Open sesame: At the intersection of faith and hope…

20191231_145437-1Hello Blog readers!

Happy New Year!!  As I look ahead to what 2020 will bring,  I am more and more excited for the arrival of my picture book, The Great Holiday Cookie Fight, which will be published on October 15 of this year.

Of course, New Year’s Day is also the final day of Kwanzaa, which runs from Dec. 26th to January 1st.  The holiday was invented in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga as a way to honor African-American culture, but also to celebrate family and community. Each of the seven days represents a different principle: unity, self-determination, collective work & responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith. That means New Year’s Day is not only a worldwide celebration of new beginnings, but also a day, as Karenga wrote, “To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.”

Now I am white and would not presume to fully understand the struggles of people of color in America, but I like to think we can all be more sensitive at this time of year and that includes learning a little about the myriad of celebrations which unite us more than they divide us.* We can all use a little more faith and belief in our parents, teachers and leaders: a little more hope for the year to come.

My trusty Kitchen-Aid mixer, “Beauty,” whipping up a batch of benne wafers.

With that in mind, I have chosen to bake benne wafers this year in celebration of the intersection of Kwanzaa’s day of faith and of New Year’s Day.  Benne is the Bantu word for sesame, which symbolizes good luck in many cultures and is a symbol of immortality for the Brahmins– perfect for New Year’s.  Benne wafers themselves are African in origin and particularly popular in Charleston, South Carolina, where I lived for four years while teaching at the College of Charleston. The cookies are nutty, buttery, and not too sweet, a lovely antidote to the overindulging you may have done in the past week.



You can find recipes for benne wafers online, or just wait for the extra special recipe in my book, coming this year! May you move into 2020 with hope and faith in a beautiful future for the year to come!  Harambee!

A warm batch of benne wafers ready to bring to a New Year’s Brunch tomorrow!
*To paraphrase Akilah Bolden-Monifa in his article “Can White People Celebrate Kwanzaa And Other Questions You Were Too Afraid To Ask,” white people CAN celebrate Kwanzaa because American culture is becoming more multi-racial and diverse. He goes on to write, “When invited, I go to cultural and religious celebrations that are not part of my cultural or religious heritage. I participate in a way that is comfortable for my host and for me. It would be arrogant of me, a non-Jew, to dominate a Seder or Hanukkah celebration, for example. People who are not of African descent should approach Kwanzaa with the same attitude.  A proverb often quoted during Kwanzaa reads: “I am because we are; because we are, I am.” Harambee! (Let’s pull together!)

“Beyond Scribbles”: Writing on Walls

20190913_185917October is here! This weekend I took down my second gallery show ever — a culmination of work on the “Art & Poetry Project” — a writing critique group which was originally founded to pair writers and artists but which has evolved over the years as each poet’s interpretation of that theme. My first show, “Family Album,” in fall of 2017, was a show of 12 poems which sought to capture the lives of family members as represented by vintage photos. It was very meaningful to me, as it let me put a dozen family photos together of my Aunt Helyn, my Uncle Larry, my Grammy Dot, etc., but I was surprised that my stories seemed to strike a chord with the community as well and help them to treasure their own family stories.

20190807_144313When time came for a new show, (yes, I was amazingly invited back!) I decided to look to a different family inspiration– the art of my children.  If you’re a parent, you’ve probably experienced the deluge of kid art: it comes home in piles, you love it, but do you really need to keep every scrap, doodle, and scribble?  A good friend shared her solution of taking photos of everything before you get rid of it, and I do that with some, but some is just too good to toss.  Not only that, looking at their creations presented me with a lingering philosophical question on the nature of art. For me, a big part of art is what we love and value. (Would you rather own a portrait of you drawn with love by your child than the Mona Lisa? I would!) Art can answer questions– or raise them.  Art can represent — or deconstruct. Art can be skilled — or just attempted. Furthermore, I’ve always wondered just what makes art valuable or “important” enough to be in a museum.  Is a canvas painted completely in red with one blue dot a masterpiece? Couldn’t anyone have done it?

Anyway…With that in mind, “Beyond Scribbles” became my new show — 14 works from both of my children paired with my poetry.  Most of the poems were written with close inspiration from the art themselves, a few simply caught my eye and made me realize “Hey, I wrote a poem about that already!” Slowly, a collection of poems and art began to take shape, even more so as I framed the pieces I had collected and realized they suddenly looked like “real art.”

The show is down now, but some will be back up for an “encore” to accompany a public reading at 6:30 on Nov. 2nd in the York Public Library, where I will share the stage with the other three poets who also had shows this fall. If you’re in the area, I hope you’ll come. In the meantime, I will leave you with two of my favorites from the show:  “Bigfoot” (art by my son Robbie) and “Egg Beach” (art by my son Maxwell). Enjoy!


BIGFOOT (Inspired by art from Robbie Kyer)

Saw a bigfoot on the way to work,
Taking a shortcut through the woods.
Thought of pulling out my phone,
Posting pictures– going viral.
I don’t need the hassle, nor does he.
Figured he’d be grateful
For his privacy,
Or hers, I guess.
It’s not my place to judge.
Nodded once, the way you do.
Got a nod back with the slightest smirk,
As if to say:
Man, Mondays, am I right?

