Thursday, October 21, 2021

Launching: THINGS WE DO

I am excited to announce the launch of a new book with Janet Wong and a collaboration with 25 other poets: THINGS WE DO is a poetry anthology for pre-K (and beyond). Janet and I made a little video to introduce our new book here below (Click on the small white arrow in the middle):

This book is the product of our Anthologies 201 workshop where we have guided participants through the process of creating a poetry anthology from start to finish. Each participant has one poem in the book, alongside a "Who's Who" of established poets like Jack Prelutsky, Linda Sue Park, Joseph Bruchac, Nikki Grimes, Carole Boston Weatherford, Margarita Engle, Jen Bryant, Pat Mora, Grace Lin, Jane Yolen, Padma Venkatraman and Janet Wong, of course.

This anthology features 26 poems, one for each letter of the alphabet from A to Z. Each poet was given a photo prompt for their ekphrastic poem and the result is an energetic, action-packed collection of poems. Back matter includes tips for reading poetry with children, creative activities, and related web resources. 

THINGS WE DO is being featured as a "Hot Off the Press" title for October by the Children's Book Council--we're so excited about that! We're right alongside Janet's new book, Good Luck Gold & More. 

THINGS WE DO is available here from QEP Books in Plano, TX, one of our favorite distributors with awesome customer service. It's also on Amazon here. We are also so pleased to share that all profits from the sale of this book go to IBBY, the International Board on Books for Young People to support their Children in Crisis fund. "The IBBY Children in Crisis Fund provides support for children whose lives have been disrupted through war, civil disorder or natural disaster. The two main activities that are supported by the Fund are the therapeutic use of books and storytelling in the form of bibliotherapy, and the creation or replacement of collections of selected books that are appropriate to the situation." 

Want to see a sample poem? Here is "EAT" by Jack Prelutsky, the poem I read aloud in the video above. Isn't it clever-- and so fun to read aloud!

Several of our poets will be blogging about this new book-- our collective experiment in creating anthologies and indie publishing. Check them out!

The always amazing Jama Kay Rattigan is hosting our Poetry Friday party over at Jama's Alphabet Soup, so don't miss it! Her beautiful blog posts are always so rich, detailed, and delicious! 

Thursday, October 14, 2021


I'm happy to be part of the blog tour for the lovely poetry collection, For Every Little Thing: Poems and Prayers to Celebrate the Day selected by Nancy Tupper Ling and June Cotner and illustrated by Helen Cann. Here, Nancy gives us a glimpse behind the scenes to share a few nuggets about the creation of this beautiful book. In a nutshell, "Arranged from waking up to falling asleep, For Every Little Thing is an engaging collection of the day and its delights. This inspirational anthology gathers classic selections, modern prayers, and new poems from multiple cultures and faiths. From Emily Dickinson to Amma, from Ken Nesbitt to Rabbi Rami M. Shapiro, fifty-one voices encourage children to be present and thankful at all hours." 

Nancy writes: 

So you might ask how I got started creating anthologies such as FOR EVERY LITTLE THING? The answer is a bit surprising. Several years ago, in an interview with the amazing Debbi Ridpath Ohi, I said “Don’t be afraid to ask questions. One question can make all the difference.” Debbi then made an artistic rendering of my reply. Such fun!

It many ways it was because of one question that I became a coauthor with my mentor, June Cotner. While June had published several of my poems in her anthologies over the years, it was in 2011 that I learned that her assistant had moved away. So I asked one simple question: “Is there anything I can help you with?” Her answer shocked me: “Well Nancy, how would you like to coauthor a book with me?” If I’d never asked, I wouldn’t have had the privilege of creating anthologies with June. This led to our creation of Toasts (Viva Editions); Family Celebrations (Andrews McMeel); For Every Little Thing (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers) and next up Bless the Earth: A Children’s Book of Prayers and Poems for Honoring the Earth (Convergent). We have a few more in our back pockets as well.

That said, the idea for the anthology, FOR EVERY LITTLE THING, started with the title “Counting Blessings.” Based on a poem by contributor, Barbara Younger, it has a theme of gratitude. As we started gathering poems to include, I was inspired to write a poem called “For Every Little Thing.” Voila! This soon became the title poem. 

