Friday, October 20, 2017

Happy National Day on Writing! #WhyIWrite

What's Inside?
Photo by Amy LV

Students - Today is the National Day on Writing!  On this day, we celebrate the power and beauty of writing, many sharing with the hashtag #WhyIWrite.  Today's poem is a tribute to writing and to all of the mystery it offers us.  You will note that this poem does not rhyme, but you may also note that there is a bit of repetition of structure.  This holds the poem...and the sense of mystery...together.

Teachers, please do not miss NCTE's rich website for the National Day on Writing.  There are so many ideas and resources and inspiring posts to learn from and share.  Below you can the little video I made for the Writer's Story Campaign.  If you and/or your students wish to share about your own writing on social media today, please include the #WhyIWrite hashtag so that all of us can find you!

Yesterday was the book birthday of my new POEMS ARE TEACHERS: HOW STUDYING POETRY STRENGTHENS WRITING IN ALL GENRES.  I am celebrating that good fun with a book and cookie if you're interested in learning more, please just head on over to yesterday's post where you find links to posts about the book (thank you, friends!) and enter a giveaway (through Thursday, October 26) too.

Please visit the latest post at my other blog, Sharing Our Notebooks to win a copy of Caroline Starr Rose's latest book!  She's sharing a poem AND a peek inside of her notebooks.

Happy Poetry Friday, friends!  Leigh Ann is hosting this week's Poetry Friday roundup over at A Day in the Life.  It's her first time hosting, and she's doing so with a beautiful book share...don't miss!

Thursday, October 19, 2017


Today is the birthday of the book I always wanted to write and finally did.  The concept is not new.  Poems ARE teachers, and writing teachers know this. Strong poetry teaches us how to write strong prose. In this book, I aim to explain some very specific ways that studying poems can lift our prose, from organizing our thinking to choosing a title.

If you want to learn more about the inner workings of this book, you can see inside, download a sample chapter, read some kind words, and learn more details here:

Heinemann Website (Download a sample chapter)
Amazon (Peek inside the book)
Irene Latham's Live Your Poem
Robyn Hood Black's Life on the Deckle Edge
Matt Forrest Esenwine's Radio, Rhythm, & Rhyme 
Heidi Mordhorst's My Juicy Little Universe
Two Writing Teachers (soon)

But here, today is a day for gratitude.


First, thank you to my long-time poetry teacher, Lee Bennett Hopkins, brilliant and loving and tough all at once.  I dedicate this book to him with my deep gratitude.

Thank you to the whole team at Heinemann, people and elves both.  My editor, Katie Wood Ray, is an author I've admired for years, and the fact this book went through her hands is clear as day.  Senior production editor Vicki Kasabian and production director Patty Adams held it all together with wisdom and kindness. Wise and generous Katherine Bomer wrote a beautiful foreword that made me teary. Edie Davis Quinn graciously coordinated editorial business, and Maria Czop perfectly took care of permissions.  Suzanne Heiser designed the gorgeous package and chose all images.  Jennifer Brett Greenstein carefully copy edited, Kim Cahill is marketing like crazy, and Steve Bernier does all that needs to be done as manufacturing print buyer.  

Thank you to the talented contemporary poets whose words grace these pages.  Working with them was a complete joy. Thank you: Mary Lee Hahn, Irene Latham, Susan Blackaby, arnold adoff, J. Patrick Lewis, Laura Shovan, Kenn Nesbitt, Steven Withrow, Jeannine Atkins, David L. Harrison, Georgia Heard, Carole Boston Weatherford, Laura Purdie Salas, Robyn Hood Black, Alma Flor Ada, Marilyn Nelson, Jack Prelutsky, George Ella Lyon, Lee Wardlaw, Doraine Bennett, Kristine O'Connell George, Kwame Alexander, Guadalupe Garcia McCall, Heidi Mordhorst, Matt Forrest Esenwine, Heidi Bee Roemer, Michael Salinger, Charles Ghigna, Susan Marie Swanson, Nikki Grimes, April Halprin Wayland, Jane Yolen, Paul B. Janeczko, Joyce Sidman, David Elliott, Deborah Chandra, Ann Whitford Paul, Douglas Florian, Kristy Dempsey, Allan Wolf, Kate Coombs, Janet Wong, Marilyn Singer, Michael J. Rosen, Margarita Engle, Eileen Spinelli, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Sara Holbrook, Lesléa Newman, F. Isabel Campoy, Reneé M. LaTulippe, Charles Waters, Pat Mora, Naomi Shihab Nye, Juanita Havill, Lee Bennett Hopkins.

