Friday, October 21, 2016

Great Writing Resources and Robert Louis Stevenson's poem "Autumn Fires"

Thanks to Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect for hosting Poetry Friday this week!

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Fall is here at last! Cooler weather has finally arrived, and I am so glad—it was a long, hot summer here in South Carolina!

To help celebrate my favorite season, I thought I would share a few writers' resources that I have found helpful over the last few months.

First off is my friend Johnell Dewitt’s new website: Of particular interest to writers are her interviews with literary agents Rick Richter and Rubin Pfeffer, and her posts about storyboarding and proofreading. These were all helpful to me, and I look forward to reading more from Johnell in the future. I can tell already that this site will be one I visit often!

Another writing friend introduced me to ALL THE WONDERS this summer. This site has it all—book reviews, podcasts, crafts, and more. Author and children's librarian Matthew Winner’s podcasts are especially helpful and insightful!

And although this one requires a paid subscription, I want to encourage any aspiring picture book writers to consider joining Julie Hedlund’s 12 x 12 Picture Book Challenge in 2017. My blog has been super quiet this year, but this is because I have been so immersed in writing and revising picture book manuscripts. I have found a fabulous critique group through 12 x 12, participated in helpful webinars, and been creatively challenged (this is an understatement). This investment in my writing career has definitely been worth it!

I will share more links soon, but wanted to highlight these today!

For my Poetry Friday post this week I decided to share one of my favorite poems about fall, “Autumn Fires” by Scottish poet Robert Louis Stevenson. The smell of autumn is definitely in the air around here!

Autumn Fires

by Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894)

In the other gardens
And all up the vale,
From the autumn bonfires
See the smoke trail!

Pleasant summer over
And all the summer flowers,
The red fire blazes,
The grey smoke towers. 

Sing a song of seasons! 
Something bright in all! 
Flowers in the summer, 
Fires in the fall!

 Have a wonderful fall weekend, and Happy Writing!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

POETRY FRIDAY: The Swing by Robert Louis Stevenson

Thanks to Jone at Check it Out for hosting Poetry Friday this week!
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Life has been on fast forward since I last posted—the many activities of May swooped down and pecked up the minutes, and the days flew by. School is out now and my boys and I are settling in for a nice, long, slow summer.

For my jump back into Poetry Friday this week, I decided to share one of my favorite summer poems. Swinging was one of my favorite things to do as a child, and The Swing by Robert Louis Stevenson captures every bit of the free-flying feeling that I remember so well.

The Swing
by Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894)

How do you like to go up in a swing,
   Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
   Ever a child can do!

Up in the air and over the wall,
   Till I can see so wide,
Rivers and trees and cattle and all
   Over the countryside—

Till I look down on the garden green,
   Down on the roof so brown—
Up in the air I go flying again,
   Up in the air and down!

Unfortunately, I won’t be doing much swinging this summer; last weekend on the first night of a long-planned camping trip to the D.C. area, I stepped in a hole and ended up in the ER. My husband and boys refused to go into the city without me, so we came home the next day. Now I am relegated to a nice, comfy chair for the next several weeks, and am looking forward to having more focused writing time than I've had in a long time (yes, I am desperately searching for the silver lining here!).

Wishing you all a happy (and safe) summer!

Friday, April 22, 2016

POETRY FRIDAY: Celebrating National Poetry Month and Shakespeare's Birthday

Thanks to Jama at Jama's Alphabet Soup for hosting Poetry Friday this week!
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Happy National Poetry Month! I cannot believe that I have not posted since February! I have been hyper focused on writing and revising in 2016 and have not posted as regularly as I would like to. I am thankful for those of you who stick with me and read when I do post. ☺

I could not let April slip by without recognizing National Poetry Month! Founded in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets, National Poetry Month celebrates the importance of poetry in our country. Schools, libraries, book sellers, publishers, poets, and readers all join in the fun with programs and events celebrated each year during the month of April.

Yesterday I spent time with some wonderful 5th graders, talking about different poetic forms and celebrating Poem in Your Pocket Day. By the end of the workshops, each student had chosen a poem to carry in his or her pocket and share with family and friends, and everyone was hard at work creating his or her own poem. A favorite again this year were book spine poems (to read more about this poetic format, click here). Next week I will be leading a poetry workshop with some kindergartners—I especially love sharing the magic of poetry with very young learners!

Since tomorrow (April 23) is William Shakespeare’s 452nd birthday, I am sharing one of his poems for my Poetry Friday post today. I hope you enjoy it!

A Fairy Song
by William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

Over hill, over dale, 
Thorough bush, thorough brier, 
Over park, over pale,
Thorough flood, thorough fire! 
I do wander everywhere, 
Swifter than the moon's sphere; 
And I serve the Fairy Queen, 
To dew her orbs upon the green; 
The cowslips tall her pensioners be; 
In their gold coats spots you see; 
Those be rubies, fairy favours; 
In those freckles live their savours; 
I must go seek some dewdrops here, 
And hang a pearl in every cowslip's ear.

Happy National Poetry Month! Have a great weekend, and Happy Writing!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

POETRY FRIDAY: Celebrating Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Thank you to Liz Steinglass for hosting Poetry Friday this week!
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I have been busy writing and revising lately, and it has been way too long since I’ve posted. But I wanted to jump back into Poetry Friday this week to talk about American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who was born on February 27, 1807.
Longfellow is the author of many well-loved poems, including one of the first poems I ever memorized as a child:

There Was a Little Girl
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)

There was a little girl,
            Who had a little curl,
Right in the middle of her forehead.
            When she was good,
            She was very good indeed,
But when she was bad she was horrid.

Longfellow also wrote another one of my favorite poems, The Landlord’s Tale. Paul Revere’s Ride, which I read every year to my third graders when I was a teacher. Although not 100% historically accurate, the narrative of the poem captures the urgency and spirit of this moment in America's collective consciousness. The cadence and atmosphere is spectacular, and it is always such a joy to read aloud. Here is the opening stanza:

The Landlord's Tale. Paul Revere's Ride
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882)

Listen my children, and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.

He said to his friend, "If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch
Of the North Church tower as a signal light,—
One, if by land, and two, if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country folk to be up and to arm."
To read the rest of this poem, click here

Thanks for stopping by to celebrate Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s birthday tomorrow! Have a wonderful weekend, and happy writing!

Monday, February 1, 2016

Reading, Writing, and Revising

So far it’s been very quiet on my blog in 2016, but that's because I've had lots of exciting things going on. I took the plunge and joined the 2106 12 x 12 Challenge, and am *LOVING* it! If you're unfamiliar with 12 x 12, it is a community of picture book writers who motivate and support each other in our goals of writing 12 picture book drafts in 12 months. 12 x 12 was founded by author Julie Hedlund and 2016 is its 5th year. In January I wrote two new picture book drafts and revised another I’ve been working on for a long time. I’ve attended two great webinars and am looking forward to another fabulous one tomorrow. And yesterday I posted the first 250 words of a PB for critique (this made me very nervous!).

In January I also joined a local SCBWI critique group that, although new to me, is established has some incredibly talented writers and illustrators. And I’m also participating in a “Read 1000 Picture Books in 2016” challenge. Here is what my dining room table looks like right now:

So far my favorite picture books have been the 2016 Newbery and Caldecott winners, which I bought last week. The Newbery winner this year is a picture book, which is remarkable since most years the award is presented to a middle grade novel. Last Stop on Market Street was written by Matt de la Peña and illustrated by Christian Robinson. This year's Caldecott winner, Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear, was illustrated by Sophie Blackall and written by Lindsay Mattick. Both winners are AMAZING picture books with heartwarming stories and several "layers"—wonderful reads for both kids and adults. I can’t believe I had not read either book until last week. I will do much better in 2016!

I’d love to hear what your favorite picture books are. Please comment below if you’d like to share. Have a wonderful February, and Happy Writing!

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy 2016!

Thanks to Mary Lee at A Year of Reading for hosting 
2016's first Poetry Friday Roundup! 

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2015 was an interesting year. I traveled to France and St. Lucia in the winter and spring, negotiated my first book contract over the summer, embarked upon an editing frenzy, ushered in my boys' teen years in October, and then learned that my publisher was closing in November. As the emotional dust settled following this news, I found myself in a strange place—no longer tied to deadlines and pre-publishing tasks, I suddenly had a lot more time on my hands. 

Because the holidays were imminent, this extra time turned out to be a huge blessing, and I enjoyed the most stress-free holiday season that I can remember, proving that—surprisingly—even this particular cloud had a silver lining. I’m not sure what 2016 will bring, but I am excited to see. This publishing journey is one filled with ups and downs, and MANY twists and turns (a lot like a great book, actually).

Because it is Poetry Friday, I'm sharing Robert Burns' Auld Lang Syne today. I hope you enjoy it!

Auld Lang Syne
by Robert Burns (1759-1796)

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my jo,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne...

To read the rest of Auld Lang Syne (and a wonderful history) click here

Happy New Year! May your 2016 be a year filled with JOY. HEALTH, and FUN!

Friday, December 4, 2015

POETRY FRIDAY: “Snowball” by Shel Silverstein

Thanks to Buffy at Buffy's Blog for hosting Poetry Friday today!

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As I’ve mentioned before, Shel Silverstein is one of my all-time favorite poets. He had a knack for creating poetry that is smart, engaging, and entertaining—three of the “must haves” for kids’ poetry, in my opinion.

I love all of Silverstein’s poetry, but the poem I am sharing today is extra special because when I taught third grade, one of my students wrote it out on a piece of paper and gave it to me. He loved it and he knew that I would, too. This touched me so much that I’ve held onto it for 15 years. When I came across it a few weeks ago, I knew I needed to share it for a winter Poetry Friday post. I hope it makes you smile today!

by Shel Silverstein (1930-1999)

I made myself a snow ball as perfect as could be.
I thought I'd keep it as a pet and let it sleep with me.
I made it some pajamas and a pillow for it's head.
Then, last night it ran away.
But first -- it wet the bed.

Thanks, Alex, wherever you are!☺ Have a wonderful weekend, everyone, and Happy Writing!