by Laura Shovan

5 Questions for the Author: Stacy Mozer

It was the solstice this week, Poetry Friday friends. Summer is here. I’m not a hot weather person, but there is one thing I will go outside for: baseball.

I love going to Camden Yards for an Orioles game on a hot summer night, eating crab cakes, drinking beer or Icees, and spending time with my family through the long innings.

I’ve been thinking a lot about sports in the past several months as I finish up work on my next book, Take Down, which is set on a middle school wrestling team. Visiting me today for an interview — and to share a poem for Poetry Friday — is Stacy Barnett Mozer, one of the authors behind the blog Sporty Girl Books.

Stacy’s latest book is The Perfect Trip, about Sam (Samantha) Barrette, a girl who has just made the boys’ travel baseball league.

Thanks for joining me for 5 Questions for the Author, Stacy!

1. THE PERFECT TRIP works as a stand-alone novel, but can you fill us in on Sam’s first story, THE SWEET SPOT? How has the character grown and changed since that book?

In the first book Sam is struggling to find her place as a thirteen-year-old female baseball player. At the beginning of the book she learns that her coach feels she has an attitude and that the only way he’ll recommend her for travel baseball is if she gets a good performance at baseball camp. But when she arrives they expect her to be a boy and place her on the team with weaker and younger players and it goes downhill from there. As in this book, Sam’s family plays an important role in the story. At the start of the book Sam sees her stepmother Nancy as the enemy and is completely forgiving of her never-present birth mother. She has to learn to sort those relationships out too.

2. One of my favorite scenes in THE PERFECT TRIP takes place at a pick-up baseball game at a campground. A group of older boys is sure they’ll win against their younger brothers, even more so when Sam joins the younger boys’ team. I love the dramatic irony of this scene. Can you talk about how girl athletes challenge expectations?

Thank you for picking up on that scene. My two books were originally written in the reverse order and it was when I wrote that scene at the campground that I discovered the real motivation of my real main character. As an elementary school teacher, there have been many years that I have watched girls being undervalued when they want to play sports at recess. I used to be able to name on my hand the ones who were able to persevere and fight for the respect they deserved on the field. Fortunately, I do feel that trend is currently on the upswing. There has been more attention given to women and sports in the news and the boys don’t seem as surprised to see the girls playing with them. I don’t think it hurts that they all know about my book as well.

3. I loved the relationship between Sam and her younger half-sister, Deborah. Would you describe how you drew these sisters and made their moments of love, annoyance, and betrayal so believable.

My younger sister and I always had a very close relationship. Even though she is as different from Deborah as I am from Sam, I definitely put the emotion behind our relationship into the story. We had mostly good times, but there were those moments. Deborah also has in her some of my daughter Annie. Annie was Deborah’s age when I wrote the book and I would pluck some scenes and conversations from observing her behavior and interests. Then I would place myself in the role of her older sister to see how I would react.

4. Sam’s real name is Samantha — a name she doesn’t use much. One of the main characters in my upcoming book is a girl wrestler, and I played around with names and nicknames too. She’s Mikayla at home, but “Mickey” on the wrestling mat (on the advice of her older brothers). Why are names so important? When female athletes play on co-ed or male teams, do you think names impact how their teammates and opponents view girls and women?

When I first wrote The Perfect Trip Sam’s name was Zoey. When I realized I wanted the people at baseball camp to think she was a boy, I needed a unisex name. I wasn’t sure which one I wanted, so I took it back to my third grade class. They voted for Sam. I don’t think that names should matter, but in this case it was important for the mix up.

5. Who was your female athlete hero when you were Sam’s age? What was important to you about her?

I can’t remember any particular female athlete heroes from my childhood, but there were two movies with female athletes that I’ve never forgotten. The first was Quarterback Princess with Helen Hunt as a female football player. The second is a lesser-known movie called Blue Skies Again, which is about a female baseball player. I remember watching both movies over and over and thinking how amazing it was that these girls were fighting for their right to play with the boys. When I was older, I admired Mia Hamm, which is why I had Sam’s best friend Tasha give her a few shout outs during The Perfect Trip.

School’s out for Heidi Mordhorst! She’s hosting the first Poetry Friday of summer at My Juicy Little Universe.

Please stop by Stacy’s website to read her full bio. I had no idea we were both NYU grads!

Since it’s Poetry Friday, I asked Stacy to recommend a poem to pair with THE PERFECT TRIP.

Her choice? The perfect poem! Here is “First Girls in Little League Baseball,” by J. Patrick Lewis — shared with Pat’s express permission.

 

 

First Girls in Little League Baseball

By J. Patrick Lewis

December 26, 1974
Title IX of the 1972 Education Act is signed, providing for equal opportunity in athletics for girls as well as boys.

The year was 1974
When Little Leaguers learned the score.
President Ford took out his pen
And signed a law that said from then
On women too would have the chance
To wear the stripes and wear the pants.
Now what you hear, as flags unfurl,
Is “Atta boy!” and “Atta girl!”

Posted with permission of the author.

5 Questions for the Author: Meg Eden

Mary Lee Hahn is hosting this week. Stop by the blog A Year of Reading for this week’s poetry offerings from around the kidlitosphere.

Happy Poetry Friday, everyone.

This week, I’m celebrating my friend Meg Eden‘s upcoming debut YA novel, Post-High School Reality Quest. I first met Meg when I was editing Little Patuxent Review. She is a talented young poet, and our journal published several of her poems.

Here’s what you’ll find in this post:

  • blurb of Post-High School Reality Quest from Goodreads,
  • interview with author Meg Eden (she has fascinating insights into transitioning from poetry to long-form fiction),
  • a poem by Meg,
  • link to a book giveaway!

PHSRQ publishes next week, June 13. Here is the description from Goodreads.

Buffy is playing a game. However, the game is her life, and there are no instructions or cheat codes on how to win.

After graduating high school, a voice called “the text parser” emerges in Buffy’s head, narrating her life as a classic text adventure game. Buffy figures this is just a manifestation of her shy, awkward, nerdy nature—until the voice doesn’t go away, and instead begins to dominate her thoughts, telling her how to life her life. Though Buffy tries to beat the game, crash it, and even restart it, it becomes clear that this game is not something she can simply “shut off” or beat without the text parser’s help.

