Wednesday, December 23, 2009

What Miracles Have Happened in Your Life?

What miracles have happened in your life? I'll get the magic rolling by mentioning several miracles in my life. First, falling in love with my soulmate and marrying her. Life for me could have turned out so differently and poorly had I not married Marilyn...Secondly, adopting Mary Lou was a miracle. It was meant to be. We picked her up from Catholic Charities on April 8, 1971 at 10:30 am. Exactly two years later at 10:31 April Marie was born, another miracle. Both girls were meant to be in our lives. Thirdly our oldest grandson needed a liver transplant and after a very long wait one came his way miraculously saving his life. That was four years ago. So, those are three miracles in our lives. There were more, but not quite as big as those.

The story ahead is about a miracle. You probably read it before on the Internet....This has been around for several years, but deserves, no requires, a re-issue at this happy and HOLY time of year. GOD BLESS!!

A little girl went to her bedroom and pulled a glass jelly jar from its hiding place in the closet.

She poured the change out on the floor and counted it carefully. Three times, even. The total had to be exactly perfect. No chance here for mistakes.

Carefully placing the coins back in the jar and twisting on the cap, she slipped out the back door and made her way 6 blocks to Rexall's Drug Store with the big red Indian Chief sign above the door.

She waited patiently for the pharmacist to give her some attention, but he was too busy at this moment.

Tess twisted her feet to make a scuffing noise. Nothing... She cleared her throat with the most disgusting sound she could muster. No good Finally she took a quarter from her jar and banged it on the glass counter. That did it!

'And what do you want?' the pharmacist asked in an annoyed tone of voice.. I'm talking to my brother from Chicago whom I haven't se en in ages,' he said without waiting for a reply to his question.

'Well, I want to talk to you about my brother,' Tess answered back in the same annoyed tone.. 'He's really, really sick ... and I want to buy a miracle.'

'I beg your pardon?' said the pharmacist.

'His name is Andrew and he has something bad growing inside his head and my Daddy says only a miracle can save him now. So how much does a miracle cost?'

'We don't sell miracles here, little girl. I'm sorry but I can't help you,' the pharmacist said, softening a little.

'Listen, I have the money to pay for it. If it isn't enough, I will get the rest. Just tell me how much it costs..'

The pharmacist's brother was a well dressed man He stooped down and asked the little girl, 'What kind of a miracle does your brother need?'

'I don't know,' Tess replied with her eyes welling up. I just know he's really sick and Mommy says he needs an operation... But my Daddy can't pay for it, so I want to use my money.'

'How much do you have?' asked the man from Chicago

'One dollar and eleven cents,' Tess answered barely audibly

'And it's all the money I have, but I can get some more if I need to.'

'Well, what a coincidence,' smiled he man. 'A dollar and eleven cents---the exact price of a miracle for little brothers. '

He took her money in one hand and with the other hand he grasped her mitten and said 'Take me to where you live. I want to see your brother and meet your parents. Let's see if I have the miracle you need.'

That well dressed man was Dr Carlton Armstrong, a surgeon, specializing in neuro-surgery. The operation was completed free of charge and it wasn't long until Andrew was home again and doing well.

Mom and Dad were happily talking about the chain of events that had led them to this place.

'That surgery,' her Mom whispered. 'was a real miracle I wonder how much it would have cost?'

Tess smiled. She knew exactly how much a miracle dollar and eleven the faith of a little child.

In our lives, we never know how many miracles we will need.

A miracle is not the suspension of natural law, but the operation of a higher law.

I know you'll keep the ball moving!

Here it goes. Throw it back to someone who means something to you!

A ball is a circle, no beginning, no end. It keeps us together like our Circle of Friends. But the treasure inside for you to see is the treasure of friendship you've granted to me.

Today I pass the friendship ball to you.

Pass it on to someone who is a friend to you.


When you are sad.....I will dry your tears.

When you are scared....I will comfort your fears..

When you are worried......I will give you hope.

When you are confused......I will help you cope.

And when you are lost .... And can't see the light, I shall be your beacon .... Shining ever so bright.

This is my oath ..... I pledge till the end.

Why you may ask? .... Because you're my friend.

Signed: GOD

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Do You Want to Be Famous?

Do you want to be famous? Do you want to be a famous star? On the silver screen? On stage? On TV? In what context do you want to be famous in? I really like the following poem. As for me, I want to be famous in the eyes of my wife and children. More simply, I want to to be loved like a buttonhole...



Naomi Shihab Nye

The river is famous to the fish.

The loud voice is famous to silence,

which knew it would inherit the earth

before anybody said so.

The cat sleeping on the fence is famous to the birds

watching him from the birdhouse.

The tear is famous, briefly, to the cheek.

The idea you carry close to your bosom

is famous to your bosom.

The boot is famous to the earth,

more famous than the dress shoe,

which is famous only to floors.

The bent photograph is famous to the one who carries it

and not at all famous to the one who is pictured.

I want to be famous to shuffling men

who smile while crossing streets,

sticky children in grocery lines,

famous as the one who smiled back.

I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,

or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,

but because it never forgot what it could do.

From Words Under the Words: Selected Poems (Portland, Oregon: Far Corner Books, 1995).

Copyright © 1995 by Naomi Shihab Nye.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Not Me!

