A blog for kids (and their parents) who love books, words, and dreaming big...
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Wednesday, August 31, 2011


A noun meaning "a loud noise" or "commotion", hullabaloo [huhl-uh-buh-loo] is one of those words that is just plain fun to say. :)   I started writing a sentence using the word last week, for this post, and it ended up turning into a long poem that I'm still working on!  Guess I'll have to come up with another example instead!  How about this?:

The class of fifth graders zigzagged through the gym, bouncing basketballs, shouting, and creating a hullabaloo -- along with a headache for their teacher.

What kind of hullabaloos have you heard in your life?  What ways could you use hullabaloo in a sentence?


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Pack Up

Photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net

Pack Up

Before the summer's gone --
Pack a rosy-fingered dawn.
Pack a pond
Or ocean spray.
Pack them for a snow-packed day.

from Summersault by Douglas Florian, 2002

Monday, August 29, 2011

Fantasy Favorites...

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"Fantasy is a necessary
ingredient in living."

~Dr. Seuss

In the past, I've written about the fantasy books I loved as a child.  I have also mentioned my deep admiration for the "Harry Potter" series.  Today I am sharing some more middle-grade/young adult fantasy favorites that I read (for the first time) as an adult.  With the exception of The Princess Bride, these are all books that my daughter Emmalie -- a HUGE fantasy buff! -- recommended to me.  Now, I recommend them to you. :)

The Princess Bride:
S. Morgenstern's Classic Tale of True Love
and High Adventure
written by William Goldman, 1973
I confess that I saw "The Princess Bride" movie -- which came out in 1987 and is now one of our family's favorite films -- before ever reading the book.  (I hadn't even heard of the book before seeing the movie.)  While I do highly recommend the movie, the book is even better! 

This story has everything.  As Goldman says, it is filled with "Fencing.  Fighting.  Torture.  Poison.  True love.  Hate.  Revenge.  Giants.  Hunters.  Bad men.  Good men.  Beautifulest ladies.  Snakes.  Spiders.  Beasts of all natures and descriptions.  Pain.  Death.  Brave men.  Cowardly men.  Strongest men.  Chases.  Escapes.  Lies.  Truths.  Passion.  Miracles."   Best of all,  it is served with a great big helping of humor!  With characters like the lovely Buttercup, the brave Westley, and Fezzik the giant, this book is fun for kids and adults alike.


The "His Dark Materials" trilogy,
written by Philip Pullman:
The Golden Compass
(also known as Northern Lights) (1995),
The Subtle Knife (1997),
and The Amber Spyglass (2000)
This trilogy -- along with its protagonist, 12-year-old Lyra Belacqua, and her daemon Pantalaimon -- moves through several parallel worlds, some similar to our own.  The story begins as Lyra embarks on a dangerous rescue mission.  She befriends a bear named Iorek Byrnison and a boy named Will Parry, learns about the mysterious substance called Dust, and ends up on a quest to save the universes.

These books have become controversial in some circles, due to their negative portrayal of organized religions.  That did not bother me, and I don't have any problems with my kids reading them. Critical thinking and questioning beliefs does not make those beliefs invalid; indeed, they can even strengthen one's beliefs .  Personally, I found the trilogy thought-provoking and interesting, full of complexities.


The "Inkworld" trilogy, written by Cornelia Funke:
Inkheart (2003), Inkspell (2005), and Inkdeath (2007)
So far, I've only read the first two books in this trilogy, but I'm eagerly awaiting the call from the library, telling me the third one is in!  Filled with people who love books -- reading them, binding them, collecting them, writing them -- along with many references to other well-known stories, this trilogy is sure to delight anyone who is a BookWyrm at heart. 

I love the idea behind this story!  Certain individuals have the ability to bring book characters into our world (and transport others into the world of a book), simply by reading aloud.  At the beginning of the Inkworld story, 12-year-old Meggie discovers that her father can do just that.  The girl soon realizes that, while such a talent may seem wonderful at first, it can have dire consequences -- for both worlds!

Our family liked the "Inkheart" movie, but, as usual, the books themselves are much more enjoyable!


