Friday, September 16, 2016

Poet to Poet: Jeannine Atkins

It's time for another installment in my Poet to Poet series where one poet interviews another poet about her or his new book. This time, the lovely April Halprin Wayland interviews Jeannine Atkins about her new nook, Finding Wonders. 

Photo by Webb Burns
April Halprin Wayland is a poet and picture book author and one of the founding members of the Teaching Authors blogging team and the UCLA Extension's Creative Writing Instructor of the Year. Her works include the novel in verse, Girl Coming in for a Landing, and New Year at the Pier, a Rosh Hashanah story, and More Than Enough, a Passover story, as well as To Rabbittown, It's Not My Turn to Look for Grandma, and The Night Horse.  She's a violinist, a political activist, and a frequent speaker, as well as the recipient of a Sydney Taylor Book Award. 

Jeannine Atkins is a poet and author of novels in verse, biographical works, picture books and nonfiction with a particular focus on girls, science, and nature, many inspired by history including this history-biography-in-verse, Borrowed Names About Laura Ingalls Wilder, Madame C. J. Walker, Marie Curie, and Their Daughters.  She also published her first novel for adults about May Alcott, Little Woman in Blue. She blogs at Views From a Window Seat and founded her own publishing company, Stone Door Press. Her new book is Finding Wonders: Three Girls Who Changed Science, about the fascinating lives of Maria Merian, Mary Anning, and Maria Mitchell.
Here, April asks Jeannine questions about this new book, Finding Wonders. 

APRIL: 
Jeannine, your metaphors and similes are breathtakingly original. As I read your book, you pulled me in with your deft use of language from the first page. So my question is: can you teach me how to come up with jewels such as the few I've listed below?

"...witch. That word sets hooks under her skin,/like the tiny barbs on the backs/of caterpillars' legs that help them climb."
"They exchange a glance,/swift and silent as two moths meeting in midair."
"Her voice scatters like sharp pieces of broken crockery/that can't be repaired, and will be hard to forget."
"Coughs scrape the air, as if Pa breathes through a grater."
"A constellation of sisters in one bed."

JEANNINE:
I begin with real things that were part of a person’s daily life and work. I imagine some cluttered on my desk and looking at them from different angles, trying to find language for them beyond their names. As I stick with an ordinary object, playing with its colors, uses, shapes, and scent, it seems richer - or it doesn’t, in which case it gets left behind. As I try putting details in poems, some seem to whisper to the theme. A metaphor may slip out, connecting something small to the big world.

APRIL:
You never fail to include evocative details, clearly culled from long hours of research. Tell us how you research... and how you choose just enough details to weave it into your story, such as the following:

"Mum gathers bee balm, foxgloves, and thistles/to make tinctures and teas she says will help/ Pa breathe easier or tame his aches. She is careful/ not to disturb spirits by spilling salts, dropping a knife,/or setting a loaf upside down on the table./ She holds up an apple cut in half,/showing how her knife didn't slit a single seed./That means blessings are coming. She scoops out bits of the soft apple for the baby, feeds/ him wedges curved like half-moons."
"For dinner, they must change from gingham dresses to silk,/and when biting into bread, be vigilant not to leave a vulgar/horseshoe shape."

JEANNINE:
Some poets begin with voice, but I start and move along by giving time to words that evoke the five senses. I read for the shapes of lives, but while slogging through summary and abstraction, am on the lookout for particular tools, clothing, animals, food, or furniture. My process is to read and write a lot – because I don’t know when I start out what will be valuable – then get out the scissors.

APRIL:
You keep the lives of these scientists real. My final question is: if we were to go back in time and see you as a young child, would we see a budding scientist? Some examples of how you show how scientists think and how they work:

"...Mary considers. Certainty is like a pillow/ she has learned to live without./ Doubt is crucial. Discoveries are made/ by those willing to say, Once we were wrong,/ and ask question after question. Every one is a gift."
"She becomes as familiar with the creature as her own body./ No, more. Her tenderness toward the stone is long,/ while at home she spends just seconds pulling a comb/ through her hair, scrubbing grime from her fingernails,/or tucking her feet into stockings."
"Mary believes that the Lord loves questions as well as answers./ People were given scripture, but also the earth./ She means to read both."

