Friday, December 30, 2011

Poetry Friday: Resolutions

I'm not making a long list of resolutions this year. Okay, I'll probably come up with a few. At least I'll take a look at what I want to achieve in the new year. But that's sort of my issue with resolutions right now. I'm not sure I want to achieve anything other than recapture my joy in my writing journey. So I have a few tentative ideas, but I don't even want to call them resolutions. Want to know why? Read on...

On New Year's Day
by Kenn Nesbitt
On New Year's Day a year ago,
I started off the year
by making resolutions
that were probably severe.

I said I'd save my money,
as this seemed so very wise.
I vowed I would improve my health.
I swore I'd exercise.

I stated I would do my homework
every single day.
I'd brush my teeth religiously
to ward off tooth decay.

I'd eat my fruits and vegetables
and keep my bedroom clean.
I'd treat my sister kindly
though she's often very mean.

My resolutions lasted me
about a half a day.
I promised I would keep them
but I broke them anyway.

So now I'm fat and penniless.
My homework's overdue.
My sister's mad. My teeth are bad.
My room is messy too.

And yet I think I may have found
the best of all solutions,
and this year I've resolved
to not make ANY resolutions.
Copyright © 2004 Kenn Nesbitt
All Rights Reserved

Julie Larios is hosting Poetry Friday over at the Drift Record.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Closing out the Old

The grandchildren have gone home. They left this morning. No more pillow fights or toys in the floor.

Fortunately they helped un-decorate and get everything Christmas back in the boxes for next year. Now on to getting myself ready for the new year. 

First challenge is reducing the piles on my desk,


the clutter in my office,

and weed some books from my shelves.

I hope you're having as much fun as I am!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Poetry Friday

I am delighted to host Poetry Friday this week. With only days left before Christmas, I'm finished with shopping--thanks to my sweet husband who can out shop me any day of the year. The presents are all wrapped and stuffed under the tree or in boxes and mailed to family far away. There's still a bit of grocery shopping to do and bed making for the grand kids, coming in the wee hours of Christmas morning. They'll probably pass Santa somewhere on the road between Minnesota and Georgia.

 I stopped in the local bookstore this week just to see what was left of holiday books in the children's department. With that in mind, I thought I would wish you a Merry Poetry Friday with some of the titles I found.

Wishing you a rollicking good time with friends and family as you countdown the days.

Wishing you a bit of silliness, songs to sing, and stories to tell.

Wishing you some peace and quiet. Some silent nights...
with only drama of the Nutcracker type.

Something to celebrate.

Something to sing about.

Something to share.

And joyous blessings to you and your house.

The Wassail Song
Here we come a-wassailing
Among the leaves so green,
Here we come a wand'ring,
So fair to be seen.
Love and joy come to you,
And to your wassail too,
And God bless you and send you a happy new year
and God send you a happy new year.
Merry Poetry Friday. Leave you link below.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Poetry Friday: Lord Alfred Tennyson

It's been a gray week around here. Aside from the cold and the rain, I spent hours with my father gathering all the necessary documents for financial assistance for my mother in the nursing home. Tennyson's lines match my state of mind today. 

From "In Memoriam"
Lord Alfred Tennyson

To-night the winds begin to rise
And roar from yonder dropping day:
The last red leaf is whirl'd away,
The rooks are blown about the skies;

The forest crack'd, the waters curl'd,
The cattle huddled on the lea;
And wildly dash'd on tower and tree
The sunbeam strikes along the world:

And but for fancies, which aver
That all thy motions gently pass
Athwart a plane of molten glass,
I scarce could brook the strain and stir

That makes the barren branches loud;
And but for fear it is not so,
The wild unrest that lives in woe
Would dote and pore on yonder cloud

That rises upward always higher,
And onward drags a labouring breast,
And topples round the dreary west,
A looming bastion fringed with fire.

More Poetry Friday with Robyn Hood Black at Read, Write, Howl.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Poetry Friday: Robert Louis Stevenson in Hawaii

The hotel where we stayed in Hawaii claimed bragging rights to Robert Louis Stevenson's visit to the island. The Hau Tree Lanai is situated beneath the trees where Stevenson is said to have lounged and written. In a letter to a friend, he described a lanai as “an open room or summer parlour, partly surrounded with venetian shutters, in part quite open, which is the living room.”

Today this spot is an open patio with the Hau Tree as a roof. You have to watch your head. In fact some low branches had been wrapped to keep folks from doing any damage if they accidentally banged into one.

