Monday, March 30, 2009

Dear Commenters and Campers

To my 78 (!!!!) commenters on the Library-Loving Challenge,

Thank you so much. It only took a moment to comment, but your words will last much longer than that. The money raised ( $78!) is enough for me to purchase several books from the Flying Horse Farms Wishlist.  I will lovingly tuck a copy of all of your comments between the covers, and your words will trot off to find new friends.

Gratefully yours,

Here is a sampling of the words that will greet the future campers and readers at the Flying Horse Farms Library:

Dear Campers,

Here's to books and horses and kids (young and old) who love both!

Because of YOU, I see horses everywhere I go, and every horse book I see, I want to buy and send your way. 
Keep smiling!

There's no such thing as too many horses, too many books, or too many books about horses.

May your love of reading and riding inspire you to create a story all your own! Happy Trails.

A book is a buddy you can take in the house when the horse stays in the barn! 

Ride on! Read away!

Giddyup libraries!

I read Black Beauty when I was very young and it broke my heart. I wanted to save every horse in the world. There is something about horses and books - or horse stories in books. You have Beauty and My Friend Flicka and National Velvet and The Black Stallion and Misty of Chincoteague and on and on. You could have a library just of horse stories! (Not that you have to, but you could.... :)

Campers, enjoy the horses and the books. Just not at the same time, no reading while riding.

When I was a teenager, my brother rode horses pretty seriously but I didn't. Sometimes I'd go along with him just to kill time - pet the horses noses and curl up on the hay with a book. Occasionally, I could ride and he'd teach me some basics. And it was fun. But one day, I got to gallop - to really let the horse loose on a big stretch of field. Wow! It was absolutely amazing being part of that speed and energy. I hope you find some of that excitement at camp and can take it home with you to remember for a long time.

May you find joy, laughter and the freedom of being yourselves at this wonderful camp. Hurray for horses and great books!

Campers, may the book you're meant to read find you! Enjoy the horses, the outdoors, and the world of the imagination.

Enjoy every moment! Ride like the wind. :~)

Jennifer Hubbard will have a round-up of the results of all the Library-Loving Challenges, so watch for that. Some challenges are still open through April 1, so click over and support more libraries!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Poetry Friday: How a Poem Happens

My friend, Anne Marie Pace, pointed me to a new blog, How a Poem Happens.  Don't go over there unless you have some poetic time to kill because it's subtitled "Contemporary Poets Discuss the Making of Poems."  And they do mean discuss, not unload a poem and run.  Several interesting questions follow each poem, including: "Was this poem finished or abandoned?" "What's American about this poem?"

The latest poem posted there is by Richard Frost and it begins:  

My brother’s wife phones me and says I’d better drive over
right away for what will probably be the last visit,
so I get in my mother’s old Buick and two hours later
I’m at their apartment at Smugglers’ Village in Stockton.
My brother’s life has been a mess all along.
He came out of the war a drunk, lost on the horses,
failed in real estate and fiction writing,
got a good job and wrecked two company cars.
He is alternately charming and a bully, and I probably
wouldn’t be his friend if he were not my brother.
Now he is dying of brain cancer. The surgeons
have removed an apricot-sized tumor from the back
of his head. He has regained the power of speech
but is dying fast. Here I find him standing

As you can tell, this one's more of a loose story than the poems I tend to share. But the poet's a "working jazz drummer" so I gave him leeway to riff for a bit. :)  Besides, I like to be surprised by my own Poetry Friday picks sometimes.

What about you? Do you tend to pick the same kinds of poems to share on Fridays? Do you have a poetry type? Do you plan ahead or go with what moves you at the moment?

How does your Poetry Friday happen? 

Poetry Friday is hosted today by the talented Julie Larios.

P.S.  My own attempt to explain "how a poem happens" is here, in my post "Breadcrumbs."

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Library Loving Challenge: Reading and Riding Rock!

This post is dedicated to Melodye, who suggested that I join writerjenn's Library Loving Challenge to benefit the Flying Horse Farms library

The challenge is simple: you comment, I donate. For every comment I receive on this post between now and midnight (EST) on March 28th, I'll donate $1 toward buying books from this Wishlist for Flying Horse Farms, a camp for kids with serious illnesses.*  And the really fun part?

