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Thoughts, opinions, and ramblings about (broadly) children's literature from my perspectives as a writer, parent, and volunteer elementary school librarian. Oh yeah, and poetry of all sorts... with lots and lots of Fibs.
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Back in 2009, I had this kinda nutty, out of the blue idea for Gottabook - what if I could share a never-before-published poem by a different children's poet every day during National Poetry Month? I had no real plan on how to get the poems, exactly, nor any inkling of whether people would be interested in me throwing this big event.
It turns out that everyone I asked said yes, with many poets writing brand new poems for the occasion. Thousands upon thousands of people visited the blog during April or subscribed to the poetry email list, and notes came from teachers around the world who shared these new poems every day with their students. There was coverage in School Library Journal and elsewhere. It was such a success that I turned it from a one-off idea into a series, continuing with new poems until 2013 and new poets every year but one.
From Jack Prelutsky, whose poem opened the whole thing, to Naomi Shihab Nye, whose poem closed out 2013's event, to everyone in between, the work that was sent in was incredible and a huge privilege to be able to share with you all. If you visit the blog, you can find all the poets for each year's 30 Poets/30 Days listed along the left hand side... with a click of a poet's name leading to their contribution.
You can also click on the logos below and arrive at a recap post for each year with links to all the poems. I truly can't say enough good things about the work you'll read, or about how amazing the people who write poetry for kids are. I do hope you'll check all the links out.
Once again I say thanks to the poets, the logo creators, and the folks who read daily. Without y'all 30 Poets/30 Days wouldn't have been a success and wouldn't have made it into my flashing back on 10 years worth of memories!
And if all the above isn't enough, I have good news: it's Poetry Friday, and you can find the roundup of this weeks' links at Buffy's Blog. I hope your Poetry Month finishes strong. Around these parts, every month is Poetry Month... so I look forward to seeing you back here in May, too.
I may be off by one or two, but I think this is the eighth poem I've had the opportunity to share here from former Children's Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis. It brings me joy, I gotta say. I've also written poems inspired by new forms he's played with (careerhymes and zenos come to mind) so he's truly all over this blog, and it's a wonderful thing. He's truly a remarkable wordsmith, and while I could never pick only one of his books to recommend... today I'll just give you the cover of World Rat Day, a collection of poems of his about holidays you didn't even know about. Hey, it ties into Earth Day a little, yes? Yes!
I've never tried to figure out my single favorite post in my 10 years here at Gottabook, but if I was making a short list, I'm sure my rhyming interview with Leslie Muir would be on it.
Leslie, who I've known since well before either of us was published, was celebrating the launch of her picture book, The Little Bitty Bakery (illustrated by Betsy Lewin). She was on a blog tour, and I basically said "Hey, stop by Gottabook, and I'll interview you. And oh yeah, my questions and your answers will be in rhyme! C'mon. It'll be fun!" Gamer that she is, she said yes... then hit it out of the park.
Here's a sample:
As authors we don’t get to choose Our artists, so we wait for news.
Can you recall what you were doin' When you heard "It's Betsy Lewin"?
The phone had rung, the light was blinkin’, Can’t recall what I was thinkin’.
The ID name sure caught my eye, said: D-I-S-N-E and Y!
But why would Walt give me a call? Especially since he’s dead and all?
There have been other fun posts over the years, and many books and many friends celebrated here. Sometimes it feels hard to do something fresh or worthy of the books/people involved. But this? This was a blast for me from start to finish (and proved again that if you surround yourself with talented, smart, funny people... you'll look good in the process!).
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My brain's full of sundaes and thick, creamy shakes. My thoughts drift to cookies and pastries and cakes. I'm thinking of donuts. My head swims with pies. I see piles of candy when I close my eyes. And pudding! There's pudding in bowls ten feet deep. I guess Mom was right - sugar's why I can't sleep.
I hate to be tricked. I hate to be schooled. I hate to be pranked. I hate to be fooled. You do the fooling? I'll say you're the worst (If the date on the calendar's not April 1st).
Yes, it's the one day of the year when maybe, just maybe, you can get away with fooling people without getting an emotional reaction. Just don't push your luck beyond 40 or 50 bits of foolishness, I figure.... And by the way, happy start of National Poetry Month as well as April Fools' Day!
I realize that most of you who know me personally associate me with hot air ballooning very deeply, but if one reads the blog only, well, you wouldn't get that. (OK, fine. You don't get that in person, either). And yet one of my favorite blog-thangs is that a poem of mine initially shared here (and re-shared below) ended up in Ballonstof, the hot air ballooning magazine of the Netherlands.
It's a gorgeous, gorgeous magazine - and I know this because I got a year's subscription when my poem was acquired. I actually can't currently get to my copy of the magazine with my poem in it, sorry to say, but it was placed over an amazing shot of a balloon flying away. Beautiful.
The poem was found via a web search, by the way. And I'd always envisioned the poem about a kid who looses the string of their helium balloon. But it all worked perfectly in the magazine, and the whole experience showed me yet again how international blogging can be... and how happy accidents can come just by putting stuff out into the flow of the world.
MY BALLOON By Greg Pincus
“Why, oh why, oh why, oh why???? Oh, please come back!” I moan and sigh. I jumped but you had gone too high. Now you’re flying in the sky. I think I’m really gonna cry…. Goodbye, my poor balloon. Goodbye.
Long before there was even the above logo or the loose, overseeing Kidlitosphere Central, a group of us who blogged about children's literature gathered in Chicago for what was the first every Kidlitosphere Conference (aka Kidlitcon!). That was back in 2007 (and blogged about here).
It was a blast. I mean, a total blast.
For most of us, it was the first time we got to meet all these other people who we'd gotten to know online only. It wasn't really a gathering of 60 strangers - so many of us "knew" each other already, so it felt like a gathering of friends.
It was, as Clay Shirky discusses in Here Comes Everyone, the shared desire to go from a virtual space to a real world meetup... and thanks to Robin Brande and a few others, a tradition began that's still going strong (2016 Kidlitcon in Wichita, KS!)
I've been to multiple Kidlitcons, and I wish I could be there every year. They're informative, fun, and you meet remarkable people who can become offline friends in the same way they are your online friends. It's pretty fantastic.
The meeting of fellow bloggers is definitely one of my 10 years of blogging highlights. And so "hi!!!!!" all my Kidlitcon friends past, present, and future - it's great knowing you.
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Yacht, February, aisle, cologne? I've got to think. Leave me alogne. Isthmus, Wednesday, queue, colonel? I give up. This test's infolonel!
It's Poetry Friday, and I'm continuing my look back at 10 years of blogging by revisiting a nearly five year old poem. To be honest, I'd totally forgotten about this one until I re-stumbled into it (one of my favorite things about having my own blog, I must admit!). Here's something unforgettable, though - this week's Poetry Friday Roundup over at TeacherDance. Check it out! You'll be glad you did, I tell ya!
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Continuing to think about my 10 years of blogging here, one of my favorite, unexpected experiences has to be the guests and visitors who've come traipsing through these parts. And I'm not really talking about guest posts or things like that. I'm talking the more surprising.
For example, if you spin through the comments on GottaBook, you'll end up finding a veritable who's who of children's literature. This is true on many other blogs as well, by the way, and speaks to the fact that we're a community in the best sense of the term. But it was certainly unexpected when I started here. (You'll also find a who's who of my relatives! But I expected that cuz they rock.)
You'll also find an amazing array of voices who have supported children's literature through blogs and Twitter and online and offline publications - librarians, teachers, authors, illustrators, editors, reviewers, historians, you name it. I had started blogging in part because I also wanted a seat at the table - a voice in conversations about a subject I care about. From my blog, I went out and talked elsewhere... but sometimes that conversation took place here!
And I also always flash back to this post from the 2006 SCBWI Conference. I live-blogged the conference that year, and at the Golden Kite Luncheon (the SCBWI awards show), I passed my laptop around and had everyone at the table I was at say something. Looking back now I see Don Tate and Jay Asher and Robin Mellom and Leslie Muir and Eve Porinchak - all now (or very soon to be) published, but at the time, I think only Don among us all had anything out in the children's book world. Now, 10 years later....
This topic will come up again, in a couple different ways, as I talk more about my 10 years here. So I'll end it for today with thanks to everyone who's been kind enough to share themselves here in any way. Because y'all rock!
Since I'm celebrating 10 years of blogging here, I figured I'd re-post my very first blogged poem on its exact 10th anniversary.
I Wrote the End by Greg Pincus
I wrote the end of this short verse before I wrote the start. I wrote the end because I knew the end by heart. I wrote the ending first since that’s my favorite part. I wrote the end of this short verse before I wrote the start.
In full disclosure, when I posted this back in February of 2006 the word "verse" was actually "post" as it was a more self-reflexive blog post poem. Both work. (Also, if you check out that original post, you'll note that a friend of mine left a comment in Fib form weeks before I blogged about Fibs. I'd forgotten that!)
Even before Fibs, I was using the blog to play around with things I enjoyed. In the case of Oddaptations, that meant posting odd, twisted, rhyming adaptation/Cliff Notes versions of children's literature classics.
My first Oddaptation post back in March of 2006 contained two (both reposted below). And if you go to that post and scroll down, you'll see a comment from Jane Yolen (!!!!!!!!!) who also posted one of what she calls Crushed Classics. Yo, people. Jane Yolen commented on my blog!!!! This, again, was one way I knew that blogging in the children's literature space was a good decision :-)
You can see all the Oddaptations to date by clicking here. These posts often get me some of my most interesting email responses (sometimes upset with me, sometimes thrilled) and blog comments. But... they make me happy, and that was the whole point, I tell ya!
GOODNIGHT MOON -- Margaret Wise Brown Oddaptation by Greg Pincus
That great room is green. That old lady’s spooky. That half eaten bowlful of mush is quite ooky. That Cow on the wall has leapt off of the ground, And someone named Nobody’s walking around. All over the room runs a squeaky, small mouse… So I hope you sleep well in this creepy, weird house.
THE GIVING TREE -- Shel Silverstein Oddaptation by Greg Pincus
As a young boy, he was sweet and not needy, But as he grew up, he became super greedy. The tree shoulda told him to shut his big yap. But no... that poor tree gave new meaning to “sap.”
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In kicking off my look back at my 10 years of blogging here, I figure there's no point in burying the story of Fibs. I mean, seriously - a viral blog post (or two, even), me and the blog in the New York Times, and a two book deal with Arthur A. Levine (at his imprint at Scholastic)? Yeah. All that happened back in April of 2006, and that's gonna show up in my memories. So, I am just gonna lead with it.
I love those things. 20 syllable poems, following the Fibonacci sequence. Simple in concept but very hard to pull off well, I think. Back in April 2006, though, folks were writing them all around the web and showing off their brilliance (and seriously... people do amazing things with words). An online journal - the fib review - started in 2006 that's still going strong today. A Wikipedia page has sprung up since. And in 2013, my debut novel, The 14 Fibs of Gregory K., featured the poetic form (as plot and poetry). All from a blog post!
People ask me sometimes why I like social media so much. The Fib story is one reason. Not just because of the outcome for me (though hey... I admit to being thrilled by it) but because in that one month, I was able to watch an idea spread around the globe... be expanded upon and reworked and played with... bring communities together (there were Fib threads on actuary chat boards, in musician forums, at gaming sites, Slashdot.org, and even on a board of spanking fetishists)... and slowly ebb but stay firmly placed after the fact.
From a GottaBook perspective, one of the reasons I'd started blogging was to play around with experiments just like Fibs. I got lucky six weeks into my blog's existence. I've never again had the same amount of traffic as I had on April 7, 2006 (or in that month entirely). And that's never been a problem - other events and ideas have still found their audience. And who knows? Some day, something else may spark the same reaction. I certainly hope so! It was a ton of fun and truly a pleasure to be part of. And that is no fib.
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Over the next three weeks, I'm going to share 10 memories/things I've learned/highlights/whatever you want to call it from my decade here. I'll also re-run a few old poems, and... I dunno. We'll see!
I'd love to come up with a clever term for this, but "blogrospective" isn't working for me and nothing else is coming to mind. Still, I do hope you'll stick around. A lot has happened here (and because of here), and I can't wait to share some of it with you.
I wish I could correct my work - It makes my poor brain ache. See, I used my pink eraser... And that was my mistake!
One of the things I love about Poetry Friday (and hey... you can see a roundup of today's posts over at Mainely Write) is that from time to time, you can throw things out there and find out if they make sense to anyone but yourself. This is one of those times for me :-)
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As always, the list of winners sounds fantastic and includes books I gotta get my hands on. As a former Cybils judge, I know how much work and care goes into the process, so I also tip my hat to everyone who judged in either round.
I've often been asked by kids about what they should do with their writing (or by parents of kids asking what their kids should do with their writing). Jane Friedman's blog post today gives some great advice, and since I suspect some of you get asked this question, too (or are asking it yourselves!), it was worth passing on.
It's also great advice for any of us contemplating our own writing, frankly!
If you're around tonight at 9PM Eastern/6 PM Pacific, I hope you'll swing on by Twitter and say "hello!" at #kidlitchat. We're celebrating our sixth (!!!!!) anniversary tonight, ya see....
When Bonnie Adamson and I first started the chat, I assure you we had no idea we'd still be going six years later. In fact, I don't think we really had a clue if we'd be still be chatting six weeks later! But here we are, and we're hoping you'll stop on by.
#kidlitchat happens every Tuesday, by the way (at 9 PM Eastern, etc.), so if you can't make it this week... another time. Who knows? We may still be going six years from now....
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A few weeks ago, the "Peanutize yourself" meme zipped through Facebook - a way for you to turn your photo into a Peanuts character from the upcoming animated movie. I peanutized myself more literally in response.
But what I didn't discuss at the time is that, well, it wouldn't be a stretch to say that I read because of the Peanuts gang. I read the books. I re-read the books. I knew the characters intimately. I learned about interpersonal relationships, empathy, sports, Sopwith Camels, and the simple joys of suppertime.
Sure, I read other things like, I dunno, Dr. Seuss (longtime readers of the blog must be shocked by this revelation!). Yet when I think of childhood reading, it's always Peanuts first.
What's amazing to me is that here decades later, some people still debate the value of comics and graphic novels. Luckily for me, my mom and dad were not among the doubters.
The SCBWI has put together a Book Launch Party where well over 400 books/authors are celebrating launches (of books out in 2015). There's information galore, videos, personal messages, and tons of giveaways, too. You can like the pages, click around, buy the books, and... well... celebrate kids' books in general.
Come meet me over there - I'll be the guy looking for cake!