Click links below to follow our Progressive Poem for Nat'l Poetry Month!
Hannah enjoying poetry workshop
(Scroll down this column for tags, archives and blogroll....)
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.
March 31, 2014
Top: Elizabeth Dulemba signs A BIRD ON WATER STREETBottom: Janice Hardy and Robyn celebrate Janice's new guide, PLANNING YOUR NOVEL
I’m feshly back from our SCBWI Southern Breeze
Springmingle in Atlanta, and it was wonderful! (I may have moved, but I lobbied to remain a Breezer!) You can read a great recap on author and illustrator Elizabeth Dulemba’s blog, here
Speaking of Elizabeth, we’ve been riding these Southern Breezes together a long time, even sharing a critique group a few years ago. That’s why I was particularly excited that at our conference book launch on Saturday, e presented her FIRST NOVEL fully fledged. It’s an environmental story which she’s poured years (and her heart) into, and it’s called A BIRD ON WATER STREET (A SIBA Okra Pick!).
It sold out at the conference bookstore.
What’s that? Oh - I hear you whispering, “I’ve always wanted to write a novel, but I don’t know where to begin.” Well, speak up and take heart: another dear author friend, fellow Breezer and amazing blogger Janice Hardy had a hot-off-the-press book to share at the signing party. It’s called PLANNING YOUR NOVEL: IDEAS AND STRUCTURE, and it’s a treasure of practical tips gleaned from her years blogging about fiction writing and nurturing emerging writers. In fact, it’s Book One in her planned “Foundations of Fiction” series. Check it out, and learn about Janice’s other books, here
Now, Gotta Run - my to-be-read stack is calling.
Happy Reading and Writing!
October 3, 2013
Next Saturday, Oct. 12, I’ll start the day presenting a workshop called “Poetry Tips for Prose Writers” at one of my favorite places – our SCBWI Southern Breeze Fall Conference
in Birmingham, Alabama. We’ll look at ways poetic language can enliven our fiction and nonfiction writing.
I offered a little sneak preview as my column returned from vacation to Janice Hardy’s The Other Side of the Story blog
this week. In that post, I shared a few excerpts from Khaled Hosseini’s powerful first novel, The Kite Runner
, now celebrating 10 years in print. What piqued my curiosity about Hosseini’s writing was a recent television interview about his newest novel (And the Mountains Echoed
), in which he described growing up in Kabul with poetry all around - a natural part of daily life. As a child, he kept close company with Rumi, Hafiz and Omar Khayyám. (Hosseini mentions ghazals
too - a poetic form explored by some of our Poetry Friday keepers. [See Margaret’s post at Reflections on the Teche from April here
So, today – something sweet to chew on from Rumi (translated by Coleman Barks):
What Was Told, That
by Jalal al-Din Rumi
translated by Coleman Barks
What was said to the rose that made it open was said
to me here in my chest.
What was told the cypress that made it strong
and straight, what was
whispered the jasmine so it is what it is, whatever made
sugarcane sweet, whatever …
Please click here for the rest of the poem.
Wishing you a Poetry Friday “filled with gratitude.” For today’s Roundup, go share some sweet tea with one of my favorite Southern Breezers, Doraine, at Dori Reads.
Doraine is presenting a "Nuts and Bolts" workshop at our conference, too!
November 9, 2012
I had the lovely good fortune to interview bestselling author and NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children
winner Nikki Grimes for the PACYA
(Poetry Advocates for Children and Young Adults) blog, as part of the series on NCTE award winners. Nikki will also be our keynote speaker for our SCBWI Southern Breeze
Springmingle in Atlanta at the end of February.
What a treat to read and reread some of Nikki's books. She has written picture books, chapter books, novels, and verse novels and always has something exciting on the horizon. She's a visual artist and sought-after speaker as well as being a prolific, mulitple award-winning writer.
Before you click over to read the interview if you haven't yet seen it, please enjoy this taste of her poetry, posted here with permission. This comes from The Poetry Friday Anthology.
by Nikki Grimes
put my picture
on a postcard.
My smile says
"Pick me! Pick me!"
But mostly, people say
I'm too old to adopt,
like I'm a run-down clock
and the big hand says
Julie is half-past loving.
©Nikki Grimes. All rights reserved.
My thanks to Nikki for sharing her time and her poetry.
for the PACYA interview.
Then head on over to Think Kid Think
, where the ever-entertaining Ed Decaria is rounding up more great poetry on this Poetry Friday.
October 18, 2012
Dearest Poetry Friday Friends,
Forgive this short post, but I'm on my way to Birmingham for our SCBWI Southern Breeze
fall conference this weekend. Yee-hi!
