Friday, September 16, 2022

Stories Don't End


 You may remember, I have a cat. His name is Apollo. I met him when he was six months old. He was staying at a rescue home at the time, and didn't like it. I didn’t want a cat, much less a rambunctious kitten. But he was quite persuasive. I never had a chance.

So Apollo took me home, where he met Comma. Comma took to him immediately. The three of us took great care of each other.

Some time ago, Comma had to leave us. He had always been small and sickly. Neither Apollo nor I wanted him to go, but Comma was the wisest of us, and knew better.

So, it was just me and Apollo, together. A family for many years. Not sure when or how it happened, actually, when one day he couldn’t walk as he once ran. He developed kidney disease, and diabetes. Then he told me it was time for him to leave. He missed Comma, too.

I argued, of course. But he could be quite persuasive.

On Sept. 1, Apollo joined Comma. We had been together for seventeen years. I’ve been quite discombobulated ever since, and couldn’t find a story to share.

As it happens, inspiration – or solace, whatever is needed in the moment – comes from this reminder how important your story is.

Thank you for reading.

-- Bobbi Miller

About the image: For more inspiration about A Mighty Girl, see their blog at A Mighty Girl.

Friday, September 2, 2022

No Voice Too Small

     When my daughter was little, she once asked me why I spent my time as an activist trying to save public education and not trying to stop global warming (as it was called at that time before it was expanded). Her logic was that education justice would not matter if we didn’t have a planet to live on. I paused for a moment before answering, not knowing the answer myself. And then I responded with my own logic. If education was lost, then we wouldn’t have a chance at saving the planet. Only through an educated global population could we begin to mitigate global warming. And so, I continued my work to struggle to maintain an equitable public education with my union and other organizations as well as working in my classroom to develop as a child-centered educator. I was sure I could be a part of positive change in my own little corner of the world.

     Years later, I still believe that losing public education for all would be a travesty, but I am beginning to see that it is undeniably time to actively work to mitigate climate change in a more focused way. Again, I feel like I can only work effectively on climate change in my own little corner of the world. And so, my path leads me back through education and to the very young people I am tasked with guiding.

     There was a moment when Greta Thunberg dominated the news cycle and my kindergarteners pre-Covid became intrigued by her work. This group of young 5-year-olds were interested in what global warming was, what caused it, and eventually they wondered what could be done. The energy of the group took on a life of its own that lead to questions about how to change policy specifically around climate change. We had a staffer from our state senator’s office come and talk about his job focusing on climate change bills. The students’ interest culminated in the writing of policy recommendations that I delivered to our city, state, and federal policy makers. It amazed me how much these young people thought deeply and expansively about such critical matters.

     My own experience with the powerful voices of very young people led me to the book that I learned from this year. No Voice Too Small: Fourteen Young Americans Making History edited by Lindsey H. Metcalf, Keila V. Dawson, and Jeanette Bradley and beautifully illustrated by Jeanette Bradley. The picture book combines very short biographies, illustrations, and poetry by 14 different poets to tell the stories of 14 young changemakers. The picture book is laid out in a way that educators from kindergarten to high school can utilize the stories of these young activists to engage other young activists. It’s just what the world needs now. 

See Book Trailer Here

My current students are especially drawn to the illustrations. I am especially drawn to the poetry that precedes the introduction of each new activist. My students engage with the stories especially  because they can relate to the children who are celebrated in the book. This year we have already begun recognizing power and the ability to speak out using this important piece of literature. This spring, this same team will launch their companion title, No World Too Big: Young People Fighting Global Climate Change. I am so moved by the first book, No Voice Too Small, that I am including them in a climate activism project that I am developing with my kindergarten class this year. 

     Building the conditions for climate activism to occur with young children, I am working with environmental organizations in Los Angeles to create field trips to natural habitats to build a foundation of environmental engagement. I am partnering with policy-makers to create policy engagement. I am anxiously anticipating the second book, No World Too Big and I have reached out to the authors of these books to create literary engagement. I am proud to know Keila and Jeanette through our Kidlit for Growing Minds group. I am hoping to create an event with a local, Los Angeles, independent bookstore, The Book Jewel, that brings together my current students and the creators when they launch their second book this coming spring. 

     I’m not sure what my young daughter had in mind when she questioned my methods, but I feel like have found my way to engage with the ongoing climate crisis. It is my hope that by bringing together organizations that can get children into nature, elected officials  who can demonstrate that young people can and should be able to access and influence policy making, and authors who can write about and inspire young people to tell their stories (which ultimately makes movements), I am doing my own part in my own little corner of the world. 

