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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Mentors, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 29
1. Inspiration

I find inspiration in a lot of forms. I love to watch movies and binge watch shows. I enjoy music and listen to podcasts. I love walking outside and focusing on little things, for example, a flower or a bee. This is what inspires me. Another thing that inspires me is my teachers. One specific […]

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2. The Importance of Being a Mentor

The first time I attended an American Library Association (ALA) Annual conference I was completely overwhelmed. Which sessions should I attend? How was I going to fit everything into one weekend? How would I make any sense of this enormous association? I was attending graduate school at the time, didn't know anyone, and didn't know where to start.

I applied to the New Member Round Table (NMRT) conference mentor program and was matched with a librarian named Kris Springer. Kris met me on the first day of ALA Annual, at an incredibly early hour of the day, and explained to me how to navigate both the conference and the association. She told me about her experience on the Newbery Medal committee, and told me that I could one day be on a committee at that level. I got goosebumps and thought she was crazy. She helped me when I needed it and stayed in touch through the years.

It's now ten years after that first conference. I've been a conference mentor and a career mentor as much I've can. Sometimes officially through NMRT and sometimes unofficially when someone is at the start of their career and has questions. I've met with people I'm mentoring at conferences when I've had a loose schedule, and conferences where I've barely had a minute of free time. It's a priority to me and one of the most rewarding things I've done in my profession.

At the ALA Midwinter convention last month, I was so proud of all these wonderful librarians and so honored to have the privilege to watch how far they've come.

For me, the most emotional moment was watching Amy Forrester. I met Amy several years ago when she was in library school and attending her first ALA Annual conference. I told her the things one usually tells a first time attendee; how to take the shuttle bus and to listen to all those people who tell you to wear comfortable shows. Over the years, I watched her become a confident and skilled children's librarian. I was overjoyed when she was appointed to the 2016 Geisel Committee. It was really overwhelming for me watching the Geisel committee, which she was a part of, announce their choices to the world at the press conference. I am so proud that she and her committee recognized outstanding books for beginning readers and may have changed the lives of some of the creators and readers of those books. I wish you could have heard me cheering.

Thank you, Kris, for getting up so early a decade ago; for your advice and for the advice of all the other mentors who have helped me out. Thank you to all the people I've mentored- for being such wonderful professionals who I'm so proud of, for all I have learned from you, and for some inexplicable reason, listening to my advice.

I never realized that anything I was saying was helpful until I read this incredibly touching post from Amy Steinbauer. Thank you, Amy, for letting me know that I'm making a tiny difference. I'm looking forward to great things from you!

I hope this post inspires you to mentor someone in your profession. Whether officially and through an association, or by simply having lunch with someone new to the field, listening to their experiences and trying to answer their questions.

To all those children's and young adult librarians I have mentored, I look forward to the day when I get watch your Newbery, Caldecott or Printz committees reveal their choices. I'll be cheering loudest!

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3. Remembering Artist Gary R Sanchez

Morning Coffee; Oil Pastel and Watercolor Crayon on Gessoed Paper

I'm feeling sad today. Two nights ago I learned that one of my continuing ed. art teachers, Gary Sanchez, passed away suddenly on Thanksgiving from a heart attack. It's hard to believe--I was just about to choose which of his classes I was going to take next year. He was only 53. Kind, generous, and a remarkably gifted teacher; he will be sorely missed by so many.

I took both watercolor and oil pastel classes from Gary. Watercolor was not a new medium to me, but oil pastel certainly was. In fact, I wasn't even sure I would like it very much--I only took the class because I knew he was a good teacher and I thought I should expand my horizons. What I didn't expect is that I would enjoy oil pastel so much it would become one of my main drawing/painting mediums. 

The above painting was one of my first homework assignments in that same class. Looking at it now I'm reminded of the fun our class had together, and Gary was funny, constantly keeping us entertained. I realize now that was a great way to keep us relaxed and light: we would sketch while Gary chatted, worked on his own pictures, and somehow managed to walk around the room giving us individual pep talks all at the same time. I can still hear him using the terms "hot dog"and "hamburger" in place of "portrait" and "landscape" to describe which way we should turn our paper (the same way he described it for the children's classes he taught, which of course was the perfect way for me to learn), or reminding us that Van Gogh ate his paints--a demonstration of how passionate we should be about our materials! (Or hungry.) Gary's website is still up and I encourage you to visit while it's there: Garyrsanchez.com

Some of the reasons Gary helped me to love oil pastels include:
  • There are no limits: I can use my fingers to paint. I'm also a ceramic artist, and being able to use my hands and fingers as tools on the paper fits me to a T.
  • Oil pastel color is rich. The colors blend like butter.
  • You can use a wide variety of interesting backgrounds, from sand paper to canvas, so it never gets dull.
  • It's a fast medium with quick results--and I'm a very impatient artist.
  • Oil pastels are a good choice for creating sell-able, frame-able work. And who doesn't want to go professional one day?
  • You don't need a lot of excess "stuff" to work with oil pastel--especially if you paint with your fingers! But seriously, they are a minimalist's dream: a selection of colors, something to draw upon, a few paper towels.
  • And you don't need to break the bank to get started. Even a cheap set is good--much better than you'd think. Great for the budget-minded.
  • It's a a very expressive medium--you can draw straight from the heart, right away--no experience needed. Really.
  • It's also a very forgiving medium--if you don't like the results you can pretty much just scrape it away and start over. Better yet, you can look for "happy accidents" and work with those in new and creative ways. It all turns out fine.
  • Oil pastels can be used in so many different ways: on their own, in collage or mixed media, applied thick and strong, or thinned with either water or solvent for a "watercolor" look. The possibilities are endless.
Going over this list makes me want to get out my paper and Sennelier pastels (the terribly expensive ones!) and draw something special. I often think the very best way we can honor our teachers and mentors, past and present, is to never give up on our dreams, no matter what. I'm so glad I got to be one of Gary's students, and I'm so glad I let him know when I could how much I appreciated his art and teaching. May his legacy live on.

