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1. The Poetry Friday Anthology for Middle School



Attention, fabulous teachers and poetry fans! Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong have compiled poetry and written accompanying teaching aides for middle schoolers. I'm happy to say I was included in the collection. Yay! So check it out, recommend it, and enrich your Poetry Fridays with this beautiful release.

The Poetry Friday Anthology for Middle School
by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong
Pomelo Press, 2013

LorieAnncard2010small.jpg image by readergirlz

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2. PaperTigers 10th Anniversary: Top 10 Multicultural Children’s Books about Food – Double Helpings from Grace Lin and Jama Rattigan

We are extra lucky today as not one but two experts have concocted a gourmet feast of their Top 10 favourite multicultural stories about food.  It seems fitting that authors Grace Lin and Jama Rattigan should each select food as their theme, since they have both written stories revolving around tasty recipes – as you will discover by looking at each of their menus.  In fact, each has put a book by the other on her menu, while unaware that the other was cooking up their own recipe, so it seems fitting that we should bring you the whole spread for you to gorge on at a single sitting – and it’s also interesting to see which books come up as double portions…

Jama Rattigan is the author of Dumpling Soup illustrated by Lilian Hsu-Flanders (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 1998);  The Woman in the Moon: A Story from Hawai’i illustrated by Carla Golembe (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 1996); and Truman’s Aunt Farm illustrated by G. Brian Karas (Sandpiper, 1996).  As well as her website (check out the recipe for Dumpling Soup), Jama also hosts the truly delectable Jama’s Alphabet Soup, a must-visit blog for anyone interested in children’s books, food, or both at the same time.

Grace Lin‘s latest book is Starry River of the Sky (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2012), the much-awaited companion novel to Newbery Honor Where the Mountain Meets the Moon (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2009).  She has written and illustrated many books for a wide age-range of children, including The Ugly Vegetables (Charlesbridge Publishing, 1999) and Dim Sum for Everyone (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2001); and picture books she has illustrated include Where on Earth is my Bagel? by Frances and Ginger Park (Lee & Low Books, 2001).  You can read our 2010 interview with Grace here, and view some of her beautiful artwork in our Gallery here and here.  And do check out Grace’s website and blog, where she has a fantastic giveaway on offer in celebration of the launch of Starry River of the Sky.

Top 10 Favorite Multicultural Picture Books about Food by Jama Rattigan

Whether it’s a big platter of noodles, warm-from-the-oven flatbread, fried dumplings, or a steamy bowl of Ugly Vegetable Soup, there’s nothing tastier than a picture book about food. You eat with your eyes first, then step into the kitchens or sit at the tables of friends and family from faraway places, all of whom seem to agree that love is the best seasoning for any dish, and food tastes best when it is happily shared. These tasty tales always make me say, “More, please!”

~ Apple Pie Fourth of July by Janet S. Wong and Margaret Chodos-Irvine (Harcourt, 2002)

~ Aunty Yang’s Great Soybean Picnic by Ginnie Lo and Beth Lo (Lee & Low, 2012)

~ Bee-Bim Bop! by Linda Sue Park and Ho Baek Lee (Clarion, 2005)

~ Cora Cooks Pancit by Dorina K. Lazo Gilmore and Kristi Valiant (Shen’s Books, 2009)

~ Duck for Turkey Day by Jacqueline Jules and Kathryn Mitter (Albert Whitman, 2009)

~ Hiromi’s Hands by Lynne Barasch (Lee & Low, 2007)

~ Hot, Hot Roti for Dada-ji by F. Zia and Ken Min (Lee & Low, 2011)

~ The Have a Good Day Café by Frances Park and Ginger Park, illustrated by Katherine Potter (Lee & Low, 2005)

~ The Ugly Vegetables by Grace Lin (Charlesbridge, 1999)

~ Too Many Tamales by Gary Soto and Ed Martinez (Putnam, 1993)

 

 

My Top Ten Food-Themed Multicultual Books by Grace Lin

In my family instead of saying hello, we say, “Have you eaten yet?” Eating and food has always been a successful way to connect us to culture, familiar as well as exotic–perhaps because it’s so enjoyable! So these books about food can be an appetizer to another country, a comfort food of nostalgia or a delicious dessert of both. Hen hao chi!

~ Hiromi’s Hands by Lynne Barasch (Lee & Low, 2007)

~ Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth by Sanjay Patel and Emily Haynes, illustrated by Sanjay Patel (Chronicle Books, 2012)

~ Bee-Bim Bop! by Linda Sue Park,illustrated Ho Baek Lee (Clarion, 2005)

~ How My Parents Learned to Eat by Ina R. Friedman, illustrated by Allan Say (Sandpiper, 1987)

~ Apple Pie Fourth of July by Janet Wong, illustrated by Margaret Chodos-Irvine (Harcourt, 2002)

~ Everybody Cooks Rice by Norah Dooley, illustrated by Peter Thornton (Carolrhoda Books, 1992)

~ Yoko by Rosemary Wells (Hyperion, 1998)

~ Auntie Yang’s Great Soybean Picnic by Ginnie and Beth Lo (Lee & Low, 2012)

~ Peiling and the Chicken-Fried Christmas by Pauline Chen (Bloomsbury, 2007)

~ Dumpling Soup by Jama K. Rattigan, illustrated by Lillian Hsu Flanders (Little, Brown, 1998)

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3. BOOK GIVEAWAY--Declaration of Interdependence: Poems for an Election Year by Janet Wong



 
Declaration of Interdependencewould be an excellent book to use in a middle grade classroom to spark a discussion about this year’s presidential election, voting and voting rights, electoral votes, and choosing a candidate—and a great way to integrate poetry and social studies!

Here’s one of the poems from the book:
Make Your Ballot Count
By Janet Wong

Darken the circles completely
(neatly, not outside the lines).

If you don’t know what to do
ask the helpers (follow the signs).

When you punch the holes, be firm
(no worm-like hanging chad).

When your vote is done,
your vote is gone.

A wrong vote? That’s too bad.
A wasted vote: so sad.

 
BOOK GIVEAWAY: I have three copies of Declaration of Interdependence (kindness of Janet Wong) to give away. If you’d like to have a chance to win a copy of the book, all you have to do is to leave a comment on this post. I’ll enter the names of all those who comment into a drawing and announce the names of the winners next Friday.

Be sure to visit Janet’s The Declaration of Interdependence Blog.


About the blog: This community is dedicated to exploring topics raised in DECLARATION OF INTERDEPENDENCE: Poems for an Election Year by me (Janet Wong). In this book, you'll find topics such as liberty, the election, voting rights of kids, how to choose a president, the electoral vote, and more. Thanks for stopping by, and please jump in with your comments. Whether you're 9 years old or 90, we want to know what you're thinking!

 

 

12 Comments on BOOK GIVEAWAY--Declaration of Interdependence: Poems for an Election Year by Janet Wong, last added: 10/11/2012
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4. Poetry Friday: The Poetry Friday Anthology compiled by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong

Author and educator Sylvia Vardell has just announced some exciting news on her blog Poetry for Children!  She and her friend/author Janet Wong have collaborated on another wonderful project:  The Poetry Friday Anthology.

The Poetry Friday Anthology is a new anthology of 218 original poems for children in kindergarten through fifth grade by 75 popular poets including J. Patrick Lewis, Jack Prelutsky, Jane Yolen, Margarita Engle, X. J. Kennedy, Kathi Appelt, Guadalupe Garcia McCall, Georgia Heard and Nikki Grimes and many more.

