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Heavens to Betsy! The search for my cherished book turned into a detective story.
The first thing I did was to ask God...errr...Google for the title of the book about a surprise birthday party for an old woman named Lisette. Bello, her dog, directs the other animals while Lizette is at the market--he tells the goats to get apples, the ducks to get candles, etc. He and Lisette's two cats (Molly and...Ruly?) bake a bundt cake that burns on top, so they put powdered sugar on it at the last minute to hide the burned part.
But who was the marvelous author/illustrator and what was the name of the book???? In the course of my search, I found a site called Old Children's Books which has a page called "Looking for a Book?" I searched and searched and searched...with binoculars, with a flashlight, with a light on my miner's helmet...
(me...but my search was not as grim as pictured)
Finally, I remembered that at the end of the book was a little kitten. And I remembered that the author/illustrator wrote another book about him. In fact, the cat's name was the title of the other book. So if I could just remember the name of the cat...it was...Pitchie! But I couldn't find a book called Pitchie. Or Pitchy. Stumbling down the corridors of the internet, bumping into walls, I finally found the other book! It was called PITSCHI (published in 1948). I now knew the name of the author/illustrator: Hans Fischer. Which meant I was close to finding the book I was actually looking for!
But first, let's take a detour. Click here to enjoy Hans Fischer's fantastic lithographs inPitschi "the kitten who always wanted to be something else. A sad story, but one which ends well."
All the same characters are in the book I have been looking for...and now I can plug in Hans' name and come up with THE BOOK--right? Yes! On Worldcat.org I found it--The Birthday: a Merry Tale with Many Pictures (1954)! Worldcat summarizes the story: "In a clearing in the forest lived old Lisette with her animals. On
her seventy-sixth birthday, Lisette went off to the village, and while
she was gone the animals prepared a wonderful birthday surprise for her."
This is the book from my childhood that still makes my heart sing.
We're jumping up and down and popping balloons, celebrating our Fourth
Blogiversary...and you're invited to join in the fun by entering to win
one of four gift certificates to a fab independent bookstore. Details?
Read all about it here! .
I was a long-time active member of the Southern California Children's Booksellers Association (SCCBA), a feisty organization of indies who generously shared knowledge on how to run a bookstore among themselves and with those thinking about starting a children's bookstore. These newbies could have seen as their competitors, but instead they were embraced as colleagues and became friends.
SCCBA was a leader among children's independent bookseller associations and in 1984 SCCBA was the midwife in the birthing of the national organization, American Booksellers for Children (ABC) (which has since merged with the American Booksellers Association.)
A few years ago, Justine worked at the National Portrait Gallery and noticed that a lot of people had no reaction at all when they stood in front of a painting they didn't know. "I felt my first endeavor ought to be a book that proposes a way to look at any painting and find the spark, the joy, in that work," she says. "Forget historical references. Look for the passion in the art!"
Justine chose 14 paintings from the National Gallery of Art, painted by a variety of American and European artists who lived as early as the 1600s, and created poems to go along with them. "Each poem suggests just one possible way to look at that painting in a new way," she says. Here are a couple of my favorites, which both reflect Justine's love of dance. Yes, she is a kindred spirit!
Green Plums by Joseph Decker, c. 1885. Courtesy of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.
Green plums rolling Yeah! rockin' and rollin'
Out of their box
Onto the stage
Ready to swing their stems,
Moving in rhythm
To a juicy tune.
The beat, it gets to them--
Swaying side to side,
They go even faster
Until finger-snapping hands
Put them back in their box.
Moving White Fluffs
Meadow by Alfred Sisley, 1875. Courtesy of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.
The sky is full
Of fuzzy white polka dots.
As they move on,
Do you think
Those dots are really
Dancing the polka
While they drift away?
Doing the polka
Takes time to learn
And where could they
Hear the music
To get the dance just right?
So, maybe it's not
The polka at all they're doing.
Maybe it's just a slow glide
They make up
As they go along.
Then why do you suppose
They call them "Polka dots" --
Those funny white fluffs
In the blue, blue sky?
Beautiful poems, right? So what does Justine hope that children will take away from the book? "I would like to think that children will look at the paintings, really connecting with the art, and perhaps even write original poems about the paintings themselves!"she says. I hope that some adults have that reaction, too!
Find out more about Paint Me a Poem at www.paintmeapoem.com. It's a really nice site that lets you get to Justine a little better an provides some more sneak peeks into the book. Irene Latham at Live Your Poem is hosting the Poetry Friday roundup today, so you will find more poetry for children and adults there, too!
Today, I'm thrilled to announce an extra-special giveaway in honor of our FOURTH BLOGIVERSARY. To show our appreciation to our blog readers AND to one of our favorite independent booksellers, we'll be giving away FOUR $25 gift certificates to Anderson's Bookshops!And, as a bonus, Anderson's is generously offering our winners a 20% discount, which will help defray the shipping costs if you're unable to redeem your gift certificate in person.
