Wednesday, October 3, 2012

GUARDIAN ANGEL PUBLISHING CHILDREN'S BOOKS RELEASED SEPTEMBER 2012

After a stretch without blogging, I'm back---just in time to announce that a pile of terrific children's books was released in September by Guardian Angel Publishing.  I'm happy to say that my Book 6 ("The Skin We're In") in THE SUM OF OUR PARTS series is among those books.

Keep reading the thumbnails below and click on each link for more information about the books.  Or go to the Guardian Angel Publishing Bookstore (http://www.guardianangelpublishing.com/catalog.htm ) to browse through hundreds of books by other talented authors and artists at Guardian Angel Publishing.  Enjoy!

BENJAMIN JAY WAS A BULLY
Animals & Pets
by Emma Glover, artist KC Snider
http://www.guardianangelpublishing.com/benjamin-bully.htm
When the fledglings of Bird Garden extend their wings in friendship to Benjamin Jay, he must choose the dove's way or the bully's path?

BLUE PAINT
Chapbook for Tweens
by Liam Maher, artist Bonnie Everett-Hawkes
http://www.guardianangelpublishing.com/blue-paint.htm
John shares his story of a painting job he had as a young man and the grumpy little man who came by to trick him out of fifty dollars.

CAMILLE'S JOURNEY MASTER & MUSICAL SCORES
Angelic Harmony
by Dixie Phillips, Sharon Phillips, Lucy Robbins, Leslie Troyer
http://www.guardianangelpublishing.com/camille.htm
Spend your Christmas with Camille, an orphaned camel, as she leads three zany wise men and their bossy camels to the newborn King in Bethlehem. A Christmas musical-includes play, lyrics and musical scores.

CAPTAIN COURAGE & THE FEAR-SQUISHING SHOES
Littlest Angels
by Stacey A Marshall, artist Michelle Morse
http://www.guardianangelpublishing.com/captain-courage1.htm
The new girl at school shrivels until a unique superhero swoops in to the rescue, demonstrating specific ways to make self-confidence and courage soar.

JUST FOR TODAY
Littlest Angels
by Kevin McNamee, artist Marina Movshina
http://www.guardianangelpublishing.com/just-today.htm
You'll love this gentle rhyming picture book about spending quality time with kids. All that's needed is a little time, a lot of imagination and plenty of love.

LITTLE ISAAC'S BIG ADVENTURE
Littlest Angels
by Tracy Helixon, artist Jack Foster
http://www.guardianangelpublishing.com/little-isaac.htm
What if you could swing so high that you landed on a cloud and traveled through the sky? Isaac did! Join him on this adventure.

MYTH-BUSTING COLUMBUS
Academic Wings
by Kelly Bakshi
http://www.guardianangelpublishing.com/columbus.htm
Columbus convinced royals to fund his voyage; he forged new water routes and introduced Europe to a new world. He also lied to his crew, murdered and enslaved Native Americans, and never realized where in the world he actually was.

ONE FAMILY'S CHRISTMAS hardcover edition
Academic Wings
by Mary Jean Kelso, artist KC Snider
http://www.guardianangelpublishing.com/1-familys-xmas.htm
After a family's star for their Christmas tree is destroyed they resurrect the treetop angel carried across The Oregon Trail by a young pioneer and bring the story of The Christmas Angel full circle.

THE SKIN WE'RE IN: TSOOP series Book 6
Academic Wings
by Bill Kirk, artist Eugene Ruble
http://www.guardianangelpublishing.com/skin-tsoop.htm
An anatomical rhyme which describes all the names and uses of the different tissues in the skin, including factoids and extra educational pages.

THE TOWN OF MASQUERADE
Littlest Angels
by Jack Samuels, artist KC Snider
http://www.guardianangelpublishing.com/masquerade.htm
Explore an unusual town full of colorful expressions and childlike charm where two friends realize that the perfect mask might be easier to make than expected.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

When One Rejection Deserves Another


Don't some rejections just irritate the muse right out of you?  I'm talking about the ones that don't tell you anything about what you wrote.  Perhaps the sender is just being kind in a silent sort of way.  But still....

Temptation Resisted
By Bill Kirk

In the context of the writing craft,
Some rejections
Are easier to take than others.

The best ones are those
That leave reason for hope
Or even those that
Harshly jab at one’s sensitivities
To clearly make a much needed point.

Those are the ones
I can live with and learn from.
For at least I know
Where I stand
And have an idea
Where I need to move.

Others without a hint of
Having been humanly handled,
Aren’t worth the paper
The reasons for rejection aren’t written on.
Why, that’s a non-rejection plain and simple.

Personally, those are the ones
I mentally reject in return,
Fully satisfied with having
Saved a stamp by not sending a follow-up letter,
Although sometimes I’m tempted.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Poem A Day Challenge, Day Seven

This is a short poem, the prompt for which was write a poem about two people interacting with out talking.  As it turns out this prompt arrived on April 7, my wife's birthday.  The poem is whistful and hopeful, conjuring up all the other feelings someone has when "the one" appears, if only briefly.

There She Is
By Bill Kirk

There she is.

Across the crowded platform
Stands a slip of a girl
In a whisp of a summer dress,
Swirling with the coming and going
Of each passing train.
Which one will be hers, he wonders?

The boy gushes a hope-filled glance in her direction.
And she, sensing an extrasensory broadcast
As if from a distant universe,
Scans the panoply of possible senders—
First, around her; then at a distance.

For one brief moment, eye contact.
His hopeful stare and slight upward nod,
Rewarded almost imperceptively
By her barely uplifting eyebrow
And the slightest curl of a smile.
In that moment she is his.

Then she is gone.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Maybe It's Time To Double Check The Dead Bolt

This short piece may best be read in the light of day....

The Visitor
By Bill Kirk

Three sharp taps on the door beckon.

Should I wait or should I go?
Why would anyone be knocking at this hour?
Can’t see much through the peephole.
Why didn’t I change that light bulb last week?

If I just stay quiet,
Maybe the visitor will go away.
Besides, I just wanted
Some time to myself tonight—
Don’t really feel like “being home” for anyone.

A presence is almost palpable
Out there in the darkess,
Waiting. Watching.
How long has he been outside anyway,
This visitor?

Has he seen me?
Does he know I’m inside?
Does he sense my hesitation?
Does he know his knock has
Left me wary and wondering?
Where’s that bat I put in the closet?

But what if it’s important?
Could it be a neighbor?
The Police?
Has there been an accident?
What if someone’s hurt?

Three sharp taps on the door beckon….

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

April 2012 Poem A Day Challenge, Day 1

To any and all who drop by my blog from time to time.  I'm catching up.  Many of you will recall April is Nationally Poetry Month.  This year, I tried to hang with the schedule of writing a poem a day.  Or I should say I started to try.  Failing the daily grind, I have nonetheless committed to going back to all those poetry prompts from all those days in April; to write the wrong of the unmet challenge.  Some of those poetic musings will appear here, starting with the prompt and poem from April 1:  "Write a communications poem".

Communication Conundrum

By Bill Kirk

"Hey, John.
Just heard my phone buzz.
What’s Up?
Wait a sec. I got no Wi-Fi
And this connection is crap!
Yeah, I got four bars
But the audio-video is totally
Out of sync and slow beyond belief!”

In times past,
Communication wasn’t always that slow.
It was even slower—on a good day—
And mostly by design.

There was a time when the
Transmission of the messages themselves
Seemed to reflect the natural rhythms
Of everyday living.

To be sure, some messages
Were more important than others.
Perhaps that’s the difference in a nutshell—
Only the most critical messages
Were sent by the fastest means possible,
Even if slow by today’s standards.

Whether by runner
Or horse
Or ship
Or train
Or tom-tom
Or telegraph
Or phone,
The means (and speed) of transmission
Often defined the sense of urgency—

That hierarchy of speed
Was fine with most people.
Based on the sense of urgency alone,
There was a time
In the not too distant past,
When no one wanted to get a
Long distance phone call,
Because it meant someone was
Either dead or dying.

Everyone knew
The greater the speed
And sense of urgency behind the message,
The less anyone wanted
To be on the receiving end of the line.

Yet in far less than a life time,
The urgency of a message
Is no longer defined
By its speed of transmission,
Nor by assumptions about who
In the known universe may have sent it.

That quiet ding
Or buzz
Or Beethoven bounce
Or Salsa sound bite
Heard while eating
Or meeting
Or toileting
Or driving,
Signals the arrival of a message
From just about anyone, sent
From just about anywhere.The sound of arrival demands
The attention of the receiver
(“I’ve got to take this”),
Like the insistent cry of a newborn.

There's nothing quite like the
Clarion call of a common ring tone
To generate a frenzy of twisting, turning, patting,
Reaching and grabbing: "Nope. Not mine."

Alas, with all messages essentially traveling
At the same speed,
Through the same pipeline,
How is it that the relative importance
Of one message can be distinguished
From any other?
“Pick up! Pick up! I’m in the ER!”
“Hey, how do you spell ‘misspell’, one ‘s’ or two?”

If all messages appear equally important
By virtue of the speed they span
The distance to destination,
Which ones are the most urgent?
Which ones are worthy of a rapid reply
Or even of taking the time to find out?

To retain sanity, might such a
Lack of distinctions
Doom all messages to being
Discarded or disregarded?

On the other hand….
Instead of turning a blind eye or deaf ear,
Is the socially mandated alternative
Now the giving in to the siren song of
The electronic beck and call
And the click and clatter of constant comment?

Have we reached saturation
Or do we still crave yet more stimulation.

Such is the communication conundrum.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

NOW AVAILABLE FOR VIEWING

Children’s Ezine Guardian Angel Kids: Growing Up – June 2012 Issue

The Guardian Angel Kids creative crew is pleased to announce the new Ezine format. The inviting visual will take the reader on a turn page style adventure with the click of the mouse accompanied with the sound of turning a page in your hand. Without further ado, we present the Guardian Angel Kids Growing Up June 2012 issue…

The carefree days of childhood invokes memories of lazy days of summer vacation filled with days of swimming at the town pool. It was the central social point of the neighborhood and the excitement of the day would then flow onto our cul-de-sac (after the children of the neighborhood ate their respective suppers) where there was always a stick ball game going on until the single street light flickered on. Quickly we would change gears and switch to playing flashlight tag.

My mother, always an avid reader, made sure her children read each and every day and to this day we all have instilled the same love of reading with our own children. Without lapsing in our reading skills throughout the summer we were always well prepared with our studies. The days appeared endless and before you knew it, it was time for back to school shopping.

The love of reading has led me to the path of writing for children and Editor-in-Chief of Guardian Angel Publishing, for which I’m joyful for and proud to present the Guardian Angel Kids June 2012 issue of Growing Up http://www.guardian-angel-kids.com/.

We hope you enjoy our issue of Growing Up as much the Guardian Angel Kid staff did reminiscing about our childhoods and selecting the wonderful poetry, stories, articles, and activities.

*  Letter from the EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: Donna M. McDine

*  Featured BookS:
    **  Growing Up Dreams by Susan Berger and illustrated by Samantha Bell
    **  The Odd Chick by Mary Esparza-Vela and illustrated by Kevin Collier

*  Children’S poetry, ACTIVITIES, SHORT STORIES, and articleS:
    **  “I’m Growing Up,” poetry by Guy Belleranti – how quickly the time passes by.
    **  “Is It Friday Yet?” poetry by Alicia Z. Klepeis – The excitement of the approaching end of the week.
    **  “Activities to Make Reading Fun,” by Kathy Stemke – having fun with language is the key to         unlocking the world of reading to your child.
    **  “Too Much Trouble,” by Juliana M. Jones and illustrated by Nancy Miller – the growing responsibility of getting older.
    **  “Maid for Make Believe,” by Caroline Yu and illustrated by Clara Batton Smith – the magic of pretend brings to friends closer together.
    **  “Read Aloud Tips for Preschoolers: Put Some Pizzazz in Reading Aloud,” by Dorit Sasson – how to connect to the story by acting it out.
    **  “Encouraging Your Reader,” by Vanessa Fortenberry – tips on how to encourage and instill the love of reading.

Visit Guardian Angel Kid today and www.guardian-angel-kids.com and enjoy a child safe and ad free Ezine.

We also invite you to stay connected with Guardian Angel Kids through our Facebook Fan Page http://www.facebook.com/pages/Guardian-Angel-Kids-Ezine/163785080346247.

Please feel free to drop Editor-in-Chief, Donna McDine an email at mailto:submissions@guardian-angel-kids.comand let them know what you think of Guardian Angel Kids and what you'd like to see in the future. They aim to please.

The Guardian Angel Kids Ezine staff and contributors look forward to your visit. Thank you for your time and interest.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Thoughts On The Search For Meaning

Some experiences in life make us all the better for having had them, even if we may not believe that to be the case at the time. Often we may not recognize the goodness or richness inherent in an experience until much later, especially the mentally or physically or emotionally challenging ones.

Maybe that delayed learning is the essence of human adaptation in the face of seemingly unbearable pain or change---letting go when it seems no good can come of it or holding on for dear life to all that seems to have meaning.  And sometimes both of those sentiments are wrapped up in one event, symbolic gesture, touch or sound.  Who hasn't been catapulted decades back at the sound of a few chords from a song or felt tears well up at the sight of a tri-fold American flag presented with the thanks of a grateful nation to a bereaved mother or young widow?

Occasionally we are blessed by the gift of understanding even in the very same moment. Those instant revelations seem to fill our senses to bursting as we struggle to absorb and appreciate the full measure of their meaning on the spot---as a new baby first suckles at its mother's breast or with the exchange of trust when a new driver is given the keys to a car on his or her first solo date.

Perhaps the blessing is surviving those life events to allow understanding to occur in the fullness of time. That is, maybe individual experiences only become more meaningful as we age. Layered one upon another, they seem to make us wiser, stronger, more complete---like the plies and cross plies in plywood or the over-lying layers of fiber glass in a boat hull.

Time allows us to process what has occurred into why it happened in the first place.  In those first few proximate moments, the why often remains hidden, sometimes in plain sight.  Yet it waits to be discovered when our vision has cleared and we are ready to see.

Friday, May 4, 2012

A WRITER'S POSTAL EXCITEMENT SCALE

The top ten responses from editors and publishers and what they mean....

By Bill Kirk

Now that National Poetry Month is behind us and no doubt many of you have a stack of submission quality poems and stories to work with, it's time to crank up the submission machine.  To give you a little something to look forward to, here's a tongue in cheek poke at the submission responses all of us dream about and wait for. 

Reprised from an earlier version, it's been updated for your reading pleasure and encouragement on your writing journey.  Apologies in advance to all the editors and publishers on the receiving end of our millions of submissions.

#1: No response from the publisher… No, really.  Nothing.  Zip.  Nada....

OK. So, it's been over two years---some people are thorough. Obviously, the editor must still be thinking about it.

# 2: Your original outgoing envelope shows up, returned unopened---manuscript still inside, with no notes, no form letter or any other indication that anyone or anything besides a Pitney-Bowes mail sorter has touched it....

Why is that little pointy finger stamp next to "Return To Sender" bent that way? Nah, can't be....

#3: A returned SASE with nothing inside….

Oh, Wow! The editor must have liked it so much they made copies and are still passing them around the office!

#4: An SASE with a pre-printed, unsigned and unmarked form letter....

How can you not appreciate all the extra effort and attention? Someone had to write the form letter, didn't they? I coulda been the first one they sent it to!

#5: A returned SASE with a SIGNED form letter and an explanation box chec.... Wait. All SIX boxes are checked---and with different size check marks....

Hand-checked boxes! Now we're talking! I'm getting "goosies" all over! Someone actually held this rejection letter in their hand! Surely they must have read me!

#6: A returned SASE with a SIGNED letter and an encouraging rejection note-like, "I read this twice before throwing it away." or "Next time, don't waste your postage on a SASE"….

OMG, a perk! They're going to pay the return postage next time. Quick! Send them something else---preferably before the postman drives away!

#7: A returned SASE with a marked up manuscript---in color crayon---and three Cheerios inside....

I'm impressed! The editor's 3-year old prodigy child must be on the payroll.

#8: A returned SASE with the manuscript inside, marked up with legible comments like, "This is truly beyond belief! In my 25 years as an editor, I've never seen anything like it...."

Be still, my heart! Finally, someone who really understands how unique and creative I am.

#9: A returned SASE with a form letter and a signed hand-written note asking to see more….

YES!!! Honey, where did you put those used car ads? I'm feeling a Jaguar in our future....

And the #10 response: A returned SASE with a SIGNED offer letter and an anticipated date of publication... sometime within the next ten years....

FINALLY!!!! This puppy's going under my name as my first "Coming Soon" credit at the bottom of my e-mail messages!

KEEP THOSE SUBMISSIONS COMING! HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL…!
 
 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

"No Bones About It" Receives Kids Book List Award

The KART (Kids Are Readers Too) Foundation Honors Bill Kirk’s “No Bones About It” as a Middle School Kids Book List Award Winner for 2011-2012. The KART Foundation is the charitable giving branch of PediNatural® Books. The organization’s Kids Book List is compiled by the South Jersey Children’s Literary Festival selection committee and consists of books in three age categories.

The objective of the annual selection is to highlight children’s books with content that appeals to children in each age group: 2-5 years, 5-9 years and 9-12 years. The selected titles are deemed to be memorable and to enhance the gift of learning as a child grows.

Kirk’s book, which was selected among the ten winners in the 9-12 age group, is a non-fiction children’s picture book written in rhyme. The rhyming verses cover the bones in the human skeleton from the toes to the skull. In addition, the book is loaded with curious and interesting facts to stimulate learning about the skeleton.

Kirk says his inspiration for the book was his grandson who was learning about the skeleton in seventh grade science class several years ago. “Some of those Greek and Latin derived terms aren’t especially easy. So, I figured there must be a fun way to make the technical terms stick.”

According to Kirk, “No Bones About It” became Book One in a series of anatomical rhymes on several other systems in the human body. Thus far, four books in the series, known as THE SUM OF OUR PARTS, have been released by Guardian Angel Publishing in Saint Louis, MO, including “Circulation Celebration”, “Muscles Make Us Move” and “A Brainy Refrain” in addition to the bones book. Another five books are in the publication pipeline. All the books are illustrated by Eugene Ruble, whose quirky drawings and illustrations give the technical terms a visual context in the body.

The KART Foundation believes that introducing books at an early age will allow children to naturally master developmental milestones essential to solid learning. KART is committed to promoting and implementing children’s literacy programs and services throughout New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware. The KART Foundation also distributes new books to children through educational learning institutions and libraries. Kirk’s book certainly meets the KART standard of excellence.

Title: No Bones About It
Author: Bill Kirk (http://www.billkirkwrites.com)
Illustrator: Eugene Ruble
ISBN (e-Book) 13: 978-1-935137-78-6
ISBN (print) 13: 978-1-935137-77-1
Library of Congress Control Number: 2009931676
Publication Date: July 2009
Number of Pages: 28
Price: Ebook $5.00, CD-Rom $10.95 (+$5.95 s&h), Print: $10.95 (+$6.95 s&h)
Available at most online booksellers or from: Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. Releases "A Brainy Refrain" Nationally

****** FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE ******



Sacramento author Bill Kirk's children's picture book, "A BRAINY REFRAIN" (illustrated by Eugene Ruble), has been released nationally by Guardian Angel Publishing in Saint Louis, MO under their Academic Wings imprint in e-book and print form. Both formats are available for sale through the Guardian Angel Publishing web site and from most online retailers, such as Amazon, Google, Target.com and Barnes and Noble.

Book's Blurb: "A BRAINY REFRAIN" is the fourth in a series of anatomical rhymes by children's author Bill Kirk. The series, which is called THE SUM OF OUR PARTS, will eventually cover several anatomical systems including the skeleton, muscles, skin, circulation, respiration and many others. The entire series will be "kid-friendly" with just the right balance of technical content, humorous verses and anatomical factoids, brought to life through the playful illustrations of artist Eugene Ruble.

Learning about the brain and nervous system can be a challenge for anyone. Using this clever learning tool may be just what you've been looking for. You'll be amazed at how fast you will be able to learn the brain and various nerve pathways in your body. The subject matter and presentation format are ideally designed to support the science curricula for middle school grades 7 and 8. However, they are very suitable as basic human anatomy learning tools for elementary school age children 6 to 12 years old and even older students having difficulty with the subject matter.

Author's Bio: Kirk's writing has been influenced by his travels on five continents and the every day inspiration from his grandchildren. In addition to stories written in rhyme, Kirk writes fiction and satire for local and national publications. Kirk also wrote news and features for two Sacramento newspapers in the mid-1990s, The Suttertown News and The Old City Guardian. His children's stories have appeared in Boys' Quest, Fun For Kidz, Grandparents, Wee Ones and Saplings magazines. His poems have also been published by North Dakota Horizons, Absolute Write, The Baseball Almanac and the University of South Carolina Gamecock Health newsletter.

Kirk says his goal for his children's stories is to challenge the imagination of his readers, young and old, by exploring everyday life, simply and profoundly, and having fun in the process. Bill and his wife, Rita (a clinical psychologist), married since 1969, have made Sacramento their home since 1985.


CLICK HERE
to check out what reviewers are already saying about this book. To request review copies of "A Brainy Refrain" or to request an interview with the author, please contact the publisher, Lynda Burch, at bulk-orders@guardianangelpublishing.com or (314) 276-8482.

Title: A Brainy Refrain
Author: Bill Kirk (www.billkirkwrites.com)
Illustrator: Eugene Ruble
ISBN (e-Book) 13: 978-1-61633-232-7
ISBN (print) 13: 978-1-61633-231-0
Library of Congress Control Number: 2012934652
Publication Date: March 2012
Release Date: March 1, 2012
Number of Pages: 24
Price: Ebook $5.00, CD-Rom $9.95 (+$5.95 s&h), Print: $10.95 (+$6.95 s&h)
Available at most online booksellers or from: Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Blogging Efficiently--A Follow-up

Following up my post on January 31, I received some thoughtful commentary and helplful suggestions about blogging efficiently, including one from a group blog for which posting duties are shared. And as promised, here are the results of my unscientific "survey".

First, the consensus seems to be the obvious: If you get to the bus stop early so you don't have to run to catch a bus that is pulling away, you will likely have a more enjoyable (shall we say more efficient) bus riding experience. Staying ahead of your posts by drafting them---perhaps several of them---in advance makes blogging life much easier. And it also offer the opportunity to be somewhat more reflective about a particular topic instead of being in a rush to write something, anything, just to fill space.

Here are three examples of the stay ahead of the game approach to blogging. If you have a few minutes, be sure to drop by their blogs for a look.

Myra Garces-Bacsal over at the Gathering Books blog. Myra points out that drafting blogs in advance is the only way she and her partners can keep up. "I suppose it helps that there are three of us running Gathering Books.... It's great that we have a lovely system going and that we never run out of creative ideas to try out on the blog." Having an otherwise hectic work schedule demands finding efficient solutions to something as time intensive as blogging or writing of almost any kind can be.

Myra and her partners (Fats and Iphegene) have been blogging for over 18 months. They rotate the blog posting duties, selecting from a stockpile of drafted posts. "...what (has) worked best for me is to draft, write and schedule my posts during the weekend (as much as four or five blogposts) - and kind of spread them out over the next few days (so we have something like 10-14 days of blog posts in advance)." On the commenting side, Myra does her blog visiting during the week and only spends a dedicated amount of time--no more than an hour in one sitting--to read and leave comments.

Likewise, for Blessy Mathew at Reflecting Runes, following a blogging schedule is important. "Since I started my blog 9 months ago, I've strived for consistency...posting and blogging on Mon, Wed, and Fri. This allows me enough days to work on my own writing projects." Blessy says for anyone who leaves a comment on her blog, she feels it's important to respond in kind. "My motto: if someone takes the time to visit and comment on my blog, then I should do the same. It does take time out of my day, but that's the goal of building an audience/readership."

Sylvia Liu at Sylvia Liu Land blog. Sylvia says she struggles with balancing writing and posting on the one hand and commenting on the blogs she visits on the hand. Although somewhat less systematic than Myra's team approach, Sylvia tries to stick to a set schedule. "On the blogging side, I start a lot of drafts of blog posts that are half-finished. I don't have a strict schedule but I like to post twice a week. So when it feels like it's time to post something, I'll go through my drafts and find one that seems right and I'll finish it up."

On the commenting side, Sylvia concedes that the only way she can keep from spending too much time in the blogosphere is to watch the clock. "Now I try to limit the times I'm just surfing and reading other blogs to specific times." So, time saved is essentially time not spent--a common theme among many efficient bloggers.

As for me, I have found myself increasingly sucked into the vortex of the blogosphere, wandering from one blog to the next until I've lost all feeling from the waist down. That can't be good. So, my three-part, take-away lesson is to

(1) celebrate drafts--capturing ideas to be polished later is often enough,

(2) limit the amount of "butt in seat" time in front of my own blog and

(3) spend no more than 30 minutes a day reading and commenting on other blog posts.

Of course, this is easier said than done. But I suppose with a little practice, I could get the hang of it. Whoe knows? Efficient blogging could be the result. With that in mind, I bid you farewell for today. I have a Klondike Derby winter camping event to get ready for.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Children's Writing: Where Do You Find Your Inspiration?

I've often been asked what got me started writing children's books. My short answer is grandchildren.

Generalizing from my own experience, it seems to me when grandchildren come along, they must make grandparents think, say and do things we never thought, said or did before. Or maybe, more accurately, no one ever paid much attention to us in our thinking, saying and doing. Then we come face to face with the world's best audience and our lot is cast.

Oh, sure, the seeds are often sewn when our children are born. Yes, many parents, too, are authors of child-inspired stories. After all, everything is brand new and babies may fall into a fit of giggling at the strangest faces and noises that parents sometimes stumble upon purely by accident. Who wouldn't feel compelled to take advantage of those brief moments of bliss during what seems like years of endless ... manic... sleepless... nights.

OK. So, that part only lasts for a few weeks or months. But at the time, let's say 3:00 a.m. midway through two weeks of collic or thrush or unexplained fever, it feels like years. If inspiration eludes you during those heady days and nights, worry not. Before you know it, your kids are bringing their kids home for baby sitting or sleep-overs or summer vacations. And now you have the time to collect all the bits and pieces of material just made for the writing of stories.

What do you use as grist for your writing mill? Are you a new parent, a grandparent, a teacher, a librarian, a coach, a pediatric nurse? Lots of possibilities for tale telling in the midst of all that life experience going on around you.

What's your inspiration? Inquiring authors want to know! Besides, the suspense is killing me....

Thursday, February 9, 2012

And The Liebster Goes To....

I am remiss, having let a whole week pass before posting on my blog about being selected by a fellow children's writer, CAROL BENDER as a recipient of The Liebster Blog Award.


I hope you will take a moment to zip on over to Carol's blog which is packed with good stuff. She is far more energetic than I when it comes to throwing light on the writing craft. Thanks so much, Carol, for this recognition. I am honored to be in the company of the other bloggers you have tapped.

Now, back to the award. So, here's the scoop: The word Liebster is German and the English translation is beloved, dear, dearest or love. Hey, we can all use a little of that, right? And today I am the recipient. Carol was somehow captivated by my blog and she has bestowed me with the honor of wearing the Liebster Crown.

