Thursday, October 31, 2013

Five for Friday: PHSD

What a week it's been! 

If you missed the outcome of my Insomnia, you can find it here.

You can find The Witching Hour, my entry to Susanna Leonard Hill's 3rd annual Halloweensie Contest, here.

But really I've been eating, sleeping, and breathing Halloween all month long, and now...

Courtesy of Matt Ward

I feel like death warmed over.

Courtesy of GiggleBugg

Nah, don't call Zombie Control just yet, it's only Post Halloween Stress Disorder (PHSD).  Easily remedied with a bit of Five for Friday group therapy.

To join in, all you need to do is string five words together (plus title, if you like), leave it in the comments section, and I'll move it here so we can all enjoy.  Easy peasy zombie squeasy.  Don't fuss too much or bust a gut, it's just five words.  You really can't go wrong.

Then, when you're done, hobble over to TeacherDance where Linda is hosting today's Poetry Friday hangover... I mean roundup.  But try not to leave any limbs behind, okay?


is my 
middle name


No more
cookie fingers

-Linda Baie, TeacherDance 

(for Linda)

We'll be back
next year!

-Tabatha Yeatts, The Opposite of Indifference


Chocolate ghosts
candy jar

-Laura Shovan, Author Amok

Too much candy equals gas...

-Richard McCray II

The porch light
is out.

-Regina Sokas

Still coffin up bone splinters.

-Jama Rattigan, Jama's Alphabet Soup

Kids gone.
Candy tithing begins.

-Buffy Silverman, Buffy's Blog

giddy giggles,
Halloween hangover

-Bridget Magee, wee words for wee ones


Sugar turns
kids to

-Keri Collins Lewis, Keri Recommends 

A thousand welcomes
to November!

-Ruth, There is no such thing as a God-forsaken Town

November starts
with sugar highs.

-George A. Heidenrich


The teacher
sighed with

-Mary Lee Hahn, A Year of Reading


Not enough
in Europe!

-Renée LaTulippe, No Water River

Trick or Treat -
Too late?

-Robyn Hood Black, Life on the Deckle Edge

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Witching Hour

We're halfway through the Halloween Countdown, and the suspense is killing me!  Will I survive this Insomnia?

A "weensie" dose of lighter fare may be just what I need to pull through, so I've decided to enter the 3rd annual Halloweesie Contest sponsored by Susanna Leonard Hill.  The rules of the contest are simple: write a Halloween story in 100 words or less.  It can be scary or funny, poetry or prose, but it must be appropriate for children and include the words spooky, black cat, and cackle.

Well, you know me, I took the "little ditty" approach.


          This is the tale
          of two cats and a whale
          named Spooky, Cackle and Boo.

          Each Halloween
          the trio is seen
          traversing the ocean blue.

          An unusual sight—
          black cats in the night
          on the tail of a whale, it’s true.

          But once every year
          when bewitching time’s here,
          they set sail and admire the view.

          © 2013 Michelle Heidenrich Barnes. All rights reserved.

Courtesy of Eunice and Andrew, Lazy Cats Are Here

Be sure to stop by Susanna's blog, Something for Everyone in the World of Children's Books, to read and enjoy all of the entries.  After the finalists have been selected, there will be a vote for the winner on Monday, November 4th.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Halloween Countdown: Day 1

Limerick Alley, after dark

Lucky, the Halloween shamrock

Halloween has come to Limerick Alley...  


Ooh, I hope it's not TOO scary!

In the spirit of the Halloween horror franchise and its bountiful series of slasher movies, I thought it would be fun to release a stream of limericks to count down the remaining days until Halloween.  Sooooo...

For the next week, I will be releasing one stanza each day of my seven stanza poem titled Insomnia.

Be sure to return to this post daily to see how the story unfolds!


       It’s 3 a.m., why aren’t I sleeping?
       Odd hours I seem to be keeping.
       My eyes are not closing,
       my mind is composing,
       and limericks, silently creeping…

       Was that just the wind I heard moan?
       Making these walls creak and groan?
       I can't comprehend
       why my hair stands on end,
       till I notice I'm not here alone.

       My eyesight, unfocused and bleary;
       the silence, electric and eerie;
       a whisper, my name,
       "Who's there?!" I exclaim.
       "Just me," she says, "no worries, Dearie."

       From shadows, a hideous sight
       ignites my spontaneous fright:
       a foul surprise
       with sunken white eyes,
       and skin mostly rotted with blight!

       "I once was a dancer, you know.
       Tonight, it's my Halloween show..."
       Her head, it unhinges
       and out jump, like ninjas,
       huge crickets that breed in her toe. 

       I feel the sweat bead on my brow.
       The crickets are everywhere now!
       My heart skips a beat
       but I'm stuck to my seat,
       and I think that I'm having a cow. 

       I'm shaking like autumn's last leaf,
       just hoping the pain will be brief.
       wakes me up from my dream...
       and I breathe a deep sigh of relief. 

       © 2013 Michelle Heidenrich Barnes. All rights reserved.       

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

(The Other) Danse Macabre

Last Friday I shared Carrie Clickard's humorous death romp, Danse Macabre-- a pas de deux performed by a zombie ballerina and her mummy dance partner.  In keeping with our Halloween momentum, today's post is about the other, more traditional Danse Macabre.  According to legend, every Halloween at midnight, Death summons the dead from their graves to dance for him while he plays his fiddle.  The ghostly dance party continues until the rooster crows at dawn, when the skeletons must again return to their graves until next year.

French composer Camille Saint-Saëns' Danse Macabre, Op. 40, was originally written in 1872 as a song for voice and piano, based on the following (translated) text by the French poet Henri Cazalis:

          Zig, zig, zig, Death in cadence,
          Striking with his heel a tomb,
          Death at midnight plays a dance-tune,
          Zig, zig, zig, on his violin.
          The winter wind blows and the night is dark;
          Moans are heard in the linden-trees.
          Through the gloom, white skeletons pass,
          Running and leaping in their shrouds.
          Zig, zig, zig, each one is frisking.
          The bones of the dancers are heard to crack-
          But hist! of a sudden they quit the round,
          They push forward, they fly; the cock has crowed.

In 1874, Saint-Saëns expanded and reworked the piece into the more familiar tone poem for orchestra.  I hope you enjoy this Halloween cartoon aired by PBS in 1980 which is set to the familiar score:

Friday, October 18, 2013

Carrie Clickard meets Mortimer, Halloween Edition

He's baaaaaaaaack... costume???

HALLOWEEN Beau Bunny Rabbit by TheDecoratedHouse

(Mortimer must think "little ditties" are bunny treats.)

Little Fruity Ditty?
Little Twiggy Ditty?

Sorry, Mortimer, no Happy Frutti or Tasty Twigs...
but have I got a treat for you!

Today Carrie Clickard is here so that you can ask her some questions.

What's that, Mortimer?  Who's Carrie Clickard?

Why she's my good friend, super critique buddy, and an extraordinary children's author and poet! 
Carrie's rollicking debut picture book, Victricia Malicia: Book-Loving Buccaneer, was released last year by Flashlight Press, and she has two more books hopping down the bunny trail: Magic for Sale, scheduled for release next year, and Fu Ling and the Dragon Gate, due out in 2015. 

As legend has it, Carrie's got rhymes coming out her ears (which is impressive considering they aren't nearly as long as yours, Mortimer) and her imagination breeds stories like rabbits!

No, Mortimer, you don't need to worry.  Just ask your questions.

MORTIMER:  Do you remember the first poem you wrote? 

CARRIE:  Absolutely.  Well, let me make that an "almost absolutely." (grin) I may have had to do a few rhyming exercises earlier in school, but the first real stanza-ed poem I wrote was in 6th grade, titled "An Elephant in my Bathtub."  In fact, owing to my Mom's amazing memorabilia keeping abilities, I still have the graded paper.  Thanks Mom!  It's a silly rhyming romp about a girl discovering animals in impossible places throughout the house when, at the end, it turns out they are all in her imagination.  The poem was more than a bit autobiographical as I was quite addicted to imaginary companions in my youngest years.  I'd have adored living in the zoo-mania house the poem describes.  Of course, by 6th grade I was much too old for such silliness in real life, so I expressed my longing for that sense of "anything can happen" in my poetry.

MORTIMER:  What's the strangest thing you've ever written a poem about?

CARRIE:  Hmm.  As my writing critique buddies, and editors, will tell you, I LOVE strange and unexpected characters and imagining what would happen in places that simply don't exist.  Martian cowboys? OK! A bogeyman who's allergic to dust bunnies? Yes sir! To date, I think the oddest I've written in rhyme would be my poem "Danse Macabre," which instead of being a very serious spooky poem, is a silly ditty about a pas de deux performed by a zombie ballerina and her mummy dance partner.  Their brilliant performance is constantly interrupted by the mummy's unraveling wraps and the ballerina losing bits and pieces of herself.  I did manage a happy ending, rather than a gruesome one, as both are re-stitched and go on to great success in the spotlight.  There are one or two other very strange ideas, but they will have to remain a secret until they find a publishing home.

EDITOR'S NOTE: I managed to twist Carrie's arm for permission to post that "silly ditty" here! ...luckily, her arm didn't fall off.

Danse Macabre

Wearing black tie and shrouds     
the audience crowds     
into seats beneath bone candelabra.
They’ve come here to view
a rare pas de deux
known as the real Dance Macabre.

A lone spotlight beams
on the stitches and seams
that adorn the swan’s tutu and face.
She poses demurely
while a mummy securely
encloses her in his embrace.

Their first promenade
is decidedly odd
for his right leg drags stiffly behind.
And each piqué twirl
makes his wrappings unfurl
revealing what’s left of his mind.

On the third fouetté
her right foot flies away 
but she bravely stays up on one toe.                  
And the mummy danseur    
looks rather unsure:
Should he fetch it? Or just let it go?

When she “spots” it’s disturbing
and appetite curbing
for her neck spins the opposite way.
And her partner, I fear,
sheds an eye or an ear
every time he decides to jeté!

As her pirouette travels,
her neck seam unravels,
and a stitch or two more from her knee.
The bird she’s portraying
is clearly decaying
and won’t see the end of Act Three.

Their love is heartbreaking,
Her death scene’s breathtaking
and the audience cries out “Encore!”
Still despite the hooray-ing
she won’t be bourrée-ing
until she is stitched up once more.

The critic’s appalled
but the crowd is enthralled.
People line up for tickets in streams.
So now every night
in a brilliant spotlight,
they are falling apart at the seams.
© 2011 C.L. Clickard.  All rights reserved.

MORTIMER:  Why do you write in rhyme, when so much of the book world prefers blank/free verse?

CARRIE:  First let me say that I don't write exclusively in rhyme. My third picture book, Fu Ling and the Dragon Gate, due out in 2015, is written in prose.  But when I'm writing poetry, it's all about the rhythm, meter and musicality for me.  The words don't just speak themselves to me, they sing inside my head. As a youngster I fell in love with the rhythmic joy of lyricists like W.S. Gilbert of Gilbert and Sullivan, the hilarious animal songs of Flanders and Swann, and the toe-tapping heart-lifting tunes of the old Broadway and movie musicals.  Add in a serious addiction to Dr. Seuss, and I was simply fated to write in metered verse.

MORTIMER: Can I have my bunny treats now?

Oh, Mortimer.  <sigh>

Thank you so much for being here today, Carrie, and joining in the Children's Poetry Blog Hop!  I may never again see Halloween in the same light.

Jack-o-lantern by Richard Lord

Tamera Will Wissinger is the other wonderful children's author/poet I tagged in my Mortimer Minute last week.  Be sure to stop by her online journal, The Writer's Whimsy, to see what treats she has for Mortimer, and for us all! 

Cathy at Merely Day by Day is hosting today's Poetry Friday roundup.