Tip of the Day: My art journals are full of Gary's advice and tips, but one of my favorites is from the first watercolor class I took from him. We were each given a picture of a sunflower to paint. When we were finished (and praised--Gary always made sure we got tons of positive feedback before he offered any other type of critique) he said, "Okay, now that you've painted one sunflower, don't stop. Never paint just one. Paint a hundred. Paint a thousand sunflowers. Become an expert!" It's good advice for any type of creative pursuit: e.g., don't just write one poem or screenplay, write a hundred, write a thousand! Become an expert--and never give up. See you next time.

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4. Happy 5th Anniversary, drydenbks – Interview with Emma D. Dryden

Emma D. Dryden is a children’s editorial & publishing consultant with drydenbks LLC, a company she established 5 years ago today, after 25 years as a publisher and editor with major publishing houses. I had the privilege of working with … Continue reading

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5. Back to School for Writers

Back to school lettering with books, pencils and apple over chalkboard background

Now that the kids have gone back to school, why don’t you?

  • If you find yourself filled with ideas for children’s books and would love to write picture books, middle grade or young adult novels – what’s holding you back?
  • Do you have a manuscript in the works, but you’re not sure if you’re helping or hurting it with constant edits?
  • Interested in going back to school yourself to share your book with students?

Consider one of my Just Write Children’s Books courses or resources, all of which can be accessed from the comfort of your own home!

I offer three home-study writing courses that cover everything you could ever want to know about writing picture books, middle grade or young adult novels. The courses come with written lessons as well as writing assignments that will help you progress through your manuscript while learning all about the craft of children’s book writing. You can take any course at your own speed and from anywhere in the world. You will have a rough draft of a completed manuscript upon completion!

If you already have a completed manuscript and are simply unsure of what to do next, consider purchasing Editor in a Box, my 6-step editing system to help make your manuscript the best it can be! This product exists in two versions – one for picture books and one for chapter books and novels – and can be used again and again on all of your children’s book manuscripts.

If you’re ready to start submitting your manuscript to agents and editors, The Complete Picture Book Submissions System created by Julie Hedlund and myself, opens periodically for registration. To download our cheat sheet on picture book submissions and get notified when the course reopens, register here.

Finally, if you are ready to share your book with your target audience and supplement your author income, consider School Visit Wizard! This brand new product allows authors to learn how to cultivate, book and deliver stellar school visits!

Are you more interested in a traditional school setting? Think about applying to the 2016 Children’s Literature Fellows program run through Stony Brook Southampton. This program selects only 12 fellows per year who are mentored by bestselling authors, in order to complete several picture book manuscripts and/or a middle grade/young adult novel. While most of the course is completed from home, Fellows are required to attend the Children’s Literature Summer Conference and a Winter Publishing/Editing Conference at Stony Brook Southampton, NY.

So why not take a chance and go back to school? If writing children’s books is your passion, this is the moment to make it happen!

P.S. If you’re unable to make up your mind, be sure to take a look at my blog. I have tons of posts on the topic of writing and publishing children’s books. Be sure to scroll through the many posts or search keywords relevant to your interests.

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6. Peering at Peer to Peer Mentoring

No matter how long we've been in the profession, we all need mentors.

Pixabay Image
Jessica Olin over at Letters to a Young Librarian has a brief post post about the importance of peer mentoring and it got me thinking about my own experience.

I was lucky, throughout my career, to have experienced librarians take me under their wings in my library jobs, in my state association work and at the national level. Their support helped me navigate alot and taught me a ton.

But I can also say, forty years down my library career path, I have relied - and still rely  - on my peers for a tremendous portion of my professional support. Often referred to as PLNs (personal learning networks), our peer mentors can be life and sanity saving. These men and women, from libraries of all types and sizes, were my go-to reality check, my support, my place to dish, to unload, to problem solve, to listen and learn.

Without these peers who shared the same journey I did and were kind counselors and ardent thinkers, I would have been far lonelier and isolated; unconnected and unchallenged in my practice and my perceptions. I've always said I learn at least one new thing everyday, and my peer mentors often led that learning. Our frequent contact (emails, calls, twitter, FB, in person lunches and visits) informed my career and helped me navigate a thousand good and bad experiences.

I am profoundly thankful to all of you who are/were there for me. And I encourage everyone to reach out to link to your peers and share and grow together.

As I commented in Jessica's post: "While all mentors have had a profound and lasting impact on my long career, my peer mentors have saved my bacon (oh, or tofu) time and time again. The support, commiseration, problem-solving, uplift, shoulder to cry on, bold "let's hatch a plan," collaboration and sassytalk have enriched my practice every day in every way!"

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7. Mentor, Mentees, Mentotum*

ALSC recently sent out a survey from their Emerging Leader team on being mentored and being a mentor. This tells me that our division is deep in thought on setting up what I hope will be a truly valuable opportunity for all the members: to be a mentor or a protege.

I seldom meet youth librarians who haven't been profoundly affected in their careers by the advice, good counsel and wisdom of a mentor who has guided, suggested - and sometimes pushed - them in the direction of doing better work and opening doors to better opportunities.  We all know those people who give and share and help others reach a higher level of understanding and leadership because of their support.

Mentor/protege relationships don't always involve an oldster and a young thing. Peer-to-peer mentoring works well and is often most visible between cohorts on social media sites (Twitter, Friendfeed, ALA Think Tank on FB among others).  As someone in the twilight of my career, I can say that mentors still guide me and are often younger than I am.  I get inspired by their enthusiasm and learn much in the way of new tech tips and ways to re-look at work through new eyes.

Without mentorship and encouragement, I would never have stepped so far up in ALSC or been awarded the WI Librarian of the Year honor, or been given the opprtunities in my career that I have been given. The wise counsel of my peers, colleagues, veteran librarians (in all fields and disciplines) informed my work and gave it a richness that I could never have achieved on my own.

I have been fortunate in being asked to be a mentor for much of the last fifteen years.  I find that I learn as much as I share.  There is never an end to what can be discovered on any given day, at any given time, from any given person working with youth in libraries.  I find it humbling, energizing and exciting. I hope I have been encouraging to folks in the profession and helped them step up and out in leadership positions within their libraries, communities and the profession.

