Friday, November 10, 2017

Songs of the Night SHIMMER Bright!

 I'd like to welcome fellow poet and Spork Sister, Raven Howell to the Storyteller's Scroll. Raven and I write poetry for children and today I'd like to help her celebrate the release of her collection from SPORK.

Raven was kind enough to share her passion of poetry with us, and following her inspiratuion is my review of SHIMMER, Poems of the Night! *****

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I grew up in a creative household. My mother sang like a bird and led dance groups. My father is a poet, and my older sister and brother were successful musicians/singer/songwriters in their teens, so there was never a lack of the arts in our house! I wrote poetry and prose before I literally knew how to write. I'd come up with sing-song-y rhymes, stories, verses, plays, and my grandmother would jot them down. I never made a conscious decision to become a writer. It’s simply what I’ve always done. 

How long does it take you to write a book?

I’ll use food and cooking as an analogy to writing a poetry book. Sometimes, the work is best in its original organic state, like a crisp, flavorful carrot that may be eaten raw, instead of roasting the heck out of it until it caramelizes and becomes sticky. But other poems may need some steaming since the asparagus is way too stringy and bitter. So that takes time (perhaps years) to perfect to just the right texture. And then, there’s that delicious compilation or rhyming story that’s as sweet as apple pie. But take a bite and  discover that delight has too much sugar sprinkled on top – time to spend a few months to revise the ingredients!

What’s your work schedule like when writing?

My work schedule in general remains the same whether I’m working on a project, book, or writing a requested magazine poem. I live, eat, and breathe poetry and I love a challenge. My editor at Kelsay Books seemed to have a lot of that up her sleeve. I worked hard on my manuscript for their Daffydowndilly Press imprint, day and night, with very focused intent. She doesn’t take poetry lightly and has high standards for her poets. I’m so proud of the resulting book, A Star Full of Sky, which was just released this autumn.

What is your interesting writing quirk?

One thing I always bring up in my poetry workshops is how poetry allows one to view things a different way – look at something perhaps with a little magic or wonder, and I believe that’s been a characteristic or quirk I’ve always carried, providing much of the inspiration and basis for my writing.

If my husband asks me to pass the fruit. I’m thinking: fruit? Just fruit? That’s a green Granny Smith apple in that bowl! And a sweet little Green Granny Smith grandmother with round silver framed glasses, apple blossomed hair, apple-cheeked face, wearing an apron of apple peel smiles crookedly in an orchard. And you know the title of this rhyming story has to be “The Myth of Granny Smith”, right?

When did you write your first book?

I published my first children’s poetry collection a few years back. I found many children in classrooms and in homes acting out in an ADD or ADHD fashion. I felt a need for sweet, calming verse that wasn’t just appropriate for bedtime, but anytime. Also, there were very few children’s pieces written for the autism community and I wanted to provide a collection of poems for easing the mind, providing peace, focus and quiet contemplation. The book is titled Dozy Poems, Cozy Days and it’s available through Background Noise Books.

What was the most surprising thing you learned in the process of creating books?

I'm continuously surprised how illustrators connect deeply with my poems and are on target with what I portray in my words. It literally took me two years of unsuccessful attempts to create watercolors myself for the poems in my first book. I tried everything – acrylics, pencils, you name it, but couldn’t reach that inner child abstract sensibility the poems needed. My son, Maris, was involved with art classes, so I handed the job to him and he connected immediately to what I was looking for. And as for my latest book, Shimmer, Songs of Night, the illustrator, Carina Povarchik, instinctively knew how to give my poems life! There’s a creative dance we do, and it’s a surprisingly joyous thing!

How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?

I have five published books. My favorite is not released yet – stay tuned!

Raven Howell paints imagery with her words and Carina Poverchik designs words with her pictures. A perfect match between author and illustrator, SHIMMER boasts the best of each artist.

Free verse, couplets, pantoum, and haiku dance across the pages woven between colorful, shimmery illustrations. A perfect gift for any child! A perfect book for any classroom! A wonderful representation of twilight to dawn, and what whirls in the imagination of children (and some adults) during those magical hours.

Links to purchase SHIMMER!

Leave in a comment below with the tilte of your own "Brilliant" children's poem about shimmers and light for a chance to have it critiqued by Raven or me.

Two winners will be chosen by

And stop the The Storyteller's Scroll next week for an interview with another SPORK creative.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Wave the Flag on Veteran's Day

Veteran’s Day will be upon us soon and I thought I'd write a blog that connects my newest historical fiction novel, TWICE BETRAYED, a MG historical fiction set in Colonial Philadelphia to Veteran's Day. 

What does Colonial Philadelphia have to do with Veteran’s Day, you may ask. Simple…The American Flag!
Our “Stars and Stripes” fly high on Veteran’s Day – in parades, in front of government buildings, in military cemeteries, and on citizen’s homes, much like the flag that flies in front of Betsy Ross’s house on Arch Street, in Philadelphia.

In the United States, Veterans Day celebrates the people who served our country in the military during times of war and peace. But serving our country did not originate with the conclusion of WWI, when Veteran’s Day was first celebrated. (November 11th, 1919). We could go back to The Revolutionary War to find people who served our country. And my main character, thirteen-year-old Perdy Rogers is one of them. In my story, it is she, not her employer, Betsy Ross, who created the first American flag.

Why can I do that? Didn’t we all learn that Betsy Ross made the first flag, the one with the thirteen stars in a circle? Well, yes we did. But unfortunately we now know that information has never been verified.

Mini-History Lesson J Excuse me, but once a teacher, always a teacher!Actually, George Washington, George Ross (Betsy’s husband’s uncle) and Robert Morris asked anyone who was able to sew, to design a flag for the U.S. Continental Army.

That included haberdashers (dealers in men’s clothing and sewing articles), tailors (clothes makers), mantuamakers (women’s dressmakers), seamstresses (women who sewed clothing or household items), and upholsterers. (people who designed and sewed furniture with coverings, stuffing, and springs, bed ticking and draperies)  

So anyone who sewed could have designed the flag we know today as having thirteen stars in a circle and the thirteen red and white stripes, which both represented our colonies.
It wasn’t until 1870, almost 100 years after the Revolutionary War and 34 years after her death that Betsy Ross’ grandson, William J. Canby, presented a paper to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, claiming it was she who made the first flag. But he had only old family stories and no real proof. Even Betsy Ross never claimed to have made the flag, only the five-pointed star.

My interpretation of our country’s first flag is intertwined in Perdy Roger’s story---

Accused of being a Loyalist spy, she hunkers down in the upholstery shop and makes a lap quilt for her little sister, who falls ill after Perdy sneaks her out of the house on a damp night to help friends carry out an elopement for an older girl.

But the next day the girl, a milliner’s apprentice, is found drowned with coded spy letters in her bodice, gold coins sewn into her hems, and a hand-written journal implicating an unnamed sewing apprentice in Philadelphia as her accomplice. Suspicious eyes turn to Perdy.

But Perdy is no spy!

Today, our flag still has thirteen red and white stripes that represent the original colonies, but the stars, which represent our states, now number fifty.

TWICE BETRAYED is available on Amazon both as an e-book, a hard cover, or a paperback.

Below, children can make their own American flag in honor of Veteran’s Day, or replicate the first American flag. All you need for either is a photo of the flag and…

1.    Paper Flag – 1 piece 24” x 36” red construction paper.
             -1 piece 24” x 36” white construction paper cut into 13/4” strips
            -1 piece 9” x 12” blue construction paper
            -1 package of gold foil sticky stars
Put flag together based on photo of the Colonial Flag

2.    Ribbon Flag – 1 piece 9” x 12” blue felt
-1 embroidered stick’em stars
- 13 36” strips of red and white, lace, ribbons, fabric
-1 spring-loaded curtain rod

Doing something to celebrate Veterans Day with children is a great way to honor those who have kept our country safe. And reading TWICE BETRAYED together, might be a way to spur an interest in our American history.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

New Releases from Spork

Today I'm reviewing two new picture books from Clearfork Publishing, Spork Imprint. Both are available from the Clearfork website, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.

First up is Sarah's Song by Rosie Pova

Music is the key to life. So says Sarah’s Grandmother, a loving woman who shares music with her granddaughter. Day-after-day they sing, dance, chant, and croon…until one day Grandmother becomes too tired to sing, and she can no longer dance. She needs a cane to walk. So Sarah sings and grandmother claps. Even Sarah’s silly songs can’t get Grandmother to sing again. So Sarah devises a surprise for her Grandmother and one again her heart is light and sways to Sarah’s song. Pova captures the special relationship between a child and her grandmother and shows how that relationship never fades. And Allen’s colorful illustrations add sweetness to Sarah’s Song.


And the second book is It's Time by Julie Pepper

As a former Early Childhood Educator and Pre-K Director, I can heartily recommend Pepper’s new picture book to parents of preschoolers. It’s a perfect read on the night before the first day of school. It encourages the child’s imagination as they create their own personal scenarios for each of Steele’s bright and colorful illustrations and will help ease the transition into school.