Cynsations Displaced

In a dark cyber-twist on things, KidLit champion Cynthia Leitich Smith has been blocked out of blogger right before the debut of her new novel Tantalize hits the shelves. Is that a bum rap, or what? 

For those of you who like to keep up on all her news, views and interviews, she’s currently “guest blogging” at Greg Leitich Smith’s site

which is syndicated for Live Journal at

Today, there’s a good interview up with Marian Hale, author of the new Dark Water Rising (Henry Holt, 2006). 
I like what she says about the importance of loving what you do, even the revision parts:

Look at each revision as another chance to bring more clarity, to make some part of your story touch your reader more deeply and hopefully linger long after your book is back on the shelf.”

Makes it all seem like less of a slog when you put it that way, doesn’t it?

Poetry Friday: Skipping Rope

This morning I picked up a new jump-rope for my youngest, as a birthday surprise.
She turns six in just a few days, which makes her old enough to skip, hop and jump; count past 100 ; and rhyme in time. All of which makes me trip over the lump in my throat.
There’s just something about six that is so… kid-like. Y’know?
She moves around these days in a mighty body. She plunks her feet on her handlebars and steers her bike downhill. She performs acrobats on her bunkbed ladder. At school, her only disappointment is when a swing isn’t available at recess.
Meanwhile, clever witticisms burst forth like little exhales. Her dad and sister and I are her happy, captive audience and granted, we’re biased, but she’s funny!
Thus, the jump-rope – the perfect synthesis of physical vigor and brainy vim.
Here are a few skipping rope rhymes to get her started. She can make up the rest herself. Sigh.
Red hot pepper 
in the pot –
gotta get over 
what the leader’s got.
10… 20… 30… 40 …..
Two little dickie birds sittin’ on the wall
One named Peter, one named Paul
Fly away, Peter, fly away, Paul
Don’t you come back ’till your birthday’s called 
Fly away, fly away, fly away all.
Raspberry, strawberry, apple jam tart.
Tell me the name of your sweet heart.
A… B… C…
Ice-cream soda, lemonade punch.
What is the name of your honeybunch?
A… B… C…
I might just have to give that rope a whirl myself. 
See if I can get all the way to W, in honor of the birthday girl. 
Happy Birthday, Honeybunch.

Author’s Interview

I’m honored to have been interviewed by the lovely and talented Cynthia Leitich Smith (author of many good reads, including the upcoming Tantalize

So walk, don’t run to the newstand at the corner (whoops, that’s another era I’ve been immersed in lately)… 

These days, you can stay seated and catch me rambling on about writing and reading at:

Thanks, Cynthia, for including me in your illustrious list of interviewees. Grateful and flattered…

Unsinkable Molly

Vivid columnist Molly Ivins died last week, too young, after battling breast cancer three long times. I’ve been meaning to write about her for days, but the thing about Molly Ivins dying is that it can render you speechless.
I mean, really, what’s to say about a voice that was so dang good at speaking up for herself, and for all the rest of us? And when I say us, I mean everyone who needed a little hoist up onto the old soapbox. The women and children, the artistic and illiterate, the black and brown, the broke and beaten, the neighbors and nations a long ways away. Us.
Molly Ivins was wicked funny and deeply thoughtful at the same time – a capacity I admire more than any other, I think.
Where plenty of funny folk use humour as an escape ‘chute (and who can blame ‘em), Molly used it to plot a direct path in deeper to whatever pesky, troublesome business was at hand.
And where plenty of deep intellectuals and well-intended political thinkers are solemn (and self-important) enough to shut our receptors down, Molly cracked jokes to keep us on our toes. Hers was a single-handed call-to-action; a plan you wanted in on.
And that’s the thing. Molly Ivins glowed and crackled, not unlike her sister-Texan Ann Richards (whom we also lost to cancer this year). These women politicized other women, they chastised apathetic youth, they shook up the steady center, they triggered movement – and movements. These were voices capable of lighting fires under just about anyone.
I had a grandmother like that – all full of intention and charisma. My husband once said of her, “Mame is the only person I know who makes you feel lucky when she asks you to do her a favor.” If you get a whole family or a whole readership or a whole constituency feeling that way, stuff is gonna get done.  
Molly Ivins moved on with that charge in her wake. In her last column, in which she pushes a populist crusade to end the war in Iraq, she says, “Think of something to make the ridiculous look ridiculous.” It’s a call to Shakespeare’s fools, to the emperor’s tailors, to us. Hone your rapier wit. Git ‘er done.

Poetry Friday — Basho

I love haiku, and not for the same reason some of my students do (i.e. they’re super short and you can pull one out in a pinch just before class).

I love them because of how pure they are, how evocative and complete, in so spare a frame. 

I love the implicit connection they make between the natural world and, well, everything. 

I love that they remind us, as poets, to be attentive to each and every word, every sound, every connotation.

Basho and the Fox, by Tim Myers and illustrated by Oki S. Han is a lovely little picture book about the great haiku artist and his relationship with a rascally fox, but also his relationship to his work. 

The very idea that the dramatic conflict is the constant striving to write a better poem! Isn’t that delicious? 

Myers grapples with all sorts of abstractions — the muse, revision, patronage, and writing a poem for its own sake — with humour and, dare I say, suspense. 

My girls love the trickster and the struggle to Get It Right. 

I love the reminder that our best work “flows into (us) and out of (us)” and that all the effort in the world won’t impress a fox (or an editor or the madding crowds) unless the act of creation is that natural, that inevitable, even. 

Like the moon blooming
or a deep breath, in and out
words take their places.