Robyn Hood Black - children's author, poet





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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 http://www.kathleenduey.com

Robyn with Alaska Nature Writer Debbie Miller http://www.debbiemilleralaska.com

photo by Robyn Hood Black
Paul B. Janeczko http://www.paulbjaneczko.com

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Life on the Deckle Edge

Poetry Friday - DAYENU & Extra Credit Questions for April Halprin Wayland

April 14, 2016

Tags: Poetry Friday, poetry, Poetry Month, authors, book tracks, April Halprin Wayland


We’re slap-in-the-middle of Poetry Month! Does it get much better? Well, it does if you get to hang out with one of my all-time favorite people and poets, April Halprin Wayland.

Welcome to Life on the Deckle Edge, April, where I’m always running a wee bit ragged. Until I spend a few moments with something as wonderful as your just-launched More Than Enough - A Passover Story (Dial Books for Young Readers), which invites us to slow down and savor and be grateful. Katie Kath’s exuberant illustrations brim with joy, depicting a loving family’s preparations for their special Passover meal.

Today, I appreciate your playing along for a few “Extra Credit” questions!


April’s Extra Credit Q & A

“We wander the market surrounded by colors – Dayenu.”
First, what is Dayenu? Second, where are your favorite places to wander?


Dayenu (pronounced die-AYE-new) is the title of a song we sing at Passover . It's bright and bouncy and the chorus is a true earworm—it's simply the word Dayenu repeated over and over.

Dayenu means, "It would have been enough." So, for example, we say, if we had only been freed from slavery, that would have been enough—Dayenu! And, if the Red Sea had split and that was all, that would have been enough...etc.

Dayenu is a reminder to be aware of and grateful for the blessings in each moment.

Favorite places to wander? Meadows. And on verdant green hiking trails with my dog or my hiking buddies. Although I live within walking distance of the ocean in Southern California, rolling green hills are what light me up.

“We reach through the bars to lift one purring kitten.” Please, tell us about your pets!

Gladly, Robyn. I include an animal in all of my books.

• Eli is our licky, lanky dog (part Doberman, part German Shepherd, part knucklehead);
• Snot is our tiny tortoiseshell cat (she was the runt of the litter) with a squeaky kitten voice. (And don't blame me—my husband named her);
• Sheldon is our California desert tortoise. We had to get a permit from the state to adopt him because these tortoises are listed as a threatened species.
• We have about ten 10-cent gold fish in our pond (who have grown the size of submarines),
• and we have two red-eared slider turtles. We used to have four, named after the Beatles; we're not sure who survived, so their names could be any two of these: John, Paul, George or Ringo.

“We soak in blue bubbles and dress up for dinner.” What was your most recent dress-up occasion, or one on the horizon?

You can bet that I dressed up for the official More Than Enough book launch at our wonderful local independent bookstore. It was so much fun! I wore a bright hearts-and-rainbow dress, read the book, taught the Dayenu song and played the fiddle as the audience joined in.

Then we passed out coloring pages and I talked to the grown-ups about the hilarious behind-the-scenes story of how this book was born. [This is a must-read, Folks – click here for a tale of flexibility & determination!]

We served my favorite Passover food, charoset. Charoset symbolizes mortar which Jewish slaves used between bricks to build edifices for the Pharaoh. It's made of chopped apples, walnuts, honey, cinnamon, dates and either wine or grape juice. Put it on matzoh and it's yummy-crunchy-sweet—divine!

“We search high and low for the lost afikomen.” Do you have a favorite “found object”?

Such an interesting question, Robyn. My father was a farmer and an artist—and an appreciator of all things great and small. He found a crooked old plumbing pipe about the size of a child's arm, bent at the elbow; he stuck flowers and a chicken hawk feather in it, and brought it home. So quirky-beautiful... and so my father. That's the first thing I thought of.

(Not gonna lie… that made me tear up a little!)
“She wraps us in blankets, then sings Eliyahu.” You’re no stranger to music. Do you sing to the radio or iTunes while stuck in LA traffic? What station? Are you a humble hummer or a belter-outer?


Actually, I usually listen to National Public Radio 24/7—news, not music. And audio books. In terms of music, I'm all about sitting-around-the-living-room playing acoustic instruments and singing folk music with friends. Songs written by songwriters like Tom Paxton and Stan Rogers, to name a few.

But lately when I'm driving listen to the songs from the musical, Hamilton. Wow. I've never understood hip-hop before, I'd never taken the time to really listen to it. Lin-Manuel Miranda, who wrote the lyrics, the music, the book, and who stars in the musical knocks it out of the stadium. (I also listen to In the Heights, which Miranda wrote and starred in, too).

When I'm in the car, I'm a belter-outer. Which are you, Robyn?

Ha! Well, I’m an NPR addict as well. But bring on a classic rock anthem, and I’m belting it out -- if it's just me in the car, anyway!

The children enjoy “… a Passover sleepover.” Best rest for you – rain on a tin roof? Ocean? Crickets? Birdsong and window blinds?

Rain on the roof. (The alarm on my cell is birdsong. It's an almost liquid way to transition from dreaming to real life.)

Thanks so much for joining us today, April. We could never get enough of YOU!

Thank you for having me, Robyn—I love your questions (and you!)

Readers, for some extra fun today, I’m happy to report I’m a guest over at Penny Klosterman’s terrific blog as part of her “A Great Nephew and a Great Aunt” series, where you’ll also get to meet my super-talented niece, Sara, and my delightful great nephew, Carter.

And for even more Poetry Month celebrating than you think you can stand, bop on by Today’s Little Ditty, where the magical Michelle has our Roundup this week.
Dayenu!

[Note: I'm attending a history conference here in Beaufort today and will try to check in at the mid-day break. Go ahead and leave some love for April!]

Poetry Friday - A Thesaurus-y Celebration

January 14, 2016

Tags: Poetry Friday, poetry, authors, book tracks


Got your party hats and blowers ready? Monday is the birthday of Peter Mark Roget. You know, the Thesaurus guy! (And much more, too.) He came to us via London on January 18, 1779.

Right after New Year’s – I’m not sure why – I gave MYSELF a gift. I finally purchased THE RIGHT WORD – ROGET AND HIS THESAURUS by the very gifted Jen Bryant and illustrated by the so-very-talented Melissa Sweet . Published in 2014 by Eerdmans, it won the Robert F. Sibert Medal and was named a Caldecott Honor Book in last year’s flurry of ALA awards.

I’ve so enjoyed savoring, pouring over, and relishing my own copy! Research doesn’t overwhelm the personal story in this inspiring, quirky biography, and the illustrations are clever and wondrous. [Those endpapers! Oh, my….]

Our own Keri shared a lovely post when this book came out over at Keri Recommends, with great links and such. I know there are many fans of THE RIGHT WORD among the Poetry Friday crowd.

I learned from the book’s timeline that it was nearly birthday time, hence this post. And hence my need to share our own Heidi Mordhorst’s ever-clever poem honoring this venerable volume which makes Roget’s name a familiar one two centuries later. Heidi’s poem is found in THE POETRY FRIDAY ANTHOLOGY FOR MIDDLE SCHOOL (PFAMS) from Pomelo Books (2013).

If you haven’t yet read it, you’ll see why Sylvia and Janet couldn’t pass it up:


Meet The Saurus


I sound like a lizard, a dino or fossil;
Instead I’m a reference, a volume, a book.
If you need some help or require assistance,
check in for a peek, a perusal or look.

I’m small, undersized, miniscule or compact
but I’m powerful, potent, I’m mighty or strong.
Please trust in, rely on, depend on, believe me–
I won’t misinform or mislead, steer you wrong.

When you need to state or express or convey
a specific idea or notion or thought,
I can offer, propose, recommend or suggest
the word or expression that hits the right spot.

See me for that nuance, that hint or that shade
of meaning that captures what you want to say,
for I am The Saurus, Synonymous Rex,
King Onomasticon! Extinct? No way!



©Heidi Mordhorst. All rights reserved. Posted with very last-minute-permission, because that’s how I roll.


For a video of Heidi reading this poem herself, paddle on over to No Water River, where Renee included it in her PFAMS Poet Palooza. (Scroll down the post to find Heidi.)

You can enjoy another video created by Karey Pustejovsky on the PFAMS blog from April 2013.

Like Mr. Roget’s Thesaurus, I don’t think Heidi’s poem or THE RIGHT WORD will go out of style any time soon.

For more stylish words today, visit our Round-up host, - WAIT – look who it is! That delightful Keri, at Keri Recommends. (I really didn’t know until I just clicked to see!) She’s got some “big magic” over there.

[And a heads’ up for next week – I’ll be on the road as a visiting poet in a school next Friday – at Morgan’s school as a matter of fact! – and will be too involved with poem-loving kids to post. Hmmm… what’s a great word for, “can’t wait”?! See you at the end of the month!]

Poetry Friday: Of Mice and Chihuahuas - and Rebecca Kai Dotlich

January 7, 2016

Tags: Poetry Friday, poets, authors, book tracks, animals, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Lee Bennett Hopkins


Just over three years ago, we rescued a three-pound Chihuahua. (Okay, I rescued a three-pound Chihuahua when something tiny ran in front of my car on a busy road. “You’re not even a real dog!” I said, dodging traffic.) Less than a year old, no tags or microchip, and though she’d been loved by somebody, we were unable to find an owner. So she joined the family, and son Seth named her Rita.

We’ve never been “tiny dog” people, but I have to say, this one steals everybody’s heart. More than one vet tech has marveled that she’s a nice Chihuahua.

She’s also entertaining. Her latest antics involve stalking mice below the house from the comfort of indoors. Our small coastal cottage was built on slanted ground with pillars in the back. Boards run from the ground to the bottom all around, but there is open space between them. You can open a gate and walk on dirt underneath the back part of the house. With insulation tucked beneath the floor, it’s evidently an inviting space for little critters to make themselves at home. (Hubby was down there this week, and one of said little critters dropped down as he was tacking up insulation – not sure which one was more surprised! At least it was small.)

From inside the house, Rita has set up a couple of monitoring stations. One is below the dining room hutch. She can fit inside the space between its carved legs. She’ll sniff and then sit on high alert, head cocked and ears up, for quite a while. Then she’ll run around to the rug in the kitchen and adopt the same stance. Wonder what she’s listening to? I’ll ask her, “Rita – where are your mice?”

All this puts me in a mind to share Rebecca Kai Dotlich’s beautiful poem, “Winter Home.” It’s from one of my favorite collections of all time, Sharing the Seasons (Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2010) by the incomparable Lee Bennett Hopkins . The rich illustrations by David Diaz are pure magic.

Enjoy!


Winter Home

by Rebecca Kai Dotlich

We build our beds
inside this barn,
with shreds of cloth,
old rags, twine. A room
where we can winter-dine
to chime of ice, by windows full
of snowflake art. With dreams of crumb,
cracker, tart, inside this old
wind-whistling place, this cold
and tiny mousekin space,
we cuddle to chase
the chill away,
imagining an April day.



©Rebecca Kai Dotlich. Used with permission.


Savor this poem – it’s one to read again; you’re sure to catch some new poetic treasure the second (or third!) time. So many luscious words/turns of phrase - do you have a favorite?

I wonder if these mice are distant cousins to the ones who usher us into and out of Jumping Off Library Shelves (Wordsong, September 2015)? :0)

RKD fans, take note: If you haven’t seen her oh-so-clever One Day, The End.: Short, Very Short, Shorter-Than-Ever Stories (Boyds Mills Press, October 2015) illustrated by Fred Koehler, you’re in for a treat. Keep your antennae out next month for another Boyds Mills title by Rebecca, The Knowing Book, illustrated by Matthew Cordell. I was lucky enough to have a sneak peek of this one, and it’s going to be on my gift-giving list for all kinds of occasions. (“This picture book encourages readers to make the most of their lives….” School Library Journal).

Thanks to Rebecca for sharing the perfect Winter poem today, and to all the wee critters that enrich our lives.

Keep celebrating a new year of poetry with our wonderful Tabatha, rounding up at The Opposite of Indifference today. Stay warm and cozy!

Poetry Friday: September

September 5, 2013

Tags: Poetry Friday, poetry, ponderings, authors, book tracks, haiku

YAY Images

I caught it - just for a hint of a moment, just through my fingers and teasing my face - walking at dusk last night. Have you caught it? That wispy slight chill in the air wafting over the scent of grass - the promise of fall?

Fall has always been my favorite season. As a little girl, when that chill in the air and the smell of fresh grass meant I was running around my grandparents' back yard in Tennessee, I loved the start of a new school year. Growing up in Florida, I didn't move to where the leaves change color until college. I am still at a loss each year when the canopy transforms into a yellow golden scarlet aubergine cathedral, shedding stained glass leaves into a carpet. Fall is a time to breathe deeply, to both contemplate and start new things.

On my side of the family, the first great-grandchild for my folks was born Wednesday night to my lovely niece. New life makes everyone pause and feel hopeful. We also discovered that there's a baby due on my husband's side of the family - the first great-grandchild for his folks, so fall will be full of promise. New babies always make me think of Lee Bennett Hopkins's collection AMAZING FACES, with exquisite illustrations by Chris Soentpiet (Lee & Low, 2010). Rebecca Kai Dotlich's opening poem begins:

Amazing Face

Amazing, your face.
Amazing.

It shows there will be trails to follow,
porches to wave from, wonder from,
play on. ...


©Rebecca Kai Dotlich. All rights reserved.

Please click here to read the rest.

There's something about the bittersweet nature of fall that captivates me, too. All that glorious color and fresh air harbors the reality that stark winter is next on the wheel. We are fragile, after all - strong, but impermanent. This sensibility accompanies the best haiku, one reason I'm so drawn to the form.

Somewhat related, the imagist poets often call to me, too. This poem in particular seemed perfect for today, and even relevant with our current concerns around the globe.

September, 1918

by Amy Lowell (1874–1925)

This afternoon was the colour of water falling through sunlight;
The trees glittered with the tumbling of leaves;
The sidewalks shone like alleys of dropped maple leaves,
And the houses ran along them laughing out of square, open windows.
Under a tree in the park,
Two little boys, lying flat on their faces,
Were carefully gathering red berries
To put in a pasteboard box.
Some day there will be no war,
Then I shall take out this afternoon
And turn it in my fingers,
And remark the sweet taste of it upon my palate,
And note the crisp variety of its flights of leaves.
To-day I can only gather it
And put it into my lunch-box,
For I have time for nothing
But the endeavour to balance myself
Upon a broken world.


Click here to see the poem at The Poetry Foundation; you can click on Lowell's biography on that page and read more about her extraordinary career.

Finally, let the autumn winds blow you over to Author Amok, where the lovely and talented Laura has thoughts on friendship, more classic poetry, and a terrific Round-Up this week!

Poetry Friday: "August Morning" by Albert Garcia

August 2, 2013

Tags: Poetry Friday, poetry, authors, ponderings

YAY Images
Happy August to you!

I have looked at my calendar and must declare myself an honorary European this month; with a trip or two yet to go, and with getting two kids settled into college (first year for one; last for the other) in two different states, and with the Decatur Book Festival at the end of the month where I'll have my artsyletters booth, I'm going to need to take some blog vacation days here in the Dog Days.

But I'd like to share a poem I stumbled across, and it only makes me want to read more of this poet's work. Albert Garcia teaches college English in California. His work has been published in many respected journals and has been featured on Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac. His poetry collections include Rainshadow (Copper Beech Press) and Skunk Talk (Bear Star Press). Here are the opening lines from a poem in Skunk Talk:

August Morning

by Albert Garcia

It’s ripe, the melon
by our sink. Yellow,
bee-bitten, soft, it perfumes
the house too sweetly.
At five I wake, the air
mournful in its quiet.
My wife’s eyes swim calmly
under their lids, her mouth and jaw
relaxed, different.
What is happening in the silence
of this house? ...


©Albert Garcia - please click here to read the whole poem.

For lots of great poetry to start off your August, please paddle over to visit lovely Margaret at Reflections on the Teche.

(If you're interested, here's a peek at some new artwork I'm conjuring up for that book festival Aug. 30-Sept. 1. Especially for Book Nerds!)

Poetry Friday: Margarita Engle is here!

July 25, 2013

Tags: Poetry Friday, authors, ponderings, verse novels, poetry, animals


Earlier this summer I was honored to feature a poem by Margarita Engle from her gorgeously crafted The Hurricane Dancers. That only whet my appetite to offer a more fulsome post featuring this talented, generous, adventurous and multi-award-winning poet. But what to focus on - her journalistic career and NPR segments? Her scientific expertise? Her picture books and animal knowledge? (Did you know she "hides" in the wilderness to help search and rescue dogs learn their trade?) Her precision regarding historical figures, some of whom wouldn't otherwise have a voice today? Verse novels?

Well, this column today is mainly about verse novels, with some of those other dynamics woven in. Like me, you'll want to explore more than just one work or form! I'm so pleased to welcome Margarita, whose many awards include a Newbery Honor, the Pura Belpré Award, the Claudia Lewis Poetry Award, the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award, and a Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Honor, just to name a few.

Your body of work (and that’s just so far!) includes a treasure of stories about Cuba’s history. First, can you share a bit about your rich family history and your visits to Cuba growing up?

My mother is from the beautiful town of Trinidad, on the south-central coast of Cuba. My father is an American artist who traveled to her town after seeing photos of the colonial architecture and traditional customs in the January, 1947 issue of National Geographic. He arrived on Valentine’s Day, and they met on the terrace of a palace that was an art school at that time, but is now known as El Museo Romántico, because it is a museum of Romantic Era art. Since they couldn’t speak the same language, they communicated with drawings. It was love at first sight (or first sketch). They were soon married, and they moved to my father’s hometown of Los Angeles, where I was born and raised. Summers spent visiting my mother’s relatives in Cuba are my fondest childhood memories. During those trips, I bonded with the extended family, including my grandmother and great-grandmother. I also fell in love with tropical nature and the family farm, setting the foundation for a later career in botany and agriculture. The 1962 Missile Crisis, and my loss of the right to travel freely, was the defining moment of my adolescence. I think that might be why I tend to write for eleven-year-olds, since that is the age at which my life was abruptly severed into distinct before and after segments.

Your writing sensitively conveys both the courage of ordinary people as well as the horror of humanity’s dark side in conditions such as war and slavery. How were you able to actually write difficult scenes, such as the recurring tortures endured by Juan Francisco Manzano in The Poet Slave of Cuba?

Thank you, I’m glad it does come across as sensitive. Those scenes were adapted directly from Manzano’s autobiographical notes. On my own, I never would have imagined such terror, but I felt obligated to retain both the facts and the spirit of his notes about his childhood. The stunning illustrations by Sean Qualls really helped soften, and at the same time, strengthen, those disturbing images.

Turning specifically to the form of verse novels, I’d like to share some correspondence with you earlier this summer that helped click this form into place in my mind. You wrote:

The two things I sacrifice in exchange for using the verse novel form's magic are:

1. dialogue---When I encounter dialogue in a verse novel, it usually feels disorienting, so I search for other ways to have characters communicate.
2. detail---I feel the need to research like a maniac, and then omit most of what I have learned. This forces me to only include those aspects of history that seem most important to me. In other words, it forces me to remain constantly aware of what I am really trying to say to young readers.


What terrific thoughts for folks exploring this form! Would you like to share a little more about its magic? Why is the verse novel a vehicle of choice for sharing your stories?


I fell in love with the verse novel form after struggling to write about Manzano in traditional prose, and falling short over and over, for ten years. As soon as I switched to poetry, the life of The Poet Slave of Cuba sprang to life. I think it’s because Manzano was a poet, and I was only able to retain the spirit of his voice by honoring his love of verse. He wrote poetry while struggling to stay alive. I write in safety and comfort, yet we meet on common ground. I have never been a slave or a boy, but I feel a kinship to this enslaved boy who taught himself to read and write poetry. After that first verse novel, I just kept going. The Surrender Tree was next, and the first draft was so unfocused that it was rejected by my wonderful editor, Reka Simonsen. I’m fortunate that she gave me a second chance to re-write it from scratch, because the result was a Newbery Honor. I don’t think that would have been possible for me in any other form. If I’d written a nonfiction book about a wilderness nurse during Cuba’s independence wars, it would have needed footnotes, instead of feelings. Someone else could write that, but I can’t. I need to experience my protagonist’s emotions. After The Surrender Tree, I followed with Tropical Secrets, The Firefly Letters, Hurricane Dancers, The Wild Book, and The Lightning Dreamer. Each of these verse novels explores some aspect of freedom and/or hope, my two recurrent themes.

While we’re on the subject of form, I’d like to take this opportunity to give a bit of advice to anyone teaching poetry to young people. Personally, I would tell kids (and aspiring adult writers) to turn off their gadgets, string up a hammock, and write with pen and paper, just letting words flow. Write as if time does not exist. Write as if rejections and critics don’t exist. Just write because you have something to communicate, deep down inside your heart, mind, and soul. Go exploring.

(I LOVE that advice!) Your main characters are full of light in dark circumstances, and often deal with being perceived in unfair and negative ways. In The Surrender Tree, Rosa (modeled after Rosario Castellanos Castellanos, who lived in the 19th and early 20th century) is a nurse who helps the injured on both sides of conflict in Cuba’s three wars of independence. She must do her healing in hiding, deep in the tropical forests and caves of the countryside:

The Spanish soldiers dress in bright uniforms,
like parakeets.
They march in columns, announcing
their movements
with trumpets and drums.

