Note: For whatever reason, Blogger will not let me format this into paragraphs. Therefore, I have color-coded what would have been paragraphs if the blogging Gods had been smiling down upon me today… In honor of Poetry Month, let’s extend a super-duper Mentor Monday welcome to Leslie Bulion. She is not only the author of three middle grade novels, but is also the author of some wonderful science poetry books such as, HEY THERE STINK BUG! This was one of my son’s favorites! Too bad Leslie’s wonderful new book, AT THE SEA FLOOR CAFÉ: ODD OCEAN CRITTER POEMS, (illustrated by Leslie Evans http://www.seadogpress.com) was not released 8 years ago; this charming book would have become worn and dogeared! This clever collection of poems describes the devious and sometimes surprising methods ocean denizens use to forage for food, capture prey, trick predators, and protect their young. The poems swim effortlessly from page to page, leading us from the snail shell home of the jeweled anemone crab on the ocean floor to a violet snail hanging upside down in its bubble house on the sea’s surface. At the Sea Floor Cafe includes science notes with details about each animal’s behavior, a glossary, and an appendix explaining the forms of poetry that appear on each spread. Striking linoleum prints round out this title, which can be used across the curriculum. And……Peachtree Publishing is running a contest that I’m including as part of this Mentor Monday! Click below to win either a skype visit with Leslie or a copy of this fabulous book! http://library.constantcontact.com/download/get/file/1103596296500-87/Sea+Floor+Cafe+officialrules.pdfAlso, there is a charming AT THE SEA FLOOR CAFÉ trailer on youtube that you may want to check out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ILI_-UnCcoY Leslie Bulion teams a life-long love of poetry and her oceanography background in At the Sea Floor Café (Peachtree 2011), her second collection of science poetry. The first, Hey There, Stink Bug! (Charlesbridge 2006), is an award-winning book of gruesomely humorous insect poems. Leslie’s other books include the Bank Street Best Books 2007 middle-grade novel Uncharted Waters (Peachtree 2006), The Trouble With Rules (Peachtree 2008), and the Children’s Africana Book Award Best Picture Book winner, Fatuma’s New Cloth (Moon Mountain 2002). A former school social worker, Leslie has written and edited books in the education market and has been a regular contributing writer in national magazines and on the Internet. She gives writing workshops and presentations to students, educators and writers throughout the US. Visit Leslie’s website at http://www.lesliebulion.com/. Without further ado… Readers sometimes ask me if I always knew I wanted to be a writer. My answer is a resounding NO! First of all, back when I was falling in love with Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, Miss Bianca, and Taran the assistant to the pig keeper, books were magic, and authors were wizards. I was an ordinary mortal. How could I be a writer? In college I learned that you could research and rewrite a paper forever, but exams ended when you put your pencil down. This aphorism guided my course selection, save one. Tucked between my science courses was one, lonely class in creative writing. I spent that entire semester writing poetry. Why? Because of Mrs. Brownworth. My fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Brownworth, was young, enthusiastic, gentle, caring, and she loved poetry. Mrs. Brownworth read us poetry all the time. She encouraged us to listen for the music within and in-between the words. We memorized a poem and recited it in class. I chose “Sneezles” from the collection Now We Are Six by A. A. Milne. That poem has everything I still love in a poem: wonderful rhythm and meter, perfect rhyme, funny parts, invented language and a punch line. I was so proud to learn it. And I know now that reciting “Sneezles” and other poems helped me to internalize the flow and rhythm of rhyming poetry. Inspired by the poems we heard and learned, we all wrote our own poems with Mrs. Brownworth. The words flowed. Here’s one of my very early works: The grass is green, The grass is brown, The grass is waving up and down. The grass is brown, The grass is green, The grass is full of amazing things you have never seen! Mrs. Brownworth gave me feedback and celebrated my poems. I kept on writing. I wrote reams of poems that year, and every year after that. I continued to write poems for myself through the all the years I insisted I was not a writer, until one day a longtime friend called me up after reading a letter from me and said, “Yes, you are.” (Another mentor story. I have lots. The writing community is so very generous and encouraging. I’ll try not to digress.) Even after I’d written magazine stories and children’s books (skipping other mentor stories here), it took years for me to put “being a writer” and “writing poetry” together in my head. Several years ago, I was taking yet another science course when I came up with what I considered a crazy idea: to write poems about the insects I was studying. The idea seemed so off-the-wall that I didn’t even mention it to my critique group. But when I finally admitted to the group what I was thinking of doing, their off-the-charts enthusiasm encouraged me to take the leap (mentors, mentors, mentors, all).As soon as I sold Hey There, Stink Bug, I started trying to find Mrs. Brownworth. I wanted to thank her for setting me on this writing path (unbeknownst to me and while I was busy heading elsewhere). I contacted the teachers’ association in the town where I grew up. No luck. But last year I recognized her on Facebook and here’s the funny thing: she’s not so very much older than me anymore, and her first name is Barbara, not Mrs.. I am thrilled to be able to show her the impact she has had on my life since I was lucky enough to have her as my teacher back in the fourth grade. Thank you for poetry, Mrs. Brownworth!