Sunday, September 15, 2019

The Butterfly Hours Memoir Project: RICE

For 2019 I'm running a year-long series on my blog in which I share my responses to the writing assignment prompts found in THE BUTTERLY HOURS by Patty Dann.

I welcome you to join me, if you like! I've divided the prompts by month, and the plan is to respond to 3 (or so) a week. For some of these I may write poems, for others prose. The important thing is to mine my memory. Who knows where this exploration will lead?

For links to the prompts I've written on so far this year, please click on The Butterfly Hours tab above.

This month's prompts are pipe, playground, prayers, recipes, ribbon, rice, road, saltwater, sandwich, school, sewing.

RICE


white rice
because it's unassuming

brown rice
because it's bold

wild rice
for its peaks and valleys

Jasmine rice
for the way it perfumes
the evening

Basmati rice
for its the way
it sings of forests

yellow rice
because saffron
is a river that flows
both sweet and savory

black rice
because it's really purple

black rice because
it's forbidden

black rice
because of that place
on the coast
where I first shared
black-rice sushi
with you


- Irene Latham

Friday, September 13, 2019

Learning from Dr. Seuss

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday (the 13th)! Be sure to visit Laura (who has a brand new book in the world!) at Writing the World for Kids for Roundup.

I am away from my desk, but I wanted to pop in with some words of wisdom from Dr. Seuss, as I've just finished reading BECOMING DR. SEUSS: Theodor Geisel and the Making of an American Imagination by Brian Jay Jones. I learned a lot about Ted the man and Dr. Seuss the writer... and I found some valuable advice for writers and poets currently trying to get published in the children's market.

a favorite Berenstain Bears title

When Geisel and Phyllis Cerf (his editor) joined forces to create Beginner Books, who should walk into his office but the Berenstains, with what would become THE BERENSTAIN BEARS series. Here's what happened:

Ted, Helen, and Phyllis Cerf greeted the Berenstains warmly. Then Geisel immediately started asking pointed questions about the “internal workings” of the bears. “We need to know more about them,” said Geisel. “What are they about? Why do they live in a tree? What does Papa do for a living? What kind of pipe tobacco does he smoke?”... Geisel didn't necessarily want the Berenstains to include all that information in the story, but he wanted them to have an absolutely clear grasp of their characters and their world -- that “local insanity” that made Dr. Seuss books so oddly coherent. “It was slowly dawning on us that Ted took these little seventy-two-page limited vocabulary, easy-to-read books just as seriously as if he were editing the Great American Novel,” the Berenstains said later.

“Think short sentences,” Geisel instructed them as he picked apart their plot telling them it had a good beginning and ending, but no real middle. And nothing it seemed, was too small or unimportant. Even the length of the lines of text mattered; lines had to look good on the page, and to the extent possible, be of similar length.

--------
On their way home, the Berenstains wondered what Ted must think of them.

“You know,” said Stan, “I don't think he thinks about us at all. I think all he things about is the work.”
----

Here's Dr. Seuss on writing verse for kids:

The difficult thing about writing in verse for kids is that you can write yourself into a box. If you can't get a proper rhyme for a quatrain, you not only have to throw that quatrain out, but you also have to unravel the sock way back, probably about ten pages or so... And you also have to remember that in a children's book a paragraph is like a chapter in an adult book, and a sentence is like a paragraph.
----
And what were Dr. Seuss's wishes for children who read his books?

“Ultimately,” said Geisel, “I'd prefer they forgot about the educational value, and say it was a lot of fun.”
-----

What, indeed, was (is) the point of it all? Why did Dr. Seuss do this work? Why do any of us do this work?


“Just to spread joy,” said Geisel, then broke into a wry smile. “How does that sound?”
----

Perfect, Ted! Just perfect!


Thursday, September 12, 2019

The Butterfly Hours Memoir Project: RIBBON


For 2019 I'm running a year-long series on my blog in which I share my responses to the writing assignment prompts found in THE BUTTERLY HOURS by Patty Dann.