We move silently, secretly.
We are invisible.


Rosa is called a witch and pursued relentlessly. Under the weight of extreme weariness, hunger, lack, and fear, she carries on. What keeps her going?


Compassionate perseverance is the reason I chose to view 30 years of war through her eyes. I don’t understand that level of generosity and courage. I admire modern nurses for the same reason: they stayed with their patients during Hurricane Katrina. They don’t receive the respect granted to doctors, but they accomplish daily tasks that would exhaust the powers of superheroes. Nurses amaze me. Where does that dedication come from? I think it’s hope, and that’s the reason I admire Rosa la Bayamesa enough to write about war, when all I want to think of is peace.

In your speech at the 2010 National Book Festival (available on the Macmillan Authors site and your own website, and echoing your advice above, you said, “writing is an exploration.” Any projects in the works you want to talk about, or do you prefer to keep creative endeavors under wraps until they’re ready for the world?

I have taken a brief rest from Cuban history to write some animal books. When You Wander, a Search and Rescue Dog Story (wonderful illustrations by Mary Morgan!), is my new picture book, and Mountain Dog is a middle grade chapter-book-in-verse (magnificent illustrations by Olga and Alexey Ivanov, and edited by the amazing Ann Martin!). Both of these dog books were inspired by my husband’s volunteer work, training our dogs to find hikers lost in the Sierras. My role in their training is hiding out in the woods, so the dogs can practice finding a “lost” person. I also have some other picture books pending, about other subjects, including a couple of biographies, one of the most difficult p.b. forms to publish these days.

{Note: When you leave here, please take a moment to enjoy When You Wander, read aloud by Margarita in a video over at Renée's No Water River! An interview follows, and she'll be a special guest over there again soon, too!}

In March, 2014, Harcourt will release a picture book inspired by a Cuban folktale: Tiny Rabbit’s Big Wish(gorgeous illustrations by David Walker!), as well as Silver People, Voices From the Panama Canal (spectacular cover illustration by Raúl Colón!), a verse novel about the Caribbean Islanders who were recruited to dig the canal, while subjected to U.S.-imposed apartheid. Caribbeans and southern Europeans were paid in silver, while Americans and northern Europeans were paid in gold, hence the title. Silver People is also my personal love letter to tropical rain forests. In this book, every living thing has a voice, including monkeys, ants, birds, snakes, cockroaches, and trees.

That sounds beyond wonderful. I have to mention that among many other things you write, you are a haiku and tanka poet. Do these short forms inform your other writing?

Absolutely! Since childhood, I have loved the short Japanese forms of poetry. They help me remain aware of immediacy, and of the senses. They also help me discover universal images that are extremely useful for triggering emotions in a reader’s mind, so that I don’t have to go on and on in a melodramatic way, naming and describing those emotions. I think haiku and tanka help me fill the blank spaces between lines of verse with unstated thoughts and feelings. It can be described as resonance, like the vibrations that continue after the sound of a bell has faded. It makes reading interactive, without any electronic gadgets, just words.

Readers and writers are always curious about an author’s work habits and inspiration. Will you play along with a short Q & A? Here we go:

Morning or Evening? (or Middle of the Night?!)

Morning. I get up early, work early, and exhaust my creative energy early. By evening, my mind is a sponge, and all I can do is read.

Coffee or tea?
Coffee, the stronger the better.

Beach or Mountains? (or maybe Tropical Forest?)
All of the above. I don’t swim, but I love the seashore. Our search and rescue dog training takes us to the mountains once or twice each week. I visit tropical rain forests whenever our budget has room for travel. Most recently, we went to an orangutan reserve in Borneo (after the Asian Festival of Children’s Content in Singapore, a great conference for any Western authors who want to meet authors and readers from the East). And before you ask, yes, one sort of writing project or another often does grow out of each adventure, so there is an orangutan book in my future (illustrated by…no, sorry, I can’t reveal that exciting secret yet, but it’s edited by Noa Wheeler at Holt...)

(Oooohhh... can't wait!)
Music (What Kind?) or Silence?


Silence. I’ve never understood authors who can write in crowded places. I need to be alone with my characters, whether fictional or historical. Noise or modern music would interfere with my time travel experience.

What’s on your Night Stand? (Or would that be a Kindle?)

I just finished the best grownup biography I’ve ever read: Second Suns, by David Relin, about a heroic Nepali eye surgeon who cures blindness in remote villages. I don’t know whether this book captivated me just because it’s fantastic, or because my son-in-law is from Nepal, and I’m eager to go meet his family---probably both.) Tragically, the author killed himself right after writing this masterpiece. He was discouraged by criticism of Three Cups of Tea, his previous book. Even though accusations against that book’s authenticity were dropped in court, the discouragement must have been overpowering. I think there’s a lesson for all authors here---we can’t let critics destroy us. We have to ignore all the media buzz, noise, whining, and bullying. We have to just focus on doing our best, and ignore attacks by cruel people.

Some of your favorite-sounding words (this week!)?

The following word is on my mind: travel. That’s because I just finished writing a memoir in verse about my childhood travels, and now I’m waiting for news from my agent, hoping the book has found a home.

Thank you, Margarita, for gracing us with your talent and generous spirit today. I’m glad you write so many books, because I can’t wait for the next one!

Thank you, Robyn! It’s an honor to answer such thoughtful and challenging questions.

For more about Margarita, please visit her website.

And to explore more poetry, please check out Semicolon, where Sherry has the Poetry Friday Roundup!
(Note - as of Friday morning, I'm not seeing a Roundup there - but there are some great PF posts in the kidlitosphere today. UPDATE: Matt at Radio, Rhythm and Rhyme stepped up to post links he knows of today. Thanks, Matt!)

Poetry Friday: Full Hearts, Empty Nests, and Emily Dickinson

June 13, 2013

Tags: Poetry Friday, poetry, authors, school visits, students, teachers, ponderings, birds

Willow Tree figure, "Happiness," with student cards...


On Wednesday I grabbed a quick catch-up coffee with a dear friend. Years ago, she taught both of my kids when they were in fourth grade, and I was her room mother each time! Now the youngest, Seth, has just graduated (though not before visiting her classroom to talk about song writing with her students), and I’ve been continuing the tradition of visiting her class to talk about writing each spring. A couple of years ago, my oldest (Morgan, my rising college senior/ed major) tagged along. It’s been a great arrangement; I “experiment” with different writing activities with the students, and they get a little outside spice with their language arts.

Sharon has given me the most thoughtful, perfect gifts over the years as a thank-you. When the creative writing theme involved butterflies (catching ideas!), the class gave me a butterfly coffee cup, matching journal, and bookmarks. Once they gave me a heavy duty pen holder for my desk, decorated with pens on the outside. The most precious gifts are notes and cards from the students, which I think every author cherishes.

This week, along with a bow-tied stack of cards, Sharon gave me the lovely Willow Tree figure in the picture above. This one is called “Happiness” – and Sharon said it made her think of me. Well, that just fills me with joy, and much appreciation.

Willow Tree creator Susan Lordi says of this figurine, “I hope this piece is very open to viewer interpretation. For me, it is the pure joy that comes from creating — in all of its forms. A side note … I love bluebirds.”

I told Sharon the birds were appropriate, as the last thing I’d done before sunset the night before was fish a newly-fledged robin out of our pool. I scooped it up and set it on the ground, where, after sitting there not knowing what to do for a time while its parents fretted, it eventually hopped toward Mom, who escorted it up the hillside and out of my sight.

This baby was the last one to leave this year’s nest in the camellia bush. A big baby bird, I’d already mentioned to it that it was about time. That mama and papa robin had worked tirelessly harvesting gobs of worms to take to the nest day in and day out.

Obviously we have empty nests on our minds these days. My husband said he even got misty watching some baby robins outside at work the other day. They were learning to fly. So, let’s have a bird poem today, in which Miss Emily so beautifully renders the image of flight:

A Bird Came Down the Walk

by Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

A Bird came down the Walk—
He did not know I saw—
He bit an Angleworm in halves
And ate the fellow, raw,

And then he drank a Dew
From a convenient Grass—
And then hopped sidewise to the Wall
To let a Beetle pass—

He glanced with rapid eyes
That hurried all around—
They looked like frightened Beads, I thought—
He stirred his Velvet Head

Like one in danger, Cautious,
I offered him a Crumb
And he unrolled his feathers
And rowed him softer home—

Than Oars divide the Ocean,
Too silver for a seam—
Or Butterflies, off Banks of Noon
Leap, plashless as they swim.


Click here for more information about Emily Dickinson and links to many of her poems.

Now, flap your wings and glide on over to Reflections on the Teche , where the thoughtful and talented Margaret has the Poetry Friday Roundup!

Also, if you want to see some gorgeous oil paintings, I featured works by my fellow-brand-new-empty-nester-to-be friend and amazing artist Ann Goble on my artsyletters blog this week.

Poetry Friday: A Poem from Margarita Engle's HURRICANE DANCERS

June 6, 2013

Tags: Poetry Friday, poetry, authors, ponderings, verse novels

(Note: the book cover now is covered with many wonderful award stickers! Here's a former library copy, so you can see the art - ©Cathie Bleck...)

Happy Caribbean-American Heritage Month! (Click here for the Presidential proclamation.)

Today I have a poem from the amazing Margarita Engle, from her book, Hurricane Dancers , (Henry Holt, 2011). This novel in verse presents poems in five voices – our main character, Quebrado (the “broken one” – half native Cuban and half Spanish), survives a hurricane and shipwreck in the dawning of the 16th century to escape his life of slavery. The ship’s ruthless captain, Bernardino de Talavera (the first pirate in the Caribbean) survives, too, as does his cruel captive, former conquistador/governor of Venezuela, Alonso de Ojedo. Quebrado befriends Caucubú, daughter of a Ciboney chieftan, and the young fisherman she loves, Naridó.

Of course, these stories and fates become intertwined, and Quebrado must make decisions that affect them all and determine his own character. Around the middle of the book, he shares this poem:

Quebrado (p. 63, Hurricane Dancers)

Storms follow me
wherever I go.

Once again,
the sky looks so heavy
that I would not
be surprised
if black clouds
sank to earth
and grew roots
in moist soil,
creating a wispy forest
of drifting air.

Mysteries follow me
wherever I go.


©Margarita Engle. All rights reserved. (Many thanks to the author for permission to post.)

I borrowed the characters from this book on Wednesday for a kind of quirky, visual-art oriented writing exercise for my monthly column over at Janice Hardy’s THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STORY. Because I was so taken by the art and design of this book, I also sang its praises on my art blog this week with a link to more incredible art from cover artist Cathie Bleck.

I know all this just whets your appetite. Perhaps like me you’ve long been enchanted by Margarita’s award-winning picture book, Summer Birds , illustrated by the oh-so-gifted Julie Paschkis. Or perhaps you were captivated by The Surrender Tree, a Newbery Honor Book and winner of the Pura Belpré Award, the Claudia Lewis Poetry Award, the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award, and a Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Honor, to name a few. The Poet Slave of Cuba has a long trail of awards as well, and then there are her dog books, her NPR segments, her haiku (ahhhh…!) – Well, have no fear. Margarita has agreed to return for an interview sometime soon, so stay tuned.

Today, turn your dial over to The Opposite of Indifference, where the multi-talented Tabatha has our Poetry Friday Roundup. But wait, there’s more: If you have some bicycle-themed poetry (or art) that you’d like to submit to an upcoming contest in Flagler County, Fla., follow today’s tropical breezes to my post with information from my friend and Highlights Founders Workshops poetry alum, Stephanie Salkin. (& Thanks, Stephanie!)

Poetry Friday: A Jane Hirshfield poem for Will and Emily's wedding

May 30, 2013

Tags: Poetry Friday, poetry, occasions, authors

Yay Images


This weekend, our family is celebrating the union of my nephew, Will, and his lovely bride, Emily. (She’s a new teacher, by the way – I knew you’d like her!)

In scouting around online, I found a website in the UK that has everything a busy or procrastinating couple might need to plan their special day, including dozens of poems and thousands of speeches uploaded by others. Really – groom, father of the bride, maid of honour/best woman … you get the idea! Toasts, jokes, etc. There are even links to help you plan your “Stag” and “Hen” nights! I do love those Brits.

But today I’d like to share a poem by one of America’s poetic treasures, Jane Hirshfield .

Here are its opening lines and those near the end:

A Blessing for Wedding

By Jane Hirshfield

Today when persimmons ripen
Today when fox-kits come out of their den into snow
Today when the spotted egg releases its wren song

Let the vow of this day keep itself wildly and wholly
Spoken and silent, surprise you inside your ears
Sleeping and waking, unfold itself inside your eyes
Let its fierceness and tenderness hold you


© Jane Hirshfield.

Please do click over to read the poem in its entirety here. And click over to Teaching Young Writers, where the creative Betsy has the Poetry Friday Roundup and Chalk-a-Bration pictures, too!

Poetry Friday: Terri L. French visits with Haiku and Atlanta Haikufest Info

April 18, 2013

Tags: Poetry Friday, poetry, Poetry Month, haiku, authors, conferences, workshops

Haiku Poet, HSA Regional Coordinator, and Prune Juice editor Terri L. French

Smack dab in the middle of National Poetry Month is National Haiku Poetry Day – on Wednesday the 17th this week. Let’s continue the celebration with a spotlight on a terrific poet/volunteer from my neck of the woods, and the amazing haiku weekend she’s cooking up for October in Atlanta.

When I started my own haiku journey nearly three years ago, I got in touch with a couple of folks listed as Haiku Society of America members in my region. They were very kind, but there didn’t seem to be an active group at the time.

Then lo and behold, in swoops Terri L. French from Alabama to reach out and rev up the Southeast Region. Before you could catch a falling cherry blossom, she’d arranged the first annual Ginko (haiku walk) Haikufest last fall in Alabama! I was out of town and unable to make it that weekend, so I was thrilled to learn she was putting together another one for this coming fall. More about that in a minute. First, meet Terri!

BIO: Terri L. French lives in Huntsville, Alabama. She is a Licensed Massage Therapist and has been writing haiku and various related forms seriously for the last seven years. In 2012, she placed third and received an honorable mention in The Haiku Society of America's (HSA) Gerald Brady Memorial Award senryu contest and third place in the HSA haibun contest. Terri currently serves as the HSA's southeast regional coordinator and edits the senryu and kyoka journal, Prune Juice .

Here’s Terri’s take on why she became so involved:

The southeast region of the Haiku Society of America has been a little inactive for the last few years. Geographically we are quite spread out. The region includes Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands! Our first annual Ginko Haikufest was held last year in Guntersville, Alabama. This year the conference will be in Atlanta, Georgia. My hopes are that by moving the conference around the region we can garner more interest and become a more cohesive group.

This year's conference "gazing at flowers," celebrating the 250th birthday of Japanese haiku poet Kobayashi Issa, will be even bigger and better than last year's. We will have a special presentation by HSA's president, David Lanoue; an introductory workshop and "blind" critique; a sumi-e Japanese brush painting class; a performance by a taiko drum troupe; a ginko bird walk; and much, much, more.


I am thrilled to be participating and helping out for this event. Here’s the conference info in a nutshell – mark your calendar!

The 2113, SE Haiku Society of America, 2nd Annual Ginko Haikufest, "gazing at flowers," will be Friday October 25 - Sunday, October 27, at the Artmore Hotel in Atlanta, Georgia. Contact Terri French at terri.l.french for registration information and see our events page and the Facebook Haikufest page.

Now, to whet your appetite, two original haiku graciously shared by Terri:

a spot of blood
on the unfinished quilt -
harvest moon


Sketchbook, Vol. 4, issue 5, Sept/Oct, 2009

reflecting pool
trying to see past
what she's not


Frogpond, 34:3, 2011

Poems ©Terri L. French. All rights reserved.

Many thanks for joining us today, Terri!

For a thoughtful haiku in response to the tragic events in Boston this week, see Daine Mayr’s poem at Random Noodling.

*** a couple of different notes:

1.) Guess What? The Authors Guild Folks - evidently also known as “Knights of the Internet” - recovered all my lost comments from Poetry Friday two weeks ago! The Roundup itself was lost, but you can find all the links here in the post just under this one (dated 4/18/2013). The content of my original post for that day is here.

2.) How about this for fun? April Halprin Wayland, Irene Latham, and yours truly made the Children’s edition of Publisher’s Weekly yesterday, with a picture of our “Take Five – Create Fun with the Poetry Friday Anthology” workshop at the Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival in Hattiesburg last week. Click here (and scroll down) to see. Woo hoo!

Speaking of lovely Irene, go see what she’s rounding up for Poetry Friday today at
Live Your Poem.

Poetry Friday - Poetry Month Continued with Eileen Spinelli

April 8, 2013

Tags: Poetry Friday, poetry, authors, book tracks, Poetry Month, animals

Eileen and Robyn at Highlights Founders Workshop in May 2012; Office Kitty May enjoying NORA'S ARK.


Greetings from Mississippi, where I’m heading home today after the wonderful Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival at The University of Southern Mississippi. April and Irene and I had a blast sharing the Poetry Friday Anthology and the Poetry Friday Anthology for Middle School (Sylia Vardell and Janet Wong, eds.) with workshop attendees! [Details in my post last week, which was to my utter shock gobbled up somehow in cyberspace, with all the dozens of links folks had left and I’d rounded up - 60-plus comments. Sigh. I reposted my text part here, with our PFA poems.]

I love connecting with other children’s poets, writers and readers. Almost a year ago I had the good fortune to attend my second poetry workshop up at Highlights (post about that here).

Guess whose small group I was in? Eileen Spinelli’s. Yes, that Eileen Spinelli, whose work I’ve admired for many years.

Eileen has poems in these Poetry Friday Anthologies as well. I asked her if I could share her PFA poem from Fourth Grade, Week 29 – “Poetry Poems” – because to me it’s just perfect for National Poetry Month. She kindly agreed.

Today

Today I’m going to pay attention.
To the broken blueness of sky.
To the high weeds in the vacant lot.
To the rusted pot in the alleyway.
Today I’m going to leap across puddles
and steep in green
and all the wild colors in between.
I’m going to listen to
what the birds are singing about,
and to the happy shouts of toddlers on swings.
Today I’m going to gather all my heart can hold
of lemony light and yawning cats
and the bright blur of traffic on the bridge.
Today I’m going to pay attention.
Today I’m going to find myself a poem.


©Eileen Spinelli. All rights reserved.

This poem is particularly delicious when read aloud!

Speaking of Eileen, who is an amazingly generous and prolific writer (of more than 40 books and counting), I’d like to offer a shout-out here for her brand-new picture book, NORA’S ARK (illustrated by Nora Hilb, Zonderkids, 2013).

The ark is just what you’d think, except in Nora’s case the “passenger list includes two backyard spiders, a pair of battery-operated monkeys, and a couple of unimpressed cats.” And Nora does everything just like Noah… well, not just like Noah.

Publisher’s Weekly praised “the respectful exploration of the power of a child’s imagination.”

I absolutely love this book and its ending – perfect for sharing with a child on a rainy day, or any day!

Now, are you ready for some more Eileen Spinelli poetry? Check out “April Foolery,” the poem of the month at her website.

For links to more great poetry all over the Kidlitosphere, please visit the terrifically talented, kitty-loving Diane at Random Noodling for today’s Round Up. Unless you are a cyberspace gremlin.

Poetry Friday Recap & Poetry Friday Anthology

April 8, 2013

Tags: Poetry Friday, Poetry Month, poetry, book tracks, authors, conferences

UPDATE!!! The "Knights of the Internet" recovered all our comments! Click HERE for the links! Hi, folks - On Sunday afternoon a band of virtual Gremlins made off with my Poetry Friday Round Up post with all your wonderful dozens of comments. :0( I have no idea where it is hiding or if it can be retrieved... I've emailed the webhosting folks for help. Apologies if you've come looking for the Round Up (it was such a great week with so many great links!) and reached this message. Fearing the worst, I'll go ahead and re-post my original article here, so you can enjoy some Poetry Friday Anthology poems and interviews.

HAPPY NATIONAL POETRY MONTH!

(from Friday, April 5)
I’m thrilled to be your Poetry Friday Rounder-Upper today – please leave your links in the comments and I’ll post them as the day unfolds. [As noted above, these links have vanished! My apologies for this inconvenience. There were 65 comments...!]

I look forward to hitting the road next week on a long drive to Hattiesburg, Mississippi, for the Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival at the University of Southern Mississippi. (Yep – they have the wonderful deGrummond Collection, curated by the ever-effervescent Ellen Ruffin.)

April Halprin Wayland , Irene Latham and yours truly will present a poetry panel workshop on Wednesday: Take Five! Create Fun with the Poetry Friday Anthology. We get to share the Poetry Friday Anthology and the new Poetry Friday Anthology for Middle School with eager teachers, media specialists, and other interested folks. Thanks to Pomelo Books editors extraordinaire Janet Wong and Sylvia Vardell for helping to support this adventure.

Here’s a poem from each of us that we’ll share in our presentation, along with a 10-item Q & A just for fun.

