2021 A Progressive Poem

This year I’m taking part in a Kidlitosphere Progressive Poem, which is running during April for National Poetry Month in the USA. (Thank you to fellow Australian poet Kathryn Apel for the invitation!) The Progressive Poem was the brainchild of Irene Latham back in 2012 and since 2020 Margaret Simon has taken the baton as poem coordinator.

During April the poem has been passing from blog to blog with each poet-blogger adding a line. There’s a list of participating poets at the end of this post.

Yesterday (Day 26) the poem landed with Tim Gels, who offered me a choice of two lines to start the next stanza before I add my own. Here are the two options Tim gave me:

Now let’s write our own — maybe prose, maybe rhyme!


I love all of them, but my favorite ones rhyme!

I’ve chosen the second option.

This is the poem so far, including Tim’s new line:

I’m a case of kindness – come and catch me if you can!
Easily contagious – sharing smiles is my plan.
I’ll spread my joy both far and wide
As a force of nature, I’ll be undenied.

Words like, “how can I help?” will bloom in the street.
A new girl alone on the playground – let’s meet, let’s meet!
We can jump-skip together in a double-dutch round.
Over, under, jump and wonder, touch the ground.

Friends can be found when you open a door.
Side by side, let’s walk through, there’s a world to explore.
We’ll hike through a forest of towering trees.
Find a stream we can follow while we bask in the breeze.

Pull off our shoes and socks, dip our toes in the icy spring water
When you’re with friends, there’s no have to or oughter.
What could we make with leaves and litter
Let’s find pine needles, turn into vine knitters.

We’ll lie on our backs and find shapes in the sky.
We giggle together: See the bird! Now we fly!
Inspired by nature, our imaginations soar.
Follow that humpback! Here, take an oar.

Ahh! Here comes a wave – let’s hold on tight,
splashing and laughing, let’s play until night!
When the Milky Way sparkles, and the moon’s overhead,
we make a pretend campfire and tell stories we’ve read.

Some stories are true and some myths of our time.
I love all of them, but my favorite ones rhyme!

It’s my turn to offer a choice of two lines for the start of the next couplet! (The next poet Catherine Flynn will choose one of these before continuing with her own line.)

With windows to see other lives, other places


Now add in your story and I’ll share mine, too

With only three days of the poem remaining I can’t wait to see how it ends. Over to you, Catherine!

If you’d like to check out all the stops on this progressive poem’s journey, you’ll find them here.

2021 Timeline for April:

1 Kat Apel at katswhiskers
2 Linda Mitchell at A Word Edgewise
3 Mary Lee at A Year of Reading
4 Donna Smith at Mainly Write
5 Irene Latham at Live your Poem
6 Jan Godown Annino at BookseedStudio
7 Rose Cappelli at Imagine the Possibilities
8 Denise Krebs at Dare to Care
9 Margaret Simon at Reflections on the Teche
10 Molly Hogan at Nix the Comfort Zone
11 Buffy Silverman
12 Janet Fagel at Reflections on the Teche
13 Jone Rush MacCulloch
14 Susan Bruck at Soul Blossom Living
15 Wendy Taleo at Tales in eLearning
16 Heidi Mordhorst at my juicy little universe
17 Tricia Stohr Hunt at The Miss Rumphius Effect
18 Linda Baie at Teacher Dance
19 Carol Varsalona at Beyond Literacy Link
20 Robyn Hood Black at Life on the Deckle Edge
21 Leigh Anne Eck at A Day in the Life
22 Ruth Hersey at There is No Such Thing as a God-forsaken Town
23 Janice Scully at Salt City Verse
24 Tabatha Yeatts at The Opposite of Indifference
25 Shari Daniels at Islands of my Soul
26 Tim Gels at Yet There is Method at https://timgels.com
27 Rebecca Newman [you are here]
28 Catherine Flynn at Reading to the Core
29 Christie Wyman at Wondering and Wondering
30 Michelle Kogan at More Art 4 All

Graphic for Progressive Poem 2021

A magical poem anthology and a Christmas carol

Rebecca Newman holding Fire Burn Cauldron Bubble Magical Poems Chosen by Paul CooksonIn October I was thrilled to open a parcel and find a beautiful Bloomsbury anthology with one of my poems in it. The anthology is Fire Burn, Cauldron Bubble: magical poems chosen by Paul Cookson. My poem is on page 97 and is called ‘Potion problems’. All the poems have a magical theme so it’s positively brimming with wizards and witches and spells and potions and dragons and more! (The perfect Christmas gift for the primary school bookworm in your life … ) The anthology was out in the UK in September 2020. It will be in bookshops in Australia from 4 December 2020.