Informal mentoring/proteging has been the path I've mostly taken. But there are more formal relationships. My state association has a great mentoring program for new leaders, WeLead, that I have been a mentor for. ALAConnect has a mentoring platform, MentorConnect.  And now ALSC is going to step up with opportunities. I hope ALSC members keep an eye out and volunteer both as mentors and proteges.  The benefits are amazing!

Image: 'I wanna hold your hand'  http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/1865482908

*Sorry about this title. It's the old Latin conjugator rearing its head and I am never able to resist joking around with this!

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8. Poetic Bloomings Wednesday In-Form Poetry Challenge

These are my efforts in Tanka today. Each follows the proper form of 5-7-5-7-7. Each attempt to tell a complete story in five lines. I hope all will enjoy them.

Poetic Bloomings Wednesday In-Form Poetry Challenge for April 4, 2012—Tanka

Dancers’ Prayers

Drum beats bring dancers,

Prayers rise to Heaven’s gate.

Rain’s presence called forth.

Supplication pleases God

Who delivers needed rain.


Driver’s Mess

When sight fails for speed,
Events scream for attention.
Metalic paint scrapes,
Tempers flare for all to see,
Solving problems with nonsense.


Music’s Power

Strains, soft with whimsy,

Sliding behind closed eyelids,

Relax and write now.

Muse sends song’s delicate voice

To woo the vision within.


I’ll return this evening with my sestina for the day. Happy reading, all.

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9. Interview with Poet Walt Wojtanik

I have a treat for you all. I’m visiting today with someone whom I’ve come to know over the past few years, though not as well as I’d like. Poet or playwright, Walt Wojtanik is someone to emulate, especially in this world of verse and meter.

Walt has made a place for himself in the world of poetry and in the hearts of those who’ve come to know him, even a little. On his poetry site “Poetic Bloomings,” that he co-administers with Marie Elena Good, he describes himself as a hibiscus.

I can see that about him; a large, brilliant carmine blossom, waving from its post at the end of branch, daring others to do as much, always teetering on the verge of romance or insight. And while the blossom might be short-lived, the impact of its existence is not. Walt’s poetry always touches the reader, whether with romance, humor, or philosophy.

This hard-working poet writes so prolifically that his cache of work boggles the mind. During the Poetic Asides PAD challenges, he contributes three or more new poems per day, all while administering multiple websites and taking care of the rest of his life. For the 2010 PAD challenge, he was selected as the Poet Laureate; a well-deserved title.

Hello, Walt. I want to thank you for doing this interview. I have some small idea of how busy you are with your own work, and I appreciate you taking time out to spend with us.

Walt: Thanks for the invitation to chat, Claudette. I’m flattered that you would deem my work as worthy.

Claudsy: It’s my pleasure. When I first met you, you were doing the Micro Poetry page on Facebook. I admit to being intimidated by you and all of the “Old-timers” that contributed regularly. Would you tell us about your work habits when it comes to poetry?

Walt: Although I have been writing song lyrics for 43 years, my poetry has only seen resurgence for the past four years.  Attempting the 2009 Poetic Asides April Poem-A-Day Challenge, I began a journey that has brought me to this point in my writing career. It was surely serendipity in every sense of the word.

In being prodded to take on the challenge by a good friend, it had put me in contact with some incredible and very talented people. You mentioned Marie (Marie Elena Good). Three days into April I was ready to give up that foolishness and resign myself to the fact that I was a dreamer thinking I could write anything worth people’s attention. She placed a comment that was supportive and nurturing and kick started my muse into high gear. I built confidence and quite the following from that point.

Writing a poem a day was indeed a challenge, but writing 7 to 10 poems a day bordered on the certifiable. Half way through the first challenge I established my blog THROUGH THE EYES OF A POET’S HEART (link below) to keep my poems organized.

Claudsy: You and Marie Elena (whom I adore) have collaborated on two websites. Both are marvelous for the reader and aspiring poets alike. How did the two of you choose to create Across the Lake, Eerily? Both title and site are terrific.

Walt: I am from Buffalo, New

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10. Two for the Money, Two for the Show

This morning has been one of entertainment and revelation, as well as finding two more writers I want to get to know much better now that I know so little about them. Odd phrasing, I know, but true, nonetheless.

I met John Jakesthrough a short article he did for the June issue of The

Cover of "North and South (North and Sout...

Cover via Amazon

WriterMagazine. Though I’ve dabbled in his books, I never stopped to pay attention to the one behind the words. That privilege came with his article.

Jakes talks about how plot, while important, seldom brings someone back for a second reading of a book. Rather, it is a character that calls the reader back for another look into the life represented within the confines of the book’s covers. That reasoning is one I can agree with without reservation.

At fifteen, Louis Bromfield’s marvelous novel “The Rains Came” leaped off the school library’s shelf and into my waiting hands. This story for more mature

Cover of "The Rains Came

Cover of The Rains Came

audiences both surprised my composition teacher and dismayed her. She felt I wouldn’t be able to grasp the complexity of its story, characters, and plotline at a mere 15 years old.

I devoured this story of colonialist India with it’s coming revolution for sovereignty and its interwoven native characters and English colonials, its love stories—both adulterous and forbidden inter-racial unions, and its political statements. I couldn’t put it down. The depth of the story spoke volumes to me. I wanted more and took the time to find just that.

I went to the public library to find more books by this author. I came away with his Pulitzer winner, “Autumn Leaves” and counted myself fortunate that it was available. I’d discovered a world beyond kid’s literature. I could read something again with the depth and knowledge of Tennyson, Homer, and Shakespeare and get away from what was “acceptable” for my age bracket.

I understoo

2 Comments on Two for the Money, Two for the Show, last added: 5/24/2012
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11. Two for the Money, Two for the Show

This morning has been one of entertainment and revelation, as well as finding two more writers I want to get to know much better now that I know so little about them. Odd phrasing, I know, but true, nonetheless.

I met John Jakesthrough a short article he did for the June issue of The

Cover of "North and South (North and Sout...

Cover via Amazon

WriterMagazine. Though I’ve dabbled in his books, I never stopped to pay attention to the one behind the words. That privilege came with his article.

