Friday, December 17, 2010

Diane's Next Chapter--for Poetry Friday

Poetry Friday is at the Poem Farm today. Thank you, Amy! 

Today's poem is about my friend Diane's next new chapter.

Diane Applebaum, magnificent manager of West Los Angeles' esteemed  Children's Book World, is smart, inspiring and brimming with enthusiasm.  She's helped owner Sharon Hearn make this indie the fabulous and deservedly famous bookstore it is.  She's been a guest speaker in my classes for years; students rave about her.

This is the Children's Book World logo

Diane apparently needs more time to snowshoe, heli-hike and explore the world...because, after 24 years, she's retiring.

I wanted to write something to commemorate my friend and her adventuring spirit.  What kept whirling around my head was a poem that sounds like the chorus to a song.  So here's the chorus, Diane.  The rest of the song, like your next verse, has yet to be written.

by April Halprin Wayland

Three cheers, dear friend, hip, hip, for you!
You surely have a better view.
You've climbed the whole dang mountain
(didn't hitch a heli-ride)
be sure and send a howjado
when you reach the other side.

                                Diving into her new chapter

We six TeachingAuthors are taking a break until January 3rd.  Have a love-filled, warm and toasty holiday season and come back here January 3rd ready to dive into YOUR new chapter in the New Year!

poem and drawing (c) by April Halprin Wayland

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

My Bookprint, An Update, and some Buzz

Today, I'm the last TeachingAuthor to blog about the "five books that have most influenced me." (See below for an update on my pseudo-NaNoWriMo project and some interesting Blogosphere Buzz.)

As April said when she kicked off this series, the topic was inspired by an article in School Library Journal about Scholastic's new website called You Are What You Read--a place where people from all walks of life can share the titles of the five books that have most influenced them. What Scholastic calls our "bookprint." Like Mary Ann, I found it difficult to narrow my list down to five. So many books have influenced me in so many different ways. I was also tempted to select some of the same books as my co-bloggers, including The Artist's Way and Little Women from JoAnn's list, Esther's Nancy Drew mystery, The Secret of the Old Clock, and Jeanne Marie's pick, The Westing Game. But when I pondered my list, here are the covers of the 5 books I came up with. (Note: the  arrangement is the best I can do with Google Blogger.)

The first four titles are fiction: Pride and Prejudice, The Hobbit, Tale of Two Cities, and Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. I'd forgotten that I'd blogged about Pride and Prejudice and the Tolkien series before when discussing favorite books. (I guess I'm fairly consistent.) Pride and Prejudice is the first book I remember reading more than once just for the sheer pleasure of it. One of the things that Pride and Prejudice, The Hobbit, and Tale of Two Cities have in common, at least for me, is the ability to transport me to far-away times/places. On the other hand, Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret, helped ground me in and accept my everyday world.

My fifth title is a nonfiction book on writing that I read as an adult: Madeleine L'Engle's Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art. L'Engle's book contains inspiration and practical exercises that are especially helpful for those of us who want to write for children. It's a book I return to often. I quoted from it here just last month

After entering my books on Scholastic's site, I was surprised to find that, at least so far, I'm the only person with my bookprint. In fact, only TWO current members of the You Are What You Read site have more than one of my books in their profiles. I hope more readers will join the site so that I can find more "readers like me." You don't have to have a Facebook or Google account to join--you can get a free account from Scholastic. Just look for the link in the upper right-hand corner that says "sign in with Scholastic" to set up a free Scholastic account. If you do join, stop by and check out my profile.

Today is the deadline for the pseudo-NaNoWriMo project I first wrote about on November 3rd. Unfortunately, I have fallen short of my goal of completing my draft. However, I have added 28,300 words since Oct. 25. I'm estimating I still have about 10,000 words to go. I'll keep chipping away until I get there, but it may not be until after the holidays. I'm glad to be making progress, even if it's not as much progress as I'd hoped for.

Blogosphere Buzz
  • There seemed to be a great deal of NaNoWriMo backlash this year. So I was happy to see that bestselling author James Scott Bell participated, and found it worthwhile. Read his take on the experience here
  • The Highlights foundation is now accepting scholarship applications for the 27th annual Writers Workshop at Chautauqua to be held July 16-23, 2011. I know from the feedback on my post about my Chautauqua experience that many of our readers would like to attend. Well, here's your chance. See this website for the scholarship information.
  • Aspiring writers often ask "How do I get published?" For one of the best answers I've ever read to this question, see author Jim Macdonald's post on the Making Light blog. 
  • Looking for a literacy or book-related charity to contribute to during this holiday season? Check out this amazing list of international charities at the PlayingByTheBook blog.
  • If you haven't finished all of your holiday shopping, check out the website BooksAreGreatGifts. If you scroll down on the page, you'll see links to gift-buying guides from a number of publishers. Or visit's list of What to Give, What to Get for 2010. For additional books/gifts you might want to put on YOUR Christmas list, see this post at the Guide to Literary Agents Blog or this one at C. Hope Clark's blog.
  • And if you want to WIN some great writer's tools, enter the Guide to Literary Agents blog's Epic Holiday Book Giveaway.  
Happy Writing!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Charlotte, Harriet, Dinky,Two Annes and Me

      Upon learning of this week's topic I thought, "How many times have I answered the 'what are your favorite books?' question? On closer reading, I saw that this wasn't about favorite books, but the ones that are a part of my soul.  Books that reflected a time in my life. Three of my old "standbys" still made the cut, but surprises also bubbled up from some dusty room in my memory..

     I've lost count of how many times I've said Charlotte's Web is my favorite book. I can't help it.  Charlotte was the first book that become a part of me. However, I never questioned why this particular book moved into my soul and has stayed there ever since.

     I don't like "talking critter" books other than picture books. However, Charlotte came along at exactly the right time, third grade. That year I lost two grandparents and President Kennedy (who felt like a family member) within six months. My Sunday School teachers told me my loved ones were all in Heaven. Heaven was all good and well, but they just felt gone forever, No one mentioned the beauty of the life cycle, and my place in it. Even though Charlotte's ending outraged me at the time, (main characters are not supposed to die!) it soothed me and gave me hope.  It still does. Whenever I need to cry or laugh (Templeton will always be my favorite comic villain) or simply reassurance that Life Goes On, I visit my old friends Charlotte, Wilbur and Templeton.

