Can you hear us from up here? Today’s guest made me strap on my cleats and ropes and pulleys and whatnot and meet her halfway across the globe to bring you this poem from the clouds. It’s cold up here, but what a view!
Of course I can only be talking about the ridiculously multi-faceted wonder-girl we know as
Robyn Hood Black
If you’re up for an adventure, take a look at Robyn’s video for a poem that echoes with possibility. Then hike on over to the interview to see what other tricks she’s got up her parka!
JADE DRAGON SNOW MOUNTAIN
Come and see
these thirteen peaks–
green meadows below.
Come and climb
this dragon’s back
a sky-bed of clouds.
in dragon spruce.
Bring your own
[heading style=”1″]SNICKERVIEW™ with ROBYN HOOD BLACK[/heading]
What’s up with Robyn
Robyn: who are you, where are you, and how long have you been a rhyming fool?
Well, howdy Renée! I’m an animal-loving children’s author, poet, and artist prowling around the foothills of north Georgia, USA. I’ve been a rhyming fool since I was knee-high to the family cat.
I’ve been wanting to ask this since I e-met you: what’s up with your fabulous name? Do you think it has had any influence on your adventurous soul and your affinity for hats? (I’m a fan of unusual names. True story: I went to school with Peter Piper and Harry Foote.)
My parents had some kind of sense of humor naming me Robyn Hood, no? At least they spelled my first name with a “y,” which confuses folks, but is not that uncommon. I couldn’t be shy with a name like that. I almost got sent to the principal’s office in high school when we had a sub and the guy in front of me said his name was Santa Claus. Then the poor teacher came to me… ! If I ever meet Peter and Harry, I’ll smile and nod.
Oh, and regarding the hats? Maybe so. I do seem to be wearing a lot of them these days, figuratively and literally!
Can you share the first poem you ever wrote?
Sure! At least, here’s the first poem I ever found actually recorded. I was seven:
I am a little girl.
My name is little Ruth.
I cannot say my name
because I lost my tooth.
Hey, here’s a picture of the very mountain featured in your poem!
Was “Jade Dragon Snow Mountain” inspired by your own derring do on a treacherous mountain?
Why, yes, er, let me just dust these ice crystals off of my intriguingly rumpled parka… .
Um, no. I’ve always loved the mountains we have around here, but they are much more tame and don’t have glaciers. I loved my grandparents’ stories of hiking around the Great Smoky Mountains when the park opened in the 1930s, and I have some great pictures of that. My hubby Jeff proposed to me on a little mountain hike in South Carolina – isn’t that romantic? (Awww…..!)
Besides being an intrepid trekker, you are also a published poet and the author of two children’s books, including the nonfiction book Wolves.
How did you claw your way to publication?
The road to publication can seem steeper than a mountainside, for sure! I was lucky to have good company along the way – the wonderful folks in our SCBWI Southern Breeze region, which I’m still very active in. Through conferences and workshops I gradually learned to hone my writing, which took several years as I was seriously exploring writing for children while simultaneously raising a couple of them. (Hi, Morgan! Hi, Seth!)
My book contracts were a direct result of meeting editors at our conferences. Well, and a result of getting lots of feedback on my writing along the way from my critique group and through workshops. Having a children’s writers “pack” still helps, not only with feedback but with shouldering those inevitable rejections.
Similarly, I’ve been thrilled to have my poetry published in two anthologies this year: Georgia Heard’s The Arrow Finds Its Mark: A Book of Found Poems (Roaring Brook) and The Poetry Friday Anthology by the wonderfully dynamic duo of Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong (Pomelo Books). (And check out the PFA Poet-a-Palooza right here!)
I’ve been writing and submitting poems for years, and in the last few years made my way to some wonderful SCBWI and Highlights workshops on writing poetry for children. I also hosted a workshop with Rebecca Kai Dotlich for our region. Networking and camaraderie are great, and probably necessary, but nothing takes the place of sitting down all by yourself in the quiet and pounding out words, working on craft.
And do my eyes deceive me, or does your website actually feature pictures of you
dancing reading with wolves?
When researching my nonfiction book on wolves, I was fortunate to get to know and volunteer with a local zoo called The Chestatee Wildlife Preserve, helping to socialize their wolf pups. I did this for a few years, and it’s been one of the most amazing experiences of my life. For the last few years, I’ve also written animal profiles for a national character education curriculum (Core Essentials). This has been a wonderful way to get a regular writing-about-animals fix! I’ve enjoyed doing wolf education in school visits and even helped handle animals for the zoo during a few of their educational outreach programs. Snakes, chinchillas, baby tigers…
You are a mysterious woman of many talents, indeed! And when you’re not channeling Indiana Jones/Kevin Costner, you are also an accomplished artist. Do the wonders never cease? Is your art inspired by your writing or vice versa?
