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26. Katherine Paterson: The Stubborn Seed of Hope

How do you feel about middle-grade novels that deal with life’s harsh realities? My novel, May B., focuses on a child who has been abandoned, who faces starvation and possible death. Several young readers have confessed parts of it are scary. I’m okay with that. What I’m not okay with, though, is leaving my readers in a place of despair.

Here’s a quote from the amazing Katherine Paterson on just this topic:

I cannot, will not, withhold from my young readers the harsh realities of human hunger and suffering and loss, but neither will I neglect to plant that stubborn seed of hope that has enabled our race to outlast wars and famines and the destruction of death. If you think that this is the limitation that will keep me forever a writer for the young, perhaps it is. I don’t mind. I do what I can and do it joyfully.”

I love Ms. Paterson’s idea of a “stubborn seed of hope”, something that grows beyond painful circumstances, something that can anchor both the character and reader in a better future to come.

Do you shy away from heartache in the books you read or write? Why or why not?

I want to start a conversation here about courage and hope – what these words mean to you, ways you’ve seen them lived out, things you’ve learned because of them. If you blog, consider sharing a picture, a memory, a quote, a story — anything — that represents one or both of these words, then link back here so other readers can share in the celebration. If you don’t blog, share your courage and hope thoughts on Facebook and Twitter, using the hashtags #MayB. and #courageandhope. Ten participants will win paperback copies of MAY B. 

The contest is open between now and February 25 to US residents. Please mention the giveaway and discussion in your post and link back here or by commenting on Twitter or Facebook. So excited to have you join in the conversation!


This post originally ran September 26, 2012

The post Katherine Paterson: The Stubborn Seed of Hope appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.

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27. On Hope

corralesgraveyardAnd now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you.
– Psalm 39:7

I want to start a conversation here about courage and hope – what these words mean to you, ways you’ve seen them lived out, things you’ve learned because of them. If you blog, consider sharing a picture, a memory, a quote, a story — anything — that represents one or both of these words, then link back here so other readers can share in the celebration. If you don’t blog, share your courage and hope thoughts on Facebook and Twitter, using the hashtags #MayB. and #courageandhope. Ten participants will win paperback copies of MAY B. 

The contest is open between now and February 25 to US residents. Please mention the giveaway and discussion in your post and link back here, following the steps below, or by commenting on Twitter or Facebook. So excited to have you join in the conversation!


The post On Hope appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.

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28. Where Freedom Lies

2014-01-13 17.01.26Freedom lies in being bold.
― Robert Frost

I want to start a conversation here about courage and hope – what these words mean to you, ways you’ve seen them lived out, things you’ve learned because of them. If you blog, consider sharing a picture, a memory, a quote, a story — anything — that represents one or both of these words, then link back here so other readers can share in the celebration. If you don’t blog, share your courage and hope thoughts on Facebook and Twitter, using the hashtags #MayB. and #courageandhope. Ten participants will win paperback copies of MAY B. 

The contest is open between now and February 25 to US residents. Please mention the giveaway and discussion in your post and link back here, following the steps below, or by commenting on Twitter or Facebook. So excited to have you join in the conversation!

The post Where Freedom Lies appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.

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Do you have a moment? I'd love to hear your thoughts on Caroline by line. Please fill out this brief survey and enter to win a signed copy of MAY B. Thank you, friends!


age range: upper elementary
setting: Constitutional Convention of 1787
genre: illustrated picture book in comic book format

"A lively way to kick off discussions of how the Constitution works and why it's still a living document . . . ." — Kirkus Reviews

"The vividly colored spreads will hold the interest of even middle school students and would be useful to introduce how our form of government was created. Students will enjoy presenting this book as reader’s theater." — School Library Journal 

"An original presentation of a pivotal point in U.S. history." — Booklist

"[This book] reminds me a bit of Schoolhouse Rock. It takes important historical information about the United States, and conveys it in a fun, fresh format.... This is a must-have title for schools and libraries." — Jen Robinson's Book Page

What drew you to this topic?

It was 2005, the year Public Law 108-477 went into effect, requiring public schools to provide an educational program on the U.S. Constitution on September 17th. At the time, I was working as a library media specialist in an elementary school. The classroom teachers at my school were swamped, and administration asked the specialists (librarian, art, and music) to take over the responsibility. My assignment was for the upper grades, 4-6. I wanted to do something the students would not only learn from but enjoy. So I wrote a four-page skit, briefly describing the bickering between the thirteen colonies after the revolutionary war, the need for a more unified government, and the crisis which almost caused the Constitutional Convention to fail. The characters were the thirteen original colonies who each spoke on behalf of their state

We presented it on our in-house television show on September 17th. The kids had such a fabulous time rehearsing and performing it, I gave the script to a teacher friend at a nearby school. She said her students also had a blast with it. This gave me the itch to do something more with the material. But what? There is almost no market for student plays. A writing group friend suggested that I rewrite the skit with speech bubbles and try to sell it in comic book format. Originally, I thought it would be an easy endeavor. But I ended up re-writing the skit we performed entirely. I think there are only one or two lines from the original in the final book. I became engrossed in the subject matter, adding more and more information to my manuscript. The final product provides a hearty overview of why we needed a constitution and how our founding fathers ultimately created a document capable of meeting the needs of a growing country.  

What were some interesting things you learned while conducting your research?    

Governmental history is often thought of as a topic guaranteed to make you yawn. But the story of America’s constitutional government is filled with caffeine. The thirteen colonies behaved like squabbling children—fighting over borders and water rights. They refused to take each other’s money, making interstate business difficult and when Massachusetts had an insurgency problem, the other states saw no reason to help.  It really was Unite or Die in 1787. But the founding fathers haggled, more devoted to the autonomy of the individual state than the need to work together. Over the July 4th weekend, George Washington, president of the convention, was said to have looked as haggard as he did during the darkest days of Valley Forge. Many representatives thought the Constitutional Convention would disband and the United States of America along with it

Then Roger Sherman came up with the Connecticut Compromise. When I began researching, I had no idea how close the thirteen original states came to dissolving. The pivotal compromise that preserved our union provided a natural arc for my narrative. It taught me that nonfiction writing should build to a climax, just like fiction. Unite or Die: How Thirteen States Became a Nation has supplemental notes at the end with all kinds of other fascinating facts. Did you know that the founding fathers devised an election system that gave the vice-presidency to the runner-up in the national election? What were they thinking! This period of American history captured my attention and I hope young readers will share my fascination when they read Unite or Die: How Thirteen States Became a Nation. 

To whet student appetite for the subject, a downloadable  reader’s theater  is available for free on my website. I also have a song to share about that momentous summer called “In 1787.” 

Happy Constitution Day!

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30. What Are Your Impressions of Caroline by line?

I've been blogging since September 2009 -- a solid four years -- and I think it's time for some feedback from you, my readers.

If you'd be so kind as to fill out this brief survey, I'd very much appreciate it. I'll be giving away a signed copy of MAY B. to one participant randomly selected at the end of September.

Thank you to all who've stopped by this space in the last four years. Here's to many more conversations together!

