What Are The Pros Up To?

REMINDER: Vote by 10:00 CST tonight. That’s when the polls cut off!

Hi everyone,

Mondays are when I like to present past Featured Guests to give us an update on recent and current activities. As is often the case, busy people can’t always take time off when they might like to. Therefore, I’m giving you my own update today.

First, meet my wife Sandy. This was taken on a trip to Dogwood Canyon near Branson, Missouri.

Pretty classy gal. I’d share a trunk with her any day.

I’ve had some nice things happen to my work recently.


As I mentioned last Saturday, PIRATES is on next year’s Young Hoosier Book Award Master Reading List along with 19 others in the intermediate category.



Nominated for one of the two SAA 2010 book awards—“a book that is written for the general public and presents the results of archaeological research to a broader audience” http://www.saa.org . The nomination stated, “Harrison’s book targets 4th-7th graders (ca. 9-12 year olds), a most-important age group that rarely receives nonfiction attention in this medium from the archaeological community. It is this age group that experiences tremendous intellectual development, when children begin to read to learn (rather than learn to read), start to think critically, and display a burgeoning curiosity about everything. Mr. Harrison has done a tremendous service for our discipline by focusing on this age group and introducing an up-to-date story full of concepts, facts, and current issues.”

At Pittsburg University, Dr. Anthony Boldurian, Professor of Anthropology and Director, Archaeology Program, writes, “It may interest you to know that next semester I am teaching for the first time a newly-developed course, directed specifically for majors in the Science Teacher-Ed program. The course, Science + Prehistory →Archaeology, is designed as a pedagogical approach to teaching teachers-to-be about how to instruct archaeology in the Science classroom (elementary & secondary levels). One of the texts I have for required reading is your Mammoth Bones and Broken Stones.”



Reprinted as the featured poem to start Chapter Two: “Learning about Reading and Literature,” in the latest edition (7th) of Essentials of Children’s Literature. Poems by Charles Ghigna and Rebecca Dotlich also appear in this book.

Selected by a western city to be lettered around their new bookmobile. I hope to learn more about the final design soon.



Translatioin into Lithuanian is in the works. Previous translations include French, Spanish, German, Chinese, Japanese, Italian, Afrikaans, Norwegian, and Danish.



Selected by Zaner-Bloser for their Voices in Reading Program. (http://www.zaner-bloser.com/Voices-Reading.html )


I just returned from NCTE in Orlando where I presented Word of the Month Poetry Challenge. We made new friends and, I hope, recruits to the monthly exercise in imagination. REMINDER: Voting ends tonight at 10:00 CST for the November poems.


On December 12-15 I’ll be in Paterson, New Jersey at three schools to provide professional development for teachers and work with their students. I’ll continue the work later on Skype.


I’m excited about the new program for Drury, to be called This Week with David Harrison. We have a team of four working out the details for a regular 7-8 minute program that teachers can bring into their classrooms nationwide. The central theme will be literacy and each week I’ll offer tips and ideas about writing and reading.


Yesterday was the kickoff for a book drive for preschool children, which is part of Family Voices (another project with Drury). We have recorded 17 well-known people reading 34 age appropriate books. This library of children’s literature will be given on a CD to parents who agree to record their own voices reading to their children. Families will also receive free books for their children five or under. More about that later.


On a closing note, I’m working on the final four poems to complete a new manuscript. The book will be published by Boyds Mills Press and illustrated by Dan Burr (who did PIRATES.)


VERY important announcement!

Hi Everyone,

Some time ago I asked you to tell me which features you liked most about this blog. Top choice was Word of the Month Poetry Challenge. Near the bottom was the manner in which we select our monthly Hall of Fame Poets. Some love the excitement of the month-end race for votes while others are put off by it and would prefer a system that focuses more on the poetry. I promised to consider the situation. Now I have.Beginning this month, which is the first in our second year of W.O.M., we will have a dual system for recognizing our poets and their work. We will continue to post the familiar ballot boxes so you can vote for one adult and one young poet. Nothing will change in the way we select our Monthly Hall of Fame Poets.

Additionally, it’s my pleasure to introduce a panel of professional poets who have agreed to select the best poem in each group each month. I will send them the poems without names so they’ll judge strictly on merit. I’ll announce those winning poets each month at the same time we see who won the popular vote. These winners will be called Word of the Month Poet and Word of the Month Young Poet.

You may win once in each category during the twelve month period, from October 2010 through September 2011.

I hope you enjoy the new addition. I’m very excited to bring it to you. And now, meet our judges.