While the text parser tries to give Buffy advice on how “to win the game,” Buffy decides to pursue her own game-plan: start over, make new friends, and win her long-time crush Tristan’s heart. But even when Buffy gets the guy of her dreams, the game doesn’t stop. In fact, it gets worse than she could’ve ever imagined: her crumbling group of friends fall apart, her roommate turns against her, and Buffy finds herself trying to survive in a game built off her greatest nightmares.

***

Congratulations on your debut, Meg! Let’s dive into the interview.

  1. I love quest stories with female leads. How does Post-High School Reality Quest follow and/or break with the traditional quest narrative?

You could say Buffy’s quest is for Tristan, but there’s nothing epic about it. She’s not going to any dramatic lengths to get him, despite how much she might want him. What might be more accurate is to say that Buffy’s quest is to survive, to return to normalcy. When I think of quest narratives, I think of journeys and characters that actively travel to get what they want. Buffy isn’t “setting out” on a quest. In fact, her desire is antithetical to “setting out”—if it was up to her, she’d be “setting in,” remaining in the comfort of her patterns. But instead the world is changing around her, the text parser is calling her to action, and she’s just hanging on for the ride.

It’s interesting that many girl-led quests are about a return to normalcy. There’s Alice, Dorothy, Coraline. But that’s a topic for another day.

  1. It’s clear from your main character’s name (Buffy!) that there are a lot of Easter eggs in PHSRQ for geeks and gamers. Can you tell us about a few of those without revealing any spoilers?

Buffy’s name for her backpack is “inventory,” a shout-out to a vital attribute in pretty much every game ever. There are some beautifully illustrated memes, including a nod to “You don’t say” Nicholas Cage and “I know that feel, bro.” Merrill’s house has the address number 404, as if it doesn’t exist (a reference to 404 website errors). There’s a love letter written out like code, and a birthday cake written in binary. There are Slave Leia costumes, an NES Super Scope, multiple Pikachu instances, a prized Pokemon Stadium N64 cartridge, and all sorts of other things I’m currently blanking on.

  1. Your book is written in second person. That’s a challenging point-of-view to write from, but fitting for a novel about video games. Would you explain the importance of the “You” voice for non-gamers?

Post-High School Reality Quest is the form of a classic text-adventure game–that is, those old MS-DOS games, before graphics, where the game would narrate what was happening, and you would type in commands to interact with the game (e.g., “You are in a room. There is an axe. Exits are: out.” and to move out of the room, you’d type “out”). By narrating in second person, these games attempted to place the player in the environment as a character in their story. You could say that in text-adventure games, there are two distinct voices: that of the narrator and that of the player. This would be totally different if the games were narrated as “I”—they would make the game and the player one in the same.

Narrating from the “you” in PHSRQ allowed me to create conflict between the text parser and Buffy, to have two different narrators and two different goals. First or third person narration wouldn’t inherently carry this conflict.

  1. You’re a published poet who is debuting as a YA novelist. How was writing fiction was different than putting together a book of poetry? How did being a poet benefit you as you worked on this novel?

This is a great question, and a hard one to answer. I think in short: a book of poems is about (to me at least) different angles on a related experience. There are lots of tendrils, and there’s an emotional rise and fall, but not usually a plot. There’s not necessarily a climax or conclusion, and it’s focusing more on the experience than the end-goal. A novel is about following characters through a narrative of wants and obstacles. Poetry’s structure is a rising line: imagery leading to a realization. A novel’s structure is an arc of obstacles rising to a climax and choice, leading back down to a resolution.

All types of writing are exercises, like going to the gym. Poetry stretches my muscles for using space and words efficiently, using object-oriented language and imagery, and leading to a realization. Fiction stretches my muscles for keeping the action moving and going: of figuring out what my characters want, and what gets in the way of that.

Being a poet helped me focus in on the objects and specificity in Buffy’s experiences in PHSRQ. It gave me a fresh approach to writing a novel, where I was less concerned about what needed to happen or hitting the “outline” of what a novel’s structure is “supposed” to be and instead just enjoying observing what was already there. I feel like my background in poetry made me thrive on the complexity of the characters and situations, and observe instead of imposing my “game plan” of what should happen.

  1. Imagine one of your favorite poets has just written his or her first prose novel for teens. Which poet is it? Why do you think this person would be a great fit for a YA novel? Any guesses as to what the book might be about?

I would LOVE it if Fatimah Asghar would do this. I teach her poem “Pluto Shits on the Universe” in so many of my classes for lots of reasons, but the big one that I love to point out is the language of the experience. She makes Pluto into a real character, with a believable and relatable voice.  Whatever her novel would be about, it would have character and voice and I would without question get sucked into it.

I asked Meg to share a poem in which she explores similar themes to those in PHSRQ.

Shigeru Miyamoto Goes Spelunking

with a line from an interview[1]

By Meg Eden. Previously published in Cartridge Lit. 

When you say you explored caves as a boy,
I think about the abandoned Sears catalogue homes
I grew up with: watching them rot, heavy with secrets.
What I’d give to go in that unreachable place.

Playing Zelda, seeing those doors on-screen
that resided on the other side of a wall—why
are there always so many walls? No matter
how many games I play there are always

impassable places. Disappearing places.
When McKenzie from down the street died
I told my dad I was biking to his house
to explore it & he didn’t stop me. I biked there

but couldn’t go inside: those ripped curtains
in the window, that sign on the back door
with drawing of a gun that read: If you’re here
today they’ll find your body here tomorrow.

I biked back home. If I was born a boy,
would I have gone inside? Or were there caves
in Sonobe that you were afraid of, too?
You say that going back home, someone has blocked

the entrances to your caves. Does that stop you
from going inside? I like to think I’ll go inside
the dilapidated houses I see off the side of the road
but instead I take pictures from my car & try

to rebuild them inside me. It’s not the same
as reaching your hand in a river & realizing
you’ve touched a fish but what else can you do
in this paved and partitioned world?

