Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014: A Busy, but Productive Year!

This year was full of HARD work, GREAT rewards, and fulfillment of life-long dreams!
My Book Release


I sat in on panel discussions, readings and talked with New York poets. Billy Collins, Barbara Hamby and her husband David Kirby, Denise Duhamel, and David Lehman! Thanks to Dr. Angela Ball, USM for organizing this Moorman Symposium and inviting me to the reception!
Barbara Hamby, David Kirby, Denise Duhamel,
David Lehman 
and Wynne Huddleston
© Wynne Huddleston
At any given moment during the panel discussions the poets would break out in song! David Lehman, editor of the Best American Poetry Series is a gentle jazz man poet! 
Barbara Hamby, David Kirby, David Lehman
© Wynne Huddleston

This group of poets infused the audience with laughter and awe. Barbara is such a nice person. She signed her book, On the Street of Divine Love, "For Wynne--with admiration for a fellow poet." WOW I gave her a copy of my book. She said she liked the cover and said that I sign beautifully--2 things I was insecure about. What a sweetheart!

Billy Collins and Wynne Huddleston
He is signing his book & I'm holding mine.
© Wynne Huddleston
Billy Collins and Wynne Huddleston
© Wynne Huddleston

It was like a dream... Billy Collins --2 time US Poet Laureate and America's best loved poet with me at USM during the Moorman Symposium-- telling me to sit on his footstool at the reception after his entertaining reading and book signing. I talked with him about my book title, From the Depths of Red Bluff, how I teach my music students, the weather, poems he wrote, and more at the reception Sat. night! Then.... I sat in the living room of Erin Granberry's Hattiesburg home and conversed with David Lehman, editor of the Best American Poetry Series!
David Lehman and Wynne Huddleston
© Wynne Huddleston


April is always busy, but this year took the prize! I had begun working on National Board of Professional Teacher Certification in music the fall of last year. Little did I know I would be chosen as the Mississippi Poetry Society (MPS) Poet of the Year and have to have books in hand for my book release at the MPS Fest in April at Starkville, in addition to NBPTC test training the same day (miraculously the same town), income taxes due. a 3-day state music conference in Hattiesburg with my State Honor Choir students, my grandson's birthday, all in April... and my board work and videos had to be submitted electronically the first week of May, because of  elementary state testing the next week (I have to proctor).

I typed so much I got writer's elbow--AKA tennis elbow-- in both arms... enter compression bands, Aleve, but no rest (haha).  I stayed up late working, got up early, had play around with video recorders until one worked so I could video tape my recordings (wound up using iPad mini) and then write about what I did, why I did it, answer pages of questions, write how my lessons addressed every child's specific learning styles and needs, plus PROVE how it impacted their learning.

teaching "ta" and "ti-ti" rhythms

State Honor Choir Students


Meanwhile, I've never formatted a book for publication, so I spent hours trying to figure that out on a new laptop with the aggravating Windows 8.1. Things disappeared before my eyes, if I barely touched the mousepad. I would send a file to my friend to critique and it would come back with all the spaces messed up! It was frustrating trying to learn how to operate the laptop on top of everything else! Although MPS paid for publication and provided an ISBN, it was up to me to get it published. On advice from other writers I used CreateSpace. Next problem was the cover, how I lamented over this!! If I had known how to make my own cover I would have, but I didn't I took the "easy" way and used their cover (which really wasn't easy at all). My sister drove 2 hours to Red Bluff to take a picture for my cover. She also took my author photo and helped me proof the book. Thanks Donna Huddleston Smith! More editing, hand spacing the back cover quotes because there was no format for block on the cover creator. UGH  Trying to come up with a title was very hard! Thanks to Sheila Hutcherson for helping me decide on From the Depths of Red Bluff. 3 very expensive proofs later, editing elipses and capitalizations, etc.... I am pleased with my first poetry book and pleased that although SOME call it self-published because it is "print on demand," it was really published by MPS. But that is another story.


Many thanks to Janet Taylor-Perry, author of the riveting Raiford Chronicles, and Dr. Philip Levine for their publishing advice, Dr. Angela Ball, USM Professor and Irene Latham, award winning poet,      for their kind blurbs.

Pushing the send button for the months of NBPTS work was terrifying! I felt like I was throwing my baby down a canyon. But the stress didn't stop there after the paperwork was over. I had to start studying in May for a HUGE 6 part examination on computer in June. Each part was 30 minutes and covered music history listening test, critiquing a choir performance, writing a composition for mutliple classroom instruments and voices in the manner the directions said to do, and teaching concepts using National Music Standards and accomodations for all types of learners. Talk about DRAINED when that was over!


I had my first book signing (since the release in Starkville) at Books a Million in Meridian. It was a great success! I have signed at many places this year--Columbia, Oxford, Ocean Springs, Ridgeland, Hattiesburg and Philadelphia. I was on the front page of two newspapers and had a big write up with a picture in a third, plus some radio spots.

Finally I was notified in November that I passed and I am now an NBCT (National Board Certified Teacher)!  I'm so thrilled and thankful to Elissa Saperstein helping me all the way from New York. I couldn't have done it without her! This certificate will give me a nice raise starting in January (just in time, since my old car turned over 200.000 miles this year) and it ups my retirement! Plus my teaching has improved. I have revamped my lesson plans, making them more hands-on. I bought 3 djembes in May (with school funds) and did a drum circle with my students. In October I made a project on for 22 classroom mini keyboards and we got them! We also got headphones. My students are so excited. I am, too! We used the djembes and a student played Taps on one of the keyboards in our Veteran's Program in November.