First up, April. Here’s her poem from Grade 6 Week 29 (“Poetry Poems”) in PFAMS:

In the Word Woods

I’m sure there’s a found poem somewhere here.
There usually is this time of year.

Didn’t a red-haired boy lose words
that were found last May by a flightless bird?

And then that search and rescue hound
dug up sixteen poems he’d found.

Listen for falling bulletin boards,
and scowling poem-poaching hordes

who stomp all over this hallowed ground
until the hidden poems are found.

I’ll bring a flashlight, you bring a rake
we’ll get down on our knees and make

a poem from words that have trampolined
off an Internet ad or a magazine

into the woods some starry night
waiting for searching kids who might

find a poem if they’re brave and follow
the hoot of an owl to the end of the hollow.

©April Halprin Wayland. All rights reserved.

Quick, April, answer these fast!

Coffee or tea?
Single shot soy latte in a huge cup so they fill it to the top with FOAM!
(My version of whipped cream without the cream)


Milk or dark chocolate?
Dark, sweetened with unsweetened pineapple juice & pear juice concentrate.
(Despite what my husband says, it tastes wonderful!)


Beach or mountains?
Mountain meadow. Even though I live a mile from the beach…

Free verse or forms?
I have to choose?

Drafts: pen and paper or digital?
Both. Either. Depends.

What’s usually playing on your iPod or on Pandora when you are:
Working –
instrumental folk, classical piano trios; sometimes NPR
Working out – whatever my gym class teacher is playing

Favorite place to read poetry?
In my home office.

Favorite place to write poetry?
In my home office.
(I love my home office. *sigh*)


Funniest question you’ve ever been asked at a school visit:
"How many books do you write in a week?"

Quick! Three of your favorite-sounding words:
cuspidor, bubble gum, tiddlywinks


Next, Irene’s poem from Grade 5, Week 2 (“More School”) from PFA:

Backpack

I’d say paper
Is my favorite feast –
I love it spiraled,
bound or loose-leaf.

(Pencils poke,
rulers break.
Textbooks give me
A belly ache.)

Whatever you feed me,
I’ll do my best;
you’re the one
Who takes the tests!

©Irene Latham. All rights reserved.

Q & A time, Irene – hit it!

Coffee or tea?
tea

Milk or dark chocolate?
dark

Beach or mountains?
beach at night, mountains by day

Free verse or forms?
freeeeeeeee!

Drafts: pen and paper or digital?
digital all the way

What's usually playing on your iPod or on Pandora when you are:
Working
- nada. I work best with silence (though I have learned to write through son's drumming)
Working out - shhhhh, I don't work out.

Favorite place to read poetry?
in bed

Favorite place to write poetry?
in bed (hey, I really like my bed!)

Funniest question you've ever been asked at a school visit:
Would you sign my arm?

Quick! Three of your favorite-sounding words:
honeysuckle, hydrangea, heliotrope

Finally, running out of room on the handout - ;0) – my short little poem from First Grade, Week 10 (“Food”) from PFA:

Snack Rules

Don’t talk with your mouth full –
full of peanut butter:
Anything you try to say
will cmmm out as a mmmttrr.

©Robyn Hood Black. All rights reserved.

And my 10 answers:

Coffee or tea?
Morning coffee; afternoon tea

Milk or dark chocolate?
dark

Beach or mountains?
Beach, but I love the mountains too.

Free verse or forms?
Sucker for forms…

Drafts: pen and paper or digital?
Scribbles in journals or on Post-It Notes

What's usually playing on your iPod or on Pandora when you are:
   Working -
Writing: *must*have*quiet*
            Drawing: Bach or Classic Rock, Carving/Printing: *must*have*Celtic*

   Working out -
Ummmm…..

Favorite place to read poetry?
On my couch with my dogs

Favorite place to write poetry?
In my head when I’m walking and talking to the birds

Funniest question you've ever been asked at a school visit:
From a kindergarten girl on a cafeteria floor with 400-plus K-2’s: How do you know if it’s a man wolf or a lady wolf? (Last week a second grader asked me AFTER my presentation, “Are you an author?”)

Quick! Three of your favorite-sounding words:
sassafras, twinkle, persnickety

Be sure to check in over at The Poetry Friday Anthology blog for ideas and inspiration on using the PFA in the classroom. The Poetry Friday for Middle School blog features short “poem movies” this month created by Sylvia’s graduate students, highlighting some of the wonderful PFAMS poems for grades 6 - 8!

For an extensive Poetry Month roundup of events in the Kidlitosphere, check out Jama’s gracious post on Alphabet Soup.

Two last links from me: On Wednesday at Janice Hardy’s great blog, The Other Side of the Story , I featured Irene’s new novel, DON’T FEED THE BOY (Roaring Brook), as a way to look at how a poet’s sensibilities might inform the way she writes fiction.

My art blog post this week celebrates found poetry and Austin Kleon.

Friday's now missing-in-action post then included the Round Up of dozens and dozens of wonderful poetry posts last week. Sigh. If you search for "Poetry Friday" and start visiting blogs of other commenters, you'll find some wonderful offerings.


Poetry Friday: Taking Flight with Monique Gagnon German

March 21, 2013

Tags: Poetry Friday, poetry, authors, ponderings, writing life

Top: Monique Gagnon German (Feathers from Yay Images)


We Poetry Friday regulars are used to being moved, amused, or challenged by poems we come across online. Have you ever stumbled upon a poem that takes you out of blog surfing mode, out of whatever you’re also thinking about, and steals you into itself? I’d like to share a poem that had such an effect on me, and then I’ll tell you about the poet and the PF connections that led me to it!

Down



I don’t see it until I rise, a feather
on the chair across from mine
as if a tiny ashen bird

landed while I was gone
to other landscapes in my thoughts
and stayed just long enough

to leave evidence of his visit,
a small memento of flight
before lifting back into sky,

the tiniest quill
which might write
so many notes to you now,

each one fluttering down
confetti-style, beneath this sturdy
layer of cloud to ask you how

you are in such minuscule script
you might mistakenly think each slip
of paper is just a blank

prompting you further
to think of stories unwritten,
novels unread or the way

even the newest words
can dissipate
on the jet streams

of surrounding phrases and refrains
but maybe, by some fluke
of free association, you’ll think

of the lightness of paper instead,
how it carries its freight of words
as medium, impartial

to both statement
and intent, as if the words,
were a mere flock of birds

that caw, crow, peep,
whistle, chirp, and sing
but always end the performance

the same way: a ruffle of feathers,
a preening beak, the whisk of purpose,
the air of flapping wings.


Copyright ©2012 Monique Gagnon German

Maybe now you’ve fallen in love with it, too! How did I find it? The ever-amazing Tabatha Yeatts sent an email to Linda Baie, and myself, remembering that we had each posted about St. Francis before. (This was a couple days before the world had a new Pope by that name, by the way!) Tabatha gave us a link to a lovely post about the Peace Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi,, including a beautiful musical portrayal sung by Sarah McLachlan. As I was clicking some other links she provided, I came across this issue of a wonderful journal, Assisi, an “An Online Journal of Arts & Letters” published by St. Francis College, Brooklyn, NY. That’s where I found Monique’s poem! In thanking Tabatha for the link, she told me she had learned of the journal from our own Matt Forest Esenwine, whose poetry has appeared in the journal as well.

I contacted Monique to seek permission to share her poem. She kindly obliged. In addition to writing delicious poetry, she’s a busy mom of two young children and married to a Marine who is also a writer. Her poetry has appeared in the anthology, "e, the Emily Dickinson Award Anthology Best Poems of 2001," and in journals such as Ellipsis, California Quarterly, Kalliope, The Pinehurst Review, The Bear Deluxe, High Grade, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Calyx, The Ledge, Rosebud, Assissi, The Sierra Nevada Review, Xenith, The Innisfree Poetry Journal and Atticus Review . This year, her poems are forthcoming in Canary and Tampa Review.

Monique has a B.A. in English Literature from Northeastern University and an M.A. in English from Northern Arizona University. She’s lived all over the US and worked in technical publications for many years. You can learn more about Monique and read more of her poetry at her website.

Another fun find? She’s a copy editor for Ragazine, “The On-Line Magazine of Art, Information & Entertainment” – You’ll want to check it out, too!

Speaking of fun, don’t forget to check in on March Madness Poetry 2013 at Think Kid, Think . I had the pleasure of sparring with the aforementioned Matt in Round One, and I was bested by the talented Gotta Book has the Roundup! (At time of posting, this link is being persnickity. Google Greg Pincus if it's not cooperating!)

Poetry Friday - Julie Hedlund and A TROOP IS A GROUP OF MONKEYS

March 14, 2013

Tags: Poetry Friday, poetry, authors, book tracks, digital, ponderings, writing life

As you're enjoying the frenzy of March Madness Poetry 2013
(and do head over and vote for your favorite poems!) I offer you a different and very special treat today. I met Julie Hedlund last year at the “Poetry for All” Highlights Founders workshop , and I’m happy to share a peek into her brand new rhyming storybook app, A TROOP IS A GROUP OF MONKEYS. It’s illustrated by Pamela Baron and offered by Little Bahalia Publishing for the iPad. (I don’t have an iPad, but my in-laws were happy to purchase it on theirs for me – and for the grandchildren!)

A TROOP IS A GROUP OF MONKEYS is a romp through the collective nouns of animals, written in rhyme. It offers a fun way to explore the habits and habitats of a variety of animals (as well as subject-verb agreement!).

A pride of lions licks monster-size paws

A float of crocodiles snaps mighty jaws.


My favorite line is:

A quiver of cobras hisses and shakes.

And my favorite illustration accompanies

a leap of leopards lounges in trees,

in which one of the leopards napping on a tree limb opens one eye and twitches an ear.

The animals on each page exhibit the behavior described in the verse, and kids will have fun touching the screen to make the colorful subjects spring to life.

Now, you almost have to sneak up on Julie, safari-like, to grab her for just a few minutes – what with her popular 12 X 12 Picture Book Challenge and her sold-out Writers Renaissance Retreat in Italy coming up in April. Let’s find out more about Julie and her work before she’s off on her next adventure.

Welcome, Julie!

Oh, where to start?! Let’s begin with writing, and we’ll explore other endeavors in a minute. When did you discover a love of writing, and how have you developed your craft?


I've ALWAYS loved writing. It's how I understand myself and the world. The first word I ever wrote was "HOT," and for a year or so it was how I signed all of my cards to grandparents, etc. I think it's gone uphill from there. :-)

With respect to craft, I've cultivated it by doing a lot of writing and a lot of listening. By listening, I mean attending conferences, workshops and retreats where I could learn from experts and then work on incorporating those lessons into my own work. What amazes me is how the more you learn, the more you realize you still have yet to learn. There's never a dull day in the writing life!


How did you come up with the idea for A TROOP IS A GROUP OF MONKEYS?

I came across a list of collective nouns for animals and was surprised to find how few of them I knew. I was delighted by the fact that the names for the animal groups reflected something about the animal's behavior, habitat, appearance, etc. I figured if I had that much fun learning the names, surely others would too - especially kids, who almost always love animals.

Did any verses come straight from the Muses, and were there others you had to hunt down?

"A kaleidoscope of butterflies flutters through daisies" was one of the only lines that survived intact from my first draft. Otherwise, the verses required a lot of work. I did a great deal of research on each animal so I had several options for the line pertaining to that animal. Then I had to match animals up with each other in such a way to create compelling rhyming couplets.

Let’s talk about apps. First, what’s your definition of a storybook app?

A storybook app is an illustrated book for children that contains interactions on each screen, some of which may be required in order for the story to proceed. The interactivity can be sound-based, touch-based or device-based (such as tilting or shaking the device). Ideally, the interactivity is designed to enhance rather than detract from the story and to increase comprehension.

How is composing text for an interactive app similar to writing for print? How is it different?

What's similar is that the story (or in this case poem) must be excellent. No amount of technical bells and whistles can elevate a sub-par story. What is different is that in addition to thinking about text and illustration, now you need to consider sound, movement, animation. You have to think about your story on a screen instead of a page, which changes the function of "page turns." Although you still move from screen to screen, tension and drama can come from sound and animation as well as text and illustration. There's also no set number of pages for apps, so the onus is on the author to determine how many screens are required to tell the best story.

How much input do you as the writer have in terms of the interactive elements – choosing what might be animated, layout/design, that sort of thing? Or are all visual decisions left to the illustrator and designers?

The answer to this question depends on how you are publishing the app. If you hire a developer to create your app or use an app creation tool, all of those decisions are your own. In my case, I sold my manuscript to an e-publisher, so the publisher made most of the decisions about the animation and design. However, I did submit a storyboard containing my "vision" for the animation, and many of those ideas were incorporated into the app. I'm fortunate because Stacey Williams-Ng, the founder of Little Bahalia, has a huge amount of experience both illustrating, designing and producing apps. Because of her expertise and passion, the finished product is far better than I could have imagined had I done it on my own.

You’ve got terrific resources on your blog about the publishing industry as well as tips for creating apps. What’s the first thing you tell someone who asks you about creating digital content?

Go for it! It's the future. BUT, don't do it as a shortcut to traditional publishing. Make sure your story is the best it can be. Don't skimp on editing, illustration, design, etc. Also, evaluate whether your story makes sense in digital form. The story should drive the format, and not the other way around.

What do you think about the co-existence of traditionally published books, apps, and e-books in the marketplace – is there room for all, or do you think digital content will take over for the youngest readers?

I certainly hope there is room for all, as I still want to traditionally publish a print book! In fact, I want to publish any way I can that both makes sense for my stories and gets my work into the hands of more children. I see no reason why different types of books can't co-exist. As for the farther-off future, I do think digital content will become predominant in all forms of publishing, but I can't envision print going away entirely, especially for board books and picture books.

As a world-traveling, horse-riding, nature-loving gal from Colorado, you strike me as someone always up for an adventure. Were there any challenges during the process of creating this app that surprised you?

The challenge all came BEFORE the actual creation of the app. The biggest hardship I faced was learning about all the options available to publish the app, which direction I wanted to take, and then how to submit my idea, especially since I am an author-only and came without illustrations. What surprised me was how few answers I found to my questions. I guess that's why, after I developed my own proposal, I decided to turn it into a template for other authors and illustrators to use - to avoid the pain and suffering I endured - LOL.

You participate in “Gratitude Sunday” by posting things you are grateful for each week. How does an attitude of thankfulness inform your creative life? (And life in general?)

My gratitude practice, over time, has helped me understand that there is good in all situations, even if that doesn't seem to be the case on the surface. Spending time each week reflecting on what I am grateful for grounds me, and sometimes requires me to "dig deep" into my feelings and experiences. Rather than serving to oversimplify situations, my gratitude practice makes me realize the complexity that's inherent in people, our actions, our emotions. This serves me by enriching my writing, but it's also made me a great deal less judgmental and far less inclined toward knee-jerk reactions.

How do you balance your own creative work with the demands of nurturing not only your family, but the online network of inspiration and support you’ve created for other writers?

I'm not sure I do, but I keep trying!! Lately I've been taking things one day at a time, focusing on the most pressing things that need to get done work-wise. I'm also getting far better about "letting it all go" when I'm with my kids. Our work is of the kind that is never "finished." There is always something more that could be done. But there's no point in worrying about all of that when I'm with the kids. It's taken me a while to come to this realization, but I'm far better off spending quality time with them and coming back to my work refreshed from the break. Next on the list of "creating more balance" in my life is figuring out how to take time for me, as I've been slack on my exercising and pursuit of other hobbies lately.

Finally, any sneak peeks into projects on the horizon that you’re at liberty to share?

I'm not sure I'm at liberty to share the title yet, but my next app in the "animal groups" trilogy will be released in May, and it features animals leaving in or near the ocean. I am excited about this one because many of these collective nouns will be brand new to most people and they are SO fun.

A third app featuring insects, reptiles and amphibians will be coming in October, and before that, a print book that combines the "best" of all three apps. So it's a very exciting year!


Exciting indeed! Congratulations all around, and thank you for visiting with us today.

Thank you so much for hosting me today Robyn. I think digital publishing is going to be a very exciting avenue for poets of all stripes, and I hope my experience gets the creative gears turning for your Poetry Friday compatriots.

Told you she was fascinating! And if you visit her list of 100 random things, you'll learn Julie used to drink pickle juice straight from the jar, and that she has an MA in International Political Economy from the University of Warwick in England.

No telling what you'll learn making the Poetry Friday rounds today, but please go see the wonderful and talented Jone at Check it Out and enjoy!

Poetry Friday: Unlocking PFAMS!

February 28, 2013

Tags: Poetry Friday, poetry, anthologies, standards, teaching, authors, book tracks

When the Poetry Friday Anthology debuted last fall, I heard a couple of teachers say they’d love to see something like that for older students. Well, today’s the day!

It’s the official launch of The Poetry Friday Anthology for Middle School (PFAMS), brilliantly brought to life by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong.

Here’s the official scoop:

The Poetry Friday Anthology is a series for K-5 and Middle School (6-8) designed to help teachers meet the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in the English Language Arts (ELA). “Take 5” teaching tips for each poem provide step-by-step poetry lessons that address curriculum requirements.

PFAMS offers many of the same features as the original PFA. In fact, the same theme is used for each week in grades 6 through 8 as is used for K-5. Each grade section opens with a “Poem for Everyone” and then a suite of weedkly poems for each grade level for the whole year, tied in with the “Take 5” activities to grade-level standards. Pretty nifty, eh?

In fact, the first poem in the collection, a poem for everyone, is “First Day at a New School,” penned by none other than our Poetry Friday host today, Julie Larios .

One difference in this volume from the K-5 version is that each poem here claims a whole spread, rather than a poem and its activities presented one per page as laid out in the K-5 edition. As you can imagine, the “Take 5” lesson ideas are a bit more sophisticated, but still very user-friendly.

I’ll share one of my two in the collection to demonstrate how it works. (The other will show up here sometime soon, too!)

My poem “Locker Ness Monster” appears in the Sixth Grade section for Week Two, for the theme, “More School.”


Locker Ness Monster


Twenty-four
Eighteen
Six.


Arrrgh. That’s not it.

Twenty-six
Fourteen
Eight.


Nothing. Nada. Nyet.

Twenty-six
Eighteen
Four.


CLICK. That’s it!

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


©Robyn Hood Black. All rights reserved.

For the “Take Five” element on the opposite page, there are five different activities a teacher could choose to use with this poem. I won’t give them all away, but the first is particularly intriguing:

1. Add a bit of fun to sharing this poem with a “poetry prop” – hold up a locker lock before reading the poem aloud. Spin the wheel and stop at the numbers in the poem (24/18/6; 26/14/8; 26/18/4). See if you can do that WHILE reading the poem aloud!

(I love a challenge - but I'd probably have to pass this one on to someone more coordinated!)

A teacher might pick one activity or all five. You really can introduce a poem and lead a related activity in five minutes, if that’s all you have to work with. The number 5 in each “Take 5” is one always one of my favorite elements of these anthologies: a connection to another poem in the book (and sometimes to a published collection if it particularly relates). In the case of my poem here, readers are encouraged to check out another poem “involving confusion over numbers” – it’s “Fourths of Me” by Betsy Franco, in the 7th grade section, a terrific poem about identity. Another poem that connects back to mine emerges for the “In the Water” theme a few weeks later in sixth grade – “Dear Monster of Loch Ness” by Jack Prelutsky. (Great poem; amazing poet!) You get the idea.

One of my favorite things about these anthologies is the first “key to remember” in the opening pages:

A poem should first be enjoyed for its own sake.

This is vitally important. These anthologies enable teachers to present what can be an intimidating subject in accessible, fun, age-appropriate ways, while at the same time touching on the new Common Core standards. I wish this had been around back in the day when I taught middle school English!

Reminder: Sylvia and Janet have done an amazing job making this material accessible in a variety of ways. The anthology is available in a print version with all of the 6th through 8th grade entries; as an e-book; and by grade-level as e-books for a nominal price. Teachers who want to share a poem with students can do so quite easily with a Smartboard. But wait - there's more.... While the book cover pictured above is the CCSS version, educators in Texas can purchase the anthology with activities tailored to the TEKS standards. Ordering info for any of these can be found here.

I have really enjoyed reading the poems included in this collection and exploring the connections and activities they inspire. For more great poetry today, drift on over to see Julie at The Drift Record.

Poetry Friday - Dare to Dream with Jill Corcoran's Collection

February 15, 2013

Tags: Poetry Friday, book tracks, poetry, authors

Can’t believe it’s already Springmingle time again in our SCBWI Southern Breeze region . I’ve coordinated that conference off and on for several years, but this time I’m attending as a civilian. I look forward to meeting many great speakers, including multi-talented Jill Corcoran – agent, author, poet, anthologist, and busy mom of three for starters! (She’s also just launched A Path to Publishing, offering unique online workshop opportunities with agents, editors, art directors and other industry professionals.) A recent interview with Jill
was posted by my fellow Southern Breezer and friend Donny Bailey Seagraves.

Do you know Jill’s poetry collection released in the fall from Kane Miller, Dare to Dream… Change the World? With poems from thirty contributors, including some of the most revered names in the field, the book “pairs biographical and inspirational poems focusing on people who invented something, stood for something, said something, who defied the naysayers and not only changed their own lives, but the lives of people all over the world.”

