{npm24: 7}

Another year, another eclipse, though we’re nowhere near the totality this time – though there must be myriads of people hastily traveling from here to there, eager to see the moon blot out the sun. I saw an eclipse in the first grade, and they were SO EMPHATIC about us not blinding ourselves that to this day, I don’t think of an eclipse without a mild sense of lingering dread. Though it is indeed dangerous to blind yourself with the sun, it’s a little sad when the wonder is wrung out of a thing due to warnings and reminders and instructions. It’s a bit sad that I don’t know why people hop on planes, drive for hours, and insist on being there… what are they looking for?

april 8, 2024

klaxons sound warnings
in silence totality
swallowing us whole

like birth, we’re released
the ineffable, reached for
while we stand, gazing

{DISCOVERING DYSCALCULIA interview}

It was my absolute delight to be able to do this interview with Laura Jackson, author, parent, and all around calm and understanding human being. I absolutely love to get a chance to talk to people about how they’ve managed their disabilities and advocated for their loved ones, and how Laura did it for her daughter’s was to write a book and start a newsletter and do her darnedest to demystify the situation and educate adults and kids alike. I have so much respect for the work and love she put in for her daughter.

You should check out Discovering Dyscalculia. I’m so glad to be able to recommend it as a resource.

{11•7 gratitudinous}

On Friday I have an interview with Laura Jackson the author of a book on dyscalculia who found me through my book, FIGURE IT OUT, HENRI WELDON. This book has opened up rather different opportunities than the usual ones, and I’m meeting a lot of new folks whom I don’t think would have otherwise picked up a book of middle grade fiction.

I do a lot of research writing every book – and read accounts of math disabilities from educational psychologists, teachers, parents, and the occasional student. Afraid to misrepresent anything, I felt compelled to keep researching, obsessed with digging, even though the most clear and obvious information repository I had was… myself.

It’s hard to shed the bone-deep reflex to hide what we feel doesn’t ‘match’ about ourselves. Shame, when it’s been practically foundational to the way I’ve seen myself, and my mathematical efforts, was the hardest thing to step away from, and convinced me that even my own experiences weren’t… good… enough to use for a book about what I struggle with.

How shame disempowers us, through keeping us silent. And yet, the opportunities and responses I’ve gained from stepping out of the shadows and saying, “Yes, it’s me,” continue to multiply.

So, thanks, for that. For the gifts won from stepping forward with our whole selves, regardless of how unsafe that sometimes feels.

all ye, all ye outs in

come out:
duck-and-cover
doesn’t stop disaster.
what if, outside the shadow’s grays
we shine?

{how is it the end of may, and other queries}

We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another; unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of layers, cells, constellations.

~ Anais Nin

So ends the merry, merry month of May, which brought to my circle, weather extremes, dishwashers blowing up, Achilles’s tendon surgery, mental health break, court dates, new, difficult medications, sudden sibling deaths, broken-into cars, suicide, lost jobs, lost illustrators, and plenty of book rejections, as always. May presented my larger circle the writer’s strike, persistent book censorship, a disappointing buy-in on the part of the industry (especially side-eying you, Scholastic) who want to appear in virtuous support of diversity and inclusivity, but who in truth bow to the loudest shareholder monies, and corporations moving hesitantly towards ethical behavior without ever embracing or wholeheartedly championing it. And further out from that, nationally, globally, May has continued to reveal to us ugly social divisions, war and its proxies, the high incidences of violence globally against immigrants, violence against trans persons, Asian, and Black communities in the US that goes on, and on, and on, a rising shriek in our collective ears. I’m thinking we’ve somehow cosmically agreed to delay the “merry” from this month until another day.

And yet, May has also been what it always is, a season of growth, a season of renewal, and a season of change. Yesterday I found the first morning glory blossom, peeking shyly from beneath a broad leaf. The hollyhocks are hip high and the dahlias buds grow fatter every day. The chard and lettuce are tiny, tender shoots, the walking onions stand tall in lines, and all the hard squashes and watermelon have more than six leaves. The last of the corn goes in this week, and the potatoes, ahead of a fall harvest. And there are tomato flowers.

