Friday, November 17, 2017

Be Ready for Characters to Appear

Ghost Gratitude
by Amy LV

Students - Today's poem is in the spirit ('spirit!' - get it?) of the season...the whole season of autumn, rolling two holidays into one.  Earlier this month, sometime between the stretch of Halloween and Thanksgiving, this small sprite appeared in my mind, Sammy, the ghostie who loved Thanksgiving most of all.  I have more thoughts about Sammy, but today's poem was my first official meeting with him on paper.

Sometimes it's fun to turn something on its head a little bit.  You know, ghosts SHOULD favor Halloween ...but in a poem, a writer can flip such an idea around.  The ghost world of this poem is normal.  You know...sheets, ghost families, and all of that.  But this ONE thing is different - Sammy loves the wrong holiday best.

Such playfulness is not only plain fun for a writer, it's surprising for a reader too.  Sometimes writing can just allow a soul to take a little trip into a pretend land of the mind.  Everything doesn't have to be real in writing.  We can let our imaginations float a bit, even right through old stone walls if we wish.  I actually have a picture in my head of wee Sammy with a cranberry sauce stain on his sheet.  But that's for another day.

Did you notice the repetition in this poem, repetition of the words thank you and I love?  

Did you notice how I stretched out those last four lines of the poem? This is to slow readers' reading down toward the end, to emphasize the importance of death not being really final to this young ghost.

Pay attention.  Perhaps this week or sometime at the end of this calendar year, a curious character will walk right into your head.  If she or he does, jot down who it is.  Pay attention.  Your mind is creative; you just must pay attention to it.

Jane is hosting today's Poetry Friday party over at Raincity Librarian!  Jane is not only hosting for the first time today...but she is doing so from Osaka, Japan.  Please stop over, congratulate her on her new book WILD ONE....and take part in the poetry joy.  All are always welcome to join this gathering of poemlove and friendship.

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Looking for Joy...Everywhere!

Students - It is good and wise to look for happiness.  To find small and big seek out stories of kindness and love and friendship and people and animals being their best selves.  Sometimes you find these by looking, and sometimes they come across your path.  This true storypoem you find here today came across my path in the form of news.  Good news does not always plop into your lap; sometimes you do have to look for it.  I got lucky here...the story of sweet Max and darling Quackers did plop right into lap!  And now, I plop it into yours!

When you read today's poem, you'll notice specifics, specifics such as the death of Quackers' friends, and even the name of the road that Max and Quackers walk along - Route 28.  These specifics all came straight from an article I read online; I did not invent them.  I could invent facts to make up my own story...but I did not do so in this case.  This is a straight storypoem retelling of a surprising friendship.

Writing it made me happy.

Find stories that make you happy. Find joy and goodness.  Look up from your screen.  That's where you'll find the best stuff.  Pass your good stories on.  Make up good stories.  We humans of all ages need and want to read them.

Teachers, through tonight, Heinemann is still holding a giveaway for 5 copies of my new POEMS ARE TEACHERS at Goodreads. If you're interested in the book, please try to win it.

It's a delight to welcome writer and professor Julie Patterson over at my other blog, Sharing Our Notebooks. I feel so lucky to get to peek into others' notebooks, and doing so has helped my own writer self find ideas and inspiration.  Please, teachers and students both, visit. You may also leave a comment to be entered into a book giveaway.

Jama is hosting week's Poetry Friday roundup over at Jama's Alphabet Soup with a delicious celebration of doughnuts. Yum indeed...all are welcome.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Look Out Your Window & Snag a Line

Past, Present, Future
by Amy LV

Students - Yesterday, while I was driving home from teaching, I saw a beautiful red barn with a neat woodpile and also a yet-to-be stacked pile of wood.  I stopped to take a picture. See it below?

Scene from My Car Window
Photo by Amy LV

Well, I love red barns.  And I love woodpiles.  So this was a dreamy scene for me.  Later I got to thinking about the wood: how it used to be trees and how it will one day be just smoke and ash. Just like all of us - once not here, now here, one day gone. This line floated into my head: "When I see a pile of firewood..." I just followed that line and it led to a whole lot of other lines which ended up as this poem.

Pay attention when you go for drives.  Don't just hold a screen up to your face.  Really look out of the window and see what is there, the real objects and animals and buildings and humans and plants and skies and weather all around you. What do you love and wonder and think about?  Each one of these thoughts could be a wondrous starting-off point for a poem or a story or another piece of writing.

And listen.  Sometimes, if you're paying attention, a whole line will just pop into your head whole.  Snag and follow that line...see where it winds and leads.  Often, your words will surprise even yourself.

Last week here at The Poem Farm, we were lucky enough to hear from Kate Coombs, author of BREATHE AND BE. The publisher of this book, Sounds True, was generous enough to offer a giveaway to a commenter, and the winner is...Frank!  Congratulations!  Please send me a message with your snail mail address, and I will send it along to Kate so that the book can wing its way to you.

In other giveaway news, through next week, Heinemann is still holding a giveaway for 5 copies of my new POEMS ARE TEACHERS at Goodreads.

It's a delight to welcome a new poster over at Sharing Our Notebooks.  Adjunct professor and writer-in-residence for the Indiana Partnership for Young Writers, Julie Patterson shares an inspiring peek into her pages, something to try, and a book giveaway too. Please visit that post, enjoy, and comment!

Happy Poetry Friday, friends!  Visit Linda for this week's Poetry Friday roundup over at her welcoming home, TeacherDance. Join us in feeling gratitude for the beauties of November.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Quiet Places, Breathing, Being, & Kate

Pin Oak at Heart Rock Farm
Photo by Amy LV

Handful of Generosity
Photo by Amy LV

Getting Flat in the Oxford English Dictionary
Photo by Amy LV

Students - Today I am happy to welcome my friend Kate Coombs, author of BREATHE AND BE: A BOOK OF MINDFULNESS POEMS illustrated by Anna Emilia Laitinen.  As I read Kate's beautiful words, looked at Anna's gorgeous pictures, and thought about my mindfulness class, I realized that this book could not come at a more magical time in my life.  

Reading Kate's invitation, I was moved to write a tanka-like poem myself.  I will now hand the baton to her for the teaching about this ancient Japanese form.  It is Kate who brought me back to this pin oak in my mind, Kate who helped me quiet myself and remember this place and moment from earlier this week.  I am grateful.

Welcome, Kate!  Would you please tell us about the tanka form and about your new book?

Writing Breathe and Be: A Book of Mindfulness Poems

Poems by Kate Coombs
Illustrations by Anna Emilia Laitinen

Writing a book about mindfulness wasn’t really my idea! My editor friend worked for a small publisher that was starting to do children’s books about yoga. She asked me if I would like to write a picture book about feelings or mindfulness. I said I would try. I was curious about the idea of mindfulness and started googling it to see what it was. I found out I liked it, but I wasn’t sure how to describe it for kids. What should I do?

When in doubt, try writing a poem. Because mindfulness is an idea from Asia, I thought I would use an Asian poetry form. But haiku seemed too short to me. Maybe tanka would work, though I didn’t know much about it.

So I googled tanka, too. I learned that tankas came before haiku in Japanese history and eventually turned into haiku. A tanka was similar to a haiku, but with more room for saying what I had to say. I decided to write a collection of tankas about mindfulness for kids. Most of them would be about nature since I had experienced mindfulness myself in nature.

I studied mindfulness some more. I read articles and books. I watched videos on YouTube. Then I started writing poems. I knew I had to write extra poems so my editor would have choices. I am sorry to say that the poem about taking a big bite of an apple did not make it into the book. But a lot of other poems did. This is a poem from the first draft:

My thoughts jump around,
bouncing and jouncing like balls—
I call them all back,
shaping them into one ball
that rests quiet in my hand.

Of course, after I wrote drafts of the poems I revised each poem over and over until it was just right. And then my editor made suggestions, so I revised the poems again. And again! This is how the poem above turned out:

How I rush rush rush!
Thoughts flutter and dart like birds.
Slow down, thoughts.
Come quietly with me.
There is time to breathe and be.

(Click to Enlarge Image)

Pretty different, huh? But I’ll bet you can see how the idea stayed the same even as the images changed.

Here, I’ll share two more poems from the book with you. They’re both about having a quiet place.

There’s a quiet place
in my head like an egg hidden
in a nest. A place
I go when the world is loud.
A moss-green forest with birds.

(Click to Enlarge Image)

I see myself
by the ocean, toes touching sand,
fingers finding a shell
at the edge of blue water.
Where is your quiet place?

(Click to Enlarge Image)

Now picture a quiet place that’s just for you. It can be one of your favorite places you’ve been to, like a beautiful place you went camping, a park you like, or even your own bedroom. It can be a place from your imagination. But it needs to have good details, and it should be peaceful.

Are you ready to write your own quiet place tanka? Start by making a list of words and phrases to describe your quiet place in a way that paints a picture. Then turn the best things from the list into lines for a tanka. The syllable pattern in a tanka goes like this: 5, 7, 5, 7, 7. Or just think “short, long, short, long, long.” Note that unlike me, you don’t need any lines saying “quiet place.” You can just describe it.

Once you’ve created a quiet place for yourself, you can picture it whenever you’re feeling upset or worried. Pretend you are there. Breathe slowly and deeply while you picture it, and see if you feel a little better. That’s what a quiet place is for, to help you feel the peace and awareness that is mindfulness.


Thank you so much, Kate, for joining us today!  And thank you, Sounds True, for offering a giveaway to a commenter on this post.  Please comment by next Thursday, November 2 at 11pm to be entered into a givaway to win a copy of BREATHE AND BE.

Congratulations to Cynthia J. Iannaccone for winning my book birthday giveaway for POEMS ARE TEACHERS.  Thank you, Heinemann, for offering the book, and Cynthia, please think about the cookies you would like.  There is also a new giveaway (5 copies!) for POEMS ARE TEACHERS at Goodreads and an interview and giveaway at Two Writing Teachers.

Too - don't miss the Halloween poems in the sidebar!  Please help yourself to those poem treats.

Happy Poetry Friday, friends!  Visit Brenda for this week's Poetry Friday roundup over at Friendly Fairy Tales, and you will meet a mysterious poetic creature.

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)
A Year of Reading - See you teacher Mary Lee Hahn uses POEMS ARE TEACHERS to connect poetry with information writing
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 - Giveaway running through Thursday, November 2 for POEMS ARE TEACHERS and for READ! READ! READ!
#G2Great Twitter Chat - Thursday, October 26, 2017 at 8:30pm with a Book Giveaway for the same 2!
goodreads Giveaway - 5 copies!  Winners chosen on November 10, 2017.

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!