Friday, July 3, 2015

Sneak Peek at My Spring 2016 Poetry Books!

Hello, and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Donna at Mainely Write for Roundup.

On the 3rd of every month I'm honored to blog over at Smack Dab in the Middle, a blog written by a group of amazing middle grade authors. This month's theme is "setting," so I wrote a little something about one of my two poetry books coming next spring:

WHEN THE SUN SHINES ON ANTARCTICA: And Other Poems from the Frozen Continent, with illustrations by Anna Wadham.

This is our follow-up to DEAR WANDERING WILDEBEEST: And Other Poems from the Water Hole. Head on over to Smack Dab to find out what inspired me to write the new collection!

And speaking of inspiring settings... here's the cover of my other spring 2016 book:


FRESH DELICIOUS: Poems from the Farmers' Market, with illustrations by Mique Moriuchi. This one is for a younger audience, and just looking at this cover makes me happy. I love love love fresh fruits and veggies from the farmers' market -- and I had so much fun writing these poems (and recipes!).

Look for both books next spring! Meanwhile, Happy July!!! Bring on the BBQ. :)

Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Summer of Harry Potter: HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE

I've just finished book 4 in my Summer of Harry Potter.  You can read about my experience so far:
HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE

HARRY POTTER AND THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS

HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN


Funny thing about THE GOBLET OF FIRE: I couldn't remember ANYTHING from the movie! (When I've read the other books, I've been bombarded with movie images. Not so, this time around! Was I SLEEPING? Not sure. I'm excited to watch the movie again here in a day or two.)

So much happens in this book! The Tri-Wizard Tournament broadens the scope of the story to include the whole wide world --- yet, many of Harry's challenges continue to be very personal. This is the book he's aware of girls for the first time. There's a dance. Hermione & Ron become a possibility (which, I noticed, comes earlier in the movie franchise, during PRISONER OF AZKABAN). And of course there are exciting tasks and gloomy Snape and Malfoy and all the regular stuff we've come to expect in Harry Potter's world. We see Harry do more than one decent thing (helping Cedric in the competition), and we see how he struggles to be independent (not asking for help with the tasks).

Some favorite words:

Dumbledore shook his head. "Curiosity is not a sin," he said. "But we should exercise caution with our curiosity... yes, indeed..."

"That is no ordinary scar."  (again from Dumbledore)

"Understanding is the first step to acceptance, and only with acceptance can there be recovery. He needs to now who has put him through the ordeal he has suffered tonight, and why." (more from Dumbledore!)

"No good sittin' worryin' abou' it," he said. "What's comin' will come, an' we'll meet it when it does."  - Hagrid

My two favorite moments both involve Mrs. Weasley stepping into the mother role for Harry -- first at the last (maze) task, and later in the hospital when Mrs. Weasley gives Harry a hug like he's never had:

"It wasn't your fault, Harry," Mrs. Weasley whispered. [about Cedric's death]

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

#EveryBrilliantThing JUNE Roundup

This year I am keeping a virtual gratitude list, inspired by the play Every Brilliant ThingHere's my post about it. 

And here is my list for JUNE... most of these did not appear daily on Twitter, as I haven't been online much this summer!



Air conditioning.
All my boys in one place.
Mimosa trees.
The word “precious.”
Hacksaws.
Red walls.
Sourdough bread.
Cell phone camera.
Beta readers.
My writing chair.
Heardmont Park.
Snowball hydrangeas.
Fried pork chops.
Boris
Night walks.
Playing the cello.
Baby tigers.
The beach at night.
Screened in porches.
Quilt shows.
Monte Cristo hotdogs.
Doctors who say, “it's not going to kill you.”
A friend reaching out.
Reaching back.
Sliced tomatoes.
KFC Original.
Blue bowls.
Harry Potter.
Fresh ground pepper.
Starfish.
Rearranging the furniture.




Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Summer of Harry Potter: HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN

I've just finished book 3 in my Summer of Harry Potter.  You can read about my experience so far:
HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE

HARRY POTTER AND THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS

It's interesting, because I didn't enjoy this one as much as the previous 2 -- and I think it's related to my personal reading preferences for a SIMPLE story. All these names and places -- so, so creative, but just a little too much for my brain to comfortably juggle! I'm still not sure I understand all the twists and turns.

What I DO see is how book 3 proves the depth and breadth of J.K. Rowling's imagination. I mean, the tricks just keep coming: biting books, the Marauder's map, secret passageways, time travel, wizards morphing into animals... and so much more!

