Thursday, February 23, 2017

February DMC Wrap-Up + Giveaway


"Feelings" by Mary

“It is so many years before one can believe enough in what one feels even to know what the feeling is.”
                                                                                           — William Butler Yeats


At the beginning of this month, Jeannine Atkins challenged us to write poems that use personified feelings.


Some of these feelings burst on the scene, eager to be heard!

"Happy" by Carmela Nava

Others were more timid.

 "Embarrassment" by Oleg Afonin




A few arrived with
quiet confidence.

Confident by Pison Jaujip













What's important is that they showed up . . .

"Cheekiness Personified" by Zoe

                                                               and felt welcome.


Many thanks to everyone who contributed to this month's challenge, and especially to Jeannine for encouraging us to explore these many moods of ourselves.


Scroll through the poems below. Or, for best viewing, click HERE.


Made with Padlet


Inspired to write your own personified feeling poem?

"Emotions" by Judy van der Velden

Post it on our February 2017 padlet by Tuesday, February 28th, and I will add it to the wrap-up presentation.





Participants in this month's challenge will automatically be entered to win a personalized copy of STONE MIRRORS: THE SCULPTURE AND SILENCE OF EDMONIA LEWIS by Jeannine Atkins (Atheneum, 2017) One entry per participant, not per poem.

Alternatively, you may enter the giveaway by commenting below. Comments must also be received by Tuesday, February 28th. If you contribute a poem and comment below you will receive two entries in total.

The winner will be determined by Random.org and announced next Friday, March 3rd, when we reveal our next Spotlight ON interview and ditty challenge.




In other news . . .

I was thrilled and so proud to watch Lee Bennett Hopkins be inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame last night. 

Congratulations, Lee!

Celebrating with Lee Bennett Hopkins,
newest member of the Florida Artists Hall of Fame!

The event was the culmination of a fabulous conference called Convening Culture: Exploring Innovation and Entrepreneurship through Arts & Culture. I'm looking forward to sharing some of my takeaways from that conference in another post.

In the meantime, Karen Edmisten is hosting a snow day poetry party! Join her for this week's Poetry Friday roundup.



DMC: "Comfortable" by Donna JT Smith





COMFORTABLE

Carefree with barefeet
Overalls and a tee-shirt
Melting into a hammock
Freely swinging,
One foot dangling
Relaxed, not
Taxed
Azure eyes
Blink slowly until
Lazy lids
Extinguish the light.


© 2017 Donna JT Smith. All rights reserved.


Jeannine Atkins has challenged us to write a poem that uses personified feeling. For more details, click HERE.

Post your poem on our February 2017 padlet.  All contributions will be included in a wrap-up celebration TOMORROW, Friday, February 24th, and one lucky participant will win a personalized copy of her latest novel-in-verse from Atheneum Books/Simon & Schuster:






Wednesday, February 22, 2017

DMC: "Happiness in Motion" by Juanita Havill




HAPPINESS IN MOTION

Happiness scampers
across the roof of my mind
leaps to a branch
all spunk and play
descends
gargle-giggling from a toothy smile
delight in digging
delight in finding
delight in sitting on the deck wall
question-mark tail
curved along its back.
What next?
 
© 2017 Juanita Havill. All rights reserved.
 
 
Jeannine Atkins has challenged us to write a poem that uses personified feeling. For more details, click HERE.

Post your poem on our February 2017 padlet.  All contributions will be included in a wrap-up celebration this Friday, February 24th, and one lucky participant will win a personalized copy of her latest novel-in-verse from Atheneum Books/Simon & Schuster: 






Tuesday, February 21, 2017

DMC: "Sometimes a Happy Ending" by Linda Baie




SOMETIMES A HAPPY ENDING

Joy moved away one cloudy day
and broke my heart in two.
I lay upon the pile of trash
wondering what to do
without the snuggling
and all that hugging,
without that happy you.

