Thursday, August 1, 2019

Reader Spotlight: Jesse Anna Bornemann + DMC Challenge


Jesse Anna Bornemann is a freelance grant writer who battles character limits on funding applications. She's proud to work for clients who strive to make the world a better place, including an animal welfare nonprofit in Florida, a collaborative workspace for musicians in Boston, and an interfaith outreach organization in Tennessee, among others. She is also the mom of a 4-year-old, so parenting occupies most of her non-freelance hours. Jesse is passionate about raising a kind, open-minded boy, and happily shares that responsibility with her pediatric nurse practitioner husband. Together they take big pleasure in small victories, like watching their son figure out that in tee ball it’s best to run to first base first!

In her spare time, Jesse enjoys recalling memories from childhood and turning them into poems. She also enjoys using wordplay. Having grown up on a steady diet of her parents' and grandparents' show tune albums, Cole Porter—a master at toying with language—always makes her want to sit down and write. You can get a taste of Jesse's writing by reading her featured poetry at Today’s Little Ditty (HERE). Jesse’s also fairly obsessed with podcasts. She's never missed an episode of This American Life—she's even attended a few live presentations. Other favorite podcasts include The Moth, Crimetown, Radiolab, and The Longest Shortest Time. And something “embarrassing” (her word, not mine): she enjoys an enduring infatuation with the reality TV show Survivor. She’s seen every single season with the exception of the first one—over 20 years of viewing! Jesse even considered applying for the show when she was in her early 20s, but decided she was too introverted and not nearly athletic enough.

So apparently surviving reality television is not her superpower. Too bad! A superpower she wishes she had, however, is listening to music with lyrics while writing at the same time. She loves her classic hit playlists, but can't write while The Beatles are telling her all about Eleanor Rigby, or Justin Timberlake is asking her to cry him a river. She can, however, recommend that everyone should read the young adult novel The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.

I hope U will give plenty of love to Jesse Anna Bornemann—our reader spotlight for August.

Jesse's five favorites:

Favorite food:
My mom's vegetarian meatloaf (the world's tastiest oxymoron!)

Favorite music:
I've really rekindled my appreciation of Raffi recently. The song "Like Me and You" always makes me choke up a little.

Favorite vacation spot:
Destin, Florida, jokingly referred to by my fellow Southerners as the Redneck Riviera.

Courtesy Jesse Anna Bornemann

Favorite poet:
Can I pick three? Jack Prelutsky, Marilyn Singer, Kenn Nesbitt.

Favorite quote:
"If called by a panther, don't anther." –Ogden Nash

What is poetry?
Poetry is linguistic matchmaking.

Why do you write?
Most of my poetry is humorous, and I write because I like feeling amused! I also crave the challenge of coming up with a witty rhyme. It's like playing matchmaker for words. I love the feeling of: "Wow, those rhyming words were made for each other!"

How did you come to poetry?
I'm pretty sure my early love of musicals led me to play around with rhymes. I started writing rhyming poems when I was in elementary school. In fifth grade, I actually entered a rap contest at my school. I figured, rap is basically rhythmic, rhyming poetry. Ah, the blind confidence of youth! All of the raps were supposed to center around Black History Month. I remember rhyming "Shirley Chisholm" with "more famous people than I can list 'em." To no one's surprise, I didn't win...but my PE teacher liked my poem so much that she awarded me a Michael Jackson cassette as an honorable mention.

Who or what influences your writing most?

Budding poet Jesse and her stepfather ("Dad")
on her first day of 5th grade.
My biological dad died of cancer before I was born, but I've learned that he was a big Gilbert and Sullivan fan. My parents' wedding invitation included a line from The Pirates of Penzance about "indulging in the felicity of unbounded domesticity." I genuinely believe that some of my affinity for rhyming is genetic.

My stepfather (whom I called "Dad") was a writer, though not a poet—he was the editor of a newspaper for years, and he wrote short stories when he retired. (He passed away in 2016.) Throughout my childhood, he taped writing tips to my bedroom door. He also delighted in puns and wordplay. Long after I became an adult, when Dad came across a particularly clever pun, he'd type it out and mail it to me. I guess both "nature" and "nurture" have influenced my writing.

