{new book cover! coming 1/23}

The HarperCollins Children’s Books winter catalog goes live next weekend, so ahead of the rush, I get to show off my next cover! Brittany Jackson is the artist, and Kathy Lam is the designer, and I feel like together they’ve created a cover that’s just — *chef’s kiss* — perfect.

I think I like best the sense of uncertainty in Henri’s eyes. So much of what she wants – to conquer math, to make friends, to get her sister to see her as something other than a total nuisance – seems out of reach. What does it take to make things happen like you want them to? Like everyone else, she’s got to figure it out…

I can’t wait for you to enjoy this book.

{psst! poetry peeps!}


Happy January, Poetry Peeps!

How’s the listening in and overhearing going? Don’t forget your “eavesdropped” conversation doesn’t have to be hearing Actual People (TM) since many of us are avoiding them just now – hearing a radio DJ in someone else’s car, taking the words from a billboard or a sign in front of a building where you’re not going – those all count, too. You’ve got time left to craft your creation(s) in any form, then share your offering with the rest of us on January 28 in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals. See you then!

{pinned post: book events in september}

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 Shelf Stuff conversation with Saadia Fauqi and Shanthi Sekaran, and educator, Dr. Dawn Bolton at Brave & Kind Books here.


View the Princeton Children’s Book Festival’s Book Jam with Damian Alexander, Kathryn Erskine, Lee Durfey-Lavoie and Veronica Agarwal here.


{merriam-webster’s word matters}

I’m such a fan of “the beautiful nightmare” that is the English language (and occasionally it is a nightmare. I overheard Himself discussing comma splices with one of his coworkers for whom English is her third language, and she said, “Oh, NO! that’s a THING!?” Yes, dear. We all feel that way) that I’m also a fan of Word Matters, a podcast put out by Merriam-Webster. This week they take on the etymology of “introvert” and you can bet I’m deeply interested in THAT!

Happy Monday.

{pf: the poetry peeps, zentangled}

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
the adjustable
you
alter
the
present

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:

the
Universal
exists
in pieces.
lived through history
simply,
focused using
forgetfulness
to connect,
we share
remembrance
as
indelible.

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:

Consider
acknowledging:
you have sometimes
hesitated
holding
back
love.
Over and over
the
loss,
while small has
a
weight.
it speaks,
volumes.

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.

{pf poetry peeps challenge: tangled up in Zen}

If you, like me, had never before heard of the zentangle art phenomenon, it began way back in 2003. People drew tiny doodles and …relaxed, I guess? (YMMV) With the recent resurgence of adult coloring books, zentangle picked up speed and gained a new form – found word poetry, which is more familiar ground. If you don’t feel you’re an artist, and the idea of defacing a book feels you with fear, use a copier, keep it short and simple, and let yourself try. Nothing to lose there, right? Above all else, Peeps, remember: this is supposed to be FUN.

{poetry friday: #marvelousmarylee}

My favorite people tend to be teachers. For whatever reason, they make me comfortable. I still internally identify as a teacher, though by the time I met one of my favorite teachers, Mary Lee Hahn, in person in 2010, I hadn’t been teaching at all, not even subbing, for three years. With her calm, comfortable personality, and innate Teacher-ness, Mary Lee became an instant member of my family – especially as she shares a name with one of my most popular book characters.

Especially over the past couple of years, I’ve enjoyed Mary Lee’s teaching through eavesdropping via what she’s shared on her blog or on her Twitter feed. Both the writing assignments she’s done with her students and the reading she’s done on bias and anti-racism and how they can warp a child’s education showed Mary Lee as a truly wise, generous and effective educator, working on honing her own awareness of what her students needed so that they could, in turn, go out and be what the world needs. I can’t go back in time to be one of her students or one of her colleagues, but I’m proud to be one of her friends. Cousin Mary Lee, congratulations on your retirement.

wave and water, fish and sea
cycles all of destiny
as the cloud becomes sea spray
each has their own part to play.

Little streamlets bubbling on
soon become the Amazon
Every stream then finds the sea
learns to flow forth naturally.

River’s tumble is well-known
fisherwoman turns for home
after all the tumbling roar
such relief to turn for shore

wide, the sea goes roiling free
plunging outward now, carefree
clouds emerge from shifting wave
mist the water must now brave –

Fisherwoman home has brought
memories of each fish, well caught
then released to live their days
flashing through the waterways

wave and water, fish and sea
cycles all of destiny
fish and fisher played their part
teaching, learning, works of heart.

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Christine at Wondering & Wandering. Lots more poetry and raised glasses to Mary Lee there!

{#npm: 9 – twalig}

On April 1, Tabatha announced her intention to celebrate short poetry in translation this month. She, as I did, took the pandemic as a little poke in the bum to dive deeper into language. While she chose Scottish Gaelic and French, I finally decided to seriously study Spanish, as I live in a state which boasts that as its first language. I also chose Dutch, since *ik hou van mijn Nederlandse vrienden, and their quirky, unique land and culture. Now, these language combos might sound a little hinkey, but when you’re in it, at least for me, tandem language studies are sometimes helpful. •Mi español ayuda a mi holandés, y vice versa. (Sometimes. Other days it seems I’m equally stupid all languages, as the w sounds like v or sometimes f and the ch/g-sounds-like-guttural h of Dutch invades my rolled r, ñ-laden, b-sounds-like-v Spanish. It gets wild.) I’m nearly to having studied one language or another for nine hundred contiguous days, though, so I’m hopeful, at least, that routinely cudgeling my little gray cells into greater activity is doing something for me.

In Dutch, twalig means bilingual. No handy mnemonic, but I remember it by thinking of twa (the Glaswegian Scots word for two – I know, don’t @ me, I *did* live in/near Glasgow for five years! You could also use twee for two in Dutch) and taal (the Dutch word for language). I love how Dutch builds on itself, such that the compound taalkundige is literally language + skilled. Language skilled. Linguist. Something in that – and in the number of idioms relating to the tongue – speaks to me.


I, serenaded
succumb, yield to silver-tongues –
into wordplay, plunge
*taal! •¡idioma!
*mijn hoofd ik moet gebruik!
•¡déjame solo!

in the word garden
languages spring up like weeds
loved like hothouse blooms


Poetry Friday is ably hosted today by Tabatha Yeatts-Lonske at The Opposite of Indifference. Tapadh leibh, Tabatha!

As always, there’s poetry all around – don’t miss thing, including: Robyn Hood Black’s Friday explorations of Issa’s haiku in translation – a beautiful project. ♣ Did you know The Global Vaccine Poem project, a collaboration between the University of Arizona Poetry Center and Wick Poetry Center at Kent State University, is inviting EVERYONE to share their voices and promote COVID-19 vaccination? We’ll be adding a stanza to a poem by The Naomi (Shihab Nye)! How cool is that??? ♣ Less cool is Linguicism – or linguistic bias and discrimination, which spills over into the workplace – and into the classroom. ♣ This piece from Kevin Simmonds in Poetry Magazine focuses charmingly on how our voices and words shapeshift and morph to mark or obscure identity – and how both music and voice inhabit poetry. Some good stuff.

Fijn weekend, feliz fin de semana, & Happy weekend! May language sing sweetly to you.

*I love my Dutch friends. Language. I have to use my head!* • My Spanish helps my Dutch. Language! Leave me to myself.•