Friday, May 1, 2020

Reader Spotlight: Margaret Simon + DMC Challenge


I'm so excited to welcome another beloved Poetry Friday icon to our Reader Spotlight series! An author, poet, and elementary school teacher for more than 30 years (most recently teaching gifted students in Iberia Parish, Louisiana), Margaret Simon writes about creative, personal, and teaching explorations at her excellent blog Reflections on the Teche. Lately, she's also been reading poems aloud and offering mini lessons in writing poetry at her YouTube channel. She has such a calm and inviting way about her, it's no wonder her students love her so! Click HERE to read several wonderful poems by Margaret (and a few of her students, as well) featured on Today's Little Ditty.

During the school year, Margaret spends much of her time teaching and planning. She is passionate about teaching gifted students a differentiated curriculum that includes choice writing and reading. She says that her superpower is inspiring kids to write poems, and I don't think anyone would argue with that!

“I taught a workshop at a local art museum, and Annie, 4 years old, wanted
to write a poem with me. She said her poem and I wrote it down, then she
wanted to write it herself by copying each word. I've never seen such patience
for writing in such a young child.”
  – Margaret Simon

Bayou Song was featured
in a Classroom Connections
post on Today’s Little Ditty.

Her own writing is another a priority in her life. She especially enjoys writing about nature, mindfulness, and spiritual awareness, as getting in touch with her spiritual creative self is also a passion of hers. Margaret meets with three different writing groups—one local, one online, and a regional SCBWI group—and has published novels for young readers (Blessen and Sunshine), and collections of poetry for adults (Illuminate) and children (Bayou Song: Creative Explorations of the South Louisiana Landscape). Forthcoming, she has a biography in poems of Emma Wakefield, the first African American woman to receive a medical degree in Louisiana, tentatively scheduled for release this November.

With grandsons Thomas and Leo (Nov 2019)
On the weekends, Margaret balances things out with family time, which actually tops any list of things she is passionate about. She loves dancing with her husband and spending time with her two grandsons. She also sings in the choir at her church (a historical Episcopal church built in 1858) and volunteers and serves on the board of a local food bank.

When asked about book recommendations, Margaret mentioned that Kate DiCamillo is a favorite author, but if she had to choose just one favorite book for her students, it would be Wonder by R. J. Palacio. Told from multiple viewpoints, this story about a boy living with a facial deformity teaches wonderful lessons about empathy. For her dear female poet friends, she recommends The Woman in this Poem—a beautiful collection of accessible poems by Georgia Heard.

Let's find out a few more of Margaret's favorites, shall we?

Margaret's Five Favorites:
  • Favorite sounds: wind chimes and dual fiddles
You can hear wind chimes in many of the videos Margaret's posted on her YouTube channel, but I'm partial to this one. Steve Riley and Kevin Wimmer are local dual fiddlers that Margaret enjoys. They play in a band called Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys.
  • Favorite smell: gardenia
  • Favorite word: inspiration

Poetry is—
. . . food for the soul with deep lyrical song.

How did you come to poetry?

As a teenager I wrote poems in my diary.  I never really showed them to anyone.  I came back to poetry when I was a fellow in the National Writing Project in 1995.  Children’s poetry came to me after Linda Baie invited me to join Poetry Friday.

How does poetry fit into your life?

My husband calls it an obsession; I call it passion.  Either way I have a substantial collection of poetry books.  I read poetry daily, seek out poetry online and in podcasts, the latest being Poetry Unbound.  Writing poetry comes from being in love with what poets do and wanting to be a part of that creation.

Dot Day is a classroom tradition. 
Margaret’s student, Karson,
created his own Dot Day t-shirt!
Describe three of your writing habits.

1. I write at all times of the day. My favorite time to write is with my students. I give them a prompt daily and write alongside them.

2. When I'm not with students, I write at my computer in the kitchen, often with my dog on my lap.

Writing with Fancy, her new kitten, and Charlie, her schnoodle.

Margaret's notebook
(click image to enlarge)

3. I carry a journal with me everywhere, even to church, in case inspiration strikes. On dog walks, I carry my phone and record thoughts in Notes.

