Upcoming Author Sightings

Monday, November 19, 2018
Storytime With the Author
Preschool Classes
St. Joseph Catholic School

1375 Motherhead Road
Cottleville, MO 63304

Wednesday, January 16, 2019
Author Visit with 4th Grade Classes
Progress South Elementary School

201 Knaust Road
St. Peters, MO 63376

Saturday, April 6, 2019
Young Authors' Conference
St. Clair county School District
Westhaven Elementary School

118 Westhaven School Road
Belleville, IL 62220


Recent Author Visits

Book Launch at Main Street Books in St. Charles, with some hippy, hoppy readers! March 24, 2018

With Kim Vernon (R) and Rhonda Roberts (L), wonderful coordinators of the White County Creative Writers' conference in Searcy, AR! 9.2.17

White County Creative Writers conference in Searcy, AR on 9.2.17

Reading from NAME THAT DOG at the St. Charles Arts & Literary Festival on 8.26.17--with help from Author, Stephanie Bearce.

Even Batman and Superman stopped to read at the Arts and Literary Festival in St. Charles! 8.26.17

Making paper-cup puppies at the St. Charles Arts & Literary Festival on 8.26.17

Providence Classical Christian Academy May 2017

Guest author at Nancy Polette's children's writing class April 2017

South Central Elementary School, Kinmundy, IL April 14, 2016

ICD School visit March 1, 2016

With Nancy Polette, Writing for Children instructor, October 1, 2015

Picture Book Intensive, SCBWI conference September 2015, Soaring to New Heights

Author visit, with Author and Instructor (Writing for Children), Nancy Polette May 2015

Author visit at Troy Buchannan HS March 2015

Scholastic Book Fair, St. Charles, Missouri December 2014

Scholastic Book Fair, Fenton, Missouri December 2014

Scholastic Book Fair, Columbia, Missouri December 2014

Saturday Writers presentation on writing and marketing a picture book, June 2014, St. Peters MO

Lakeview Elementary School, O'Fallon, MO in April 2014

With Kim Piddington, Missouri SCBWI Regional Advisor, at the Missouri Association of School Librarians convention in St. Louis, April

Indiana SCBWI Spring conference April 2014

Chesterfield, MO children's writers group at Christmas 2013

scholastic Warehouse Book Signing December 7, 2013

At Main Street Books with owner, Vickie Erwin November 30th

B&N with authors Mike Force, Chris DiGiuseppi, and Valerie Battle Kienzle November 22nd

Local Author Open House at MK Library in O'Fallon, November 21st

Carlin Park Elementary School Angola, IN

Sherwood School Scholastic Book Fair in Arnold, MO

ICD Scholastic Book Fair with students--Immaculate Conception Dardenne Prairie, MO

Peggy with children's author Karen Guccione-Englert at the MK Library Local Authors Open House in O'Fallon, MO

Book signing at Indianapolis Fairgrounds, with Mary Igras

Author Visit to Immaculate Conception School (ICD) April 2012

ICD library staff

Edison Elementary School Hammond IN

Lincoln Elementary School Hammond IN

Beta Delta Chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma, Hammond IN

Keynote Speakers
MO SCBWI Fall Conference

Heather Alexander, editor at Dial Books for Young Readers

Quinlan Lee, agent, Adams Literary Agency

Suzanne Morgan Williams, author of BULL RIDER

Author Visits
Spring 2011

Kids Ink Independent Children's Bookstore, downtown Indianapolis

Shirley Mullin, bookstore owner, with children's authors Janna Mathies, Peggy, and Nathan Clement

Thank You cards from Holy Family School in South Bend

Fieler Elementary students

Ms Hanneman's class at Northview Elementary

In the classroom at Northview Elementary School

Talking to students at Northview Elementary

Working together to create a poem in Starke County

Talking with students at Starke County

Author Judy Roth and students at the Starke County Young Artists Day

Indiana SCBWI PAL Luncheon and Bookfair at B&N Bookstore

Booksigning at B&N Bookfair

Anderson's Bookshop Children's Literature Breakfast

Anderson's Children's Literature Breakfast, with author and keynote speaker Tim Green

December Booksigning at The Bookstore in Michigan City

friendly staff at The Bookstore

Holiday Author Fair
Hosted by the Indiana Historical Society

Author Book Signing

Butler University Chorus entertains with Christmas Carols

Bellaboo's Play and Activity Center

Turkey for Thanksgiving?

Stuffee and the author

Stuffe's lunch!

November: Picture Book Idea Month

October Author Events

Author Panel: the Road to Publishing--Kathryn Page Camp moderating

Kate Collins: adult trade publishing, mysteries

Peggy Archer: children's trade publishing, picture books

Katherine Flotz: self-publishing, memoir

Michael Poore: adult trade publishing, fiction

Cynthia Echterling: e-publishing & small press, science fiction

Author visit to Portage Public Library, October 23rd

IN SCBWI presents Esther Hershenhorn:
Getting Your Stories Right
October 9, 2010

Esther Hershenhorn talks about the Reader's story and the Writer's story

Esther shares resources, experience, and opportunities

Trish Batey, Indiana RA

Yellow paper on your back gave a hint of 'What author are you?' for the day

Smiling faces

Peggy Archer gives an overview of the 2010 SCBWI conference in LA

Karen Kulinski gives an update on Indiana's HoosierLinks

Janna Mathies at the piano sings "Why It Matters" by Sara Groves

door prizes

IN SCBWI steering committee with Trish: (L to R) Karen Kulinski, HoosierLinks, Kristi Valiant, Website Coordinator, Alina Klein, Listserv Coordinator, Peggy, ARA (not pictured: Sharon Vargo, Illustrator Coordinator)

New Regional Advisor, Kristi Valiant, talks about plans for 2011

Indiana SCBWI: Outgoing RA Trish Batey, ARA Peggy Archer, Incoming RA Kristi Valiant

Author visits at Citizen's Financial Bank and ROAR's (Reach Out and Read) Evening With the Authors

Visiting with author/illustrator Nathan Clement and son Theo at the ROAR author event

Autographing for a young reader

Story Time at ROAR's (Reach Out and Read) Evening With the Authors Event in Indianapolis

Reading to young bankers at Citizens Financial Bank in Valparaiso

2010 SCBWI Conference for Children's Writers and Illustrators in Los Angeles, CA

Some of the crowd at the SCBWI conference in LA

Ashley Bryan, Golden Kite winner for Nonfiction

with Keynote speaker and Golden Kite winner, Marion Dane Bauer

Illustrator and Keynote speaker, Loren Long

E.B. Lewis, Keynote speaker

with Keynote speaker, Gennifer Choldenke

Keynote speaker, Gordon Korman

Chris Cheng, Australia RA and SCBWI Member of the Year

Kris Vreeland, Independent Bookstore manager, Vroman's Bookstore

Eva Mitnick, LA librarian and reviewer for SLJ

Greg Pinkus and Alice Pope on networking

Bruce Hale--Skyping

with Lin Oliver, co-founder of SCBWI

Steve Mooser, co-founder of SCBWI, with Sally Crock RAE

Indiana SCBWI members Mary Jo, Shannon, and Peggy celebrate in LA with Heart and Soul.

East and Midwest members celebrate at the Golden Kite Luncheon in LA--Peggy, Courtney, Julia and Mary Jo.

Peggy with Alice and Lisa, co-RAs from IL--friends and roommates

Linda V., formerly of Indiana, with her 'dog-in-training,' Dusty.

IWC Writers' Picnic

Anyone for Literary Bingo?

Children's Corner

Knee-high by the 4th of July!

This is the cornfield just down the street from my house on July 13th. That's me with the boot on my foot again!

Springtime Author Visits

Local Authors Day, Valparaiso B&N

Welcome to the Young Artists Fair in Plainfield, IN

Signing books at Van Buren Elementary School in Plainfield, IN

Book Launch Party for NAME THAT DOG!, Valparaiso Public Library

Happy Birthday, Name That Dog!

