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Arthur Rackham illustration from Some British Ballads, 1919.
Image source: Wikimedia Commons.
Our poetry selections for today, as we move out of Chaucer and into some medieval ballads: “The Twa Corbies” and its English cousin, “The Three Ravens.” Just a little something light and cheerful for a chilly November day. You know, light like sunbleached bones.
The Twa Corbies
As I was walking all alane,
I heard twa corbies makin a mane;
The tane unto the ither say,
“Whar sall we gang and dine the-day?”
“In ahint yon auld fail dyke,
I wot there lies a new slain knight;
And nane do ken that he lies there,
But his hawk, his hound an his lady fair.”
“His hound is tae the huntin gane,
His hawk tae fetch the wild-fowl hame,
His lady’s tain anither mate,
So we may mak oor dinner swate.”
“Ye’ll sit on his white hause-bane,
And I’ll pike oot his bonny blue een;
Wi ae lock o his gowden hair
We’ll theek oor nest whan it grows bare.”
“Mony a one for him makes mane,
But nane sall ken whar he is gane;
Oer his white banes, whan they are bare,
The wind sall blaw for evermair.”
Launched in 1998, Teen Read Week is celebrated annually during the third full week in October. Aimed at teens, their parents, librarians, educators, booksellers and other concerned adults, the continuing message of the Teen Read Week initiative is to encourage 12- to 18-year-olds to "Read for the Fun of It." The 2013 sub-theme is Seek the Unknown @ your library.Check out the FAQs here.
Can I be totally honest here? Yes, I think I can. I'm out of steam this week, I have only air-popped popcorn for brains right now...
so the only thing I can think to say about Teen Read Week is that teens today are LUCKY, LUCKY, LUCKY that they have so much wonderful literature to read...and that it's FREE at their local library. (Never fear--my fellow bloggers will have lots to say about it in the next few days--stay tuned!)
Hooray for librarians in buses, bookmobiles and buildings small and tall, in towns and fields, malls and halls, for offering teens, 'tweens, kings and queens fine literature to have, to hold, to devour!
This is a medal for all librarians.
I was thinking about the themeSeek the Unknown @ your library. Here's a poem from my teen novel in poems, Girl Coming in for a Landing, illustrated (in collage!) by Elaine Clayton (Knopf) that sorta-kinda fits the theme:
IMPRINTING by April Halprin Wayland
Today Mr. C told us about this scientist who pushed a vacuum cleaner past a brood of ducklings just as they were hatching and how after that, those ducklings followed the vacuum cleaner everywhere-- nearly glued to it. Imprinting, he called it. Which made me think about last year that first day of school and how I must have been hatching just as Carlo walked past. (c) April Halprin Wayland. All rights reserved.
Posted by April Halprin Wayland who is grateful for the free photos of the popcorn and the medal from MorgueFile.com
Today, I was supposed to continue our series of posts in honor of National Bullying Prevention Month. Instead, I've decided to dedicate this blog post in memory of my friend and fellow writer, Laura Crawford, who died on September 30 at the much-too-young age of 46. And since today is also Poetry Friday, I've included a poem at the end of this post inspired by Laura.
Those of you who've been following this blog for awhile may recognize Laura's name--she was our very first "Student Success Story" interview, posted back in 2009. At that time, I had no idea Laura had been diagnosed with chronic lymphatic leukemia (CLL) the year before. As she wrote on her CaringBridge page, her disease was managed effectively with chemo and treatment until this past May, when it became more aggressive. That's when Laura chose to finally share the information about her illness with her many friends in the children's writing community. We were all shocked at the news. Laura was such a vibrant, energetic, optimistic person. You can get a sense of her vitality in the photo below, which is how I always picture her--bright-eyed and smiling. It was hard to imagine that she'd been dealing with cancer for five years.
Photo courtesy of Jennifer DuBose
But after the shock wore off, we still had hope, mainly because Laura herself sounded so hopeful. She was preparing for a bone marrow transplant. On September 22, she posted the following on her Facebook page:
"had a FANTASTIC weekend! I feel normal...and that is saying a lot. Thanks for all the visitors, laughs, treats, jello, ice cream and support of the new 'hairdo.' I'm so very blessed."
Like so many of Laura's friends, I was heartbroken when she passed away eight days later. It didn't seem possible. Even now, nearly two weeks later, my eyes fill with tears at the thought that I'll never see her smiling face again, at least not in this life.
We have a custom on our SCBWI-Illinois listserv to share "good news" about our writing and illustrating projects at the beginning of each month. Given the timing of Laura's death, Lisa Bierman, the Illinois chapter's co-regional advisor, invited members to share a short memory of Laura instead. Laura was a long-time SCBWI Network Representative for the Geneva, IL Networkand a regular volunteer at the annual SCBWI-IL Prairie Writer's Day, so she was well-known throughout our writing community. The email tributes poured in. It was amazing, and uplifting, to read about how Laura had touched so many lives.
In my email to the listserv, I talked about how I first met Laura as my student, when she took my College of DuPage class in Writing for Children back in the summer of 2001. As I mentioned above, she was also our first "Student Success Story Interview" here on TeachingAuthors. After her death, I reread that blog entry and heard again Laura's exuberant voice. I also recalled how she almost hadn't made it into my class because it was filled before she registered. She'd called the college and asked if there was any way she could still register for the class, and my supervisor contacted me. I normally don’t make exceptions regarding maximum enrollments because I want to allow enough time for manuscript critiques, and I returned Laura's call planning to tell her so. I remember sitting in my home office talking with Laura. I could hear the enthusiasm in her voice. She told me how much she wanted to take the class, and that, being a teacher, she didn't have time to do so during the school year. When she asked me to please let her join the class, I couldn’t say no. J
I’m so grateful I made the exception to include Laura in the class. It was the beginning of a long, rewarding friendship. As it turned out, Cathy Cronin was also in that class. She, too, became a "Student Success Story" and a friend to both Laura and me. On Wednesday, October 2, Cathy and I drove together to attend Laura's wake and say a final good-bye. We learned from Laura's sisters that she'd kept writing and editing up until the end--she was optimistic that after her bone marrow transplant she'd be well again.
That evening, I decided I wanted to dedicate this blog post in Laura's memory, and to write a poem in her honor. I'd saved all the tributes posted on the SCBWI-Illinois listserv with the idea that I might write a "found poem" from what people had shared. Member after member wrote of Laura's warm smile, infectious laugh, generous spirit, amazing optimism, welcoming nature, and fun sense of humor. I soon realized I didn't want to write a "sappy" poem--Laura wouldn't have wanted that.
Then I thought of what Laura said in her Student Success Story interview about being a "math and science person." That gave me the idea to write my poem in the form of a “Fib,” a 5-line, 20-syllable poem with the number of syllables per line based on the Fibonacci sequence: 1/1/2/3/5/8. I thought this form would be especially appropriate because the Fibonacci sequence is often found in nature, and Laura loved nature. Plus, "Fibs" tend to be rather playful. [To read more about Fibs, see this blog post by Greg Pincus, author of the recently released middle-grade novel, The 14 Fibs of Gregory K (Arthur A. Levine Books).]
The Fib that follows was inspired by all the comments to the listserv, but especially by what Cathy Cronin wrote:
"I will always treasure her friendship. Her bright spirit will live on in all the hearts that she's touched and in all of her wonderful books. I am keeping a picture of her by my laptop as a reminder to 'Live like Laura.' She knew what was important to her and spent her time well. "
I agree with Cathy. Laura lives on in the hearts of all who knew her, not only the members of the children's writing community, but also the students she taught in her 20 years at Sleepy Hollow Elementary School. You can read more about how she touched their lives in this article.
Wednesday, October 9, is Unity Day, when people who care will wear orange to show their support. More information is on UNITY DAY, 2013's Facebook page.
When I started exploring what to write about for this post, I began (as I often do) with a search on the Milwaukee Public Library's web site. The subject "Bullying" brought up 53 categories of books about bullying, including Bullying in Schools, Bullying Juvenile Fiction (477 titles!), and Bullying Prevention Juvenile Literature.
Overwhelming, isn't it?
I decided to focus on one classic book, Bootsie Barker Bites by Barbara Bottner, illustrated by Peggy Rathmann. I've always liked the satisfying way the young narrator triumphs in the end.
At first, her mother tells her she has to play with Bootsie. When the girl resists, her mother tells her she has to "learn to get along with all kinds of people."
When the poor girl "can't stand it anymore" and shouts, her mother looks surprised. (Ack. How clueless can we parents be sometimes?) The girl goes to her room to think over her response to her mother's suggestion that she tell Bootsie she doesn't want to play that game.
A light bulb flashed when I reread the book after seeing what an expert on disruptive behavior said in April's post:
Bullies pick on people who are weaker than they are.
You need to stand up to a bully.
Create clear boundaries.
In her room, the girl in Bootsie Barker Bites invents her own creative way to handle the situation. She stands up and looks Bootsie in the eye. She's not exactly empathetic, but empathy is a lot to ask of a kid who's been tormented. She does create a clear boundary by refusing to play along with the bully's demands. What's satisfying about the conclusion is that she solves the problem for herself. I love books that inspire kids to take control when they need to. How I wish all bullied kids could find one book or person or piece of advice that would empower them to stand up for themselves. I hope these resources help.
Enter by October 9!
Check out the details in April's September 27 post for the Teaching Authors Book Giveaway, featuring The Kite That Bridged Two Nations by Alexis O'Neill.
Besides being Unity Day and the last day of the Book Giveaway, October 9 is my birthday—mine and my twin sister Judy's, that is. I'm celebrating with a Birthday Sale: Order Write a Poem Step by Step from Lulu.com through Wednesday and save 20%! Here's a poem from the book, written by a third grader in one of my poetry workshops. This is what today looks and sounds like in Wisconsin.
A big flash of light and a BOOM!
Drip drop drip drop.
Melanie Gilmore, Grade 3
Today's Poetry Friday Roundup is at Dori Reads. Enjoy!
Alexis is an absolutely amazing teacher. In one memorable workshop, she taught CAN! authors how to create and present teacher inservices. It was an extraordinary presentation and it formed how I respond and present to teachers to this day.
Alexis has golden credentials in the field of education: she's a former elementary teacher with a Ph.D. in teacher education, she's an instructor for the UCLA Extension Writer’s Program, a museum education consultant, a Regional Advisor for SCBWI in California, and a contributor to the SCBWI Bulletin, writing her column, “The Truth About School Visits.” Her blog, www.SchoolVisitExperts.com, offers practical advice to published authors and illustrators who are trying to navigate the world of public appearances.
This August, she was named SCBWI Member of the Year --and though it was a complete surprise to her (though to no one else), she sang a sea shanty as she accepted the award.
Because that's who Alexis is--generous, original and dramatic. It's as if her goal is always to bring the classroom, the auditorium, fellow authors--whoever is around--together. As if she is a shepherd and we are the community she's teaching and keeping safe.
I’ve been a TeachingAuthor all my life! As a kid, I convinced my dad to hang a blackboard in the garage and persuaded the neighborhood kids to sit in my “class.” After school, I wrote (and sold) a neighborhood newspaper which I composed on my mom’s portable typewriter. As a grown up, I’ve taught elementary school students, teacher education candidates, and, as a published author, writers. What's a common problem/question that teachers or students have and how do you address it?
Students of all ages are so afraid of being “wrong.” My advice to them is to just play with words! Don’t worry about what other people think of your work. Can’t find a word? Make it up! Or make a mark to come back to that spot later. Just mess around, and in that mess, you might find the seed of an idea that can sprout into a full-blown piece of writing that you will want to share later on. To address this problem when we do writing exercises, I tell students up front that no one will collect their writing – and that they can decide when and what they will share with the group.
Was there a moment in your life when you knew you were a writer?
The moment I knew I was a writer was when my sixth grade teacher read my report on Ireland out loud to the class. Instead of a dry, factual presentation, I had “pretended,” in my narrative, to be a tour guide who was taking the whole class with her on a trip. First, I was surprised that he read it out loud, then I was really surprised when, at recess, my classmates came up to me and said how much they liked what I had written. That’s when a big light bulb went on over my head. “Wow! I can write for an audience, and not just for my teacher!” I thought.
From that moment on, I made all of my reports as creative as possible. For example, my report on the Alamo was told from the point of view of the only survivor (there were none in reality, but that didn’t stop me.) Now I know I was writing historical fiction. But I kept doing this, and teachers kept reading my work out loud in my classes. The birth of a writer – writing for an audience and not just for a grade from my teachers!
And finally, since it's Poetry Friday in the Kidlitosphere, do you have an original poem you'd like to share with our readers?
THE FALLS by Alexis O'Neill
I am thunder and roar I am rain and river Green and white magnificence. You try to tame me and you fail. In barrel and boat I spin you, plunge you crush you, drown you. A filmy fairy curtain? Not I! A lacy veil? Not I! I gnaw at rock bite through cliffs claw the very bed across which I race oceanward. Out of my way! I am the great Niagara
To enter for a chance to win an autographed copy of The Kite That Bridged Two Nations log into Rafflecopter below (via either Facebook or an email address). You'll see that we've provided three different options for entering the giveaway--you can pick one or up to all three.
The more options you choose, the greater your chances of winning. While
we haven't made it a requirement for entering, we hope that everyone will WANT to subscribe to the TeachingAuthors
blog. We give you several ways of doing so in the sidebar, for example,
via email, Facebook Networked Blogs, Jacketflap, Bloglovin', etc. If you're already a TeachingAuthors subscriber, you need only click on the first option below and tell us how you follow our blog, which will give you THREE entries in the giveaway! (If you received this post via email, you can click on the Rafflecopter giveaway link below to enter.)
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 throughOctober 9, 2013.
If you have any questions about the giveaway, feel free to email us at teachingauthors [at] gmail [dot] com.
And she also explained how to participate in the CPBH:
1) Make up three questions you've always wanted to be asked in an interview about children's poetry and then answer them on your own blog; 2) Invite one, two or three other bloggers who write poetry (preferably children's poetry, but we're broad-minded) to answer any three questions that they make up on their own blogs (they can copy someone else's questions if they'd like) 3) In your post, let us know who your invitees are and when they're are going to be posting their own Poetry Blog Hop questions and answers...if you know the dates. 4) You do not have to use Mortimer, the CPBH meme.
I've tagged two fellow children's poets to participate in the Children's Poetry Blog Hop: Laura Shovan, a children's author and poet-in-the-schools who blogs at Author Amok, and Tabatha Yeats, author of nonfiction children's books as well as poetry, who blogs at The Opposite of Indifference. (As you'll see below, Tabatha is hosting today's Poetry Friday round-up.) Be sure to hop on over to read their CBHP posts next week. Laura will share hers at Author Amok on Tuesday, Sept. 24, and you'll be able to read Tabatha's at The Opposite of Indifference on Friday, Sept. 27.
Now for my three (actually four) CPBH questions: 1)When was your first poem published? Would you share it with us? 2) Who was your first poetry teacher? 3) What poetry forms do you like best?
And here are the answers: 1)When was your first poem published? Would you share it with us? I began writing poetry when I was in sixth or seventh grade, and my first poem was published when I was in high school (I won't tell you what year!), in Crystals in the Dark: An Anthology of Creative Writing from the Chicago Public Schools. I was immensely proud to have my writing in this collection (which you might guess, since I still have my copy of the book. J) However, I had to resist the urge to edit the poem as I typed it up. Here it is, in original form:
If I could find a place far away from the world and its sounds, Distant from the din and clatter of civilization; Far away from pollution, politics, and people, Away from worry, death, sorrow, and pain; The only place that I could think of where I would be undisturbed, tranquil, and at peace, is within myself.
I went on to have several of my poems published in our high school yearbook,. After that, though, I pretty much gave up on writing poetry until many years later, when I began writing for children. Which leads into my second question:
2) Who was your first poetry teacher?
In high school and college, I studied poetry only as a reader, not a writer. While I did participate in some workshops on using poetry techniques in fiction at Vermont College, I didn't take my first poetry-writing class until 2002. That's when I attended a four-week workshop by poet and author Heidi Bee Roemer, "The ABC's of Children's Poetry." I learned so much from Heidi in that short time. The weekly assignments challenged us to write poetry in a variety of forms. And that leads into my third question:
3) What poetry forms do you like best?
The poems I wrote in junior high and high school were usually either free verse or rhyming couplets. It wasn't until I was in Heidi's class that I dared experiment with other forms, including triplets, quatrains, limericks, terse verse, and shape poems. Thanks to the confidence I gained in Heidi's class, I went on to have a terse verse poem published in Pocket's magazine, and a poem in two voices published in Chicken Soup for the Soup: Teens Talk High School. Since then, I've tried my hand at list poems, found poems, diamante poems, sonnets, and just about any form that strikes my fancy. Heidi's class, along with poetry-related posts by my fellow TeachingAuthors, and inspiring posts by members of the Poetry Friday community, have opened me to new poetry worlds.
Certainly more relevant in the song-as-poetry series than last week's The Fox (but c'mon, wasn't that one fun?) is a tune I heard on the radio and ran inside to google. Since I get most of my cooler music from my teen daughter, it was exciting to find something on my own. So from Avicii, here's "Wake Me Up:"
Feeling my way through the darkness Guided by a beating heart I can't tell where the journey will end But I know where to start They tell me I'm too young to understand They say I'm caught up in a dream Well life will pass me by if I don't open up my eyes Well that's fine by me So wake me up when it's all over When I'm wiser and I'm older All this time I was finding myself And I didn't know I was lost
I’m so happy to be back in the
Teaching Authors fold—I’ve missed you guys! As other TAs have been doing, I’m sharing
one of my favorite Jeanne Marie posts, from January of this year. What I most enjoy about this post is the sense of
optimism despite an accumulation of obstacles. What I can identify with (like so many
writers I know) are the hurdles of family and work obligations. No one has all
the time in the world to write, but we just keep trying, don’t we? (Go, JM!)
Yes, I can identify. As I write this, I’m baking homemade
granola (and oh, does it smell good! I substituted almond extract for the
vanilla called for in the recipe), keeping one ear tuned to the dog in the backyard,
and periodically looking for migrating hummingbirds on the feeder outside the window in
front of me—all positive endeavors, a refreshing change from winter and spring!
After spending much of my summer observing, photographing,
and writing about monarch eggs, caterpillars, and butterflies, today I released
the last butterfly, which popped out of its chrysalis inside the protective mosquito
net tent in our backyard. In its honor, I’ve written a new monarch poem.
Fragile wings unfold—
orange petals opening.
The old monarch tent, tattered and
holey from some unknown attacker, has probably reached the end of its
usefulness. Although I hate to toss it, I think it’s time.
And so we move on.
Today feels like
autumn: cool weather has finally returned to Wisconsin (look at those clouds!),
fall classes are in full swing, and I’m working on several promising manuscripts
while outlining a new nonfiction educational series. I detect a sense of
determination in the air. Wish me luck!
September 15 is International Dot Day! The celebration began four years ago when a teacher read The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds to his students. In this gentle picture book, a teacher who cares helps a student find her own way to be creative. More than a million people are registered to celebrate International Dot Day this year. Read all about it:
Fall is not far away and many of us are already experiencing cooling temperatures and rain showers. During the summer months we get very little rain here in Southern Oregon and those first showers of the fall are always welcome. In today's poetry book we take a journey through the seasons to experience rain in its many forms.
Depending on the season, rain either gives us some welcome relief, or we consider it a nuisance. Depending on our mood we enjoy paddling in puddles outside or we delight in staying indoors, cozy and warm while the raindrops tap on the windows.
In this lovely book, gem-like poems are paired with lovely evocative illustrations to take us through the seasons, celebrating rain in all its forms as we go. We begin in autumn when “the falling leaves / fall in layers…the rain / beats on rain.” In her poem The Mist and All, Dixie Willson tells us how much she enjoys fall’s mist, the “wailing sound / Of wind around,” and the rain. She is content to be tending to and sitting by her “cozy fire.”
In winter, the rain perhaps takes on a different feel. It is colder and greyer. In Haiku by Sora we read about “a pitter-patter / of winter rain” on a pond that is covered with the reflection of stars. Robert Frost’s poem To the Thawing Wind introduces us to Southwester, a wind that brings the thaw with rain and warmer temperatures that melt the icicles, make the doors rattle, and “Turn the poet out of the door.”
We then move on to the gentle rains of spring that bring life with them, and the welcome showers of summer that freshen the air and offer some respite from the heat and dust.
With a wonderful introduction, and a note about the haiku form, this collection of poems beautifully captures special rainy moments.
I am trying desperately to hold onto my writing habits and not let school work take over my every waking minute. This is a draft. It doesn't feel quite complete, but I'm just happy at this point that I wrote at least one morning this week.
Things are starting to settle down a bit...maybe. Okay, who'm I kidding? I'm going to PRETEND like things are settling down a bit, and reclaim my morning habits of walking and writing!
Honestly, this is a stretch even for me in the song-as-poetry series, but it's so freakin' awesome that I can't keep it to myself. This song is a techno cross of "Gangnam Style" and a Wiggles video with a huge helping of psychotropic drugs. And while I still can't decide if its sincere or satire, I know it's absolutely brilliant. Because, yeah... what does the fox say? So from the middle of the song, "The Fox" by Ylvis:
The secret of the fox ancient mystery somewhere deep in the woods I know you're hiding. What is your sound? Will we ever know Will always be a mystery What do you say?
A little more than halfway through the piece, she shares a poem he wrote when he was ten. Entitled The Reading Boy, it begins with the line, "There once was a boy who was good..." It will be appreciated by voracious readers of all ages.
Many years ago I worked on a young adult novel manuscript that was written in blank verse. When the author told me about the format my heart sank a little. I thought that the story was going to be challenging. To say the least. When I started reading I quickly came to realize that I had a gem in my hands. The book was fantastic and I learned that novels in verse can be amazing. Today's book is just such a title. Eileen Spinelli uses her considerable skill to tell a story that is sweet and timeless.
Diana loves her home. She loves the fact that a wren is nesting in the wreath on the front door. Diana also loves her best friend Rose. Rose and Diana fit together like vanilla ice cream and fudge sauce. Rose never complains when Diana starts talking about stars, and when Diana works on her poems. Rose is always there when Diana needs someone to talk to.
Then something happens that turns Diana’s world upside down; her father loses his job. Diana’s parents are going to have a hard time paying for their home without Dad’s wages. After Mom goes to visit her father, she comes home to announce that they are all going to move in with Grandpa. Mom and Dad won’t have to pay a mortgage if they move, and Grandpa will have someone to share his large lonely house. They are going to move away from the yellow house and from Rose.
Diana is heartbroken. She will never have another friend like Rose. She will never have a house like the yellow house that she lives in and loves. She will never be happy again.
Written as a series of poems, this warm, touching, and evocative story will resonate with readers of all ages. Because of her father’s bad luck, Diana is forced into a new situation, and in the process, she learns that change is not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes it can even make life richer and more interesting.
You read that right -- Lemony Snicket. He created a collection of poems that children "might like," and Chris Raschka illustrated the collection with happy, splashy paintings. Fun, fun, fun!
From the introduction:
"The poems contained in this children’s poetry portfolio are not made for children. Poetry is like a curvy slide in a playground — an odd object, available to the public — and, as I keep explaining to my local police force, everyone should be able to use it, not just those of a certain age." "If you are a child, you might like these poems. Of course, you might not. Poems, like children, are individuals, and will not be liked by every single person who happens to come across them. So you may consider this portfolio a gathering of people in a room. It does not matter how old they are, or how old you are yourself. What matters is that there are a bunch of people standing around in a room, and you might want to look at them."
We're gathering in the "room" (aka blog) of Laura at Author Amok for the Poetry Friday roundup this week. See you there!
Howdy, Campers! You have just a few more hours to enter our latest book giveaway (details below)! AND today we celebrate not one, not two, but three things! Rosh Hashanah, the new Children's Poetry Blog Hop, and Poetry Friday (hosted today by Laura Shovan at Author Amok)!
My PF poem is below. Thanks, Laura! * * *
1) Let's start with Rosh Hashanah. Happy New Year (both the Jewish New Year and the New School Year) to all! After I put the finishing touches on this post, I going to walk to the end of our pier and toss bits of bread to seagulls and fish as part of a Jewish New Year ritual called tashlich.
2) And now on to the Children's Poetry Blog Hop. Having heard of other blog hops, poet Janet Wong and other kidlitosphere poets have decided to start a Children's Poetry Blog Hop (CPBH) for...who else? Children's poets.
To participate in the Poetry Blog Hop, simply: 1) Make up three questions you've always wanted to be asked in an interview about children's poetry and then answer them on your own blog; 2) Invite one, two or three other bloggers who write poetry (preferably children's poetry, but we're broad-minded) to answer any three questions that they make up on their own blogs (they can copy someone else's questions if they'd like) 3) In your post, let us know who your invitees are and when they're are going to be posting their own Poetry Blog Hop questions and answers...if you know the dates. 4) You do not have to use Mortimer, the CPBH meme.
I've invited author, poet, and web mistress extraordinaire Carmela Martino to the Children's Poetry Blog Hop (it sounds like a sock hop, doesn't it?) Carmela will be posting right here at TeachingAuthors.com on September 20th.
I met Deborah years ago in Myra Cohn Livingston's master class in writing poetry for children. Deborah's a stunning craftswoman and looks at the world in madly original ways. And, as you're about to read, her metaphors are spectacular.
2) What's your process? How do you begin writing a poem?
Sometimesmy process is to start with a word and I spin out from there. Sometimes I find a poem I admire and imitate its rhythm, meter and form. Sometimes it's a feeling. I ask myself, what are you feeling today? What is true? What is authentic?And sometimes it's just, you have ten minutes. Write the damn poem. (I don't actually use the word damn because, as I'm sure you know, children's authors and poets don't swear.)
Sonya has graciously agreed to reveal the very first
poem in herbook that isn't even out yet and YOU, Campers, will be among the very first readers of this poem! Her newest book, To Be Perfectly Honest (A Novel Based on an Untrue Story)(Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers), comes out on August 27 and is full of lies.
Sonya is an original in the best sense of the word. She and I met in poet Myra Cohn Livingston's Master Class. When Myra died, her students hosted classes at our homes, teaching each other the fine points of poetry.
When it was Sonya's turn to host, she surprised us by hiring a drummer who gave each of us a drum and taught us different rhythms for an hour! An unforgettable way to instruct and inspire.
She continues to inspire me, always thinking of new ways of telling a story. I'll never forget the day Sonya said she'd decided to write a novel in verse with an unreliable narrator. I was lucky to witness the unfolding of what became To Be Perfectly Honest (A Novel Based on an Untrue Story).
Here's a bit of whatSchool Library Journal says about this book: "Sones captures the ache of first love. Readers may find themselves laughing, crying, and wanting to believe the unreliable, well-developed narrator. Excerpts may make for a stepping stone to William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Like Shakespeare’s play, this title lends itself to discussion about healthy relationships, setting limits, defining oneself, and evaluating what is real. Fast paced and great for reluctant readers.”
Sonya! Welcome to TeachingAuthors' humble abode! How did you officially become a TeachingAuthor?
I officially became a teaching author the day I volunteered to teach a poetry writing workshop to my son’s fourth grade class. I gave each student a donut and told them they couldn’t eat it until they gave me a simile to describe it. The rest is history.
Besides bringing donuts, what's one piece of advice you have for teachers?
Make poetry fun! Don’t only expose your students to classic poetry. I teach workshops to middle-schoolers and high-schoolers, and I find that they respond with more enthusiasm to current poetry. There’s a very funny poem by Billy Collins called “Introduction to Poetry,” about tying a poem to a chair and trying to beat a confession out of it, that might be a good place to start. There’s another one called “Pearl” by Dorianne Laux, which is a fabulous portrait of Janice Joplin. Try reading that poem to them and challenging them to write a poem about their own favorite musician. And there’s a great very short love poem by Eve Merriam called “New Love.”
