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Helping Hands?

December 2, 2017

… No, it’s more like “Helping Wands“! Read on …

Christmas Poem 2017

… That last line gave me particular satisfaction as most poets will tell you there’s nothing rhymes with ‘dolls’! I do enjoy a challenge!  🙂 I hope you like my new poem, but as with all the poems on this site, it is subject to copyright. Please do not publish it elsewhere without written permission. Thank you.

Hope you’re enjoying the countdown to Christmas. I’ve begun buying presents and a number of people will be receiving copies of Allie Esiri’s wonderful new anthology. I’m proud to have contributed one of the 366 poems in this exciting new hardback book!

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Wearing different hats!

October 24, 2017

​”Poet, anthologist AND author?!” someone recently commented, as if I couldn’t be all three. Well, yes, I am! Admittedly, some of my stories are very, very short – stories for early readers, aged just four or five. In many ways, though, they are the hardest to write. For these an author cannot use many words, which means that the pictures have to ‘carry’ some of the story. That means that the author has to write notes on what the artist should draw on each page. This is called an ‘illustration brief’. It applies to poetry books, too. For example, it isn’t enough to say, “drawing of a mother and child out for a walk”. It may be important to include extra details – What the characters are wearing, What are their facial expressions – surprise? contentment? grumpiness? What else is in the picture, What time of year it is. It might be that there’s an extra character – human or animal – who is important to the plot of the story, but who never appears in the text, only in the pictures.

I’m sharing these thoughts as I’ve just written an article for the Poetry Roundabout website. It is about editing poetry books – how I go about deciding which poems to choose and – harder – which to leave out. My article only touches briefly on illustration and yet, for children’s books in particular, this is an essential aspect of preparing a book. As an author, I can write illustration briefs. I can look at, and comment on, the artist’s ‘roughs’ – the early sketches they produce before embarking on the finished illustration, but it is the publisher who selects the illustrator, in consultation with the author. Some publishers even have ‘in-house’ illustrators, that is artists who do drawings to each book’s requirements especially for that publishing house. Others have favourite artists whose work they know well and whose style they feel will suit the book.

For those of you who didn’t realise that I was an author (of stories) as well as a poet and anthologist, below is a selection of some of my favourites. Have you read any of these books in school or at home? If so, which was your favourite? (Scroll to the bottom for more about these titles and a little puzzle.)

Meanwhile, If you’re interested in reading my article on editing anthologies, Click here!

Here are just a few of the more than one hundred books that I have written, together with a short quiz.

“Poles Apart” was translated into French, when it was called Aux Antipodes.
What tells you this is my favourite? (No, you’re not seeing double!)

Can you guess which other English title here was produced in a French language version?

I wonder if you can work out which of these stories was a retelling of one of Aesop’s fables?

One of these titles changed its title to Tim and the Toy Tooth when it was published in America.
Can you guess what its UK title is?

Which might be a good read for Hallowe’en?

A Time to be Free …

September 6, 2017

Freedom can be seen as a basic human right, but none of us is wholly free all the time. We may be prisoners of fate or illness, commitment to others, the school classroom or the workplace, or prisoners of our own conscience or through the result of our own misdeeds and the law of the land. Freedom is the theme of this year’s UK National Poetry Day on 28 September.

My Schofield and Sims anthology, A Time to Speak and a Time to Listen offers many poems that talk about freedom and/or its absence. Here are some suggestions of poems to read and discuss to kick off your poetry day, or maybe inspire you to write poems of your own, at home or at school. You can find each poem easily as the numbers in brackets after each poem tell you which of the 100 poems in the anthology it is.

1. Explore how a lack of freedom – including freedom of choice – can highlight the benefits of being free.

Read A Final Appointment – Eric Finney (4) & The Tree and the Pool by Brian Patten (100)

In the first, the character Adbul tries to exercise his freedom. What does he try to avoid, only to walk straight into it? In the second, many different characters find their plans and wishes thwarted … by what?

2. Consider how we often more free than we think. All that holds us back is our own fear or lack of belief in ourselves. Imagine if you believed in yourself – believed that there was nothing you couldn’t do. How much might you achieve in your life?

Read Target by Rachel Rooney (25) and Taking a Chance by Roger Stevens (51)

Make a list of some things that you would like to aim for. How can you make yourself free to follow your hopes, aspirations, desires? Discuss what you might change to make better use of your free time?

3. Much of our lives we spend rushing … to catch a bus, to be in time for school, to buy something urgently before the shops close. It is helpful to free our minds of clutter and stress, and relax. Even sitting on a stationary train and looking and listening through the window (or in a traffic jam on a motorway) we can experience freedom beyond us. Stopping to look and listen at any time is worthwhile.

Read Adlestrop by Edward Thomas (99), where the speaker, trapped on a train, becomes aware of the birds’ freedom.

Now read Leisure by W H Davies (17) and Daffodils by William Wordsworth (43). Then Dandelion Time by Sue Cowling (61) and Where Go the Boats? by Robert Louis Stevenson (71)

Think of a place where you like to go to relax. Make notes of some of the sounds you can hear, sights you can see, smells you’re aware off. Now try and turn those images into a short poem about freedom. Try to convey the idea of being free (like Sue Cowling’s dandelion seeds flying freely by, or Edward Thomas’s birdsong), but write your poem without using the words ‘free’ or ‘freedom’.

4. Imagine not being free to walk out of your own front door. Imagine having no choices in your life. If we enjoy freedom and want it for ourselves, is it right to take freedom away from others? Discuss this with friends after reading this extract:

Auguries of Innocence by William Blake (91)

If you have the chance to look at these poems and ideas before National Poetry Day, think about creating an assembly for the rest of your school, with the theme of Freedom in Poetry.