Little reader loving that dog book!

Celebrating the Book Launch!

Doggy treats at the book launch party

More springtime author visits

With Jocelyn at the Porter County Expo Center for the Be Kind to Animals Celebration

Speaking to readers and writers at the LaPorte County Public Library in April

Our new grandpuppy, Dudley!

Chad & Sara's Wedding Day

The new Mr. and Mrs. Biggs!

Focus on the Novel:
Indiana SCBWI Spring Conference

Trish Batey, Indiana SCBWI RA, Stephen Roxburg, Lisa Graff, Helen Frost, Peggy Archer, Indiana SCBWI ARA

Stephen Roxburg, Publisher of namelos, talked about writing the YA novel, the current state of publishing, and his new company, namelos

Lisa Graff, Middle Grade author, talks about writing the middle grade novel and the Slush Pile

Lisa autographs books with a smile

Introducing Helen Frost, YA author and poet

Question and Answer panel--Lisa, Stephen, and Helen

Registration, getting to know you

Schmoozing with other writers

Trish with author, Valiska Gregory

Books for sale--writers can never have too many!

Taking it all in.

School visits
Chesterton, IN

Mitchell, IN
Library Event

Afternoon Tea with the author in Mitchell

Alexis talks about storytime for the very young

Starke County Young Artists Day
North Judson, IN

My little corner--I love when students come up to talk.

HOW many dogs do you have?!

Authors of the day

Keynote address: Growing an Author with Peggy Archer

Making a book with Katie Mitschelen

Research--detective work, with Peggy Miller

Crafting a poem with Mary Ann Moore

Becoming an artist with Edwin Shelton

Music with the Band

One small hand holding onto another

Sharing the Christmas holiday with writer friends

Name That Dog! Sharing F&G's and write-up in Dial's catalog with group.

Writers Christmas lunch and meeting in Michigan City

Meeting up with Esther and Karen in Chicago

F&G's for Name That Dog!

Name That Dog! ISBN: 978-0-8037-3322-0

Christmas Writing Celebrations

Writing friends from the beginning!

November Author Visits

Drawing a turkey at Hussey-Mayfield Public Library-- Zionsville, IN

Autographs at Hussey-Mayfield Library, Zionsville

"Who likes to eat turkey at Thanksgiving?" --Morton Elementary School, Hammond, IN

Thank you cards from Morton Elementary students

Reading to my grandson's pre-school class at Zion Lutheran School-- Bethalto, IL

Ladies Tea
St. Mary's Church

Family Book Basket

Indiana SCBWI Fall Picture Book Conference

Courtney Bongiolatti, Editor S&S

Laurent Linn, Art Director S&S

Terry Harshman, Editor CBHI

Author-Illustrators, Kristi Valiant and Sharon Vargo

Kristi Valiant, IN-SCBWI logo winner

Our volunteer crew (minus a few)

author Katie Mitschelen and Peggy enjoying the conference

...Pawprints on the heart.

Snickers 2009

Snickers 1998

IWC Dinner Event
The Business of Writing

Janine Harrison, opening remarks

Sharon Palmeri, President IWC and speaker

Kathryn Page Camp speaks on Taxes for Writers

Kate Collins, mystery book author and Keynote speaker

Gordon Stamper, secretary IWC

Peggy, Sally, and Karen--writing friends enjoying the dinner event together

Autographs with a smile :)

Smokies in the morning

Writing the Picture Book
Rensellaer, IN

Smile and say 'author'!

Ready to start!

"Ghostwriting" with Sara Grant, Editor,
Working Partners

Sara Grant, Editor, Working Partners

One on one with Sara

Author and Editor...

Getting to know you...

Sharing thoughts... connecting


Smiling faces...

Our Kentucky friends...

Trish, RA, Peggy, ARA, Christi and Alina, steering committee members

Writing the non-fiction picture book

Picture book author, April Pulley Sayre, speaking in South Bend.

Writers and Friends


Esther and Heidi

Esther with Steve and Sally from National SCBWI

Heidi and Peggy, friends and poets

We came from Indiana...

...from California and Iowa

and enjoyed the friendships.

Peggy, Karen & Esther--connecting once again.

Summer Critique Meeting

Critique group gathering at Peggy Miller's house. Karen, Fred, Mary Ann, Katie, Judy, & the two Peggy's in front.

Songwriters in the Family

Our daughter, Sarah & our son, Dan both sang original songs at the Porter County Fair in the Colgate Country Showdown.

Indiana SCBWI Summer Schmooze

From Fort Wayne to Whiting, we gathered to talk & gain some bit of insight into the world of creating children's books.

Enjoying the company of other children's writers & illustrators.


Meeting other children's writers.

Sharing thoughts.

Smiles were free.

Peggy Archer talks about trade publishers.

Judy Roth talks about working with a small publisher.

Karen Kulinski talks about working with an agent.

Karen fielding questions.

ALA 2009 Chicago

Peggy with the Cat in the Hat

Katie and the Cat in the Hat

I won a collection of autographed books from the IL SCBWI (Society of Children's Writers & llustrators) booth at ALA for the Valparaiso Public Library. An awesome prize! Thank you IL SCBWI!

Peggy, presenting books won at ALA to Connie Sullivan, Branch Manager and Leslie Cefali, Youth Services Assistant, Valparaiso Public Library.

Children's Poetry Books Giveaway!

April 30, 2013

Tags: poetry books giveaway, poetry month

And the Winners Are…!

Today is the final day of National Poetry Month 2013!

Special thanks to Heidi Bee Roemer, Amy Sklansky, Judith L. Roth, and Donna M. Bateman for your enthusiastic responses to my interview questions! I’ll be looking out for what comes next from them. Click on the names or scroll down to earlier posts this month to read the interviews with these children’s authors and poets.

I have enjoyed blogging about poetry all month! I give lots of credit to those bloggers who post more than once a week. For me it meant extra time at the computer—reading, writing and researching. All of which I love, but it also meant less time for actual writing for children, and other things. I’m planning to be back here once a week, or as close to it as I can get!

And now it’s time for the drawing for my picture books, NAME THAT DOG! and FROM DAWN TO DREAMS. With the help of my long-time friend and writing buddy, Karen Kulinski, here are the winners!

NAME THAT DOG!—Judith Aldape

Congratulations! I will be contacting the winners for instructions of where to send the books.

Thanks to my friend, Judy Roth, for interviewing me on her blog this month.

And thanks to all the readers who joined me here this month, those who left comments and those who just came to read! I’ll be back in May—hope to see you then!

Poetry Month Shares April with Autism Awareness Month

April 28, 2013

Tags: autism month, poetry month, autism, autism poems

April is National Poetry Month. It’s also National Autism Awareness Month.
To tie the two together, I wanted to write a poem about autism. I found that it was not so easy!

Like many other things, there are different levels of autism. I got this definition from the Autism Society’s website:
Autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life and affects a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others. Autism is defined by a certain set of behaviors and is a "spectrum disorder" that affects individuals differently and to varying degrees.”

Asperger’s Disorder is viewed by many to be a milder form of autism. “To the untrained observer, a child with Asperger's Disorder may just seem like a normal child behaving differently.”

I found a few good books for children about autism in our local library.

Daniel Stefanski
(an autistic kid), illustrated by Hazell Mitchell, Free Spirit Publishing 2011.
Daniel was diagnosed with autism at age nine. He wrote this book at age 14, with some help from his mother. This is an excellent book that helps kids understand autism, and helps them to interact with kids who have it.

Daniel is a friend of mine. He has done many book signings. He talked with me about his book, and he answered my questions through e-mail. You can read my interview with Daniel in my blog post dated June 9, 2011. Click on June 2011 in my archives on the left side of the page here.

MY BROTHER CHARLIE, by Holly Robinson Peete and Ryan Elizabeth Peete, illustrated by Shane W. Evans, Scholastic Press 2010.
This is the story of Charlie, told from his sister’s point of view. It’s also the story of a family who learns from Charlie about togetherness, hope, tolerance, and love.

RUSSELL’S WORLD, by Charles A. Amenta III, illustrated by Monika Pollak, Magination Press 2011.
This book gives readers an inside look at a boy with autism and his family. Kids can read about what Russell and his family experience together, including the challenges that can come with autism. Back matter includes a note to parents, how to find services and treatment, how to use this book, and a page about Russell and his family.

Each of these books shows a child with autism at a different level, which I also found interesting.

It’s now been two years since Daniel wrote his book on how to talk to an autistic kid. Mary Stefanski, Daniel’s mother, was recently a guest blogger on Free Spirit Publishing’s blog. Click here to read her blog post, Social Skills Classes Help Autistic Kids.

Near the end of the post is a link to the blog, Autism Speaks, and a post by Matthew Lerner about autism and Promoting Teen Social Skills.

I did write a poem about autism. It will probably be one of those poems that will take me six months or more to get it right! I figured that the next best thing to writing a poem of my own, would be to share some poems written by others. Click here to go to Child Autism Parent Cafe where you can read some poems about autism.

Happy Poetry/Autism month!

To Rhyme or Not to Rhyme?

April 25, 2013

Tags: national poetry month, picture books in rhyme, writing picture books in verse

What works and what doesn’t work when writing a picture book in verse?

When researching on line for information about writing picture books in verse, I came across several very good articles. The three that I chose to highlight were posted by a children’s author, a children’s author/illustrator, and an independent publishing company.

To get the complete picture, you’ll need to click on the links to read the full articles. But here is a sampling of some reasons for rejection that I plucked from their articles.

--Common rhyme schemes can be stale
--Forced rhyme or near-rhyme can ruin a story
--The meter (or beat) is not spot-on
--Awkward word order for the sake of rhyme
--The rhymes don’t make sense
--The story doesn’t stand on its own without the rhymes; there should be a real story
--Rhyming books are difficult to translate into other languages

In her blog post, Why Do Editors Say Not to Write in Rhyme, children’s author Tara Lazar tells us “It’s not that editors don’t necessarily LIKE rhyme. It’s just that it is very difficult to do well.” She gives some reasons why editors reject rhyming picture books.

For some great insight into writing rhyming picture books, visit Tara’s blog, Writing for Kids (While Raising Them), and read her complete article, which also includes examples from successful picture books in rhyme.

In an article posted on her website, PJ Lyons gives readers some “parameters by which to judge picture book texts that tell a story in verse.” Lyons says, “Poetry is like music. You write it with a conscious ear to its sound, and use the tools of analysis if something doesn’t work to assess why.” Some of the points she makes apply to writing poetry as well.

Read the article on her website, Writing in Rhyme, to learn more about her paremeters for writing picture books in rhyme.

Nosy Crow is an independent company, which publishes children’s books and apps, and has published children’s books in rhyme. On their website, Kate tells us three things that editors look for in rhyming texts.

Read the complete article for an editor’s inside look at rhyming picture books at A View From the Crow’s Nest.

Some other great web resources on rhyming picture books are:

from CBI: The Fighting Bookworms, by Laura Backes
Writing in Rhyme

from Margot Finke on Harold Underdown's website
How to Write a Picture Book with Fabulous "R & M"

from Tracy Preston Cook
Rhyme = Rejection Letter? Rhyming Children’s Picture Books

from Tamsom Weston Books
Rhyming Picture Books Aren’t So Scary

In her picture books about nature, Donna Bateman’s rhythm and rhyme add so much to the book (See an interview with Donna in my previous post)! Here are some other rhyming picture books that I enjoyed:

GOODNIGHT, GOODNIGHT, CONSTRUCTION SITE, by Sherri Duskey Rinker, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld, Chronicle Books LLC 2011.
First line: “Down in the big construction site,/ The tough trucks work with all their might…”
At sunset, when their work is done for the day, a crane truck, a cement mixer, and other pieces of construction equipment make their way to their resting places and go to sleep.

BEAR SNORES ON, by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Jane Chapman, Margaret K. McElderry Books 2002.
First line: “In a cave in the woods,/ in his deep, dark lair,/ through the long, cold winter/ sleeps a great brown bear.”
On a cold winter night many animals gather to party in the cave of a sleeping bear, who then awakes and protests that he has missed the food and the fun.

HUSH! A Thai Lullaby, by Minfong Ho, illustrated by Holly Meade, Orchard Books 1996.
First lines: “Hush! Who’s that weeping in the wind? Wee-wee, Wee-wee,/ A small mosquito.”
A lullaby which asks animals such as a lizard, monkey, and water buffalo to be quiet and not disturb the sleeping baby.

THIS LITTLE CHICK, written and illustrated by John Lawrence, Candlewick Press 2002.
First line: “This little chick from over the way/ went to play with the pigs one day./ And what do you think they heard him say?”
A little chick shows that he can make the sounds of the animals in his neighborhood.

BINK AND SLINKY’S ARK ADVENTURE, is a new picture book written by my friend, Donna Arlynn Frisinger, and illustrated by Monica Gutierrez, Standard Publishing 2013.
First line: “What is this strange message two groovy snails found/ at the Garden of Chewies, in slime on the ground?”
Two small snails overcome obstacles and, with the help of others along the way, find their way to the ark before it’s too late.

If you have a favorite picture book in rhyme, feel free to let us know in your comments here!

Wednesday Interview with Donna M. Bateman, Children's Author!

April 22, 2013

Tags: Donna M. Bateman, author interview, poetry month, picture books in verse

Children’s author Donna M. Bateman’s rhyming text combines with interesting facts to create wonderful non-fiction for children. Her first book, Deep in the Swamp, won the Southern Independent Book Alliance award. Out on the Prairie is her second picture book published by Charlesbridge, and is a finalist for the SCBWI Crystal Kite Award. Donna is a former high school language teacher. She lives in the St. Louis area with her husband and two children.

Welcome, Donna! I’m so happy to talk to you here during Poetry Month.

I love the language in your books, as well as your rhythm and rhyme. Are there any books or authors that have influenced your writing?

A: My two favorite rhyming writers are Lisa Wheeler and Karma Wilson. Both are so clever in their use of language and rhyme, with stories that surprise and delight.

Favorite rhyming picture books are The Seven Silly Eaters by Mary Ann Hoberman and The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson. Another favorite book, non-rhyming, is Rattletrap Car by Phyllis Root—so fun to read aloud with an appropriate hillbilly accent. I have many other favorites among the 200 or so picture books that I own.

Can you tell us a little bit about your latest book, Out on the Prairie? What was the inspiration for writing this book?

A: After the success of Deep in the Swamp, which earned starred reviews from Kirkus, School Library Journal and Publisher's Weekly, teachers were asking for more books in the same format. After considering possible biomes, I chose the prairie as one that interested me. Missouri is a prairie state, although there is not much prairie left. As with SWAMP, I chose a specific setting. SWAMP is set in the Okefenokee Swamp and PRAIRIE is set in the badlands of South Dakota. Both books include a variety of animal types—mammals, birds, reptiles, even a grasshopper and a crayfish!

I know that you don’t consider your text poetry, but rather a story in verse. What do you feel is the difference between poetry and a story in verse? Which for you is more difficult to write?

A: For me, poetry is more about evoking a feeling, usually in shorthand rather than coming right out and saying “you should feel happy now,” or “you should feel angry now.” And although we tend to expect poems to rhyme, prose poems are also possible. A rhyming story has all the requirements of any other good story. The rhyming component just makes it a little more difficult to write, but I have found that some of my stories cry out for rhyme, while others definitely need to be written in prose. I have written a few poems, rhyming and otherwise, but poetry is not my forte.

Your books are counting books about nature and animals. The last sections in your books give interesting facts about the animals and plant life in your books. What kind of research do you do before writing your books?

A: For Deep in the Swamp I did book research and online research. I also contacted experts, including at the St. Louis Zoo, for answers to specific questions. In addition to turning to books, online information and experts in my research for Out on the Prairie, I was able to visit the Badlands of South Dakota to experience the prairie first hand. I was so excited to actually see four of the animals included in my book—bison, pronghorn, prairie dogs and a Western Meadowlark.

