Posts Tagged ‘Laura Shovan’

Slice of Life Challenge

Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for the Slice of Life Challenge.


The Hallmark channel is on again.  I pour a glass of wine.  I search for something positive to say.  I’ve always thought of myself as an optimist, but these days are dark.  Winter is an apt metaphor for the state of our country.  I am carrying a weight of pessimism that I find too heavy and hard.

So I turn to my passion, poetry.  Poetry is like prayer for me.  I go inside my thoughts and work to make some sense of them.

Laura Shovan is getting ready for her annual February poetry project.  She has built a Facebook group.  It’s a closed group, but if you ask, you can join.  We are a bunch of liberals looking for ways to make sense of the news by taking 10 words from a current news report and writing poetry.

On Saturday, I found an empty journal on my shelf.  It is quite beautiful, a gift from someone, I’m sure.  The title reads, “Personal Journal with Quotes & Art by Women.”  I decided to use this book to pen the poems I am writing for Laura’s challenge.  On this page I share below is a sculpture called “Invocation” by Edith Schaller.  I wrote a poem for the January 25th warm-up using ten words from Janet Mock’s Women’s March speech.  I am not accustomed to being outspoken, political, or radical.  I am uncomfortable in this position, but I find solace in poetry, in writing, in words.



I am my sister’s keeper.
I hold her body.
I am committed to this work
of loving and comforting,
feeling safe and sensitive.

I refuse to crawl deeper into poverty,
refuse to give up all that we have fought for.
I will not be invisible or neglected.

But his words tear at a core
I fear is weak.  My liberation
is linked to my resolve
to not be moved, to hold fast.

Why must I turn into a revolutionary?
I once was a peaceful woman,
teaching, learning, writing,
minding my own business.

Why must I be confrontational?
Someone who has written herself
into this story of marches,
signs and petitions?

Sister, help me be this new me.

–Margaret Simon

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Poetry Friday round-up is here today!

Poetry Friday round-up is here today!

photo by Margaret Gibson Simon enhanced on Picmonkey

photo by Margaret Gibson Simon enhanced on Picmonkey

Revisiting Presence, my 2016 One Little Word, makes me think of poetry. Poetry is about presence. We capture a moment, a thought, an image in a single verse and sit with it in the presence of the poem.

This month’s Ditty challenge on Michelle’s blog, Today’s Little Ditty, is a persona poem, suggested by Laura Shovan.

A persona poem makes the poet (then the reader) see the world through the eyes of another person. Today, I am a featured poet on Penny Parker Klostermann’s blog. She has a series “A Great Nephew and a Great Aunt” in which she shares a poem after her nephew’s art. She also invites other poets to participate. I volunteered to write a poem from my nephew’s drum riff.

My nephew Jack, 11 years old, has been playing drums all his life. He owns his own drum set and is taking private lessons. He selected percussion as his instrument for band next year in middle school.

Jack and I, along with my sister Beth, had a Google hangout. I asked Jack to create his own drum riff, and I would write a poem to go with it. When Beth sent me the video, I was inspired to write a poem in Jack’s persona. I am sharing the poem here, but please click over to Penny’s blog to see the video of Jack on the drums.

The beat
starts in my toes,
startles my legs,
My fingers feel the groove
until the tingling,
spine-riveting jolt,
is more than I can stand.
I must
I must
beat the drum!
by Margaret Simon, all rights reserved

Jack's first drum set

Jack’s first drum set

I am hosting the Poetry Friday round-up today. Please leave your link by clicking the button below.



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Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for March Slice of Life Challenge.

Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for March Slice of Life Challenge.


Each student has a chance to ask a question.

Each student has a chance to ask a question.

Laura Shovan and Janet Sumner Johnson are on tour as “Sweet Sixteens,” debut children’s authors of 2016.  I love any opportunity to connect my students with authors, so when I heard they had some openings, I jumped at the chance.

