Nearly ten years ago, when this blog was new and teachers had more time to post poems written by their students, we routinely received students’ work. Classroom culture has changed now. It’s a rare month when a single student poem is posted. It’s a change that I regret.
Two student poets stand out in my memory. Ironically, neither went through the suggested route to get their poems on my blog. Both girls got there on their own, with parental help and support. Rachel Heinrichs and Taylor McGowan were in 4th grade when their early poetry appeared. In those days we held monthly balloting to select the “Children’s Poet of the Month,” and sometimes voting was spirited. One month the contest came down to Rachel and Taylor and votes poured in from several countries. At the time it was the busiest day my blog had experienced.
Not long after that event, I gave a keynote at SCBWI in New Jersey. Rachel begged her mom Michele to drive several hours to the conference so she could meet me. I introduced her to a crowded room of writers and illustrators and they gave her a resounding round of applause. The following year Michele again drove many hours to bring Rachel and young sister Sarah to my poetry workshop in Pennsylvania so we could share lunch together. And word has it that they just might make it again this year. I would love that!
As for my other poet, Taylor, I received a note from her yesterday that I appreciated so much I want to share a little of it.
“I’m sixteen years old now, and will be entering my junior year in high school…my interest in songwriting and efforts to write a musical recently reminded me of where I got my real start in poetry – your blog. To this day, I am beyond grateful for the opportunity that your monthly poetry contest afforded me. It gave me a chance to put my work out there, and kept me motivated even when writer’s block proved to be a hindrance. I have such fond memories of participating in the W.O.M. challenge…I have been writing for all the years since. I have participated in NaNoWriMo, drafted (or at least partially drafted) multiple novels, written award-winning “modern myths” for a youth academic convention multiple years in a row, composed songs (both music and lyrics), and also performed well on written assessments at school. I believe I owe some of that success to you and your contest; without it, I would not have been nearly so brave in my later endeavors.”
As we all know, writing is something we learn by doing. My blog didn’t teach Taylor to become the successful student writer she has become. She did that on her own. But we all begin somewhere, and I’m thrilled that Taylor believes her career began here. I’m deeply grateful to her for telling me and hope I don’t embarrass her by sharing some of her letter. I do it because we never know when, how, or where a young mind will become challenged and energized, turned on to a path of personal importance. And THAT’S why I regret that we so rarely see student poems posted here anymore.