Subjects include Jonas Salk, Temple Grandin, Christa McAuliffe, Steven Spielberg, Ashley Bryan, and many other past and contemporary voices and talents who chose to make a difference in the world.

J. Beth Jepson’s colorful illustrations are finely tuned to each poem’s theme, and they deftly unify pairs of poems across each spread.

Too many of my favorite poets are included to single them out, so let me whet your appetite with the whole list: Jill Corcoran, J. Patrick Lewis, Alice Schertle, David L. Harrison, Jane Yolen, Joan Bransfield Graham, Ellen Hopkins, Georgia Heard, Hope Anita Smith, Elaine Magliaro, Curtis L. Crisler, Janet S. Wong, Denise Lewis Patrick, Joyce Lee Wong, Jacqui Robbins, Julia Durango, Tracie Vaughn Zimmer, Lisa Wheeler, Hope Vestergaard, Carol M. Tanzman, Stephanie Hemphill, Alan Katz, Lee Bennett Hopkins, Marilyn Singer, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Joyce Sidman, Rose Horowitz, Bruce Coville, Kelly Ramsdell Fineman, Laura Purdie Salas.

One of my favorite spreads, big on blue sky and desert colors, celebrates Georgia O’Keeffe. It features some brief biographical information and a couple of O’Keeffe quotes, plus two poems. The first is “Painter” by Lee Bennett Hopkins, opening with these evocative lines:

Sky will always be.
So shall I.


The facing page features Rebecca Kai Dotlich’s “Cloudscape,” which includes:

In the center of a day,
each day, are lines upon a canvas,
an abstract image that floats
like a spirit somewhere…


*Please see this amazing post by Jama Rattigan at Alphabet Soup to read these two poems in their entirety, and for background information on this spread!*

The collection provides several opportunities for use in the classroom. While targeting 6th through 8th grade Common Core standards, it is easily adaptable for 3rd through 5th as well. Click here for the book’s website with teaching resources and a free30-page Common Core State Standards Curriculum guide. You’ll also find information about the Annual Dare to Dream Poetry Contest for Kids with prizes of donation of $1,500 worth of Kane Miller and Usborne books to the winner’s school library or a library of their choice plus an ebook to be published by Kane Miller of the top 30 poems.

I appreciate the potential of this anthology to connect with kids on so many levels. As someone who has written for a national character education curriculum the past few years, I like the cross-over avenues all these poems provide for character ed as well as for language arts, science, social studies, and more.

One of the poems with very strong kid appeal is Laura Purdie Salas’s

Just Like That

Clickin on this clip –
I wanna click like that,
      Be quick like that.
My footworks’ gonna be
sick like that.

I never saw a kid
Who could move like that,
      Groove like that,
I’ll show you what I got
I’m gonna prove like that.


You can find the rest of Laura’s poem here, along with links to other blogs and resources. Oh, and while you’re over there, make sure you click on Laura’spost for today – and add your hearty congratulations that she just won the CYBILS award for poetry for her collection, Bookspeak. (I featured it here.) Woo-hoo!

Then please enjoy the rest of today’s Poetry Friday offerings rounded up by the lovely and talented Linda at TeacherDance.

Note – Next Poetry Friday, I’ll be in a verse novels workshop with Nikki Grimes for our Springmingle conference. (I know, lucky me!) The conference runs til Sunday, so I’ll skip posting for Poetry Friday next weekend and will see you on March 1st. I’ll try to send out a tweet or two!

Poetry Friday: Irish Doors and Metaphors

January 31, 2013

Tags: Poetry Friday, poetry, art, ponderings, authors

Print: Handcoloured Print No. 270, A Little House, picture by E. C. Yeats, words by W. M. Letts. © The Cuala Press Limited, Dublin, Ireland; Collage: © Robyn Hood Black

Happy Poetry Friday, and Happy February! If you caught my artsyletters post this week, you discovered I’ve become rather obsessed with doors. In that post, I shared new art I’ve started making (and will offer soon in my Etsy shop) - collages with altered vintage books-as-doors, and a literary surprise inside each one (Emily Dickinson is featured in this first one.) This door obsession grew out of a year pondering some doors closing and others opening, not just for me but for family members.


Sharing all this with my husband, Jeff, he mentioned hearing something on NPR this week about how, when we walk from one room to the next and can’t remember what we were looking for, it’s because of the DOOR. Such a powerful metaphor, a door. (I searched in vain for the NPR piece but discovered articles online about the 2011 study at Notre Dame which prompted this idea of “the doorway effect.”)


The collage pictured here and on my art blog this week was made with a 100-year-old book embellished with some fun vintage finds. The doorway image surrounding it is a relief print. I carved a simplified version of those wonderful Georgian doorways one finds all over Dublin. (It was fun pulling out the photo album from a family trip there in 1996.)


Speaking of family, I’ve been doing some freelance writing for another family member. Our current project has involved research into faerie lore, and for that I turned to our esteemed Mr. Yeats, who chronicled much Irish folklore. (Click here and here for William Butler’s biographical info.) Deciding to post something else door-related here today, I remembered the framed print that we bought on that trip to Dublin – Morgan, age 4 at the time, picked it out.

The information sheet accompanying the art explains some history. It’s a hand-colored print from Cuala Press, originally Dun Emer Press, founded by Elizabeth Corbet Yeats (William Butler’s sister) in 1903 . W. B. Yeats served as editorial advisor to the press until his death (1939), and many notable writers including Ezra Pound saw their work first published by it.


The sheet continues, W. B. Yeats in the original 1903 prospectus wrote that all the things made at the press are beautiful in the sense that they are instinct with individual feeling and have cost thought and care. ... (I love that phrase, “cost thought and care.”)




The illustrated poem, written by W. M. Letts,
shows both:

If I had a little house
      A white house on a hill,
With lavender and rosemary
      Beneath the window sill,
The door should stand wide open
      To people of good will.



To close with one last door reference and an eye to Valentine’s Day, I’ll leave you with a stanza near the end of Yeats’s poem, “The Cap and Bells,” which sprang from a dream Yeats experienced and describes a jester’s love for a queen.


She opened her door and her window,
And the heart and the soul came through,
To her right hand came the red one,
To her left hand came the blue.


To read what leads up to this stanza and the ending, click here.

And, would you believe it? The ever-talented and generous April is rounding up Poetry Friday and has a poem about… DOORS! Head over to Teaching Authors and enjoy.

Poetry Friday: "I Am Cherry Alive" (Delmore Schwartz)

January 24, 2013

Tags: Poetry Friday, poetry, authors

Image courtesy of Pixomar/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Thursday afternoon at the grocery store, I was picking out apples. With a forecast of ice on the way here in north Georgia, a trip for some provisions was in order.

Elsewhere in the produce section, I overheard a very young voice conversing with his mom.

“I want some cherry juice!”

“Cherry juice?!” Mom said, a hint of amusement in her voice. “When have you ever had cherry juice?”

A moment of softest silence. Then, with resolve: “When I was a baby!”

I only remembered this exchange hours later when poring through a couple of anthologies, looking for a poem for today. That’s when I found it, in The Random House Book of Poetry for Children (selected by Jack Prelutsky, 1983). Yes, Delmore Schwartz’s “I Am Cherry Alive”! The poem was made into a picture book in 1979 with illustrations by Barbara Cooney. That book is no longer in print, but you might find a used copy online. (I may have to get one myself.)

Schwartz (1913-1966) was a critically acclaimed, award-winning writer whose personal life was often rocky. He caught, I think, the spirit of that little boy I overheard today in these impish, if wistful, verses.

I Am Cherry Alive

by Delmore Schwartz

“I am cherry alive,” the little girl sang,
“Each morning I am something new:
I am apple, I am plum, I am just as excited
As the boys who made the Hallowe’en bang:
I am tree, I am cat, I am blossom too:
When I like, if I like, I can be someone new,
Someone very old, a witch in a zoo:
I can be someone else whenever I think who,
And I want to be everything sometimes too:
And the peach has a pit and I know that too,
And I put it in along with everything
To make the grown-ups laugh whenever I sing:
And I sing : It is true; It is untrue;
I know, I know, the true is untrue,
The peach has a pit,
The pit has a peach:
And both may be wrong
When I sing my song,
But I don’t tell the grown-ups, because it is sad,
And I want them to laugh just like I do
Because they grew up
And forgot what they knew
And they are sure
I will forget it some day too.
They are wrong. They are wrong.
When I sang my song, I knew, I knew!
I am red, I am gold,
I am green, I am blue,
I will always be me,
I will always be new!”


Cheers with cherry juice! Tip your glass to more great poetry at The Opposite of Indifference , where the very lively Tabatha is rounding up Poetry Friday. By the way, I featured a lovely old book Tabatha gave me during our December poetry swap, ENGLISH BOOK ILLUSTRATION 1800-1900 by Philip James, over at artsyletters this week!

Poetry Friday: Laura Shovan's Poetry Postcard 5

January 10, 2013

Tags: Poetry Friday, poetry, nature, authors, history

Have you read about how the lovely Laura Shovan is commemorating another trip around the sun this year? Her birthday isn't until late February, but she's launched a Poetry Postcard project to celebrate. I signed up through her blog to receive on of her special offerings, which are intriguing vintage postcards that she's graced with one of her original poems.

How delighted I was to receive my mailbox surprise this week! You can see in the image above that the glossy picture on the front is of butterflies. Not just any butterflies, but vintage illustrations of "Papillons du Brésil" (or, "Butterflies of Brazil" in French). The five specimens are identified, with each name apparently hand written originally with calligraphy in brown ink.

How perfect is this card to start my New Year? Well, I do have a "thing" for butterflies, as I do many wonderful beasties, not only for their beauty but for what they might symbolize on a personal level for those who encounter them. I certainly have a thing for calligraphy. I even took French in high school and college. And I've actually been to the location described on the back of the card: Callaway Gardens, which boasts the incredible Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center, where these living works of art flit above and around entranced visitors of all ages. It's in Pine Mountain, Georgia, south of Atlanta. This postcard makes me want to visit again sometime soon!

[Oh, and did you notice this is Poetry Postcard "5", and there are five butterflies in the picture? I have a thing for the number 5, too....]

Okay, I know - you want to read Laura's poem! It appeared previously on her own blog, but just in case you missed it, as I did, I'm thrilled to share it here with her permission:

Symmetry

Trick mirrors reveal
the human face is never folded
in perfect halves. Perhaps
this is true of the butterfly, too.
Pin one up and there's
a cuffed wing, damaged tail,
scales so thin with wear
sunlight comes through.
After hundreds of miles,
one might call them frail.


©Laura Shovan. All rights reserved.

Much to ponder and appreciate there, no? Can you pick a favorite image or phrase or line?

After you do, wing your way over to NO WATER RIVER, where the ever effervescent Renée LaTulippe is rounding up Poetry Friday! (Doesn't she have a name any butterfly would love?)

Poetry Friday: Joyce Sidman and some verse novelists, too!

January 3, 2013

Tags: Poetry Friday, poetry, authors, illustrators, book tracks, writing life

Happy New Year!

So maybe I haven’t put away the Christmas decorations yet, but I’ve started off the New Year with a couple of poetry posts on other blogs.

First, I was thrilled to be able to interview our most recent recipient of the NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children, Joyce Sidman, for the PACYA (Poetry Advocates for Children and Young Adults) blog.

I’ve admired Joyce’s work for a long time, and she kindly agreed to let me share a poem here today, too.

From one of my favorite books, the Newbery Honor-winning DARK EMPEROR & OTHER POEMS OF THE NIGHT, illustrated by printmaker Rick Allen (Houghton Mifflin, 2010), here is the opening poem:

Welcome to the Night

To all of you who crawl and creep,
who buzz and chirp and hoot and peep,
who wake at dusk and throw off sleep:
Welcome to the night.

To you who make the forest sing,
who dip and dodge on silent wing,
who flutter, hover, clasp, and cling:
Welcome to the night!

Come feel the cool and shadowed breeze,
come smell your way among the trees,
come touch rough bark and leathered leaves:
Welcome to the night.

The night’s a sea of dappled dark,
the night’s a feast of sound and spark,
the night’s a wild, enchanted park.
Welcome to the night!


©Joyce Sidman. All rights reserved.

To read the PACYA interview, click here, and to peruse Joyce’s wonderful website brimming with resources for readers, writers, and teachers, click here.

Second, my monthly poetry column on Janice Hardy’s terrific blog for fiction writers, THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STORY, has moved to the first Wednesday of the month this year. (Though it won’t appear in Feb.) This week we’re exploring verse novels, and I have some amazing book excerpts and insights from three wonderful, award-winning authors: Eileen Spinelli, April Halprin Wayland, and
Susan Taylor Brown.

I’m so thankful to each of these poets – Joyce, Eileen, April, and Susan – for sharing their gifts and their thoughts in this bright New Year.

For more great poetry, go visit the multipl-y gifted Matt at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme for today’s Poetry Friday Roundup.

Happy Birthday to A CHRISTMAS CAROL

December 13, 2012

Tags: Poetry Friday, authors, Christmas

PRE-POST DISCLAIMER - Okay, I was an English major, not a math major. For some reason I was subtracting 1843 from 2013, not 2012! I was jumping ahead at the New Year. Oh, well, so it's the story's 169th birthday, not 170th! :0! We'll still celebrate....

I know, technically A CHRISTMAS CAROL is not a poem, but a novella, now perhaps best known as a play. But when I stumbled on the fact that it will celebrate its 170th birthday on Monday, I thought we could celebrate it anyway. [See note above. I had the wrong year - it's still 2012!]

Charles Dickens (1812-1870) wrote his story of Ebenezer Scrooge's change of heart in six (!) short weeks, and it debuted December 17, 1843. It was an immediate public and critical success.

In the preface, he wrote:

I have endeavoured in this Ghostly little book, to raise the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my readers out of humour with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it haunt their houses pleasantly, and no one wish to lay it.
Their faithful Friend and Servant, C.D.


If you haven't read the story or seen the play recently, here's our Mr. Scrooge at the beginning:

At length the hour of shutting up the counting-house arrived. With an ill-will Scrooge dismounted from his stool, and tacitly admitted the fact to the expectant clerk in the Tank, who instantly snuffed his candle out, and put on his hat.
'You'll want all day tomorrow, I suppose?' said Scrooge.
'If quite convenient, sir.'
'It's not convenient,' said Scrooge, 'and it's not fair. If I was to stop half-a-crown for it, you'd think yourself ill-used, I'll be bound?'
The clerk smiled faintly.
'And yet,' said Scrooge, 'you don't think me ill-used, when I pay a day's wages for no work.'
The clerk observed that it was only once a year.
'A poor excuse for picking a man's pocket every twenty-fifth of December!' said Scrooge, buttoning his great-coat to the chin. 'But I suppose you must have the whole day. Be here all the earlier next morning.'


Then, in a fitful night, our protagonist is visited by three spirits - the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future. Let's just say the scenes they lay before Scrooge convince him to change his ways.

Here's a peek at a portion near the very end of the story:

Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him."

I love the description, "his own heart laughed."

We never tire of stories of redemption, do we? Perhaps this is why A CHRISTMAS CAROL thrives even today, so many years after it was penned by Dickens.

Wishing you a laughing heart this holiday season, I'll close with the last line of A CHRISTMAS CAROL:

...And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!

For the entire text, visit the Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library .

For some more fun history, try the McCarter Theatre Center (Princeton) website.

You can also see a facsimile of Dickens's original manuscript at the online home of one of my favorite places on the planet, the Morgan Library and Museum (New York).

PS - Mom, if you're reading this, HAPPY BIRTHDAY to you TODAY!!!!!

Now, for some great poetry this mid-December, go see what lovely holiday treats delightful Jama is cooking up at Alphabet Soup for the Poetry Friday Round-up.

Poetry Friday: Longfellow, Luscious Art, and Lovely Writer Friends

November 29, 2012

Tags: Poetry Friday, poetry, writing life, art, authors, illustrators

The Poems of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, illustrated by Boyd Hanna (The Heritage Press, NY, 1943)

If you've peeked in over at my other blog on artsyletters, you know I'm a sucker for vintage treasures. (I'm becoming one myself, you see.) So imagine my delight when, for my friend's birthday outing yesterday, I took her to a lunch spot she chose (Vietnamese - yummy!) and she took me to a couple of her favorite antique haunts in her part of Atlanta.

Imagine my further delight when she presented me with a surprise gift she'd found and been keeping for me - a beautiful 1943 copy of THE POEMS OF HENRY WADSWORTH LONGFELLOW (The Heritage Press, NY), with the most delicious wood engravings by Boyd Hanna (1907-1987).

This friend is well-versed in writing AND vintage, with a keen eye for art - Kim Siegelson, whose many award winning books for young people include the Coretta Scott King Award winner, IN THE TIME OF THE DRUMS. Kim has also been an invaluable guide on my new Etsy adventure, as she runs a busy and delightful shop, Perfect Patina. She's always keeping an eye out for vintage wonders, and I'm lucky that she spied this poetry book and thought of me. (It came with a lovely, inspiring note from her, too - now happily presiding above my computer shining down sparkly warm beams of encouragement.)

Kim thought I would enjoy the gorgeous wood engraving illustrations, printed in browns and greens, especially the one above featuring the bold bird in winter. She's right, of course! And since it's been dipping into the 30s here this week in north Georgia, I thought sharing the Longfellow poem it illustrates would be appropriate:

Woods in Winter

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
(1807-1882)

When winter winds are piercing chill,
And through the hawthorn blows the gale,
With solemn feet I tread the hill,
That overbrows the lonely vale.

O'er the bare upland, and away
Through the long reach of desert woods,
The embracing sunbeams chastely play,
And gladden these deep solitudes.

Where, twisted round the barren oak,
The summer vine in beauty clung,
And summer winds the stillness broke,
The crystal icicle is hung.

Where, from their frozen urns, mute springs
Pour out the river's gradual tide,
Shrilly the skater's iron rings,
And voices fill the woodland side.

Alas! how changed from the fair scene,
When birds sang out their mellow lay,
And winds were soft, and woods were green,
And the song ceased not with the day!

But still wild music is abroad,
Pale, desert woods! within your crowd;
And gathering winds, in hoarse accord,
Amid the vocal reeds pipe loud.

Chill airs and wintry winds! my ear
Has grown familiar with your song;
I hear it in the opening year,
I listen, and it cheers me long.


Remind me to come back to this post around February! And I hope if winter winds are already blowing where you are, you'll hear a bit of "wild music" with them. I also hope you'll come back here next week, when I have the honor of hosting the Poetry Friday Round Up. Today, it's over at The Poem Farm, lassoed by the ever-talented Amy.

Poetry Friday: Poetry and Photographs from Susan Taylor Brown

November 16, 2012

Tags: Poetry Friday, authors, poetry, art, writing life, birds, Etsy

© Susan Taylor Brown. All rights reserved.


I am humming with joy this morning – award-winning author, poet, and artist Susan Taylor Brown is here! Well, some of her work is here, and now there are more options for you to own some yourself.

Perhaps you know Susan primarily through the writing side of her life – dozens of books for children for the trade and educational markets, hundreds of stories and articles in newspapers and magazines, and a speaking schedule that has included SCBWI conferences, Highlights workshops, and artist in residence experiences in which she’s taught poetry to at-risk and incarcerated youth. Or perhaps you’ve visited her blog and website for spot-on writing advice shared with wisdom and plenty of heart and personal experience. If, like me, you might have missed the incredible interview posted by Jone in June over at Check It Out, you will definitely want to, well, check it out!

Perhaps as a faithful Poetry Friday-er, you’ve popped over to Susan’s website or seen her pictures on Facebook. Has your jaw dropped and have your eyes popped at her glorious photographs of the wildlife she’s invited into her California back yard? Thought so. Did you mourn a few months ago after following the daily activities of Lily, the lovely hummingbird who graced Susan’s yard with a nest and then lost her precious eggs just before they were to hatch? Yes, me too.

Lots of folks were moved by Susan's photographs. It wasn’t long before Susan’s friends clamored for her to offer her incredible nature pictures for sale.

She made a page for her greeting cards with the delightful name, “Poppiness.” And just this month, she opened her own Etsy shop! As a new Etsy shop owner myself, I was thrilled to catch this bit of news and track her down. Oh, and order some gorgeous cards.

I asked Susan if she might share some of her hummingbird photographs and poems with us. The poems appeared on other blogs this year (terrific Poetry Friday ones!), but they bear re-sharing.

In My Backyard

iridescent wings dip, dive
between branches
of the scraggly Toyon bush
not yet six feet tall

pointed beak
weaves bits of moss
with spider webs
tucks in a single strand of grass
a dainty dandelion seed
then flies away

cat quiet, I creep
peek
stare
compare
tiny nest cradles
tiny eggs, two
no bigger than my thumb

whirling wings
hum hello
now go
she settles, spreads
herself atop the eggs
watches me
watching her

the wind blows, blustering
never flustering her
she sways a branch dance
keeping safe
tiny nest
tiny eggs
where rainbows wait to hatch


© Susan Taylor Brown. All rights reserved.

Previously here:
http://gottabook.blogspot.com/2012/04/susan-taylor-brown-in-my-backyard.html
on Greg's great blog.