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31. Stories that Sing -- Poems with a Plot: Laurel Garver

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Our culture at large has rather limited ideas about what poetry is. The average person on the street typically thinks of rhymed ditties about pretty panoramas, lovesick longings, or rainbow-laced dreams. Or perhaps broken-line ruminations on big topics like death, war, human nature, or tiny ones like butterfly wings, a twirling maple seed or tea leaves in the bottom of a cup.  This sort of poetry, which focuses on description and feeling, is called lyric poetry.

But there's another whole branch that shares characteristics with fiction, like a plot, characters and sometimes even dialogue: narrative poetry. Narrative poetry comes out of oral tradition, when stories were shared around the fire. Rhythm, repetition, rhymes made the stories easier to remember and thus pass on from one hearer to another. Ancient, epic stories of adventure and valor, like The Odyssey and Beowulf are some of the earliest examples written down.

Over time, poets realized any kind of story could be made more memorable and even singable if set in verse. The troubadours of the Middle Ages told tales of tragic love, and talents like Geoffrey Chaucer wittily satirized the culture of the day through rollicking, bawdy tales in verse. Later, narrative poems became more like versified flash fiction, such as this striking piece by Robert Frost, "Out, out—".

Novels-in-verse are of course a type of narrative poetry. But like the epic poem form they derive from, each section tends to lose something when removed from the overall story. The sections or pieces are meant to be read as a unit. That aspect makes them trickier to write than one might initially expect.
If novels-in-verse interest but intimidate you, or you’re primarily a fiction writer wanting to try out poetry, short, free-verse narrative fiction is a great place to start. In fact, you might find benefit taking material you’ve already written and recreating it in verse format.

One of the poems in my collection Muddy-Fingered Midnights, “Storm Shelter” began as an experiment like this. I took a scene from my novel in progress, in which the protagonist’s boyfriend invites her to see his childhood secret hiding spot, and their relationship deepens because of it.

I summarized and trimmed the prose versions, worked in evocative vocabulary and sound patterns, and even experimented with portmanteau (blending two distinct words). There’s not a huge event at the center of this piece, but there is a plot arc, moving from entering the story world, to conflict, resolution and denouement. What makes it poetry is the condensed emotion, sparse words, sound patterns, and layers of meaning. (A more strongly plotted piece that wasn’t derived from prose is “North and South,” also reprinted in my collection.

Writing poetry a great way to develop not only your writing skills, but also your publishing credits. There are thousands upon thousands of literary journals seeking poetry submissions. If you’ve done any writing at all, you have raw material. (For ideas on how to turn delected scenes into poems, see my post Giving Life to Peripheral Stories.)

Read, learn from, and emulate published poets, and you too can write stories that sing.

Laurel Garver is a magazine editor and author of the poetry collection Muddy-Fingered Midnights and the novel Never Gone.  Her poems have appeared in Ancient Paths, Every Day Poets, Poetry Pact volume 1, Rubber Lemon, Daily Love and Drown in My Own Fears. An indie film enthusiast and incurable Anglophole, she lives in Philadelphia with her husband and daughter.

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32. Looking Out the Window: Robert L. Forbes

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As a children's author, I have the privilege of reading to kids, mostly in schools and libraries, and I always start by telling them that my poems all come from my imagination. I continue by saying that they all have imaginations too, as good was mine or as anyone else's. That gets them thinking, and listening a bit more sharply.

During the reading of my poems, I ask for questions, a part I always enjoy because I never know what will come at me. What is most frequently asked is, where do I get my ideas? I remind them that I use my imagination but that I am listening and looking and smelling the world around me for ideas or phrases or situations or animals or colors or jokes that can spark the beginning of a poem.  By going towards life I am rewarded because life then comes back to me with buckets of stimulation.

I tell them that on my book jacket notes, it says: "'He spends a lot of time looking out the window,' reads one of Robert Forbes' report cards." Daydreaming is healthy, and in our busy-every-minute high-tech lives, it's good to slow down and get out of the electronic bubble we have all put ourselves into. 

We talk about word choice and how it is the vehicle of writing, while imagination is the perpetual fuel for it.

Poetry has many forms, and whatever they feel is right for them is what they need to use. But poetry has rules that can be demanding too, and those rules make it more fun because of the challenges they present. I like rhyming, which can be hard. I also use meters, so there is rhythm to my poems. While metered rhymes can be difficult, I love the journey they take me on. I don't always know where I am going to end up and sometimes I know where I want the poem to go but I don't know how I will get there.

I wouldn't have it any other way!

In the end, I write poems to please myself, and I hope they please others. By reading to children, I hope to stimulate them to read poetry and to try to write some themselves. I am scattering seeds in the belief some will sprout and scatter more seeds down the line. 

Robert L. Forbes is President of lifestyle magazine ForbesLife and the author of the poetry collections Let's Have a Bite! and Beastly Feasts!

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33. Learning By Heart: Augusta Scattergood

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Call it a driveway moment. One of those times you're listening so hard you don't want to turn off your radio. Mine was tuned to NPR when General John Borling, former Vietnam POV, spoke about his just-published book of poems composed while he was a prisoner. He'd written, memorized and tapped them out in Morse Code. What an amazing story. The story and the poems made me sit and listen.

From swinging in time to Robert Louis Stevenson— 

How do you like to go up in a swing
Up in the air so blue?

— to teaching children manners a la the Goops, I'm a big believer in having a poem—tiny, massive, rhyming or not— learned by heart and at the ready. 
When I was a school librarian, one of my favorite things about April was our annual Poetry Assembly. And although it was a few years ago, I'd wager a few still remember the third grade's marvelous recitation and dramatic presentation of I AM THE DOG, I AM THE CAT, with Donald Hall's genius alternating cat and dog voices. 

But, really, why bother to memorize a poem when it can be called up at a moment's notice from some distant website? Does anybody care? Do you even remember a poem you learned in third grade?

The best argument for verse memorization may be that it provides us with knowledge of a qualitatively and physiologically different variety: you take the poem inside you, into your brain chemistry if not your blood, and you know it at a deeper, bodily level than if you simply read it off a screen. 
I think we writers need poetry inside us deeper than others, something to hear when we're searching for the perfect word or a phrase that creates an OH-MY-GOSH moment in our stories. They don't call it "learned by heart" for nothing.

Maybe I don't remember every word I sang, chanted, recited in school, in Sunday school, at summer camp. 

I do recall enough to get me through a family supper with a smile.

The Goops
by Gillette Burgess
The Goops they lick their fingers
And the Goops they lick their knives:
They spill their froth on the tablecloth
Oh, they lead disgusting lives!
The Goops they talk while eating,
And loud and fast they chew;
And that is why I'm glad that I
Am not a Goop, are you?

Augusta Scattergood is former school librarian, a book reviewer and an avid blogger. GLORY BE, her debut novel, was named one of Amazon's Top Twenty Middle School books for 2012. A second novel has been sold to Scholastic for Fall, 2014 publication. 

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34. The Vignette: Jessica Bell

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“Vignette” is a word that originally meant “something that may be written on a vine-leaf.” This image makes me think: small, special, delicate, and perhaps not for everyone to see.

