Monday, April 30, 2012

Marilyn Singer: Mirror Mirror, A Book of Reversible Verse

How did the last day of Poetry Month sneak up so fast? Quickly, before it's over, I wanted to recommend a fun book of poetry for kids: Marilyn Singer's Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reversible Verse.

Each poem in this book looks at a fairy tale from two sides, flipping both the poem and the story upside down. Besides being fun, the reversed poems are perfect examples of how punctuation, line breaks, and rhythm are powerful tools that can change the meaning of a poem. The results are so surprising and fun, you'll immediately want to try writing one of your own.

The Doubtful Duckling
by Marilyn Singer
I'll turn into a swan.
No way
I'll stay
an ugly duckling,
stubby and gray.
Plain to see--
look at me.
A beauty I'll be.
A beauty I'll be?
Look at me---
plain to see, 
stubby and gray.
An ugly duckling
I'll stay.
No way
I'll turn into a swan

Friday, April 27, 2012

Grab Bag Friday: Harriet Beecher Stowe Elementary

Today I'm off to Harriet Beecher Stowe Elementary to talk to 5th graders about Songs of the Civil War Era. Huzzah!

Yesterday, I had a great time with the classrooms of Ms. Bailey, Mrs. Belanger, Mrs. Brescia, and Mr. Kittredge. The students had great singing voices and offered a lot of terrific insights.

In one exercise, I have the students imagine they are slogging back to their tents after a long day at war. Tired, dirty, and possibly wounded, they try to get comfortable and go to sleep. Then someone on the campground (in this case, me) starts to sing,
We're tenting tonight on the old campground
Give us a song to cheer
Our weary hearts, a song of home
And friends we love so dear
Slowly, as the song goes on, people join in until we are all singing loudly together,
Tenting tonight, tenting tonight, tenting on the old campground
Tenting tonight, tenting tonight, tenting on the old campground
At the end of the song, I asked the students if singing the song changed how they felt. Some of the things I heard were:

"I felt less lonely."

"I thought of my family. Singing the song made me feel like I would get to see them again."

"I thought of all the people who died that I cared about."

"I felt stronger."

"I felt proud to fight for what I believe in."

Aren't those great responses? I love how music has the power to stir our souls, even 150 years after it was written.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

M. Ward: The First Time I Ran Away

A new Andrew Bird album AND a new solo album by M. Ward? This is my lucky spring!

To top things off, Joel Trussell, the same director who made the gorgeous music video for Chinese Translation, is back on board as well. He directed a new video for the first release of the album: "The First Time I Ran Away." M. Ward says in The Huffington Post:

"Between now and when I made 'Hold Time' there has been a lot of traveling which requires a lot of reckoning with what to leave behind and what to carry - material and otherwise - and thinking about what I want versus what I need, creatively and otherwise. I wanted to get a reflection of that on the album."
You can stream the whole album, A Wasteland Companion, on M. Ward's website.

M. Ward: The First Time I Ran Away

Monday, April 23, 2012

Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators

I met so many nice people at the NESCBWI conference this weekend, and am ready to get down to work (as soon as I catch up on my sleep)! Here are a few notes I took at the conference that struck me as being applicable to both storytelling and life:

-Part of growing up is aligning desire with often say and do things that are the opposite of what they want (I'm pretty sure I still do this on a relatively regular basis!)

-Think: Does this FEED me or does it COST me?

-Instead of "what does my character want": "what does my character care about?"

-Write to your strengths, revise to your weakness.

-What would you do if you knew that failure was impossible?

Friday, April 20, 2012

Grab Bag Friday: Beanie Baby Hunger Games

This weekend, I'm lucky to be at the New England Society of Children's Book Writer's and Illustrators conference. Which means three whole days to talk about writing and books! I've already been to a fun session called "Writing Camp for Grown-Ups" taught by Jo Knowles and Cindy Faughnan, and I'm looking forward to learning from great authors like Cynthia Lord, Kate Messner, and Linda Urban over the weekend.

In between today's sessions, though, I took a little time out for silliness and watched this fantastic video. Of course, it begs the question: Who did the Hunger Games better? Hollywood or the Beanie Babies? May the odds be ever in your favor!

Beanie Baby Hunger Games

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Doris Day: My Dreams Are Getting Better All the Time

More Doris Day nostalgia. Here is one of my favorite Les Brown/Doris Day tunes. And check out the outfit on this album cover!

