Wednesday, February 27, 2013


 Check out some of the wonderful poems written by 5th grade students at Crestline Elementary:

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


Today is my birthday! For those of you wondering how old I am, I'll tell you what I tell students:

I was born the year Walt Disney World opened in Orlando, Florida.

Google it. :)

For my birthday, I wanted to share a cinquain written by 5th grade students at Crestline Elementary:

Yep. That's me.... thank you Lowery and Scout!

Also, here's some birthday pics:

me with my guys

me with My Guy

Thank you, loved ones for these and other lovely gifts:

from Eric

from Patty Jean

from Lynn

Yay for birthdays! :)

Monday, February 25, 2013


Crestline Elementary's "Celebrate Writing" Day has a bit of a reputation. The teachers and students are known to go all-out. Here's what they did to connect art with LEAVING GEE'S BEND:

Don't you love the eye-popping color and great stitching?! I spied lots of wallpaper scraps... what a great use for them! I'd like to wallpaper a room with all of these Crestline quilts... and what a thrill it was to meet the quilters! xo

Sunday, February 24, 2013


...because I have a Piggly Wiggly t-shirt!

It came in this Alabama-themed gift bag from Crestline Elementary:

And then the 5th grade gave me this:

...which totally made me teary. I will be sharing treasures from it here with you all week long! THANK YOU, TEACHERS AND STUDENTS!!!

And oh my goodness, the QUILTS! There was one wall covered with gorgeous art (will share!). Here's a teaser that also includes me sandwiched between two fabulous women: Lynn North (my "angel" for the day) and Lucy Hawkins, Organizer Extraordinaire!

And that's not all! Check out this adorable zoo-themed snack-filled gift box from Deb Stern at Hampton Cove Middle School:

Here's me with Deb and Lori Simmons, PTA President:

And now for the very best part: KIDS!

with students at Hampton Cove Middle School
More students from Hampton Cove!
with kids and other AMAZING authors at Crestline 
Big Snake Day with Crestline 4th graders

AND, last but certainly not least:

the sweetest, polite-est kids ever at Eura Brown Elementary!

If I said "thank you" with every breath for the rest of my life, it wouldn't be enough. Being an author has allowed me to meet some really amazing people.  What a blessing. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU. More to come!

Friday, February 22, 2013


It's school visit season for me, which is full of JOY, so for Poetry Friday I thought I'd share a little Walt Whitman. Here's an excerpt from "Poem of Joys" from LEAVES OF GRASS:

O to have my life henceforth a poem of new joys!

To dance, clap hands, exult, shout, skip, leap, roll on, float on,

To be a sailor of the world, bound for all ports,

A ship itself, (see indeed these sails I spread to the sun and air,)

A swift and swelling ship, full of rich words—full of joys.

complete poem here. Be sure to visit Sheri Doyle for Roundup! And think of me enjoying students today at Crestline Elementary School in Birmingham, Alabama! Pictures coming soon of my recent adventures. xo

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


Oh, Como, I love you, too!
Thank you, Veneda, you bright starbeam, you.

(Isn't old-fashioned mail THE BEST?!)

Monday, February 18, 2013


Who among us isn't interested in the secrets of the universe?

Part of the magic of this book is how anyone can relate, whether 15 years old or 32 or 77; whether male or female; whatever race; whether gay or straight or bi or whatever.

It's a love story in which bad things happen, and when they do, you really feel them, because you care so deeply about these characters. As a mom of teen boys, I particularly enjoyed the boys' relationships with the parents in the book.

Here's a "sky" passage:

"Why do birds exist, anyway?"

He looked at me. "You don't know?"

"I guess I don't."

"Birds exist to teach us things about the sky."

(I'd like to write a poem with my own answers this question.)

Read this book. There's a reason it's got so many stickers on its cover.

Happy day!

Friday, February 15, 2013


Happy Poetry Friday! The lovely, generous Linda Baie has Roundup at Teacher Dance.