     I met Anne Frank in fifth grade, at a school book fair. What initially attracted me to The Diary of  Young Girl was the idea of someone only a little older than me had published a book. I literally entered The Secret Annex with the Franks and their friends, and did not emerge until ninth grade (which was a lot longer than the Franks stayed in hiding.) In my mind, I became Anne.

     I was living in 1964 Mississippi, and if there was anything less popular than LBJ or Civil Rights Workers, it would be FBI agents. My father was an FBI agent, working on the case that eventually became the movie Mississippi Burning. The agents and their families became the local pariahs. Mean people called us names, made midnight obscene phone calls, left snakes and rats in our mailbox. The "nice" people simply pretended we didn't exist. While in no way can I equate my circumstances to Anne's, I knew that if Anne were in my fifth grade she would understand. I identified with her fear (yes!) bravery (I wish) and eternal optimism (still working on that). We both had mothers that loved us without really understanding us, fathers we adored and of course, the First Crush. I marveled that someone who died before I was born had become my dearest friend and soul mate. Anne showed me how to find humor and hope, even in the most dire circumstances.

     Fifth grade was a good year for new book friends, because I alternated The Diary of a Young Girl with Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh. Harriet M. Welsch affirmed a truly outrageous idea that I had been mulling for the past year or so...that adults are people, not deities, and are not always right.

     The notion of imperfect parents and teachers was so radical in my Leave It to Beaver world, I'm amazed it wasn't banned from my library. (Maybe the librarians never read it.) In Harriet's world, there were mean girls, weird kids, and clueless adults. Wow! Just like my life. Harriet also taught me to be constantly curious and to observe. I became addicted to journals and notebooks. Like Anne and Harriet, I discovered the power of the written word. People (especially adults) seemed threatened by my journals. Adults just knew I was writing about them, and that couldn't be good.

     I found Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack by M.E. Kerr in my college bookstore, even though the characters are young teens. Perhaps the bookstore buyer thought it was something hip and revolutionary, what with the word "smack" (aka heroin) in the title. The joke is that Dinky (who is only one of three main characters) didn't shoot smack or any other illegal substance. Dinky writes this graffiti all over her neighborhood in a desperate attempt to get the attention of her do-gooder parents who are too busy helping actual addicts to realize that Dinky has some serious issues of her own.

    Dinky ignored all the requirements I had for a "good" book. The actual narrator is not Dinky but a boy, Tucker, who feels as alienated from the world as Dinky. Dinky is not a particularly likable character, yet you care about her. The book abounds with characters that a first glance seem outlandish.
Dinky's cousin Natalia talks in rhyme, the Hockers are archetypical activists, not to mention their fellow activists and the addicts. On second reading you realize that these people aren't cartoons; we all know people this bizarre and quirky. Only M.E. Kerr had the courage to not dial down their personalities. Nor does she tie up the several story lines in neat little packages. I have just now discovered that my college copy of Dinky is missing. I probably read it to shreds. Must buy new copy now. This book came out in 1972 and is still in print (a publishing miracle in itself).  If you are a writer stuck in a rut of linear storytelling, go find Dinky.  She'll straighten you out!

    As I became an older and more jaded reader, it became harder to find books that rocked my world. Been there, read that, I thought over and over.  I was a librarian and I read a lot.  I was beginning to think there were no new worlds to discover, bookwise.

     Anne Lamott's Operating Instructions:  A Journal of My Son's First Year was published the year I became pregnant with my daughter. The idea of being somebody's mother terrified me.  Even though my biological clock ticked on, I kept hitting the snooze alarm. Then one of those home pregnancy kits turned the proper shade of blue. I threw the test at the wall and screamed. I was forty, pregnant and worst of all...still unpublished.  While my husband did the Happy Daddy dance, I was frantic.

   I love kids. I was a school librarian and responsible for 600 plus of them every day. But at 3 o'clock they were somebody else's responsibility. I could not imagine me actually parenting a being that crawled out of my and my husband's gene pools.

     The "So You're About to Become a Mommy" type books did nothing to build my confidence. They seemed to fall into two categories. There were Supermommy books the books with recipes for homemade crayons and Play-Doh. They espoused the ecological wonders of cotton diapers. (At the time, my husband worked for the Huggies people, so that wasn't going to fly at my house.) What with stirring up healthy "treats" like rutabaga cupcakes and arranging playdates (what was a playdate? Two-year-olds going to the prom?) I could see the next eighteen years of my life circling the bowl. When was I supposed to take a shower, let alone write? I was already an unpublished writer. Now I'd be an unpublished writer with no time or energy to write.

     Then there were the Doomed to Motherhood books with horror stories of marathon natural labors, husbands who felt "left out" they just left, and more details than I ever wanted to know about post-partum sex. The future looked scary and labor intensive (no pun intended.)

     Because it was the next book in the "Pregnancy and Childhood" section of the library, I found Anne Lamott. Wild-haired, big-mouthed, highly opinionated, hysterically funny Anne Lamott. In other words, me. Unlike me, Anne was a recovering alcoholic and a single mom. Oh yeah, and she was published. And Anne didn't mince words. If you like your words minced and genteel, you might skip this book.

      Who else would describe their post-partum belly as looking like a puppy nestled to her side?  Give you the real lowdown on breastfeeding?  Who told me that sometimes motherhood sucked, just like her writing did sometimes. There were days when she was dancing in the daisies; there were days of feeling terribly empty and wishing God had sent her a colic-free baby. (I should mention that Anne is an in-your-face Christian, although you might not agree with some of the ways she expresses it.)  There were days she couldn't write, but obviously there were days that she could. She was very honest, yet funny, writing-mother.

     I read Operating Instructions over and over. I took it with me to the hospital. I read itP when my baby turned out to be chronically cranky and a light sleeper. Anne was right there reminding me Yeah, some days you mess up but some days you don't. You don't have to be Supermom. And you write when you can. Thanks to you Anne Lamott, I am today the proud (well, usually proud) mother of a beautiful, wild-haired, big-mouthed, highly opinionated sixteen-year-old daughter, and the "mom" to seven published books (with "two on the way.")

