Relearning the Past

Many years ago I studied Mandarin Chinese as part of my teaching degree. It was my first chance to learn a language, and I loved it – not just learning a language, but learning such a meticulous, neat and very beautiful language. For someone who was never neat at handwriting (still am not!) I was obsessive with tracing characters and learning stroke order – spent hours every day, which was reflected in my precise characters, and my grades. I loved it! Unfortunately, we started our specialisation with two years left of our degree – sufficient for most languages, but to pass the proficiency test required to teach Mandarin, you needed the third year of study. (Mandarin is a very tricky language, because of those characters , and too, voice intonation that affects meaning.)

I always planned to finish my language studies externally, but life was busy (I loved classroom teaching … then mothering … and writing) and sadly I never did finish that third year of language study. Worse! As the years passed, I forgot much of what I had learnt – and loved!

When I spied this poetry collection a number of years ago, I had to have it. 300 Gems of Classical Chinese Poetry. I am so glad it includes both characters and Pinyin – because I definitely need the Pinyin to help with pronunciation and inflection. I see characters and I know I should know them – but I don’t. (How can a brain forget so much!)

Today, I was just going to share a poem with you from the book. A little gem…

Farewell Town
Fan Yun (451 – 503)

East and west of the Farewell Town
People part, going up and down.
When I left, like flowers fell snow;
Now I come, like snow, flowers blow.

Post done!

But then I got a little carried away, and this happened…

It’s very short. And simple! (Simplicity is key – because I’m hoping it avoids grammatical errors.) But I did it. A poem. In Chinese. (You’re right – the rhyme got lost in translation. And I am quite okay with that!) I was reliant on online resources*. (I have since hunted up my much-loved Chinese-English dictionary!!) But maybe I can tease my brain into remembering more… And what better way than through poetry. So much to love about that!

Something else I love… During the recent ‘Celebrating Our Stories’ tour, I met up with a former Yr 2 student who I taught almost (🙊) 25 years ago. She recalled that one of her favourite things was the unit where I incorporated my Chinese studies into our classroom – teaching them how to talk about their family. And then and there, with no rehearsal, she started speaking the family phrases we had learnt … with perfect intonation.🤯 I was astounded that she had retained something so precise from all those years ago! My 💓…

我很高兴。
Wǒ hěn gāo xīng 。

*Resources I found helpful;
duckduckgo – Chinese English Dictionary
chineseconverter.com/en/convert/chinese-to-pinyin
thepurelanguage.com

Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect is hosting Poetry Friday this week, with a moving poem about grief.

Post Script: Oooops. I scheduled this post on Tuesday… and then I remembered some of you talking about DuoLingo last week (I’m looking at you Mary Lee, et al.) and thought I might check it out – see if it would help with relearning Chinese… And it does! (Translation: Kat fell down a very big hole! I may be starting to remember more than I realised… Chinese conversations are rolling through my head. Mandarin is still addictive!!💖)

What a Snail Knows – and What it Doesn’t!

Last week the Poetry Friday crew were sharing What the _______ Knows poems, thanks to a Poetry Peeps challenge – but because I’ve been erratic with my Poetry Friday posts, I was behind, and missed it. I loved the prompt – and felt a double connection to it, because my next younger reader verse (releasing March 2022) is called, ‘What Snail Knows’. (Readers of ‘Too Many Friends’ might remember Lucy, a very quiet little character from that book who had a pet snail… that looks like a snail… called Snail. Well – this is Lucy’s story. And Snail’s.)

The topic of my poem is therefore pretty obvious. The outcome of my first poem (the second one here) is not! (I broke form with one line – and then the title, too – because I’m pretty sure the average snail does NOT know this! Nor do I speak from experience on the matter – since I. Could. Not.)

What a Snail Knows

What does a snail know?
Don’t be like a garden worm.
Put your foot down, then stand firm!
Snails glide – but earthworms squirm.

What does a snail know?
Wonder sets your eyes on stalks,
so take the t-i-m-e to have a gawk.
Sssslowly ssssslide. Don’t run. Or walk.

      🌱        🐌_________

What a Snail Does NOT Know

What does a snail know?
The freshest seedlings taste sublime,
To munch a morsel is no crime –
unless they track your trail of slime!

What does a snail not know?
When simmered with a splash of lime,
or sautéed with a sprig of thyme,
it’s said that snails taste sublime!

