Who’s Reading What Wednesday: Getting Ready for National Poetry Month

Today for WRWW, I want my readers to know about all the fantastic happenings for National Poetry Month.  Here is the official list.
Thank you to Laura and Irene for organizing a great list for National Poetry month.  You can also find it here at Laura’s “April National Poetry Month” button on my website: www.teachpoetryk12.com.  

Let the poetry party commence!

 2010 KidLit Celebration of National Poetry Month

 30 Poets/30 Days in April 2010


Gregory K. features 30 children’s poets, one-a-day during April in a Celebration of Children’s Poetry. Each poem is previously unpublished.

New GLBTQ Teen Poetry


Lee Wind is publishing many new Teen voices during April for National Poetry Month.

Poems about Teaching


Mary Lee Hahn will post an original poem about teaching and/or learning each day in April.  She will invite other teachers, librarians, students, learners and poets to send her their original teaching and/or learning poems (or links to their poem posts) for inclusion.  The more the merrier!

 Also at A Year of Reading, Franki will review poetry books and tell about the Poetry Month activities she conducts in the school library throughout April.

 Poetry Book Giveaway


Irene Latham is giving away a favorite poetry anthology each Poetry Friday during April 2010. She has instigated a challenge to write a poem a day during April. She invites everybody to join her.

 Poetry Makers


 Tricia Stohr-Hunt interviews 30 children’s poets. She starts off with Mary Ann Hoberman, Children’s Poet Laureate, USA. The list is stellar!

Poetry Potluck

Jama Rattigan’s alphabet soup


Jama is posting an original poem and favorite recipe each weekday throughout the month of April by some of the Poetry Friday regulars.

 Poetry Tag

Sylvia Vardell


For National Poetry Month in April, we’re playing “Poetry Tag” at PoetryForChildren. Sylvia Vardell will be inviting poets to “play” along by offering a poem for readers to enjoy, then “tag” a fellow poet who then shares her/his own poem THAT IS CONNECTED to the previous poem in SOME way—by a theme, word, idea, tone– and offers a sentence or two explaining that connection. The poets have responded enthusiastically and will be sharing a chain of poems by J. Patrick Lewis, X. J. Kennedy, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Avis Harley, Lee Bennett Hopkins, Joyce Sidman, and more!

 Poetry Postcard Project

Jone MacCulloch


Students write a poem which is placed on a postcard. All of the postcards are decorated. If you want one, send Jone (macrush53@yahoo.com) your address and she will mail one to you.

More information can be found here:


Thirty Days, Thirty Students, Thirty Poems

Jone MacCulloch


 Each day in April Jone is posting a new student poem on her blog,  “Check It Out“.

Share a Poem 

Laura Purdie Salas



Laura Salas will post a children’s poem per day from a poetry book she loves.


Original Poem-A-Day Challenge

(Poems will appear on the poet’s site.)

 The following people are challenging themselves to write a poem a day:

Susan Taylor Brown: http://susanwrites.livejournal.com

Mary Lee Hahn: http://readingyear.blogspot.com

Andromeda Jazmon: Haiga Every Day in April!  http://awrungsponge.blogspot.com/

Irene Latham: http://www.irenelatham.com/

Jone MacCulloch: http://deowriter.wordpress.com

Elizabeth Moore: http://tinyreader.blogspot.com/

April Halprin Wayland: http://www.aprilwayland.com/poetry/poetry-month/

There is still time to recieve a postcard with a student poem.  Contact me at machrush53 at yahoo dot com.

Happy Reading.  It is really rainy at the coast for spring break.  I finished The Naughty List by Suzanne Collins.  A review is forthcoming.


Poetry Friday: Exploring the Limerick

Don’t expect me to publish a chapbook of limericks anytime soon.  But the Poetry Stretch Challenge was to write limericks.  Here are mine.

Can you tell spring break starts after school today?

Students were awaiting spring break
Hoping the rain was really fake
They laughed loud in the halls
And danced up the walls
as the playground became a lake

Staff members were very gleeful
passing of time rather mournful
Seven hours ’til spring break
needed time to escape
return relaxed and more playful

Cynthia Reeg has some helpful tips about writing a limerick HERE.

