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The Wonder of Highlights

The wonder and magic of Highlights Magazine has always held a special place in the hearts of children far and wide. As a kid experiencing a turbulent adoption, Highlights Magazine was used as a tool to help make sense of the world and find comfort and joy in expressing my feelings. It truly was as the motto declared, “Fun with Purpose.” I loved flipping thru the pages of each subscription and discovering wonderful new challenges along with reading the engaging stories cover to cover.

What awe I experienced learning how icebergs stayed frozen, or recognizing that Goofus didn’t make the best choices but Gallant knew exactly what to do.  The short stories allowed me an escape that took me on adventures down white water rapids, or scaling Mount St. Helens. The brain challenges were the best as I helped cartoon drawings travel through a labyrinth or quiz myself in twenty questions.  And of course no kid could resist uncovering every object within each Hidden Picture.    Each image, word, story, and poem seemed specifically chosen to help me develop a passion for learning, foster a love for reading, and embrace writing as a lifelong pursuit.

Fast forward some thirty odd years and that pursuit is still as prevalent as when I could be found sitting in the doctor’s office waiting room chair, swinging my feet too short to reach the floor, and reading a Highlights Magazine. What a great surprise it was for me to discover on Twitter that Highlights Foundation, parent company of Highlights Magazine offered Writer’s Workshops and Retreats under a variety of topics. I immediately applied for a scholarship submitting fifty pages of a completed middle grade novel full of football, friendship, and a mystery surrounding espionage and homeland security.  The Revision Retreat was being offered by top children’s book editors and although it was full, I was ecstatic when I was informed that I was awarded the scholarship and could attend.

The Retreat was AMAZING! It nourished my mind, spirit, and body. Tucked in the glorious Pocono mountains and 1300 acres of forest and creeks, I was sure to grow as a writer.  I had the pleasure of staying in both the Founders Farm house and lodge which were lovely.  Writers could also stay in one of the 21 cabins nestled together near the Barn at Boyds Mills. Farm market fresh meals were prepared every couple of hours along with local cheeses and wines which were all inclusive. But even more than the accommodations which showcased superior customer service, the writing workshops provided effective tools, resources, and writing support, including individualized feedback on submitted works.

Topics presented included:

  • Pacing and Progression
  • Character Motivation
  • Critique/Beta Readers
  • Line-editing
  • Structure

&

  • Plot Development

I had the pleasure to meet with the editors of Highlights Magazine, and Boyds Mills Press while touring their facilities. Cherie Matthews, Assistant Editor of Book Publishing loaded me with a ton of ARCS along with directional advice regarding my writing career.  All were exceptional presentations and as valuable as my English/Literature degree. The skills I gained will help me move my books from draft to publishing ready. And learning from publishing industry experts gave me the confidence to keep pursuing my goal for publication.

Writing is considered a solitary profession, however being among like-minded individuals who demonstrate a passion and commitment to producing quality children’s literature ignited a new commitment to persevere in the daunting publishing industry. I am excited about preparing each new writing for publication using the magic and wonder of Highlights as my muse.

“Each golden sunrise ushers in new opportunities for those who retain faith in themselves, and keep their chins up… Meet the sunrise with confidence.  Fill every golden minute with right thinking and worthwhile endeavors.  Do this and there will be joy for you in each golden sunset.”  

                                                                                                                                 Alonzo Newton Benn

I’m grateful to the Highlights Scholarship committee for allowing me to attend their Writer’s Workshop: Revision Retreat 2016, and can’t wait to announce my publication and book release dates.

I saw him in mine: To Trayvon’s Momma: Remembrance & Prayers

I saw him in mine

Long and lean, just beginning to fill out

Proud of his lite, oh so lite ‘stache

nothing could beat his budding pecs, molehill sized triceps

Most definitely not his shawdow’d six pack

That’s what he thinks, that’s what he knows

He brags on them often

Flexing, prancing, flexing once more

like Andre the Giant or Booker T

He displays them all in the reflected image

Of his mother’s deep brown glistening irises that shine

he is EVERYTHING and even more!