If you don’t have a copy of this anthology in your school library, ask your teacher to follow this link. (There is an accompanying Teacher’s Guide, packed with ideas for enjoying all the 100 poems in the book.)

If you missed my most recent post (Free as a Bird) on this website, scroll down to find it and read some new poems that I have written especially for National Poetry Day 2017.

Free as a Bird

August 30, 2017


In Florence, hundreds of years ago,
people caught songbirds to shut in a cage,
an act as cruel as hell.

And why did they capture those innocent birds,
stealing their freedom to fly?
They caught the birds to sell.

Then along came an artist-inventor,
with a will beyond bravado:
He bought the birds and set them free,
that champion, Leonardo!

© Celia Warren 2017

Thursday 28 September is 2017’s UK National Poetry Day. Since 1999 each of these special days has been given a theme, and this year’s theme is FREEDOM.

Feel free as … a bird. One of my favourite poets and artists, William Blake, was outraged at the sight of caged birds …

A robin redbreast in a cage
Puts all Heaven in a rage.
A dove-house filled with doves and pigeons
Shudders Hell through all its regions.

from Auguries of Innocence – William Blake (1757-1827)

Blake wasn’t the first influential creator to dislike the sight of caged wild birds. This year I visited the home of another of my historical heroes, Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519). He was an artist, an inventor and – unusually for his era – he believed in animal rights to the extent that he became a vegetarian. He put his feelings into action when he bought caged songbirds from a market seller, simply to open the cage door and release them.

On holiday in France this summer, I visited da Vinci’s home, Clos Lucé, in Amboise, which inspired the new poem at the top of this blog.

‘Free as a bird’ I wrote earlier. How many other similes might describe freedom? This question inspired another new poem for this year’s National Poetry Day:


Free as the seed of a dandelion clock,
Free as a snowflake, free as a fly,
Free as a wave in a windswept sea,
Free as the endless sky.

Not like a bee in a spider’s web,
Not like a servant, nor like a slave,
Not like a football kicked in a goal
Or a starfish beached in a cave.

Free as a grain of sand on a beach,
Free as a raincloud, free as a fish,
Free as a kite with a broken string,
Free as a fervent wish.

© Celia Warren 2017

Do have a go at writing your own Freedom poem. Meanwhile, here’s another new ditty written tongue in cheek:


This poem is free:
there is nothing to pay.
The downside is
it has nothing to say.

© Celia Warren 2017

I hope you enjoyed the poems in this blog. Feel free to use them for your own amusement, or in the classroom, but please credit me as their author.

Like all the poems and pictures on this site – even that last one! – they are my copyright. If you wish to publish them, then please ask for permission. Thank you.

I leave you with a final image of freedom – a majestic gannet in flight, halfway across the English Channel, that I took from the car ferry on my way home from holiday:

If any of the poems or images on this site inspired you to write your own poem, please do send it to me. I’d love to read it!

HarperCollins Summer Party 2017

July 11, 2017

Imagine my excitement when, as one of their 2017 authors, I was invited to HarperCollins’ 200-years-of-publishing Summer Party 2017. It was HarperCollins who published my very first book – my eight-page infant-reader, A Fishy Tale. Since then more books have followed – a little longer than that first ‘tome’ (although what A Fishy Tale lacked in length, it gained in size when it was later printed in Big Book format).

So on 5th July I headed to London to enjoy HarperCollins’ generous hospitality. The evening began with a pre-party gathering in The Bunch of Grapes and led to the party proper in the stunning setting of the V&A‘s central courtyard. First, we enjoyed warm sunshine, then as darkness fell, the fabulous floodlighting.

It was wonderful to meet fellow authors and I soon found myself ‘celeb-spotting’ – my favourite being Paddington Bear! (RIP his creator, author Michael Bond, who died last month, and long live his lovely character.) I won’t name-drop, but will add a link here to The Bookseller’s account of the happy occasion if you want to discover a few others who were there – authors of grown-ups’ and children’s books! For myself, it was a delight to put faces to names of editors with whom I’ve worked over the years, and a privilege to celebrate publishing in such a beautiful venue.

Now, watch this space for my latest title on HarperCollins’ list, out later this year!

World Camel Day

June 23, 2017

Yes, 22nd June is International Camel Day! So I share with you my concrete camel. No, he’s not made of concrete, he’s made of words. A ‘concrete poem’, as you probably know, simply means a shape poem. It’s fun writing poems and then persuading the words to take the shape of your poem’s subject. Have a go yourself!

Enjoy this poem, but please remember that all poems and illustrations on this site are subject to copyright. Do not reproduce this, or any other poem or picture on this site, without permission from the author and owner. Thank you.


Birds of a feather

June 7, 2017

… flock together, but birds of all kinds seem happy to share.

It’s not only in winter that it’s helpful to feed the birds. At this time of year, when young birds are hatching from their eggs, there are more beaks to fill. The parent birds need lots of energy to look after their young, so they need extra food for themselves and to fill all those new, gaping beaks. Here are some recent visitors to our garden feeding station.

Birds arrive – all shapes and sizes;
fill our garden with surprises:
tiny coal tits, three by three,
two young crows who want their tea:
“Serve us now – no ifs or buts –
Sunflower seeds and monkey nuts!”

© Celia Warren 2017

The great spotted woodpecker shuts
Out the world as he gobbles the nuts
That hang from a branch
Where the coal tit takes lunch;
Big and small, both are filling their guts.

© Celia Warren 2017

If you enjoy reading poems about birds and seeing wonderful illustrations painted by members of the Royal Society of Wildlife Artists, then the book for you is the RSPB Anthology of Wildlife Poems. It includes poems about wild animals, too. You never know, it might inspire you to write your own bird, fish or animal poem. If so, and you’re aged at least 3 and at most 18, then you might like to enter it in this competition.