Then Joy returned in two large hands
when the trash truck  came along.
No longer left a lonely soul,
you sang a sweet, sweet song
of coming bliss,
a daughter’s kiss.
Joy turned right from wrong.


© 2017 Linda Baie. All rights reserved.


Jeannine Atkins has challenged us to write a poem that uses personified feeling. For more details, click HERE.

Post your poem on our February 2017 padlet.  All contributions will be included in a wrap-up celebration this Friday, February 24th, and one lucky participant will win a personalized copy of her latest novel-in-verse from Atheneum Books/Simon & Schuster:






Monday, February 20, 2017

DMC: "Happy" by Irene Latham




HAPPY

She spins
like a merry-go-round,
she climbs every tree.
She's a busy, buzzy bumblebee.

She's a red balloon
drifting across blue sky.
She's a pair of polka-dotted rainboots
worn during a dry July.

She sings, she smiles.
Sometimes she curls up
with sleeping crocodiles.

                                   SNAP!

She disappears for a while.


© 2017 Irene Latham. all rights reserved.


Jeannine Atkins has challenged us to write a poem that uses personified feeling. For more details, click HERE.

Post your poem on our February 2017 padlet.  All contributions will be included in a wrap-up celebration this Friday, February 24th, and one lucky participant will win a personalized copy of her latest novel-in-verse from Atheneum Books/Simon & Schuster:






Friday, February 17, 2017

Diane Mayr: Be Curious


"Curiouser and curiouser"
 Photo by Stanley Howe

Wondering what this band of bovines are curious about? 


I bet Diane Mayr knows... or if not, I bet she can find out. 
That's what librarians do best!

In today's post, the second in her "Ask a Librarian" series, Diane explores some terrific resources for finding inspiration. Her first post in the series, about ekphrastic poetry, can be found HERE.

Thank you, Diane, for feeding our muses and our brains! 

(Would you mind feeding the cows while you're at it?)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

Be Curious

I'm a librarian, but I'm also a writer who has done school visits. I have never visited a school where this question wasn't asked:

 "Where do you get your ideas?" 

The answer, for me at least, is everywhere! The key is to be curious--about everything! (Well, maybe not toenail fungus...)

Being a curious person, I subscribe to a number of general interest newsletters that deliver content to my inbox. Most times I don't read one completely, but I think it's fair to say that almost every link I click on is a path to an article or a story or a poem waiting to be written.

The other day, I ended up at a site on tactile paving as the result of a newsletter. [Tactile paving is a system of "textured ground surface indicators" found on sidewalks, train station platforms, and other areas that assist pedestrians who are blind or visually impaired.] It was fascinating. After reading, I couldn't help thinking about writing a mystery where a tactile paving surface became a clue.

Here are a few of my favorite newsletters:

Atlas Obscura.
Atlas Obscura is a collaborative project. We depend on our far-flung community of explorers (like you!) to help us discover amazing, hidden spots, and share them with the world.
In their newsletter I found an article on America as a nation of immigrants. It certainly is good to have a little background on issues being discussed today.


In the same newsletter is an article on the continuing search for the Holy Grail. Maybe it will inspire someone to write a novel of adventure and intrigue. Move over Dan Brown.

Subscribe on the home page.

Austin Kleon.

At the top of the 2/10/17 newsletter:
This week: productivity vs. creativity, amusing ourselves to death, and more...
Austin Kleon is a writer and illustrator. You may have seen his Newspaper Blackout book of found poems. He also wrote Steal Like An Artist and Show Your Work!, both of which I have read and highly recommend! His newsletter is a little bit of this and a little bit of that. Click here to see the 2/10/17 edition.

Subscribe here.

Omeleto.
Like an omelet, we believe in pulling together various ingredients to make something extraordinary. We share genuinely inspiring content to spark action and change. ....That's our mission: to inspire you to live a more purposeful life.
Many of the newsletter items are things I have seen on social media, but there's always something completely new to me. In one edition of the daily email there was a link to a video about a musician. His instrument of choice? Ice. Another link led to a video about someone who has collected snow data for decades. There is generally something that's going to make you grab box of tissues (I'm a firm believer in the value of a good cry), and sometimes there's poetry.


