Thursday, October 31, 2013

More poetry at USBBY

The recent USBBY/IBBY conference in St. Louis had an amazing line up of authors and illustrators who presented-- I wish I could share them all. But let me feature two more: Ashley Bryan and Pat Mora who opened up the conference. They were also the collaborators for the beautiful poster and poem for International Children's Book Day (ICBD)-- which is a very big deal in many countries around the world, but oddly, not so much here in the U.S. Countries within IBBY submit proposals for the honor of creating the annual ICBD poster and this year it was our turn (USBBY). It's gorgeous, don't you think?

And this poem has been displayed all around the world as people celebrate books, kids, and reading worldwide. 

Ashley Bryan created the art for this beautiful poster and kicked off the conference with his big heart, beautiful spirit, and an inviting recitation of many poems, focusing on what he called "vocal play." Here's just ONE poem moment he shared with us ("My People" by Langston Hughes).

Next, it was such a treat to hear from Pat Mora, the author and poet who created the "theme" poem for the ICBD poster. She challenged us to think about including ALL the kids and families who are hungry for literacy in our plans and activities and ended with a reading of the "Bookjoy" poem featured on the poster. Pat coined that perfect word, "Bookjoy," and it was the theme of our conference, too. Enjoy!

And just for fun...

Friday, October 25, 2013

David L. Harrison at USBBY/IBBY conference 2013

I had a great time at the biennial USBBY/IBBY conference last week in St. Louis and was able to make a few video snippets of speakers-- particularly those who shared some poetry! I plan to share them here in segments. First up, my co-presenter, poet David L. Harrison, who did such a marvelous job talking about  his work, about sharing with students and teachers, and how to nurture responding and writing. Here he reads his poem, "He Was So Little," from our collaborative work, The Poetry Friday Anthology for Middle School, co-edited by my partner-in-poetry, Janet Wong. 

It just so happens that we also have a "printable" postcard version of this lovely poem that you can download at our website, Here it is:

For a bit of background on David:

David L. Harrison was born in Springfield, Missouri, and earned his bachelor’s degree in zoology from Drury College, his master’s degree in parasitology from Emory University, and completed graduate studies at Evansville University. He has worked as a pharmacologist, editorial manager, business owner, and as a professional musician, music teacher, and principal trombonist in the Springfield Symphony. He has served on school boards and as a college trustee and is active in several literacy organizations. He has led several literacy service projects including raising 181,000 new books for school libraries. 
He has published more than sixty-five works of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry for young people. His first book of poetry, Somebody Catch My Homework (Boyds Mills Press 1993) became an International Reading Association Children’s Choice book and inspired a play adaptation. Two other poetry books were also honored on the Children’s Choices list including When Cows Come Home (Boyds Mills Press 1994) and A Thousand Cousins (Boyds Mills Press 1996). His poem, “My Book,” is even sandblasted into the sidewalk at a library in Phoenix, Arizona. 
I love the pithy poems of Bugs, Poems about Creeping Things as well as the spot-on family poems of Vacation, We’re Going to the Ocean!, two books in a small trim-size that are child-friendly in both style and content.
He has also written an engaging autobiographical poetry collection, Connecting Dots: Poems of My Journey (Boyds Mills Press 2004) with poetic snapshots of his past which he describes as "dots" to connect in order to create a picture of his life. His collaborations with Dan Burr, the illustrator, are compelling and engaging, too, including the poems-plus-portraits collections, Cowboys and Pirates.
He maintains a lively blog with opportunities to write poetry and learn about teaching poetry, too, and his created several excellent resource books for teaching poetry that I've mentioned before. And he’s a lovely collaborator in our Poetry Friday anthology series. Here we celebrate the conclusion of our session! Such a fun time and what a responsive audience!

More to come... from Pat Mora, Ashley Bryan.... Happy Poetry Friday, everyone! 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Presenting at USBBY

I’m off to the biennial conference of USBBY (the United States Board on Books for Young People)—really a regional North American conference of IBBY (the International Board on Books for Young People). I love this event (and this organization) and have been going to this conference for about 20 years. It’s always so invigorating to hear from creators of children’s books from around the world and be actively reminded of our global connections through books and reading. This weekend’s conference features an amazing line up of speakers including: Pat Mora, Ashley Bryan, Katherine Paterson, Siobhan Parkinson, Peter Sis, Klaas Verplancke, Bryan Collier, Jacqueline Woodson, and Gregory Maguire.

There will also be a panel featuring authors Andrea Cheng, Louise May, Simone Elkeles, Ifeoma Onyefulu, and Sara Farizan, plus we’ll hear from Kang Woo-hyon, President of Nambook International Committee and Junko Yokota, Nami Concours Jury President, as well as the storytellers Dashdondog Jamba (all the way from Mongolia!) and our own IBBY legend, Anne Pellowski, plus many regional Missouri authors and illustrators. One of the highlights will be the Dorothy Briley Lecture which will be given by the passionate and effervescent Mem Fox. Having served on the committee that selected her as our speaker, I am particularly excited to see what she has to say—and how she says it!
And as an added bonus, the speakers at this event often stay and mingle and listen to other sessions too. We eat meals together and take coffee breaks together and it really becomes more like a book retreat, than a hurried conference.

I’m also lucky enough to be presenting one of the 16 breakout sessions on Sunday and of course I’m talking about…. Poetry! This time, I’m focusing on poetry for middle school and featuring ways to engage readers at that challenging age in reading and performing poetry. I’m also happy to report that I’m sharing the stage with one of my favorite people, the poet David L. Harrison.

And here’s just a nugget of what I’ll be talking about. Our session theme is “PerformanceJoy”—to go along with the conference theme, “BookJoy,” and our session is entitled, “BookJoy for Middle School: Poetry in Many Voices” and here are some of my tips I’ll be sharing for targeting those (wonderful, but squirrelly) middle school students.

Take 5 Tips for Middle School
1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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. 

4. 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.

5. 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. 

6. 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 your students. Or better yet, let them show you!

I’ll also be highlighting some of my favorite poetry websites, poetry blogs, and poetry apps. And of course I’ll be talking about The Poetry Friday Anthology for Middle School—highlighting especially some of our culturally and globally rich poems in that collection by Joy Acey, Janet Wong, Guadalupe Garcia McCall, Margarita Engle, Julie Larios, and more. 

If you’re in the St. Louis (MO) area, it’s not too late to join us! I hope to post pictures and video footage of the conference, if possible, so stay tuned.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Check out this high school poetry writing contest

Lake Effect, Penn State Behrend’s student-edited literary journal, is holding a national poetry contest for students in grades 9-12. Prizes include cash awards and publication. Here are the details.

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The B.F.A. in creative writing program at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, invites high school students to submit a poem to its Lake Effect National High School Poetry Competition. Students in grades 9-12 may enter one typed poem of up to 30 lines on any topic, in any form. Poems must be the original work of the student. Three prizes of $100, $75 and $50 will be awarded.

The first-place poem also will be published in Lake Effect, Penn State Behrend’s student-edited international literary journal and the centerpiece of the B.F.A. program’s immersive, experience-based curriculum. Creative writing students work closely with faculty in small classes; coursework is devoted to canonical literature, 20th- and 21st-century literature, critical theory, craft classes and seminars for reading and discussing student work. 

Entries must have the author’s name, street address, phone number, email address and grade printed on the top left corner; school name, street address and phone number and a teacher’s name and email address should appear at top right. Homeschooled students can use a parent’s information. Mail entries to George Looney, B.F.A. Program Chair, Penn State Behrend, 4951 College Dr., Erie, PA 16563-1501. 

Entries must be postmarked by Oct. 31, 2013. Winners will be notified by email or phone before Dec. 31.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Cybils time

It's time for the Cybils award and I am tickled pink to serve as a judge in the POETRY category once again. Woo hoo! CYBILS stands for the Children's and YA Bloggers Literary awards and have been going strong since they were launched in 2006. Nominations opened today and close pretty quickly-- Oct. 15, so go here to put your favorite book forward. You can nominate in more than one category, but only one book in each. Then the judges will consider all the eligible books, correspond extensively, cajole, analyze, argue, advocate, and then select a short list of finalists (which is announced in November, if I remember correctly)-- which will then be sent to the second round of judges who choose ONE book for the award which is announced in February. That's it-- in a nutshell. Of course heaps of awards will be decided and announced in January, but I'm so happy that the Cybils has a category for poetry alone. Woo hoo!

The previous poetry winners include: 
2012: BookSpeak! Poems about Books by Laura Purdie Salas
2011: Requiem: Poems of the Terezin Ghetto by Paul B. Janeczko
2010: Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reversible Verse by Marilyn Singer
2009: Red Sings from Treetops: A Year in Colors by Joyce Sideman
2008: Honeybee by Naomi Shihab Nye
2007: This is Just to Say: Poems of Apology and Forgiveness by Joyce Sidman
2006: Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow by Joyce Sidman

And the short lists of "Finalists" offer a tremendous roster of the best of the best. 

Check out this year's nominations and nominate your own favorite.