Charles Ghigna

Jane Yolen

Laura Purdie Salas

J. Patrick Lewis

Rebecca Dotlich

Sara Holbrook

How’s that for a lineup? If others join the panel over time, I’ll let you know. I’ve provided links to some background information about our judges. You’ve already met everyone but Sara as a Featured Guest, and Sara is on tap to appear shortly.

That’s it for now. If you plan to post a poem this month, remember that the word is CHANGE and the cutoff for submissions is next Monday, the 25th, at 10:00 CST.rubbermanDavid

WHAT ARE THE PROS UP TO? with Charles (Father Goose) Ghigna

REMINDERS: Don’t forget to vote for your choice of 2010 Hall of Fame Poets this week. The ballot boxes close Thursday night at 10:00 CST. Early leaders are Euleta Usrey (adult) and Taylor McGowan (young poet). You can also see my W.O.M. poems and let me know if you have a preference among them. Thanks to all.

Back today for an invited encore is none other than Father Goose, sometimes known as Charles Ghigna. To see Charles’s original appearance as my guest on May 7, 2010, here’s the link.

Hi, Charles. It’s good to hear from you again. What’s up with you these days?

Hi David!

Always good to hear from you! You have an amazing blog and are so kind to promote your fellow authors! I look forward to hearing what’s new with YOU! :)

My latest book project is a beginning reader that I wrote with my wife, Debra, titled BARN STORM. It was released from Random House last week on Sept. 28. The book is illustrated by the wonderful Diane Greenseid. BTW, I love your SiRs too! :)


Charles Ghigna • Father Goose
204 West Linwood Drive
Homewood, AL 35209

“You are braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” —Christopher Robin, Winnie the Pooh

Brenda Seabrooke today

Hi Everyone,

I’m pleased to tell you that my Monday segment, which I’m calling WHAT ARE THE PROS UP TO? is coming along well. In it I re-feature professional writers, agents, illustrators, editors, and teachers who have appeared previously as Featured Guests on Friday. Now that I can finally post pictures, I’m inviting each of them back to tell us in a nutshell what they’re up to these days. Next Monday we’ll hear from Sandy Asher. The week following, Charles (Father Goose) Ghigna will repay us a visit.

My Wednesday segment, called Guest Readers, could use more support from you. I have a great poem to share with you ths coming Wednesday when I reintroduce Silindile (Souldose) Ntuli. But I have no one scheduled after that. If you, or another writer you know, would like to share something about his or her journey as a writer, please contact me so we can set up a time for you. This is a very popular spot that draws a lot of readers and supportive comments. Thanks!

Today I’m honored to introduce another good friend and author, Brenda Seabrooke. I asked Brenda a series of questions and she provided honest, insightful answers. I continue to be impressed by the quality of thoughtful responses we’ve seen from my Featured Guests. Now, here’s Brenda.

What originally attracted you to writing?

I loved stories – who doesn’t? Stories are magic, conjured out of air, memory, imagination, life. I made picture stories before I could write and when I learned to write kept going first with poems, then stories and later books.

Do you keep a journal? If so, when did you start? What sort of material do you write in your journal?

Yes, I try to write something in it every day. I started at 7 when I received a diary for Christmas. I never reread what I had written and thought I had filled the early ones with boring stuff such as got up, went to school, went to music, rode my horse, went to bed. I looked at them a few years ago and discovered a world of fascinating details! I recorded the day when my father bought our first TV and the account of that life-changing event was published in a book by Dr. Ray Barfield, Clemson University professor.

Your books speak to the hearts of young fans everywhere. How would you describe your approach to creating such strong stories?

I’m essentially a storyteller. The stories find me. Then the work begins. With few exceptions, it is a layered process. I go over and over the story, shading, enlivening (punching up verbs!), sharpening, deepening, defining, enriching. Each time something new is revealed to me about the characters. It’s a magical process.

A number of books have been written about the three pigs and the big bad wolf. What prompted you to write another one?

My cousins and I made up a game in which one cousin was a wolf and the rest were pigs. When the wolf blew down a house, we all had to run to the next one, etc. Years later I was reminded of the game when I saw a pig race at the VA State Fair. I wrote what became the first chapter of Wolf Pie (Clarion,2010). Then I wondered what happened after that and wrote another chapter and kept going!

Who is your audience? Who is reading over your shoulder while you write?