You can find out more about Kidlit For Growing Minds from our website, our BOOKTALK YouTube channel and our Twitter page. Find our books on our Bookshop Storefront.

Twitter: @ForGrowingMinds

By Zeena M. Pliska

Friday, August 19, 2022

Celebrating the THINGS WE FEEL Anthology

I'm excited to finally be able to post today and talk about the latest Pomelo Books anthology Things We Feel, edited by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong. The book just happens to include one of my poems! In honor of Poetry Friday, I share that poem at the end of this post along with a link to the Poetry Friday roundup.

Our current TeachingAuthors topic is "One Book I Learned from this Past Year." Things We Feel is especially appropriate to the topic because it was produced as part of a class I took from Sylvia and Janet: Anthologies 201, a four-part course on publishing an anthology for PreK-grade 2. 

My involvement with this book taught me a great deal. I learned not only from Sylvia and Janet's presentations, but also from the process of writing and selecting the poems. Not all the poems in the anthology were written by the students in our class, and we were allowed to participate in the selection of the poems written by outsiders. The project helped me better understand the variety of considerations when putting together a poetry anthology. As a result, I was able to look at my own poems more objectively. One of my biggest takeaways: An anthologist isn't only looking for the best poems, but poems that will be the best fit.

Things We Feel is the third in a series of alphabet anthologies. This book covers a variety of emotions, from A to Z, and is wonderfully illustrated with photographs of children dealing with each emotion. Things We Feel will be of great value to parents and teachers trying to help young children cope with and understand their feelings. Since my poem is "Amazed," it's the very first in the book. 😊  

As part of the Anthologies 201 class, we participated as a team in creating the following short video which could be used as a supplement to the book. (If the video doesn't play for some reason, you can also watch it here.) 

Things We Feel EMOTIONS promo from Pomelo Books on Vimeo.

As I mentioned, Things We Feel is the third in a series from Pomelo Books. Fellow TeachingAuthor April Halprin Wayland and former TeachingAuthor JoAnn Early Macken both contributed poems to Things We Eat, which came out earlier this year. See this blog post to read April's poem. And you can read JoAnn's poem on her website. The first book in the series, Things We Do, was released in 2021. All of the profits from sales of these books will be donated to the IBBY Children in Crisis Fund ( You can find buy links for all the books on the Pomelo Books website.

Now, as promised, I'll share my poem, "Amazed." Sylvia and Janet created a terrific graphic of the 2-page spread with the poem alongside the "amazing" photo that inspired it. However, I had to split the graphic into two for the poem to be legible here. So below you'll first see the photo, which appears on the left page of the spread, and then the poem. (If you'd like to see the whole graphic, check out my Tweet here.)



I encourage you to visit Marcie Flinchum Atkins's website to read the fun poem she wrote for the letter Z: "Zany."  You can also see Michelle Kogan's poem in the anthology on her blog post here. And Anastasia Suen shares not only her poem but a related downloadable activity on her website.

When you're done checking out the poems from Things We Feel, don't forget to visit the Poetry Friday roundup hosted by Dave on his blog, Leap of Dave
Happy writing!

Thursday, August 4, 2022

Two Books I Learned from this Year: Multiple Narrators by Mary Ann Rodman

We're currently talking about One Book I Learned from Over the Past year. I know, I's supposed to be one book, but why confine yourself to just one?  I've read a ton of middle grade fiction this year, and lot of them had multiple POV's. 

Maybe it's a subconscious thing. My long festering WIP has multiple (three) POV's. Perhaps the Universe is nudging me, with all these excellent examples of how to juggle different narratives. 

The Blackbird Girls by Anne Blankman takes place during the Chernobyl disaster. Eleven-year-olds Oksana and Valentina find themselves evacuating to Leningrad parents, no teachers. Additionally, the girls are sworn enemies. The chapters alternate each girl's POV, in third person limited. A third voice from 40 years in the past occasionally shows up.  Her identity isn't learned until the end of the book. In addition to the effects of a nuclear meltdown, Blankman takes on anti-Semitism, child abuse (mental and physical), religious beliefs and living in the Soviet Union. Heavy as these topics are, Blankman handles them in an age-appropriate manner. Even though the three main characters are girls of the same age, each has a distinctive voice and personality. 

