Friday, May 27, 2022

Poetry and Summer Reading

Wow, summer is almost here again! In my part of the world, high school graduations are happening and the last day of school for most other students is this Friday. And it's been nearly two months since I've written an update! So here are a couple things I've been meaning to write about combined into one short post.

1. Poetry! In my last post I mentioned that I had planned to write a poem a day for National Poetry Month. And I did! Well, I wrote at least part of a poem every day during April. By the end of the month I had 32 new poems, most of which still need some polish. During that self-imposed writing challenge, I was intentional about trying some new poetic forms, and one of them even inspired me to write a whole collection! 

I also read a lot of poetry, mostly collections written for children. Here are a few of my favorites:

Clackety Track: Poems about Trains by Skila Brown, illustrated by Jamey Christoph. This is an engaging, varied, fun-to-read book about the various types of trains, and includes back matter that describes each type of train featured in the book. 

Beastly Verse by Joohee Yoon, a wonderful assortment of poems about various "beasts," with vivid illustrations that are sure to catch any young reader's eye.

After Dark: Poems About Nocturnal Animals by David L. Harrions, illustrated by Stephanie Laberis. This is a lovely book that is creative, educational, and a delight to read aloud. 

2. Summer reading. My kids are all grown up, so I'm not planning to sign them up for the local library's summer reading program and bring them to the library at least once a week this summer. But I am an advocate for reading, and it's almost summer, so that means that it's almost time for the second annual Read, Discuss, Do! Summer Challenge! 

Read, Discuss, Do! began several years ago as a simple graphic I created and shared on social media aimed at simplifying the idea of story time. From there it became a social media campaign, then a series of blog posts, and now it has its own website. Last year, my team and I launched the website with the Read, Discuss, Do! Summer Challenge aimed at helping parents, caregivers, and educators connect with kids by reading (and discussing and doing) with them over the summer. 

It's not your typical summer reading challenge. There's no page-counting or book logging required. It's all about pairing books with summer fun! The fun officially begins on June 3. If you would like to be involved, you can out more at!

What are your summer plans for summer reading?

Friday, April 01, 2022

My National Poetry Month Plan

It's National Poetry Month again, and to celebrate I have decided to write one poem each day of April! I made this little journal especially for the occasion. The cover is made out of repurposed cardboard, and the pages are made from copy paper.

My hope is to try as many new forms of poetry as possible over the next thirty days. But as long as I manage to write a poem each day, I will count that a success!

If you'd like to follow my progress, I'll be posting regularly on my social media feeds. You can find me on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

Also, I hope you will hop over to Read, Discuss, Do! to see what we've got going on over there. We're celebrating with special weekly National Poetry Month posts meant to help you read, discuss, and do (write) poetry with the young people in your lives.

Do you have any specific plans for Poetry Month? I'd love to hear about them!

Friday, March 11, 2022

My Mother's Voice

My mother was known for her voice.

I often say that my mother is the voice of poetry in my mind. I have a special memory of her reading "The Cremation of Sam McGee" by Robert Service. I think it stands out to me because it was clear that the poem was one her favorites. Something about the poem's rolling rhythm, vivid imagery, and dark theme appealed to her. It was lovely and strange, and she made sure that we learned to appreciate it too. To this day, I can't think of that poem without hearing her graceful voice reading it aloud in my mind.

She enjoyed reading lots of things aloud. Dr. Suess, Shel Silverstein, snippets from articles or magazines, eventually even social media posts. One time I gave her a copy of one of my verse novel manuscripts to read, and she sat at my dining room table and started reading it aloud to anyone who could hear. At one point she stopped and looked up at me to make a prediction about one of the characters. There was such a look of motherly pride in her eyes. 

I dedicated my first book to her, of course. She is the reason I'm a writer. A poet.

Mom had a lovely singing voice too. I don't think there was ever a day, when I was with my mother, that I didn't hear her singing at some point. She would often belt out some praise song in the middle of the living room or kitchen with a special gleam in her eye. A gleam that seemed to say, "Why don't you join me?" Music made her happy. And she used music to make other people happy too. She often sang at church, either leading the congregation in worship or performing a special solo. She performed at weddings. And at funerals. Even her own funeral, odd as that sounds. 

Several years ago, Mom decided to do something people had been telling her she should do for a long time: make a professional recording of her singing. She chose five of her favorite gospel songs, and gave a CD with those songs on it to each of her children. I remember listening to it once, and thinking about how lovely her singing voice was, even in her sixties. But I didn't need that CD to hear my mother's voice. I still had my mother. 

I didn't listen to that recording again until her funeral in December, but I've listened to it a few times since. At first, it brought all the pain of losing her to the surface. It was my mother's voice, and I would never hear her singing or reading to me again, not on this side of eternity. 

Now, when I play that CD and hear her singing her heart out, I can't help but feel the joy she put into it. I see that gleam in her eye saying, "Why don't you join me?" and I sing along.