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
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.
September 8, 2016
Happy Poetry Friday!
I’m especially happy this week because on Sunday, I get to go back to the sacred grounds of the Highlights Founders workshops in Honesdale, Pennsylvania, to attend The Craft and Heart of Writing Poetry for Children
with Georgia Heard
, Rebecca Kai Dotlich
, and some of YOU!!!
Last fall, I basked in poetic wonderfulness with Georgia and Rebecca in South Florida, at their Poetry by the Sea retreat.
As we say farewell to Summer and hello to Fall, I found a couple of their poems to guide us. This past week, I saw both a hummingbird and a ladybug. I wondered how long before the hummingbird would depart to migrate… probably not long. And the ladybug – how soon before it and its many kin come knocking to get inside the front porch, or the house even, as they try to keep warm in chill months?
First, Georgia’s, from CREATURES OF EARTH, SEA, AND SKY, illustrated by Jennifer Owings Dewey (Wordsong, 1992):
from morning glories
from a straw
all day long.
©Georgia Heard. All rights reserved. Posted with permission.
And now, Rebecca’s, from LEMONADE SUN And Other Summer Poems, illustrated by Jan Spivey Gilchrist (Wordsong, 1998):
than a button,
bigger than a spot
this crimson queen
with midnight polished
her ruby shell,
across the walks,
among the petals of a rose –
tenderly she goes.
©Rebecca Kai Dotlich. All rights reserved. Posted with permission.
Many thanks to Georgia and Rebecca for sharing their poems here today.
Oh! – and, speaking of summery creatures – you noticed the bottom of the photo? Yes, our Golden Silk Orb Weaver is STILL with us. She’s been a fixture all summer long, disappearing to deposit three broods of baby spiders/egg sacs, but then returning. This news will thrill some of you and horrify others. I’m actually going to miss the old gal when her time comes to leave for good. Sigh.
For a harvest of poetry for any season, please visit our amazing Amy at The Poem Farm
for this week’s Roundup. She is also celebrating the newest book from Poetry Power Team Janet Wong and Sylvia Vardell - YOU JUST WAIT (Pomelo Books). I'm thrilled to have a poem included.
Next week, I’ll still be making my way back from the workshop, but be sure to drop in on the ever-wonderful Michelle, hosting the Roundup at Today’s Little Ditty.
. The Friday after that, Sept. 23, circle back here, where I’ll have another peek at YOU JUST WAIT from Pomelo Books
January 23, 2014
Adventure hides in boxes, waiting for me to set up shop in my Beaufort, SC, studio!
Greetings, Poetry Peeps!
I'm heading into the home stretch of this gradual move from the north Georgia mountains to the Lowcountry (SC), so I'll just be waving and sending good vibes these next couple of weeks.
This weekend I'm squeezing in an all-day workshop for illustrators in Greenville, SC, with Highlights
Art Director Cindy Faber Smith and prolific illustrator Tim Davis
. I've met both of these fine folks at workshops before, and I know we're in for a treat. (And, years ago, I had a Hidden Pictures submission make it through a couple of rounds of revisions before it got the axe. It's about time to tackle these wonderful puzzles again!) I'll also get to take my wonderful daughter out for her birthday while in Greenville.. :0)
My also-wonderful hubby helped me move furniture and boxes into my new art studio space in Beaufort this week. During my whirlwind trip, I finished jumping through the business license/codes/taxes hoops to make artsyletters
all official there. Can't wait to unpack and set up shop! More on that soon.
In honor of "Hidden Pictures," today I offer up this delightful poem by Walter De LaMare (1873-1956):
Hide and Seek
by Walter De LaMare
Hide and seek, says the Wind,
In the shade of the woods;
Hide and seek, says the Moon,
To the hazel buds;
Hide and seek, says the Cloud,
Star on to star;
Hide and seek, says the Wave,
At the harbour bar;
Hide and seek, say I,
To myself, and step
Out of the dream of Wake
Into the dream of Sleep.
I'll be playing some hide-and-seek with more back-and-forth travel in these next couple-few weeks. But I'll be back! In the meantime, enjoy all the great poetry warming up this cold winter. Today, please visit Tara at A Teaching Life
for the Roundup. Next week (Jan. 31), Tricia's got it covered at The Miss Rumphius Effect
. And Renee will keep the poetry flowing on Feb. 7 at No Water River.
