And our June Hall of Fame Poet is . . .

I’m proud to announce that this month’s Hall of Fame Poet is from my own hometown! Virginia (V.L.) Gregory is our top vote getter and so will wear the crown for the month of June. Congratulations, Virginia. Way to go for Springfield, Missouri! Obviously I wasn’t the only one who enjoyed your poem.

Steven Withrow and Liz Korba also did well but are ineligible to win again during this twelve-month period. Julie Krantz, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, and Cherie Geisler Neal also made a run at winning this month and I’m sure they will continue to grow their fan bases as we go along.

My thanks as always to everyone who participated in June as a poet, a reader, or a voter. Here’s to July and another bumper crop of poems inspired by one word.

And the word for July? What else? ITCH. Make you think of anything? I’m eager to see what your fertile minds scratch up.

I have more good news. We are getting quite a lineup of Guest Readers on tap for the coming weeks. Tomorrow you’ll meet Carol-Ann Hoyte. Ken Slesarik is up on July 7 and he’s followed by Wendy Singer on July 14 and Nancy Gow on July 21. Wendy and Nancy took Carol-Ann’s advice to send me a picture and poem. They all live in Montreal.

I hope many others will take Carol-Ann’s advice too!

Sometime soon we’ll have another Friday Featured Guest. As we speak, Charles Waters is at work on an interview. So we have plenty to look forward to this summer and we’ve hardly begun!

David

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May winners and June word

Dear readers and voters,

It is my pleasure to announce the May Hall of Fame Poets. As of cutoff last night at 10:00 CST, our winner in the adult division is Mary Nida Smith in a tight race over Beth Carter. Overall top vote getter was Mimi Cross, former Monthly Hall of Fame winner who is not eligiblle to win again during this twelve month period. Way to go, Mimi! Our Young Poet for the Month is Taylor McGowan who won over Victoria Kessinger. My congratulations to all of our poets and especially to this month’s winners.

And now it’s my pleasure to announce the word of the month for June. It’s SONG. I’m eager to see what you do with it!

David

Steven Withrow today PLUS April Hall of Fame winners PLUS the new word for May!

Voting for April poets has been wild and attracted three times more appreciative readers than we usually get. Thanks to everyone who participated. Last night at 10:00 CST the polls closed so I can now announce our April Hall of Fame Poet to be Barb Turner with second place going to V. L. Gregory. Tied for third place are Tricia Stohr-Hunt and Cassandra. Our April Hall of Fame Young Poet is Rachel Heinrichs who came in with a whopping 702 votes! Second place, with an enormous turnout of 377 votes, goes to Taylor McGowan. Third place goes to Hope Murphy. Liz Korba, a previouis Monthly Hall of Fame winner, received the most votes again this month among the adults and Steven Withrow, today’s guest and another past winner, tied with Tricia and Cassandra.Congratulations to all of our winning poets and my gratitude to everyone who gave us so much good reading by sharing their poems this month. As I’ve said many times, this month-end voting process is both to recognize the poets and to encourage more readers. Thanks to everyone for being good sports and entering into the fun of the monthly challenge. To all of our poets — adult and young, first timers and “old pros” –I look forward to seeing what you will contribute when I announce the word for May, which is: STONEAnd now it my pleasure to present today’s guest, Steven Withrow!

THE BRAVE LITTLE POET

By Steven Withrow

There’s bravado, audacity of spirit, in calling yourself a poet. In naming yourself publicly a writer of verse.Most people, on hearing your declaration (for a declaration it is), will not know how to respond straightaway. You might have said, “I’m a polar bear psychologist” or “I’m a night gardener,” for all the sense it makes to the average listener.Novelists, journalists, and scriptwriters have the advantage here; they can talk about the story they’re writing or the agents, publishers, and studios they’re courting. In other words, writing equals fortune and fame, or at least a slave’s wage.Poets are, by and large, professional amateurs, hobbyists, oddities. We are also normal people who hold down regular jobs, raise families, and write in different forms. It’s usually better to converse about those other aspects of our lives instead of our poems.

Or is it?

A quieter sort of daring exists in sitting and writing your poems down, or walking along and thinking them up, but it’s a bold act nonetheless. Such boldness ought to be honored if not celebrated. By hiding away our poet selves, we help cloister poetry from the general public and we never share the gift that a good poem is.

And sharing, I have learned, is at the center of a poet’s life.

A harsh reality: your chances of earning money by publishing poems are slim to nonexistent. Many “successful” poets earn their livings as teachers, librarians, fiction writers, or something else entirely. Children’s anthologies and verse novels fare better, but the market is crowded and the opportunities are few.

For a determined poet seeking an audience as well as a community of readers and writers, the key is sharing your poems—trading them, gifting them, reading them aloud everywhere and every moment you’re able.

Start with websites like this one. Take part in local poetry readings, poetry slams, and school visits. Publish your work in chapbooks, small magazines, and online—shout it out proudly to everyone you know. Life’s too short (or too long) to be bashful about what’s most important to you.

