Thanks for your interest in my book events!
(This post will be continuously updated.)
Essay • “Checking the Weather” Teen Librarian Toolbox Blog @SLJ
Interview • “Writer Q&A” @NerdDaily
Interview • “Author Q&A” @Confessions of a YA Reader
Interview • Author Q&A @ at Karen B. McCoy’s
Interview • Conversation @ Edie’s Cotton Quilts
BOOK GIVEAWAY • from September 16th – 21st: CLOSED Recipients have been contacted on Twitter and Instagram. If you were contacted, please use the drop down the menu on the left “About This Site” and leave your address in the contact form. Thanks!
ICYMI: View the Crowdcast of my book launch with Janae Marks here.
View the Princeton Children’s Book Festival’s Book Jam with Damian Alexander, Kathryn Erskine, Lee Durfey-Lavoie and Veronica Agarwal here.
Greetings! Welcome to another Poetry Peeps adventure on Poetry Friday!
You’re invited to try our challenge in the month of September! Here’s the scoop: We’re writing tanka in response to a poem we love from the Poetry Friday universe. Choose to respond to an original poem from anyone – give us a link to the original poem, then go tanka-tangoing on. Are you thinking of a poem? Good! You’ve got a month to craft your 5-7-5 creation(s), then share your offering (or someone else’s) with the rest of us on September 24th in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals.
The original steps for the Sidman Deeper Wisdom poems included: a.) Choose your subject, b.) think about the overarching Truths relating to your subject, c.) state six of the strongest truths into two stanzas, and d.) make your end words rhyme – but you don’t have to. While the mentor poems we used – Jane Yolen’s vs. Joyce Sidman’s – differ slightly, at least on the surface, this is a short, simple vehicle for thoughtful poetic description. That said, I still choked on the first step.
During our Seven Sisters meetup the previous Sunday, I had written one poem off the top of my head, but realized it might be somewhat controversial, so I shelved it. However, since sharing an office in a 1959 bungalow means help (READ: constant Zoom meeting distraction) is just two inches away, I glanced over my shoulder and said, “Hey – I need you to tell me ten things.” Once we determined that “things” in this case meant nouns, Himself said, “Fine,” and began to recite: “An emu egg. A hummingbird. A geode. A monocle. Lilies. Squirrels. Garam masala. Swim fins. Cuttlefish. Moose nuggets.”
“What?” he protested. “Don’t you remember that dried moose poop potpourri stuff we saw in Alaska that time?”
Erm… no, I did not, actually, but …aren’t travel memories precious? Or …something?
ANYWAY, thanks to this very helpful list, I did find a couple of things which were intriguing enough to warrant further study. But, that’s the problem with me – these poems are deceptive. Sure, you can find six facts about most anything, but how many of them are worth calling “deeper wisdom?” Plus, it’s a bit addictive to play with the idea of fact poems, because my rabbit-hole is research. I barely got my poem written because I was chasing the history of garam masala (every state in India has their own blend!!!)… Which tells me I’ll revisit these someday! But for now, did you know that cuttlefish can see into infrared, but they’re colorblind? And, that they have three hearts? And, did you know that they don’t have ten arms at all? And, and…
What Does the Cuttlefish Know?
hearts trio-thumping, three downbeats
two tentacles, eight arms to greet
a spy’s disguises and deceit!
What Does the Cuttlefish Know?
Through colorblinded eyes, the heat,
Mimicking objects, to defeat
Its foes. Nothing else can compete.
(A bonus line: they’re really neat)
This doesn’t really count as a “deeper wisdom” poem, per se – but this is just the first poem I came up with during my free-write. No matter what you feel about masks, though, I hope you read it in the spirit it’s intended: as just a thought, not an indictment of anyone, about anything.
What Does the Mask Know
The silken slide of facial skin
The snubness of a nose
A cloud of damp from breath held in
Being your newest “clothes.”
The shrouding of a friendly smile
The shielding of the Earth…
Perhaps a hint of runway style?
