Thursday, June 20, 2019

Teaching Blackout Poetry to Kids

How awesome was today? Very awesome. I was invited to teach a fifth grade class about blackout poetry, and somewhat warily, I agreed. I used to be an art docent, but after a year off I felt out of practice with getting organized and engaging twenty plus kids. It's always a crap-shoot.

However, once I got the ball rolling, the kids listened! They seemed interested and attentive and that right there is more than half the battle. Not to mention, I had the help of Michael Nyers (@fade.into.a.blackout). He sent me an outline to get started, which I modified for the age of the audience and the time allotted for the lesson. I also gleaned some "how-to's" from Spark Creativity's blog: The Easy Guide to Blackout Poetry.

I had one hour, so I needed to keep the up-front talking to a minimum. Here were my notes:

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A 1-Hour Blackout Poetry Lesson 

MATERIALS
- Book pages
- Scratch paper to protect work space and to make notes
- #2 Pencil
- Staedtler Mars plastic white erasure
- Markers, colored pencils, crayons...
- Blackout Poetry Books for examples 

WHAT IS BLACKOUT POETRY?  
Robert Lee Brewer from Writer’s Digest says:“A blackout poem is when a poet takes a marker (usually a black marker) to already established text–like in a newspaper–and starts redacting words until a poem is formed. The key thing with a blackout poem is that the text, AND redacted text, form a sort of visual poem.” 
The process can also be called found poetry, erasure poetry, redacted poetry and even Wite-Out poetry. 
It has a history that can date back to 1760, when Benjamin Franklin’s neighbor would make funny word associations between the two columns of text in the newspaper, calling them “Cross-readings.” 
Austin Kleon, author of Newspaper Blackout (copyright 2010), says:“Blackout poetry’s history looks less like a straight line and more like blips on a radar screen.” 
  
MY PROCESS
I wanted to recycle the proof copies of my YA books and was inspired by a community of blackout poets on Instagram, like Michael Nyers and Collette Love Hilliard. 
I carry a "blackout" travel bag and can create poems anytime I have to wait, like in an airport, riding the bus, a museum, the dentist's office...you name it. I'm never bored. My bag contains:
- Proof book pages from Dealing with Blue and Burnout.
- A Mead Pencil Pouch with Prismacolor pencils, #2 pencils, a pencil sharpener that holds shavings, a hi-lighter, a black ultra-fine-tipped marker, and a Staedtler eraser.
- A compass.

GETTING STARTED
- First skim the words on the page without reading for content. The idea is find words that catch your attention or inspire you in some way.
- Very lightly circle the words directly on the page. OR if preferred, write the words you find in order on another sheet of paper to keep track of them. 
- Go back and reread the chosen words to find a theme and fine tune your poem. Need connecting words like a, an, the, in, on, and…etcetera? Try to find them as letters within words.
- Boldly outline the words you do want with a marker and erase the pencil lines you don't want.
- Then, with a pencil, lightly sketch a picture, add shapes, or draw symbols that relate to the theme of your poem. Outline the lines you want to keep with marker. Maybe add arrows or flow lines to help reader follow the words of the poem (typically a reader reads from left to right, top to bottom).
- Last step, blackout the words you don’t want--and if you have a sketch, color it in-- using marker, colored pencils, paint, paper and glue, or other.  

TIME ALLOTMENT
Take fifteen minutes or less discussing notes and showing samples from the books. Allow forty-five minutes to work.
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Other links on the topic:
John DePasquale of Scholastics - Blackout Poetry
Teachers Pay Teachers - Blackout Poetry: Make poetry fun!
Emily H. Vogel - A Middle Grade Lesson on Blackout Poetry (Grades 6-8)

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Blackout Poetry Book Pile

Blackout Poetry Books

I interrupt my June Reading Challenge to introduce a stack of blackout poetry books. I've been asked to teach a 5th grade class next week on how to make a #blackoutpoem and ordered some books to share, mine included. Big thanks to @fade.into.a.blackout for the teaching notes and the great read: Finding Light in the Darkness by Michael Nyers. I also particularly loved A Wonderful Catastrophe by Colette Love Hilliard.

I've truly been enjoying Austin Kleon's writing style by reading his motivational series on creativity and art and am currently reading Newspaper Blackout, which includes the history of the blackout poem. So far, really well done.

I did have my reservations starting Hidden Messages of Hope by John Carroll when I cracked open the first page. With credits like squishiepuss, Manleyfunwithrobots, Cummings, DeBenedictis, and Jessica Hunt, I couldn't help but wonder if some kind of pervy word-play ensued. What kind of book did I just buy, again? I looked up the people and their links and everything seemed legit, though coincidental and curious enough. I read on and found the poetry and art, the overall book, delightful.

The two skinny numbers on the right without titles on the spine--*shakes fist* Damn you Amazon!--Well, those are mine. The colorful and whimsical duo known as Sounds Complicated and Distance Between.

I'm happy to be a part of the blackout poetry community and to support this group of artists/poets/authors. I know the fifth grade teacher is excited to learn this process, too, and that's a good start :)

Enjoy the reads!

Friday, May 31, 2019

June 2019 Reading Challenge: Leftovers, Again.

It's June, the year's half-way mark, and the month to catch up on books that were in previous reading challenges but never reached the top of the TBR pile. It's time to review those leftovers.

June Reading Challenge: Leftovers, Again


Perusing the March reading challenge, Kismet: Books I felt "destined" to read, I chose to finish:

1.) Expert Secrets by Russell Brunson

From the April reading challenge, The Kids' Picks: Middle Grade books recommended by the young team, I selected:

2.) Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder 
3.) The Third Mushroom by Jennifer Holm

And from the latest challenge for May, looking for titles containing the word "dirt," I picked:

4.) Playing Dirty by Jennifer Echols
5.) Done Dirt Cheap by Sarah N. Lemon


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Playing in the dirt!
A tall, bearded iris

Friday, May 24, 2019

On the Production Line: BIG heart corner-bookmarks!

Packaging Completed!
Top: "Just My Type" and "Happiness is Coffee"
Bottom: "Love Bees" and "Adventure Awaits"

The corner-bookmark factory of one--that's me, thankyouverymuch--is back in production mode! The Doodlebug Design paper and die cuts I ordered arrived and did their trick. I was inspired by the cuteness overload. So in between writing, camping, and worrying about everyone's health in my family (a quagmire of cancer, congestive heart failure, hip replacement surgery, and even the common cold), I decided to find some kind of outlet. Picking at my fingernails and staring at the floor doesn't really accomplish much as it turns out. Plus, the fingernails are in short supply--pun intended. So...paper therapy.

As the stash of heart corner-bookmarks grows, I'll list them on Etsy, hide them in Little Free Libraries, or tuck them here and there...whatever. Wherever! Just going to have fun and see what happens, letting my true Sagittarius nature reign.

Here's the latest:

"Just My Type"

"Happiness is Coffee"

"Love Bees"

"Adventure Awaits"

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"You'll never find a rainbow if you're looking down." ~ Charlie Chaplin (Sagittarius)

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

May 2019 Reading Challenge: The Dirt!

Thomas C. Haliburton said, "Money is a necessity; so is dirt." Well...so are books, dude, so get ready to get down and dirty with the May reading challenge. I don't necessarily mean naughty, but more like the place where you plant seeds and grow things, the important stuff under your lawn, the reason you have a washing machine, you know...that stuff. Just plain ol' dirt. 

May 2019 Reading Challenge: The Dirt!

My list of "dirty" books for the month include:

1.) Playing Dirty by Jennifer Echols - Contemporary Romance

2.) Dirt by Denise Gosliner Orenstein - Middle Grade

3.) Dirty Little Secrets by Kerry Cohen - Nonfiction

4.) Dirty Rowdy Thing by Christina Lauren - Contemporary Romance

5.) The Dirt Diary by Anna Staniszewski - Middle Grade

6.) Done Dirt Cheap by Sarah Nicole Lemon - Young Adult
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"Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt." ~ Unknown

Monday, April 01, 2019

April 2019 Reading Challenge: The Kids' Picks

I asked my kids for their top five middle grade recommendations and those book nerds gave me a list of eleven! There's no way I can get through that many reads in a month...but I'll share them here and then flip a coin...

Kids' Picks


1.) Wings of Fire Book One: The Dragonet Prophecy by Tui T. Sutherland



2.) The Third Mushroom by Jennifer Holm

3.) Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen

4.) The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle* by Leslie Connor

5.) Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson

6.) City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau

7.) Ungifted* by Gordon Korman

8.) Schooled by Gordon Korman

9.) Restart by Gordon Korman

10.) It Ain't So Awful Falafel by Firoozeh Dumas

11.) Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder

* A recommended read!

Friday, March 22, 2019

Burnout Rides Again!

The Gamut

I made so many mistakes with this cover that I had to go above and beyond the "three's a charm" and hit "Final Four!" I'm so happy with how this latest version turned out that I'm ready to celebrate! Free ebook anyone? Hell, yeah!

But before we head over to Amazon for a freebie (Free on March 22 - 23, 2019),  I want to review the pain so I can relish the gain. First, I started with the wrong font, all chunky letters and tough looking, which had readers assuming the story was some kind of biker erotica. People do judge books by covers, myself included, but what I'd created couldn't be further from the truth! In reality, this is a chaste love story with road trips and motorcycles...an adventure for the young adult (YA) crowd and the young at heart. 

By the second cover, I'd decided to use a more fun and youthful looking font but stuck with the leather jacket/zipper motif I had going on, mostly because I had a vision of using fabrics on all my covers. Dealing with Blue had denim, and in the case of Riding with the Hides of Hell, I envisioned black leather. But I was getting raised eyebrows whenever I mentioned the title.

While considering a title-change, a friend was busy giving me flack about the dark cover and how it needed to be brightened up. So I went gung-ho and gave everything an overhaul. I drew a motorcycle, added a pop of color, threw in some angles, but I couldn't let that leather jacket go. Ugh...I really disliked this cover! As it turned out, the third time was not a charm.

However, I did need that third step to get me to the fourth and final cover, which I love! This represents the fun, the love, and the adventure that I put into this book. Aesthetically, it works for me. I ditched the leather jacket that had initially gotten this project off the ground and brought in some asphalt, instead. I couldn't have gotten to version four without failing three times before. *I'm a poet, and didn't even know it.*

The take-away?

* Check the title...make a list of five or ten and whittle it down from there. The first one you think of is rarely the best answer.

* Brainstorm multiple cover layouts while mocking up thumbnails. Hit the bookstores and review covers in related genres. Compare and contrast. I peruse the ads at myfonts.com to see how they have fonts set up on the page.

* Where can a pop of color be added to draw attention? Where's the focal point? Where does the eye travel to next? Does it stay on the page?

* How does the final cover look when it's a thumbnail size on shopping sites? When I reduced my cover, the motorcycle got lost in the darkness, which had me going back to the drawing board. For the final, I framed the bike within the yellow beam to make it visible on the cover, big or small.

Boom! Done.

Now, ready to head over to Amazon for that free ebook? Give it a go, or buy a paper copy to really get the full effect. And don't forget to leave a review...this book's a lot of fun with tough luck and tough love, not to mention it's had a pretty tough start. Mercy.

Most of all, I hope you enjoy it!