Friday, May 20, 2016

Poetry Friday: Family Stories with Janet Wong

for today's round-up of poetic goodness!
Thanks, Margaret, for hosting this week.

When this invitation appeared on my Facebook feed on Monday, I checked my calendar and made plans to join Janet Wong at the Sammamish Library that evening.  I popped into the meeting room fifteen minutes before the workshop started, and Janet mentioned that I might get a one-on-one workshop with her.  
It was not to be.  Before we knew it, the tables filled with young students and their parents, a high school student, a Friends of the Library member, the teen librarian, and me - all eager to learn how to share our family stories from this master teacher.     

It didn't take long for Janet to open her giant suitcase.  Students selected objects and Janet's stories began filling the room.  Then she invited us to stroll over to the "story window," choose a topic and find a partner for story sharing.  
After this delightful round of storytelling, we gathered once again and learned about platforms for publishing our stories.  Soon it was time to write a story or poem (either our own or the one our partner shared).  And then each participant met with Janet for a one-on-one writing conference.   
If the student was willing, the piece was shared with the entire group.  After this conference, each writer chose a book and lined up to get the book autographed.  
As I continued to write, I overheard Janet speaking with a student about a rock and a library.  Hey, that was my story!   I jumped up to read my partner Helena's poem, took a picture of her and Janet together, met her mom, and obtained permission to share her poem and picture.

Kicking a stone one day
Park in front of the library
Go in and get a few books
Kick it to the drug store
Get a cone on the way back home.
-Helena Zheng

A sweltering Oklahoma summer day,
two friends meet under a large oak tree
clutching their summer lifelines.
They begin the trek,
1.3 miles each way,
early morning is best.
Each select a rock to kick,
to propel them onward,
to quicken their pace.
Rocks are parked,
stairs are summited,
lifelines are returned.
They emerge,
laden with 
new treasures,
a stack
to savor.
Their return trek-
sweetened by a cool ice cream cone
from Rexall Drugstore
and on arrival home
tales to fill an afternoon! 
- Ramona Behnke

It was the best of times - a room filled with people eager to share and write their family stories, all under the tutelage of someone who cares deeply about nurturing writers in today's world.  I'm thrilled that I stumbled across Janet's reminder on Facebook.  And now I'm looking forward to an exciting event at Western Washington University this fall with Janet and more friends of poetry! 


  1. What a great time you had! Thanks for sharing the poems, and the enthusiasm for poetry, Ramona!

  2. Thank you, Ramona, for documenting this wonderful evening at the Sammamish Library—and I hope to see you in Bellingham on Saturday 10/1 for the WWU Poetry Camp (for adults)! Online registration opens next week!!

  3. You are so lucky to be near to have this delightful evening, Ramona. I love both the poems, those "lifelines" of books that kept our summers wonderful.

  4. Ramona, how delightful to spend time listening to and learning with Janet. Writing poetry with a partner is the added bonus. Do you have a digital poem for my spring gallery?

  5. What a fun day! And Janet -- you are All Over Poetry Friday this week! Yay, you!

  6. I love that elements in both are the same, yet both poems have such different feels to them. Sounds like a fun event.

  7. I am so envious! Janet seems to be hopping all over this Poetry Friday. What great poems from your rock story. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Sounds like a very fun and profitable (and busy!) event. I believe that those seemingly random reminders one gets on Facebook or Twitter are not random at all. This was meant to be for you.