Friday, July 12, 2024


Howdy, Campers ~ and Happy Poetry Friday! (Link to PF is at the end)

Look what I found in the depths of my closet:

No TeachingAuthor we've asked remembers who created these t-shirts nor for what occasion...which makes me laugh.                                                                                            
This is our final post celebrating our 15th (FIFTHEENTH!) blogiversary. 

Bobbi wrote a post titled What Comes Next?, Zeena posted Congratulations on 15 years!!! Here's to 15 more!!! Mary Ann posted 15 Years? No!!!  Esther posted  Happy15th Book and Gift Card Giveaway!  and Carmela, our Mother Board Blogger, posted 15th TA Blogiversary and Book and Gift Card Giveaway!

Let me be upfront with you. In my very first post, I wrote, "I learned that in teaching, as in poetry, less is more."   So here's the truth: this post is too long and I'm tired because I'm a puppy mom. I'm sure one day I'll get more sleep, but for now, I'm going to honor my tiredness and turn off my laptop without spending hours making it perfect. 

Because we all know there is no such thing as perfect. 

Over the years...

By the time I wrote my first TeachingAuthors post on May 8, 2009, I'd taught workshops in schools across the globe. But--whoa!--now the head of the UCLA Extension Writers' Program was on the phone, asking me to teach...TALL people?

In that first post, I blogged about how scared I was to teach adults:

"I teaching teens at my home. The most important thing I learned from that was not to throw every single solitary thing I’d ever learned at them (those poor overwhelmed kids!)."

Over the years, as a teacher, I have learned to say less (except today on this post...forgive me). 

I've also learned to be more authentic. More human. More me. 

Here's an example:

This morning, my critique group of incredible, smart writers met. We meet every other Thursday at a deli in mid-town Los Angeles. We order breakfast, talk about our joys, our struggles, our kids and/or animals...and when we've finished eating, we get down to business. 

I was feeling weird and less-then last night because I had nothing for them to critique. 

It's dang hard to be honest, but today, when it was my turn, I told them that I was not nearly as brave as they are (believe me: they are seriously brave). When my manuscripts are rejected, or an agent asks for a revision, it takes me forever to send my revised story back. I'm timid when it comes to submitting and submitting and submitting. I'm sure my stories will never be good enough. 

How did it feel to be that honest with them? Good. 

Great, actually. I got support, practical advice and lots of love.

I did bring three picture books published in 2024--I love sharing them and hearing my group's reaction to the work of other authors and illustrators. That was really, really fun. We were all in it together, asking questions like, Did anyone edit this book? and Is this poetry or simply lyrical writing? and OMG I love this book!

I left feeling uplifted.

I've learned (am still learning) to trust that "still, small voice within."

Here's what I tell myself...and my students:

>There is no "right way" to write a book, train a dog or live your life.

>Ya gotta be honest. Telling the truth is hard. It's also what reaches a reader. 

> Listen to that still, small voice within. (Mary Ann's still, small voice has told her to write the book she must write before she dies. Not mine. Mine says to write the book that plops on my head unexpectedly and drips all over my t-shirt.)

>It's up to you to figure out what your fingerprint is... 

...whose advice to take, when to leave a critique group, a conference, an agent (and when to let that manuscript rest for awhile.) 

What's your fingerprint?

Here are three poems 
I've written over the years for our blogiversarys: turns 2!

by April Halprin Wayland

We six who ride our blog horse here
are rather like that Paul Revere

“One if by land, two if by sea,”
was revolution’s poetry

We TeachingAuthors gallop, too,
to share our lantern light with you

we aim to help, support and cheer
so you can write with joy, not fear
in this New Land: Kidlitosphere

(c) 2011 April Halprin Wayland, all rights reserved turns 4!

       A Blooming Blogiversary

     Sheaves of paper, leaves of prose
     Typing wobbly rocky rows

     Planting tender inkling seeds
     Sowing words on glowing screens

     Underground the spark is struck
     Growing with some care and luck

     First a shoot, then a sprout
     Weeding all the adverbs out

     Seedlings reaching toward the sun
     Readers, writers we are one

     Blooming in the blogisphere
     Post by post, year by year

poem © 2013 April Halprin Wayland. All rights reserved turns 1!

by April Halprin Wayland 

How does it feel to cross over this creek,
to fly from tree to tree to you?
To find, in the midst of the jungle a few
readers discerning, kind and true?

How does it feel, week after week,
to water a seed, now one year old?
To watch its young, green leaves unfold
as it gives me back a thousand fold?