The book includes a poem a week for the whole school year (K-5) with curriculum connections provided for each poem, each week, each grade level. Just five minutes every “Poetry Friday” will reinforce key skills in reading and language arts such as rhyme, repetition, rhythm, alliteration, etc.

Thanks to the lovely blog world of the “kidlitosphere,” I’ve been a fan of “Poetry Friday” since the beginning (in 2006). The idea of pausing for poetry every Friday is so appealing to me, maybe because Friday has always been my favorite day of the week. I think it is a natural fit for busy teachers and librarians who can build on that Poetry Friday tradition by incorporating a weekly poetry break into their regular routines. That’s the first “hook” in our book– the idea of sharing a poem every Friday! (More often is even better, but Friday is the hook!)

The other hook is the call for connecting with the new Common Core standards (and in Texas where the Common Core was not adopted– don’t get me started– connecting with the TEKS, Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills). We’ve always had curricular standards of one kind or another, but poetry hasn’t always been an explicit component. It is now! Of course this worries me a bit as poetry may also be abused and butchered in the name of test preparation. But the challenge is to provide guidance in sharing poetry that respects the integrity of the poem, celebrating the pleasures of language, while reinforcing the necessary skills. That’s the second book “hook”– we’ve tied every poem in The Poetry Friday Anthology to the Common Core standards (and TEKS standards in Texas) for poetry.

This book is first and foremost a quality anthology of 218 original poems for children written by 75 of today’s most popular poets. Children in any state (or country) can enjoy, explore, and respond to these poems. However, we have also come to realize that educators, librarians, and parents are looking for guidance in how to share poetry with children and teach the skills within the curriculum as well. Thus, this book offers both. It’s part poetry collection and part professional resource guide– quality poetry plus curriculum-based suggestions for helping children enjoy and understand poetry more deeply.

You’ll find more information about the book at the PoetryFridayAnthology blog here. Our official launch date is Sept. 1 when we hope to offer an e-book version of the book as well– projectable and searchable! But the print version of the book is available NOW to help jumpstart the school year with poetry. I’ll also be posting a few nuggets from the book here in the near future– as well as more about our new joint publishing venture, Pomelo Books.

This week’s Poetry Friday is hosted by Dori Reads so head on over and see what treasures are in store.

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5. Poetry Friday power-up!



The Poetry Friday Anthology:
Poems for the School Year
with Connections to the Common Core

compiled by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong
Pomelo Books 2012 -- official release date September 1

This supremely practical anthology, which will be available in both soft-cover book and e-book versions, is the latest feat of  magic worked by that Daring Duo of Poetry, Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong.

It contains 218 new poems by 75 of the best poets now writing for children, but unlike other quality anthologies of literary poetry, this one is organized with the busy classroom teacher in mind (and I should know).  In other words, it's the best of educational and literary publishing all rolled into one lively package!

It includes 36 poems for each grade level K-5, which is one for each week of a standard 180-day school year.  Even better, the poems have been organized according to broad themes that repeat for each grade level, so that in Week 1, all grade levels enjoy a "School" poem, in Week 18 every kid K-5 gets a "Human Body" poem, and in Week 29 there are poems about...poetry!  There are heartfelt and serious poems under themes like "A Kinder Place" and "Families," and hootingly playful poems under "Stuff We Love" and "Nonsense."  By the end of the school year, when kids have had lots of poetry experience, the themes are related to poetic devices such as "Metaphor and Simile" and "Personification," addressed at accessible levels.   

For the few teachers who are truly poetry-phobic, this anthology is a gift.  It says, "Take a few minutes just one day a week to make poetry your focus...we'll help you do it right, do it in community, and enjoy all the rewards!"  To support the less confident, each poem comes with 5 quick tips for sharing, teaching, enjoying:

*a hook for introducing the poem,
*a developmentally appropriate way for students to join in reading and speaking the poem,
*ideas for discussion and teachable moments,
*and finally, a connection to another poem in the anthology or another poetry book to explore.

Of course, many more teachers will be doing as I'll do, dipping in here and there to select poems not by week but by theme, and looking beyond my own grade level to find other gems that I'll bring into our curriculum through content connections, writing and performance.   I'll be highlighting some of my favorites in coming posts, and you can bet that those of us contributors who also participate in Poetry Friday in the Kidlitosphere will be sharing more tips and tricks and on their blogs, too!

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6. Poetry Friday: Christmas Troll, Gift Tag



Hey rgz!


Did you see the holiday e-poetry collection, Gift Tag? It was compiled by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong. I'm so happy to be in this work with other poets who write for children and young adults. Each entry was motivated by an image. You might click and purchase the book for yourself and gift it to others for just $2.99. It's spot on for little ones and older readers. Gift Tag is full of holiday memories, thoughts, and wishes you'll want to read again and again. You will love it! As a teaser, here's my entry. Happy Poetry Friday!

7. Poetry Friday and Children’s E-Books: Interview with Janet Wong

Continuing our exploration of the world of e-books for children, we’re asking practitioners and people on the ground about some of the challenges and triumphs for them personally, as well as for the children’s publishing industry as a whole.

Today we have with us Janet Wong, former lawyer turned children’s book author of numerous books, including A Suitcase of Seaweed, Me and Rolly Maloo, Twist: Yoga Poems, and Once Upon a Tiger, an illustrated e-book poetry collection about endangered animals, as well as three e-poetry collections, co-designed and edited with Sylvia Vardell: Poetry Tag Time, p*tag and the recently released Gift Tag. Janet’s many awards include the International Reading Association’s “Celebrate Literacy Award”.

We first interviewed Janet in 2008 and it’s great to welcome her back to PaperTigers to talk here about her experiences with e-books.

***

What was your inspiration for writing e-books? Was that your intention from the get-go, or was there an evolution in your creative process?

Sylvia Vardell and I hatched our PoetryTagTime project one year ago at the NCTE convention with one simple goal: to make poetry an impulse buy. Poetry books are too often neglected, left to collect dust on bookshelves. We wanted people to hear about our books, read a sample poem, click “buy” (for no more than the cost of a cup of coffee)–and fall in love with poetry!

Children’s books, particularly picture books, present specific challenges to the e-book industry in terms of faithful reproduction of art and story. They also present exciting opportunities for new forms of interaction. What limitations or challenges, expected or unexpected, have you personally experienced creating e-books for children, and in turn, what benefits have you discovered as compared to printed books?

Designing for the small black-and-white screen of the Kindle isn’t easy, especially since you can’t know what size font a reader will choose. A child who chooses a large font might end up breaking a poem’s lines in places where a line break might be, well, ugly. For our third PoetryTagTime venture, GIFT TAG, Sylvia came up with the name “Kindleku” to describe the form that we “invented” for the Kindle screen. This form allows a maximum of 10 lines and 25 characters per line (including spaces)–the most that will fit on a Kindle screen when it is set at Font Size 6 (though Font Size 4 is, in my opinion, the best size for reading most e-books). Douglas Florian called this form the “Kindlekuku” and we acknowledge in the intro that it was cuckoo to limit our poets to 250 characters per poem–but we think the poems are terrific!

Particularly in English-speaking countries, a common concern is the lack of diversity in children’s books. How do you think e-books might address such concerns, and how has your work engaged with issues of multicultural children’s books? 

