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

     P.S.

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

      P.P.S.

     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.

Not.

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!
Carmela

 

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: https://tinyurl.com/aprilpulleysayre ."

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.  

Carmela

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 stand...here...overlooking the Nile...time is in the moment...in 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:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCHyXRmhRmd1vRqVsnPvz9dA

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a1qQbj3XWBY

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HH4wXcE5c6I

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ikDKmB6lxgs

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

Friday, March 18, 2022

Three Things Readers Might Not Know About Me

The truth is,

I’ve pretty much put The Real Me in my posts these past 13 years… at least the key facets that define me.

I bleed Chicago-Cubs Blue, even though I’m a Philly Girl at heart.

My Positive Mental Attitude enables me to find the Silver Lining in any cloud that blows my way.

Because I spend my days doing what I love and loving what I do – i.e. writing, teaching and coaching, I count my blessings daily, indeed hourly these past two years.

I excel at enthusing.

Yet…

oh, the possibilities when it comes to sharing Three Things readers might not know about me! 😊

So, here goes …

#1

I proudly know by heart all 456 original episodes of Law & Order!  

I hear the opening*…


…and I recite right along with the announcer,

“In the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups, the police who investigate crime and the district attorneys who prosecute the offenders. These are their stories.”

I see the opening scene and every time, I immediately declare the culprits and the outcome.

From Detectives Mike Logan, Lenny Briscoe, Joe Fontana and Kevin Bernard to District Attorneys Ben Stone, Jack McCoy and Michael Cutter, with a whole lot of Captains Craigan and Van Buren in between, I’m there, in New York City, taking in the stories.  The 4 15-minute segments replay in my writer’s mind as story movements – the crime, the apprehending of the criminal, the trial prep, the climax leading to the resolution.

I’ve come to see after 31 years (!), the storytelling calms me - the familiarity of an episode, the rhythm of its four segments. The stories once again hold me. I know what to expect, yet each story surprisingly surprises me. Somehow or other, when something has me worked up or flummoxed, rewatching an episode I’ve seen a gazillion times both brings me relief and revs my engines. Go figure.


 #2


When I turned 40, I realized Three Life-long Dreams: I committed to five years of orthodontia; I got a permanent; and best of all, I began my tap dance career.

Shuffle-hop-step became my mantra.

I even performed in several Wilmette Park District Dance Recitals, to the horror of my junior high son whose classmates performed beside me.

Alas and alack, my career was short-lived, thanks to my herniated L-5 disc.

So, fortunately, was my permanent.

(The orthodontia paid off.)

 

And #3                                  

No matter the circumstance or physical place, I will always join the line that immediately becomes the longest.

Think: Whole Foods, Walgreens, my library, voting, any AMC theatre, airline counters, local cleaners, all fast-food restaurants, all in-person registration, the U.S. Post Office, Covid-19 Test Sites, just (fill-in-the-blank).

Suddenly cash registers run out of tape and the first-day-on-the-job clerk doesn’t know what to do, price checks are required and there’s no one to send, all six credit cards of the person in front of me are denied and/or his ID is refused, a scheduled break is announced, the computer goes down, counterfeit money is suspected, someone’s lacking credentials, someone’s lacking necessary forms, items need to be returned and replaced, just imagine and again (fill in the blank).

I often tell strangers: Never line up behind me!

BUT, should they refuse to heed my advice? They’ll have the opportunity to observe my shuffle-hop-step back cross-over – what my teacher Miss Joan called the Elevator Step, perfectly executed anywhere and anytime I’m forced to wait.


Oh, and #4, just because he’s eyeing me while I type: I rely on my Geico Gecko Bobble-head to retain my perspective.

.                                        

Thanks to Ruth at there is no such thing as a godforsaken town for hosting today’s Poetry Friday.

Happy Revelations to you!

 Esther Hershenhorn

 P.S.*

Sadly, I lacked the technological skills to download the dun dun sound, then insert that download into this post!

Friday, March 4, 2022

The Power of Three. Or Not.

 

Free Photo Courtesy of BBC One


Following Zeena’s wonderfully powerful story-–as a journalist in El Salvador and as a journalist during the 2000 protests  in Los Angeles—is a bit intimidating. I’m not nearly as interesting.

One. I’m older than fifteen Time Lords. No, really. I tell my students this all the time. Not sure they believe me. Come to think of it, I'm actually much older if you factor in the timeless child narrative.