Copyright July 30, 2019


EGG BEACH (Inspired by art from Maxwell Kyer)

It’s easy to write of depression,
You’ll find it wherever you look:
There’s bombings and wanton aggression,
More pain than could fill up a book.

The news tells of terror and dying,
The darkness can weigh like a curse.
Some days getting up is too trying,
And trying to care makes it worse.

The folks you thought friends now despise you,
The world doesn’t work like it should.
What good will your sorrowful cries do,
When even the “good guys” aren’t good?

But even with too much to handle,
It’s never ok to give in.
It only takes one single candle,
To push back the darkness within.

Oh sure, that’s a lame proposition.
It’s greeting card fodder, cliché.
Just how can it help your condition?
It’s like saying “Have a nice day!”

If that’s true, then never buy ice cream,
Or watch foxes play in the wild.
Don’t pet kittens sleeping in sunbeams,
Or ponder the art of a child.

But my form of immunization,
Against all that threatens my joy
Are lobsters and “Egg Beach” vacations
As seen through the eyes of a boy.

Copyright MK, July 10, 2016

End of Summer Book Reviews

reviewssept2019It’s Labor Day Weekend which if you’re a teacher is a little like the long Sunday night before the start of a school week.  It’s that last minute chance to reflect on the summer and deal with the flash of panic about what is still not done. While I did get a lot done this summer, there are so many things I wished I’d accomplished– so many books I wish I’d had the time to read! To that end, the books I chose today are those I’ve been “meaning to get to” or just can’t let slip away before I get overwhelmed with school (which actually started last week).

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Shelf Awareness: Getting to know the neighbors

pbreviewsaug2019NEWS!!!  Loyal readers know that I’m over the moon about the upcoming publication of my first picture book, THE GREAT HOLIDAY COOKIE FIGHT. The biggest news is that I finally have a PUBLICATION DATE!!  Mark your calendars for the big book birthday on October 15, 2020! Yes, it’s over a year away, but I’m sure it will fly by!

In honor of my “due date,” I decided to make a trip to my local big box bookstore and check out just where that book is going to live. In other words, where does “Kyer” fall in the bookshelf? Who will my fellow K and L authors be? Today’s book reviews are all picture books which would be found directly before or directly after my book on the shelf. And they’re all lovely neighbors! Enjoy!

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#WeNeedDiverseBooks: Picture Book Reviews, brave and fierce

1julyreviewsMy goal is to put out one batch of five picture reviews per month, spending the rest of my writing time on, well, actual writing (and sending out queries to agents and publishers). But when my son told me this morning “Mama, we should go to the bookstore so you can read more books!” how could I resist? My first goal with today’s batch was to choose only books which were NOT faced outward in the store, and I failed that by one, but that’s only because I couldn’t resist a book which, like my upcoming picture book, THE GREAT HOLIDAY COOKIE FIGHT, combines a story with a recipe. All five books are tied together by stories of diversity, acceptance and bravery of one kind or another, and in that way, it’s unfortunate they were not all “face out.”

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Hooray for Anthropomorphism: May Picture Book Reviews

bookreviewsmay2019Wow, I had a hard time narrowing it down to five picture books for this month’s reviews– there were so many on the shelves that looked amazing– I’m going to try hard to get back in less than a month for my next reviews, because there are a LOT of great books out there! The title of today’s post is a nod to the fact that each of today’s books stars (ha! you’ll get it later!) non human characters with human emotions– from a star who is sad (see?) to some pieces of chalk on a mission, to forest animals on vacation– definitely some fun and fantasy!

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Back at it: Picture Book Reviews

20190428_151319It’s tough to have a day job, be a mom AND write– don’t let anyone tell you it isn’t. It can be done, but there will always be times one of the balls in the air falls to the ground and you stumble around for a while until you get them back in the air again.

Since getting my picture book contract, I’ve been busy with a lot of writing-related tasks, but I’ve also been teaching full-time and balancing family tasks like parent-teacher conferences, choir practice, and getting estimates on our house renovation. You know, the usual.

But through it all, my mind is still filled with story ideas, snippets of poetry, insatiable curiosity about works I see on Twitter, etc. So, let’s get back at it and review some picture books, shall we?

20190428_151132This time the crop is inspired by a display in my local Barnes & Noble showing off 50 books your child should read before the age of 5. Many of them are books I read as a child, many more are books I’ve already reviewed (and loved), but were are a bunch I hadn’t read yet, so let’s go!

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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

“Big News”: The post everyone wants to write

SigningContract2018There are a lot of milestones you might dream about in life — getting your first job, getting engaged, having a child, etc. For a writer, one of the biggest milestones of all is getting your first book contract.

After submitting manuscripts to agents and editors for over ten years (part-time…I do have a full time day job as a teacher and a parent to two kids after all!), I’m thrilled to announce that my debut picture book, THE GREAT HOLIDAY COOKIE FIGHT, will be published by Pelican Publishing Company.  I don’t have a release date yet, but since it’s a book for the winter, a friend recently asked if it would be out in time for her Christmas shopping this year!  If you know anything about the publishing industry, you’ll join me in a big laugh about THAT one!  Long story short…I’ll let you know!

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