Poets need lots of rest so that they can reflect on the human condition, daydream about making life better, and challenge their grandkids in wii. But they don't nap. This is not me. I don't care what you say. This is not me. It's not even a poor sketch of me. I have more hair...I think...My belly isn't quite that round. My glasses aren't perfectly round.  I don't nap. I don't snore. This in not me. I am not in denial. This is not me. Did I tell you? This is not me. I get a solid eight hours of sleep every night. I kid you not. This is not me. I don't nap. I hardly ever get up in the middle of the night and go to the bathroom. I have an awesome bladder. I sleep like a rock because I don't nap. I don't own a rocking chair. My wife does. She owns a Lincoln rocker. I own a recliner. But I don't nap...zzz....zzz...zzz...zzz...zzz...zzz...zzz...zzz...zzz...

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

We Are Born with Wings

"Each of us was born with wings and has the ability to go farther than we ever thought possible, to do things beyond our wildest imaginings" 

Barbara Stanny

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Drop Crayons on Them!

Okay, I am driving along and I see a bumpersticker that says, "Make Bread, Not War." I thought that was clever. I think Robert Fulghum has the right idea too. What follows almost sounds like a prose poem. I love the imagery too...Yes, this sould be the next secret weapon of choice... "Maybe we should develop a Crayola bomb as our next secret weapon. A happiness weapon. A beauty bomb. And every time a crisis developed, we would launch one. It would explode high in the air - explode softly - and send thousands, millions, of little parachutes into the air. Floating down to earth - boxes of Crayolas. And we wouldn't go cheap, either - not little boxes of eight. Boxes of sixty-four, with the sharpener built right in. With silver and gold and copper, magenta and peach and lime, amber and umber and all the rest. And people would smile and get a little funny look on their faces and cover the world with imagination."

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Book Festival (Part Three--About Gratitude)

"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow."  That quote by Melody Beattie is one of my top ten favorites.

The Rochester Children's Book Festival feels like "home" to me because I have been there a number of times at my assigned table striving to get readers more interested in poetry and the ten-year-old inside me that writes poetry.

I feel very grateful to all those that contributed to this marvelous event, especially Sibby Falk, Kathy Biasi, MJ, Christine Horton, Natisha LaPierre and many Dedicated Volunteers, and many more unsung heroes of The Day. We were all showered on that Saturday  with sunshine, energetic readers, and happy adults. Those six hours at the festival were action packed with many memorable moments. For me, as indicated in "Part One", I meeting my personal writing hero, Steven Kellogg, who I first me in 1978 while he visited a school in the area. But my love for his books and my two daughters love for them didn't end there. When such talented writers and illustrators create a large body of work (like Steven), it is such a blessing! I am grateful to him and others like him who are both prolific and immensely creative. Our RACWI group is bursting proudly with many members that fit that description.

I am also thankful for the girl (about ten-years-old) who pointed to the two books on my table Waiting to See the Principal and Other Poems and Picture Poetry on Parade! And then she said, "I have this one and this one, and the one that's not on the table!" (The one not on the table--Bathroom Vacation--is out of print.) After that she ran off, leaving me with a moment to treasure.

Vivain Vande Velde is a member who I treasure because I first met her at my first children's book festival in 1999 sponsored by the Democrat and Chronicle on the grounds of the Memorial Art Gallery. I was happily selling my first book Bathroom Vacation under a large tent and encouraging the book lovers to read at least one poem along the way. If they did, 50% of the time they chose to purchase the book. This didn't go unnoticed by Vivian who was stationed nearby. After greetings were exchanged, she asked me if I would like to attend the Rochester Children's Book Festival which she was in charge of. Of course, I was over-joyed at that possibility, and I have been a member ever since. Besides being the person to ask any question about publishing, she is creative, prolific, funny, and charming. And she always shares a flood of photos from the festival--organized and labeled like a storyboard. Thank you, Vivian. You're quite an asset to the RACWI organization!

I also need to thank the Purple Balloon Lady, Debra Ross, and her helpers for making the day extra special for all our visitors. And, if you're not getting her weekly KOA newsletter, you're missing out on how much fun the Rochester area can be. And as RACWI' s special promoter, you're missing out on promoting what you do as an author or illustrator. In addition to her newsletter, promoting, writing, and being a wonderful mom, she is an excellent critic and editor. I certainly value what she has to say about poetry and writing in general. She can even make dreams come true such as reading your poetry on the radio! So you can sign up right here...

I have one more quote for you. It's from Albert Einstein, "There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle."

I would consider it a small miracle if you signed up to be one of my "followers." Why would you want to do something like that? This blog isn't just about poetry. I am a former teacher, but I haven't lost my class forever. I love to perform poetry. I will come to any class for free in the Monroe County area, and I'll leave them laughing. After nine years of not teaching daily, I miss the kids and the ambience of the classroom. So the more people that know how eager I am to spread poetry, the more I will be sharing the joy of poetry. Poetry for kids is win-win.

At night I periodically share whatever I have learned during the present 24 hours right here. The more followers that I have, the more likely I will write at night before or even during the Charlie Rose Show.

It’s important for you to read this blog now and then because I need to write and find out what I know. That might sound a bit self-centered. But I am sure Anne Lamott agrees with me. She says, "We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are. Sheep lice do not seem to share this longing, which is one reason why they write so little."

According to Bonnie Friedman, "Successful writers are not the ones who write the best sentences. They are the ones who keep writing. They are the ones who discover what is most important and strangest and most pleasurable in themselves, and keep believing in the value of their work, despite the difficulties."