How awesome to be able to see first-hand where your book takes place! Do you have any input on the illustrations for your books?

A: No, the editor and art director choose the illustrator. I do see the art at various stages and can point out any mistakes based on my research, although the illustrators do their own research so they know what the animals and plants look like.

The illustrations for both of your books compliment the text very well, but they have very different styles. What do you feel the illustrators have brought to your stories?

A: The art definitely gives the book shelf appeal. The books would be less appealing without the beautiful illustrations to complement the text. My editor wanted the illustrations to be realistic yet whimsical. I think both illustrators—Brian Lies (SWAMP) and Susan Swan (PRAIRIE)--succeeded wonderfully!

Your first two books are non-fiction for children. Do you have any interest in writing fiction for children? What about writing for adults?

A: Actually, SWAMP and PRAIRIE are my only non-fiction works. I have well over a dozen other picture book stories on my computer, all of which are fiction.

When I first conceived of Deep in the Swamp, it didn't occur to me that the story would be non-fiction. I had read the original rhyme, Over in the Meadow, to my children and I thought it would be interesting to write a similar rhyme set in a specific biome. I chose the swamp as an interesting setting for my rhyme. Of course, I was not satisfied with just writing a rhyme willy-nilly, as it were. For me, everything had to be true and correct—each animal mother must have an appropriate number of babies, each animal must behave appropriately for the time of day (both books show a story arc starting in the morning, through the afternoon, and into the evening/night), the setting must show plants that are found in each area of the swamp or prairie. Once I decided to add the back matter to SWAMP—flora and fauna facts—it dawned on me that I had written a rhyming, non-fiction picture book.

I have no desire to write for adults. I seldom even read adult fiction. Middle grade and young adult novels are so wonderfully written, so cleverly conceived, so rich, that whenever I read adult novels, I find myself comparing them unfavorably to the children's literature I read.

When my children were small, I read a plethora of picture books to them and fell in love with the genre. In the writing world, picture books are my first love. Perhaps I'll try to pen a novel for children or teens at some point, but my brain is so geared toward picture books that I'm sure I would find it quite difficult.

What current projects are you working on now?

A: I am currently working on a story about a short Sasquatch.

Where do you turn for writing instruction and inspiration?

A: I have quite a few “how to write for children” books that I'll turn to from time to time for instruction. Of course for specific help with my stories, I turn to my fabulous critique group. For inspiration, it's all around, although my children have been the catalyst for several stories. Just a word or two can spark a story idea or a story title that I'll develop a story around. But I have never written a story about my children and I never will. I write fiction and no matter how cute or funny I think my children are, their real life activities or adventures do not make for good picture book stories.

Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

A: In order to learn the craft of writing for children, I suggest that beginners read as many “how to write for children” books as possible. Your local library is a good source for these books. Read, read, read books of the type you wish to write—PB, MG or YA. Once you have a handle on how to write for children, write! Or revise stories you may have already written.

Join SCBWI and take advantage of all the SCBWI has to offer. You may be able to find a critique group, either online or in person, through SCBWI. A critique group is an important tool for any writer, especially for beginners who would greatly benefit from the guidance of more seasoned writers. Attending conferences allows you to learn, network and possibly receive feedback from a published author, editor or agent. Although a beginner may be tempted to jump right to this step, bypassing some of the others, I strongly suggest you wait until you have a good idea of what you are doing through reading and learning your craft before attending your first conference. I believe you will get more from the experience if you have the basics of writing for children under your belt first.

Where can people find more information about you and your books?

A: I don't have a website so the best place to find out about my books would be the Charlesbridge Publishing website. If you Google the books, you might find the reviews from Kirkus, School Library Journal and Publisher's Weekly. Both books received stars from all three publications. Some of the reviews are also included on Amazon.com.

Thank you so much for sharing your insight and your books with everyone here, Donna!

You can find out more about Donna and her books on the Charlesbridge website.

DEEP IN THE SWAMP, illustrated by Brian Lies
ISBN: 978-1-57091-596-3
OUT ON THE PRAIRIE, illustrated by Susan Swan
ISBN: 978-1-58089-377-0

Are picture books with rhyming verse considered poetry?

April 22, 2013

Tags: poetry month, book giveaway, children's verse, picture books in verse, Russell Hoban, Rebecca Kai Dotlich

I’ve always thought of picture books in verse as poetry. But apparently not everyone agrees. And what about picture books in which there is a rhyme, sometimes repeating, within the story?

Some of my kids’ favorite books were the Frances books by Russell Hoban. Frances is a badger, and her stories relate to some of the insecurities that young children experience. Titles about Frances include BREAD AND JAM FOR FRANCES, A BABY SISTER FOR FRANCES, and BEDTIME FOR FRANCES.

A common trait in the books is that, at times, Frances makes up rhymes. For my kids, a favorite Frances rhyme (BEDTIME FOR FRANCES) goes like this—

“S is for sailboat,
T is for tiger,
U is for underwear, down in the drier…”

They would read that line over and over! I’m sure the rhymes in these books played a part in their enjoyment of poetry as well as honing their reading skills. The rhymes, and the humor, make these books fun to read.

BELLA & BEAN by Rebecca Kai Dotlich, is a story about two mice with different personalities who are friends. Bella is a poet. In this book, not all of the poems that Bella writes rhyme. She writes lists of words, and then uses them to create a poem. At the end she writes a poem about the two friends. It begins—

“One blanket
holds two friends
calm and cozy
at the edge of a pond….”

To me this book is about creating a poem as much as it is about friendship. And it brings home the point to young children that all poems do not have to rhyme.

Please stop by this Wednesday for an Interview with Donna M. Bateman, author of two wonderful picture books in verse about nature!

The Frances books by Russell Hoban, illustrated by Garth Williams, HarperCollins Publishers 1960’s
Bella & Bean by Rebecca Kai Dotlich, illustrated by Aileen Leijten, Atheneum Books for Young Readers 2009

Exploring Poetry Forms

April 20, 2013

Tags: national poetry month, sonnet, closed poetry, An Invitation to Poetry, Love That Dog, Poetry Matters, Immersed In Verse

There are so many types of poems to explore! In my interview with Judith L. Roth on Wednesday (see my previous post), I asked her about the sonnet in her book. I didn’t realize that there was an English sonnet and an Italian sonnet (I learn a lot when I blog!).

According to Allan Wolf in his book, IMMERSED IN VERSE, a sonnet is a form of closed poetry. Wolf says, "No matter who writes a sonnet, as long as the poet follows the rules, the end result will look" the same on the page. He says writing the closed form poem “requires you to use your right brain—the creative side—to explore your subject while you use your left brain—the logical side—to follow the form’s rules properly.”

Another book for students on poetry that focuses on “writing poetry, not analyzing it,” is Ralph Fletcher’s POETRY MATTERS. I love this book. It’s very encouraging and helpful. The book includes examples of poems, many written by students. There are interviews and advice from well known children’s poets, including Kristine O’Connell George, Janet S. Wong, and J. Patrick Lewis. At the end is a list of recommended poetry books.

Sometimes you find advice or information about writing poetry in unexpected places. Another favorite book of mine is LOVE THAT DOG by Sharon Creech. The teacher’s edition includes a 16-page teacher’s guide with tips on teaching poetry, poetry terms and concepts, writing activities and more.

If you’re like me, and didn’t really get into classic poetry in school (my focus was more left brain at that time, since I was planning a career in nursing), a good book to explore is AN INVITATION TO POETRY, edited by Robert Pinsky and Maggie Dietz. This book is a collection of 200 poems written by poets such as Robert Browning, E.E. Cummings, Emily Dickinson, Longfellow, Walt Whitman and many more, chosen by American readers. It’s accompanied by a DVD featuring readings of many of the poems in the book, which are introduced by people from across the United States who talk about their connection to the poem.

I find myself wanting to re-read these and other books on my bookshelf! And maybe I’ll try some different forms of poetry myself.

Leave your comment here for your chance to win one of my poetry books for children! Read more about the giveaway on the left side of the page.

Wednesday Interview with Judith L. Roth, Children's Author and Poet

April 17, 2013

Tags: Judith L. Roth, Serendipity & Me, national poetry month, novel-in-verse, children's poetry

Judith L. Roth is a children’s author and poet. Her poetry has appeared in more than a dozen magazines, and together with her husband, she's had over 50 children's songs published.

Her newest book, SERENDIPITY & ME, is a middle-grade novel-in-verse. School Library Journal said of this book: "This is a compassionately told tale, reminiscent in tone of Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia (HarperCollins, 1977) and Cynthia Rylant’s Missing May (Orchard, 1991)." SERENDIPITY & ME was released by Viking in February 2013.

Welcome, Judy! Thank you for joining us during poetry month! You and I have been friends and have shared many critiques in the past. You have such a beautiful way with words, and I’m so happy to be able to share you and your work here!

At what age did you begin to have an interest in writing poetry?
I started writing four-line rhyming poems when I was about 8. By the time I was in junior high, I’d moved on to free verse. In high school, I spent all of geometry class writing poetry. And yes, I almost did fail that class, but I was brought back from the brink. In a high school creative writing class, I learned how to write my favorite form of structured poetry, the Italian sonnet.

Do your poems come easy for you, or do you spend a lot of time writing a poem?
Free verse poetry is the most natural form of writing for me. I spend the most time of poem-writing on the little word tweaks. But that’s fun, too. The hardest parts for me in a novel-in-verse are plotting and putting in more detail.

SERENDIPITY & ME is your first novel-in-verse. Judy, I know that you love cats, but was there anything in particular that inspired you to write this book?
I don’t really know where this book came from. It started as a picture book of poems. The voice of Sara just came out. I think there were 17 poems, and that seemed like enough of a story to me. But an editor said she thought I had more to say about this father and daughter, and it ended up that I did (when prodded). The setting is from my college years where I hid a cat in the dorm. Since I went to college in Central California (Fresno Pacific), it seemed natural to put Sara and her father there as well.

Did you need to do any research when writing this book?
I had to learn a lot about Peter Pan (the book) and Sara Teasdale (the poet). I started off just learning about them online, but found soon enough that I needed the actual books in my hands. That fed right into my book addiction and collection. I found a great copy of “Love Songs” by Sara Teasdale online, a 1926 edition. So cool.

What can you tell us about the revision process once your book was accepted?
There was so much more to it than I expected. The first words I heard were, “since you’ve already done the heavy lifting, the revision won’t be too difficult.” Then there were four single-space pages of revision notes. After those revisions were made, I got another four single-space pages of revision notes. After those revisions were made….ad infinitum, it seemed. But there was a publishing deadline, so at some point it was deemed ready to go to copyediting. Which brought up another slew of corrections, revisions, and appraisals. I am amazed at all the work that goes into a novel after it’s been accepted. And the number of people who are involved in making sure it’s as good as it can be. It’s a little overwhelming, but very satisfying.

Most of your book is written in free verse, but the voice of Sara's mother comes through in other forms, like the sonnet on page 274. What can you tell us about this particular poem?
This poem didn’t end up in the novel until the end of the revision process. It’s the first poem of mine that was ever accepted, but it never got published because of the death of the publisher. So it is finally published, 33 years after that first acceptance. I think the editor wanted the mother’s poetry to be more grown-up, so I put in a structured poem.

Why do you write sonnets using the Italian rather than the English (Shakespearean) form?
I like the rhyme scheme better. The couplet at the end of English sonnets sounds too artificial to me. Although I feel like I’m using the Italian sonnet’s structure, I have to admit that I don’t pay much attention to the iamabic part of the iambic pentameter. So I guess I don’t follow the Italian sonnet’s rules all the way. I’m such a rebel.

For myself, and any readers who might not know, what is the difference between the English sonnet and the Italian sonnet?
The rhyme scheme of the English sonnet is ababcdcdefefgg. The rhyme scheme of the Italian sonnet is abbaabbacdecde. I believe they both usually use imabic pentameter, but I basically follow this by simply making sure there are 10 syllables (and only 10 syllables) in each of the 14 lines.

Do you work with an agent? What is that experience like?
My agent is Stephen Fraser. He was first an interested editor, then moved into the agenting business. After being in charge of my own submissions for so long, it’s a little hard to let go. But it’s great to have someone on your side, cheering you on, who can actually get heard by big publishers.

How did you come up with the title for your book?
The father in the book says of the arrival of the kitten when Sara is upset, “Serendipity, Sara. Someone’s brought you a blessing for a visit.” When I played with the word, I got Serendipkitty. But I didn’t like the sound at the end of that. Another writer said it ought to be Serendipikitty, which fixed that. Serendipikitty was the title until the very end of the time it was being edited. Then the marketing people at Viking said that title was too difficult to pronounce, so my editor suggested I change the name of the kitten from Marshmallow to Serendipity, and rename the title Serendipity & Me.

Your other books for children were picture books. What are the differences in writing a MG novel from writing a picture book? Which do you enjoy the most?
Small canvas to humongous canvas. There are different aspects of both that I enjoy. With novels, I miss having the lovely illustrations of a picture book and the relative ease in writing and revising. The simplicity of a picture book is satisfying to me. It’s hard to maintain focus on the large projects that novels are. But it’s wonderful to get so deep into a layered project—there are so many things in a novel to figure out, threads to unravel, facts to learn. I can’t say I enjoy one more than the other.

What advice can you give to aspiring children’s writers/poets?
If you’re doing it to make a living, run away as fast as you can! If you’re doing it because you can’t ‘not’ do it, you’re in the right place. Find like-minded people to share the journey with you. Celebrate the small victories. Find joy in words and stories.

What are you reading now?
I just finished reading Heft, by Liz Moore. So good. She is an amazing writer. Not only was the story wonderful, but the voice and craft were superb. Something to aspire to.

What are you working on now?
I’m writing another MG novel, but this one is not contemporary, not poetry, not first person. It’s about three young teens in the 1850’s who are each isolated for different reasons and who come together for a short time as they try to help one of the three escape. Now that I think about it, it does begin with a sonnet. The first line starts, "One night, a long time ago, three prayers went up to heaven….”

A very beautiful, poetic first line! Do you do author visits, and if so, how can you be reached about that?
Yes, I do. I can be reached at my website or my email, which is mjbcroth@frontier.com.

Thank you for giving us an inside look into your writing life, Judy!

Judy lives in Elkhart, IN with her husband and three cats. You can find out more about Judy on her website at http://judithlroth.wordpress.com/.

SERENDIPITY & ME: ISBN #978-0-670-01440-8

Poem in Your Pocket Day, April 18th

April 14, 2013

Tags: national poetry month, poem in your pocket day, Judith L. Roth, author interview

“Throughout history, poems have been stowed in pockets in a variety of ways, from the commonplace books of the Renaissance to the pocket-sized publications for Army soldiers in World War II.

A Heads up! This Thursday, April 18th, is National Poem in your Pocket Day!
In 2002 the city of New York initiated Poem in Your Pocket Day as part of the city’s National Poetry Month celebration. In 2008 the Academy of American Poets took the idea nationwide.

“The idea is simple: select a poem you love during National Poetry Month then carry it with you to share with co-workers, family, and friends. You can also share your poem selection on Twitter by using the hashtag #pocketpoem.” –from the Academy of American Poets website.

Visit the Academy’s website above to see some ideas for celebrating Poem in Your Pocket Day!

You can celebrate by leaving the title and author of your favorite poem in the comments here on my blog on Thursday. Plus, anyone who leaves a comment on my blog during poetry month will be entered to win one of my children's poetry books, NAME THAT DOG!, and FROM DAWN TO DREAMS, on April 30th! See guidelines for the “book giveaway” on the left side of this blog.

