Thursday, December 18, 2014

POISONED APPLES for Christmas?

Hello, and Happy Poetry Friday! Please visit Buffy's Blog for Roundup. I can't believe this is our last Poetry Friday before Christmas! Even though it's not exactly festive, I've decided to share with you selections from POISONED APPLES: POEMS FOR YOU, MY PRETTY by Christine Heppermann. This book has appeared on a number of Best Of 2014 lists... and it's poetry! Love when that happens. The book explores the fairy tale tropes in modern day life. Happily Ever After, this is NOT. Oh, darkness....

 I give you the opening poem (with a killer last line!) and my favorite of the collection (because it is such a clever metaphor).

The Woods
by Christine Heppermann

The action's always there.
Where are the fairy tales about gym class
or the doctor's office or the back of the bus
where bad things also happen?
Pigs can buy cheap building materials
just as easily in the suburbs.
Wolves stage invasions. Girls spit out
cereal, break chairs, and curl beneath
covers like pill bugs or selfish grannies
avoiding the mess.
No need for a bunch of trees.
You can lose your way anywhere.


Photoshopped Poem
by Christine Heppermann

Some say the Before poem
had character.
This poem is much more attractive.
With the Healing Brush Tool
I took out most of the lines.
I left in a few
so it wouldn't look unnatural.


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Quilt for my Father & Then Some

As many of you know, my father is currently battling his second bout with cancer. He also serves as Executive Director of Bismarck Cancer Center in North Dakota. Which means he has accumulated a number of cancer survivor/BCC t-shirts that mean a lot to him.

SO... I said, send 'em to me! And my father did. Here's the box I got in the mail:



Here are the t-shirts unpacked, on the cutting board:


...and here are the t-shirts minus sleeves and collars and backs:


...and here is the finished quilt top! 
(sorry, pic is fuzzy and doesn't do it justice!)


fyi: I chose to back it in lime green fleece 
and to bind it in a black-ish star print. Pics to come!

MEANWHILE, here is the monster that is our son Andrew's quilty graduation gift! It's king-sized and contains so many of the things he's been passionate about...from Pokemon to swim team to McDs to funny sayings (thank you, Mental Floss!). I chose black minky for the back (he LOVES soft textures) and a rainbow-ish print for the binding. Can't wait to see how it comes together!

...and FINALLY, an Auburn throw for my uber-Auburn-fan husband. This one contains sweatshirt tops from way back in the 80s to now! (Binding will be in the orange dotted fabric seen below, and the back will be an Auburn fleece print. Cozy!)

As soon as January comes, I'm going to start piecing the Christmas quilt I've been planning for oh, about 5 years now. Maybe that way it will actually be ready come Christmas 2015. :)

Any quilty or crafty projects going on in your life?

Friday, December 12, 2014

ON THE WING by David Elliott

Hello and happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Mr. Hankins a.k.a. Paul at These 4 Corners (Living Loving Laughing Learning --- how much do I love that?!) for Roundup.

What a week this has been! So many things going on this month -- youngest sons multitude of Christmas concerts, preparations for our trip to NYC, Christmas-y outings with friends and shopping and last-minute gifts and writing, always always writing.

Today I am taking a break from all that for just a minute to share with you a lovely book ON THE WING by David Elliott, illus. by Becca Stadlander. It's contains short vivid poems about birds! So, bird lovers will love it, and people who aren't bird lovers will BECOME bird lovers. :) I don't think poets will ever NOT be inspired by birds, and rightly so! I'd like to share three of these poems with you today:

The Hummingbird
by David Elliott

     Backward!
Forward!

     Here
then
     there!

Always
        in a
tizzy!

Got
     mo
time
     to
sit
     or
sing!

     Too
busy!
     Busy!
Busy!

(This one is on a two-page spread, and the stanzas flit across, just like hummingbirds. Beautiful!)

The Oriole and the Woodpecker
by David Elliott

Music lovers fast await
the first duet
of summer.
Oriole is vocalist.
Woodpecker is drummer.

(Isn't that perfect?! Of course I love the whole "duet" metaphor what with all the music in my life these days.)

The Macaw
by David Elliott

Who
spilled
the
paint?

(If that doesn't make you smile, you are in dire need of a day off... and more poetry. :)

I'm sitting here wondering which is my favorite bird... ever since SUMMER OF THE SWANS, I have loved swans. I fell in love with the African tanager a few years ago... and every time the cardinals nest outside my kitchen window, they are totally my favorites. :) What about you? Any birds that hold particular appeal for you??

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

DORK DIARIES author Rachel Renee Russell On Writing Across Cultures

The latest issue of Writer's Digest magazine features an article by Tiffany Luckey on DORK DIARIES author Rachel Renee Russell. It's a great article.

When asked how she feels about authors writing about cultures other than their own, Ms. Russell said this:

"Authors of any race and gender should write - number one - what their heart and brain are leading them to write, and - number two - what they're passionate about."

"Authors of any race should be able to write other races. We see [white] authors writing people of color [all the time], so, to be fair, people of color should be able to write other races [as well]."

(Ms. Russell is African American, and her DORK DIARIES protagonist Nicki Maxwell is white.)

