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Independence Day Dog!


In my picture book, NAME THAT DOG!, I decided to name one of my puppies for the Fourth of July Day holiday. I feel very blessed to live in a country where I am free—free to vote, to say what I think, and to practice my religion—and I thought that it would be good to show that love for my country by naming one of the dogs in my book for Independence Day.

I decided to make it a ‘list’ poem. I began by listing all the words that I could think of that had anything to do with the Fourth of July. I had freedom, independence, liberty, parades, marching bands, fireworks, America, picnics, ice cream and many more.

From my list, I chose Liberty for my puppy’s name for the letter ‘L.’

I started putting the words together, looking especially for good rhythm and rhyme. Then I thought, how great it would be to have this poem ‘sound’ like the Fourth of July as well. Maybe I could give it the rhythm of a marching band?

Here’s what I ended up with.

Liberty

Marching bands
Fire trucks
Flags held high.
Barbecues
Hot dogs
Ice cream, pie.
Firecrackers
Fireworks
up in the sky.
Little puppy
born on the
Fourth of July.

I hope that you enjoy this great holiday! I hope it makes you think of all that the Fourth of July means to you, and that it reminds you of the freedoms that have been won for us and protected over the years. And that we all continue to work to protect those freedoms.

Happy Independence Day to everyone!
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Babies…Grandchildren…and poetry

Our new granddaughter--inspiration #7
Our newest inspiration was born on March 29th—baby girl, Claire Elise! Claire is beautiful. Of course, all babies are beautiful. But your own are the very best.

PapPap (my husband) and I had an amazing two weeks in Missouri at the beginning of the month. Two of our children live there with their young families. We spent time with the little ones and their parents. We celebrated the new birth. We babysat. We helped our daughter’s family move into their new house a week after their baby was born. And we enjoyed the warm weather!

I always come home inspired by the comments and observations of our four (now five) grandchildren who live there. Each comment is like a slice of life, a photograph taken from life’s scheme of things. Kind of like poetry, it’s just a little piece of the picture.

Some things I learned:

If you want to get your mother’s attention, stand on a sit and spin. --from the viewpoint of a one-year old.

Lock your bedroom door when you challenge a four-year old to a race to see who gets dressed first.

A little-girl sized umbrella will make a three-year old smile for a long time.

Big helium balloons are more fun than toys.

Running in circles in an empty house is more fun than toys.

“Avocado” can make a kid laugh just because it’s fun to say.

Coloring can be great fun, or overrated, depending on which four-year old you’re with.

A kitchen chair blocking the way will not keep a one-year old away from the cabinet with the horse statues—he just crawls underneath it.

A little boy might forget about a hurt knee if you tell him you’re going to get up the stairs before he does.

A two-year old will tell you he’s going to hide under the bed, and that you have to come and find him.
A four-year old makes you count to 35 and can hide in places you can’t get to.

A one-year old can’t wait to see the next page in the book, and turns the pages before you’re done reading all the words.
A three-year old will count every apple/ball/spot on every page of the book you’re reading.
A four-year old picks the book with the most words/pages for his bedtime story and tells you when you’ve missed any words.

“Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.” --from an almost 5-year old, playing Candyland with his mother.

And writers who get to spend time with pre-schoolers are blessed.  Read More 
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Poetry at the Zoo

Brookfield Zoo, Brookfield IL
Have you been to the zoo lately? Last fall, my husband and I went to Brookfield Zoo, just outside of Chicago, where we enjoyed one of the last nice days of the season. We went to spend time outside. We went for the exercise, the change of pace, and to see the animals. Our expectations were met. But an added surprise was to find poetry at the zoo! As we walked, we found poetry on stone, signs, and glass as well as in the beauty of nature.

Etched on a large rock:

Earth, people and poetry
are one and the same entity
bound together by mysterious
subterranean passageways.
When the earth flowers,
the people breathe freedom,
the poets sing and show the way.

Written on a wall:

To the earth, to the earth.
He has renewed our life,
He has taken pity on us.

