Posts Tagged ‘kissing the earth’

April is Poetry Month!

Check out the Teaching Authors Blog for oodles of poetry links and ideas. And they are having a give-away to celebrate their five year blogiversary!

Writing a poem can be a fabulous way to hone your prose. If you’re struggling with a scene, try distilling it into a poem. Free verse can be, well, freeing. Or, sometimes requiring a bit of structure can paradoxically loosen up your brain to find the gems below the surface. Just recently a friend reminded me: having boundaries allows one to relax within. Love that.

And my dear friend Sharry is having fun with Haikus and Flash Fiction; accented with photographs and the act of flaneur. Be sure to check out her lovely post!

I’m adding a new collection of poems to the books I use when teaching writing: WHAT THE HEART KNOWS: Chants, Charms & Blessings by Joyce Sidman. The title alone is poetry! It’s a beautiful book that comes with a lovely red ribbon to mark your place.

what the heart knowsAnd then, within, is just as beautiful. The book is organized into 4 sections;

  1. CHANTS & CHARMS~to bolster courage and guard against evil.
  2. SPELLS & INVOCATIONS~to cause something to happen.
  3. LAMENTS & REMEMBRANCES~to remember, regret, or grieve.
  4. PRAISE SONGS & BLESSINGS~to celebrate, thank, or express love.

Now that I think about it, aren’t those all the reasons we write? To do just those things?

Sarah Tomp


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When Lin Oliver, President of SCBWI, spoke to the San Diego chapter last year, she said, “There is no friend like a friend in thinking.”

I wouldn’t still be writing without those friends of mine. The ones who read my work at its roughest and ugliest. The ones who let me read theirs. The friends who are willing to peek into the deep dark corners of my brain and heart and soul to help me see what’s there. The friends who I can trust to tell me the truth about my writing. And, going the other way too–the ones that trust me with their hopes and dreams, one scene at a time.

The great thing about writer friends is their collective brilliance. They think about things that matter; to me, and to the world. They are creative and surprising. Oh so entertaining! They make me laugh. And cry, but for the right reasons. They are aware. They feel things and admit those feelings.

It wasn’t so long ago that I was in a dark dreary place with my writing. I was feeling the utter fatigue – and despair – of writing into a kind of void. As my Super Blog Buddy astutely pointed out, “You and writing just aren’t getting along right now.”

I hated that I needed outside validation to mark my writing as worthy. But, at the same time, I’d set off on this path with certain goals in mind. Namely, getting published. And if that wasn’t going to happen, then I needed to reevaluate my life. Because writing had completely consumed my life. That’s what I did. That’s what I thought about. Talked about. Obsessed about. Between my kids getting older and handling their own social lives – no more play dates and outings with play groups – and using every spare minute for writing, other friendships have faded a bit.

All my very best friends are writers. So, as I contemplated this revamping of my life, I had to imagine it without these friends. Without, perhaps, any friends. I started plotting my disappearance. The way I’d gradually back off from my critique group. The way I’d stop posting with my weekly check-in group. The way I’d live in a dark, damp cave.

And then, I received a bit of support. Finally, someone – who didn’t know me, who didn’t have any particular obligation to – liked something I wrote. All of a sudden, I didn’t have to pack my cave bag. I don’t know if I would have been able to see my cave plan through. For now, it’s put on hold.

The other night I had dinner with a new writer friend. A friend of a writer friend who was visiting San Diego. Of course we had plenty to talk about. But one thing we talked about  – of course – was rejection. And disappointment. Sorrow. The need to acknowledge it and own it. That’s much harder than feeling it.

And then, because life is like this, my dear friend Tam wrote this post about longing. A must read for writers. Must read. Must.

That’s the hardest thing about having these writer friends that I adore. The ones I think with. I feel their rejections and disappointments almost as deeply as my own. I love their stories. I believe they have something important to say. I know their work is good and strong and true. I feel their deep primal longing, right beside mine.

Yours in thinking,


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One motherly regret (that I’m willing to admit publicly) is that I never participated in a mother-daughter book club. Curious as to what the girl-child and I missed out on, I’ve convinced my dear friend Sharry Wright into sharing some of her tips for planning and facilitating a mother-daughter book club. 

collage_blog_titleAfter you read this post, be sure to check out Sharry’s lovely blog, Kissing the Earth, which she authors with fellow author, Tamara Ellis Smith. It’s chocked full of gorgeousness in both word and image form.

Hi Sharry! Thanks for being here on WOTS today!

Hi Sarah! Thanks so much for asking me to talk a little about one the most favorite things I get to do—work as a moderator for mother-daughter book clubs!

Please describe your group to us. 

Right now I have one group of five mothers and their third grade daughters and one group of five moms and sixth grade girls. And another group of third graders starting up soon. I let the moms decide a meeting time that best fits their busy family schedules.

How often do you meet?

We meet about once a month. The younger group meets for two hours on Sunday afternoons, the older group for two hours on a Monday or Tuesday evening. They take turns hosting at their homes—the host provides tea and sweets for the Sunday group and a light supper for the older group.

Sounds delightful!

How are the books chosen?

The hosting girl chooses the book to read and discuss from a choice of three that I give her—three books that I think she will especially enjoy, but will also be appropriate for the whole group and make for a lively and rich discussion. Then a week before the meeting, I correspond with the hosting mom and daughter to help them come up with four or five discussion questions. At the meeting, I start the discussion and then turn it over to the hosting girl, moderating as needed to keep the discussion on track and on time.

What kind of book leads to a good discussion?

I have found that the books that make for the best discussions are those with some ‘meat on their bones’ so to speak. I try to only offer well-written books with well-rounded characters that both the girls and moms can invest in. I look for stories with strong thematic threads, with characters in difficult situations who have to make difficult choices and do things that are hard for them to do. Some of the best discussions come from the question—how would YOU act, feel, respond in the same situation? We’ve had some great discussions about characters who were forced to stretch and grow, or characters that had to face their flaws and the flaws of others.

As you well know, one of the great benefits of coming out of the MFA in Writing For Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts where we basically lived and breathed children’s literature around the clock for two years, was the entry into a lifelong community of children’s book writers, teachers and librarians who all share this love of reading, writing, teaching and discussing Middle Grade and Young Adult literature and are fantastic resources for recommending great books. 

Are there any taboo topics? 

In terms of taboos, I do try to keep the books we read age appropriate. I’ve had, on occasion, one of the girls with an older sibling ask if we can read a certain book that I know is too sexual or too violent for six graders, too scary or upsetting for third graders. And I have made a solemn vow to both my groups that I will never bring them a book where the dog is killed!

GOOD CALL! No dead dogs!

Any recommendations for others wanting to form their own group?

For anyone interested in starting a mother daughter book club, I say, do it! I was lucky enough to enjoy many years of mother daughter book clubs with both of my girls (now 22 and 25!) from the time they were 9, well into high school. My girls and I look back on the time we spent reading and discussing books together as incredibly precious and valuable. 

I would recommend keeping the group manageable—five or six mothers and daughters makes for a nice sized group. Use your local children’s librarian and independent bookstore children’s book buyer as resources—they love to talk about and recommend great books! If you don’t want to meet in each other’s homes, most libraries have a public meeting room you can reserve for book club meetings.

Thanks so much for being here, Sharry!

If anyone has any questions about parent-child book clubs, ask away!

Sarah Wones Tomp


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I finally read Ask the Passengers by A.S. King. I’ll be honest, I resisted this one for a while. Despite the buzz, the praises, the raves, the Love with a capital L, the fact that I loved her other books (Please Ignore Vera Dietz and Everybody Sees the Ants), I just wasn’t picking it up.

Then my friend Tam reviewed Ask the Passengers for Bookbrowse and I caved.

I’m so glad I did.

The official description:

Astrid Jones desperately wants to confide in someone, but her mother’s pushiness and her father’s lack of interest tell her they’re the last people she can trust. Instead, Astrid spends hours lying on the backyard picnic table watching airplanes fly overhead. She doesn’t know the passengers inside, but they’re the only people who won’t judge her when she asks them her most personal questions . . . like what it means that she’s falling in love with a girl.

As her secret relationship becomes more intense and her friends demand answers, Astrid has nowhere left to turn. She can’t share the truth with anyone except the people at thirty thousand feet, and they don’t even know she’s there. But little does Astrid know just how much even the tiniest connection will affect these strangers’ lives–and her own–for the better.

In this truly original portrayal of a girl struggling to break free of society’s definitions, Printz Honor author A.S. King asks readers to questioneverything–and offers hope to those who will never stop seeking real love.

My thoughts:

  • As someone who was transplanted to a small town in 7th grade and went to another small town for college, the small town setting felt real. It’s hard to be “different” anywhere, but it seems to me it’s especially hard to hide in a small town. I wasn’t especially different in any glaring way, but I sure felt watched. And I saw others suffer the burden of their different-ness. 
  • I ached for Astrid as she struggled with the idea of falling in love. First loves are tricky and confusing and exhilarating – regardless of the who or what gender. It’s not easy to know what to do, how to act, who to tell ~ and then throw in the fact that some people will hate you for who you love, well, that’s tough stuff. Personally, I loved how her falling in love felt so familiar.
  • And, I loved how we are reminded that love is separate from physicality. Even though Astrid realizes she’s in love – she’s not ready for sexual intimacy. It has nothing to do with sexual orientation and everything to do with the fact that those explorations are nerve-wracking and awkward. Those moments are huge and kind of scary. That’s what is captured here so beautifully.
  • Astrid has a habit of sending her love out into the world. Specifically, to the airplanes that fly overhead. This idea sounded kind of hokey to me and, quite honestly, was one of the reasons for my resistance towards this book. Figures it became one of my favorite parts of the book. After Astrid sends her love and questions out to the universe, we read a short interlude in the perspective of the person in the airplane – who “received” her message. These vignettes serve  as peeks into other lives and other kinds of love. They are amazing, trust me.
  • I also loved how we see so much of Astrid’s life – beyond falling in love. We get to know her (kind of messed up) family, her best friend, her work place and co-workers, her school – it’s a wide wide lens, yet lots of close-ups. The world is so real.

Okay. Now go read a fantastic interview with A.S. King (do you see how her name spells “asking” – ? !) on Tam and Sharry’s blog, Kissing the Earth.

And for those who are working on the craft of writing books for young people – I find this very very interesting. As read on Bookbrowse’s Beyond the Book exploration, A.S. King did not go to school for writing. Instead (edited for length):

She began writing after she spent six straight months reading a book a day. … Fifteen years and seven novels after she sat down at that typewriter, she got her first book published.”


Sarah Wones Tomp


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Thanks for the shout out, DEBtastic Reads! You are definitely one lovely blog yourself.

Following the award rules, here are  7 Things about Writing on the Sidewalk (aka Super Blog buddies, Sarah and Suzanne):

  1. We met and bonded over our oldest boys when they were in 3rd grade – and shorter than their mothers. In other words, a loooong time ago!
  2. Our youngest boys have the same first name.
  3. We live one block away from each other.
  4. We are in the same critique group – the one that has sullied Panera with talk of kissing and panties and murder and gets kicked out after closing on a regular basis. (They try to bribe us to leave with bread, which only reinforces our bad behavior.)
  5. We both have black dogs who occasionally have sleepovers.
  6. We enjoy procrastinating together with craft days and field trips.
  7. Our husbands have 3 letter names and big families that keep us entertained.

And now we pass on the love. It’s soooo hard to choose from the many many blogs I love, but here are a few:

Kissing the Earth


and, new and growing, Efrog Press Blog

The Rules of Accepting the One Lovely Blog Award

1. Link back to the person who nominated you.

2. Post the award photo in your post.

3. Share 7 facts about yourself.

4. Nominate a few other bloggers.

Sarah Wones Tomp & Suzanne Santillan


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Each morning Luna and I take basically the same walk. We walk the perimeter of our housing development, seeing a lot of sameness. The houses looks like a lot of the same – something our homeowner’s association takes very seriously. The landscaping is a lot of the same. And we see a lot of the same people/dogs/even cars. I don’t mind the same because I’m not walking for the view, mostly I’m deep inside my head during these walks and Luna seems to always find worthwhile sniffs and smells.

But this week I went back to work after a month break and our time for this walk has changed. Back to walking in the dim dark of too early. We see our old familiar people/dogs/cars, but this time I’m missing a couple of changes from our later walks. (BTW, Tam and Sharry each wrote lovely posts on light and dark over at Kissing the Earth.)

A cat and a pig.

During the later morning walks, there was a stretch of our routine walk where a young cat would join us. Luna likes cats, actually, but most won’t let her say hello. So of course I was surprised the first few times that this cat showed such confidence in approaching a dog. It would walk with us for a stretch before stopping and letting us go on. After a week or so,  we started to anticipate and look for our kitty-friend. One day the cat jumped out from a bush and seriously startled us – and then I swear, the way Luna and her friend moved, it was the equivalent of canine/feline laughter. So so funny.