Don’t forget to come back this Wednesday, April 17th, when I’ll be posting an interview with children’s author and poet, Judith L. Roth! Judy’s middle grade novel-in-verse, SERENDIPITY & ME, was released from Viking in February.

Oh, and if you’d like to read an interview with me, go to Judy’s website. Thanks Judy!

TGI(P)F--It's Poetry Friday!

April 12, 2013

Tags: poetry month, poetry friday, mother goose, nursery rhymes, Jane Yolen, poetry foundation

Many children’s authors and poets celebrate Poetry Friday. But what exactly is Poetry Friday and where did it come from?

On the Poetry Foundation's website Susan Thompsen tells us: “every week, children’s book lovers and bloggers gather in cyberspace for Poetry Friday, a tradition launched by Kelly Herold, editor of the children’s literature webzine The Edge of the Forest.” Taking her cue from some favorite academic bloggers, Herold instituted poetry Fridays to celebrate children’s poetry. On her blog, Big A, little a, she shared a favorite poem from her childhood, A.A. Milne’s “Disobedience,” as the first poetry Friday blog.

The idea of poetry Fridays took off right away! Since then Kidlitosphere, a community of bloggers who write about children’s books, has embraced Poetry Friday. Bloggers have been sharing favorite poems, poetry books, websites and anything and everything about poetry for children and adults alike.

When I was a child some of my favorite books were nursery rhymes. I loved Little Miss Muffet, Little Boy Blue, and The Old Lady Who Lived in a Shoe!

Reading Rockets says “Nursery Rhymes are important for young children because they help develop an ear for our language. Both rhyme and rhythm help kids hear the sounds and syllables in words, which helps kids learn to read!”

Reading Rockets is a national multimedia literacy initiative offering information and resources on how young kids learn to read, why so many struggle, and how caring adults can help. Click here to see their post on National Poetry Month.

Mary Had a Little Lamb
Author: Sarah J. Hale - 1788-1879 (1830)

Mary had a little lamb,
Its fleece was white as snow;
And everywhere that Mary went,
The lamb was sure to go.

He followed her to school one day,
Which was against the rule;
It made the children laugh and play
To see a lamb at school.

And so the teacher turned him out,
But still he lingered near,
And waited patiently about
Till Mary did appear.

"What makes the lamb love Mary so?"
The eager children cried.
"Oh, Mary loves the lamb, you know,"
The teacher then replied.

For a collection of nursery rhymes for children and a history of the meaning behind the nursery rhymes, see Jane Yolen's Mother Goose Songbook.

A Visit with Amy Sklansky, Children's Author and Poet

April 9, 2013

Tags: Amy Sklansky, poetry month 2013, book giveaway, children's poetry, author interview, Out of This World, You Are My Little Pumpkin Pie

Amy Sklansky is an award winning author of children’s picture books and poetry.

Her picture book, OUT OF THIS WORLD (Alfred A. Knopf 2012), is a collection of poems and facts about space. Publishers Weekly calls it “an evocative mix of the whimsical and the scientific.” OUT OF THIS WORLD was selected as an "Outstanding Science Trade Book for 2013" by the National Science Teachers Association and the Children's Book Council, and as one of "Our Favorite Children's Books of 2012" by Smithsonian's Air & Space Magazine. It was #4 on the St. Louis Independent Bestsellers List.

Amy’s newest book, YOU ARE MY LITTLE PUMPKIN PIE, will be released from Little, Brown this fall. It is a follow-up to YOU ARE MY LITTLE CUPCAKE.

Welcome, Amy! Thank you for celebrating Poetry Month with us here on my blog.

Your picture book, OUT OF THIS WORLD: Poems and Facts About Space, was just nominated for the Utah State Beehive award. Congratulations, Amy! I enjoyed the different poetic forms and the interesting facts about space and space travel.

What was your inspiration for writing this book?
A: Space is one of our last true frontiers. I loved exploring what is known about space and learning what is still unknown. I think kids feel the same way. And there is so much to write about.

And your book makes learning about space a lot of fun! What kind of research went into working on this project?
A: My library card got some heavy use as I read both in the children’s and adult sections about any of the topics I was interested in writing about – the moon missions, what stars are, how astronauts prepare to live and work in space, etc. The NASA.gov website is a fantastic resource and one I made good use of as well. Ultimately, my editor showed the manuscript and sketches to an astronomy professor just to make sure all my scientific facts were correct. I refined what I knew with each research step.

The illustrations and placement of your words on the page add so much to this book. Did you include notes for the illustrator with your text?
A: A great illustrator knows her stuff, and Stacey Schuett is a great illustrator! There were some poems in which I had roughly laid out how I thought the text should be placed, where verses should be placed, etc. “Black Hole” is one example of this. But as far as illustrations go, that was all Stacey. I like the way she combined traditional and digital art.

Did you have any input regarding the illustrations or who the illustrator would be?
A: As is common practice, the publisher chooses the illustrator. Lucky me that Knopf chose so well. I looked at sketches and had some minor comments and occasionally rethought the placement of text on the page once I’d seen a sketch (because sometimes she had a better idea), but that’s it. I leave the art directing to the publisher and the illustrator.

You’ve written other poetry collections and rhyming picture books. When did you begin to write poetry?
A: I have a copy of a short poem I wrote back in 3rd grade, so I’ve been writing at least that long. I published my first book in 2002. It was a poetry collection called “From the Doghouse: Poems to Chew On.”

Do your poems come easy for you, or do you spend a lot of time writing a poem?
A: I probably revise each poem anywhere from 7 – 12 times before it is completely and forever finished. The same is true for prose. The thing I find most helpful is some distance, coming back to my writing a few days later and looking at it with fresh eyes.

Are there any books or authors that have influenced you as a children’s writer?
A: Some of my favorite children’s poets writing today are Joyce Sidman, Kristine O’Connell George, Naomi Shihab Nye, and Douglas Florian.

Your newest book, YOU ARE MY LITTLE PUMPKIN PIE, is a board book for toddlers. Can you tell us a little bit about this book?
A: This sweet (pun intended) book is a celebration of parents’ love for their child. I love the way Talitha Shipman illustrates a variety of parents in terms of race, setting, and sex. Everyone who loves their child should be able to see themselves and their child in this book.

Board books for toddlers are very short, and that can make them look easy to write. I know this can be deceiving. Is this a difficult genre to write for?
A: Being a parent of two wonderful children myself, I find it fairly easy to write for this genre. However, as in any poem, each word has to be carefully weighed and balanced. There are so few words in a board book, and each one is important. I also like to read board books aloud and make sure they are successful when enjoyed this way.

Do you have any other projects that are currently in the works?
A: I’m attempting my first chapter book – a whole new challenge for me. I’m also researching a nonfiction project – a story I plan to tell with poetry.

Besides writing, you also do author visits to schools. How should someone contact you about doing an author visit?
A: I love visiting schools in person or virtually via Skype or videoconference. Information about some of my typical programs, photos of me at schools, a map of schools I’ve visited, etc can be found on my website: www.amysklansky.com. Anyone can email me from there for further information.

Thank you for sharing a bit of your writing life with us here, Amy!

Readers can find more information about Amy and her books on her website.

OUT OF THIS WORLD: (illustrated by Stacey Schuett)
ISBN-10: 0375864598
ISBN-13: 978-0375864599
YOU ARE MY LITTLE PUMPKIN PIE: (illustrated by Talitha Shipman)
ISBN-10: 0316207144
ISBN-13: 978-0316207140

Fun With Some Different Poetry Forms!

April 8, 2013

Tags: Heidi Bee Roemer, Poetry month, concrete poetry, cinquain, found poetry, Immersed in Verse by Allan Wolf

In my interview with Heidi Bee Roemer on April 3rd, she advised aspiring poets to try new poetry forms. She said “most new poets never go beyond the standard couplet or quatrain. There are so many other forms to explore!” I think this is good advice for published poets as well. It never hurts to expand your field of writing and challenge your creativity.