"The Inheritance Cycle" series,
written by Christopher Paolini:
Eragon (2002), Eldest (2005), Brisingr (2008),
and Inheritance (coming out in November 2011)
So far, I have only read the first book in this series.  Emmalie, on the other hand, has read and loved the others that have been published, and is looking forward to the fourth.  The thing that I find most interesting about The Inheritance Cycle books is that Paolini was only 15 when he began writing them, and 19 when Eragon was published!  (Something I didn't learn until after I'd read it.)

Eragon is a 15-year-old farm boy who befriends a dragon named Saphira.  Together they set out to try and defeat their world's evil king, Galbatorix.  There are many unusual names, magic words, and phrases to try and keep track of in this series, and I'll admit I had a little trouble keeping them all straight.  Still, I found it to be a pleasurable read.  (I did not enjoy the movie "Eragon" nearly as much, however.)


The "Artemis Fowl" series, written by Eoin Colfer: 
Artemis Fowl (2001), The Arctic Incident (2002),
The Eternity Code (2003),
The Opal Deception (2005),
The Lost Colony (2006), The Time Paradox (2008),
The Atlantis Complex (2010),
and The Last Guardian (coming out summer 2012)
I love Colfer's apt description of his first Artemis Fowl book: "Die Hard with fairies"!  (For those who don't know, "Die Hard" is an action movie with explosions galore.) 

I haven't read the entire series yet, but the books I have read are filled with action, explosions, magic, technology, and wit!  Artemis Fowl is not your typical 12-year-old boy; he is a genius, criminal mastermind, and anti-hero, all rolled into one.  The series begins when he pits himself against all sorts of otherworldly creatures -- fairies, elves, trolls, dwarves, and more -- in an attempt to steal fairy gold.  Fast-paced and often laugh-out-loud funny, these books are pure entertainment!


The "Percy Jackson and the Olympians" series,
written by Rick Riordan:
The Lightning Thief (2005),
The Sea of Monsters (2006),
The Titan's Curse (2007),
The Battle of the Labyrinth (2008),
and The Last Olympian (2009)
This series combines Greek mythology with modern day life in a humorous, action-packed story.  Main character Percy Jackson is a preteen boy struggling with ADHD and dyslexia.  When he discovers that he is actually a demigod, the son of Poseidon, his wild cross-country adventures begin!  Starting with the first page of The Lightning Thief, I had a hard time putting these books down.  And when I finished one, I couldn't wait to move on to each subsequent book, always eager to find out what would happen next! 

A note about "The Lightning Thief" movie:  While it may have been an enjoyable film, it was VERY different from the book. Emmalie and I were both disappointed by how much was left out or changed.  If you've only seen the movie, I urge you to try the books!


Have you read any of these fantasies?  If so, what did you like or dislike about them?  I'd love to hear your opinion, and also any recommendations you may have for other fantasy novels!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

A blank piece of paper

"A blank piece of paper
is a formidable opponent,
you can defeat it. 
Just stare the thing down. 
Refuse to be intimidated. 
Take a deep breath
write a word
or two
on the paper. 
Make that a sentence,

a paragraph. 
Now you're in charge. 
Now you're writing."

~ Anne Mazer in Spilling Ink: A Young Writer's Handbook

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Blue Between

Photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net

The Blue Between

Everyone watches the clouds,
naming creatures they’ve seen.
I see the sky differently,
I see the blue between--

   The blue woman tugging
   her stubborn cloud across the sky.
   The blue giraffe stretching
   to nibble a cloud floating by.
   A pod of dancing dolphins,
   cloud oceans, cargo ships,
   a boy twirling his cloud
   around a thin blue fingertip.

In those smooth wide spaces,
I see a different scene.
I see those cloudless spaces,
I see the blue between.

by Kristine O'Connell George

Friday, August 26, 2011

Library: another word for paradise...

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"I have always imagined that Paradise
will be a kind of library."
~Jorge Luis Borges

For me, a library IS paradise.  Where else can you find shelf after shelf of books, on every subject imaginable, and all free for the taking... er... borrowing?  I LOVE going to the library, and I've felt that way ever since I can remember.