I saw him in mine

Getting taller each day

Able to reach upper cabinets to put plates away

Stretch wide to finesse a layup

Extended length dreams of smashing backboards

Dunkin over kings of courts much taller than he

Ten feet of air beneath his feet

trekking up ceilings like Shaquille once did

Glad to greet with the BEST hugs

almost able to see eye to eye

6’2 his aim, born biggest of the four

Trying to keep his title

I saw him in mine

Laid back, super chill

Most days that is

until there’s a desire to be had

Or fussing to block out, or shoulders to shrug

Adolescence sometimes confuses his respect with insolence

A talk back, pursed lips, deep huffed breaths

His actions impulsive

Hormones outsourcing intelligence

“Manchild” his daddy reminds

Prayers to cover, grow up, give wisdom

a constant

I saw him in mine

Wanting the new of it all

Street Cred found in shoes, gear, electronics

Only the real deal, no fake name brands

Secondhand Electronics surprisingly acceptable

thrift store visit requested

“I’ll be quick.” He says.

“No, just wait. I’ll go too.” Mother hen protects

“No really, I’ll be quick,” he pressures

“Ok, be careful!” she concedes

Then a glimmer, an unexpected moment

An angst of fear

As he runs away in hostile territory

Hoody on top

My long, lean, ascending 6’2 Manchild

Broad shoulders

Much like Trayvon Martin

on that day

I saw him in mine

By Robin Mile’ Pizzo ©2016

still wrestling…

 

 

DISADVANTAGED

AT-RISK

IMPOVERISHED

LOW-INCOME

VULNERABLE

NEEDY

URBAN

INNER CITY

labels

labels

labels

©Robin Mile’Pizzo 2016

7/30

Wrestling

When did income dictate choice?

When did bank account, credit scores, and zipcodes relegate someone’s right to procreate?

The children of Israel banking fat stacks when God commanded go forth and multiply

For Real? It’s like that!

Life, decided by what you got

not the heart

or the love

Naw, Life is required to bow down

at the aborting feet of wealth, and for billions in the dust of poverty

Only to be stepped on, destroyed, again and again

Poverty is bleak, devastating, abusive

Poverty has no humility, embodies no humanity

It speaks no truth and tells nothing but lies

C’mon baby give me some of that loving

C’mon’ honey let’s make them babies, they beautiful

C’mon Boo ten dollars an hour is good pay

Poverty does not scream no to the foolish girl in love at 14 cause she aint never felt love,

Or is confused about love, or abused by love…

Poverty does not pull a hose from the backyard and spray ice cold water on twenty somethings passionate, intimate, unaccomplished, unfinished

Poverty don’t preach sex away, teach sex away, example sex away, rehabilitate sex away

Poverty does not click off the steady recitation of love songs, rap mixes, sex tapes, and slow jams

Truth be told, Wealth don’t do none of these things either

Don’t fool yourself

Maybe Poverty is the devil leering one down dark paths, trapping for life

Yes that’s right Poverty is the devil!

Just look into the eyes of a mother with a hungry child in one hand, and an eviction notice in another

Look into the mouth screaming Maury, “who da baby daddy” real or unreal to make that paper

Look into the heart of one who wants to be an example for the baby

Look into the eyes of a father empty cause he don’t know

Life is not a punishment,

Deficit,

Discouragement,

Defeat

It’s a choice not only for those with law creating SuperPacs  but for EVERYONE

Yes EVERYONE

Even when poverty has busted down the door, grabbed  by the throat, and left one tacked high against the wall

Life Matters

Life Matters

Life Matters

Even when Poverty says it doesn’t!

