Friday, April 21, 2017


Howdy, Campers!

Happy Poetry Friday (link to today's host below)! I forgot about posting today. I forgot!

...until my wonderful fellow blogger (our blog's Captain and Queen Mother, Carmela Martino) gently texted, "Everything ok? It's your turn to post and you usually get it done early."


And so here we are. Now. And National Poetry Month! I wrote this poem on April 9, 2017, but Carmela helped me through the storm today, so it feels as if I could have written it just's all about now, isn't it? 

by April Halprin Wayland

Night. Storm.

Thunder roars.

I am perched on

our front porch.

Raindrops drum.

Cab has come.

Downpour now is nearly tidal.

Taxi-cab is parked. It idles.

Torrent pours. I droop, I drag.

A plastic bag is all I have.

And then from where?

Someone standing right here.

Umbrella open,

offers arm.

We're off the porch,

into the storm.

poem © 2017 April Halprin Wayland. All rights reserved


I need a t-shirt which reads: it takes a village to post a poem...but this one is pretty cool, too:

My fabulous new t-shirt! The UCLA Extension Writers' Program
gave each instructor at our annual retreat
(my next class runs Oct 3-Dec 12)

Thank you, Tabatha, for hosting today's PF at The Opposite of Indifference ~

Yes, Virginia, it really does take a village...and a dog. And a stuffed monkey. Posted with love by April Halprin Wayland with help from Carmela Martino, Eli and Monkey ~

Monday, April 17, 2017

The Infinite Library

I love libraries large and small.  Tiny rural libraries as well as marble-fronted university libraries.  Since I grew up in a place and time without library access, I have a deep love a appreciation for physical libraries.   

As a researcher, I’ve had the rare privilege to use amazing libraries such as the Fred. W. Smith Library for the Study of George Washington, Harvard University, Boston Athenaeum, and Columbia University.  Nothing can take the place of actually seeing historic documents.  But research trips cost a lot of money so it isn’t always possible to travel to do library research.  Publishers do not pay the expenses for authors as they travel to do research--Gasp!  That might come as a surprise for new authors at the beginning of their careers.  Nope. You are on your own, kiddies.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t access the information you need.  Fortunately today, great libraries have made research possible by putting primary source documents online.   It is truly amazing the types of primary sources you can access from your computer, anytime and anywhere.   In a matter of seconds, while sitting on my porch, I can access documents such as the patent for the Wright brothers’ plane, or letters written by George Washington, and see actual footage of the D Day landing.  I love it! 

With so many primary source documents online today, you can do first class research from anywhere!
Today via the Internet we have access to unlimited information.  What do you want to find out?

Carla Killough McClafferty

Monday, April 10, 2017

Bigger On the Inside

Photo by Cynthia Cotten
Perhaps you’ve heard, the TARDIS returns this week, bringing with it all sorts of new adventures. (You may remember that I am as old as twelve Timelords, thirteen if you count the War Doctor. As such, I have been a geek long before there was a word for it.)

It seems to be the most obvious of memes that a book, like the TARDIS, is bigger on the inside. I’m sure a simple google search would produce a thousand illustrations.

Recently I read an interesting piece, The Importance of Ideas

I’ve long said that we are the product of all the stories we have ever read, and that we are influenced by all the characters we have experienced. The University Blog makes a similar statement, offering that “what you read and retain has a potential bearing on what you read and retain after that.”

We know as writers and teachers that reading is important. It’s another obvious meme. We learn about different perspectives even as we shape our own. That’s how new ideas are created. As the University Blog states:

“Ideas are important, too. Without ideas, progress isn’t made, change doesn’t happen, much of human development stops."

In other words, ideas are bigger on the inside.

“Ideas make the world, for they are the guide to future practice. Even the flimsiest ideas rooted in prejudice and ignorance make history and form public culture…Ideas, when mobilized, become the templates of thought and practice.” (Ash Amin & Michael O’Neill, Thinking About Almost Everything)

Librarians are the superheroes who stand guard for these “templates of thoughts and practice” and the stuff of future-building. These days, it seems everyone has an opinion about everything. But not all opinions are equally weighted. As the Doctor might say, some opinions are just “lasagna.”

