Friday, September 30, 2011

Things I Saw Fried at the Fair - a county fair poem; a food poem

Things I Saw Fried at the Fair
Greg Pincus

Pickles, zucchini, and burgers (with cheese).
Fish, shrimp, potatoes, and Kool Aid (oh, please!).
Ribs, avocado, a big Oreo,
Chicken and ice cream and hot dogs in dough.
Twinkies and onions and Snickers and squid.
The patience of parents and one wiped-out kid.

This week's Poetry Friday roundup is at the County Fair and... no, wait! It's at Sara Lewis Holmes' Read Write Believe. Go on and check it out.

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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Practice, Practice, Practice - a poem about practicing

Greg Pincus

I practice piano an hour a day.
I keep getting better, I guess.
I practice my handwriting each year in school.
It still looks a lot like a mess.
At basketball practice, I shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot –
On average I make four of ten.
I’m constantly hearing that practice makes perfect…
But all I can wonder is “when?”

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Saturday, September 24, 2011

Define Your Terms - a poem about magnitude and scale

Greg Pincus

When using terms of magnitude,
Be sure to be specific:
A pond might not look big to you...
To an ant, it's the Pacific.

Almost every Monday, Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect posts a poetry prompt. I love poetry prompts as jumping off places, and I realized this Monday that I have been slacking: I haven't been writing to others' prompts in a long time... and it made me sad! So, in response to the prompt to write about magnitude and scale, I came up with the above. Sometimes I like what I come up with, sometimes I don't... but that's really not the point. The point for me, anyway, is to create!

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Fits. Starts. Drafts. Dregs.

I'm a note jotter, I admit it. I get a stanza idea for a poem, and I write it down. A story idea or a scene idea pops into my head, and I write it down.


So, lately I've been cleaning up some of those somewheres and going for a bit more organization. I didn't run into anything I'd forgotten about, I'm pleased to say, but I did run into squibs of bits of ideas for over 50 different poems. Well, I suppose some of the pieces might fit together and reduce the number, but still, I was pleased at the number of things that didn't fall into the "dregs" category.

But just for the record, I didn't throw those away either. I merely organized!

Any of you note jotters? Do you ever go back and mine the gold? And if so... what's your secret?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

On Convergence and Avoiding Echo Chambers

This is a rare cross post with my other blog, The Happy Accident (where this appeared first, actually, due to my blog-scheduling miscue). I had planned to be speaking at KidLitCon today... but plans change and I'm not there. I miss the great folks there, and the thought-provoking information that always flows freely. And I'm bummed because I don't get to deliver my "angry presentation" as I dubbed it.

That's a bit of a misnomer, as neither the presentation nor I are angry. I love my fellow bloggers, in fact. Yet I think we have a tendency to get insular in our profession (children's literature or writing/publishing, your choice)... and I think that when we do that, we really fail to take advantage of the best the social web has to offer. We sell ourselves short at a time when it's critical that we don't.

To me, convergence is about more than what's going on in the publishing world. Yes, our business is changing rapidly. Ebooks are here, self-publishing is newly viable, authors/illustrators are shouldering more of the promotion load, agents are exploring becoming publishers and editors and publishers are figuring out how they can offer value in the new world.

At the same time, the way people can come together online... how we can connect based on what we love and not just where we work and live... leads to different convergence.

In both the business and online worlds, this means there's opportunity. We creatives can find new ways to make money, can make fans with our platform, and can interact with those fans in a way we never could before. Yes, we can increase sales, yet we can do even more: we can connect.

Folks who don't necessarily create the work but support it or use it and love it - reviewers, librarians, teachers, literacy advocates, and more - can also connect with new groups that converge online. Sure, not everyone needs to read every review out there, but we all wear many hats on the web... and your friends in a group of cat lovers are parents, teachers, grandparents, librarians, and book buyers of all ilk. In other words... we can connect.

We talk a lot among ourselves, and that's a good thing. In fact, I wish I was in Seattle talking with my friends there right now. But it's not enough. We need to be "out there" in the world, telling stories and reminding everyone of the power of story.

There is opportunity for everyone in this new publishing and reading world. No one knows exactly how it will play out or even who or what will be left standing 10 years hence. Except I'm sure that stories will still be being written and illustrated and shared with kids. And I'm sure opportunity is everywhere for all of us, individually and collectively. So...

Think bigger. Reach wider. Tell the story. Connect, converge, and diverge, too.

And I'll see you at KidLitCon another time!

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Writer's Chant (Butt in Chair) - a poem for writers and all creatives

Greg Pincus

Butt in chair. Butt in chair.
Minutes here, an hour there.

The work is hard, but I’ll get through it;
It won’t get done unless I do it.

Sit me down. Glue me there.
Keep my butt, butt, butt in chair!

