“Marjorie Maddox knows poetry. If I had to pick one book to introduce students to the joy of writing poems, this would be it. Maddox creates a book full of original poems to show us the inside out of every kind of poem you could ever want to write. I dare you to read a page or two without reaching for your pen and composing a poem of your own. From alliteration to sonnets and the villanelle, Marjorie Maddox makes metaphors meaningful and memorable.”—Charles Ghigna – FatherGoose®
“What do you get when you take a morsel of midnight, a pinch of sky, a splash of sea, a flower petal, a bee-kissed mulberry, the hum of blue firs, and a season with lollipops and a brave knight? . . . .Maddox leads young readers across mood-lifting, make-believe landscapes. Feeling blue has never felt so good!” —David L. Harrison, author of After Dark: Poems about Nocturnal Animals
“Baseball is a game of fine points and grand gestures, small blunders and bold accomplishments—the hook slide into second, the humble bunt, the unexpected wild pitch, the bases-loaded home run. Poet and baseball fan Marjorie Maddox pays tribute to these and other details that make the national pastime an enduring and engaging sport for players and fans alike. Surprising wordplay and keen images offer a unique perspective of the classic American game. John Sandford’s memorable characters and scenes play up the drama.”
Maddox is the great grand-niece of Branch Rickey, the General Manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, who helped break the color barrier by signing Jackie Robinson.
“You’ve probably heard the phrase a school of fish. But what about a rumba of rattlesnakes, an army of ants, or a crash of rhinos? Derived from both oral and written traditions, collective nouns go back centuries. These terms not only charm us with their sound, but they provide a bit of insight into animal behavior. Readers can find these and other terms—from alley cats to zebras—in fourteen thought-provoking poems by Marjorie Maddox. She and artist Philip Huber create a wonderful combination of rich wordplay and captivating art that piques the imagination.”
“Transplant, Transport, Transubstantiation is a luminous collection, navigating the human from the body’s blood and muscle to flights of the spirit. In these compelling narratives and taxonomies, Marjorie Maddox accompanies the reader on a harrowing and joyous journey.”
What gave you the idea for these books? Or what inspired you to write them?
Inside Out: Poems on Writing and Reading Poems with Insider Exercises: This book is based on my 30+ years of teaching poetry at the university, secondary, primary, and community levels and encourages young adults and their teachers and parents, as well as poets of any age, to step “inside” the poem to experience the joys of writing and reading poetry. Chat with personification, dance with iambic, fish for sestinas, and text with a triolet. In 27 poems plus Insider Exercises, this book focuses on reaching both those already in love with poetry and those intimidated by the form. For a sampling, here’s the Table of Contents of poems about various poetic techniques and forms. I dare you not to have fun!
And here’s a sample poem!
Bash! Crash! Smash! Onomatopoeia makes his splash of sound with each squishy step or booming pound of movement. He moans, hisses, murmurs, and swishes his way across the poem.
Boisterous, he usually forgets to whisper. Instead, he shakes, rattles, and rolls his bellowing voice until each letter shivers with anticipation at what soon will be darting, soaring, or swooping noisily toward the ear.
I’m Feeling Blue, Too!: Although artist Philip Huber began this book many years ago, I am proud to have come on board to create the narrative for these stunning illustrations. The challenge and delight was to uncover the story between the brushstrokes! By doing so, I was able to write poems that detail this young boy’s journey as he escapes “the can’t-do nothin’-blues” to encounter the world’s many glorious blues. So the illustrations were my map for writing! In addition, in I’m Feeling Blue, Too! I want to encourage young readers to use their imaginations, whether it be through writing, painting, dancing, building, etc. This is a book that acknowledges sadness but also celebrates creation, adventure, life!
Transplant, Transport, Transubstantiation: While I love writing for children and young adults, most of my poetry is geared toward adults. Those of you who write about the intersection of body and spirit and/or the medical may be interested in this collection of poems that focus on my father’s unsuccessful heart transplant. Perhaps the most personal and most difficult to write of all my collections, this book chronicles my family’s journey as my dad waits for and receives his transplant. It continues through our grief over his death. The book also contains a long series of poems based on the medical text Gray’s Anatomy, and has been used by medical students to teach empathy for patients and family members experiencing such trauma.
Rules of the Game: Baseball Poems: During these strange Covid times, when baseball players strut their stuff to empty stadiums, it’s hard not to be nostalgic for the good old days (last year?!) of the game. Enter Rules of the Game, a poetic take on the rules and terms of baseball, from balks to line drives to grand slams. The great grandniece of Branch Rickey (played by Harrison Ford in 42, that amazing movie starring the great Chadwick Bosemen), I come to baseball with an historical eye. And living in Williamsport, PA, home of the Little League World Series (sadly cancelled this year) doesn’t hurt! I wrote these poems sitting in my backyard in Williamsport, overlooking a ballfield. Here’s an example. This is a perfect fit for anyone who loves the game, including kids and coaches.
Dreams brimming over, childhood stretched out in legs, this is the moment replayed on winter days when frost covers the field, when age steals away wishes. Glorious sleep that seeps back there to the glory of our baseball days.
A Crossing of Zebras: Animal Packs in Poetry: Another collaboration with artist Philip Huber, this book focuses on bringing to life collective nouns: a school of fish, a band of coyotes, a murder of crows, a crossing of zebras, and the like. I am very excited to have this collection back in print as it’s been a favorite during author visits to elementary schools. A play was even created and performed by the Odd Act Theatre group and performed at libraries and schools. Once again, Philip created the illustrations; I then used his detailed scratchboard pictures to create a lively, interactive narrative for each animal grouping. I love reading this one aloud!
What was it like to have TWO books come out during the pandemic?
This was a difficult challenge that contained some surprising blessings. After having worked on I’m Feeling Blue, Too! and Inside Out for many, many years and then sending the books out for over 12 years, I was excited to FINALLY have these texts enter the world. And then came COVID-19 with its cancelled readings and book launches!
What also entered, though, was the generosity of friends and strangers willing to host blog tours and virtual readings. To all these folks (including the host of this blog!), I am very grateful!
Please tell us your latest news.
•Inside Out: Poems on Writing and Reading Poems with Insider Exercises was “an award-winning finalist in the Children’s Education Category” for the International Book Awards.
•Transplant, Transport, Transubstantiation recently was a finalist for the Philip H. McMath post-publication book award.
•My circulating book, Seeing Things (about, among other things, my mother’s early stages of dementia) was recently a finalist for the Larry Levis Book Award from Four Way Books.
When did you begin writing, what prompted it, and when did you first consider yourself a writer?
I ‘ve always loved writing, primarily because I’ve always loved reading. My first published poem (it was terrible) was in Campfire Girl Magazine when I was 8. I was fortunate to have parents who encouraged the arts. My mother, for instance, would type up my poems into a “book.” What an affirming gift! May we give such encouragement to all young writers and artists!
How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?
For me, this is a very different hat to wear than being a writer. I’d love to hand everything over to an agent and say, “Go at it,” but that has not happened. Nevertheless, there is something creative about the process of marketing as well. What’s hard is to balance what’s too much and what’s not enough.
In addition, I’ve found that when I am procrastinating writing, I market, and when I am procrastinating marketing, I write. Both take a type of bravery that I don’t always possess because both can be infested by a fear of rejection. Still, I persevere. For marketing, I prefer to work through established relationships. A latecomer to FB (when others were leaving, I was just coming on board), I’ve found it helpful to read others’ posts and learn from their marketing experiences and advice.
What are you doing next?
I have several manuscripts currently under consideration by publishers:
Seeing Things (mentioned above) explores the ways that we distort or preserve memory, define or alter reality, and see or don’t see those around us on both a personal and national level. Woven throughout the collection is a series of odes.
Heart Speaks, Is Spoken For is a collaboration with photographer Karen Elias, based on her composite photographs of a cracked heart-shaped stone and my corresponding poems.
Any additional books coming out soon?
Yes, my poetry collection, Begin with a Question, is slated for publication by Paraclete Press in 2021. Originally due out in Fall 2020, the book has been postponed a bit because of COVID; however, this has allowed me to generate and include new poems!
