Jul 30, 2013

Word Weaver Blog Award: NEVER GIVE UP by Joan Y. Edwards

Today I am giving my first WORD WEAVER BLOG AWARD, which recognizes truly stellar writing-related blogs. I have a section here that lists some great blogs and websites for writers, and this award will highlight more blogs that are extra special. I hope you find these resources helpful—I know I do! = ) 

Joan Y. Edwards is the recipient of the first WORD WEAVER BLOG AWARD. Joan is an author, illustrator, and encourager extraordinaire, and her Never Give Up blog is a true writers’ treasure. Joan is the author/illustrator of the picture book FLIP FLAP FLOODLE and has written and served as the educational consultant for Liturgical Publications. Joan is also a former elementary school teacher and an active presenter and motivational speaker. Her book, JOAN’S ELDER CARE GUIDE, is forthcoming from 4RV Publishing in 2015.
On her blog, Joan explores all aspect of the writing business, from conception to publication. She has helpful hints on how to get started, how to find a publisher, how to deal with rejection, and MUCH more—if I listed everything here, it would take several pages. With each of her posts, Joan also dishes out a healthy dose of encouragement for writers, which is what I love most about her blog. With her gentle humor and deep understanding of writers’ challenges, Joan discusses the sometimes harsh realities of trying to get published and can bring a ray of sunshine to the darkest writerly moments. Joan also puts a great deal of time and effort into researching her blog posts—the resources that she lists are great for additional exploration, and show just how much work she puts into her blog.
Not only am I a huge fan of Joan’s blog, but I also have the privilege of calling her my friend. Joan and I are co-facilitators of the Savvy Wordsmiths, a monthly critique group that meets in Fort Mill, SC. Each of our meetings begins with a 20 minute informative mini-lesson related to writing, and Joan has presented many of these, with other members taking turns on occasion. Joan is also the person who inspired me to finally begin my own blog! She presented a wonderful breakout session on starting a blog at the 2012 SCBWI Carolinas conference in Charlotte, NC (SCBWI president Stephen Mooser sat behind me during her presentation). She also conducts blogging workshops from time to time for people interested in blogging.
I could (obviously) talk about how wonderful Joan and her blog are all day, but I will stop now so you can see for yourself. You can find Joan’s blog at http://joanyedwards.wordpress.com. Be sure to also check out her main site, http://www.joanyedwards.com, which is a treasure trove of information as well. Thanks, Joan, for all you do for the writing community!
I hope you find Joan's blog helpful. Happy Writing!

Jul 26, 2013

POETRY FRIDAY: Charleston Nights

My boys and I are in Charleston for a few days, visiting my sister Elizabeth. We have made many visits over the years, and each time we savor the charm and ambience of the city, regardless of the season. We’ve visited plantations and historic homes, toured a Navy ship and submarine, viewed the Hunley in its preservation tank, walked the beaches, glimpsed a lighthouse, tiptoed through cemeteries, followed in the footsteps of the earliest settlers at Charles Towne Landing, made the harbor voyage to Fort Sumter in what was quite possibly the coldest weather I have *ever* experienced this far south, and much more.

Last night we walked along the eastern edge of the city and visited Waterfront Park, a beautiful, kid-friendly park with a splashing fountain, pier, and stunning views of Charleston Harbor. As we strolled along, the boys pointed out Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie, tried to find the U.S.S. Yorktown far across the water, breathed in the smell of pluff mudd, and delighted in a dolphin swimming close by. We remembered the projects and reports they worked so hard on during the past school year, discussed the devastating fire and earthquake that wreaked havoc upon the city in the 1860s, and talked about the old city walls and whether or not they are old enough to go on a ghost tour (“Not yet,” was my answer).

Will and Ben in front of the fountain
It is always fun for me to see the dawning of understanding when children make real connections between what they have been taught in school and what they experience in the “real world.” Charleston is more than good food, great gelato, and fun tourist attractions—I have long known this, and I am glad that my boys are learning this lesson so young. As I sit on my sister’s screened-in back porch drinking iced coffee, writing, and watching my puppy play, the early-morning sounds of the nearby salt marsh draw me in and I look forward to our day ahead.
I hope you enjoy my poem for today! Happy Writing! 
As twilight falls, the line between past and present blurs.
Lessons forgotten in summer’s lull surface like the dolphins                           playing in the pink harbor water,
Bringing projects and tests and restless study sessions to life.
History is not just stuff teachers talk about.
Sumter and Hunley, sweetgrass and slavery are more than words;
They are threads that compose the city’s fabric, for better or for worse.
The night comes, suspended between then and now,
While crickets and cicadas clamor in the swaying palmettos.

I pulled them in for a hug, but not fast
enough to catch the dolphin in the photo!