Erin Entrada Kelly's Those Kids From Fawn Creek dropped me into a familiar locale. For many years, I taught in a small, isolated school like Fawn Creek, a place where everyone is either related, or has known each other since birth. A town where no one ever leaves, and no one new moves in. Not until Orchid Mason arrives in the 7th grade, throwing the school's well-established social order askew.. Orchid is a mystery girl who has been all over the world, so how does she wind up in Fawn Creek, Louisiana? The eleven other 7th graders speculate through the alternating perspectives of main characters Greyson, Dorothy and Janie. (There is also a chapter where each of the boys in the class has a short section weighing in with their thoughts about Orchid and girls in general.) Additionally, of the three main characters, each, at some point, is also an unreliable narrator. Who is telling the truth? What is the truth? Can anyone ever know? 
Having read these two books in the same week, my long dormant WIP characters are stretching and yawning, waking up after a long pandemic's nap. I think they're ready to come out and play. 

So am I.

Posted by Mary Ann Rodman

Friday, July 15, 2022


Howdy, Campers, and Happy Poetry Friday! (My poem and the link to PF are below)

TeachingAuthors is officially back from our 🌞Summer Break🌞, and I'm kicking off a round we're calling One Book I Learned From Over the Past Year.  

I've changed the prompt slightly for today's post to: One Book From the Past Year That Changed Me.

So many books, so many ways to respond to this prompt!  But lemme tell you, the book that BLEW. MY. MIND this year (thanks to my beloved book club) is the collaboration between author Jason Reynolds and illustrator Jason Griffin, AIN'T BURNED ALL THE BRIGHT (Simon & Schuster)

Let's start with this two minute segment of a Washington Post video interview, in which Jason Reynolds tells us that his initial manuscript was three sentences long. 

So you're thinkin' picture book, right?  

Well. Kinda. It did win the Boston Globe/Horn Book Award in the PICTURE BOOK category. that fair to the picture books?  

Kirkus calls it ILLUSTRATED POETRY.  For 12-18 year olds. (Unfortunately the Boston Globe/Horn Book Awards don't have a poetry category ~ for shame!)

How to describe this book? Let's start with its physicality. 

It's 384 pages: the size of a fat YA. Each page is shinier and thicker than you'd expect. The cover alone is hefty. All I'm sayin' is don't put this in your kid's backpack--it's a frickin' brick of a book. 

What about the content?

It's poetry. It's story. It's despair. It's hope. It's family. It's wild and wonderful illustrations that sometimes make no sense and sometimes make the whole thing explode.

It's S-P-A-C-E to absorb a poem with double page spreads that sometimes are just black. 

It climbs to a crescendo page by page. 

It's metaphor, it's simile: 
  • "my sister talks to her homegirl through the screen of her phone like it's the screen of the front door," 
  • the father tries "to keep the cough from coming through/like trying to mute the blues trumpet in his throat," 
  • "worry is worn like a knit sweater/ in summer/ and can't nobody breathe/ in a knit sweater in summer/ a turtleneck wrapped around/my whole family/our necks caught/in a tunnel/of too much/going on"
This book 

And, Honey, I ain't the only one. 

School Library Journal: ⭐starred review. 
Kirkus: ⭐starred review.
Booklist: ⭐starred review.
Publishers Weekly: ⭐starred review.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books: ⭐starred review.
Horn Book: ⭐starred review.
Shelf Awareness: ⭐starred review.
Bookpage: ⭐starred review.

BOOKPAGE: "Dynamic and visceral, Ain’t Burned All the Bright artistically portrays the claustrophobia of the summer of 2020 from the perspective of a young boy."

KIRKUS: "Artful, cathartic, and most needed." 

SLJ: "For everyone who has felt the weight of grief and fear or the comfort of love and family in the last two years, this is a must read."

Jason Reynolds says, “It isn’t about the art illustrating the language, it’s more so about the language and the art being in conversation with one another.” 
Jason Reynolds and Jason Griffin
photo credit: Dayo Kosoko

Before my book club meets, I will sometimes put post-its on one or two pages I want to discuss.

And then there's this:

Want more? Take a deep dive into a ton of resources on S&S's site. That's the end of my review...

...which takes us back to the initial question. 

Answer: I am taking more chances when I writeF'rinstance:


by April Halprin Wayland

It said,

Malia, Min, Morgan, Manosh, Whoever:





Like a flame but not a flame because the flame’s

already that hot.