“If anyone desires such old fashion things such as lovely scenery, quiet pure air, clear sea water, good food and heavenly sunsets hung out before his eyes over the Pacific and the distant hills of Wai’anae, I recommend him cordially to the Sans Souci.”

It was a good recommendation.

We always decorate for Christmas on the day after Thanksgiving. This year, since we had no children or grands nearby, we borrowed some.

Our Christmas lights were bad, so Lauren, Leah, Abby, and I piled into the car and headed to the store for replacements. The girls decorated the tree and wrapped presents. What a big help!

For Poetry Friday, in honor of Christmas decorating and Robert Louis Stevenson, here is Christmas at Sea. Stop by Carol's Corner for the roundup. 

Christmas at Sea
The sheets were frozen hard, and they cut the naked hand;
The decks were like a slide, where a seamen scarce could stand;
The wind was a nor'wester, blowing squally off the sea;
And cliffs and spouting breakers were the only things a-lee.

They heard the surf a-roaring before the break of day;
But 'twas only with the peep of light we saw how ill we lay.
We tumbled every hand on deck instanter, with a shout,
And we gave her the maintops'l, and stood by to go about.

All day we tacked and tacked between the South Head and the North;
All day we hauled the frozen sheets, and got no further forth;
All day as cold as charity, in bitter pain and dread,
For very life and nature we tacked from head to head.

We gave the South a wider berth, for there the tide-race roared;
But every tack we made we brought the North Head close aboard:
So's we saw the cliffs and houses, and the breakers running high,
And the coastguard in his garden, with his glass against his eye.

The frost was on the village roofs as white as ocean foam;
The good red fires were burning bright in every 'long-shore home;
The windows sparkled clear, and the chimneys volleyed out;
And I vow we sniffed the victuals as the vessel went about.

The bells upon the church were rung with a mighty jovial cheer;
For it's just that I should tell you how (of all days in the year)
This day of our adversity was blessed Christmas morn,
And the house above the coastguard's was the house where I was born.

O well I saw the pleasant room, the pleasant faces there,
My mother's silver spectacles, my father's silver hair;
And well I saw the firelight, like a flight of homely elves,
Go dancing round the china-plates that stand upon the shelves.

And well I knew the talk they had, the talk that was of me,
Of the shadow on the household and the son that went to sea;
And O the wicked fool I seemed, in every kind of way,
To be here and hauling frozen ropes on blessed Christmas Day.

They lit the high sea-light, and the dark began to fall.
"All hands to loose topgallant sails," I heard the captain call.
"By the Lord, she'll never stand it," our first mate Jackson, cried.
..."It's the one way or the other, Mr. Jackson," he replied.

She staggered to her bearings, but the sails were new and good,
And the ship smelt up to windward just as though she understood.
As the winter's day was ending, in the entry of the night,
We cleared the weary headland, and passed below the light.

And they heaved a mighty breath, every soul on board but me,
As they saw her nose again pointing handsome out to sea;
But all that I could think of, in the darkness and the cold,
Was just that I was leaving home and my folks were growing old.

By Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-94).

Stop by Carol's Corner for more Poetry Friday.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Aloha Vacation

One of the benefits of working for Delaney Educational is that when you work hard, it pays off. Not only have I  made a lot of wonderful friends who are media specialists and literacy coaches, but I earned a trip to Hawaii. Six other Delaney reps, along with their spouse or friend, Tom and Nancy Delaney traveled to Oahu the week before Thanksgiving for a fabulous Hawaiian vacation. And it was a true vacation. No work. No writing. Nothing but fun.

 Here are some highlights.

1. We stayed at the New Otani Hotel, a few blocks east of Waikiki. Close enough to walk to all the hoopla, but far enough away to be peaceful. Right on the beach, all beaches in Hawaii are public, by the way. The Hau Tree Lanai served the most wonderful Eggs Benedict and Coconut Macadamia Nut French Toast.

2. We hiked Diamond Head. Now I know where they take all those beautiful pictures of Honolulu.

3. At Pearl Harbor, the USS Arizona Memorial is a very moving experience. Names of all the sailors fill a white marble wall lit by sunlight streaming through the branches of the Tree of Life Sculpture. The ship leaks two quarts of oil a day. They call it the black tears of the Arizona.

4. One of the highlights of the tour around the island was the sea turtles. These guys swim ashore, spend the morning eating vegetation, then find a comfy spot on the sand and sleep off their big meal.

