An open question about poetry

BULLETIN: Check out our new 3rd grade poets, Brooke and Eliza! Thanks to Nancye Flinn for introducing them to us. Welcome, girls. We wish you a wonderful summer filled with good times, good books, and good writing.

Hi everyone,

Poet Christi Diamond attended the poetry workshop in Honesdale that I co-led with Rebecca Dotlich and Eileen Spinelli. For Christi this was another step along the way to learning more about the craft of writing poetry. She has asked about other conferences or workshops that focus on poetry for children and I need help in responding.

If you know of other opportunities that you can recommend, please help Christi and anyone else who would like to know more about what’s available. Thanks!


Reflections on the poetry workshop

Hi, everyone,

Welcome to a new week and all it holds. We spent part of the weekend in the garage. It’s surprising what you find in your garage when you start shoving boxes around and actually peeking into a few. If anyone is looking for a good place to start a poem or maybe a mystery story, look no further.

I also spent part of the weekend reflecting on the poetry workshop at the Boyds Mills farm. It’s hard to imagine a more congenial group. Thanks to Marcia and her crew for feeding us as well as any cruise could boast. Thanks to Kent Brown for leading the vision to create the “barn” and the opportunity for so many talented, creative people to spend time there honing their skills and picking up tips from those who have gone before and are glad to share what they have learned. Thanks to Alison Myers and Jo Lloyd for setting up the workshops and staying in touch with all the players throughout the Highlights Foundation’s busy season.

Thanks to my co-leaders of this workshop, Eileen Spinelli and Rebecca Dotlich, for their wisdom and enthusiasm as we teamed in various combinations to keep the days lively and informative. Thanks to our special guests for the week, Rebecca Davis, Marjorie Maddox, and Melanie Hall, for adding greatly to the richness of the experience by sharing their own insights into this tricky thing called writing for children. A special thanks to Jerry Spinelli who not only accompanied his wife but sat in on numerous presentations and made himself available to anyone with a question about his wonderful work. He even posed willingly for pictures. Well done everyone!

A way-up-there highlight of the week for me was when my friend and fan Rachel Heinrichs came to see me all the way from West Chester, Pennsylvania.

Her heroic mom, Michele, drove more than three hours each way to make it happen and even brought young sister Sarah. Rachel was in sixth grade this year and was named mascot for her school’s ball games. A while back she shared with me a picture of herself looking mighty fine dressed in her cougar costume. Rachel and I became friends when she was chosen (by popular vote) Monthly Hall of Fame Young Poet for April, 2010. Later that year I spoke at the New Jersey SCBWI and Rachel asked her mother to drive her there so that we could meet. Michele did. When I introduced 4th grade poet, Rachel Heinrichs, to the auditorium filled with writers, they gave her a well deserved round of applause. It happened again this time too! Thank you Rachel, Michele, and Sarah for coming so far to brighten my day.

Most of all I thank those who attended this workshop to spend five days learning, sharing, exploring, and enjoying the inspiring atmosphere that pervades the place where we stayed and worked together: Joy Acey (Arizona), Robyn Black (Georgia), Christi Diamond (New York), Julia Ferdinand (Barbados), Carolyn Hankel (Arizona), Sharon Barry (Washington, DC), Cory Corrado (Canada), Joanne Durham (Maryland), Jacqueline Gramann (Texas), Julie Hedlund (Colorado), Bill Johnson (Pennsylvania), Bridget Magee (Arizona), Heidi Mordhorst (Maryland), Dale Purvis (Georgia), Buffy Silverman (Michigan), Hannah Wilde (California), Lucinda Kennaley (Missouri), Rebecca Menshen (Pennsylvania), Jeanne Poland (New York), Rebecca Shoniker (North Carolina), and Liz Steinglass (Washing, DC).

I apologize that most of the pictures I took are of poor quality. The camera isn’t at fault. In case you wonder about the dead sparrow, I was distracted by it during one of Rebecca’s writing exercises. Everyone else was using handouts with pictures and poems for models but I kept looking at the unfortunate bird so my quick poem turned out to be about it.

Service in the Rain
David L. Harrison

Small brown bird lying on its side
as though asleep,
recently a living thing flitting
limb to limb, flying fatally
against a windowpane,
we bathe now, anoint its body,
wash dust from stilled feathers,
mourn its loss as only drops
of sweet rain can do.

