Poetry Friday: Remembering Tomie dePaola AND the 2020 Progressive Poem arrives

It’s been a happy week, a sad, somber week, and a bittersweet week.

Last Thursday, March 30, the inimitable Tomie dePaola passed away, following complications from surgery he underwent after taking a bad fall at his home in New London, NH. All who new him are still in shock at this sudden loss.

www.americamagazine.org/sites/default/files/mai...
There will never be anyone quite like Tomie dePaola.

Although we lived just 20 minutes away from each other, we had never met until about 10 years ago at my first New England SCBWI Spring Conference. (Tomie is the reason the original SCBW, as it was called, changed its name to include illustrators) I had a chance to chat with him and the SCBWI’s Lin Oliver during lunch and it was during that conversation that Lee Bennett Hopkins’ name first came up; I eventually connected with Lee and my career as a children’s writer officially began to gain some momentum!

After lunch, I told Tomie about my occasional trepidation about writing, how I will sometimes write something I think is really good, and worry that that might be the best thing I’ll ever write! I wonder if I’ll ever be able to top it…if anything I ever write again will b as good as this particular piece. So I asked him if he ever felt that way, and if so, what advice he’d offer. His suggestion?

“The first thing I’d do is go have a drink!” he chuckled.

But he added, on a serious note, that we all have doubts about our abilities and question what we do sometimes, and the best thing to do is just keep moving forward, doing what you love and doing it to the best of your ability. And that’s what I do.

My wife and I will both miss him. He was always giving of his time and knowledge, helping to build his fellow humans up. Tomie loved cats and dogs, too, and although he didn’t have any at the time of his death, he enjoyed hearing some of my wife’s stories about our own menagerie of 5 dogs, two cats, a rabbit, and several other critters.

This week is also bittersweet. My friend Lee Bennett Hopkins, whom Lin and Tomie suggested I reach out to way back at that first conference, passed away last August and never had a chance to hold his latest book in his hands. I’m very proud to have known Lee and to be a contributor to Construction People (Wordsong, 2020), one of his final poetry anthologies.

He had been able to see the F&Gs (folded and gathered copies), so he could see what the final product would look like, but it’s still not the same as holding the actual book in yours hands. Lee – whose birthday fittingly falls smack-dab in the middle of National Poetry Month, April 13 – has three more posthumous anthologies on the way, two of which I am also a contributor to, so I’m grateful for that. (One of them, Night Wishes (Eerdmans, 2020), is due out this September)

And it’s an exciting week, as well! In-between helping my two kids with their ‘remote-learning’ – which admittedly takes up the majority of my time these days – I’m in the process of working on a new poetry collection with a friend of mine who is one of the most respected folks in the industry, and we’re about halfway to completion. Meanwhile, Once Upon Another Time (Beaming Books, 2020), another collaboration with another highly-regarded fellow, Charles Ghigna, is just about ready to go to print! Charles and I had the opportunity to view the art-final ARC (Advance Review Copy) and it’s BEAUTIFUL! We can’t wait for everyone to see it when it comes out August 18. (And it’s available for pre-order at the link below!)

The 2020 Progressive Poem arrives here today!

The annual Progressive Poem is something that poet/author/blogger Irene Latham began several years ago as a way for the Poetry Friday family and other kidlit bloggers to join together and create a crowd-sourced poem for National Poetry Month. One person would write one line, and then it would travel from blog to blog each day, with each blogger adding a line, until we had a completed poem on April 30. Irene has been super-busy lately, so this year she handed off the organizational duties to Margaret Simon, who has pulled everyone together once again.

This year, Donna Smith started things off with a twist: she offered two lines for the following blogger to choose from; that happened to be Irene, who offered up two other lines from which the third blogger, Jone MacCulloch, could choose. So far, here’s what the poem looks like, with my two potential new lines added in bold:
.

Sweet violets shimmy, daffodils sway
along the wiregrass path to the lake.
I carry a rucksack of tasty cakes
and a banjo passed down from my gram.

I follow the tracks of deer and raccoon
and echo the call of a wandering loon.
A whispering breeze joins in our song.
and night melts into a rose gold dawn.

Deep into nature’s embrace, I fold.

Splinters of sunbeams pierce young sky
Promise of spring helps shake the cold

.
These took me quite awhile to nail down, I’ll admit; with the rhythm and assonance of the line endings, I kept feeling like the poem needed to rhyme, but with no discernible rhyme scheme I figured I’d just let it grow the way it felt best. So now I’ll let my friend Janet Fagal decide which of these she wants to seize upon! Have fun, Janet!

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Like to follow along? Here’s where you can find all the contributors to this year’s Progressive Poem:
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1 Donna Smith at Mainely Write
2 Irene Latham at Live Your Poem
3 Jone MacCulloch, at deo writer
4 Liz Steinglass at Elizabeth Steinglass
6 Kay McGriff at A Journey Through The Pages
7 Catherine Flynn at Reading to the Core
8 Tara Smith at Going to Walden
9 Carol Varsalona at Beyond Literacy Link
10 Matt Forrest Esenwine at Radio, Rhythm, and Rhyme
11 Janet Fagel hosted at Reflections on the Teche
12 Linda Mitchell at A Word Edgewise
13 Kat Apel at Kat Whiskers
14 Margaret at Reflections on the Teche
15 Leigh Anne Eck at A Day in the Life
16 Linda Baie at Teacher Dance
17 Heidi Mordhorst at My Juicy Little Universe
18 Mary Lee Hahn at A Year of Reading
20 Rose Cappelli at Imagine the Possibilities
21 Janice Scully at Salt City Verse
22 Julieanne Harmatz at To Read, To Write, To Be
24 Christie Wyman at Wondering and Wandering
25 Amy at The Poem Farm
26 Dani Burtsfield at Doing the Work That Matters
27 Robyn Hood Black at Life on the Deckle Edge
28 Jessica Big at TBD
29 Fran Haley at lit bits and pieces
30 Michelle Kogan at Michelle Kogan

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It’s Poetry Friday, which means there’s plenty more links and poetic fun over at Amy Ludwig VanDerwater’s The Poem Farm – she’s handling the hostess duties today, so please visit and say hello!

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If you haven’t already, I hope you’ll check out my “Wit & Wordplay” videos on my YouTube channel! These videos were created for parents and educators (along with their kids) and focus on how to write poetry, how to appreciate it, and offer tips on having fun with it. More are on the way, too, so be sure to subscribe or check back often! You can view them all on my YouTube channel, and I also have several downloadable activity sheets at my website. If you think any of this information might be useful for someone you know, I hope you’ll share.

What is Talkabook? Details coming soon!

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Pre-orders are available now!

