Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Poems Are Teachers by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater

This past weekend in between fishing and eating and sorting through some old letters, I read from cover to cover Amy Ludwig VanDerwater's newest book for teachers: POEMS ARE TEACHERS: How Studying Poetry Strengthens Writing in All Genres (Heinemann, 2017).

As an occasional teacher -- and as a visiting author who talks with teachers who are eager for help teaching poetry -- I am always looking for new ideas and resources. This book is IT. Not only are these pages bursting with Amy's trademark warmth and wisdom (who doesn't love Amy?!), the book also includes some great poems by students and by poets who write for children. I'm honored to have one of my ArtSpeak! Plant, Grow, Eat (2016) poems included in the chapter about writing poems after art: "A Dream of Wheat."

One of the features of the book I really enjoy is the behind-the-poem blurbs from each adult poet. Also, Amy shares specific verbiage to use with young students -- I can't wait to try some of her suggestions! And the book itself is proof that poems are teachers, because Amy's words and advice and observations simply sparkle! An added bonus is Katherine Bomer's Foreword. Joy! AND I felt like the chapter "Stand in Awe" was written just for me. It reminds me of why I write, and fills me with all the things I've yet to write about. Thank you, Amy!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Poetry Friday Roundup Brought To You By the Number 13!

Count von Count
Hello and welcome to Poetry Friday! It's my honor to host Roundup here today at Live Your Poem.

Before we get to the links, in celebration of Friday the 13th, I give you...

13 Thoughts About 13

1. I am reading a wonderful middle grade novel THE WONDERLING by Mira Bartok. Before the main character (a one-eared stuttering fox-like creature) is named “Arthur” by his friend Trinket, he is called “Number 13.” Why? I don't know yet! But I am certain the book will reveal this. Also, a movie based on the book is in the works! As I'm reading, I'm feeling a similar enchantment as I did when I read the first HARRY POTTER. Check it out!

2. My labor at the end of my third pregnancy was induced (because our 2nd son was a 10 pounder!), so we expected our youngest son to arrive on the 12th. BUT... he took his time, and didn't come until the 13th. (NOT a Friday, but still!)

3. Here's a poem "Thirteen Reasons Why Not" I wrote for Tabatha for Summer Poem Swap, after the novel Thirteen Reasons Why.

ETA: More 13 poem links:
Heidi's "13 Ways of Looking at a Rollercoaster"

Tabatha's "13 Ways of Looking at Emma" (a cat!)

4. Did you know some people have a fear of the number 13? So many that there's actually a word for it: Triskaidekaphobia

5. 13 is a prime number, divisible only by 1 and itself. (I rather like simplicity of prime numbers. Aren't they... clean?)

6. "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird" by Wallace Stevens.

7. Banished from ships and skyscrapers, I suspect 13 dreams of oceans and elevators.

8. 13 not-so-sweet syllables for autumn:

jack-o-lantern leers
as maple sheds
her crimson robe

 - Irene Latham

9. There's still time to nominate 13 (or more!) titles for CYBILS Poetry... check out the list and add a book for the committee to consider! (see how I snuck that in there? ha!)

10. Write a rondel -- it has 13 lines!

11. A baker's dozen = 13. 

I'd like a baker's dozen of these tasty little mice
(found at a coffee shop in Hattiesburg, MS)!

13. The most wonderful thing about this Friday the 13th? All your links! Please leave them below. Wishing everyone a lovely day!

p.s. If you missed it: Here's a post from earlier this week on writing dialogue poems!

--> --> --> -->

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Crazy About Dialogue Poems

Don't you love it when the poetic universe sends you something from two different galaxies, and somehow they converge in the same sky?

Well, that happened to me recently. First, I taught a poetry workshop to creative writing students at Chelsea High School. We wrote after Pixar postcards. Here is the one I selected:

Monsters, Inc. concept art by Harley Jessup (Disney/Pixar)
I immediately started thinking about what this little girl might be saying to the monster. I was also thinking about how to use the tools I'd just given the students: include imagination, description, and emotion. Here's what I wrote:

Conversation with the Monster Under the Bed

I think YOU should do it.

       Why me?

Because you're big and blue
and you have horns.

     But you're small
     and pink and have shoes.
     Plus I'm scared.

You're scared? Of what?

