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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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Elephants and pasta both have natural ties to the 21st of April because... huh. I guess the fact is that Greg Pincus (a.k.a. me!) and Tracie Vaughn Zimmer appeared on this day was as random as I expected. Today's poems further show, I think, that you can go anywhere with poetry. And that, my friends, is unquestionably good!
I Went to the Farm Where Spaghetti Is Grown by Greg Pincus
I went to the farm where spaghetti is grown In rows of long vines in a field of its own. It grows in the shade of the great ziti trees, Right next to the bushes that grow mac-and-cheese. Lasagna plants bloom alongside manicotti, And orchards of angel hair grow long and knotty. I watched as a tractor plowed rows of linguini, And cheered at the harvest of fresh tortellini. I helped as the farmer cleared fields full of weeds Then planted a crop using orzo as seeds. We watered his land that was miles across Then fertilized amply with meatballs and sauce. When I left that farm where spaghetti is grown In rows of long vines in a field of its own, I thought it the greatest place under the sky... 'Til I saw the farm where they only grow pie!
Long, long ago, before man tamed words on the page and when elephants were great kings of the sky, ruling the storms, inking out the sun, stampeding across the stars, there was a great counselor and prophet who traveled to the most remote mountain villages to share all he knew. As word spread of the master’s visit, many gathered under the arms of an ancient elm, and even a great flock of elephants swooped in with the first ribbons of dawn to perch in the branches and listen. But a quarrel erupted among the elephants over who had the best view, causing the limbs of the tree to fracture and fall, crushing all but the prophet himself. Furious, the prophet invoked a dreadful curse, shriveling the elephants’ prized wings into pitiful ears, chaining the elephant to gravity and man’s will for all eternity. To this very day you can see the poor elephants flapping their ears, dreaming of flight, but now only cousins of clouds.
The incomparable Jack Prelutsky started off the entire 30 Poets/30 Days adventure with a poem written especially for the event! In 2010, we kicked off with Alice Schertle in fine triolet form. I'm gonna run out of adjectives this month, but geeeeeez, I love these poets and poems!
A Little Poem For Poetry Month by Jack Prelutsky
I’m glad we have a Poetry Month, But still, I wonder why They chose a month with thirty days— Were months in short supply? I wish that they’d selected A longer month, like May. I’m certain I’d appreciate That extra poetry day.
Of course, if they’d picked February, I would be aghast, For February’s very short And passes far too fast. But April’s not as short as that, So I don’t hesitate To say I’m glad it’s Poetry Month. Hooray! Let’s celebrate.
So, I ran across this recipe on a scrap of paper on my desk today - I recall quickly writing it late one night while brainstorming ideas for The 14 Fibs of Gregory K. launch. I don't recall what my exact thoughts were, but I bet it was something like "Hey! It's food! And Fibonacci!" Regardless, here it is:
1 bag of chips 1 can refried beans 2 lbs. ground beef 3 handfuls shredded cheese 5 tablespoons sour cream
In a large pan, brown the meat, seasoned to taste (with 13 spices, ideally). Combine with beans. Pour bag of chips onto cookie pan to form an even layer. Cover chips with meat-bean mixture. Sprinkle the three handfuls of cheese on top. Put in oven at 250 degrees for 10 minutes. Serve warm, garnished with sour cream.
Yes, I had all that written down. I was serious about this idea, I tell you! As you may recall... I had pie at the launch party instead. I'm okay with that... but if you ever want to invite me over for Fibonachos, I'm game!
This year, I'm doing something a little different with 30 Poets/30 Days: I'm going to the archives and re-sharing the first two years of the amazing poetry I've been lucky enough to have here at the blog.
This will be the first year without new poems - logistics and life conspired to make it so that I wouldn't be able to offer up 30/30 the way I wanted. So, as I tried to figure out what to do to keep the event moving forward (because finding 30 poets was NOT the problem!), I went back and re-read old poems... and the answer became clear.
Each day of April, I'll re-share the poems that came out on that day in 2009 and 2010. For example, on April 1, you'll have poetry by Jack Prelutsky and Alice Schertle. So, two poems a day... and here's the full list of whose poetry you'll see in during National Poetry Month here:
You can see why I'm excited! I admit, I had not re-visited some of those poems in five years... and I'm suspecting most of you will find some wonderful surprises (or weren't even here with us those first years), so let me just say... there is some amazing work coming your way.
