Friday, January 22, 2021

Lessons from 2020

Our new topic is "What did I learn in 2020 that will help me in 2021?"

My first thought was  "Absolutely nothing! I'm drowning here!"

And then, in one of those serendipitous moments, my answer simply appeared...on my Kindle.(This happened last week, so this is a lesson from 2021 for...2021!)  I was checking for a new title I'd pre-ordered. Instead I found a book I bought last spring in the depths of my quarantined depression. No doubt I'd discovered it on a list of "Books to Get You Through Lockdown." Lists that included books like Yoga for Dummies, Breathe in the Moment and Sourdough Bread is the Answer! 

This one was called The Choice: Embrace the Possible by Dr. Edith Eva Eger.   I don't know how I missed it when it was first published in 2017.  Maybe because I'm suspicious of books with two word titles when one of the words is "The"...as in The Secret or The Answer, as if this book and only this book contains priceless information. Still..."embrace the possible"? 

I popped open Dr. Eger's book and scanned the table of contents. Now I remembered why I bought it. It was part self-help, part Holocaust memoir. How did these two things mesh in one book? The introduction mentions that Dr. Eger had been a protege of Dr. Viktor Frankl. I'd read Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning, his account of Auschwitz, years ago. Was there more to say on the subject of controlling your own mind in the worst of situations? Is that what The Choice was about?

Of course it's ridiculous to compare life in Auschwitz or surviving postwar Hungary to anything we might be experiencing. To quote Dr. Eger "...there is no hierarchy of suffering. There's nothing that makes my pain worse or better than yours...This kind of comparison can lead us to minimize or diminish our own suffering." The mindset of anyone who is in a situation they perceive as hopeless is the same, no matter the circumstances. 

What? It's OK to feel terrible?  Even if my family was healthy and employed? I didn't have to feel guilty for feeling bad for missing family and friends and day-to-day life? OK! I read on.

Edith Eger had been a 16-year-old dancer/gymnast on the 1944 Hungarian national team, when she and her family were sent to Auschwitz. How she survived by refusing to think like a victim is an incredible story, similar to Frankl's. However, Eger's book spoke to me in a way that Frankl's did not. The voice of the teenaged Edie was easier to identify with than Frankl's, who was a practicing doctor in his thirties during his imprisonment.

While this book has given me a different perspective on Life in the Land of COVID, it has also given me a new weapon in my never-ending battle with writer's block. All the negative inner chatter that broadcasts from the brain night and day can be silenced by...refusing to think like a victim. Dr. Eger went through many of the same self-defeating monologues herself in her post-war life. (You'd think if you survived Auschwitz, you'd feel invincible...but that was not always Dr. Eger's experience.) She had to re-discover that 16-year-old who never feared the Nazis. 

Edith Eger became a clinical psychologist in her fifties, and many of her fear-busting techniques are those she developed in her practice. Some I've encountered in therapy, some are new. They all have Dr. Eger's take-no-prisoner's philosophy. I feel as if she has actually has my back when I fall into hopeless thinking, or a panic attack.  

I leave you with one last image of Dr. Eger. As a teenage dancer/gymnast, she prided herself on the ability to kick higher than anyone in her class. Today, as a ninety-something psychologist, she can still do that high kick! In fact, that's how she ends her speeches. I couldn't do a high kick when I was sixteen, let alone now. But just picturing her doing that high kick (which by the way, you can see her perform, online) sets my spirit free, to embrace the possible.

Posted by Mary Ann Rodman

Friday, January 15, 2021

Dragons Are My Patronus

 

I’ve written about classes and seminars that I’ve taken this past year. Harold Underdown and Eileen Robinson’s Revision Workshops are some of the best. Other workshops I’ve taken include Emma D. Dryden’s excellent workshops in finding an agent. Other seminars, hosted by Lorin Oberweger and Free Expressions, include the wonderfully inspirational Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey and Character Masterclass as well as Donald Maass’ Writing the Breakout Novel.

Probably the most inspiring seminar was hosted by the award-winning science fiction and screenwriter David Gerrold* . Not because of what I learned about the writing process, but rather what I learned about myself.

David began by asking, why do you write? I suspect the intent – to reflect some degree of self-awareness—is to echo some level of Truth itself. That is to say, if story is the oldest invitation to the human experience, than the heart of that story – and why we (or I) write – is because we want a glimpse of some larger Truth, on what it means to be human. On what it means to be ourselves. So, what is that truth?


But the truth is, I have no idea. Not anymore. I don’t know if I have The Write Stuff.

I can tell you how I started. As a (very!) young child, I was ill with osteomyelitis. Recovery took a long while. While in the hospital, someone read to me. These stories freed me from confines of a hospital bed. It was more than just escaping a painful reality. These stories created a new reality in which I could do what otherwise I could not. Didn’t take long for me to make the jump into reading. I learned to read, even as I learned how to walk again. I was well ahead of everyone by the time I entered elementary school.

By fourth grade, I was reading Charles Dickens, and developed quite a crush on the Artful Dodger. I wrote my first story, in which he and I became friends. I also discovered Anne McCaffrey’s Pern. I read that her brother also suffered from osteomyelitis, and it inspired her to create a character (I forget which character. But, I tend to like dragons more than people anyway). 

 And suddenly dragons became by patronus. 

Certainly the act of writing is a construct of putting feelings into words, and I created a reality and a community in which I finally found belonging. I went to school, earned my MFA (among other degrees), and wrote. I have had short stories, articles and seven books published.

Then something happened. It wasn’t sudden, like a great big bang bazinga. It was more like a slow burn, years in the making. I had prepared, and fully devoted, for a career in writing. I was unprepared for the business of writing.

The business of writing is harsh, dispiriting in its rejection, and – good great glory – it comes complete with all the reigning -isms. For every Gandalf and Dumbledore, there is a Sauron and Lord Voldemort. We have heard of prominent agents – and a few writers – who have conducted themselves inappropriately as the MeToo movement swept through the publishing field. A few writers – including a hero of mine – twittered one too many times to reveal their own humany limitations. Then there’s the major literary agency rocked by – and eventually dissolved by --intimations of racist behavior. Turns out a few significant agents were nothing more than scammers. Writers Beware is full of warnings of publishers and agents acting in bad faith.

In other words, publishing is not some magic place over the rainbow. Rather it’s like every other business, complete with its own dark side and deatheaters.

I’ve had three agents during my ‘career’, all of whom promised to be the champion that would help me build a writing career. Long story short, none worked out. And, in many ways, the impact on my career has been negative. Each time I’ve had to start over.

I’ve had seven books published, a million (or so it seems) articles, and have won a fair share of awards, and still it seems I have spend more time trying to prove (to myself as much as anyone else) that I am relevant. In this quest to start anew, I worked with an agent on three rounds of revisions, with the assumption (never a promise) for representation. And the end of the year-long process, she loved (loved!) the manuscript, but historical fiction would be a hard sale (translation: she wants a quick sale). I had another agent schedule The Call three times, and each time she had to reschedule. And then she ghosted me, despite my nudges. Another agent asked to see more manuscripts, and then she ghosted me, despite my nudges. I even sent another historical fiction to my old editor, who once said she’s a big fan and to send her historical fiction. And then she ghosted me.

We know it’s not personal, but it certainly feels it. And now, even my dragon patronus has fizzled. I had taken classes. I have done research for potential stories and revised old stories, but I have not written anything new for over a year. My hope is this ebb and flow is normal, and what ebbs soon flows. My fear, however, is that I’ve lost my dragon. And what’s worse, I’m not sure she wants to be found. As I recall, her last words were, ‘### this ###.’

But, before you think its all woe and gloom, something else happened. Something unexpected. It occurred to me, while pondering this question, that my affiliation with story has always been to find a place of belonging. We are all stories in the end, says The Doctor. I have had a career – as a teacher, a bookseller, an editor, a reporter. It wasn’t the one I expected, but perhaps it was the one I needed. 

For so long, I thought that to belong meant I had to be published, but that’s not true, is it?

