Note: In Pod Seventeen, Grammy reads poems about boys and girls, written from her perspective on gender. Eli interviews writer Judith Kelliher, who has recently published a book about her brother Bobby’s service in Vietnam; Judy talks about how she sometimes needed others to inspire her to finish her book. As today’s activity, children are invited to listen to Judy read an excerpt from the beginning of her book, in which she talks about who inspired her to keep writing when she felt afraid. Click here to start at the beginning of the Poem Pod series.
Grammy: Hi everybody, Eli and I are here, bringing you Poem Pods.
Eli: Fun poems for fun people.
Grammy: You’d better believe it! Today, we’re sitting out back on our deck studio because the baby birds are chirping on the gazebo studio, and we didn’t want to bother them today. They didn’t like it when we were there yesterday, and the mom did not like it either. We are still happy under our masks. We don’t have them on today because we are sitting six feet apart, inside our deck studio. Eli, what would you normally be doing at this time in the summer?
Eli: Usually at camp, swimming or out on the boat, tubing, but because of Coronavirus, I can’t.
Grammy: Right, so here we are. You have a very important job, though. You are my Poem Pod Boy.
Eli: Enough with the Poem Pod Boy. Please.
Grammy: You don’t like that so much. We’re trying to think of a good nickname for Eli, but we haven’t come up with one yet. Suggestions are welcome. So far just Eli is what he likes the best. Just plain old Eli. You like “Little Buddy.” I call you Little Buddy all the time.
Eli: I know, because you’re my grandma.
Eli: But a good portion of the listeners knowing me as Little Buddy would be weird.
Grammy: Alright. I hear that, but you’re still my Little Buddy.
Eli: Yes, I know.
Grammy: So, today I wanted to say that what has been inspiring me lately is thinking about a second book for children, featuring poems that are about a person’s age—with the years one through 18. Those are the years when children live with their parents, typically. I have written a few, and I’ll share them in a day or so. What do you think of that idea, Eli? Darrian could do the drawings for me again!
Eli: I think that sounds like a good book. I’d read it to Phoibe!
Grammy: That would be cute! Thanks, Eli. And Little Buddy, I’m sorry it’s so hot out here, and you’re not in camp, and it’s not a normal summer. We can go for a boat ride soon and go tubing.
Eli: Kids out there, what are you doing this summer to stay cool? Are you swimming? Do you have a pool? Do you have a boat like my Grammy? You could tell us in a post on social media. We want to know!
Grammy: Inquiring minds want to know. Eli, how are you staying cool?
Eli: We have air conditioning.
Grammy: I don’t like air conditioning. I love it when it’s warm. I love it when it’s hot and muggy best. That’s my favorite. I just don’t mind the heat at all. I’m a pretty flexible person by nature. I think I was lucky to raise two girls, though, instead of two boys. It might have been harder for me to have two boys, running around and yelling, like when you and Miggz are here. I might not have been so flexible with boys.
Eli: Mom and dad are lucky there is only one of me. I am busy and loud. Phoibe will be way quieter. Sometimes.
Grammy: I think she will be sometimes quieter. She might “Waaa Waaa” a lot.
Eli: A good portion of the day.
Grammy: There can be differences between boys and girls—but not always! Only sometimes. Everyone has a different perspective on gender, too, and we should respect that. You know what I mean? I wrote a few poems about my experience of boys and girls. These poems are written from my perspective only—the way I see boys and girls. The first one is called:
If You’re a Girl…
Boys are cute.
Boys are a blast.
Boys can make your heart beat fast.
Some are loud.
Some are shy.
Some will likely make you cry.
Grammy: Eli, what do you think the second poem is called?
Eli: Um… I’m guessing “If You’re a Boy.”
Grammy: Exactly, and here’s how it goes:
Girls are pretty.
Girls can be petty.
Girls can make your palms get sweaty.
Some are smart.
Some might sigh.
Some will make you feel on high.
Grammy. Alright, this is the part in our program today where we’re going to bring on a guest for Eli to interview. I’m thinking Judy Kelliher, Eli. You know her well. She has published her book, and I bet she’d like to tell us about it! She’s very excited!
Eli: I’d like to hear about that, Grammy. Yes, ring her up!
Judy: Hi, Eli. Hi, Bug.
Grammy: Hi, Jude! Judy calls me Bug because my last name is Beetle! It’s my nickname!
Judy: Yes, and I call her Bug. Or Buglet! Or Buggy! Or whatever I feel like on a particular day.
Grammy: I answer to the nicer ones! I love the bug names. You know, Judy, Eli has a new nickname now. I call him Poem Pod Boy.
Eli: Oh, my god. Poem Pod Boy again?
Grammy: He’s like a new superhero. He has super inspirational powers!
Judy: I love that, and thanks for bringing me on the Poem Pod show!
Eli: Thanks for giving us your time, Judy! Let’s start with what you do for work?
