I'm happy to feature Amy Losak on the blog today! Amy worked tirelessly to publish the beautiful haiku of her late mother, Sydell Rosenberg, as the book H IS FOR HAIKU: A TREASURY OF HAIKU FROM A TO Z (illustrated by Sawsan Chalabi). I recently met Amy at the Brooklyn Book Festival and we also participate together in "The Book Meshuggenahs," a group of Jewish authors publishing Jewish-themed children's books. Here are Amy's thoughts about stories . . . creativity . . . and connection.
STORIES – Discuss what inspires your ideas and stories, and share the process about your latest projects.
I revel and find creativity in “small moments” now. I’ve started to slow down more to enjoy the little things -- and really perceive them. Thanks to my growing interest in haiku, I’ve become more accustomed to paying attention to my daily surroundings … because I’m learning how to locate bits of magic there. They can “hide” in the quotidian stuff of life we may overlook or take for granted, and can become fodder for short poetry such as haiku. And even if these moments don’t result in poetry, they provide personal enrichment – despite their “smallness,” they expand my scope, my vision.
Now that my mom Sydell Rosenberg’s H Is For Haiku is out in the world – finally, after decades of delay (for various reasons) -- I’m contemplating at least one more children’s haiku book based on my mother’s prolific writings, and perhaps also a chapbook for adults. I have a framework coalescing in my head for a second themed collection for kids -- and perhaps this time, I will add some of my short poems to the mix, and make it into a mother-daughter poetry picture book.
CREATIVITY -- How do you showcase your creative side through writing/illustrating and other pursuits?
As a haiku poet, I consider myself an eternal beginner. But on occasion, when I feel confident enough to do so, I submit my work to journals and other outlets. I’m pleased to report that some of my poetry has been published in some terrific places, such as: Modern Haiku, Frogpond (the journal of the Haiku Society of America, which is 50 years old this year: www.hsa-haiku.org), The Heron’s Nest, Failed Haiku, Prune Juice, Akitsu Quarterly, Newtown Literary Journal, Asahi Haikuist Network; and others. In the recent past, I’ve also read both my mom’s work and mine in a few public venues, including a major poetry festival on Governor’s Island in New York City, and at the Queens Botanical Garden -- and I’ve had a lovely time.
Melissa and Amy at the Brooklyn Book Festival
CONNECTION -- How do you connect to your young readers through your writing/illustrating, and how do you stay connected to the KidLit community?
Syd was a NY school teacher, and I think early on in her career as a haijin – a haiku poet – she determined that some of her poems would be appealing to children. Indeed, I consider the poems in H Is Like Haiku to be like stories in miniature, each one self-contained. And these lightly lyrical story “nuggets” are both emotionally resonant and packed with imagery. Mom’s poems have been used by a 10-year-old nonprofit arts education organization I love, Arts For All (www.arts-for-all.org) to teach second grade students (and other grades too) the basics of painting, drawing, and collage; music; and theater. I’ve had the opportunity to visit two schools in the Bronx and Queens a few times, and interact with the students. I told them about Syd, so they were able to connect a face and personality with the poetry. And we recited the poems together. In fact, we acted them out, mimicking the movements of the “characters” in the haiku: the cats, squirrels, pigeons, sparrows, etc. It was energetic and so much fun.
Also, for a couple of years in late August, I participated in haiku/natural science camp sessions held at the Teaneck Creek Conservancy in Teaneck, NJ (www.teaneckcreek.org). The TCC is a reclaimed dump site that was transformed into a gorgeous eco-park. First I recited some of my mom’s haiku in a clearing called the “Labyrinth.” The kids, science teacher-counselor and I then walked around for a while, taking in the lush flora and fauna. We jotted down some haiku inspired by our sensory observations, and then discussed them as a group.
I am a member of SCBWI. And Facebook has been a terrific way for me to stay connected to the extraordinarily creative, generous and gifted KidLit community!
Amy Losak of New Jersey is a veteran healthcare public relations executive and consultant in New York. Her late mother, Sydell Rosenberg (1929-1996), was a NY teacher and published writer (poetry, prose, word and literary puzzles, a novel; and more), and a charter member of the Haiku Society of America in 1968. In April (National Poetry Month) of 2018, Syd’s picture book, H Is For Haiku: A Treasury of Haiku From A to Z, was released by Penny Candy Books (illustrator: Sawsan Chalabi: Schalabi.com).
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