What I think you are worth.
Poetry Friday this week is hosted at Unexpected Intersections, and our hostess this week unexpectedly joined us in our Poetry Peeps challenge! And now I know something new about marmots! Thanks for joining the fun, Elizabeth! If this is your first time joining the Peeps, welcome! You can check out Sara’s poem here, and Cousin Mary Lee’s is here, and you’ll find Liz’s here. What Kelly knowss is here, and you’ll find Michelle’s poem here. Bridget joins us here, Heidi’s poem – well, the second one she wanted to write – ☺ -is here. Rose joins us here. Margaret’s heron is here, and you’ll find Linda’s poem here, and Denise’s poem here…and, joining us a bit later, Kat’s poem is here. What a fun bunch! Even more Poetry Peeps might pop in throughout the day, so stay tuned for a round-up of links.
It’s been a mentally-crowded kind of week, and I hope you find the time this weekend to geek out over some new and previously silent deeper wisdom that speaks to you. Have a lovely weekend! Hope you join the fun in September!
Greetings! Welcome to another Poetry Peeps adventure on Poetry Friday!
You’re invited to try our challenge in the month of July! Here’s the scoop: We’re writing villanelles on the topic of dichotomy – or, true opposites, if you will. Bifurcations. Incongruities. Paradoxes. Contradictions. We’re talking Luke/Darth (or is that a false dichotomy, and they’re two sides of the same coin??? Discuss), real or imagined, civilized v. savage, winter v. summer, function v. dysfunction. Interested? Good! You’ve got a month to craft your creation(s), then share your offering (or someone else’s) with the rest of us on July 30th in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals.
A Recounting of the Trials of Zentangling, Or, Artistic Poetry Wherein I Screwed Up: Okay, so the thing is, I am a CHAMPION doodler. I excel at mindless scribble that we could stretch ourselves and define as patterns. It’s not relaxing so much as… something I do when I’m not paying attention. You’d THINK I would be all over the Zentagle poetry form! Reader, I was not.
The process for a Zentangle poem is really enjoyable. I had a good time paging through catalogs in the mail, electronics manuals, and old grad school texts for likely words from which to craft poetry. I scanned pages which looked promising, and fiddled with them, using the computer to create squares and lines to show the correct flow of the words. I honestly found that part fairly simple, though there often wasn’t just the right word – or in the right form – to create the meaning I wanted, but that was mostly manageable. The poems tended toward the enigmatic – I felt like I was writing Poetry By Yoda, after a bit, but that was fine, too – from the Zentangle I’ve read, they do tend to be short, pithy and …sound more like quotations than poems, to my mind. (And yes: we had the whole What Is A Zentangle Poem, And Is This One Because I Say So” discussion amongst my Poetry Sisters. We decided YES, there are rules, but fewer than you’d think, but your mileage may vary.)
Where it fell apart for me was the artwork. At first, I used a highlighter and the first one I picked up was… horrifying pink. This was a mistake. I tried to fix it with yellow. Also a mistake. ::sigh::
The poem reads:
the system may reduce failure
if you adjust
It’s not terrible, but I wish I’d gone an artistic direction other than…pink. ((Shudder))
On my second try, I decided to mingle color AND black and white. I tried doing the outline of an image FIRST, and tried to let the flow of the words suggest an image to me. It… kind of worked? A bit?
The poem reads:
lived through history
Finally I thought I had a clue – just use black and white. That’s what the Zentangle artists do, who don’t try and use words but just make patterns. However, somehow my black and white was …too thick of lines? Too uncertain of pen-strokes? Or something. In the end, mine looked more like it intended to be blackout poetry, and also like it needed a watercolor wash, which I didn’t dare try adding because a.) I don’t know how to watercolor and b.) it was busy enough. I like the poem better, though.