Oh my goodness, have y'all been following Laura Shovan's amazing (birthday) postcard-poetry project? AMAZING. And fun and inspiring and not surprising at all, if you know anything about Laura.

But did you know Laura is also an accomplished editor? Yep! Which is why I invited her here today to don her editor's hat and give us some more information about the latest Little Patuxent Review, a lovely publication which happens to include a poem by yours truly. I'm thrilled to share space with some wonderful poetry and prose and original art. Perhaps all of you will submit something in the future? Read on!

IL: Give us a little history behind your involvement with Little Patuxent Review. 

LS: The new incarnation of LPR began in 2006. The journal had an earlier life in the late 1970s, early 1980s, a product of the social experiment that is Columbia, Maryland.

The founding editor, Michael R. Clark, was a high school English teacher in Howard County, where we publish the journal. During his editorship, Michael relocated to teach in Singapore, editing the journal via email. He stepped down in 2011.

Publishers Mike Clark (no relation) and Tim Singleton approached me about the editorship. I had been a regular contributor to LPR for a few years and was editing a poetry anthology for the Maryland Writers Association, Life in Me Like Grass on Fire. I think Mike and Tim asked me because I had editing experience, a poetic sensibility they publishers liked, and I was already involved in the local literary community.

I have edited three issues of Little Patuxent Review, themed Make Believe, Audacity and Doubt. A fourth issue, Social Justice, was guest edited by poet Truth Thomas, who just won an NAACP Image Award (Speak Water). Working with Truth on that issue was wonderful experience.

IL: I found "Doubt" to be such a great theme to write (and read) about. How are themes chosen? 

LS: I’m glad you like the issue’s theme! Our loose staff of about fifteen people gathers two or three times a year. We are a pretty egalitarian group. At most meetings, we will spend time brainstorming and discussing upcoming themes. We try to balance heavier topics, such as Doubt, with something lighter. Our summer 2013 issue will be Music. Submissions are open now through March 15. Winter, 2014, we take on Science (reading period: 8/1/13 to 11/1/13). I hope we will have a guest editor for that issue.

We don’t give potential contributors much information regarding the theme. Leaving the topic open for interpretation is a way for us to attract a variety of views on each issue’s guiding topic.

What do you look for when you are selecting poems for LPR? (what can poets do to increase their chances of acceptance?)

Each submission is read by at least three staff members. We look for topics we have not seen explored in poetry before, but we also like favorite poetic themes that are given a fresh twist by the poet. We enjoy seeing experimentation – not for its own sake, but rather when it suits the logic of or the topic addressed by the poem.

I would advise submitters to read a sample issue of the journal to get a sense of our style. Reading LPR’s blog, edited by Ilse Munro, is another important resource. The series “Concerning Craft” includes past contributors, writing about how a poem or work of prose was constructed.

IL: How has your editing work with LPR influenced your writing?

Laura's chapbook
LS: Reading hundreds of poems for each issue has encouraged me to experiment with different poetic styles. I’d like to believe I am getting better at editing my own work.

The biggest positive, I think, is learning the art of putting an issue together – how to take the 30 or so poems, essays, stories, interviews and art profiles we have in each edition and construct a story that flows well. When it’s time for me to put together my own full-length book, I will approach that task with more confidence than I did with my chapbook.

IL: Anything else you'd like readers to know?

LS: We feature an interview with a nationally recognized author in each issue. These pieces, conducted by Susan Thornton Hobby, give wonderful insight into the craft of writing. Recent subjects have been Martin Espada, Edith Pearlman, and Michael

I am also excited to announce that LPR will be at the AWP Conference in March for the first time. We are sharing table X13 with the venerable Baltimore Review. Please stop by to say hello. I will have copies of the journal on sale for $10.

IL: Thank you, Laura! Keep the great work coming... and have fun at AWP!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


I took this picture last week in Mississippi. Imagine this field filled with cotton blossoms... or remember the last time you were at a county fair where those sticks of whipped, spun sugar called and called until you had to grab one and let the sweet stuff melt in your mouth.