What sticks with me about this book is the deepening emotional connection the reader has for Harry. As he learns more about his parents, the more we care about Harry. And when his Patronus ends up being his father in stag form -- well, yes, of course! It's a perfect example of the "unexpected inevitable." Wonderful storytelling.

Once again, my favorite passage comes late in the book and from the mouth of Dumbledore:

"You think the dead we loved ever truly leave us? You think that we don't recall them more clearly than ever in times of great trouble? Your father is alive in you, Harry, and shows himself most plainly when you have need of him."

What a beautiful thought. I do believe it's true.

No poem today... though I have been writing poems for other purposes. Perhaps I will return to the task at a later date. Right now I'm off to get a start on book 4!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Birmingham Quilter's Guild 2015 QUILTFEST

Every other year the Birmingham Quilters Guild has a show -- and I love sharing pics of the amazing creations. See quilts from 2011 show here!

This year I found myself saying, "WOW" at nearly every quilt. So much beauty! About halfway down the first row, I decided to collect some images of animal designs... and now I will share them with you. Amazing, amazing work!











Monday, June 22, 2015

Baby Tigers!

Boris
Last week at the beach we played with baby tigers at the Alabama Gulf Shores Zoo!

We are all cat lovers, so when we heard about this opportunity, we were like YES, SIGN ME UP. NOW. (Funny thing: baby tigers are featured in my book DON'T FEED THE BOY ... I'm just a little later getting the actual experience. :)

And it was so much fun. They were playful, even in the heat, and reminded us all much more of puppies than kittens. We learned that once they reach 35 pounds, they cannot be handled by people the way we handled them. So it really was a precious time. Here are 6 week old cubs Boris and Sonya together:



Here's a pic of Sonya displaying the "false eyes" on the back of the tiger's ears that serve to warn off predators (because it looks like the tiger is staring them down.)
Below are some more shots of our family enjoying our time with the cubs... the only instructions we were given (aside from wear long pants, long sleeves, shoes-n-socks) were to not pick them up or restrain the cubs in any way:

They loved biting at Eric's hair!



Tug-o-war.

mmm...snack time

my, what big paws you have...

Ball or ice, ball or ice?

Toy!

Retreating to the coolest corner...


 Finally, the babies got tired, as babies do... and we left them to lounge around with each other. :)





Friday, June 19, 2015

The Summer of Harry Potter: HARRY POTTER AND THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Mary Lee at A Year of Reading for Roundup.

We've been at the beach this week -- beautiful Gulf Shores, Alabama! And I've just finished book 2 in my Summer of Harry Potter.

As in most sequels, much of the first chapter is a re-cap of book 1 -- which makes it not all that great a candidate for a Very Short Book Report ... which is why I've create my found poem from chapter 2 instead. :)

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Dobby,
without warning.

Headlights.

Harry in danger.

Friends, birds
wizards.

Great magic.


- Irene Latham

I've decided that Harry's Invisibility Cloak is not only one of his best tools, but one of J.K. Rowling's best tools as well. It's this that allows her to provide the reader with information otherwise unavailable when writing in close 3rd person. Plus, it's just plain fun!

The book ends with another great piece of wisdom passed on to Harry by the incomparable wizard Dumbledore:

"It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities."

And here's a favorite passage, because how many times have I wanted to be INSIDE a book??

"The pages of the diary began to blow as though caught in a high wind, stopping halfway through the month of June. Mouth hanging open, Harry saw that the little square for June thirteenth seemed to have turned into a minuscule television screen. His hands trembling slightly, he raised the book to press his eye against the little window, and before he knew what was happening, he was tilting forward; the window was widening, he felt his body leave his bed, and he was pitched headfirst through the opening in the page, into a whirl of color and shadow."  

Monday, June 15, 2015

The Summer of Harry Potter: HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE

So I just finished Book 1 in my Summer of Harry Potter. This is the only one of the books that I've read before, and I gotta say, having seen all the movies, it's kind of a microcosm of the whole series. We learn when Harry looks in the Mirror of Erised that what Harry really wants is family. And by the end of Book 1, he's found a family of sorts in Hagrid, Ron, Hermione and the Hogwarts family.

Something that stuck out to writer-me is how much HAPPENS in this book. It's very active, each chapter bringing some new, exiting adventure. No wonder so many readers love it!

My favorite passages come late in the book:

"The truth." Dumbledore sighed. "It is a beautiful and terrible thing, and should therefore be treated with great caution."
---------------------

"Your mother died to save you. If there is one thing Voldemort cannot understand, it is love. He didn't realize that love as powerful as your mother's for you leaves its own mark. Not a scar, no visible sign... to have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection forever."

