Irma’s Tinkerbelle

Directly across our house. From Hurricane (tropical storm) Irma Sept. 2017

In flights of twos and tens,
hummingbirds darted in light rain to a feeder
I watched in Alabama.
That was one of the beauty spots
calming us
when we evacuated North Florida,
away from high winds
and waterfalls of Irma’s rain.

Maybe because my pictures of them define blurry,
or there were so many
of the whirry, bitty birds,
I made a startling leap of
imagination. J.M. Barrie must have been a
hummingbird watcher
. And I decided that
hummingbirds must have been his inspiration for
Tinkerbelle in PETER PAN.

TINKERBELLE

Our city & county officials called for
a voluntary evacuation.
When a sturdy, outdoorsy,
trusted writer pal informed
me of that alert, we knew it
was right to go with the flow.
Although I had snared the last room reservation
at a chain hotel we like, it was nicer to give that up
to another family & accept
the offer of shelter of another writer pal, whose
spacious house at tree top level,
book-filled from beam to brim,
defines the word retreat.

The hovering Tinkerbells inspired me to
write a poem, Jaunty,
in longhand there (below), which
may fit an intriguing
prompt from Carole Boston Weatherford
at TODAY’S LITTLE DELIGHT/DITTY.

I also found out how one very special canine
works a laptop.
I read borrowed books from our pal,
Joan Broerman, author, writer’s workshop leader
who is a legendary leader in the Society of Children’s Writers & Illustrators.
In generous Joan fashion, she also gave me a book for the road
(BIG MAGIC, Elizabeth Gilbert.)
My hubby & I so very much appreciate Joan for providing calm
energy & generator advice & much more
in the storm.

Maggie & Me

Back home, in North Florida Irma slowed
to a wide, walloping tropical terror, downgraded
from a hurricane.
Irma veered away east of our North Florida hilly town,
leaving people to cope with downed trees & hours
without power. I hope that many, looking at the
destruction on islands and along rivers/lagoons/canal
communities,
understand how fortunate they are not to have to live
in a Florida flood plain. (This is land that should
be set aside from development, as along the
Hillsborough River near Tampa.)

Here is my Hurricane Irma poem.

Jaunty
by J.G. Annino

A bitty bird creature,
darting,
discovers
empty feeder.
Food gone.
Hovers, hovers, hovers.
Human helper, help instantly!
Jaunty keeps looking.
More nourishment needed!

One person
quickly,
quietly,
responds,
rendering
sustenance
to
ultra-vibrant
winsome wonder.
c.2017JanGAnnino

Jaunty

Thank you all, first responders. Thank you librarians, who are among the many groups organizing for hurricane relief.

Thank you for collecting images of Hurricane Irma’s impact,
Washington Post , including photographs from my
beloved streets of coastal Southwest Florida,
where I no longer work & live, & from coastal Northeast Florida, where
we sometimes play.

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In poetry this week – Beach bear, 1800s

In poetry this week/ Beach bear of 1800s
by Jan Godown Annino

(!st – Poetry Friday is served by Jama’s Alphabet Soup</a>.)

I’m sharing a bear on the beach poem I wrote, published
in 2006. It was inspired by an account of a traveler
in 1800s Florida.

You may not know what is happening in Florida
now.

Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015 a nearly 20-year ban on killing
this state’s remaining wild bears is to be lifted.
Up to 320 random bears, mostly minding their own
business in woods of North Florida &
Central Florida, far away from tourists, can be
shot. And shot. And shot. And killed.

I repeat, wild black bears in our lovely & wild forests
which remain mainly in Central and North Florida, will
lose the safety of deep woods for the duration of the hunt.
This includes females who have cubs.
Where will they run to? Where will they hide?

milkweed-book-covers-165

Here is my poem.

Beach Meal, 1820s
by Jan Godown Annino

first published by Milkweed Editions, 2006

The beach is lit by the light of the moon
when she-bear pads along the shore

She stops
lifts wet snout to salted air
moves on

She repeats this testing until
sniffs satisfy

She pads to a sandy place on strong feet
stops,
digs

Sand and shell bits plume
skyward

to snow back down on thick fur
still,
she digs

She stops
shoves her mouth into a mound

She tears and slurps
soft gift from the sea
round white balls

A secret treasure chest
buried by a sea mother

She-bear shoulders through palmetto
to home,
nourished

frosted with smear of yolk
with glitter of sand
©2006-2015 Jan Godown Annino
revised 2015

I hope your news outlets will carry information about
protests of the hunt.

