Think I’ll write a poem.

September 23, 2018 § 3 Comments

You can tell it’s

a poem

by how it



Even if it doesn’t rhyme—

poems don’t rhyme

all the time.

Verse is terse.

And imagistic.


Leafless trees are

gaunt old men standing

homeless in the snow.


Tomorrow is a page


–or better yet,

a page unturned. « Read the rest of this entry »

The Bears on the Stairs.

February 26, 2017 § 2 Comments



There is a place at the top of the stairs,

that’s a favorite haunt of nighttime bears.

They park their butts so fuzzy and wide,

two across and side-by-side.


Sis and I sleep unawares,

guarded safe by those bears on the stairs.

Lulled by the music of grunt, rustle, groan,

we sleep secure; we are not alone.

« Read the rest of this entry »

Back at you, Dorothy Parker.

February 4, 2017 § 1 Comment

dorothy-parker1-1I had never even heard of a response poem until I went to this year’s great annual gathering of English teachers, the NCTE conference in Atlanta.

It was the final day, participants slumped in their seats and thinking of the trip home, when a high school  poetry troupe burst onto the stage. They were there to talk back to existing poems with poems of their own.

Those conventional, mostly-dead poets wouldn’t know what hit them if they had heard these teens rap back at them with fervor, sass, conviction, and a barrage of words.

We all sat up straight in our seats–this was great!

So what is a response poem? As soon as I got home I asked the great god Google for the details.

And the oracle said, a response poem can answer another poem, or mirror its structure. It can update it. Steal an opening line and go from there—all’s fair as long as the poem responds in some way to the original.

Now that I knew what a response poem was, I had to test drive one. Before taking on something heavy like “Ode on a Grecian Urn”  I pulled up this Dorothy Parker poem: « Read the rest of this entry »

Morning pages.

June 24, 2016 § 6 Comments

IMG_0194Writers struggle with…well…writing.

Committing beliefs, dreams, and ideas to paper, making the word flesh, takes courage.

What will people think when they see, in black and white, what goes on inside your head?

That’ll keep you from writing. But to be a writer you have to put words on paper.

Begin by writing for nobody. Grab your pad and paper and write something, anything. Toss words like confetti!

Still can’t?

That is because your inner writer, that blind-wanderer, has a traveling companion, the critic within who whispers, “Everything you write sucks.”

When you write can make a difference. Try writing first thing in the morning. The inner critic armors-up as the day goes on, but as you leave sleep you are less guarded, less self-censoring.

Your inner-critic sleeps later than your imagination.

Wake up and write something every morning. Something that doesn’t matter.

IMG_2207_edited-1Make it a habit and pages will fill. You will also come to know yourself better as themes recur. I was unaware of how much I think about tomatoes, my messy house, aging…

I do this wandering form of writing every morning. It is nothing like the work I do later in the day when I continue the long march toward a finished novel.

My morning pages are a no-fault opportunity to try things out, to be foolish or serious, to stand up on the bicycle seat. « Read the rest of this entry »

Planned obsolescence.

July 18, 2015 § 11 Comments

Gears.Some things are designed to break down or go out of style.

The human being is such a product.

Parts age, function less well, then fail; destruction is built right into the design.

As for going out of style, boy do we ever, but we have built that in ourselves.

We could value the old for their experience and wisdom, but we go for the new the young, the shiny every time.

Aging and the old are a source of cheap jokes.

About looks: How do I get rid of these crow’s feet and wrinkles? Go bra-less. The weight will smooth those wrinkles right out!

About mental capacity: Why should seniors use valet parking? Because the valet will remember where he parked the car.

Okay, I get the fact that these are jokes, but in a crass way they demonstrate what we think of the old, those poor foolish dodderers.

But aging is so much more subtle than that. Knees go, sure. Memories falter. But some things actually get better.

« Read the rest of this entry »

She said…he didn’t.

June 13, 2015 § 11 Comments

Speech bubble, female.I was packing my author props for a school visit when I wondered, how many days of conversation would it take to say the number of words in the average middle-grade novel?

The writing process is daunting to kids.

I wanted to be able to say, “Heck, you say enough words to fill a novel every day!

Or every three days. Or every five. We’d talk about the quality of those words later.

Questioning the ready crystal ball of the internet: how many words does a person say in a day?  I got, not one answer, but two.

Female: about 20,000. Male: about 7,000.

The discrepancy was so great—nearly three to one—that I forgot all about the question of speaking a novel’s-worth of words and began thinking about how men and women use language.

It is too simplistic to say women are just chattier than men. Obviously they are, but why? How does the relationship the sexes have with communication differ? « Read the rest of this entry »

Happy Halloween.

November 1, 2014 § 7 Comments

The Spare Pair of Feet


I keep them in the closet

my spare pare of feet

side by side among my shoes

together nice and neat.


If an accident should happen

if I should lose a toe

I have ten more to choose from

all waiting in a row.


And if I ever need an eye

an earlobe or a heart

a tonsil or an eyelash

or any other part—

I keep a good supply on hand

I keep them just in case.

There isn’t any part of me

that I cannot replace.


So if I’m ever swallowed whole

or buried in concrete

my friends can build a whole new me—

starting with my feet.


Hanging out with the boy.

August 3, 2014 § 7 Comments

We celebrate Ray's 75th.

We celebrate Ray’s 75th.

The passage of time gives you wrinkles, but if it also gives you grandchildren—even just one—you’ve come out ahead.

Looking for someone to trade information with, joke with, or help you hammer out life’s big questions, someone who appreciates your opinion?

Hang out with a grandchild.

As old people we have acquired wisdom—and the ability to bluff really well.

Grandmon (who is getting tired of stuffed animals named Ducky, Beary, and Gingerbready) to Matthew: “You know, the tags on those animals have their real names on them.”

We check the tags for the real names.

Matthew now has a condor named Jaag Plush, a turkey vulture named Wild Republic, and a fuzzy bear named Burton Burton.

« Read the rest of this entry »

Some Kind of Magic.

July 17, 2014 § 5 Comments

The book is done.

I won’t know whether it is officially any good until Booklist or School Library Journal prints their approval or disappointment.

I like it. But I’ll admit, I’ve taken some risks with this one, like having five point of view characters.


« Read the rest of this entry »

Gulliver in five minutes.

June 29, 2014 § 2 Comments

Gulliver's Travels.Thursday was the last day of my summer workshop for young writers.

Starting with props as varied as a pair of old shoes, an ancient Roman oil lamp, and a whale vertebra, we had already tackled the elements of fiction with three days of structured exercises.

It was time to turn the antic mind loose with some free writing.

“See that scrap of paper in front of you on the table? Write a noun on it and pass it to the person on your right.

“You have five minutes to put down any thoughts that word triggers.”

I scrawled “hamsters” on a yellow slip of paper and passed it to Grace.

« Read the rest of this entry »

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