Thursday, January 8, 2015

Spotlight on Joyce Sidman + DMC Challenge


JOYCE SIDMAN

Joyce Sidman is the winner of the 2013 NCTE Award for Excellence in Children's Poetry, which is given every two years to a living American poet in recognition of his or her aggregate work. She is the author of many award-winning children’s poetry books, including the Newbery Honor-winning Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night, and two Caldecott Honor books: Song of the Water Boatman and Other Pond Poems (also a Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award winner) and Red Sings from Treetops: A Year in Colors (which won the Claudia Lewis Poetry Award). Joyce teaches poetry writing to school children and participates in many national poetry events. She lives with her husband and dog near a large woodland in Wayzata, Minnesota.

Photo: Alan Shefland
With Joyce's recent book, Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold, the Newbery Honor award-winning partnership with printmaker (and fellow Minesotan) Rick Allen has brought us another critically acclaimed success. Winter Bees has been named a “Best Book of 2014” by School Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews, and the Chicago Public Library and has received five starred reviews! Educators should also be sure to check out this terrific readers' guide, created by Sylvia Vardell.

WINTER BEES & Other Poems of the Cold
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Nov 2014
ISBN: 978-0547906508
Click HERE to order.







Joyce has said that each of her books begins with a question.  In Winter Bees, she set out to discover how animals are able to survive the bitter cold of the long, northern winter.  From chickadees to honeybees, voles to moose, snakes to snow fleas, we learn of survival tactics as varied as the poetic forms Joyce uses to describe these resilient creatures.  Each of her twelve original poems is paired with fascinating sidebar information, and complemented by Rick Allen's exquisite hand-colored, digitally layered linocut illustrations.  Together, Joyce and Rick bring the beauty of this harsh winter landscape to life in evocative detail that jumps off the page. While the red fox on the cover does not have a poem of his own, the reader can follow his trail with every page turn. But fair warning: sometimes he's a trickster!

Photo: J. Sidman
Joyce didn't have any difficulty spotting him as he wandered past the bird feeder in her back yard.  Was he looking for an autograph? A share of the royalties?  Maybe he sniffed out the vole on page 21!









I'm honored to have Joyce join me as Today's Little Ditty's  first spotlight author of 2015. Please help me extend a warm welcome!  

As always, we'll start off the interview with a few favorites –

 
Vole Tunnels, photo: J. Sidman
Favorite thing to do in winter: 
     Find animal tracks in fresh snow.
Favorite sound: 
     First frogs calling in spring


Favorite music: 
     Traditional folk ballads

Favorite children’s book: 

     THE BAT-POET by Randall Jarrell

               

Favorite quote: 
"Like a piece of ice on a hot stove, 
 the poem must ride on its own melting."
                                                         ~Robert Frost

I’ve read that you didn’t set out to be a children’s poet—that it took some years to find “your voice.” What was that period of time like for you? And now that you’ve carved out your niche, what do you enjoy most about being a children’s author?
That period of time was tough. It involved a lot of risk-taking, a lot of failing, a lot of long, dark walks. But it was also a thrilling time, because I had nothing to lose and everything to gain. And eventually, I began to find my people – the writers I felt most comfortable among, which is what I love most about this work: the people of children’s literature—authors, illustrators, teachers, librarians.

Please describe your “writing zone”—when, where, and how you do your best work?
My writing zone is upstairs in my office. I head up there right after breakfast, with a mug of tea in my hand. I have a big, rounded stone that fits into the palm of my hand that I heft back and forth when I'm thinking or stuck. Which is a lot of the time!

You credit Alice Schertle’s ADVICE FOR A FROG as your inspiration for the poetry/ nonfiction hybrid that has become your trademark. Can you give us some insight into how you balance the research and creative aspects of your writing process?
I love research. It’s a process of uncovering mysteries. I would keep researching forever if I could. But eventually I realize that I've captured what I need to know and I'd better start writing before I lose the magic.

I'm sure I speak for many admirers of your work when I say that one of your gifts is your keen power of observation. Do you think that is something you were just born with or are there ways that writers can cultivate observational skills?
Thank you! It drives my family nuts sometimes, because I am always stopping to look at things, or remarking on them. I think I was born with a predilection for it, but I am certain it can be learned. All that is required is stillness and attention to your body: what you are seeing, feeling, smelling, hearing.