Jakes talks about how plot, while important, seldom brings someone back for a second reading of a book. Rather, it is a character that calls the reader back for another look into the life represented within the confines of the book’s covers. That reasoning is one I can agree with without reservation.

At fifteen, Louis Bromfield’s marvelous novel “The Rains Came” leaped off the school library’s shelf and into my waiting hands. This story for more mature

Cover of "The Rains Came

Cover of The Rains Came

audiences both surprised my composition teacher and dismayed her. She felt I wouldn’t be able to grasp the complexity of its story, characters, and plotline at a mere 15 years old.

I devoured this story of colonialist India with it’s coming revolution for sovereignty and its interwoven native characters and English colonials, its love stories—both adulterous and forbidden inter-racial unions, and its political statements. I couldn’t put it down. The depth of the story spoke volumes to me. I wanted more and took the time to find just that.

I went to the public library to find more books by this author. I came away with his Pulitzer winner, “Autumn Leaves” and counted myself fortunate that it was available. I’d discovered a world beyond kid’s literature. I could read something again with the depth and knowledge of Tennyson, Homer, and

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12. Plagiarism is Purloining. Or is It?

It’s good to have smart people in your corner.  Mentors can help you take your writing far, and I’m quick to lean on people for advice or to get help when I am stuck on something.  Like most writers, I get fixated on “what” I’m writing so often, I try to remember to consult with people from time-to-time about “how” I’m writing.  I’ve been having some ongoing dialogue with my former high school English and Journalism teacher, Vickie Benner, who read the first three Chapters of my new novel, When it Comes in Threes.  For some time, she and I have been discussing whether or not I should change the voice in my first draft of the book from an adult to a child’s narrative as suggested by someone I highly respect in the literary community.  When I finally decided to give the new voice a whirl, I discovered I was having much more fun writing the piece from a child’s perspective than I ever did before.  Long story short, it’s a full rewrite, but will be much more suited for the Young Adult book market for which the piece is intended.

Just this week, I leaned on Vickie again.  She and I had some dialog about other books or movies that could be compared to what I am working on now.  After a little bit of contemplation, I threw out books that resonated with me that could be considered along the same grain as mine.  So I threw out Running with Scissors (due to the highly dysfunctional family depicted in the book) and Bastard Out of Carolina (the conflicted, young protagonist dealing with abuse) because those two books quickly came to mind.  But, I got stuck on the name of a third book and subsequent movie that followed, one that I loved.  I said, “Oh Vickie.  What’s the name of that book with the Wal-Mart Baby in it?  You know, named Americus?”  She said, “Oh yes.  With Natalie Portman in it?” she said.  But, neither one of us could remember the name of the movie.  I then told her my book would have someone, maybe a couple or three people, come into my main character’s life and make a difference in it, like the “Welcome Wagon” lady did in Natalie Portman’s character’s life, and more great dialogue ensued. Vickie and I chatted a bit more and we hung up.

The next day, during lunch, I switched on the TV.  (I never switch on the TV at lunchtime.)  And, there it was.  Where the Heart Is.  It was on.  A movie I hadn’t seen in probably five years.  So, I watched it, and right where I picked up in the movie Lexie Coop (Ashley Judd) was asking why Novalee Nation (Natalie Portman) named her baby Americus.

And, then–there it was.

I swallowed hard and tried to will it not be so.  Lexie tells Novalee that she named her kids after snack food.  Brownie.  Praline, Cherry and Baby Ruth.  Kids named after food!  Oh.  My.  God.  Enter Chapter 1, Paragraph Six of my new novel:  “Nine months after Mama said I do, she gave birth to Bartlett, named after the pear fruit, ‘cause Mama was green with the flu when she went into labor and threw up all over her doctor, just two years and a month before I was born. Mama always did have a penchant for food, and so she named me Barley, like the waves of golden grain that rolled through the John Deere combines from the dry fields of Oklahoma. Seven years later, my baby brother, Graham, like the cracker, came. Mama didn’t have no real good explanation for his name, except that she liked to crush up graham crackers in milk in the mornings and eat ‘em like that for breakfast.  Us three, Bartlett and Graham and me, we never knew what hit us being born a Sullivan.  One of my elementary school teachers, Miss Espich, once told me that never knowing what hits you is an idiom relating to very bad consequences in which the people involved were totally unsuspecting. That’s us, the Sullivan Three, totally unsuspecting people named after food.”  I thought I was being ingenious, inventive and highly novel when I wrote that paragraph.  I thought I owned the inventive concept of people naming people after food!

Wikipedia defines plagiarism as the ”wrongful appropriation” and “purloining and publication” of another author‘s “language, thoughts, ideas, or expressions,” and the representation of them as one’s own original work. The idea remains problematic with unclear definitions and unclear rules.The modern concept of plagiarism as immoral and originality as an ideal emerged in Europe only in the 18th century, particularly with the Romantic movement. Plagiarism is considered academic dishonesty and a breach of journalistic ethics. It is subject to sanctions like expulsion.  Plagiarism is not a crime per se but in academia and industry it is a serious ethical offense and cases of plagiarism can constitute copyright infringement.

So, for all you readers and writers out there, I have two questions and then will follow up with a thought:

1.  I already admitted to watching the movie over five years ago and, Where the Heart is, resonates with me still.  I’ve taken those characters along with me.  They may even live in my heart.  That said, does Billy Letts, the bestselling author, own the concept of naming people after food?

2.  Have I plagiarized already by merely expressing an idea, which I thought I owned, by publishing Chapter 1 of my book on my blog?

In December of 2011, I published an article entitled “Finding the Value in Creativity” on Promokitchen.com.  I later re-blogged the same article here on my site.  In it, I write, ”The Free Dictionary Online indicates that according to the philosophy of Plato, the definition of an idea “is an archetype of which a corresponding being in phenomenal reality is an imperfect replica.” The web source goes on to say that according to the philosophy of Kant, “an idea is a concept of reason that is transcendent but nonempiral.” But, even Hagel said it differently. He claimed that an idea means “absolute truth; the complete and ultimate product of reason.” In the dictionary, the definition of an idea reads “something, such as a thought or conception that potentially or actually exists in the mind as a product of mental activity.”

Transcendent thought, huh? A thought or conception that existed in the mind as a product of mental activity, huh?  If this is true, that would mean it was my thought, my mental activity, and my idea.  I don’t know.  But, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject.  My mentor, Vickie Benner, gave me hers.

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13. P is for Past Recall

Happy Friday! Today's keeper book is Past Recall, When Love and Wisdom Transcend Time, a time-traveling, paranormal romance set in the south of France by author Nita Hughes:

Past Recall was published as an indie book before it was cool to publish an indie book, and has always been an inspiring and fascinating book for me to read. I met Nita through my writer’s group back in Carrollton, Georgia, and the most exciting thing I remember from that meeting was Nita’s deep love and dedication to her theme and subject of the Cathars, a small but powerful movement throughout southern Europe; people who were considered heretics by the Catholic Church. The Cathars were the victims of the only Crusade into Europe, with thousands of people killed and tortured as a result, culminating in the final destruction of the sect.

When Nita was ready to publish her book, I had the privilege of writing a short blurb for the back cover. I wrote: “A haunting blend of metaphysics and historical romance at its best. Past Recall is filled with rich characterization and a great sense of style.” Still rings true for me today!

Nita is a wonderful writer, with a special gift for bringing her characters and settings to life. Her high-tension storytelling combined with spirituality and historical information is particularly impressive. I thoroughly enjoyed Past Recall when it was published, and I enjoy it to this day. A sequel, The Cathar Legacy, is equally compelling, and it shares keeper shelf-space right next to PR.  

A few years ago I asked Nita some questions for my blog just before she was about to leave for France to teach a writing workshop in Cathar country: 

Q. When did you first decide to become a writer?
A. I always loved to write since age 4, holding a pencil. And to speak-- communicating, stirring passions and prompting thought via words seemed miraculous.

Q. How did you become interested in the Cathars?
A. Cathar interest hit me out of the blue, literally, as I sat in the corner on a stool in a Melbourne bookstore, perusing books to buy. A book fell above me, landing in my lap, and opened to Cathars. Never heard of them and from that moment felt duty bound to bring them back to life.

Q. Do you have a writing schedule and if so, what is it?
A. 3 hours-between breakfast and lunch.

Q. What is your favorite book?
A. Many, but loved Anna Karenina by Tolstoy, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Love in the Time of Cholera (heavy on passions and magic realism).

Q. Any writing advice to share?
A. Write from your passion(s) –whether fiction or non-fiction.

Nita’s advice is invaluable. Are you writing from your passion?

Altogether Nita has published three books, with Safe Haven, a romantic thriller set in the Philippines, being her most recent. To learn more about Nita and her books, please visit NitaHughes.com. See you tomorrow!

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14. Where Do We Learn?

Of course everywhere.

On social media, through blogs and in social media groups.

Through mentor-protege relationships - whether informal or set up through ALSC or a state association.

Image Pixabay
Through our libraries - in fact this post is inspired by Katie Salo's library asking staff to teach each other about their areas of expertise. Wow, libraries of the world, do this thing! Wouldn't it be great if every library cared to make sure all staff knows what all staff work is about?!?!

Through attendance at state and national conferences - both inside and outside the library world.

Through webinars and online classes like our state's continuing series of webinars with panels of practitioners at libraries large and small; formal CE credit courses through SLIS schools and our statewide Wild Wisconsin Winter Web conference with 10 national speakers.

Through attendance at workshops outside our usual territory - and often relatively nearby. In the past month, four of our YS team have attended three different seminal, breakthrough, slaying-sacred-cow seminars on shaking up summer reading programs around the state. While we already push the envelope in this area, we are inspired by other's stories, experiences and support. And we drove to learn more!

Through reasoned discourse like that going on here and here.

Through conversations with colleagues in the library, patrons and kids.

All our learning, all our sharing (we each have the power to reflect on and teach each other) pushes our practice and grows our understanding. No matter where we learn, we can't help but get better.

Our opportunities are everywhere. Carpe perceptum!!

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15. The Partnership of Writers and Teachers

Suzanne Lieurance mentioned something yesterday that I’d like to explore for just a moment or two. She said that when she worked at a classroom teacher, she developed and wrote many of her own materials because none were available for the lessons she wished to do. For many teachers that scenario strikes a familiar note.

For instance, I used an exercise for college level students on a classroom of third graders. It was a critical thinking, problem-solving exercise. The result stunned everyone. Those kids, half of which had “learning and educational issues”, blossomed into amazing thinkers in that hour and a half.

When they were taken out of the normal lesson expectations, placed in cooperative groups on a level playing field with an unknown problem placed before them, the ones that came out on top were the ones with issues. They all did very well, don’t get me wrong. The regular classroom teacher and I were amazed at how well they all did.

However, those who didn’t catch on to normal lessons the quickest, who were the disrupters of the class, were the ones with the freshest and most innovative conclusions and answers for the problem set before them. The answers to the problem challenged upper level college students for unique problem-solving abilities and ingenious use of materials. I have to admit to that day being one of the best I ever had in the classroom, for it validated the reason for schools, the untapped abilities of those kids deemed by the system as challenged.

I’d learned the previous year what those same kids could do when they found a challenge. In second grade I’d taken two hours of their otherwise boring day during National Book Week and taught them how to write their own books. We used one of their favorite books as a jumping off point.

They knew the character, how she spoke and the kinds of situations she got herself into. They wrote the new story, drew the illustrations. Everyone participated. Regardless of “learning level”, all of them contributed, were excited about the lesson, learned why language worked the way it did, and otherwise had a blast.

Adults operate the same way as students. One of the lessons I used when teaching college level Sociology or Psychology revolved around films. The students watched the film. Then, they got to discuss the piece using analysis of either Soc./Psych. We discussed motivations, emotional impacts, social expectations and behaviors. In other words, all of those theories they’d been studying for months came down to watching from outside of a time/situation/event and casting their own interpretations of it based on what they’d learned.

The exercise forced the individual to use his/her own abilities without competition to express their knowledge. One thing I always heard from the students was how far it stretched their understanding. Even a year or more later, I’d have students tell me how much that one lesson had changed how they looked at what they learned and what to do with that knowledge.