In stores Aug. 18, 2020!

I’ve teamed up with several other children’s authors to promote our upcoming books this year! And there are a LOT of them, too – including SEVEN in March!

 =========================================================

Ordering personalized signed copies online?
Oh, yes, you can!


     

You can purchase personalized signed copies of Flashlight Night, (Boyds Mills Press, 2017), Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (Pow! Kids Books, 2018), and nearly ALL of the books or anthologies I’ve been part of!

Just click the cover of whichever book you want and send the good folks at MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH a note requesting the signature and to whom I should make it out to. (alternatively, you can log onto my website and do the same thing) They’ll contact me, I’ll stop by and sign it, and then they’ll ship it! (Plus, you’ll be supporting your local bookseller – and won’t that make you feel good?)

=========================================================

Thank you to everyone for your support!

=========================================================

Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!

SCVBWI_Member-badge (5 years)
To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post once or twice a week – usually Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)
 .
Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter Facebook, InstagramPinterest, and SoundCloud!

A Book Birthday for “Construction People” – plus educational #kidlit resources

It’s official! Construction People is available everywhere!

Construction People (Wordsong) is one of the late Lee Bennett Hopkins’ last anthologies, a follow-up to 2018’s School People, which featured poems about all the grown-ups a child meets at school. In this new book, there are poems about all the folks involved in building a skyscraper, from the architect to the excavators, from the electricians to the person who oversees it all, the construction project manager (my poem)!

In case you missed it, I featured two of the poems from Construction People on this past Friday’s blog, which you can view HERE. Lee had a chance to see much of the final layout of the book before he passed away last August…but I do wish he could have held it in his hands.

Granted, many bookstores are closed due to COVID-19 concerns, but many are still functioning with online sales – so please support your local businesses, if you can!

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Speaking of the Corona Virus…

A number of children’s authors and illustrators are teaming up across the country to provide lessons, readalouds, and other educational videos for kids, parents, and teachers. With so many schools closed, options for “remote learning” are limited and fluid…so we’re just trying to do what we can to help lend our support.

Some folks are doing live videos, others are producing short vids on YouTube, still others are offering free activity sheets and coloring pages. Here are a couple of lists you can use to find out who’s doing what:

Let’s Keep Reading!

#StoryMarch

#KidLitQuarantine

Laura Shovan’s #WriteAnAuthor

For my part, I’m offering several downloadable activity sheets at my website, PLUS I’m producing a series of short videos on poetry – how to write it and how to appreciate it when reading – which I hope will be especially helpful for parents, educators, and anyone else for whom this type of literacy education might be beneficial.

To access these “Wit & Wordplay” videos, as I call them, just head on over to my YouTube channel! And if you think any of this information might be useful for someone you know or a school near you, please feel free to share…we’re all in this together. And please be safe, as we work through these unprecedented times.

=========================================================

Pre-orders are available now!

In stores Aug. 18, 2020!

I’ve teamed up with several other children’s authors to promote our upcoming books this year! And there are a LOT of them, too – including SEVEN in March!

 =========================================================

Ordering personalized signed copies online?
Oh, yes, you can!


     

You can purchase personalized signed copies of Flashlight Night, (Boyds Mills Press, 2017), Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (Pow! Kids Books, 2018), and nearly ALL of the books or anthologies I’ve been part of!

Just click the cover of whichever book you want and send the good folks at MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH a note requesting the signature and to whom I should make it out to. (alternatively, you can log onto my website and do the same thing) They’ll contact me, I’ll stop by and sign it, and then they’ll ship it! (Plus, you’ll be supporting your local bookseller – and won’t that make you feel good?)

=========================================================

Thank you to everyone for your support!

=========================================================

Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!

SCVBWI_Member-badge (5 years)
To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post once or twice a week – usually Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)
 .
Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter Facebook, InstagramPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Poetry Friday ROUNDUP: “Construction People” arrives…Madness Poetry Round 1 voting ends today…AND a “Night Wishes” Sneak Peek!

Wow, what a busy day today! It’s Poetry Friday and there’s so much going on, I can’t wait to tell you…

First of all, Round One voting in the nation’s largest bracketed children’s poetry competition, Madness! Poetry, is underway…and wraps up TODAY!

As of this writing, a mere 1/10th of a percent separates us, so it’s a nail-biter among nail-biters! 

Please vote for your favorites! Voting ends at various times this afternoon, but my matchup with Laurie Kaiser closes at 5:15pm EDST, which means there’s not much time left to cast your vote. BUT…if you do vote, please vote for your favorite, even if it’s not mine.

In case you don’t know, each pair of competitors (or ‘authletes’) is given a specific word; we then have 36 hours to write a children’s poem using that exact word. Voting then takes place, and whoever wins their round moves on to the next, much in No photo description available.the way that the NCAA’s March Madness works. Eventually, one winner will be crowned champion and receive “The Thinkier” trophy!

Laurie and I were given the word “submerged,” and came up with two very different poems – so please check out our matchup (and all of them), and thanks so much for supporting children’s poetry!

(AGAIN: Voting ends at 5:15pm EDST Today)

Feeding into this “poetry madness,” so to speak, is the fact that Construction People (Wordsong) arrives next Tuesday, March 17! It has always been an honor to be part of a Lee Bennett Hopkins anthology, and to be included in 3 of his final 4 books (Lee passed away last August), is truly a blessing.

(click to enlarge)

Construction People is a follow-up to 2018’s School People, which featured poems about all the grown-ups a child meets at school. In this new book, there are poems about all the folks involved in building a skyscraper, from the architect to the carpenters, from the elevator installers to the plumbers!

But I have to admit…when Lee asked me to write a poem about the construction project manager, I was a bit leery. Where was the fun, the pizzazz, the cool sounds and energy and imagery one would expect? But once I did some research and realized how stressful – and integral – the position is, I knew I could do it. As for the structure of the poem, I knew it needed to be a villanelle, with its tall, skyscraper-like shape and almost obsessively repetitive lines. I hope you like it!

One of my favorite poems is Lee’s…although I’m not sure if I like it because it’s a wonderful poem, or if it’s because it was one of my friend’s last published poems:

(click to enlarge)

Construction People arrives everywhere this coming Tuesday!

In other news…

Another of Lee’s last anthologies has a publishing date! In addition to Construction People (Wordsong), which comes out next week, have you heard about Night Wishes (Eerdmans), which arrives this fall? I just learned from the publisher that we can expect to see it in stores everywhere Sept. 15:

As a child falls asleep, all the inanimate objects in her room wish her “good night” in their own, special ways:  the mattress, bookshelf, rocking horse…all of them offer their words through 14 poets, myself included. (In fact, you’ll notice my “Pillow” is even included in the official description!)