I welcome you to join me, if you like! I've divided the prompts by month, and the plan is to respond to 3 (or so) a week. For some of these I may write poems, for others prose. The important thing is to mine my memory. Who knows where this exploration will lead?

For links to the prompts I've written on so far this year, please click on The Butterfly Hours tab above.

This month's prompts are pipe, playground, prayers, recipes, ribbon, rice, road, saltwater, sandwich, school, sewing.

RIBBON

Mama with her (many) ribbon-winning
Jersey cow named Penny.
My mother was quite the 4-H ribbon queen for sewing, public speaking, dairy and beef cattle. Alas, I did not follow in her footsteps! In 4th grade I won a blue ribbon for my science fair project on Mendel's theories of genetics. My display board was homemade (by my father), and heavy, thanks to plywood and quality hardware. With my mother's help, I covered it in purple felt (my favorite color). A poem I wrote about a different aspect of this experience appears in the Poetry Friday Anthology for Science -Fourth Grade published by Janet and Sylvia of Pomelo Books.  

Science Fair

The graphics
I created and pinned
to the felt board

explain why my eyes
could never be brown,
my hair only blond.

I wonder if Mendel's
theory of genetics
also applies to why

I'm shy
and can speak
to the judges

only in a quavery voice
that betrays my shaky
hands and knees.

- Irene Latham

My senior year I earned the Social Studies ribbon, which was awarded to the student with highest grade average across the school year. I've always felt it's somewhat revealing, as I've always enjoyed learning about history and culture, and also somehow prophetic, in that I went on to earn degrees in social work and to write books about experiences around the world.



Tuesday, September 10, 2019

The Butterfly Hours Memoir Project: RECIPES


For 2019 I'm running a year-long series on my blog in which I share my responses to the writing assignment prompts found in THE BUTTERLY HOURS by Patty Dann.

I welcome you to join me, if you like! I've divided the prompts by month, and the plan is to respond to 3 (or so) a week. For some of these I may write poems, for others prose. The important thing is to mine my memory. Who knows where this exploration will lead?

For links to the prompts I've written on so far this year, please click on The Butterfly Hours tab above.

This month's prompts are pipe, playground, prayers, recipes, ribbon, rice, road, saltwater, sandwich, school, sewing.

RECIPES
Grandma Dykes would rather
cook than be photographed. :)
The recipes I most cherish from my childhood all come from Grandma Dykes:

hoe cakes – no one knows what this is, so we changed it to “corn bread” in mine and Charles' forthcoming DICTIONARY FOR A BETTER WORLD (basically fine white corn meal -- and yes, brand matters! -- mixed with hot water a bit of salt then fried in in iron skillet)

butternut cake – Grandma would wrap this cake in aluminum foil, freeze it, and send it to our family through the mail.

sour cream cake – I featured this recipe in LEAVING GEE'S BEND!

chocolate pie – I can remember Grandma stirring the chocolate on the stove, and how the smell would fill her small pine kitchen...

Coca-cola cake – this is comfort food for me! I love how you cook and pour the icing over the top of the cake.


Some recipes I cherish from my mother-in-law Bobbie Latham:

cornbread– gold, I tell you, gold! (recipe below)

chicken and dressing – I'd never had dressing I liked until I had my first holiday with the Lathams back in 1990. The key is the cornbread, which is why I'm sharing it.

cranberry salad – I still make this, even though none of my guys eat it. :)


When we do scrapbook weekends, my mom always brings her famous ambrosia – heavy on the grapefruit, as she is and always will be a Florida citrus grove girl. I love it! (Mama, if you're reading this: Happy birthday!!!)

Another great thing to do with grapefruit: cut in half, sprinkle with brown sugar, put in the oven and broil until the sugar gets melty.

For other fruit and veggie recipes, please see the back matter in my book FRESH DELICIOUS. :)



and now....

