AzMerit Score

For months they’ve been telling us to be prepared for bad test scores on the first common core tests students took here in Arizona last spring. Okay so I won’t be disappointed if my girls’ scores are within the average for the test. Well today Gretchen’s results finally arrived.


Highly proficient in English

Switch to common core
AzMerit test scores came
Jaw dropping, great grade


Proficient in math


Yes, this mother is having a #proudparent moment especially on the English score: two +s (reading for information & reading for literature) and a check mark (at grade level) on the writing portion. Way to Go, Gretchen! Now if I could see Rachael’s scores…

Happy Sci-fi Birthday!

Sci-fi theme going
Ev’ry kiss begins with Kay
Star Wars charm bracelet



My Dad’s birthday card


Yep, even my dad knows. Once upon a time he went out at Christmas and bought me the original Star Wars trilogy on VHS. I gave one hint to my hubby for my birthday present. My Dad unwittingly gave hint #2. I posted my Star Wars napowrimo poem as hint #3. This makes hint #4. Do you think the man will figure it out?

And because where would the fun in my birthday be if I couldn’t tease the twin about getting old.

42 years young
Ev’rything answered before
Senility sets


Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy


Happy Birthday to Kati and Me!


Me (dimple) and Kati

Laceless Sneaker

Under watchful eye
Night before kindergarten
Struggle to tie shoe

This morning as I was tying my sneakers, I was thinking about when I was 5 years old. It was the night before my first day of school and I was terrified I was going to fail on the first day of kindergarten, because I couldn’t tie my shoes. I remember sitting up in bed, a sneaker in my lap, and trying over and over to tie the laces. When my mom came in to check on me, I couldn’t contain my excitement. I was finally successful and I showed my mom I could tie laces. Much to my relief I wasn’t going to fail the first day of kindergarten. Never mind the five year old logic that said inability to tie sneaker – FAIL. Inability to zip zippers gets a pass.

Day 6 of NovPAD, Robert Lee Brewer mentioned the innovations humans have created. And I was just thinking Nike needed a laceless sneaker with good ankle support 35 years ago. By the way, I am pretty good at tying laces now, but I still struggle zipping zippers. So I’m really keeping an eye on this innovation – Auto Zipper.

Twins – Fun Fact

My brain hurts

My brain hurts Photo credit

an hour
to the day

First born
twin becomes
younger than
the second.

Okay in two more weeks, my twin sister and I will celebrate 42 years. Since 42 is the answer to everything in the universe maybe I’ll be able to decipher this math problem on the 17th. Until then, I am glad I live in Arizona where we don’t have to worry about trying to figure out who is older. I beat my sister by a day! ;)

I Surrender

Middle of Times Square
Surrender to nature’s call
Feel inauspicious

Since it is only day two of NovPAD, I hope no one is feeling inauspicious yet nor surrendering. I was on Facebook this morning and saw I posted this video a few years ago and well it’s fun. I’m not sure if I’ve shared it on this blog yet. If anyone would like to surrender to nature’s call in the middle of Times Square just visit my husband at work, Blockwise Engineering.

Happy Halloween

Jack-O-Lanterns 2015

Jack-O-Lanterns 2015

Last year, I wrote a set of haiku about our pumpkin carving here. As you can see, my oldest continued her skill and patience with Attack on Titan theme this year. While we carved the pumpkins Thursday night, Gretchen wasn’t sure how she wanted to proceed. When I carried hers outside to light up, I noticed it had two faces. I laughed and said, You went with Batman. Gretchen replied eerily, I am the night.

The other dilemma Gretchen had was a costume. She wanted to go as a character in the story she is writing, but she said there is nothing in her closet close to what her character dresses in. I told her, Go as a Betazoid wedding guest. It seemed logical to me. If you have nothing to wear there’s no excuse not to attend a wedding on Betazed. Well Mom’s suggestion didn’t fly and Friday after school, Gretchen raided my closet. I’m not sure how I feel about my 14 year old fitting in my clothes.

Gretchen and Rachael dressed for a party.

Gretchen and Rachael dressed for a party.

Gretchen came out of my closet victorious and proclaimed she would have worn the costume to school for the costume contest if she knew her mother had such a cool dress. May I introduce exhibit 1, Mom has worn this dress before. Really, I am NOT sure how I feel about my girls being able to raid my closet.

Anyhew on to today’s #haikuchallenge word fright:

Attack on Titan
Carved into Jack-O-Lantern
Gives amateurs fright

Fourteen year old raids
Mom’s closet in desp’rate search
of frightful costume

Happy Halloween!

