Archives: Giveaway

A Visit to Poe House

Sally Murphy is hosting the Poetry Friday round up today. Head down under to find all of this week’s links!

Poets, do you have a bucket list? A list of things you want to do before you — for example — turn 49?

My family and I have lived in the Baltimore suburbs for over 18 years. And for 18 years, we’ve talked about going to visit the Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum in Baltimore.

I fell in love with Poe’s poetry and stories when I was in middle school. Not only was he the father of horror writing, Sherlock Holmes would not exist without Poe’s detective stories. (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle borrowed mercilessly from Poe’s story, “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.”) Then my children read him in middle school and my youngest became a Poe fan too. It’s kind of hard not to love this Dark Romantic author, whose poem “The Raven” was adopted by Baltimore’s pro football team. (We are the only NFL team whose name has literary roots.)

Finally, FINALLY!, we did it.

Last Saturday, my husband, 18-year-old, and I headed out to find the tiny little row-house on Amity Street where Poe lived with his aunt Maria Clemm and her daughter, his cousin (later, wife) Virginia for three years.

We paid our $5 each in a front room, then headed into what would have been the kitchen. Dark. Small! No natural light. (There would have been a door, the friendly guide said, but it led to the alley and the outhouse.) There would have been a little cook-stove, not a full fireplace big enough for a cooking pot. This — we learned — was an area of the city where itinerant families lived. The Clemm family didn’t have a lot of furniture or clothing. They were poor.

Sitting room on second floor (with those steep stairs!)

You cannot believe how narrow the stairs are. I imagined how claustrophobic this house must have been, with three and sometimes more people living here. Did the compressed space influence Poe’s writing?

The second floor is a sitting room with a fireplace. A highlight for me was this wooden box, a travel writing desk that belonged to Poe.

Poet’s travel writing desk. The museum keeps a list of works Poe is believed to have composed in this house.








Peeking into the bedroom from the top of the stairs. I can’t imagine climbing up here every day.

Another impossibly tight flight of stairs went up to the bedroom. They couldn’t have all slept here! Visiting the house gave me a new appreciation for how difficult Poe’s life must have been.


I couldn’t leave without buying you a souvenir. Check out this Edgar Allan Poe Keepsake Journal. I’m giving it away to one lucky reader. Leave a comment on this post and you’ll be entered in a random drawing.

I brought back a souvenir.









Instead of posting my favorite Poe poem (“Alone”) today, I’ve got another surprise. Have you heard Sarah Jarosz musical rendition of “Annabelle Lee”?  When I hear this poem sung, I can’t help but think of young Virginia, who died of tuberculosis at age 24.


Poetry Friday: #10FoundWords

Poetry Friday blogger and picture book author Penny Klosterman is hosting all of the poetry links today. Stop by A PENNY AND HER JOTS for more poetry posts from around the web and around the world.

Happy February, everyone. This week, we kicked off my annual poem project, which has moved over to Facebook.

This year’s theme is #10FoundWords. We have a daily news story, speech, or current event selected by a project member. That person chooses 10 words from the news source, which makes up our word bank for the day.

Because we’re all writing with the same daily prompts, my favorite part of the project is reading the response poems. I notice the ways our writing overlaps, and cheer people on when their poems are unexpected, when there’s an innovation. (You can still join the project. Leave a note in the comments if you’d like to give it a try.)

Speaking of news — scroll to the bottom of the page for two announcements: an event with me and YA author Heidi Heilig, and a book giveaway.

Here’s one of my own poems, written as a warm-up exercise.

By Laura Shovan

Remember learning long division?
This was long ago, 20th Century math.
Historical stuff. We’re talking
a solid wall between two different numbers.
The smaller number makes its appeal.
“Let me inside. It’s cold.
I’m suffering out here.”
The wall stays up because
that’s how division has always
been calculated. But the big number
is overcome with a generous spirit.
It sneaks the shivering digits inside,
counts how many will fit.
Soon, there are numbers
climbing on the roof, thankful numbers
tunneling underneath.
It’s a kind of freedom,
the way they gather on all sides
of the wall, which looks thinner,
less substantial, surrounded
by the orderly many.

This was Warm-up #6: January 29, 2017. Kip Rechea was in charge of this day’s #10FoundWords and news source.

20th Century

Source: An appeal from the mayor of Berlin not to build a wall across the U.S. border with Mexico.

Still here? Great! Thanks for sticking with me. I’ve got two announcements.

Announcement #1: On February 8, I’m hosting YA author Heidi Heilig (THE GIRL FROM EVERYWHERE) as part of the Master Storytellers series run by the Ivy Bookshop. Join me and Heidi as we discuss the broad appeal of young adult fiction. You can find details and RSVP here. If you’re in town for AWP, it’s a short trip up to Baltimore. Hope to see you there.

Announcement #2: Foundry Media is giving away four copies of THE LAST FIFTH GRADE OF EMERSON ELEMENTARY on Goodreads. Sign up here to join the giveaway.

Announcement #3: (When I said “two announcements,” I was simply stating an alternate fact.) I’m excited to share that THE LAST FIFTH GRADE is a finalist for a Pennsylvania Young Readers’ Choice Award!

