Thursday, April 29, 2021


Howdy, Campers ~ Happy Poetry Friday AND Last Day of Poetry MonthMy poem and the link to today's PF host are below.

In honor of TeachingAuthors' 12th year on earth (is the internet technically earth?), we are each choosing one post from the past 12 years (just one?!?!) to share.  Esther shares a poem I wrote (!) and a photo of us surprising Carmela at TeachingAuthors' birthday celebration, Mary Ann shares JoAnn's 2011 inspiring review of Paul Janeczko's Seeing the Blue Between, Advice and Inspiration for Young Poets, and Carmela shares Esther's 2011 post about a specific kind of haiku which Esther called Thankus, while adding her own thanku and a #HaikuFromTwo.

The truth is, I love the writing of every TA, but I knew from the start that I would be rifling through Mary Ann's posts. I love her storytelling, I love her show-us-her-scars honesty. Her authenticity, forces me (maybe inspires me is better) to be more honest, too.

So today, enjoy Mary Ann's 2010 post about Charles Schulz' s PEANUTS gang...aka her muses.

from Apollo Magazine; no copyright infringement is intended 

I wrote about my own muse in 2013:

inspired by a poem with the same title by William Stafford
by April Halprin Wayland


I was lounging against the back of a napping kangaroo

when this little boy with a large crayon drew near.

Said his name was Harold.


I sat up to study the scruffy kid—

a baby, really, in p.j.s that must have been

as suffocating as meat in a sausage skin.


His wide eyes disarmed me,

as if he were that butterfly in the antidepressant commercial,

flying around a garden party and leaving everyone feeling better.


Harold stepped around the kangaroo to draw a big house

with a wide porch

and shutters on every window.


There were a boatload of windows.

He added two rocking chairs and three hanging baskets of geraniums.

When he framed the front doorway, we went in.


The floors were oak; the house felt comfortable, like a favorite old sofa.

He drew stairs; we walked up to four bedrooms

and a greenhouse room with walls of glass.


"I'll be living up here," he said, pulling down steps from the ceiling.

He climbed into the attic and peeked out.

"I'll hand you down stuff I find here," he said.


I supposed I'd be responsible for feeding him. 

I wondered if he ate real grilled cheese sandwiches

or if I had to draw them with his crayon.


The kangaroo

was still sleeping in the front yard,

which was probably for the best.

From Wikipedia; no copyright infringement is intended


Before I say g'bye, I have Poetry Month news! 

My next 3-hour, one day Writing Poetry for Children class through the UCLA Extension Writers' Program will be on July 17, 2021. Registration is now open, but hurry, enrollment is limited to 25 students.

I'm thrilled that three of my poems are on the Poetry Foundation site

I'm happy to be among nine poets who are on a fascinating education website in England called TWINKL (no E at the end). The poets are: Jaclyn Desforges, Miriam Sagan, Liz Garton Scanlon, Irina Moga, Lauren Camp, D. S. Martin, Allan Wolf, Charles Ghigna and me.

And I'm honored to have been included in the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators' video of 13 poets, each reading a poem. (Note: the video lasts 17:30 minutes; my poem is at the 11 minute mark).

The poets are: Nikki Grimes, Lesléa Newman, Joseph Bruchac, Jane Yolen, Tami Charles, Lin Oliver, Hope Anita Smith, Sonya Sones, Carole Boston Weatherford, April Halprin Wayland, Margarita Engle, Ellen Hopkins, and Linda Sue Park.


Who is your  muse? Please tell us in the comments--we want to know...we really do!

Thank you, Matt, for hosting Poetry Friday

this last day of Poetry Month, 2021 

on Radio, Rhythm and Rhyme !

posted by April Halprin Wayland, with the help of Eli, Kitty, and Monkey, who were sure THEY were my muses before I broke the news...

Friday, April 23, 2021

12 Years! A Thanku and Another #HaikuFromTwo

Happy Poetry Friday! This post includes a Thanku and a #HaikuFromTwo.

