May 31, 2013

POETRY FRIDAY: Short and Sweet Poems

While browsing through poems to share with my boys’ classes for Poem in Your Pocket Day in April, I was struck yet again by the power of concise, focused poetry. I have always been drawn toward shorter poems, simply because I am fascinated by how some writers have the ability to create such powerful poetry from so few words. Reading a well-written short poem is like looking through a camera lens and zooming in on your subject with the auto focus turned on.

Here is a beautiful example, in this poem by Robert Frost:
Dust of Snow
by Robert Frost (1874-1963)

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree
Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

My very favorite example of a short, focused poem is "This is Just to Say" by William Carlos Williams (1883-1963). (Follow this link to read it: This is Just to Say)

Another great example is “Window” by Carl Sandburg (1878-1967). (Follow this link to read it: Window)

What is your favorite short poem?

Happy Writing!

May 28, 2013

Young Reader Review: WONDERSTRUCK

After a fun-filled adventure in Ireland with my husband, I am happy to return to blogging today. I will share more about my trip in the weeks to come, but I can now honestly say that you can never eat too much fish and chips, hear too much great Irish music, or visit too many castles--although my husband would argue this last point! J

Today I am happy to present the next installment in my Young Reader Review series. Our reviewer today is Ethan, a super smart fourth grader who has loved books all of his life and is very excited to share a new favorite with us. It is so nice to know that there are such enthusiastic young readers out there, isn't it?

Hi, Ethan. Thank you so much for joining us today! Tell us a little about yourself.

I am 10 years old, LOVE Minecraft, LEGOs, books, and TV. Playing the piano is something I really enjoy. When I grow up, I want to be an astronaut because I love space.
Wow! You have a lot of wonderful interests! What types of books do you enjoy reading?
Graphic novels are my favorite. My favorite graphic novel series is called Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke. Maybe soon I can do a YRR about this book, too!
I like classics too. The novels I've read that I really liked are Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Alice in Wonderland, 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. And I just started Oliver Twist!
I know it is hard to pick a favorite book of all time, but tell us about your current favorite.
I recently finished reading a book called WONDERSTRUCK by Brian Selznick.
I think I like this novel because it’s a great intertwinement of picture and story, past and far past. In this sub-graphic novel (50% drawing, 50% words), a boy named Ben sets out to find his dad, who he thinks is in New York. Instead he finds someone he didn't expect.

Rose’s story as a girl in 1927 is told in drawings alone. Ben’s story in 1977 intertwines with Rose's to make an interesting story. Both Ben and Rose are deaf. Ben starts out hearing impaired, but after being struck by lightning he becomes deaf. This is the first book I have read that both of the main characters are deaf.

WONDERSTRUCK sounds like a great book with a unique perspective. I will have to check it out! Are there any kinds of books that you wish there were more of?
E-books. I wish there were more E-books. When I read E-books, I feel like I combine my love for electronics and my love for reading.

Well I think you're in luck, Ethan--the publishing industry is definitely making room for more E-books. It is amazing to have access to thousands of books on one little E-reader, isn't it? Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Let me know if your readers want me to do a YRR on Zita the Spacegirl!
I definitely will! Thanks again for joining us today, Ethan, and Happy Reading!
JYou're welcome! Thanks for posting my review on WONDERSTRUCK!J

May 17, 2013

POETRY FRIDAY: A Poem for Children’s Book Week

It is so much fun for me to see my boys get caught up in great books, and to see their horizons expanding as they read. Of course, one of them is currently campaigning to add Greece and Rome to our itinerary when we visit friends in France next summer…and this is all because of Rick Riordan's series. Not sure if we’ll make it that far south, but I keep reminding him that books are the best travel vehicles around!

When I came across this wonderful poem by Emily Dickinson a few weeks ago, I knew I needed to share it during Children’s Book Week. Dickinson’s poem celebrates the delightful experience of sinking deep into the pages of a book and embarking on a grand adventure—without ever leaving the comfort of our favorite chair:
There is no Frigate like a Book
by Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)
There is no Frigate like a Book
To take us Lands away,
Nor any Coursers like a Page
Of prancing Poetry–
This Traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of Toll–
How frugal is the Chariot
That bears a Human soul.
Happy Children's Book Week, and Happy Writing!

May 14, 2013

2013 Children’s Book Week and A Walk Down KidLit Memory Lane

May 13-19 is Children’s Book Week, which is perfectly summed up on the CBW website as “the annual celebration of books for young people and the joy of reading.” Sounds like FUN, doesn’t it?

To kick off the week's celebration, I visited my son Will's class and read aloud Being Frank, a wonderful picture book written by North Carolina author Donna Earnhardt. This was the *perfect* read aloud for my son's fourth grade class because of its humor and its message, and the class really enjoyed it! 