Thank you to teachers! I am grateful to many thoughtful teachers who shared beautiful student work.  Teachers, thank you for your generosity and for your back and forth: Helene Albrecht, Heidi Ames, Jenn Bogard, Ashlee Bryant, Cathi Burton, Emily Callahan, Susan Chauncey, Winifred Christopher, Andria Nacina Cole, Ann Marie Corgill, Monica Crudele, Darlene Daley, Mali Dayton, Kim Doele, Debbi Dolce, Michelle Enser, Ketty Fernandez, Catherine Flynn, Michele Gilbert-Tindall, Mona Goodman, Charnetta Harvey, Keith Hinnant, Nicole Jamison, Jessica Ketcheson, Pam Koutrakos, Barry Lane, Nancy Logghe, JoEllen McCarthy, Patty McGee, Alicia McKendrick, Melanie Meehan, Kimberley Moran, Karen Morreale, Kim Oldenburgh, Brianna Person, Ann Piper, Tia Rendine, Mary Anne Sacco, Christine Scheer, Margaret Simon, Tara Smith, Kathleen Sokolowski, Angela Stockman, Holly VanEpps, Darren Victory, Aliza Werner, and David Williams.

Students - As you likely know, I am not sharing your last names in POEMS ARE TEACHERS, but I hope that you see and find your wonderful poems.  Congratulations and much love to you.  You are teaching many future poets with your words.

Thank you to my great agent, Elizabeth Harding, to my friends, especially Karen Caine, to my teachers, and to my dear dear family.  

We did it!

And now, since this is a thank you party, I am offering a giveaway.  Next week I will share a goodreads giveaway for 5 copies of POEMS ARE TEACHERS, but today, I am offering something special to one commenter (with a US address) on this post, chosen at random next Thursday, October 26 at 11pm.

If you noticed the cookie with the book atop this post, or if you saw the cookie I shared last month for the release of READ! READ! READ!, then you know that I am a big fan of Adriana Seuffert's cookie work.  Today, her work is part of my celebratory giveaway!

Book and Cookie Twins
Photo by Amy LV

I wish you luck in winning:


Please comment by next Thursday at 11pm along with a way to contact you.

xo, Amy

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Old Poem, New Trailer, Giveaway!

Students - Yesterday my sister wrote to tell me, "Your poem is on the back page of this month's BABYBUG magazine!"  We give a subscription of BABYBUG to our little nephew, and Heidi and Luke were reading along when all of the sudden they found my old poem.  This was one of my first published poems, in LADYBUG many years ago, and I was happily surprised to learn that the Cricket Media group had reprinted it.

Today's poem is a short and sweet one.  And really, it's simply a procedural or how-to poem.  Notice how each line offers one more step in making a jack o'lantern.  It's both poem and how-to.  Sometimes I enjoy thinking about HOW to do something and then writing about it.  You might choose to write a poem of this sort yourself.  What do you know how to do?  It might be something small such as carving a jack o'lantern or something big such as making a friend.

One thing I do not know how to do is make book trailers.  But fortunately, I know some talented people who do.  I am very thankful to the team of DAS HAUS Productions for producing this trailer which captures the feeling of my poem "Forever" and all of READ! READ! READ!, my new book with talented illustrator Ryan O'Rourke and published by Boyds Mills Press.

