Month of Poetry is run by children’s writer Kathryn Apel and is open to anyone — children and adults — anywhere in the world. Aim to write one poem per day during January and at the end of the month you’ll have a drawer full of new poems.
If you register at the Month of Poetry site (it’s free to register), Kathryn will send you a password. The poem pages are not open to the public, so only participants with the password will be able to see poems, post their own poems, and add comments. Once a week there will be a specific poetry challenge (e.g. a theme or an image) posted to the site. If you have registered, you can use the password to post your poem for that day onto the locked pages, and you can read other participant’s poems … and comment on them if you like.
Of course, you don’t need to sign up to the website to write a poem a day … you can just quietly (or loudly) write a poem every day in January anyway. But if you’d like a bit of encouragement, then the Month of Poetry site is a great way to get your writing kickstarted for 2015.
Today we have Kathryn Apel visiting us as part of the Alphabet Soup Poetry Festival. Kathryn writes fabulous poetry for kids. Some of you might remember Kathryn’s poems in Alphabet Soup (back when it was a print magazine) and her latest work is a brand new verse novel called Bully on the Bus. (You can read a review of Bully on the Busin a previous blogpost — thanks to Souper reviewer Joseph, 10.)
We asked Kathryn if we could bombard her with questions about verse novels. (Luckily — she said yes!)
AS: What IS a verse novel exactly?
KA: A verse novel is a story that is told in verse, either as a collection of individual poems that build to tell a story — or longer poems that stand as chapters in a larger story. Verse novels may be told in rhyme, or free verse.
AS: Can a verse novel rhyme?
KA: Oops. I answered that before I got to this question. I think, traditionally, verse novels did rhyme. But now there are lots that don’t. Mine don’t rhyme — but there are rhymes that sneak in, in places. I used to write lots of rhyming picture books, but I love that my verse novels don’t rhyme — so I can play with the words more … which includes rhyming play sometimes.
AS: What gave you the idea for Bully on the Bus?
KA: The idea came from an experience my boys had on their school bus … but as I was writing, I was reminded me of my journey on the school bus as a child — with bullies. And suddenly I had more than enough ideas for Leroy’s story!
AS: Why did you choose to write it as a verse novel? (Why not a prose novel?)
KA: In fact, I did first write it as a prose novel — a chapter book for early readers. It was the Book Chook (Susan Stephenson) who helped me see that it really was a verse novel. Rewriting it as a verse novel was one of the most rewarding things I have done. I knew that this was the right format for Leroy’s story, because the words sang on the page.
AS: You write lots of poetry too. What’s different about writing a verse novel and writing a poem?
KA: Great question. You’re really making me think with this …
A poem often captures a moment in time — or an event. A verse novel creates a bigger picture, and you become really involved with the characters — feel their emotions with them, and know how they’re going to respond. I think it’s the fact that the poems are a part of a whole that give them their strength … And because there are different emotions and experiences (and sometimes even different narrators — although not in Bully on the Bus, which is told through Leroy’s eyes) you can also explore different forms of poetry — different rhythms — throughout the book. Of course, because each poem is just one of many, the devices you employ as a writer in each particular poem are also dictated by the surrounding poems. Something that might be effective in a stand-alone poem may have already been used within the verse novel. So you have to evaluate if it will still be effective if you do the same thing again — or if there’s another, better way of presenting it.
AS: Can you recommend other verse novels for primary school aged kids?
KA: This is one of the easiest questions I’ve ever had to answer! Australia has produced lots of beautiful verse novelists — and verse novels. It’s wonderful that publishers are producing them, and kids are reading them! The following verse novels are great reads for Primary students — although older readers (and adults) will also enjoy them. (That’s perhaps the best thing about verse novels. They’re so versatile!)
Sixth Grade Style Queen NOT! by Sheryl Clark
Ratswhiskers and Me, and Starjumps by Lorraine Marwood
Pearl Verses the World, and Toppling, and Roses are Blue by Sally Murphy
The Spangled Drongo, and Pookie Aleerah Is Not My Boyfriend by Stephen Herrick
AS: Where can we find your poems?
KA: Most of my poems have been published in magazines — so they’re not available online. But it’s something I’ve been meaning to fix, so in honour of this post, today I’m launching a page with poems for kids on my blog. You’ll find it at http://katswhiskers.wordpress.com/poetry-for-kids . Skip across to check it out sometime.
AS: Is there anything else we should know about Kathryn Apel?
KA: Every January I co-ordinate Month of Poetry, a family-friendly event that Alphabet Soup readers can participate in. The challenge is to write a poem a day for the month of January — but even if you only write a couple of poems, that’s still better writing none. 🙂 You can read more about the challenge on the Month of Poetry site — but be sure to get your parents permission and help to sign up.
This book is a cross between a kids’ novel and a poem book. (This means it’s a verse novel.) This is the first verse novel that I’ve ever read.
It’s about a young boy called Leroy who is getting bullied on the bus by a high school student called DJ. Leroy is getting scared of DJ and doesn’t want to go to school on the bus any more because of DJ. Leroy is left shattered after he makes a special green monster cupcake for his teacher and DJ finds it in his lunch box, starts eating it, and smashes it on the floor of the bus. He needs to do something about DJ. But what?
I liked how each chapter was a poem and had its own title. I forgot it was a verse novel halfway through and I was very worried for Leroy and couldn’t stop reading. I will definitely read it again.
After reading Bully on the Bus I would like to read more verse novels and maybe try writing one too. I would recommend this book to kids in years 1 to 4 and their teachers — especially the kids because it teaches them about bullying.
You have probably heard lots of talk about reading lately and that’s because 2012 is the National Year of Reading. Our winter issue celebrates the National Year of Reading (because we do love reading and we know you do, too!).
Subscribe via our website (you can order single copies from the subscribe page, too). If you’re in WA, rush in to one of our WA stockists—Westbooks (Victoria Park) and Zero to Ten (South Fremantle) who will have copies of the winter issue to sell you from Wednesday 16 May 2012.
Happy National Year of Reading!
Alphabet Soup magazine is a proud partner of the National Year of Reading.
All through October, Alphabet Soup is celebrating turning three. We have heaps of writers and illustrators stopping by to answer THREE QUICK QUESTIONS and today’s visitor is Kathryn Apel, author of Fencing With Fear, and This is the Mud.
1. Where do you like to write?
Sometimes my brain likes to write by itself and I have to stop what I’m doing and dash for paper/pencil, computer—anything! —just to catch the words. My brain likes to write when I’m;
walking (with the dog)
in the shower.
I like to write at the computer, because I can organize my ideas neatly and I don’t have to worry about my handwriting, which gets messier and messier the faster I write. (And even messier still when I change my mind and start scratching things out.) Sometimes I decide; It’s time. I will write. I sit at the computer … walk to the fridge … sit at the computer … walk outside … sit at the computer … go on Twitter … check my blog … go to the fridge … sit at the computer … and FINALLY … the ideas and the words come. Yay and hurray, I say!
2. Can you name a book you’d recommend to our readers?
I really enjoyed the unexpectedness of the picture book Fred Stays With Me by Nancy Coffelt and illustrated by Tricia Tusa. I think it’s cleverly done. I even gave a bark of laughter—which is appropriate, because Fred is a dog.
3. Can you offer a word or phrase that kids could use for inspiration if they have writer’s block?
Kathryn Apel is the author of Fencing With Fear and This is the Mud. She’s here today to help us celebrate the launch of the Undercover Readers Club by sharing the books that she liked to read after ‘lights out’ when she was a child. Welcome, Kat!
What did I read after lights out when I was growing up?
Oh – that’s so easy!
If I was reading anything undercover when I was a kid, it would have been an Enid Blyton. (And then Nancy Drew … ) I loved the The Secret Seven and The Famous Five. I even staged a protest when our librarian banned these books from our school. Disgraceful – that they should be banned!
My lights-out reading was by the glow of the lounge room light spilling into my bedroom. I crouched near the door and tilted the words toward the light – but had to be ve-ry careful turning the pages, so I didn’t alert my parents to my presence. Just as well I had a carpeted bedroom floor. It softened flurried footsteps on those frantic flights back to bed! (Though the bedsprings did give me away on occasion … )
I also remember staying at my cousin’s house for a holiday and going to Vacation Bible School. My cousin and I were in stiff competition for the most bible verses memorised, and I needed an edge! My cousin was puzzled at how I had memorised so many verses next day – but I wasn’t telling him about that torch trick!
Yr 3 student Curtis Costa obviously had a few tricks up his sleeve, too. I was pretty chuffed by his review of my book Fencing With Fear: “When I was reading and Dad told me, ‘Lights out!’ I hid the book, turned on my lamp and kept reading because it was so exciting.” What an awesome review! Thank you, Curtis.
Hmmmm … All this talk about Undercover Readers is making me a bit suspicious of my two book bug boys … and their lights out routines.
Alphabet Soup magazine is celebrating the launch of Undercover Readers (our new reviewers club for kids)! If you’d like to join the Undercover Readers Club, you’ll find an information pack you can download from the Alphabet Soup website. As part of the celebrations, we have a different children’s author or illustrator visiting Soup Blog each day until 29 June 2010 to talk about what they used to read after ‘lights out’ when they were growing up.