[1] from Master of Play by Nick Paumgarten (The New Yorker)

Would you like a copy of Post-High School Reality Quest? Enter this giveaway!

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Bullet Journal Your Revision Notebook

Writing is a messy process. For an organized person like me, revising a novel can feel overwhelming.

There is so much to do: Develop flat characters, adjust the plot, review feedback from critique partners, check for overused words (“just” is my bugaboo). Not to mention detail work! If a character is described as wearing braces, how often do the braces have to be mentioned throughout the book? Should that detail be cut?! Her bands are red and black in Chapter 3, but purple in Chapter 12. Ack!!

A moleskin journal wasn’t going to do the trick for this revision! I used a great big 5 subject notebook. Having sections helped keep me organized.

This describes my state of mind in February, when I started a major rewrite of my next middle grade novel. The whole project like too much.

Then, inspiration struck. For a few months, I’d swapped out my personal to-do lists for a bullet journal. And while I didn’t follow #bujo techniques to the letter, the journal was cutting back on my list-writing time and helping me stay organized. Why not apply these techniques to my revision notebook?

This Saturday, I’m running a workshop for our local SCBWI chapter, “Bullet Journaling Your Revision Notebook.” You can find details and RSVP here.

My colored pencils and markers are packed. I’ve got stickers and rulers. I’m super-excited to share ideas with other authors.

This workshop and the resources in this post are for everyone, whether you:

  • have never heard of bullet journals;
  • are #bujo curious;
  • use a bullet journal for day-to-day, but haven’t tried one for writing;
  • or you’re are a literary bullet journal master.

My favorite YouTube videos for simple bullet journals:

How to Bullet Journal
*Short explanation from bullet journal system creator Ryder Carroll

A Dude’s Bullet Journal Walk-through
*Great for the basics

Easy Ways to Decorate Your Bullet Journal
*If you want to learn simple hand-lettering technqiues and embellishments

Bullet Journal for Writers
*Not for perfectionists! I love this bullet journaler’s inspiration page based on Lord of the Rings.

Check out these website and blog posts about bullet journals, especially for writers:

BulletJournal.Com
*Where the whole craze started

Something Delicious, “Bullet Journaling for Fiction Writers”
*Lists collection ideas for WIPs (Works in Progress)

BoHo Berry, “NaNoWriMo Bullet Journal”
*Ideas for setting up a new project

Writer’s Edit, “The Complete Guide to Bullet Journaling for Writers”
*Includes tips on tracking submissions and feedback from publishers

Page Flutter, “Inside My Writing Journal: The Ultimate Study in Craft”
*Our local SCBWI events coordinator, Sarah Maynard, found this amazing resource. Includes photos and explanations of color coding, and great journal page ideas/spreads for writers: 7 Key Elements of Fiction, The Hero’s Journey, and Three Act Structure.

The biggest tip I can share is this: Do what works for you.

My favorite bullet journaling tool is the Index.

I had a three-week window to complete my revision and turn it in to my editor.

My revision journal is profoundly lacking in calligraphy, embellishments, and colorful flourishes. But it has an index (the single most helpful bullet journal tool) and helped keep my thoughts organized as I was re-writing.

 

 

 

 

 

Daily word-count goals don’t work for me. I found it was easiest to list the chapter numbers and cross off each one as I revised. This page also has a simple to-do list.

My everyday bullet journal has a few pages dedicated to book notes, including this one, decorated with a doodle.

School Poetry Workshop: Poetry Celebration!

Thanks to Buffy Silverman for hosting Poetry Friday this week. Stop by Buffy’s Blog for all of this week’s poetry links.

Happy Poetry Friday! I’m saying goodbye to Northfield Elementary School this week. For the past month, I’ve been conducting a poetry residency with the school’s third grade.

At the bottom of this post, I’m sharing a gallery of some of the poetry displays. The kids outdid themselves this year!

Our final workshop was on persona poems. You’ll find lesson details in my recent posts, linked at the bottom of this page. Let’s get straight to the poetry!

In Erin’s poem, I see an imaginative leap when an unexpected character enters the poem, adding tension to the story.

Poet: Erin A.

Hello, my name is Bob. I am
47 years old. I live in Florida
and love lamb. Today, I got a promotion
and raise. My family will be so
happy. I have two boys, a wife,
and a pet puppy. My family was
very happy, even my puppy.
It went better
than I expected.
We went outside
for dinner.
But suddenly,
my big brother came.
I knew
he was going
to make fun
of me. But
he didn’t. He said
very good things
about me. Right
at that moment
I felt really special.

*

Here is the updated poem, on display at our celebration.

Eva’s poem also has a moment where something unexpected happens.

Poet: Eva L.

Spring Day

It was a new spring day
on the field, many dandelions on the ground.
A little boy ran to the field.
He picked up a full dandelion.
He was thinking, let me make more
seeds for spring.
Maybe if I do that will I be a
spring hero.
The boy went to blow the dandelion.
Then a big wind just blew the dandelion.
The little boy worried the dandelion
is not blown by him.
Will he be a spring hero?
Or dandelion seeds not grow?
All will see in the next spring.

*

Alex wrote our only non-human persona poem this year. This one made me laugh! Wow — that’s some clever use of onomatopoeia.

Poet: Alex K.

I am a cat.
I have brown and black fur.
Hands pick me up!
Save me—ow!
My eyes glisten with unhappiness!
Put me down!
Get away.
You’re licking me!
Weird lady, get away!
She puts me down.
I scramble to hide.
Where do I hide?
An empty bowl?
I get in it and wait
‘til she finds me.

*

Miah’s poem is has an air of mystery. I feel sad for the character she created, who loves to play with friends, but seems to be struggling at home.

Poet: Miah A.

A child playing with friends,
laughing and active.
Playing until the moon meets.
Feeling happiness in all the other children.
Always active,
never resting.
Loudness disturbs Mom’s quiet time.
Waves goodbye, in her blue eyes,
they shine today, with the friendship.
But Jessie couldn’t do her homework.
Mom did not rest. They got mad,
but I just smiled.

