Friday, May 22, 2015

Pointing the way to the Poetry Friday Roundup

Due to LOTS of end-of-the-school-year craziness this week, I do not have an official Poetry Friday post today, but I wanted to say thank you to Matt Forrest Esenwine at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme for hosting the roundup this week!


Head on over to Matt's to check out all of the fabulous links he's sharing today, and to hear his exciting good news. Happy Writing, and have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

POETRY FRIDAY: Kindergarten Poetry Fun

Thanks to Diane at Random Noodling for hosting Poetry Friday this week!

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On two days last week, I had the pleasure of talking about poetry with a class of kindergarteners at a local elementary school. On the first day we talked all about poetry, including different types of poems and different characteristics of poems—rhyming vs. non-rhyming, silly vs. serious, fiction vs. non-fiction, etc. Then we read LOTS of different types of poetry from books I’d brought with me to the classroom. It was especially fun to read several poems from the The Poetry Friday Anthology (one of my favorite poetry resources) aloud to the kids!  

Towards the end of our first session, I announced that we were going to write a class poem together. First, several kids suggested topics to write about and then they voted and decided that our poem would be about a butterfly. Next, the class voted on whether they wanted to write a rhyming or a non-rhyming poem, and rhyming won. Then they voted on whether to write a silly poem or a serious poem. Silly won the vote, but by a surprisingly slim margin. Finally, with our main points ironed out and about 15 minutes left on the clock, we started writing.

My main goal was to lead kids through a real-life poetry writing session and to model that there is no “right” way to write a poem, so we began by brainstorming aloud. Then together we came up with a great first line and I wrote everything down on a large sheet of chart paper. A little farther into our writing time, the kids decided that they wanted our poem to have a surprise ending, so I went back and scribbled through the first line and we came up with another. As we crafted our poem, I scribbled and crossed things out, and our words evolved into a funny, creative, messy, beautiful poem. I explained to the kids that this is the way writing often goes, and that it is perfectly fine to write a “sloppy copy” and then edit your work before you present your finished product. So when we were through writing and editing the poem together, the kids headed out to the playground and I copied the finished poem onto a clean sheet of chart paper. When they came back in from the playground, their cleaned-up poem was waiting for them!    

Tickle Surprise
by Mrs. Mayhew and Mrs. Dixon’s kindergarten class

I felt a tickle on my head
But had no clue what was there,
Until my best friend stopped and said,
“There’s a big BUG in your hair!”

  I screamed and yelled and jumped and shook,
And waved my hands up in the sky.
Then my best friend said, “Oh, look!
It’s just a pretty butterfly!”
 
The next day I came back into the classroom and read some more fun poems to the kids, and then we talked about acrostic poetry, which I’d introduced during our general poetry lesson the day before. Following this discussion, the kids each wrote an acrostic poem about their moms, most using “mom” or “mommy” as their focus word. Later on, the teachers helped the kids add handprints and frame the final products, and then each child took home a special gift to his or her mom for Mother’s Day. I was thrilled with how these precious poems turned out!

I LOVE talking to kids about poetry, and had such a wonderful time with these sweet, brilliant children. One of my favorite things in life is seeing children light up when being read a great poem or book, and reading poems and stories that kids have excitedly labored over. I’ve talked with lots of older elementary students about poetry and writing over the past several years, but this was entirely different and definitely just as fun. One of my favorite moments was when two little girls came and shared with me a poem they’d just composed together—on the playground!  
Awhile back I shared another poetry-writing-with-kids experience, and you can read more about that here if you are interested. Have a great Friday and a wonderful weekend, and Happy Writing!
Thank you to Mrs. Mayhew, Mrs. Dixon, and their amazing kindergarten class 
at Sugar Creek Elementary School for all the fun!  

