Last day for your poems

My sincere thanks to Vicki Grove for yesterday’s guest article. If you haven’t read it yet, be sure you don’t miss it!



BULLETIN: Guess who posted a poem last night? Kathy Temean, that’s who! Better go have a look. It’s a fun poem.

Hi Everyone,

This past week was a busy one.

On the 16th, I proposed to provide tips on writing poetry and said I’d get back with a plan. I also listed the schedule for upcoming guests including Vicki Grove (1/22), Laura Robb (1/29), Laura Purdie Salas (2/5), and Lee Bennett Hopkins (2/12).

On the 17th, Kathy Temean posted another of my poems, “My Essay on Birds,” as the Poem of the Week. Thanks to the generous support of George Brown, Sharon Umnik, and the graphic team at Boyds Mills Press, Kathy now has access to all of my books with BMP and can choose at random a poem each week for the Sunday feature. I hope you enjoy the weekly feature because I have enough published poems to last a number of years. By asking Kathy to do the choosing, I’m often surprised to see old friends.

On the 18th, I told you about newly posted poems by Liz Korba, Rosalind Adam, Erin McMullen, V. L. Gregory, Melanie Bishop, Reta Allen, and Genia Gerlach. I also discussed the poetic foot as part of my proposed series of poetry tips.

On the 19th, I posted a proposed outline for poetry tips to come. I said that I’ll try to stay with a schedule of adding tips on Wednesdays but asked that you not hold me to it every week.

On the 20th, I announced that we had heard from our first four young poets of the month and urged everyone to read their work. Jan Gallagher posted a poem. I reported on an article I like in this issue of Language Arts, a publication of NCTE. The article is called “Asking the Experts: What Children Have to Say About Their Reading Preferences.”

On the 21st, you read some biographical information about Vicki Grove prior to her appearance the following day as my guest. Mimi Cross posted her poem for January.

On the 22nd, Vicki’s straight talk from the heart reached a lot of readers who related to her words and shared similar problems in making time to write. Vicki observed that life-inspired surprises can happen to a story when it’s left alone. Jane Yolen shared her term for it: “Here come the elves.” We also received poems from three more young poets.


Vicki Grove today

REMINDER: Only 2 days left to post your Word of the Month poem!

BULLETIN: We’ve now posted poems by seven young poets. Please give them a look and tell our poets if you like what they’re doing!

REMINDER: Sign my website guest book. Those who sign for the first time this month might win a free critique of a picture book or poetry.


Greetings everyone. Get set for some straight talk from Vicki Grove. She is contributing an invaluable reminder that somehow writers write in spite of everything else in life that seems to conspire against doing what we need and want to do. Thanks, Vicki!

I also need to say that I’m sorry I couldn’t post Vicki’s article right after she sent it. You’ll see why when you read it. I’m blessed with a number of other outstanding guest articles from other friends and colleagues and have been scheduling them as they come in. Vicki’s message won’t be diluted in the least by my tardiness, but I still wish I could have put it up sooner.

I’m late with this article, which should have been done a week ago. My editor wanted to go over revisions for my new book this past week, too, but I dodged her calls and possibly by doing so lost my spot on Putnam’s 2011 list. I think instead of apologizing for either thing I’ll just call this blog entry “Writing in the Real World” and tell you about last week, since it’s a story I’ve wished for a long time someone else would post so that I could take comfort from knowing I’m not alone.
AARP just came out with a survey finding that 30% of American middle-aged adults are caregivers of either a spouse, a grandchild, or an elderly parent. My parents are 88 and 89 and my saintly husband and I have been their sole caregivers for nine years, since my father turned 80, officially put on his robe and slippers, and declared himself “through.” Mom’s health shortly thereafter began to break down, and nine years on, Daddy is blind, neither of them can walk without a struggle, and they are completely housebound. They live twelve miles from us, and usually if I get up before dawn I have two or three hours to write before I need to start cooking for them, then I go over to their home before noon. More often than not this past couple of years, this system has broken down at some point during the week and my computer has gone neglected completely. When I was raising my own children, I had triple the writing time. It was much easier.
This past week was an especially bad week for Mom, who is now experiencing dementia, and so the time (and, yes, mental energy) I had delegated to writing my article for this blog and to going over tough revisions with an editor failed to materialize. In fact, my Christmas presents have gone unshopped for, my cards remain unsent, my house uncleaned and undecorated. Let’s don’t even talk about my grooming (smile).
In case you’re starting to think this is a personal pity party, let me tell you about the book I’m working on now. It’s a YA novel about a seventeen-year-old boy who is the sole survivor of a drunk driving accident and is struggling to regain his own balance and forward momentum. Suddenly last spring, as I was in the midst of this book, my father experienced a bout with depression and pain that turned both our households upside down for several months. I was completely away from my computer during that time, and when I could get back to my story the boy in my book shocked me by having developed a live-in step-grandfather while I was gone, an 89-year-old man who has just failed his driver’s license test because of macular degeneration. This leads the grandfather to a depression, which might possibly be lifted a bit if the boy can find the nerve to get behind the wheel again and drive this new grandfather to a Chiefs game.
If you have never felt the exhilaration that comes when a book takes its own life like this, then you haven’t felt the true joy of this job, the thing that makes all the rejection, all the long hours, all the various frustrations of working in such a crazy and competitive profession worthwhile. Is this new Chiefs-loving grandfather autobiographical, based on my father? Are you kidding? The boy will learn from him what I myself am struggling to remember I am constantly learning from my own dad. Hopefully, both Willem and I are finding what to concentrate on while we’re alive, what not to regret leaving undone.
Life feeds writing, and writing is a way to work out the things in our lives that are seemingly beyond our ken, sometimes almost beyond our capability. Cope-ability? Now, as I face turning 61 on Christmas Eve, I’m finally ready to state, uncategorically, that writing gives me self-understanding, period. All the rest comes and goes, or is icing on that great celestial birthday cake in the sky. But truly, what more could you ask?