Here’s just a little taste of what to expect…

I wish I could share the rest of the poem, but we’ll all have to wait until we get closer to the publication date, Sept. 15! It’s such a beautiful book, I can’t wait for you to see it. Pre-orders are available now, though, so don’t let me stop you from clicking the links, ha!

Thanks so much for visiting the ol’ Triple-R! Please leave your links and news in the comments below and I’ll round them up old school-style throughout the day…

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Speaking of new books…have you pre-ordered yet??

In stores Aug. 18, 2020!

I’ve teamed up with several other children’s authors to promote our upcoming books this year! And there are a LOT of them, too – including SEVEN in March, plus the new poetry anthology Construction People (Wordsong, March 17, 2020), of which I’m a contributor:

=========================================================

Ordering personalized signed copies online?
Oh, yes, you can!


     

You can purchase personalized signed copies of Flashlight Night, (Boyds Mills Press, 2017), Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (Pow! Kids Books, 2018), and nearly ALL of the books or anthologies I’ve been part of!

Just click the cover of whichever book you want and send the good folks at MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH a note requesting the signature and to whom I should make it out to. (alternatively, you can log onto my website and do the same thing) They’ll contact me, I’ll stop by and sign it, and then they’ll ship it! (Plus, you’ll be supporting your local bookseller – and won’t that make you feel good?)

=========================================================

Thank you to everyone for your support!

=========================================================

Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!

SCVBWI_Member-badge (5 years)
To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post once or twice a week – usually Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)
 .
Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter Facebook, InstagramPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Poetry Friday: Looking back at 2019 and welcoming 2020 with CYBILS Awards finalists!

The last night these little babies will be lit. Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

While everyone seems to be thrilled with the promise of what lies ahead for us in 2020, I’m still reflecting on how incredible 2019 was for me.

“It was a very good year…”

Professionally speaking, it was probably the best year I’ve had so far since I began this journey in 2009, with FIVE manuscripts sold – including a picture book written with the incomparable Charles Ghigna (aka, Father Goose®). I had set a goal for myself of selling one manuscript per year – not unattainable, but certainly not a slam-dunk sort of thing for someone who is still in the early stages of his career. So 2019 really surprised me!

Elsewhere, I had a poem included in the late Lee Bennett Hopkins’ anthology, I Am Someone Else (Charlesbridge, 2019) and a couple of other poems found themselves in Michelle H. Barnes’ newest poetry anthology. I also was asked by Kristen Wixted and Heather Kelly at The Writer’s Loft in Massachusetts if my friend Kip Wilson (White Rose, Versify, 2019) and I would help judge poems for their new anthology, Friends and Anemones: Ocean Poems for Children. (How awesome a title is that??)

So proud to be part of this crew! NCTE presenters, L-R: Mary Lee Hahn, Liz Steinglass, Yours Truly, Heidi Mordhorst, Laura Purdie Salas

Other significant accomplishments included having a poem included in an important Donald Hall tribute anthology; another poem winning the Robert Frost Farm and Derry (NH) Public Library’s MacGregor Poetry Prize; seeing Flashlight Night (Boyds Mills and Kane, 2017) on the short list for two New Hampshire Literary Awards for Best Picture Book; and attending my first NCTE conference in Baltimore, where I co-presented a poetry workshop (“Wonder as a Way In: Teaching Reading and Writing Poetry through Inquiry”) with a number of fellow writer friends. The fact that I got to visit Edgar Allan Poe’s grave site – as well as family members I’ve not seen in years – was icing on the proverbial cake!

In-between all this, I also managed to sell my parents’ house, which had been a huge time-depleting and emotionally draining project. So yes, I’m looking forward to seeing what 2020 has waiting for me, but I’m pretty proud of everything I’ve accomplished in 2019.

What IS waiting in 2020? Well, aside from Friends and Anemones (which comes out in November), that picture book I wrote with Charles Ghigna is scheduled for an August 18 publication date from Beaming Books (keep watching here for a cover-reveal SOON!).

“But wait, there’s more!”

Two of those manuscripts I sold last year (board books from Rainstorm Publishing) are planned for release this summer and a third manuscript, a picture book, might also sneak in before the end of the year. On top of all this, the new poetry anthology Construction People (Wordsong, 2020), one of Lee Bennett Hopkins’ final anthologies, has a March 17 release date…and I just learned about two weeks ago that I will be part of another anthology coming out within the next year or so.

Oh, and did I mention I’m participating in Tara Lazar’s Storystorm 2020 this month? No? Well, I am – because, you know, no matter how many ideas a writer has, one can never have too many!

So yes, I have a lot to look forward to in 2020, much of it due to good fortune that occurred in 2019. One final thing we can all look forward to in 2020 are the CYBILS Awards! Out of all the books nominated last fall, finalists have now been officially announced, and I was proud to once again be part of the first-round panel of judges who determined the poetry finalists:

Dreams from Many Rivers: A Hispanic History of the United States Told in Poems (Henry Holt) (AmazonIndieBound)
by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Beatriz Gutierrez Hernandez

Ink Knows No Borders: Poems of the Immigrant and Refugee Experience (Triangle Square) (AmazonIndieBound)
Edited by Patrice Vecchione and Alyssa Raymond

Ordinary Hazards: A Memoir (Wordsong) (AmazonIndieBound)
by Nikki Grimes

Other Words for Home (Balzer + Bray) (AmazonIndieBound)
by Jasmine Warga

SHOUT (Viking Books for Young Readers) (Amazon,IndieBound)
by Laurie Halse Anderson

Soccerverse: Poems about Soccer (Wordsong) (AmazonIndieBound)
by Elizabeth Steinglass, illustrated by Edson Ike

The Proper Way to Meet a Hedgehog and Other How-To Poems (Candlewick Press) (Amazon,IndieBound)
by Paul B. Janeczko, illustrated by Richard Jones

You can read all about them HERE. There was a great deal of quality writing this year and it was very difficult for us to come to a decision about which seven books would move on to the second round, but congratulations to all, and I wish the judges good luck with a task that is decidedly not easy.

What’s this, you want more poetry? Well, for all of today’s Poetry Friday links, please visit Carol’s Corner for the complete roundup, featuring a very appropriate poem from Maya Angelou. And thank you so much for all the support you’ve lent – it really means a lot, as I continue to move forward in this career I’ve found myself in. Best wishes for health, happiness, and success for you, as well, in the year ahead!

=========================================================

Ordering personalized signed copies online?
Oh, yes, you can!


     

You can purchase personalized signed copies of Flashlight Night, (Boyds Mills Press, 2017), Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (Pow! Kids Books, 2018), and nearly ALL of the books or anthologies I’ve been part of!

