Friday, June 10, 2022

The First Day of Kindness + Donkey Poem


Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Buffy Silverman for Roundup. 

So...exciting news! I've been named an Alabama State Council on the Arts Literary Fellow for 2022!

You guys, I have applied for this fellowship many, many times over the past decade. In fact, I looked it up, and this was my 9th time to apply. Wanna hear the story?

The very first year I got a "close by no cigar" note from the director. I thought for sure I'd get it the next year. I didn't. Or the next or the next...

A few years in, I said, forget this, I'm never going to get it. I didn't apply that year. 

Lo and behold, one of the program directors Anne Kimsey invited me to instead sit on the panel to review submissions. She knew I'd learn a lot! And I did. 

I thought, oh I'll get it next year for sure! NOPE. I didn't get it that year. Or the next or the next. 

But one of the main reasons I kept on submitting is because I read a study that found men are more likely to get literary awards not because they're better (duh) but because they keep submitting. Women, it turns out, are much more likely to give up MUCH sooner than men. 

So I decided: I'm not going to be one of those women. 

And I gotta tell you, this year I had SO MUCH on my plate come submission time I really didn't want to make it a priority. But I did. And I'm so glad.

So: here's my message to all my Poetry Friday (women!) friends: don't be one of those women who throws in the towel too soon. KEEP GOING. 

In other news, and on the same theme... I have a new picture book releasing this month: The Twelve Days of Kindness (Penguin Random House) with illustrations by Junghwa Park.

I wrote (and sold) this book 6 1/2 years ago...which wins the "longest time between sale and publication" award for any of my books so far. The book came to be because of a series of kindness quotes I shared in the days leading up to Christmas 2015. I just knew there was a way to adapt "The Twelve Days of Christmas" song to a picture book about kindness! 

Fun news: the audio version of the book features a spoken and a sung version of the book, which I absolutely love... and know families and groups are going to have so much fun with!

The book might not have happened without a little help from my local SCBWI critique group. Big thanks especially to Claudia Pearson who helped me tweak the "first day of kindness" verse, which of course is everything, because it repeats twelve times!

Anyway, since then there have been about a billion kindness books! Which is great, because what better message is there to share with kids of all ages?

As a way to celebrate, I'll be sharing on social media over the next 12 days those quotes from my original blog series. Here's the first:

And now switching to ArtSpeak: ANIMALS.

A dear friend of mine collects donkeys, so I am always on the hunt as I visit antique stores, thrift shops, and yard sales. Surely that's why I couldn't resist writing a poem about this donkey art! Thanks so much for reading.

Donkey Frieze

So many donkeys

parading a pasture

can't be wrong:

the sky is not falling;

no disaster awaits.

Today is simply—today.

Kick up your heels,

graze with soft eyes.

Joy nuzzles

as often as it brays.

- Irene Latham


  1. Wow, congrats on the fellowship!! And what a story of persistence. Congrats, too, on your new kindness book (that sounds like a story of patience - 6-1/2 years?)! Fun donkey poem, too. Thanks for this uplifting post. :)

  2. This is a very inspiring post, Irene! Thanks for the reminder to never give up (Congratulations by the way!). Looking forward to singing along with your new picture book.

  3. "parading a pasture" perfect! OK, Irene...I'm listening. And, it's a perfect time for me to listen to your wise experience. It's summer for me in a few days. Hooray for morning pages! I'm just going to write and write and write...ok, and read.

  4. Ah, Irene, the woman's trait to give in too soon. Good for you for keeping on & for the appointment! Congratulations! And for your patience, too, waiting for that new book. It's a great idea & so needed these recent months. Finally, love the donkey poem, that "joy nuzzles" especially! Happy weekend!

  5. Hooray for the fellowship!!! That's such great news! I just finalized my orders for my library before leaving work today and I ordered 12 Days of Kindness. Can't wait to read it!

  6. Hooray for persistence! (And you are so right that women take no for an answer much more frequently than men...) Congrats on your new book, and for all your nuzzling joy!

  7. Thank you for sharing your story of persistence--I've had a few close calls and many nadas for a fellowship I apply for every year. Maybe one day! Congrats on the new book!

  8. Many Congrats on your perseverance and the Fellowship award Irene–And for your New "Kindness"Book!!! Love your ending two lines in your poem and the Franz Marc painting, thanks!


  9. Irene, two wonderful firsts need congratulations. I just tweeted this out. A kindness book is always needed. Are you having reviewers for your book. If so, I would love to do that. There is wisdom tucked into your poem, "Today is simply—today., Kick up your heels/graze with soft eyes.

  10. I love your two tales of perseverance (thank you for the encouragement!) and for your donkey's take on "more wag than bark" or "purr more hiss less."

  11. So much to celebrate today! Congratulations on the fellowship and the new book - it sounds delightful!

    I love the last lines of your donkey poem:

    "Joy nuzzles

    as often as it brays."

    What a wonderful reminder that there are many ways we can express joy and happiness.

  12. So. Much. Goodness.
    You deserve it all and a bag of chips, Ms. Irene!
    Yay for perseverance. Yay for kindness (and patience!). Yay for a donkey parade poem. :)

  13. Today is simply today is my summer mantra! Congratulations! But most of all, thanks for spreading this message of persistence. I need it now!


Your thoughts?