I’m trying something new today, inspired by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater’s post at Author Amok during Laura Shovan’s Techno-Verse celebration. I recorded a poem starter audio using SoundCloud, which I’d never tried before. Thanks, Amy and Laura, for showing me this tool. It took me a while to figure out some tech details, and I’m not sure whether I’m going to keep using it or not. I love the option of having audio only. I guess at some point, I need to figure out an overall strategy for my poem starters, where will they be, in what format, etc. But that’s not gonna happen today:>)
So, here’s the poem, which is from one of my Capstone poetry books:.
You’d Better Be Scared
I’m a giant Raging wild I paw the muddy ground
I crush eight cars Beneath my wheels With tearing, shrieking sounds
People scream and
Cheer for me
But I don’t need their luck
My motor screams
I thunder through—
I’m a MONSTER truck!
–by Laura Purdie Salas (from Always Got My Feet: Poems About Transportation)
And here’s an audio version with a poem starter for educators.
Last week’s photo: That was a set of plastic Easter eggs, opened, and placed on top of my open laptop. We recently went to a Gordon Lightfoot concert at the State Theatre in downtown Minneapolis. Each time we go there, the architectural details amaze me. I always think, “Why would they spend so much time on all of this if you’re supposed to be looking at the stage?” It’s beautiful, in an over-the-top way. Here’s what it makes me think of:
1) Romeo and Juliet, of course
2) Craftsman whose job is working on the same building for his whole life
3) The fun a kid (or grown-up) would have playing in an empty theater.
And here’s my poem first draft:
You Missed a Spot Gold filigree
must be refined:
so stories bewitch
the idle rich.
–Laura Purdie Salas, all rights reserved
What do you think of when you look at this picture? Take any quick idea and jot down a 15 Words or Less poem. It doesn’t have to rhyme or describe this picture. It’s just about whatever you think of when you look at it.
Whew! I survived our younger daughter’s grad party. We had 100+ people, severe thunderstorms, and lots of soaking wet, unused tables and chairs in the backyard. Oh well. Everyone had fun. And it’s over. :>) On Monday (the day after the grad party), I had two pieces of leftover cake, two leftover brownies, a piece of toffee, and a big stomachache. I hope you guys show lots more restraint than me!
Young Writers’ Conference: I wrote odes with 3rd-8th graders for two days last week–fun! Here’s one of my fav lines by Anna Sachs, from “An Ode to Nurses.” You help others out for the price of a smile. Isn’t that lovely? I’m relieved, however, to have no speaking engagements and no grad party this week!
Writers’ Fees: Speaking of conferences, my next writers’ e-letter will have a short piece sharing the typical speaking fees I earn at various events. You can subscribe here.
Wow: At the Loft Literary Center last weekend, the keynote for the Children’s & YA Lit Festival featured (illustrator) David Small and (writer) Sarah Stewart in a completely emotional and heartbreaking and uplifting (all at once) exchange of questions, answers, and thoughts–moderated by poet Susan Marie Swanson. One of the most powerful keynotes I’ve been honored to hear.
I have never been a workaholic, in action or proclivity. But when you’re a freelance writer, it sneaks up on you. You don’t want to turn down work because tomorrow, you might have no assignments. But before you know it, you’re overwhelmed with deadlines and working nights and weekends. OK, maybe not you, but me, for sure.I didn’t realize how bad it had gotten until we started working on house and yard projects for Maddie’s grad party (which was Sunday, and which we survived–whew!). We were working every night and through entire weekends, and I just kept falling further and further behind. Nights aren’t really the problem, actually. I occasionally will work on something for an hour or so in the evening. But I’ve started putting in probably 8-10 hours over every weekend, too.
This is not what I want to do. I love to write, and if the muse visits and I write a bit on the weekend, great. But the truth is, the work I’ve been doing over weekends isn’t writing–at least not my creative, just-because-I-have-to-write-this writing. Instead, it’s copyediting, blogging, CLN work, social media stuff, answering emails, creating my e-letters, etc.
So…I’ve got to get this figured out. I’m going to have to get more realistic about how much I can accomplish each week. I’m going to have to winnow down my goals and to-do lists. That is hard. But there’s a lot more to life than work, so…I’ll be figuring this out. Wish me luck!
Oh, how I love Sandra Markle’s nonfiction picture books, and this one is no exception. She follows a female godwit from birth through its long migration from Alaska to New Zealand. As usual, Markle combines great facts with scene-setting details to put us right there in the thick of amazing nature:
“Crackle! Crackle! Crunch! The little female bar-tailed godwit at last breaks free of her egg. She steps into the world on long, wobble legs. It’s nearly midneight, but it’s June in Alaska and still light. A cool wind blows the chick’s downy coat. She shivers, lifts her beak, and squeaks, ‘Peep! Peep! “
We see the young godwit struggle with dangers and exhaustion, and we are rooting her on. Markle makes kids care about nature and wildlife, and that’s an awesome thing.
Great backmatter and delicate cut/torn paper and watercolor illustrations by Mia Posada round out a wonderful book.