Like lightning but not lightning because lightning’s

already claimed that shine in the sky.

Like your step-mom’s burst of laughter but not her burst because


well, by now you know why.


Rip across a page!

Or settle down in softness.

Listen, sing, speak up, don’t speak up,

cut through the cloud or

ride it


because, Babe,

the you 

inside you

is dyin’ to shout. 

It's not too late.


the gate.




poem (c)2022 April Halprin Wayland, who controls all rights.

And finally, I'll send you off with the one minute book trailer of AIN'T BURNED ALL THE BRIGHT.

Thanks for being here, and thanks for being you.

And thank you, Elizabeth, of UNEXPECTED INTERSECTIONS for hosting today!

posted with affection by April Halprin Wayland with occasional snores from nearly-13-year-old Eli, who, after a full day playing with younger being Eli.

Friday, June 17, 2022

Ben and Me (Redux): an Out-and-About Shout-Out!


    I’m happy to report:

    Since my last posting, I’ve been out-and-about in both the Real and Virtual Worlds discovering all sorts of opportunities that demand a Shout-out.

    For instance, in May I traveled to Philadelphia to (bravely) attend for the first time ever since graduation my (you-can-guess-which number) college reunion! I’ve proudly sworn allegiance to the University of Pennsylvania’s Red-and-the-Blue all these years, but never more so that weekend.

     While expanding my education as a long-ago undergraduate, I’d never noticed the outstanding architecture of my campus’ buildings, the gorgeous trees, the spectacular Oriental rugs in the Student Union! Reconnecting with everyone and everything surprisingly created Unforgettable Moments I’m still savoring.

     The Banter with Ben program I’d (again, bravely) agreed to facilitate with fellow classmate Mack Goode constituted one such Moment.  Benjamin Franklin founded my university in 1749 as the Publik Academy of Philadelphia. I’d visited Ben’s gravestone at 5th and Arch Streets on numerous Overbrook Elementary School class trips, thanks to the Philadelphia School District, tossing a penny and making a wish. How nice to have the chance to visit with him in person! How nice to learn he was as affable, erudite and engaging as reported.

      Though a believer in public education and a visionary as well, it’s unlikely Dr. Franklin, as he later became known, could have ever imagined the breath and depth of his academy 273 years later: a diverse and inclusive student body, including women (!), enrolled in diverse and numerous schools and academic programs, taught by a diverse and inclusive faculty (including women!). 

     The Kelly Writers House is one such offering, sadly established after I graduated. The Cosmic Writers initiative two Kelly Writers House alumni, Rowana Miller and Manoj Simha, and two Penn undergraduates founded would have surely earned a thumbs-up from Dr. Franklin, a life-long writer.

     Think: a full-fledged nonprofit that continues the established Word Camp program online for K-12 students around the world, expanding this year to provide free in-person creative writing workshops in several cities in the U.S.

     Think: a dedicated group of college students believing in the power of creative writing for social change!

     “We want to create cultures of joy around creative writing.  We want it to be fun,” Rowana Miller shared. “We want kids to leave our programs self-motivated to become strong writers and communicators.”

     Kidzine, a collaboration between Cosmic Writers and Reading Recycled, publishes writers and artists under 18, including many of the participants in the Cosmic Writers workshops. Submissions for the Summer 2022 issue open on July 1st.  The magazine publishes short stories, poetry, illustrations, photographs, memoirs and comics.

     Click here to read a description of the Word Camp workshops available this July 11-15 and 18-22.

     Click here to register.

    And here I repeat the words I proudly sang at my May Reunion: Hurrah, Hurrah, Pennsylvania! Hurrah for the Red-and-the Blue!

    Thanks to my fellow Chicago author-illustrator Michelle Kogan for hosting today’s Poetry Friday. 

    Happy Out-and-About-ing!

     Esther Hershenhorn


     Our TeachingAuthors Twitter account is now up and running again! Follow us at @TeachingAuthors!


     Bill Robling, the Ben Franklin reenactor, was every bit as affable, erudite and engaging as the outstanding American he portrayed.


Friday, June 3, 2022

How To Engineer A Revision


What does it mean to engineer a revision?

In my current WIP, I am working with two distinct points of view moving through simultaneous timelines against a hefty historical event. The challenge was making these points of view distinct without compromising either  timeline, while still making sure that the event – a coming together of complex social and political systems – was easy enough for young readers  to follow. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.