If I come up for air from the boxes, I'll try to join in - but if I'm treading water in Styrofoam peanuts, I'll see you on Valentine's Day! AND, be sure to check in then, as we'll be spreading the haiku love with our Student Poet of the Month. (As you've come to expect, here's another young poet who will blow your Valentine candy wrappers off!)
Finally, my friend Stephanie Salkin passes along that she's helping with another art and poetry contest for the Flagler County (FL) Art League
, with the theme of "Art Inspiring Poetry; Poetry Inspiring Art" - and the deadline is looming! It's Jan. 29. Please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org for details!
Hope you find whatever you're seeking this week!
April 1, 2013
Happy Poetry Month!
The Academy of American Poets
I kicked off National Poetry Month with a school visit to Fair Street International Baccalaureate School on Friday. Thanks to lovely media specialist Amy Hamilton, right, for hosting me again!
designates each April as a month-long celebration of poetry. Check out the many links and resources there.
SO many great things going on in the KidLit world for Poetry Month as well. A great place to start your treasure hunt is over at Jama Rattigan's Alphabet Soup
blog, where our wonderful Jama has compiled links to many month-long online celebrations.
I had the good fortune to usher in Poetry Month at Fair Street School (an International Baccalaureate World School) here in north Georgia on Friday. With groups from kindergarten through fifth grade, media specialist Amy Hamilton and I led students and teachers on a romp through different types of poetry. We even wrote group limericks in each presentation, and they turned out great! (I'll share a couple soon.) Thanks to Elizabeth Steinglass
for filling my head with limericks lately. (Liz and I met at a Highlights Founders Workshop
in poetry last year.)
Don't forget to travel along with the 2013 Progressive Poem! The wonderful Irene Latham
is coordinating this special treat again, with a new line added by a children's poet every day. My line was toward th beginning last year; this year it will be toward the end! Can't wait to see what emerges. Click here
for the schedule; also coming to a sidebar near you when I get it together.
How will you celebrate POETRY this month? I look forward to seeing you "on the links" - not for golf, but for poetry!
May 25, 2012
Is this a great picture or what? At the Poetry for All
Highlights Founders workshop last week, I shared my cabin with some special guests. Well, the inside top of the porch of my cabin. A pair of robins dutifully flew in and out and in and out to tend their nest.
The photo was taken by fellow workshop attendee Cory Corrado, a lovely and talented poet and amazing nature photographer who hails from Quebec, Canada. She spent a little time patiently waiting – okay, a long time patiently waiting – balancing herself standing on a deck chair holding out for just the right shots when the birds wouldn't fly away. See how her patience paid off?
Cory’s book of photos and poetry, “Pho-etry,” called Nature Inspires
, was featured earlier this year on Poetry for All co-leader David L. Harrison’s blog (click here
for the link.) You can also get a virtual look at Cory’s stunning work in the book by clicking here
Well, I’ve been thinking about those robins. And I’m enjoying all the varied birdlife outside my own doors this spring. (Oh – and Susan Taylor Brown’s amazing bird photos on her Poppiness
website! – Have you seen those or followed her bird stories there or on Facebook?)
Back to robins. Here’s a fun poem for today from The Golden Book of Poetry
(1947) as shared on The Poetry Foundation website.
We have a secret, just we three,
The robin, and I, and the sweet cherry-tree;
The bird told the tree, and the tree told me,
And nobody knows it but just us three.
But of course the robin knows it best,
Because she built the--I shan't tell the rest;
And laid the four little--something in it--
I'm afraid I shall tell it every minute.
But if the tree and the robin don't peep,
I'll try my best the secret to keep;
Though I know when the little birds fly about
Then the whole secret will be out.
Now wing your way over to TeacherDance
for more great poetry, where Lovely Linda has today’s Roundup.
May 18, 2012
Top: Eileen Spinelli, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Rebecca Davis, Melanie Hall, David L. Harrisonmiddle: cabin, and having fun with Rebecca S.,Rebecca K. D., Bill, and Jacqueline (and Cindi taking pix)with Marjorie Maddox; Joy Acey and Davidbottom: happily in the middle of a Spinelli Sandwich
What a week! I was blessed and thrilled to spend the last several days in Pennsylvania up at beautiful Boyds Mills with a few fellow Poetry Friday folks (Heidi! Joy! Liz! Julie!), and some wonderful new friends, and our fearless leaders of the Highlights Founders
"Poetry for All" workshop: Rebecca Kai Dotlich
, David L. Harrison
, and Eileen Spinelli
, along with special guests editor Rebecca Davis
, illustrator Melanie Hall
, and poet Marjorie Maddox
We had serious literary discussions and explorations of craft, and some rather silly times, too, and of course amazing food from gourmet chef Marcia and her wonderful staff. And wine every afternoon!
