Friday, May 25, 2012

Poetic Closure!

Back in March Madness, I had to write a poem using the word "pandemonium." I came up with The Poetry Games. But how did I get that word? Well, it was given to me by Mary Lee Hahn and her class of students.

Well, today I got to do a Skype visit with them! I read them The Poetry Games as well as some of the stanzas that fell by the wayside as I rewrote AND my earlier attempts at using pandemonium in a poem.

I even read some of my attempt to write a poem using only anagrams made from pandemonium. It was called A Mind Unpoem, and you can see right there why it never went much farther!

We talked poetry. They asked great questions. And then the whole class read me one of my poems from The Late Bird! It was fabulous.

So thanks, Ms. Hahn and all your students for the great time I had this afternoon. And yes... thanks for pandemonium, too!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Neil Gaiman - Make Good Art

I don't know if Commencement speeches have names, but if one were to name this speech by Neil Gaiman, I think "Make Good Art" would nail it. Writers, artists, musicians, and all leading a creative life will enjoy, I think...

Monday, May 21, 2012

Check out the Story Scrapbook

My friend and fellow author Tristan Bancks is offering up a great, free brainstorming app (for Mac and PC) called Story Scrapbook.

It's in beta, and I've been playing with it myself, even though it's designed for kids. Of course, I am a kid, just older, so it fits. Anyway, I love how it lets me combine video, audio, web finds, and text - it's like brainstorming without constraints. If you know a visual learner... I bet they'd love this. For that matter, I think a whole host of kids would find it liberating and fun, too.

So, watch the how-to video or download the quickstart file or just do what I did - download and play.  Good times!

Friday, May 18, 2012

I Don't Like Words (a poetry re-issue)

Greg Pincus

I don’t like words.
They don’t make sense.
Words make me upset and tense.
How due eye no witch whirred two ewes
Ore how too right thee won aye chews?
Wile sum mite think words are a bawl,
Eye dew knot care fore words at awl!

This is the first poem I ever got paid for (after blog posting, by the way)... and then it never got published! Sigh. I Don't Like Words is one of the 54 poems that's in my e-book, The Late Bird, by the way - available on Kindle, on Nook, and in other formats via Smashwords, too.

This week's Poetry Friday roundup is over at Katya Czaja's Write. Sketch. Repeat. Mosey on over and see all sorts of good stuff.

And if you want to get all my new poems (and only the poems) emailed to you for freeee as they hit the blog, enter your email address in the box below then click subscribe!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

J. Patrick Lewis - Edgar Allan Poe's Pie

I am always excited when J. Patrick Lewis, currently the Children's Poet Laureate, stops by here at GottaBook. Pat's a word wizard whose seemingly unending creativity is both entertaining AND inspiring for me. And this time, I'm talking to him about a book that delights me more than usual: Edgar Allan Poe's Pie: Math Puzzlers in Classic Poems (illustrated wonderfully by Michael Slack).

In short, he takes classic poems, parodies them, and adds math. Here's an example so you know what I'm raving about:

Edward Lear’s Elephant with Hot Dog
Inspired by “THERE WAS AN OLD MAN WITH A BEARD” by Edward Lear
“When an elephant sat down to order
A half of a third of a quarter
Of an eighty-foot bun
And a frankfurter, son,
Was it longer than three feet, or shorter?”

Be still Greg's geeky heart! (And yes, the answers are in the book. But here, you have to do the math!). Now, on with the chat....

It was nice of you to write a book specifically for me - a mashup of math, poetry, and parody. How did you know that this was what I would've flipped out for as a kid (and still do as an adult)? Or... well... do you think there are other kids who would like it, too????

I can only hope other kids like yourself will cotton to a math/poetry salmagundi. It worked once for me with a collection of math riddles, Arithmetickle, which is still in print after a decade.

When you visit classes/schools and get to these poems, what reaction do you get from the kids? Do they want to hear the original poems? Do they yell out answers?

The short answer is, Yes, they do yell out the answers, at least to some of them, but I have come to realize, after a number of tries, that some work and some don't. As always, I write, and wrote this book, for myself. And many of these poets/poems in EAPoe's Pie are simply unknown or passe to 4th-5th graders. That shouldn't detract from the math element in them, but I won't lie and tell you that they were shouting, "John Ciardi!" "Eleanor Farjeon!"

How did you pick the poems you chose to re-work? Was it based on you seeing how to make them fit with math or was it based more on poems you love or something else entirely?

Truth be told, I chose the poets first, then looked for their most well-known poems that might make grist for the math parody mill. Harcourt accepted almost all of the choices I made, so there was some feeling of vindication.

Did you ever create poems with math that you decided was too complex for this collection?

Sadly, yes, and a few of them might still reside in the book. It's extremely challenging to write math poems all of equal difficulty—far easier in fact to write straightforward math problems. And occasionally, I get/got so carried away that I forget/forgot my (young) audience.

Any plans to do this with other topics besides math?

How many I think he should do.
Well, I love the parody form, which I see in no way as an attempt to outdo the original. For me, a parody is an act of homage, even if you re-do a serious poem with a nonsensical "reply."

In 2037 or thereabouts (kidding), I have a book of parodies about all sorts of subjects coming out with Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press entitled Shadow Poems: Parrot-ies. At least that's the title I hope they agree to keep.

You've already had wonderful books out this year. What's next for you?

If you promise not to hold me to the exact dates—publishers are always changing lists—I'll mention these poetry books:

  • Take Two! A Celebration of Twins (with Jane Yolen), Candlewick, Spring 2012.
  • Last Laughs: Animal Epitaphs (with Jane Yolen), Charlesbridge, Spring 2012.
  • The National Geographic Book of Animal Poems, Sept. 2012—200 poems (my first anthology).
  • If You Were a Chocolate Mustache: (156) Poems, Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press, 2012-2013?
  • When Thunder Comes: Poems for the Civil Rights Leaders, Chronicle Books, 2013. 
  • Everything Is a Poem: Selected Best Poems of JPL, Creative Editions, 2013.
  • Poemobiles: Imaginary Car Poems (with Douglas Florian), Schwartz & Wade, Spring 2013.
  • World Rat Day: Poems About Holidays You Have Never Heard Of, Candlewick, 2013.

There was more in our email exchanges, but I decided to end with this list of delectable titles we have to look forward to (or in the case of some, like Take Two!, have already enjoyed).

I'm not sure how Pat found the time to chat with me, but I'm grateful that he did! He also had time to stop by No Water River to chat and read some poetry... and to answer five questions with Sylvia Vardell, too - another post worth reading!

And can I just say once again... if you like math, poetry, inspired wordplay or any combination of those three (or if you do the math to see how many combos exist!), you should go out and by J. Patrick Lewis's Edgar Allan Poe's Pie.  Period. The end!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Words Count - a poem about words/a math poem

Words Count
Greg Pincus

Occasionally, I overwrite:
One word will do, but I'll use plenty.
So, this poem's on a limit.
It only uses

Sometimes, I write things that make me laugh. Sometimes, I write things that make me scratch my head and wonder what I was thinking. Sometimes, I have no clue where poems come from. And sometimes, all three things occur at once. This is one of those times....

The Poetry Friday roundup is over at Irene Latham's blog today. I hope you'll go check it out.

And if you want to get all my new poems (and only the poems) emailed to you for freeee as they hit the blog, enter your email address in the box below then click subscribe!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Villainous Vicky - a point of view poem

Villainous Vicky
Greg Pincus

She smiles so wide beneath delicate curls,
But Villainous Vicky’s the worst of the girls.
She’s caring. She’s kind. She’s as cute as can be.
But please heed my warning, or you’ll be like me:
‘Cause though she is charming and sharp as a tack,
She’ll steal your poor heart, and she won’t give it back!

If you want to get all my new poems (and only the poems) emailed to you for freeee as they hit the blog, enter your email address in the box below then click subscribe!

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Tina Nichols Coury's Hanging Off Jefferson's Nose Blog Tour is Here Today!

I am THRILLED to be today's stop for Tina Nichols Coury and the blog tour for her first release, Hanging Off Jefferson's Nose.

I'm also incredibly excited to be posting an interview I did with her agent (and original acquiring editor) Mark McVeigh.

PLUS... one lucky commenter here will win a 15 minute phone critique with Mark on 10 pages of their manuscript. I happen to think Mark is a fantastic critiquer (and please know that he has NOT loved all my work, so this isn't my ego talking. Oh, far from it!), so this is a great opportunity. More about the giveaway below. But now... to the fun!

You discovered Tina's manuscript during a conference critique (at a conference, by the way, where you coulda discovered me, but noooooo. Oh, sure, my manuscript was terrible, but can't we forget that part???). What makes a manuscript stick out to you when you read it? What was it in Tina's draft that made you know you had to buy it?

It surprised me. Of course like everyone else I knew of Mount Rushmore, but I had no clue how or why it was built. I was amazed that a kid, the sculptor’s son, Lincoln Borglum, had a part in the creation. It was a unique angle on a well-known American icon that had not been done before.

Tina's book is non-fiction, obviously, and a story that was personally interesting to her. To me, that personal passion seems important, but what do you think the keys are in writing a non-fiction manuscript that editors want to buy?

School standards are changing and non-fiction is more important than ever. Houses are interested in a book that crosses over to school curriculum. All your research needs to be well documented to show you are an expert. Then get creative.

Is there a story behind the non-fiction subject that no one ever told?

Tina, her book, and you have been on quite a journey... with you going from acquiring editor to her agent in the years since the manuscript sold. What's been the most interesting part of the process for you? The toughest?

Tina and Mark on "dress casual" day
The hardest part was when I left Dutton half way through the rewrites and production. I knew Tina was in good hands with editor Steve Meltzer but when editors switch houses you tend to lose touch with your authors. The most interesting part, of course, is Tina, an editor’s dream.

Over the years we kept in touch and developed a great friendship. Tina was fun, upbeat, and a pleasure to work with. During her wait for publication she continued to grow as an author and became an expert on blog tours, cyber promotion and book trailers.

When I started my agency and found out she was unrepresented I knew I wanted her as one of my clients. Tina rocks. (GKP editorial note: this is true.)

We deal with a lot of rejection in our business. And whether we're just getting a critique or submitting for a sale, we're always hoping to get a "Wow! I'm buying!" rather than notes or a pass. What's your advice to authors and illustrators on how to deal with receiving feedback and rejection? Is it personal? Should we change the color of our paper or digital ink and try again?

There are many reasons for editors to reject manuscripts and some have nothing to do with the quality of the manuscript. Read between the lines. Are they rejecting it for some unknown reason or do they offer suggestions of a future path? Some houses might have something similar coming out or their list is full of picture books and needs middle grade.

But it is important for authors/illustrators to do their homework. Make sure they know what the house or the agent is looking for. All manuscripts should be thoroughly workshopped, critiqued and in the best shape to submit to an agent or a house.

The SCBWI is full of workshops year round that can help you make your manuscript undeniable and give it that “Wow” factor and find you a champion who will take it to acquisitions.

Big picture, now. Where do you see the children's book business going? Should we all toss away our pens? And what's next for you and The McVeigh Agency?

The business is in an exciting phase of flux. With ebooks offering an additional way to publish and the form of interactive books still settling I think we have a few years of the industry redefining itself.

But a great story always sells, so I would tell authors to concentrate on getting the manuscript into shape before you submit. The McVeigh Agency represents a variety of authors for adult and children’s books and l look forward to many more years of success.

Thanks, Mark! And now, to celebrate Tina's release, we've got a giveaway, just cuz. One commenter will win a 15 minute phone critique (of 10 pages) with Mark. You only have until 10 PM Pacific time on May 15th to leave a comment... so why not just do so today?

You should also check out Tina's whole blog tour list. Not only do I hope you support Tina and her book, but there are great interviews AND prizes at every stop, not just here.

And finally... a personal note. I was there the day the manuscript sold, and I've loved watching every step of the process, from the agonizing waiting to the fantabulous successes. I am so happy to get to celebrate the release with Tina. In a word... YAY!!!

Now comment away, folks. Comment away!

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

The Children Know...

The children know. They have always known. But we choose to think otherwise: it hurts to know the children know. If we obfuscate, they will not see. Thus we conspire to keep them from knowing and seeing. And if we insist, then the children, to please us, will make believe they do not know, they do not see. They are remarkable -- patient, loving, and all-forgiving. It is a sad comedy: the children knowing and pretending they don't know to protect us from knowing they know.

Maurice Sendak (1928-2012), in the preface of I Dream of Peace: Images of War by Children of Former Yugoslavia (UNICEF, HarperCollins 1994)

Monday, May 07, 2012

Good Prices! Good Deals! - a shopping poem

Good Prices! Good Deals!
Greg Pincus

My room is full of concrete slabs.
This happens each year without fail
‘Cause I always get a super deal....
I love a good sidewalk sale!

It just occurred to me as I posted this - it's a concrete poem. Literally!

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Sunday, May 06, 2012

The Truth About Poets and Poetry

A little video I made because, well, because it was fun to do! Feel free to share it with all your poet (and writer, illustrator, musician, and artist) friends... and with those who love them.

If you cannot see the video above, you can view it right on YouTube or click this link to the blog and try again.

Friday, May 04, 2012

A Note for My Grandma (Left in her Kitchen) - a food poem/a family poem

A Note for My Grandma (Left in her Kitchen)
Greg Pincus

Cookies are not safe near me:
Temptation is my foe.
I see a cookie? Eat, eat, eat!
I try to stop... but no.
My worry for poor cookies’ health
Is very real, and so...
Since cookies are not safe near me
That’s why I ate your dough.

This week's Poetry Friday roundup is at Elaine's Wild Rose Reader. Be sure to check it out.

And if you'd like to get all the poems here emailed to you for freeee as they hit the blog, enter your email address in the box below then click subscribe!

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Look! My Book! On Nook!

It's true... The Late Bird is now available for the Nook.

Sure, you can still get it for the Kindle (or for the Kindle App which works on any iDevice (as does the Nook App, by the way)), but now there are options.

Plus, from a purely headline writing point of view, this was more fun. Look! Nook Book! or Look, E-book for the Nook! or Nook Book! Look! or or or or. Good times.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

The Poetry Games - a poem about poetry

The Poetry Games
Greg Pincus

This year the arena is packed to the rafters
With fans cheering loudly for favorite word crafters.
We all have our heroes. We call out their names.
We root and we hoot at the Poetry Games.

Our friends tell us stories of tourneys gone by
When last second sonnets would make the crowds cry.
When two well-versed poets both wrote clerihew…
When strong double dactyls defeated haiku.

Now, this year we listen and hear poets score
With assonance, consonance, slant rhyme and more.
We sigh for a stanza that sends our souls soaring.
We hide as the similes fall like rain pouring.

Crowd favorites emerge from the tales that they tell
In free verse, in ballad, and in villanelle.
A triolet sends one opponent to doom.
Another one drops to a perfect pantoum.

Soon only two stand. We all watch them fight on.
Nobody leaves as they write until dawn.
Then they lay down their pens in this battle of brains…
And a winner is named! Pandemonium reigns!

These Games are a fiction, though here’s what is real:
The power of poems to make us all feel.
Poetry speaks of the world as we know it,
So celebrate words, and go cheer for a poet.

I wrote this poem for Ed DeCaria's March Madness when I had to use the word "pandemonium" (under time pressure, no less). I have to say, it seems like a great poem to run right after National Poetry Month....

If you want to get all my new poems (and only the poems) emailed to you for freeee as they hit the blog, enter your email address in the box below then click subscribe!

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Say "Hi!" to Debbie Ridpath Ohi!

This year's 30 Poets/30 Days logo was created by Debbie Ridpath Ohi, one of my most favorite ever people I've met through social media.

She is a one-woman powerhouse - a writer (picture books! YA! MG! poetry! non-fiction! songs!), illustrator, cartoonist, social media whiz, incredible provider of resources for children's lit folks, iPad lover, and I can't even tell you all the other hyphenates.

Her first book as illustrator, I'm Bored (written by Michael Ian Black) comes out this September from Simon & Schuster. That's pretty darn exciting. But you know what's maybe even more exciting?

Two new contracts, including her first book as writer/illustrator!

I am thrilled to see Debbie's career taking off (though I'm not surprised), and I was always excited to add her logo to the 30 Poets posts during April.

If you all don't know her... you really should. Don't wait til September - go see her now at any of those above links. You'll be glad you did.

30 Poets/One Day

What a month! Thanks to the 30 poets who made this so much fun for me and shared so generously. And thanks to all of you who followed along.

Just for fun, let's review the month that just passed....

Allan Wolf - The Greatest Nation on Earth
Kalli Dakos - The Northern Lights
Steven Withrow - The Secretive Subtractor
Sara Holbrook - Crystal Apples
Mary Quattlebaum - Earthworm
Bob Raczka - What Is Poetry?
Liz Brownlee - Sea Star
Lorraine Marwood - Cockatoo: A Portrait
Michael J. Rosen - Unsung Dog Song
Helen Frost - Riddle me, Riddle me
Margarita Engle - Chocho Seeds
Robert Weinstock - My Pencil
Kate Coombs - Mud
Michael Salinger - The Rock Climber
Eric Ode - Cattail
Amy Ludwig VanDerwater - Secret
Ellen Hopkins - Small Surprises
Leslie Bulion - The Theory of Everything
Ed DeCaria - Something Sweet
Hope Anita Smith - Education/Application
JonArno Lawson - Burning Hot Banana
Robert L. Forbes - A Kestrel Couple
Thanhha Lai - The Last Hen
Bruce Coville - Steve: A Cautionary Tale
Susan Taylor Brown - In My Backyard
Ron Koertge - Field Trip
Lee Wardlaw - Catku
Kimberly Marcus - Revision
Alma Flor Ada - To Poetry/A La Poesía
Marilyn Nelson - Telling Time

For even more poetry, click on the logos below to see prior years' wrap-ups....
Logo by Mary Peterson

30 Poets/30 Days - April, 2010
Logo by Bonnie Adamson

30 Poets/30 Days - April/2009

Thanks so much for hanging out here at GottaBook during April. And, for that matter, all year long! There's a lot of fun coming up in May with visits from Janet Wong and J. Patrick Lewis for starters, as well as poetry from me and who knows who else?

As always, you can can join my poetry list, and get all the poems that appear here emailed out the day they hit my blog. Enter your email address below and click subscribe:

Now for me... perchance to sleep. Thanks again to all of you and all the poets for making this another April to remember. Now here's to May and beyond!