This poem was inspired by a lot of the "we gotta do the work" buzz I heard at the last SCBWI summer conference, a pinch of Ray Bradbury, and the phrase "butt in chair" which I probably first ran into due to the remarkable Jane Yolen. And, of course, it was inspired by my wanting to hear whole classes of kids doing call and response to the last line in particular. But that's just me :-)

This week's Poetry Friday roundup is hosted by Amy over at the Poem Farm. Go on over and check out the poetic fun.

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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Geekily Happy

Fibs appear all over the place, it's true. Yet sometimes, a particular appearance makes me very geekily happy. This week, Fibs popped up on Wordplay, the crossword blog of the New York Times where, on Mondays, they feature numberplay instead. The whole column is about Fibonacci with a quiz on myths and facts about him and his ratio, a word ladder challenge, and an invitation to Fib. Sweeet!

Thus inspired, I write...

It's no myth
As they do so with
The magic of Fibonacci.

Yours... a geekily happy Greg.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Bummer Times 10 (My KidLit Con Plans Change)

Well, you know the wonderful KidLit Con conference coming up this weekend in Seattle? The one I was speaking at AND where I'd get to hang out with some of my favorite people in the world? Yeah. That one. Unfortunately, I won't actually be going this year. As they say, plans and hairstyles change... but it is, indeed, a bummer times 10.

You should still go. Really. And take notes and say "hi" to my friends for me in person, too. Thanks. It's appreciated :-)

Saturday, September 10, 2011

"Reading is thinking." Really? Hold on a second here...

GottaBook readers are a smart group, if I say so myself, and I know a lot of you are teachers or passionate advocates of literacy. As a result, when I ran into the phrase "reading is thinking" recently, my first thought was to talk about it here, even though that's not what normally happens on the blog. I'm following through on that thought, though I'm quick to note that next week you'll be seeing poetry here as normal.

But ya see... I have real problems with the phrase.

I understand the idea of "reading is thinking," I believe. Reading isn't just about decoding the phonemes and saying words - it's about comprehension and meaning, too. To get there, we use visualization, inference and a whole toolbox of ideas. We learn to extract what we can from the text by looking at form, function, and more. We use the brain in a thinking capacity, perhaps even with automaticity. Yet that, to me, is separate from saying "reading is thinking."

Now, if you say "reading for comprehension involves thinking" I'm certainly with you. If you say "reading leads to thinking" that works on a few levels. You might think this is all a parse, but I don't think so. Part of what drives this, you see, is I'm thinking about the 10-20% of children with reading disabilities who are still battling the first part of "reading." What does this phrase say to them?

One implication of the phrase "reading is thinking," while certainly not intentional, is that "if I'm not reading, I'm not thinking." Sure, it doesn't mean that when you blow it out to "getting everything involved in the process of reading involves thinking as we go." It doesn't say "reading is the only type of thinking" nor does it say "solving math problems is not thinking" or anything like that.  I can infer all day.

However, kids who struggle with reading usually struggle with self-esteem... often thinking of themselves as stupid or inferior because of the challenges with reading... and here is a statement that says that the thing they're struggling with is thinking. I beg to differ.

Put another way, we'd never say "Climbing up stairs is physical fitness!" 

The words "reading" and "thinking" are tremendously loaded. A cognitive process... a neurological function... is not the same as thinking. Decoding is not the same as extracting meaning. While "reading is thinking" is a catchy phrase and certainly I've never met a teacher or literacy advocate who would want to make a struggling reader feel bad... I've got issues.

So please, y'all... discuss! Clue me in on what I'm missing. Agree with me or help me define my concerns more clearly. Point me to resources. Or, of course, tell jokes or move along :-)

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Hero's Art Journey - Check it Out!

My friend and children's book world colleague (and professor and fellow SCBWI member and and) Mira Reisberg is debuting a new online class, Hero's Art Journey (it's starting on September 12th).  If you know an artist... a budding artist... a teacher... a coach... a therapist... or anyone interested in exploring, learning, and, well, signing up for what Mira thinks will be a transformative experience, I hope you'll shoot 'em the link. (Or if that describes you, check it out yourself!)

I've been working with Mira a bit on ways to spread the word for a project like this, and what's struck me from day one is how excited she is to be offering up something that is exactly what she wants to offer, not constrained by where she's working or teaching. Her enthusiasm and passion is contagious. And she's done her homework, taking other online classes to learn what she likes and doesn't like from that angle, too (something I do, as well). Plus, I always laugh when we talk and have learned a ton myself in the process. Good times, indeed, and again, I hope you'll check out the site to see what the Journey is.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Random Acts of Publicity Week!

Did you know that tomorrow kicks off the 3rd annual Random Acts of Publicity Week? It does!

This is a great endeavor kicked off by Darcy Pattison with the goal being to help get a book (or many books) noticed by readers. Pretty simple, eh? Yes.

There are special guests on Darcy's blog, some giveaways, and a really helpful FAQ with ideas of how to do some random PR.

Check it out and, voila - an excuse to be a little random this week.