Friday, August 18, 2017

Poem for Monday's Eclipse

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Kay at A Journey Through the Pages for Roundup.

Like so many, I've got the eclipse on my mind!

In Frank Close's recent LA Times article about the eclipse he opens with this question: "What is the most beautiful natural phenomenon you have ever seen?"

So many things pop up for me: red sun sinking into the Mediterranean, blue sky through the giants of Muir Woods, Pacific Ocean through the keyhole at Sunny Jim's Cave in La Jolla, California, the granite walls from the floor of Yosemite Valley, Crater Lake, coral reef beneath Little Cayman... and so many I've yet to see for myself, like the northern lights and Antarctica's blue-green 'bergs...

So it is with joy and yes, those special viewing glasses (!) that I greet Monday's big event. We are not in a prime viewing area here in Birmingham, but 94% is not too shabby.

I do have this memory of seeing an eclipse when I was in high school, but turns out this was not a TOTAL eclipse. Here's more information about the history of eclipses visible in the U.S. On a related note, I also have vivid memories of my brother playing on piano the opening of the song "Total Eclipse of the Heart" again and again and again...

Now that's poetry. :) It seems natural phenomena often inspires we poets. So today my Poetry Friday offering is a wee eclipse poem. Is it a haiku? I am always reluctant to issue this label when I am not sure I have actually met the requirements... anyway, it's short!


interloper moon
pirates blazing day-kiss
Earth's face darkens

- Irene Latham

Happy viewing! And happy weekend. xo

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Poetry of Architecture (and the Architecture of Poetry)

Speaking of architecture...
(outside the High Museum)
At our recent visit to the High Museum in Atlanta -- my last post was about the Ashley Bryan exhibit -- I got waylaid in the gift shop in part due to some beautiful books about architecture. I love thinking about the art of spaces -- lines and shapes and function. And I was struck how much architecture is like poetry. Here are some quotes from a book called THE ARCHITECT SAYS: Quotes, Quips and Words of Wisdom by Laura S. Dushkes:

 "Architecture is a discipline that takes time and patience. If one spends enough years writing complex novels one might be able, someday, to construct a respectable haiku. - Thom Mayne

Ha! This is SO TRUE. Writing is also a discipline that time and patience. And the less words, generally the more difficult to pull of.

"My work is a constant process of uncovering. Do not forget, there is no new history. The architects I am going back to are all still there. They do not move. I move." - Peter Eisenman

Isn't the work of a poet a constant process of uncovering? Wonder and discovery, and yes, always always movement. Which means we should always be challenging ourselves, always be trying new ways to seeing, thinking... and new ways of arranging the words.

"If you have total freedom, then you are in trouble. It's much better when you have some obligation, some discipline, some rules. When you have no rules, they you start to build your own rules." -Renzo Piano

I tell students that one of the things I love about poetry is the freedom - "no rules." What I mean is, any way you write a poem is fine. It doesn't have to rhyme or have a certain number of lines. It's up to you! BUT. Of course there are some obligations -- especially in form poetry. Which is why even those of us who highly prefer free verse should sometimes muddle through the forms. For the discipline.

"What if a building were more like a nest? If it were, it would be made out of local, abundant materials. It would be specific to its site and climate. It would use minimal energy but maintain comfort. It would last just long enough and then would leave no trace. It would be just what it needed to be." - Jeanne Gang

A poem that's just what it needs to be... that is the goal, isn't it? And to use local, abundant materials... one need not write about grand things, but every day things. Poems are everywhere!

"In a strange way, architecture is really an unfinished thing, because even though the building is finished, it takes on a new life. It
 becomes part of a new dynamic: how people will occupy it, use it, think about it." -Daniel Libeskind

Poetry, too, is an unfinished thing. I can't think of a single poem of mine that I wouldn't like to improve in some way. It's how we poets are always tinkering. And then when you put it in the hands of a reader -- well, it isn't yours at all anymore. It's theirs. As it should be!