I know from your own beautiful creations, Sylvia, that you are fully aware how much work goes on behind the scenes of every anthology. Over the years, June built up over 800 contributors who provide fresh content for her books. Much of the work with anthologies relates to keeping track of current submissions and past ones, so we can give preliminary acceptances for poems that have a good chance of being included in a particular book. Plus we organize final acceptances, and permissions—all in our Access database program. 

FOR EVERY LITTLE THING features poems from both famous authors and lesser-known contributors.  This variety is one of the delightful aspects of June’s books. Certainly, each poem has a story behind it. For example, my poem entitled “Tonight . . .” was inspired by my six-year old daughter. We were visiting family in San Francisco, and after a beautiful day, she said: “Mama, tonight I will dream of the purple flowers, the ones that made you smile today. They’ll dance overhead. Their blossoms looked like fingers waving to the people. And I will dream that an orange fox sits beside me.” And that became the poem below. Sometimes poems come to us as gifts and we need to be ready to receive them.

Thankfully, after much research and gathering of our initial poems for our proposal, we signed with Eerdmans in March 2019. In turn, they hired illustrator Helen Cann to bring our poems to life. She is also a mapmaker, and her talent is reflected in the details of her gorgeous work:

Of course, not everything goes smoothly in a book’s creation, and there are always difficult decisions along the way. Especially with an anthology, sometimes a gorgeous poem doesn’t make the final cut just because it’s a bit too long for the page or another poem captures the sentiment slightly better or it will cost a fortune for that perfect Langston Hughes piece, and we already included several poems with high permission fees. 

And then there was the pandemic! Thankfully, June and I had finished the manuscript when everything hit the fan in 2020, but our illustrator, Helen Cann, had to work through multiple lockdowns in England. As she said, “I was grateful for such a large project that not only kept me employed when so many others were losing their jobs, but it kept my brain occupied at a time of great stress.” Helen’s post about this period of time is really beautiful, if your readers would like to see how the practice of gratitude for “the smaller things” in life can really provide hope.

We certainly hope our readers find this joy and hope in FOR EVERY LITTLE THING. And sometimes a good belly laugh will do as well. My husband, Vincent, gave me this one day when he put a stickie on top of the book cover, making sure that I’m grateful for the “little Lings” in our lives as well (although our two girls are both in college now). It’s the little things that bring a smile. 

Sylvia: Thank you, Nancy, for sharing these stories behind the creation of this book and of some of the poems. It's always fascinating to learn how a book comes to be!

Now, be sure to visit Bridget's blog, wee words for wee ones where the Poetry Friday family is gathering this week. 

Friday, October 08, 2021

Hispanic/Latino Poetry for Young People 2021

As Hispanic Heritage Month comes to a close, I'd like to take a moment to celebrate the poetry titles out in 2021 authored/edited by Hispanic or Latino writers. I count 9, but I may have missed some, so please correct me, if you know of others. Meanwhile, here's my list thus far: 
  • Ak'abal, Humberto. 2021. Aquí era el paraíso/ Here Was Paradise. Ill. by Amelia Lau Carling. Toronto: Groundwood Books. 
  • Engle, Margarita. 2021. A Song of Frutas. Ill. by Sara Palacios. New York: Atheneum.
  • Engle, Margarita. 2021. Your Heart, My Sky. New York: Atheneum.
  • Fennell, Saraciea, ed. 2021. Wild Tongues Can’t Be Tamed: 15 Voices from the Latinx Diaspora. New York: Macmillan/Flatiron.
  • Ferrada, Maria José. Niños: Poems for the Lost Children of Chile. Ill. by María Elena Valdez. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.
  • Mora, Pat. 2021. My Magic Wand. Ill. by Amber Alvarez. New York: Lee & Low. 
  • Saldaña, René, Jr. Ed. 2021. I Sing: The Body: Poems about Body Image. McAllen, TX: Juvented Press. 
  • Varela, Alessandra Narváez. 2021. Thirty Talks Weird Love. El Paso, TX: Cinco Puntos Press.
  • Velasquez, Elisabet. 2021. When We Make It. New York: Dial.
I'm happy to see some of my favorite poets on the list and always thrilled to encounter new names. Plus, you'll notice anthologies, picture book collections, and novels in verse-- the whole spectrum. I have a new Latina granddaughter, so I am on the lookout for new books to share with her as she grows that reflect her heritage(s). I hope there will be more and more and more as she grows up! 

Now head on over to Live Your Poem where the beautiful Irene Latham is hosting our Poetry Friday revelries!