******************************************

13 Ways of Looking at a Hummingbird

1
wings whirl
in place
my face
smiles
swivels
tiny dancer
chirps
cheeps
chitters
hello

2
greengold glitters glides
lands atop the waterfalls
shimmy shakes
a water dance

3
spider silk
blades of grass
lichen
moss
one gray hair
two red threads
building blocks
a mini mansion

4
picture pose
turn left
now right
chin up
hold still
I'll keep my distance

5
in out
out in
tall wall
soft floor
ready wait
wait some more
egg one
egg two
soon
each morning
each evening
I check
just in case

6
the plum tree a
perfect preening place
ruffled nest feathers
bugs picked flicked
feathers smoothed
stretch once
stretch again
bask in the sun
before babies come

7
stormy days
stormy nights
quivery
shivery
forgetting generations
that came before
I worry
flashlight in hand

8
she disappears deep
within the overgrown honeysuckle
seeking bugs
protein power
for motherhood
alone
I measure
one nest
one half a walnut shell
one egg
one jellybean
one miracle
waiting to happen

9
my days equal
part
inspection
observation
research
photographs
my days equal
bliss

10
camera ready
I await her homecoming
hidden only slightly behind the fence
fifteen minutes
two hundred photographs
my mini model
is a star

11
morning comes
empty
no mama snug atop her nest
no tiny eggs safe and sound
no babies waiting
to say hello world
sometime between
the darkness and dawn
disaster

12
overcast and gray
rain soon
but I am stubborn
searching beneath the bushes
until I find evidence
until I find a tiny white shell
until it hits me
miracles don't always come true

13
crying
crying
crying
camera clicks
shot after shot after shot
most will be out of focus
unable to capture the pain I feel
at all the days that should have been ahead
suddenly suspended beside me
close enough to almost touch
no chirp
no cheep
no chitter
she hovers there
ten seconds maybe more
just long enough
to say goodbye


© Susan Taylor Brown. All rights reserved.

Previously here:
http://maclibrary.wordpress.com/2012/06/14/poetry-friday-5/
on Jone’s wonderful blog.

I asked Susan: What is it about hummingbirds that compels you to write about and photograph them? Take it away, Susan!

I am a perpetually nervous person often filled with worry about things I can't change or control. I was spending so much time worrying about what did happen and what I could have done differently and what might happen and how I could avoid it that I was forgetting to live my life in the here and now. I had a wonderful life and I was missing out on it. All around me friends were going to yoga, beginning to meditate, and learning how to be here, now, living in the present moment. I couldn't seem to get the handle of yoga or meditating but I did spend a lot of time in my native garden. Usually it was because my dog Cassie was pestering me to step away from the computer and go outside. In my typical hurry-up fashion I wanted her to hurry-up and take care of business so I could hurry-up and get back to work worrying about whatever the day's worry might be.

Cassie had other ideas. She meandered around the yard, each visit outside taking a similar path, dipping a head into the sage to sniff at bees, pausing under the maple tree to wait for squirrels, stopping at the elderberry to watch the birds flit from branch to branch. I got tired of standing and waiting for her so I sat down. And when I sat down, the critters in the yard got used to me and turned brave, coming closer to feed at the bushes close to me and play in the bird pond. My fingers itched for my camera. The more I sat and watched, the more I saw. I had found a meditation that worked for me. I had learned to see more by being still and I had discovered how to live in the present moment.

What does that have to do with photographing hummingbirds?

Hummingbirds are so fast that one would think you need to be fast in order to get a photo of them in flight. But really the opposite is true. You need to be slow. You need to be patient. You need to learn to be still. Because when you do that you will be forced to watch, hundreds of times, the way the hummingbirds around you act when they are coming in to feed. You learn their dipping, diving behavior. You begin to understand their dance. I spent hours just watching the birds in my garden and other gardens before I tried to pick up the camera. And even then I shot thousands of blurry photos or photos of plants where the birds USED to be, before I snapped the shutter. But with practice, I found it easier to get into the dance and sometimes I get lucky and capture just the photo I had hoped to capture.

So I guess the easy answer is that I feel compelled to photograph hummingbirds, as well as the other wildlife in my garden, because it continually reminds me to be here, now, in the moment and to give thanks for the opportunity to witness these gifts of nature.


Click here for a link to a published slideshow Susan did for Bay Nature Magazine on photographing hummingbirds.

And now let me leave you with some lovely news you can use. Susan has gorgeous photographs available in her Etsy shop – hummingbirds, flowers, other stunning flora and fauna. And, she and I have decided that we’d like to offer a Poetry Friday discount for holiday shopping. From now through Dec. 31, just visit either of our shops – Poppiness or artsyletters – and type in the Coupon Code: PF2012 for a 10 percent discount! (You can look each of us up on Twitter, too, @poppiness and @artsyletters.)

Thanks, and many thanks to Susan for sharing her work here today.

Also, much appreication to Julie Hedland for featuring me on her terrific blog on Wednesday, and to Renée LaTulippe for welcoming me to No Water River today! Such an honor, ladies - thank you.

For more poetic treasures, hop over to Booktalking, where the amazing Anastasia is rounding up Poetry Friday.

On Julie Foster Hedlund's blog today... :0) and a give-away at artstyletters

November 14, 2012

Tags: art, authors, writing life

Greetings! Happy to share that my writer friend and blogger extraordinaire Julie Foster Hedlund kindly shared a post about me on her wonderful blog today.

And, for Art Break Wednesday over at artsyletters, I'm giving away a fun mini Ott flip light.

Enjoy!

Poetry Friday - Catching up with Nikki Grimes

November 9, 2012

Tags: Poetry Friday, poetry, authors, SCBWI, Southern Breeze

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.

Waiting

by Nikki Grimes

The orphanage
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.

Click here 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.

Poetry Friday: Poetry in Fiction - a Pinch or a Pound

November 1, 2012

Tags: Poetry Friday, poetry, writing life, authors, fiction

A poetry-to-prose exercise in A PROGRESSIVE GRAMMAR OF THE ENGLISH TONGUE: BASED ON THE RESULTS OF MODERN PHILOLOGY by William Swinton, 1876,Harper & Brothers, New York.
Happy Poetry Friday!

I've been thinking of so many of our Poetry Friday regulars this week up in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast. Thoughts and prayers for all touched by the storm.

My post today is more of a link. Yesterday was my second monthly poetry column on Janice Hardy's amazing blog for writers, The Other Side of the Story. Janice is the author of The Healing Wars triology (Balzer + Bray) and other forthcoming works.

Yesterday I wrote about calling on poetry - a little or a lot - when writing fiction. The wonderful Joyce Ray gave me permission to share some of her post from last month about Arundhati Roy's 1998 novel, The God of Small Things. If you missed that one on her blog, Musings, get thee hence.

I also threw in some Harper Lee, Nancy Willard, and Janice herself. If you're interested, jump on over to my post.

I'm heading to Atlanta today to sell my artsy wares at a fall festival/art show this weekend, so will try to play catch-up upon my return. There are cornucopias of good poetry over at Donna's Mainely Write blog for Poetry Friday, where Donna invites us to ponder "plain old November."

Poetry Friday: Jump-Start your Morning with Janet Wong…

September 6, 2012

Tags: Poetry Friday, poetry, authors, book tracks, ponderings

This image, like most of the fun ones I find online, from the company YAY Images.

What’s that – a yawn? Oh, I see – you’re just perusing a few Poetry Friday blog posts while the coffee pot is sputtering and clicking. Well, then, today’s poem is for you!

If you’re a Janet Wong fan (I know - that’s everyone!), perhaps you’ve taken BEHIND THE WHEEL – Poems About Driving for a spin around the block already. Originally published by Margaret K. McElderry in 1999, Janet made these wonderful poems available as an e-book last year and a paperback this year for a new set of young drivers and poetry lovers.

Of course, the collection is about so much more than driving: family relationships, love, authority, choices, beliefs. As expected, the poems unfold in simple language, sometimes with more than a dash of humor, and leave the reader nodding, “Yes – I’ve felt that way, too.”

Today we’ll enjoy a lighter one, and this will get us back to coffee.

Not these lines from “One Hand On the Wheel,” but I have to share them because I love them so:


My mother was one of them
when –
who knows what happened.

Now she’s driving 65,
one hand holding a cup of coffee,
one hand on the wheel


No, here is the poem I want to leave you with as you smell that aroma from your kitchen. It’s shared with gracious permission of the author.

Jump-Start

by Janet Wong

can’t turn over
battery’s dead

need
jumper cables
in
my
head

clamp them on
start me up

pour some coffee
in my cup
dark strong coffee

start me up



To learn more about Janet and her robust, full-flavored, high-octane body of work, visit her website. Check out terrific resources for educators at her Poetry Suitcase! For Janet’s amazing collaborations with Sylvia Vardell, including the Poetry Tag Time books and the hot-off-the-press Poetry Friday Anthology, visit Pomelo Books.

And for cup after cup of delicious poetry, sit a spell this morning with the lovely Katya, who is rounding up Poetry Friday at Write, Sketch, Repeat.

Cream and sugar, anyone?

VOICE LESSONS with Irene Latham

August 22, 2012

Tags: SCBWI, Southern Breeze, authors, book tracks, poetry, conferences, workshops, writing life


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 since 2003.

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 blog.

And to register for the Writing and Illustrating for Kids (wik) fall conference in Birmingham , click here.

Hope to see you there!

Poetry Friday: The Poetry Friday Anthology!!!

August 17, 2012

Tags: Poetry Friday, poetry, book tracks, ponderings, authors

It's here!

Well, the official, official launch date is Sept. 1 - but THE POETRY FRIDAY ANTHOLOGY is here! Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong (of the Poetry Tag Time books) have outdone themselves with this jam-packed resource featuring more than 200 poems by 75 poets. Each poem is presented in a specific grade level, K-5, and connected to curriculum standards with FUN activities for students. (Sylvia has done an amazing job connecting each poem to Common Core, and there's a Texas version of the book with TEKS standards, too!)

I was beyond excited to get my copies because I have a couple of poems included. But almost immediately, I was just plain excited - this book is so very well laid out and thought out, it couldn't be easier for a busy teacher to use. Just a few minutes once a week (hopefully more if time allows), and elementary students of all ages will get to hear, read, explore or act out a short, child-friendly poem. They'll leave the school year with a few dozen poems under their belts and no doubt several favorites. I've already let teachers and the media specialist at our school know about it.

Can't wait to get your copy? The paperback is available on Amazon, with the e-book soon to follow. (Just enter THE POETRY FRIDAY ANTHOLOGY in the search.) To learn more about this creative dynamic duo and Pomelo Books, click here.

I'll leave you with one of my poems, this one in the First Grade section:

Snack Rules

Don't talk with your mouth full --
full of peanut butter:
Anything you try to say
wll cmmm out as a mmmttrr.

©Robyn Hood Black, all rights reserved

For lots more lip-smacking poetry, visit Rounder-Upper Mary Lee at A Year of Reading.

Poetry Friday - Lee Bennett Hopkins and MARY'S SONG

July 27, 2012

Tags: Poetry Friday, book tracks, authors, illustrators, poetry

MARY'S SONG by Lee Bennett Hopkins, Eerdman's, 2012

Illustrations ©Stephen Alcorn

This page reads:

"I even thought I heard a whisper

from spider above the manger,

spinning her web -

though I know what silent spinners

spiders are.

Merry Christmas! Christmas in July, I mean, and we’re unwrapping a very special gift today. Instead of a poem, we have a renowned poet and a magical, lyrical picture book.

Lee Bennett Hopkins is here! THE most prolific children’s poetry anthologist, Lee has received the University of Southern Mississippi Medallion for “outstanding contributions to the field of children’s literature,” the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Excellence in Poetry for Children Award and the Florida Libraries’ Lifetime Achievement Award, just to name a few.

In addition to his award-winning anthologies, Lee’s own poetry collections, picture books and professional texts have won countless awards, and he established two coveted awards “to encourage the recognition of poetry.” He’s also a popular keynote speaker at literature conferences.

Busy as he is, he agreed to stop by and tell us about his newest book. MARY’S SONG, hot off the press from Eerdman’s and illustrated by Stephen Alcorn, is sure to become part of family traditions and treasures this Christmas and for years and years to come.
I’ve been anticipating this book for a long time. When my copy arrived last week, my first reaction was not so much that the writing is brilliant (it is) or that the art is amazing (it is) but that I wished I’d had this book to share with my own children when they were small.

I love the magical interplay of text, which describes a new mother’s longing for a quiet moment with her baby, and the gorgeous art with its warm palette and cross hatchings which seem to invite readers to find connections between halos, spider webs, the light of the sun, The Light of the World… I’m getting carried away. Let me turn it over to Lee.

You’ve referred to Mary’s Song as “my nativity lovesong.” Do you remember how the idea came to you? How long did it drift around in your mind before you wrote the text?

I have always wanted to write about Mary. There are so many books about her yet so few about Her! I knew deep inside I needed to write a tribute to Mary being with HER child -- alone. I remember my niece, Jennifer, giving birth to my grand-niece, Erin Elizabeth, after years of trying to bear a child. So many rushed to the hospital bringing balloons, gifts, wanting to see and hold the baby. I remember looking at my niece, her eyes almost shouting how she wanted to be alone with this precious gift. In some ways the idea clicked then. In all nativity stories we hear of the hubbub, the fuss, Wise Men bearing gifts, shepherds, animals crowding the manger. I am certain Mary might have felt the same way. Thus, I wanted MARY'S SONG to BE a tribute to Motherhood. More than a Christmas story, it is about Motherhood.

I was struck, as a reader, not only that the tale is told from Mary’s perspective, but that it’s all about sound. Poetry is all about sound. Was this a natural way for you to explore Mary’s feelings, after your own life’s work immersed in poetry?

Truly, I do not remember writing this piece. Looking back on my notes I began the book on December 3, 2007, finished a fourth and final draft on December 6th. The words simply flowed. I wanted sounds of noise in the text; I also wanted the one word QUIET emphasized. Stephen Alcorn created a work of splendor in the double-page spread with simply the one word.

How did you put yourself in Mary’s place to imagine all these rich, sensory details?

Another oddity. I wrote the text, it went through the near five-year publishing process, I saw proofs, read them through, was thrilled to hold the first bound copy in my hand. One night my brother-in-law, Anthony, came to the house and began poring through the pages. He looked at me and said: "This is all told from the voice of Mary. How could you do this?" I never realized I had done that. I still read through the text and find it fascinating that the whole book IS Mary's point of view. If Anthony hadn't seen this would I have ever? Ah, the mysteries of writing.

I was delighted to see the appearance of a spider in the story, such symbolic little creatures. Was she there from the beginning?

Spider came about in the second draft. I thought the idea of this quiet creature was so allegorical. Or was it because I've always been 'caught in Stephen Alcorn's “web”?

Speaking again of Stephen Alcorn, what glorious illustrations! Another great collaboration between your words and his art. (MY AMERICA, DAYS TO CELEBRATE, and AMERICA AT WAR also spring to mind.) His gentle depictions in MARY’S SONG reflect the story so beautifully and of course add magic of their own. How did you react when you saw the illustrations?

Stephen and I have done many books together. I only wanted him as the artist. Before the manuscript was even submitted I knew he had to do the artwork. It wasn't hard to convince anyone at Eerdmans; the art director, Gayle Brown, knew and loved his work. While attempting the first draft of MARY'S SONG, I saw his work throughout the writing. I saw his spider and her web. I could feel his ever-changing palette - his mood, rhythm, his sense of distinct design. Stephen was taken with the text immediately. How lucky I am to have him in my life. When I first saw Stephen's sketches, and after the goose bumps went away, I cried. I feel as if he and I became one on this book. It is interesting to note that his wife, Sabina, is the model for Mary. And the Dedication to my beloved sister was penned the moment the text was finished.

Thank you for being my special guest today to share Christmas in July! Any other upcoming projects you’d like to whet our appetites for?

Scheduled for Fall, 2013 is ALL THE WORLD'S A STAGE to appear from Creative Editions. The book, based on Shakespeare's famed monologue from AS YOU LIKE IT, is a young adult collection following "Seven Ages of Man" from ENTRANCES: 'At first the infant' to ENDS: "Last scene." It is, I hope, a powerful collection illustrated by Guy Billout, another remarkable artist.

Oooh, now I’ll be eagerly anticipating this one! Can’t wait. Thank you again for joining us today and for the generous behind-the-scenes peek at MARY’S SONG.

To learn more about Lee and his incomparable body of work, please visit his website.

And for more Poetry Friday surprises, hop over to Life is Better with Books for this week’s Roundup.

Poetry Friday: Scaling Machu Picchu

July 19, 2012

Tags: Poetry Friday, poetry, ponderings, authors

from hubby's iPhone


My hubby just returned from a two-week trip to the mountains of Peru, where, among other spiritual experiences, he hiked up Machu Picchu.

In searching for something poetry-related, I stumbled upon a website by poet, author and translator John Curl.

His book, Ancient American Poets (published by Bilingual Press/Arizona State University), features several poets including Pachacutec, the ninth and most powerful Inca emporer. Machu Picchu was most likely built during his reign in the mid-15th century.

Curl's website features selections from part of his book, “The Sacred Hymns of Pachacutec.” These poems are known as jaillis, the sacred ones being considered the highest poetic form. Their lyricism and direct appeal to God remind me of our biblical Psalms.

Curl writes: “Traditions of poetry and song were deeply engraved in Inca culture, encompassing both sacred and secular forms, shared by the common people and the aristocracy. Prayer songs, ceremonial songs, work songs and love songs were part of the texture of daily life. …”

These were my kind of poets, as Curl goes on to say: “Quechua poets liked their verses brief and without obvious artifice.” Reminds me of haiku!

Here are the first few lines from the first poem (No. 1) in this selection:


Oh Creator, root of all,

Wiracocha, end of all,

Lord in shining garments

who infuses life and sets all things in order,

saying, "Let there be man! Let there be woman!"

Molder, maker,

to all things you have given life: …



I also found the following lines from the middle of the fifth poem (No. 5) poignant and timely, as today I listened to reports of the drought savaging our own country’s heartland:


...

Increase the potatoes and corn,

all the foods

of those to whom you have given life,

whom you have established.

You who orders,

who fulfills what you have decreed,

let them increase.

So the people do not suffer and,

not suffering, believe in you. …



Please see the entire poems and a few others here.

Hungry for more poetic knowledge? The terrific Tara at A Teaching Life is rounding up Poetry Friday this week!

Poetry Friday: Nesting with Robins

May 25, 2012

Tags: Poetry Friday, poetry, nature, birds, Highlights, authors, illustrators, workshops

©Cory Corrado



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.

The Secret

By Anonymous

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.

Poetry Friday: Poetry for All Workshop, and Jean Craighead George

May 18, 2012

Tags: Poetry Friday, poetry, authors, illustrators, writing life, Highlights, nature, workshops

Top: Eileen Spinelli, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Rebecca Davis, Melanie Hall, David L. Harrison

middle: cabin, and having fun with Rebecca S.,

Rebecca K. D., Bill, and Jacqueline (and Cindi taking pix)

with Marjorie Maddox; Joy Acey and David

bottom: 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. Whew!

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."

also,

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
Wendell Minor.)

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.

Poetry Friday: Art, Fear, and Founders Workshops

May 11, 2012

Tags: Poetry Friday, poetry, conferences, writing life, Highlights, authors, workshops

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…):

Lemonade Sun
in the spin of things -
castles
where I live



A family like yours -
Do you have a cat?
Do you have a dog?
Somebody catch my homework!



Wild Country -
bugs
writing stories...
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.

Poetry Friday: And the Crowd Goes Wild! with Carol-Ann Hoyte and Heidi Bee Roemer

April 27, 2012

Tags: Poetry Friday, poetry, book tracks, authors, editors

Carol-Ann Hoyte, left, Heidi Bee Roemer, and illustration by Kevin Sylvester
Curious about the upcoming sports-themed anthology, just in time for the Olympics, from poets Carol-Ann Hoyte and Heidi Bee Roemer ? Me, too! The collection will feature dozens of poems from emerging and familiar names alike, along with lively illustrations by Kevin Sylvester. It will be available as a paperback and also as an e-book.

After And the Crowd Goes Wild! was featured on Sylvia Vardell’s wonderful Poetry for Children blog, I asked these two poetic go-getters if they’d share a little more here for our final Poetry Friday post of National Poetry Month. They kindly obliged.

(For the Poetry For Children post, click here. You’ll find an interview by graduate student Abby Hancock and the poem “Pianoball” by Jocelyn Shipley.)

Let’s start with a poem from the collection:

Sore Sport

It stinks that the ref blew the call,
And you’re sore ‘cuz you took a bad fall.
    Well ponder this, fella,
    As your bruises turn yella,
For one day, try being the ball.

-- M Sullivan (United States)



Clever, eh? Now let’s go behind the scenes with the editors. How did you two meet, and how did you decide to create a poetry collection together?

HEIDI: Carol-Ann sparked the idea of creating a sports poetry anthology. To my great delight, she invited me to be co-editor on the project. We became acquainted through cyberspace; our communication has been almost solely by email. Believe it or not, to date we’ve only talked on the phone twice!

This collection promises to have something for everybody. Why was it important to you all to include sports experiences from all over the world?