I feel I’m Bird, just opening her beak,
at the top of a tree, on the first day of Spring,
easily found on Google or Bing,
joining five friends to Tweet, to sing!

© 2010 April Halprin Wayland. All rights reserved

Here's how I ended my first blog's even truer--today:

So, it's been a process. I've become a TEACHING AUTHOR through the students I've worked with from kindergarten to AARP, through my colleagues, through my own teachers.

I’ve taught in the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program for 10 years now [Update: this year marks my 25th year of teaching in UCLA's Writers' Program] and this year: 

I. Finally. Understand:
Teaching is generosity.

I feel incredibly lucky to be part of TEACHING AUTHORS, and look forward to more of this great adventure of camaraderie and discovery and learning from you.

(photo by my husband, who is proud that he's
hard to find on the internet)

Thank you, Robyn at Life on the Deckle Edge  for hosting PF!

written with love by April Halprin Wayland 

7-month-old Sadie 

and 5-year-old Kitty

Friday, June 21, 2024

What Comes Next?


Teaching Authors is celebrating its Fifteenth Anniversary! That’s amazing, on every level! I’ve been with this amazing group for (almost) ten years. My first post was October 6, 2014, in which I discussed writing my drafts out by hand.  By the way, I still write everything out in longhand.

As a team, the six of us share our unique perspective as writing teachers who are also working writers. But as I reflect on what being a part of this blog meant to my career, I admit that it has meant so much more to me on a personal level.

You’ll remember our backstory: we met while students at Vermont College of Fine Arts, earning our MFA. I graduated 24 years ago! Friendships come and go with the ebb of time. Each serves a purpose for however long they last. Friendships change, evolve, and sometimes they come to an end. That doesn’t mean they matter less; it just means change happens.

But in all that time, amid all the changes, the TAs have been a constant.

I am grateful to the TAs.  I thank each of the TAs for having invited me into your circle, for being there in these last years that have been defined by dispiriting rejections, overwhelming life challenges, and ensuing life changes. I have learned so much from each of you, about the craft, the writing life, and about the nature of belonging. I have been inspired by each of you. And I have been awed by each of you for your dedication and passion.  And, I am thoroughly in awe of Carmela, who has managed the blog since the beginning.

 I am reminded of May Yang’s poem, To All My Friends:

To all my friends who have been with me in weakness
when water falls rush down my two sides

To all my friends who have felt me in anguish
when this earthen back breaks between the crack of two blades

To all my friends who have held me in rage
when fire tears through swallows behind tight grins

I know you
I see you 
I hear you

(Read the full poem here.) 

 So what comes next?  I’m looking ahead, planning out what I need, when  I realized…

I’ve been teaching forty years. FORTY years.

I've taught at high school, community college, university and graduate schools.  I’ve taught English as a Second Language, British Lit, Children's Lit, Writing Tech Reports, Critical Theory, and Harry Potter (yes, Harry Potter and the hero’s journey!). Critical Research, Graduate Research Strategies, Graduate Reading Strategies. Business Writing. Creative Writing. Graduate Thesis Writing one, two and three. Graduate Literature Studies. The Business of Writing. Editing and Line-editing. Composition one and two, and three.

And, I earned all the relevant certifications to keep going. BUT I didn’t make tenure because I was too old, and didn’t – couldn’t -- create a strong sense of community (because I was too crazy busy trying to keep a roof over my head and paying for my own medical insurance.)

(By the way, adjuncts hold the system together. I could go on, but I'd get rather frothy about how the system treat adjuncts...)

And yet, it’s important to remember the bigger story. I have survived for forty years, on my own, keeping a cabin’s roof over my head, making my own way doing (mostly) what I want beyond what I need. May not always have been the wisest of choices, but they’ve always been my choices. No wonder I’ve grown up to be such a roguish – and unmuzzled --  loggerhead.

More than this. I have met some massively impressive and splendid people along the way.  It has made the journey worthwhile.

So, what am I going to do next? Whatever I want. The possibilities are endless. Maybe I’ll be a pirate. And I'll continue writing about my adventures in writing, right here. 

Mary Read, in a colorized engraving (date unknown). Getty Images / Hulton Archive


 Congratulations to Teaching Authors, and thank you for bringing me along!

--Bobbi Miller




Friday, June 7, 2024

Congratulations on 15 Years!!! Here's to 15 More!!!

Congratulations to Danielle H.  You are the winner of the blogiversary giveaway!