What inspired you to write WINTER BEES? Or what was the biggest challenge you faced in writing WINTER BEES?
Beaver dam, photo: J. Sidman
I live in Minnesota—that’s really the answer to both questions! No, seriously, one day on the phone as we were complaining to one another, my editor Ann Rider (who also lives in MN) spurred me to find out how creatures survive our extreme winters. My biggest challenge? While investigating a beaver lodge in February, I fell through the ice! Fortunately I was able to crawl out and wasn’t too far from home.

Of all the wintering animals and plants that are featured in this book, which one do you identify with most and why?
Great question! I identify with all of them, as I am writing about them. Sometimes I want to migrate with the swans, sometimes hibernate with the snakes, sometimes greet the winter morning with a moose-like swagger. Winter has so many moods.
Can I order up some of that "moose-like swagger" please?

WINTER BEES, text © Joyce Sidman, illustration © Rick Allen  (click to enlarge)

BIG BROWN MOOSE

I'm a big brown moose,
I'm a rascally moose, 
I'm a moose with a tough, shaggy hide;
and I kick and I prance
in a long-legged dance
with my moose-mama close by my side.

I shrug off the cold
and I sneeze at the wind
and I swivel my ears in the snow;
and I tramp and I tromp 
over forest and swamp,
'cause there's nowhere a moose cannot go.

I'm a big brown moose,
I'm a ravenous moose
as I hunt for the willow and yew;
with a snort and a crunch,
I rip off each bunch,
and I chew and I chew and I chew.

When together we slump
in a comfortable clump –
my mountainous mama and I –
I give her a nuzzle 
of velvety muzzle.
Our frosty breath drifts to the sky.

I'm a big brown moose,
I'm a slumberous moose,
I'm a moose with a warm, snuggly hide;
and I bask in the moon
as the coyotes croon, 
with my moose-mama close by my side.
                              ~ Joyce Sidman, Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold


What’s coming up next for you?
My next published book (2016) will be a picture book about a snowfall, illustrated by Beth Krommes. Another winter book! But it's set in a city, and is about wishing for a snow day. Tentative title is BEFORE MORNING.

Little Miss Amazing:
a 6 year old Joyce Sidman
If you had all the world’s children in one room, what would you tell them? 
Trust yourself. You are amazing!



Finally, please tell us what you have chosen as this month’s ditty challenge.
I propose a "Deeper Wisdom” poem (just made up this name!). It’s modeled after the poem “What Do the Trees Know?” from WINTER BEES:



WINTER BEES, text © Joyce Sidman, illustration © Rick Allen  (click to enlarge)

What do the trees know?
      To bend when all the wild winds blow.
      Roots are deep and time is slow.
      All we grasp, we must let go.
   
What do the trees know?
      That buds can weather ice and snow.
      Dark gives way to sunlight’s glow.
      Strength and stillness help us grow.

 This kind of poem involves as much thinking as writing. Here are the steps:
1. Choose a subject. It can be anything: an ant, the Empire State Building, your father. Your poem will be called “What Does [your subject] Know? 
2. Think about the greater Truths that this particular object knows, whether it is alive or not. 
3. State these truths—six of them—in two stanzas, repeating your question before each stanza. 
4. If you want, rhyme each final word—but this is not necessary.

Okay!  Who's ready to try another new poetry form? 

Throughout the month, send your Deeper Wisdom poem to TodaysLittleDitty (at) gmail (dot) com or use the contact form in the sidebar to the right. For children under 13 who would like to participate, please read my COPPA compliance statement located below the contact form.

Some poems may be published on the blog as daily ditties, but all of them will appear in a wrap-up post on January 30th. As extra incentive (as if you needed it!), Joyce has graciously provided me with an autographed copy of Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold which I will send to one lucky participant selected randomly! 

Thank you, Joyce, not only for today's interview, 
but for all that you help us see through your eyes.


There's always something new to discover at The Opposite of Indifference. Please join our host, Tabatha Yeatts, for today's Poetry Friday roundup.




61 comments:

  1. Oh thank you for interviewing Joyce, Michelle. She is such an amazing poet and I loved learning more about her. Love the moose poem - especially the word 'slumberous' which made me giggle. I think I'll have a go at the challenge - feeling very inspired.

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    1. Better you leave this post feeling inspired than slumberous, Sally. ;) Looking forward to your poem this month.

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  2. Michelle, here is another fabulous interview with an engaging, fabulous writer whose work I am showcasing with 4th grade teachers. (Joy's book, Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night, is on the NYS list of recommended reading for the 4th grade curriculum unit on Poetry.) Thank you for the new Ditty Challenge that Joy decided upon. This challenge leads to another level of wondering and will be a perfect activity for teachers to be aware of. Who knows how many students will be wondering and writing about What Does ??? Know?

