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Some mornings are made for silence.

Silence and tea, or, if you’re not me, silence and coffee. A good beginning is to sit by the window and silently start the day, staring out at the garden box, one of which is still producing ragged overwintered calendula, and a few new lipstick-scarlet poppies. Silence – and darkness – is the hallmark of the Tenebrae service some Protestants celebrate the Friday before Easter. Tenebrae means “shadows” in Latin, and is a service of acknowledgement of the shadows of life, of dark times, pain and suffering. I’m a “ringer” for a local Presbyterian church chorus, so I, with nine other people, masked and properly distanced, took part in filming the achingly gorgeous choral music for a Tenebrae service this Friday… last Sunday night.

We’d filmed Palm Sunday services the previous Thursday night. Oh, and Easter? That was Wednesday.

Everything these days is way, way out of sync, and it feels like we’re just running to catch up with the natural rhythm of things.

muffled in masks, lips
carve lyrics with crisp diction
chasing our heartbeat

Did you know that NPR wants your original poetry? Check out the ways in which you can submit a mini-poem on social media! Meanwhile, Poetry Friday is graciously hosted today by Cousin Mary Lee, whose haiku are always the proper sort. Stop by and succor yourself with more wonderful poetry – don’t miss the Swagger project who took Pat Schnieder’s “The Moon. Ten Times” poem and recreated it beautifully, or the progressive poem.

Happy National Poetry Month!

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Happy National Poetry Month! And happy birthday to Kelly, and festival greetings to those celebrating Passover and Easter.

Today I’m all about the joy that ritual and seasons bring – today’s ritual of springtime is opening windows. It’s chilly in this house – it’s actually warmer outside. Which works well in the summertime, don’t get me wrong – but it’s less fun when it’s 70° outdoors and I’m still wearing a wool sweater indoors (this is also possible because it’s not humid here, I know). Today, I open my office windows and listen to the sounds of Spring-seeking world.

garbage trucks, geese, crows,
engine sputters. warm wind blows
outside in. windows


Just so you know, one of the Seven (Poetry) Sisters, Tricia is doing a National Poetry Month project, Cousin Mary Lee is creating daily haiku this month, as is Sister Liz. Poetry Peeps & Pals: Tabatha Yeatts is sharing bilingual poetry, and Michelle Kogan is sharing her unique blend of art and letters. There’s tons of other poetry around the blogosphere. Happy April, and Happy Spring!

{pf: poetry peeps do the dizain}

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

You’re invited to try our challenge in the month of April! Here’s the plan: We’re going to write an “in the style of” poem after Chickasaw poet Linda Hogan’s “Innocence.” Does “in the style of” mean a line-by-line imitation, including the idea of innocence in the theme, or using the word within your poem? Only YOU know for sure! 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 April 30th in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals.


Did you grow up with a family who did Spring Cleaning? I didn’t, not really – we just cleaned house like it was Spring, every Sunday. Somehow though, no matter how I didn’t grow up, we still end up doing a version of Spring Cleaning at my house. It rarely coincides with the actual start-date of Spring, but it starts out with “we should really get the windows cleaned” and devolves into a flurry of vacuuming and organizing shelves. This past Sunday, I got a burst of energy – a rarity lately with this autoimmune disorder – and tackled the dust under the futon which had been leering at me. We washed duvet covers and pillows, scoured vinegar and baking soda on the shower floor (it’s supposed to be good for granite), organized the fridge and freezer, sanded and oiled the porch rocking chair, re-potted a couple of plants, and even raked up the last of the little spiky tree balls on the lawn. I felt pretty good about all of the work we got through, until I saw the texts from my poetry group. Are you coming? Are you joining us today?

Oops. Darn it!

Sadly, as my writing group can attest, housework occasionally gets the better of me. I fully intend to be where I’m meant to, but a dusty shelf or a streaky mirror distracts me. It’s not as if I even prefer to clean than to write – not even a little tiny bit – but I had my father’s preferred activity for me pretty well braided as an extra strand into my DNA through childhood. Though it’s nice to have vacuum lines on the living room rug, I missed talking words, hearing what everyone’s reading, and discussing what we’re doing next month. So, my dizain today is slightly narrative (but since I write fiction, it’s emotionally true rather than factual).