     Asking a writer to narrow down their "important life changing" books to a mere five is totally cruel.
So I am going to cheat and add five more books that influenced me as a writer, if not as a person. They
are I Am the Cheese by Robert Cormier, Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse, The Color of My Words by Lynn Joseph, A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck, and The Quartzsite Trip by William Hogan (which is out of print, but there are always used ones floating around online bookstores.

   Posted by Mary Ann Rodman

Friday, December 10, 2010

What Is Your Bookprint?

Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
Pippilotta Delicatessa Windowshade Mackrelmint Efraim’s Daughter Longstocking. Lucky Pippi lived with a horse and a monkey—and no parents! I wanted her independence, her amazing strength, and her stash of gold coins.

To continue the Bookprints discussion my blogmates began, I tried to think of five books that struck me and stuck with me, especially at turning points in my life. I changed my mind several times. Here are my current five in the order I read them.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
With six sisters of my own, I felt at home with the family in Little Women. I found their situation romantic and their struggles a comfort. After I read it, I told people to call me Jo instead of JoAnn. I guess I had inklings even then of being a writer.

I would not have survived high school without Mr. Hosler’s Advanced Biology class. With Bryan, Ricky, Helen, Carol, and Mark, I hung out in the classroom before school, at lunchtime, and after school, took care of the frogs and snakes, and learned how to identify trees. I read Walden by Henry David Thoreau, went to Trees for Tomorrow conservation camp, and vowed to take care of the planet.

In college, my world opened up. I loved discovering connections between subjects I’d thought of as mutually exclusive. An American Literature class introduced me to Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard, probably the book I’ve reread more than any other since then. I’m still awed and inspired by the poetic, thought-provoking way she weaves nature, science, philosophy, and spirituality together.

I read The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron at a time when I needed a change: I knew I had to find a way to be more creative. With help from friends and family, I worked my way through the rigorous and rewarding M.F.A. in Writing for Children and Young Adults program at Vermont College. Ten years after graduation, I still study the highlighted pages for inspiration, write Morning Pages, and remind myself to fill the well. As my teaching semester draws to a close, it's time again to immerse myself in my own work. I'll keep my well-worn copy nearby.

JoAnn Early Macken

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

To All the Books That Shaped (And Showed) Me...

This week’s Teaching Author blog topic, sparked by Scholastic’s “You Are What You Read” website, seemed easy enough: list the 5 books that show the world who I am.
Creating that list, though, called for hard choices.

I toured my apartment’s book-inviting flat surfaces – i.e. bookshelves, tables, stools and window sills, lovingly fingering spines and book covers.
I paged through years’ worth of Reader’s Journals.
I culled my memory recalling titles and authors.
Not until my eyes fell upon my Art Deco-book-ended collection of childhood favorites did I see what I’d been looking for.

Hans Christian Andersen’s The UglyDuckling.
(Oh, how I loved Happy Endings!)
My Orange True Book, Betsy Ross, Girl of Old Philadelphia.
(Oh, how I yearned to know how others found theirs.)

Carolyn Keene’s The Secret of the Old Clock.
(There’s nothing more satisfying than solving a mystery!)

When I first began reading, long ago, I sought to learn how to realize my Happy Ending.

Today, I read (minus the blue roadster) seeking the same.

Contemporary fiction.
Historical fiction.
Folk tales.
                                    How-to books.
                                    I'm not picky.

I realize: perhaps my five-title list of the books that shaped me - including the three childhood favorites pictured above, does show the world who I am.

What’s truly important, though, at least to me: the books I read, the books I read now, showed and show me who I am and might become.  Each helped me figure out how I could write my Happy Ending.
The book I’m enthusiastically recommending to all I meet is Heather Seller’s memoir, You Don’t Look Like Anyone I Know (Riverhead, October, 2010).
The author’s story, exquisitely written, is memorable, original, literally and figuratively eye-opening.

In Heather Sellers' own words:
"This the story of how I uncovered my past, which had long been obscured by my family’s extreme circumstamces and by face blindness, a neurological disorder that prevents me from recognizing people by face. Along the way, I discovered a deeper truth: that even in the most flawed circumstances, love may be seen and felt."

Like the children’s books that made me a reader, that made me a writer, Seller’s memoir offers Hope ...and the possibility of Happy Endings.

Esther Hershenhorn

Monday, December 6, 2010

We Are What We Read

Our neighborhood book club met this week to party.  We ate homemade toffee, we drank lots of wine, we left our children with our husbands, and we didn't even pretend to discuss a book. 

I don't think I'm alone in attending a book club primarily for purposes of socialization with grown-ups (and a night out of the house!).  As one of my neighbors once said, a person could sell filing cabinets and we would come.  I am, of course, a reader by nature, and I love a good debate (ask my husband).  However, I am also a very slow reader with severely limited time and am easily put off by books that seem too depressing, too showoffy, too unbelievable, too trite...  in other words, much of what seems to be popular book club fare. 

The idea that books bind us, though, is an irresistable one to me.  It is a theme to which I return over and over in my own writing.  A few weeks ago I met a little girl at church named Lavender and couldn't wait to press a copy of Love, Ruby Lavender into her hands.  I've loaned and re-loaned All-of-A-Kind Family and The Westing Game and the complete Bobbsey Twins dozens of times, and the thought of sharing these books with my daughter someday literally gives me shivers. 

I'm supposed to be blogging today about five books that have made me who I am.  Well, anyone who has even a passing acquaintance with me probably already knows.  The way my mom passes down family recipes, I pass along reading recommendations. 
Books are a way to keep connections alive, through time, through space, through generations.   A dear friend walked several blocks in Manhattan on Friday with 51 pounds (!) of books on her back and in hand so that she could send this bounty to my avid-reader father.  These novels belonged to her beloved husband, Roger Newman, who died earlier this year. When the first batch of books arrived (yes, there were more), my husband and I both found ourselves rather reverently touching the pages that touched Rog's hands and, of course, his heart.  Rog was a writer, a man of eminently good taste, keen mind, and huge heart.  We were privileged to know him, and we are honored to be the keepers of these treasured mementos.

--Jeanne Marie


Friday, December 3, 2010

BEWARE OF BOOKS! Books that have kidnapped us, a poem for Poetry Friday & a question for you

Howdy and Happy Poetry Friday!  There's a teeny tiny Writing Workout and a not-so-teeny poem below!

A recent School Library Journal article has inspired TeachingAuthors to chat with you about the books that have most influenced us. 
That article introduced us to Bookprints. Run by Scholastic, its full name is You Are What You Read; it's sort of a FaceBook for readers. 

Upon registering, I discovered a few glitches to Bookprints' wonderful universe.  I couldn't figure out how to sign on as an author (help, anyone?) and, on strict orders of my financial advisor (aka my husband) I never give out my birth year.

So I signed in with a different birth year.  I must say, I look remarkably young for a 109-year-old.  : ^ )

The first thing it asks you (after rudely inquiring about your birth year) is to list the five most influential books in your life.  Here is my list:

A Coney Island of the Mind by Lawrence Ferlinghetti
As I wrote when listing my five favorite poetry books, an older teen gave this one to me on my 13th birthday. I was thrilled she thought I would like these poems. I memorized the poem, DOG and choreographed a dance about it for my modern dance class...I even wore my dog's collar!  (Of course, those were the days I painted a flower on my cheek each morning to match my outfit...and painted Twiggy lashes on my eyes.)

Roget's English Thesaurus by Peter Roget
When poems began pouring out of me in my teens, this book was like having an external hard drive. It was my late-night writing partner. These days I use an online thesaurus.

Rhyming Dictionary
Actually, I adored the Capricorn Rhyming Dictionary which is no longer in print.  These days I use an online rhyming dictionary.  Like the thesaurus, this book was my writing partner--or maybe better, it was my dance partner. It expanded what I could say in rhyme, made me feel smarter and made rhyming even more of a pleasure.

Wind, Sand and Stars by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry; L. Galantiere (Translator)
This is the autobiography of the author of The Little Prince. My mother checked it out of the library for me when I was ten or had been one of her favorites. It's translated from French; the language is beautiful. It's also spiritual and full of adventure. The cover of this edition says it won the National Book Award and is a National Geographic Top Ten Adventure Book of All Time.  Here's a quote from the New York Times review: "A beautiful book, a brave book, a book that should be read against the confusion of the world."

Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson
My all-time favorite children's book. It showed me wild possibilities.  It continues to influence me, teaching that we can (and do) create our own lives.

Here's a book-ish poem for you (inspired by a dream!) on Poetry Friday. I started writing it more than a year ago and worked on today.  Would you like to read the first draft and today's draft?  All poems are a work in progress, I think.  I like the first version for its seriousness and the last version for its humor.  Which do you prefer?

first draft -- 7-19-09
by April Halprin Wayland

I bring home library books
on little book feet.

One is shy,
padding away quietly while I am busy,
hiding under a chair.

One is loud,
talkative, chattering up a storm—
I have to close it to catch my breath.

One picks me—
pulls me in, and before I realize it,
has kidnapped me completely.

It tries to leave the house
with me in it’s grasp
I have to brace myself against the door frame
hold on as tightly as possible,

I have to want to stay here in this house
or it will take me
take me,
take me away

and I may never find my way back.

latest draft:

by April Halprin Wayland

I bring home loads of library books
once or twice a week.
And every single one of them has curious little book feet.

Here’s a book that’s LOUD!  It’s wild!
Leaping off tables!  Crashing to death!
I close it quick to catch my breath.

Another beckons, it reels me in…
before I’m lured, before it’s cooked me,
this dangerous book has baited and hooked me!

It snatches me up and tries to escape
I could brace my legs against the door

I could relax,
could stop yelling, “NO!”
I could simply sit back, I could just let go.

I could ride this book
far and free… Hmmm.
Should I let this story kidnap me? 

What about you?
  What books have captured you, or what ONE book changed your life? 

Teeny tiny quick Writing Workout for you or your students:

What books have influenced you? 

Whether or not you join Bookprints, join the conversation here!  Inquiring minds want to know!

poem and drawing (c) April Halprin Wayland

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Looking for Lesson Plans? Online Resources for Teaching Young Authors

As Mary Ann mentioned on Monday, today we're sharing part 2 of our answer to an Ask the TeachingAuthors question posted by Sandra Stiles regarding resources for teaching young writers. But first, I'd like to congratulate all the writers who tackled NaNoWriMo in November. Whether or not you managed to produce 50,000 words, I commend you for attempting the Herculean feat. I'm still in the midst of the pseudo-NaNoWriMo project that I blogged about last month. So far, I've added about 23,000 words to my work-in-progress. That's 3,000 words short of where I'd hoped to be by now, but I still have a couple of weeks until my December 15 deadline. Wish me luck!

Now, back to answering Sandra Stiles's Ask the TeachingAuthors question. She asked for help in planning her after-school writing class. On Monday, Mary Ann mentioned some books with activities to inspire young writers. Today I'd like to share websites with lesson plans and other resources. Here are six, in no particular order:
Many children's book publishers also provide teacher resources and lesson plans on their sites, including:
Candlewick Press, Scholastic, and Sleeping Bear Press.

In particular, I'd like to recommend Sleeping Bear Press's 25-page Teacher's Guide to our own Esther Hershenhorn's S is for Story: A Writer's Alphabet. Esther's book is a wonderful teaching resource for writers of all ages, and you don't have to take my word for it: Among its other accolades, S is for Story was recently named a 2011 Annual Teachers' Choice Awards Children's Book Winner.
Congratulations, Esther!

Finally, if you're working with young writers who are looking for places to publish their work, see the "For Writers" page of my website.

And if you know of other sites featuring lesson plans to use with young writers, please share them in the comments.

Happy writing!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Teaching Books for Teaching Authors

     This is part one to a question posed awhile back by reader Sandra Stiles. Sandra's question was so thorough it will take more than post to answer.
     Sandra has a one hour after school writing class, and basically wanted to know how to keep the mojo going, for both herself and her students. Sandra didn't mention how old her students are, but the answer is the same whether they are eight or eighteen. Those of you have been reading this blog awhile already know what I'm going to say; read, read, read!

    There is an endless selection of books on writing and teaching writing, some better than others. Here is my "go to" list (in no particular order).

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamotte.  This book is for me and definitely not the students. This is what gets my mojo going. Anne reminds me (in no uncertain, and sometimes very blunt language) that writing is a process, that it's OK to write lousy drafts and that some days (lots of days) the magic just doesn't happen.

What's Your Story?:  A Young Person's Guide to Writing Fiction  by Marion Dane Bauer
The title pretty much tells you want this book is--how to write both long and short fiction--from the ground up. Although written for middle school age students, this was my bible when writing Yankee Girl.  That this book has been in print for nearly 20 years makes it a classic in my opinion.

Paper Lightening:  Prewriting Activities that Spark Creativity and Help Students Write Effectively by Darcy Pattison
Aimed at teachers of writing for elementary and middle school teachers, this book makes a terrific companion for Bauer's book. Where Bauer lays our the blueprint for writing, Pattison's backs up that blueprint with dozens of writing activities to jump start the writer's brain and to write in more colorful and creative ways. This book was published in 2008, and I forsee it still in print in 2008.

Anything written by Ralph Fletcher. Fletcher has a series of short (under 125 pages) of how-to-books written for students, each on a different aspect of writing. These include How to Write Your Life Story, A Writer's Notebook: Unlocking the Writer Within You, Live Writing:  Breathing Life Into Your Words, How Writer's Work:  Finding a Process that Works for You, Poetry Matters:  Writing a Poem from the Inside Out.  Craft Lessons is a virtual encyclopedia of specialized exercises for every age group for kindergarden and up.
As I was re-checking these titles on Amazon, I found that Fletcher has a new book our this past spring,
Pyrotechnics on the Page. I'm ordering my copy as soon as i finish writing this blog!

Although I am not a poet, I am working on a verse novel, which means I am reading a lot of poetry how-to's. Poemcrazy by Pam Woolridge is written for adults, but easily understood by the middle grade poet.
I'm also reading books by Ted Kooser and Mary Oliver, however the techniques here are best distilled through the teacher.

OK, fellow writers, back to the verse novel. I had a big breakthrough over the holidays and I don't want to lose my big 'mo.

Part two to Sandra's question next time.

Posted by Mary Ann Rodman

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Announcing Our Book Giveaway Winner!

Congratulations to Jennie of Biblio File, whose comment was chosen at random from the eligible entries for the autographed copy of Ann Angel's new biography Janis Joplin: Rise Up Singing. Thanks to all who submitted writing advice! Watch for more Guest Teaching Author interviews and book giveaways!

Friday, November 26, 2010

A Perfect Day to Kidnap Mom--a different kind of Thanksgiving poem for Poetry Friday

Happy After-Thanksgiving!   

Before running out the door to buy-buy-buy, sit back and watch The Story of Stuff.  At least watch the first seven minutes.  Really. 

But...if you really want something--how 'bout a book?  You may still have time to participate in our book giveaway!  To qualify, your entry must be posted by 11 p.m. Friday, November 26, 2010 (Central Standard Time).  Here's JoAnn's interview with the author, Ann Angel.  Before entering our contest, please read our Book Giveaway Guidelines.

You may be in the middle of NaNoWriMoCarmela has commented on this and how she's modified NaNoWriMo to fit her life.  If you're writing--however that looks in your life--my hat's off to you!  Participating in this year's Poem A Day Challenge absolutely changed my life. It changed so much, in fact, that I've been writing a poem a day for 236 days...or seven months and 22 days (and sending each one to my friend Bruce as he sails around the world).

So here's a poem I wrote this week.  Not a kid's poem. Just a poem from me--to you. I hope your
Thanksgiving was warm and wonderful.

by April Halprin Wayland

 This morning I woke with a huge burlap sack of guilt
 about not being in town
 with my 88-year-old mother
 for Thanksgiving.

 Today was a perfect day to kidnap her.
 I poked around the internet, found an easy hike—
 terrific, except it was in Thousand Oaks,
 which always feels terribly far, like Romania, to Mom.

 I phoned her:
 “Pretend I’m Alan Alda
 and I’m inviting you somewhere, okay?”
 Okay, she said—except for the Thousand Oaks part.

 She would have gone to Thousand Oaks for Alan Alda.
 “I’ll ring you back,” I said.
 I hunted more.  I found
 Malibu Creek State Park.

 We drove north on Pacific Coast Highway
 on this after-rain day—
 everything green and blue and glisten-y,
 Mom oohing and ahhing as we cruised past the grey-blue Pacific.

Crushing layers of oak leaves,
we saw a huge blue heron, still as a tree.
Then it lifted,
its wings spread wide as awnings.

 We saw a rabbit, which, yes, had a white tail.
 We saw ground squirrels
 popping out of holes like an arcade game,
 and crowds of crows.

 “Crows remember a human that’s mistreated them,” I told her.
 “And one crow will describe him so other crows keep their distance—though they’ve never seen him before,” I said.
 “How do you say ‘a big nose and receding hairline’ in crow?” she asked.

 We saw three deer.
 The first, reddish, made its way down the slope towards a dry creek bed.
 The others, grey, stately; turned to stare.
 Later, they bounded across a field and up a hill—as beautiful as the flight of the heron.

 It was a short walk.
 Mom and I, hand-in-hand.
 She: bending over more than I remember,
 grateful to be healthy,

happy to be outside, surprised by this day.
Me: breathing rain-dampened oak,
surprised, too
by a different kind of thanksgiving.

poem & drawing (c) 2010 April Halprin Wayland

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A NEW Thanksgiving tradition?

Thanksgiving smacks of Tradition.
Shelves overflow with books about turkeys, Pilgrims and family gatherings.
Bloggers and columnists laud keeping a Gratitude Journal.

Reading, sharing and modeling Debbie Levy’s The Year of Goodbyes (Hyperion, 2010), however, could start a whole new tradition for a holiday that celebrates family, friends and life.

In her introduction, Debbie Levy writes,
“This book is based on another book – not a library book, or a bookstore book, or even a typed manuscript. It was a book written by hand and owned by my mother when she lived in Germany as a girl. The year was 1938. In her own language, German, the book was known as a poesiealbum (po-eh-ZEE Album). In English you could call it a poetry album.”

Poesiealbums weren’t hastily created. “Usually,” Levy shares in her introduction, “you took your friend’s
album home overnight and used your best handwriting, and maybe also colored pencils, to create a lasting impression. Your illustrations were likely to include symbols of good luck, such as ladybugs, piles of coins, horseshoes, fly mushrooms, four-leaf clovers, hearts, and chimney sweeps and their tools. You might further decorate your page with oblaten (o-BLAH-ten), stickers that girls collected and traded.”