"When an architect is asked what his best building is, he usually answers, 'The next one.'" - Emilio Ambasz

I don't know that I've ever been asked what my best poem is. But I think 'the next one' is exactly the right answer. Which is why... I'm signing off now to write a poem!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Found: A Beautiful Blackbird (and More!) at High Museum

Last week Paul and I took a quick trip to Atlanta for a concert and to see High Museum's exhibit "Painter and Poet: The Wonderful World of Ashley Bryan."

I love Ashley Bryan. What a gentle, vibrant spirit! And his work is full of surprise and color and meaning. The exhibit included quite a few original spreads from Ashley's picture books, a whole case of puppets, and, of course, baskets of his books! We also watched a video in which Ashley himself talks about his work. I was enchanted. And it made me want to visit the Ashley Bryan Center in Maine! Maybe next summer?

Anyhow, here are some picture from the museum:

I love Granny Anika's song:
"Mama loves peas,
Papa loves  corn,
Baby loves beans
Sure as you're born.
Put in potatoes,
Granny loves yam,
Don't forget okra,
Beets and jam."
It also reminds me of Mr. Jim's vegetable plate.

"I" is for Irene... and "If I could imagine the shaping of Fate, I would think of blackmen handling the sun." - Raymond Patterson (from ABC of African American Poetry)

Ashley's work features lots and lots of animals!

from Ashley's autobiography Ashley Bryan: Words to My Life's Song:
"This is my story. Whether it be bitter or whether it be sweet, take some it elsewhere and let the rest come back to me."

The Night Has Ears, one of my favorite Ashley Bryan books!

 And, because the High Museum is also featuring an exhibition of Andy Warhol's prints, I wanted to include this shot from the gift shop:

"Art is what you can get away with."

Friday, August 11, 2017

Poems Inspired by Greek Philosophers

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

Now that baby boy is back in school, I can start catching up! I'm excited today to share with you the first Poem Swap treasure I received this summer... from Margaret, coincidentally! But first: bushels of hugs and kisses to Tabatha for creating and organizing the Poem Swap across the seasons! What a gift to all of us!

So. Margaret's poem was from a prompt in THE PRACTICE OF POETRY by Robin Behn and Chase Twichell to use a Greek Philosopher's quote as an epigraph. Here is her beautiful poem (which reminds me of my "sky" year!):

Listen to the Voice of the Sky
Dark and light, bad and good, are not different but one and the same. - Heraclitus

to the voice of the sky
which knows darkness
and light
are the same.

The sky plays
with light and shadow
as a cathedral painted
in stained glass.

Look to the sky
a gauge for weather --
acceptance of rain
as necessary,


as grass to the cow,
as solitude to awareness,
as life is to death.

- Margaret Simon

Lovely, isn't it?! And because this is what often happens during Poem Swap, I was inspired to write my own poem with a Greek philosopher's quote as an epigraph. Some of Margaret's themes bled into my poem as well.

A Murmuration of Acceptance

One thing I know, that I know nothing. This is the source of my wisdom. - Socrates

The day I learned I knew nothing,
poems swarmed the sky,
swooped across the sun like starlings,
as if one body
instead of a thrum of heartbeats,
a frenzy of syllables, 
a symphony of questions.

Nothing settled onto my chest
like a parched elephant,
not moving except for that endless lake
of skin twitching against flies,
and a voice said, you are exactly
where you are meant to be,

and in an instant the elephant dissolved –
all my worries retreated
to another kingdom,
my carefully constructed fears
crumbled and fell into a well 
with no bucket, no rope.

I knew nothing, but I wasn't lost.
Not part of the flock anymore,
not even a bird or a feather 
or a mite on a softly tucked wing.
Wisdom merely a small scrawl of letters,
and me the air a nightingale swallows 
when it sings –

not a song, no. Less than a breath,
for those accountants among us:
breath of a breath,
that can only ever become wind
when joined by a million
other jumbled alphabets 
brave enough to shape themselves
into words like nothing and forever,
before they, too, disappear.

- Irene Latham

Anyone else want to write a poem inspired by a Greek philosopher? Find quotes here.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Revising Backwards

Among other things, I am in the middle of a novel revision.

This process seems endless, and I often lose my enthusiasm. But the other day, when I was ready to go shop on etsy instead, something wonderful happened. My mind flashed to my cello lesson.

