Monday, September 30, 2013


Friday night marked the 8th annual My Favorite Poem event in Birmingham. It's modeled after Robert Pinsky's Favorite Poem Project, in which a variety of members of the community share a favorite famous poem and talk for a few minutes about why it's important in their lives.

It's always an amazing, inspiring event. This year it was my pleasure to recruit 5th grader Hope who read "Jimmy Jet and his TV Set" by Shel Silverstein. She was great, just as I knew she would be! Here's the poem:

Jimmy Jet And His TV Set

by Shel Silverstein

I'll tell you the story of Jimmy Jet --
And you know what I tell you is true.
He loved to watch his TV set
Almost as much as you.
He watched all day, he watched all night
Till he grew pale and lean,
From "The Early Show" to "The Late Late Show"
And all the shows between.
He watched till his eyes were frozen wide,
And his bottom grew into his chair.
And his chin turned into a tuning dial,
And antennae grew out of his hair.
And his brains turned into TV tubes,
And his face to a TV screen.
And two knobs saying "VERT." and "HORIZ."
Grew where his ears had been.
And he grew a plug that looked like a tail
So we plugged in little Jim.
And now instead of him watching TV
We all sit around and watch him.

All the readers were fantastic. But there was one who really stood out: 94 year old retired nurse Jane Woods who recited a lengthy section of Patrick Henry's "Give me Liberty" speech. She said it was still with her after she first memorized it 77 years ago! We gave her a standing ovation. What an amazing moment, and what a testament to the power of words. Here's a picture of Hope and Jane (this year's youngest and oldest readers!).

Friday, September 27, 2013


Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Amazing Amy (for those who don't know, this is a reference to a book you really should read: GONE GIRL by Gillian Flynn. Our Amazing Amy is nothing like that Amazing Amy!) at The Poem Farm for Roundup!

 Last week Janet Wong, who happens to be one of my favorite poets, tagged me for the Children's Poetry Hop with the oh so adorable Mortimer:

Here’s How-to-Hop, “Mortimer Minute” style!
  • Answer 3 questions. Pick one question from the previous Hopper. Add two of your own. Keep it short, please! This is a Blog Hop, not a Blog Long Jump. This is The Mortimer Minute—not The Mortimer Millennium!
  • Invite friends. Invite 1-2 bloggers who love children's poetry to follow you. They can be writers, teachers, librarians, or just-plain-old-poetry-lovers. 
  • Say thank you. In your own post, link to The Previous Hopper. Then keep The Mortimer Minute going: let us know who your Hoppers are and when they plan to post their own Mortimer Minute.
Ready? I'll start with one of Janet's questions... and end with a couple of stories Mortimer will not like all that much. Sorry, Mortimer!

Mortimer: What do you have in your refrigerator?

IL: Leftovers. I love to cook. I also love leftovers. My fellas? They do NOT love leftovers. So, yes, I have a collection that builds over the week... and I eat leftovers for Saturday and Sunday lunches (while the guys make themselves sandwiches).

Mortimer: What is the best part about writing poetry for children? 

IL: The opportunity it provides to look at the world with a child-like sense of wonder, and how it makes me feel connected with the world and children and wonder and love -- and with the child who still lives inside me.

Mortimer: Funny poems or beautiful ones?

IL: Oh, beauty! I love a meaningful poem, one that touches me emotionally. Sometimes that can be a funny poem, but in general, I go for the beautiful ones. 

And now, I am happy to announce that I've tagged Jone MacCulloch to join the Children's Poetry Blog Hop.

Jone contributes each Friday to the Poetry Friday community.  She also interviews and features poets on a monthly basis. During the school year, she’s a teacher librarian and the rest of the time she’s either writing haiku and other poetry, or playing with her camera.  Her passion for poetry is shared with her students and staff and on her two blogs.  She’d rather write poetry than memorize it. 
Her blog Check It Out 
features the work of her students, poetry books for children, and poet interviews. Her school's "Poetry Postcard Project" for National Poetry Month is in its sixth year.
Her blog Deowriter
 is her online notebook for haiku and other poetry forms. You can find out what happens in the library and books she's reading through twitter @JoneMac53

She also heads up the Poetry category of the CYBILS awards... and she is the author of a lovely book of haiga (haiku + photographs) SOLACE IN NATURE. Look for her post October 11.

Okay, someone hold Mortimer's ears. One of my earliest memories is of my father butchering and stringing rabbits on a line. (My parents went through this farming/self-sufficiency phase...) Not a sight for young eyes let me tell you. A few years later, when I was 8 or 9, my parents agreed to let me keep some rabbits as pets. I was quite the animal-loving gal -- still am, though I sorta traded in the vast menagerie for a smaller one that's easier to maintain with the humans we added to our lives. We kept the rabbits at the back of the property, because of the smell. I was very good about checking on them and feeding them and playing with them -- until a freak ice storm hit our area (Folsom, LA, just north of Lake Ponchartrain). When I went out to check the rabbits, they had turned to popsicles. I cried and cried. Learned a lot that day...

THE TALE OF PETER RABBIT is still one of my most favorite children's books. And WATERSHIP DOWN. And TO RABBITTOWN by April Halprin Wayland. And THE VELVETEEN RABBIT.

So many wonderful rabbit books! Readers, can you name some more titles? Now I am wanting to have a little rabbit reading party. Thanks, Mortimer. :)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


view from bottom looking up
Finally FINALLY we were able to visit Ford's Theatre Museum on our recent trip to Washington, DC. The ticket includes a tour of the Petersen House across the street, which is where Lincoln spent his final hours.

(Interesting thing I learned: there are no living descendants of Abraham Lincoln. I suppose I would have heard about them, if there had been. But this fact kind of stunned me.)

There's more museum stuff at the Petersen House, including a temporary exhibit of letters written to the parents of Matthew Shephard. Tough stuff, and yes, there was a box of tissues on the bench in front of the display. It reminded me of Leslea Newman's lovely book of poems, OCTOBER MOURNING: A Song for Matthew Shepard.

view from the top looking down

The centerpiece in the gift shop/museum was a tower of 1500 books written on the topic of one Abraham Lincoln. 1500! Writers, just think about that anytime you're worried something's been done before. Of course it has! But you can certainly bring your unique slant to a topic, and readers will gobble it up.

Here's pictures of the tower. It's enough to make a gal wish she'd written an Abraham Lincoln book. :)

Monday, September 23, 2013

AUTHORS ARE MY ROCK STARS and other tales from the National Book Festival

Wow, what fun we had at the National Book Festival! It was my first time to attend, and you really can't understand how BIG it is until you're there... I mean, those tents (set up on the National Mall) are HUGE! The news said over 200,000 people attend this event every year, and there are approximately 100 authors present. When I stopped by the Sales tent to sign stock, I seriously couldn't believe how many books were in one space. This is one amazing organizational feat!

I was stationed in the Pavilion of the States, where attendees are invited and encouraged to take a map around and have it stamped/stickered by folks at each state exhibit. Here's a completed map that my sweet husband completed as a keepsake for me. The "Alabama" sticker was of a little elephant, in honor of Millie in DON'T FEED THE BOY. Conveniently, the elephant is also the mascot for the University of Alabama,which is home to the Alabama Center for the Book. Win-win!

 One of the highlights for me was meeting Kristin Levine, author of THE BEST BAD LUCK I EVER HAD and THE LIONS OF LITTLE ROCK. Kristin and I share an editor and have been in touch since her first book came out in 2009. I have always wanted to meet her, and now I have! She is every bit as delightful as I knew she would be. Photo is courtesy of her book-loving 7 year old daughter. Thanks, Charlotte!

 Here's Donna Adcock, who heads up the Alabama Center for the Book, and is responsible for the amazing calendar-posters as well as for packing up all 17 boxes of promo materials and sending them ahead of time to the festival. Also pictured is her husband Phil, who also does important work for the University of Alabama. What dedicated folks! So honored to spend time with them.

 Here's Kathy, uber-book-lover, who sported my favorite t-shirt of the day: AUTHORS ARE MY ROCK STARS.

Big, big smile! Thank you, Kathy. Hope you got to meet Margaret Atwood as you hoped!

 My sweet husband took a number of candid shots, but it was difficult, due to the many, many folks! I appreciate his efforts (and the bottled water and hot dog for lunch and carrying my bag and and and...). We enjoyed our weekend away so very much. It was our first time to go to DC just us, no kids. We liked it. :)

One of the great folks I met was the official event photographer, Pat Fisher, and she said it was like COMBAT PHOTOGRAPHY. So many people!!  She was accompanied by Melissa Wagner, who was careful to write down the correct spelling of every person who was photographed. What a great team! Thank you, ladies, and to everyone who make this event happen seamlessly.

Finally, here's a picture of us with my friend-from-childhood Kim, and her gorgeous family! It's hard to believe Kim and I have known each other since we were 9 years old... so glad to have an excuse to see her!

Friday, September 20, 2013


...and Happy Poetry Friday to you! The ever-inspiring Tabatha has Roundup The Opposite of Indifference.

By the time you read this, I will either be en route or settling into my hotel. I'm traveling with my best assistant ever, and we have a jam-packed agenda! More on our adventures next week.

Meanwhile, here's a little something I whipped up for the occasion. (Also available as a printable PDF on my website.) It's a scavenger hunt for kids reading DON'T FEED THE BOY!
And here's a little poem that expresses how I am feeling as I leave home:

Something Missing
by Shel Silvestein

I remember I put on my socks,
I remember I put on my shoes.
I remember I put on my tie
That was painted 
In beautiful purple and blues.
I remember I put on my coat,
To look perfectly grand at the dance,
Yet I feel there is something 
I may have forgot--
What is it? What is it?...

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


I'm so excited to be serving again as a judge for CYBILS, this time in round 2. Thanks to all the amazing CYBILS folks, including Jone, who give so tirelessly to be sure good books receive the attention they deserve.

Here's the fabulous folks who will be joining me:

Linda Baie, Teacher Dance
Matt Esenwine, Radio, Rhythm, and Rhyme 
Renee La Tulippe, No Water River
Julie Larios, The Drift Record

And here are the Round 1 judges, who will be winnowing the list of nominees to just 5-7 titles:

Ed deCaria, Think, Kid, Think!
Kelly Fineman, Writing and Ruminating 
Jone MacCulloch, Check It Out
Anastasia Suen, Poet! Poet!
Sylvia Vardell, Poetry for Children
April Halprin Wayland, Teaching Authors
Bridget Wilson, What is Bridget Reading?

Yay, and congratulations to all!!

Serving as a round 1 judge was one of my favorite things of 2012. I loved reading and discussing the books, and you know, I really learned a lot about what makes an award-winning poetry book. Consistency in voice! Fun! Unique! Quality on every page! I was pretty definite about which books I considered my top titles. But to winnow that list to just one winner... yikes!

One of the difficulties I have in considering books for awards is a dislike for direct comparison. I mean, how do you compare a book of poems for the very young like IN THE SEA by David Elliot to a book of poems for teens like LIES, KNIVES AND GIRLS IN RED DRESSES by Ron Koertge?

Tastes and favorites are so individual... I look forward to the challenge 2013 titles will present. I've already got a few favorites I hope will turn up on the Finalists list. We'll see.

Congratulations again to all the nominees and 2012 Poetry winner Laura Purdie Salas's BOOKSPEAK! Be sure to nominate your favorite title when nominations open in October!

Monday, September 16, 2013


With nothing much to beckon us to the theaters -- and football, oh my LORD, football! -- we watched a pair of movies new to DVD. (Seriously, Birmingham is a ghost town when Bama is playing. Best time in the world to go to Publix. :)

First, LOVE IS ALL YOU NEED (isn't it?!) a Danish romantic comedy starring Pierce Brosnan. It's not a perfect movie, but I really loved all the threads, and how things came off in the end. Plus, it's set in gorgeous Italy and included some stunning shots. Someday we will go! Meanwhile, the movie provides a nice fix. Sweet and sad and funny and ends just right.

Next a gritty Sally Potter film GINGER & ROSA, about two girls living in London during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Elle Fanning plays Ginger, and what a charismatic gal she is! The movie is about friendship and family, and how we sometimes embrace causes beyond our control with such fervor because we feel so out of control of our personal lives. Great food for thought. Oh, and Ginger is a poet (not poetess, thank you very much).

Friday, September 13, 2013


Happy Poetry Friday! Jen has Roundup at Teach Mentor Texts.

...from our "transportation" trip to NYC. Note
also the handwritten note from a subway clerk.
And they say people aren't kind in NYC...
NOT true!

I've got cities on my mind, as next weekend I will travel to Washington, DC, for the National Book Festival. I'm excited! 

I like DC, but my heart belongs to New York City. For many years Paul and I visited once a year. We took our kids there one year for a "transportation" themed trip. Our goal was to experience as many forms of transportation as possible. We'll be taking them again in 2014... not sure what our theme will be with them as teens. :)

Anyhow, all this city-love reminded of the late great Charles Bukowski poem featured below. I've always loved how raw and unschooled Bukowski's work is... it reminds me that a poem is more about heart than polish. Or at least that's the way I like poems!

a poem is a city

 by Charles Bukowski

a poem is a city filled with streets and sewers
filled with saints, heroes, beggars, madmen,
filled with banality and booze,
filled with rain and thunder and periods of
drought, a poem is a city at war,
a poem is a city asking a clock why,
a poem is a city burning,
a poem is a city under guns
its barbershops filled with cynical drunks,
a poem is a city where God rides naked
through the streets like Lady Godiva,
where dogs bark at night, and chase away
the flag; a poem is a city of poets,
most of them quite similar
and envious and bitter …
a poem is this city now,
50 miles from nowhere,
9:09 in the morning,
the taste of liquor and cigarettes,
no police, no lovers, walking the streets,
this poem, this city, closing its doors,
barricaded, almost empty,
mournful without tears, aging without pity,
the hardrock mountains,
the ocean like a lavender flame,
a moon destitute of greatness,
a small music from broken windows …

a poem is a city, a poem is a nation,
a poem is the world …

and now I stick this under glass
for the mad editor’s scrutiny,
and night is elsewhere
and faint gray ladies stand in line,
dog follows dog to estuary,
the trumpets bring on gallows
as small men rant at things
they cannot do.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


Our Dream House...until our dream changed. :)
I did lots of painting in that house too... and I
still wear the same painting attire 20 years later.
Yay for scrubs!
 So, on the topic of the joys of home ownership: the other day I heard a dripping noise, just as I settled in my favorite chair to write. I got up to investigate and discovered a crack along the entire left side of the toilet in our half-bathroom. I shut off the water and mopped up with towels.

Later, my husband I went shopping for a new toilet. Who knew there were so many varieties! And me feeling time-crunched... so we pointed and picked and brought our new baby home.

When the plumber came to install it, he was pulling the old toilet off the wood flooring when a terrible odor invaded the house. He, in his gloved hands, poked around, and said, um, I can stick my finger through this flooring. No new toilet until the flooring is replaced.

Turns out, those three little boys who all potty-trained on that toilet? Well. They left behind enough of their "misses" to irreparably damage the wood! This should tell you something about my housecleaning. Hmm. In my defense:

"a clean house is the sign of a dull woman."

SO... next we had to decide on new flooring, which we did, which had to be ordered.

Meanwhile, I decided I wanted to paint the walls. Which I did. Which revealed how long it had been since we painted the trim.

THAT led to a gallon of trim paint, a new angled brush, and my new mission: paint a door a day (and the surrounding trim). It's only an hour of my day... and in a month, we'll be all spruced up around here!

Bonus Flashback Photo:
Potty-training days!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Movie Monday: THE WAY WAY BACK

So it's been a while since I've posted a Movie Monday -- not because I haven't been going to the movies, but because I haven't seen anything lately worth blogging about.

That's right: I save this space for only the movies that really REALLY speak to me. THE WAY WAY BACK is one of those movies. We took the whole family to see it, and it seemed to hit a chord with each of us. Why?

Well, without giving too much away, it's about Duncan. He's 14. He's the unwilling participant in a summer trip that's been orchestrated by Trent, the man who is dating his mother. This man is the King of Say the Right Thing But Do the Opposite. Duncan is on to him and doesn't understand why his mother isn't.

Duncan escapes the awfulness by taking a job at a local water park where he meets true friends (Owen! LOVE HIM. There is this moment at the beginning of the movie where he does the most unexpected and telling thing... I want to be more like Owen!) and learns a lot, and yes, there's a little romance involved. But mostly it's about a kid finding a way to create a good life in the midst of circumstances beyond his control. Funny moments, sweet moments, break-your-heart moments. Go see!

Friday, September 6, 2013

SCAFFOLDING by Seamus Heaney

image found here
Hello and happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit fantasy-loving, postcard-sending, poetry-writing/teaching Laura at Author Amok for roundup.

Such sadness to hear of Seamus Heaney's death. So many of his poems speak to me... my favorite perhaps ever is from his Glanmore Sonnets. Scroll down to "X." LOVE.

When I read that his last words were a text that included a Latin phrase for "Do not be afraid," it reminded me of this poem. And then I read about a gift he'd given to a newly engaged couple and simply had to share for PF! Listen to Seamus reading the poem here.... and here's to poets performing unexpected kindnesses.



by Seamus Heaney

Masons, when they start upon a building,
Are careful to test out the scaffolding;

Make sure that planks won’t slip at busy points,
Secure all ladders, tighten bolted joints.

And yet all this comes down when the job’s done
Showing off walls of sure and solid stone.

So if, my dear, there sometimes seem to be
Old bridges breaking between you and me

Never fear. We may let the scaffolds fall
Confident that we have built our wall.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013


I took these pics in my neighborhood, and okay, this sky is more pink than red, but the silhouette-at-sunset totally reminds me of Tara, and of Scarlett's father telling her the value of land, and of Scarlett vowing never to go hungry again.

Also, this, after a busy start to the school year:

"I am restored in beauty, 
I am restored in beauty, 
I am restored in beauty."
- Navajo prayer

Monday, September 2, 2013


Our youngest son wanted to start a business. He brainstormed all sorts of things and, after our trip to the make-your-own jewelry place in Auburn, Alabama, he settled on making charms for necklaces. He's made some sales at his school and hopes to reach out to a broader audience at his etsy shop: TastefulTrinketry "Nothing But Necklaces"

Here's a pic of his newly-listed pieces, just before we poured in the resin. I bet there's something here you'd like for yourself or a friend!