Levy uses her mother Jutta’s discovered album - the actual poetic entries, art and oblaten of her friends sharing their twelfth year in Hamburg, Germany, from January through November – as the springboard for telling, in poetic verse, the true story of the Salzberg family’s last year in Germany. Adolph Hitler and the Nazi Party reigned supreme. As public persecution of Jews and thus Jutta’s family increased daily, escape to family in America proved the only way out. Excerpts from Jutta’s diary share the Salzberg’s eventual safe passage to New York. Jutta’s sister Ruth’s entry closes the book.

        “Whoever loves you more than me
          Should write behind me, certainly.”

Levy created The Poesiealbum Project on her blog, The Year of Goodbyes.
She invites readers of all ages to send their own pages. 
Perhaps six lines about a wrong in the world we'd want to make better, someone who inspired us or others to face adversity or fear.
Perhaps a three-line goodbye, to someone important.
What treasured possessions would we pack in our one suitcase, were we forced to leave home?
What lines would we write to tell about another's Holocaust experience?

Jutta created her poesiealbum over the course of a year.  She looks back at the handwriting, at the poems, at the images, and abracadabra, she's with her friends - Cilly Seligmann, Eva Rosenbaum, Ellen Berger, Elli Lipka.  Aunts, uncles, neighbors, grandparents, the Bar Kochba Gymnastics Club, the Jewish School for Girls.  All are there in Jutta's poesiealbum, some seventy-two years later, thankfully alive.

Writing words that could be read many years later so the world might know our story?
That's the stuff of new (Thanksgiving) traditions. See the Writing Workout below for details.

[And don't forget to enter our latest TeachingAuthor book giveaway here for a chance to win an autographed copy of Ann Angel's acclaimed biography Janis Joplin: Rise Up Singing.]

Happy Thanksgiving!

Esther Hershenhorn

Why not create a Thanksgiving Poesiealbum of sorts with those who gather at your table, around your tv or on the front porch tomorrow.
Ask guests to come prepared to note the day, the gathering, the celebration - with a poem, a photograph, a stamp, a picture that reveals something special about them, perhaps something for which they are grateful.
Assign each guest a page.  Note the guest's name, age.  Be sure to record the date.
Tuck this year's album safely away, leaving room for others to follow.

Monday, November 22, 2010

In Thanksgiving

Confession time.  Thanksgiving has always been my  least favorite -- I'd go so far as to way most dreaded --holiday (apart from Valentine's Day in my many Valentine-less years).  For one thing, I went to a high school with a lousy football team and a college that celebrates Homecoming during lacrosse season.  The Colts fled Baltimore in the dead of night when I was in eighth grade, and then I moved to Rams-less L.A.  In short... I am not a football fan.  I am a fan of eating, but not of cooking, cleaning, or calories. (And Carmela probably knows the Italian tradition of serving a complete turkey dinner in addition to a pasta feast!)  One of my favorite Thanksgivings ever was spent alone, under a quilt, with a book.

However, now I have kids and no option to opt out (or even eat out).  My five-year-old is engaged in a daily countdown, and each day she has added at least three decorations to our dining room.  The vegetarian/vegan portion of the menu is mostly complete, the wheelchair ramp is at the ready for my father (shh -- we won't tell him how steep it is!), and the steam-in-bag vegetables are safely ensconced in the freezer.

This week my kids have the craziest school schedule ever -- early dismisssal, late start, days off...  Can I say how thankful I am for kind neighbors?  I took my daughter yesterday to the local library to stock up for our week of school-lite.  I think 30 books and movies might get us through the week.  (Half of them, I must confess, are for me.)

My kids have been talking a lot about what they're grateful for -- family, friends, toys, green paint (long story).  As for me, I would add teachers, warmth, comfort, joy, and one more important thing.  A major criterion (confession #2) that drew me to the writing life was the blessed solitude of it all.  No conference calls, no office politics, no outsized egos.  Well, solitude is grand, but sometimes community is even better.  Thank YOU, and  Happy Thanksgiving to all!

And don't forget to enter our latest Teaching Author book giveaway here.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Book Giveaway and Guest Teaching Author Interview with Ann Angel!

The Teaching Authors are happy to present an interview with our good friend and Guest Teaching Author Ann Angel. To celebrate Ann's appearance on our blog, we're giving away an autographed copy of her new book Janis Joplin: Rise Up Singing. Booklist and School Library Journal both gave it starred reviews, and the Cooperative Children’s Book Center named it a Book of the Week.  To enter the drawing, see the instructions at the end of this post.

 * * *
Ann Angel believes it was amazing fortune that brought Janis Joplin’s music and style into her life. As a teen, Ann preferred writing bad poetry and drawing to Janis’s songs over following along with the popular girls. That same influence encouraged Ann to live her own life without compromise.

Since then, Ann has written many young adult biographies, including her most recent, Janis Joplin: Rise Up Singing. She served as contributing editor for the highly acclaimed Such a Pretty Face: Short Stories About Beauty and is working on more young adult fiction. A graduate of Vermont College’s MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults, Ann lives in Wisconsin with her family and teaches creative writing at Mount Mary College in Milwaukee.

Welcome, Ann!  How did you become a Teaching Author?

I was a journalism teacher at a local two year college when I first started to publish articles and then books. Teaching gave me the security of an income and so I always did this part time. But my writing wasn't getting where I wanted it to go, so I returned to school for an MFA in creative writing at Vermont College and graduated in 1999. After that, I became a full-time professor at Mount Mary College, where I've taught since shortly before 1990 (so long ago that I don't recall the year I actually began) when the college created a graduate program in writing. I teach creative fiction and nonfiction there, along with Teaching Author JoAnn Macken.

What's a common problem or question your students have, and how do you address it?

Students tend to stop story to explain or describe. I give them the same sage advice I received from renowned author Norma Fox Mazer at Vermont College. Use the details you've already placed in the setting as props, filter them through your primary character, and you'll create a story that moves forward while also creating voice and tone in the story.

How can teachers use your books in the classroom?