I'm checking in, though, with a link to this week's "Art Break Wednesday" post
on my new artsyletters
blog, because you might be interested in:
1.) a Q and A with the exuberant Melanie Hall - artist, teacher, and award-winning illustrator of many children's books (including several poetry collections), and
2.) a give-away of one of said poetry collections. A lucky commenter will be randomly selected to receive a copy of Every Second Something Happens - Poems for the Mind and Senses
, selected by Christine San José and Bill Johnson (Wordsong). Just post a comment ON THAT ARTSYLETTERS BLOG POST linked above by Monday at midnight, EST. (I will approve and post comments as I can throughout the weekend, internet connections willing.)
Finally, you MUST go see what Poetry Friday Rounder-Upper Irene has over at Live Your Poem
. She invited participants in the 2012 KidLit Progressive poem to pen a couplet for an original "zoo" poem - in honor of Irene's brand-new novel, Don't Feed the Boy
from Roaring Brook (which I can't wait to scoop up this weekend). My two lines were based on a somewhat slithery encounter at the Mule Camp Festival here last weekend. Go sssseeeeeee....
Thanks for visiting!
August 22, 2012
Poetry buffs who frequent this blog know about Poetry Friday regular Irene Latham – her COLOR OF LOST ROOMS (2010) was a National Indie Excellence finalist and winner of the 19th Annual Writer's Digest Self-Published Book Award. She just sold her first collection of children's poems, DEAR WANDERING WILDEBEEST, set at an African watering hole, to Millbrook Press/Lerner. Look for it in the fall of 2014! Irene has been poetry editor of the Alabama Arts Journal
She’s also an accomplished novelist. LEAVING GEE’S BEND (Putnam, 2010) won the Alabama Library Association 2011 Children's Book Award and was a SIBA Book Award finalist. Her new novel, DON’T FEED THE BOY (Roaring Brook, Oct. 2012), is soon to be let loose!
At the SCBWI Southern Breeze fall conference in Birmingham in October, Irene is presenting a workshop on that elusive, crucial, desired-by-any-editor element of a story: voice
. She was kind enough to drop by today and give us a sneak peek.
Take it away, Irene!
Confession: when I sold LEAVING GEE’S BEND, I thought “editing” meant someone somewhere sending my words through some fancydancy spell-check program. I really had no idea how to revise.
Guess what I learned?
The best and quickest way to educate oneself about editing and revision is to actually DO it. And what I’ve found in the years since is that for me, revising is most successful if taken in stages. By which I mean, I read over the manuscript multiple times, addressing one specific issue during each pass.
I generally start with plot, because that’s easiest (for me). Then I move to character arc – one pass for each major player, then another pass for supporting characters. Then, eventually, I move to voice. It’s during this pass that the magic happens: ordinary words take on flavor and personality. Dialogue quirks emerge. Similes and metaphors become consistent with the character. Gone are the modern words in a historical piece, while invented words manifest themselves in a fantasy piece.
One of the best ways I have found to teach about voice is to show examples of writing without voice. Take, for instance, the first line from a household favorite book FEED by M. T. Anderson.
line STRIPPED of voice, by me:
“We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon was boring.”
actual line, written by M.T. Anderson:
“We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck.”
That, fellow readers and writers, is VOICE.
Want to learn more? Come to the SCBWI Southern Breeze region annual Writing and Illustrating for Kids conference in Birmingham, Oct. 20. (There’s an optional novel intensive Oct. 19.) Here’s the official description for my workshop:
Voice Lessons: Revising for Voice
Got a book with great plot, characters, but no distinctive voice? This workshop provides revision techniques and advice on how to create a voice that’s authentic and memorable. *Attendees should bring at least one page up to an entire chapter of a work-in-progress to revise.
Handout includes a list of strategies, a voice-revision checklist and three before/after excerpts to illustrate effectiveness of the suggested techniques.
Sounds terrific, Irene! Thanks for the preview.
To learn more about Irene and her books, check out her website
And to register for the Writing and Illustrating for Kids (wik) fall conference in Birmingham , click here.
Hope to see you there!
August 16, 2012
Howdy - Well, I'm breaking my mini-blog vacation because there are just too many good things to share! I have a fun Poetry Friday post for tomorrow, but before that, here are a couple of good bloggie nuggets:
1.) I was thrilled to learn that Laura Shovan's blog, Author Amok
, was named a top ten Creative Writing teaching blog, winning a "Fascination Award" with the nominated post being a guest post by yours truly
for Poetry Month this year! Woo-hoo! Congratulations, Laura - and I'm honored!