Subscribe here.

If you are a history fan, you're in luck! History newsletters abound!

Awesome Stories.
Whether in the classroom or the courtroom, people learn from examining evidence (primary sources) and hearing differing viewpoints, as all those items are pulled-together in a story format. When the stories are also interactive, as they are at AwesomeStories, learners are involved in the process.
Written for and by teachers, the articles are meant for classroom use, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't read them! A February Black History Month newsletter had links to topics such as Frederick Douglass (whose name has been in the news recently).

Subscribe on the home page.

New England Historical Society
(Become a member it's completely free, and I have yet to receive a solicitation for money.) There is no mission statement listed, tsk, tsk, but the articles cover the six New England states.

"There’s an old expression in New England that if nothing seems to go right for you, you have the luck of Hiram Smith." I learned that Hiram Smith died in many different ways. Say what? Find out here.

Subscribe here.

Most state and regional historical societies will have a newsletter. Sign up and learn about your own neck of the woods.

Here's a curious-history-buff bonus:

If you want to give your eyes a break, there is an ongoing series of history podcasts from Stuff You Missed in History Class that are lively and fun to listen to. Glance through the archives here.

Not a history buff? Then perhaps there is another topic that interests you? There are newsletters for practically every subject under the sun—and the sun, moon, and stars, too!

Stay curious, my friend.


Diane Mayr is a long-time public librarian and a freelance writer.  She is the author of a storyhour favorite picture book, Run, Turkey, Run! (Walker & Co., 2007).  Since 2007, she has concentrated on haiku and other short form poems, and works to improve her graphic skills by illustrating them. Find out more about Diane at her website.

Jeannine Atkin's DMC challenge to write a poem using personified feeling is going gangbusters! Featured poems this week included ones by David McMullin, Bridget Magee, Kathleen Mazurowski, and Keri Collins Lewis. Post yours on our February 2017 padlet, then come back next Friday for our end-of-month wrap-up.





Jone Rush MacCulloch has our Poetry Friday roundup this week at Check it Out. Thanks, Jone!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

DMC: "Competition" by Keri Collins Lewis





COMPETITION

I sense you behind me,
silent, scheming
sneaking a glance over my shoulder.

Test grades.
Text messages.
Timed sprints.

So I study longer.
Bury my crush.
Push harder.

You won’t catch me,
because every time you try,
I will transcend myself.


© 2017 Keri Collins Lewis. All rights reserved.


Jeannine Atkins has challenged us to write a poem that uses personified feeling. For more details, click HERE.

Post your poem on our February 2017 padlet.  All contributions will be included in a wrap-up celebration on Friday, February 24th, and one lucky participant will win a personalized copy of her latest novel-in-verse from Atheneum Books/Simon & Schuster:






Wednesday, February 15, 2017

DMC: "Anxiety" by Kathleen Mazurowski





ANXIETY

Creeps into dreams.
Steals sleep.
Doubts decisions,
But
it could have. . .
It might have. . .
It would have. . .
It should have. . .
I wake up sweaty,
Heart palpitating.
Breathe.


© 2017 Kathleen Mazurowski. All rights reserved.


Jeannine Atkins has challenged us to write a poem that uses personified feeling. For more details, click HERE.

Post your poem on our February 2017 padlet.  All contributions will be included in a wrap-up celebration on Friday, February 24th, and one lucky participant will win a personalized copy of her latest novel-in-verse from Atheneum Books/Simon & Schuster:






Tuesday, February 14, 2017

DMC: "French Fries with a Side of Oh My" by Bridget Magee





FRENCH FRIES WITH A SIDE OF OH MY

Embarrassment squeezes
between Julio and me
at the lunch table.
The ketchup packet feels
the pressure,
bursting in such a way
that Julio wears
the flush of my cheeks
for the rest of the day.


