Friday, August 27, 2021

Tricube Poem and Giveaway Reminder

Happy Poetry Friday! Today I share my first completed Tricube poem. Today is also the last day to enter for a chance to win Lisa Sukenic’s debut middle-grade novel in verse, Miles from Motown (Fitzroy Books). You'll find a link to the giveaway at the end of this post.

Last month, I happened to read Yvona Fast's Wonder of Words post about tricube poems. Since I've been focused on math-based poetry forms lately, I was immediately intrigued.  Yvona credits poet and children’s author Matt Forrest Essenwine for introducing her to tricubes. Here's Matt's description of the form from his blog:

"The tricube is fairly simple in structure, as it is based on mathematics: there are 3 syllables per line, 3 lines per stanza, and 3 stanzas per poem. (multiply a number by itself three times = cubed!) Unlike math, however, a tricube is greater than the sum of its parts, as word economy is paramount, much like haiku, senryu, and tanka."

While the rules for this haiku-inspired form seem simple enough, actually writing one was more challenging than I expected. Inspired by observations on a recent walk, I wrote the following:

Photo credit: Elizabeth Prata on

After sharing his first tricube in an earlier post, Matt said, "... although I like this little poem of mine, I’m still not sure it’s the best version of itself." I could say the same of mine. But I'd love to know what you all think of it. 

And when you're done here, don't forget to read Esther's interview with Lisa Sukenic, and enter to win a copy of her new verse novel, Miles from Motown. Also, be sure to check out this week's Poetry Friday roundup by Elisabeth Norton at Unexpected Intersections

Happy writing!

Friday, August 20, 2021

Lisa Sukenic’s Student/Writer Success Story + Book Giveaway!

 Oh, how my teacher’s and Writing Coach’s heart kvells* today, August 20, as I share my former student and writer Lisa Sukenic’s Success Story with TeachingAuthors readers.

Tomorrow Saturday, Lisa’s middle grade novel in verse Miles from Motown (Fitzroy Books) officially enters the World!

Participate in our Book Giveaway at the end of this post and you can win a copy.

Register HERE and you can attend via Crowdcast this Sunday’s 6 pm (CDT) Book Launch sponsored by Women and Children First of Chicago’s Andersonville.


Lisa has traveled an indeterminate number of miles on her Children’s Book Writer’s Journey.  What I do know is that when she and I – and her character Georgia Johnson - first connected in my Novel Workshop at the University of Chicago’s Graham School’s Writer’s Studio in 2015, she’d already traveled far. I knew in my teacher’s heart: even though Lisa had quite the distance to go in readying Georgia’s story for Readers, she’d keep keepin’ on. 

Georgia's story is quite the story.


About to move in June, 1967, from her beloved Detroit neighborhood to an unfamiliar suburb on the outskirts of the city, she decides to lie. She uses her Aunt Birdie’s Detroit address as her own to qualify for the Essay Contest for Detroit sixth graders only. With her older brother deployed to Vietnam, and her family worried about when - or if - he’ll make it home, Georgia tries to settle into her new life. But she misses the old: her friend Ceci, the cracks in the sidewalk that used to catch her skates, the hide-and-seek tree, and the deli on the corner. She wonders if she’ll ever make new friends or feel like she belongs. To make matters worse, she must also find a way to intercept the Contest finalist announcement that will be mailed to Aunt Birdie’s mailbox before her family uncovers her deception. By the end of summer, Georgia discovers her own resiliency in the face of upheaval and the power of truth when lies ring hollow.

Gwendolyn Brooks, the judge for the story’s Essay Contest whom Georgia adoringly admires, would surely approve.  So will middle grade readers familiar with moving, overwhelmed by New Everything while seeking agency in their own lives. So will readers who know the guilt that comes with lying.

 As you read Lisa’s answers to my questions, you’ll learn: Lisa designed her very own DoItYourself MFA in Writing for Children Program! Lucky me to have been included. We began working one-on-one once my workshop ended in 2015 – re-visioning, reshaping, refining, ’til Miles to Motown was ready to win Regal Publishing’s and Fitzroy Books’ The Kraken Book Prize in 2019 and its offer of publication. 

Booklist’s review in the current August issue has only increased my heart’s rejoicing.

"Sukenic’s verse is compact and lively, telling Georgia’s first-person story with sparkle and verve.  She evokes detailed images with her carefully chosen words and captures Georgia’s story perfectly.

Thank you, Lisa, for sharing both your inspirational Success Story, the story behind Miles from Motown and your DIY MFA Program with our Readers!