     What if they don't like me?

What if they DO?
I don't know yet what these two are planning... do you? I guess I'll find out when I work on the poem some more. I DO like the switcheroo of the girl giving the fearful monster courage...

And then the universe gifted me with a copy of Sylvia Vardell & Janet Wong's latest project PET CRAZY: A Poetry Friday Power Book (illustrations by Franzi Paetzold). (Thank you, Sylvia/Janet/universe!)

This book reminds me of my homeschooling-mom days because it's really a workbook. I would have loved exploring it with my sons... lots of engaging activities and illustrations. Plus, PETS. I mean, what better way to bring kids to poetry than with animals?!

AND lo and behold, Powerpack 9 is called "Time to Talk" and includes, among other things, a dialogue poem prompt and mentor poem by Janet Wong.

Good News!

Me: "Kristy's cat is sick."

     Mom: "That's part of having a pet."

Me: "Is Kristy's cat going to die?"

     Mom: "Let's see what they hear
                  from the vet."

     Phone: Ring! Rringg!!

     Mom: "What did you say?"
                 "That's great! That's crazy!"

Me: "Kristy's cat isn't sick?"
     Mom: "She's just having babies!"

- Janet Wong

Good news, indeed! Wee me would have been delighted by that news... and was, many times, as my mother raised and sold Himalayan cats. Also, one of my most favorite books as a youngster was TOO MANY KITTENS, which I have blogged about before. 

You'll notice Janet labels the speakers in her poem, and I didn't. It's the poet's choice, though younger kids might be confused if you don't label it. Or you can do what I did, which was give a clue in the title. Or maybe you have a completely different idea about how to write a dialogue poem! And who should be talking and what they might be talking about... the point is, you should definitely write one. PET CRAZY even provides a page for you (and students!) to do just that.

And if you need further inspiration, here's one I love by Lilian Moore.

Corn Talk

Listen to a cornstalk
to the autumn wind,

     "Once I was a
     kernel, juicy in
     tight skin.

     Long long ago
     in April
     I sank into new-turned

     In the warm sweet
     dar, I drank

     Stretched by light
     I grew

     prince of the garden
     in fringed tassels,
     in proud summer

     Plump kernels
     fattened on my
     each ear secret,
     mummy-wrapped . . ."

"Corn talk again!"
sighs the wind
in the empty garden.

- Lilian Moore, as seen in Something New Begins: New And Selected Poems (Atheneum, 1982)

Happy writing!

Monday, October 9, 2017


This weekend we took a trip back to the 70's to see BATTLE OF THE SEXES, the movie version of the tennis match between Billy Jean King and Bobby Riggs. (Paul remembers this event, but I was too young!)

Emma Stone and Steve Carell were great in these roles, and the story was about more than just tennis -- we see Billy Jean coming to terms with her homosexuality AND Bobby Riggs (and his family) suffering the consequences of his gambling addiction. Some things change; some don't.

It's important to remember that for change to happen, sometimes you've got to walk away from the sure thing and really take a risk (as Billy Jean and the other female tennis players did). It paid off for them, and for all of us women who have followed. Also important to remember how far we've come. And just like Billy Jean is advised (by a gay man) to focus on equality for women when she aches to publicly enjoy a relationship with a woman, we need to remember change happens one small step after another. It takes time and patience. But every step is progress, and while we may not enjoy the fruits of our labors, those who come after us will. And isn't that what this making-the-world-a-better-place is all about?

I didn't LOVE this movie -- there's a certain distance in the storytelling? -- but it's definitely one worth watching.

Friday, October 6, 2017

The Sweet Art of Writing An Aubade

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit lovely Violet Nesdoly for Roundup.

I am once again away from my desk, but I wanted to pop in and share with you a poem from GONE CAMPING: A Novel in Verse by Tamera Will Wissinger, illus. by Mathew Cordell (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). A follow-up to the adorable GONE FISHING, this one is told in the voices of Sam, his sister Lucy, and their Grandpa. I was delighted to find an aubade tucked in those pages!

An aubade is an "early morning" poem, often a love song upon the leaving of a lover. They can be wistful and sweet and so often gorgeous. But of course they can have darker flavors as well. More generally they might be considered a poem of beginnings.