Relishing the natural beauty up there, I managed to get in a couple of walks, though we had lots of rain. I even had a family of robins nesting up in the corner of my cabin's porch.
It was wonderful dropping in on the Highlights
and Boyds Mills folks Wednesday (Hi, Joëlle! Hi, Larry!), and on the way back from that trip to Honesdale, the driver of my car, Pam, slowed down for a bear crossing the road! A beautiful, agile young creature which bounded off into the woods.
For a taste of the amazing wit, wisdom, and experience shared with us, I'll offer just one quote (from my notes) from each of our speakers:
David: "I had 67 rejections for writing stories for kids. Friends
magazine bought the 68th...."
Rebecca: "Brainstorm - noodle and doodle in sketchbooks. Visualize details."
Eileen: "The deeper we go into our hearts, the richer our lives become."
Melanie: "We have to try to pull something new out of ourselves. That's the task for the creative person."
Rebecca Davis: "I love it when a poetry collection can be greater than the sum of its parts."
Marjorie: "As poets, we're witnesses of the world."
(We also had a special treat of a dinner visit and a few comments from Boyds Mills Press Executive Editor Liz Van Doren!)
If you've been to a Highlights workshop, you know why several of our 21 attendees had been before. If you've never been, try to get to one someday - your Muse will thank you!
Speaking of inspiration, I was saddened to learn, when I got home late Thursday night and reconnected a little with the world, that Jean Craighead George had passed away on Tuesday (just one week after we lost Maurice Sendak). I'd like to close today's post with the last few lines of her picture book, THE WOLVES ARE BACK (illustrated by Wendell Minor
; Dutton, 2008). This is a picture book rather than poetry, but the words are lovely and rich.
The grasses grew tall; the riverbank stopped eroding. Willow and aspen trees flourished. Beavers built ponds. Birds sang. Flowers bloomed.
The wilderness is in balance again.
The wolves are back.
Thank you, Jean Craighead George.
(For more, see the author's website
, The New York Times
, and Publisher's Weekly
, inlcluding a tribute from
And thanks to everyone for making the poetry workshop a resounding success. For more great poetry and for thoughts about living in the moment, stop in to see Katya at Write. Sketch. Repeat.
for today's Roundup.
May 11, 2012
Book Spine Poems (See end of post for text)
For Mother’s Day, I’m getting on a plane early Sunday morning and leaving my family. Mind you, I love my family! – but the oldest child is in New Zealand for foreign study, and the youngest, and of course my hubby, are used to my conference habit.
I’ll be heading up to rural Pennsylvania for my third Highlights Founders workshop
. (The first was a Poetry workshop in 2009 with Rebecca Kai Dotlich
and special guests Susan Pearson
and Alice Schertle
. The second was an Advanced Illustrators workshop
last fall with a stellar cast of leaders, and we got to break in Kent Brown Jr.’s new “barn” – an amazing space for creative exploration.) If you ever get a chance to attend one of these, get thee hence! Why?
1.) TIME to nurture your craft
2.) Amazing faculty who are seasoned at helping folks nurture their craft
3.) Networking with wonderful like-minded creative folk who speak your language
4.) Gourmet food – I’m not kidding; with a real chef and talented staff– and complete pampering and thoughtful attention from the Highlights Founders family
5.) Gorgeous natural surroundings and a trail or two (Last time I was there, I had ongoing conversations with Eric Rohman and Candace Fleming about fox and coyote scat. Really.)
6.) The cutest little cabins in the world – perfect for creative reflection at the end of a busy day
7.) Lots more!
Sort of related, I’ve just finished the first half of Art and Fear – Observations On The Perils (and Rewards) of ARTMAKING
(1993) by David Bayles and Ted Orland. This book has been on my “list” forever, and a friend recently gave me a copy. I’m treasuring it as much as reading it. It’s having the same effect on me that If You Want to Write
by Brenda Ueland had, years ago when my husband gave that to me. Both books are written with deep understanding of the creative psyche, and such plain language, and common-sense encouragement just to create what is yours to create.
Workshops like those at Highlights help you focus on just that. From p. 36 of Art and Fear
: “The lessons you are meant to learn are in your work. To see them, you need only look at the work clearly – without judgment, without need or fear, without wishes or hopes. Without emotional expectations. Ask you work what it needs, not what you need.”
The authors are not suggesting that writers and artists aren’t inspired by other works of art or that they shouldn’t read/view them. Or that creative people don’t need mentors. But I think they are suggesting that one’s work only grows with time actually spent considering it, and developing it. Again, the kind of time and attention one cultivates in a working retreat.
Next week’s workshop will be led by this wonderful line-up: Rebecca
again, and David L. Harrison
, and Eileen Spinelli
So for today’s poem, I’ve conjured up some book spine poems
made from some of Rebecca's, David's, and Eileen's books on my shelves. Enjoy!
Here’s the text of the “poems” from the picture above (punctuation added with poetic license…):
in the spin of things -
where I live
A family like yours -
Do you have a cat?
Do you have a dog?
Somebody catch my homework!
Wild Country -
Sophie's masterpiece: a spider's tale -
the purchase of small secrets.
When I return home, after spending a few days with these amazing poets (our three fearless leaders AND attendees), I know I’ll be inspired.
For a virtual poetic retreat today, head over to Live Your Poem...
, where the beautiful Irene Latham has the Poetry Friday Roundup.
January 11, 2012
Paula B. Puckett and her alpaca photo essay in the Feb. 2012 Highlights! (In our critique group, we celebrate publications with "the crown of success" - a pic with a tiara and cape, of course!)
This week has been one with lots of smiles in the writing realm.
On Monday, I presented writing workshops to three groups of fifth graders and one group of fourth graders at Dyer Elementary School in Dacula, Georgia. The kids were enthusiastic and creative. (So were the teachers! I love it when the teachers have fun with the writing activities, too.)
Special thanks to Media Specialist Paula Flageolle and also to Teresa Ellis for taking care of every possible detail. (Not just bottled water, folks, but little bite-sized donut holes – perfect to pop in your mouth between sessions!)
Last night, at a critique group meeting, we got to Snoopy-dance with my extra-special writing/art buddy and friend Paula B. Puckett. Her nonfiction feature, “Cutting Cowboy’s Hair” is smack-dab in the middle of the February issue of Highlights
Way to go, Paula! She is not only the author of the piece, but she provided photo illustrations as well.
Cowboy, by the way, is one of Paula’s very own alpacas. He thinks he runs the farm. Click here
for my post last spring about Paula and her 'pacas.
You know, Paula and I have traveled to so many SCBWI
conferences together I figure we’ve shared more hotel rooms than my hubby and I have. It’s so great to also share successes with folks who have persisted a long time to make their dreams come true.
What an enriching way to start off a new year – celebrating creative endeavors from kids and adults alike. I love this job.
December 16, 2011
If you didn’t quite get enough of David L. Harrison from last week’s spiderwebs poem , you’re in luck. I’m thrilled to welcome him here today for an interview – and more poetry, of course!
David L. Harrison and the hot-off-the-virtual-press Goose Lake, illustrated by Sladjana Vasic.
David is the author of 80-some books (whew!), from poetry to easy readers to fiction to nonfiction to books for teachers on writing instruction, and his books have sold millions of copies. His work has been anthologized in more than 100 books and has appeared in dozens of magazines and journals. If I listed all his awards, we wouldn’t have space for the interview. David keeps a busy schedule of traveling and speaking, yet manages to stay in touch with readers and writers through his terrific blog.
Welcome, David – Thank you for joining us, and Happy Holidays!
You’ve written so widely, but let’s focus on poetry today. Your first book of poetry, Somebody Catch My Homework, was published in 1993 by Boyds Mills Press (publisher of several of your collections since then). How and when did you become a poet?
Hi Robyn. I’m delighted and flattered to be here. Thanks for inviting me!
I became a poet by stages. First came the fun of making rhymes. (“Sometimes I wish/I had a fish/Upon a dish.” Age 6).
Next came the vague sense of intellectual snobbery from reading Shakespeare’s sonnets and Omar Khayyám’s finger having writ. That, of course, came in college.
In my twenties, the gift of a book about poetry made me wonder if I could become a poet. I didn’t. Not for a long time. Not until I reached my fifties. That’s when I took off three years from all other writing and threw myself into writing poems. By then I had long been a children’s author so naturally my poetic efforts were written with young people in mind. I knew very little about children’s poetry but had read some of Silverstein’s work and figured I might as well try my luck with humor.
