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1. Bullying...A Writing Prompt for our Wednesday Writing Workout

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Breaking News:


April's poem, "When Mom Plays Just for Me" will appear on Children’s Poet Laureate Kenn Nesbitt's homepage www.PoetryMinute.org at 8:00am Eastern Time on Thursday, October 3 and will remain there for 24 hours, when it will be replaced by another poem. (April's poem will remain on the site but not on the home page.)  Its permanent link (which won't work until 10-3-13):
http://www.poetryminute.org/when-mom-plays-just-for-me-by-april-halprin-wayland/


Howdy Campers!

Remember to enter our current giveaway of Alexis O'Neill's book, The Kite That Bridged Two Nations ~

Welcome to another edition of TeachingAuthors'...


Okay...raise your hand if you've never been bullied.

Yeah, me, too.

Mary Ann kicked off our discussion on bullying for National Bullying Month (who knew?) with a deeply affecting post, I Wonder What Happened to Todd: A Bully's Tale.

Bullies I've known remind me of turtles: mostly they stay in their civilized shells, and then, without warning, they stretch their heads out and snap off someone's finger.

I had to chair a meeting of a non-profit organization this weekend to decide what we were going to do about a member who is a bully.

I'll call our guy Bluto.  Bluto, like the turtle, was usually friendly--he'd come early to set-up chairs, help collect dues, etc.  Every once in a while, though, he'd explode at someone shy, someone weak, someone Not Important.  In the latest incident, the atmosphere in our meeting was so toxic, people felt afraid for their safety.  Things had clearly gone too far.

Attending a meeting to figure out how to handle Bluto was not on the top of my list of fun things to do on a beautiful Sunday afternoon.  Ahead of this would have been eating a porcupine, finding out my father was a single-celled alga, and staying in bed all day.  

Staying in bed all day--
a great alternative to being a grown-up...
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In preparation for this meeting, I spoke at length with an expert on disruptive behavior.  I learned:
1) Bullies pick on people who are weaker than they are.
2) You need to stand up to a bully.
3) Be empathetic.
4) Create clear boundaries.

I can always use a good script.  She gave me words to use (or not):

We need you to take a time out from our organization for six months. This is the natural consequence of your actions. We hope you understand. This is also hard for us.  We're saddened. We hope you will use the next six months to work on this.  At the end of six months, if you chose to come back (and we hope you do) we hope you'll have taken the opportunity to work on this.  We'll meet with you and talk with you before you come back to a meeting.  We hope you do work it out.  People are afraid of you and you need to look at that. If you cannot, boy, we're sure going to miss you.  This is a great loss for us. (Hug him.)

At the end of six months, here's what's expected: Civility. You can't yell. You can't create a threat. You need to listen.


Interestingly enough, during the meeting on what to do about Bluto, Mary Kate shot out an angry comment. At that moment I realized that I'm as afraid of Mary Kate as I am of Bluto.  I remembered what I had learned from the expert, took a deep breath and said, "Could you not speak so angrily to me?"

Mary Kate's response was dramatic.  She looked at me in surprise--almost as if I had awakened her from a dream.  She apologized. During the rest of the meeting she was kinder to all of us than she'd ever been.

Amazing how that works.  And that sense that I awakened a bully from a dream?  That's sometimes how I feel when I eat too much...suddenly I wake up and say, "Whoa!  I think we're finished with lunch!"


I wouldn't be surprised if bullying behavior was an addiction, like smoking, drinking, overeating, compulsive spending, hoarding, etc.  Hmm.


So, today's Wednesday Writing Workout focuses on 2013 National Bullying Month's theme, The end of bullying begins with me.

Here's your writing workout:
1) Who is a bully?  Choose Bluto (of the Popeye fame),someone who once bullied you, or someone who intimidates you today.



2) Pretend that bully is in front of you now.  Jot down how you feel or how you felt as a child facing that bully.  Include details of the place, smells, physical sensations (has your stomach turned to acid? Are your palms sweaty?).  Include weather, background noises you hear or can't hear because you're so frightened, what gives you courage or how you ate a box of cookies later to blot out the fear.

4) Now: make a boundary.  Write what you wish you could have said to the bully.  Scribble to your heart's content. Be annoyed.  Be angry.  Be clear.  Tell that bully to BACK OFF!

5) That's your raw material.  Now go ahead and write the bully story or poem you really, really really need to write.

P.S: I'm pleased that one of my poems appears in the terrific book, THE BULLY, THE BULLIED, THE BYSTANDER, THE BRAVE edited by David Booth and Larry Swartz (Rubicon Publishing)


Thank you for stopping by today! 

Remember to go to this blog post for the Book Giveaway details for The Kite That Bridged Two Nations.  And g'luck!Alexis, by the way, is also the author of a wonderful picture book about a bully, The Recess Queen.
~ posted by April Halprin Wayland who is no longer afraid of Tom P, from second grade.

2 Comments on Bullying...A Writing Prompt for our Wednesday Writing Workout, last added: 10/4/2013
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2. Happy New Year! Guest Teaching Author Barbara Krasner offers a Wednesday Writing Workout (actually THREE workouts)!

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Howdy, Campers!

It's not Saint Patrick's Day, but we're lucky, lucky, lucky to open our doors and welcome Guest TeachingAuthor Barbara Krasner, who offers us a dynamite Wednesday Writing Workout for the New Year.


As long as we're feeling lucky, enter our latest book giveaway!
Details at the end...
Here's a bit about Barbara:  In the fall of 2014, her picture book, Goldie Takes a Stand! A Tale of Young Golda Meir, will be published by Kar-Ben, the Jewish imprint of Lerner Publishing Group. In addition, she's written four nonfiction books (including Discovering Your Jewish Ancestors) and more than 200 articles for adults and children that have appeared in Highlights for Children, Cobblestone, Calliope, and Babaganewz.

She holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts, an MBA in Marketing from Rutgers University, and blogs at The Whole Megillah/The Writer’s Resource for Jewish-themed Children’s Books.  Barbara is currently on the Sydney Taylor Book Award committee.

Her short fiction and poetry have appeared in Poetica, Jewish Women’s Literary Annual, Mused-BellaOnline Literary Review, Jewishfiction.net, in the Paterson Literary Review; she was a semi-finalist in the 2013 Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry in the upcoming Nimrod International Journal (!!)

Barbara is definitely a TeachingAuthor, teaching creative writing in the English department of William Paterson University and a workshop, Writing Jewish-themed Children’s Books at the Highlights Foundation.

You see what I mean when I say we're lucky to have her come by today?  WOWZA!

And now, here's Barbara with the Writing Workout
she's cooked up for us!

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, comes early this year and I’m glad. It gives me the opportunity to reflect on the past year and think about the coming year even before the leaves fall. I’m giving you a Rosh Hashanah challenge in three parts.

Part One: Rosh Hashanah, literally translated as head of the year, is a perfect time to think about the beginning of your manuscript. How many times do we hear that if we can’t grab the agent/editor/reader within just a few seconds, he or she will just move on to something else?

Ask yourself the following questions:

•    Do you have a compelling title?
•    Does your first line grab the reader? (My all-time favorites are from M.T. Anderson, “The woods were silent except for the screaming,” and from Kate DiCamillo, “My name is Opal Buloni, and last summer my daddy, the preacher, sent me to the store for a box of macaroni-and-cheese, some white rice, and two tomatoes and I came back with a dog.”)
•    Have you presented the main character on the first page?
•    Have you presented the problem within the first page, the first chapter?

These questions apply to fiction and nonfiction alike.

What are your first lines?

Part Two: The Rosh Hashanah holiday includes a practice called Tashlich, casting off our sins. The practice is exemplified in April Halprin Wayland’s New Year at the Pier (Dial, 2009) and the mother-daughter team of Susan Schnur and Anna Schnur-Fishman’s Tashlich at Turtle Rock (Kar-Ben, 2010). My question to you: What writing sins will you cast off this year?
When I think about this for myself, I think about:
•    I will cast off my lack of organization – I will organize all those papers into folders with easy-to-read tabs and file the folders
•    I will cast off watching reality TV (TCM movies only) – I need more time to write
•    I will cast off working on a gazillion projects at once – I will focus on one genre at a time, and right now, that’s poetry, and okay, picture books
•    I will cast off reading several books at once – I commit to reading a book fully before moving on to another.

You get the idea. What will you cast off?