6/30

©Robin Mile’ Pizzo 2016

Clothed Doggies

Take the blame and help as many as you can

Go ahead, take the hit, you won’t break

Your bank account won’t be shaken,

Your two or three vacations a year won’t be washed away

Several cars backed in your garage won’t be sitting on blocks

Those meals being sucked down at every restaurant, on every corner in Middletown America

Won’t dissipate

It’s a trip there was a line ten blocks long when POPEYES opened up,

Really!

Take the blame and help as many as you can

What difference does it make?

You trying to explain someone’s pain away

Does it make you feel better?

Does it add stature to your character?

Does it make you resolve the hurt behind their anger?

Take the blame and help as many as you can

Yeah it ain’t fair,

Like you researched, looked deep in your genealogy

Your people didn’t do no wrong

Never spewed an epithet

Never shook your head cause they ignorant, po, & black

Never hung nooses from no trees

Never owned no body

Never weighted the scales on a small crop of land

Never wrapped children in smallpox

Never poured out one for the native homies on soil rich in heritage

Never took over businesses of those forced away at camp

Never sprayed poison on lush green and brown fields

Never a trap Queen to a desolate inner city

Never denied a scholarship

Never stopped a hiring or instigated a firing

Never passed over a promotion

Never tossed a resume because of a sha, qua, la, apostrophe in a name

Never spit or screamed at poor little Ruby

Never let loose the dogs or the hoses

Never mocked a team’s religion

Never, Never, Never,

Dawg you right, you right

Yeah it ain’t fair, all your history is clean

And you’re sure of it

Got them papers from Henry Louis Gates

Finding Your Roots, yeah the whole kit

Take the blame and help as many as you can

Don’t be proud of backing them down

Don’t be quick to say your people wasn’t even around

There’s a privilege seen and unseen that empirically

Resounds when wrongs have been committed

Backs have been broken

Loves have been lost

Families, businesses, dreams have been destroyed

Not for black folk only, but so many folks

So many folk, so many, so many folks

“Oppressed Economy?” She laughed

The Cameroon elder watching over the braid shop

As I winced in the 7th hour of getting zillions

“You Americans put clothes on your doggies” With a billowy laugh she mocked

As if to really say,

“Yet you want no blame and not to help anybody.”

©Robin Mile’ Pizzo 2016

5/30 National Poetry Month

 

Gotta Let Ya Go

Gotta let ya go

Gotta let ya go

Gotta let ya go

You aint no friend of mine

When you constantly stop my grind

In my face blaring thoughts sublime

Screaming take a look through my feed

Scroll your fingers, lost ambition mimicking weed

Gotta let ya go

Gotta let ya go

Gotta let ya go

Lingering far too long in the lives of others

Setting up shop, make myself at home

Two hours past muse packed up, left & long gone

Gotta let ya go

Gotta let ya go

Gotta let ya go

Talking bout get your social media tight

just another hurdle when hooked each night

Yeah, you jiggling baby, made mediocrity Upper East Side

Call me arrived when got best in news, gleaming Pride

@NewYorker @NewYorkTimes @Guardian@Atlantic @ScholasticPodcast too

What about them wild boys & girls running the show, such a fun crew

Gotta let ya go

Gotta let ya go

Gotta let ya go

Ambition aint accomplishment in no shape or form

Write them words, get’em down on paper, forget the brainstorm

Hit them blocks, set that pace, fingers a’flight

1500 words, yeah boy its on and popping tonight

Feeling good, feeling free

telling them stories for all humanity

No break in the stride,

Pumped arms, continue to glide

Slip easily in fourth gear

Inhale my dust, gone Twitter get to the rear!

©Robin Mile’ Pizzo 2016

Champion

I need a champion

Midwife type, wispy curls, grey speckled and white, turquoise sea rimmed colored glasses,

Legs and arms shot putter thick,

wearing a wide long skirt splashed in color, and Birkenstocks,

Crouching low with grunts of a wrestler to bear down, breath it out, release, and again.

help birth this baby out.