So how does one weave together all of these elements into a cohesive story? I first came upon the term “story engineering” in Larry Brooks’ excellent book, Story Engineering: Mastering the 6 Core Competencies of Successful Writing (Writers Digest Books, 2011). Story engineering is not just about planning or outlining, but certainly that’s a part of the process. In the same way that engineers really on blueprints to create a structure that bears weight and resists the elements, writers arm themselves with a strategy to create an equally structurally sound foundation upon which all the literary elements may rest.

Looking for information on how to engineer two points of view at once, I went to my go-to for information on writing strategies. Lorin Oberweger’s  Free Expressions Seminars .

And –of course – I found the perfect workshop: Non-Linear, Dual-Timeline, And Multiple POV Plotting with Donald Maass. No one does it better than Donald Maass. During the almost two-hour workshop, Donald offered step by step instruction, citing examples from ‘break-out’ fiction to support his process.

Returning to my WIP, I began to engineer my two points of view and their plotlines. (This is a basic step by step that fits my particular narrative. For more information, especially as it relates to your project, you must check out Donald Maass’ workshops at Free Expressions.)

First, I divided the draft by points of view. It’s like having two (or more, depending on how many POVs are used) separate stories. The parallel narratives need to be so tight, and so relevant, that one cannot exist without the other. While the two points of view need to be pronounced, and distinct, they need to be connected by theme.

Next, I reviewed the carryovers (transitions) between chapters to make sure the story of each point of view flowed.

Next, I reviewed both timelines to make sure the scenes connected to the broader plot.  This includes adding research as needed to make sure each scene was complete.

I then combined the two stories into one, aligning the events to strengthen the timeline, reinforcing the causal chain. This means quickly establishing the narrative pattern, in which the points of view shift between the characters. It also means noting where additional chapters might be needed to complete the timeline.

Finally, To keep the reader oriented, I review each points of view to make sure the characters are distinct, reinforcing certain literary devices. These devices include vocabulary, sensibilities (world views), personality traits, and specific artifacts (such as pets or songs!).

Now the foundation is set, and the real work of revision can begin!! Allons-y!!

-- Bobbi Miller

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Poetry Friday Roundup is Here! Plus a STEAM Poetry Sneak Peek

Welcome! I'm so excited to host this week's Poetry Friday Roundup! (If you're not familiar with Poetry Friday, you can read more about it here.)  I'm also pleased to share a poem I wrote that appears in a new anthology. 

But first, I want to provide a "sneak peak" at a new project from my friend and former poetry instructor, Heidi Bee Roemer, creator of the amazing site, STEAM Powered Poetry. Beginning June 1, Heidi will host a STEAM poetry video series called Wee Steamers. Each episode will feature early education teacher Sheila Kerwin sharing a STEAM poem and a brief lesson especially for young children. The corresponding blog post will provide free PDF downloads containing the poem, a related book list, activities, and even a snack recipe! These all-in-one, fun STEAM mini-lessons will be great resources not only for early education teachers, but also for parents and grandparents to share with tiny tots!

Even though the Wee Steamers series doesn't officially kickoff until June, you can catch a sneak peak right now by checking out the first poem, “Five Little Fishies,” at the STEAM Powered Poetry website. While you're there, be sure to subscribe on this page, so you don't miss any future posts! For even more poetry-related goodness, you can follow Heidi on Twitter, too!  

Now, as promised, I'm pleased to share one of my own poems, "Backyard Dandelions," which is featured in Imperfect II: Poems About Perspective: An Anthology for Middle Schoolers (History House) edited by Tabatha Yeatts. Imperfect II contains the work of over 50 poets from around the world, including my fellow TeachingAuthor April Halprin Wayland. April shared one of her poems from the collection last month. It's such fun to have our work appear in the same book!

Finally, it's time for the Poetry Friday roundup! Please use the Mr. Linky widget below to add your link. Note: this is my first time using Mr. Linky, so if you have trouble, please include your link in the comment so I can try to fix any issues!

I'm looking forward to reading all the Poetry Friday posts over the next few days! If you receive this blog post via email, I hope you'll visit the online version to check out the links for yourself! 

Happy writing!


Friday, May 6, 2022

A Writer's Playlist

(I touched on this topic in 2011 in a series about writing "soundtracks.") 