Sometimes when I am struggling with a piece, my teacher Laura will take me through it backwards. We work through each trouble spot from the end to beginning, and then I play the piece start-to-finish, incorporating the corrections. It's an amazingly simple technique that somehow opens the brain (and the fingers!). Other musicians claim it makes learning a piece faster and practice sessions more efficient.

So I decided to try it with my writing. And you know? I saw things I hadn't seen before. I made connections. The narrative arc became more clear to me, and I realized one of the main problems with the plot was that my main character would NOT do what I was having her do. No way was that going to fly.

Sure, I probably would have figured this out eventually. But I truly believe it was this backwards approach that got me out of myself and more into my heroine and her story.

So, writers: next time you're struggling, try going backwards!

Also, turns out you can stimulate your fitness IQ, by walking backwards. Who knew?

Monday, August 7, 2017

Movie Monday: DUNKIRK and THEIR FINEST (or, In Praise of Authenticity & Optimism)

We didn't plan it this way, but this week we ended up seeing two movies back to back that somehow involved the historic retreat of forces during WWII at Dunkirk beach.

The first, THEIR FINEST (now available for streaming), is about a woman in 1940 England charged with writing a film script about Dunkirk. The film was part of the government's propaganda efforts, to give the public something with "authenticity and optimism." I don't think it's any mistake that this film (about the film) shines with exactly those qualities. It's a love story, it's a girl-finding-her-power story, it's a human story. It's also funny and sweet, and I totally want to watch it again.

The second, DUNKIRK, is in theaters now, cleaning up at the box office, in case you didn't know. We've been seeing the commercials for this movie forever... which might explain my initial lack of enthusiasm. Sure it looks beautifully shot, but haven't we seen this kind of sweeping war movie before? I don't enjoy watching people die on screen. It all feels so needless and hopeless. And yet, our youngest son really wanted to see it, and we'd just loved THEIR FINEST, so off we went!

And you know what? It was a good movie. Yes, beautifully shot. And my son said it deserves an Oscar for sound editing. It was tense in ways I wasn't expecting -- smart move building 3 storylines and continuing to cut between them. It also did what I've just been reading that we need to do in our books: show characters grappling with decisions. Give readers/viewers a chance to put themselves in those situations and decide what they might do.

But the best part was how the film had these moments of grace, these unexpected examples of humans at their very best -- humans making choices that are not just for themselves, but for the good of others. It moved me, and I wasn't expecting that.

Authenticity and optimism... check check!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

What the Earth Says

Hello and welcome to Spiritual Journey Thursday! Today we are gathering at Julianne's blog To Read To Write To Be where we are discussing the topic "new beginnings."

This is a great topic -- isn't every day a new beginning? I have gotten through many a difficulty in my life using the "one day at a time" adage. It helps me to not stray too far into my fears for the future or regrets over the past... just be here now. Let each moment be a beginning.

As many of you know, about two years ago I started playing the cello. A new beginning for sure! And what I've discovered through the process of learning and making mistakes and being humble is that living life as a beginner is a wonderful way to be present and open to my life and what the world has to offer. I've been beginning -- and beginning again -- a sort-of memoir/devotional about this -- how to live life as a beginner.

And here's the thing: now I am not a beginner any more at the cello. So I've been trying other new things: I enrolled in a drawing class! We'll see where that takes me.

our lake house... with newly
painted-by-me red door!
Also, Paul and I bought a lake house! It's at a small-ish lake (250 or so acres; 15 miles of shoreline) and a sweet, quiet community less than an hour from our home. We've long talked about a lake house, but always abandoned the idea (too much trouble, the expense, wouldn't we feel like we HAD to go, what about all the other places in the world we want to see?). We've watched many a Lake House Bargain Hunt show over the years. And then, after an early-morning moment on the Gee's Bend ferry, we knew it was time. We needed water in our lives. Relaxation. Seclusion. New adventures.