This is Isabella. She's recognizable because of the barnacles on her shell.

Kuhina is a 260 pound adult male. He's 35 years old.

5. Wild chickens make themselves at home just about anywhere on the island. These are at Pali lookout where Kamehameha tossed rival warriors off a very steep cliff.

6. Okay, we crashed the Luau at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. We didn't plan to, but hey, nobody said we couldn't sit on the sofa and watch.

My friend Janice and I managed to get pictures with the Somoan Fire Dancer.
We had a wonderful time. I'm finally getting over two ten hour flights (hard on the body) and jet lag. Back to working. Back to writing. Lots of good memories.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Poetry Friday: Gold Leaves by G.K. Chesterton

The last month has been an emotional roller coaster. My mother fell and went into the hospital about three weeks ago. From there to a rehab nursing home. This week my dad and brother and I had to make the decision for her to remain in their care. It has been very stressful, but we are confident that this is the best decision for her and for my dad, who also suffers some health issues. I am so grateful for the kind staff who has worked with us to get her situated.

So aging has been much on my mind lately. My husband and I have four living parents in their eighties. Three are aging gracefully, minds in tact and bodies simply slowing down. Not so my mother. It saddens me and makes me think on the days that remain in my life, the words yet to be written, the joys yet to be lived, the struggles yet to be faced. I want to live them well, to bring honor to the Creator who put me here, to recognize "the million masks of God" and do what I can so that "when I come to autumn," the leaves are gold.

Gold Leaves

Lo! I am come to autumn,
When all the leaves are gold;
Grey hairs and golden leaves cry out
The year and I are old.

In youth I sought the prince of men,
Captain in cosmic wars,
Our Titan, even the weeds would show
Defiant, to the stars.

But now a great thing in the street
Seems any human nod,
Where shift in strange democracy
The million masks of God.

In youth I sought the golden flower
Hidden in wood or wold,
But I am come to autumn,
When all the leaves are gold.

       ---Gilbert Keith Chesterton

Tabatha Yeats hosts Poetry Friday today at The Opposite of Indifference.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Five Best Online Dictionaries for Children

When writing for young children, I often need simple definitions to include in the text or in the glossary. Some publishers have their own preference for dictionary usage. In my most recent biographies for Rourke Publishing, my editor wanted all the definitions and pronunciation taken from the Scholastic Children's Dictionary. I have several dictionaries on my shelf, but I didn't have that one, so I ordered it from Amazon and added it to my collection. But I often use online dictionaries while I'm writing.

These are my favorites:

I usually start with Wordsmyth . It gives me the option to choose from beginner, children's, or advanced definitions. It also has a box that shows the words that come before and after a chosen word, like looking at a page in a print dictionary and a box for multi-word combinations.

If I'm not completely satisfied with my definition, I'll check Word Central ,which is powered by Merriam-Webster and Yahoo Kids Dictionary with references from the American Heritage Dictionary. Sometimes it takes a combination of several definitions for me to settle on the best one for a particular project.

I recently discovered Fact Monster. While the information here is written at a higher level, I like the way this website offers multiple definitions of the word as different parts of speech.

RhymeZone requires an extra step if you're looking primarily for a definition. A drop down menu beside the word entry lets you search for rhymes, near rhymes, synonyms, antonyms, homophones, definitions, quotations, and a few other choices. It even gives you the option to search for your word in the definition of another word, like a reverse dictionary.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veteran's Memorial

My office, as editor of the Infantry Bugler, sits on the second floor of the new state-of-the-art National Infantry Museuem. A parade field behind the museum, sewn with the soil of historic American battlefields from all over the world, is the site of weekly graduation ceremonies for basic trainees.

Platoons of soldiers often gather on the sidewalk in front of the "Follow Me" Statue. From my window I can see them, at ease with their choices, at least on the surface, marching double file back to a barrack or a home where, hopefully, there is love.  I grew up in this town full of soldiers, home of the Infantry, and now, the Armor. Young men in their dress blue uniforms walking the highway to the mall is a common sight. It's common for a stranger to pay for a soldier's meal. Common to place a hand on a uniformed sleeve and say thank you. Common to whisper, "God keep you safe, Soldier."

If you know a soldier, say thank you today.