Direct your comments not to me, but to THE KIDS who will enjoy the library at camp.  Leave them a message:  "Have fun!"  "You're great!" "Reading and Riding Rock!"  Anything.   I'll pass the comments on to the future campers at Flying Horse Farms. (This was also Melodye's idea. Isn't she brilliant?)

For more about my quest to build the library, see my post here.  (You're also welcome to buy a book directly off the Wishlist. Or spread the word far and wide. Thank you!)  

Ready, set . . .   COMMENT!

*Challenge donations are per unique commenter. ($1 for each person who comments)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Amuse moi

If you're going to get through a long draft, you have to learn how to entertain yourself.

When Laini Taylor wrote a post about "Surviving the Suck," I left a comment saying that sometimes I inserted things into my manuscript for my own amusement, even if later I had to take them out.  

What kind of things? 

Oh, for example, Random Moments of Beauty. Dang it, if I want to describe that ray of light bouncing in the window for three paragraphs, I will. Ditto for buying myself some tulips. 

Nicknames for characters. Mr. Large Knees.  Boy Runs-with-Scissors. Little Red-headed Herring. 

Theme songs for various sections.  "Staying Alive, Staying Alive!"  "You Can't Always Get What You Waa-aa-ant . . ."  

Outrageous metaphors.  I just twirl the dial and let the wild comparisons fly out, like a gumball machine. Yesterday I wrote one that involved dogs and a car sunroof. 

So that's my random writing advice for the day.  Consider it a gumball flying in your direction. Or a direct order to stop and smell the tulips.  I hereby grant you permission to amuse your own bad self, because really, if you don't, the suck's going get you. 

P.S. I loved Tanita's "One Shot Over the Fence" book recommendations today. She admits in full geek-out mode why "ancient, sexist science fiction" still has the power to make her happy.  And it was contagious. I found myself grinning through her entire post and itching to read about alien space station hospitals.  They should make an entire TV series out of these books, Tanita!  Yeah, we'll get the LOST writers to jump right on it when they wrap up the last season. (They could work out some of that sexism too.)

P.P.S.  w00t!  Just saw that Colleen's selection for the "One Shot Rec" is Connie Willis's Bellwether!  I share her "shameless adoration" for this title, as I mentioned here.  Colleen also has the full schedule of links to other "One Shot" bloggers. 

Monday, March 23, 2009

Podcast: Just One More Book Features Flying Horse Farms

Just One More Book has a beautifully produced podcast today about my quest to build a library at Flying Horse Farms, a camp for kids with serious illnesses.  Mark Blevis talks to Patrick Smith, the director of the camp, and to me about our involvement in the project.  

I'm so grateful to both Andrea and Mark of Just One More Book for the opportunity to spread the word.

Here's the link so you can listen now (or download and listen later.)
:60 PSA for Flying Horse Farms from Donna Raque on Vimeo.

And the winner is . . .

Spring is sprung;
The grass is riz.
Time to tell you who
(chosenrandomlyfromentriesleftbysundaymidnight) the winner iz:
Little Willow!  

Here's her poem:

Spring iz sprung
the grass is riz

I try for sleep
and lots of zzzzs

With lots on my plate
and good things ahead

Spring has sprung
and off I ped
Little Willow will be receiving this Walt Whitman T-shirt from  Please contact me so I can mail it to you.

Thanks to the brave poets who kicked up their heels with me on Friday. You can see all the poems here

Friday, March 20, 2009

Poetry Friday: S is for Spring and Silliness

It's spring! Finally! Let's get giddy and have a poetry contest. It works like this: I give you the first two lines, you complete them. 

Ready? Here you go---

Spring is sprung
the grass is riz . . .


I wonder where
my refund iz.

the world was flat
but now has curvz.

the muse's fuse
feeds on sappy fizz.

Your turn! Post your verse in the comments.  One silly poet will receive this not-so-silly Whitman shirt, which reads:

"And our visions, the visions of poets, the most solid announcements of any."
— Walt Whitman

...and the submissions are rolling cavorting in!  I'm going to pull them from the comments and reprint them here.

Liz in Ink said...