So, for the first-time ever, I am driving the truck with the boat on the trailer and backing it into the water. (It's harder than it looks!) I am bass fishing with a rod and reel I've never used before. (Fun!) It's a new beginning for us as we are seeing the light after 23 years of parenting and the youngest son this month entering his senior year. Not quite empty nest, but getting there!

It's a new beginning AND a return to something -- a return to US, to a way of life we enjoyed before we were parents.

It's wonderful, is what it is!

And you know what? It feels right and real, like we are in exactly the right place. And that got me thinking about this poem by William Stafford:

In Response to a Question

The earth says have a place, be what that place
requires; hear the sound the birds imply
and see as deep as ridges go behind
each other. (Some people call their scenery flat,
their only picture framed by what they know:
I think around them rise a riches and a loss
too equal for their chart – but absolutely tall.)

The earth says every summer have a ranch
that’s minimum: one tree, one well, a landscape
that proclaims a universe – sermon
of the hills, hallelujah mountain,
highway guided by the way the world is tilted,
reduplication of mirage, flat evening:
a kind of ritual for the wavering.

The earth says where you live wear the kind
of color that your life is (gray shirt for me)
and by listening with the same bowed head that sings
draw all into one song, joining
the sparrow on the lawn, and row that easy
way, the rage without met by the wings
within that guide you anywhere the wind blows.

Listening, I think that’s what the earth says.

William Stafford

The lake house, with Paul, is my new place. And all that place requires is that I be... me. The most open, vulnerable, listening, always-a-beginner me. (I'm also talking more about the lake and August and beginnings  -- with a poem-- over at Smack Dab in the Middle!) xo

Friday, July 28, 2017

What Makes Good Poetry?

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit for lovely Linda at A Word Edgewise for Roundup.

Recently the question "What makes good poetry?" appeared from a friend in my in-box. And since it is something I think about pretty regularly, I thought perhaps I would share some thoughts here.

First, here is a graphic I created to share with students when I teach poetry workshops:

And here is my quick email response to my friend:

In general I would say I respond to something that moves me, and sometimes that's not particularly polished, but raw. The one element that I find myself really requiring in a poem is the element of surprise. This can be a surprising image, or a fresh metaphor, or even unexpected subject matter. Sometimes even language itself can be the surprise! When I look over my own work, I always evaluate it from that vantage point first. Does it contain a surprise? 

For the past few weeks I've been listening to an audiobook ROMANTIC OUTLAWS: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and her Daughter Mary Shelley by Charlotte Gordon. Fascinating women, fascinating book! And lo, I stumbled upon a section that sent me back to the library for the print version so I could accurately record it. Here's what Mary Wollstonecraft had to say on the topic:

" 1797, she [Mary Wollstonecraft] defended her aesthetic choices, in an essay she called "On Taste." A good piece of writing should be spontaneous and honest, she said. The mind and heart should appear on the page. Writers should not try to seduce their readers with a "mist of words." The point of a good book was to provoke both ideas and emotions in the reader, not to engage in a battle of wits with a straw opponent."

And THAT reminds me of son Eric's (stage name "ErBeeko") newly-released album TRUTH, about which he says, "My only hope is that at least one of these raps will make you rethink something in your life. 

Apparently Eric's work has succeeded, because he's had some heartfelt reactions to his songs -- songs that speak to our current social media culture, sex, drugs, relationships, and everything you'd expect from a 17-year-old, and more.  Give it a listen on your favorite music server.

And here is the latest video:

Finally, here are a few words from Eric in response to some controversy. They also speak to me about "what makes good poetry.":  Controversy. This is the struggle of an artist. It connects me to Ben Haggerty and Kendrick Lamar, and it allows me, if not the world, to grow and better understand the issues I speak for. Truth was made to start conversations, and I believe the talk it starts up is its biggest impact on the world, whether it's positive or negative... knowing or defensive... There may not be a difference after all. The truth is simple, but the world is complex. I hope people see that when they hear the album's contrasting muscles pumping and connecting, sometimes with success, sometimes without. It is meant to be the start of something, not the end. There is no way to capture the whole story in one album, and I believe this part of the story leads to many more. I intended the album not to show perfection, but to exemplify the beauty of a young man struggling to find the truth in his world... a life concerned with making the world a better place, not necessarily knowing how, but trying all the same. I look around and I see so much wrong that no one talks about, and I know that if I don't stand up, no one will. So I decided to be that guy. I sacrificed my comfort for this. I dedicated myself to the album like I do with everything else in my life, and I made all my crazy dreams about bravery and revenge and redemption come true. I did everything I wanted to do, and I still love my life. Can you say the same?