Appointment With Art

“Appointment with the Arts” my notebook read,
but I skipped reading for a messy chore,
letting my planning for the week ahead
drain from the weekend’s restful reservoir
the freshness, verve, and life it held before.
I chose a solid thing – hard-edged, *brick shaped,
and fed my soul on duty, scrubbed and scraped –
exchanged the weekend vibe for day-to-day,
set my own snare, and foiled my own escape!
Dull Jackie chose to work when she should play.


Dizains always involve some finessing for me – I forever think I have the pattern cold, and then when I read back, realize I’ve gotten something (usually several somethings) out of order. And then I do that deep breath/eye roll thing and start over. It’s all about patience with the process! I loved the idea of work/duty/responsibility as something pedestrian and brick-shaped, so borrowed that phrase from Barbara Kingsolver’s “How to Drink Water When There Is Wine,” a poem which Tricia shared with the poetry group last week.

My Poetry Peeps have doubtless produced less dispiriting dizains than mine! Please do check out Tricia’s here. This one is Laura’s, and Kelly’s is here. Here’s Liz’s and you’ll find Sara’s poem here, and Michelle Kogan’s is here. More Poetry Peeps will check in throughout the day, so stay tuned.


Art by Marc Johns.

More poetry? Yep: Poetry Friday is gloriously blooming today at Susan Bruck’s Soul Blossom Living, where she’s doing a round-up of who is doing what next month for National Poetry Month. I’m going to try for a poem-a-day, but we’ll see where that lands. For now, here’s to sitting down with a book, or grabbing a jacket and finding some tadpole puddles, and ignoring those cobwebs for one more day. Happy Weekend.

{one good turn…}

…usually deserves another. [YAWN]

Hello! Happy Spring Forward Week! My agent saw heard I was giving away some ARC’s of PARTLY CLOUDY, and since he’s not doing as many in-person schmoozes this Spring, he gave me a few of his copies, so now I’ve got well over five on hand. I’m happy to give out a few more, so if you’ve contacted me prior to now and you’re a bookseller, teacher or other book-person who would like one, do stay tuned!

{don’t worry lissa, I’m leaving the pollinators alone}

In two recent notes/newsletters, author and gardener Melissa Wiley has reminded us lately that, due to the presence of hibernating pollinators, we’re not meant to be digging in the garden until we’ve had a week of nights out of the 40’s – and while we haven’t yet reached that, this past weekend we had a brisk, sunny day, and I put a few things in pots…

And then, well, I was already out there (WARNING: “putting things in pots” is just A Gateway Drug to gardening), so I had a wee shufti through the raised beds to see what leftovers and volunteers had popped up. And I found this:

(Yes, I have spared you the full, blinding glory that is my acid green sun hat. You’re welcome.) Here I’d thought this mass of greens meant I had a beet, and since it was undersized, I’d left it to overwinter… only to discover it’s a massive, woody radish! Oh, well. So much for my dinner plans.

I hope you’re finding the odd thing to make you smile this month.

{poetry peeps will spin you right round, baby}

Never heard of a dizain? Not sure why you’ll be stumbling and spun with its dizzy delights? The short version is: it’s a French form from 15th-16th c., with a 10-line stanza · 10 syllables per line · And an ababbccdcd rhyme scheme. A bit longer of an explanation can be found at Writer’s Digest, with a few helpful tips and an example. Interested? Good! Hope you give it a shot!

{pf: poetry peeps make a metaphor}

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

You’re invited to try our challenge in the month of March! Here’s the plan: We’re going to dance forth with some “dizzying dizains.” Never heard of a dizain? Not sure why you’ll be stumbling and spun? The short version is: it’s a French form from 15th-16th c., with a 10-line stanza · 10 syllables per line · And an ababbccdcd rhyme scheme. A bit longer of an explanation can be found at Writer’s Digest, with a few helpful tips and an example. Interested? Good! You’ve got a month to spin your poem(s), then share your offering (or someone else’s) with the rest of us on March 26 in a post and/or on social media – #PoetryPals.


