories and their quilts. I spent the next two years following them around without a thought of writing a book – just as a Gee’s Bend groupie. I listened to hours and hours of audio interviews of the women talking about their lives, and I read voraciously. Then one day, this voice emerged. It was Ludelphia. I knew had to write her story.
Perhaps interesting to the Poetry Friday readers, the novel actually started out as a novel-in-verse. But when I submitted to my now-agent, she said she couldn’t sell it as a novel-in-verse. So I rewrote it in traditional prose. And she sold it right away.
You have another novel slated for release from Roaring Brook next fall (2012). This one is obviously one which will be on my nightstand as soon as it comes out, because it’s about a boy living at a zoo?? Do tell.
I’m so excited about this book! I remember the moment I got the idea: I was in a bookstore with my father (an avid reader – he reads a book a day!) over the Christmas holidays. I had been thinking about how we adults have these passions, but what happens when our children don’t share them? So I said out loud to my father, “how 'bout a story about a boy whose parents are zoo people, and he feels like he was born the wrong species, and he wants to escape the zoo?” My dad laughed, which was a very encouraging sign!
Soon after, Whit was born. The book is really about finding the place where you belong in the world, finding your very own passion and being strong and brave enough to go after that thing, whatever it may be.
Which YOU obviously are. A peek into your writing habits? Are you very structured, or do you pull all-nighters, or both?
I believe strongly that the most important thing I can do for my writing is go out and live a life worth writing about. Which means I don’t necessarily sit at my computer every day. For me, the most important part of the writing is happening all the time, as I engage myself with the world. And then when I do sit down to write, it all burbles out. (I should also say here that when I do write, I WRITE. I like to write a first draft of a novel within a month. It’s pretty intense.)
And now back to poetry. You’ve just sold your first poem in the children’s market. Tell us about it!
Thanks to YOU, and to the lovely Rebecca Kai Dotlich whom you brought to Georgia last June, I discovered some really important things about myself as a poet AND about children’s poetry. I was completely on fire to write after I left that retreat – and did write, incessantly, as the above answer would indicate. My first focus was a series of ocean poems. And the poem Lauren Tarshis at Scholastic’s Storyworks
magazine selected was one from that series. It’s a persona poem in the voice of a shipwreck. (Persona poems. I love 'em!)
And I love hearing success stories from our SCBWI Southern Breeze events! - :0) Now, how did you get involved with the Birmingham Arts Journal, which features writing and art from all over the world, and what are your duties as poetry editor? Do any particular types of poetry submissions hold special appeal?
I’ve served as poetry editor for BAJ for eight years now. Basically it involves reading submissions and selecting the poems for inclusion in our quarterly magazine. I’m especially excited about poems that are raw and teeming with emotion. These poems may not be as polished as some that you see in slick-er literary magazines, but I do love working with poets (those who are willing to do so) to help improve the poems. If I see that nugget, I let the poet know and invite him or her to chip away a bit more. Most of the time these poems end up in a future issue.
Finally, do share one tidbit blog readers and even loyal fans might not know about you – pretty please with fat quarters on top?
Mmmmm… anything for fat quarters. ;0) “Irene” is actually my middle name. So when I buy plane tickets or check into hotels, I use my first name (the one on my driver’s license). Which means, from time to time, I say the wrong name and it causes all sorts of confusion. (Parents-to-be: don’t do this to your children!)
Ha! And I see you're still holding out on us about your first name. Well, I'm sure you'll be back... Thanks so much for visiting, Irene!
Thank you, Robyn, for sharing your warm, generous spirit, and for all you do to support writers. (Readers, if Robyn is hosting an event, you do NOT want to miss it! Springmingle is coming in February…)
(Thanks for the plug!) To learn more about Irene, click here. And for more great poetry, take your trick-or-treat bag over to Diane at Random Noodling for the Poetry Friday Roundup.
October 25, 2011
Over at the Berry Blue Haiku
blog, Gisele has posted today a rare and wonderful haiku feast if you want to broaden your horizons and indulge in fine writing from another culture.
, an award-winning and widely published haiku poet, translator and editor who lives in Ivanic Grad, has shared An Unmown Sky: An Anthology of Croatian Haiku Poetry
with us. You can click on the link in the post to read and/or download the pdf anthology, which includes works written between 1996 and 2007 by more than a hundred poets.
