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  • Writer's pictureCharles Waters


Updated: Jun 29, 2020

Hello my poetic peeps! How goes it?

Well, after another summer we've come to this, the 2017-18 school year, another fresh start to the academic journey ahead. I'm particularly looking forward to this upcoming school year because I'm proud to bring to you the cover reveal of my first book, CAN I TOUCH YOUR HAIR: Poems of Race, Mistakes and Friendship (co-written with Irene Latham), illustrated by Sean Qualls and Selina Alko and published Carolrhoda Books, a division of Lerner Publishing Group.

Release date: January 1, 2018.


It's gorgeous, right? I know, I'm pretty chuffed by the whole thing as well.

It's also now available for pre-order, so click here and order away and then tell everyone you've ever met in your entire life and have them pre-order the book as well! :-)

It also received a coveted STARRED review from Kirkus. You can find that review here. The last line of the review says, "A brave and touching protrayal worthy of sharing in classrooms across America." WOW!

As part of the cover reveal, Irene thought it would be a good idea to include something about ourselves in each other's cover reveal post, some extra info to make it not just a cover release, but something informative and entertaining. We decided on a variation of the game "Two Truths and a Lie" where we write each write about ourselves and you have to guess which is the truth and which is the lie. We've decided to expand it a little to include one more.

So here is "Three Truths and a Lie" starring Irene Latham!

1. Once Irene wore her hair in an Afro.

2. Irene has always enjoyed wearing shoes/socks/clothes that stand out.

3. Irene is a little bit afraid of horses.

Which is the truth, which is the lie? The answers are:

Wait for it .......

Wait for it .......

1. TRUE : As a kid Irene begged her mom to give her a perm and short cut so she could have something like an Afro. She vividly remembers her brothers teasing her about the style – they said she looked like a clown. After that, she couldn't wait for her hair to grow out, and she never again wore an Afro.

2. FALSE: As a kid Irene didn't want to wear anything that would draw attention to herself. As an adult she enjoys adding splashes of color to her wardrobe, but she does still have a bit of her mama's practicality in her -- she generally choose shoes that will go with a variety of outfits.

3. TRUE: While Irene was pretty much fearless as a kid, these days she has a healthy respect for horses! Probably all the accidents (including a broken arm) she had with horses contributed to this... Irene still does ride occasionally, but gets just as much pleasure from simply watching horses. Here she is with a miniature horse named Cinnamon.

Here's another special poetic treat for you all. This is Irene's opening poem from CAN I TOUCH YOUR HAIR: Poems of Race, Mistakes and Friendship. To read my opening response poem to Irene's in the book, please check out Irene's blog here. Enjoy!

The Poem Project

When our teacher says,

Pick a partner,

my body freezes

like a ship in ice.

I want Patty Jean,

but Madison

has already looped

arms with her.

Within seconds,


he’s-going-to-say Charles

is the only one left.

How many poems?

someone asks.

About what?

Do they have to be true?

Mrs. Vandenberg

holds up her hand.

Write about anything!

It’s not black and white.

But it is.

Charles is black,

and I’m white.

--Irene Latham

I'll be gearing up for my first ever book signing at the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) conference in Phoenix, AZ November 9-12, 2017. Me and Irene will also be on the “Mirror, Mirror: Reaching All Readers” panel. Even though our book has a January 1, 2018 publishing date, our publisher will be able to have a small advanced printing completed so there will be bound books fresh off the press and ready to be served to those in attendance. Lerner will be also be holding a dinner for their book crew, which I'm mighty proud to be a part of, later in the evening.

So here is my schedule for AASL:

Friday, November 10, 2017, 3:30 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. (Book signing - Lerner Booth )

Saturday, November 11, 2017, 9:30 a.m. - 10:30 a.m. (Panel)

Title: Mirror, Mirror: Reaching All Readers

Description: Mirror, mirror, who do you see in your books? Hear from authors who put themselves into their work to engage all readers. Go beyond Diversity 101 - learn how to take action and become a partner in the conversation about meeting the needs of all readers.


Carole Boston Weatherford; Author, Candlewick Press.

The fact that Carole Boston Weatherford is the moderator thrills me to no end for a variety of reasons, not only do I adore her books but she graciously provided a blurb for my book! There's one other special reason I'll get to in a minute.

The following week I'll be back on the workshop/book signing trail at the 107th annual National Council for the Teachers of English. (NCTE) in St. Louis, MO November 16-19, 2017. Me and my poetic forever friend, Irene will be Roundtable Leaders for Lerner, who will have another small advanced printing completed so there will be bound books in time for our book signing afterward.

Here is my schedule for NCTE:

Friday, November 17, 2017, 11:00 a.m. - 12:15 p.m. (Roundtable Facilitator)

Title: On the Wonder Pathway to Deepen Inquiry-based Learning and Amplify Voice.