*

I had a chance to hear Claire perform this poem for visitors today. She did a great job imagining what it might feel like to be a college student.

Poet: Claire D.

I like my friends Sarah,
Stella, and Lisa in college.
They are so kind. But especially I love…
MY UNIVERSITY! It’s beautiful.
It has good education and kind teachers.
When I read the books in the library
I feel I am part of the story.
But when I feel the potions
in Chemistry, it feels tickly on my fingers.
But I just love the people. They wave. They laugh,
which makes me feel like I belong.

*

Now for a quick photo gallery!

Haiku by Kevin Z.

Food poem by Abby W.

Thanks again to the Northfield 3rd grade team and families for giving me permission to share students’ persona poems.

*

Check out the previous posts in this School Poetry Workshop series:

School Poetry Workshop: Haiku Hike, May 12, 2017
School Poetry Workshop: Food and the Five Senses, May 19, 2017
School Poetry Workshop: A Second Helping of Food Poems, May 25, 2017
School Poetry Workshop: Persona Poems, May 30, 2017
School Poetry Workshop: Creating a Character, June 1, 2017

School Poetry Workshop: Creating a Character

Today is the poetry open house at Northfield Elementary, where I’ve been in residence for the past month. I haven’t seen the third grade poets since our revision day. It’s always exciting to read their poems again and see how they have developed.

Let’s look more closely at persona poems.

When we’re creating a character, whether it’s in a poem or in prose, how do we move away from our own thoughts and experiences and begin to imagine the internal life of another person?

I’ve shared that I use images of people — postcards and magazine cut-outs — to give young poets a concrete starting place. Layering imagination onto a picture of a stranger can be a challenging task.

Over the years, and with the help of classroom teachers, this is the brainstorming sheet I’ve developed. It helps students dig into the personas they are creating for their poems. Feel free to use this worksheet. As always, if you share it, please acknowledge or link back to me.

Laura’s Persona Poem/Character Development brainstorming sheet.

Feelings: How does your person feel in this moment or about his or her situation?

Thoughts: What is he or she thinking?

What happens next?: Imagine that the picture is a TV or movie screen, with the action on pause. If you hit the “Play” button, what’s the next thing that would happen?

Maybe: Any other possibilities or ideas you have about this person’s life or situation.

You can read a full description of how to run this workshop at Today’s Little Ditty. I often use Shonto Begay’s poem “Down Highway 163” as a mentor text.

Persona Poem Workshop post at Today’s Little Ditty.

Persona Poem mentor text, “Down Highway 163” by Shonto Begay.

Thanks to the Northfield 3rd grade team and families for giving me permission to share students’ persona poems. This writing prompt is a great way to teach voice.

Sophia’s poem is all about capturing tone. Each item in the image adds to the feeling of loneliness.

Poet: Sophia B.

The girl looks

sad and lonely. She is alone.

She stands out against

the black wall and

brown curtains.

She’s eating apples

in a blue dress.

A lonely five year old

girl sitting at the table

all alone.

*

Isabella’s poem creates an entire family! The speaker’s happiness and love for her husband and daughter shines through this poem.

Poet: Isabella C.

I Am Outside

 

With my husband and daughter.

We are getting ready to play ball.

My daughter’s having fun with Dad.

They make me smile.

I love you, is what I think

she is trying to say.

She is one. She loves to play.

I named her Kali. I love her

and my name is Mara.

My husband’s name is Juston.

My family is one of a kind,

but I love that.

We have a dog named Lucky.

We named him that

because they were getting ready to put him down.

Then Juston and me bought him.

I love my family.
*

Who hasn’t imagined what a baby might be thinking? I love the tactile images in Shalisa’s sweet poem. And the clasped hands at the end — wow!

 

Poet: Shalisa I.

 

I am a baby.

Even though I can’t speak full sentences

I have them in my head

and this is what I can speak,

Goo goo gaa gaa.

Anyways, I am about to go outside.

It is windy, but it’s divine.

The breeze ruffles through my hair.

My mommy puts me gently on the grass.

It tickles my toes.

I suddenly feel like

I am rising from below

and I am on my mother’s toes.

Soon I say, Goo gaa,

which means “Yay! This is fun!”

I am swinging and rocking.

My mom is smiling at me

and I smile back.

Her loves makes me happy

and so does her smile too.

We put our hands together.

My hands are the key

and her  hands are the lock.

This is my favorite thing to do

with me and my mommy.

*

 

This is Mark’s updated draft, with an illustration. Isn’t it cool?!

Listen to the sounds and rhythms in Mark’s exciting poem. “Sparkle in the dark” — wonderful wordplay!

Poet: Mark G.

Places! Places!
The s
how will start.
The s
how must go on!

On you go, the crowd

won’t wait. If

there was no show,

I would hate!
We w
ill have effects.

the costumes will

sparkle in the dark.

The music will sound like

it’s from Broadway!
*

I like the way that Mounira captures a specific moment in her character’s life and walks us through it slowly, so we can experience all of this person’s emotions.

Poet: Mounira H.

 

First!

 

Feeling nervous as I walk

to a stall. I don’t wanna

try to swim, it’s scary.
Get t
o a stall and put my

bathing suit on. I know

I have gear I can float

in, but I’m scared.
Mom t
akes a picture. I try

to look happy for her.

I feel weird with everything

on me. I wish it wasn’t

my first time swimming.

Finally, I get out
of the s
tall and put my foot
in t
he water. I feels nice

in the water. My swimming

teacher comes over and

says, “Ready to swim?

I say Yes and

five minutes later

I am swimming
for t
he first time.
*

Look for the final set of Northfield persona poems tomorrow, Poetry Friday. I hope you’ll stop by and visit with these wonderful third grade poets.
*
Check out the previous posts in this School Poetry Workshop series:

School Poetry Workshop: Haiku Hike, May 12, 2017
School Poetry Workshop: Food and the Five Senses, May 19, 2017
School Poetry Workshop: A Second Helping of Food Poems, May 25, 2017
School Poetry Workshop: Persona Poems, May 30, 2017

School Poetry Workshop: Persona Poems

June is almost here! This week, the Northfield 3rd Grade poets, their teachers, and families, will be celebrating poetry at our annual open house. It’s a great time to recognize how hard the students have worked on their poems.