Here is a favorite: "Appalachian Aubade" by Traci Brimhall.
And here is an aubade that I wrote. And now for the aubade I found in GONE CAMPING:


Little light, a little lighter.
Bit of bright, now burning brighter.
Dark is shifting - drifting away.
Goodbye, last night. Hello, today.

Did it rain? The forest is glimmering.
Leaves and pine needles are shimmering.
How lucky to see the sun's first ray.
Goodbye, last night. Hello, today.

- Tamera Will Wissinger

And here are a few words from Tamera, in response to some simple prompts. Welcome, Tamera!

The Delicious: Finding a fresh, close to my heart story to tell and working with different poetry forms to bring the story to life.

The Difficult: I underestimated the tricky balance of writing a sequel. Before doing it I assumed it would be easier since the characters are familiar, but it's more challenging to ensure that there is enough of that familiarity without telling the same story.

The Unexpected: The joy of revisiting fond memories of my own childhood camping experiences through Lucy and Sam.

Thank you, Tamera! Readers, be sure to check out GONE CAMPING and share it with young readers in your life. And I would love to read some aubades by Poetry Friday friends... happy writing!

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Downsizing for the Joy of It

Hello and welcome to Spiritual Journey Thursday! Today we are gathering at Maya's Move Over ADHD to discuss how small steps lead to big change. This is a great topic for me right now, as we are in the process of downsizing. I look at my bookshelves, my walls, my closet, my kitchen, and I feel completely overwhelmed!

But. We (fortunately) are not on a deadline. It doesn't have to be completed today or this month or even this year. Which means I can take those small steps -- one shelf or cabinet or wall at a time.

The hard part for me is living in the chaos. I very much like things DONE. I like checking tasks off, I like the feeling of accomplishment when I dust my hands off after completing something. And as Paul says, I'm already gone. Already moved in at the lake, looking at this 20-year-great-place-to-raise-kids house in the rearview mirror.

But this is a process. And what I am learning about myself is that all this task-checking over the years has been a way for me to feel more in control, a way to manage or redirect my feelings. Which is interesting, because I am no more in control when I am accomplishing things than when I am not! Perhaps this gradual, little bit at a time downsizing is helping me to learn how little control I actually have, and how life is happening now, a shelf a cabinet a wall at a time. It's all part of the process.

So, yes. Small steps add up to big changes. Today I am learning to see the untidyness as LIFE, instead of a step toward life.

This is it! I'm living it, and yes, it's a little messy right now, and I'm not in control, and I'm shedding things I once held dear, and that's changing me, too.

I have always been so sentimental, always NEEDED items to remind me of loved ones, of beauty, of experiences... and today I need them less. I am learning those people, those moments -- they are inside me, a part of me. Maybe I don't need all those things after all.

Two resources for those who might be experiencing similar circumstances: THE LIFE-CHANGING MAGIC OF TIDYING UP by Marie Kondo and children's book creator Elizabeth Dulemba's Tedx talk: Is your stuff stopping you?

One a-ha moment for me during Elizabeth's talk is how we keep stuff to feel more permanent -- and isn't that what a girl (like me) might do after moving 11 times by the age of 14? I have always craved long-term and permanence. When that doesn't even exist.

Also, I don't like to admit this, but in the spirit of small steps for big change, I'm pretty sure one motivation for the things I've kept these long years has been a desire to impress others: look at all the poetry books Irene has! Did you see all that art? Isn't Irene the coolest? Yep. Another area in my life where I might be looking outside myself for validation.

Well. The new house -- the lake house -- it's not about anyone else but me and Paul. And it's about NOW, this moment. So we are keeping it really simple, aiming for utility and pleasing ourselves (joy!).... with as little clutter as possible. And I take great inspiration from one of the quotes Elizabeth shares in her Tedx talk:

“I have a hobby. I have the world’s largest collection of sea shells. I keep it scattered on beaches all over the world. Maybe you’ve seen some of it.”' - Steven Wright

Isn't that wonderful? Working on it. xo 

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Sherman Alexie on Quilts, Relationships & Racism

I've just finished YOU DON'T HAVE TO SAY YOU LOVE ME by Sherman Alexie. It's a memoir centered around his mother, written not long after her death. As with many a mother and children, it's a complicated relationship. I enjoyed the mix of poetry and prose.

