Friday, October 29, 2010

Haiku: moments in time

 Today, I'm going to be reading and working through the book, "Haiku: Learn to Express Yourself by Writing Poetry in the Japanese Tradition" by Patricia Donegan. Haiku, according to Donegan, is the most popular form of poetry today. Perhaps that's because it's such a brief snapshot in time which anyone can observe. But haiku takes that brief moment a step further. It can create a moment of realization or connection to nature or to others.

Here are her seven keys to writing haiku:

1. Form: Your haiku should have three lines with or without a seven syllable count. It should be one breath long.

2. Image: Your haiku should have a descriptive image--for example, not "a flower," but instead "a purple iris in the sun."

3. Kigo (season word): Your haiku should refer to nature and hint at the day's season or weather.
4. Here and Now: You should write from real experience or memory, not imagination; record the present moment.

5. Feeling: Your haiku should not explain or tell, but instead show the feeling through your image.

6. Surprise: Your haiku should have an "ah!" moment that wakes us up.

7. Compassion: Your haiku should express openheartedness toward nature.

This looks like a terrific book--not only informational, but it also gives the reader an opportunity to create poetry while moving through the book. I think I'm going to have to add this one to my Christmas list!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Our birdbath bit the dust

So the high winds today in Chicago, a big branch fell on our birdbath and broke it in two. You know it's a big branch when it breaks concrete! Maybe I'll just have to replace it with a cool one like this:

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Why I Write

Did you know that yesterday was National Day on Writing? This is one that I appreciate someone inventing because it gives me a reason to talk about my favorite thing: writing!

This morning while I was drying my hair (always my best thinking time), I was pondering why I do what I do. I often joke that I have about 4 jobs. That is literally true. I am an online writing instructor. I tutor ESL students at a local high school. I write picture books, and I write materials that are assigned to me (curricular, etc.). And, occasionally, like this weekend, I speak and present materials to school groups or other groups. all of those jobs, I basically have one role: to communicate ideas.

When my son was a toddler, I often felt like I was a translator. First, I was my son's translator because when he was learning to speak,  he could usually only be understood by me and my husband. But it was my translating for him that I did most often. I explained concepts to him in his language, with words he understood. From that was born my first book, Things I See in Church. This little book, showed in very simple language what was happening in church. "Bells -- Jesus calls us." "People -- Jesus gathers us." The concepts were simple (tied to a tangible object), but the "lesson" was deeper. But through simple words and pictures (hopefully), the child could learn a little bit.

When I teach or tutor English as a Second Language, I encourage students not to use a translating device, but rather, to listen to an explanation of the concept in simpler language. So, the other day, I was helping a student understand the concept of the electoral college from her U.S. History class. Tough stuff, but I think we succeeded in the end.

A writer is all about making those connections--taking an idea and telling it in ways that the audience can understand. So, I'll take a concept, like counting, and turn it into a silly story (like Gobble-Gobble-Crash). Kids count while reading the story, but also just enjoy some goofy turkeys flailing around a barnyard.

That's how I see what I do: I communicate ideas to people and make connections that bring us together...and maybe publish a few books along the way. :)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Katie Luther Presentation: What I'm doing this weekend

This weekend, I am traveling to Grand Rapids, Michigan for two presentations on Katie Luther, the wife of Martin Luther of the Protestant Reformation. I find Katie Luther, more technically called Katharina Von Bora, to be an immensely interesting woman of faith. She was placed in a convent at age 6, lived there and took her vows, and then began hearing of the reforms of Martin Luther. At age 21, she and some other nuns decided to escape their vows and their cloistered lives.

The escape story is dramatic. On Easter Eve, 1523, Katie and several other nuns escaped in empty herring barrels with the assistance of Leonard Koppe, a local merchant. They shimmied down into the barrels, tucked away out of sight, as Koppe's wagon rolled away in the middle of the night, away from the convent, to freedom.

After two years, Luther finally proposed to Katie, and they married. He was 42, she was 26. She had 6 children in the span of 8 years.

What I find incredible about her was her energy, her devotion to the people around her, and her ardent faith. She and Luther were given an abandoned monastery, the Black Cloister, as their home. She whipped this place into shape and prepared not only a peaceful and hospitable home for her family but also for the many theological students, royalty, and the downtrodden in Wittenberg.

There is so much I could say about Katie, but this just gives a taste of what I'll be presenting this weekend on Friday at Our Savior Lutheran School, and on Saturday at an LWML zone rally in Grand Rapids.