She also gave this bit of general advice:

"Write what you are comfortable with, write what you're interested in and what makes you happy."

YES.


Monday, December 8, 2014

Movie Monday: iNTERSTELLAR

After several of my nearest and dearest suggested to me that I would really enjoy INTERSTELLAR, I finally got myself to the theater! Youngest son went with me, even though he'd already seen the movie once.

It was exactly what I expected and nothing like I expected. Tense (expected), pondering big questions (expected), ultimately about love and relationships (unexpected).

I have long been fascinated by space and space travel. (Remember the movie SPACE CAMP?) Planets and meteor showers pop in my writing, as have the Mars rovers and the shuttle launches. I figure we humans will continue to explore the cosmos out of curiosity alone (nevermind other grander reasons like saving humanity). The movie touches on all these things. What is brave? What is love? How can we unravel the mysteries of time and dimensions? Our understanding of ourselves and the universe is tiny compared to the vastness that exists. Are there other beings, a "they?"

The movie brought me back to one of my favorite books of all time: THE SPARROW by Mary Doria Russell. This is one of the few books I have read numerous times as an adult. Lots of big questions in it, as well -- and ultimately, about love and relationships, too.

I don't really have any desire to explore any other planets, except in books and in movies. I'm pretty happy right here on Earth. (I am not a rollercoaster kind of gal -- would not a good astronaut make!) But boy oh boy am I fascinated by what's out there, and how much I admire those who are passionate enough to look mystery in the face, risk everything, and explore the possibilities.

Go see the movie! It'll make you think and feel and wonder.

Friday, December 5, 2014

MANGER (Lee Bennett Hopkins) & "Manger"

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Anastasia at Booktalking #kidlit for Roundup.

Now that it's December, I want to share the loveliness that is MANGER, edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins with illus. by Helen Cann. It includes poems from several of our Poetry Friday friends, and is really a gorgeous take on the Nativity story.

When I was a little girl, there was no story I loved better than the Nativity. I was one of those girls who never ever played with Barbie dolls but loved my baby dolls well past the age when most girls outgrow them. Anything that had to do with babies, I was there. And add animals?! OF COURSE I loved it.

MANGER is a gorgeous book -- each poem spoke to me. And that doesn't often happen in an anthology! All the expected animals are included, and there are a few surprises, like a llama poem by Alma Flor Ada. A llama! Other surprises I've chosen to share with you today are "Fish" by Lee Bennett Hopkins and "Spider's Gift" by Michelle Krueger.

Fish
by Lee Bennett Hopkins

Despite
the world's
sudden glee

we cannot leave
our home -- the sea

but
we will
swish and flap
each fin

for
we, too,

welcome Jesus
in.



Spider's Gift
by Michele Krueger

All evening long
I'll spin my threads
to place upon the child's head.

I will not rest until it's done,
my humble gift to greet the Son.

I'll weave for Him
a cobweb crown,

and on eight legs

bow deeply down.

............

And now, an original poem inspired by the book! I wondered what the manger would say....

Sunday, November 30, 2014

What I Learned from #bloglikecrazy

I can't believe it's the last day of #bloglikecrazy.

I can't believe tomorrow is December 1.

I can't believe we are closing in on the end of 2014.

What a year! What a life! What wonderful things to come!

So, here's what I learned:

I can write about anything.

I can blog every day, but it's a bit much for me. I got a little saggy in the middle of the month and totally wanted to quit.

But I didn't, and I'm glad. I really enjoyed responding to the prompts, which were often out of my comfort zone.

I learned (again) how good it is to get out of my comfort zone. Good for my writing, good for my life, good for me as a human being on this journey.

Changes are coming for me in 2015. I'm thinking now about what that means for my blog. Thank you for hanging in there with me. And thank you, Javacia Bowser for the challenge!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

4 Simple Goals for December #bloglikecrazy

Quilt by Mozell Benson
I can't believe it, but my #bloglikecrazy month is coming to a close! Tomorrow will be the last day. Whew!

Todays' prompt from Javacia Bowser is "Set 4 simple goals for the remainder of 2014 and write about them."

1. Write every day... 1 poem & add some words to my middle grade novel wip.
2. Practice my fiddle every day to be ready for the mini concert I'm giving for the family on Christmas Eve. :)
3. Go to Jazzercise 3-4 times a week.
4. Live in the moment as much as possible... especially on our family trip to NYC!

Friday, November 28, 2014

I Like Old Clothes by Mary Ann Hoberman #bloglikecrazy

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Carol at Carol's Corner for Roundup. I am still buzzing from meeting so many Poetry Friday friends at NCTE! Awesome.

Today's #bloglikecrazy prompt from Javacia Bowser is "write about an outfit you wear that makes you feel fierce."

Man, I love that word "fierce!" As for an outfit that makes me feel fierce... anything with boots. It's the boots that do it for me. :)

And since my favorite place to buy clothes is at the thrift store, I thought it would be fun today to share I LIKE OLD CLOTHES by Mary Ann Hoberman, illus. by Patrice Barton. Originally published in 1976, the book is newly adorably illustrated. It's a celebration of "clothes with a history/ clothes with a mystery." of the past lives of clothes, and the new lives we give them. I love it!

Here's a video of Mary Ann reading the poem.

