Thursday, October 31, 2019

Reader Spotlight: Kate O'Neil + DMC Challenge


According to her website, Kate O'Neil has written poetry, mostly for children, since her school days. Her poems have appeared in many magazines and anthologies—most recently, Moonstruck! Poems About Our Moon, edited by Roger Stevens. She has two poems in The Best of Today's Little Ditty 2016 and in the forthcoming volume as well. You can also read her work here on the blog. Last year a collection of her poems (113 of them) was published by Triple D Books, Wagga Wagga. Part of a series of "Reciter" collections by Australian poets, Cool Poems includes poems for a range of ages, chosen for their suitability to perform out loud.

Cool Poems and the family of "Reciter" collections, published by Triple D.

Until recently, Kate taught "Performing Text" in after-school lessons to students ranging in age from 7 to 21 years old. It involved tailoring programs of poetry, prose and dramatic monologue to each student for the purpose of exams, auditions or eisteddfod performances. It also happened to be the perfect excuse for spending hours reading familiar and new literature! But with an uptick in her writing time (and who can complain about that?), Kate's had to make some time management choices. She enjoys writing about the world around her (space, the Moon, etc), about the world within her (emotions, philosophical puzzles, etc) and about words and the act of writing.
Kate's lovelies: Joey-Leunig and Poppy-Houdini

Aside from poetry, Kate is passionate about her family, her adorable rescue dogs, and the future of this Earth we live on. At a loss for what her superpower might be, she asked her family. One said dog-whispering, one said dry stone walling, one said rhyming, and one was silent. (Who am I to doubt their expertise?) As for a book that everyone should read, Kate recommends The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

What do you say we find out a bit more about this multi-talented little ditty rhymer from down under?

Kate's five favorites:

  • Favorite sound: the sea
  • Favorite perfume: night-scented plants
  • Favorite music: "Dedication" (Schumann / Liszt) — listen HERE
  • Favorite film: Blade Runner (Did you know the story is set in a dystopian future Los Angeles of November 2019?!!) — watch the official trailer HERE
  • Favorite quote: 
But words are things, and a small drop of ink,
Falling like dew, upon a thought, produces
That which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think…
          – Byron, Don Juan
Poetry is—
... what results from a poet’s search for the best way to put into words an insight or perception or experience s/he wishes to share.

How did you come to poetry?
I remember being fascinated by words when I was very young. I loved nursery rhymes, (memorised the most appalling rhymed advertisements and wrote my own appalling rhymes). I loved ambiguity, puns, all wordplay and the way figures of speech could say so much so concisely. Studying poetry at school clinched the relationship.

Passing on a love of words and reading to her grandkids.
Five years later . . . same grandson, same reading chair.

Why do you write?
I write for so many reasons: to capture a thought or observation, to entertain friends, to enter competitions, to see what will happen when I do. Apart from writing that comes from an inside source, I like writing to prompts (yay TLD) and love the way the outcome can totally surprise me.

How does poetry fit into your life?
There’s a randomness about my writing and thoughts I’ll write about, so I make frequent use of the Notes app in my iPhone. (Beware—these are easily deleted. I have learnt to save them elsewhere as soon as possible). Listening to radio, conversations, reading, at weddings or funerals—ideas for poetry pop up anytime. Long road trips are wonderful for actually working on an idea. (Husband doing the driving).

On the road with Kate O'Neil (outback New South Wales)

Who or what influences your writing most?
I studied literature at university and the selection of poets I read gave me a basis for further exploration. Even the academic approach—lit crit, prosody etc, was grist to the mill. Entering competitions has led to meeting up with other people writing poetry now (especially children’s poetry) and I’ve done some online month-long, prompt-a-day poetry courses with UK poet Wendy Pratt. This has introduced me to another community of poets (adult poetry).

What is the best advice you can give?
Read poetry every day. All forms, subjects, eras. You’ll learn where you like to be. Read books about writing poetry – there are some fabulous ones. And read Nicholson Baker’s entertaining novel, The Anthologist.