Here's the link again: Berry Blue Haiku
October 20, 2011
To celebrate Wolf Awareness Week
(Oct. 16-22), I thought I’d celebrate with some pack-related poetry. I have the privilege of volunteering with a couple of wolves at the Chestatee Wildlife Preserve
in Dahlonega, Ga. In light of the news this week, I’m sure I’m not the only one with a heavy heart for the senseless loss of animal life in Ohio, and also for the law enforcement officers who had a terrible but unavoidable task to protect the public. Surely laws in that state regarding the keeping of exotic animals will be strengthened now.
If you happen to be in north Georgia, I'll be presenting a session for kids featuring wolf information next month on Sat., Nov. 12, at 3 p.m. at the Dahlonega Literary Festival
Here are a couple of poems I wrote a while back about the captive wolves I’ve been honored to know.
The Bottom Line
I hold a piece of cheese above her nose.
Her back end hits the ground.
But she knows and I know:
A wolf only sits if she wants to.
© Robyn Hood Black, all rights reserved
flits and floats outside the pen.
Gray wolf leaps and prances inside -
up and down,
following buttery wings.
© Robyn Hood Black, all rights reserved
Note: In Women Who Run With the Wolves
, Clarissa Pinkola Estes describes a solo tribal dance in New Mexico called the “Butterfly Dance.” Traditionally, Hopi youth perform a social dance called “The Butterfly Dance” in late summer.
Attempts are ongoing in the Southwestern United States to reintroduce the Mexican Wolf, the most genetically distinct type of gray wolf. Efforts have not met with the same success as the reintroduction of wolves in the greater Rockies. For updated USFWS Mexican wolf information, click here
And for wonderful poetry, go see what Jama’s got cookin’ for the
Poetry Friday Roundup
October 18, 2011
© Robyn Hood Black
It's WOLF AWARENESS WEEK!
October 16-22, 2011
I celebrated with Luna and Rio at the Chestatee Wildlife Preserve
today. Their coats are starting to thicken up for colder weather.
If you love wolves, check out all the great online resources at the International Wolf Center
. There are pages for kids, teachers, and wolf enthusiasts of all ages.
And, if you're in north Georgia, I'll be presenting a session with wolf information next month at the Dahlonega Literary Festival
on Sat., Nov. 12, at 3 p.m. at the Children's Stage.
Check back Friday for a wolfy Poetry Friday post.
October 14, 2011
Just a late Poetry Friday wave from Birmingham, where we're enjoying the 20th anniversary SCBWI Southern Breeze fall conference. I'll be back here with bells on next week.
Today, Lola Schaefer led a wonderful all-day intensive on picture book writing. Tomorrow I'm presenting a workshop on haiku - :0)
October 7, 2011
I’m delighted to feature Steven Withrow as our special guest today. This poet, storyteller, and author is a passionate advocate for young people’s literature and serves as an advisor to the Keene State Children’s Literature Festival.
Steven Withrow pictured with his lovely daughter
He holds a bachelor’s degree from Roger Williams University and a master’s degree from Emerson College. With director Edward J. Delaney, he produced the documentary, Library of the Early Mind.
Steven has taught at Rhode Island School of Design and Suffolk University and has spoken to audiences across North America. He’s authored six books for visual artists and storytellers, including Illustrating Children’s Picture Books (written with his talented wife, Lesley Breen Withrow). It’s a terrific book, and I will feature it soon on this blog.
Welcome, Steven! You have so many talents and interests. Where to start?! How about telling us when and how you first fell in love with poetry.
I don’t remember a single moment of my life when I wasn’t in love with words—and all the syllables and sound clusters that make up words. I’m still more interested in how words touch the ears and how they taste on the tongue than in what they mean. The first poem I memorized, in second grade, was Karla Kuskin’s “Write About a Radish”
from Dogs & Dragons, Trees & Dreams
. I still know it by heart. I’ve been reveling in poetry and story ever since.