Speaking of Christmas … This year I wrote lyrics for a Christmas carol. ‘Here is the Child’ has been set to music by amazing WA composer Joshua Adams. It will be performed as part of a Christmas concert programme by The Giovanni Consort in Perth on 11 December 2020. (Tickets are still available. Numbers are limited, due to COVID restrictions.)

And my last piece of writing news: I’ve had two short stories for adults accepted for an anthology of flash fiction, due for publication by Night Parrot Press in 2021.

In between all of that I’ve been growing loads of parsley and strawberries in my little garden, buying books at friends’ book launches and playing Irish fiddle tunes. And even playing Irish fiddle tunes alongside a cellist at a friend’s book launch. A wave of the wand and here we are at the end of November.   

Fire Burn Cauldron Bubble Magical Poems Chosen by Paul Cookson

Pandemics, poetry, and publication

Isn’t 2020 a WEIRD year? I’ve been very lucky, though — in between all the weird stuff I’ve had some wonderful happenings, too. After my Paper Bird Fellowship event back in January, I had a poem published in the March 2020 issue of The School Magazine. This one’s called ‘The Button Jar’ and has a fabulous illustration by Cheryl Orsini to go with it.

The School Magazine March 2020

Also in March: I was interviewed by author Nadia L King about poetry and poetry writing. You can read that interview here.

Then, when all the social distancing started to happen (thanks, COVID-19), Paper Bird Books started the Paper Bird Books Home Club. On weekdays they host a children’s writer or illustrator on Instagram Live. And in Episode 10 I found myself in the Home Club chair talking about my poetry, where to get ideas, and what to do with a poem. You can watch my 1/2 hour video on the Home Club YouTube channel.

Rebecca Newman at Paper Bird Books Home Club

Make sure you check out this Monday’s visitor, too (it’s the fabulous Kathryn Lefroy!). Head to Paper Bird’s Instagram (@paperbird_books) at 10.30am AWST on Monday to watch that livestream.

And my LAST piece of news: This week I was selected as one of 8 poets for the next postcard series by Poetry on Postcards. My poem is called ‘Indian Ocean’. You can read about Poetry on Postcards here.

Now I’m at home all day (thanks again, COVID-19) I’m trying to get a bit of work done on my children’s novel. I’ve also done a lot more gardening over the past few weeks. To sign off with, here’s a photo of an overachieving sweet pea seedling. It grew so quickly that it made me laugh. (The tiny seedlings beneath it are strawberry plants.)

Sweet pea seedling

Happy Easter!

Let’s Talk Children’s Poetry! (a Paper Bird Fellowship Evening)

If you follow me on social media, you might already know that I finished 2019 on a high note with a second place in Jackie Hosking’s rhyming poetry competition. The end of 2019 also heralded the end of my Paper Bird Fellowship. I was a Poet-in-Residence at Paper Bird for Term 4, and during my residency I was working on my children’s poetry collection, Rules for Sneezing.

Which leads me to this exciting news:

A Paper Bird Fellowship Evening: Let’s Talk Poetry!

Wed 22 January 2020 6 pm to 7.30 pm Come along to hear Sally Murphy and Rebecca Newman in Conversation at Paper Bird Fremantle. The evening will also include poetry readings by Sally and Rebecca.

I will be joining award-winning writer and children’s poet Sally Murphy at Paper Bird to talk about children’s poetry! And during the evening you can hear us read some of our own poetry. We’d love to see you there.