Description: In today’s educational world, cultures of curiosity-powered learning need to be alive with wonder, creativity, discovery, and exploration. Teachers as change agents intentionally ignite students’ natural curiosity, challenging them to create, curate, explore, and discover learning paths. Wonder is a way for all teachers to engage students in an inquiry stance. Through choice options student voices rise as wonder drives students’ own interests, gives them an active role in their learning, and paves the way for new experiences and discoveries.

*Special thanks to Carol Varsalona for inviting me and Irene to be a part of this most important workshop.*

12:30 p.m. - 1:30 p.m. (Book signing - Lerner Booth )

Saturday, November 18, 2017, 12:30 p.m. - 2:15 p.m. (Children's Book Award Luncheon)

Here's what the Children's Book Award Luncheon entails. From the NCTE invitation e-mail forwarded to me from my publisher:

The luncheon celebrates and honors NCTE’s children’s book award winners and this year features speakers Melissa Sweet, winner of the 2017 Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction, Jason Reynolds, winner of the 2017 Charlotte Huck Award for Outstanding Fiction, and Marilyn Nelson winner of the 2017 Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children. In addition, the announcements of the 2018 NCTE children’s book award winners will take place at the end of the luncheon.

We would like to invite any of your authors who may be attending the Annual Convention this year to be table hosts at the luncheon, where they can discuss their work with elementary educators from around the world. We will provide complimentary luncheon tickets for the authors.

Okay, so this Book Award luncheon means a GREAT deal to me and I'll tell you why.

I attended the 2010 NCTE event in Orlando, FL at the Coronado Springs and Yacht and Beach Club Resorts at Walt Disney World. Since I worked for Disney World and lived in Orlando at the time, transportation and lodging was easy. The registration was not. I didn't have the money to go. Two lovely poetic friends, who shall remain nameless, dug into their hearts and got me tickets out of the kindness of their souls. I barely had enough money for food, so I brought peanut butter and jelly sandwiches from home while filling up my water bottle at the many water fountains nearby.

I didn't have the funds to attend the Children's Book Award Luncheon that year, so I looked on wistfully as the big doors were opened and floods of educators, authors, illustrators and other book folk sailed their way inside. I would hear snatches of talk from the keynote speaker, see glimpses of authors sitting at the head of the table, shaking hands and chatting with educators whom they were about to dine with, I also saw lunch being served, followed by dessert. By that point, my peanut butter and jelly sandwich rations were not doing the trick for my belly. My determination was increasing by the second to one day not only be an author doing book signings and workshops at NCTE and other conferences but to also be a table host as well, shaking hands, talking about books with educators, staying inspired. When the Luncheon was over, a security guard let me in, I saw a table with plates of untouched, uneaten orange sponge cake, pride went out the window and I devoured two of them while reading the program for the luncheon. No apologies. The cakes were good, too. Oh, and who was the keynote speaker that day almost seven years ago? Carole Boston Weatherford. Yep, that's what I call coming full circle in one's poetic life. :-)

This summer I've been a-working away at various projects, learning and recording more poems for my Poetry Time show, learning by heart my poems from the book as me and Irene create our own CAN I TOUCH YOUR HAIR? assembly and workshops. Every day I learn more and more about the children's poetry art form and how to promote it to as many people as I possibly can.

I attended the NOVELS IN VERSE: TAKE YOUR MANUSCRIPT TO THE NEXT LEVEL from June 4th – June 8th at the Highlights Foundation. The teachers were Kathryn Erskine and Alma Fullerton and special guests Padma Venkatraman and Rebecca Davis.

I brought in a manuscript that needed work and boy howdy, I got to work on it! I soon realized that the manuscript I brought with me is perhaps too long for a picture book and too short for a novel in verse, after about two hours of disappointment, I got to work on another manuscript! I've learned when a book has promise, but it's not the right fit for the marketplace, to let the sadness wash my spirit, not denying myself those feelings, but get right back to work ASAP because time is precious and scribbling needs to be done! I've learned how to better and better reconstitute myself and start over. I'm now working on a novel-in-verse that Kathy Erskine is super pleased about. I wouldn't have thought of this new poetic story if not for the other manuscript not jelling, which fills me with gratefulness! Who knows, that other manuscript might jell at another time. The time is right when the time is right.

From the Highlights Foundation website:

Have a finished a novel in verse and need strategies for revision? Or do you have a novel in verse in its early stages and need help completing the process? Either way, our 2017 Novels in Verse workshop will take your manuscript to the next level.

The verse novel packs a punch with judicious word choices, open spaces, vivid encapsulations of scenes and emotions, all delivered in a narrative that flows rhythmically. Bring your verse novel or ideas for one and practice the art of saying what you want with verse — and sometimes choosing what not to say so your readers can breathe in the open spaces and find the answers themselves.