JEANNINE:
I grew up in a small town at a time when parents let children wander or bicycle around. I was curious about what I saw in fields and woods, but shortly after a delicious classroom assignment to press and take apart a dried flower to label the parts, science moved toward abstractions, and my interest waned. Would it have made a difference if all my science teachers hadn’t been men? If I’d known of women besides the singular Marie Curie who’d made careers in science? I don’t know. But I’m happy. Writing and science find common ground in the need for wonder, working through mistakes, and paying close attention to the world.

Thank you, April and Jeannine, for digging deeply into poetry and sharing your conversation with us. Fascinating!

Here's a quick list of previous Poet-to-Poet interviews. FYI.
Julie Larios & Skila Brown

Jane Yolen & Lesléa Newman

Joyce Sidman & Irene Latham

Laura Purdie Salas & Nikki Grimes

Helen Frost & Chris Crowe

Holly Thompson & Margarita Engle

Allan Wolf & Leslie Bulion

Margarita Engle & Mariko Nagal

Carole Boston Weatherford & Jacqueline Woodson

Now head on over and enjoy the rest of the Poetry Friday crew at Today's Little Ditty

Thursday, September 08, 2016

The wait is over for YOU JUST WAIT

Happy Book Birthday to You Just Wait!

Today, Janet (Wong) and I are officially launching another poetry venture and we’re trying something different once again. It's entitled You Just Wait: A Poetry Friday Power Book. Our special focus is always linking poetry with teaching and learning—all in one book. Usually, our audience is teachers, librarians, parents, and other adults. This time, we’re focusing on young people themselves, particularly on teens and tweens with a new, slim book that is part poetry, part road map for thinking-responding-writing poetry themselves. 

Here’s the deal:

You Just Wait: A Poetry Friday Power Book is a mashup of:
  • Poems from an anthology
  • Plus new poems written in response to those poems
  • Plus creative activity pages to jumpstart thinking, brainstorming, responding, and writing
These are all linked together with a story thread involving friends, siblings, sports, school, movies, and dreams. 

The twelve poems at the root of this book come from our previous collaboration, The Poetry Friday Anthology for Middle School (an NCTE Poetry Notable), and were written by Robyn Hood Black, Joseph Bruchac, Jen Bryant, Margarita Engle, Julie Larios, Carmen T. Bernier-Grand, Charles Ghigna, Avis Harley, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, Charles Waters, and Virginia Euwer Wolff

Then Janet Wong created two dozen new poems to join them together in a story featuring Paz, an Asian-Latina soccer player with dreams of stardom in college, the Olympics, and ultimately the World Cup; Lucesita, her feisty movie-loving cousin; and Joe, an older brother with dreams of the NBA. 

You can read the book simply for the poems and the story—a novella in verse.

And you can scribble right in the book to interact with the poems as a reader and a writer. 

For the educator, the structure of the book provides a five-part model for instruction with each of the following components ideal for guiding the reading, responding, and writing process:

*PowerPlay Activity
*Outside Poem
*Response Poem
*Mentor Text Poem
*Power2You Writing Prompt

There are a dozen of these PowerPack sets of 5 linked activities each with a slightly different focus encouraging readers to consider the elements of repetition, rhyme (including internal rhyme), structure, dialogue, and form (list poems, prose poems, sequence poems, cinquain, poems of address, concrete/shape poems, acrostic poems, found poems, and odes). 



Here’s one sample PowerPack showing each of the five components for PowerPack #7. 


*PowerPlay Activity 

*Outside Poem 

*Response Poem 

*Mentor Text Poem

*Power2You Writing Prompt 

#1 PowerPlay activity
#2 Outside Poem                   &                         #3 Response Poem
#4 Mentor text                     &                        #5 Power2You Writing Prompt
In addition, aspiring writers will find helpful backmatter with a poetry self-edit checklist and lots of other lists, including places to publish teen poetry, books of poetry by teen writers, books for young people about writing poetry, collections, anthologies, and novels in verse, websites, talking points, and performance tips. 

Please help us spread the word, as we reach out to young readers with a book they can read, ponder, respond to and write in. 

