Friday, March 23, 2012

Poetry Friday: Spring Rain

Spring is beautiful at my house. Color bursting in every corner. Oh how grateful I am, though, for this glorious spring rain. Our pollen counts have been off the charts. Everything is yellow, the deck chairs, the car, the very air. 

Rain, glorious, rain!

Spring Rain
by Sara Teasdale

I thought I had forgotten,
But it all came back again
To-night with the first spring thunder
In a rush of rain.

I remembered a darkened doorway
Where we stood while the storm swept by,
Thunder gripping the earth
And lightning scrawled on the sky.

The passing motor busses swayed,
For the street was a river of rain,
Lashed into little golden waves
In the lamp light's stain.

With the wild spring rain and thunder
My heart was wild and gay;
Your eyes said more to me that night
Than your lips would ever say. . . .

I thought I had forgotten,
But it all came back again
To-night with the first spring thunder
In a rush of rain.

More Poetry Friday with Mary Lee at A Year of Reading.

And don't forget the March Madness Poetry Tournament. Stop by and vote!
Regional Semifinals, Flight One
Regional Semifinals, Flight Two

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Spring Break Beach Reads

Wide swaths of beach four inches deep in shells.
Morning walk at low tide.

I'm finally getting to this book. Did you know that you can now  "borrow" books free at Amazon Prime?
This was a free ebook download back before Christmas. A good book for analyzing a few recent reads and thinking about a new story idea. 
Audio book  for the drive down. Will finish on the way home.  

Hubby brought this one in hardcover. I may delve into it when he's done. 
And I'm playing in the March Madness Poetry Tournament. Round One has started. I'll get my first word (seed #2) tonight. Voting for Round One begins tomorrow. 

Friday, March 9, 2012

Gettin' Ready for March Madness Poetry Tournament


March Madness is at Think Kid, Think! Instigated, designed and hosted by Ed DeCaria, this exciting tournament will pit children's poets from around the blogosphere in a seeded battle of rhythm and rhyme. The whistle blows on Monday for the tip-off.

Here are a few tournament poems to get in the mood.

from "The Last Tournament" by Lord Alfred Tennyson

She ended, and the cry of a great jousts
With trumpet-blowings ran on all the ways
From Camelot in among the faded fields
To furthest towers; and everywhere the knights
Armed for a day of glory before the King.

from "The Tournament" by Sydney Lanier

Bright shone the lists, blue bent the skies,
And the knights still hurried amain
To the tournament under the ladies' eyes,
Where the jousters were Heart and Brain.

Listen to basketball-loving children's author and photographer, Charles R. Smith, Jr., read his poem, "Let Me Introduce Myself."

Poetry Friday Roundup is over at Gathering Books. Stop by and let the poetry begin.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Musing on the Letter "e"

Some days the writing comes easily. Some days you need help.

The jumping off point for this exercise came from a section in Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by Amy Krause Rosenthal.

The letter "e" as it applies to me.

Evergreen - I love loblolly pines. I think I like the way it sounds as much as the tree. We had cedar trees for Christmas trees when I was little because we could cut one in the woods close by the house. On my first trip to Minnesota, I was shocked to see real Christmas trees, spruce and fir, growing along the highway. I love the way the dark shades of green flash brilliant against winter browns. A winter hike in a deciduous forest. Bare branches. Padded ground. Waxy green magnolia taking root on the forest floor.

Eggs for breakfast. Scrambled, with grits, and bacon crumbled on top.

Engine - So many times I watched my daddy set up his "come-along" on the swing set frame, wrap chains around the guts of a vehicle and pull the engine out of a car, a truck, a bus. Take it apart, put it back together, and drop it back into that hollow cavity.

Extrovert - I am not one.

Eleagnus - Don't plant this shrub unless you plan to spend a lot of time detangling stems, on a ladder.

Elegant - There may be some elegance in my long fingers or the way I move my hands when I talk, but mostly any elegance I exude is of the Fancy Nancy type. I refuse to wear heels. I hate big, bulky jewelry. No matter how many times my daughter matches up my outfits, I never seem to get it just right. But I'm comfortable in my own skin. Maybe there's a sort of elegance in that.

Eggplant - Baba Ghanoush. Mmmm.

