Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Six Word Memoir for 2014

Here's my Six Word Memoir for 2014:

Bittersweet mystery fiddles with poet's heart.

This year held some wonderful and difficult moments -- as all years do. I was able to spend quality time with poets I adore and children I love, and I experienced some wonderful times with family... yet I've had to watch my father struggle mightily with the return of his cancer.

Amid some hard, fulfilling work writing and rewriting, I delivered to the world my 3rd book of poems for adults THE SKY BETWEEN US and my 1st book of poems for kids DEAR WANDERING WILDEBEEST and my first paperback DON'T FEED THE BOY... yet I've faced some crushing rejections this year. ('Tis the writer's life. Sigh.)

You may remember that I chose the world MYSTERY as my 2014 One Little Word. I have spent a lot of time dwelling in mystery, asking questions, allowing myself to be in transition instead of hurrying toward the quickest resolution. I've learned a lot about myself this year. (Check back Friday for my 2015 One Little Word!)

I started taking fiddle lessons this year, and it has brought all kinds of joy to my life. I made some important decisions about how to spend my time in ways that honor my true-est self, and I'm excited to see how those decisions play out in the year to come.

Something I'm proud of: I participated in #bloglikecrazy, during which I blogged every day during the month of November. This produced some unexpected writing, and some of my most honest writing. I am hoping to continue that kind of writing in 2015 --- though, no, I will not be blogging every day!

One of the highlights of my year was going to NCTE. I love this community of book lovers and poetry lovers. Also a highlight: New York City with my family. We've wanted to do that trip for SO LONG! I'm so grateful. I'm also grateful for the opportunity to share in the lives of our boys as they continue to grow and develop and become themselves.

What a year! What a life! Thank you for being a part of it. xo

Monday, December 29, 2014


The holidays are such a great time for movies! We were lucky enough to see three of them in the past week -- and I present them to you in order of preference.

WILD starring Reese Witherspoon, after the memoir by Cheryl Strayed. I've blogged already about how much I loved the book -- so I had high hopes tempered by past experiences of movie adaptations not living up to the books that inspired them.

The material here is raw and real and seemed like it might have been a bit of a puzzle to piece together. All that backstory -- and yet it is beautifully done. You get enough of Cheryl Strayed's internal thoughts and scenes of her past. You appreciate her journey and how it changed her. I thought it was beautifully done. (But, no, I have no interest in hiking 1,000 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail. Just day trips for me, thank you very much.)

THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING, about Stephen Hawking's life. No doubt, Stephen Hawking's life is rich and inspiring. I loved that the focus here was the woman behind the man, the love story -- and how it fell apart. (Longtime readers may remember a poem I wrote about Einstein's daughter -- it seems that brilliant scientists have a knack for being more committed to their science than to their families... this seemed the case for Hawking as well, and I couldn't help but feel like he was likely more troublesome/less likeable in real life than how he's portrayed in the movie. This SLATE article sets the record straight.) The movie was beautifully made, but it just didn't feel quite honest in the way that WILD did.

Finally, finally the final HOBBIT movie! Can I just say there is something wrong when it takes a person longer to see the movie(s) based on a book than to read the actual book?!

I loved reading THE HOBBIT, and I still love the old animated version of the story. And I had high hopes that this third movie would be more enjoyable than the previous two... alas. I fell asleep in this one, too! Too much darkness, too much conversation, too much dragging things out. I can't imagine watching any of these three again, and I'm sort of mad that they didn't just make one killer movie that contained the whole of Bilbo Baggins' journey. Sigh.

What movies have you seen lately? We still have UNBROKEN and INTO THE WOODS on our short list... hope to get to them this week!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry, Merry!

Our Christmas gift to ourselves was a family trip to New York City! It was magical and merry and everything we wanted it to be.

Merry Christmas from all of us to all of you!

at Cornelia Cafe in Greenwich Village
before our show EVERY BRILLIANT THING (which was brilliant!)

me and my boys at the Central Park reservoir (It was cold! But we were still smiling.)

at the New York Public Library (oh, Patience and Fortitude!).
And how 'bout that pink scarf around Eric's neck?!

me and the sweet fella who introduced me to NYC 24 years ago. Love!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

POISONED APPLES for Christmas?

Hello, and Happy Poetry Friday! Please visit Buffy's Blog for Roundup. I can't believe this is our last Poetry Friday before Christmas! Even though it's not exactly festive, I've decided to share with you selections from POISONED APPLES: POEMS FOR YOU, MY PRETTY by Christine Heppermann. This book has appeared on a number of Best Of 2014 lists... and it's poetry! Love when that happens. The book explores the fairy tale tropes in modern day life. Happily Ever After, this is NOT. Oh, darkness....

 I give you the opening poem (with a killer last line!) and my favorite of the collection (because it is such a clever metaphor).

The Woods
by Christine Heppermann

The action's always there.
Where are the fairy tales about gym class
or the doctor's office or the back of the bus
where bad things also happen?
Pigs can buy cheap building materials
just as easily in the suburbs.
Wolves stage invasions. Girls spit out
cereal, break chairs, and curl beneath
covers like pill bugs or selfish grannies
avoiding the mess.
No need for a bunch of trees.
You can lose your way anywhere.

Photoshopped Poem
by Christine Heppermann

Some say the Before poem
had character.
This poem is much more attractive.
With the Healing Brush Tool
I took out most of the lines.
I left in a few
so it wouldn't look unnatural.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Quilt for my Father & Then Some

As many of you know, my father is currently battling his second bout with cancer. He also serves as Executive Director of Bismarck Cancer Center in North Dakota. Which means he has accumulated a number of cancer survivor/BCC t-shirts that mean a lot to him.

SO... I said, send 'em to me! And my father did. Here's the box I got in the mail:

Here are the t-shirts unpacked, on the cutting board:

...and here are the t-shirts minus sleeves and collars and backs:

...and here is the finished quilt top! 
(sorry, pic is fuzzy and doesn't do it justice!)

fyi: I chose to back it in lime green fleece 
and to bind it in a black-ish star print. Pics to come!

MEANWHILE, here is the monster that is our son Andrew's quilty graduation gift! It's king-sized and contains so many of the things he's been passionate about...from Pokemon to swim team to McDs to funny sayings (thank you, Mental Floss!). I chose black minky for the back (he LOVES soft textures) and a rainbow-ish print for the binding. Can't wait to see how it comes together!

...and FINALLY, an Auburn throw for my uber-Auburn-fan husband. This one contains sweatshirt tops from way back in the 80s to now! (Binding will be in the orange dotted fabric seen below, and the back will be an Auburn fleece print. Cozy!)

As soon as January comes, I'm going to start piecing the Christmas quilt I've been planning for oh, about 5 years now. Maybe that way it will actually be ready come Christmas 2015. :)

Any quilty or crafty projects going on in your life?

Friday, December 12, 2014

ON THE WING by David Elliott

Hello and happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Mr. Hankins a.k.a. Paul at These 4 Corners (Living Loving Laughing Learning --- how much do I love that?!) for Roundup.

What a week this has been! So many things going on this month -- youngest sons multitude of Christmas concerts, preparations for our trip to NYC, Christmas-y outings with friends and shopping and last-minute gifts and writing, always always writing.

Today I am taking a break from all that for just a minute to share with you a lovely book ON THE WING by David Elliott, illus. by Becca Stadlander. It's contains short vivid poems about birds! So, bird lovers will love it, and people who aren't bird lovers will BECOME bird lovers. :) I don't think poets will ever NOT be inspired by birds, and rightly so! I'd like to share three of these poems with you today:

The Hummingbird
by David Elliott



        in a



(This one is on a two-page spread, and the stanzas flit across, just like hummingbirds. Beautiful!)

The Oriole and the Woodpecker
by David Elliott

Music lovers fast await
the first duet
of summer.
Oriole is vocalist.
Woodpecker is drummer.

(Isn't that perfect?! Of course I love the whole "duet" metaphor what with all the music in my life these days.)