For Poetry Friday on the Veteran's Day, I hope you enjoy "Chats with Eleanor." There lots more poetry to be found at Teaching Authors.

by Pris Campbell

Fairy Godmothers with ample laps
and June Cleaver faces slid down the rabbit hole
of old dial-up phones, ten cent colas, Betsy Wetsys,
and scratchy LPs an innocent lifetime ago.

Try strutting about nowdays in tiara and starched skirt,
waving a wand---the madhouse will open its jaws
and swallow you whole, but

my fairy godmother is clever.
She dresses like Eleanor Roosevelt,
talks like Eleanor, looks like Eleanor,
says she is Eleanor, back from the dead.

Each night she brings me hot chocolate, sits,
tell stories about quiet fireside chats,
her husband’s withered legs and how much
she thought he loved her before Lucy.

She reminds me to floss every night
and to be sure to carry an umbrella
should sudden thunderstorms threaten.
She emphasizes that one must learn to
be brave

Read the rest here.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Five to Catch Up

1. Deadlines are great for getting some serious writing done.

2. Family emergencies make writing almost impossible. Even with deadlines. My mom was in the hospital and is now at a nursing home rehab facility. She's doing better.

3. I love riding my bike on a warm fall afternoon. Realized I can actually ride it to the nursing home to see my mom. It's about six miles on the new rails to trails.

4. Went on a shopping spree with my totally helpful, classy, designer nephew, who then came home and rearranged all my closets. I'm hoping some of that style savvy rubbed off on me.

5. Had a wonderful weekend writer's retreat with four other FABULOUS writer friends--Ashley Parsons, Ashleigh Halley, Vicky Alvear Shecter, and Kara Bietz--where we got lots of words on paper, laughed till our bellies ached, and generally nurtured our writing souls.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Poetry Friday: The Quiet World

Last night I talked with my husband who's visiting the grands in Texas. Today is my seven-year-old granddaughter's birthday, and her daddy's. I hung up the phone and the house was so quiet. I went in search of a poem about this silence and found this one. It perfectly captured how I'm feeling.
I hope you enjoy, too.

The Quiet World

In an effort to get people to look
into each other’s eyes more,
and also to appease the mutes,
the government has decided
to allot each person exactly one hundred  
and sixty-seven words, per day.

When the phone rings, I put it to my ear  
without saying hello. In the restaurant  
I point at chicken noodle soup.
I am adjusting well to the new way.

Late at night, I call my long distance lover,  
proudly say I only used fifty-nine today.  
I saved the rest for you.

When she doesn’t respond,
I know she’s used up all her words,  
so I slowly whisper I love you

Read the rest here.

There's more Poetry Friday at Fomagrams.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Conference Overload

I'm in between back to back writers' conference weekends.

Last weekend at the Auburn Writer's Conference (Auburn University), I sat in three workshops. Evalina Galang, director of MFA program at Univ of Miami, talked about plot. Wendy Reed, producer on Alabama public television, talked about differences in non-fiction genres.  Poet Melissa Dickson talked about persona poems. The second day was filled with keynote addresses and readings.

I gleaned a few gems from the sessions and readings, but I always come away from these type conferences feeling like I've gotten too much of not enough. A one-hour session just doesn't give enough time for ingesting or digesting the information, inspiration, imagination in a workshop leader's notes.

Tomorrow I head for Birminghim and the SCBWI Southern Breeze fall conference. Another day of short workshops. Again I'll glean. Again I'm going to feel like it's too much of not enough.

I'm about ready to declare a fast from conferences!

My husband has gone to Texas to spend the weekend with the grandbabies. I'm lonesome, but getting some work done. But it's pretty bad when I resort to a 1970s musical version of Tom Sawyer on TV to go with dinner. Okay, I'm switching channels. Now.

Ooh, I got to Google phone call with the grands and call their spelling words to them. Now that's satisfying.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Low Level Biographies Correlated to Georgia Performance Standards

A new set of biographies for Georgia first grade teachers!

The set features the titles required by the Georgia Performance Standards for first grade. These folks are hard to find at a low reading level, so my fabulous editor at State Standards Publishing has just released this new set for all you first grade teachers out there looking for low-level readers.

I was thrilled to write six of them and fellow SCBWI Southern Breeze writer, Ashleigh Halley wrote the other two.

It was a good experience all around. Ashleigh and I look forward to knowing how these books fit your teaching needs, so let us know what you think.

