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

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

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Life on the Deckle Edge

Poetry Friday - YOU JUST WAIT Giveaway (!) with Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong

September 21, 2016

Tags: Poetry Friday, poetry, book tracks, Janet Wong, Sylvia Vardell, Pomelo Books, giveaway

Greetings, Poetry Friday-ers!

I'm freshly back from a glorious week up at a Highlights Founders Workshop with Rebecca Kai Dotlich and Georgia Heard, and beautifully blogged about by Linda and Catherine. I didn't unpack my suitcase, though – I’m heading out again, this time across the entire country to end up with more of my poetry tribe! I know, I know... I AM a lucky duck. Quack.

I'll finally (!) get to meet Janet Wong and Sylvia Vardell IN PERSON at Western Washington University's POETRY CAMP - an awesome conference next Saturday, Oct. 1. Several participating poets will arrive a little early, and I'll be leading a "Makerspace" found poem/mixed media workshop Friday night at a local bookstore. Can't wait!

Speaking of waiting, I'm delighted to keep the celebratory blog party going for the newest member of Sylvia and Janet's Pomelo Books family, YOU JUST WAIT - A Poetry Friday Power Book. The indefatigable Vardell-Wong duo has come up with a truly one-of-a-kind resource for middle school students, sprung from their POETRY FRIDAY ANTHOLOGY FOR MIDDLE SCHOOL (an NCTE Poetry Notable published in 2013).

Taking innovative inspiration from Lee Bennett Hopkins’s “groundbreaking work in creating poetry anthologies” (from the dedication), they’ve crafted a book that is part anthology, part novella, and totally interactive. Students are going to love it. I love it. (If I’d only had this book during those couple of years I taught middle school English…)

Nutshell: Janet took a dozen poems from the PFA for Middle School, added two dozen more original poems, and whipped up a complete narrative with living, breathing characters. Sylvia took this delectable main dish and served it up with fun side activities. Then she handed over ingredients and a bowl to the reader, offering a recipe of prompts for each chapter (and space on the pages!) to create his or her own poems.

The character names in YOU JUST WAIT came from Julie Larios’s gorgeous poem, “Names.”

Saturday morning means I buy pan dulce
with Tio Chepe and my cousin Lucesita
whose name means “Little Light” –
that’s what I call her, and she laughs
and pinches me and calls me “Peace”
because my name is Paz. …

(Side note - I get to present a picture book workshop next Saturday with Julie – I know, more lucky quacks! Quack quack!!)

The action part of the story comes from Paz’s trying out for the soccer team. Will she make it? Emotional connections come from relationships (cousins who are also schoolmates) between Paz, Lucesita, and Joe, who is a little older. Middle school students will see themselves in fresh, accessible poems about identity struggles, sports, fears, achievements, family, making it through the school day – and food! – to name a few themes.

Here’s some backstory from Janet:

We moved to a new town when I was a junior in high school. I felt very uncomfortable being “different-looking” in a school that was 90% white and suburban/semi-rural (after having been at a diverse urban school the previous year). My solution: to spend every lunch period in the library, reading alone. This wasn’t necessarily a bad solution, but I was very lonely until I finally started making friends a few months into the year. Something I’d love to see: lunchtime book clubs using YOU JUST WAIT to pull kids in and get them talking. Give them an excuse to join by giving them books!

YOU JUST WAIT provides an easy structure for a book club to follow; they can do one PowerPack a week.

What is a PowerPack, you ask?

Here are the spreads from the PowerPack which include my poem, “Locker Ness Monster.” (These small pictures don't do the type justice, but I wanted to lend a sense of how everything works together.)

The section opens with a PowerPlay pre-writing activity - in this case, a “Pick a Number” adventure with several possible options. Next are two poems: my “Outside Poem” poem from THE POETRY FRIDAY ANTHOLOGY FOR MIDDLE SCHOOL and Janet’s “Response Poem,” (this one told from Paz’s point of view, carrying the story over from the previous Power Pack as well as tying into this one).

Locker Ness Monster


Arrrgh. That’s not it.


Nothing. Nada. Nyet.


Click. That’s it!

Unlock your head,
then your fingers,
then the door.

©Robyn Hood Black. All rights reserved.

Locked Out and Running Late

Usually I refuse to check a box.
I just let myself be blank.

But today I checked Other
and Hispanic and Asian

to get things over with because
I am in too much of a hurry

and who I really am
this very second is

locked out
and running late.

©Janet Wong. All rights reserved.

Then, a “Mentor Text” poem by Janet follows, this one again from Pax’s point of view:


4            People would never guess
7            that my mind is such a mess
2            with numbers.

6            But I can memorize a poem,
9            read and read it to make it my own.
9            And then I can use it like a code.

3            Here’s a rhyme
4            when it comes time
7            to know my number. OK, let’s see:
3            (472) 699-3473!

©Janet Wong. All rights reserved.

Last in each PowerPack is the Power2You page, with terrific prompts created by Sylvia. In this one, it’s called “Numbers” and offers space to write under the following prompt: Write your phone number in a vertical column below. Then create a poem by writing a line for each number, adding that number of words in each line (so 9 = 9 words, 7 = 7 words, and so on). Or use another set of numbers that means something special to you.

Pretty brilliant, no? Here are some thoughts from Sylvia:

It was fun to explore this new project with Janet and think about ways to involve young people in looking at how poems work. I particularly enjoyed my role in thinking of creative "PowerPlay" and "Power2You" activities that were fun and playful and not like the usual school exercises. It was made easier by Janet's engaging poems that evoke a strong teen voice and persona. I thought about how to connect pre-writing with texting, movies and poems, and numbers and doodles, too. We hope young readers feel empowered to come at poetry in multiple ways and express themselves through their own writing.

[PowerPacks include poems by Carmen T. Bernier-Grand, Joseph Bruchac, Jen Bryant, Margarita Engle, Charles Ghigna, Avis Harley, Julie Larios, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, Charles Waters, Virginia Euwer Wolff, and Janet Wong. I'm beyond thrilled to be in such book company.]

But – WAIT! There’s MORE! Now you want your own copy, right? Janet and Sylvia are eager to get this jam-packed, brimming-with-resources, friendly-sized volume out into the world, inspiring young writers. They have tucked 5-count’em-FIVE copies right here in my blog to give away! Just leave a comment below by Wednesday, Oct. 5, and I’ll announce random winners on Friday, Oct. 7. Then don’t stray too far away – I’ll need to track down lucky ducks via email to find your real-world pond addresses.

Many thanks to Janet and Sylvia for visiting with us today and donating these wonderful books! [Don't want to leave things to chance? Click here for information on how to order this and other Poetry Friday Anthology editions.]

After commenting, be sure to go back to Reading to the Core, where the lovely and talented Catherine is hosting our Roundup this week.


  1. September 22, 2016 9:50 PM EDT
    Hi Robyn, I think this post is positively ducky! I've been looking forward to it since Janet told me we'd be posting on the same day. :) I love J & S's "backstory" that you incorporated. Also, your poem is so fun (I should try unlocking my head more often!) and led to a super poetry prompt. It must have been exciting to read Janet's response poem for the first time! Have a great time at Poetry Camp. I'll be thinking about you all. xo
    - Michelle Heidenrich Barnes
  2. September 22, 2016 10:03 PM EDT
    I'm loving learning so much about this wonderful book. I am going to have to get myself a copy. What a wonderful way to get kids reading, writing and enjoying poetry.
    - Sally Murphy
  3. September 22, 2016 10:28 PM EDT
    Hi, Michelle! Sure wish you could trek cross-country and join us, but we'll keep you with us in spirit next weekend. And, YES - it was amazing to read a poem written by Janet in response to one I'd written! I can't wait to hear how students respond themselves to this book; loved that you took one of the prompts and ran with it! :0)

