by Laura Shovan

Poetry Friday: Gingko

Happy Poetry Friday! Jan Godown Annino is putting on a poetry spread for us this week at Bookseedstudio.

This is a year of big transitions for my family. Our youngest turns 18 this week and is preparing to make the leap from high school to college. Shortly after that, Mr. S turns 50 and our eldest celebrates his 21st birthday.

(All of our birthdays, including Sam the dog’s, fall within five weeks. Mine is the last and — hard to believe — we are usually caked out by then.)

I am relying on long-term projects to sustain me in 2018. There are writing projects, of course. A new book is in the works, but my first goal is to finish the 2017 February Poetry Project prompts before February 2018’s new daily prompts begin.

27 down and 1 to go! More on that in a second.

I’m using nine colors in a variety of weights, but mostly sock yarn.

My second project combines knitting and science. A friend shared this pattern with me and I am in love. You pick yarn colors (9, 10, 15 — knitter’s choice) and create a chart of temperature ranges with corresponding colors. Over the course of the year, you chart the temperature (I’m doing daily highs), and knit a row or two in the corresponding color.

Instead of stockinette stitch — and after frogging a few false starts — I’m doing a K1, P1 rib.

I am having so much fun with this project! Here is the pattern at the Ravelry crochet and knitting site. It’s beginner friendly.

Back to poetry. When our children were small, we planted a tree for each of them not far from the kitchen window. Our eldest chose a gingko. Despite the cold weather, as evidenced by my knitting project, the tree is covered with little knobs. These will become buds in a few months.

As I work on the last few poems (late — so late!) from last year’s daily poetry project, it’s the ginkgo I see from my work space. And that’s how the tree found its way into this poem.

2/27/17 #10FoundWords prompt from Mary Lee Hahn
Source: “Could a Bumblebee Learn to Play Fetch? Probably”

10 Words: abilities, brain, decisions, fetch, flexibility, learn, memory, problem, puzzle, strategy

Gingko
By Laura Shovan

The gingko tree’s ability is rest–
long months of buds capped
tight under winter scalps.
Green brains sleep there,
ready to make decisions
to become fan-shaped leaves
fetching sunlight and rain.
The tree sleeps on its problems–
draught, neglect—forms
strategies for next season.
To do: learn to be flexible
in the wind.
I like to think
memories are stored
in the gingko’s puzzling mazes
of would-be leaves, because
then it could be true for all of us.
In the place where old growth
breaks away, something new
is considering spring.

 

Currently reading: No One Waits for the Train, by Waqas Khwaja

Announcing the 6th Annual February Poetry Project

We’re kicking off a new year of poetry at Reading to the Core. Stop by Catherine’s blog for all of this week’s poetry links.

Happy 2018, poets and poetry lovers. Before you know it, February will be here.

That’s right. It’s almost time for our annual daily writing workout.

A little history: For four years, my blog hosted a community poetry project.

Last year, the project moved to a closed Facebook group to accommodate our growing community of about 60 poets.

  • The 2017 project theme, 10 Words Found in the News, helped us create beauty, humor, and satire in response to current events. This prompt worked so well that, when February was over, we continued to write 10 Words in the News poems throughout the year.

This year, we’re heading back to the project’s visual-prompt roots.

Find a full definition at the Poetry Foundation.

2018 Theme: Ekphrastic At-home

The theme of this year’s project is ekphrastic poetry (writing in response to works of art), but with a twist. Poet Ann Haman suggested that we write in response to art pieces owned by members of the group.

Beginning January 31, a group member will post a photograph of a work of art (loosely interpreted) from their home collection. Art pieces might include paintings, sculptures, kids’ creations, photographs, or beautiful oddities. There will be a sign-up in the group’s files for those who’d like to be in charge of a daily writing prompt.

Special thanks to Kip Rechea, a past participant who will be acting as a group moderator and providing some administrative help.

IMPORTANT NOTE FOR PROJECT NEWBIES: As always, the point of this exercise is to practice the habit of writing regularly, even if it’s just for one month. Members of the project post response poems the same day so that we can focus on generating ideas and giving positive feedback, rather than polishing for publication.