Here's the Kirkus Review.

Hope everyone had a lovely Turkey Day! Anyone else not quite ready to move into Christmas gear?? Nope, not there yet... hope you have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving Poem #bloglikecrazy

Today's #bloglikecrazy prompt from Javacia Bowser is of course, "What are you thankful for?"

So many things! The beautiful world, the people in it, poetry, you. And as this poem has popped up in my life a couple of times this week, I wanted to share it here. Happy Thanksgiving! (says the girl who just put a turkey in the oven :)

Be Thankful
Be thankful that you don’t already have everything you desire,
If you did, what would there be to look forward to?
Be thankful when you don’t know something
For it gives you the opportunity to learn.
Be thankful for the difficult times.
During those times you grow.
Be thankful for your limitations
Because they give you opportunities for improvement.
Be thankful for each new challenge
Because it will build your strength and character.
Be thankful for your mistakes
They will teach you valuable lessons.
Be thankful when you’re tired and weary
Because it means you’ve made a difference.
It is easy to be thankful for the good things.
A life of rich fulfillment comes to those who are
also thankful for the setbacks.
GRATITUDE can turn a negative into a positive.
Find a way to be thankful for your troubles
and they can become your blessings.
Author Unknown

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

About My New Adopted Brother & Sister #bloglikecrazy

image from here
Today's #bloglikecrazy prompt from Javacia Bowser is “write a post about your family.” There are so many things I could write! But I've decided to share some about Charles and MadiLynn, the two newest additions to our family.

My mother and her husband are foster parents and recently adopted Charles (8) and MadiLynn (6).

When my mother talked with me about their decision to adopt, she said, “So how do you feel about getting a new brother and sister?” I imagine the mix of displacement and intrigue I felt was similar to many an older child's feelings about getting a new sibling. I was initially resistant to thinking of them as a brother and sister... I mean, I already have brothers and sisters – the ones I grew up with. It took me a while to figure out what my role with these kids would be, and it took a while for me to fully open my heart to them.

I didn't understand my mother's choice – as I 'm sure she hasn't understood many of mine. Her decision to adopt more/other children made the little-girl in me feel I wasn't enough, when really it had nothing whatsoever to do with me. And these children, like all children, need love. Even more love than most, I think, given their particular circumstances and the general feelings of abandonment/confusion all foster/adopted children feel. And wasn't I in a great position to offer them love?

So, gradually, I've come around. It still makes me sad sometimes that I am not able to enjoy my mom in the ways I had hoped to as my own children have needed me less and less-- she's in the throes of busy parenting, and I remember how hectic that can be! (How's that for a role reversal?) 

The point is this: Charles and MadiLynn are precious people. I can be their big sister who functions more like an aunt. They are one of the most unexpected things that has happened in my life, and I honor and trust the forces that brought them here. My goal is simply to love them, to be a safe haven for them, a constant in their lives. We have something very important in common – a loving mother.




Tuesday, November 25, 2014

"Hoke, You're My Best Friend." #bloglikecrazy

Today's #bloglikecrazy prompt from Javacia Bowser is “write about your best friend or a group of friends.” 

I've been blessed with some wonderful friendships over the years. I've also experienced the crash-n-burn friendship, the not-what-I-thought-it-was friendship, the slipping-away-we've-outgrown-each-other friendship. I've made a lot of mistakes and learned a lot and loved deeply. But no friendship has impacted my life more obviously than the friendship I share with my husband.

Paul and I met on a blind date. We were set up by my best friend in college Cindy and her friend/Paul's sister Donna. They just knew Paul and I were meant for each other. It didn't take us very long to believe they were right!

A pic of us at my parents' house, just after we got engaged. 1990
Nearly 24 years ago when we went on that first date I remember how after we'd enjoyed our meal, Paul pulled from his pocket a newspaper clipping of the movie schedule. (Back in the day when we used the newspaper for such things!) He asked me what I wanted to see, and I, without hesitation, pointed to DRIVING MISS DAISY. So that's what we saw. Of course it's a story about the unlikely friendship between Miss Daisy and her driver Hoke. It's one of only two films we watch again every single year. (The other is IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE.)


Paul is not my driver (okay, sometimes he is!), but he is definitely my best friend. I'm so grateful.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Bobbie's Best Cornbread & Grandma Dykes' Hoecake Recipes #bloglikecrazy

original cornbread recipe from one of my
favorite cooks: my mother-in-law
Bobbie Latham. You can see my
adapted version of this recipe below!
I am still buzzing from #ncte14 but am committed to following through on my November blogging challenge! More on NCTE later.

Today's #bloglikecrazy prompt from Javacia Bowser is to write about a favorite meal or dish.

A couple of things come to mind:
1. lobster dish from Dish of Salt restaurant in NYC. This restaurant is no longer open, but for several years in a row on our trip to The City, we would dine there. The restaurant served Cantonese dishes, and there was always live music – usually a pianist playing Broadway show tunes. Amazing ambiance. I was completely enchanted – and that was before we got to the food!

The dish we loved best of all was called Crown Lobster. One time when we asked our server what was in it, he said the sauce had a mayonnaise base. Basically it was bite sized pieces of lobster tossed in this incredible sauce over rice. DELICIOUS. Maybe more so now, because the restaurant is gone and never again will we enjoy that particular meal! Maybe this recipe is close? I will have to try it!