Part Three: Here’s a prompt you can write to: Recall a Rosh Hashanah (or New Year) scene from your childhood and write about it. Who was there? Where were you? What action and dialogue took place?

Thank you so much for your three-part Rosh Hashanah writing challenge, Barbara, and shana tovah!

But wait! Before you head off to write about a memorable New Year, be sure to enter for a chance to win a copy of Lisa Morlock's terrific rhyming picture book, Track that Scat! (Sleeping Bear Press). 
and...

posted by April Halprin Wayland

3 Comments on Happy New Year! Guest Teaching Author Barbara Krasner offers a Wednesday Writing Workout (actually THREE workouts)!, last added: 9/13/2013
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3. Wednesday Writing Workout

Today's Wednesday Writing Workout is one adapted (with permission) from a blog post by Pulitzer Prize Finalist author Lee Martin. Martin writes both fiction and nonfiction and teaches in the MFA program at Ohio State. The following exercise is a simplified version of one he has used with his advanced undergraduate creative nonfiction students. You can find his version here if you wish.

1.  Locate yourself in the natural world.

2.  Sketch in the sensory details of the place. Take in your surroundings. What do you see and feel? Now close your eyes. What sounds stand out? Can you distinguish specific scents?

3.  Let those details lead you to a statement that expresses a mood. This is simplest if you go ahead and use the word "feel" in your statement. The way the leaves whisper high above my head makes me feel wistful, wishing to be up there among them, sharing secrets. Or Far away a dog howls for attention, making me feel lonely.

4.  Carry that mood inward. Make statements about what being in that place is like for you. Martin suggests:  Being in this place makes me feel/wonder/think/question. . . .

5.  Come back to one of the details of the place, perhaps a detail that you featured in the first step of this activity. This time find something new in that detail. Martin suggests, for instance:  I keep coming back to the sight/sound/smell of. . . .    Why does that detail stand out for you?

Putting yourself into the natural world, allowing yourself to see and experience it more deeply, can open you – and your writing - in ways that may surprise you. Or even trigger an idea for a brand new project.

Come back Friday to meet an author who turned a close encounter with nature into a joyful and educational picture book.

Happy writing!

Jill Esbaum
P.S.  You can still enter our contest to win a copy of Sonya Sones' new novel in verse, To Be Perfectly Honest. Click here!

3 Comments on Wednesday Writing Workout, last added: 8/29/2013
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4. Wednesday Writing Workout to fill your well: Poets in the Gallery!

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Howdy, Campers!

It's Wednesday, and you know what that means!  It's time for another TeachingAuthors

!

Do you ever feel as if your idea well has run dry?  Here's an exercise that's sure to tap into ideas you didn't know were waiting to pour out.

I've taken the adult poetry class, The Courage to Write, taught by Anthony A. Lee, several times.  He's a terrific poet and a kind and generous teacher.  

Tony's classes are held in a building which also houses an art gallery.  During one class, we wrote poems based on the following exercise...and then came back at night to read our poems at the opening of the art exhibit. Scary and invigorating!

Note: although the exercise below is written to inspire a poem, you can use this exercise to begin a poem or a story.
POETS IN THE GALLERY!
based on a workshop by Anthony A. Lee
  1. Go to a gallery or any place where art is displayed.
  2. Which photo, painting or sculpture calls to you?  Walk around until you find it.
  3. Sit down in front of it.  Breathe deeply.  Close your eyes.  Listen to the sounds of the gallery.
  4. Open your eyes.  Look at the art for a full minute.
  5. Now, begin writing.  Describe an image in the artwork. Just report it; write exactly what you see.
  6. Once you have that image on your paper, begin a poem with the word "I."  The only rule is to write in the first person. 
  7. Write as fast as you can. Write without a plan. Whatever happens, happens.
  8. Describing something, as a journalist does, is the Reporting Voice.  That voice comes from the lips, the mouth, the throat. 
  9. Writing about feelings comes from a lower, truer, sometimes scarier place.  This is the Deep Voice.  This voice attracts readers.  It connects them to your story.  Be brave.  Find the feelings.  Go there. 
  10. When you’re done, write it again, taking out as many words as you can. 
  11. Write it a third time.  Do you really all those “the”s, “and”s, or “a”s?  Try taking them out. 
  12. Now, take out all the adverbs.
  13. Next, take out most of the adjectives.
  14. Poetry is word music.  Read your work aloud. Do you like the sound of your poem?
  15. Don't hide your light under a bushel—your poem is a gift to be shared.  Bring someone you love to that piece of art.  Share your poem with them.  Bring an extra copy and leave it by the artwork.
Tony says: asking your students (or yourself) to describe an image in the artwork is better than telling them simply to write something about the piece of art, which will make some students freeze.

Try it!  Have fun!

And, apropos of nothing, here's a sign I saw in Seattle recently which made me laugh:

This post was written by April Halprin Wayland.  Thank you for reading it! 
(Our cruel and heartless blog mistress makes us put our names here so we can't hide from our subscribers.)

2 Comments on Wednesday Writing Workout to fill your well: Poets in the Gallery!, last added: 7/24/2013
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5. Do the Unexpected

How are you all fairing with our workout? The holidays are in high gear right now, and we're physically working out getting in that last minute shopping, but we can't ignore our writing muscles. 
Last week we wrote the scene that grabbed us. Now we're going to do the scary thing and throw something in the mix. Take whatever part of the book you're working on and add one of the following, then see what happens. Remember you don't have to keep it, but it's a great exercise to test out your characters. We love to torture them!

  • Your character finds out someone close has just died.
  • Your character is injured.
  • The antagonist shows up unexpectedly. 
  • Severe weather interferes (e.g, storm, earthquake, heatwave)
You have to do this exercise the first half of the week, because we're doing double time now that we have our heart rates up. The second exercise is this:

Take another character from the same book and put them in the same situation to see what happens. 

Did you learn something about the other character you didn't know? What did that do to your perspective? I'd love to hear if you found anything interesting from this! Don't be afraid to email me. Good luck!

8 Comments on Do the Unexpected, last added: 12/18/2012
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6. Wind Down

Merry Christmas to all those who celebrate it! 

You've all done a great workout with me! Thanks. And if you didn't squeeze it in, that's okay - you can go back and do it when you're ready. I hope you found some inspiration in there. Today we stretch and wind down so we can spend time with family.

So all I want you to do is write down your next goal. Be specific and positive. Like, "I will write ten chapters by February." Or whatever applies to your situation. Then put it in a place you'll see it often. On the fridge, cork-board, computer background, whatever. 

And one more thing...

RELAX AND HAVE A GREAT WEEK!

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7. Memory Poet-Tree: a Wednesday Writing Workout

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Howdy Campers! Welcome to...

My mother says that everyone remembers the trees of their childhood.

I recently attended the annual FOCAL (Friends of Children and Literature) Luncheon hosted by the Los Angeles Public Library Children's Literature Department. Each year, FOCAL gives an award to an outstanding children's book with California content.  This year's award deservedly went to my friend Joanne Rocklin for her wonderful book, One Day and One Amazing Morning on Orange Street (Abrams).

This book bubbles over with the voice of middle graders.  It's a wonderful and truly amazing work, as the avalanche of great reviews and awards attests.

Joanne's acceptance speech was thoroughly Joanne: full of enthusiasm, aware of her audience, bursting with love.

I had such a great time, I bought one of the centerpieces, made by
Ray Moszkowicz's art students at Palms Middle School:
 Each detail of this inspired centerpiece references her book.

Joanne's memories of her beloved orange trees inspired my poem that day (I write a poem a day); I thought perhaps a memory of a tree in your life might inspire you, too.

I wrote about our Meyer Lemon tree and how incredibly generous it is.  See for yourself:

I want to share my lemon tree poem with you...but here's my dilemma: dozens of my poems have been published in poetry anthologies...but recent contracts specify that poems can never have been published--even on a blog.  ACK!

But wait! I see that I've blogged on this topic before... so let's use a poem I've posted previously:

WINNING
by April Halprin Wayland

I sit under this tree
to sit under this tree.

Not to win anything.
Just me and tree.