Education - There is something to be said for going back to school when you're fifty. Lectures make more sense. You weigh opinions more carefully, your own and those of others. Creativity is fortified with a bit of experience. And it's way more fun than it was in your twenties.

Equator - I wrote a book about explorers. One day I would like to cross that imaginary line. In a ship, not a plane.

Energy - I wish I had more.

Expecting - Five times. Four healthy children. One full term stillbirth. I have experience with empty arms. I once heard an author say she was "pregnant with book." I remember thinking I would like to be pregnant with book. And though I've written quite a few for the educational market, it has not been with that essence of longing to give birth to something miraculous. I'm still expecting it.

Extrovert - Did I mention that I am not one.

Try it. Pick a letter and free write any associations that come to mind. Grab a dictionary if you need help.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Poetry Friday: Interview with Laura Purdie Salas

It is always a pleasure to host Poetry Friday, and today, I am hosting the delightful Laura Purdie Salas, as well.
Laura has two new poetry books, Bookspeak! and A Leaf Can Be...

As a sales rep for a book distributor, I have the great pleasure of getting lots of book samples. At our winter conference in San Antonio, Lerner Publishing, host distributor for Millbrook,  was one of the presenters who left samples for us to take home. As we gathered around the table to make our selections, I saw A Leaf Can Be... standing propped open at the back of the table. Just as I was about to reach for it, another buddy rep picked it up. "Aww, I wanted that one. I know her," I complained. (Okay, I know her as much as you can know somebody whose blog you haunt.) My buddy kindly handed the book over to me, and I love it.

The simple, lyrical text reminds me of the kennings so often used in Old English and Norse poetry. Just how many things can a leaf be?

   ...Shade spiller
                          .....Mouth filler              And so much more!
The delicate artwork by Violeta Dabija draws the reader right into these gentle descriptions.

Laura agreed to be my guest today and answer a few questions. Enjoy.

Dori: Tell us about the process of developing A Leaf Can Be...

Laura: I really wanted to try writing a rhyming nonfiction book. I’m a fan of the form, and there aren’t enough of them out there! I went through a bunch of ideas I had researched for other projects. I tried a couple of other science topics, but they were too complex. They came out sounding like little lessons in rhyme, which was NOT what I was going for. I wanted a book that was fun to read and that told about some amazing thing in the world.

After a couple of failed attempts, I was reading through some of my published works, just looking for a starting point. In Chatter, Sing, Roar, Buzz: Poems About the Rain Forest (Capstone, 2009), I read my poem about how Honduran tent bats use leaves for shelter. It is so cool how they do that! I knew from a recent conversation with my Clarion editor that animal poems/books are a hard sell, because they’ve been done so much. So I looked at it from the other point of view. Instead of focusing on the bat, I thought about the leaf. Who knew that one big leaf could be a tent home for a whole mini-colony of bats? I wondered what else leaves could do that I never really thought of. And A Leaf Can Be… was born.

Once I completed the manuscript, it was submitted to two editors, and Carol Hinz at Millbrook Press bought it. I was thrilled, to say the least:>) Not only because it was a book sale, but because it allowed me to diversify, both in publisher and in manuscript form.

Dori: How does working on an assigned topic change your creative process?

Laura: Great question. I do a lot of work-for-hire writing, and the process it totally different from what I did with A Leaf Can Be… I think working on assigned topics requires tons of creativity. For poetry and rhyming books, I’ve written for both the trade and educational markets. When I write for trade markets, I come up with the idea, write it just the way I want it, and then send it out and pray I’ll find an editor who loves it too. For the educational market, an editor offers me a contract to write a certain book on a particular topic that meets certain specific rules. Those rules might deal with word count, curriculum standards, phonic sounds, vocabulary levels, etc.

I write a lot of straight nonfiction work-for-hire, too, but I’m going to talk about this in terms of poetry and rhyme, since LEAF is rhyming nonfiction. I’ve written 10 assigned poetry collections for Capstone, several rhyming shared readers (both fiction and nonfiction), and numerous poems for standardized assessment materials. I’ve enjoyed working on them—they’re a lot like puzzle-solving. When I’m working on assignment, I start with the requirements. For instance, I’m working on a very brief rhyming story right now, 150 words, using short o sound words, and involving geography and travel. It’s kindergarten level. So I picked a geographic feature and did some research on it. I knew the story had to involve someone (kid or animal) traveling to or along that feature. As I read about the feature, I jotted down short o words that cropped up (like crop!). I picked a main character that’s an animal using a short o sound (no, not a dog—as prohibited by the publisher!). I plotted out a brief story over the 10 pages I have for my story, jotting down just the main plot point for each page. And only then did I start playing with words and thinking about the sound and the rhyme this project would use.