You recently released your first collection of poems for adults as a digital book, Crackles of Speech, available to readers who contact you through your website. What a breadth of subjects, forms, and treatments! Here’s a very small (and insufficient) sampling:
From many nods to the natural world, these lines from “Rooting” –
Hooray hurrah huzzah - for tap, sap, font, and source,
For fingertips of gymnosperms planting gymnastic handstands,
For bending straws of sycamores slurping the groundwater,
For xylem and phloem fixed in daylong flux…,
and an example of a historical reference, with these lines from “Cost of Battle, 48 B. C.” –
His helmet lost - a boy no more than twelve
Conscripted from the town by Pompey’s men -
I hesitate, but only for a flash,
Before I bring the spearhead down. …
and several touching musings on love and family, such as these closing lines of
“Lessons Fathers Only Learn at Home”
I look over at my burbling girl,
once the white and flattened face
of the moon in a sonogram photo,
the now-calm eye at the center
of this maelstrom’s crushing path,
this aftermath, and I start to laugh
at all my wild and cataclysmic joys.
I can’t tell you how much I love “all my wild and cataclysmic joys”! Speaking of children, you are especially interested in and committed to poetry for young readers. And your poem “Cornered” appears in the just-released p*tag, the second digital collection (this one featuring poetry for teens) from Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong. What was it like writing for that project?
Thank you for your kind words about my poems in Crackles of Speech
, which is a real miscellany of my work for adults written over a six-year period.
, I’ll say first what a stupendous honor it is to be included among such stellar poets as Naomi Shihab Nye and J. Patrick Lewis. Choosing a single photograph for inspiration, from a batch of dozens, was a matter of instinct.
I selected one titled “Corner” that shows the meeting of two walls inside an elaborately decorated church. I thought of how two people meet and fall in love. Borrowing four words from the Jeannine Atkins’s poem that precedes mine—ancient, saved, heart, corner—helped me to solidify my poem’s basic imagery. It was challenging to write and revise a poem within 48 hours—I usually draft poems quickly and often revise over the course of several weeks—but it was the best sort of challenge.
I’m always curious about creative work habits. Do you keep a set writing schedule, or write in fits and flurries, or both?
Given all that I’ve got going on, I write whenever and wherever I can. I’m trying to be more systematic about it, to make it a genuine practice, but it’s often catch-as-catch-can. I always write stories on paper or on the computer, but with poems, I’ll often “compose” silently in my mind while I’m taking a walk or washing dishes, or I’ll speak them aloud while I’m driving alone. As I noted before, I write for the ears and for the tongue. I revise on the computer—but the true test is whether I enjoy saying a poem out loud.
Are your collections born from a theme first or strung together from existing poems?
I’ve written several, as-yet-unpublished children’s collections, and all but one (my first) started with a central theme. I’m told it helps collections sell to editors and book buyers, though I’ve always preferred a grab bag of poems in a single book.
You have just started a grassroots, nonprofit organization, Poetry Advocates for Children & Young Adults, “celebrating poetry as a living thing.” Tell us about it! Who can join, and how do folks get involved?
All that I might say about PACYA can be found at http://poetryadvocates.wordpress.com
, especially in this short essay
. I invite everyone to get involved and help spread the word.
Finally, are there a few more lines you’d like to leave us with?
By Steven Withrow
Something seamy and unseemly in the name
they carry, painted ladies, pins a sordid shame
in fore- and hindwing, but its sting recedes in flight,
for they are dazzlers as they grab the air, these brightly
spotted Cynthias of a genus called Vanessa:
you laugh to draw the last, and dub her Iridessa.
[©2011 Steven Withrow, all rights reserved]
Ahh... - delgihtful! Many thanks for visiting, Steven, and I can’t wait to see what you come up with next.
To learn more, visit Steven at his poetry blog, Crackles of Speech, and at the Poetry at Play blog. For more great poetry, click over to the Poetry Friday Roundup at Great Kid Books!
October 5, 2011
© Robyn Hood Black(yep, that's a penny!)
Just for fun!
So I've been a little, um, obsessed? with wee things from the garden this year. Here's the wee-est of all: an itsy bitsy cherry tomato hanging from a plant this week. It's about the size of a pea. Really - you could put it under a stack of mattresses to check the pedigree of a princess....
bio, photos, interview links, etc.
Explore a poem or two or five....
Explore this genre of sparely crafted poetry which offers endless depth. Resources for students, teachers, and writers.
In schools or other settings, Robyn shares her passion for writing and encourages creativity. Presentations for all age groups.
In addition to writing books, Robyn has sold her writing to major children's magazines.
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!
(Click here to visit Robyn's art business)
Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators
National Council of Teachers of English
Click here for KidLitosphere's links to current poetry round-up