As Esther shared in her post kicking off our current series, this month we're celebrating our TWELFTH Blogiversary! I can hardly believe it's been that long. This blogging journey has been filled with wonderful surprises and blessings. One of those surprises was the TeachingAuthors' virtual meeting Esther shared a photo of in her post. I thought that meeting was to learn some great new Zoom teaching tips from the amazing April Halprin Wayland. Instead, it was a party to celebrate our blog and my efforts to keep it running all these years. My fellow TeachingAuthors showered me with thanks that day. But I am just as grateful for all of them and what they've contributed to this blog over these dozen years. And I'm grateful to you, our readers, for traveling along with us. 

Esther didn't mention in her post the lovely gift my fellow TeachingAuthors sent me that day, as if the surprise meeting wasn't enough:

I smile every time I see these lovely plants (which are still blooming).   

This month, each of us are sharing a favorite post written by one of our fellow TeachingAuthors. My heart is so filled with gratitude for our blogiversary milestone that if felt appropriate to remind you all of Esther's terrific post introducing us to the Thanku: a haiku expressing gratitude. Esther inspired us to feature thankus often over these twelve years. You'll find many of those posts here. I'd like to add one more to that collection:

For my fellow TeachingAuthors and All Our Readers:
       My heart overflows
       like a basket of flowers,
       still growing. Thank you.

©2021 Carmela A. Martino. All rights reserved.

Speaking of haiku, this week I wrote another #HaikuFromTwo. I shared last month about Amanda Davis's #HaikuFromTwo challenge: you randomly pick two words from a book you're reading and create a haiku using them. After Beverly Cleary's recent death, I thought it would be fitting to read one of her books. Unlike most writers I know, I never read any of Cleary's work until I was an adult, and that book was Ramona Quimby, Age 8. A few weeks ago, I finally read the first Ramona book: Beezus and Ramona.  Today's #HaikuFromTwo includes two random words from that book: drawing (page 45) and pretend (page 159):

Be sure to check out this week's Poetry Friday roundup by Catherine Flynn at Reading to the Core.

Happy writing!

PS: Congratulations to Linda M, winner of our giveaway of JoAnn Early Macken's new book, Grow!

Thursday, April 15, 2021

A Blogiversary Blast from the Past: Encouraging Words

 Happy Blogiversary!

Hard to believe that we Teaching Authors have been together a dozen years!  I've known Carmela, and former members Jean Marie and JoAnn since our Vermont College days, but I've made so many new writing friends as others joined the blog. I especially can't imagine life with out our original and "still present" members Esther and April.

To celebrate, we are looking back at our favorite posts by fellow TA's. Difficult to select just one post to "remember' here. However, as I continue to struggle to "find the writing me" again, JoAnn's post of August 5, 2011 jumped out and said "Pick me! Pick me!" Encouraging Words reviewed Seeing the Blue Between: Advice and Inspiration for Young Poets by Paul B. Janezcko. I am always looking for author interviews, secretly hoping that one of them will have the answer to writer's block. Based on JoAnn's recommendation, I bought Seeing the Blue Between. The subtitle says it all; lots of good advice and inspiration. (However, no one has a magic formula to banish writer's block.)

Speaking of "seeing the blue," this is the current writing view from my writing porch, Ocean Isle Beach, NC. If that sort of blue doesn't inspire, I don't know what will!

Posted by Mary Ann Rodman

Friday, April 9, 2021

YAY! and HOORAY! It’s our 12th Blogiversary!

 According to my trusty calendar, come April 22, my fellow 

TeachingAuthors and I have been posting for TWELVE years!


My opening sentence deserves 11 more exclamation points, plus 

one for Good Luck.

Traditionally, anything silk celebrates a 12th anniversary.

Here’s a photo of several of us raising our voices in thanks 

to our trusty and trusted incomparable Administrator and Founder, 

Carmela Martino, who continues to make sure our weekly posts 

unfold as smooth as silk.

To celebrate, for the next 4 weeks, each TeachingAuthor will share 

another TeachingAuthor’s post she especially holds dear.