Monday, September 26, 2011

POV: First Person-John Marsden

A few years ago I took an online class through the Writer Studio that was an extraordinary learning experience. The goal was to read a small piece of a story and identify the tools the narrator used to tell the story. Exercises required us to create a similar narrator who used the same tools to tell their story as the one we had read.

I'm teaching a class on point of view at the local university's continuing education program, using a similar pattern. I thought sharing here might be helpful to you, too.

So, let's start with Australian author John Marsden's book The Night is For Hunting.
Here's the blurb from GoodReads to give you a feel for the book.

Amidst a brutal war with no end in sight, Ellie and her four remaining friends discover that their hidden refuge becomes a crowded place when they decide to care for an uncooperative crew of orphans. Things only get worse when Ellie and Homer learn that mysterious visitors have discovered their sanctuary. Has the enemy found them out? Five ordinary teens brave the worst in this electrifying continuation of their battle to stay safe and sane in a war zone that was once their home.

Chapter One begins like this:

It was hot and dusty. The sun sat up there all day without moving. It saw everything and it forgave nothing. Sometimes it seemed like you were alone in the world, you and the sun, and at those times you could understand why people in the old days feared and worshipped it.
            I hated the sun. For months on end it had no mercy. It burned everything. Everything that wasn’t covered or hidden or fed with water, it burned.
            It was mid-December and we were forty milliliters down on the monthly average. The dams looked like muddy pools, and the stock hung around in the drying mud, more interested in staying cool than in eating. Three of us were working in the yards: Dad, Quentin, and me. Quentin had been late, as usual, and that got Dad snarling. 

The tools this narrator uses:
Ellie begins with a memory. She starts with a description of the landscape, then moves to the scene occurring within that landscape and creates it with intricate details that make us feel like we’re right there with her and her father and the vet as they cull the "empty" heifers, the ones not pregnant. We don’t know immediately that it is a memory, but by the time we do, we understand what this PN has lost. She has last her parents, her friends, and life in any normal sense of the word. 

Later in Chapter one:

Other people used tranquilizers or grog or drugs I suppose, to shut out awful grey realities. I didn’t have those but I wouldn’t have taken them anyway. I clung to my daydreams, and tried to use them. They weren’t enough, not by a long way, but they were something. On the really depressing days they were all I had.
            Daydreams could be dangerous though. On my school reports teachers wrote “Needs to concentrate harder.” It didn’t bother me much back then. But in this war concentration became a matter of life and death. You missed hearing a twig break, you were dead. You ignored a truck parked off the side of the road, you were caught in a trap. You blocked out your sense that something wasn’t quite right, and the next minute you were lying on the ground with a gun pressed in your neck.
            And it wasn’t just yourself who got wiped out. You could kill your friends by not concentrating. 

The tools:
The narrator uses “you” as a substitute for “I”. It’s a device that includes the reader in the story, makes the reader feel as if s/he were there beside the PN. This device also allows Ellie to distance herself from emotions or actions she does not feel are acceptable—wanting to beat the heifer with a shovel, the death of a friend that resulted from inattention. And in those moments she reveals herself, the fact that she has done/felt these things and the fact that she is not proud of them and feels guilt as a result.

The narrator's tone is poetic and conversational, but the mood behind it, the emotion the narrator wants the reader to feel is hopeless and dark.

The purpose of all this analysis is to experiment with these same tools. Try it.

Create a first person narrator who uses a conversational tone with poetic overtones. Begin with a scene that is a memory. Use "you" to include the reader and distance the narrator from a painful situation. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Poetry Friday: Praise Poems

I'm excited to be a guest at Nancy I. Sanders' Blogzone today to talk about my latest book, Sing, Dance, Shout: 30 Days of Praise. I hope you'll stop by for the interview and stay a while to explore the blog. Nancy has been a wonderful source of information and encouragement for me in my writer's journey over the last few years. Her book, Yes! You Can...Build a Successful Writing Career is chock full of great advice.

Today is Poetry Friday and my book is about praise, I thought I would share some praise poems.

One of my favorites is "Pied Beauty" by Gerard Manley Hopkins.

Pied Beauty

Glory be to God for dappled things--
    For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
         For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches' wings;
   Landscape plotted and pieced--fold, fallow, and plough;
         And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
   Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
       With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
                       Praise him.

"A Praise Song from My Mother" is a praise poem celebrating motherhood. Click here to listen to Grace Nichols, a poet from Guyana, read her lovely poem.

For more Poetry Friday, head over to Anastasia Suen's blog, Picture Book of the Day.