To prepare my students for this visit, I have been reading aloud an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) of The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary.    We are getting to know Hannah, Sloane, Sydney, Kate, George, and other students in the fifth grade at Emerson.  The school board plans to sell the school for demolition and a new grocery store.  Under the guidance of Ms. Hill, who must be a wonderfully kind teacher, the students protest and use poetry to get their voices heard. Laura Shovan creates a compelling story with her intricate knowledge of each character carefully depicted in the craft of poetry.

With Laura was Janet Sumner Johnson, author of the The Last Great Adventure of the PB&J Society.  We had time to read only one chapter of this book before our visit, but Janet packs so much into that first chapter that my kids were full of questions.  Janet said that she wrote the first version of the book 15 years ago.  It’s been through lots of revisions.  My students enjoyed learning about how Janet got her idea for the PB&J Society.

Janet and Laura on the Promethean Board

Janet and Laura on the Promethean Board

As an aspiring author myself, I took a special interest in what these wonderful women had to say about their writing and publishing experiences.  Laura showed us her huge binder full of tabs in which she kept every draft of every poem for every character.  I was amazed!

Both authors connected with the kids and were respectful of each and every question, even the silly ones like “Do you know about narwhals?”  Kaiden loved being the first to notice that the homeless girl in Laura’s book had the last name Holmes.  I believe that there are many more clever details in these two books.  They come out in April.  Get ready to add them to your classroom library.


Sharing the love of reading and narwhals on St. Patrick's Day.

Sharing the love of reading and narwhals on St. Patrick’s Day.



Discover. Play. Build.

Ruth Ayres invites us the celebrate each week. Click over to her site Discover. Play. Build. to read more celebrations.

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Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for Tuesdays Slice of Life Challenge.

Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for Tuesdays Slice of Life Challenge.


February is not National Poetry Month. That’s in April. But Laura Shovan has a birthday, and she invites us all to play with poetry during her birthday month. I love a good word game, so when Laura Purdie Salas. posted about writing Found Moon Poems with 4th graders, I borrowed this idea to write a poem for Laura Shovan’s project. (Found Object Poem Project with Laura Shovan.)

Wonderopolis is a super-duper place to find nonfiction information. When Linda Baie sent the above picture for Laura’s project, I saw a porcupine. I quickly discovered that this was a pufferfish skeleton, not a porcupine, but too late, I had found a Wonderopolis article. Using copy, paste, and strike-through, I isolated words for a poem. When I started putting the poem together, it sounded like two voices to me. Thus a found poem for two voices.

Porcupine Found Poem for Two VoicesLove animals- Give them a hug.A porcupine- What's the big deal-Sharp quills! The prickliest!Quill pigs Quill pigsLike arrows, quills detach. Tiny needlesto pierce to piercean important lesson from a porcup copy

I haven’t tried this activity with my students yet, but I will. I hope they enjoy collecting words as much as I do.

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Laura Shovan is a poet who shares the love. For her birthday month, February, she commits to writing poems every day and shares the experience with anyone who dares to jump in to the party. Read her introduction to the project here.

I have joined in her project every year and find the experience challenging, inspiring, and enriching. I don’t know if I get better at writing poems, but I know for sure that this is a welcoming and passionate-about-poetry group. I am honored to host today.

In preparation for this month of writing, Laura called for images of found objects. I sent her this image of lotus seed pods I picked up out of the swamp on a winter canoe trip. They sit in a pottery piece that is also reminiscent of nature.

lotus pods

Diane Mayr was considering skipping today. And that very thought made her write a skippy poem. You never know where the muse may hide. I love the rhythm of the flower names and of course, the final truth.

Mama Planted a Garden
(a skipping rhyme)

Mama planted a garden,
but it came up weeds.
Oh, my silly Mama!
You planted the wrong seeds.

No, my little Missy,
they were the right ones.
A flower to a father
may be a weed to the son!

Buttercup, aster, and bergamot.
Maiden pink, dandelion, forget-me-not.

Columbine, bunchberry, periwinkle.
Violet, lady slipper, honeysuckle.

Always remember this,
my little daughter:
one person’s weed
is another one’s flower!
–Diane Mayr

Patricia VanAmburg did some research on lotus pods and found out there is a disease, Trypophobia—fear of holes. So she wrote a rather empty poem about that feeling of empty nest, one I know all too well.