We’re offering 5 free copies of our new book to a commenter chosen at random, so you can gather a group to read, discuss, share, scribble, and write together. This can be for a small writer’s group, a Reading Recovery session, an ELL teacher with a small middle school cluster, an eager book group, or a homeschool session. Comment below this blog entry please.

Buy your copy now and some for your favorite teacher, too! Here’s the link.

Note: Some vendors such as QEPBooks.com are offering healthy discounts this month as part of the book’s promotional launch; please consider ordering some copies for your school or library.  

Now, head on over to Amy's place at the Poem Farm for more Poetry Friday goodness! 


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

My NZ Poetry Adventure

I just spent an amazing week in New Zealand for the IBBY Congress and enjoyed sharing my poetry poster, meeting New Zealand poets, soaking up a panel dedicated to poetry, chatting with a Latvian publisher of poetry, checking out poetry at the downtown library and area museums, and seeing the country's plans for their National Poetry Day (TODAY!). So fun! Here are a few highlights. So gratifying to learn we are part of a global poetry community!

I had my poster printed on a scarf and then WORE my poster-scarf for the rest of the conference! Check out Mailpix.com (but get a Groupon first and it only cost $20 plus $10 for shipping!).


I met these poets at the conference and was excited to point out to Jenny and Paula that their work was featured on my poster. Bought Paula's massive book (pictured in blue) and got her to autograph it too! Don't miss this excellent website: nzpoetryshelf.com


She is publishing 100 individual Latvian poems as little cardboard books with art by various well-known Latvian illustrators-- to reach pre-school children and their families in particular! Check out FB.com/bikibuks


This panel featured poetry exclusively and here Helen O'Carroll talked about verse novels including works by Holly Thompson, Allan Wolf, Kwame Alexander, Ann E. Burg, and Karen Hesse, as well as Australian and New Zealand novels in verse.

Here's an example of the reader response to THE WATCH THAT ENDS THE NIGHT by Allan Wolf from a NZ teen.


American professor and author Chris Crowe shared the fascinating process that emerged as he created his novel in verse, DEATH COMING UP THE HILL about a teen struggling with war in the world and in his family, written entirely in haiku and containing one syllable for each soldier who died in the Vietnam War.


Check out this shelf of poetry books at the downtown public library (including UNBEELIEVABLES, ECHO ECHO, WATER SINGS BLUE), plus the first issue of the NZ School Journal, THE source of literature provided to ALL NZ children for years and years-- including now.

A participatory magnetic poetry wall at the main cultural museum (Te Papa) in Wellington, the capital of New Zealand.

Yes, National Poetry Day is held on the last Friday of August every year in New Zealand (since 1997) and there are tons of activities planned for all ages. Wish I could stay for it!


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

IBBY in New Zealand and poetry

I'm attending the biennial Congress of the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) in Auckland, New Zealand. This is such a wonderful event, a great opportunity to get a global glimpse of he field of children's literature and meet people from around the world and hear speakers from many countries. I'm particularly eager to check out the poetry published for young people in New Zealand (and Australia) because they are doing some very interesting things there! 

I'm also presenting a poster session on how poetry is a perfect medium for crossing cultural boundaries and will share the graphics here, FYI. I'm trying something different this time and have printed my poster on a scarf which I will display during my allotted time and then WEAR afterwards! I'll try to share photos later. Meanwhile, check out the conference programme here. Very cool!

Several years ago I co-edited the IBBY journal, Bookbird, and we closed every issue with a page featuring a poem for young people by different poets from around the world (usually in English as well as in the poet's native language). I just LOVED doing that and learned so much about poetry for young people published in other countries. Anyhoo, here's a graphic that features all the poems (too small to read, but you get the idea). You can access all these prior issues of Bookbird via Project Muse, if you have access to that resource. Enjoy!


More info to come soon...
Meanwhile, head on over to Dori Reads for more Poetry Friday fun. 






Friday, August 12, 2016

Irene Latham + Awards + Elephants

Did you know that August 12 is World Elephant Day? Yep, and of course we have a poem for this occasion in The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations written by the lovely Irene Latham. 











