Hanukkah poems & Eight Knights of Hanukkah!

[Here is where to visit #PoetryFriday!]

At mid-week, a gift arrives at my inbox from a brilliant author and poet I met at a nourishing Highlights Foundation verse novel residential workshop. Because of the newsletter, The Whole Megillah, emailed from Barbara Krasner, I know of a sweet, fun, peace-building book.

It is The Eight Knights of Hanukkah.

Hanukkah is just around the castle corner, with a Dec. 2020 first night on the Tenth. Since I know some of the beautiful work of poet Alieen Fisher, I’m sharing from her Hanukkah poem at Poetry Foundation, with appreciation for the holiday round up from poet Becca Klaver.

Light the Festive Candles

BY AILEEN LUCIA FISHER

(FOR HANUKKAH)

Light the first of eight tonight—

the farthest candle to the right.

Light the first and second, too,

when tomorrow’s day is through. ~~

c. AileenFisher,allrightsreserved, continued here.

::: Also, regarding Hanukkah!

When I held the cover of the book that creators Gailia Bernstein and Leslie Kimmelman sent into the universe, I smiled. This creative fantasy from Holiday House adds joy to an already festive, yet, spiritual time. And if your computer just read the title out loud to you or if someone else did, make sure you understand the spelling of Knights.

Best Big Bits: Medieval Knights? At Hanukkah. I never expected that. Representation. This is not your white-only, boys-only-allowed, Knights Story. Hanukkah Weapons? The weapons of choice do tug my heart.

And, the mitzvahs! 

And, the surprise ending.

Best Little Bits:

Map! Two pets! Noticing each Knight’s shield emblem. Finding a castle-full of details, Leslie Kimmelman’s deft words. And did I mention, Galia Bernstein’s ultra witty artwork spreads? My huge appreciations to Barbara Krasner for the tip about this book at The Whole Megillah, with Barbara’s fabulous duo interview of the creators, here.

Don’t you want to see if your Library can add EIGHT KNIGHTS to their world culture, Jewish studies, holidays & associated topic, shelves? If you curate a home Hanukkah collection, this is a keeper. Although I am of the Christian flavor of faith path, I’m interested in many many spiritual traditions. And if I did ever have a previous life, it’s likely I was Jewish 🙂

Autumn poetry news Through digital events miracles, I visited in the studios of both

RITA DOVE and

JANICE R. HARRRINGTON in one blessed evening.

I sat rapt as two of my favorite contemporary poets shared conversation with those of us attending, via The New School/NYC. And, they read to us. Bliss. [photo from the Zoom of RITA DOVE and fabulous interpreter, Cynthia Norman]

I felt lucky to attend a children’s literature poetry workshop, with Poetry Friday’s Catherine at Reading to the Core. She limned it recently in a fun piece. After I complete asks & tasks inspired by The Craft and Heart of Poetry with exquisite poetry team Rebecca Kai Dotlich and Georgia Heard, I hope to follow in her footsteps with a post about an event that even in virtual, digital space, is an experience for poem readers and writers to savor. I know several of you feel fortunate to have written with them via the Highlights Foundation dreamy woods creek fields setting. I hope you find time to read Linda B.’s blog of this duo’s on-site workshop, different year, at her Teacher Dance.

One item more! “Surfing,” a 2019 poem arising from my wild toss into the sea, years back, recently received an Honorable Mention from poet Tiel Aisha Ansari of Oregon. I’m pleased to be learning about Ms. Ansari’s important works (see below) and her experienced pen for an adult readership. This was the first time I entered & yes, yes, I’m chuffed. I’m not publishing it here as I’m advised that posting in social media can make a piece be considered already pubbed. Any tips for workarounds?

Now giving much thanks in this Giving Thanks Time of Year, I’m pleased to share this, on Tiel Aisha Ansari:

Answering questions

Kathy Halsey, a retired librarian who is writing for children, wants to know:

Q: What is your writing process?

Q: What are you currently working on?

Q: And so forth.

 

all rights reserved

all rights reserved

A:

First, thank you for your career, Kathy, matching books to readers.

And thank you for your 2nd career, as a writer.

Back to the first. You likely answered ga-zillions of queries from anxious writers, seeking, for example an obscure local cookbook/history about Michigan maple sugaring via inter-library loan, from upper/lost/outer beautiful Michigan. Writers are also thankful for that. (Note to local taxpayers, support your library when it wants to continue the inter-library loan service, please.)

More  A:

WRITING PROCESS I

Here is what should be, but is not always, on hand:

Cat, to do the typing

A deadline

Good health, rested body, peaceful mind

Fair trade (no child slave labor) organic dark chocolate, early a.m. only

Guayaki yerba mate (my hubby introduced it when he returned from Argentina), also a.m. only

An idea that I think about day & night & in my dreams & during conversations about movies & while I’m eating & walking & on & on. This is crucial.

The information I find to go with that idea.

 

Look at that.  Very little, to get me going.

I write in a rainbow of genres. For children, poetry, picture story book, concept book (like ABCs) illustrated non-fiction, fiction in chapter book & middle grade. For adults, magazine pieces, chapter contributions to non-fiction books, my own travel guides, poetry, & mystery stories.