What is the best advice you've ever gotten?

I cannot help but compare myself to others.  We all do it, but the best advice I’ve ever gotten and try to remember is to be yourself on the page.

The best writers are the ones who give themselves 
the most permissions.

– Sandford Lyne, Writing Poetry from the Inside Out

What is the best advice you can give?

Read a poem every day. It will enrich your soul.

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

Poems of Presence.

The practice of writing poetry is an exercise in mindfulness. To be open to the universe of words and to put them down on a page is nothing short of a miracle.  Mary Oliver said, “There is no nothingness—With these little atoms that run around too little for us to see. But, put together, they make something. And that to me is a miracle. Where it came from, I don’t know. But it’s a miracle, and I think it’s enough to keep a person afloat.”

Write a mindful poem about the present moment.

My poem:

If we could make of everything
a sacred moment—

This coffee topped with milky froth,
warm on my lips.

This digging in the earth,
mud under my fingernails.

This painting on of eyeshadow,
touching my own skin.

This songof the wind chimes,
ringing a hymn.

Each moment of my day
would become a poem.

© 2020 Margaret Simon. All rights reserved.

Oh, that's lovely! 
And what a perfect challenge for these troubled times.

You'll find the padlet embedded below. Add your mindful poem about the present moment 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. 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

There's no doubt that Margaret enriches the Today's Little Ditty community. As a writer and a human being, she is as gracious and authentic as they come. Generous with her time and talents, she always inspires the best from others, whether in person or on the page. 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.

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Thanks once again to everyone who participated in last month's exploration of Patrice Vecchione's My Shouting, Shattered, Whispering Voice: A Guide to Writing Poetry & Speaking Your Truth! If you missed our collection of poems, you'll find it HERE. has determined that the winner of a copy of My Shouting, Shattered, Whispering Voice, courtesy of Seven Stories Press, will go to . . .

FRAN HALEY — Congratulations, Fran!

Elizabeth Steinglass is hosting this week's Poetry Friday roundup. Don't miss the wonderful video of her sharing selections from Soccerverse: Poems About Soccer. (If you would like to read more about Liz and her debut children's poetry collection, click HERE.)


  1. I cannot thank you enough for this beautiful post. I am so humbled!

    1. The pleasure was mine, Margaret. I love that I was able to do this for you... and for us.

  2. What a beautiful interview of Margaret. I learn from her daily and enjoy her writing. Her students are indeed, most fortunate. I always wonder just how she packs so much into the days of her life? The photos of her grandsons and pets are precious. Fancy is the cutest! I look forward to meeting this challenge of writing a mindful poem. Margaret's poetry is always so peaceful. I want to write like that. Thanks again to you both.

  3. What a lovely post and challenge and poem! Margaret, I love your poem videos--the way you look into the camera and are so calm and welcoming and warm. I had you in mind when I made my video.

    1. Liz, what a huge compliment. I have no idea where to look. I use my phone to record. Your video was much more complicated.

  4. Margaret is such an inspiration and true champion of writers of ALL ages - I speak as the beneficiary of her encouragement, insight, and creative poetic freedoms. Her work is beautiful and "alive." Loved reading this feature. And I'm so excited about winning Vecchione's book! Thanks so much, Michelle, for the poetry-writing venue you offer here and for your own inspiring artistry - so grateful.

  5. Margaret is just amazing! She definitely has that wonderful superpower, and she writes such fabulous poetry herself. I often wish she had been MY elementary teacher!

  6. You captured the marvel that is Margaret. Her videos are so warm and wonderful and I'm always impressed by the work she does with her students. She's an inspiration and her feedback on my work always helps me to push it to a higher level! Thanks for a fabulous interview and a great challenge.

  7. You have inspired for such a long time, Margaret. I am so glad I have known (about) you and met you a few times. I love seeing your work blossom even further each time I read. Inspiring. Knowing that you are with the children doing such important work....that is the best. I agree with what you have put here about poetry. There can never be too much. I, too, am a Mary Oliver fan.And the making of a poem from your life, beautiful, true and hard work. Thanks for your post Michelle and Margaret.

  8. What a wonderful post about an amazing poet and teacher. Margaret's poems are always inspiring!

  9. I am certainly happy that you came to Poetry Friday, Margaret, & added to the inspiration we all receive every Friday. Like others have written above, your students are so lucky to have you in their lives! It's a wonderful post, Michelle, and the challenge, Margaret seems so personally relevant for our times. Thanks for every bit!

  10. Thank you, Linda B, for bringing Margaret to Poetry Friday. Thank you, Margaret for enriching the Poetry Friday community in so many ways. I agree with all who have commented on your calm voice on your videos! I should listen to you, Amy LV, and Liz GS every day to learn to channel my own calm voice. I love your challenge and the lead poem you've written. This might be a daily writing challenge for me to help me make it through May.

  11. So glad to find you here, Margaret, guiding our meditative May!
    *sprinkles spots of light all over Margaret*
    I think (as usual) that you, that Michelle, that Mary Lee have a gooooood idea. I'd like to write something every day in May (couldn't pull it off in April), and a mindful poem of presence could be just the thing. You can tell I need it because I just went and added 4 little lines to the Padlet already.

    I'm charmed in your own poem of presence by the juxtaposition of these two stanzas--and maybe influenced by reading Linda's Gemma in the mud poem--but I love the thought of using that mud under your fingernails as eyeshadow...

    This digging in the earth,
    mud under my fingernails.

    This painting on of eyeshadow,
    touching my own skin.

    Thank you, Michelle, for another great giving-and-taking for the PF community!

  12. Many of you have known Margaret much longer than I, but I know I am in great company when it comes to being one who is inspired by her. When I first started blogging, Margaret was a constant supporter, and still is. Back in 2017, I wrote a found poem from comments on Margaret's blog. I share it with you today. Here is the blog post if you would like to read it as well. Thank Michelle for writin about her today. Thank you Margaret for being you.


    You are magical
    born to weave words
    a master of inspiration
    we are your benefactors

    your care and attention you bring to life
    capture the joy
    awaken my senses

    your sentimental ways
    your desire to help others
    tells a story of your heart

    I am in awe of your way with words
    you give your words so freely and abundantly
    you teach us too, with your gentle example
    your “Melody” fills my spirit

    magic is always here
    the world will be better
    for your poetry is in it

    1. Such a beautiful found poem, Leigh Anne. (And the whole post, a glowing tribute.) Thank you for sharing it here in the comments!

    2. Absolutely lovely, Leigh Anne.

  13. Thanks for shining the spotlight on Margaret!! Enjoyed learning more about her and her work. Her grandsons are adorable :).

  14. Beautiful intro and interview of a beautiful poet. You are a pro! Thanks so much for this.

  15. Thanks Michelle for this lovely post and for featuring Margaret. I like your closing lines in "Residing" Margaret,

    "Each moment of my day
    would become a poem."

    –the idea has such a calming affect. And thanks Margaret for sharing more of yourself with us–and for your sensitive and timely challenge. I too carry a journal with me everywhere–through the house and tucked into a pocket when I go out.

  16. "The best writers are the ones who give themselves
    the most permissions." -- My kind of advice! Thanks, Margaret and Michelle, for this heartwarming interview! xo

  17. Michelle, thank you for showcasing Margaret. She is a talented writer, a wonderful teacher, and a friend with a loving spirit. Your interview and Margaret's prompt are filled with peace. This is the right time for a poem of presence. Margaret's model is filled with beautiful imagery. Thank you both for the opportunity to write.
    If we could make of everything
    a sacred moment—

  18. Such a lovely portrait of a talented and generous poet/friend -- Margaret. She wears many hats, indeed. I love this month's ditty challenge and my offering is in the works.

  19. Great profile Margaret and Michelle. I too, have enjoyed Margaret's videos. I think it must be easy to be mindful on the Teche, except maybe when a speedboat goes by!

  20. Thank you, Michelle, for this profile of Margaret Simon, an inspiration in these challenging times.