Just click the cover of whichever book you want and send the good folks at MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH a note requesting the signature and to whom I should make it out to. (alternatively, you can log onto my website and do the same thing) They’ll contact me, I’ll stop by and sign it, and then they’ll ship it! (Plus, you’ll be supporting your local bookseller – and won’t that make you feel good?)

=========================================================

Thank you to everyone for your support!

=========================================================

Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!

SCVBWI_Member-badge (5 years)
To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post once or twice a week – usually Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)
 .
Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter Facebook, InstagramPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Poetry Friday: “Construction People” preview! (and an NCTE review!)

One of the highlights of my 4-day visit to the National Council of Teachers of English annual convention in Baltimore (aka, #NCTE19) was getting to spend some time with my friends at Boyds Mills & Kane, the publisher of Flashlight Night and many of the poetry anthologies of which I’ve been a part.

In addition to poets Nikki Grimes, Georgia Heard, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Laura Purdie Salas, and many others, I finally had a chance to catch up with marketing manager Kerry McManus, who has been invaluable in helping promote my book for the past 3 years. I also got to say hello again to my Flashlight Night editor, Rebecca Davis, who surprised me with something…

I think my first words were, “We have a book! It’s a real book!!”

Construction People, the follow-up to 2018’s popular School People, is one of the late Lee Bennett Hopkins’ final poetry anthologies; Hopkins passed away in August and left about a half-dozen projects in various states of progress, including this one. I was told he had seen the F&Gs (folded & gathered) like the one above, but never had a chance to hold the bound, finished product in his hands. I know he would have been as proud of his book as we, the contributors, are of being part of it – it’s already received a starred review from Kirkus!

How I end up in books with luminaries like Pat Lewis and Charles Ghigna is still a mystery…but a happy mystery!
All pages © 2020 Wordsong/Boyds Mills & Kane, all rights reserved (click to enlarge)

I’ll be sharing more selections and news about the book a few months from now, along with my poem (a villanelle, for you poetry geeks out there) in its entirety when it is officially released on March 17. But you don’t need to wait – you can pre-order now!

At the Boyds Mills & Kane exhibit booth: a tribute to the inimitable Dear One, Lee Bennett Hopkins.
After all these years…I’m finally face-to-face with Nikki Grimes!
Laura Purdie Salas helped guide me through the ins and outs of the crazy-busy NCTE schedule. (And she helped keep me fed, too, which is always a plus)

Another highlight of my trip – indeed, the initial reason I decided to go – was a poetry workshop I presented together with Heidi Mordhorst, Mary Lee Hahn, Laura Purdie Salas, and Liz Steinglass, who organized the workshop. What a weekend! I’ve never presented a workshop at a conference I’d never attended before…but there’s a first time for everything, they say, and this was mine.

To backtrack just a bit, the night I arrived, author/poet/blogger Laura Shovan gathered a bunch of Poetry Friday folks together at a local restaurant and we filled up half the place:

Back row, L-R: Heidi Mordhorst, Christie Wyman, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, Kathryn Apel, Tabatha Yeatts, Janet Fagal, Yours Truly. Front row, L-R: Carol Varsalona, Irene Latham, Laura Purdie Salas, Laura Shovan (photo courtesy Laura Purdie Salas)

The next day, Friday, the day of our workshop, more of us got together at a local sandwich shop (because all we apparently live for is eating and writing. Not that there’s anything wrong with that):

L-R: Tim Kulp, Linda Kulp, Marcie Flinchum Atkins, David L. Harrison, Liz Steinglass, Yours Truly, Irene Latham, Kathryn Apel. (photo courtesy Laura Purdie Salas)

And of course, I couldn’t travel all the way to my original hometown of Baltimore without making a little side trip to visit a certain poet:

   

If you’re looking for more poetry, then be sure to head over to today’s Poetry Friday roundup, where Tanita S. Davis is hosting the festivities at her blog, [fiction, instead of lies]!

Very proud to be a first-round judge in the CYBILS Poetry category, once again!

=========================================================

Ordering personalized signed copies online?
Oh, yes, you can!


     

You can purchase personalized signed copies of Flashlight Night, (Boyds Mills Press, 2017), Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (Pow! Kids Books, 2018), and nearly ALL of the books or anthologies I’ve been part of!

Just click the cover of whichever book you want and send the good folks at MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH a note requesting the signature and to whom I should make it out to. (alternatively, you can log onto my website and do the same thing) They’ll contact me, I’ll stop by and sign it, and then they’ll ship it! (Plus, you’ll be supporting your local bookseller – and won’t that make you feel good?)

=========================================================

Thank you to everyone for your support!

=========================================================

Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!

SCVBWI_Member-badge (5 years)
To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post once or twice a week – usually Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)
 .
Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter Facebook, InstagramPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Poetry Friday: Remembering Lee Bennett Hopkins

Lee Bennett Hopkins, 1938 – 2019

Whenever someone passes away, people always say they are shocked and saddened to hear the news. In the case of the passing of children’s poet/anthologist Lee Bennett Hopkins, “shocked” and “saddened” are only the beginning for me. I would not be where I am, were it not for Lee’s kindness, encouragement, and guidance.

Lee was not just a writer or poetry anthologist (although he did end up in the Guinness Book for the number of children’s poetry anthologies he created); he was a friend, a mentor, and a supporter. When I attended my first SCBWI conference back in 2010, SCBWI founder Lin Oliver told me I should get in touch with Lee, since she knew I wrote poetry.

(click to enlarge)

One thing led to another, and we eventually connected online. He loved my writing and offered to assist me in my quest to develop a career in children’s literature, specifically, poetry. He published my first paid children’s poem, “First Tooth,” from Lullaby & Kisses Sweet (Abrams, 2015), and requested poems for five other anthologies, three of which have not even been released yet. Sad, that he won’t get to see the fruits of his labors – or the praise his next anthology is already receiving.

He also introduced me to my Flashlight Night (Boyds Mills & Kane, 2017) editor, Rebecca Davis, who initially passed on two poetry manuscripts I sent but immediately snatched up Flashlight.  As soon as my author copies arrived, I signed one to Lee and mailed it to him; he was touched and said he was proud to own a copy, which made my month!

But the really special, wonderful thing about Lee was…my story isn’t really all that unusual! Over the decades, he helped dozens and dozens of folks in much the same way. Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Charles Waters, and a host of others – authors and editors alike – can all share similar stories about Lee’s grace, encouragement, and his desire for perfection in one’s writing.