I learned Sherman's mother Lilian was a quilter:

My mother made quilts.
She would sew instead of sleep

And rage at sunrise.

- from "The Quilting"

I learned his father was quiet:

My father wouldn't throw a punch or pull a trigger or names names. Silence was his short bow and quiver of arrows.

I learned Sherman is complicated, as we all are:

me with Sherman (NCTE, 2012)
I am the one

who is half monk
And half clown.

Look at me pray!
Look at me pratfall!

I will beg, I will beg
For your devotion

Then do my best
To lead you astray.

- from "Love Parade"

I learned some of Sherman's thoughts on racism:

I have lost track of the number of times a white person, hilariously thinking they were being complimentary, has said to me, “But Sherman, I don't think of you as an Indian.”
Throughout my rural and urban life, among white conservatives and white liberals, I've heard many other variations on the same basic sentiment.
“Sherman, you're not like other Indians.”
“Sherman, you're a credit to your race.”
“Sherman, you barely seem Indian.”
“Sherman, I don't think of you as being Indian. I think of you as being a person.”
“Sherman, you're not just a Native writer. You're a writer.”
“Sherman, I don't see color. I see the person inside.”
All of these statements mean the same thing: “Sherman, in order to fit you and your indigenous identity into my worldview, I have to think of you as being like me – as being white like me.”

Lots to think about. 

Also posting today, my story of "The Summer a Library Saved my Life" over at Smack Dab in the Middle. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

On Choosing Not to Be Offended

In between a thousand other things, I'm preparing for some upcoming presentations, including those scheduled for AASL and NCTE in November. And then yesterday, as I was reading -- and loving -- the new middle grade novel INSIGNIFICANT EVENTS IN THE LIFE OF A CATCUS by Dusti Bowling, I found a passage I can't wait to include in at least one of my presentations.

You've got to read this book! It features "Armless Aven," who was born without arms and has such a positive outlook -- being armless isn't going to stop her from doing ANYTHING. I love it!

And because I believe one key to a more loving, tolerant world is to give people the benefit of the doubt, not take things so personally, choose NOT to be offended, I dog-eared a particular passage from a scene that includes Aven and her very cool mom. Thanks to Dusti for giving permission for me to share it. When you're done here, go forth and find thyself a copy of the book! You will love it.

My eyes filled with tears. “When Connor was here yesterday... he called me disabled.”

Mom scrunched her eyebrows “Well...okay. Did that make you angry?”



“Because,” I said, trying to hold back more tears. I know I am. I don't need other people telling me I am and telling me what I can or can't do.”

“I'm sure he didn't say it to hurt you.”

“I don't ever want to be seen just as a disabled person,” I said. “I don't want to just be Aven Green, that girl with no arms. I don't want to be labeled like that.”

“I think Connor would be the last person to label you like that. You shouldn't get so offended if someone calls you disabled, Aven. You do have extra challenges that others don't have. It does take you longer to do most tasks. Your movements are limited. There's a big difference between saying you're disabled and saying you're incapable.”

“Well, he tried to say I was incapable of becoming an astronaut.”

 She laughed and stood up off the bed and faced me. “I think it would be extra challenging for you, but I don't think it's impossible, not with robotic arms and all that.” She did a robot dance to show off what I assumed were some ridiculous robot arms that would never be of any use to an astronaut. “I don't think anything's impossible for you,” she said as she continued her display.”


Tuesday, September 26, 2017

A Star for CAN I TOUCH YOUR HAIR? Poems of Race, Mistakes and Friendship

The first trade review for CAN I TOUCH YOUR HAIR? Poems of Race, Mistakes and Friendship is IN, and it's from Kirkus, and it's a star!

I'm honored and delighted to share this with the whole team: co-author Charles Waters, illustrators Sean Qualls and Selina Alko, and the find folks at Carolrhoda/Lerner.

You can read the full review at Kirkus, and here is the closing sentence:

"A brave and touching portrayal worthy of sharing in classrooms across America." - Kirkus / STARRED

Readers, it's the "brave" that makes my heart pirouette. Talking about race and racism isn't easy. But if shy, private me can be brave, others can too. Let's do it together, shall we?

