Friday, July 18, 2008

Hitting the Road

Tomorrow morning, bright and early, we head out for the L-O-N-G (10 or 11 hours) drive to western NY for a glorious vacation of nearly two weeks. I may check in once in a while, but for the most part, I'll be enjoying some much needed time off. I'll see you back here when I return.

Poetry Friday - Skipping Home

This week's poetry stretch was to write in the form of climbing rhyme. In this type of poem, the position of the rhyming word changes. It first appears in the 4th word of line 1, 3rd word of line 2, and 2nd word of line 3. The pattern continues as a new rhyme appears in the 4th word of line 3, the 3rd word of line 4, and the 2nd word of line 5. This continues on and on, giving a stair-step feel to the poem. These poems can be four syllables or four words per line.

I don't often share my original poems on poetry Friday, preferring instead to revisit works of the masters. However, this week I'm sharing my climbing rhyme. I am leaving tomorrow for two glorious weeks of vacation and will admit to having spent many hours this week daydreaming about all the fun things I'll be doing. One will be spending time in and around Lake Ontario with my son. Here's a poem I wrote about one of my favorite "lake pursuits".
Skipping, Skipping, Skipping

Round, flat, perfect stones,
Mother Nature hones smooth.
Sedimentary bones that skip
the surface, flip then
finally dip from sight.
The round up this week is being hosted by Kelly Fineman over at Writing and Ruminating. Do stop by and take in all of the great poetry being shared. Before you go, don't forget to check out the other poems written for this week's poetry stretch. Happy poetry Friday, all!

Poetry Stretch Results - Climbing Rhyme

The challenge this week was to write in the form of climbing rhyme. Here are the poems being shared. Welcome to all the new folks joining us this week!
sister AE at Having Writ shares a poem entitled Summer Funk.

Michelle at Poefusion gives us a poem called Word Ties.

lirone at Words that sing shares a poem entitled Together.

cloudscome at a wrung sponge is in with a poem called thrown stone.

Marcie at World of Words gives us a lovely untitled poem.

Noah the Great shares a poem entitled Climbing Stars.

Jenn at Drawings in the Surf gives us a poem called Invite.

My poem this week is entitled Skipping, Skipping, Skipping. It's also about stones.
It's not too late if you still want to play. Leave me a comment about your poem and I'll add it to the list.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Stately Knowledge

I am currently working on my syllabi for fall and am revisiting much of the social studies curriculum. In doing so I'm pulling lots of books, so this seemed like a good time to trot out another thematic list. In preparing for Virginia history I have run across a fair number of books that encompass all 50 states. There are many great resources for seeing how the 50 compare, so I thought I'd share some of my favorites.
Train of States by Peter Sís - This train of states begins with an engine (driven by Uncle Sam and a bald eagle) that connects a train of cars in the order of statehood. That means Delaware is first and Hawaii is last. But wait! There is caboose representing Washington, D.C. Each page is devoted to a single train car and depicts important information about the state, as well as some interesting facts. For example, the train car for Pennsylvania (number 2) has a Crayola crayon on each end. In addition to the visually stunning and informational train cars, readers will find the state capital, tree, flower and bird depicted along the bottom with another interesting fact. (Did you know that paleontologists in New Jersey fought "bone wars" in the 1800's when the first nearly complete dinosaur skeleton was found there?) The final pages show the train pulling into a stars and stripes covered circus tent. On the very last page readers will find a series of questions and facts designed to get them thinking about creating their own train of states.

Celebrate the 50 States! by Loreen Leedy - Each page in this book is visual delight, containing information on two states per page (that's four per double-page spread). A key at the beginning of the book helps explain the labels. States are arranged alphabetically, and for each on readers will find state rank, the year it entered the Union, capital, state bird and flower, and much more. Landmarks are pictured, as well as symbols of the state. Each page has a question for readers to research. Don't worry, answers are included!

United Tweets of America by Hudson Talbot - Ostensibly about state birds and a bird pageant, this book presents information about each state as the birds take center stage. Here you will also find the state capital, nickname, flower, and more. For example, the page for Maryland shows an image of the state with the capital pinpointed and named. The illustration shows a Baltimore Oriole (on a pitcher's mound) throwing a crab cake. Famous Baltimore Orioles are listed. Information is also presented about The Star Spangled Banner. Overall this is a very fun read with great tidbits of information. If you want additional information you can read my review of the book.