The best thing about this 15th blogiversary is getting to know my fellow bloggers. I am the new kid on the block, so I actually don’t know everybody’s stories.  Because stories bring us closer together and build relationships, this has been the perfect opportunity to peer into the lives of the 5 other authors/teachers and feel genuinely a little closer to them.  Seems so strange in this digital world in which we live, I have blogged with Carmela, Bobbi, Esther, Mary Ann, and April for over 3 years and barely know them except for April. 

I was invited to temporarily blog as a substitute by April.  I was honored that such a renowned children’s book author would even consider including me.  April has quite an amazing reputation amongst up-and-coming picture book authors who have taken her UCLA extension classes.  She is a legend. I am humbly grateful. 

Carmela, I did not know that you got your MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College and I didn’t know that your published middle grade novel was your creative thesis.

Esther, I didn’t know that you wrote S is For Story.  So sorry it’s out of print.  It sounds wonderful!

Mary Ann, I didn’t know that you have a 30-year-old daughter who teachers pre-k in a public school.

I am looking forward to the other stories to be revealed through the blog posts that follow mine.

As for me, 15 years ago…

In 2009, I was almost 8 years into my adventure as a single parent by choice.  

Prior to my decision to have a child, I had told stories as a filmmaker (ish), journalist, theater director, visual artist, and photographer.  I was a world traveler and a social justice activist. My story making days were put on pause as I concentrated on making my own life stories with my young daughter. My craft as a teacher got stronger as I found myself interested and immersed as a parent in my own daughter’s education.  I was happy to let go of the other directions that my life had taken, to concentrate on this new phase.  

However, I did hold on to one aspect of my activism, electoral politics. Gone for the moment were the days of making change through direct action, legal observing, and organizing.  My good friend was elected to the school board (of the second largest school district in the nation) and I found myself in a close relationship with the policymaking of my district.  Education justice became my focus.

I am happy that my life veered off in these new directions.  They have added to my understanding of the world and have strengthened the storytelling I would eventually return to as a children’s book author. Although I had dabbled in picture book writing in my early adulthood, I entered the kidlit world with commitment when my daughter became less dependent on me. I began writing when she was 13.  Signed with my agent when she was 17.  Published my first picture book when she was nearly 19.

As for my two loves: Education and Publishing, 15 years ago…

We started to see the negative effects of the policies of No Child Left Behind, enacted 9 years prior.  High stakes testing began to permeate the elementary school experience, shifting the focus of teaching. In 2010 the Common Core Standards were adopted in California. As I wrote about in my last post, the Common Core Standards have moved the expectation of young readers away from fiction and toward non-fiction. Imagination is less valued as a result of these standards. I feel that the shifts in education have moved the publishing industry, as well.  I read far fewer current picture books with fictional stories to my kindergarteners because books without complex, narrative stories seem to be the norm.  I see many Social Emotional Learning themed books that encourage readers to “be themselves,” “be strong,” “be brave.”  There are plenty of non-fiction picture books. I can’t say that I don’t long for the stories of the 90’s. Don’t get me wrong, I love the books that I see my fellow authors write.  I also find myself writing books that fit in this current market. I do hope that the pendulum swings a bit to include strong fictional picture books with narrative stories. 

I also have observed and am reading articles that are noting that children are reading less for enjoyment.  As a teacher, I am noticing this trend as well and believe that there is not one factor but maybe many.  Of course, I believe that social media and electronics in the hands of young children must have some effect.  How can it not?  At the same time, the focus on “the science of reading” has created a culture of reading for utility not joy.  Add to these ingredients, the over-testing of very young children which leads to the false assumptions that 4 and 5-year-olds should be reading or they are failing.  Also add an over scheduled world and we just might have the perfect storm. We’ve created an environment that doesn’t value the joy of reading. We don’t value imagination.

In the last 15 years, the corporate narrative that public schools are failing has become stronger.  Blaming teachers and public education for gaps between the “haves” and the “have nots.” Book banning has proliferated.  And AI is creeping into the education of our very young  (I am currently in development on a short narrative film exploring this topic.)

But all is not lost nor shall it ever be as long as we continue to use our voices and teach others to use theirs as well.  This is why I am a teaching-author.

Finally, the theme of coming full circle came up in the other blog posts.  For me, I also find myself full circle.  Having begun my storytelling journey wanting to tell stories utilizing the medium of film, I have returned to my post-college roots to explore short filmmaking while I continue to write more children’s books and teach more children.

What will the next 15 years bring?