Interested in joining us? You can request to join the closed 6th Annual February Daily Poem Project here.

Laura’s Bookshelf: Finding Perfect

Hungry for more poetry? Diane Mayr at Random Noodling is the Poetry Friday host this week. Visit her blog for links to more poetry posts.

Happy Poetry Friday!

I recently added a line to my email signature. Along with my title (poet in the schools) and the titles of my children’s novels (The Last Fifth Grade, Takedown), you will now see “Currently reading: —” listed under my name.

Publicly sharing what I’m reading is a practice I learned from educator friends, a way of showing the children we teach that adults — like kids — read for school and for pleasure.

This week I finished a book I’ve been meaning to read for months, Elly Swartz’s  middle grade novel, FINDING PERFECT. It’s the story of middle schooler and slam poet Molly, who is experiencing a lot of turbulence in her life. Her parents are back together after a brief separation, but her mother has taken a year-long job in Canada. Molly, her father, and her siblings are struggling with this transition. Each handles missing Mom in a different way.

On the surface, Molly is the perfect kid: a good friend, great student, and talented poet. But her perfectionism is a coping mechanism, hiding her anxiety. As the stress caused by her mother’s absence deepens, Molly’s obsessive compulsive tics begin to impact her friendships, family, and sense of self.

FINDING PERFECT is a favorite of upper elementary and middle school educators and their students. The first person voice allows readers to get to know Molly when she’s feeling mainly like herself. We travel through the story with her, experiencing the way OCD and anxiety gradually weigh her down. This is a great book to prompt a conversation about empathy.

Here is the Goodreads blurb for FINDING PERFECT :

To Molly Nathans, perfect is:

• The number four
• The tip of a newly sharpened number two pencil
• A crisp, white pad of paper
• Her neatly aligned glass animal figurines

What’s not perfect is Molly’s mother leaving the family to take a faraway job with the promise to return in one year. Molly knows that promises are often broken, so she hatches a plan to bring her mother home: Win the Lakeville Middle School Slam Poetry Contest. The winner is honored at a fancy banquet with table cloths. Molly’s sure her mother would never miss that. Right…?

But as time goes on, writing and reciting slam poetry become harder. Actually, everything becomes harder as new habits appear, and counting, cleaning, and organizing are not enough to keep Molly’s world from spinning out of control. 

FINDING PERFECT is a great read for upper elementary through early high school.

Who will like it?

  • Kids who are interested in psychology and how people’s emotions work.
  • Kids who are experiencing a difficult separation.
  • Readers who enjoy friendship and family stories.

What will readers learn about?

  • Obsessive compulsive disorder. Swartz conducted extensive research for this novel. Resources are listed in the back.
  • The importance of reaching out to peers and adults during times of stress and anxiety. Some changes are too big to handle by yourself!
  • Empathy. Molly is a relatable character who explains why some people have nervous tics and compulsions.

The poem I’m pairing with FINDING PERFECT is “Perfection” by Naomi Katz. Lines two through four describe how Molly feels as she measures, with a ruler, the space between the glass animals collected on her shelf. As a whole, the poem reminds me of how Molly pressures herself to create the perfect slam poem for a school competition.

Perfection
Naomi Katz

Always that passion in the human breast,
That restless passion for The Perfect Thing,
With its sifting, sorting, rule and measure-string,
And a terrible eye for the error manifest.
Yet, well for the sometime jewel emerged from the quest!
And well for the seldom ore with the mellow ring!
And well for the hunter whose diligent hands can bring
One easeful object to the great Unrest.

Slow is the process, infinitely slow
Up the tedious road with Perfection for its goal;

Read the rest at the Poetry Foundation.

Swartz has another middle grade novel coming out in January. You can read more about SMART COOKIE here.

(Elly and I have something important in common: Both of us are Beagle moms! And both of us worked our beloved Beagles into our second books.)

I hope you’re snuggling up with a book and some holiday cookies this weekend.

Laura

Currently reading: EXIT WEST by Mohsin Hamid

 

Poetry Friday: All Things Must Pass

Steps and Staircases is hosting Poetry Friday this week. Join us HERE for all of this week’s kidlit poetry posts.

