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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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My New Year's Resolutions Are Making Me Loopy by Greg Pincus
I make ten resolutions every year, and they seem good. But I can never keep them even though I know I should. And so this year I added one when it was time to make 'em: I resolved that this would be the year that I would break 'em! Yet now each time I break one I quite quickly start up weeping Because it means that there is one that I continue keeping. Yet if I keep one then it means there's one that I am breaking Which means I've kept what I resolved, of that there's no mistaking. But keeping resolutions means I broke my resolution Which means, again, I've kept the one I thought was the solution. Still, keeping means I'm breaking... and I'm feeling like a dum-dum Since now I fear I'll spend my year resolving this conundrum.
I know I could use this space to tell you profound things I've learned over the course of the year just passed or of interesting experiences I plan for the year ahead. But it's the 31st, and I have much to do, so all that will wait til next year, as will new poems and other news.
Instead, I simply wanted to pop on and wish you and all of yours a happy, healthy, and rewarding 2015. I'll see you here in the new year!
It's been a month since I last posted, I see! That may be a Gottabook record, though I'm not gonna go through the last eight years and check if that's okay with y'all....
Much has been going on over the last month personally, professionally, and in the world at large (children's literature related and beyond). Along that latter line... I wanted to point out Hope Through Stories, the brainchild of author Joelle Charbonneau.
It's a simple idea - authors sending signed books to the Ferguson, Missouri library (which has stayed open even when schools where closed). Some of you might be able to join me in this particular initiative, yet there are other great ideas, too, and this is not a "pick one" or "this one's better." I have been heartened by all the donations to the library even as I know there are so many other worthy causes all around that so many of you... us... others contribute to in so many ways.
Still... I am a big fan of hope. And along those lines, I hope all my US readers had a wonderful Thanksgiving, as I did. And I know, too, that I'm thanksful to share this space with you (even when I take a month off!).
I’m the squeak upon the stair... Yet when you look, there’s no one there. I’m howling winds, groaning floors, Extinguished lights, slamming doors. I’m flitting shadows, darkening skies, Piercing screams, distant cries. I’m all your fears – heard, felt, or seen. I’m in your head. I’m Halloween.
Halloween is on Poetry Friday again (with the roundup hosted by Linda over at TeacherDance)! This makes me happier than peanut butter cups, I gotta say. May those of you who trick-or-treat have a happy, safe evening (same for those of you who don't, by the way). And... boo!
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Well, maybe not "need" but how about we could all help?
We Need Diverse Books (the group, not simply the concept) has announced a new award - The Walter (named for Walter Dean Myers) - and is kicking off an Indiegogo campaign to raise funds for it.
There are some gooooooood bonuses for funders... and a way to simply help spread the word by using the #SupportWNDB hashtag on Twitter (tomorrow during the hashtag party at 1 PM EST sure, but even beyond that!)
I'm super excited to be part of the Vegas Valley Book Festival coming up next weekend in (wait for it....) Las Vegas! I'll be at the Festival all day Saturday the 18th - at one point getting to be on stage with Alan Katz, at another time in the Storytelling tent.
Plus, one cool thing about the Festival is that they're sending me to a school on Friday, too - kinda bringing a part of the festival to the kids, just in case they can't make the whole event. Pretty cool, I say.
If you're in Vegas this weekend, I hope you'll stop by or otherwise say hello!
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It's Banned Books Week again... and this time oft-banned Dav Pilkey's Captain Underpants is on a fabulous graphic that I just had to share. Look, I'm not gonna say "you must go read banned books now!" Instead, I'll say "I bet if you/your kids read a bunch of great books, you'll find that some of them have been banned. Maybe most of them."
I love Dav Pilkey's quote, too (referenced here, though I'm not sure it's the original source):
"I don't consider the books to be anti-authoritarian, but I do think it is important, if you think something is wrong, to question authority — because, you know, there are villains in real life, and they don't always wear black capes and black hats. Sometimes they're dressed like authority figures. And kids need to know that it's important to question them."
What he says! And support librarians and teachers this and all weeks when folks try to speak for more than just their own children's reading options.
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Tomorrow is the last day to register for this year's Kidlitcon - the greatest gathering of bloggers in the children's and YA space around, I tells ya! It's in Sacramento this year, on October 10th and 11th. It's chock full of great presenters. And. You. Should. Go!
The Middle Toe Sets the Record Straight by Greg Pincus
My choice might surprise you - though in your defense, I think you're tripped up by a matter of tense - But I've done it for me, not to be a contrarian: Yes, this little piggie has gone vegetarian.
