I was expecting to write a kid's novel, but as I wrote, the words rolled out as poems instead. The questioning, slightly irreverent voice I wished I'd had as a kid came roaring out in verse. I immediately knew a year wasn't going to be enough, so I luckily found a local friend and well-known children's author — Peter Lourie — who helped me develop a school program that combined my love of writing with my love of teaching.
Now I have the best of both worlds. I get to 'field test' my poems with elementary school kids all over the world, but, most satisfying of all, I get to work in K-6 classrooms in workshop settings, helping young writers find their own voices through the magic of poetry. And no report cards to write!
Why did you choose to write poetry for children?
It chose me. All that early exposure to rhythm and rhyme made it impossible for me to write any other genre. I think in rhythm and rhyme all the time. It's sublime. Although it wears a bit thin with my family sometimes. I am working on several picture books and chapter books, so I'm breaking out. I'm even writing more and more emotionally-focused free verse poetry for kids. It seems to be more hard-edged and honest than the rhythmic stuff.
Where do your ideas for children’s poems come from?
My ideas come in equal parts from my memories of my childhood, and from my experiences as a classroom teacher. As you might expect, I pick up a lot of ideas from the 50 or so visits to schools that I make each year. Over lunch, the kids and I discuss things that bug us, and silly things that happen in our lives as kids. In every respect except age, I am a 3rd-4th grader at heart. That's a challenge for my family!
How many books has your work appeared in?
My work has appeared in about a dozen anthologies in the US and UK. I won a national contest for new poets in 2002, and have a poem in "I Invited a Dragon to Dinner" from Philomel, New York, that celebrates that contest. The other US anthologies are from Meadowbrook Press.