Thursday, March 31, 2011

John Glenn and the Lights of Perth

One of the reader's theater scripts in my new book is about John Glenn and his two trips into space. Both times the citizens of Perth turned their lights on to send a welcome message to the astronaut. I posted about it here on my blog tour.

My grandson's class decided to perform the script after they finished their science unit on space. The kids liked it so much, they decided to create props, come up with costumes, and memorize their lines. While I was in Texas last week, I got to see the dry run on Friday afternoon. They performed the play for the rest of the school.

On Monday night, they performed it for the PTA. My son took this photo of a very cool John Glenn. I was more proud to be the star's grandmother than to be the author of the play!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Week with Grandbabies

My oldest granddaughter informed me last night as I was putting them to bed that she is not a grand baby. She's too big to be a baby.

If you're a grandmother, you know the answer to that one.

I'm having a grand week with all my grand babies--the big ones and the little ones.

I'll be back to blogging next week.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Poetry Friday: Poems About Fire

Some of you may know that I'm a sales rep for a book company out of San Diego. I am in and out of schools throughout the year helping teachers, literacy coaches, and librarians find what they need to meet our Georgia Performance Standards. Twice a year when the new lists come out from educational publishers, I get book samples. It's great fun, as these are books that we usually don't get to see. They never hit the bookstores. Occasionally an award winner will show up in Barnes and Noble, but they usually go straight to schools.

This year my territory expanded when another rep nearby retired. So a few weeks ago I met her and she loaded up my car with her book samples. Don't ask where I put them when I got home. There are still some I haven't figured out. I generally troll through them, checking pub dates, exploring them for concepts that fit my needs and those of my clients. If they are over
three years old, I no longer include them in my sample buckets when I go into schools. It's always preferable to show the newest books available.

Once I collect all the "old" books, I start making give away bags. Some of my schools get practically no money. They are caught in the middle. Not poor enough to get federal money; not wealthy enough to have a PTA that supplies their needs. I love delivering these goody bags of books. This might be my favorite part of the job.

And of course, as I'm going through those "old" books, if something strikes my fancy, I claim it for my own shelf.

That's what happened with this book, "Poems About Fire." It's one in a series of books called the Elements in Poetry. The other books are poems about water, air, and earth. They are published by Cherrytree Books. This is a UK publisher whose books are distributed in the States by Black Rabbit Books. I love Black Rabbit. They exist in the educational market, but defy the rules in some sense. They are different. Higher reading levels. Unconcerned about fitting into the Accelerated Reader box. Offering information that is often not included in books for children. You can see some of their philosophy here.

Since "Poems about Fire" is written by UK poets and compiled by Andrew Fusek Peters, the flavor of the book is not standard fare for us. Poems focus on the great fire in London, instead of the San Francisco fire. Excerpts from classic writers come from Robert Louis Stevenson and John Dryden. "Corroboree" by Oodgeroo Noonuccal weaves a story of Aborigines dancing in firelight. "Hang-Gliding over Active Volcanoes" by Brian Moses says it was "like surfin' in a furnace" where he "got singed from my eyebrows to my toes."

This is one of my favorites from the collection. It's a shape poem, and the shape of the flame doesn't show up here on Blogger. So imagine....

Looking into a Fire
by Jim Hatfield

Ago when
The coal in this
Grate was a tree;
The sun shone upon its
Leaves and they held
Tight hold of that
Light for more years
Than you might ever
Count. Tonight,
Looking into the
Crimson glow,
We can feel
The sunlight

There's more Poetry Friday at A Wrung Sponge.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Poetry Friday: Victor Hugo

I posted earlier this week about Victor Hugo and Les Miserables, so today I thought I would share one of my favorite Hugo poems. He had an amazing ability to capture a scene and a man's character in such few words. Hugo's father was a soldier for Napoleon. I don't know if this incident actually happened or if Hugo created it from some snippet his father shared or if it was completely from his creative imagination.

After the Battle
Victor Hugo

My father, of all heroes, kindliest,
Attended by the soldier he loved best
(Both for his mighty courage and his height),
Rode, where the battle had been fought, as night
Fell on the slain that cumbered all the ground.
Out of the shadows came a feeble sound.
A Spaniard of the army put to rout
Lay by the road, his life blood ebbing out.
Broken and groaning, on death’s very brink,
He whimpered: “Pity me! A drink! A drink!”
My father offered then to his hussar
A gourd that hung beside his saddle bar.
“Poor wounded man! Give this to him,” he said.
The soldier bent above the livid head
Of one whose mongrel blood had not yet tired
Of hate; who clasped a pistol still and fired;
With aim directed on my father’s brow;
And cried; “Die, Enemy, I curse you now!”
The ball skimmed close—so close his horse reared—then,
“Give him the drink,” my father said again.

Enjoy more Poetry Friday at Liz in Ink.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Remembering Les Miserables

I watched the 25th anniversary concert of "Les Miserables" on public television this weekend.

It still captures something deep in me. I am still as enthralled, moved, inspired, as I was the first time I saw the black and white version on television.