© Kathryn Apel 2021 – All rights reserved.

Spoiler alert: Snail does not meet with thyme or lime in my verse novel!

In other news… I was recently interviewed for the Queensland Country Women’s Association (QCWA) seasonal magazine, ‘Ruth’. The Spring edition with the three-page article about my writing journey – especially in relation to ‘The Bird in the Herd’, is out now! I wasn’t familiar with the magazine – but having seen it, I’m impressed. It has lovely, thick paperstock and feels (and sounds) quite edible. Such a great variety of articles, too. Very real! Not a gossip magazine.

AND in a lovely snail-mail day… ‘Bully on the Bus’ went to reprint again, and I am actually quite chuffed about this – because I was looking at the imprint page, and there’s a lot to like about that!

Heidi has the Poetry Friday link-up this week – so make like a snail and slide across to my juicy little universe for some tasty morsels. (Or some stalky-gawks.)

Tetractys Stacks Up

Yesterday I commented to my husband that one of the poetry forms that brings me the most joy would have to be the tetractys. It’s just the right balance of challenge and choice. Form and freedom. Rhyme – or not. I often rue the fact that I don’t write enough just-for-fun-poetry these days, and I miss it. (!) The tetractys that prompted my comments wasn’t just for fun… but it was fun to write. And that’s when I realised that I was smiling – and breathing a little easier. And it’s always that way when I play with the tetractys. Those interlocking patterns unlock my jumble of things-to-do.

So – just for the joy of it, here is a tetractys that I did write just for fun, and just for friends. YOU!

stressed?
inhale
poetry;
you can count on 
fingers, toes and friends to keep you upbeat.💕

© Kathryn Apel 2021 - All rights reserved.

It’s appropriate that Elizabeth is hosting us at Unexpected Intersections this week. You’ll find more poetry goodness there – shared amongst friends.

Join us on 14th September, when Australia Reads. You can go anywhere, with a book! Books take you places. Where will you be when Australia Reads?

Book Trailer – The Bird in the Herd

A quick post for me this week. I’ll use my words in the comments as I do the rounds of Poetry Friday.

The Bird was to spread its wings at the Brisbane Ekka, starting this weekend – and this trailer was made in preparation for that. Alas, you know what I’m going to say… COVID and cancellations go hand-in-hand. I’m so disappointed for everyone who has poured so much work into Ekka prep. It was so close! BUT – I am very much in favour of the lockdowns that help to bring outbreaks under control again. And I’m thankful to everyone who follows directives.

I’m not sorry I had some motivation to make this trailer. Hoping it will give all those who are in lockdown a breath of country air and goodness.🐮 A hoot and a toot to you!🤠 (You’ll also find it on the relevant pages under the Books and the Kids’ Stuff tabs – if you’re ever looking for it in the future.)

Mary Lee is hosting us this week – with a beautiful villanelle inspired by a wonderful clunker line by Linda Mitchell. Do click across and read it! I know many teachers who it would resonate with. But it’s not just for teachers.

FriYay! Good News.

It’s Friday again. The wheel spins so fast! But it’s so good to be here with poetry friends again. Because that wheels spins so fast, I’m going to jump right in with a little story and some good news.

My Dad told me recently he had a confession to make; he was a bit embarrassed by ‘Up and Down on a Rainy Day’. Half the words are either ‘up’ or ‘down’. One could maybe even question the skill required to write that. It wasn’t a judgement. And I was quite okay with my dad’s confusion. (My parents are both hugely supportive of my writing!)

After recovering from my laughter, I explained that the book was written to support reading in the first five years of a child’s life. We worked hard to match text and art to that brief. (I’d spent long hours deliberating the other half the words in the text!) But I truly could understand his confusion and embarrassment. Because it IS a very simple text! And yet, in that simplicity, and pared with the adorable illustrations by Janet Turner, so much about life on the farm on a rainy day (Oh the joy!) has been conveyed.

SpeechPath01

Click on the pic to read the full shortlist.

I’ve joked and said I’m therefore rather chuffed by this shortlisting. Because now Dad can hold his head high again!!😹 But in truth, I’m rather chuffed, fullstop. And I’m so proud of the team that got our book onto this list; the @statelibraryqld, whose wonderful initiative has landed a number of titles on the shortlist. And my lovely illustrator, Janet Turner (so exciting for your first picture book!) and editor @kristybushnell, who has played a significant part in so many of books – and same too, the talented designer, Jo Hunt.💕 

And I’m very thankful for the judges and speech pathology professionals who have poured their time and knowledge into reading and compiling this shortlist. Thank-you, Speech Pathology Australia.

My mantra in teaching – in life –  has always been; ‘Do less best.’ I kind of like that it also applies to writing, too. Be economical and deliberate with your word choice. Make every word count! And that there is poetry and picture books, in a nutshell. 🙂

Hoping your Friday is YAY! I’m sure it will be if you join us on the Poetry Friday rounds – with links being gathered by the lovely Molly at Nix the Comfort Zone. Thanks, Molly! Next week, when the wheel whirls round, you’ll find the round-up here!😺

 

Terse Verse

Okay – so before I start today’s post, I have to say that this is my first day, squeezed into a block by WordPress! Gargh! I really did like my classic editor format, and I have I held out for as long as I can… but recently WordPress overrode my preferences, and we are now all in little boxes.😢 (I hope I can still manage to make my blog and posts LOOK like I’d like!)

Today, (which is Friday… Who knew?!?) I am joining the Poetry Friday rounds with some terse verse. Feel free to add your own in the comments. I think they’re a lot of fun – especially when…

Well, this was a surprise! (Big W Bundaberg)

How lovely that:
1) my son’s friend spotted it
2) his girlfriend modelled it, and
3) my son shared it!
You Look at the Calendar Expecting to See Thursday... But it Says FRIDAY...
Rhyme time. Sublime!

You've Missed Too Many Days and You're Determined to Join the Crew.
Hurry flurry.

You May Have Developed a Form for Times Such as This.
Yo! LaMiPo*. 

But Sometimes You Just Want to Stick to the Rules and Conform to a Form.
Coerce terse verse.

The Sun is Shining Over Green Grassy Paddocks and There's Water in the Dams.
New hue - true blue view.

Edits Come and Edits Go;
Begun. Done.

Sold out. New stock in store. And There are MORE! 
Look! Book nook. (Look! Look!)

The ToDo List is a Never-ever-ever Ending Story
Right! Write light. Write night.

You Know You're Going to Get a Feast of Friday Poets at Jama's.
Troop scoop soup. Whoop! Whoop!

Today’s round-up is hosted by Jama – where you will always find sustenance for the poetry rounds.)

Don’t forget to check out the Progressive Poem too, and see what our Case of Kindness has got up to!

* A short form of the LaMiPoFri. It was brought to my attention that there are last minutes (and poetry) on other days, too. Not just Friday. And I agree!

First post with the blocky-locks is now done.😅

Poetry Friday Muster!

Welcome to the Poetry Friday Muster. That’s the Australian term for the American cattle round-up, and it seems appropriate, since I’m sharing my droving book that was published this week.

Look! A herd of cows.

There’s a bird in the herd that stalks as it walks, eating slugs and the bugs that the herd stirred. What else can you see as you follow the cheeky bird?

Bright and playful, this rollicking rhyming picture book with gorgeous sun-soaked illustrations will have little ones hootin’ and a-tootin’!

The Bird in the Herd‘ is the book of patience.

1)  I wrote this story 19 years ago – and I blogged about this on release day. It didn’t actually change much during all that time – mostly tweaks to strengthen the rhyme. The title changed the most! Originally called ‘Muster Mayhem’, it was then called ‘No Cows’ for a number of years – before Linda Mitchell referred to it as ‘A Bird in the Herd’ in a blog comment last year … Funnily enough, about a month after that, my editor questioned ‘No Cows’, and suggested something like ‘A Bird in the Herd’. I cannot imagine why I didn’t think of it myself! But I’m so very grateful Linda and Clair did, because, with the slightest of tweaks, it’s perfect!

2)  I met my illustrator, Renée Treml, 9 years ago, and she has been an absolute treasure to work with!

(Renée had just 3 days from when she read the manuscript to when the illustration competition closed – but she did it! “That’s how much I loved the story❤️,” she says.)

3)  Whilst ‘The Bird in the Herd’ is technically my third published picture book (‘Up and Down on a Rainy Day’ snuck out during December last year) it was in fact one of my first manuscripts, (written more than three years before ‘This is the Mud!’) – and my second picture book acceptance. It was in progress for 5 years. With COVID and potential shipping delays, we sent it to the printers early, so it’s already been in our hot little hands for 5 months!