Speaking of lobster, a few years back on a trip to Maine, we made it our mission to enjoy lobster prepared in as many ways as possible. We ended up having some fourteen lobster dishes! But we drew the line at lobster ICE CREAM. I kind of regret it now, but at the time I wrinkled my nose and order the fresh berry tart instead. I mean, ice cream? Really?

The ONLY brand of corn meal to use
for hoecakes!
As for home-cooked dishes, two women come to mind: my Grandma Dykes and my mother-in-law Bobbie. I miss them both so much!! Interestingly neither knew how to cook when they got married, but they soon learned! Each loved to prepare cornbread to go with a vegetable dinner, usually made with homegrown veggies.

Grandma Dykes's cornbread was actually a hoe-cake made of water-milled fine-ground white corn meal. Add salt and water to make a batter. Pour into a puddle of heated oil into an iron skillet on the stovetop. Fried bread. Crispy on the edges/outside, gooey in the middle. So, so good! The kids get pretty excited when I make it.






Bobbie's cornbread is made in the oven. Heat some butter in an iron skillet at 450 degrees. When it begins to brown, pour in the batter. Batter is made of buttermilk corn meal mix (I use Aunt Jemima's), buttermilk, egg, blurb of oil. Brown in oven approximately 20 minutes, then flip and cook another few minutes. Buttery and moist and delicious! I use it every year at Thanksgiving to make dressing.

Just a few days now... excited to get in my kitchen!


Sunday, November 23, 2014

My Favorite Place #bloglikecrazy


In our bathroom, we have a piece of art that says, "If I could live forever, and you would live with me, I'd choose a house for all seasons in a mountain greenery."

When I'm feeling stressed, this is the place I go. It's not an actual place, but it IS real in all the ways that matter most. And it's the first thing that popped in my head for today's #bloglikecrazy prompt from Javacia Bowser. :)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

If I Wasn't Afraid #bloglikecrazy

If I wasn't afraid...
I would ride more horses.

When I was young, I was crazy for horses. I knew everything there was to know about them. When it came to riding and jumping and grooming and training -- I was fearless.

These days I know too much. I've been bitten, stepped on, kicked, I've fallen, been thrown, and broken a bone.

I'm so thankful for those fearless days. SO glad I had that experience. But these days I am content to just watch instead of ride. It's not worth getting hurt!

Thank you, Javacia Bowser for the #bloglikecrazy prompt!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Guilty Pleasures #bloglikecrazy

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! I am at NCTE this weekend and don't have a poetic offering to share... but please visit Becky at Tapestry of Words.

Meanwhile, I am heading into the homestretch of blogging everyday during November! Today's #bloglikecrazy prompt from Javacia Bowser is " Write about your guilty pleasures and why you don't actually feel that guilty for loving them."

First things that comes to my mind:

The Bachelor. I watch at least some of it every season. And yes, I know it's cast with a certain result in mind, and it's predictable and sometimes ridiculous ... but I still like to watch it. :)

Dove chocolates. Dark is my favorite. I have one nearly every day as a mid-morning snack. (I eat 'em for the inspiring messages. :)

Birthday Cake Shake from Zaxby's. If you haven't had one of these, you have something delicious to look forward to! LOVE THEM.

And, no I don't really feel guilty about these things. More like I should feel guilty ?? It's actually important to me these days to take time to treat myself -- in the past I've had a bad habit of putting myself last! I'm getting better. :)

Thursday, November 20, 2014

FITNESS THAT'S FUN #bloglikecrazy

Today's #bloglikecrazy prompt from Javacia Bowser is "Write a post about fitness - how you stay fit or how you plan to get in shape."

So, fitness.

I don't do so well with workout routines that are for the purpose of working out. :) I like exercise that happens in my daily life: walks around the neighborhood or at the park; playing with the dogs; mopping; sweeping; raking leaves; parking at the edge of the parking lot and walking. Stuff like that.

BUT. I realize these don't necessarily achieve the fitness goals for a person my age. So I do other stuff, too. Ever heard of the 7 Minute Workout? It's an app for your phone. (My sister introduced me to it.) One of the things I love about it is that it doesn't require any other equipment -- just you and your body.

I also love yoga and stretching. But I get bored easily. I need something that's different all the time. Which is why last month I returned to Jazzercise. I love it! I've been going 3-4 times a week, and oh, man, do I feel stronger! Plus, it is SO MUCH FUN. Even for someone like me who doesn't particularly like public exercise and who has no dance or athletic history. I love the music, I love *trying* the dance moves, and sometimes even pulling them off.

What do YOU like to do for fitness?