If the wind happens to drop
a sweet plum in my lap, though,

I would never say no
to a plum.
poem © 2013 April Halprin Wayland. All rights reserved
 
Now it's your turn. 
1) Close your eyes. Think of a tree from your childhood...or any tree of significance to you.
2) List details of that tree that cover all five senses, or write snippets of your memories of the tree.
3) Or you may want to simply plunge in, and see what memories sprout from your pen or keyboard.
4) Consider putting your poem (or was it a story that emerged?) into a form...or not.
5) Consider sending your poem to someone who would remember that tree.
6) Leave a comment about this exercise.  :-)

Don't forget to enter to enter our Book Giveaway to win
Brenda Ferber's Valentine's Day picture book,  
The Yuckiest, Stinkiest, Best Valentine Ever (Dial)
 All the details are in Esther's post below. 

And thanks for coming to today's Wednesday Writing Workout!

poem and lemon tree photo © 2013 April Halprin Wayland. All rights reserved

13 Comments on Memory Poet-Tree: a Wednesday Writing Workout, last added: 1/19/2013
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8. A Magnet Poem

Last year at the Perth Writers Festival family Day  I got a free magnet board and enough letter magnets to spell my name. This year  got a sheet of magnet words. Today I finally opened both - and wrote a poem. Not a great photo - actually very hard to photograph because of white background and tiny size of words. But lots of fun.

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9. The Progressive Poem's denouement!

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Howdy Campers!

Remember to enter to win in our 4 x 4 Blogiversary Celebration!

Today I have the absolute honor and (as Esther would say) knee-buckling responsibility to write the last line of 2013's Progressive Poem.  Yay!  And yikes!

The brainchild of Irene Latham, this Progressive Poem has been moving from blog to blog, growing poet by poet, for 29 days until it's come here for one final line.  For the poem and a list of contributing poets, see below.
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At the end of a month posting rough drafts of poems about dogs, I think you could say that this, too, is a rough draft.  As Laura Puride Salas says, it's poetry improv.  Yes, and a poetry game.  It's been fascinating to read the process of those who've proceeded me.

When I got the line by Denise Mortensen, it's such a great line, I thought I should just write THE END.  Then I could talk about how a poet needs to know when to quit and when a good line's a good ending.  That would be funny. If only I had the courage!

But I don't.  So off we go!

Here is the list of the poets who each contributed a line (in this space, some appear to be a line and then some, but they are all really one line each), and below their names is the (yikes!) finished poem.  Take a bow, poets!
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DAY/LINE + POET

P.T. BARNUM'S GREAT TRAVELING MUSEUM, MENAGERIE, CARAVAN, AND HIPPODROME*
by Thirty Poets on a mission in the Kidlitosphere...see list above

When you listen to your footsteps
the words become music and
the rhythm that you’re rapping gets your fingers tapping, too.
Your pen starts dancing across the page
a private pirouette, a solitary samba until
smiling, you’re beguiling as your love comes shining through.

Pause a moment in your dreaming, hear the whispers
of the words, one dancer to another, saying
Listen, that’s our cue! Mind your meter. Find your rhyme.
Ignore the trepidation while you jitterbug and jive.
Arm in arm, toe to toe, words begin to wiggle and flow
as your heart starts singing let your mind keep swinging

from life’s trapeze, like a clown on the breeze.
Swinging upside down, throw and catch new sounds–
Take a risk, try a trick; break a sweat: safety net?
Don’t check! You’re soaring and exploring,
dangle high, blood rush; spiral down, crowd hush–
limb-by-line-by-limb envision, pyramidic penned precision.

And if you should topple, if you should flop
if your meter takes a beating; your rhyme runs out of steam—
know this tumbling and fumbling is all part of the act,
so get up with a flourish. Your pencil’s still intact.
Snap those synapses! Feel the pulsing through your pen
Commit, measure by measure, to the coda’s cadence.

You've got them now--in the palm of your hand!
Finger by finger you’re reeling them in—
Big Top throng refrains from cheering, strains to hear the poem nearing…
Inky paws, uncaged, claw straw and sawdust
Until… CRACK! You’re in the center ring, mind unleashed, your words take wing--
they circle, soar, then light in the lap of an open-mouthed child; the crowd goes wild.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

* Barnum's circus was originally called "P.T. Barnum's Great Traveling Museum, Menagerie, Caravan, and Hippodrome," which is pretty much what our poem is. ("Greatest Show on Earth" was added later...that's us, too!)

It never hurts to join forces...

 
...ask all the thirsty pooches at the dog park!
Let's play some more!

Hey--where'd everybody go???

G'bye to Poetry Month 2013!  See you next year!

Posted by April Halprin Wayland

28 Comments on The Progressive Poem's denouement!, last added: 5/3/2013
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10.

Hello, all!

First things first:  If you haven't yet entered to win in our 4 x 4 Blogiversary Celebration, go! Do! Who wouldn't love selecting a few FREE books from one of our favorite indies?


Secondly, wasn't yesterday's Progressive Poem a blast? Thanks, April! A tough act to follow, for sure, but it's Wednesday, and that means it's time for a workout.

This week I've tapped one of my favorite teaching authors, novelist Sharelle (pronounced like Cheryl) Byars Moranville. Sharelle holds a Ph.D. in English and has taught as an adjunct professor at various colleges and universities. She's also a regular workshop leader at the University of Iowa Summer Writing Workshop. Here she is, prepared for warmer temperatures:


Sharelle's beautifully-crafted novels include the award-winning Over the River, The Purple Ribbon, A Higher Geometry, The Snows, and her latest, The Hop (Kirkus:  "an enchanting adventure.") I'm a great admirer of Sharelle's writing, which is filled with powerful sensory details and layers of emotion that go straight to a reader's heart. 


Here's a backstory exercise Sharelle uses with her writing students – and for her own stories, as well.
  • Diagram the important places in the story. For example, the main character's house. Show the layout, the directional orientation (for the cast of light, breeze through the house, etc.) Think about the view from each window.
  • Furnish the house. Think about the furnishings and what those reveal about backstory, character, and conflict.
  • Pick a particular item in the house – a keychain, a coffee mug, a knick-knack, a lamp, a toothbrush – and use it as a prompt for exploring backstory, character, and conflict. Use it to create a scene between two characters.
  • Pick an item in the house that will become a motif in the story – i.e., invested with an emotional content, like the backpack in Susan Patron's The Higher Power of Lucky or the pearls in Kimberly Willis Holt's When Zachary Beaver Came to Town.
Be sure to check out Sharelle's website:  www.sharellebyarsmoranville.com

Happy writing!

Jill Esbaum




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11. Wednesday Writing Workout ~ NEWSPAPER STORY STARTERS ~ !

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Howdy, Campers!

Before we get to today's Wednesday Writing Workout, I wanted to share author and bookseller Elizabeth Bluemle's latest post on her Publishers Weekly blog, ShelfTalker.  It moved me.  It's called "The Best Author Letter Ever."

Yes, Virginia, we--authors and teachers--can change a child's life.  Here ~ in case you need to dry your eyes:


And now, on to today's Wednesday Writing Workout!  But first some background:

Last month I was fortunate to participate in the beautifully organized Fay B. Kaigler Children's Book Festival in Hattiesburg, Mississippi...

April Halprin Wayland, Robyn Hood Black, and Irene Latham
play with food poems for their panel,
 
“Take Five! Create Fun with The Poetry Friday Anthology"
photo by Beck McDowell

...where I met the wonderful Beck McDowell,

 Author Beck McDowell

...author of the eerily timely novel, This is Not a Drill (Penguin), published just a few weeks before Sandyhook.


Beck gives us today's 

NEWSPAPER STORY STARTERS

1) Give this exercise about 20 minutes.

2) Divide the class into groups of two or three.

3) Let them choose newspapers and magazines from a stack you've brought in.

4) Their job will be to select a news article and make up their own story using the article as a starting point.  They'll add characters, twists, etc. to create an even more engaging story.

4) Each group elects a spokesperson.  The spokesperson shares a two-to-three minute synopsis of the "story" they've outlined, beginning with what the article actually said so everyone knows their starting point and how the group changed it.

Beck says, "...you're demonstrating where ideas come from and how a real event can trigger a story idea that's ultimately totally different from the original."

Thank you, Beck!

 BONUS: while writing this, I came across
"102 Ways to Use Newspapers" in the classroom. 
Monkey combs his favorite paper for story ideas

P.S: My Writing Picture Books for Children class in the UCLA Extension Writers Program (which I've taught since 1999) started this week.  I hope to use the newspaper exercise in class this quarter.  Let me know how it works!  And if you have any suggestions on how to make it more effective, my students will be most grateful--please take a moment to scribble a comment!




Finally, don't forget: there's still time to enter our blogiversary giveaway for a chance to win one of four $25 gift cards to Anderson's Bookshops. See this post for details.


And after you've entered, take five minutes and do a free write.  Remember to breathe...and to write for the fun of it ~
picture of Monkey and drawing of dancer by April Halprin Wayland. 

posted by April Halprin Wayland

4 Comments on Wednesday Writing Workout ~ NEWSPAPER STORY STARTERS ~ !, last added: 5/9/2013
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12. Wednesday Writing Workout--STAND ON YOUR HEAD and revise!

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Howdy Campers!   Welcome to another edition of TeachingAuthors'

TeachingAuthors--and most writing teachers--have taught and discussed versions of this exercise over the years—and it's worth repeating.

Last week I tweaked it just a bit and the raw results in student writing was much more personal than when I've used this exercise before--their stories were notably stronger.

In my UCLA Extension Writers' Program class on Writing the Children's Picture Book, I spend one of the three-hour classes on rewriting.  I tell my students, "the information I'm about to tell you may be a tad depressng."

Then I show them a stack of revisions of my 1087-word picture book. I read an early draft, a middle draft and the final published book.  I show a PowerPoint which details the long journey to publication:

TIMELINE OF ONE OF MY PICTURE BOOKS
•    April 2000: interviewed expert on topic; wrote first version
•    April 2002: additional interviews
•    October 2004: accepted by publisher
•    January 2005: author’s revision sent to Dial
•    July 2005: editorial notes promised
•    December 2005: editorial notes received
•    January 2006: author’s revision sent to editor
•    January 2006: line edit promised “soon”
•    March 2006: line edits promised “May at the earliest”
•    May 2006: no line edits yet
•    May 2006: illustrator accepts offer
•    September 2006: considerable line edits received
•    September 2006 (about 12 days later): edited ms. sent off with new title
•    May 2007 titles still under discussion—August 2008 projected publication date
•    September 2007—book delayed until summer 2009 because illustrator is delayed.
•    April 2008—tiny edit: five small word changes
•    Fall 2008: illustrations arrive—wow, wow, WOW!
•    June 2009: book ship—yippee!
•    Summer 2009 lots of PR
•    September 2009: official launch—bricks-and-mortar and blog tour

      = 38 versions from start to finish.


After depressing them with the timeline, I did something different this time.  I read them the touching picture book, I Remember Miss Perry, written by Pat Brission, illustrated by Stéphane Jorisch (he's also the illustrator of New Year at the Pier).  It's about the death of a beloved elementary school teachers and how her students work through it by sharing happy memories of her.  It's a delicious book about a topic no one wants to talk about--the kind of book that every school needs in its library, because when you need it, you need it immediately.

I want my students to feel they can tackle any topic in a children's picture book as long as it's written honestly.  As long as it rings true.

So, here's the exercise:

1) Have your students brainstorm for five minutes, writing a list of experiences from their childhood that rocked their world. 

Tell them to jot down whatever comes to mind, writing quickly. They don't need to worry about neatness or spelling or complete sentences--they're making notes for themselves.

Here are some possible topics:

When did you do something that made you feel grown-up?

Maybe you helped paint the kitchen.
Maybe you did something that helped someone older than you solve a problem.

When did something scary happen to you?
Maybe your dog ran away.
Maybe your parents separated.

When did something joyous happen to you?
Maybe your family moved into a nice home for the first time.
Maybe you learned how to skateboard or read.

2) Give them just five minutes to circle one of the things on their list that they want to write about and then write a brief outline of the whole story. 

3) Tell them to change one thing about this story.
Tell them: BE WILD!  
Tell them: STAND ON YOUR HEADS AND BALANCE SAUSAGES ON YOUR TOES! 
They might change:
~ Point of view.  Instead of first person, try third person.  Or perhaps the family dog tells the story.
~ Time period.    Instead of the present, try setting it in ancient times, in the 1920s, in the future.
~ Place:              Instead of on a farm, try setting it underwater, in a volcano, on an island, in New York.
~ Characters:      Instead of people, try ground hogs, lightning bugs, elevators, a jar of pickles or cows.
~ Plot:                Instead of the cricket finding his home at the end, perhaps he gets even more lost.  Or instead of the bully getting her comeuppance, throw a party for her and see what happens.

As I said, this is the first year I've read my students that book before we launched into this exercise; the stories were more heartfelt than in the past.
They tried riskier subjects, subjects that were closer to their skin--and every idea was worth pursuing.
I hope you try it--either in your own writing or with students.  Then let me know what happens!
And, hey--thanks for reading this!
April Halprin Wayland


3 Comments on Wednesday Writing Workout--STAND ON YOUR HEAD and revise!, last added: 6/22/2013
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13. Trapped

Phase two of my holidays is goin' exactly as planned. =D

The week has been awesome and busy and fun. The hubby had a blast on a camping trip with his bro, and I spent time with my amazin' daughter and some really great friends.

My daughter and I always have so much fun together, she's as crazy as I am. We spent one day mall shopping, visiting the best store on the planet; 'Teaopia' - we spent as much time in there as we did in the rest of the mall!

The next day was a museum day at the Manitoba Museum, Planetarium and Science Gallery.

In the MB Museum we hung out in a bat cave; played eye-spy in exhibits; swam with the tall ship Nonsuch; got freaked out in the creepy town when we realized we were the only people left in the museum cuz it was after hours and closing (you do NOT wanna get locked-in overnight in a museum!). (O_o) Just sayin'.

We saw a Beatles laser show at the Planetarium - a first for both of us. Good tunes, dry ice and dancing lights - awesome!

The science gallery is filled with these crazy cool things like an anti-gravity machine, a meteorite you can touch, pulley chairs, sound wave dishes, you can even build lil Kinex cars and race them! So much fun!

I spent the next day at Starbucks with my friend Sammy, catching up and talkin' shop (writin' stuff). =) She is one smart lady and a fantastic writer. She always gets me psyched to write.

Yesterday, I went poolside with my buddy Valerie and my daughter. Nothin' like hours of warm weather, great conversation and yummy goodies. Valerie has even begun to write! You go girl!

I'm still on holidays until Tuesday and I plan to make the most outta every minute! Woot woot!

For my writing exercise, I woke up yesterday morning with this first line, 'I am trapped by the darkness of my soul', running thru my head and it inspired the following poem:













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14. Fright Factors: Regenerate Decrepit Imagery

There was a summer storm brewing last night. Although the rain never came the thunderheads gathered across the sunset turning the sky an ominous shade of orange. Visibility was low and as I gazed across the street I thought of sinister plots and London fog. Why is it, I thought, that so many writers still use fog to build atmosphere? Surely creepy things can happen in dust storms as well. An apt conversation as this is the time to be writing Halloween tales.


Part of the charm of the Halloween tale is the nostalgia, a traditional telling of a tale set in autumn. But tradition can border on boredom if we refuse to see it through new eyes and refresh the imagery. The dark and stormy night with the dilapidated old mansion in a heavily wooded middle-of-nowhere place doesn’t reflect our current day experience. What about that creepy foreclosure at the end of the street though? You know, the one that keeps changing hands—people move in, people move out—they’re gone before you can make an introduction.

What are some of the elements we usually use to build a frightening tale? We touched on a couple, abandoned houses and, of course, the fog. What are some other images that might be over used? What can we substitute for them?

A fun exercise is to take your favorite traditional tale and re-work it. What substitutions can you make to bring this tale into modern times? Can you change the elements around so that the story takes place in a different part of the country without loosing the fright factor?

As my mother once told me, “There is nothing there in the dark that wasn’t there when the lights were on.” Which leads me to my next question… what is that standing next to you?

photos and text by Robyn Chausse

2 Comments on Fright Factors: Regenerate Decrepit Imagery, last added: 8/20/2011
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15. Free Fall Friday

Illustration by John O’Brien from his picture book THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS

Upon seeing the picture that Kathy sent me for Free Fall Friday, I burst into laughter because I identify with the man pushing on the cow. In preparing for the arrival of Hurricane Irene—minus my husband, who is in California for business reasons—I feel like I am trying to lift a cow into a tree without much success. Normally, my husband is diligent about clearing our yard and porch of anything that might blow away in high winds. Without him here, I bear all my weight against our heavy outdoor furniture and shove it against the edge of the garage, praying for Irene to lose her strength before she arrives in Connecticut.

When you are not clearing your yard, running out to stock up on groceries, or making sure your flashlights have new batteries, take a moment to study this picture. Enjoy writing to the prompt.

