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”:

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
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.
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.
How did you know you were a poet? Describe your decision and how you went about getting published.
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!
Why are some people afraid of writing poetry? How can a beginning poet get past the fear factor?
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.

Which is easier to write, verse or free verse?
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.”
Why poetry? Why not stick with fiction or nonfiction? What attracts some writers to poetry?
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!
How much does a children’s poet need to know about poetry to become a poet?
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!
While waiting for the big break from an editor, how should budding poets work to perfect their craft?
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!

20 comments on “Charles Waters today

  1. First, congrats, Stephen, on your film in progress! Please keep us updated!

    David & Charles, what an insightful, inspiring interview! Charles, your way with words shines through here (“like dark chocolate out of the fridge”–mmm, mmm). Much continued success to you!

    • Thank you, Jane,

      I enjoyed this one very much. Charles brings a sense of humility and integrity to the interview that make him a pleasure to interview.


  2. Thank you for offering us a glimpse into your life today. I couldn’t have agreed with you more when you wrote “I feel by staying humble, working hard and being a good person, great things will happen”. Touring with Poetry Alive is something I hope I have the chance to do someday. It’s exciting to hear from someone who has worked with the group. Keep writing your poetry and sending it out into the world!

  3. Great interview and thank you for all of the enthusiasm for poetry that you brought to our company. You made the key Poetry Alive! discovery that if we use our energies to feed others, we can feed ourselves as well. So, Charles, just stay in the kitchen and keep cooking up and serving us all those poems of yours. You have never been afraid to use new ingredients and you don’t mind changing the daily menu and offering specials. Bon appetit!

    • Dear P.A.,

      I’m glad you came by today to check up on your guy. I think he did a great job and am happy that you agree!


  4. Thank you all for your kind words! To paraphrase Lee Bennett Hopkins all I’m doing in my life is “passing the poetry please.” Let’s all continue to share!

  5. Hi Charles,
    I totally agree we should cultivate joy along the journey. In that respect we are kindred spirits. Well done!

  6. Charles,
    It was a treat to read this interview today. Your cool background, dedication, and kind spirit shine right through. I completely agree with your words about finding teachers you trust, sticking with it, and feeling grateful. Thank you to you and David both!

  7. Charles is one special person. His dedication
    to hard work, poetry, and especially joy
    amaze me.

    Another great blog day in Harrison land.

    • Hi Rebecca,

      I’m glad you stopped by to catch Charles’s interview. It’s always a pleasure to hear from you.



  8. Such an inspiring interview! Thanks, David and Charles. And Charles, Barbara Juster Esbensen was one of my favorite poets, and hearing her speak was what made me first think I might try my hand, someday, at writing poetry. Her Swing Around the Sun is just a masterpiece.

    • Hi Laura,

      Barbara was a role model for many. And often, when I see a cat sleeping, I recall her poem, “My Cat,” with that wonderful ending:
      Stay in your holes
      mice! My cat sees you
      in his dreams
      and he has left
      his motor running!


  9. My reply may be a little late but I just had to chime in. Charles is personally and wholly responsible for the love I now I have for poetry. I can frankly say I used to find poetry uninteresting and even boring… then came Charles. In the interest of full disclosure, it’s true Charles is my best friend and soul sibling and my reply here may read biased.
    It’s been an honor to be the first person to read many of his newly penned poems. The genuine smile and admiration that reading his poems brings to me, and my two daughters (his goddaughters) is a feeling I look forward to.
    I am so thrilled that he is on a clear path to sharing his talent to the world. The world is a better place with poetry, Charles, and Charles’ poetry.
    Thank you David for interviewing Charles. It was a pleasure to read. I now have your blog bookmarked and look forward to becoming a regular reader of it.


  10. Pingback: Charles Waters reads his poem for children "A Dog Manifesto"

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s