If I stumble across any golden writing nuggets, I’ll share them here first with you!

We are better than sheep lice.

Joe Sottile

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Book Festival (Part Two) Bookworm Place

When I walked into One Busy Bookworm Place, it was just that--busy, busy busy at various round tables. I thought perhaps I had already missed the bus, but it the back of the room there was rectangular table put together in the shape of an "L". And I was escorted to that area. I declined using a microphone, and I plugged in my "poetry performance" voice. About 12-15 kids were soon tearing one piece of paper into four smaller sheets to write a mini-version of "Truths and Lies." Kids always take the tearing of the paper very very seriously. I have to warn them not to worry about how rectangular the slabs of paper look. But there is a part of me that enjoys how serious they look about the easiest part of their creation.

We then wrote about what we "want" and what we "love." The kids did it willingly, wondering what I would ask next. They now had two good poetry lines expressing their feeling and both started with "I". I told that they had just written a piece of "non-fiction"--that is, "non-false" writing. And poets and writers do that all the time, but the real fun is writing "fiction"--lies. I reassured the group that fiction writers do that all the time. So, consequently, it was okay for them to do that today. All of a sudden fireworks were going off in their eyes and they started writing as fast as they could. It was fun to lie about something that they really didn't want or love. Then they placed their one sentence slabs of paper in any order that they liked to complete their poems. Now they were two-thirds through with the poetry workshop. The best part was saved for last.

I said something like this, "The best part of writing a poem is sharing it with others. Who wants to be the first one to read your poem. Remember you're SAFE! Nobody knows for sure what lines are true or false--unless you tell them. " I immediately was rewarded with some brave souls willing to share their slant on the world, and I had five minutes left to let as many as possible share. How did I know for sure how much time I had left? A volunteer walked by with a sign saying "You have 5 more minutes...and then the Earth will split open and you will fall into molten lava." Okay, I am kidding about the last part of  the sign. I just wanted to see if you were paying attention. What follows are my young poets sharing their poems, and I was rather proud of them for being brave poets. They were execellent at sharing their poems. And it was fun working with them. On this sunny day they were sharing their own inner light.

Don't these kids look confident and proud? They did a wonderful job writing and performing their poetry. All I can say or scream is "BRAVO! BRAVO! BRAVO!"

And thank you to Natisha LaPierre for being there to help.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

About the Book Festival (Part One)

I enjoyed the book festival very much. What in particular? It was a gorgeous, sunny day and all seemed right with the world. With the sun shining brightly it felt like Spring, not Fall. I couldn't wait to get my books set up on my half of my table, and circulate among the authors and illustrators before the crowd came scampering in.

Of course, I couldn't wait to see Steven Kellogg. When I did see him coming up the stairs, I had to hold myself back from charging up to him and introducing myself. I decided to be "mature" regardless of my propeller hat. I waited until he settled in at his table with a hot coffee cup at arm's reach and then I raced over to his table

Steven was busy the rest of the morning and afternoon signing books and adding charming graphics before actually signing each book. He was too busy for me to tell exactly how much his books meant to me as an elementary teacher and later as a parent of two girls. We loved his books, especially his illustrations. Besides being totally enchanted by The Island of the Skog, Can I Keep Him? was another big hit with me. The kids and I really liked the repetition in the story and the amazing illustrations. Years ago, when I tutored children at the RIT's Learning Development Center, I used a number of Steven's books.
When I left to do a writing workshop in the One Busy Bookworm Place, I also left my buddy, Chet Fery, behind to man the counter. He did an excellent job of spreading the word about "Silly" Sottile, and he sold a good number of books in my absence. Chet is outstanding at making friends and networking with others. I didn't worry about the "store" at all while I was gone making new friends on the first floor at MCC. It's wonderful to have friends like Chet that you can count on! I am a very blessed person. This shall be continued tomorrow.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Steven Kellogg Comes to Town! (Part One) Steven!

If you don't already know, Steven Kellogg is my all-time favorite children's author. He has illustrated/published over 90 books. I first met him when he was a young author at the first school that I taught at in 1978. As the years rolled by, I bought a number of his books and shared them with my class and two daughters. It all started with The Island of the Skog for us. And I was smart enough as an elementary teacher to read picture books to my students, no matter what grade I was teaching that year—from grades 2-6.

Steven Kellogg defined a “magic book” as when the text combines with the illustrations in a way that was totally balanced, woven together like a magical carpet which sweeps the reader away on an imaginative journey. His books did that for my students, children, and many others.

So it was great fun seeing him at the 2009 Rochester Children’s Book Festival meeting people and signing books. He actually drew, as per usual, a mini-picture on every book he signed and smiled cheerfully at each person he met. I can only imagine what kind of cramps he had in his writing hand after that. He signed books for six straight hours with one major "break." He did a show for 30 minutes where he drew poster board illustrations of his latest book for an adoring audience!

Did we get a chance to talk? I briefly talked to him before he started signing books, when the crowd hadn’t yet formed. I happily asked a passerby to take the photo which is posted with this blog.

His face has "weathered" the years, but he looks like a Greek god to me. Just add the robe. What do you think?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Island of the Skog and More!

As many of you know, the 2009 Children’s Book Festival is this Saturday at Monroe Community College. The RACWI group is trying to get the word out that "This wonderful family event gives children the opportunity to meet many award winning top children’s authors and illustrators.The festival has activities suitable for children of all ages including author and illustrator presentations, picture book readings, workshops, arts and crafts, the Read to Me dogs from Lollypop Farm, Star Wars costumers plus hundreds of books to browse in The Mall."

