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!

Hi everyone,

It has been a good week. I finished the first group of poems for the second half of the project, so that felt good, and had a fine time at The Library Center giving the first live program they’ve had since before the pandemic. We had a nice turnout and that was a bit of a pleasant surprise. There had been a lot of uncertainties: first live program, school night at 7:00… But folks came. My generous hosts at The Library Center were pleased and I was delighted, especially by the wonderful contributions of folksinger Judy Domeny, who sang two short pieces and one song about dirt; Jordi Raos, a naturalist from Missouri Department of Conservation at the Nature Center, who brought a toad that performed right on que when she offered it a live meal; and Jamie Williams, an educational specialist with Dickerson Park Zoo, who brought a chinchilla (who took a proper dust bath for our benefit) and a gopher tortoise that everyone was allowed to touch. I talked about THE DIRT BOOK and its 7-year journey from a thought in my head to the finished book we were celebrating. I read a few poems and we finished up at exactly 8:00 as promised. I stayed a while to sign books and left with a smile.

In other news, I discussed with the editor of The California Reader (and former president of California Reading) the making of a video with Mary Jo Fresch and Tim Rasinski to be shown during this year’s virtual state conference, which runs from October 22-December 31, and also a 60-webinar that the three of us plus Laura Robb will record for showing on November 18. We need to map these out and get them done but there’s still plenty of time for that.

I also made contact with the moderator (Amanda Jones) and other two panel members (Kate Coombs and JaNay Brown-Wood) for a poetry panel (Take a Walk on the Wild Side: Connecting Young Readers to Nature) I’m on in Salt Lake City on October 22. We’re all excited about the opportunity and hope no last minute decision to go virtual changes our plans.

Making some temporary changes

Hi everyone,

I’ve just accepted, along with Tim Rasinski, a project to help revamp the early reading program for one of the twelve largest school districts in the nation. My part calls for writing seventy-five original poems suitable for the 40,000 K-2 students in the district. Final details are being formalized this week and I’ll begin work on Monday.

Although I’m delighted by the challenge and look forward to getting started, there’s a huge scheduling conflict. Tim and I, with Laura Robb, are supposed to be writing a new book for Teacher Created Materials right now, with a target deadline of December 15 and a pub date of early 2022. By squeezing in, more like shoehorning in, this new project, there’s no way to stick with the TCM schedule. The kind folks at TCM have graciously agreed to a several week delay in their plans.

So this has turned into my year to work on education books. I began on March 5 writing poems for the first of two books for Scholastic with Mary Jo Fresch and Tim, and finished last week. This week I’m getting in a few licks on the TCM book before shifting gears into the new project. The minute I finish with that, I’ll get back to the TCM book and hope to finish my part by the end of January. That will mean eleven straight months of writing poems for the classroom almost every weekday except when out of town or doing virtual visits.

There is no way this is going to happen without making more work time in the day so I’m making a hard decision to start Monday cutting blog posts to a minimum. Hopefully, it won’t take as long as expected to finish the last poem but at this early stage I’ll want to error on the side of being conservative.

Look for me on the blog when I have something I really want to say. I’ll try to keep up on Facebook but might fall behind in my responses there too. Sorry!

Hidden and not so hidden pitfalls in getting published

Hi everyone,

I mentioned that on the book with Tim Rasinski and Mary Jo Fresch our editor asked that I replace one of my poems. Here’s why. The poem deals (humorously) with a pig getting turned into a ham. The editor doesn’t want to offend Jews and Muslims and says that with that poem left in, the book could not be sold internationally. I’m solving the problem by replacing the pig with a chicken.

Back in the 1960-70s, one of my jobs as a greeting card editor/manager was to be sensitive to issues like this. If you walk into a card shop looking for a card for a special person, you’ll only have a few choices. Hallmark wanted to make sure that none of those choices was offensive based on religious beliefs, gender, or race. Over the years I judiciously avoided taboo subjects and references. I’m still aware of these pitfalls as a writer, we all are, but now I need to add a new one — pigs to ham. I’m passing this along for what it may be worth to you. It’s hard enough to write a manuscript that an editor can use. Avoiding no-no subjects in the first place, or failing to treat them with proper respect, can save writers a lot of frustration, particularly if they don’t understand why their work was turned down.