Poetry Friday friends: what do YOU think makes good poetry?

Monday, July 24, 2017

Movie Monday: THE BIG SICK

Funny thing: I'm writing this post while... sick. :( Summer colds are THE WORST.

Anyhow, we did get out with the young adult men in our life this past weekend to see THE BIG SICK. It's a love story, yes. And so much more! It gets into immigrant issues (if we came to America to leave behind the old life, why are we carrying so much with us?), "mixed" marriages/relationships (love may not care about cultural differences, but families do!), and second chances. Main character Kumail (who plays himself) gets a second chance with Emily when she gets hospitalized for a mysterious illness. Emily's parents get a second chance to improve their marriage. And all the while, there's little dashes of comedy and delight... kind of like real life! It seemed particularly relevant as both our sons have had relationships with people from other cultures. They could really relate to some of the challenges and rewards.

Oh, and the movie is based on real people! I loved getting a glimpse of the real Emily during the closing credits. Zoe Kazan (who played Emily) is one of my favorite actresses working today.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Movie Monday: I AM BIG BIRD

On the trans-Atlantic flight home from Barcelona, we had the opportunity to watch several movies. One of my picks was the delightful, touching I AM BIG BIRD: The Caroll Spinney Story. It's a documentary about Caroll -- how he came to meet Jim Henson and to inhabit two of the most famous puppets ever: Big Bird and the Grouch. But it's more than that. It's also the story of a man overcoming adversity, and a story about being a creative person in this world, about forgiveness (his relationship with is father... oh my!) and, at its heart, a love story. Caroll is STILL playing Big Bird, and he's still a creative person (at age +78), and he's still in love (with wife Debra, to whom he's been married since 1979).

I loved this movie. And I didn't even watch Sesame Street as a kid! Sure, my kids watched it -- a little. In fact, Daniel (our oldest) is the only one I really remember liking Big Bird. He's also the one who got a Tickle-me Elmo one year. (Interesting bit in the movie: how Elmo usurped Big Bird, and why.)

Maybe the fact that I was just finishing this really romantic relaxing adventure with my husband had something to do with it, but I was especially touched by the love story.  "I'll meet you at the raspberries." (watch it to find out what I'm talking about!)

But it wasn't just that. The movie also explored the ups and downs of the creative life, how hard (and inevitable!) it is to go after one's dreams, and more and more and more! Even though it's been a few weeks now since I saw the movie, I am still thinking about it every day. I remain incredibly inspired to write meaningful, rich characters for children. What better mentors for creating authentic child-voices could their be that Big Bird and Elmo and all those other residents of Sesame Street? And what a wonderful world this is, where one's "job" can include watching Sesame Street?! I love it!

Friday, July 14, 2017

A Mac-n-Cheesy Poem from a Bunch of Buttercups

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference, where we are celebrating National Macaroni & Cheese Day!

Here in Birmingham it's our 4th annual Camp Buttercup "for bold and creative girls" -- the homespun camp we created for me and some very special young girls in my life (including a precious adopted sister and a pair of sweet nieces).

Here is our mac-n-cheesy group poem:


sunkissed waves
of mac-n-cheese

a beach
in your mouth


- Anna, BrenLeigh, Irene & MadiLynn

....and... because we could not reach an agreement about what kind of macaroni and cheese is best (I like homemade, one likes Kraft, another Velveeta.... we decided to feast on all three!)