Spring is sprung
the grass is riz

the squirrel eats birdseed
like it's hiz

The birds don't care --
they're in the treez

which, all a'bloom now,
make me sneeze

And so I trip
while skipping rope

but spring's eternal --
so iz hope

Sara: Hee! hiz majesty, the squirrel. And yes to eternal hope!

tanita s. davis said...

Spring iz sprung
the grass is riz

March madness croons
to herz and hiz

The sunshine shootz
Across the bowz
and highlights winterz
wobbly woez

Frisk some! Frolic!
Leap your fencez!
Let your Muse roam
And feed your sensez!

Sara: oh, my frisky feet, how I love the phrase "winterz wobbly woez."

susan said...
I can do sistagirl, funny, dark, but silly? I wish I could because I'd love to win the Whitman shirt. 

Sara:  YES, Susan, you can do any kind of poem you want. Come back and post in the comments.

jama said...

Spring iz sprung
the grass is riz

Sara's hippin' and hoppin'
with this poetry biz.

I tell you true
This ain't no lie
I used her refund
to buy a popcorn pie.

Sara: Jama, you sneak! But mmmm on the popcorn pie.

Jules at 7-Imp said...
I asked my daughter, five years old, who is sitting here painting a bird house for spring, to finish it:

"Spring is sprung
the grass is riz . . .

With birdies polka-dotted
Pink and purple

Tastes like peppermint
Fudgy sand

Every day
We go to the land

And by the sea
It tastes like pears

And the sun tastes like lemon
‘Cause it’s yellow as hemons."

Sara: jules, I'm floored.  "and by the sea/it tastes like pears"  I want to go all Stacy London and yell in dazed delight:  Shut up!  But that might scare your wee one.  And fudgy sand . . . oh my.
Neverending story said...

Spring is sprung
the grass is riz

down here it puts
me in a tiz

To be..(lieve)or not
to be ..deceived,
as tropical rain
invades my brain.

Snow, spring,
cherry blossom
don't they all
belong in fiction?

Sara:  puts me in a tiz, too.  Love the snow, spring/cherry blossom.

RM1(SS) (ret) said...

Spring is sprung
the grass is riz
And oh, how nice
The weather iz.

But sumer is
Icomen in,
And then will come
Autumn and win-

Ter, and spring
Again - what fun!
As the world
goes 'round the sun.

(WV: tinglys - those odd little feelings....)

Sara: oh, yeah, those creative line breaks--- you are leaping some fences.  Tinglys!

Tricia said...

Spring is sprung
the grass is riz
new leaves are hung.

Who's that strip-ed, flying whiz?
The buzzing bee
who steals sweet nectar
from the treez-

spring's bloomin' director.

Sara:  Tricia, I love the idea of a "bloomin' director."  I know you're in a play right now, so I hope it's all "sweet nectar" for you and the cast.

jacqui said:

Spring is sprung
the grass is riz
my son eats boots
that iz not hiz

on the branchlings
flowers bud
all the yard be
frozen mud

beasties wake from
squirrely chews through

mother goose swims
with her brood
I haz a bad

cuz birdies twitter
beezies swarm
but it’s still not
getting WARM

Sara:  Hee. Would it be okay if your son ate hiz own boots? And I'm sorry about the not warm part. You Michiganites take it hard in winter.  Maybe if you stomped your feet a bit? :)

cloudscome said:

Spring is sprung
the grass is riz

my eyes are blurry
from this quiz.

The breeze is cold
the sun's a lie

the geese in circles
round me fly.

I'm stuck inside
this cold wet day

a poet's game
I'm doomed to play.

Sara:  oh, no. But games are FUN.  With friends, anyway. I'm glad you stayed in to play. 

Mary Lee said:

Spring is sprung
the grass is riz
hello spring break
goodbye to kidz.

Hello spring break
you'll cure my blahz
I'll sing to you
a week of ahhhhhz.

I'll sing to you
I'll get my restz
'cause we go back
to dadgum testz!

Sara:  Enjoy your ahhhhhz, Mary Lee. You deserve it!

Karen E. said:

Spring is sprung,
the grass is riz
I should be doing
cleaning biz

Instead I sit
and read these lines
ignoring dirt
and cobweb vines

Poetry Friday
always wins
I'm left confessing
a housewive's sins

'Twould appear I'm lazy
and lack ambition
but poetry-reading
offers nutrition

'Twill fuel me up
for the rest of the day
and stay with me
as I jump in the fray.

