Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloweenie Poetry Friday!

Hello, and welcome! My offering for today is a trio of Halloweenie poems for my Poetry Friday friends! I bet there will be lots of sweet and scary poetic surprises around the webs today, so be sure to visit lovely Linda at TeacherDance for Roundup.

by Lilian Moore

Strange shadows out
in the white
of the moon

shaggy humps
dark baggy bumps

bat shapes
pointed heads

Strange shadows out
all tricking and treating.

Such sadness: now that the youngest is 6'2"... we have no trick-or-treaters this year! I remember those dressed-up Halloween nights with such fondness -- and not just because I love me some bite-sized candy. Reese's, anyone? Peppermint patty? Mmmm....

by Valerie Worth

After its lid
Is cut, the slick
Seeds and stuck
Wet strings
Scooped out,
Walls scraped
Dry and white,
Face carved, candle
Fixed and lit,

Light creeps
Into the thick
Rind: giving
That dead orange
Vegetable skull
Warm skin, making
A live head
To hold its
Sharp gold grin.

I also miss carving the Jack-o-lantern. Every few years I'll get out my carving tools and try to create something fun... but mostly I am content to put my uncarved pumpkins on the front stoop. I do LOVE pumpkin seeds, though... it's just easier to snag a bag at Walmart.

by Valerie Worth

Is it the
Curve of their
Breezy ribs, the
Crook of their
Elegant fingers,

Their eyeless
Eyes, so wide
And wise,
Their silent
Ivory laughter,

The frisk and
Prance of their
Skittering dance
With never a
Pause for breath,

That fills us
With such
Delicious delight,
While scaring us
Half to death?

The one decoration that has survived the 20 years of our parenthood is the life-sized plastic skeleton. We still hang it in the front yard every year -- and every year we recall the times the youngest was scared to go in the basement because the skeleton was there... and the time his older brother pulled a prank on him by leaving the skeleton for him to find IN THE SHOWER. Yep, that did a number on him, much to Oldest Son's delight. Oh, brothers....

However you celebrate the night -- or even if you don't celebrate at all -- here's wishing you "delicious delight" this evening!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Mystery, Revisited. And, the Art of Living WILD.

I just finished a book that really moved me: WILD by Cheryl Strayed.

It was not something I would have picked up on my own -- it was picked for me by our book club. (Among the many arguments FOR being in a book club, this is one of them: the opportunity to read things you might not have chosen!) And I loved it.

Basically, it's about how a woman's journey walking the Pacific Crest Trail heals and changes her. It's beautiful. And hold onto your cracker jacks, she BURNS BOOKS along the way. Read the book to find out why. Or... I just discovered it's also been adapted in a movie starring Reese Witherspoon, releasing in December!

And now, just a short passage from the end of the book that speaks to me of my 2014 One Little Word, which is "mystery," and also points me to what may become my word for 2015. We'll see! Meanwhile, read the book! It just might change you.

"To believe that I didn't need to reach

 with my bare hands anymore. To know

that seeing the fish beneath the surface 

of the water was enough. That it was

everything. It was my life – like all

lives, mysterious and irrevocable and 

sacred. So very close, so very present,

so very belonging to me.

How wild it was, to let it be."

- Cheryl Strayed, WILD

Monday, October 27, 2014

Quilts, Poetry & Freedom Fighters in Greensboro, Alabama

Last week we visited Greensboro, Alabama, as part of Alabama Folklife Association's "Common Threads" programming on the textile arts in our state.

We started out at Magnolia Grove where we saw the oldest quilt in America and some other quilts like this one:

Don't you love those butterflies?! What a great way to border a crazy quilt.

While walking the property after viewing the outdoor kitchen and the slave house, where we found this fragment of a poem written by the once-owner of the home...

...we spied something neither Paul nor I had ever seen before: droppings from an Osage orange tree (thanks to our new friend Liz for enlightening us!).

Next we visited The Safe House Black History Museum ("Safe House" because one night Martin Luther King, Jr., stayed there to avoid confrontation with various Klan groups who were waiting at all the road intersections exiting Greensboro) where we were greeted by this tribute to Rosa Parks and 42,000 other footsoldiers for freedom:

But the highlight (and surprise!) was meeting Theresa Burroughs, who founded the museum and was an activist during the Movement:

Here she is in 1965 after being rounded up by police at a protest:

To find out more about Theresa, check out this short documentary. SO inspiring for anyone who values...

