One Writer’s Journey

July 18, 2017

A New Type of Poem (New to Me Anyway)

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:13 am
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I don’t consider myself a poet but I like to dabble.  Because of that, I keep an eye out for new-to-me types of poetry. Here is one that Jane Yolen wrote about in her June 19 daily poetry mailing – the Golden Shovel.

Terrence Hayes recently created this form in homage to poet Gwendolyn Brooks.  The writer selects a favorite line or lines of poetry and uses the words, on order, to create a new poem.  Each word becomes the last word of a line in the new poem.

In this article, the Poetry Foundation says that often the lines come from a Brooks poem.  Yolen took hers from an Emily Dickenson poem.  Yolen wrote hers as something of a poetic conversation between her poem and Dickinson’s.  The Poetry Foundation article doesn’t mention this, nor does Robert Brewer in his post on the form.  Like Yolen, Brewer took his line from something other than a Brooks poem – his is from Basho.  The name of the form comes from the poem that Hayes originally created, The Golden Shovel.  You can read it here.

My first attempt involved working with lines from Wynken, Blynken and Nod by Eugene Fields.  Wynken and Blynken? Oh, help. So I chose two other lines.  “Sailed on a river of crystal light/Into a sea of dew.” But the words “a,” “of,” and “on” weren’t a whole lot better.  Pbbt.

Ok.  Let’s switch poets.  What about Poe?  Not a children’s poet by a longshot but I sure won’t be encountering words like Wynken and Blynken.  I flipped to Eldorado, knowing from the start that I’d have to avoid that botched Spanish name.  Let’s go with something super simple – a single line. “Ride boldly ride.”

I can’t say that what I came up with is brilliant but it sure has a different tone than Eldorado.

Giddy-up we ride
Horses galloping boldly
Down the hall we ride.

In truth, I only strongly dislike the last line.  But nothing I try feels like an improvement. Different? Yes.  Improved?  No.

The key to making this one work may be abandoning the Golden Shovel format.  Why? Because I can see it working much better in four lines.  Three?  That just feels too short.  Four or six?  Much more do-able.  So if you’ll excuse me, my stick pony and I are going to go rework a poem.




April 18, 2017

Poetry Terms: A Few Key Words You Need to Know

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:54 am
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April is National Poetry Month.  Whether you are a serious poet or just someone who dabbles like I occassionally do, this Writer’s Digest post includes thirty-seven key terms that will help you know what everyone else is talking about. Of course, if you are a serious poet, you probably know most of them.

Rhyme, rhythm, and stanza I already knew but another term I’ve frequently seen, but never seen defined, is chapbook. If you write for children, that sounds a lot like chapter book, a type of book for newly confident readers who can handle chapters but still need fairly direct, straightforward text.

In poetry, a chapbook is a small book of approximately 24 to 50 pages.  Not what the “chap” stands for but when I looked deeper into it I found that they are also called brochures or pamphlets.  Traditionally they were stitched but they can also be stapled and generally have a paper stock cover.   They are often themed and have kind of a DIY feel so if you have the urge to try self-publishing something you might want to study up on chapbooks. You can read more about chapbooks here and here.

A lot of other poetry terms, including anapest and dactyl,  have to do with stressed and unstressed syllables. Then there are the terms that have to do with sounds other than rhyme — assonance and consonance, for example.

If you only dabble, you may not feel the need to know all of these terms but if you write picture books it is important to know about word play and how to make your story a fun read-aloud experience.  That means poetry.  You may not need each and every one of these words to know if your piece “works” but an editor or other critiquer may use one of these terms to explain why your rhythym is off.

This list made it obvious that I have a whole lot to learn. I have to say that I knew only about 25% of the terms but now I have a good source for new things, including chapbooks, that I want to learn more about.


March 28, 2017

The Chant: Another Poetic Form

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:49 am
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trout trout troutOne of the poetic forms that we studied in Peggy Archer’s workshop was the chant.  The example that Peggy gave was from April Pulley Sayre’s Trout, Trout, Trout!  I have to admit, I didn’t see myself writing a chant so I didn’t take a lot of notes.

Bad, bad me.  Because the other when I was supposed to be paying attention to something else (like choir rehearsal), I started playing with the rhythm’s of bird names.  Single syllable names were slower.  Multi-syllable faster.  I needed both and I was going to need quite a few. Before long I was compiling a list by first letter with different columns for different syllable counts.  That a word list came into play isn’t entirely surprising since Peggy emphasized how helpful create a list can be as she works on a new poem.

In about ten minutes, I had a fair list bit I also had almost no idea what had been going on around me.  Sigh.  I put away my list and decided to pay attention instead of reading more about chants.

When I did get home so that I could do a bit of reading, here is what I discovered:

The chant may be the oldest poetic form.

It is called a chant because of the rhythm formed by repetition.

This repetition can be a single word or a line.

The repetition is important but it isn’t the be-all and end-all of the chant.  Something in the poem has to change.  That’s what makes it interesting.

Rhythm is a bit part of the chant, which could be why I was inspired to play with this form in choir.

Do a Google search and you can find numerous examples of chant poetry.  Some are short while others are quite long.


Me?  What I was playing with didn’t resemble any of the examples I found online. I want to read all of Trout, Trout, Trout! since it was the catalyst.  I just hope I can pull something together without getting totally lost in choir.


March 22, 2017

Poetry? Nah, I just write rhymes.

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:36 am
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Last weekend, I attended Peggy Archer’s poetry workshop.  I sat and listened as she discussed rhythm and beats, near rhyme and true rhyme, soft and hard sounds and much, much more.  I was out of my element.  I’m a prose writer, honey.

Imagine my surprise when later that week I got an acceptance letter from Highlights Hello for a “humorous poem.”  I’d already blogged about the workshop in my post titled Poetry, Writing in Rhyme and Wordplay.

The irony of it all?  I still don’t consider myself a poet.

Poets write pieces fraught with meaning.  There’s symbolism and they use the rhythm of words and phrases to great effect.  What they write has layers and it is deep.

On a good day, I can pull off both rhyme and rhythm.  On an insanely good day, the rhythm doesn’t sound like a kid galloping across the hard wood floor — duh-dum, duh-dum, duh-dum, duh-dum.

Meaningful? Not so much.  There’s a twist at the end but rather than meaningful it tends to be quirky and funny (a little like me).

That doesn’t mean that I’m giving up.  Far from it.  As I walk the treadmill, I catch myself playing with the rhythm of words.  One, two, one, two, three, one, two, one, two, three.  Slower, faster, slower, faster.  Peggy has managed to arm me with a bit of knowledge so I’m quicker to recognize what isn’t going to work (galloping across the floor) and I better understand what does work.

I’m still not a poet but I’m a slightly less pedestrian creator of rhymes.  Hmm.  That’s sure going to be hard to fit on a business card.


March 13, 2017

Poetry, Writing in Rhyme and Word Play

Saturday I had the opportunity to attend a top-notch writing workshop put on by KS/MO SCBWI.  The subject was poetry and rhyme and the workshop leader was Peggy Archer.

Writing in rhyme is not natural for me.  Part of it is my subject matter.  Black Lives Matter, Race and Racism and the Zika virus are not exactly topics that are just begging for a rhyming treatment.  Nope.

But I am trying to get back into picture book writing and picture books frequently rhyme in spite of the fact that many editors and agents advise writers not to write in rhyme.  Why?  Because it is so very hard to do well.  While I don’t tend to write in rhyme, I love wordplay and fun language in a picture book.  To that end, I tend to use onomatopoeia (sound words like pitter patter or kaboom) and alliteration (wicked wiley words).  As in poetry, picture book writing requires using each and every word for maximum impact.  Poetry workshops are a great help and Peggy’s was one of the best.

Here are 3 things I learned from Peggy.

  1.  Word lists pay off.  Whether you are trying to rhyme or just looking for fun read aloud words, Peggy recommends creating word lists.  Don’t put as much effort into adjective and eliminate virtually all adverbs.  Put your effort into specific, colorful nouns and verbs.
  2. Word length can be used to speed up and slow down your text.  Multiple syllable words give the impression of speed. Single syllables slow things down.
  3. Rewriting is 100% essential.  This doesn’t mean tweaking a word or two.  It may mean discarding and adding lines or altogether changing the rhythm.  Be aware of the emotion and idea that you want to convey.  I knew this but getting to see Peggy’s examples helped me to see what I rewrite on even very short text can accomplish.

I’m never going to be a world class poet, but Peggy supplied me with some tools to make my picture book texts shine.


March 31, 2015

Poems: April Poem-a-Day Challenge

Do you dabble in poetry writing?  Even if poems are just a fun thing and not something to try to sell, consider Robert Lee Brewer’s 2015 April PAD challenge.

PAD stands for Poem-A-Day. Participating poets write one poem per day throughout the month of April.  Each morning, Robert provides a prompt.  Then participants write something based on that prompt.  Participants who post their poems on Brewer’s Poetic Asides blog have a chance to win publication in an anthology that will be published by Words Dance Publishing.  The anthology will be compiled from the top poems for each day. You can find out more about the challenge here.

I’m not a poet but I still like to participate.  I occassionally write poetry for fun, not for publication.  Because it is just for fun, that takes off a lot of the pressure and that makes it a lot more . . . fun.  Seems obvious, yes?

At the moment, fun is something that is seriously lacking in my writing.  I’m not whining but stating fact.  My current project is for Red Line and is titled “Black Lives Matter.” I’m writing about killings and beatings and all sorts of things that we all need to know about but are, frankly, depressing.  Because of this, I need to inject my writing day with a bit of fun and, for me, the PAD challenge sounds like the thing.

Care to join me?



August 22, 2014

Types of Poems

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:46 am
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Challenge yourself, and your reader, by exploring poetry types. Book spine poem, anyone?

Challenge yourself, and your reader, by exploring poetry types. Book spine poem, anyone?

What poem types do you know?  Educational publishers like activities that center on writing poetry.  Here are just a few of my poetry activities on

Book Spine Poem:  Every line in this poem comes from the spine of a book.  Not as easy as it sounds.

Sensory poem:  How many senses can you work into one poem?

Tanka poem:  At only five lines, this one is good for new poets.

Terse Verse:  The answer to a riddle comes in two rhyming words.

I’m not a poet, so when I write a poem-based activity, I often stick with shorter poems for younger students.  What can I say?  I know my limits.

But I also want it to be creative which means that I need to go beyond the haiku, acrostic or alphabet poem.  No, there is nothing wrong with these forms but it is harder to submit an original activity based on a well-known types of poetry.  That’s why, when it is time to brainstorm, I skim through lists of poetry types.  Here are just a few of the ones that I use:

50 poetic forms for poets.  This list is for poets so there’s no concern about what may or may not be too hard for young readers, or non-poet writers, to duplicate.

Types of Poetry.  Comare these two lists and you’ll see that they sometimes call one type of poem by more than one name.

Introduction to Poetry Types.   A list of over 100 types.

Only three lists but lots and lots of poems.  Have fun experimenting with something new!  I know I will . . . Joseph’s Star looks fun.




July 1, 2013

Call for Submissions

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:16 am
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Call for SubmissionsHave you ever written about why you write poetry?

If you have, the new journal TAB: The Journal of Poetry and Poetics wants your work.  TAB is an international journal not only of contemporary poetry but also about contemporary poetry.  While this isn’t a journal specifically about children’s poetry, it is a possible market for children’s poets who write about their craft.  I haven’t studied the journal itself but there might be a place for sophisticated children’s poetry as well.

The call is for 300 – 1200 word essays on “Why I Write Poetry.”  The deadline is July 15, so don’t dawdle.  Go through your files and get those essays submitted.  All submissions should be made through their online submission form.  

You can find out more at the TAB web page.

Special thanks to Sally Clark of the Christian Writers blog who brought this market to my attention.


May 4, 2012

Book Spine Poems

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:42 am
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In spite of the fact that April is over, I find myself still playing with poetry.  Its a great way to stretch my writer-ly horizons because I am NOT a poet.  Not by a long shot.

I read about book spine poems on the Stenhouse blog.  Book spine poems are created from the titles of books as written on the book spine.

They are like found poems in that you create the poem from found text.

Unlike the text used to generate a found poem, you can rearrange the text to a point because you are the one stacking the books.  I found that library books don’t work particularly well for this because, often, part of the title is obscured by the library label.

I  limited myself to using books from one room.  Although it wasn’t a conscious decision, I also limited myself to the bookshelves over the center portion of my desk.

Here is my first attempt.  Why not give it a try and see what you come up with?



April 7, 2010

The Paths Writers Take

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 3:05 am
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I love to hear about how other writers work, what inspires them and about their backgrounds.  Here are two of the videos I’ve watched recently.  The first features Poet Laureate Kay Ryan.  This woman has a seriously fabulous sense of humor as you can see in this interview.

For me, this gave me a sense of how the big names take criticism.  Oh, chickens don’t do that.  What do you know.  Here’s my poem.

Does this mean you should ignore criticism that may be constructive?  Not by a long shot, but don’t let criticism, constructive or no, bring you to a halt.

I also love to hear from writers who didn’t plan to be writers from the first day they toddled across the floor.  While I have no problem with the “I always wanted to be a writer” crowd, I don’t identify with them since I never even considered it until I was in my 20’s.

So, who else didn’t plan to be a writer?  Margaret Atwood.  Check out her video and see what she did consider.

I read voraciously, but write?   I wrote a bit of poetry and did the usual school assignments, but it never crossed my mind that I might do it professionally until after I graduated with my BA.  I was going to be an academic.  So much for well laid plans!

If any of you have a favorite interview video, let me know!


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