Friday, January 25, 2019


Howdy, Campers ~ and Happy Poetry Friday! (original poem and PF link below).

2019's first topic rumbling around our TeachingAuthors' treehouse, is How Do I Start a New Writing Project? Bobbi launched our new year asking What is your first line?; Mary Ann followed by blowing my socks off with her poetic description of beginning a new story.

You know the feeling when you read something and it's so good, there's nothing left to say on a topic? That's how I felt after reading these posts. I simply wanted to bow to my fellow TeachingAuthors and tackle some other topic...
Me, curtsying to Bobbi and Mary Ann
 I lied. It's Cissy Fitzgerald, curtsying. 
Photo by W.M. Morrison, 1895 

...until I remembered my Hot Idea Files, which, like Mary Ann's journals, are filled with lines of dialogue, quotes that at some point stirred my insides, a misheard word, an item from my gratitude list, ideas that flew across the room and hit me like a rock, a remembered dream, a word or definition from's A.Word.A.Day borborygmus (...look it up).

Here's a random jot (as Mary Ann calls them) from February, 2014:
Teaching feels as if I'm careening down on of those Olympic ski racing courses--you know, that 1½ mile downhill course where they hit speeds of 85+ mph? Yeah, that feeling. Like I'm going to hit a bump and skid off the course and die any minute. And then...the three hours of class are over and I had them. Cowabunga! GOLD MEDAL!

And here's one from June, 2017:
I think my sleep is deeper...I'm having lots of dreams. It feels as if I'm catching up on dreams that have been stacking up.

Speaking of stacking up...have you ever had someone say, "Heck, I can write a picture book on my coffee break!"?

When I hear that, I think about the process of choosing an idea for a poem, a picture book or a novel and decide that the person who just said this...
is an alien.

Sowhat do I do to start a new writing project? I open the door and listen to my stacks of ideas calling, "Pick me, pick me!"...choose one, and simply begin.

by April Halprin Wayland
I say, “How nice. 
Would you like to come inside?”
Then I walk her up the concrete steps of my brain,
open the door and move ten heavy boxes,
walk around letters stacked to the ceiling,
shove aside bulging brown bags with string.
We make our way to the back bedroom
past piles of Federal Express packages
where I stick a butterfly net
out the bedroom balcony doors
and catch a few more ideas
as they fly past.

In the kitchen, cases of canned ideas
line the worn wood floor,
unpacked sacks of fresh-picked ones
are piled on the counter.

We hold onto the paint-chipped banister
and walk down the wobbly stairs
to the cold, cement basement.
The sulfur smell surprises as I strike a match.
“Where is there room for your idea
between the wooden tennis rackets,
the rusty bird cage,
the folded music stands
and trunks of family stories?” I ask.

Crouching behind a trunk
is the one that creeps upstairs at night
to slink along the hall near my bedroom.
It's almost too heavy to pull to its feet.
This is the one I am working on now.

“Would you be kind enough to take your idea
to my storage locker downtown, near the pier?”
I say, handing her a small tin key.
“Perhaps you'll find room there.

Best to stand back as you roll up the aluminum door.”

drawing & poem (c)2019 April Halprin Wayland. All rights reserved.

What's in your Hot Idea File?  C'mon...tell us one thing. We are dying to know.

posted with hope for this brand new year by April Halprin Wayland, Eli-the-dog, and Snot-the-aging-cat.


Kimberly Hutmacher said...

Love this poem! And it reminds me that I need a better file/storage ssytem for all of those ideas :)

Linda Mitchell said...

This is wonderful! Oh, those ideas are there. I have journals....lots and lots of journals. Every once in a while a skim through them and highlight words or ideas that would be perfect for a "hot idea file" which I must begin today. I love how friendly your poem is with an underlying threat of cold and old and dark places where those ideas can sit waiting like ghosts in an abandoned house.

Bobbi Miller said...

Love this poem, April!! And I love the curtsey!!! EXCELLENT read for a Friday morning!

KatApel - said...

LOVE your poem! Fun and a little bit cheeky, too.

As to my organisation. I have notes on my phone - or sound recordings. And separate 'In the Making' folders on my computer; one for verse novels/chapter books, one for PBs, and one for Poetry'. The poetry one is usually just made up of Word documents (sometimes with a range of different numbers after them.) - but the PB/Kidlit ones each have another whole ream of files, with the working titles of the project/idea... and within those are the Word documents - with an escalating list of chronological numbers after them.

