All material on this website is © Donna JT Smith unless otherwise noted.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Children's Writers Notebook

This is how "off" I am lately.  I started this post yesterday, but never published it.  I was so tired and unmotivated!  I am putting it up today regardless of the fact that it is Saturday now. I was sick last week, and thought I was getting better last Sunday.  Guess I tried to pretend too long and too hard, because now I'm sick again - or still.  There is actually a poem on this page.  After you get through my fog you'll come to the dog...


It's Poetry Friday.  I've not been as "on" lately as in the past.  Seems like I have "stuff to do" all the time.  But I'm giving it a go today, although I am late.

Last week I went to Barnes & Noble just to browse, and I came upon this book (actually I found 2 books, but I haven't started the second one).
The book is called Children's Writer's Notebook and features 20 Great Authors & 70 Writing Exercises, by Wes Magee, published by Metro Books in NY and somehow also affiliated with Quid Publishing in England.  At any rate, that, for me, is not the important part.
The important part for me is that it "saved" my writing drought - or what I see as a drought.
I have written some, but not much since the middle of October, feeling like I want to write something that has not gelled yet.  Heck, it hasn't even been a liquid thought yet.  There is just something there that I can't start - because I don't have the foggiest notion of what it is.

I started NaNoWriMo, thinking maybe just the nudge there would be what it took to start.  I started and restarted and started yet again,  Nothing sounded like it had anywhere to go.  I was stuck with a place or a character who didn't know what they wanted to do in life...or my story.

Then I found this book.
And I've been writing in it.  
And I've been extending it to documents because a page in a book isn't enough room sometimes.  And it gets messy - but I like messy when I'm writing and I miss that on the computer.
Sometimes it isn't what the prompt was exactly about.  Wow!  That one was hard for me to deal with.  When asked to write about one thing and then taking off on another version of the prompt felt like cheating, until I lectured myself about how these were not being "graded" by anyone, and that there was no one who cared that you didn't write to the prompt exactly.  The goal was to write  s o m e t h i n g - A N Y T H I N G !!
I also came up with the realization that most of my writing transformed into poetry as I wrote. This WAS NOT what I had in mind.  Then I stopped writing in it.  I was now at a crossroads - again.  Would I keep writing and letting the poems keep happening, or would I try to write prose to hopefully develop part of a story as I had planned.

I have to think about this.  Or I have to NOT think about this and just DO whatever happens.

I think it is time to go back to my book and just do whatever comes out of me.  Crud.  I'd hoped to find my story I was looking for.

Till then, here's one bit of writing that came out of the practice:
Challenge #3 Write about a dog doing silly things on its walk. Four lines with a rhyme scheme ABCB with syllable count: 5, 6, 5, 6
So I wrote this.  It is not great, but it is something.  I've messed with it a bit more in typing it here.  This is one of the examples of really not sticking with the plan.  The dog was supposed to be doing silly things on its walk - but I just stuck with one focus really.  Since a writing challenge is supposed to get you thinking and writing, I guess it is okay. 


Sniff, sniff! Round the tree
Dog sniffs, then he harkens,
"That's my bark," he says;
His furry face darkens.

He scratches his head,
Puts a paw to his chin;
How did it get there?
His poor head starts to spin!

"My bark stuck like glue
Up the sides of this trunk
Must be brought back down
Or my bark will be sunk!"

Then Dog spies a cat
Whom he chases with glee
Right up to the tip
At the top of the tree

There the cat trembles;
As she shivers and shakes
The bark becomes loose,
And that's all that it takes.

The bark starts to drop
Where below on the ground
Dog scoops up bark chips
Putting bark in a mound.

Dog looks at the pile
Smiles and smacks his long lips
Then eats them all up
With two kinds of chip dips.

Dog with full tummy  
His bark safely inside
Sniffs at the tree trunk
Then embarks with great pride.

Dog is now happy,
Though the tree is quite bare,
As a trembling cat
Now shakes leaves down from there.

I wonder if this
Is how autumn began
With dog bark, scared cat,
And a tree shaking plan.

Notes: There are a few things I wanted kids to "get" or learn when I wrote this. (No, that's maybe not true - I never set out to "teach" something with a poem.  The poem just happens and then I see what all is in there most of the time!)  First the obvious three meanings of bark - tree, dog and ocean vessel (which kids around here are more likely to hear since we are a historic shipbuilding area).  Embarking was a fun word to put in there... and of course the phrase "barking up the wrong tree" would have to be worked into the poem.  And no poem party would be complete without chips and dip.