How apt is this image?

Nowadays, a vignette is what you call a snapshot in words. It differs from flash fiction or a short story in that its aim doesn’t lie within the traditional realms of structure or plot. Instead, the vignette focuses on one element, mood, character, setting, object, or if you’re clever, a unique and smooth blend of them all. It is the perfect form of writing for poetic descriptions, excellent for character or theme exploration and wordplay. 

The language can be simple and minimalistic, or extravagantly crafted literary prose. It’s your choice. Write in the style and genre you are comfortable with and in the genre you love. There are no limits regarding style and genre. In fact, the vignette only has one rule: create an atmosphere, not a story.

If you’d like to read some wonderful vignettes, you can find an abundance of them at Vine Leaves Literary Journal, which is run by me and Dawn Ius. But to be honest, I’d give writing one a go before you allow yourself to become influenced by too much other work.

Set your mind on a moment. Use all the senses to describe it. Especially the neglected ones like touch and taste and sound. Try not to go over 800 words. Anything longer than that will want to become a story. 100-word vignettes are also acceptable. And if you can manage to do it in even less than that, we applaud you. But it has to be good—really good, to get away with something so short.

That being said, one of my favourite vignettes in Vine Leaves Literary Journal Issue #01, called “Flashback”, is two lines long. It was written by a poet named Patricia Ranzoni:

the softness from dialing the phone
is like lifting the lid to my music box

This was a very brave submission. But totally worthy. Can you see why? Read it out loud. Slowly.

Let me tell you why I love this piece:

I can absolutely feel myself in the moment. Silence surrounding me, either really early in the morning or late at night. Alone. That soft click and then purr when I lift the receiver of the hook, and then the dancing notes as I dial. I can see the flashback—a blurry image of a pastel pink ballerina spinning, the tune twinkling, and the box vibrating in my hands. I can hear a child laughing in my head. It’s me when I was a kid. The first time I ever saw a ballerina in a box. Magic.

A successful vignette must evoke emotion. If you can make us feel, you’re on the right track.

If Jessica Bell could choose only one creative mentor, she'd give the role to Euterpe, the Greek muse of music and lyrics. This is not only because she currently resides in Athens, Greece, but because of her life as a thirty-something Australian-native contemporary fiction author, poet and singer/songwriter/guitarist, whose literary inspiration often stems from songs she's written. Jessica is the Co-Publishing Editor of Vine Leaves Literary Journal and annually runs the Homeric Writers' Retreat and Workshop on the Greek island of Ithaca. For more information, please visit her website.

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35. Victorian Poets and Paranormal Romance: Anne Greenwood Brown

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When people ask me where I got the idea for LIES BENEATH, a YA novel about murderous mermaids on Lake Superior, I tell them that the initial image came to me in a dream, which is the truth. But the inspiration--the thing that fueled the novel--was Victorian poetry.

I’ve always had a love for the Victorian-era poets: Shelley, Tennyson, Dickinson, Rossetti, and the Brontës, just to name a few. In particular, I’m drawn to the way they mix their images of death and romance: the beautiful corpse, so to speak. For example, Dickinson speaks of death being a suitor come courting in a fine carriage:  

Because I could not stop for Death
He kindly stopped for me.
The Carriage held but just Ourselves
And Immortality.

But the Victorians don’t have a monopoly on this juxtaposition of romance and death. It is also a familiar image in modern-day paranormal romance.

The paranormal genre is filled with vampires, faeries, angels, and mermaids--all beautiful creatures who bring romance to unsuspecting mortals, just as easily as they bring death. So why are we drawn to them? They should repel us, but we are transfixed. Perhaps it is because we long to be consumed by love, just as surely as death will consume us all. Perhaps it’s the notion of “‘til death do us part” taken to its most extreme conclusion.

LIES BENEATH (the first book in the trilogy) is the story of Calder White, a merman, who falls in love with Lily Hancock, a human girl whose family has a history with monsters in the lake. The novel was inspired by three Victorian poems about beauty, love, and death, all written by Alfred, Lord Tennyson: “The Merman,” “The Mermaid,” and “The Lady of Shalott.” 

Tennyson describes the merman as a beautiful creature, living a king’s life. He’s flirtatious and bold, but without real love, his life is lonely, empty, and shallow: 

Who would be
A merman bold,
Sitting alone
Singing alone
Under the sea,
With a crown of gold,
On a throne?
                      -The Merman

But the mermaids are more straightforward in their warning that death lurks behind the beautiful façade of their lives:

Till that great sea-snake under the sea
From his coiled sleeps in the central deeps
Would slowly trail himself sevenfold
Round the hall where I sate, and look in at the gate
With his large calm eyes for the love of me.
                      -The Mermaid

In LIES BENEATH, Calder recognizes the emptiness of his life, wants more, but fears he cannot escape his own nature. That is, until he meets Lily Hancock, a modern-day Lady of Shalott.

Like the Lady of Shalott, Lily Hancock lives under a curse. While the Lady is teetering on the edge of a mental breakdown, Lily’s perception of the world is colored by her belief that she is destined for insanity, just like her grandfather before her. Both Lily and the Lady long for love and an end to the curse, even if seeking it out will surely lead to death.

When the Lady sees Lancelot, the object of her desire, Tennyson describes him just as dazzling and golden as he described the merman:

The gemmy bridle glittered free,
Like to some branch of stars we see
Hung in the golden Galaxy.
The bridle bells rang merrily
As he rode down to Camelot:
                                     -The Lady of Shalott

Both Lily and the Lady put on white dresses, board a boat, and seek an end to their family curse. One of them is successful. The other pays the ultimate price. But can we say they did not both achieve their goal?

Some argue that YA paranormal romance sets a bad example of love for teens. I disagree. I would suggest that argument is looking at the genre through the wrong set of lenses. Rather, if considered through the lens of poetry, the reader quickly realizes that paranormal romance--like so many Victorian-era poems before it--presents a metaphor for sacrificial love. And, in the end, isn’t that the greatest love of all?

Anne Greenwood Brown is the author of  Lies Beneath (Random House/Delacorte June 12, 2012), Deep Betrayal (Random House/Delacorte March 12, 2013), and Promise Bound (Random House/Delacorte spring 2014). She lives in Minnesota with her amazingly patient husband and their three above-average children. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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36. The Reluctant Poet: Rosanne Parry

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Poetry has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. My mother and father both read poetry, my father favoring the Rudyard Kipling, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Robert Service variety while my mother was a fan of Frost, Sandburg and Gerard Manley Hopkins. I had a big picture book of poetry I read and reread so often that many of those poems linger in my mind though I never consciously memorized them"A violet by a mossy stone half hidden from the eye. Fair as a star when only one is shining in the sky" is a line that reliably comes to mind every time I go hiking and find wildflowers clinging to unlikely spots along the trail.