Go, Go America by Dan Yaccarino - Take a trip with the Farley family as they travel across America from Maine to Hawaii, learning all kinds of outrageous and interesting facts along the way. This one is packed with lots of fun facts that kids will love, as well as the standard list of state facts in the back matter. If you want additional information you can read my review of the book.

National Geographic Our Fifty States by Mark Bockenhauer - This beautifully illustrated and gorgeously photographed volume contains information on the states organized by regions. Each state gets four pages of information, including important historic events, a map and photos. At the end of the book readers will find information about each of the U.S. territories, as well as facts and figures about the United States.

The United States Cookbook - Fabulous Foods and Fascinating Facts From All 50 States
by Joan D'Amico and Karen Eich Drummond - What could be more fun than cooking your way through the states? After an introduction to the kitchen (can't you just imagine the connections to math here?), this book is divided into regions. Each state within a region is presented with a map highlighting the capital and major cities, as well as a box of information. An example is below.
After this readers get a brief narrative introduction to the state. Next up is information on the foods of that state, followed by a mouth-watering recipe (for Maine it's blueberry cornbread) and fun food facts. My favorite recipe has to be Utah's Mallo-Mallo Fudge Squares! This is a fun book chock full of information that kids will want to dive into.

The Little Man in the Map: With Clues to Remember all 50 States by E. Andrew Martonyi - While this book is not a factual exploration of the 50 states, it is an amazing tool for helping students to identify the states on a map. Divided into regions, readers explore the map (with the help of a little man) and are introduced to visual clues as a way to remember them. The journey begins with five states in the middle of the US that look like a man with a boot on his head and then moves on through other 45 states. Told in story format, this is sure to be popular with young readers.

Our 50 States: A Family Adventure Across America by Lynne Cheney - Annie and Ben take a trip with their family across America, visiting each of the states. Beginning in Massachusetts and ending in Hawaii, Annie and Ben experience the sights, sounds, tastes and history of each state while sending text and e-mail messages to their grandmother describing it all. The watercolor and ink drawings use every bit of the page and are packed with information. Readers will even find decorative borders that include memorable quotations, song lyrics and historic facts.

The Scrambled States of America
by Laurie Keller - Uncle Sam tells the story of the time the states decided to change places with one another. At a party initiated by Kansas ("All day long we just sit here in the middle of the country. We never GO anywhere.") and Nebraska, the states meet, make friends, and hatch a plan to move to new locations. It took a while for the states to settle in, but they were so happy in their new places, near new friends. But then, Kansas, "who had switched places with Hawaii because he was sick of being stuck in the middle of the country, was not stuck in the middle of NOWHERE, feeling lonesome and seasick." Every state gets homesick for its native land, and soon they all make their way back home. The book ends with two large spreads featuring each state (smiling, of course!), its nickname, capital, area and population. This book offers a mixed-up, engaging approach to learning a bit about the 50 states.
There are a few other books that I would like to recommend, though they don't deal explicitly with each of the 50 states, they touch on many of the landmarks and places in this country that readers learn about in many of the books referenced above.
My America: A Poetry Atlas of the United States by Lee Bennett Hopkins - Grouped by geographic region, this anthology contains 50 poems about this amazing place we live in. Poets represented include Carl Sandburg, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Lee Bennett Hopkins, Nikki Giovanni, Myra Cohn Livingston, Douglas Florian and more.

The United States ABCs: A Book About the People and Places of the United States by Holly Schroeder - This book presents and alphabetical look at the geography, animals, plants, people, history, and culture of the United States.

A to Z United States of America by Jeff Reynolds - This is an amazing trip through the United States from Animals to Zydeco. In between readers will learn a bit about the government, history, land, map, people, and cities of the U.S., along with loads more information.

Discover America State by State - This series by Sleeping Bear Press introduces each state and the District of Columbia in an alphabetic tour containing both informational (expository) and poetic text. For each book a lengthy teacher's guide is available.
Finally, Reading Rainbow produced an episode where My America was the feature book. You can visit the GPN Educational Media site to view a video clip, hear audio book reviews and download teacher and parent guides. Other books highlighted were Celebrate the Fifty States, The Scrambled States of America, and Tulip Sees America.