I think about readers but I don’t write down to them. I read my stories aloud and try to pretend I’m the audience. Usually I can hear when something isn’t working. Reading aloud takes a long time when I’m writing a novel but it is a necessary part of my work process.

How do you write? At the keyboard? Longhand? In an office? At regular times?

I write almost every day usually on my office computer but sometimes longhand. I write on car trips, airplanes, at dental appointments. I think it’s important to write in longhand, to connect pen to paper and I try to do it every day if only in my journal.

Are there and methods you utilize to stay current with today’s young readers?

I watch TV shows such as Pawn Stars and Dirty Jobs that my grandson likes. My daughter and her husband work in the gaming world so I pick up info from them. And I read current books and watch current movies.

What do you see happening in the world of children’s book publishing these days?

It’s more open than it has ever been. Few subjects are taboo today if they’re handled in a meaningful way. Quirky and cheeky are now the norm where once they were considered daring and innovative. I see this continuing but I hope there is always room for the old-fashioned story as well.

Do you have advice for emerging children’s authors?

Read! That sounds simplistic but I‘m always amazed at people who want to write for children but don’t read books published for them. To write in a particular genre, it is paramount to read what is being published in it.

Brenda, many thanks for allowing me to feature you on today’s blog. My best wishes for your continued success with those wonderful stories you write.

To learn more about Brenda, here’s a link. http://www.childrensbookguild.org/brenda-seabrooke  

Charles Ghigna today


My guest today is Charles Ghigna (pronounced geen-ya). What you are about to read is part of an interview that originally appeared in Inkwell Newswatch in January 2008 and excerpted here by permission of Mr. Ghigna.

IN: You have been professionally writing for 30 odd years and became known as Father Goose back in the early days of your career. Legend has it students and teachers picked that name. Why did your audience choose that name for you at that time? Why did it stick?

CG: The “Father Goose” moniker caught on for several reasons. When I first started reading my poems at schools and libraries, teachers and librarians enjoyed calling me Father Goose because of the obvious association to Mother Goose. Children started calling me Father Goose because it is fun to say and a lot easier to spell than Ghigna. My publishers liked the idea of a Father Goose because it gave them an image to promote. The first image of Father Goose appeared in 1994 on the cover of Tickle Day: Poems from Father Goose, one of my first books of poetry for children. Father Goose also appears a few times inside that book and others.

Children tell me they like trying to find him in the different scenes. In one scene Father Goose is standing on top of a turtle! One of my latest books, Animal Tracks: Wild Poems to Read Aloud also has a goose on the cover, as well as geese inside. When I am asked to autograph books, I often draw a little Father Goose hat on the goose that appears on the title page.

IN: Among other impressive accomplishments, your books have been exceptionally successful and your first book contract was with Walt Disney Company’s Hyperion Books back in 1992. What advice can you give to budding authors of children’s literature about dealing with large corporate American publishers?

CG: I do not think about “corporate America” when I write. That might be good advice for others too. I simply climb the steps to my attic office each morning hoping the magic will happen once again, and I will find another gem of an idea that I can turn into a worthy poem for young minds, hearts, and imaginations to enjoy. I like to think of my agent, my editors, publishers, illustrators, marketing, publicity, and sales people as one big team whose job it is to get good books into the hands of as many children as possible. I am fortunate to have such great teammates!

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IN: Your great grandfather was a full-blooded American Indian and we’re wondering whether this indigenous heritage seeps into your writing at all?

CG: I would imagine that every author’s heritage seeps into their writing whether we are aware of it or not. We are, I believe, a composite of our heritage and of our experiences. Who we are comes through in our writing more clearly than the echo of our voice, more distinctly than our photo or our fingerprint. I am very proud to be descended from Native Americans, as well as from Italians, Irish, Germans, and French-Canadians!

IN: Who have been the most influential people during your writing career and why?

CG: Though neither of my parents were scholars or writers, they set the tone and direction of my life. My father taught me a strong work ethic, and my mother always made me feel that I could do anything I set my mind to doing. She was the most creative person I have ever known. Many great poets and authors influenced my early attempts at writing including Robert Frost, Carl Sandburg, Edna St.Vincent Millay, Sara Teasdale, Ogden Nash, John Updike, and James Dickey.

IN: What approaches or methods do you use when writing?

CG: I usually have more ideas going on than I have time to write. I work fast and quick letting the idea take me where it wants to go. I try to trust my instincts and enter the creative writing process with a sense of wonder and discovery. If the idea generates enough heat and excitement for me I keep going. If not, I move on to the next idea. My best efforts come when I discover something new on the page or screen that I didn’t know I knew until I let myself go. I try to write with as much passion as I can muster. I write with total abandonment.