If the point of story is to find community, it turns out I have built up quite the community. A very special, extraordinary community, complete with Gandolf and Dumbledore, and Clara and The Wandering Monk, Authors Who Teach, Smacking Dabbers, and Master Guru. It includes The Librarians, and Poodle Lady, and Freckles, Lady Squabbit of the North, and Ella Bella’s Nana. And there’s Nyxie, Queen of the Universe (and her Royal Regent Grandpa). Mrs. and Mr. Shiny Serenity (complete with their pretty floral bonnet). The Professor, and Wordswimmer, the Geek, and the Nerd, and The Dog Whisperer, Pearl’s Mum and so many more unexpected friends. Steadfast and firm in their stance, reminding me to never give up. 

Why do I write? The answer was always at once simple and complex: To belong, of course.

Perhaps my patronus, my dragon, just needed a rest. You'll be glad (or at least, I was!) I started a new project. I have seven sloppy, somewhat begrimed chapters. But the characters are certainly dancing about.

Who wills, Can. Who tries, Does. Who loves, Lives. – Anne McCaffrey


Photo: Princess and Dragon by Nikita Volobuev, 2020.





David Gerrold  wrote the script for my favorite original Star Trek, The Trouble with Tribbles. He’s currently on Patreon, conducting weekly seminars and fireside chats about life and grandchildren. Do check it out!

Thank you for spending time with me!

--Bobbi Miller

Friday, January 8, 2021

Happy ANEW Year! – Courtesy of the Prefix “re”

YAY! and finally: our New Year is here!

2020 no longer banners our calendars.

This year’s start, though, is different from all others.

Since my one-year-ago post sharing my Rx for 20/20 vision, 

my eyesight required emergency refraction.


I count my blessings daily, if not hourly, that COVID-19 

literally infected neither me nor my family, at least up until 

this moment, and that friends and colleagues who experienced 

otherwise survived without serious after-effects.

I remain forever grateful my losses to date remain few.

My heart holds a place for those unable to say the same.


Still, figuratively? If I was to KEEP keepin’ on, in body, 

in spirit, and especially in my life’s work – teaching, coaching

and writing, the corona virus forced me to see my world – 

everything and everyone - anew. 

When it came to looking, back no longer did the job.


          re-

          prefix

      Definition of re

      1: again: anew retell

      2: back: backward recall


This past year,

whenever Stuff demanded figuring out, so some part of my life – 

i.e. the story I was living, would work as needed, my M.O. became:

re-examine who and what was important, adjusting my camera lens 

 to better focus,

re-assess obstacles and available resources,

re-consider options, NO MATTER HOW SCARY, 

re-imagine desired outcomes,

•then begin anew with mustered courage.


Were some days better than others, some efforts unsuccessful? 

You bet!

Was I able to get every single aspect of my life working? NO!

But there was always tomorrow, a new day waiting.

The prefix “re” ensured I kept keepin’ on.

                                                      (Used with permission from Karen Ritz)

Recently, Karen Ritz’s beautiful illustration above of Mary McCarthy’s

oh, so true words prompted me to revisit 2020’s happenings.

And, lo and behold! As I saw the year anew, I saw me anew, too!

Like any Heroine who proves different for her Journey, I, too, proved 

different for the story I’d been living.

For one thing, I realized my ability to endure, despite whatever.

“I’m still here,” as Elaine Stritch famously sung.  

For another, I now know I’m able to face down my fears, especially 

those technological in nature.

And like any Heroine, I, too, returned home with something better than 

first sought. I began 2021 with buckets of proven courage.

                                                (Used with permission from Karen Ritz)

The Good and the Bad, the Ups and the Downs, the CrazyCrazy 

challenges – all contributed to a newer, braver me.


Now, whenever Stuff needs figuring out, so some aspect of the story 

I’m writing works as needs be, I’m rarin’ to go.

And that includes the 8th iteration of my current picture book 

biography!

I just rinse and repeat my 2020 Covid-19 M.O. 

I found the perfect prefix to adjust my vision, 

to adjust my verbs from focus to imagine.

I found daring and boldness, no matter the unknown, so my Reader, 

too, can be different for her Journey.


Thanks to Sylvia at Poetry for Children for hosting today’s Poetry 

Friday.


Here’s to your stories - both those you are living and those you are 

writing – and finding, however challenging, at least one Silver Lining!

Happy ANEW Year!


Esther Hershenhorn

P.S.

Welcome, welcome to our ANEWEST Teaching Author – Zeena Pliska!

You can read more about her here.  

Friday, December 18, 2020

Looking forward to 2021

I'm looking forward to 2021 for all sorts of reasons, including one I'll discuss below. First though, I want to share a bit of news regarding our team. Hard to believe, but our newest TeachingAuthor, Gwendolyn Hooks, has already been blogging with us for a year and a half. You may have noticed that she hasn't posted recently. She's currently taking a six-month break to handle other responsibilities. We expect her to return in June.

Meanwhile, we're pleased to announce that Zeena Pliska will be posting in Gwen's spot. Her first post is scheduled in February. Till then, you can learn more about Zeena on our About Us page and also on her website.

So, one of the things I'm looking forward to in 2021 is becoming even more steeped in poetry, both reading and writing it. I hope to also participate more in Poetry Friday. In that spirit, today I'd like to share an excerpt from a poem in Amy Ludwig VanDerwater's wonderful picture book Write! Write! Write! (Wordsong) illustrated by Ryan O'Rourke. Although the collection is meant for young writers, I found plenty of inspiration for my own writing in it, especially in this poem:   

Excerpt from "Timeline"
by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater
(from Write! Write! Write!) 

. . .
Writing a sentence
is building a tower           
block after block   
hour after hour.

I am a writer.
And writing is power.

©2020 Amy Ludwig VanDerwater. All rights reserved.

I hope you'll check out more wonderful poetry in this week's Poetry Friday round up hosted by Michelle Kogan


Please note: the TeachingAuthors will be on our winter break until January 8. We wish all our readers a safe and happy holiday season.

I'm looking forward to learning and growing with you all in 2021!

Carmela Martino

Friday, December 11, 2020

A Quote, a Tree, and Good-bye, 2020!

First of all--thank you, Carmela Martino for switching posting dates with me. In a year where everything that could go wrong, went wrong, my laptop expired the week I was originally supposed to post. Thank you for coming to the rescue...and for that wonderful video of Rebecca Howard singing "You'll Never Walk Alone." (Howard's sabbatical from the Alabama Shakes is one of the good things about this year.)

After all the posts in this topic of "Inspirational Quotes" by my fellow TA's, it's hard to find anything to say, that they haven't said already, and better than I could. So that leaves my "inspiring quote." Being the Eternal Librarian, I double-checked my sources before I wrote this. It appears my "quote" has a dubious history. Sigh. Leave it to me to find inspiration in a historical mystery.

You can tell when I'm stressed or troubled by looking at my Kindle reading queue. Tales of the Resistance movements during WWII. Heroic quests of people leaving a violent homeland, finding a new one. Stories of Ordinary People in Extraordinary Times. 

My reading included more than one book about the Holocaust. In one of them, (I can't remember which one...there were so many) I thought I read this, by Anne Frank's father, Otto: "Even if I knew I would die tomorrow, I would still plant a tree today."

That really had an impact on me. Everyone has had the Year from Hell. My personal "mental hell" was being officially declared "elderly" by the CDC. I never think about age at all. I'm a life-long late bloomer--late to marry, give birth, publish--which means that my peers in those events were generally much younger than me. So I've spend most of my adult life with people ten to twenty years younger than me, while my actual "peer group" had moved on to being retired grandparents. But in one fell swoop, medicine declared people my age "elderly" and "at risk." Although I'm in better shape than ever, and my parents and grandparents lived impossibly long and healthy lives, I felt as if The End Was Near. That everything good and useful was being done by the young. I was elderly and "fragile" and should stay out of everyone's way.

I know this feeling doesn't make sense. Feelings rarely do. So Otto Frank's "quote" inspired me to re-engage with the world, crazy as it is right now.

Alas, Otto Frank did not say this. He didn't even say something sort of like this.

The actual quote is "Even if I knew the world would go to pieces tomorrow, I would still plant my apple tree." 

The quote is attributed to Martin Luther. Ironic, because I was raised in the Lutheran Church, and outside of Luther's Small Catechism which I had to memorize, I don't recall anything memorable that Luther ever said. (Not memorable to me, at least.)

But wait...what is this asterisk next to the quote?  What? No! What does that mean,"allegedly attributed?" A little more digging and, I find this: No one knows who really said this. It seems to have first surface in Nazi-era Germany. It is believed to have been something the German Lutheran Church manufactured and attributed to Luther to "give people hope in a dark time."

Well-done, German Lutherans! Even if the quote was not authentic to Luther and his time, it certainly spoke to me in our current "dark time." So in honor of Martin Luther, fake quotes and the year 2020, I light my candle. But most of all, to my fellow Teaching Authors. You shine your light in all years and circumstances. I'm honored to be one of you. Here's to planting our apple trees in 2021.



Posted by Mary Ann Rodman


Friday, December 4, 2020

WHAT IN THE HECK CAN ONE PERSON DO?

 Howdy, Campers, and Happy Poetry Friday! (my poem and a link to PF is at the end)

Our topic this round? A Favorite Book, Poem, or Quote.  Gwendolyn started us by recommending the book, I SEE YOU-I SEE MYSELF; Carmela followed with 3 Favorite Books + an Inspiring Song; Bobbi came next with a wonderful quote from Emma Dryden and more; Esther cheers us on with Three 2020 Favorite Books to Keep Us Keepin' On; now it's my turn.

I love quotations. Like so many of us, I collect them. And when I teach onsite, every week I paste quotes on walls and windows of my classroom which reflect that week's topic. I have lots of favorite political quotes, too. But one in particular has kept me afloat all year. It's been in my files and by my side in the past, but this year I wrote it on our bathroom wall (which is a whiteboard). 

Today I wrote to a dear friend: You sent 160 Vote Forwards?!?!! Wowee, Rooti, way to go!

I just taught class #9 of 10. It's been like a long walk through the Valley of Death, this business of  learning how to teach on Zoom, but now I feel I'm on the other side of the valley...

There was a day in early summer that I broke down from the craziness of technology, screwed-up passwords, fears of Covid, isolation, mising my son, our "toddler-in-chief" etc. I wailed like a banshee. Gary said in the 40 years we've been together he's never seen me that dark. 

But now my class is almost over and it's been rewarding in so many surprising ways. And there's hope on the political horizon thanks in part to you, Rooti.

And one quote has helped me walk through it all:






The following is what I call a Golden Quote poem. Modeled after Golden Shovel poems, the last word of each line forms a quote.

ONE BIRD
by April Halprin Wayland

Once there was one

bird. Such a lonely little bird. No person,

no fellow sparrow, no tin can

to roll around rocks. Only

a wee plant, its round leaves shining, as leaves do.

That bitter winter, those round leaves wilted. So

Little Bird wrapped her wings around the plant. Did it help? It helped so much.

poem and drawings © 2020 April Halprin Wayland. All rights reserved

One person can only do so much.

One person (or bird) can only do so much.

What's your favorite quote?

Thank you, Mary Lee for hosting PF at A Year of Reading!


posted with a deep breath of gratitude for you,dear readers, and for my students this quarter who are very forgiving by April Halprin Wayland, with help from her trusty hiking partner, Eli-the-old-but-hanging-in-there-dog.

Today's hike tired Eli out.

Friday, November 27, 2020

Three 2020 Favorites To Keep us Keepin’ On!


I titled my very first 2020 TeachingAuthors post “One Writer’s Rx for 

Achieving 20/20 Vision in 2020!”

Look backward, I prescribed. Probe inward.  Press forward. Reach 

outward. Gaze upward.  And finally, continue onward


Eleven months later, I admit: despite those Unexpected Kodak 

Moments and Silver Linings COVID-19 revealed, my endeavors 

and I experienced somewhat of an ophthalmological jolt. 