Was my teaching style based, even unconsciously, on my writer’s mind? I don’t know, but those teacher/writers I’ve come to know since then seem to see the world in much the same way. They also tend to teach and write in similar styles.

I can’t say which comes first, the teacher or the writer. Perhaps they go hand in hand. Writers who never stand at the front of a classroom to present the lesson manage to teach quite well by what they present the public as stories, essays, poetry, or books.

Each of us remains the student, of scholastics or life and the world. How we choose to learn the lesson comes from an individual preference. However, writers are the ones passing out the lessons most of the time whether on paper, online, or in person. That may also explain why so much revision goes on before submission. We need to present the best lesson we can, even if that lesso

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16. WriterMag.com: a Place to Learn

computerMy favorite writing magazine for many years has been The Writer. They also have a website, where you’ll find hundreds of articles and columns on the writing craft. There’s information on markets, agents, contests and conferences as well. Add forums and a staff blog, and you’ve got so much learning right at your fingertips.

Even if you aren’t a subscriber, WriterMag.com has a lot to offer. They’ve recently opened up all of their forums–including the critique forums–to registered users. (It’s free to register–see the right side at the top.) Here’s a sampling of what you’ll find at their website.

Extra goodies includes material they didn’t have room for in the monthly magazine.

A link on the home page takes you to this extensive library of articles on the life of a writer as well as the craft of writing. Browse through these topics and click away! There were ten articles on writing for children alone.

Scroll down the home page and you’ll find “columns,” including a column for children’s writers. A list of all the columns also includes past articles.

Under the gold “Community” button at the top, you’ll find links to the staff blog and the forum discussions on a variety of topics.

The drop down choices under the gold “Writing Resources” button at the top shows you where to go for information on upcoming contests and conferences. It also gives links to writing groups and organizations.

If you subscribe to their print magazine, you will have access to their more than 3,000 book publishers, magazines, agents etc.  You can browse the market listings by category or search by keyword.

Trying to find something in particular? Note the search engine in the upper right corner of the website. You can even browse through and order back issues you might have missed.

Visit the WriterMag.com website frequently. You can get a real education there!

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17. Ypulse Jobs: IGN Entertainment, Mentors, Inc. & More

Today we bring you our weekly sampler of the cool youth media and marketing gigs. If your company has an open position in the youth media or marketing space, we encourage you to join the Ypulse LinkedIn group, if you haven't yet, and post... Read the rest of this post

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18. Friday Four

1. I finished my Novel Writing class last month and I knew I'd really miss having the one-on-one guidance of my instructor. I even told her in my last letter, I NEED A MENTOR!

2. Lo and behold, for the month of October anyway, I have not 1, not 2, but 3 mentors!!!

3. I'm in a mentor program through the blueboards for the month, will meet my mentor for the day at the Rutgers One-on-One conference next week, and will be working with accomplished author and mentor (though she's unaware I consider her a mentor or maybe she does know, she's a smart lady mentoring all us writers)  Patricia Reilly Giff through her workshop for the month.

4. Aahh!!!! It's pretty cool.

41/2. Also, it's a gorgeous fall here in New York. Here's the view outside the window where I write:

Can you see the yellows and reds peeking out?
Here's a close-up of the yellow leaves. It's a cool, crisp 60s day with a light breeze, bright sun, and clear cloudless sky.

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19. Rutgers One-on-One Conference 2010

In a word, the conference was WOW! Completely overwhelming, exciting, and, just, wow. First, it was so nice to meet all my Blueboarder friends on Friday night for dinner before the conference. It's such an odd thing to meet an online friend in real life. Like you are just picking up where you left off conversation-wise, while your brain is goggling over the fact that someone known before only as MrsBear actually is named Ellen. (Hi, Ellen!)

This conference is unique in its set-up because you get to have a mentor for a 45-minute one-on-one session that you join again later for a five-on-five roundtable discussion. The other thing that is unique is the sheer number of editors and agents attending. I think there were 70 editors/agents and 70 writers. It felt like we were in the thick of the industry. For me, it was also fascinating to hear published authors like Eric Luper and Deborah Heiligman talk about the connections they made at this conference and continue to follow-up on at conferences like these.

So, we started the day with a funny and inspirational talk by Eric Luper, [info]eluper, who reminded us that the mentors that we would soon meet wanted to find a good story as much as we wanted to give them one. Next, we had our five-on-five session where writers were encouraged to ask any question they wanted of the mentors in their group. My group of mentors was Timothy Travaglini, Senior Editor for G.P. Putnam's Sons, Kaylan Adair, Associate Editor of Candlewick Press, Jennifer Escott, Assistant Agent at Writers House (she was my mentor), and Mary Riskind, published author. Our fifth mentor couldn't make it. Anyway, we fired away questions based on each of our interests. My question was on the market for contemporary middle-grade books. I was reassured that there is still a great demand for them, and they don't see enough of them. Also, they see WAY too many werewolf stories.

Next, we had a panel discussion on using social media tools effectively, which I can sum up in one word--Twitter. Get thee on Twitter now!

We had lunch hobnobbing with the industry folks where we all tried to act natural and ease into our memorized pitches. Really, it was seamless. I'm sure none of us appeared overeager or desperate. After lunch, I met with my mentor, Jennifer Escott of Writers House. As an assistant agent, Jennifer acts as the gatekeeper, reading all the queries and sample pages before passing them on to a senior agent. For me, this was extremely helpful since I still need to get past the gatekeeper. She helped me rethink my query and gave suggestions for the first few pages of my manuscript. Then she answered all the questions I peppered at her for the rest of the time. 

We finished with another great speaker, Deborah Heiligman, [info]deborah18, who encouraged us to take ourselves seriously as writers by having a writing space, making a bubble that tunes out the world during that writing time, and to carry a notebook at all times. Then she passed out waterproof notebooks so we could takes notes in the shower. That is how seriously she wants us to take ourselves. Mine's parked in the shower already, waiting for the magic.

