Friday, April 30, 2010

Poetry Friday: Twist and Shout

I love a little twist on an old favorite. I loved when the guys in Run-D.M.C. made Aerosmith's Walk This Way their own. I loved when the Beatles gave a nod to the Beach Boys in Back in the U.S.S.R. And I loved that Franklin Pierce Adams was so inspired by Robert Louis Stevenson that he came up with this. It makes me want to shout.

A New York Child’s Garden of Verses

by Franklin Pierce Adams

(With the usual.)

In winter I get up at night,
And dress by an electric light.
In summer, autumn, ay, and spring,
I have to do the self-same thing.

I have to go to bed and hear
Pianos pounding in my ear,
And hear the janitor cavort
With garbage cans within the court.

And does it not seem hard to you
That I should have these things to do?
Is it not hard for us Manhat-
Tan children in a stuffy flat?


It is very nice to think
The world is full of food and drink;
But, oh, my father says to me
They cost all of his salaree.


When I am grown to man’s estate
I shall be very proud and great;
E’en now I have no reverence,
’Cause I read comic supplements.


New York is so full of a number of kids
I’m sure pretty soon we shall be invalids.


A child should always say what’s true,
And speak when he is spoken to;
And then, when manhood’s age he strikes,
He may be boorish as he likes.
Poetry Friday is being hosted by Mary Ann Scheuer at Great Kid Books. See you there!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Mentor Monday: Mentoring Young Readers

A friend of mine who works for Pearson Education recently told me about We Give Books. This year alone, the Pearson Foundation, in partnership with the Penguin Group, is planning to donate more than a million books to children who do not have books. You can drive the effort simply by reading free books on-line at We Give Books. You'll find picture books for children through age ten, with a good mix of fiction and non-fiction. There are read-aloud books, and books for older children to read independently. New books are added each month, and you'll find special seasonal offerings, as well.

How does it work? For each book you read, one book will be donated to the organization of your choice. And it doesn't cost you a penny. When you first log on, you'll be asked to register and choose your designated charity from among several literacy organizations. You can even switch up your designated charities to spread the wealth.

Did I mention it's free? (I know that I did. Three times. I just want to over-emphasize that it doesn't cost you anything to be a hero.)

Aside from contributing to the very worthy cause of child literacy, if you're a picture book author you'll be able to "research read" within your genre. If you're a parent, you can teach your child about philanthropic giving as you read with him or her. Older children can experience the joy of giving as they read books on-line on their own. Teenagers could even design a service project around We Give Books. Everybody wins, but only if you log on now, register, and start reading.

It's free, by the way.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Poetry Friday--Bees

Since the world is abuzz with bees and blooming trees, I thought I'd share some bee poems today. The first is by John Ciardi:
Bees and Morning Glories

Morning glories, pale as a mist drying,
fade from the heat of the day, but already
hunchback bees in pirate pants and with peg-leg
hooks have found and are boarding them.
You can read the rest here.
I never would have thought of comparing a bee to a pirate! Genius, pure genius!

The next by D.H. Lawrence:
Song ("Love has crept...")

Love has crept into her sealed heart
As a field bee, black and amber,
Breaks from the winter-cell, to clamber
Up the warm grass where the sunbeams start.

Love has crept into her summery eyes,
And a glint of colored sunshine brings
Such as his along the folded wings
Of the bee before he flies.
The rest is here.
Ah, I'm sure you've seen a bee on a flower and noticed, too, the "colored sunshine" on its wings--lovely.

This one is by Katherine Mansfield:
Voices of the Air

But then there comes that moment rare
When, for no cause that I can find,
The little voices of the air
Sound above all the sea and wind.

The sea and wind do then obey
And sighing, sighing double notes
Of double basses, content to play
A droning chord for the little throats—

The little throats that sing and rise
Up into the light with lovely ease
And a kind of magical, sweet surprise
To hear and know themselves for these—

For these little voices: the bee, the fly,
The leaf that taps, the pod that breaks,
The breeze on the grass-tops bending by,
The shrill quick sound that the insect makes.
Spring is time for reacquainting yourself with little voices, so make sure you get outside!

I certainly would be remiss if I didn't include at least one Emily Dickinson bee poem. She is the queen of bee poems!
The pedigree of honey
Does not concern the bee;
A clover, any time, to him
Is aristocracy.
Anastasia is the hostess of this week's Poetry Friday Round-Up, so buzz on over to Picture Book of the Day.

Have a BEE-you-tee-ful weekend!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Women of Wednesday--That's Us!

Image by Prairiekittin

If we don't save the Earth, then who will?

With this being the eve of the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, I think it's important for women to drop the role of "dumb girls," that has been foisted upon them, and take control of their lives, and the lives of their families, and start living greener.

There's no reason women can't learn to drive cars more efficiently now that there are female race car drivers who have proven that women can handle a car, and, there are female mechanics who have proven that they are just as capable of working on a engine as any guy. We can do it ourselves. For green driving tips, check out

Why wait for the "man of the house" to switch out the lightbulbs for more efficient ones, or to put up weatherstripping? Almost anyone with opposable thumbs can do it. Check out the U.S. Department of Energy's site for lots of helpful around-the-home tips and information.

Got a computer or other electronic device you want to get rid of? Don't pay some guy to haul it away to the local transfer station, check out this EPA site for places to donate or recycle e-devices.

There's so much more we can be doing, but, perhaps the most important of all is for us to model greener behavior for our kids/grandkids. Let's help them do the right thing so that they will have a cleaner, sustainable world to leave to their kids! Visit one of these sites for kid-related information and activities: Environmental Kids Club, Global Inheritance, Kids Recycle, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Kids' Pages, Planetpals, Student Environmental Action Coalition, Time for Kids Special Report: Earth Day. There is no lack of places to look for information for kids, and probably the best place to start is your own public library!

Happy Earth Day to all!


Monday, April 19, 2010

Mentor Monday--Worse Than Reading an IRS Tax Form

Image by Troy Holden

If you're like me, you waited until the last minute to file your 2009 income taxes. And, if like me, you read through the tax form and its many, many additional forms and schedules, you found that it was all enough to make your head explode. (I'm not against paying taxes, I'm just against the nearly indecipherable paperwork involved.)

There is something else that rivals the income tax paperwork, and that is the issue of copyright and the "Google Book Settlement." As a writer, researcher, and a librarian I'm completely torn when it comes to the digitization of copyrighted materials. And, the whole Google Book Settlement business has my head filling with explosives. So, in an effort to help you understand what is involved, I'm going to lead you to an article that attempts to explain the GBS to people such as myself who experience exploding head syndrome. It is from the website io9:We Come From the Future, is titled, "5 Ways The Google Book Settlement Will Change The Future of Reading," and was written by Annalee Newitz. Newitz also had the article reviewed by several attorneys, so I assume it is fairly accurate. That may be a false assumption on my part, but I'm going to stick with it for now since Newitz is a well-published science/technology journalist.

Read it and try to absorb the implications of the GBS, we are on the cusp of a whole new world of reading.

I'm often perplexed by the way we rush ahead with furthering our dependence on electronic devices knowing full well that one of these days, in the not too distant future, we will all be fighting over energy resources. Unless we can quickly bring renewable resources up to the task of powering our electronic devices, there's going to be a place for the paper book once again, let's just hope it will still be available.


Monday, April 12, 2010

Mentor Monday: Library Thing

Books, books everywhere.

Like many writers, I am a lover and collector of books. I have books in every room of my house (yes, including the bathrooms). I have books on shelves, books on windowsills, books on desks, books in milk crates, boxes, baskets and bags. At the moment I have a pile of books on the floor, right next to my desk.

Some of these books are old and beloved friends, collected since childhood. Many were accumulated during my college years. A few are treasured heirlooms, inscribed on their flyleaves with the names of ancestors I never met. Others are autographed by writer-friends. Some are borrowed from various friends and libraries. Many were purchased for specific purposes; others drifted in mysteriously and never left.

More than once over the years I have attempted to introduce some order to this wealth of words. All the writing books on one wall of my office, all the theology books on another. Children’s books in the old nursery (now known, simply, as “the book room.”) Books for the current writing project near the desk, of course – books from the last one in boxes in the closet.

Problems with this hodge-podge? Let me count the ways. There’s the three-hour search for the title the high-schooler needs tomorrow morning (“Mom, I need to buy Crime and Punishment.” “No you don’t, we already own it.” “Mom, remember you told me we own Crime and Punishment? Where is it?”)
There’s the going to put the latest purchase on the shelf – and discovering that I already own that book. There’s the library book that I wound up paying for because it got shelved in someone’s bedroom, and the six already-paid-for “missing” books I returned to the school district when two kids packed up and moved out last year. (“Mom, I can’t graduate next week because they say I never turned in Principles in Mathematics freshman year!”)

Enter Library Thing. I know we’ve mentioned Library Thing here before – if you haven’t checked it out, you really should. Today, a few ways I’ve found to use Library Thing to control the collection.

First – When you enter books in Library Thing, it adds them to “Your Library.” But it allows you to set up any number of collections. One book can be a part of several collections – just check the box. I have now set up a “collection” for each major book-holding area of my house. I haven’t finished entering all the books I own, but for the ones I have entered, I can check library thing to tell me which room or bookcase to start my search in.

I’ve also used the “collection” feature to add books I’ve purchased or borrowed from various libraries for my current writing projects. In this list, I put the holding library in the comments box, so I can sort out what came from where – and find a book again, if I need it. The “private comment” feature allows me to make notes to myself about books that might – or might not – be suitable for the “read more” section of a Notable Women book.

I have already saved some money by using Library to determine if I already own a book when a title catches my interest, and made some money when, as I entered books, Library Thing informed me that I had duplicate copies. Unless there’s a reason I want more than one copy, the spares can be added to my “sell these books” shelf – and sold or donated.

I have not figured out a way that Library Thing could solve the missing textbooks problem – but that’s only because I haven’t any more students at home. I’m sure there must be an application.

A really nice add-on to Library Thing is a cute little tool called CueCat.* It’s a barcode scanner that scans the ISBN off the bookcover and adds the book to your library. So quick!! So simple!! (Except, of course, for the plethora of pre-barcode treasures I own.) When I bring a stack of books home from the library I can get them all into my collection in matter of minutes. (Tip – you can edit the order of your “collections” list – whichever one is at the top of the list is the default.) Now if there were only a way to export directly from Library Thing to EasyBib, I’d never make another typo in a bibliography.

Library Thing accesses a variety of library and database sources to search for publication information. For new books, the Amazon list is generally fine. For older books, I switch to the Library of Congress, the Boston Athenaeum, or the New England Library Consortium. They have hundreds of sources, so if your collection is foreign or technical, poke around a little to see if there is one that has more matches for your books.

There are lots of fun things to do at Library Thing – connect with people who read the same books you do. Peek at the collections of people who have books you’ve written in their collections. Join in book-discussions. Fix errors in listings. Check out book-related events in your area. In fact, like many fascinating internet sites, you could waste a lot of time here!

But I have books to scan.

*note - If you buy the CueCat from Library Thing, it works automatically with Libary Thing. If you buy it from the manufacturer you can also buy software to use it to catalog all kinds of stuff (movies, cds, etc.) or catalog your stuff online through them (I haven't tried this.)

Friday, April 9, 2010

Poetry Friday: A Man Alone

A Man Alone

I hated breaking up and I hated
Being left, finding myself in an apartment
With an extra set of silverware and a ghost,
Impatient to be gone. Then to summon up
Who I was before the bed was full with woman.
To shift the street-mind from getting to
To slowing down and window shop. In the bar down the street,
To let my eyes simplify again, and make no judgments,
And breathe in the smoke that drifts
Through one body then another,
And find myself close enough
To whisper into a woman's just-washed hair
And inhale that ten thousand year old scent.
To memorize a phone number.
To learn to say goodnight at her door.
To keep my hands in my pockets, like a boy.
To open the heart, only a little at a time.

Stephen Orlen

You can find more of Orlen's work at the Poetry Foundation
Or, read more about him here.

Poetry Friday is being hosted by good folks over at Paper Tigers.  Be sure to check it out!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Women of Wednesday: Love

"Oh, the comfort - the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person - having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all right out, just as they are, chaff and grain together; certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away."  ~Dinah Craik, English novelist and poet


"Are we not like two volumes of one book?"  ~Marceline Desbordes-Valmore, French poet

"She did observe, with some dismay, that, far from conquering all, love lazily sidestepped practical problems."   ~Jean Stafford, American writer

"When a husband brings his wife flowers for no reason there's a reason." 

Molly McGee, 20th century radio character

"I married the first man I ever kissed.  When I tell this to my children, they just about throw up."  Barbara Bush, former First Lady

Monday, April 5, 2010

Mentor Monday: Good Writing is Rewriting

I'm about to start the interesting work of revising the first drafts of two novels.  Here's what other writers have said about the work of revision.

"I rework my stories as I go along and after I finish.  For Durango Street I had nearly two thousand pages of rough draft, out of which came two hundred pages of finished manuscript."

Frank Bonham

"By the time I am nearing the end of a tory, the first part will have been rearead and altered and corrected at least one hundred and fifty times.

"I am suspicious of both facility and speed.  Good writing is essentially rewriting.  I am positive of this."

Roald Dahl

"To produce a 60-page book, I may easily write 1,000 pages before I'm satisfied."

Dr. Seuss

"I rewrote the ending to Farewell to Arms, the last page of it, thirty-nine times before I was satisfied."

Ernest Hemingway

"I can't understand how anyone can write without rewriting anything over and over again.  I scarcely ever re-read my published writings, but if by chance I come across a page, it always strikes me: all this must be rewritten; this is how I should have written it . . . "

Leo Tolstoy

Friday, April 2, 2010

Poetry Friday: April Foolish

Yesterday was April Fool's Day. Even though I'm a day late (what else is new?), I thought I'd go with a foolish theme for Poetry Friday. This, however, is not a foolish poem.

Poetry Friday is being hosted by Kate at Book Aunt.

"Any fool can get into an ocean . . . " 
by Jack Spicer
Any fool can get into an ocean   
But it takes a Goddess   
To get out of one.
What’s true of oceans is true, of course,
Of labyrinths and poems. When you start swimming   
Through riptide of rhythms and the metaphor’s seaweed
You need to be a good swimmer or a born Goddess
To get back out of them
Look at the sea otters bobbing wildly
Out in the middle of the poem
They look so eager and peaceful playing out there where the
    water hardly moves
You might get out through all the waves and rocks
Into the middle of the poem to touch them
But when you’ve tried the blessed water long
Enough to want to start backward
That’s when the fun starts
Unless you’re a poet or an otter or something supernatural
You’ll drown, dear. You’ll drown
Any Greek can get you into a labyrinth
But it takes a hero to get out of one
What’s true of labyrinths is true of course
Of love and memory. When you start remembering.