So let’s narrow the mass down to a bit about how I wrote the newest book, SHE SANG PROMISE.

And this will also help me answer the pressing question of a school librarian from Winnetka IL, about the process for writing this specific book.

My newest book is an illustrated story from the life of a Native American leader who became a national figure with her achievements, including a presidential appointment. But she primarily made headlines in her home state, Florida.

And for kids, it was important to research one of her career oddities – she wrestled alligators. In the late 1940s, before reality teevee. For very little money.

I needed:

Interviews

Local/regional/Tribe histories

A good oral history library

An understanding of events during the time span 1920s-1980s

My subject’s memoir & other publications

Old photographs/information about period clothing

Site visits to subject’s house/reservation/museums

My subject’s permission to tell her story to children (required by the publisher, but something I desire, anyhow)

Copy of her storytelling video

Details of her adult achievements

Observation of alligators & of people wrestling them

The story of her world took place significantly outdoors, so I needed notes about the flora & fauna & geography & weather of her child days.

I needed to begin lining up expert readers, to review my manuscript.

And I probably needed a few other things, which I am forgetting, here.

 

WRITING PROCESS II

When I amassed shelves & binders & paper files of materials, including my subject’s newspaper articles & columns, because she edited her tribe’s paper, I began to write.

It was clunky.

So I did what any writer does. I turned to the editor for this project.

And bless her. She sent me lovely illustrated biographies. And then she gave me titles of others, to go look up.

 

In the second group, I found one that lit a fire under me & is still a favorite, when I read it in school.

It was created by Jacqueline Briggs Martin & Mary Azarian.

I get prickles on my arm when I remember first holding the powder blue cover, fringed with snowflakes. This wood-cut-assisted beauty is one of the best picture books I know about a real, but lesser-known, individual of our planet (that is the sort of person I am drawn to write about. ) The book  is SNOWFLAKE BENTLEY, a Caldecott winner.

And that book about a boy in Vermont obsessed with snowflakes, was a portal into feeling that I could pick my way along the path of  the story of a girl who grew up in subtropical Florida, keeping all manner of wild & domestic creatures as pets in her own informal hot-climate, outdoors zoo. Very different children, geography & life paths.

But the SNOWFLAKE BENTLEY team’s excellent storytelling in words & pictures inspired me.

 

By Jacqueline Briggs Martin, Artwork by Mary Azarian

By Jacqueline Briggs Martin, Artwork by Mary Azarian

Yet, I was still not writing something to send my editor.

How to begin it ? How to begin it?

When I disliked a ga-zillion first pages, I turned to something that has always amused me since my child days when I created a little cartoon character, Beanie. And that is, doodling. And so I doodled loopy loop shapes. And then on another page, after a few shapes took shape, I dropped the pad. I was unhappy. I looked up & saw on my wall, a map of Florida. The state where my subject was from. And I picked up the pad & began to draw an outline of the state of Florida. I began in the far northwest in the Panhandle. When my thick fat dark pencil reached the southeast part of the state, words appearing from who knows where  – the stars? the swamp?  engaged my neurons: “Think of a gigantic place at the end of land…”

And that was it. I was off and running.

Because I had amassed information on aspects of the world of Betty Mae Tiger Jumper, my subject, pieces of her life that would be kid magnets, I just kept on & on with the writing. Then, because I had written too much, my editor & the editor above her, helped me squeeze out duplications, of which there were umpteen-many.

O! there were many. But they got gone.

The story is told in chronological order, assisted with luscious artwork from Lisa Desimini, a letter to children from the subject’s son, and notes of further information for older children, parents, librarians & teachers.

Kirkus said: “Short poetic stanzas join jewel-toned illustrations to sing the satisfying story of Betty Mae Tiger Jumper.”

It is an American Library Association Top Ten Amelia Bloomer book (a list of titles about exemplary girls and women), it is selected by the National Council on the Social Studies &  it won the Florida Book Awards gold medal. The full title is SHE SANG PROMISE: The Story of Betty Mae Jumper, Seminole Tribal Leader.  It is part of the Accelerated Reader program & its listed on several library/history archives as a reference on Native American topics.

By Jan Godown Annino and Lisa Desimini

By Jan Godown Annino and Lisa Desimini

 

Q: What is your current project?

CURRENT PROJECT

A:  A few in the cooker. This year so far I sent several poems for children to a university publisher’s contest & also submitted to an independent publisher, a 3,400-word mystery short story for adults. Another illustrated biography that I enjoyed researching is finished, not contracted, being read. I recently had fun writing a picture book based on my revision of a children’s folksong that has cool present-day ties, & I finished poems of whimsey, on a theme, for kiddos. A third new picture book manuscript is also almost ready to send out. If any of those see a green light I will  switch off from my zippy novel-in-progress for middle grade, & revise the previous project (s). Much as I love the current story & main character set in the 1960s in Florida, I hope for the temporary interruption via the working with-an-editor phase, of one of the “finished” pieces.

Thanks so very much for these Qs Kathy. And good luck with your contributions to the mighty fine new blog, GROG.