Two. History is my jam. Both in teaching and in writing. Which makes sense, given the time lord thing. I was a professional student for a long while, earning various writing degrees (journalism, mass media, fiction, children’s literature) that explored all levels of story. I worked all sorts of jobs to make ends meet (freelance writing, reporter, bookstore flunky, writing adjunct). Of course, this dates back to high school, where I worked as an intrepid Sarah Jane Smith wannabe  (the Lois Lane of Doctor Who).  I once interviewed the Apollo Eleven crew (Armstrong, Collins, and Aldrin). I even did an “expose” – and I use that word loosely – of Agent Orange before the local papers printed  their story. I used to develop my own film, loved working in black and white, and even had a couple of exhibitions at the local library. I didn't take to this digital camera thing very well. 

Three. For all my many, many, many years in teaching, I still hate getting in front of an audience. And it’s downright laughable that I teach online. I prefer the Tardis, and exploring galaxies of story. If I had a Tardis, and I'm not saying that I do or don't,  she would fly herself, and rebuff any interference from me. I may or may not have left the brakes on once and broke the flux capacitor, and now it makes this weird sort of noise. Still, I surmise that she would still take me where I need to go. Whether I wanted to or not.

Sounds like Life.

Wait? Do you think that means I AM a Time Lord?

But you knew all this already.

-- Bobbi Miller

Friday, February 18, 2022

3 Things You Probably Don't Know About Me

 

I believe in the power of story, which is why I’m a storyteller. First as a journalist, then as a theater director, photographer, and visual artist (not illustrator) and now as a children’s book author.  

The body of my artistic work represents my desire to create art that provokes the audience/viewer/reader into discourse. Challenging the viewer/audience/reader to see their reality a little differently through those avenues of discourse and creating connections where they may or may not have expected or imagined is my goal. 

My creative projects are informed by my life as a kindergarten teacher, author/artist, and activist/ community organizer.  My work has always been steeped in race, class, and gender inequity. In fact, I would say that I bring race, class, and gender analysis to everything I do.  It’s unavoidable for me.

For much of my career as a public-school educator, I have declared that teaching is an act of social justice for me.  As I reflect on all my broad life experiences, I realize that all along all roads have led to social justice.

Over 30 years of activism and community organizing has shaped me and lead me to stories of resistance and resilience and stories of the human experience(some in metaphor.) All strands of my life eventually  lead to my desire to do my part to leave the world a little bit better (I’m long past the illusion that I will change the world.)  And so, my journey has brought me here.

I write children’s books hoping to provoke young people to engage in discourse. It is my hope that through that discourse we can build the conditions for social justice and equity to occur. It is my wish that we can find ourselves connected to each other so that we might make our way to a more humane existence using the power of story.

In previous posts, I’ve talked about both my teaching process and my writing and artistic process.  Not much has been shared about my life as an activist.  Often in allyship,  I find myself standing for rights of others whether their identities reflect my own directly or indirectly.  Here are three things you probably don’t know about me.


1) During the civil war in El Salvador, the US government spent over a billion dollars.  I was interested in understanding how my tax dollars were being spent, so I volunteered on a delegation that flew to El Salvador to monitor the elections during the war.   At the heart of the congressionally sanctioned delegation, run by a small Los Angeles non-profit organization, was the expectation that we would observe and monitor the first set of Salvadoran municipal elections that allowed multiple groups to participate.  It was a tricky and dangerous time. I brought back stories for my congressman and learned to protect the right of others to vote in a struggling democracy.



2) During the Democratic National Convention in 2000, protesters filled the streets of Los Angeles to make their voices heard.  The protests lasted the entire week.  It was an intense time between the LAPD and those who participated in street actions, the majority of which were robust yet peaceful.  I volunteered with the National Lawyers Guild to observe and monitor clashes with protesters and police. I learned to protect the voices of citizens who spoke truth to power challenging the status quo to strengthen the democratic process.



3) After my daughter was born, standing for rights in dangerous situations was no longer possible. So, I softened my approach and took her instead to lobby in Washington D.C. for education justice with other activist teachers know as the BATs (Bad Ass Teachers). I learned and I hope she learned that it’s not enough to vote or speak out in the streets, you must participate in meetings and policymaking and hold leaders accountable to keep a democracy.