I'm always interested in other people's playlists, what's on them and how they are used. There are playlists of Summer Songs, Road Trip Music, and Beach Music. I always read the Rolling Stone column, "What's on Your Playlist?" I love knowing what Bruce Springsteen or Barak Obama or Lizzo is listening to.

Long before Pandora or the Internet or even the Walkman, I had playlists. Back then they were called mixtapes. Somewhere in my office is a shoe box of Radio Shack brand (Realistic!)cassettes labeled "House Cleaning"(Scott Joplin rags) and "Cooking" (Bach piano inventions and The Brandenburg Concertos). I had "Blowing Off Steam" tapes (The 1812 Overture and Led Zepplin) and "Driving to Work" tapes (old school pop like Nat King Cole and Perry Como and Dean Martin). Right after my pregnancy test turned blue, I recorded a bunch of Gregorian chants for the delivery room. I wound up having a C-section, but that tape also worked for 2 am feedings.
I have to music around me all the time. I don't function well without it.

I grew up in a house where music played every waking hour. My dad had a deep, lifelong love of music, , all kinds of music. Classical, rock, modern, gospel, folk, international, soul, blues, tubal throat singing, he loved it all. He collected it all. The only genres you wouldn't find in Dad's collection were pop standards--Dad thought pop was "bland"--and jazz (he found it "undisciplined.") His job as an FBI agent was high stress. He would come home from work and head right to the stereo, the way some people get a beer from the fridge. It was his way of decompressing.  Mom, on the other hand, used Roger Miller and the Tijuana Brass combat her chronic depression.  I learned there was music for every mood and emotion.

Since I grew up doing homework with Mahler and Mozart in the background, my brain doesn't work without melody and rhythm. Just as music can get you "in the zone" when you're working out, it does the same thing with my head. Trying to write in silence fires up my Negative Mental Message Center. To avoid those messages, another part of my head meanders around, thinking of everything but writing. (Did I water the plants? What's the temperature outside? Is there any pizza in the fridge?)

Music smoothes the wrinkles in my soul and brain, leaving no room for stray thoughts or idle chatter. As a writing warm-up, I let the sound surround and enfold me. When I'm completely immersed in melody and meter, it's safe to think about my story. My brain takes on a certain rhythm...and the words come. The characters show up and talk to me. It's kind of magic. To paraphrase an old Coke jingle, "Things go better with music."

Don't lyrics distract me while I'm writing? They could, if I had on a streaming station, playing random music. I only play my own cultivated downloads or CD's (how Old School) of instrumentals, or songs so thoroughly familiar I don't think about the words. When I was writing Yankee Girl, which takes place in 1964-65, I wrote to the Top 40 music of those years. Music so familiar, the lyrics flow through my subconscious. Before I started Jimmy's Stars, I listened to Big Band music--Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw--and vocalists--Doris Day, the Andrews Sisters, early Sinatra--until the music became familiar. When I began writing, the sound was already a part of me and the story.
Although, I've always used my playlists for novel-writing, I've branched out into using it for shorter work. My newest picture book, Wibble Wobble Boom (out in early November from Peachtree) is about a first skating lesson, written at a skating rink, while my daughter took lessons. Revising it years later, I evoked that time by playing the music my daughter used for her competition programs--the Brian Setzer Orchestra,  The Godfather score, the Tijuana Brass (my mom's influence, for sure!)
"Soundtracking" doesn't work for everybody. But should you find yourself in a creative cul-de-sac, put on some music that speaks to you. Joyful, mournful, even that wispy kind of music massage therapists play, anything that takes you away from your Inner Critic and useless thoughts. Breathe in, breathe out and let the music find your story.

Written by Mary Ann Rodman

Friday, April 22, 2022

13 Years Ago Today; Plus, Info on April Pulley Sayre's Celebration of Life

In addition to Earth Day and Poetry Friday, today happens to also be our TeachingAuthors' Blogiversary! So this is a special, unscheduled post to commemorate all three aspects of the day, and it contains a mix of joy and sadness. At the end of the post, I share an excerpt from a beautiful Earth Day book written and illustrated by April Pulley Sayre, and I provide information on how to live stream the celebration of April's life taking place tomorrow, April 23.

Hard to believe that we started this blog THIRTEEN years ago today! Four of us still blogging together here were part of that original team: April, Esther, Mary Ann and me. We've been blessed to connect with many wonderful fellow TeachingAuthors on this journey. I was especially touched a year ago when a number of current and former TeachingAuthors gathered in a surprise virtual meeting in honor of our 12th anniversary. Esther wrote about that fun event in this post.   