© 2017 Bridget Magee. All rights reserved.


Jeannine Atkins has challenged us to write a poem that uses personified feeling. For more details, click HERE.

Post your poem on our February 2017 padlet.  All contributions will be included in a wrap-up celebration on Friday, February 24th, and one lucky participant will win a personalized copy of her latest novel-in-verse from Atheneum Books/Simon & Schuster:






Monday, February 13, 2017

DMC: "Preparing for the Day" by David McMullin





PREPARING FOR THE DAY

Curiosity whispers in your ear, waking you from a deep sleep.
Curiosity tosses back the covers, splashes water in your face, 

     fills your belly, and packs your bags.
Curiosity turns the knob and throws the front door wide open.
Curiosity nudges you, to step out into the waiting world.


© 2017 David McMullin. All rights reserved.


Jeannine Atkins has challenged us to write a poem that uses personified feeling. For more details, click HERE.

Post your poem on our February 2017 padlet.  All contributions will be included in a wrap-up celebration on Friday, February 24th, and one lucky participant will win a personalized copy of her latest novel-in-verse from Atheneum Books/Simon & Schuster:
 





Thursday, February 9, 2017

DMC: "Confidence" by Michelle H. Barnes


"Confidence" by Nathan van Elden


I've been having such fun this week exploring personified feelings!

Apparently, I'm not the only one. Either Jeannine Atkins came up with a fantastic DMC challenge or y'all missed me more than I realized. I'm guessing it's the former, though maybe a little of both?

In only seven days, we've gathered fourteen poems on our February 2017 padlet. Four of them have been posted as daily ditties: Cindy Breedlove's Concern, Sherry Howard's Fear, Linda Mitchell's Resolute, and Tabatha Yeatts's Creative Voice.


The first feeling I explored this week, Ennui, led to an unfortunate suicide (poor thing), so I decided to give Confidence a go instead.

Confidence

the elvish imp,
will not be leashed
like some pointy-eared pup.
With a wiggle and woot,

she’ll slip 
        your grip
and streak naked through the streets 
                             just as fast as her little legs can scamper.

© 2017 Michelle Heidenrich Barnes. All rights reserved.

"Millie" by Andrea Janda




Post your poem that uses personified feeling anytime this month. For more details about the challenge, read my interview with Jeannine Atkins HERE.

All contributions will be included in a wrap-up celebration on Friday, February 24th, and one lucky participant will win a personalized copy of Jeannine Atkins's latest novel-in-verse from Atheneum Books/Simon & Schuster, Stone Mirrors: The Sculpture and Silence of Edmonia Lewis.



Find this week's Poetry Friday roundup at The Logonauts. Thanks, Katie!







DMC: "She hears from her creative voice" by Tabatha Yeatts





She hears from her creative voice

The other voices—loud and grim—
clamor so I can't come in—

They draw your eye, confound your ear,
make me feel unwelcome here.

My steps are light, my scent is slight—
I come to you most every night

in dreams you might remember when
you exile the others and let me in.



© 2017 Tabatha Yeatts. All rights reserved.


Jeannine Atkins has challenged us to write a poem that uses personified feeling. For more details, click HERE. Jeannine offers the following guidance to those feeling stuck:
"Maybe start with a character in motion and think of her main feeling. Then let her or him speak to Joy, Anxiety, Peaceful Nature, Curiosity, Grief, etc to set a dialog back and forth. Or here's a prompt: Happiness, where are you? — let Happiness answer."

Post your poem on our February 2017 padlet.  All contributions will be included in a wrap-up celebration on Friday, February 24th, and one lucky participant will win a personalized copy of her latest novel-in-verse from Atheneum Books/Simon & Schuster:






Wednesday, February 8, 2017

DMC: "Resolute" by Linda Mitchell





RESOLUTE

A ballerina watches
a photographer
set up tripod and camera
near the window.
He hunts, she thinks.
Each move, every glance
measured light,
hushed selection
of prey.
The music stops
and Señora claps sharp.
Dancers line up
for portraits,
one by one against
the weather-beaten wall.
And now her,
the prize shot.
Obediently she steps
into position,
bringing her braids
forward, a deer
in a sun-dappled forest.
The ballerina, however,
escapes falling prey
to simmering clicks
of his camera.
No resigned smile,
no first position
or plié
no giving away
her dance inside.


