Fruity Little Poem: Ode to a Key Lime” | A-to-Z NaPoWriMo

Hello, dear readers! I hope, despite the bad rap it tends to get, that your Monday was pleasant. Mine was–I got to spend time shopping with my dad, followed by a book-talk-sushi-date with Jeremiah, topped off with this:

Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt took me far down memory lane–back to high school, to be specific. Upon reading the prompt, I realized I’d already written a poem that matched it perfectly, from a similar assignment in Senior AP English. While I searched for the poem in the archives of my computer, I found many, many pieces of writing, including fiction, poetry, a screenplay, critical essays, memoir-style essays, and more. I even found chapters from the original version of the YA fantasy novel I’m currently working on. (Thank goodness I restarted it anew…) I was shocked to see how much I’d written, not just as a student, but also in my free time, and it’s amazing to me how long it took me to decide to be a professional writer. 😉 I was also grateful to discover the acquisition of my degrees in English and Writing & Publishing was time and money well-spent, considering my vast improvement–though I still catch vestiges of sentimental romanticism creeping into corners of my work from time to time.

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NO! Bad sentimentalism!

Luckily, I found this poem wasn’t sappy–but rather tart. 😉

Today’s prompt is to write a love poem . . . but the object of the poem should be inanimate. You can write a love poem to your favorite pen, the teddy bear you had as a child (and maybe still have), or anything else, so long as it’s not alive!

Ode to a Key Lime
By: Amanda K. Fowler

Bright green:
A color usually associated with jealousy.
But you, little one,
Are more envied than envying.

Exotic in origin;
Nothing commonplace about you.
Divorce yourself from your family,
Take your own name and the equatorial beach house.

Beautiful, perfect fruit;
Bewitch your victims into biting your bitter flesh.
Intoxicating, electrifying;
They can’t stop drinking till your body is drained.

Prima donna of flora,
Grace us with your presence!
We eagerly await your renaissance all year,
Only to have to part after so few months.

Pies, juices, garnishes;
Tart though you may be,
We find a way to glorify you;
For you deserve the honor of kings.

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“Charm for Happiness,” “Dancing,” & “Eternity”: Poems for A-to-Z NaPoWriMo

Hello, dear readers! I hope you’ve had a wonderful weekend! It seems spring is coming here in fits and starts, which is making for some pretty weather–and lovely poetry inspiration. 🙂 This weekend, I got to visit Jeremiah’s farm; take a long walk with my mom; and play ukulele music (my newest instrument to learn!) to celebrate a birthday party against the backdrop of springtime drizzle and fog. These picturesque experiences have inspired my poetry for tonight.

Today’s post is catching up on letters C, D, and E for the A-to-Z Challenge, and the corresponding NaPoWriMo poems (the prompts, for which, I will post directly above the poem, along with the inspiration).

In keeping with today’s status as the third day of NaPoWriMo, I challenge you to write a charm – a simple rhyming poem, in the style of a recipe-slash-nursery rhyme.

When I read this prompt, I wondered what kind of charm I would come up with, if I had the power for it (beyond just my pen 😉 ). I immediately thought of the conversations I’ve been having with multiple people lately on the elusiveness–and importance–of happiness. I know there are a few things that are guaranteed to perk up my mood, and they’ve gone into my charm below. Feel free to borrow the spell for your own use–it just might work. 😉

Charm for Happiness
By: Amanda K. Fowler

An ocean’s tide lapping your toes,
The scent of wildflowers tickling your nose,
A cuddle or snuggle with fur or skin,
Messy epiphanies with your favorite pen,
The warmth of the sun bathing your face,
The kindness of strangers–a show of grace,
A few bars of song played with fingers or voice,
All of these things to make you rejoice.


Write a lune. A lune is a sort of English-language variation on the haiku, meant to better render the tone of the Japanese haiku than the standard 5-7-5 format we all learned (and maybe loved) in elementary school. There are a couple of variants on the lune form, but just to keep things simple, let’s try the version developed by Jack Collum. His version of the lune involves a three-line stanza. The first line has three words. The second line has five, and the third line has three. You can write a poem that consists of just one stanza, or link many lune-stanzas together into a unified poem. 

The nighttime fog last week was so gorgeous, I just had to turn it into a poem. 🙂

Dancing
By: Amanda K. Fowler

Still, dense, heavy,
Fog drapes like a blanket
Covering the night.

It hushes, hides–
But under the gleaming streetlights,
It is dancing.

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The night sky is always so beautiful and vast out in the country. It’s truly awe-inspiring, and I realized–there is power in perspective. No prompt for this one; just my own idea.

Eternity
By: Amanda K. Fowler

A million stars dot the sky,
twinkling, shimmering,
ruling over their planets
and the life they hold.
I am just one pair of eyes
staring at the infinite,
but–I can cover ten stars
with just my thumb.

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Two Challenges, Day Two: “April First” and “Brynhildr’s Passion” (A-to-Z & NaPoWriMo Day 1 & 2)

Hello, dear readers! Well, April is off to a busy start for me. I’ve decided to do my best with the challenges–even if the posts will be short, I’d like to attempt them. They broaden my creativity, and I would like to use them as warm-ups for the bigger writing projects I’m focusing on. I mentioned the specifics of the challenges in my last post, but I will define them here, for future reference:

A-to-Z Challenge: Every day in April (except Sundays), write a blog entry based on a topic beginning with consecutive letters (i.e., April 1 = A, etc.). The origins of the challenge are explained here.

NaPoWriMo Challenge: Every day in April, write a new poem from your own imagination of from the daily prompt here.

Without further ado, I present to you days one and two, below.

Day 1–A:

April First’s Verse Curse
By: Amanda Fowler

April Fools…
…I broke the rules.

Perhaps it’s best
I started late–
for all is jest
on this date.

Day 2–B:

Prompt: Write a poem based on a non-Greco-Roman myth. You could write a poem inspired by Norse mythology, or perhaps by one of these creatures from Japanese legend.

I consulted my resident Norse mythology expert, Jeremiah, for this prompt; he recommended Brynhildr.

Brunnhild by Gaston Bussière
Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons
Public domain under {{PD-1923}}

Brynhildr’s Passion

By: Amanda Fowler

The fire encircling your castle
is a ring of hate around your heart.
It will engulf you whole–
but your love could extinguish it all
if only you let it.

Happy Veterans Day: “In Flanders Fields”

Happy Veterans Day, readers. Thank you very much to those who have fought for our freedom, risking–and, in some cases, losing–their lives. According to the Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs, Veterans Day is “when an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities [of World War I], between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. For that reason, November 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of ‘the war to end all wars.'”

Across the pond and in other Commonwealth of Nations countries, the day is called “Remembrance Day,” “Armistice Day,” or “Poppy Day,” all really the same holiday with different names. King George V (the father of Colin Firth’s King George VI in The King’s Speech) made the holiday official in 1919, while President Woodrow Wilson made it official (at the same time) here in the U.S.A.

Well, unfortunately, we know now that it wasn’t the war to end all wars. But as much violence and hatred as there is in the world, I do think we learned from that war. This is not to discount the tragedy others experience–I know it, and I grieve for it. What I mean is that I see a movement overall towards love, towards peace. I truly believe that each day, we are crawling towards a more peaceful future. Call me crazy, but I bet you can count more people you love than hate. Eventually, I bet we can get everyone to focus on that. It makes you think about the destiny of humanity and the reason for our existence, which would be an epic-length post in and of itself, and I shan’t delve into it more than that tonight. 😉

My friend, Susan, posted this poem yesterday in honor of Veterans Day. Its history is almost as beautiful as its text. Would you believe it almost wasn’t published? Writers are so hard on themselves; I can attest. Here is a case of a lovely poem that dances the line of what would commonly be considered too sentimental to be published–but I say, if there’s anything to be sentimental about, it’s the real deaths of thousands of people. The symbolism and message are so poignant; it’s no wonder the poppy has become the international symbol of this day.

