NEW THING: Woza Woza Poem!

ANNOUNCEMENT: My thanks to Mimi Cross for writing such a lovely article about her experience in my three-hour poetry intensive session at the New Jersey SCBWI state conference in June. I just received a copy of Sprouts, Issue 3, 2010, which carries Mimi’s article. Thanks to Editor-in-Chief Kathy Temean, Executive Editor Anita Nolan, and especially to Mimi. Here is the link to the journal: .

Hello Everyone,

I’m pleased to show you another of those marvelous videos that Jana Smith and her students have created. This one, by Hope, is a real delight. If you like it, please let her know in your comments.
Here is the poem link:

If you are among those who indicated on the survey that you enjoy writing poetry, here’s another challenge. This one comes from South Africa and from none other than our friend Silindile Ntuli, who goes by Soul Dose on her site ( ).

Silindile suggested this new poetry challenge, which is open to adults and students, and shall be known as a Woza Woza Poem. Woza woza is a Zula term for something that has such strong appeal that we find ourselves returning to it again and again. At least I think that’s the definition. If I’m not quite accurate, I trust Silindile to correct me. Little by little she has been teaching me a few words and terms of Zulu.

Here’s the proposition.

1) Today I give you the first line of a poem.
2) After tomorrow’s post is up, someone else must add a line.
3) Post your suggested next line in the comments box.
4) I’ll choose one of your suggested lines to add to the poem.
5) Each day I’ll repeat the process of selecting one of the new proposed lines to add to the growing poem.
6) We’ll do this all month until the final poem is 30 lines long.

That’s it. Sound interesting? Are you hooked?

I think a Woza Woza poem can be composed in verse or in free verse. It can even be a combination of both over the course of the 30 days of November. However, I propose to start this first poem in free verse. Here is my first line.

Today I saw something I’ve never seen before.

Got it? Okay, be thinking about a second line. Tomorrow I’ll expect to see some killer ideas!

My thanks to Silindile for suggesting this new fun challenge. Let’s try our first Woza Woza Poem and see where it leads.


Who will be my next Guest Reader?

You must admit that we’ve been hitting homeruns with the Summer Guest Reader Series! To refresh your memory, here’s the lineup of stars we’ve featured so far. If you don’t see your face on this post, it’s because you haven’t pitched in to share something about yourself with the rest of us. Shame, shame! You need to be about it!

Amy VanDerwater in New York,

Charles Waters in Florida,

Mary Nida Smith in Arkansas,

Carol-Ann Hoyte in Montreal,

Ken Slesarik in Arizona,

Wendy Singer in Montreal,

Nancy Gow in Montreal,

Silindile Ntuli in South Africa, and

Mimi Cross in New Jersey.

Hundreds of visitors have read and appreciated the works of these Guest Readers and I know there is an expectation of meeting more guests in the coming weeks. Let’s here from you. Send me your picture and a poem or a write-up of 500 words or less about yourself and your journey as a writer. I look forward to hearing from you soon.


Mimi Cross today


BULLETIN: Click the link above to listen to Mimi’s wonderful voice singing her poem below.

Greetings everyone. Our friend, previous Hall of Fame poet, musician, and singer, Mimi Cross is today’s Guest Reader. If you don’t know Mimi yet, her easy, conversational style will soon make you think you’ve known her for years. As an additional treat, Mimi has posted her voice singing the poem you’ll see below. And if you like the picture of Mimi the mermaid, ask her who took it and where she was. Welcome, Mimi!

David, I’ve been working on something for your site. After perusing my poems and deciding I didn’t want to send any of them—too this, too that, too old, too not quite right—I started working on an essay about the strange state of my creative process.As I think I’ve told you, my muse was high jacked several years ago around the time my son was born, needless to say, nothing has been the same since. Besides being thrilled to be a mommy, I am now a songwriter writing a novel. Hmm. No, I am a songwriter obsessed with writing a novel. Actually, I’m working on the second novel. In fact it appears I’m writing a sequel to Shining Sea, the manuscript I finished in May.After writing a 1200 word essay called Hormones and Caffeine: Notes on the Mystery of the Creative Process for your site, I decided that besides needing to cut it in half, the essay wasn’t what I wanted to send you either. I began to think that what I really needed to do was to get back to my new novel (or at least continue revising the first one!)

Then I got a cool idea. I decided my main character should write a poem for your site instead of me. I don’t want to divulge too many details, but my protagonist is a seventeen-year old budding singer songwriter who falls in love with a boy who has a hypnotic voice of his own. Shining Sea is a YA paranormal romance, just to give you an idea of the tone.

In the beginning of book II, a heartbreaking event occurs. Rather than ‘lie down and die’ so to speak, my protagonist pours herself into her music. I began to explore what kind of poems and songs this newly awakened young girl would be writing at this difficult time in her life. The fact that she’s seventeen, in love with a pretty dangerous guy, heartbroken for the first time, and just becoming an artist, made writing the following poem and song a lot of fun. I hope you enjoy them. Please keep in mind they’re unpolished, maybe even unfinished!

Thanks once again for the inspiration David!

Diving Signals

Far beyond my efforts
Somewhere I’ll never be
I used to think I’d meet you there
Out on the shining sea.

We’d float then we’d go under
We’d swim and then we’d sink
Going down for plunder
Approaching every brink

Of underwater canyons
Yawning gap of ache
Chasm of dark longing
Where everything’s at stake

We risk running out of oxygen
The risk of no return
Tug upon the tender’s rope
Hold breath until it burns

My underwater guide
Each note you sing is clear
You only need to use your eyes
To calm my every fear

No need for you to point
Your fingers to your ear
I have no choice; I listen
Your voice is all I hear

Swim up we break the surface
Climb back upon our boat
Back into our bodies
Visceral bell cote

A storm blows in a cloud
Of circling white birds
I fall asleep and dream
A shining sea of words . . .

Song to My Siren

I saw you from a distance
In this wild place
Recognized resistance
On your perfect face

When you opened your mouth
A genie came out
Granting my every wish

Now I’m a ghost in this house
Wandering about
My lips sealed with your kiss

I’ll keep your secret
If you’ll return
I’ll keep your secret
Just give me my turn

Even now that you’re gone I still hearing you calling me
Your words move like music over the shining sea

Flying like an angel
Through my darkest dreams
Underwater stranger
Muffling my screams

I can’t open my mouth
A hand holds my shout
Stealing my every wish

He’s a cat with a mouse
My prayers turn devout
Drowning in this abyss

I’ll keep your secret
If you’ll return
I’ll keep your secret
Even if it burns

Even now that you’re gone I still hearing you calling me
Your words move like music over the shining sea

Even now that you’re gone I still hear you calling me
Your voice in my head like your hands were on my body

Over the shining Sea . . .

I’ll keep your secret if you’ll return
I’ll keep your secret if you’ll return
I’ll keep your secret until it burns me alive
I’ll keep your secret until I die

New Jersey SCBWI

My thanks again to Rob Shepperson for his enjoyable and informative Q/A interview on yesterday’s post.

I arrived in Princeton Thursday night. Yesterday I conducted a three-hour poetry workshop, gave the luncheon talk, and visited with authors about their manuscripts in the afternoon. Today I’ll give a briefer version of the workshop and finish the one-on-one critiques. Mimi Cross is here. So is Liz Korba as well as Jeanne Balsam. It’s good to finally meet people in person after meeting them on the blog and in e-mails!

Yesterday at my keynote, Michele Heinrichs drove two hours from West Chester, Pennsylvania to bring her daughter Rachel. When I told the audience about Rachel and her poetry, she received a huge round of applause. I read her most recent poem and everyone was very impressed. The luncheon was attended by authors, artists, editors, and agents. Rachel was the only child in the room and she reminded us all of why we do what we do to create literature for young people.

This is a good conference but considering that Kathy Temean is running it, this comes as no surprise. I’m meeting a lot of people, making new friends, and enjoying the company of so many writers, artists, and others who care about making children’s literature. My thanks to Kathy and her great team of volunteers who are making this all come together so well.


The week at a glance

BULLETIN: Somehow a humorous poem by Percy Bisque Silley managed to get sidetracked in my system and just surfaced even though the poem was submitted ten days before the cutoff for March. My sincere apologies to the poet! I’ve just added Percy’s poem to the ballot box: “If Life Had a Wife.” Please give this poem a read under the WOM page. I’ll add it to the “Click to Read” box this afternoon.

On a sadder note, 4th grader Taylor McGowan’s poem, “Life,” didn’t arrive until three days after cutoff so we can’t vote on it with the other young poet offerings, but that won’t keep us from reading and enjoying Taylor’s poem. Please check it out under the Young Poet’s page.

First, I want to thank Pat Lewis for his excellent and thought-provoking article yesterday. Judging from comments, I’d say that many of you agree that Pat not only writes beautifully but he has much to tell us about the craft. If you haven’t had a chance to leave a comment for Pat, I hope you’ll do it. Pat and all others who have graced my Friday blogs over the past months have given up time from their own work to contribute here and I know they appreciate hearing from you.

Next, please don’t forget that Rebecca Dotlich will join us on April 16 and she has asked for questions in advance. You can contact Rebecca directly by going to her website at or scroll to the bottom of my announcement of her scheduled appearance (March 22) and leave questions in the comment section.

As you know, I think that part of the fun in seeing so many poems and comments on this page is to determine where they come from. In fits and spurts, I send out notes of inquiry. Some of you prefer your anonymity; others feel comfortable telling me your location. I haven’t checked for the last two months, during which we’ve been joined by a good many new voices. Here’s what I knew in January. If your state or country isn’t included and you would like to add to the information, please let me know. Thanks.

States and Countries Represented
In Word of the Month Poetry Challenge
January, 2010

New Hampshire
New Jersey
New York
Rhode Island

South Africa
Sri Lanka

A reminder that voting is now going on for March’s Hall of Fame Poets (see the ballot boxes posted March 25) and that you can vote once for your choice in each of the two groups: adult poets and young poets. If you are joining us for the first time, the rule is that no one can win the title twice during the same twelve month period ending this September. Previous winners are welcome to contribute poems each month, and their fans and supporters can certainly vote for them, but they can only be recognized once until the next cycle begins.

In the adult poets division, our previous Monthly Hall of Fame Poets are Mimi Cross, Liz Korba, Linda Kulp, Steven Withrow, and Beth Carter. Monthly Hall of Fame Young Poets are Alyssa Kirch, Claire Scott, Priya Shah, John Sullivan, and Megan Barnett.