Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloweenie Poetry Friday!

Hello, and welcome! My offering for today is a trio of Halloweenie poems for my Poetry Friday friends! I bet there will be lots of sweet and scary poetic surprises around the webs today, so be sure to visit lovely Linda at TeacherDance for Roundup.





Tonight
by Lilian Moore

Strange shadows out
tonight
in the white
light
of the moon

shaggy humps
dark baggy bumps
meeting
darting

bat shapes
pointed heads
parting
greeting.

Strange shadows out
tonight,
all tricking and treating.

------------------------------------
Such sadness: now that the youngest is 6'2"... we have no trick-or-treaters this year! I remember those dressed-up Halloween nights with such fondness -- and not just because I love me some bite-sized candy. Reese's, anyone? Peppermint patty? Mmmm....

Pumpkin
by Valerie Worth

After its lid
Is cut, the slick
Seeds and stuck
Wet strings
Scooped out,
Walls scraped
Dry and white,
Face carved, candle
Fixed and lit,

Light creeps
Into the thick
Rind: giving
That dead orange
Vegetable skull
Warm skin, making
A live head
To hold its
Sharp gold grin.

------------------------------
I also miss carving the Jack-o-lantern. Every few years I'll get out my carving tools and try to create something fun... but mostly I am content to put my uncarved pumpkins on the front stoop. I do LOVE pumpkin seeds, though... it's just easier to snag a bag at Walmart.



Skeletons
by Valerie Worth

Is it the
Curve of their
Breezy ribs, the
Crook of their
Elegant fingers,

Their eyeless
Eyes, so wide
And wise,
Their silent
Ivory laughter,

The frisk and
Prance of their
Skittering dance
With never a
Pause for breath,

That fills us
With such
Delicious delight,
While scaring us
Half to death?

---------------------------------
The one decoration that has survived the 20 years of our parenthood is the life-sized plastic skeleton. We still hang it in the front yard every year -- and every year we recall the times the youngest was scared to go in the basement because the skeleton was there... and the time his older brother pulled a prank on him by leaving the skeleton for him to find IN THE SHOWER. Yep, that did a number on him, much to Oldest Son's delight. Oh, brothers....

However you celebrate the night -- or even if you don't celebrate at all -- here's wishing you "delicious delight" this evening!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Mystery, Revisited. And, the Art of Living WILD.

I just finished a book that really moved me: WILD by Cheryl Strayed.

It was not something I would have picked up on my own -- it was picked for me by our book club. (Among the many arguments FOR being in a book club, this is one of them: the opportunity to read things you might not have chosen!) And I loved it.

Basically, it's about how a woman's journey walking the Pacific Crest Trail heals and changes her. It's beautiful. And hold onto your cracker jacks, she BURNS BOOKS along the way. Read the book to find out why. Or... I just discovered it's also been adapted in a movie starring Reese Witherspoon, releasing in December!

And now, just a short passage from the end of the book that speaks to me of my 2014 One Little Word, which is "mystery," and also points me to what may become my word for 2015. We'll see! Meanwhile, read the book! It just might change you.

"To believe that I didn't need to reach

 with my bare hands anymore. To know

that seeing the fish beneath the surface 

of the water was enough. That it was

everything. It was my life – like all

lives, mysterious and irrevocable and 

sacred. So very close, so very present,

so very belonging to me.



How wild it was, to let it be."

- Cheryl Strayed, WILD

Monday, October 27, 2014

Quilts, Poetry & Freedom Fighters in Greensboro, Alabama

Last week we visited Greensboro, Alabama, as part of Alabama Folklife Association's "Common Threads" programming on the textile arts in our state.

We started out at Magnolia Grove where we saw the oldest quilt in America and some other quilts like this one:

Don't you love those butterflies?! What a great way to border a crazy quilt.

While walking the property after viewing the outdoor kitchen and the slave house, where we found this fragment of a poem written by the once-owner of the home...


...we spied something neither Paul nor I had ever seen before: droppings from an Osage orange tree (thanks to our new friend Liz for enlightening us!).



Next we visited The Safe House Black History Museum ("Safe House" because one night Martin Luther King, Jr., stayed there to avoid confrontation with various Klan groups who were waiting at all the road intersections exiting Greensboro) where we were greeted by this tribute to Rosa Parks and 42,000 other footsoldiers for freedom:

But the highlight (and surprise!) was meeting Theresa Burroughs, who founded the museum and was an activist during the Movement:

Here she is in 1965 after being rounded up by police at a protest:

To find out more about Theresa, check out this short documentary. SO inspiring for anyone who values...