I was thirteen at the time, and my mother watched the Sunday afternoon matinée every week. I think I must have identified with Cosette and her isolated life. I'm sure I dreamed of someone like Marius who would open the world to me. But the scene that remained in my mind for years afterward was Javert throwing himself into the Seine.

I couldn't have told you then what it was about that scene that lodged so deeply in me. I don't think I understood the drastic difference between living under the law and living in grace, but I did know how it felt to be afraid to do anything for fear of being wrong or doing something wrong. I was raised to be obedient to a fault.

I was a junior in high school when I discovered Victor Hugo and realized that Les Miserables was a book. It took me a while, but I waded through all the French history for the amazing story Hugo told.

The copy I read looked something like this one. I own several other old copies/translations now, and still go back and wade through the politics occasionally.

And of course, then there was "Les Mis." I saw it at the Fox Theater in Atlanta (where "Gone With the Wind" was released) a few years after it debuted. And once more in Mobile. It always moves me to tears.
Hugo was an amazing writer. He was a Romantic in an age when French Classicists ruled the literary scene and had the power to sensor words they didn't consider Classic.

Hugo deliberately antagonized them. If he couldn't find the right word, he invented one, something that just wasn't done by the French Classicists. His plays and poetry demanded freedom for the artists of the world, but he was paid by the king. Eventually he had enough and refused the stipend. Not long after that he moved his family to the Isle of Guernsey in England to avoid being arrested. He wrote Les Miserables there. It had been thirty years since he wrote "The Hunchback of Notre Dame," his only other novel.

I love the concept of living in grace that Jean Valjean embodies. I'm not sure how Hugo's life reflected it, I've never read a biography of him. Maybe that's something I'll put on my "to read" list. But he certainly never let himself be bottled in by the sensors, the literary legalists, of the day.

For me, as a writer, I think living in grace for myself means allowing myself to struggle, to fail, to begin again, while not allowing myself to remain there. Always moving forward, always working toward honing my craft, yet being patient with myself, too.

In her post last Poetry Friday at A Year of Reading, Mary Lee called it approximation, as opposed to perfection. That's a good description for it, I think.

So this week I'm wishing you grace for where you are. Peace in the process, whether it's a manuscript or just life in general.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Poetry Friday: A Light Exists in Spring

I hope you enjoy a wonderful Poetry Friday. There's more over at The Small Nouns.

My contribution today is from Emily Dickenson.

A Light exists in Spring
Not present on the Year
At any other period —
When March is scarcely here

A Color stands abroad
On Solitary Fields
That Science cannot overtake
But Human Nature feels.

It waits upon the Lawn,
It shows the furthest Tree
Upon the furthest Slope you know
It almost speaks to you.

Then as Horizons step
Or Noons report away
Without the Formula of sound
It passes and we stay —

A quality of loss
Affecting our Content
As Trade had suddenly encroached
Upon a Sacrament.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Playing Catch Up

I wanted to clone myself this weekend so that I could be in three places at one time! But alas, I never was very good in science. It's why I write about history and geography.

My son-in-law from across the
continental U.S. was here for a short visit.

My Delaney sales business called me to an English Language Arts conference where literacy guru, Dr. Timothy Rasinski, was speaking.

And the lovely writers from SCBWI Southern Breeze region hosted the annual Springmingle.

Since Springmingle required the entire weekend, I knew that wasn't an
option, despite my wish to be there and hang out with other authorly-type people. Sigh. I hear I missed a great conference and a lot of fun. Sigh, again.

I did go to the ELA conference with a carload of books and tablecloths and book racks and computers, etc. The conference was at Radium Springs Middle School of the Arts. When I met one of the teachers from this particular school, I asked if these kids were the cream of the crop. Not necessarily, she said. Some of them are students the principal is mentoring. They are doing something right over there at Radium Springs.It's an absolutely beautiful school. Students lined the hallways at short intervals offering smiles, greetings, and assistance. It's probably the first sales conference I've been to where there was help in setting up and breaking down. What joy! Help! Amazing! These kids were absolutely wonderful.

I did get to hear Dr. Timothy Rasinski deliver the keynote address. He teaches literacy at Kent State University, but he was at the University of Georgia for a while, too, so we tend to claim him. What an amazing teacher and speaker he is. I came away inspired. I know those teachers did, too. At the book signing table, Dr. Rasinski signed copies of his books.

He has written many, and some of them are reader's theater books.
That was one reason I wanted to connect with him. So participants all had a copy of one of his books in the package, and they weren't selling others, so what else was I to do? I took him a copy of MY reader's theater book to sign. Shameless, I know. But hey, it's what we writer's do. I was thrilled to have his encouragement, in his hand, in my book.

Then back home to enjoy dinner and some time with my sweet son-in-law and my husband.

On Monday, my hubby slammed his pinky finger in the door of his 1966 Ford pickup truck. Not nice. Several doctor visits confirmed it was broken, twice, one actually severed completely. So yesterday morning we were at the hospital for surgery on the finger. Ouch.

Today, I'll be speaking to the professional writer's group at the local university about my role as editor of the Infantry Bugler. That should be fun. My old professor is the advisor to the group.

A busy week in a busy season and I still haven't finished that rewrite. Will get it done by the weekend!