For years, this state that still holds pockets of paradise
despite being loved to death by a populous that has made it 3rd in
the nation, has struggled with balancing panther, sea turtles + bears
against growth, new housing + winter visitors.

Almost magically, we have areas where wild panther
roam.
And we have clear waters with several species of sea turtles. They
are protected by lights out or lights dim at night, so the pregnant
females can be encouraged to pull themselves along sand, to lay eggs. Once,
our state residents + visitors took them for soup and shell.

And, once, bears were protected in Florida.
Until now.

I don’t know what accounts for the political change.
Visitors + residents still rank our nature parks + national forests +
protected estuaries + beaches as top reasons they return.

I do know that uninformed residents feed wild bears, either deliberately
or inadvertently via trash. This makes me think of
uninformed visitors + residents who try to get close to alligators
for a photo op.

There are so many ways to restrict garbage collection sites, to
impose rules, as in Canada, about family trash bins. So many
other strong education measures to take that is more than advice.
So many enforcement measures about feeding bears.

Instead, bear-feeding people have flaunted the situation. And
that provoked encounters that sent people to the hospital.
And now we have a bear hunt.

If you are interested, here is the address of the Florida
Chamber of Commerce. It may be worthwhile to let them know
that the business of hunting bear isn’t as important as
the business of attracting wildlife-appreciating visitors

Florida Chamber of Commerce PO Box 11309 Tallahassee FL 32302
info@flchamber.com
twitter @FLChamber

If you have a connection with a visitors/tourism bureau in a
part of the state, you may also want to contact them.

I don’t know what accounts for the political change.
Visitors + residents still rank our nature parks + national forests +
protected estuaries + beaches as top reasons they return.

image copyright all rights reserved Jan Godown Annino

image copyright all rights reserved Jan Godown Annino

We don’t hunt manatee. Anymore.
Why bear?

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A young poet in character

The poet Naomi Shihab Nye edited the poetry anthology SALTING THE OCEAN, which is afloat with the vibrant writings of young poets. Like Nye, I think that attention paid to young poet voices can build peace, provide future strong leaders and just make any poet’s day.

If you agree, Poetry Out Loud,  is a brilliant program you may want to run out & connect with. I volunteered with POL recently & hope to help out more, next time around.

In the 1950s in my state, Florida, a Putlizer-Prize winning author thought about a young poet.

In doing so, the author created a character not seen often then. An elementary-age poet character. If you know of a recent (within 3 years or forthcoming) picture book or illustrated book (not YA, which pays tribute to teen poet charactersoften enough) for children that features a elementary age character who is a poet, I would like to know for my list.

In the meantime, young poet Calpurnia is a character to consider. She is inspired by her dog, to write poetry:

 

My dog’s name is Buggy-horse

         Of course.

 

Our young poet further writes:

 

Lovely day,

Come what may.

         If I did not love

                           my mother

                                    and my father

 

         I would run away.

         Because

                           it is a running-away

         Kind of day.

from THE SECRET RIVER

 

With the birds chit-chittering outside my open window

 

With the two kinds of azalea in the yard (native & exotic) nodding pink petals on the March breeze

 

With my Western cousins having just swept through town on their way home, enticing us with video of their kayak adventures among manatees, alligators and living whelks

It

feels like

a running-away day.

I can’t run.

Why –

just been away in Boston & then immediately after, Central Florida

hosting a critique meeting soon

have 3 essay deadlines

And mostly, my writing deserves this keyboard time.

But – if you are north of Garden Zone 8 &  your winter has lasted longer than usual this year, is it time for your running-away day?

I hope so, remembering the advice of one of my favorite writers for children, Cynthia Rylant, who said that instead of reading an interview with her online, a writer should probably go and play.

 

Did you guess the adult creator of the young poet who was inspired by her dog?

It is Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, in THE SECRET RIVER.

Timeless, lovely story, in each of its two editions:

 

THE SECRET RIVER  by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, illustrated by Leonard Weisgard

THE SECRET RIVER
by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, illustrated by Leonard Weisgard

 

 

THE SECRET RIVER by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings illustrated by  Leo & Diane Dillon

THE SECRET RIVER by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
illustrated by
Leo & Diane Dillon

 

 

 

 

Ursus

This time of year big black refrigerators of the woods, bears, still slumber in the United States.

Bear specialists tell us that here in Florida, they don’t enter a true hibernation.

A few published poems of mine are about black bears. That is fitting as these wild, grub and berry eaters and I have met up three times unexpectedly. I’m not looking for any more crossing of paths, except in literature.