Judy: I work as a writer and editor at Springfield College for the communications department, and what that means is I work on all of our marketing materials to hopefully get people interested in coming to the college, and I also take a lot of photographs, which I find really fun.
Eli: Very interesting. Sounds a bit like what my Grammy does! Now you can tell us about your book. Please.
Judy: I’d be happy to. I wrote a story about my brother Bobby, who fought in the Vietnam War, and that was in the late 1960s and early 1970s when he was there. It was a really scary and difficult time for him. He was only 19, 20, 21 years old, and it was a difficult time for lots of soldiers as well. Once he came home it was very different for him. He had a hard time adjusting to work and being married and raising a family. The good news is he got lots of help from lots of people, and he’s doing great now. I just tell how that all happened.
Eli: What is your brother like?
Judy: First of all, he is truly loving and giving and generous, and he is funny as heck.
Grammy: He is so funny.
Eli: Why was it important for you to publish this book about him?
Judy: Because it’s important to hear from our war veterans, and if they struggled like my brother did, maybe they could learn to get some help too.
Eli: How do you feel now that it’s almost ready to go to print?
Judy: Oh my gosh, I am so excited that it’s almost done. And you know what? Your Grammy played a big part in helping me to get the book published, and I am forever grateful.
Grammy: Thank you, Judy.
Eli: It might be too adult for me now, but I hope I can read it someday!
Grammy: You would like it, Eli. Judy did a beautiful job telling Bobby’s story. I have a blog about the book on my site for anyone who wants to hear more!
Judy: Yeah, and I read the blog, and it’s really sweet, and really beautiful. My brother Bobby and his wife, Margaret, read it, and I can’t wait for more people to read it.
Grammy: That’s sweet, thanks. Me too! I can’t wait for more people to read your book, for that matter!
Eli: Well, that’s all the questions we had for you, Judy. We’re done grilling you.
Judy: Ha. That wasn’t grilling. That was fun!
Grammy: We’re actually not quite done with Judy yet. I had an idea that the activity today could be to listen to Judy reading from part of her book. There’s a section of the Preface—the Preface is like the introduction of the book—and there’s a section in it that talks about some of the things that we’ve been talking about here, such as inspiration and occasionally needing to find confidence outside of yourself. Judy, do you know the part of your book that I’m speaking of?
Judy: I do, very well.
Grammy: Would you read us this section of the Preface, starting with “After I wrote a draft of eleven chapters…”?
Judy: Sure… and just so you know, it’s about why I stopped writing the book before I was done. There were a couple of reasons for that.
Grammy: So, the excerpt if you want to read it as well as listening, is in today’s blog in writing, and now Judy’s going to read it to us:
After I wrote a draft of eleven chapters (of a then-eighteen-chapter outline), I hit a roadblock. I started making up excuses why I couldn’t work on the project.
I purposely put my job and social life in the way of writing. But then in fall 2018, I went to a women’s leadership conference called “Women & the Art of Risk” at a venue in Holyoke, Massachusetts, put on by the Greater Holyoke Chamber of Commerce, with my female colleagues from the Springfield College Office of Communications.
It was there I had an epiphany—and discovered a sobering reality. One of the panelists was a life coach who talked about an author with whom she was working who was struggling to finish her book. That author was afraid of failure. Uh oh. That was me. My situation resonated with that author’s struggles. I came up with every reason not to keep writing because I thought no one would read my book, let alone care about it. Mostly, I worried I would fail my brother.
That was the heartbreaker for me. I spoke with the life coach at the end of the conference, and she said, “Instead of lamenting that you haven’t finished the book, celebrate that you have written eleven chapters.” Spot on—and the kick-start I needed to finish my idea, my project.
Now I embrace that I am telling my brother’s story. It’s for him—and for all those veterans…
Grammy: So, Judy, that’s such an important passage. You were afraid of failure, afraid no one was going to like your book, afraid you were going to fail your brother. That’s a lot of fear. Are you saying in that passage that the life coach gave you the courage to believe in yourself and ignore fears? Be like “Blast those fears!!”
Judy: Absolutely. She helped me to see that I really needed to focus on what I had accomplished so far, which actually was a lot more than I was giving myself credit for, and she helped me to see that I shouldn’t be afraid to finish the book.
Eli: That’s great that you learned that, and that you put it in your book so other people could learn it too!
Grammy: Judy’s book is now available on my website, if you wish to purchase it. I think it’s a great read. I just liked it so much. And Bobby is one of the kindest people I know, as is Miss Judith! Judy, thanks for talking with us today. You had important things to say!
Eli: Kids, let Judy inspire you to write and tell your stories! Post them on my Grammy’s blog or Facebook page! Or respond and say nice things that encourage YOU!
Grammy: And also kids, I hope what you heard today, and I hope what really inspires you is to know what Judy is saying is that sometimes we do feel afraid, and it’s okay to ignore our fears and keep doing what we want to do. So, that’s the end of the seventeenth Poem Pod.
Eli: Find your inner courage!
Grammy: And you go, Eli. Go out into the world and inspire others to be creative!