What have you chosen as this month's ditty challenge?

Words at Play.
With this challenge I have in mind the enormous value of this site as "A poetry playground for the child in all of us." Yes, the child in the adult still likes to play. So my challenge is to write a poem based on the sheer delight of words at play: malapropisms, ambiguities, unintended meanings, puns, clichés, etc.  Inspiration could be found listening to children, from newspaper headlines, lists of ‘howlers’ on the net, etc. As an example . . .


The garden tap is running—
we shouldn’t waste a drop.
Can anybody catch it?
We have to make it stop.

The garden tap is running
and I am running late.
Since I’m running out of time
please catch it at the gate.

© Kate O'Neil. All rights reserved.

This is going to be so much fun!
I'm expecting laughs and groans in equal parts, folks, so don't disappoint me. ;)

For those on the lookout for more inspiration . . .

"No Tears for the Puns" by Alan Levine

Darn! Seems they're all taken. Guess you'll have to find some "tearable" puns elsewhere.

What you will find here is the padlet—it's 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

Such a clever one, this Kate O'Neil! I love her enthusiasm, her sense of humor, her playful approach to writing and life, and I love that she brightens up the TLD neighborhood whenever she's around. 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.

I had a blast counting down to Halloween with daily ditties about monster fears! This week I featured my own poem, along with others by Janie Lazo, Jone Rush MacCulloch, and Matt Forrest Esenwine. There were also new padlet contributions from Buffy Silverman, Elizabeth Steinglass, Maria Marshall, Penny Parker Klostermann, Juanita Havill, Amanda Sincavage, and Mary Lee Hahn (who also shares her poem today at A Year of Reading). You'll find the entire collection HERE. Feel free to keep adding to it if you'd like!

Tabatha Yeatts has this week's Poetry Friday roundup at The Opposite of Indifference. She shares a Samantha Reynolds poem called "My Four-Year-Old Poetry Teacher" that might also serve as inspiration for this month's DMC challenge! Thanks, Tabatha!

DMC: "Mummy Problems" by Matt Forrest Esenwine

Eric E. Castro


I’m just an old mummy
in old, dusty wrappings.
My sleeves are all tattered;
my coattails, a-flapping.

They sometimes get snagged
on loose nails or low beams.

And suddenly, I
fall apart at the seams.

© 2019 Matt Forrest Esenwine. All rights reserved.

That's a wrap, folks!

Kenneth Hagemeyer

Have a safe and happy Halloween!

TLD reader Rebecca Herzog has challenged us to write a poem about something a monster is afraid of. Read my interview with Becky HERE and add your poem about a monster fear to the padlet. Check out our entire monster menagerie HERE.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

DMC: "Book Monsters" by Jone Rush MacCulloch

Massey Services


squirmy nocturnal
book monsters
munch pages
chowing on book paste
until the librarian
arrives with tweezers

© 2019 Jone Rush MacCulloch. All rights reserved.

Micha L. Rieser

TLD reader Rebecca Herzog has challenged us to write a poem about something a monster is afraid of. Read my interview with Becky HERE and add your poem about a monster fear to the padlet. While some contributions will be featured as daily ditties leading up to Halloween, you can check out our entire monster menagerie HERE.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

DMC: "A Howling Bad Time" by Janie Lazo



I feel an itch behind my ear
I scratch—oh no—I quake with fear
Outside the window bright and clear
A full moon glows—my fate draws near
Once nails—now claws—I writhe in pain
Once teeth—now fangs—I squirm in vain
Once skin—now fur—my certain bane
My canine ears hear gurgling drain
Mom yells COME NOW! I feel her wrath
I snarl—I growl—as no man hath
She drags me from my dusty path
From under bed—straight to the bath!

© 2019 Janie Lazo. All rights reserved.