These are the texts I use when I begin a study of the 50 states. Have I missed a title you love? Let me know about it and I'll add it to the list.

**Updated** - For even more books on this topic, check out the extensive 50 States Book List at Mrs. McGowan's First Grade. Here you'll find a list of titles organized by the states they discuss or are set in. Thanks to Mrs. McGowan for the link!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

More on New Yorker on Stuart Little

Lots of folks have already pointed you to the New Yorker article The Lion and the Mouse by Jill Lepore. Let me take this opportunity to point you to an audio interview in the New Yorker Out Loud. Here is a description.
In this week’s issue, Jill Lepore writes about the battle over E. B. White’s “Stuart Little.” Here Jill Lepore and Roger Angell, E. B. White’s stepson and an editor at the magazine, talk about E. B. White’s writing, Katharine White’s columns about children’s literature, the librarian Ann Carroll Moore, and the challenge of writing for children.
This is very interesting listening. Do head on over and check it out.

You can also read Jill Lepore's comments about her research for the article.

Finally, you can read a personal history of E.B. White (did you know he was called Andy?) that Roger Angell wrote in 2005.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Monday Poetry Stretch - Climbing Rhyme

Alright folks, time to try something new. This week I want to try writing climbing rhyme.
Climbing Rhyme is a form of Burmese poetry containing a repeated sequence of 3 internally-rhymed lines consisting of 4 syllables each. Since Burmese is monosyllabic, this works well, but in English this might be difficult. Instead of 4 syllable lines, let's try writing in lines of 4 words. (If you're feeling brave, go ahead and try four syllables!)

The rhyme scheme for climbing rhyme is internal. That means the position of the rhyming word changes. The rhyme appears in the 4th word of line one, 3rd word of line 2, and 2nd word of line 3. The pattern continues as a new rhyme appears in the 4th word of line 3, the 3rd word of line 4, and the 2nd word of line 5. This continues on, giving a stair-step feel to the poem, hence the name climbing rhyme.

For those of you who need to see this visually, here it is. Each x stands for a word. The letters stand for rhyming words. Just remember the 4-3-2 pattern.
x x x a
x x a x
x a x b
x x b x
x b x c
x x c x
x c x x
What kind of climbing rhyme will you write? Leave me a comment about your poem and I'll post the results here later this week.

Why I Visit "A Commonplace Book"

I've always been a fan of Julius Lester's writing, but it wasn't until I began reading his blog that I truly realized how much I appreciated the thoughtfulness of his work. (His photos are amazing too!)

If you haven't visited before, today would be a good day. He regularly posts a short quote and a word of the day. For months this has been the destination for my vocabulary fix. Not only does Lester define the words, but he explains them in a meaningful context. Today's word is slotter, and the description is priceless.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Damn the Sequels, Full Speed Ahead

My apologies to Farragut, but it had to be said. You see, once I tore my way through HP7 on that night in July last summer, I swore I wasn't going to torture myself with books in a series any longer. That's right, no more sequels for me.

I have carefully avoided the books in the Twilight series, despite the glowing reviews. (See HipWriterMama's recent post.) This is in part because I'm not a fan of "romance." I don't mean romance novels, it's just that beyond the love and longing in Jane Austen, I don't much fancy reading about it, no matter who writes it.

My reading tends to academic stuff during the year (go ahead and yawn, I do), some adult nonfiction that interests me, cookbooks, and lots of nonfiction picture books and poetry for kids. Every so often I fit in a few of the books that are on my TBR pile because they sound so darn good.

The Alchemyst has been on my TBR list since it was reviewed in TEOFT by a good friend and colleague. I've been avoiding fantasy for a while. After HP7 I decided to try some different books. I was doing beautifully until I picked up Faeries of Dreamdark: Blackbringer in anticipation of Kidlit 2007 (Chicago) because I knew the author would be there. Laini was lovely and brilliant, just like her book, but did I mention--first in a SERIES! (The sequel, Silksinger, is due out next year.) As my sequel dread grew, The Alchemyst got pushed down, down, down the TBR list.