Friday, September 22, 2017

"Writing in Fall" Poem for the First Day of Autumn

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Amy at the Poem Farm for Roundup.
I have been away from my desk all week, traveling with the amazing folks at Alabama Library Expo! Lucky me: Paul joined me for the first three stops, and my dear friend Pat joined me for the last stop!
Over the four day tour I met nearly 600 librarians, about a dozen book vendors, and two other authors -- and it was so much fun! Here is a quick collage:

One of the things I told the librarians (who might also be writers) was to treat writing like brushing your teeth -- don't go to bed without doing it!
With that in mind, while in the hotel room at one of the stops, I crafted a wee poem in celebration of the Autumnal equinox. I do love fall... and I love WRITING in fall. It's my favorite season!

created at BeFunky.com (because PicMonkey
is no longer allowing me free services... grr!)
Writing in Fall
O muse,
     o maple,

o sweet sweater

thank you
     for firewind

words gusting
     the page –

how they tumble,
pile –

leaving plenty

to gather,


- Irene Latham

Thursday, September 21, 2017

On Ducks and Baby Names & "One Voice" (for International Peace Day)

Eirene, Greek goddess of Peace
"Irene" is the Greek word for peace. Apparently there is a Greek goddess named Irene.

That's not why my parents chose the name for me -- I was named for my great-grandmother Hannah Irene Dennis, who, I'm told, "never said a bad thing about anyone."

I'm pretty sure no one has ever said the same of me, though it IS something to aspire to. And, in a way, it's a definition of peace.

A few years ago a friend referred to me as "Serene Irene." Has a nice ring to it, doesn't it? And yes, I am quiet. Yes, I am not prone to fighting or violence of any kind. Yes, I love solitude and am perfectly comfortable when a silence falls across a dinner table. But. There's so much you can't see! Michael Caine's duck comes to mind: calm on the surface, but paddling like crazy underneath.

I think the duck I want to be is calm on the surface, paddling only as much as is necessary. Slower. Gentler. Feeling the silky water, not driven by hunger or danger. Just enjoying a swim.

Another name that means "peace," is Oliver. Which is why we selected it as a middle name for one of our sons. It was a way to name a child after me without naming him after me. :)

Click here for a list of other names that mean peace.  Really, is there anything more peaceful than a sleeping baby?

“A Mother With Her Sleeping Child”
by Léon Bazille Perrault
via Wikimedia Commons
Our baby boy has been in the news this week, about the song called "One Voice" he and friends created that's certainly on the topic of peace.

Here's an article from Shelby Co. schools and from our local ABC 33/40 station. And here's the video that inspired all the attention. We couldn't be prouder of these kids!

 Wishing you a peaceful day! Be sure to visit the Peace padlet put together by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater and Madeline Engle. xo

Monday, September 18, 2017

An Artsy-Poetry Rocker to Remember a Special Reader

We love you, Papa...
My father loved books. During his lifetime he read on average a book a day. When he wasn't reading, he was listening to a book! His dream was to retire to his hometown Port St. Joe, FL, and build a library to house his thousands and thousands of books.

He died before that could happen, so, as a way to make his dream come true, our family commissioned June at Poppy Cottage to create an artsy memorial rocker to be housed in the children's department at Corinne Costin Gibson Memorial Public Library in Port St. Joe.
Eric, me, Mama, Lynn, MicaJon (& foster baby Brianna)

At the "Blessing of the Rocker" ceremony Fr. Tommy Dwyer of St. James Episcopal Church offered a blessing, and then we read some of the poems that we asked to be incorporated into the artwork:
"Invitation" by Shel Silverstein
"The Tide Rises, the Tide Falls" - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
"O Captain, My Captain" - Walt Whitman
Mermaids... and blue toe nails. :)

Yes, you might notice a sea theme! Also featured in the artwork were two mermaids (my sister and me) and a surprise on the center knobs: R E A D.  Perfect!
R  E  A  D

 We also each took a turn sitting in the chair! Our hope is that many a reader finds comfort and joy in the poems and stories they discover in the arms of that chair. Big thanks to librarian Nancy Brockman for being our partner in this venture!

me keeping the seat warm for my Papa...
... and here we are, three of the five sibs posing for the newspaper photographer:

LTG, i, MJ

Thursday, September 14, 2017

READ! READ! READ!-ing with Amy Ludwig VanDerwater

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit lovely Michelle at Today's Little Ditty for Roundup.