In case you're not familiar with this family-owned company, in 2010, Anderson's celebrated their 135th year in business, with six generations of the family now working in their stores. Among their
many accolades, in 2011, Anderson's was named Publisher's Weekly Bookstore of the Year. Anderson's has a long history of supporting teachers by providing educator resources like mock Newbery contests, arranging author visits, and sponsoring special events such as their upcoming Teacher Open House, where educators can learn about the best new releases for classroom use. And educators always receive a 20% discount off the
list price of books to be used in the classroom or library.
Anderson's also has a reputation for hosting wonderful (and numerous!) author signings, and for championing local authors. After many years of attending Anderson's marvelous author events, I was honored to have my first signing at the Naperville store when my novel, Rosa, Sola, came out. That day, the Anderson's staff made me feel like a real star! I couldn't help getting a little teary-eyed as I addressed the crowd of family, friends, and fellow writers, telling them what a thrill it was to have my signing in the bookstore that felt like my second home.
If you're ever in the Chicago area, I encourage you to visit one of Anderson's stores. But even if a physical trip isn't possible, you can visit them virtually via their website, where you can order print and ebooks online. As you'll see below, the winners of our giveaway will have the option of using their gift certificates that way.
The TeachingAuthors are fans not only of Anderson's, but of independent bookstores everywhere. For the next few weeks, we'll be sharing stories of our appreciation for independent booksellers. Meanwhile, I was pleasantly surprised by the encouraging news the Salon article "Books Aren't Dead" had about both print books and independent bookstores:
". . . the Christian Science Monitor recently reported [you can read that article here], there are now many indications that a once-beleaguered portion of the bookselling landscape, independent bookstores, are enjoying a “quiet resurgence.” Sales are up this year; established stores, such as Brooklyn’s WORD, are doing well enough to expand and new stores are opening. Indies have been helped by the closure of the Borders chain and a campaign to remind their customers that if they want local bookstores to survive, they have to patronize them, even if that means paying a dollar or two more than they would on Amazon."
I confess, I'm one of those book buyers willing to pay "a dollar or two more" to support my local independent. I want to help ensure they'll still be around when I finally have another book signing. :-)
In addition to celebrating independent booksellers, we decided our blogiversary was a good time for a little spring
cleaning here on the TeachingAuthors website. I've created two new pages,
which you can find links to under our logo at the top of the page: Links and Writing Workouts. The Links page now contains all the
links that used to be in the sidebar, grouped under the following
Websites of Note
Children's/YA Lit Reading Lists
Programs in Writing for Children and Young Adults
The Writing Workouts page explains the history and evolution of our Writing
Workouts, and allows you to access all of them from one place. I've also
shortened the names of our resources pages to simply "For Teachers,"
"For Young Writers," and "Visits." And I've updated our bios on the About Us page. I hope you'll take time to explore
these revised pages and give us feedback on what you think of the
If you don't already follow our blog, I'll hope you'll sign up to do so today via email, Bloglovin', Feedly, or one of the other options in our sidebar. (Hint--our blog subscribers automatically qualify for FOUR entries in our blogiversary giveaway. See below for details.)
Before I explain how to enter the giveaway, I want to share a poem the AMAZING April Halprin Wayland wrote in honor of our blogiversary, which actually falls on Monday, Earth Day.
A Blooming Blogiversary Sheaves of paper, leaves of prose Typing wobbly rocky rows
Planting tender inkling seeds Sowing words on glowing screens
Underground the spark is struck Growing with some care and luck
First a shoot, then a sprout Weeding all the adverbs out
Seedlings reaching toward the sun Readers, writers we are one
A special "thank you" to all the readers who have stuck with us here at TeachingAuthors "post by post, year by year."
Now, for our Blogiversary Giveaway details:
As I said at the beginning of this post, in honor of our Fourth Blogiversary, and to celebrate independent booksellers, we're giving away FOUR $25 gift certificates to Anderson's Bookshops!
Note: if you're unable to redeem your prize in person at one of Anderson's stores, you will be able to do so online. AND, you'll receive a 20% discount on your purchase!
Once you've logged into Rafflecopter below (via either Facebook or an email address) you'll see that we've provided four different options for entering the giveaway--you can pick one or up to all four. The more options you choose, the greater your chances of winning. While we haven't made it a requirement, we hope that everyone will choose to subscribe to the TeachingAuthors blog. If you're already a subscriber, to enter, you need only click on that option and then tell us how you follow our blog.
As it says in the "Terms and Conditions," this giveaway is open to U.S. residents only. You must be 18 or older to enter. And please note: email addresses will only be used to contact winners. The giveaway will run from now through the end of Children's Book Week, on May 19. Winners will be notified May 20, 2013.
I hope that covers everything. But if you have any questions about the giveaway, feel free to email us at teachingauthors [at] gmail [dot] com.
Good luck to everyone! And don't forget--it's Poetry Friday. When you're done entering our giveaway, check out the Poetry Friday round-up over at Live Your Poem.