We enjoyed a delicious fried catfish lunch at Mustang Oil, which looks like a sleepy gas station, but inside it buzzed with what seemed like all of Greensboro:

Finally we learned all about National Arts Fellow Nora Ezell and her quilts. I  came home with her book My Quilts and Me, and I have been devouring it! Here's a quilt from the collection of Mary Elizabeth "Sunshine" Johnson, who compiled the book and gave the presentation:

And I'll leave you with a quote from the late great Nora Ezell herself:

"The point is learn to do with what you have and that's what quilts are all about. Taking nothing and making something of it."




Monday, October 20, 2014

Movie Monday: 10 QUESTIONS FOR THE DALAI LAMA

With the Dalai Lama scheduled to arrive in Birmingham this coming weekend -- yes, we have tickets, and yes, Eric will be performing onstage just before the Dalai Lama -- we've been brushing up on our knowledge about Tibet and His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. And since all around Birmingham they've been offering free screenings of 10 QUESTIONS FOR THE DALAI LAMA, we thought that film might be a good place to start... only we watched it in our pajamas by streaming on Netflix. :)

We really enjoyed the movie. We learned a lot about the tradition of the Dalai Lama, the Chinese government's brutality, and a lot about the current Dalai Lama -- he's a tinkerer, very well-read, laughs a lot, and doesn't suffer fools for long.

I guess if I had to sum it all up, I would say the Dalai Lama promotes the "religion of kindness." Despite his exile, he's bubbly-happy, and his viewpoint is one of respect for the world and for humans of all kinds. When the filmmaker asked him about traditions, what should be kept, and what should be let go of, the Dalai Lama was quick to say some traditions (like the inferior treatment of women) is outdated and needs to go. He said nonviolence is the key to peace, but, if one is threatened, violence may be called for. He said our wants/desires for more more more is what causes so much unhappiness.

I urge you to check it out for yourself! Meanwhile, here are a few prayer flags I made -- the community has been working to create enough prayer flags to span the perimeter of Hoover Metropolitan Stadium during the event.





Friday, October 17, 2014

"Letter to A Friend" by Lilian Moore

Hello, and happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit the amazing, irrepressible Michelle at Today's Little Ditty for Roundup.

I've got another Lilian Moore poem for you, from SOMETHING NEW BEGINS: New and Selected Poems. I love how Ms. Moore wasn't afraid to engage the darker side in her works for children... I so appreciate honesty and any writer who gives kids credit for the depth of their feelings. Death is a pretty essential part of the life cycle, and this poem makes it beautiful. Plus, I love the urgency. One could read this poem all sorts of ways!

LETTER TO A FRIEND
by Lilian Moore

Come soon.

Everything is lusting
for light,
thrusting
up
up
splitting the earth,
opening flaring fading,
seed
into shoot
bud
into flower,
nothing
beyond its hour.

Come soon.

The apple bloom has melted
like
spring snow.

The lilac
changed the air,
surprising every breath.

Low in the field
wild strawberries
fatten.

Come soon.

It's a matter of
life.

And death.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Scarecrow Show

Each year Inverness Elementary (where our boys went to school!) teachers, students & parents create scarecrows and display them for the community to enjoy during the month of October. This year's crop is as fun and inspiring as ever... but I think my favorite has to be the diva: Mrs. Greene's Fabulous Frogs! Look for her below. :)









Monday, October 13, 2014

Finding Characters at the Thrift Store & Other Joys of Writing

This past weekend was the SCBWI Southern Breeze region's annual WIK (Writing & Illustrating for Kids) conference here in Birmingham.

Two of my writing buddies Pat & Sheila came in on Thursday so we could lunch and antique and thrift before turning our hearts and souls to writing.

But, of course, writing slips in no matter which way we wiggle.

Here's the box of photographs that captivated us:


And here's Sheila & Pat:


On Friday we attended a Writing Intensive with author Candice Ransom. I experienced a number of a-ha moments, one of which was how all my writing seems to revolve around PLACE. Candice's does as well, and she shared many ways this can benefit our writing. The other has to do with mining our own lives for stories. This scares me -- which is a sure sign I need to be doing it!

Friday night we hung out with the Mafia. The MIDDLE GRADE MAFIA. :) Get to know them -- they're great!

Saturday we conferenced ourselves into a hazy state. Great to see old friends and meet new ones... always great to learn new things and to be inspired. Candice Ransom's keynote was all about triumphing over failure, and we were all deeply moved. 

My session was on Smart Marketing for Busy Authors, and there just wasn't enough time! Here's a pic of me and Joan Broerman just before I got started:




Big thanks to authors Kate Messner, Holly Schindler, Lisa Schroeder & Tamera Will Wissinger who each contributed to my presentation. Ladies, your words are helping striving writers in the Deep South and beyond! Mwah!!

Monday, October 6, 2014

WHEELS OF CHANGE by Darlene Beck Jacobson

I'm excited today to welcome Darlene Beck Jacobson to Live Your Poem! Her debut historical middle grade WHEELS OF CHANGE was released last month. Congratulations, Darlene!!! What an exciting time!