Vicki Grove tomorrow

REMINDER: Only 3 days left to post your Word of the Month poem!

BULLETIN: Remember to sign my website guest book. Those who sign for the first time this month might win a free critique of a picture book or poetry.


I told you not long ago that we were in for a treat when my guest Vicki Grove made her appearance. Tomorrow is the big day! When I asked Vicki for a bio, she came through with her usual modestly brief summary. She could, if she would, add whole paragraphs to this bio, but that wouldn’t be Vicki. So read what she says about herself and, tomorrow, read what she chooses to share with us, and you’ll agree with me that I chose well when I invited Vicki to join us.

Vicki Grove lives in a little yellow house on Cole Camp Creek in the Missouri Ozarks with her seven cats, her dog Imogene, and her husband, Mike. She has written twelve novels for young readers, all of them published by Penguin Putnam. She’s also written about 300 articles, short stories, and essays for magazines like American Girl, Reader’s Digest, and Country Living. When she isn’t writing she’s usually sitting under a sycamore tree watching the eagles and reading a good book.


Catching up


Hi everyone,

We’ve been moving quickly lately so I need to pause and catch up. Four things.

1) On January 9 we began a lively discussion about children’s poetry in general and humorous poetry in particular. We’ve had several dozen comments and they continue to come in as new readers find the place. If you haven’t gone back through all the remarks, I hope you’ll do that and respond to anything that leaves you wanting to make another comment of your own.

2) Per Kathy Temean’s January 12 suggestion, we set out to collect and discuss various fixed forms of verse. Our first entry, the haiku, has generated some good discussion. We could go on like this, posting whatever comes in and in whatever order, but I smell a lot of work in it for me and a certain amount of confusion for drop-in readers.

So here’s my proposal. I’ll put together a list of traditional forms to get us started. I’ll post them one at a time when we don’t have other business on the agenda. What happens next will be up to you. If I describe a couplet, you can share a couplet. If we’re discussing a short ballad, your short ballads will be appreciated. That way we can advance one form at a time and anyone who wants to can comment, question, and/or pitch in an example. I’ll begin with a general discussion and plan to kick things off early next week. Is this okay with everyone?

3) On January 13 I invited anyone who would like to post websites to add them under that date. We’ve already had several takers but I don’t want to move past the opportunity without reminding you that it’s an ongoing invitation. If you are interested but haven’t gotten to it yet, please keep track of the date.

4) We all enjoyed Cheryl Harness’s guest blog yesterday. Cheryl, thanks again for taking your time to share with us. I look forward to seeing you in Warrensburg before long.

Coming up on the Friday guest blog schedule are Vicki Grove (1/22), Laura Robb (1/29), Laura Purdie Salas (2/5), and Lee Bennett Hopkins (2/12). A number of others are working on articles and I’ll post them on Fridays as they become available. Let me know if there is a subject or person you would like to see and I’ll do my best.

There! I think I’m caught up.

Except for your Word of the Month Poems. We need LOTS more of those!


Announcing Lee Bennett Hopkins

BULLETIN: Yesterday Lee Bennett Hopkins agreed to be an upcoming blog guest. I’m delighted by the chance to bring Lee to you and am already considering what questions I might ask him. You can help if you’d like to post questions I could add to mine.

BULLETIN: If you haven’t dropped by my website to sign my guest book, you might be interested in this. If you sign between now and the end of January, I’ll put your name in the hat for a drawing. The winner will receive his or her choice of a free autographed book or a critique of your poetry (up to three double-spaced typed pages) or story (up to five double-spaced typed pages.)


Good poems and plenty of them have gone up in the first few days of 2010, a great omen I think. We’ve already heard from Gay Fawcett, Mary Nida Smith, Diane Mayr, Sidney Sullivan, Yousei Hime, Steven Withrow, the mysterious catgirlslovehaiku., Beth Carter, and Delane Parrott

I confess that I’m only now deciding on my subject but I’ve enjoyed the process and think I have a good one. I’ll try to have something to share by the end of the week.

Coming up this month as my blog guests are Kathy Temean (1/8), Cheryl Harness (1/15), Vicki Grove (1/22), and Laura Robb (1/29). First one up in February is Laura Purdie Salas (2/5). Better write those dates on your calendar and tell others about them.