Bobbie’s Buttermilk Cornbread

1 c. Aunt Jemima buttermilk corn meal mix
1 c. buttermilk
¼ c. canola oil
1 egg

-->
Heat oven to 415 degrees. Mix together above ingredients. Place 3 Tbsp. butter in large iron skillet. When it begins to brown, pour in cornbread mixture. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove cornbread from skillet - put on plate. Melt 1 Tbsp. butter in skillet. When it begins to brown, flip cornbread and put it back in skillet for 5 minutes.

Enjoy!

Monday, September 9, 2019

Marguerite Henry Summer Reading Report #2 (books 8-16)


Earlier this summer I shared my Summer Reading Report #1, which included some favorite quotes from books 1-7 by Marguerite Henry. 

Today I've got the rest of the collection which includes a Newbery winner and two Newbery honors! I really enjoyed reading these books again. However, it wasn't all wonderful: one book I didn't enjoy all that much. And in another I found some inappropriate treatment of First Nations people. Read on!


GAUDENZIA, PRIDE OF THE PALIO

"June! The hallway into summer. The season for strong happenings, the season for living."

"Gaudenzia wanted to race every moving thing – a rabbit skirting the edge of the road, a hound streaking for a bird – the bird, too. Her friskiness, her eagerness to go filled him with a pride so strong he had to whistle to let the steam of his happiness escape."


JUSTIN MORGAN HAD A HORSE (Newbery Honor book)

"To please his other, Joel tried to eat, too. But even his favorite pumpkin pie was flannel in his mouth."

“'Yeah,' then saddler agreed, 'when it comes to running, a pulling horse is slow as a hog on ice with his tail froze in.'"


“'And I'll give you a green meadow with a creek snakin' through it. And I'll give you a fine stable with a thick bed of straw. And I'll give you sweet hay, and all the corn and oats you should eat. And I”ll give you a blanket in winter. And I'll rub you proper night and morning.'”


KING OF THE WIND - Newbery Medal winner

[pretty sure this book is why I fell in love with Arabian horses!]

"As Agba stood on watch, his mind was a mill wheel, turning, turning, turning. He trembled, remembering the time he and the mare had come upon a gazelle, and he had ridden the mare alongside the gazelle, and she had outrun the wild thing. Agba could still feel the wing singing in his ears."

“When Allah created the horse, he said to the wind, 'I will that a creature proceed from thee. Condense thyself.' And the wind condensed itself, and the result was the horse."


MISTY OF CHINCOTEAGUE (Newbery Honor)

“'Facts are fine, fer as they go,' he said, 'but they're like water bugs skittering at op the water. Legends, now they go deep down and bring up the heart of a story.'”

"The Phantom broke at the start, her cold weaving along behind her like the tail of a kite."

"Maureen watched the sun slide out from behind a low cloud and make diamonds of the raindrops on the grass. She turned her back on it. How could the sun shine when things went wrong?"

"The air went wild with greeting. Deep rumbling neighs. High joyous whickers. The stallion and the mare were brushing each other with their noses, talking together in soft little grunts and snorts as animals will."


MISTY'S TWILIGHT

"A freshly raked track at sunup is almost a holy place Hoofbeats playing soft music on wet tanbark. Barn smells- harvest hay and grains – mingling with drying compost, and over all , the pine-tree fragrance of Kritter Korner. In the ring only one splashily marked pinto pony holds center stage."

“'What,' the mother asks, 'is the breeding of this spunky little ballet dancer?'
Almost in concert Kathy and Sandy reply: 'She's a direct descendant of Misty of Chincoteague!'”


MUSTANG, WILD SPIRIT OF THE WEST *– about the fight to pass the Mustang Bill to protect wild mustangs from being overhunted (This is the one that I didn't enjoy all that much, because a lot of it was about the legal process... though of course I appreciate the work done to protect the wild mustangs!)

“'Remember, Pardner,' he said with gruff tenderness, 'don't fire your gun unless its loaded.'”

