creativity, imagination, learning, poetry, summer solstice, wip, work in progress

Summer Solstice

It’s official. The solstice is here. There’s only a few days left in the regular school term. It’s summertime in the northern hemisphere.

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On this summer solstice day, I hope to use the extra sunlight to explore and make varied attempts at poetic word play.

To say that poetry is difficult is an understatement. It’s a wordy challenge to write it right. All those stresses and unstresses, not to mention those lines of metered feet.

I dabble at writing poetry, which is a vague way of saying I’m not very good at it. I don’t do it often enough, the reason being is that its not easy. I know I said that before, but it begs repeating.

Will anything come of my attempts today at poetic word play? Maybe. Maybe not.

But I’ll give it a shot and will hopefully learn from my attempts (thank goodness for erasers).

What are you doing with the extra sunlight of today, the longest astronomical day?

amwriting, children's books, children's writing, picture book manuscripts, picture books, storyline, work in progress, writing journey


Whoof! This past week I had deadlines at work and this weekend some writing deadlines. I began thinking that I don’t like deadlines.

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The week coming brings with it more work deadlines. Even my weekly blog post has its own deadline. I’m feeling done with deadlines. My brain needs a deadline break. But since I was on the topic it got me thinking about how important deadlines are to picture books.

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Within the first three pages of your thirty two page book, and that after the title, dedication and copyright pages, you need to introduce your character,what his or her goal is and why your character has decided to take action at this particular time.

Talk about a short deadline and the stakes are high. You’ve already used up six pages.

You need to get your character moving along on their journey and introduce the first obstacle that must be overcome, and you need to have them fail.

And you need to use just the right words to make your text sing but be to the point.

The second obstacle. Your character’s second failure.

The third obstacle and failure. Three times for your character cannot be a charm.

You need to have the character demonstrate some inner conflict, some reflection on their failed attempts. You need to show that your character has grown from their efforts.

Then you need your character to figure out a way to succeed, maybe not completely the way they expected to succeed, but they have to achieve their goal or some part of it.

Finally, you need to tie your story up with a satisfying resolution.

You need to do all of the above in the least amount of words.

Remember at the beginning of the post when I said I began thinking I didn’t like deadlines. I thought this post was going to be all about that. But I realized as I was writing that that isn’t true. It can’t be. Otherwise I wouldn’t like creating picture book manuscripts as much as I do. Deadlines are part and parcel of a tight picture book story.

Isn’t it funny how most times something we think of as bad, if looked at in a different way can be something that’s good?

amwriting, Chris Van Allsburg, creativity, imagination, NaNoWriMo, new project, story starters, THE CHRONICLES OF HARRIS BURDICK, THE MYSTERIES OF HARRIS BURDICK, work in progress, writing journey

A Picture’s Worth . . .

Last week I posted about Chris Van Allsburg’s picture book, THE MYSTERIES OF HARRIS BURDICK and its companion book of short stories written by well-known authors, THE CHRONICLES OF HARRIS BURDICK. The images within the picture book are fantastic story starters, and on this first day of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) its possible you may want to take a look at the images for inspiration. A picture’s worth a thousand words or so it’s said, but in order to reach the goal of a 50,000 word novel by the end of November you need to write approximately 1,667 words per day. The images are worth a look as they might get be what gets you started.

:Donna of recommended the two books and responded to my request for readers to share what they’ve written after viewing one of the images. Below is her take on an image from the picture book. She wrote the piece a few years ago when Kathy Temean of was doing picture prompt first page submissions. Enjoy the read!


As he’d done every evening for years, Harold Greeley sat in his straight-back chair, sipped tea from his porcelain cup and gazed out the window of his sitting room. He was very good at sitting, admiring his well-kept garden and pondering his satisfactory lifestyle. For as long as he could remember it was his intent to live this existence he preferred—quiet and quite alone. Harold never needed companionship; not even a pet, furry or otherwise. Too much mess. Too much bother.

Beyond his sturdy, wrought iron fence, his neighbors ran to and fro, day after day—pets and children running amuck, trash cans overturning, hole upon hole with bones buried in yards. In his opinion, it all came down to poor planning—pure and simple. He wondered why, seeing as he lived in their midst, they hadn’t learned from his example. After all, his life was the epitome of order, the idyllic model: well-thought-out, organized and peaceful, that which results from the best-laid plans.

While removing a piece of lint from his pressed trousers, from behind him an unusual sound reached Harold’s ears, as if the carpet was being scratched and shifted. How odd! He twisted ‘round, but saw nothing out of the ordinary. Turning back, he sipped his last sip and placed the cup on its saucer which sat on a well-appointed napkin which lay perfectly perpendicular to the corner of the side table.