On the No Water River blog, Heidi read her poem, "Food Fest". Food Fest is an analogy poem, a poem that compares things that are alike, or similar. I’d never written an analogy poem, so I thought I’d give it a try.

I spent several hours working on my poem, making lists and putting words with similar meanings together. Not as easy as it looks! Of course, good poems always look easy to write because they’re easy to read and to listen to. Here’s my first draft:

Backyard Garden

Green is to string beans as red to tomatoes
Pull is to carrots as dig to potatoes

Birdbaths to splashing as feeders to eating
Bees are to buzzing as robins to tweeting

Trees are to apples as vines are to grapes
Sun is to shadows as shadows to shapes

Hares are to hopping as hawks are to flight
Sunrise to morning as moonlight to night

(Backyard Garden—copyright Peggy Archer. all rights reserved)

This is still a work-in-progress. I can think of so many other things that could relate to a backyard garden! What I need to figure out is what to include and what to leave out, and how to put it altogether so that there’s a thread going through it to connect everything, with a beginning, a middle and an end. And I do think there should be a beginning, a middle and an end just like in a story. Because, like a story, a poem leaves the reader with an emotional response and something to think about.

In his book IMMERSED IN VERSE, Allan Wolf lists some different types of poems. Here are a few that you might try:

Concrete poetry is a poem in which the words are arranged to visually show the subject of the poem. For example, the words might be arranged on the page in the shape of a tree or an umbrella. This is also called a shape poem. Check out Brad Burg’s website where you can see some examples of shape poems.

A cinquain is a five-line unrhymed poem.
Line one consists of one noun that introduces the subject of the poem.
Line two consists of two adjectives that describe the subject.
Line three consists of three verbs related to the subject.
Line four is a phrase; it tells the writer’s feelings or describes the subject.
Line five is a different noun that sums up the poem.

A found poem is created by gathering existing words from different places like newspapers, books, magazines, signs, license plates, etc, and rearranging them into a poem. I have a friend who writes found poems and it’s amazing what she ends up with! I think it would be fun to gather words or phrases that are fun to say and work them into a poem.

Give it a try—take a step away from whatever form of poetry is comfortable for you and have some fun!

Please stop by on Wednesday this week and visit with children’s author and poet, Amy Sklansky, who will be sharing her books and a bit of her writing life with us!

Don't forget to leave a comment to get in the drawing for one of my books! And thanks to children's author and friend Cynthia Reeg for sharing my book giveaway on her website.

Join the Poetry Fun on the Web!

April 5, 2013

Tags: poetry month, 30/30 poetry challenge, poetry for children, fun poetry

Blogs for reading, Blogs for writing—which is your choice?

Come join the party and celebrate poetry! Whether you like to read poetry or write it, and even if you think you don't like poetry at all, there‘s a blog for you! Here are just a few of the blog sites that are celebrating poetry this month.

Blogs for people who write children’s poetry:

30/30 Poetry Challenge 2013
Your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to write a poem based on the prompt received for that day. Sign up to receive a prompt every day during April, or view it on the website. You receive your prompt by noon. You have until noon the next day to complete the challenge! If your poem is selected, it will be posted on the website on the evening your poem was received. Complete instructions are posted on the website, including a Poetry Challenge for kids.

Writing the World for Kids
Watch the Poem Starter Video on Laura Purdey Salas’ blog, then take on its challenge to write a poem in 15 words or less. Each day in April features a poem by a different children’s poet.

30 Words 30 Days
It started with a single word on April 1st. Each day another word is added, inspired by readers’ suggestions in their comments. At the end of the month there will be a complete 30-word poem! Take a look at the first 5 words and then join in the fun.

Stem Friday
Write a STEM poem and learn about Haiku. Select your topic from Science, Technology, Engineering or Math (STEM). Then share your STEM poem in the comments on the Haiku page.

Blogs for readers of children’s poetry:

Gotta Book: 30 Poets/30 Days
Every day during April, author Greg Pincus will feature an unpublished poem by a favorite children’s author on his blog, Gotta Book. The poems are fun to read, and many schools incorporate the event into their lesson plans.

Poetry Foundation Children's Poetry
Watch videos of children’s Poet Laureates reading their poems and talking about poetry for children. There are also links to other resources and articles.

2013 Kidlitosphere Progressive Poem
Watch a poem grow day-by-day, as it travels across the Kidlitosphere! Every day throughout April, different people take turns at adding a new line to a growing poem. Start reading here and follow along each day.

Websites for those who think they don’t like poetry:

Giggle Poetry
Visit Bruce Landsky’s website for a look at some fun poems and some poetry fun and games.

Poetry 4 Kids
More poems, fun and games for kids (and grown-up kids) at Ken Nesbitt’s poetry website.

Jack Prelutsky
If you’ve never visited this poetry site for kids you’re in for a treat. Fun poems with animation and sound.

Shel Silverstein
A fun interactive website with poems, puzzles, games and more.

This is just a taste of what’s out there! Enjoy!

A Visit with Children's Author Heidi Bee Roemer!

April 3, 2013

Tags: Heidi Bee Roemer, children's poetry, author interview, And the Crowd Goes Wild!, Poetry Month 2013

Heidi Bee Roemer is an award winning author of children’s picture books, both fiction and non-fiction. Her work has appeared in many poetry anthologies, and she has sold nearly 400 poems, stories, and articles to various children’s magazines. Formerly an instructor for the Institute of Children’s Literature, Heidi also served SCBWI-Illinois in various capacities, most recently as Assistant Regional Advisor.

Heidi’s upcoming publications include several poems in Highlights Hello! and High Five magazines, some of which will appear under her pen name, Rikki B. Romerez. Her poems also appear in The Poetry Friday Anthology, Grades K-5 and The Poetry Friday Anthology, Grades 6-8, edited by Janet Wong and Sylvia Vardell.

Welcome, Heidi! Thank you for being a part of poetry month here on my blog. You are such an amazing poet, and an inspiration to me as a children’s poet.

Are there any authors that have helped or influenced you as a children’s poet?
Thanks for inviting me to be one of your guests, Peggy! My first encounter with a published poet was the 1998 Butler University Conference. Rebecca Kai Dotlich, one of the speakers, had recently published Lemonade Sun. Rebecca graciously critiqued several poems for me and patiently answered my newbie writer’s questions. At another conference Rebecca introduced me to master poet and anthologist, Lee Bennett Hopkins. I was overjoyed when Lee later accepted several poems for his anthologies. (BTW, Lee was recently honored by Guinness as “the world’s most prolific anthologist of children’s poetry, with 113 titles to his credit.” Way to go, Lee!)

There were others. Author Esther Hershenhorn nudged me toward my first works-for-hire poetry job, and Patricia Rae Wolf gave me one of the best tips ever when she encouraged me to write for magazines. And, Peggy, you and I have critiqued, commiserated, and celebrated together, too! Without Rebecca, Lee, Pat, Esther, Peggy, and other generous authors, I might not have stayed the course.

Are there any books that have influenced you as a children’s poet?
Early on, I fell in love with Kristen O’Connell George’s Old Elm Speaks—pure magic! From Verla Kay’s Orphan Train I learned about terse verse and succinct writing. School Supplies, edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins, taught me that even a poetry collection must have a beginning, middle, and end. For example, the opening poem describes the arrival of the morning bus. A lunchtime poem is positioned midway, and the final poem is about homework. Doodle Dandies by J. Patrick Lewis and Flicker Flash by Joan Bransfield Graham, inspired me to write my own “picture poems”. Come to My Party and Other Shape Poems, was a 2004 Monarch Award nominee.

Where do you get your ideas?
Ideas abound! But your mind has to be open to recognize them. An idea may land smack-dab on your nose, but if your thoughts are preoccupied elsewhere, that idea will flutter off to inspire someone who’s paying attention. To be a better writer, I must make a conscious, constant effort to be curious and observant.