... and now on to HARRY POTTER AND THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS!

Friday, June 12, 2015

The Summer of Harry Potter (& a Very Short Book Report)

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Please visit Jama at the ever-delicious Jama's Alphabet Soup for Roundup.

Confession: while I have oft professed love for Harry Potter (and even freaking CRIED when I rode the ride at Universal Studios), the only Harry Potter book I have read is the first one. (I have seen all the movies. More than once.)

So this summer I am going to remedy that. For the next 7 weeks, I will be reading a book a week -- and blogging about it. (Okay, it may take me longer than this -- I do have travel and family plans that may prevent me from keeping that schedule for the later/longer books.)

To start my Summer of Harry Potter, I'd like share a poem I wrote in a series of “found” poems from classic children's books. I selected words from the first three pages of a book (keeping the words in order of their appearance, as in blackout poetry) with the aim of creating a poem that kind of tells the whole story. Think of it as a very short book report!

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Proud Dursleys
had a secret.

Years shuddered,
story hummed –

owl, cat, corner.
People in cloaks.

- Irene Latham

Monday, June 8, 2015

Celebrating Children's Books, Edited by Betsy Hearne and Marilyn Kaye

Recently at the library bookstore, I picked up CELEBRATING CHILDREN'S BOOKS, edited by Betsy Hearne and Marilyn Kaye. I read it right away cover to cover. It includes essays by authors, editors, publishers, and reviewers of children's books. Here are some of the quotes that spoke to me:

Lloyd Alexander

"Creation, whatever its form, is not an act of will, but an act of faith."

".when a story has ended rightly: [it is] not a question of happy or unhappy ending, but the rightness of it."



Susan Cooper

"We small people enjoy reading – need to read – about big people;"

"Every book is a voyage of discovery."



Jil Patton Walsh

"[the author-reader relationship] is the relationship of willing listener to loving narrator"



E.L. Konigsburg

"But because I retain this ability to see myself as the center of the universe, I can write for children. And because the adult part of me can see how absolutely ridiculous I am when I am doing it, my writings are readable."


Arnold Lobel

"A good picture book should be true. That is to say: it should rise out of the lives and passions of its creators."



Milton Meltzer

"The child needs to sense that this world stretches far behind him and far ahead of him, that societies change, that people evolve during their own lives, that he himself is a blend of experience and memory. He needs to know that the past as well as the present holds meaning. He needs to listen to the tales of past human suffering and hope. The young have trouble locating themselves in anything except the here and now. But they can be helped to see over the walls of their own personalities."

"As historian he does not invent that past, but he must give it artistic shape if he is to connect with the reader."


Laurence Pringle

"Doing science means being curious, asking questions. It means having a healthy skepticism toward authority and announced truths. It is both a way of looking at the world and a way of thinking. It values both fantasy and reality, and provides a framework for telling the difference."

"To do science is to acknowledge that the world is a complex place but that the complexity can be explored and understood, and that there is order and unity in its diversity. At its core, science is a hopeful activity."


Ursula Nordstrom

"Curiosity is not limited to personal inquiry. It is a good idea for an editor to ask questions and keep asking them if there is a place in a manuscript that doesn't seem to be exactly right."



Betsy Hearne

"Read like a child, freshly; think like an adult, fully."


John Rowe Townsend


"Not the least important thing about good reviewing is that it's good for authors, who need to be encouraged, stimulated, disciplined, needled, and challenged into doing their best."




Saturday, May 30, 2015

#EveryBrilliantThing May Roundup

This year I am keeping a virtual gratitude list, inspired by the play Every Brilliant ThingHere's my post about it. 

And here's my list for May:

“Hooray, it's May!”
Airport reunions.
Rivers.
Kentucky Derby.
Paper clips.
Murals.
Helpers.
“Scars prove that you're still here.” - @ashparso STILL WATERS.
Baby ducks.
Andrew giving me a birthday cake shake from Zaxby's for Mother's Day.
Sunday night suppers at Chuy's with Eric.
Banana pancakes with cinnamon and sugar on top.
Andrew doing his own laundry.
Maggie our cat giving herself a bath.
Cookie cake.
Papa's binder where he lists all the books he's read.
People who are passionate about what they do.
Boys in tuxedos.
Don Draper's new idea. #MadMen
Typing “THE END” on the first draft of a novel.
She-crab soup.
Spanish moss.
Live music on the pier.
Road-tripping with Paul.
My own bed.
Quilts on a clothesline.
The color aqua.
Thrift stores.
Having an imaginary friend.
Hay rides.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Ten-Second Rainshowers: Poems by Young People compiled by Sandford Lyne

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit ever-inspiring Margaret at Reflections on the Teche for Roundup.

