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See more posts at Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life

In early September, my middle daughter gave birth to precious Thomas. She asked me, and I quickly agreed to travel with her to Monroe in North Louisiana for a leadership program meeting with the Louisiana Tourism Association. She is still on maternity leave, but she didn’t want to miss this meeting. What’s more important than being grandma? So I took a few days off to go with her.

I thought I would be stuck in a hotel room, that I may get some reading, writing, and lesson planning done. I was pleasantly surprised by a park connected to the parking lot of the hotel. With the baby in the stroller, we headed out to the trail.

The beauty of this fall day greeted me with a cool breeze and sunlight through the trees.

Red spider lilies dotted the path.

Baby Thomas slept through the outdoor adventure, the first of many to come.

A lone egret looked at its reflection in the lily-covered swamp.

I read the kiosk to learn about this beautiful, wild park. For 50 years, the area had been a sand and gravel pit. Later, many residents used it as a dumping ground. What do you do with such an eyesore? The city of West Monroe excavated the trash and created a wild space, restoring the area to wetlands that accomplish a number of goals, controlling flooding as well as providing the community with a beautiful place of nature to enjoy. Not to mention, a place of peace for a grandma and baby grandson.

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Sunshine, a Blessen Novel

Sunshine, the sequel to my first middle grade novel Blessen is coming soon from Border Press. I published Blessen in 2012 and began writing this sequel. I’m excited that her story with Sunshine, her new hen, and Harmony, a new friend, will finally be out in the world. Publication day is Oct. 15, 2019. The cover is a collage by Marcie Melancon, a New Iberia artist.

The Blurb:

Blessen LaFleur’s life is once again taking more twists and
turns than the bayou she lives near. Blessen is growing up
and taking on the responsibility of raising a hen, Sunshine,
who is broody and bothered. In this sequel, Blessen meets
Harmony who is homeless and missing her mother. Blessen’s
caring nature leads her to save Harmony from the despair of a
strange foster home by stealing her away on an adventure.
Together they call themselves “the guardians of nature.” When
an accident reveals Harmony to the grown-ups in Blessen’s
life, they both learn of the strength of family and love.

You can read the first review at A Word’s Worth by Diane Moore.

If you are interested in reading a pdf copy and writing a blog review, please let me know in the comments.

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See more posts at Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life

Nature and beauty
is pretty.
The trees, the wind,
and everything you know.
Beauty in the diamonds
and when I look inside,
I see the face
I love.

Annie, 4 years old

I was asked to teach a writing workshop for kids at the Hilliard Museum’s Play Day. “You have to be flexible because we’re never really sure who will show up.”

Annie came in with her father. I’ve met Annie a few times because our paths have crossed. I’m friends with her grandmother, and her mother is a journalist who has connected me with writing opportunities. So when she walked in, I greeted her, “Hi Annie. We are writing poems today. Would you like to write a poem?”

She began… “Yes. Nature and beauty is nice because…” and she continued.
“Wait,” I said pulling out a clean piece of paper and a pen. “I wasn’t ready. Now slow down, and I’ll write what you say.”

Me with “Princess” Annie posing for a picture to send to Nanna B.

She is already a poet. I didn’t read one of my poems. I didn’t talk to her about forms. I didn’t give her any suggestions. She already knows how to write a poem.

Then we made a zine, a small foldable from a single sheet of paper. “Now,” I explained. “I could write the words for you, and you can draw the pictures.”

“No, I can write the words.” And she could! She copied the words she had dictated to me into the book. This took her at least 30 minutes. I was amazed at her focus and her determination. I was also amazed at her father’s patience. He sat comfortably while she meticulously copied each word.

The gifted teacher in me noted signs of perfectionism. When she messed up a letter, she got upset and rubbed it as if to erase it. I said, “Don’t worry. You can just make that a picture.”

Her letter a with the too long tail became what looked to me like a bug. I asked her, “Is this a butterfly?”

“No, it’s Diamond. Daddy, does it look like Diamond?”

“Yes, it does,” Daddy promptly said.

I looked at him and whispered, “Who’s Diamond?”

“Her imaginary friend” His whispered reply.

Annie continued writing word for word. An i placed in the wrong place became a tree.

When she finished, I said, “You need to sign it ‘by Annie’.”

She asked, “On the back?”

I showed her my book, Bayou Song. “On my book, my name is on the front. It says ‘Poetry by Margaret Simon.'”

Of course, Annie wrote on the front “Poetry by Annie.”

She is the youngest poet I’ve ever met, yet I have no doubts she is a writer. Just like her mom.

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Poetry Friday round-up is with Cheriee’s blog, Library Matters.