Sara: yes, poetry is verrrry nutritious, much more so than house cleaning. Besides, a few cobwebs are poetic anyway, right? 

Kelly Polark said:

Spring is sprung.
The grass is riz.
I pour my coke,
I feel the fizz.

Out on the porch,
I sip and smile.
First time I've done
This in a while.

Spring is sprung.
The air is sweet.
Warm sun is out.
An April treat!

Sara:  Hey! Now you have me craving a fizzy soda! Does your porch have a swing?

Little Willow said:

Spring iz sprung
the grass is riz

I try for sleep
and lots of zzzzs

With lots on my plate
and good things ahead

Spring has sprung
and off I ped

Sara:  I try for lots of  zzzzzzs, too. And I can't wait to hear about your "good things ahead," Little Willow!

The rest of you: Keep 'em leaping in.  I'll leave the contest open until midnight on Sunday. Then I'll put all the poets' names in a spring hat and draw out the winner, to be announced on Monday.

Poetry Friday is hosted by Elaine at Wild Rose Reader.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Interview with my agent!

I love it when I discover something in common with someone I already know and like immensely. In an interview with writer Gretchen McNeil, my rockin' agent, Tina Wexler, reveals one of her guilty pleasures as "popcorn for dinner." Oh yes. Salty. Eaten with fingers. Is notably a "whole grain." Can be thrown at other people.  (Goes well with sushi, too, I might add.)

Please go read the interview. I didn't mean to distract you from digesting that full meal.  Meanwhile, Tina, how about we split this popcorn dish for dessert? 

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Maybe it's too early to set up a Google search for Operation Yes

Search Result: 
"Depth 6.0 in. Height 18.0 in. Weight 2 lbs. Color Champagne Cleaning Vacuum Cleaner Type Handheld Dust Collection Bagless Filtering Method Filtering system. Miscellaneous Cordless Operation Yes. Tags Home and Garden Vacuum Dirt Devil ..."

But it's not too early to show you the bracelet my husband had made for me:

P.S. And it's green, so I'm wearing it today for St. Patrick's Day. 

Friday, March 13, 2009

Poetry Friday: Poetry in the Wild

Which poem would you capture, if only for a moment?  (See my answer at the end.)

A call for submissions from  (This reminds me of the Poetry in Place project from last year. And this.)

Free Verse: Poetry in the Wild

Call for Submissions: Poetry and Photo Project

Inspired by the 2009 National Poetry Month Poster which features lines by T. S. Eliot written in a fogged window, the Academy of American Poets invites you to capture and share verse in ephemeral ways.

Recreate a favorite poem off the page and contribute it to the Free Verse project. Write lines on a sandy beach, assemble twigs on a hillside, or chalk the sidewalk. Take a photo before it disappears and post it in the Free Verse group page on Flickr, on the Academy's Fan Page on Facebook, or email your photo to Include the source of your lines in the photo caption.

All photos posted by April 15 will be automatically entered to win the new Poem in Your Pocket anthology and a commemorative piece of jewelry by San Francisco designer Jeanine Payer, who specializes in hand-engraving lines of poetry on earrings, necklaces, and other items. Selected entries will also be featured on


1. Submit your picture to Flickr, Facebook, or via email to by April 15, 2009.

2. Include the author's name and poem title in the photo caption (please do not send your own poetry).

My answer: 

I'd like to photograph the beginning words of George Ella Lyon's poem, Invocation, written carefully on a succession of human faces and hands. The first line on the eyelids, the second on the palms, and the last two around and inside the mouth. With each photograph, the words from the frame before would have disappeared, internalized by the speaker, leaving the last image as that of the last line on the tongue. I don't have the skill to do this, but if you do. . . 

O pen, open poem
O paper, pave the way
O ink, give me inkling
in your dark tongue 

(The rest of the poem is here, printed as part of a poetry teaching exercise, which suggests the words be posted at the entrance to a classroom. Scroll down to find it.) 

Poetry Friday is hosted today by the talented Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

"a bit odd..."

"We may want children to learn science and languages, but our societies regard children and adults who enjoy doing that as a bit odd."