Friday, October 11, 2013

My Minute with Mortimer

"Can I have a turn?  Pleeeeeeze?!!!"  My inner child is crazy excited about having this fuzzy little guy on my lap.  (I wonder if his whiskers tickle?)  With much thanks to Margaret Simon, who extended Mortimer's paw of friendship in my direction!

Here's how the Children's Poetry Blog Hop goes:

Oops... wrong bunny hop!

Apparently, this is one cheeky ball of fluff!  Back to business, Mortimer...
  • Answer 3 questions. Pick one question from the previous Hopper. Add two of your own. Keep it short, please. This is a Blog Hop, not a Blog Long Jump; the Mortimer Minute, not the Mortimer Millennium.
  • Invite friends. Invite 1-3 bloggers who love children’s poetry to follow you. They can be writers, teachers, librarians, or just plain old poetry lovers.
  • Say thank you. In your own post, link to the previous Hopper. Then keep the Mortimer Minute going if you can— let us know who your Hoppers are and when they plan to post their own Mortimer Minute.

MORTIMER:  Do you remember the first poem you wrote?

Errr... not really.  (Great start, huh!)  I do remember my wonderful first grade teacher put together a classroom book of poetry for us to take home.  Each student wrote a 3-5 line poem that was self-illustrated.  I dearly loved reading that magical book of little ditties, and hope to rediscover it one day.  I believe my own poem started out "Come with me under the sea...."  After that, I'm not so sure.  Probably something about singing and dancing with fishes, maybe mermaids, and then the poem likely ended with something about being happy.   That was my childhood... singing and dancing and being happy.  I was a lucky little girl. 

MORTIMER:  Did you always know you would become a writer?

Definitely not, though I knew from an early age that my career would have something to do with sharing stories.  I thought my life would be in the theater.

After my introduction to poetry in first grade, writing didn't have much of an impact until I took a creative writing class in high school.  It was offered by the new teacher at our school-- a slightly eccentric, offbeat in a cool way, folksinger-by-night and teacher-by-day kind of guy.  Unfortunately, my experience in that class was not the best.  As I recall, most of my classwork rated "meh" or worse... or so I thought until I recently uncovered some of that work (while looking for my first grade poetry book).  My grades weren't as bad as I thought, and with comments like "I want a more rigorous intellectual effort to accompany your creative extravagances" and "You have some talent.  Bring your full energies to bear and you'll be surprised at what you could accomplish" and "Be brave and take a stand," I see now that he was trying to be encouraging.

Quite possibly he was as frustrated as I was with my confusion and lack of progress; but back then, all I heard was that he qualified "talent" with "some," and that the best I could do would never be good enough to warrant the lavish praise and attention he fawned on my best friend.  With his autographed LP in hand, I walked.  It took me 20 years to return to writing, and even then, it was through the back door as a freelance writer of greeting card copy.  Confidence is fragile in a 16 year old who knows nothing but a happy childhood.

MORTIMER:  Somebunny told me that yesterday was the six month birthday of your blog.  If your "inner child" sent you a greeting card, what would it say?
I’ll be nice on your birthday and really good too
I’ll clean up the sand that I left in your shoe
I’ll make you my specialty—breakfast in bed
(Hope you like ice cream with sprinkles on bread!)
I’ll help you with chores and I’ll sweep with the broom
But please don’t expect me to clean up my room
I’ll try not to whine and I’ll try not to pout
But sometimes a kid’s got to give a big shout…


(c) 2005 Michelle Heidenrich Barnes.  All rights reserved.


I am deeeelighted to be handing Mortimer off to, not one, but two awesome children's authors/poets next Friday, October 18th.

Carrie Clickard spends every free moment with a book in her hand or one in her head waiting to be written.  Her debut picture book, VICTRICIA MALICIA: BOOK-LOVING BUCCANEER, was published last year by Flashlight Press.  Her next book, MAGIC FOR SALE, will be published by Holiday House in 2014.  Carrie credits her career success to a firm belief that dragons exist and that competitive baton twirling should be an Olympic sport.  I'm delighted that Carrie's Mortimer Minute will appear right here, on Today's Little Ditty.