    Sally, glad you're enjoying the virtual peeks inside! I think you'd enjoy a copy for sure, with all the work you do with students. Hey, don't know what the odds will be, but maybe I'll be sending one across the globe... ?
    - Robyn Black
  4. September 22, 2016 10:38 PM EDT
    Great idea for making the most out of the PF anthology...I'm looking forward to seeing more of it. And have fun nest weekend - please tell Janet & Sylvia I said hi. I really wished I could have joined you folks!
    - Matt Forrest Esenwine
  5. September 22, 2016 11:49 PM EDT
    Wow, I just came from reading Michelle's post, and now more from you, too, Robyn, about this marvelous new "thing" for students, and maybe adults, too! Happiest of travels to this new and amazing group you're off to. I'd love seeing you and Julie present!
    - Linda Baie
  6. September 23, 2016 12:35 AM EDT
    We'll miss you next weekend, Matt! Thanks for dropping by.

    Hi, Linda - Um, I miss you! :0) Last week at Highlights was glorious. I can't wait to meet Julie in person myself.
    - Robyn Black
  7. September 23, 2016 8:03 AM EDT
    SO much goodness here. "Locker Ness" - clever & true. The flavors of names weave us closer to each other - I immediately felt connected to your name, Robyn, when we met in Atlanta, having dwelled with that character in school reading days. JUST YOU WAIT sounds like a must-do, not only for middle school but for all us life-schoolers. Appreciations for sharing & happy continued trails & travel charms, to you!
    - Jan/Bookseedstudio
  8. September 23, 2016 8:53 AM EDT
    Helllooooo, Jan! Thank you for coming by with all your wonderful words and wishes. If you haven't been over to Michelle's TODAY'S LITTLE DITTY yet, you'll enjoy seeing how she took inspiration from one of these PowerPacks to craft a new poem herself - definitely fun for all ages! (& you can enter to win a copy over there, too... :0) )
    - Robyn Black
  9. September 23, 2016 9:57 AM EDT
    Yay! I can't wait to hold it in my very own hands. I'm hoping to pick one up at Poetry Camp so I can read it on the flight home. See you next Friday!
    - Liz
  10. September 23, 2016 10:48 AM EDT
    Wonderful post, Robyn! It was fun learning more about Sylvia and Janet's newest book (and congrats to you for being part of it!). Have fun at Poetry Camp! You are a lucky lucky lucky duck. Quackity quack!
    - j
  11. September 23, 2016 12:32 PM EDT
    This is the second time I've heard about this marvelous book - my lucky day! Have fun at Poetry Camp, Robyn!
    - Tara
  12. September 23, 2016 12:53 PM EDT
    I wish I'd had something like this when I was in school! I HATED poetry - I could never relate to the examples they shared with us, stuffy old poems by long dead Englishmen. Activities like this help make poetry feel real and so accessible, open to everyone!
    - Jane @ Raincity Librarian
  13. September 23, 2016 5:17 PM EDT
    I am having big time poetess envy. What a treat to go to Highlights, then to Washington, promoting a passion for poetry everywhere! I can't wait to see this new volume of poetry, such a unique and awesome idea. Sylvia and Janet are my poet-heroes.
    - Margaret Simon
  14. September 23, 2016 7:01 PM EDT
    You and Michelle make this book sound irresistible. IF you pick my name, take my copy with you to Poetry Camp - where I could pick it up in the flesh next Saturday (winning a copy wishful thinking, I know, the other--being at Poetry Camp--not. I'm registered!)
    - Violet N.
  15. September 23, 2016 7:44 PM EDT
    Liz! I thought of you while hiking (wee little mini hikes) up at Highlights last week. Can't wait to see you in a week! :0)

    Hi, Tara - thanks! Hopefully you'll snag a copy in one of these giveaways to use with your students...