More and more people are discovering the authors in themselves and soon will be using e-books to make their voices and stories heard. This is such an exciting time to be involved with books. There will be lots of awful books, just as there are lots of awful YouTube videos–but there will also be indie-pub

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8. e-troducing the e-book

[Sara Hudson joined our team of contributors last year, bringing her perception and love of children's books to the book reviews she has written for us. You can read more about her on our About Us page, including an allusion to her travels that have centered on book collections around the world (and, in fact, we first met Sara at the International Youth Library stand at the Bologna Book Fair last year...). With this post, Sara introduces a short series focusing on e-books for children that will include an overview of multicultural e-books and interviews with two authors who have embraced the e-book format, Janet Wong and Hazel Edwards.

- Marjorie]

e-troducing the e-book

The degree to which debates about e-books can polarize begins to make sense after we consider how we often frame their presence as a question of alleged murder. “Will the e-book kill off traditional books?” It’s the perennial question at the front of the mind of cultural critics and librarians hovering at the back of any crowd rushing out for the latest Kindle, iPad, Nook or other e-reader. In turn, the question of e-books draws its roots from deeper long-standing concerns, those surrounding the question “Is the book dead?”

Despite decades of worry, the book is not, in fact, dead; nor has the e-book yet killed off traditional books.  E-books developed from work in the mid-1970s to create image- and text-based publications for computers – themselves still a fairly new and ungainly technology. Advances in technologies and software programs ricocheted the development of e-books and their subsequent e-readers forward in the 1990s. Today e-books are visual and/or aural publications readable on digital devices, which often cost a fraction of the price of traditional books, and offer the advantage of portability and accessibility to large numbers of texts at once.

That said, the e-book industry remains in its infancy, and its approach to all books, especially those for infants and children, evolves every day.  E-book readers pose considerable technical issues. Amazon and Apple, two companies historically known not to play well with others, if at all, both have proprietary restrictions, so buyers can only read book purchases on Kindles or iPads, respectively (although you can download a Kindle reader to your PC). Additionally, as evidenced by the overarching debate about e-books, “Will they kill off traditional books?”, e-books evoke enormous emotional responses from readers. “Traditional” readers argue, for example, that reading a book on a machine cannot substitute for reading a physical book, that the medium is part of the message, that a machine is a sterile substitute for the tactile experience of reading.

The emotional questions of e-books reveal themselves nowhere as strongly as they do with e-books for children, particularly picture books aimed at early readers. As this recent article from The New York Times reports, “[e-books for children] represent less than 5 percent of total annual sales of children’s books, several publishers estimated, compared with more than 25 percent in some categories of adult books.” Children’s e-books present practical arguments (teething toddlers + expensive electronics = definite disaster), practical unknowns (when do bells and whistles enhance and when do they distract?), and questions of the practices of adults themselves, particularly those of middle class income, many of whom rely on their own ability to flip through a book – or that of a librarian, teacher, or fellow parent –

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9. Poetry Friday: p*tag compiled by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong

I’ve just bought my first e-book.  I realise that might fill some people with horror at how long it’s taken me to jump on the bandwagon, but it was always going to have to be something special that would propel me into action.  Perhaps if I spent more time on public transport, I might have succumbed to an e-reader by now, but as it is…  Anyway, I’ve just downloaded the free Kindle for PC and have taken the leap, tempted as I was by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong‘s e-book p*tag. It’s an exciting anthology of 31 poems newly written and published to coincide with National Teen Read Week this month in the US: “the first ever electronic poetry anthology of new poems by top poets for teens” – and wow, what a roll of poets it is: check it out here.

Following on from the success of their PoetryTagTime project of children’s poetry in April during the US’s national poetry month, this game of poetry tag includes some simple rules to connect the poems – each one had to include three words from the previous person’s poems.  And an added twist is that the poets chose an image from this selection of photographs taken by Sylvia Vardell, as the inspiration for their poem. Each poet then also provided a short introduction to their choice of photograph. All this makes for a very exciting, energetic mix of poetry that can be read and enjoyed in many ways. I loved the added dimension of the word tag used in the cover photograph and to good effect in Janet Wong’s own poem “p*tag” – it rounds off the collection beautifully.

What’s really great is that the conceit of the tagging in no way defines the quality of the individual poems. From Marilyn Singer’s opening reverso poem “Time and Water”, you know you’re in for a treat. The array of names included several I’ve “met” through Poetry Friday, and others who are new to me – what a wonderful way for teenagers to encounter poetry; and the interactive nature of the e-book invites readers to explore each poet’s work more deeply. I was intrigued by Arnold Adoff’s introduction (as much a poem as his actual poem): in it he invites readers to email him so he can send the “original” in its, well, I’d like to say real format, but I’m not sure he would allow the word “real” to slip by – and it’s already on shaky ground in a discussion of e-books. Hmmm! Let’s quote then:

“this poem is in a format to fit the machine you are using now…
but feel free to be in touch [...]
and i’ll send you the “original” and we can talk about:
style and substance an the poet’s hard(est) head….

I’d like to think there’ll be some young poets getting in touch…

With so many ways to find a route into the collection (photographs, the three linking words, each poet’s introduction), not to mention the variety of viewing possibilities for its e-format, these exciting poems touch on so many emotions. From humor to deep pondering, there’s something here for every teen – even the so-called “Reluctant Reader” (Jaime Adoff), and like the goose (or is it a swan?) in Julie Larios’ “Walking, Waiting”, there’s the possibility of ‘a wild honk or two / or three that might surprise y

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10. rgz Newsflash: p*tag for October's Teen Read Week!

P*TAG (PoetryTagTime)
Okay. 31 poets, 31 images and you have p*tag, 31 poems linked by tagging and repetition. It went like this: wait until you are tagged, pick an image, and then write a poem, using 3 of the words from the previous poet's poem. Ready, set, go! And we were off, under the guidance of Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong. This ekphrastic approach to poetry, where poems are inspired by art, fueled the poets fully. While the resulting poetry collection is eclectic, the repeated words give a notable continuity to the stream. There's an organic pulse running from beginning to end as readers witness this captured Art Happening on their e-readers.

Personally, David L. Harrison tagged me, so I was able to read his wonderful poem "Family Reunion at the Beach." Then I was off to choose a photo from Sylvia's posted images given to inspire us. The photo of a crowd, blurred by the camera's movement, caught my eye. It seemed as if spirits were leaving bodies despite the people's focus locked on the stage. I then chose three of David's words from his poem: clasping, future, and eyes, for my own haiku "Crowd." Finally, I tagged the lovely poet, Julie Larios. I would later learn she used my words: trapped, eyes, away.

All other poems were hidden from the participants until the release of p*tag. So it was a delight to download and read the stream, read how images and poems and repeated words created a complete work of art. I love how one poet responded to another, and immediately offered another point of view. You can see this particularly between Julie Larios and Michele Krueger. One writes of rising above, the other finding "peace in place." Stephanie Hemphill's' "In Praise of Luck" lifted my spirit, although I'd call it providence. :~) And oh, the delight to see one I esteem so highly, Lee Bennett Hopkins, write with few words just like me.

