Shrinking Days, Frosty Nights: Poems about Fall

I’m continuing on here with chatting about each of my 6 Capstone poetry books. Today, I wanted to share a little bit about Shrinking Days, Frosty Nights, the very first book I wrote for this series. 

I chose this topic, out of the six topics, as my first manuscript to work on because I absolutely love fall. It’s my very favorite time of the year. I love the weather, I love the way the world works, and I love the fresh start feeling of it because it’s the beginning of the school year.

I did think it was kind of weird that fall was the only season being represented in our six books. But then again, there do seem to be lots more “fall” units available in teaching materials and such than for any other season. I’m not sure why that is.

Anyway, I was excited, but nervous. I had basic guidelines, with three sample poems, but that was it. I knew my goal was first and foremost to present appealing poetry to young kids–about 1st or 2nd grade. The poems would be mostly rhyming, but I also needed to do common poetic forms kids work on, like haiku, limerick, cinquain, acrostic, and diamonte. Free verse, too, which I love. Though there would only be one or two example of free verse in each book.

And I also needed to work in content–actual information about the theme of the book–as well.

When I received the photos from Jenny, my editor, I was dancing around the house. They were so gorgeous. Just beautiful. And these were the low-res versions of the images and not photocopied in good quality (I also had digital versions to refer to). Just flipping through the stunning pictures made my brain start whirling. 

I started draft one on December 19, and turned the manuscript in on January 17. Luckily, several members of my crit groups had time to give me quick feedback on an early draft, even though it was right in the middle of Christmas and New Year’s. That was a huge help.

When I turned in the manuscript, it had 22 poems based on 19 images. So I had a couple of different poems for several of the pictures. Each book would contain about 15 poems, and they wanted me to turn in a few extra so they had room to play. I was planning to turn in only 18, but once I started writing, I couldn’t stop myself!

I was really nervous, because I had no idea if what I was turning in was what was expected or not. Without another book in the series to compare to, I was creating the series myself. But it still had to match what the product team had envisioned.

I told my editor I was anxious to hear if I was on the right track, and she was so sweet. She looked them over immediately and said that of course there would be revisions to make, as there always are, but that at first glance it looked like I was exactly on the right track. I was so relieved.

A week or two later, I got revision notes from her, which said, in part:

Let me reassure you that you are definitely on the right track. Everyone
involved was very happy with your submissions. : )

Most of my suggestions are for small revisions: reworking a line,
reconsidering a word choice, that sort of thing. Some of the poems have no
suggestions. In that case, the poem looks good and there’s no need to revise
unless you really want to. I do, however, want to see a new version of the
free verse poem on flying geese. I like it, but I think it may be a little
too abstract for our young audience. I’d like to see something more concrete
(in terms of content, not form, of course!) with more sensory details and
close descriptions. It should be more accessible, and can even be more prosy
than some of the other poems in the book. Does that sound okay?

Here’s the geese poem she’s talking about, which I ended up doing major cuts and revisions on. But here’s the original I wrote to a stunning image of geese flying past an autumn moon:


Shadows of autumn
Glide past the moon
Untethered by gravity

Drift past the cold
Grey rock
On their way to
Lands loved by

Down south
They will float
Through unfrozen water
And whisper haunting
Stories of the coming

Um. Yeah. Probably not so much 1st grade.

I was so relieved that the collection was in good shape overall, though, that I practically melted on the floor. Her suggestions made sense and even produced some hit-your-forehead moments of thinking, “Of course it works better that way for this age range!” Working on these books, even though they were poetry on demand, did make me a better poet. Anyway, I got the revisions finished and breathed a sigh of relief, practically giddy at how smoothly things had gone for this first book. (They didn’t go quite as well for all of the books!)

And when I got the actual book recently, I was still giddy. These photos and poems are many of my favorites from the entire set of 6 that are out right now.

Here are a few of my favorites. I so wish I could show you the amazing photos that actually go with them! These are NOT them, but they’ll at least give you some idea!


I am smooth wood

I am paper

I am answers

I am waiting


Who Are We?

We’re golden moons dropped from the sky
We’re spicy filling for your pie
We’re hard-knock globes with mushy guts
We’re future faces made of cuts
We’re giant autumn garden gems
We’re wobbly bowling balls–with stems

Here’s an earlier try at a pumpkin poem. I ended up not liking it (though I do kind of like it now) and wrote the one above instead:

We sit so solid
on the ground
Harmless, hollow
orange and round

We dream of stoops
and other places
Where we’ll wear our
Scary faces

Day’s End

orange lights flickering,
orange windows bright
orange skies decorate
autumn-glow night

orange jack-o-lanterns,
orange falling leaves,
orange nights steal away
summer like thieves

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