I recently had the pleasure of meeting poet Justine Rowden for coffee outside of Washington, DC, where we had a lovely chat about her picture book Paint Me a Poem: Poems Inspired by Masterpieces of Art. I'm not going to tell you about the book just yet, as I'm saving it for a little later this month. But I am going to share another of Justine's poems that happens to be about cherry blossoms, which are in full bloom right now in this part of the country. I love how Justine compares the beauty of the cherry blossoms to that of ballerinas.
When you're done reading the poem, waltz on over to Random Noodling if you are in the mood for more. Happy Poetry Friday!
She's gonna learn that this life will hit you, hard, in the face, wait for you to get back up so it can kick you in the stomach. But getting the wind knocked out of you is the only way to remind your lungs how much they like the taste of air. There is hurt, here, that cannot be fixed by Band-Aids or poetry, so the first time she realizes that Wonder Woman isn't coming, I'll make sure she knows she doesn't have to wear the cape all by herself. Because no matter how wide you stretch your fingers, your hands will always be too small to catch all the pain you want to heal. Believe me, I've tried.
- an excerpt of B by Sarah Kay
I am only posting a piece of the piece here because you simply have to see and hear the entire thing as it was intended to be seen and heard, as performed by the poet herself: Watch Sarah Kay's TED Talk on YouTube.
Robert Frost and his poems are often associated with New England, snow, stone walls, and white birches. What many people don’t know is that he did not start life living in this part of the United States. Robert was born in San Francisco and lived in California until his father died in 1885. Not having any money, Robert’s mother moved her family to Massachusetts, where she lived with her father-in-law for a while. Then she managed to get a teaching job in Salem, New Hampshire. A teacher’s pay was not enough to provide for three people, so Robert worked at a cobbler’s shop where he nailed heels onto boots.
Robert did well in school, and was delighted when his grandfather made it possible for him to attend Laurence High School. Robert did very well there and was able to get into Dartmouth College, which was something his grandfather wanted. However, Robert was not interested in attending college and he dropped out. What Robert did want to do was to write poetry, and this is what he did when he wasn’t working. Though he dreamed of being a recognized poet, he never imagined, back in those early days, that one day he would win awards and would read one of his poems at a presidential inauguration ceremony. What was it about Robert’s poems that made them so popular during his lifetime and beyond?
In this superb collection some of Robert Frost’s most beloved poems are brought together so that young (and not so young) readers can see for themselves why his poems are liked by so many people around the world. The poems are divided up into four sections, one section for each of the seasons, and we begin with summer. Many of the poems celebrate country life and nature. In The Pasture, the narrator invites us to “come too” when he goes to clean the pasture spring, and when he fetches a little calf. In another poem he takes us out into a hayfield where he is turning the drying grass that has been cut for hay. The job is a tedious one until the worker’s eye catches the movement of a butterfly. The little insect shows the worker something special and they are united in that moment.
On the section of Autumn poems, we hear from a little bluebird who leaves a message for a girl called Lesley. The bluebird has felt the cold touch of the north wind and he must fly south. Perhaps, “in the spring” he will come “back and sing.” We read about falling leaves that “fit the earth like a leather glove,” and join someone who has been picking apples and is ready for the rest that winter offers.
Every poem in this collection is accompanied by lovely and evocative paintings, and each one has a note from the editor that provides readers with background information about Robert Forest, his poems, and his style of writing. The combination of the poems, the art, and the notes gives readers an excellent portrait of Robert Frost and his work.
At the beginning of the book there is a short introduction written by the editor where readers will find an excellent description of Robert Frost’s life and legacy.
I'm thrilled to announce the 2013 edition of 30 Poets/30 Days, an April-long celebration of children's poetry that takes place here at GottaBook.
Each day of the month, I'll post a previously unpublished poem by a different poet. I've seen a lot of the poetry already, and I can safely say it's gonna be a great month. Here's an alphabetical list of who's work you'll be seeing here during National Poetry Month 2013:
You can also join my poetry list, and get all the poems emailed to you the day they hit my blog. To be on the list, enter your email address into the box and click subscribe:
That list runs year round, by the way, so whenever I post a poem here, whether it's my own or a poem from a visiting guest poet, you'll see it.
There are always a ton of people to thank with an event like this and other details to share, but today I'm simply going to wrap it up with a bit hat tip to the extra-talented Carter Higgins for designing this year's 30/30 logo. And, of course, thanks to all of you for reading! Now...
THE POETRY FRIDAY ROUNDUP!
Please leave a comment with a link to your Poetry Friday post, and I'll be adding things in as the day goes on....
I discovered this song recently, thanks to Norbert Leo Butz, who covered the song on his album Memory & Mayhem: Live at 54 Below. I highly recommend that album. I highly recommend anything and everything sung by Norbert Leo Butz.
Norbert's newest project is the Broadway musical Big Fish, based on the novel by Daniel Wallace. His credits include the role of Fiyero in the original cast of Wicked, which was based on the novel by Gregory Maguire. So, you see, this all leads back to books.