When I pick up a poetry collection that is new to me, as I have with Lucille Clifton’s evocative BLESSING THE BOATS, I am drawn to any poem story that employs themes in my world, such as the Ursus topic.

BLESSING’s poem, “imagining bear” is dedicated to Alonzo Moore,  Sr., by Lucille Clifton.

In part, it reads:

imagine him too tall and too wide

for the entrance to the parlor  

imagine his hide gruff; the hair on him

grizzled even to his own hand  

imagine his odor surrounding him

rank and bittersweet as bark  

I am struck by this on a rainy Wednesday morning. An idea I ponder is how fur-bearing animals don’t catch colds, develop bronchitis, from routine soakings in the wild.  (Manatees can develop pneumonia.)

A character I have summoned and have put on an island is someone who I think of in bear metaphors.

Clifton’s bear and my bears,  new character and in poems  (Milkweed Editions, the one & two with The Journal of Florida Literature) aren’t the Orlando bears most associated with my state, the theme world entertainers.

Although, tenderly handling the ragged bear hand puppet that survived my childhood, I found a muse to bring me bear poems for little children.

In sober poems, bears frighten. They are prowlers.

As Clifton writes:

imagine his growl filling the wind  

Here is a review that does justice to Lucille Clifton’s BLESSING THE BOATS.

SUGAR HILL

When I made a trip from Florida to visit a newsgal pal, Deborah, who lived in New York City in the 1980s, one day I arranged to ride a bus to one of the city’s most fascinating neighborhoods, Harlem.

Harlem is connected to Florida in many ways but especially because Zora Neale Hurston, James Weldon Johnson, Augusta Savage and other talented cultural icons we share about with our kiddos in school, home & at the library, went from Florida to NYC & then onward in their great careers.

At that time, the only place

for them to be

in NYC

was Harlem.

Our Harlem tour was mighty fine. I have news of a new tour, with these introductory words by poet Carole Boston Weatherford:

                                                Sugar Hill Sugar Hill

                                                Where life is sweet

                                               And the neighbors smile

                                                   At all they greet!

The is from a rhyming tribute to a part of Harlem, Sugar Hill elegantly portrayed in images by artist R. Gregory Christie.

Both the poet and illustrator have earned a block full of children’s literature awards.  Not only have I given some of their books as gifts, but I was also fortunate to hear Ms. Weatherford read her poetry once.

If you are like me, you’ll want to read more of the rhymes. Until you can find this brand new picture book, here are some of Christie sketches for SUGAR HILL, HARLEM’S HISTORIC NEIGHBORHOOD, through the courtesy of the artist and, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.  Hope you book your tour.

The mystery is history

The mystery is history

DSCN0042_3

About now in the school year a search is on.

Students round up a few likely suspects:

http://www.floridamemory.com/onlineclassroom/history_fair/#bet

They probe into their past. And they

create a short script, or construct a table display

or write an essay about the object of their attention.

If they are passionate and well-informed and are favored

by the local, regional and state judges, they find

themselves in our nation’s capital for the National

History Day Fair.

A shake of the dance rattle  (traditional turtle shell or

modern day metal can) please, as I mention with

pride that this time around Betty Mae Tiger Jumper,

is highlighted as a worthy subject.

She receives a fine digital shout out directed at students: http://www.floridamemory.com/onlineclassroom/history_fair/

http://id.loc.gov/authorities/names/n93123557.html

Will students look closer at the woman who authorized me to

tell her story to younger readers?

Because she wrestled alligators, she grabs attention. For grade school

age,  a creative collaboration produced the gold medal, Florida Book

Awards title, She Sang Promise: The Story of Betty Mae Jumper.

It features a letter to readers from her son, Moses Jumper, Jr. and illustrations from Lisa Desimini, with  my text vetted by

the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum of the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

What pulls middle grade students in is that Betty Mae began

kindergarten at middle school age.

High school researchers may want to explore death threats

she survived, her election as the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s

first woman leader, her role in forming a four-tribe coalition

to speak with one voice. her appointment to a presidential

commission.

The 2014 national theme on rights and responsibilities is a smooth fit

for this trailblazer.

Brava! Betty Mae Tiger Jumper. Added to a list of

non-Native men and women who our nation’s students have presented

on, since at least 1974.

00000001

all images copyrighted by the author

PLUS – an additional resource from this site (any returning readers, apologies for the previous non-working link) is:

https://bookseedstudio.wordpress.com/about-this-site-writer/bookseedstudio1/