2.) The folks planning our SCBWI Southern Breeze Fall Conference in Birmingham have been hard at work, and we're spotlighting speakers in the Southern Breeze blogosphere this month. (I've been thrilled to present there the last two years, and look forward to enjoying workshops as a civilian this year.) I'll host Irene Latham HERE next week, but in the meantime, get on board and enjoy the tour:
Aug. 15 Sharon Pegram at Writers and Wannabes
Aug. 16 Sarah Campbell at Alison Hertz’s blog, On My Mind
Aug. 17 F.T. Bradley at Laura Golden’s blog
Aug. 20 Chuck Galey at Elizabeth Dulemba’s blog
Aug. 21 Jo Kittinger at Bonnie Herold’s blog, Tenacious Teller of Tales
Aug. 22 Irene Latham HERE!
Aug. 23 Vicky Alvear Shecter at S.R. Johannes’ blog
Aug. 24 Doraine Bennett at Cathy Hall’s blog
Aug. 27 Virginia Butler at Bonnie Herold’s blog, Tenacious Teller of Tales.
Aug. 28 Jodi Wheeler-Toppen at Diane Sherrouse’s blog,The Reading Road
Aug. 29 Ellen Ruffin at Sarah Frances Hardy’s blog, Picture This
Aug. 30 Donna Jo Napoli at Writers and Wannabes
June 14, 2012
with Claudia, who even loaned me a hat!, and fabulous Hostess with the Mostest Joan. The bottom photo is from 1994 - at Penshurst with the Harrises.
At last month’s Poetry for All
Highlights Founders Workshop, Eileen Spinelli
told us that a writer needs time to meander. So please bear with me – I’m meandering today!
Last weekend, I had the terrific good fortune to attend the SCBWI Southern Breeze
summer retreat, “Show Don't Tell: How Acting Techniques Improve Writing” led by Hester Bass
. At first I thought I’d find a poem celebrating acting for today, and then I wanted to celebrate hospitality – shown by Hester in her leadership, shown by Joan Broerman
, our region’s founder, who along with hubby Neal welcomed all of us into their home for sessions and meals, and shown by co-RA Claudia Pearson
, who graciously offered me her gorgeous guest room to bunk in for the weekend.
A search for poems on “hospitality” led to Ben Jonson’s
1616 poem, “To Penshurst.” Well, this poem led me to an old photo album. Jeff, myself and Morgan, age two at the time in 1994, made a trip to England for our 10th anniversary. We were covered up with hospitality and wonderful day trips by friends of Jeff’s family – John and Pauline Harris, and their son Chris. Their home was in Sevenoaks, Kent, not far from the Penshurst
estate, and off we went. John and Pauline are both gone now, but I will always remember their warmth and enthusiasm.
I’ll also always remember that trip to Penshurst – the medieval banquet hall and its chestnut beams and long, long tables transported us back to the fourteenth century! According to my notes, we stopped for a decadent cream tea in the Tea Room on the way out, where we were bid goodbye with double rainbows outside.
I figured since the poem was written by Ben Jonson, dramatist and contemporary of Shakespeare, it qualified as both acting-related and hospitality-related. It’s an “estate poem” which looks at nature, culture and social relationships. Here’s a taste with the beginning and a bit from later on:
by Ben Jonson
Thou art not, Penshurst, built to envious show,
Of touch or marble; nor canst boast a row
Of polished pillars, or a roof of gold;
Thou hast no lantern, whereof tales are told,
Or stair, or courts; but stand’st an ancient pile,
And, these grudged at, art reverenced the while.
Thou joy’st in better marks, of soil, of air,
Of wood, of water; therein thou art fair.
But all come in, the farmer and the clown,
And no one empty-handed, to salute
Thy lord and lady, though they have no suit.
Some bring a capon, some a rural cake,
Some nuts, some apples; some that think they make
The better cheeses bring them, or else send
By their ripe daughters, whom they would commend
This way to husbands, and whose baskets bear
An emblem of themselves in plum or pear.
But what can this (more than express their love)
Add to thy free provisions, far above
The need of such? whose liberal board doth flow
With all that hospitality doth know;
Where comes no guest but is allowed to eat,
Without his fear, and of thy lord’s own meat …
For the entire poem, click here.
Oh – and did you know Ben Jonson is the only person buried in an upright position in Westminster Abbey? (Click here
for more. Told you I was meandering.)
Thanks for visiting, and meander on over to Mary Lee’s A Year of Reading
for the Poetry Friday roundup!
June 7, 2012
Hello, Poetry Friends!
I'm on the road to Alabama this weekend for a "Show-Don't-Tell" writers retreat sponsored by SCBWI Southern Breeze.