...but if you want me to, I can talk about Jason Robert Brown's musical The Last Five Years as performed by Norbert Leo Butz and Lauren Kennedy for a really, really long time. Just ask me about it. :)
I am constantly being surprised by the creativity of artists and writers. So many of them find interesting, beautiful, and novel ways to present their art and their words. In today's poetry title the words in the poems go up and down the page instead of across it. I can hear you asking: Why would anyone do this? Trust me, the author of this book has a very good reason for presenting her work in this way.
Reading from left to right is the norm in most English language books, but sometimes poets like to do something different. In The Mouse’s Tale, Lewis Carroll presents his poem in such a way that the text looks like a mouse’s tail that wiggles its way down the page. Other poets have also found creative ways to present their poems to their readers by creating pictures with their words. In this book, poet Dana Jensen gives her readers poems that have something to do with looking or going up or down, and the poems are presented to readers so that they have to read up or down the page.
In the first poem we read single words up the page to find out that a little child thinks that perhaps a giraffe has such a long neck that it might be able to “make / a / meal / of / stars.” Further along in the book there is another poem that begins at the bottom of the page. We meet a child who has a string in its hand that goes “up / to / a / big / bright / blue” balloon. And then, at the top of the page, up there in the sky at the end of the string, something happens.
Then there are the poems that go down the page, one word at a time. In one of the poems we are sitting at the top of a Ferris wheel “at / its / highest / point.” From that vantage point we look down at the “carnival / world” below that is scene full of “moving / sounds / and / colors.” In another poem we experience the sound of church bells “that / float / down” to children and touch them “with / their / songs.”
Throughout this book, beautifully lyrical and minimal poems that go up or down the pages are paired with Tricia Tusa’s whimsical illustrations to give readers a poetry experience that is altogether fresh and exciting.
It's Madness indeed--the March Madness Poetry Tournament hosted by Ed DeCaria! On Monday evening I received my 10-seeded word--HYPOCRISY-- which in 36 hours I had to develop into a poem worthy of competition. The word gave me pause, certainly; I worried that I would, like many with even more challenging, abstract words, have to spend my eight allowed lines defining it. But my 10-year-old easily demonstrated his understanding of "hypocrite," so I forged ahead....
and wrote a rather serious, instructive piece that just didn't seem to be the right thing for the competition:
A Little Light Lying
Your parents teach you social graces:
“Really—you look good in braces!”
We say what we don’t really mean;
The edge of truth’s a touch too keen.
But falseness leaves an ashy trace
A lasting mask tough to erase
Face the mirror, fail to see—
That’s genuine hypocrisy.
~Heidi Mordhorst 2013
So I decided to start completely over, with something involving a hippo. Obvious, right? And naturally comical. And then--now that I review my Tuesday night train of thought, I can barely discern how I got there, but it had to do with reading a lot about hippos and watching a lot of amateur YouTube videos of hippos and crocodiles--a line of poetry came into my head: "How doth the little crocodile..." That was all I had at first.
Wikipedia similarly rarely lets me be, so there I discovered something I had forgotten--that Alice's crocodile recitation is her garbled version of a serious, instructive poem of the 18th century poet Isaac Watts. His poem is about a bee and is usually titled
Against Idleness and Mischief
How doth the little busy bee
Improve each shining hour,
And gather honey all the day
From every opening flower!
How skilfully she builds her cell!
How neat she spreads the wax!
And labors hard to store it well
With the sweet food she makes.
In works of labor or of skill,
I would be busy too;
For Satan finds some mischief still
For idle hands to do.
In books, or work, or healthful play,
Let my first years be passed,
That I may give for every day
Some good account at last.
Et voila! A concept. By only a couple of hours past my bedtime, I had borrowed Isaac's form and diction along with Lews's parodic twist and submitted this to the MMPT competition:
Against Falsity and Pretense
How doth the chubby hippo Improve his shining hide And bob the waters of the Nile On every muddy side!
How lazily he opens wide! How jolly seems to be! Then crushes skulls of crocodiles With sweet hippo-crisy.
Is that cheating? I decided not (and it was, after all, AT LEAST a couple of hours past my bedtime). While not wholly original, I reckoned that I had done enough creative reworking to justify calling it mine, and part of the work was a new appreciation for the historical antecedents of our modern poetry for kids.
At this writing the competition is fierce! I'm up against Alvaro Salinas Jr. (aka M.M. Socks) and his funny "LeeAnn's Farm," and after an early lead I find that the the voting is EXACTLY EQUAL! Stay tuned to find out if my hypocritical bee/crocodile/hippo can garner enough votes to get me to Round Two!
And now we must give a bit of Poetry Friday attention to the PF Anthology for Middle Schools, edited by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong. I'm wondering what would have happened if those clever editors had told us what the weekly themes in the book would be, so that all us poets could have written to assignment, as we're doing in the Tournament or may have done for the poetry tag e-books? Would our pieces have been any better? Worse? More risky and edgy as we ventured outside our own comfort zones, as we're doing with these crazy words Ed has given us? Process is soooooo interesting!
The Poetry Friday round-up is with Jone today at Check It Out! See you there!