I look at the picture and wonder how many cows are waiting to be lifted into the tree. How does the cow feel about this? Are the cows and the birds connected in some way? Ultimately, what are the woman and man trying to achieve by doing this? Is a child watching the couple? Would the child have a better idea how to get the cow in the tree, and if so, what might that be?

Stay safe in the storm, and if you lose electricity, pretend you live in the old days and enjoy writing by candlelight. You may find it inspiring!

Thanks Betsy! It looks like all of us on the east coast may really have to write in the dark this weekend when Irene comes knocking. I hate losing my electric and have my fingers crossed that it fizzles out, but the outlook looks dim.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: authors and illustrators, inspiration, Writer's Prompt, writing excercise Tagged: Free Fall Friday, John O'Brien, Writer's Prompt, Writing Exercise
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16. Announcing Our Book Giveaway Winner, a Writing Exercise, and Poetry Friday!

.
Howdy, Campers!  Author and illustrator Barney Saltzberg is a generous soul, and in his Friday the 13th interview, he offered an autographed copy of his fun and amazing book, BEAUTIFUL OOPS to one of our readers.

And the lucky, randomly chosen winner is...

Sarah Albee--yay, Sarah (who's an amazing author--check out her website)!
Here's Sarah's Beautiful Oops:
My oops moment happened when I was a very junior editor at Sesame Street. I was editing my first big book, a SS songbook (because I was the only editor in my dept who could read music and play piano). I went over to Jeff Moss's house (composer of Rubber Duckie) to show him some song arrangements, and when we got to People In Your Neighborhood (his song) we both stared at the composer credit, which read Joe Raposo (his long-time rival and writer of Bein' Green, among many others). Jeff was notoriously curmudgeonly, and I knew there was a good chance he would flip, even though of course it was just galleys and there would be plenty of opportunity to change it. So I quickly made a joke about it (along the lines of how interchangeable he and Joe were, whatevs). After five tense seconds, he grinned broadly. And we became fast friends.

So...drawing the winning name, watching the exciting announcements of the ALA awards (I felt as if I were in the audience!) and reading Carmela's, Mary Ann's, JoAnn's, Esther's, and Jeanne Marie's fabulous and thought-provoking posts about awards, got me to thinking about winning...
photo courtesy morguefile.com

...which inspired this poem for Poetry Friday, graciously hosted today by Jim at HeyJimHill!

WINNING
by April Halprin Wayland


I sit under this tree
to sit under this tree.


15 Comments on Announcing Our Book Giveaway Winner, a Writing Exercise, and Poetry Friday!, last added: 1/29/2012
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17. A Writing Workout from our First Ever Mystery Guest TeachingAuthor!

We have a special treat here today on our TeachingAuthors blog: a Writing Workout from a Mystery Guest TeachingAuthor (MGTA). This is a new feature we're trying out, so I hope you'll let us know what you think.

[Note: I'm still waiting to hear from Mary Ann about our giveaway winner. Sorry for the delay--we'll be posting the lucky winner's name soon.]

Now, here's the plan for today: I'll share our MGTA's bio before giving you his/her Writing Workout. See if you can guess who our guest author is before I reveal the MGTA's identity at the end of the post. (No fair looking up the MGTA's books online to find out the author's name!) Then let us know if you guessed correctly, or if the MGTA is someone who's work is new to you. You can respond via a comment, or send us an email.

Our first MGTA is the author of numerous books for young readers. MGTA's most recent publications are two young-adult novels, Dark of the Moon (Harcourt) and King of Ithaka (Henry Holt), and the four books in the middle-grade series, The Sherlock Files (Henry Holt). Nonfiction includes The Ancient Greek World and The Ancient Chinese World (The World in Ancient Times, Oxford University Press). This author was the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators’ Regional Advisor for the Midsouth from 1999 to 2009 and  is now SCBWI’s Regional Advisor Coordinator. MGTA was awarded the SCBWI Work-in-Progress Grant in 2005 and a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities in 1994. MGTA holds a B.A. with Honors in Classics from Brown University, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Medieval Italian Literature from the University of California at Berkeley. This author lives in Nashville, TN and recently retired from teaching at Vanderbilt University. 

Have you identified our guest yet? Perhaps this MGTA's description of his/her path to becoming a TeachingAuthor will help:
Hi, everybody! So glad to be here at TeachingAuthors.

I was a college professor for 28 years, but not of creative writing! I taught Italian, and my students had to write in both English and Italian, especially when I taught Grammar and Composition. My students told me that they learned a lot about writing in general, not just writing in Italian, from that class! Occasionally I also taught classes in children’s literature and in writing for young readers. A few years into my teaching career I started writing for young readers, starting with nonfiction. I added fiction and now happily write both.

I like reading and writing stories that explore a familiar story from a point of view (POV) that we don’t usually hear from. I’ve written
King of Ithaka, a version of the Odyssey as told by Odysseus’s son, Telemachus, and Dark of the Moon, the myth of the Minotaur as seen by the Minotaur’s sister, A

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18. Mystery Guest TeachingAuthor And Book Giveaway for Poetry Friday!

Howdy, Campers!  And...surprise!  Following the success of our first Mystery Guest TeachingAuthor which Carmela Martino posted last Friday, here's our second ever Mystery Guest TeachingAuthor (MGTA)—complete with his/her Writing Workout and a fabulous Book Giveaway! OMG.  I'll bet you can barely stand the excitement. The details about the giveaway are below, but DO NOT GO THERE YET.  If you do, you'll find out who our MGTA is and blow the whole deal.
Here's how we play the MGTA game: I'll share our MGTA's bio before giving you his/her Writing Workout [listen...this his/her thing is getting awkward...I'll give this to you: it's a her]. You try to guess who our guest author is before I reveal the MGTA's identity at the end of the post. (And even though it's going to kill you, no fair clicking on the MGTA's book links to find out the author's name!) 

Then let us know if you figured out who this most amazing lady is, either by commenting below, or an email.

Ready?  Okay, let's go!

Today's MGTA is a Professor in the School of Library and Information Studies at Texas Woman’s University and has taught graduate courses in children's and young adult literature at various universities since 1981. She has published extensively, including five books on literature for children [including—remember, no clicky-clicky—Poetry Aloud Here! Sharing Poetry with Children in the Library (ALA, 2006), Poetry People: A Practical Guide to Children's Poets (Libraries Unlimited, 2007), and Children'sLiterature in Action: A Librarians Guide (Libraries Unlimited, 2008)], as well as over 20 book chapters and 100 journal articles; she's recently co-edited several ground-breaking e-anthologies of poetry for children. In addition, she edits for Librarians' Choice. Is this woman is making you tired, just reading about her?  And there's more: her blog is full of tips and news (and poems) that help spread enthusiasm for poetry, and it has become a touchstone—the go-to blog in the field of poetry for children.

Have you guessed our guest yet?  No?  Well,

12 Comments on Mystery Guest TeachingAuthor And Book Giveaway for Poetry Friday!, last added: 8/5/2012
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19. Beginnings and Endings

It's that time of year...  Today I turned in my syllabus for the fall semester.  Oh, summer, I miss you already. 

Of course we've all been engrossed in the Olympics this week, cheering for Michael Phelps (hometown boy), Gabby Douglas, and all the rest.  Looking at track, at gymnastics, at swimming, it occurs to me -- you can be a breast stroke specialist and so-so in the free; outstanding on the vault and a little shaky on the beam.  Like "sport," writing involves a HUGE compendium of skill sets that need to come together in a rather miraculous way to make even a passable final product. 

Like athletes, writers have coaches (editors) and fans; we also need to put in our time (thousands of hours) and sweat. Unlike athletes, we have more than one chance on the big stage to get it right.  Hallelujah.  This is great news!  Yet trying to convince my students that editing is not only important but a gift remains one of my biggest teaching hurdles.

This week I've worn my article-writer hat; my scriptwriter hat; my picture book writer hat.  I just signed up for a romance writing class this fall, so we'll see whether I have a romance writer hat in my closet.  However, my teacher hat is rather new and stiff still.  I find that one of the greatest challenges in college comp is teaching students global skills and grammar skills; research skills and sentence-level editing. Some students have had many of these skills since they were very young; others don't know where to put periods or apostrophes.  However, some who struggle with grammar are still among my strongest writers on a global level.  And how do you differentiate instruction for students you see for a whopping two-and-a-half hours per week?  Whew!