Doris Day: My Dreams Are Getting Better All the Time

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Doris Day on Fresh Air with Terry Gross

It was Doris Day's 88th  birthday last week, which means April is filled with all kinds of fun Doris Day nostalgia. TCM is airing 28 of her movies (yes, my DVR is filling up quite nicely). And lucky for us, Ms. Day granted Terry Gross an interview to celebrate the occasion.

Doris Day has rarely been interviewed since she left Hollywood in 1968, and it was a treat to hear her talk about her life. She discusses the tragic accident that became the impetus for her singing career, the roles she played, songs she sang, and her second career as an animal activist.

What I found most striking is how much she seems to take everything in stride. Hit songs, blockbuster movies, 30 dogs living in her house. "I loved...doing what I was supposed to do and be. That's the way I worked."

Doris Day on Fresh Air with Terry Gross

Monday, April 9, 2012

Latern Review: Poetry Month Digital Broadsides

The Lantern Review is embarking on an interesting project for National Poetry Month. This month, they've paired designers with poets to create a series of free digital broadsides. Anyone can download them, print them, post them, or use them as desktop wallpaper. The Review is also posting a series of Pocket Broadsides on Tumblr.

This month, I'll be talking to ten different 5th grade classrooms about how broadsides were used to advertise songs during the Civil War Era. I love the concept of reviving the broadside format to spread poetry in the digital world!

Digital Broadside #1: Vanitas (poem by R. A. Villanuevas, design by Debbie Yee)

Pocket Broadside #1: Vanni Taing

Friday, April 6, 2012

Grab Bag Friday: The Wrecking Project

18 dances 
9 choreographers from 5 different cities
16 performers
3 separate programs over 1 weekend

Putting on a professional dance production of any size is a gargantuan task, but my talented friend Kate Corby seems to always take it to the next level. Kate and her collaborator Julie Mayo have curated a choreography experiment called The Wrecking Project which will premiere next weekend in Chicago (ticket info).

The Wrecking Project is an ambitious and expensive undertaking and the group is raising money to help with the cost of airfare and rehearsal space. Even a small donation will make a difference: Support The Wrecking Project.

Here's a sum-up of the project (I wish I was in Chicago next weekend!):
Julie Mayo and Kate Corby have invited a group of rigorous dance-makers with distinctive sensibilities to wreck, or re-imagine, one another's finished work, inspired by choreographer Susan Rethorst's work with wrecking dances in the mid 1990's. The "wrecking process" parameters stipulate that the original work's performer(s) must remain the same, but everything else is fair game.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Miles Davis: So What

Kevin was out of town at a trade show this weekend, so I took the opportunity to spend my evenings curled up with a pint of chocolate peanut butter ice cream and the PBS adaptation of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility. As anticipated, the mini-series was satisfying and entertaining (Matthew from Downton Abbey plays Edward!), but as the credits rolled, I noticed there were still 20 minutes left on the DVR recording. Hoping for some Austen-related special features, I waited.

Instead of more Sense and Sensibility, I got a black and white shot of a guy in a black sport coat announcing in a smoky, art-house voice, "For the next half hour, our story will be in the music, the sound, of one man, Miles Davis. He will tell his story in his own way, and in his own language, the language of music." I got through a fantastic version of "So What" and the first half of Dave Brubeck's "The Duke" before the DVR ran out. 

Turns out this was recorded April 2, 1959 and aired on "Robert Herridge Theater" on July 21, 1960. I read in the session details that Cannonball Adderley missed the recording date because of a migraine headache, so maybe that's why Davis solos twice.

I should let the DVR tape ahead more often. 

Miles Davis Quintet - So What

Monday, April 2, 2012

Happy Belated April Fool's Day

A little treat for the day-after-April-Fool's:

The Top 100 April Fool's Day Hoaxes of All Time (from the Museum of Hoaxes...did you even know there was such a place?)

I've only worked my way through the top 10 so far, but I love the bumper spaghetti crop from 1957, and the San Serriffe Islands (in the shape of a semi-colon) from 1977. And it made me grin from ear to ear to learn that hundreds of people honestly thought they had succumbed to The Jupiter Effect when a 1976 April Fool's report from the BBC report claimed it would cause people to feel a "floating sensation." Several people even claimed they floated across the room...well, it was the 70s after all!

If you didn't get enough April Fool's yesterday, the Top 100 should keep you well entertained until next year.