© 2017 Linda Mitchell. All rights reserved.


Jeannine Atkins has challenged us to write a poem that uses personified feeling. For more details, click HERE. Jeannine offers the following guidance to those feeling stuck: 
"Maybe start with a character in motion and think of her main feeling. Then let her or him speak to Joy, Anxiety, Peaceful Nature, Curiosity, Grief, etc to set a dialog back and forth. Or here's a prompt: Happiness, where are you? — let Happiness answer."

Post your poem on our February 2017 padlet.  All contributions will be included in a wrap-up celebration on Friday, February 24th, and one lucky participant will win a personalized copy of her latest novel-in-verse from Atheneum Books/Simon & Schuster:






Tuesday, February 7, 2017

DMC: "Fear" by Sherry Howard





FEAR

Fear chilled his being,
tap-danced across
locked memories,
threatened to drag
them to the surface
where they would 
bounce and react,
a nuclear fusion.

© 2017 Sherry Howard. All rights reserved.


Jeannine Atkins has challenged us to write a poem that uses personified feeling. For more details, click HERE. Jeannine offers the following guidance to those feeling stuck: 
"Maybe start with a character in motion and think of her main feeling. Then let her or him speak to Joy, Anxiety, Peaceful Nature, Curiosity, Grief, etc to set a dialog back and forth. Or here's a prompt: Happiness, where are you? — let Happiness answer."

Post your poem on our February 2017 padlet.  All contributions will be included in a wrap-up celebration on Friday, February 24th, and one lucky participant will win a personalized copy of her latest novel-in-verse from Atheneum Books/Simon & Schuster:





Monday, February 6, 2017

DMC: "Concern" by Cindy Breedlove





CONCERN

Concern wrinkles its forehead.
It silently whispers a prayer.
Giving a hug and listening,
it’s helping me fight Despair.


© 2017 Cindy Breedlove. All rights reserved.


Jeannine Atkins has challenged us to write a poem that uses personified feeling. For more details, click HERE. Jeannine offers the following guidance to those feeling stuck: 
"Maybe start with a character in motion and think of her main feeling. Then let her or him speak to Joy, Anxiety, Peaceful Nature, Curiosity, Grief, etc to set a dialog back and forth. Or here's a prompt: Happiness, where are you? — let Happiness answer."

Post your poem on our February 2017 padlet.  All contributions will be included in a wrap-up celebration on Friday, February 24th, and one lucky participant will win a personalized copy of her latest novel-in-verse from Atheneum Books/Simon & Schuster:





Thursday, February 2, 2017

Spotlight on Jeannine Atkins + DMC Challenge


JEANNINE ATKINS

Jeannine Atkins is the author of several picture books, chapter books, and novels for young readers, about courageous women who forge ahead in their lives and careers despite formidable odds and personal sacrifice. She has distinguished herself as a critically acclaimed poet with her biographical novels-in-verse Borrowed Names: Poems About Laura Ingalls Wilder, Madam C. J. Walker, Marie Curie, and Their Daughters (Henry Holt & Co., 2010), Finding Wonders: Three Girls Who Changed Science (Atheneum Books/Simon & Schuster, 2016), and her latest, Stone Mirrors: The Sculpture and Silence of Edmonia Lewis (Atheneum Books/Simon & Schuster, 2017).

When she's not writing, Jeannine teaches children's literature at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and writing at Simmons College. As much as I'd love to sit in on her classes, I learn plenty just by following Jeannine's blog Views from a Window Seat.  In 2013, I was fortunate to win a copy of Views from a Window Seat: Thoughts on Writing and Life (reviewed HERE) and have been a huge fan of her work ever since. You can find out more about all of Jeannine's books, including resources for students and educators, at her website.

