Saturday, December 31, 2016

Letter to 2017

Dear 2017,

Soon you'll be here. The news is full of you today, and I can't drive anywhere without passing a fireworks stand flashing your name in neon lights. I do hope your final hours of travel are smooth and free of blizzards or other storms.

Please accept my regrets about the party this evening. It will certainly be full of good cheer and smiling faces! I look forward to welcoming you in the morning. We can share a cup of tea, then walk the trail together. Enjoy the quiet.

I need you to know right up front that I want nothing from you. I've made no resolutions. I have no grand plans, just the everyday ones: to love this world in the best ways that I can. I simply want to share the moments, to exist together. To laugh and know beauty and be grateful. Who knows what magic will happen? Your predecessors have taught me that miracles are everywhere, that the unexpected things are often the best things. All I need to do is to be open to them.

I look forward to our journey together. I know it will include new adventures and new words nesting on white paper. Anything can happen – and will! I'm ready.



Friday, December 30, 2016


Hello and Happy last Poetry Friday of 2016! Be sure to visit Donna, my Winter Poem Swap partner!, at Mainely Write for Roundup.

ETA: Why/how has this posted a day early... and says "Friday" on the header when it is but Thursday?! O Mystery!

I'm in with a few poems from the delightful ONE MINUTE TILL BEDTIME, edited by Kenn Nesbitt, illus. by Christoph Niemann, brought to us by Little, Brown & Co.

I love this book. So often these big anthologies are wildly uneven -- a shining poem here, a meh poem there. And sometimes, when there are so many poems, they just kind of all run together ?? (This could be just me.)

What's great about ONE MINUTE TILL BEDTIME is that pretty much wherever you crack open the book you will find something surprising, something delightful. And many of the poems are short, which is good. And the illustrations really add to the fun of the book -- some poems are presented sideways, or upside-down. On one spread a lion turns into a bed! This is good book-making. Thank you to all involved! It reminds me of those Shel Silverstein volumes I so treasured as a child. This book, I think, will be enjoyed for many years to come.

And now for a few poems from the book that are calling to me this morning (so hard to choose! so hard to choose!):

A Hard Rain
by Greg Pincus

Tonight the rain is falling hard.
It's washed the colors from the yard.
It's scrubbed the paint right off our house.
It's rinsed the fur right off a mouse.
The rain's turned fields to huge mud pies.
It's cleaned the stars up in the skies.
Rivers run and try to hide.
Tonight I think I'll stay inside.
I love this page in the book! The poem is presented sideways, and the page is mostly black. Delightful! Side note: my son Eric LOVES rain! He always goes OUTSIDE when it's raining to write songs and take pictures and ponder life. Fun.

Btw: Greg's newest middle grade novel THE HOMEWORK STRIKE (coming in January) is a JLG selection! Congrats, Greg!

Bedtime on 7th Avenue
by Ron Koertge

Big old dog sighs and lies down.
Spider closes her many eyes.

In the vacant lot, weeds lean against
each other.

Even graffiti opens its loud neon mouth
and yawns.
Can't you just see those (unexpected!) weeds leaning against each other? And the "loud neon mouth" -- wonderful! (Want to know Ron's secret to a long life? Click Ron's name above.)

Rolling down the Hill
by April Halprin Wayland







This poem is so April! It's zany and fun and makes me smile every time I read it! (I suspect April wrote this poem after actually having the experience in the poem!)

Wild Flowers
by Bob Raczka

Our dandelions
are tame, but their color is
a loud yellow roar.

Perfect example of a short, vivid poem... and the illustration is adorable! ROAR! Also check out Bob's latest WET CEMENT, which has earned a whole constellation of starred reviews!

Sky Story
by Rebecca Kai Dotlich

Who has the keys
to the moon,
to the moon...
who has the keys
to the moon?
Not me,
said the owl,
said the owl;
no keys.
Not me,
said the mouse
as he nibbled his cheese.
Not me,
said the bee,
Nor I, said the fly.
Only I, said the sky.
Only I.
This poem is magical! I love all the animals in it, the repetition, the rhyme... and the "unexpected inevitable" at the end: of course the sky is the only one with the keys to the moon. Of course! If you haven't checked it out yet, be sure to read Rebecca's THE KNOWING BOOK, which I adore! (Look up!)