    Jane - "stuffy old poems" - ha! Though I must admit, I love a bunch of the poetry by long dead Englishmen... but these poems are definitely more accessible to kids. Thanks for visiting!

    Mine too, Margaret. And you are one of my teacher-heroes, brimming with talents yourself!

    Violet - can't wait to see you! And if Lady Luck doesn't smile on you this week, I bet there will be copies for sale at Village Books. :0)
    - Robyn Black
  16. September 23, 2016 8:19 PM EDT
    Highlights & Poetry Camp? You are a lucky duck! I'm still feeling pretty lucky, too, though that we had such a fantabulous time last week! Thank you for sharing more about this incredible book. I want to go write a phone number poem now using my home number from when I was a kid. Don't we remember the oddest bits of information! Can't wait to hear about your presentation with Julie!
    - Catherine
  17. September 23, 2016 8:29 PM EDT
    Miss you, Catherine! And my childhood phone number was 644-5386. Isn't that crazy? [And I spent 20 minutes looking for my shoes today....]
    - Robyn Black
  18. September 24, 2016 7:39 AM EDT
    Oh, you are such a lucky duck --- and so am I. Five of these books are winging their way to my library to use with kids as I type. I'm so excited. I need to get through the book today so I can be ready to hit the ground running with some lessons. Enjoy your time with poets. I love, love, love my work as a Teacher Librarian....I long to be able to pick up and go to poetry events when I see events that I like. Someday. Someday.
    - Linda Mitchell
  19. September 24, 2016 9:02 AM EDT
    Hi, Linda - Lucky STUDENTS(!) - to have someone as passionate as you are in their corner. Thanks for stopping by - maybe you'll end up with a sixth copy for those poetic young minds. :0)
    - Robyn Black
  20. September 24, 2016 12:22 PM EDT
    This book is a great idea. Amazing it didn't already exist! I hope those little ducklings swim my way.
    - Brenda at friendlyfairytales
  21. September 24, 2016 6:17 PM EDT
    The more I see of this book, the more I love it. My take-away from this particular post is the potential to use it as a lunchtime, voluntary readers/writers club resource. What a fantastic, kid-user-friendly idea. (Adult too, for that matter.)

    Also wonderful to hear about all your 'poeticing' around the countryside. Enjoy!
    - katswhiskers (KatApel)
  22. September 24, 2016 9:56 PM EDT
    Hi, Brenda - such a brilliant idea, isn't it? Brought to life by the oh-so-amazing Sylvia and Janet. :0)

    Kat - That idea struck me, too! Poetry as social facilitator. Love it.(& thanks - so grateful for these couple of trips!)
    - Robyn Black
  23. September 25, 2016 7:18 AM EDT
    You are really taking advantage of all these wonderful poetry opportunities, aren't you?? Love it! I was at a terrific arts and crafts fair in Nashville yesterday and I wondered if you were there (obviously not!). You don't have time for that these days, do you? I like Paz's response to your poem.
    - Tabatha
  24. September 25, 2016 7:27 PM EDT
    Oh, Tabatha, I love that you thought of me at the art fair. I trust you had a wonderful weekend. Actually, I've started doing a local half-day art market here on Saturdays. I am a crazy person....
    And that Paz - she's very clever, isn't she?
    - Robyn Black
  25. September 28, 2016 12:16 AM EDT
    Hi Robyn! It was SO nice meeting you this month. You are a most excellent human. Have fun this weekend at the poetic shindig in Seattle. Hope to see you again real soon. :-) Oh, and I loved your poem in the book!
    - Charles Waters
  26. October 4, 2016 1:40 PM EDT
    Oh, Charles, thanks - you are a most excellent human yourself! Loved FINALLY getting to meet you in person - :0)
    - Robyn Black

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A rhyming tale of a young boy's knightly adventure with an imagined dragon.
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