PLUS:
It's also the perfect moment to announce that Irene Latham was chosen to be the 2016 recipient of the Lee Bennett Hopkins Promising Poet Award.  Congratulations, Irene! This award is given every three years and goes to a poet with two books (or fewer) of poetry published thus far. The committee recognized her book, Dear Wandering Wildebeest: And Other Poems From the Water Hole (Millbrook Press/Lerner), in particular. She also published When the Sun Shines on Antarctica (Millbrook Press/Lerner) prior to receiving this award and just this year published a new poetry collection, Fresh Delicious (Boyds Mills Press). 

Check out Irene's interesting website and follow her thoughtful blog, Live Your Poem, where she posts regularly. Irene was part of my fabulous Poetry Round Up panel at the TLA conference this spring and it was so lovely to meet her in person-- finally!  As a fellow southerner, I really appreciate her storyteller's way with words and her genteel spirit. Check out her work!





Friday, July 22, 2016

Millersville Poetry Institute

Our whole group-- with everyone holding a book of poetry!
Janet (Wong) and I just wrapped up a wonderful week at the Millersville University Poetry Institute (in Pennsylvania) led, planned, and coordinated by Dr. Lesley Colabucci. (Intro and info here.) 


What a fun week-- and what a great opportunity to work with 23 teachers (K-12) in helping them get comfortable and confident with sharing poetry in all kinds of creative ways. Lesley had several "celebrity" readers start each day by sharing a poem (including the University President), invited local experts who lead various poetry projects and initiatives, and had several other poet speakers too-- like Jacqueline Jules, Heidi Mordhorst, Marjorie Maddox, Sandy Asher, and Linda Oatman High. Teacger Maggie Bokelman spoke about teaching with poetry and Karla Schmit presented the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award. (Sorry I missed you, Karla!) And I'm probably missing other awesome speakers. 
Janet has the group in the palm of her hand!

It was so fun to watch my good friend Janet (Wong) do her thing, presenting an awesome day of activities and challenges. She even had us collaborate to create a poetry suitcase-- which turned out amazingly well! Plus, Janet and I were able to take time outside the Institute to work together on our next project-- more on that soon. Hope you enjoy a few photos and feel inspired to try some of the things we saw here too. 

My focus was on modeling the "Take 5" approach to sharing poetry and showing how we can bridge oral and written language, involve kids actively, integrate skill instruction, and make text-to-text connections, among other things. I had a ton of slides, examples, and handouts, so I'll just share one nugget here below.

Reading Poetry Aloud

    Rachel created a poem poster
For each poem, we provide suggestions for how to invite students to participate in reading the poem aloud. Often the poem itself will “show” you how to perform it if you study the lines and their arrangement on the page. And when you invite students to participate in poem performance, you will find that they will have ideas about how to try a poem this way or that way. Follow their lead! Here are some general guidelines for involving students in reading poetry out loud.
  • Take the lead, be the first to read the poem, and don’t be afraid to “ham it up.” Take the pressure off students by showing how the poem sounds, how words should be pronounced, how the meaning and emotion might be conveyed. Don’t ask them to do anything you wouldn’t do yourself.
Poetry suitcase with props
  • Use props whenever possible to make a concrete connection to the poem, focus attention, and add a bit of fun. Choose something suggested by the poem. It’s even worth planning ahead to have a good prop ready beforehand. Students can then use the props too as they volunteer to join in on reading the poem, taking the focus off of them and giving the audience something specific to look at while listening—the poetry prop.
  • Try using media to add another dimension to the poetry experience. Look for digital images or videos relevant to the poem to display without sound as a backdrop while reading the poem aloud, or find music or sound effects suggested by the poem to underscore the meaning or mood as you read the poem aloud. 
    Poems on the sidewalk
  • Offer choices as you invite students to join in on reading the poem aloud with you. They can choose a favorite line to chime in on or volunteer to read a line or stanza of their choice or ask a friend to join them in reading a portion aloud. The more say they have about how they participate in the poem reading, the more eager and comfortable they will be about volunteering.
  • Make connections between the poems and their lives and experiences, between one poem and another, and between poems and other genres like nonfiction, short stories, newspaper articles, and songs). We provide example questions and poem connections for each poem, but once you have established that pattern, be open to the connections the students themselves make first. 
    Creating a "found" poem
  • Be creative and use art, drama, and technology to present the poem and to engage students in participating in that presentation. Find relevant photos, draw quick Pictionary-style sketches, make word clouds, create graphic “novel” comic panels for poem lines, use American Sign Language for key words, pose in a dramatic “frozen” tableau, collaborate on a PowerPoint slide show, and so on. Look to share the poem in a way that is particularly meaningful for students. Or better yet, let them show you!

