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

Hannah enjoying poetry workshop

(Scroll down this column for tags, archives and blogroll....)



Enjoy these Great
Children's Lit Blogs and Websites:

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

Copyright 2005-2016 ©Robyn Hood Black. All rights reserved. Please ask permission before using any text or images on this website, except for reproducible
"4 Kids 2 Do" and "Press Kit" pages.

Life on the Deckle Edge

Poetry Friday: Laura Purdie Salas speaks about BOOKSPEAK

April 12, 2012

Tags: Poetry Friday, poetry, authors, book tracks

The fabulous Laura Purdie Salas is here! A prolific writer of poetry and nonfiction for children, and a busy blogger, Laura is a tireless voice for excellence in writing for kids.

Before we ask her a few questions (and read a NEVER-BEFORE-SEEN poem!), let’s take a look at one of her newest books, BOOKSPEAK – Poems About Books, illustrated with warmth and whimsy by Josée Bisaillon (Clarion Books, 2011). Some of its awards include being a Minnesota Book Award finalist, an NCTE Notable book, an Honor book for the inaugural Gelett Burgess Children’s Book Award, a White Ravens 2012 book, and a Librarians’ Choice book.

For a hint of the variety of flavors in this collection, let me share just a few lines from a few poems:

From “Skywriting”

Line after line of inky black birds
Forming the flocks that shift into words. ...

From ”Index”

P s s s t!
Hey, kid – yeah, you.
So you want some facts, huh?

Forget that pretty picture on the front cover –
don’t you know they lie?

And the Table of Contents?
That only tells you where each chapter starts!
Pretty vague, you know what I’m saying?
I can give you specifics. …

From ”Bookplate”

I’m not that kind of plate.

Write your name upon me.
I’m a paper love tattoo. …

From “I’ve Got This Covered”

I’m the first thing you see when you walk by a book.
My picture is shouting, “Please stop! Take a look!”

Okay, now is your appetite whetted for a colorful collection of poems celebrating all things book? Laura was kind enough to answer some behind-the-scenes questions about how THIS book came to be.

One amazing aspect of BOOKSPEAK is its range – you cover everything from the look of letters on a white page to how a book feels being checked out of the library, to plot, character, and even the index and cover! How did these poems come about, and when did you know you had a collection?

I didn’t! I was invited by Lee Bennett Hopkins to submit poems for his book-related anthology, I AM THE BOOK. I was on cloud 9, because combining poems and books—what could be better? And the chance to appear in one of Lee’s anthologies? Oh my gosh. I sent in 13 poems and was heartbroken when none was selected. He was very kind about it, of course. I relayed my sad story to my then-agent, Karen Klockner, who asked me to send the poems to her. She promptly submitted them to Jennifer Wingertzahn, my then-editor at Clarion (she acquired and edited STAMPEDE). To my surprise (and, to be honest, sort of to Karen’s surprise, as well), Jennifer acquired the collection. I kept saying, “But…[Lee is already doing an anthology on this topic], “but…” [the poems had already been rejected], “but…” [was it OK to do this when they came about because of someone else’s project?] They kept saying, “It’s OK. Breathe. Relax.” Lee was extremely gracious about my collection coming out, and of course I adore I AM THE BOOK and am happy to see many poet friends in there.

How did the final collection end up with 21 poems?

I started with 13, but they wanted more. I think I eventually had about 25, which Jennifer and the editor who took over the project, Daniel Nayeri, narrowed down to 21. I know offhand of at least three that got cut, “Why Aren’t All Books Happy?,” “Stellar Books,” and “Ocean Tales.”

Here’s the never-before-seen (oooh!) Stellar Books:

Stellar Books

Long-ago stars spark the sky
Books spill their tales in a day
Echoes of both light your way
Stories and stars never die

There were probably a few others that either got cut by the editor(s) or that I discarded along the way. I was sad to lose the above three, though. I really liked them. But I’ll share them online or submit them to other markets, when I have time (right).

I have a thing for star poems! Thanks so much for sharing that.

I’m guessing teachers love this book. Have you discovered any particularly fun ways students are interacting with the poems?

The one thing that has come up several times is classes having fun reading “The Middle’s Lament: A Poem for Three Voices” out loud. Which is exactly what I hoped they’d do with it. I’m hoping that BOOKSPEAK’s status as an NCTE Notable book (yay!) will give it more exposure, and that I’ll get to hear how teachers use it.

I do have a teaching guide and some parts-of-the-book worksheets on my website for teachers to use.

How do you think all your nonfiction writing experience informs your poetry, or vice-versa? Is your writing process different for different genres?

I think my nonfiction informs my poetry more than vice-versa. I love poetry with nonfiction content, using words and sounds to emphasize the meaning of what you want to say. It was really fun, though, to write actual nonfiction in verse in A LEAF CAN BE…. That was one case where it was vice-versa:>)

Congratulations on your recent publishing successes. (A LEAF CAN BE is just exquisite!) You are always frank on your blog about the joys and challenges of being a writer. Do you have any favorite nuggets of advice for aspiring children’s poets?

Thanks, Robyn! This IS a challenging career. I have all sorts of Poetic Pursuits essays on my site and each one covers some aspect of writing poetry for kids. My favorite basics regarding the mechanics, though, are:

1. Condense!

2. Don’t rhyme unless you have to.

3. Get rid of the filler words (a, the, etc.)

Great advice. Thanks for visiting, Laura!