Of what use this pod
Without her seeds
Temporary filler for
More fruitful flowers
But every life
Returns to earth
Fragile as the cradle
In an attic corner
Brittle as mother’s ribs
After every baby has gone
–Patricia VanAmburg

Jessica Bigi sent an image of a lotus flower while she takes us back to ancient rituals.

Photo and poem by Jessica Bigi, all rights reserved.

Photo and poem by Jessica Bigi, all rights reserved.

Carol Varsalona is cross-posting her poems on her blog. I love how she is digitally playing with the image as well. I imagine sitting with Carol enjoying a warm cup of coffee and the quiet.

A Hushed Quiet

As I sit by the window,
the morning sun
drifts on in,
singing the praises
of yet another day.
A zen-like quality emerges.
Rays bouncing from
winter white blankets
bring outdoors in.
A hushed quiet
envelops the room.
In a corner,
upon a mat of bamboo,
cut-open pods of grace
in triad formation
adorn a desk
of muted colors.
Indoor life merges
with outdoor sights
in a seasonal burst,
reminding me that
new life is waiting
in an early spring.

©Carol Varsalona, 2016

Violet also did her research on Trypophobia and wrote an erasure poem from an article on Mental Floss.  Who knew?  I certainly did not.  Thanks for the learning as well as the poetry.


skin crawls, heart flutters
shoulders tighten, I shiver
crazy revulsion to holes, bumps
images of holes, parasites
bot flies, worms, ravages of disease
pregnant suriname toad
lotus seed head
give people trypophobic
heebie jeebies
soap bubbles trigger

~ Violet Nesdoly

Heidi Mordhorst digs into the earth to consider how an anthropologist looks at things.

Day 10

once thought to be
an elaborately carved musical
instrument used
only on the wedding day
of a woman born under
the eleventh moon

it is now understood to be
a deliberately culled muscular
implement used
only on the winding way
of a man burned under
the oppressive soon

context is everything

Here’s another from Heidi. This one is a child’s wonderment at the things of this world.

Making Sense

First it’s something to see–
almost black among the greens and yellows,
scalloped around the edges like
crayon clouds or flowers,
clouds full of black hailstones–
or it’s a leopard-skin jellyfish.

Next it’s something to hold–
not weighty like a microphone
or a metal shower head,
but light and hollow, not plastic
and not wood, part smooth
and part ridged and rumpled.

Now it’s something to hear–
take it by the curving handle oh!
is that a stem? and shake, shake
shake–those blackish beads or
beans or oh! they’re seeds!
they make a marvelous rattling!

~Heidi Mordhorst 2016
all rights reserved

Donna Smith makes a simple poem reveal a truth of nature.  Love the alliteration, one of my favorite literary devices.  I think Donna is a little bit chilly in Maine, so she has thoughts of overcoats.


Purposefully plopping pondward
Out of open overcoat
Drooping, dropping down
Swamped seeds settle, silently sprout.

©2016, Donna JT Smith, all rights reserved


And Mary Lee chimes in with this little ditty.  She is a master at metaphor.

Day 10

when your plate is full —
seed ideas lined up in rows —
give thanks for fulsome seasons

–Mary Lee Hahn


Linda Baie finds the music in the lotus pod, the sound that remains after the blooming is done.  Is this a metaphor for life?

A Lotus Life

I remember that delicate blossom;
You burst with all life’s colors,
and the minutes moved,
the days passed.
More beyond the hues emerged.
You nourished;
we were thankful.
You gave all you were able.
At the end, the music remained,
only the music displayed.
It was enough.
Linda Baie ©All Rights Reserved



To write my own poem, I turned to form and tried out a Bio-poem. Laura Purdie Salas used this form with 3rd graders this week. See her post here.

mystical, pure, beauty, enlightened
Daughter of Bodhi
Lover of muddy water, sun, and spring
Who feels spiritual, open to the light
Who gives wisdom, joy, and peace
Who fears storms, drowning, neglect
Who would like to see the ocean (Is it as blue as me?),
tomorrow (My life is fleeting.),
and world peace (Doesn’t everyone wish for world peace?)
Who lives in Atchafalaya Swamp
Who knows noble truths
Lily of the Mud.
–Margaret Simon

And here is Laura with another of my favorite forms, a Fib poem. Read more about Fib poems here.

Lotus Pod Fibonacci
By Laura Shovan

pods shake
rattle, roll.
Seeds fly. We stomp them
into the ground, part of the dance.

Molly Hogan was flying under the radar with her first attempt at haiku. This challenge is pushing us all to find what form fits best.

Day 10 –My first attempt at haiku.

Autumn maracas
Invite you to merengue
Shake a leg, baby!
–Molly Hogan

Catherine Flynn found the lyrics to the life cycle of a lotus at the New York Botanical Garden.

Photo and poem by Catherine Flynn, all rights reserved.

Photo and poem by Catherine Flynn, all rights reserved.

Buffy Silverman offers another haiku, which is the ultimate nature poetic form. Hard to capture a moment in few syllables.

dried lotus pods
shriveled and moored in mud
cradle tomorrow
–Buffy Silverman

What’s a poetry parade without Charles Waters? He bounced in with this sunshine.

Fuchsia covered buds
stretch out in praise of morning
revealing their sun-shined heart.

(c) Charles Waters 2016

lotus pods
seed mysteries
three days
of flowering
an open heart

© 2016 Jone Rush MacCulloch all rights reserved

If you have a poem for today’s found object, put it in the comments and I will add it to the post. Thanks again for joining us and for reading all the way through to the end. Mardi Gras ended yesterday, but this is a joyful parade of poems to keep you passin’ a good time!

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Discover. Play. Build.

Ruth Ayres invites us the celebrate each week. Click over to her site Discover. Play. Build. to read more celebrations.

I have been reading many posts lately about writing. As a teacher/writer, those are the posts that resonate with me. But I started wondering, I mean, really, how much more can be written about writing? At some point, don’t we all just have to do it?

I enjoyed Pernille Ripp’s recent post I am Not a Writer- On Developing Student Writer Identity. She writes about how her own writing process informed what she knows about students and writing. In her list of things to keep in mind about student writers, she points out that “All writers are writers.” At first this statement sounds like “well, duh!” as my kids would say, but when you really think about it, how often do I make this claim? When I make myself tell someone I am a writer, I feel awkward. I make excuses. I rarely say it with any kind of confidence. What does it take to claim the writer in me? How do I encourage my students to claim their writer selves?

I follow the Two Writing Teachers blog. There are now eight writing teachers, and each one has a unique writer’s voice. They are currently running a blog series on “Discovering the Writer’s Life.” Deb Frazier wrote a post this week “So, Why Do I Write? Discovering the Writer’s Life.” She wrote “As a teacher who writes, I know the power of an active writing community.” This has always been true for me. I have sought out other writers. I have had a number of different writing groups. Each has led me, fed me, and nurtured my writing life.

Most recently, I joined three other teacher-writers from different areas of the states in a Voxer chat. I have to admit, at first, I was skeptical. I thought, “We’re just going to talk about writing? No writing?” I was so wrong. We talk every day. I have more than a writing group. I have a support group. We do share writing, thoughts about writing, and ideas for later projects. But we are also becoming close friends. Today I celebrate this group. We call ourselves “Four Friends Writing,” and that is exactly who we are for each other–friends.

Through this life of blogging, I have connected with some wonderful people. Laura Shovan has invited me to participate in a daily writing challenge for February. I think this is my third year to do it. Nothing like a challenge to make me write. And this one is poetry. I love writing poetry. So each day I take a look at the found object image, open up the note pad on my computer, and compose something. Other writers are doing it, too. It’s never too late to join. This is another community of supportive writers. As I write this, I realize I haven’t written a poem for today yet. Guess I need to follow my own advice and do. it.