Happy Poetry Friday! Today is the day, every week, when children's poets and poetry lovers from all over the blogging community come together to share their love of words. This week's Poetry Friday is being hosted by Heidi at My Juicy Little Universe, so make sure to drop by if you are in the mood for rhythm, perhaps some rhyme, and a whole lot of great poetic offerings.
I haven't joined the Poetry Friday round up in a while so am really happy to be participating again with a couple poems from the February 2013 issue of Ladybug Magazine. Before I share them below, I want to thank Ladybug Magazine for allowing me to post them in their entirety.
The first poem, "Kangaroo Dance," is written by Shannon Caster with art by John Nez. It would be great for sharing with little ones who need to bounce off some energy. Boing. Boing. Boing!
The second, "Marshmallow Soup," is written by me! It's the first poem I've had published in Ladybug Magazine, and I am thrilled with how the art by Jacqueline Hudon-Verrelli came out. You can learn more about the process Jacqueline used to come up with the illustration here on her blog.
With much of the country getting snowed under over the last few days, this poem might be a good one to read next to the fireplace, curled up with a cup of hot cocoa. Mmmmm!
I love books. Big surprise! I also love books that celebrate books. When I saw the cover of today's book, I just knew that I had to review it. I didn't even know what kind of book it was. The title grabbed me and it refused to let me go. It turns out that Please Bury Me in the Library is a fantastic collection of poems that celebrate books, reading, and the written word. Enjoy!
Some poor people think that books serve only one purpose. You read them to be entertained or educated. They do not know that a good book “is a homing device / For navigating paradise” and that such a book has “a spine, / A heart, a soul,” and its goal is “To light a fire / (You’re the fuse).” A good book will be there whenever you need it and it will even be a kind of friend.
For this collection of poems J. Patrick Lewis finds a variety of ways to explore (and celebrate) books. There are so many different kinds of writing to enjoy. There are picture books, the best of which appeal to readers of all ages. Then there are poetry books, pop-up books, mysteries, myths, adventures, and legends. All of these kinds of writing give readers an experience that cannot be found by looking at a TV screen or a computer monitor.
Some of the poems in the collection are about characters, such as Otto the Flea who wrote his “Ottobiography” and Elaine who loves words so much that even an exciting movie does not capture her interest. She would much rather read Webster’s Dictionary than follow the antics of Godzilla on the big screen.
If you think this is rather over the top then you need to read about the person who wants to be buried in the library “With a dozen long-stemmed proses.” This person thinks that the “clean, well-lighted stacks” are the best place to spend eternity.
Though this book is for young readers, the poems will appeal to readers of all ages. Some of the poems will make readers laugh, while others are thought-provoking and more cerebral. Though the poems are all very different in form and flavor, they do have one thing in common: the all celebrate the written word.
Welcome, all, to Poetry Friday! It's March 8, a date which has been International Women's Day since 1911. If you've never explored the history, get it here.
I had hoped to go broadly international for you today with a few poems from women around the world, but then something less exotic yet somehow more universal caught my eye. It's in the title; it's in the way we comb our hair and dreams sift out; it's in the way nothing is very serious and yet we all worry about forgetting the way home.
kitchen: the basin, the jug, the skillet, the churn,
snickers scornfully. In this way a maiden
is driven toward the dangers of a forest,
but the forest is our subject, not this young girl.
She’s glad to lie down with trees towering all around.
A certain euphoria sets in. She feels molecular,
bedeviled, senses someone gently pulling her hair,
tingles with kisses she won’t receive for years.
Three felled trees, a sort of chorus, narrate
her thoughts, or rather channel theirs through her,
or rather subject her to their peculiar verbal
restlessness ... our deepening need for non-being intones
the largest and most decayed tree, mid-sentence.
I’m not one of you squeaks the shattered sapling,
blackened by lightning. Their words become metallic
spangles shivering the air. Will I forget the way home?
Find the rest here, and meet me in the woods at dusk.
In case it's possible that anyone has missed the March 1 launch of the new Poetry Friday Anthology, Middle School edition, please visit the blog to learn more. I'm delighted to be included in yet another stellar collection of work for children and teachers to enjoy together.
I'll be rounding up in three waves today and look forward to seeing what everybody's been up to while I was "resting." Leave your links in the comments (since me and Mr. Linky have yet to get it on), and thanks for stopping by.
Austin Kleon's book Newspaper Blackout is a collection of poetry he made by taking a permanent marker to newspaper articles and turning them into something new. My favorite piece in his collection is Underdog, as seen above. If you cannot read the text, here it is, plain:
He changed the world Nobody could even get his name straight The guy was a genuine underdog
At the beginning of the book, Kleon discusses other poets and artists who have used similar "found text" techniques to inspire their own works. At the end of the book, Kleon shares tips and techniques for making blackout poems. Also included are the top poems that were entered in a newspaper blackout contest he held online in 2008. Next Friday, I will post my favorite from that batch. Learn more about Newspaper Blackout and read additional poems at the Newspaper Blackout blog.