The first to see my work was Christine San Jose, who was associated with Highlights
and knew about Kent Brown’s fledgling line of books called Boyds Mills Press. There was even an imprint for poetry. Christine urged me to send my poems to Bernice Cullinan, editor-in-chief for Wordsong, the line of poetry. Bee liked what she read and urged Kent to publish my poetry. The first title was Somebody Catch My Homework
. It was also my first collaboration with Betsy Lewin. Homework
did well with combined sales in hardcover and paperback of over 40,000 and still growing. The only serious poem in that collection is the last one in the book – “My Book!” – and it’s the one that has been quoted most widely, painted on a bookmobile in Colorado, and sandblasted into a sidewalk in Arizona.
One thing I love about your work is its appeal to boys. In The Purchase of Small Secrets (illustrated by Meryl Henderson, Wordsong/Boyds Mills, 1998), we tag along as a boy interacts with the people and animals he lives with. You tackle many subjects unflinchingly – a rabbit killed crossing the road, the wandering off of a strange old neighbor, the loss of a pet which never returns. But there’s much humor in the poems, too. And an abiding appreciation of nature. One of my favorites is:
A Chip of Flint
for an arrowhead.
Maybe a chip
from the weapon
by a master craftsman,
flint in one hand
antler tip in the other,
a new stone point.
Did he pause
in these woods
or was he surrounded
by chuckling comrades
who winked at secrets
as chips fell?
It doesn’t matter
the chip was rejected
by the arrowhead.
I accept it
as a gift
from an unknown hand.
Do you think poetry can help reconnect kids with the natural world today? If so, how?
Thank you for selecting that poem, Robyn. It’s one of my own favorites too. Yes, I think poetry can lead young readers to see nature in a more personal way. A good nonfiction book can, too, and so can adventure stories set in nature. But most poems are brief and rich in imagery. In a way, a collection of poems is like a scrapbook of photographs. Enjoy a picture, turn the page forward or backward, and enjoy another.
When I wrote The Purchase of Small Secrets
, I wanted to share the period of my boyhood when I spent every possible hour outside. I began by making a list of moments I remember: finding a chipped piece of flint in the woods, exploring a cave, wondering about animal tracks in the soft earth . . . From these bits and scraps of my past grew the group of poems that became Small Secrets
. Children of the city may not ever experience such opportunities. They may never gaze down at their feet in a field of tall grass and discover the empty shell of a long-dead turtle or sit still by a stream and watch a muskrat swim across the quiet water. But I can take them there with my word pictures and help them understand something more about the natural world we live in and must take care of.
Other poems in Secrets
deal with issues that can be painful or sensitive. Boys and girls both know what it feels like to lose a pet or experience the serious illness or death of an adult. Boys (and yes, sometimes girls) get into fights or know someone who does. When I write about a rabbit beside the road, I take the time to reflect on its loss and hope that my young readers will see the value of pausing to think about what they see in their own lives.
Speaking of kids today, we have to talk technology. Your work has been included in all three of the PoetryTagTime e-book anthologies produced by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong this year. As far as reaching young readers, how do you see poetry fitting into changing publishing landscapes?
When Sylvia and Janet invited me to contribute poems to the PoetryTagTime series, I was happy to accept and eager to learn more about this whole e-publishing world. Changes can be exciting and obviously the concept of publishing on the Internet for an audience of people holding some form of electronic reading device is a huge change. I don’t know where this is headed. I hope it means good things for authors who have something to say but don’t have enough traditional outlets to share their work. Poetry is always hard to place with publishers. As much as we want them to sell well, most books of poems do not. But this doesn’t mean that there is no audience for poetry! The trick is to find our readers and entice them to buy our wares instead of something foolish such as food or clothes. We are a chorus of vendors, each shouting, “Me! Me! Me!”
E-publishing tends to level the field by allowing poetry fans to find their favorite poets from home and download their work for less money than they spend on hard copies. There are plenty of questions. How does e-publishing impact on traditional publishers? How does it affect authors’ incomes? Will the market become diluted with so many new entries? I’m sure we’ll find out over time but for now I want to think there is a blessing in all this somewhere.
And, you have your own hot-off-the-virtual-collection poetry collection, right? Tell us about it!
Yes! Waiting for Christmas when I was a kid was never as hard as waiting to introduce Goose Lake.