The poem reads:
you have sometimes
Over and over
while small has
Whenever I whined – oh, so frequently – about this project, I remembered that Tricia’s stated purpose was to “push us beyond our comfort zones.” BOY, HOWDY did she succeed, so thank you, dear Tricia, I would never have attempted these on my own (and may never again. Perhaps. When the sting of defeat dies down a bit). I’m so excited to see what the rest of us came up with. Here’s Tricia’s zentangle, while Sara’s zentangle-ISH is here. We welcome Andi right here, and Cousin Mary Lee’s zentangle is here. Of course, artist Michelle zentangled with us, and Linda B’s zentangle is here. Carol V’s is summering here, Jone’s here, and here’s Margaret and Chicken Spaghetti’s blogger Susan! Welcome to the Poetry Peeps joining us for the first time! It’s been an intense month, and we’re all in different spaces with it, but as always, various Poetry Peeps will be added throughout the day, so stay tuned. Poetry Friday is capably hosted today by Linda Mitchell at A Word Edgewise. I hope your weekend is as randomly artistic and creative as you can make it. As Miss Frizzle says, “Where the road ends, adventure begins!” Here’s to pushing way beyond the boundaries of creativity (and good sense) this weekend.
If you hadn’t heard about the Tuesday Flicktions challenge some of my writing group is participating in, I hope you’ll pop over to Wonderland to read a basic write-up about it why we’re doing it, and to find links to other people’s poems and stories. If you do know about our writing exercise challenge, well, then, below is this month’s image, and the following is my little scribble about it. Enjoy!
Harryhausen Skeletons, by Flickr user Jürgen Fauth of Berlin.
Caught Up In Wire And Plaster
A heavy steam of golden syrup through our single-pane window, the sunbeam pressed me deeper within my nest of blankets, sweetly contented and relaxed. With my father elsewhere, and chores and other duties finally discharged, I was gleefully blessed with time to myself. I turned on our massive console TV to Channel 20, to find the Sunday Afternoon Movie. Always a double-feature, with no commercials allowed, the Sunday Afternoon Movie was pure gold. One never knew which cinematic clinkers would be unearthed each week; they ran the gamut from the Wizard of Oz to Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, from Cleopatra to Cat Ballou. While my sisters would skive off to watch more modern shows on my parents’ tiny bedroom TV, I was all in favor of the oldies. If it was, as she called it, a “spaghetti Western,” my mother would settle in behind me, and drop off to sleep on the couch, while I watched with glorious abandon, my permission all but guaranteed by my mother’s insensate body. Though sometimes I was bored (I wasn’t as big a fan of Bridge Over the River Kwai or Lawrence of Arabia), and I spent more time with Shirley Temple and Bob Hope than can reasonably be expected of someone with the intent to retain their sanity, this Sunday afternoon tradition was a rare oasis of calm in a contentious household.
This week, there was a pair of adventure films on the bill. In the first, there were interesting costumes and a lot of dialogue – too much for me, so it was mostly ignored. At nine, I was vastly interested only if there would be dancing, animals, or stunts. Robberies, shoot-outs, and kissing scene were where I squinched my eyes closed, and if there was too much talking, I sometimes wandered away entirely. To my mind, this movie had a LOT of talking, but eventually, the bald, eye-glowy guy in fancy robes, the young woman, the other guy in a sort of baggy-ankled pant, eventually got …somewhere. The bald man did things, then disappeared, and then, only the couple were hurrying through a cave made up of improbably sharp stalactites and massive boulders, when suddenly, they come upon a chained dragon, scaly scale flexing mechanically. On cue, the woman gives a sharp, cinematic scream as another monster – a cyclops? – appears. They’re trapped, of course, between greater evil and lesser evils, but baggy-pants has a plan, and he somehow loses the dragon. Entranced, I leaned forward, toppled, and sank into the story without a splash.
It was a glorious afternoon. The acting was stilted, the monsters, completely ridiculous, and the stutter-step of the stop-motion animation of the skeletons as they emerged from underground and attacked the Argonauts – with eerie screams from what vocal chords? – was both hilarious and compelling. I was hooked, moving closer and closer to the television.
And then, from behind me, my father grunted, “Huh.”
