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December 16, 2008


Posted by admin

Today's guest blogger, Susan Meissner --- author of THE SHAPE OF MERCY --- recalls the touching gift she was given by her parents one Christmas to encourage the budding writer in her, and gives us a taste of some of her earliest "masterpieces."

When I was eight, and just beginning to grasp that I had restless urge to write that would define me for the rest of my days, I began writing poems in a little red notebook given me by my second-grade teacher. I still have that particular notebook. It is filled with gems like:

Christmas Day

Christmas Day is fun and gay
Christmas Day is a time to pray
Christmas Day is so much fun
Christmas is for everyone

And this one, sure to be a classic someday:

The Sweet Tree
I sat on a log
With my dog
I saw a tree in the sky
So high!
With so many cookies and pies
At first I couldn
't believe my eyes!
I looked at the goodies, and my eyes grew to see all the things
I saw sugar-coated bird wings
I climbed the tree way up to the top
I threw some down for my dog, down it went. Plop!
Then I went home.

Just gives you goose bumps, doesn't it? Well, that my Christmas --- we're talking 1969 --- my parents gave me a book of poems; no doubt to encourage the blossoming poet that I was struggling to become. POEMS FOR LITTLE EARS by Kate Cox Goddard became a fast favorite. I loved that book. I loved the illustrations. I loved the perfect meter of each rhyme, each line. I loved Kate Cox Goddard. I wanted to be Kate Cox Goddard. Consider this, perhaps my favorite in the whole book:

When I'm happy inside
've a bird in my heart
It flutters and beats with its wings
When I
'm happy inside
The small bird in my heart
Opens my mouth --- and it sings!

At some point in my childhood I realized poetry was not truly my first love. I waltzed away from it in my teens, dived into community journalism in my younger adult years but truly found my writing voice when I began writing novels. Forty Christmases have come and gone since POEMS FOR LITTLE EARS was first given to me but it still seems like an old, good friend. I knew right where to find it so that I could write this blog post. I knew the hue of its turquoise-blue spine, its shape and size. Flipping through it just now, I couldn't help but smile as I read "Needles and Pins," "The Looking-Glass Child" and "The Tinkling Gate," remembering the little girl that was me when I read them for the first time.

I guess it's no surprise that poems about everyday things would resonate so long and so well inside me. Written rhymes are like music to the eyes.

There are other books I've kept over the years that first came to me under a Christmas tree, but this one has been with me the longest. I don't have such "little ears" anymore, but I still love to see music with my eyes.

Tomorrow, Garth Stein shares the perfect book that managed to put a positive spin on his son's bad day.