I know. I know. You're thinking "he took a long blogging break and came back with that?" And I'm thinking "Darn tootin'! And that's why you're here!" Or maybe you're here because it's Poetry Friday, and you're looking at the roundup of posts - kindly collected by Laura over at Author Amok. Doesn't matter to me, though. The middle toe and I are just glad to have you around.
And guess what? If you want to get all my new poems (and only the poems) emailed to you for freeee as they hit the blog, just enter your email address in the box below then click subscribe!
Sigh. Today is the return to the "normal" world for me, with no more of the SCBWI Summer Conference happening. 1200+ people came to #LA14SCBWI, and it truly felt to me like hanging out with 1200+ friends (which means it was fantastic and overwhelming and inspiring and all that over and over again).
This year, I was on faculty, doing a breakout about how to be effective on Pintwitfacegramblr (or any social network) and doing one-on-one social media consultations. I'm grateful to the SCBWI folks for adding something new to their plate with those, and feel utterly amazed and humbled to be part of faculty at the event in any capacity. Mighty talented folks those faculty members, and nice as can be, too.
I can't yet pick just one memory to share, so I'll wait a bit as I process. But I do know that it was great to see so many friends from online and offline, to share the love of creating books for kids with others who "get it," and to spend time in the happy bubble of smart, fun, compassionate people that makes up SCBWI.
It was 20 years ago today - hey, I like that phrasing - that Little Big League opened in theaters. I wrote the original screenplay for it, which makes me biased, but I've always liked the film... and yes, I still remember the premiere.
It is truly amazing to me that something that started as a little idea in my head (as I drove on the 405, no less) turned into a movie that's still around today. And not only is it still around, but if I may just share this article by Eric Dodds that appeared on Time.com today:
It can be lonely writing (or illustrating or composing or creating anything), and I admit that sometimes when I'm working, I wonder "huh, will anyone but me really care about this story?" Then the thought goes away because really... well... I'm writing because I care about the story. Writing comes, writing goes... and then comes a day like today where, when I'm not expecting it, I get a really big affirmative answer to that long ago question.
I'll keep that feeling in the back of my mind as I keep writing my current manuscript. With luck, that feeling will help sustain me on those days that the story falls apart - because it will - and remind me that the work is worth it (because some days it won't seem like it). And somewhere along the line, I'm sure I'll ask that same question again... then keep writing because, well, I care about the story. And that's enough. Still, I'll take days like today, too!
Happy Anniversary, Little Big League! And thanks for the memories....
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Whenever he visited, they disappeared - He was the person that every box feared. From Froot Loops to Crispix to Bunches of Oats They'd tremble with fear as cries caught in their throats. Organics would quake as if made out of filler... For no one escaped from the cereal killer.
A homophoem is poetic form in which you use a homonym/homophone (or many) to create a "plot twist" or unexpected punchline. I believe J. Patrick Lewis came up with the form, and the above poem was written in response to a prompt from him (over at The Miss Rumphius Effect). I'd never shared the poem here, however, and figured it was time!
My friend and fellow blogger Elizabeth Aquino has just published an ebook called Hope for a Sea Change. It's a true story about her experiences raising a family, and, more specifically, raising her oldest daughter, Sophie, who was diagnosed with a rare seizure disorder at the age of three months. Sophie's 19 now, and only recently, with the addition of CBD, has had her first days without seizures since 1995
Elizabeth's a fabulous writer, and the book is a great, fast read, even while being an uncompromising look at her experiences. Unlike pretty much everything else I discuss here, this is not a book for kids or the classroom, though I assure you everyone at any age would be affected by it.
BookReels is hoping to be an MTV for book trailers (and book sales) says co-founder Dan Rosen (who I used to write alongside at coffeehouses many moons ago!). I think it would be fabulous to see it become another community where folks are talking books, and hope to see the community that's forming there continue to grow.
When you have Kenn Nesbitt and Graham Denton on the same day, well, it's a day of smiles and smarts in poetry form (aka, a good day!). And thanks to Kenn, people arrive at my blog after typing "chicken on internet" on Google. That's poetic, too, in its own way!
My Chicken's On the Internet by Kenn Nesbitt
My chicken's on the Internet. She surfs the web all day. I've tried to stop her browsing but, so far, there's just no way.
She jumps up on the mouse and then she flaps around like mad to click on every hyperlink and every pop-up ad.
She plays all sorts of chicken games. She messages her folks. She watches chicken videos and forwards chicken jokes.
She writes a blog for chickens and she uploads chicken pics. She visits chicken chat rooms where she clucks about her chicks.