Here’s another first draft, this one in response to a prompt by Eileen to think about and write about a memory. When I was a six-year-old, living with my parents in Arizona, they bought me for my birthday exactly what I wanted, a cowboy outfit complete with hat, bandana, chaps and a cap gun pistol in a holster. I was like “Yeehaw!” But I was a boy who liked to imagine things and invest inanimate objects with special powers known only to me. I liked my new six-shooter cap pistol but I loved even more something I found in the yard, something even better. As I remember, my parents struggled to understand my preference.

I have a secret,
shh, don’t tell.
In my pocket
I have a rock
that shoots out
deadly rays
and knocks down
alien space ships.
It looks like a rock
but really it’s not.
Shh, don’t tell.

As you can tell, we had fun and I heard talk among some attendees about keeping in touch and returning next year. Good memories. My thanks to all.


One spot left for the poetry workshop

BULLETIN: Today I am grateful to Laura Purdie Salas, poet and friend, for her generous post about my eBook, GOOSE LAKE, even as she hosts Poetry Friday. Please visit her blog and add her to your regular list of lively, warm, and informative places to go any day. Thanks again, Laura! .

Hi everyone,

Another quickie this morning. I need to confirm this but Joy Acey reports that there is one spot left for the poetry workshop in April in Honesdale, Pennsylvania. This is part of the series of Highlights Founders Workshops and I’ll be one of a three-poet teaching group who will work with fifteen attendees from the United States and Canada. The other two teaching poets are Eileen Spinelli and Rebecca Dotlich. If you’ve been on the fence about joining us, don’t wait much longer.

Have a good weekend.


Update on Poetry Workshop in May

Hi everyone,

On January 16 it was my pleasure to feature Cory Corrado’s new book of poetry. I met Cory last June when she and seven other poets joined me in Honesdale for a delightful experience of thinking, talking, writing, and sharing poetry for a few days.

I’m so happy that Cory is returning this year for an expanded version of our poetry workshop. Not only is Cory returning, but several others are coming back too. Last year we topped out at eight but this time there are three poet leaders — Rebecca Dotlich, Eileen Spinelli, and me. We will also have three special guests — Melanie Hall (award winning artist), Marjorie Maddox (director of creative writing at Lock Haven University, English professor, and published author/poet), and Rebecca Davis (editor-at-large for WordSong) — so we can handle sixteen instead of eight. Right now we have eleven signed to come and have room left for five more. If you have an interest in joining the fun, or know someone who really ought to attend, please sign up or pass this along.

Dates are May 13-17, 2012. The place is in Honesdale, Pennsylvania, home of the founders of Highlights for Children. For a few days we’ll live, work, and play together in the wonderful new conference/workshop center and stay in comfortable cabins a few yards away. Here is a brief description from the Highlights Founders Workshops page. For more information, here’s the link.

Whether your passion is writing poems for little ones or a more mature audience, our goal is to bring together poets to play with words and sounds. Polish your poetry skills by discussing, writing, revising, and working on the craft of poetry. This workshop offers plenty of interaction, direction, and creative writing time. We’ll focus on the essential elements of poetry and the importance of word choice, with plenty of writing exercises, followed by group and editor evaluations. As a group, we’ll explore poetry from morning till night. We’ll examine the use of poetry in children’s books, including collections of poems and picture-book stories written in verse. Our days will include exercises, brainstorming, optional nature walks, journaling, quiet writing, shared writing, read-alouds, and group discussions.

I look forward to seeing many of you in May!


Opportunities for poets

BULLETIN: I’ve mentioned before that I’m joining with Eileen Spinelli and Rebecca Dotlich to hold a poetry workshop in Honesdale, Pennsylvania. The date is May 13-17. I’m told that the workshop is getting full. Expectations are that it will be filled by the end of December. If you are thinking about joining us, please look into it soon.

Hi everyone,

Just a reminder that I’m hoping to see several of your poems posted for New Year’s Day. I haven’t finished mine yet but I’m working on it. The first draft was awful; way too serious and proud of itself. I think I’ll start over rather than try to fix the unfixable.

Then there’s the wonderful opportunity to contribute a sports-related poem for Carol-Ann Hoyte’s collection. The deadline for that is the last of March.

And of course there’s our Word of the Month poetry challenge. The word for December is FAITH and many of you have not contributed. That includes me but I have, uh, faith that I will.

My best to all.