"The rhetoric in the field doesn't distinguish between 'the child reader' (roughly understood as any child given a book and told to read it) and 'the reading child' (from whose hands you have to remove the book so that they can eat.) And it doesn't distinguish between what different children read for or take into account that SF readers might have different criteria and priorites than the reader of realistic or fantasy fiction." 

--- from Farah Mendlesohn's article in the Horn Book about SF for teens, The Campaign for Shiny Futures

As a child and adult reader of SF, I have to agree. If a SF book doesn't have a cool IDEA at the heart of it, then meh, meh, meh.  You can have lovely characters, great plot, emotional turmoil, but if the idea being explored is trivial or plain stupid, then it isn't speculative fiction. The whole point is the speculation, the playing out of the "what if" in a creative way.  

Here are some books that I read quite awhile ago, and while the plots and characters may be hazy in my memory, the "what ifs" are not. I've linked to GoodReads so you can see the variety of reactions to these titles, which clearly reflect individual readers responses to the ideas in the books more than their literary merits. 

Beggars in Spain, Nancy Kress: What if certain members of the human race didn't need to sleep? And suffered no ill effects because of it? 

Native Tongue, by Suzette Haden Elgin:  What if linguists ran the world and a language exclusive to women became a secret weapon? 

Enchantress From the Stars, by Sylvia Louise Engdahl:  What if you were so culturally ahead of an alien race that they looked upon you as a magical being? What are your obligations to a "hero" who puts his faith in you? (Newbery Honor, 1971)

Bellwether and/or To Say Nothing of the Dog,  both by Connie Willis:  How does chaos theory play out in love and in real life?

I'm not saying that a great SF book can't have intriguing ideas and fully-formed characters and marvelous literary qualities. I'm saying that without the shiny idea, a SF book doesn't even get off the ground.  And in SF for teens, this so important that if the idea is shallow or missing those YA readers go elsewhere---straight to the adult shelves. Brava to Ms. Mendlesohn for saying this out loud.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

You've Got Mail

Sometimes I get email from individual readers.  I always answer those.

Sometimes I get email from groups using Letters From Rapunzel for a book club or class project. I always answer those too. 

I have never gotten email from Johnny Depp expressing a deep need to meet me for chocolate-filled croissants, strong coffee and a discussion of his role in inspiring Letters From Rapunzel, but if I did, I would always answer. Every time.  (I would have to lie about his inspiring me to write or work in any way. He's nothing but a time waster.)

I thought I'd share a letter I wrote to one book club.  It's become my template for replies to groups. (I also answer the individual questions they ask, but this serves as a good introduction.)  I recently sent it to a class in Georgia who read Letters From Rapunzel as part of the Georgia Book Award program. Their task is to make a commercial for my book, promoting it to other readers and convincing them to vote for it. (Oh, yeah, I'm completely in love with this idea.)

I still have to answer their wonderful extra questions (that's my homework!) but here's the letter:

Dear Readers,

On page 173 of Letters From Rapunzel, Cadence says “an author should thank YOU for reading her book, and not the other way around.” I agree with her! Thank you so much for choosing to read Letters From Rapunzel.

When I first began writing the book, I didn’t know if anyone would ever read it. I was having a hard time getting started, mostly because I had written short stories and poems, but never anything as long as a novel. So, to trick myself, I decided to pretend that all I was doing was writing a letter. Letters were something I knew how to do.

Before email and computers, I used to write lots of letters, and when I wrote them, it was as if I were having a long, honest conversation. In person, I could hardly ever be that honest. I was always too worried about what the listener would think of me. But on paper? Watch out!

Sometimes, readers ask me if I am Rapunzel. Did I do those things? Did those things happen to me? Yes and no. 

I used to write in class when I was supposed to be paying attention. I still have some of those old stories and notes. That “freewrite” about snot? That’s word for word from my current journal. (But I never dared read it out loud until it was part of the book!) 

The bridge? It’s real, but I never saw it. I found an ad for a bridge for sale in my local paper, and I saved it because I'd never heard of such a thing. One day, it showed up in my story.

Rapunzel’s Dad’s Evil Spell? That’s real too, except it was my sister who experienced depression. 