I'm looking forward to April, as always, and celebrating poetry a little more than during a typical month. But only a little more since poetry is a year-round thang!
What a Poem Can Be by Greg Pincus (inspired by Marilyn Singer's What Water Can Be)
Complete in a couplet A poem, petite Placed well on the page A poem, concrete An A B, A B verse A poem that's rhyming Clear metered precision A poem with timing Strong words in set structure A poem well formed On stage off the page A poem performed Fun twists causing laughter A poem with wit Best words in best order A poem well writ
I don't know that this form has a name, but it was true that it forced me to think of word choice. I suspect I will tweak and tweak and tweak this one because I had so much fun with it, but I promised myself I'd post what I had today... and here 'tis!
The book is chock full of over 300 science related poems by an incredible assortment of poets - Laureates J. Patrick Lewis, Mary Ann Hoberman, and Kenn Nesbitt, for example, or Joyce Sidman and Jane Yolen as other examples. Oh, and I'm in there, too!
The poems say they're for K-5, but I've been reading them since they arrived and... oh, just buy it. It's great stuff (and I'm not even using the classroom bonus material).
Well, I'll start off by saying that The 14 Fibs of Gregory K. did NOT win the MG Cybil award. Sigh. It was a thrill to be nominated, however, and I cannot wait to get my hands on Ultra by David Carroll, the MG winner. It was the one book in the category I hadn't read... and the others were so fantastic that I know that Ultra must be amazing.
The list of Cybil award winners is a great collection of books for kids across a whole range of areas. As always, I highly recommend checking 'em out.
So, on Sunday afternoon, I visited the one and only Dumb Starbucks in the US. All of us in line knew we were part of something that was art or a promotion or both, and I don't think anyone was waiting (and waiting and waiting!) for the free coffee. We were waiting because it was fun. It was community. It was... dumb in the best way!
What is Dumb Starbucks? Well, it's a place that is a "working
Dumb Venti, Dumb Grande, Dumb Tall
coffee shop" that looks like Starbucks, has a menu board like Starbucks, appropriates the logo of Starbucks... but simply adds the word "Dumb" in front of everything. Well, except the seasonal drink, the "Wuppy Duppy Latte." (Quoth the barista when asked what the drink was, "It's whatever you want it to be.")
It was exceedingly well done, including three Dumb CDs (one of which was part of a whole series of dumb music of the world).
And yes, it turns out that the whole thing is the brainchild of Nathan Fielder who hosts a Comedy Central show called Nathan For You. He claims there will be one in Brooklyn in two weeks, in fact, though who knows if it'll happen.
It wasn't just performance art which might've been more satisfying, but the way it played out was probably the same regardless. Here's the message from the founder that keeps in the spirit of the launch.
Now, I was gonna tie this into a writing post ("pay attention to detail") or a social media post ("go viral with IP borrowing at your own risk!") or both... but I decided, no, I'd just share my dumb experience. I got my drink, had a blast, and got more than enough enjoyment out of it to pay me back for my time. It was a win!
I walked in from my car - you fell off of your platter. You landed unnoticed, alone. Oh, how I wish you had made a loud clatter Or simply picked up the phone!
But no, you just stayed on the ground overnight Exposed to the cold and the dew. Now, come the morning, you're truly a sight: You're less yummy solid, more goo.
The world was a cruel one for you, you poor guy - A place full of heartache and hurt. Yet I toast you my friend, with a tear in my eye: You would have been one fine dessert.
Yes, this is based on a true, sad story of a cookie that escaped my post-Super Bowl party dessert-extraction expedition. Poor cookie. Poor me, who didn't get to eat said cookie!
Today, however, cookieless though I may be, I know I can eat my fill of poetry simply by checking out the Poetry Friday roundup over at No Water River. Great links to check out there and... a giveaway!. It's like a win-win!
By the way, if you want to get all the new poems hereabouts emailed to you for freeee as they hit the blog, enter your email address in the box below then click subscribe!
Notes on Spirit Week at My School (Part 1) by Greg Pincus
Pajama Day's rough If you sleep in the buff!
(Hat tip to Evan Pincus for the idea/help on this poem.)
Growing up, I was never a fan of Spirit Week or Spirit Days or any such, particularly not Pajama Day. Interestingly, of course, now I wish I could just wear a comfy robe all day when I go out and about....
When I was a young boy - in my mid single digits - I met Pete Seeger on his Clearwater sloop in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The event still sticks in my mind, though not really because of meeting a famous singer/activist or anything like that.
What I remember about the event is that the sloop was late. Our family waited for hours - my parents were big Pete Seeger fans, and I certainly was, too, in that son-ly way... so we waited - but eventually we had to return home because there was no sloop in sight.
My dad, though, went back to be there when the boat arrived in the wee morning hours. It was that big a deal for him... and that's why, I'm sure, it was for me, too.
Our whole family returned to the sloop the next day, and I remember being on the boat, but that's really about it. My mom tells me there's a picture of me and Pete Seeger on the sloop somewhere at home, and I hope to find it next time I'm back there. But I remember the day even if not the specifics.
The boat moved on, of course, as did our lives. I never saw Pete Seeger in concert, though I've certainly sung his songs (and songs he popularized) my whole life. My own kids have heard his music... and sung it at school, too, I'm pleased to say. That brief meeting didn't change my life in any way. And yet...
When I read that Pete Seeger had passed away last night, the meeting on the Clearwater was the first thing I thought of. And that made me think of my dad, also gone from this world.
That memory - of a boat, of two men (one who could carry a tune and one who didn't care if he could or not but was gonna sing regardless), my whole family, the importance of song, and the power of speaking your mind - is a thread within me sewing together much more than I think I'd fully realized until today.
And I'd say that's part of Pete Seeger's legacy, too, just on a smaller scale than the front page news.
Oh, sure... most people will come to the SCBWI-LA Writers' Days on March 22 and 23 because of Newbery winner Katherine Applegate (!!!) or plot whisperer Martha Alderson (!!!) or the second day intensives or the editors and agents and all that. But, I'm going to be there, too, doing social media consultations that you sign up for in advance.
They're like manuscript critiques, but about social media, kinda. You fill out a short questionnaire before we meet, then I give you a write up of ideas, efficiencies, thoughts, action steps and the like AND we meet and talk for 20 minutes, too, so you can ask follow up questions. So, if you need help tweeting or building a platform or can't decide what you should blog about or find you're wasting lots of time on social media and don't know why or or or... this is for you.
I've also heard that a bunch of my slots are taken, so if you're on the fence... sign up now. (I offer a longer, slightly more expensive version of this outside of conferences, too, though we won't get to sit down in person most likely. The conference is a deal, I tell you! But if you're not coming to LA Writers' Days and interested, well, ping me by email or twitter or wherever you see me next.)
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I'm Not Really the Apple of Your Eye (The Apple Speaks) by Greg Pincus
You can't see it, I know, But a worm's just below My glistening skin. So when you bite in, You won't get a crunch But rather you'll munch That poor worm's guts and pieces And the gunk it releases. Yes I expect if you ate me You'd expectorate me. So please leave me be. Go try cookies and tea.
What, you may wonder, lead me to write a poem from the point of view of an apple who doesn't want to be eaten? Well, why not head over to TeacherAuthors site, where I shared a writing prompt earlier this week (a prompt that, in fact, led to this poem... and other stories and poems, too).
I’m pretty well connected: My friends are EVERYWHERE. I bet I’d meet Them on the street... If I’d just leave my chair.
Would you believe that all the links to companies are still valid? Yes, a few companies have changed a lot in the intervening years (Myspace anyone?) but they're all still kicking. Go figure! (By the way, one reason I thought of this poem is that it turns out that a Facebook friend and I passed each other on a hiking trail in Big Sur over the holidays, though we didn't speak there. Still, it proved my punchline!)
I love the stats that Goodreads shares from time to time, including in their year-end infographic posted below. I was bummed, though, cuz I'd had this unofficial, unstated anywhere dream goal that The 14 Fibs of Gregory K. would have the most reviews of the year, but instead it's Dan Brown's Inferno, which has over 17,000 reviews on Goodreads! Drat. Missed it by thaaaaat much.
Maybe the big miss is because my book came out in October? Probably :-) (I love the Goodreads reviews of Fibs, by the way, and my thanks to all who have taken the time to talk about Fibs there or on their blogs or in their classes or on Amazon or in bookstores or ANYWHERE at all!!!!!)
Anyway, here are the Goodreads stats. As always, I'm curious about your thoughts....
My tremendous thanks to the first round Cybil judges, and a huge hat tip to the stupendously talented Mike Jung for nominating Fibs in the first place. Also, it's remarkably flattering to me to be in a group with the other nominated books and authors, so my virtual hat's off to them, too.
Finally, my thanks again to everyone who's been part of the journey and offered support and encouragement along the way. I am totally thrilled by the Cybils recognition, and I happy that I can share the moment with all of you.
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I know I'll make choices that won't be the best. I know I'll spend time being tired and stressed. I see a full day when I'm sick in my bed. I'm sure I'll say things that I shouldn't have said. I know I'll play games. I'm sure I'll get hurt. I see tons of laughter and lots of dessert. I know I'll have good times. I know I'll have fun. I know I'll try new things I never have done. I see rain and snow and some gorgeous blue skies. I know I'll feel joy, love, pride, hope and surprise. Yet mostly I see a blank canvas of days That live to be filled in all kinds of great ways. I see all the stories that wait to begin. I see this year's promise. Now I'm diving in.
Happy New Year! May your 2014 be happy, healthy, and with just the right amount of dessert.
And if you want to get all the poems from here at GottaBook emailed to you for freeee as they hit the blog, enter your email address in the box below then click subscribe!
One Christmas thing around our house I'd change if I were able: I'd never put utinsels out upon the dinner table.
This is actually an old poem of mine that popped into my head this week utterly out of the blue. I took that as a sign that, silly though it is (or maybe because it is silly!), I should post it here for the last Poetry Friday before Christmas. And so... I have! (Feel free to draw some utinsels, by the way. :-))
Pie! Pie! My word, I love pie. I've loved it since birth, and I will 'til I die. I love it in summer and winter and I Will eat it with whipped cream, or ice cream, or dry And with any filling that catches my eye (To date I've not seen one that I wouldn't try). Dutch apple and chocolate cream both make me cry. Blueberry, rhubarb, or pecan? I sigh. A slice is a gift that I just can't deny. A full pie is better, of course. I can't lie! So join in my toast with your fork raised up high - "Here's to the best food of all! Here's to pie!"
While pie is a big part of The 14 Fibs of Gregory K., the opening lines of this poem predate the first draft of the book, perhaps proving that old adage "write what you know."
I took another crack at some office unpacking/cleaning over the long weekend. My office is functional yet not fully put together after the move last year, ya see, and... well... I'd like to fix that.
Anyway, one of the things I did was put all the various drafts and notes of The 14 Fibs of Gregory K. together to be stored somewhere now that the book is out. (Did you know it's out? It is. It makes a great gift, I've heard, and who would lie to me about something like that?).
All I can say is... boy did I take a lot of notes! That's a full banker's box of notebooks and printouts and manuscripts from Arthur and others, too. And here I thought I did most everything online! It was fun looking back through it all, but I gotta tell you it's a nice bit of closure to be able to put the notes away.
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Many years ago, at a screening of the movie Die Hard, there was a person a few rows behind me who, about 20 minutes into the movie when Bruce Willis is surprised by a bad guy, said very loudly and full of anxiety, sadness and surety, "It's all over now!" He totally believe what he said, too. You could tell.
Now screenwriter-moviegoer-me was sitting there thinking "dude, we're 20 minutes into the movie. It cannot be all over now!" And yet, throughout the film, each time something happened, that gentleman behind me was convinced that the end was nigh.
And you know what?
He loved that movie. And he experienced it exactly as the story was meant to be experienced.
Sometimes, I forget the sheer power of storytelling, and how grateful I am that others have mastered that art and that I get to enjoy it. Too often, I fear, I get caught up in the trappings - the fact that a movie has just started or that I'm only halfway through a book - rather than the experience.
I got a reminder of this yesterday when I saw the movie of Catching Fire. A few rows behind me were an older couple who clearly did not know the book at all. I like to think the male part of the couple was Mr.-It's-All-Over-Now.
The couple were talkers, and their comments were mostly those of discovery ("Oh, there's only one name they can pick from! It's gonna be her!") and of curiousity ("Is she dead? I think she's dead."). And they reminded me again that those who just let the narrative flow over them get a tremendously powerful experience.
The ability to lose ourselves in story is one that I'm grateful for. It is what powers my own writing, of course, and I need to remember to turn off the creator brain when I am reading or watching or listening. I need to stay connected to that power, and I'm grateful that I got a reminder of that yesterday.
And by the way, she wasn't dead. I knew that, of course... because I'd read the book. Yet I hope when I read it, I asked the same questions as that couple, even if I didn't say them out loud!
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