What Are the Pros Up To, with Bobbi Katz

Today I’m very happy to bring Bobbi Katz back to give us an update on what’s going on with her lately. As always, Bobbi is busy!

I know lots of writers feel nurtured by critique groups, but I have never been drawn to them. I believe that when I talk about the contents of what I’d like to write or what I’m working on, somehow my creativity springs a leak.The energy seeps out of the project. So I will be vague.For the first time in more years than I can count, instead of focusing on writing a particular book on my own, I’ve been collaborating, both with J. Patrick Lewis on a collection of poems and also with a musician, who composes, among other things, choral music. I’m writing lyrics! I always thought that the lyrics we hear with music were no different than those we read. Since childhood, I’ve made up words to go with music. Now, however, I realize that the words which are sung, just exist in time. Words that are meant to be read, exist in space as well. We can return to that place on the page for the word or idea that we missed on the first go-around. We can reconsider an image. A simple explanation: Reading poems aloud engages more of our senses than simply hearing a lyric sung. I am surprised by the old woman who looks out at me from my mirror. Life never ceases to amaze her with new delights and challenges!

82 Riverview
Port Ewen, NY 12466

VERY important announcement!

Hi Everyone,

Some time ago I asked you to tell me which features you liked most about this blog. Top choice was Word of the Month Poetry Challenge. Near the bottom was the manner in which we select our monthly Hall of Fame Poets. Some love the excitement of the month-end race for votes while others are put off by it and would prefer a system that focuses more on the poetry. I promised to consider the situation. Now I have.Beginning this month, which is the first in our second year of W.O.M., we will have a dual system for recognizing our poets and their work. We will continue to post the familiar ballot boxes so you can vote for one adult and one young poet. Nothing will change in the way we select our Monthly Hall of Fame Poets.

Additionally, it’s my pleasure to introduce a panel of professional poets who have agreed to select the best poem in each group each month. I will send them the poems without names so they’ll judge strictly on merit. I’ll announce those winning poets each month at the same time we see who won the popular vote. These winners will be called Word of the Month Poet and Word of the Month Young Poet.

You may win once in each category during the twelve month period, from October 2010 through September 2011.

I hope you enjoy the new addition. I’m very excited to bring it to you. And now, meet our judges.

Charles Ghigna

Jane Yolen

Laura Purdie Salas

J. Patrick Lewis

Rebecca Dotlich

Sara Holbrook

How’s that for a lineup? If others join the panel over time, I’ll let you know. I’ve provided links to some background information about our judges. You’ve already met everyone but Sara as a Featured Guest, and Sara is on tap to appear shortly.

That’s it for now. If you plan to post a poem this month, remember that the word is CHANGE and the cutoff for submissions is next Monday, the 25th, at 10:00 CST.rubbermanDavid

America Writes for Kids

My thanks to Bobbi Katz for being my guest yesterday. If you haven’t had time to read her remarks yet, don’t forget!

I’ve mentioned America Writes for Kids before but have never presented the full story about the site, irs origins, and its applications. I asked my cofounder, Sandy Asher, if she would like to provide an article about our sites (there are three). Sandy is the guiding light and energy that drive this effort. Sandy asked Ben Asher if he would do the honors. Ben, who is Sandy’s multi-talented son, created the original site for us and today serves as our webmaster. Here’s the story, told by Ben Asher.

by Ben Asher

In 1998, Missouri authors Sandy Asher and David Harrison founded MISSOURI WRITES FOR KIDS, a website devoted to writers of children’s and young-adult books from their home state. The page is hosted by Drury University, where Asher (now based in Pennsylvania) was writer-in-residence, and Harrison (an alumnus) is currently their poet laureate. The website is designed to be child-friendly. It includes a list of Missouri children’s writers and links to more than two dozen author sites. For a small fee, authors without web hosting can order a standard page hosted on the Drury server. Each month, the “Show Me a Good Book” section features a book by a Missouri children’s writer. The site also links to writing-oriented resources, including two annual children’s literature festivals, and professional organizations ranging from the National Association for Teachers of English to the Missouri Association of School Librarians.

The success of MISSOURI WRITES FOR KIDS inspired Asher and Harrison to create a national page, AMERICA WRITES FOR KIDS. Like the Missouri site, it showcases a book of the month and includes links to literary resources. These include two organizations dedicated to Spanish-language children’s literature, the Barahona Center and the Isabela Schon International Center, and informational sites for aspiring children’s authors. Writers can either submit links for their own websites or order a standard page. The site allows viewers to search for authors alphabetically or by state, using a clickable map. Recently, a blog has been added, with contributions from a teacher and a literary agent along with authors. The website currently links to more than four hundred writers from almost every state in the union.

In addition to books, Asher writes plays, which motivated her to introduce the USA PLAYS FOR KIDS page. This site has a similar format to AMERICA WRITES FOR KIDS. It spotlights a play of the month, and includes links not only to professional organizations such as the Dramatists Guild of America, but to resources for playwrights under the age of eighteen. As on the other sites, playwrights can submit website links or order a basic page. These links, currently totaling about fifty, are searchable alphabetically and by state.

AMERICA WRITES FOR KIDS and its companion pages have been recommended as reference sites by many schools and libraries, including Tufts University. By design, all three pages are useful resources not only for writers promoting their work, but for anyone interested in good books or plays for children or young adults. This includes teachers, play producers and directors, illustrators, librarians, parents, anyone considering a career in children’s literature or theatre, and (of course) children and young adults themselves.