I rarely lost track of my father, ever. Knowing his location was important, and as every rabbit watches obsessively for hawks, I watched for him. When he was home, the floor seemed made of glass, being scored by diamond-sharp words and cutting silences. When he drove away, the walls leaned in and exhaled, and chronic tensions which had held the foundations tense shifted, softening the floor and resettling the roof.
I turned my head, trying to watch him from the corner of my eye. Now that I thought about it, I’d vaguely heard a car in the drive, but when the front door hadn’t opened, I’d relaxed my guard. He’d come in through the backyard, I guessed. And now, when I was so deep into the story – and so close to the TV – that now, when I was dying to know how it ended, now he’d returned, and was staring, hands on hips, at the TV. Now was the silent judgment, but next would come the pounce, as his body uncoiled, one hand shooting forward to jab to the OFF button, while the other would come down, a weighty pincher claw on my shoulder. Then would come the tightly gritted lecture, perhaps the one where he told me that he had something for me to do, if I had nothing else to do but “waste the Lord’s time.”
I held my body to unnatural stillness, pushing internal furniture aside to lock down emotional response and resistance; already a rabbit going limp, even as I fumed that now I would never know how the skeletons got out from underground with shields and swords, nor would I know the outcome of the fight. The Sunday Afternoon movie rota would move on, and they might never show it again.
“Huh,” my father said again, then, rasping a hand over his scruffy chin asked, “That Sinbad?”
Warily, I turned my head. “Maybe,” I said. When he only hmphed again, I ventured. “It might be. See, there was this dragon, and then, these giant birds…”
“Naw, don’t remember all of that. That’s the skeletons, though.” He stood, transfixed, and so I turned, too, watching with him as the skeletons leapt in awkward jerky motion, and with voiceless yells, brandished menacing swords. Jason – or Sinbad? – and his men fought valiantly, heroic and dying dramatically, yet emerging at last, triumphant against their deadly wire and plaster foes.
When the scene changed, I heard my father shift behind me, and blow out a breath. I sat back again, waiting.
“Huh. Sinbad,” he said again, shaking his head with a chuckle. I sat, blinking, as he walked off, adding from around the corner, “Sit back from that TV some.”
I scrambled to comply, a rabbit streaking for the bushes, now that the hawk has passed by.
And so, my father went his way, perhaps to do something important and mystifying with a stub of pencil, grout, and a triangle rule. And, as I sank into the story once again, the foundations shifted, and the floor softened. From above my nest of blankets, the roof resettled.
Stars over snow
And in the West a planet
Swinging below a star —
Look for a lovely thing and you will find it,
It is not far —
It never will be far.
~ Sara Teasdale
And we close this month on the threshold of this beautiful truth. Indeed, it is equally true that if you look for unlovely things, you also find them, but aren’t we lucky not to be THOSE people, scrying the world for the ugly?
Polish the lamp, trim the wicks, spark the flint. Arise and shine.
It’s both easier and harder than you think.
Write. Just… write. Write without worrying who you will offend (Mom, Dad, God… Wait, are they all the same person?). Write without thinking about what you haven’t read, what you can’t do, where you haven’t been. (All Arthurian epics. Pretend to care about Arthurian epics. The Lake District or all the places in England where epic Arthurians are set.) Write without worrying your worldview will be criticized because it is wrong. (“But… you haven’t memorized Tolkien. How will you know how to write elves?”) Write without censoring yourself, because your worldview is snarky. Writing without using the tools others have used, because your own hands work best. (Scrivener? Who really has time to figure that out…?) Write without setting yourself outside your own work, without subjecting it to the critical, limiting, acidic gaze of Other. Write without holding yourself more accountable than anyone else.
Place your feet on the sill and jump. Believe that the air is the same for you as it is for everyone else; that is, that you have just as much chance of falling or flying as anyone else.
Let go and rise.
Close your eyes and look.
You will not fall.
When you are 13 years old,
the heat will be turned up too high
and the stars will not be in your favor.
