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Peggy's Pages Blog 

Children’s Poetry—Love it! Study it, Write it!

I missed posting about National Library Week last week. I meant to, but I was busy reading all those picture books that I brought home to study!

Read what you write is great advice for children’s writers. So, what does reading children’s poetry have to do with writing it?

I read first for pleasure. I know quickly if I’m going to love the book I’m reading. I like it when the rhythm flows and doesn’t trip me up, when the rhyme doesn’t slow me down, and when there’s an ending that makes me feel something, or ‘think’ about something.

Once I’ve read the book for pleasure, I go back and try to figure out why I love the book (or didn’t). What was it that got me caught up in it?

Did the rhythm fit the topic being written about?

Sandra Boynton’s BARNYARD DANCE is a barnyard dance! The rhythm makes you want to stomp your feet and clap your hands with the rest of them.

In NINJA, NINJA, NEVER STOP! by Todd Tuell you might ‘feel’ like a sneaky ninja, just like the big brother in this book for young readers.

Did the language bring you into the story?

In HOW DO DINOSAURS GET WELL SOON, Jane Yolen uses language that makes you feel a part of the story, watching it unfold in front of you. Active verbs like fling, dump, wail. Alliteration like whimper and whine, and with tooth and with tail. I dare you to count the adjectives in this book!

In TEN LITTLE LAMBS by Alice McGinty, words like ‘tackel and tumble’ and ‘wrestle and rumble’ make you want to stay up all night and have fun instead of going to sleep!

Is there a good story, with developed characters, a plot, and ‘heart’?

In MONSTER TROUBLE by Lane Fredrickson we wonder, will Winifred Schnitzel, who was never afraid of anything, ever get rid of those monsters who try to scare her every night?

And in COWPOKE CLYDE RIDES THE RANGE by Lori Mortensen, will Clyde ever learn to ride that bicycle?

Finally, I try to imitate the qualities that I see in those books that made me love them. How can I make my own writing do that for readers out there? I write and revise, many times, until I get it just right. Then I hope it gets my readers caught up in the verse the way those books did for me.

One final picture book in verse that impressed me was FREEDOM IN CONGO SQUARE by Carole Boston Weatherford. This 2017 Caldecott Honor Book is a story of slaves, who worked relentlessly, day by day throughout the week. Though it shows the hardships that they endured, it is told in a lively rhythm of anticipation for the one day of the week when they get a taste of freedom in Congo Square. An introduction by historian Freddi Williams Evans, and an author’s note at the end, round it all out.

I would be lost without my local library, and all the people who work there. They help me find the books that I’m looking for, and make suggestions. I love that I can reserve books online and they will get them together for me—all I need to do is go in and pick them up! Not to mention the displays, programs and events that they put together for readers. My heartfelt gratitude to all of you!  Read More 
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Celebrating National Poetry Month for Children

National Poetry Month was initially celebrated by the Academy of American Poets in 1996. Since that time it has become the largest literary celebration in the world! There are so many good places out there in cyberspace to find children’s poems, interviews with children’s poets, videos of poetry readings, poetry-writing help, poetry celebrations, poetry book lists and more. Here are some places to look.

During Poetry Month, ALA sponsors the Dear Poet project, a multimedia education project that invites young people in grades five through twelve to write letters in response to poems written and read by award-winning poets.

ALA also sponsors Poem in Your Pocket Day, which will be on April 30th this year. Participants carry a favorite poem with them and share it with others throughout the day. You can share your poem on twitter, or other social media places, too.

Find more poetry month celebrations on twitter at Poets.org, and National Poetry Month.

Poetry Friday is a special tradition in the Kidlitosphere. It's a weekly gathering and sharing of favorite poetry thoughts and poems and books, hosted by a different blogger each week. And you can continue to be part of Poetry Friday throughout the year!

On her blogsite, The Poem Farm, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater is featuring a special project for poetry month this year called Sing That Poem! You won’t want to miss a visit to her site this month.

At The Miss Rumphius Effect blogsite you’ll find links to poetry resources and so much more on this teacher’s blog. A special feature for poetry month this year are her daily links to different poetry forms.

Find more poetry tips and terms on the website of Sharon Creech.

