Thanks so much for visiting HipWriterMama, my blog about children's books, authors and readergirlz!

It's time for a change. I've decided to focus my attention on my writing blog, www.vivianleemahoney.com. Hope to see you there!


Friday, February 29, 2008

Happiness, Poppies and Hope

I adore this poem.  It makes me think of spring, sunshine, hope and happiness.  Enjoy.

by Mary Oliver

The poppies send up their
orange flares; swaying
in the wind, their congregations
are a levitation

of bright dust, of thin
and lacy leaves.
There isn't a place
in this world that doesn't

sooner or later drown
in the indigos of darkness,
but now, for a while,
the roughage

shines like a miracle
as it floats above everything
with its yellow hair.

But I also say this: that light
is an invitation
to happiness,
and that happiness,

when it's done right,
is a kind of holiness,
palpable and redemptive.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Kirsten Miller: The Mysterious Writer Behind Kiki Strike

sidewalk art by Hani, corner of 79th and 5th Avenue, near the Metropolitan Museum of Art, October 23, 2007


1. Read Kirsten Miller's books. This can be more of a challenge if you have a nine-year-old who thinks the book covers are cool and loves the stories. And if said daughter notices a Kiki Strike book on the kitchen table, she'll stash it away, even if she knows her mom is reading the book. And if you run around the house thinking you misplaced the book, until you find four books--two copies of each book (library and own copies) under daughter's pillow during a laundry run, you know this nine-year-old may very well be on her way to becoming an honorary Irregular. (The Irregular's logo is both sassy and graceful--see side picture. Betty Bent "designed it to look like a girl in motion.")

Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City, Kirsten's debut novel, was released in June 2006. If you yearn to read a clever story about a group of misfit girls, who use their talents and smarts in dangerous but productive ways, look no further. This book takes resourcefulness, mystery, urban intrigue, and action to another level for girl books...so much that boys will enjoy reading the Kiki Strike books as well.

Plus when you add ingenious lists to be savored at the end of certain chapters, you've got a creative How to Be a Dangerous Super-Sleuth Mastermind Survival Guide that kids and adults will love to study and put to use in their daily adventures.

Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City has been recognized as a Washington Post "Best Book of the Year" 2006, a Teenreads "Best Book of the Year" 2006, a San Francisco Chronicle "Best Book of the Year" 2006, a Girl’s Life Top Ten Read, an ALA "Best Book for Young Adults" 2007, and an International Reading Association 2007 Children’s Book Award Notable Book.

The second book in the series, Kiki Strike: The Empress's
was released in October 2007. This is one of the few times I enjoyed a second book in a series more than the first book. To be fair, I read The Empress's Tomb first, which by the way works very well as a stand alone story.

This book was what made me ask Kirsten if she would agree to an interview with me. How she managed to combine giant squirrels, a haunted mansion, secrets, a love interest, an estranged father/daughter relationship, underground tunnels, New York City, school, art, six quirky friends and a whole lot more in a story that is so fun to read, is beyond me.

2. Check out the Kiki Strike website. Try not to drool as you view a kick-butt website that is an amazing resource of odd and fascinating information. There are also fun sound effects, a Shadow City Store where you can buy cool t-shirts, and an interactive quiz to find out if "you have what it takes to be an Irregular." Try not to be surprised when you take said quiz and come out as Kiki Strike three times, no matter how you answer a few of the questions.

Make a note to tell people about Kirsten's new contest. Create the best portrait of Iris McLeod for Ananka's Diary Two Year Anniversary Contest. Deadline is March 4, 2008. Details here.

3. Marvel at how the only author information you can find on said website is fine-tuned to one sentence. Follow the link to a great interview.

4. Google Kirsten Miller. Note how many Kirsten Millers are out there, including a South African author, an actress, a dancer, and an attorney. Hmmm...kind of like Kiki Strike. Very mysterious.

All I can say is Kirsten Miller has a fantastic imagination and I look forward to her next book. I am totally hooked on the Kiki Strike series and would recommend them to anyone.

When I checked my library system, which covers 35 towns, I found that a good 75% of the libraries shelved the Kiki Strike books in the YA section. The other 25 % shelved the books in the MG section. I didn't have a problem with my nine-year-old reading the books. While she needed help reading the books at times, the parts she loved most about the Kiki Strike books were the underground tunnels, the lists and the mystery. And if my reluctant reader was willing to sit and read these books...I'm just saying.

Without further ado, it is my pleasure to welcome Kirsten Miller...

HWM: What made you realize you wanted to write children’s books? How did you get your “break” into getting published?
I write children’s books? Kidding. The truth is, I never set out to write fiction for young people. I started writing Kiki Strike to entertain myself. (As you might have guessed, I’m a little strange.) In fact, I wish there were more cross over between the worlds of “fiction” and “young adult” fiction. A good story should appeal to everyone.

As for my “break,” it was pure, dumb luck. Once I realized I was writing a book, I sent the first few chapters to a friend of a friend who was working at Bloomsbury. They ended up publishing it. From what I’ve heard, it almost never happens that way. I just got lucky.

HWM: Tell me what inspired the Kiki Strike series.
The series is the result of a million little inspirations. People I’ve known. (My best friend in the sixth grade was a girl named Linda Strike. We were convinced that one of my neighbors was a serial killer.) Places I’ve been. (I always try to visit any underground sites whenever I travel to new cities or countries.) Skills I’ve learned. (My siblings and I used to lock each other in rooms, so I learned how to pick locks at a fairly early age.)

But I suppose the biggest inspiration was New York City. I moved here when I was seventeen, and I’ve been in love with it ever since. It’s one of the few places on Earth where you never know what you’ll find around the next corner.

HWM: I love Ananka’s voice (the narrator of the Kiki Strike books). When did you know you had the right voice for her?
Thanks. I wanted her to feel like an older friend or sister—someone who knows the ropes but is still young enough to encourage a little “naughtiness” here and there. When I was younger, I often felt as if many kids’ books were written by adults who were pandering to their readers. (Or trying to teach them a lesson.) I wanted to avoid that at all costs.

HWM: My apologies ahead of time if I'm all wrong on this, but I have to ask you this since I've read criticisms where people have thought Ananka sounded too old to be a twelve-year-old. I was surprised because I thought an 18-year-old Ananka was remembering the past six years as she told the story.
Kirsten: No, you're absolutely right. Ananka is narrating the book as an 18-year-old. It goes back to that "older sister/friend" voice. I thought 18 was young enough to stir up some trouble yet old enough to possess a more sophisticated view of the world.

HWM: Did you test out Ananka’s lists of how to’s?
Of course! And I use them every day. But I’m afraid that’s all I can tell you. I wouldn’t want to tip-off my enemies.

HWM: I understand you’re working on a third book featuring Betty Bent. What can you tell me?
It’s going to be amazing! (Seriously. I’m really excited.) Kiki must fight the forces of evil in order to claim the throne of Pokrovia. Betty gets a few lessons on what it means to be a “lady.” Eventually, the two plot lines collide in the tunnels under Paris.

The book will feature secret societies, etiquette lessons, escargot, potential cures for female baldness, and at least one love triangle.

HWM: What are the challenges in writing a series?
I think it’s easy to become dependant on a “formula” when writing a series. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons that the first book in a series is usually the best. But I’ve tried very hard to ensure that each of the Kiki Strike books is able to stand alone. In fact, there are quite a few people who’ve said that The Empress’s Tomb is even better than Kiki Strike. (I think it’s just different.) But I do believe that Book 3 will be the best of the bunch. And it will certainly be quite different in terms of plot and structure.

HWM: I love your website. It’s creative, very cool and also mysterious since there isn’t any information about you in it. Most authors want to have their name linked with their books. Why did you decide to forego this?
I’ve always been a “behind the scenes” kinda girl, I suppose. I’m happy to let the Irregulars bask in the spotlight. Besides, I was given the gift of a truly “anonymous” name. (Have you ever googled Kirsten Miller?) I’m intent on reaping the benefits!

HWM: What other projects are you working on?
I’ve been writing a book for a slightly older audience. It’s a dark thriller / romance that follows a girl who begins to discover some rather unusual things about herself. And it’s probably one of the few stories that bridges the worlds of Appalachian trailer parks and New York society.

HWM: What do you like writing the most: the beginning, middle or end? Why?
With each book, there’s always a magical day when you feel as if you’ve finally built up the perfect amount of momentum. You know your characters inside and out, you know where they’re going, and all you need to do is put it all down on paper. I love that feeling!

HWM: What has been the biggest surprise of your writing career?

Discovering that I wouldn’t get to choose the covers of my books! (I think that comes as a shock to a lot of authors.) For a self-professed control freak, it was a painful realization.

HWM: If you could share any unique writing tip to aspiring writers, what would it be?
First, convince yourself you can do it. Then sit still long enough to get it all down on paper. See, the true secret to writing is what I call “butt power.” It’s the ability to sit on one’s butt for extended periods of time, just staring at the computer screen. If you sit there long enough, a fabulous idea is bound to come your way.

HWM: I love Ananka’s Diary. How long does it take for you to research interesting things for this blog?
Thanks again. I put a lot of time into the blog. (Too much, one might say.) But I generally write about things that have always interested me. (Aliens, ghosts, carnivorous plants, giant squid, Bigfoot, graffiti, underground worlds, etc.) Some posts require a bit of research, but for the most part, I’m usually quite familiar with the subjects.

Of course, my readers also send me some pretty amazing tips. No matter how much you think you know, there are always new things to learn about!

HWM: I discovered The Columbia Conspiracy, written by Ananka as an eighteen-year-old, on your website. How often do you add to the Chapters? Are you creating the backstory for the end of the series?
I haven't been adding any chapters lately. It began as an experiment in writing a serialized short story on the AD blog, but I got a little too into it, I suppose. I may very well add more adventures at some point.

The Columbia Conspiracy isn't technically backstory. It takes place long after the Kiki Strike and Empress's Tomb adventures, when Ananka's an 18-year-old freshman at Columbia University. I thought it would be fun to jump back and forth in time a bit, and reassure readers that Ananka and her friends didn't get boring in their old age.

HWM: What makes you laugh?
My sister. She has the most ribald, disgusting sense of humor imaginable. Whenever we would sit down for a family dinner, she’d have everyone (literally) choking with laughter. I try to pay her back by adding little details into my book that are designed to make her pee her pants. (The reference to an unfortunate disorder known as Black Hairy Tongue for instance. We were obsessed with it as kids.) HWM note: pg. 154, Inside the Shadow City.

HWM: If you were a superhero, what powers would you want and why?
Kirsten: Actually, the superhero I’ve always admired most is Batman. 100% human, he wasn’t born with any special powers. He didn’t fall into a pool of nuclear waste or get bitten by a radioactive arthropod. Rather, through ingenuity and courage, he manages to accomplish the impossible. That’s the kind of power I’d like to have.

Thank you, Kirsten!

Some other places to find Kirsten Miller:
Kiki Strike website
MySpace readergirlz 31 Flavorite Authors Chat
TeenReads interview
A Fuse #8 Production interview: Part One and Part Two
Look Books interview
Miss Erin interview
Little Willow interview
Book Chic interview

Read excerpts about Kiki Strike and the Irregulars:
Kiki Strike
Betty Bent
Oona Wong
Luz Lopez
Deedee Morlock
Ananka Fishbein

Monday, February 25, 2008

Mystery Author Interview on Wednesday

I am so excited. One of my daughter's favorite authors will be here on Wednesday for a kicking interview. If you love to read about dangerous girls who are smart and love to solve mysteries, stop by on Wednesday to meet this cool author.

Any Guesses? I'll leave update this post with clues throughout the day...

1. Female author who is cool and mysterious.
2. She is working on her third book for this series.
3. The first two books are set in New York City.

Laini, you got the right answer...

Kirsten Miller will be here Wednesday to talk about how she became a published author, her new projects, her Kiki Strike books, her website and more...

Inspiration Monday: Go Overboard Challenge Grant

Justina Chen Headley is celebrating the release of her new book, Girl Overboard, in a big way. For those of you familiar with readergirlz, you know this vivacious readergirlz diva is big into encouragement, empowerment, and giving back. This generous lady not only talks the talk...she walks the walk.

Justina donated half of her advance from The Patch, her first picture book, to InfantSEE, a public health program that provides free eye assessments to babies. When her book, Nothing But the Truth (and a few white lies) was released in 2006, Justina personally sponsored a Nothing But the Truth Essay Contest for a $5,000 college scholarship.

And now from the Burton Snowboard website...
Burton Snowboards and Girl Overboard author Justina Chen Headley, in partnership with Youth Venture, are co-sponsoring the Go Overboard Challenge Grant to find the best youth-led ideas to change the world.

Commit to a cause you're already passionate about-whether it's saving the environment, ending world hunger, or protecting endangered species. Olympic Gold medalist Hannah Teter, with the help of Green Mountain Sugar House, bottles Vermont-grown maple syrup -
Hannah's Gold - to earn money for AIDS orphans in Africa. Justina co-founded readergirlz-an online book community-to promote teen girl literacy. And Syrah in Girl Overboard spearheaded a huge snowboarding event to raise awareness for cancer.

Teens ages 12 - 20 are eligible to apply for this grant. So think about a problem and figure out a solution! Then tell us how you, your club, your team, or your entire school will Go Overboard. The best ideas will win one of the many Go Overboard Challenge Grants of up to $1,000 each. So get ready to change the world with your plans.

The deadline for submission is May 1, 2008, but grants will be awarded on a rolling basis. Work on your application and submit early!

Check out this YouTube video of Justina and Olympic Gold medalist Hannah Teter.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

You Know it's Time for School to Start Again When...

four-year-old walked over and asked, "When are my sisters going back to school?" The other two girls were bickering with one another. Something about how one sister wanted the other to play a game and the other didn't want to.

"Monday," I said. I counted down the days. The two sisters shrieked past us, one chasing the other.

"Ugh!" she said and pulled herself onto my lap. "I can't wait to have my time with you again." I was surprised. She Worships, with a capital W, her two sisters. A door slammed. I closed my eyes. Little one covered her ears.

But, then, sometimes it's time to let go.

"Me too, little one, me too."

Our sentence of a week-long February vacation is almost complete. We had planned to visit my sister in New Hampshire, but got side tracked with bouts of conjunctivitis, colds, asthma, vomiting, sinus infections, sleepless nights, lots of antibiotics and the obvious side effects of whines and complaints from the There is nothing to do and This is the "boringest" vacation in the world syndromes.

Sick seven and nine-year-olds with friends on thrilling vacation trips to Disney World and exotic ski locales are tough critics.