CAROL-ANN: The Olympics inspired me to create this book so I wanted to embrace the event's spirit by bringing poets from around the globe together. The worldwide exploration of the theme is significant as it offers fresh perspectives into familiar sports, introduces readers to unknown sports and expands their knowledge of less-familiar sports, exposes them to different varieties of the English language, and conveys subtle clues as to which sports are popular in certain countries.

It’s wonderful to see that you’ll be highlighting Paralympics and Special Olympics athletes. Was your vision inclusive from the beginning, or did it grow and evolve as you worked on the project?

HEIDI: Priscila Uppal’s Winter Sport: Poems (2010) inspired me. I learned that the early Olympic Games (1912 to 1948) included five art categories: architecture, literature, music, painting and sculpture. From her book I also gained new insight about aboriginal sports and sports for disabled athletes. Yes, our intention from the get-go was to include poems about Special Olympians and Paralympians; Priscila's writings simply confirmed that these athletes’ tales of inspiration and courage needed to be represented in our collection. In addition, I’m honored that Priscila, poet-in-residence for the 2010 Vancouver Olympic and Paralympic Games, wrote the foreword for And the Crowd Goes Wild!

CAROL-ANN: I had initially envisioned an anthology aimed at readers aged 5 to 12. But then we received so many stellar, sophisticated poems which we felt would be most accessible and relevant to as well as appreciated by older elementary school children. As a result, we opted to narrow our target audience to 8- to 12-year-old children. Heidi also recommended that the collection feature a wide range of poetic forms so as to strengthen it, enhance its appeal, and heighten its marketability. As a result of following her recommendation, we ended up with a collection which features 20 different poetic forms.


What are some of your favorite sports or themes included in the collection? (I know – all of them! But pretty please give us a sneak peek….)

HEIDI: The inspirational poems about athletes with disabilities hold a special place in my heart. From Laura Purdie Salas’ roundel, readers learn about goalball, an official sport of the Paralympic Games designed for visually impaired athletes. Michelle Schaub penned a mono-meter poem about a courageous paraplegic who soars downhill at breathless speed on a mono-ski. Kimberly Douglas Hancock’s heartwarming verse in honor of her young nephew focuses on the winning attitude of special needs athletes, while Carmela Martino’s “At the Chicago Marathon” reveals the poet’s admiration of Richard Whitehead, a Paralympic runner born without legs.

CAROL-ANN: Patricia Cooley (U.S.) pays tribute to chess with her clever and dramatic poem "The King's Gambit." I am thrilled to feature this piece in the collection because I view chess as a truly international sport. While visiting other countries you might have trouble locating people who speak English but when abroad you’ll always be sure to find folks who know how to play chess. I am excited that children will “hear” how the English language “sounds” as it is spoken by poets living in other countries.

There are two poems which stand out for me because of their clever and surprising juxtaposition. Heather Delabre presents a dialogue between a football player and ballet dancer in her two-voice poem“The Master Dance." Jocelyn Shipley presents a youngster who tells of her desire to play baseball with her friends as she reluctantly practices playing the piano in “Pianoball.”


Fifty poems from established and emerging poets – from ten countries! How did you manage this feat logistically, and in such a timely way?

CAROL-ANN: We would have been pleased to feature poets from even more countries but unfortunately the material we received from six countries was not strong enough in content and/or writing quality to merit further consideration for inclusion in the anthology. I sought assistance from my network of children’s poets and other kidlit professionals to circulate the call for submissions. I also initiated contact with poetry organizations around the world to help do the same. The London 2012 Summer Olympics prompted me to complete the project in a timely matter. I wanted the collection to be released around the time of the Olympics so that we could tap into the energy and excitement of the event to promote our book.

What have been the greatest challenges and greatest rewards of becoming publishers?

HEIDI: Let’s just say I found tracking and logging in 300-plus poems a tad tedious. But unearthing a captivating, well-written poem in the cyberspace slush pile was a true spine-tingling delight, like a five-year old waking up on Christmas morning. Seeing the variety of perspectives on a single subject, sports, was astounding. I also enjoyed helping poets revise and polish their poems. Their zest for “story”, their humor, insightful musings, and skillful word-crafting amazed me. I hope our readers will find be captivated and inspired by the 50 poems presented in our collection.

CAROL-ANN: One challenge was attracting submissions from Europe and Asia. As I self-published the book, another challenge was dealing individually with several key tasks in the publishing process which have been divided among and handled by a handful of folks had I pursued the traditional publishing route. One unexpected though small challenge was having to explain to a few contributors why we had decided to not consider their work for the anthology. One reward is the knowledge of and pride in creating a poetry collection for children which differs from most of those currently being published.

Our book features a high proportion of emerging poets (as opposed to showcasing mainly high-profile poets) and offers an international treatment on a subject (compared to showcasing content crafted by poets living in only one country). Another reward is the success in demonstrating that a self-published book can possess top-notch quality in its writing, illustration, design, and production. One final reward is being able to donate a portion of royalties to Right to Play, an organization which enriches the lives of children through sport.


How has editing the poetry of others impacted your own writing?

HEIDI: As a writer, I’ve embraced this anonymous quote: “Poetry is a can of frozen orange concentrate. Add three cans water and you get prose.” In other words, when writing poetry less is more. Lee Bennett Hopkins brought that message home to me years ago when he surgically trimmed my 98-word poem to 12 words –and revealed a haiku “hidden” in my closing couplet, later included in one of his anthologies. Now working on the other side of the desk, I encouraged some of our poets to trim their words, to tinker, tweak, polish, pinch, and prune their poems—and they did so with remarkable results. As an editor, I am reminded that astute writers are willing word-crafters who can lasso an idea, wrestle words, images, and emotions to paper, and succinctly tie up the loose ends of a poem with a satisfying closing line that elicits a response from the reader.

Like athletes, nothing is more joyful to poets than knowing they’ve found their passion, learned the disciplines, overcome challenges, mastered their fears, tested their limits, and honed their skills, all the while keeping sight of their goals. Being a poet—or an athlete—is not for the faint-hearted, but for those who persist… and never give up on their dreams.


Great advice, Heidi! Thanks to both you and Carol-Ann for joining us, and wishes for wild success with the book.

Now, run, pole-vault, or doggie paddle over to The Opposite of Indifference, where Tabatha is rounding up more great poetry today.

Poetry Friday: Jazzing up Poetry Month with Carole Boston Weatherford

April 19, 2012

Tags: Poetry Friday, Poetry Month, poetry, authors, book tracks, conferences

Did you know that in addition to National Poetry Month, April is Jazz Appreciation Month? Click here for the Smithsonian website. Today, we’re combining the two!

While presenting a workshop at the Georgia Conference on Children’s Literature last month, I met the incredible Carole Boston Weatherford, New York Times bestselling author of dozens of books – poetry collections, picture books, and nonfiction. Trailing her is a long list of awards, including the North Carolina Award for Literature in 2010, the state’s highest civilian honor. Her books have garnered a Caldecott honor, an NAACP Image Award, Coretta Scott King Honors, the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, the Jane Addams Children’s Literature Honor, a Golden Kite Honor, and the Jefferson Cup from Virginia Library Association, just to name a few.

But back to jazz and Poetry Month, today we’re taking a look BECOMING BILLIE HOLIDAY (illustrated by the amazing Floyd Cooper, Wordsong, 2008), which was a Coretta Scott King Author Honor Book and on many top lists. With starred reviews from Kirkus (“…A remarkable tribute well worthy of its subject”) and School Library Journal (…“Captivating”), the book is a fictional memoir – a collection of first-person poems chronicling the transformation of Eleanora Fagan (b. 1915) into the groundbreaking and iconic jazz singer Billie Holiday.

Weatherford doesn’t shy away from the hard facts of Billie’s early life – rape, prostitution, drinking and marijuana use – but rounds out the darkness with the irrepressible voice and spirit of this singular talent. Most of the poems take their titles from Billie Holiday’s songs. Here is one which captures the struggle and emotion of her very early years (reprinted with permission from the author):

Ain’t Nobody’s Business If I Do

by Carole Boston Weatherford

At eleven, I had the body
of a grown woman,
the mouth of a sailor, and a temper
hot enough to fry an egg.

What I didn’t have
Was anyone to hug me,
To tuck me in at night,
Or kiss me hello and good-bye.

So I got noticed the only way
I knew – cursing and screaming
in the streets, picking fights
with anyone half as mad as me.

For me, the back
of a hand was better
than the back of a head,
better than being ignored.



She soon discovered that she had a voice, too – which could change her life. (And this voice had power that would reach far beyond her own life, particularly when she lent it to “Strange Fruit,” the 1930s poem-turned-song about racial injustice.)

In the book's afterword, Weatherford explains that she chose to end her account at a point of success for the 25-year old Lady Day – “before heroin and hard living took their toll.”

I’m thrilled to welcome this wonderful poet here today.

Thank you for joining us, Carole, to jazz up Poetry Month!

In my notes from your speech at the Georgia Children’s Literature conference, I scribbled down this quote: “Poetry is my first language as a writer.” You described how you wrote poetry as a child (and you share photos on your website of some early works!). Have you always thought of yourself as a poet?


Over the years, I have dabbled in photography, fashion design, sewing, needle arts, graphic design, bookmaking, painting, and of course writing. Writing, specifically poetry, was my first avenue of creative expression. But I didn't think of myself as poet as a child any more than I considered being an author. I had no clue about literary careers. But as poetic expression became more and more a part of my identity, I declared myself a poet. I was around 25 and had just written a poem entitled "I'm Made of Jazz." That poem had Billie in it too. I guess she was my muse even then.

I enjoyed hearing you discuss how BECOMING BILLIE HOLIDAY took a little coaxing from your muse. Could you share a little of the background of how you came to write it?

I have been under Billie's spell longer than I can remember. My father played her records, but I became a die-hard devotee at age 16 after seeing the biopic Lady Sings the Blues. In 2006, Billie enlisted me to write a young adult book about her. But I was afraid the book wouldn't appeal to teens, so I ditched the idea. Then, at Baltimore's Great Blacks in Wax Museum, an eighth grade girl who swooned at Billie's wax figure unknowingly green-lighted the project. When I seemed surprised that she'd heard of Lady Day, the girl told me, "She could sing!" As the girl moved on, it was almost as if Billie said, "I told you to write my book."

Why did you think poetry was the best vehicle to use to tell this story?

Billie had a gift for imbuing lyrics with intense emotion. In fact, she really pioneered vocal lyricism in the jazz idiom. What she did with lyrics, poetry does with language.

I’m amazed at the way you balanced presenting the facts of Billie Holiday’s experiences, which were often brutal and hard, with the joy that singing brought to her life (and to her fans and followers). Was this as difficult as I’m imagining, and was there something in your process that helped you pull it off?

As the poems poured out of me, it was almost if Billie were whispering and humming in my ear. She provided the soundtrack and her life story the scenes for the narrative. The process was a bit mystical, like channeling her.

What aspect of Billie Holiday’s personality did you most want to share with young readers?

I wanted to capture her mood when she first experienced music and fame. More than anything, I depicted her as I thought she would want to be remembered.

In your picture books, whether a story is told in prose or in poems, there’s an easy rhythm to the language. You’ve written that “jazz was the soundtrack” of your preschool years - how would you say jazz has influenced your writing – in any genre?

I love music, especially jazz, female vocalists and world music. But I rarely listen to music while writing, because for me creating a poem is like composing a melody. I need to hear the nascent verses in my head. I'd like to think I write jazz poetry. My poems make the vernacular voice sing and swing. But if I could sing, I wouldn't write.

Your words definitely sing. Thanks so much for visiting with us today – Happy Poetry AND Jazz Month!

For more, please visit Carole’s website and her great Billie Holiday blog.

For more poetry, sashay over to see what Diane’s rounding up at Random Noodling.

Poetry Friday: Laura Purdie Salas speaks about BOOKSPEAK

April 12, 2012

Tags: Poetry Friday, poetry, authors, book tracks

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

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

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

From “Skywriting”

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



From ”Index”

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

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

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



From ”Bookplate”


I’m not that kind of plate.

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


From “I’ve Got This Covered”

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



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

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

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

How did the final collection end up with 21 poems?

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

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

Stellar Books

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

1. Condense!

2. Don’t rhyme unless you have to.

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

Great advice. Thanks for visiting, Laura!

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

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


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

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

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

Poetry Friday is HERE - and The Arrow Finds Its Mark!

April 6, 2012

Tags: Poetry Friday, Poetry Month, poetry, book tracks, authors, illustrators

My office kitty, May, appreciates the illustration homage to “Starry Night” below my poem, “We See With These,” opposite Bob Raczka’s delightful “Places I’d Love to Van Gogh Someday.”

Greetings, Poetry Lovers!

Hope you’re enjoying all the great poetry offerings in Kidlitosphere this month. I’m thrilled to be hosting on the first Friday in April!

And I’m beyond thrilled to share Georgia Heard’s brand-new anthology of found poems, THE ARROW FINDS ITS MARK , illustrated by Antoine Guilloppé, hot off the Roaring Brook Press. This is the first time my own poetry has appeared in an anthology for kids, and I couldn’t be more humbled and excited.

Thirty poets, including Lee Bennett Hopkins, Joyce Sidman, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Jane Yolen, Naomi Shihab Nye, J. Patrick Lewis, David L. Harrison, Janet Wong and many others contributed material for this collection, “finding” poetry in unlikely places.

Poets were encouraged to find existing text (some found sounds!) in a form other than poetry and present that text as a poem, and not to change, add or rearrange words (though some minor variations were allowed). Inspiration came from catalogs, signs, airplane magazines, social networking sites, advertisements – even a detergent box! One of my favorites is Bob Raczka’s “How to Write a Poem on Your Computer” using words from drop-down computer menus.

I wanted my submissions to be kid-friendly. The first poem I have in the book, “Battling Beams,” came from a LaserTag score report I found crumpled up on the laundry room counter. (Thank you, son Seth, for attending that birthday party.)

My second poem (below) came from a visit to a fourth grade classroom. Teacher extraordinaire Sharon Briggs (who taught both of my now-just-about-grown children) let me come in and hunt for poetic treasure. I jotted down notes from the whiteboard, work assignments, and the like. But I got obsessed when looking through activities in the Sitton Spelling and Word Skills Practice Book. One crossword puzzle highlighting plural words had all kinds of evocative-sounding clues sprinkled throughout “Down” and “Across.” I felt they needed to be herded together into something a little bit magical. I used one of the clues as the title, too.


We See with These



On a clear night, you can see lots of these
sparkling in the sky.

They help you see

Tooth Fairy collectibles,

more than one mouse,

more than one moose,

more than one elf,

more.


Copyright ©Robyn Hood Black. All rights reserved.

In her introduction to the collection, Georgia Heard mentions several of the poems and writes: “… some poets chose to splice words together from a single source and make a kind of word collage, as in Robyn Hood Black’s ‘We See with These’.” A word collage. I love that! And I think that’s an idea kids can run with too. I’ll try it out with Mrs. Briggs’s current batch of fourth graders next week.

I also love this from the introduction, “…I want my readers to know that poetry is everywhere – if we only look at the world with poet’s eyes.”

Hats off to other Poetry Friday regulars with poems in the collection, including Amy Ludwig VanDerwater (“Artist’s Advice”) and Laura Purdie Salas (“They Don’t Want Speeding Tickets, So…” and “Top Ten Rules for our Zoo Field Trip”). I’ll have the good luck to post a terrific interview with Laura next Friday the 13th (with a poem that you haven’t seen before!) and, on the following Friday (April 20) we’ll be jazzing things up here with the multi-award winning Carole Boston Weatherford. What a special month.

(I’ll be popping in on these wonderful blogs myself: Jama Rattigan’s Alphabet Soup Poetry Potluck on Wed., April 11, and Laura Shovan’s month-long celebration at Author Amok on Friday, April 13. Thank you, Ladies!)

There are so many great celebrations out there TODAY – please leave your links in the comments, and I’ll round them up throughout the day.
(more…)

Poetry Friday: Nancy Raines Day brings us A IS FOR ALLIGUITAR

March 30, 2012

Tags: Poetry Friday, poetry, book tracks, animals, authors

Fans of Nancy Raines Day’s wordplay are in for a treat. Her newest picture book, A IS FOR ALLIGUITAR - Musical Alphabeasts (Pelican Publishing, Spring 2012) is a unique abecedarium - chock-full of fun animal/instrument combinations.

Since Nancy’s first picture book, THE LION’S WHISKERS, appeared in 1995, she’s published half a dozen more. All have poetic language, and some of them rhyme, like her rollicking ON A WINDY NIGHT (Abrams) (see my blog post here) and DOUBLE THOSE WHEELS (Dutton).

In her new book, each letter of the alphabet comes to life in an unexpected way. The Illustrations by Herb Leonhard are colorful and full of expression and movement. (And what a challenge it must have been to visually create, say, a “harpoodle” or an “organutan.”) For insight into Leonhard’s process in bringing to life these “alphabeasts,” which involved traditional and digital painting techniques, see his comments here on Nancy’s website.

Here’s how the story starts:

Animals, instruments,
swing all around,
Mix - one for each letter -
now how do they sound?


Some of Nancy’s own favorite characters begin the adventure:

A
is for alliguitar,
who has his
own picks.

B
is for banjaguar,
who plays some
hot licks


Another of her favorite spreads is one I’m especially drawn to:

S
is for saxofox,
with velvet-toned
tail.

T
is for tromboa,
who really can
wail.


I’m swayin’ to the music, baby.

Nancy adds, “My fellow University of Michigan alumni friends get a kick out of the wolbourines.”

Before becoming a children’s author, Nancy wrote in some form or fashion throughout her life. As a child, she “published a newspaper written on leaves with ‘ink’ from squished berries and charged 25 cents in hickory nut money.”

I asked Nancy a couple of questions about this new book.

How did you get the idea for ALLIGUITAR?

“I was standing on the St. Simons (Georgia) pier, thinking about going to a reunion concert of the youth orchestra I played viola with in high school--all the different instruments and the people who played them. Some tourists on the pier were talking about just having seen an alligator in the water. So, while scanning the water for an alligator and thinking about instruments, my wires got crossed and I said "Alliguitar".

I wondered if I could come up with a combination like that for every letter of the alphabet. Mostly, I did it for my own entertainment. (Some people do crossword puzzles; I set myself these little challenges.) Then I wondered if I could put it all in rhyme, which--this time--came easily. It was a gift.


What fun! What was the most challenging part of the project?

The most challenging part was probably coming up with the animal/instrument combinations. Google was a big help for finding lists of animals and instruments that started with the right letter or sound. It also helped in trying to come up with scenarios to pair the two musical alphabeasts in the same stanza and spread. For instance, googling ibis and jackal, I discovered the Egyptians had two gods, one with the head of an ibis and another with the head of a jackal.

Those ancient Egyptians had some intriguing deities. Thanks for stopping in, Nancy!

Young readers will love the creative letter/instrument combinations that form each colorful "alphabeast" - and they will likely come up with their own! Learn more about Nancy and her work at her website.

And to fill your universe with more great poetry, click on over to visit Heidi at My Juicy Little Universe for this week’s Poetry Friday Roundup. [Next week, the Roundup will be HERE! :0) ]

Springmingling!

February 28, 2012

Tags: SCBWI, Southern Breeze, authors, conferences, writing life

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)

Carrying Beauty with Laura Shovan

January 26, 2012

Tags: Poetry Friday, poetry, authors, writing life

It's my honor to share today a poem from one of Poetry Friday's own - Laura Shovan, whose publishing credits and awards leave a long trail. Among other things, Laura has been an Artist-in-Education for the Maryland State Arts Council, leading poetry workshops for kids, since 2002. She's been active in the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation's Poetry Program as well.

I recently bought her collection, MOUNTAIN, LOG, SALT and STONE, and found myself nodding and pondering throughout. The book was published as the first winner of the Harris Poetry Prize, sponsored by CityLit Press. I love the peeks it offers into specific moments in our lives, especially as women - relationships with our grandmothers, our mothers, our children, our partners - as we grow from children to parents ourselves. In such short spaces she captures love and loss and also bits of the beauty and shock of the natural world.

2009 Contest Judge Michael Salcman puts it better than I: "Laura Shovan enlivens her quotidian subjects... with a shrewd and powerful use of metaphor, a critical strategy all too often neglected in contemporary work."

Let me share one of my favorites, the last in the chapbook, reproduced here with her permission - and then I'll share Laura's comments about how it came to be.

Because We Were Rushing to Catch the Bus


we did not notice the rain.
Too late for umbrellas,
we ran down the sidewalk,
wishing we'd taken the car.

Because we ran
under rain soaked trees,
the children's heads were damp
when I kissed them at the corner.

Because the children were gone,
I walked home alone.
Dishes in the sink
waiting.

Because of the dishes
I bent my head
before the kitchen window.
A petal fell from my hair -

a pink thumbprint against metal,
pink against the gray day,
pink against the absence of children.
It shook me awake.

Because we were rushing to catch the bus
I carried beauty, unknowing.


I was struck by the poem's comforting rhythm and seeming simplicity - and my "haiku sensibilities" immediately fell in love with that lone pink petal. Laura explains that it was written as a response to
William Stafford's "The Light by the Barn," which I trust it's all right to share here for purposes of discussion:

The Light by the Barn
by William Stafford

The light by the barn that shines all night
pales at dawn when a little breeze comes.