6 pm – 7.30 pm Wednesday 22 January 2020

Paper Bird Children’s Books & Arts,
42 Henry St, Fremantle, Western Australia

This event is FREE! But bookings are required via this EventBrite link.

The Paper Bird Fellowship is a partnership between Paper Bird Children’s Books & Arts, City of Fremantle Library, The WA Branch of the Children’s Book Council of Australia, and the Australia West Branch of the Society of Book Writers and Illustrators. 

In which I become a poet-in-residence

The past few months have been busy! Here’s a quick recap:

This term I’m the recipient of a Paper Bird Fellowship. This means I have the use of a writing studio at Paper Bird during Term 4 while I work on my children’s poetry collection. The collection is tentatively called Rules for Sneezing. I’ve been writing some brand new poems and polishing up some old ones, and preparing the whole collection to be ready for submission to publishers. It’s been fantastic to be able to work on my poetry in such a creative space.

Day 1 as Poet-in-Residence at Paper Bird Books

Day 1 as Poet-in-Residence at Paper Bird Books

A huge thank you to Paper Bird Books, Australia West Branch of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), the Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) WA Branch, and the City of Fremantle Library for granting me this term’s Fellowship.

At the conclusion of the Fellowship I’ll be presenting at a public event, so stay tuned for info about that, because it would be nice to have an audience to present to!

October was a great month — I had my first playscript published in The School Magazine (published by the NSW Education Dept). The play is called ‘Back in Time to 2019’ and it’s about school students 40 years in the future who go on a historical excursion to 2019, when we still had plastic wrappers … and bees.

Here’s the cover of the magazine, and me with the play on the day my author copy arrived in the mail. (Illustrations by the fabulous Cheryl Orsini.)

In October I was interviewed by 12-year-old Imani for a series of interviews she was hosting for Booktober. You can check out the interview here, where I talk poetry, and writing, my favourite ice-cream flavour and how I don’t like the smell of books …

Still in October (a super busy month) I spent the month experimenting with different poetry forms. If you’re on instagram, you can check out my efforts over there.

And in between all that I took 33 primary school students on a bus to recite ‘Mulga Bill’s Bicycle’ by Banjo Paterson at a festival. The 33 kids belong to a Choral Speaking Club I run at their school once a week. Those kids are fabulous.

And that was enough, really! Now it might be time for a long nap.

Poetry magic

So, 2019 is off to a fabulous start! I sold a poem to Bloomsbury Education in the UK for their 2019 children’s poetry anthology Fire Burn, Cauldron Bubble: Magical Poems Chosen by Paul Cookson. This is extra exciting news for me – I’ve had quite a few poems published by The School Magazine, but this will be my first poem in an anthology. I’m looking forward to holding a book in my hands later this year. (My poem is called ‘Potion problems’.)

Here’s a picture of me posting off my signed contract:

Photo of Rebecca Newman in a spotted shirt posting a letter into a red post box.

And, yes, I made one of my kids come along when I posted the letter just so they could photograph me with the post box. Nothing’s official until you’ve been photographed with a post box.

In totally unrelated news (unless you file it under ‘2019 successes’), I’ve been trying my hand at propagating succulents. And look!

Baby succulent plants

[Off camera: a pile of brown shriveled succulent leaves that were clearly not a success. Let’s not dwell on those.]

A magical poem and baby succulent magic … a good start to the new year.

End-of-2018 book tag: children’s books

Back in July I tagged myself to share a post about my favourite books from the first half of 2018. So it seems like a good idea to tie off 2018 with my favourites from the second half.

If you’re new here: I focus on books for under 12s. (I just don’t get through many books for grown-ups — or young adults — in 6 months.)

* = I borrowed the book from the library

**= I received a review copy of the book (but not for this blog, I wear a lot of booky hats out there in the real world)


Currently reading:
Swallow’s Dance by Wendy Orr.

Favourite picture book read in the last 6 months
Maya and Cat by Caroline Magerl
A gentle story with divine illustrations. The text is like poetry and there are themes of friendship and resilience. This book is good for your soul.

