A good week

Hi everyone,

A short week but a good one. We returned from Oregon on Tuesday after a great trip with Jeff and Jennifer that included Portland, Crater Lake, Sunriver, and Cannon Beach. Spectacular views, wonderful food, and loving company. Couldn’t ask for more or better.

I’m twenty work-days away from my Fairfax deadline and feel confident I can make it. A lot of things are going undone for now but it won’t be much longer before I can return to a more normal routine. This past week I agreed on terms for an old story of mine, “The Little Boy’s Secret,” to appear in a U.K. HarperCollins anthology for 7-year-olds. The story originally came out in THE BOOK OF GIANT STORIES, co-published by American Heritage Press in the U.S.A. and Jonathan Caple in England in 1972.

I’m set for a virtual return on October 30 to The BookMark in Neptune Beach, Florida. This time I’m introducing the new book, I WANT AN APPLE. I look forward to it.

I began sketching notes for a video I promised to make as part of the Fairfax project. I need to make it before the end of November. Mary Jo Fresch, Laura Robb, Tim Rasinski, and I made plans to rehearse a 60-minute webinar for California Reading Conference that will be broadcast live on November 18.

Next week I speak at American Association of School Librarians at its national conference in Salt Lake City. Kate Coombs and I will discuss science/nature-based poetry for young people. Our presentation, “Take a Walk on the Wild Side: Connecting Young Readers to Nature,” will be moderated by award winning librarian Amanda Jones from Louisiana. I’ll speak on the subject in general but with emphasis on THE DIRT BOOK.

Time to get to work.

Still on schedule

Hi everyone,

Yesterday I enjoyed making a 25-minute video with Mary Jo Fresch and Tim Rasinski that will be posted for the California Reading Association virtual conference, October 22-23. We presented aspects of a book we’re finishing for Scholastic, which will be published January 22, titled PARTNER POEMS & WORD LADDERS FOR BUILDING FOUNDATIONAL LITERACY SKILLS.

Starting today I’ll be away from the Fairfax project for twelve days, the longest hiatus since I started. When I return, I’ll have 19 work-days to write the final 15 poems. If all goes as planned, I should finish on time. By work days I mean weekdays between now and November 15 when I don’t have other commitments already on the schedule. Fingers crossed!

Catching up, rat-a-tat-tat

Hi everyone,

Up for air and a quick report. I’m afraid this pattern must continue for now. It has been another productive week. I’ve sent Tim Rasinski, my writing partner on the school project, another six poems, which brings the total so far to 16, leaving 59 to go. I’m on schedule, exactly, without a lost day to spare. But I like the results so for and our school district client does too. I’ll identify the district before long.

A quick list of other recent odds and ends in no particular order. Skunk scare. Saw one walk by us in the yard two out of three nights and disappear each time behind a certain shrub, assumed it had dug a hole, warned the neighbors (who had also been seeing it) set a trap two nights,

on second night caught a raccoon, put cage in my trunk, drove to James River, released the raccoon, came home and checked behind the shrub. No den there, and no one has seen the skunk in a week. I’ve put the trap away.

Son-in-law Tim Williams had a birthday, which we celebrated at our house, much of it in the back yard where Tim grilled his own birthday burgers and brats. Not fair but they tasted better thanks to his master’s touch. His parents, Fred and Clair Williams, joined us; always a treat.

I enjoyed a virtual book talk about THE DIRT BOOK for a store in Ann Arbor, Michigan called Nicol’s Books/Shuler Books. The books artist, Kate Cosgrove, was a delightful partner in the bit. I have an in-person book store talk and signing coming up at Pagination Bookshop in Springfield. It was scheduled for this Saturday but has been set back one week. I’m working on details for my DIRT BOOK program on September 1 at TLC main library in Springfield.

With a new book coming out in October, I WANT AN APPLE, promotional dates are starting to come in. First will be a virtual book store visit to BookMark in Neptune, Florida. I’m pleased about that. They’re good people.

Had to buy a new office chair and got it put together. My old one is out by the curb in case someone driving by might have a use for it.

Had a 20-minute TIA (mini-stroke) last Monday that passed just fine but I still landed in ER for seven hours. Spending these hot afternoons in the pool, taking a lot of picture of the tiny things i see when I’m in the water. More about that community later. My toe’s better. I don’t think I told you it was bad but anyway it’s healing. Storm before last another section of our ancient globe locust blew over. Last nights storm knocked off another section. This morning I’m set for a carotid scan. Never had one of those before. Before and after that I’m finally going to take time to work on my “weed” poem in tribute to our Word of the Month Challenge word for August.

I’ve been spending some of my writing time standing at my desk to keep from sitting so much. I’m not used to working this way but it’s not terrible and I’ve written a couple of decent poems standing, so I think I can get used to it. Our besties, Larry and Maryann Wakefield, gave me a fold-up lap desk for Christmas that I hadn’t used yet. Turns out that by setting it on top of my desk it’s just the right size for me to stand and write on.

I haven’t covered everything but that’s plenty for now. It feels good to get out and stretch. I’ll be back tomorrow and maybe Sunday and then go silent for the coming week. So far that seems to be the pattern.

Remember me?

Hi everyone,

Up for air and a quick look around. Today I’ll finish the fifth poem of the week for the project that has all my attention these days so I’m on schedule — one poem per day — for the first two weeks. I have exactly enough days between now and September 15 (deadline for the first half), to finish on time. Deadline for the second half is November 15 so there will be no break in this daily routine until then. I have to go slowly and carefully because each of the 75 poems must be written with a different set of characteristics.

This is for what is called scope and sequence and progresses through four quarters of the teaching year for each of grades K-2, making twelve segments. Each segment features new sounds, combinations of sounds, and arrangement of sounds for a 5-year-old, a 6-year-old, or a 7-year-old so each poem must support the lesson by providing an example for the teacher to use. My working partner in the project, Timothy (Tim) Rasinski, Kent State University, adds his own special magic to what I do.

I follow these strict requirements but must also follow the usual dictates of writing poems for children that resonate with them and make them eager to read them repeatedly. I promise you that when I finish the final poem on or about November 15, I will be relieved to get my normal routine back, but I’ll also feel proud to have been part of a program that 40,000 children will be reading each year for at least the next twelve years.

Snippets of news: The summer issue of the MO/KA Scribbles Newsletter should be out soon. One of the articles will be about children’s poets of Missouri and Kansas. I look forward to reading it. Also, due out any day the magazine Our America will include an article I wrote about the amazing author William (Bill) Anderson. On the 14th of this month I’ll do a book signing at Paginations Bookshop on Walnut Street in Springfield. We’ll sit in the back yard and visit safely while I talk about and sign The Dirt Book, After Dark, and other titles the store has in stock. Time will be posted soon on the Pagination site and I’ll also mention it here. My next trade book, I Want an Apple, How My Body Works, is due out from Holiday House on October 12. Kirkus is posting the first review on September 1. It’s good. More about that later. Heard a barred owl hooting in a walnut tree the other night. Took pictures of a young rabbit under a shrub and a bunch of small creatures around our back yard. We have a skunk denning behind a different shrub a few feet from where we eat on pretty evenings. We’ve seen it twice. More about THAT later. Coming up on September 1, I’ll do a program at The Library Center in Springfield about The Dirt Book. Folk singer Judy Domeny will join us to do a couple of songs and people from our Nature Center and Dickerson Zoo will be there with some exhibits to help us focus on dirt. So far that one’s to be in person. Fingers crossed that we don’t wind up having to go virtual. If we do, we’ll roll with it.

My best to you all. Thank you for your continued patience with me.

My last blog post for a while

Hi everyone,

This past week I wrote four poems and four 500-word essays for the Teacher Created Materials book with Laura Robb and Tim Rasinski. I’ll share the results with them in the morning so they can start working on their own contributions to the book. After that it’s all about the scope and sequence project with Tim from now until the last of the seventy-five poems is written.

I’ll come up for air when I can, most likely on Fridays or weekends. I know I’m going to miss writing a daily blog after twelve years. I’ll probably do a little better on Facebook so watch for me there.