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

30 Things I Love Right Now #bloglikecrazy

Scarves.
Leggings.
Boots. (Yay for winter clothes!)
Grapefruit juice.
Little House on the Prairie (re-reading for the first time as an adult!)
Planning a trip to NYC.
Conversations with my 17 year old niece.
Jazzercise.
Playing Christmas music on my fiddle.
Redeeming my Jr. Frosty coupons.
Naps, when I can get 'em.
The quilt of leaves over my front lawn.
Dove Dark chocolates.
Working on T-shirt quilt for Middle Son (will be a high school graduation gift!).
Daily conversations with my father. (Speaking of gifts...)
Parenthood on Netflix. (We are on season 2!)
BIG LITTLE LIES by Liane Moriarity.
Preparing for NCTE.
Watching the cats sleep.
Antarctica.
Thinking about 2015.
Searching for bowls in the thrift/antique stores.
Planning Christmas gifts.
Eric's concert season.
Soundcloud.
Revlon Colorstay Ultimate lipstick.
My standing computer work station.
My work-in-progress. (Right now, this moment. Could change in the next 5  minutes!)
The way the puppy (now 6 months old) keeps finding all the long lost kids' toys in the backyard.
Glass art.

Thanks to Javacia Bowser for the  #bloglikecrazy prompt!


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Things I Don't Blog About #bloglikecrazy


This blog doesn't do negative.
That's it.
That's my only rule.

(Anyone who wants to use this badge is welcome to it!)

Thank you, Javacia Bowser for the #bloglikecrazy prompt!

Monday, November 17, 2014

LITTLE HOUSE Books, Revisted #bloglikecrazy

Today's #bloglikecrazy prompt from Javacia Bowser is "What I Learned About Myself From _______ (This can be a book, a film, an album, or even a person.)"

This fall I took an online course on Laura Ingalls Wilder: Laura Ingalls Wilder: Exploring Her Work and Writing Life.* Part of the course requirement was to read the first four books, of which I have finished LITTLE HOUSE IN THE BIG WOODS and FARMER BOY.

I adored these books as a young girl. ADORED THEM. This was my first time to read them as an adult.

A couple of thing stood out:

LITTLE HOUSE IN THE BIG WOODS is quiet. It's episodic. There's no real character arc. And there are lots and lots of Pa stories! I didn't remember this. I also didn't remember Pa calling Laura "Half-pint" in the books -- I thought that came from the TV show. I loved reading it in the text!

FARMER BOY is full of action. We know what Almanzo wants -- a colt of his very own. There are all sorts of animals and life lessons interwoven -- there's farm life and school life and the fair!

What I Learned About Myself: 43 year old me craves character depth and development. I need action and adventure. And I love boy main characters. (Maybe FARMER BOY has something to do with why the majority of books I write feature boy main characters? Even LEAVING GEE'S BEND had a boy main character the first time I wrote it!)

Now I am diving into LITTLE TOWN ON THE PRAIRIE... and most looking forward to ON THE BANKS OF PLUM CREEK, which, I learned during the course, that editor Ursula Nordstrom (If you haven't yet read DEAR GENIUS, go! Read!) found to be the perfect middle-grade book.

The course itself was fascinating.

I learned that Laura and her daughter Rose exemplify what I have often claimed: the mother-daughter relationship is THE most complicated of all relationships. Theirs was even more complicated by adding in the writer/editor layer.

I learned we've come a long way with how we write and think about race relations. Laura Ingalls Wilder's writing represents the time of her life. It's important for young readers today to be aware of that as they enjoy these stories.

I learned I admire Laura Ingalls Wilder all the more for the way she followed Emily Dickinson's advice "Tell all the truth but tell it slant." No, she wasn't writing an autobiography -- she was using her life experiences to tell a story. It's true in the ways it needed to be true, and she wisely left out/combined events/people that would have distracted/weakened the story.

*For those who are interested: you can join the second part of this course, starting on April 6th, 2015. The course will cover the last five Little House books, as well as Rose Wilder Lane’sLet the Hurricane Roar. To receive more information, please follow this link and fill out the following form: http://outreach.missouristate.edu/MOOCinfo.htm
.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

To The Haters #bloglikecrazy

Pic from Soulful Mamahood
Today #bloglikecrazy prompt from Javacia Bowser is "Learn to love your haters by taking a negative comment and flipping it into an empowering post."

A few years ago I taught at a summer writing camp for teens. When I read the evaluation forms written by the kids, I found lots of wonderful feedback -- and one comment that poked and rubbed and irritated: "Speaker tries to hard."

Tries to hard. Really?

The comment stung because yes, I try VERY hard. I want to please my audience. I put a lot of effort into my presentations. I'm over-the-top well-prepared. And hello, I am passionate about what I do. Enthusiasm, in my opinion, could be THE MOST IMPORTANT quality of a good presentation and dare I say, a happy life. Enthusiasm will take you FAR.

So yes, I try hard. And if that annoys you, young lady, I do NOT apologize. I encourage you to go out and find something YOU are passionate about. Something that inspires you to go above and beyond. I want to see YOU bubbling over. I want some other less-enthusiastic teen to roll his or her eyes at you, and for you, years later, to think about it, and realize the people who are annoyed by enthusiasm are only annoyed because THEY WISH THEY HAD IT.


Saturday, November 15, 2014

A Time I Changed My Mind #bloglikecrazy

Today's #bloglikecrazy prompt from Javacia Bowser is "write about a time you changed your mind."

Once upon a time I was struggling in my writing life -- my ability not in line with my desire -- and I applied for and was accepted into the Amherst Writers & Artists program. I completely love Pat Schneider's book WRITING ALONE & WITH OTHERS, and I thought, this is it, this is what I want to do: teach others to share their stories through poetry. I was ready to write my check, board the flight, leave my young family to earn my certification.