Don’t force students to memorize and analyze. If you choose the right poems, your students will feel the words washing over them like a cool ocean breeze on a broiling hot day. Your goal should be to teach them how to love poetry, not how to “understand” it.
Whoops. Was that more than one piece of advice?
Sonya crossing her eyes with the Book Café Club at La Salle Academy in Providence, RI
Who's counting? Please tell us the Cinderella story of how you sold your first book.
I didn’t sell my first book. Or my second book. Or my third. That was when I decided to enroll in a poetry class at UCLA extension taught by the brilliant Myra Cohn Livingston. She set me on the path to writing Stop Pretending. I finished it just before the annual SCBWI conference in Century City and brought my manuscript with me. There, I attended a presentation by a very young agent (he was only 24 years old!) named Steven Malk who gave a speech about why you should have an agent if you wrote or illustrated for kids. Then halfway through the speech, he switched over to talking about why that agent should be him. He was so persuasive that after his talk 75 authors ran up to him to ask for his business card. But I hung back, not wanting to crowd him.
Later that day, however, I found myself in the lobby, and there he was, standing all by himself. Even so, a friend had to convince me to go up and talk to him. But I finally did and I said, “I wrote a book about what happened when my big sister was sent to a mental hospital, it’s written in verse, it’s sort of edgy, and I was wondering if I could send it to you.” He said, “Okay.” And that was it. A twenty second conversation. I mailed it to him on Wednesday. He called me on Friday to tell me how much he liked it. And by the following Wednesday he had a bidding war going. That week remains one of the most astonishing and exhilarating times of my entire life.
A lot of traveling! Simon and Schuster is sending me on a book tour:Chicago, D.C., Miami, San Francisco, Menlo Park, Pasadena, Ontario, Raleigh and Phoenix. Then, in October, I’ll be going to Hong Kong where I’ve been invited by Hong Kong Baptist University to participate in an International Writer’s Workshop for a month. I’ve never been to that part of the world, and I’m very much looking forward to this grand adventure. And wherever I go, I will be scanning the horizon for stories…
Oh my gosh! I'm exhausted justreading your itinerary! I know you'll meet interesting folks on the way!
Newsflash: Sonya's own three-book box set of trade paperbacks, The Sonya Sones Collection, will be released the same day To Be Perfectly Honest (A Novel Based on an Untrue Story) comes out. Sonya's comment: "Wow...a new boxed set...now Calvin Klein and I both have collections."
To enter for a chance to win an autographed copy of To Be Perfectly Honest (A Novel Based on an Untrue Story) log into Rafflecopter below (via either Facebook or an email address). You'll see that we've provided three different options for entering the giveaway--you can pick one or up to all three.
The more options you choose, the greater your chances of winning. While
we haven't made it a requirement, we hope that everyone will pick the
first option--subscribing to the TeachingAuthors blog. If you're already a TeachingAuthors subscriber, you still need to click on that button and tell us how you follow our blog, which will give you THREE entries in the giveaway! (If you received this post via email, you can click on the Rafflecopter link at the end of this message to enter.)
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 August 29, 2013.
If you have any questions about the giveaway, feel free to email us at teachingauthors [at] gmail [dot] com.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
FYI: Our week-long celebration
includes a Book Giveaway of TWO signed copies of this perfect baby gift of a
for the details and be sure to enter by next Tuesday, August 13.
I wrote in Monday’s post how my grandson inspired TXTNG MAMA
TXTNG BABY whilst he was in utero.My Baby Antennae had been (understandably) working overtime.All I saw – everywhere I looked – were Mamas
thumbing their hand-held devices and nearby, babies finger-swiping the same.
Babies… What’s up
with THAT? I wondered.
To answer the above
question, and the millions that followed, I spent a whole lot of time (cer10ly longer
than my grandson’s gestation!) researching Texting and Technology as well as their impact on Babies and
I needed to know:just what is
There were definitions
aplenty but linguist David Crystal’s TXTNGThe Gr8 Db8(Oxford University, 2009) allowed the writer in me to understand this language – and – its
features, several of which I shared in my Wednesday Writing Workout. And is texting really killing writing? There were opinions
aplenty. Fortunately, I came
upon Columbia University linguist Dr. John McWhorter’s TED Talk – “Txtng is
killing language. JK!!” McWhorter considers
texting “a whole new way of writing,” fingered speech that allows us to write
the way we speak, an expansion of a young person’s linguistic repertoire. Noting texting’s loose
structure, McWhorter remarks, “No one thinks about capital letters or
punctuation when one texts, but then again, do you think about those things
when you talk?” Click HERE to listen to Dr. McWhorter's TED Talk. Enjoy
I needed to explore and
experience 2day’s Babies’ and Toddlers’ Techy-Techy World, the Digital World in
which these smallest of humans live and breath and laugh and learn, not to
mention, swipe and tap and thumb. Every day brought A New
Something with A New Action, A New Opportunity, a New Possibility for digital
natives, both parent and child.
comprehensive article “The Touch-Screen Generation” in the April 2013 issue of THE
ATLANTIC magazine grounded, informed and enlightened me.