Thank you to:
Robbie Snow - Writer Director
Brandon Babbit - Executive Producer
Sawyer Oubre - Director of Photography (and my friend)
Dylan Genis - Gaffer
Jimmie Cummings, B. Reddick Jr., & T. James - Actors


I am holding an Amazon giveaway for 5 winners, each to win 1 copy of READ! READ! READ!  This giveaway ends on October 18, and if you wish, you can enter it HERE.

Please visit the latest post at my other blog, Sharing Our Notebooks to win a copy of Caroline Starr Rose's latest book!  She's sharing a poem AND a peek inside of her notebooks.

Happy Poetry Friday, friends!  Have a wonderful time celebrating 13 this week and all week long at Live Your Poem with Irene who is hosting this week's Poetry Friday roundup!

Friday, October 6, 2017

Capturing Scenes & A Poetry Peek!

Easel Draft at Hamilton School
Photo by Amy LV

Students - Last week, I was very lucky to visit Alexander Hamilton School in Glen Rock, New Jersey.  As part of my visit to NJ, I took the train to see our daughter Hope at college in New York City.  On that trip, the moment you read about in today's poem....really happened.  So of course I wrote about it in my notebook.

Then I wrote about it in front of students at Hamilton School on the easel above.  And I couldn't stop thinking about it.

Certain scenes are like this - they stay in your head, stuck like peanut butter to the roof of your mouth.  Something so beautiful, peaceful, frightening, fascinating...wants to live on.  Writing helps us hold such scenes close.  Writing gives us our lives back again.  

Cesare Pavese wrote, "We do not remember days, we remember moments."  It's true.

Today it is my pleasure to welcome my friend Shirley Thacker, a wonderful teacher friend who studied with the Indiana Writing Project and taught primary students for 42 years.  A believer in writing and in building "communities of respectful brothers and sisters who accept all people and their strengths and weaknesses," Shirley joins us today to share how she writes poetry with second through fifth grade students after school and in summer Comp Camps at Wes-Del Elementary in Gaston, Indiana.  Shirley says, "Sharing is key...this is why I write. I want someone to listen."  Welcome, Shirley and welcome, young writers!

I believe there has to be a reading/writing connection.  If you read like a writer and write like a reader, your life is forever changed.  So that being said, I give a couple of weeks of choice writing while we immerse ourselves in reading in the genre we will write next.  Then when our new writing cycle starts, students will some background information to hold onto.

Before our poetry writing cycle, we have had a couple of weeks to look at poetry, reading a great variety of poems, so by the time we start writing poetry, we have learned some writing craft: onomatopoeia, just right word choice. bold nouns, vivid verbs, magic three, simile, metaphor, and more. 

Day one of poetry, students are sitting on the carpet and I tell them we will be learning how to write poems.  I invite them to watch a poem in the making. . . I am by the chart paper.  I usually choose something they won't want to copy, a topic such as coffee or my dog, Yuri.  They are watching me ponder and think.  They know that to write, you have to choose something you know about.

"I think I will try Yuri. .  .. I need a word bank to form the poem. I will write all the words that I can think of along the and down the right side of the chart paper. . . . "

Shirley's Poem Draft
(Click to Enlarge)

"Now I am ready to shape my poem. . .  Let me think. . ..hmmm"

by Mrs. Thacker

My little golden doodle,

Furry with beautiful eyes. . . 

like Yuri Zhivago.!

Reddish-brown like dried  pine needles.

Loved doggy school,  . . TWICE!

Can sit, shake paw, and go down. . . 

Naughty boy . .  .

Chewed Bic razor! . . .

Off to animal hospital 

lots of x-rays!  

My little lap baby,


After this demonstration, I invite students to "Have a go at it"  . . . students go back with notebooks and have a no walk, no talk period of 10-15 min. . . while I write too!  Then we can buddy up for help and suggestions or sharing.

The next day I write a poem on a chart or return to my first poem to show revision in a different color marker. I want the students to get the idea that revision is part of writing.

When they are peer editing/sharing , I might be conferencing, walking around listening to their poems.  Students may publish or write new poems at any time.  Sometimes students will want to read more to get ideas. The room looks like a newspaper office with everyone doing what they need to do! This is the best 45-60 min in our day.

Here are a few poems from students in last year's Comp Camp.

by Chloe (grade 2)

Splash, drip
The thunder growling
Flashing through the windows.

It's getting louder,

Then it stops.
The sun is out!
See you later, 

by Alaina (grade 3)

Pink is the color of...
A highlighter, my hair tie, my bed and blankets

Pink is the color of...
My shirts and pants, my notebook.

Pink is the color of...
Watermelon, jolly rancher, and sweatshirt.

by Brock (grade 3)

I make people fright
I make them cry
I make puddles
I make sparks and electricity!

by Norah (grade 3)

I am a MAD chair!
Kids fall on me...
Kids slam me,
Kids sit on me...

Huh, huh, huh!

Pay back time!!!

Mrs. Thacker
by Carter (grade 3)

Mrs. Thacker is the bomb!
So the best hugger.
The best storyteller
The best singer.
Awesome teacher!
Book Lover
Nice person

by Callie (grade 5)

The sun is so dark
I see a
Person. Oh wait, it's
A rock
I hear a horse
Oh Wait, 
It's Mr. Shaffer
I see the Darkest soul
Of them all!

Oh yes,

by Ella (grade 5)

The wind was blowing through the trees,
The wind chimes sing a song with keys,
Around around everywhere we go.
Nature tells us something we don't know
Over there and over here
There's nothing ever to fear!

Summertime Storms
by Jennah (grade 5)

I don't have much fear
When storms are near
But when wind blows
My scared expression shows!

Crashes of thunder
Flashes some lightning
This weather is
My heart's everything

Hail starts to fall
From a sky full of gray
I wish I could
Be outside to play,
But Mom says," "NOT TODAY!"
Branches of trees 
Scatter the ground
There are so many things
Making a sound

Not a tornado was in sight!
I'm really glad!
Didn't take flight
Storm has passed
It went by
Very FAST!

by Kasen (grade 3)

Orange is the color...

Morning and dawn.
Lawn in winter
Lava at the center of a volcano
Lots of things
On our beautiful earth!

Please Don't Go
by Malachi (grade 4)

Don't go bye bye
In front of my eyes.
Just don't die...
I love you KYE!

Please don't go
You stole my heart.
I know...
I will fall apart.


Thank you so much, Shirley and poets, for joining us here at The Poem Farm today! It was a treat to have you here and to read your words.

I would also like to thank the amazing Donna Farrell, for her gorgeous work redesigning the look of The Poem Farm, Sharing Our Notebooks, and my website.  I am incredibly grateful to her.

Please visit the latest post at my other blog, Sharing Our Notebooks and comment by Saturday, October 14 to win a copy of Caroline Starr Rose's latest book!  She's sharing a poem AND a peek inside of her notebooks.

You can find more poems and poemlove over at Violet Nesdoly/poems as the warm and wise Violet is hosting this week's Poetry Friday roundup, where everyone is always welcome to read, comment, and link in with us!

Friday, September 22, 2017

Poetry Friday & Falling in Love with Meter


Two Pen Cases
Photo by Amy LV

Students -  I fell in love with a meter last week.  Yep, I did.  I was home, just reading in this book...

Frost Collection
Photo by Amy LV

...and I came across this poem, Asking for Roses, by Robert Frost.  I read it quietly.  And then I read it out loud, just listening to the rolling rhythm. I loved the story, but I really loved the meter.

Asking for Roses - in the Public Domain
(Click to Enlarge)
Photo by Amy LV

And while I was at it, I fell in love with the rhyme scheme too.  I thought it was so NEAT that the word roses ended every single one of the six stanzas.  And that there were six rhymes for the word roses, each ending the second line of each stanza.  I took some notes about Frost's rhymes.