Leading this grand adventure is the talented and ever effervescent Hester Bass
. (Hester and I got our very first book contracts at about the same time a few years ago, and we've been celebrating ever since.)
I'll look forward to catching up next week. In the meantime, please go enjoy all the yummy poetry our wonderful Jama is rounding up today at Jama's Alphabet Soup.
February 28, 2012
In SCBWI Southern Breeze, we love us some Kirby Larson!
Our 20th Anniversary SCBWI Southern Breeze Springmingle
in Atlanta was a blast this past weekend! I'm still playing catch up. We enjoyed hosting editor Kristin Daly Rens (Balzer+Bray/HarperCollins), editor and art director Greg Ferguson (Egmont), agent Mary Kole
(Andrea Brown Literary) and our wonderful keynote speaker, Kirby Larson
, who not only inspired us through the weekend but who kicked things off with an all-day novel-writing intensive on Friday. Also, Andy Runton
was our special guest Saturday for a workshop on comics and sequential art.
Whew! My writer's toolbox was much heavier when I left on Sunday than when I arrived Thursday night. We had a magical mix of great advice and warm camaraderie the entire weekend. Thanks to all the volunteers, some I didn't even get to thank personally, for all your hard work. Special thanks to our conference bookstore, FoxTale Book Shoppe,
led by some of the foxiest bookstore ladies around, and to the wonderful staff at the Century Center Marriott
Now, onto planning 2013... ! :0)
February 24, 2012
As the winds whip outside the Century Center Marriott in Atlanta, we are looking forward to a great weekend for our 20th Anniversary SCBWI Southern Breeze Springmingle
, coordinated by yours truly. I won't have time to visit all the great Poetry Friday blogs until after Sunday, but I wanted to share a little good news Gisele pointed me to this week.
I was thrilled when MODERN HAIKU accepted a submission of mine for the current, hot-off-the-press issue. I was even more thrilled to learn that my haiku was selected for the online sample pages featuring some of the haiku and senryu in the current print edition. (Mine is the first on the page; sometimes it's nice having a last name starting with "B".) My haiku was written as winter knocked on fall's door. Now the breezes are are blowing again as winter hangs on in the face of spring, right around the corner.
to read it and several other poems from the current issue.
Then head on over to visit Jone at Check it Out
for this week's Poetry Friday Roundup.
February 16, 2012
I'm in the throes of a zillion details, finalizing plans for our SCBWI Southern Breeze
Springmingle conference I'm coordinating in Atlanta next weekend.
So I was in the mood to find a poem that reflected the camaraderie of writers, and I stumbled upon one which was different from what I had in mind, but is perfect. (At least to me.) I admire both its author and subject and am delighted to discover and share it.
Contemporary Irish poet Eavan Boland reaches across a few centuries and a big wide ocean to touch hands and poetic sensibilities with our own 17th Century's Anne Bradstreet. Here is an excerpt:
Becoming Anne Bradstreet
by Eavan Boland
It happens again
As soon as I take down her book and open it.
I turn the page.
My skies rise higher and hang younger stars.
The ship's rail freezes.
Mare Hibernicum leads to Anne Bradstreet's coast.
A blackbird leaves her pine trees
And lands in my spruce trees. ...
(Read the rest of this poem here.
But wait, there's more! This poem is featured in a brand-new Folger Shakespeare Library's exhibit and chapbook Shakespeare’s Sisters: Women Writers Bridge Five Centuries,
pairing contemporary poets with poets who wrote between 1500 - 1700. For a real treat, click here
for an interview with Eavan Boland featuring her commentary on Anne Bradstreet's poetry and to hear her read both Bradstreet's poetry and her own new poem I'm celebrating here. (An interesting discussion of the individual artist vs. the collective culture in early colonial America, too!)
For a heart-shaped box full of poetic cameraderie, and the lure of Valentines strange and wonderful, visit the beautiful Myra at Gathering Books
for the Poetry Friday Roundup!
January 19, 2012
Breaking News: Sandy Fry made us a great TRAILER on facebook, with yours truly narrating. Enjoy!
Just a shout-out on behalf of the SCBWI Southern Breeze Springmingle Conference, which I'm coordinating in Atlanta Feb. 24-26. Early-bird discount registration ends THIS Sat., Jan. 21 (Note: the online registration site will be down for a few hours tomorrow night).
We've got a GREAT weekend planned, with Newbery Honor winner Kirby Larson as our keynote and optional novel-writing intensive leader, editors Greg Ferguson (Egmont), Kristin Daly Rens (Balzer&Bray/Harpercollins), and agent Mary Kole (Andrea Brown Literary), plus a workshop from OWLY graphic novel series creator Andy Runton.
