Poetry Friday: “The Echo of Hearts”

national-poetry-month 2016

Never one to shy away from a good challenge, I had to respond to my friend Michelle H. Barnes’ “Ditty of the Month Challenge’ for April…a reverso!

What is a reverso, you ask? It’s a poem that is written in two sections, with each section comprised of the exact same lines but in the opposite order. In other words, the first line of the first section is the last line of the second section; conversely, the last line of the first section is the first line of the second section.

Ideally, each section should say something different, rather than simply repeating the feelings or images of the other. In the case of my reverso, I wanted to show that the different feelings and memories of each speaker are actually quite similar – two heads of one coin, so to speak. I hope I accomplished that.

poetryfridaybutton-fulllYou can read more about reversos and the amazing books that poet Marilyn Singer has created using them – like her newest, ECHO ECHO: Reverso Poems about Greek Myths (Dial Books, 2016) – by visiting Michelle’s interview with Singer. At the end of the interview, Singer challenges blog readers to come up with their own poems about echoes – and because I love going out of my way to make things harder on myself, I decided to write my poem as a reverso.

I hope you’ll check out the poem and let me know what you think! You can find it posted HERE at Michelle’s blog, Today’s Little Ditty. Hope you like it! And for all of today’s Poetry Friday links and hi-jinks, Jama Rattigan’s Alphabet Soup is the place to be!

 

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2016 Kidlit Progressive PoemIrene Latham‘s annual progressive poem is progressing quite nicely! Each day of the month, a different writer has added a line to this poem, and it will conclude on April 30. To see where it stands presently, please visit Robyn Hood Black’s little corner o’ the web, Life on the Deckle Edge, today!

You can follow the 2016 Progressive Poem at the following blog spots:

April

1 Laura at Writing the World for Kids

2 Joy at Joy Acey

3 Doraine at Dori Reads

4 Diane at Random Noodling

5 Penny at A Penny and Her Jots

6 Carol at Beyond LiteracyLink

7 Liz at Elizabeth Steinglass

8 Janet F. at Live Your Poem

9 Margaret at Reflections on the Teche

10 Pat at Writer on a Horse

11 Buffy at Buffy’s Blog

12 Michelle at Today’s Little Ditty

13 Linda at TeacherDance

14 Jone at Deo Writer

15 Matt at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme

16 Violet at Violet Nesdoly

17 Kim at Flukeprints

18 Irene at Live Your Poem

19 Charles at Charles Waters Poetry

20 Ruth at There is No Such Thing as a Godforsaken Town

21 Jan at Bookseedstudio

22 Robyn at Life on the Deckle Edge

23 Ramona at Pleasures from the Page

24 Amy at The Poem Farm

25 Mark at Jackett Writes

26 Renee at No Water River

27 Mary Lee at Poetrepository

28 Heidi at My Juicy Little Universe

29 Sheila at Sheila Renfro

30 Donna at Mainely Write

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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!
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New book for students on writing poetry – and honored to be a part of it!

This past Friday was a crazy kind of day. One of those roller-coaster-of-emotion days.

First, I learned that I was one of the featured writers on the popular children’s literature blog, Jama’s Alphabet Soup. Jama was celebrating The Poetry Friday Anthology of Celebrations (of which I’m a contributor) and she spotlighted my poem, “Picky Eater” along with a couple of recipes from me.

That was good.

I then spent most of the morning running errands while listening to the 5-year-old and 2-year-old crying, screaming, or fighting. We finally get home and my sweet, loveable 2-year-old proceeds to take off her dirty diaper and toss it on the FLIPPIN’ STOVE.

Not good.

Once she was in for her nap, I got the really good news: I received notice that the latest book in which I have a poem included is now available!

Catch Your Breath coverIt’s called Catch Your Breath: Writing Poignant Poetry (Capstone Press, Aug. 1, 2015) by author/poet Laura Purdie Salas and is designed to help students learn to write poetry. I’m very honored to be one of a select few children’s writers – like David Harrison, Marilyn Singer, J. Patrick Lewis, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, Diane Mayr, Kelly Fineman, and Kate Coombs – whose poetry has been included as examples.

The nice thing about this book is that it’s not a typical, stuffy “here’s how you write poetry” kind of textbook; it’s a contemporary explanation of what poetry is, how to get into it, and suggestions and mentor texts on how to go about writing it. At only 64 pages, it’s an easy read, yet indispensable for a young, blossoming poet-to-be.

