Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Author Perspective/A Visit with Lucine Kasbarian & The Greedy Sparrow

Thank you so much for asking me to submit an item to you for your blog in honor of the publication of my latest book, The Greedy Sparrow: An Armenian Tale (Marshall Cavendish, April 2011). I enjoy reading your blog a great deal and think you're providing a wonderful haven for readers and writers alike.
This folk tale has been handed down orally through the generations of my family and has also existed in the greater Armenian oral tradition for centuries. It has been gratifying to put this time-honored story to paper for posterity. I’m also very pleased that the book is releasing in April, which among other things, is genocide memorial month. For me (and many others), this symbolic release date signifies that in spite of genocide, a culture survives. 
I trust that I'll not be touching upon a hackneyed subject by sharing a few thoughts with you and your readers regarding prompts for beating writer’s block and procrastination. It’s an issue that plagues me from time to time, and so I’ve compiled five ways to meet it head-on. I hope that at least one tip is new and useful to you and yours!
1) Most often, my writing blocks occur because I have to confront something and don’t realize it yet. Is there something about the project or assignment that’s bothering you? Is there an inconsistency about the plot or character? Is the deadline you’ve set for yourself unrealistic? Once you "name it and claim it," you can resolve it.
2) Once too often, with a whole day ahead of me, I’ve sat at the computer and started out well, only to take a breather and launch the Internet -- which often results in letting precious hours slip by.  A timer, in my opinion, is the best way to make use of what would have otherwise been unstructured writing time. When I have a large parcel of time or am feeling reluctant to write, I set our kitchen timer for 15 minutes and write until the bell rings. If those 15 minutes successfully put me into the groove, I continue writing. If not, I hopefully got in a good 15 minutes of creative work. Either way, the timer can spur writing discipline.
3) One of my most effective tools has been to write down random word groupings that please the ear or palate. I also jot down aphorisms, fragmented thoughts, interesting episodes I’ve witnessed, dreams, and real conversations shared or overheard. These can and will come in handy in future writings. So that ideas don’t escape documentation, consider outfitting each room of the house (including the bathroom) with notepads. When you feel blocked, re-read what you've written on these notepads to conjure up ideas.
4) I read as much as I can by authors I admire. Sometimes I’m moved by the cadence of their word groupings, or the sensitivity with which a topic is addressed, or the flow of the narrative. The point is not so much to emulate other authors, but to be inspired by them. Many times I’ve read something so wonderful, it has conjured up a memory or emotion that has put me to work on a writing project almost immediately.
5) My most effective prompt for writing is to pretend I’m writing a letter to a close, trusted confidant. The language I use is nearly always more descriptive and intimate, and the product need not be sent (but sometimes is)!
Kindest regards,

Lucine Kasbarian, author
The Greedy Sparrow: An Armenian Tale (Marshall Cavendish, 2011)
The Armenian-Americans (Cobblestone magazine/ Carus Publishing, 2000)
Armenia: A Rugged Land, an Enduring People (Dillon Press/ Simon & Schuster, 1998)

Blurb about newest book:
The Greedy Sparrow: An Armenian Tale is from the ancient Armenian oral tradition and culture, which was nearly obliterated during the Turkish genocide of the Armenians, Assyrians and Greeks in 1915. The author learned the tale from her father, editor and columnist C.K. Garabed, who would recite it to her at bedtime. He had learned it from his own grandmother, a celebrated storyteller from the Old Country. The tale was first put to paper by Armenian poet Hovhannes Toumanian at the turn of the 20th  century.  The Greedy Sparrow is the first time this tale has been presented in the English language as a children’s picture book. The story begins in old Armenia with a sparrow who catches a thorn in his foot. As he asks for help, he sets off an intriguing cycle of action that transports him through the Armenian countryside, encountering people engaged in traditional folkways. The Greedy Sparrow ends with a surprising twist and conveys moral messages about greed, selfishness and using one’s judgment. To address the ethical and human components of the tale, a discussion and activity guide has been prepared and can be accessed here: 

Friday, April 1, 2011

Writing Tip / Celebrate Poetry Month with Leslie Bulion

Four Poetry Writing Tips from Leslie Bulion

1.       Read reams of poems. Learn which ones move your heart, tickle your funny bone, or sing in your ear. Do you like rhyme? Meter? Certain rhythms? Free verse? Shape poems? Your most successful poems will be those you’d love to read.
2.       If you’re working with a known form of poetry, learn the rules (see Tip #1). Be strict with yourself as you practice working within the rules. Once you fully understand how that particular poetry form works, you’ll know how to bend the rules (whee!) without compromising the integrity of the poem. For example, check out this great description of my favorite form, the double dactyl: then try one yourself—they’re addictive, tricksy fun! How to be sure your six-syllable double dactylic word in line 6 has never been used in another double dactyl? (See Tip #3.)
3.       Make up words! If you’re writing funny poetry, have at it—play with your language. How often have you read a clever article or poem where the author’s invention of a word adds juice, humor and new meaning to the writing? I might have had my fill of ice storms,  but I thoroughly enjoyed all of the “snowcabulary” invented in honor of the winter of 2011. Of course, there is a caveat to making up words and it is this: every single reader has to be able to infer exactly what your word means on first read.
4.       Read your poem out loud at least a million times. How does it sound? Do you trip over your tongue? Do you have to hurry to fit a word into your established meter? Does your free verse pause and flow at the places you want it to? Do your rhymes rhyme? Now give your poem to a million friends and ask them to read it out loud. Did each friend put the emPHAasis on the  right syLLAbles? If the answer is yes, then BRAVO! Your poem is done!
 ABOUT AT THE SEA FLOOR CAFE Odd Ocean Critter Poems:

This clever collection of poems describes the devious and sometimes surprising methods ocean denizens use to forage for food, capture prey, trick predators, and protect their young. The poems swim effortlessly from page to page, leading us from the snail shell home of the jeweled anemone crab on the ocean floor to a violet snail hanging upside down in its bubble house on the sea’s surface. At the Sea Floor Cafe includes science notes with details about each animal's behavior, a glossary, and an appendix explaining the forms of poetry that appear on each spread. Striking linoleum prints round out this title, which can be used across the curriculum.


Leslie Bulion teams a life-long love of poetry and her oceanography background in At the Sea Floor Café (Peachtree 2011), her second collection of science poetry. The first, Hey There, Stink Bug! (Charlesbridge 2006), is an award-winning book of gruesomely humorous insect poems. Leslie’s other books include the Bank Street Best Books 2007 middle-grade novel Uncharted Waters (Peachtree 2006), The Trouble With Rules (Peachtree 2008), and the Children’s Africana Book Award Best Picture Book winner, Fatuma’s New Cloth (Moon Mountain 2002). A former school social worker, Leslie has written and edited books in the education market and has been a regular contributing writer in national magazines and on the Internet. She gives writing workshops and presentations to students, educators and writers throughout the US. Visit Leslie’s website at
At the Sea Floor Café
ISBN: 978-1-56145-565-2
Total Pages: 48
Author: Leslie Bulion
Illustrator: Leslie Evans
Peachtree Publishers
April 1, 2011

In honor of National Poetry Month, Peachtree Publishers is inviting educators to post students' poetry on their facebook page. At the end of the month, Peachtree will hold a drawing. One winner will receive a skype visit with me, and five others will win a copy of AT THE SEA FLOOR CAFE.
Here's a link to the contest rules: