Saturday, April 23, 2011

Setting The Scene With Arthur Levine

Last Saturday,  April 16th, I was co-coordinator of the first annual, SCBWI - Illinois Spring Thaw.  My partner in crime, Meg Flemming Lentz, and I are planning to make this an annual event.  The SCBWI Regional coordinators had already lined up Arthur Levine and they guided us through the process of hosting a conference.
Meg Fleming Lentz, Arthur Levine, me, Lisa Bierman

For those of you who don't know, Arthur Levine is the vice-president of Scholastic inc. and publisher of Arthur A. Levine Books, an imprint of Scholastic Books.   Arthur A. Levine Books published a series of books you may have heard of - Harry Potter!   Arthur is also an author of books for children.  His latest book, Monday Is One Day, was released this month.

Back to the event . . . We decided to title the event, Setting the Scene with Arthur Levine so people would pronounce his name correctly (rhyme Levine with scene).  People sometimes rhyme it with 'mine' or 'pin', so we thought we'd help them out a bit.  I'm sure it gets annoying having people mispronounce your name all the time. Growing up, people often pronounced my last name, Grusin, as 'gruesome'.  I think they did it accidentally :-)

The day went beautifully!  We had 129 attendees, with a good mix of published and non-published authors and illustrators and all genres in children's literature were represented.  Arthur spoke to the group about the current state of publishing and, by the end of his talk, he was pretty optimistic!  

Next, he spoke about the process of submitting, publishing and marketing picture books, using his latest book as an example.  He said his book had three different editors and it took seven years to hit the shelves!   

He followed up this talk with a fantastic Q & A session!  Luckily, they were running late with the lunches, so we were able to pick Arthur's brain for an extra ten minutes.

After lunch, we had a First Pages session.  Children's author, and voice over pro, Laura Ripes, read first pages submitted by attendees and Arthur gave instantaneous feedback - not an easy task.  There was a good mix of picture book, middle grade and young adult stories.  

Arthur found a common thread in each story - "info dump" as he coined it.  Info dump is when there's too much set-up at the beginning of the story.  Arthur said you need to trust that your reader will get that information through the characters words and actions.  One example was a story about a bird who is afraid of heights.  The author stated that in the first few sentences.  Arthur pointed out that she didn't need to put in that fact because the reader would learn it by observing Bird trying to get out of going to high places. 

After the First Pages, we gave out some door prizes, mixed and mingled a bit and Arthur signed books (The Magic Tree Bookstore sold them there).  Then it was over and there was nothing left to do but clean up.  We had a little bit of "after the wedding blues" but we were also relieved it was over and had gone so smoothly!

Arthur and me with Book Tour Alex

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Procrastination Cinquain

One thing I've learned about myself, time and time again, is that I have a hard time posting every day.  That's why I should never start something like a poem-a-day to celebrate Poetry Month.  One of these days I'll remember not to promise to blog daily!  

So, it's been a couple of days and I have a new kind of poem to write - a cinquain.  I've never written one before but it looks like fun.  Here are the rules for cinquain writing:

A cinquain is a five line poem.
Line 1: One word (subject or noun)
Line 2: Two words (adjectives that describe line 1)
Line 3: Three words (action verbs that relate to line 1)
Line 4: Four words (feelings or a complete sentence that relates to line 1)
Line 5: One word (synonym of line 1 or a word that sums it up)

Here's my first attempt at a cinquain.

Troublesome, habitual
Waiting, delaying, rushing
Putting off, chasing deadlines

Monday, April 11, 2011


Today's poem is a verbal collage entitled "Love".  It's the first time I've made one and it was fun and easy.  Here's how you can make your own:

1 - Pick a topic and, in a word processing program,  make a list of words you want to include.
2 - Determine the importance of each word and you can adjust the size accordingly.  If you type a word 5 times it makes it very big; 4 times makes it big; 3 times makes it smaller; 2 times makes it even smaller; 1 time makes it the smallest.
3 - Now, copy your text and paste it into Wordle.
4 - You can change the color, font and layout until you're happy with how it looks.
5 - You can't save your collage on Wordle so you'll need to take a snapshot of it and save it that way.

It's as easy as that!  Give it a try!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Saturday Night Clerihew

Today's poem is a Clerihew - a light verse, usually consisting of two couplets of uneven length 
and irregular meter, the first line usually containing the name of a well-known person.  The Clerihew was invented by Edmund Clerihew Bentley (1875 - 1956), an English writer, at the age of 16.

My son, Sean
Is almost gone,
He's moving soon,
I think in June :-(

My son, Brian
Is always tryin'
He'll work it out
Without a doubt!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Skeltonic Verse

In researching different forms of poetry, I came across Skeltonic Verse, named after English Poet, John Skelton (1460-1529).  Skelton had tutored King Henry the Eighth when he was a prince and later spent time in prison, was censured by the church and seemed to have a lot of fun!  The rules of Skeltonic Verse are simple:  
  • Keep the line lengths between three and six words
  • Every end word rhymes with the previous, until you start a new set of rhymes
  • Keep the same rhyme until it starts to lose its energy or impact
  • The poem should be full of energy and fun
Here's my Skeltonic Verse:

The weekend's here
I shout and cheer   
Until I hear
A voice so clear
From in the yard
the words were hard
So I was jarred
My plans were marred
There on the stoop
With bag and scoop
He made me droop
"Let's pick up poop!"

Thursday, April 7, 2011

I forgot


I Forgot

I can't believe I almost forgot,

to write another poem.

I don't know where my memory went,

It must still be at home.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Sausage Poem

Today's poem is a Sausage Poem - a string of words which are "linked" with the same letters/sounds at the endings and beginnings of words.  An extra challenge is to go full circle and have the last letter of the sentence match the first letter.  It's a lot harder than it sounds!  Here's my meager attempt.  Before you judge me - give it a try yourself!

Spring goes slowly yet time elapses.
Summer rain nurturing growing greens.
Fall leaves swirl like caustic kids.
Winter rains snow over rustic cabins.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

My Mea Culpa

My Mea Culpa
I had the best intentions
I really meant to do it
I hoped to write a poem a day
and on day two - I blew it!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

April is Poetry Month - DUH!

What kind of habitual rhymer forgets poetry month?  I'm going to use being in Las Vegas when April began as my excuse.  It's lame - I know!  In honor of Poetry Month, I'll post a new poem everyday - starting today.  I'll also include fun poem-writing ideas I've found in various places.  So, my poem for April 3rd is called a Book Spine Poem.  April Halprin Wayland mentioned it in today's blog post at Teaching Authors.  She got the idea from Travis Jonker, an elementary school librarian and he wrote about it on the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) blog.  I copied this off the blog: 

How do you create your own?  Here are my tips for kids and teens:
1. Check out last year’s book spine poem gallery for inspiration.
2. Once you’re in the library, start looking at titles to see what strikes you. Arrange and rearrange in your head. The best part of this type of poetry is the fact that you don’t know where you’ll end up.
3. Have a pencil and paper with you to write down titles that stand out – you can go back to them later.
4. Don’t be afraid to use the library catalog to search for titles with exact words or phrases that you want.

As promised, here's a book spine poem I wrote tonight:

What am I doing here
Lost in the cosmos?
Beginning to see the light
With a little help from my friends - 

Give it a try and, when you do, post it here for others to read!  

Happy Poetry Month!!