Friday, 3 March 2023
Tanita Davis is hosting Poetry Friday this week. What’s it all about? Find out at Tanita’s blog, {fiction, instead of lies}!

Tuesday was the final day of the 2023 February Poetry Project. This year’s theme was STORY. There were so many incredible prompts, dreamed up by the group’s participants.

I’ve been thinking a lot about poems and how we use them to tell stories. I’m gearing up to teach my virtual class once again: “Poetry Techniques for the Verse Novelist.” The first time I offered the course, in November/December of 2022, we had a great, enthusiastic group. I learned so much from them and I know they learned from each other.

This six session course is designed for people who would like to write a verse novel, or are drafting one, but … 1. aren’t confident in their poetry skills or 2. have strong poetry skills but haven’t worked on an extended narrative in verse. 

The class is limited to 8-12 people. When it’s full, I send a questionnaire to gauge interest in the areas we focus on and which mentor texts we use. (Last time, the books were Long Way Down, by Jason Reynolds, Inside Out & Back Again, by Thanhha Lai, Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson, Blood Water Paint, by Joy McCullough, and my verse novel, The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary.)

The class will likely run in May and June. All sessions are recorded. The fee includes an optional 30 minute private consultation with me and — if people are interested — there will once again be a student-run critique group concurrent with the class.

If you are interested, please contact me by email at for fees and details.

Now onto poetry!

Poetry Friday regular Marilyn Garcia wrote one of my favorite prompts for this month: “Today let’s think about old objects that hold stories. What is the oldest object in your home? Why do you have it? How did you get it? Do you actually use it and how?”

I wrote a double nonet about a jacket I gave to my grandmother as a gift, which now belongs to me.

And this is what I learned about corduroy as a fabric: “The ridges of piled yarn on corduroy fabric are known as wales, and these wales vary significantly in width. A piece of corduroy fabric’s ‘wale number‘ is determined by the number of wales contained in a single inch of fabric, and standard corduroy fabric has around 11-12 wales.” (Source: This jacket hangs on the office chair where I am sitting right now.

As you can imagine, the responses to this prompt were fascinating insights into the lives and histories of the poets.

It was a great month and I wish I could have participated more! A trip to the UK with my daughter, followed by a (mild) bout of Covid meant I only wrote about 16 poems. I’m hoping to go back, complete all of the prompts, and read everyone else’s contributions.

Thanks to all of those who were part of this year’s project! Can’t wait to do it again in 2024.

26 responses to “Story and Poetry”

  1. Sally Murphy says:

    Oh Laura. Your poem is lovely. It may be hanker for winter so I could slip on my corduroy pants – and form my own grandmother. Thank you!

    • Laura Shovan says:

      Thanks, Sally. I can’t believe my grandmother has been gone for 20 years this year. I really do treasure this jacket. It’s like a hug.

  2. Kathryn Apel says:

    I did not know about wales. Your poem is poignant; bringing even the musty scent of smoke. And those geese. Wonderful ending. You have been so busy! Still are!

  3. Irene Latham says:

    Laura, I love the poem. I’m going to spend some time with that- might take me a minute to figure out what’s the oldest thing in my home. And your class sounds fabulous! Charles and I are giving a presentation at our local SCBWI on multiple narrators and will be featuring among others your LAST FIFTH GRADE. xo

  4. I love this double nonet and how you have placed so much of your grandmother’ character in it. The box corduroy jacket, smoke tinted, and the image of your grandmother visiting the geese on her walk. I so appreciate having the opportunity to join the February Poetry Project! Thank you.

    • Laura Shovan says:

      Hi, Janice. Thank you. She was a character. So glad you could be with us for the February project this year.

  5. tanita says:

    Oh, Laura… I have a purple corduroy jacket my mom loaned me for a walk… Somehow, years later, I have never given it back. She is, gratefully, alive and well, but this jacket already serves as that hug against the loss awaiting down a (hopefully very) long corridor of years.

    I love best the turn in the poem, that description of “smoke fumed,” and then the memory, only yours, devoid of other’s opinions. Lovely.

    • Laura Shovan says:

      Hi, Tanita! Oh — we will have to plan to wear our corduroy jackets together when we meet. Aren’t they cozy?

  6. I really feel the bonded presence of your grandmother in your poem. BTW, I have a corduroy jacket that my daughter has taken a liking too, but she can’t have it yet… Hope you are over your Covid bout, no fun. Thanks again for a fab month of February Poetry, and all the best with the class, it sounds enticing!

    • Laura Shovan says:

      She was so important in my life, Michelle. WOW — Another corduroy jacket. You, me, and Tanita.

  7. Denise Krebs says:

    Laura, that is a precious poem you wrote about the wide waled corduroy jacket of your grandmother’s. That’s too bad that you didn’t get to participate fully last month in the poetry prompts, but I’m glad you are feeling better and anticipating going back for the ones you missed. All the best with the class on verse novels. I loved reading The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary.

    • Laura Shovan says:

      Thanks, Denise. I knew it was going to be difficult to write every day with my travel. I appreciate your note about The Last Fifth Grade!!

  8. Carol Varsalona says:

    Laura, thank you providing the space to write for the February Poem Project. I always enjoy the supportive community and the prompts were wonderful this session. My only regret was that I could not complete each day of writing. Hopefully, I will be able to go back and create poems for my personal padlet that holds my work. I hope you are recovering from the mild case of COVID.

    • Laura Shovan says:

      Thanks, Carol. I’m so glad you’re part of the group. Yes — all better! No fever this time. My quarantine is over.

  9. Mary Lee says:

    Laura, thank you for the gift of your February Poem Project. It’s just the right kind of push to remind me about the stamina I’ll need in April, and it’s such an accepting and generous and CREATIVE group of writers. Truly a gift.

    • Laura Shovan says:

      Thank you, Mary Lee. It IS a generous group. That’s one of my favorite things about the February project.

  10. Linda Mitchell says:

    Wow! I love that poem and what I “know” from it that is similar to my stories of things I have been gifted by loved ones that have passed on. I am interested in your course…I’ll contact you.

    • Laura Shovan says:

      Thank you, Linda. Having those physical objects keeps our loved ones close. (Will email you back!)

  11. Love this connection to your grandmother, and I especially love the image of her in a warm, boxy, plum-colored jacket, honking at geese. What a picture, what a memory.

    And now I know about wales, too. 🙂

    So glad the Covid bout was mild!

  12. “Smoke fumed, clung to the fabric’s ridges”–I missed this one in the course of the month, and how poignant and balanced it is: the feel and smell of the one who has gone, the scent memories of the one who remains, “honking at geese.” Thank you for the gift once again of a month of poetry camaraderie! There will come a time when I join a class like yours, but it’s not now. : )

  13. I can smell the smoke and feel the nub of the wale.

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Laura Shovan

Laura Shovan is the author of the award-winning middle grade novel, The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary. Her second book, Takedown, is a Junior Library Guild and PJ Our Way selection. Look for A Place at the Table, co-written with Saadia Faruqi, in 2020. Laura is a poet-in-the-schools Maryland.

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