Monday, March 30, 2009

Whitman's "Sound" Poem

Monday, March 30, 2009

I heard you solemn sweet pipes of the organ
as last Sunday morn I passed the church;
Winds of autumn as I walked the streets at dusk
I heard your long stretched sighs up above so mournful;
I heard the perfect Italian tenor singing at the opera;
I heard the soprano in the midst of the quartet singing;
Heart of my love, you too I heard with one of your wrists
around my head, heard the pulse of you when all was still
ringing little bells last night under my ear.

I get blissful shivers whenever I quote this poem. I'm not sure about the lines breaks or the punctuation, because I wrote it from memory. Read the poem aloud. Did you notice that Walt Whitman begins with a deep large sound and ends up with the almost imperceptible sound of the pulse at the end? Notice, too, how he uses sound in his repetition of letters. Listen to the sounds. Listen.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Tongue Twisters

Friday, March 27th, 2009

I hope everyone had fun doing tongue twisters. I wasn't sure I was going to do this one, but then I awoke in the night with repetitive letters humming in my brain and woke up this morning with these:
1. Twenty talking turkeys take turns taunting toads.
2. Baseball Bonnie bats balls better than Barry in Boston.
3. Bessie bakes better breakfast bread than Betty.
Anyone else? Love to have you stop in with a few of your own.

What's next? More "sound" is coming. In the next entry--tomorrow or Monday--we'll explore sound in a poem by the Father of American poetry, Walt Whitman. No, nothing as long as Leaves of Grass. It's a short poem with a multi-layered sense of sound that leaves me breathless with wonder. What a genius! Anyone know the poem? It begins, "I heard you. . ."

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Writing Fun for the Whole Family

March 25, 2009 Alliteration Day

Today's title isn't a true alliteration, but you will notice that I began two words with a "w" and three word with an "f", so I was consciously thinking about sound. You know what's coming, right? Today we are going to purposely overwrite alliteration in the form of. . .any guesses?
Give up? Tongue Twisters. Yes, dear friends and writers, we are going to write original tongue twisters. You all know this one: "Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. . ." and here's another favorite my Uncle Bob Macey taught me back when I was around ten or so: "The blue bank book blew back a block." Try saying that fast three times.

Those are a couple that should get your creative juices flowing. Get the kids involved. I bet you'll get some giggles. Now what shall I write?

I'll be back on Friday for another fun round with sound! Have fun!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Library Book Talk--March 21, 2009

Here I am signing a book for school librarian, Susan Couture, who is also an author! Susan had a rebus story "The Lost Mittens" published in "Highlights for Children" February 2009 issue. Congratulations, Susan! I'm sure you'll have many more coming.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Excellent Review from School Library Journal

March 20, 2009 Happy First Day of Spring everyone!

I'm am a beehive of activity these days, but I thought I'd take a moment to share this nice review. Here it is from School Library Journal

CLARK, Clara Gillow. Secrets of Greymoor. Bk. 3. 176p. CIP. Candlewick. 2009. Tr $15.99. ISBN 978-0-7636-3249-6. LC 2008019063. Gr 4-7–It’s 1884, and Hattie Belle Basket lives in Kingston-on-the-Hudson with her grandmother. Hortensia Greymoor’s sinking financial status is brought into sharp focus when Hattie intercepts a delinquent tax notice that she hides from her grandmother. Her grandfather had been in an insane asylum since before she was born, and died recently. When Hattie finds his encoded diary, she is sure that cracking the code can save Grandmother’s house. At the same time, Hattie has been sent to “common” school where she tries to impress her fellow students by concocting a fairy-tale existence for herself in the house on the hill. Hattie appeared in two earlier books, and her adventures have moved from rip-roaring river rafting to psychological drama. Hattie is not always likable, but she is strong, imaginative, and determined. More than a mystery or a piece of historical fiction, this story also deals with honesty, friendship, and family relations.–Kathryn Kosiorek, formerly at Cuyahoga County Public Library, Brooklyn, OH

Find Secrets of Greymoor at
Stay tuned. I'll be back on Monday with a new writing prompt using sound in a different way.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Onomatopoetics Writing Prompt

March 18, 2009

Does everyone have their list in hand of the onomatopoetic words that you heard or thought of yesterday? NO? Neither do I. I got distracted from play by e-mail and appointments. I listened to the squish of my tires, the whoosh of the wind, the beep of a horn, the low hum of my car engine, and then I forgot. I looked at the blue sky and the yellow air, brown grass, flocks of robin red-breasts hopping in the stubbled fields, the heat mirage on the road. I forgot to use my "sound" sense, and reverted to my sight sense.