2017 Florida Artists Hall of Fame, L-R: Don Felder, Billy Dean, Lee Bennett Hopkins, Secretary of State Ken Detzner, Jim Stafford

I’ll always remember a poem I was trying to write for an upcoming poetry anthology that had a math focus. Lee asked me to write a poem about fractions, which I did…but he didn’t like it. So I rewrote it and he still disliked it. I tried a third, same reaction. So I wrote a fourth poem, and this time he didn’t dislike it – he hated it! (sigh…)

Finally, after several weeks, I sent him a fifth poem – very different from the others – and he loved it. I ended up speaking to him on the phone a few months later about the project and joked that the next time he decides to create a math-based anthology, I’ll have to write a poem about the poetry anthologist who only liked one-fifth of my poems! He howled, and got a kick out of that.

I’ll always be grateful to Lee for his constant support and guidance. I was fortunate to publish one of his last interviews here at my blog just a month and a half ago, in celebration of the release of his new anthology, I Am Someone Else (Charlesbridge, 2019).

I do regret that he will not see the anthology I was working on myself, which he was helping me with, and which we had just discussed a couple of months prior to his death. It’s my sincere hope that this anthology will eventually see the light of day, because he loved the concept and subject matter. Fingers crossed I can do Lee justice.

Since it IS Poetry Friday, a number of Lee’s friends and fellow writers wanted to remember him in the most appropriate way we could:  by writing poems inspired by Lee or including a line from one of his poems.

In my case, I spent some time looking through several of his anthologies and came across one line in particular from his poem “Titanic,” from his Travelling the Blue Road: Poems of the Sea (Seagrass Press, 2018) anthology. The phrase, “You will forever remember me” kept speaking to me, as if it was Lee writing about himself rather than the fated ocean liner.

So with that line as a starting point, I crafted a short reverso poem (a poetic form our mutual friend, poet Marilyn Singer, has perfected) in Lee’s voice:

(click to enlarge)

We will, indeed, forever remember you, my friend.

For those who don’t know, Lee’s friends always referred to him as “the Dear One,” because that was how he would address us in correspondence…and anyone who knew him knew he was, without question, a dear one. We’ll always miss you, Lee.

If you’d like to see what others in the kidlitosphere are doing to remember Lee, please head over to The Poem Farm, where Amy Ludwig VanDerwater is hosting today’s complete Poetry Friday roundup. And if you’d care to learn more about the man and the legacy he leaves behind, I encourage you to read this beautiful obituary from Publisher’s Weekly.

=========================================================

Ordering personalized signed copies online?
Oh, yes, you can!


  

You can purchase personalized signed copies of Flashlight Night, (Boyds Mills Press, 2017), Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (Pow! Kids Books, 2018), and nearly ALL of the books or anthologies I’ve been part of!

Just click the cover of whichever book you want and send the good folks at MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH a note requesting the signature and to whom I should make it out to. (alternatively, you can log onto my website and do the same thing) They’ll contact me, I’ll stop by and sign it for you, and then they’ll ship it. Try doing that with those big online booksellers! (Plus, you’ll be helping to support local book-selling – and wouldn’t that make you feel good?)

=========================================================

Thank you to everyone for your support!

=========================================================

Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!

SCVBWI_Member-badge (5 years)
To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post once or twice a week – usually Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)
 .
Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter Facebook, InstagramPinterest, and SoundCloud!

 

Poetry Friday: Happy #BookBirthday to a new anthology!

It arrives in just a few days! I Am Someone Else (Charlesbridge) is the newest children’s poetry anthology from Lee Bennett Hopkins, and I’m thrilled and honored to be a part of another one of his books. The book is all about pretending – from firefighters and video game creators to knights and mermaids – and is a perfect book to share with kids who are wondering what to do with themselves over summer vacation!

So to celebrate the book, which hits stores next Tue., July 2, I thought I’d ask Lee and illustrator Chris Hsu to join me for a brief chat about the book – and pretending! So let’s have some fun with this…

First, who did young Lee Hopkins and Chris Hsu pretend to be when they were little boys?

Lee Bennett Hopkins

LEE:  I suppose I always pretended to be someone who would be something rather than a young boy living in the projects in Newark, New Jersey, trapped within the confines of a poor dysfunctional family. The pretending always seemed to be toward the arts. I lost myself in movies, mainly musicals, found theatre at age of thirteen and soaked in as much as I could. I began reading plays, one after another.
CHRIS:  Probably Mario! The original Nintendo had just come out and it was natural to want to jump around, off of, and over things like he did in the game.

How did ‘pretending’ and playtime help influence/develop the person you are today?

LEE:  Obviously, and I had not thought about this before, music, theatre are all rich in language and poetry. It had to have had an influence on my life. I think as grown-ups, we miss out on the opportunity to step ‘outside of ourselves,’ so to speak, and pretend to be someone else – other than at Halloween.
CHRIS:  I believe it develops and stretches the imagination, which in turn translates into creativity and abstract thinking as an adult.

If you could be someone else, who would you be?

2017 Florida Artists Hall of Fame, L-R: Don Felder, Billy Dean, Lee Bennett Hopkins, Secretary of State Ken Detzner, Jim Stafford .

LEE:  I like myself. I always have. This is not to be pretentious, but I have led a wondrous life. I have always been independent, knowing what I want and how to get it. Were I to be someone else? Perhaps a playwright such as Tennessee Williams, a poet like Carl Sandburg, Walt Whitman or Langston Hughes — men who wrote about the gut of life. Among the greatest thrills was being inducted into the 2017 Florida Artists Hall of Fame – on the roster with the 1989 recipient, Tennessee Williams! Of course, I’d love to be Barbra Streisand, one of the greatest talents in the world.
CHRIS:  I’d want to be an explorer in the age of exploration, maybe landing on an island no one had ever set foot on, with the role of documenting the wildlife and land to bring back home. What an adventure that would be!

Indeed, Lee, your life has been one amazing accomplishment after another! Let’s talk about the book now…was there any particular character you wish could have been included, but wasn’t? Why?

LEE:  The characters I chose for I Am Someone Else were well thought out. In the section on story book characters, for example, rather than a giant, I thought of a giant’s wife who is ‘in a total quandary /each time (she tries) to do the laundry!” People who help others, like the firefighter who risks his/her life every day. The makers – those creative beings who make our lives richer, a dancing child whose “Music makes my body move!” or the poet “to show / what a poem / what a poet / can do. / To show you — YOU!”
CHRIS: At the beginning, the kids file into a classroom, so the assumption is there’s a teacher present.  Ultimately, though, I chose not to illustrate any adult and keep the focus on the kids, much like how in the old Muppet Babies cartoon it was always told through the eyes of the Muppets, and the one adult present (Nanny) was there but remained anonymous if ever seen at all.  I felt this made the kids seem more independent.

Self-Aggrandizement Warning: my spread!

Were you surprised by anything during the process of making the book – perspectives of the writers, perhaps, or an unforeseen problem, or revelation?

LEE:  A wondrous revelation came when I was beginning the idea. I was discussing it with my dear friend, Lois Lowry, at a luncheon at her summer condo in Naples, and I batted around some ideas. Lois jumped at the chance to write “Big Problems,” a poem about a giant’s wife. Being one of the most distinguished writers of our times, even winning two Newbery Awards, did not mean she might come through writing a poem for young children. What the heck. Let her try. She did. She DID! Now she is on a roll with future poems to appear in my collections.

I also try very hard to bring new voices to a collection. Janet Clare Fagal has been ‘after me’ for eons. It was time for the tryout. Her “A Mermaid’s Tale” is charming. She worked draft after draft after draft until the poem was complete. It was Karen Boss, the editor, who decided the mermaid would be a young African American boy. This happened before Julian is a Mermaid (Candlewick, 2018), a wonderful book by Jessica Love,  appeared. And why not? If a young boy wants to pretend to be a mermaid, why shouldn’t a man like me not want to pretend to be Barbra Streisand?

CHRIS:  Even though the book is a string of separate poems with different tones and no story arc, Karen (Boss, editor), Martha (Sikkema, art director), and I thought to give it some sort of visual continuity so it didn’t just feel like a chain of non-related poems. We did that by casting a group of six kids, and then putting them in a common location – the classroom – where they could then take turns “acting” out the poems.  And by using six kids to act out fifteen poems, you get to see each kid starring in two or three scenarios each; and I felt that showing each kid exploring multiple roles was important to the concept of using one’s imagination.

Chris Hsu

The classroom setting also provided a continuous time frame that this all takes place, which is within the a single school day.  The unexpected roadblock of creating a mini story, however, was that once the last poem ended the whole book just ended very abruptly with no sense of a “the end.”  So to solve that, we added a final page that mirrored the first page of the book that gave a feeling of coming full circle.

Wow, it never occurred to me that the same kids were trying out multiple roles – what a great idea! So what do you two hope readers (grown-ups as well as kids) will take away from this book?

LEE: We are living in unexpectedly, confusing, almost insane times. We have to – need to – pretend. We can do this via poetry. We can wish to be someone else – for awhile – and make believe, masquerade. We need to get away from reality now and then, yet we must all realize, in the long run, there is nothing better than being yourself. Maybe, perhaps, pretend can lead to reality. Anything is possible with perseverance, stamina, dreams.
CHRIS:  My goal is to make books that both kids and adults can take something from. For kids who experience the book, I hope they leave with the idea that as long as they can imagine it they can act it out – even using props they likely have sitting around already and even if it’s a role not stereotypically suited for them. And it’s not limited to just one role; they can act out as many roles or characters and emotions they can think of.

For adults or parents who read the book, I hope they take away the reminder that kids’ minds are constantly in play, and that play develops into growth. As adults, we can always do our part to encourage that exploration of their imagination – whether it be engaging with them while they’re in “character,” making suggestions, or even helping them collect costumes and props.

I’m so thrilled to be a part of this book with you…I’m gad we were able to chat! By the way, what projects do you have coming up soon?

LEE:  I Remember: Poems of Pride and Prejudice (Lee & Low), will be released September 10th, a book that has been in production for four years. Fifteen of America’s top poets of varied ethnicity reveal heartfelt memories of childhood. Each poet defines what poetry means to them; each artist comments on their craft. An added bonus is an album of photographs of poets and illustrators as child and adult. Sixteen full-color paintings were created to match ethnicity of the poets, including cover art by Sean Qualls.

A favorite book of mine, Manger (Eerdmans), will be released in August in a high-quality paperbound edition, illustrated by Helen Cann. Starred in Kirkus as a book “worth savoring during the Christmas season.”
CHRIS:  The new season of ‘Archer’ just premiered a few weeks ago!  I’m a background artist on the show so check it out, it’s a funny season this year inspired by ’70s and ’80s space sci-fi movies.  Other than that, I’m always on the lookout for my next book gig, and I hope it’s a good one!

Chris, you’re an artist for ‘Archer’?? Very cool! I’ll definitely have to pay more attention to the scenery! Thank you both again for your time, and congratulations on this wonderful book we’re part of.

LEE:  Thank you, Matt, for your most interesting questions!
.

TWO NEW BOOKS!

Coming soon, July 2, 2019: …………………Just released June 23, 2019:

For all of today’s Poetry Friday links and fun, please visit my friend Buffy Silverman’s blog, where you can find the complete roundup!

=========================================================

Ordering personalized signed copies online?
Oh, yes, you can!


  

You can purchase personalized signed copies of Flashlight Night, (Boyds Mills Press, 2017), Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (Pow! Kids Books, 2018), and nearly ALL of the books or anthologies I’ve been part of!

Just click the cover of whichever book you want and send the good folks at MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH a note requesting the signature and to whom I should make it out to. (alternatively, you can log onto my website and do the same thing) They’ll contact me, I’ll stop by and sign it for you, and then they’ll ship it. Try doing that with those big online booksellers! (Plus, you’ll be helping to support local book-selling – and wouldn’t that make you feel good?)

=========================================================

Thank you to everyone for your support!

=========================================================

Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!

SCVBWI_Member-badge (5 years)
To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post once or twice a week – usually Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)
 .
Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter Facebook, InstagramPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Poetry Friday: Excitement for two upcoming poetry anthologies!

What a National Poetry Month it’s turning out to be! This week, I’ve received news about not one, but TWO anthologies I’ll be involved with, which are coming out within a week and a half of each other this summer…

First:  Except for Love: New England Poets Inspired by Donald Hall (Encircle Pub., 2019) is an adult poetry anthology that is one of the most important books in my adult literary career. Thirty-five New England poets share poems inspired by the late Donald Hall, former Poet Laureate of New Hampshire and of the United States. The fact that I live at the base of Mt. Kearsarge, a mountain  synonymous with Hall and his work, is humbling and makes being in this book extra special.

My poem, “Stone-Kicking,” begins:

Stone-Kicking

I kick my dreams
like stones in the road,
watching them bounce
happily ahead
while I lag
behind, dawdling.
Dirt road, still
damp from yesterday’s storm,
smells of pine and mud…

Sorry, you’ll just have to wait to see the rest of it! Except for Love is scheduled for release on June 23, the one-year anniversary of Hall’s death, but pre-orders are available HERE.