Dear friends, when I’m feeling down I often turn to an old friend to help me settle my worries: George Harrison, fellow Pisces and my very favorite member of the Beatles.

My favorite albums are Let It Roll, Songs of George Harrison and Concert for George.

For Poetry Friday, I’m sharing one of George Harrison’s solo songs. The news out of Washington, DC and California has been so stressful. I’ve been sitting with the message of these lyrics today.

“All Things Must Pass”
George Harrison

Sunrise doesn’t last all morning
A cloudburst doesn’t last all day
Seems my love is up
And has left you with no warning
But it’s not always going
To be this grey

All things must pass
All things must pass away

Sunset doesn’t last all evening
A mind can blow those clouds away
After all this my love is up
And must be leaving
But it’s not always going
To be this grey

All things must pass
All things must pass away

All things must pass
None of life’s strings can last
So I must be on my way
And face another day

Read the rest here.

If you’ve never seen Martin Scorcese’s documentary about George Harrison’s life, Living in the Material World, it is phenomenal. Here is George’s demo for the song, from Scorcese’s film.

One more George recommendation! My favorite biography of George Harrison is HERE COMES THE SUN: The Spiritual and Musical Journey of George Harrison. Find it on Amazon.

Who is your favorite Beatle? And whose music is like a good friend holding your hand when you’re feeling down?

Craft Talk: Multiple Point of View Novels

A question came up in one of my kidlit groups the other day: Can young readers handle books with more than one narrator?

No surprise, there was a debate among the members. Why make books harder for kids to read by writing in more than one voice? Isn’t that confusing?

While I don’t think multiple POV books are everyone’s cup of tea, kids and teens are more resilient readers than we give them credit for. They are still forming opinions about what they like and don’t like in a book, which makes them less resistant to novels that play with form, structure, and voice than an adult reader might be.

One of my favorite authors of multi-voiced books is children’s and YA author Mary Amato. Her middle grade novel PLEASE WRITE IN THIS BOOK is a big favorite at our house. Last fall (2016), Mary and I led an intensive workshop on voice at the SCBWI MidAtlantic annual conference. Since I had recently survived writing a book in the voices of 18 fictional fifth graders, I was curious about how other multiple POV authors do it. What’s the process for writing a book when the reader shifts from one character’s viewpoint to another?

To find out, I conducted a survey of authors whose books have two or more speakers. Thanks to Jeff Zentner (THE SERPENT KING), Mary Amato (OUR TEACHER IS A VAMPIRE AND OTHER (NOT) TRUE STORIES), Ava Jae (BEYOND THE RED), Caroline Starr Rose (BLUE BIRDS), Jeff Giles (THE EDGE OF EVERYTHING), and Dee Romito (THE BFF BUCKET LIST) for answering my questions and giving me permission to share the survey below.

While I was working on THE LAST FIFTH GRADE OF EMERSON ELEMENTARY, I couldn’t have kept track of the 18 characters, when they spoke, how often they appeared in each section of the book, without my color coded spreadsheet.

How — and why — do other authors tackle writing a book in multiple points of view? Click through this slide show to find out. (Be sure to click the picture to expand the images.)

 

What do I love about reading stories told from more than one point of view?  A story with more than one narrator asks the reader to stitch together different takes on the book’s events — much like piecing Caroline’s quilt — in order to build meaning.  This active style of reading builds empathy because it helps readers understand something profound: Even though we share experiences, everyone — in fiction and in life — uses their individual experiences as a lens through which they view the world.

Poetry Friday: December Notes

It’s the first day of December, Poetry Friday friends. This week’s host is Mary Lee Hahn at A Year of Reading. Grab a cup of hot cocoa and head over to her blog, where you’ll find some poetry to warm you up.

I went searching for a December poem and came upon this beauty by Nancy McCleery. Last winter, we installed a small Lucite bird feeder on our kitchen window. Visitors include a cardinal family, chickadees, titmice, wrens, and (most fascinating to our dog, Sam) a squirrel. The images in this poem are striking, yet capture the quietness we can experience during a cold winter.