And thank you, Carol, for hosting today’s Poetry Friday at The Apples in my Orchard.

Happy Keep’ Keepin’ On, no matter the miles!

Esther Hershenhorn

 . . . . .

Miles from Motown was always your title…and although the point of view character, camera focus, subplots and telling (poetry vs. prose) changed through the years and numerous revisions, the heart of this story remained the same. I think of Katherine Paterson’s definition of character: “One heart in hiding reaching out to another.” How did you remain true to the story’s heart and wherein lies your heart?

The seeds of the story came from my memories and experiences growing up in the suburbs of Detroit. My grandparents lived and worked in Detroit. Going back and forth between Detroit and Southfield set a map in my mind for the setting and situations of the story. Even though the physical distance was small, the divisions between the communities and cultures were large. I used the reference of miles to dive into distance being vast in her heart when leaving her Detroit to an unfamiliar neighborhood. I grew up during this time period and wanted to paint a picture of this era with the internal and external conflicts that weighed on Georgia and her family when they relocated to the suburbs. Although this is a work of fiction, my childhood friendships and relationships played a role in the creation of the foundation for Miles from Motown.

Your very own Do It Yourself (DIY) MFA in Writing for Children Program serves as an excellent model for children’s book creators, or any writer, for that matter. You grabbed opportunities and saw possibilities everywhere to learn your craft, revise and ready your novel and connect with the children’s book community and fellow writers.  How did this approach best serve you and Miles from Motown and which elements were absolutely necessary?

These experiences were vital to my development as a published author:

·       The University of Chicago Graham School Certificate in Poetry program is where I began formalizing my poetry skills, studying with Alice George and Dina Elenbogen. They taught me form and to be a more objective poet, to read and model from famous poets. This also prepared me for prepublication and critique.

 ·       The A Room of Her Own Foundation Retreat held at the Georgia O’Keefe Ranch in Abiquiu, New Mexico gave me too many gifts to list by being around so many talented women writers who helped me create my writing community.  I was fortunate to be selected to attend in 2009, 2011, 2013, and 2015. In 2015, I had the privilege of working with Cynthia Leitich-Smith. 

·       Being part of the virtual Haiku Room helped me work on my daily writing practice and led to my first publishing contract for 13 Haikus in Everyday Haiku published in 2014. 

·       Juliet Bond’s 2014 Story Studio program “Writing Children’s Literature in a Year” is where the roots of Miles from Motown began in prose and later that year turned into poetry.

·       Esther Hershenhorn’s 2015 “Writing the Middle Grade and Young Adult Novel: through the University of Chicago Graham School helped me learn the elements of writing a novel as did her subsequent classes at Chicago’s Newberry Library. 

·       I worked with Esther as my Writing Coach for 4 years, from 2015-2019, to complete Miles from Motown. Her mentorship and belief in Georgia, me and the story led to the eventual offer to publish my novel in verse.            

·       SCBWI-Illinois’ free Networks offered support, programming and continued learning - especially Jane Hertenstein’s Chicago Network, Kate Hannigan’s Hyde Park Network and Anny Rusk’s North Suburban Network.

·       SCBWI-Illinois’ Prairie Writer’s and Illustrator’s Day, Many Voices Competition, Spring Thaw event and the SCBWI Midwest Conference offered submission opportunities along with the learning. I eventually was named a finalist in the Many Voices Competition and also the winner of the 2016 Prairie Writer’s and Illustrator’s Day Manuscript Event.

 ·       I attended orientation events through Hamline’s admission for their MFA for Children and Young Adults. I was able to participate in Sarah Aronson’s March retreat at Vermont College of Fine Arts for Children and Highlights workshops. At every turn, I was soaking in as much as possible regarding craft, and really listening to authors as well.

·       I read, read, read, and still do! I am the Co-Chairperson of the Global Reading Challenge for 4th grade at the University of Chicago Laboratory School which requires me to review diverse middle grade fiction every summer for our book selection.  I typically read 20-30 books each summer to share with the selection committee.

When we worked together, I often began by reciting E.B. White’s wise, wise words: “Writers are revisers.” How did the revision process help you find your way into Georgia’s heart and winnow out her story for a middle grade novel-in-verse?

