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Thursday, April 25, 2013

Kidlit Fundraising for Boston

Last week's tragedies hit uncomfortably close to home. In 1994, I moved to Boston for school. For many years I lived in Brookline and Brighton, and watched the Boston Marathon run right down my streets. In 2004, my husband and I moved to a town bordering Watertown, where the grisly final showdown of last week's crime spree played out. The manhunt for one of the bombing suspects took place within 1.5 miles of my neighborhood near all the places we go on weekly errands. The suspect was apprehended in the backyard of a house mere steps from a play area where I've been taking my son for years. (I blogged about our long day in a lockdown zone at Sleuths Spies and Alibis earlier this week).

I think so many of us feel these events hit close to home even if we don't happen to live in the lockdown zone. We all know runners, and maybe some of us run. We know policemen. We know sports fans. We know eight-year-old boys. And so forth. If you talk to enough people, you are bound to find some kind of personal or emotional connection to the horrors that unfolded in the news.

Always, though, I come back to these fundamental facts: I am not that close to the events. I was not a victim. None of my friends or family were either. Any complaining I might do about personal inconveniences and fears I experienced last week do not come close to the losses experienced by those at the finish line -- people who lost lives, limbs, or loved ones.

In the face of past national or international tragedies, I have found it helpful to channel my emotions into taking action. Donating money or time to a cause. I am therefore participating in a kidlit community auction to benefit Boston Marathon victims and their families: The Write Stuff For Boston. YA writer and blogger K.T. Crowley (also a fellow Bostonian) has organized this auction and is hosting it on her blog. Ten new items will be unveiled every day, starting today. Authors, bloggers, editors, and agents have donated books, manuscript critiques, school visits, and other items and services. Money raised from bidding goes directly to The One Fund Boston or to The Boston First Responders Fund. Items will be open for bidding for five days after they are listed.

My donation is a manuscript critique of a MG or YA book (up to 30 pages) OR a YA short story, plus a copy of Tokyo Heist.

Another wonderful initiative is spearheaded by YA author (and Boston-area resident) A.C. Gaughen and YA author Kimberly Sabatini. They are collecting books (from authors, readers, anyone) for an initiative called Books for Boston. New children's books -- with uplifting inscriptions or messages of hope -- will be collected and donated to the Boston Public Library and to the Neighborhood House Charter School, which is where 8-year-old bombing victim Martin Richards attended. You can read more about Books for Boston, including the philosophy behind it and how to help, on A.C. Gaughen's blog.

I hope you'll consider participating in one of these efforts, donating to The One Fund, or helping to spread the word.

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Wednesday, April 3, 2013

A Poem for National Poetry Month

I rarely write poems. Okay, I never do. I used to, many years ago, and I don't know what happened, why the poetry ideas dried up. I love reading poems, but I think somewhere along the way my ideas started talking to me in full-on sentences, and paragraphs appeared before my eyes rather than stanzas. I'm not known for brevity, and I usually feel constrained when I impose a structure.

But I'm so inspired by my fellow YARN editor Kate Burak's poetry prompts this month, I just can't help myself. Plus my other fellow editor Kerri Majors wrote a cool poem today, which you can read here. So I'm rolling up my sleeves today and actually writing a poem! I think for those of us writing stories and novels, it's a great exercise to try a different form of writing now and then.

Before I plunge in, let me tell you about how YARN (Young Adult Review Network) is celebrating National Poetry Month. We're running a poem-a-day project. There are prompts on the YARN website for every day of the month. Every Monday you'll find seven prompts, one for each day of the week. Today is Day 3. It's not too late! We'd love to see people's results and encourage you to share your prompt-inspired poems with us on Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr.Tag your Twitter and Tumblr poems with the hashtag #NPMYARN. For Facebook, tag YARN!

Okay, here's today's prompt:
Write directions for preparing food.  The food can be simple (a glass of rain) or outrageous (cooking the world’s last antelope)—you decide.

Oh no. Anxiety. Not only do I not write poetry, I do not cook.

Wait a second. I did cook yesterday -- it was my son's birthday and I attempted to make him a cake. I even took pictures of the process. Hmm. Ingredients for a poem in all of that? Maybe? Here goes!


When I take my son's birthday cake out of the oven,
I nearly drop it in horror.
The cake has sprouted a full set of lips
that seem to smile at me,
or leer,
and narrowed eyes,
You cannot cook, the cake breathes,
emitting a tendril of steam.
You have walked the earth this many years,
become a mother,
and until today,
 you have never made a round cake?
Not even from a box? 
You hold an advanced degree
and you cannot follow five simple steps of directions?

The cake's pockmarked face shifts and settles
and sighs
as I set the pan on the counter.
The lips protrude into a pout.
Then the corners of the mouth curl up.
I am torn between
immediately sending a picture to a tabloid magazine
("The Virgin Mary's face is in my cake!")
and making a million dollars --
or throwing it in the trash before my son sees this aberration
and is scarred for life.

I opt for the heavy concealer.
I slather on frosting, working fast,
while the cake's uneven surface heaves beneath
my frantic spatula.

I think of all the childhood cakes my parents bought me
with their neat round shapes,
their even layers,
their perfectly coiled confection roses,
their slight whiff of supermarket refrigerator case,
and I think
yes, that was the way.

I cover up every last bit of the cake,
and all the stress that went into its making --
the skipped step, the out-of-order step,
the incorrect measurement,
the eternal feeling of not measuring up
on the motherhood meter --
and throw handfuls of candy at it when I'm done.

Later that evening,
my son admires the cake,
blows out the candles,
and eats it with both hands,
and my husband says,
"How many kids are so lucky
to have a homemade cake?"

I smile and shrug,
as if I made cakes like this all the time,
as if the cake concealed
no secrets.

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