Recently I had a wonderful librarian visit my college research class to help my students to refine their process of “crap detection.” Teaching media literacy is not new, but with the recent explosion of social media, and the rise of fake media, the process has become convoluted, and downright messy. The hour-long experience proved an invaluable lesson.

Here are a few interesting pieces on what we can do to battle fake news in the classroom:

Battling Fake News in the Classroom, and how one educator helps students develop media literacy.

Cool Tools for Schools, a technology program for librarians and teachers, focusing on how to use critical thinking to judge the reliability of news reports and information sources.

PBS Newhour Extra on how to teach students about fake news.

Ernest Hemingway once said that a great writer needs to have “a built-in, shock-proof crap detector.” While not all of our students need become great writers, certainly every student, as well as the rest of us, will become informed citizens when we are active participants in a better future-building, and stay engaged in that process of lifelong learning.

Remember what the Doctor said,

“You want weapons? We’re in a library! Books are the best weapon in the world. Arm yourself!”

Speaking of, I believe that's the TARDIS now!

Bobbi Miller

(PS. The TARDIS Free Library was designed and built by Steve Cotten, photo by Cynthia Cotten. All other photos courtesy of Pixabay)

Friday, April 7, 2017

A Golden Shovel Poem in Honor of Gwendolyn Brooks

On Monday, Esther suggested writing a Golden Shovel poem in honor of poet Gwendolyn Brooks as a way to celebrate National Poetry Month. I have long admired Brooks's poem "We Real Cool." However, even though Brooks and I both grew up in Chicago, I didn't know much about her before reading Esther's post and this bio about her on Chicago's Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory Academy website. According to the Prep Academy bio, Brooks wrote more than 75 poems by the time she was sixteen. While I also wrote lots of poetry in my tween and teen years, I don't believe I came close to that number.

I've been so wrapped in freelance writing and novel editing that I rarely write poetry these days. So I decided to take up Esther's challenge and try my hand at a Golden Shovel poem. I haven't had time to polish it, so please don't judge the poem below too harshly. 😊

My Golden Shovel was inspired by Brooks's poem "Mayor Harold Washington," which begins:    
Mayor. Worldman. Historyman.
Beyond steps that occur and close,
your steps are echo-makers.
I had moved to the suburbs by the time Washington was elected mayor of the city, but his influence was felt throughout the metropolitan area. So I was especially struck by the line:
 your steps are echo-makers
I've used these words as the end words for my poem:

            Baby Steps
                 --after "Mayor Harold Washington" 

            Inspired by your life, your words, your
            Poetry, I take timid baby steps,
            searching for my own words, ones that are
            powerful enough to also be Echo-makers.

                        © Carmela Martino, All rights reserved.

image courtesy of Pixabay
If you missed the explanation of the Golden Shovel form, see Esther's post for details. If it inspires you to write your own Golden Shovel, I hope you'll share it with us in the comments.

By the way, in her post, Esther mentioned that there will be a celebration of The Golden Shovel Anthology: New Poems Honoring Gwendolyn Brooks (University of Arkansas Press) at Chicago's Poetry Foundation this Wednesday, April 12, 2017. You can find details on the Poetry Foundation site.

For more Poetry Month fun, check out this week's Poetry Friday roundup hosted by Irene Latham at Live Your Poem.

Remember to Write with JOY!

Monday, April 3, 2017

A Golden Way to Dig In and Celebrate National Poetry Month - Gwendolyn Brooks-Style

It’s April!
Which means, it’s time to wish our Readers Happy National Poetry Month
The 30-day event, designated by the Academy of American Poets in 1996, holds the title of the World’s Largest Literary Celebration. 

What better way to celebrate than to try your hand at a new poetic form – the Golden Shovel - created in 2014 by the MacArthur “genius grant” poet Terrence Hayes to honor the unforgettable American poet Gwendolyn Brooks.
Because 2017 marks Ms. Brooks’ 100th Birthday, creating a Golden Shovel allows you two celebrations for the price of one.