Click HERE to check it
out for yourself, making sure you leave time for the Readers Comments.
Finally, I needed to read
and understand the research.
I explored the website, read the studies and findings and understood instantly the requisite human touch Touch Technology demands when it comes to babies and
toddlers and technology. Click HERE to read their newest posting on imaginary play with
I M still on the hunt
for anything and everything that is remotely related to babies, toddlers,
texting and technology. I clip, I
cut-and-paste, I purchase, I stockpile. Wednesday, the Chicago
Tribune brought news of smart watches. Later that afternoon, I discovered the
BabyBook Onesie at Northwestern Memorial Hospital’s Zen and Now Gift Shop.
Who knows WHAT might
juice my Writer’s Muse next week, next month, next year?
4 now, I M Byond :) I was able 2
use this newest of languages 2 cr8 TXTNG
MAMA TXTNG BABY and bring my grandson’s Digital World to the ultimate
hand-held device: the baby board book.
...which is over at Check it Out today ~
thanks for hosting today, Jone! .
We've returned from our blog-cation tanned and rested. Esther kicks off this round's topic about contests with her post on Lee and Low's New Voices Contest, including several juicy tidbits (did you know that an early version of Christopher Paul Curtis's The Watsons Go to Birmingham lost a contest before it went on to win the Newbery?)
Jeanne Marie continues the discussion, touching on Las Vegas, mowing lawns, selling one's first born, her years as a Hollywood scriptwriter, and winning Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's scholarship.
On today's TeachingAuthors menu:
links to contests for young writers;
a poem about the delicious feeling when you learn you're going to be published;
thesecretabout entering contests.
Links to contests for young writers:
Here's the page on my personal website which lists a few select contests (including a peace poetry contest), and here, on the TeachingAuthors website, Carmela has compiled a ton more.
My poem for Poetry Friday:
I vividly remember learning I'd won a writing contest when I was in second grade. Winning came with a fancybookmark(!) and a certificate to Martindale's Bookstore in Santa Monica for any book in the entire store! I was intoxicated. Any book!
(He had his heart set on The Big Book of Japanese Fairy Tales.)
Winning a contest, getting something published...thePOW! of this is experience is indescribable. And no matter how many books you have published, or how many of your poems are in
magazines and anthologies, most writers will tell you that an acceptance is an acceptance--the ZING! is as powerful each time.
And so, Campers: get out of your comfort zone and enter a contest or try to get something published (which is the same thing, if you think about it).
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.
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!
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.)
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.
I stress when I have a blog post to write on a favorite online writing resource and no time to write it. Can you relate? In that case, it's nice to have a caring blog-buddy name Carmela who has extra resources in her big floppy bag and tosses me one as I frantically run by.
Yep, there are lots of great resources on that link. However, may I express a nagging uneasiness about certain apps? Based on several friends' recommendations, I downloaded Evernote, which is included in this list. I was looking for a useful To Do List app and this apparently fits the bill.
What creeps me out was that in order to access this marvelous and free app, you have to allow it to access all of your contacts.
ALL OF MY CONTACTS? Evernote wants the phone number of my vet? Of my dead podiatrist who I loved so much I cannot bring myself to delete from my phone? Of Uncle Davie?
Uncle Davie and Eli.
Evernote wants/GETS all these precious people?
I couldn't do it. I couldn't surrender my peeps for a free app.
Now I'm off to my critique group. Wish me luck! And if you find that one of these resources is particularly wonderful, please let us know...and remember to enter our contest to win a copy of our very own Jill Esbaum's newest book! Click for all the dino details: Angry Birds Playground: Dinosaurs. You still have time--the contest ends June 18th!
First of all, I'd like to apologize for pushing the "publish" button instead of the "save" button when I was composing this post yesterday. As a result, my weird and clearly unfinished post went out to our subscribers above Carmela's wonderful Wednesday Writing Workout (which I highly recommend reading.) Oy!
Until 1958, an artist could not be awarded more
than one Caldecott Medal unless the committee's vote was unanimous. In
his letter responding to the news, Robert McCloskey expresses his
surprise at winning the award a second time.
Except for his first
picture book and his last one, Robert McCloskey won either a Caldecott
Medal or a Caldecott Honor for every picture book he published.
But where to start--what sound? How about applause--applause for all Caldecott winners (and those hard-working Caldecott committee members)? There are so many different kinds of applause, including this and this--which is the applause before a concert begins. That's the sound that stuck with me. Here's my rough draft: