The world has begun to take stock in a few good things that have happened during the pandemic. I would include my Zoom visit with the International School of Kuala Lumpur (ISKL) as one of those surprise blessings. I had such a good time working on list poems with them. Take a look at some of their creations. A special thank you to Ms Catherine Bae, their amazing librarian, who organized this visit. The poem below is entitled SUMMER ROCKS by Mr George’s Second Grade. Isn’t it grand?!
It’s now over a week ago, but my WRAD experience was amazing this year. I loaded all of my events into my Google Calendar so that I could easily find the link to each Zoom or Meet. That was definitely helpful. I also printed off a sheet for each school so I knew which book or poem we were working on. With 7 visits in a row, there wasn’t time in between each one for any hesitation. From Colombia to Queens, El Paso to Midlothian, Virginia, I had a blast creating poems and showing a “sneak peak” of my next children’s book, For Every Little Thing (Eerdmans Publishing), co-authored with June Cotner. It’s safe to say, I can’t wait until next year.
I can’t think of anyone I’d rather hang out with during a New England snow storm than Elly Swartz. If you haven’t read one of Elly’s fabulous books yet, now is the time to start. You can choose from Finding Perfect, Give and Take, or Smart Cookie. If you finish those, her next book, Dear Student, will be coming out in 2022. To learn more at her website, click https://ellyswartz.com/ To book a photo session with her talented son, Greg, head to https://www.instagram.com/gregswartz_photography/
Turns out Heidi E.Y. Stemple and I have something in common besides writing for children. When I was younger I vowed I would never be a poet like my mother. Guess what? That didn’t last. And if you read Heidi’s #AuthorAcrostics below, you’ll discover that she had similar thoughts until she turned 28. The rest is history!
It’s been a bit daunting, this new world of COVID-19. As difficult and overwhelming as it’s been, however, there has been an amazing outpouring of goodness from the world of libraries and authors.
While my spring school visits have been canceled, I’ve had some wonderful opportunities to still “meet” with children and families online.
I had one visit with my coworker, Ms Kate, from the Morrill Memorial Library. You may find that conversation here
Likewise, I was able to lead a Double Happiness poetry workshop online that Kate Messner posted on her blog
I hope you find a little time in the midst of this chaos, to nurture your writing and your self.
Long before COVID-19 was on our radar, back when we were only worried about the common cold, I had a fabulous visit with the Cottage Street Elementary School in Sharon for World Read Aloud Day (February 5, 2020). What amazed me, as always, was how deep and real and fabulous the students’ questions were about my picture books. These First Graders and Kindergarteners were such discerning readers, asking all sorts of questions about writing and dragons. If all goes well, I will venture back to their school in April to create a few Double Happiness poems.
September 18th, Book Birthday, Putnam Books for Young Readers, The Yin-Yang Sisters and Frightful the Dragon
September 22nd, 10:30 am, The Boston Athenaeum
September 28th, 6-8 pm, nErDy Author Night, Freeport, ME
September 29th, 1:30 pm, Children’s Book Reading Feat, Gordon College Bookstore, Wenham, MA
October 13th, 11 am, Book Launch Party, The Blue Bunny Bookstore, Dedham, MA
October 27th, 11 am, Story Time, Wellesley Books, Wellesley, MA
November 16th, NCTE 18, Houston TX 12:30-1:45 pm, presenting on a panel “The Power of Quiet: Helping Introverts (Quietly) Speak Up” with four other awesome authors: Jennifer Chambliss Bertman, Erin Entrada Kelly, Nancy Tupper Ling, and Tamara Smith. 3:30 pm, Signing at the Penguin Booth on the exhibit floor.
November 24th, Book Signing, Annie’s Book Stop, Worcester, MA
Funny thing! My Dad told me this a lot growing up: “Go ahead! It never hurts to ask!” As a shy child, I wasn’t so sure. Secretly I hoped things would work out on their own so I wouldn’t need to say a word. Requesting information, like “how much does that movie cost” or “where do you shelve the toilet paper,” took a monumental dose of bravery on my part. I am the model child for Susan Cain’s book Quiet.
Whether we like it or not, life provides opportunities to stretch ourselves, even on a daily basis. Contrary to popular belief, I don’t stick my head into books all the time as a librarian. I am called to be social and help our patrons. Likewise a big part of my day is spent answering patrons’ questions, which means asking a few of my own. And, as I’ve discovered, asking the right question at the right time can sometimes bring surprising results.
Case in point, several years ago I asked a question that changed my life. For years I’d submitted my poetry to June Cotner’s anthologies. When several of my poems first appeared in Baby Blessings, I was over the moon. After that first acceptance, June and I began corresponding regularly and she soon became my mentor in so many ways.
Then in the summer of 2012 I discovered I’d be heading from Boston to Seattle for a writer’s retreat. At last June and I were to meet in person!
Before my trip June happened to mention that she was overwhelmed with work because her assistant had recently moved away. Without hesitation, I asked the simplest of questions: “June, is there any little thing I can do to help you from the East Coast?” I thought I might assist her by reading a few of the many submissions she receives regularly.
I was completely shocked by her answer. “Well Nancy, how would you like to coauthor a book together?”
I don’t think anything could have knocked my socks off more. I could barely reply with a “Wow!” and a “Really?” and yet my travels to Seattle began a new phase in our relationship. We were becoming coauthors! Of course, that initial question was followed by many more. What project should we work on first? How should I gather entries to our anthology? Who would we submit our proposal to?
As it turns out, Toasts: The Perfect Words to Celebrate Every Occasion was our first book together. June graciously walked me through every step of the way. While I’d written poetry and children’s books before, this was a whole new experience for me. I had so much to learn. What am I talking about? I am still learning.
This New Year’s Day we signed a contract with Andrews McMeel for our second co-authored book entitled Family Celebrations, and thanks to the fabulous work of our agent, Anne Marie O’Farrell (Marcil-O’Farrell Literary LLC), we are excited to say our first children’s anthology, For Every Little Thing, has been accepted by Eerdman’s Publishing. On top of that, we have co-authored a children’s manuscript called Be Creative that my agent, Ammi-Joan Paquette (Erin Murphy Literary Agency) is shopping around.
Yes, I have to say, I find that I am pinching myself on a regular basis these days. Could this all be real? It is hard to believe this long and winding road to publication is part of this shy girl’s journey. To think it all began with a question, or maybe two or three. What do you think about that?
Well, how about them apples? Actually, in this case I should say, “How about them boxes?” Thanks to the ingenious Kirsten Cappy and her Curious City, I now have a beautiful activity kit to go along with my book, Double Happiness (Chronicle Books). You may link to it here, or find it under the Educational Programs. I hope teachers and librarians use this activity to create poetry with their young readers. Best!
I read a story today in the Boston Herald about a 14 year old girl named Justine Williams. She is a cancer survivor. She is also a survivor of horrific bullying which she had to endure while going through her cancer treatments. I can’t think of anything more vile than a person preying on another human being while they are enduring a life and death situation. It’s unthinkable, and yet this is evil if ever I saw it.
(for Phoebe Prince)
So you welcomed her—
the new girl from County Clare,
taught her how little things—
wide smile, plaid scarf,
Irish lilt—keep a girl down,
never mind an untouchable who steals
the heart of your star line man.
There’s no room for a swan
in a piranha pool, and so
you strip her flesh with lies,
tear her face from a class photo,
submerge her under your words.
Irish slut . . . skirt’s too short . . . hair’s too curly.
You couldn’t let it go—
this gentle threat,
those tender eyes.
How she longed to just get by;
how she prayed for something,
anything to change before another day.
But someone had to lose.
On the day she left this world
she walked past the bottles
hurled from the window
of a whizzing car, past
the white picket fence
frozen in New England snow,
into a closet where she wrapped
life’s horrors around her neck.
But you weren’t done.
There were new girls
to slam into lockers,
punch in the head.
You returned to what
you’d left behind,
typed one word—
under your Status Update.