My books are probably great resources for teachers who wish to use literature while dealing with issues of self-esteem, self-image and bullying. Such A Pretty Face: Short Stories About Beauty offers teens a variety of perspectives on how teens view real beauty vs. the image of beauty that advertising offers. It surprised me when I finished Janis Joplin: Rise Up Singing and stepped back from it a bit to realize that this book, while nonfiction, also deals with issues of beauty, fitting in, and self-esteem. Through both books, I've come to realize that perceptions of beauty play a huge role in bullying. Bullies pick on people because of their differences, and so some get bullied because we don't have the sort of looks the rest of the culture admires or because we have too much of the looks admired in a culture. Stories in Such A Pretty Face certainly deal with coping in these instances. And Janis's story is so clearly one of a woman who rose above bullying with her voice.

Another book I wrote, Robert Cormier: Author of the Chocolate War, offers some tremendous insights into book challenges, censorship, and one author's efforts to fight censorship. Ironically, although he died in 2000, Cormier remains one of the most censored authors of the previous decade and continues to be listed as one of the top ten most censored authors of the year.

Can you share a funny or interesting story about how you got interested in writing?

I don't recall ever not writing. It's as if I was born to tell stories. I even have the first story--illustrated--that I ever wrote. It's a pencil drawing from about first or second grade where I drew my whole family and then wrote characteristics above each person. For my oldest sister, I wrote, "Katie yells a lot." For a little sister, I wrote, "Lulu cries a lot." Over my own head I wrote "I help the most." I look at that and think I was a fiction writer in the beginning.

When I go to schools to talk about writing, I often talk about how I choose my writing topics to focus on issues kids face. I can be talking about censorship and bullying or self-image issues, and inevitably a student will raise his or her hand and ask me, "Do you have any pets?"

For the record, I have a wicked little cat named Sparkie who fits her name perfectly.

Why do you write biographies for teens?

There is so much we can learn from entering the space of another person's life. It allows us to see how others think and behave, and it gives us a glimpse into the human condition in a way that is so real. We can learn from the lives of others. For instance, Janis Joplin was my role model. She gave me the courage to stop following along with the crowd and to do my own thing. Her death became my cautionary tale.

Would you share a favorite writing exercise for our readers?

The title of this exercise is "Who Is Listening?" Turn on the radio or turn on your iPod or click on music you've never heard before. As you listen to the song, freewrite and create a character listening to this song at the same time. As the song plays, describe the character and setting. Now listen to the song again and describe how this character is responding to the music and why. Would this character feel differently about this song if s/he weren't also dealing with ________?

  * * *
Thank you for joining us, Ann! We wish you and your books continued success!

Readers, before entering our contest, please read our Book Giveaway Guidelines. Then, for a chance to win an autographed copy of Ann Angel's new book Janis Joplin: Rise Up Singing, post a comment to today's blog post telling us some sage advice you received about writing and who gave it to you. To qualify, your entry must be posted by 11 p.m. Friday, November 26, 2010 (Central Standard Time). The winner will be chosen in a random drawing and announced by 11 p.m., Saturday, November 27, 2010.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Taking My Gluteus Maximus for a Walk

Reading Mary Ann's post on Monday reminded me of something Madeleine L'Engle says in Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art:
"If the artist works only when he feels like it, he’s not apt to build up much of a body of work.  Inspiration far more often comes during the work than before it, because the largest part of the job of the artist is to listen to the work and to go where it tells him to go.  Ultimately, when you are writing, you stop thinking and write what you hear."
For my pseudo-NaNoWriMo project, I've been spending lots of time with Butt in Chair, or BIC, as Mary Ann calls it. I've discovered something interesting. Often, when I first sit down at the computer, I have no idea what I'm going to write about next or where the story will go. Those days usually start with me tweaking what I did the day before, trying to add sensory details to make the scene come alive. Then, somewhere along the way, inspiration kicks in and I'm soon typing away. As L'Engle says, the story starts telling me where to go. I know the inspiration wouldn't have come along if I hadn't been sitting there, listening, Butt in Chair.

Unfortunately, there's no magic formula. As Mary Ann said in her post, some days, even when we glue our butts to the chair, the words don't come. That's when I usually try taking the old gluteus maximus for a walk. As Julia Cameron says in The Artist's Way: "A brisk twenty-minute walk can dramatically alter consciousness." That altered consciousness often helps me hear what I couldn't when I was sitting in my chair.

Over the last few days, I've fallen behind in my word count goals for my project, and no matter how I tried, the words just wouldn't come. When that happened again today, I took a walk and thought about my story. As I walked, it occurred to me that much of the tension had leaked out of the story. Why? Because I'd made things too easy for my character. I needed to go back and change events so that she'd have to work harder to get what she wanted. Aha!

I know from experience that taking a walk doesn't always yield dramatic "aha" moments. But at least it helps keep my gluteus maximus from getting too big for the chair. :-)

I'm keeping this post short so I can get back to my novel-writing now.
Happy writing, all!

P.S: I forgot to mention: there's a great book giveaway going on over at the MotherReader blog. Enter to win one of two sets of 25 books!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Writing with Your Gluteus Maximus

     It's Monday. It's raining. I left the windows down in my car last night.  Does it get any better than this?

      What I really want to do is curl up in front of the fire with my dog, a comforter and a supremely scary book I started Friday and didn't have time to read over the weekend. I left the two main characters stranded in the desert with two creepy teens that I just know are going to turn out to be serial killers.

     Instead, I am writing. That's what I do. There are writers like Stephen King and Joyce Carol Oates who I suspect are married to their computers, their output is so prodigious. I just know they arise every morning, a song in their hearts and the next chapter bursting from their fingertips.

    I am not one of those people.

    For one thing, I am not a morning person. I literally walk into walls until noon. Not a good trait if you are a teacher or a mother, and I am both. I am a night writer. My creative mind doesn't kick into gear until about three in the afternoon---about the same time I pick up my daughter from school, and my second job kicks in--mother to a high maintenance sixteen-year-old. (For those of you who are trying to write with toddlers at home, I hate to tell you this but writing-mothering never gets easier.) By midnight, my creative mind has turned to mush.  So, like it or not, I have become a daytime writer. My work day is 8 am to 3 pm, pretty much the same hours I taught.

   When I taught, I had a forty five minute drive to turn my brain on (listening to NPR helped a lot).  Now, I have to hit the ground running morning at 5:45, to get my daughter (also not a morning person) going. Fortunately I have a husband who can save the world by 9 am or no one would ever accomplish anything before noon.

