Sunday, November 22, 2020

Poetry collection - Friends & Anemones: Ocean Poems for Children - 11.22.2020

 Poetry collections are so fun to have in libraries.  Young readers enjoy them because they can read them in a multitude of ways - whether they sit down and read them cover to cover, or flip through and read what catches their eye, or take their time reading just a few poems a day - poetry anthologies can be appreciated for years in a young reader's life.  Educators enjoy them too - they share them with readers and can pick and choose poems that work with their lessons.  Sometimes it's content related, other times to show different literary devices!  Here's a new collection for your libraries!

Friends & Anemones: Ocean Poems for Children
by The Writers' Loft Authors and Illustrators

Today, writer and poet Matt Forrest Esenwine stops by to talk with the editors of Friends & Anemones: Ocean Poems for Children, Kristen Wixted and Heather Kelly.  They let us in on how this book came about and the collaboration behind the project.

Thanks for inviting me back to the "Nook," Michele!  Author/poet Kip Wilson and I were asked to be judges for the poems submitted for this book, so I thought it would be interesting to learn a little more about the book from the editors themselves, Kristen Wixted and Heather Kelly!

Matt: Kristen and Heather, thanks for joining me here at the Book Nook!  First, tell me about the genesis for this book - why did you choose oceans as the subject, and how did it first start coming together?

Kristen:  Our first poetry anthology, An Assortment of Animals, was a bigger hit than we'd expected.  The collaboration brought the Writers' Loft community together and gave us something to celebrate, and it brought the Loft community into bookstores.  So right away we decided to do a second, and when we were discussing the subject I said, "Well, we're New Englanders.  How about the ocean?"  It just sort of clicked.  We had a lot of enthusiasm from people who hadn't participated the first time, and we were able to incorporate an environmentalist theme, which is a passion for both Heather and me.  It's hard to argue that keeping trash out of the oceans isn't important!

Matt: This is the third anthology published by The Writers' Loft - what have you learned from the previous two, and what surprised you with this one?

Heather:  We learn something new every time! (And make new mistakes, which is funny!)  We learned from previous anthologies to have soft deadlines we give everyone and secret later hard deadlines.  This was incredibly valuable as the pandemic raged and illustrators needed extensions on their artwork.  Kristen wrote about this in her Editor's note, in the book, take a look!

A bit of a brag: we hit publish one week past our expected finish date, within all the chaos of 2020.  This is a testament to Kristen's enthusiastic and kind managerial skills with all the collaborators!

Matt:  So what should parents, educators, and other book-buyers know about this book?  That is, if you could speak to each one, what would you say?

Heather:  We wrote this book for you!  We're passionate about being Ocean Protectors, and we designed this book with lots of deep dives (pun intended) for children to discover lots of things to love about the ocean, and we have a call to action for everyone to become an Ocean Protector!  We also showcase different artist techniques and types of poems for teaching purposes.  You can utilize our teacher's guide at for bonus activities!

Matt:  What was your favorite part about putting this together?

Kristen:  I love reading the poems before anyone else does.  I sit at my desk and read them aloud to my dog and my cat, and just listen to how each one sounds.  When I find one I love, it's like finding a treasure in the sand at the beach.

My other favorite part is after we've paired the artists with poems, seeing how each artist interprets each poem.  A great example from Friends & Anemones is Heidi Stemple's "The Giant Larvacean" poem paired with Julia Young Cuffe's art.  You have to see it to believe it!  And I found out long after it was finished that it had been a team effort - a lot of artists working on the book had helped Julia with ideas, including her critique partners Priscilla Alpaugh and Marlo Garnsworthy as well as our book designer, Bob Thibeault.  If you know what a larvacean is, you'll understand why it would be hard to illustrate!

I loved the pairing of Amanda Davis (poet) with Leanne Leutkemeyer (artist) as well.  Through words, Amanda conveyed such movement in her "Stingray" poem, and then Leanne's watercolor looks like it's moving as well.  It's such a wonder to me.  I could go on for so long about all the collaborators' work...

Matt:  I wish we could!  But I do have to ask if you'd mind sharing a little bit about The Writers' Loft itself.

Heather:  The Writers' Loft is a supportive and professional community of writers learning together how to do all this writing stuff!  As you can see from our anthologies, our members are of amazing caliber.  We moved all our critique groups, classes, workshops, craft chats, and conferences online when the pandemic hit, and we're so proud we can support writers and illustrators beyond our normal reach of New England.  Our motto is:  Writing doesn't have to be a solitary pursuit.  And there is magic in that idea!  This anthology is a showcase of that magic.

Take a look at these fantastic spreads featuring poems by editors Kristen Wixted and Heather Kelly.

Avid readers will recognize many contributors to this anthology - Jane Yolen, Peter H. Reynolds, Josh Funk, Lynda Mullaly-Hunt, Kip Wilson, and many others.  Congratulations to all the creators who contributed to this anthology!  The book is now available for purchase through this link.

Thank you for stopping by Matt, Kristen, and Heather!  Looking forward to going under the sea with everyone!

1 comment: