Dec 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childhood days, recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth, and transport the traveler back to his own fireside and quiet home! - Charles Dickens

Dec 1, 2009

A November To Remember

I did it! I did it! I did it! Now I'm taking a little break from writing for Christmas time activities with my much neglected kids and husband. Also, I can finally read a book...ahhhhh! I'm enjoying Jennifer Donnelly's A Northern Light. How are you rewarding yourself for writing goals achieved? Reading a good book? Please share!

Nov 25, 2009

It's A Boy!

Baby's World by Rabindranath Tagore
I wish I could take a quiet corner in the heart of my baby's very
own world.
I know it has stars that talk to him, and a sky that stoops
down to his face to amuse him with its silly clouds and rainbows.
Those who make believe to be dumb, and look as if they never
could move, come creeping to his window with their stories and with
trays crowded with bright toys.
I wish I could travel by the road that crosses baby's mind,
and out beyond all bounds;
Where messengers run errands for no cause between the kingdoms
of kings of no history;
Where Reason makes kites of her laws and flies them, the Truth
sets Fact free from its fetters.

Nov 22, 2009

Whatever Gets You Through

Some of the days during NaNoWriMo have been a real struggle to get through. There have been times I've been sure I could not write one more sentence of utter nonsense. Yet here I am 10,000 words away from reaching the finish line. How have I made it this far? How can I keep myself going? With two things:
1) Caffeine
2) Chocolate
These two things have been good friends to me over the years, but now I find myself relying on them more than ever. However, there is one problem with the chocolate. I've been eating Reece's Cups to get my chocolate fix, and with all the sitting I've been doing, let's just say the Reece's have added some extra padding to my posterior. It's noticeable enough for my six-year-old daughter to ask, "Why does when your belly get bigger from the baby, your butt gets bigger too?" My answer to her, "Hormones honey... hormones."

Nov 4, 2009

At Least I'm Not On Facebook

What have I been going with my time? Writing, writing, and more writing. NaNo is keeping me very busy, and as difficult as it is for me to write as much as I am every day, I have to say I am really enjoying it! When working on picture books my challenge is to stay under 1000 words. Now my challenge is to write over 1600 a day! BIG difference
So, what have I learned so far? Well, one thing I already knew about myself- I have to have a deadline in order to complete my work in a timely manner. Also, it's good to have a regular writing routine. I've been writing in the morning while my little man is in preschool. AND--- I FINALLY (I'm in to all caps today) broke down an bought a digital voice recorder. I've been meaning to do it for years, literally for years people! It's so helpful to have something to record my thoughts and ideas when I'm away for the computer, or that time right before I fall asleep where my mind goes into idea hyper-drive. So I want to know, what have you learned so far from NaNoWriMo? What has it taught you about yourself? If you're not doing NaNo, share some of your favorite writing tips!

Oct 28, 2009

Learning To Outline

Between severe headaches, a minor bathroom re-do, PTA duties, getting ready for Halloween and an Usborne book party, I've been working on outlining my novel for NaNoWriMo. I've never attempted to write a novel before. The longest thing I've worked on is a chapter book that was meant to be a picture book. My last experience with outlines was for my college course in public speaking. So, I did what any semi-intelligent person with working fingers does- I Googled "how to outline a novel." I was surprised that I didn't have to sort through a bunch of gobbly-gook to find something useful. I came across Randy Ingermanson's "Snowflake Method" on his website I've been using the method to outline my novel, and I have to say it has been super helpful. I'm learning a lot and having fun, so I'm already finding that signing up for NaNoWriMo is paying off. Now if only the rest of my life could be outlined into order....(sigh). How great would it be if I could write a scene of my own life where I binge on chocolate and my headache disappears? Then, Tom Silva from TOH shows up at my door to remodel my bathroom while Colin Cowie throws together a lavish Halloween soiree, and also offers to work his magic for my book party. Overactive imagination? Absolutely- that's why I write!

Oct 20, 2009

The Profound Affect Of A Picture Book

* My little wild thing.
Ten sentences long, 19 million copies sold, and a story so sublime a movie is made of it 40+ years after it was first published: Maurice Sendak's "Where the Wild Things Are." I just wanted to address that over the weekend it was the top-grossing movie. According to news articles, adults made up a large chunk of the audience. I think it goes to show that a great book, whether it's ten sentences or ten thousand sentences long, can stay with you your whole life.