Such a slim space you're tucked into,
stuck to
the underside
of this dripping leaf,
wings shut tight like a 
flat gray purse holding
ribbons of color.

Can you see the cocoon?? Beautiful example of how language need not be compromised in a shape poem. (Shape is just one tool -- don't forget language!) The cocoon does look like a gray purse, doesn't it? And speaking of stars... weren't we? Joyce's new BEFORE MORNING has also received a lot of shiny!

November Volcano

November volcano
a lava of leaves

Another short, powerful poem! I am completely enamored of "lava" in this poem. And the illustration! Joy! For more poetic goodness, check out #haikuforhealing on Twitter, which features many wonderful poems, including a slew of them by Heidi!

and finally.....

Good-Night Poem

Now the long day
feels complete.

Tuck your feet
between clean sheets.

Tuck your body
into bed.

Tuck sweet dreams
into your head.

Tuck your covers
snug and tight.

Tuck the good
into the night.

I love how the poem and illustration work together on this page... the poem is tucked into the curve of the moon! And how delightful is that last stanza?!

Thanks so much for reading... support poetry and poets and have fun doing it: get this book!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Winter Poem Swap "DELIGHT" by Donna Smith

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Buffy's Blog for Roundup.

Wow, can it really be Christmas Eve tomorrow? I feel like I have been Christmas-ing for a good month, maybe more. My mailbox has indeed been a happy place! I was thrilled to receive a penguin-y package from Donna Smith. Among other things, it included a handmade quilted penguin ornament! Donna is a true Renaissance woman. She does everything! And of course there was a poem -- titled after my 2016 One Little Word.

Can you see the penguins
hiding in this graphic?? Love!
by Donna Smith

Delight greeting daybreak,
Delight meeting noon;
Delight in the evening
With barred owl's croon.

Delight in the heavens,
Delight in each star,
Delight in the twinkling
Winks from afar.

Delight in the quiet,
Delight in the noise;
Delight may be found in
The humblest of joys.

Round pebbles to ponder,
Sweet laughter, warm breeze,
Tall mouuntains to wander
Each day that you seize.

Delight in each moment
Dissolving in air,
But hold some as memories
When moments are rare.

Though we may not see as
Delight moves along;
It whispers to others
Who hear your heart's song.

Delight taken in is
A gift to bestow.
Precious seeds of delight
Delightedly sow!

If ever you feel that
There's no more Delight,
Remember that morning
Still dawns with new light.

Delights's the beginning,
Don't look for its end,
For all who delight have
Embraced the soul's friend.

May delight in your heart
Flow freely and sweet
So others will see it
And bless all you meet.
Thank you, Donna! And thank you Tabatha, who facilitates such wonder and joy in our lives. I'm so grateful!

And now, a few links for you:

On Twitter -- #haikuforhealing and #commonplacemarvels - Wow! Some amazing poems from some amazing poets. JOY.

an original poem for the Winter Solstice

Reflections on my 2016 One Little Word "Delight" + a sign up for Spiritual Journey FIRST Thursday (just two slots left!)

A post about why bookmarks are important.

My Secret Santa mystery: solved!

My son Eric has a magical, new instrumental song called "Four Years," about his four years of school at Alabama School of Fine Arts. Give yourself a gift and listen!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Poem for the Winter Solstice

Tonight's the night! Birmingham friends, I hope you'll join me for SHINE BRIGHT, a poetry reading and open mic in celebration of the winter solstice.

Here is the poem I will be reading:

Winter Solstice

No more hurry

Time now for firelight
and dreaming,

for church bells

with the cold,
quiet sunlight.

And somewhere

inside of you

a kernel of courage
unfurling --

each day, more light.

- Irene Latham

I can't wait to hear what others will be sharing! What poem would YOU share on the topic of "winter" or "light" ?