Here's another entry in the series of songs as poetry, "Daylight" by Matt & Kim. I took some liberties here cutting out the repeating lines, but I think it works. For the real stuff, visit our Poetry Friday host, Sheri Doyle.
We cut the legs off of our pants Threw our shoes into the ocean Sit back and wave through the daylight Slip and slide on subway grates These shoes are poor mans ice skates Fall through like change in the daylight I miss yellow lines in my roads Some color on monochrome Maybe I'll paint them in myself These sidewalks liquid then stone Building walls and an old pay phone It rings like all through the daylight
I was in Sheffield (UK) yesterday and met up with Debjani Chatterjee and her husband, fellow-poet Brian D’Arcy, which was definitely something to celebrate – so for today’s Poetry Friday, I turn to the recent book they edited together, Let’s Celebrate! Festival Poems from Around the World, imaginatively illustrated by Shirin Adl (Frances Lincoln, 2011). And since the joyous Jewish festival of Purim falls this weekend, here’s the beginning of “Three Loud Cheers for Esther: A Poem for Purim” written by Debjani and Brian:
Listen to the tale of Esther:
The story of a savvy queen
Who became her people’s saviour.
Let’s hear: ‘three loud cheers for Esther!
Stamp your feet and shake your gregger…’
The whole poem evokes a traditional Purim spiel, reflected also in Shirin’s illustration in the book, which shows a young audience enjoying a puppet play, greggers and hamentaschen in hand, for, as we learn in the backmatter information About the Festivals, “Home-made rattles called greggers are shaken to drown out Hamen’s name whenever it is mentioned. Poppy-seed cakes called hamentaschen or ‘Haman’s ears’ are eaten.”
Let’s Celebrate! is a wonderful gathering of poems, bringing together a whole world of festivals, so I was delighted to hear that a second anthology, this time about children playing around the world, is nearing completion. I’ll definitely be keeping my eye open for it and I’ll keep you posted!
It was lovely to catch up with Debjani and to meet Brian – thank you, both.
Happy Poetry Friday, all!
Today, the TeachingAuthors are celebrating Poetry Friday in a special way with a sneak peek at a poem from the soon-to-be-released Gone Fishing: A Novel in Verse by Tamera Will Wissinger, illustrated by Matthew Cordell (Houghton Mifflin). And one lucky TeachingAuthors follower will win an autographed copy of the book. See the end of this post for complete details.
We're also thrilled to feature a Student Success Story interview with Tamera, a former student of mine. As Tamera shares in her interview, she's also taken classes with two of my fellow TeachingAuthors. That's half the TeachingAuthors' team! I can tell you, we're all smiling like proud mammas today. :-)
But I'm getting ahead of myself. First, let me introduce you to Tamera by sharing her official bio:
Tamera Will Wissinger writes stories and poetry for children. She was inspired to write Gone Fishing: A Novel in Verse after writing “Night Crawlers,” a poem that stemmed from her fun childhood memories of night crawler hunting with her parents before fishing trips. A graduate of Hamline University’s MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults, Tamera shares her time between Chicago and Florida.
"Using a wide variety of poetic forms – quatrains, ballads, iambic meter,
rhyming lists, concrete poetry, tercets and free verse – this debut
author tells the story of a nine-year-old boy’s day of fishing. Sibling
rivalry, the bond between father and son, the excitement – and
difficulty – of fishing all add up to a day of adventure any child would
want to experience."
You can connect with Tamera online via Goodreads, Twitter, or Facebook. For more of her lovely poetry, visit her online journal, The Writer's Whimsy, where you'll find links in the sidebar to several group blogs she participates in.
And now, for the interview.
1. Tamera, it's hard to believe that it’s been 10 years since we met “virtually” when you took my online class in writing for children. Do you recall what inspired you to sign up for that class?
I just came across notes from that workshop; that can’t have been ten years ago! That class was Fundamentals of Writing for Children, the first children’s writing workshop that I had ever taken. At that time I was writing stories and quite a bit of poetry, but I wasn’t focused on a specific age reader. It was my husband who suggested that I might want to try writing for children. That sounded like an interesting idea, so I found the Writer’s Online Workshop that you were instructing, and I signed up. 2. Do you recall any specific ways the class helped you?
I remember being really nervous and also glad for this new online way of learning and for the opportunity to explore writing for children. The class itself was wonderful and you put me at ease right away by your genuine interest in the students, the focus on our stories and our writing habits, and the study of writing for children. You learned during that class that your novel, Rosa, Sola, was going to be published. When you shared that news I remember being so thrilled for you and your achievement and excited for me to be learning from someone with so much experience and success.
That class gave me an excellent foundation for understanding the range and limitations of children’s literature, but there was so much more to it. I remember feeling really welcomed and cared for, as though I had found a place in the writing world where I belonged. And I can trace a direct path between that first class with you and my first novel. Here’s how:
During the workshop with you I learned about SCBWI,
Shortly thereafter I met you in person at an SCBWI event,
At that event you introduced me to several other students from your online workshops,
In the mean time, Hamline University announced their MFAC program and
When Hamline began receiving applications in 2006 I was ready,
I applied, was accepted, and
What I learned there helped prepare me to write Gone Fishing.