Being a poet was a blessing and a curse. The danger of being a poet who has never written a novel is the high probability that you will spend a lot of time micromanaging at the word and stanza level.  As a poet, the novel in verse format immediately goes close to the emotional arc and a lot can be conveyed with very few words. The very first draft was in prose and the subsequent revisions in verse, prose, and then finally verse. Having written it over again in prose allowed me to identify the plot points. I had created a gigantic timeline on mural paper in my bedroom. This continual visual reminder allowed me to see if a character was not showing up a lot.  It helped with the pacing, too, but honestly, some of the best changes were made through discussion with Esther and having that AHA! moment during brainstorming. On several occasions after our meetings, I found myself pulling off of Lakeshore Drive at a park to jot something down when a connection had finally clicked or an amazing line had to be written immediately before I would forget.

Many of the poems seemed to pour out of me and I often felt that I was channeling Georgia when writing. I also played a bit with form, creating list poems about how to lose a friend, which allowed me to discover a different voice than Georgia’s typically more lyrical poetry. The deeper the problems became, the more that Georgia grew as a person. I began to really know how she would respond and how deeply she felt her sadness about her brother Ty being in Vietnam, her confusion about why they moved, and her loss of her best friend and changing friendships and the guilt that she places on herself with the poetry entry deception.

Past and present University of Chicago Laboratory School students and parents treasure you as a dedicated and creative teacher, so now you truly can declare yourself a dyed-in-the-wool true-blue TEACHINGAuthor. 😊 How would you like middle grade teachers to share Georgia and Miles from Motown with their students?

Thank you very much for this immense compliment and for having faith in me. I am currently working on my Teachers Guide and it will soon be available for download HEREMiles from Motown lends itself to a broad curriculum, such as:

Poetry study and Novels in Verse study

History/Timelines (Gwendolyn Brooks, Dudley Randall, Muhammad Ali, the Vietnam War)

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Curriculum

Social Emotional Issues (identity, bullying, loss, transitions, and self-advocacy)

Pop culture and Music of the 1960’s

Like all creatives, we work hard at visualizing our Success.  As you and Georgia ready for the world and your Readers, what are you most looking forward to? Which visualizations do you hope come true?

I am most looking forward to reading this book with my fourth-grade students in book groups, during our novel in verse study in spring and having in-depth discussions about the time period and all of the themes that the book lends itself to. We use a lot of historical novels in verse in this category and I think mine will be a perfect addition to Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai and Becoming Muhammad Ali by James Patterson and Kwame Alexander. I am excited and shocked to have mine be on the list next to these legendary authors. The best thing and what I am looking forward to the most is seeing my students read my book as a “real” book and seeing it in our library at school.

Miles from Motown is but your first published children’s book, the first of many.  What work-in-progress now claims your heart?

My work in progress Mississippi Flyway tells the story of 14-year old Zoey from Chicago who wants to forget about her parents’ divorce and have things go back to normal. Zoey had planned to spend her winter break with her best friend, Sage in Florida, sketching birds and preparing her portfolio to get accepted to the high school art school with Sage. With the divorce agreement finalized, Zoey and her eleven-year old brother Eli have to spend all of their vacation time up in Honor, Michigan, population 300, at the Loon Lake Inn Bed and Breakfast with their dad and his new husband. Zoey’s feelings about Honor begin to change when she meets Dakota who lives at the Deadstream General Store. Will Zoey be forced to choose between her best friend and her new friend? When Zoey finds the mysterious sketches with the initials GF, she becomes obsessed with finding the artist. Maybe living in Northern Michigan might not be as bad as she thought. As the summer ends, she may have to choose between her best friend and the opportunity of a lifetime?

                                                                           # # # 

And now for the giveaway! 

To enter our drawing, use the Rafflecopter widget below.  You may enter via 1, 2, or all 3 options. (Note: if the widget doesn’t appear, click on the link at the end of this post that says “a Rafflecopter giveaway” to enter.)

If you choose option 2, 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 August 27, 2021 and is open to US. Residents only.

If you’ve never entered a Rafflecopter giveaway, here’s info on how to enter a Rafflecopter giveaway and the difference between signing in with Facebook vs. with an email address.

Good luck!

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Friday, August 13, 2021

5 Pandemic Poems Just For You

 Howdy, Campers and happy Poetry Friday! (the PF host link is below)

The topic this round, which Esther suggested in late June, was Writing (Or Teaching)-Related Activities We’re Getting Back To As Things Open Again.

So far, four TeachingAuthors have created terrific posts on this topic, and already the sands have shifted.Esther's (July 16th) is euphoric (including an empty frame in which she expected to post of photo of Carmela, Esther and me at a Chicago restaurant), Zeena's (July 23rd) is about her new committment as a teacher of 4- and 5-year-olds (it includes a video of Zeena book talking picture books);  Bobbi's (July 30th) is hope-filled--with a terrific resources list!), Mary Ann's (August 6th) is wonderfully written as always. But hope?...not so much. 