   With them gone, my brain in neutral, I listen to a half hour of NPR (my mental jumper cables), take my cup of coffee, and plunk my gluteus maximus in front of the computer. (This is known as BIC---butt in chair.) My mind protesting all the way, I start writing. I promise myself to write for 15 minutes, even if I am only typing "I can't think. I want to go back to bed. I want to take the dog for a walk."

    A more disciplined person than I could probably do all those things, and still have a productive writing day. But I am a Master Procrastinator. Going back to bed will lead to reading in bed, which will lead to reading until the book is done....and so is my writing day. So it's BIC for fifteen minutes.

     Most days, in those fifteen minutes, my brain turns on and picks up where I left off yesterday. Or it comes up with something that has been percolating on the back burner for awhile. Before I know it, three or four hours are gone (that's as long as my fingers can work even on the best of days). Three or four hours are up, and now I can take the dog for a walk (where I will probably going on thinking, planning tomorrow's work.)

    Some days, however, are total duds. Fifteen minutes of BIC, and I still have nothing to show for it. I used to make myself stare at a blank computer screen for hours, waiting for the Muse to arrive. I don't know about you, but staring at a blank screen for hours will eventually lead to a "quick" game of solitaire or Boggle, to "stimulate" my brain. Who am I kidding? And of course, the longer I Boggle, the guiltier I feel about not writing....and well, the beat goes on. Eventually I had to accept that there are going to be days when fifteen minutes is all that is going to happen. Sometimes I write something really great in those fifteen minutes....and can't go any further. It's a relief to know I have fulfilled my personal commitment, even if it didn't have the results I want.

     As writers, I am sure you have at least three people a month ask you how they can "write their story."
(Or sometimes it's "how can I get my book published?" only to learn that "the book" has not been written.)

     "Here is the secret to writing," I say in a mysterious voice.  The would-be-writer leans toward me, ready to drink in my literary wisdom.

     "B-I-C," I say. Sometimes the other person actually writes this down. Mostly they blink and ask "Un- BIC? Like you use a Bic pen?"

     "No, it means Butt-in-Chair. Lots of Butt-in-Chair. You could write standing up; I hear Thomas Wolfe did. But most of us write better sitting. For long periods of time. Day after day."

     And now, having applied my gluteus maximus to couch for an hour and a half (there are variations), I will go wipe the rain off my car seats.

     Does it get any better than this?

     Posted by Mary Ann Rodman

Friday, November 12, 2010

Adventures on a YALSA Poetry Panel in Albuquerque for Poetry Friday!

Howdy!  I was all set to write a whole post about the best advice I found on writing an acceptance speech.  It’s in an article by Thomas Murrell:  Speech Tips: Ten Things to Remember When Accepting an Award. The one that particularly struck me was:

“End With a Call To Action. What is it that you want the audience to do? You are the role model - inspire them to greater heights!”

It’s terrific advice.  It jump-started my stalled writing of the five-minute award acceptance speech I gave in Seattle this summer.

And if you’ll stay with me, I promise I’ll show you how that’s connected to what we TeachingAuthors call an Out and About:

This past weekend I was Out and About at the YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association) Symposium in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

I should have known it was going to be a good conference from the start.  On the shuttle from the airport, I met two wonderful women: Natashya Wilson, Senior Editor at Harlequin TEEN, and Jacque Alberta, editor at Zonderkidz (she’s the editor of Nikki Grimes’ forthcoming book, A Girl Named Mister.)

I was on a panel called THE FORMS AND FACES OF POETRY FOR TEENS created by (bowing low to the ground now) the woman behind the go-to-blog for children’s poetry, Sylvia Vardell. 

Author and poet Janet Wong introduced me to Sylvia many years ago, and boy, am I glad she did.
Sylvia Vardell, Ph.D: author, speaker, Texas Woman's University Professor and SO MUCH MORE!
Besides being smart, classy, funny and generous, Sylvia is also a professor of School of Library and Information Studies at Texas Woman's University, AND the author of: POETRY ALOUD HERE, and POETRY PEOPLE, and CHILDREN'S LITERATURE IN ACTION, and co-editor of BOOKBIRD, the journal of international children's literature,
and the annual review guide, LIBRARIANS' CHOICES; whew!

It was fabulous to be included as one of the five poets on Sylvia’s panel.  The others were: Jen Bryant, Ann Burg, Margarita Engle, and Pat Mora. (Sylvia wrote, “Betsy Franco had hoped to be part of our panel, but had to be in NYC to act in her son, James Franco's movie! Cool, huh?”)

Our poems, personalities, and backgrounds were all very different—that’s what made this panel so interesting.  And Sylvia sure knows how to build a cozy community between the speakers and the attendees in a session.

The panel began with a Poets’ Q & A and ended with Poetry Improv Prompts. I loved the way her original format encouraged us to play off each other, like jazz improv—lots of fun!

Sylvia’s spells out the format in this post and shows you how this format can be used with teens.

I waited about a gazillion hours for lunch along with my tablemates YALSA president Kimberly Patton, two fabulous librarians whose names I've forgotten (someone please remind me!), author/poet Ellen Hopkins, and Albuquerque's own author, Carolee Dean, who has also posted about the YALSA Symposium 

Author Carolee Dean lives in Albuquerque!
Oft-censored author / poet Ellen Hopkins
Also at the conference was my friend and fellow Southern California poet extraordinaire Nikki Grimes who gave a terrific session called OPEN MIKE: REACHING TEENS AT RISK THROUGH POETRY.

Nikki Grimes, Ann Burg and me, April Halprin Wayland,
                                                   at the YALSA Symposium

The best thing about the authors and editors and librarians I met at this conference was their generosity of spirit.

Authors Ellen Hopkins and Lauren Myracle spoke at the closing session about intellectual freedom and the banning of their books. Lauren quoted Judy Blume who has said that censorship is “Fear disguised as moral outrage.”
Author Lauren Myracle spoke without notes--
as if she were speaking to a just a few special friends. 
 Lauren also said, "Authors are freedom fighters...fighters for intellectual freedom."

Ellen and Lauren made us laugh, made us squirm, made us well up with tears, and, finally, their stories from the trenches of intellectual freedom were a call to action—they inspired us to greater heights. 

So, inhale that inspiration--go out there and write what you need to write.  Some reader, somewhere will need to read exactly that.
 drawings (c) by April Halprin Wayland