Our second challenge of 2021 was to roll the metaphor dice, digitally or in person if we had actual metaphor dice on hand, then write a poem – full stop. There were no other rules nor themes this month. Fortunately, the Perchance metaphor generator is …full of delightful chaos. Today’s Poetry Friday hostess, Karen Edmisten’s first metaphor made me snort-laugh – I look forward to seeing what (if anything) she comes up with. You should read Sara’s here. Tricia’s is here, and this is Liz‘s. Laura’s is here, and here’s Kelly’s. Michelle’s metaphor is here, and Mary Lee’s is here. More Poetry Peeps will be checking in throughout the day, so stay tuned!


Metaphors are wild – there’s no plausible deniability as with similes – no cushioning “like” or “as.” No, no, my dear, you ARE my sunshine, full stop, you ball of flaming nuclear goodness. My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun, but the rest of her…? She is FIRE…apparently literally.

While also a number of other things, metaphor by definition is a descriptive device, used for rhetorical effect. While I started out trying to use blank verse, the more rigid, syllabic form felt best – and don’t ask me why, except maybe it is just that metaphor is so whimsical (read: IRRATIONAL) I felt it needed some guide rails. The guidance-heavy form I selected was the Zeno, created by poet J. Patrick Lewis. As a ten-line poem with a syllable pattern of 8/4/2/1/4/2/1/4/2/1, it seemed most like time – mathematical and divisible. The fourth, seventh and tenth lines – all those with single syllables – rhyme, making it deceptively simple looking, but wresting sense and emotional resonance from such firmly structured lines is the tricky part. I found that after the first one, the next came much more easily, and the form matches really well with something so variant.

Go Set A Watchman

Honesty is a watch, well-honed,
its pendulum
gleaming:
sleuth-
hound, two-edged sword,
ticking.
truth-
piercing, marrow
cleaving –
toothed.

This next poem is from the metaphor dice, and is a phrase I was initially against using. It seemed to obvious, too easy – and yet, when I asked myself why, I had no good answer. Some questions… don’t.

chronic

Home is a mad thunderstorm. Wild
intermittent
tempers
fly.
Hurricane stills –
Clearing
skies?
Is this the eye?
The end?
…Why?

And for all that it felt “too obvious,” and the form possibly too confining for emotional resonance, I think this one edges toward being my favorite.

Finally, this last effort was from a phrase that initially was poetic right out of the box. “Talent is a birdcage.” As a kid, I loved singing, but my distaste for ‘performance’ seeps through from being trotted out at church like a beribboned Shetland pony. “Oh, of course she’ll sing!” my parents gushed, smiling without asking, somehow pleased to be asked. “Why did we pay for voice lessons?” they asked in sharp whispers, when my tiny rebellions emerged. (What? Bitter? Me?) Throughout my life, I have been involved in countless thousands of performances, but there’s a way to sing without it being performance, I think? Something between sharing your soul and selling it…

These are my first try at zenos, and I’m really pleased with them, for all that syllabic poetry occasionally presents me with some real difficulties. Poetry Friday is hosted today, as I mentioned, over at Karen’s. Thank you, Karen! I hope the rest of you will take your sunshine-y presence on over that way and enjoy some more poetry.


In just a few days, it’ll be March, and we’ll have officially passed A Plague Year. It feels odd to think in terms of “celebration,” when despite several vaccines emergent, it’s not over, and its distanced-and-masked reality – and its global impact – will yet be with us. So, while we cannot truly celebrate, can we commemorate our resilience? Our neighbor’s courage? Our loved ones’ lives, lost, or carried on, though slowed and changed? Think about it… every day of a life well-lived is worth remembering. Happy Weekend.

{embrace the weirdness: poetry friday…}

…even if you’ve got your head in the clouds, you won’t want to miss the fun. The metaphor generator, Perchance is full of… weird and wonderful phrases, and after having sister poet Laura Salas throw hers for me, I’ve discovered that metaphor dice are possibly even weirder! So, look forward to some thoughtful, random, and possibly offbeat poetry – see you Friday!

{the acknowledgements…}

I don’t often read the acknowledgments in the back of books. Do you?

Perhaps an unpopular opinion from the writer who just showed you the one she wrote, but I don’t actually… like acknowledgements. While they’re expected in a nonfiction book that requires a lot of phone calls, interviews, research, and borrowing offices and documents, in fiction, they can feel extraneous. Some go on, unlike a dedication, which is generally no more than a sentence or two. They’re often deeply self-deprecating, emotional or personal, and give a true behind-the-curtain glimpse of the author. However, unlike many people, I …don’t always care about the author.

(Shhhh! I told you: unpopular opinion. Some of you I can just see giving me side-eye for my ungenerous spirit. I feel the heat of your glower, but I’m not wrong. No, seriously…)

Fellow middle grade author, Kate Messner, wrote about the pitfalls of acknowledgments years ago, though coming from a different – and not often thought of – area of concern. Another piece I saw a years ago in School Library Journal or Publishers’ Weekly described acknowledgments as “acceptance speeches without an award.” Even the New Yorker has had their say (and they are clearly the last word on everything). Acknowledgments are not always near to thanking The Academy, of course, but… sometimes it’s a near thing. And, every book I write – with disbelief I’m finishing up number nine now – I’m met with that moment at the end of going over Master Pass and seeing those little TK’s glowering at me. TK is publishing speech for “to come,” or “Where’s the acknowledgements, ye wee numpty?”

I’ve only really happily accepted the summons to acknowledge… once. And it was called an “Author’s Note,” and it was more an opportunity to talk about the book more than to thank anyone.

It isn’t that I don’t believe in giving thanks – nobody who reads this blog and sees the years I do a November month-of-gratitude post-a-day thing could believe that. But, saying a public thank-you that has nothing to do with owing gratitude for documents or time, to people and institutions or playlists that supported you during the work… it just feels very public to me, very exposed. That an acknowledgement is enshrined forever on the pages of a book makes it even worse… “Social media is forever”, we’re told. Yes, but for me books in print feel even more permanent still.

Today, the TK I encountered was limned in yellow, with the words “Pls supply,” an imperative highlight that made me feel like I needed …ammunition to ignore its summons. I felt like my pipsqueak sullen mutterings of “I don’t wanna” wasn’t enough, so I went looking at other recently published middle grade novels.

…Aaaand they all have them. Every one. Author’s notes. Acknowledgments. Sometimes just pages and paragraphs long. I had to go back to a novel published in 1984 before I could find a novel without acknowledgements – and that novel might only have skipped them because it was a paperback copy, fifth printing or something.

SO.

Looks like I’m on my own, here.

With love and gratitude, I’d like to acknowledge all of the cheerleaders and silent supporters who have helped me write this novel.

I’d like to thank my mother, who listened to me whine about editorial notes without fully knowing what I was talking about, or paying that much attention, to be honest, but if pressed, would be firmly on my side anyway.

(Maybe.)

Thank-you to the whimsically lovely James Margaret, whose silent support comes in the form of adorably shaped sticky notes that are pretty much everywhere, bearing lists, reminders, snippets of story and, oddly, the address of a total stranger in Ashland, Ohio. *unsticks this and examines in bewilderment*

Thank you, Tech Boy, for always trying to help me do technical things beyond my ken much, much faster; for periodically dragging me on walks; for standing in the hallway listening to me prattle when you only got up to pee and weren’t calling a basic cessation to the work day, and for not reading my manuscripts because you’re really busy, and I don’t actually want to discuss the points of punctuation you’d want to get into because I already have copy editors. Apparently three of them this time.

Gratitude to those people with babies or bunnies – and apparently loads of free time – who send me heart-melting pictures of their cuddly, chubby spawn that revive me when my brain is imploding. Ditto to the senders of Instagram memes.

Thank you to the makers of Ibarra hot chocolate, Prednisone and Imuran, the unholy trinity which occasionally keeps me upright, and to June’s Journey, the game on my phone which provides helpful hidden object puzzles for me to do while my brain plays the Jeopardy! theme and a little loading hourglass spins.

You are all, in your own way, truly helpful, truly special, truly necessary, and I adore you. Thank you all, so very, very much.





And now that I’ve thanked you here, I can skip writing an acknowledgment. Right?

RIGHT???