A little breeze comes breathing the fields
from their sleep and waking the slow windmill.

The slow windmill sings the long day
about anguish and loss to the chickens at work.

The little breeze follows the slow windmill
and the chickens at work till the sun goes down –

Then the light by the barn again.


Says Laura: I was trying to mirror both the tone and the form, which has a kind of “wrapped” effect. At the same time, my own poem deals with an important topic in my writing life – how paying attention, not getting “wrapped” up in the routine, can bring moments of awareness and beauty, moments of appreciation. That smoky smell of the children’s hair would probably be lost to me if I had not sat to write about the petal that morning.

Laura posted more about William Stafford, in honor of his birthday, in her blog post for last week's Poetry Friday over at Author Amok. That post, by the way, also featuers another great poem from MOUNTAIN, LOG, SALT, and STONE.

I love all the sparkly connections Poetry Friday can make!


Be sure to catch all the rest of the great poetry Jim as rounded up for Poetry Friday this week at Hey, Jim Hill!.

Happy New Haiku Year

January 12, 2012

Tags: Poetry Friday, poetry, haiku, authors, journals, speaking, writing life

I hope 2012 is off to a great start for you. I’m looking forward to a year of reading, writing, art and spending time with all kinds of readers, writers, and artists.

I’ll continue my haiku journey. What a thrill to learn my proposal for the 43rd Annual Children’s Literature Conference in Georgia this spring was accepted: a workshop titled, “Haiku How-to.” I look forward to sharing ways to explore haiku in the classroom with teachers, media specialists, and other lovers of children’s literature.

Also, I’m happy to celebrate some recent acceptances – my haiku will appear in the next issues of Modern Haiku, The Heron’s Nest, and A Hundred Gourds.

In the current (December) issue of Notes from the Gean, I have a lighthearted poem on p. 42:

autumn breeze
escorted to the mailbox
by an acorn


~ Notes from the Gean, December 2011

and then this one, on the same page:

same blue
as ten years ago
empty sky


~ Notes from the Gean, December 2011

I wrote that haiku on a cloudless early September day, when the depth of my sadness upon the tenth anniversary of 9/11 caught me off guard.

(Be sure to check out Diane Mayr’s wonderful haiga in this same issue on p. 47.)

Poet, friend, and Berry Blue Haiku editor Gisele LeBlanc (click here and here for recent posts featuring Gisele) has had haiku in several issues of Notes from the Gean, including these two:

in an urban sky
birds shift in unison-
drifting ice


~ Notes from the Gean, September 2010

Virgin Islands-
laughing gulls mingle
on the beach


~ Notes from the Gean, June 2011

Notes from the Gean features haiku, tanka, haiga, haibun, linked forms, and resources (interviews, essays, reviews). Published quarterly, it’s one of several great resources for enjoying and learning about haiku and related genres.

To enjoy more great poetry in a variety of forms, check out the Poetry Friday Roundup hosted today by Tara at A Teaching Life.

Smiles all around for the New Year

January 11, 2012

Tags: school visits, authors, illustrators, SCBWI, Highlights, writing life

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.

Poetry Friday: David L. Harrison is here!

December 16, 2011

Tags: Poetry Friday, poetry, authors, book tracks, writing life, nature, Highlights, nonfiction

David L. Harrison and the hot-off-the-virtual-press Goose Lake, illustrated by Sladjana Vasic.
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 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

See this?
Too thin
for an arrowhead.

Maybe a chip
from the weapon
being made
by a master craftsman,
flint in one hand
antler tip in the other,
strong wrists
fashioning
a new stone point.

Did he pause
in these woods
silent, alone
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,
throwing water
off slippery backs.

Fish are leaping,
tail-dancing,
slinging droplets
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!)

Poetry Friday: G. R. LeBlanc to Offer Haiku Critique Service

November 11, 2011

Tags: Poetry Friday, poetry, haiku, Berry Blue Haiku, authors, editors, writing life

There’s definitely a change in the air as we transition from fall to right-around-the-corner winter – does it inspire you to write a haiku or two? Today I’m welcoming back poet and editor Gisele LeBlanc (who writes as G. R. LeBlanc), to share some news (click here for our earlier interview). She lives in Atlantic Canada with her husband, son, and canine companion. When not writing, she enjoys simple pleasures: reading, bird watching, and spending quiet evenings at home.

BREAKING NEWS - Friday, 11-11-11 - Gisele's entry into the First POLISH INTERNATIONAL HAIKU COMPETITION received a COMMENDATION today! This was from more than 300 entrants from 41 countries (myself included, but I'm thrilled for her) and the judge was Jane Reichhold. Click here to read her poem. WOO-HOO - OK, back to regularly scheduled programming....

Her fiction, nonfiction, and poetry have appeared or are forthcoming in children’s publications as well as in haiku journals such as The Heron's Nest, frogpond, Haiku Presence, Notes from the Gean, A Hundred Gourds, Haiku Pix Review, Ambrosia: Journal of Fine Haiku, Prune Juice: Journal of Senryu and Kyoka, A Handful of Stones, and Modern Haiku.

First, let’s enjoy some of Gisele’s haiku:


after the squall
the tinkling concerto
of sailboats


**Notes from the Gean, December 2010



wild rhubarb
that sudden yearning
for something more


**frogpond, Fall 2011



coastal map
the sand etched
by snails


**Notes from the Gean, June 2011



over stones
the ripple of water
birdsong


**Haiku Pix Review, Summer 2011


Poems ©G. R. LeBlanc
All rights reserved.

More of her haiku can be found here.

As editor of the online blog journal, Berry Blue Haiku, she’s extending a hand to those new to the field.

“I love discussing haiku and I look forward to helping other poets gain a deeper understanding of this wonderful form,” she says. “I hope that the knowledge and experience I have learned thus far can offer guidance to others who are just embarking on the haiku journey.”

Since I’m happily on the Berry Blue Haiku team, I always learn something from Gisele’s comments. If you write haiku, remember we’re open to submissions! We appreciate each one, even those we turn down as not the right fit. I can tell you that the privilege of reading submissions and the privilege of Gisele’s insights have made me a stronger poet.

Here are the details and guidelines about Gisele’s new service:

I am pleased to announce that I am now offering critiques for poets new to haiku. These critiques, which will be conducted through email, should be viewed as an educational opportunity and will aim to offer basic guidance and tips on writing haiku. Also included will be a list of resources, links, and markets.

I would like to offer these critiques to the first four participants free of charge. Once the free critique is completed, participants will need to answer a few basic questions and offer feedback or suggestions on the service.
After these four free critiques have been given, the cost of this service will be 15.00 US or CAD (for 5 haiku), payable through PayPal.

If you are interested in the free critique, or have any questions, please email me at berrybluehaiku(at)gmail(dot)com

**Please note that critiqued haiku will not be eligible for publication consideration for the Berry Blue Haiku Journal; however, participants are welcome to submit other haiku.

Critique Guidelines:

1. Include your name as well as a contact email.

2. Send 5 haiku, pasted in the body of the email to berrybluehaiku(at)gmail(dot)com Also indicate whether your haiku are intended for adults or children.

3. Put HAIKU CRITIQUE REQUEST in your subject field.

**4. Feel free to include any questions you may have regarding haiku, as well as a brief paragraph on how you came to discover the form. (**optional)

5. Please allow up to 2 weeks for completed critiques.
Thank you, and I look forward to reading your work.
Gisele LeBlanc


Click here for a direct link to the critique service page.

And for more great poetry, click here to visit April at Teaching Authors for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Poetry Friday - Lunar Legacies

November 4, 2011

Tags: Poetry Friday, nature, authors, Elachee Nature Science Center

© Robyn Hood Black, all rights reserved
Last night was the last of the “Master Naturalist” classes I took this fall at Elachee Nature Science Center, with astronomy on the menu. Wouldn’t you know it – the only rain we’ve had all week fell last night. We couldn’t use the telescopes, but astronomer Robert Webb didn’t let that stop him from presenting a terrific program (including a squeeze of adults inside the small, inflatable star lab dome in the museum!)

So I’m feeling rather lunar, appreciating the spectacular orb that’s 1/48th the size of our earth, 238,855 miles away, and which travels at a couple thousand miles per hour. If you stop to think about what an amazing feat it was to get the lunar module landed safely up there in 1969, well – it’s mind-boggling. Those folks had guts. And smarts.

Here are some moon-related morsels:

First, some 13th-Century praise from St. Francis of Assissi’s Canticle to the Sun (Note: Katherine Paterson and Pamela Dalton’s book from this summer is on my “to-buy” list!)

Be praised, my Lord, through all your creatures, especially through my lord Brother Sun, who brings the day; and you give light through him. And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor! Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.

Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars; in the heavens you have made them, precious and beautiful.


Click here for the entire song.

Now, let’s jump ahead 600 years to see a different view with a fragment from Percy Bysshe Shelley’s

To The Moon
[excerpt]

Art thou pale for weariness
Of climbing Heaven, and gazing on the earth,
Wandering companionless
Among the stars that have a different birth,--
And ever changing, like a joyless eye
That finds no object worth its constancy?


(It’s here.)

Later in the 19th Century, we’re back to celebrating – I can’t ever resist these closing lines from Edward Lear’s
The Owl and the Pussy-Cat
[excerpt]

They dined on mince and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon,
The moon,
The moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.


And don’t you just love that runcible spoon? The full poem can be found here.

Finally, jump ahead to just 42 years ago. Not that long ago in the space/time continuum! Here are a few lines from current Children’s Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis’s 2001 poem,

First Men on the Moon
[excerpt]

That afternoon in mid-July,
Two pilgrims watched from distant space
The moon ballooning in the sky.
They rose to meet it face-to-face.
Their spidery spaceship, Eagle, dropped
Down gently on the lunar sand.
And when the module's engines stopped,
Rapt silence fell across the land. …


Click here for the rest of that poetic account of an event that changed our lives and changed history.

The next full moon is just a week away! Plan now to go outside and then write a “moon viewing” haiku or other poem, or read more celestial offerings. For more down-to-earth poetry, check out today's Poetry Friday Roundup hosted by Laura at Writing the World for Kids.

Picture Book Month

November 1, 2011

Tags: authors, illustrators

Today begins Picture Book Month! My friend and critique group buddy Elizabeth Dulemba was one of the founding folks for this worthy endeavor.

Here's the press release:
Authors and Illustrators Team to Create Picture Book Month
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

"I have always believed that literature begins in the cradle -- the poems we say to the babies, the stories
we tell them -- prepare them to become part of the great human storytelling community. We humans are
the only creatures in the known universe who make and remake our world with story."
- Jane Yolen from
her Picture Book Month essay

The New York Times declared, “Picture Books No Longer A Staple for Children” in an article
published in October 2010. The controversial article incited a barrage of responses from the children’s
book industry, many in defense of the venerable picture book. In addition, the digital age has ushered in
an unprecedented amount of ebooks and, with devices like the iPad, the color Nook, and the Kindle Fire,
picture books are being converted to the digital format.

Thus, Picture Book Month was born. Founder Dianne de Las Casas decided it was time to
celebrate picture books in their printed format so she created an initiative to designate November as
“Picture Book Month.” Katie Davis, Elizabeth Dulemba, Tara Lazar, and Wendy Martin came on board
to champion the cause and spread the word. A logo was designed by Joyce Wan. A website
(www.picturebookmonth.com) was created to feature essays from “Picture Book Champions,”
thought leaders in the children’s literature community. Each day in November, a new essay will be posted
from such notable contributors as Suzanne Bloom, Denise Fleming, Leslie Helakoski, Eric A. Kimmel, Tammi Sauer, Dan Yaccarino, and Jane Yolen.

Better World Books and organizations like Scholastic Book Fairs Philippines are lending their support. The website
will also feature links to picture book resources, authors, illustrators, and kidlit book bloggers. In addition, parents, educators,
and librarians can download the theme calendar to help them plan their picture book celebrations and access picture book activities.

Join the celebration! Visit www.picturebookmonth.com. The website officially opens on
November 1, 2011.

“Picture books are important because they are with us for life. They are the most important books we'll
ever read because they're our first. No matter how many books we've read since, they will always have a
place in our hearts.” – Dan Yaccarino from his Picture Book Month Essay.

Eric Rohmann's BONE DOG - more than a Halloween treat...

October 30, 2011

Tags: book tracks, authors, illustrators, animals, Highlights, workshops

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!

Welcome, Irene Latham!

October 27, 2011

Tags: poetry, Poetry Friday, authors, SCBWI, Southern Breeze, writing life

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.

Welcome, Steven Withrow!

October 7, 2011

Tags: poetry, Poetry Friday, authors, illustrators

Steven Withrow pictured with his lovely daughter
I’m delighted to feature Steven Withrow as our special guest today. This poet, storyteller, and author is a passionate advocate for young people’s literature and serves as an advisor to the Keene State Children’s Literature Festival.

He holds a bachelor’s degree from Roger Williams University and a master’s degree from Emerson College. With director Edward J. Delaney, he produced the documentary, Library of the Early Mind.

Steven has taught at Rhode Island School of Design and Suffolk University and has spoken to audiences across North America. He’s authored six books for visual artists and storytellers, including Illustrating Children’s Picture Books (written with his talented wife, Lesley Breen Withrow). It’s a terrific book, and I will feature it soon on this blog.

But today…Poetry!

Welcome, Steven! You have so many talents and interests. Where to start?! How about telling us when and how you first fell in love with poetry.


I don’t remember a single moment of my life when I wasn’t in love with words—and all the syllables and sound clusters that make up words. I’m still more interested in how words touch the ears and how they taste on the tongue than in what they mean. The first poem I memorized, in second grade, was Karla Kuskin’s “Write About a Radish” from Dogs & Dragons, Trees & Dreams. I still know it by heart. I’ve been reveling in poetry and story ever since.

You recently released your first collection of poems for adults as a digital book, Crackles of Speech, available to readers who contact you through your website. What a breadth of subjects, forms, and treatments! Here’s a very small (and insufficient) sampling:

From many nods to the natural world, these lines from “Rooting” –

Hooray hurrah huzzah - for tap, sap, font, and source,
For fingertips of gymnosperms planting gymnastic handstands,
For bending straws of sycamores slurping the groundwater,
For xylem and phloem fixed in daylong flux…,

and an example of a historical reference, with these lines from “Cost of Battle, 48 B. C.” –

His helmet lost - a boy no more than twelve
Conscripted from the town by Pompey’s men -
I hesitate, but only for a flash,
Before I bring the spearhead down. …

and several touching musings on love and family, such as these closing lines of
“Lessons Fathers Only Learn at Home”

I look over at my burbling girl,
once the white and flattened face
of the moon in a sonogram photo,
the now-calm eye at the center
of this maelstrom’s crushing path,
this aftermath, and I start to laugh
at all my wild and cataclysmic joys.

I can’t tell you how much I love “all my wild and cataclysmic joys”! Speaking of children, you are especially interested in and committed to poetry for young readers. And your poem “Cornered” appears in the just-released p*tag, the second digital collection (this one featuring poetry for teens) from Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong. What was it like writing for that project?


Thank you for your kind words about my poems in Crackles of Speech, which is a real miscellany of my work for adults written over a six-year period.

Regarding p*tag, I’ll say first what a stupendous honor it is to be included among such stellar poets as Naomi Shihab Nye and J. Patrick Lewis. Choosing a single photograph for inspiration, from a batch of dozens, was a matter of instinct.

I selected one titled “Corner” that shows the meeting of two walls inside an elaborately decorated church. I thought of how two people meet and fall in love. Borrowing four words from the Jeannine Atkins’s poem that precedes mine—ancient, saved, heart, corner—helped me to solidify my poem’s basic imagery. It was challenging to write and revise a poem within 48 hours—I usually draft poems quickly and often revise over the course of several weeks—but it was the best sort of challenge.

I’m always curious about creative work habits. Do you keep a set writing schedule, or write in fits and flurries, or both?

Given all that I’ve got going on, I write whenever and wherever I can. I’m trying to be more systematic about it, to make it a genuine practice, but it’s often catch-as-catch-can. I always write stories on paper or on the computer, but with poems, I’ll often “compose” silently in my mind while I’m taking a walk or washing dishes, or I’ll speak them aloud while I’m driving alone. As I noted before, I write for the ears and for the tongue. I revise on the computer—but the true test is whether I enjoy saying a poem out loud.

Are your collections born from a theme first or strung together from existing poems?

I’ve written several, as-yet-unpublished children’s collections, and all but one (my first) started with a central theme. I’m told it helps collections sell to editors and book buyers, though I’ve always preferred a grab bag of poems in a single book.

You have just started a grassroots, nonprofit organization, Poetry Advocates for Children & Young Adults, “celebrating poetry as a living thing.” Tell us about it! Who can join, and how do folks get involved?

All that I might say about PACYA can be found at http://poetryadvocates.wordpress.com, especially in this short essay. I invite everyone to get involved and help spread the word.

Finally, are there a few more lines you’d like to leave us with?

Releasing Butterflies
By Steven Withrow

Something seamy and unseemly in the name
they carry, painted ladies, pins a sordid shame

in fore- and hindwing, but its sting recedes in flight,
for they are dazzlers as they grab the air, these brightly

spotted Cynthias of a genus called Vanessa:
you laugh to draw the last, and dub her Iridessa.


[©2011 Steven Withrow, all rights reserved]

Ahh... - delgihtful! Many thanks for visiting, Steven, and I can’t wait to see what you come up with next.

To learn more, visit Steven at his poetry blog, Crackles of Speech, and at the Poetry at Play blog. For more great poetry, click over to the Poetry Friday Roundup at Great Kid Books!

Snakes on a Blog, and a Jane Hirshfield poem

September 23, 2011

Tags: poetry, Poetry Friday, authors, nature, Elachee Nature Science Center, animals, Berry Blue Haiku, haiku

Georgia's state herpetologist John Jensen holds a king snake. I held her, too - she was quite lovely!
I am loving the Master Naturalist class I’m taking this fall at Elachee Nature Science Center . Yesterday, the Georgia Department of Natural Resource’s chief herpetologist, John Jensen, led us through a litany of reptiles.

I didn’t realize my state housed the largest venomous snake in the U.S. (the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake, which is also the world’s largest rattlesnake), as well as the smallest (the Pygmy Rattlesnake), as well as the largest snake in general in the U.S. (the gentle Eastern Indigo), as well as the smallest native snake (the Florida Crowned Snake) and the country’s smallest /shortest snake, though not originally a Georgia resident (the Braminy Blind Snake). Those lengths, by the way, range from 8-and-a-half feet or more to just six inches.

In searching for an appropriately slithery poem to share this week I stumbled upon one which does mention a snake, but is so much more. Here are a few lines from Jane Hirshfield:

excerpt from “The Envoy”

Jane Hirshfield

One day in that room, a small rat.
Two days later, a snake.

Who, seeing me enter,
whipped the long stripe of his
body under the bed,
then curled like a docile house-pet.

I don’t know how either came or left.
Later, the flashlight found nothing.

For a year I watched
as something—terror? happiness? grief?—
entered and then left my body. …


(For the complete poem, and a moving reading of it by the poet, please click here.)

Now, speaking of Jane Hirshfield, I’d also like to put in a good word for her wonderful article, “The Heart of Haiku,”
available on Kindle for just 99 cents. I downloaded it to my PC. It’s a terrific introduction to the life and poetry of Bashô.

And speaking of Bashô and haiku, let me offer a shout-out that submissions are welcome over at the Berry Blue Haiku
blog, now a general online journal celebrating fine haiku. Click here for guidelines.

Finally, for this week’s Poetry Friday Roundup , please wriggle your way to Picture Book of the Day with Anastasia Suen.

Happy Birthday to Paul Fleischman from Honesdale, Pa.

September 2, 2011

Tags: Poetry Friday, poetry, authors, illustrators, writing life, SCBWI, Southern Breeze, conferences, workshops

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).

Fireflies

Light    Light

        is the ink we use

Night     Night

is our parchment

        We’re

        fireflies

fireflies      flickering

flirting

        flashing


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 .

Celebrating Vicky Alvear Shecter's new book with Style...

August 6, 2011

Tags: authors, bookstores, book tracks

Donna H. Bowman, me, a very cool Roman Soldier, Vicky Alvear Shecter, and Janice Hardy celebrate the launch of Vicky's CLEOPATRA'S MOON at the Little Shop of Stories.
Vicky Alvear Shecter's Launch Party at Little Shop of Stories was a classic BLAST. See post below...

Poetic Nod to Cleopatra's Moon

August 5, 2011

Tags: Poetry Friday, poetry, historical fiction, authors, book tracks

It’s a good week for historical fiction in the Atlanta area, specifically, in Decatur. – Lynn Cullen spoke about her hot-off-the-press Reign of Madness (Putnam) Wednesday evening at the Dekalb Library (shout-out post below), and tonight, Vicky Alvear Shecter is launching her YA Cleopatra’s Moon (Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic) at The Little Shop of Stories.

I’m lucky to be in a critique group with Vicky and happy to help celebrate. Hence my rather long-ish book spine poem in honor of Cleopatra Selene, daughter of Cleopatra VII and Marc Antony. Caveat: I’m purchasing my book this evening and haven’t read it yet – so I hope my “poem,” scoured after bedtime from bookshelves upstairs and down, is somewhat on target! (Well, books and one DVD case.)