Click here and then click SPRINGMINGLE for conference info.
To Poetry Friday folks, I'm sure it will be a great day of poetry, rounded up by Elaine at Wild Rose Reader
. I'll jump back in next week; I'm covered up in Springmingle planning today. Enjoy!
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 7, 2011
Registration is NOW OPEN for the 20th Anniversary SCBWI Southern Breeze Springmingle in Atlanta, Feb. 24-26, coordinated by yours truly.
Our keynote speaker is Newbery Honor winner and all around delightful taskmaster, Kirby Larson, who is leading an all-day novel intensive Friday. Other faculty include editor Kristin Daly Rens (Balzer&Bray/HarperCollins), editor and art director Greg Ferguson (Egmont), agent Mary Kole (Andrea Brown Literary), and OWLY creator Andy Runton. PLUS - we will be screening "Library of the Early Mind." It's going to be a terrific conference!!!
to learn more and sign 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 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)
September 2, 2011
Robyn at the Highlights offices in 2009
Greetings from Honesdale, Pennsylvania, this morning, where I’ll attempt to find an internet connection and connect to Poetry Friday! I’m attending my second Highlights Founders Workshop
up in the beautiful mountains here. My first was a poetry workshop; this time around is an illustrators’ workshop with an amazing faculty (and attendees, for that matter!).
Perusing Lee Bennett Hopkins’s DAYS TO CELEBRATE this past week, I discovered that Monday (Sept. 5) is the birthday of the one and only Paul Fleischman.
We SCBWI Southern Breezers had the honor of hosting Paul for our 2008 fall conference. (This is all related, really.)
I appreciated Paul’s keynote address on “found sculpture,” in which he described his own creative pursuits outside of writing. He shared that creative energy put into something “non-writing” will “flow into your writing,” noting that: “Art is problem-solving. Art is difficult.”
I for one am thrilled he’s let his own creative energy flow into so many wonderful works. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Paul Fleischman!
Let’s celebrate with a few lines from the 1989 Newbery Medal-winning JOYFUL NOISE – Poems for Two Voices (illustrated by Eric Beddows).
is the ink we use
is our parchment
For the rest of the poem (and proper formatting!), click over to the excerpt on Paul’s website
The scope of Paul’s work is dizzying, and he has been named by The U.S. Board on Books for Young People as the United States' Author Award nominee for the 2012 Hans Christian Andersen Award
, given every other year to “an author and illustrator for a body of work judged to have made lasting contributions to children's literature.” (Back to art – the amazing Chris Raschka
is the U.S. nominee for the Illustration Award!) Winners are announced at the Bologna Book Fair.
Let me close with a quote from that 2008 keynote just for Jama
, in case she drops by: “Serendipity is one of your four food groups, you know? Enjoy it!”
To enjoy more great poetry, head over to the Poetry Friday Roundup hosted today by Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect
June 16, 2011
SCBWI Southern Breeze Poetry Retreat with Rebecca Kai Dotlich
Twenty poets gathered in the north Georgia mountains last weekend for an SCBWI Southern Breeze
poetry I coordinated with special guest,
Rebecca Kai Dotlich
. That thunderstorm mentioned at the end of last week’s post from Rebecca’s poem visited us more than once at the Center for New Beginnings
in Dahlonega, Georgia. We enjoyed sessions with Rebecca, who said her favorite poems offer a *surprise*, wonderful food and fellowship, individual critiques, and sparks of new poems begging to be written.
For more information and pictures, visit my POETRY
page and also attendee Jean Matthew Hall’s blog
. Doraine Bennett blogged as well at Dori Reads
This week I also had the privilege of speaking to some upper elementary and middle school writers at Lakeview Academy’s Writers Camp! What a talented group of creative young people.
But wait – there’s more. It was also Zoofari Camp this week at the Chestatee Wildlife Preserve
, and I popped in over there, too. I love talking about writing and also wolf education, so it was a great experience. I even brought Rio down from his pen to say hello to the campers (from a safe distance!). See pictures on my WOLVES
and STUDENT GALLERY
Back to the retreat – Rebecca was a terrific good sport out in the woodsy, rustic environment – particularly considering we learned “woodsy” and “rustic” are not really her thing
! I have to say I loved running half-wild through the woods as a kid, and I guess I’ve never outgrown it.
Thinking about that, I dug out this poem written soon after I started volunteering with wolves three years ago. (I know – it’s a little strange! But it still applies.)
"Breath of Fresh Hair"
Sometimes the wolf smell lingers
on my skin or in my hair –
I like catching a whiff on my sleeve
in the grocery store.