At least we were able to go to Harvard University's Museum of Natural History earlier in the week. The kids loved it. Easy to maneuver with children and lots of cool things for them to learn about. Geodes, minerals, elements , meteors, dinosaurs, bugs, birds, animals...it was great.

I also learned one important lesson this week. I finally figured out how to put antibiotic drops into four-year-old's eyes without having to chase her all over the house. I put them in her eyes when she was sleeping. So much easier if you think outside the box.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Pachelbel's Canon in D Bedtime Song

I found this on Karen Edminsten's blog and had to share it.  This could be my family's bedtime song.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Consumerism and Beauty Tips

A sad sign of the times? I found out about this one from Kelly...a kidlit discussion and Tadmack's amazing rant on product placement in children's books. Based on this article.

HarperCollins Childrens Books will publish a new book series aimed to tweens ages 8-12 years old.  Companies will have a chance to sponsor the books in the series.  The payoff is their products will be in front of a new generation of consumers. If you think you have a problem now with your tweens begging for those name brand products, have no fear, help has arrived.

Let's make consumerism even more of a problem for girls, so they grow up into women who measure themselves and others by what they have or have not.  Is the almighty dollar that much more important than the well-being of kids?  

And surely if it's so easy for girls to be told what to buy if they want to fit into the right group, it only makes sense that they'll grow into women who will believe they don't look pretty enough or young enough.  Take a look at all those magic bottles and miracle creams that are supposed to lift, disguise and brighten the face...

Things women think about at...ahem...my age...and really shouldn't have to.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

My Own Superhero Action Figure

Thanks to Alkelda the Gleeful, I now have my own super-hero action figure, arched eyebrow and all. I'm honored and a little bit embarassed. I never would have had a great book talk with my daughter's first grade class, if not for your help. I think this is the start of the Legion of Super-hero Kidlitosphere Bloggers. What do you think?

Monday, February 18, 2008

You Know You Have Their Attention When...

21 first graders miss five minutes of recess and don't mind a bit.

I still can't believe this talk with my daughter's first grade classmates went this well. And I have you to thank for it. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

When I first arrived in my daughter's classroom, I discovered Ms. Teacher reading a book to the class. Actually, she was holding up a book, while the children sat on the floor and listened to a book on tape. Some were paying attention to the story, interrupting to ask questions. Other children were goofing around. Ms. Teacher was irritated and kept telling them to sit down or to listen.

To be fair to Ms. Teacher, she has to work it if she wants these kids to pay attention. If she has an off day, she's doomed.  One length of the classroom is made entirely of windows with the most spectacular view. The playground. And I don't know about you, but I know if I had a chance to be a first grader all over again, and I had that view, I'd be counting down the seconds until I could climb that jungle gym or fly on the swings.

All I kept thinking was, if the kids are this antsy now, what are they going to be like listening to another book and even worse, a talk about taking care of books? Before their recess? Nothing like a little internal pressure...if I failed, I'd have one embarrassed daughter and first grade mutiny. From my classroom observations, I already identified the rabble rousers. And I knew the rest would follow along. Easily. I was the only person standing in the way of recess.

I thought about Tricia's mantra, "Feel the fear, but do it anyway." I didn't have a choice since Ms. Teacher introduced me to the children, so I figured I'd better sit down and look each one in the eye. Just so they knew I wasn't afraid. I especially paid attention to the rabble rousers. One of them grinned at me.

The kids were jumping up and down, they kept looking out the windows and they looked suspicious of anything I had to offer them. Thankfully, I remembered all your words of advice.

So I talked about books and how they start from dreams and ideas. Thank you to Liz in Ink and Becky Levine. Then inspired by Becky's idea, I had the children tell me their ideas for books and wrote them down. The kids were so excited talking about the good guys (themselves, comic superheroes, and animals), the bad guys (their siblings) and problems. They kept watching the list, and were thrilled their ideas made it to paper. They raised their hands, and for the most part, were good about waiting for their turn.

When we finally had all the ideas together, I looked at the children and then asked, "Who wants to throw away their idea?" (Also Becky's idea) Complete silence.

"What would happen if someone ripped this paper in half?"  If you ever want to see 21 first graders in shock, I'd suggest this question.  It is priceless.  

Once the kids recovered, they couldn't wait to talk about this.  

"No, this is my idea!" said one girl, standing up, ready to defend the paper.

"I have a great idea.  Nobody better ruin it," said a rabble rouser.

"That would be mean," said one boy.  And all the children agreed.  By this time, the kids were all standing up, edging closer to the paper, watching my every move.  

So I talked about how these ideas turn into books,  and how books are what keeps their imagination alive.  And these children got it.  They were bright eyed and hanging onto every word.

I asked the children if they ever watched the children's show, Charlie and Lola.  And they all smiled and said yes.  So I told them about their creator, Lauren Child, who my children adore. Quick note: If you're curious about the pictures of me on my blog, my children were inspired to draw these pictures because of Lauren Child's artwork.  