Here's a couple of lines from a poem I wrote about fair food:

"She stopped short at the pink whirling, swirling machine
that served cotton candy airy as fresh whipped cream"

Speaking of fairs: we watched a quirky little comedy the other night that stars  Jennifer Garner as an uber-competitive butter sculptor. In some parts of the country, butter sculpting is a very big deal! Cute movie.

And here, just for fun, is a couple of lines from a butter sculpture poem I started but never finished:

"If we had a huge hunk of butter
we’d outcarve every woodcutter"

Anyone else have some "fair" verse to share?

Monday, February 11, 2013


We had the place all to ourselves the first night, and wow! What a warm welcome! Cushy linens and high ceilings... cookie jars and plates of fruit and all sorts of snacks... we felt like pampered guests!

my date for the weekend (and for life!)

Main Street.
Not only do they have some wonderful restaurants and shops (in addition to the Como Inn), but the library is there too! And look at all those COMO READS poster... now that's what I call community spirit!

reading posters outside...

reading posters inside!

I asked for ketchup out of habit. I didn't need it AT ALL. Even though we were stuffed, we also ordered for dessert "Como Delight." And you know what? It really was delightful! Graham cracker crust, cream cheese, whipped cream, chocolate, nuts.... mmmmm

Best steak dinner EVER.

It's just 40 minutes to Memphis.
Which means we got to go to Graceland! We also ate a lovely lunch at The Little Tea Shop (just a block away from the mighty Mississippi). AND we visited the Hernando library too!

If you go, order the frozen nut ball with fudge sauce for dessert!

me and Hernando librarian Denise, after my skype session!

The people!
(had to save the best for last)
me with Como students who came out to the library 

The Como Mamas. If you love the way the Gee's Bend quilters sing, you've got to get their CD. Better yet, see them in person!

readers, listening to me talk

check out that pin on this lovely reader's lapel :)

two of the most passionate-about-their-community folks I have ever met. Thank you, Alice and Judy (not pictured)!!

Big thanks to EVERYONE! We loved meeting all of you and miss you already. xo

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


“This is love: to fly toward a secret sky, to cause a hundred

 veils to fall each moment. First to let go of life. Finally, to

 take a step without feet.”  - Rumi

This, in honor of my one little word for 2013. I love the idea of a secret sky. How can a sky be secret? Could it be a boy at his window at night? Or someone in a train car peeping out through a crack?

And how miraculous, to think of love as something which causes a hundred veils to fall each moment. To be that vulnerable, that naked. What does that sky look like?

Finally, finally, that wonderful, faith-filled flight...

For some gorgeous artwork that speaks to me of secret skies, visit Mandie Magowan.

What does your secret sky look like? Let's write poems!

Monday, February 4, 2013

What to pair with THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN?

...why DON'T FEED THE BOY, of course!

That's what I'm hearing from teachers who have booked me for Skype visits on World Read Aloud Day (March 6).

Ivan and Whit have a lot in common actually... they're both stuck in places they don't belong. And the friendships the make are the key to everything. And yes, there's much to discuss about zoos and captivity and the part we humans play in all of that. There's friendship and adventure and characters with pretty unique perspectives on life as we know it.

What a wonderful choice IVAN is for Newbery! I like that it's one I can recommend without reservation.

Back to World Read Aloud Day: I don't know who started it or how long it's been happening -- and if I wasn't in a hurry I would totally google it.


I wouldn't even know about the event if not for Kate Messner, who knows pretty much everything. (Thanks, Kate!) And thanks to her post listing authors willing to Skype with students on World Read Aloud Day, my schedule is nearly full already. But I do have a couple of spots left, so teachers, if you want to Skype with me, please get in touch very soon! I've got bookmarks for your kids, and I promise we will all have a fun time.

And be sure to check out all those other fabulous authors on the list -- so much generosity in ye olde kidlitosphere!