I wrote the first poem in this collection three years ago. Sandy and I have lived beside a lake for twenty-two years. I love to look at the water and all the life around, in, and above it. I have two degrees in biology and have always been a nature lover so you can imagine how much I needed to write about this lake!
This may be precisely the kind of collection made for e-publishing. Nature lovers everywhere can find it easily at Barnes & Noble.com, Amazon.com, and iTunes.com. Teachers looking for poetry about nature can download it inexpensively. This is not a book specifically for young readers but some who have already read it think it is. There is a sad poem in the collection that nearly made one girl cry. I think the audience will be quite broad and include a high percentage of adult readers.
Can you tempt us with a poem or excerpt?
I’d love to! This one is called, “Free at Last.”
Free at Last
Fish are rolling,
rippling the surface
with fins and bellies.
Fish are bucking,
off slippery backs.
Fish are leaping,
like glistening sweat
into the suddenly spring.
Let’s close with a peek back into your creative process. Both sides of your brain are obviously nimble, with a B.A. in zoology from Drury College and a masters in parasitiology from Emory. (Parasitology, people!) How does your background in science inform your writing life?
I grew up collecting arrowheads, insects, snake skins, turtle shells, animal hides, bird wings, fossils, minerals, seashells, skulls, and so on. In college I majored in biology and minored in geology. The scientific approach teaches one to observe and record, check facts, draw conclusions carefully. After college I became a pharmacologist in a pharmaceutical laboratory. I suppose it was inevitable for me to write numerous nonfiction books, including a series of seven titles called Earthworks. My most recent nonfiction book is Mammoth Bones and Broken Stones
, a recounting of the archaeological search for signs of the first migrants to reach and populate North America. National Science Teachers Association recommends the book, which was five years in the making, and it was nominated for the Society for American Archaeology’s 2010 Book of the Year for “a book that is written for the general public and presents the results of archaeological research to a broader audience.”
My poetry is frequently informed by my science background too. Pirates
, which was chosen for the Texas Bluebonnet (2010) and Indiana Young Hoosier (2011) master reading lists, was named by VOYA for its Nonfiction Honor List. It’s unusual for poetry to win a spot on a nonfiction list but Pirates
was well researched and presents the life and times of those outlaws of the sea who have so often been portrayed as dashing heroes.
On a similar “note” (sorry), I understand you are a musician. Tell us about your music, and how this talent contributes to your work as a poet.
I’m smiling at that! It reminds me of all the sour notes I listened to as a young trombone teacher in my teens as one kid-who-hadn’t-practiced after another zombie-walked through my door on Saturdays. I spent much of my youth playing in marching bands, concert bands and orchestras, German bands, jazz and Dixieland combos. I played professionally in dance bands, including a summer in Springfield, Illinois and was principal trombonist in the Springfield, Missouri symphony. With so much variety in the music I played, I can tell you for sure that my poetry is very much influenced by my background.
Oh, and unrelated but too cool not to mention - you have an elementary school named after you! Where is it, and how did that come to be?
Beginning with a six year stint on our school board in the early 80s, I’ve been involved in a number of educational projects over the years. I helped start an annual teacher appreciation banquet, joined with three others to start a foundation for our public schools, created a reading challenge for students called SKY HIGH ON READING and, when the district libraries needed more books, spearheaded a book drive called Reading Roundup. Most recently I’m co-chairing a project called Family Voices that encourages parents of children under five to read to their kids on a regular basis.
I like to think that a school was named for me because of the body of my work. But I suspect it was the total package that led the school board to grant me the honor of a lifetime by naming David Harrison Elementary School
(Springfield, Missouri) after me. The school was new in 2009-10, cost $10 million dollars to build, sets on seventy-two acres, and provides classes for preK-4. Thirty-two feet of glassed cases display a collection of my work. I can’t tell you how it feels to walk into that place except in terms of goose bumps and uncontrollable smiles.
You are very involved in educational markets – what are some of the poetry contributions you’ve co-written for the classroom?
My partners have included former IRA president, NYU professor Bernice Cullinan (Poetry Lessons that Dazzle and Delight
, Scholastic), Kathy Holderith (former 3rd grade teacher in Colorado (Using the Power of Poetry
, Scholastic), Kent State professor Tim Rasinski (Using Partner Poems to Build Fluency
, Scholastic), and I wrote the poetry chapter for Children’s Literature in the Reading Program
(co-edited by Deb Wooten and Bernice Cullinan, IRA). I’m currently under contract for five new books with Mary Jo Fresch (Ohio State, Teacher Created Materials) and have six other books under development. I’m nearing an agreement with another educational publisher to partner on my new DVD series of writing tips for the elementary classroom called This Week with David Harrison
. A three-hour graduate course from Drury University will be offered with the series and I’ll co-author a book and student workbook to accompany it.
