Give the gift of vulnerability this holiday.

FirstParishParadeHappy Holidays!! No matter what you celebrate this time of year, or even if you celebrate nothing at all, the month of December is stressful. My upcoming picture book celebrates a wide variety of traditions, but personally, I’m Christian, so my house is getting ready for Christmas. The religious season is Advent so we have a wreath and an Advent calendar, but it’s hard to get away from the pervasiveness of 24 hour Christmas music, decorations, etc. And to be honest, I don’t mind (so long as they wait until after Thanskgiving). I love the joy and excitement of this time of year– it’s worth the stress that comes with it.

One of my favorite traditions is my town’s annual “Festival 20181201_170636of Lights” parade. My older son has been marching in it for the past 7 years, first as a cub scout and now as a boy scout. My husband, younger son, and I find a spot on the route to watch, usually in front of town hall where we’re close to the cider and the bathrooms in the Congregational church next door.  My love for this small town tradition led me to write this song, “Small Town Christmas.” I’ve written songs for years but outside of the church setting (many are hymns), I don’t share them much.  Even though I have years of choral experience, I love to sing, and I don’t get nervous in front of people, I’m sometimes self-conscious about the sound of my voice as a soloist. And recordings are so hard to get right, there’s always going to be something in there that makes me cringe.

So, my gift to you readers this year is the permission to be vulnerable. Put yourself out there even if you know you are going to make some mistakes. Make a craft for someone even if every stitch isn’t even.  Bring that homemade pie to the party even if the crust is a little too brown.  Put a hand-written note in your Christmas card even if your handwriting is awful. Letting yourself be imperfect is not a sign of laziness, but of bravery.

As for me, I’m going to share this song with you 20181201_163743— there are a few spots I wish I had the post-production talent to fix, but it’s from the heart, right?  The poem itself is below, and the YouTube video is embedded below it.

Enjoy, and Happy Holidays!

Small Town Christmas – A Maine Carol

Each year I turn on the Macy’s parade,
Rockettes and floats and balloons.
You might think I’d like to visit someday.
Not likely anytime soon!


I want a small town Christmas20181201_170217
with some greens on the door
‘Cause when I was a kid,
That’s what everyone did,
And I just couldn’t ask for more.

I’ll take our Festival any old year,
Lighting the trees in the park,
Half of the village lines sidewalks to cheer
Watching the other half march.

Park at the library, walk to the square,
Speakers blare “Jingle Bell Rock.”
Burst out in singing and no one will care,
They might join in round the block.


Fire trucks, boy scouts, the school marching band,20181201_170048
Cider in front of town hall.
Little kids waving with wool-mittened hands,
Perched on the mossy stone wall.

Folks you find rude at the little league game,
At the parade are just fine.
Maybe tomorrow it’s back to the same,
Wish we could all stay this kind.


December 4, 2018

The Art and Poetry Project

KIMG0939Sometimes the answer is just under your nose, isn’t it? Today, instead of my usual picture book reviews, I’m going to write about another one of my language joys: poetry. I was a poet long before I started writing picture books. Ironically, my mom was taking a course in Children’s Literature (to get re-certified for teaching) when I wrote my first real poem (“Alice and I go fly cross the sky…”)  when I was 7 or so and I’ve been interested in poetry ever since.

A couple years ago I made contact with P at my public library who runs poetry readings, etc. and had posted about a project she was starting connecting poetry and art. As is the case with most creative projects, it was amorphous at first: maybe we would find artists and each create something with the same prompt, maybe we would find artists and create poetry based on their works, maybe some combination…who knows? The goal was ultimately to have an exhibition pairing the art and poetry. For two years, I’ve been visiting museums and practicing writing using art as my inspiration. We’ve held meetings to hone our craft and share our ideas. I’ve written a lot, but even after making contacts with a few artists, I haven’t had luck hitting on the right partnership.

Then last month one of my sons had a piece of art in a local gallery as part of their youth exhibit.  My friend P saw the exhibit too and said I should write something based on Robbie’s work (titled “Behind the Cat”).  By the time I finished working on my cat poem, I realized the answer had been there all along.  The result:  next summer I’ll be presenting an exhibition of poetry based on the artwork of my children. The artwork in the photo at the top of this post represents two of the works I will include: “Circles and Patterns,” and “A Happy Accident” It’s perfect — tying together art, poetry, writing for kids and…my children themselves. I have a long way to go to get the art and the poems both ready but now I have a goal. And that’s pretty exciting.

So the moral of this writing story is a quote from the 1939 film “The Wizard of Oz”: “If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard; because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with.”

More picture book reviews later this week: it’s summer vacation, after all.