I don’t know if I ever told you that story, Carmela, so I’m really glad for this opportunity to tell you now! When I look at this chain reaction, I’d say that first class has helped me immensely.
3. Wow, Tamera, reading about this chain of events gives me goose bumps! I do remember how wonderful it was to finally meet you and some of your classmates face-to-face after only knowing you through your online classwork. And I recall how pleased I was to learn later that you'd received your MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Hamline University. What made you decide to enroll in the program? And would you share a bit about your experience there?
After several years of attending writing workshops and conferences and participating in critique groups, I started to believe my writing was good and I began to submit stories to editors. Eventually I began to receive positive and specific feedback, but aside from stand-alone poems, I hadn't received any offers to publish. I recognized that there were still things about writing for children that I needed to know and since I was committed to finding a way for my stories to reach children, I felt that connecting with experts in the field of children's writing was the best way to try and reach my goals.
I feel so lucky to have had that opportunity. Each residency I got to hear lectures by the talented faculty and a variety of visiting children's authors. I also got to interact with classmates who were as committed as I was to learning about writing for children. Each semester I was paired with a faculty advisor. The two of us would work together to develop a personalized study plan that included the creative writing I hoped to develop, as well as aspects of craft that I intended to study. I learned to love essay writing; thinking critically about a specific story aspect or technique is one of the keys to becoming a better writer, and that's something that I've carried with me beyond the program.
One other wonderful outgrowth of the program has been the sustained connection that I have with the Hamline MFAC writing community. I'm in touch with fellow graduates, current students, faculty, and staff, and I feel a close bond with everyone because of those common experiences and interests.
4. Your experience sounds a lot like mine at Vermont College! Now can you tell us more about what inspired you to write Gone Fishing? Why did you choose to write it as a novel-in-verse? Did that format present any special challenges?
My inspiration for the story came from my good childhood memories of going fishing with my family. The first poem in the book was initially a stand alone poem. It’s called "Night Crawlers" and is based on the excitement I remember feeling when I got to stay up after dark in the summer and hunt for worms to take fishing the next day. After that first poem, others followed until I had a collection of father and son fishing poetry. Later, poems that included a younger sister began to emerge and that’s when the sibling rivalry story line started to take shape.
I didn’t originally set out to write a novel in verse. Even with the inclusion of the sibling rivalry, the story that I first submitted included around twenty poems – enough for a picture book. My editor had the wonderful idea to expand the story and the number of poems. That idea intrigued me and I continued to work on it. The final story ended up at around forty poems, which gave it enough text to be a novel in verse.
Writing using this format did present special challenges. In any novel, the story is the most important aspect of the writing. In a verse novel, the poetry has to enhance the storytelling, or it won’t work. What helped me keep focus on the storytelling was to pay careful attention to conflict, crisis and resolution. If a poem didn’t advance the story or aid in some element of storytelling, then it didn’t belong. Add to that the different poetic forms, and that was another layer of complexity.
5. Expanding a picture book into a novel sounds like it would require some major revisions. Would you share a bit about that process?
As I mentioned above, the story initially had twenty poems. We expanded it to about forty, so, yes; the book had some pretty significant revisions. I was lucky that my editor had a good sense of direction. She provided me with enthusiastic encouragement, asked many insightful questions, and gave intriguing suggestions that I was eager to explore. By the end of the first revision, more specific scenes and interactions were filling in and the story was taking shape. It was challenging and fun to see what might emerge and whether or not I would be able to produce more poems that had substance. The miracle of it was that one new poem often led to another and another, each exposing more depth and breadth to the story.
6. Gone Fishing includes a “Poet’s Tackle Box” in its back matter. What does the box contain? How might classroom teachers use its contents to extend their poetry lessons?
Developing this section was another of my editor’s smart ideas that stemmed from one of my dearest critique partners suggesting that I label the poetic forms I had used in my original manuscript. The Poet’s Tackle Box contains poetry writing tips and definitions, including information on rhyme and rhythm, poetry techniques, and poetic forms. I hope that this section can be a good reference for classroom teachers who are helping students learn the joy of reading poetry and writing their own poems.
Before I go, Carmela, there are two more things that I’d like to mention, first, I want to say hello to two of your fellow TeachingAuthors :
Hello, Esther Hershenhorn! Esther taught a picture book writing workshop that I attended at Ragdale on a chilly Chicago day. Inside, though, it was a wonderful, cozy, enriching day of reading, critiquing, and talking about picture books. Esther was so enthusiastic and encouraging and shared all kinds of good and important information on picture books and the publishing industry!
Hello, Jill Esbaum! Jill led a weekend rhyming picture book workshop that I attended at The University of Iowa Summer Writing Festival. It was a sunny Iowa summer weekend and Jill was so welcoming and even came with the students to an alfresco lunch and talked informally about children’s writing. Jill was such a champion of rhyming text and finding fresh story ideas; she gave me hope that there was a market for rhyming picture book manuscripts!