Extension ideas for The Long, Long Journey:
Make some art. Have kids paint a watercolor picture and then cut construction paper shapes to add a few details to accent.
Measure it. A young godwit flies more than 7,000 miles nonstop on its migration. Pick a point 10-50 miles from your school that most of your students know. Then divide it out and ask kids to image running back and forth from school to that point X number of times without taking a single break!
Get seasonal. Talk about the seasons being opposite in the Southern Hemisphere. How would it be different to have Christmas or Hannukah during summer? To have winter in July?
I mentioned earlier this week that I’ve been writing a lot of assessment materials. I wish there was a lot less assessing going on in our schools, but I’ll confess right now that I usually have a great time writing poems for assessment companies. Poems is a term I’ll use loosely here. They’re very often little verse stories, because they have to be a certain length and have enough details for 10 (usually) questions to be asked about them. They’re for a certain grade level, and I frequently have to use specificed techniques like simile, alliteration, refrain, etc. It’s like writing a poetry puzzle.
Robby wants me to write him a poem. He wants the poem to say That he’s handsome And strong And great at martial arts. He also wants me to mention That he knows how to stand on his head And where Saskatchewan is. (He doesn’t want me to mention that he farts.)
–Judith Viorst, all rights reserved
There are lots of things I’m not permitted to mention in assessment passages and poems, too. Though I don’t think farting has ever been specifically addressed, I feelt pretty sure it wouldn’t fly! Interestingly, yesterday I was doing a Young Writers’ Conference, and one of the boys–of course–farted during writing time. Lord–the giggles for the next 20 minutes!
Oh–I’d like to do some more Poem Starter Videos over the summer months. If you have a 2012 or a 2013 children’s poetry book published in a print edition by a mainstream children’s publisher, and if you’ve be interested in having me choose a poem to share from it, please let me know in the comments. (Click here to watch my Poem Starters so far.)
Everything is up! My mood, my blood pressure, my stress level. OK, that sounds bad. But we’ve got the big graduation open house for our younger daughter this weekend, and I’m told the attendee count could get as high as 200. Holy moly. But meanwhile, last week was lovely. Here’s what I’m happy about.
A Leaf Can Be… is on the NCTE Notables list! Whee! Attending NCTE last year and taking part in the Notables session for BookSpeak was one of the highlights of my year. That’s one to check off on my list of writing dreams for the year!
Check out the beautiful vase my daughter Annabelle painted for me for Mother’s Day!
I got to spend time revising A Rock Can Be…, which will be my third Can Be… book! (Water Can Be… comes out in 2014.)
I’ve been freelance writing for a long time, and one thing that still surprises me, even though it shouldn’t, is how much my work changes from week to week, month to month, year to year.
I’m looking at the first third of 2013, for example, and I haven’t written a single book under contract (meaning I have not been assigned by a publisher to write a book). I’ve had loads of good news on existing books, which is great! And I’ve even got some trade book news to share soon that I’m super excited about. But the educational publishers I usually write for have not been knocking on my door the past few months.
Instead, I’ve spent almost all of my writing time on two things: assessment writing and copyediting. I’ve done 15-20 assessment passages over the past few months, and I’m about halfway through (I think) copyediting a big project of teacher lessons and student workbook pages for a reading program in another country.
It’s all interesting work, some parts of it more challenging than other parts. But I have to admit it feels odd not to be turning in book manuscripts this spring. But that’s freelance writing. The market changes. Your relationship with particular publishers changes. And your work changes. I think it’s both a pro and a con of this writing life.
How is your writing life the same or different from what it was like 2-3 years ago?
One of my many jobs over the years was working as a personal care assistant for young adults, several of whom had autism spectrum disorders. So I had heard a bit about Temple Grandin and her work. But after reading this book, I feel like I know Temple. It’s a great biography that doesn’t only reveal facts, but also makes you feel like you’ve met and talked with the person in real life. This biography is inspiring and engaging…and it deserves to be in a classroom or library where many upper elementary students can read it. That’s where you come in:>)
I’m going to give away my signed (by the author) copy that I won on Loree Burns’ blog (see her post about the book here). To enter, I’m going to ask you to do at least one of the following things, then Comment and let me know what you did. You have all week to enter. I’ll use Randomizer.org to pick the winner. Since Loree is the one who sent me the book, which I had actually heard great things about but had just never gotten around to, I’m going to make the tasks apply to Loree and me where applicable. Here are your options. Just pick whatever’s easiest and most appealing to you.
Sign up for my e-newsletter (I have one for educators and one for writers).
Please do at least one of the tasks above. We’re on the honor system here, but I trust you:>)
Entry deadline is Friday, May 17, at 5 p.m. U.S. Central Time.
I’ll announce the winner on Monday, May 20. Please check back then to see if you won and give me the shipping info.
I’ll ship anywhere in the continental U.S.
Good luck! And thanks again to Loree, whose outstanding nonfiction books always inform and entertain, too! Julie at Instantly Interruptible has the Nonfiction Monday roundup this week! Go learn something cool!