Tamera Will Wissinger has been reading and writing stories and poetry since she was young.  Her debut book, GONE FISHING: A NOVEL IN VERSE, released from Houghton Mifflin Books for Children earlier this year.  Her second book, THIS OLD BAND, is scheduled to release in June 2014 with Sky Pony Press.  When she's not working she might be fishing or boating, watching the interesting wildlife around her neighborhood, or noticing how each day is so beautiful and unique.  You can find Tamera's Mortimer Minute at her online journal, The Writer's Whimsy.

Thanks Mortimer, it's been fun!  And to everyone else, thank you for hanging around and allowing me to waffle on about myself.

Laura Purdie Salas has today's Poetry Friday roundup on her new and improved blog, Writing The World For Kids.  Mortimer's excited, how about you?

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Our Deepest Fear: Poetry in Action from Botlhale Boikanyo

I was lucky enough to have Lorie Ann Grover visit the Haiku Garden earlier this week.  Lorie Ann shared a wonderful haiku about gazing eye to eye with a raven she met on her travels, which you can read here.

Inspired by her visit, today's little ditty was going to show another side of the incredibly uncommon "Common Raven," but I've since changed my mind.  I don't know about you, but this week's news has left me feeling sideswiped-- depressed, angry, and more than a little bit perplexed about how our country has come to this.  Perhaps I will return to the raven another day; today I need an infusion of hope.

Enter Botlhale "the flame" Boikanyo, contestant and ultimate winner of South Africa's Got Talent 2012.  Some of you may have already seen her video which has made the rounds on social media.  For those of you who haven't, you're in for a treat.

From the moment this 11-year-old poet explodes onto the stage with a confidence only a child prodigy can own, she immediately wins over the hearts of everyone in the room.  She first performs an inspirational quote by spiritual teacher, author and lecturer, Marianne Williamson, from her book A Return to Love.  Afterwards, she is invited by one of the judges to perform one of her original poems.  With her own poem, not only does Botlhale speak for herself, but for her family, her community, her country, and, it seems, her entire generation.  Before long, we are convinced that we are witnessing a child destined for greatness.

And now that you're feeling better (I know I am!), please head over to Dori Reads, where Doraine has another uplifting post and today's Poetry Friday roundup.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Haiku Garden: Lorie Ann Grover

In legend and in literature, ravens get around.  They can be found on every continent and, since ancient times, have featured in cultural lore around the globe.  Most commonly they are symbolized in one of three ways: as a harbinger of death, a prankster, or a prophet.  While most of us are familiar with Edgar Allan Poe's depiction of the raven, William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Christopher Marlowe, and even J. R. R. Tolkien have also written about this sometimes-stately, sometimes-wily, sometimes-wise, but always-revered bird.

Add Lorie Ann Grover to the list.  In choosing her subject matter, today's special guest to the Haiku Garden is in excellent literary company.  Lorie Ann tells us, "This was a gorgeous raven I happened upon in Ketchikan.  There is no doubt when you finally see a raven that it is not a crow.  He was huge!"  She's right, of course.  When I did a bit of research, I discovered ravens can be over two feet with a wing span of nearly five feet!  They are also highly intelligent birds, as Lorie Ann discovered when she exchanged more than a mere glance with this one.


We pause to peer with
round eyes into each other
before we pass by.

© 2013 Lorie Ann Grover.  All rights reserved.

I so admire Lorie Ann's talent for shedding new light on what might otherwise appear commonplace, and for encouraging readers to think about things more deeply, or from a different angle or perspective.  Please visit her blog, On Point: writing through life, to read more of her thought-provoking haiku and to discover her other talents as an author/illustrator.  Lorie Ann is also the co-founder of the award-winning readergirlz, a literacy and social media project for teens, and of readertotz, raising the profile of board books for the youngest readers.

Thank you for providing us with today's little ditty, Lorie Ann!  It's a pleasure having you here.