And, here, just for fun, is the Little Bear "Winter Solstice" episode.  Lanterns and snow angels... and a song! (The night is cold, the snow is cold, Grandmother loves winter, and I do, too!) We loved watching this when the kids were small. :)

Monday, December 19, 2016

For the Love of Bookmarks

Over the weekend, in between wrapping gifts and other assorted holiday fun, I decided to do a little tidying up in my closet. One of the things I found was a small box of things from my childhood, including a jewelry box, my birth announcement and some trinkets my father brought home to me from his travels (when I was a child).

But the most interesting thing was the stash of bookmarks!

Now, what kid, besides an avid reader, would keep her childhood bookmarks?! Here they are:

I found so many of my favorite things: handmade bookmarks! bookmarks with quotes! Animal bookmarks! Bookmarks from places I've traveled (Cherokee, NC)! And some of them had writing on the back:

I discovered one was a gift from my mother. Another contained the name of one of my best friends at William Pitcher Jr. High in Covington, LA. One I gifted to my parents and instructed them to "USE IT FOR A VERY SPECIAL BOOK." (I don't know how I wound up with the bookmark after I'd given it to them... I can only surmise that I needed it more than they did!)

So I added these bookmarks to my nightstand drawer o' bookmarks. Using them makes me feel connected with a younger me. And it's validating, you know? I have always always been a reader. So many of the things that are important to me now were important to me then. I'm still me!

Other weekend highlights: Birmingham Cello Project Christmas concert!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Spiritual Journey Thursday: Reflections on 2016 One Little Word

Hello, and welcome! I'm delighted to host a roundup today for Spiritual Journey Thursday.

What is Spiritual Journey Thursday? Well, it was a tradition started by Holly Mueller at Reading, Teaching, Learning, as a weekly space to explore aspects of our spiritual lives. Whatever your religion, or lack of religion, you are welcome! We honor all voices and beliefs here.

The first few months of 2016 we discussed each person's One Little Word. These posts included reflections on why the word was selected, and what that word means in our lives. I found these posts so nourishing and enriching! And then things kind of fell apart when Holly let us all know that she was being called in other directions and needed to step away for a while. Several of us discussed ways to revive the practice, and now, after talking with Holly (who graciously passed the torch to me) and tweeting with others, I think we have a plan for 2017!

Instead of weekly posts, we will be scaling back to once a month:
Spiritual Journey FIRST Thursday!

We'll run the roundups the way we do Poetry Friday, with people signing up to host the roundup. Hosts will choose their own topic -- and we will all write on it. This can be your One Little Word, or something else. The only catch is this: I will need to know topic within the next couple of weeks (so I can create a schedule proper and share before the first Spiritual Journey First Thursday of 2017)!

So, here are the dates. Please let me know in comments which date you would like to host, and what topic you want us all to write about!

January 5 - Carol at Beyond LiteracyLink (One Word to Guide our Journey 2017)
February 2 - Leigh Anne at Turn  (Rise)
March 2 - Doraine at Dori Reads (Connection)
April 6 - Violet at Violet Nesdoly (New Life/Spring/Easter)
May 4 - Donna at Mainely Write
June 1 - Margaret at Reflections on the Teche (Finding Joy)
July 6 -  Pat at Writer on a Horse (Getting Out of Comfort Zone)
August 3 - Julianne (Beginnings)
September 7 - Ramona at Pleasures from the Page (her OLW - tba!)
October 5 - Maya at Move Over ADHD - Small Steps Lead to Big Change
November 2 - Karen Eastlund (Gratitude guest post at Live Your Poem)
December 7 - Irene at Live Your Poem (One Little Word end-of-year reflections)

And now for a few words about DELIGHT, my 2016 One Little Word. This word has brought much joy and meaning to my life this year. I've found myself using the word in every day life: "I am delighted." It's a version of happy that feels more in the moment, more connected with presence and wonder. I've discovered the things that delight me are often the unexpected things, the lighter things, the everyday joys. Simply naming these things "delight" has had a huge impact on my life. It's hard to feel bad about anything for too long when you are focused on delight!