So here is a poem a day for the month of October while we celebrate YALSA's Teen Read Week. How perfect for the theme "Picture it @ your library." Download p*tag onto your device. Visit the website to learn more, see photos, and try your own hand at the ekphrastic approach to poetry. Thanks, Janet and Sylvia! *standing ovation*

p*tag
compiled by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong
available on e-readers

LorieAnncard2010small.jpg image by readergirlz

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11. Beach Talk with Janet S. Wong and Julie Paschkis

More and more writers and illustrators are discovering the mysterious interplay between art and yoga, and how yoga seems to serve as a catalyst for creativity.It was yoga that inspired illustrator Julie Paschkis and poet Janet Wong to collaborate on Twist: Yoga Poems, a collection of sixteen poems and illustrations which explore a variety of yoga poses. The book, which was named a Bank

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12. p*tag you're it

I didn't think a tag game would ever be quite so exciting again, but I was wrong:  I have been invited to participate in the second poetry tag project coordinated by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong, champions for the dissemination of poetry for young people.  Titled p*tag (you can play along here), it's the "first electronic-only anthology for teens" and will be illustrated with photos taken by Sylvia herself. 

Even as I write I'm in the midst of the challenge:  I have just been tagged by Stephanie Hemphill, an accomplished verse novelist.  My mission is to a) immerse myself in a photo I selected from Sylvia's intriguing gallery, b) select three words from Stephanie's fine poem, and c) compose my own poem inspired by the photo using Stephanie's three words and an as-yet-undetermined number of my own.  I have 24 hours in which to do this, and to write a piece that describes my process and how the resulting poem is linked to the photo and to Stephanie's.  

Then I get to tag another of the 31 poets who are participating (with respect for who's on vacation this weekend and who's working!).  The project will all be complete and available for download at an irresistable price by October. How cool IS this?  I just hope I can pull off something worthy of the concept and of the first Poetry Tag Time volume, which was e-published in April.

So, back to Stephanie Hemphill.  Her latest book is Wicked Girls, which I confess I thought might be another girls-telling-lies-and-being-mean-to-each-other-book despite its subtitle: A Novel of the Salem Witch Trials.  I took up HarperTeen's offer to "browse inside" and found myself reading way past my bedtime with fascination and admiration.  Here's a selection called "Caught."

Caught
Margaret Walcott, 17

Past the crooked evergreen
and the brook what lost its water,
on my way home from playing
games on who'll make me husband,
I cross Ipswich Road.
I rub my eyes.  His two blue ones
be looking straight on me.

My pulse starts to gallop
like a steed.  But today I trip not.
I track on up to him and say,
"Be you following me?"

His arms be thick enough
to lift the axe of three men.
Isaac's laughter shakes
through him so fierce
it scatters the snow off his boots.
"Yea, Margaret Walcott,
betwixt tending the stables,
staking out the fields
and bringing wares to town,
I be scouting all the time after you."
He raises one brow.
"But where hast thou been?"

The color splashes over me,
drenching me red.  I hold up my buckets.
"Fetching water," I say.

"Thou are far from any stream
I know of," Isaac says,
and shakes his head.
His eyes catch on me
like he be holding lightly
my face with his hand.

"I must then be lost," I say,
and I pick up my bucket
and my skirts and trot off.
And do so quite a bit like a lady.

~ Stephanie Hemphill
from Wicked Girls, Harper 2011

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13. Beach Talk with Janet Wong and Sylvia Vardell

Remember playing Tag as a child? Someone would sneak up behind you or catch you without warning and shout, “Tag, you’re it!”It was a game of narrow escapes, near-misses, breathless dashes and sprints, and a chance to reach out and (sometimes) unfreeze a best friend.Two ardent lovers of poetry (and best-friends), Janet Wong and Sylvia Vardell, have taken the pleasure and delight that each

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14. Joan Bransfield Graham, April Halprin Wayland and Janet Wong on Writing Poetry


Today I'm pleased to present Part One of a Q & A with acclaimed poets Joan Bransfield Graham, April Halprin Wayland and Janet Wong, (my fellow members in the Children's Authors Network). All three have poems out in the brand new Poetry Tag Time ebook.

Happy Poetry Month and Poetry Friday!

What is the challenge of writing poetry for children?

Janet: The hardest part of writing is knowing when to stop, which draft to choose. Most children like bouncy, silly rhymes, so it takes discipline to choose a more subtle approach. It's sort of like choosing between serving chicken nuggets and chicken soup.

April: To get quiet inside and find the real, the true.
To get past the obvious, to not write superficially.
That's the challenge of writing anything. It's all the same.
To be clear but not corny. Be accessible but don't underestimate the audience.

Joan: The challenge of writing poetry for children is to be original, capture a moment in time, create the poem you've never read before, connect with readers and make them say--"Oh, YES!" Each poem should be an act of discovery that surprises the senses, shakes you awake, and startles your imagination.

Which poets are your influences, and what about them do you admire?

Janet: Myra Cohn Livingston nurtured and "created" so many of us; she will forever be The Grandest Teacher of Children's Poets (and the most generous). She would go to great lengths to help new poets connect with editors (once you'd demonstrated some serious effort).

April: I love so many writers. I have to say that I love Janet Wong for her originality, for the often casual, conversational tone of her work. I love Joan Bransfield Graham for her use of language and for always finding a new way to look at things. My mother used to read Ogden Nash to us. In fact, I was named for his poem, "Always Marry an April Girl," which my parents would say aloud to me often. I love the way he invents words and his humor. I love e.e.cummings for his fanciful flights of poetry. I fell in love with Lawrence Ferlinghetti when I was thirteen. I loved his book, A CONEY ISLAND OF THE MIND.

Joan: I've always admired Valerie Worth's use of metaphor and David McCord's and Eve Merriam's wordplay. Richard Wilbur and Mary Oliver provide such stunning imagery, as does Billy Collins, whose perspective and humor are a constant surprise and delight. I was fortunate to be able to study with Myra Cohn Livingston in her Master Class at UCLA--along with Janet and April. What an amazing group--we learned so much from each other!


What is one of the most "autobiographical" poems you've written? Why does it have special meaning for you?

Janet: In Good Luck Gold (out-of-print, but I will be bringing it back to life soon in Kindle form) there is a poem called "Dad," where I say t

10 Comments on Joan Bransfield Graham, April Halprin Wayland and Janet Wong on Writing Poetry, last added: 4/25/2011
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15. A Poem for My Mother: Hope by Janet Wong


It’s been a difficult and emotionally draining week for me. I lost track of time. I actually thought it was Thursday when I awoke this morning.

I’m dedicating this post to my dear mother–who is going through an extremely difficult period in her life. She has been the best of mothers. I learned from her what being a mother is all about. She is the most selfless person I have ever known.
My Mother with One of Her Great Grandsons

When I realized what day it was, I began to wonder what I could post for this Poetry Friday. I didn’t have to think long. I went to the shelf where I keep my friend Janet Wong’s book The Rainbow Hand: Poems About Mothers and Children. Following is the final poem in Janet’s award-winning poetry collection.


Hope
by Janet Wong

In my own mother
I can see

I will need the strength of a bear,
strength to threaten those who would hurt my child—

Give me this strength.

I will need the softness of a deer,
to nudge my child down the right path—

Give me this softness.

I will need the courage of a fox
to leave my child behind, drawing harm my way—

Give me this courage.

I will need the calm of a tree,
knowing fires will happen,

and I will need to keep the hope I hold inside myself,
knowing that after the fires,

things grow again.


The Rainbow Hand received a Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Honor Award in 2000.
You can find out more about the book here: http://www.janetwong.com/books/therainbowhand.cfm
My Daughter Sara and Me
********************

Diane has the Poetry Friday Roundup at Random Noodling
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16. Poetry Friday: Face It

Pondering about the mix and match of traits that make her who she is, Janet Wong writes:

Janet Wong's portrait

Face It 

My nose belongs
to Guangdong, China–
short and round, a Jang family nose.

My eyes belong
to Alsace, France–
wide like Grandmother Hemmerling’s.

But my mouth, my big-talking mouth, belongs
to me, alone.

Hurray for Janet’s “big-talking mouth”, which has given us many wonderful words such as these to savor! You can listen to Janet telling stories and reading her magical poems here.

Poetry Friday today is being hosted by Anastasia Suen at Picture Book of the Day.

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17. Revising and Recycling Poetry

This time last week, poet Janet S. Wong allowed me to share her poem, “The License Plate Game” in honor of the first minting of license plates in the U.S. However, not only did she allow me to post her poem, she encouraged me to share SEVEN different versions of the poem she had contemplated. Then several of you responded with interesting observations (Emily, Cloudscome, and Linda). Well, to top it off, Janet invited some of her poet-friends to comment on the different versions and and several took her up on her offer, including J. Patrick Lewis, Lorie Ann Grover, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Marilyn Singer, Alice Schertle. Check out the comments area for April 25, 2008. Finally, Janet offered yet another revision of her poem based on all this collective input (posted in the Comments area). HOW COOL IS THAT?



And just for fun, I’ll post a fresh poem by Janet from an older collection I love (A Suitcase of Seaweed) .




Poetry

by Janet S. Wong


“What you study in school?” my grandfather asks.


“Poetry,” I say, climbing high to pick a large ripe

lemon off the top limb.


“Po-tree,” he says, “It got fruit?”


From Wong, Janet S. 1996. A Suitcase of Seaweed, and Other Poems. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books, p. 18.

Thank you, Janet, for all you do for poets and poetry and kids!

For the rest of the Poetry Friday Round Up, go to Big A, little a. Thanks for hosting, Kelly!

Picture credit: www.wildcrafted.com.au

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18. Janet Wong and the License Plate Game

On this date in 1901, New York became the first state to require license plates for cars. Each plate carried the initials of the car’s owner and cost $1. In honor of this occasion, I have a not-yet-published poem by Janet Wong to share with her permission. She was kind enough to write the following poem for my “Everyday Poetry” column for Book Links magazine scheduled to be published in July. When I asked her if I could post it, she suggested I share some of the different versions she went through as she revised the poem and we dialogued back and forth about it. What a great idea and such a generous gesture! So, this is for all of you who work with children—who, in my experience, are often shocked and surprised to see that adults don’t create perfect poems in single drafts. Showing them the PROCESS of writing can be helpful and eye-opening. Here are SEVEN, count ‘em, seven versions of Janet’s poem about the age-old favorite car game, the License Plate Game.

First version:
(Notice the couplets with some end rhyme)

THE LICENSE PLATE GAME
by Janet S. Wong


Take the letters

in a license plate—


RSN

MST


And see what you can say.

Play with words:


Rest Stop Now!
Milk Shake Time!


Find words to steer

the driver’s mind

to places where

you want to go—


You can use

The License Plate Game


to disengage
the cruise control.


Second version:
(Notice the new title)

THE LICENSE PLATE LETTERS GAME
by Janet S. Wong


1RBT296 could mean

one Really Boring Trip.


Or if you’re hungry, just think quick:
say, it’s Really Burger Time!

The license plate letters game

lets you steer the driver’s mind.


Nothing jams a driver’s ear

more than asking, “Are we there?”


Find some letters, play things smart,

use your words to take aim:


Master
the License Plate Letters Game.



Third version:
(Back to the old title; notice fewer words, the tighter structure)

THE LICENSE PLATE GAME
by Janet S. Wong


1RBT296 could be

one Really Boring Trip.


So brainstorm silly things,

think quick:


Root Beer - Thirsty?

Rest - Burger Time!


Use words to steer

the driver's mind

to the destinations

that you name:


you control the cruise

with the License Plate Game.



Two fourth versions:
(Notice the shift from couplets to tercets in the first option)

THE LICENSE PLATE GAME
by Janet S. Wong


When you’re aching

to complain,

when the drive is driving you insane,


play with the letters

in a license plate.

Think silly things, concentrate.


If the plate says
RSN 225,

you might suggest the family drive

to a nearby ReStauraNt.
Or what about a Rest Stop Now?

It really doesn’t matter how


you play the game.

Just try to find

words to steer the driver’s mind.


When you’re aching to complain,

and your legs are numb and your seat’s aflame,
why not try The License Plate Game?


Or

THE LICENSE PLATE GAME

by Janet S. Wong


Take the letters in a license plate—


RSN

MST


and see what you can say.

Play the License Plate Game!


All three letters in one word:


RaiSiN, ReStauraNt, gingeRSNap

MuSTard, MySTery, druMSTick


Or choose a string of three:

Rest Stop Now

Milk Shake Time


The trick is, you have got to find

words to steer the driver’s mind.


When you’re aching to complain,

it’s time to try the License Plate Game.



Fifth version:
(Notice the tercet form prevails, but the end lines come from the second version)

THE LICENSE PLATE GAME

by Janet S. Wong


When you're aching

to complain,

when the drive is driving you insane,


play with the letters

in a license plate.

Think silly things, concentrate.


Suppose you see

RSN 325.

You might suggest the family drive


to a nearby ReStauraNt.

Or what about a Rest Stop Now?
It really doesn't matter how


you play. Three words? OK.

Or use just one.

The thing is, try to have some fun


and search

and search until you find

words to steer the driver's mind.


When you're aching to complain,

all numb feet and seat aflame,
don't forget: The License Plate Game.


Final version:
(Notice the new ending stanza)

THE LICENSE PLATE GAME
by Janet S. Wong


When you’re aching

to complain,

when the drive is driving you insane,


play with the letters

in a license plate.

Think silly things. Concentrate.


Suppose you see

RSN 325.

You might suggest the family drive


to a nearby ReStauraNt.

Or what about a Rest Stop Now?

It really doesn’t matter how


you play. Three words? OK.

Or use just one.

The thing is, try to have some fun


and search

and search until you find

words to steer the driver’s mind.


When your toes are numb

and your bottom’s blue,

the LPG will rescue you!


Thank you, Janet, for writing and sharing your poem and your poetry writing process!

For more poetry gems, check out the Poetry Friday Round Up at The Miss Rumphius Effect.


Picture credit: www.euro-sign.com

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19. Sunday Brunch with Janet Wong & Company

When Janet Wong (Out and About with Janet Wong and Grace Lin) was in Massachusetts in late March, she told me she was going to be back in our area in mid April. We made plans for her to come to my house for Sunday brunch on April 15th. Forecasts had been brewing most of last week about a terrible Nor’easter that was going to hit New England on Sunday. Janet emailed me on Saturday to say she probably wasn’t going to drive up from New Jersey because of the impending storm. Not long after that email I got another one saying: “We’re coming!”

I am so glad she did. I love Janet! She is a dynamo…and such a personable individual…and she has a wonderful sense of humor…and she writes terrific books. I got a chance to meet her charming husband—and to introduce Janet to my charming husband, my funny, lovable daughter, and one of my three lovely nieces. The only disappointment was that Grace and Robert couldn’t make it.

I know I had promised lots of “foodie” pictures—but I was so busy enjoying my wonderful company and trying to be a good hostess that I decided not to interrupt the pleasant conversation with a photo-taking session. I did manage to take snap a picture of Janet with my daughter before she left.

Janet & My Daughter Sara

FOODIE FACTS

I didn’t get around to taking pictures of the food before we ate--but I took a couple of snapshots of some of the leftovers. For you "foodies" out in the kidlitosphere, here's the menu:

  • potato pancakes served with creme fraiche
  • kielbasa with a pineapple and brown sugar sauce
  • shrimp and feta salad with kalamata olives, red peppers, cucumbers, purple onions, and grape tomatoes in a lemon garlic vinaigrette
  • smoked salmon and capers served with horseradish crème fraiche sauce
  • a salad of mixed greens with walnuts, dried cranberries, pears, blue cheese, and balsamic vinaigrette
  • For dessert we had fresh strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries with cold zabaglione. I haven’t made cold zabaglione in a long time. I had forgotten how good it is—and it’s really quite easy to make.

RECIPE FOR COLD ZABAGLIONE

Ingredients
4 extra large eggs yolks
4 tablespoons of sugar
½ cup sweet Marsala wine

1 cup heavy cream
1 or 2 teaspoons sugar

Combine the egg yolks, 4 tablespoons of sugar, and the wine in a large bowl. Place the bowl over a pan of gently boiling water. Whip with a hand held beater or whisk for 3 or 4 minutes—or until the mixture is tripled in volume, light and fluffy, and falls in a thick ribbon from the beater or whisk.

Have ready: A larger bowl with some ice and cold water in the bottom and the heavy cream and sugar, which have been whipped to stiff peaks. Cool the bowl of hot zabaglione in the bowl of ice and water. Then gently fold in the whipped cream. Cover and refrigerate. This recipe may be made up to 6 hours in advance of serving. Serve the cold zabaglione as is or spoon it over fresh berries for a light and delectable dessert.

If you try this recipe, let me know how it turns out.

THE LEFTOVERS

Shrimp and Feta Salad

Kielbasa with Pineapple and Brown Sugar Sauce

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20. A Poem by Janet Wong

How neat is this?! Janet Wong wrote a poem for me about all the poems I posted at Wild Rose Reader during the month of April. She left her poem in the comment section of A Poem a Day #30, which I dedicated to her. I thought I’d post Janet’s poem here today for all of you to read.


APRIL
by Janet Wong

April is a welcoming
to honeybees as muses,
rocket trips to wishing stars,
lion(esses) singing the blues(es).

April takes you wandering
past the sleek eelectric chef,
lions suffering tangled manes,
the Queen who’s feeling somewhat plain,
gnus who cruise pursued by winter, weary and worn.

April is piggy! April is pink.
April is whispers, friendship-hush.
A sorrowful planet demoted to slush.
Ribbons of muscle, snaking along.
The song of a whale, the spray of a skunk.
Unicorns born while ladies roll dice.
Fried (let’s say) Egg (keep it nice).

April is a hungry bear,
a giraffe, head high in the warm spring air,
creases smoothed with wrinkle cream.
Crater romance, beetles in armor,
rivers of sun and pools of shade.
Buds bursting, stretching awake,
and potatoes, parsley, parsnip and peas—

whatever a poet may happen to see
from her windows in Beverly—
in her mind in reverie—
whatever a poet may happen to type
in a quiet basement, some late-blogging night—

this was April, this year.


Thanks, Janet, for writing this special poem for me!

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21. Interview with Janet Wong

Janet WongThis episode of Just One More Book! is part of our showcase coverage of the International Reading Association’s 52nd annual conference.

Mark speaks with Janet Wong about the concept behind her book The Dumpster Diver, how she incorporates her own life in her books, and her participating in the meet the author series of books. As a treat, Janet reads one of her poems.

Books mentioned:

Participate in the conversation by leaving a comment on this interview, or send an email to justonemorebook@gmail.com.

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22. Picture Book Review: Apple Pie 4th of July

Today, I thought I’d write a review of one of my favorite multicultural pictures books. It is perfect for reading on Independence Day.


APPLE PIE 4TH OF JULY
Written by Janet Wong
Illustrated by Margaret Chodos-Irvine
Harcourt, 2002

This story takes place on Independence Day. The book’s main character is a Chinese-American girl whose parents were not born in the United States. Her parents own a store that is open 364 days a year—even on Thanksgiving. She feels that they don’t understand all “American things.”

The girl smells an apple pie baking in a neighbor's oven upstairs. She thinks her parents are foolish for cooking Chinese food. She is sure that no one will want to eat sweet-and-sour pork, egg rolls, noodles, or chow mein on the Fourth of July. She tells her parents—but they don’t listen.

Throughout most of the day the young girl is proven right. People come into the store to buy soda and potato chips…to buy ice cream and ice and matches. Then at five o’clock, a steady stream of "Americans" begins filing into the store until closing time to pick up…Chinese food! The story ends after the store closes and the girl and her family climb the stairs to the rooftop where they watch the fireworks display…and eat apple pie.

Wong's APPLE PIE 4TH OF JULY is a straightforward tale that expresses the feelings that many children who are first generation Americans experience—feelings that their parents don’t quite “get it”…that their families aren’t truly American. It is a simply told story with a brief text. Chodos-Irvine’s illustrations add meaning and capture the emotions of the young girl—her boredom, her frustration, her embarrassment and wistful sadness—with facial expressions and body language. This is a picture book in which art and text meld perfectly to tell a truly American tale.



Click here to see some of Chodos-Irvine's illustrations from APPLE PIE 4TH OF JULY.


Click here to see a video of Janet Wong reading APPLE PIE 4TH OF JULY for Easter at the White House in 2003.


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23. Happy Birthday, Janet Wong!

What’s with all these poets born in September? Clearly many poets’ parents were having a very merry Christmas, happy Hanukkah, or happy new year in years gone by! All of these poets were born in September: Helen Frost, Paul Fleischman, Jack Prelutsky, Aileen Fisher, Sara Holbrook, Harry Behn, and Shel Silverstein. Let’s celebrate one more September poet’s birthday: Janet S. Wong!

Janet S. Wong was born on September 30, 1962, and grew up in California, the child of Korean and Chinese immigrants. She graduated from UCLA with a bachelor’s degree in History and then obtained her law degree from Yale. However, she was not happy practicing law and decided to make a change, focusing on writing for young people instead. She has since authored nearly two dozen picture books and poetry collections. Her poems have been featured in some unusual venues, including a car-talk radio show, on 5,000 subway and bus posters as part of the New York City Metropolitan Transit Authority's "Poetry in Motion" program, and on the “Oprah” television show. She and her books have received numerous awards and honors, such as the International Reading Association's "Celebrate Literacy Award" for exemplary service in the promotion of literacy.

Janet Wong’s first two poetry collections, Good Luck Gold and Other Poems (Simon & Schuster, 1994) and A Suitcase of Seaweed, and Other Poems (Simon & Schuster, 1996) focus on her own background, exploring cultural connections and growing up with Korean and Chinese traditions. Many of the poems in these two collections lend themselves to poetry performance. For example, try "Face It" (A Suitcase Of Seaweed) with three stanzas that reflect the writer’s musings on her nose, her eyes, and her mouth and how each represents a different part of her identity. Three groups could each read a different stanza, using motions to point to each body part in turn.

Face It
by Janet Wong

My nose belongs
to Guangdong, China--

short and round, a Jang family nose.


My eyes belong
to Alsace, France--

wide like Grandmother Hemmerling's.


But my mouth, my big-talking mouth, belongs
to me, alone.

Wong also has authored several poetry collections on a variety of other topics. Behind the Wheel: Poems About Driving (Simon & Schuster, 1999) is a wonderful gift for the teenager who is learning to drive. The Rainbow Hand: Poems About Mothers and Children (Simon & Schuster, 2000) is an homage to mothers and our relationships with them and includes perfect “Mother’s Day” poem tributes. Wong has two collections of poems that address children's curiosity about dreams and superstitions with Night Garden: Poems from the World of Dreams (Simon & Schuster, 2000) and Knock on Wood: Poems about Superstitions (Simon & Schuster, 2003). Both are beautifully illustrated by Julie Paschkis and invite children to express their own beliefs and concerns-- perhaps poetically. Wong and Paschkis also teamed up for a third illustrated poetry collection this year, Twist, Yoga Poems (Simon & Schuster, 2007), which School Library Journal called “lovely to listen to and to look at.” For more information about Wong and her work, check out Poetry People.

Janet is a dynamic personality, a frequent presenter, and an advocate and mentor for many other authors, poets, and illustrators. I’m a big fan, as you can tell by many of my previous postings, including:
Tuesday, March 20, 2007 about her online chat with kids and her new photo-autobiography, When It Wriggles Away.
Tuesday, August 29, 2006 about the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and her poem about it, “Coin Drive.”
Happy birthday, Janet!

Thanks to AmoxCalli for hosting the Poetry Friday Roundup this week.

Picture credit: www.rfbdnj.org
Photo by Anne Lindsay

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24. Interview with Janet Wong


JANET WONG


Believe it or not—I first heard about Janet Wong when I was traveling with a Children’s Literature and Language Arts Delegation in the People’s Republic of China in the autumn of 1994. One of the other delegates, with whom I became friends, was a professor at a college in Southern California. She was all excited when she told me about this “talented new Chinese American author” who had just published her first collection of children’s poems entitled Good Luck Gold. Of course, I had to have the book! I’m always looking for bright new voices in children’s poetry. I ordered Good Luck Gold soon after I returned home.

In Good Luck Gold and in her second book, A Suitcase of Seaweed, Janet reflected on her years growing up as an Asian-American child. Both books received the prestigious Claremont Stone Center Recognition of Merit Award. Here is the first poem from Good Luck Gold:


Good Luck Gold
By Janet Wong
(Poem copyright 1994 by Janet Wong. Good Luck Gold published by M. K. McElderry, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division. All rights reserved.)

When I was a baby
one month old,
my grandparents gave me
good luck gold:
a golden ring
so soft it bends,
a golden necklace
hooked at the ends,
a golden bracelet
with coins that say
I will be rich
and happy someday.

I wish that gold
would work
real soon.
I need my luck
this afternoon



Janet had me hooked with her first collection. I’ve bought every poetry book that she has published since then. Janet writes not only poetry that speaks to her ethnic heritage (Chinese and Korean), she also writes of one’s unconscious imagination in Night Garden: Poems from the World of Dreams. She writes about relationships in her book The Rainbow Hand: Poems About Mothers and Children, which was the recipient of a Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award Honor. Janet’s most recent collection, Twist: Yoga Poems, was written for her friend Julie Paschkis, the award-winning children’s picture book illustrator. Julie loves doing yoga—so Janet wrote a book of poems about different yoga poses, which Julie illustrated. (Click here to read my review of Twist: Yoga Poems and my interview with Janet and Julie.)

I had the great pleasure of meeting Janet at a Children’s Literature Institute at Simmons College in Boston several summers ago. Since that time, Janet and I have become friendly. I have gotten to know this woman who is a tiny, determined dynamo and force of nature. She’s a talented writer and a great speaker—straightforward, ebullient, and funny. She has been featured on the Oprah Winfrey Show and, in 2003, was invited to read her picture book Apple Pie Fourth of July as part of the Easter festivities at the White House. I have no doubt in my mind that Janet Wong could accomplish anything she sets her mind to.

About the Interview

Janet and I decided to focus my interview with her on her experience as a student in a master class on poetry taught by the late Myra Cohn Livingston, one of America’s foremost children’s poets and anthologists. In addition to Janet, other students in the class included April Halprin Wayland, Tony Johnston, Ann Whitford Paul, Joan Bransfield Graham, Alice Schertle, and Kristine O’Connell George.


INTERVIEW WITH JANET WONG



Elaine: You were a student in the master class in poetry that the late Myra Cohn Livingston taught at UCLA. How did you come to know Myra and when did you become interested in writing poetry for children?

Janet: I heard Myra speak at a one-day UCLA Extension seminar, an “everything you need to know about writing a children’s book” class. I didn’t want to write poetry; I was there to hear an editor speak about the acquisition process.

When I heard Myra, I knew I could learn something from her. She was so confident and smart, and clearly a demanding teacher. Myra taught a Beginning Poetry class through UCLA Extension and also a Master Class (which was invitation-only). I signed up for her class in Beginning Poetry after receiving a pile of rejection letters. I had decided that it was time to learn to write for children—to learn about rhyme, repetition, and rhythm, poetic devices that would help me write a picture book. Picture books were my passion, and I simply wanted to use poetry to “sharpen my prose.” I only became interested in writing poetry for publication several months later, once I’d started raiding the 811 shelf at the library (fifty books at a time, at Myra ’s urging) and had fallen in love with poetry.

The next term I was invited to take the Master Class—because of luck, the bad luck of Ruth Bornstein (author/illustrator of the simple but brilliant book Little Gorilla), who had to skip the term because of a family emergency. It was truly incredibly good luck for me: many people had waited for years to get into the Master Class, yet I was invited to take Ruth’s spot very soon, probably because I happened to talk to Myra shortly after Ruth called her. Tony Johnston, Alice Schertle, Monica Gunning, April Halprin Wayland, Ann Whitford Paul, Kristine O’Connell George, Deborah Chandra, Joan Bransfield Graham, and more: this was quite an accomplished and talented group!


Elaine: Can you tell us anything about your experience in Myra’s class?

Janet: During class, we would go around the room and we would read a homework poem aloud, in rapid succession, without explanation. If someone started to apologize or give background info, they would be interrupted and reminded of the rule. Then we’d return to hear some poems again, and discuss briefly which parts we remembered. This was an excellent way to teach form and rhythm; after hearing a dozen poems that used anapest or a dozen sonnets, you’d have a great feel for what that rhythm or form was all about.

For the rhythm exercises, Myra would allow us to break a rhythm only if we could explain why. For instance, I might break a bunch of happy anapests with an iamb to draw attention to a couple of words that were more poignant. I rarely write in set forms and strict rhythms now, but these exercises gave me a great education, and many of my free verse poems do have a loose rhythmic structure that holds the poem together.

One exercise that Myra used to do every few months was a “grading” exercise—which helped spur a discussion of what makes a poem good. She would read a stack of poems in rapid succession, not identifying the poet, and we’d make a list of grades. When you don’t know that a poem is written by a “brand name” poet, you sometimes give his poems lower grades than you would if you knew. After our grades were marked, we’d go back over the poems, hear them and discuss them. I felt, early on, that I had such “McDonald’s taste” in poems, while Alice Schertle’s taste was clearly “gourmet.” After studying with Myra for about two years, I was finally able to give grades that matched Alice’s. My taste had “developed”—either that, or I had become really good at guessing which poems I was supposed to like!


Elaine: What kinds of writing assignments did Myra give her students to work on at home?

Janet: Myra’s weekly homework assignments usually required us to write a half-dozen poems: a poem using a certain metrical structure (iamb, trochee, dactyl, or anapest), another poem in a certain form (villanelle, triolet, limerick, tanka, etc.), a haiku (always a haiku), a poem on a certain subject theme, poems exploring voice or another technique (assonance, consonance, alliteration, personification, metaphor, simile).

One of my favorite homework assignments was the “voice change” exercise. If we had written a poem in a third-person narrative voice, we’d have to do a second poem in the first-person lyrical voice. After that, we’d write versions in the voice of the mask, and apostrophe, and conversation. The change of voice often resulted in fresh new language and insights. For instance: a narrative poem about the wind might simply describe a scene where the wind blows the hat off a girl’s head. In the lyrical version, the girl might talk about losing her hat to the wind. In the voice of the mask, though, the poet would become the wind, and all of a sudden new ideas might arise: perhaps the wind is no longer just “blowing” but actually “stealing” the coveted hat. Using apostrophe, the girl would talk to the wind, and might plead with it to return her hat, or might threaten or cajole. In a conversation version, the girl and wind (or girl and hat) might scream at each other, or tease. The voice change exercise reliably creates elements and introduces words that will not arise in the course of revising a poem over and over in one voice only.


Another favorite homework assignment is explained in Myra’s book I Am Writing a Poem About…, sadly out-of-print but available at many libraries. Young poets raised on the Magnetic Poetry craze enjoy this exercise, but I rarely use it when I visit schools for just a day or two; instead, I usually use our limited workshop time to do a metaphor/simile poem instead. Recently, though, I did the “Ring/Blanket/Drum” exercise with a group of teachers during a lunchtime workshop at Collegiate School in Richmond, Virginia, and the results were fantastic. First I told them that they’d be writing a poem using the words ring, blanket, and drum. Then I read a few examples from the book, which contains the homework assignments of Myra’s Master Class students. Here is my ring/blanket/drum poem:

Oh, Brother!
By Janet Wong

The little squirt,
begging for boiled eggs and toast,
circles me like a wrestler in the ring,
bouncing on my bed,
bouncing,
bouncing,
bouncing,
bouncing,
and when I try to hide my head,
he dives under the blanket,
to drum my stomach
until it surrenders
a growl.


I spoke for three minutes about rhyme, off-rhyme, repetition, and rhythm—and they wrote for five minutes. Here are three examples of what they accomplished:

The Ring
By Stephanie Franz

She sees his ring

Memories
Her wedding day, the children, the trips, the
first time they conquered a mountain,
the last time they struck a golf ball...
Memories
Soon she will remove the ring
while wrapping him in a blanket of love
His soul will soar to meet his maker
while the drum of her heart carries on their tune

She will wear his ring.

A Poem
By Fletcher Collins

A blanket of silent fog
The glasslike ring of an invisible mast
No need for a drum

A Poem
by Nathan Goodwyn (7th/ 8th grade English)

A drum ring:
a place where
hands cackle together
throwing aside the day's more mundane obligations
as if they were the morning's blanket


I told Janet that I would also try writing a Ring/Drum/Blanket Poem. Here’s my contribution:


The Early Sixties: A Summer Day
By Elaine Magliaro

On an old army blanket,
a rough, khaki-colored island
floating on a sea of sand
at Devereaux Beach,
we sit in a circle…
a ring of friends
playing kitty whist,
drinking cola,
talking about boys, and
listening to rock and roll music…
to the sexy sound of the sax
wafting over us
moaning about love,
to a drum beating
like a young heart in overdrive.




Invitation to Write a Poem

Janet and I would like to invite all of you reading this interview to try writing your own poem using the three words—ring, drum, and blanket. You can post your poem at your own blog, if you have one, and send me the link—or email me your poem and I will post it at Wild Rose Reader.

NOTE: I would like to thank Janet Wong for this informative interview in which she discussed her experiences as a student in the master class on poetry taught by Myra Cohn Livingston. I would also like to extend my appreciation to Janet, Stephanie Franz, Fletcher Collins, and Nathan Goodwyn for granting me permission to post their original poems at Wild Rose Reader.

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

At Blue Rose Girls, I have a poem by Billy Collins entitled Workshop.

Cloudscome has the Poetry Friday Roundup at A Wrung Sponge.

23 Comments on Interview with Janet Wong, last added: 4/16/2008
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25. Ring/Drum/Blanket Poems Redux

JANET WONG

Those of you who read my Interview with Janet Wong may remember that Janet and I invited people to write ring/drum/blanket poems--just as Janet and the other students in Myra Cohn Livingston’s master class in poetry did as a writing exercise. (You can read all about Myra’s class in the interview.)

A number of bloggers took up the challenge and wrote their own ring/drum/blanket poems--most of which have been published previously at Wild Rose Reader in a number of different posts. Here they are again...together in one post, which also includes a link to Cloudscome’s amazing ring/drum/blanket kyrielle.
New Poem: In addition, I have a link to another lovely poem written by Linda Kulp. Linda emailed me the link to her ring/drum/blanket poem yesterday. She welcomes comments on it.

If you would care to join the ring/drum/blanket poets, email me your poem or the URL of your poem post. You may also leave that information in the comments at this post.


Ring/Drum/Blanket Poems

You can read Cloudscome’s ring/drum/blanket kyrielle here.

Click here to read Linda Kulp’s poem.


Oh, Brother!
By Janet Wong

The little squirt,
begging for boiled eggs and toast,
circles me like a wrestler in the ring,
bouncing on my bed,
bouncing,
bouncing,
bouncing,
bouncing,
and when I try to hide my head,
he dives under the blanket,
to drum my stomach
until it surrenders
a growl.


The Ring
By Stephanie Franz

She sees his ring

Memories
Her wedding day, the children, the trips, the
first time they conquered a mountain,
the last time they struck a golf ball...
Memories
Soon she will remove the ring
while wrapping him in a blanket of love
His soul will soar to meet his maker
while the drum of her heart carries on their tune

She will wear his ring.


A Poem
By Fletcher Collins

A blanket of silent fog
The glasslike ring of an invisible mast
No need for a drum



A Poem
by Nathan Goodwyn (7th/ 8th grade English)

A drum ring:
a place where
hands cackle together
throwing aside the day's more mundane obligations
as if they were the morning's blanket


The Early Sixties: A Summer Day
By Elaine Magliaro

On an old army blanket,
a rough, khaki-colored island
floating on a sea of sand
at Devereaux Beach,
we sit in a circle…
a ring of friends
playing kitty whist,
drinking cola,
talking about boys, and
listening to rock and roll music…
to the sexy sound of the sax
wafting over us
moaning about love,
to a drum beating
like a young heart in overdrive.


Inside the Fairy Ring
By Kelly R. Fineman

Inside the fairy ring,
awash with silver light,
sprightly dancers caper
on a blanket of dew-dappled flowers.
When grassy pipes and acorn drums fall silent,
all will fade away
to dawn



A Ring/Drum/Blanket Poem
By Tricia Stohr-Hunt

Gunfire
rings out,
day
after day.
Long settled in,
War's heavy blanket
smothers
the drumbeat of
freedom.

Dragon Boat Festival
By Diane M. Davis

Blankets are laid,
zhonghi is waiting
but the drums insist-
booming
bounding
brimming with sound
they call us to
wake the dragons.

We gather in rings
embracing the boats
as monks make magic
with prayers and poems
then paint the eyes, a dab of red
that brings the boats
to life.

NOTE: The ring/drum/blanket poems written by the students in Myra Cohn Livingston’s master class can be found in her book I Am Thinking of a Poem About…A Game of Poetry.

1 Comments on Ring/Drum/Blanket Poems Redux, last added: 4/21/2008
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