One Time When I was Little
One time when I was little
and we lived in Ajo, Arizona,
our neighbor Mrs. Joe Geiger
made tacos and invited me
and Mr. Joe Geiger and I
got into a contest to see
who could eat the most tacos
and we tied
so next day at school a girl said
I smelled bad and my teacher sniffed
and said so too and moved me
to the front of the room so my
garlic breath wouldn’t kill anybody
and later I found out that
Ajo means garlic in Spanish
so that makes my story funny
so ha ha.
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.
I’m home again and back in the wheel. I lost some sleep at the conference so I gave myself half an hour more rest this morning.
I had some unusual questions from kids at this festival. One asked about my favorite publisher. Another wanted to know if the blank verse of Shakespeare had any impact on my writing. I was impressed!
This year Vivian Vande Velde couldn’t make it to the festival and she always takes pictures to share with the rest of us. Bill Anderson volunteered to be our roving photographer so I expect some candid pictures from him before long. I’ll share some of them if Bill hasn’t already.
Several teachers who attended the festival with their students expressed interest in participating in the Scholastic book with Mary Jo Fresch so I look forward to their input in the coming weeks. While waiting for teacher input, I’ll get back to other projects that need some attention. I have two meetings today but expect to spend most of the rest of it starting to catch up.
These children’s literature festivals make you feel like a kid again! This is the final day of this one. Yesterday went smoothly except that the room was crowded and got a little warm. We couldn’t open a window but a fan helped. This morning seemed to come early and the maid has forgotten to restock my coffee so decaf is going to have to do for now.
My schools today are Smithton R-VI, Parkade Elementary, Westran Middle School, Sni-A-Bar, Hale R-1, and Pilot Grove. Yesterday the kids ranged from 3rd to 8th grade so I expect more of the same today. I’m ready when they are.
Today and tomorrow will be busy ones but fun as groups of young students, grades 4-6, come for forty-five minutes at a time to hear some of their favorite authors and illustrators.
I plan to ask the teachers who accompany their kids if they might be interested in contributing to the book I’m doing with Mary Jo Fresch. Our deadline is looming and this is a great opportunity.
I hope your week is a good one.