BrenLeigh, MadiLynn, Anna

Thank you, Tabatha, for this great idea... and to all of you Poetry Friday poets: we will be slurping your poems today!! xo

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Because Music

It's been a busy summer. So many good things! And some of the best moments for me have been marked by music.

so many beautiful sunsets at sea!
1. On Oceania's Riviera, during a Broadway revue, when the castmembers performed a medley from Les Miserables. "To love another person is to see the face of God." One of the best lines. Ever.

musical boats!
2. Near Palma de Mallorca at the Cueves del Drach (which translates to "Cave of Dragons). Our tour guide said their would be a concert, and after the concert we could go left to ride the boats across the cave lake, or right to walk across the bridge. I was expecting a cave show like I've seen here in the U.S.: recorded music with laser lights. But that's not what we got. What happened was this: after the announcements (in 3 different languages), and in the dark, we heard very faint strains of Pachelbel's Canon in D. The music got louder as a lighted boat floated toward us. And then another boat! The musicians - violin, cello, piano -- were on the boats! It was like being inside Phantom of the Opera! Completely magical. I will never forget it. (Meanwhile, caves, it seems, look pretty much the same whether in the U.S. or Spain.)

3. Listening to Neal Schon, the guitarist for Journey, play, on electric guitar, a rendition of Amazing Grace. This was so very unexpected and beautiful! It didn't hurt that it was a beautiful night, and I was at the concert with a couple of the fellas I love best.

4. Listening to the finished tracks from Eric's new album called Truth. It releases July 21, and it's raw and honest and pretty amazing. He and some friends have made videos to accompany several of the tracks -- amazing, amazingly talented kids!

5. The sound of the lake on an early morning boat trip. So, so peaceful! And beautiful to watch the fog lift off the water... ahhh!

Monday, July 10, 2017

Movie Monday: BABY DRIVER

This movie surprised me. I'd seen a commercial for BABY DRIVER -- where a young woman is talking about a young man's name "B-A-B-Y Baby" -- but I didn't really know anything else. And sometimes that's the best, isn't it? To be surprised?

Anyhow, Baby reminded me of my son Eric. The movie had me at the beginning scenes... oh the power of music! A little star power including Kevin Spacey and Jon Hamm also doesn't hurt. But really, here, it's the story that matters -- more specifically the characters. You can't help but root for Baby. He's a good kid caught in a mess. Haven't we all been that kid at one point or another? Well, maybe not with all the violence and gunslinging and car chases, but you know what I mean. The viewer totally wants Baby to find (drive!) his way to happiness. And I appreciate how in the end one of the bad guys isn't all bad...

Give it a whirl! Maybe you will be surprised, too.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Keep a Pocket in Your Poem by J. Patrick Lewis

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit new grandmother Carol at Beyond Literacy Link for Roundup. I am delighted to be in my regular writing spot this week after a month of adventures, including a Mediterranean cruise and setting up a lake house and writing and cello and and and...  reading!

Today I am happy to share with you selections from KEEP A POCKET IN YOUR POEM: Classic Poems and Playful Parodies written and selected by J. Patrick Lewis, illustrations by Johanna Wright. It's the third title I can think of this year that mixes classic poems with new... ONE LAST
WORD by Nikki Grimes and OUT OF WONDER by Kwame Alexander. A publishing trend, perhaps? Or just a coincidence?

KEEP A POCKET IN YOUR POEM, from WordSong, contains thirteen classics, and then Pat riffs on them in some way -- sometimes funny like "Stopping by Fridge on a Hungry Evening" after "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" by Robert Frost, and sometimes inventive like "Winter Warmth" after "Winter Sweetness" by Langston Hughes. Fun!

Also, it's like a peek inside Pat's curio-cabinet mind, because we get to see what imaginative leaps he takes... for instance, how did Pat get from "The Eagle" by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, to "The Firefly"? From "hope is a thing with feathers" by Emily Dickinson to "grief is a thing with tissues" ? This would make for excellent conversation when sharing these poems as pairs with young readers. And of course it begs the question: what would YOU write about?

To give you a taste, I'd like to share two short pairs with you from the book -- and my own response-poem:

by Carl Sandburg

The fog comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

by J. Patrick Lewis

The hail flies
on furious hooves.

It batters cars
and rooftops,
slamming anger,
an then melts away.


by Irene Latham

The frost hangs
by silken threads.

It spins
its shimmering web
to catch an early sun
and then swallows
it whole.