I then brought out a book, Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Book by Lauren Child.  Mme T, thank you for this suggestion.  I forgot about this book and it was perfect. Thankfully, I was able to find a copy at the school library.  I wasn't able to find Oliver Jeffer's book, The Incredible Book Eating Boy (recommended by Anamaria and Tricia).

Chris from The Simple of the Ordinary, Jonathan, and John Mutford suggested comparing a damaged book with a clean version.  I didn't have time to find a damaged book, so I ripped a sheet of construction paper and folded it over different pages so the children could see what they would be missing if a page was ripped.  Again, another aha! moment for them.

Then, I read the book to them.  Now I'm the type of person that loves to read books with different voices. My children love it.  So I acted the part of Herb, Goldilocks, the Three Bears.  Then there was Cinderella, the Stepmother, the Queen.  On and on I read.  And I had to ad lib a bit to hurry up the story when I realized it was almost time for recess.  

Not an eye left the book, not a sound could be heard, but my voice and the pages of the book.  I was thrilled.  I've never had the experience of having 42 eyes intent on a book, 21 children listening to every word, drawn into a world they could see.  It was truly inspiring.

I made up the ending, since I saw the first graders from the other classes run to the playground. I figured my daughter's classmates would want to get bogeying.  But, nobody looked outside. They didn't pay attention to their friends lining by the windows, peering in, curious about what was happening in the classroom.  I even told them it was time for recess and instead of getting their jackets to play, the children wanted to ask questions.  Ms. Teacher finally broke the spell, probably motivated by an afternoon with a group of first graders who haven't had a chance to release some energy.

Thank you, everyone.  You helped me make this talk on taking care of books an eye-opening experience for 21 first graders. Ms. Teacher asked me if I'd like to come back.  

"In a heartbeat," I said.  

Friday, February 15, 2008

Poetry Friday Roundup Over Here Today!

Okay, everyone. Poetry Roundup is here today! Stop by, leave a link and comment with your poetry submission. If you're new to Poetry Friday, have no fear. You're welcome to join in all the fun. For detailed information on what Poetry Friday is all about, check out Chicken Spaghetti's most excellent explanation.

I'll be helping out in my children's classrooms this morning, so I'll post the Roundup later in the day. I'm helping out with Math Games in my third grader's class. Afterwards, I'll go to first grader's class for my talk on taking care of books. I couldn't figure out what to do, but, you did! Thank you! (Edited to add: The first graders were awesome! Here's what happened. Thanks for all the good wishes!)

It's only fitting I found this poem to put me in the proper mindset to approach these first graders. Not!

On the Gift of a Book to a Child
by Hilaire Belloc

Child! do not throw this book about!
Refrain from the unholy pleasure
Of cutting all the pictures out!
Preserve it as your chiefest treasure.

Child, have you never heard it said
That you are heir to all the ages?
Why, then, your hands were never made
To tear these beautiful thick pages!

If you're interested in reading the rest of this poem, go here.

Today was one of those busy, busy, busy days. What better way to relax and unwind with some great poetry? We've got some fun, some sweet, poignant and original this weekend, so kick back and enjoy.

SASSY and FUN...
Wizards Wireless has some fun lyrics to give our rocking busy schedules a little lift. Think Kevin Kline, a parady/homage to Gilbert and Sullivan and Philadelphia Chickens.

AmoXcalli has an amusing poem about some Rumpelstiltskin love.

TadMack's got some chocolate Scrabble and X.J. Kennedy up.

Shelf Elf has a fun poem by Allan Ahlberg.

Stacey from Two Writing Teachers is in with an amusing poem by Gregory K. Feel better soon!

Laura Salas shares an unforgettable Billy Collins.

A healthy love that is adorable...thanks to Passionately Curious.

Sarah Miller shares some fun nonsense by Edward Lear.

Miss Erin brings in some fun for the masses. Don't fret, don't stress, don't worry a bit. Dr. Seuss is here and offers up great words of wisdom.

Mme T from Destined to Be a Classic shares an amusing poem, "In Answer to Your Query," by Naomi Lezard.

Liz B (A Chair, A Fireplace and a Tea Cozy) is in with a classic, "The Owl and the Pussycat."


Tricia (Miss Rumphius) is in with a poignant poem, Babylon by Robert Graves. Birthday wishes and the passing of youth....beautiful poem.

Elaine has some poetry over at the Blue Rose Girls in honor of Black History Month.

Jama Rattigan is in with a majestic poem, The Windhover by Gerard Manley Hopkins.

So very cool. The Reading Zone can't wait to see the monarch butterflies in Mexico. Here's to a wonderful trip with tons of butterflies!

Little Willow shares a bit of Carl Sandburg.

The Well Read Child offers some insight to Matthew Arnold's Dover Beach.

Felicity of Look Books honors a favorite teacher.

Sylvia Vardell pairs and compares poems.


Cloudscome is in with some romantic e.e. cummings. Beautiful.

Writer2B has a fun card and sweet post on lasting love.

Charlotte's Library is in with "Jenny Kissed Me."