Wikipedia summarizes the history very well [don’t worry, I checked with other sources, too 😉 ]:

“In Flanders Fields” is a war poem in the form of a rondeau, written during the First World War by Canadian physician Lieutenant ColonelJohn McCrae. He was inspired to write it on May 3, 1915, after presiding over the funeral of friend and fellow soldier Alexis Helmer, who died in the Second Battle of Ypres. According to legend, fellow soldiers retrieved the poem after McCrae, initially unsatisfied with his work, discarded it. “In Flanders Fields” was first published on December 8 of that year in the London-based magazine Punch.

It is one of the most popular and most quoted poems from the war. As a result of its immediate popularity, parts of the poem were used in propaganda efforts and appeals to recruit soldiers and raise money selling war bonds. Its references to the red poppies that grew over the graves of fallen soldiers resulted in the remembrance poppy becoming one of the world’s most recognized memorial symbols for soldiers who have died in conflict. The poem and poppy are prominent Remembrance Day symbols throughout the Commonwealth of Nations, particularly in Canada, where “In Flanders Fields” is one of the nation’s best known literary works.

In Flanders Fields

By:
Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD
(1872-1918)
Canadian Army

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

In Flanders Field - Copy of Signed Original

The original handwritten version of the poem. Image courtesy of http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net

Beautiful, isn’t it? The poppy is starting to catch on as a tradition in the U.S.A., too, thanks in part to Duchess Catherine’s popularizing it. Jennifer asked for the pin last year for Christmas, and I just had to get it for her. 100% of the profits go to support British veterans and their families. You can buy it here.

Jennifer wore her poppy today. ❤

Today, Marianjoy held a Veterans Day ceremony, including prayer, naming of veterans, and dedication of a commemorative plaque. We even had some veterans present for the ceremony, which was certainly humbling.

It was very moving, and, fittingly, it was even raining at the time.

Thank you again to all those who have fought for peace. May you enjoy peace yourselves, wherever you are. God bless you.

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Please also see my Memorial Day post to see what that holiday (and this one) mean to our family. Additionally, please join me tomorrow later today for a new Top Ten Tuesday. The topic: signs you may be reading too much YA literature. (Is that possible?)

A Song of Beautiful Sorrow: Kung Liljekonvalje & Chicago a Cappella

A week ago, I had the great experience of going to a Chicago a Cappella concert with my mom. I actually won the tickets on WFMT, my favorite classical music station, for answering a quiz question correctly. 🙂

Listen at work.

Click to listen to WFMT streaming.

I’d never really been to an a cappella concert before, save for the ones my friend Kara’s choir sang in high school. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but if WFMT was promoting it, I knew it would be good. I invited my mom to go with me.

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My mom and I snapped a picture during intermission. We had such a great time! 🙂
I’m looking a little severe in all black, but let’s just say it’s festive for Halloween season. My mom, of course, looks beautiful as always! ❤

We were blown away immediately. The nine voices of the choir blended together so richly, yet you could still hear individual qualities. We were impressed not only with the immaculate quality of every selection, but also the wide range of genres they chose. Since it was their 20th Anniversary celebration, their theme was “best of” from the last 20 years of their performances.

Chicago a cappella

The musical director gave a short explanation before each piece, just enough to get a sense of the song. While all the songs were fantastic in their own ways, there was one in particular that my mom and I really liked. It was the second one they sang, and we were transfixed by it. The song was in Swedish, but the music was haunting, and with the snippet beforehand, we felt the song just as intensely as if we knew all the words. I even had tears in my eyes.

I wanted to share the translation with you, since I found it so beautiful. The lyrics come from a poem, and apparently, the song has become extremely popular in Sweden.

From the Chicago a Cappella program notes:

David Wikander: Kung Liljekonvalje

This song takes place in a miniature world conjured by a poet’s imagination. Gustav Fröding’s finely-wrought poem creates a single beautiful scene, so complete that it feels like it was cut in whole cloth from a Swedish cousin to JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. (In fact, Fröding and Tolkien both used medieval images and style in their works deliberately, so the kinship is an overt one.) The soaring, plaintive melody and exquisite counterpoint are by David Wikander, a Swedish church musician of the early twentieth century. The piece has carved out such a firm place in Swedish hearts that it is virtually considered to be folk music—a high honor indeed for “composed” music [likely, of the 20th century].

I’m going to post the translation first, since I’m assuming most of my readers speak English over Swedish. 😉 The original lyrics will go after it, though. Please do listen to the audio excerpt available on the Chicago a Cappella website, too; I hope they will include the full version on a CD or MP3 soon.

File:Lily of the Valley (2528553648).jpg

Lily of the Valley (photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

King Lily-of-the Valley

King Lily-of-the-Valley from the grove,
King Lily-of-the-Valley is as white as snow,
now the young king mourns
over Princess Lily-of-the-Valley-Maiden.

King Lily-of-the-Valley, he lowers
his sad head so heavy and weak;
and the silver helmet shines
in the pale summer twilight.

Around the bier, a spider weaves
from the “incense place” with floral scent
an incense [that] slowly flows;
the entire forest is full of fragrance.

From the birch’s rocking crown,
from the wind’s waving green house
small songs of sorrow sound;
the entire forest is filled up with whistling.

A message is whispered through the valley
about a king’s sorrow among whispering leaves,
in the wide kingdoms of the forest,
from the capital of the Lilies-of-the-Valley.

Original Swedish lyrics:

Kung Liljekonvalje av dungen,
kung Liljekonvalje är vit som snö,
nu sörjer unga kungen
prinsessan Liljekonvaljemö. 

Kung Liljekonvalje han sänker
sitt sorgsna huvud så tungt och vekt,
och silverhjälmen blänker
i sommarskymningen blekt. 

Kring bårens spindelvävar
från rökelsekaren med blomsterstoft
en virak sakta svävar,
all skogen är full av doft. 

Från björkens gungande krona,
från vindens vaggande gröna hus
små sorgevisor tona,
all skogen är uppfylld av sus. 

Det susar ett bud genom dälden
om kungssorg bland viskande blad,
i skogens vida välden
från liljekonvaljernas huvudstad.

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An accurate selfie of how I’m feeling right now.

Aren’t those lyrics so lovely and haunting? And “haunting” fits the seasonal theme so well; I just had to share them. I think this elegy is a sweet example of how love transcends time and life itself. All of the nature symbolism shows us that the princess isn’t really gone; she is everywhere, in everything. Her people, especially her father, keep her memory alive. ❤

“The Pumpkin”–A Poem and Memory Celebrating Fall

Happy Fall, readers! Since the autumnal equinox was yesterday, it’s official. 🙂 I hope you had a fun Hobbit Day and continue to celebrate through Tolkien Week. My family did indeed go mini-golfing as planned, which was lots of fun. We were very careful and checked the whole course before putting, because you know what they say about hobbits and holes in the ground. 😉

When the weather started to turn more autumnal here, I had a sudden flashback of a fall memory from several years ago (2008, to be precise). It came back to me as a poem, as flashbacks (luckily!) often do for me, since I record memories in words, writing the world in my head as I see it.

This is a memory from a time when a group of our friends from UIUC went to a nearby apple orchard. Jeremiah and I were in the same group, and we had dated before but weren’t dating at the time (yet). 😉

I wanted to save the poem to share with you until it was officially fall. I hope it’s not too sappy-sweet, but then, it is the season for maple syrup and sweetened gourds of a certain variety–which will star in the poem today. 🙂

I wanted to share a few photos from that day, too.

The group with some of our spoils (Jeremiah’s doing the American Gothic on the very left, and I’m on the very right).

This was surely meant for little kids, but that didn’t stop us from joining in the fun. It required some intense crouching.

Ripe for the picking!

But this is what I was really excited about, as you’ll read below (the pumpkins, not the modest-afterthought statue).