 

I’ve shared the poets’ haiku and food poems. Today, I am posting the third graders’ persona poems. You can read about how to run this workshop at Today’s Little Ditty. I often use Shonto Begay’s poem “Down Highway 163” as a mentor text for persona poems. This powerful poem brings up social justice and empathy issues, even for young readers. Sharing it together always prompts a fascinating discussion.

 

Persona Poem Workshop post at Today’s Little Ditty.

Persona Poem mentor text, “Down Highway 163” by Shonto Begay.

 

With this group, we used magazine cut-outs for our writing prompts. The students will make a display of the cut-outs paired with their response poems. I’m looking forward to seeing those at the open house!

 

Thanks to the Northfield 3rd grade team and families for giving me permission to share students’ persona poems. This writing prompt is a great way to teach voice.

 

There is great detail in Moyo’s poem. Check out her use of narrative elements. This is a poetic story with a beginning, middle, and end.

 

Poet: Moyo A.

 

Art Contest

 

There are butterflies in my stomach.

I’m so nervous.

I feel my heart pounding.

Boom boom boom!

Today is my art contest.

The winner gets to meet

a famous artist.

And I signed up myself!

 

We arrive at the art gallery.

There is a table and seats all

set up for the artists.

We have half an hour

to draw anything we want.

Your time starts now.

Beep, the timer’s up.

 

The judges critique our drawings.

I hear the judges murmur.

I smell/taste victory.

“The results are in…

The winner is Moyo!”

“What?”

I see the certificate and confetti.

I’m now in tears of JOY!

 

Ava’s updated portrait poem, with the photo that inspired her writing.

My kids love fishing with their grandparents, so Ava’s poem spoke to me. I love how she captures the excitement of the catch.

 

Poet: Ava W.

 

My Fishing Poem

 

Dad, could I cast the rod?

“Yes you can.” I cast the rod. Oh, oh.

I got something, so I reeled it in.

O.M.G. I caught a catfish. I think

we know what dinner is going to be.

Yay, the rapids are here. Bounce

up and down we go, down the river.

A huge wave is coming. Come on.

It hits me and not you!

It’s 8:30, we’re heading back.

 

Part of the persona poetry workshop is to list all of the facts of the image, the things we can see. We use those facts as the foundation for imagining the speaker’s thoughts, feelings, and life details. Emily uses details from her magazine cut-out and then jumps into some creative ideas.

Poet: Emily J.

 

My family is rich.

I have a fancy blue dress and hat

I got for my birthday.

Once I was walking

through the forest, going hiking.

While I was walking, I found

a bottle that said, “Drink me.”

I bent down and picked it up.

The top was still tight so I

knew nobody else had drank it.

I popped the top off

and gulped.

It smelled of pepper.

A spicy taste filled my mouth.

I ran until I found clean water

to drink.

I put that bottle

in the stream to drift away

never to be found.

 

I love poems that capture energy in their word choice and rhythm. Evan’s last line reminds me of a famous poem by e.e. cummings.

Poet: Evan L.

In the spring
at the basketball hoop
a girl smiling, happily doing
a cartwheel, maybe she
kicks her dad.
It’s spring!

Kjell put a lot more work into this poem on revision day, but even the first draft has beautiful poetic moments. Listen to the sounds in the fourth line!

Poet: Kjell t.

There was a family so
happy as could be. They
went on a camping trip. In
the deep heap of forest leaves.
They smile. It’s like a sun in
the happy sky.

I’ll be posting persona poems all week. I hope you’ll stop by and visit with these wonderful third grade poets.

Check out the previous posts in this School Poetry Workshop series:

School Poetry Workshop: Haiku Hike, May 12, 2017
School Poetry Workshop: Food and the Five Senses, May 19, 2017
School Poetry Workshop: A Second Helping of Food Poems, May 25, 2017

 

School Poetry Workshops: A Second Helping of Food Poems

Last weekend, I visited my home state for NerdCampNJ. (Hey, Jersey! Looking good.) There’s no better way to spend a rainy Saturday than surrounded by educators, authors, and super readers.

At NerdCampNJ with members of the Sweet 16s debut author group (L to R): Isabel Bandeira (Bookishly Ever After, YA), Kristy Acevedo (Consider, YA), Melanie Conklin (Counting Thyme, MG), me with my button-covered lanyard, and Kathy MacMillan (Sword and Verse, YA).

One of the highlights of my day was co-leading a workshop: Building Literacy with Poetry and Books in Verse. You can find notes from the workshop here.

I met two wonderful poet/authors.

Beth Ain’s new verse novel is IZZY KLINE HAS BUTTERFLIES. It’s a great book for kids who enjoyed reading THE LAST FIFTH GRADE. It has an upper elementary school setting and an inviting voice. Izzy is working through real life problems with humor and thoughtfulness. (Beth has a very cool writing activity that supports developing emotional intelligence. There’s more info at her Instagram account.)

Available July, 2017.

Emma Otheguy’s debut picture book in verse is MARTI’S SONG FOR FREEDOM a biography of poet and activist José Martí. You can read more about Emma’s book here. I’m a huge fan of picture book biographies and this book is gorgeous. The story is told in Spanish/English poems by historian Otheguy.

I still had a taste for food poems, since my Northfield 3rd Grade poets described their favorite delicacies so well. That’s why, for my part of the NerdCampNJ workshop, I walked teachers through the Mystery Food exercise (find it here) and shared the mentor text, “Good Hotdogs,” by Sandra Cisneros.

Stop by Margaret Simon’s blog, Reflections on the Teche, for more Poetry Friday poems, reviews, and posts.

Thanks to the Northfield 3rd grade team and families for giving me permission to share students’ food poems with our Poetry Friday community. Let’s read more poems focusing on using imagery of the five senses.

 

 

Kelly’s poem is filled with tactile details about chocolate.

Poet: Kelly J.