Okay, now I have to get back to my challenge/inspiration book... I have a cold/flu/fuzzyhead right now, so my current challenge is looking like a cup of tea and my inspiration is going to have to be Netflix or Hulu!

And you need to go visit Michelle Barnes' site to see about that anthology of hers, and to visit our hostess, Brenda Davis Harsham, at Friendly Fairy Tales to read more poetry today and all week!

Friday, October 14, 2016

Change of Heart

Thank you Michelle H Barnes and Kenn Nesbitt for the October prompt of writing a poem to and for your mother.  I have written other poems that have my mother in them, but never this one.  I guess I feel like she's been gone long enough to write it, but now I wish she'd known that I realized all she'd done for us.  So, though belated, and I can't see her face as she reads this in Heaven, here it is, for You, Mom:

Change of Heart

I cannot imagine
A stronger woman, wife, mother.
I was, and still am,
Determined to be like you.

You were not
Brought up the way most
Kids were.
In a tough life
You grew all
The more determined
To survive and thrive;
A different person
Than those around you.

I would never be abandoned;
I would get no coal at Christmas -
Jokes would be funny not hurtful;
My questions would have answers.

As a child,
I could not comprehend
The enormity of the difference
In my life
Made possible
By your young heart’s decisions;
But now I know.
Thank you for
Not just surviving,
But loving life,
Changing lives,
Loving me more
Than you should have been able.

Determined to be like you,
I was, and still am
A stronger woman, wife, mother -
I cannot imagine.

by Donna JT Smith

On Irene Latham's post today, she mentioned titles and how we come by them.  I realized this poem had undergone a few title changes on paper and in brain before I settled on its "meant to be" title.
I went through something like this:
"Change"... "Never Too Young to Change Lives"... "Changing Lives"... "Changing Hearts"...  and finally - "Change of Heart" - which felt right and to the point of what I wanted to say.

Go visit more poets and poems at Irene's place "Live Your Poem" today to celebrate Poetry Friday!

Friday, October 7, 2016

No Poem?

No Time for a Poem

Porridge for breakfast,
Spaghetti-Os for lunch,
Hot dogs and broccoli
For dinner to munch;

Throwing the frisbee,
Endless sweet talk,
Seeing a deer
On a long walk;

Puzzles and cars,
Winnie the Pooh,
Books and paint brushes,
Laughter and glue!

Sorry, I'm busy -
I can't write a poem
For I have my grandkids
Right here in my hoem.

Forgive me for slacking -
Not writing a lot -
There are songs to be sung
and hugs to be caught!


But I do want to mention - a Woo-hoo!
Nancy Drew Anthology is now available on Amazon in paperback.  My poem, "The Missing Mother's Message" is right in there with other poems from other poets.

Friday, September 30, 2016

I Got A Round to It

Oh, back a couple of days ago, I saw Michelle's post about YOU JUST WAIT: A POETRY FRIDAY POWER BOOK by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong and the shape poem prompt.  And I started fiddling about with this round poem.  I wanted to fill it with all sorts of references to round in many of its meanings also.  See how many you can find... though some of it is in the actual meaning of the text, too!  Good luck.  I don't know the answer - just warning you!

Making the Rounds

orbicular eggs
release tadpoles roly-poly polliwogs
 apostrophic black body-heads sporting long tails 
springing slipping from translucent globes of black egginess
glueless globs of jelly attached to discoidal green waterlily pads afloat
tugging the mud hugging the shallow pond’s curves beneath the radiant sun
reflecting and illuminating each concentric ripple single pebbles have created as
they are cast into the green water by a fresh-faced rosy-cheeked young tadpole perched
on the crested banks round after round of rounded stones plunking in the water missing
the mass of eggs that old mother frog with bulbous eyes warily watches from her domical
log singing her riveting resonating rounds of ribbits and croak-its rising skyward till the rock
tosser abruptly stops listens sits and erupts in a rousing round of gleeful applause for the
frog mother’s songs and rising sounds of spring and the rolling in of the next cycle of summery
sun just around the corner though soon enough ‘round that bend in the road will be tossed a
curve ball the fall when all will stall searching for havens of hollows to curl snug as a bug
or far flung warm sun as their space of safety before lacy discs of white spiral circuitously
to the revolving sphere of earth spinning around to springtime and globus frog eggs again 
renewing the cycle of roly-poly polliwogs and tiny tadpoles whose mothers bubble up in
song filling the drops of dew with robust ribbits and croak-its heavenward helicals
of song in the new sky cycling blue to purple hue before it is hushed in
 dark sapphire and the sparkle of overarching pinpointy stars
greets the next round of apostrophic tadpoles
roly-poly polliwogs released from
orbicular eggs

by Donna JT Smith

Okay, Tabatha - I did it!  It's a tongue-twister!

Then - just so you know - The Nancy Drew Anthology is being released tomorrow by the independent publisher Silver Birch Press in Los Angeles!  My poem "The Missing Mother's Message" is included... (yay!) 

Now go enjoy more poetry at Karen Edmisten's blog.  Visit today and all week!

Friday, September 16, 2016

News, Views, Clues, Woo-hoos!

It's Poetry Friday!
Hip-hip, hooray!
Such a special day
When get to say...
Here's all the news,
  and woo-hoos
Coming your way -

Now I have to remember all that I needed to say... and the rhyming MUST stop for now - quite enough... Okay.

Last Friday I left you with this teaser:
Next Friday: Sharing Buffy Silverman's Summer Poetry Exchange poem, maybe my anniversary poem, and a bit of news about a poem...
I have to add one item that slipped my mind.  The refrigerator magnet got forgotten in a shuffle.

1.  News - Tabatha Yeatts won the refrigerator magnet!  Not sure if she's sharing it today, too, but here it is.  It's the picture she sent, and my poem to go with it.

The term, "Ice-olated", is from about 30 years ago or more, when my son was 5 or younger, and used it when he was being a superhero and wanted to "isolate" me, or encapsulate me in ice - his meaning.  I loved it, and had to use it some day.

2. I'm skipping my anniversary poem that I said I would do.  But will say that last Friday, for our 44th wedding anniversary, we traveled down to PA to the Sight and Sound production of "Samson".  It was fantastic.  It was our second time going to a production there, and it was as impressive this time as the first.  The pillars crumbling at the end was especially well done!

3.  Views - Buffy Silverman's poetry exchange poem came to me just after posting a couple of Friday's ago.  She sent me a beautiful poem and some milkweed seeds.  I think I will be planting them this fall up at Gull Haven where we will hopefully be living by the time they are in bloom!

Casting off her striped skin
for a green-and-golden case,
she reassembles puzzle pieces;

gone are the sticky feet
for clinging and climbing;
the jaws that unstitched milkweed leaves;
the anchor that clasped
while she twisted and turned,
devouring one leaf after another.

Here are the skinny black legs
that will linger on soft petals,
the antennae not yet sniffing sweet nectar;
the two dark strands, waiting to be zipped
into a single straw, curled and uncurled
that will savor and sip

when her tiny wings
swell and flap
into the future.

by Buffy Silverman, 2016, all rights reserved

How amazing to be a butterfly that has just emerged to a new life!  I often wonder what they think of this transformation - or if they do at all.
Thank you, Buffy, for a gorgeous poem full of the marvelous, mysterious ways of these milkweed munchers!  Thanks for the seeds, too!  September's treat at school was always the releasing of butterflies for their trip to Mexico.  Hope I can attract some to our new home.

3. Woo-hoos - Silver Birch Press is including my pantoum, "The Missing Mother's Message", in their Nancy Drew Anthology that is coming out later this month!  I'm very excited about seeing my poem in print in a real live book.  I am pleased as punch.  Oh, and it has a wonderful cover, that I cannot show just yet.

It will be available online through Silver Birch Press soon.  Here are some links to where the anthology may be purchased - for those interested in reading Nancy Drew inspired poems!  I'll post these links again when the Nancy Drew Anthology is actually available! 
Website: https://silverbirchpress.wordpress.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Silver-Birch-Press/374649912590182
Twitter: https://twitter.com/silverbirchpres
 (yes, only one "s" here in "pres".

Thank you for reading!  I know this was longer than one post.  Each item could have been one post, but it all had to be said now!

Stop by for more poetry goodness at Michelle's place - Today's Little Ditty!  You won't be disappointed!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Yesterday or Tomorrow?

As I visited Poetry Friday offerings ... a bit late because my husband and I made a quick decision to go to PA and see the Sight and Sound production of "Samson" for our anniversary Friday night! (amazing, amazing, loved it, loved it)... I went to Carol Varsalona's poem "Summer Moved On", and as I was commenting, I found I was beginning a poem.  So I stopped and moved it over here!
I should keep track of how many poems I've written because I've read a post and my comment to it became a poem.  It has happened a number of times.  I thought it was a fluke probably the first time, but now I'm realizing what rich soil I'm blogging in!  There is inspiration and motivation and instigation wherever I look, listen or read!

Yesterday or Tomorrow?

I remember it like it was yesterday
It was there just moments ago -
Remember yesterday,
When summer was here?
Did it lag behind us,
Get left in our dust?
Or did it move on past us
When we were not aware
Of it’s changing pace
Its need to race?
Were we the ones
That summer passed
Or could it be we
Went too fast?
No matter which.
The day will come
When we greet summer
Once again -
Either up ahead
Where it has sped
And now lounges
In the sun
Waiting for us to catch up
As we dig a path
Out of snow,
Plant those seeds
In a row,
To show up
Just in time;
Or from behind
It overtakes
Tapping us on the shoulder
To say, “Boo!”
“I’m here again!”
But you knew
It was creeping up;
It never really surprises you -
Except for that
Bit of yellow dandelion
And the shoots of green
That took you unawares
Yesterday -
That dewy morning,
When you dripped
some drops
Of salty tears as the
Butterfly stopped to
And leave a kiss
So you'll always

This poem was instigated by a couple of things:
reading Carol's post on Friday AND somewhere that I can't recall now, the word "yesterday" struck me.  And the two together started to mesh and mush into a question of where we are in the cycle of the seasons... are we the ones moving or are the cycles?  Are they coming up from behind or are they in front of us?  Either way, it seems like only yesterday that summer was here.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Poetry Friday Anniversary Post

It's Poetry Friday!  Today's poetic offerings are being hosted by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater at The Poem Farm!  Thanks, Amy!

First, I want to post a poem I wrote on the spur of the moment when I was looking for Kiesha Shepard's blog.  I searched and found her From Pens to Paint blog where she tells of refinishing furniture.  While on From Pens to Paint, I came across this post about some end tables she'd painted using "flour sack white milk paint". Some words came to mind which I had to write down.
And these are they:

Flour-Sack White

Flour-sack white cottage
In an unmown field -
Memories still linger
Where the paint has peeled.
Sheets and socks blow gently
Drying in the sun,
Barrel by the backdoor
Expecting rain to run;
Windows bring the day in,
Shifting shadow’s light
On worn bits of treasure
In flour-sack cottage white.
Wide fields, stretched forever,
Dry to golden brown,
As the sun of summer
Earlier sets down.
Autumn days of harvest
Must draw to their end;
Winter winds will whistle,
Milk white days to spend
Inside this hidden cottage,
Snow drifts all around,
Sitting ‘round the fireplace
Waiting for the sounds;
Welcoming the springtime,
Birds’ and breeze in tune;
Flour-sack milk white cottage
Joins the joyous croon;
White sheets slap on clothesline,
Stockings flap like wings;
Through another season
Flour-sack cottage sings.

Donna JT Smith, 2016

Then I can't not mention that today is our 44th wedding anniversary.  The love of my life and I have been married, happily, for 44 years today.  We met on the first day of my Junior year in college - his Senior year, were engaged by Christmas, and married a week before starting my Senior year and his Graduate studies.  When it is right, you just know it, so there is no wasting time.
I made my wedding gown, bought a yellow rose to carry, hand wrote in calligraphy (the best I could learn in a couple of weeks) all my invitations and reply cards, bought three different sized marble cakes to stack and decorate with yellow on my own, found a cute church, a willing minister to marry us and church ladies to supply sandwiches, chips, pickles, lemonade and coffee.  My brother took pictures of the wedding, my dad paid Guy Grube (the minister), we got hitched... and are staying hitched for life!  Staying married was a given.  The D word never got mentioned.  That was never an option.  And so we learned to grow together.

I think today, some or many just assume that divorce is an option if (and there is never an "if" because they will) times get tough.  We did not expect things to always run smoothly, but we did expect that we would see them through together and come out on the other side better for it.  Nowadays we too easily decide to give up.  Early on my parents told me that you can't run away from yourself.  A new place was not going to fix things.  What needed to be fixed was inside you.  And that is how I've lived my life, and so has my husband.  We do not live a drama-filled life, as we are led to believe is the norm from tv... there are no "in your face" moments.  There are no statements or ultimatums thrown out that are hard to come back from.

"If you can't say something nice, don't say nothing at all..." has always been our motto - thank you Thumper.

That said, though, I must say that my husband makes it easy to say nice things.  I think I chose well in the husband department.  I have a poem started that I wrote for him, but I'm not satisfied with it yet.  So it will have to wait.

I cannot always just make a poem happen, I guess.  Sometimes I can.  This time I can't!  So, again, "If you can't say something nice, don't say nothing at all!"

Next Friday: Sharing Buffy Silverman's Summer Poetry Exchange poem, maybe my anniversary poem, and a bit of news about a poem...

Friday, September 2, 2016

Poetry Exchange

It's Poetry Friday, hosted this week by Penny at A Penny and Her Jots.
And today I'm sharing the last poem exchange of the summer, organized by Tabatha Yeatts.  My last partner for this year's round is Carol Varsalona!  She seems to have done her homework and enjoyed the "assignment" in this year's summer poetry exchange.  Carol has kept up with my recent motorcycling adventures, as well as drawing from my April A to Z Challenge where I wrote poetry based on vanity plates in Maine!  Since Carol also has a vanity plate, she used her plate to write a creative acrostic and print it up on a bookmark with plenty of sparkle!

Donna is....


  founD on the road

By Carol Varsalona, all rights reserved

She also found a newspaper article on women bike riders and used the article to create a Found Poem.

"What? Wearing Motorcycle?"
"No confusion,
I'm a woman on a bike
who wears what's comfortable!"
Bold, Blonde,
Biker Babe
Journeying Through Life

By Carol Varsalona, all rights reserved

Carol also supports a charity that brings education and sustainable living to Masese, Uganda.  The women there make beads and string them into jewelry, selling them to raise money to care for their families.  Carol sent along a beautiful string of ocean blue beads - a certain conversation piece to wear and bring awareness.
Thank you, Carol, for your multi-faceted gift!  Sweet, sweet, sweet!

What a great summer this has been!  I'm going to keep on riding until the leaves fall and I get too cold to continue.  Tomorrow my husband and I are riding to the park (I say "park", but I mean ocean) on our bikes, with lunches tucked away in bags on the back.  Maybe I'll tuck a bathing suit and towel in there, too!  We're going to pretend we are tourists...on "Daisy" and "Retired"...
I still can't believe I did this... that I'm DOING this!
Neither can my husband.

If you'd asked me three years ago if I'd ever ride a motorcycle, I'd have laughed and not even have taken the question seriously.  Three years ago I was having trouble seeing.  I couldn't drive a car at night.  I could barely drive in the daytime.  My back hurt.  I could not walk or ride long distances easily.  I was having problems with gluten (though I didn't know what it was that was making eating an iffy thing).
Got my cataracts fixed in the fall of 2013... things literally started looking good.
In 2015, I discovered gluten was ruining my life and cut it out... things started working well.
In 2016, I lost 50+ pounds... everything became easier and less painful to do.

I can see, I can eat, I can move!  I am not the same person I was three years ago... but I'm kinda feeling like the person I was 30 years ago.

Thank you everyone for the wonderful poems this summer!  I feel so blessed to be in this group... why, 6 years ago, I wouldn't have said I was a writer (no commenters on anything posted for those first three posts!).  And I didn't know any writers.  But everything has changed.  And I like every single change.


Chameleon, caterpillar,
dandelion, me -
Look at us just one time
what is it that you see?
Look again another day,
scan us up and down;
Do we look the same to you
or have some changed their gown?
Leaves on trees, clouds above
Eggs about to hatch
Nothing stays the same it seems
always there's a catch...
Sprouting wings, changing garb,
gray to brilliant blue,
Cycled lives of wonderment...
What's in store for you?

by Donna JT Smith

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Today is...

Today is...

Today is
lighter than
high clouds
split wide with
seams popping
show blue;
curl up into
my helmet,
dazzling me with
smells of fields mowed,
leaves burned,
roses blooming,
the tide turning;
the sun's warm hand
on my shoulder
makes me smile;
and for the very first time
I am thinking of
more than

  clutch -
    shift -
      break -

by Donna JT Smith, 8/27/16

by Donna JT Smith, 8/27/16