TLD reader Rebecca Herzog has challenged us to write a poem about something a monster is afraid of. Read my interview with Becky HERE and add your poem about a monster fear to the padlet. While some contributions will be featured as daily ditties leading up to Halloween, you can check out our entire monster menagerie HERE.

Monday, October 28, 2019

DMC: "Bigfoot's Lament" by M. H. Barnes

Screen capture from the famous 1967 Patterson-Gimlin footage.*


Before you start assessing the fear that I'm repressing,
there’s something we should lay out on the table—
     call me Sasquatch, call me Yeti,
     but Bigfoot's much too petty.
I’m REAL, not merely legend, lore, or fable.

Partly human, partly beast, oversized to say the least,
you ridicule or hound me as you choose.
     Of course I’m camera shy—
     I’m an introverted guy!
I’d like to see YOU wear my “monster” shoes.

Being shaggy and unkempt is no reason for contempt,
so let me make this absolutely clear—
     it’s not your bully tactics,
     your guns or camo jackets,
that cause me to degenerate in fear.

When it comes to diagnosis of my number one neurosis,
there is nothing that can possibly compare
     to my dread of soapy lather
     and the constant drone of blather
I’m subjected to when in the barber’s chair.

© 2019 Michelle Heidenrich Barnes. All rights reserved.

* Click HERE for "The 10 Most Convincing Bigfoot Sightings".

TLD reader Rebecca Herzog has challenged us to write a poem about something a monster is afraid of. Read my interview with Becky HERE and add your poem about a monster fear to the padlet. While some contributions will be featured as daily ditties leading up to Halloween, you can check out our entire monster menagerie HERE.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

October DMC Wrap-Up Celebration

Edward Peters

Welcome, my pretties, to our monster menagerie!
Don't be afraid, little ones—


float right in
and make yourself at home.

Cross Duck

Pay no mind to the welcoming committee...


Or this welcoming committee...


Or this welcoming committee...


Or to the dog...

Bill Dickinson

Or the goldfish....


Let's just get down to business, shall we?

At the beginning of this month, Rebecca Herzog challenged us to write poems about monster fears:

"Most everyone is afraid of monsters. But what are monsters most afraid of?"

Anita Hart

Apparently monsters don't get asked to divulge their insecurities very often. They've been coming out of the woodwork to take part in ditty therapy.

I'm pleased to report that, for the time being, they have been patient and well-behaved, awaiting your poetry perusal. No saying what might happen come Halloween night though!

Scroll through the poems below or CLICK HERE to open a new tab.

Made with Padlet

Many thanks to all the glorious and beastly imaginations who contributed to our monster menagerie, and to the creature keeper, Becky Herzog, for opening the cage.

Wait... that's it?! It's over???? 

Jody Sticca

But it's only October 25th and I haven't written my poem yet!

No need to panic. You have until Thursday, October 31st, to add your poem about a monster fear. Your poem may even be featured as a daily ditty next week leading up to Halloween!

Visit Becky's spotlight interview for instructions and then click on the pink dot with the plus sign to add your poem to the padlet. Actually, I'll be leaving this padlet open indefinitely, so you can even leave a poem after Halloween. But like I said, there's no telling about the monsters. In my experience, they only stay well-behaved for so long.

Stay tuned for a new reader spotlight next Friday, November 1st.

Karen Edmisten has her own seasonal tribute this week—join her for the Poetry Friday roundup.

DMC: "Kraken Fears Nothing" by David McMullin

Bryan Alexander


Christopher McKraken here
and there is nothing that I fear.
I’m bigger, stronger, tougher, faster.
One might say – the Ocean Master!

Hurricane or dumb tsunami?
I’m not cryin’ for my mommy.
Fear no whale, or snarling shark,
creepy trenches dank and dark.

Sneaky, snarky mermaid queen,
torpedo blasting submarine.
Pirate with a sharp harpoon,
creature from the black lagoon.

Calving glacier, serpent swarm,
turny-churny lightning storm.
Lava flow, Poseidon's spear.
All things that I’ll never fear.