Second: I Am Someone Else: Poems About Pretending (Charlesbridge, 2019) is the newest Lee Bennett Hopkins children’s anthology, and my contributor copies just arrived in the mail! It’s a fun book, filled with poems about children pretending to be doctors, wizards, inventors, and all sorts of wonderfully imaginative people. (My poem, “The One,” is about a boy pretending to be a firefighter – but there’s a twist!) I’m proud, as always, to be part of one of Lee’s books – but also proud to be included with fellow writer-friends like Michelle H. Barnes, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, and many others. I Am Someone Else will be in stores officially July 2, but you can pre-order now!

More news about these books will be forthcoming, but I wanted to let you know they are on the way – and I can’t wait!

Today is Poetry Friday, so be sure to head on over to Karen Edmisten’s blog, where she is hosting the festivities, and you can check out all the links along with a touching, thoughtful poem by John Ashbery.

(Speaking of National Poetry Month, my friend Tabatha Yeatts has some creative printables for teachers and other educators out there, who might be wondering how to celebrate the month. Follow THIS LINK and THIS LINK to see what’s available, and have fun with your classes!)

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The 2019 Kidlitosphere Progressive Poem is in full swing! I started this collaborative poem this past Monday (no fooling!) and now a different writer/ blogger adds a new line each day until it concludes on April 30. You can follow along at the sites listed below…

2019 Progressive Poem schedule:

April

1 Matt @Radio, Rhythm and Rhyme
2 Kat @Kathryn Apel
3 Kimberly @KimberlyHutmacherWrites
4 Jone @DeoWriter
5 Linda @TeacherDance
6 Tara @Going to Walden
7 Ruth @thereisnosuchthingasagodforsakentown
8 Mary Lee @A Year of Reading
9 Rebecca @Rebecca Herzog
10 Janet F. @Live Your Poem
11 Dani @Doing the Work that Matters
12 Margaret @Reflections on the Teche
13 Doraine @Dori Reads
14 Christie @Wondering and Wandering
15 Robyn @Life on the Deckle Edge
16 Carol @Beyond LiteracyLink
17 Amy @The Poem Farm
18 Linda @A Word Edgewise
19 Heidi @my juicy little universe
20 Buffy @Buffy’s Blog
21 Michelle @Michelle Kogan
22 Catherine @Reading to the Core
23 Penny @a penny and her jots
24 Tabatha @The Opposite of Indifference
25 Jan @Bookseestudio
26 Linda @Write Time
27 Sheila @Sheila Renfro
28 Liz @Elizabeth Steinglass
29 Irene @Live Your Poem
30 Donna @Mainely Write

Madness!Poetry is over, and congratulations to this year’s champion, Lori Degman! Lori & I battled fiercely in Round 2, and she was able to move on through each consecutive round and eventually defeat my former Poet’s Garage member, William Peery, to take home the trophy.

=========================================================

Ordering personalized signed copies online?
Oh, yes, you can!


  Coming July 2, 2019!

You can purchase personalized signed copies of Flashlight Night, (Boyds Mills Press, 2017), Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (Pow! Kids Books, 2018), and nearly ALL of the books or anthologies I’ve been part of!

Just click the cover of whichever book you want and send the good folks at MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH a note requesting the signature and to whom I should make it out to. (alternatively, you can log onto my website and do the same thing) They’ll contact me, I’ll stop by and sign it for you, and then they’ll ship it. Try doing that with those big online booksellers! (Plus, you’ll be helping to support local book-selling – and wouldn’t that make you feel good?)

=========================================================

Thank you to everyone for your support!

=========================================================

Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!

SCVBWI_Member-badge (5 years)
To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post once or twice a week – usually Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)
 .
Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter Facebook, InstagramPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Poetry Friday: “I Am Someone Else” first peek!

As we approach the end of 2018 – and as those of us who celebrated Christmas attempt to get our lives back into their normal rhythm – I thought I’d share a wonderful surprise gift I received just a few days before Christmas. The proof of the spread of my poem in Lee Bennett Hopkins’ new upcoming children’s poetry anthology, I Am Someone Else: Poems About Pretending, arriving July 2, 2019 from Charlesbridge!

What would it be like to be a wizard, a dancer, a veterinarian, a pilot? The book contains 15 poems about not only “who” a child might like to pretend to be – but why. Here’s the proof of my poem’s page, so far…

(click to enlarge) ©2019 Charlesbridge, all rights reserved, reprinted with permission

Once again, I’m honored to be included in a collection that features so many talented, highly-esteemed writers as former U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis, Newbery winner Lois Lowry, and many others.

By the way, the annual CYBILS Awards‘ Poetry category shortlist has been officially nailed down, and we’ll be sharing the results soon (Shortlisted titles move on the 2nd Round judges, who will decide the winners in February). For more poetry, head on over to Mainely Write, where my friend Donna Smith has today’s complete Poetry Friday roundup!

=========================================================

Ordering personalized signed copies online?
Oh, yes, you can!


  

You can purchase personalized signed copies of Flashlight Night, (Boyds Mills Press, 2017), Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (Pow! Kids Books, 2018), and nearly ALL of the books or anthologies I’ve been part of!

Just click the cover of whichever book you want and send the good folks at MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH a note requesting the signature and to whom I should make it out to. (alternatively, you can log onto my website and do the same thing) They’ll contact me, I’ll stop by and sign it for you, and then they’ll ship it. Try doing that with those big online booksellers! (Plus, you’ll be helping to support local book-selling – and wouldn’t that make you feel good?)

=========================================================

Thank you to everyone for your support!

=========================================================

Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!

SCVBWI_Member-badge (5 years)
To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post once or twice a week – usually Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)
 .
Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter Facebook, InstagramPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Inspiration, observation, and the joy of grown-up marshmallows: a look back at a Highlights Foundation poetry workshop

Two weeks ago, I spent 5 days living, breathing, and eating children’s poetry (and writing it, too, for that matter) at the Highlights Foundation’s “The Craft and Heart of Children’s Poetry” workshop in the tiny little town of Milanville, PA. I had previously attended a similar workshop with David L. Harrison back in 2013, and had been wanting to attend another ever since.

It took me five years to return, but the wait was well worth it!

Georgia Heard, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Yours Truly, and Rebbeca Davis. (click to enlarge)

The workshop’s faculty were the highly-esteemed Rebecca Kai Dotlich and Georgia Heard, who discussed poetic devices like form, voice, and rhythm and offered critiques of our writing samples. They also used several writing prompts to encourage attendees to practice writing, thinking, and observing. (You can learn more about one of those writing prompts – and my response – HERE)

In addition to Rebecca and Georgia, we were joined by Boyds Mills Press/Wordsong editor Rebecca Davis, who was my editor for Flashlight Night. Rebecca spoke to our group about poetry publishing and even offered some critiques. Also on hand was poet/author Carole Boston Weatherford, who offered insight into writing poetry in different voices, and Lee Bennett Hopkins, who chatted via Skype about his poetry anthologies and the state of children’s poetry in today’s market.