STONE MIRRORS:
The Sculpture and Silence of Edmonia Lewis

Atheneum Books for Young Readers, January 10, 2017
ISBN: 978-1481459051
Find at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or via Indiebound.org.
There was a time I would have been reluctant to review Stone Mirrors on Today's Little Ditty. Intended for readers twelve and up, it does have some disturbing content that makes it less than "ditty-like." But among the changes I've decided to embrace this year is the tide of verse novels that has been building momentum and taking the kidlit world by storm. I'm ready to dive in and take Today's Little Ditty with me. Of course I'll continue to feature poetry collections and rhyming picture books as well, but if Today's Little Ditty is going to thrive, it needs to reflect my interests and explore new directions.

I was truly captivated by Stone Mirrors. Apparently, so were Kirkus and Booklist who both gave Stone Mirrors starred reviews. It's the powerful and inspiring story of Edmonia Lewis—a woman of African-Haitian and Native American (Ojibwe) descent, who is presented with the opportunity to study at a newly interracial Oberlin College during the Civil War years. While there, she is accused of attempted murder, subjected to a violent attack, and later accused of theft and forced to leave one semester short of graduation. Incredibly, she goes on to eventually become an eminent sculptor living in Rome, though not without carrying the scars and ghosts of her past with her.

Quoted in "Letter From L. Maria Child,"
National Anti-Slavery Standard, 27 Feb. 1864

One of the things I love most about Jeannine Atkins's work is the respectful way she shines light on lesser known women in history. The records of Edmonia Lewis's life are scant at best, but Jeannine ensures that they are not lost altogether. While keeping to the facts of real events, through rigorous research and empathic imagining, she pulls out details and emotion—filling in the gaps with an entirely credible rendering. What's more, there's something about the way Jeannine writes that grabs hold of more than just your imagination. Her work engages the reader not only in story, but like other sensuous art forms, her books remain memorable on a visceral level long after you put them down.

Take a look at this opening poem from Stone Mirrors:

Forbidden

Old branches crack as Edmonia breaks
a path through the woods. She wants
to outrun fury, or at least make a distance
between herself and the poison spoken
at Oberlin. The school is a shop where she can't buy,
a supper she's never meant to taste,
a holiday she can't celebrate
though she doesn't want to be left out.

She runs under trees taller than those in town,
where they're sawed into lumber,
turned into tables, rifles, or walls.
These woods are as close to home
as she may ever again get.
When she was given a chance to go
to boarding school, her aunts' farewell was final.
People who move into houses
with hard walls don't return to homes
that can be rolled and carried on backs.

Edmonia crouches to touch tracks
of birds and swift squirrels sculpted in snow,
the split hearts of deer hooves.
Boot prints are set far enough apart 
to tell her the trespasser is tall,
shallow enough to guess he's slender.
Her cold breath stops, like ice.
She looks up at a deer whose dark gaze
binds them, turns into trust.
Then a branch breaks. The deer flees.

                              From Stone Mirrors: The Sculpture and Silence of Edmonia Lewis
                              by Jeannine Atkins (Atheneum Books/Simon & Schuster, 2017)
                              Used with permission.


See what I mean? There are several themes and images here that echo throughout the book—cracking and breaking, a desire for belonging, poison, ice, home, trust... I could go on. But even in this one selection, you can experience the grip of poetry and the pull of story. As Jeannine describes it,
Verse narratives can be the perfect way to use poetry's precision along with the wondering of "What happens next? And then?"

Uncovering mysteries may be what Jeannine does best, but now it's time to crack open the mystery that is Jeannine Atkins, author and poet. We'll begin, as always, with five favorites.


Favorite childhood memory:  
          Trees: climbing, playing or reading underneath.

Favorite subject in school:
          English was kind to me. I was a fan of diagramming sentences.