December Notes

By Nancy McCleery

The backyard is one white sheet
Where we read in the bird tracks

The songs we hear. Delicate
Sparrow, heavier cardinal,

Filigree threads of chickadee.
And wing patterns where one flew

Low, then up an away, gone
To the woods but calling out

Clearly its bright epigrams.

Read the rest at My Minnesota Notes.

Poetry Friday: Peanut Butter Cookies

Where are the poets hanging out this week? With the Rain City Librarian! You’ll find links to original poetry, book reviews, and more here.

It’s almost Thanksgiving, Poetry Friday fans. That means baking season is upon us. At our house, Mr. S is the cook. Baking – that’s my job.

I’m not usually adventurous when it comes to baking. However, when chili-infused dark chocolate bars hit the market, so did some kitchen inspiration. I came up with a spicy version of traditional peanut butter cookies. After a few test batches, I had a winner — a cookie that my family loves. Mr. S, who is a fan of all things spicy, says these cookies are addictive. (Recipe below.)

This year, I got brave and entered my cookies in the Baltimore Sun’s annual holiday cookie contest. They made the first cut, but were not selected to appear in the paper. However, I’m not crying into my cookie dough. It was  fun to take a chance on something that was creative, but not writing-related.

Since it’s Poetry Friday, I went searching for a poem to pair with the recipe and came across Edwin Romond’s wonderful “Peanut Butter Cookies” at Your Daily Poem. And since I’m reading Nikki Grimes book of Golden Shovel poems, ONE LAST WORD: WISDOM FROM THE HARLEM RENAISSANCE, I thought I’d attempt a Peanut Butter Cookie Golden Shovel poem. I also made this poem an acrostic. You’ll find both Edwin Romond’s poem and my Golden Shovel after the recipe.

Laura’s Spicy Peanut Butter Cookies
AKA PB and Bay Cookies

My version is regional, using two beloved Baltimore ingredients. I’ll include a standard option for those of you out of state who want to give these treats a try.

Ingredients

DOUGH

½ cup butter

½ cup chunky peanut butter (I use Smart Balance)

1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

1 egg

1 cup crushed Utz potato chips, divided use (place between 2 paper towels, crush with rolling pin)

Standard option: Use potato chips of your choice

1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/8 tablespoon salt

1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning, or to taste

Standard option: Chili powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

COATING

¼ cup granulated sugar

3 tablespoons crushed potato chips

1/2 – 1 teaspoon Old Bay or chili powder

Directions

Pre-heat oven to 375. Grease 2-3 cookie sheets.

  1. Cream the butter and peanut butter.
  2. Cream in brown sugar, then beat in egg.
  3. Sift the flour and salt. Stir in with 2/3 cup of the crushed potato chips.

Dough will be stiff.

  1. Roll into balls. (I use a heaping tablespoon.)
  2. Roll the balls in the coating.
  3. Place about an inch apart on the cookie sheet. Press down on the top of each cookie with a fork, making a criss-cross design.
  4. Bake 9-12 minutes. Makes about 3 dozen cookies. Delicious eaten warm!

Let’s wash down those cookies with some poetry.

Peanut Butter Cookies

By Edwin Romond

My mother made them from memory
giving me my own memory of winter
in our kitchen, the salty aroma
of peanut butter cookies from the oven,
and the torture of waiting for them to cool
on the window sill overlooking Albert St.
in the Eisenhower 50s of my childhood.
I remember her mixing brown sugar,
butter, and spoons of Skippy. She never
checked a cookbook and they tasted
like no other cookies tasted. “I just know,”
she’d say if I asked her how she did this
then she’d wrap them in foil and sing
along with Perry Como on our radio.
They were as special as she was, a quiet
woman who took small joys in life
around the house. I know she knew
how much those cookies meant to me
for years later she apologized, as if
it were her fault, when a stroke at 80
erased the recipe from her mind.

Read the rest of the poem here. Have a tissue ready.

Golden Shovel: Cookie Acrostic

By Laura Shovan

Come to me, my
Oven-baked delight, mother
Of all comfort treats, home-made
Kick of sugar. My teeth — feel them
Inch along your edges, savoring bites from
Every crumble, until you’re a delicious memory.

These cookies, from All Recipes, resemble PB and Bays.

Laura’s Boo!shelf: The Memory Trees

This week’s Poetry Friday hostess with the mostest is Irene Latham. You’ll find all of the links at Live Your Poem.

Big news, Poetry Friday friends! Today is the cover reveal for my latest middle grade novel, Takedown. This prose novel is about two middle school wrestlers, a boy and a girl, who are *not* happy when their coach makes them training partners. Curious? Stop by Nerdy Book Club for a sneak peek.

This month, I’m blogging about scary stories. The next book on my October Boo!shelf is Kali Wallace‘s just-published YA novel, The Memory Trees.

The Memory Trees is the story of 16-year-old Sorrow Lovegood, who has lived with her father and step-mother in Florida since she was eight years old. As the novel begins, Sorrow travels to rural Vermont, returning to the home and apple orchard the women in her family have owned and farmed for generations. She’s devoting this summer to reconciling with her mother. But Sorrow is also hoping to trigger her own memories of the death of her older sister, Patience, eight years ago.

The Memory Trees is an atmospheric mystery about two families (the Lovegoods and the Abramses) whose scuffles, hostilities, and secret friendships are woven into the stark Vermont landscape. Kali addresses issues of grief, mental illness, co-dependency, and Sorrow’s fight to uncover the mystery of her sister’s death.

The writing is absolutely gorgeous. Sorrow’s growth as she reconnects with her own history makes for a powerful story. Highly recommended!

The Memory Trees published this week, October 10. Here is the blurb from Goodreads:

The Memory Trees is a dark magical realism novel about a mysterious family legacy, a centuries-old feud, and a tragic loss that resurfaces when sixteen-year-old Sorrow returns to her mother’s family orchard for the summer.

Sorrow Lovegood’s life has been shaped by the stories of the women who came before her: brave, resilient women who settled long ago on a mercurial apple orchard in Vermont. The land has been passed down through generations, and Sorrow and her family take pride in its strange history. Their offbeat habits may be ridiculed by other townspeople—especially their neighbors, the Abrams family—but for the first eight years of her life, the orchard is Sorrow’s whole world. 

Then one winter night everything changes. Sorrow’s sister Patience is tragically killed. Their mother suffers a mental breakdown. Sorrow is sent to live with her dad in Miami, away from the only home she’s ever known.

Now sixteen, Sorrow’s memories of her life in Vermont are maddeningly hazy; even the details of her sister’s death are unclear. She returns to the orchard for the summer, determined to learn more about her troubled childhood and the family she left eight years ago. Why has her mother kept her distance over the years? What actually happened the night Patience died? Is the orchard trying to tell her something, or is she just imagining things?

The elements play an important role in Sorrow’s story. Fire and ice, heat and cold, familial warmth and long-frozen memories swirl and push and angle for control at the Lovegood homestead. That’s why I’m pairing Robert Frost’s “Fire and Ice” with The Memory Trees. Read the book, then let me know what you think of this pairing.

Fire and Ice
By Robert Frost

Some say the world will end in fire,   
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To know that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

Kali Wallace studied geology and earned a PhD in geophysics before she realized she enjoyed inventing imaginary worlds more than she liked researching the real one. She is the author of the dark fantastical young adult novels Shallow Graves and The Memory Trees, and the upcoming middle grade fantasy novel City of Islands. Her short fiction has appeared in Clarkesworld, F&SF, Asimov’s, Tor.com, and other speculative fiction magazines. After spending most of her life in Colorado, she now lives in southern California.

I blogged about Kali’s debut novel, Shallow Graves, in 2015 (read that post here). It’s one of my favorite horror novels.

If you’d like to read more about Kali’s book, she’s on a blog tour. I enjoyed this “Halloween Reads” post about The Memory Trees. And she talked about the ups and downs of writing book 2 at Chuck Wendig’s blog. (So exciting! That’s one of my favorite blogs about writing.) I’ve enjoyed both of Kali’s books, so I can’t wait to read her middle grade novel.

See you next week. I’ll have another scary story to share.

Laura’s Boo!shelf: The Rattled Bones

Violet Nesdoly is hosting Poetry Friday this week. Stop by her blog for a list of poetry posts around the kidlitosphere.