Ahhh....it would not be Valentine's without a little Shakespeare. Thank you, Chris from The Simple and the Ordinary.

7-Imp is in with an oh-so-hot Roethe in LO-O-O-O-VE.


Over at Wild Rose Reader, Elaine shares some original metaphor poems. Lovely!

Mary Lee from A Year of Reading has a great Google Reader Chant called Blog, Blog, Blog.

Sara Lewis Holmes offers up a sizzlin' original poem.

Laura Salas challenges us to 15 Words or Less.

Liz Garton Scanlon is in with lovely Perspective.

Tiel Aisha Ansari writes Would I Know You. Very nice.

Ruth from Two Writing Teachers is in with sweet Birthday Wishes.

Marcie from World of Words shares her bright poem.

What do you get when you combine sweetheart candies and poetry? MsMac knows.


Laurel of Kid*Lit(erary) shares Matthea Harvey.

John Mutford shares a Zachariah Wells poetry book and a cool soundtrack.

Kelly Fineman inspires with the April Rain Song from The Oxford Illustrated Book of American Children's Poems over at I.N.K. Kelly also offers up not one, but five lovely poetry books celebrating all sorts of birds in honor of The Great Backyard Bird Count.

MotherReader asks us all to pay attention...Speak to Me (And I Will Listen Between The Lines.)

Sheila at Greenridge Chronicles has a little Keats in a Small World.

Now I've got Annie Lennox's song on my brain. Would I lie to you? Now add one little word to this title, and you've got a whole new meaning in this tease of a story, Would I Ever Lie to You? Thank you, Anastasia.

Suzanne (Daily Adventures in Living) shares her admiration for Mary Cornish, and her poem, "Numbers" from Red Studio.

Susan (Chicken Spaghetti) shares a writing tip from Janice N. Harrington and Nikki Grimes. Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite.

Fiona at Books and Rocks reviews Atlantic by G. Brian Karas.

Thanks for stopping by! Enjoy the poetry!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

A Valentine's Wish for You

I know I'm going to sound like a curmudgeon, but at the risk of it, I'll tell you what's on my mind. I'm not sure why we need to have a Valentine's Day.  Say, what?  Yes, you read this correctly.

While it's sweet and all that we have one day dedicated to acknowledge the love we have for the special person in our life, and vice versa, for some reason, it just seems so lame to me.  The fact we need a day that nudges someone to say "I Love You."  Please.  If the person doesn't show you in so many ways on a daily basis already, why should a day advertised to be the most romantic day of the year, make it different?  Because commercials tell us so?

What about all the people who are single, who don't have a special person to share this day with.  Does it make them less important? This is where I find this whole Valentine's Day to be so flawed. There is the power of suggestion that if you're loved, you should expect flowers, candy, jewelry, a romantic dinner.  And if you don't....well, you decide.  

There's not a whole lot of empowerment there for people who wait and wait until their expectations are met, exceeded or shattered.  And for this to happen because of a holiday, that just plain bites.  

So, this is my Valentine's Day wish for you.  Take this day to respect and honor yourself.  Make this about you first, then focus on your loved ones.  But get that extra fifteen minutes to enjoy a cup of coffee.  Take the time to pamper yourself or go for that jog you're always talking about.  

If my words don't encourage you, then take a few minutes to listen to this powerful song, "Beautiful" by Christina Aguilera. 

You are Beautiful.  You are important.  Honor and respect yourself. Be kind to yourself.  Show yourself the love. 

Go and have a great Valentine's Day.  On your terms.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Need Creative Ideas....for 1st Grade Book Talk

I'm a little stumped stressed thrilled. I was just helping my first grader's classroom celebrate 100 days of school. During my visit, middle child's teacher asked if I'd like to come into the classroom in the near future and talk to the kids about books.

"Of course," I said. Already, I was mentally preparing what kind of books would be great to share with the children. Then Ms. Teacher dropped the bomb on me.

"Middle child is unhappy because most of the children throw the books around," she said and gave me her best 1,000 watt smile. 

"I thought it'd be a great idea if you could talk to the kids about the right way to treat books."  What?  

"Uh. Sure," I said, filing away Ms. Teacher's bait and switch hook trickery for future use. We agreed this Friday worked for both of us.

So, I ask you my creative friends, what in the world would get 21 six and seven-year-old children, half who probably eat jumping beans for breakfast, to listen to a talk on taking care of books? I have a half hour-- 30 minutes -- 1,800 seconds -- to either sink or swim. What would entice them to care about books, if they don't already?

I was going to go all dramatic and have the kids throw some old books on the floor and then stomp on them to get their aggressions out. But the idea of it makes me ill. Then I was going to have them create their own books to see if the kids could take care of them until I see them again the next week. But, I'm not sure these are the right things to do with this class.

I can't imagine there are any books out there on this subject for first graders, but if any of you know any, please let me know. And if you have any creative ideas to wow this crowd, throw me a lifeline. Please!!!  I am afraid.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Poetry Friday: Christopher Marlowe's Hero and Leander

For those who believe in love at first sight, here's part of a love epyllion (a short epic poem) by Christopher Marlowe. This poem is based on the Greek myth of Hero and Leander, which has a tragic end. Really, not the most romantic myth for someone who's in love.

However, Marlowe's version of the poem ends before anything horrible happens. Scholars have wondered whether Marlowe intended to keep the poem as is, change the ending, or keep it true to the myth. In any case, if you'd like to read this epyllion in its entirety, you can download it for free from Project Gutenberg. AmoXcalli is hosting Poetry Friday today.

Hero and Leander
by Christopher Marlowe

It lies not in our power to love or hate,
For will in us is overruled by fate.
When two are stripped, long ere the course begin,
We wish that one should love, the other win;
And one especially do we affect
Of two gold ingots, like in each respect:
The reason no man knows; let it suffice
What we behold is censured by our eyes.
Where both deliberate, the love is slight:
Who ever loved, that loved not at first sight?

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Readergirlz, Self-Worth and Teen Dating

February is the month of Love. In the case of readergirlz, it's about heart and poetry. Readergirlz is celebrating this month with the novel, Bronx Masquerade by Nikki Grimes. Read an excerpt of her book here. To join in the interesting discussions, go over here. It's because of some of these eye-opening conversations that I was compelled to write this post. And it's all about love in a way. The kind that no one really wants to see or talk about.

Edited to add: I decided to change the picture in this post, because I found this cool photo.

Ahhh. Sweet Love. For some reason, the first crush or first love, seems to be something people remember even when they're considered to be too ancient to understand such matters. And the very idea of love sparks imagination, hope, laughter and a jump up to the stars elation that lights up a smile with no end. If only that feeling stayed constant. It would make life easy and joyful. Don't you think?

But love is definitely not something for the weak of heart. Love can be consuming, demanding and unkind. If put in the right hands and handled with respect, all the tough aspects of love can be worked on and nurtured into a deep love that will last a lifetime. But if these negative qualities are left in the wrong hands, left to fester and rot, it is going to be a toxic situation that will leave souls imprisoned behind walls of hopelessness and despair. And this is one situation that doesn't discriminate. These dangerous situations can develop regardless of gender, race, religion, morality or socioeconomic status.

Most people want to find love and will wade through all the crap to keep it. The key is to find out what is worth fighting for and what is best left behind for someone else to pick at. As quickly as possible. Adults have a difficult and confusing enough time of this...is it any wonder that teenagers, who are in such a rush to grow up and experience life, may deny what is hazardous in a relationship?

I'm a little late to the program here, but this is too important and needs to be shared. Today is the fourth day of the National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Week. Take a look at these sad facts compiled by the National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline founded by Liz Claiborne, Inc. 1 in 5 teens have experienced physical abuse. 1 in 4 teens have reported constant verbal abuse.

With these kind of numbers, it is important to keep the open lines of communication with your teen or friend. How do you know if your teen or friend is experiencing dating abuse, the kind where someone uses a series of destructive means to control their boyfriend or girlfriend? Have them take this quiz. And if you want to find ways to help them, start here. Or call the National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline at 1-866-331-9474 or 1-866-331-8453 TTY. Help teens realize they deserve better.

And if you're an adult caught up in a dangerous relationship, break your silence and get help. You are so worth it.

Love is not abuse. Love is not about control. Love is not about destroying someone's self-worth or self-esteem.

Love is all about respect and empowerment. Love is about honor. Remember that. Because you deserve to be honored and respected. You are so worth it.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Writing Tip: Finish Your Manuscript so You Can Go on School Visits

Stuck on your manuscript? Read this pep talk from Neil Gaiman. And then, get your butt in the chair and write.

1. Join SCBWI, if you haven't already.
2. Dare to bare and join a critique group.
3. Massage your work and revise.
4. Read, Read, Read.
5. Research literary agents and publishers.
6. Lather up interest in your work. Write a good query letter. There are so many ideas of what works, use a model query you like best.
7. Rinse. Proofread and send your work out.
8. All the gunk not out? Massage, Lather up and Rinse again. Try a different approach. Revise work and query letter. Proofread.
9. Repeat sending your work out until you reach success.

You're gonna want to do this, because when your book is published, you'll be able to use BookMoot's great advice on School Visits, and see your book through your readers' eyes. How cool is that?

Any other suggestions?

Monday, February 4, 2008

Face-to-Face with Mitali Perkins

Remember when I interviewed Mitali Perkins? Turns out Mitali had a Super Book Launch Party yesterday, celebrating the release of First Daughter: White House Rules.

I had to stop by and say hello...being she's a new readergirlz diva, I'm a new postergirlz for the readergirlz and we both live in Massachusetts.

I brought my children with me. My nine-year-old was fascinated by the huge line of people waiting for Mitali's autograph. A few people were taking pictures of Mitali, the flashes going off the cameras, and my children were starstruck.

"Wow! Mom, you know someone famous!"