Favorite teacher in school:  
          Mrs. Shaw, my fourth grade teacher, because she once held my hand
          walking down the corridor.
Jeannine Atkins and Kirby

Favorite pastime:  
          Walking my dog where he can be 
          unleashed.

Favorite children’s poet:
          Marilyn Nelson and Karen Hesse have
          been inspirational.










What drives you to write books for young readers and what aspect(s) of your career do you enjoy the most?

Young readers can be so passionate. Who wouldn’t want readers who might slip your book under their pillows?  I like learning about the past, but while I read some bulky biographies and history books, I prefer forms that touch the past more lightly. Verse lets me use both facts and imagination.

A young fan gives Jeannine a picture of a princess scientist!


You do a tremendous amount of research before sitting down to write. For Finding Wonders: Three Girls Who Changed Science, you researched for a year and wrote for an additional two. What was your experience like for Stone Mirrors? How do you know when it’s time to pull yourself away from the research phase and start writing?

I spent about fifteen years, off and on, researching and writing Stone Mirrors. It just takes a lot of time, so I choose subjects I love for the long haul.

Edmonia Lewis
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

I first wrote about Edmonia Lewis in prose, as a historical novel. I realized I could do more with the imagery in verse, but it still took me years to get it right. After each of the many rejections, I tried again to show why I thought this was a life that needed to be known. It helps to be stubborn.


Beyond the care you put into research, the lyrical language and evocative imagery in your verse novels is extraordinary. Jane Yolen has said that when she writes, she begins as a poet. She doesn’t make a distinction between prose and poetry until later in the process when she goes back to make sure she has properly addressed character, plot, etc. You, on the other hand, have said “…except for occasional lucky accidents, most of the poetry comes late in the process.” I find this so intriguing! Does this mean that you consider your affinity with poetry something learned rather than something that comes naturally?

When I first read your question, I thought: I must have it wrong! I’d like to follow Jane Yolen’s path, and let a poem crystallize around a few right words. Then I remembered we all have our process, and these can keep changing. Most of my inspiration comes from history, so I read through a lot of generally un-poetic pages in search of imagery that strikes me, scenes I might expand into a poem, and a general arc for a series of poems. Once I have those bigger patterns, I play with imagery and listen for rhythms and sounds.
To me it’s like spreading lots of paint on paper, and only then focusing on each square inch or so, trying to get each spot to look just so.
I guess that means the poetry is learned or that it comes with lots of patient looking. The pleasure is that with each day’s work of cutting a path through many wrong words, I get to see something shinier emerge from a sprawl.

Photo: Debra Paulson


What inspired you to tell Edmonia Lewis's story?

I like writing about artists, because that might be a path I’d have taken if not for choosing writing. Also, like her, my life was shaped partly by a sense of not being able to talk about things that I knew were tremendously important.
Much of my writing begins with reading about a strong woman who makes me think:
                       Why had I never heard of her?
I admired Edmonia Lewis’s courage, but needed to also show her fear. Like the marble she sculpted, both fear and courage can be broken.

Edmonia Lewis, The Death of Cleopatra (1876)
Smithsonian American Art Museum, photo: Jeannine Atkins

In an author’s note at the end of the novel you explain,
(Mary) Edmonia Lewis (c. 1844-1907) never spoke or wrote much about her past, and some of the stories that have come down through time are vague or contradictory.... I imagined my way into a vision of what might have been, the way a sculptor of historical figures starts with givens but creates her own vision.
With no clear-cut map to follow, were there points in the writing of this novel that you felt unsure about the direction you were taking? If so, how did you get past that insecurity?

There were so many points where I felt uncertain! I always come back to the small details of a life such as the sculpting tools she would have used and the meals she likely ate. Small sensory details often can set my direction.

for more details of Edmonia's life and work.


Please share a favorite passage from Stone Mirrors and tell us why it’s meaningful to you.
The past changes every time we look back.

… History is not only caught 

in vaults or glass cases, but is what’s shoved aside

or deliberately left out: The letter left within the pages

of a book, what was whispered over cake or soup.

This sums up why I write, looking for the common moments that can reveal what’s crucial.


Jeannine (L) with her grandmere and sister.
In an interview with Sylvia Vardell, you say "it’s [a] joy to introduce young readers to women who pursued their dreams. Reading can show us we’re never alone.” What role models or books have shaped who you are today?

I write about people from the past because biographies and historical fiction was my favorite reading as a girl. I didn’t make much distinction between fact and fiction, and found alternate homes for myself with Louisa May Alcott’s March family, Harriet the Spy, Joan of Arc, Virginia Dare, and Abigail Adams.


What’s coming up next for you?

I just finished a novel for middle readers with a bit of magic in it.    

                       —So tantalizing!

If you had all the world’s children in one room, what would you tell them?

I’d go with most anything that Mr. Rogers has said.

Read more Fred Rogers quotes at Goodreads.


Finally, what have you chosen as this month’s ditty challenge?

Like most of us, Edmonia Lewis tries to avoid painful memories, but she also makes an art of memorializing people in statues. As I thought about the conflicting forces of memory in her life, it seemed memory had a life of its own. I personified Memory.


Here’s an example from Stone Mirrors:
She pulls away,

skids through a puddle, meaning to escape

Memory, who creeps through the dark,

but pounces in broad daylight, too.

… Memory can find her anywhere.

So here’s your challenge! Decide on an important feeling for a character, then let that be external. Maybe your character will have a conversation with personified feeling such as Joy, Fear, Anger, or Gratitude. Or maybe you will write about the personified feeling in some other way. Even if the personification drops out in a later draft, I bet you’ll have clarified the feeling!


How intriguing!

Please keep in mind that your poem can take any form, including lyrical prose. But if you do go with prose, please limit your passage to fewer than 200 words.

Won't you join me in thanking Jeannine Atkins for this wonderful interview?
And while you're at it, thank her for offering a personalized copy of Stone Mirrors: The Sculpture and Silence of Edmonia Lewis to one lucky DMC participant chosen randomly at the end of the month—HURRAY!


HOW TO PARTICIPATE:

Post a poem that uses personified feeling on our February 2017 padlet. Stop by any time during the month to add your work or to check out what others are contributing.

By posting on the padlet, you are granting me permission to share your poem on Today's Little Ditty.  Some poems will be featured as daily ditties, though authors may not be given advanced notice. Subscribe to the blog if you'd like to keep tabs. You can do that in the sidebar to the right where it says "Follow TLD by Email." As always, all of the poems will be included in a wrap-up celebration on the last Friday of the month—February 24th for our current challenge.

TEACHERS, it's great when students get involved! Ditty of the Month Club challenges are wonderful opportunities to learn about working poets and authors while having fun with poetry prompts. Thank you for spreading the word! For children under 13, please read my COPPA compliance statement in the sidebar to the right.

FIRST-TIMERS (those who have never contributed to a ditty challenge before), in addition to posting your work on the padlet, please send your name and email address to TodaysLittleDitty (at) gmail (dot) com. That way I'll be able to contact you for possible inclusion in future Best of Today's Little Ditty anthologies.

BLOGGERS, thank you for publishing your poems on your own blogs– I love that!  Please also remember to include your poem (or a direct link to your post) on the padlet in order to be included in the wrap-up celebration and end-of-month giveaway.



Now sharpen your chisels and pencils, folks, it's time to create! 


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


Many thanks to everyone who contributed a tercet and made me feel so hopeful last week! The winners of copies of HERE WE GO: A Poetry Friday Power Book by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong (Pomelo Books, 2017) are:

Vezenimost
Rosi Hollinbeck
Jan Godown Annino
Maria Marshall
and Carol Varsalona

Congratulations to all!






For this week's Poetry Friday roundup, please join Penny Parker Klostermann, my most favorite dragon-keeper, at A Penny and Her Jots.