Things have been hopping in these parts... thanks to Irma, the first part of the week, and currently I am in Port St. Joe, FL for the "Blessing of the Rocker" event in memory of my father. More on this next week!

Today it is my great pleasure and honor to welcome poet/teacher/dear friend/lovely human Amy Ludwig VanDerwater to talk about her newest book of poems READ! READ! READ!, brought to us by the fine folks at WordSong/Boyds Mills Press, with illustrations by Ryan O'Rourke. Big congratulations to Amy and the whole team on the release of a beautiful new book!! To help celebrate, I've asked Amy to respond to some simple prompts.

But before we get to that, I have just a few links for you:

Last week I issued my latest Adventures in Writing newsletter, titled "What September is For." I invite you to read, and if you like, please subscribe!

My poem "Cave Cricket's Lament" appears in the newly-released Balloons Lit Journal (Issue 6). Gratitude to Peter and the crew!

Have you played Ruin a Book with One Letter? See what happened to Leaving Gee's Bend. And propose your own altered book titles!


And now, let's talk about READ! READ! READ!-ing... take it away, Amy!

The Difficult: Aw, writing is just difficult. And beautiful. It’s both. Waiting for ideas, revising, going back and forth with titles, worrying, trying to make myself concentrate…all of it. Like a thunderstorm, writing is gorgeous and harsh all at once. I struggle always to discipline myself; writing and revising this book was no exception.

"Word Collection"
The Delicious
: I love poring over Ryan’s joyous and whimsical art, remembering the people and moments and stories that inspired each poem. The words Cinderella and mozzarella, in “Word Collection” for example, have long sat in my notebook, just jottings from a normal day. I smile to remember that long-ago evening when our toddler Hope (now an adult) called out at dinner, “I have a rhyme! Cinderella! Mozzarella!” I find it magical that a moment from years ago can live on between the covers of a book.

Word Collection

Jumping Jack
Wind sock
Wolf pack
Belly button

- Amy Ludwig VanDerwater

(note from Irene: try saying that poem super-fast! :) Who else has a word collection waiting to be worked into a poem?? Care to share a favorite word? )

The Unexpected: In these early days of old friends and new friends reading READ! READ! READ!, I have been grateful to hear folks share their favorite poems from the collection. I expected there would be one overall favorite, but it is beautiful to learn that there is not one favorite. Rather, people have shared many different connections. My hope is that our poems and pictures will open secret doors and memories for readers, that children will say, “I remember when I….” perhaps writing reader poems of their own. (It would be my pleasure to share any of these at The Poem Farm, by the way…)
Amy and her books!

Anything Else: I am thankful to have been paired with talented illustrator Ryan O’Rourke and thankful for the brilliance of my editor Rebecca Davis. It is important for readers to always know that behind every new book is a great team.

Thank you, Irene, for inviting me to LIVE YOUR POEM. It feels like I’m at the house of a dear friend…because I am! xoxo, Amy
Thank YOU, Amy! 

What a gift Amy is to the world with her warm, loving poems and that happy place called The Poem Farm... Amy also shared the book she is currently reading:
Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman
I'll put it on my list! And also, because I've just finished it, and because it's full of so much book-love and library-love and makes the perfect pairing with READ! READ! READ!, here's what I've been reading:
The Tiny Hero of Ferny Creek Library by Linda Bailey, illus. by Victoria Jamieson
It's a middle grade novel about a green-shelled book-loving bug named Eddie who saves the day with a little blueberry ink and sticky notes. :) It's also a magical romp through some beloved classics, like STUART LITTLE and THE BORROWERS and other titles featuring "littles." Super-fun -- check it out!

Wishing each and every one of you a glorious day. xo

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

TV Tuesday: Three Shows Worth Watching

Those who know me, know I am not a big TV person. (Movies, YES.) But I am married to a TV person, and I kinda like hanging out with him, so we are always on the lookout for shows I will actually sit through. :) Today -- thanks to Netflix -- I have three to share with you.

ATYPICAL - A Netflix Original comedy. The story centers on 18 year old Sam who happens to be on the autism spectrum -- and he's looking for love! I love this cast, especially Sam's sister Casey. We've actually watched the first season once thru with our resident Aspie (who related heavily) and are now watching it again with our youngest son. Please, please hurry up with Season 2!