While husband and I vacationed at Georgia's Golden Isles, we visited several thrift shops on St. Simon's Island. At one of them I picked up TEN-SECOND RAINSHOWERS: Poems by Young People compiled by Sandford Lyne, illustrations by Virginia Halstead. It's an oldie - published back in 1996. But, oh, my, what treasures! The book is divided into 6 sections and includes poems from 130 students, ages 8-18. Here's a sampling (warning: at least one of these will break your heart):





(untitled)

The whole class is talking
There's nothing to do
I guess I will sit here and
Bloom

- Adam Cooke, grade 3

Warmth

I walked through the empty kitchen
to the door,
to leave the warmth of home
for the bitter-cold anxiety of
a Monday at school.
Ducking the old dogwood outside,
I heard a familiar call,
and turned to see my mother
waving me off to school,
sending me a small fire
to keep my heart a little warmer.

-Richard Furst, Grade 10

When My Mom Died

When my mom died
I was like the winter
With only a young pine growing
Just the pine and a stump of a great poem

-James Powell, grade 8

(untitled)

The cow lay basking in the sun
as nearby flowers swayed.
A mouse scuttled by
in search of a little something to eat.
Each spoke to the field
without saying a word.

-Ivana Perkinson, grade 8

(untitled)

The creek is my friend
it talks to me by
falling over the rocks,
but the sun also
likes my friend
and likes to take
him in the sky

- Scott Denson, grade 7

Who Am I?

I am like a gate
without a name.
I am like stars making something.
I wish
I could be like other children,
but I am just a dud.
I want to be
like horses that have names.

-Jacob Mayes, grade 4

I Saw Myself

I think I am in love
For I am drawing violets.
I feel this joy within my soul.
And yesterday I saw myself in the river
And for the first time
I smiled.

- Karen Navarez, grade 4

A Boat of Blue

I will hop in a boat of blue
And drive through the marsh.
The cool breeze will gently brush
  against my face.
My thoughts will be like honey
  on biscuits,
And jam on toast.
Except for the little vroom of the motor,
There will be silence.
It will be summer,
when horseflies bite your toes.
I will be the king of my quiet place.

- Glenn Hoffman, grade 5

On the Road to God

On the road to God I see a cow from
  the pasture.
There's a willow tree on the road to God.
There's a gentle shower on the road
  to God.
It feels like summer on the road to God.

- Laura Novello, grade 3

** Should the author or any of the poets included here happen to find this post, I would be delighted to hear from you! (Wouldn't it be fun to update readers on where these poets are 20 years later?!)  irene (at) irenelatham (dot) com

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Every 25 Years

Early morning, the Atlantic, from Jekyll Island
25 years ago Paul and I took our very first trip together to Jekyll Island, Georgia. Before we went, his older sister told him that traveling together was a good test -- if we did well, we might last. If we didn't -- well, maybe we shouldn't.

That first trip was pretty magical with good food, walks on the beach, and music on the pier. We loved it, and we loved each other, and within a year we were married.

So many times since then we've said we should go back to Jekyll. But there's always been some other trip to go on, some other shore to explore. So a couple of years ago we made a commitment: we'll go back to celebrate our 25th anniversary.

And we did. And it was every bit as magical as the first time! Maybe more so, because we got to tell everyone we met that we were back after 25 years. Such a sweet, sweet trip. Such a sweet, sweet man.

Here we are in 1990 at the St. Simon's lighthouse:

And here we are in 2015 at the St. Simon's lighthouse:


We've decided we're going back again in 25 years. :)

Friday, May 22, 2015

OVER THE HILLS AND FAR AWAY: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes collected by Elizabeth Hammill

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Matt at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme for Roundup!

I'm excited to share with you a gorgeous book that I am completely enamored of: OVER THE HILLS AND FAR AWAY. It's "A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes" which may not seem all that fresh or exciting -- until you realize the book is illustrated by "more than 70 celebrated artists."

That's right: 70 different artists! And oh, my, even without the words, this book would be a stunner. As a lover of illustrated children's books, I get a little breathless looking at all these many styles of art all in one book. Seriously, it's gorgeous. And the text has its own freshness: these are not just Mother Goose American/English nursery rhymes. There are all sorts of cultures represented here, which makes this book, for me, a must-have. Please, please take a look. So enchanting! Betsy Bird thinks so, too!

