Writing Tip — Favorite Poem


With the opening lines and a style of illustration unique in picture books, I was drawn into The Magic Woodan adult poem by British writer Henry Treece. Barry Mozer uses only blue and black for the illustrations, sprinkling in sparks of gold to highlight certain elements in the picture, like eyes or a gold ring. This palette conveys the dread and danger the narrator ignores when he enters the wood at night. The sense of dire consequences is apparent in every picture.

But the poem has an upbeat ending. I read it as a Christian parable. The wood is temptation, and the narrator takes his first steps into giving in to it when he ventures inside. The strange creature he meets tries to entice him further. But when he senses danger, he says prays and rushes to the safety of his family’s land.

The poem is an example of stanzas written in rhymes or near rhymes. Although I usually don’t like that style, the poem does have a rhythm, which makes it fun to read out loud to kids.

Mr. Treece wrote five books of poetry. I’ve tried to read them. He has great skill in establishing a mood of loss and darkness, but a little of that goes a long way with me. If I read too much of it, I get depressed.

So test your taste for Mr. Treece’s poems with The Magic Wood. Maybe you will be captured by it like I was.

What are some of your favorite poems?

Writing Tip — Gifts for Mother’s Day

mom-48958_1280With Mother’s Day approaching, many of us are thinking about what gift to give to our mothers, or grandmothers, or wives, or other female relatives.  As a writer, you can always make a gift of your art.


Writing a poem is wonderfully personal gift.  I have given poems as Christmas gifts.  Know nothing about poetry?  I recommend checking out books of children’s poems to introduce yourself to this writing style.

I like studying children’s poetry because I can focus on the structure, instead of the meaning, which is usually straight forward.  Below are listed books that are a great introduction to a few different styles of poetry.

Rhyming poetry — A Child’s Calendar by John Updike

Free verse — Red Sings From the Treetops by Joyce Sidman

Haiku — The Cuckoo’s Haiku, The Maine Coon’s Haiku, and The Hound Dog’s Haiku by Michael J. Rosen

Acrostic poems — Winter: An Alphabet Acrostic, also Fall, Spring, Summer by Steven Schnur.

Even if you only write four lines of verse in a card, that personal touch will mean so much. (That rhymed.  Mmmm … maybe I have the beginnings of a poem.)



Putting down on paper a significant event you shared with the woman you want to honor makes a thoughtful preset.  Your recipient may not know how much that event meant to you so letting her know is a true gift.

I wish I had written to my grandmother how much it meant to me to spend time with her and my grandfather at their house when I was a kid.  I thought she knew.  It was only when I was an adult that I discovered she didn’t.  She had thought my sisters and I all had a good time, but she didn’t know those visits were some of our fondest childhood memories.

Unless you are an experienced writer, I would keep your story to around 500 words.  Even if it only runs to 200 words, that’s fine.  Short can definitely be sweet if it delivers a story in a concise, imaginative way.

No matter what kind of writing you choose, be sure you edit it.  No one writes her best story the first time.  Reread and rewrite as much as you can before you give it away.  Every time I reread a piece, I always find ways to improve it.

Writing Tip

refugees-2071291_1280This isn’t really a tip, but it ties in with my previous post about using May as a setting.  This poem sums up my feelings about the month since I have kids in school.


Some of us may scream.

Some of us may shout.

One thing is for certain.

All of us want out!

The teachers are exhausted.

The parents are worn out.

The kids haven’t worked since March

And only plan escape routes.

Some of us may sulk.

Some of us may pout.

Some of us may push and shove

And fight a title bout.

But just like death and taxes,

It’s true without a doubt.

After nine l-o-n-g moths of school


Writing Tip


I am not a poet, but I occasionally get ideas that can only be expressed in poems.  I wrote the poem below in response to the poem “January” by John Updike in A Child’s Calendar. I love these poems.  While I like the one  Mr. Updike wrote about “February”, my poem better reflects my feelings about the month.


The wind is grayer.

The days are colder.

The month gets longer

As it gets older.

At first we loved

The clean, bright glow.

But now it’s simply

 Snow on snow on snow on snow ….

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