AMERICA WRITES FOR KIDS:  http://usawrites4kids.drury.edu  
MISSOURI WRITES FOR KIDS: http://mowrites4kids.drury.edu  
USA PLAYS FOR KIDS: http://usaplays4kids.drury.edu 

Bobbi Katz today


Yesterday you read something about multi-talented Bobbi Katz. Today it’s my pleasure to introduce the person herself. Here’s Bobbi!

Have you ever judged a poetry contest? I’ve done it before and said “Never again!” However, seduced by the location, near gorgeous Chicago, my resolve dissolved. This past week I’ve been reading and re-reading hundreds and hundreds of poems for the 37th Jo-Anne Hirschfield Memorial Poetry contest in Evanston, Illinois. It’s a community event that is coordinated by the Evanston Library. There are three divisions of student contests, as well as adults. I am getting to know more people in Evanston better than I know people in my own community!It’s turning out to be quite a job. I can pick first, second, and third place winners for each division, plus a maximum of three honorable mentions. Of course, I started with the kids’ poems first. There are lots of good poems on every level! I’m finding it very difficult to get down to six poems for each division. It’s a responsibility. There are poems that are heartbreakingly earnest but lack the condensed power I think a good poem should have. There are poems that use “I” instead of “me” after a preposition because the writer needs a rhyme for “lie.” (Alas, I am a grammar grouch, especially when it comes to pronouns.) There are poems that are so sincere, so open, so pained that I want to reach across the country and hug the writer. There are poems that scare me. I expected lovelorn high school kids, or those with parents who simply don’t understand them, but the degree of unhappiness of kids of all ages surprised me. From eating disorders to peer pressure, the sense of rushing, fear of death, worry about jobs, war, and sometimes, helplessness and hopelessness: All find homes in children’s poems. There are, of course, light and happy poems as well, but I’m finding many more that are darker.

Personally, I’ve been appreciative of the supportive power of paper for years. More recently, it’s been paper via the computer screen rather than the yellow pad or backs of envelopes. Paper is a place to hold the joy that I can no longer contain, as well as the pain that is too much to carry. For a number of years I kept a daily journal. Poems have been my personal playgrounds for rhyme and rhythm, as well as deeply experienced emotions and observations. The process of reading all these poems, however, makes me realize how very therapeutic the act of writing is for everyone. In our hurry-up lives writing a poem is a good practice. Even if someone just pauses to notice the night sky, the sounds of wind, the changing trees, whatever, and finds words to describe them, it’s a worthwhile experience. Finding words for more complicated emotions is really a way of understanding oneself. Sometimes the process relieves an overwhelming feeling. Here is the proof: Look how writing for Dave’s blog has just helped me! Now I’ll return to the piles of poems I’ve been pondering obsessively. I’m going to choose just six from each of them. I’ve convinced myself: Whoever has stopped text-messaging or simply hurrying from one activity to another in order to write a poem, is a winner whether his or her name appears on the program or not!

82 Riverview
Port Ewen, NY 12466

“If monsters are what interest you,
the how and why of what they do,
I know the facts: what’s false, what’s true,

Coming to a bookstore near you…

http://themonsterologist.com/Please post your thoghts and questions in the comments below. And Bobbi, thank you.

Bobbi Katz tomorrow

Today it's my pleasure to announce that Bobbi Katz is my guest tomorrow. Bobbi and I first met years ago at a conference but I had followed her career for a long time before that. We haven't worked directly together but at one point we worked on a project at the same time.When Scholastic decided to bring the famous dog Clifford to television audiences, screen writers were hired to write the scripts. A second decision was made to transform the script plots into story books in rhyme. At that point Bobbi took four manuscripts and I took four. Over the next months we studied the scripts seeking basic story lines, then wrote the new stories in verse.

The eventual credits looked like a phone book. The script writer for each book was listed as well as the poet involved, and naturally the creator of Clifford, Norman Bridwell, was also shown. Here's the way the credit page looked on one of my four:

Clifford THE BIG RED DOG, Dogs and Cats
Adapted by David L. Harrison
Illustrated by Josie Yee
Based on the Scholastic book series "Clifford the Big Red Dog" by Norman Bridwell
From the television script "The Truth Abouot Dogs and Cats" by Bob Carrau.

Whew. But it was a fun project. Here's the bio that Bobbi sent. This will whet your appetite for her guest appearance tomorrow.

My “new” book, NOTHING BUT A DOG (Duttton last month) is really a newly illustrated version of a text published in 1972 by the Feminist Press. While it’s a picture book, reading it again after all these years, I realize that it’s actually an attenuated poem. I’ve written over 80 books for kids and teachers, many of which are poetry collections or rhyming books. I feel lucky to have grown up during a time when the radio brought great jazz right into our living room. I particularly loved Fats Waller as a little kid and I think his tunes nurtured a love of rhythm and rhyme. I still love the taste of words and the rhythms of music. Poets who write in English are lucky because we have such a rich vocabulary to use.

My degree is in history of art, but I’ve been a social worker, community organizer, editor, language teacher, and, most importantly, a mom. For the last five years I’ve been trying to learn something about astronomy. My most recent (and most fun) project was a commission to write lyrical poems about eclipses for M.I.T.’s Celebration of Science Festival. Classical composer Bruce Lazarus has set them to music. I hope I can get to Cambridge in May for the performances.

The Hudson River flowed through my childhood memories, but I only saw it when we went shopping downtown or took a ferry across it to catch a train on the opposite shore. Now I have a small apartment right on the river near Kingston, NY. The river and the sky above it are my most fascinating companions. And Manhattan is just a couple of hours away.

82 Riverview
Port Ewen, NY 12466

"If monsters are what interest you,
the how and why of what they do,
I know the facts: what's false, what's true,

Coming to a bookstore near you...