Friday, July 15, 2016

My poetry decade

I can't believe it's been 10 years since I set up this blog and started posting! My goodness, that has flown by fast. I've been trying to decide what to do to celebrate, but have been so busy with fun summer stuff, I haven't had a moment. Isn't that how life (and blogging) goes? How do we maintain our social media life while actually LIVING our lives? So, I thought I might pause to ponder what I've learned in my last 10 years-- a glimpse at how poetry for young people has evolved in the last decade, filtered through my own tiny lens, of course. As it turns out, this is my 811th post-- which is the Dewey decimal number (811) for the poetry section at the library! (Only someone who works in the library field would love that serendipity as much as me!) Here we go.


1. Since posting on July 14, 2006, I have added blogging to my writing life and learned (some) discipline in posting--usually every Friday and daily for the month of April, National Poetry Month. This is the same year that Kelly Herold started "Poetry Friday" on her blog-- and it has definitely caught hold and gained popularity. I LOVE THAT! And in case you missed it, poet Janet Wong and I grabbed hold of that concept and have published several teaching anthologies with "Poetry Friday" at the center-- hoping people who don't already love poetry will give it a try on Friday.

2. I have learned about the work of so many poets in the last ten years-- met them, presented together, promoted their work, and continue expanding my own awareness of how many new writers are creating wonderful poetry for young readers. Just look at the list and links to 99 poets here in the sidebar on my blog-- and if I have missed some poets (who write for young people), please let me know. So many teachers, librarians, and parents only know the names of Shel Silverstein and Jack Prelutsky (both very popular and appealing, of course), and they have no idea that there are so many other great poets out there. I love surprising them with all the other great writers I know!

3. I hope I have helped connect poets with each other too! Poetry (and writing in general) can be a solitary business, so I really enjoy helping poets "meet" other poets-- a fantastic mutual admiration society.  I created a "Poet to Poet" series with regular installments (and more to come) in which one poet asks another poet questions about her/his new work. I find it so fascinating to see what authors ask each other about writing, poetry, form, process, etc. 


4. In ten years, I have read a LOT of poetry-- close to 1000 books of poetry published for young readers in the last decade. I try to keep a "sneak peek" list of poetry that will be published for children and teens and post that every January and then keep it updated all year long. You can find links to each of those lists in the sidebar of this blog and I hope it's a resource for finding poetry books on an ongoing basis.
5. Keeping this blog has helped me (mostly) keep current with technology too. I've learned how to use Blogger (and all its iterations) and add more visuals, links, video, etc. (I wish they offered a way to post audio only, but that has to be a third party post at this time-- at least I think so!) How has technology changed in 10 years? Ha! You can post from your cell phone now, link with Twitter,  Facebook, Instagram, and so many more outlets. People can comment and interact more (and I need to get better about that). It's amazing to me how this continues to become an essential part of our personal and professional lives. 
6. I love how blogging has helped me share my professional opportunities with a wider audience. As a university professor, I am expected to submit proposals, plan panels, and attend and present at professional conferences and conduct workshops and I really enjoy that. But I'm always a little sad that all that great work and energy of so many smart and interesting people is only shared with a small audience. So, I've been able to share a few nuggets, slides, and videoclips from those presentations here. Yay! Win-win!

7. Another expectation for me as an academic is to write for publication. (Interestingly enough, blogging is still not really valued in my academic community.) But keeping this blog has inspired so many other articles, columns, presentations, and books-- and I've been able to share nuggets from this publications HERE, so that a wider audience can benefit from those works. When you corral a group of people to write something, it's really nice if you can get their work out to the widest possible readership, right? Keeping this blog has led to writing the poetry column for Book Links magazine for the American Library Association which has been really gratifying, as well as my book, Poetry Aloud Here (my very first post was promoting that new book!) and my Poetry Teacher's Book of Lists, too. And of course, all four of The Poetry Friday Anthologies published in collaboration with Janet Wong and 100+ poets grew out of all this blogging too. And I'm so proud of those and have loved all that collaboration! 