When I do get stuck it’s time to “feed my brain,” so I head to the library or art museum. Sometimes a painting sparks a story. A scientific fact may jumpstart an idea for an article. (“Mature female aphids clone themselves up to 10 times a day!") I might find an unusual poetry form. (A palindrome! I wonder if could write one?) A single sentence from the newsletter once jumped out at me and resulted in a story that was published in Focus on the Family magazine. If you feel like there are no creative ideas to write about—go on a treasure hunt and goose your muse! There’s no excuse!

Do you have any advice that you can offer to aspiring poets who want to write for children?
• Read—no, study!—good children’s poetry. Stake out a corner at your local library or bookstore regularly.

• Type up poems you especially like. Observe language, imagery, wordplay, sounds, rhythm, rhyme, form, etc.

• Try new poetry forms. Most new poets never go beyond the standard couplet or quatrain. There are so many other forms to explore!

• Seek magazines that offer theme lists and chose a topic to write about. When your poem is finished, you already know where to send it!

• Study how-to-write poetry books such a Pass the Poetry, Please! by Lee Bennett Hopkins, Easy Poetry Lessons that Dazzle and Delight by Bernice Cullinan and David Harrison, and For the Good of the Earth and Sun: Teaching Poetry by Georgia Heard.

Many writers have been published as a result of your ABC’s of Poetry workshop. Are you still teaching your poetry correspondence course?
I accept students on a case-by-case basis. Most of my students live in the U.S., though a growing number hail from Canada. A former Canadian student, Carol-Ann Hoyte, and I recently produced an anthology called, And the Crowd Goes Wild!: A Global Gathering of Sports Poems.

Yes, I know! Your latest venture in children’s poetry has been as an editor for And the Crowd Goes Wild!,! Can you tell us what that was like?
Carol-Ann invited me to join her on an adventure—to create a children’s anthology of sports poems. I’m a fitness fan and a poetry freak, so I eagerly jumped on board. In July, 2011, Carol-Ann issued a world-wide call for poetry submissions. Though thousands of mile apart, thanks to the internet, we worked together to log in over 300 poems from around world, communicating through email, and—to this date—only twice by phone.

What were your responsibilities?
Selecting the poems was a shared labor of love, though the arduous task of contacting poets with rejection and acceptance notices fell to Carol-Ann. I worked with most of the poets on revisions. Once we made our final selection, I assembled the 50 poems in logical sequence. I thoroughly enjoyed the process of organizing the poems, creating the book’s “beginning, middle, and end,” and making the topics flow smoothly from one to the next.

I'm sure the hardest part was choosing just the right poems. How did you ultimately decide which poems would make the cut?
The poems fell into three groups. Group A was easy. These stellar poems yelled, “Pick me!” Group C was also easy. They moaned, “Not me!” Group B was the trickiest; many poems were in nose-to-nose competition. We scrutinized the writing quality, topic, age appropriateness, and emotional content. We also wanted to feature as many varied poetry forms as possible. In addition, we wanted a global perspective, so the poet’s residence became a factor.

Interestingly, sometimes Carol-Ann felt strongly about a poem I thought was so-so, and other times the reverse was true. Upon reviewing our own guidelines, it became easier to decide whether the poem in question was a keeper or not.

Who is your audience for this book?
Though targeted for ages 6-12, I believe the stellar poems in this collection will also appeal greatly to parents, grandparents, teachers, librarians, poetry lovers, ringside judges, umpires, referees, coaches, and—Rah! Rah! Rah!— sports enthusiasts and poets around the world!

What can readers look forward to if they buy your book?
Name a sport! Very likely it’s included in this grand-slam poetry anthology. Written by 50 poets from 10 countries, And the Crowd Goes Wild! A Global Gathering of Sports Poems, is jam-packed with sport and sport-related poems. Nearly 30 different poetry forms are presented as well as identified, making this collection a great resource for teachers.

Congratulations! I understand that And the Crowd Goes Wild! A Global Gathering of Sports Poems, is the winner of The Moonbeam Award, 2012, Children’s Poetry division. How has the book promotion been going?
Thanks, Peggy. We’re thrilled to have the Moonbeam Award seal on our book. Carol-Ann and I have done book launches in the U.S. and Canada. In addition, several Illinois contributors and I banded together to form the Olympic Poetry Team U.S.A. Our “Poetry + Sports = Fun” message has been enthusiastically received by packed-out crowds. The Olympic Poetry Team U.S.A. offers educational and inspirational poetry presentations in the Chicagoland area.

What other types of presentations do you offer for school and library visits?
As a writer-in-residence for several Chicago Public Schools, I share my passion for poetry with students on a weekly or monthly basis. I also offer presentations based on my nature books, What Kinds of Seeds are These? and Whose Nest is This? Volunteers roll a coconut like a bowling ball, toss maple seeds into the air, and compare the hummingbird’s walnut-size nest to the sea turtle’s 10-foot nest. Students interested in the publishing process are surprised when I display my towering stack of rejection letters; it weighs as much as a medium deep-dish pizza! Whatever age my audience is, I’m always happy to share poetry and a “never give up your dream” message.

Click here to see five poets (from Australia, Ireland, Africa, Canada, and the U.S.) read their poems from And the Crowd Goes Wild.

Click hereto watch Heidi read her poem, "Food Fest" from The Poetry Friday Anthology, Grades 6-8. (Both links will take you to Renee LaTulippe’s blogsite, No Water River.)

Click here to find out more about author/poet Heidi Bee Roemer.

And the Crowd Goes Wild: ISBN-10: 1770979530; ISBN-13: 978-1770979536

Many thanks, Heidi, for giving us a glimpse into your writing life!

Poetry Month—and Book Giveaways!

April 1, 2013

Tags: poetry month 2013, book giveaway, children's poetry, Name That Dog, From Dawn to Dreams

It’s April 1st and the official start of Poetry Month!

National Poetry Month was established in the United States in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets as a way to increase awareness and appreciation of poetry.

Here on my blog during the next four weeks I’ll be posting interviews with four terrific children’s poets. Check back this Wednesday to hear from my first guest, Heidi Bee Roemer, children’s author and poet, teacher, and editor!

I’ll be sharing some favorite websites featuring children’s poetry, and links to other ways to celebrate poetry.

I’ll also be giving away copies of my picture books, NAME THAT DOG! and FROM DAWN TO DREAMS, to two lucky blog readers in a drawing at the end of April. No fooling! To be entered in the drawing just leave your comment on any of my blog posts this month. Official rules are posted on the left on my blog page.

Here are some poetry books for children that I’ve recently read and recommend—

OUT ON THE PRAIRIE by Donna M. Bateman, illustrated by Susan Swan; Charlesbridge 2012, picture book/poetry/non-fiction

OUT OF THIS WORLD, Poems and Facts About Space, by Amy E Sklansky, illustrated by Stacey Schuett; Alfred A. Knopp, 2012, picture book/poetry/non-fiction

SERENDIPITY and ME by Judith L. Roth, Viking 2013, middle grade novel in verse

AND THE CROWD GOES WILD!, a Global Gathering of Sports Poems, compiled by Carol-Ann Hoyte and Heidi Bee Roemer, illustrated by Kevin Sylvester, Friesen Press 2012, middle grade anthology/poetry

THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN by Katherine Applegate, Harper 2012, middle grade novel in verse, 2013 Newberry Medal winner

Two other places that are giving away books during poetry month are:

To win an autographed copy of AND THE CROWD GOES WILD!, A Global Gathering of Sports Poems, on Story Patch go to Story Patch.

The Academy of American Poets: The Academy will edit and distribute 30,000 free copies of a special anthology of poetry for children ages 10 to 14, HOW TO EAT A POEM: a Smorgasbord of Tasty and Delicious Poems for Young Readers. With a foreword by U.S. Poet Laureate Ted Kooser, the anthology includes 70 poems by well-known poets such as W.S. Merwin, Rita Dove, Billy Collins, Kenneth Koch, Marianne Moore, Langston Hughes, and Thom Gunn. Find out more at The Academy of American Poets website.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you here during April!