By Zeena M. Pliska

Check out my developing film project

Check out my developing film project

Friday, May 17, 2024

15 Years? No!!! Posted by Mary Ann Rodman

 Fifteen years? Teaching Authors is fifteen years old? How is that possible?

 I have no sense of time.  People kept telling me “Wait until you have a child, and you’ll see how time flies.”

Well, no.  My daughter will be thirty in July, and her birth seems to have taken place in a “galaxy long ago and far away.” Everything in my life feels like it happened in the last Ice Age. I swear I’ve been writing these blogs for at least fifty years. 

So what is there to say on this momentous occasion? For one thing, we Teaching Authors, and especially our Mighty Blog Mistress Carmela, should give ourselves a big, old pat on the back. When we began posting 2009, everybody and his dog had a blog. The majority fizzled out after a couple of months…or weeks. We’re not the only blog that’s lasted this long…but we are definitely in an exclusive club. Let’s hear it for us!

I suppose this is a time for looking back. 

For 12 years I really was a Teaching Author, leading Young Writers’ Workshops and Camps in the Atlanta area. Then COVID hit and…well, there was really no way to do day-long programs for kids 9-15, virtually. I haven’t taught since 2019, and I really, really miss it.  The same thing happened with school visits. (I’m available for workshops and school visits...hint, hint.)

Life has shifted in my family as well.  Most of these fifteen years I was the “Sandwich Woman”; getting my daughter through school while trying to take care of my parents in another time zone. For the past ten years, my husband has been commuting from Atlanta to Chicago for work…every single week (except for the COVID year when he telecommuted from the kitchen table.) After four previously announced retirement dates (the first was March 2020 and we all know what happened then!), he is officially retiring this August.  My parents are gone, now. My daughter is teaching in a public school Pre-K, while pursuing a double masters degree in Special Education. (Her students can’t believe she was the inspiration for MY BEST FRIEND and FIRST GRADE STINKS!) The circumstances are constantly changing but life goes on.

I had a “milestone” birthday in March.  I’ve never really thought about age, but that particular number has brought me up short. My husband’s retirement plans are unformed, apart from wanting to move away from Atlanta traffic. The future seems fuzzy and uncertain. However, I am hanging on to something I was told in the Vermont MFA program; write the book you must write before you die (not that I'm planning on doing that in the near future!) So that’s what am I doing now.

I press on.

Don't forget--you have until May 18th to enter our Blogiversary Giveaway Book, S is for Story by TA Esther Herschenhorn. Details are here. 

Posted by Mary Ann Rodman

Friday, May 3, 2024

Happy 15th Blogiversary! + Book/Gift Card Giveaway


Crystal marks a 15th anniversary,

so choose a flute from those pictured above, then join me in raising 

a toast to celebrate our TeachingAuthors 15th Blogiversary!

Next, click here to enter our celebratory Giveaway to win a copy of 

my S IS FOR STORY and a $15 Bookshop gift card.

                                        S is for story, I wrote,

                                        so brilliant in its might,

                                        to help us see

                                        ourselves, our world,

                                        in oh, such dazzling light.

Reflecting on the past fifteen years, I see, as Carmela did, the 

circular structure of My Story.

I also see, and dazzlingly so: the more things change, the 

more they stay the same.

How honored I was when Carmela invited me to join five 

other children’s book writers who also taught writing 

to create this blog.


As I shared in my very first post in April of 2009, I knew in my 

heart since learning my ABC’S, I wanted to teach and write 

children’s books.

I was grateful for the opportunity to share my Susan-Lucci-like 

Writer’s Journey to help others tell their stories to children, 

especially since I’d soon be publishing S IS FOR STORY.

As always, I was hopeful, (1) that I could hold my own in the 

company of such talented and highly-degree-ed writers – and – 

(2) that I could handle the requisite software technology.  I’m 

an unashamed Luddite.

But…and isn’t there always a but, I soon realized: TEACHING 

had over-taken my AUTHORING, filling my days and often, 


My story had become helping others tell their stories.

My students and the writers I coached – my “storied treasures” 

as I described them in my very first Thanku - had claimed my 

hearand refused to let go, which was just what my book 

characters – Lowell, Rudie, Pippin and Howie – had done.

And as former Chicago Cubs Manager Joe Maddon used to 

say, “It’s all about the heartbeat.”

Though I wasn’t writing a children’s book, I needed to do 

everything a children’s book does, beyond entertaining: 

inform, encourage, inspire and always, always offer Hope.

Chicago’s Newberry Library and the University of 

Chicago’s Graham School of Continuing Education 

continue to gift me with outstanding smart and caring 

human beings eager to tell their stories to children.