Do you have a blog or website where readers can go to find updates, events, and special offers relating to your writing?
Book Name and Description: Starsky and Hutch Next Gen.
Description of Starsky and Hutch Next Gen
Not only are Davis Starsky and Kent Hutchinson young, single detectives with the Bay City Police Department in California, they’re brothers only a year apart, as they share the same mother, who died in an auto accident when the boys were young teenagers.
Other characters in Starsky & Hutch Next Gen include Captain Shaw (female superior), Tasha Brown (Huggy’s daughter), her boyfriend Tony (Phys Ed teacher), Mo (Davis and Kent’s snitch and psychic friend who runs a grungy gym), and Lucky (Davis and Kent’s hooker friend trying to go clean).
Davis drives a black Mustang with twin white stripes running down the hood, and Kent drives a white Audi.
What gave you the idea for Starsky and Hutch Next Gen? Or what inspired you to write it?
It came from being a fan of the original TV show, and even the movie later on. Starsky and Hutch were my heroes: I liked what they stood for, justice and mercy, and they were one of the main reasons I wanted to be a social worker. They knew how to kick some criminal butt, but they stood up for the little guy too.
A lot of my writing comes from asking what-if questions, and this was one of them. What if Starsky and Hutch had sons who were detectives too? What kind of cases would they have in today’s society? What challenges would they face in their personal lives?
I wanted the characters to have their own identities, not to be just Xerox copies of their dads. What they do have in common with their fathers would be their integrity, their concern for victims, and their tenacious attitude, regardless of the obstacles they encounter.
What got you into writing in this genre?
I think this genre, the detective/investigation/social issue genre comes from my background as a child/adult protection social worker. I was accustomed to intense situations, actually thrived on them, so it just seemed natural to write about it. Also, I started writing fanfiction years ago, and it was cop stories I wrote even then. But with a human twist.
How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
I’ve been writing professionally for 17 years, so that’s a good question. I think I still have the same style, but maybe it’s a little more polished and relaxed than it used to be. I try to be as disciplined and proper with my fiction as I am with my non-fiction, but I write them so differently. With fiction, I can release my imagination a little more, it’s kind of like a bird escaping from a birdcage. It just wants to be free, and I have to rein it in. I think another way I’ve evolved is that I can take what I’ve learned about writing and publishing—my experiences—and pass them on to others.
What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?
Some sort of market guide, like Writer’s Market, to know where to pitch your material once it’s finished. That’s all I had when I first started writing professionally, and it served me well. Pair that with a simple query letter, and you are on your way to publication.
How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?
I use social media, do call-in guest spots on podcasts or radio shows, and interviews, when invited.
What piece of your own work are you most proud of?
It sounds cliché, but it’s this newest book, and I’ll tell you why I’m so proud of it. Number one, it’s a full-length book. It has 8 episodes, but it’s still a full-length book, and I had to make sure the story arc worked, and the character arcs worked for the duration of 287 pages. That is far different from my 1000-word articles and 3-10 page short stories. It was a real challenge to weave all 8 stories into one cohesive story line. But I think, and hope, that I achieved it. It felt like it when I was finished. I don’t have any regrets or second thoughts about it. It came out the way I wanted, and that was a relief. I just generally don’t do long works like that, so it was a big deal to me. Thank goodness it’s my last.
For those who haven’t read any of your stories, what story/book of yours do you think best represents your work and why?
Again, probably this one, because it has all the elements I love to write: Drama, angst, tragedy, friendship, family, social issues, and unexpected events. My son jokes that it’s a Lifetime movie waiting to happen, and he was my main sounding board for it. That’s another thing I rarely ever did while writing. I never bounced ideas off of someone. I knew exactly what I wanted to write. With this one, since it was so long, and had all those moving parts, I wanted a sounding board.
What are you doing next?
No writing planned, just promoting the work I’ve finished, or helping new or young writers on their way to publication.
What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Put the story first. Keep yourself out of it.
Tammy Ruggles is a freelance writer based in Kentucky. Her first book, Peace, was a paperback published traditionally by Clear Light Books, while her latest, and final book, Starsky and Hutch Next Gen, is an Amazon Kindle eBook.