Wait! What’s that? Okay, I lied.
Better hurry up and hide.
Terrifying! that’s what this is...
Kraken Girl with slimy kisses!

© 2019 David McMullin. All rights reserved.

TLD reader Rebecca Herzog has challenged us to write a poem about something a monster is afraid of. Read my interview with Becky HERE and add your poem about a monster fear to the padlet. While some contributions will be featured as daily ditties leading up to Halloween, all contributions will be included in a wrap-up celebration this Friday, October 25th.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

DMC: "Anthrophobia" by Cheriee Weichel

Edward Peters


In my web I hide in silence
Fearful of your awful science

What harm I’ve done I do not know
I wish you did not hate me so

I munch the bugs that harm your plants
I decimate both flies and ants

I venture out at times it’s true
But I don’t mean to startle you

I do my best to help you out
Still you see me and scream and shout

You grab a shoe prepared to swing
I bolt hole from that ghastly thing

Cowering now inside this crack
I wait in fear your next attack

Please not the long and roaring pipe
That suctions web and devours life

Viler still is the noxious spray
From which no beast can get away

© 2019 Cheriee Weichel. All rights reserved.

TLD reader Rebecca Herzog has challenged us to write a poem about something a monster is afraid of. Read my interview with Becky HERE and add your poem about a monster fear to the padlet. While some contributions will be featured as daily ditties leading up to Halloween, all contributions will be included in a wrap-up celebration this Friday, October 25th.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

DMC: "The Night Mare" by Kate O'Neil



When days are dark and nights are long
with no moon in the sky,
when winds howl round the house at night
and unknown creatures shriek in fright,
the Night Mare gallops by.

You’ll hear it whinny, faint but clear,
you’ll feel the air turn cold.
you’ll hear its steady, beating hooves
along the road, across the rooves,
The Night Mare’s tread is bold.

So huddle deep down in your bed
and try to block your ears.
The Night Mare tramples on your dreams,
the Night Mare wants to hear your screams,
the Night Mare feeds on fears.

But when it feels the warmth of love
or sees a kindly light
the Night Mare’s caught out unawares
(it’s terrified of teddy bears)
and gallops out of sight.

© 2019 Kate O'Neil. All rights reserved.

TLD reader Rebecca Herzog has challenged us to write a poem about something a monster is afraid of. Read my interview with Becky HERE and add your poem about a monster fear to the padlet. While some contributions will be featured as daily ditties leading up to Halloween, all contributions will be included in a wrap-up celebration this Friday, October 25th.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Cover Reveal: The Best of TLD, 2017-2018

Tada! Isn't it charming?

Next month I look forward to celebrating the publication of this jam-packed third volume. The largest and arguably the best yet, it includes a whopping 96 poems by 57 poets! But today I'd like to focus on my talented daughter, Miranda Barnes, who designed such a whimsical cover.


Miranda Barnes is a 16-year-old artist who was born in Sydney, Australia, but lost her accent 10 years ago when she moved to Florida. She's a senior at PK Yonge Developmental Research School, where she has taken every single art class available. She also enjoys psychology and is currently working on a senior thesis based on color theory and how the perception of color might be linked to specific emotional responses.

Miranda has won awards at the Alachua County Teen Art Show for the past five years, but the accomplishment she's most proud of is her Girl Scout gold award. Her gold award project, "The True Face of Teenage Beauty," involved photographing her peers as a way to combat the misrepresentation of teens in media, while raising awareness about the problem so that she and her peers could have an easier time learning to love themselves. She credits Girl Scouts with helping her grow immensely, both as a leader and as a more confident and capable person in general. 

Besides art, Miranda loves cats (as you can see on her website) and dreams of one day having a big studio with picture windows—a cat or two perched at each one, tons of art supplies, paint splattered everywhere, and art all over the walls. She hopes one day to have a career as a children's book illustrator, a surface designer (illustrating clothing, wrapping paper, etc.), a graphic designer, or some combination of the three. She's very excited about doing the cover for The Best of Today's Little Ditty 2017-2018, her first publication as an illustrator!

