Friday, February 23, 2018

POETRY FRIDAY: IT'S TANKA TIME (again)

Thank you to Liz Steinglass for hosting Poetry Friday today!
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South Carolina has officially slid into a spring-like weather pattern, and I am not sure how I feel about this. Everywhere I look, trees are blooming and spring bulbs are poking up through the ground, and yesterday it was almost 80 degrees where I live! Seriously!! I am not sure how I feel about this…as much as I love springtime, I feel like we barely had a winter here.

For this week’s Poetry Friday post, I was inspired to write a poem about our quick switch from winter to spring, and chose the tanka. Tanka poems are siblings of the Japanese haiku and follow a 5/7/5/7/7 syllabic format. They allow the author more room to “move around” within the poem, but still provide a relative close snapshot of the subject, which is what I love so much about haiku poetry. Here is my tanka:



Variations on a Theme
by Becky Shillington

Winter, where are you?
Outside, blooms make their debut
to birdsong, although
the calendar tells me it’s
February twenty-third.


I hope that, wherever you are today, the weather is just the way you like it this time of year! Have a wonderful weekend!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY and my VALENTINY CONTEST ENTRY

Here in the south, a snowfall is a rare and much anticipated occurrence. Most of the time (at least where my family lives), when the weather forecast says there’s a chance of snow, we don’t see a single flake. And it is so very sad to see the disappointment on my boys’ faces when they wake up and realize that—once again—the snow has passed us by.

But when it does snow—watch out! It's party time in our neighborhood! So when I learned the topic of Susanna Leonard Hill's Third Annual Valentiny Contest, I knew right away what I wanted to write about. The rules were simply to write a children’s Valentine’s story (214 words or less) in which someone is hopeful. Here is my entry:

HOPING FOR SNOW
by Becky Shillington (214 words)
  
When Dad says, “There’s a chance of snow!”
I dance around and whoop and cheer.
But just as I begin to hope,
I think, “We never get snow here.”

My Valentines are neatly stacked.
I’ve made each friend a special treat.
So if it doesn’t snow tonight,
at least school will be fun and sweet!

When Mom and Dad tuck me in bed,
I toss and turn and sigh all night.
As minutes tick-tock off my clock,
I peek outside and look for white.

Then suddenly, tomorrow’s here.
Mom sings, “It’s time to rise and shine!”
I look outside again. No snow.
But here’s a lovely Valentine!

At school, my friends have sleepy eyes;
it looks like no one slept last night.
“No snow—no FAIR,” they all complain.
“There goes our epic snowball fight!”

“Cheer up!” I say. “It STILL might snow—
the news guy said so on TV.”
I hand each friend an envelope.
“Now here’s a special treat from me!”

They open up their Valentines
and smile when they see what’s inside:
a cookie heart for everyone
and heart-shaped snowflakes made with pride.

“Let’s find some string and hang these up.
We’ll make it snow ourselves,” I say.
But as we work, I look outside.
“It’s snowing now for real! HOORAY!”


I hope you all have a very happy Valentine’s Day! 

Friday, December 15, 2017

POETRY FRIDAY: Tanka Poetry

Thank you to Diane at Random Noodling for hosting Poetry Friday this week!
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In my poetry presentations next week, I will be introducing elementary school students to different types of poetry and then they will write their own winter- or holiday-themed poems. This presentation is one of my favorites and includes poems about different December holidays and the winter season. I look forward to sharing these poems with the kids every year!

One of the types of poetry we will be exploring next week is the Japanese tanka. A tanka is similar to a haiku (but longer) and is also a poetic format that originated in Japan. Tanka poetry follows a 5/7/5/7/7 syllable format and was created to allow deeper emotional exploration than is possible within the shorter 5/7/5 syllables of haiku poetry. Below is an example of a Christmas tanka that I wrote to share with the children.

If you enjoy writing haiku (which I LOVE!), try writing a tanka poem today. It is a fun challenge and a great way to stretch your poetry-writing muscles!

I hope you are enjoying all the fun festivities that December has to offer. Have a beautiful holiday season, and Happy Writing!