My fourth grade teacher, an exceedingly no-nonsense woman named Ms. Jacques, seemed to have two great loves to communicate to my nine year old self--long division and poetry. She taught me dozens of poetic forms from Haiku to the ballad and (what seems more impressive to me now) showed me how to scan a line to fit the meter of the line before it. I loved the structure of writing to a particular format. Hunting for just the right word to fill out the rhythm or rhyme of a line was so much more game-like than ordinary writing which I detested at the time for its irritating reliance on standard spelling and punctuation. With a poem I could invent words to my heart's debliss and dispense with punctuation entirely. 

Ms. Jacques introduced me to my first literary crush, the deliciously uncapitalized e e cummings. Since cummings had neither a first name nor a gender, my nine year old self imagined a pleasant, furry alien who might, should I come across him in my ramblings in the woods, translate for me the poetry of slugs and squirrels and sword ferns. 

Eventually college broadened considerably my repertoire of poetry while siphoning off much of the pleasure I found in reading it and all of the joy I took in creating it. I stopped writing poems for years and didn't miss it until I started reading poetry to my own children and writing my own stories. 

Novels are so long, I leaned on poetry to give me the satisfaction of something I could finish in a day. When I was stuck or discouraged, poetry gave me a reliable lift and often a fresh perspective on a character. And for all the effort I took over making marketable novels, it was a huge relief to write something that I would not only never sell, but never show anyone. I think having work that lives in my own mind and heart but not in the world is extraordinarily valuable. Jack Gantos would appear to agree with this. He wrote very movingly of his relationship with his unpublished stories in this month's Horn Book Magazine.  

So it was a great surprise to me that when a friend asked me to do a poetry event this April that I agreed to write and read my own poems in public. At first the prospect of a public reading filled me with dread. Not that I'm nervous about public performance. I'm far too Irish for that. But I did fear that my poetry would lose its luster if I gave it away. The thing that made the difference was choosing a topic that I cared about. Jim and I decided to write and share poems about love and war--a thing which has touched both our lives. The 10th anniversary of the war in Iraq seemed a good occasion for it. 

There is a story I've been thinking about writing for several years, based on the combat experience of one of my nephews. I've begun it and abandoned it several times because I could never quite get the right tone. But I went all the way back to poems I remember my father reading to me, "The Ballad of East and West" by Kipling and "Christmas at Sea" by Stevenson, and decided to write the story as a ballad. I haven't written a ballad since I was nine, but to my amazement, this simple sturdy poetic form fit the story like a glove and what was too hard--too sad--to write in prose, flowed like a stream in verse.

If you happen to be in The Dalles, Oregon on April 18th you'll have a chance to hear what I sincerely hope will be my only poetry reading ever. But it will be worth it for the music and the companionship of fellow poets and the chance to bring a story I've struggled with to light in the form of a poem.

Rosanne Parry is the reluctant poet and enthusiastic author of Heart of a Shepherd, Second Fiddle and the upcoming Written in Stone. www.rosanneparry.com

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37. Poetry is to Share: Paul B. Janeczko

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It's a huge honor for me to share the words of Paul B. Janeczko today, a poet I discovered in college and whose work I used in my classroom for years. 
I didn't start out to be a poet. I started out as a kid in New Jersey who had two major goals in life: 1) to survive one more year of delivering newspapers without being attacked by Ike, the one-eyed, slobbering, crazed cur that lurked in the forsythia bushes at the top of the hill; and 2) to become more than a weak-hitting, third-string catcher on our sorry Little League team. I failed at both.

Had I announced at the dinner table, “Mom, Dad, I’ve decided to be a poet,” my parents -- particularly my mother -- would have been thrilled. In truth, they would have been thrilled that I’d decided to be anything other than the top-40 disk jockey, Edsel salesman, or bullpen catcher that I constantly yammered about becoming in grammar school. But at that point in my life -- as an affable kid who endured hours sitting in a desk whose design, I was convinced originated in a 15th-century Spanish dungeon -- poetry meant no more to me than 1066 or George Washington’s wooden teeth. You can tell, I suspect, that as a student, I did not have what you might call an “inquisitive mind.” The only time I was “gifted” was on my birthday and on Christmas.
My path from grammar school to high school teacher to poet gave me many opportunities to heed my internal GPS when it declared, “Recalculating.” For some inexplicable reason (dare I call it a blessing?), poetry was a constant companion along the way, whether I was teaching or writing my own poems. Whenever I worked with kids and poetry, I have wanted the kids to feel that all poems have a purpose, described well by Jonathan Holden:
 “to give shape, in a concise and memorable way, to what our lives feel like . . . Poems help us to notice the world more and better, and they enable us to share with others.” 
And today, with civilization seemingly destroying itself piece by piece, we all need to share. That’s what poets do. That’s what I try to do with my books. Isn’t that what we all try to do with words? I want young readers to feel that with each collection. Every poem in them is a sharing. My hope is that my readers will carry on that sharing.
As for me, although I never even sat in an Edsel or played ball above the Little League level, I did become a reader and writer of poetry. I consider myself lucky, given my staggering lack of interest and effort in school, not to mention the poetry I was expected to read. But kids don’t need to rely on luck to become readers of poetry. Exciting books of poetry are available. I hope parents and teachers share our love of poetry with kids. And let’s give them a chance to share their love of poetry with us. And, when we are touched by a good poem, we may recall the words of Stanley Kunitz, who said that if you listen hard enough to poets, 
“who knows--we too may break into dance, perhaps for grief, perhaps for joy.”
Paul B. Janeczko aspired to be the teacher he never had, when he decided to pursue a career as a high school language arts teacher. From his own days as a student, Paul was obsessed with poetry of all kinds, and as a teacher he wanted to spread his own love of poetry to young people. Today, Paul Janeczko is better known as a writer, poet and anthologist.

4 Comments on Poetry is to Share: Paul B. Janeczko, last added: 4/17/2013
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38. Using Acrostic Poetry Both In and Out of the Language Arts Classroom: Gabrielle Prendergast

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**Congratulations to Donna MacDonald, winner of Lee Wardlaw's WON TON, A CAT TALE TOLD IN HAIKU. Please contact Lee with your shipping address. **

Acrostic poems are written by taking the letters of a word or name and using them as the first letter of each line of the poem. I like to use acrostics in both in my writing and in my teaching, even outside the language arts classroom. In social studies for example, acrostic poetry can be a very useful way of exploring a topic. Sometimes I give students an exercise to write an acrostic poem about Canada. Most of them end up starting with the word “cold”!

After starting with this students have the makings of an essay outline with paragraphs about Canadian climate, vegetation, history, culture (we are known worldwide for saying “I’m sorry” a lot), political system, and a conclusion. 

*A printed dictionary is essential for this exercise. All the more reason to do it. Kids should use dictionaries more often.*

Both in and out of language arts, there are several ways of approaching the writing of acrostic poetry. Say we wanted to write a poem about “Mothers”. We might write something like:
This is the simplest kind of acrostic – basically it’s just a list of adjectives that fit the word you choose. Another thing to do is to use short phrases or sentences instead of single words.

Make our breakfast
Open their hearts
Think of us first
Hold us tight
Enjoy our successes
Read to us
Say “I love you” to us every day.