The TAs also surprised me that day with a basket of lovely flowers. I shared the following photo of it in my blog post from a year ago today:

I love houseplants but don't have much room for them, so I gave away several of those in the basket. I kept two, though. One, the peace lily, is hardly noticeable in the above photo--it's tucked at the back of the basket. But it grew quickly and I transplanted it to a larger pot. The lily recently bloomed for the second time, and the violet--one of my favorites--blooms regularly:

Like our TeachingAuthors team, these plants are gifts that keep on giving! I am so grateful to be part of this team.

And today, on Earth Day, I can't help thinking about my dear friend, April Pulley Sayre, and how grateful I am to have known her for over twenty years. Last November, I wrote of how devastating it was to lose her at such a young age. As I said in that post, her work lives on. 

Many of April's books celebrate nature and the gifts of our planet. Today, I want to share an excerpt from the end of her beautiful picture book Thank You, Earth: A Love Letter to Our Planet (Greenwillow Books), which came out last year:   

These words are especially poignant now that April's gone. 

If you like, you can watch a video of the book's amazing photo illustrations and listen as April reads the book herself here

Tomorrow, April 23, there will be a celebration of April's life held in South Bend, Indiana. Unfortunately, I'm unable to attend in person, but I plan to participate in the live stream. Here's the info April's husband, Jeff Sayre, posted on Facebook: 

     "With difficulty and great expense, I have managed to hire and coordinate with an event production crew to shoot and live stream the event. If you cannot attend in person, here is the link to use on Saturday morning. The stream will go live this Saturday, April 23, 2022 at 8:30 a.m. EDT (we are on east coast time). The event officially starts at 9:00 a.m. It will last two hours with a 20-minute intermission.
     This is not a Zoom broadcast. This is not a Facebook Live broadcast. It is better. However, it is not without the inherent vagaries of intermittent connectivity issues. So there is no guarantee that the event stream will be perfect and go without a hitch. For that reason, the event is also being recorded to be shared at a later date. This is the actual link. Yes, it uses a TinyURL.
      April Pulley Sayre Celebration live stream: ."

I know many in the kidlit community will be attending the event, and my thoughts will be with them, and especially with April's husband, Jeff.

Don't forget to check out this week's Poetry Friday round up hosted by Margaret at Reflections on the Teche.  


Friday, April 15, 2022

And the Nile flows from Poem to Picture Book...Coming to you from Cairo

Because I am in Cairo in this minute and because it is Poetry Month and Poetry Friday, it seems appropriate to flow into a poem by an Egyptian poet...

River Nile

behold how the River Nile generously flows

and hugs the banks with its gentile waves

it flows and smiles to the sun above

it flows as the blood inside a body

it flows as the breaths inside the lungs

it flows to greet farms and gardens

it flows and waters thirsty throats

it flows and waters flowers and trees

it flows and offers fish for food

it flows and floods the dry soil

it flows through a valley of its creation

it flows beside great pyramids and temples

it flows to crown a heavenly land

it says: ''take my waters and grow''

it says: ''let my immortal waters flow''

it says: ''within my surge life awakens''

omar ibrahim

(To go to the website that features this poem click here)

...and then flow into a preview of my upcoming picture book, Egyptian Lullaby. (If you're unable to see the video below, you can watch it online here.)

During my first visit to Cairo, my Aunt Zina said, "Once you drink from the Nile, you will always return."  She was right. over the past 40 years, I have returned over and over to visit my father and family.  Cairo is a part of my heart.  Her words were the inspiration for my upcoming picture book, Egyptian Lullaby, due out in April 2023 by Roaring Brook Press.  It is my love letter to Cairo and captures my own longings when I am away for too long from my family's homeland. (You can watch the following video here.)

It is a reminder to my daughter that she too has drunk from the Nile and maybe throughout her time, Egypt will beckon her back as well.

Time was lost during the pandemic lockdowns. We all lost something.  For me, I was robbed of the time I would have spent with my father and my aunt.  We were not able to return for those two years. They have both passed now.  My aunt in June and my father four weeks ago today. He passed before I could get back. 

But the mighty Nile reminds me that Cairo will always contain their hearts and spirits.  They will never be truly gone as long as the Nile continues to flow.

(You can also watch the above video here.)