The lightning
The toad! It looks like
 it could belch
a cloud.

by Issa

The tiger! It looks like
the sun has been put
behind bars.

by J. Patrick Lewis
(and here is my effort, after BOTH poems!)

The Monarch! It looks like
it's been belched
by a tiger.

by Irene Latham

Read this book! You'll smile, and you'll be inspired. And of course, you are welcome to share your own response poems in comments!

And coming next week: Tabatha is hosting Poetry Friday, and she's suggesting a mac-n-cheese theme in honor of National Macaroni and Cheese Day, which is July 14. Bring on the CHEESE! xo

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Getting Out of My Comfort Zone with Illustrator Eric Rohmann

Hello and Happy Spiritual Journey Thursday, July 2017 edition! Today we're all talking about getting out of our comfort zones. You can find the Pat's roundup of posts over at Writer on a Horse.

A few months ago I subscribed to a new-to-me magazine called The Artist's Magazine. While I am not an artist who uses pencil, paint, etc. (yet!), I love artists and art.  I thought it would be fun to learn about art through the magazine -- which I guess is one way to get out of one's comfort zone: subscribe to a magazine you wouldn't normally read. (Also: take an art class. In an unexpected turn of events, Paul and I took our very first art class together on a cruise ship this past month! More on this soon!)

Anyhow, imagine my delight when I received my very first copy of the magazine, and it featured an interview with children's book illustrator Eric Rohmann, whom I so admire! (Have you seen THE CINDER-EYED CATS? One of my most favorite wordless picture books.) You may also recognize some of these award-winning titles: MY FRIEND RABBIT (winner of 2002 Caldecott), TIME FLIES (1994 Caldecott Honor), and most recently GIANT SQUID, written by his wife Candace Fleming (how did I not know these two were married?!)

Okay, so the article is by illustrator Will Hillenbrand, who is quite accomplished himself, with over 50 titles to his credit. The two talk about story and structure and technique and publishing and meeting the reader halfway.

One thing I learned about Eric is that he often uses other books as inspiration when deciding what technique to use on a project. And he likes to do something completely new for each book -- that way his work doesn't get "stale." Which means every book is a discovery, and he makes lots of mistakes, experiences anxiety, and eventually, if he keeps at it, finds the way to tell the story.

Eric went on to say that this, which I find hugely inspiring:

"If I do a book that has 18 paintings, I'd describe it this way: in six, I nailed it; in six, I wish I had two more months; for the other six, I have no clue."

Art (life!) is not about perfection! It's about learning and trying and discovering -- all of which requires getting out of one's comfort zone. This is true for a Caldecott-winning artist, and it's true for me and for you.

Want to read the article for yourself? Get out of your comfort zone and subscribe to The Artist's Magazine.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Nothing Says Summer Like QUILTS

Wow, what a busy summer! I have so much to share with all of you. Since it's a holiday week, and I've got my sewing machine plugged up and ready to stitch, I will start with quilts.

Every other June the Birmingham Quilters Guild has its show. This year featured more than 300 quilts! Thank you, quilters, for your amazing work! Talk about inspiring.... here are some of my favorites:

Self-portrait Quilts

Instead of a picture, my friend Ann made her
self-portrait in WORDS... which makes me wonder....
how would I do my self-portrait quilt?! Hmmm....

3-D Quilts

What a great way to use those
old heirloom doilies!

Farm-related Quilts

This is so gorgeous! Right away I had to send a pic
to my cow-loving mom.

reminds me of Ludelphia!

(not pictured: a slew of chicken quilts!)

Fun Quilts

How can you not smile at this?!

reminds me of my cyclist brother and nephew...

isn't the quilting gorgeous on that flower??

Mermaids always make me think of my sweet sister!

Under-the-Sea Quilts

This one reminds me of Agnes,
the heroine in my forthcoming picture book

another mermaid! Yay!

Eye-Popping Geometric Design Quilts

Quilts Featuring the Color BLACK

When I won a fat quarter in a drawing,
I picked a black print fabric. I totally want
to make a quilt with black in it now!

 Wishing everyone a lovely 4th... and happy summer stitching! xo