Reading Rockets celebrates children’s books and authors, and of course, National Poetry Month. Watch videos of poets reading poetry, interviews with children’s poets, and much more

Visit the Poetry Foundation: Poetry Picks for Children where you’ll find favorite poetry books for children selected by Children’s Poet Laureates.

The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) established its Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children in 1977 to honor a living American poet for his or her aggregate work for children ages 3–13. This award is currently awarded every two years. The winner of the NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children for 2015 is Marilyn Singer. She has published over one hundred books for children and young adults in a wide variety of genres, and many of her books have won prestigious awards.

Find a list of Ten Popular Poets for Kids here on the pbs parents website. Some of my favorites are:

Shel Silverstein
Jack Prelutsky
Kenn Nesbitt

So many links, so little time! All of this is enough to make my head spin! Children’s poets like Marilyn Singer and so many others are a great inspiration to those of us struggling to write not just good poetry, but really great poetry—advice from poet laureate, J Patrick Lewis on Day 8 of RhyPiBoMo. So enjoy, learn, and be inspired!  Read More 
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It's RhyPiBoMo 2015!

It’s Poetry Month! And what better way to celebrate writing poetry this month than by participating in RhyPiBoMo! At first glance it sounds a bit like something Mork, from Mork and Mindy, would say ‘back in the day.’ But really, RhyPiBoMo stands for Rhyming Picture Book Month.

Started in 2014 by author Angie Karcher, RhyPiBoMo is a great experience for poets, both new and experienced, whether you write in rhyme or not. I followed it last year, and it was like taking a 30-day course in writing poetry!

And there’s still time to sign up as a participant! Take the pledge, and register by April 8th to be eligible for some great daily prizes. Visit the RhyPiBoMo website for official rules, to see who’s posting, and for a list of prizes.

Read the daily posts and get inspired—you’ll catch up quickly! Then check the daily challenges for hands-on poetry writing.

Ok, so I seem to be consistently a day late this week! Yesterday was “WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE RHYMING PICTURE BOOK” Friday. I love good rhyme, so here are a few of my favorite rhyming picture books.

TROUT, TROUT, TROUT! A Fish Chant by April Pulley Sayre
TEN LITTLE LAMBS by Alice B. McGinty
GOD’S QUIET THINGS by Nancy Sweetland

And one that discovered recently, written in verses although not a rhyming picture book, has become another of my favorites—

Join RhyPiBoMo before April 8th and get your badge! Happy Poetry Month!  Read More 
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Sharing April—Poetry and Autism Awareness Month

April is National Autism Awareness Month, and National Poetry Month.

The Autism Society has been celebrating National Autism Awareness Month in the United States since the 1970s. It creates a special opportunity to highlight the growing need for concern and awareness about autism. The seventh annual World Autism Awareness Day was celebrated on April 2, 2014.

To find out more about autism, visit the Mayo Clinic website.

Here are some other websites about autism that I found interesting and helpful.

Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew from the book by Ellen Notbohm.

For some tips on helping children with autism, go to HelpGuide.org.

And because it’s also poetry month, click here to read some poetry written by teachers, siblings, moms, and people with autism at the Autism Speaks Website.

To tie Poetry month and Autism Awareness month together, I wanted to write my own poem about autism. I found that it was not so easy! But here it is:


was a good day—I
rode the school bus,
didn’t fight
got my spelling words
all right
drew a castle
and a king
at recess got my
favorite swing
shared my race cars
fed the ducks
counted night stars
counted trucks
ate my dinner
played with brother
did my homework
hugged my mother…

was different—I
scowled when teacher
called my name
threw the pieces
from the game
cried ‘cause my friend
wasn’t there—
wouldn’t talk and
kicked my chair
pushed in line and
ran ahead
went outside to
play instead
groaned and pushed when
brother bugged me
didn’t move when
mother hugged me…

was a good day!

copyright Peggy Archer 2014
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Children's Poetry Books Giveaway!

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!  Read More 
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Poetry Month Shares April with Autism Awareness Month

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

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
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Are picture books with rhyming verse considered poetry?

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

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

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.  Read More 
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Fun With Some Different Poetry Forms!

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.  Read More 
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