I have spent the last week contemplating last year's syllabus -- what worked and what didn't?  What do I want to keep, tweak, revamp, delete? One exercise that was fairly effective last year involved introductions and conclusions.  Many introductory comp students have had the five-paragraph essay format effectively drilled into their heads.  They think they are required to write an introduction that concludes with a three-point thesis; that the introductory sentence of each of the next three paragraphs should repeat one third of the thesis statement; and that the concluding paragraph should begin with a restatement of the thesis statement, going on to summarize all that has come before.

Many students are shocked when I suggest that it is not good practice to say the same thing three times; in fact, many are shocked by the mere notion that they can write more than or fewer than five pargraphs in one essay.  We spend much of the semester working toward the notion that the five-paragraph format is a template that can be molded to a variety of shapes, forms, and purposes.

Our textbooks concentrate on suggestions for making introductions and conclusions more interesting: start with dialogue; start with a story; start with an interesting fact.  In the final paragraph, end with a story; bring your reader back to the beginning; offer a tip or a suggestion; look toward the future.

Many students nonetheless are resistant to these ideas and continue to write summary-type paragraphs that add zero interest to their papers.  So we tried this writing workout:

Writing Workout

Rewrite your introduction once, and then do it again.  Use two different techniques (anecdote, interesti

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20. Priming the Writing Pump

    As long as I have lived in Georgia, (eleven years now), the state has suffered from drought. I don't remember what a green lawn looks like.  My yard (and everyone else's) has turned cornflake brown, with lots of bald spots. Lake levels have dropped until people with "lakefront homes" now have "mud front homes." Fourth of July often includes a ban on fireworks.  Even sparklers feel hazardous when everything around you has turned to kindling.

    The writing life has it's dry spells, too.  We all have them, even though we don't like to admit it.  After all, we are writers. This is what we do.We are supposed to be endless founts of creativity. We are "supposed" to write every day. When we don't, we feel guilty. OK, I feel guilty.  For me, not writing is in the same league with not working out and eating junk food.  A few days of not writing and I come down with a bad case of brain fog.

    My first experience with a dry writing well came at the end of my MFA program at Vermont College. After two years and four drafts,  I thought I had finished Yankee Girl. (Wrong. I had another two years and three drafts to go.) Feeling very pleased with myself I jumped right into a new novel.  I had a setting and some characters so I thought I was good to go.  I wrote the first couple of chapters and sent them off to my faculty mentor, Randy Powell for critique.

   Randy made his usual cogent comments on the writing, but ended his last letter with a comment I thought odd at the time. Sometimes, after a big project like Yankee Girl, he wrote, it's good to let the creative well refill. What was he talking about?

   A year and another "finished" novel later, I figured out what he meant.  I had three hundred pages of writing; I didn't have three hundred pages of a novel.  I'd pushed myself to write a novel, when I really didn't have a novel in me at the time.  Sigh. Fortunately, by then I was working with an editor on yet another revision of Yankee Girl. From those three hundred pages (which are still lurking in  my hard drive) I learned to let a story simmer on a back burner awhile. Writing Yankee Girl drained me, emotionally and creatively. I should have given myself some time off. I should have let my well refill, as Randy had suggested.

    However, time off can turn into goofing off.  You can't just sit around waiting for rain to refill your well.  The trick is to keep writing, keep priming the pump until you get your mojo back.

    I should know. I am halfway through my current work-in-progress.  For a variety of reasons, I am too creatively pooped out to do the story justice, right now.  So what am I doing?

   Writing this blog, for one thing. Knowing that I will be talking to you all every other Monday has kept me going.  I am also lucky enough to have a series of Young Writer's Workshops lined up for this school year.  Working with students always energizes me.

   But what if you don't write a blog or have a continuous supply of workshops and school visits to keep you sharp?   What if you don't have the time or energy to journal for even fifteen minutes?

   Writer's Workout I try to find at least three things every day that I want to write in my journal. Three things that make me stop and

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21. Book Giveaway and Guest TeachingAuthor Interview with Heidi B. Roemer

Happy Poetry Friday, Everyone!

Today we're celebrating by featuring a guest TeachingAuthor interview with the wonderful poet, author, teacher, and now, editor, Heidi Bee Roemer. And I'm THRILLED to announce the forthcoming release of the brand new poetry anthology edited by Heidi and Carol-Ann Hoyte: And the Crowd Goes Wild! A Global Gathering of Sports Poems--ATCGW for short. The anthology, which is illustrated by Kevin Sylvester, includes 50 sports-related poems by poets from ten countries. I am honored to be one of those poets, and I have to say that I'm in some pretty amazing company, including Charles Ghigna, J. Patrick Lewis, David L. Harrison, Avis Harley, Priscilla Uppal, and my former fellow TeachingAuthor, JoAnn Early Macken. ATCGW is geared for children ages 8-12, and showcases nearly 30 different poetry forms. A portion of royalties from both the paperback and e-book editions will be donated to Right to Play, an international organization that uses sports and games to educate and empower children facing adversity.

And great news for our TeachingAuthors readers: you can enter our drawing for a chance to win your own paperback copy of this terrific anthology, autographed by Heidi (or her co-editor, Carol-Ann, if you live in Canada). See details at the end of this post. If you don't win our contest, see the official CrowdGoesWild website for information on how to a copy. (The e-book is only $3.99!)

In case you don't know Heidi Bee Roemer, here's an excerpt from her bio: With nearly 400 poems, articles, and stories in various children’s magazines and anthologies to her credit, Heidi is also a song lyricist and children’s book reviewer. Her debut book, Come to My Party and Other Shape Poems, (Henry Holt) received starred reviews and was nominated for several awards. Her newest books are both from NorthWord Press: What Kinds of Seeds are These? and Whose Nest is This? Heidi is a former instructor for the Institute of Children’s Literature, and currently serves as a writer-in-residence for several Chicago Public schools.

I had the privilege of taking a poetry class with Heidi a few years ago, and I can tell you from experience that she's a great teacher--several of the poems I wrote while in her class were eventually published in children's magazines or anthologies. When I saw Heidi's call for submissions for ATCGW, I initially submitted a couple of reworked  poems from that class. Then Heidi sent a follow-up call, asking specifically for poems about paralympic athletes--athletes with physical limitations. My first thought was: How can I write about a paralympic athlete when I don't know any? Then a few days later I remembered watching my son run his first marathon, and how inspired I was by all the paralympic athletes who participated. One runner in particular, a British man who ran on two prosthetic limbs, had left such an impression on me that I still recalled the awe and respect I felt watching him. So I wrote a list poem called "At the Chicago Marathon" as a tribute to him, and that was the poem accepted into And the Crowd Goes Wild! A Global Gathering of Sports Poems. I don't want to make this post too long, so I'll share just the first stanza of my poem here:

                         At the Chicago Marathon

      The crowd roars as another runner rounds the bend.
      I stretch on tiptoes to see:
           white visor,
           dark sunglasses,
           rope necklace,
           muscled arms,
           red-white-and-blue shirt—the British flag, not ours,
           four black numbers on a white rectangle: 1776,
           same as the year our country declared independence from his. 
      . . .
poem excerpt © 2012 Carmela Martino.  All rights reserved.  

(Note: You can see a photograph of Richard Whitehead, the inspiration for this poem, running in that race here. That day he completed 26.2 miles in 2 hours, 42 minutes, and 52 seconds, setting the world marathon record for a leg amputee and placing 212 out of over 36,000 finishers. He will be running in the 100m and 200m races at this week's 2012 London Paralympic Games. According to the official website, those events will be held on Sept. 7 and Sept 1, respectively. You can read more about him at his website.)

And now, for the interview:

Heidi, will you tell us how you became a TeachingAuthor?
     My “on the job training” experience as a teacher is based on nearly 300 school presentations and library visits. As a poet-in-residence for Chicago Public Schools I learned how to make poetry lessons informative, lively and fun! In 2001 I was accepted as an instructor for The Institute of Children’s Literature, a college-credited correspondence course for adults who want to write for children. I also teach poetry to adults and children in various local venues.

