Thursday, May 21, 2015

A Slow and Steady Uphill Climb

Sequoia National Forest
I have never climbed a mountain. Never trekked uphill through rocky terrain and thinning air to have my efforts rewarded by the breathtaking view of the valley below. I've hit the trails, hiking uphill and down and winding around. I've backpacked along some rugged paths in Rocky Mountain National Park. But I've never dared to even attempt to reach the summit of anything higher than one of Nebraska's rolling hills.

We drove the minivan to the top of Pike's Peak once. Another time I rode a tram to the top of a mountain in Estes Park. The views from both were spectacular. But getting there was all too easy.

I'm certain that scaling a mountain on my own two feet would be anything but easy. I imagine that the climb would be slow. That there would be times when I felt like I wasn't making any progress. That I might stumble and fall and end up a little bit bruised. That there would be times when I felt like giving up and turning back. Perhaps there would be moments when I'd wish I'd been more prepared. When I'd ask myself, "Why didn't I realize it would be this hard?"

But I would remember my goal, and I would keep going.

What would it be like to reach the summit? I picture myself standing there, winded and worn, yet raising my arms in triumph as I gaze at the trees and hills and rivers far below. "I made it," I would whisper.

That's how I feel now, as I stand on the summit of Mt. My-First-Book. Getting to where I am now, with WHAT ABOUT MOOSE? due to hit the stores in less than a month, has been a slow and steady uphill climb. But now that the journey to this particular mountaintop is over, I can take in the view. Behind me I see evidence of the arduous journey. Around me I see the people in my life who helped to make this possible.

And in the distance, I see other mountains to climb.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Moosey Monday: Author Copies!

You work for years and years toward becoming a published author, and then one day copies of your book arrive on your doorstep.

It's a real real book!

Monday, May 04, 2015

Moosey Monday: Author Copies (almost)

I just heard from my editor that WHAT ABOUT MOOSE? is finally in the warehouse. So I should be receiving a big box of beautiful copies of my very first picture book very soon!

The book comes out in a little over a month. Stay tuned for giveaway information. Corey and I will each be giving away a copy signed by each of us. You know you want one!


Thursday, April 30, 2015

National Poetry Month: My New Favorite Poet

Thanks to my daughters (and their high school English teachers), I have a new favorite poet. This poet doesn't write poetry for children, as most of my other favorite poets do. No, this one writes fairly grown-up stuff. I'm not usually as big a fan of grown-up stuff as I am of childish stuff. Maybe that's because I spend enough time as a grown-up in my actual life. In reading, and in writing, I like to be a kid!

But Billy Collins (that's my new favorite poet's name) is special. I love the way he writes. In so many of the poems I have read by him so far, his words transform ordinary moments into works of art.  His words draw me in, make me see myself reflected on the page. They unveil the beauty and wonder in the everyday.

I'm reminded of a painting that hangs on the wall in my parents' house. It's a still life, a painting of fruit. My mother always said she didn't like still life paintings. She said she would never want a painting of "dead fruit" hanging on her wall. But there was something about this painting that drew her to it, that made her see life in those strokes of oil paint on canvas.

Like that platter of fruit, a moment spent eating a bowl of cereal in the morning is the picture of ordinary. But Billy Collins captures just one of those moments with a stroke of poetic genius in his poem, "A Portrait of the Reader with a Bowl of Cereal," which happens to be the first poem in his book Picnic, Lightning.

Here is an excerpt of that poem:

Every morning I sit across from you
at the same small table,
the sun all over the breakfast things—
curve of a blue-and-white pitcher,
a dish of berries—
me in a sweatshirt or robe,
you invisible.

You can read the rest of "A Portrait of the Reader with a Bowl of Cereal" here. I hope you will read it, and perhaps discover, if you haven't already, the beauty that is Billy Collins' poetry.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

National Poetry Month: Writing in Rhyme, a guest post by Elliah Terry

Today's National Poetry Month post features guest blogger Elliah Terry, a talented author and poet, who joins us today with a little advice for those wanting to write in rhyme.


