Thursday, May 2, 2019

Spotlight on Elizabeth Steinglass + DMC Challenge


Are you excited? 
                              I sure am!

After a busy month of reading, it's about time we got stuck into some writing again, no? I couldn't be more thrilled to welcome my friend and critique partner, Elizabeth Steinglass, to the spotlight to lead that effort!

Elizabeth Steinglass has worked as a shoe salesman, short order cook, high school English teacher, and college writing instructor, but now claims the title of debut author, with Soccerverse: Poems about Soccer (Wordsong) scheduled to hit bookstore shelves next month! Rumor has it she actually wrote her first book in 4th grade, but since she doesn’t remember the title (only that it was a catalog of fairies), it doesn't count. Too bad, huh. She's also had numerous poems appear in magazines and anthologies, including The Poetry of US, edited by J. Patrick Lewis (National Geographic), and Great Morning!, Pet Crazy, and The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations, edited by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong (Pomelo Books). Today's Little Ditty has been a grateful beneficiary of her poems as well! You can read some of them in The Best of Today's Little Ditty anthologies, but I've collected all of them for you to scroll through here when you have some time.

Growing up in St. Louis, Missouri, sports were always a part of Liz's family life. (I love the story she tells at Picture Book Buzz of being invited to get out of bed and catch her big brother's basketball rebounds in her nightgown!) Now with a family of her own—a husband, three kids, and a sleepy cat named Scout—soccer is the game that rules at the Steinglass house in Washington, D.C.  I've appointed myself head cheerleader as we talk about her striking new collection of 22 soccer poems!

Wordsong (June 4, 2019)
ISBN: 978-1629792491
Find at, Barnes & Noble, or via

Described by Kirkus as "a pitch-perfect ode to the details and delights of playing soccer," Soccerverse dons 13 poetic forms to describe the world's most popular sport from a variety of viewpoints, from a diverse cast of teammates to the soccer equipment itself—the ball, the goal, even a pair of smelly shin guards. (Teachers will appreciate the author's note at the end of the book that describes the forms.) While much of the verse is lighthearted, there are also moments that come across as honest and heartfelt—a reluctance to shake hands with a member of the opposing team, for example, or an apology that is accepted, even a wry observation about parental fans. Edson Ikê's bold, animated illustrations reflect Liz's adaptive verse beautifully—at times sober, but overall, whimsical and imaginative. The two make a winning team!

Kicking off today's interview, here are Liz Steinglass's five favorite things:

Rock Creek Park—a favorite walking spot.

I enjoy walking—in the woods, across farmland, along the beach—pretty much anywhere outside.


I absolutely love the musky smell of a barn. Or manure on a garden. Maybe I should have been a farmer.


A cherry tomato I’ve picked off the plant. I love simple foods that taste wonderful just the way Mother Nature made them. Also, I really don’t enjoy cooking.


I was fortunate to have many wonderful teachers, but I think my favorite teacher was my 3rd grade teacher Mrs. Burbage. She was incredibly creative! That year we made edible book reports (mine was on The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe). We finished our unit on the human body by tracing ourselves on big brown paper and then using anything we could find to make our insides. We also studied the presidents that year. We each studied a different one, then we all made illustrated reports, which Mrs. Burbage taped together to make a long scroll, which she then wound through a cardboard box made to look like a television. I especially loved that she had endless files of interesting puzzles, brainteasers, and games to do whenever we were finished with our work. She was wonderful!


Valerie Worth, 1933-1994
This one’s hard! I love so many poets. My favorite at this exact moment might be Valerie Worth. All the Small Things is a book I return to again and again. I love the way she looks at things so closely and creatively. She seems to think in metaphors. Tractors are grasshoppers. Cows are mountains. A safety pin is a small fish with a surprised eye. Brilliant!

Karla Kuskin, 1932-2009

But my favorite poem is Karla Kuskin’s “Write about a Radish.” The first two lines are “Write about a radish/Too many people write about the moon.” I Iove her exhortation to look at things in our own unique ways. It makes me smile that these are the first lines of a poem that turns out to be about the moon, but she has a completely fresh way of writing about it.

Congratulations on your debut poetry collection! We all have twists and turn in our lives, many of which are unexpected. Can you point to any events that, in hindsight, were instrumental to finding your way to children's publishing? Or did you know you'd find your way here all along?

I have always been a writer. I write to make sense of the world. Writing helps me figure out what I think and what’s important to me. It’s a way to spend more time with what I notice and enjoy. It’s also a way for me to share my thoughts and observations with others. So I suppose I was always going to write something. I focused on writing for children when I had children. I read so much to them. I began to appreciate children’s poetry and picture books anew. And once I began reading so many of them, I naturally wanted to write them. I’ve written many books and poems for my children over the years. Two of my three kids, my two boys, are absolutely obsessed with soccer. They have played since they were very young. I think I’ve been watching soccer practices and games for more than 15 years. Soccer has been a huge part of our lives, so of course I wrote about it.

Courtesy Steinglass Family

What about your first book publishing experience have you found most enjoyable?

So far, the most enjoyable part of the process has been seeing Edson Ikê’s illustrations. I cannot tell you how much I adore them. I love his bold, bright colors, and graphic style. I love his imagination. I love that the book features a beautifully diverse group of boys and girls playing on teams and meeting and playing at the park.

Brazilian artist, Edson Ikê: visit him at his website and on instagram.

Soon I think another part of the process may compete for most enjoyable—sharing the poems! I’m excited to share my work here and soon with actual living, breathing, reacting children. That I think will be another most enjoyable part.

You have two children who are passionate about the game of soccer. Did you consult with them while writing Soccerverse? Or did the poems solely come from your own observations, experiences, and imagination.

For the most part the poems came from my own observations and imagination. I consulted with my boys a few times about drafts I had written. I knew I was on the right track when my oldest said, “You wrote that?!” It was a wonderful compliment, especially as it was my reverso “Instructions to Field Players/the Goalkeeper,” and he is a keeper. I played a little soccer as a kid, mostly in PE or at recess, and there’s one poem in the collection that’s specifically about me. Should I tell you which one? Let’s just say I felt like soccer involved a lot of running around without touching the ball.

Text copyright © 2019 by Elizabeth Steinglass. Illustrations copyright © 2019 by Edson Ikê.

You use 13 different poetry forms, yet none of your poems feel like they've been forced into an assigned structure. Was it your intention from the get-go to showcase poetry forms, or did that happen naturally as the voice of each poem spoke through you?

I knew that I wanted to write in a variety of forms, but I didn’t have a list of forms in mind. First, I brainstormed a list of possible topics—uniforms, positions, playing in the park, games, red cards, etc. As I worked through the list, the topics seemed to choose their forms, if that makes sense. The ball poem wanted to be round. The shin guards had something to say. The goal wanted to be addressed. In my “Note about Forms” at the end of the book, I write, “Poets use different forms as a way to express themselves more powerfully or challenge themselves to be more creative.” That last part is very much about me and the process of writing this collection. On the days I felt stuck, I tried different forms and often that helped me get unstuck.

Please share a favorite poem from Soccerverse and tell us why it's a favorite.

Another hard question! Right at this moment my favorites are the paired poems “Apology” and “Accepted.”

Text copyright © 2019 by Elizabeth Steinglass. Illustrations copyright © 2019 by Edson Ikê.
From SOCCERVERSE: POEMS ABOUT SOCCER (Wordsong) — click on image to enlarge.


I got too mad.
I tried too hard.

I crossed the line.
I got a card.


I saw he was sorry.
I knew he felt bad.

I sat down beside him.
I didn't get mad.

© 2019 Elizabeth Steinglass, all rights reserved.

I like that they address the emotional side of the game and the relationships between players. I also love Edson’s angry bull. It’s fun to write creative and whimsical poems. It’s fun to read them and share them with kids, but I think as poets it’s our job to address the full emotional range of life and that includes anger, frustration, understanding, and forgiveness.

I love the "Tips for Teachers" and "Tips for Writers" resources on your website! I wonder if you could share two more tips: one for readers and one for newbie soccer parents.