According to the inscription on my notification, the Liebster Blog Award is given to lovable blogs with less than 200 followers (which would be mine), as a way to recognize the blog's worthiness and drive more readers to it with the goal of increasing the number of blog "Followers". So, to those excellent followers I now have and to all future followers, thank you for your vote of confidence. I hope my blog will continue to be a frequent stopping point and resource for each of you.

But the honor doesn't stop there. As a recipient I have two primary duties, in addition to continuing to provide my followers with blog posts that will keep you coming back for more. First, I am supposed to list five tidbits about myself that others may not know. And, second, I am to share the Liebster love by selecting five other fledgling bloggers as recipients of the Liebster Award.

So, let's get right to it. First, the tidbits:

1. I am not particularly superstitious but, without fail, I have always eaten blackeyed peas on New Year's Day for good luck. It's a southern thing.

2. The longest distance I have run in a 24-hour period is 75 miles.

3. In 1983 I stayed overnight in the U.S. Ambassador's residence in Nouakchott, Mauritania.

4. I once stuck a pitch fork through my foot.

5. I was actually Captain Kirk for eight years during my Air Force career.

Now, I have the envelope containing the five candidates next in line for the crown. They are among the bloggers I currently follow in my wandering through the blogospere. Some of them participated in the Mother Reader BlogComment Challenge in Januaryr. All offer their own unique talents and gifts and a willingness to share their knowledge and experience as practitioners of the writing craft. Now, on with the bestowal ceremony:

1. Margot Finke is a rhymer extraordinaire with a limitless list of promotional tricks up her sleave. She takes networking to a whole new level.

2. Donna Martin is in a constant state of blogging motion over at On The Wright Track, providing probing posts that push the envelope and a few buttons from time to time.

3. Mary Kinser is a librarian in training, according to her blog. But if her exceptional reviews are any indication, she will no doubt pump life into any library where she ends up landing.

4. Rena J. Traxel is a poet and writer who will give you a chuckle and something to think about with her provocative and quirky reviews and commentary. And she's a serious shutter snapper.

5. Last, but certainly not least, is A Library School Dropout who writes very good reviews about books that often slip under the radar and need a bit of attention to get noticed.

I hope you will take the time to drop by these five blogs and follow them if you wish. And thanks, again, to Carol Bender for sharing the love.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Rhyme: The Good, The Bad And The Doggerel

Anyone who has written in rhyme or attempted to do so, has likely struggled with the question of whether it is good enough---meaning good enough that someone other than the writer (or writer's mom) will like it. Will it be deemed to have sufficient appeal amongst the reading public to actually be published?

(Note to self: interesting how "public" and "published" have the same root, isn't it?).

But is the goodness of a rhyme, in terms of its quality, solely in the eye of the beholder? Or are there particular inherent characteristics of a rhyme itself that can be classified or measured---that give it legs; make it last?

Right off the bat, let's set aside the publication issue of goodness versus rightness. An editor's or a publisher's decision to go with a rhyme may have more to do with "fit" rather than how well the rhyme is written. In a short piece for a magazine, the rhyme has to be relevant to the theme. It must also target the appropriate age and be true to the magazine's (or book publisher's) mission and vision. If a magazine's monthly theme is airplanes, a rhyme about the anticipated trajectory of bouncing beach balls probably won't cut it, no matter how good the rhyme is.

So, for sake of argument, we will assume the rhyme flows smoothly, has no obvious speed bumps in its rhythm and that it may even have a surprise twist to get a chuckle or even a sardonic eye roll out of the editor or publisher. But rhythm and wit in rhyme are different topics entirely. So, let's set them aside for the moment.

Instead this post is about "goodness" versus "badness" in rhyme solely in terms of rhyming words and line endings, AKA rhyme scheme. This will be mostly a structural discussion of perfect rhyme versus near rhyme and forced rhyme. And while we're at it, let's toss doggerel into the mix. In the words (pardon the pun) hammered home by one modern day bard (M.C. Hammer in "You Can't Touch This"), let's "break it down!"

GOOD (PERFECT) RHYME: So, what are editors and publishers looking for in rhyme? Before jumping in, I should qualify this answer as being based on my own personal experience with rejection---no, not that kind of rejection; I mean by editors and publishers---and the advice they have provided from time to time which has helped me improve my rhyming game.

Generally, good rhyme must... well... rhyme. And it must rhyme well. Near rhyme and forced rhyme are taboos which we will cover when we get to the "bad" stuff. Rhyme assumes that a set of rhyming words will follow a certain sequence. Rhyming sets come in pairs or fours or other usually equal numbers and can have either single (ray, say) or multiple (hatchet, ratchet) rhyming syllables. Remember the recent masculine/feminine topic? In either case, the endings of the rhyming lines should sound the same. And the pattern of how the endings are used in the verse should be consistent.

In a Shakespearean Sonnet, for example, the rhyming scheme is laid out in three quatrains (four-line stanzas) and an ending couplet: abab cdcd efef gg. Following that rhyming scheme, in each stanza the first and third lines rhyme, the second and fourth lines rhyme and the last two lines (the couplet) rhyme. In "Mary Had A Little Lamb", disregarding the repeated lines (little lamb, little lamb, little lamb), only the second and fourth lines in each stanza rhyme (_a_a _b_b _c_c _d_d). And for a four-line rhyming scheme, look no further than my rhyming picture book "There's A Spider In My Sink!" where all four lines in each stanza rhyme (aaaa bbbb cccc dddd, and so forth).

Regardless of the rhyming scheme you choose, just remember to keep your intended rhyming line endings sounding the same and your rhymes should be good except...

...when they're not.

BAD RHYME: Apart from problems with the content of a rhyme (flaky or shaky story, nonsensical verse that isn't otherwise interesting, funny or cute) and rhythm issues (cadence, meter, beat---to be covered in a later post), bad rhyme is usually judged based on the sound of the rhyming lines to the reader. Are the rhyming sets crisp, clear and tight. Or are they loosy-goosy, a technical term meaning not crisp, clear and tight?

Curiously, the definition of "near rhyme" isn't nearly as clear as you might think. According to Dr. Kip Wheeler at Carson-Newman College, near rhyme is only one among several terms used to describe what is called "inexact rhyme", which is "...created out of words with similar but not identical sounds." (http://web.cn.edu/kwheeler/lit_terms_I.html#inexact_rhyme_anchor).

Adding to the confusion, according to Dr. Wheeler's website, imperfect rhyme imbeds near rhyme as one among many terms for this kind of rhyming badness: "approximate rhyme, pararhyme, slant rhyme, near rhyme, half rhyme, off rhyme, analyzed rhyme, or suspended rhyme." So, at best, nailing down the definition of near rhyme or imperfect rhyme is a little like trying to pin a tail on the donkey. Examples of such rhyming pairs which are close but not spot on: (gate-made, prevent-amend, immense-descends, insipid-intrepid).

Another example a rhyme out of kilter is one where the rhyming set consists of one word with the rhyme on a stressed syllable and the other on an unstressed syllable:

The footsteps echoed as if deep in a tomb,
While the boy lay asleep in his bedroom.

In virtually all these cases, if the reader (or editor or publisher) is expecting a certain euphonious "sound" to the rhyme, at best the verse is going to sound like the writer didn't really try very hard. At worst? It is a bit like nails on a chalk board even when reading silently. Regardless of what you call it, if a rhyme doesn't quite seem to rhyme, editors and publishers will likely not give it a second look. And if a reader actually finds it in print, the reaction is often, "how did this ever get published?"

Sometimes, such imprecisions may be forgivable if they aren't too egregious and they seem to fit well in the verse (tie a knot, pull it taught). If you are lucky, you might get away with one of those in an entire rhyme. So, it might be worth taking the risk. In the rhyming culture, there are stories that some poets have actually included a near rhyme in their best rhyming work if only to guarantee it's imperfection; a beauty mark, as it were.

But like almost any seasoning, a little goes a long way---and maybe even too far depending on how sensitive your taste is. The obvious exception, of course, is chili which can almost never be too hot for me. As I get older, my taste buds are apparently living on borrowed time. Come to think of it, that might explain the oddities in some of my rhymes.

Another measure of "badness" is forced rhyme, which occurs when the rhyming word endings sound exactly the same but the choice of the rhyming words is questionable. If you have to contrive a rhyming pair or really stretch the content just for the sake of the rhyme, it will probably land flat:

‘Twas a lickety, splickety day on the farm
In the middlest part of a summer so hotamus.
And under the giant, green huffinpuff tree,
Dylan last saw his fine Dinopotamus.

Although the verse does have an endearing quirkiness about it, a reader might wonder who in their right mind would come up with "so hotamus" to rhyme with "Dinopotamus". Of course, if you are the one person in the world who likes it, I will proudly admit to being the author. But for everyone else, I can confirm that until the forced rhyme (and probably a lot more) is fixed, this rhyme will thankfully remain unpublished.

At last we come to DOGGEREL. Briefly, doggerel is described in the Encyclopedia Britanica Online as "a low, or trivial, form of verse, loosely constructed and often irregular, but effective because of its simple mnemonic rhyme and loping metre. It appears in most literatures and societies as a useful form for comedy and satire. It is characteristic of children's game rhymes from ancient times to the present and of most nursery rhymes."

So, by definition, doggerel can be an effective verse form and is usually written in rhyme to capture its playfulness. Precision is not necessarily a consideration when it comes to doggerel. On the other hand, the presumed faults of this rhyming form can make it quite clever and engaging. Far from seriously poetic, it can nonetheless be highly popular and a load of fun. So, the value of rhyme considered to be doggerel--that is, its goodness or badness--truly is in the eye, and the ear, of the reader.

One of the best rejection letters I ever received was from the editor of a scholarly journal. The editor praised the rhythm of what he termed the "amusing doggerel" I had submitted. With that kind of critical acclaim, what else could I do but frame it.

Recapping: Near rhyme is basically trouble with the sound of the rhyming words. Forced rhyme is a rhyming set that just doesn't quite fit together---a square peg in a round hole. And doggerel is in a class by itself.

So, in a nutshell, this is one instance where near isn't dear, you don't want the force to be with you and doggerel may be bad to the bone in the very best way. OK. That was lame.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Guardian Angel Kids E-Zine Is Up!

M E D I A R E L E A S E


CONTACT: Donna McDine, Editor-in-Chief, Guardian Angel Kids Ezine

Email: submissions@guardian-angel-kids.com
Website: http://guardian-angel-kids.com

Children’s Ezine Guardian Angel Kids: Math Concepts – February 2012 Issue

Teaching math concepts beyond traditional number problems opens up creative opportunities for both teachers and students. Different strategies include the use of poetry, stories, engaging articles, and activities that get the body and mind working in unison.

Come explore the world of "Math Concepts" in the Guardian Angel Kids February 2012 issue and learn how to tell time, add, subtract, and divide, rap to numbers through poetry, learn the history of pennies, how powerful zero truly is, and hands on math activities. Make it a family learning experience and fun will surely be had by one and all.

Letter from the EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: Donna M. McDine

Featured BookS:

Learn to Count 1-10 flip book by Eugene Ruble

Sparkie: A Star Afraid of the Dark book video by Susann Batson

Children’S poetry, SHORT STORIES, and articleS:

“Can You Tell Time?” quiz by Marion Tickner – explores the different timepieces before the technology explosion.

“How Many Are Half?” poetry by Donna J. Shepherd – Grandma’s delicious chocolate chip cookie treat and how the cookies are shared.

“Numbers Rap,” poetry by Bill Kirk – the wonder of numbers all around us.

“Cookies with Sprinkles,” by Shari L. Klase and illustrated by Julie Hammond – a whimsical adventure to Grandma’s house.

“The Value of Pennies,” by Gina Napoli – discover the history and significance of pennies.

“The All Powerful Nothing,” by Mary Reina – learn about the power of zero and how it turns nothing into something.

“Hands on Math Activities for Home or School,” by Kathy Stemke – get moving and grooving with enjoyable Math activities.

“Hopscotch Math,” by Karen Robuck – teach and reinforce basic Math skills with the fun of hopscotch

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Efficient Blogging: An Oxymoron?

Another "short" post today---I've got writing to do (he says as he contemplates the remote odds of completing a blog post in under ten minutes). My recent participation in the Mother Reader Blog Comment Challenge (visiting and leaving comments on five blogs a day for most of a month) got me to thinking. Admittedly, there is some danger associated with my engaging in that endeavor---thinking, that is. But I feel compelled to forge on.

What it got me to thinking about was how or if it might be possible to become an efficient blogger, to the point where blogging doesn't put the clock in over-drive? In theory, it could work. After all, how difficult could it be to click through five blogs, quickly read the blog post (or some part of one) for the day on each, leave a short if inane comment and get out?

I suppose the answer is, not too difficult if the objective is simply saying you did it---check off the five and move on. Never mind the whole other question of actually responding to the comments you may receive. Do you "reply" on your own blog or do you take the time to visit the commenter's blog and leave a random comment there? At best it seems we are sticking up yellow sticky notes on random bulletin boards in the Student Union of life. Is that any way to live?

When I'm blogging, what tends to happen is one thing leads to another. I get sidelined by something provocative or interesting and truly amazing that someone whom I have never met has written on their blog. And just as I am poised to click "PASTE" in the comment box, leaving something like: "Nice blog post. I would never have thought of that---this is so interesting I'll be back when I have more time.", my click finger gets a spasm, the only cure for which seems to be repetitive tapping on a succession of keys on the keyboard.

There go my hopes and dreams of blogging efficiency, suddenly dashed on the rocks of reflection and response. A blog comment here and another there and suddenly it's noon in a time zone several hours to the west, you know, like the middle of the Pacific as I sit in the only room in the house with a light on. That's about the time I hear the click of the front door latch as my wife arrives home from work, stumbling into the dark entryway, living room and kitchen. Had I been faster, I could have turned on some lights, at least leaving the illusion that I have done something else besides blogging the day away.

Now back to my original question: Is efficient blogging even remotely feasible or is it simply another oxymoron? The best I can hope to do is provide you with the definition and let you be the judge. According to The Urban Dictionary (and probably most others), the term "oxymoron" comes from the Greek words "oxy" (sharp) and "moros" (dull). Its meaning is any number of variations including something about two words which contradict or conflict with each other, that is, have opposite meanings often in a humorous or sarcastic way. Examples include: "Reality TV", "Jumbo Shrimp", "Healthy Tan", "Military Intelligence", "Free Trade", "Benevolent Dictator" and the list goes on....

So, where will each of you come down on the question? Good luck with your own attempts at achieving blogging efficiency. Whether successful or not, feel free to share a comment here based on your first hand empirical evidence. In a few days, I will wander back to compile the results from this admittedly unrepresentative sample. Until then, to paraphrase SNL from days past: "Blog on, Garth!"

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Masculine/Feminine Rhyme: Who Knew?

Just when you thought it was safe to break out your rhyming dictionary (or start running all your rhyming endings alphabetically through your head), someone tells you there's gender to contend with in the rhymes you write. What's up with that? After all, the last time you paid any attention to linguistic gender was Spanish class in the ninth grade---or was it when you ordered that beer during Spring Break in Puerto Vallarta?

No matter. The last place you thought gender would be an issue had to be rhyme, right? Well, fear not. It's not quite as problematic as you may anticipate. In fact, except that someone back in the day must have thought structural endings and sounds ought to be classified according to gender, it's unlikely that anyone would even notice. But just out of curiosity, it might be fun to try and sleuth out who among the ancients decided gender was important---and why.

So, where did the whole gender in rhyme thing originate? Did the early Chinese rhymers grapple with gender in their day? Although some of the oldest surviving Chinese poetry contains lyric aspects, because the written language is character based, any gender association to poetic form may be difficult to tease out. Left with that uncertainty, is the male-female poetic structure primarily western in origin? Could it simply be a non-functioning, vestigial "leftover" from Old Latin which etched its subtle tracks on the English language as romantic entanglements ebbed and flowed across Europe?

According to one source in the English Department at Carson-Newman College, (http://web.cn.edu/kwheeler/lit_terms_R.html) the word "rhyme" itself originates "from Old French, rime meaning 'series,' in turn adopted from Latin 'rithmus' and Greek 'rhythmos'." Given some of the other gender assignments in Greek and Latin, might we ascribe gender features to the rhyming verses penned by the early Greeks and Romans?

No doubt, the definition of gender in rhyme could probably be argued until the cows come home, with a break taken only for milking before the debate starts again. As is true with virtually any sorting out of why words in any language might be classified as masculine versus feminine, rhymes are no different. One thing seems clear: at least in English, gender in rhyme seems to have little or nothing to do with the gender rules found in some romance languages.

That is, whether a line of verse in English ends in an "a" or "o" or other gender laden vowel or consonant, doesn't really matter as much as it does in the Spanish language. And speaking of word endings, despite its compromise value in the Italian language, the use of a neutral vowel (such as the letter "i") at the end of the plural form of both masculine and feminine words is not a gender-driven issue in English rhyme. But you have to admire the logical recognition of not being able to sort out gender in groups.

In the French language, the definition suggests line ending words which end in "e" are feminine and those that don't are masculine. Some sources also refer to "e" endings and unaccented ending syllables as being weak. Although I was a French major in college, I'll leave the "why" of those "differences" to others who know far more about the origins of the French language and who don't mind getting their shins kicked.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, although the reasoning might be debatable, the rules regarding gender in English rhyme are remarkably clear. According to the Collaborative International Dictionary of English, a female rhyme has a rhyming set in which the rhyming lines end in double-syllable words (ego, amigo). A male rhyme, on the other hand, is one where only the last syllable in the line endings agree (stand, demand). No doubt you have noticed the difference in where the stress is placed---keep reading.

The definitions are extended slightly in Brande and Cox (A Dictionary of Science, Literature and Art): "A rhyme, in which the final syllables only agree (strain, complain) is called a male rhyme; one in which the two final syllables of each verse agree, the last being short (motion, ocean), is called female." Simply stated, male rhymes end in words (often single syllable) where the final syllable in each line is accented. Female rhymes end in words where at least the last two syllables in the line match and the final syllable is unaccented.

In the spirit of using three or more sources, Dictionary.com defines female (or more correctly feminine) rhymes as: "a rhyme either of two syllables of which the second is unstressed (double rhyme), as in motion, notion, or of three syllables of which the second and third are unstressed (triple rhyme), as in fortunate, importunate." In their turn, male (or masculine) rhymes are defined as: "a rhyme between stressed monosyllables or between the final stressed syllables of polysyllabic words: book, cook; collect, direct."

You won't have to look very far to find a purely male rhyme, for example in "The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner" by Samuel Taylor Colridge:

"Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink."


Finding female rhymes is a little more challenging. But they can be found, such as in Sonnet 20 "A Woman's Face With Nature's Own Hand" by William Shakespeare (gotta love the iambic pentameter):

A woman's face with Nature's own hand painted
Hast thou, the master-mistress of my passion;
A woman's gentle heart, but not acquainted
With shifting change, as is false women's fashion;


Notably, many if not most rhymes contain both feminine and masculine rhyming sets. Often the combination is seen in the same verse in either an A/A, B/B or an A/B, A/B rhyming sequence. At other times as the entire verse may be either masculine or feminine. Whether standing alone or in combination, rhyme has clearly established itself as much more than doggerel---to be covered in another post.

By the way, I should say that I am completely unqualified to judge whether the differences in a rhyme's gender have anything to do with the comparative complexity of either the line endings or their namesakes. Nor will I make a judgement as to why women prefer piles of pillows on the sofa while men would generally be OK sitting on a stump---make that a reclining stump. Yet it is a great deal of fun to use the variations in line endings, whether in gender terms or any other terms, as a creative basis for studying and writing rhyme.

Besides, it's a great conversation starter at parties if only because rhyming gender is no doubt rarely used---until now, that is....

Friday, January 20, 2012

Puddles Just Waiting To Be Jumped In

Short post today. I was going to dig into rhyme a bit more but then it started raining. Granted, the connection may not be evident at first glance. But stay with me and you, too, will soon be able to follow my convoluted logic.

The Sacramento area is abysmally short of rain now already halfway through our "rainy season" that generally runs from middle-ish October to middle-ish April. In fact, some estimates show we are about 20 percent of average and that may be generous. Since December 1 we have had less than one tenth of an inch of rain when we should have had over four inches by this time on average. And where five feet of snow should have fallen already in the High Sierra, there is virtually bare dirt.

That is, until today, although so far it doesn't appear to be adding much to our total, it has generated lots of excitement among weather prognosticators. Really, it's actually more like a very light but steady drizzle and hardly enough to get any water running in the gutters at that.