The Pumpkin

By: Amanda K. Fowler
I knew you loved me when
we went with friends to an apple orchard,
but I wanted a pumpkin
so you followed me to the rows of orange gourds.
They’d already been picked,
because crops were bad that year,
but you spent hours with me,
looking at each one,
turning them over and over.
I saw every curved side
underneath your hands.
We felt the dirt coat the skin
like afterbirth,
and I think
we imagined
they were babies,
and we had to find the one
that was ours.
The sun made
our shadows long,
and I grew discouraged,
and the others were far away
wagons and bellies
full of apples.
But then you found it:
our pumpkin baby.
It was huge,
and healthy,
and bright.
You brushed the dirt off
and showed me how
it had a flat side
from where it lay
while it grew against the earth,
and it would be perfect
for my carving,
you said.
I loved it,
and you looked smaller
under the weight
of the behemoth gourd,
but you never struggled
or grunted,
just carried the pumpkin
to the register
and then the car,
gingerly,
protectively.
And when the others teased you
about looking at pumpkins all day,
you just smiled.
I never carved it;
it was already perfect.
And I knew I loved you then.
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I hope you enjoyed the poem. Now, I’m itching to go back to an orchard! What’s on your fall celebration list? 🙂

“Beliefs”–A Poem

“Beliefs”
By: Amanda K. FowlerBreaking Glass

Beliefs shatter worse than glass.
At least glass can be mended,
but when faith is lost
it is often gone forever–
decomposed into sand in the wind.

When we are young,
this is not as grave.
Our understandings are pliable,
still being defined.
Theories are posed
and tossed out,
the clay of our minds
still being shaped
into form.

But
a belief gained
or proven
is all the more poignant
when acquired later,
because we know
how risky an investment
faith can be,
especially when it didn’t quite
get hardened with that clay.https://i1.wp.com/www.clker.com/cliparts/q/h/2/Y/J/a/kindness-md.png

Angel wings,
unnecessary kindnesses,
sacrifice,
truth,
life,
love.
These are beautiful to me,
and they will bring me wonder
no matter how old I am,
no matter how many times I see them.
These are what I believe in.

Silence Broken: Transformation in Haiku

Hello readers! I hope your week is going well. Yesterday, we had a really fun event for Marianjoy: our annual golf invitational. The day was a long, hot one, but it was perfect for golf, and everyone had a great time. We really appreciated the generosity of the donations for our silent auction and all of the golfers who came out to support us.

While all of yesterday was wonderful, I wanted to share a particularly enchanting experience.

In my most recent post, “Summer Heat,” I talked about how everything seems to come alive in the summer. Sometimes, though, when it gets REALLY hot, especially coupled with humidity, it’s hard to remember that. The weather can feel stifling in such a literal way that you notice everything around you is still and quiet–including yourself. Trees are still full and green, but you stop hearing their leaves rustle in the wind. Birds sit where they can find shade, too lethargic to fly or sing. Of course, bugs never seem deterred by the humidity, but maybe that’s nature’s way of keeping us awake. 😉

The golf hole I was stationed at yesterday had a beautiful view. I took this picture at the hottest time of the day. Look how the lake is a perfect mirror of the trees and sky–you almost can’t tell which side is right-side up! I was very grateful for the shade of the tree you can see in the foreground. 🙂

Everything was placid and still. The trees and sky were perfectly reflected in the unmoving lake.

Everything was placid and still. The trees and sky were perfectly reflected in the unmoving lake.

All of a sudden, without warning, the sky opened up and began raining. It went from a drizzle to steady rain, breaking nature’s trance with movement and sound. The rain fell straight down, and it was easy enough to avoid (especially with the awesome canopy chair my dad bought me), but it reinvigorated everything.

Raindrops broke the stillness

Raindrops broke the stillness–look at the movement in the lake.

The rain was completely transformative, and the sound of the raindrops hitting the lake’s surface, plus the reinvigorated birds’ calls, truly sounded like a song. These pictures don’t do the experience justice, so I also resolved to illustrate it with words.

I wrote two haiku of the experience. This seemed a fitting format, because, as mentioned in my last post, the most common subject of the haiku is nature, and it is supposed to describe a moment. It’s also appropriate because the moment took place during a work event for Marianjoy; it echoed the first poetry I began to write after my traumatic brain injury–also haiku and also at Marianjoy. I think I was drawn to haiku as my first attempt at poetry–at writing, period–because the haiku is so brief and accessible. Indeed, the brevity can be intimidating, but if it is insurmountable, it is the wrong format for what you wish to describe. It forces you to focus on a single thought. The syllabic guide is almost therapeutic, a drum keeping the time of your thoughts. The effect is subtle, a dampened expression of emotion that doesn’t overwhelm the casual reader but explodes into realization with repeated deep readings.

