{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: poetry peeps serve up…something}

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

Poetry Peeps! You’re invited to our challenge in the month of December! Here’s the scoop: we’re thinking outside of the BOX. Or, maybe into the BOX? Freely indulge in any kind of poem, but our theme is a box, boxes, or even boxing. Maybe you’ll try a 4×4 poem, creating another kind of box? Whatever your desire, let BOX inspire! You have a month to craft your creation and box it up on December 30th in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals.


This is one of those fun poetry assignments that I wish I had more time to do, but — as I write this, it’s Tuesday, kids, and I volunteered to make something complicated for Family Thursday, so I need to get started, AND we’re supposed to take actual with-a-tripod family pictures and I have to dig out the requisite color theme (navy and white this year) AND I said I’d write a mini reader’s theater and bring games I have yet to unearth, I, who moved house five weeks ago, AND I still haven’t done my Actual, Real Work this week, and who was it that who cheerfully got me into all this extra busyness? Oh, right. …Me.

::sigh::

Well, writing to you from the future, I know you managed to get all you wanted to completed – including a poem to add to our roundup. These turned out to be a little harder than many of us expected, but I’m excited to see how Sara’s turned out, and Laura’s, as well as Mary Lee’s poem here. Kelly’s cooking up poetry here. Tricia’s poem is here. Liz’s poem has recipe is here, and Linda M. joins us here. Jone’s poem(s) are here. Margaret’s poem is here, and Carol V’s poem is here. As their food comas wear off and their families and guests ebb and flow, more Peeps will check-in throughout the course of the weekend, so stay tuned for the roundup. If you’d like even more Poetry Friday goodness, join the gathering at Ruth’s beautiful table @ There Is No Such Thing as a Godforsaken Town.

And, past me eventually found my recipe… and I was pleased that it didn’t turn out as saccharine and twee as I feared it would. Here’s to the footlight flutters, the little singers practicing their dreidel songs and the ones who just go on stage and freeze. Here’s to the older ones who wished they had practiced that one tricky measure just a little longer, and to the ones who can’t wait for the curtains to rise. Winter concert season is upon us all! As my days and evenings are now filled with music, I wish the same for you. Wear a mask as I do, and get out to at least hear an outdoor brass ensemble, okay? It’ll do your heart good…

Recipe for a Winter Concert

Prep time 3 months ♦ Concert Time 2 hours ♦ Serves the Soul

AUTHOR’S NOTES:
For best results, prepare.

DIRECTIONS:
Take one set of singers, seasoned.
Hydrate.
Stir lightly into a stew of scales –
Do – Re – Mi- Faaaa – ahem – aaaa
Gently stretch vocal chords until pliable.
Hydrate singers. (Drain.)
In listed order, add airs, ballads, and madrigals.
(For spice, a single shanty is more than sufficient.)
Layer in lieder and carols. Add a pinch of recitative.
Repeat.

Gather six part strings to four parts horns
add two parts timpani. Reduce to a symphonic syrup,
And measured notes into voices, sprinkle in beats
Until the mixture gels. Repeat.

As soon as music caramelizes, then
Combine the sound of twenty-one strings –
Lightly – against a single oboe’s song.
Simmer until sour notes shimmer, sweeten.

Add a prepared chorus, steeped in song
And stir fully.

For Topping:
Fold individual human beings
Into an audience –
Scatter applause until covered.
Whisk up the curtain,
And slice the baton
Through the waiting air –
And serve it forth.

Nutrition Information:
Makes one concert.
Serves the heart,
Feeds the soul.
100% fat free! Contains endorphins.

Best enjoyed with open ears
(and well-fitted masks.)


Happy Days of Deliciousness in whatever form they arrive for you.

{welcome, poetry peeps! the roundup is here!}

Poetry Peeps! You’re invited to our challenge in the month of September! Here’s the scoop: We’re drawing a form from within our community and doing a Definito. Created by poet Heidi Mordhorst, the definito is a free verse poem of 8-12 lines (aimed at readers 8-12 years old) that highlights wordplay as it demonstrates the meaning of a less common word, which itself always ends the poem. Are you in? Good! You’ve got a month to craft your creation(s), then share your offering with the rest of us on September 30th in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals.