The first official Children’s Book Week was held in 1919 after several years of collaboration and planning among the industry’s most dedicated proponents. The poster for the very first CBW looked like this:

I LOVE this poster! Looking at it brings back dusty memories of exploring old libraries, browsing the bookshelves at my grandmother's house, and wandering through antique stores.

Just for fun, and to honor the first celebration of Children's Book Week, I have compiled a partial list of children’s books published in 1919 in the United States and abroad. You can definitely tell how much the times have changed by reading some of these titles!

The Adventures of Prickly Porky by Thornton W. Burgess and illustrated by Harrison Cady

Baby Polar Bear and the Walrus by C. E Kilbourne

The Boy's King Arthur by Thomas Malory

The Burgess Bird Book for Children by Thornton Waldo Burgess (there are several by this author published in 1919)

The Brighton Boys with the Engineers at Cantigny, The Brighton Boys at Chateau-Thierry, and the Brighton Boys at St. Mihiel by James R. Driscoll (books 6-8 in the Brighton Boys series)

The Campfire Girls' Week-end Party by Harriet Rietz

Jo's Boys, and How They Turned Out (a Sequel to "Little Men") by Louisa May Alcott

A Little Maid of Picardy by Amy Ella Blanchard

The Magic of Oz by L. Frank Baum (the 13th book in the Oz series)

Miss Minerva and William Green Hill by Frances Boyd Calhoun and Angus MacDonnall

The Old Mother Goose Nursery Rhyme Book, the T.C. & E.C. Jack (London) edition, illustrated by Anne Anderson

The Pie Party by Ralph Mayhew
Pinocchio, The Story of a Puppet by Carlo Collodi

Rainbow Valley by Lucy Maude Montgomery (the 7th book in the Anne of Green Gables series)

The Story of Birds & Beasts by Jean-Henri Fabre

The Tale of Benny Badger by Arthur Scott Bailey, illustrated by Harry L. Smith

Uncle Wiggily's apple roast: Or how Nurse Jane's pin cushion fooled the skuddlemagoon and Uncle Wiggily's Hollowe'en party, also how he helped Jack Frost by Howard Roger Garis

Uncle Wiggily on the Farm by Howard Roger Garis

The Young Folks Treasury, Volume 4: Modern Tales and Animal Stories, Hamilton Wright and Editors

Have a fun Children's Book Week,
and Happy Writing!

May 10, 2013


On Monday, I received a much-anticipated delivery: my very own copy of The Poetry Friday Anthology, Poems for the School Year with Connections to the Common Core, compiled by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong.
As a relative newcomer to the “Poetry Friday” party, I have thoroughly enjoyed reading Poetry Friday posts by different bloggers each week—poetry has been one of my favorite written forms for as long as I can remember. Shortly after I started participating with my own blog posts, I realized that there was (gasp!) an actual Poetry Friday Anthology! I finally got around to ordering it last week, and when it showed up on Monday, I was thrilled. I started reading it that night, and have spent many hours this week working through the poems, learning more about the common core standards for poetry, and marveling at the amazing teacher (and parent) suggestions. My overriding thought, however, has been, “I wish I’d had this when I was teaching!” If I could afford to buy this for every single one of my kids’ former teachers, I would in a heartbeat. Needless to say, this is one of the end-of-year gifts my boys’ current teachers will be receiving in June!

The anthology begins with an overview of "Poetry and the Common Core," and then presents the common core standards for poetry in K-5, with 36 featured poems for each grade level—enough for each week of a standard school year. The book features a variety of poetic forms and devices, and includes original poetry by many of today’s most talented children’s writers. Each poem is accompanied by suggested activities and applications to supplement the lesson. The recommended activities are designed to help teachers meet the standards of the common core curriculum in fun, creative ways that will engage students and breathe life into the poetry. There is a lot of flexibility in this approach; teachers can spend just a few minutes on the poems and activities each week, or devote more time with the more involved activities listed. Either way, this anthology is a wonderful resource for anyone who’d like to incorporate more poetry into their school day—or into their reading time at home. (My boys will get to enjoy this during our “summer school” at home starting in a few weeks!)

So if you, like me, were woefully oblivious to this wonderful book, PLEASE check it out! It is available at online retailers everywhere. There is also a Poetry Friday Anthology for Middle School (grades 6-8). For more information, visit or

Happy Writing!

May 7, 2013


This month, people all around the United States are celebrating the joy of reading during Get Caught Reading Month. Initiated in 1999 by former Congresswoman Pat Schroeder and endorsed by the Association of American Publishers, the Get Caught Reading campaign is supported by celebrities, public figures, teachers, librarians, and booksellers who recognize the value of reading. According to the Get Caught Reading website, research shows that “early language experience actually stimulates a child's brain to grow and that reading to children gives them a huge advantage when they start school.” Through the Get Caught Reading initiative, they “hope to encourage people of all ages to enjoy books and magazines and to share that pleasure with the young children in their lives.”