As I was Internet surfing during the final World Series game, I read about the events on KOA newsletter, a superb newsletter about the upcoming events for kid produced by Debra Ross, and I screamed with joy, "OMG!" I can't believe that I will have the pleasure of seeing Steven Kellogg! He was the first children's book author that I ever met! He came to my school, which is now Hope Hall in Gates, and illustrated on poster paper ISLAND OF THE SKOG for the audience, as he told the story from memory.

He wore a powder blue jacket and he seemed to have enjoyed himself. Of course he was young then, just like me. And I promised myself that someday I would be reading to kids too from beyond my classroom.

I befriended Steven. That is to say, I talked to him and wrote him. He wrote me a very long letter in handwriting about getting published. (Computers were not popular yet.) I have the letter in the archives. He also visited my school another time too, before it was closed in 1980.

I will be standing tall next to him for a photo opportunity on Saturday. I can’t wait to see him again and an amazing crowd (4,000+ strong!) of children’s book lovers. It's not back to the future, but it is back seeing a fantastic author and man, Steven Kellogg. Of course, that's him in the above photo and below. We all had more hair back then.

He wore a powder blue jacket and he seemed to have enjoyed himself. We were young then. And I promised myself that someday I would be reading to kids too from beyond my classroom.

I befriended Steven. That is to say, I talked to him and wrote him. He wrote me a very long letter in handwriting about getting published. (Computers were not popular yet.) I have the letter in the archives. He also visited my school another time too, before it was closed in 1980.

I will be standing tall next to him for a photo opportunity on Saturday. I can’t wait to see him again and an amazing crowd (4,000+ strong!) of children’s book lovers!!!

It feels terrific to have come full circle from teacher in awe of authors to being one at one of the best festivals in the country! I am very happy and thankful for that. I am grateful to many people for all of this.

That topic would make a good blog...

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Box of Books (Poem & More)

Forgive me, but I am going to set this poem up for you. Two years ago, I was waiting for my special delivery books to arrive for the Rochester Children's Book Festival held early in November every year. I couldn't wait to open the box and bring the self-published poems to the festival the next day. Lori Aman (painter/ cartoonist/artist/friend) had drawn wonderful sketches for each poem. At best, previous readers had compared PICTURE POETRY ON PARADE! to the work of Shel Silverstein. We hoped they thought the same for WAITING TO SEE THE PRINCIPAL AND OTHER POEMS.

I was going nuts waiting because there was a chance they wouldn't come, and I would have no new book. So to curb my insanity I took out a yellow legal pad and a pencil, and I started to write about my ordeal of waiting. I purposely made it long because I remember a very long poem in Marlo Thomas' FREE TO BE YOU AND ME about "Housework" that I thought was delightfully long and boring, just like housework. And I used the "and" numerous times in the following poem to drag it out in what I  hope is a pleasant way. Some writers might even say I used that monster word "a lot" of times.

My books did come, and I signed and sold 40 of them at the book festival the next day, but you probably already guessed that. Here's the poem...

A Box of Books

~ Joe Sottile

A box of books will arrive today.
The air is cold and crisp.
The skies are sunny and clear.
But it’s below 50 degrees.
I rake and rake because…

A box of books will arrive today
and I must keep busy-busy so that
I don’t spend every second dwelling
on the contents of that box
that the UPS truck will bring.

A box of books will arrive today
with a feeling of Christmas tucked inside
and gifts galore from floor to ceiling,
but this box contains the same present
again and again, 25 in all.

A box of books will arrive today
and I can’t wait to rip open the box
and run my fingers over each one.
I just hope the truck isn’t late
and day doesn’t turn into night.

A box of books will arrive today
if I am patient and steadfast.
And then I'll be ready for the book festival
at the local community college
with 48 illustrators and authors.

A box of books will arrive today,
and there will be more than 400 books to browse
at the College Center, including mine,
if only it arrives on time.
I am patiently waiting, patiently waiting.

A box of books will arrive today,
which will be my golden key
to the Rochester Children’s Book Festival
and all of the amazing hands-on events.
I want my picture with Clifford's Big Red Dog.

A box of books will arrive today.
It is getting kind of late.
The kid inside of me is worried.
The sun Is sinking into the horizon.
Where is that Big Brown Truck?

A box of books will arrive today,
but I am in the bathroom getting stomach medicine
instead of creating stacks of colorful leaves.
What is that I hear rumbling up the driveway?
To the window I run! To window I run!

A box of books has arrived today!
“Thank God! Thank God!"

I will get my books.
I will hug this man.
I will thank him for his speedy delivery.
Now I have a new book for my readers!
A new book! A new book! Hurrah!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Where Is Your Haven?

Where is your escape from the real world? Your shelter? Your retreat? Your piece of heaven? Your personal haven?

I know where my wife’s haven is? It actually has two addresses. One is in Orlando Florida, and the other is Oak Island, North Carolina. She loves Disney World. Marilyn feels like a little kid there, full of wonder and excitement for all that’s there—from the colorful characters to the fireworks that light up the sky at night. That’s her idea of a vacation, or the real world at home where the laundry gathers and bills mount. She even likes to take me with her on excursions to Disney. Even though Tigger is rather hyperactive, I don’t mind taking a picture with Tigger and my happy wife.
If she can’t be at Disney World, then the next best place is Oak Island. The first time we stayed at Oak Island it was at a “cottage” that was right on the ocean. The land itself had to be worth over a million dollars. We felt “rich” staying there. We had lots of room, sunlight, and ocean. Our five grandkids visited us for part of our stay. We all had a grand time. We treasured our time together and took lots of photos, but I will spare you the family album. But the time certainly flew by at the sea.