So just to break it down – for my sake, honestly, more than yours – here’s the list of children’s books in which you’ll find my work:

Lullabye cover Dear Tomato cover PFAC-front-cover-Nov-30-WEB-jpeg-705x1030 Catch Your Breath cover
………….NG Book of Nature Poetry cover  One Minute & Flashlight - blank

I’ve thanked you before, but I’ll thank you again for your support…even if it’s simply subscribing to this blog or just reading it occasionally, you’re helping me develop my writing, grow as a children’s author, and – to be perfectly frank – build an audience.

You’re also reassuring me that there are folks out there willing to read what I crank out each week, and I cannot overstate the value in that alone. So thanks for coming this far with me, and I hope you stick around!

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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 twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)
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Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

First book signing: that’s a wrap!

I’m sure many of my fellow writers who have had numerous books published view book signings as old hat, but it’s something pretty new to me…and I loved it!

Lullabye coverThis past Saturday, I spent two hours at the local Books-A-Million store (the folks who bought up most of the old Borders locations) signing copies of the book, Lullaby & Kisses Sweet (Abrams Appleseed, 2015). We had close to 25 folks stop by, and for a beautiful, hot, summer day, that was a decent turnout.

Lullaby, as you probably know if you’ve spent more than a few minutes on my blog, is the very first children’s book I have the pleasure of being a part of. It’s both a board book – designed for very young children – and it’s also a poetry anthology featuring 30 poems from such luminaries as Jane Yolen, J. Patrick Lewis, Charles Ghigna, David L. Harrison, Marilyn Singer, and many others.

My poem, “First Tooth,” is included in this amazing collection, which was recently selected as an ALSC Notable Children’s Book for Summer 2015. It’s an honor and a privilege to be part of something like this – and it is also a bit reassuring, as writing for children is a career path for me and not a mere hobby. In fact, I’ll have 9 poems in 7 different publications between this year and next, with my debut picture book, Flashlight Night (Boyd’s Mills Press) slated for Fall 2017.

Things seem to be heading in the right direction!

Signing one of the first books of the afternoon, with my manager (kidding!!), author Deb Bruss (“Book! Book! Book!”, “Big Box for Ben”)
The table looked so spiffy and professional, I almost didn’t realize it was for me!
One of the folks who stopped by was fellow former radio dude Mike Morin. Mike hosts a podcast series which can be found at http://manchesterinklink.com/40-is-the-new-happy-a-podcast-series-with-mike-morin/ (Yours Truly will be joining him in a couple weeks!)

I do have to admit I was surprised when I walked into the bookstore; I was going to look for my table toward the back of the store in the children’s section, but they had it all decked out right in front, about 20 feet from the registers. At least 3 staff members purchased copies, which was heartening.

I think one of the most satisfying moments of the event came when I overheard one of the female employees behind the checkout line chatting with a customer who had just purchased a copy. They were talking about the book and “the author” who had just signed it, and the clerk (whom I hadn’t met until that day) said, “He’s a really nice guy.”

Made me smile.

NG Book of Nature Poetry coverThe folks at Books-A-Million are thinking of doing another signing when The National Geographic Book of Nature Poetry (National Geographic Children’s Books, Oct. 13, 2015) hits stores this fall, and I can’t wait. In it, I have a poem about Rainbow Eucalyptus Trees – and if you don’t know what those are, wait til you see the photo!

I will have another poem in an educational book written by Laura Purdie Salas for Capstone, likely due out before the end of the year, and a poem in Kenn Nesbitt’s anthology, One Minute Til Bedtime (Little, Brown for Young Readers, 2016). I already have poems in two other books that are currently out: Dear Tomato (Carol-Ann Hoyte, 2015) and The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations (Pomelo Books, 2015).

Perhaps at some point in my career book signings will get old.

For now, though…bring ’em on!

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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 twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)
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Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Available TODAY! “Lullaby and Kisses Sweet”

I’ve been telling you about this for awhile, and the day has finally arrived…the very first children’s book I was selected to contribute to is on sale today!

Lullabye coverLullaby and Kisses Sweet: Poems to Love with Your Baby is officially out now – in stores and everywhere. This book is unlike most others out there – it is a board book for young children 0-5, yet it is also a poetry anthology comprised of 30 poems by various writers such as Jane Yolen, J. Patrick Lewis, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Charles Ghigna, X.J. Kennedy, David L. Harrison, Marilyn Singer, Laura Purdie Salas, and many others including…little ol’ me.

It feels weird to say that.

I have to thank the wonderful and inimitable Lee Bennett Hopkins, who came up with the concept and compiled the poems for the book. He even contributes a couple of poems, too. And Alyssa Nassner’s cute baby- and toddler-friendly illustrations are the perfect complement to the text.

