Charles Waters today

BULLETIN #1: Be sure to come by on Monday. I’m issuing a new challenge that I hope you will enjoy.
BULLETIN #2: This just in from our talented friend Steven Withrow. It’s fantastic news so check it out. “Publishers Weekly ran a great online article about the Library of the Early Mind documentary today”: http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/childrens/childrens-industry-news/article/43774-new-film-on-children-s-book-authors-and-illustrators.html

Charles Waters from Florida,

Today I bring you my interview featuring Charles Waters. After you read his account of his dedication to becoming a writer, I know you will be impressed and reminded that what we do is not easy and is not for those who give up before they realize their dreams. Here’s Charles.

Interview with Charles Waters, July 9, 2010
Q
You find outlets to express your creative side in a variety of ways. Describe your journey of self discovery and your hopes for the future.
A
For me it’s always been about finding something that gives you joy, challenges you in a great way and sticking to that no matter what obstacles arise. I started acting professionally in 1997. I’ve worked many survival jobs in the interim (a market researcher, car collector, waiter, shuttle driver, valet, warehouse employee, security guard) and a few others. All those jobs were what I needed to go through in order to get to where I needed to be, which was an employed actor. If I had to describe everything that I’ve learned along the way in one word I would say humbleness.
I feel I haven’t scratched the surface in what I can do as an actor, children’s poet and person. I’m grateful to be alive every day because if you think about what’s going on in the world any problems you may have are maybe infinitesimal in comparison. What I hope for the future is continue to grow in all facets of my life. I feel by staying humble, working hard and being a good person, great things will happen.
Q
How did you know you were a poet? Describe your decision and how you went about getting published.
A
I guess I was always a poet because since I was a child I felt I might have looked at the world different from my classmates, at least I verbalized it which made people look at me like I was a bit off-kilter.I didn’t knowingly realize I was a poet until I started performing for Poetry Alive in the fall of 2003. I was with them for 3 years and I really have to thank them for turning me on to poetry because it was never taught to me in school. Because you have to learn at least 70 new poems a year for them, you couldn’t help but fall in love with the best writers in the world.

In terms of getting published, I realized after about 4 years of writing children’s poems that I MAY have something to share so I started submitting and started piling up the rejection letters. I will say that being an actor and having been rejected thousands of times in my career gave me some preparation for it, but it still stinks.

There’s no way around getting rejected, it’s a way of life, the good news is that when you finally do get an acceptance, it feels like all the work you put in was worth it. I’ve been published in the newspaper The Evening Sun, a wellness magazine called Spotlight on Recovery, the 30 Poets/30 Days blog by Greg Pincus and now your blog and the key for me to have that happen was to get my name out there, find all my favorite children’s poets on Facebook, ask them advice and hopefully they may ask to see my work. I’ve had the incredible good fortune of having Rebecca Kai Dotlich take interest in me not only as a poet but as a person and she’s been instrumental in passing my name to her fellow friends/poets and that’s been a huge boost for me.

I’m still working hard towards getting a book of mine published, be it my own children’s poems, an anthology or both. The fact that you, David, were rejected something like 80 times and now you have 80 books published gives me hope!
Q
Why are some people afraid of writing poetry? How can a beginning poet get past the fear factor?
A
It all starts in the schools. I believe it’s a vicious cycle where teachers back when they were students had to learn poems by rote instead of by heart and they resented that so when they became teachers they would make sure that didn’t happen again. I can tell you that not having poetry taught to me in school was a shame because it really does make you feel less alone in the world, especially at a young age. I don’t want to make it seem like I’m disparaging teachers, especially since my mother was one and my high school teacher, Becky Vandenberg, was one of the most influential people in my life. It’s just that it’s such an important tool to a better understanding of our world.

For me getting past the fear factor is all about reading and writing. The works of Jack Prelutsky, Lee Bennett Hopkins, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Sara Holbrook, and many others will help you write poems because the more you read the better understanding you have of metaphors, similes, imagery and other forms that will make you not only appreciate words but savor them like dark chocolate out of the fridge.

Q
Which is easier to write, verse or free verse?
A
I’m here to tell you that writing verse is hard work. Because so many words rhyme together one is in danger of their writing coming off as a cliché. Having said that, free verse takes a huge amount of perseverance as well because putting words together slapdash really isn’t poetry. I guess a master on the subject, Jane Yolen, said it best when she stated “make every word count.”
Q
Why poetry? Why not stick with fiction or nonfiction? What attracts some writers to poetry?
A
In my opinion, distilling life’s essence down to a line or 20 lines is more a gut punch to me than something that’s served out over 300 pages. I’ve been reading consistently since the 6th grade when I started devouring the sports pages of the Philadelphia Inquirer, and I love a good novel like The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen (at 588 pages), but I’ve never been as gob-smacked as when I started getting into the children’s poems of, let’s say, Barbara Juster Esbensen who, in Cold Stars and Fireflies, goes through the 4 seasons in less than 70 pages!
Q
How much does a children’s poet need to know about poetry to become a poet?
A
You don’t have to know a lot in the beginning but you should keep learning over time because in order to write, not just children’s poetry, but in general, is to read a lot. It’s vital. Read, write, repeat!
Q
While waiting for the big break from an editor, how should budding poets work to perfect their craft?
A
What’s helped me is sharing my writing with people who I trust. I have a select group of people who read what I have and give me an honest critique. It’s important to listen to what they have to say, it’s also important to remember that you have the final decision. It’s all up to you!

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