We enjoyed a delicious fried catfish lunch at Mustang Oil, which looks like a sleepy gas station, but inside it buzzed with what seemed like all of Greensboro:

Finally we learned all about National Arts Fellow Nora Ezell and her quilts. I  came home with her book My Quilts and Me, and I have been devouring it! Here's a quilt from the collection of Mary Elizabeth "Sunshine" Johnson, who compiled the book and gave the presentation:

And I'll leave you with a quote from the late great Nora Ezell herself:

"The point is learn to do with what you have and that's what quilts are all about. Taking nothing and making something of it."

Monday, October 20, 2014


With the Dalai Lama scheduled to arrive in Birmingham this coming weekend -- yes, we have tickets, and yes, Eric will be performing onstage just before the Dalai Lama -- we've been brushing up on our knowledge about Tibet and His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. And since all around Birmingham they've been offering free screenings of 10 QUESTIONS FOR THE DALAI LAMA, we thought that film might be a good place to start... only we watched it in our pajamas by streaming on Netflix. :)

We really enjoyed the movie. We learned a lot about the tradition of the Dalai Lama, the Chinese government's brutality, and a lot about the current Dalai Lama -- he's a tinkerer, very well-read, laughs a lot, and doesn't suffer fools for long.

I guess if I had to sum it all up, I would say the Dalai Lama promotes the "religion of kindness." Despite his exile, he's bubbly-happy, and his viewpoint is one of respect for the world and for humans of all kinds. When the filmmaker asked him about traditions, what should be kept, and what should be let go of, the Dalai Lama was quick to say some traditions (like the inferior treatment of women) is outdated and needs to go. He said nonviolence is the key to peace, but, if one is threatened, violence may be called for. He said our wants/desires for more more more is what causes so much unhappiness.

I urge you to check it out for yourself! Meanwhile, here are a few prayer flags I made -- the community has been working to create enough prayer flags to span the perimeter of Hoover Metropolitan Stadium during the event.

Friday, October 17, 2014

"Letter to A Friend" by Lilian Moore

Hello, and happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit the amazing, irrepressible Michelle at Today's Little Ditty for Roundup.

I've got another Lilian Moore poem for you, from SOMETHING NEW BEGINS: New and Selected Poems. I love how Ms. Moore wasn't afraid to engage the darker side in her works for children... I so appreciate honesty and any writer who gives kids credit for the depth of their feelings. Death is a pretty essential part of the life cycle, and this poem makes it beautiful. Plus, I love the urgency. One could read this poem all sorts of ways!

by Lilian Moore

Come soon.

Everything is lusting
for light,
splitting the earth,
opening flaring fading,
into shoot
into flower,
beyond its hour.

Come soon.

The apple bloom has melted
spring snow.

The lilac
changed the air,
surprising every breath.

Low in the field
wild strawberries

Come soon.

It's a matter of

And death.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Scarecrow Show

Each year Inverness Elementary (where our boys went to school!) teachers, students & parents create scarecrows and display them for the community to enjoy during the month of October. This year's crop is as fun and inspiring as ever... but I think my favorite has to be the diva: Mrs. Greene's Fabulous Frogs! Look for her below. :)

Monday, October 13, 2014

Finding Characters at the Thrift Store & Other Joys of Writing

This past weekend was the SCBWI Southern Breeze region's annual WIK (Writing & Illustrating for Kids) conference here in Birmingham.

Two of my writing buddies Pat & Sheila came in on Thursday so we could lunch and antique and thrift before turning our hearts and souls to writing.

But, of course, writing slips in no matter which way we wiggle.

Here's the box of photographs that captivated us:

And here's Sheila & Pat:

On Friday we attended a Writing Intensive with author Candice Ransom. I experienced a number of a-ha moments, one of which was how all my writing seems to revolve around PLACE. Candice's does as well, and she shared many ways this can benefit our writing. The other has to do with mining our own lives for stories. This scares me -- which is a sure sign I need to be doing it!

Friday night we hung out with the Mafia. The MIDDLE GRADE MAFIA. :) Get to know them -- they're great!