My earliest library memories revolve around going to the public library in Ames, Iowa (where I grew up) when I was about six years old.  I can still picture walking in the front door with my mom and little sister.  Straight ahead were stairs leading down, and then on either side of that were staircases going up.  "Up" was where we headed back then.  I can still hear the echo of our feet on those stone steps.

At the top of the stairs was the check-out area.  I remember high ceilings and a tall wooden desk with librarians sitting behind, waiting to stamp due dates on cards and slide them back in their pockets.  There was a metal spiral staircase behind them, leading up to another level that looked out over the lobby area.  The books up there and in the rooms to the left were for grown-ups.  The children's section, where I wanted to go, was off to the right.

I would head over there eagerly, first stepping into the large, airy room filled with chapter books for older kids, and then making a beeline into the second room, the one that held picture books, easy-to-read books, and my very favorite thing (every Ames child's favorite thing, I think) -- a display case called "The Little Theater".   

Every month or so, librarians would come up with a new theme for The Little Theater... centered around one or more children's books... and then create a diorama related to the book(s).  The scenes were always elaborate and wonderful to look at!  My sister and I would climb up on the wooden step provided and gaze through the glass, studying the diorama until we'd seen every tiny detail.

I found the following picture of The Little Theater (in the background there) on the Ames Historical Society website.  I'm guessing it's from the 1950's, a few decades before my sister and I used to press our noses against that glass!

When we were finally done looking at the display, I would hurry off to find new books (or old favorites) to bring home.  Once I had all the books I could hold, I would sit down at one of the tables in the children's section and start reading until it was time to go home. 

I loved the quiet hush of the library, the smell of the books, the sunshine streaming in the big windows, and, especially, the hundreds of stories that I checked out and "devoured" through the years.

When I was older, I learned how to use the card catalog and find periodicals or other resources for research papers.  A year or two after that, I was finally allowed to check out books from the young adult section in the basement of the library ~ I remember feeling so mature and worldly. :)  (I must admit, however -- even as a "sophisticated" teenager -- I still went straight to The Little Theater to see the new display before heading down to the basement!)

This northern side was originally the front of the Ames Public
Library, back when I first started going there.

Now the entrance is on the eastern side....
(A big thank you to my sister Christine for these photos!)

When I was in high school, a large addition was built onto the library, and all those rooms where I had spent so much of my childhood were now off-limits, part of the "staff only" area.  A new entrance was built, and a new circulation area.  All of the children's books and the young adult books were moved to the addition, along with The Little Theater.  I was sad about the changes at the time, even though the new area was very nice.  It just wasn't MY library anymore, the library from my memories.

That didn't stop me from going there, however, and I eventually got used to the changes.  I also started hanging out in the ISU library with my friends -- I think we thought it made us cool, wandering around among all the college students.... 

Soon I was a college student myself, at the University of Iowa.  I spent A LOT of time in the library during college.  Some of it at the U of I library, of course, but I spent even more time at the Iowa City Public Library.  A wonderful place, and very close to campus, it became a favorite hangout of mine.  I went there almost daily as a freshman, and nearly as often the other years!  Among many other conveniences, they offered a small room with tables, chairs, and vending machines, where people were allowed to eat.  I frequently packed a sack lunch and ate it there between classes, my latest free-reading book in hand.

Since that time, whenever I've moved to a new town, the local library has always been one of the first places that I've searched out and explored.  In one suburb, there was only a tiny, single-room library.  In another, Arlington Heights, I discovered a large, fantastic library!  It immediately replaced both the Ames Public Library and the Iowa City Public Library in my mind, for best library ever.  (I still take the kids over there every once in awhile.  We all love it!)

When we moved to our current suburb, I classified the library as "okay".  It certainly wasn't fantastic, like the one in Arlington Heights, but it was much better than the single-room library.  Then, a couple of years ago, they did a BIG expansion and renovation.  While all the construction was going on, the library building was closed for about a year.  When the kids and I wanted new books, we had to check them out from a mini library, set up in a strip mall.  We were all very glad when they finally reopened the actual library, and... wow... it is so much bigger and better than before!  My kids and I love to spend time there!  We tend to make weekly visits, especially in the summer, and we always leave the library with our arms full of books. :)

Libraries certainly have changed from when I was a girl.  I don't think any of my kids know what a card catalog is... though the older two do know how to look up books on the library computers.  My youngest wouldn't even know what to do with a "due date" card and pocket inside a book... but he does know how to scan the books to check them out, and then press the button on the screen for the receipt listing all the books we're borrowing.  Besides books, there are DVDs, CDs, computer games, and more to check out and take home.  The polished wood and marble surfaces of the library from my childhood have been replaced with contemporary metal and glass in our current library, along with neon lighting and modern, funky furniture.

Fortunately, some things haven't changed.  I still love the peaceful atmosphere of a library, only footsteps and whispers breaking the silence. I still love the smell of all those books in one place.  I still love browsing through aisle after aisle of books, picking out new stories (or old favorites) to take home and read, filling my arms till I can't hold any more.  And, even after all this time, the library is still one of my very favorite places to spend time in, a paradise on earth.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Excuse Me

Photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net
"If you have never said
'Excuse me'
to a parking meter
bashed your shins on a fireplug,
you are probably
too much valuable reading time."
~Sherri Chasin Calvo

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Crwth and Cwm

When I was in first grade, our teacher taught us a little song about vowels.  I can only remember the refrain, which went like this: "A, E, I, O, U... sometimes Y and W, too!"
About a month ago, the song popped into my head for some reason and I began singing it. 

My son Nick overheard me and said, "W?  W's not a vowel!"

"Yes, it is," I said.  "Sometimes."

Nick gave me his you're-crazy look and scoffed, "When?"

Well, he had me there, because I didn't actually know any words that used W as a vowel.  But I KNEW I was remembering the song correctly.  Not long afterwards, I noticed an article on the home page of Dictionary.com, talking about this very subject.  The article stated that there are two English words (both originally coming from the Welsh language) that use W as a vowel: crwth and cwm.*

A crwth [krooth] is an ancient stringed instrument, a kind of lyre.  A cwm [koom] is a valley.

The girl played her crwth down in the cwm,
enjoying the musical echo.

See, Nick, I was right! ;)  And now I have two great words to keep in mind next time I'm playing Scrabble and don't have any normal vowels!

Try using one or both of these words in a sentence of your own -- impress your friends with your knowledge of unusual words! :)  I'd love to see what you come up with, so please share if you wish.

*I've also learned that W is considered a vowel of sorts in words like sew, awe, and yawn... though, to me, it seems more like a silent W in those cases.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Look Out!

For my son, Nick, and all the other kids out there who dread the start of school....

Photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net

Look Out!

The witches mumble horrid chants,
You're scolded by five thousand aunts,
   A Martian pulls a fearsome face
   And hurls you into Outer Space,
You're tied in front of whistling trains,
A tomahawk has sliced your brains,
   The tigers snarl, the giants roar,
   You're sat on by a dinosaur.
In vain you're shouting 'Help!' and 'Stop!',
The walls are spinning like a top,
   The earth is melting in the sun,
   And all the horror's just begun.
And, oh, the screams, the thumping hearts
That awful night before school starts.

~Max Fatchen

Monday, August 22, 2011

School Daze

Photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net

My kids will be heading back to school in two days.  My older two are wishing that summer vacation could last a bit longer, but my youngest, Benjamin, can't wait!  He will be starting Kindergarten, something he's been looking forward to all summer long.  In honor of all those who are beginning school for the very first time this year -- those who are excited, and those who are a little worried -- here are some great picture books all about school:

The Kissing Hand, written by Audrey Penn and illustrated by Ruth E. Harper and Nancy M. Leak, 1993... This sweet story is appropriate for any situation where a child will be separated from his/her parent, especially for the first time -- Kindergarten, preschool, starting day care, etc.  With a special gesture, Mother Raccoon reassures her little one, Chester, that no matter where he goes, her love goes with him.

If You Take a Mouse to School, written by Laura Numeroff and illustrated by Felicia Bond, 2002... If you take a mouse to school, you can bet that silly things will happen!  My own kids have always loved the bright, fun pictures of the mouse attending school, attempting science experiments, building a mouse house out of blocks, writing his own book, and more.