By Zeena M. Pliska

Friday, February 4, 2022

3 Things You May Not Know About Me

Howdy, Campers, and happy Poetry Friday! (My poem, the links to PF and to my upcoming classes are below).

We in the TeachingAuthors treehouse 

decided to get personal this 'round, so hold onto your hats as we blog about the 3 Things You May Not Know About...

Carmela started our 13th(!)-year with a bang: 3 Things You May Not Know About TeachingAuthors and a Trimeric Poem which details our new posting schedule, new calendar, and her terrific trimeric poem; Mary Ann reveals the famous children's author/illustrator she kissed, a shocking newspaper interview, and the book series she--a former children's librarian--has never read. 

And here are 3 Things You May Not Know About Me:

1) About 700 years ago at a conference far away, Nikki Grimes and two of her friends I'd had dinner with, knocked on my hotel room door past midnight. 

I was in my pajamas. 

They plopped down on my bed. 

I did my best to wake up. (I felt as if I were thirteen again, this time with the "in" girls who wanted to talk to me...in my pjs...on my bed!) 

Three older white men had had dinner with us--possibly publishers or book sales reps--I don't remember now. Nikki asked if I was aware of the racial slurs they had flung across the table at dinner. 

Now I was wide awake. Whaaa...? 

Those remarks had flown invisibly past me. 

These women were sitting on my bed, in the middle of the night, to open my eyes.

Maybe those remarks were dog whistles, meant only for the ears of the three black women at the table. 

Or maybe I was focused on the salmon, maybe I was dying for another roll but didn't want to look like a glutton, or maybe my monkey mind was buzzing from the conference.

They did their best to help me see that night, but I don't think I really understood. Though my family--grandparents, uncles, aunts, mother, father, sister and I--had been activists first and foremost in our lives, I'd never endured what Nikki and her friends had.

I look back with embarrassment. But also with gratitude. 

Thank you, Nikki, for trying that night, though I didn't understand. 

I am just beginning to understand, 700 years later.

[Addendum posted 2/9/22: I appreciate Heidi Mordhorst's comment below (and our subsequent correspondence): The stories that we white people can tell each other of our ignorance, our safety, our privilege are really important, April. Thank you. I'm so interested in how you characterized the "dog whistles" as meant for Black ears, when usually they're meant from white mouths for other white ears. Some of the ignorance of us "good white people" is that we don't suspect others of being racist; we don't hear what they're really saying. Let us be owls in all seasons, listening for what's underneath the surface.  

I now realize that it may be hardest for those of us from activist families to shift from believing that not being blatantly racist is enough. It's up to me to become anti-racist, an upstander and an ally.]

2) My picture book, MORE THAN ENOUGH ~ a Passover Story, illustrated by the wonderful Katie Kath (Dial Books), is coming out as a paperback and an audiobook on 2/22/22 🌞What a happy date🌞 (You can pre-order it from an indie bookstore now!)

(For those of you with an iron stomach, here's the whole, bloody creation story behind More Than Enough...which you can wash down with these delicious reviews.)

3) I recorded the author's notes for the audiobook in a fancy Santa Monica studio(The author's notes are just seven sentences long.)

Moi, after reading the author's notes
from More Than Enough...stoked with coffee

4) A bonus fact you may not know about me: my intention this year is to be present. So my word for 2022 is presence. When we're truly present, our  presence is a present 🎁

About a year ago I learned something (which you'll read in the backstory) that made me appreciate how focused owls are...how present they are, which inspired today's poem:

OWLS
by April Halprin Wayland


They are a special breed,

those focused listeners

who block out all

 

as if they're owls,

who hear

a mouse's heart

 

beat 

under

snow.

poem © 2022 April Halprin Wayland
=====================
Backstory:

I heard on the radio that "Owls can hear a mouse's heartbeat under a foot of snow"!  Isn't that MARVELOUS?

I did a virtual cartwheel when I heard that.
======================
Thank you for stopping by today! One final note:

I'll be teaching Introduction to Writing Children's Poetry on Saturday, March 26, 2022 12 noon-3pm PST, and Introduction to Writing a Children's Picture Book on Saturday, April 9, 2022 12 noon-3pm PST. Both are virtual classes; enrollment is limited to 20 students.

Thank you, Elisabeth, for hosting Poetry Friday at Unexpected Intersections


posted by April Halprin Wayland, with love