Indeed my eyes seek refraction on a weekly basis.


Nevertheless, I still see Endless Possibilities.

So, I, for one, continue onward, ever-encouraged by this year’s 

hope-filled children’s books.


Here are three favorites that both inspired and enheartened me.

Consider them my gift to keep you, too, keepin’ on.


This Charlesbridge collection offers poetic verses in a variety of 

forms by award-winning poets, including Nikki Grimes, Carole 

Boston Weatherford, Janet Wong and G. Neri.  All together, the 

poems pay tribute to 14 young activists who “stepped up to make a 

real difference in the world, who opened hearts, challenged minds, 

and changed our world.” As the collection’s editor Lindsay H. Metcalf 

writes in the introductory poem “Amplify,” 

“No voice is too small

to solve a problem

that’s big.”

Jeanette Bradley’s beautiful illustrations bring each activist’s 

efforts to the pages. Accompanying biographies and inspirational 

quotes strengthen the book’s take-away for young readers - namely, 

the impact young people – and indeed, people of all ages, can have 

when they use their voice, small or not, to speak up and out.


2020 gifted me with young Heroes and Heroines aplenty, including 

Lauren Wolk’s Ellie from Echo Mountain and Jacqueline Woodson’s ZJ 

from Before the Ever After.  Ten-year old Delicious Nevaeh Roberts,

known as Della, however, and her older sister Suki, now hold a 

permanent place in my heart.

The flap copy for Kimberly Brubaker Bradley’s Fighting Words (Dial) 

describes the two as, “.. sisters, linked by love and trauma, who must 

find their own voices before they can find their way back to each other.” 

Sexual abuse has finally found its way into middle grade fiction. The 

book’s dedication underscores its importance.

          “For any child who needs this story: You are never alone.”

In speaking their fighting words, their truth, their stories, Della and 

Suki not only model for young readers how they can do the same when 

push comes to shove. They give them the courage to do so.


The subtitle of author-illustrator Hannah Salyer’s debut picture book 

Packs (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) says it all: STRENGTH IN 

NUMBERS.

Yes, there are collective nouns galore gathering gorgeously-illustrated 

groups of animals, familiar and not so familiar to young readers. A 

flamboyance of flamingoes. An implausibility of wildebeest.

But it’s the underlying sentiment that’s truly gorgeous, especially since 

the “we” represents human beings, too.

                Packs,

herds,

                huddles, 

                and pods.

Together, we are better.

The host of verbs available to humans and non-humans alike when they 

do all come together leaves me hopeful. Harvest. Speak.  Nurture.  

Work.  Sing.  Build. Dance.  Bask in the sun.  


     Pack’s ending words end my year-ending post perfectly.

All together…we are better!


Thanks to Carol’s Corner for hosting today’s Poetry Friday.


Here’s to Endless Possibilities whilst continuing onward in 2021!

Esther Hershenhorn

p.s.

I’m currently seeking the perfect collective noun to describe the talented 

writers who appear within small ZOOM squares on my laptop’s screen 

when I remotely teach my Writing for Children workshops.

Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Alas, the collective nouns glory, marvel and blessing – which are so 

appropriate, are already taken by unicorns.

Friday, November 13, 2020

Do or Do Not: It's All Okay

 

Emma D. Dryden



Lordy I am so weary of 2020.  I am fatigued with the chaos, distressed about the pandemic, which has hit too close to home of late. 

As we at Teaching Authors continue to explore our favorite inspirations, I’ve written about all the ways I try to keep my head in the game. I continue to take classes, read craft books, and just read in general. Take walks. And garden. I also teach. But it can be dispiriting. I confess, there are moments  of late that I have no feel for my writing. Then I find myself feeling all sorts of convoluted messiness that I, as a working writer, should write some pages every day. And when I can’t, I feel like perhaps I never will again. 