It goes without saying: all of my fellow bloggers en-courage-ed me 

to raise my voice and share my Writer’s Life and Truths with our 


I’ve always been in awe of both April’s oh, so poetic posts and her

fearlessly-and-fiercely-acquired illustration skills.

Her October 23, 2020 post, however – “Hop to it!” -  had me printing 

her fortifying words pronto and keeping them nearby in case my voice 


Here’s April’s original poem “Exercising My Voice” from Sylvia Vardell’s 


Thank you, Readers, for twelve glorious years!

And thanks to Tabatha Yeatts for hosting today’s Poetry Friday.

Esther Hershenhorn

Thursday, April 1, 2021

National Poetry Month, Poetry Friday, and a Book Giveaway!

Happy National Poetry Month! Happy Poetry Friday! You might remember me as a former Teaching Author. Today, I'm back to visit and celebrate.

Happy spring! Here in Wisconsin, spring weather means alternating between basking in delicious sunlight and piling on warmer clothes.



spring bounces


gallops through gardens

leaving green footprints

Signs of spring are popping up all over! We have lots to celebrate today—including a giveaway of my new picture book Grow, illustrated by Stephanie Fizer Coleman and published by Boyds Mills & Kane. With a multicultural cast of characters and STEAM-related content, Grow is a celebration of the wondrous ways young animals and people grow into unique individuals. 

Inspired by encounters with wildlife in woods and ponds and our own backyard, Grow began long ago as a message of hope for our two young sons, who are now grown and on their own. Never give up!

Poetry Friday!

Mary Lee at A Year of Reading has today's Poetry Friday Roundup. Enjoy!

Book Giveaway!

Enter the giveaway for a chance to win an autographed copy of Grow! The giveaway ends April 16, 2021 and is open to U.S. residents only.

To enter, use the Rafflecopter widget below. (If the widget doesn't appear, click on the link at the end of this post that says "a Rafflecopter giveaway" to enter.) You may enter via 1, 2, or all 3 options. Here's info on how to enter a Rafflecopter giveaway and the difference between signing in with Facebook vs. with an email address

If you choose option 2, you must leave a comment on TODAY'S blog post, on the TeachingAuthors Facebook page, or in an email to teachingauthors [at] gmail [dot] com. If you submit your comment via email or Facebook, you must still enter the drawing via Rafflecopter. 

Good luck!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, March 26, 2021

Saving the Heart of a School Year With the Power of Story


On March 13th of last year, I said “so long for now” to my transitional kindergarteners/kindergarteners in Los Angeles.  It was supposed to be for two weeks, but doubt tugged at the edges of my mind.  I stayed late that day and collected everything that meant anything to me and packed it into my car.  I really wasn’t sure when we were coming back.

Even the thought of two weeks online without any preparation or direction was daunting.  How would I preserve the heart of my little community that we had worked so hard to nurture? 

My wide-eyed, five-year-olds had spent six months  learning to connect, communicate, and create together.  Stories kept them bound to each other. Braided together by three-quarters of a year,  they had learned that their stories were valuable and listening to each other’s stories was equally so.  We had created an artery from which those stories flowed straight to the heart of our class, keeping us alive and nourished.

The expectations for teachers on that first Monday of virtual class, March 16, 2020 were high but undefined, ambiguous, and undetermined. There was no roadmap. No guideposts. No precedence that we knew of (a year later it turns out that this is not the first time in history that schools were shuttered because of a pandemic.)  I didn’t even have the proper technology to switch to virtual teaching. 

But, when it comes to children, it’s often very simple.  As long as you speak to their hearts and can hear their hearts beat back,  you can’t go wrong.  Those last three months were painful for all of us. The  simple answer at the time was to hold onto storytelling.  It was our life raft that we rode to the other side.

I began the new school year in August with the same intent, creating a new artery with a different set of young storytellers.  Beginning with four and five-year-olds who had never been in formal school was like the cliché, “building the plane while flying it.” 