First Day, Hooray!, written and illustrated by Nancy Podar, 2000... First day jitters and excitement are not only for students, but also for teachers, principals, bus drivers, and janitors, too!  This book shows how each person prepares for the start of school, the worries each of them have, and then how each person reacts when the big day finally arrives.

Countdown to Kindergarten, written by Alison McGhee, and illustrated by Harry Bliss, 2006...  The little girl in this book is very nervous about starting school, thinking she'll be expected to tie her own shoes.   She attempts to get rid of her shoelaces in many different ways, including hiding them in a haystack and trying to feed them to her pet cat!  When Kindergarten finally begins, she learns that she is not the only one who doesn't know how to tie her shoes, and that her teacher is more than willing to help out.  The humorous pictures and the little girl's imaginative solutions to her shoelace troubles made my own Kindergartner (and his mom) giggle!

David Goes to School, written and illustrated by David Shannon, 1999... All of the David books (No, David!, Oh, David!, David Gets in Trouble, etc.) crack me up!  (My kids find them hilarious, as well.)  David's a trouble-maker, yes, but mostly he's just a little boy who is still learning the rules of the world.  In this book he learns what's expected of him in school, and after a long day (for David and his teacher!), he finally is able to redeem himself and earn a gold star.

Miss Mingo and the First Day of School, written and illustrated by Jamie Harper, 2006...  Miss Mingo teaches her students (and the readers) that every one of them is special and unique.  With a flamingo for a teacher, the book is of course fictional, yet fun, interesting facts about several animals and insects are sprinkled throughout the story.  In the end, Miss Mingo's students learn to appreciate and respect each other's differences -- always a good lesson, in my opinion!

My Kindergarten, written and illustrated by Rosemary Wells, 2004... This book follows a Kindergarten class through the school year, teaching the alphabet, numbers, the seasons, poems, songs, and much more along the way.

On the Way to Kindergarten, written by Virginia Kroll and illustrated by Elisabeth Schlossberg, 2006...  Every year since he was born, Bear has grown and learned new things.  Now five, he's "a baby no more", and all ready for Kindergarten!

Wemberly Worried, written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes, 2000...  Wemberly worries about everything, big and little.  Then she has something new to worry about -- starting school.  Luckily, her teacher understands.  Miss Peachum introduces Wemberly to Jewel, who also worries.  Together, the two become friends and learn that school's not so scary after all.  A comforting book with a gentle message (and wonderful illustrations, too), I recommend this for any young children who are nervous about starting something new.

Wow!  School!, written and illustrated by Robert Neubecker, 2007...  Ben and I both love the colorful, detailed illustrations in this book, along with the simple message that new things can be exciting and fun!

The following books are geared more toward older students, up to about 3rd grade, though my Kindergartner certainly enjoyed them as well:

Lunch Money and Other Poems About School (1998) and Almost Late to School and More School Poems (2003), both written by Carol Diggory Shields and illustrated by Paul Meisel... These two books are filled with amusing poems about school, including "Pledge", "Book Report", "Who Needs School?", "Science Fair Project", "Word Problem", and more.

"Outside/Inside" from Lunch Money

Hooray for Diffendoofer Day, written and illustrated by Dr. Seuss, with help from Jack Prelutsky and Lane Smith, 1998... Begun by Dr. Seuss before he passed away, this book was later completed by poet Jack Prelutsky and artist Lane Smith.  An ode to creative teaching, and being "different-er than the rest", this book is a treat for teachers and students alike.  I remember reading it to my daughter Emmalie when she was only four or so -- she loved it, and requested it over and over again, until we both had large portions of it memorized!  I recently read it to Ben, and he enjoyed it just as much!

Wishing you all a happy back-to-school day, and a wonderful year filled with  the joys of learning! :)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Something that didn't exist before...

Photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net

"My first thought about art,
as a child,
was that the artist
brings something into the world
that didn't exist before,
and that [the artist] does it
without destroying anything else.... 
That still seems to me
its central magic, its core of joy."
~ John Updike

Saturday, August 20, 2011

What I Love (and Hate) About Summer

Photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net

What I Love about Summer

Morning glories
Campfire stories
Picking cherries
And blueberries
Riding bikes
Mountain hikes
Bird calls
Curve balls
Short sleeves
Green leaves
Swimming holes
Fishing poles
Nature walks
Corn stalks
Skipping stones
Ice cream cones
Double plays
And barefoot days.

from Summersaults by Douglas Florian, 2002

and then...

Photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net

What I Hate About Summer

Skinned knees
Ninety degrees
Long droughts
Dog days
Summer haze
Bee swarms
Humid nights
Mosquito bites
Clothes that stick --
I hate that summer goes so quick.

from Summersaults by Douglas Florian, 2002

Friday, August 19, 2011

Interview with Thena Smith: Poet, Author, and Friend

I first met Thena Smith online back in 2000.  We both frequented ScrapNetwork.com, a (now defunct) website for scrapbookers, and through many postings back and forth, we quickly became friends.  We finally met in person in the fall of 2001, when she traveled from California to Chicago for a scrapbook expo. (Several other SN friends joined us, as well.)  I was happy to discover that Thena is every bit as sweet and wonderful "in real life" as she is online. :)

Thena was known on ScrapNetwork (and other sites) for her writing.  She shared her poetry with us all the time, poems that were the perfect touch for our scrapbook pages.  Thena often mentioned that when she retired, she hoped to publish a book of poetry.  The rest of us cheered her on, knowing that her dream was sure to come true one day.  In 2004, it did.  Thena's first book, Where's Thena?  I Need a Poem About..., was filled with the various poems she had shared with scrapbookers over the years.  I met up with Thena at the Craft & Hobby Association (CHA) trade show in Chicago that summer, and then again that fall at a book signing in Bloomington, Illinois.  (I am thrilled to have my very own autographed copy!)

Janelle and Thena, Oct. 2004

Since that time, Thena has written several other books of poetry, including Whispers (2005), Taste of Paste (2005), Board Smartz (2005), Military Moments (2006), Letters to Heaven (2006), and C is for Christmas (2008), which can all be purchased at Bluegrass Publishing.  Thena's poems are appropriate for all ages, children and adults.  (Some, like those in A Taste of Paste and Board Smartz are geared more for kids than others, however.)

Recently, I asked Thena if she would consider doing an interview, via email, for this blog.  She eagerly agreed!  I am happy to share my questions and her answers with you now:
Thena and her puplets, 2011

Did you like to write as a child? If so, what kinds of things did you write?

I wrote my first poems in grade school as an assignment. We were to write a Christmas poem and I wrote mine as well as poems for several other classmates. My mom sent mine to the local newspaper and I was thrilled when they printed it. I never stopped writing after that experience.  I loved English assignments for themes and always “overwrote”. If the teacher wanted 2 pages, it was difficult for me to stop at two; I would do three.

What did you like to read as a child? (Favorite genres, authors, books, etc.)

My mom said I would read the backs of cereal boxes if I ran out of books! I loved my brothers' copy of Little Men so Mom got me Little Women. I read their Hardy Boys so Mom got me Nancy Drew. I read Life, Look, Colliers magazines that Dad would bring home and Mom’s Christian magazines. When I got access to the Public Library I would bring home as many books as I could carry. I loved books and brought some home each night from our school library. I would stay up late and finish a book, take it back the next day and get another. I read The Bible and Bible story books, as well as all of the take home things we got in Sunday School.

When did you know you wanted to become a published author?

The desire to be published was actually the desire to share with more people. It took me 20 years to be discovered overnight. J

How long did it take to become a published author? And how did you go about it?

I had computer problems and worried about losing all of my work so I put about 300 of my poems on a website where a publisher (Linda LaTourelle of  Bluegrass Publishing) found them while surfing the web. She called me and we hit it off right away. We made plans to meet in Texas at HIA where she came armed with business cards for me and a wonderful opportunity for my first book, Where’s Thena? I Need a Poem About… We introduced the book a few months later in Tennessee and from there went to CHA in Chicago. It was so exciting!

What are your favorite subjects to write about?

My favorite poems and stories are faith centered. I love to write about God, family and country.  I’ve been doing a number of silly poems lately for my friends who have kids who like to read.

I know you write poetry (of course!) ~ do you write other things as well? If so, what?

I love to write short stories, slice of life type things and allegories. I used to write a lot of those for church and present them. I tried to write a teen novel but my family said my teens were too nice. LOL

What inspires/motivates you to write?

Breathing.  Daily life, routine, family, faith, country-everything is fodder for a poem or story.

What kinds of things do you like to do when you're not writing?

I love to create digital works of my version of art and I love digital photography.  At one time I loved to sew and quilt but I just don’t have the space or the best eyesight anymore so it is easier to work at the computer.

Please list one or more of your favorite poems (written by you) for kids. 

I made myself laugh as I wrote “You Can’t Hug a Frog” and “When A Cow Laughs”.

You Can't Hug A Frog...

Some people like all kinds of pets
From dogs and cats to mice,
But as for the perfect pet for me...
I think frogs are nice!

Frogs are very easy to please
And like to live in a stream;
Frogs are always very nice --
I've never seen a frog that's mean!

People hug their cats and
They cuddle with their dogs;
Now you can hold one in your hand
But you can't hug a frog

Nope! You really cannot hug a frog
And this is not a joke...
You can't hug a frog
Or it might

from Where's Thena?  I Need a Poem About... by Thena Smith, 2004

Who are your favorite authors and poets now?

Most of my recent interests have been studies on The Bible. I’ve read a number of biographies on old time favorite stars such as Lucille Ball, Bob Hope and Jack Benny in the last few months. At present I’m also reading The Help. I don’t have an actual favorite author that I seek out. Instead, I go by subject matter. I love Helen Steiner Rice but I don’t think I have any of her books. I’m more likely to buy anthologies of poetry with a taste of a variety of poets.

Are you currently working on any special writing projects? A new book?

I am working on a project with another author which is not ready for public disclosure yet and I have an                            e-book/Kindle/Nook version of my Pets, A to Z book coming out any time now with Comfort Publishing. I have over 50 volumes of various titles and subjects (including photography) available at the Blurb website.

Please share any advice you have for writers, young or old.

Even if you have no desire to publish your work, it will serve you well to write each day. It will help you with your school work, and later on, your employee skills in most occupations. It will help you learn to organize your thoughts and help you improve your spelling, vocabulary and grammar. As an older person it helps keep your mind active and your interests varied. It improves your listening skills. One word can trigger a poem, a story or the idea for an entire book. Before the days of computers I kept steno notepads in each room and in the car. I would pick one up and just start writing. Some of those verses are in my first book.

Anything else you'd like to share with young readers and writers?

If you want to be writer, then you are a writer. All you need to do is write. If your desire is to be published then you need not only to write but to write something for which there is an interest, a need, or something unique that people haven’t read before. For me, it was my writing for my scrapbook pages that lead me to share with others who could use the same kind of simple verses on their own pages.

Don’t hesitate to share your writings with others. If I had not freely shared, Linda LaTourelle, CEO of Bluegrass Publishing, would not have found my little verses as she searched the web for something new for her publishing company. I would not have had the fun of sharing with so many wonderful people all over the globe. I’m proof that simple words and simple verses can find a place in print.

If I had not been sharing I would not have gotten the feedback that help me expand my interests and subjects and would not have been confident enough to accept the knock of opportunity on my door when it came.

I must also share that my Christian friends had supported me in my efforts and prayed for an opportunity for me. I shared with my friends in church programs and a dear friend, Shirley Stoeckel, and I wrote and produced a children’s musical as well as a collage of songs and poems which was filmed by the local cable station. This was a big thrill for us.

Use your talents where you are and just be yourself.  I always tell aspiring writers or artists: Start Simply but Simply Start!

Thank you to my dear friend Janelle for inviting me to share. She is not only a very talented person but a very kind person and awesome friend!

Thank you, Thena, for agreeing to this interview and for sharing your poems and words of wisdom with us! :)

To learn more about Thena Smith and her wonderful poems, please check out her A Poem a Day blog and also her Delightfully Digital blog.