What's a common problem/question that your students have and how do you address it?
     New poets often write rambling, overly-long poems and approach revision with reluctance. Most rookie poets need guidance on how to trim, tighten, and tweak their words. Someone wisely wrote: “Poetry is a can of frozen orange concentrate. Add three cans water and you get prose.” I agree! Want practice writing succinctly? Write terse verse because it contains only a few words per line. Children’s terse verse may be sprinkled with rhyme, alliteration, assonance, and wordplay. Closing lines should illicit a response from the reader—a sigh, gasp, smile or giggle. To understand how to write stellar poems for children in any poetic form, I often direct aspiring poets to magazines such as High Five, Babybug, Ladybug, Spider, Hopscotch, Boy’s Quest, Fun for Kids, Turtle, and Humpty Dumpty. Those wishing to be published in these specific magazines should study not just one issue, but two or more years of back issues.

Would you share a favorite writing exercise for our readers?
     Try writing terse verse—it’s not as easy as it looks! Short lines force the writer to trim excess words. Focus on a single age-appropriate topic using mostly concrete nouns and vivid verbs. Establish a word pattern and engage your young reader by incorporating a lighthearted, playful tone. Terse verse, also called cryptic rhyme, was popularized by author Verla Kay in Orphan Train, Gold Fever and other books. Writers who wish to master this poetry form should read Verla’s complete cryptic collection. I’m pleased to say that ATCGW contains a delightful terse verse written by U.S. author, Ellen Ramsey. I won’t give away her surprise ending, but here are a few opening lines:

          “What Do You Do With….”

          A weight?
          Lift it.
          A racquet?
          Swing it.
          A rope?
          Climb it.
          A bike?
          Ride it. . . .
poem excerpt © 2012 Ellen Ramsey.  All rights reserved. 

Do you have any suggestions for teachers on how they might use And the Crowd Goes Wild! in the classroom?
     Educators will find ATCGW an easy fit with school curriculum. One suggestion is to engage students in related physical activities. For example, Laura Purdie Salas’s roundel is about goalball, an official sport of the Paralympics games; visually impaired players chase a ball that contains a bell inside. Using a cat toy with a bell inside, let blindfold students try to toss and catch the toy, aided only by the ringing sound. Patricia Cooley’s free verse about chess, “The King’s Gambit,” can also be creatively adapted. Students can hold large cardboard replicas of chess pieces (rook, pawn, bishop, etc) and play a life-size game of chess.
     ATCGW can be used as a study of various poetry forms. The end pages identify nearly 30 poetic forms found in the anthology, such as haiku, limerick and shape poems, as well as less familiar forms: cleave, etheree, and palindrome. Keeping a poetry journal, students can study the various forms and write a new poetry form each week.
     ATCGW also introduces students to poets featured in the book. Some contributing poets are recognized and revered around the world, others are just at the cusp of their writing careers. Students can visit the poet’s website or blog. If the poet has published other books, students might read those as well. Geography can play a role in classroom studies, too! Students can use pushpins and a world map to indicate where each poet lives. Once the study is done, students may write an email or letter to their favorite poet.

ATCGW is your first project as editor. What’s the experience been like? Would you do it again?
     My dream job is to be a poetry editor for a children’s magazine. So when the book’s creator, Carol-Ann Hoyte of Montreal, Quebec, Canada, asked me to be part of this international “Olympic-related” sports poetry project, I jumped at the chance. It’s an exciting experience to discover new talent and see a book come to life. Yes, I would love to edit another poetry anthology—or children’s poetry magazine, for that matter!

I know you’ve lined up a number of events to promote ATCGW around the world involving some of the contributors (including ME!). Would you tell us about some of those events?
     Carol-Ann and I are excited about our upcoming book launches this fall. The U.S. launches will feature eight Illinois poets. ATCGW’s official “Poetry Team U.S.A.” includes contributors Cathy Cronin, Patricia Cooley, Heather Delabre, Claudia Kohlbrenner, Eileen Meyer, Patricia Murphy, Heidi Bee Roemer, Michelle Schaub, and (yay!) today’s TeachingAuthor interviewer, Carmela Martino! My heartfelt thanks, Carmela, for letting me tell your dedicated followers and fellow poets about And the Crowd Goes Wild! A Global Gathering of Sports Poems. I hope your readers will check the listings below and join us for an hour of poetry, poets, prizes and fun surprises!

Thank you, Heidi, for this great interview, and for allowing me to be part of And the Crowd Goes Wild! A Global Gathering of Sports Poems. Below is information about the book's first two launch events. I'll be posting additional dates and times next Friday. Meanwhile, don't forget to enter our contest for your chance to win an autographed copy. See the details at the end of this post. 

First two launch events for And the Crowd Goes Wild! A Global Gathering of Sports Poems:
In Canada:
Thursday, September 13 at 7 p.m.
Selwyn House School
95 Cote St. Antoine Road, Westmount, Montreal

In the U.S:
Wednesday, September 26 at 6:30 – 7:30 p.m.
Mokena Library
11327 W. 195th Street
Mokena, Illinois 60448

Finally, details on entering our giveaway:

You must follow our TeachingAuthors blog to enter for a chance to win an autographed paperback copy of  And the Crowd Goes Wild! A Global Gathering of Sports Poems. If you're not already a follower, you can sign up now in the sidebar to subscribe to our posts via email, Google Friend Connect, or Facebook Network blogs.

There are two ways to enter:  
  • by a comment posted below OR
  • by sending an email to teachingauthors [at] gmail [dot] com with "Book Giveaway" in the subject line.
Whichever way you enter, you MUST give us your name AND tell us how you follow us. If you enter via a comment, you MUST include a valid email address (formatted like: teachingauthors [at] gmail [dot] com) in your comment. Contest open only to residents of the United States and Canada. Incomplete entries will be discarded. For complete giveaway rules, see our Book Giveaway Guidelines.

Entry deadline is 11 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012 (Central Standard Time). The winner will be chosen in a random drawing and announced on Sept. 12.  
Good luck! 

And after you've entered, don't forget to check out this week's Poetry Friday round-up at Poetry For Children.

Happy Writing!
Carmela

18 Comments on Book Giveaway and Guest TeachingAuthor Interview with Heidi B. Roemer, last added: 9/19/2012
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22. Book Giveaway! The Author's Name Rhymes with Halloween: FORGET ME NOT by Carolee Dean

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Howdy, Campers! Happy Poetry Friday! Info about how to enter today's Book Giveaway is far, far below.

Poetry Friday is hosted today by the Paper Tigers--thank you!

Years ago, I attended an informal farewell lunch after speaking at a writers' conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  I was tired and wasn't feeling well and very nearly skipped that lunch.  Luckily, I didn't. That's where I met the dynamic and sparkling Carolee Dean.

I have since had the great pleasure of being on a panel Carolee put together for this year's International Reading Association Convention in Chicago.  (That's where I learned how generous, well-organized and cool-under-pressure she is.)

Carolee keeps a gazillion plates spinning in the air at once.  She not only works in public schools as a speech-language pathologist, she also teaches writing, helps sponsor middle school and high school poetry slam teams, and is the author of three young adult novels all including original poetry.  They are: COMFORT (Houghton Mifflin), TAKE ME THERE (Simon Pulse), and the JUST ABOUT TO BE PUBLISHED paranormal verse novel FORGET ME NOT (Simon Pulse, Oct. 2, 2012)--which you, yes you can WIN in our Book Giveaway--woo-woo (details below)!

So let's meet Carolee in person.  Hey, Carolee--how did you officially become a TeachingAuthor?

I've spent over a decade working in the public schools as a speech-language pathologist with students of all ages and a variety of challenges. The most difficult thing for most of them is writing, and understandably, many of them hate doing it. I'm always trying out activities to inspire my reluctant writers. Sometimes the activities work. Sometimes they don't. When they do work I like to share them with other educators because I know how difficult it can be to continuously come up with inspiring lessons.

Among some of my better ideas is a twelve step story analysis method I call The Secret Language of Stories. I've given presentations on it at several state, national, and international conferences including the International Reading Association 2012 in Chicago where I co-presented on an all day panel with you and TeachingAuthor
Esther Hershenhorn. I have a description of the twelve steps
on a tab at my blog.

What's a common problem your students have and how do you address it? 

It's easy to get stuck staring at a big white page or a blank computer screen. I can't tell you how many times I hear the words, "I don't know what to write."  I reply, "writing isn't about knowing. There is no magic right or wrong answer as there is in other subjects.

Writing is about choosing, about considering the infinite possibilities and picking one." To this the student inevitably replies, "I still don't know what to write." Then I usually give the stumped pupil a whole list of suggestions which he or she usually doesn't like because that blank computer screen is still just so darn intimidating.