What you receive in exchange for sharing your gifts is feedback (which makes you a better writer), fellowship or even friendship (which makes you a happier person), and fuel for the fire (which keeps you writing and inspires you to stretch beyond your limits). You can also return the favor for another poet or group of poets from across the country or around the world. It’s a virtuous circle that pays surprising rewards.

For more than a decade I kept my poems mostly to myself. I published several in small magazines, but hardly anyone read them. I sent out manuscripts to publishers and received polite rejections. Out of frustration, I even stopped writing poems for a couple of years. I was anything but a poet. I stopped learning; I stopped growing; I stopped being my favorite self.

I realized I was waiting for someone else to come along and select me from the crowd, to christen me a “real” poet. I might have waited forever.

In 2009, at 35 years old, I decided to start sharing my poems, and I’ve never felt more fulfilled or inspired. I now blog my poems (http://www.cracklesofspeech.blogspot.com/ ); I participate in the weekly poetry stretch at The Miss Rumphius Effect (http://missrumphiuseffect.blogspot.com/ ); and I serialize a blank-verse science-fiction novel (http://featherofmemory.blogspot.com/ ), which was inspired by a poem I wrote for David’s January word-of-the-month contest here at this site.

If I hadn’t started sharing my poems with other poets and readers, I never would have— never could have—composed “Rockhoppers.” It’s the boldest statement I’ve made yet about who I am and what matters most to me. I’m grateful for all the encouragement and constructive criticism I’ve received as a result of letting the poem live in the world.

ROCKHOPPERS
By Steven Withrow

Under the right whale bones
breaching the blue ceiling
of the New England Aquarium,
a waddle of rockhopper penguins,
tufted punks from the South Pole,
skrawks in a raucous chorus
as a feeder wades in wetsuited,
floating a bucket of tiny fish
for their lunch. And Marin,
who is four, watches them
through the low glass partition
with an aquarist’s rigor,
her mirrored mouth mimicking each grab
and gulp of open orange beak. She
presses against me, daughter
of my grateful heart, and asks,
“Why don’t they say thank you?”
I tell her, “I don’t know.
Penguins can’t speak like we do.”
But inside I think of how
they drop from rock to rock,
clumsy on their bird-feet,
until one, and then another, slips
without a splash into the cool pool
that passes here for home,
their cold and southern sea.
I name them Water-glider,
Tidal-feather, Torpedo,
and Swims-as-peregrine-falcons-fly.
We trace their loops and interlaces
and laugh as a pudgy male
pops his bottle-body up
onto the lip of a slick stone slab,
upending an unsuspecting hen,
before barging in line
for a chance at seconds.
After, Marin tugs my hand,
her patience for penguins at its end,
and we wander toward tanks
that hold cuttlefish, anemones,
lampreys, leafy sea dragons
practicing camouflage
among the fluorescent fronds.
Behind us, the hoppers chatter on,
clap their wings against their sides.
I want to turn and applaud,
but Marin has spied some mollusk shells,
and we give thanks to them.

Steven Withrow is a poet, storyteller, teacher, and author of six books for visual artists: Toon Art, Webcomics, Character Design for Graphic Novels, Vector Graphics and Illustration, Secrets of Digital Animation, and Illustrating Children’s Picture Books ( HYPERLINK  http://www.cracklesofspeech.blogspot.com  http://www.cracklesofspeech.blogspot.com/ ). He is the producer, with Edward J. Delaney, of Library of the Early Mind, a documentary about children’s books ( HYPERLINK http://childrenslitproject.wordpress.com  http://childrenslitproject.wordpress.com/ ). He is now blogging The Feather of Memory, a time-travel adventure novel for young adults written in blank verse ( HYPERLINK http://featherofmemory.blogspot.com/  http://featherofmemory.blogspot.com/ ). He studied writing, literature, and publishing at Roger Williams University and Emerson College and has taught at Rhode Island School of Design and Suffolk University. He lives with his wife and daughter in Rhode Island.

For an interview with Steven, please visit: HYPERLINK http://blaine.org/sevenimpossiblethings/?p=1842http://blaine.org/sevenimpossiblethings/?p=1842 .

A potpourri

rubberman

REMINDER: The Word of the Month word for April is SPRING. Check the W.O.M. boxes above this post for further informaiton. We’re already seeing some strong efforts from adult poets and also a good one, actually two, from our young poet Taylor. Think about the various meanings of spring and, uh, spring into action.

I’ve asked Sandy Asher to present AMERICA WRITES FOR KIDS and its sister site, AMERICA PLAYS FOR KIDS. I’ll post her article in the next few days. These sites have grown over the years into valuable resources for anyone in search of favorite authors. Hundreds are now represented.