Friday, December 1, 2017

POETRY FRIDAY: December Poetry and Writing with the Stars

Thanks to Mary Lee Hahn at A Year of Reading for hosting Poetry Friday this week!
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November was a banner month for me. I signed with my wonderful co-agents, Marisa Corvisiero and Meg LaTorre-Snyder of Corvisiero Literary Agency, I traveled to Indianapolis to see my boys’ high school marching band compete at Grand Nationals (I am a proud tuba and trombone mom), and I surpassed my goal of 50,000 words in this year’s NaNoWriMo!
Now I am busy preparing for holiday gatherings, church performances, and one of my favorite traditions—the December poetry workshop I do each year with local fifth graders. In our October workshop, we talked about the importance of the poetic tradition, had fun with rhyme scheme, and read lots of wonderful poetry. In just a few weeks, we will continue our discussion and I will introduce some more fun poetic formats.
One of the fun forms we discuss each year is acrostic poetry. This format has been around a looooong time; acrostic poetry was discovered during the archaeological digs at Pompeii! The most common variation of the acrostic poem has a subject spelled out vertically in the left-hand margin, with each letter serving as the beginning of a word or phrase relating to or describing the subject.
Most elementary-aged students are familiar with acrostic poetry and are confident masters of the format. But when I show the kids this acrostic poem by my friend and critique partner Derick Wilder, with both the first AND last letters of each line spelling out the subject, they are shocked and amazed:


When it is time for the kids to write their own poems at the end of our lesson, many choose to tackle this particular challenge. It’s always fun to see what they come up with!
Another kid favorite is the cinquain, which is a five-line poem that spotlights a person, place, or thing. Each line has a prescribed formula and minimal words, and follows this pattern:
Line 1: Title - 1 word (noun)
Line 2: Description - 2 words (adjectives)                                                                  Line 3: Action - 3 words (verbs)                                                                                      Line 4: Feeling - 4 words (phrase)                                                                                  Line 5: Title - 1 word (synonym for the first noun)
Here is a cinquain poem that I share with the kids each year (this one was written by me):
I look forward to sharing more December poetry next week!
IF YOU WRITE PICTURE BOOKS please keep reading! My talented friend and critique partner Tara Luebbe*, who has two picture books coming out this spring (SHARK NATE-O from little bee and I AM FAMOUS from Albert Whitman), is kicking off the second year of her Writing with the Stars mentorship program. Writing with the Stars is a (free) contest that will match 16 aspiring picture book writers/illustrators with 16 published professionals. Mentorships are available for authors and author/illustrators who are unpublished and unagented.
I am super excited to finally be able to share this year’s incredible list of mentors, who are volunteering their time and talents to help aspiring picture book writers. Seriously, people—it is such an OUTSTANDING list!
So, drumroll, please….the 2017 Writing with the Stars mentors are:

Andrea Loney
Alastair Heim
Stacy McAnulty
Lindsay Ward
Melissa Iwai & Denis Markell
Josh Funk
Laura Gehl
Adam Lehrhaupt
Pam Calvert
Jody Jensen Shaffer
Corey Rosen Schwartz
Annie Silvestro
Rachel Ruiz
Lori Degman
Jennifer K. Mann
Brianne Farley

For more information, visit Tara’s website here. You can also follow Tara on Twitter at @t_luebbe. Please feel free to share this with any picture book authors or author/illustrators that you know!

Have a wonderful weekend, and Happy Writing!

* Yes, I know—I have some rock star critique partners!


Thursday, November 9, 2017

Big News!

I am thrilled to announce that I am now represented by Marisa Corvisiero and Meg LaTorre-Snyder of the Corvisiero Literary Agency! Marisa and Meg are enthusiastic about my work and I couldn’t be more pleased to have them in my corner!

I have been busy writing, revising, and submitting this year, attending conferences, and participating in the 12 x 12 Picture Book Challenge. In October, I was fortunate enough to attend the 2017 Rutgers One-on-One Plus Conference, where I met with editors and connected with some online writer friends in person. To say that the last few months have been “busy” would be an understatement—“whirlwind” would be a much more appropriate term! But it has all been good! ☺

Serendipitously, I am surrounded by success at the moment (more posts to come on this topic—my critique partners have been on FIRE lately!), and am having the BEST time writing a young adult novel this month for my inaugural NaNoWriMo attempt. Receiving an offer of representation from Marisa and Meg is truly the icing on the cake, and I can’t wait to see what happens next!