Jul 23, 2013

Young Reader Review: Gary Paulsen's HATCHET

My guest today is my son Ben. I am especially excited about Ben's review because he has been my "reluctant reader." He had a little more difficulty learning to read than his brother Will, and has worked really hard to get where he is today. I've been reading to my boys since they were born, and when they were four I read them Judy Blume’s TALES OF A FOURTH GRADE NOTHING to see if they were ready for chapter books. They loved it, and we have been reading longer books together ever since. Needless to say, I am *thrilled* that both of my boys love to read (almost) as much as I do!  
* * * * *

Hi Ben! Thank you so much for joining us today! Please tell us a little about yourself.
I am 10 years old and I’m going into the fifth grade. I like to play Minecraft and Legos, and I love going to the pool with my family. I have a twin brother named Will, and he's suggested many great books for me to read.
What types of books do you enjoy reading?
I like the Percy Jackson series because of the adventures Percy has. I also like the Harry Potter and the Hunger Games series.

What is your very favorite genre?

I don’t know. I like all types of books, even non-fiction.

I know it is hard to pick a favorite book of all time, but tell us about your current favorite book and author.
Gary Paulsen is one of my favorite authors. My favorite Paulsen book is HATCHET, because of the action and survival skills in the book. HATCHET is about a boy named Brian who flies to see his father in the Canadian wilderness. His pilot has a heart attack and dies, and the plane crashes. Brian survives the crash and uses his hatchet to help him survive in the wilderness. Brian is smart and brave, and is rescued after several weeks.

Are there any kinds of books that you would like to see more of?

I would like to read more survival books. I also wish someone would write a book about Minecraft adventures!

If you could meet any author in the world, WHO would it be and WHY?

I would like to meet Gary Paulsen because he has had an adventurous life and has lots of stories to tell!

Is there anything else you would like to share with us about books or reading?

Sometimes I would rather play than read, but books with lots of action make me want to read more. Some nights this summer I have stayed up really late reading because I couldn’t stop turning the pages. Those are the best kinds of books!

Thanks again for joining us today, Ben! Happy Reading!

Jul 19, 2013

POETRY FRIDAY: Rilke’s Sonnets to Orpheus and a Unicorn Haiku

Growing up, I had a fascination with unicorns. The mythical beast called to my young girl’s heart, and I think, for awhile at least, I let myself believe they were real.

Maybe this is why the following excerpt from Rilke’s Sonnets to Orpheus so captivates me. I discovered this work last year while researching a new book idea. The book is still “percolating,” but will eventually find its way to paper. There are several translations of Rilke’s Sonnets, but I particularly like this translation by Robert Hunter. I hope you enjoy it, too! 

From Sonnets to Orpheus by Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926)                             Part Two, # 4 (translated by Robert Hunter, 1993)

O this is the beast who does not exist.
They didn't know that, and in any case
--with its stance, its arched neck and easy grace,
the light of its limpid gaze --they could not resist

but loved it though, indeed, it was not. Yet since
they always gave it room, the pure beast persisted.
And in that loving space, clear and unfenced,
reared it's head freely and hardly needed

to exist. They fed it not with grain nor chaff
but fortified and nourished it solely with
the notion that it might yet come to pass,

so that, at length, it grew a single shaft
upon it's brow and to a virgin came
and dwelled in her and in her silvered glass.

The Unicorn is in Captivity and No Longer Dead
This famous tapestry hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

I must still dream of unicorns sometimes, because I woke up one morning recently with a unicorn haiku “written” in my mind. This is one of the reasons why I love writing for kids so much, and why I stubbornly cling to my goal of publishing a children's book one day—it lets my inner child come out to play! Here is my unicorn haiku, short and sweet:

The Unicorn
The unicorn bends,                                                                                                     lips touching glassy water,                                                                                      shining in the mist.

Thanks to Jone at http://maclibrary.wordpress.com for hosting Poetry Friday today, and Happy Writing!

Jul 12, 2013

POETRY FRIDAY: Writing Poetry with Kids and the Debut of “The Sunflower and the Pup”

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of working with kids at the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s General Assembly in Greensboro, NC. As the “writer in residence,” I spent time talking about reading, writing, and poetry with kids in preschool through sixth grade.

For the elementary groups, I created a poetry book called POEMS OF PRAISE, which had examples and explanations of six different kinds of poetry. Following the poems, I included pages that took the kids through the process of brainstorming, drafting, and creating the final copy of their own poetic “Masterpieces.” The children’s assignment was to contemplate 2 Corinthians 3:12Since, then, we have such a hope, we act with great boldness (NRSV)—and then to think about they could be bold in their lives—at home, at church, at school, or at play—and write a poem about it. OR they could create a poem about someone they know of who acts with great boldness in his or her life.

I was a bit nervous about how the kids would react to learning about poetry during a “fun” summer activity, so I was thrilled to see their enthusiasm during our discussion and reading of different types of poetry. When they started writing their own poems, many of the children jumped wholeheartedly into the process. But, predictably, there were a few that needed some help getting started and weren’t really into it. By the next day, however, even the most reluctant writers were engaged and excited about their poems, and I was simply stunned by some of the poetry that the group came up with. Those kids are amazing!