Welcome, Poets, to the liminal season, where we are on the threshold of seasons, standing between the last gasp of summer, and the first breath of autumn. The Poetry Sisters’ challenge this month was a good one for a moment of transition, as it was a new-to-us form called the Bop. Created by poet Afaa Michael Weaver, the Bop is a kind of poetic argument, with the first stanza setting up a complaint, the second expanding on it, and the third either providing resolution or a narrative of a failed resolution. You can read Laura‘s poem, Mary Lee’s, Tricia and Liz’s poems here. Michelle K. joins us here. A few more Bops might pop up throughout the weekend, so stay tuned.

For more Poetry Friday offerings, and to share your own click here. Thanks for stopping by.


With my affection for the villanelle and the sestina, you’d think I’d be at ease working with a refrain, but perhaps it was something about a group-sourced refrain (hat tip to Poetry Sister Sara) that tripped me up. For whatever reason, the refrain in the Bop seems wholly separate from the stanzas… so much so, that I ended up hitting a wall at the end of my first stanza. Suddenly the fourteen-syllable lines seemed clunky, and the beats fell oddly. I started over, trimming my lines, but then the rhyme felt forced. Another draft, now completely unrhymed, but the internal rhythm and more polished language of my lines felt off when faced with that casually worded refrain. Isn’t that just the way it goes when you have a poetic form you’re certain will be simple? Eventually I got it to where I was …just done messing with it. I left the rhyme imperfect, with an off-meter step near the end of each stanza to signal that repeated refrain coming to pause the discussion again. Reminding myself these poems are meant to be exercise and not perfection, I stumbled and limped into my imperfectly perfect topic… housekeeping.


Click to enlarge

(Ashes to Ashes, and) Nuts to Dust

Disorder settles like the dust
Drifts into velvet piles
In quiet corners. Laundry Lurks,
disheveled. All the while
Freedom peers in through glass panes
Begrimed by birds. It waves hello….

Let’s kick that can down the road.

“Filthy” is not the kind of word
That tells the tale. There’s no mildew.
The difference between “clean” and “neat”
is miles apart. The follow-through,
Is that perfection never lasts:
A moment’s lapse, and things explode.
Chaos comes roaring, moving fast,
disrupts, dismays, and discommodes…

Let’s kick that can down the road.

Through window streaks you’ll see sunrise
And sunbeams dancing on the air.
A wrinkle will not scandalize
A meadow when you’re walking there.
That cabbage moth’s not judging you,
So, take today, get out and go.

…And kick that can down the road.


Just now, we all have so much to do – classes to start, books to buy, odd socks and lunch dishes to find, dust bunnies to rout, and water bills to pay. I hope we can find a moment to take stock and figure out which cans can be kicked down the road indefinitely – and which cans are absolutely only for right now, and must be cracked open immediately to let the full fizz of life bubble out. Carpe diem, poets. Don’t let that just be a catch phrase, life is way too short. Grab all the joy that you can – and splash it out. Happy Weekend.


(Commenting snafus: Commenting issues are an artifact of a sometimes aggressive spam filter. If your comment seems to vanish, it likely got caught. No worries, I’ll fish it out shortly!)

{thursday thought: lux aterna}

Night

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.

{close your eyes and write}

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.

{for whom we write}

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
is burn.

— For Teenage Girls With Wild Ambition and Trembling Hearts, by Clementine von Radics

{only real people here}

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.”

Stephanie Saulter, author of GEMSIGNS, guests posts at SF Signal.

{we need diverse books, because…}

A la Carte
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 weneeddiversebooks@yahoo.com 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?

{the longest night}

Hayford Mills 072
“when the night has come/and the land is dark/

and the moon is the only light you see…

“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.

And again.

And again.

Until it becomes somewhat of a habit. Until the light returns.

Breathe in.

Breathe out.

Repeat.

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.

Breathe in.

Breathe out.

And, if you can, move.

{on being: happy in your head}

Culzean 055

On NPR Krista Tippet does a lovely job with a show called “On Being,” and I tell you, I come up with something new every time I listen. This poem came from a years-ago meme, was passed from blog to blog, hand to hand, but I refuse to forget it, utterly refuse.

It is how I want to be – happy, in myself.

Happy in my head.

Happy.


by Tanya Davis ©2009, all rights reserved

Today, be happy…