Where’s my haven? My haven has a number of different addresses—performing poetry for kids at schools and libraries; golfing on my favorite golf course; biking on my road bike along the Erie Canal; eating my bluffin at Hess Express; sitting in my den near the gas stove; writing in my den while time flies; being part of a lively writing workshop or book festival; reclining on my recliner; watching a fascinating TV drama; digging into a slippery bucket of salty popcorn at Tinseltown, and watching events unfold on the big screen.
Where was Charles Dickens’ haven? (I thought you would never ask.) It was in Cowsville. I kid you not. He admitted that “Cows are my passion. What I have ever sighed for has been to retreat to a Swiss farm, and live entirely surrounded by cows and china.”

So where is your haven beyond daily chores and worries? Please tell my readers in the comment space. I sure would like to know. I'll leave you with a photo of our first beach house that we stayed at...

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Kids on An Instant Vacation with Silly Sottile

The above photo was taken on the cafeteria floor at Florence Brasser Elementary School in Chili, New York. The kids are enjoying an instant vacation with "Silly Sottile." What's an instant vacation?

Milton Berle said that “Laugher is an instant vacation.” I think he’s right. And according to, we need to laugh at least 12 times a day to remain healthy. Here are a few laughs from one of their clever books, Laughter Is An Instant Vacation…

“Insanity doesn’t run In my family. It gallops.” –Cary Grant

As a parent, my wife and I have one thing in common. We’re both afraid of our children.”—Bill Cosy

“I am not going to vacuum until Sears has one that I can ride.”—Roseanne Barr

“Guests, like fish begin to smell after three days.”—Ben Franklin

“All mothers have intuition. The great ones have radar.”—Kathy Guisewite

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Write a Caption for Silly Sottile?!?

On Tuesday of this week I had the honor of recording three of my poems at the WXXI Radio Station. Poems and stories by various authors in the Rochester Area Children's Writers and Illustrators group (RACWI) are being used to promote the November 7th's book festival at MCC. It was fun and exciting to record poetry in front of a big microphone, eight stories up in downtown Rochester. The view behind me was amazing--highways, bridges, skyscrappers, and distant walkways.

So how did my little photo shoot turn out. Well, you can be the judge of the above one. Give it a caption in the comment section. It's okay to be funny, silly, serious, sarcastic, or whatever. I have one that I thought was a riot, but I don't want to influence you. Go ahead, take a shot at it! Thanks ahead of time!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Just A Moment

Some short poems are like snapshots that capture moments in time. This poem is like a short video that carries the viewer down a school hall around noon, and it's true as written...

Just A Moment

While carrying copies of our latest poetry book

to my colleague and illustrator,

I race down the hall to the back of the school,

hoping that she’s eating lunch in her room.

My heart is pounding with delight,

my visitor’s tag is flapping in the breeze.

Sweat is beading on my forehead,

and rolling into my left eye. It burns.

I cannot wait to show this gifted artist

how well her illustrations turned out

in our third poetry book for kids.

I know that she will be ecstatic.

But I slow down as I approach her room

and peek into another teacher’s room—

one whom I admired for her teaching ideas,

zest in teaching, and sensitivity to others.

Some would call her a “mover and shaker.”

I call her passionate, professional, and perky.

Some kids near the door are chanting repeatedly,

“Someone is at the door! Someone is at the door!”

As I open the door and stroll through,

I say, “Someone silly is here”—hoping the kids

will laugh and enjoy the moment.

And I take a close look at Ms. Perky.

I see this former cheerleader, valedictorian,

and 3rd grade team member hunched over her desk,

looking shorter than I used to remember her.

Retirement is not too far off for her.

Suddenly I am blinded by the reasons I left

teaching public school—teaching for the test,

test mandates, district goals, building goals, and

personal goals that were not that personal.

I stumble toward Ms. Perky who is rooted

at her desk with one student seated nearby,

while the rest of the class pretends to do math,

as they eyeball me clutching ten poetry books.

She tells me that her son’s college roommate

had me in elementary school as a teacher

(in this same room that we are in now),

and he discovered the love of writing here.

I am surprised by this wonderful compliment

that seems to have come out of leftfield.

So I simply say, “Invite me in to do poetry.”

Winking I add, “Give yourself a poetry break.”

I don’t hear cheers for a poetry visit

from a tired and gray Ms. Perky,

but the boy at the table says,

“How much is your book?”

Ms. Perky launches instant dart eyes at him,

yet they bounce off of his rubber face

and he says, “I have money in my lunch bag.”

Ms. Perky ignores the outspoken student.

She says, “Yes, I should.” But she won’t.

Poetry is a marginal activity.

And there are tests to be taken,

and benchmarks to be met.

Friday, September 18, 2009

A Poem

I feel a rush of joy when I discover a poem that speaks to me. I especially like quotations or poems about the writing process. Here’s one that I recently discovered…

A Poem                                          

By John Travers Moore

A poem must be waited,

Not sought after,


Not worried about,

Written spontaneously,

Not over-worked,

But built with enthusiasm,

Not despair,

Created for self

Not neighbor

Filled with music

Not studied cadence—

It makes its own rules

By it is own right

Whether in a pattern

Or on a new trail.