I'm also seeing more delight in my writing life. More playfulness and experimentation. More "just because I want to see what happens" kind of writing. And now, because it was this year's word, and this is the year my father died, "delight" is a word I associate with him. He was like my very own Santa, complete with a twinkle in his eye... the embodiment of delight. He still is that for me.

Finally, the one delight I return to every day is the sky. It's so easy to feel delighted. Just look up!

Thanks so much for reading! And now it is time to select a word for 2017... I'm pretty sure I know what mine is. :)

Monday, December 12, 2016


We've seen a number of movies lately in theaters that I liked okay but not enough to write a blog post about them:
(I was especially disappointed in FANTASTIC BEASTS... probably because I had expectations attached.)

Thank goodness for Netflix! The other night we watched a biography of Leonard Nimoy FOR THE LOVE OF SPOCK.

I am not a Trekkie (in fact, I'm glad I checked Google for the spelling of the term, because I was using a "y") - never watched the TV show. I have, however, enjoyed the latest movie franchise very much. And this documentary is fascinating on a number of levels. (Trekkies will know why I said that!)

First, the whole rise-of-a-pop-culture phenomenon. The movie is made by Leonard Nimoy's son Adam, and he recalls, among other things, how in the beginning, fan mail came to their own home, and they answered the letters as a family activity. (Adam was 9 or 10 at the time.) And then we get a look at all the fan festivals and merchandise and the Spock's influence on later TV shows, art, etc.

Here's Nimoy. (Try as he might,
my husband cannot do this salute!
 Clearly, he is not Vulcan. :)
Second, the appeal of Spock himself. I was very interested in what a hand Leonard Nimoy had in the creation of Spock. For instance, the "fascinating" dialogue was his idea and really set forth Spock's controlled, don't-show-emotion character. Also, it was Nimoy who thought of the famous Vulcan salute. And the fans included in the film said they related to Spock because he was an outsider, and they, too felt like outsiders. Also, viewers could relate to Spock's inner struggle to feel things, but not express them. This made him a mysterious, yet very relatable character. How many times to we feel something and not show it? Great fodder for we who love storytelling.

Third, I loved learning about Leonard Nimoy's relationship with his son Adam. It wasn't all rosy, that's for sure. Both struggled with addiction. There were periods of turmoil and estrangement. Ultimately they were able to enjoy one another, and in the later years of Leonard's life, they really came together as father and son, and as friends. Oh boy, can I relate to THAT! What a gift and a miracle.

Finally, who knew Leonard Nimoy was a poet? And a musician. I'll leave you with the poem that opens the film, because I love it:

- Leonard Nimoy
I may not be

I may not be the fastest
I may not be the tallest
     Or the strongest

I may not be the best
Or the brightest

    But one thing I can do better
     Than anyone else...

      That is

        To be me

More poems here.

Great film, whether you're a Trekkie or not!

Friday, December 9, 2016

Poetry & Fiction About the Refugee Experience

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Jone (whom I am so happy to have met in person!) at Check it Out for Roundup.

I've been reading a lot lately about Syria and the refugees, and it's heartbreaking to think about these families, right now, today, so desperate for safety and food that they must leave their homes for the great unknown. It's a terrible situation. It leaves me feeling a little lost because I want to help, and what can I do from my snug little studio? Donate to the cat sanctuary in Aleppo.

I've also just read three novels about refugees:

1. SALT TO THE SEA by Ruta Sepetys. Set during WWII, it follows 4 teens fleeing the Russians for the coast where they will board a ship for freedom. Powerful writing, rich characters. And based on a true story! Books like this one are why I love historical fiction.

2. THE ONLY ROAD by Alexandra Diaz. A contemporary novel that follows 2 teens from Guatemala who travel across Mexico, surviving hunger, gangs, and the dangerous trains to get to their uncle in the United States. At one time I was working on a similar (middle grade) book, and I am really in awe of the details included in this book! I have learned so much -- mostly what courage and faith it takes to embark upon such a journey.