I need a champion

Dragon type, fury in the belly that springs up to the nostrils

hiss flames that snatches the wind and ignites brush fires consuming hillsides, engulfing homes, hearts of men

I need a champion

The Muhammed Ali type or new jack Deontay Wilder type large and massive, standing tall on all types of principles, explosive in charisma, dancing, slipping, diving, gliding,

Shined up, displaying,

Arms rotating in and out of themselves, circular saws, slicing at opponents

who don’t float like a butterfly or sting like a bee, reigning kings yet again

I need a champion

Fat and stout, tall and lean, hot red lipped, hand to hip,

Pushing, shoving, thrusting from idea to seat, to word leap to critique, from beta to revision, To edit

to the press of the button like a nuclear bomb exploding all over Hiroshima creating a white page mushroom

I need a champion

Key smith  to unlock doors, pop windows, crack codes,

shattering glass, in bits and pieces along the outside cause we IN

I need a champion

I remember a time when the question “why didn’t you get it done?” shook your core

“Why didn’t you get it done?” shook your core cause a whooping was coming next

from daddys there today and gone tomorrow,

Big mamas stepping in cause the train north carried mother away,

and Uncle shifty and sneaky, chomping on lies in front of a tin barrel filled with hot grease popping at Friday fish fries.

“Why didn’t you get it done?”

Huh

“Why didn’t you get it done?”

Huh

Don’t make me say it again,

“Why didn’t you get it done?”

Cause I need a champion.

©Robin Mile’ Pizzo 2016

The Why! by Robin Mile’Pizzo

 

 

                                                The Why! By Robin Mile’ Pizzo

 

 

I wish my words, emotions, thoughts and even my heart

Could spill out onto page expressing why I do what I do

Make plain, make clear

the ambition, the reasons, the hope behind being an

Advocate

2GEN Innovator

Educator

Child Defender

I wish my words, emotions, thoughts, and even my heart

could spill out onto page expressing why I do what I do

Tear down systems

Build new bridges

Form pathways that blaze fierce realities of opportunity

Even amidst the muck of Mona’s dream pimping reality TV illusions to young women who don’t have a J. Woodson Show Way to guide them to truth

I wish my words, emotions, thoughts, and even my heart

could spill out onto page to express why I do what I do

Slaying legacies entrenched in poverty, degradation, and lack

Cracking the head of inequality,

Snapping the neck of hopeless data that screams

we are not capable, not intelligent, not accomplished, not gritty

I need my words, emotions, thoughts, and even my heart to scream out onto pages and into ears why I do what I do

Making known that we must ALL be at the policy, profit, process Table

or like Bernie did to John’s ride, pile high the table with institutional lies, douse it in gasoline, lite a cig, take a puff, and set that table ablaze

The truth is

I can string words, emotions, thoughts, and even my heart together for the rest of my days & still recognize

They. Are. Inadequate. to resound

I was a child needing a defender

A child needing an advocate

A child needing an educator

A child that needed someone to see my potential in spite of the barriers seeped in foster care, mental illness, poverty, and inner city realities.

My words, emotions, thoughts, and even my heart I knit together like my grandmomma’s shawl can’t adequately permeate the power

My defenders shod in combat boots wielding military force as they bust down courtroom doors stomping potential all over writs, orders, and procedures

in demand of constitutional guaranteed protections

My words, emotions, thoughts, and even my heart I weave together like lies often told lost and confused can’t adequately resonate the power

Dr. Robinson, PHD and 6th grade teacher fueling her students with intelligence seen in Shakespeare and Dickens

while taxing a use of the fuel to drive deep into education & transform legacies for others

My words, emotions, thoughts, and even my heart I intertwine into ribbons like the ones worn by Birmingham’s four little bombed beauties

can’t adequately magnify the impact

Marian Wright Edelman’s Measure of Our Success,

Hillary Clinton’s It Takes A Village

Gordon Parks Life & Times photography

Walter Dean Myers All the books that make up all the stories that “we must tell”