Which brings me to the whole gosh-darn point of this post. While at Barnes and Noble last week looking to spend a gift certificate and some coupons, I found myself browsing through the YA lit section. As I was nearing the end of the alphabet, I came upon Michael Scott and the paperback version of The Alchemyst. I opened it and began to read. I was interested by p. 6, and when Golems were mentioned on p. 12, I was a goner. You see, I love books rooted in myth, legend, and the events of history. This book has it all, and then some.

I finished The Alchemyst on Friday and then ran out and bought the sequel, The Magician. And yes, I finished it today, after starting it yesterday. Sure, I've got papers to grade, but this is an awesome way to procrastinate. So, now that I've plowed through both books this week, I need to go back and research. I want to know more about Machiavelli, Nicholas Flamel, and John Dee (all real men of history). I also found myself wanting to map the places I read about. That means a good map of California for the first book, and a map of Paris for the second. The Magician ends with a teaser--an introductory chapter to the third book, to be titled The Sorceress. Since The Magician was just released, it will be at least a year before book three hits the shelves. And did I mention that six books are planned for the series?

Damn those sequels!

BTW, Roger had an interesting trivia question this week about authors and sequels. Be sure to read the comments for some answers.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Poetry Friday - Why Latin Should Still Be Taught in High School

I fell in love in high school Latin class, but it wasn't with a classmate. It was with the language itself, the poetry, the myth. I still fall back on my long rusty Latin, and carry many fond memories of it. Here's a poem that has reminded me of those days.
Why Latin Should Still Be Taught in High School
by Christopher Bursk

Because one day I grew so bored
with Lucretius, I fell in love
with the one object that seemed to be stationary,
the sleeping kid two rows up,
the appealing squalor of his drooping socks.

Read the poem in its entirety.
The round up is being hosted by Lisa Chellman at under the covers. Please stop by and take in the great poems being shared this week. Before you go, be sure to check out this week's poetry stretch results.

Poetry Stretch Results - Phraseworthy

The challenge this week was to write a poem of any form that included the phrase "loose change." Here is what has been shared to date.
M.F. Atkins at World of Words shares a poem entitled Coke Man.

Mad Kane from Mad Kane's Humor Blog has written a limerick called Loose Change Exchange.

A Mitch at California Dreamin' SB shares some deep thoughts.

Cath at Little Cool Shallows turns the phrase on its ear with her poem, A Loose Change.

cloudscome at a wrung sponge gets nostalgic with Baby Gate.

sister AE at Having Writ describes one of my own coin hobbies with Loose Change.
I wrote several poems this week. One about pants pockets, one about a baseball game, and another about a fountain. Here, however, is my favorite of the bunch.
Wishing Well

With fingers tracing the cold stone,
I look down, down,
into the dark.
I cannot see the water
at the bottom, though I know
it is there.

I close my eyes,
make a wish and
I don't open them
I hear the splash.

I dig my hand into
my pocket,
pulling another penny
from the loose change,
waiting for the well
to swallow my coins
and grant my wishes.
It's not too late if you still want to play. Leave me a note about your poem and I'll add it to the list.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Tuesday Poetry Stretch - Phraseworthy

Okay, I missed it again. Let's just chalk this up to summertime chaos. Forgive the delay, but we are stretching this week!

I thought it might be fun to pick a phrase for inclusion in a poem. So, your challenge this week is to write a poem in any form that includes the phrase "loose change." I'm not sure where I'm going with this one. Where do you think these words will take you?

Leave me a comment about your poem and I'll post the results later this week.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Lois Lowry and The Willoughbys

If you didn't hear it this morning, Lois Lowry appeared on Weekend Edition to talk about her book The Willoughbys.
I've heard a lot of mixed reviews. Some folks love it, others hate it. I loved the nostalgia of it. Here are smattering of reviews you may want to check out.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Poetry Friday - Sweet Independence

Meant to be performed, the words of the Declaration of Independence are even more inspirational when read aloud. In fact, I show this to my students every year, because it makes the Declaration so much easier to appreciate and understand. Thank you, Norman Lear, for this amazing piece of work. Do watch and listen. I promise you'll have chills by the end of it. I always do.