3. BONE SPARROW by Zana Fraillon. This one is not about the journey, but about being detained in a refugee center in Australia -- and the conditions there are pretty horrific. The book is like a cross between ROOM by Emma Donoghue (young narrator who was born at the center and has never known life outside) and THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS by John Boyne (unlikely friendship between one on the inside and one on the outside).

And I've also been reading SOMOS COMO LAS NUBES/ WE ARE LIKE THE CLOUDS by Jorge Argueta, illus. by Alfonso Ruano. Like Alexandra's book, it's about children leaving their homes in Central America. The two poems that follow are appear on the same spread and are presented in both Spanish and English, as are all the poems.

Caballo de carrera

En la espalda de m i papa
me pongo a cabalgar.
No me puedo quejar.
No hay en todo el
caballa tan hermoso
no tan veloz
como Felipe, mi papa.


I get up on my father's back
for a ride.
I can't complain.
Here is the desert
there is no horse as
or as fast
as my father, Felipe.


Desde que salimos de casa
no dejamos de cantar.
Dice mi papai
que si cantamos,
espantamos el cansancio
y el miedo
y nos volvemos cancion.

We Sing 

Since we left home
we haven't stopped singing.
My father says
if we keep singing,
we'll scare away all the tiredness
and the fear
and become a song.
I love the idea of becoming a song. And who needs a racehorse with a father like that? xo

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

"People Equal" by James Berry

Today I'd like to share with you a poem by James Berry. It appears in the book A NEST FULL OF STARS (Greenwillow Books, 2002).

People Equal

Some people shoot up tall.
Some hardly leave the ground at all.
     Yet--people equal. Equal.

One voice is a sweet mango.
Another is a nonsugar tomato.
     Yet--people equal. Equal.

Some people rush to the front.
Others hang back, feeling they can't.
     Yet--people equal. Equal.

Hammer some people, you meet a wall.
Blow hard on others, they fall.
     Yet--people equal. Equal.

One person will aim at a star.
For another, a hilltop is too far.
     Yet--people equal. Equal.

Some people get on with their show.
Others never get on the go.
     Yet--people equal. Equal.

- James Berry
I love this poem! Love the rhythm and repetition, and how James Berry's Caribbean heritage shines through every line.

And, I have been all of these people at one time or another. It's important when we talk about people and equality to remember how people change from moment to moment, year to year. We aren't static. We make mistakes. There's no one right way to be. We can be mango sweet AND nonsugar tomato. Hard AND soft. Go-get-em AND sit-tight.

In fact, one of the things that makes humans so interesting is how we can hold all of these different qualities at the same time.

Today I am mango-y and happy to rest at the bottom of the hill. How 'bout you?

Monday, December 5, 2016

Because Doing the Right Thing Hurts Sometimes #NCTE16

Jason's latest GHOST, which won
 NCTE's Charlotte Huck award
 for fiction!
So I am still processing some of the things I heard at NCTE. One of them was a fish story, as told by Jason Reynolds. It goes something like this: One day Jason's eccentric high school teacher brought in an expensive exotic fish for the classroom aquarium. He told the kids, "you can feed the fish, but whatever happens, do not TOUCH the fish. Ever." The teacher went on to say that the principal knew about the fish rules and would back him up should anyone feel inclined to test the rule. Then one day, much later in the year, this teacher scooped the fish out of the tank and dumped it on the floor. All the kids stood around in horror as the fish thrashed about, obviously dying. But they had been told "do not touch the fish." Finally a couple of girls DID touch the fish and returned it to its aquarium. The teacher said, "go to the office. You touched the fish." And this was his way of teaching them that doing the right thing hurts sometimes. There are consequences for our actions, even if they are right. But that doesn't mean you don't do the right thing.

Pretty powerful, right? We need more teachers like that. Thank you, Jason, for sharing the story! (Jason told the story much better than I have... any mistakes my own.)

Friday, December 2, 2016

Celebrating THE BEST OF TODAY'S LITTLE DITTY compiled by Michelle Heidenrich Barnes

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Please visit beautiful Bridget at wee words for wee ones for Roundup.