At the Association of Writers & Writing Programs conference I went to this year, I attended a few panels about the healing effect of writing. I could attest to the power first-hand, but I was happy to hear it is a growing trend in therapy. As part of my memoir,  I plan to include some of the poetry I wrote during my recovery.

Without further ado, I hope you enjoy these haiku (accidental rhymes are just an intrinsic part of a poet’s life). The moment was so pretty, I had to write two. That’s shaky justification, and I’d get criticized for my inability to be concise in a poetry class, but darn it, this is MY blog. 😉

After all the build-up, I’m afraid you’ll be searching for some huge buried truth, but I promise these are just my awe of nature. At least, I think so. Sometimes, poetry betrays more of the poet than the poet herself is aware of. 😉

Eager to merge drops
crescendoing in patters
breaking the tension

Raindrops awaken
all muted by scorching sun.
Life sings in chorus.

Summer Heat

Hello readers! It certainly feels like summer around here. Whenever anyone would ask me as a kid what my favorite season was, my answer, without hesitation, was summer. It wasn’t because it meant a break from school (I actually liked school, surprise surprise). It was because everything was ripe for adventure. Even as a kid, I knew when temperatures rise–weather, tempers, passions–that’s when things happen.

For my sister and me, those adventures usually consisted of running through a sprinkler, chasing an ice cream truck, or paddling down the Amazon River (a.k.a. pushing each other in a wagon around in circles in our basement–the person in front steered). It looked something like this:

Boating down the Amazon River. (Posted by RayEindhoven)

But as adults, it seems like we get less opportunities to be so carefree and celebrate the heat. We can’t exactly kick off our high heels and bolt out of our offices in pursuit of frozen desserts. Running through sprinklers on the way to work might result in a soggy, unprofessional day, with things we don’t have to worry about as kids.

In "Seinfeld," Elaine inadvertently gets sprayed by a sidewalk hose and gets the wrong kind of attention

In “Seinfeld,” Elaine inadvertently gets sprayed by a sidewalk hose and gets the wrong kind of attention.

Another thing we have to worry about as adults is our hair–or we’re supposed to, anyway. For ladies with thick, frizzy hair, like me, it’s almost pointless to style your hair in the summer. Just twenty minutes outside in humid air inspires great creativity by your locks, and they usually each have their own idea of how to behave.

Selfies in the summer = sunny frizz

Selfies in the summer = sunny frizz

But if hair can have creativity, so can we. It almost seems like the older we get, the less “license” we have to carefree summer days. What would be an exciting announcement as a child: “It’s hot outside!!!” has turned into complaints of “It’s hot outside.” I caught myself being guilty of this, especially on the day of the unfortunate selfie above, and I had to remind myself to enjoy the heat while it lasts. There’s no other season when everything is so alive; wildlife sounds are around-the-clock, from morning larks to moonlight crickets. All the flowers are in bloom, bursting forth with every color imaginable, better than a painting. Last summer, we had a terrible drought, but this year, it seems like all the plants are making up for lost time, partying twice as hard. Lots of our trees and flowers are already on their second bloom, which is unusual but certainly a lovely surprise.

One of the most recent fun thing I got to do outside was to have lunch with my dad when he visited me at work. I think this is one of the best parts of his being retired. 🙂

OPB and me having lunch outside of MJ

Other really fun outdoors-eating opportunities were the barbecue my mom did for Independence Day and a picnic at the Morton Arboretum when we saw the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Tchaikovsky concert. We used to eat outside all the time as kids, and but I usually forget how much fun it is till there’s an occasion for it. It’s wonderful to experience nature all around you like that–definitely more interesting than TV!