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    1. I do hope there will be many wondering, writing students this month, Carol. I also hope that some of those poems will be shared here!

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  3. Delightful and de-lovely! WINTER BEES is gorgeous, the poems are gorgeous (of course), and the whole thing makes me happy. "Big Brown Moose" is such a fun read-aloud, but now I'm in love with the idea of the "deeper wisdom" poem. What a great idea and great challenge. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Joyce Sidman is a national treasure. We are so lucky to have her observant mind among us. Thank you both for a wonderful interview!

    P.S. Love that Robert Frost quote. :)

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  4. Joyce Sidman's "stillness and attention" beams through each of her poems, and her own deeper wisdom serves as a reminder for all of us to wait and listen, hefting the stone back and forth. Thank you for this delight of an interview on a snow day of a Buffalo morning! Inspired. x, a.

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    1. I was taken with that image of hefting the stone back and forth as well, Amy. So glad the interview left you inspired.

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  5. I love the voice of the moose poem--looking forward to trying the "Deeper Wisdom” challenge!

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    1. May you experience much deeper wisdom this month, JoAnn! I look forward to reading your poem.

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  6. Michelle, this post is amazing! Joyce Sidman is such a wise and generous poet and teacher. I've heard so much praise for Winter Bees, but haven't gotten around to buying it yet. After seeing these gorgeous samples you've shared, I'm heading to the bookstore this afternoon to get a copy. Ideas for a "deeper wisdom" poem are already swirling around in my brain. Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful interview!

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    1. Thank you, Catherine. I have no doubt those swirling ideas of yours will shower softly down on the page like new fallen snow.

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  7. Wonderful interview, what a gorgeous, gorgeous book! I'm especially partial to red foxes, as we consider them our "yard pets." Right now we have hundreds of their footprints in the snow. :) Really like that moose poem, would love to see one in person someday.

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    1. Hundreds of footprints? Oh Jama, it sounds like those yard pets are having regular block parties!

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  8. I haven't had the chance to read this book yet, and now I know I must. My family & I have been wondering how creatures survive in the intensely cold temps we've experienced this week. And Joyce has the answer in a form I love to read! Thank you!

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    1. Thank you, Jane, for stopping by and commenting!

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  9. Love that sassy six-year-old Joyce! And that rascally, clumping, swiveling, mountainous, ravenous moose! So looking forward to reading the challenge poems (and making one).

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    1. Me too! Me too! Let the month's festivities begin....

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  10. And I can SO see that sassy six-year-old showing up in the voice of that swagger-y young moose! Thank you, Michelle and Joyce, for this terrific interview. [Where would we be without Joyce? (And Alice Schertle, and Randall Jarell too.) ]
    Loved the peeks/backstory inside this latest treasure.
    Off to ponder deeper wisdom...

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    1. Isn't that sassy six-year-old photo wonderful? I knew from the beginning I had to find a way to include it, but luckily, Joyce made that easy! Wishing you plentiful pondering this month, Robyn.

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  11. Great interview, Michelle! The moose poem was one of my favourites from her book, too. I have all loads of spare time available (har har), so I'm going to have to work on writing a new poem, I see!

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  12. Thanks for this warm, snuggly, and un-slumberous interview--wonderful to read these poems on a cold, snowy day.

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    1. Perhaps I should use "un-slumberous interviews" on my resume. I like that. :) Thanks Buffy.

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  13. Great interview, Michelle and Joyce. The quote from Robert Frost is striking. I love how Joyce's work, especially WINTER BEES, is so grounded in place.

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    1. Grounded is a great way to describe Joyce's work, Laura. And that quote! It really does take hold, doesn't it?

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  14. Thank you for this spotlight on such a creative and generous poet! Can't wait to try a "deeper wisdom" poem!

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    1. With all this deeper wisdom, Mary Lee, I'm looking forward to learning a LOT this month!

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  15. Oh, I'm excited for this challenge, Michelle! So much insight in this interview - wow - Joyce is amazing! Falling through the ice for her craft no less! Thank you and Happy New Year! =)

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    1. "Falling through the ice for her craft no less!" Haha! Not sure she considered it quite that way at the time, Bridget, but I join you in your admiration!