One strategy that has worked extremely well for me is to create a PowerPoint with directions on each slide for what part of the story to write on that particular slide. I also include suggestions about what kind of accompanying images to select. I usually let kids choose the images first since the pictures often inspire their writing. This has worked extremely well with even the most struggling writers. Kids love power point and they love Google Images.

I have some high school students who read and write at first and second grade levels and they have come up with some of the most amazing stories.

(Directions for Carolee's PowerPoint story along with a downloadable PowerPoint can be found under the Teacher Resources section of her blog).

Would you share a favorite writing exercise with our readers?

I like to get kids talking about stories before they write them. There is a strong connection between oral language and written language and it often helps to verbalize ideas before putting them down on paper.

One of my favorite activities is to cut out unusual pictures from magazines. Advertisements often contain images that may be interpreted in a variety of ways. I play music and then ask students to walk around the room. When the music stops I tell them to sit down in front of a picture and describe to the class what they think is going on.

We do this several times and I've found that the random nature of the activity takes off the pressure to think of something good. After they've all come up with two or three ideas, we sit down to write. I often use the structure of poetry for this stage of writing because the focus is on ideas rather than grammar.

I LOVE that idea, Carolee. I can see using it in my classes for adults writers, too. Okay, so tell us...what's on the horizon for you?

I'm in the process of writing up The Secret Language of Stories as a teacher sourcebook and I just wrote an article for Cynsations exploring the history of verse novels going all the way back to Homer and the Iliad and the Odyssey.

In the immediate future, FORGET ME NOT, my paranormal verse novel, is coming out October 2! It's about a girl who has been cyber bullied and hides out from her tormentors in a deserted part of the school only to find herself stuck in a hallway full of ghosts.
(Read the great Kirkus review of FORGET ME NOT here and another terrific review of her book here.)

Sounds wonderfully SPOOKY, Carolee--and just in time for Halloween! 

And finally, since it's Poetry Friday in the Kidlitosphere, would you share a poem from your new book with our readers?

Absolutely.  Here is an excerpt from FORGET ME NOT:

WRITE IT OUT

That's what Ms. Lane,
my writing teacher,
would say.
Spill it out onto
the page.
Sometimes it's
the only way

for thoughts heavy
as bricks
to become feathers
and fly away.

I could go
to her class.
Get my head
together.

I'd sit next to
Elijah.

I wonder if
he's heard.

Even if he has,
I know

he
wouldn't say
a word.

poem © 2012 Carolee Dean. All rights reserved

Wonderful!  Thank you SO much for stopping by to talk with us, Carolee!

Here's the exquisite book trailer for FORGET ME NOT:


Campers!  Join Carolee's Ghost Tour which starts Oct. 3, and check out the original jewelry made especially for Carolee's book launch!

Carolee has generously offered to autograph a copy of  her about-to-be-published book for our BOOK GIVEAWAY.  Yay!  To enter, just follow these rules:

You must follow our TeachingAuthors blog to enter for a chance to win an autographed copy of Forget Me Not by Carolee Dean.  If you're not already a follower, you can sign up now in the sidebar to subscribe to our posts via email, Google Friend Connect, or Facebook Network blogs.

There are two ways to enter:
1) by a comment posted below
OR
2) by sending an email to teachingauthors [at] gmail [dot] com with "Book Giveaway" in the subject line.

Just for the fun of it, tell us a true ghost story of your own in 50 words or less. This is optional!

Whichever way you enter, you MUST give us your name AND tell us how you follow us. If you enter via a comment, you MUST include a valid email address (formatted this way: youremail [at] gmail [dot] com) in your comment. Contest open only to residents of the United States. Incomplete entries will be discarded.
Entry deadline is 11 p.m. Thursday, October 4, 2012 (Central Standard Time). The winner will be chosen in a random drawing and announced on October 5th.

Good luck, Campers!

13 Comments on Book Giveaway! The Author's Name Rhymes with Halloween: FORGET ME NOT by Carolee Dean, last added: 10/9/2012
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23. The Warm Up

If you read the blog last week (and did your homework) you're well prepared to get going! Got comfy clothes? Kidding! Any good workout has to start with some stretching and warm up so we don't jump in and hurt ourselves. Writing is no exception. So I want you to do the following exercise. You can do it each day and use a different outcome or you can do it once and jump into something you're dying to start. Think of it as a game. 

 Take the character you created last week and pick one from each of the following categories then write a couple pages. Just write. You don't have to show anyone, just see where it takes you.

World:

  • Deep space
  • Kentucky
  • The Amazon
  • an apartment in New York
Antagonist:
  • An animal
  • A rival at work/school
  • The weather/world itself
  • A psychopath
Goal:
  • Safety
  • Love
  • To retrieve something of value
  • Save a relative
Okay now here's the fun part - don't make it obvious! Mix it up. Have her fight the world itself in an apartment in New York in hopes of retrieving something of value for example. You can mix these up and add your own as the week goes on so you try something new each day. OR you can use the first try to help you in whatever project you're working on now. Your choice. 

Ready? Set. Go!

10 Comments on The Warm Up, last added: 12/6/2012
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24. Cardio for Writers

So we're all warmed up and stretched! The holidays are approaching. In fact, Chanukah is already here. So let's jump into the meat of it, shall we? If you've done your homework then you have your brain working on different scenarios and hopefully that wonderful imagination of yours is rearing to go. 

Now it's time to work on something that will keep you focused on your story even when visiting Santa at the mall. Whatever your book is - whether you're just starting it or revising - take your favorite scene, you know the one, it's the one that keeps playing in your head, that you know you have to write for this book or work your way to or polish till it shines. That one. Take it and write it. Right now. Out of context, out of order. Just write.

It feels naughty doesn't it? To dive into the whipped cream before the main course? But why not? You can always redo it. In fact, that's your homework. Redo it every day a different way. OR write another favorite scene you see coming. Even if you end up not using it, it will get you in the mood so to speak. It won't take long, and you'll enjoy it. Heck, you might even find yourself working the whole book around it. That's happened to me believe it or not. 


11 Comments on Cardio for Writers, last added: 12/16/2012
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25. Light Winter's Darkness this Poetry Friday!

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Howdy, Campers ~ Happy Poetry Friday!

Jama's hosting Poetry Friday today at Alphabet Soup 
(which is www.jamarattigan.com in case this link doesn't work)
...and if it's at Jama's it's sure to be tasty!

For my last post of 2012, I'm going to break from our series on publishing opportunities (see Esther's last two posts and Carmela's post, with more to come!)...

I've been thinking about my family and our, well, interesting year (especially the part about my husband dying of a heart attack and being brought back and now being completely and miraculously fine); about hard times and hope, about sunrises, candles, glowing kitchen windows at night, and about the dark of winter and the glint of winter sunlight.



WINTER SOLSTICE: GIRL TALKING TO THE SUN
 by April Halprin Wayland

On a hard day's chill,
when my heart stands still,
Sun, oh, Sun, where do you disappear?

Then Sun answers me,
answers quietly,
Look around, little girl, I am here, I am here.

© 2012 April Halprin Wayland. All rights reserved

I am Jewish; I just recently learned that the fifth night of Hanukkah (which can be spelled many ways) is the first night in which there are more flames than darkness, more candles lit than unlit, and represents the triumph of light over darkness. 

I love that.

 
Okay...ready for today's writing workout, Campers?

WRITING WORKOUT: A Light in the Darkness

1) Take a cozy moment to scribble ten ideas triggered by the phrase, "a light in the darkness" or by the 1:06 minute video above.  Jot down memories, images, or the name of someone in particular who helped light your way in a dark time.

2) Consider imitating the rhyme scheme of the poem above:
A/A/B
C/C/B

3) Or write a 100-word story.  

3) Or write forget #2 and #3 and write the poem or story you were meant to write today.

4) Write like a little kid who is so jumpy-excited to get a piece of paper and a pencil she can barely sit still.  Give that little kid a chance; let's see what gift she creates for you this holiday season!

And speaking of gifts, don't forget to enter to win a gift for yourself or for some lucky teacher in your life: an autographed copy of JoAnn Early Macken's, Write a Poem Step by Step. I have her book and it's terrific!  See JoAnn's guest post for details.


Not actually in Southern California where I live, 
but in Phoenix, several years ago.
Still, a pretty note of light and hope 
with which to end the year...


Happy Holidays One and All!

13 Comments on Light Winter's Darkness this Poetry Friday!, last added: 12/23/2012
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