Needless to say, I wouldn't trust the cover of our third TLD collection to just any 16-year-old artist, but I thought she was ready for a challenge like this one and hope that you'll agree. (She's sketched some delightful interior illustrations as well!) While I'm tempted to go on about how wonderful Miranda is in every other way (goodness knows I've mentioned and featured her on the blog a few times), perhaps you'd rather hear from her directly.

Welcome, Miranda!
Have you always known you wanted to be an artist?

Pretty much. I scribbled about as much as any other kid, but I also went to art camp every summer since I was seven, and I think that was what really kindled my passion.

First gallery show and self-portrait (age 7)

I didn't seriously consider being an artist until 9th grade, though. My first high school art class inspired me to start drawing outside of school and develop my own style. Fast forward to now and I'm taking my second AP art class and applying to art schools, so I think it's safe to say art is my life.

What turns you on, artistically speaking?

I enjoy experimenting with different media, but especially love working in watercolor, colored pencil, and Micron pens. My favorite things to draw are definitely animals and people, but don't ask me to pick between the two! I really enjoy trying to put meaning into everything I do. If it doesn't mean anything and it's just a realistic portrait or a nice landscape with no context behind it, I get bored quickly. That's why, although I like photography and I've done a lot of it, I think I'll always find more satisfaction in other forms of art. Creating a representation of something meaningful fulfills and interests me much more than if the goal is just to make a pretty picture.

What can you tell us about the cover of The Best of Today's Little Ditty 2017-2018?

"Earl Grey" by Miranda Barnes, © 2018
(Miranda’s mixed media portrait of ME,
mounted on tea bags and colored with tea.)
The cover art was originally part of a concentration (themed portfolio) I did for AP 2-D design last year. The overarching theme for that portfolio was to make 12 pieces, each functioning as a portrait of someone important in my life—"portrait" not in the sense of their face (although some did include the subject's face), more in the sense of capturing a part of their personality, their sort of aura or vibe, or what they mean to me.

The art on this cover was originally dedicated to my maternal grandmother. She loves teddy bears and antiques, and tends to collect things. While I was making the piece my grandparents were in the process of moving, so I painted a teddy bear pulling a wagon piled with things that remind me of my grandmother, to represent her taking all those sentimental items to a new home. 

As the cover of this year's TLD anthology, the art takes on new meaning. It represents whimsy through the natural setting, and through all those happy little things (or one might even say ditties) piled in the wagon. You'll notice there are several books as well as a pencil and a quill, and everything else in the wagon could be things that the teddy bear might be inspired to write a poem about.

Thank you to Renée LaTulippe for her help with fonts and formatting!

Do you have any other projects currently in the pipeline, or are there other specific project that you hope to pursue?

I'm now in my second year of AP art, so I'm working on a totally different concentration that I'm really excited about. The driving question is "What is the relationship between vulnerability and the role of women in society, and how can art represent and explore it?" I've finished three pieces so far. 

An animal character from Miranda's
sketchbook, © 2019 (click to enlarge)

As for the future, recently I've started experimenting with drawing people with animal features.  I'm having a lot of fun with it, and I'd absolutely love to turn these characters into a graphic novel—I feel like they deserve a home outside of my sketchbook! The only problem is I have absolutely no ideas for a plot and I don't have a terribly good history with following through on writing projects. So my dream right now would be to collaborate with an author to write a graphic novel. Even if it doesn't happen any time soon, I'd love to pursue a project like that in college.

Where can readers connect with you to see more of your work?

I have an Instagram account for my art ( where I post sketches and updates about my current projects. I also have a website for finished work (, including my entire concentration for last year, the best of my sketchbook, and some graphic design pieces as well. Feel free to stop by and say hello!

