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!


  1. Fun challenge! I hope there are a lot of groaners in response :-) Brian Bilston is wonderful with wordplay (if anyone is looking for additional inspiration) and Greg Pincus. There are so many that pop into my head, actually...Thanks, Kate and Michelle!

    1. Brian Bilston is wonderful, isn't he. Must look up Greg Pincus. Thank you.

  2. Thanks for the wonderful interview with Kate, Michelle. It sounds as if she is going to be a great example of play in poetry, hence the fun challenge.

    1. Thanks, Linda. TLD's playground is a wonderful getaway place when you've spent time in poetry's darker places. Both important parts of life.

  3. Ahhhhhh. A delightful read after coming home from work and sitting down to read. Yes, to enthusiasm for poetry and word play! Michelle and Kate, that was a wonderful interview. I so enjoyed the pics too. Thank you!

    1. Thank you, Linda. So Happy you liked the pics (and the words)TLD is a wonderful getaway place when you've spent time in poetry's darker places. Both parts of life.

  4. Thanks for this great interview, Kate. What a fun challenge! Love playing with words!

    1. Thanks, Margaret. I wish I enjoyed playing with technology. It's taken me ages to get to the reply system. I think I've given Michelle more grief with my use of padlet etc than anyone else. She is very patient, so I keep coming back.

  5. I liked hearing and journeying through your background and books Kate–and the challenge sounds enchanting… Thanks for sharing Kate with us Michelle!

    1. I'm excited to see what results from this challenge. It was a great experience to be interviewed by Michelle.
      I love browsing her blog and getting to know poetry people 'over there'.

  6. What a fun challenge! I can't wait to play. I enjoyed the interview and meeting Kate. I'm intrigued by the dry stone walling superpower.

    1. Thanks Kay,
      I've built quite a few stone walls around our garden, using only rocks found on site ie not really the right shape for wall-building - our house is on quite a steep block, which provides plenty of opportunity for building retaining walls. Looking forward to your response.

  7. Thanks for this interview with Kate and this new challenge. I'm going to have to let this one sit for a bit I think!

  8. Ooh. I hope a response creeps up and surprises you. Sometimes letting things 'sit a bit' is the way to go. But sometimes a poem I'm happy with arrives the day after a competition deadline.

  9. Great interview. Thanks for sharing Kate. And I agree about the Little Prince! This promises to be an enjoyable challenge. I can't wait to see what people come up with.

    1. Yes. 'The Little Prince' says so much so simply. One of my favourite observations (important for talking about play)is that every grown up was once a child. There are some fun responses happening over on the padlet!

  10. Such a wonderful interview. I loved reading Kate's responses and getting to know "her enthusiasm, her sense of humor, her playful approach to writing and life..." I missed out on participating last month and am determined to join in on the fun this month. (The monsters were NOT cooperative!) This is such an inviting challenge, and I look forward to reading all the responses!

  11. Thank you, Molly. I'm certainly enjoying the responses so far. Michelle's sales ads poem reminds me of my mother's habit of commenting sarcastically on '50% off' sales signs. "Wouldn't be much skirt left with 50% off that one." etc

  12. Wonderful interview, Kate and Michelle! Love the challenge!

  13. Finally, got my act together to try out this month's challenge. The interview with Kate O'Neil was engaging, Michelle. The poems that are on the padlet are fun, some whimsical, and all fitting. Thanks for the challenge.

  14. There's a challenge there, Renee. poems about how to be anonymous, disguise, that very prolific poet, Anon. etc