Kirkus Reviews notes resemblances to TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD and what a strong character Emily is in the face of national changes during the last year of Theodore Roosevelt's presidency-- as well as personal changes. You can tell Darlene loved researching this time period -- lots to love here!

I gave Darlene three short prompts. Here's what she had to say:

The Delicious: 
Sending the “baby” out into the world. Editors saying fix this and that. Agent finally saying, “deal first, then repairs.” Signing the 16 page contract tasted better than the sweetest birthday cake.
The Difficult: 
 Changing the manuscript from a Picture Book to Middle Grade. Would there be enough meat on the bone? More than enough meat…so which piece to cut? Which to savor, swallow and slowly digest? Which to smother in gravy? Which to toss out and start over? Everyone’s taste is different. But I am the cook; I control the ingredients. The final meal is satisfying.
The Unexpected: 
 In the story, Emily meets Theodore Roosevelt. My grandmother met him, too. How did I get Kermit Roosevelt – the great-great-grandson of TR - to write a blurb for the book? I asked.
-------------------------
Darlene Beck Jacobson has loved writing since she was a girl. She wrote letters to everyone she knew and made up stories in her head. Although she never wrote to a president, she sent many letters to pop stars of the day asking for photos and autographs. She loves bringing the past to life in stories such as WHEELS OF CHANGE, her debut novel.
Darlene’s stories have appeared in CICADA, CRICKET, and other magazines. When not writing, Darlene enjoys baking, sewing and tea parties. She also likes hanging around forges watching the blacksmith work magic. She’s never ridden in a carriage like the one in the story, but hopes to one day.
Her blog features recipes, activities, crafts and interviews with children’s book authors and illustrators. She still loves writing and getting letters. Check out her website at: www.darlenebeckjacobson.com or on Twitter@dustbunnymaven

Friday, October 3, 2014

And October Creeps In...

My favorite picture from September...
with my favorite (only. best. amazing!)
sister Lynn
October, oh how you've snuck up on me this year! Happy Poetry Friday, everyone... be sure to visit Jama at Jama's Alphabet Soup for some delicious Roundup!

Thank you to those have written or called to check on me this past month. I've been traveling with the release of DEAR WANDERING WILDEBEEST and revising a novel and kind of re-evaluating how I spend my time. My father has been seriously ill, and he lives in far North Dakota, so that has been the focus of much of my energy. It's a powerful reminder of how precious time is, and how easily we let the hours and days slip away from us. So, yeah. Heavy stuff!

Meanwhile, I had intended to share a September poem from Lilian Moore's book SOMETHING NEW BEGINS, which, I ordered after Renee's amazing post about Lilian (with the help of Lee Bennett Hopkins!) at No Water River and after Laura Purdie Salas mentioned this book in particular at Teaching Authors. Thank you, ladies! I have a few more poems dog-eared to share with you in the coming weeks.

It may be October, but I am sharing the "September" poem with you today anyhow. Hey, I live in the Deep South, which means the poem is actually more accurate of October (or even November!) for me, so that's my justification. :)

September
by Lilian Moore

Something is bleeding
into the
pond,
the stains are freshly
red.

Look-
beyond
and overhead.
The maple

is crimson spattered.
Summer is fatally
wounded.
Soon, soon
dead.

--------------------------
Kind of macabre, isn't it? Beautiful, though.

And now for something lighter: our October theme over at Smack Dab in the Middle is "creepy," so I wrote creepy poem for all my writer-friends. Click here to read "Creepy Poem" by Irene Latham. Or... you can just listen. :)


Friday, September 26, 2014

At the fabric store, we're just people.

Hello and happy Poetry Friday! Please visit Laura at Writing the World for Kids for Roundup.

I've written here before about the power of quilts, and how some of my favorite childhood memories involve the late-night hum of a sewing machine and day trips to the fabric store with my mother. I love the rainbowed walls, the pattern books that make even the most fancy dress accomplishable, so long as you follow the steps -- and the cutters, who always ask and what you're making and genuinely care about your answer.

I still love all those things, and more and more, I am aware of how sewing is both inspiring and unifying, and is an art form that needs to be preserved. And now, this poem from BROWN GIRL DREAMING by Jacqueline Woodson:

the fabric store
- from BROWN GIRL DREAMING by Jacqueline Woodson

Some Fridays, we walk to downtown Greenville where
there are some clothing stores, some restaurants,
a motel and the five-and-dime store but
my grandmother won't take us
into any of those places anymore.
Even the five-and-dime, which isn't segregated now
but where a woman is paid, my grandmother says,
to follow colored people around in case they try to
steal something. We don't go into the restaurants
because they always seat us near the kitchen.
When we go downtown,
we go to the fabric store, where the white woman
knows my grandmother
from back in Andersons, asks,
How's Gunnar doing and your girls in New York?
she rolls fabric out for my grandmother
to rub between her fingers.
They discuss drape and nap and where to cinch
the waist on a skirt for a child.
At the fabric store, we are not Colored
or Negro. We are not thieves or shameful
or something to be hidden away.
At the fabric store, we're just people.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Bringing the Water Hole to the Shoals

