Ten writers for children. All with something to say.
I must have been a geologist in a previous existence. My brother is a geologist in his current life, and my son was a geology major in college, so perhaps it runs in the family. For whatever reason, I am continually drawn to rocks--not fancy gemstones, but plain, solid, often dull rocks. I love smooth stones to cup in my hands or tuck into my pockets, heavier ones to nestle in my arms, flat ones for constructing walls or patios, and even huge boulders to climb, fitting toes to crevice, reaching for handholds, pulling myself up to a perch at the top. Whenever I go on a road trip, I bring home river rocks, coastal rocks, mountain rocks and desert rocks as souvenirs and have even been known to pack them into my suitcase when traveling by air.
Rocks keep popping up in my stories and poems. In ROAD TO TATER HILL, Annie Winters draws comfort from holding her rock baby after the death of her baby sister. In my current work-in-progress (tentatively titled TOE TIP MOUNTAIN), Rob Lawrence thinks of Vinalhaven Island, the place he calls home, as one huge chunk of granite, quarried out, yet still strong. A place he can always count on.
Since "Cook's Choice" was again the topic of this round of blog posts, I thought it fitting to talk about my desire for a daily dose of stone. From every window in my log cabin, I see rocks, whether they are cemented into walls, laid as a patio or stepping stones, or outcroppings scattered through the woods. And when I hit a writer's block and need an extra helping of stone, I head up the trail to what I call my "cathedral rocks" at the top of Chigger Hill.
Below is a poem I wrote called "Stone"
Stone humbles me with its mass,
its strength, its texture--
smooth, grainy, coarse
Stone awes me with its age,
history beyond comprehension.
What force molded this boulder,
placed it in this spot,
shifted its angle,
firmed its foundation?
Yet life creeps in.
Lichen crusts rounded surface.
Moss softens, colors,
Seed settles in crevice,
produces weed, fern, sapling
on unrelenting toehold.
Stone exudes a somber dignity
that draws me,
offers solitary strength
in thinning autumn sun.
Last Sunday I met our papa caliente Lauren. It was her birthday, and we spent two hours celebrating in front of a lake. How lucky I am! I have nueve papas calientes as friends, and so many other writer friends--dead and alive.
Eloise Jarvis McGraw died years ago, but she still lives for me. To be accepted in her writing group I had to go to three times, on the fourth I had to stay home while they discussed dear me. I was accepted into the group. I learned from everyone, but everyone learned from Eloise.
You would think that after three Newbery Honors you would be sure of your writing. Not Eloise. Whenever she finished a book, she sighed. "Now I have to learn how to write my next book."
On the other hand, Eloise gave plenty of confidence to my writing. She was always encouraging me, to the point that she didn't let any member be too tough to me. I can take tough, but the truth is that Eloise's words made me write more.
Whether you are a papa caliente or not, remember to encourage talent. That way you will never die.
One of the good guys that I met several years ago at the LA SCBWI conference is Greg Pincus. That's him on my right and another good friend, Leslie Muir on my left at last year's 'Paint the Town Red' party.
Greg is a wonderful children's poet, the inventor of the "Fib" poetry form (how cool to know someone who actually invented a type of poetry!), and a world-class blogger. He is celebrating Poetry Month at his blogsite, www.gottabook.blogspot.com, by having a different children's author each day post a never-before-published poem. He's starting out the month in fine style with a poem by none-other-than Jack Prelutsky.
So check out Greg's site, read one of your favorite poems aloud to someone special in your life, or maybe try your hand at writing a poem. It's Poetry Month!
And while we're celebrating, I'll give a cheer to my high school English teacher Tom Diffley who made poetry so interesting that his classes always had long waiting lists. Thank you, Tom, for helping me to discover that poetry is far from the boring subject I thought it was before you enlightened me. And I still find great pleasure in reciting the poems you taught me thirty years ago!
His house is in the village, though,...
My great, great, great grandfather, John Corr, a freeholder in Ballydoo, was considered a lucky man. Armagh was one of only four counties in all of Ireland that did not request relief from the blight. John’s land yielded half the average potato crop, so you’d think he’d only be half as hungry as others.
But John and all his countrymen watched the exodus of famine ships loaded with their loved ones longing for a better life. His eldest, Mary Anne, was only nineteen when she boarded “The Emblem” in Londonderry, bound for Castle Garden. John, his wife and the younger children, Margaret, Ellen and wee John, all felt Mary Anne’s absence.
In 1850 a long awaited letter arrived, yet Mary Anne's words were too few. Each reading reminded John that happy, prosperous days were past, friends and family dispersed, and he was left behind. To call this dull, persistent ache “hunger” didn’t describe the depth of it.
(John Corr's response to Mary Anne's letter was found in an old family Bible)
In the Irish Diaspora, it was the younger family members who left—a rite of passage. Unlike other emigrations through history, in Ireland, women ventured out in the same numbers as men. I have followed Mary Ann. The only girl, I am the one with longing, who left the others behind.
MR. POTATO HEAD
Two years after Hasbro introduced Mr. Potato Head to his Mrs. I was born. I came with a whole range of stick-on facial features.
I am the family garbage disposal.
Give me your bones and skins.
MEAT AND POTATOES
Night after night,
separated by greens.
Too long in the pressure cooker
Mom removes the pot
and moves us away
from her heat.
There’s hell of divorce
in that smell of burning.
Hale means “whole.” Yet I was listed in the phonebook as “Half.” I was split down the middle at an early age. What can you do with half a potato? Make a mark. Carve it. Print it. Make patterns—design a whole life with potatoes.
I think one of the most exciting days for a picture book author is when the illustrations show up in the mail. My shortest wait has been about a year and a half, while this has been my longest. My story A Small Brown Dog With a Wet Pink Nose sold to Little, Brown Books for Young Readers back in 2004. Due to some glitches, like everything that could go wrong did, one illustrator was let go and the final one, Linzie Hunter, finally hired about 18 months ago. (To be honest, it was starting to look like this book was never going to happen.)
So, when my editor emailed to say she was sending the F and G's ( basically the unbound pages of the book), I couldn't wait.
But, in the end, the looooong wait was so worth it. I love Linzie's art and the story and, more importantly, I think young readers will love it.
From the jacket:
Amelia wants a dog, needs a dog, and believes she simply cannot live without a small brown dog with a wet pink nose. Her parents think she can. Rather than begging or pleading, Amelia adopts an imaginary dog. But when Amelia's make-believe pup runs away, her parents are in for a real surprise.
Another fun thing, the end pages incorporate photos of real dogs, and both my labs, Pua and Leilani, made the cut.