Monday, November 01, 2010

Featuring Pat Mora and NCTE

In preparation for my upcoming session at the NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English) convention in two weeks, I am using my blog to feature two of the poets who will be on the panel with me: Pat Mora and Jame Richards. We're trying to promote our session, of course, but we're also trying to extend the conference experience for those who may not be able to attend in person. It was part of our proposal. We'll also share session highlights AFTER the conference. Maybe even a video clip! Fun, right?

In addition, my co-bloggers, Elaine Magliaro at Wild Rose Reader and Tricia Stohr-Hunt at Miss Rumphius Effect are also participating. They'll be in Orlando at the conference session with me and are also featuring advance press on poets themselves: Marilyn Singer (at Miss Rumphius) and Lee Bennett Hopkins (at Wild Rose Reader). We're trying to show how technology can be used to promote poetry-- so input, interaction, and ideas are welcome.

Meanwhile, let's get rolling...

I am honored to showcase the wonderful poet, author, and literacy advocate Pat Mora.

First, a bit of background:

Pat Mora was born on January 19, in El Paso, Texas, and grew up in a bilingual home. Both her maternal and paternal grandparents migrated from Mexico to El Paso to escape the revolution in the early 20th century. Mora went on to earn both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Texas Western College, now the University of Texas at El Paso. She taught English at the secondary and college levels and briefly hosted a radio talk show. She worked as an administrator, lecturer, and activist, and gives poetry readings, workshops, and presentations around the world. She continues her efforts as a literacy advocate in promoting Día de los Ninos, Día de los Libros (Children’s Day/Book Day) held on April 30th, a national day to celebrate children and literacy. She is married and the mother of three grown children. Her hobbies include traveling, reading, walking, and visiting with friends and family.

Pat Mora’s work has garnered many awards and recognitions, including a Kellogg National Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, the Cooperative Children’s Book Center Choices Award, inclusion on the Americás Award Commended List, an International Reading Association Notable Books for Global Society distinction, and the Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award, among others.

Pat Mora has written in a variety of genres including poetry for children and adults, nonfiction, and children's picture books, including Tomás and the Library Lady (Knopf, 1997), Confetti: Poems for Children (Lee & Low Books 1996/1999), and My Own True Name: New and Selected Poems for Young Adults (Arte Público Press 2000). Many of her works are written in two languages (English interwoven with Spanish words and phrases), and in bilingual editions. She also has a terrific web site and blog (ShareBookjoy) that is frequently updated and full of inspiration and information.

We often talk about your poetry, but I so admire your teaching and advocacy too. Since we’re preparing for the upcoming NCTE conference for teachers, I’d like to focus on your new resource book, ZING. Can you tell us a little about the inception of ZING?

Pat: Thanks for asking! Zing! Seven Creativity Practices for Educators and Students began from requests from educators at all levels who would ask me on my speaking travels to tell them how I write, what is my process. Often, the teachers, professors and librarians confided that they wanted to do what I do. I was in two Texas cities last month, and on both trips, I again was asked, “Why don’t you write a book to help us do what you do?”

“I’ve written that book,” I responded which surprised them. A challenge for almost all authors is how to connect potential readers with the books we write for them. Among my numerous goals for this book were inspiring educators to develop their own creativity and inspiring them to develop the creative potential of all their students—a tall order, I know. I firmly believe in the power of educators and that most are committed professionals. I so enjoyed writing these fourteen letters to them.

You weave together so many wonderful vignettes, quotes, and observations, along with practical steps, it’s an inspiring “handbook.” Which tip or strategy do you find you most often use yourself?

Pat: At this point in my life, my key challenge remains creating the quiet to write—and I’m alone most of the time! It remains hard to detach from e-mails and especially hard to detach for a while from growing Día as we edge up to its 15th Anniversary in April. I’m so committed to the need to reach out to diverse families and to assist them to be literacy promoters in their homes and communities. I also, though, need to remind myself that to continue writing (and there are still plenty of books I hope to write), I need the stillness to explore. “Life” gobbles up our hours and days, doesn’t it?

I’m also a BIG fan of your new poetry book, DIZZY IN YOUR EYES. The blending of perspectives is particularly unique—love through the eyes of teens, of course, but also via people of all ages and all walks of life—a cross-generational love poem anthology, if you will. Would you consider doing something like that again on another theme? If so, which theme might draw you in?

Pat: Both of my books for teens were suggested by librarians when I was actually focused on other projects. I clearly remember when the books were proposed. MY OWN TRUE NAME was suggested by a California librarian who said she needed a poetry collection in a Latina/o voice for her students. I felt a responsibility to help and spoke to the publisher of Arte Público Press.

Over a delicious dinner hosted by Random House at TLA, a librarian said that I need to write another book for teens, and that she recommended love poems. I’d never considered such a thing, but the idea grew on me, and the project brought me great joy. I’m deeply grateful to my Knopf editor for believing in the project. I’m not planning another such book at present which relates to your following question.

What can we look forward to from you next?
Pat: I’m always working on picture books. I find them irresistible. Although poetry is my favorite genre, it’s difficult to place a poetry collection and the audience for poetry can be small. For a while I wondered if I’d even write another book of adult poetry, but I do now have an idea for book seven. No idea presently for another book of teen poetry, but I do hope to begin a YA version of my family memoir House of Houses before the end of the year.

Please chime in with questions or comments (below) and Pat will respond at the end of the week. Plus, I'll chime in again with a few more ideas and activities. Stay tuned...

And if you can make it to the NCTE conference, join us!
Session Title: A.9 Poets and Bloggers Unite: Using Technology to Connect Kids, Teachers, and Poetry
Date: Friday, November 19th
Time: 9:30 am to 10:45 am
Place: Coronado - Baja Room

Photo Credit: Cheron Bayna


Andromeda Jazmon said...

I wish I could be there with you at NCTE! It is going to be great. I am wondering about ideas for using bilingual Spanish/English picture books in our library. We are developing our collection in this area. We teach Spanish from Pre-K to 8th grade, but most teachers don't speak it and neither do I. I am working with the Spanish teacher for collaborative ideas using tech tools like the SMARTboard and interactive websites or apps. Do you have any ideas? We have looked on YouTube and read books together. What else could we be doing? How does a monolingual librarian promote bilingual books?

Elizabeth said...

Thanks for your post. I am a former middle and high school English teacher (and NCTE member!), currently staying at home with my 3 young children. I ran across a Pat Mora children's poetry book today when volunteering in our lower school library. Loved it and tonight found your blog through an internet search. I loved your interview with her and her comments about creating quiet and needing the stillness to explore. Those quotes really resonated with me. Thanks for sharing.

laurasalas said...

Pat is so delightful--a joy in person (so fun to read right after you at TLA this year, Pat, even if you did have everyone, including me, in tears...a tough act to follow) and on the page.

I'm rereading Dizzy in Your Eyes right now, and I'd love to know more about your poetry process on an individual poem.

The poem "Kissing," where the father sees the daughter and her boyfriend kissing and is upset about it is one of my favorites in Dizzy. Could you share a bit about the process of writing that poem or any other single poem from Dizzy? Where did the idea come from? How did you start? How many drafts, etc.?

Thanks, Sylvia and Pat. Have fun at NCTE!