The round up today is being hosted by Aerin at In Search of Giants. Do stop by to take in the great poetry being shared. Before you go, check out this week's poetry stretch results. Happy poetry Friday, all!

Talking Books and Writing with Gail Gauthier

After taking part in MR's 48-Hour Reading Challenge last year, I had the good luck to win a signed copy of Gail Gauthier's book A Girl, A Boy and a Monster Cat.
The happy kid holding that book spent nearly a year doggedly asking when the next book was coming out. It was hard to explain, and even harder for a seven-year old to understand that writing and publishing a book takes a L-O-N-G time. When the ARC for A Girl, A Boy, and Three Robbers arrived, he was elated. And yes, I'll admit to doing a happy dance right along with him. The book did not disappoint. We loved Hannah and Brandon and the imaginative games they played. In fact, this sequel was so well loved that it was smuggled into a certain first grade on a daily basis where it was read aloud to a select few friends.

While I can't answer William's questions regarding when the next Hannah and Brandon story will be out, I was able to share the thoughts of the author on a variety of questions. Here's what Gail Gauthier had to say on writing, teaching and a bit of character inspiration. Thanks to Gail for sharing her thoughts.

Tricia: How has writing these stories about Hannah and Brandon been different from writing books like Happy Kid! and The Hero of Ticonderoga?
Gail: With Happy Kid! and The Hero of Ticonderoga I was working with novels. With the novels, I needed a personal story for my main characters that would extend over many chapters, and every single thing I did with those books had to support that story line. My first draft of a chapter book did involve one story extending over chapters--a chapter novel! But it just did not work. Once I came up with the idea of using Hannah's reading as a jumping off place for adventures, I began to work with a story collection format, similar to the one I used in my first book, My Life Among the Aliens. Aliens was a very good experience for me. I liked the idea of trying to do something like it.

I can't say I ever sit down before writing a book and say to myself, Okay, what theme will you work with on this one. But theme is important to me. Looking back, almost all my books have dealt with child outsiders struggling with the issue of how much they are going to conform--Butch and Spike, Hero of Ticonderoga, Saving the Planet, and Happy Kid!. You can definitely see it in The Hannah and Brandon Stories, too. The neighbors do not get Hannah and her game playing. She holds out. The individual wins against the society of the neighborhood. You see it again with Brandon. He is constantly struggling to maintain his individuality and not allow himself to be overwhelmed by Hannah, who is in charge of the society in her home and yard.
Tricia: The Hannah and Brandon books are beyond beginning readers, so the need for controlled vocabulary isn’t as great, but I am interested in knowing if you had to think about language (word choice) in a different way?
Gail: I am very careful about language and word choice, anyway. The sound of sentences and, especially, dialogue is very important. Because I write a lot of humor, I may obsess about word choice more than some writers do. One word can determine whether or not a line is funny. With Monster Cat, in particular, I was very conscious of the fact that I was writing for less experienced readers who might not have a large vocabulary or, at least, a large reading vocabulary. For instance, in the dinosaur story I referred to "meat-eating dinosaurs" and "plant-eating dinosaurs" instead of naming specific kinds of dinosaurs, which would have required long, difficult words that first and second graders might not be familiar with. Overall, though, it wasn't a huge problem, perhaps because I restricted the setting to Hannah's home and yard. Our home vocabulary tends to be simpler than the vocabulary we use at work or school.
Tricia: Was the work with your editor any different for these books than for your middle grades books?
Gail: Funny story. I worked with the same editor on my first six books. I'm told that's rather unusual. Kathy had a huge influence on me as a children's writer. She really shaped my attitudes about what a children's book should be. Well, I submitted a picture book and then a chapter book to her, but before the project got any further than that, she left Putnam for another publishing house. I think most authors will tell you that it's somewhat traumatizing to lose their editors. I didn't sleep for a couple of nights after she called and told me she was going. We were still finishing Happy Kid! and Putnam assigned me a new editor, Susan, who worked with me on that. Susan accepted the first Hannah and Brandon book. (Because she is wonderful, too.) So, not only was I working on a different type of book with Hannah and Brandon, it was my first entire project with a new editor.