"Pa always said, 'Scatter enough seeds and some are bound to sprout.'”

"Grandma always said, 'Time's got a lot of elastic to it. The way you feel inside makes all the difference. It's like one of those fat rubber bands. If you're havin' fun it's got no give at all, goes fast and light. But if you're waitin' on somethin' or somebody, it stretches till doomsday.'”

*my least favorite so far.


SAN DOMINGO: THE MEDICINE HAT STALLION - depiction of First Nations people in this book is inappropriate

“'The past is a bucket of ashes. Let us improve upon the present. What be your needs now?'”

"He had been scrubbed so clean by his mother's washcloth of a tongue that his body markings were distinct and curiously beautiful. Pure white he was, with a cluster of red-brown splatters on his rump and along his belly. It was as though some Indian paintbrush had created a mystical design on his body."


"And so the invisible tie-rope between the tightened and strengthened."


SEA STAR

"Cautiously, as a child who has lighted a firecracker comes back to see if it will explode, so the foal came a step toward them. Then another rout of wild curiousness, and another. When Paul and Maureen still did not move, he grew bold, dancing closer and closer, asking questions with his pricked ears and repeating the with his small question-mark of a tail."



STORMY, MISTY'S FOAL

"Each birth was a different kind of miracle."

"A flush of light I the northeast brought him sharply awake. He peered through the siding and he saw Misty lying down, and he saw wee forehoofs breaking through the silken birth bag, the head resting upon them; then quickly came the slender boy with the hindlegs tucked under.

He froze in wonder at the tiny filly lying there, complete and whole in the straw. It gave one gulping gasp for air, and then its sides began rising and falling as regularly as the ticking of a clock."



WHITE STALLION OF LIPIZZA

“'I don't want this morning's experience to be so beautiful it will break your heart. It may be only once in a lifetime for you.'”

"He felt all at once on the brink of something deep and wonderful. He was here, actually here, about to see the mystery!"*

“'Our school is a small candle in a troubled world, If we can send out one beam of splendor, of glory of elegance, it is worth a man's lifetime,?'”

* I totally want to see the mystery! I am now on the look out for an opportunity to see the World Famous Lipizzaner Stallions... even if I have to go all the way to Vienna to do it. :)

... and that concludes my 2019 summer reading project. Yay!

Sunday, September 8, 2019

The Butterfly Hours Memoir Project: PRAYERS

For 2019 I'm running a year-long series on my blog in which I share my responses to the writing assignment prompts found in THE BUTTERLY HOURS by Patty Dann.

I welcome you to join me, if you like! I've divided the prompts by month, and the plan is to respond to 3 (or so) a week. For some of these I may write poems, for others prose. The important thing is to mine my memory. Who knows where this exploration will lead?

For links to the prompts I've written on so far this year, please click on The Butterfly Hours tab above.

This month's prompts are pipe, playground, prayers, recipes, ribbon, rice, road, saltwater, sandwich, school, sewing.


PRAYERS
I grew up in the Episcopal Church where the same prayers are repeated during the service each Sunday. (available in the Online Book of Common Prayer) While I no longer attend church, I can remember verbatim many of the prayers I heard so often during my childhood – and those words never fail to bring me comfort and joy. I also remember with great fondness our family's tradition of holding hands around the table and someone (usually my father) saying a prayer before the meal. This year during ARTSPEAK: Happy! I wrote an "Autumn Prayer" that reminds me of my childhood. And here is a prayer (from the Book of Common Prayer) that I remember so fondly:

62. A Prayer attributed to St. Francis
Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is
hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where
there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where
there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where
there is sadness, joy. Grant that we may not so much seek to
be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is
in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we
are born to eternal life. Amen.


Wednesday, September 4, 2019

The Butterfly Hours Memoir Project: PLAYGROUND

For 2019 I'm running a year-long series on my blog in which I share my responses to the writing assignment prompts found in THE BUTTERLY HOURS by Patty Dann.