And not far beyond the cat spot lives a pig. A giant, pink, with folds and folds of fat, pig. Not pot-belly. Not piglet. Pig. It’s not as predictable as to when we might get a glimpse, but we were lucky enough to see a few times of rooting in the dirt. I have no idea why someone would have a great big enormous porcine companion in our neighborhood. But, it was still fun to see – and to see Luna cock her head in such confusion.

But now that we’re back to walking so early, we don’t see our kitty friend. I wonder if it looks for us?

When I first started writing, I could – and did – write anywhere. On anything. I’d jot down little bits of things while waiting for my kids. Or standing in line at the grocery store. Early morning, late at night. Nap time.

Then I got more serious and disciplined, especially once I was writing for the VCFA program. I developed a routine.

But then I couldn’t write if I wasn’t in my routine. It had to be in my spot, at the same time of day.

Lately I’ve been scribbling more. At random times, on scraps of paper and in way too many different notebooks. It feels good. Messy, but organic. Kind of like a pig.

Today I’m going into work a little later than most days. I think Luna and I will walk a little later too. Maybe we’ll see our kitty.

Sarah Wones Tomp




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I recently went on a retreat with some writer friends.


Tam and Sharry describe it oh so well. (Happy Blog-0-versary to Kissing the Earth!) And I stole this picture from them. This was one of the views as we took our daily walks – where we talked about books and writing and writing and books.

Prior to the retreat, we each submitted pages (and the terrifying synopsis) from our new WIPs so that we could talk about things like character development and desire, forces of antagonism and obstacles, secondary characters, structure and plot development with our particular stories in mind.

For me, this feels like it has been such a booster engine jet-pack for my story. Wanting to get the most out of the retreat as possible, I prepared by diving into my story with a stronger sense of urgency and focus, trying to get as far along my messy first draft as time permitted. Simply writing the synopsis was a tremendous feat – and made me feel both queasy and elated.

I have a hard time talking about my stories when they are loose and forming, so this retreat examination was a new experience for me. This forced me out of my comfort zone. During our discussions, I honestly felt this sort of simultaneous losing and yet discovering my story at the same time.

I’ve hit some moments of doubt and frustration over the discoveries this retreat made clear – but the thing is, these are the same moments I had writing my last story – but it took me so much longer to reach a point where I could recognize the fatal flaws. There will be more moments, of course! But I feel like I have a good base on which to work – and a notebook to consult.

The key to this type of retreat is the company. I was surrounded by brilliant minds and hearts that I trust implicitly.

The walks, chocolate, and wine helped too, of course…

Sarah Wones Tomp


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I’m making something pretty…

I feel like I have always had the need to create – to make something new and shiny. My most vivid memories of learning in elementary school revolve around the projects we made. The cave painting in plaster, making a huge poster of The Nina, The Pinta and the Santa Maria, a book cover for Summer of the Swans, painting a giant sun face in the hallway…

When I was around four or five my grandmother told me that she thought I might be a better artist than my cousin had been at my age. (shhh) And then she showed me a beautiful painting that my cousin had done. Those were some powerful words to tuck away inside my heart.

This post by Sharry really touched me. She keeps her blog, Kissing the Earth, with Tam – check it out for their banner alone. Beautiful. But their words are art-full too.

My father was a brilliant scientist – passionate and dedicated to his profession as a geologist. But he nurtured his creative side as well. One of his personal achievements was a collection of sonnets, written as an examination of faith. After his unexpected death way too long ago, my mother had these poems published for us in a simple yet beautiful book, Sonnets for a Christian Year. As she wrote in the afterword, “The sonnet seemed to combine both poetry and his scientist’s love of rule and order.”

And so, in honor of art and Lent and poetry month, a sonnet by David Robert Wones:


With pleasure filled, we wander way out West.

This time, I see God’s world with older eyes,

And youth along to keep me at my best

The van rolls on beneath the raining skies.

With ease we live our lives in worlds apart,

The secular absorbs our work and play.

And for God’s world we often yield our heart

In disjoint fleeting minutes day by day.

We are mistaken, for it all is one.

God made it all, this land beneath His sun.

Why do we reconstruct His world as two?

Take the Creator’s rocks as holy ground;

See Jesus Christ in those who you surround,

And let the Spirit fill your worldly view.

Sarah Wones Tomp


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