Friday, February 12, 2010

Two Writing Quotes, Two Children’s Poems & How to Write a Valentine’s Day Poem with Heart

Hello, howdy and Happy Almost Valentine's Day!

This week, Teaching Authors’ Mary Ann Rodman posted on rewriting.

Rewriting always makes me think of the quote by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch  (great name!):
"Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it—whole-heartedly—and delete it before sending your manuscripts to press. Murder your darlings."

And I LOVE the comment author and reader Irene Latham made when she said in part, “The biggest "aha" moment came for me as an adult when I lost a bunch of files. As I went to recreate, I realized words are disposable and MEANT TO BE MOVED AROUND. That's the beauty of the whole thing.”

One of the rewriting agonies I suffer is: how do I know when it’s finished?  There is no green button that says DONE.  No red light that says: STOP REVISING.

In writing and rewriting a Valentine’s Day poem, I came up with two versions.  Which one should I send to Cricket Magazine?  So, here they are—which do you like best?  (Which one did I send?  The answer's at the bottom of the second poem.)

By April Halprin Wayland

My first day of school
I didn't know anyone.
I stood in the middle
of a swirling blender

of kids talking
of kids laughing
but not to me
not with me.

I stood in the middle
not knowing anyone.
Then you came up.
You came up to me and said hi.

When you said hi my whole day
                            my whole week
                            my whole year
rolled out happy.

After that
there was our rock collection
the Club House
and more.

When you said hi
that was the day
I started making this
Valentine's Day card for you.

© April Halprin Wayland

by April Halprin Wayland

Last summer when we were at the creek
and you and Andy and Joey
climbed up to the highest rock

thought about it
saw how deep it was
thought about how cold it would be

and finally
one by one

when you didn't tease me
or try to coax me up the rock
or call me a baby

Last summer is why
I'm giving you
this Valentine.

© April Halprin Wayland, first published in Cricket Magazine, February 2008

Writing Workout / Lesson Plan
How to Write a Valentine’s Day Poem With Heart

Valentine’s Day poems can be funny and rhyming and light.  They can be deeply felt.  Today, let’s do an exercise that will help you find rich, dig-down-deep content for your Valentine’s poem.

When someone tells me that they like me, I never say this, but I secretly, achingly want to know: what did I just do?  Why do they like me? 

Here are six steps to help you find the heart of your poem which will tell your friend why:
1)    Make a list of five people you love...or at least really like.
2)    Circle the one person for whom you want to write a poem.
3)    List at three times you were with this person which you remember fondly—was it in the living room after dinner?  Sitting next to that person at the movies?  Going shopping together?
4)    Choose one of these events.
5)    Give us the nitty gritty details.  Where were you?  What did this person do that you liked?  Were there any smells that you remember from that day?  Did you eat anything?  If so, list the foods.  Did that person hold your hand or hug you or pat your back or kiss you or pat your head?  If so, how did that feel?  Was his or her hand warm or cold?  Write down the details.  What did you see in that person’s face?  Were his or her eyes wrinkled or soft or shining?  Did he or she have a special smile for you? 
6)    Now you have the content for a poem explaining why you love (or really like) this person.  You may decide to use only one or two of the details from your list, but it’s those little details that will make your poem shine. 

Writers, start your engines!

And always, always, write with joy.

drawing by April Halprin Wayland


marion said...
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Carmela Martino said...

Hurray, I picked the one that was published in CRICKET! Thanks for sharing both, April, and for the terrific Writing Workout.

Gregory K. said...

I picked right, too, but seems to me based on how good both are that you could build a whole collection around the idea of WHY we write valentines. Just saying I'd buy a copy :-)

April Halprin Wayland said...

Thanks, Greg! I do want to put together a collection of thanks for the kick in the patootie!

Irene Latham said...

Yes, April! What Greg said. Would love to see a collection of these. And your instructions are great in that by focusing on specific details of an experience, you help writers steer clear of expected language and sentimentality. Thanks!

Laura Evans said...

Hi April,

I picked "Rock Solid Friendship," too. But I think "When You Said Hi" is publishable. I'd suggest the last line should be "rolled out happy."

Sounds like a Valentine's book would be a good idea for you. Nice instructions!


marion said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Peggy Archer said...

I also picked the second poem. But like the first one, too, and agree--end with the line 'rolled out happy.' Happy Valentine's Day to you!