When you’re feeling stuck, what gets your creativity flowing?
I keep a giant stack of children's poetry collections on my desk, and when I'm feeling stuck, I'll cherry-pick poems to read. General wisdom says that in order to be a great writer, you have to be a great reader. I think my creativity depends on reading as much kids' poetry as I can.

I belong to a very small writing group—it's just me and a friend, who also writes children's poetry. Getting together with my friend, and trying out a few writing prompts, always gets my creative juices flowing. (To be honest, we also spend a lot of time chatting about our kids.)

Do you have any recent or forthcoming books or projects you’d like to mention?
I have poems slated for publication in Highlights for Children and Spider magazine. I've never attempted to write a book, but my writing-group friend and I recently came up with an idea for a poetry collection. So, stay tuned?

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

Write a poem inspired by song lyrics.

My poem that's forthcoming in Spider magazine was inspired by a quirky sort of prompt: I opened a Beatles playlist on my phone, shuffled it, and challenged myself to write a poem using at least three words from the first song that popped up. It might be fun for others to do this too! Pick a Beatles song (or, if you're not a Beatles fan, a song by your favorite band), write down as many words from the song as you can, then compose a poem that uses at least three words from your list. Don't tell us the song that inspired your poem—see if we can guess!

Oh my. I can't wait to read this month's playlist of poems! Per Jesse's request, I have turned on the comments function of the padlet so you can guess the song that each poem was inspired by. What fun!

You'll find the padlet embedded below. Add your poem(s) at any point during the month, or scroll through to check out what others are contributing.


By posting on the padlet, you are also granting me permission to feature your poem on Today's Little Ditty.  I'm not sure how often I'll be featuring poems from reader challenges, but I want to keep my options open. :)

If you have not participated in a challenge before, please send me an email at TodaysLittleDitty (at) gmail (dot) com so that I can contact you, if necessary.

In the lower right corner of the padlet you'll see a pink dot with a plus sign. Click on it to open a text box. I find it works best to type your title on the title line and paste the rest of your poem where it says "Write something...". Single click outside the text box when finished. This board is moderated to prevent spam. Once your poem is approved, it will appear publicly.

Remember to include your name as author of any work that you post!

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.

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.

If you prefer to open this padlet in a new tab, click HERE.

Made with Padlet

I am so grateful that Jesse is part of the Today's Little Ditty community. She is kind, caring, clever, funny as all get out, and emits such a positive light into the world of children's poetry and beyond. Please join me in thanking her for being with us today!

If you would like to be featured in a future reader spotlight, I invite you to complete this form.

There were a couple of late additions to Linda Mitchell's "found haiku" challenge last month. You'll find the entire collection HERE. Feel free to continue adding to it if you'd like.

At my juicy little universe, Heidi Mordhorst introduces another new poetry form (new to me anyway) called the "definito." Find out more about it, read some wonderful examples, and check out the other links in this week's Poetry Friday roundup.


  1. Oh what fun! Jesse Anna's history as reader, rapper and writer is more than charming; it's that nature+nurture e*uation that is so powerful. HOWEVER: I don't really know how this post came to publication without a mention of the movie YESTERDAY! I saw it a couple of nights ago and thought it was a fascinating premise in so many ways: magical realism + the deep deep impression that music can make, how he struggled to recreate lyrics, how one recapture led to another. Can't wait for this challenge, and for the guessing game!

    1. Could be because I received her interview well before the movie came out and because I haven't seen the movie... yet. Clearly I must! :D

    2. Ha - the timing occurred to me too, but I didn't mention Yesterday in my interview! We can't wait to see it. My husband is a big Danny Boyle fan!

  2. What a fabulous interview. Jesse Anna, you are the kind of person I want to be around when writing. I'll bet swapping ideas and word play with you is fun and hysterical. I love your challenge! And, it really is a challenge for me. So, I'm off to find some lyrics...Beatles lyrics are great. I'll dig around my basement for some old fashioned vinyl--which is the best, isn't it?!
    Michelle, you've done it again. Informed and inspired. Beautiful post. I love getting to know Jessee Anna more and look forward to that someday collection.