You are one busy man! Finally, pretty please with spiderwebs on top, share a fun fact not many people know about you….
Hmmm. How about this? I was an athlete. I lettered as a baseball pitcher in high school and once carried a 190 bowling average. Now you know all my secrets!
Robyn, thank you again for inviting me onto your blog today. I’ve had a fine time.
Thank you, David! To learn more about David and his incredible body of work, visit his website.
And remember…. Poetry makes the perfect gift!
For more great poetry, go see Kate at Book Aunt.
(And I'll see you after Christmas break!)
December 9, 2011
Greetings! I’m thrilled to be hosting Poetry Friday today.
My Christmas gift this year, a really nice one, is a trip back to Honesdale, Pennsylvania, for another Highlights Founders Workshop in poetry. I’ll be attending Poetry for All
in May (there are still a few spots available!) co-led by poet and friend Rebecca Kai Dotlich
for previous posts featuring Rebecca), David Harrison
, and Eileen Spinelli.
You're looking at the picture and thinking, What does this have to do with spiders?
David Harrison has this wonderful poem in his collection, Bugs – Poems about Creeping Things
, illustrated by Rob Shepperson
by David Harrison
on the lawn
Shiny droplets –
small oases –
To their places.
look and lurk.
Time now for
(Used with permission from the author.)
And Eileen Spinelli has this wonderful picture book, Sophie’s Masterpiece,
with gentle illustrations by Jane Dyer
(Simon and Schuster, 2001).
Sophie was no ordinary house spider. Sophie was an artist.
The talented heroine has a hard time finding a place to live and create, however, as she is chased away from corner to corner of Beekman’s Boardinghouse.
By this time, many spider years had passed. Sophie was older. She only had energy to spin a few small things for herself… a tiny rose-patterned case for her pillow, eight colorful socks to keep herself warm.
But mostly she slept.
Until she meets someone who appreciates her and inspires her to create a very special gift - something that takes her all and becomes a loving legacy. I won’t spoil the story, but I will say my eyes were a bit misty by the end. And then, when I read the author’s note… okay, I cried.
In cultural traditions across the world, the spider represents creativity – a keeper of ancient wisdom, and sometimes a trickster. (And now you’re thinking of E. B. White’s Charlotte
, aren’t you?)
Whatever your “spider work” is today, let it be inspired by a World Wide Web-ful of poetry. Include your link in the comments, and I’ll weave them all together throughout the day.
POETRY FRIDAY ROUNDUP:
Julie at The Drift Record
is waking up with a cold snap and the poem, "Icicles," by Todd Boss.
Over at The Poem Farm
shares a terrific original poem, "Umbrella Path," inspired by Alix Martin's colorful painting in the collaborative SPARK 14.
Tabatha,at The Opposite of Indifference
, explores poetry holiday and gift ideas (including a really cool ornament).
Myra chimes in that at Gathering Books
, Iphigene discusses another Joel M. Toledo poem, "Learning to Swim" - beautiful and thought-provoking!
serves up a poignant haibun by Penny Harter, "Moon-Seeking Soup," written after the death of her husband, William J. Higginson, in 2008 (both have made immeasurable contributions to the haiku world).
Heidi's in today at My Juicy Little Universe
with some delightful poetry by her kindergarteners, and a discussion of their poetry collage projects.
Ruth brings us Keats and an original poem describing how a poem idea will not leave you alone at There is No Such Thing as a God-Forsaken Town.
Need a little romance today? Maria at A Poem a Day from the George Hail Library
brings us Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning - and in the continuing series on sonnets, one from the latter you might not have read before.
is caught up in the spirit of giving. She’s got a copy of Shel Silverstein’s EVERY THING ON IT for some lucky re-tweeter.
Join Laura today here
for Janet Wong’s yoga poem, “Tree,” and here
for her 15-words-or-less poem, also tree-related, and a photograph you just have to see for yourself.
Diane has an original poem, “Pie Town Family – 1940” inspired by a historical photograph, at “Random Noodling
Her Kids of the Homefront Army
features a poem about one reality of war, “Certain Advantages.”