Enjoy! You don’t need to “figure out” every word. Try riding a poem like a wave. What’s the experience like? Where does it take you? Also, if you don’t enjoy a poem, or a hundred poems, you don’t need to give up on poetry. I think it’s odd that people read some poems they don’t enjoy and then say they don’t like poetry. I don’t like liver or onions, but you’d never catch me saying I don’t like food! I’m a poet and there are still lots of poems I don’t particularly connect with. It’s okay not to like poems but still like poetry! Keep looking. There are poems out there for everyone.

This is going to be harder than it sounds, but I think we parents should stick to parenting and let coaches do the coaching. I have seen young kids freeze on the field trying to listen to so many voices telling them what to do. Meanwhile someone on the other team takes the ball and heads downfield. I try very hard to limit what I say to “yay!” “I enjoyed watching you play,” “Have fun!” and “How’d it go?” Also, for those of you with very young children, you really can’t tell what’s going to happen. When my oldest, who now plays in college, first started to play, he would pick the flowers on the field and run them to me on the sidelines. At that point I would never have guessed he’d keep playing with such incredible devotion and determination.

Courtesy Steinglass Family

Elizabeth Steinglass, Poet-in-Training

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

Do more of what you love.
I think that’s what I would tell anyone.

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

One of my favorite poems in Soccerverse is “Instructions for the Field.” The poem tells the field how to do its job. This month’s challenge is for you to write a poem giving instructions to an inanimate object about how to do its job. My poem uses personification. Yours can too, but it doesn’t have to. You might want to think about how the object looks, what you hope it will do, and what you hope it won’t do. I can’t wait to see what everyone comes up with.
Text copyright © 2019 by Elizabeth Steinglass. Illustrations copyright © 2019 by Edson Ikê.

Michelle, a huge thank you to you for inviting me to visit and for years of supporting and inspiring our community.

Oh my goodness, the pleasure's all mine, Liz! What a joy it's been to have you here to share this wonderful collection!

As for the awesome ditty challenge, I have no doubt some TLD players are already raring to go! If you're like me, however, and would prefer to kick ideas around, come back next Friday when we'll be sharing Liz's Classroom Connections post. It not only describes how Soccerverse can be used in the classroom, but also elaborates on how her challenge can be used with students!

Won't you please help me thank Elizabeth Steinglass for being our honorary ditty team captain this month? 

Also, for offering a personalized copy of Soccerverse: Poems about Soccer to one lucky DMC participant!

(Winner to be selected randomly at the end of the month.)


Post your poem that gives job instructions to an inanimate object on our May 2019 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—May 31st 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 let me know about it, so I can share your post! 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.

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

If you're looking for the list of giveaway winners from last month's Classroom Connections series, you'll find it HERE.

Jama Rattigan is celebrating spring today with two gorgeous poems and this week's Poetry Friday roundup. Pull up a chair at Jama's Alphabet Soup.


  1. Good Morning Michelle and Liz. Many, MANY congratulations to Liz on the publication of her words. I'm so happy to see this. I have an entire school full of kids that have a particular passion for futbal. No matter what the nation of origin, that soccer ball needs no translation whatsoever. So, I really look forward to getting this book on our shelves. And, Michelle, I am absolutely raring to go with a TLD writing challenge. Thanks to Liz for the first kick prompt. I will dribble this idea around a while and chime in soon. Thanks for a great interview.

  2. Love the poems, Liz - as a soccer player and coach as well as a writer, I appreciate the subject matter as much as the forms and style! ('Apology'/'Accepted' is terrific, by the way) Congratulations! And thank you, Michelle, for sharing this.

  3. Congratulations, Liz! I can’t wait to get this book and share it with my daughter, the one who introduced me to soccer as she played from age 4 through high school. I can relate to so many things in this post—Valerie Worth, soccer parenting, smelly shin guards (there is no other odor quite like it). My girl used to stop in the middle of the game to describe the action to the parents, but also became a dedicated player. Like you, I limited my comments to variations of yay and how did it go. Thank you, Michelle, for bringing this delightful and informative interview. I can’t wait to dig into the challenge

  4. My children also played, my son switching to La Crosse later, my daughter to tennis. I imagine I will connect with many of these, and love your advice to parents. That seemed to be a challenge for some every year. Congratulations, Liz, for your book. I'm looking forward to reading it. I do love your poetry, know these will be wonderful. And thanks, Michelle for this first TLD post!