Another annual hallmark of summer for me is the Anderson’s Bookshop Sidewalk Sale. It’s one of my very favorite times of the year! I think they do a fantastic job of selecting excellent books for their shelves. I really appreciate how they give their customers a chance to purchase some copies that might have gotten slightly bent on the shelves, rather than throwing them away. Since it fell on a day where I had to work, I made sure to bring extra-comfy shoes with me in the car because I knew I’d be perusing for hours! Here is my Tweet of the event, in case you didn’t see it earlier on my sidebar. You can follow me on Twitter by clicking the widget on the right. If you don’t have a Twitter account, you can still get my Tweets texted to you by texting this message (inside the quotation marks) to 40404: “Follow @Amanda_K_Fowler”. I post to my Twitter and Facebook Page more often than my blog, for the simple fact that those mediums are more conducive to quick pictures and updates than the lengthy posts typical of a blog. You can also follow my Facebook Page on the right sidebar widget or by clicking here.

Tweet: My wallet is lighter, but I’m many #books richer & a whole lot happier after my FAVORITE event all year! @AndersonsBkshp sidewalk sale

I realized that summer is still my favorite month, and I’ve resolved to be more open to being inspired by it. I actually wrote two haiku earlier this week about summer, and I’d like to share them. Which do you like better–or do you think they belong together?

Damp air clings to all;
Full blossoms turn to the sun.
Feel: the breath of life.

All is gold and haze:
Light stretches on forever.
Earth is loud with life.

Haiku aren’t really supposed to use much punctuation, but it’s really hard for me to leave it out. 😉 Haiku is a poetry form that originated in Japan, and it is famous for short, poignant illustration of a moment, especially in nature. The Americanized breakdown of the lines is the standard 5-7-5 syllables rule for the lines, but the origin is more complex. This website does a good job of instruction and explanation.

While we’re talking about summer fun, I’d like to make a mention on safety for our pets. It’s pretty easy for us as humans to find ways to find ways to keep cool and have fun in the sun. For our furry friends, it’s less easy, and I think it’s important for us to remember to help them when possible. My parents just came up with this contraption for Oreo, when he’s out on his play area.

Oreo drinking water from his new water bottle stand.

Oreo drinking water from his new water bottle stand.

He seems to love it! He does drink a lot more when it’s hot outside. He’s so polite that he won’t “wheek” or make any sound when he’s thirsty; he simply stands on the edge of his play area and looks at the water bottle until it’s convenient enough for you to notice him. As I’m sure you can imagine, this is adorable, but we wanted to make sure he could access water whenever he needs, even if we’re busy enough that we don’t notice him for a little bit. This contraption is inexpensive and really safe: two milk crates fastened by wire ties, with the water bottle’s spring wire-tied around the grate. This is the water bottle we use. We love it, because it’s glass, so we don’t have to worry about toxins from plastic, and it’s really easy to clean with hot water and dish soap. It’s really important for guinea pigs to be in temperatures in the range of 68-77° F; it’s very easy for them to get heat stroke, because they don’t sweat or pant. Other ways to keep them cool are to put a plate or tile in the fridge or freezer overnight and then put it in the guinea’s living/play area. The guinea then can lie down on top of it to cool off. Another idea is to wrap a frozen water bottle in a towel and put it in the living/play area for piggies to snuggle up against. I know these ideas also work for rabbits and chinchillas. Luckily, our guineas have never had trouble from the heat, but since it’s such a serious problem that can happen very quickly, I like to share tips with people when I can.

I’d also like to share a bit of news from the Book World. Remember my post about #bookgate? Far from calming down, the controversy is still heated–to the point that Library Director Deb Lissak will be leaving the library, a mutual decision between her and the Board of Directors. The library has promised to be more candid about its weeding process. While open meetings have been held, patrons’ feelings are mixed about the future of the library. Updated stats show that nearly 10,000 nonfiction books were removed before the weeding was stopped, approximating 32% of the affected sections before the weeding was stopped. Luckily, at least 259 boxes are going to be returned by Better World Books, but the fate of books sent to other places is still unknown. The News-Gazette posted a good update on July 12, if you’d like to read about it.

Echoing Urbana, the Highland Park, MI Renaissance High School has a bookgate of its own going on. Residents of the area found much of the 10,000-piece collection of books, films, and other materials from the African American History section of the school library in school dumpsters. Some of the materials were rare and irreplaceable, and luckily, residents, including historian Paul Lee, were able to rescue about 1000 of the books. Donald Weatherspoon, the city’s Emergency Manager, has said the purge was a mistake, but that the school could not afford to house such a large collection. Andre Davis, vice president and secretary of that school board, has since stepped down from the post in protest, announcing his disagreement with Weatherspoon’s management. The salvaged materials are going to be donated to museums and libraries. Please read Detroit Free Press’s article for more information.