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Jumping the Ramp

Before I “jump” into my post today (you’ll get that little joke later on ☺), I’d like to take a moment to say THANK YOU to two of my sweet writer friends. First of all, I was thrilled to find out that I am the lucky recipient of Tabatha Yeatts’ St. George’s Reward for 2015! St. George's Day was celebrated in Geoffrey Chaucer's time as a day to reward people who worked at artistic endeavors, and Tabatha had the lovely idea to select one of her blog readers to be the recipient of her own "St. George's Reward" each month for the rest of 2015 (you can read more about this on Tabatha's blog here). Thank you so much, Tabatha! Also, I want to send a special cyber hug to my friend and “blog Yoda” Joan Edwards for nominating me for a Liebster Blog Award. I had great fun with this award in 2013 (you can read about this here), but I wanted to send Joan a big “thank you” for her ongoing support of my blog. I am so very lucky to have you in my corner, Joan!
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Over the past few weeks, the little boys on my street have been perfecting their daredevil bike tricks—it is amazing what kids can do with a bicycle, a wooden ramp, and a whole lot of energy! 
Before I set off this evening for a twilight bike ride, I stopped in our cul-de-sac to adjust my seat. One of the boys, who was lapping around for another go at the ramp, rode by and eagerly inquired, “Are you going to jump the ramp?”
“No,” I answered, smiling. “I’m not quite brave enough to try it. I’ll leave that to you guys!” (I probably should have said “crazy” instead of  “brave,” since I saw firsthand how a big bike handled the ramp when one of my 12-year-olds tackled it a few days ago—very differently from the little kid bikes!) Then I set off on my ride, contemplating our little exchange.  
I have jumped lots of figurative “ramps” in my life. The majority of those have not been easy or comfortable, but they have been rewarding and worth the effort involved. Moving to a new state (which my husband and I have done three times since we were married), embarking on my adventures in teaching, leaving teaching to become a stay-at-home mom to twins—each of these were jumping off points and hurtled me through life until I landed somehow on my feet, taking a running leap into a brand new phase of life. 
I’ve jumped some “ramps” in my writing life, as well; joining writers’ communities in Texas and South Carolina, signing with (and losing) an agent, querying publishers and agents, starting a blog, diving into the sea that is Twitter, writing stories and poems and books, and simply putting myself “out there” have all been leaps that propelled me forward and continue to be integral in motivating, challenging, and encouraging me to keep working toward my goals, despite the obstacles that (often!) pop up along the way. And I know this will continue as long as I keep on riding down this road. But that is all part of the adventure, right? ☺
What are the “ramps” you’ve jumped or are jumping in your writing career? If you have any great advice on handling writerly hurtles, please share in the comments below. Have a great week, and Happy Writing!

OK, so this has nothing whatsoever to do with writing, but I couldn't resist sharing this pic of the baby bunny I found hanging out in my front yard when I finished my bike ride tonight. Luckily, he hasn't found the garden in the back yard (yet)! 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

POETRY FRIDAY: A Nonet to Share

Thanks to Renée at No Water River for hosting Poetry Friday this week!
 
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April has skipped and skittered away from me, but it’s been a fun, busy month! I look forward to National Poetry Month every year, and this year’s celebrations have not disappointed—I’ve shared some of my favorite poetic forms with enthusiastic children, discovered some new favorite poets, and tried my hand at some “new to me” formats! (One of my new favorites is the nonet, which I will share at the end of this post!☺) Due to some heavy duty extra-curricular commitments, I haven’t been blogging as much, but I’ve enjoyed keeping up with my online friends as time allows. I look forward to diving back into more frequent blogging soon!

And now to the nonet format: a nonet is a nine-line poem that begins with a nine-syllable first line, and each succeeding line has one less syllable (line two has eight syllables, line three has seven syllables, etc.). Here is a nonet that I composed which was inspired by my sweet boys, who are now 12 ½ and almost bigger than me!

Wonder

For years I wondered who you would be,
For months I dreamed of holding you.
When the day came I marveled,
Counting twenty fingers,
Twenty tiny toes,
Two sweet faces;
Twin blessings
Wrapped in
Blue.
Here is a picture taken a few weeks after we brought our boys home from the NICU.
They were so tiny!!
 
Try writing your own nonet—it is definitely a fun challenge! Enjoy the last week of this year’s National Poetry Month and Happy Writing!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Poetry Friday: Looking Forward to National Poetry Month

Thanks to Jone at Check it Out for hosting Poetry Friday this week!

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Wednesday, April 1st marks the beginning of this year’s National Poetry Month! I look forward to April each year and the poetry-related festivities that abound throughout the month. It is a wonderful time to revisit familiar poems and poets, discover new favorites, and celebrate poets and poems around the world.
Each year, the Academy of American Poets publishes a poster to promote National Poetry Month. I absolutely love this year’s poster, which was designed by Roz Chast and features a line from Mark Strand’s poem, “Eating Poetry”:
 

Here are some great resources to help celebrate this year’s National Poetry Month:
The Academy of American Poets

Education Place

Edutopia

Reading Rockets

readwritethink

Scholastic

School Library Journal

During National Poetry Month this year, I plan to explore “new to me” poems and poetic forms. How will YOU celebrate? Happy Writing!