You will hide behind a bookcase
with your family and everything left behind.
You will pour an ocean into a diary.
When they find you, you will be nothing
but a spark above a burning bush,
still, tell them
Despite everything, I really believe people are good at heart.
When you are 14,
a voice will call you to greatness.
When the doubters call you crazy, do not listen.
They don’t know the sound
of their own God’s whisper. Use your armor,
use your sword, use your two good hands.
Do not let their doubting
drown out the sound of your own heartbeat.
You are the Maid of Untamed Patriotism.
Born to lead armies into victory and unite a nation
like a broken heart.
When you are 15, you will be punished
for learning too proudly. A man
will climb onto your school bus and insist
your sisters name you enemy.
When you do not hide,
he will point his gun at your temple
and fire three times. Three years later,
in an ocean of words, with no apologies,
you will stand before the leaders of the world
and tell them your country is burning.
When you are 16 years old,
you will invent science fiction.
The story of a man named Frankenstein
and his creation. Soon after you will learn
that little girls with big ideas are more terrifying
than monsters, but don’t worry.
You will be remembered long after
they have put down their torches.
When you are 17 years old,
you will strike out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig
one right after the other.
Men will be afraid of the lightening
in your fingertips. A few days later
you will be fired from the major leagues
because “Girls are too delicate to play baseball”
You will turn 18 with a baby on your back
leading Lewis and Clark
across North America.
You will turn 18
and become queen of the Nile.
You will turn 18
and bring justice to journalism.
You are now 18, standing on the precipice,
trembling before your own greatness.
This is your call to leap.
There will always being those
who say you are too young and delicate
to make anything happen for yourself.
They don’t see the part of you that smolders.
Don’t let their doubting drown out the sound
of your own heartbeat.
You are the first drop of a hurricane.
Your bravery builds beyond you. You are needed
by all the little girls still living in secret,
writing oceans made of monsters and
throwing like lightening.
You don’t need to grow up to find greatness.
You are stronger than the world has ever believed you to be.
The world laid out before you to set on fire.
All you have to do
— For Teenage Girls With Wild Ambition and Trembling Hearts, by Clementine von Radics
I don’t want my characters to serve as symbols. I want them to feel like people. I want them to feel like you, and your family, and your friends, and your enemies. And I don’t want them to feel real ‘in spite of’ their challenges. I want those challenges to be part of what makes them real.
After all, they’re part of what makes us real.
Here’s the thing about fiction. It’s one of the ways we understand the world. We tell ourselves stories to work out who we are, and to make sense of reality. Stories are incredibly powerful – and incredibly dangerous. By making things up you can tell the truth; or you can create, perpetuate and reinforce a lie. Simplistic, tokenistic ‘uses’ of disability in fiction – as though it’s a thing to be ‘used’ and not an intrinsic facet of the human condition – are a way of not telling the truth. And by not telling ourselves the truth in our stories, we make it easier to avoid the truth in our daily lives.
The truth is, every one of us is differently abled. Every single one.”
We need diverse books, because…
…too often, our idea of attractiveness tends to be a straight, pale line: Eurocentric, able-bodied, waif-bodied, gendernormative, conformist. Diverse books remind us that our stories are varicolored, many shaped, multi-shaded and arc in bright leaps along a non-conformist spectrum. Beauty – Adventure – and best of all, Love – is where you find it. ♥
So, diversity. Suddenly everybody’s talking about it. What’s it for? Why do we need diverse books? That, friends, is the question the crew at #WeNeedDiverseBooks wants YOU to answer.
Make Noise: TODAY at 1pm (EST), there will be a public call for action that will spread over 3 days. We’re starting with a visual social media campaign using the hashtag #WeNeedDiverseBooks. We want people to tweet, Tumblr, Instagram, Facebook, blog, and post anywhere they can to help make the hashtag go viral.
For the visual part of the campaign:
♦ Take a photo holding a sign that says “We need diverse books because ___________________________.” Fill in the blank with an important, poignant, funny, and/or personal reason why this campaign is important to you.