  5. Congratulations, Liz. I am looking forward to getting this book. Will be thinking on the DMC challenge and hopefully trying with students.

  6. PS...Michelle, thank you for showcasing this book and revving up the monthly challenge.

  7. Fantastic on so many levels. I can't wait to receive my copy of Soccerverse, Liz and I am going to take the challenge. I love your directions to the field. Wonderful interview and post, Michelle. PS I love your advice. I am going to try to do a lot more of what makes me happy and being part of Poetry Friday surely ranks up there.

  8. What a totally fabulous interview -- great questions and Liz's answers were so insightful. Enjoyed all the sample poems and I do love Edson's art. Also, I like how Liz explained how the subjects of the poems chose their own forms.

  9. My students are soccer crazy, so this is going on my wish list! Thanks for the great interview!

  10. Love this interview! Liz is so wise and her poems are so clever. I totally agree with her tips for readers. Looking forward to writing something for the challenge!

  11. Terrific interview, my friends. I so love Instructions for the Field. Grow a thick green beard--who would have thought of that wonderful personification? Well, Liz apparently.

  12. Wow. What a great interview. I can't wait to see Liz's new book! I love her challenge and especially her example poem, Instructions for the Field. So much fun.

  13. Appreciate the interview. Thank you, Liz and Michelle. Especially love the paired poems "Apology" and "Accepted."

  14. I love this personal touch with Liz. I've followed her for years and am so excited about this collection. I've reserved this Ditty Challenge for my students next week. School isn't out yet, and I'm determined to keep poetry a part of our time remaining together. Thanks!

  15. Thank you for your post today Michelle and congratulations to Liz for the book of poems. I enjoyed all of the ones you've shared here today. I love this idea of the poem to the inanimate object. Does a river count?

  16. Hooray for Liz's debut book! It will be a winner in my classroom -- kids are ALWAYS asking for more sports books for Poetry Friday!

  17. What a fabulous interview! I really enjoyed what Liz said about how different soccer topics called out for different poetic forms, and her challenge is a great one! Congrats on your publication, Liz--I'm sure this book will be popular with students in my classroom and also inspire them to consider their favorite sports through a poetic lens. Win! Win!

  18. I'm a former soccer mom, and I can relate to the poems shared here. I look forward to reading the entire collection and also participating in the challenge :)

  19. Wow! I so enjoyed this interview, both as a poet and as a parent. My son just started tee ball, and he's sometimes inclined to pick flowers in the outfield, so it's encouraging to hear about Liz's son's transformation. Also, I *wish* I knew 13 poetry forms! I need to buy Liz's book to learn new styles!

  20. Your book looks delightful Liz, many congratulations! The lively, colorful art takes it one step farther, great marriage between the two. I love your focus on a range of emotions–how inclusive. Thank you Michelle and Liz for this inside look at Liz's debut book!

  21. Great interview and I am excited to read this book. What a fun challenge, too.

  22. What a great interview, Michelle. I have been thinking and thinking about this challenge. Scratch notes are everywhere so I'm off to write a as per Liz's instructions and mentor text. Liz, thank you for this excellent piece of advice: "Try riding a poem like a wave." I will think of this as I walk the boardwalk shortly. The overcast sky and huge rainstorm just transitioned to sunshine. Many thanks.

  23. Thank you for this amazing interview! I can't wait to get a copy of this book into the hands of some passionate soccer players!

  24. Late to writing my comment about the Padlet for May. I am going to teach this to some 3rd graders today and I love all the examples I have to choose from to share. I love love love Margaret Simon's Instructions for a Nest but so many others by the students, too. As well as contributing poets all a delight. So glad you are able to capture all of these, Michelle and wishing I had the time to write more. It is coming. Janet Clare F.