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George Ella Lyon, Writer and Teacher; For All Our Voices
Issue No. 14 October 2014
George Ella in the mountain house

Greetings from my octagonal house in the mountains of North Carolina! I'm here for eight weeks as writer-in-residence at Appalachian State University where I live near the corner of Goforth and Wonderland.

This strikes me as a happy imperative: Go forth into the wonderland of possibilities: new students, new friends, new trails to hike, new words! (I don't yearn for an Alice-experience, however, so I am avoiding rabbit holes and trying to stay on this side of the looking glass.) It's an exciting time for me book-wise, too.

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Voices from the March on Washington, 1963


Voices from the March on Washington, co-written with J. Patrick Lewis (Boyds Mill Press), edited by Rebecca Davis, will be out on October 1st. This collection of poems that recreate the day in real and imagined voices has received two starred reviews and been featured on Sylvia Vardell's Poetry for Children blog in a post that focuses on Poetry and Social Justice. It's a rich and extensive resource for teachers is excerpted from an article that will appear in October's Booklinks.

In this 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer, the murder of a young unarmed black man by a Ferguson, Missouri, police officer stands for many events that illustrate how racism still flourishes in this country.

Picture Books:

What Forest Knows

What Forest Knows, illustrated by August Hall, will be out from Atheneum November 1st. As always, editor Richard Jackson had the vision to find the perfect illustrator for this look at a year in the life of the forest and those whose lives depend on it, including us. August Hall has captured the oldest, deepest magic: how everything in the natural world fits together. "Forest knows how everything belongs./ You too."

The art for Boats Float!, co-written with my son Benn Lyon, is almost complete, and Mick Wiggins (Planes Fly!) has brought it to life with illustrations at once dramatic and playful. It will be out from Atheneum next fall.

QUOTATIONS recently copied into my journal

"That's how we find our way outward and onward. By holding onto beauty hardest. By cradling it like the cure that it is. By making it realer than anything ever was. The rest is just monsters and ghosts."

—Cheryl Strayed, Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar

"This, I believe, is the work of stories, bookmaking, art. It is the work that we are all—writers, illustrators, librarians, publishers, editors, agents, booksellers—engaged in. We have been given the sacred task of making hearts large through story. We are working to make hearts that are capable of containing much joy and much sorrow, hearts capacious enough to contain the complexities and mysteries and contradictions of ourselves and of each other."

"We are working to make hearts that know how to love this world.

"—Kate DiCamillo, Newbery acceptance for Flora & Ulysses, 2014, The Horn Book, July/August 2014.

I believe this is the work of teachers, too.



        Please slow down and coordinate yourselves so that you get all the letters in all my words. In other words, don't write jornal when I mean journal, or thanful when you know as well as I do that that is not a word in our language. I realize you're in a hurry, but haste makes wste. What are you racing against? What do you win if our message is illegible? Stop. Watch. Trace these letters with respect. Stroke every hill and valley, ride each wave. How else will we know the landscape of our feeling? How else catch the call of our heart?

Go Forth and Wonderland Streets

Is there something you need to say to your body? A request? A question? An apology? Consider exploring this on the page. Maybe one part of your body wants to write to another. My heart has written to my brain--that old know-it-all--on occasion. Since we generally write letters in paragraphs, I suggest trying it as a prose poem. You can always recast it with line breaks if that's what it seems to want.

Whatever your work, may you go forth in wonder and land at home in the world.

Happy Autumn! Happy writing!

George Ella Lyon

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