I hate to wash it off in the shower.
It’s not a scent for civilized company.
It’s the smell of secrets,
of murky mist –
heady and heavy,
wild and holy.
©Robyn Hood Black
All rights reserved.
Please visit the Poetry Friday Roundup at
Check it Out
June 10, 2011
Today we welcome Rebecca Kai Dotlich
for our first ever SCBWI Southern Breeze
Poetry Retreat, coordinated by yours truly. I can't wait! Folks from five states will gather to "dive into poetry" all weekend in the north Georgia mountains. I've had fun with the nametags. Amazing what some time on the internet and with Photoshop will do.... I consulted with Southern Breeze's own Vicky Alvear Shecter
about a poetry goddess to use for each "poetic license" photo. She suggested Calliope, the muse of epic poetry.
Here are just a few summer snippets from Poetry Goddess Rebecca:
From LEMONDADE SUN And Other Summer Poems
, Wordsong, 1998:
(from "Summer Greetings")
Hello to rose
and vines of green,
to lettuce leaves -
oh, hello beans!
on frosty squares
(from "Firefly" - saw the first ones last night, by the way)
Sliver of moon
slice of a star.
a jelly jar.
And the sun comes up,
and the sun goes down,
and children moon-skip
and, finally, since we could use some rain around here, from "Summer Storm's Plea" (SHARING THE SEASONS by Lee Bennett Hopkins, Margaret McElderry Books, 2010):
Let this downpour be good,
proud as a prank, one wild raid
of rain that drums my name:
March 10, 2011
Rebecca Kai Dotlich enjoying poetry with Alice Schertle, left, and with Lee Bennett Hopkins, right.
Along the lines of my previous post, I've noticed popping in and out of blogs that I'm not the only one with an office kitty muse. (My office cat is named May, and, like most of our kitties, is a former stray.) That's why I particularly love this poem by Rebecca Kai Dotlich, originally posted by Gregory K at gottabook.blogspot.com. It is reprinted here with Rebecca's permission and followed by an interview with Rebecca, who is leading a poetry retreat for SCBWI Southern Breeze in June. Enjoy!
Rebecca Kai Dotlich
She stared at me from where she sat,
one matted lump of fragile cat
who wore a grayish tattered ear --
she heard me whisper cat, come here.
A squint, a lick, a paw so small,
she did not move or purr at all --
just skin and bones and stars above her.
And that is how I came to love her.
©2009 Rebecca Kai Dotlich. All rights reserved.
February 28, 2011
It's been a fun month of featuring nonfiction nature writers! For our last visit, I'm happy to host Scotti Cohn. I “met” Scotti online when her fellow Sylvan Dell author and my good friend Gail Karwoski told me about Scotti’s gorgeous rhyming picture book, ONE WOLF HOWLS (illustrated by Susan Detwiler). Needless to say, Scotti and I discovered we are pretty much from the same pack! The Illinois writer, who is planning to move to South Carolina in a few months, tackles a wide range of subjects for readers of all ages, and you should check out her great blogs. Today we welcome her for a sneak preview of her new book from Sylvan Dell, also illustrated by Susan Detwiler, BIG CAT, LITTLE KITTY.
Welcome, Scotti! We share a lot of passions, including members of the canine and feline families – wild or domestic. Tell us about your new book, BIG CAT, LITTLE KITTY. What does it have in store for young readers, and how did you come up with the idea for it? (more…)
February 21, 2011
You can’t really say “nonfiction,” “nature,” and “SCBWI Southern Breeze” in the same sentence without saying Sarah C. Campbell! In addition to being a wonderful volunteer in our region (hailing from Mississippi), Sarah is an award-winning author and illustrator of spectacular books for children.
Her first book, WOLFSNAIL – A Backyard Predator (illustrated with photographs by the author and her talented husband, Richard P. Campbell) has won too many awards to list here (really!), including being named a Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Book and a Notable Children’s Book from the American Library Association. GROWING PATTERNS – Fibonacci Numbers in Nature is a 2011 ALA Notable Children’s Book and a 2011 Outstanding Science Trade Book for Students K-12. Both have won Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC) Choices awards, and both books are published by Boyds Mills Press.
Welcome, Sarah! I’m so happy you’ve dropped by for our “nonfiction nature writers” focus this month. Let’s start way back. What were you like as a kid?
I was a bit of a sickly child. I was slow to gain weight, slow to speak, and very fussy. Once my parents started feeding me soy milk, I was transformed -- virtually overnight. I went from not speaking to reciting full sentences. My first words, apparently, were “Have you turned my de-humidifier on?” My dad believes I developed my determined spirit during those rough early years.