But a above all,

A poem must be demanded by itself.

Copyright 1971 from Poems: On Writing Poetry

Libra Publishers, Inc, page 19

John Travers Moore's poetry has appeared in the New York Times, Saturday Evening Post, Good Housekeeping, Horn Book, Child Life, among other publications.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Must-Have-Book!

My friend is out with a new book. Read all about it!!!

If They Don’t Learn the Way You Teach, Teach Them the Way They Learn is a must-read book for all elementary teachers. It is written for teachers and by a terrific teacher. If you were fortunate enough to have Mrs. Mc Taggart as a teacher, she would have brought out the best in you as a learner and as a person. As you read the book, which is chockfull of suggestions, encouragement, recommendations, and real life teaching stories, Mrs. Mc Taggart’s gifts as a teacher become rather apparent. And if you couldn’t have her for a teacher, I can see you begging the principal in June to assign your child to her class. Fortunately, she is able to write about her role as dynamic teacher in a way that is informative and entertaining.

Mrs. Mc Taggart is retired from everyday classroom activities after forty-two glorious years in the classroom. She is now an advocate for increasing literacy wherever she goes. Her major goal is to transform reluctant readers into avid readers. She does this by operating an interactive Website; mentoring educators; conducting reading and writing workshops, and speaking at IRA conferences.

Now she has created a book about teaching that offers hands-on activities—from “chair bags” to graphic novels--that will encourage kids to become more active readers. I love Chapter 7, “Just One More Chapter—Please!” When you have kids begging that you read more to them, you know that you are doing something right in the classroom. It reminded me my days as a teacher reading Judy Blume’s TALES OF A FOURTH GRADE NOTHING to my class. My students always wanted another chapter, and they would be “extra good” if I rewarded them at the end of the day with one more chapter. Of course, this book is on Mrs. Mc Taggart’s reading list (page 115) for you with many other gems.

Mrs. Mc Taggart doesn’t let grass grow under her feet. She keeps abreast with changing tides of educational trends through magazines, newspapers, and most importantly by meeting hundreds of teachers at conferences and in schools who “keep me up to date on new materials, new Websites and new methods.”

So here you have a book that will inspire kids to read and write more as they journey from one grade level to the next. And best of all, Mrs. Mc Taggart will make you laugh aloud along the way with her sense of humor and non-pretentiousness. Mrs. Mc Taggart has retired, but she has not loss her class.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Very Punny! LOL!

I hope you enjoyed the graphic on this page. Is that a typical picture of a poet or what? Give me a break! I found it amusing. It's not exactly what I see in the mirror in the morning. What I see in the morning scares me, so my first goal of the day--after putting my feet on the rug--is to avoid all mirrors, if possible. Just assume that my remaining hair is reasonably straight and my buttons are closed. My friend Chet is good at telling me whether or not I am having a wardrobe malfunction. These people like Chet are worth their weight in gold, aren't they?

Just today at Dunkin Donuts Chet pointed out some coke stains on my tan sweater. What an all-seeing eye he has. Or does he have two eyes like that? We could increase the employment rate if he hired people for the Wardrobe Malfunction Police. Yeah, Chet could become the new Czar. Yeah, Czar Chet, that's the ticket! He actually pays all of his taxes, so Obama could appoint him without worry. Sounds like a plan.

Now, let's get serious and talk about children's poets, humor, and monster riddles. I think that a children's poet needs a good sense of humor. I have never been accused of NOT having a good sense of humor. I loved to make puns in the teacher's lunchroom. Of course, there were a number of teachers that did NOT like hearing puns at lunch. (I used to wonder a little if they liked kids or not.) Yet, if you're a writer, aren't puns fun? And, if you're a teacher, don't you want to share puns and riddles with your students? Ah, in October, I used to post a Monster Riddle every day on the board for the kids to figure out before the bell rang. Where do monsters live? In Vampire State Building. What do monsters like to eat? Lady Fingers. And so on...Here come 18 Puns for your reading pleasure. About time, right?

I was sent these puns awhile ago via the Internet, author unkown.

Life’s A Great Adventure

1. A bicycle can't stand on its own because it is two-tired.

2. What's the definition of a will? (It's a dead giveaway).

3. A backwards poet writes inverse.

4. She had a boyfriend with a wooden leg, but broke it off.

5. A chicken crossing the road is poultry in motion.

6. If you don't pay your exorcist you get repossessed.

7. When a clock is hungry it goes back four seconds.

8. A grenade thrown into a kitchen in France would result in Linoleum Blownapart.

9. You feel stuck with your debt if you can't budge it.

10. A lot of money is tainted. It taint yours and it taint mine.

11. A boiled egg in the morning is hard to beat.

12. He had a photographic memory that was never developed.

13. The short fortuneteller who escaped from prison was a small medium at large.

14. Those who get too big for their britches will be exposed in the end.

15. When an actress saw her first strands of gray hair she thought she'd dye.

16. Bakers trade bread recipes on a knead to know basis.

17. Acupuncture is a jab well done.

18. Marathon runners with bad footwear suffer the agony of defeat.

May the Muse be with you!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Baking Friendships

This photo of my friend Chet and I was taken at the Rochester Children's Book Festival not too long ago. And the following poem is about friendship. Each letter spells out a quality of friendship. As I read it for the first time, I realized that it spelled out exactly what my friend Chet is like. Chet is one of the Good Guys who has many positive qualities and skills. Among Chet's skills is the ability to bake yummy bread. He loves baking bread and giving it out freely to family, friends, and even strangers. But once he gives you a loaf of bread you are no longer strangers to one another. The yeast in his bread encourages many new friendships for him. And throughout each month he delivers loaves of bread wherever he goes with a great big smile. This ABC poem personifies many of Chet's personality qualities. Thank you Chet for your friendship and keeping me on your delivery list. (Don't forget to read the poem below.)