Chocolate

Brown and smooth
Comes in different tasty flavors
With sweet smells
And chewy sounds
It’s crunchy and juicy
With it mostly hard
Sometimes there are bumps
Sometimes there are cracks
They don’t taste as delicious
If they are all melted.

The milky bites in my mouth
Remind me of cake
Chocolate cake is
Creamy and
All mushy.

 

Can you hear the rhythm and near-rhymes that Benjamin plays with in this fun poem?

Poet: Benjamin W.

Bubble Gum

Stretchy fun blow a bubble
When it pops blow again
Lost its taste get another
Ran out buy another
Any kind, get some color
Crank it up, taste the sugar
Add some mint, make it smell good
Hear the sound when it pops
Change the color, blue green pink

 

I like the pet cameo at the end of Zola’s poem about chocolate.

Poet: Zola G.

Chocolate

On the shelf at Aldi’s
Milk chocolate
Just waiting to be
Bought.
After my dinner of
Potatoes, broccoli, and sausage,
I ask the sometimes
Devastating question
“Can I have a chocolate bar?”
“Yes, of course. You
Ate real good.”
I run over to our candy cupboard
Which some people think
Looks like Mr. Willy Wonka’s
Factory!
I grab my chocolate and
Sit down to eat.
The sweet, creamy taste
Is awesome on my tongue.
Gnocchi looks up at me and
Then the chocolate.
It’s poison for dogs!
I won’t give her any! All for me.

 

Annchi’s poem tells a whole story. Have you ever gone fishing for your dinner? I have.

Poet: Annchi L.

Fried Fish

A rock around
On the bank, I sit
Only me and Dad
My hand holds a fishing pole
The bait is worms.
I can feel the worms squirm in my hand
As I put them on the hook.
Holding the fishing pole I swing my arm
Plop!
I sit there waiting, talking with my dad
Suddenly, something pulls and tugs.
I pull the string with all my might
Beads of sweat doll down
There I battle with the fish
Like playing tug-of-war with my friends
My dad helps, with one tug
The fish gives up.
Two against one.
I bolted back to home.
My mother fried it,
Sizzling in the pan,
I gobbled it up, a meaty flavor
I spit out all the prickly things
At my brother.
I run back to the bank, wanting for more!

 

Isabella’s poem had me drooling.

Poet: Isabella H.

Chocolate Peach Crêpe

In Canada, we go snow tubing.
Me, my cousins, grandparents, Mom, and Dad.
Afterwards, we eat the perfect French
Delight. Cling, cling, go the coins. I watch
The baker place the batter on the pan.
She spreads it flat and talks to us.
She plops on the big, juicy peaches,
Drizzles on the chocolate, scoops on
The ice cream, and rolls it up. When I see
The plate, it is white and plain…
Until she adds the crêpe. It’s thin,
Soft and creamy. Oops. It’s gone.
I gobbled it down.

 

I like the way that Nieve listened closely to the mentor text and incorporated ideas  from “Good Hotdogs” into this poem.

Poet: Nieve T.

Pizza

Cheesy golden brown saucy
Two dollars for a piece
We arrive to the shop
Cheesy, crunch
Crust is golden brown
“Crunch, crunch, crunch”
Smells like olives and cheese
Grease dripping down
I hum
We drive home.
I save none for my sister
Golden brown crust.
Yum! That pizza was so good.

 

Max and I had a good chat about our favorite hamentashen flavors. This cookie is a traditional Jewish food, enjoyed during the spring festival of Purim. Haman is the villain in the story of Esther, which is retold and acted out at Purim celebrations.

Poet: Max S.

Hamentashen

Flatten that dough
Circled out
Put some Nutella in the circle
Folded into a triangle
Hardened and heated
Yummy cookie and Nutella!
We eat Haman’s hat.
Bad Haman.
Smooth brown Nutella
In Haman’s hat.

 

This is another poem with great energy. Kali shares the anticipation of waiting for a favorite food.

Poet: Kali L.

Papa’s Special Pasta!

Every summer
Once a year
Saucy, sweet
Red sauce
Boiling water
Come, come on
Everyone it’s here
I can smell it
Come on
Five people here
Waiting on two
Come on Come
on

Our last workshop at Northfield will be persona poems. Look for those next week.

Check out the previous posts in this School Poetry Workshop series:

School Poetry Workshop: Haiku Hike, May 12, 2017
School Poetry Workshop: Food and the Five Senses, May 19, 2017

School Poetry Workshop: Food and the 5 Senses

Poetry Friday is at Kiesha’s Whispers from the Ridge. Click through to find more delectable poetry posts from the kidlitosphere.

It’s Poetry Friday! Welcome back to Northfield Elementary, where the third grade poets are using their five senses to write about food.

When I’m working with young writers on food poems, I want to guide them away from catch-all words: delicious, yummy, tasty, good, disgusting. Pizza and ice cream are both delicious, but they don’t taste anything alike (unless you visit this LA restaurant.)

Here’s a quick cooperative writing game/exercise you can use to help students focus on specific, descriptive language.

Mystery Food
Goal: Get the class to guess your mystery food in three words.

  1. Make a set of small cards with the name of a food on each one. I use half an index card. The foods I use are: ice cream, bubble gum, tacos, hamburger, pizza, apple, chocolate, orange, celery, spinach.
  2. Give groups of four-six students one card each. Don’t read the card aloud (we don’t want our classmates to hear), but pass it around the group.
  3. The group has 5 minutes to come up with the three adjectives that are so descriptive, the class will be able to figure out the food in one guess.
  4. Each group take turns reading their three words. The rest of the class tries to guess the food.

My students have a great time with this one. The classroom teacher and I do walk around, reminding them that they can use color, shape, texture, flavor, and other descriptors.

Our mentor text for the food poems workshop is “Good Hotdogs” by Sandra Cisneros.

Thanks to the Northfield 3rd grade team and families for giving me permission to share the students’ poems. Today, we were focusing on using imagery of the five senses.

Poet: Ayesha A.

