Friday, December 21, 2012

La Natividad: An Immigrant Story

Mary & Joseph
When Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus fled to Egypt shortly after his birth, they became refugees--a fact little remembered unless the refugee or immigrant experience strikes close to your heart. This year, a bilingual Spanish/English retelling of the nativity in Minneapolis celebrated the immigrant story with singing, parading down the streets, and, of course, puppets--courtesy of the Heart of the Beast Theater. I couldn't possibly describe it as well as La Natividad's author, Minneapolis pastor and poet friend Patrick Cabello Hansel; check out his description in his blog.

(picture from

Merry Christmas to All!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Powerful Ideas in Teaching

It's here! It's here! Waiting in my mailbox a day earlier than I expected. I was able to pick the photo for the cover, and I love how it came out. The publisher offers a beautiful web page with table of contents information and reviews. You can purchase it there or through Amazon (at the same price). Amazon has already sold some copies (I don't know how many they started out with).
This is the third book I've written (after a poetry manuscript and a novel) but the first one to come out in print. It was a pleasure to draw upon one of the things I love--being in the classroom--and my insightful co-author Dr. Mickey Kolis was great to work with. He's the perfect combination of energetic, focused, and down-to-earth.

Here's what teachers are saying so far:

Powerful Ideas in Teaching has real life examples, thought provoking student profiles, and practical advice for the classroom. There are stories and advice here from which every reflective teacher can benefit—insight into our students, our methods, and ourselves, with ideas to create the positive learning environment for which every teacher is looking. Bridget Dick, fifth grade teacher, Webster Middle School, Webster, Massachusetts

No matter where you are in your teaching career, this book offers up something for everyone. The ideas presented here range from those that will have an immediate impact on your classroom, to those that will influence your entire outlook on your profession. [Powerful Ideas in Teaching guides you through the process that will help you reflect upon your philosophical views and envision the type of learning that you want to take place in your classroom. There are practical examples of effective strategies that are applicable in all classrooms.] This book should be required reading for all teachers.
Stephen Johnson, Science Teacher, Sterling High School, Sterling, IL, 2005 & 2011 Dr. James Garnett Effective Teacher Award (SHS Teacher of the Year)

Powerful Ideas has 19 clear ideas that uplift the art of teaching while standing strong in the belief that teachers teach people and the best teaching comes when we teach who we are. I left this book encouraged and challenged to be the best I can be for the students I teach and reminded of the many ways to succeed in helping students reach beyond their highest potential
Jason Collins, 8th grade Language Arts, Menomonie Middle School, Menomonie, Wisconsin

Thursday, December 13, 2012

a happy stumble-upon

In a house set a little back from Main Street, with a big garden out front and a mural on top, just across from the neon-painted Vintage Thrift store, sits Many Ways of Peace. I'd heard about it from a few people, but I'd lived in town for a year before I wheeled the stroller in to say hello and see just what this place was about. Boy am I glad I did. My heart thrills when I find people who *get* the connection between making art (in my case, writing poetry) and social justice. Mary Jo and Debbie, who run the place, remind me of the power of hospitality by offering tea or coffee and a few moments to sit and talk. It's amazing how far that goes toward making a person feel, well, wonderful. They opened up their space for me to teach a Poets of Peace class this past month, and we've just scheduled another 5-week class for Tuesdays, 10 - 11:30 AM, beginning January 22nd. If you're in the area, please mark your calendars!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

bringing lost literature to life

Natalie Merchant's new album features songs based on children's poems from the turn of the last century. In this lovely video, she sings several, including e e cummings' "Maggie Millie Molly and May." I particularly like the opening song  (including its theatricality)

These poems have me thinking about how poetry for children has changed in the last hundred years. I love Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein, but I have a hard time imagining that the full ballad-complete-with-chorus style of poem could be published today. I think people would read it, presented in the right way. Beautifully illustrated, for example.

The only contemporary example I can think of is Nancy Willard's imaginative poem-made-book The Tale I Told Sasha. The illustrations are absolutely gorgeous, although the poem is fair at best. Partly is the way it is broken up into pages, but it loses its narrative arc as we wander into dreamland, leaving the reader confused.

I'll have to keep my eyes out for other examples.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

beautiful day

Today we lit the candle of peace on the Advent wreath. It has been a peaceful day of family and music. My husband and I read the narration and sang in the beautiful Cantata performed at our church. I read the passages about the birth of the long-awaited baby while holding my baby in my arms--she was hardly content being held by someone else when she could hear my voice over the mic! She cuddled in against me for the service, clutching (appropriately) her little lamb.

Afterward, began learning Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring on the violin.

I am grateful for today.

Friday, December 7, 2012

saving the world

The Midwest and elsewhere is recovering from a drought, wells throughout the country are popping up to frack for natural gas (pouring water into the ground and rendering it undrinkable afterward) and we read daily in the news about the grim outlook of our water supply. I'm to the point where I try not to listen, feeling like there isn't anything I can do to change our outlook, other than to be as responsible as possible in my own actions and purchases.

And so, what a joy to learn that a young guy from South Africa has invented a way to take a water-free bath. Among South African users, they figure that each time someone uses this lotion, it saves 80 gallons of water (if you can afford to take a bath) or 2 hours of time hauling that water from a far-off river. And if you can wash your face, you can save yourself from a disease which causes blindness. Not sure how it will catch on in water-guzzling America, but still. Stories like this give me hope that we can invent ways to keep this planet going.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Poetry in Motion

Minneapolis poet Todd Boss and animator Angella Kassube have created a wonderful series of poetry in motion. Each month comes a new poem, read aloud, with music and video to match. I particularly love the music in this month's poem by James Longenbach. Enjoy!


Monday, December 3, 2012

rant away, oh agents

Two blogs of literary agents that came up in a recent discussion among friends.

In Pubrants, "a very nice literary agent indulges in polite rants about queries, writers, and the publishing industry."
slushpilehell is, well, less polite, but darn funny. When it comes to queries, sometimes being able to string together coherent sentences is half the battle.