By the time I was in school, I was very inquisitive and always interested in how things worked. I conducted an unauthorized survey in kindergarten. I followed a different classmate home each day for a week to find out what each was having for lunch. I gave up my quest only when I learned that my classmates were all having peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, too. (more…)
February 14, 2011
On this Valentine's Day, I'm thrilled to welcome someone for whom I have a lot of love - Donna H. Bowman, children's author, long-time critique group buddy, and former Co-Regional Advisor for SCBWI Southern Breeze.
Her books include (two versions of) BIG CATS (Intervisual Books/Piggy Toes Press), and two nonfiction titles from Picture Window Books: DID DINOSAURS EAT PEOPLE? – And Other Questions Kids Have About Dinosaurs, and WHAT IS THE MOON MADE OF? - And Other Questions Kids Have About Space. Donna also has an entrepreneurial streak we'll hear more about in a moment.
Hi, Donna! Let’s start at the beginning. I know you grew up running wild – in a good way – in California. Tell us a little about your childhood adventures in the great outdoors. (more…)
February 7, 2011
I'm thrilled today that Alabama author and SCBWI Southern Breeze Assistant Regional Advisor Heather L. Montgomery has come out of the woods for a spell to spend time with us! What a great way to kick off a month of guest nature writers for children.
Author photo by Sonya Sones
Heather's newest books are RATTLESNAKES and GARTER SNAKES in Capstone's
Wild About Snakes series. Her other books explore how to stay safe in an earthquake, what soil is made of, why teeth fall out, and mummy secrets! She's written many articles appearing in
Highlights, Science World, Know Fun for Kidz, and
Fandangle, and in professional publications as well.
But wait - there's more! Heather runs Dragonfly Environmental Education Programs, bringing folks of all ages and nature together. She helped develop McDowell Environmental Center in Alabama and currently serves as its Education Coordinator.
Heather, where do we start? (more…)
February 4, 2011
Here's the info on our upcoming summer POETRY RETREAT with Rebecca Kai Dotlich
! (This is from our SCBWI Newsletter - feel free to email me if you need more specifics.)
June 10-12, 2011
Center for New Beginnings
Join award-winning poet and seasoned presenter Rebecca Kai Dotlich for a weekend in the beautiful mountains of north Georgia.
Participants will enjoy immersion in poetry within a workshop setting, group discussions and writing exercises to awaken the imagination, and individual critiques with Rebecca. Traditional poetry for children, for themed collections or for magazines, will be emphasized. Rebecca will also discuss rhymed picture book texts.
Accommodations will be double or triple occupancy (additional fee for private rooms), simple but comfortable, with nourishing meals prepared by a gourmet chef. All this in peaceful, natural surroundings! Ahhhh . . . (more…)
January 8, 2011
My friend and prolific, award-winning children's author Lola M. Schaefer
has just the thing to jumpstart everyone's writing for 2011:
New Ideas For A New Year: A workshop for writers of children's literature
is a FREE two-hour workshop next Saturday in Atlanta. Sponsored by SCBWI Southern Breeze and the Friends of the Northeast Spruill Oaks Library, the workshop will take place at the library Jan. 15th, 10 a.m. to 12 noon. There is no cost, but seating is limited and you MUST register by Friday, Jan. 14. Contact Stephanie Moody, Southern Breeze Local Liaison: Moodyviews@Bellsouth.net. You can also register by calling the library (770-360-8820) or visiting the Adult Reference Services desk at the library, 9560 Spruill Road, Johns Creek GA 30022.
December 8, 2010
OK, it might not seem like the season at the moment to wade, splash, or dive into anything. . . . BUT – before you know it, we’ll be rounding winter and spring and facing summer. And what could be more perfect for a summer retreat than a long weekend exploring poetry for children with celebrated poet and award-winning author Rebecca Kai Dotlich?!
It’s my pleasure to coordinate a special poetry workshop/retreat for SCBWI Southern Breeze, limited to 22 paid attendees, June 10-12 at the Center for New Beginnings in Dahlonega, Ga. (more…)
December 3, 2010
Elizabeth Dulemba and Susan Rosson Spain
Let’s ring in the Christmas season with another great book in Sterling’s “The Twelve Days of Christmas. . .” series, namely, The Twelve Days of Christmas in Georgia
, written by Susan Rosson Spain and illustrated by Elizabeth O. Dulemba, friends I’m proud to have in my neck of the woods in the northern part of the Peach State.