In this grim place, there is still life affirmed. Even in an endless night, there are stars.

This month of shifting tides finds me once again reevaluating issues of religion/faith/denomination, re-examining my abilities to write, and contemplating my reasons for publishing. It is, in many ways, something I used to do more nebulously, a sort of anxious, “should I be quiet now? Do I any longer have anything to say?” angst that rattled in my mental background, but I feel it adds value to be deliberate in these thoughts, to let them come and be spoken aloud, instead of merely haunting me from shadowed corners. Who am I? What is my role? Why should I take up space? Each round of this kind of thinking moves me… some direction.

How about you? What questions are you asking, as the seasons blend and flowers move towards fruiting?

We learn things, through these revelatory moments in our lives. Trees age in circles, tides push us out, and draw us in again, moment by moment, step by step, always moving somewhere both familiar and new. I feel like I am moving both closer to my real self, and further out to sea. My closest relationships are becoming more genuine, and the ones which are …less, are fading. The refining continues to cycle things closer to the heart of the flame, and move what is mere dross further away. The Byrds echoed Ecclesiastes, “to everything there is a season.” All things will be revealed – finished and refined – in due time. So much of life and art is about our process, about waiting and being. About, in the wise words of the late Robin Smith, being here NOW. The seeds have been planted, the water is in place, and from this moment on, it’s about being present to take in each new unfolding, each new direction, each reset and rekindling of our purpose.

This is, admittedly, not my favorite part. I hate these treading water bits of life, this sense of standing in a boat while it’s being sloshed from stem to stern, while the tide is drawing in or running out, and we’re just trying to keep our balance. And yet – it’s been a month of unpacking some things, in between bouts of flailing about and wondering if I’m doing anything right at all. I sense an answer may be just around the corner…

…but, until then, we wait. We listen.

Here. Ready, though hesitant. Willing, though uneasy. Open to the next move.

{story chat: angie thomas & books of wonder}

A breezy, sunny weekend, good books and avid readers! Looking forward to hanging out in the North Bay this Saturday night!

And, then Sunday afternoon, I’ll be virtually jetting to New York to talk with even more great book people!

I hope you can join me one place or the other – you can definitely still reserve your spot on Crowdcast with Books of Wonder, so if you can, do! If not, there will be recordings and photographs posted from both events, and I’ll tell you all about them later.

Until then…

{pf: poetry peeps cascade into transformation}

Greetings! Welcome to another Poetry Peeps adventure on Poetry Friday!

Poetry Peeps! You’re invited to our challenge in the month of February! Here’s the scoop: we’re creating ekphrastic poems! Your choice of form, length, topic, or meter, but each poem should be based on an image you’re willing to share (a Creative Commons image is best if it’s not one you’ve taken yourself or have permission to use). You have a month to craft your creation and share it on February 24th in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals.


January, my friends, has seemed both simultaneously six years and five minutes long. Topping my list of Ugh, No tasks this month was shameless self-promotion for my newly released middle grade novel, and Tech Boy’s office party. The glorious reprieve provided by the pandemic is over, so I had to put on my big girl pants – and my mask, because only the reprieve is over – and get on a boat (in the midst of atmospheric rivers on the eve of a massive flood, whose bright idea was this???) and make small talk over indifferent food with too loud of music. Even beyond the wild wind and the waves, beyond stepping into an ankle deep puddle and running from the dock between showers, it all seemed ghastlier because I hadn’t done it in so long. Social muscles atrophy if ignored, just like every other muscle group.

As the Poetry Sisters sat down to work on our poems this month, we shared stories of what was going on in our lives – and some of us tried writing about it. Whether it was because we were unsure of what to say, or had a lot of ranting to do that didn’t want to fit itself to the Cascade form, few of us were ecstatic about our first drafts. (But you should see what Sara came up with, and here’s Laura’s poem, and Liz’s. Here’s Mary Lee’s, and here’s Tricia’s poem. Jone’s is here, and Heidi’s is here. You’ll find Margaret’s poem here, and Linda B’s poem here, and here’s Michelle’s and this one is Molly’s. Carol V’s poem she dropped off on her way out!. Kelly’s poem is on her desk in New Jersey… and she’s on an even bigger boat than I was on, so check back next month! As the weekend goes on, more Peeps will be joining the fun so check back for the full roundup.)

Additionally, adding an annual theme to our challenges is new for us. Some of us chose to highlight our theme of “transformation” through the poem form itself. The Cascade, I was delighted to learn, was invented by political theorist Udit Bhartia, whose research focuses on “normative democratic theory, comparative constitution-making, and social epistemology.” I noted that whether in the tercet or quatrain form of the Cascade, the poet seems to need to begin with a strong statement that can shift through the rest of the lines. I can see how a political theorist would know how best to use a firm thesis statement!

While I found the tercet to have too few lines, the quatrain was an immediate fit. I had the intention to create something unrhymed – in the name of our annual theme of transformation I intended to at least try to stop rhyming everything – but this off-the-cuff rhymed effort worked out better. Rather than shift lines as my change, I focused on the idea of a resolution, or, as some call it, “setting intentions.”

Introvert Intention

A Show up: half the battle is won.
B Say, “Yes.” People-watch. That’s still fun.
C If “No” tries the world to control –
D Change tunes. A new song feeds the soul.

a So what if “I’m Quiet”‘s your fame?
b A quiet match still kindles flame.
c Though you won’t spark with everyone,
A Show up. Half the battle is won.

d Skill as a good listener amends
e A lack of “crowd-loving” in friends
f Who shine brightest when one-on-one.
B Say, “Yes,” people. Watch – that’s still fun.

g One hour: that’s it. You’ve agreed
h To socialize (TRY). It could lead
i To new friends, new tastes, or new goals,
C If “No” tries the world to control…

j So caution to winds, will you try
k a new way of being, whereby
l you give Chance a new, starring role?
D Change tunes. A new song feeds the soul.

I left the “frame” up so you’ll see how straightforward a Cascade can be. For me, stanzas worked well for me put into sentence form, otherwise I sometimes fell into making short, punchy statements that occasionally sounded unnecessarily aggressive. This was a fun form to play with, and I look forward to digging more into it – maybe even without a rhyme.

(You’ll note that I don’t promise to report on my intentions to socialize more… everything is a work in progress in this transformation business.)


Poetry Friday today is hosted by Jan at Bookseed Studio. If you find yourself faltering already at intentions you’ve set, today is a new day – and it only takes turning a different direction to be at a beginning instead of an ending. Happy Year of the Cat, Rabbit, and Happy Weekend.

{waiting wednesdays: book birthday countdown…!}

HAPPY DECEMBER!

It’s hard to believe that in just one month, Henri Weldon will be out in the world! This is a book that I feel so good about… that I sat down and read it cover to cover last weekend in one sitting. (No joke; you can do that with your own books sometimes because it takes a while for them to come to publication, and you can actually kind of forget what they’re about. It’s a little weird to laugh at your own jokes, though… which I did. Anyway.) If you’d like a sneak peak copy of the book, stay tuned Wednesdays this month for a giveaway. I’ll be giving away an ARC each week, and we’ll also be talking about middle grade math, sisters, frenemies and school survival strategies. It’ll be fun!

Genuinely nice things people are saying about Figure It Out, Henri Weldon:

“Skillfully realized, this is an affirming and inspiring tale for readers who are only ever told what they can’t accomplish. Uplifting and amusing, this book will leave readers with valuable lessons.” – Kirkus Reviews

“An involving middle-grade narrative with a very likable protagonist.” – Booklist

“…a complex character who is not singularly defined by her personal challenges. In this hopeful, well-paced volume, Davis (Partly Cloudy) centers accommodation, community, and understanding.” – Publishers’ Weekly

“Davis successfully drives home the importance of finding one’s own path and accepting the journeys of others.” – Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

{pf: the poetry peeps rise}

Poetry Peeps! You’re invited to our challenge in the month of August! Here’s the scoop: Get on your flippy poodle skirts, your tough leather jackets and penny loafers; we’re going to The Bop. A form created by poet Afaa Michael Weaver at a Cave Canem summer retreat, this is a poem with three stanzas, each followed by a single repeated line as a refrain. The first six lines presents an issue, the second eight line stanza discusses it, and the third six lines resolves it, and/or discusses the failure of resolution. Are you in? Good! You’ve got a month to craft your creation(s), then share your offering with the rest of us on August 26th in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals.


The truth is, I never really give acrostics much weight as a poetic form – even phrase acrostics. It’s possible it’s because they’re so often used as elementary school art projects, where every kid finds a positive word to go with each letter of their name. Though I do like them, and the Poetry Peeps and I have messed around with them before, they’ve never really taken off as a form I’ve mastered. They’re simple, but… sometimes a little too regimented for how I’m feeling.

When Tricia selected a poem for us to take a line from for our poems, I think we all thought, “Okay, taking a line from a poem we already know? This’ll be easy.”

Yeah, that just shows what our past selves knew. No. No, this was not easy. In fact, using an utterly iconic poem like “Still I Rise” was immensely, fiendishly challenging. Additionally, a few of us found it difficult to separate the poet’s intention from our own poem – especially a well-known poet who lived during our lifetimes. This is Ms. Maya, y’all. This poem has spoken to generations of people with clarity and joy – we surely weren’t going to mess with that.

…well, obviously, we did, though I will say the good thing was that we read the poem repeatedly. I made it hard on myself by pulling the second-to-worst line in the whole thing to work with (the first worst is about having diamonds between my thighs; I’ll happily leave that one to someone else). A random line would work best, I thought, so I closed my eyes and picked…”You may kill me with your hatefulness.” …Great.

I did try to write from that line. I got halfway through and it was getting both long and depressing, and the internal rhyme felt forced. I tried a double acrostic, but those work best with really short subjects – which wasn’t what I was working with. I had to go away and come back several times and fiddle, fiddle, fiddle with word choices and order. I don’t often write a poem I’m happy with in a single sitting, but usually I can at least manage an entire draft. Not this time!

Finally I gave up, which was honestly the wisest choice. I don’t think I can write a good poem about hatefulness yet – not the way I tried to approach it. (ETA -*And here is where I forgot it was supposed to be a PHRASE acrostic…. oops.) Frankly, I’m sick to death of people’s hatefulness and could do without all that for a bit, so I switched to the important and meaningful part of the poem to me – “But still, like air, I’ll rise. Get on with your trifling hatefulness anyway. I’m over it – literally.

One of the ways I worked on creating rhyme within the confines of an acrostic was to record myself (ugh) reading it over, and over, and over. Here’s the last recording I made – it’s a really helpful (if dorky sounding) tool in the poetic arsenal.

I still don’t like the title – it really isn’t much of one – but I’m thrilled I finished with something meaningful, grounding, and largely coherent. I’ll take it.


I’m excited to see what Liz has come up with, if Sara joined the girl gang, and what Laura wrote at the lake. I’m looking forward to finding out what Tricia dreamed up, which one of the probably forty-three that Mary Lee wrote she ended up choosing. Here’s Michelle K’s beautifully upbeat take, and here, Carol V. shares another classic acrostic. Thanks so much everyone for playing along! More Poetry Peeps will be added as the weekend progresses, so check back later for the full round-up.

Meanwhile, Poetry Friday is hosted over at Marcie Atkins’ blog. Thanks, Marci!


Even if you don’t feel like you’re rising above like air this week, don’t forget the poem also suggests that you can rise like dust. Dust or grit is central to the oyster’s pearl, to the clouds that make the rain, and to the fragile impermanence of a snowflake’s beauty. Even the smallest of us has impact and purpose. Here’s to finding yours. Happy Weekend.