What Are the Pros Up To?

Hi everyone,

Recently I invited Charles Waters to rejoin us with an update on his activities since he was my Featured Guest on July 9, 2010. It has been a while since I’ve posted an update on a previous guest and Charles came through with an impressive list of accomplishments and good news. Way to go, Charles!

Well things have been busy in the past 4 months so let’s play catch up.
-Continuing to do the Disney jobs to the best of my ability and am thankful for the employment.
-Same thing goes for Sleuths.

-I will be performing my own poems for the first time on April 23rd at the Orlando Public Library Southwest Branch for their National Poetry Month Celebration. Afterwards there will be a Q & A and writing/performing workshop conducted by myself. This is a big deal to me because after performing over 150 of other people’s poems for 3 years at Poetry Alive at last the time has come where I act out my own words to an audience.

-I’ll also be performing at the IRA (International Reading Association) poetry extravaganza in May which will be held in my own backyard of Orlando, FL. I can’t thank performance poets Sara Holbrook (www.saraholbrook.com ) and Michael Salinger (www.michaelsalinger.com ) enough for this opportunity.

-I’ve been accepted to the Highlights Foundation retreat called The Poetry Muse which is a week-long children’s poetry residency mentored by Rebecca Kai Dotlich (www.rebeccakaidotlich.com ). I was able to secure a partial scholarship for this event which made it all possible. Rebecca has become a welcome addition to my life as I’ve gotten to know her personally aside from the hours I had spent reading her books and performing her poems with Poetry Alive in the past. The retreat will run from August 13-18 in the hills of Northeastern PA near the town of Honesdale.

-3 poems of mine have been accepted by Georgia Heard (www.georgiaheard.com ) for her anthology called The Arrow Finds Its Mark: Found Poems. According to Wikipedia Found Poems are: a type of poetry created by taking words, phrases, and sometimes whole passages from other sources and reframing them as poetry by making changes in spacing and/or lines (and consequently meaning), or by altering the text by additions and/or deletions. The resulting poem can be defined as either treated: changed in a profound and systematic manner; or untreated: virtually unchanged from the order, syntax and meaning of the original.
I should add that in Found Poems you’re allowed to create your own title to the piece as well. I sent Georgia 36 poems, she took 3 of them and they’ll be known in the book as “School Poems.” Needless to say I’m thrilled to be in my first anthology and am looking forward to receiving the check in the mail! The book is scheduled to be released in early 2012 by Roaring Brook Press out of NYC.

-Continuing to write commissioned poems for the magazine Spotlight on Recovery (www.spotlightonrecovery.com ). A magazine that deals with overcoming issues that life may bring you; it’s a worthy endeavor spearheaded by a wonderful woman out of Brooklyn, NY named Robin Graham.

-Got another poem accepted by a major children’s poetry anthologist for a big deal publishing house. However I’m not at liberty to reveal anything other than that but believe me once I receive the go ahead I’m shouting it from the rooftops!!!

-Was asked to once again participate in 30 Poets/30 Days where a new poem by a children’s poet will be published every day during the National Poetry Month of April. This event was spearheaded by poet/social networking extraordinaire Greg Pincus (www.gottabook.blogspot.com ).

-My dear friend/web designing visionary Isabel will be giving my website a good old fashioned facelift this month with new additions including my acting reel, more poems and each poem read by me. http://www.charleswaters.net /

-Got cast in a Home Depot commercial where I’m helping customers find the material they’re looking for.

-Got cast in a Pepsi commercial as a vintage baseball player, then a day later found out they didn’t want me after all. This is a good lesson for young people because sometimes you can do the best job you can and still have it not be enough for reasons COMPLETELY out of your control.

-Participated in a Navy Seal designed 3.1 mile obstacle course called The Rugged Maniac in February finishing in the top 3rd of my heat. I was pretty proud of myself, considering that I’ve never done anything like that before. There was lots of jumping in and crawling through mud as well as climbing 20 foot high walls. It was so much fun (or I’m losing my mind) that I’m doing a similar race called The Rugged Warrior on April 30th.

Wish me luck … with everything!

Thanks again, Charles, for the great update. The scope of your interests, activities, and accomplishments is impressive!


Who will be my next Guest Reader?

You must admit that we’ve been hitting homeruns with the Summer Guest Reader Series! To refresh your memory, here’s the lineup of stars we’ve featured so far. If you don’t see your face on this post, it’s because you haven’t pitched in to share something about yourself with the rest of us. Shame, shame! You need to be about it!

Amy VanDerwater in New York,

Charles Waters in Florida,

Mary Nida Smith in Arkansas,

Carol-Ann Hoyte in Montreal,

Ken Slesarik in Arizona,

Wendy Singer in Montreal,

Nancy Gow in Montreal,

Silindile Ntuli in South Africa, and

Mimi Cross in New Jersey.

Hundreds of visitors have read and appreciated the works of these Guest Readers and I know there is an expectation of meeting more guests in the coming weeks. Let’s here from you. Send me your picture and a poem or a write-up of 500 words or less about yourself and your journey as a writer. I look forward to hearing from you soon.


This week at a glance

It has been a good week.

Monday I introduced a new challenge for anyone interested in composing Found Poems using pre-existing prose found in all sorts of publications. We have read several excellent poems so far and they continue to come in. Please don’t forget about this opportunity. Georgia Heard is checking that post to see if she can spot poems she could use in her upcoming book.

Tuesday I summarized our ITCH poems posted so far. Here they are again.


Steven Withrow: The Witch’s Itches
Mary Nida Smith: Bewitched
Gay Fawcett: Itch (written by Laura C., a former student)
Ken Thomas Slesarik: Itchy Dilemma
Amy Ludwig VanDerwater: Why Me?
Jane Heitman Healy: In the Mirror
Jane Heitman Healy: Letting Go
Barbara Turner: Mr. Poe’s Itch
Julie Krantz: Blood Brothers


Taylor McGowan: Little Nuisance

Since then we have received these additional poems.

Gay Fawcett: A Lady’s Fame
Liz Korba: Which Itch?

Wednesday it was my pleasure to feature Wendy Singer’s remarks and poem. Wendy continues to receive many comments from fans old and new. She was my 6th Guest Reader.  These Canadians are doing all right for themselves! Where are my poets from other countries?

Thursday I re-featured the pictures of all six of my Guest Readers so far. That made a great looking page with talented people from New York, Florida, Arkansas, Arizona, and Montreal.

Friday I gave you a link to my three-day poetry workshop next June in Pennsylvania and announced the coming appearances of Nancy Gow (July 21) as my next Guest Reader and Gary Dulabaum as a Featured Friday Guest.

Not a bad week, considering that I’m supposed to be taking time off this summer to write more.

Who will be my next summer Guest Reader?

If you have been following my Summer Guest Reader Series, you’ve now met

Amy VanDerwater in New York,
Charles Waters in Florida,

Mary Nida Smith in Arkansas, Carol-Ann Hoyte in Montreal, Ken Slesarik in Arizona, and Wendy Singer in Montreal.

I am having a great time featuring so many talented people and, judging from your comments, you appreciate them too!

My next guest is set for July 21. She’s Nancy Gow, a colleague of Carol-Ann’s and Wendy’s in Montreal. Nancy has selected a very amusing poem to share so don’t miss her day.

Who will go next? If you have a poem to share and/or an article of up to 500 words about your journey as a writer or other subjects that pertain to writing, please let me know so I can feature you and your work. It’s that easy.


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
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!