Friday, May 25, 2018

What I Love About Being a TA Blogger

One of the things I love about being a TA blogger is sharing the real life issues of being an author.  Like a lot of things in life, the dream of what a certain event will be like isn’t exactly how it turns out to be. 

When we as writers first start in this business, we dream of holding a book in our hands with our name on the front.  We think that once we get published the rest will be easier.   That isn’t usually the case.  I know well-published authors who have trouble finding a publisher for their next book.  

But still, we persevere. The desire to write books for children / young adults still pushes us on. 

So whether you are pre-published still waiting to see your name on a cover-or a published author:  keep going.   From somewhere deep inside you-you must keep going.   

Carla Killough McClafferty

Friday, May 18, 2018

Think Write Love --with Apologies to Elizabeth Gilbert

My dad's 1936 Royal.
    When I heard that my topic of the week was "Why I Love Being a TA," I was stumped. Why do I love (in no particular order) chocolate, reading and my daughter?  I could either write a doctoral dissertation on each topic....or I could say "Just 'cause." All of these, including blogging, are so much a part of me, it is hard to dissect the why and wherefore of my love.

But I'll give it a shot.

Blogging requires thinking. In this case, thinking about writing. I spend a lot of time thinking while writing.  Plots, characters, research details...a lot of thinking. What I don't do is contemplate the act of writing, the why of writing, the reasons I write.

Teaching Authors offers me the challenge of thinking about those questions. The questions I would be answering on say Fresh Air or during an interview with Horn Book...if I were fabulously successful and well known...I am forced to think about here. Think and articulate them to the best of my ability. When I am confused about anything, I journal about it. Writing brings my own fears, failures and frustrations into focus.  Most of the time, things become clearer after I've journaled. TA has sometimes served as my Public Journal.

I love TA because it makes me write. Well, duh, you think. Isn't that what you are supposed to're a writer. Yes. But TA gives me a deadline. Since I am not currently writing under contract, I don't have deadlines. This lack of urgency makes me a slack jack of a writer.  When TA says "By first thing Friday morning," that leaves no wiggle room for me. Feet to the fire, fingers to the keyboard. TA readers expect a post that day....not the day before or after.  (Admission: there have been times when I have forgotten or there has been a monumental emergency, and the post winds up being a "deadline edition" instead of an "early morning edition."

TA's Mary Ann, Carmela, April--Ill. Reading Ass. 2010
Then there is the love. The love of putting words together in a way that makes sense to you and hopefully to your readers.  The love of reading reading reading to see how other authors do this or that...or to just lose yourself for a couple of hours (all the while telling yourself that you will use what you have learned in a future TA post.)

Most of all, however, is the love of my fellow TA's. I have never been associated with such a smart, creative and occasionally irreverent  group of women (as of yet, there haven't been any TA of yet.) Some of them were fellow students in MFA program at Vermont College. Some were friends of friends who I met when we did state reading conferences together. And a few I have to remind myself, I have never met in person. I know them through emails and posts. It doesn't matter. If there is a more caring and supportive group of people...well, I haven't met them (yet...never say never.) We appreciate each other's work; we are poets, fiction writers, non-fiction writers, and a couple of us are multi-genre-ed (I know...not really a word...until now!) Writing is a lonely job. No coffee breaks with co-workers, or Friday Happy Hours. Just you and your chosen instrument of writing. However, the support and advice of my fellow TA's is just a text or email away. God bless them all.

So, in conclusion...being a TA has kept me ruminating about writing, focused and on time, and surrounded by my own support group.  What's not to love, people?

Friday, May 11, 2018

For the Love Of...

As you may remember, I have a cat named Comma. I’ve featured Comma many times in my musings here. One of my favorite postings was For the Love of Comma,  exploring how punctuation influences a reader’s reception of your story.

This week, I lost Comma.

While reeling with this unexpected loss, I am also – now more than ever – keenly aware how fast time flies. And what matters most are the connections, the friendships and the relationships made along the way. And one of the most important for me is my connection with the Teaching Authors.

Teaching Authors celebrates our ninth anniversary. Over nine years, nine fabulous writers who teach have discussed the writer’s life, the art of teaching and the importance of literary citizenship. Jeanne Marie Grunwell Ford. JoAnn Early Mackin. Carmela Martino. Mary Ann Rodman. April Halprin Wayland. Jill Esbaum. Laurie Purdie Salas. Carla McKillough Clafferty. Esther Hershenhorn.

A constant and important theme throughout these many years has been exploring strategies to help build a community of readers, for future’s sake. We have explored best books, and rousing poetry, inspirational characters, and o! the places we’ll go! We’ve featured literary heroes and celebrated our students. We exposed the shadows on the wall, and looked at monsters in the closet.