Autumn is here at last! Goodbye, sweating buckets at the Baltimore Book Festival. Hello, sweaters and crunchy leaves. I’m cozying up with a pumpkin spice latte (just kidding — flavored coffee is truly frightening) and some spine tingling stories.

The first novel on my October Boo!shelf is Shannon Parker’s ghost story, The Rattled Bones.

Here is the description:

Maine-bred, independent Rilla Brae is no stranger to the deep. She knows the rhythms of hard work and harder seas. But when she experiences the sudden death of her father, the veil between the living and the dead blurs and she begins to be haunted by a girl on a nearby, uninhabited island. The girl floats a song over the waves, and it is as beautiful as it is terrifying. Familiar and distant.

Then Rilla meets Sam, a University of Southern Maine archaeology student tasked with excavating the very island where the ghostly girl appeared. Sam sifts the earth looking for the cultural remains of an island people who were forcibly evicted by the state nearly a hundred years ago. Sam tells Rilla the island has a history no locals talk about—if they know about it at all—due to the shame the events brought to the working waterfront community. All Rilla knows for sure is that the island has always been there—an eerie presence anchored in the stormy sea. Now Sam’s work and the girl’s song lure Rilla to the island’s shores.

As Rilla helps Sam to unearth the island’s many secrets, Rilla’s visions grow—until the two discover a tragedy kept silent for years. And it’s a tragedy that has everything to do with Rilla’s past.

Today, Shannon is stopping by for 5 Questions with the Author. And since it’s Poetry Friday, I’ve got the perfect scary poem to pair with her book.

Laura: As the The Rattled Bones opens, Rilla Brae has just graduated from high school. She was excited about going to college, but her father’s recent death has her rethinking her plans. Then she experiences a haunting. Why is it important for Rilla to solve this family mystery before she decides whether to stay and support her family or leave home?

Shannon: This is a great question!

The Rattled Bones is part mystery, part historical fiction, part contemporary and, of course, a ghost story.

At the beginning of the book, Rilla’s father has died at sea and her grief causes the veil between the living and the dead to lift. Through tragedy, this 17-year-old fisherman quickly becomes the sole financial provider for her family. As she works the seas, she begins to see an eerie presence on an uninhabited island, starts to hear a familiar but distant song carry over the waves. Rilla sees this girl—this ghost—in the dark of the underwater, on the shores of her back yard. The girl is all seaweed hair and gravel-rough voice. She is everywhere and nowhere.

Rilla can’t leave for college knowing her Gram might be in danger, that this girl could haunt her grandmother too. But more importantly, Rilla can’t resist the pull of this otherworldly girl because they are connected in a way that changes Rilla’s future and her past.

Laura: Rilla comes from a family of lobstermen. This part of the story is fascinating – there’s the lingo (lobsters are known as “bugs”), the banter on the docks, and the long-standing superstitions. How does Rilla’s struggle to be accepted and respected in this community reflect the overall themes of the novel?

Shannon: Lobster fishing is fascinating. It is hard work on rough seas. The industry is familial and insular and has a language and rhythm all its own. Rilla has grown up lobstering—catching bugs—all her life, but when she becomes captain of her own boat, the reader sees the prejudice and misogyny that can exist in segments of this male-dominated industry.

The novel has many feminist themes and Rilla’s work on the ocean is one way to highlight the overall feminist tone of the book.

Laura: This is a novel that is deeply tied to setting. The closely drawn details of Rilla’s small Maine fishing village keep the reader grounded as the haunting progresses. Could you talk about coastal Maine and the writing techniques you used to capture it so vividly?

Shannon: Maine’s coast is harsh and beautiful. When a thick fog drops over the water, it can feel as if you’re standing at the edge of the universe. When the sky is blue, you can feel the world pulse on into eternity. I can’t speak to any writing techniques I used because I never considered the ocean from a craft perspective. She was a character like any other and I needed to develop her in a way that the reader would feel the salt lick of the ocean’s breath, know the cold reaches of her depths, the pulse of her tides. The sea needed to move and shift and breathe around Rilla so that I could explore some of the paranormal elements of the haunting, but I also needed the reader to feel the dangers of Rilla’s work at sea, how the ocean often takes more than she gives.