For the preschool-aged group, I had originally planned a more basic approach—I'd selected some books related to their curriculum and planned to talk with them about writing stories and then write a cooperative story together. However, after I met this super smart group of precocious cuties, I switched gears. We talked about words and rhyming, and I shared with them some of the simpler poetic forms and poetry that I'd discussed with the older children. Eventually, I decided to introduce the concept of rhyme scheme to the group. I know this seems like it might be a bit over their heads, but the children really seemed to get it, and they were excited about it, too!
Things were going so well that when it came time to write our cooperative story together, I decided to throw caution to the wind and try writing a rhyming poem with them instead. The preschoolers had been talking about growing things and gardens, so their first task was to pick a topic—what did they want the poem to be about? “A SEED!” came the enthusiastic reply. Then we had to figure out our topic sentence. Here I gave a tiny prompt: “Maybe something like, Once there was a little seed…?” The kids went with this, added to it, and we were off!
Throughout this process, I tried very hard not to insert too much “grown up” into the poem or to say too much—I wanted this to be their poem, not mine. There were a few places where I had to steer them back on course, but for the most part, it IS their poem. And I love the way it turned out! Below you can see our drafting pages:
And here is the final copy of the poem, complete with illustrations!  

Here is the full text, in case you have trouble seeing the ink on the chart paper.


Once there was a tiny seed
Resting in the ground.
Rain fell upon it,
And the sun shone all around.

Soon the seed began to grow--
A tiny stem popped up!

Bees buzzed all around it,
Then along came a tiny pup.

The puppy watched it grow and grow
through sun and stormy shower.
Soon its petals popped right up--
It was a tall sunflower!

The puppy and the sunflower
Became the best of friends.
The sunflower watched the puppy grow
And that's how our poem ends!

What I learned from this experience is that kids—even the youngest ones—are capable of SO MUCH MORE than we adults think! I see this every time I read a Young Reader Review that has been submitted for my blog, I saw it often as a teacher, and I saw it again a few weeks ago. As writers, parents, grandparents, teachers, volunteers, etc., we should never forget this!

Happy Writing!

Here is my sweet pup, Gracie, chillin' in the hammock on our camping trip last week!

Jul 10, 2013

Book Bloggers, Illustrators, and Graphic Artists Needed for SUNSCRIBE PUBLISHERS

I am passing this info. along from the new South Carolina publishing company, Sunscribe Publishers, and also from my friend Sabrina Colvin's blog (http://mamabeanablog.wordpress.com/). I am SO excited to have a new publishing company in the Carolinas!  
Are you a book blogger? Would you be interested in using your blog to host one of Sunscribe Publishers authors? If so, please tweet @SunscribePub and let them know.

Also, Sunscribe Publishers is looking for free lance illustrators and graphic designers. Contact email is on their website, Sunscribe.net.

Please feel free to reblog, share, and tweet this info forward!

Have a SUNNY day, and Happy Writing!

Jul 5, 2013

POETRY FRIDAY: Summer's First Bite

Summer is when I most keenly feel my southern roots. Watermelon, sweet iced tea, and fat, ripe blackberries are among my favorite summertime fare, and bring back memories of long, sunny weeks at my grandparents’ farm in rural South Carolina where my sisters and I would spend our days playing in the fields, picking blackberries, fishing in the pond, and often braving the leeches along the pond’s grassy shore for an afternoon swim. But nothing brings my summer memories more sharply into focus than the first bite of a juicy South Carolina peach.

Yesterday, on the way back from our shortened camping trip to Brevard, NC (have you heard about all of the RAIN in the Southern Appalachians—well, it IS as bad as they say!), we stopped by Black’s Peaches in York County, SC. Black’s is where my grandmother and my parents took my sisters and I to buy peaches every year, and it is truly a delight to be able to take my family there now. Yesterday, we bought our first half peck of summer peaches, then drove straight home to dry out our sodden pop-up camper. In between washing and drying loads of blankets and towels, I cut into the ripest peach and was immediately sucked back into childhood. Trying to condense the first bite into words was my Poetry Friday challenge for today:

One bite of tangy sweet, juicy, dripping peach,
And I am back in my grandmother’s yard,
Peach fuzz stinging my cheeks, chin dripping,
Dodging thirsty yellow jackets
While the hot afternoon sun shines down
And my sisters dance through sparkling showers from the old green hose.
I am so thankful for these sweet, juicy

Happy Writing!

Just one of the yummy peaches ripening on my counter!

If you live near north central South Carolina and want to try some great peaches, I highly recommend the following farm stands:
Black’s Peaches and Cotton Belt Bakery, 1800 Black Highway, York, South Carolina, 29745
You can pick your own peaches now through September 1. The sourdough bread in their bakery is amazing, as well! Click here for link.

The Peach Stand, 1325 Hwy 160 West Fort Mill, SC 29715
This is my super-close spot for fresh local fruits, veggies, and meats—they also ship! Click here for link.
Dori Sanders’ Peach Stand, 2101 Filbert Hwy (Hwy. 321), Filbert, SC
Dori is the author of one of my FAVORITE southern cook books, Dori Sanders’ Country Cooking: Recipies and Stories from the Family Farm Stand, the author of two novels, and is a super sweet lady. When I visited with my boys a few years ago, she was still at the stand, swapping stories with her customers. Ms. Sanders is a true South Carolina treasure, and you can visit her website