Seven days until the beginning of NATIONAL POETRY MONTH! Here’s what I am doing to celebrate!

Thirty Days, Thirty Students, Thirty Poems

 I will post a student poem per day.


Would you like an original poem delivered to your mailbox instead of a bill? 

 Email me your address at macrush53 at yahoo dot com

 I will send you an original student written poem. Students will not have access to your personal information.  You can see who is participating and where HERE.

Poetry Friday is at Julie Larios’ blog, The Drift Record.

Happy Friday. Spring Break is almost here. Yippee!


Who’s Reading What Wednesday: Interview with Lisa Schroeder

Lisa Schroeder is know for her YA books in verse: I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME, FAR FROM YOU, and CHASING BROOKLYN.  I love these books and so do my step granddaughters (they inhaled them!) This month her MG book IT’S RAINING CUPCAKES was released.  I purchased the book at the local SCBWI-OR Gala a couple of Saturdays ago.

Oh my…what a refreshing, fun read! I read it Sunday with the rain coming down; had to fight the urge to make cupcakes.  Lisa is another terrific Portland area author that I have gotten to know better since the Portland Blogging  Conference.  I was able to interview about this book and her writing process.

MSMAC:  How did you switch from writing YA in verse to a MG novel?
LS: It really wasn’t that hard. I have always loved middle grade novels, and I specifically chose to write IT’S RAINING CUPCAKES in between verse projects because I wanted to do something different. My YA novels are sad at times, so I was ready to do something fun. Plus, in verse novels, you have to be careful about too much dialogue, so it was great to let my characters talk and talk and TALK!

 MSMAC:  I really enjoyed It’s Raining Cupcakes. Isabel’s notes in her passport book, a bit of poetry?  It was unexpected and I loved it.  Any back-story with it?
LS: I had written a few chapters of the book, and I was browsing at a bookstore one day and came across a passport holder. I didn’t even know such a thing existed. But I instantly thought, Isabel would LOVE this. But I didn’t want her to buy one and then have nothing happen with it. So, I tried out the notebook idea and I liked it.

 MSMAC:  The knock knock jokes, have you been practicing them on your family so they would work in the story? 
LS: Ha – no, not really. But I can tell you that before I named a couple of the characters, I googled knock knock jokes to find a name that would work well!

MSMAC:  Are any of these characters based on people you know?
LS: Stan is the name of my grandpa, who passed away last year. One of the nicest men you’ve ever met. He wasn’t a barber, and he didn’t look anything like Stan in the book. But in their hearts, I think they’re similar. My grandpa often had a few businesses that didn’t necessarily make him monetarily rich, but that made him happy. And that’s the best kind of business to have, I think.

 JRM: What about St. Valentine’s Cupcakes?  Is that a real place in NYC?
LS: No, I made it up.

JRM:  Drat.  I was hoping to go there!  Will have to go to St. Cupcake here in town instead. And the recipes (which I can’t wait to try) are they family recipes?
LS:  No they are my creations. My grandma would make applesauce in the microwave by cutting up apples, adding a little water, and sprinkling with cinnamon and sugar. So that became the basis ofthe applesauce cupcakes.

 JRM:  I love it!  That’s how I cook. Where did the idea for this story come from? Did you grow up in small town Oregon?
LS: I was driving home from work one day and thought – I want to write about something that makes me happy. Something that will make other people happy. And cupcakes popped into my brain. I thought – how fun to write a book that takes place in or around a cupcake shop. And that’s how it began. I was like Isabel growing up in that I hadn’t been out of the state of Oregon at her age, and I always wondered about faraway places. Not as much as she does, but I knew what that felt like – to want to see more of the world than the town where you are.

 The rest of the story, to be honest, came pretty organically as I wrote. It was a fun book to write and I’m not sure how everything came together and worked, but it did! 

 I grew up in Salem and then Lebanon later on, so both fairly small towns. There is just something so cozy about a small town, you know? I made up Willow so I could take liberties with it.

 MSMAC:  So what’s next for you?
LS: I don’t really know. I have a couple of things with editors now, so I’m in that waiting room writers come to know so well. Crossing my fingers at least one project gets a yes!

 MSMAC:  What books are on your night stand?
LS: PRINCESS FOR HIRE by Lindsey Leavitt, MATCH MADE IN HIGH SCHOOL by Kristin Walker, THE NAUGHTY LIST by Suzanne Young

 MSMAC:  I am reading The Naughty List right now. Fun read. What does a day of work look like for you? Favorite time of day?
LS: I am 110% a morning person, so I get up early, answer e-mails, do a blog post while my kids are getting up and getting ready for school. Once they’re out the door, I move into my office which says “work” to me and I dive in on that day’s tasks. Some days that means writing, but often it means promotional stuff – answering interview questions, writing guest blogs, scheduling promotional opportunities, etc. I try to be done by 3:00 or so, because then it’s time to be mom and wife, and by then, I’m not as productive anyway.

 MSMAC:  Writing the first draft or revising? Which is your favorite?
LS: You know, with each book it’s been different. Some books have been a chore to get a first draft down and I have to bribe myself to just get through to the end, while others have been fun and easy. IT’S RAINING CUPCAKES flowed from the first page to the last and I loved writing the first draft. I honestly don’t know – I like them both on a good day and hate them both on a bad day.

 MSMAC:  When did you know you wanted to write?
LS: I’ve always loved to write, but it was about ten years ago I decided I wanted to write seriously and see if I could get something published. I was reading a book about dreams in life, and when I closed my eyes and really listened, I heard “write for kids, write for kids.” I think I’d always been afraid to try, afraid of failing. But like anything, you don’t know until you try! And I’m so glad I did!

MSMAC:  If you were not a writer, what job would you like to have?

LS: A librarian all the way!!

 MSMAC:  Where do you find inspiration?
LS: Nature. Other books. An amazing movie. Music that touches my heart.

 MSMAC:  What advice do you have for would be writers?
LS: I think the most important thing is to play, explore, experiment – try to discover where YOUR strengths lie and then focus on those strengths. Do what YOU do best and don’t worry about what everyone else is doing. My YA novels are very different, but I get many notes from readers who ask me to “keep writing books just like that.” Sure, not everyone likes them, but I’ve found an audience, and I’m making a name for myself writing verse novels with romance at the center.

 MSMAC:  What book do you wish you had written?

 MSMAC:  What was your favorite book as a child? As a teen?  As an adult? Any particular genre stand out?
LS: LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE series was my favorite, along with the BETSY AND STAR books as a child. As a teen, I’d have to say WHERE THE RED FERN GROWS. As an adult, too many favorites to list. I’m reading all the time now, both MG and YA, and the occasional adult novel as well. For me, it’s all about a book with characters who stick with me and a story that touches my heart.

 MSMAC:  Chocolate:  white, dark, or milk?
LS: All of it!

 MSMAC:  Coffee or tea?
LS: Tea

 MSMAC:  Dance funky chicken or the tango?
LS: Funky chicken, although I’d love to learn the tango!

Thanks, Lisa for stopping by today.  I enjoyed the book so much.  It is being passed around the fifth grade right now.

Happy Reading.


Nonfiction Monday: For Critique Groups

So I ‘ve had this book with me since its publication in January. 

Becky Levine’s  The Writing and Critique Group Survival Guide: How to Give and Receive Feedback, Self-Edit, and Make Revisions is a must have book if you are writing and/or belong to a critique group.

It’s such an easy book to use.  There are six sections from getting started to how to maintain a group. You can either read it cover – to cover or pick a section.   I skimmed the whole book to start, noting things that our critique group already was doing.   I found Section 2 particularly helpful as Levine breaks critiquing into these areas:  plot, character,point of view and voice, dialogue, description and scene. 

What I love is that Levine has provided a writing sample which she refers back to when explaining how to critique the above.  She also uses writing examples from Adam Rex,  S.J. Rozen, and Mary Pearson to demonstrate the points she’s making.

I found for my own writing there were lots of points to ponder, especially in regards to subplot and dialogue.  How do you weave that subplot in with the main one?  Where are the dialogue beats?  DO I have enough dialogue? Do I need more?  Is my subplot contrived or not?

The Writing And Critique Survival Guide is one of those books to carry with you. It can’t be read too much  and what a terrific resource guide to own.  I have been thinking how to use  with young writers as well.  The following points  could be used for peer editing:
Start with the Good Things
Offer suggestions
Remember you manners
And by looking at scene, character, dialogue, etc., a checklist for student questions can be developed.

This is one book to have in your collection if you are a writer or if you work with students. Nonfiction Monday is hosted by Books Together, for the  first time.  Thank you.

If you want a poetry postcard from one of my students please contact me at macrush53 at yahoo dot com.

Happy Reading.


Poetry Friday: Susan Blackaby Interview

Susan Blackaby attended the Kidlitosphere Blogging Conference in 2008. That’s when we met.  We have seen each other at various functions in the Portland area since that time.  The Portland Kidlit group has kept up our meet-ups, been at a variety of signings and SCBWI.  

Sometimes I have to be hit over the head with a 2 by 4.  Last Saturday, SCBWI hosted the Spring Gala for authors and illustrators in the Portland area.  Susan was there to talk about her new book of poetry, Nest, Nook and Cranny. B-O-N-K!  (That’s the sound of the 2×4 hitting my head). I finally put together that this Susan was the same Susan, author of several nonfiction books about plants in the school library.

And here is someone who talked about “needing a permit, how people think you need a permit to write poetry…” I can so relate to that. 

Nest, Nook, and Cranny

Nest, Nook and Cranny is a delightful collection of poems about  the many homes that animals make for themselves.  Blackaby begins with a definition of habitat, describes her habitat ( including a little hut she goes to for quiet in her garden) , and asks “what’s yours?”  The book is broken up into habitats: desert, grassland, shoreline, wetland, woodland with a further definition of them in the back. 

Susan was gracious enough to answer interview questions for me. Enjoy.

JRM: I noticed that this is your first poetry book. Why did you wait so long?

SB: Well, partly because it turns out you get to write lots and LOTS of poems before you get a happy sheaf of pages that actually work together in some fashion ONLY to find out that poetry is pretty much anathema to publishers even when you find an editor who likes poetry and, more to the point, likes YOUR poetry, which takes some doing, too. All writers make good waiters; not all waiters make good writers.

JRM: What’s next for you?

SB: I have another picture book coming out in 2011, and I’m writing, you know, “other stuff.” That’s just a working title.

JRM: What books are on your night stand?

SB: Our Life in Gardens by Joe Eck and Wayne Winterrowd
       Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann
       Pictorial Websters by John Carrera
      The Principles of Uncertainty by Maira Kalman
      The New Yorker (various)

JRM:  Ooh, there’s some new titles  for me to research. What does a day of work look like for you?

SB: I’m terrible about sticking to a routine. This makes me sound undisciplined even though I’m not. As a freelancer, I often have writing deadlines that need attention and require some measure of creative energy. My own writing world is often compromised by the vagaries and necessities of my work writing world. Cest la vie. On a good day, I manage to juggle.

JRM: Favorite time of day?

SB: 4 o’clock, outside.

JRM:  AM or PM?


JRM: Writing the first draft or revising? Which is your favorite?

SB: To me that’s like asking “Do you want to wear shoes or a hat?” Shoes, but not on my head; a hat, but not on my feet. For the first draft, there is a lot of legwork involved, heavy lifting, miles of rough terrain. So in that case I’d go with the shoes. Revising is more of a hat thing.

JRM: When did you know you wanted to write?

SB: Back in the 80s. That was kind of a weird time. Actually I always liked writing a lot, but it took a while before it occurred to me that I could make a living at it.

JRM: If you were not a writer what job would you like to have?

SB: I’d be a curator in an art museum. Or a surfer.

JRM: Where do you find inspiration?

SB: I know that writers are supposed to observe and eavesdrop and pad around the edges of things taking notes, but I rely on more interaction than that. And then really, I just step off the porch.

JRM: What are some jobs you have had along the way that have helped you in your writing?

SB: I’ve spent lots of years writing and editing for the educational marketplace, and obviously that boost has been huge—especially since the narrow specifications and rigid guidelines force you to focus on the craft of writing. Otherwise I had a weaving studio and I milked goats, and neither of those jobs were especially helpful except for introducing me to a host of characters and their stories.

JRM: What advice do you have for would be writers?

 SB: Be patient. Be a waiter. Know when to wear shoes. Marry someone with health insurance and a 401K.

JRM: What book do you wish you had written/illustrated?

SB: Lottie’s New Beach Towel by Petra Mathers because of its exquisite charm. Or, for sheer greedy volume and the assumption that I’d be able to cook (which I can’t),  The Joy of Cooking except for the meat section and game section, though I love the fact that Irma Rombauer recommends serving poached muskrat with creamed celery.

 JRM:   Not sold on the poached muskrat with creamed celery! Whom would you most like to meet?

SB: Quentin Tarantino, but only by chance.

JRM: What was your favorite book as a child? As a teen? As an adult?

SB:  Child:
Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey  Teen: The Ballad of the Sad Café by Carson McCullers  Adult: Peace Like a River by Leif Enger

JRM: Peace Like a River is one I wanted to read. Any particular genre stand out?

SB: Quirky realistic fiction. Bears optional.

JRM:Chocolate: white, dark, or milk?

SB: Dark. With a side of potato chips.

JRM: You would probably like the dark chocolate sea salt cashews, then. Coffee or tea?

SB: Strong, milky black tea

JRM: Dance funky chicken or the tango?

SB: No dancing. No no no. Though I’ve been known to boogaloo down Broadway.

Thanks, Susan for stopping by today.  I have to tell you  Here are two short samples:

~from the Desert:
Skinks sneak
From cool crannies
To catnap in the sun,
Making themselves at home on slabs
Of stone.

~from the Woodland:

Wing-wrapped bats hang
Like fur bangles
In dank, dark cave

  Jamie Hogan’s line drawings of pastels and charcoal add to the poems.  Susan gives us a bonus section in the back by sharing where her ideas for the poems came from, the form used for the poem (if there was one).  The bat poem is new to me: a Burmese form called a than-bauk.  Than-bauk has “three lines of four syllables with a built-in climbing rhyme.”  She said she cheated on this one a bit. (Get the book and find out how).

I think I will be trying some of the forms, thanks to Susan and Nest, Nook and Cranny.

Poetry Friday is hosted at Some Novel Ideas.  You can find the “Piku” form of poetry there as well as some other delightful suggestions. I tried the “piku” at Deowriter with the Poetry Stretch.

Still time to get a postcard. Email me.

Happy Reading.


Who’s Reading What Wednesday

I finished Umbrella Summer by Lisa Graf on Monday night.  Delightful and poignant.  Annie is grieving about brother. She knows she has to be careful or she might get a weird disease or have an accident.  (Okay, that was me in sixth grade and I hadn’t lost a brother.  But I always was reading about diseases in the encyclopedia).  A new neighbor, a book about staying healthy, and some discoveries of her own help Annie close her umbrella of sadness.   It is a gonna be a hit at my library.

I have begun reading It’s Raining Cupcakes by Lisa Schroeder, local Portland author.  Look for my review and interview next Wednesday. 

Am listening to The Day of the Pelican by Katherine Paterson.  I can’t wait to share with a teacher in my building.  She’s been reading stories about kids facing huge challenges:  The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis,  the student version of Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and Yellow Star by Jennifer Roy.  It is amazing how these stories connect with our students.

Just started The Help by Kathryn Stockett.  Another teacher brought it to me and said you have to read this!  It’s quite engaging.


Would you like an original poem delivered to your mailbox instead of a bill?  Email me your address at macrush53 at yahoo dot com.  I will send you an original student written poem.

What’s on your night stand to read?

Happy Reading.


Poetry Friday: Sneak Peek For National Poetry Month

It’s really exciting to see all the gearing up of plans and activites for National Poetry Month. 

Thirty Days, Thirty Students, Thirty Poems“, will be the focus of this blog in honor of April’s National Poetry Month.  I will post a student poem per day. 

Here is a sampling of what to expect:


icicles hanging
snow is falling on the ground
snow angels are made

~Jaegan, 3rd grade



Would you like an original poem delivered to your mailbox instead of a bill?  Email me your address at macrush53 at yahoo dot com.  I will send you an original student written poem.

