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JoAnn's Blog

National Poetry Month Book Giveaway!

I've posted all my National Poetry Month daily haiku on this blog--hooray! I'm up to date--let's celebrate! I'll give away an autographed copy of Write a Poem Step by Step to a random winner. To enter, add a comment to this post by midnight on April 30, 2015. Be sure to include your contact information. Good luck!
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Back to the Desk!

Yesterday, I spent a lovely, relaxing Labor Day afternoon at our neighborhood's fourth annual block party. The parents in the crowd excused themselves early to get their kids ready for the first day of school. The rest of us lingered to share fond memories.

The Back to You-Know-What Book Giveaway is all wrapped up, the winner is notified, and today is the first day of school. Like teachers, students, and writers everywhere, I'm heading back to my desk. I wish all of us a positive, prosperous, and productive school year!  Read More 
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Mittens in May?

Mittens in May!

Our massive piles of snow have mostly melted away.
Although the weather’s chilly, it gets warmer every day.
Squirrels shiver, fluff their fur—I think they’ll be okay.
Daffodils are popping up with just a slight delay.
Summer birds are back. I saw three chimney swifts today!
We’re celebrating spring while wearing mittens in May!

Regardless of the temperature, we always see chimney swifts by May 1. This year was no exception in spite of the unseasonably cool temperatures. I hope they find enough insects to eat! Here's a video I made a few years ago of chimney swifts flying into a chimney downtown. You can hear them twittering over the traffic sounds.

Liz is the winner of this week's giveaway of an autographed paperback copy of Write a Poem Step by Step. Tara (last week's winner), if you're reading this, please send me your mailing address so I can send you your book!

Katya hosts today's Poetry Friday Roundup at Write. Sketch. Repeat. Enjoy!
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Shape Poems & Final Book Giveaway of Poetry Month!

This rose is a rose in both subject and form: it's a shape poem. I created it in Microsoft® Office Word using WordArt, which can be both fun and challenging.

Shape poems, also called concrete poems or spatial poems, create shapes out of words, either by outlining (like "Rose" above) or by filling in a picture like John Hollander's "Swan and Shadow."

A good topic for a shape poem lends itself to an appropriate shape: concrete objects work better than abstract ideas. If you want to try a shape poem, I strongly suggest that you write the poem first. Then fit it into the shape. That way, you focus on the logic and say what you mean to say rather than being distracted by trying to form a shape while you write.

Look for the WordArt icon (a blue A) on the Insert tab in the Text section. Click one of the styles that appears, enter or paste your text, select the font, size, and features you want, and click Okay. Once your text is in the document, you can add special effects and change the size and position with the tools on the Format tab. In "Rose," each petal, bud, and thorn is a separate piece of WordArt.

You can read more shape poems in these collections:
A Poke in the I, edited by Paul B. Janeczko
Splish Splash and Flicker Flash: Poems by Joan Bransfield Graham
Doodle Dandies: Poems that Take Shape by J. Patrick Lewis
Come to My Party and Other Shape Poems by Heidi Bee Roemer
Technically, It’s Not My Fault: Concrete Poems and Blue Lipstick: Concrete Poems by John Grandits

Book Giveaway!
Tara is the winner of this week's giveaway of an autographed paperback copy of Write a Poem Step by Step.

Post a comment on today's post to enter for another chance to win. I’ll choose a winner at random next Friday from all entries posted by 10 p.m. (CST) Thursday, notify the winner by email, and ask for a mailing address and personalization request. Good luck!

Teaching Authors
Look for me each Wednesday during National Poetry Month at, where I'm posting poetry-themed Wednesday Writing Workouts. Last Wednesday's challenge was a Fib.

Guest Blog Post
At at Rochelle Melander's Write Now! Coach blog, you can read about five of my favorite poetry collections and enter to win a copy of Write a Poem Step by Step.

Poetry Friday
Tabatha Yeatts has today's Poetry Friday Roundup at The Opposite of Indifference. Enjoy!

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Three Poetry Thoughts, a Spring Tercet, and a Book Giveaway!

When our kids were little and needed a bit more attention than they do these days, I used to wait till they were safely occupied or sleeping, make a conscious effort to let go of everyday concerns, sink down into a creative frame of mind, and open up to gifts from the blue. I’d tell myself to slow down and pay attention. I called that wonderful state Poetry Mode.

Later, I read For the Good of the Earth and Sun: Teaching Poetry by Georgia Heard. Heard describes a visit to her teacher Stanley Kunitz. Before she left, she asked him for any last advice. He said, “You must first create the kind of person who will write the kind of poems you want to write.”

The thought gives me goosebumps.

Then yesterday, though a Facebook post, I found this gorgeous poem, “Valentine for Ernest Mann” by Naomi Shihab Nye. The lines that struck me:

              “. . . poems hide. In the bottoms of our shoes,
              they are sleeping. They are the shadows
              drifting across our ceilings the moment
              before we wake up. What we have to do
              is live in a way that lets us find them. . . .”

Slow down and pay attention, right?

I’m thinking in threes today. I planned to write a triolet, but my Book of Forms opened to the tercet page instead. Any poem of three lines, rhymed or unrhymed in any meter, is a tercet. Here’s mine:

              First Signs of Hope

              Among the dry, brown leaves that shield the hill,
              surprises bloom in spite of winter’s chill.
              Crocuses—an unexpected thrill!

Book news!
Write a Poem Step by Step is now available as an eBook from Lulu. Soon it will also be in the iBookstore and the NOOK Book Store. Paperback copies are available from Lulu, IndieBound, amazon, Barnes&Noble, and local bookstores.

Book Giveaway!
Post a comment to enter for a chance to win an autographed paperback copy of Write a Poem Step by Step. Be sure to include your email address so I can notify you if you win and ask for your mailing address and personalization request.

I’ll choose a winner at random next Friday from all entries posted by midnight (CST) Thursday. Watch for another chance to win next week. Good luck!

Poetry Friday
Today's Poetry Friday Roundup is at The Poem Farm.

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Celebrating National Poetry Month!

Hooray! It's National Poetry Month!

Lucky for us all, Jama Kim Rattigan has compiled a list of National Poetry Month events we can peruse.

Throughout the month, I'll be posting Wednesday Writing Workouts at the Teaching Authors blog, where we'll all be celebrating by sharing some of our favorite poems.

On Fridays, I'll post here and also give away copies of Write a Poem Step by Step.

Watch both sites for writing tips, poetry assignments, and links to more poetry!

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Book Giveaway at!

Follow me over to, where the Teaching Authors have invited me to contribute a guest post!

There, you can enter for a chance to win an autographed copy of Write a Poem Step by Step!

The Book Giveaway goes on until 11 p.m. on December 18. I'll announce the winner on December 19.
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A Winner, a Poem, and That Light at the End of the Tunnel

I’m nearing the end of a freelance project on top of my most demanding teaching semester ever: two classes at Mount Mary College and two classes at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s School of Continuing Education. I love my students, who keep delighting me with their brilliant and creative approaches to poems and stories. Another thing that helps me keep going is to write a little bit every day—and every bit counts, including Morning Pages, Laura Purdie Salas’s 15 Words or Less Poems, and even blog posts.

On Friday, using a Random Number Generator, I picked the winner of the Book Giveaway. Congratulations to Deborah Holt Williams, who will receive an autographed copy of Write a Poem Step by Step. I started a blog post announcement, including a haiku about the status of my workspace as the end of the semester approaches. I hoped to take part in Poetry Friday, but I got stuck on the poem, so I went out and mailed the book (I hope you enjoy it, Deborah!) and attended to a list of errands.

On Saturday, after a walk along the river, I approached the poem again, along with the freelance project, the last of my student work for one class (hooray!), and just before bedtime, a picture book critique.

Now it’s Sunday, too late for Poetry Friday, and I’m reminded again of that lesson about letting a draft evolve on its own schedule. Today, finally, the poem says something more like what I meant to express.

              To-do lists collect
              like snowdrifts, teeter, topple,
              fan across the floor.

I could use a snow shovel (or maybe a plow!) on my workspace, but I’ll get to that, too, one of these days. The semester ends in less than three weeks!

In the meantime, I’m looking forward to a break for Thanksgiving. I’ll gather with most of my family. I’ll try my hand at a Thanku poem with my friends at You should, too!

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Write a Poem Step by Step Poetry Tip, Poem, and Book Giveaway!

Today's post (my first on this blog!) includes an excerpt from my new book Write a Poem Step by Step. Book Giveaway details are below.

Write About Something You Care About

My first tip about choosing an idea applies to almost any kind of writing: Write about something you care about. How can you put your heart into a subject that doesn’t move you? If you try to write about something you don’t care about, you might have to force yourself to find something to say. You might struggle to write anything interesting at all. Your poem could suffer. It might even be boring. So write about something you feel strongly about.

That doesn’t necessarily mean something you like! Something that makes you feel an emotion, whether happy or sad, curious or angry, silly or serious, can make a good topic for a poem. Anything can be a subject if you are open to it: your shoes, the chair you’re sitting on, what you ate for breakfast—as long as you care about it.

Chloe’s poem shows how much piano music means to her and why. 

The Piano

The piano reminds me of my grandma
When she played the beautiful sounds

The piano smells like an old library
When you step in and smell the old, dusty books

The piano makes me feel like I’m flying
Through white, fluffy clouds in the sky

The piano sounds like twinkling stars
The beautiful sounds are no louder than a soft MEOW from my cat

Chloe Strait, Grade 5

Put your whole heart into your poem. Go ahead and reveal your emotions. The effort will show in your writing.

Write a Poem Step by Step is available now from Lulu, amazon, Barnes&Noble, and local bookstores. See the links on the right to order.

Book Giveaway details: Post a comment here to enter for a chance to win an autographed copy of Write a Poem Step by Step and tell me how you would use the book. Be sure to include your email address so I can notify you if you win and ask for your mailing address. Comments do not appear immediately.

I'll choose a winner at random one week from today from all entries posted by midnight Thursday, November 15. Good luck!

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