I did not have the advantage of beginning with a group of students in-person and finishing up online.  This was a whole new frontier. How could I bring this group together and create cohesion amongst young children who were still at the beginning of their development in terms of social skills? Most importantly, could I save the school year with the power of story? Could we build that artery like I had the year before? I was unsure.

I am a big believer in the power of story and so my lack of direction led me to my most basic core value as both a teacher and an author.  Stories are the only thing we leave behind when our time on this earth has been completed.  The stories other people tell about us and the life we led is our only true legacy after we are long gone.  Learning to tell our stories and to recognize the stories of others is the essence of humanity.

Stories define us and dare us to dream.  They simultaneously connect us to each other and allow us to shine individually as we explore our own narratives.  Stories are perhaps the most powerful thing that humans create.  They are what set us apart from other species.  They are how we communicate to each other, to our young, and across generations and centuries.  They defy time and space.

 I believe that the art of storytelling is the most basic skill that children need.  Most academic subjects flow from story and narrative. And so, I travelled deep down to the memory of the lifeblood that flowed through that artery that  I had created the year before under much different circumstances. When faced with the dilemma of what I would teach my young students  virtually, my path led me back to keeping our humanity.  Preserving our humanity with stories that flowed through the artery would sustain us and learning lessons that reached beyond, writing, and arithmetic would save the heart of our education. 

The media says that we have lost a year of learning,  but I disagree.    

The students in my class this year have learned to tell their stories to each other. We have not lost.  We have gained. I believe we have gained  back our heart in education. I believe we have  preserved our humanity. What really makes us human? Standards and tests? Data and criteria? Or stories that create a rich tapestry of existence.

 My students paused and observed things around them that they would never have noticed in the hustle and bustle of their typical lives. Our community has been able to notice the details of their personal stories that they usually don’t have time for, as life rushes by.  More importantly, we have grown our relationships and have created rich narratives.  

We have not lost. Perhaps we have shed the things that have cluttered the “being” part of human being and travelled down to our true heart where stories keep us alive and will for generations to come . . . and then some.

Stories are the lifeblood that flow through the artery. They feed the heart of education which is our humanity. Isn’t that the true purpose of education?  I’d like to think so.

Posted by Zeena M. Pliska

For more information about my picture books and teaching experiences click

If the videos don't play for you above.  You can click on them below.

And if the picture book trailer for Hello, Little One: A Monarch Butterfly Story from my previous post didn't play, you can click on the link below.

Hello, Little One: A Monarch Butterfly Story 

Written by Zeena M. Pliska and illustrated by Fiona Halliday

Published by Page Street Kids

Video created by  Kyle Ragsdale

Friday, March 19, 2021

1 Day, 2 shots, 3 teachers: So Grateful!

Howdy, Campers, and Happy Poetry Friday! (The link to PF are below)

This round, we’re sharing “Matters of the Heart”💕. Esther starts us off in her characteristically generous, loving manner, offering three books that keep her heart beating;: Of, By and For Our Reader’s,Writer’s and Teacher’s Hearts; as she takes time off from this blog (I miss her already), Bobbi shares a song I’ve fallen in love with, Baba Yetu, in her very short post, Song of the Week: Here’s to You!;  Mary Ann, who always writes honestly from her heart, shares old family photos as she chronicles her process of returning to writing in Welcoming Home the Prodigal Heart; and Carmela shares two original haiku inspired by a prompt on Storystorm in her post, #TwoHaikuFromTwo.

And me? As a spring breeze of hope blows across my face, three things come to mind when I hear the word "heart"...

1. Heartbreak: March 7, 2020 ~ the last time I taught in person at UCLA.💔

I thought I was so clever putting up this sign to keep our classroom safe that day     :

Pl                                                Please read the exciting tale of
                                   ALCOHOL AND KLEENEX ~ A LOVE STORY 
· Pour a small amount of alcohol in your palm.
· Wash" your hands the same way you would with soap and water (the classic love story you may be more familiar with). 
· Let your hands air dry completely.  Do not rub them on your clothes to dry. 
                                          Thank you.