They’re joined by the singular writers I’m privileged to 

coach – in person or now via ZOOM, plus those I’ve been 

lucky enough to mentor and the Young Authors I’ve 

taught in countless school visits. 

All engage my head and heart on a daily basis.

To seed and feed, to grow these writers, I grew classes, 

workshops, seminars, programs, meeting writers’ needs, 

no matter their age or years on task. I’ve presented here, 

in Chicago, but anywhere and everywhere, often thanks 


Believe it or not, thanks to the Pandemic, I even 

learned how to teach virtually! I utilized the

unicorn's collective nouns to label the squares 

on my screen my marvel, my blessing, my glory 

of writers.

And miraculously, with a whole lot of help from 

Carmela, I posted on schedule, sharing my views, thoughts 

and opinion on the selected subject, always in service of 

offering Readers a Teaching Take-away.


Of course…and isn’t there always an of course, my students and 

writers reside in our Children’s Book World, where I reside, too, 

gladly on their behalf.

NEW has become this ever-changing World’s operative word, 

especially these past fifteen years.

New formats. New genres.

New publishers. New ways to publish a story.

New communities, online, offline.

New institutions of learning, both in person and virtually.

New gatekeepers and ways to reach our Readers.

New technology.

New social platforms.

New awards, grants, booksellers, resources.

And thanks to Walter Dean Myers’ NY Times OpEd that led 

to We Need Diverse Books, new doors, windows and mirrors 

for generations of Young Readers.

My job? To bring all of the above to the attention of my 

students and writers and to our Readers’ attention, too.


Yetand of course there's a yet, our CBW's bottom line 

remains as always.

Stories matter.

Readers matter.

WE matter.

As I shared (with the help of my then 11-year-old tech-savvy 

grandson) in my recent Power Point Chicago workshop 

presentation As Our Children’s Book World Turns: the more 

things change, the more they stay the same.

It's all about the heartbeat.


Lo and behold, while I was fully-engaged seeding and feeding 

writers, they must have been seeding and feeding me!

How else could two very different characters – one a colonial 

Jewess, one a bunny potter – grab my heart and refuse to let 

go until I get their stories told.

Writing brought me to our Children’s Book World and in truth 

to this blog.

How good it feels to be writing - and revising - children’s books 

again, while of course, still TEACHING, but yet with 

AUTHORING now and once again in view.

 I remain hopeful…

and grateful.

How could I not?

Thank you to my eleven fellow TeachingAuthors bloggers, 

veteran and former*, for sharing your Smarts and Hearts 

these past fifteen years.

Thank you to our TeachingAuthors Readers, storied treasures, 

too, loyal Fans, Feeders and Fuelers.


Happy 15th Blogiversary!  And don’t forget to click here to 

enter our Book and Book Gift Card Giveaway!


Esther Hershenhorn


Thank you to Buffy Silverman/, whom I’ve cheered on since 

our Writing Paths crossed oh, so long ago in Illinois, for hosting 

today’s Poetry Friday.


One spot has opened up in my July 7-12 Vermont Manuscript 

Workshop! To learn more, click here and scroll down the page.

*Joann Early Macken, Jeanne Marie Grunwell-Ford, 

  Jill Esbaum, Laura Purdie Salas, Gwendolyn Hooks, 

  Carla McKillough

Thursday, April 18, 2024

15th TA Blogiversary Book and Gift Card Giveaway!

I can hardly believe it, but this Monday, April 22, 2024, [in addition to being Earth Day] will be the 15th anniversary of the founding of our TeachingAuthors blog! To celebrate, we're giving away an autographed copy of a very special book (hint: it was written by one of our TeachingAuthors) PLUS a $15 gift card to You'll find the giveaway details at the end of this post. Also, in honor of Poetry Friday, I am including a poem excerpt from our giveaway book. (Another hint for you!)  

When we founded TeachingAuthors back in 2009, I had no idea we'd still be here so many years later! Today I kick off a series of posts commemorating this milestone. Each of the TeachingAuthors will reflect on how her writing, her outlook, and/or the industry has changed over the last 15 years.

In one of my earliest posts here, I explained how I became a TeachingAuthor. At that time, I was teaching writing classes for adults and children at the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, IL and other local venues. Candlewick had published Rosa, Sola, the middle-grade novel I wrote for my creative thesis for my MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College, and I was working on several picture book manuscripts--some I'd started at Vermont College and others I'd drafted later. I'd loved reading picture books to my young son and had hoped to publish my own. By 2009, I had received some encouraging rejections, but I never found a publisher for any of those picture books. 

