Making progress

ANNOUNCEMENT: The other day I mentioned interviewing Randle Chowning and Larry Lee who, among numerous accomplishments over their long careers, established Ozark Mountain Daredevils in the 70s. Randle is now fund raising to make a new CD so if you’re interested, here’s what Jaynie Chowning tells me you can do. “We just launched Randle’s Kickstarter Campaign today! We have 30 days to raise the funding for him to do a new CD. Please spread the word. Tell people to go to and type in Randle’s name. It will give you details and tell people how to help when you get to his site. Thanks so very much. Wish us luck!”

Hi everyone,

I finished poem #6 yesterday in a new collection. It’s slow going but enjoyable. I have no time line for completion but it’s the main focus of my energy at the moment. Today I need to pull off to work on another project but I can afford the time off task for a while. I like to be in a groove like this.

I’m told that CHILDREN’S LITERATURE IN THE READING PROGRAM is due out next month so that will kick off 2015 in good form. I only wrote one chapter in it but it’s Chapter One. It’s about using poetry in the classroom and includes poems or quotes by Jane Yolen, Kenn Nesbitt, and Joyce Sidman.

I know of three anthologies I’ll be in in 2015 and three education books for which I wrote all the poems. My next book of poems is due out in 2016 and the art I’ve seen so far is spectacular. I have another book of poems under contract and written so hopefully it can still make it out in 2016 also.

Some other interesting possibilities are under development. Maybe more about them later.

Writers at Work: Making On-line Writing Challenges Work for You, Part 4

Hi everyone,

Thank you for joining me today as Writers at Work continues with this month’s subject of making on-line writing challenges work for you.
David publicity photo
Making On-line Writing Challenges Work for You
Part 4
Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Hi again, Sandy Asher. I’m astounded by the number of challenges you seem to handle without breaking stride! On occasion you have mentioned that you think I possess a lot of energy. But REALLY! You make me feel like taking a nap after reading about all the projects you’ve been working on. You also are the personification of a writer at work. As you so succinctly put it, “A writer writes.”

Some of us may accept writing challenges and/or propose them because writers sense a constant need to test our mettle, stay fit, compare our work, get it out there. Some highly successful writers, such as you, also provide a service as role models for writers who may be a rung or two down but actively engaged in improving their craft.

Jane Yolen, for example, occasionally jumps on my poetry challenges with one or several poems. It invariably causes a burst of energy that attracts other poets to join in. Others have lent their talents as well: J. Patrick Lewis, Joyce Sidman, Laura Purdie Salas, Sara Holbrook . . . the list is much longer. One visitor was Gregory Maguire, author of WICKED: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF THE WICKED WITCH OF THE WEST.

As I mentioned earlier, not as many student writers have been represented on the Word of the Month challenge as I’d like, but we’ve had quite a few. Two in particular who stand out in my memory are Rachel Heinrichs and Taylor McGowan. They were both 4th graders when they first began posting their poems. In those days we held a vote-off at the end of every month to determine the Poet of the Month in each category. The girls mustered so many backers for their cause, some from other countries, that my total count of visits for the day – something over 1,600 – remained a record until early this year. It has been a privilege to keep track of Rachel and Taylor as they have grown, developed additional interests, and are now preparing to enter 8th grade this fall — an unexpected bonus for issuing a challenge that young people can also take on.

In another case a teacher began sending poems written by her high school kids. These were students with various learning issues and much of their work was not of the highest quality, but they loved the idea that they could write poems that would be published on my blog and they were proud of the encouraging comments they received from other visitors there. Their teacher wrote me a note. “When I introduced poetry, my students were interested. At first, they tried to act cool and aloof, but I knew them… When I showed them poetry, they were a little interested. When I taught them to read poetry, they were more interested. When I told them to write poetry, they thought I was crazy. When they wrote poetry, they came alive. Were the poems good? No, not technically. But they poured their hearts into them and they loved seeing their names on your blog. And that is when their reading scores went up.”

Sandy, I can see that my challenges may be different from those that come with specific rules and guidelines. You have had success accepting the challenges but making them work to your advantage by adapting them to your own needs. In my case, Word of the Month Poetry Challenge merely tosses out a word for anyone to accept or not. Some months most of the poems come from regular contributors but along the way new names are always joining in the fun. There is no long-term commitment involved so people come and go depending on whim, time, and energy. Some of the first devotees of Word of the Month continue to post their poems while others have dropped out somewhere along the line.

From a challenger’s point of view, I take pleasure in watching a community of writers come together around a central issue such as writing a poem inspired by one word or writing something that is theme related or, well, writing anything at all. What invariably happens is that the sense of community serves like an extended family to welcome in newcomers and develop ties with everyone involved. People get to know one another. They exchange bits of personal history, express their concerns about an unruly line or a rhyme. Sometimes they even ask for advice although an unspoken guideline is never to offer unless asked.

So what do I make of these challenges? I think they serve an important purpose and you’ve already stated it: Writers write. No one ever said that writing is simple, fast, or easy. It takes work. It requires patience. It demands passion. Whatever it takes to keep us exercising our writing muscles can’t be a bad thing. I don’t take credit for the marked improvement I’ve observed in the writing of many who routinely post their work on my blog where I can see it, but I believe that those who write on a regular basis are going to get better. That’s how it works.

And now – drum roll please – Sandy and I are delighted to announce our special guest for next week’s concluding essay on this subject of “Making On-line Writing Challenges Work for You.” Our mutual friend Kristi Holl has agreed to join us on the 5th Tuesday so be sure you are here on July 30 to learn what she has to share. Until then here’s a way to get better acquainted with Kristi and her wonderful work. .

Thanks, Sandy! It has been good fun as always.

Kristi, the floor is now yours.


Need a word for May

BULLETIN: That Renee has done it again. For a fine interview of Joyce Sidman, visit Renee LaTulippe today at No Water River. Click here: .

Hi everyone,

Here we are with only a few days left in this confused month of April. Next week I’ll post the Word of the Month word for May. I’m taking suggestions today for what the word will be. Post your word in the comments below and I’ll choose one for May.

Until then, enjoy the final days of Poetry Month. If you haven’t posted a poem yet for April, there’s still time. Remember, the word is FRAGRANCE.