Guest Blogger – Jeanne Gassman

It’s October 30th! Can you believe the platform challenge is almost done. Then PAD (poem a day) in November will begin. Today’s task is to go off and write, but first I’d like to introduce a first to this blog – a guest blogger. Jeanne Gassman shared a video about plagiarism in poetry I found interesting. I asked her if she would be interested in writing about plagiarism for my blog. She agreed. Thank you, Jeanne, for expounding on this topic. I’ve played with erasure poems. It’s good to know how to properly credit poetic inspiration.


When Veronica asked me to write a guest post about plagiarism, she tapped into a topic that stirs my ire. As a published writer, I’ve been a victim of plagiarism, and it’s both frustrating and agonizing. Your words, your story, your carefully crafted poem, your creation, is stolen and claimed by a stranger (or a very duplicitous friend). Alas, the problem has become rampant with the Internet, as it’s so easy to cut and paste. In fact, many plagiarizers often claim since the work was posted on the Internet, it was available for free.

As an English and Creative Writing instructor at a local community college, I encountered at least one instance of plagiarism every semester. I had students who plagiarized entire papers, never changing a single word from the original document. I had a student who wanted to become an English teacher plagiarize from Wikipedia. I had an honors student plagiarize her project from multiple documents, saying she suffered from carpel tunnel syndrome so she had to cut and paste because she was in too much pain to type! Plagiarism was such a huge problem that I created a lecture and PowerPoint to define plagiarism and outline the consequences. When students were caught (and I always caught them), they seldom expressed remorse.

So, what is plagiarism anyway, and why should we care?

I’ll start by sharing a couple of the examples I gave to my students. These are taken from the article, “Plagiarism Lines Blur for Students in Digital Age,” The New York Times, by Trip Gabriel, Aug. 1, 2010 (Note the attribution!):

At Rhode Island College, a freshman copied and pasted from a Web site’s frequently asked questions page about homelessness—and did not think he needed to credit a source in his assignment because the page did not include author information.

And at the University of Maryland, a student reprimanded for copying from Wikipedia in a paper on the Great Depression said he thought its entries—unsigned and collectively written—did not need to be credited since they counted, essentially, as common knowledge.

Simply defined, plagiarism is using the work of another without providing proper attribution. When you use another person’s words, text, or images without acknowledging the source, you are committing plagiarism.

Why should we care about plagiarism? At the very least, plagiarism is unethical; at its worst, it is the theft of intellectual property and a violation of copyright. Egregious acts of plagiarism of popular or famous works have resulted in lawsuits. Plagiarism is also lazy. It is a way of saying you feel your own creative work is less valuable or worthy than someone else’s.

Poets often write poems inspired by the work of another. Is it plagiarism to write a poem using lines or quotes from another work? Again, it is about acknowledging your source. If you write a poem based on another’s person’s work, be sure to acknowledge the original author. This can be done with the title of the poem itself or in a footnote or author’s note. Give credit where credit is due.

What about erasure poetry, poems created by erasing the original text of another document? Your best choice is to show the original document alongside the poem you have created. This also provides a nice showcase for your imagination and creativity, as the reader can see the process of creating the poem. When in doubt, provide attribution.

What should I do if I discover my work has been plagiarized? Contact the publisher and/or editor and let them know the work was stolen. They should provide proper credit or remove the plagiarized piece. If they do nothing, your best recourse is to make the writing world aware of the theft. The writing and publishing community is very small, and reputation means everything.

How can I find out if my work is plagiarized? Google is your friend. Periodically, Google key phrases from your writing, story or poem titles, your name, snippets of text, etc. Talkwalker is another great resource for searching for plagiarized phrases or text. You can create “alerts” to notify you whenever your selected examples appear on the Internet. Unfortunately, it is more difficult to locate plagiarized works in print.

I want to do the right thing, but… Remember, most plagiarizers do so with intent. They are fully aware they are stealing, but if you feel you are crossing into a gray area of use or “borrowing,” err on the ethical side and properly acknowledge your source. As artists and writers, we all have an obligation to practice good literary citizenship.

JEANNE LYET GASSMAN lives in Arizona where the desert landscape inspires much of her fiction. She holds an MFA in Writ­ing from Vermont College of Fine Arts and has received fellow­ships from Ragdale and the Arizona Commission on the Arts. In addition to writing, Jeanne teaches creative writing workshops in the Phoenix, Arizona, metropolitan area. Her work has appeared in Hippocampus,Hermeneutic Chaos Literary Journal, Red Savina Review, The Museum of Americana, Assisi: An Online Journal of Arts & Letters, Switchback, Literary Mama, and Barrelhouse, among many others. Her debut novel, Blood of a Stone, received a 2015 Independent Publisher Book Award in the national category of religious fiction and was a finalist for the 2015 Independent Author Network Book of the Year Awards. Find Jeanne online at:

Interview – Jessica Piazza

As I’m sure readers are aware, I’ve been following the platform challenge at Writer’s Digest. One of the tasks was to interview an expert. Many of the platform building tasks are already part of my routine. I’m on Facebook and twitter. I even participate in live twitter chats. And because of this, I knew of a few published poets I could email about interviewing, but it meant I actually had to come up with questions. Ugh…

Enter Jessica Piazza, I’ve been following her Poetry has Value project all year. Ms. Piazza has decided she wants her poetry to pay off. She’s tired of the starving poet syndrome. At the start of the year, she began submitting poems to paying markets only. She has kept a blog on her poetry has value experience here. Ms. Piazza has also interviewed several poetry editors from different journals, sharing their expertise with her readers. I thought since the year was winding down, I could see how she felt about her poetry has value journey. She was kind enough to answer my questions. Thanks, Jess!

1. When did you start writing?
I won a poetry contest in fourth grade with a poem about the Holocaust.  That probably doesn’t count.  Like so many high school kids, I wrote bad poetry in my teen years, too. I think I actually started getting serious about it through creative writing classes in college. I went to Boston University and had some amazing poetry professors that were passionate about poetry, and it made me realize it could be a real pursuit and not just an angsty source of expression.  I ended up working in the intern office of the U.S. Poet Laureate at the time, Robert Pinsky, who taught at BU.  It was amazing.

2. Why did you begin the poetry has value campaign?
I was actually inspired by a friend, another poet named Dena Rash Guzman. She had been talking to me and some other friends about trying to send poetry to more paying journals in 2015 because she, like so many writers, had to be serious about budgeting and was tired of seeing her hard work published without getting compensated for it.  It really started a fire for me. I’d not really thought about how much work I’d given away to magazines, and in fact how much money I’d spent on submission fees, submitting in general, all that. It didn’t feel fair, really. And it felt radical to propose an experiment in which I’d only send to paying markets for a whole year. I was curious and I was a little exhausted and I wanted to see what would happen if I insisted that others value my work monetarily.

3. What are your writing goals?
My writing goal is writing! Ass in chair. Write like a motherfucker (thanks, Cheryl Strayed!) Just do it. Get it out. Create. Make art. I’ll do that forever and my first and foremost goal is living that life.  My publishing and career goals, of course, are a bit more complex. I have a new collection coming out with Red Hen Press (Obliterations, co-written with Heather Aimee O’Neill) in April, and I’d love to start serious work on my next solo collection. I teach at the university level and would love to continue doing so, particularly in creative writing. I want to write, publish in a lot of magazines, advocate for other writers and teach. A full writing life: that’s the goal.

4. What kind of feedback have you gotten throughout the campaign?
It’s mostly been positive, which makes me very grateful. A lot of people have said they feel empowered by the idea that someone should value their art both monetarily AND spiritually.  The negative feedback I’ve had hasn’t been too bad, and all of it has been understandable. The truth is, journals struggle as much as writers, and are mostly run by volunteers. So many of them barely stay afloat that some people think it’s unreasonable for them to pay writers. The question, then, of whether they should stay in business is a real one. If they are businesses and not non-profits, what does that mean? What should the best practices be? Those are questions I get from some people who question the campaign, and they’re good ones. The very worst feedback comes from those who imply that I care less about my writing or art in general (or that I’m taking away some spiritual worth) by hoping for payment. The classic sellout insult. I don’t worry too much about it, though.  When Eric Fischl starts giving away his paintings for free because he doesn’t want to be called a sellout, then I’ll worry.  The very best feedback I get is from other poets who write to tell me they’ve submitted to a paying journal who accepted their piece and they’re getting paid for their poetry, sometimes for the first time. To hear that they’d never have submitted to a paying market without the Poetry Has Value project is amazing.

5. Do you believe the poetry has value campaign has helped with your author platform?
I honestly don’t know.  I hope so, of course, but that isn’t the reason I did it. Advocacy for poetry and poets is important to me because I already am a part of this field, not because I want to be a greater part of it.  If people seek out my work because I’m an advocate, I’m very grateful to them.  But I haven’t seen that happen too much yet. Of course, it’s possible I’m not privy to how many people find my work through the PHV project. If advocating for ALL poets helps bring people to my specific poetry, I certainly won’t complain.

6. Would you consider the campaign a success?
That’s an interesting question. Maybe I’m not sure what I would consider success yet, in terms of the campaign. I wanted this pledge and project to spark conversations about poetry, money and worth…and I think it has. I’d definitely like to see more of that: more transparency and more debate.  To that end, I’ll keep going.  But, again, people have written me saying they were inspired to value their work, or they got paid for poetry, or they feel like they’re empowered. And that’s a pretty good definition of success in my book.