I wouldn't mind so much except my keyboard's now a wreck. She hasn't learned to type yet; she can only hunt and peck.
Sounds of scary night-time creatures: howling wolves and screeching bats, wailing witches, cackling demons, giggling goblins, keening cats; ghostly sounds to make one shiver: haunting screams and ghastly groans; rattling chains and shrieks of horror— noises that will chill the bones; creaking floorboards, footsteps creeping, voices from beyond the grave... when they’re having trouble sleeping that’s what infant monsters crave!
OK, here on day 28 with April Halprin Wayland and Francisco X. Alarcón and my search for daily themes once again leads me to say "I love poetry! That's the theme! POETRY!" Yup. I've done a good job this month not going all fanboy on y'all, but geeeeez, once again I gotta say... I love these poems, and hope you do, too.
It's a good day when you have Douglas Florian and Liz Garton Scanlon gracing your blog, I say. (And I say this even though back in 2009, due to my executive functioning skills, I didn't end up with a previously unpublished Douglas Florian poem so went into improv mode and shared a poem of his that's always stuck with me.) Riddles, laughs, beauty... I will miss this month when it passes, I must say....
Styropoem by Douglas Florian
I think I've never Seen a poem To praise a piece of Styrofoam. I've waited years - I'm waiting still. I guess I never Ever Will.
I was inspired by that poem (from Bing Bang Boing). So I sat down and wrote the following:
Ode to a Piece of Styrofoam (For Douglas Florian) by Greg Pincus
Styrofoam's good - There is no debate. And Styrofoam won't Disintegrate!
What a month! And today's poems by Pat Mora and Walter Dean Myers seem like a perfect way to close, at least to me. It has been a thrill for me to share poetry this month by soooooo many poets who I admire so much (59 to be exact!). And thanks for hanging out with us!
How come my feet know how to meet The sidewalk as I walk? “Because of your brain, my love.” How come my lips don’t ever slip As I begin to talk? “Your lovely brain, my pet” How come my knees fly through the breeze As I race along? “Did I mention your B-R-A-I-N?” How come my ears know what to hear When I listen to a song? “They’re connected to your brain!” How come my eyes can judge the size Of everything they see? “Your brain, dummy!” How come my wrists know how to twist A knob or turn a key? “BRAIN! BRAIN! BRAIN! Use it!” And how come my belly button just sits there in the middle of my stomach without doing one little bit of work, gets these little lint things in it, and feels funny if I touch it?
I don't think I'm prone to hyperbole, so I truly mean it when I say that Andrew Huang is the type of brilliant, creative talent I believe makes the world a happier place. So, when I decided to make a book trailer for the 14 Fibs of Gregory K., I knew I wanted him to create the song for it. And he did, and it makes me happy EVERY time I hear it.
I have been experimenting with a lot of musical stuff since an early age, whether it was plinking away on the piano or recording myself on a tape deck. I always considered myself more of a visual artist though until my teens when I started being introduced to music outside of the pop and classical that I grew up with - stuff like punk rock, trip-hop, bebop, cool jazz, weird underground electronic stuff... I realized I loved it all.
Your song challenge videos/songs are incredibly creative. How do you even approach something like "make a song only using the sounds you can make from 1000 pairs of jeans"? Or "only use water sounds." I mean... seriously?
Those found sound videos are fun. It's really a process of discovery. I might have an inkling of where I could take something, but I basically start out by trying to get every possible sound I can out of whatever the challenge calls for. Usually, each sound I can make ends up translating in my mind into a representation of an instrument - tapping a box might work as a snare drum, for example. And then it's back to the normal matter of arranging a piece of music. The palette is limited depending on the materials of course. Most often in these kinds of pieces there isn't something very suitable to use as a bass.
You make music in so many different styles and genres. Do you have a favorite?
Couldn't ever pick a favorite. What I listen to changes all the time. In terms of what I create - sonically speaking - pop, rap, and the wonderfully broad "electronic" would form the backbone of the majority of my work, but I think I also bring a sense of structure and orchestration that comes from what I know and love in classical music. And my songwriting craft was honed more from listening to rock, folk, and country. If we throw all that in the pot it'll keep me happy (most of the time).
You just released a new album on Bandcamp. What's next?
Haha. "You just released a new album on Bandcamp" is a phrase that applies to me about once a month. (Greg's note: you really have to check out his stuff on Bandcamp.)
