Friday, November 7, 2014

Poetry Friday: My Letter to the World and Other Poems

Something clicked for me as a teen studying poetry in my Grade 11 English class—poems seemed to say what we wouldn’t dare say out loud in regular speech. Or maybe we could say these things out loud—poetry dared us to do so.

To my younger self, the bold admission “I’m Nobody” in Emily Dickinson’s famous poem confidently expressed what many might feel but never say. The words flipped over the shame of it, experimenting with the idea that we might even be proud of such a statement.

Then, Dickinson bravely asks, “Who are you?” To my younger self, it was a question that reached out for connection. Those three daring words seemed to ask for more—are you like me, or are you not?

The words that begin the second stanza are relevant ideas for today’s young readers—“How dreary—to be—Somebody!/ How public—” The preference for and beauty of a private life couldn’t be more fascinating and timely an idea today as our lives are more public than ever before. The Selfie Generation might be surprised by the confidence voiced in the confession “I’m Nobody.” It might even seem impossible, or perhaps only an exciting thought experiment, to imagine refraining from telling “one's name” to the “admiring bog” or what we might compare to social media.

This famous poem is the third to appear in My Letter to the World and Other Poems from the Visions in Poetry series published by Kids Can Press. It’s one of two poems presented complete on pages of their own, while the others are spaced out carefully over several pages. On a first transparent leaf, an introductory poem functions as an invitation for readers to approach the book as a letter:  “This is my letter to the World…”

Seven poems strung loosely together follow, but some spreads present two or three stanzas, some six.

Other pages display three short lines, or just two. It seems natural for Dickinson’s short lines to be spotlighted this way, bringing new light and insight to the poems you’ve read before. Meanwhile, a young reader discovering Emily Dickinson’s poems for the first time will be mesmerized by the careful placement of lines and stanzas on these pages.

Award-winning illustrator Isabelle Arsenault captures Dickinson’s loneliness, seclusion, and separateness but also her thoughtfulness, introspection, and contemplation of the world around her. Within many of the illustrations, Dickinson is depicted with her eyes and face downturned. In a few of the illustrations, her eyes look out, searchingly, as if just over the reader’s shoulder, not making contact with the reader’s own eyes, suggesting meditation with a touch of resistance. I think that young readers will be attracted to the depth of expression in words and illustration that offer a glimpse into 
Dickinson’s private world.

My Letter to the World and Other Poems
written by Emily Dickinson
illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault
from the series Visions in Poetry
Kids Can Press, 2008
Ages 10 and up

I’ve been revisiting the beautiful books in this series and plan to feature a few others for upcoming Poetry Friday blog posts. They were published in hardcover and paperback between 2004 and 2014, but if you haven’t checked them out yet, My Letter to the World and Other Poems is a wonderful place to start. It’s my favourite in the series.

The Poetry Friday Round-Up is at RandomNoodling today. Please head on over there for more inspiration!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

What's Up Wednesday


Having read and loved Jandy Nelson’s first novel The Sky is Everywhere, a few years back, I was so excited to pick up her newest book, I’ll Give You the Sun. Once again, gorgeous writing and unique storytelling! I’m about 100 pages in and have fallen in love with the characters, especially Noah. I’m absolutely mesmerized by his portraits in the “Invisible Museum.” I just love the way Noah sees the world and how he shares his perceptions through his artistic imaginings.


With my new YA novel on submission, I’m starting to think about some of the ways I’d like to restructure the plot of a previously written YA novel.  The setting of this one is a private music school, and I’m looking forward to turning up my playlist for this story to help bring me back there.


Options. I love that the world is full of possibility, alternate turns in the path, secret roads, surprise detours. This is my answer to writer’s block. Changing where, how, and when I put time in on a WIP can bring about unexpected and positive results. I still love my routine, but changing it up a bit feels good this fall.


It’s been a busy back-to-school season here. I think we are all in the swing of the new fall schedule. Time is zipping by. I bought a Fitbit and inherited a treadmill. Now to put them to use…

I’m looking forward to reading your What’s Up Wednesday posts. If you haven't participated yet, you have until midnight tonight to post a link at Erin's blog or Jaime's blog

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

What's Up Wednesday


I’ve been following What’s Up Wednesday through the blogs of Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk for a few months now, and I’m happy to join in this week.


I’m just about to start We Were Liars by E. Lockhart. I’ve heard and read great things about this book and can’t wait to dive in. I think it will be a quick read, which will please my teen daughter anxiously waiting for me to hand it over to her. We often trade books back and forth—she is currently reading my copy of The Diviners by Libba Bray.  Meanwhile, she just bought Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys and Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher and I’ll be next in line for those.

Also on the go is a reread of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. This time around I am listening to it as an audiobook with my husband while following along with a hard copy. I picked up a few poetry books from the library yesterday, among them My Letter to the World and Other Poems by Emily Dickinson—a read-over-and-over little book gorgeously illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault.


Over the last several months, I’ve worked on a few rounds of major revisions on my YA contemporary novel.  I am now in that final edit phase. Most of my writing time is focused on sharpening my cover letter and synopsis. I’m also dedicating a small amount of time every week to the writing of songs that will be included in my other completed YA novel as a part of the main character’s songbook. My poetry critique group has been a great support and source of inspiration for that project.


Trees. I have always been a lover of trees, but I am rediscovering them this summer. Trees play a small but meaningful role in the YA novel I am about to start pitching to agents. I’ve been taking a little time each day, even if only 15 or 20 minutes, for forest bathing. I’ve been noticing the different sounds they make and have been focused on identifying a few of the trees, before I see them, by the noise their leaves make. Poplar, for example, sounds very different in the wind than the maple or oak.
I’ve been photographing trees all summer.


I’ve been spending a lot of time with my mom. I could have included this point in the paragraph above as she has been a major source of inspiration for me. She is beautiful, wise, hilarious, generous, and grateful. She is so strong—a survivor. I continue to be blown away by the lessons she passes on to me.

Wishing you a wonderful and productive week!