Saturday, October 31, 2015

#EveryBrilliantThing Halloween Roundup!

This year I am keeping a virtual gratitude list, inspired by the play Every Brilliant ThingHere's my post about it. 

And here is my list for October. Happy Halloween!! (Funny: some variations on a theme here!)

#OutandAboutDress by @sewcaroline.
Love notes.
Old houses.
Boys with long hair.
The Martian.
Costume jewelry.
Lemon thyme.
Tiki mosquito torches.
Looking through old scrapbooks.
Graphic novels.
Zentangle pumpkin.
Dreams that hold horses.
The new Harry Potter play.
Halloween decorations.
Thank you notes.
Sugar maples in fall.
Dry creekbed.
Glue gun.
Getting new book contract from Lerner and F&G's from WordSong in the mail on the same day.
Sharing a secret.
Saying thank you.
Hearing thank you.

Friday, October 30, 2015

On Complaining Camels & Scottish Poets

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit marveous poet-teacher Mary Lee at A Year of Reading for Roundup.

So I found today's poem when I read this article about Scottish poet (from Shetland, actually) Christine DeLuca, who is currently serving as Edinburgh's Poet Laureate. She cites it as one that helped grow her love for poetry and rhythm, And weren't we talking recently about camel poems, after the movie TRACKS?! I still need to write one!

The Camel's Complaint
by Charles Edward Carryl (1841-1920)

Canary-birds feed on sugar and seed.
Parrots have crackers to crunch.
And as for the poodles, they tell me the noodles
have chicken and cream for their lunch.
But there's never a question
about my digestion.
Anything is okay for me.

Cats, you know, can sleep in a chair.
Chickens can rest upon rails.
Puppies are able to sleep in a stable,
and oysters can nap in pails.
But no one supposes
a poor camel dozes.
Any place is okay for me.

Lambs are indoors out of the sun.
Coops are built for hens.
Kittens are treated to houses well heated,
and pigs are protected by pens.
But a camel is handy
wherever it's sandy.
Anywhere is okay for me.

People would laugh if you rode a giraffe,
or rode the back of an ox.
It's nobody's habit to ride on a rabbit,
or to try to ride a fox.
But as for a camel,
he carries families.
Any load is okay for me.

A snake is as round as a hole in the ground,
and weasels are wavy and sleek.
And no alligator could ever be straighter
than lizards that live in a creek.
But a camel's all lumpy
and bumpy and humpy.
Any shape is okay for me.

The original poem was published in 1892. The version here was adapted from a copy in The Oxford Book of Children's Verse, eds. Iona and Peter Opie (London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1973), pages 305-306.

isn't that fun?!

...and now a poem by Christine DeLuca herself! 

Head over Heels (translated from the Shetlandic original)
by Christine DeLuca
From different vantage points, the island sharpens
from old man laid out dead upon the skyline
to three proud peaks upon the world's edge.

And seen at different times, headlands looming
closely after rain, distance themselves
through hazy veils. We lift our eyes

from weathered end-of-season sights. Autumn,
with fingers soft and lingering, lightens both
land and heart; bright glints of newness.

And all the pointless fights that come
from thinking we can only see one way, fade
into nothingness. A glow of light upon

the drabbest land, a glimpse of love around
embittered hearts, and everything turns
somersaults. We must un-self ourselves,

untangle all that wearies one another,
journey with our difference, and savor
all the common wonders of our world.

Read more:


"We must un-self ourselves" -- !!! adding that to my "How to Live Your Poem" page!

Friday, October 23, 2015

"October" by U2

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit the ever-delicious Jama at Jama's Alphabet Soup for Roundup!

Thinking of Tabatha's Music Monday's as I post this, my most favorite U2 song. I feel it in my soul, whatever the season, but especially during October. Enjoy!

by U2

And the trees are stripped bare
Of all they wear
What do I care

And kingdoms rise
And kingdoms fall
But you go on...and on.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Book Character Scarecrows!

Each year Inverness Elementary School classes create and display scarecrows -- and each year I go down and photograph my favorites. This year the theme appears to be "book characters."

Here is my most favorite, from THE MIRACULOUS JOURNEY OF EDWARD TULANE by Kate DiCamillo.

Edward is holding a notebook where each student wrote a little something about Edward's journey. This one says, "I belive Edwards journey was worth it because when Edward only loved Himself he should also love people and also be kind to himself and people." Isn't that precious??!

How about WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE by Maurice Sendak?

And check out these familiar book characters:

Here are a couple of less familiar book characters that should be more familiar!
JOHNNY APPLESEED by Steven Kellogg


I will leave you with A BAD CASE OF THE STRIPES by David Shannon:

Hmmm... wouldn't it be fun to make a Ludelphia scarecrow from LEAVING GEE'S BEND?? Oh, wait, somebody already did. :)

created by Black Belt Treasures. :)

Friday, October 16, 2015


Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Amy at The Poem Farm for Roundup. I know she will be growing something beautiful for us!

