Happy Monday

Hi everyone,

Jane Yolen, I wonder how you’re doing with your project to write a poem each day for a year. I’m now in a similar situation. If I’m to meet some agreements I’m in the process of making, I’ll need to write a poem each day for somewhere between eleven months and one and a half years. I hope to hear from you that you are still on target, it’s a piece of cake, and you’re loving it!

I’ll be seeing Jane next month at the Rochester Childrens Literature Festival, along with a number of other friends including Mary Downing Hahn, Cheryl Harness, Betsy and Ted Lewin, Mary Jane and Herm Auch, Vivian Van Velde, and many others. About 5,000 attend the festival, which is now in its 15th year.

I’m reading all the poems posted this month inspired by the word, NEW. Keep them coming! Beginning this month we’ve dropped the voting process so we can stress the fun of writing, posting, and sharing one another’s comments. I hope you approve of the new format. It also gives us more time to write each month and get our poems up.

David

Gone fishing

Hi everyone,

I left this morning for a two day trip. I loved the initial reaction to our new poetry tag game and hope that while I’m away you will continue to find ways to relate other poems. At this point I suggest that we move away from Jane Heitman Healy’s original poem about shoes and branch out in other directions. We don’t have to be literal in making our connections.

For example, some shoes have tongues. Some loaf. Some leap higher than the tallest buildings. Tongues can lead us into gossiping. Loafing reminds me of drone bees. Leaping takes us to track games, to childhood, to hasty conclusions. Tall buildings inspire us with poems about cities. Cities take us all sorts of places.

Let’s see what comes to mind over the next couple of days. I’ll be back in touch soon. If anyone wants to start the next Woza Woza Poem, be my guest!

David

Mary Downing Hahn today


Hi everyone,

Today my Featured Guest is one of the most popular children’s authors in America. Mary Downing Hahn’s books for young people are always popular with her fans who line up patiently for a chance to meet Mary and get her autograph. I’m proud to bring her to my blog today. Mary?

Q
What originally attracted you to writing?

A
Reading definitely attracted me to writing. I’ve loved books all my life; they were my solace when I was sad or lonely or confined to my room as a punishment. I read at the dinner table, in the bathtub, under the covers with a flashlight, in my tree house, in my lap at school when the rest of the class was learning math or social studies. The only place I couldn’t read was in a moving vehicle; my delicate stomach surrendered its contents on buses, streetcars, and cars.

Like most children who love to read I soon began making up my own stories, but instead of writing them in words I drew them in pictures. I thought of myself as an artist, not as a writer.
When I was twelve or thirteen, I realized my stories had become too long and complicated to tell in pictures. Although I didn’t think I was smart enough to be a writer, I decided I might solve my problem by writing and illustrating children’s books.

When I was in my thirties, I finally realized I was a better writer than an illustrator and turned my attention toward novels for young people. I suppose you could say I came to writing through the back door.

Q
Do you keep a journal? If so, when did you start? What sort of material do you write in your journal?

A
I don’t keep a journal now — my imaginary life is much more interesting than my real life.

I kept a diary in eighth grade, a pretty accurate record of my coming to terms with becoming a teenager. I also preserved much of high school in a diary, most of which can be described as tear filled accounts of unrequited love. In college, I kept a rather pretentious journal in which I hoped to present my self as a sensitive young intellectual grappling with my identity in a heartless world.

Q
Your books speak to the hearts of young fans everywhere. How would you describe your approach to creating such strong stories?

A
When I write, I become the person telling the story. I feel what the narrator feels, see what the narrator sees, and so on. Sometimes I think I’ve never really recovered from my childhood and teens.

A
Who is your audience? Who is reading over your shoulder while you write?

A
I hope my audience will be kids, but if I’m really absorbed in my writing I rarely think of my audience. When I begin revising, my editor is definitely reading over my shoulder. Jim Giblin and I have worked together so long, I find myself asking “What will Jim think of this?” and then telling myself exactly what he’ll think. Sometimes I change the wording, but often I leave him questionable things to ponder.

Q
How do you write? At the keyboard? Longhand? In an office? At regular times?

A
I almost always write at the keyboard. As soon as I started using a computer, I was hooked. I used to call it my magic machine because it was so much easier to revise what I’d written.

However, when I was a children’s librarian, I used to write surreptitiously in longhand on a clipboard, but I was finally told I’d been hired to find books for people, not write them.