A few other highlights:

(har, har – get it? Highlights?? Ok, I’ll stop.) 

My residence for 5 days. Couldn’t ask for anything coszier!

Everything is included in your tuition: the workshop, room, meals, snacks…everything. You might stay in one of the cabins, like I did, or they may put you up in the Lodge nearby. All of the workshops and meals are held inside The Barn, a large facility recently built when the old farmhouse next door, the former residence of Highlights for Children magazine’s creators Garry and Caroline Myers, became too small to handle all of the folks attending the plethora of workshops.

Heck, there were almost 20 of us there, and they have workshops running throughout the year!

 

Just a handful of some of the cabins. (photo courtesy of Jone MacCulloch)
Want to attend a session? Head to The Barn. Joining your friends for a meal? Head to The Barn. Need a computer or printer? Head to The Barn. Wake up at 2am and decide you’re in the mood for some ice cream, Doritos, and a cold beer? Yep…head to The Barn! They’ve got you covered.

The Word Garden: You may have visited a rock garden before, but you’ve never been to this kind of rock garden…where stones are waiting in piles for you to dream up poetry with them!

 

Thoughtful…creative…perhaps a tad unbalanced. These are a few of the “poems” we discovered when we arrived – but with hundreds of rocks available, we wasted no time creating our own. (I’ll share mine in an upcoming Poetry Friday post) And if you’d like to learn more about how you can support The Word Garden, click HERE.

Photo courtesy of Georgia Heard. (Click to enlarge)

The Haiku Poet-tree: One of our exercises was to write a haiku on a small slip of paper. We then proceeded outside the Barn to read them and then hang each on the nearby tree, where we could peruse them throughout the week. (Or until the rain decided we had read enough)

S’Mores Night: Ah yes, it just wouldn’t be an October Foundation workshop without a campfire and s’mores. We gathered around a small outdoor fireplace adjacent to the Barn and roasted marshmallows – and I shared my “secret” for grown-up marshmallows: after you place yours on the roasting stick, dip it in a high-alcohol liqueur like Grand Marnier or a spiced rum for 10-15 seconds, then hold it over the flames. It will immediately flare up as the alcohol burns off, and you’re left with the essence of the liqueur on your marshmallow. You’re welcome!

You can’t tell the family members from the employees: I get the impression that everyone who works for Highlights approaches their job as if they are part of a large family – which, in actually, they are…kind of. Many of the grandkids and great-grandkids of the original founders continue their family’s legacy by working there, but even the non-familial employees behave as though they have as much at stake in their job as the owners. Friendly, professional, helpful; honestly, there are giant corporate function facilities that could learn a lot about customer service by watching the Highlights cook and waitstaff serve a meal.

A Visit to ‘Highlights’: This was definitely a highlight of the workshop (har, har – there I go again, “highlight!” I crack myself up.) One afternoon, we drove 20 minutes south of The Barn to Honesdale, PA, to visit with the folks who publish ‘Highlights for Children’ and its related publications, as well as book imprints Boyds Mills Press, Wordsong, and Calkins Creek.

How surreal is it to see one’s book on a bookcase that includes titles by Jane Yolen, Nikki Grimes, David Harrison, and J. Patrick Lewis, among others? Pretty darned, I’ll tell you that.

I had not been to the office since my previous workshop in 2013, so I had never before met in-person with people like Allison Kane, who has purchased poems of mine for the magazine, or Cherie Matthews, assistant editor for Boyds Mills Press, with whom I’ve corresponded for nearly 3 years via email.

I was deeply honored when one of my fellow attendees, Kerry Cramer, asked if he could get a photo of the two of us. I was so happy he liked my book so much, I didn’t know what else to say but, “sure!” Thanks for your support, Kerry!

One of the coolest things you’ll spy in the building is a genuine dinosaur skull that once belonged to T-Rex’s bigger cousin, Giganotosaurus. For some reason, I neglected to snap a picture of this incredible artifact…but trust me, it’s there. (And really, if you visit the office, it would be very difficult for you to miss it)

We were afforded the opportunity to meet with many of the folks who put the magazines together, and learned a little bit about ‘Highlights’ humble beginnings – from its inception in 1946 to its book imprints to its newest innovations, like teething-proof covers for ‘Hello,’ their newest magazine for the very youngest readers. One thing I learned from the tour is that the editors of ‘Highlights’ magazines respond to EVERY SINGLE letter or email they receive from children. How many are we talking? This many…

(click to enlarge)

And just before we left to head back to the Barn, I had to get one last pic:

Cheryl Matthews, who has done as much for ‘Flashlight Night”‘s success as anyone, took time for a quick photo op with one of her fans.

I have to tell you, the Highlights Foundation workshops are unlike any workshops you’ve ever been to. There is the educational component, of course; but what sets these workshops apart from all others is everything that goes along with the education: time allowed for relaxing, meandering, napping, writing, contemplating, snacking.

Learn more about the Foundation, their workshops (which range from poetry to novel writing to non-fiction to illustration and everything in-between), and what they do, please visit their website. The workshops are worth every penny, and they even offer scholarships to those who qualify! And if you have any questions about my experiences there, don’t hesitate to ask in the comments or email me!

Our poetry crew, each holding a stone we chose from the Word Garden. (photo courtesy of the Highlights Foundation; click to enlarge)

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BOOK SIGNING!

I’m looking forward to spending some time with my DON’T ASK A DINOSAUR co-author, Deborah Bruss, this Sunday afternoon in Warner, NH to celebrate the Book Birthday of her new book, GOOD MORNING, SNOWPLOW! We’ll both be there signing our books, including DINOSAUR, FLASHLIGHT NIGHT, SCHOOL PEOPLE, and the new National Geographic book, THE POETRY OF US.

Hope you’ll join us, if you’re in the area! Details here!

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Ordering personalized signed copies online? Oh, yes, you can!


  

You can purchase personalized signed copies of Flashlight Night, (Boyds Mills Press, 2017), Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (Pow! Kids Books, 2018), and nearly ALL of the books or anthologies I’ve been part of!

Just click the cover of whichever book you want and send the good folks at MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH a note requesting the signature and to whom I should make it out to. (alternatively, you can log onto my website and do the same thing) They’ll contact me, I’ll stop by and sign it for you, and then they’ll ship it. Try doing that with those big online booksellers! (Plus, you’ll be helping to support local book-selling – and wouldn’t that make you feel good?)

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Thank you to everyone for your support!

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