Michelle is such a gift to this world, isn't she? And this book is, too. I loved reading these 75 poems from so many poets (55!) I've come to love in our Poetry Friday community, and just yesterday one of the challenges (David Elliott's letter poems) gave me some direction for a poem-in-progress. What a fun, beautiful and useful ditty of a book! So I asked Michelle to stop by and respond to a few prompts. Here's Michelle:

The Difficult: Leaving out some really excellent poems. While I had a terrific ditty committee to help narrow down the choices, sometimes it came down to which poems more closely reflected the challenge, conformed to a particular format, or even fit best on the page. I also felt strongly that I wanted to reflect the breadth of the DMC community, so no one, including myself, had their work appear in more than three challenges.

The Delicious: Oh my, it all feels pretty delicious right now! But I'd have to say the most delicious is that I never felt alone in this undertaking. (I'm quite sure it wouldn't have happened otherwise!) I discovered that the same community that generously contributes all these wonderful poems month after month, is also generous with their time, knowledge, and, in some cases, hand-holding. All I needed to do was ask. I'm especially grateful to Renée LaTulippe for being my sounding board and proofreader throughout the process and to Michelle Kogan for the gorgeous cover.

The Unexpected: A few squiggles can wreak havoc at crunch time! Because I'd never self-published before, I knew the learning curve would be steep. I did my reading, asked for help when needed, and allowed enough time for each step in the process. It all went smoothly until I submitted the book at the beginning of November and was informed that nearly all the decorative borders I had chosen were not high enough resolution. Really??? I spent an inordinate amount of time choosing those squiggles, and higher resolution versions were not to be found. I had put far too much work into this book to have it be marred by fuzzy lines, so that's when the panic set in. You can thank Carrie Clickard for those nice crisp lines, but don't ask me how she pulled it off!
And now for four of my favorite poems included in the book. Just like Michelle, it's difficult to select. There's always some other poem calling... but these are the ones that are whispering sweet somethings to me today. Enjoy!

Today's Piggies

This little piggy had an iPad
This little piggy Skyped home.
This little piggy watched YouTube.
This little piggy ran Chrome.
This little piggy went...
tweet, tweet, tweet,
all the way home!

- Buffy Silverman, based on the traditional nursery rhyme
(I know I am not the only one giggling... what a timely and entertaining poem!)

Dr. Plover, DDS

open wide:
it's checkup time!
I'll come inside
to see if you have
tooth decay --
bits of flesh
I'll eat away.
It seems you haven't 
flossed of late.
that's good news --
you're doing great!
Okay, my friend,
they're good to crunch.
See you next time --
thanks for lunch!

(Don't you love how imaginative and fun this one is?! I want to see it paired with an illustration... and it reminds me of my own "Oxpecker Cleaning Service" -- another cleaner-upper bird!)


Lemon is a sunny yellow word.
It speaks of summer,
days sliced thin and swirled
with sugar nights.
I halve one,
a stinging spray,
raise the rind to my lips
for a sour-pucker kiss,
my hands perfumed with happiness.

(I want to kiss this summer-sugar sour-pucker happy-making poem! Love the way it tastes in my mouth.)


Scissors is a sharp word,
a thin word, a steel word,
an I-can-hear-it-click word,
a catching-the-light word,
a see-it-flash word, a fast word,
cutting here, clipping there,
a round-metal-eyes word,
a long-pointed nose word.
It sews as it goes,
and it sings its own name:

(I love all those dashed-together words, and yes! It sings its own name, doesn't it?)

Thanks and congratulations to everyone who's a part of this lovely collection!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

SHINE BRIGHT: A Poetry Reading in Celebration of the Winter Solstice

Free Poetry! Free Poetry! Free Poetry! 

 Featured poets will read on the topics of "light" and "winter." 

 Light refreshments will be served. (hot cider and cookies!)

Open Mic to follow. 

 Alabama Friends: Y'all Come!!! 
 Wednesday, December 21, 2016, 7 pm