The Macaw
by David Elliott


(If that doesn't make you smile, you are in dire need of a day off... and more poetry. :)

I'm sitting here wondering which is my favorite bird... ever since SUMMER OF THE SWANS, I have loved swans. I fell in love with the African tanager a few years ago... and every time the cardinals nest outside my kitchen window, they are totally my favorites. :) What about you? Any birds that hold particular appeal for you??

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

DORK DIARIES author Rachel Renee Russell On Writing Across Cultures

The latest issue of Writer's Digest magazine features an article by Tiffany Luckey on DORK DIARIES author Rachel Renee Russell. It's a great article.

When asked how she feels about authors writing about cultures other than their own, Ms. Russell said this:

"Authors of any race and gender should write - number one - what their heart and brain are leading them to write, and - number two - what they're passionate about."

"Authors of any race should be able to write other races. We see [white] authors writing people of color [all the time], so, to be fair, people of color should be able to write other races [as well]."

(Ms. Russell is African American, and her DORK DIARIES protagonist Nicki Maxwell is white.)

She also gave this bit of general advice:

"Write what you are comfortable with, write what you're interested in and what makes you happy."


Monday, December 8, 2014

Movie Monday: iNTERSTELLAR

After several of my nearest and dearest suggested to me that I would really enjoy INTERSTELLAR, I finally got myself to the theater! Youngest son went with me, even though he'd already seen the movie once.

It was exactly what I expected and nothing like I expected. Tense (expected), pondering big questions (expected), ultimately about love and relationships (unexpected).

I have long been fascinated by space and space travel. (Remember the movie SPACE CAMP?) Planets and meteor showers pop in my writing, as have the Mars rovers and the shuttle launches. I figure we humans will continue to explore the cosmos out of curiosity alone (nevermind other grander reasons like saving humanity). The movie touches on all these things. What is brave? What is love? How can we unravel the mysteries of time and dimensions? Our understanding of ourselves and the universe is tiny compared to the vastness that exists. Are there other beings, a "they?"

The movie brought me back to one of my favorite books of all time: THE SPARROW by Mary Doria Russell. This is one of the few books I have read numerous times as an adult. Lots of big questions in it, as well -- and ultimately, about love and relationships, too.

I don't really have any desire to explore any other planets, except in books and in movies. I'm pretty happy right here on Earth. (I am not a rollercoaster kind of gal -- would not a good astronaut make!) But boy oh boy am I fascinated by what's out there, and how much I admire those who are passionate enough to look mystery in the face, risk everything, and explore the possibilities.

Go see the movie! It'll make you think and feel and wonder.

Friday, December 5, 2014

MANGER (Lee Bennett Hopkins) & "Manger"

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Anastasia at Booktalking #kidlit for Roundup.

Now that it's December, I want to share the loveliness that is MANGER, edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins with illus. by Helen Cann. It includes poems from several of our Poetry Friday friends, and is really a gorgeous take on the Nativity story.

When I was a little girl, there was no story I loved better than the Nativity. I was one of those girls who never ever played with Barbie dolls but loved my baby dolls well past the age when most girls outgrow them. Anything that had to do with babies, I was there. And add animals?! OF COURSE I loved it.

MANGER is a gorgeous book -- each poem spoke to me. And that doesn't often happen in an anthology! All the expected animals are included, and there are a few surprises, like a llama poem by Alma Flor Ada. A llama! Other surprises I've chosen to share with you today are "Fish" by Lee Bennett Hopkins and "Spider's Gift" by Michelle Krueger.

by Lee Bennett Hopkins

the world's
sudden glee

we cannot leave
our home -- the sea

we will
swish and flap
each fin

we, too,

welcome Jesus

Spider's Gift
by Michele Krueger

All evening long
I'll spin my threads
to place upon the child's head.

I will not rest until it's done,
my humble gift to greet the Son.

I'll weave for Him
a cobweb crown,

and on eight legs

bow deeply down.


And now, an original poem inspired by the book! I wondered what the manger would say....