Favourite fiction book read in the last 6 months
Louisiana’s Way Home* by Kate DiCamillo.
This revisits a character from DiCamillo’s earlier book Raymie Nightingale. Louisana’s grandmother wakes her in the middle of the night and they leave home, never to return. A novel about finding your place in the world and your sense of self. Bring tissues.

Favourite nonfiction book read in the last 6 months
Zeroes & Ones ** by Cristy Burne.
The history of technology. Which sounds dry when you say it like that, but this book is not dry! Facts are given in small sections and illustrations are in a graphic style. Burne uses amusing (true) anecdotes, quotes and weird facts, and there  are old photos with humorous captions. Read with pizza close by.

Favourite poetry book read in the last 6 months
H is for Haiku by Sydell Rosenberg, illustrated by Sawsan Chalabi
Poems (haiku) on everyday topics. Fun and appealing visually and poetically. (I bought this as part of my masterplan to buy children’s poetry books when I see them in local bookshops to prove there is a demand for children’s poetry books. This one was purchased at Paper Bird Books and Arts.)

Favourite new-to-me author discovered in the last 6 months
Tamara Moss (Lintang and the Pirate Queen)*
This was a rollicking fantasy adventure on a pirate ship. I couldn’t put this book down. This is book 1 in a series.

Favourite new-to-me illustrator in the last 6 months
Ronak Taher (Sonam and the Silence, by Eddie Ayres) A beautiful picture book about the power of music for a girl in Afghanistan, when music is forbidden. Written in a folktale/fable sort of style. The illustrations are layered and textured and collage-y … and wonderful.

Favourite picture book I read aloud to children in the last 6 months
Aunt Amelia* by Rebecca Cobb. Aunt Amelia is an unusual babysitter, and awesomely subversive. (The parents leave a DO NOT list, which the children and Aunt Amelia systematically flout.) This book is so. much. fun. I read it aloud to a class of 5 year olds and a class of 6 year olds and it took each class about two pages to cotton on to the joke. And they found it hilarious. Plus: Rebecca Cobb illustrations. So joyful.
(NB: official sources advise that Aunt Amelia is a lizard and not a crocodile. This was good for some heated discussion.)

A book that made me cry in the last 6 months
Louisiana’s Way Home* by Kate DiCamillo. (See ‘Favourite Fiction Book’ earlier in this post)

A book that made me laugh in the last 6 months
Gastronauts ** by James Foley. Okay, maybe more groans than laughs. This book has more poo puns than you could ever want. No, really. An entertaining comic-book style novel with a bit of gastro-science sneaking in as a bonus. It’s book three in a series of graphic novels.

A book that surprised me
Watch this! A book about making shapes by Jane Godwin, Beci Orpin and Hilary Walker. This is a seriously fabulous book about shapes, and instead of illustrations there are bright photographs of a group of children making the shapes with their bodies. Brilliant for the Under 6 crowd, but I’m 45 and I read it several times just because I love it so much. It would be excellent to re-create in small groups in a classroom. Or at playgroups. Or in your backyard with all the small cousins etc etc.

A book I’ve bought as a gift in the last six months
Violet Mackerel’s Brilliant Plot by Anna Branford, illustrated by Sarah Davis. Violet is the sort of child who ponders life’s mysteries, and notices details, and likes to collect small things. The entire series is a delight.

Most beautiful book covers seen in the last 6 months
Sonam and the Silence, by Eddie Ayres, illustrated by Ronak Taher.
The cover is debossed (I think that’s the right word), matt-finished (not shiny) and grainy-textured when you run your hand over it. Lovely.

Sonam and the Silence by Eddie Ayers and Ronak Taher
The Slightly Alarming Tale of the Whispering Walls* by Jaclyn Moriarty, illustrated by Kelly Canby. (This middle-grade series has gorgeous covers and the books are chunky and a pleasure to hold.) The book cover shown here doesn’t properly show off the metallic foiling on the cover. It’s even better in real life!My favourite book cover for the second half of 2019: The Slightly Alarming Tale of the Whispering Walls.