And just to give you a little flavor of the text, I'm excited to share with you  just a few poems:

How shall I begin my song
In the blue night that is settling:
I will sit here and begin my song.

-Tohono O'odham

------------------------------------------
We keep a dog to watch the house,
A pig is useful, too;
We keep a cat to catch a mouse,
But what can we do
With a girl like you?

-Chinese American

------------------------------------------
Put your hands on your hips,
Let your backbone shake,
Shake it to the East,
Shake it to the West,
Shake it to the very one that
you love the best.

-Caribbean clapping rhyme
(This one is so joyously illustrated by Ashley Bryan, that I can't not mention it.)

-----------------------------------------
A riddle, a riddle, as I suppose,
A hundred eyes, and never a nose.

-English (answer to the riddle: a potato!)

----------------------------------------
Bed is too small for my tiredness.
Give me a hilltop with trees;
Tuck a cloud up under my chin.
Lord, blow out the moon - please.

Rock me to sleep in a cradle of dreams.
Sing me a lullaby of leaves;
Tuck a cloud up under my chin.
Lord, blow out the moon - please.

-American

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

O, Sweet Voiced May!

May has been a lovely month so far, full of all kinds of special events. Here's a sampling!

Here I am reading at the Clubhouse on Highland as part of InSpero's Magic City Storytellers event. I was one of several amazing artists, and I shared 5 poems, including "Self-Portrait as a Country Road," which I wrote last month as part of my ARTSPEAK! project. One thing I loved about this event was the inclusion of music. Maybe one of these days I will be good enough at the cello to bring it on stage with me. :) Big thanks to Charlie Ritch for inviting me to participate in this lovely, inspiring evening. And thanks to son Eric for snapping this shot. 

This is a picture from an SCBWI Schmooze about "Sailing the Self-Publishing Boat" led by a former "Rosie" Dr. Frances Tunnel Carter (who also founded the American Rosie the Riveter Association) and her daughter Nell Branum. What a nice turnout we had!

Here I am with some enthusiastic readers in Mrs. Beavers class at Inverness Elementary School. Mrs. Beavers and Mrs. Price read LEAVING GEE'S BEND with their students every year and invite me to come talk with their students about Ludelphia and my experiences as a writer. What a great group!




This is a picture of some of my favorite fellas! They are all dressed up to perform at ASFA's graduation ceremonies at The Alabama Theater. In just 3 years, we'll be watching THESE guys graduate. Wow!

...more of my favorite fellas! We were thrilled to have Papa visit for a few days on his way to Florida. Here is is with Eric and Andrew. We spent our time sharing stories and sharing meals and enjoying one another. Papa and I also had a very productive trip to the Hoover Library bookstore where he stocked up on favorite authors for a buck a book!


Here I am with authors Roger Reid and Claire Datnow at the Green Ribbon Schools annual picnic. Congratulations to this year's winners: Auburn University, Lincoln Elementary, Lincoln High, and Bluff Park Elementary! This is one of my favorite events all year -- I love hanging out with educators who go above and beyond... especially when we share a passion for environmental preservation. I had fun sharing with them about my current and forthcoming books!


I also had the great privilege to Skype with some of Mary Lee Hahn's students who had read LEAVING GEE'S BEND. They had such great questions, and were so engaged and engaging! But the thing that struck me most was their obvious love for their teacher. Who doesn't love Mary Lee?! (Lucky kids!)
Finally I want to share with you a pic of Andrew who is newly graduated from high school! Woohoo! He's posing here on the floor with the t-shirt quilt I made for him out of his high school t-shirts. He loved the quilt, which was a thrill for me. (Those of you who enjoy gifting original crafts/quilt/art, you know how special it is when the item gifted seems to really be appreciated. Priceless!)

What May adventures have you enjoyed? I'd love to hear about them!

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Poetry of Pictures (all the way from Africa!)

Hello, and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit the amazing Diane at Random Noodling for Roundup!

Things are hopping around these parts... our middle son Andrew is graduating from high school this week, my father is here, and I am working every day on a novel-in-progress! All good stuff, but it means less time here at the blog.

So, I offer you something poetry-related that has brought me a great deal of joy this week:

I love telling readers about how DEAR WANDERING WILDEBEEST was inspired by online pics taken by wildlife photographer Greg du Toit. And now I have a gorgeous coffee table book to enjoy every day! Thank you, Greg!



Get your very own copy! SO GORGEOUS. I may have to write a whole new set of poems now. :)