I welcome you to join me, if you like! I've divided the prompts by month, and the plan is to respond to 3 (or so) a week. For some of these I may write poems, for others prose. The important thing is to mine my memory. Who knows where this exploration will lead?

For links to the prompts I've written on so far this year, please click on The Butterfly Hours tab above.

This month's prompts are pipe, playground, prayers, recipes, ribbon, rice, road, saltwater, sandwich, school, sewing.

PLAYGROUND

wee me hanging from the (very old!)
swingset in my Dykes Grandparents'
side yard (Port St. Joe, FL)
Most vivid in my mind: the backyard swing set and our church playground (where I brokemy arm).
Also the time in 6th grade when I was on top of the school monkey bars, and my mom walked past me unexpectedly. (She was there for something regarding my brother Ken.) This might not have been a big deal, except that day I wasn't wearing the clothes I left home in. On the bus ride to school I had changed out of the uncool homemade dress into a friend's much cool-er outfit (which I can no longer remember, but I do remember shimmying into the pants... good thing about a dress is it's easy to be a quick-change artist!). So when I saw my mom, my heart froze. I knew I was busted. She greeted me with a tight mouth, and I had the rest of the day to imagine the punishment waiting for me when I got home from school.
This was a dramatic moment in my relationship with my mother, who was hurt and disappointed in me (and wrote me a 4 page letter I still have expressing all of her feelings). But. It was essential in me becoming... me. 

Monday, September 2, 2019

The Butterfly Hours Memoir Project: PIPE

For 2019 I'm running a year-long series on my blog in which I share my responses to the writing assignment prompts found in THE BUTTERLY HOURS by Patty Dann.

I welcome you to join me, if you like! I've divided the prompts by month, and the plan is to respond to 3 (or so) a week. For some of these I may write poems, for others prose. The important thing is to mine my memory. Who knows where this exploration will lead?

For links to the prompts I've written on so far this year, please click on The Butterfly Hours tab above.

This month's prompts are pipe, playground, prayers, recipes, ribbon, rice, road, saltwater, sandwich, school, sewing.


PIPE
My father smoked a pipe, and the occasional cigar. It always seemed a bit pretentious to me, and yet it's an image of him that I adore. I can still hear the click of his teeth on the pipe, the twinkle in his eye when he'd suck on the pipe... I've never cared much for tobacco smoke, but the scent of it does bring him instantly to mind, which is a very good thing indeed.

Here is a poem about Vincent van Gogh (who favored a pipe!) that might also be a little bit about Papa. Below you'll find a poem I wrote during 2018 ARTSPEAK: Harlem Renaissance that really is about my papa. And my next middle grade novel (coming 2021) features a pipe-smoking Papa, too.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

The Butterfly Hours Memoir Project: PICTURES

For 2019 I'm running a year-long series on my blog in which I share my responses to the writing assignment prompts found in THE BUTTERLY HOURS by Patty Dann.

I welcome you to join me, if you like! I've divided the prompts by month, and the plan is to respond to 3 (or so) a week. For some of these I may write poems, for others prose. The important thing is to mine my memory. Who knows where this exploration will lead?

For links to the prompts I've written on so far this year, please click on The Butterfly Hours tab above.

This month's prompts are notebook, October, office, pajamas, paper, party, pencil, perfume, phone book, photograph, pictures.

PICTURES
"Bluebirds" by Lynn Baker


I was born into a family of photographers, so there has often been talk about “pictures.” My father loved taking pictures. Thanks to him, we have many, many slides from our life in Saudi Arabia and travels around the world.
by MicaJon Dykes (leaf close-up)
by Ken Dykes, Sr. (flowers at Glacier NP)
While I have only ever used a point-n-shoot automatic camera, two of my siblings are quite accomplished photographers. Several of our family's next generation, including our son Eric, also have mad photography skills. I confess I am quite attached to these images, and pictures in general!
"Birmingham at Night" by Eric Latham
I know that there are many things that cannot be caught in in a photograph, but oh how I value the photographs I have! What secrets they share... I guess it's one way we can stop time, one way to remember everything, which has long been a goal of mine, judging from the thousands of scrapbook pages I've created over the years!
And here's the thing: scrapbooks, pictures – they tell as much about the scrapbooker and photographer as they do about the subject... I love that!