The pressure is higher on work-for-hire, especially with rhyming manuscripts. Once my plot outline was approved, as it was, I have no choice but to MAKE IT WORK. Unlike my trade projects, where I could discard an idea that just wasn’t working, I am locked in. The editor is expecting it, and I don’t want to disappoint her. I must come up with an entertaining and lightly informative rhyming story by March 7. So I will stick with it, and somehow it always works out.

Though I will say one difference in writing work-for-hire verse or poetry is that I am more devastated by editorial changes. When an editor makes changes that disrupt the meter, for instance, I am shattered. But in the work-for-hire projects, the publisher’s priorities aren’t necessarily the same as mine. OK, they aren’t ever the same as mine:>) That’s just the way it goes. So I have to be able to also just let it go. To say, this is good verse. I wish I could make it perfect verse, but this is the best it’s going to get given the parameters I’m working within.

(On my website, I sell a textbook for writers interested in writing nonfiction books for the educational market. It’s a book form of the online class I offered for several years:

Dori: You participated in Drum Corps last year. How do other artistic endeavors like this influence your poetry?

Laura: Oh, good question. I don’t see direct cause-effect influences. But doing things like that, totally stretching myself, teaches me that it’s OK to fail. It’s OK to make a fool of myself. It’s OK (more than OK, it’s essential) to try new things! And it reminds me that we can each accomplish amazing things if we really push ourselves (like, I performed in the color guard as Minnesota Brass won the world all-ages drum corps championship!). Other artistic attempts, like drawing and painting, have failed more spectacularly:>) But I think those attempts are more important than the failures.

Dori: Where did your idea for the 15 words or less come from?

Laura: Oh boy—it’s been a while. I decided to try doing a photo and poem every day for 2007. I just like to try new things to challenge myself, and it seemed like it would be fun. But I wanted it to be short and fast, because I’m also realistic! So I came up with 15 Words or Less. As I said when I blogged about it: “These aren't good poems, mind you. They're really just thoughts in some kind of poem form.” I shared some on the Wordy Girls blog I did at that time with Bonny Becker, Susan Taylor Brown, and Susan Heyboer-O’Keefe. And Bonny had the fabulous idea of making it into an interactive blog feature. Wow. I can’t believe it’s in its fifth year! I really love seeing what people come up with.

Dori: Have you published poetry ebooks yet? Do you think the market is going to move in that direction?

Laura: I haven’t, though I’ve been included in a couple of wonderful anthologies, Poetry Tag Time and Gift Tag, edited by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong. I have considered doing some e-collections, though. Poetry doesn’t sell well, generally. The small market makes poetry a financial loss for publishers, so they publish very little of it. But e-publishing is cheaper. So even though an e-book might sell only a few hundred or a few thousand (if you’re amazing at marketing it) copies, it would still allow you to reach that many readers, that many kids, students, librarians.

I haven’t gone forward yet, because my collections are picture books, which are still really problematic in e-book form. But I’m definitely considering it. Meanwhile, I’m enjoying e-books by Janet Wong, David Harrison, Steven Withrow, and more.

Dori: Any new projects you'd like to share?

I have a new poetry collection out called BookSpeak! Poems About Books (Clarion, 2011). I’m honored that it’s a Minnesota Book Award Finalist, and I’m having fun sharing it with folks. Also, I’m happy to say that Millbrook is going to publish WATER CAN BE… in 2014, also illustrated by Violeta Dabija (yay!). Other than that, I’m hard at work balancing a bunch of work-for-hire projects that are due soon and several poetry and prose picture book manuscripts that I hope will be good enough for my agent to submit. And I’m doing school visits and consulting with children’s and ya writers through Mentors for Rent, an hourly mentoring service ( I do seem to keep very busy!

Thank you, Laura, for taking the time to visit with me today. 

Stop over at Laura's  blog, writing the world for kids, to stretch your imagination with 15 Words or Less. And be sure to get your copy from Amazon or Barnes and Noble or Lerner Books

And now...