Okay, if you do have your list, then use it to write a paragraph or a poem using all the words. It can make sense or it can be nonsense. It can be sad, mad, glad, or scared. But please have fun! Onomatopoeia is sound smiling even when it's being scary.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Writing Prompt

Tuesday, March 17, 2009 "Happy St. Patrick's Day"

March begins a new sort of "noisy" season with the song birds, the ducks and geese flying in from their winter homes in the south. My heart soars, too, when I see them winging over or darting from tree to tree. Their trilling, honking, quacking is joyful. There are other sounds, too--the oozing and mucking sound of mud as the ground thaws. The sound of water--the drip drop, plop, the slush sound as the snowbanks soften and cave in, the gushing sound of water in swollen streams.

I'm always saying, "Don't forget to use your senses," so let's listen for the sounds around us for a few days. But our SOUND today must be an onomatopoeia. Whenever I think of this word, those old elves from tv spring into action in my mind. I don't know if they're still on tv, but I'm sure you all know who I mean. That's right: Snap! Crackle! Pop! our Rice Krispies heroes. That's just to get you started. See how many you can discover in the course of the day. Tomorrow we'll do something special with your lively lists of onomatopoetic words.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Catching Up

Monday, March 16, 2009

We traveled to Bethlehem, PA over the weekend where I was presenting to parents and children at a local college. It was a wonderful mix of cultural backgrounds and a delightful experience. I loved the eager way the kids delved into the Readers' Theater I'd written for Hill Hawk Hattie, and enjoyed watching how absorbed they were by the "Secret Code" activity I'd planned for them to go along with the new book, Secrets of Greymoor. What a great group, and attentive listeners.

This Friday I'll be back at the Border's Bookstore in Stroudsburg, PA presenting to educators. Saturday, March 21st, I'll be at the Wayne County Public Library in Honesdale starting at 1 pm.

But stay tuned! I'll be back tomorrow with writing prompts for the dedicated writers out there! If you're here in the Northeast, I hope you'll get out and enjoy the sunshine!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Foggy Weather Writing Prompt

March 11, 2009

Like Winnie the Pooh, I woke up this morning with a little bit of fluff for brain. I looked outside. It was still dark, still raining, and the clouds had descended from the sky like a great host of formless spirits. Foggy. Fog everywhere. Fog like pea soup. Fog like, well, like the fog in Charles Dickens's Bleak House. If you don't have a copy of that book, search one out and read at least the beginning--I will forgive you if you don't read the entire book--but do look at how Dickens uses the weather to set the tone and mood of a setting. I can't help feeling that he had a great deal of fun writing about the fog, fun, perhaps, giving fog a piece of his mind, venting about the soot and smoke lowering down from chimney-pots, muddiest of mud, ill-tempers, and the fog everywhere. If you simply cannot find your copy, look for wonderful descriptions of weather in other books.

The first chapter of my Secrets of Greymoor uses weather to set the mood and the inner landscape of the characters. First there is the threat of snow, or as Hattie's wonderful tutor, Mr. Horace Bottle says, ". . .clouds do nothing but drag their bellies over us like fat, squashing gods." Then it begins to snow, "Cold white flakes were flying against the windowpane and sticking." By the end of the chapter, ". . .the snow is falling thick and fast. . ."

Today write a paragraph of description of the weather that suits whatever mood you are in, or the mood of one of your characters that describes how you/he/she are feeling inside. Use at least three of your senses--the more senses the better--and not just sight!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Writing Prompt to Lighten the Soul

March 9, 2009

This writing prompt is better than chocolate cake, better for you than cheesecake, better even than a Snickers bar, and instead of adding pounds to your hips, it'll take weight off your soul. Yes, dear friends, today is "get it all off your chest and out of your soul, lighten your load day"! Our social mores inhibit us from saying what's on our minds, but whatever you can't say aloud in public or even to your best friend, you can write down and then destroy it if you wish. So have at it. What have you wanted to say, but held back? Go wild! Don't hold back! Let it all hang out, as we used to say back in the '60's. After you've finished ranting, read back over what you've written. Did you get everything off your chest? If not, why did you hold back? Keep going then, give yourself attitude, even if you have to repeat yourself. That better? Feel lighter? I think I lost a few pounds.

Do you know of anyone who would actually rant this way? No? Can you imagine a character who would? Maybe she/he could be a character in your new story or book. It's bound to put some excellent conflict into your work. Go for it! This is your day to have your say! Have fun!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Stay Tuned!

March 7, 2009

Looks as if we're going to have a balmy weekend here in the Northeast. I saw a flock of robins yesterday and heard the red-winged blackbirds. Now, I'm off to meet a couple of good writer friends.

Sharpen your pencils and have lots of paper at the ready. I'll be back on Monday with a writing prompt you'll love!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Writing Prompt -- Something Fun

March 5, 2009

The sun is shining and I've had enough teenage angst for the week. Feel free to continue filling your cups with tear water tea the way Owl does in Owl At Home by Arnold Lobel, if you want, but have fun doing it. No matter what age group you write for, this prompt will force you to think in a different way, but I suspect that picture book folk will have the most fun. Ready? Here we go. . .

Today write a descriptive piece that shows an emotion--a short short paragraph will do--but use your opposite hand. If you're right-handed, use your left, if you're a lefty, use your right. It doesn't matter if the letters are shaky or kind of BIG or all over the place. Pay attention. Does your writing start to drift off in unexpected directions? Allow yourself to go where your hand and mind lead you. Enjoy the adventure. It may take you some place new.

In case your engines don't want to turn over this morning--it's only about 2 degrees out there--here's something to get you started. Begin with a line that could be about spring coming, but not necessarily: I hear the ice melting. . . What word picture can you conjure with language, what emotion? As always, have fun!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Writing Prompt -- Inner Angst

March 3, 2009

If you're a regular to the blog, you know that I'm working on a YA novel, bumbling along actually, but making progress, and constantly confronted with my own teenage angst. My goodness, I took myself much too seriously and was way too intense, but that's true for a lot of teens. I've lightened up, thank God. However, that old angst is a wonderful well of inspiration to drink from. This morning, let's fill our cups with teenage angst. Lucky you, if you are a teenager. Your water will be clear and fresh.

Writing Prompt based on your teenage angst: Write about your clearest memory of a time when you felt alienated, when you felt as if you didn't belong. It might have been a moment when you walked into a classroom, the way Hattie does in Secrets of Greymoor , and feel the electricity, the tension that seems to be holding everyone in the room. You can feel the crackle, the sparks of alienation. Somehow you know it's directed at you. Think about that lost sort of feeling, the feeling that you're groping your way in the dark hoping for a light that isn't yet another train coming. Recreate that moment or that time. Use your senses. What was the day like--cloudy, bright sunshine, daffodils, reds and golds of autumn leaves. What did you smell? And think about this: What did you do with your hands? How did your hands feel--clammy, dry, shaky, stiff. What was going on around you? Keep brainstorming until you have a well of sensory perceptions to draw from. Then write about it. Let it pour out of your overflowing cup.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Writing Prompt For All Ages

March 2, 2009

The March Lion is roaring around the house this morning. Back when I was in second grade, I remember learning for the first time about March being like a lamb or a lion. How extraordinary it was to think of weather or a month as an animal. How delightful. If Easter falls in March, the Easter Rabbit and chicks get added into the menagerie as well. If I could, I would change the March animals to birds--the red-winged blackbird and the robin, those beloved harbingers of spring here in the Northeast.

As I listened to the roaring lion outside this morning, I wondered why other months don't have animal names. How fun it would be to give them all a suitable animal name. So your writing prompt for the day is to give all the months an animal name or just your birthday month. Really you can choose any animals you want--animals that seem to fit the weather, your favorite animals, or animals that live in your area of the world. Then write about why you picked that animal or reptile or insect.

My son lives in Arizona, so he might pick a rattlesnake for July or August, since he often sees them during the rainy months. I think I would like a songbird for my birthday month of May, a Baltimore Oriole or Orchard Oriole, because that's when they first show up. I love to catch sight of the bright orange flickering through the maples or twittering in the apple tree outside my bedroom window. I think of orange as the color of creativity, so it's exciting when Orioles nest nearby. If you have youngsters, have fun coming up with animal names with them. For even more fun, get your pencils and crayons, paints or markers and make pictures. I can think of several kids who would have a great time doing this.