Now we have a more detailed description of mothers. This poem talks about the things mothers do for us. But that’s not the end for acrostics. Another approach is to go back to single words, only this time all the words together make sentence about your word. Like this:
Now finally we can go back to our phrases and sentences. Only this time we can make them connected into one idea. Kind of like this:

Maybe we don’t appreciate that they’re the
Ones who make us who we are
They selflessly, carefully
Help us grow. To them
Every child is like a seed in a flower garden.
Rising up, our petals open in their

The great thing about using acrostic poetry in the classroom is that students can write about any topic that interests them, and at a level they are comfortable with. More advanced students can write with complete sentences while struggling students will get a sense of accomplishment from completing the simpler word list form. 

Even within a topic, students can narrow their focus to suit their interests. Writing about Canada, some students might focus on sports:
While some might prefer to focus on wildlife.

And moose
And seals
And Canadian geese.

We’d all love to get more poetry into the classroom, as well as new ways of approaching curriculum materials in general and the development of writing skills in particular. Acrostic poetry is a great way of doing all these things.

As writers and poets acrostics can help us to get to know our characters or explore our themes. Certainly as a verse novelist, a simple acrostic can sometimes salvage an otherwise unproductive day.
And we all have those.

Gabrielle Prendergast is the writer of the feature film HILDEGARDE, starring Richard E Grant.  HILDEGARDE was also published as a novel by Harper Collins Australia. She wrote  for the cartoon series Gloria’s House and Fairy Tale Police Department and worked on the drama series White Collar Blue. Her middle grade novel, WICKET SEASON was published in the Spring of 2012 with Lorimer Publishers. AUDACIOUS and its sequel CAPRICIOUS will be published by Orca Books in 2013 and 2014 respectively.

Gabrielle is also a creative writing teacher and mentor specializing in helping gifted young writers (11-21), reluctant writers of all ages and pre-literate writers up to age 7.

3 Comments on Using Acrostic Poetry Both In and Out of the Language Arts Classroom: Gabrielle Prendergast, last added: 4/10/2013
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39. Three Poems and Why I Know Them: Lisa Taylor

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I’ve known the birthdate of a casual acquaintance for 30 years, yet I don’t know that of a dear friend, only that he received his first driver’s license on the anniversary of Pearl Harbor Day.  Why? The juxtaposition of a “day of infamy” and the possibilities of a new driver’s license struck a wry chord in my teenaged brain. As for the acquaintance, he was born on the same date as the fictional Bilbo Baggins, someone with whom I am much closer. The reasons that I can recite three poems from memory after more than thirty years are as divergent as the poems themselves.  There are no lessons for teachers here.  I learned them through osmosis, spitefulness and happenstance, in much the same way that I remember birthdays.

In fifth grade, I had a teacher that I neither liked nor disliked.  In fact, I remember only one thing about her.  She had a haughty, old-school manner of speaking - except for one day, when her detached manner slipped away as she recited Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “The Arrow and the Song,”

I shot an arrow into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For, so swiftly it flew, the sight
Could not follow it in its flight.

I breathed a song into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For who has sight so keen and strong,
That it can follow the flight of song?

Long, long afterward, in an oak
I found the arrow, still unbroke;
And the song, from beginning to end,
I found again in the heart of a friend.

 It was the second verse that caught in my mind and my own thoughts soared like the song, out of a dreary 5th grade classroom and into the limitless sky.  Later, I taught myself the rest of the verses.  I’ve been able to recite it ever since.  I like it still. 

In Junior High School, I had an Algebra teacher that I disliked a great deal.  In the summers, he was a barker on the boardwalk at the Jersey Shore.  He was a wise guy in a tough school.  So was I.  One day he announced that anyone who could memorize and recite Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky” to the class on a pre-ordained date, would be exempt from taking an Algebra test.  After securing a copy of the poem, I realized what a challenge it would be.   Despite my disinclination toward public speaking and the difficulty in memorizing this poem in particular, he had thrown down the gauntlet and I would pick it up.


'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!"

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought—
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

And as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! and through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

"And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!"
He chortled in his joy.

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

I memorized and recited that poem.  I became interested in the works of Lewis Carroll.  I asked for a book of his collected works for Christmas.  I read them all, and I’ve never forgotten the poem. There are seldom opportunities for speaking it aloud, but imagine my surprise and delight when I saw Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland.  I smiled to myself, knowing that I was likely the only one in the theater who knew that the plot of the movie was not the book, Alice in Wonderland, but the poem, “Jabberwocky.” I knew the ending before the movie barely begun.

Chance brought me to the last poem in my verbal repertoire.  As a librarian, I know not to judge a book by its cover - but I still do.  As a teenager, I was perusing my local bookstore when I came upon a most appealing little book. It was cute, it was yellow, and from its cover, the pensive little man pondering the universe called out to me.  It begged to be read. The book was Grooks by Piet Hein, a Danish mathematician, inventor, scientist, designer, and yes, poet.  Grooks, I discovered, were a style of poem invented by Hein, rhyming aphorisms, really.  They were clever and succinct, and I loved them.  For over 30 years, one Grook has stayed with me.  I recite it aloud - to myself, to my children, to whoever is near whenever things don’t go as they’ve been carefully planned.


Our choicest plans
     have fallen through,
our airiest castles
     tumbled over,
because of lines
     we neatly drew
and later neatly
     stumbled over.

And so there are three; and more diverse they could not be:  “The Arrow and the Song,” “Jabberwocky,” “On Problems.”  Teachers and poets, take heart.  The mind is a curious thing.  You may not know what will unlock the mind’s door to receive your poems, but you can ensure that they keep knocking. Sooner or later, one (or three) will get in.

Lisa Taylor is a children’s librarian in New Jersey.  She blogs regularly at Shelf-employed and the ALSC Blog.  You can contact her on Twitter @shelfemployed.

10 Comments on Three Poems and Why I Know Them: Lisa Taylor, last added: 4/11/2013
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40. Words Inspiring Words: A Poem for Sharon Creech's LOVE THAT DOG

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My junior year in college I took my favorite course of all time, adolescent literature. It was the year I discovered books from my adolescence I hadn't known existed before, books like HATCHET and JACOB HAVE I LOVED. It was the year I fell in love with newer titles, like THE TRUE CONFESSIONS OF CHARLOTTE DOYLE and LONG NIGHT DANCE. It was the year Sharon Creech won the Newbery for her gorgeous WALK TWO MOONS.

I continued to read Sharon's books over the years, the impossible-to-put down ABSOLUTELY NORMAL CHAOS, the feels-like-home-to-this-gal-who-attended-international-school BLOOMABILITY, the simple and stunning verse novel, HEARTBEAT, and this gem, LOVE THAT DOG.

The poem below I started a few years ago after first reading DOG. Last year, after a second reading, I pulled it out and worked on it again.

With the #SharpSchu book club scheduled to discuss LOVE THAT DOG and MAY B. on April 24, this felt like the perfect time to share.

Thank you, Sharon, for writing words that pushed me to respond. The kindness of the children's literature community never ceases to touch me. Still pinching myself that the author I discovered in college knows who I am!

Words count.
All words,
and giving voice to those children
who don’t yet know their power
is to open the world. 