I did a little bit of research on line and found this information.

Aside from majestic North American animals and beautiful exhibits, Great Bear Wilderness also embraces the “Language of Conservation,” an initiative aimed at deepening conservation awareness through poetry.

With the support of a $1 million National Leadership Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, Poets House (national literary center and poetry library headquartered in New York City) has partnered with five zoos to create approximately 200 unique poetry installations in New Orleans, Milwaukee, Little Rock, Jacksonville, and Chicago. The selected zoos have seamlessly woven poems into the habitats of animals such as polar bears, snakes and flamingos to inspire millions of zoo visitors to become better stewards of the environment.

If you are a poet at heart, and even if you aren’t, and you are near any of the areas near the zoos mentioned above, you won’t want to miss an afternoon of Poetry at the Zoo.  Read More 
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Time for Writing

I never seem to lack for ideas of things to write about. I write from childhood memories, memories of when my children were small, and observations of what other people say and do. I'm inspired by bits and pieces of life as it happens around me, and from things that I read.

My biggest obstacle is finding the time to write. But I figured out that sometimes we just have to come to terms with the time that we have.

One of my favorite magazines for children's writers was Once Upon a Time, published by Audrey Baird, until it ceased publication not all that long ago. I had a few things published in OUAT. One was a poem that I had written about writing time vs family time. Family has always been a top priority for me. It's also been a huge influence on my writing. I thought I would share that poem with you here this week.

Ideas are many.
Minutes are few.
Should I spend them writing,
Or spend them with you?

The things that you do,
And things that you say,
Are my inspiration,
Day after day.

So in daytime I gather
The bits of our lives
And hold them inside me
‘Til quiet arrives.

And sometimes in morning
And sometimes at night,
Those bits merge with dreams
And I sit down and write

copyright Peggy Archer  Read More 
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April Was For the Dogs!

What a fun month April has been!

I visited schools and libraries where I talked about my books and writing poetry. I got some great questions from the students (and grown ups, too) and got to meet some very nice people. There was a book launch party for my new book, NAME THAT DOG! at the Valpo Library, complete with dog bone cookies, and cookies in the doggy dish. Thanks to everyone who was there to help celebrate. I met pet owners and some beautiful dogs at the Be Kind to Animals event, sponsored by the Porter County Animal Shelter and PAW, at the PC Expo Center. And I've enjoyed the book reviews, and seeing my new book finally out in bookstores. I'll be wrapping things up for a bit next week after a presentation at a Young Authors Event in Plainfield, Indiana. Be sure to keep an eye out for new pictures being added on the left.

Later in May I'll be taking time out for our Indiana SCBWI Spring Conference, and to enjoy our daughter's wedding! It's been a joyful year.

I thought I would wrap up this week's blog post with one of the poems that did not make it into the book. This one is for Spot:

One black nose
Is all that shows
In all that fur she’s got.

White as snow
From head to toe--
I think I’ll call her
Spot!

(copyright Peggy Archer)  Read More 
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Math and Poetry?

A former teacher, and fellow writer, put the thought into my head that math and poetry are related. It's something that I never thought of, but what she said kind of makes sense.

Math is a science. It gets to the point, or the answer, using the shortest route to get there. When doing a math problem every step counts, or you end up with the wrong answer.
Poetry gets to the heart of things, using the shortest route, with meaningful words, without explanations. In poetry, every word must count.

There is a pattern to math, just as there is in poetry. The pattern of a poem creates its rhythm. Read More 
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Kidlitosphere Blog Comment Challenge

Almost three weeks ago I discovered Kidlitosphere and the Comment Challenge. Kidlitosphere is a community of people who blog about children's and young adult literature. The challenge was to post comments on 100 blog sites within a 3 week period, which amounts to around 5 comments per day.

It sounded easy enough.  Read More 
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Student Questions

I love it when kids ask questions when I visit their school. I was at Westville Elementary School and talked about writing to the students in the book clubs there earlier this week. I forgot my camera and couldn't take any pictures, so I thought I'd share some of their great questions with you instead.