(We live and learn: I quickly stopped using alcohol. Anyone need a bottle? I have extra.)

There are many markers for when, exactly, the pandemic began in the US. The consensus is March 11, 2020. I was haunted recently, thinking felt as if it had been at least two years. Or ten. I wrote this poem March 11, 2021:


by April Halprin Wayland

This day.

This day a year ago

(or maybe more? Am I remiss?)

We stood upon a precipice

and knew not this:

this day the route was stayed, dismissed.

We thought it was the way but no—

it was the cliff.

2. 💕Take Heart: Two shots!💕

Now, thanks to the policies of a human, humane POSTUS, I’m double-vaccinated, as is my husband. And though we know democracy is not and has never been a spectator sport, still, my heart beats with hope for our country. Soon we may have a big, warm hug with our son and his beloved (he's an ER doc in Albuquerque, we live in Southern California)!

3. 👪From Heart Burn to Open Hearted: Three Musketeers teach a three-hour class👪

In the writing/teaching realm, my heart is filled with affection and appreciation for... 

Alexis O'Neill ~ photo by Sonya Sones



...two dear friends with whom I've been teaching intro to picture book class for absolute beginners each spring for many years. This quarter, UCLA Extension Writers' Program asked us to condense our one-day eight hour class into a one-day, three hour class.

Did you catch that? From eight hours down to three.

How were we going to teach everything a beginning picture book writer wants to know but is afraid to ask in THREE hours?

ACK! There's so much students won't be getting. 

But as every seasoned teacher knows, that's nothing new, right? Learning what to leave out is part of teaching. It's just that remote classes gobble up time like bears gobbling blueberries

Once we agreed that stuffing eight hours into three was like stuffing a dictionary into a thimble, we ripped up our syllabus and our carefully paced 8-hour schedule, created a tear in the space-time continuum,

...and crawled through.

And now it feels as if we've birthed something new. It's exciting!  So...if you know someone who doesn't know ANYTHING about picture books but is curious, please tell them about our class ~ just $30 for 3 hours. It'll be an adventure. Tell them to join us!  

Here's our flyer with Barney's fabulous illustration:



Saturday, April 3, 2021, 12-3pm PST

You have the dream~ I've always wanted to write a children's picture book. 
But how? This inspiring class offers you practical tools to help you realize that dream. It includes writing exercises, examples of current picture books and behind-the-scenes stories and advice from award-winning authors. By the end of this class you'll have tools to guide you in this vibrant field.

Seasoned teachers and award-winning children's picture book creators
Alexis O'NeillBarney Saltzberg and April Halprin Wayland 

Please understand that learning to write a picture book in three hours
is like speed-dating a cheetah on roller skates. Downhill. 
Still, the chase will be quite exciting!

Enrollment is limited.

Many thanks to RhymeZone and its "find phrases with the word heart in it" option.

Now it's your turn: if you were to list 3 things that changed your heart this past year, what would they be?

Thank you to Linda for hosting Poetry Friday at TeacherDance this week!

posted by April Halprin Wayland with the help of Sheldon, our 20-year-old tortoise, who came out of hibernation today to assist with all his heart.

Friday, March 12, 2021

Two #HaikuFromTwo--from the Heart

Happy Poetry Friday! Today I share two original haiku as I continue our series on "matters of the heart." Esther kicked off this topic the week of Valentine's Day by discussing three books that have recently touched her reader's heart. I'm taking a slightly different view, talking instead about my writer's heart, as Mary Ann did in her post.