Thanks for having me here! Despite it being Friday the 13th, I feel lucky to be here!

P.S. There is scheduled to be a video of me reading “This Is the Book” from BOOKSPEAK over at today Katie Davis’s blog and one of my reading “Hydrophobiac” earlier this month at Renee LaTulippe’s No Water River blog . I do not like seeing recordings of myself, and I need to get better at reading poems aloud. So I’m sort of afraid to share those links.

Have no fear, Laura! You’re great on video, and you have so many wonderful things to share. Thank you for sharing so much here today! For more Laura, visit her website, and her blog.

Today I have the good luck to be featured on Laura Shovan's Author Amok blog, and next week, right here, we'll be jazzing things up with Carole Boston Weatherford!

Now, put BOOKSPEAK on order at your favorite library or bookstore, and then go see what everyone else is saying on this Poetry Friday. The Roundup today is hosted by the amazing Anastasia Suen at Booktalking. (Check out Anastasia’s contribution to the 2012 KidLit Progressive Poem yesterday, and keep following the mystery….)


  1. April 13, 2012 8:52 AM EDT
    Hi, Robyn! I love all the cross-posts today. I just got my copy of Bookspeak. It is so much fun. This would be a great one poem-aloud per day book to share with kids during National Poetry Month.
    - Laura @ AuthorAmok
  2. April 13, 2012 9:43 AM EDT
    It's a lovely book, one that I will suggest again & again to the teachers with whom I work-all ages! Thanks for featuring more of the poems, & a new one, Robyn! I'll also go right over to Author Amok!
    - Linda Baie
  3. April 13, 2012 10:30 AM EDT
    Enjoyed hearing more about the genesis of BookSpeak. Had no idea those first 13 poems had been submitted to Lee. Interesting how things work out, isn't it? So happy to see the book receive so many well deserved accolades and honors. And I think Laura does a great job of reading her poems aloud on video. Hope she does many more. :)
    - jama
  4. April 13, 2012 10:57 AM EDT
    Laura - Feels like a party, doesn't it? Thanks again for letting me come to YOURS!

    Hi, Linda! I agree. Potential for so many great activities with students.

    Dearest Oatmeal Jama Bar - I appreciate Laura's candid account of BOOKSPEAK'S backstory, too! Glad the poems found their way into the wider world in their own way. And LBH's I AM THE BOOK is such a terrific collection. These are great to use together in the classroom, I'm sure.
    - Robyn Black
  5. April 13, 2012 12:28 PM EDT
    Thanks for the nice words, you guys! The Kidlitosphere is such a wonderful place to be...better than the real world, sometimes:>)
    - Laura Salas
  6. April 13, 2012 6:30 PM EDT
    Very cool learning how Laura's collection came about. She's a fabulous poet, and I also appreciate her extremely generous spirit. And Robyn, enjoyed your "Spooky Brew" poem and illustration, and that recipe for Oatmeal Jama Bars, over at Jama's potluck! (Not to mention that beautiful wolf pictured above!)
    - Martha Calderaro
  7. April 13, 2012 6:42 PM EDT
    Laura! You're everywhere today!
    - Ruth (
  8. April 13, 2012 7:28 PM EDT
    Martha and Ruth, thanks for stopping by! We'd all need running shoes to keep up with Laura today. (Probably any day...) ;0)
    - Robyn Black
  9. April 13, 2012 9:58 PM EDT
    I so love all the cross-posts of kidlitosphere friends today on each other's blogs! How amazingly supportive and affirming this community is. Fats has received a copy of BookSpeak and she loves it! We were thinking of doing a book-inspired theme in our site, as inspired by Laura's book. Thank you for the nuggets of wisdom here. Such a rich post, and very timely with April being the National Poetry Month. Congratulations, everyone! Sprinkles of pixie dust going your way from Singapura. :)
    - Myra from GatheringBooks
  10. April 13, 2012 10:40 PM EDT
    Myra, your pixie dust is always magical! As are the creative themes you all always come up with. It's wonderful to have poetry and book friends from the other side of the world. Seems like you're just next door!
    - Robyn Black
  11. April 14, 2012 11:02 AM EDT
    Library visit is on the docket today and Book Speak has been added to the list. Thanks for this interview and great poems that dressed it up!
    - Betsy
  12. April 14, 2012 7:48 PM EDT
    You'll enjoy it, Betsy! Thanks for dropping by.
    - Robyn Black
  13. April 15, 2012 6:03 AM EDT
    LOVE this collection of poems. I use them LOTS in my love them, too!!!
    - Mary Lee
  14. April 15, 2012 11:10 AM EDT
    Thank you for visiting, Mary Lee! It doesn't surprise me at all that this collection is a big hit in your classroom. :0)
    - Robyn Black
  15. April 17, 2012 6:49 AM EDT
    Wow. Thank you so much for coming by, everyone, and for your really nice comments about BOOKSPEAK. I'm grateful to Robyn for having me here and to all you book lovers who took the time to read and comment. Not sure if everyone realizes how much this online support is like rocket fuel to a writer!
    - Laura Purdie Salas
  16. April 17, 2012 8:33 AM EDT
    It was wonderful sharing peeks of poems inside the delightful BOOKSPEAK, Laura! Thanks as always for being candid and generous about your experiences.
    - Robyn Black

Quick Clicks

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.
Author visits
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!