I believe I've shared here before that I think one of my biggest career mistakes was not writing another middle-grade novel to follow up Rosa, Sola. I'd had several ideas, but none of them quite worked. (And I really wanted to publish a picture book.) Perhaps if I'd sold a second novel to Candlewick, they would have published a paperback edition of Rosa, Sola and it wouldn't have gone out of print when it did. But I was honored to have a middle-grade short story published in a Candlewick anthology that came out in 2010: I Fooled You: Ten Stories of Tricks, Jokes, and Switcheroos, edited by Johanna Hurwitz. That story, "Biz Z, Cammi, and Me," allowed me to prove to myself (and the world) that I can write humorous stories. 😀

My career path has taken other unexpected twists and turns. Back in 2009, I could never have imagined that I would write a historical romance set in 18th-century Milan. Or that, after I finally finished it, I'd end up putting the manuscript in the proverbial drawer when I couldn't find a publisher, despite it winning several awards. But that's what happened with my young-adult historical Playing by Heart, as our long-time blog readers may recall. That book's path eventually had a happy ending, though, when it was published by a small press. I was thrilled to announce the good news here in January of 2017.   

The story of Rosa, Sola had a happy ending too. I eventually got my rights back from Candlewick and self-published the novel in both paperback and ebook format. In fact, we celebrated our 7th TeachingAuthors blogiversary with a reveal of the book's new cover and a giveaway. I'm so pleased that readers continue to find and enjoy the novel.

Now my writing path is circling back to the beginning--the very beginning. I started writing as a young teen, initially writing only poetry. I have returned to those roots the last few years, taking poetry classes and having my poems published in several anthologies. (You can scroll down on the Published Works page of my website to read about my most recent poetry publications.)

I've also returned to picture book writing, both fiction and nonfiction. And just two months ago, I announced that I had signed with agent Anjanette Barr of Dunham Literary to represent those manuscripts. I've never had an agent before--back when I started in children's publishing you didn't need one, and you would, in fact, have been hard-pressed to find an agent who represented books for young readers. That's one of the many ways the industry has changed in the last 15+ years.  

For all the writers reading this, I hope the story of my writing journey isn't disheartening. I confess:  there were many times along the way when I was tempted to quit. But I'm glad I stubbornly kept plodding on. If writing is your calling, I encourage you to be UNSTOPPABLE when it comes to pursuing your goals. 

And that leads into the poem I want to share today, which is an excerpt from the very special picture book you can win as part of our blogiversary giveaway. Here's the poem:

Do you recognize it? In case you don't, here's another clue: the full page from the book: 

This page is from TeachingAuthor Esther Hershenhorn's masterful picture book S is for Story: A Writer's Alphabet, illustrated by Zachary Pullen (Sleeping Bear Press). One reason this book is perfect for our 15th blogiversary giveaway is because it was published the year we started this blog, 2009. In early October of that year, we celebrated the book's release with a whole series of posts about its making. We gave away a copy then, too!

A second reason why we want to include S is for Story in our giveaway is because it's all about the writing process. Here's a brief description from the Renaissance Learning Site

"This book utilizes the alphabet to explain and examine the techniques, tools, and strategies of those who wish to live a literary life, covering writing terms and topics such as genre and story elements, with quotes from famous authors."

But the book does so much more! Esther's energy and enthusiasm for writing and writers shines through on every page. Which is why the third reason why we're including this book in our giveaway makes me sad: S is for Story is no longer in print. 😢

Fortunately for us, though, Esther has a copy she's willing to part with that she'll autograph for one lucky winner. If you're not that winner, I encourage you to check the book out from your favorite library so that it continues to circulate.    

You'll find our giveaway details below. After you enter, don't forget to visit Heidi at my juicy little universe for this week's Poetry Friday roundup. 

To enter the drawing to win an autographed copy of S is for Story: A Writer's Alphabet PLUS a $15 digital gift card to, use the Rafflecopter widget below. (Note: 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 up to 5 options. The more options you choose, the better your odds!

If you choose option 4, you MUST leave a comment on TODAY’S blog post or on our TeachingAuthors Facebook page. If you haven’t already “liked” our Facebook page, please do so today!

If you prefer, you may submit your comment via email to: teachingauthors [at] gmail [dot] com.

Note: if you submit your comments via email or Facebook, YOU MUST STILL ENTER THE DRAWING VIA RAFFLECOPTER BELOW.  The giveaway ends May 18, 2024 and is open to U.S. Residents only.