Mrs. Stretchberry
knows how to woo her student Jack,
understands how to draw from him
phrases that play with shapes and sounds,
stanzas that speak to the pain
of loss
and love
and memory.

During a school year 
where poetry is a regular part of things,
words work deep,
as Jack does 
from a boy who thinks 
writing poetry is to
to one who finds the courage --
through the structure, voice,
and style of others --
to speak his own.

Read the entire poem at Mr. Schu's Watch. Connect. Read.

8 Comments on Words Inspiring Words: A Poem for Sharon Creech's LOVE THAT DOG, last added: 4/9/2013
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41. Eight Things I Learned from My Cats about Writing Haiku (and a Giveaway): Lee Wardlaw

1.  There is no yesterday; there is no tomorrow. There is only you, scratching me under my chin right now.

The best haiku emerge from a right-this-instant experience – or from a memory of that experience.  Always use present tense to heighten immediacy and authenticity in your poems.

2.  When poised at a hole, remain still – and use your ears, eyes, nose, whiskers and mouth to detect a lurking gopher.

Observation is crucial to haiku. One must quiet the mind and use all five (or more!) senses to absorb, appreciate, and anchor the moment.

3.  Be patient. Then, when least expected – pounce!

Haiku captures a moment in time, revealing a surprise or evoking a response of a-ha! or ahhh. This pounce helps the reader awaken and experience the ordinary in an extraordinary way.
4.  Most cats have18 toes – unless we’re polydactyl; then we might have 20, 22, even 28 toes!

Japanese haiku feature a total of seventeen beats or sound units: five in the first line, seven in the second, five again in the third. This 5-7-5 form doesn’t apply to American haiku, however, because of differences in English phonics, vocabulary, grammar and syntax. Forcing an unnecessary adjective or adverb into a haiku simply to meet the 17-beats rule can ruin the flow, brevity and meaning of your poem. So feel free to experiment with any pattern you prefer (ie; 2-3-2, 5-6-4, 4-7-3) – provided the structure remains two short lines separated by a longer one. Remember: what’s most important here is not syllables but the essence of a chosen moment.

5.  When I’m out, I want in; when I’m in, I want out. Mostly, I want out. That’s where the rats, gophers, lizards, snakes, bugs and birds are.

Traditional haiku focus on themes of nature, and always include a kigo or ‘season’ word. This doesn’t mean you must be explicit about the weather or time of year. A sensorial hint (ie; a green leaf versus one that is russet-colored) is all that’s needed.

6.  What part of meow don’t you understand?

Tease a cat and it won’t bother to holler – it will bite and scratch. It shows its annoyance rather than tells.  Good haiku follows suit. Instead of explaining, haiku illustrates a meaning or emotion through vivid imagery. Your poems should create a mental picture that captures the resulting feeling it evokes.

7.  If you refuse to play with me, I will snooze on your keyboard, flick pens off your desk, and gleefully shed into your printer.

Yes, haiku has ‘rules’, but remember to play! Use words as toys, and frolic with them in new ways to portray images, emotions, themes, conflicts and character.

8.  When in doubt, nap.
Good writing comes from revising. Set aside your poems and allow them to ‘nap’ for a few days. Then revise them with rested eyes, alert ears and a fresh mind.  And if too much rewriting causes the weary, bleary blues, well, there’s always that comfy looking couch…

Lee Wardlaw is generously offering a signed copy of her picture book WON TON -- A CAT TALE TOLD IN HAIKU  (winner of the 2012 Lee Bennett Hopkins Children's Poetry Award and the 2012 Myra Cohn Livingston Poetry Award) for one reader. Leave a comment below to enter. The contest closes Monday, 8 April. US residents only, please.

Lee Wardlaw claims that her first spoken word was ‘kitty’. Since then, she’s shared her life with 30 cats (not all at the same time!), and published close to 30 award-winning books for young readers.  Her picture book WON TON – A CAT TALE TOLD IN HAIKU won the 2012 Lee Bennett Hopkins Children’s Poetry Award and the 2012 Myra Cohn Livingston Poetry Award. A companion title, WON TON AND CHOPSTICK, will be published by Holt in 2015.

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14 Comments on Eight Things I Learned from My Cats about Writing Haiku (and a Giveaway): Lee Wardlaw, last added: 4/7/2013
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42. Coming Back to Poetry and Leaving the Textbook Behind: Paul Hankins

In Room 407 each fall, I begin the first couple of class meetings with a poem. Perhaps I start off the class kind of quietly bringing everyone in the room into the moment I launch into a reading of James W. Hall’s “Maybe Dat’s Your Pwoblem Too,” Elmer Fudd-like impediments and all. 

And poetry can be about subjects like self-identification and the difficulty that comes of attempting to “burn our suits.” And if that suit is sewn together with a hatred of poetry, you can easily find your kin in just about any given English classroom as you might a swoosh on several pairs of sneakers.

The next class meeting, I might mysteriously roll up a piece of newspaper walking up and down the rows asking for a volunteer for a poem I would like to share. Students in Room 407 look at me a little sheepishly as a 6’3” 250 pound man asks for volunteers while he swats his own palm with a rolled up newspaper. It’s very early in the year, you must understand. This is a time of great risk.

And opportunity. 

To introduce poetry.

And when I have my volunteer, I share Taylor Mali’s “Falling in Love is Like Owning a Dog” from his poetry collection, What Learning Leaves. When the moment comes that the whole class realizes that this might not be an act and a classmate might really get a rolled-up newspaper to the nose. . .
Well. . .we’ve hooked them.

Early on. 

Onto poetry.

As the lead learner, I recognize that an appreciation of poetry must begin within those very first days of class vs. the tradition of approach of waiting until April to find out that most of the students hate poetry.

Hate poetry.

My students come to me hating poetry.

As a lead learner, you can almost see the faces go blank upon the mention of the word “poetry” like an electronic device that has just gone into its default rest mode.

As a poet, I cannot help to feel a little heart-broken. Poets are like this. We tend to wear embellishments—to include our hearts—upon thin gossamer sleeves. We are fragile when we encounter something as anti-poetical as “hate.” I cannot even bring myself to say something teacher-like such as “Well. . .I’ll tell you what. . .I’ll love it and you learn it.”

This is not what a learning community looks like. And poetry tends to shrivel up and die, pressed like dried leaves between the pages of textbooks that will be stacked in piles at the end of the school year. This keeps the poems preserved for another group in the off chance that perhaps they will appreciate them. 

But this is not where poetry lives. At least not for this poet. 

This might be because I have yet to become anthologized. When this day comes, I may have to finally purchase a textbook. 

Wait. . .they would tell me first, right? I want to make sure that I have a good headshot vs. one of those artist renderings of the poet in the thumbnail by the poem. 

Ever notice that the questions related to the poem designed to make sure that students have read the poem take up more space upon a textbook page than the poem itself.

I hate that. 

And I will give a nod to the canon as a poet and as a scholar. Students need to know about Whitman, Frost, Dickinson, Hughes, Giovanni. . .