    1. Thank you so much, Linda! Vinyl is TOTALLY the best. I inherited a large record collection from both my stepdad and my bio dad, including Sgt. Pepper, the White Album, and others. I almost feel guilty listening to tunes on my phone!

  3. Thank you for introducing us to Jesse Anna in this terrific interview, Michelle! I love hearing about how others find inspiration and deal with setbacks. I have been a huge Beatles fan for forever, so I can't wait to revisit my favorite albums and find what inspiration awaits!

    1. Michelle is amazing, and I'm so honored to be featured! Glad you're excited for the challenge!

  4. What a fabulous reader spotlight! I am delighted to meet Jesse Anna. I love the Beatles, so this will be a fun challenge. Now to go and listen to find the song for inspiration!

    1. It's great that the Beatles have such broad appeal! Even my 4 year old enjoys their music. His favorite song is "Yellow Submarine." :-)

  5. It's wonderful to read all about your love of show tunes, Jesse Anna. I spent a lot of time in my teens memorizing all the Rodgers & Hammerstein lyrics, but I must write that Pirates of Penzance holds the most perfect imaginative rhyming. Gilbert & Sullivan must have had lots of laughs when they wrote. Thanks for a wonderful interview, Michelle & a super fun challenge, Jesse Anna.

    1. Thank you so much, Linda. Aren't the Pirates rhymes fantastic? I especially like "din afore" and "Pinafore" from "Modern Major General." My granddad explained the inside joke about H.M.S. Pinafore to me when I was a kid, and I felt very wise and grown up knowing that Gilbert and Sullivan had written both plays.

  6. Nice to get to know you, Jesse Anna. And what a fun prompt you've given us!

    1. Thank you, Buffy! I'm glad people are digging this challenge!

  7. Sounds like a fun challenge! Time to listen to some Beatles!

  8. I love the idea of being a "matchmaker for words." Thank you Jesse and Michelle for a great interview. This will be a fun challenge this month. Thanks!

    1. Now I'm humming "Matchmaker, Matchmaker" from Fiddler on the Roof in my head! I hope the challenge inspires you!

  9. So much to love about Jesse. I was a huge Raffi fan when my girls were little. Now that grandchildren are coming along, I need to tune back in. I can't wait to try this challenge.
    Jesse, I was in Destin earlier this week. The beach is beautiful.

    1. Aww, thank you. Raffi was a regular staple in my music rotation when I was very young, and now I love sharing his songs with my son. Many of the songs have lovely messages without being too preachy. And—I'm jealous of your recent trip to Destin! Those white sand beaches are exquisite.

  10. Thanks for this fun challenge Jesse Anna, music makes poetry and vice versa! what an intriguing family tree you have, so many tunes by Cole Porter that I admire, especially from "Kiss Me Kate." Thanks Michelle for introducing us to Jesse Anna!

    1. Kiss Me Kate is the best! My stepdad especially liked "Brush Up Your Shakespeare" and sang it around the house often. Fortunately, the PG-13 rhymes went over my head when I was little!

  11. Jesse, wow! I got on here to see what might be going on - I needed a change from thinking about the upcoming school year (both for the kids and me!), and here you are! I learned new things about you, and now I need to pick a song so I can submit a poem, too. Michelle, thanks for choosing Jesse - she really is as wonderful (and even more so, if you can believe it!) as she comes across here.

    1. Sarah!! I hope you'll submit a poem! If it weren't for our writing group, I'd be far less creative. YOU are wonderful. xo

  12. Backtracking to read through this interview that is written beautifully (as always) and ready to dip back into my favorite Beatles songs. It was great meeting Jesse here, Michelle. Off to write!

  13. Thanks for sharing your interesting life with us, Jesse. The third word in my poem is so hard to guess, I'll tell. It's "the." It was fun looking through all the Beetles lyrics. I hadn't realized there were so many.