It’s been an exciting week at DEOWRITER.  My 400th post HERE.  Leave a commnent for an opportunity to win.

Poetry Friday is hosted by Becky’s Book Reviews.  Head over there to see what else is happening for Poetry Friday!

Happy Reading.


Non-Fiction Monday: John Brown: His Fight for Freedom

John Brown: His Fight for Freedom by John Hendrix gives readers a glimpse into his life as an abolitionist who was willing to put his life on the line for those enslaved.  Many abolitionists spoke out against slavery but few were as passionate and controversial as John Brown. 

John Brown lived in Houston, Ohio, a community known for its abolitionists.  Raised in such a family, it might be said that John Brown joined the crusade for the end of slavery, the day he gave up his front pew for the black congregation.

He said, “I will raise a storm in this country that will not be stayed so long as there is a slave on its soul.”  Brown’s conviction and committment to end slavery led him to meet Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman.  He went to Kansas to ensure that it would be a free state not a slavery state.  He was willing to put his life on the line at Harper’s Ferry.  When he failed and became incarcerated, he continued to write letters from his jail cell until his hanging.

Hendrix has written an accounting of Brown’s life that is full of adventure and history while being based in new scholarly research.  His pen and ink with acrylic wash illustrations are  a great complement to the text.  His afterward gives insightful information about his approach to writing this book,  It is complete with a bibliography and an index.  No wonder is was nominated for a CYBILS award last year.  I have boys in my school always looking for a good story about war and conflict.  Here is one I can give to them.

Title: John Brown: His Fight for Freedom
Author: John Hendrix
Published: 2009
Pages: 40
Reading Level: 3rd-8th grade
Publisher: Abrams  Books for Young Readers
ISBN: 978-0-8109-3798-7
Source of Book: Send by publisher

Lost Between the Pages is hosting Nonfiction Monday.  Head over there for more great reads.

Happy Monday.  Happy Reading.

Poetry Friday: New Book by Naomi Shihab Nye

Time You Let Me In: 25 Poets Under 25  is a new collection of poems collected by Naomi Shihab Nye. 

In her introduction she states, “There has never been a shortage of hope and change for these young artists and writers under the age of twenty-five. It’s their currency–to experiment,  penetrate layers and realms and eras and elements, participate in many directions,  discover what’s coming next. Moderation can wait— plenty of time for that later. Now’s the time to be an explorer inside the rich hours…Whatever age we are we need to figure out how to keep letting one another into our worlds. What will change? Everything. Better world. Richer fields. Fuller harvest.”

Wow!  This perhaps explains why I love my job. I have an opportunity to connect each day with those explorers, my students.  I get to be in their world a bit and they get to be in my world a bit. 

Here’s a taste of these poems.

do you think…

do you think
if you left your house
emily dickinson
your poems would have titles?

~~Chase Beggrun

Fourth or fifth love

I want love to be simple, like
the creased notes you slipped
through the locker grates in high school
and as careful as efforts to decipher
what you’ve written beneath the clouds
or eraser marks…read the rest HERE

I am inspired to grab those poems from my poets under 12 and put them in their own collection.  So that we may add to better world, richer fields and fuller harvest.



Would you like an original poem delivered to your mailbox instead of a bill?  Email me your address at macrush53 at yahoo dot com.  I will send you an original student written poem.

I participated in the Poetry Stretch at Deowriter.

Poetry Friday is hosted at The  Teaching Books .

Happy Reading.


Who’s Reading What Wednesday

I have been reading and listening.  Just finished listening to the Newbery Award, When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead.
I. Loved. It.  Four mysterious letters. Time travel. Friends.Lost and Found.  A mystery.  I listened to this tale and wondered about whether my fifth graders would pick it up. Yep, I think they will.  I can see it on reader award lists. Stead’s images are so clear that they stick with he reader/listener long after the book is over.

The (mostly) True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrick is what’s playing in the car now.  Okay, it’s a book that I may not have picked up to listen to or to read.  But I want to read the Newbery’s so…
It’s fun, I’m laughing and thoroughly entertained.  It is definitely a book that someone could have lots of fun reading aloud with the variety of character voices.

What are you reading or listening to?  Happy Reading.