Most anticipated new releases in the first half of 2019
Fiction: Catch a Falling Star by Meg McKinlay (out February)
Picture book: I would Dangle the Moon by Amber Moffatt (Out June)
Nonfiction: Kids Who Did by Kirsty Murray (Out April)

Three books waiting on my TBR
Lenny’s Book of Everything * by Karen Foxlee
Wundersmith * by Jessica Townsend
IF: A Treasury of Poems for Almost Every Possibility edited by Allie Esiri & Rachel Kelly

A girl can never have too many books on her TBR. Give me your recommendations for my 2019 bedside pile!

Mid-year book tag: children’s books

I’ve seen a few mid-year book tag posts on book blogs recently. (No-one has tagged me, but that won’t stop me joining in.) Because no-one has officially tagged me, I’ve changed up the questions a bit to suit myself. That’s the upside of tagging yourself.

I’m all about children’s books for under 12s. (I just don’t get through many books for grown-ups — or young adults — in 6 months.)

If there’s an asterisk it means I borrowed it from a library. I do love a library.

Here goes:

Currently reading:
The Dog with Seven Names by Dianne Wolfer

Favourite picture book read in the last 6 months
They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel*
The cat walks through the world, and we see the cat through the eyes of other creatures. An interesting approach to changing perspectives. I really loved the illustrations, too.

Favourite fiction book read in the last 6 months
The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone by Jaclyn Moriarty, illustrated by Kelly Canby*
Magic! Meddling! Mayhem! and also dry humour. There are pirates. And faeries. And dragons. Basically there’s something for everyone, in a satisfyingly chunky and beautifully-presented book.

Favourite nonfiction book read in the last 6 months
The Bee Book (DK Books) by Emma Tennant and Fergus Chadwick*
A hardcover book with all the facts about bees you could want. Includes stunning photographs and illustrations.

Favourite poetry book read in the last 6 months
I’m Just No Good at Rhyming by Chris Harris, illustrated by Lane Smith
Poems on topics that are super familiar to primary school kids. Hilarious, clever, and entertaining. Every child and adult I shared it with loved it.

Favourite new-to-me author discovered this year
Kimberley Brubaker Bradley (The War That Saved My Life)*

Favourite new-to-me illustrator this year
Lorna Scobie (Apes to Zebras: An A–Z of Shape Poems by Roger Stevens, Liz Brownlee, and Sue Hardy-Dawson).* A book of concrete poems about animals, with some illustrations and graphic detail to enhance the text. Good poems! And a beautifully presented hardcover book. I also bought 365 Days of Art because I loved Scobie’s work so much. I haven’t tried it out yet. Because I am no Lorna Scobie. Wah.

Favourite picture book I read aloud to children in the last 6 months
The Hole Story by Kelly Canby and
Oh, Albert!* by Davina Bell, illustrated by Sara Acton
Both these books are fun to read aloud. Also easy to read aloud (no stumbling). The perfect length. The illustrations were lovely. I (as a grown-up) enjoyed the story. The kids loved the story and joined in with the obvious repetition.
Both excellent read-alouds. Yay!

A book that made me cry this year
The War that Saved My Life* by Kimberley Brubaker Bradley 
Ada has a twisted foot and is trapped inside day in and day out. She and her brother join the students evacuated to the countryside in WWII and are put into the care of a woman who isn’t expecting them. I couldn’t put it down. 

A book that made me laugh this year
Duck! by Meg McKinlay and Nathanial Eckstrom 
This is a picture book that’s funny to read out loud and the pictures are funny and the twist at the end is funny and it’s just a wonderfully silly book for those times when you need a good laugh.

The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone* by Jaclyn Moriarty, illustrated by Kelly Canby

A book that surprised me this year
Room on Our Rock* by Kate and Jol Temple, illustrated by Terri Rose Baynton
A picture book that can be read from front to back. And then read from back to front — and this flips the message from negative to positive. With the treatment of refugees and people we’re being told to call ‘other’ in Australia at the moment, this is an interesting book to share with young readers through to older readers.