These glass ceiling shattering legends have shaped my understanding of the struggles of the poor and forgotten

They have made clear that community, literacy, education, struggle, and voice stacks intrinsic value to the people far more precious than bottom line dollas and cents

My words, emotions, thoughts and even my heart I paint into a canvas like Kadir Nelson can’t illustrate the pain of

Beautiful, men, women, and children lacking purpose

Infant mortality rates soaring,

An illiterate generation

A college education is too expensive & not necessary lie

An it’s ok mentality because gatekeepers have defined it as so

My words, emotions, thoughts, and even my heart I choir direct like an old time gospel can’t glorify

A passionate pursuit

An homage to God’s giftings

A Christ follower belief in being created for such a time as this

No!

My words, emotions, thoughts, and even my heart can’t express THE WHY I do the things I do so

I just get it DONE!

 

By: Robin Mile’ Pizzo ©2016

The Writer’s Life

 

Why write?

The question was posed.  Sort of a laying down of the gauntlet because surely this was a difficult thing.

To write, that is.

When life is happening all around, and moving at the speed of light. Babies and degrees, jobs and family, issues that form into devastation, financial responsibilities resulting in an endless trail of tears. Or beers. Or bills.

How can writing be a priority?

Isn’t it a time waster?  There has to be more pertinent responsibilities at hand?  Will there be sales, publishing, and fame involved?  Torturing language to awaken the muse only seems silly when the end game is unclear, and life is marching onward.

So again, why write?

Write because it is life.

It is the breath that exhales celestial energy into creativity.

The honor presented to an adored and revered, blind, invalid grandmother who whispered stories each night to two little girls whining for one more tale of Creepies that went thump in the night.  The calling of voices that need to be heard.   The homage to times and places long gone.    The love of a culture and a heritage, echoing the footprints of community with drums, rhythm, dance, and etymology.  Moonlight play.

Writing is authenticity.

The love of language, and words, and stories, and books has long been a guide.  The cadence clicked upon the tongue, the alliteration, the emotion, the subtly of fear.

Who will like it?

What if its crap?  ‘Birdman’ yells constantly to maintain the status quo.  A writer vacillates between utter despair and mountaintop jubilation. All that a writer wants to be, needs to be, revealed at the core of the writing, produces grave unrest.

A writer wants to be profound.

A writer wants to be clear.   A writer wants to be funny.  A writer desires to be deep, and dark, and all things great and small until the writer yields to purpose.  Thank goodness for Pride. It may come before a fall, but it also protects the spirit, and champions one to write on.

Why write?

Because there is a story to be told.

A history to be remembered.

A poem to be versed.

A lyric to sing.

A child that needs an escape, an adventure, and to discover

They. Are. Not. Alone.

But who will read it?

Perhaps a one, or 100 or a million or seven billion. Who cares?  When the creative muse is sitting across the table, screaming for attention.

 The Writer’s life is to write.

Fallow Fields

Wonderful piece on the literate life. Puts things in perspective for those of us who need to keep pushing. It’s ok and necessary to breathe, refresh, and begin again.

Donalyn Miller

It is still 80 degrees in Texas, but summer is over. Hay bails dot fields beside the road. It’s chilly in the mornings. Time to start carrying a jacket. Five months of gray skies and brown grass ahead. I don’t enjoy fall and winter weather, but I understand its value. The world can’t grow all of the time. A fallow field rests to restore its nutrients and prevent exhaustion. Mother Nature needs a break.

FullSizeRender (1) Fall in Texas–brown grass and one leaf in my yard.

Our reading and writing lives cycle through productive and restive periods, too. We scribble notes and start drafts that don’t go anywhere. We linger in our last book—unready to leave it behind. Reading and writing help us understand and navigate our lives, but readers and writers need time to experience reading and writing without producing all of the time. The connection between our literacy and our…

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