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20. Guest Blog By Chelsea Rodgers #Breakingthepattern

Educators: Mentors or Bullies?
We have been discussing over the last month about students being bullied or the one who does the bullying. Recently, I have had an encounter with a professor and it was not a good one. I was insulted and bullied through e-mail. She tore me down and accused me of things that were not true and she passed this along to other professor that I admire and look up to and this really got to me. I have been working so hard and in a matter of one e-mail she made me look incompetent. That being said after all the professors saw her e-mail, this event I was throwing was canceled. I had a complete melt down. This came out of no-where and I could not figure out what to say to her. I also could not believe that she was such a mean bully. At that moment I felt defeated. Once I got it together and got some advice from an amazing mentor, this incident reminded me of something that happened to my brother as a child and it made me wonder; are the kids really the ones to blame for being bullies or are they acting out what they see in the classroom?

Teachers are supposed to be an important figure in a child’s life. Besides the children’s own parents teachers see their students for six hours or more a day. Teachers are to be mentors not bullies. They are supposed to help children find their skill and to develop it, not tear it down. Teachers are supposed to pick a child up if they fall down. Teachers are supposed to stop bullying if they see it happening. Are they the real bullies and is this why teachers have not put a stop to bullying in the past? Many admit to seeing the bullying occur in the hallways but do nothing to stop it, is this because they started it? What happens when that trusted mentor turns out to be the bully; the instigator. Children act out what they see and hear every day.

When my brother was in third grade he had a teacher who was a bully to him. She was so bad that she got the whole class to pick on him. I remember him coming home one day crying because during story time he raised his hand to ask a question about the story and when he asked the teacher in front of the class called him stupid. He said after that the kids started laughing and called him stupid all day long. He even said on recess one of the kids pushed him outside and not one teacher stopped this boy from harassing my brother. Every day my brother dreaded going to school knowing what was to come. He said it did not matter if he did anything because she found something to yell at him about everyday and that it was always in front of the class. This teacher was such a bully that she even began talking to other teachers about my brother saying that he was uncontrollable. My brother is smart and he would get done with the work before all the other kids so he would get restless and this teacher never gave him anything more to do. She would wait for him to do something so she could pick on him in front of the class.

It got so bad at one point of the year that my mom and dad went in to a meeting with her. The principal, and this counselor and they told my parents that my brother had ADD and needed to be medicated. My mom said no but just to make sure she took him to the doctor. The doctor examined my brother and told my mom he did not need medication. He said he is sitting in this room calmly and listening to us, he is fine. This was a relief to my mother but this also showed her that these adult figures were not going to challenge my brother’s creative mind. They were going to keep on bullying him. It was shortly after this doctor visit that my parents decided to move my brother up a grade because this teacher was still singling him out. This was the best decision made for my brother. He still got teased shortly after moving up a grade but he soon made a good friend that he still has in his life today.

In the end, where is bullying stemming from, the students or the mentors in our school system. Are we paying these professors/teachers to be bullies? The answ

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21. Catching Up—News and Hurrahs.

Lots of news to catch up on…

1.)  First of all, THOMAS AND THE DRAGON QUEEN was listed last year by the New York Public Library as one of their recommended top 100 books. Yay! Listed in: “100 Titles for Reading and Sharing.”

2.) And . . . I’m happy dancing for a good friend of mine and a writer I mentored a year or so ago. Her name is Tracy Bilen. She won me as a novel mentor for a year in Michigan’s SCBWI (Soc. of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) group. Her manuscript had the basics of a great read…a riveting plot and an empathetic main character. But it needed deepening and developing. She worked hard, took many of my suggestions and always did the homework I suggested. Just this week she received an offer from Simon Pulse, a division of Simon & Schuster. YAY!  I think I am more excited about this than anything else that’s happened lately.  It’s so fun to know that soon another great young adult novel will be in the hands of readers. It will make its debut in 2012. Hugs to Tracy!!! (And we’ll roll out the red carpet when the book comes out.)

3.) A really different and fun book just made the news on National Public Radio. It’s called YOU CAN COUNT ON MONSTERS by Richard Evan Schwartz. It’s not a picture book–though it’s all about pictures of monsters (and numbers).  I’ve highlighted it to the right. Enjoy!

4.) Wow!!  Michigan rocks…In the recent ALA awards Erin Stead won the Caldecott Medal for A SICK DAY FOR AMOS MCGEE (written by her husband Philip). Sure am proud to live in Michigan!


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22. Paying-It-Forward Mentoring

I've had some fun conversations lately with colleagues about how important it is to support each other and connect librarians - new and old - to our networks.

Children's librarians in the public library world are a pretty collegial bunch, by and large. We like to share and play well together. Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook and Tumblr have joined PUBYAC and blogs as great ways to connect and pass information and fun ideas around as well as put our heads together to solve problems.

But I think we can all go a step further.  I'd like to see even more support for extending a hand towards our children's colleagues and helping them step up and into our networks and circles of influence.  It's easy to say "Look at me!";  "Look what I did!";  "Look what I invented!"  It's trickier to look around,  listen and say "Look what I discovered from a co-worker!"; "Look what I found from a colleague across the state!"; "Look what this smart and sassy librarian is doing in this small, rural library!" It's a matter of going from ME, ME, ME to HER, HIM, HER and even US, US, US.

Is there someone you know who you can encourage to share their great ideas through guest posting at the ALSC blog or on listservs or Twitter?  Is there an opportunity within your state for a newer librarian to serve on a panel, a committee, a board?  Can you partner with a colleague and encourage them to join you for a visit to a library; a Legislative Day, a conference or a system workshop that allows both of you lots of travel time to talk, hatch ideas and brainstorm? Can you float the name of a colleague to your networks as someone to tap as a speaker?

And once you do this, will you continue to support this colleague through mentoring, conversation, support, advice, a shoulder to lean on and cheerleading to let them know how valued they are and that you stand beside and behind them in their path?  We all can take responsibility, no matter what stage we are at in our careers, to bring our colleagues along and shine a light on their ideas for others. Let's help each other together!

Image: 'soccer practice' http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/1384952210

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23. Whether–April Showers with Words

April will soon control the calendar and some writers’ lives—at least for 30 days. The favorite month of Parisians will take on a poetic ring on many websites across the globe. April is National Poetry Month, giving poets of every stripe impetus to fling words to passersby at every opportunity.