But when it comes to bringing poetry to an audience that brings a predisposition of dismissal of poetry in their toolboxes, I go with performance and spoken word poetry every time.

One of the poems we have had great success (if success is measured by the number of students that requested a repeat of the poem or those same students who sat with heightened attention during the TED Talk that showed the actual poet reading his piece. . .or the number of students that went home and favorited the poem at Twitter or posted it to their Facebook and Pinterest profiles) with this year is Shane Koyczan’s “To This Day.” The internet community has embraced this spoken word piece as a sort of anthem for the bullied and the animated version of the poem has gone viral in the past couple of months since its initial posting. 

I wonder if students make their “hatred of poetry” manifest in their walking up to the front of the room to gather up tissues for one another as they wipe their ironically-detached eyes from the humidity in the room. It’s either poetry or pollen counts. And since the day we shared Shane’s piece in the room was the coldest day of the season in southern Indiana, I would give poetry a point here. Be sure to watch Shane’s TED Talk to see how he seamlessly moves into his performance piece after a bit of monologue. Stick around until the end to see the humble response of this poet to an audience of professionals in their respective fields who honor Shane’s poem with a standing ovation.

U. S. Poet Laureate Ted Kooser once intimated that poetry isn’t something one could trade for a tank of gas so poetry is very little use to the public. And I agree with this appraisal of the genre, until we unpack the genre for what is most useful to us. The need for succinct connection that—sometimes—only poetry can provide.

In Room 407, we have the following DVDs in our library: LOUDER THAN A BOMB, TAYLOR MALI AND FRIENDS, THE UNITED STATES OF POETRY, Various Individual World Poetry Slam DVDs, and a host of other poetry related documentaries and offerings. I encourage my students to think about poetry they have only read before and to give that same poetry a turn in an audio format. You’d be surprised how many students who say they at least like Shel Silverstein have never HEARD Shel Silverstein. We make sure students hear Shel in Room 407.

We have audio readings in collections like The Caedmon Poetry Reading collection (which includes a wax recorded Walt Whitman). We have THE VOICE OF LANGSTON HUGHES. We have HOWL on CD. Since I have older students in the room, I share bold and brave recorded pieces like the William S. Burroughs “The Priest They Called Him” with Curt Kobain playing guitar underneath the reading. I bring in the graphic novel adaptations of HOWL and Other Poems by Erik Drooker. 

We flood Room 407 with poetry. We have at least one collection for each of the NCTE Award Winners for Excelllence in Poetry for Children on our shelves. We stay current with new releases such as those by the Children’s Poet Laureate or titles like FOREST HAS A SONG by first-time author and poet, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater.

My students come to at least a “like” of poetry because their teacher is a poet. And I don’t think that every lead learner has to be a poet in order to appreciate poetry, but can you at least sense that it goes a long way to demonstrate to your learning community that you follow the current trends of poetry vs. filing away the same pieces we might have shared out of a sense of tradition?

By the time you have an opportunity to read this post, Room 407 will have been recognized as a Spotlight Feature on the Mattie J. T. Stepanek Foundation website. Mattie is another poet we introduce our students to early on in the year. Mattie’s Heartsongs series of books brings many of our students back to poetry. We are super excited to not only rekindle a love for poetry in the room, but to be part of a larger community of peace and poetry that honors a poetic voice taken from us far, far too soon. 

I promised Caroline that this would not go long. . .and look. . .I got all excited here. . .I would like to end the post with a list—at least—of cannot miss poems that we have shared in Room 407:

“Weather is Here; Wish You Were Beautiful” by Rachel McKibbens (Pink Elephant)
“Elephant” by Joaquin Zihuatanejo
This is a Suit” by Joaquin Zihuatanejo
Where I’m From” by George Ella Lyon (from THE UNITED STATES OF POETRY)
“To This Day” by Shane Koyczan

Paul W. Hankins teaches 11th grade English and AP ENGLISH LANGUAGE AND COMPOSITION at Silver Creek High School in southern Indiana. A presenter on education topics at the local, regional, state, and national level, Paul’s passion is for kids and books and bringing the two together. Paul lives with his wife, Kristie, children Noah (12) and Maddie (10), two cats (Butterfinger and KitKat) and a hoplessly-devoted dog (Mia). You can friend or follow Paul at Twitter and Facebook. He is very easy to find on the internet under the name, Paul W. Hankins. 

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43. Opening the Heart of Character Through Poetry: Jennifer Gennari

Meditate, Louise Hawes said. What? 

Some writers take acting classes to find a character’s voice, said my then teacher at Vermont College of Fine Arts, but her favorite method was meditation. When you close your eyes and breathe, she promised, you will become your character.

Not me. I was too fidgety; I felt ridiculous sitting on the sofa. 

But my writing was flat in my work in progress. I was describing events more than living them through the eyes of Dillon, my protagonist. I was decades away from adolescence, and I needed to get in touch with my inner 13-year-old boy.

The cure? Poetry.

Poetry works as a path to the heart of a character because it requires you to focus on specifics. The red wheelbarrow. A Bird on the Walk. Writing down what you observe in a finite group of words is the beginning of a poem. As Ted Kooser noted in The Poetry Home Repair Manual, “Meaning arrives almost unbidden from an accumulation of specific details.”

Good poetry cannot have generalities. Something stops your mind—a broken laundry basket on the highway median, a hand gripping a child’s lunchbox—and it evokes something in you. Mary Oliver observed, “the poet used the actual, known event or experience to elucidate the inner, invisible experience.” 

We know our own internal landscape. The trick, then, is to uncover the invisible landscape of your character. What telling detail will trigger an emotional response in your character? 

This exercise has worked for me over and over. I don’t always love the poem I’ve written at the end, but I always feel a new connection to what my character wants. And not coincidentally, the poem usually gives me a scene idea. The specificity of the images gives my character something to do. It’s through doing that character is revealed. 

Here’s what happened when I wrote in the voice of Dillon:
Clean Shaven

Mom told me
he shaved off his moustache
right before he left
for Desert Storm

I hold his photo
next to my face
Our eyes match
My nose is hooked 
like his

I jut my chin out
checking for a shadow
I run my hand down
my cheek 
It’s smooth
like his
in the soldier picture

Ten years gone but
everyone will see
we are father and son

Immediately I knew the core of my novel. The story, which had many other plot twists, was fundamentally about the rebuilding of the relationship between Dillon and his father. Dillon’s every action must stem from a desire to please his father.

So if you are stuck, write a poem. Take a close-up of your character. The short form requires words with impact. Verbs and nouns can’t be weak; the sound and rhythm of the phrases must sing. Words are what matter, after all. Slowly, word by word, sentence by sentence, you will write a novel with characters made real by specific details. 

And if it doesn’t work, try meditating.

Jennifer Gennari is the author of My Mixed-Up Berry Blue Summer (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2012), an Association of Booksellers for Children Spring 2012 New Voices title and an American Library Association Rainbow List title. A graduate of Vermont College of Fine Arts and a former reporter, her poems have appeared in the Marin.

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44. It's All in What You See

Remember this heart on the underside of my ice cream lid? (Some of you saw it as a squirrel or a rabbit on the move.)
Here's a sideways heart in an unexpected place.

2 Comments on It's All in What You See, last added: 3/22/2013
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45. Two Opportunities to Win a Copy of MAY B.

Author Megan Spooner is featuring my writing space at her blog this week. Stop by to have a look and enter to win a copy of MAY B. The winner will also receive a copy of my Navigating a Debut Year mini-poster (in the turquoise frame below).

Librarian Mr. Schu along with teacher Mr. Sharp of the #SharpSchu Book Club, have just announced the books they'll discuss for National Poetry Month : Sharon Creech's LOVE THAT DOG and MAY B.! Mr. Schu is giving away copies of both books at his blog, Watch. Connect. Read. Enter to win and please consider joining us on Twitter April 24 at 8:00 EST, hashtag #SharpSchu.

1 Comments on Two Opportunities to Win a Copy of MAY B., last added: 3/22/2013
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46. In Which Katherine Applegate Speaks For Me About Structure, Plot, and Writing

Why did you decide to write the story in a sort of prose poetry form? Was it just to give Ivan a believable voice, or was there another reason?

I am not entirely sure. I tend to look at structure before I look even at plot,* which is probably why plot is a struggle for me.** I think about what the book looks like and how it feels.*** Maybe that discipline is helpful for me in terms of finding the right words.

But when I look at big sprawly novels, sometimes… my husband just finished [writing] 500 pages. I marvel at it, because it’s so symphony and I’m so chamber music.**** I just don’t think that way, and it seemed really appropriate that since I was working with an animal voice that it would be small and poetic.

Read the rest of the interview at School Library Journal's Meet the Latest Newbery Winner: How Katherine Applegate Created a Modern-Day Classic

** oh, yes
*** yes siree

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47. Writing Links

Why Older Readers Should Read Picture Books :: Literacy, Families and Learning

8 Ways to Be a Happy Author :: Rachelle Gardner

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48. April is for Poetry and Lucy Maud

There will be two concurrent features on the blog next month. We will continue with The Lucy Maud Montgomery Journals Read Along, with the introductory post running April 1 and the discussion post April 29. We'll take off the month of May and resume reading Volume III in June.

If you're interested in learning more, click through to the idea behind the read along and the reading schedule.

The rest of April will be devoted to National Poetry Month. There will be a variety of posts from poets, authors, readers, and teachers talking about their experiences with poetry. And there will be a really fun giveaway. More on all this in the days to come.

Here's a Lucy Maud Montgomery quote that nicely ties the month together:
I love best the poets who hurt me -- who offer me the roses of their thoughts with the sharp thorn among them, piercing to the bone and marrow. When in reading a poem I come across some line or couplet that thrusts itself into my heart with a stab of deadly pain -- then is my soul knit unto the soul of that poet forevermore. Browning hurts me worse than any poet I have ever read -- and so I love him most.

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49. The Lucy Maud Montgomery Journals Read Along: Volume II Introduction

Miss the introductory or discussion posts for Volume I? Need the reading schedule for the entire read along? Click through!

Volume II cover years 1910-1921 and picks up with thirty-five year-old Maud still living in her childhood home caring for her grandmother, as she had for over a decade. Though she was a best selling author, life was very much the same (ANNE OF GREEN GABLES, published in 1908, had already gone into numerous print runs and brought her $7,000 in royalties early in 1910 -- "an enormous figure in a province where the average yearly income for a working woman was less than $300").

Major change was ahead: her grandmother's death (March 1911); marriage to Ewan MacDonald, who had been engaged to Maud since 1906 (July 1911); a European honeymoon; a move to Leaksdale, Ontario, where she set up her first home and stepped into the role of minister's wife; and the birth of her two boys (1912 and 1915 -- Maud lost another son to stillbirth in 1914).

The journal also covers Maud's agony over the first World War, a whirlwind trip to Boston to meet her crafty and not always above board editor with the L. C. Page Company, the discovery of her husband's mental illness, and the further facing of her own.

More and more, her journal became a place of escape, "a secret release for her thoughts," a rich resource for writing material, a source of companionship, "a rich record of motherhood," and an honest glimpse into "the life of a working writer."

I picked up Volume II a few weeks ago and am happily settled back in with Maud. For those of you reading, I look forward to hearing what you've taken from your readings when we meet for our discussion post on April 29. If you're finding yourself behind schedule, it's no big deal. Read in a way you can enjoy, and if you feel so inclined, come back at a later date to read posts you've missed.

For those of you not reading, it has been wonderful to hear your enthusiasm for and interest in these posts in person, via email, and in comments. I'm glad you're able to get a sense of Maud's life through what's being shared here.

Remember, throughout the month I post quotess on Twitter (#lmmjournals) and on my May B. Facebook page. Happy reading, and please spread the word!

The work for which we are fitted -- which we are sent into this world to do -- what a blessing it is and what fulness of joy it holds! 
-- Lucy Maud Montgomery, May 23, 1910

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50. Welcome to National Poetry Month (and a Giveaway)

I've been preparing behind the scenes since January, working with eighteen different teachers, readers, librarians, authors, and poets to bring you their thoughts on poetry. For the rest of the month* this space will be devoted to their words. I'm excited to share these wonderful posts with you and to join in the discussion !

4/3 -- Jennifer Gennari :: Opening the Heart of Characters Through Poetry
4/4 -- Paul Hankins :: Coming Back to Poetry and Leaving the Textbook Behind
4/5 -- Lee Wardlaw :: 8 Things I Learned From My Cats About Writing Haiku
4/6 -- Caroline Starr Rose :: Words Inspiring Words -- a Poem for Sharon Creech's LOVE THAT DOG 
4/8 -- Lisa Taylor :: Three Poems and Why I Know Them
4/9 -- Gabrielle Prendergast :: Using Acrostic Poetry Both In and Out of the Language Arts Classroom
4/10 -- Paul Janeczko :: Poetry is to Share
4/11 -- Rosanne Parry :: The Reluctant Poet
4/12 -- Anne Greenwood Brown :: Victorian Poets and Paranormal Romance
4/15 -- Jessica Bell :: The Vignette
4/16 -- Augusta Scattergood :: Learning by Heart
4/17 -- Robert L. Forbes :: Looking Out the Window
4/18 -- Laurel Garver :: Stories that Sing -- Poems with a Plot
4/19 -- Amy Ludwig VanDerwater :: Poem Spools -- Stitch by Stitch
4/22 -- Jayne Jaudon Ferrer :: C'mon, Give It Another Chance
4/23 -- Margaret Simon :: The ABC's of Poetry
4/24 -- Kathryn Fitzmaurice :: On Destiny and Emily Dickinson
4/25 -- Kathryn Burak :: First Poems and My Mother -- The Sleever and Muse
4/26 -- Theresa Milstein :: Becoming
4/30 -- Giveaway winner announced

*4/29 We will return to our Lucy Maud Montgomery Read Along discussion briefly before the final poetry post on 4/30.

Enter to win this fun Emily Dickinson tote (which also includes information on Kathryn Burak's book, EMILY'S DRESS AND OTHER MISSING THINGS)

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