Saturday, December 21, 2013

Winter Solstice

It's Winter Solstice here in the Northern Hemisphere--the shortest day, and this year, a very cold one. It's 2 degrees F as I type this. I join many of you in being thankful that the days will start getting longer. Gimme sunshine!

To mark the occasion, I share with you a poem based on riding the school bus to school for 6 years through the countryside.

A Rural Ride

Cold winter mornings,
The yellow school bus
bumps along gravel roads,
loading children,
one farmstead at a time.
The sun pinks the sky,
Sheens the snow,
Steams the lake.
In the pastures, cattle’s breath

Rises like prayers.

copyright 2013, Jane Heitman Healy, all rights reserved

(photo by ed_needs_a_bicycle

Please share your winter memories in the comments section!

This poem also lives on poet David L. Harrison's Word of the Month blog, where everyone is invited to try writing and posting a poem based on a word that changes each moth. Come and play! 

(Internet Explorer 11 seems to have hijacked my Thanksgiving post. If any of you have experience in dealing with IE11 and blogger, let me know. So, I'm trying this on Chrome and hoping for a better result.)

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Journey of a Lifetime

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step~Lao-Tzu, Chinese philosopher

Life is a journey, not a destination~Ralph Waldo Emerson, American essayist and poet.

And so this month, I am participating in the journey of PiBoIdMo (picture book idea month), the brain child of author Tara Lazar. The purpose is to record a picture book idea (or ideas) each day. At the end of the month, the more than 1,000 participants will cull their best ideas and set to work, turning it into a manuscript worthy of submitting to a publisher.

We have a Facebook group where participants can encourage each other, and Tara has invited well-known guest bloggers to her site to encourage inspiration, creativity,and productivity. And we're half-way through!

Different people use different methods to record their ideas. Here's my notebook on the cusp of Day 1:

We are focusing on writing, with the understanding that much of a picture book story is told through the pictures. One new book getting a lot of attention is a beautiful wordless book, Journey by Aaron Becker. Here's a review from Kirkus and from Horn Book.

My amateur cover photo gives an inkling of the book's grandeur.

I love this wordless book because each reader can bring him- or herself to the story, a story that the reader can create and tell, a story that changes with the age and circumstances of the reader. It's a story unique to that reader at that time. In this book, a girl uses a red marker to "draw" herself out of her situation, which gets her into other situations that require drawing out. Well, isn't that just like life?

Find the book at the library or bookstore and see what story Journey tells you--and then continue your own journey.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Goodbye, Daylight Savings; Hello, Standard Time

Puppy Watson and I are still on Daylight Savings time. An extra hour of sleep? I don't think so! He wants to play at 4 a.m. and needs to go out at 5 a.m.

(photo: By Matteo Ianeselli (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Not all of our clocks got changed, so I am wandering around trying to orient myself, and asking the question the group Chicago asked all those years ago:

How is your household adjusting to the time change?

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Life's a Peach!

(photo copyright 2011, Jane Heitman Healy)

It's peach season! Fortunately, our local supermarket is selling lugs of peaches from Talbott Farms in Palisade, Colorado, my old stomping grounds in the Grand Valley. They were expensive, but worth it for more than just their flavor. A taste of a Palisade peach is, well--

This Peach

This peach glows
Like a gold nugget,
One side red-orange, sun-swiped,
One side shaded

This peach overflows.
Bites of flawless fruit slip
From the red stone. A flavor fountain
Of juice glazes my chin, my

This peach goes
A thousand miles, tucked
In a lug and trucked, to meet my lips
And bring the taste of

(copyright 2013, Jane Heitman Healy)

(photo copyright 2011, Jane Heitman Healy)

What flavors make you think of home?

For more peachy goodness, see this post from last August.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Dog Days of Summer

It's been months since I've posted here due to a number of things, but I'm baaack!

Here we are in the dog days of summer, that sultry time in July & August before the crisp snap of fall. In our case, the weather is temperate, but we are in the dog days literally, having gotten a new puppy.

Watson (named for Sherlock's sidekick and the five-time British Open winning golfer, Tom) is 1/2 Golden Retriever and 1/2 English Cream and full of puppy playfulness.

A visiting friend said, "He looks like some storybook dog."

I had already thought of this--Biscuit of the series by Alyssa Satin Capucilli.
What do you think? Is there a resemblance?

The children's lit world is full of wonderful dog characters--Clifford, Wishbone, and Carl, to name three. Which dog characters are your favorites?

Here's a list by Publisher's Weekly blogger Elizabeth Bluemle.

Enjoy your dog days!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Book Spine Poetry--National Poetry Month

The above photo shows my first Book Spine Poem. I don't know who invented Book Spine Poetry. It's a version of "found" poetry, I suppose, looking at your bookshelf and deciding what titles could go together in what order to make some kind of sense. In any case, it's fun!

Is it real poetry? Hardly ever. Could it become a good poem? Possibly. You never know what phrases might spark an idea, a metaphor, or a line.

Here's another:

Look around your bookshelves and see what you come up with. Post your results in the comments!

For more Book Spine Poetry, see children's poet, Kenn Nesbitt's page.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Hope, Spring, and National Poetry Month

American robin in nest with chick and worm (By William H. Majoros (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons)

The calendar has said "spring" for about 3 weeks, but it seems slow in coming here. We are encouraged by the flocks of robins we see hopping around. Geese and other birds are on the move. Tulip leaves have popped through the earth, and a few green blades of grass are showing through the brown. All of these things spell "hope" for me.

Here's how New England poet Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) saw it:

“Hope” is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all -

And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard -
And sore must be the storm -
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm -

I’ve heard it in the chillest land -
And on the strangest Sea -
Yet - never - in Extremity,
It asked a crumb - of me.

What signals hope for you?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Sleepy time poem--National Poetry Month

The Fragrance of Sleep

Just bathed
Talc powdered
Fleece swaddled
Milk burbles
Lids fall
Sigh sinks
Into slumber

Poet David L. Harrison sponsors a Word of the Month (WOM) poem on his blog. Each month a new word is chosen, and poets--amateur, professional, and anything in between--post their creations using the word. This month's word is fragrance. My entry is above. Come and join us! There's a section for young poets, too!

(photo & poem copyright Jane Healy, all rights reserved)

Monday, April 1, 2013

National Poetry Month--Spring Willows

(© Copyright Rod Allday and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence,

Spring Willows

Willows shrug off winter
and don yellow just before
springing into a green canopy
over daffodil leaves
shooting through the ground
and weeks ahead of
cottonwood and ash
that still look dead.
Their bare boughs long for
lush willow green
in early spring.
--copyright Jane Heitman Healy, 2013

(photo by doviende Pete, Creative Commons

Where I live, we are still teeter-tottering between winter and spring, though our snow is almost all gone. It's so hopeful to see the willows turn from brown to yellow--new life stirring--and then burst into green well before the other deciduous trees. That's where we are, folks, waiting for green. Here's to spring and to National Poetry Month!

(photo by Neil Turner, Creative Commons,

Monday, February 4, 2013

Black History Month: Groundbreaking Entertainers

(photo courtesy Mason Crest)

My friend, writer Linda Armstrong's new book for children is out just in time for Black History Month.
African Americans in Radio, Film, and TV Entertainment was recently released by Mason Crest.

Linda agreed to answer some questions about how this book came to be.

Q: This is part of a series called “Major Black Contributions from Emancipation to Civil Rights.” How did you and this publisher find each other?

An announcement in a newsletter asked for resumes from experienced writers for upcoming nonfiction projects. I often reply to such requests. The project editor emailed me back with a list of possible titles. The series, Major Black Contributions from Emancipation to Civil Rights, also includes African-American Activists, African-American Artists, African-American Educators, African-American Musicians, African-American Scientists and Inventors, African-American Writers and Journalists, African-Americans in Business, African-Americans in Law and Politics, African-Americans in the Military, African-Americans in Sports, and A History of the Civil Rights Movement.

I took a couple of days to think about it, and replied that I would love to do the writers or artists, but by that time, those subjects had been taken by other writers. I looked at the remaining possibilities and settled on entertainers.

My husband and I grew up in Los Angeles. We were cinema addicts when we were in college and even wrote reviews. It wasn’t my first choice, but it turned out to be the best.

Q: Funny how that happens. With so many great choices, how did you decide which African Americans to include?

I started my research as many of us do these days, with Google. I took several days to get an overview of the subject. I also checked out every general book about African-American entertainers from Mesa County Library. This was kind of a flyover to get the lay of the land.

Of course, there were far too many exciting and wonderful stories to fit into one slender volume. I found that courageous and gifted African-Americans helped to shape entertainment as we know it. I chose a few to represent each stage in the development of today’s diverse media (stage, radio, film, and television). I chose both men and women, making an effort to highlight people who had made great contributions, but have been forgotten.

(photo by anniemullinsuk Creative Commons)

Q: I like your idea of getting a "flyover lay of the land." This was a huge undertaking. How did you go about your research, and how did you know when it was time to stop researching and start writing?

Yes, it was a huge undertaking, and, as you can tell, it was a team effort. The idea was assigned by the project editor. He determined the length and the general format. Having those decisions made for you is a good start. I knew the work would have five chapters. The first would be a dramatic incident to set the tone. I was familiar with this setup because of my experience writing similar books about Henry Ford, Amelia Earhart, and Jane Goodall for Hameray.

I was also familiar with layered research. I never could have done any of these books without the Internet, Mesa County Library, and quickly-delivered used books through Amazon. I appreciated the opportunity to read interviews in periodicals from home, order special materials through Interlibrary Loan, and devour dozens of autobiographies, hearing the “voices” of amazing people I could never contact in person.

(photo by bigmick Creative Commons)
Knowing when to stop researching and start writing is tricky. During my overview period for a book like this I formulate an outline. Then, I set up folders for each section, including research notes and sketchy drafts. There is always too much at first. Once there is a folder for each section, I check the notes and write a rough draft. A writer friend once suggested typing in three Xs (XXX) whenever you encounter a missing detail in a draft. This works very well. You use Find to pick up each XXX, then look up just that fact. I must admit that the project probably could have stretched on indefinitely, but I had a short deadline.

Q: It's interesting to see how many people were involved in making this book happen and to see the general process you went through to write it. How did Marc Lamont Hill come to write the intro?

The intro is not just for my book. It is for the whole series. I don’t who arranged this. It was either the project editor or the publisher. It’s wonderful, isn’t it?

Q: Yes! Now, African American or Black? And your book goes back to the days of “Negro.”

Yes, it does. Next question. Seriously, the series title was chosen by the editor who contacted me. Dr. Hill uses the term Black Americans in his introduction. As an activist and national commentator, he is better qualified to answer that question than I.

Q: How did you secure photos for your book?

I used Google Image search to find possible sources and provided those links to the project editor. He arranged for the photos. They’re wonderful, aren’t they? Some image suggestions also came from the many autobiographies and general reference books I used.

That said, some nonfiction projects require the author to secure photo rights. It can be expensive. It is a good idea for a writer to ask about photo arrangements before the contract is written.

Q: Yes. I've known of projects that writers had to abandon because obtaining permission to use photos was too costly. What do you hope readers take away from this book?

I would like readers to notice and appreciate the media that enrich our lives. African-Americans had, and still do have, a tremendous role in the development of our culture. I would also like readers to realize the amount of courage, intelligence, and talent it took for the people in this book to persist and succeed. I would like them to be as fascinated and inspired as I was.

Q: What didn’t I ask that you wished I had?

I’d just like to say that at the time I wrote this book I didn’t see anything out there quite like it. It shows children how entertainment moved from the stage, to radio, to film, and then to TV. It also tells the story of what happened to slaves after the Civil War through individual experiences. For example, Hattie McDaniel’s father served in the Union Army and was wounded. After the war, he moved the family to Denver. He wasn’t able to work because of his injury, so her mother cleaned houses. Her father finally got the pension the government had promised him, but it was so little that eight-year-old Hattie and her brother made almost as much in one day singing and dancing at a carnival.

Here are Paul Robeson and Hattie McDaniel:

Q. Linda Armstrong, thanks for bringing this and other little-known stories to light in one volume!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Favorites! The Leibster Award

My blog was tagged by children's author, B&B operator, world traveler, and grandmother, Margriet Ruurs for the not-so famous Leibster Award. The word "Leibster" means "favorite," so thank you, Margriet!

And the rules are:
1. Post 11 random things about yourself.
2. Answer the questions the nominator set for you.
3. Create 11 questions for your nominees.
4. Choose 11 other blogs with fewer than 200 followers to nominate and link them to your post.
5. No tag backs, but please leave a comment on this post if you were nominated so I can learn more about you and see who you nominate.

And here we go for my answers! (If you know me, there will be no surprises here!)
1. Eleven random things
1. I write education materials
2. I'm a librarian
3. I have been a teacher
4. I like to travel
5. I hate winter
6. I like to walk & hike
7. I love reading
8. I love learning
9. I'm terrible at math
10. I grew up about 25 miles from Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little Town on the Prairie.


11 Questions from Margriet:
1. What's a favorite book now?
Too many to name, but today I'll say Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

2. What was a favorite book as a child?
I loved mysteries, and still do. I read Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, Hardy Boys, and the Hollisters. But a couple favorite stand-alone titles: Black Beauty and Heidi

3. Who's one of your favorite authors? Living: Anne Tyler Dead: Willa Cather, Madeleine L'Engle

4. What's the most amazing country you have visited? I've found amazing things wherever I've gone, so I would say a place I'd go back to in a heartbeat--Greece.

5. How many places have you lived? 6

6. What's your favorite food? Mexican, specifically enchiladas

7. What advise do you have for new parents? Breathe! Love! Read to your baby and sleep when you can!

8. What's your favorite color? blue

9. Sunrise or sunset? Sunset

10. Sun or snow? SUN!

11. Favorite internet site?
google news brings the world to me


3. Eleven questions for my nominees:
1. What is your favorite book?
2. Who is your favorite author?
3. What was your favorite vacation?
4. What is your favorite song/singer/band/musical type?
5. What's the most unusual food you have eaten?
6. What day of the week is your favorite?
7. What is your favorite movie or TV show?
8. Do you prefer dogs, cats, or other (if other, specify)?
9. What is something amazing about you?
10. Do you prefer reading hard copy or online?
11. How often do you use your public library?

4. And now--drumroll--

my nominees! (in no particular order and please forgive me if you have over 200 followers. In some cases, it is hard to tell.)
1. Is it Monday Already?
2.Babs Bites 'n Bones
3. Don't Quit the Day Job
4. plotsandplaygrounds
5. Adventures in Children's Writing
6. Peace Garden Writer
7. Lynette's Favorites
8. Thinking in Pictures
9. Karla Kassebaum
10. Welcome to My Prairie Garden
11. Fuzzy Eyed Faith

The game is on! Hope you enjoy exploring the blogs above.