Patience is a virtue – but it sure does age a body!😂 The book was written for these two little cuties (OK – there are definitely three cuties in that pic!) but alas, those adorable little farm boys only ever had the unillustrated version. This saddens me – but then I remember that, over the years, whenever I read it aloud during a zillion drafts (as you do, because, rhyme) it would draw my youngest from the furtherest reaches of the house, subtly steadily moving closer and closer, until he was pressed up beside me, because the rhythm of the rhyme would catch him every time. This story is woven into the fabric of our family. And one day, these two men might be reading this book to their own children. With pictures!

My friend Kirsty made a comment on Insta about the perseverance and passion invested in this book. I think they’re the two defining traits of a writer! Kirsty’s comment inspired this poem for today. (You will note the grasshopper, above, who also features on every page of the book.)

Renée has two rather adorable graphic novels that are available in America – with very clever titles! Look out for ‘Sherlock Bones and the Natural History Mystery’ and its sequel, ‘Sherlock Bones and the Sea-Creature Feature’.

‘The Bird in the Herd’ is not yet published in America. I’m hoping it wings its way there so you can all see it for yourself. To say I love it is an understatement. It is glorious, from cover to cover. (Click to read some reactions.)

And now, over to you! What has your passion and perseverance produced this week? (Hands up if you’re sneaking in with a lamipofri.😹)

* This post was edited to include the book blurb. 

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

 

Lamipofri: Named and Framed

Today I’m sharing a new form of poetry with you. It’s called a lamipofri. 

 

Framed:

heads alert
eyes watchful
they scent the moment,
hold pause –

then resume;

munching,
mooching,
……..mowing;

distant cattle
and a window into
my morning view.

Very rough draft © Kathryn Apel – all rights reserved.

 

By this point you are probably wondering; What is a lamipofri? It’s a poetry snapshot that’s quickly scribed, to give people an insight into the world around you at a given point in time – that point being the last minute as you’re scrambling for a Poetry Friday poem to post! Hence the name: LAst MInute of a POetry FRIday! The trick with the lamipofri is to pause, take a moment to look around and share that moment with others. But don’t take too long, or the moment will pass!

Next week, I’m hosting Poetry Friday right here! (You have no idea how many times I’ve scared myself, thinking the date has passed me by and I’ve missed it!) There will be no lamipofri next week! The really exciting news is that, between now and next Friday, I have a new picture book launching into the world, published by UQP, with vibrant, joyful illustrations by Renée Treml, and I am sooo looking forward to sharing more about that with you. For today, here is the cover, artwork by Renee and design by Jo Hunt.

Isn’t it glorious? Reason to smile, right there!

Almost 19 years after the first draft was penned, I will be as happy as a calf in rain, to share this with the world! (There is no rain in this book – but there is a calf, with a whole lot of sentiment attached!)

Thank-you to Karen at Karen Edmisten* for hosting us today. If anyone else is ever inspired to write a lamipofri, tag me in. (You’re not too late for today.😉)

Introducing Janet Turner

Jan is hosting the Poetry Friday roundup today at Bookseedstudio with the optional theme: Sing!  Does it work that I am singing Janet Turner’s praises? (I’m pretty sure you all know I’d also like to be signing in the rain…💦🙃) Janet Turner is the illustrator of ‘Up and Down on a Rainy Day’, published by the State Library of Queensland. I thought it would be fun to get to know a bit more about Janet, and her work.

Welcome to the blog, Janet. It’s been fabulous sharing the creation and launch of our picture book – your first book! I remember the arrival of my first book. It involved screaming. Lots of it. Can you give us a sneak peek into Janet Turner’s new book moment?

Well, mine is on record, so a little more reserved!! I first saw the finished book while doing an interview. (You can see the interview here.) It was so wonderful to see it full size and in print rather than through an iPad screen! My favourite part was sharing with my loved ones. I didn’t tell my partner Brandon that I’d dedicated the book to him, so it was very special seeing his reaction to that and the book as he’d seen the whole process.

You’ve worked on some other exciting projects prior to ‘Up and Down on a Rainy Day’. Can you tell us about some of them?

I sure have worked on some amazing projects! My favourite would have been while I was still studying at uni having the opportunity to create the visual identity for the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games Village. This included designing the logo and additional icons that were used for signage, information materials and merchandise across the village! The design took inspiration from the natural beauty of the Gold Coast (and Queensland). Thongs on the beach, a pandanus for rainforest, an Akubra hat for the outback, snorkel and flippers for the reef, a surfboard for the ocean and a sunset.