Saturday we conferenced ourselves into a hazy state. Great to see old friends and meet new ones... always great to learn new things and to be inspired. Candice Ransom's keynote was all about triumphing over failure, and we were all deeply moved. 

My session was on Smart Marketing for Busy Authors, and there just wasn't enough time! Here's a pic of me and Joan Broerman just before I got started:

Big thanks to authors Kate Messner, Holly Schindler, Lisa Schroeder & Tamera Will Wissinger who each contributed to my presentation. Ladies, your words are helping striving writers in the Deep South and beyond! Mwah!!

Monday, October 6, 2014

WHEELS OF CHANGE by Darlene Beck Jacobson

I'm excited today to welcome Darlene Beck Jacobson to Live Your Poem! Her debut historical middle grade WHEELS OF CHANGE was released last month. Congratulations, Darlene!!! What an exciting time!

Kirkus Reviews notes resemblances to TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD and what a strong character Emily is in the face of national changes during the last year of Theodore Roosevelt's presidency-- as well as personal changes. You can tell Darlene loved researching this time period -- lots to love here!

I gave Darlene three short prompts. Here's what she had to say:

The Delicious: 
Sending the “baby” out into the world. Editors saying fix this and that. Agent finally saying, “deal first, then repairs.” Signing the 16 page contract tasted better than the sweetest birthday cake.
The Difficult: 
 Changing the manuscript from a Picture Book to Middle Grade. Would there be enough meat on the bone? More than enough meat…so which piece to cut? Which to savor, swallow and slowly digest? Which to smother in gravy? Which to toss out and start over? Everyone’s taste is different. But I am the cook; I control the ingredients. The final meal is satisfying.
The Unexpected: 
 In the story, Emily meets Theodore Roosevelt. My grandmother met him, too. How did I get Kermit Roosevelt – the great-great-grandson of TR - to write a blurb for the book? I asked.
Darlene Beck Jacobson has loved writing since she was a girl. She wrote letters to everyone she knew and made up stories in her head. Although she never wrote to a president, she sent many letters to pop stars of the day asking for photos and autographs. She loves bringing the past to life in stories such as WHEELS OF CHANGE, her debut novel.
Darlene’s stories have appeared in CICADA, CRICKET, and other magazines. When not writing, Darlene enjoys baking, sewing and tea parties. She also likes hanging around forges watching the blacksmith work magic. She’s never ridden in a carriage like the one in the story, but hopes to one day.
Her blog features recipes, activities, crafts and interviews with children’s book authors and illustrators. She still loves writing and getting letters. Check out her website at: or on Twitter@dustbunnymaven

Friday, October 3, 2014

And October Creeps In...

My favorite picture from September...
with my favorite (only. best. amazing!)
sister Lynn
October, oh how you've snuck up on me this year! Happy Poetry Friday, everyone... be sure to visit Jama at Jama's Alphabet Soup for some delicious Roundup!

Thank you to those have written or called to check on me this past month. I've been traveling with the release of DEAR WANDERING WILDEBEEST and revising a novel and kind of re-evaluating how I spend my time. My father has been seriously ill, and he lives in far North Dakota, so that has been the focus of much of my energy. It's a powerful reminder of how precious time is, and how easily we let the hours and days slip away from us. So, yeah. Heavy stuff!

Meanwhile, I had intended to share a September poem from Lilian Moore's book SOMETHING NEW BEGINS, which, I ordered after Renee's amazing post about Lilian (with the help of Lee Bennett Hopkins!) at No Water River and after Laura Purdie Salas mentioned this book in particular at Teaching Authors. Thank you, ladies! I have a few more poems dog-eared to share with you in the coming weeks.

It may be October, but I am sharing the "September" poem with you today anyhow. Hey, I live in the Deep South, which means the poem is actually more accurate of October (or even November!) for me, so that's my justification. :)

by Lilian Moore

Something is bleeding
into the
the stains are freshly

and overhead.
The maple

is crimson spattered.
Summer is fatally
Soon, soon

Kind of macabre, isn't it? Beautiful, though.

And now for something lighter: our October theme over at Smack Dab in the Middle is "creepy," so I wrote creepy poem for all my writer-friends. Click here to read "Creepy Poem" by Irene Latham. Or... you can just listen. :)