How long did it take to write your picture book, TURKEY SURPRISE? It took about one year before I was happy with the final version. I do many, many revisions before I'm satisfied with how it reads. I also read my story out loud to my critique groups, and they offer comments on what is good in the story as well as what they think could be improved. It's wonderful to have writer friends who will give me their honest opinion. It doesn't hurt my feelings if they tell me something could be improved.

Who chooses the illustrator for your books? The publisher decides who will illustrate my books. However I did have the opportunity to say who I thought would be a good choice.

Do you like the illustrations in your books? The illustrations aren't always the way I pictured them in my head when I was writing the book, but I love the illustrations in all of my books! Actually, they are much better than the way I had pictured them!

Have you ever met the illustrators for your books? No I have never met them. I also haven't had any telephone conversations, or e-mails from them. Thor Wickstrom put a little yellow dog in TURKEY SURPRISE, and I was excited about that because I had a little yellow puppy. But he didn't know that.

How many books have you written? My 4th published book, NAME THAT DOG!, will be out on April 1, 2010. But I've written hundreds of books! Some are in my file folders waiting to be finished, or for me to re-write them until they are good enough to send out to publishers.

Do you work on only one book at a time? Usually I work on a book for awhile, then put it down and work on something different, like poetry or non-fiction. Then later I go back to my book with fresh eyes. I can see things in my book more clearly then that should be changed or re-written. And there are times when I'm busy with some non-writing thing, and it might be easier for me to work on a poem, because a poem isn't as long as a whole book. So I'm always working on something.

What kind of books do you like to read? When I was young I liked to read fairy tales and Nancy Drew mysteries. My favorite book was Nurse Nancy. Now I read all kinds of books but I still love to read mystery and suspense books, and I like the Chicken Soup for the Soul books.

Thanks to all of the students and teachers and librarians for their wonderful questions!  Read More 
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Snickers

Because of her I write poetry. And I’m filled with new ideas and stories to write.

When we got Snickers she weighed 5 pounds. I could hold her in my hand. At the animal shelter they said, “Her mother is a cocker spaniel.” The vet said, “You have a little lab!” Her daddy had the dominant genes.

She was creative. She pulled the tablecloth off the kitchen table to get to the food. She ate a dozen chocolate cupcakes from the back of the stove without leaving a trace. She could get the screen door open, even when it was locked.

She was contradictory. Snickers did not like cats. One day she ate the cat food from the neighbor’s front porch.
She got carsick. The only way to get her back home when she escaped from the yard was to back the car out of the driveway and open the car door. She came running.

She was full of energy. She ate my yellow tulips, and chased lightening bugs. She barked at birds, and once or twice at an airplane. She took her snowman toy with her everywhere. She ‘buried’ rawhide bones in a corner of the living room. She liked pretzels.

One day when she was a puppy, she peed on the kitchen floor while I was mopping it for the third time in a row. I put her outside. That was the last time she peed inside the house. Until recently. She never went past the baby gate when we had it up, even though she could easily push it over or jump over it. Back then. She would race across the back yard, and followed us everywhere...

We’ll miss you, Snickers.

A Dog’s House

copyright PeggyArcher, 1999

Noseprints on the window.
Pawprints on the door.
Bones are in the pantry,
Dishes on the floor.
You left your mark upon this house.
You claimed it from the start.
With noseprints on the window,
And pawprints on the heart.
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The Value of Music in Writing for Children

I write poetry and stories for children. I do not write music. Our son, Dan, and our daughter, Sarah, write and perform their own songs. Our son Kevin writes music. Maybe someday I'll give it a try. Of course it would be songs for children. My husband played drums and had a band in high school. All of our children play instruments, and some were in choir and musicals. I've learned how to line dance and to think rhythm.

There's a lot to be said for music if you write for young children. Rhythm, pacing, and a musical quality are important in picture books. . Read More 
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