Friday, June 19, 2015

POETRY FRIDAY: "One Boat, One River" by SC Poet Laureate Marjory Wentworth

Thanks to Mary Lee at A Year of Reading for hosting Poetry Friday this week
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In the wake of this week’s heartbreaking events in Charleston, I have been thinking about “One River, One Boat,” a poem written by SC Poet Laureate Marjory Wentworth. In January, Ms. Wentworth was supposed to read her poem at SC Governor Nikki Haley’s inauguration, but was omitted from the program due to “time constraints.” (You can read more about this here.) Since January, the exposure her poem has garnered has been enormous, and the praise is well deserved.

Yesterday, as I was reading online about the beautiful men and women who lost their lives on Wednesday night, one of my boys came up behind me. “Why are you reading about this if it makes you so upset?” he asked. “Because we can’t just ignore all of the bad stuff that happens and pretend it doesn’t exist,” I responded.

I have thought about his question ever since. My children are growing up in SC in a wonderful Norman Rockwell-esque neighborhood that I refer to in my head as a “bubble.” But down the road, in a city where we have family and visit frequently, yet another crime has been committed that is whipping the already agitated social consciousness of this country into a frenzy. I want to protect my boys from this type of thing, but at the same time I know that it is important to share and discuss it with them. They are 12, on the cusp of their teen years, with high standards of justice and a huge capacity to feel everything—love, empathy, outrage, sorrow, the list goes on and on. It is my job as a parent to channel this enormous ability to feel into an attitude of loving acceptance and a desire to BE the change this country needs as they grow and mature. So today our conversation will continue.  

Please take a moment and read Ms. Wentworth’s poem, which I decided was well worth a second blog post this week. The specific references to Charleston’s history are especially poignant today, as we are
“...huddled together on this boat
handed down to us–stuck
at the last bend of a wide river
splintering near the sea.”

One River, One Boat
by Marjory Wentworth

I know there’s something better down the road.
~ Elizabeth Alexander
Because our history is a knot
we try to unravel, while others
try to tighten it, we tire easily
and fray the cords that bind us.
The cord is a slow moving river,
spiraling across the land
in a succession of S’s,
splintering near the sea.
To read the rest, click here.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Poetry Friday Fun

We are in the midst of a fun friends and family marathon at our house, but I wanted to be sure to post a link to this week’s poetry Friday roundup. Please head over to Jama's Alphabet Soup for a look at this week’s links. Thanks for hosting, Jama!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Summer Reading

Every June, I download lots of books to my Kindle and pile my bedside table with stacks of books I plan to read in all of the “free time” that is supposed to miraculously appear in my schedule because it is suddenly SUMMER. But, like for lots of people, “summer” doesn’t necessarily equal “free time” around here. I have set goals—to rise early every day to write, spend fun and meaningful time with my boys, tackle overdue household projects (those closets are not going to clean themselves), catch up on scrapbooking (aack!), etc.—so this summer I am consciously adding “reading” to my summer “to do” list. Even at my busiest, I read every single day; I can’t go to sleep without reading a few pages at night, and often I will read while I eat my lunch. But this summer I am going to be more intentional about finding time (and giving myself permission) to simply enjoy reading good books!

Along with the various kids' books that I am always reading, right now I'm finishing the latest book in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, Written in My Own Heart’s Blood. For those of you familiar with the Starz series, the books have much more literary value than what you might assume from the (quite steamy, often disturbing) onscreen representation. But Gabaldon is an extraordinarily talented writer, and I kind of view her as the J.K. Rowling of adult writing. As a writer, I am fascinated by her style, plotting, characterization, and the many threads she weaves in and out of her books. I am convinced that she must have an extremely high IQ!

The next book on my list is C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity. I have heard wonderful things about this one, and am looking forward to finally reading it. And just last week I ordered and received The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo. (I'll let you know how this goes!) I am looking forward to learning about Kondo’s unconventional approaches to helping her clients “transform their cluttered homes into spaces of serenity and inspiration.”