FYI: Born June 7 in Topeka, Kansas in 1917 and a Southsider all her life, Gwendolyn Brooks served as Illinois’ Poet Laureate, our country’s official poetry consultant, was the first black writer to receive the Pulitzer Prize - for her collection Annie Allen in 1950, and dedicated her life to embracing and growing Young Chicago Authors. In 1945, her first published work, A Street in Bronzeville, chronicled the “everyday lives, aspiration and disappointments” of her Chicago neighbors.
She mentored numerous poets, including Patricia Smith, and others who went on to mentor Chance the Rapper.

Her first collection of 34 poems for children, Bronzeville Boys and Girls, was published in 1956, edited by the legendary Ursula Nordstrom. As Maria Popova wrote in Brain Pickings, “…the collection was a revolutionary act of creative courage in its era, a decade before the peak of the civil rights movement.  It granted a generation of children the tremendous gift of being seen, of having the validity of their experience mirrored back by the page, of being assured that they belong in literature and art.”
Ronni Solbert illustrated the original edition. Faith Ringgold illustrated the 2015 reprint.
Each poem’s title bore a child’s name. GERTRUDE is one of my favorites.


“When I hear Marian Anderson sing,
I am a STUFFless kind of thing.
Heart is like the flying air.
I cannot find it anywhere.
Fingers tingle. I am cold
And warm and young and very old.
But, most, I am a STUFFless thing
When I hear Marian Anderson sing.”

Terrance Hayes understandably wanted to keep Gwendolyn Brooks' voice alive.  He wanted the world to know its rhythms and its heart.
His technique – The Golden Shovel – does just that.

Here’s how the Golden Shovel form works:
you pick a favorite Brooks poem;
next you pick a favorite line;
then, using each word from the chosen line to end the lines of your poem, create a poem that honors Ms. Brooks’ spirit.

If you choose a line with six words, your poem is six lines long.

Click here to read Hayes’ original poem titled “The Golden Shovel."
Hayes invited several well-known poets, including Mark Doty, Sharon Olds, Nikki Giovanni and Billy Collins, to create original Golden Shovel poems, then gathered them in his collection The Golden Shovel Anthology: New Poems Honoring Gwendolyn Brooks.

Some have called this technique “something borrowed, something new.”
The Poetry Foundation, which is celebrating Hayes’ anthology April 12 here in Chicago, notes that this kind of borrowing method is similar to the cento form, in which the writer creates an entire poem from other poets’ lines.  The erasure form in which a writer removes lines from an existing poem is also similar.

Visit The Poetry Foundation and Poem Hunter for lists of Ms. Brooks’ poems so you can choose one  for your Golden Shovel poem.
Or perhaps create an 8-line poem using the end words of each of the lines of GERTRUDE – i.e. sing, thing, air, anywhere, cold, old, thing, sing.

And while you’re writing, be sure to remember Ms. Gwendolyn Brooks.
Happy (poetic) diggin’!

Esther Hershenhorn

The Academy of American Poets sponsors 30 days/30 ways to celebrate National Poetry Month.

Follow the thousands of National Poetry Month celebrations using #npm17 and/or follow the Academy of American Poets @POETSorg.

Congratulations to Ruth Spiro, winner of our Book Giveaway of Matthew Bird’s THE SECRETS OF STORY (Writer’s Digest, 2016)!

Friday, March 31, 2017

My Month of Wild Adventure and a Poem

Konnichiwa, Campers! Happy Poetry Friday and Happy nearly National Poetry Month! PF link and my own poem are below. have 'til the end of today to enter our giveaway! Details below.

We TeachingAuthors are excited that National Poetry Month begins on April 1st! (And I'm busily stretching my neck, preparing to turn my head a gazillion times an hour for the next 30 days, thinking someone is calling my name.)

Lately, as those of you who follow this blog may remember, I've been in a questioning mode about my writing life. So I set out on an adventure--to take a step back--without much Wi-Fi, social media, voice mail, phone calls or text. To be honest, most of that wasn't on purpose--most of it was because Wi-Fi was spotty at best and I was so busy doing outside stuff I had no time at the end of the day except to write my poem and fall into bed, happily exhausted.