This month I challenged my writing partners, the Sunday Night Swaggers, to write zeno poems. This fun form was created by J. Patrick Lewis and is based on a mathematical sequence of 8,4,2,1,4,2,1,4,2,1 with each 1 syllable line rhyming. This is one of my favorite forms to use with children. The syllable count is doable, and there’s the added challenge of rhyme.

Even though the temperature hasn’t changed (we have highs in the mid 90’s still.), the signs of fall are here: shorter days, browning cypress, and high sugarcane.

Sugarcane is taller than me.
Tangled green stalks
above
rise
reaching for fall’s
azure
skies
field of beauty
in my
eyes.

Margaret Simon, draft

Autumn sounds like a sad songbird
singing under
grapevine
shade
where blossoms from
springtime
fade
empty bird’s nest
hidden
grayed.

Margaret Simon, draft
Sugarcane field

Visit other Sunday Night Swaggers Posts:

Catherine Flynn: Reading to the Core
Molly Hogan: Nix the Comfort Zone
Heidi Mordhorst: My Juicy Little Universe
Linda Mitchell: A Word Edgewise

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More Spiritual Journey posts are gathered at Karen Eastland’s blog. Click the image.

This month Karen chose Beauty as the theme for our Spiritual Journey posts. I was looking through a magazine and came across the word “Beautiful,” so I decided I needed to make a collage. I love making collages, but don’t do it often. When other things get in the way, we tend to put aside the little creative things that make us happy. You feel guilty spending time on a frivolous pleasure. But it’s that very pleasure that keeps us creative and happy.

Beauty is…
giggles from a grandson
roses in bloom
hot-air balloon on a summer morning
kitten running sideways
glass of red
moss swaying in the breeze
egret flying over the sugarcane field
chocolate, dark with mint
a cuppa latte with a petal in the froth
these words,
I love you.

Margaret Simon, 2019, draft

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Kelo is gone. I can’t wrap my head around that fact.  With her long weaves, gentle hazel eyes, and golden front teeth, Kelo danced with a mop and sang while she worked.  She would greet you in the hallway with a genuine kindness that made you want to stop and talk.  

“How’s that grand baby?” she’d ask me often because she knew I had a new grandson.  

Kelo was so much more than a custodian at our school.  Last year when I first started coming to the school to teach gifted, she knew my name well before I knew hers.  She was pregnant with her 4th son, and my daughter was having her first, so we always had things to talk about. She’d encourage me with, “Girl, that baby’s coming soon!” We’d share photos and anecdotes. She was a friend.

I don’t understand how one day you’re here and the next, you’re gone.  So much can change in an instant. Taken too soon by an innocent ATV accident, Kelo’s death has left a hollowness in the halls. My heart is heavy.  

Kelo makes me want to be better about caring for others, to show genuine kindness as she did, and to sing like no one is listening, except Kelo from above.   

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Poetry Friday round-up is with Carol at Beyond Literacy Link.
Waiting for the Harvest, by Mickey Delcambre.
First place in the Sugarcane Festival Photography Contest

Ralph Fletcher’s new book, Focus Lessons, is coming out, so I took advantage of Heinemann’s offer to read a sample.

There are strong links between photography and writing. This is true in substance and process, as well as language. The world of photography provides a visual, concrete language (angle, focus, point of view, close-up, panorama) that is enormously helpful in teaching writing.

Ralph Fletcher, Focus Lessons

When I saw Mickey Delcambre’s photo on my Facebook page, I was compelled to write a haiku.

Equinox harvest–
Slow down days, long resting nights
Autumn changes time.

Margaret Simon, draft, 2019

On Monday, I talked with my students about the Fall Equinox. I was surprised how well they know the solstices, but they were less familiar with the meaning of equinox.

In New Iberia this weekend, there is the annual Sugarcane Festival, celebrated on the last weekend of September as harvesting begins. We only have to look out of the window to see the tall cane waving in the fields.

One of the Craft Lessons included in the book sample focuses on Mood. Ralph explains how mood can be expressed in a photograph as well as in writing. I look forward to finding more crossovers between photography and writing Ralph says, “Photography is writing with light.”

I put Mickey’s photograph up and ask my students to do a quick write about it. Our quickwrites are typically 5 minutes. Then we share. Sometimes (it’s always a choice), a quickwrite will become a poem.

Seeing the Days Change

I see the days
changing around me,
going from
day to night
and
night to day
the marks of tires
only
from the day before
seeing the sun go down
getting ready
for the night,
goodnight sun.

Breighlynn, 4th grade

Sugar

Sugar in the fields,
still as a cane.
Growing, oh so tall,
ready for the harvest.
Burning leaves
make the sweet smelling
smoke.

Can you smell
the sugar?
Smelling, oh so
sweet.
Have you ever
eaten the cane?
As pure as sugar
comes.

A.J., 6th grade

This morning on my morning walk I smelled the sweet air that A. J. wrote about. One of the gifts of fall.

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