Friday, September 26, 2014

At the fabric store, we're just people.

Hello and happy Poetry Friday! Please visit Laura at Writing the World for Kids for Roundup.

I've written here before about the power of quilts, and how some of my favorite childhood memories involve the late-night hum of a sewing machine and day trips to the fabric store with my mother. I love the rainbowed walls, the pattern books that make even the most fancy dress accomplishable, so long as you follow the steps -- and the cutters, who always ask and what you're making and genuinely care about your answer.

I still love all those things, and more and more, I am aware of how sewing is both inspiring and unifying, and is an art form that needs to be preserved. And now, this poem from BROWN GIRL DREAMING by Jacqueline Woodson:

the fabric store
- from BROWN GIRL DREAMING by Jacqueline Woodson

Some Fridays, we walk to downtown Greenville where
there are some clothing stores, some restaurants,
a motel and the five-and-dime store but
my grandmother won't take us
into any of those places anymore.
Even the five-and-dime, which isn't segregated now
but where a woman is paid, my grandmother says,
to follow colored people around in case they try to
steal something. We don't go into the restaurants
because they always seat us near the kitchen.
When we go downtown,
we go to the fabric store, where the white woman
knows my grandmother
from back in Andersons, asks,
How's Gunnar doing and your girls in New York?
she rolls fabric out for my grandmother
to rub between her fingers.
They discuss drape and nap and where to cinch
the waist on a skirt for a child.
At the fabric store, we are not Colored
or Negro. We are not thieves or shameful
or something to be hidden away.
At the fabric store, we're just people.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Bringing the Water Hole to the Shoals

 Last week I returned to Florence, Alabama, one of my favorite places ever, for some school visits and a library workshop. Here's an article about my adventures. The events were funded by Florence-Lauderdale Public Library, with a little help from my friend Pat, who greeted me with roses and gifts, fed me, and gave up her bed so I'd have a place to rest my weary head. Thanks, Pat! And thanks to everyone who made it a great visit, even though I wasn't feeling my best. Until next time...

Lynne Martin at Sheffield Public Library

McBride Elementary (Muscle Shoals)

Mrs. Hutcheson and me


Mrs. Hutcheson's classroom library

Anna Catherine Thompson at Muscle Shoals Public Library

Angela Bailey, me, Pat at Rosie's

Tom Magazzu, editor of Florence Courier-Journal

Waterloo Elementary

Jennifer Butler-Keeton, me, Jerry Anderton, Waterloo librarian

Trowbridge's -fashioned lunch counter! I had tuna salad on wheat,
chicken soup and chocolate chip ice cream. :)

Florence Academy of Fine Arts (formerly Bradshaw HS, where Pat graduated!), after speaking to Darlene Freemon's creative writing classes

Florence Public Library

Getting ready to write poems inspired by photographs at Florence Public Library

Friday, September 12, 2014

Twenty Years Later...

Hello, and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Renee at No Water River for Roundup. I'm delighted to be a guest poster at The Poem Farm, where Amy asked me to talk about revision. Earlier this week, I guest posted at Amy's Sharing Our Notebooks to talk about my life in notebooks... and Amy is generously doing a giveaway of WILDEBEEST! Thank you, Amy!

I've been traveling this week, and I can't wait to share with all of you -- but first, today is a special day:  today my firstborn son turns 20. Happy birthday, Daniel!

Here we are, on that day:

And here is my most favorite Langston Hughes poem ever, which most everyone knows, but it's one to be enjoyed over and over -- and it happens to be on the topic. It's been on my mind ever since I saw in a magazine how someone had painted their "House Rules" on the risers of their staircase. Since then, I discovered a board devoted to creative stair design on Pinterest. I want to do something similar.... with this poem!

Mother to Son
by Langston Hughes

Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor—
But all the time
I’se been a-climbin’ on,
And reachin’ landin’s,
And turnin’ corners,
And sometimes goin’ in the dark
Where there ain’t been no light.
So boy, don’t you turn back.
Don’t you set down on the steps
’Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.
Don’t you fall now—
For I’se still goin’, honey,
I’se still climbin’,
And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Safari Sketchbooks & DEAR WANDERING WILDEBEEST Launch Pics

 I was so thrilled to tie my Wildebeest book launch to SNAP (Seriously, No Adults Please!) programming at Emmet O'Neal Library in Mountain Brook, AL!