If you are in this neck of the woods, be sure to stop by their next signings: Tuesday, Dec. 7, 4 – 5 p.m. at the HALL BOOK EXCHANGE
in Gainesville, and Thursday, Dec. 9, at 7 p.m. at LITTLE SHOP OF STORIES
in Decatur. Elizabeth and Susan agreed to drop by here, too, and tell us about their book.
Welcome, Susan and Elizabeth!
The Twelve Days of Christmas in Georgia takes readers on a colorful journey led by cousins Ava and Jacob, from the mountains in the north to the Okefenokee Swamp in the south to the Atlantic coastline. Jacob describes their adventures in letters home, tucking in lots of history and fun facts.
How in the world did you decide which points of interest to feature? (more…)
November 22, 2010
This week of Thanksgiving, I’m especially thankful for our guest. Jo S. Kittinger is a prolific author, co-Regional Advisor for our SCBWI Southern Breeze region, and all-around wonderful person. Jo’s insightful comments during a critique six years ago resulted in a submission that led to my first sale – Sir Mike to
Eileen Robinson, formerly of Scholastic Library. So I love Jo for all kinds of reasons – including that she was willing to drop by and tell us about her new book, Rosa’s Bus
(Calkins Creek/Boyds Mills Press), and a little more about herself.
How did you become a writer?
Some people know they are writers from a young age. Not me. (more…)
October 15, 2010
This weekend I’m co-presenting two workshops (with writer/media specialist Sharon Wright Mitchell) at our SCBWI Southern Breeze fall conference in Birmingham. One is “The Front Door, The Back Door, The Trap Door… Breaking into Magazines.” I asked HIGHLIGHTS Associate Editor Joëlle Dujardin for some fresh tips for our attendees. Her responses were so generous, I then asked if I could share them with you here! Enjoy.
(Joëlle edits fiction, and I’m personally grateful for the keen eye and sensibilities she brought to my story currently scheduled to run this April.) :0)
Thank you, Joëlle, for taking time to share your thoughts with us! Are there any story types or genres you are most interested in? (more…)
March 4, 2010
Still feels like winter, but the sun is out and most of the snow has melted away. I drove through a mini-blizzard (OK, Georgia-style) to visit with the great kids at Cleveland Road Elementary School in Bogart, Ga., on Tuesday. First time I've been presenting at a school when it closed early! No, the kids weren't excited or anything....
Our SCBWI Southern Breeze Springmingle was a big success, with the highest attendance ever. (more…)
February 25, 2010
Huge thanks to Cumming Elementary School third graders for being such a lively group of readers and writers last week. The grown-ups were just as enthusiastic! What a wonderful day with you all.
This weekend, I'll be mingling with fellow Southern Breezers at our big SCBWI regional spring conference, Springmingle, in Atlanta! I'm looking forward to being a volunteer in the audience this year. Here's hoping keynote speaker Jane Yolen and our great editors and agent can get through any snow tomorrow.
I look forward to spending a day at Cleveland Road Elementary School next week. We're going to "unleash" our creativity! Awrroooooo....
January 18, 2010
Greetings in this new year! If you are a children's writer or illustrator living in or near Georgia and are looking to jumpstart your work - and you could use some unbeatable networking and camraderie - check out the upcoming SCBWI Southern Breeze Springmingle conference in Atlanta, Feb. 26 - 28. This year's keynote speaker is Jane Yolen. (more…)
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…)
August 28, 2009
As many of you know, our SCBWI Southern Breeze region and the world in general lost a living treasure with the passing of Liz Conrad on Wednesday. Elizabeth Dulemba has posted a beautiful tribute on her blog. If you scroll through the comments there, http://dulemba.com/2009/08/in-memoriam-liz-conrad.html , you'll begin to get an idea of how special Liz was (more…)
August 10, 2009
Wishing all a great start to 2009-10! I look forward to a fall full of writing, drawing, speaking, and visiting schools.
The Decatur Book Festival is fast approaching with an amazing line-up of authors. (more…)
March 1, 2009
What a terrific weekend.
Award-winning author Kathleen Duey and editors Caitlyn Dlouhy, Abigail Samoun, and Mary Kate Castellani shared knowledge, insight, warmth and charm with more than 150 attendees at our SCBWI Southern Breeze Springmingle.
Last year, all our speakers' flights were cancelled because of winter weather in New York, and we scrambled to get them (more…)
February 25, 2009
It's my honor to be coordinating the SCBWI Springmingle Conference in Atlanta this weekend for the third year, and it will be my pleasure to hand over the reins to Southern Breezer and fellow critique group member Heather Kolich on Sunday. ;0)
We're expecting 150 or so children's writers, illustrators and publishing professionals to gather for networking, insight and inspiration. (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