The Alphabet of Friendship

Absolutely supportive of you
Beautiful on the inside
Caring and thoughtful
Delightful and charming
Excellent company
Fun to be around
Good natured
Happy to spend time with you
Interested in all that you do
Jolly and fun loving
Keen and sharp - they can tell you what mood in you are in just by looking at your face
Loveable and full of compassion
Marvellous at seeing the best in you
Nice when it comes to your needs
Openly honest with you
Positive about the good that of you do in your life
Quick to comfort you when you are down
Reliable and there for you at all times
Sweet and engaging
Terrific in lots of very special ways
Understanding of how you feel
Very kind to you when you are sad
Wonder and amazing in the counsel they offer you
Xtra special to you when you least expect it
Young at heart Zippy at helping you out

Author Unknown

Friday, September 11, 2009

I Now Pronounce You, "Man and Wife!"

Now I have a surprise for you, so please read on. Marilyn and I attended two weddings this summer; our nieces were getting married on both sides of our family. The weather was warm and the skies were clear. Both the bride and groom showed up for each wedding, always a good thing. The reception for one wedding (Megan & Drew) was across from the Hudson River with the Mid-Hudson Bridge in the distance. The other wedding was at a Golf Resort in York, PA, with a golf course in the background. Everything, of course, was memorable from the nuptial mass to the cutting of the cake. But if I had to pick one thing from Emily's wedding it would be the vows. Their vows were poetry to everyone's ears. They were beautiful, personal and original. You had to be there to really appreciate them.
As for the wedding of Emily and Ryan, if I had to pick one very special aspect that I had never seen done before, it was that the bride and groom thanked everyone for witnessing their marriage as they left the pew, not as they entered the back of the church or on the steps of the church.

As for the surprise, that's Bill Clinton with the straw or canvas hat on in the middle of Drew and Megan. You probably figured that out already. They ran into Bill on their windy honeymoon in Bermuda. All I can say is small world, eh? And, oh yes, "Bill could you squeeze Megan a little less?"

Want to Blog More?

At night I usually put my laptop on my lap and surf for interesting stuff about writing, books, poetry, and politics, while watching the Yankees or a political program. I don’t like multi-tasking, but at my age I do it all the time. Why? Because I feel like I am running out of time to publish a runaway popular book. (One of my writing heroes died not so long ago, John Updike. So I know that I am not going to live forever.)

I am choosey about how I spend my time. And I love to run off and play 9-holes of golf—sun, sky, trees, and green carpeted grass. What more could you ask for? Maybe a Joe Clone. Joe Clone could do all the mundane things that I strive to avoid. Just ask my wife about my avoidance tactics.

Anyway, I don’t blog very much and I should. If I did, I might have a little audience of readers which would encourage me more to write on a more regular basis. What is there to write about? Everything! And that’s the problem. It seems like all those bloggers out there in Blogger Land, which is bigger than Alaska, are already writing about everything. How can I come up with a special voice and slant?

Guess what? I found out today how I can be special—or at least more interesting in my writing. And I am going to share that source with you now. You will find 21 ideas that encourage you to be a more interesting writer, and each one is explained in a simple, succinct paragraph with marvelous examples.

I think that I used numbers 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 11?, and 13 in writing this. It came naturally. But knowing about them ahead of time helps. Please let me know what you think about the coppyblogger site.
I may blog and share more often.At night I usually put my laptop on my lap and surf for interesting stuff about writing, books, poetry, and politics, while watching the Yankees or a political program. I don’t like multi-tasking, but at my age I do it all the time. Why? Because I feel like I am running out of time to publish a runaway popular book. (One of my writing heroes died not so long ago, John Updike. So I know that I am not going to live forever.)
I am choosey about how I spend my time. And I love to run off and play 9-holes of golf—sun, sky, trees, and green carpeted grass. What more could you ask for? Maybe a Joe Clone. Joe Clone could do all the mundane things that I strive to avoid. Just ask my wife about my avoidance tactics.

Anyway, I don’t blog very much and I should. If I did, I might have a little audience of readers which would encourage me more to write on a more regular basis. What is there to write about? Everything! And that’s the problem. It seems like all those bloggers out there in Blogger Land, which is bigger than Alaska, are already writing about everything. How can I come up with a special voice and slant?

Guess what? I found out today how I can be special—or at least more interesting in my writing. And I am going to share that source with you now. You will find 21 ideas that encourage you to be a more interesting writer, and each one is explained in a simple, succinct paragraph with marvelous examples.

Please let me know what you think about the coppyblogger site.

I may blog more often. You may blog more often after reading copyblogger.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Here are three quotes that I like a lot...