Oct 17, 2009

Crazy Like A Fox Or Just Plain Crazy?

"Dear RebeccaAnn,
Well, you did it. You've gone and pledged your November to the pursuit of the month-long novel. Whether this is your first or eleventh NaNoWriMo, we're thrilled to have you writing with us."

What have I gotten myself into? Well, this was my thinking....

What if I were to write something without constantly editing myself? What if the goal was quantity not quality? What if I ignored all my responsibilities- husband, house, children- and just wrote my little heart out? What if instead of writing a picture book, I wrote a 50,00 word YA novel that I could later edit and cut down to a reasonable length?

Are hormones making me crazy? You betcha! But does this actually make sense for me to do? Yes, it does. If I'm going to grow as a writer I have to challenge myself. What better way to do that than a 50,000 word, one-month writing marathon? National Novel Writing Month- take up your pen and join me!

Oct 6, 2009

Notes From A Conference Part 2

I am stuck again on my story involving the toy rocket. I've turned to going through my notes from the conference for help. One of my breakout sessions is proving to be very helpful! "Picture Books: Start to Finish" was a session led by author of the Boomer series, Constance McGeorge. Here is her advice that I'm trying to apply to my current predicament...
- Wrap a story around your idea
- Economy of language- Don't Be Redundant!!
- Find an emotion or theme when stuck
- Illustrators like a variety of venues to create
Will this wisdom get me through my writer's block? I sure hope so. Tomorrow is writers' group, and those ladies always deliver the goods. They are a great group of writers, and a great group of honest, thoughtful critics . I don't think I can show up with a crumbled piece of paper and watery eyes.

Oct 4, 2009

Notes From A Conference Part 1

I'm back from the 1st Annual Scarlet and Gray Writers and Illustrators Conference. I'm happy to report it was enjoyable and worthwhile. One of my breakout sessions was "Surviving the Slush Pile." The speaker was Tracie Vaughn Zimmer, author of The Floating Circus, 42 Miles, Reaching for the Sun, Sketches from a Spy Tree, and Steady Hands: Poems about work. I haven't yet read her work, but I thought she was an engaging and witty speaker. Here are some golden nuggets of wisdom from Tracie:

- Whenever the slush pile starts to tip over is when the editorial staff starts to deal with it.

- Your ms has 20 seconds to impress an editor.

- It cost about $30,000 to bring a book to market; most books don’t make that money back.

- You are going to be rejected! Even award winners still have manuscripts rejected.

- Focus on your craft and the rest will follow.

- Only 2% of the slush pile is worth looking at.

- Focus on character. Let your character get in to trouble, don’t spare them pain and suffering. Your main character has to change- or why would the reader care?

- Your main character must want something! Their situation needs to get worse before it gets better. Put a fire under the feet of your main character!

- Keep moving the story forward.

- Make the reader laugh, make them cry- make them WAIT! Pull your reader along; don’t give it all away too soon.

- Chapters for novels: if one starts out positive, end it negative and vice versa.

- Don’t have more than three characters in the first chapter, you’ll lose the reader.

- Read like a chef eats, taste for the ingredients and how it was put together.

- Revision is like a quilt, rip it apart at the seams and redesign it.

- Read. Write. Repeat.


* A picture of an actual slush pile that Tracie used in her power point. It scared me when I saw it!

Oct 2, 2009

Countdown to Conference

In about 24 hours I'll be arriving at the 1st Annual Scarlet and Gray Writers and Illustrators Conference in Columbus! Am I prepared? Nope. Am I excited? H-e- double hockey sticks yes!!
I'm riding shotgun with my friend, and writer's group leader, Liz Ball. Liz is an amazing, talented woman. She draws, writes, creates pottery, gardens, etc. I admire her tremendously. So check out her website!
I'm looking forward to sharing what I learn, and letting you know the dirt on my manuscript critique.
On Sunday the family is off to the Potato Festival in Spring Valley. The food is to die for; the people watching is entertaining beyond belief! Have a wonderful weekend!

Sep 21, 2009

Baby of Mine

Baby mine, don't you cry
Baby mine, dry your eyes
Rest your head close to my heart
Never to part, baby of mine
Little one when you play
Don't you mind what you say
Let those eyes sparkle and shine
Never a tear, baby of mine
If they knew sweet little you
They'd end up loving you too
All those same people who scold you
What they'd give just for
The right to hold you
From your head to your toes
You're not much, goodness knows
But you're so precious to me
Cute as can be, baby of mine

~Ned Washington, from the movie "Dumbo"

Sep 17, 2009

R.I.P. Mary

If you haven't previously checked out this beautiful picture book, I highly recommend that you do. It comes with a bonus CD, with the song performed by Peter Yarrow. My crazy, hormonal self is going to cry just thinking about the lyrics of this lovely tune, made more lovely by this picture book. Enjoy! (Anyone have a tissue?)

Aug 31, 2009

It's Not Rocket Science

I've been working on a PB manuscript this past week. It wasn't going so well. I had a beginning and an end, but no middle. To try and get past the writer's block, I read some of my books on writing. Although I learned a lot, I was still stuck. My writer's group is due to meet soon, and I desperately need their help, but my ms is barely ready for them to see. Enter my friend Christine. Every morning Christine and I get up at 6 am to go for a walk. It's our exercise and therapy rolled into one. Christine is my sounding board. She talked me through my ms and offered some great ideas to help fill in the middle of my story. One idea in particular involves a toy rocket :). As soon as she mentioned the toy rocket, it was like a light bulb went off in my head!
I have found the community of children's writers very supportive, and SCBWI is a real gem. My head would still be stuck in the clouds if it wasn't for my writer's group. But sometimes it's nice just to have a friend to get you past your writer's block. Who's your sounding board?

Aug 21, 2009

Oh Baby!

So, I've been out of sorts, and haven't felt like blogging, much less anything else. But there's a good reason for that- I'm pregnant! My blessed family will welcome our third child in April. I'm not one of those glowing, sweet, all-is-right-with-the-world pregnant people. In fact, I'm pretty miserable, so life right now is living for the next meal or nap, or sucking on a Preggie Pop.
I think my son and daughter may be more excited than the mommy and daddy-to-be. They have lots of interesting question. Every day they want to know the size of the baby. To help them see and understand what's going on with the baby, we checked out:

The author, Abby Cocovini, does a terrific job at mixing fun with facts. The kids love her size comparisons for the baby, such as, "The baby is as big as a baked bean." Right now, our baby is as big as a baked bean, and looks like a tadpole!
Somehow we have avoided the BIG question..."How are babies made?" I haven't found a good book for that one!

Aug 4, 2009

Wait A Minute Mr. Postman

I ordered my copy of the 2010 Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market this week! I'm excited to have my own copy for the first time. For the past year I have monopolized the library copy. (In my defense the children's librarian ordered it with me in mind.) But now I'll have one that I can mark up and dog-ear pages, eat toast and jelly over , drink coffee with, take for walks...
I also ordered The Elements of Style by William J. Strunk Jr. and E.B. White (yep, that's my old friend E.B.). Since my goal as a writer is not only to get published, but to become a better writer, I'm looking forward to drinking coffee with this one too. Speaking of working on becoming a better writer, The Writing Nag always offers good advice, but I found her post this Monday especially helpful. (My kids and I love to rock out to Schoolhouse Rock.)
While I'm waiting for my books to arrive from Amazon, I need to send out a package of my own . I finally registered for the 1st Annual Scarlett and Gray Writers and Illustrators Conference, and for the first time I am having a professional manuscript critique done. Thank you to Casey at Literary Rambles and Corey at Thing 1 and Thing 2 for their advice on manuscript critiques. Now, where is that postman? Doesn't he know I'm waiting!?

Jul 31, 2009

Shower The Ones You Love With Books

What do you get for a pregnant friend who already has all the practical essentials? Something truly essential... books! I was fortunate to attend a baby shower for my friend Tracy, who is having her second child any day (she hopes!). The hostess asked that the attendees bring a book as a gift for the baby. I love this idea! I wanted to get some board books that could stand up to the wear and tear of two boys. So, my kiddies and I headed to the bookstore (yipee!) to pick out some books. I was happy to find The Monster at the End of This Book in board book. I also found a baby-sized version of Ten Little Ladybugs, called Five Little Ladybugs. It's adorable! One of the guest at the shower gifted this amazing book:

I do love giving books as gifts! What is your favorite book to give as a gift, or what book do you think would make a great baby shower gift?

Jul 15, 2009

Me and E.B.

Remember how I said I couldn't wait to read my kids Charlotte's Web? Well, I also wanted to have it to read it to me! Who better than the author himself, Mr. E. B. White? With all the traveling we've been doing this summer, I thought some books on CD would be a good way to pass the time in the car. Yea me, because it was a great idea!
From Dayton, Ohio, to my parents house in Michigan is a pretty nondescript drive. I've driven that route so many times I could do it with my eyes closed. I may try it some time, so watch out people on I-75! Listening to E.B. White read Charlotte's Web while I drove, made me feel like I was settling in a comfy spot to listen to a dear old friend tell a tale. There are some amazingly theatrical people out there who read books on audio, and do a wonderful job. They have unique voices for each character, their villains are chilling and their heroines are charismatic. E. B. does none of this, except for his voice for Templeton does have a sneer to it, and forever more his voice for Templeton is my voice for Templeton. No, there's no theatrics from Mr. White, just his own voice, reading his best-loved story in his even, east coast accent. (I love the way he says the word barn, it's very New England sounding in its pronunciation.) I've cherished E. B. White's writing since I was in the third grade and my teacher read aloud The Trumpet of the Swan. Now I love him even more for telling me his tale in his own voice. What audio books do you love? Send me your recommendations.

Jul 2, 2009

Vacation Finds

What a wonderful trip to Michigan! The kiddies thoroughly enjoyed the lake and all the fun that came with it. They especially loved the lighthouses and catching tadpoles in the tide pools. I believe that childhood summer vacations should be full of things that make the memories that you carry with you your whole life. I think, I hope, that is what I achieved with our Michigan trip this summer.

On the way up to Presque Isle, we stopped in East Tawas at a little bookstore I remember visiting on my previous trips. East Tawas is a quaint town on the shores of Lake Huron. The Book Nook is just what you would expect in a small tourist town. Sorry, they don't have a website to link to. I went there with the hopes of finding a picture book about Michigan history or folklore. I was not disappointed with the selection. I eventually chose M Is For Mitten: A Michigan Alphabet because it covered a spectrum of all things Michigan, from petoskey stones to Vernor's ginger ale. It's almost two books in one, because part of each page is devoted to the letter of the alphabet and is written in rhyme, while another part of the page is a small history lesson. M is For Mitten is one book in a series of alphabet books for each state, so you may want to check out one for the state you live in, or will be vacationing in! I also picked up a fun, little book called I'm a Michigan Kid . It looks like a passport, but is more like a journal/record keeper of things children can do or see while visiting the Great Lakes State. My kids couldn't wait to write down which lighthouses we visited.
I'm heading off to Michigan again this week, this time for a funeral. But with the kids in tow, I want to make more summer memories part of our visit. We will be visiting another much loved spot, Crossroads Village and Huckleberry Railroad. History and fun all wrapped into one!

Jun 17, 2009

Saying Yes! To Michigan

Some of my fondest childhood memories are of spending summer weekends at my aunt's cottage on Lake Huron. It was a magical place. You could do close to nothing all day, but still have the time of your life. As children, my siblings, cousins, and I would dig for hours in the sand, play frisbee, and wade out to the sand bar that was at times only ankle deep. I can instantly recall the sound of the waves lapping the shore, the smell of the pine forest, the sight of a billion stars and the Northern lights. It's calling me.....
In four days I will introduce my children to the magic that is Michigan in the summer time. Of course a week at the beach would not be complete without some summer reading. I think I'm going to finally get enough down time to start the Twilight series. For the kiddies, I bought my son, A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever. It's a great book for boys, and a great book for a trip to the beach! My daughter gets one of my all time favorites, The Secret Remedy Book. So, those are my kids' beach reads. What would be on your list for your kids?

Jun 10, 2009

Blooming Butterflies

My daughter just finished kindergarten, and one of the last things they studied was the life cycle of butterflies. What a treat for her and my son when my dearest friend Christine ordered a Butterfly Pavilion for her kids, letting my kiddies experience it too! The Pavilion is a pop-up, netted habitat that comes with the caterpillars and some other supplies. The kids were able to watch the caterpillars form chrysalises and then waited for them to "bloom" (that's what my son was calling the hatching of the butterflies, and I think it's great terminology for it!). After they bloomed, Christine put orange slices in the pavilion, and the children rubbed their fingers on the oranges to attract the butterflies. They loved being able to have the butterflies land on their fingers!

There are numerous picture books about butterflies out there, but I'd like to recommend two in particular, Hurry and the Monarch and Butterflies on Carmen Street/Mariposas en la calle Carmen.
What makes Hurry and the Monarch stand out is the beautiful watercolor illustrations, the pages almost drip all those amazing colors of butterflies in bloom. The story itself is the tale of the journey a monarch makes to lay its eggs. Along the way, one of the butterflies meets a tortoise, this sets up a nice juxtaposition of the briefness of the butterfly's life with the longevity of the tortoise's life.
I came across Butterflies on Carmen Street while researching publishers for my own book. This charming book is about a girl named Julianita who is studying butterflies at her school (much like my own daughter). Julianita's homework is to bring home a caterpillar, watch it form a chrysalis, hatch it, and release it when it's ready to make its journey to Mexico. With the help of her wise grandfather, Julianita is able to let go of her butterfly (which she named Tiger) so that it may make its journey over Carmen Street and on to Mexico. I loved seeing Julianita's town from Tiger's eyes. Even more, I love experiencing the world through my children's eyes, their joy is contagious!

May 28, 2009

Camping With Family and Friends

I love my children. I love them so much, I give up my bed to sleep on the ground for two nights. But, I do reap the rewards of eating s'mores with them, wiping their marshmallow and chocolate-covered faces clean so I can see their sweet, sweet smiles.
This weekend is our annual camping trip with two other families. While I love my yard and gardening, I don't consider myself an outdoorsy kinda gal. I abhorred the thought of joining the Girl Scouts as a child. Luckily for me, my gal pals feel the same way. We were lucky to find a camp ground last year with a lake, real potties and showers, a convenience store, and an ice cream stand across the way. Oh, and gotta love the pride some campers take in their campsites.

So, I'm looking for recommendations on picture books about camping. We currently have two books about camping, and while the kiddies enjoy them, I'm always on the look-out for a good book. The first book is an easy reader, PJ Funnybunny Camps Out. I like this one because my daughter can practice her reading with it. The other is a Dora book, and what kid doesn't love that little Latina adventurer? Dora's Camping Trip was a good introduction for my kids first year of camping, but we're looking for something new. Send me your recommendations for favorite books about camping!

May 22, 2009

Down On The Farm

I haven't met a child yet that doesn't love baby animals. (My own kiddies first signs of intelligent life came out as "moo" and "meow.") Imagine the fun of taking your kids to a farm with baby animals that they are allowed pet and cuddle. Just outside of Dayton is such a place, Learning Tree Farm. My son's Pre-school Co-op met for the last time at Learning Tree this past week.

I can't think of many things sweeter than a baby kitten, except maybe for baby goats, and baby lambs, baby pigs....

We spent the morning laughing, chasing chickens, swinging over bales of hay, and telling our kids to re-enact the opening sequence to Little House on the Prairie as they ran through the tall grass. (Yes, they did wonder what the heck we were talking about.)

One of my all-time, favorite picture books is Big Red Barn. We've had it in a board book (we're on our second copy) since my daughter was born. It may be the first book I ever read to her. I love the simplicity of it. It is the perfect book to read to your baby or toddler. The pictures are appealing, the text is rhythmic, and what child can resist crowing like a rooster or mooing like a cow?
I can't wait to read E. B. White's Charlotte Web to my kiddies! What's your favorite farm book to read with your kids?

May 8, 2009

Tooth News

Big things are happening here in our house. What could be more momentous in a 5 year-old's life than losing that first tooth? (At this point in the year, possibly the arrival of summer vacation may be, but let's go with the tooth thing.)
Do you remember what it was like to feel the "pop" of the nerve breaking and your tiny tooth coming out? Or the sensation of sticking your tongue through the gap of where your tooth once was? Is my daughter officially a "big kid?" It's definitely bye-bye babyhood.
To prep our girl for the arrival of the tooth-fairy, we read Twinkle the Tooth Fairy. There are two reasons I like this book. 1) It was a gift from my grandmother to my daughter (my grandmother passed away two years ago) 2) It comes with a little "velvet" pouch for the tooth (no need to worry about losing those little suckers in bed- and oh-my, they are little!)
Earlier in the year, to encourage good oral-hygiene, we purchased The Tooth Book: A Guide to Healthy Teeth and Gums. The kiddies love this one; it's detailed and informative without being boring or over their heads.