Harold was admiring the soft sheen of the white china (he having picked the perfect bulb wattage for optimum lighting), when the cup rattled in its saucer. Then a thud at the base of the table caused it to tremor, too! This was more than odd. What on earth was going on?  He peered under the table and saw what looked like a large bulge in the carpet, thinking it must be a shadow cast from the lamp, until—it lurched back, then lunged forward, slamming the table leg! The cup and saucer soared across the room, the lamp and table rocked, threatening to topple, and Harold leapt to his feet. Uncharacteristically, rather than reach to save the lamp from a nosedive, he swiftly lifted the chair above his head, ready to thwack the intruder, only to stop momentarily. He contemplated which repulsed him more: the unwanted, possibly beady-eyed mystery guest—or a bloodstain on his pristine carpet.

If you’re starting NaNoWriMo today, may your words flow effortlessly.

All my best,


children's books, children's writing, creativity, Emily Winfield Martin, illustration, imagination, Random House Children's Books, support an author, work in progress, writing journey

Making Time for Creativity

The IMAGINARIES Little Scraps of Larger Stories

Last weekend I found the IMAGINARIES Little Scraps of Larger Stories, by Emily Winfield Martin, and published by Random House Children’s Books on my weekly visit to the Children’s Room in my library.

Almost every Saturday, I head to the library to restock on the hot topics (construction trucks, tools, whales) my students are interested in reading, especially my remote students, and I usually leave with a stack of books that include new titles that have piqued my interest. The IMAGINARIES is one of those titles. The author/illustrator created this book from paintings she had done for stories that haven’t yet come to be, along with scraps of paper she found on which short phrases, and sentences were written. In The IMAGINARIES, I recognized the wonder and possibility that taking time for creativity allows, and so I wanted to share it.

Making time for creativity is sometimes very hard to do. I’m guessing I’m not the only one who feels this way. With all that begs for our attention, whether its our jobs, home, relationships, networking etc., its hard to carve out a time for creative brainstorming. And sometimes we may have the time to be creative, but emotionally, psychologically, or physically we are not feeling “it”.

I have found that just the act of sitting down and looking at an idea I wrote down days before (it might be a phrase or a question or a character’s name) is all I need in order to feel connected and replenished. It’s enough because what follows is that the next day or the day after, I know I will make a creative space and time (an hour, hopefully more) where I can untangle the threads of my thoughts and begin to weave them into something new.

To me, the benefit of a time to think outside the box, to write about what-ifs . . . is as necessary as breathing. I might have to hold my breath for a spell, but the exhale and the answering inhale are worth the wait.

And so today, I wish for you the same wish I’m hoping will come true for me this week; a time for creativity and a space both internally and externally where we can explore it.

amwriting, children's writing, creativity, critique groups, Jane Yolen, poetry, What is a Poem?, wip, work in progress

Verse in Progress

I wrote a story in verse, and then tried the same story in prose. My critique partners suggest that the tale plucks the heartstrings more aptly in verse.

Back to my notebooks I go .. .

They are littered with words: stressed, unstressed, alliterative; some rhyming with a meter that’s consistently three beats and rising.

As much as I worked the words, they’ve worked me twice over.

I felt a little bit better with my efforts at verse when I read the insights of the poetic Jane Yolen.

If you’re like me, and you’re working with verse, take a moment to read.

What is a Poem?

by Jane Yolen

What is a poem?

Hard work.

A single great line.

What we see and hear the moment before sleep takes us.

The pause between heartbeats.

The first touch of the drumstick on the tight stretch

of drum

and the slight burring after.

A word discovered after an afternoon of trying.

An emotion caught in the hand, in the mouth.

Two words that bump up against one another

and create something new.

Hard work.

What is a poem?

Hard work.

Literature’s soul.

A touch of lemon swab on a parched mouth.

A son who smells of sweat instead of cigarettes.

A new word, like frass, which is what the caterpillar

leaves behind.

A story compressed to a paragraph,

a paragraph squeezed to a phrase,

a phrase pared to its essence.

Hard work.

What is a poem?

Hard work.

Emotion surprised.

Throwing a colored shadow.

A word that doubles back on itself, not

once but twice.

The exact crunch of carrots.

Precise joys.

A prayer that sounds like a curse until

it is said again.

Crows punctuating a field of snow.

Hard work.

What is a poem?
Hard work.

The space between a hummingbird’s wingbeats.

A child’s meddlefurs.

A whistle too high for a dog to hear.

One bloody word after another after another.

The graceful ellipse of memory.

The graceful collapse of memory.

The graceless lips of memory.

Hard work.

What is a poem?

Hard work.

Hard work.

Hard work.

Hard work.

Back to my notebooks I go . . .