It has been a rip-roaring adventure. Now more than ever, I remain humbled and grateful that Carmela and my fellow TAs thought I might have something worthwhile to say.

And that’s worth celebrating!

I think Esther said it best with her Celebratory Nonaversary THANKU, and if I may, I repeat it here, for the love of "my TA kin – all nine of them!"

                       Nine TeachingAuthors,
                   beacons each, heart-builders all,
                   en-courage-ing me.

And Thank YOU, dear readers,  for reading my oftimes silly, rambling but always heartfelt posts through the years.

Bobbi Miller

Friday, May 4, 2018

A Celebratory Nonaversary THANKU!

My fellow TeachingAuthors and I are celebrating our Nonaversary!
We’re looking back at our nine years of posting, sharing what we loved about being a part of this original group blog.

I confess:
while the descriptive noun in apposition TeachingAuthor combined the two professions I’d dreamed of since I was six-years old,
and I LOVED the idea of a group blog composed of six children’s book writers who also teach writing,
when Carmela Martino invited me to join such a blog in the summer of 2008, I chewed my lower lip and furrowed my brow.

Me? I thought.
The Slowest Writer East of the Mississippi?!
I was a studied writer if ever there was one.  Weren’t blog posts supposed to be light and breezy?
Me? I thought.
A true Luddite, a digital immigrant with enough techno-fears to accommodate bevies of post-Baby Boomers? Wouldn’t software be involved?
And what about those MFA’s in Writing for Children my fellow bloggers held – and I didn’t? Did Carmela forget I’m The Susan Lucci of Children’s Books?!

Fortunately, Carmela’s “You can do it!” trust in me won out.  I mustered my courage and am I ever glad!
This group blog gifted me with the perfect opportunity to pay Kindness forward, to think about our Readers – and what they needed/wished for/wanted to tell their good stories well, then share all I learned, thoughtfully and honestly, from my journey, my mentors, my students, my writers, my writing kin and my Children’s Book World,
But even better?  My fellow TeachingAuthors, nine in all, in nine years of posting not only taught me volumes about teaching, writing and living the writer’s life, making me a better teacher and author.
My fellow TA’s taught me how to be braver.

Sure. My pre-Monday-posting Sundays were often fraught with angst, plus 911 calls to our Administrator-dash-Tech Guru Carmela.
I’d spend weeks brainstorming a topic, researching avenues, tickling an idea, then tinkering with words to ensure a cogent and interesting telling. Inserting and verifying links, however, sizing and positioning photos, remembering to save text? All these tasks drove me bonkers. Many Monday mornings I’d be up early, checking my post, then correcting my mistakes.
Finding relevant free clip art became a full-time job. I still have nightmares in which I’m imprisoned for copyright infringement.
And I will never forget the spirit-crushing week I spent (a) registering for SoundCloud, (b) then using it to record my chosen poem for National Poetry Month in celebration of our fifth Blogiversary and (c) uploading it to blogger, or not.
Last summer, when the blogger software refused to recognize my new laptop, I was ready to call it quits, no matter my posts’ value or how I’d come to love writing them.
As always, Carmela talked me down and found a way using a new font and Notepad that is so convoluted it’s too long to share.

But thanks to Jeanne Marie Grunwell Ford, JoAnn Early Mackin, Carmela Martino, Mary Ann Rodman and April Halprin Wayland - our first 5 TA's, Jill EsbaumLaura Purdie Salas, Carla McKillough Clafferty and Bobbi Miller, and despite the obstacles, like my all-time Heroine Brave Irene I continue to move forward on my TeachingAuthors plotline.
Irene’s AHA’s! once again proved true: our burdens are often our tickets out; in time a foe can become a friend.

My fellow TA’s – as well as our enthusiastic and dedicated readers – continue to hold the bar high as I do my best to do everything a successful children’s book does: i.e. inform, amuse, encourage, inspire and always, always offer Hope.
I delight in all I’ve gladly put forth - a new book on craft, a writing student’s Success Story, a debut author’s Wednesday Writing Workout, a relevant celebration.  I’ve especially enjoyed taking readers with me on my out-and-abouts season after season.

I especially delight, however, in my October 12, 2011 post that birthed the Thanku – a Thank You note expressed in haiku.  In eight years’ time I’ve used this poetic format to thank my writers, my students, my mentors, my colleagues, my grandson, my Children’s Book World and even my Cubbies.

My Thanku today honors and thanks my TA kin – all nine of them!