Thank you for taking time away from your busy schedule to be with us today, Miranda. (And I do know just how busy it is!) I'm so proud and pleased to have your work on the cover of The Best of Today's Little Ditty 2017-2018!

This was also a busy week on the padlet. LOTS of terrific ditties about things monsters might be afraid of found their way there, including poems by Kate O'Neil, Linda Mitchell, Donna JT Smith, Dianne Moritz, Pat Simmons, David McMullin, Michelle Kogan, Janie Lazo, Aimee Rocha, Kathleen Mazurowski, and Mindy Gars Dolandis. I'll try to share more daily ditties leading up to Halloween, but in the meantime, be sure to check out our monster menagerie so far.

You'll find this week's Poetry Friday roundup at Jama's Alphabet Soup. Jama is showcasing Charles Ghigna's latest, a beautiful reflective book on the creative process called Dear Poet: Notes to a Young Writer, and complementing it with exquisite artwork by Charles' son, Chip. Grab a cup of tea and a macaron and enjoy this week's delicious poetry offerings.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

A Grab Bag of Monster Fears

"Monster" by Lars Plougmann

October is a super fun month at Today's Little Ditty. When the spirit of Halloween knocks at the door, we've always done our best to greet her with a generous plate of poetry.

"Yoohoo!" by Ruth Hartnup
In past years we've featured an unfolding story of insomnia, a mummy and zombie pas-de-deux, a fanciful animal tale, a fine example of Halloween trickery, a magical rhyming picture book by Carrie Clickard, a collection of delightfully frightful poems by Calef Brown, a HalloZENO party, and several other hair-raising celebrations involving monsters, beasts, spooky memories and other assorted horrors... sometimes necessitating Post Halloween Stress Disorder (PHSD) therapy.

That's quite a haul for any trick-or-treater! But we're not shutting off the porch light yet. This month we're featuring poems about monster fears—not fear of monsters, but things that a monster might be afraid of. Fun, right? Read more about our current DMC challenge in last week's interview with Rebecca Herzog.

Here are a few of the goodies on the padlet right now.

Flash! Dash!

"Torch Monster" by Michael
I hear the footsteps coming near;
I hope without the thing I fear.
I like the dark, the shadows’ gloom,
then I can scare those in this room.
The door creaks open, someone cries.
Oh no, the flashlight beam defies
my best performance filled with lies.
I slink away when it’s too bright.
Monsters cannot bear the light.

© 2019 Linda Baie. All rights reserved.

a cherita terbalik

schmutz smooths the angles
and softens her warts—she
looks almost human

oh, how she despises cleaning
but she must—shudder!

mirror on the wall

© 2019 Diane Mayr. All rights reserved.

"Pockmarked mirror" by Andrea Kirkby

"Child Imagination" by Cesar Mascarenhas
Monster's Panic Attack

I'm crouched in the closet,
my eyes on the door.
I hear little footsteps
on her bedroom floor.
The tension is rising—
a sliver of light!
The closet door opens
and I scream in fright!

© 2019 Cindy Breedlove. All rights reserved.

Five Fearful Monsters

Five little monsters prowling in the park.
“Yikes!” said the first. “I’m scared of the dark!”
“Yow!” said the second. “Something’s creeping near!”
“Hush!” said the third. “It’s the wind you hear.”
“No!” said the fourth. “There’s a frightful noise!”
“Look!” said the fifth. “Little girls and boys!
Just a bunch of kids running down the street...
dressed for Halloween, shouting “Trick-or-treat!”

© 2019 Dianne Moritz. All rights reserved.

"TricK or TreaT" by Kylie_Jaxxon

Speaking of trick-or-treating, have I got a treat for you next week! You'll just have to wait to find out what it is though. Hope you can stand the suspense.

"He's seen better days...." by melfoody

Leave your poem about something a monster is afraid of HERE.
Catherine Flynn writes about gratefulness at Reading to the Core, where she's hosting this week's Poetry Friday roundup.