A book I’ve bought as a gift in the last six months
I’m Just No Good at Rhyming by Chris Harris, illustrated by Lane Smith

Most beautiful book I’ve read this year — which sounds fickle, but … hey, I do judge books by their covers. If you’re a book with a beautiful cover, you won’t stay on that TBR pile very long.
The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone* by Jaclyn Moriarty, illustrated by Kelly Canby

The extremely inconvenient adventures of Bronte Mettlestone. Cover is dark blue, with gargoyles and girl and a boy and the title is in gold foil.

This image doesn’t do it justice. The cover is so shiny. The words are in gold foil. It’s a beautiful book.

Most anticipated new release in the second half of 2018
Fiction: The Slightly Alarming Tale of the Whispering Walls by Jaclyn Moriarty, illustrated by Kelly Canby (out November 2018)
Picture book: Maya and Cat by Caroline Magerl (out August 2018)
Nonfiction: Zeroes & Ones by Cristy Burne (out August 2018)

Three books waiting on my TBR (yes, I do have loads more than three on my TBR, but I’d get RSI typing it up)
The List by Patricia Forde
My Life as an Alphabetby Barry Jonsberg
Wormwood Mire* (Stella Montgomery Book 2) by Judith Rossell 

Know any good books I should put on my TBR before the end of 2018?

A new studio and other exciting happenings

Lots of excellent happenings have been … happening … around here. A few months back  I said yes to a shared studio space at Paper Bird Books and Arts in Fremantle. There are three of us being creative in the studio space. It’s light and bright, and since I started writing here (about twice a week) I’ve finished three picture books and I’ve written a good number of poems, too.

Don’t you love this mat?

Paper Bird studio

Speaking of poems (and not so much about mats), The School Magazine has bought two more of my poems this year. And I’ve posted new poems to the Poetry Tag site. Here they are, and if you haven’t already, you should definitely zip straight over and see them in all their glory:




For my birthday, my very clever musical daughter composed a choral work based on ‘Sea Secrets’, which I might post to the blog once I figure out how. *ahem*.

And I’m now on instagram. Over there I’m @rebeccanewmanbooks. I post some poetry stuff, some booky stuff, some garden-y stuff, and some day-to-day-just-sort-of-noodling-about stuff.

In other (kitchen garden) news: this season we’ve planted a new passionfruit vine to replace the old one that’s not really thriving, cucumbers (which are thriving and already have flowers on them, go little cucumber plants!), watermelon, sunflowers, and lettuce. Everyone is thrilled to know that the succulents I planted earlier this year seem to be doing OK. But I imagine even I would have trouble killing those …

Thrives on neglect

New Years’ Resolutions — I have some.

Submit manuscripts to publishers.

I need to send more of my work out on submission. Shortly after coming to this conclusion: I submitted a short story to an anthology on 5th January. Pat on the back for me.

Turn my garden into a low-maintenance garden that has actual living plants in it.


Ready to plant …

I bought pots of succulents. Lots of them. I don’t love succulents — I prefer leafier sorts of plants that rustle when the wind blows (the same sorts of plants, it turns out,  that can be burnt to death by summer sun and desiccated by scorching salty winds). But, emboldened by my new resolve to stock my garden with appropriate flora, I bought a stack of succulents — in particular the ones with labels that said:





They are now planted in between my roses (because I can’t give up my roses). I’m still growing some edible plants, too. This year we have cherry tomatoes (with tomatoes on), cucumber vines (with no sign of a cucumber), passionfruit vines (with two passionfruit, hang in there!) and basil, thyme, rosemary and mint.

Draw something little every day.

I’ve always wanted to be able to draw. And so I’ll try to draw something little every day, even if it’s complete rubbish. Because I quite like drawing. Even if it’s complete rubbish.

In other news, I was very excited to find real mail in my postbox this week.

Rebecca with poem

It’s my latest poem ‘Body Beat’ in the February 2017 issue of The School Magazine (Countdown). The wonderful illustration is by Cheryl Orsini.

And I’ve had a couple more poems up at Poetry Tag (which were not written in 2017 but I thought I’d catch you up). Here they are:

2017 is looking good.

~ Rebecca