My grandson (on right) with a friend. Both are my students.


My oldest son (a recently certified RN) is now working at a hospital. My youngest son passed fireman training in January and ia working as a fireman, along with his lawn care business. His wife graduated with her RN degree. They are expecting their first baby (a girl) in June!

I hope 2015 will be less stress and I can get back to writing poetry AND submitting it. I don't see how can top 2014, but I do know one thing--I can't wait to see my new granddaughter in June!

I hope all my readers and fans have a wonderful new year! Thank you for all your support!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Gifts from My Students

These are the best gifts I received this year from my students:

(of which I need more!)

Their patience with me--as I rearranged my room again and again to fit everything onto the camera lens, as I drilled them on rhythms and Karate Recorder songs, and as I perfected my methods in order to videotape lessons for NBPTS. I couldn't have become a National Board Certified Teacher without their cooperation!

(for what I strive to do--inspire love of music, provide an emotional outlet and.... foster success!)

Students at my door during my break or their recess wanting extra practice time for state chorus or their musical.

Hearing "Joy to the World" played on keyboard by several students who normally misbehave or pay no attention in class. These 5th graders had never played a keyboard before, yet they learned this level 2 song "by ear" in two lessons. That's how hard they worked... and how talented, I discovered, they are!

Seeing a girl who rarely participates in class light up at the sight of our keyboards and quickly learn a song... THEN seeing her take the initiative to teach others!

Parents telling me their child asked for a keyboard for Christmas.

(much more important than a compliment)

Having a student recognize, WOW! You know a lot of songs by heart!

Having a student tell me, "You should be on American Idol!" and another, "You're really good at playing piano!"


Students saying they miss me before/after a break.

A little white girl putting her arm around a little black girl who was crying.

A 4th grader asking a special needs boy (who felt unwanted) to sit with him.

A 3rd grade boy volunteering to carry a box of cookie dough for a little girl.

But the best gift this year came from a 3rd grade girl who came to my desk and asked, "Can I have a hug?"  I'm not sure if she knew it or not, but I was the one who really needed a hug. So, in reality, I didn't give HER a hug, she gave ME one.


So while we teachers complain about how wild students are at this time of year, with the rush to get in the last bit of year-end testing, put on plays, tie shoes, zip coats, replace hair bows, sweep floors, along with the stress of buying presents, cooking, baking, decorating and then putting things away, let us take time to reflect upon those little gifts--those little sticks of kindling that keep our passion for teaching burning in our hearts.  

For heartwarming poems about love, loss and passion, please read my book, From the Depths of Red Bluff!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

What is the earliest Christmas present you remember/treasure?

We always had Christmas on Christmas Eve... I never was taught that Santa was real. Maybe because I was the youngest of 3 girls, or maybe my parents didn't believe in it. Nevertheless, I don't feel scarred in any way because of that. I remember us being behind a closed door waiting on mom and dad to get everything ready. This was the year my sister and I both got Ideal Baby Kissy Dolls. They were jointed at the hip and shoulders, their eyes opened and shut, and their heads could turn side to side. Baby Kissy was bow legged so she could sit up. My sister's doll was brunette while mine was blonde. Since my sister, being a tomboy, didn't care for dolls, I played with both of them. In the pic you can just see the head of hers by my foot. I also see my Mary Poppins bag in the pic by dad's boots. (It was my job to pull his boots off after he came home tired from work). My baby pic is in the background under the white ceramic poodle. We also had a black poodle. Signs of the times....

I wish I still had my Kissy, but she, my older baby doll, and my talking Bugs Bunny died in my house fire. The older baby doll's toes were missing on one foot (my dog bit them off) and her hair was gone, but I still loved her. The good news is my one-eyed Teddy Bear survived the fire! There is a poem about this, Scattered Among the Ashes, in my book, From the Depths of Red Bluff. He has been washed a few times over the years and is matty but is well-loved. He is yellow with aqua "clothes." I obtained another Bugs Bunny who is actually in better condition than mine was.

Me with my Kissy Doll about 1963-64

Pic of one that looked like mine

My new antique talking Bugs Bunny

My old Teddy

Teddy Bear reclining

About Me

My photo
Wynne Huddleston is a poet, musician and teacher. Her first book of poetry, From the Depths of Red Bluff, ISBN: 978-0-9840483-2-8, published by the Mississippi Poetry Society, Inc., is now available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Ms. Huddleston is the Mississippi Poetry Society 2014 Poet of the Year. Her poetry has been published in numerous publications including the Birmingham Arts Journal, Camroc Press Review, Stymie Magazine, Danse Macabre, Orange Room Review, New Fairy Tales Anthology, Ink, Sweat & Tears, and Four and Twenty. Her poem, Same Stars, Different Houses received a Pushcart Nomination from Deep South Magazine. Awards include the 2013 MPS Award, and Winner of the Grandmother Earth National Contest 2010 for Environmental Poetry. Ms. Huddleston was born in Lone Star, Texas, but has lived in Mississippi most of her life. She has been an elementary music teacher for 25 years, and has 2 grown sons, and 2 grandchildren.