I want to remind everyone that the Writers Hall of Fame Tour of Missouri Children’s Authors and Artists is coming up June 4-7. If you haven’t signed up for it, you need to make your reservations. During the tour you will meet and visit with Cheryl Harness http://www.cherylharness.com/, Dorinda Nicholson http://www.childrenslit.com/bookingservice/nicholson-dorinda.html , Kate Klise http://kateandsarahklise.com/, Vicki Grove http://mowrites4kids.drury.edu/authors/grove/,  June Rae Wood http://usawrites4kids.drury.edu/, J. B. Cheaney http://www.jbcheaney.com/, Lynn Rubright http://www.lynnrubright.com/wordpress/, Constance Levy http://www.squidoo.com/ConstanceLevy, Eileen Bluestone Sherman www.theoddpotato.com , and Leslie Wyatt http://www.lesliejwyatt.com/. For more information, about this unique opportunity contact me at davidlharrison1@att.net .

Have you visited the KIDS page on my website? You must! Kathy Temean is a wonder at presenting fascinating word puzzles and activities each month. If you are a teacher or have children or grandchildren, please check out the page on my website menu and prepare to be impressed and engaged.

I’m also inviting Kathy for an update on the upcoming New Jersey SCBWI conference in Princeton. She’ll use the space below or chime in later when she has time. I was happy to have an article, “Matter of Meter,” in this issue of SPROUTS, the New Jersey SCBWI publication edited by Kathy in her spare time.

Hello, everyone.  Plans for the conference are in full swing.  The hotel is all set up.  I’m picking out the menus for all the meals.  Each year we give out stickers that the attendees can use when submitting to the editors and agents on the faculty.  This is something every loves, because it helps highlight their submissions and helps to keep them out of the slush pile.  I have the design done and tomorrow I will order them.  In another week, I will have all the entries from the Logo Contest and then I will be able to order the bags that you will receive when you check in at registration. 

The last few day I have been matching up the attendees who signed up for one-on-one critiques with an editor or agent.  I have assigned everyone, but I still have to go over the list again and make adjustments.  Right now we have 182 people getting critiques, but registration is not closed.  There are still some additional spots.  Agent Scott Treimel was only supposed to do 6 consultations, but we had some many on the waiting list that I asked him if he would do 3 more and he said, “Yes.”  Simone Kaplan is doing 15 consultations and has a waiting list, but I really can’t push more on her, unless I would add another day – and that’s not happening.

The next thing I have to work on, is rounding up people to donate to our auction.  Each year we ask for donations, so we can raffle them off to help make money for our Scholarship Fund.  It seems like it is even more important this year with so many people out of work.  I use that money to help members who are out of work or having financial difficulties get the support they need to be able to attend events.  It is a good cause.  We have had people donate printers, books, baskets, gift cards, artwork, baseball tickets, facials, messages, dinners, theatre tickets, a get-a-way to a cabin in Maine, and more.  But the exciting part is that I get the editors and agents to donate critiques.  Last year Carolyn Yoder donated a full manuscript critique.  So did Steve Meltzer and Susan O’Keefe.  All the editors donated a critique of some amount.  Even Richard Peck donated a 30 page critique. 

Last year we even got editors and agents who attend the conference to donate and evening at dinner with them.  They were held all summer in NYC and Princeton.  We will be doing something like that again this year.  Critiques are great, but networking is important, too.  Everyone who came out loved them, even the editors and agents.

Anyway, I am excited about this year.  I don’t know how long we can continue improving each year, but somehow we do.  With all the success stories that came out of last years conference, we are really building our reputation.  We have people fly in from all over the country and they are repeat attendees.  I know many of you are not from New Jersey, but you should give some thought to coming out.  Most people say it is the best conference for Children’s writers, bar none.  (Did you just hear me patting myself on my back?)

And David is going to kick off Friday with his keynote speech.  He also is doing a poetry Intensive workshop on Friday morning and a short workshop on Saturday.  He also will be meeting people and doing critiques.  If you haven’t looked at the line-up, here is the link.  http://www.newjerseyscbwi.com/events/100604%20conference.shtml  Kathy

Our new Hall of Fame Poet and our new word for March

We now offer official congratulations to our Hall of Fame Poets for February. Join me in saluting Beth Carter as our fifth adult poet and Megan Barnett as our fifth young poet to be selected by popular vote to our gallery of monthly winners. V. L. Gregory finished 2nd and Gay Fawcett finished 3rd. Among our young poets, Bennett Miller was 2nd and Grace O’Leary was 3rd.

Sundays are normally when Kathy Temean posts a poem from one of my books but this month we’re postponing the Poem of the Week until Monday so that I can announce today the Poet of the Month and tell you the word that will challenge us in March.

Here are the words so far: dirt (October), thanks (November), bone (December), time (January), and road (February). I’ve given a lot of thought to this month’s word and here’s what I decided.

The word for March is “life.” What could be juicier than that?

If history repeats, we’ll see a rush of inspiration in the next week, and I can’t wait to see what our poets have to say about life. If you haven’t joined us yet, what better time than now? I hope to see a record number of poems this month and to see them from poets in many parts of the United States and the world.

Sharpen your pencils and your wit, everyone.

David