Did I ever hit a boy with an English book? No, but once I “accidentally” punched one in the nose. And I poured a can of root beer over my future husband’s head. 

The fortune cookie messages? I taped one to my computer monitor while I was writing the book. It says: You should be able to undertake and complete anything. (Recognize that from page 175?)

In a way, writing my book was like writing you a very long letter. I’m glad you found my words. Having you read them makes me feel less like Rapunzel, writing alone in a tower, and more like a writer in charge of my own story.

I hope you will each write yourself your own Happy Ending. You are the only one who can.


Sara Lewis Holmes

Friday, March 6, 2009

Poetry Friday: Annus Mirabilis

Annus Mirabilis

how close is
the edge where we gasp
at the wondrous view

to the place where we fall.
we’re addicted to gravity
we fall, and fall, and fall

the attraction is mutual
the disasters are many
the wonders placed as knots

on a rope. Hand over hand,
the shape of each day fitting
to our palms, rough and knobby,

we pull our hearts
tough as burnt sugar
out of the blackened scrape

we’ve gotten ourselves in. A year
is nothing but a spin around
the sun, an annulus,

a common ring,
the crushed remains
of dust orbiting,

a measure of growth,
a given promise of wonder
or disaster as it slips

over a finger. I promise
for years to come
and years past

and this year
that there will be
disasters and wonder,

and how close
we will see them
as we fall.
---Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)

Annus Mirabilis:  a year of disasters or miracles. In other words, any year in which love exists. 

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Anastasia at Picture Book of the Day.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

What I'm Reading Now: The Black Hole War

You wouldn't think a book about black holes and quantum mechanics would make me laugh. But it has. Regularly. 

by Leonard Susskind

Take this tidbit, for example:

p. 147  ". . . deep holes in space whose gravitational attraction is irresistible. Wheeler (John Archibald Wheeler) began calling them black holes. At first the name was blackballed by the preeminent American physics journal Physical Review. [...] the term black hole was deemed obscene!" 

I also liked his description of running 15 miles on a freezing day in Manhattan, until there were "icicles of sweat hanging from my long hair," and then being rescued by a fellow physicist in a taxi, who whisks him to Yeshiva University where he endures a debate about toilet paper and Talmudic law in the cafeteria before walking in late to a lecture about Stephen Hawking's latest breakthrough.  

I'm also loving Einstein as a role model for novelists. Yup. That man was the master of taking a very simple thought experiment and following it out to the most far-reaching conclusions. And tell me, isn't that just what an excellent novel should do? Have a clear premise and then astound and amaze you with how it all plays out? 

Monday, March 2, 2009

Writer Death Matches: Discipline vs. Devotion

Amy Moreno posted this quote from opera singer Luciano Pavarotti, and I love it:
"People think I'm disciplined. It is not discipline. It is devotion. There is a great difference."---Luciano Pavarotti (1935-2007)

Laini Taylor also writes about another match-up in her post today: Determination versus Confidence.

Other possible writer death matches could be:

Outlining vs. Free-wheeling it

Time in Chair vs. Word Count Goals

Professional Work Ethic vs. Artistic Leeway

And then of course, the classic:

Procrastination: Now or Later?

If it seems like writers seesaw between our right and left brains, it's because we DO.  

So far, on my Work in Progress, I have tried the timed writing approach. This worked excellently . . . until it didn't.  Then I constructed an outline, which served me beautifully . . . until it didn't.  Then I decided that I needed to write 1000 words a day until the draft was done. Which worked fabulously . . . until it didn't. Now I'm back to the timed writing approach . . . which thank you, is working marvelously. Until it doesn't.  But that's okay. I'm used to it by now.  

That determination that Laini speaks of? It's what I would call strength in flexibility.  (You might call it yoga, too, if you are also obsessed with mastering crow pose and headstand, like I am.)  That's what keeps me going. That's what keeps all writers going. We bribe ourselves. We give ourselves pep talks. We set up routines. We play and we work.  We may look unfocused at times, but in reality, we are the pit bulls of the universe. We have latched onto our heart's desire and there is no way we are letting go. 

P.S. Tanita Davis is blogging about this today, too. Must be the month of March. Winter vs. Spring. Snow vs. Sunshine. Lions vs. Lambs.