Another big announcement came earlier this week when Random House and Penguin Publishers merged. The “Big 6” is now the “Big 5.” Feelings are mixed on this one, too. As a reader, I’m not sure if we’ll be impacted very much. The two different publishing companies seemed to publish very different content, and as long as they can still maintain that array, I think readers will be happy. There are lots of predictions all over the web about whether or not this is a doomsday for modern literature, but honestly, I think it’s much too early to know. Plus, you know me; I like to think “jelly-side-up.” 😉 I think there’s a good chance things will be much the same as usual. To read about the merger, I recommend Publishers Weekly’s article.

Another bookish announcement is more personal. I have been selected by Novel Publicity & Co. to participate in some blog tours for different books. This means I will be posting my honest reviews of those books right here, on my blog. They’ll be on the home page, but you’ll also be able to access them under the “Reviews: Books” pull-down on my top menu. I’ll still be posting about my own life and writing, too; you just might start seeing some more posts. The two books I have on my plate at the moment are from the fantasy genre, with a possible third that is also fantasy.

I hope you enjoy the rest of your weekend, as well as the rest of your summer! Remember to go enjoy the heat, whether that involves a Good Humor bar, smelling flowers, or avoiding hoses. 😉

Surprise Publications!

Happy middle-of-the-night, my lovely followers! What other time would a writer be writing, when she doesn’t have work the next day? 😉 My best inspiration usually comes at night, which can be inconvenient, as I’m sure you could imagine.

Anyway, I was taking a break from the project I’m working on to partake in a favorite modern pastime for writers: Googling myself, or “egosurfing,” as Wikipedia calls it. I think all writers like to imagine they’re famous, even before we’re quite there yet. 😉 Usually, I don’t find much besides my own blog posts, things I’ve written for Marianjoy, or school publications.

HOWEVER, tonight was different! I found three publications I didn’t even know about before! I just had to share. 🙂

Newspapers B&W (5)

Newspapers B&W (5) (Photo credit: NS Newsflash)

Do you remember my blog post about hope after tragedy in Moore, Oklahoma after their recent tornado? I had submitted excerpts from it, along with my poem, “Clouds” (also in that post) to a few different newspapers. I didn’t know it till tonight, but the Daily Herald, a Chicagoland newspaper, published my opinion piece! I’m so honored they posted it, and I hope it has brought/continues to bring some people hope and comfort. You can see the online version here.

Then, I found another newspaper article–but this one was written about me by someone else, using some excerpts from things I’ve written. “Living Life in the Surprising ‘Afterglow’ of a Tragedy: Amanda Fowler Talks about Her Amazing Journey at May 9 Fundraising Luncheon” is an article by Jennifer Mesenbrink previewing my memoir preview event for the Glen Ellyn Patch. If you missed it, I wrote a blog post detailing the amazing experience of sharing my story with my sister to such a nice group of people.

The last publication I discovered tonight was totally by accident and also a nice surprise. My sister and I are both hooked on Buzzfeed.com right now, since they tend to post adorable pictures of animals and hilarious observations about life. When I was clicking around on Twitter tonight, I stumbled upon a random person’s post of a Buzzfeed article that looked like it would fit the latter category and give a few laughs about being a poet. Every single item on their list made me laugh, except #15, because I was shocked to discover it was a screencap of my Tweet! You can view the article here.
I am so honored to be a member of meme-land, especially for words I chose to write, as opposed to an unflattering candid. But, I suppose I shouldn’t speak too soon…it’s all part of the fame we writers strive for, right? 😉

Speaking of publishing, I wanted to thank all of you for reading my blog. I believe I’ve just reached about 100 followers and 1281 views. I really appreciate every single one; thank you for allowing me to share my writing with you.

Just wanted to share this quick post with you all about my exciting Googling results. I can’t decide if I should get back to work or to bed, but either way, I know I’ll be working on my writing! 🙂