Janet Wong today

Hi everyone,

As promised, Janet Wong is my Featured Guest today. It has been fun to work with Janet and Sylvia Vardell on the new e-book, Poetry Tag Time, which you’re about to read about. Janet, the stage is all yours.

Becoming a Poetry Evangelist

by Janet Wong

Duncan, Olga, and Janet

I just returned from an energizing two days in Houston, Texas, where I was a visiting author at St. John’s School. When Olga McLaren retired from a lifetime of teaching young children at St. John’s, she did an extraordinary thing: she worked to create a poetry endowment that funds poet visits through interest income. Eight lucky children’s poets have been invited so far: Ashley Bryan, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Kristine O’Connell George, Tony Johnston, J. Patrick Lewis, Naomi Shihab Nye, Alice Schertle, and myself. I have never heard of similar program, and though today’s economy is suffering, I know there are schools and communities that still can afford to do something like this. Mrs. McLaren is not an oil heiress (to my knowledge, though her life clearly is rich); she is simply a woman who is passionate about poetry and was willing to ask, and ask, and ask, to make people believe in poetry—to become a poetry evangelist. The beauty of this endowment is that it treats poetry as a necessary thing, something that families can count on as surely as food in the cafeteria and lights in the gym.

Poetry is the Perfect Genre for Today
How can poetry be necessary, when we have so little time for anything nowadays, much less literature?

It is precisely because we are busy and stressed that poetry is essential. Those rare moments when we have time to “take our time,” we’re so wound up we can’t even relax. Hurrying through the week on adrenalin, we can’t help but fidget with our gadgets, texting and checking emails at every opportunity. If only we had some magic something to recharge our energy, to slow the world down while we scurry from school to piano lessons to soccer!

We do have something: poetry is the literary equivalent of a shiatsu massage, sending jolts of energy through our nervous systems. Poetry is Jamba Juice, a week’s worth of nourishment packed into an 8-ounce smoothie. Poetry is a vacation for your left brain. With a poem in your pocket—or 30 of them, in an eBook on your cell phone—you (and your kids) can take a 30-second trip to a sandy beach while standing in a supermarket line reading poems about sea turtles. A child whose head is pounding from too much homework and too little sleep can spend five minutes with poetry before bedtime and ease into his world of dreams. It is no wonder that the children I saw at St. John’s were bright-eyed and smiling: they’d been reading poetry all month!

An eBook On Your Cell Phone
An eBook on your cell phone: welcome to reading in the 21st century. No eBook could possibly replace a gorgeous fully-illustrated book and the experience of flipping through its glossy pages. But eBooks are unique in their transportability: you can carry not just 30 poems in your pocket, but a whole shelf of books. With so many free eBook classics and many new books under $5, you can download a mini-library onto a phone or Kindle or iPad for the cost of a pair of shoes.

If you are looking for a first poetry eBook to put on your phone, please consider PoetryTagTime, http://amzn.to/e4wwxc , an anthology of 30 poems by 30 of the top children’s poets in this country—including David L. Harrison, of course! Six months ago children’s literature professor Sylvia Vardell and I set a goal: to create a groundbreaking children’s poetry eBook, PoetryTagTime, a book that would make poetry a 99-cent “impulse buy” and bring poetry to people who never had bought it before. The problem with poetry books is that they aren’t reaching enough people. Poetry rarely goes into paperback, and an $18 hardcover collection is too pricey for the average reader. After 3 days of sales, our 99-cent PoetryTagTime had sold over one hundred copies—and some of our readers have even become “poetry converts.” Download PoetryTagTime onto your phone and show it to someone who needs a little pick-me-up. Become a Poetry Evangelist!

eBook Fundraisers
Most schools would have difficulty establishing an endowment such as Mrs. McLaren’s fund at St. John’s. But here’s an idea that every school can do: eBooks as fundraisers. It costs nothing to put a book in the Kindle or Nook store. Suppose that a school wants to make money for a Poetry Fund. Students could write poems and create artwork for an eBook. A local high school student could merge the illustrations with the Word text, creating a .mobi file. (Or you could hire an eBook formatter; I highly recommend Milos Vasic at www.VasicBooks.com .) A team of fifth graders can become Project Managers and upload the book, priced at $3.99, to amazon.com and bn.com. The Poetry Fund will earn a 70% royalty on each book sold ($2.79), minus a delivery fee (probably under 30 cents). That’s approximately $2.50 earned per book.

Suppose 500 children send emails to family, neighbors, friends, and local businesses, asking people to buy the book. Three months later, 1000 copies of the eBook have sold on amazon.com and bn.com, and the Poetry Fund has pocketed $2500. No trees were cut down, no fuel was wasted, the children have had a great learning experience, and a Visiting Poet can be invited to create a lifelong memory for every child at your school.


A charitable motive led me to write my eBook Once Upon A Tiger: New Beginnings for Endangered Animals. With this book, I will be raising money to help tigers and other endangered animals (and children will help choose the species that benefit from our efforts). I believe the best way to make responsible global citizens is to create a habit of social responsibility and global awareness when children are young. To this end, a classroom might decide to create their own book of poems and artwork about endangered animals (www.iucnredlist.org  is the definitive resource on endangered anmials). If they price their book at 99 cents, they would earn only a 35% royalty (because the 70% royalty is offered only to books priced between $2.99-$9.99 in the Kindle store). Still, if they sold 100 copies, they would earn $34 that could be donated to help protect the endangered animals of the world.

A Note About Devices
You can buy eBooks in the Kindle store on amazon.com or the Nook store on bn.com and read them on your Kindles, iPads, Nooks, or iPhones, BlackBerry phones, Android phones. What most people don’t know is that you don’t need one of those fancy devices to read an eBook. You can read eBooks on regular computers; download the free apps for reading your eBook on a Mac or PC here http://amzn.to/dKazMq .

Join the reading revolution! Embrace poetry eBooks! Thirty seconds of poetry on your cell phone, for you and your child as you wait in the supermarket line, might be all it takes to keep peace and sanity in our frenzied world.

Janet Wong (www.janetwong.com ) is the author of 23 books for children and teens. Her latest two books, PoetryTagTime and Once Upon A Tiger, are eBooks: www.OnceUponATiger.com , www.PoetryTagTime.com  (and www.PoetryTagTime.blogspot.com for daily curriculum connections and poetry tips).

18 comments on “Janet Wong today

  1. Janet & David……This was brilliant! Every elementary school in the country should jump on this bandwagon! We certainly are…..someone has to cherish our children. Thank you! Bill & Beth Johnson

    • Good morning, Beth,

      It’s a pleasure to hear frm you and Bill. I agree that Janet’s work deserves to be in schools everywhere and hope to see Poetry Tag Time and Once Upon a Tiger receive wide distribution. I appreciate the plug.


    • Glad you liked this one, Charles. I knew that people would appreciate Janet’s enthusiasm, talent, and knowledge.


  2. Thank you, Jane, Beth, and Charles, for your wonderful comments—and thank you, David, for being such a gracious host. I feel like we are at a virtual cocktail party! I particularly loved your line “someone has to cherish our children,” Beth. Goodness knows it has become so difficult for teachers to squeeze nurturing into teaching with the ever-increasing demands on their day. And we parents are so stressed by our hectic lives! If I were to do a 6-word summary of this blog piece, I guess I’d borrow your phrase and add a little: Cherish our children with daily poetry.

    If you like this piece, please spread it around…especially to people who probably rarely read poetry or never would happen upon a poetry blog. Please help them discover Sylvia Vardell’s amazing daily blog posts at PoetryTagTime.blogspot.com. Let’s turn this cocktail party into an all-aboard dinner feast on the cruise ship with David and his wife!

    • Janet,

      Thanks again for being my Featured Guest. My blog was visited more than 500 times last Thursday and Friday and many others will visit the spot over the coming weeks and months. Let’s all hope that your adopted slogan will find many willing hearts and hands: Cherish our children with daily poetry.

      All best wishes,


  3. Janet,
    Thank you for your work on the creation of Poetry Tag time. It’s wonderful! I just wish I had been tagged! I guess I haven’t made it to the playground yet; I’m still standing by my locker, trying to figure out the combination! Please keep me in mind for other e-anthologies you and Sylvia may be cooking up. I was thrilled to be part of Dear One.
    Best regards,
    Michele Krueger

  4. Michele: Don’t worry—there are other PoetryTagTime projects in the works. One of them will be for teens, and another with an animal theme. Sylvia and I loved having you participate in DEAR ONE, the Lee Bennett Hopkins tribute book. Just come back to your locker after recess and hang out with the many terrific poets who couldn’t squeeze into PoetryTagTime #1. Funny about “30 poets” being the magic number, tied to the number of days in Poetry Month. I think we’re going to need to claim May, too, pretty soon, because there are certainly at least 60 of us hardworking poets out there!

    David: 500 visitors: pretty neat! I hear the dinner cruise bell now!

    • Hi Janet,
      Nice to hear from you. Here’s a thought for the future- two tag teams (30 poets on each team). Starting out on day 1 with the same poem- it would be interesting to see the direction each team takes.

      Winning team to be determined by children!
      Best regards,

  5. What a terrific article, Janet! I’m glad you took the time to shine a spotlight on Olga and all she has accomplished. Just think of the lives she has touched with her passion for poetry! Plus: What a great idea — creating e-books for a fund raiser. (Much, much better than magazine and wrapping paper drives….) I’m going to share your idea every chance I get.


  6. Anyone who knows me knows how much I
    admire Janet Wong and her tireless efforts to
    cook up poetry picnics anywhere she can.
    Great job, Janet. Let’s hope more schools do what
    Olga has done at St. John’s in Houston. We should make
    Olga go on speaking engagements and inspire other schools
    to follow her idea. Thank you & Sylvia again for Poetry Tag Time
    and thank you, David, for being willing to post all good things poetry.
    I posted this on my FB page; hope everyone who loves poetry and sees
    the value in this enchanting form does, too.

    • Rebecca,

      I’m glad you visited the site and saw this piece. Thank you for reposting and asking others to do the same!


  7. Wonderful idea piled on top of wonderful idea! Thanks, David, for hosting, Janet, for everything you do including the terrific Tag Team anthology (which I downloaded the night before it was officially “out”), and to Olga – whose halo must be just above the top of the picture line, as she is a poetry angel on earth.

    • Hi Robyn,

      I agree about Janet and Olga. What a pair of great people and supporters of poetry!


Leave a Reply

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

WordPress.com Logo

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

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google 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