Congratulations to Vicky, whose novel is raking in rave reviews.

Here’s my poetic take on the story, if the titles aren’t clear in the picture:

Cleopatra Rules!
Golden Legacy
Between Parent and Child
Born Free
Girl in a Cage
Another Country
Night
Out of the Depths
New Moon –
Girl in the Mirror
Who Does She Think She Is?


For the Poetry Friday Roundup, start off the new school year with Libby at A Year of Literacy Coaching.

Go, Lynn Cullen!

August 4, 2011

Tags: authors, historical fiction, book tracks

Lynn Cullen signing Reign of Madness
Go, Lynn Cullen!

Last night I met up with Kim Siegleson, Elizabeth Dulemba, and Vicky Alvear Shecter in Decatur (Ga.) to hear our friend and author extraordinaire Lynn Cullen
speak about her brand-new REIGN OF MADNESS (Putnam). The talk was sponsored by the Georgia Center for the Book, and it was standing-room-only in the conference room at the Dekalb County Library.

I always enjoy hearing Lynn describe her European jaunts and treks down little by-ways, all for the sake of research, of course. She brought a fun slide show to share. I can't wait to dive into this story of Juana of Castile, daughter of Queen Isabella. Was she really mad, or was she the victim of rumors fueled by insatiable appetites for power?

From School Library Journal:

"While not as well known to American readers as her mother, Queen Isabella, or her son, Charles V, Juana is a sympathetic heroine, and lovers of historical fiction will enjoy her story."


I'm one of those, and I'm sure I will. Congratulations, Lynn!

Interview on Wolf and Cat Blog

July 12, 2011

Tags: wolves, authors

Thanks to my friend Scotti Cohn who interviewed me on her great Wolf and Cat blog.

My pack has been doing a bit of summer travelling - will catch up with Poetry Friday again next week!

Hope you are having a wonderful July.

A Pack of Poets

June 16, 2011

Tags: poetry, SCBWI, Southern Breeze, authors, Poetry Friday, school visits, Chestatee Wildlife Preserve, wolves, workshops

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 pages.

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.

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Summer Snippets and Rebecca Kai Dotlich

June 10, 2011

Tags: poetry, Poetry Friday, authors, SCBWI, Southern Breeze, workshops

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!


(from "Lemonade")

splashing
sunshine
on frosty squares
of ice


(from "Firefly" - saw the first ones last night, by the way)

Sliver of moon
slice of a star.
Rhinestone in
a jelly jar.


(from "Nightdance")

And the sun comes up,
and the sun goes down,
and children moon-skip
all around


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:

Thunderstorm.



Writing with Ms. Mirabel

May 13, 2011

Tags: Poetry Friday, poetry, school visits, authors

Recent poetic adventures with fourth graders inspired me to read Patricia MacLachlan’s Word After Word After Word (Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins, 2010), about a visiting author’s time in Miss Cash’s fourth grade classroom. The characters find their way through personal problems by writing, especially poetry.

I was hooked with this early prose depiction of the visiting author:

Ms. Mirabel had long, troubled hair and a chest that pushed out in front of her like a grocery cart.

As narrator Lucy begins to examine her feelings about her mother’s cancer, she writes,



Sadness is
Steam rising,
Tears falling.
A breath you take in
But can’t let out
As hard as you try.


You’ll have to read the book to see how Lucy’s writing develops, along with that of the other students: Henry, Evie, Russell, and May. This deceptively simple story from a Newbery medalist and beloved author would be a welcome addition to any poetry lover’s bookshelf.

I included some fourth grade haiku in last week’s Poetry Friday post but was unable to access the Roundup. Feel free to take a peek, and be sure to check out this week’s hot-to-handle Roundup at Jama Rattigan's Alphabet Soup!

Northeast Georgia Writers

May 4, 2011

Tags: authors, speaking, writing life

L-R, me with Northeast Georgia Writers contest judges Janie Dempsey Watts (author), Janice Alonso (author), Robert S. King (author and president of the Georgia Poetry Society), Northeast Georgia Writers President Tom Nichols, and Writer and Volunteer Extraordinaire Elouise Whitten (contest coordinator).
It was my honor to be the Awards Banquet Speaker today for the Northeast Georgia Writers! What a vibrant and dedicated group of folks - not to mention talented. Many members won awards across a variety of genres.

I followed the event's theme of "Journey Through Words and Pictures," sharing my own adventures in fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and illustration for children. The banquet was a wonderful way to celebrate the power of writers supporting each other in what can be a lonesome endeavor.

Ever thankful for my regular writing buds, it was a treat to meet new friends in the fold. Special thanks to Lynda Holmes for the invitation, and congratulations to her and to the many other award winners!

Click here for the article in The Times(Gainesville, Ga.) about the awards banquet

She picked a pack of 'pacas....

April 8, 2011

Tags: animals, authors, illustrators, Poetry Friday

1.) Paula Puckett 2.) some of her fiber creations........... 3.) Riley, 5, shares some carrots
Who did? Paula B. Puckett: my dear friend, SCBWI conference travelling buddy, fellow writer and illustrator and critique group member. I know today is Poetry Friday (click here for Roundup), but I'm interrupting strictly poetic posts to share something fun.

Today, Paula's family hosted what's becoming an annual "alpaca shearing and pot luck lunch" for family and friends at their beautiful farm nestled in the North Georgia mountains.

I've always had a thing for alpacas and have enjoyed getting to visit hers. Today's shearing was interesting. The animals are laid out one at a time on special mats, and then the shearers go to work, removing the gorgeous, thick fleece with skilled hands. The process only takes a few minutes, and then the animal is trotting off to rejoin the herd. I'm thinking Paula's alpacas are going to be thankful come Sunday they're in short coats - we're supposed to have temps in the 80s! (more…)

Second Grade Authors Rock!

March 29, 2011

Tags: school visits, authors, illustrators

THE THREE LITTLE PIGS VISIT WEST VIRGINIA
I just received in the mail something worth celebrating. In November, I had the great privilege to (drive through an early snow! and) visit several schools in and near Charleston, West Virginia. The West Virginia Symphony Orchestra brings arts to the schools with more innovative programs than I could possibly list. Betty King, Vice President of Education/Operations, invited me up as part of an initiative culminating in a "Song of the Wolf" performance for the students.

Students participated in all kinds of Three-Little-Piggy-themed projects. Ms. Adkins's second grade class from Flinn Elementary School wrote and illustrated their own original story, THE THREE LITTLE PIGS VISIT WEST VIRGINIA. I was honored to get to read it when I spent some time in their classroom - what a dedicated teacher and creative students!

(more…)

Poetry that purrs with Rebecca Kai Dotlich

March 10, 2011

Tags: poetry, authors, SCBWI, Southern Breeze, Poetry Friday

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!










MIDNIGHT STRAY
by
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.
(more…)

Exploring Big Cats and Little Kitties (and more) with Author Scotti Cohn

February 28, 2011

Tags: authors, book tracks, nature, SCBWI, wolves, animals

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…)

Keeping Nature in Focus with Sarah C. Campbell

February 21, 2011

Tags: authors, illustrators, book tracks, nature, SCBWI, Southern Breeze

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…)

From the LeBrea Tar Pits to Outer Space - take a safari with Author Donna H. Bowman

February 14, 2011

Tags: authors, book tracks, nature, SCBWI, Southern Breeze

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…)

Critiquelicious

February 12, 2011

Tags: authors, writing life

from top, l-r: Vicky Alvear Shecter, Elizabeth Dulemba, yours truly; bottom, l-r: Gail Langer Karwoski, Kim Siegelson, Mary Ann Rodman
I have the wonderful good fortune to be in two critique groups. My first group, Bookbound, has been together for more than a decade and includes Donna H. Bowman, Paula Puckett, Katrice Graham and Heather Kolich. After some unruly scheduling issues in recent months, we are getting our ducks in a regular row again this year. (See my home page for a holiday photo including some of us and guests.)

My "new" group is now about two years old, and for some reason we call ourselves the Cheese Whizzes. We recently enjoyed our second annual winter retreat in the North Georgia mountains. Elizabeth Dulemba and Kim Siegelson posted wonderful blog entries about the group, so feel free to click their names and read those entries. Elizabeth's new blog offers personal insights into the creative process, and Kim's has some terrific tips for creating/sustaining successful critique groups.

Support and feedback help keep me going as a writer. I'm honored and humbled to share the journey with all of these gifted writers and amazing people. Remember to tune in Monday, when I'll feature long-time critique group buddy and nonfiction author Donna H. Bowman, continuing our nature writers focus for February!

Nature Author Heather L. Montgomery on Snakes and More...

February 7, 2011

Tags: authors, book tracks, nature, SCBWI, Southern Breeze

Author photo by Sonya Sones
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.

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…)

Poetry Retreat Info

February 4, 2011

Tags: poetry, SCBWI, Southern Breeze, authors, workshops

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
Dahlonega, Georgia

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…)

Nonfiction Nature Focus for February!

January 31, 2011

Tags: authors, book tracks, nature, nonfiction

Okay, this is a commercial. But I want to give you a heads-up that February around here will celebrate some wonderful nature writers for children!

I had the blessed opportunity to grow up in a place and time that afforded hours of unsupervised time in the woods at the edge of my Florida neighborhood, and hours of solo bike rides to nearby lakes and parks. For many of today's children, the natural world is, well, unnatural to them.

Read Richard Louv's LAST CHILD IN THE WOODS - Saving our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder. It was originally published in 2005 and revised/expanded in 2008.

Another book I'm crazy about is A PLACE FOR WONDER - Reading and Writing Nonfiction in the Primary Grades by Georgia Heard and Jennifer McDonough. The authors present creative ways teachers (and other adults) can open the doors of exploration for young students and help them to express these connections to the natural world. (more…)

Writing workshop with Lola Schaefer - Free!

January 8, 2011

Tags: authors, SCBWI, libraries

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.
(more…)

Dive into Poetry with Rebecca Kai Dotlich!

December 8, 2010

Tags: poetry, SCBWI, Southern Breeze, authors

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…)

Explore 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS IN GEORGIA with Susan Rosson Spain and Elizabeth O. Dulemba

December 3, 2010

Tags: book tracks, authors, illustrators, SCBWI, Southern Breeze

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…)

On board ROSA'S BUS with Jo S. Kittinger

November 22, 2010

Tags: authors, book tracks, SCBWI, Southern Breeze

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.

Welcome, Jo!

How did you become a writer?


Some people know they are writers from a young age. Not me. (more…)

VICKY ALVEAR SHECTER GIVES CLEOPATRA ROYAL TREATMENT

October 27, 2010

Tags: book tracks, authors, writing life, nonfiction, historical fiction

If you think ancient history is as stuffy as the inside of a tomb, think again. SCBWI Southern Breezer and talented author Vicky Alvear Shecter (ALEXANDER THE GREAT ROCKS THE WORLD) brings her “history with a twist” approach to one of the most fascinating characters the world has ever known, Cleopatra VII. In CLEOPATRA RULES! The Amazing Life of the Original Teen Queen (Boyds Mills, 2010), Vicky shows readers young and old why you shouldn’t believe everything you’ve seen or heard about Egypt’s last pharaoh.

Welcome, Vicky! In this beautifully designed and kid-friendly book, you dig way past the stereotype of Cleopatra as a femme fatale and reveal her fiercely loyal, politically-savvy side. When did you first become Cleopatra-crazy, and how long have you wanted to write a book about her? (more…)

Janice Hardy conjures up BLUE FIRE

October 7, 2010

Tags: authors, book tracks, writing life

What if pain were a commodity - a weapon? What if you were 15 and possessed the rare ability to draw pain out of someone, but you could release it only into another person? What if your daily choices literally meant life or death for others? Welcome to the world of Nya, the bold and struggling protagonist in Janice Hardy's THE HEALING WARS series for ages 10 and up (Balzar + Bray/HarperCollins).
Book One, THE SHIFTER, came out last year and (drumroll...) Book Two, BLUE FIRE, has just been released.

Welcome, Janice! First, the question I'm sure you always get from young readers: How did you come up with the idea for this series? (more…)

"Spooky" Guest Author, Nancy Raines Day!

October 1, 2010

Tags: authors, writing life

Calling all ye ghosts and goblins - ready for some spooky fun? Award-winning author Nancy Raines Day has dropped by to tell us about her latest picture book from Abrams, ON A WINDY NIGHT.

Welcome, Nancy. The book's jacket flap copy says your birthday is in October, and you used to have Halloween parties with cold spaghetti guts and peeled grape eyeballs when you were growing up. My brother and I always "haunted" much of our house for the neighborhood kids, with the same yucky attractions. (One year his costume was even a haunted house! He's an engineer now.) Have you always loved Halloween like I have?
(more…)

Kristin O'Donnell Tubb Does Things Different

September 20, 2010

Tags: book tracks, authors, writing life, historical fiction

Before I turn things over to this week’s fabulous award-winning author, Kristin O’Donnell Tubb, let me tell you why I especially love her first book, AUTUMN WINIFRED OLIVER DOES THINGS DIFFERENT (Yearling/Random House, 2008). When my brother and I visited my grandparents in Knoxville, we often drive into “the hills” to Gatlinburg (for my fellow Georgia residents, imagine Helen on steroids – lots of steroids). Even more special were trips into the Great Smoky Mountains, where my grandparents had hiked and explored back in the 1930s, and where we wandered barefoot through pebbly streams. For many reasons, the little village of Cade’s Cove at its entrance is a place I’ll always treasure.

Welcome, Kristin, and congratulations on such a successful writing career! In your delightful novel, 11-year-old Autumn becomes wrapped up in how the opening of a national park affects her small community. Autumn is definitely feisty! How long had you been living with this character before she made herself known on the page?
. (more…)

Just One Bite with Lola M. Schaefer

September 10, 2010

Tags: book tracks, authors, writing life

My office kitty, May, with a spread from Lola M. Schaefer's JUST ONE BITE
Today I'm thrilled to feature award-winning author Lola M. Schaefer and her hot-off-the-press new picture book from Chronicle, JUST ONE BITE. Exactly how much food can a rabbit eat in just one bite? How about a Komodo dragon? An elephant? Would you believe this volume offers life-size illustrations (you read that right) for bitefuls of food for eleven different animals, from a worm to a sperm whale? (more…)

Amazing Faces

September 6, 2010

Tags: poetry, authors, illustrators, book tracks

Tomorrow kicks off a week of "Random Acts of Publicity" in the children's lit world, thanks to Darcy Pattison (our keynote speaker for the SCBWI Southern Breeze fall conference, by the way). See http://www.darcypattison.com/pr-notes/random-acts/

I have too many authors to brag about for just one week, so I'm stretching it out for the next month or so. I'd actually like to usher in all this fun with a poetry anthology just out this summer. Lee Bennett Hopkins's AMAZING FACES (Lee and Low), illustrated by the award-winning Chris Soentpiet, amazing himself, lives up to its title. (more…)

Historically Speaking from the Decatur Book Festival

September 4, 2010

Tags: historical fiction, festivals, authors, writing life

Greetings from Decatur, Ga., where thousands of folks have been enjoying the gorgeous weather and taking in all-things-books! Between shifts at our SCBWI PAL booth near the Children's Stage, I was able to listen to some fabulous authors speak about writing historical fiction. Here's a gem or two from several participating in a couple of different sessions: (more…)

Mom 2 Mom Connection interview!

August 31, 2010

Tags: authors, wolves, writing life

I'm thrilled to be featured on Heather Ivester's great blog, Mom 2 Mom Connection, a terrific source of encouragement for busy parents who also love to write. Copy and paste this link for the interview:

http://heatherivester.com/2010/08/31/author-interview-robyn-hood-black/

Heather is a talented author who knows a bit about combining mothering and writing. As it says on her site, "Heather Ivester has a heart for parents who feel called to write, as she’s the mother of five school-aged children, and writing is the only way she can complete a sentence around her house." Ha! (more…)

Are you a Bella or a Bean?

August 12, 2010

Tags: authors, book tracks, writing life

Part of the excitement of a new school year is meeting new folks! My daughter is heading off to college and my son's 10th grade class is welcoming some fresh faces this year.

These new beginnings, with mixes of new personalities, put me in the mind of Rebecca Kai Dotlich's charming BELLA & BEAN (Atheneum, 2009).


Bella wants to write poems.


Bean wants to go for a walk.


Bella wants to write poems.


Bean wants Bella to look at her cute toes.

(more…)

Check out Elizabeth Dulemba's Coloring Pages!

August 10, 2010

Tags: authors, illustrators, Chestatee Wildlife Preserve, zedonk

My friend and award-winning author-illustrator Elizabeth Dulemba took a special liking to the Chestatee Wildlife Preserve's new baby zedonk. So today, for the Coloring Page she offers each Tuesday on her website, she has an adorable picture of a zebra! (And a picture and links to some of the online zedonk coverage.) Check out www.dulemba.com

But first, read what she has to say about why she offers these fun, free coloring pages to her happy followers:

(more…)

Gail Karwoski Workshop!

April 6, 2010

Tags: authors, writing life

Are you eager to learn the ins and outs of writing and publishing for children, and are you somewhere near north Georgia? Whether your passion is picture books or novels, award-winning author Gail Langer Karwoski is the teacher for you.

On Saturday, April 17, and Sunday, April 18, Gail is offering The ABC's of Writing for Young Readers at the Oconee Cultural Arts Foundation in Watkinsville, Ga. See www.ocaf.com under "Literary Arts" for workshop details, but here are the highlights: (more…)

SHARING THE SEASONS - a look at the book

March 10, 2010

Tags: book tracks, authors, illustrators, poetry

Pre-spring's first rumble of thunder today calls me to make good on my promise to share great books in my blog this year.

A perfect first "share" is SHARING THE SEASONS, a glorious hot-off-the-press collection by renowned poet/anthologist Lee Bennet Hopkins, illustrated by Caldecott madalist David Diaz (Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2010). (more…)

Poetry, Pictures, Panel...

October 3, 2009

Tags: authors, illustrators, speaking, bookstores, SCBWI, poetry, Highlights, workshops

Busy week!

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…)

Andy Runton and OWLY

June 2, 2009

Tags: authors, illustrators, birds

When I think of the little wren family, or other wild guests in my own back yard, I think of the talented and wonderful Andy Runton. Do you know him?
He's the creator of the OWLY series of graphic novels, and he watches birds, rabbits, butterflies - you name it! - right here in Georgia. (more…)

Celebrate Poetry Month with new books by Lee Bennett Hopkins

April 1, 2009

Tags: poetry, authors

Happy National Poetry Month!
Would you believe award-winning poet and anthologist Lee Bennett Hopkins has, not one, but THREE brand new books to help you celebrate?

City I Love (Abrams) is a sparkling collection of Lee's own poems, both new and previously published, and all fresh. Illustrator Marcellus Hall provides readers with a tour guide (more…)

Speaking of poems... and another great poet

March 19, 2009

Tags: poetry, authors

I love spring... when every venture outside yields some new shock of color or more riotous birdsong!


I'm also already looking forward to fall, when I'll be immersed in poetry in Rebecca Kai Dotlich's "Wordplay" Founders Workshop at Highlights up in Honesdale, Pa.


Rebecca's latest book is a picture book from Atheneum, hot off the press: (more…)

Paul B. Janeczko and Poetic Possibilities

March 8, 2009

Tags: poetry, authors

On Friday, March 6, ward-winning poet and anthologist Paul B. Janeczko kicked off a terrific weekend at the University of Georgia's 40th Annual Conference on Children's Literature. His many books, including the hot-off-the-press third collaboration with (Caldecott Medal-winning) illustrator Chris Raschka, A Foot in the Mouth, make poetry accessible, lively, and fun - even for young readers whose intitial reaction to poetry might not be enthusiastic.


Describing his own less-than-stellar early academic career, Janeczko said his goals in life did not include being an author, but rather achieving Little League fame and outliving the "one-eyed crazed cur" in the forsythia bushes. (more…)

Meet Wolf Author Scotti Cohn!

February 17, 2009

Tags: authors, wolves

If you're looking for a wolf book for the younger set, ONE WOLF HOWLS by Scotti Cohn (Sylvan Dell) is hot off the press. Young readers will enjoy learning wolf facts in this counting book featuring rhyming text. Check out Scotti's website with more wolfy stuff and links to wolf websites: http://www.scotticohn.com (more…)

Debbie Miller and the de Grummond

February 12, 2009

Tags: de Grummond, authors

The SCBWI Nature Writers Workshop with author and Alaskan Debbie Miller, http://www.debbiemilleralaska.com , in Hattiesburg, MS, was wonderful. Debbie's presentations conveyed a sense of life in such amazing country as well as her passion to protect the environment. She's devoted to connecting kids to the natural world.


Workshop attendees also spent time in the exhibit room (more…)

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Explore a poem or two or five....
Haiku
Explore this genre of sparely crafted poetry which offers endless depth. Resources for students, teachers, and writers.
Author visits
In schools or other settings, Robyn shares her passion for writing and encourages creativity. Presentations for all age groups.
Magazines
In addition to writing books, Robyn has sold her writing to major children's magazines.
Books
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!
Portfolio
illustrations