And finally, in celebration of Gone Fishing’s release this coming Tuesday, here is the opening poem in the book – "Night Crawlers" – the one that started it all:
Dark night. Flashlight. Dad and I hunt worms tonight. Grass slick. Worms thick. Tiptoe near and grab them quick. Hold firm. They squirm. Tug-o-war with earth and worm. Ninety-four. Worms galore. Set our bucket near the door. Next day. No delay. Look out, fish — we’re on our way!
Thank you for hosting me today on TeachingAuthors, Carmela! I had a great time.
Thank YOU for joining us, Tamera. We especially appreciate your sharing your wonderful poem with us today.
Readers, for more of Tamera's lovely poetry, visit her online journal, The Writer's Whimsy. There, you'll find links in the sidebar to several group blogs she participates in. You can also connect with Tamera via Goodreads, Twitter, or Facebook.
And now, as promised, here's your chance to win an autographed copy of Gone Fishing: A Novel in Verse written by Tamera Will Wissinger and illustrated by Matthew Cordell (Houghton Mifflin). You must follow our TeachingAuthors blog
to enter our drawing. 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
2) by sending an email to teachingauthors [at] gmail [dot] com with "Book Giveaway" in the subject line.
Either way, to qualify, you must: a) give us your first and last name AND b) tell us how you follow us AND c) tell us if you'll keep the book for yourself or give it to someone special.
If you enter via a comment, you MUST include a valid email address
(formatted this way: youremail [at] gmail [dot] com).
Contest open only to residents of the United States. Incomplete entries
will be discarded. Entry deadline is 11 pm (CST) Wednesday, March 13, 2013. Winners will be announced Friday, March 15. Good luck to all!
And after you've entered, don't forget to visit the Poetry Friday round-up at Julie Larios' blog, The Drift Record.
Over the centuries the seasons have inspired countless musicians, artists, and writers to create moving pieces of music, beautiful art, and wonderful stories and poems. Today's poetry title explores a few of the season-inspired poems that men and women have written over the years.
For hundreds of years poets have been inspired by the ambiences and scenes that we experience as the seasons shift from spring to summer, summer into fall, fall into winter, and thence back to spring again. Thinking of the seasons summons up memories in us that are touched by colors, sounds, tastes, and smells. When we think of fall we think of yellow and red leaves, we smell cold smoky air, and hear feet crunching through fallen leaves. Our mouths water as we remember the taste of a crunchy apple or the sweet spiciness of pumpkin pie.
For this wonderful collection John N. Serio has selected poems that beautifully capture the flavor of each of the four seasons. For each season there are three haiku, a poetry form that is “traditionally built around the seasons.” The haiku are followed by a variety of poems that were written by contemporary poets and poets that lived long ago.
We begin with summer, reading about an old dog that is “Much too lazy to rise and run” and who prefers to spends the hot summer days lying in the sun. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow gives us a picture of what it is like when there is a summer rain which gives us much needed relief from “the dust and heat.” His descriptions remind us that rain can indeed be a beautiful thing. Later in the book we meet Maggie, Milly, Molly, and May, four little girls who go to the beach to play. e. e. cummings describes how the girls find all kinds of little treasures on the beach, some which are wonderful and one which is not.
In the section dedicated to autumn, we find a poem by Thomas Hood which is, in a manner of speaking, an ode to November. It is clear straight away that the poet has no great fondness for this month when there is “No sun – no moon!” and when there is “No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees” and nothing else that is cheerful and cheering. Emily Dickinson gives us are far more positive picture of autumn, telling us about a maple tree with its “gayer scarf” and the field with its “scarlet gown.”
Like e. e. cummings, who does not care for November, T.S. Eliot does not seem to like winter much. He describes a grim, cold, grimy winter in a city where the rain beats down “On broken blinds and chimney-pots,” and where “grimy scraps” of “withered leaves” blow about. William Carlos Williams paints a much more attractive picture of trees, now bare of their leaves, that “stand sleeping in the cold” as “A liquid moon / moves gently among / the long branches.”
The poems for spring are all positive, celebrating the beauty of flowers and tree blossoms, and capturing the lifting feelings of hope and joy that people get in their hearts when the sun starts to shine and the sky is blue. Emily Dickinson in particular shows us how happy she is to see March in her poem ‘Dear March, come in!” It is delightful to see how to talks to March as if the month was a person who needs to be invited in and to whom she has “so much to tell.”
This is wonderful collection that readers of all ages will enjoy. The editor has written introductions for each of the poems, which tell us about the poet and his or her work. Sometimes the form of the poem is explained or discussed as well.
If you cannot read the text above, here it is, plain:
The best way to achieve the impossible is to endure it as you would an epidemic of beauty. - Enigma by Erica Westcott
I found this piece in Austin Kleon's book Newspaper Blackout, which is a collection of poetry Kleon made by taking a permanent marker to newspaper articles and turning them into something new. At the end of the book, Kleon included the winners of a newspaper blackout contest he held online in 2008. One of the winners was Erica Westcott, as seen above.
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.