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  16. Love Joyce Sidman, her gentleness and the quiet rhythm of her voice. I also love this challenge of Wisdom Poems. I would love to feel wise and write one. I may try to get my students involved too. Today they may be able to answer what a bandicoot knows.

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    1. Ahhhh... what a bandicoot knows... something I've often wondered myself! Luckily, your students never fail to enlighten me. :)

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  17. So much to love in this interview, not the least of which is a peek into this wonderful book (on my birthday list!). Thanks for this treat, Michelle.

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    1. My pleasure, Tara. I hope the birthday fairy brings you everything your heart desires. And if not, well, maybe you'll win a copy here!

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  18. Loved this interview, Michelle! Always great to learn more about my hero, Joyce Sidman!

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    1. Thank you, BJ. It's a joy for me to spotlight so many wonderful poets and authors here!

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  19. I love Winter Bees, a beautiful example of research to share with students who are inspired to write poetry with 'deeper wisdom'. Beautiful interview and challenge, Michelle. Joyce Sidman is inspiring with each and every book.

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    1. Thanks so much, Linda.

      "Joyce Sidman is inspiring with each and every book." <-- That, she is!

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  20. I love this book. In fact I love all of Joyce's books I've seen. I don't know that I've seen them all. Thanks for this interview.

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    1. I agree, Rosi. You certainly can't go wrong with a shelf full of Joyce Sidman books!

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  21. Great interview. I have the same "problem" as Joyce, I like to stop and look and sometimes photograph things. That's why I no longer can get people to walk with me! I think if Joyce lived closer, I'd ask to be her walking companion. I look forward to completing this month's challenge.

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    1. I'd walk with you, Diane! It would be fun to discover your world.

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  22. Great job on this interview, Michelle. Such a beautiful book. And an excellent challenge for a ditty!

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  23. Wonderful interview, Michelle and Joyce. I enjoyed learning more about Joyce and her journey. I do so love her books Thanks for sharing Big Brown Moose and What Do the Trees Know! Both are exceptional!
    The challenge sounds like so much fun!

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  24. Most enjoyable, both of you. I'm inspired to reread The Bat Poet, and I love that Frost quote so much it became the heart of a poem in my current WIP! I shall be returning with a response to your challenge...

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  25. I feel like we've all just sat down for a cup of tea! Thank you for this warm and insightful interview -- you asked perfect questions to help us get to know Joyce better (I gasped when I read she fell through a snow -- not your typical occupational hazard for a poet!). I hope I can craft something for the DMC, not just because I would *love, love, love* to have this book autographed by her, but because I love the idea of deeper wisdom and what each of us know in the core of our beings. I want to memorize her tree poem!!

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  26. Hi there Michelle! What an amazing interview you have here. Joyce Sidman is simply one of my favourite non-fiction poets - she makes nature sound so magical - what a treat to visit your site and find this here today. Love the excerpts and snippets that you shared here too. :)

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  27. Michelle, I'm looking forward to working on this challenge. And I'm looking forward to all of your 2015 ditty challenges!

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  28. Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night is a delightful collection. I look forward to reading Winter Bees and the snowfall picture book. Thank you for this interesting interview!

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  29. Thanks, Michelle! I love Joyce's poetry, and am so happy that I discovered your blog.

    Maria Gianferrari

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  30. Wonderful interview, Joyce and Michelle!

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  31. You two are inspiring even those of us who lack poetry genes!

    Loree Griffin Burns
    www.loreeburns.com

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    1. Thank you, Loree, and welcome to Today's Little Ditty!

      I must disagree with the latter half of your comment, though. We are all born poets, it's just a matter of unearthing that sense of play and wonder after years of being taught what poetry is "supposed to be." It makes me happy to know Joyce inspires the poet child in you.

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  32. Thank you Joyce and Michelle for this rich blog interview!!! Serendipitously, early this morning while at the library I picked up Joyce's book which was among the featured books! I look forward to your ditty challenge and to more poetry and blog reviews!

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    1. Welcome, Michelle! And I forward to seeing what you come up with this month. :)

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  33. I am late to this party, but ... all the more wisdom poems to read. Thank you, Michelle and Joyce, for the interview and inspiration!

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  34. I adore this interview. Insightful to her process. Love her writing. Discipline for the win when it comes to SIDMAN POWER!

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  35. I'm reading this interview on 10/29/16 after enjoying Renee LaTulippe's spotlight on Joyce Sidman. One of the links was to this fabulous interview. Thanks for all the ideas here. This week I will be attempting a Deeper Meaning poem. I think that's what all poems really are anyway!

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