I'm working on a bunch of new stuff that will be seeing the light of day soon but the biggest thing is this sort of dark, brooding pop album called The Coldest Darkness. It's been years in the making and I haven't often been this excited about a project. There will be a really awesome physical package to go with it to, and I'm working on some out-of-the-ordinary ways that fans will be able to get themselves an early copy.
Andrew is also touring the West Coast of the US with Hank Green this summer. Perhaps I'll see you at a show? Besides YouTube and Bandcamp, you can find Andrew on Twitter and Facebook and elsewhere as @AndrewIsMusic. I leave you with his Gravy and Toast, a song he wrote on commission. I mean, really - he turned toast and gravy into toe tapping singable fun. I rest my case!
April and 30 Poets/30 Days are done, but I wanted to wrap up the month that just passed here on Poetry Friday (and you can see the roundup of PF posts at Write.Sketch.Repeat). This year, I re-issued the poetry from the first two years of the event, so there were 60 poets and 60 poems in one month's time.
And I just have to say it was a privilege, again, to share the amazingly diverse work - in content and style - by an amazing group of talented poets. And to be among them? A thrill. Totally.
So, here, then is what I call 30 Poets/2 Years/1 Day!
Yeah, it was a fine month. Of course, poetry runs year round here at GottaBook, and if you want to keep on top of it, I hope you'll sign up to my poetry email list. That way, when a poem appears here, you'll get it via email for super-easy reading and sharing (plus there have been giveaways and other small extras, too). If you want in, just enter your email address in the box below then click subscribe:
Thanks again for hanging out here for 30 Poets/30 Days. I'm already looking forward to next April... and the 11 months in between, too.
Award-winning,* best-selling** author Greg Pincus here. I wanted to write a little today about the ABCs - awards, best sellers, and critical thinking.
This past week, Rush Limbaugh won Author of the Year at the Children's Choice Book Awards, an award sponsored by the Children's Book Council. Much as when his nomination as a finalist was announced, there was much gnashing of teeth inside (and outside) the children's book world with the award announcement, including many comments about how the award and even the CBC had lost credibility.
It's easy to feel outraged when there's a sense of being snookered or betrayed, but the reality is that the Author of the Year award has always been determined the same way - qualification is based on sales, then there's a popular vote to pick the winner. That didn't change this year.
So, if the award had credibility before, it has credibility now, even if the winner seems "unworthy" somehow. If you weren't aware of the criterion for the award and how it was picked, at the end of the day that's on you, not the award. And not liking the results doesn't change that at all.
If we ask who gave this particular award whatever credibility it has, I'd say that the answer is that we did, collectively. Perhaps, in this case, it's trust in the creators of the award or the fact that it's part of a mission that we love (celebrating children's books!) and that talented authors have won it before. Regardless, our celebration of award winning status in general definitely is a factor. And that, again, is on us.
Awards for creative endeavors are a tricky thing. In a blog post that's well worth a read, Emma Dryden touches on some of the challenges and pitfalls of them and how we value them. Yet it's not easy to change this - there's all sorts of psychology in play here (including confirmation bias, social conformity, and more), and it's hard to overcome. Awards should mean something, we've decided, so when we see an award (particularly from an organization that seems legit and good), we give it value.
And yet that's abdicating our personal responsibility to practice critical thinking and view each situation individually.
*For example, I honestly am an award-winning author. I'm not talking about awards for my debut novel The 14 Fibs of Gregory K. (which, I note, was a finalist for the Cybils and Crystal Kite... but not a winner) or my screenplays. Nope. I won an award in middle school at the Ready Writing Contest at Mansfield State College. My Punt Pass and Kick trophy from when I was eight could count, too - it's an award for me, after all, and I am an author. Context and critical thinking matter again, clearly.
How we view the status of "best seller" falls into this same arena, at least to me. Best-selling sounds "good" and "impressive," and it's easy to see why an author would link that to his/her name. And yet...
**I can legitimately describe myself as a best-selling author: upon release, my ebook of poetry, The Late Bird, topped Amazon's Kindle Children's Poetry best seller list for over a month.
So, does Best Seller by itself really carry any weight? Again, we collectively have given it status and credibility, but perhaps we've done so without always considering context.
It's very easy to accept that statuses like "award winner" and "best seller" are impressive and meaningful, but if we don't think critically - asking questions like who gave an award, what was the purpose, what were the qualifications, what was the process, how were "sales" measured, where was it a best seller - then we're following blindly and not thinking for ourselves. And that? Well, that's sad no matter who has won what.
What do you think? Do we trust awards, best seller lists, reviews, and the like too much? Is the recent outrage only political in nature and not about our responsibility to think critically? Or...? I look forward to your thoughts.
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