Friday, October 11, 2019


For fun, I decided to participate in Kaitlyn Leann Sanchez’s Kidlit Fall Writing Frenzy Contest this year. For this contest, participants were asked to choose one of ten fall images and write a 200-word (or less) story or poem about it. The piece could be happy, scary, beautiful, grotesque—whatever the writer feels like—for any kidlit age group, preschool through teen.

The photo I chose as my inspiration is below, followed by my entry. I hope you enjoy reading it! To read more entries, visit Kaitlyn’s website here (scroll down for links).

·        Name: Becky Shillington
Twitter: @BeckyShillingtn
Image: #7
Word Count: 195
Age Level of Prize: YA
Country: USA

Hi, it’s me!
I brought you a present. And I even wore a costume! I know it’s your favorite holiday.
You would’ve rolled your eyes at school today. The entire junior class dressed up as Disney characters, except for me and a few other rebels. Chloe Paxton sat in your seat in Chemistry (sorry!) wearing the full Cinderella getup—including the glass slippers! Even Mr. D. dressed up. Imagine the genie from Aladdin directing the band. Yep. It was interesting.
I was trying to remember all of our Halloween costumes today; Thing 1 and Thing 2, the twins from The Shining, a hotdog and ketchup. I gave our idea for this year to the Thompson twins from church. I hope you don’t mind—it was too good of an idea to go to waste.
Mom called on my way here, trying to sound excited. “Pumpkin pancakes for dinner tonight, Avery!” I guess we’re keeping up our old tradition this year, too?  
These dried-out flowers have to go. How did this get dirty so fast?   
There. I can see your name again. And our birthday.
Now I’ll set this right…here.
I miss you, Anna.
Happy Halloween. 

Thursday, October 10, 2019


Our poetry anthology THANKU: POEMS OF GRATITUDE came out on September 3, with contributing poets everywhere holding book signings and events celebrating its release. My contributor friends and I in the Charlotte, NC area participated in several events, as well!

On Sunday, August 25, Vanessa Brantley-Newton, Chrystal Giles, Megan Hoyt, and I had a pre-release book signing event at Main Street Books in Davidson, NC. And on Saturday, September 7, we held a book signing at Park Road Books in Charlotte. At both events, Vanessa, Chrystal, Megan, and I each read our poems from the book and led an interactive activity. Audience participation was terrific, our hosts were amazing, we signed SO MANY BOOKS, and we all had a wonderful time! 

Vanessa, me, Chrystal, and Megan

Vanessa talking about her limerick poem

Then on Saturday, September 28, Megan and I signed books at our regional SCBWI Carolinas conference, Stories in Pictures and Prose, in Charlotte.  

I am so very grateful to my editor, Miranda Paul, for selecting my poems to be a part of this beautiful anthology. Each time I read through this book, I get a little thrill (again!) to see my work alongside these wonderful poems written by such illustrious and brilliant poets. And the illustrations amaze me anew each time I come back to them—Marlena Myles is stunningly talented!

If you do not already have a copy of THANKU, get one as fast as you can—you won’t be disappointed!

(To read more about THANKU: POEMS OF GRATITUDE, click here.)

Thursday, August 1, 2019


I am thrilled to announce that my poetry will be included in the upcoming anthology THANKU: POEMS OF GRATITUDE (September 3, 2019, Millbrook/Lerner). The anthology is edited by author Miranda Paul and illustrated by Marlena Myles and includes many different types of poems about being thankful for all that we have, each and every day. The talented and diverse group of authors write about a variety of topics, each using a different poetic format, and Marlena Myles’ stunning artwork perfectly illustrates each poem.

The poems I contributed to THANKU are math poems—one of my favorite types of poetry—which I discussed in three posts in the past (on you can find these here, here, and here). I cannot tell you what an honor it is for my poetry to be included in this book alongside authors I have long admired, such as Jane Yolen, Vanessa Brantley-Newton, Renee LaTulippe, Sylvia Liu, Cythia Leitich-Smith, and SO MANY others! I am also thrilled that three of my local critique group members also have poetry in this anthology—Chrystal Giles, Megan Hoyt, and Vanessa Brantley-Newton. We are currently planning two book signing events in the Charlotte area and are excited to have four contributors in one place!

A portion of the proceeds from THANKU: POEMS OF GRATITUDE will go to We Need Diverse Books, a “non-profit and a grassroots organization of children’s book lovers that advocates essential changes in the publishing industry to produce and promote literature that reflects and honors the lives of all young people.” For more information, please here.

Please consider purchasing a copy of THANKU! This book will be a wonderful addition to your personal picture book collection and would also make an excellent contribution to any classroom library. THANKU: POEMS OF GRATITUDE will be available through online booksellers and can be ordered through your local bookstores beginning September 3rd. "THANKU" in advance for your support!

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An excerpt from the July 15th issue of Kirkus:  

THANKU: Poems of Gratitude
Miranda Paul
Illustrator: Marlena Myles
Publisher: Millbrook/Lerner
Pages: 40
Price ( Hardcover ): $19.99
Publication Date: September 3, 2019
ISBN ( Hardcover ): 978-1-5415-2363-0
Category: Poetry
An anthology of diverse voices united by the theme of giving thanks. In her editorial debut, Paul 
(Nine Months: Before a Baby Is Born, 2019, etc.) pairs over 30 poems with Myles' (Spirit Lake Dakota/Mohegan/Muscokee Creek) spirited illustrations capturing favorite things for which the nearly three-dozen poets represented here are thankful. Motivated by the sentiment that gratitude should be expressed year-round, Paul collects poems as varied in form as content...Myles' colorful digitally rendered illustrations help contextualize the poems, saturated, often abstract backgrounds complementing neatly outlined, diverse figures...Lovely lyric lessons in appreciating the ordinary. (Picture book/poetry. 6-10) 

An excerpt from the August 1st issue of Booklist:
Thanku: Poems of Gratitude.
Ed. by Miranda Paul. Illus. by Marlena Myles
Sept. 2019. 40p. Lerner/Millbrook, $19.99 (9781541523630). 

Gr. 1–4. 811
Authors from diverse backgrounds contribute poems (each displaying a distinct literary form) focusing on the concept that gratitude is appropriate in all seasons, not only at Thanksgiving...Myles' full-color digital illustrations exhibit variety as well, and she is equally adept at creating panoramic vistas, playground close-ups, and inventive collages...Appended with an explanation of poetic forms, biographical information on the creators, and an editor's note, this attractive and accessible collection should be popular with browsers and useful for creative writing classes. 
— Kay Weisman

Friday, February 23, 2018


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


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:

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


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!
* * * * *
November was a banner month for me. 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!