But despite the fact it's no where close to a storm, yet, the rain is totally the reason my thinking shifted from "rhyme" to "run" as the subject of my post. You see, a rain like today is perfect for a run---just enough to wet things down a bit and create a few puddles to jump in but not enough to be a bother.

Therein lies the fun. Plain and simple, puddles bring out the kid in me. Going splat in the first one may wrinkle your nose up a bit. But after that, every puddle is just waiting, nay begging, to be jumped in. Who cares if shoes get wet and mud splatters up to your knees?

OK. That's it. That's my post for today. Here's to puddle jumping, in celebration of all puddles past and all those yet to come---even the piddly ones. Why, I'm even beginning to feel a short rhyme coming on, with a little syncopation to boot....

Rain
By Bill Kirk

Drip. Drip. Patter, pit.
Little drops of rain that hit
My umbrella. Under it,
I’m a perfect fit.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Funny Thing About Rhyme...

... like many apparently simple things in life, there's a lot more to it than meets the eye. Virtually every writer, whether poet, novelist, essayist or journalist, has likely toyed with rhyme at one time or another; most of the time not giving it a second thought beyond its schoolish fun. After all, it's not often we hear rhyme described as fascinating in its complexity, right?

What brings many, myself included, to rhyme is more of a stumbling headlong into the form because of its quirkiness and playfulness. After all, who hasn't recited "Roses Are Red" in the original or even written a knock-off? When I was growing up as an Air Force brat, a favorite was:

Roses are red,
Violets are blue.
You've got a shape,
Like a B-52.

It's hard not to love the romantic sentiment in that short verse written to my first girlfriend on Valentines Day. And what's not to like about its same sounding endings? Not to mention, it's got a bit of a beat. That rendering in rhyme was in about the fourth grade as I recall, when the massive B-52 jet bomber was becoming a household word on Air Force bases around the country.

Regretably, I can't claim to be the orignal author as most boys in my class were writing and reciting that little ditty ad infinitum at the time. Our teachers must have had the patience of Job. I'm certain Shakespeare thought the same thing about the beauty and functionality of rhyme, although perhaps fleetingly, as he added a rhyming couplet to the end of many of the acts and scenes in his plays.

So, let's get serious. You don't have to look very far to learn rhyme has a long history and is complex beyond all appearances. Google is loaded with what could be a literary googol of citations about rhyme. If you go there, I would plan to linger. For example, did you know...

* the first recorded (still surviving) rhyme was written in China in the tenth century BC?
* rhyme is found in the Koran and in the Bible.
* even the Greeks are known to have messed around with rhyme back in the day.
* rhyme made its appearance in Europe well before the 7th century by which time the Irish were using it extensively?
* rhyme started replacing alliteration (more on that in another post) as a preferred poetic form back in 14th century Europe?

And here are just a few of its many forms:

* Rhymes can be viewed generally or specifically. General rhymes have similar sounding words and may give a verse a sense of form. But they may not typically be regarded as rhyming in a strict way. The terms "near rhyme" (king-daring) or "forced rhyme" (noun-found) come to mind.

* On the other hand, rhymes in a specific sense are often referred to as perfect rhymes (see the B-52 above).

* Perfect Rhyme: Words in which the vowel sounds are exactly the same, whether spelled the same way or differently---the final stressed vowel sound (and the sounds that follow that vowel sound) are key, such as say-bay, dolt-bolt, good-would, shopping-hopping, locket-pocket.

* Perfect rhymes can be broken down further based on the number of rhyming syllables in the rhyming words.

* Of course, if there are perfect rhymes, there must be imperfect rhymes, also termed "near rhymes", already noted.

* Based on the location of the final stressed syllable in rhyming words, the rhyme can be classified as masculine, feminine or dactylic. (stay tuned next week).

* There can be rhyme which uses the same vowels (a characteristic known as "assonance") or the same consonants (known oddly enough as "consonance").

* There are also semirhymes where one word in the rhyming set has an extra syllable, not to mention half rhymes, pararhymes, syllabic rhymes, punning rhymes (where the words carry a very intentional and droll meaning), eye rhymes, tail rhymes, mind rhymes and holorhymes, just to name a few.

This list is far from exhaustive and that's just in English. Rhyming forms also vary based on the language in which they are written. Lost in translation doesn't even begin to cover it.

You can probably tell where this is going. First, there's no way to cover everything about rhyme in a single post. And second, because there's no way to cover it all in a single post, my new mission in life is to blog the socks off rhyme---to dignify it beyond doggerel; to lift it up as an art form; to celebrate its place in history; nay, to salute rhymers as risk takers in the face of often withering prosaic criticism.

So, take heart, rhymers. This is our time---and apparently it has been since about the 12th century. Who knew?

More to come....

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Mother Of All Blog Comment Challenges

OK. I shoulda shared this link several days ago along with some of my other resolution related comments. But in my defense, I didn't find out about it until the day after it started. What is it you ask? It's basically a behavior modification tool---doing something to develop a habit through repetion.

Admitedly I was a little skeptical at first. I mean, how did I think I would be able to add this into my already time crunched schedule? Besides, I've already let one or two of my resolutions slide. So, I was a little worried about my resolution to blog more and to expand my view of the blogging world by visiting and commenting on other blogs.

But what better way to reinforce that goal than by participating in a group challenge. Sure we've all heard about the couple in Fiji and a mystic on Madagascar who are self-disciplined enough to get up in the morning and hit the blog circuit as they sip their cup of joe or other stimulating beverage. For the rest of us, a little structure to nudge us along can be a good thing.

Herewith I offer you the link to the Mother Reader website where the Comment Challenge is described and the participants listed. In one place you will find lots of blogs written by folks just like you and me: writers, illustrators, librarians, teachers and lots of others interested in books and blogging and other such things.

The idea is to pick five blogs a day to visit and comment. Although initially I got caught up in blog surfing and couldn't seem to get to the commenting part, after three or four days, I started to get a bit more efficient. First, you get the visiting and commenting on the five sites done and everything else is gravy. Then, lo and behold, in no time you'll be firmly planted in the five-blogs-a-day groove and your resolution is secure.

Along the way, you will encounter lots of really neat blogs written by people you have a lot in common with. Maybe they homeschool their kids or work in a library or love to travel or are wondering how to promote their books. Maybe they grew up in a military family or have two dogs and three cats or live in Australia.

I suppose in some ways it's like speed dating, not that I've ever done that. But I watched a speed dating segment on "What Would You Do?" once. All I can say is, if speed dating had been around back when I was trying to get up the courage to ask a girl out, I wouldn't have survived. But I digress. If the idea of beefing up your blogging appeals to you, click here to check out the challenge at Mother Reader and you, too, may get hooked.

I know. I know. You'll be starting a little late by a few days. But I hear they do this every year. So, what do you have to lose? Maybe I'll see you around the blogosphere, like two ships passing in the night. It could happen....