Then I went to a Alabama State Poetry Society meeting where I shared with a poet I admire and who does similar work. She was completely supportive as we talked about the excitement -- and hardship-- of completing the program. She said, "you don't need a certificate to do that." Also, "remember, the writing, your writing is the most important part."

And I thought, hmmm. She right! And while I am sure the program would have helped make me a better writer, I realized I was pursuing the certification as a way to distract myself from the greater task, which was (and is) to write all the things in my heart.

Yes, I hope to inspire others. But mostly this writing thing is for ME. I have to be careful: when it gets hard or challenging and things aren't going my way, it's not the time to take another path. I need to hold steady on the path I'm on.

Friday, November 14, 2014

BEST CHILDREN'S POETRY BOOKS 2014 #bloglikecrazy

Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Keri at Keri Recommends for Roundup!

Today's #bloglikecrazy prompt from Javacia Bowser is "write about the best book you've read this year."

I find Best Of lists innately flawed and frustrating. Must we pit books against books? I love books for different reasons and find it so hard to separate out my emotional, completely subjective and intensely personal responses to evaluate a book. My enjoyment is rooted in the emotion, however perfectly or imperfectly crafted! Which is why I blog about the books I enjoy as I encounter them, and in no particular order.

This year I've blogged about the following 2014 poetry books for children:

DEAR WANDERING WILDEBEEST AND OTHER POEMS FROM THE WATER HOLE by Irene Latham, illustrations by Anna Wadham  (obviously!)

HI, KOO! by Jon J. Muth

LITTLE POEMS FOR TINY EARS by Lin Oliver

POEM-MOBILES by J. Patrick Lewis & Douglas Florian

A POND FULL OF INK by Annie M.G. Schmidt

CAMINAR by Skila Brown

THE POETRY FRIDAY ANTHOLOGY for SCIENCE compiled by Sylvia Vardell & Janet Wong

BROWN GIRL DREAMING by Jacqueline Woodson

FIREFLY JULY edited by Paul Janeczko


In the queue for blog posts coming soon:

MANGER, edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins (and containing poems by many of my most favorite poets!)

WINTER BEES & OTHER POEMS OF THE COLD by Joyce Sidman

POISONED APPLES: Poems for You, My Pretty by Christine Heppermann

(How 'bout them apples? Ha. Couldn't resist!)

and today, a few words about SANTA CLAUSES: Short Poems for the North Pole by Bob Raczka, illustrated by Chuck Groenink. (Link takes you to a great interview with the author at Today's Little Ditty... and a challenge that could win you a copy of the book!) What a wonderful way to bring poetry to the masses! I love thinking of Santa Claus as a secret poet. I mean, I tell kids all the time that poets are seldom only poets, but doctors & poets, plumbers & poets, teachers & poets, accountants & poets, moms & poets, you name it! You can be a poet and be anything else in addition to being a poet!

My favorite part of SANTA CLAUSES: Mrs. Claus. Clearly she is Santa's muse. Let me show you what I mean:

December 3
Mrs. Clause making
an angel, becoming a
little girl again.

December 11
Kisses from Mrs.
Claus under the mistletoe
tickle like snowflakes.

December 18th
Mrs. Claus and I
wrapped neatly in our bed quilts --
matching packages.

--- Bob Raczka

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Music & Me #bloglikecrazy

Today's #bloglikecrazy prompt from Javacia Bowser is "Write about your favorite CD of the year thus far."

Truth is, I don't buy many CDs; I have Spotify. :) And I often chauffeur my 14 year old son who uses the opportunity to plays for me music of his choosing, including some of his own original pieces.

Most of the time in the car I am listening to a book on tape. Sometimes, recently, I've been listening various fiddle music -- mostly Mark O'Connor, whose work is completely amazing. At Jazzercise, the songs are not selected by me and are from a wide variety of genres - which suits me fine. All this to say, there's a lot of music in my life, but not a lot of CD time!

My husband did, however, recently get Bob Seger's latest RIDE OUT when he got us tickets to see him in concert (January 2015. Yay!). And I love it! The whole CD. I'm torn between sharing "Adam and Eve" or "You Take Me In." The latter wins, because I am ever the sucker for a love song.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

November Poem #bloglikecrazy

Today's prompt from Javacia Bowser is to use your favorite Instagram images as a prompt for writing. Instead, I am pairing a recent Instagram pic (taken in my backyard) with a poem I wrote years ago. It actually appears in my book of  poems WHAT CAME BEFORE, which was released in 2007, so wow, been a while!

To freshen it up for today, I am experimenting with creating images on picmonkey. It's fun! And frustrating. I'm learning. Happy November!





November

Even the sky
is naked

now, brisk air
having finally

chased off
the clouds.

Trees sway
in the backyard,

wind pushes
my collar up

as yellow-brown
tornadoes

tear across
the lawn

in a dance
that can only

be done
when all else

has been stripped
away ---

like just before
our lips touch,


or just after.