Laura: The Rattled Bones is a ghost story, but its foundation is built on a historical event. How did you become interested in the history of the island of Malaga? Did your research lead you to any unexpected places?

Shannon: About ten years ago I came across a photo-documentary called: Malaga Island: A Story Best Left Untold. The storyteller in me was immediately intrigued. I couldn’t imagine any story better for being silenced. So I told it.

The most unexpected part of my research was learning of the legacy of shame that still haunts Malaga descendants—many of whom still fish the waters around the island today. The shame has taken root in the psyches of the descendants of Malaga Island victims, not the perpetrators. That will never stop surprising me.

Laura: What made you decide to make The Rattled Bones a ghost story with a contemporary teen protagonist instead of exploring Malaga’s past through historical fiction?

Shannon: I don’t think I could write historical fiction. Also, I’ve always wanted to be haunted by a ghost.

Shannon M. Parker is an author and educator who spent her young adult years collecting thirty-seven stamps in her passport. She holds degrees in English Literature, Linguistics and Educational Leadership from Saint Michael’s College, UMass Boston and University of Southern Maine respectively. She lives in New England with her family.

Shannon has been a Poetry Friday featured guest before. You can read my post about her first novel, The Girl Who Fell, here. 

Readers, you know how excited I get when I find the *perfect* poem to pair with a novel.

Cynthia Huntington’s poem “Ghost” has the same eerie quality as Shannon’s book. The other sits just at the edge of every day, ordinary life, watching.

Ghost

At first you didn’t know me.
I was a shape moving rapidly, nervous
 
at the edge of your vision. A flat, high voice,
dark slash of hair across my cheekbone.
 
I made myself present, though never distinct.
Things I said that he repeated, a tone
 
you could hear, but never trace, in his voice.
Silence—followed by talk of other things.
 
When you would sit at your desk, I would creep
near you like a question. A thought would scurry
 
across the front of your mind. I’d be there,
ducking out of sight.

Read the rest at the Poetry Foundation.

A note for middle grade readers: If Malaga Island sounds familiar, it is the setting of Gary Schmidt’s historical fiction, Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy.

Poetry Friday: Landing on Her Feet

It’s Poetry Friday! This week, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater has hosting duties. Congrats to Amy on her latest poetic picture book. READ! READ! READ! came out this week. You’ll find all of the Poetry Friday links at The Poem Farm.

Winner of the 2015 Donald Justice Poetry Prize.

My friend, novelist and poet Patricia Valdata, visited recently. She was here to feature at the local literary and open-mic series I co-host, Wilde Readings.

Pat’s latest book is Where No Man Can Touch, a book of persona poems! You know how much I love persona poems. This series is all about women who were first in flight. (Pat is an amateur pilot.)

Here is a description of the book from JMWW literary journal:

“Valdata did extensive research to compile the stories of the many women around the world who took to the skies. Where No Man Can Touch is organized by time periods stretching through the centuries, beginning with the 1700s-1800s and then moving through the 20th century in 10-year increments, ending with the last poem in 1953. Each poem starts with a short epigraph that includes the dates of the woman’s life and the dates of her major flight-related accomplishments. By providing readers with a clear frame of reference, Valdata showcases the range of international women who were enchanted by the dream of flight.”

There are many wonderful voices in this book. One of my favorites is this concrete poem, “Landing on Her Feet.” Pat captures the humor and will of the poem’s speaker, Georgia “Tiny” Broadwick. I love that this is a shape poem, with the reader’s eyes billowing out in long lines first, then falling down the page.

Published with permission of the author.

The National Air and Space Museum has a great page about Tiny Broadwick. Her personality leaps off the page. You can check that out and see her parachute here.

Patricia Valdata is a poet and novelist. Her book of persona poems in the voices of women aviation pioneers, Where No Man Can Touch, received the Donald Justice Prize and was published in 2015 by West Chester University. Her poetry has appeared recently in Ecotone, Italian Americana, Little Patuxent Review, and Passager. She has work forthcoming in String Poet and Nasty Women Poets: An Unapologetic Anthology of Subversive Verse.