Linda at TeacherDance is celebrating Dr. Seuss' birthday.

Books4Learning shares Oh, No! Where Are My Pants? and Other Disaster Poems.

Over at Over at The Poem Farm, Amy has a poem about writing ("The Pen") as well as some thoughts for students about structure. 

Charles Ghinga is March-ing in this week with a peek at some of the spreads from my new book I SEE SPRING.

More celebrations of Dr. Seuss at GottaBook with Gregory K's  Oddaptation of the Lorax

Rene La Tulippe shares a video of guest poet and children's book author Iza Trapani reading her kids' poem "Grins and Giggles." And it comes with a giveaway of one of her books! 

Tabatha is passing along a peaceful poem today. 

Mary Lee sends out a poem today  to all the bloggers who have started the Slice of Life challenge for March.

I have a busy day today, driving to a presentation at a school this morning, but leave your link and I'll be back about noon to post more of your comments.

Over at Maria Horvath's blog, today's theme is hope and optimism, part of the series of poems that can lead to quiet contemplation. 

At Author Amok, Laura has a RAADical Forecast. In honor of Dr. Seuss's birthday, the weather site Foot's Forecast is asking people to send in Seuss-style local weather reports.

Ruth shares an original poem today at her blog, There is No Such Thing as a God Forsaken Town. 

Tara is celebrating Women's History Month at A Teaching Life.

Laura Salas, our lovely guest today, is in with a poem from TAKE TWO! A CELEBRATION OF TWINS, by J. Patrick Lewis and Jane Yolen. And don't miss the opportunity to drop by and write a poem at 15 Words or Less Poems.

Carol is double dipping with her own "poem" for Poetry Friday and Slice of Life over at Carol's Corner.

Katya is celebrating a late-winter snow over at Write. Sketch. Repeat

Robyn Hood Black is living life on the wild side with Carl Sandburg at Read, Write, Howl.

Linda in today at Write Time with a Mary Oliver poem and thoughts about learning from poetry.

Diane Mayr at Random Noodling shares a poem called "Spitwads"! Her poem at Kids of the Homefront Army is based upon something she heard about Eleanor Roosevelt as a child. And Kurious Kitty shares "The Cardinal" by Henry Carlile. Kurious K's Kwotes' P.F. quote is by Lawrence Raab.

Jama continues her celebration of Kelly Fineman's new rhyming picture book,  At the Boardwalk over at Alphabet Soup.

Stop by Across the Page for a poem about moss.

Liz at Growing Wild has been thinking about the Japanese form tanka all week. She has posted four tanka about being a kid in a grown-up world, with an idea for a classroom activity using tanka.

Jeannine wrote about Winnie-the-Pooh's take on writing poetry at Views from a Window Seat. 

Janet's selection at All about the Book is Heart to Heart: New Poems Inspired by Twentieth-Century American Art, edited by Jan Greenberg.

Julie Larios features a poem from Janet Wong's new book, The Declaration of Interdependence: Poems for an Election Year, over at The Drift Record.

Check out the two original haiku about snow at Check it Out.

Lori Ann at On Pointe features Flower Girls. 

readertotz is celebrating Step Out Gently by Helen Frost and Rick Lieder.

Did someone mention madness? Stop by Think Kid Think for info on this upcoming poetry event hosted by Ed DeCaria. 

I'm headed to the nursing home to read with my mom. We're both enjoying Andrew Clements' YA novel Things Not Seen about an invisible boy and a blind girl. I'll be back near suppertime to post any remaining links.  

Sherry's Poetry Friday selection is a sonnet by Keats at Semicolon.

Donna's post is a poem about her mother she was inspired to write after visiting my blog last week. I'm honored, Donna. 

David Elzey is in this week with an argument in favor of planetary status. 

At Booktalking, Anastasia Suen is sharing an update of an old classic: Down by the Station by Jennifer Riggs Vetter (Author) and Frank Remkiewicz (Illustrator).

At Wild Rose Reader, Elaine announced the winners of Janet Wong's new book Declaration of Interdependence: Poems for an Election Year. 

Paper Tigers offers a review of Kate Coombs and Meilo So's new book Water Sings Blue, and a reminder about World Read Aloud Day on 7th March

At Gathering BooksIphigene writes about Robert Louis Stevenson's On Some Ghostly Companions at a Spa.