Join the TWT's Twitter chat on Feb. 8 at 8:30 EST. #TWTblog

Join the TWT’s Twitter chat on Feb. 8 at 8:30 EST. #TWTblog

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Photo by Mary Lee Hahn

Photo by Mary Lee Hahn


Head over to Laura Shovan’s website to see a feast of fresh market, vegetable soup poetry.  I am writing my poems on the yellow notepad on my laptop.  Somehow this feels more like a quick draft place; I don’t have to commit to save it.  More playful. Less need for excellence.


Peppers purple
peppers green

I see ya, eggplant
think you’re hiding
in your shiny skin?

Market days
are silver dollar days
when fresh is
as fresh does.

Make me a salad,

–Margaret Simon


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Photo by Robyn Hood Black

Photo by Robyn Hood Black

I am participating in Laura Shovan’s February poem-a-day challenge on writing to found objects.


Tongue in groove he tells me
is how they used to do it,
before nails
before cardboard and glue.

This old box
traveled over miles
snow-covered hills,
through the mountains, perhaps.

I slide the wood
across grooves
breathe pine, spicy pipe tobacco,
remember my grandfather’s

stories of the railroad,
how steam would rise above
houses and whistle
his way home.

–Margaret Simon

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SOL #31

SOL #31

Here I am on the last day of March!  I wrote 31 slices of life and joined a community of teacher writers at Two Writing Teachers.  What a wonderful month of writing!

My students wrote daily, too.  Together we learned:

  • Writing daily connects you to your life.  You see things differently.
  • Writing daily can be fun!
  • Writing daily can be hard!
  • Writing daily leads to new understandings.
  • Writing daily means taking a deep breath and diving into the deep water.
  • Writing daily is a practice that will last your lifetime.
  • Writing daily gives life new meaning.
  • Writing daily makes a difference.

Some of us in the TWT community are not ready to stop writing daily.  We are committing (but not promising) to contribute in some way to National Poetry Month through digital poetry, personal poems, student poems, writing activities, reflections on poetry, etc.  We will use the hashtag #DigiPoetry on Twitter.  Please join us for more fun and fabulous poetry.

I will be posting on Laura Shovan’s site, Author Amok, on April 6th for her series “What are you Wearing?”  I will also add a line to Irene Latham’s Progressive Poem on April 12th.  Lots going on in the Kidlitosphere in April.


Taste life twice quote

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SOL #4

SOL #4

I have met many wonderful and creative people through blogging.  A few years ago I joined the Poetry Friday round up.  Poetry is a passion of mine.  I use poetry often in my classroom, and I enjoy writing it.  And who doesn’t love a good challenge?  So when Laura Shovan posted her February Birthday Challenge, I took part.  She posted sounds as poetry prompts.  Turns out 14 of us wrote 177 poems to 28 sounds.  Pretty impressive.

One of the sounds we wrote about was an electric guitar which reminded me of playing Guitar Hero with my nephew and getting beaten badly.  Apparently, Jack has impeccable rhythm.  Last summer, he started taking drumming lessons.  He got a djembe for Christmas.  I didn’t really know about his djembe playing until my sister posted a video of him from their California vacation.  (My talented trumpet playing niece was marching with her band in the Rose Bowl parade.)

Musical talent runs in my family.  In the dining room of my parents’ home is a life-sized portrait of my grandmother with her violin.  My mother has her masters in piano and taught lessons in our home for many years.  My brother has the gene, too. (We say it’s in the left hand as they are all left-handed.) Hunter is a professional musician.  He plays keyboard and sings solo or with a band most nights of the week.  So it was inevitable that someone would inherit the talent.

My sister says Jack’s rhythm is innate.  He danced to the beat of her tapping a cinnamon container at 18 months.  She remembers Mom telling a similar story about our brother who danced to the rhythm of her stirring cake batter.

Laura’s challenge pushed me to add a poem to the video.  Here is Jack playing the djembe wowing the crowds at Santa Monica pier.  My poem runs in the ticker tape at the bottom.



When I played Guitar Hero,

beat on a fake guitar

sent light waves to a TV screen,

the cartoon me danced in time,

but I missed the beat.

Not Jack

He is the guitar hero.

A natural born rock star

The beat is in the palms of his hands

drumming the djembe–

a ten-year-old marvel.

–Margaret Simon



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