Thursday, October 15, 2009

party poopers

No bright uploaded image here; it's wet and chilly in Montgomery County, MD and I'm in a glowersome mood.

I was looking forward on Tuesday evening to participating in the PTA-sponsored "Read-Along Pajama Party" event at my school--the perfect opportunity to introduce myself (new this year) and Pumpkin Butterfly to the community. I asked about selling copies and donating some of the proceeds to the school, and my supportive and savvy principal called to inquire what the rules might be about such a proposal.

The answer from The Office was something like, "Not only can your teacher not sell copies of her book, she shouldn't be reading it on school property. That constitutes a conflict of interest." So I went to the pajama party and read work by Calef Brown and Valerie Worth, by Marilyn Singer and Constance Levy, by Ralph Fletcher and Brian Patten--a lot of fun! And yet...

The part about selling books makes sense to me; fair enough. But the part about not reading, not teaching my own published poems to my class (or any other in the system, perhaps including those of my own children as a parent volunteer), doesn't make sense. Our curriculum emphasizes the writing process and the development of the author identity in our students, and writers and poets are invited in all the time to bring that process to life--isn't having a live, in-house model a good thing?

I think it means something that after sharing one single poem from Squeeze (which is approved for inclusion in the county's school and public libraries), half of my first-graders are working on poetry collections for our Publishing Party at the end of the month. That's the interest we want to protect and promote, surely?

Friday, October 9, 2009

pushing out pumpkins

This isn't the first time I've likened the publication of a new book to the birth of a baby, but the effort this past 10 days has gone beyond metaphoric labor to literal heavy lifting. Last Friday, when I should have been blogging about how excited my class got when I announced that they would be publishing their own books just like Kevin Henkes and...well, ME, instead I was loading the car with all manner of promotional accoutrements: a 10x10 Swiss Army canopy, three folding tables, boxes of books, rolls of plastic tablecloth, bags of candy corn and plates of Trader Joe's pumpkin bread, laminated book pages cut from the f&g's Boyds Mills sent me at the last minute, a big fishbowl (for the raffle tickets), and of course, three giant pumpkins. I should have had the epidural.

My first event was held on the front lawn of a Lutheran Church who agreed at the last minute to let me squat there in the middle of a local restaurant event called "Taste of Bethesda" when I couldn't find anywhere else. It didn't rain (hallelujah) and I had a steady trickle of customers: a good combination of people who had received my email announcements of book events and families just passing by. There was no opportunity for a reading, exactly, but I sold 16 copies of both books nonetheless--plenty to make all the bearing down worth it (and now the car is loaded for all the other events this month). Here's a "Taste of Pumpkin Butterfly," the first poem of the new book.


we haul our empty wagon to a patch of hilly earth
weighed down with heavy orange
burdened with cumbersome pumpkins

"This is the one"
"And this one"
we say

we cut the tough vines and turn to load them up

behind our backs
a gust of butterflies rises and tumbles
on hot October air

yellow-green tinged with orange
wings as weightless and angular
as the pumpkins are heavy and round:

the ghosts of our pumpkins untethered from earth