Marjorie Maddox today

REMINDER: SUNDAY AT 10:00 CST IS THE CUTOFF FOR THIS MONTH’S POEMS. DON’T MISS IT!

Hello everyone,
Here, as promised, is my guest today, Marjorie Maddox Hafer, pen name: Marjorie Maddox. I love her voice and you will too. She is an articulate spokesperson for all writers, but especially those who must juggle many roles and still manage to keep writing. For a view of some of Marjorie’s work, here’s the link to Tricia Stohr-Hunt’s feature of her during April. http://missrumphiuseffect.blogspot.com/2010/04/poetry-makers-marjorie-maddox.html

I Do

“So, what do you do?”

The question, of course, pops up again and again throughout our lives. I write—I’m a mother, a wife, a writer. I also am an English professor and director of a creative writing program at a state university. This is my day job, and I love it. But I am a mother, a wife, a writer, and—having fallen in love with words at a young age—it’s the calling of writer that I’ve claimed the longest. For most of my youth and my adulthood, I’ve written and published poetry, short stories, and essays. When I was a child, I shared my work with family and friends, publishing my first poem in Campfire Girl magazine. Over the following decades, I published in literary journals and presses. I became a writer—for adults.

But now I also am a writer for children. This adventure has expanded and enhanced how I view myself. It has allowed me, in new and wonderful ways, to bring together my “lives” as mother, writer, and teacher.

We are a family of readers. Along with my husband—another writer and college professor—I am, not surprisingly, addicted to books. We’ve passed our obsession to our son and daughter. How could we not? To read or not to read: no question there. To sit on our back patio with book in hand and let words envelop me while my daughter, next to me, has flown to an imaginary world through a paperback she’s clutching: this is a life I like. This is a life my husband and I wanted to share when we read page after page to our growing children, watching their eyes—and minds—expand. I hope I can continue this experience by creating books that will transport other children to these worlds that words build.

To do so, I find myself collaborating more and more with family. For years, my husband, an excellent editor, has been first reader for much of my work. However, when I write for children, even my kids join in brainstorming. They test-run my poems and let me know which pieces take off, which run out of gas, which crash. “This is boring”; “I don’t get it”; “Huh?”—they don’t hold back. Their reactions are immediate. They have kid-view expertise. When they get to “Yeah, sweet” or “This rocks,” I know I’m headed in the right direction.

Both my husband’s considered responses and my children’s blunt reactions have become part of my process. When I was writing Rules of the Game: Baseball Poems, for example, my children, two Little Leaguers, and my husband, an avid fan, enthusiastically served as a panel of experts. When I drafted A Crossing of Zebras: Animal Packs in Poetry (a book on collective nouns), my husband, with his background in rhetoric, and my children, with their background in play, entered into the word games. Currently, I’m revising riddle poems, which grew out of rhymed scavenger hunts I’ve had with my kids for years. My audience is willing. Let the family collaboration continue!

This partnership between family and writing has grown to include my role as teacher. For twenty years, my passion for writing and literature has flowed into the university classroom. Then, it was natural that when my children began elementary school, I would visit their classes, leading their friends on poetic journeys.

When I began writing my own children’s books, I joined illustrator Philip Huber in conducting assemblies and workshops at elementary schools. What a joy! To fan a spark that can strike a literary bonfire or a love of reading—or to help a young author take what began as clichéd images and transform them into a crafted and powerful poem: this is what I love about school visits. This also is what I love about college teaching.

But teaching young children is unique. Discussing and writing poetry with children is, to put it simply, loads of fun. Together we spin, twist, and fly with words. We trial-and-error our way through rhymes. We try on umpteen different metaphors and look at the world through kaleidoscope glasses. I do the same thing, of course, with college students, but the enthusiasm from a room filled with K—sixth graders is immediate. The kids and I are in this enterprise together, this exciting world of the imagination, as we go full-speed-ahead where the words take us.

Likewise, it is an honor to read my books to children and see their reactions. Writing, of course, is a solitary act—at a computer in a room with a door closed. Publishing, especially for an adult audience, also can seem a solitary act. Except for the occasional letter or review, I don’t get to interact with my audience until I meet them, face-to-face, at a reading or other literary event. When I meet kids at their school, I get to see my words jump from the page and into their minds. The sudden laugh, the “aha!” in the eyes, the nose crinkled in playful disgust—these reactions shout louder than the best review.

And all this keeps me coming back for more. All this beckons, “Hey, Teacher,” “Hey, Mother,” “Hey, Author, it’s good to have you here. Sit down. Make yourself comfortable. Write. “

And so I do.

Marjorie Maddox

Please post your comments for Marjorie in the boxes below. Thanks, Marjorie!

David

21 comments on “Marjorie Maddox today

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Marjorie Maddox today « Children's Author David L. Harrison's Blog -- Topsy.com

  2. Thanks Marjorie. I share your enthusiasm for writing and sharing with children and adults. A plus; I got to enjoy Tricia’s interview with you. Excitement rings in your voice as you have shared with us.

    • Good morning, Mary Nida,

      Doesn’t Marjorie sound like someone you want to sit down and visit with? If she ever sits down, that is. She’s a busy lady! And very talented!

      David

      • In fact, right now I’m having a yard sale! Talk about juggling roles and collecting interesting stories from folks…. Thanks very much for the good comments. I’ll keep checking in between 25 cent sales!

      • Yes, David, I would love to sit down with Marjorie, she is my kind of writer who is having a garage sale. I love the stories people share while hunting and all those facial expressions and body language to watch.

  3. Thank you for sharing this wonderful post! Marjorie’s enthusiasm about writing leaps off the page! Her passion about sharing tips about writing poetry with children and adults is extraordinary.

    Living a literate life certainly matters in our lives! Marjorie’s post reminds us of the joys, delights, and personal fulfillment that reading and writing bring when we share our love of words with others.

    I feel very fortunate that Marjorie has agreed to visit Penn State Harrisburg in August 2010 to speak with a group of teachers about the power of using children’s poetry to spark writing!

    Thank you Marjorie for sharing your gift and love of words with others!
    Best
    Mary Napoli
    Assistant Professor of Reading/Children’s Lit.
    Penn State Harrisburg

  4. Dear Margie, You’re enthusiasm is infectious. You are living within a perfect moment of your lifetime–when your entire family can act as a sounding board, when some of your children’s experiences can inspire new storylines and poetry collections, when what you learn from your own writing can be shared with others.
    The synergies are there. I’m sure you will make great use of them.
    Joan Hyman
    Associate Editor
    Wordsong

  5. It is refreshing to read that the act of writing, revising, and sharing children’s literature has become a force that has united the many roles you play.
    While it is beautiful to enjoy a book privately and come away with a new understanding, the magic for me has always been in watching a group of people share the experience of literature.

    While I am jealous that I wasn’t there for any of your readings with children, your description captures perfectly their responses. I am glad your gift of capturing a moment in writing will now be enjoyed by another audience.

    • Mary #3,

      What an assemblage of Marys! You are so right about the magic
      (exactly the right word) created when a group of people share the experience of literature. This is what I love most about teaching–that magical give-and-take of ideas.

      David,

      Thanks for making this similar give-and-take possible through your site!

      • You’re welcome, Marjorie. I enjoy the give and take too. It’s nice to see the site become a comfortable place for readers to present their comments and positions on issues posted here.

        David

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