♦ The photo – family friendly, of course – can be of you, your buds, your stuffed animals, your Barbies, your local library or fave bookstore – and should say clearly WHY you support diversity in kids’ lit. Even a photo of the sign without you will work.
♦ Make Art: There will be a Tumblr at We Need Diverse Books Dot Tumblr Dot Com that will host all of the photos and messages for the campaign. Please submit your visual component by May 1st to [email protected] with the subject line “photo” or submit it right on the Tumblr page here and it will be posted throughout the first day.
♦ Starting at 1:00PM (EST) the Tumblr will start posting and it will be our job to reblog, tweet, Facebook, or share wherever we think will help get the word out. (Have you checked it yet? Some good discussion is already going.)
♦ From 1pm EST to 3pm EST, there will be a nonstop hashtag party to spread the word. It is hoped that we’ll get enough people to participate to make the hashtag trend and grab the notice of more media outlets. This could be big!
♦ The Tumblr will continue to be active throughout the length of the campaign, and for however long the discussion keeps going, so all are welcome to keep emailing or sending in submissions even after May 1st.
On May 2nd, the second part of the campaign will roll out with a Twitter chat scheduled for 2pm (EST) using the same hashtag. Please use #WeNeedDiverseBooks at 2pm on May 2nd and share your thoughts on the issues with diversity in literature and why diversity matters to you.
On May 3rd, 2pm (EST), the third portion of the campaign will begin. There will be a Diversify Your Shelves initiative to encourage people to put their money where their mouth is and buy diverse books and take photos of them. Diversify Your Shelves is all about actively seeking out diverse literature in bookstores and libraries, and there will be some fantastic giveaways for people who participate in the campaign! More details to come!
Everybody’s talking about diversity… but is there anything we can really do about it? Let’s find out. Make some noise – so that media outlets will pick it up as a news item. Raise your voice – so that the organizers of BEA and every big conference and festival out there gets the message that diversity is important – and why. We hope you will help spread the word by being a part of this movement.
So, that brings us back to the question…
Why do you need diverse books?
“Things to do today:
1) Breathe in.
2) Breathe out.”
– Ned Vizzini, It’s Kind of a Funny Story
A few hours ago I learned of the death of author Ned Vizzini, and I couldn’t remember the user name or password for my own blog for over an hour, which gives you some insight into my state of my mind, especially considering that my user name and passwords are at least half a variation of my own name.
I remain surprised at the profound stupidity of grief.
Blogger (at the time) Alkelda from Saints & Spinners “introduced” me to Ned Vizzini, and over the years we emailed a bit back and forth, talking about books, his, and other people’s. He was a genuinely nice person, always interested in what I had to say – which, admittedly, was usually gushy – and invariably kind to me, and kind about other writers. For my own sake, I will miss that he exists. For the sake of those readers who struggle with depression and who, like me, clutched IT’S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY like a spot-on, pitch-perfect lifeline, I feel with us and for us, an inexpressible loss.
I am gutted. Just sick.
To Know the Dark
“To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.
To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight,
and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,
and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.”
– Wendell Berry
from “To Know the Dark”, Farming: A Handbook, (Harcourt Brace, 1970)
We speak, this time of year, about joy, but those of us who are mental sometimes have to talk about the fact that you can only have sparkles of light against darkness. We celebrate the return of Sol Invictus against the backdrop of what feels like it could be endless, eternal night.
We found a reason to celebrate the longest night, the darkest time of the year. The birthday of the Invincible Sun. Christmas. Yule. We manufactured celebration, when we were in the dark, because human beings are nothing if not resourceful. We chose our celebration. Every day that we get out of bed, those who suffer from depression, in this small way, we choose to manufacture a tiny celebration again.
Until it becomes somewhat of a habit. Until the light returns.
It matters. We matter. We do. Despite what our brains might be saying.
When we feel we are most helpless, let us reach with both hands to help someone else.
And, if you can, move.