Popsicle

Going outside
In the warm sunshine.
You run behind me.
Something’s in your hand.
You yell, “Wait!”
I turn around, something plops in
My hand.
I rip open the foil
And see all the types
Of colors. I take a bite
And out leaks the juicy
Cherry flavor. When I’m done there’s
A stick left behind.
I then say thanks and then
I leave. Yum.

Poet: Will Y.

Sushi

Waiting ‘til Friday
Hearing a ding
Going to the door, meeting
The sushi man
Pizza, sushi, and video games
End of the week, tired
California roll, sweet crab, soft avocado
I think it is tasty

Poet: Celia V.

Pepperoni Pizza

As I taste the spicy pepperoni
Smell the cheese at the tip
Of my tongue, see the cheesy
Pizza, hear the likes of
My mouth, ready to eat it
Up, I touch the hotness of
My pizza.

Poet: Tanishka H.

S’mores

Out in the dark
We sit in the pitch black.
Mom and Dad
Shout surprise! Out come
Hershey bars, marshmallows
Honeylicious graham crackers.
Mom and Dad light up the fire.
I see marshmallows
On a stick soft, crispy,
And looks yummy! First goes
The cracker, then goes toasty
Marshmallows and sweet
Hershey piece and another
Honeylicious graham
Cracker on top. We take
A s’more. We smell sweet crisps
Of marshmallow burns.
We take a bite. “Yum,” we say. Chewy
Squishy marshmallows in our mouths.
S’mores we all love.

Poet: Ava R.

Warm Drinks in the Winter

I hear the coffee machine dispenses warm liquid.
I feel the warm cup against my cold fingers.
I smell the hot chocolatey air.
I see the marshmallows melt into the hot chocolate.
I hear the sound of the whipped cream
Squirt out of the can into the hot chocolate.
It tastes as if I got it from heaven.
The warm liquid swishes in my mouth.
Swish, swash, gulp!

Still hungry? I’ll post more Northfield food poems next week.

Check out the previous posts in this School Poetry Workshop series:

School Poetry Workshop: Haiku Hike, May 12, 2017

School Poetry Workshop: Haiku Hike

Thank you for hosting today’s Poetry Friday link up, Tara Smith! You’ll find a list of today’s poetry posts at Tara’s blog, A Teaching Life.

Happy Poetry Friday, Readers.

It’s May, my month to serve as poet-in-residence at Northfield Elementary School. This is my longest running residency through the Maryland State Arts Council. 11 years!

When I had my orientation meeting with third grade educators this year, they had important information for me. This year’s 3rd graders are active. They need to move! How could we adapt the poetry lessons to meet this need?

We decided to kick off our series of poetry workshops with a haiku hike, inspired by the book HAIKU HIKE from Scholastic. This book won the 2005 “Kids Are Authors” award. It’s a great introduction to haiku and inspired us to go outdoors and gather images for our poems.

Haiku poems have a rich history, steeped in Japanese culture. We talked about a few quick things before we went outside.

  1. Japanese is read from top to bottom, not left to right like English. The 5-7-5 syllable count isn’t a rule, but an attempt to recreate the rhythm of a Japanese haiku. I encourage students to write three lines — short-long-short — or even two lines for their haiku. (We looked at a traditional haiku, in Japanese, from a page in the book WABI SABI, by Mark Reibstein, illustrated by Ed Young.)
  2. The book HAIKU HIKE introduces the concept of kigo, a word in the haiku that symbolizes the season.
  3. In some classes, we discussed the difference between haiku and senryu.

Then we were ready for our hike.

Each of the five third grade classes went outside for about 10-15 minutes on a series of sunny, very windy days. Wow! They student poets were so observant, paying attention to details small and large.

The wind was so chilly, students lay on the warm blacktop while they wrote down observations.

 

Thanks to the Northfield 3rd grade team and families for giving me permission to share the students’ poems.

Poet: Jessica M.

Leaves whispering quietly
My name in the breeze
Come outside with me

Modeling for students: flowers in our path/ buttercup turns our chins yellow/ on a haiku hike

Poet: A.J. H.

Itchy eyes
Acorns on the tips of trees
Millions of grass

Poet: Jameson I.

Running in grass
Brown pine cone in our path
Sappy hands

Poet: Sarah B.

On a sunny day
Spring flowers start to bloom
Then I do too

 

Poet: Sarena D.

Scratch, dirt creaks and crack
Under tree, all alone, far away from home
No movement, no tossing

Poet: Kate A.

Cute little creatures
Scurrying through green tree tops
Eating lots of nuts

Poet: Lucas B.

Shooting star
Some people make a wish
Others just watch

Poet: Milie S.

Shh, the leaves go
Rustled by the spring wind
Nature’s librarian

Poet: Jackson A.

Furious wind
Trees swaying and branches battling
Spring wind war

Poet: Addy M.

Raining, sad, sorrow
Sitting in my lonely shadow
Boom! Crash!

Then, this happened. (Haiku by Ms. Shovan)

windy spring day
student papers take flight
haiku blizzard

Inspired by the wonderful haiku by Northfield third graders, I’ve been working on my own haiku poems this week.

During one of my walks, I took photos instead of notes, then came home and wrote haiku like this one.

May walk
Sun puddles on pavement
Watch your step!

Want to try this lesson with your students? This is the frame I used. Feel free to borrow.

NPM 2017: 5 Questions for the Verse Novelist, Featuring Holly Thompson

National Poetry Month 2017 has flown by in a blur of words. I’ve asked poet and author Holly Thompson to close out my NPM17 series of interviews with verse novelists. You’ll find links to each interview at the bottom of this post.

Holly has published many books–including a picture book, MG, YA, and new adult novels–but two of my favorite are her verse novels ORCHARDS and THE LANGUAGE INSIDE. We met years ago at an SCBWI conference and connected over poetry (what else?!) As I was working on my own novel-in-verse, Holly read early drafts. I am grateful for her feedback and her willingness to mentor a pre-published author.

Happy National Poetry Month, Holly!

Tell us about your most recent verse novel. What is it about the story and characters that led you to write the book as poetry?