So today I wanted to share a couple of things: a short interview with Lee as well as the poem I contribute to the project. Before we get to Lee’s interview, though, congratulations are in order.

logo-scbwiLast week, The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) announced they had teamed up with Lee to create the SCBWI Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award which, according to the SCBWI, “recognizes and encourages the publication of an excellent book of poetry or anthology for children and/or young adults” and will be awarded every three years.

(for more information about the award click HERE or click the SCBWI logo)

A lifelong supporter and cheerleader for children’s poetry, Lee has already helped establish two other awards: the annual Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, presented by Penn State University, and the Lee Bennett Hopkins/International Reading Association Promising Poet Award, presented every three years by the International Reading Association (now the International Literacy Association).

LBH BEST PHOTO
Lee Bennett Hopkins

He’s also received his fair share of awards, including the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Excellence in Poetry for Children in 2009 and the SCBWI’s 1996 Golden Kite Award for his poetry collection, Been to Yesterdays. And with over 120 books under his belt, it was a matter of time before the 2011 Guinness Book of World Records named him “the most prolific anthologist of poetry for children.”

So now without any further ado…let’s get to our interview!

Lee, thank you so much for asking me to contribute a poem to this incredible project. Being a board book anthology makes this book a rather rare sort of species in the world of children’s literature; how did you come up with the concept of creating a poetry collection for very young children?

I have always maintained that poetry should become part of a child’s psyche as soon as they are born – if not before! Lullabies sung by mothers and fathers, kisses sweet given to newborns are as natural as breathing. Why not create a collection for the young that deals with topics they are becoming familiar with – Family, Food, Firsts, Play, Bedtime? A verse such as your “First Tooth” is not only right on for this age group, it is fun, filled with childlike surprise, wonderment.

Well, I’m glad you liked it enough to include it! For my readers, here is my poem from the book, along a sweet little gem from Heidi Stemple:

9781419710377_LullabyandKissesSweet_TX12
Reprinted with permission; all rights reserved. (Click to enlarge)

 

Having already edited so many anthologies before, you are intimately aware of what it takes to put a poetry collection together – but I wonder if there were any unusual steps you needed to take with this particular project? How did the creation of this book differ from others?

LULLABY AND KISSES SWEET began with a definite set of guidelines. Every poem in the collection was especially commissioned by a host of well-known poets as well as introducing new voices, giving many a chance to become published for the first time.  Each verse had to be eight lines or under, had to rhyme and had to have that “I” moment as children awaken to what is going on in their world around them. Realizing what it is to have a grandma take one’s hand, experiencing disappointment as one’s tower of blocks suddenly crash to the floor, a plea for the sound of words as a child asks to be read to again and again.

I have done about 120 collections for all ages. LULLABY… is the first, quite huge board book I’ve ever done.

Tell me about your collaborators – your editor and illustrator.

Working long and hard for several years with a wondrous editor, Tamar Brazis at Abrams, helped shape the book and its conceptual development from the very beginning to the final bound pages. A next important phase after the completion of the manuscript was that of illustration.

It was decided that Alyssa Nassner would do the book featuring anthropomorphic characters — bunnies, bears, tigers, kittens. And she pulled it all off in a most charming, child-friendly, loving way.

Following that line of thought, did you encounter any surprises – such obstacles or poetic perspectives – along the way?

I am always impressed with the hard work, the diligence, poets put into their writing. Many poems were written, edited by me, rewritten and oft time re-re-rewritten. Those who work with me know I have a definite philosophy about what I want to give to our youth. I detest ‘bathroom humor’, light verse that says nothing. Each poem in LULLABY… has been crafted to bring strong self-concept to a child.

A general question for you: What is perfect about children’s poetry these days, what is missing, and what is there too much of?

I wish there was more Poetry with a capital P. There is too much light verse that goes nowhere, straining to be silly. The sidewalk ended a long time ago and very well with the brilliance of Shel Silverstein. It will take giant steps to widen the pathway!

I wish there were more anthologies being published for all ages. There are fewer and fewer. In 2014 we saw two; in 2015 we’ll be lucky to see four – and three of them are mine. We need more diversity, more voice within the genre.

I wish editors would publish books of poetry by a single author on a variety of themes rather than on one subject. Past collections by masters such as Myra Cohn Livingston, Eve Merriam, Lilian Moore, et. al., didn’t have to have one theme. They offered a smorgasbord of work and it was all delicious fare.

I have to agree. Books by folks like Silverstein and Dorothy Aldis, who greatly influenced me, were rarely one-theme books. Are you at liberty to let readers in on any news about future projects?

Forthcoming in Fall is JUMPING OFF LIBRARY SHELVES: A BOOK OF POEMS, illustrated by Jane Manning (Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press), my heartfelt tribute to libraries, librarians, storytellers and books. A stellar roster of poets are included such as X. J. Kennedy, Nikki Grimes, Jane Yolen, Alice Schertle, as well as never-before-published works.

Another major work will appear this Fall if the book stays on schedule.

Finally, I have to ask…what keeps Lee Bennett Hopkins going?

What doesn’t keep me going? I am interested in everything from idiotic politicians’ points-of views to hunting for purple clothing — from finding a good restaurant to searching for a thrilling theatrical experience.

Then there is that thing called ‘poetry’. Damn it sometimes. It envelopes me — my life, my heart. It is food, drink, manna, stuff that makes life worth living.  I live to pass the poetry…that stuff with the capital “P”.

Lullabye coverAnd we get to share in that love of poetry with you, Lee! Thanks so much for taking the time to chat.

Remember, Lullaby and Kisses Sweet: Poems to Love with Your Baby is on sale now at your favourite bookstore and online, so I do hope you’ll pick up a copy and enjoy it. For a young child’s birthday or even a baby shower – this makes a perfect gift! Thanks again to Lee for believing in me and giving me my first “big break,” and thank you to all of you who take time out of your busy days to read this blog…I appreciate your support, as well!

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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!
PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on 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 FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Review: “A Rock Can Be…”

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted any new blog entries – save for my Poetry Friday posts – and for that I apologize. My wife and I have been dealing with family problems (ailing, elderly parents), house problems (now that the new $8000 furnace/boiler and $2000 electrical panel are installed, there are ice dams on our roof), and vehicle problems (last Friday, the left rear tire flew off my truck while my wife was driving home – not good).

And of course, here in New England, we’ve been getting major snowstorms every week, which means snow blowing, shoveling, and school cancellations…and until 2 days ago, I was doing it without a snow blower, since ours was in the repair shop.

There has also been some good news, though:  I’ve written two new picture book manuscripts in the past month, which has taken quite a bit of my time, and I also received some FANTASTIC news a few weeks ago that I’m dying to share with you. I can’t say anything yet, but it’ll be a big announcement when I do!

rcb coverSo for today, I wanted to share some other big news…a new children’s book hitting stores this Sunday, March 1!

Wait – has it been a year already? Last April I reviewed author/poet Laura Purdie Salas’ book, Water Can Be… as part of my National Poetry Month celebration, and now here it is 11 months later and she has another book in her series!

Salas’ new book, A Rock Can Be… (Millbrook Press) follows the same concept as Water in that it takes a very simple subject and poetically expounds on it…but she does it with such aplomb you almost don’t realize how deceptively insightful her observations are.

Starting with the idea that every rock has a story to tell, Salas begins, “A rock can be… / tall mountain/ park fountain / dinosaur bone / stepping stone…” and goes on to include volcanoes, phosphorescence, architecture, skipping stones, and many more instances of rocks being more than just “rocks.”

For instance…

rcb_sparkling_ring

 

rcb_book_sheep
(click images to enlarge)

 

As I mentioned in my Water Can Be… review last April, it takes skill, patience, and a creative mind to write simply – and Salas has what it takes. It’s also nice to see illustrator Violeta Dabija, whose artistry can be seen on the previous two books in the series, is back to perfectly complement the text with vivid colour and textured illustrations.

In the back of the book readers can learn more about the rocks and images of which Salas makes note – such as stepping stones, flint, and even the moon. A glossary also helps younger readers to understand some of the imagery and concepts throughout the book.

A delightful read!

NEXT WEEK: Two days after A Rock Can Be… hits bookshelves, the first children’s book I have ever had the pleasure of being part of comes out! Lullaby & Kisses Sweet (Abrams Appleseed) is an unusual book – it’s a poetry anthology in board book form, designed for very young children up to the age of 5.

Lullabye coverI am extremely proud to have worked with the one and only Lee Bennett Hopkins, who edited the book, and to be included in a book that also features poems by such luminaries as Jane Yolen, J. Patrick Lewis, Charles Ghigna, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, David L. Harrison, X.J. Kennedy, Marilyn Singer, and many others. (Salas also contributed a poem, “Spaghetti,” to the collection)

As a first-ever publication, I couldn’t be more thrilled. To learn more about the book, check out this brief review from Publisher’s Weekly! (And once you read it, you’ll see why I’m more than happy to share the link!)

The day it goes on sale, Tue., March 3, I’ll be sharing a special interview with Lee Bennett Hopkins here on my blog. We’ll be talking about how the concept for the book came about, his thoughts on children’s poetry these days, and a couple of new projects he’s working on, so I hope you’ll stop back!

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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!
PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on 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 FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!