8. Celebrating National Poetry Month every April has been so fun every year and I love how all the poetry bloggers come up with some new twist each year. It's wonderful to see the interwebs flooded with poetry every April-- I just wish I could read, process, and comment on ALL of it. I think it is certainly helping more people find poetry and share it with children and teens. It's only been since 1996 that we even recognized National Poetry Month, so we've come a long way already. And there's certainly more room for more...


9. There's so much more poetry "stuff" available now too-- and I have enjoyed learning about how to create more varied ways to promote and share poetry. I've made reader guides for poetry books so that more teachers feel confident about sharing poetry books with young people. I've created tons of postcards and visuals to catch the eye-- and get more people reading more poetry. I love making all the lists of poetry books (duh!), so that people see how many choices they have when they want a poetry book about dogs or school or family. And I love discovering new ideas and resources from all of YOU.


10. And that's the best of all-- connecting with YOU all readers-- with people who care about poetry and children and teens and making sure they get exposed to all the beautiful language, big heart, quiet moments, and spiritual/emotional lift that poetry can offer. We need that all now more than ever, don't you think? I so appreciate the comments, links, "shares," and connections that blogging has offered with you readers, poets, teachers, and fellow poetry lovers. When our lives are busy and our world is crazy, pausing for a poem has such power. I love that the Internet in the last decade has given us the ability to break down barriers and connect a bit more. It's not perfect, but it can be reassuring and empowering. Let's use that power for good!

Here's to the next ten years. More poetry! More connections! 


Friday, July 01, 2016

ALA Poetry Blast

Meeting the Berenstain Bears!
I just came back from the annual convention of the American Library Association in Orlando and what a great event-- as always! There's so much to love about these conferences-- running into great friends from across the country, meeting fascinating new people, learning-learning-learning (at sessions, events, exhibits, and EVERYWHERE), attending fun publisher previews, receptions and dinners, and reveling in the amazing Newbery-Caldecott-Wilder banquet. Wow! I'm probably forgetting a ton of other things-- all packed into 3-4 days of nonstop action. No wonder I always come home equal parts exhilarated and exhausted! 

Proud mom, daughter, and daughter's first book!
One of the highlights this year was attending ALA with my grown up daughter who is also a librarian-- although in the medical field. She's so much fun to travel with and I'm so proud of all her achievements too! She presented her poster on her new book about the Affordable Care Act for librarians.

Janet (Wong) and I also had a poster session featuring how to connect poetry and picture books and I was so pleased with all the traffic we had and all the social media buzz our visitors created! 





Check out my homemade "share poetry" dress which I was excited to debut here. I ordered this customized fabric (with a Groupon from PersonalizedFabric2) and then made it into a simple dress. So much fun! 

And of course I couldn't miss the Poetry Blast which was held Sunday afternoon, hosted by Marilyn Singer and Stephanie Bange and featured poets Robert L. Forbes (Beastly Feasts; Let's Have a Bite; Beast Friends Forever), Madeleine Kuderick (Kiss of Broken Glass), Ann E. Burg (Unbound), Lee Bennett Hopkins (Jumping Off Library Shelves; Amazing Places, Been to Yesterdays), Carole Boston Weatherford (Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement; You Can Fly: The Tuskegee Airmen), and Marilyn Singer herself, of course (Miss Muffet, or What Came After; Echo Echo). I made tiny video clips of their readings and I tried to post them here, so you can catch some of the excitement we all felt there-- and get the scoop on some new, forthcoming poetry books, but neither Blogger nor YouTube is cooperating! Heck! Sorry! I'll keep trying and re-post, if I have more success. 
(L-R) Lee Bennett Hopkins, Carole Boston Weatherford, Ann E. Burg, Robert L. Forbes, Marilyn Singer & Madeleine Kuderick
Thanks to the sponsors for bringing poets and sponsoring the Poetry Blast: Candlewick Press, HarperCollins Children's Books; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers; Lee & Low Books; Scholastic Books, and Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press.

Meanwhile, head on over to Tabatha's place, The Opposite of Indifference, where she has heaps of Poetry Friday goodies to share. See you there!