That’s when the good stuff comes. If I’m lucky I will find a little surprise or two. That’s the kind of writing I like to do. It’s also the kind of writing I like to read. I used to tell my students that each one of them already has poems and stories inside them. All I can do as a teacher is show you ways of letting them out, of giving you a few inspiring tips and strategies, then get out of the way and let the magic happen. Writing creatively is so much different than writing expositorily. Outlines might be good in writing an article or essay, but they often limit the poem or story from going where it wants to go. Imaginative writing should generate passion and excitement for the writer, as well as the reader.

IN: You have your own, personal site at http://www.fathergoose.com. How important is it for writers to have a website?

CG: I like to think of the Father Goose website as a celebration of children’s literature and as a resource for students, teachers, librarians, and writers. They can go there to get inspired and to find different ways of approaching the writing process. They can also learn all about Father Goose and how he became a lover of language and writing. I used to spend endless hours answering mail from students and teachers. Most of the questions were the same. I decided it would be fun to put up a website that might save me, and them, lots of time, time we all could use to write more poems and stories!

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IN: When reading to children in large groups, such as at libraries and schools, how do you handle situations when the children are blunt and point out that they don’t like your work?

CG: Yes, kids are very honest! I love that. I have been doing school visits for more than 30 years now and so far no one has ever said they do not like my work. Sometimes when I am working on a new book of poems, I will read the poems aloud to the children and ask them to help me pick out which ones they like the best. I asked one group of children at a bookstore reading to help me title a new book I was working on at the time. I already had two titles that I liked, but wanted to know which title they liked better.

One title was Autumn In The Pumpkin Patch. The other title was Oh My, Pumpkin Pie! The majority of them choose the pie! Many of them said they liked the other title too. I decided to use both. The book is a Step Into Reading book from Random House titled Oh My, Pumpkin Pie, and the first line of the book is “Autumn in the pumpkin patch, no two pumpkins ever match!” It’s a book about the sizes, shapes and colors of pumpkins. They get it right away. We are all little pumpkins growing together in the pumpkin patch of life!

IN: What advice do you offer for writers about the merits or pitfalls of taking writing classes, attending conferences and seminars, and the like?

CG: I’m not a big fan of the group approach to writing. Writing is a solitary art. As I wrote in The Complete Idiot’s Guide To Publishing Children’s Books, “Stop attending workshops. Read other writers if you must, but for heaven sakes save your soul and stay away from how-to workshops and conferences. At worst, they’ll drain you of your creativity. At best, they’ll have you writing like everyone else. Keep what little originality you have left from childhood. Protect it. Nurture it. Let it run wild. That’s all you have. That’s all you need. The only way to learn to write is to write. There is no other way. Workshops and conferences can only take you away from the real work, the real world of writing.”

IN: When dealing with agents and publicists what suggestions and/or warnings can you pass along to burgeoning authors?

CG: Concentrate on the writing. Test your work out on magazines you admire. If it catches on, keep going until you feel ready to offer a book-length manuscript to a publisher. If your book is original and well written it will be published. If your first few books sell well, you will have no trouble in finding a good agent. Like you, I love to write. I knew early on that whether or not my writing ever earned a penny, I would be writing for the rest of my life. The writing bug had bitten. The passion took over. It was then that my writing gained attention. It was then that I realized the possibility of providing for my family by doing the one thing I love the most.

IN: Do you believe that children are becoming less or more literate with the mass infiltration of computers, the Internet, and technology in general into the public school systems?

CG: Children are more aware of the world around them then ever before. I just hope they will continue finding ways to create some quiet time to think, to dream, to read, to imagine. Books make great companions in those quiet times.

IN: Have you ever had problems with over zealous lovers of your work (children or adult)?

CG: I welcome their enthusiasm! People drop by my house with books for me to sign all the time. I’ve yet to turn any of them away.

Charles, David here. Tell us what you have in the hopper.

CG: I have a new little SiR book coming out from Random House this September (BARN STORM) and four new poetry books (one about each season) coming out in 2011. The other two latest books are: SNOW WONDER (Random House, 2008) and SCORE! 50 Poems to Motivate and Inspire (Abrams, 2008). There’s a complete list of my books on the Bibliography page at FatherGoose.com, if you need it.

Charles, thanks for being my guest today. I know that your many fans, old and new, have enjoyed your remarks and many may have comments for you.