                       Nine TeachingAuthors,
                       beacons each, heart-builders all,
                       en-courage-ing me.

And no surprise.  To celebrate our Nonaversary, I’m passing along a copy of William Steig’s BRAVE IRENE to one lucky writer.

Thanks, too, and of course, to our Readers – and – to Brenda Davis Harsham at Friendly Fairy Tales for hosting today’s Poetry Friday.

Hooray and Hurrah to the Ninth power!

Esther Hershenhorn
Don’t forget to celebrate Children’s Book Week – April 30 through May 6!
It's 9:23 a.m. Friday morning and I've already corrected two mistakes!

Sunday, April 29, 2018

2018's Progressive Poem is HERE today!

Howdy, Campers ~ And yikes!  The Progressive Poem is HERE today!

The Kidlitosphere Progressive Poem began in 2012 as a way to celebrate National Poetry Month (April) as a community of writers. Here's a three-way conversation between this poetry game's originator Irene Latham, Heidi Mordhorst, and Liz Steinglass just before 2018's poem sprouted.

This year, 30 poets signed on. Our mission: to grow the poem, one line at a time.

A few days ago, I posted a poem about my mixed-up feelings leading up to this momentous day. ...aka, the day I add a line.

This year, our instructions were: "take a minute to record your first impressions of how the [first] line strikes your imagination and what you think the poem might become."

So...I read the first line, by Liz SteinglassNestled in her cozy bed, a seed stretched.

Like so many others on this 30-day most excellent adventure, I was very happy with this first line because I like concrete, accessible images. I wrote:
Okay, a personified seed. Let's nearly-the-end of this month, our seed will be
s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d to the max. Will she be a vine who crawls along the tops of walls? A tree who ages with each generation?

And my, my, look how our small seed has grown!  I loved Jan's line #5: invented a game. It grounded me; I couldn't wait to learn the rules of the game which Jasmine, Owl and Moon would play.  And we veered! As Matt wrote: "the seed has invented a game, but she’s not playing it – which is a conundrum as far as a narrative goes." And as Heidi wrote:"you poets, you really know how to turn a ship with a well-chosen word!"

I liked Donna's prethinking of possibly including a sound, a texture, a smell...or perhaps, why be serious?  Donna jokingly toyed with the idea "that Jasmine slipped out of the owl's talons and fell to the ground and the owl ate her, The End..."

I was grateful for Sarah's grounding Jasmine on a trellis ("made of braided wind and song"~ such a pretty line) so that I could see her as a vine once more. I need images I can hold on to. (My favorite earrings are monarch butterflies. I also wear tiny bicycles, a little girl in a red dress, and big juicy slices of watermelon. My sister said: "I figured it out: you like to wear nouns.")

So, in order to be clear about what was going on in this poem, I printed it and added little drawings along the margin:
My notes. Star jasmine on the left, poet's jasmine on the right.
And boy, is its aroma intoxicating!

Along the way, Christie discovered that poet's jasmine is a real plant (which curls up the posts of our home--but I didn't know it was poet's jasmine! Thank you, for this, Christie!) According to one website, "give [this plant] heavy support [e.g., a trellis, etc.]." Isn't that what our warm community of poets and readers does?

Another site says, "this jasmine grows quickly and has a strong resilient root system." And that was my way in. I thought about what a young person could take away from our poem, especially in light of the fast-growing, newly awakened, resilient power of this generation.

So here's the poem thus far (I added a period after Kat's line):

Nestled in her cozy bed, a seed stretched.
Oh, what wonderful dreams she had had!

Blooming in midnight moonlight, dancing with
the pulse of a thousand stars, sweet Jasmine
invented a game.
“Moon?” she called across warm honeyed air.
“I’m sad you’re alone; come join Owl and me.
We’re feasting on stardrops, we’ll share them with you.”

“Come find me,” Moon called, hiding behind a cloud.

Secure in gentle talons’ embrace, Jasmine rose
and set. She split, twining up Owl’s toes, pale
moonbeams sliding in between, Whoosh, Jasmine goes.
Owl flew Jasmine between clouds and moon to Lee’s party!
Moon, that wily bright balloon, was NOT alone.
                                         Jas grinned,




                                                        a new,

                                around           tender


a trellis Sky held out to her, made of braided wind and song.
Her green melody line twisted and clung.

Because she was twining poet’s jasmine, she
wiggled a wink back at Moon, and began her poem.
Her whispered words floated on a puff of wind,
filled with light and starsong. “Revelers, lean in –
let’s add to this merriment a game that grows
wordgifts for Lee. He’s a man who knows
selection, collection, and wisely advising
these dreamers, word-weavers, and friends.”

Jas enfolded Moon-Sky-Owl into the cup of her petals,
lifted new greens to the warming rays of spring. Sun

smeared the horizon with colour, as Jasmine stretched.
She felt powerful. She felt fresh. She bloomed and took a breath

The Progressive Poem is a kind of poet's relay race isn't it?
 So it is with a deep breath of relief, that I hand it over to dear Doraine...
  who takes us to the finish line!

Thanks for creating this, Irene ~ and thank you to every member of this year's team!2018 Progressive Poetry Contributors:
4 Michelle at Today's Little Ditty
5 Jan at bookseedstudio
6 Irene at Live Your Poem
7 Linda at TeacherDance
8 Janet F. at Live Your Poem
11 Brenda at Friendly Fairy Tales
12 Carol at Beyond LiteracyLink
13 Linda at A Word Edgewise
15 Donna at Mainely Write
16 Sarah at Sarah Grace Tuttle
18 Christie at Wondering and Wandering
19 Michelle at Michelle Kogan
20 Linda at Write Time
23 Amy at The Poem Farm
24 Mary Lee at A Year of Reading
26 Renee at No Water River
27 Buffy at Buffy's Blog
28 Kat at Kat's Whiskers
29 April at Teaching Authors
30 Doraine at Dori Reads 

posted with love by April Halprin Wayland, with help from Eli and Monkey
Monkey and Eli share a favorite poem
from Louis Untermeyer's The Golden Treasury of Poetry 

Friday, April 27, 2018

Progressive Poem for Progressive Poets--and our 9th Blogiversary!

Howdy, Campers!

Happy National Poetry Month and Poetry Friday!  And Happy-Amazingness that we're celebrating TeachingAuthors9th Blogiversary--wowza!

As I wrote to our Founder, Coach, Computer Genius and Blogging Wizard, Carmela today: "I can't begin to tell you how glad I am that the universe reached all the way 'cross the country nine years ago and knocked on my door...'s been life-changing in many ways.  Thank you for starting it, thank you for captaining our ship."

Read Carmela's blogiversary post which includes JoAnn's terrific, short spring poem...then join in our combined Blogiversary/Earth Day celebration by passing along a book that helped you grow in your craft, or that was a favorite read aloud, or that you'd simply like to share with someone else.

April Halprin Wayland on World Book Night 2013,
giving away a book at Lawndale High School

JoAnn's perfect spring poem made me think of this quote (I cannot for the life of me find the rest of the poem--can you?) that makes my heart happy and my head swim:

I stuck my head out the window this morning and spring kissed me bang in the face. ~ Langston Hughes
Onward!  If you don't know what the Progressive Poem is, hop on over to Irene Latham's post. now you understand this poetry game, right? Well. My line's due this Sunday and here's my current state of my mind:

by April Halprin Wayland
I'm supposed to contribute, I'm pregnant to post.
I'm due to distribute, I'll be Sunday's host.
My foot is a-tapping, my thoughts overlapping:
no, don't think ahead—you'll for sure be misled.

Perhaps the main actor's a scarecrow instead
of the seed which we started with
(now it's a monolith!)

But here is a thought:
take a breath, take a vow...
light a lemony candle

and just 
be here now.

Poem (c)2018 April Halprin Wayland. All rights reserved.

My line is due on Sunday. Wish me luck.

Here's Team Progressive Poem's posting schedule:
April 2018 ~ Progressive Poetry Contributors:
Jane at Raincity Librarian
Michelle at Today's Little Ditty
Jan at bookseedstudio
Irene at Live Your Poem
Linda at TeacherDance
Janet F. at Live Your Poem
11 Brenda at Friendly Fairy Tales
12 Carol at Beyond LiteracyLink
13 Linda at A Word Edgewise
15 Donna at Mainely Write
16 Sarah at Sarah Grace Tuttle
18 Christie at Wondering and Wandering
19 Michelle at Michelle Kogan
20 Linda at Write Time
23 Amy at The Poem Farm
24 Mary Lee at A Year of Reading
25 Kiesha at Whispers from the Ridge
26 Renee at No Water River
27 Buffy at Buffy's Blog
28 Kat at Kat's Whiskers
29 April at Teaching Authors note: this link won't work until Sunday, April 27, 2018
30 Doraine at Dori Reads 
And thank you, dear Irene, for hosting
the last Poetry Friday of National Poetry Month 2018
at Live Your Poem!

PS: Before you go, share in the comments if you have a book you're planning to pass along in honor of our Blogiversary/Earth Day celebration!

posted with overflowing love to my sister TAs and with trepidation about you-know-what by April Halprin Wayland