What was your medium/process illustrating this book?

I create my work digitally using an iPad. The process began by sketching out our main characters (including my favourite – the excitable pup). Once we settled on those, I worked to create small thumbnail sketches to map out the story, then turned them into final sketches. The fun bit came next… adding all the colour and really bringing the story to life!! A lot of inspiration came from my own childhood, growing up on the farm, and some gorgeous photographs from Kat’s farm! Kat and I both had Jack Russells in our lives, Jonty and Buddy, so the pup in the book was a tribute to them.

Have you spent much time on a Queensland farm? Can you share your favourite farming memory?

I haven’t spent much time on a Queensland farm, but I did grow up on a farm just outside of Inverell, inland northern NSW. I have so many fond memories of the farm, most of them spending time with dad feeding stock, fixing leaky dams or hunkering down in the wool while he sheared the sheep. I did love raising poddy lambs though, so that’s probably one of my favourites, especially when they remember you once they are back in the paddock.

What is your favourite thing to do on a rainy day?

Depends on the day… When it’s a cold rainy day, there’s nothing better than curling up in a blanket with a hot chocolate. I’ll most likely be illustrating away! If it’s a summer storm, I love nothing more than watching nature’s light show! I have a particularly good spot to watch them back on the farm on the veranda.

What is your favourite spread in the book – and why is it special to you? 

Argh, they are all so wonderful. I do love the family, dripping wet and muddy, coming home after a long day of fun on the farm. There’s just something special about seeing the family together like that. Honorary mention in the dam spread. There’s so much fun and it always makes me chuckle.

What is one thing you remember from Janet Turner’s first five years?

I’ve always been creative (even at a young age) and there was this one time I may have gone just a little bit overboard. I would have been 3 or 4 and found myself some blue paint. Not only did this paint end up all over me but also our front verandah. Needless to say, my parents weren’t too impressed! I sure had fun though.

Where can we find you online?
You can check out my Instagram @justjanet_creative or visit my website janetturnerdesign.myportfolio.com

Thank-you so much for sharing, Janet – and especially for those adorable photos! It was a lot of fun working on this book with you, and I look forward to seeing what you create next! (I’ve heard that blue verandah’s are making a come back! 😹)

If readers are looking for activities to go with ‘Up and Down on a Rainy Day’, don’t forget to check out the Rainy Day Stuff on my blog, where you’ll find finger puppet templates, a colouring page of the adorable Jack Russell dog Janet mentioned, and much, much more!

Poetry Swap – Thanks Robyn!

Thanks to Tabatha Yeatts‘ Seasonal Poetry Swap, this week I received a parcel in my letterbox from the lovely Robyn Hood Black. What a treat of poetry and gifts it was.

I loved Robyn’s poem, with the clever See Saw title. (It reminds me of a PB that released in Australia last year, ‘I See, I See‘ by Robert Henderson. Definitely worth clicking the link to see it! (I wouldn’t usually link to Amazon – but it has a sample of the inner pages.)) I soon saw that Robyn and I had thought alike when we approached our Poetry Swap this year. I think Margaret Simon is posting my poem to her today – so click across to her blog to see what I mean. (If you visited early, you’ll have blinked and missed it  but it’s there now.😹) AND find the round up for this week’s great Poetry Friday posts! (Thanks for hosting, Margaret!)

But first, enjoy this See Saw, up and down, north and south poem, with Robyn. (And me!🙃)

See Saw

by Robyn Hood Black.
(Shared with permission.)

Winter?

Summer.

Peanut Butter?

Vegemite.

Fiddle?

Didgeridoo.

White-tailed Deer?

Red Kangaroo.

Buddy?

Mate.

Poetry?

Poetry!

 

We speak the same language, Robyn!

I was also delighted by the goodies that Robyn gifted me. After last week’s post, you’re probably not surprised that the Issa translation that resonates best with me is;

first winter rain
the world fills up
with haiku

And I adore the cat bookmark that Robyn found. Complete with cat AND mouse! (And even three fishes.) Savvy Cat took his modelling commission very seriously.

fish and mice
hooked by the
purrrrfect book

Thank-you Robyn. Your poetry parcel was a joy!