Friday, August 30, 2019

INK KNOWS NO BORDERS for Poetry Friday


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


In this collections of 64 poems for the YA audience, we read poems that move from leaving a homeland to finding/creating home in a new land  -- with all sorts of LIFE in between, including moments of culture loss illuminated like in “Tater Tot Hot-Dish” by Hieu Minh Nguyen; about not fitting into either one's original culture or the new one, as in “Adrift” by Alice Tao; and challenges in a new country where one feels like “other” like in “Talks About Race” by Mahtem Shiferraw:

“I don't know what to say to these people
who notice the shape of the eye before its depth
the sound of the tongue before its wisdom
the openness of a palm before its reach.”

A poem entitled “The Border: A Double Sonnet” by Alberto Rios begins “The border is a line that birds cannot see.”

The poem from early in the book,“Immigrant” by Lena Khalaf Tuffaha, begins:

“I am not buckled safely into my seat
I am watching the road unravel
behind us like a ribbon of dust."

The book ends with the powerful poem “self-portrait with no flag” by Safia Elhillo, which includes these lines:

“i pledge allegiance to the
group text I pledge allegiance
to laughter & to all the boys
I have a crush on I pledge”

You can read the poem in its entirety here. Meet Safia herself in this video "An Evening with Safia Elhillo." (psa: video contains profanity and may not be suitable for some students.)

What do YOU pledge allegiance to? This could be a powerful "identity poem" prompt for students of all ages and backgrounds! And the book is not to be missed. I hope you will check it out!

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

The Butterfly Hours Memoir Project: PHOTOGRAPH

For 2019 I'm running a year-long series on my blog in which I share my responses to the writing assignment prompts found in THE BUTTERLY HOURS by Patty Dann.

I welcome you to join me, if you like! I've divided the prompts by month, and the plan is to respond to 3 (or so) a week. For some of these I may write poems, for others prose. The important thing is to mine my memory. Who knows where this exploration will lead?

For links to the prompts I've written on so far this year, please click on The Butterfly Hours tab above.

This month's prompts are notebook, October, office, pajamas, paper, party, pencil, perfume, phone book, photograph, pictures.

PHOTOGRAPH


Somewhere, some time I was prompted to select a photograph of myself that showed me as I want to be. (The Artist's Way, maybe?) I instantly thought of this one, which I keep on my website with the caption “little Irene living a life worth writing about.”
Because I want to always be this little girl, eager to experience the unexpected river flowing in the back yard after a sudden rainstorm. Willing to get dirty. Fearless. Trusting the world. Immersed in nature, in touch with wonder. Playing, creating, living a simple, rich life – and yes, willing, too, to share the joy: to stand still a moment so someone (Mama?) can capture a photograph.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

The Butterfly Hours Memoir Project: PHONE BOOK


For 2019 I'm running a year-long series on my blog in which I share my responses to the writing assignment prompts found in THE BUTTERLY HOURS by Patty Dann.

I welcome you to join me, if you like! I've divided the prompts by month, and the plan is to respond to 3 (or so) a week. For some of these I may write poems, for others prose. The important thing is to mine my memory. Who knows where this exploration will lead?

For links to the prompts I've written on so far this year, please click on The Butterfly Hours tab above.

This month's prompts are notebook, October, office, pajamas, paper, party, pencil, perfume, phone book, photograph, pictures.

PHONE BOOK

I remember phone books stacked on the kitchen counter – one white pages, one yellow pages – beneath the corded telephone. Phone books as booster seat for wee visitors joining us for a meal, phone books as lift chair for home haircuts. Phone books dangling inside pay phone booths. How thin the pages were -- like tissue wrapping paper -- and how tiny the print. Let your fingers do the walking. Searching the white pages to find a name, and finding twenty, thirty, a hundred names. How we'd go through looking at addresses, making educated guesses, and then we'd start calling. You had to pay extra to get your number “unlisted.” Some families had two phone lines – one for the adults, one for the kids.

Later, when Paul and I ran a small business, the largest share of our advertising budget went to yellow page ads. Now businesses must have a strong online presence, and those advertising dollars go for site optimization and Google ad words. How things have changed!

Friday, August 23, 2019

"Once More" by #DearOneLBH

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Amy at The Poem Farm for Roundup, where you will find a bevy of posts about and inspired by Lee Bennett Hopkins, whose recent death has sent a white-hot jolt through our community.

I have my own LBH favorites and memories, and I'm so grateful to have known Lee, at least a little. We shared a love for beautiful language and a trust that children can handle (and need!) poems of beauty, wonder, and emotion. Our last email correspondence dated May 31, 2019 was about a quote from Daemon Voices: On Stories and Storytelling by Philip Pullman:

"There's fast-food language and there's caviar language; one of the things we adults need to do for children is to introduce them to the pleasures of the subtle and the complex." - Philip Pullman

Yes! Lee and I could certainly agree on that. Lee helped me know that my natural poetic voice does have a place in children's literature. (Not all poetry for kids needs to be light verse/funny!)

Lee's impact on children's literature is profound and inspiring. No doubt he is watching us all from some unseen purple palace (on a cruise ship, maybe? from a box seat at a Broadway show?), scrolling through our posts, eyes sparking with glee over our efforts to help keep his memory and his words warm and breathing.

 One of my favorite LBH anthologies is AMERICA AT WAR: Poems selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illustrated by Stephen Alcorn. War is a tough topic for anyone, and here there are fifty poems that give voice to the wide array of experiences and emotions associated with war. I've loved this book for a long time.

Here's Lee's poem, about a feeling everyone who's ever lost someone or something knows deeply:

Once More
for C.J.E.

Outside the church
I wait.
Wait for someone
anyone
to invite me
for a longing
Christmas dinner.

No one does.

The cheap hotel room
I'm in
on leave
is dank
dark
grim --
not a trace
of angels
snow
a star-lit tree
a manager
a nativity.

Just a lamp
a bed
a phone
a lonely me.

I slowly open
the small Christmas package
from Mom and Dad
feeling the hands of Mom
deep in my heart
knowing
she wrapped this box.

A pair of socks
a new set of white underwear
a tin of homemade cookies
a surprise comic book
from my treasured collection.

I find the courage
to pick up the phone --
call home.
An awaited conversations begins
continues
ends
with rivers of tears.

The last good-bye
the hardest.

I sit alone
on the edge of the bed
wondering
what
a family
Christmas dinner
must be like.

If only once more.

If
only
once
more.

- Lee Bennett Hopkins

There are many "If only once more"s in my mind when I think of Lee... one of them:

If only once more LBH would tell me I use too many "and"s in my poetry. :)

And now, a little self-promotion, of which I am sure Lee would approve: In case you missed it, earlier this week Penguin Random House coordinated the cover reveal for THE CAT MAN OF ALEPPO, my new (true!) book with Karim Shamsi-Basha, illustrations by Yuko Shimizu coming spring 2020. Please take a look!

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

THE CAT MAN OF ALEPPO Cover Reveal!


Today Alaa, aka The Cat Man of Aleppo, revealed the cover for the picture book illustrated by Yuko Shimizu and written by me and Karim Shamsi-Basha, soon-to-be published by Penguin Random House.

We are so excited for more people to learn about Alaa's amazing work! So many stories are written about refugees leaving war-torn lands... but what about ones who stay? What about the animals left behind? This true story will touch your heart and renew your faith in humanity. Plus, did I mention CATS? :)

The book is now available for pre-order and will be released in the U.S. (and some other countries!) April 14, 2020. You can donate to the cat sanctuary here.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

The Butterfly Hours Memoir Project: PERFUME

For 2019 I'm running a year-long series on my blog in which I share my responses to the writing assignment prompts found in THE BUTTERLY HOURS by Patty Dann.

I welcome you to join me, if you like! I've divided the prompts by month, and the plan is to respond to 3 (or so) a week. For some of these I may write poems, for others prose. The important thing is to mine my memory. Who knows where this exploration will lead?

For links to the prompts I've written on so far this year, please click on The Butterfly Hours tab above.

This month's prompts are notebook, October, office, pajamas, paper, party, pencil, perfume, phone book, photograph, pictures.

PERFUME

Once when my sister and I were big-enough little girls to take a bath partly unattended, I had the idea of adding perfume to the water to make it smell good. (This was before stores like Bath & Body Works existed.) Ever the big sister, I was the one to lift from the warm water and dash naked and dripping across the bathroom linoleum to the counter where my mom's things were displayed.
We didn't add just one bottle, of course. We added perfume from ALL the bottles! My mom was not too happy when she discovered us! What smelled divine to us didn't rest so well on my mother's olfactory senses... and there was the waste, of course. A drop might have been fine, but we'd used far more than a drop!
What's extra interesting to me is that there were any perfume bottles at all, as my memories/ideas about my mom do not include such frivolities. She's always experienced sinus issues and is particularly sensitive to smells. But apparently, at one point in time, at least, my mother had not just one bottle of perfume, but several.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Pencil Poem for Poetry Friday


-->
Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit for Christie and Wondering and Wandering for Roundup, where there just might be a theme of trees!

Hmmm... does a pencil fit with the theme? Maybe? A little? :) Sorry I missed that memo, because I do love writing about trees! I look forward to reading everyone's offerings.

It's been HOT down here in the southlands... and I have been in a revision bubble, trying to get these novel edits accomplished and back to the editor... slow going. But good! Yes, I am feeling happy about my progress. And I've also got a new idea rattling around in my head, so that's kind of exhilarating... and I wrote a new poem, about a pencil! Read on!

For 2019 I'm running a year-long series on my blog in which I share my responses to the writing assignment prompts found in THE BUTTERLY HOURS by Patty Dann.

I welcome you to join me, if you like! I've divided the prompts by month, and the plan is to respond to 3 (or so) a week. For some of these I may write poems, for others prose. The important thing is to mine my memory. Who knows where this exploration will lead?

For links to the prompts I've written on so far this year, please click on The Butterfly Hours tab above.

This month's prompts are notebook, October, office, pajamas, paper, party, pencil, perfume, phone book, photograph, pictures.

PENCIL

My mind goes instantly to Mrs. Frizzle In the MAGIC TREE HOUSE books and the pencil in her hair! I did not encounter her until I had kids of my own, of course. Another adult memory is watching my mom use colored pencils to color in one of those beautiful adult coloring books while she was in the hospital recovering from knee replacement surgery. I did LOTS of coloring as a kid, and loved using colored pencils, because they are so much more precise than crayons...

Pencils also have been an important part of my musical life through the years... how many times have I watched a music teacher write something in pencil on the pieces I was learning? And now, as a cellist-in-training, I rely heavily on the pencil to help me note fingerings and to circle repeat signs and make conductors' corrections... one must be able to erase, because these things can change as you find new and better ways to make the sound you want (or the sound the conductor wants!).

Once I even wrote a picture book manuscript about a pencil! And here's a poem in the voice of a pencil:
photo by Aizhan Sagu - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=46335617


A (Simple) Message from Your Pencil

I am simple,
it's true –
I wear a slim yellow skirt,
one rubber boot
and a number 2 tattoo.

You can doodle with me,
scribble or print –
If you make a mistake,
I can take it . . .
and you can erase it!

I am simple,
it's true –
I am here
                  simply
to help you!
-->
- Irene Latham

Thank you so much for reading! xo






-->