 Last week I returned to Florence, Alabama, one of my favorite places ever, for some school visits and a library workshop. Here's an article about my adventures. The events were funded by Florence-Lauderdale Public Library, with a little help from my friend Pat, who greeted me with roses and gifts, fed me, and gave up her bed so I'd have a place to rest my weary head. Thanks, Pat! And thanks to everyone who made it a great visit, even though I wasn't feeling my best. Until next time...

Lynne Martin at Sheffield Public Library

McBride Elementary (Muscle Shoals)

Mrs. Hutcheson and me

readers!

Mrs. Hutcheson's classroom library

Anna Catherine Thompson at Muscle Shoals Public Library


Angela Bailey, me, Pat at Rosie's

Tom Magazzu, editor of Florence Courier-Journal


Waterloo Elementary

Jennifer Butler-Keeton, me, Jerry Anderton, Waterloo librarian

Trowbridge's -fashioned lunch counter! I had tuna salad on wheat,
chicken soup and chocolate chip ice cream. :)

Florence Academy of Fine Arts (formerly Bradshaw HS, where Pat graduated!), after speaking to Darlene Freemon's creative writing classes

Florence Public Library

Getting ready to write poems inspired by photographs at Florence Public Library




Friday, September 12, 2014

Twenty Years Later...

Hello, and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Renee at No Water River for Roundup. I'm delighted to be a guest poster at The Poem Farm, where Amy asked me to talk about revision. Earlier this week, I guest posted at Amy's Sharing Our Notebooks to talk about my life in notebooks... and Amy is generously doing a giveaway of WILDEBEEST! Thank you, Amy!

I've been traveling this week, and I can't wait to share with all of you -- but first, today is a special day:  today my firstborn son turns 20. Happy birthday, Daniel!

Here we are, on that day:


And here is my most favorite Langston Hughes poem ever, which most everyone knows, but it's one to be enjoyed over and over -- and it happens to be on the topic. It's been on my mind ever since I saw in a magazine how someone had painted their "House Rules" on the risers of their staircase. Since then, I discovered a board devoted to creative stair design on Pinterest. I want to do something similar.... with this poem!

Mother to Son
by Langston Hughes

Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor—
Bare.
But all the time
I’se been a-climbin’ on,
And reachin’ landin’s,
And turnin’ corners,
And sometimes goin’ in the dark
Where there ain’t been no light.
So boy, don’t you turn back.
Don’t you set down on the steps
’Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.
Don’t you fall now—
For I’se still goin’, honey,
I’se still climbin’,
And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.


Monday, September 8, 2014

Safari Sketchbooks & DEAR WANDERING WILDEBEEST Launch Pics

 I was so thrilled to tie my Wildebeest book launch to SNAP (Seriously, No Adults Please!) programming at Emmet O'Neal Library in Mountain Brook, AL!

This library is just half a mile from Birmingham Zoo, the inspiration for Don't Feed the Boy!
What did we do? Poetry and Safari Sketchbooks! I introduced kids to poetry using Powerpoint and a "Poetry" acrostic poem I wrote. Then, we became lions! I gave the kids prompts like:
 "What is the best part of your day?"

"What are you scared of?"

"Two lions meet at the water hole. What do they say to one another?"

They wrote their responses on index cards, and I collected them to read aloud our Community Poem. AND THEN...

it was time for Safari Sketchbooks. :) We had a pile of old National Geographic Kids magazines, and kids selected a picture of the animal they wanted to write about. They cut and pasted the picture to the cover of their Sketchbooks, added the filler paper, and used leather cording to bind it. And then they WROTE, using the same prompts, but for their own individual animal.

Funny thing: unicorns came up A LOT. Wonderful boys. :)

 Big thanks to this trio of genius librarians who, with the help of Google,  helped get my slide show running in a loop before the reception portion of the event. Thank you, Meredith, Gloria & Rachel! I need you with me on all my adventures. :)

I'm especially grateful to those who came out for the reception on a stormy weeknight. I have asked so much of my readers and friends this year with launch events for The Sky Between Us and Don't Feed the Boy. I really wasn't sure anyone would show up! Those of us who were there enjoyed lovely conversation about writing and life and what it means to create. Thank you, friends!
Marie, Joan & John, manning the book table!



 Here I am at the end of the night with my still-growing-even-taller youngest son Eric...

.... and with the fella who makes all this possible: sweet husband Paul!

Thanks to everyone who was a part of this one! SO MUCH FUN. xo