If you're unfamiliar with using Rafflecopter, here’s info on how to enter a Rafflecopter giveaway.  And a second article explains the difference between signing in with Facebook vs. with an email address.

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Friday, April 5, 2024



Howdy, Campers ~ Happy Poetry Friday and Happy Poetry Month! (poet Joan Bransfield Graham kindly sent me that article)

Many of you may remember that our beloved 14-year-old dog, Eli died last October.  It hit Kitty hard. She wouldn't sleep in our bedroom. She didn't purr for two weeks.

Although Eli was a large dog, our empty house reminded me of a poem I wrote when my mom's dog died:  


Opening the front door,
there is no small sound of clicking nails
on the wooden floor
no bright eyes
no jumping, dancing dog.             

I have opened a pomegranate
and found no ruby seeds --
only this

published in Cricket Magazine November, 1999

Last week, we felt ready for a new dog. We knew exactly what we wanted: a cat-friendly, submissive dog, about a year old. NOT a puppy. 

we got two out of the three.  

Introducing four month-old Sadie, who fills our lives with laughter and whose puppiness creeps into most of my poems these days--hence, the title of today's post. 


I began writing a poem a day on April 1, 2010 and I've been writing one a day ever since. Today I'm offering you a few dog poems I wrote during Poetry Month 2013. (Keep in mind they're Ruff Drafts.)

You can read them all here:

Here are a four, just for you:

by April Halprin Wayland


Trust me. You don’t want your dog
spinning in circles
wondering who's calling his name.

And do NOT name your child after a month.
Trust me.
I have whiplash for thirty days every spring.

by April Halprin Wayland

I would take you
just you…

Well, you
and the usual zoo:

our tortoise and frog and our noodle-brain dog
and the cat that purrs if I can find her

and Mom’s grand piano, my scarf from Berlin
Dad’s old typewriter, my violin

and you.

by April Halprin Wayland

At this moment,
Tom is either
Mr. Cook, second grade teacher,
or God.

In the dust of the park,
five dogs sit tightly around Tom,
who is standing,
holding a dried chicken chip,
as if it were a gold medallion.

Pick me, pick me, pick me,
they seem to be saying,
like second graders,
waving their bare arms in the air.

If I sit up the straightest,
he will give it to me,
they seem to be saying,
noses held high,
backs straight,
tails up, wagging wildly.

Or perhaps they are worshipping,
praying with all their might
to the tall guy
who holds the answer to everything.


by April Halprin Wayland

Sniff, o, sniff—what glorious fumes
coats the world beyond these rooms?

You with your pens and their feathery plumes—
sit ’round the table in your conference rooms

but I have a calling beyond these doors
to the tang and the stink at the wild waves’ shores

while you’re puzzling over lines of ink,
I’ll be rolling in things that stink!

I’ll catch the tang of a porcupine’s trail,
decoding flavors that tell a tale.

You find words, I’ll follow vapors
I’ll bound through meadows, you plough your papers.

As your new poem begins to speak
I’ll uncover a treasure that reeks!


National Poetry Month was established in 1996 by the American Academy of Poets.

Here are two events for your edification:

April 9, 2024 9am PST…I’m the guest speaker in Poetry Month at Rebecca Gold’s Yogic Writing Circle I’ll speak for 30 minutes with a Q & A at the end. Each session includes a daily writing circle, Tuesday and Thursday co-writing sessions, and monthly guest speakers. Sign up on her website. Rebecca is an amazing teacher; I HIGHLY recommend her newest book, From Your Mat to Your Memoir.

April 13, 2024 11:30am PST…FREE Adult Poetry Writing Workshop. How to Put WOW in Your Poetry (Don't you want to know what WOW stands for?!?) We'll play with words and have time for writing and sharing. Chances are, your writing will never be the same. Join us for the fun at the Hermosa Beach Library 550 Pier Ave, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254

Thank you, Irene, for hosting Poetry Friday this week at Live Your Poem

posted by April Halprin Wayland with a hug she wishes weren't virtual

 A photo from long-ago when Monkey and Eli regularly read poetry to each other

poems (c) 2024 April Halprin Wayland. All rights reserved.

Friday, March 15, 2024

Don't Forget to Celebrate!