Anne with flowers in her hat
on the first day of school, not
knowing how the other kids
will torment her.
ANNE WITH AN E - You can find this one on Netflix. (Thank you, Pat, for recommending it!) It's based on the book ANNE OF GREEN GABLES by Lucy Maud Montgomery, which, oddly, I have never read! (My father did give me a copy not long before he died, so it is waiting for me.) We love -- and ache -- for that plucky, word-loving Anne who only wants to be loved... and to be beautiful when she grows up. :)

POLDARK - also on Netflix. Originally a Masterpiece Theater production set just after the American Revolutionary War -- in Cornwall. There's love and intrigue and copper mines... and Aidan Turner. Dreamy!

Bonus: LAST CHANCE U - also on ... you guessed it, Netflix! We have watched both seasons, and it gives us a lot to talk about... education, the important of caring, our country's sports culture, race, the South, what kids need... good stuff (and yes, a lot of foul language!).

Is there a TV show you're excited about? Please share in comments!

Friday, September 8, 2017

CAN I TOUCH YOUR HAIR? Cover Reveal & A Visit with Charles Waters

The irrepressible Charles Waters!
Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Matt at Radio, Rhythm and Rhyme for Roundup. Yay for Matt's soon-to-be-released FLASHLIGHT NIGHT... I can't wait to read!

So a year and a half ago, Charles Waters and I embarked upon a poetic journey -- a book about race and racism with the working title It's Not Black and White. 

That title got scrapped by the marketing department in favor of CAN I TOUCH YOUR HAIR? Poems of Race, Mistakes and Friendship. (Share the excitement -  pre-order your copy today!)

Those marketing folks are smart, aren't they? We feel so fortunate to have worked with Carolrhoda/Lerner Books on this project... our editor Carol Hinz is a superhero! And wow, Sean Qualls and Selina Alko did such a lovely job with the illustrations... but you know what is most exciting?

This is Charles' VERY FIRST BOOK. Yes, his poems have appeared in a gazillion anthologies, but this is his first book. Congratulations, Charles!!! I'm so honored to share this with you!

And because the book contains a whole lot of yes-it-actually-happened content, we thought it might be fun to share a "2 Truths and a Lie" challenge with you today. You can find mine over at Charles' Poetry Time blog, and I will share about Charles here at Live Your Poem. (Fun fact: Charles and I have yet to meet in person! But that meeting is coming... we will be presenting together at both AASL and NCTE conferences in November.)

But first: Behold, the cover (which went through so so many versions before it finally landed here)!

available January 1, 2018!
Sneak Peek!! Here is Charles' introductory poem in the collection... you can read mine at Charles' blog!


Mrs. Vandenberg wants us to write poems?
Finally, an easy project. Words fly off my pen
onto the paper, like writing is my superpower.
The rest of the time, my words are a curse. I open my mouth, 
and people run away. Now I’m stuck with Irene? 
She hardly says anything. Plus she’s white. 
Her stringy, dishwater blond hair waves
back and forth as she stutter-steps toward me. 
My stomach bottoms out. “Hello,” I say. “Hi,” she says. 
I surprise myself by smiling at her—she smells like 
a mix of perfume and detergent. We stare at our sneakers
before I ask, “So, what do you want to 
write about?” She shrugs. I say, “How about our shoes, hair? 
Then we can write about school and church?”
She takes a deep breath. “Okay.”
I match it. “Let’s start there.”

- Charles Waters

And now, 2 truths and a lie with Charles! Answers below.

1. Charles had "friends" disrespect him in front of other people for no other reason than to show off at his expense

2. Charles is obsessed with rap music. 

3. Charles had a Grandma who understood him, supported him and didn't judge his choices.

wee Charles...


1. True
2. Lie - "While I listened to rap growing up, L.L. Cool J., Rob Base, PM Dawn, Salt and Pepa, D.J. Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, and Public Enemy to name a few, I listened more to top 40 pop songs on the radio."
3.True - "My grandmother Victoria (Vickie) had my back. She passed away in 1997. I miss her. She was a most excellent human being."  
Thanks so much for reading!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Where is Your Water?