I'm at an all-day intensive today with artistrator E.B. Lewis on "The Hook of the Book," but I wanted to pop in and wish everyone a lovely day! Tomorrow I am presenting at our local SCBWI annual conference with Doraine Bennett on "Finding Voice." And I get to meet Poetry Friday friend Jan Godown Annino!!

Also, I've been reading -- and loving -- NEVER BROKEN by Jewel. Song lyrics are poetry, right? As if a life.

I remember when Jewel first appeared on the music scene, and I remember when she published a book of poems. But I guess I sort of dismissed her as another pop celebrity  -- I certainly never embraced her work. (Sorry, Jewel!) Oh, but this book! I knew it might be something special when, on the opening page, I found some lines by Rumi:

In other news, DEAR WANDERING WILDEBEEST was awarded a Silver Moonbeam Children's Award for Poetry! It makes me happy to think about those wildebeest wandering into the hands of new readers. That's the lovely thing of awards, I think -- the potential for increased exposure and recognition to broaden a book's audience.

Which brings me to the CYBILS! Here's a pic of the titles I'm reading this week in the Poetry category (O, lucky me!):

Have YOU read these titles yet?

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

A Rainy Morning at Birmingham Botanical Gardens (and a Poem)

 First some pictures I took on a recent (rainy) early-morning visit to Birmingham Botanical Gardens... and then a poem inspired by the pictures!


Monday, October 12, 2015

My Art Story

Mary Lee Bendolph
In celebration of their 50 year anniversary, the NEA has invited the community to share their art stories -- how art has impacted their lives.

Click here to read MY art story! And then.... share your story!

Also, I'm thrilled today to be sharing LEAVING GEE'S BEND with the Birmingham Quilters Guild. Check out this collage I made from some of the pics I took at QuiltFest earlier this year. Amazing work!

Friday, October 9, 2015

What Are You Waiting For?

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Laura (who has a brand-new look!) at Writing the World for Kids for Roundup.
I've been waiting. And thinking about waiting. And writing about waiting. If you haven't picked up WAITING by Kevin Henkes, please do!  It seems everything is waiting for something -- and what beauty there is to see! I'd like to give this book to some wee folks in my life along with a set of cat nesting dolls.
One of the things I've been waiting on is this announcement, from Publisher's Weekly:
Carol Hinz at Millbrook Press has bought world rights to It's Not Black and White, by Irene Latham and Charles Waters, illustrated by Sean Qualls and Selina Alko. In this collection of poems, a white woman and a black man have a conversation, writing about everyday elements from their childhoods – including family dinners, sports, church, and toys. It's scheduled for fall 2017; Rosemary Stimola of Stimola Literary Studio represented the co-authors, and Rebecca Sherman of Writers House represented the co-illustrators.
Yay!! I loved collaborating with Charles, and we are excited to see what this amazing illustration duo does with our words. So happy to share this with all of you!
And now a poem by Mary Oliver that speaks to the beauty of waiting:
Such Silence
As deep as I ever went into the forest
I came upon an old stone bench, very, very old,
and around it a clearing, and beyond that
trees taller and older than I had ever seen.
Such silence!
It really wasn’t so far from a town, but it seemed
all the clocks in the world had stopped counting.
So it was hard to suppose the usual rules applied.
Sometimes there’s only a hint, a possibility.
What’s magical, sometimes, has deeper roots
than reason.
I hope everyone knows that.
I sat on the bench, waiting for something.
An angel, perhaps.
Or dancers with the legs of goats.
No, I didn’t see either. But only, I think, because
I didn’t stay long enough.
- Mary Oliver, BLUE HORSES: Poems (Penguin, 2014)
Other "waiting" poems:

"I Am Waiting" by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

"Waiting" by Raymond Carver

"Everything is Waiting for You" by David Whyte

"The Waiting Place" by Dr. Seuss

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Monday, October 5, 2015

Movie Monday: THE MARTIAN

So I was pretty excited to get to the theater to see THE MARTIAN.

Last year when I read the book by Any Weir, I was dipping my toes in a series of Mars poems -- I've since abandoned that project, but I remain fascinated with Mars One and space exploration -- and of course survival stories! Whatever the setting, I pretty much love survival/adventure stories.

And this movie is gorgeous. Taut and tense and emotional and no doubt the best one we've seen this year. In some ways the movie is better than the book, and it feels like a real accomplishment for a story about one single person who spends much of his time alone on Mars THINKING through his problems and coming up with possible solutions and trying the and failing.... really, that's one of the best things about the movie: what is says about the power of the mind, how we can use our knowledge and our resources to creatively solve our problems. Our hero fails again and again, but he keeps after it. It's about taking risks and making the impossible thing POSSIBLE. So, so good. Go see it!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Jump Back & Sing! 3 Poems by Paul Laurence Dunbar

Hello, and Happy first Poetry Friday of October! WOW! October is one of the very best months, isn't it?? Be sure to visit Heidi at My Juicy Little Universe for Roundup.