Many children’s writers wish to write in rhyme. Some writers even mistakenly believe in order for a piece to be for children—it has to rhyme. I’m here to tell you, no. No, it doesn’t. And bad rhyme is much worse than bad prose, in my opinion. So, if you are going to attempt to write a poem or a picture book for children in rhyme (and why not? it’s super fun!) it is a good idea to learn the basics of rhyming. Learning to write in rhyme is like learning a new language. In other words, you aren’t going to learn it all overnight. And you’ll get better as you practice. But here is the quickest course you’ve ever seen on how to do it.

SET-UP: instead of sentences and paragraphs, rhyming poetry is set up using lines and stanzas. Lines are usually short phrases. A stanza is a group of lines in a poem. There is usually an empty line between stanzas.

RHYME SCHEME: is the pattern of rhyming lines. Two of the most common schemes found in children’s literature are

Couplets: There are two lines in a couplet. The 1st and 2nd lines rhyme (wall, fall).
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
Quatrains: There are four lines in a quatrain. The 2nd and 4th lines rhyme (lean, clean.)
            Jack Sprat could eat no fat,
            his wife could eat no lean.
            And so between them both, you see,
            They licked the platter clean.
Note: Once you choose a pattern for your poem/story—stick with it throughout the entire piece.
METER: is the rhythmic structure of a line. You can’t just string a bunch of words together, make the ends rhyme, and call it poetry. The words must flow naturally off the reader’s tongue. And that’s where meter comes in. For example:
            HUMP ty DUMP ty sat on a WALL         *the stressed syllables are in caps
            HUMP ty DUMP ty had a great FALL     *the meter matches
So there you have it. The basics of writing in rhyme. Now get to it! (And practice, practice, and practice.)


About the author: Elliah is a wife, mother, writer, and most importantly, a professional bubble bath taker. She writes poetry, picture books, and middle grade novels and occasionally takes out the trash. Find out more at her blog, The Itsy Bitsy Writer, or follow her on twitter @ElliahTerry

Monday, April 20, 2015

National Poetry Month: Review of WINTER BEES

Winter Bees and Other Poems of the Cold by Joyce Sidman is my new favorite poetry collection. Written by the author of Song of the Water Boatman, Winter Bees is a book of gorgeous wintery poems complemented by equally gorgeous illustrations by Rick Allen.

I mean, just look at that cover! Does this book not beg to be read?

My favorite poem from this book is "Big Brown Moose." Here is the first stanza, to give you a little taste:

I'm a big brown moose,
I'm a rascally moose,
I'm a moose with a tough, shaggy hide;
and I kick and I prance
in a long-legged dance
with my moose-mama close by my side.

Wonderful, no? Don't you want to read that aloud to someone right now, while kicking and prancing a bit yourself?

As if the poetry and art weren't enough to make this book a delight to any nature loving poetry-enthusiast (or is it poetry-loving nature enthusiast?), each poem is accompanied by a short informational piece about the plant or animal celebrated on that spread.

This book is a must-have for any poetry library!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

National Poetry Month: Guest Poet Julia Gomez

My daughter Julia joins us on the blog today, sharing a poem that was published in her university's literary journal.


The Death of a Muse

My child-self, long ago, would 
Cup her hands together,
Creating darkness between her palms
To better watch the firefly's glow.

My child-self, a memory now, would
Cover her eyes with her hands,
Peering through fleshy shutters,
When what she saw was
Too much too feel.

Now, my heart sees too much,
Fears too much the world's unblinking gaze.
As it fills with unexpressed emotion,
I move my hands from my eyes,
And, blinking at the blinding light,
Place my palms over my chest,
As if to keep my soul
From bursting.

Where once I could feel, think, live
Without restraint,
My pulse now quivers
As I cage my life 
Behind my hands,
Letting no one see more
Than shadows
And mere blinks of light.

Suffocated by my tightening grip,
My heartbeat ceases
And all I hold is the darkness

I have created between my palms.

(c) Julia Gomez

Julia is a singer, poet, and a college student studying Vocal Performance. When she isn’t singing in operas or choral ensembles, Julia takes walks on the arboraceous campus and writes poetry in her head. Some of them make it onto the page.