This library is just half a mile from Birmingham Zoo, the inspiration for Don't Feed the Boy!
What did we do? Poetry and Safari Sketchbooks! I introduced kids to poetry using Powerpoint and a "Poetry" acrostic poem I wrote. Then, we became lions! I gave the kids prompts like:
 "What is the best part of your day?"

"What are you scared of?"

"Two lions meet at the water hole. What do they say to one another?"

They wrote their responses on index cards, and I collected them to read aloud our Community Poem. AND THEN...

it was time for Safari Sketchbooks. :) We had a pile of old National Geographic Kids magazines, and kids selected a picture of the animal they wanted to write about. They cut and pasted the picture to the cover of their Sketchbooks, added the filler paper, and used leather cording to bind it. And then they WROTE, using the same prompts, but for their own individual animal.

Funny thing: unicorns came up A LOT. Wonderful boys. :)

 Big thanks to this trio of genius librarians who, with the help of Google,  helped get my slide show running in a loop before the reception portion of the event. Thank you, Meredith, Gloria & Rachel! I need you with me on all my adventures. :)

I'm especially grateful to those who came out for the reception on a stormy weeknight. I have asked so much of my readers and friends this year with launch events for The Sky Between Us and Don't Feed the Boy. I really wasn't sure anyone would show up! Those of us who were there enjoyed lovely conversation about writing and life and what it means to create. Thank you, friends!
Marie, Joan & John, manning the book table!

 Here I am at the end of the night with my still-growing-even-taller youngest son Eric...

.... and with the fella who makes all this possible: sweet husband Paul!

Thanks to everyone who was a part of this one! SO MUCH FUN. xo

Friday, September 5, 2014

Let Them Eat Cake!

Hello, and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Laura at Author Amok for Roundup! I'm thrilled and grateful to be featured over at Today's Little Ditty... I would love to see what all my Poetry Friday friends come up with for the poetry challenge at the end of the post! Thank you, Michelle!!

Today is the last day for Lerner's Free Book Friday giveaway for DEAR WANDERING WILDEBEEST. Good luck!

So yesterday I went to pick up the cake for last night's launch party (more on this soon!). It was to be a photo cake with an image of the book cover.

Well, when I went to order the cake, they said, GOTTA HAVE A PRINTED PICTURE.

I've got digital, I said. More accurate.

NOPE, they said.

So I went home, took a picture of the book, had it printed, picked it up, and went back to the bakery.

This time they said, NOPE, No Can Do. Because of copyright laws!

But it's my book, I said. I wrote it! And I know Millbrook Press and illustrator Anna Wadham won't mind!

We'll see, they said. We'll call you.

WELL. They didn't call, which I took to be a good sign! And yesterday, when I went to pick the cake up, this is the sadness I found:

Seriously?? SO SAD. The colors: flat, dark, ick. And what's with the brown strips?? (Sweet husband said it wasn't that bad, but I didn't believe him.)

I NEEDED A CAKE. So I bought it and brought it home, plotting the whole time about how I might fix it. Something fast. Something festive. Off to Walmart I went!

A tub of safari animals, a tube of blue frosting, and some sprinkles later... and this is where we landed:

Better, don't you think?

So that's my adventures in cake. Surely there's a poem in there -- I just haven't had time to write it. Wishing everyone a happy day... and... Did you know Emily Dickinson liked to bake cakes? Poetry & Cake. Yum!!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Movie Monday: BOYHOOD

So this is kind of the perfect movie for the mom of three boys. :) It's kind of a perfect movie, whatever your gender or circumstance. The main character ages during the same years as our oldest son, and he loved the movie, especially all the context clues related to politics and pop culture. It's really just about regular people dealing with regular things... all of them growing up. And how much do I love Ethan Hawke? Don't miss!

Also, today the day: Happy Birthday to DEAR WANDERING WILDEBEEST AND OTHER POEMS FROM THE WATER HOLE!! I am pleased to share the day with Lee Bennett Hopkins' latest, MANGER which includes poems by wonderful poet-friends. Love! It's the Christmas story, from the perspective of the animals. And it's been awarded a STARRED review by Kirkus. Congratulations, all! More on this very soon. :)