Given all that upheaval, I'd say that working with an editor on these books wasn't dramatically different.
Tricia: What do you think illustrations add to the experience of reading these books, and other chapter books in general?
Gail: Well, I have a bit of a business writing background, and it was with business writing that I first became concerned with the significance of paragraphs, the use of white space, etc. So I'd say that I think the big thing illustrations do for kid readers is break up the text so that it doesn't seem as imposing for them, just as subtitles and paragraphs break up text for adult readers of reports. Additionally, illustrations help readers translate written description into visual images. I don't know if that's something younger children have a problem with or not.
Tricia: What kind of response have you gotten from kids regarding Hannah and Brandon?
Gail: I've done one school visit around Monster Cat, and if I recall correctly, the kids were primarily interested in Buttercup, the cat. I recall talking quite a bit about my niece and her cats because they were the original inspiration for the book. I have to say that as a general rule when I'm in schools kids want to talk less about my specific books and more about me in general. They ask questions about Gail the writer. Where do I get my ideas? Which is my favorite of the books I've written? How many books do I think I'll write? They also like to talk about their own writing and tell me that they're writing books. I hear that a great deal. It always interests me because I wanted to be a writer from an early age, but it never, ever entered my mind to write a book then, as a child. Last spring I had a fourth or fifth grader asking me very detailed questions about publishing. Among the things she wanted to know was if publishers like first-person narrators. It was the kind of question I'd expect to hear at a writers' conference.
Tricia: Can you talk a bit about any memorable school visits you’ve had talking about these books?
Gail: I was invited to go into a fourth grade classroom in a neighboring town to read for this spring's Connecticut Loves to Read Day--adults go into schools to read, the idea being to model reading. Fourth grade was a little old for The Hannah and Brandon Stories, but I find it difficult to find isolated readable bits in my novels. So I read these kids the Pinocchio chapters from Three Robbers. The story went over very well, and when I told them about the book I had been working on last year, they loved the premise. So wasn't my self-esteem all pumped up. Then we started talking about what they'd been reading. These kids clearly were readers. They talked and talked. The teacher had to break us up.

At my last school visit this past spring, I was talking with kids in grades 1 through 4. The Monster Cat presentation was new and I'd been nervous about it, but everything went well. And the kids were so full of things to ask or share afterwards, that after one presentation I had to walk out into the hallway with a little group so that we could keep talking as long as possible as they headed back to their classroom. I love that kind of thing.
Tricia: Do your kids ever see themselves in your books/characters? Better yet, do you see yourself in them? (I see a lot of myself in Hannah. I was bossy, liked to make the rules, and played imaginary games all the time.)
Gail: My kids have definitely seen things that have happened to them show up in my books. We're all in my books and yet...we're not. It's a very strange process the way reality becomes something else when I'm writing. Saving the Planet relates very much to one of my sons, yet absolutely nothing in it ever happened to him. He gets it. He understands what I mean when I say that it's his book, but his father doesn't see it. Another book belongs totally to my other boy. He gets it, too, and made a joke about me stealing his life. (I also stole from the neighbor boy for that one.) The brothers in the Aliens books are named for my sons, and though I'm sure most readers focus on the funny situations with the guys from outer space, those books are a record of my family's life--the games the kids played, the birthday party, the tree houses, the camp outs with Dad, the school fund raisers, the hamster. When I say my life is an open book, I mean my life is an open book. You just have to know how to decode it. There are aspects of me in most of the mothers, but I also identify with Nora, the aging environmentalist in Saving the Planet , because when I was young, she was who I hoped to be when I was older. The setting for Hero comes directly from my life from the time I was around three until the end of second grade. Yet, I was never as strong and tough as Therese LeClerc, the main character in that book, and nothing that happens to her ever happened to me. Well, except for not liking the food in the school cafeteria. And the Polish polka business happened to my sister. And I did ride to Catechism class with my father in his truck. But, still, I am not Tess.
Tricia: I want to go back to word choice for a minute. Do you ever use your kids as a “sounding board” for things like language? Do you ask them what kids might say or do in a situation, or do they offer advice (even when you might not want it)?
Gail: I definitely used my kids as a sounding board when they were younger, and specifically for language. I used to pay them, and sometimes their friends, to read first drafts for me and critique them. The boy next door used to eat at our house on Sunday nights, and we would go over things at dinner. One of the best bits of info I ever got from a kid came from his sister. I was looking for detail for Happy Kid!, and I asked her to describe the popular kids at school. She said, "The popular kids at school are kids nobody really likes." I thought that was brilliant. It was incredibly helpful.
Tricia: You mentioned that you have some “unorthodox teaching experience.” Do tell! (Is it related to Taekwondo? I do read Literary Mama!)
Gail: My degree is in secondary education with a major in English and a minor in history. But the education classes I took in college were nothing like I read about now or hear about from family members in education programs. I don't recall getting much educational instruction. I was very unprepared for student teaching, and it was a disaster. So much so that I didn't even pursue teaching after college but instead took an office job in a continuing education department at a state university. But the teaching thing keeps coming back to me like some kind of boomerang. Many years ago I taught a few business writing workshops to adults through non-credit college programs. I taught Sunday school for eleven years. I was a volunteer computer skills tutor in my sons' kindergarten programs for two years. I volunteered in their classrooms for three years working with the writing program. Our school had an art appreciation program taught by volunteers, so I did that for two years. I taught six-week , weekly writing classes as part of an enrichment cluster program at an elementary school three times. I've taught writing workshops to mixed groups of adults and students. Yes, I was an assistant taekwondo instructor for two years. And then I've been doing school and conference presentations for the last ten to twelve years. So while I've never taught professionally, I have a bizarre, checkered history of doing teacher-like things.