I'm excited to share with you today 3 poems by Paul Laurence Dunbar. Last week at MY FAVORITE POEM, one of the readers shared Dunbar's "Sympathy" from which Maya Angelou took the phrase "I know why the caged bird sings," and that set me on a Dunbar reading binge! I read oh about 450 Dunbar poems this week, and I'm delighted to share with you my favorites. Also, I'm excited about a new picture book biography JUMP BACK, PAUL: The Life and Poems of Paul Laurence Dunbar by Sally Derby, illus. by Sean Qualls. I haven't gotten my hands on the book yet, so I will be curious to see if any of the poems I've selected here are included in the book!

The first one is quite timely! Hurray for all that makes October beautiful! I particularly love the last lines.

by Paul Laurence Dunbar

October is the treasurer of the year,
And all the months pay bounty to her store;
The fields and orchards still their tribute bear,
And fill her brimming coffers more and more.
But she, with youthful lavishness,
Spends all her wealth in gaudy dress,
And decks herself in garments bold
Of scarlet, purple, red, and gold.
She heedeth not how swift the hours fly,
But smiles and sings her happy life along;
She only sees above a shining sky;
She only hears the breezes' voice in song.
Her garments trail the woodlands through,
And gather pearls of early dew
That sparkle, till the roguish Sun
Creeps up and steals them every one.
But what cares she that jewels should be lost,
When all of Nature's bounteous wealth is hers?
Though princely fortunes may have been their cost,
Not one regret her calm demeanor stirs.
Whole-hearted, happy, careless, free,
She lives her life out joyously,
Nor cares when Frost stalks o'er her way
And turns her auburn locks to gray.

This next one is perfect for introducing young readers to Dunbar's work:

The Seedling
by Paul Laurence Dunbar

AS a quiet little seedling
Lay within its darksome bed,
To itself it fell a-talking,
And this is what it said:

'I am not so very robust,
But I'll do the best I can;'
And the seedling from that moment
Its work of life began.

So it pushed a little leaflet
Up into the light of day,
To examine the surroundings
And show the rest the way.

The leaflet liked the prospect,
So it called its brother, Stem;
Then two other leaflets heard it,
And quickly followed them.

To be sure, the haste and hurry
Made the seedling sweat and pant;
But almost before it knew it
It found itself a plant.

The sunshine poured upon it,

And the clouds they gave a shower;

And the little plant kept growing
Till it found itself a flower.

Little folks, be like the seedling,

Always do the best you can;

Every child must share life's labor
Just as well as every man.

And the sun and showers will help you

Through the lonesome, struggling hours,

Till you raise to light and beauty
Virtue's fair, unfading flowers. 

And finally, my favorite Dunbar poem! It's joyful, yet acknowledges our struggles. Love the refrain "I sing my song, and all is well." Yes!

The Poet and His Song
by Paul Laurence Dunbar

A song is but a little thing,
And yet what joy it is to sing!
In hours of toil it gives me zest,
And when at eve I long for rest;
When cows come home along the bars,
And in the fold I hear the bell,
As Night, the shepherd, herds his stars,
I sing my song, and all is well.

There are no ears to hear my lays,
No lips to lift a word of praise;
But still, with faith unfaltering,
I live and laugh and love and sing.
What matters yon unheeding throng?
They cannot feel my spirit's spell,
Since life is sweet and love is long,
I sing my song, and all is well.

My days are never days of ease;
I till my ground and prune my trees.
When ripened gold is all the plain, 
I put my sickle to the grain.
I labor hard, and toil and sweat,
While others dream within the dell;
But even while my brow is wet,
I sing my song, and all is well.

Sometimes the sun, unkindly hot,
My garden makes a desert spot;
Sometimes a blight upon the tree
Takes all my fruit away from me;
And then with throes of bitter pain
Rebellious passions rise and swell;
But -- life is more than fruit or grain,
And so I sing, and all is well.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Gee's Bend Quilters Named NEA National Heritage Fellows

Congratulations to Mary Lee Bendolph, Lucy Mingo and Loretta Pettway who are in Washington, D.C. today for the NEA National Heritage awards ceremony! See the women interviewed live and demonstrating their craft tomorrow, Oct. 2 at

Behold, a few quilts that helped earned them this honor:

by Mary Lee Bendolph
by Lucy Mingo, available at Souls Grown Deep

by Loretta Pettway
I remain forever grateful to these women and all the quilters of Gee's Bend for their art and their stories. Thank you!