A loving person lives in a loving world. A hostile person lives in a hostile world. Everyone you meet is your mirror. ~Ken Keyes

We do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us something is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch. e.e. cummings

Certain people come into your life and an innate instinct kicks in, telling you that it was meant to be, that some divine purpose is at work.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Sunshine On My Shoulders

While watching a taped concert of John Denver for the third time on WXXI, I was feeling rather nostalgic. I loved his music. I have several of his albums.I play them in the car and in my writing den. So I was wondering about his plane crash. I did a little research on the Internet. I discovered that God really wanted John with Him in Heaven because John was a rather experienced pilot. Research on the accident strongly suggests that John's hand hit the wrong button and he went into a dive on taking off that he could not correct.

John Denver was an amazing singer and performer. There are many singers, artists, and writers that strive to be like John: amazing and entertaining. And we are all trying to communicate the same thing, just like he is quoted as saying:

“My purpose in performing is to communicate the joy I experience in living.”

Knowing our purpose in life makes for a poetic life one way or another.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Break Through!

I really enjoy collecting quotes. I started as a very young writer by writing down quotes from Reader's Digest that was delivered to my parent's household. Here is one by Robert Penn Warren:

"Insofar as writing goes, the writer's fundamental attempt is to understand the meaning of his own experiences. If he can't break through to those issues that concern him deeply, he's not going to be very good."

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

From the Internet: What Kids Have Learned

1) No matter how hard you try, you can't baptize cats.

2) When your Mum is mad at your Dad, don't let her brush your hair.

3) If your sister hits you, don't hit her back. They always catch the second person.

4) Never ask your 3-year old brother to hold a tomato.

5) You can't trust dogs to watch your food.

6) Don't sneeze when someone is cutting your hair.

7) Never hold a Dust-Buster and a cat at the same time.

8) You can't hide a piece of broccoli in a glass of milk.

9) Don't wear polka-dot underwear under white shorts.

10) The best place to be when you're sad is Grandpa's lap..

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Get a Great Writing Newsletter for Free!

Donna is a special lady. She has a passion for writing and sharing what she knows about writing. I had the pleasure of meeting her at a writing conference a few years ago. She is offering a FREE newsletter, “Write What Inspires You”. It contains an author interview a book review, writers’ accomplishments, testimonials, and writing contests.

According to Donna’ s website, she “…is a native of Rockland County, New York and lives with her husband and two daughters. She writes, moms, and is a personal assistant from her home in Tappan. Donna is a 2007 graduate of the Institute of Children’s Literature, Writing for Children and Teenagers program and as of January 1, 2009, Donna is the Marketing Manager at Stories for Children Magazine. She is also a member of "Musing Our Children".

Go sign up for your FREE newsletter at You will enjoy this publication!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Never Give Up!

As I sit down to write, I think about how I want my words to matter and resonate with readers. As my laptop grabs my new document file and I settle down in my recliner with a zero calorie beverage, I start to think about what I might say to writers and others about writing. When an author usually thinks of an audience, he or she probably thinks of a “packed house” with standing room only, 400 or 500 people—perhaps a little less.

My blog audience is more like four or five friends that are full of compassion for a struggling writer. Perhaps they are more like a cult group, hoping that their alliegance to me might make the world a little better place. I would hate to disappoint them.

Lately I have been disappointing them. My fingers have been disappearing into the Internet instead of writing poems and stories. Fear of rejection has been haunting me. My time seems better spent promoting projects that I have already written. I just don’t want to waste my time. Forget about gluing my butt to my desk chair and start writing again. Forget about fighting the good fight, which suddenly reminds me of “Rocky.”

I loved the last “Rocky” movie, “Rocky Balboa”. If in case you think that I am dropping my theme of “enlightenment”, please hang in there until you hear the bell ring twice. Now and then I zoom the controls to my recorded copy of the movie to the 101 minutes marker where Rocky tells his son off for blaming him for the unhappiness in his life. The first thing Rocky says is, “I remember when I could hold you up in one hand like this…”

Upon hearing that I first wondered, “Where the heck are you going with this Rocky? You are starting to sound punch drunk like a babbling old man.” He tells his son he was born a beautiful baby with the whole world ahead of him, and that he loved him more than anything on Earth. Then he says, “Somewhere along the way you lost your way… And when life knocks you down, the secret is to get up again and again, and keep on moving forward, no matter how hard you get hit.” Rocky finishes his pep talk by saying, “I will always love you no matter what. Visit your mother.”

This is Stallone’s best movie. The script is lean and fresh. Stallone doesn’t just play “Rocky”. He is Rocky in this movie from beginning to end. Throughout the movie there are interesting twists, turns, and surprises. There are only 8 minutes of boxing in the movie, yet the critics loved the movie.


Critics hated the movie “Peaceful Warrior” starring Nick Nolte. They disliked how the script hit you over the head with its obvious message again and again. Regardless of that, I liked what the movie had to say and I liked seeing Nick play a good guy. What did he have to say about iife? Here are a few lines, “A warrior does not give up what he loves, Dan. He finds love in what he does. Life is choice. You can choose to be a victim or anything you want…It’s the journey that counts, not the destination.” Don’t we need to be reminded of that now and then?

I think that’s what all writers need to remember: it’s the journey that counts, not book sales or literary awards. Don’t let the rejections beat you down. Just get up again from your chair and send your best manuscript out again and again. You can choose to be determined or not. You can blame the editors who pass over your work or you can decide to never give up, and enjoy the journey. You can step back in the ring, just like Rocky.

I just did.

“Bong! Bong!”