Robert Brewer’s Poetic Asides, an uncommonly good poetry blog operated through Writer’s Digest, issues a challenge each year to poets. The poets are set the task of creating a poem per day to a specific writing prompt. Many manage to post several poems per day, escalating the tension for others to “try to match this” on the blog.

Oddly enough, camaraderie is the norm here, with poets commenting on each other’s efforts, supporting and encouraging rather than critiquing. “The Street,” as the blog is known by regular contributors, fosters its patrons as community members with something to say and value to add to the whole. Not many blogs can claim that ability.

Along the same lines, other poetry blogs across cyberville also have their own challenges on a regular basis and will be cranking up the thermostat to get words on the screen and rhyme into the heart.

One of these sites is Poetic Bloomings, operated by Marie Elena Good and Walt Wojtanik. This daily blog has much to offer both poet and reader. Sunday’s writing prompt challenge might visual, emotional, or situational. It could be fiction/non-fiction. Each day has purpose and is filled with contributor participation. It’s a marvelous site all around.

Whether you wander over to The River or go to see the Sea Giraffes, you’ll find poetry everywhere at the click of the mouse. Of course, these sites have poetry all the time, but it gets accentuated at this time of year. Enjoy it.

I’ve chosen to take up Brewer’s gauntlet this time around again. I couldn’t participate last year since I was on the road, but this year will give me a chance to write enough to fill out a nice book of poetry with an eclectic flair, but themed nonetheless. I’m looking forward to it.

Brewer also issued a second challenge this year for those who felt their platforms needed reconstruction work done or those who hadn’t yet built their platforms. It consists of a task per day for the writer to build a viable, effective platform. The goal is a power platform by the end of the month of April.

Yep, you guessed it. I’m signing up for that one, too. Is it just me or does it seem like I just can’t leave a challenge lying on the table without at least giving it a shot? I hate not knowing whether I can do something or not.

Whether April has me showering words across specific blogs or in submissions to publications, I will be part of Ares’ madness come the first. That Fool’s Day could be the beginning of something very good or simply exhausting, but I will learn from it and that’s worth my time.

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24. Whether Granted or Not

How many writers get grants each year? According to 2007 statistics, of the 2,628 grants awarded that year 1,169 went to literary artists. That means over 44% of artists’ grants awarded went to writers.

What does that figure mean for the average writer? It tells the writer who wants to do a project requiring more than seat-of-the-pants activity and subject research that she has close to a 50% chance of getting financial/material help with her project. To take that chance, the writer must give a well-planned and executed grant proposal.

If you’ve never dealt with grants before, don’t despair. Right now there’s close to a 50-50 chance of getting a much-needed boost for a project. Those are the best odds that anyone can have for anything.

Gigi Rosenberg, in her book “The Artist’s Guide to Grant Writing,” gives the newbie a great walk through the entire process, including a look at her own history with the subject. Gigi explains that: “A grant is money that an organization gives away to fund a project its founders believe in. …landing a grant… usually involves writing a proposal or grant application. In your proposal, you have to support your project, and how you intend to spend the funds. You are expected to include a detailed budget and samples of your work. Your application is judged by a panel of your peers—that means other artists—in a competitive process.”

Grants come in all sizes and types, according to project and artist needs. Few funders will bankroll the total project. What the applicant needs to keep in mind is the funding can come from several sources and needn’t rely on only one grant. A series of small awards add up to substantial help.

How you prepare for writing the proposal is as important as to whom the proposal is sent. You have research to do before making your bid for a grant. As with writing a killer novel, preparation is nine-tenths of the work.

Rosenberg and other experts such as Caroll Michels, Jackie Battenfield, and Heather Darcy Bhandari with Jonathan Melber recommend beginning by putting together a support team to help you. This team effort has several purposes. From brainstorming with artist friends who know and can honestly evaluate your work to community members/businesses that might provide assistance in-kind for your proposed project, this team can make or break your ability to pinpoint what you need to concentrate on for our grant proposal.


Art/Work (Photo credit: atduskgreg)

Once you have that information, you can begin sifting through the hundreds of funding agencies to find ones that will fit your needs and your project. It would do little good to write a proposal for a poetry book proposal with CD of readings and then send it to a funder who deals exclusively with visual artists in oils. You want to choose

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25. A Poem We Will Go

Poetic Asides’ annual April Poem-a-day Challenge has begun. Today’s prompt dial landed on aspects of communication.

Love poems, rejection poems, personal and impersonal, fast and future, funny, and poignant; words flow from diverse poems worldwide in this marathon of lyricism.

The first thing that came to mind when I saw the prompt this morning was conversation. People communicate on multiple levels the majority of the time. A voice’s tones, a word’s inflection, all communicate a separate message. Otherwise, sarcasm wouldn’t be as cutting as it is.

My mind focused on what one could overhear that says one thing on the auditory level. On the visual level, however, another conversation would take place. Meanings take on a depth that sometimes has to be seen as well as heard.

This was my first post on Poetic Asides (PA) this morning.

Five-Star Dining


“Did you eat?”

“Some hours ago.”

“Oh? Disappointing?”

“I hate dining out now.”

“And why is that? Please tell me.”

“I get no satisfaction now.”

“In what way?”


“Oh. Did you get bored?”

“My server had no taste.”

“Do you need help finding new foods?”

He shook his head as he drew her near,

Nuzzling close.

“You’ve got me spoiled.”

She threw back her head,

Laughing with abandon.

Power came with submission.

“Drink, darling, of my vintage wine.”

He drank deep,

Her essence warm,

Her love new again.

“You’re intoxicating.”

His bloody mouth left her throat.

“You’ve never learned. Home cooking’s best.”


For those who’re connoisseurs of fine poetry, forgive my liberties with form and subject. I had deliberate intent.

There is opportunity later in the day to post more poems for this prompt, and I might do just that given spare time.

I hope you enjoy my efforts throughout this month. Drop by often to see where prompts and personal thoughts take my poetry for this challenge. Be sure to drop in a comment when the spirit or Muse moves you.

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