And me? I'm grumpy today.

Me, slaying the topic we'd hoped to write about

The last few months in our house have been overshadowed by STUFF. Towards the end of April, zombies from the apocalyspe stopped by to chomp on my foot. (The medical diagnosis was staph infection, but I know it was zombies.)

Which meant I couldn't hike. Or run. Or walk. Or go to a wedding in Chicago and have lunch in person with Esther and Carmela. My pup Eli was also casuality: he couldn't hike or run or walk without me. 

Our muscles melted.

After umpteen weeks of varying antibiotics, my doctors found one that worked and I got better...

...just in time to drive my very sick husband to the ER. He was admitted to the hospital; it was scary. Now he's home. We're lucky. He'll be okay. 


Okay, I just thought of something that's hopeful: Like so many wonderful writers in the Poetry Friday community, I never stop writing a poem a day. (Yesterday ~ even on a very grumpy day ~ I wrote my 4,141st poem in a row)

And so I offer you five pandemic poems and the inspiration behind each, for your entertainment:

1. March 27, 2020

by April Halprin Wayland

Hey, Tom! Are you up for a walk tomorrow?

If I met you at your house

and we drove separately

and stayed six feet apart?

And how about a third person,

Joyce? Would that be too much?

 (I would ask her to drive separately

and meet us at your house also.)


Okay strange times.

Put this exchange in a time capsule.

Inspiration: This is a word for word text conversation with my friend Tom. We ultimately didn't walk...times had changed by the time Tom read my text. (At least an hour had gone by.)
2. April 4, 2020

LOVING MAMA-MADE MASK ~ a semi-found poem
by April Halprin Wayland

Waves of

hand marbled fabric:


three layers, mostly cotton—

reusable, washable,


to brighten your day.

Line dry.


The scare will pass.

And we'll all have masks.
Inspiration: My friend Tom in the first poem has a wife named JoAnn who mailed us two beautiful masks with a note. I gleaned it for words around which to form a poem.  I did add words, though, so technically it's not a Found Poem.

3. May 9, 2020

ZOOM ~ in four words 
by April Halprin Wayland

Drapes drawn

pearls on
Inspiration: When I started Zooming, the only place in our house with appropriate lighting was a tiny corner of my office in front of a bookshelf, with the drapes drawn, a floor lamp on one side and the overhead light on. Also, of course pearls!

4. May 21, 2020 

(previously published in this post, its title is from the book of the same name by Myra Cohn Livingston)
by April Halprin Wayland

It's a kind of art—

lit by air

and light. Kept in a vault,


it can only chase it's own tail.

So blow on it, gently—this is vital.

It's yours; invent your own ritual.

That day I wanted to write an In One Word Poem. I choose a word that had become tiresome: VIRTUAL.

Below are the 18 words I decided to play with from the 65 words offered by Wordmaker. I used the six of these:  it, lit, air, art, rut, rail, tail, liar, vial, vail, rival, trial, vault, viral, vital, trail, ultra, ritual

One of the wonders of this form is that I can take a word that makes me sick and come up with a poem that's kind. Or glowing.
5. July 19, 2021

by April Halprin Wayland

Hey, little girl,

let the day unfurl

like a light-weight blanket.

At the close of day,

be sure

and thank it.
Inspiration: I believe I heard the words "let the day unfurl" in a morning meditation on Insight Timer
poems © 2021 April Halprin Wayland. All rights reserved


I've inadvertently ended on a note of hope. Oh, well. I tried to stay grumpy. You've gotta give me points for that.

One more thing: if you know anyone who's interested in taking my 10-week course, Picture Book 1 through the UCLA Extension Writers' Program, please tell them to sign up now...this class is limited to 15 students.

Thank you for stopping by today, Campers!

Many thanks to Christie for hosting this week's PF
at Wondering and Wandering

posted with a teeny tiny bit of hope and a bushel of love by April Halprin Wayland while Eli rests on top of his two favorite toys (the blue one is our kitty's)

Friday, August 6, 2021

Post-Pandemic---A Plan for the Immediate Future

 What a difference a week makes! I was so jazzed to write about "post-pandemic" life, how I'm making plans for in-person conferences, lining up school visits. I was so thrilled to read Esther's exuberant plans for "up-close and personal" contact with her writing friends and other TA's.

Just a week ago, it all seemed possible.