- Irene Latham

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

DON'T FEED THE BOY Summer Giveaway Update! #bloglikecrazy

Today's #bloglikecrazy prompt from Javacia Bowser is "post a Q&A with a woman you admire." Love it! And I have done it lots of times. Today I want to revisit a interview I posted with Laura Shovan about her work as editor at Little Patuxent Review. I believe their submissions period for the "food" issue just closed, but keep an eye out -- they always have interesting themes! 

And now, even though the leaves are finally turning yellow, I want to turn your attention back to summer.

 Remember back in June when I hosted a giveaway of a classroom set (25!) to celebrate the paperback release of DON'T FEED THE BOY? Many of you sent in pics of you at a zoo and/or joined me for Zoo Days during June or July. FUN. Michelle Heidenrich Barnes was the lucky winner, and she donated the books to P. K. Yonge Developmental Research School in Gainesville, Florida. Go Blue Wave!

Here are some pics of Mrs. Haynes 5th Grade Advisory Group including Parris, Taylor, Ayonna, A'shawna, Daniela & Mrs. Haynes:


Thank you SO MUCH for reading! 

And thanks to Michelle and to student photographer Savannah for taking the shots. Nothing pleases a writer's heart more than seeing readers enjoying a book. And if it's one that writer has written? AWESOME.

Finally: Happy Veteran's Day! Thanks to those service men and women AND their families for their gift to all of us.



Monday, November 10, 2014

Manifesto-ing on a Monday #bloglikecrazy

Today's #bloglikecrazy prompt from Javacia Bowser is "Write your manifesto." It's a great prompt, and something I try to do every few years. Here's my most recent, as it appears in my latest book of poems for adults THE SKY BETWEEN US.
Cartographer’s Creed

We don’t believe in perfection.
We thrive on striving,
we give credit where due.
Arrows warn of steep climbing—

or precipitous descent.
Curving contour lines
offer temporary respite.
Every road ends on

or off the map,
merging with others,
with mountains or meadows.
Just because a lake

isn’t sketched and marked
doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
Despite what we’ve been taught,
the legend is not

what’s most important.
Explore, meander.
Leave something out;
allow mystery to watercolor

and soften the ink.
Be tender as you unfold.
Treasure the places
tucked into creases.

- Irene Latham

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Yes, I Love THE TWILIGHT SAGA, and I'm Not Sorry. #bloglikecrazy

Today's #bloglikecrazy prompt from Javacia Bowser is "write a post about something you do, love, or believe that's unpopular with most folks."

There are more than a few things I could write about, but I've selected my pure, sweet enjoyment and enthusiasm for the Twilight series by Stephenie Myers.

I mean, writers love to hate this series. I don't need to give you a rundown of the complaints and criticisms -- and don't even get me started on the movies! There's the whole Bella-will-do-anything-for-Edward angle... and Holy Creepy, He Watches Her SLEEP!

Well, I for one, get it. I've experienced love like that -- the intoxication, the single-mindedness... I wish everyone in the world that experience. And him watching her sleep? It's sweet. I am Team Edward all the way and until the End of Time. I like the old-fashionedness of it, the devotion. And there's Girl Power, too. Both. That's what I want in my entertainment and real life.

Oh, and the movies! Say what you will, but I love them! Sweet Husband and I have watched the whole series through more than one. (For the record, NEW MOON is my fave book and movie, with the last movie following as second favorite.)

So there. Now you know. Me + Twilight = BFF. Possibly this event in my teenhood might have something to do with it. :) And for those who disagree: we love what we love. Simple as that.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

How NOT to Write Poetry #bloglikecrazy

Today's #bloglikecrazy prompt from Javacia Bowser is "Write a How NOT to Post."

If I was feeling clever today, I would totally whip something up for all of you to read. (I think the How NOT to posts are generally supposed to be clever and funny.) But I'm tired today, and all out of clever. The best I can offer is a roundup of links where others speak on the topic of How NOT to Write Poetry. Enjoy!

Poetry Foundation

The Paris Review

Poefrika

The Literature Network Forums

Poems & Quotes

Friday, November 7, 2014

How To Live Your Poem #bloglikecrazy

Hello, and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit the ever-inspiring (and ever-inspired!) Diane at Random Noodling for Roundup!

Since November 1, I have been participating in #bloglikecrazy, following prompts provided by Javacia Bowser. So far I have blogged about:

Why I Blog
Life Goals
Personal Mission Statement.
Open Letter
Letter to a Younger Me
A Case Against Expertise

and today's prompt is "Write a How To Post." As many of you know, I have a page on this blog dedicated to How To Live Your Poem. This prompt reminded me that's it's been a while since I added any  new poems to the list, and when I read through my list, I realized there's not a single children's poem included.We need to change that! If you can think of a children's poem that should be included, please let me know in comments so I can add it! Meanwhile, I offer you the two newest editions to the list:

15. Wait. "Patience" by Marilyn Singer

Patience
by Marilyn Singer

I thought I would be taller
     in the mountains
A queen of green and brown
     my realm laid out below me
          neat as the rug Grandma hooked
     one St. Patrick's Day

I thought I would be braver
     in the  mountains
Following the fierce paths
     of pumas and grizzlies
Ledge leaper
     Crag climber
Taking nothing for granted
     Leaving nothing unexplored

I thought I would be wiser
     in the mountains
Reading the history of the world
     in the weathered rocks
Hearing lectures
     in the wind and water falls
Stretching my mind
     broader than Grandpa's tall stories
          multiplied by ten

I thought I would be tall
                                       braver
                                       wiser
     in the mountains
And I wasn't
But I am more patient
    in the mountains
And I can wait

-from FOOTPRINTS ON THE ROOF: Poems about the Earth by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by Meilo So (Knopf, 2002)
--------------------------------------------

16. Take the string you need. "To a Red Kite" by Lilian Moore

To A Red Kite
by Lilian Moore

Fling
yourself
upon the sky.