My third and most recent verse novel Falling into the Dragon’s Mouth confronts school bullying in Japan. As with my verse novel Orchards, and sections of The Language Inside, Falling into the Dragon’s Mouth is set in Japan. Bullying, or ijime, is a chronic social problem in Japan. Incidents of bullying and intimidation are on the rise in U.S. schools as well, but in Japanese schools, bullying tends to be a group phenomenon. My children’s experiences as outsiders in Japanese schools and the experiences and struggles of many other intercultural children I have come to know in my years of living in Japan led me to write this story. Main character Jason, a non-Japanese boy attending a Japanese school, has so much bottled up inside him as he copes with bullying—yet he confides to no one. Writing this story in a spare free verse style enabled me to tap into his struggles—and his valiant efforts to overcome his problems.

Does your story spin on one central event and how it impacts the characters in the book? If so, how did you incorporate poetic elements such as metaphor and symbolism to show the echoes of that event through the novel? Would you share an example of this from your book?

In Falling into the Dragon’s Mouth, Jason is an outsider and a year older than his classmates, and when the classroom han groups are changed, Jason finds himself placed with five of the most aggressive members of the class. He knows he will be with seated with this han for many weeks—in homeroom for most classes, at lunch, and during unsupervised school cleaning periods. His friends at school are sympathetic but remain passive bystanders, urging Jason to just go along with the bullies and not make waves. Jason tries to find confidence and balance through his practice of the martial art aikido as aggressions escalate.

The following are two of five “page poems” in an early chapter of Falling into the Dragon’s Mouth called “Centering.”

You can see the correct formatting of the poems on the page in this photo.

_____

at the dojo
you bow to enter
and on the mats
you kneel, you meditate
you hold your one-point center
even when Yamada-sensei
pushes your forehead to test you

you chant, you stretch
you roll
across
the mats
forward
and back
you bow to your opponent
you practice holds and moves
you take your opponent’s energy

and turn it to overcome him
or her

and what matters most
through every move and fall
is you keep firm
you stay in control
you hold your center

_____

in aikido
we practice protecting
we imagine attackers
we use mind and body together
our ki energy
to keep calm
perform our best
so we can dare to face
an enemy of millions

but today I picture real attackers

so while entering and turning
and receiving strikes
I’m thinking of
Shunta

Yuki
Naho
and Mika

I focus hard
make no mistakes
calm and action
as one
_____

Have you ever written a full or partial draft of one of your verse novels in prose (or vice versa), only to decide to switch? How did you go about making that change? What were some of your clues that you needed to rethink the form?

Before setting out to complete a full draft, I always play with scenes in both prose and poetry, and listen to the narrative voice closely to test and confirm that verse is the appropriate form for the novel. One scene of Falling into the Dragon’s Mouth had first existed as a prose short story, but that storytelling mode felt too distant. For a character enduring ongoing harassment in a society like Japan that emphasizes conformity and where the standard survival mechanism is to do anything to blend in and gaman—persevere stoically, I felt that free verse enabled an interiority that was critical in this book. In verse, you can pare the language down to reach the core of an episode, which can make the experience of a scene more visceral. With this interiority, and with pages that don’t overwhelm with details, verse can also enable readers to enter a world they may not know and to experience a situation in a first-hand sort of way.

I see a similarity between the poems in novels-in-verse and dramatic monologues. Each poem in a verse novel has a character communicating his or her emotions and observations. There is often a realization or shift in thinking that happens in both monologues and in a verse novel’s poems. What do you think about the overlap between a speech for the stage and a poem in a verse novel?

In my three verse novels so far, I’ve written in chapter poems that are composed of “page poems” or “sub poems.” These page poems are not titled, and rarely can they stand alone, but they are broken deliberately for page turns that affect the pacing in the novel. As a result, some chapters may resemble dramatic monologues. Or, a series of page poems from a subplot that spans multiple chapters may cumulatively serve as a dramatic monologue. I was pleased to learn that students sometimes perform dramatic interpretations for speech contests using my excerpts from my verse novels.

Most of the middle grade and YA verse novels I have read are contemporary or historical. I’d love to see a fantasy or science fiction novel-in-verse for kids. Do you think the form is flexible enough to stretch into other genres of fiction? Why or why not?

I think any genre of story can be told with poetry. There are so many ways to write poetry, and limitless possibilities for using poetry to propel a narrative, so I think we’ll be seeing many style, structural and genre variations in verse novels in the future. Why not a fantasy novel? Why not sci-fi? Poetry can do anything, and verse novels are a completely malleable form. I look forward to future verse novels!

I agree. With poetry, anything is possible. Thank for visiting, Holly!

Holly Thompson (www.hatbooks.com) is a longtime resident of Japan and author of the verse novels Falling into the Dragon’s Mouth, The Language Inside, and Orchards. She edited Tomo: Friendship Through Fiction—An Anthology of Japan Teen Stories, and she writes poetry, fiction and nonfiction for children, teens and adults and teaches writing in Japan, the U.S. and internationally.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this series of  interviews with verse novelists. Thanks to all of the authors who took the time to share insights in their writing.

Here is the full list of posts:

4/3 Jeannine Atkins, STONE MIRRORS: The Sculpture and Silence of Edmonia Lewis (Find the post here.)

4/6 Caroline Starr Rose, BLUE BIRDS (Find the post here.)

4/10 Leza Lowitz, UP FROM THE SEA (Find the post here.)

4/13 Shari Green, MACY McMILLAN AND THE RAINBOW GODDESS (Find the post here.)

4/17 Annie Donwerth-Chikamatsu, SOMEWHERE AMONG (Find the post here.)

4/20 Ellie Terry, FORGET ME NOT (Find the post here.)

4/24 Margarita Engle, MORNING STAR HORSE and FOREST WORLD (Find the post here.)

4/25 Tamera Will Wissinger, GONE CAMPING (Find the post here.)

4/27 Debut novelist Amanda Rawson-Hill (Find the post here.)

4/30 Holly Thompson, FALLING INTO THE DRAGON’S MOUTH (Find the post here.)

You can find a list of National Poetry Month blog projects at Jama’s Alphabet Soup. And check out this great list of recommended MG verse novels from educator Cassie Thomas at the blog Teachers Who Read.