Thursday, November 10, 2016

Buffy Silverman: Overheard at Highlights



The Highlights Foundation


Attending a workshop at the Highlights Foundation is something I've wanted to do for some time. 

But until that day comes, I'm grateful for whatever I can glean from others. Today Buffy Silverman is here with a glimpse of a spectacular workshop led by Rebecca Kai Dotlich and Georgia Heard. If you like what you read, the same workshop is scheduled in 2017 from October 15-19.


OVERHEARD AT HIGHLIGHTS

In September I had the good fortune of attending The Craft and Heart of Writing Poetry for Children, a Highlights Foundation workshop led by Rebecca Kai Dotlich and Georgia Heard.


The Craft and Heart of Writing Poetry for Children, September 11-15, 2016

Lucky me, you’re thinking. Well lucky you too, because I’m willing to share a bit of what I learned. Much of the workshop focused on craft. Rebecca offered this advice: 
You’ve got to start somewhere. Put your poem in a place that speaks to you and then let it meander from place to place. 

With that in mind, our fearless leaders wrote two poems in front of us, starting with a word we tossed out: starfish. It was interesting to watch them meander along, crossing out lines, asking questions of their subject and then landing independently on the same final line! Watching them gave us permission to meander, falter and start again in our own attempts. We each chose a word from the group’s random word list: spoon, tenacity, lantern, pluck, sieve, and tarnish. I had recently finished a manuscript on angel sharks (who spend many motionless days waiting for food to wander near) and wrote a poem entitled “The Tenacity of Angels.” 

We also focused on observation, carefully listing the properties of a rock that a scientist might notice, and then bringing in emotion as we observed as poets. My little rock transformed from a list that included rough, warm, cracked with glints of silver to the start of this poem:
Old stone wears wisps of white,
grizzled as Grandpa’s beard.
A twinkle and glint
speckles its sandpaper skin.

For me the most important part of the workshop focused on the heart of poetry. Rebecca told us, Poetry books are your community, and we studied the words of other poets to learn how they connect with a reader. We considered how poets opened the door to invite a reader into a poem, and encourage them to stay until the poem ends. For example, the following poem by Nan Fry starts with a concrete image and circles back to that image as it ends:
Apple
   by Nan Fry

At the center, a dark star
wrapped in white.
When you bite, listen
for the crunch of boots on snow,
snow that has ripened. Over it
Stretches the red, starry sky.

When I read that poem, I hear the crunch on snow. As Georgia said, 
the sounds in your poem are like when you weave on a loom. [Sound] is the invisible stitch.

We were treated to a Skype visit with Lee Bennett Hopkins, who shared his process of putting together an anthology. Lee starts with a concept before selecting poets for a book. He carefully considers the opening and closing of an anthology and the order of each poem, aiming for a book that reads as if it is a novel, not just a collection of individual poems. Lee also talked about how to put heart in a poem:  
I’m interested in giving children beauty. I want kids to feel something, to have emotion…. As a poet you want to expand their view, to get them to look up.

Rebecca Davis, Senior Editor for Boyds Mills Press and Wordsong also spoke to our group. She gave us some insight into how she selects a manuscript, and the revision process that she and an author share. I think these words from Rebecca summed up the workshop:  
The most important thing is that you’re writing from your heart, that you’re writing what you’re passionate about, and the writing is very strong.  

A tall order—but one that I’m inspired to achieve after attending the workshop!

Poetry Friday attendees (from L-R): Buffy Silverman, Linda Kulp Trout,
Charles Waters, Robyn Hood Black, Catherine Flynn, and Linda Baie.


Thank you, Buffy, for sharing the heart of this wonderful workshop!

Be sure to check out Buffy's other contributor posts on Today's Little Ditty:

Buffy Silverman is the author of 80 nonfiction books for children, winning awards from Science Books and Films, the Children’s Book Committee at Bank Street College, and the Society of School Librarians International.  She's also written poems and stories for popular children's magazines, poetry anthologies, and educational resources. Visit Buffy at her website, www.BuffySilverman.com.


Our DMC challenge for November is from Ann Rider, Executive Editor at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: write a poem, in any style, about a place of refuge and solace that is important to you. Click HERE to read Ann's Spotlight interview, then post your poem on our November 2016 padlet. This week's featured poems were by Lisa Albert, Mary York, Angelique Pacheco, and Jessica Bigi.




Follow your creative wanderings to the Poetry Friday roundup at Jama's Alphabet Soup.






30 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing these snippets from the workshop. There are so many rich thoughts to ponder. What a wonderful experience for everyone who was fortunate enough to attend!

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  2. Thanks for sharing these insights.I especially loved LBH's reminder that we want kids to look up.

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    1. The rest of his quote was..."and put the damned device down!" Yes siree..

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  3. I love Buffy's title "The Tenacity of Angels." And books as community and the sound of words and Lee's lifelong mission of enlarging children's worlds with beauty and these wonderful pictures of wonderful poets. thank you, Michelle and Buffy! xo

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    1. Thanks, Irene. I intended to put that poem on my blog this week, but somehow did not. Maybe this isn't a good season for celebrating predators...

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  4. Oh, Buffy, thanks for the memories! What a delicious time we all had!

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  5. Thank you, Michelle and Buffy, for this enlightening post. Loved every bit of it!

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  6. Thanks, Buffy, for this wonderful write up full of inspiring nuggets.

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    1. It was a great excuse for me to go over the notes I took--win win!

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  7. What an incredibly inspiring experience, thank you for taking the rest of us along with you! :)

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  8. Glad you had such an inspiring time, Buffy! I'm so looking forward to going back again one day...there;s nothing like it!

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    1. That is certainly true, Matt---save your pennies!

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  9. This sounds so amazing and inspiring. Thanks for the wonderful details, Buffy.

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    1. It was certainly an inspiring time, Penny.

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  10. I love hearing about the prompts that led you to poems. I want to try them with my students. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Lots of good stuff to do with students, Margaret--I'm planning to "borrow" some for school visits.

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  11. Wow, what an amazing workshop! Thank you, Buffy for these insights. I love the idea that "sound is the invisible stitch". Thank you, Michelle, too! =)

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  12. Appreciations for this vicarious experience, which has got me itching to start a poem in an intense place & listen for the meander. Every poet guide's thoughts you've shared & your own examples, are a generous short course.

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  13. Great advice there. Love what Buffy did in her little rock poem.

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    1. Thanks, Brenda--I just included a snippet of it here. One of the wonderful parts of the workshop was starting several poems.

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  14. Thank you, Buffy and Michelle! I've gleaned lots of good notes from this. Love this: "Poetry books are your community." (Can hardly wait to get into the seven Joyce Sidman books that are currently in my booksack, newly signed out from my local library!)

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    1. That's a terrific community to delve into, Violet!

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  15. Someday I'll attend one...some day...

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    1. Save your pennies, Mary Lee. It's well worth it!

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