Frost's Rhymes
(Click to Enlarge)
Photo by Amy LV

Then I decided to try my hand at Frost's lovable meter, choosing first my six-times repeated word (writing!) and its associated rhymes.  I needed seven words that words that could make sense together.  I visited RhymeZone to scout out rhymes, selecting the ones you see on my notebook page below. Honestly, at first, I did not think that the words below would work.  I worried that they would not sound forced.  But I pushed on.

Possible Rhymes
(Click to Enlarge)
Photo by Amy LV

I kept trying, kept writing, kept scribbling.  Below you can see that my writing process really does require significant crossing out, something I find much more comfortable with pen on paper.  Initial drafts for me need some serious black-pen-scribbling.

(Click to Enlarge)
Photo by Amy LV

As always, I read and listened, read and listened until I liked how the poem sounded.  Then I took it to my keyboard and continued revising a word here, a word there, over the course of a week.  And I am pretty happy.  My poem's meter learned from another poem's meter.  And I learned too.

It is true that you, too, can fall in love with a poem and a meter, just as I did with Frost's Asking for Roses.  I share a poem about this on the back cover of my new READ! READ! READ! (Wordsong), illustrated by Ryan O'Rourke, and released just this past Tuesday.

Back Cover Snip of READ! READ! READ!

Read poems aloud often.  And talk about the different meters you admire with your writing friends. Experimenting with meter is a wondrous way to challenge ourselves.  Allow yourself to breathe in a meter you've never breathed in before, and you may just be surprised by the words that follow!

I am so happy to welcome author Caroline Starr Rose to my other blog, Sharing Our Notebooks this month. Please stop by to read her notebook poem, to peek into her notebooks, and to enter her book giveaway! And know...I seek student notebook sharers over there...please consider sharing!

It's my pleasure to host the Poetry Friday roundup here today.  If you wish to share the link to your poetry post, please do so below at the Inlinkz Link-Up, and I will be around to comment today and throughout the weekend.  

All visitors - we welcome everyone to this poemgathering every single week.  Anyone may read.  Anyone may comment.  Anyone may link in!  Happy Poetry Week ahead!


Please share a comment below if you wish.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Happy Book Birthday to READ! READ! READ!

My Family's Deacon's Bench
Photo by Amy LV

Students - When I was a little girl, my mom would regularly take my sister Heidi and me to the Vestal Public Library. We loved selecting our own books, and sometimes we even checked out sculptures, displaying them in our home for a week or two. (I distinctly remember the bunny sculpture...we checked it out several times.)  Sometimes Mom would go to the library without us, to refresh our book stock, and when she did, she'd pile up our books - one pile for Heidi, one pile for me - on this bench which lived in our front hall.

Today's book birthday celebration poem is about an object.  We are always surrounded by objects - inside and outside.  If you ever feel stuck for a writing idea, just pick one of those objects you see - I do this often. Follow your mind. If you wait, something will always show up on your page.

This bench you see above now lives in our home in Holland, NY.  I giggled as I filled it with my copies of my new book with talented illustrator Ryan O'Rourke for today's birthday of READ! READ! READ!  Back when I was a girl, I never would have imagined that this dream would come true, that I would write a book that lived on library shelves.  I never imagined that I'd have the opportunity to dedicate a book to a son, the little brother of our home...

Dedication Page of READ! READ! READ!
(Click to Enlarge)

Yes, children turn into grown-ups...and I did too.  And it's true that we never know what the days and years will bring. Yet I have learned this - if we hang on dearly to what we love doing and making, we learn about ourselves, and sometimes we have chances to share what we learn. I feel lucky to share these poems, to have been part of a team with amazing editor Rebecca Davis, fabulous illustrator Ryan O'Rourke, and all of the completely wonderful people at Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press.  Thank you to my best-ever agent Elizabeth Harding at Curtis Brown Ltd.  Thank you, all! 

To read more about our new book, please visit these bloggers who have posted about READ! READ! READ!  Much gratitude, friends, for these kind posts.

Boyds Mills Press (donating books) and I (signing and shipping books) are holding a giveaway for this book, joyfully illustrated by Ryan O'Rourke. This giveaway runs through tomorrow, September 20, and there will be five winners of one signed book each.  You may enter HERE.