Everyone knows Emma D. Dryden, whom I value as my own Dumbledore. Emma is a long-time indomitable presence in publishing. Working thirty years in the field, she was Vice President, Publisher of Atheneum Books for Young Readers and Margaret K. McElderry Books, imprints of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, a position she held until 2009 when she launched drydenbks

No one knows more than Emma the ups and downs that each writer faces in pursuit of their craft.

Recently, Emma sent this wisdom. This is my favorite quote of the entire year!  It seems so apropos for the struggles we as writers and teachers are facing during these trying times. I thought you may need to hear these encouraging words.

And, should you need more feelings good, here’s a video that comforts and inspires. From Brittany Howard, You Never Walk Alone.



By the way, how are you doing?

--Bobbi Miller


Friday, November 6, 2020

3 Favorite Books I Read this Year, Plus an Inspiring Song

Happy Poetry Friday! Today, instead of a poem, at the end of this post I'm sharing some song lyrics I've found especially inspiring during this challenging year. But first, I want to continue our end-of-the year series about a favorite book, poem, or quote we read in 2020.

Last week, Gwendolyn discussed as her favorite book, I See You, I See Myself: The Young Life of Jacob Lawrence, written by Deba Foxley Leach. (I've already added the title to my to-read list.) Unlike Gwen, I couldn't limit my favorites to just one title. I'm sharing three! The first two books are titles picked by the Not for Kids Only Book Club I'm a member of.

1. Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds (Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books). 

This book has won numerous awards, including a Newbery Honor, a Printz Honor, a Coretta Scott King Honor, and the Edgar Award Prize for Best Young Adult Fiction. Not only is Long Way Down a beautifully written novel in verse, this powerful book also deals with important issues that are especially relevant today.

2. Echo Mountain by Lauren Wolk (Dutton Books for Young Readers).


This novel, set in Depression-era Maine, is a 2020 title featured on Anderson's Bookshops Mock Newbery list. Despite the historical setting, this story about coping with unemployment and hardship is also relevant these days. The writing is quite lyrical, so I wasn't surprised to learn Lauren Wolk is a poet as well as a novelist. 

3. What Is Poetry? The Essential Guide to Reading and Writing Poems by Michael Rosen (Candlewick Books). 


This engaging nonfiction book was first published in the U.K. in 2016, but wasn't released here in the U.S. until 2019 and I just discovered it recently. I'm still working my way through this one because I'm savoring and learning from each section. Michael Rosen includes many great tidbits in this book, such as the following:

"Poems are a midway point between poets and readers. The poet pours in one set of meanings. The reader picks up a poem and puts in another set of meanings, and the two meet somewhere in the middle. That's what reading a poem is all about. It's a conversation between two sets of thoughts: the poet's and the reader's."

In researching Rosen's book, I was surprised to learn the author contracted COVID-19 earlier this year and was hospitalized for three months. He talks a bit about his experience and ongoing health issues at the beginning of this video. I hope he eventually makes a complete recovery.   

Finally, as promised, I'd like to share some song lyrics that have inspired and encouraged me during these difficult times. They're written by Carrie Newcomer, a performer I discovered when someone shared this song with me earlier this year:

Excerpt from lyrics of "You Can Do This Hard Thing"
by Carrie Newcomer
 
Here we stand breathless  
And pressed in hard times.
Hearts hung like laundry
On backyard clothes lines.
Impossible just takes
A little more time.
 
From the muddy ground
Comes a green volunteer.
In a place we thought barren
New life appears.
Morning will come whistling
Some comforting tune,
For you.
 
You can do this hard thing. 
You can do this hard thing.
Its not easy I know, 
But I believe that its so.
You can do this hard thing. 
 
©2016 Carrie Newcomer  

It's hard to believe Newcomer released this song in 2016. "You Can Do This Hard Thing" feels like it could be an anthem for 2020. 
 
You can read the song's complete lyrics on this page of her website by clicking the cover of the album, The Beautiful Not Yet. And you can hear her perform the song below or on YouTube here.

 
Don't forget to check out this week's Poetry Friday round up at Susan Bruck's Soul Blossom Living.
 
 
Posted by Carmela Martino