It's looking like the tooth fairy will be putting in another appearance here this weekend. My daughter will be one dollar closer to her goal of buying that laptop she wants. Yes, a laptop. I know it sounds like an extravagant purchase for a 5 year-old, but check out my link to One Laptop Per Child, it's a beautiful thing!

Apr 29, 2009

Recommended Reading

National Poetry Month is coming to a close. Have you written a poem? Have you read some poetry? Have you introduced your child to the beauty of poetry? I think poetry is perfect for children. Sometimes when my kiddies are getting to bed late and we don't have time to read a whole book, a poem or two is the perfect way to end the day. Children love rhyming- look how long Mother Goose has been around. Poetry instills a love of language. That's why I'm recommending Red Sings from Treetops: A Year In Colors by Joyce Sidman. Ms. Sidman takes your children on a journey through the seasons of the year through the beauty of color. With the help of a little, red bird singing it's cheer, the seasons unfold. The book begins with spring, and Sidman writes, "In spring, even the rain tastes Green." (It's true, I was out walking in it this morning- it does taste green!) Each season is explored with white, yellow, green, purple, etc., with the book beginning and ending with the color red. What a great way for your toddler to learn their colors! I love this book so much I could transcribe the whole thing here for you, but that might lead to legal trouble for me, and besides I want you to enjoy the poetry while you look at and hold the book (especially since the illustrator, Pamela Zagarenski, is so amazing).
Good-bye National Poetry Month. Thank- you Joyce Sidman for Red Sings from Treetops!

Apr 16, 2009

Ouch! Twice In One Week!

I received another rejection letter this week. But, not to worry, I'm drawing inspiration from Susan Boyle, and being a tiger about it.

Dear Becky,
Thank you so much for sharing your work with me. I enjoyed my time at the conference in Pittsburgh back in November. I'm sorry it has taken me so long to respond to your picture book submission, DOES YOUR NOSE REMEMBER.
Unfortunately, the story doesn't seem right for our list. I'm sorry not to have better news, but I wish you all the best in finding a home for this manuscript soon. Thank you, again, for sending it to me.
Senior Editor
C. Press

Apr 13, 2009

Rejected But Not Dejected

So, it finally happened. I received my first rejection for a manuscript. It's strange, but I kind of feel a sense of relief because that first one is out of the way. I know there's many more to come and I won't always feel so calm and cool about being rejected, but I have a real belief in my story and that it will eventually be published.
Here is the rejection letter (I left out names because I'm not sure what professional protocol is for such things).

Dear Rebecca,

Thank you for submitting your manuscript entitled Does Your Nose Remember? Tu NarizRecuerde? to A--- P-- Press. Unfortunately, your submission was not selected for publication.

If you wish your materials returned to you, please send us a self-addressed, stamped envelope (SASE) with the appropriate amount of postage. If we do not receive your SASE within a month, we will shred and recycle all materials.

We appreciate your interest in A--- P--- Press. Please feel free to submit other selections of your work for our consideration in the future.

_______________, Ph.D.

Apr 6, 2009

A Secret Garden

April snow showers here in Ohio have me dreaming of warm spring days again. At least I did get some gardening done before the winter-like weather. My lettuce, spinach, radishes, carrots and peas are in!
I grew up in Michigan with a large garden in the back yard. As I child I did not like gardening, it seemed like so much work. My poor mother was always trying to get the six of us (yes, six children) to help plant and weed. Oh, how we hated to weed! My two kiddies love to help garden. Most times their "help" makes more work for me, but I don't want to discourage them. In fact, to encourage them, my dear friend, Christine, and I decided we should build a"secret" garden for our children. Well, it's not really a secret, and we didn't build it, Christine's husband did.

But, it was our idea. Oh wait, technically we got the idea from a book, but I know we should get credit for something along the way! Basically, the secret garden is a teepee made of branches with peas planted at the base to grow up . After the peas are done growing, we can plant pole beans in their place. We got the idea from a wonderful book called, The Kids Can Press Jumbo Book of Gardening. The book is a practical guide on gardening that offers easy projects that kids will love, like how to design a fairy garden, creating a wildflower meadow, and planting a rhubarb patch (rhubarb pie, yummy). One of my favorite projects is how to make a Victory Garden- it makes for a gardening and history lesson in one! For a more whimsical approach to gardening with your children, check out Roots, Shoots, Buckets and Boots. (I have to thank Christine for finding this treasure of a book.) While its project content is similar to the Kids Can book, Sharon Lovejoy has populated the book with the sweetest water color illustrations, and dotted throughout the book are poems, recipes, and historical tidbits that add to the overall magical quality of this book. Ms. Lovejoy took the teepee idea one step further by making it a "Moon Garden," which calls for planting night blooming and heavily scented flowers. Imagine sitting in your back yard with your kids, star gazing and inhaling the sweet smell of jasmine tobacco from the door of your garden teepee. (Please come soon summer!)
Speaking of magical books, I would be remiss if I didn't encourage you to read or re-read The Secret Garden. What can I say that hasn't already been said about this beautiful classic? Nothing. Go read it, and be inspired to create a secret garden of your own!

Apr 3, 2009

The Problem With National Poetry Month

I can get nothing done, nothing but poetry that is. No blog entries. No laundry. No nice meals, just hot dogs, pizza, and grilled cheese. Every day I've been visiting Poetic Asides for the Poem A Day (PAD) Challenge. The name says it all; it's a challenge to write a poem each day for the month of April (National Poetry Month). I may not be working on my children's books, but I am having fun and working on my writing, so it is a win-win for me. Here's the poem I wrote for today's prompt- "The problem with ____"

The problem with having children

They steal your very identity away.
Instead of witty banter, you begin to speak in “goos” and “gaas,” and other nonsensical things. They torture you with sleep deprivation until you feel like some kind of wraith or zombie, stumbling about the kitchen in the morning for a cup of coffee. Coffee, your once morning company will now be your all day partner. You think of ways to have it administered continuously, like a drip bag with an IV, no more brewing cup by cup. Oh, and that book on your nightstand is no longer a book, but a dust collector, and it will be for the next three years. Deep and impassioned poetry will be left to the academics. You’re too busy counting fingers and toes and writing drivel about how God kissed every one of them when he created your little “miracle.” Forget about stories of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches being shoved into movie playing appliances. It’s worse than that. It is the never ending hell of potty training, of knowing that you once taught a mere puppy to piss on a newspaper, but you can’t get your own damn child to “tinkle” in a toilet. (Yes, you will use words like “tinkle.”) And, after a long day of power struggles, tantrums, and whining, you will set your cup of coffee on top of your dust collector, crawl into bed exhausted, and cross, praying to God for another miracle- sleep. But, as you give yourself over to the darkness, a small shape climbs up beside you, sweaty and sniffling. You curse them, then kiss them. Very soon, small sounds emit from the sleeping child- quiet, steady breathing and heart beating. You want to roll over and fall asleep yourself, but you can’t. Instead you snuggle closer, smelling something similar to strawberries and honey. You run your finger over the round, warm cheek, cursing, then resolutely kissing your identity good-bye.

Mar 26, 2009

My First Love

I'm still in love with my first love. It's true. I just can't get over poetry. Ever since that first poem I wrote was taped to my elementary school wall, I knew I was in love with poetry. With working on writing children's books I've kinda put my poetry on a back burner. I jot stuff down, but most times never return to work it into a full poem. However, this week I was able to finish one.

You look longingly out the window

and wait at the door

Impatiently searching out

the one who knew you first

You’ve worn a path in front of the fireplace,

sometimes stopping as if to warm yourself

But you know I don’t light fires in March

The first days of spring are meant for open windows

and airing things out, not stoking old flames

I tried to teach you something new,

to show you there is more

I tried to help you remember what’s worth remembering,

and forget all the regretful things that transpired before

But thoughts of an overgrown garden and rhubarb pie

have taken you miles away

So I bide my time with laundry and planting pansies

I stop digging when I hear your heavy sigh through the screen door

Even before the sighs, and the pacing, it was your eyes that gave you away

Looking ever north, to the day I’ll drive you home

to the one that holds your true heart

The one that loved you first