Poetry Prompt Jar Giveaway

PF tag

Laura Purdie Salas is hosting Poetry Friday this week. Visit WRITING THE WORLD FOR KIDS to check out all of this week’s poetry posts.

Hello from Klamath Falls, Oregon! In real life, I’m on the West Coast to do some school and library visits with my good friend Janet Sumner Johnson, author of THE LAST GREAT ADVENTURE OF THE PB&J SOCIETY.

But online, I’m guest-blogging this week at poet and children’s author Jacqueline Jules’s blog, Pencil Tips: Writing Workshop Strategies.



Empty protein powder jar.

When Jackie asked me to put together a workshop or activity, I decided to get crafty. I dusted off my long-neglected glue gun, grabbed some wrapping paper scraps, and got busy… making a poetry prompt jar that Ms. Hill’s class would be proud of.

There is one and only one of these beauties. I am giving this prompt jar, full of poetry prompts from my book, away to one class! Leave a comment on this post to be entered in the giveaway.

UPDATE: The drawing will be on Monday, November 21, after NCTE. See you there!


Glue gun!

You can read full instructions for creating a Poetry Prompt Jar (just like the one in THE LAST FIFTH GRADE OF EMERSON ELEMENTARY) at Jackie’s blog. Meanwhile, enjoy the photo gallery of my prompt jar in progress.

There’s a photo of the finished product at the Pencil Tips blog.

Good luck with the giveaway!


My kids don’t need those “Magnetic Poetry for Kids” tiles anymore. Time for a poem!


Almost finished.

Laura’s Bookshelf: Special Giveaway Edition!

It’s only three weeks until the launch of THE LAST FIFTH GRADE. Good thing I don’t have to wait alone. Three other debut middle grade authors are celebrating book birthdays on April 12, 2016.

We’re calling ourselves #April12thMGShelf.


Together, we are giving away a shelf-worth of new middle grade books, all four of our titles, to one lucky winner. Skip to the bottom of this post for giveaway details.

We are also visiting four blogs (plus one “B side” blog with bonus info) over the next three weeks.

First, let me tell you about the books.

counting thymeCOUNTING THYME is about Thyme, a middle schooler who moves across the country to New York City, where her little brother is going through a cancer trial. It’s an upbeat story about how a family copes, adapts, and does their best to feel “normal” when there is a crisis. Melanie Conklin is the author. She has paired up with the non-profit Cookies for Kids’ Cancer for some fundraisers. You can read my full post about the book here.

Pre-order at Indiebound.

my seventhMY SEVENTH-GRADE LIFE IN TIGHTS by Brooks Benjamin is about Dillon, also a middle schooler. Dillon longs to take dance classes at a prestigious studio in town. However, his dance crew/best friends dislike the studio or the kids who dance there. When Dillon has a chance to compete for a scholarship to the studio, he has to decide whether to go for it at the risk of losing his crew and his own unique dance style. My post about this book is here.

Pre-order at Indiebound.

THE LAST FIFTH GRADE OF EMERSON ELEMENTARY is my new novel-in-verse for children. If you read this blog, you already know about my book. I just received the Teacher’s Guide and can reveal (exclusive information alert!) it was created by none other than Sylvia Vardell of the blog Poetry for Children. Pre-order a signed copy from the Ivy Bookshop.

treasure at lureTREASURE AT LURE LAKE by Shari Schwarz is a family adventure story. Brothers Bryce and Jake hike deep into the woods with their grandpa, to spend a few weeks at their family’s secluded cabin. There, they have to deal with sibling rivalry, a hungry bear, a curious elk, and an old family secret. I’ll be blogging about this book soon.

Pre-order from Indiebound.

#April12thMGShelf Blog Tour Details

Sub It Club: March 22nd, Topic: Path to Publication
Kidliterati: March 29th, Topic: #April12thMGShelf Talk Books, Writing, and Inspiration
KIDLIT411: April 1, Topic: Friday bonus feature
MGM: April 4, Topic: Brooks Benjamin pairs videos with our books
Mixed up Files: April 7, Topic: Interviews

You will find the book giveaway here!

The Last Fifth Grade ARC Giveaway!

2013-08-03 17.47.05-3 (1)

Make mine banana cream.

Happy Pi Day, poets and friends! I’ve got a slice of something special for you today.

To help celebrate the 20th anniversary of National Poetry Month, I’m giving away a signed ARC of THE LAST FIFTH GRADE OF EMERSON ELEMENTARY. The giveaway starts today and ends on April 1.

You’ll find details and giveaway instructions at Goodreads.

What would the Emerson Elementary 5th graders  be reading on Pi Day? How about my friend Jean Meyers’ poem, “I Prefer Pi”?



Oh pi, we celebrate you,
you, discovered by Greek mathematicians,
you, come down to us through the centuries,
unchanged, unchangeable.

Without you, pi,
how would we get through fifth grade math?
Or how could we make crop circles?
Or those things the New Englanders call rotaries?
Without you, would cookies be round?
Would we have wedding rings?

You look so sturdy there, pi,
with your two firm legs
and the little table across the top.
You are just the right spot, pi,
for afternoon tea, served with —
of course, my favorite —
raspberry pie.

by Jean Meyers, from You Are Here Too
All rights reserved.

(Some of you will see a little joke at the end of the poem, but it was written and published long before Raspberry Pi came on the scene.)