Take the string
you need.
Ride high

high
above the park.
Tug and buck
and lark
with the wind.

Touch a cloud,
red kite.
Follow the wild geese
in their flight.

from SOMETHING NEW BEGINS: New and Selected Poems by Lilian Moore (Atheneum, 1982)


Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Case Against Expertise #bloglikecrazy

Today's #bloglikecrazy prompt from Javacia Bowser is this: “Everyone is an expert in something. Write a post about your area of expertise – why you consider yourself and expert and how you came to be one.”

I'm good at a lot of things: cooking, sewing, crafting, time management, listening, loving others, meeting deadlines, problem solving....

When I asked my husband what I'm an expert at, he said “saying yes to our children.” It's true: YES is my parenting philosophy. I try to say "yes" as much as possible. Now that I've been a parent for over 20 years, I guess maybe I'm good at it. But an expert? Hmmmmm....

And then there's writing. I've written millions of words. I've been fortunate enough to have books published. But. I AM NOT AN EXPERT.

Even with poetry, the genre I have the most experience with, I still feel like a beginner. I have so much more to learn!

I consider myself a student of the world. I am learning every day. I don't know that I'll ever be comfortable using the word “expert” to describe myself.

So maybe... I'm an expert at NOT being an expert. Ha!


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Dear Younger-Writer-Me, As You Embark upon the Journey of Publication #bloglikecrazy

Dear Younger-Writer-Me, As You Embark upon the Journey of Publication,

Here you are, finally. I'm thrilled to see you pulling those poems and stories out of drawers, seeing them as a reader might see them. It's an exciting time, and I'm so glad you're here. You've been writing for a long time. You're good at it. You love words.

No matter how it may seem, how you may regret waiting so long to get started, remember you're not too late or too early; you're exactly where you need to be. And it's great that you want to try now to get published. One of the most wonderful parts about being a writer is connecting with others, fulfilling that promise of communication. This is what you've been moving toward ever since 4 year old you began jotting poems and thoughts and lines.

You need to know that it's not going to happen right away. This dream of yours, it's not going to go the way you want it to or the way you think it should. As clever as you are, as much as you crave and think you deserve it, there are no shortcuts. You can't manipulate this. Strap on your hiking boots and pack light. It's going to be a long journey. You'll get lost sometimes. You'll want to turn back. You'll want to crawl back into your comfortable skin.

Don't.

Above all, trust the process. Let go of the outcome. Allow the universe an opportunity to bring this to you instead of you working so hard to make it happen.

Focus on the writing. Like any other skill, it takes practice. You will learn and improve and all those ideas aching to emerge will sing. It takes time. Ten thousand hours. More.

Be brave. Enter contests. Share your work. Ask for help. Listen. Try out other people's suggestions. Sift through the information you're given for the shiny specks. Remember that words are fluid. And there are so many of them! Move them around, discard them, replace them, make up new ones. There is no one right path. You will get there however you get there.

The only way to fail is to stop writing.

Don't stop.

Even on the days when you receive a crushing rejection, remember your words are important. The world needs your stories. You are the only one with your particular truth. You must carry on. You've been given a gift – the love of the written word, the patience and wonder it takes to create poems and stories – share it with the world. Love yourself enough to resist judgment and comparisons and envy and those other wastes. Write like the world is on fire, and it's your job to save it. Write like you're an alien visiting from another planet. Write like your heart will stop beating if you don't.

And someday, when you do get published, pop the cork, dance a jig. Then remind yourself it's not about you. You didn't do this. It's the words. And how they flow through you. Pick up your paddle. Go back to the river. Always go back to the river.

Love,
You, A Little Further Along the Trail

Thank you, Javacia Bowser for the "Write a letter to your younger self" #bloglikecrazy prompt!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Election Day Poem & an Open Letter #bloglikecrazy



Election Day

Sift through promises,
replay interviews;

step inside the booth.
Forget scripted speeches,

and candy-wrapped slogans.
Weigh again each pro

and con. Remember
the teeming world,

its people who dream
of freedom--

so many denied
the right to decide.

Read the names,
imagine a future;

make the best choice.
In the space between breaths

your voice is heard
without a word.

- Irene Latham

...and the #bloglikecrazy prompt today from Javacia Bowser is Write a letter to your younger self. I want to do that. I will do that. Tomorrow. Today, please accept a link to the prompt for tomorrow (see, I'm just switching things up!): Write an open letter to someone you need to thank. One of my favorite posts I've ever written is an open letter: DEAR JULIUS LESTER. Enjoy! Meanwhile, I'm adding the open letter prompt to my priority list for 2015. Perhaps monthly?? Hmmm...