Thank you so much for stopping by to celebrate with and on all of the days that we share poems together.  I am very grateful for you, my poemfriends, and never more than on a day of celebration.


Amazing Book Cookie by MamaSeuffertSweets
Photo by Amy LV

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, September 15, 2017

SPARK 34: Seek Out a Challenge...With a Deadline!

Spent Magnolia Pistils
by Jonathan Ottke
Click to Enlarge

Response to Jonathan Ottke's Photograph

Students - Early this month, I participated in SPARK: ART FROM WRITING, WRITING FROM ART, Amy Souza's wonderful community of people sharing work to inspire more work.  Since 2010, on a regular basis, Amy opens up an invitation.  Anyone who wishes may sign up to work with a partner.  Amy assigns the partners and then each pair trades a piece of art or music with a piece of writing.  The partners each have ten days to create a new piece of work based on the other's inspiration piece.   I was paired with artist Jonathan Ottke, and we each sent each other a piece and we each created a new reponse piece, he from my poem Bottles, me from his photograph, Spent Magnolia Pistils.

I feel fortunate to have received Jonathan Ottke's lovely photograph, Spent Magnolia Pistils, above, as my inspiration piece. I love the stillness and the fragile feeling I have inside when I look at this image. It makes me think about beauty and about death and goodbye.  Studying Jonathan's photo and thinking my own thoughts inspired me to write my response poem And so it is.

Here is what Jonathan wrote to me about taking photographs:  With photography - you capture a photo - you usually don't create it unless its a still life in a studio.  I was interested in photographing the magnolias in a new way and went to Capitol Hill where they have a nice line of trees and found, and captured this.  The poem is apropos, because my uncle is dying and has only weeks to live, it was very touching for me.

I gave Jonathan a two-year-old poem, Bottles, as his inspiration piece. But of course I had to revise and tweak the poem before I sent it to him.  Much time had passed since I had read it, and I knew it could be stronger. Here is the older draft, at The Poem Farm in June 2015.  And below is the revised version.

by Jonathan Ottke
Inspired by Amy LV's Poem
(Click to Enlarge)

I asked Jonathan to tell me about how he arrived at his response art piece, inspired by my poem.  He said, I usually see the general outlines of a work in my mind once I've worked out he idea.  For this one, I thought of a modified version of the letters of the alphabet.  Where instead of letters each one represented a memory.  Once I had the squares, all that was left was filling each one with swirls and lines of my imagination and memories.

He was also generous to share the intermediate step for the Bottles response:

Intermediate Art Step
by Jonathan Ottke
Click to Enlarge

I find Jonathan's piece whimsical and fascinating.  I just keep studying it, and each time I see new pictures and imagine new imaginings.

Working with someone else, sharing work to find new ideas and to strive toward a deadline is a grand way to push ourselves as makers.  I am grateful to Amy Souza of SPARK for pairing me with Jonathan and for making this space for so many of us to work together.

You might consider trying this.  Find another maker...promise to trade a piece of written, visual, or musical art. Choose a number of days to each make new response pieces inspired by the ones you are given.  And see what happens!  Often what happens...will be a SPARK!

Lucky me this week to be visiting Irene Latham's Live Your Poem!  She invited me to visit to share a bit behind the scenes of READ! READ! READ!, and I couldn't be happier.  Boyds Mills Press (donating books) and I (signing and shipping books) are holding a giveaway for this forthcoming (Tuesday!) book, joyfully illustrated by Ryan O'Rourke.

This giveaway runs through September 20 (Wednesday!), and there will be five winners of one signed book each.  You may enter HERE.

Michelle is hosting today's Poetry Friday roundup over at Today's Little Ditty. She is sharing words of Peace and an invitation to share on the Peace Padlet that Margarita Engle and I have put together, and too, she is sharing an invitation to write peace poems. Teachers - please take a peek at the Padlet, and add to it if you are willing.  And please know....Poetry Friday is for everyone.  We welcome you every single week!

Please share a comment below if you wish.