When you have a chance, please check out my author page on the Corvisiero Literary Agency website. Enjoy the rest of your week, and Happy Writing!

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Celebrating NATIONAL POETRY MONTH

April is one of my favorite months because it is National Poetry Month, an entire month to celebrate POETRY! Since 1996, poets and poetry lovers around the world have participated in this annual celebration, spearheaded by the Academy of American Poets

One of my favorite things about National Poetry Month is the annual Poem in Your Pocket Day, which will be observed on Thursday, April 27 this year. On this day, poetry lovers are encouraged to carry a favorite poem in their pockets and share it with friends and family. I am already thinking about which poem I will choose! Here is one of my contenders, a favorite poem about spring written by American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:

An April Day
By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)

     When the warm sun, that brings
Seed-time and harvest, has returned again,
'T is sweet to visit the still wood, where springs
    The first flower of the plain.

    I love the season well,
When forest glades are teeming with bright forms,
Nor dark and many-folded clouds foretell
    The coming-on of storms.

    From the earth's loosened mould
The sapling draws its sustenance, and thrives;
Though stricken to the heart with winter's cold,
    The drooping tree revives.

    The softly-warbled song
Comes from the pleasant woods, and colored wings
Glance quick in the bright sun, that moves along
    The forest openings.

    When the bright sunset fills
The silver woods with light, the green slope throws
Its shadows in the hollows of the hills,
    And wide the upland glows.

    And when the eve is born,
In the blue lake the sky, o'er-reaching far,
Is hollowed out and the moon dips her horn,
    And twinkles many a star.

    Inverted in the tide
Stand the gray rocks, and trembling shadows throw,
And the fair trees look over, side by side,
    And see themselves below.

    Sweet April! many a thought
Is wedded unto thee, as hearts are wed;
Nor shall they fail, till, to its autumn brought,
    Life's golden fruit is shed.

Click here here for more information about this year’s National Poetry Month festivities. Happy Spring, and Happy Writing!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

POETRY FRIDAY: Holiday Math Poetry and a NEW CONTEST for PB Writers!

Thank you to Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference 
for hosting Poetry Friday this week!
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With a little over a week to go before Christmas, life has been a crazy whirl of holiday programs, concerts, parties, and shopping (the wrapping will commence soon☺). School will be OUT in just a few days, so in honor of the upcoming break from all things scholarly, I am sharing a few math poems that I wrote. I’ve posted about math poetry previously (click here for more on this fun poetic format), and these holiday-themed poems were particularly fun to write!




Since many Poetry Friday participants are also children’s writers, I also want to share a wonderful new contest with you all. My friend and critique buddy Tara Luebbe has launched Writing with the Stars this week, a (free) contest that will match 16 aspiring picture book writers/illustrators with 16 published professionals. Mentorships are available for authors, illustrators, AND author/illustrators, and here is the AMAZINGLY TALENTED list of participating mentors:

Camille Andros
Vanessa Brantley-Newton
Megan Bryant
Pam Calvert
Marcie Colleen
Paul Czajak
Katie Duffield
Beth Ferry
Laura Gehl
Melissa Iwai
Stacy McAnulty
Peter McCleery
Penny Parker Klostermann
Lori Richmond
DJ Steinberg
Andrea Zuill

(I am seriously in awe of this list!!)

These talented picture book professionals are volunteering their time and will each choose one very lucky person to work with for a three month period. For more about Writing with the Stars, visit Tara’s website here and checkout the Twitter buzz at #PB WWTS. Applications will be accepted January 13-16 and I will post an interview with Tara the first week in January. In the meantime, follow Tara on Twitter @t_luebbe and read this fabulous interview with Tara by Johnell Dewitt!

Enjoy these crazy December days, have a wonderful weekend, and Happy Writing!