I wish my whole house was as organised as my computer!!

April Halprin Wayland said...

Me, too, Kimberly... it's hard to find that perfect idea you thought of 6 years ago when there's no order!

April Halprin Wayland said...

Thank you, Linda. It's interesting... I call it my hot idea file... But some of them are cold in that drafty old house!

April Halprin Wayland said...

Thank you,Bobbi ~ thank goodness my daily poems (as opposed to undeveloped ideas) are pretty well tagged, so I can look up phrases like "writing ideas" or "new year" and find a plethora.

April Halprin Wayland said...

WOW~ you could hire yourself out to writers as a virtual organizer!

Jone said...

Oh my, perfect. Such fun and a much needed smile.

Jane @ said...

I could totally write a picture book on my coffee break, but it would likely be absolute rubbish! :-D I have so many ideas bouncing around half-formed in my head, often my biggest challenge is deciding which ones to try turning into something more, and which ones to hold off on!

Mina Witteman said...

What an absolutely adorable poem! I will start carrying tiny keys with me.

Chester Perryess said...

Fantabuloso! I'm also a big fan of Any Garg's *A Word A Day*, & like you, my House of Ideas is overflowing. Life is just so darned abundant.

Tabatha said...

I just looked in my ideas file for you, April. Here you go:

"Machine that picks up laundry in your room based on how bad it smells

Glove compartment microwave

Plant translator -- tells you what your plant is thinking"

It would be pretty fun to have a glove compartment microwave, but my car title might be the worse for wear ;-)

Margaret Simon said...

I am recently at the crossroads of either starting a new project or going back to an old one. Your poem made me realize how we have so many ideas piled up, but how do we know the right one to choose? Thanks.

Ruth said...

I love all the places you store your ideas! My favorite line is "The sulfur smell surprises."

Christie Wyman said...

What an amazing image in my head your poem conjured up. A mini movie, actually. Much more exciting than my Happy Notes book with all my poetry ideas. I'm messing around with the image of frost on my window in the early morning. The fern-like shape and pattern fascinate me!

Molly Hogan said...

Love, love, love this poem! I'm dying to hear more about the crouchy, creepy, slinky idea.

Kay said...

I love this image of all those ideas piled up and stuffed into nooks and crannies and trying to find room for just one more!

April Halprin Wayland said...

Thanks Jone! It was an old poem and when I read it, it made me smile, too

April Halprin Wayland said...

I absolutely relate!

April Halprin Wayland said...

Ha! I can just see that, Mina

April Halprin Wayland said...

Yep, Chester ~ an embarrassment of riches

April Halprin Wayland said...

I love love love these, Tabatha! They made me laugh, especially the very discerning laundry machine...

April Halprin Wayland said...

Margaret... Sometimes it's the idea that I thought of most recently, but sometimes it's the idea that keeps calling to me. The idea that pulses.

April Halprin Wayland said...

I like that phrase, too, Ruth. I think I was influenced by one of my teachers who encourage me to invite the reader on scene more.

April Halprin Wayland said...

I love that frosty window image, Christie. I'm from Southern California, so I miss the beauty of the changing seasons.

April Halprin Wayland said...

Me, too, Molly...(And I'm so glad you liked the poem!)

April Halprin Wayland said...

Thanks, Kay...that image is true...and it's exciting and frustrating, both!

JoAnn Early Macken said...

Your tour of the brain is perfect! I love "This is the one I am working on now," & I'm glad to know I'm not the only collecting ideas & stashing them everywhere. I just need to make a point of poking through the collections more often!

Penny Parker Klostermann said...

This poem is a treasure! I just love it. A very visual way to think about all of my ideas that I have tucked away.

And since I have coffee every morning, I guess I could say that I write picture books on my coffee breakS...with the S being key since it takes many coffee breakS for one manuscript.

Carla Killough McClafferty said...

Wow, April. This post is amazing. What a talent you have for putting complex ideas together in a way that is moving. Love it.

Carmela Martino said...

Love your poem, April, especially the closing line:
>>Best to stand back as you roll up the aluminum door. <<
I can just see the avalanche!
Regarding the person who says "I can write a picture book on my coffee break," it reminded me of a student I had in a children's writing class who said she could right a picture book a week and easily complete 50 in a year. Funny thing, I never heard anything more from her after the class was done. 😊

April Halprin Wayland said...

JoAnn, Penny, Carla and Carmela ~ thank you for your comments! I'm just catching up to them now, having tripped over all those old ideas to get here...