Time is measured by humans, a human construct if you will.  From where I the Nile...time is in the the present...fleeting like the wind that billows in the sails of the boat that floats down the river. 

Through the city, is the street that leads to my father's apartment. My father, who passed away three weeks before I arrived here. A human lifetime. His was long by human standards but relatively short by other measures.  

And in the distance, are the Pyramids of Giza.  They have stood unchanged by time over many, many lifetimes...much like the Nile.  Time is relative. A construct of humans to measure our existence. It flows.

By Zeena M. Pliska

Author of 

Hello, Little One: A Monarch Butterfly Story illustrated by Fiona Halliday

Published May 12, 2020 Page Street Kids

Egyptian Lullaby illustrated by Hatem Aly

Published by Roaring Brook Press Due out April 2023

For more info about me click here

If you are unable to view the videos:

Friday, April 1, 2022

51 Poets on Being Imperfect ~ Middle School Poems

Howdy Campers ~ and happy Poetry Month 2022, Poetry Friday and April Fools Day! (my poem and the link to Poetry Friday are below) 

Carmela and I are excited to announce that our poems have been included in the poetry anthology, IMPERFECT II: Poems About Perspective: an anthology for middle schoolers, edited by the wonderful Tabatha Yeatts (History House Publishers, April 2022)

IMPERFECT II features poems by:
Robert Schechter * William Peery * Laura Mucha * Lisa Varchol Perron * Buffy Silverman * Heidi Mordhorst * Mary Lee Hahn * Mia Perron * Myrna Foster * Laura Purdie Salas * Tricia Torrible * April Halprin Wayland * Christy Mihaly * Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer * Diana Murray * Rebecca Gardyn Levington * Rochelle Burgess * Liz Garton Scanlon * Linda Kulp Trout * Alan J. Wright * François Villon * Michelle Heidenrich Barnes * Linda Mitchell * Alana DeVito * Elisabeth Norton * Carmela Martino * Molly Hogan * Michelle Schaub * Laura Shovan * Catherine Flynn * Carl Sandburg * Abby Wooldridge * Sydney Dunlap * Marzieh Abbas * Donna JT Smith * Paul Laurence Dunbar * Suzy Levinson * Helen Kemp Zax * Kathleen McKinley Harris * Margaret Simon * Ella Wheeler Wilcox * Ruth Bowen Hersey * Diane Mayr * Mizuta Masahide * Michelle Kogan * Charles Ghigna * Jone Rush MacCulloch * Richard Schiffman * Tabatha Yeatts * Robyn Fohouo * Isaac Leib Perez

Look for Carmela's poem in this book, Backyard Dandelionsin her May 20, 2022 post.

Here's one of my poems in this collection: 

FINGERPRINT  by April Halprin Wayland 

There’s a tiger in my fingerprint.

And fret and tire and ping.

And maybe also ripening:

ignite and fire and ring.


On grey days there’s no tiger,

just pine, inept, infringe.

I cannot roar with pen or print

there’s only grief and only rip


But maybe also...

tiger grit.

poem (c) 2022 by April Halprin Wayland, from IMPERFECT II: Poems About Perspective ~ an anthology for middle schoolers, edited by Tabatha Yeatts (History House Publishers 2022)

This is an In One Word poem, a form I invented. (Does one really "invent" poetic forms?)

The word I repeat a lot to myself lately is “fingerprint”...which to me means that no one can say what I need to do to get through the hard times, to right a wrong; no one can tell me how to create or live my life. The hard work is this: I need to discover my own fingerprint. 

This applies to how many potato chips are okay and how many are too many, as well as who do I want to hang out with? Where do I want to put my energies? And what time do I need to go to bed tonight? (I'll probably to ignore my own advice on that one...)

I wish someone I trusted, someone I looked up to had taken me aside in the crowded hallway of Lincoln Middle School, looked me in the eyes, and helped me understand that there is no perfect way to live your life. 

The question for each of us is: what's your fingerprint?

And one more thing: Sylvia Vardell's blog highlights Pomelo Books' newest anthology--this time for younger kiddos--THINGS WE EAT, which features full-color photos of foods in alphabetical order accompanied by a poem. JUST published, it's already a A Children's Book Council Hot Off the Press Selection!

Here's mine in this beautifully presented collection:

Thank you, Heidi, at my juicy little universe for hosting PF this week!

posted with lots of love and a little bit of brain fog by April Halprin Wayland