Recently, a friend shared his wisdom when another said that writing is hard, and asked if there was a way to make it easier. To this, my friend said, describing his approach to writing fiction, “Write it from inside the characters. Allow the characters to grow their own story and follow their lead. When it is complete and you are seeking opinions about how well you wrote it, leave your ego at home and allow the comments --- even the foolish or misguided ones --- to penetrate because they are talking about a book, not about you. Even a fool is correct once in a while! The goal is to create a work of art that will speak well of you. Any hack can cobble together 80,000 words, but most of that kind of writing can put a shark to sleep.”

Every term, my MFA students lament this very thing. I have to remind them that every writer carries similar worries at every stage of their career. In some part, it's the nature of the business itself. But it's also a function of human nature.

It seems the core of these worries are defined by a lot of shouldas and couldas, accompanied by a strong belief in several sacred myths about writing and writers.  Myths, they hope, that carry the secrets to and serve as a compass for how to succeed as a writer.

Myth: Writers only write when they are inspired.

I’m too old to wait around, hoping for some magical muse to show up. The truth is, writers write. It seems to me that curiosity is much more important.

Recently I’ve been going through a phase in which I really like Australian TV. The scenery. The intersection of history between indigenous and penal colonies. The Māori (and the Huka!). A common plot device is cricket – whether it’s baking, mystery, supernatural or comedy, there always seems to be a leather ball and a flat bat involved. To understand the context, I started researching cricket. And watching Australian cricket. (Baggy green is now my favorite color! What a sticky wicket!) This led me to research certain cricket personalities, then cricket history, which led to reading more about British colonialism. Which led to reading about the mid-Atlantic slave trade and the middle passage and the slave narratives. Which led me to Caribbean uprisings. While it sounds like a rabbit hole that Lewis Carrol might envy (and it was), I began noticing a seed for a story. This seed soon developed into a premise. Then it became a character. Then it became a draft.

More often it is through the act of reading and writing itself that inspiration finally decides to visit.

Myth: Writers are introverts.

There may be some truth to this. I prefer long walks to parties. I prefer languorous conversations with my flowers. Albeit, my granddaughter is pretty good at discussing the secrets of dragonflight. Others travel, attend literary events, participate in writing and reading groups, join online discussions. Sometimes I pop into one or two events.  Given my luddite nature, my relationship with social media is rather wobbly. (The irony that I’m writing a blog isn’t lost on me. But I did handwrite this first!) Some may be energized and go full steam into social events, while others find it exhausting. In the end, writers need diverse perspectives and connections to enrich their writing, but ultimately, it’s more important for you to be you.

 Myth: Method X is better than Method Y.

I’m a nerd about the writing process. I find it an endlessly fascinating topic. While I have more than a fair share of degrees and certificates in the writing process, I still attend classes, workshops and lectures given by the best in the business. If you have the chance, I can’t recommend enough the classes given by Emma D. Dryden, Harold Underdown and Eileen Robinson, and the many offerings at Free Expressions, sponsored by Lorin Oberweger and company, featuring such lecturers as Donald Maass, Chris Vogler and many others.

Whether it’s plotting versus pantsing, the hero’s journey versus the snowflake method, or saving the cat versus the three-act narrative, editing while you go or hammering out an SFD, everyone has their own way of engineering a story. My own process tends to follow four steps:

1. Research to get an overview of historical and social contexts. Besides, I like to read. You never know what treasure you’ll find.

2.  Outline, because I tend to work with a cast of characters as well as historical/social elements that require careful staging.

3. Write that SFD, usually by hand first.

4. Revise, then revise again, then revise again, because this is where the real magic happens.

What makes it work for me is that I set time apart for my writing and treat it like a job. I know how busy life becomes, having worked as a single parent maintaining a household. But it is still my job to write.

Myth: Writers are excellent spellers.

Yea. Right.

Myth: Writing is easy.

Does any of this sound easy?

Just as an engineer relies on a structurally-sound blueprint – one that, according to Larry Brooks in his book, Story Engineering, requires a plan based on proven physics and structural dynamics -- to build something that will bear weight and resist the elements, so must a writer engineer a story using the literary equivalent. The technicality of the story is fundamental to its creativity. The master writers make it look easy, but behind the scenes, it’s all sweat, blood and a few tears.

There are no easy answers. I tend to like what  Margaret Dilloway suggests in The Writer Unboxed, that you have to give  yourself the permission to write, and you have to give yourself your own approval and authentication, instead of depending on external sources. As she states,  "Nobody else can do that for you. You have to take that power and confidence for yourself.”

Most important, remember that it's important to celebrate the little things. And the big things. And the wicked goggly things, too.

 Celebrating the completion of my SFD! You know, shitty first draft! Only 99 more to go!

Thank you for reading!

-- Bobbi Miller