Posted in Life, Poetry, Reading, Writing

A Mother’s Gift


Last November, I attended the Poetry Society of Texas Annual Awards Banquet, where two of my poems took home first place prizes. The banquet was lovely, the food was good, the poems were wonderful, and of course I was excited about my prizes, but the best part about the whole thing was that my mom was there with me. She was my date. 🙂

My mom is the best. She’s been an integral part of my life as a reader and writer. She read to me when I was little, taking me to the public library to check out every Dorrie the Little Witch book they had, over and over again. Even when I got older and could read on my own, I still preferred reading stories with her. One of my favorite memories is us sitting side by side in my twin bed, giggling our way through the Bunnicula books.

My mom has always been a reader. Mysteries are her favorite, but these days she also reads a lot of middle grade and young adult novels. My whole family read the Harry Potter series as it was published and loved to talk to each other about the books. Now we’re doing the same thing with the Lockwood & Co. series. My mom read the first two before I did and kept telling me how good they were. She was right. Now we get to experience those hilarious and spooky tales together and ponder the cliffhanger endings. I love being able to talk about books with her.

And now, I love being able to talk about writing with her.

Some moms might have second thoughts about their daughters quitting their careers to write. Maybe my mom did too, but if so she never showed it. She’s been excited about and supportive of my writing adventure from the very beginning. Even when I started writing horror, which is not her favorite, she still kept her chin up, learning to accept (if not embrace) the fact that her little girl sometimes writes dark things. Lately though, my mom has become more than just a supportive presence hovering outside the crazy sphere of publishing and marketing and querying. Lately, as I’ve explained more and more of the process to her, she’s become a real ally, asking me now and then how my agent search is going and telling me how proud she is of me and all I’ve learned. She’s read all my published work, as well as my middle grade manuscript. She loved the book, which of course feels pretty awesome. 🙂 My mom feels like a traveling companion on my writing journey now, and I love that too.

Having someone as loving and supportive as my mom on my side is invaluable. That’s why I took her to the PST banquet with me. And that’s why, when the anthology of PST poems including my two winners arrived in my mailbox this week, I sent it straight to her, for Mother’s Day.

I love you, Mom! Thank you for everything.


Posted in Poetry, Reading

Review: Smallest Leaf

To be honest, I rarely read poetry collections cover to cover. I enjoy too much the freedom of opening a poetry book to any page and receiving a slice of meaning. When I do follow the “rules” and read the poems consecutively, it often takes me a long time to make it to the end. I revel in the ability to close the book for long periods of time and not feel like I have to start over when I pick it up again.

But once in a while, a poetry book grabs me in a different way and makes me sit down and dig in. Smallest Leaf by Lisa Toth Salinas did just that. I opened it to page one last Monday morning and finished it before I went to bed that night. And it was a delight.

My copy of Smallest Leaf, bookmarked with love.

I learned about Lisa’s book when I met her in November at the Poetry Society of Texas’s Annual Awards Banquet. Lisa lives in Texas, and Smallest Leaf, which is her first collection, won the Poetry Society of Texas Eakin Book Award in 2014. It is a gorgeous volume, both inside and out, including images of art (used as the inspiration for some of her ekphrastic poetry) and found poems.

I knew I was going to love this book from the very first piece, titled “How to Read a Poem.” It begins:

“Make yourself the smallest leaf
upon the tree and let the breeze
of gentle words begin to blow,
then loosen from your branch. Let go.”

I followed the poet’s advice. I let her gentle words wash over me and gave in to her voice. Lisa’s work covers topics close to her heart—art, ancestry, faith, family, nature. Some of my favorites were: “She is Not the State Bird of Texas,” “On Solitude,” “A Lesson in Trust at the Feet of Millet,” and “Inheritance.” They spoke to me with their simplicity, their thoughtfulness, their hope. Even the poems that didn’t resonate with me personally are full of the poet’s passion for the subject. I liked all of her work for that, for endearing me to her perspective on life.

However, what I enjoyed most about Smallest Leaf was the variety of interesting forms within its pages. Lisa writes free verse, rhyming poems, found poems, sonnets, and villanelles, but her work also includes less common forms such as pantoum, haibun, terzanelle, and gloss, which is a type of poetry I was not familiar with but am now eager to try.

I will end with a stanza from her poem, “Advice to a Poet,” which is a garland cinquain.

to beautify
an empty page you must
hear what is not being said, then
say it.”

My advice to you is to read Lisa Toth Salina’s book, Smallest Leaf. You can order a copy and find out more about her and her work on her website.



Posted in Poetry, Teaching

Contests, Workshops, and One Very Creepy Poem

Hello and happy Thursday!

I’ve got some POETRY NEWS to share with you. There’s a little something in this post for everybody—adult poets, student poets, teachers, and even lovers of horror.

Student Poetry Contests

pstlogo_paint_05Entries to the Poetry Society of Texas Student Awards are due March 1, 2016. PST offers 82 contests to students in grades 1 through 12 on a variety of subjects and forms. This is a great way for young writers to find out what it’s like to send their work out to the world. There is no fee to enter, and winning poems will be published in the PST anthology. Teachers, please consider sharing this opportunity with your students. The deadline to submit is only 12 days away!

Austin Poetry Society Annual Awards

APSIf you’re an adult looking to submit work, the Austin Poetry Society’s Annual Contests are open right now. The deadline for submitting is April 1, 2016, and you must be an APS member. (See our website for details about the contests and information on how to join the society.) Winners will be announced at our Annual Awards Ceremony on May 28, 2016. First, second, and third place poets will win cash prizes, and first place poems will be published in the Best Austin Poetry anthology for 2016. (You can buy a copy of the current anthology, which includes two of my poems, at

School Visits, Poetry Presentations, & Workshops

SchoolVisits_WellsBranchTeachers in the Austin area, if you’d like a published poet to teach a workshop or presentation to your class, please contact me. I now do school visits and offer five different presentations for grades 3 through 12. Details can be found on my SCHOOL VISITS page. If your students miss the PST contest deadline and are still interested in submitting their work, consider hiring me for the “Path to Publication” presentation. Not only will I teach them proper submission etiquette and help them craft a professional cover letter, but I’ll also provide information about more contests, journals, and organizations who accept work from young poets.

A Little HORROR Poem

377239_origAnd last, but not least, my poem, “Someone,” is published this week at Grievous Angel. If you’re in the mood for something creepy, check it out. And while you’re there, don’t forget to read the other three poems published with it. I’m in good company with Ken Poyner, Herb Kauderer, and John Grey. (Oh, and don’t worry. If you hire me for a school visit, the poems I share with your students will NOT be this scary!)


Have a great day! Sweet dreams.  🙂