A great way for teachers and parents to celebrate Get Caught Reading Month with kids is to snap pictures of them reading in various locations and create a fun display or bulletin board showcasing these photos. Kids can also write short summaries of their favorite books to be displayed in a prominent location at school or at home, encouraging others to read their favorites (this is a good way to encourage kids to read in different genres than they are used to reading). When I taught third grade, my students had a daily D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything And Read) time. D.E.A.R. time is a fun way to celebrate reading at home or at school, especially when completely unexpected and spontaneous. I am definitely going to try this with my boys at home this month!

There are also many great resources around the web to help celebrate reading, this month and every other month (because shouldn’t we celebrate reading every single day??). Here are a just few great resources that I found online:

Happy Get Caught Reading Month, and (of course) Happy Writing!

May 3, 2013

POETRY FRIDAY: Ekphrastic Poems

Until a few months ago I had never heard the term “ekphrastic poetry.” But then some writer friends of mine invited me to an exhibit featuring this format, and I decided to check it out. I am so glad that I did!

Ekphrastic poetry is poetry that is inspired by or makes a statement about another art form. One example of this is John Keats’ poem, Ode on a Grecian Urn, in which Keats waxes eloquent about an urn. Here is the beginning of the first stanza:

Thou still unravish'd bride of quietness,
Thou foster-child of Silence and slow Time,
Sylvan historian, who canst thus express
A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme:

from Ode on a Grecian Urn by John Keats (1795-1821)

At the ekphrastic poetry exhibit I attended, I read poetry that was inspired by paintings, sculptures, quilts, war memorabilia, letters, and more. Both the poems and the art that inspired them were on display, and the result was a beautiful, eclectic collection of very special writing. Toward the end of the afternoon, when each author had an opportunity to read his or her poem aloud, the emotional connection between poet, poem, and art form was evident. It was one of those experiences that has stuck with me.    

I’ve wanted to try my hand at writing an ekphrastic poem ever since, so this week I selected a favorite photograph that my husband took when our family visited Landsford Canal State Park in Catawba, SC last May. This South Carolina gem is home to the largest population of the rare and endangered rocky shoals spider lily. Peak season is in May and June, and we enjoyed our time walking along the river’s banks and viewing these stunning flowers. 

Another highlight of the day was our hike through the old canal tow paths that enabled the river to accommodate commercial traffic in the early 1880s. As we hiked through the site and explored the area surrounding an old mill that operated during the time the canal was in use, my husband snapped photographs. Looking at them later, this one struck me as particularly beautiful:

Here is my ekphrastic poem inspired by this photo:

Nowhere to go but straight ahead
the sides are too steep
the past too deep
my path is clear
and HOPE
leads me

I enjoyed writing this poem, especially the process of exploring the personal connections of what the photograph means to me. It is not perfect, but it sure was fun to write!

If you have a favorite painting, photograph, sculpture, etc., consider writing your own ekphrastic poem. It adds an additional layer of dimension to the writing process, and to the reader’s experience of the poem itself, and is definitely one of my new favorite forms of poetry.

Happy Writing!

If you live anywhere near the north central area of South Carolina, I highly encourage you to visit Landsford Canal State Park. Peak spider lily season is upon us, and the display is always spectacular!

May 2, 2013

Great Writers' Event Coming Up on May 18

This post is for my writer friends in the Charlotte, NC/Rock Hill, SC area. I received some information today from writer/editor/publisher Roxie Hanna about a writer’s intensive that is coming up in Rock Hill, SC. I will let Roxie tell you a bit about it!

Becky, I’d like to invite you and your readers to our upcoming South Carolina Writer’s Workshop Intensive (SCWW) event on May 18, 2013, Bridging the Publishing Abyss. The event is open to anyone who is a writer, interested in becoming a writer, or is just curious about the process of writing and getting published.

This one-day event will feature four speakers: Jonathan K. Rice, an award winning author, editor and publisher of the Iodine Poetry Journal; Lee Q. Miller, author, historian and an adjunct professor of Sociology, Anthropology and Gerontology on Aging, Death and Grief at Winthrop University; Roxie Hanna, editor, publisher and ghostwriter who this year has launched a traditional publishing firm featuring children’s books, fiction and non-fiction including poetry; and Craig Faris, a seventeen-time published author of short fiction, one-act plays and thriller novels.

We are offering workshop sessions for poets, children’s writers (picture book to YA), memoirists, fiction, and nonfiction writers. Sign up for up to four of thirteen of the one-hour sessions by visiting our website, or on Roxie Hanna’s blog,

Thanks Becky! I’d love to meet your readers, so remember to find me at the conference and introduce yourself! :)

Thanks for sharing this wonderful opportunity with us, Roxie. The event sounds fabulous, and your sessions sound especially interesting! (Roxie’s breakout sessions include: Children’s Picture Book Perplexities, Fabulous Fiction Falsehoods, Young Adult Enigmas, and Nonfiction Fibs.)