Now that I work at home, I’d like to say I write at least four hours every day, but, alas, that would be a lie. My hours are irregular. Very irregular.

Q
What do you see happening in the world of children’s book publishing these days?

A
In a word: SERIES. And in a few more words: series that make publishing companies lots of money.

More seriously, the relationship between editors and writers has definitely changed. When my first book was published in 1979, my editor worked with me over a year, reading and rereading the manuscript through seven revisions. I don’t think many editors today have that sort of time.

Agents seem to play a bigger role in publishing; in fact, in many cases writers have a closer relationship with agents than with editors.

Q
Do you have advice for emerging children’s authors?

A
Perseverance and optimism.

Mary, thank you.
Readers, please post your comments below.

David

Mary Downing Hahn tomorrow, our September Hall of Fame Poets, and the Word of the Month for October

REMINDER: There are 3 days, 6 hours left to bid on the auction! http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=130435071748

Congratulations to our September Hall of Fame Poets! Euleta Usrey is our poet of the month for the adult division and Courtney Clawson is our poet in the young poet division. Clustered behind Euleta were Steven Withrow, V.L. Gregory, and Gay Fawcett. In the young poet race, Maria Ciminillo was only 9 votes behind Courtney, 159 to 168. What a contest! My sincere congratulations and gratitude to everyone who enriched our lives this month by writing poems and sharing them with us.

And now for the first word of a brand new year of poetry. The word of the month for October? CHANGE. I’m eager to see what you do with it.

Here we are at Thursday again when it’s my pleasure to announce my new Featured Guest. This is one of my favorite blog activities. Tomorrow you’ll meet Mary Downing Hahn, and you’re going to enjoy the experience. As you know, I always ask my guests to provide a bio in their own words to give you an early glimpse into their lives and their voices. For additional information about Mary, visit her site at http://www.hmhbooks.com/features/mdh/

I was born in Washington, DC and have spent my whole life in Maryland, within 30 miles of my birthplace. Not that I haven’t traveled — it’s just that I’ve never had an official address outside my home state.When I was a kid, I loved reading, drawing, and getting into mischief, not necessarily in that order. I was lucky to grow up on a street with five like minded girls — the Guilford Road Gang we called ourselves. We spent our summers exploring woods and creeks, climbing trees, spying on suspected criminals (the result of an overdose of Nancy Drew mysteries) and spending as much time as possible out of sight of our parents. As long as we were home for dinner, no one cared. College Park was a small town then — what could possibly happen to us?

With the exception of reading and drawing, my school career was distinctly lackluster. I daydreamed, read library books in my lap, doodled on my homework, never mastered long division or learned my multiplication tables, and was in general unmotivated. Because of my math problem, I thought of myself as stupid.

Junior high and high school were not much better. If I read my diary correctly, I spent my teens yearning for a boyfriend, going to football and basketball games (in hope of meeting a boy), hanging out with my friends, getting out of class whenever I could, buying rock and roll records with my babysitting money, going to the swimming pool (in hope of meeting a boy),and complaining about my parents. Not a word about current events. Although I never mentioned them in my diary, I remember thinking the McCarthy hearings were incredibly boring.

After I graduated, I entered the University of Maryland, a half hour’s walk from my home in College Park. At first, it seemed like grade thirteen, but by my sophomore year, I realized I had a brain after all. I majored in Fine Art and minored in English, spending most of my college years doing what I loved best — drawing and painting, reading and writing. By the time I received my B.A., I was torn between a desire to paint and a desire to write. I did both for many years, mainly for my own entertainment. I also spent a disastrous year teaching junior high school art, returned to UMD to earn a Master’s in English, worked briefly for the telephone company, a department store, and the Navy Federal Credit Union, the sorts of jobs people with liberal arts degrees are offered.

After marriage, children, and divorce, I returned once more to UMD and began working toward a PHD in English. It was the 70’s, and there I was with the baby boomers. There were no teaching jobs for any of us.

I ended up taking a job as an associate librarian in the public library’s children’s department. I planned to write my dissertation and look for a teaching position later, but I wrote a children’s book instead. Hard work, yes, but definitely more fun than spending years researching an obscure English poet.

So here I am. all these years later, still reading and writing, drawing and painting and loving every minute of it — well, almost every minute.Thanks, Mary. See you tomorrow.
David