Sunday, January 31, 2010

News Article - Author School Visit, January 30, 2010

School Visit January 2010

Author brings 'Barking Spiders' to Conesville Elementary

BY JAN MYERS • Correspondent • January 30, 2010

COSHOCTON TRIBUNE/Coshocton, Ohio --

Popular poet and children's author, C.J. Heck, was a special guest at Conesville Elementary School Friday. She shared with each class some of her children's poems from her book, "Barking Spiders and Other Such Stuff."

Heck, who now lives in Pennsylvania, is originally from Coshocton. Her maiden name was Parrish.

"I was the oldest of six children," she said. "I graduated from Coshocton High School in 1967 and still have family in the area."

Heck spends a lot of time traveling to schools throughout the country encouraging the love of poetry.

"I've visited schools as far west as Illinois and as far south as North Carolina and all along the East Coast," she said. "I tell kids they can write poetry about anything and explain to them how to play the 'mind candy' game to think of all the things they like or don't like. These things can become perfect topics for their poems."

Heck also writes poetry for adults and said her inspiration for her work comes from many places such as things from her own childhood, her siblings, her own children, her grandchildren and people she meets. Poetry is everywhere she tells the students.

"Did you know poems touch your life every single day?" she asked. "How many of you have a favorite song? Did you know these songs have lyrics and lyrics are poems? What about greeting cards and tongue twisters? These are poems, too."

Heck began writing poetry when she was in elementary school.

"I had a teacher in third or fourth grade who made poetry so much fun that I decided to write poetry forever," she said. "The first poem I wrote was called 'Eat-Eat' when I was in the fourth grade."

She also asks the kids if they know what a barking spider is. Once she reads the "Barking Spiders" poem from her book, the students all understand. Heck's inspiration for that poem came from her brother, Chip.

"When my daughters were very young, we were visiting my brother," she said. "My girls were playing a game on the floor in the living room, and one of my daughters passed gas. She was so very embarrassed. My brother jumped up, ran to the kitchen, yelling that he needed to find some Raid to kill the barking spider they had in the living room. Well, this made my girls laugh, and my daughter wasn't embarrassed anymore."

Many of the students were able to recite Heck's poems along with her as she read to them.

"There is no greater compliment to a writer than to have others know their work," she said.

Third-grader Megan Magee was one of them. "I loved it!" she said. "I've heard all her poems and my favorite one is called 'Yes or No.' I want to try writing my own poem about fruit."

Another third-grader, R.J. Hammond said he also might start writing poems. "Her poems are really good," he said.

There are about 60 short poems in her "Barking Spiders" book. Some of them are sad, such as "Grandma's Apron," which was written about her own grandmother, and others are funny, such as "Playing Cowboy," which Heck said is about her own childhood cowboy game, where she put more miles on her mother's broom than her mother did.

Conesville Elementary Principal, Joel Moore, asked Heck how she came up with some of the unusual names, such as the poem about Schlossenfuss.

"My dad used to blame things on imaginary people such as 'Schlossenfuss,'" said Heck. "It's fun to use these names in my poems."

C.J. Heck
Heck was invited to the school in honor of the upcoming Right-to-Read Week. "She was highly recommended by one of our teachers," he said. "Her visit has been a good way to get everyone excited about the plans we have to celebrate Right to Read Week.

We've had the sixth-grade students reading her poems during the announcements over the loud speaker the past several days, and the upper grades have been studying poetry recently."

Along with a number of other reading activities during the next couple of weeks, Conesville students will be working on their own poems and will present them during their Family Night on Feb. 11.

"That's the night when we will host a sweetheart café and young author's stand up mic night for parents," Moore said.

Heck has a new book coming out in February, "Barking Spiders 2".  Her books are available at online.

For more information on the work of C.J. Heck, visit her Web site at

"A writer soon learns that easy to read is hard to write." ~CJ Heck