And yet I'm not at all interested in using my fiction to instruct the young. I think instruction in literature always calls attention to itself, and readers shouldn't be aware of anything but that they are in the world of a story. I do have a number of books with school settings, though, and I'm sure that's because of all the time I've spent in classrooms of one kind or another.
Those are some mighty fine responses. Thanks again to Gail for spending some time here. In celebration of the release of her new book, Putnam and Gail Gauthier are running A Girl, a Boy, and Three Robbers contest. The first person to e-mail Gail Gauthier with their mailing address, saying that they saw this message on The Miss Rumphius Effect, will receive a free, autographed copy of A Girl, A Boy, and Three Robbers!

This tour has been quite a lot of fun, so if you haven't been along for the ride, be sure to check in on the other great stops.
June 29: Books Together Blog
June 30: Sam Riddleburger
July 1: Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast
July 2: Jen Robinson's Book Page
July 3: Big A little a
July 5: A Fuse #8 Production

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Poetry Stretch Results - Six Words

The challenge this week was to write a poem containing the five words sky, knot, fork, wall, and rose, as well as either trumpet or bullet as the sixth word. Here are the results.
Amy left this poem in the comments.
A wall leans against the sky
A single rose wilts
A trumpet weeps
A knot strangles my heart
… an unwanted fork in my road
Laura Purdie Salas wrote a lovely poem entitled My Chapel. Then she followed it up with this poem in the comments.
screams struggle in tangled knot
bullet escapes

forks left

wall of relief holds the sky
keeps it from falling

The talented Tiel Aisha Ansari wrote a sestina in less than 24 hours! I have been studying and experimenting with this form, so I know how difficult it can be. I bow before her and the amazing Trumpet Rose. (Can you hear Wayne and Garth in the background?)

cloudscome at a wrung sponge also wrote a sestina. It is called Day's End. (For all you Princesses out there, take note that this is her SECOND sestina. The rest of us have some serious catching up to do!)
I wrote several poems for this challenge. Here is the one I like best.
She imagined riding on a bullet train
instead of this creeping coach car,
sweet silence broken by crying children,
strains of muffled music, and the buzz of
constant chatter.

She stared out the window,
eyes locked on the swirl and
knot of a flock ascending--
an immense black wall of
feet and feathers,
wings and wind.

Once the sky grayed and opened,
she traced the heavy drops
rolling in forked rivers and streams
down the glass.

Hours later, lulled by the hum of
steel wheels and whispered voices,
she nodded off, having missed
the rose sunset that quietly follows
a summer rain.
It's not too late if you still want to play. Leave me a comment about your poem and I'll add it to the list.