I see now that "Post-Pandemic" was a mirage we've lived in all summer. We heard about the delta variant, but it was always somewhere else...Great Britain, India, Thailand...not here.  Well it's here now, with a vengeance. I live in Atlanta. As for this morning, the state of Georgia has had 19,000 new cases in the last 72 hours. The rate of the fully vaccinated is 37.4%. 

People here never did take the pandemic seriously, few masks, fewer vaccinations...and this summer all precautions were thrown to the winds. While people partied in bars, jammed swimming pools and crammed into Sun-Trust Park to watch the Braves...the delta variant tip-toed in...and dropped a viral bomb.

I think a lot of us feel we are back to square one, wondering when this is all going to end. I've decided that for the foreseeable future, this is the "new normal" (a term I dislike...but can't think of a better one.) I can't put off living waiting for the "old normal"...which may never return. I spent most of last year waiting for the vaccine, never dreaming everyone wouldn't want to take it. 

I need a new plan for my current reality. 

TA's Mary Ann, Carmela, April c.2010 

First, I am keeping Bobbi's latest post close at hand. What a spectacular job she did of culling resources of all kinds...everything I could need in a new, mostly virtual writing life. ("Virtually everything"? OK, bad pun.)

Next, I'm going to read my way through Zena's extensive reading list on diversity. I was lucky to work in the University of Wisconsin library system in the 90's and attend conferences at the Children's Co-operative Book Center. At the time, I was very aware of collecting multicultural literature for the School of Education collection, because I was the one doing the selecting. I have not been as diligent recently in keeping current in my reading. I've only read half of Zena's list to do!

I have a picture book coming out Fall 2022 (I could be later). I need to figure out how to connect with schools and students virtually. School visits are my favorite part of being an author. There is nothing like the give and take of talking to kids in person. Those odd ball moments when a kid asks you to autograph his notebook or tells you what your book what has meant to them...I'm pretty sure they can't be reproduced on Zoom. I will have to re-tool my hyperactive presentation style....walking through the student groups, asking questions, doing lots of "dramatic readings." (When I was teaching, my classroom presentations were known as "Big Vivid" make sure my students stayed awake!) There must be a way to do Big Vivid on a screen. 

Mental stimulation-Chihuly exhibit

And then there is Esther's last post.  I was so happy....and envious of Esther's happy plans for the "non-socially distant life." Even though Atlanta was still deep in delusion, I knew even last week that I would never leave the house without a mask, let alone eat in a restaurant. Sigh. But this won't be forever. I have a list of people I am planning to visit as soon as it's safe, none of whom live within driving distance. My big post pandemic plan is to visit my favorite cousins...and milk them for family stories and pictures. So many missing pieces of family history that I can no longer ask my parents, or anyone else in their generation. (If you are a regular reader of Teaching Authors, you know that my extended family has shown up in most of my books.)

What I have missed most in the past two years, is creative stimulation. In my case, being out and about and eavesdropping. I literally dash in and out of stores, not lingering in check out lines, only shopping where there is self-check. 

I didn't realize how much I missed hearing other people talk until I got a haircut this week (an appointment I made back in May...who knew?) Not only do I look better, I spent a wonderful hour listening to the woman in the next chair talking about her teenage and daughter and her boyfriend dying their hair...the night before school started...with disastrous results. I came home and scribbled the whole thing down in my journal. For awhile, I've thought my Writer's Brain was turning to sludge. It hasn't. It just needs stimulation...from real people. You just don't get the same sort of brain jolts from reading...and definitely not from watching TV! I've been writing this stuff in my journals for decades...maybe it's time to re-read those journals for some "stored inspiration."

And then there is The Novel. I no longer tell people I'm working on it, because I don't think anyone will publish it. (An agent told me this years ago, and his voice is still in my head.) This story is from my dad's family, and I've felt guilty that I didn't finish it before he died. So I'm moving past "this-isn't-good-enough" and "guilt-guilt-guilt" and moving on. 

It's a blow to realize that 'normal life" is on hold once again. However, I've had over a year of feeling paralyzed and overwhelmed. That's long enough. I grew up at a time when students were required to memorize poetry. My school system was overly fond of Longfellow. Me, not so much. But his "Psalm of Life"--all gazillion stanzas of it--stayed in my head, long after I've forgotten "Hiawatha" and "Evangeline." In fact, on mornings when I don't want to get up, the last stanza automatically prods me out of bed--(Iambic pentameter will do that to you!) Thanks, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow!

  Let us, then be up and doing,

With a heart for any fate;

Still achieving, still pursuing,

Learn to labor and to wait.

Posted by Mary Ann Rodman