Ha! Oh, I need you as a publicist or something, Renée. I guess I’ve been a drawing fool as long as I’ve been a rhyming fool. In college I struggled with whether to major in English or art. I chose English but took a bunch of art classes, and that’s pretty much how it’s been in the few (cough-cough) years since. I had a small art business many moons ago before kids came along, and I wanted to do something like that again. This time, I wanted my art to directly relate to the writing side of my life. That’s how the idea of “art for your literary side” came about.
I’m attempting to celebrate reading and writing with these prints, drawings, note cards, bookmarks, calligraphy, and the like. In the few art shows I’ve done this fall, folks seemed to connect with it. When a professor bought several bookmarks to share with students making up the first class of English majors at her small college, I knew I was reaching my target market! And then when a young boy recited “Jabberwocky” at the sight of my bookmarks – well, be still my heart. (Success!)
Also, I didn’t write a lot of “found poetry” before submitting to Georgia Heard’s collection, but now I can’t help playing with words in print, particularly in old vintage texts or ads, to try to make something new out of them. I’m really enjoying making altered page collages this way, and most of them have sold at shows or on Etsy! But my stash runs deep, and I’m always picking up little finds…so there will be lots more.
(And of course I’m smitten with these…)
You have a special affinity for haiku. How did that come about? Do you have formal training in writing poetry?
I fell in love with haiku when I discovered a digital magazine featuring haiku for children, Berry Blue Haiku, started by Gisele LeBlanc. I even became assistant editor for a while! Gisele decided to close the magazine this year, but she and I stay in touch. I began reading everything I could about haiku’s long history and also read the contemporary journals. So much said in so few words, like a fine picture book in some ways. My first attempts at submitting resulted in rejection, so I read, read, read and wrote, wrote, wrote some more, and then was able to break into journals such as Modern Haiku, Frogpond, Acorn, and others. I’ve enjoyed leading haiku workshops for students and teachers. Reading and writing haiku centers me, and when I get too busy and frazzled for haiku, I know I need to slow down.
I haven’t had formal training in terms of a specialized degree in poetry, but as you can probably tell, I’m a conference-a-holic and love learning, so it’s a lifelong journey. The English major helped, too!
If you could go on an adventure with any children’s poet (living or otherwise), who would it be and what adventure would you embark upon?
What a great question! I’ll pick one of each. Years ago I heard Nancy Willard speak at a writer’s conference. Her writing is magical and funny and profound, and I often return to her book Telling Time when I need a sip from the inspiration ladle. I’d go anywhere she wants to go.
Though I never heard her speak during her lifetime, I would also love to just walk around with Valerie Worth and note what she notices – her “small poems” are timeless gems. I guess I’m wired to love small poems.
I usually ask for a rhyming couplet, but given the circumstances…Quick! A haiku using the word “daredevil.”
Hmmm… well, if I wait on a bona fide haiku moment of inspiration, we might be here awhile. So I’ll just have to wing it, but I still want to share a moment of actual personal experience in the natural world. Here’s an image from my dark drive home from critique group last night:
crosses the road
Below are all the places where Robyn hangs out and where we can peruse her wares. She only gave us the online addresses, though, not her home address (which I guess is fine considering you’re a misbehavin’ lot likely to be thrown to the wolves if you get out of hand…and I don’t want that on my conscience)…
Website – writing: www.robynhoodblack.com
Blog – writing: Read, Write, Howl
Website/Blog – art: artsyletters.com
Etsy store: www.etsy.com/shop/artsyletters
Thanks for stopping by, Robyn, and for adding “Jade Dragon Snow Mountain” to No Water River’s growing video poetry library!
Thank YOU for having me, Renée – such an honor to splash around here at No Water River!
[heading style=”1″]More Stuff about Robyn[/heading]
- Robyn’s complete bio
- Information about Robyn’s wonderful school visits and presentations
- Robyn has many guest posts and interviews online. Here are some of my favorites:
[heading style=”1″]Extension Activities for “Jade Dragon Snow Mountain”[/heading]
- Robyn’s poem is an invitation to explore a specific mountain (and by the way, Jade Dragon Snow Mountain has only been climbed once!). Choose a place of interest – a volcano, a lake, an anthill, inside your closet — and write a poem inviting the reader to explore that place.
- Robyn provides some excellent haiku resources and Haiku How-To lessons for grades K-2 (group activity) and grades 3+. Use these materials to help students craft group or individual haiku.
- Discovery Channel has an interactive game that lets players climb Mount Everest.
- Bake this bug mountain cake.
[heading style=”1″]NEXT WEEK: The And the Crowd Goes Wild Poet-a-Palooza![/heading]
Video Location: The wilds of North Georgia.See more poems in my poetry video library.
“Jade Dragon Snow Mountain” copyright © Robyn Hood Black. All rights reserved.