Hello and welcome to Spiritual Journey Thursday! Today we are sharing over at Ramona's Pleasures from the Page about her 2017 OLW "Nourish."

Isn't "nourish" a nourishing word? I just want to wrap up in it! Or stick a spoon in it. Or... you get the idea. Nourish for me is all about self-care. As someone who has spent a lot of time caring for others, nourishing myself has sometimes been a challenge. But I am learning how taking care of ME really is the key to good relationships. Some of the things I do for self-care are:
write poems
read poems
drink tea
treat myself (Zaxby's birthday cake shake, anyone?)
play cello

Speaking of naps, I have this vivid memory of falling asleep on the floor while playing with my then-young boys, and hearing the garage door lift. How I popped up, wiped the sleep from my eyes, and got busy playing with the kids so my husband wouldn't know I had been sleeping on the job!

Crazy, right?

I don't think Paul would have blinked, but I wanted to be perfect, and in that moment, perfect did not include needing a nap!

Fast forward a few years, and naps are a staple in our lives. I'm a lot better at nourishing myself than I once was. This extends to my spiritual life as well.

Deepak Chopra says "the spirit is nourished with equanimity and self-awareness." He also suggests that we are nourished by light: light foods, lightheartedness, letting our light shine.

Today I will think LIGHT. And laughter. And touch. All of these are ways to nourish and be nourished.

Another thing this brings to my mind is a prophecy you've probably read that's attributed to unnamed Hopi leaders -- which has caused some to question its origins and authenticity. I don't know where the prayer comes from, but I know I am drawn particularly to this line:

Where is your water?

Very often, my water is words. Also, these days, my water is... water! As in time spent at the lake. I am fed by love and time and silence and creating and simple ways of moving the body. And isn't all of this somehow related to my 2017 One Little Word "Abundance"? There is something for everyone. You are enough. God is everywhere. Every moment is a poem.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

In Praise of Books That Are Short

When I speak to groups I usually offer some sort of giveaway, which requires attendees to list on a paper slip their name and email -- and also, to make it more fun, to answer a simple question.

Recently, the slip asked attendees to complete this prompt:

My favorite childhood book is...............................

I got all sorts of answers, including titles like Old Yeller, Little House on the Prairie, Harry Potter, and Llama Llama Red Pajama.

But here was my favorite response:
My favorite childhood book is..... short.

Ha! It's a good reminder that not every person sitting through one of my presentations is an avid reader! More thoughts on this at a post I wrote for Smack Dab in the  Middle. Also: brevity is good. :) AND it's a good argument for poetry, yes?

I'll be back for Spiritual Journey Thursday, and also, coming this Poetry Friday: Charles Waters and I will be sharing a cover reveal for CAN I TOUCH YOUR HAIR? Poems of Race, Mistakes and Friendship. Yay!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

What's that SOUND underground?

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit our resident Aussie Kat at Kathryn Apel for Roundup.

I've been thinking a lot lately about what's going on under our feet. Two books in particular have gotten me there: THE NATURALIST by E.O. Wilson and THE HIDDEN LIFE OF TREES by Peter Wohlleben.

E.O. Wilson's life's work has been the discovery and cataloguing of ants. A number of ant species' are subterranean, so one has to dig to find them.

And trees, well, trees are talking to each other underground, in their oh-so-slow with-the-help-of-fungi way. I learned about it in THE HIDDEN LIFE OF TREES. Here is a fabulous podcast interview with the author for the audio-inclined. (Thank you, April!)

And what does this have to do with poetry? Well, Jane Yolen's THUNDER UNDERGROUND  (brought to us by WordSong, with illus. by Josee Masse) includes 21 poems on what's happening down there! And the back cover poses the delicious question in the subject line of this post: What's the SOUND underground? (Which reminds me of a post I wrote from a few years back about sound and poetry.)

Here is a favorite poem from the collection:


This dot,
this spot,
this period at the end
of winter's sentence
writes its way up
through the dull slate of soil
into the paragraph of spring.

- Jane Yolen

Great metaphor, isn't it?

It got me thinking: are there other "punctuation" poems? And then I had to laugh, because indeed, there are three of them in FRESH DELICIOUS! Squash varieties as question mark, exclamation mark, and period. Ha!

So, poets... do YOU have any punctuation poems? Please share!