I mentioned back in December that one of the things I was looking forward to in 2021 was "becoming even more steeped in poetry, both reading and writing it." I'm happy to say I've been following through on that intention. So I was especially pleased when I read a Storystorm 2021 post by Amanda Davis in which she described her #HaikuFromTwo challenge as a way to find story ideas. Here's the graphic she shared in her post:

I loved the idea! At the time, I was reading From the Desk of Zoe Washington (Katherine Tegen Books) by Janae Marks The two random words my finger landed on were lemonade (page 77) and play (page 155). I came up with the following #HaikuFromTwo and Tweeted it on Feb. 3:

Next, I read the novel-in-verse Reenie’s Turn (Regal House Publishing) by my friend and fellow SCBWI-IL author Carol Coven Grannick. The random words I fell upon in that novel were mysterious (page 31) and window (page 150. On March 2, I Tweeted the following #HaikuFromTwo:

I really enjoyed writing these #HaikuFromTwo--they're a quick way to nourish my writer's heart. So I plan to keep writing them. You can follow me on Twitter if you'd like to see what I come up with next. (I also Tweet links to our latest TeachingAuthors posts there.)

Meanwhile, make sure to check out this week's Poetry Friday roundup by Heidi Mordhorst at my juicy little universe.

Happy writing!

Friday, March 5, 2021

Welcoming Home the Prodigal Heart

 What keeps my writer's heart going?

Here is what I almost wrote:

Nothing keeps my writer's heart going. My writer's heart flatlined last March, the day the CDC announced that I was officially elderly and at risk.  Before last March, I thought of myself as a ten-year-old heart in a body of indeterminate age. Overnight, I became an old person who could die. My ten-year-old writer's heart curled up in a closet somewhere. Except for blog posts, I've written almost nothing since this time last year. 

Me, Carmela and April at a long ago conference

All the things that normally keep my "kid's heart" going...are gone. Young Writer's Camp. Didn't happen last summer, haven't heard about this year. Writer's group and conferences?  Gone or gone virtual. (I have difficulty hearing on Zoom.) Eavesdropping on random people. There are no random people because I don't leave the house unless it's a dire emergency. Talking to friends, over a glass of wine, meandering from subject to subject. (I mentioned my problems with Zoom, right?)

The world was so hateful and judgmental and scary...writing was the last thing I wanted to do. Not writing was the scariest thing of all, because writing is how I make sense of life. Now, the more I journaled, the less sense anything made.  Words not only failed me...I couldn't find words. I was using a thesaurus just to have a conversation with my husband. I couldn't remember why I ever thought I could write.

Maybe I couldn't write any more. 

Then something happened.

Yesterday morning, I started out on dire emergency errands...picking up prescriptions from various pharmacies. I left the house in cords and a flannel shirt. By the time I got home, the temperature was in the 70's and I was hot. So I changed into shorts and a t-shirt, and took my dog for a walk.

I wear shorts around the house in winter, because my husband insists on keeping the thermostat set to "The Tropics in July."  I walk my dog several times a day. Neither of these things are unusual. However, for the first time in months and months...I walked the dog while wearing shorts. A warm breeze tickled my knees. Boing! In an instant, I was ten years old again, wearing shorts after a winter of wool tights and storm boots. Free of slogging through slush and toe-freezing winds, I was barelegged and skipping along in my new Keds. (OK, yesterday I was wearing Vans.)

Mom and I brave another Chicago winter

My cousins and I (I'm the one shorts.)

My child's heart had returned. My inner ten-year-old is who writes my stories. Life was fascinating when I was ten, full of possibility and  hope, both sadly lacking this past year. Kids are all about hope. That's why I write for them and not their parents.

My family has been spared sickness this year, and for that I am truly thankful. But COVID and all the accompanying chaos did a number on my heart and soul. I thought my ten-year-old heart had packed her bags and hit the road, never to be seen again. 

My writer's heart has come out from wherever she was hiding, ready to hope again. And write. However, she needs time to recover. She might blow bubbles on the back porch.  Or dance around the den to her old Monkees albums.  She will most definitely re-read her favorite childhood books. And of course, dog walks in shorts and Keds. 

Some day, in-person writing conferences and long talks over wine will return. I've had vaccine shot number one, with number two scheduled for St. Patrick's Day. Until it's safe for me to re-enter the world, there is time to re-read the two best books ever written--Charlotte's Web and Harriet the Spy.  E.B. White and Louise Fitzhugh certainly knew how to keep their child hearts beating.

Posted by Mary Ann Rodman