Friday, March 13, 2015

POETRY FRIDAY: Spring is finally here… right?

          Thanks to Laura at Author Amok for hosting Poetry Friday this week!

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For Poetry Friday today, I wrote a haiku to celebrate spring’s long awaited arrival in my little corner of the world. Just in the last week, blooms have begun to peek out here and there, and birds are suddenly everywhere. We’ve had a few false starts lately, though, so I hope spring is here for real this time!

Free at Last

Spring pings from flower to tree,
A bouncing wild child,
Free from Winter’s grip.
 
 
Any day now, the first peach blossoms will pop out around here. I look forward to this every year!
Thanks to FreeBigPictures.com for this beautiful image.

I hope you’re enjoying YOUR first taste of spring, as well! Happy Writing!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Reflections on France

My poor little blog has been a bit neglected over the last month or so, but I have been busy writing, revising, reading, and playing catch-up on several different projects. I can’t believe it is already mid March! Time really does fly…

Since I’ve returned home from France, several friends have asked for my top three impressions from my trip. Just for fun, I thought I’d share them here (I promise—all of this does have something to do with writing☺). 

First of all, I have decided that everything tastes better in France! Seriously, EVERYTHING—from simple bread and butter to meals made with super fresh ingredients straight from the butcher, bakery, or farm. I enjoyed lots of great food while I was away, but one of my favorite meals was the Beef Bourguignon that my friend’s husband made for dinner one night. It was amazing! When I got home, I tried my own version. It was good, but still not as good as what I had in France (click here for an easy Beef Bourguignon recipe). Paired with fresh bread and a good French wine, it was one of the best meals I’ve had in a long time!

Another culinary highlight was our lunch at a Creperie in Arras.

 
Here I enjoyed a galette (an open-faced buckwheat crepe made with meat and other ingredients) and a wonderful apple cinnamon dessert crepe topped with ice cream and whipped cream. The cappuccino was amazing, as well. Doesn’t this look like the perfect afternoon treat?
 
Another thing that I realized during my trip is there is so much I did not know about the history of northern France, WWI, and WWII. I went through high school and college as a mostly-straight-A student, and thought that I at least knew the basics of French history. I’d also traveled abroad to Europe during college and learned quite a bit then. But it was on this trip that I learned the most about northwest France’s turbulent and often bloody history.

The Nord-Pas-de-Calais (northwest region of France) is bordered on the north by the English Channel and the North Sea, and on the northeast by Belgium. In the south it is bordered by France’s Picardy region. The Nord-Pas-de-Calais encompasses what was once the French part of Flanders, and the old province of Artois. Historically, it has been one of the most coveted sections of land in Europe, and over the years has been fought over by the French, the English, the Austrians, the Spanish, the Dutch, and the Germans, just to name a few. During World Wars I and II, this region saw many bloody battles. Driving around the French countryside, I saw many bunkers, cemeteries, memorials, and even bomb-cratered areas of land that remain as reminders of lives lost. World Wars I and II are not just historical events here, but are still very much a part of the collective memory of this area.
A memorial to fallen soldiers in Arras, France, with fresh flowers.

I enjoyed exploring many of the towns in this area, including Boulonge sur Mer, Lens, Arras, Calais, and the tiny fishing village of  Audreselles, where I stayed. From the beach down the street from my friend's house, you can just catch a glimpse of England's White Cliffs of Dover across the English Channel.
You can just barely see them here...

On this trip, I was reminded once again that the world really is a BIG place, and our individual experience is just a little tick on history’s clock.

I read an interesting fact a few weeks ago: If the history of Earth were compressed to a single year, modern humans would appear on December 31st at about 11:58 p.m. (To read more about this and other interesting time-related facts, click here.)

There is so much more than what we personally know and experience, which is easy to forget in our hectic lives where everything seems so immediate and important. Traveling to new places always reminds me of this, especially when the site I’m visiting is rich in history and has a story behind it, which includes just about everywhere I visited during my trip.

An impromptu stop along our route to Paris towards the end of my visit was one of the highlights of my trip. This explains it better than any words of mine ever could...
 
So what does all of this have to do with writing? Just that every story we write, every poem we compose, every single line is born out of how we experience our world. Whether this experience comes through research, reading, or travel, it plants tiny seeds of inspiration that have the potential to grow into future poems, plots, and characters. 

I am not exactly sure what will come of this for me, but I suspect that somewhere down the line I'll find out. The seeds of inspiration have definitely been planted!

Happy Writing!