Needless to say, my eldest daughter couldn't wait to get Mitali's autograph. It didn't matter that the First Daughter books were too advanced for her. Nine-year-old was impressed that Mitali and I hugged and had a nice conversation. Mitali spoke to all the girls and they were thrilled. Especially when Mitali asked them about their artwork on my blog. Mitali...I think you have fans for life. When the kids found out Mitali was being interviewed by a reporter, eldest child led her two siblings to a spot nearby and watched. They were so mesmerized, I didn't even have to threaten them to keep quiet!

All I can say is, Mitali is a sweetheart and she totally rocks!

Friday, February 1, 2008

Poetry Friday and a Great Book: A Deadline to Fight for What Kind of World do You Want?

I'm in love, thanks to Chris, of The Simple and the Ordinary. Let me introduce my new favorite band/singer, Five for Fighting, which features the talents of singer, pianist, guitarist and activist John Ondrasik. John has this wonderful charitable video website, inspired by his song World, called What Kind of World Do You Want? Basically, you go over to this site and view a video for a particular cause. Every time you view one of these videos, money is donated to a highlighted charity. All I can say is you're gonna want some tissues. For specifics on how this works, go here.

For Poetry Friday, hosted by Karen Edmisten's blog today, I wanted to share the lyrics of Five for Fighting's lyrics for World. I love these lyrics, and John Ondrasik's voice simply captures the hope, belief and spirit of the possibilities of our future despite past destruction.

by John Ondrasik, Five for Fighting

Got a package full of Wishes
A Time machine, a Magic Wand
A Globe made out of Gold

No Instructions or Commandments
Laws of Gravity or
Indecisions to uphold

Printed on the box I see
A.C.M.E.'s Build-a-World-to-be
Take a chance - Grab a piece
Help me to believe it

What kind of world do you want?
Think Anything
Let's start at the start
Build a masterpiece
Be careful what you wish for
History starts now...
go here for the rest of the lyrics
listen to this song

Music plays a big part in my writing. It helps me to be in the moment and create a certain emotion onto paper. But ask me to identify a song or playlist for a book I'm reading, and sometimes that can prove quite difficult, especially when the emotive connection isn't there for me.

But when I finished reading Deadline by Chris Crutcher, (who I'm so glad I discovered--how could I have missed his books?), all I could hear was Five for Fighting's song World. Deadline is an awesome book that made me laugh and cry. Combine it with World as the theme song, and you've got a witty, funny tearjerker that is perfect for the Big Screen. I'm just saying.

Imagine this. You're a senior track star in high school with big plans for your future. You suddenly find out during a routine physical that you have a terminal illness with the possibility of one year to live. Aggressive treatment may help you live a little longer, but it will not change the outcome. What do you do?

Eighteen-year-old Ben Wolf decides to forgo treatment and keep his illness a secret--from his parents, his brother, his teachers, his friends. He is realistic that he won't be able to beat the odds with this disease, and wants to live the best he can and make his mark in the world in the time he has left. Talk about a scary and sad premise.

I had a hard time starting this book because I thought it would be too difficult to read. And as a parent, this premise killed me. But it was hard to ignore Ben's intelligence, his determination, the wise cracks, and the thought-provoking journey Ben goes on in search of the Truth as he realizes that nothing is what it seems to be. Forget about depressing. Yes, there are definitely poignant moments, but if there weren't, it wouldn't be the truth. And this book is all about Truth.

Deadline is smart and funny. Deadline is about taking the time to uncover the layers and searching for the Truth. And it's about hope and faith and the will to make things happen. Just wait until you see how Ben fights to makes his mark in the world...for a future he wants for his town and the world. Talk about making history.

Deadline is the type of book I love--one that makes me think, makes me laugh, and yes, one that makes me cry. This combination is deadly, of the good kind. Which is why Deadline goes on my 2008 lists for Cool Books for Boys and Great Books for Girls. Chris Crutcher, you are a master, and I bow down to you.

Book details:
by Chris Crutcher
Harper Collins Greenwillow Books
Young Adult
Published September 2007
Borrowed from library

And the Winner of the 2008 New Year's 30 Day Challenge is.....

Thank you, everyone, for joining this 30 day Challenge. You should be proud of your progress. I hope this has helped you gather your motivation so you can reach for your dreams.

Now I had a hard time chosing the prize for this Challenge. I couldn't decide whether to go inspirational, something bookish or something writerish, which I'm sure isn't a real word. Scratch that. I know it's not a real word, but I figured maybe this could be a Frindle moment. Maybe? But, I digress.

In any event, I found the perfect inspirational prize. See the pretty picture? This is one of Laini Taylor's designs. I'm in awe of her. Not only is she a talented writer who encourages other writers, but she is also a talented artist.

I couldn't resist and had to order this pretty piece. It'll be perfect to hang near a creative space, don't you think? Who wouldn't be inspired by the words Dream, Grow Wings, Soar?

Linda and Laura...send me your snail mail address to hipwritermama at comcast dot net and I'll send one out to you when they come in. Congratulations!