And, Kurious Kitty
is asking with Aileen Fisher, “Do Rabbits Have Christmas?” featuring one of the sparkly poems from the book, published five years after Fisher’s death.
K K’s Kwotes
has a quote by Truman Capote.
Linda at TeacherDance
helps us to remember those for whom the holidays are a lonely time, with “The Transparent Man” by Anthony Hecht.
How about some Ogden Nash? Sally’s got you covered at The Write Sisters
with “Everybody Tells Me Everything.”
At Picture Books and Pirouettes
, Kerry shares Doreen Cronin’s picture book, Wiggle
, sure to get you moving this morning.
takes another look at giving with the poem “Altruism” by Molly Peacock.
Feeling a little batty? Join Joyce at Musings
to enjoy thoughts about Randall Jarrell’s The Bat-Poet
(and a few verses from the poetry).
Sally at Paper Tigers
brings us Oh, Grow Up: Poems to Help You Survive Parents, Chores, School and Other Afflictions
by Florence Parry Heide and daughter Roxanne Heide Pierce.
Check out The Stenhouse Blog
for a reverse poem, “Framing My Future,” written by Rebecca, one of Kelly Gallagher’s students.
Mary Lee at A Year of Reading
encourages us to “Have a _________ Day.” (You have to click to find out!)
At Dori Reads
, Doraine shares a Tennyson poem that still perfectly captures difficult emotions.
Over at Wild Rose Reader
, Elaine keeps the spirit of giving going with another terrific e-book from Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong, Gift Tag
, and a fun, original poem to fit the theme.
Brace yourself to face the animal life in a hoarder's home with Mandy's original poem at Write on the World
has a thought-provoking original poem, "how great?" - which he describes as "a found poem, a cross-out poem, a little bit of random poem." Check it out!
Lorie Ann at readergirlz
also features the Gift Tag
e-collection from Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong, and shares her poem in it, "Tucked Between Branches." If you enjoyed/enjoy those little pudgy trolls as much as I did/do, you'll love it!
At All About the Books
, Janet is all about Douglas Florian's wonderful volume, mammalabilia
Shelley at Dust Bowl Poetry
shares many different poems about families facing hard times.
Tara is celebrating libraries today with a couple of terrific poems and pictures. Go join the party at A Teaching Life.
Like a little moonshine with your Chicken Spaghetti?
Susan has an original found poem and a review of Bootleg: Murder, Moonshine, and the Lawless Years of Prohibition
by Karen Blumenthal.
Over at A Wrung Sponge
, Andromeda (Andi) has a very clever idea for combining nature and learning to read! And, after my own heart, a haiku written on rocks. Really!
Mmmm... Smell cookies baking? Follow your nose to Twinkling Along
and enjoy an original poem cooked up by Carlie. And some very cute pictures.
The talented Liz over at Liz in Ink
is thankful for the change of seasons (brrr!) and offers "Relearning Winter" by Mark Svenvold.
If you're hosting family for a holiday meal, do check out Kelly's original "Holiday Dinner To-Do List" at Writing and Ruminating
Martha Stewart make of it?
Joy has lots of fun holiday poems and prompts at her blog
. Grab a mug of hot chocolate and head over!
Just in time for supper, Jone has a review of Katherine B. Hauth's What's For Dinner?
over at Check It Out
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!
September 13, 2011
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 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:
: "I want to live an interesting life, so I want to try a lot of different things."
: "Infuse your work with your personality."
: "What we do is magic."
Lindsay Barrett George
: "Make your reader care about and love your character... connect with kids on an emotional level."
: "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.
September 9, 2011
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'm Earth's many colors.
I'm morning and night.
I'm honey on toast.
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.
September 23, 2010
Are you crazy about historical fiction like I am? I love to read it; I love to write it. Recently I completed my first manuscript for a historical novel, and I'm looking forward (with crossed fingers) to the publication in Highlights
this spring of a story inspired by my mother's childhood.
If you need a wee bit of motivation to complete that historical story your Muse is pushing you to write, look no further thant he current contest being sponsored by Children's Writer
October 3, 2009
I finally uploaded a couple of pictures from last weekend's HIGHLIGHTS Founders Workshop, "Wordplay," led by Rebecca Kai Dotlich with special guests Susan Pearson and Alice Schertle. Check out my Poetry Page for these. I'm thrilled to have met all these wonderful women! (I know guys write poetry, too, but we had an all-female crowd.) (more…)
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