Thursday, September 29, 2016

Time for WWU Poetry Camp, Poetry Makerspace, and 40 POETS all in one place!

Over a year ago, Sylvia Tag (librarian) and Nancy Johnson (professor), at Western Washington University, had the idea to host a "Poetry Camp" and invited Janet (Wong) and me to come and speak. Of course we said YES! Then Janet had the idea of inviting poets we know if they'd like to come and join us. And 40 poets said YES YES YES! And now the time has come and we're gathering in Bellingham, Washington, at the WWU Poetry CHaT Center for poetry for young people with 100+ others to talk poetry, make poetry art, share poetry ideas, and just plain have fun together! Here's the lowdown on the Saturday conference activities.

But first, we gather with just the poets to share ideas and have fun. Kathy Humphrey is presenting social media strategies. Paige Bentley Flannery, Sara Holbrook, and Michael Salinger are sharing presentation tips. JoAnn Early will be talking about publishing and Julie Larios will inspire us with Oulipo Leaping ideas. Then Robyn Hood Black will lead us (and the public at large) in a fun Makerspace activity night. What a blast!

The 40 poets presenting this weekend?

Janet helped create a special Poetry Camp celebration book of poems by each of the 40 participating poets and I've adapted that into a mini-slideshow. Plus, we're talking about sharing poetry everyday and making connections across the curriculum. (Hope to share details about all of that later.) So excited to meet each of these people IN PERSON and spend a few days reveling in poetry, writing, sharing. I plan to share photos and nuggets from this amazing experience afterward. Stay tuned. 

For the rest of the Poetry Friday gathering, go to Karen's place here.

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. 

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."

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.

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."

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.

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."

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 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!