My boys came home with their own reading lists for summer. This year, all rising sixth through eighth graders at their school must read at least two books off of the SC Junior Book Award Nominees 2015-16 List during summer break, or read one book from this list and another from a list of preapproved classics. For my boys, this won’t be an issue; they are enthusiastic readers and have already selected their books. I will definitely read some books off of these lists, as well—there are some amazing choices here!

SC Junior Book Award Nominees 2015-16 List:
1. Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg - Fiction
2. Boy on the Wooden Box: How the Impossible Became Possible on Schindler’s List by Leon Leyson –Non-Fiction
3. Counting by 7’s by Holly Goldberg Sloan - Fiction
4. Eruption! Volcanoes and the Science of Saving Lives by Elizabeth Rusch –Non-Fiction
5. Falcon in the Glass by Susan Fletcher - Fiction
6. Far Far Away by Tom McNeal - Fiction
7. Gated by Amy Christina Parker -Fiction
8. Great Trouble by Deborah Hopkinson - Fiction
9. The Haunting of Gabriel Ashe by Dan Poblocki -Fiction
10. Jungle of Bones by Ben Mikaelsen -Fiction
11. Lawless by Jeffery Salane -Fiction
12. The President Has Been Shot by James L. Swanson –Non-Fiction
13. Prisoner B-3087 by Alan Gratz - Fiction
14. QB1 by Mike Lupica -Fiction
15. SYLO by D.J. MacHale -Fiction
16. Tesla’s Attic by Neil Shusterman -Fiction
17. Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald -Fiction
18. Winner’s Curse by Maria Rutkowski -Fiction
19. Zebra Forest by Adina Gewirtz- Fiction
20. Zombie Baseball Beatdown by Paolo Bacigalupi - Fiction

Classics List:  
1. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkein -Fiction
2. Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkein-Fiction
3. Fahrenheit 454 by Ray Bradbury-Fiction
4. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes-Fiction
5. Call of the Wild by Jack London-Fiction
6. Dune by Frank Herbert-Fiction
7. A Separate Peace by John Knowles-Fiction
8. Watership Down by Richard Adams-Fiction
9. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson-Fiction
10. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte-Fiction
11. The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier-Fiction
12. The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane-Fiction
13. Swiss Family Robinson by Johann Wyss-Fiction
14. Old Yeller by Fred Gipson-Fiction
15. Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder-Fiction
16. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery-Fiction
17. The Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis-Fiction
18. Sounder by William Armstrong-Fiction
19. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott-Fiction

What books are on your summer reading list this year? Have a great week, and Happy Writing!

Friday, May 29, 2015

Poetry Friday: A Carolina Goose Haiku

Thanks to Margaret at Reflections on the Teche for hosting Poetry Friday this week!

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Last week, as I walked along the trail at Riverwalk (a river-front park on the Catawba River), I was struck by how many geese I saw. They were scattered on the rocks alongside the turtles that dominate that portion of the river, squawking away. When I visited a friend’s lakefront house a few evenings later, I saw a sweet family of geese scooting across the twilight-blue surface. I commented that they must be ready to head back “up north” soon, but my friend said that these geese live on the lake year round. 

Curious, I did some research and discovered that, despite my belief that all geese fly south for the winter and north for the summer, there are actually large populations that reside in the Carolinas year round. According to the SC Department of Natural Resources, “South Carolina is home to three distinct populations of Canada geese at various times of the year. Two groups of migratory geese are found in South Carolina only during the fall and winter in addition to resident geese which remain in the state year-round.” Which explains why I see geese around here all year long, both out in the country and hanging out at local ponds, parks, and parking lots. (Click here to read more.)
Image courtesy of

Inspired by my goose-related thoughts, I decided to write a haiku to share for Poetry Friday this week. Haiku is one of my favorite poetic forms because it takes an up-close, focused snapshot of its subject, and is most often about nature, which I happen to love. (To read more about haiku poetry, click here.) Here is my Carolina goose haiku: 
With spread wings, geese launch,
Swoop low, then take flight into    
Carolina blue.

Have a wonderful weekend and Happy Writing!

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)!