And the kids said, “Really?”

Hi everyone,

This morning I hope to finish the poem I’ve been working on for ten days or so. I haven’t spent much time on it most days but enough to make it seem like it has taken a long time. At the festival one child asked how long it takes me to have a book published. The longest for me was THE MOUSE WAS OUT AT RECESS, my second book of poems about school, which came out in 2003.

The first book about school, SOMEBODY CATCH MY HOMEWORK, illustrated by Betsy Lewin, was released in 1993 and sold well. It went into a third printing during its initial year. I decided to do a second school collection and eventually sent my manuscript to my editor, Bernice (Bee) Cullinan. She liked it and was proceeding with it. Before it got too far I reread the manuscript and contacted Bee to tell her I didn’t want to publish the book yet. She seemed surprised but was gracious about it.

I got busy on other projects and it took me some time to get back to work on the second set, but I eventually discarded some of the original poems, revised others, and added a few new ones. Bee liked the second effort and put it back in line to be illustrated. Before that happened, I revisited what I’d sent her and found several pieces that I didn’t like and wondered how I could have thought they were good enough. I contacted Bee. She agreed to let me have another chance to make whatever improvements I thought necessary.

By the time I finally sent the third version of THE MOUSE WAS OUT AT RECESS to Bee and it became a book, nine years had passed. I had written seventy-four poems and kept twenty-five of them for the book. All the others were discarded along the way.

P.S. The book was nowhere near as successful as SOMEBODY CATCH MY HOMEWORK. Maybe I should have tried harder.

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11 comments on “And the kids said, “Really?”

  1. A Poem Is Never Finished

    “A poem is never finished, it’s abandoned.”–
    Paul Valery

    See all those poems
    abandoned on the highway,
    trying to hitch a ride home?

    I was one once, sprightly,
    my rhymes held tightly
    to my commodious breast.

    I danced, sang, made promises
    I couldn’t keep, a little minx
    of versification.

    I didn’t eat well, drank too much,
    Consorted with song lyrics,
    such bad companions.

    Was left one night after hours.
    Wretched, worn, growing old,
    Missing hot food, showers.

    Crawled my way back,
    turned my life around.
    Found a friendly journal.

    The rest, while not history,
    can be considered a miracle
    of poetry.

    ©2017 JaneYolen all rights reserved

  2. To Jane with thanks

    Abandonment

    My big brother
    made good grades
    in school, while I

    tried but never could
    run as fast or leap
    as high as he.

    Wherever he went
    kids flocked around
    my big brother, but

    no one ever looked
    twice at me or
    thought I was worth

    as much as he.
    There came a day
    I made up my mind

    to stop standing
    in his shadow or trailing
    after him and his friends. When

    I abandoned the effort
    to be someone else,
    I became very good
    at being me.

    (c) 2017 David L. Harrison

  3. Two spontaneous masterpieces.
    Thank you for the scintillating work,
    the tip toes on the road ahead of me,
    the classic copyrights encircled in black
    meekly resting at the end.

    • Good morning, Jeanne! When Jane starts a morning sprint, it’s all I can do to keep her in sight! That girl can run! I’m happy that you like our efforts. Thank you for your poetic and gracious response.

    • You caught me, Jane. I had no brother, only a first book that overshadowed my second. Thank you for playing with me. I always love it! XO

  4. Why oh why?

    Have you ever read a “master’s” work
    and thought to yourself – egad!
    “I could do just as good as that
    Because, well, that is BAD!”

    Then we turn on our own fine words
    When others think they star.
    Guess that’s the woe of a writer,
    No matter who we are.

    PS – I love writing on the same blog with Jane, Jeanne, and David – along with all the other fine folks who visit!

    PSS – Jane and David – since I know you’re both great with “wart” poems – perhaps you’d like to immortalize my poor dry socket today! LOL

  5. “I know this hurts,” the doctor said.
    “I know from all the tears you’ve shed.”
    She said, “I know you know my woe.
    The healing has been far too slow,
    But this is what I want to know –
    How soon, dear doc, can you make it whoa?”

    • Thank you, dear Jane and dear David! Since I just took lots of Advil, I am able to laugh merrily at the special poems you wrote for me! Thanks for easing my pain a wee bit!

      • Glad to be of help, dear Susan. Any time you need the J&D Cheering Service, just give us a call.

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