I spent two weeks hiking in New Zealand:
So much many miles of trails ~
and then two weeks in Japan with my dear friends, author Bruce Balan and his wife, Alene. They live on their cherry red trimaran, Migration, which takes its name from Bruce's first picture book, The Cherry Migration. They've lived on her for 12 years, sailing around the world.

Bruce and I were invited to speak at two schools in Japan: Marist Brothers International School and Fukuoka International School.

In we go!

Fukuoka International School: Best. Library Door. Ever.

Lucky, lucky me!
My notes before meeting  Bruce and Alene's friends for dinner...
a new language and new names ~

Sugoi! (= wow!) I'm still glowing. I don't have any conclusions yet...but here's the poem I sent Bruce last night--and below it is the backstory. (We love the backstory of each other's poems).


"Can't," says Ant.

"Just try," says Fly.

"Why?" asked Trout.

"I'll cry," says Ant.

"Defy," says Fly.

"Won't die," says Trout.

"No," weeps Ant.

"Move slow," says Fly.

"Have a go," says Trout.

"Freak out!" screams Ant.

"Don't doubt," says Fly.

"Find out," says Trout.

"Find out?" asks Ant.

So Fly 

helped Ant

just try.

And Trout

helped Ant

find out. 

And Ant?

Didn't die.

poem © 2017 April Halprin Wayland. All rights reserved

Backstory: Today I heard an actor talk about roles that scare him. He says yes to them to find out if he can do them or not. He said, "What's the worst that can happen—I find out that I can't." Wow. I hope I can be less attached to the outcome when I write. For now, I am inspired by the words FIND OUT.

Maybe I can to find out if I can do it. That feels something easy, no big deal, as if I'm taking a little kid's hand and leading her to the playground so we can both try the slide, just to find out if it's scary.


Okay, Campers...what are you most afraid of doing? Write a poem about it (and share it with us if you're feeling brave) for National Poetry Month.

And if you're reading this on Friday, you still have time to enter our giveaway for a chance to win Matt Bird's The Secret of ends tonight, March 31, 2017.

Thank you, dear Amy LV of The Poem Farm, for hosting Poetry Friday!

posted guiltily (for including too many photos) by April Halprin Wayland, with help from her happy hiker's feet!

Ahhhhh....the half-way point of one of our longest hikes in New Zealand

Monday, March 27, 2017

Out and About with Carla Killough McClafferty

Out and About

I’ve been “out and about” lately.  How wonderful it is to get out of the office and into the fresh air.  A change in routine can sometimes get the creative juices flowing again.   

Are there places near you that you’ve been intending to visit?  I mean for years and years you’ve intended to visit?  I have several places like that in my mind.   One of them for me is Washington, Arkansas (Historic Washington State Park).  About a week ago I finally went there to attend the Jonquil Festival.  OK in full disclosure, I didn’t plan the trip.  My sister and her husband were going and invited me to join them.  And as an added bonus, my other sister went too. 

Washington is a wonderful little place about and hour and a half from where I live that is full of history relating to Arkansas in the 19th century.  Have you ever hear of the Bowie Knife?  It was made famous by Jim Bowie-one of those who met their maker at the Alamo.  James Black, the blacksmith, forged his original Bowie Knife in Washington, Arkansas.   

Plaque on James Black's Blacksmith Shop where the first Bowie Knife was  forged.
Washington was also a place where many Native Americans walked through on the Trail of Tears as they made the journey to Oklahoma. 

Years later during the Civil War, Washington became Arkansas’s confederate capital after Little Rock was occupied by the Union Army.   

So much history has happened in such a tiny place.  It makes me think about all the powerful stories I could write about.   Yes, getting away from my keyboard is a good thing.   

The old courthouse in Washington, Arkansas

A massive magnolia tree planted just three years after Arkansas became a state.

Carla Killough McClafferty

Click here to find out how to enter to win