The Novel in Verse Workshop offers writers the rare opportunity to have the entire draft of a novel read and critiqued. At the workshop, you’ll get a letter with overall comments as well as a marked-up manuscript. (Depending how far in advance you submit your novel, you may receive the letter and manuscript beforehand.) We’ll discuss the letter and manuscript in person at the workshop where we can get your feedback and we can explain our suggestions to help you make your novel what it wants to be.

  • You’ll hear from experienced faculty about what makes a verse novel successful.

  • Daily sessions will help you explore pacing, poetry, structure, and more.

  • You’ll have time to write and revise.

  • You will work one-on-one with faculty daily.

  • Have the rare opportunity to have the entire draft of your novel read and critiqued.

  • Daily sessions will explore pacing, poetry, structure, and more. In addition, writers will have time to create and revise – all while building an understanding of what makes a novel in verse successful. Faculty will also work one-on-one with writers each day.

Thank you Kent L. Brown, Jr. and George K. Brown of the Highlights Foundation for hosting another unforgettable, enlightening event and for your belief in me as a children's poet. Special shout out to Jo A. Lloyd as well who is the glue who helps hold it all together.

I had a great time with being an emcee at Poets House for two outreach programs for elementary school students read their own poems.

From the Poets House website:

This year, young people from across the five boroughs visited Ellis Island and wrote poems that explore themes of migration. Every year, Poets House partners with local schools to enhance their curricula with interactive poetry workshops.

Thanks, Jane Preston, Managing Director for the invitation!

Speaking of or writing as it were about Poets House, I was proud to participate in their 22nd Annual Poetry Walk Across the Brooklyn Bridge.

From the Poets House website:

As Poets House convenes the celebration of its 30th year, join us for our annual poetic pilgrimage across the East River by way of the historic Brooklyn Bridge. Celebrated poets including Billy Collins, Sharon Olds, Gregory Pardlo, and Claudia Rankine are joined by actor and poetry lover Bill Murray to read New York City-inspired poems under the arches of the Bridge. Poets lead the trek from Manhattan to Brooklyn, where dinner, wine, conversation, and poetic inspiration await. Proceeds help to make possible the many events and public programs Poets House presents each year, including its over 100 yearly programs for children and teens.

Thanks, Lee Briccetti, Executive Director, for the invitation.

For the third year I performed at various libraries in Queens, NY as part of the Queens Library Summer Reading Program. I performed at the Baisley Park, Pomonok, Rochdale Village and Cambria Heights branches. Thank you Mary P. Smith, Program Planner, Children and Teens Programs and Services for bringing me back for a third year. Much appreciated!

I did readings and performed some of my children's poems for the Madison Square Park Conservancy in the heart of New York City on June 21st, July 4, July 19th and August 16th.

On the 4th of July, while also doing a reading with the people of NYC, there was a pretty neat workshop involved as well. After talking with Suzanne Lunden Metzger and Stephen Motika of Poets House and doing some thinking, all of us created a 4th of July drop-in and station-based activities with readings/recitations in intervals, depending on the crowd.

Since MC Hyland, whose work was featured in the exhibit next to where the reading/workshop was held focuses on the physical aspects of print, books was the uniting theme. I read JUMPING OFF THE LIBRARY SHELVES edited by Guinness Book World Record holder, the legendary Lee Bennett Hopkins.

I brought a copy of JUMPING OFF THE LIBRARY SHELVES for reading purposes only and photocopies of certain poems from the Hopkins book.

After reading the book, or part of it myself, I had a station where the kids read photocopies with their caregivers, illustrated around the edges like an illuminated manuscript with different stations for adding to it with a stamps station, a collage station, and a marker/crayon station. I'll brought old copies of Stone Soup magazine so the kids can use that to cut out any illustrations that tickle their fancy and they can used those for their photo copy of JUMPING.

Another station was used for a book project called THE POETRY OF ME where kids, with the help of their parents, au pairs, baby sitters, would take a piece of paper, fold it in half, write the title of the book on the front like THE POETRY OF ME by the kids name then on the next page, tracing their hand as an illustration and coloring it in. The third side was used for writing their names and creating an acrostic poem, the back side was used for stamping different shapes that appeal to them.

The supplies I used were as follows:

-white paper

-stamps and ink pads





-long tables for stations

Thanks, Miriam Fodera, Director of Public Programs and Steven Hyland, Public Programs Manager for the invitation.

Saw the Off- Broadway show THE COST OF LIVING by Martyna Majok at NY City Center Stage.

A drama with sprinkles of comedy or a comedy with drama threaded throughout, this play deals with four people trying to come to terms of what it means to be human and how we can find common ground co-existing in this fascinating world we inhabit.

Since 1970, the Theatre on Film and Tape Archive (TOFT) has preserved live theatrical productions and documented the creative contributions of distinguished artists and legendary figures of the theatre.

To improve as an actor I have seen the following productions at TOFT.

THE HEIDI CHRONICLES by Wendi Wasserstein.

A VIEW FROM A BRIDGE by Arthur Miller.

TALK RADIO by Eric Bogosian.

ROCKY: THE MUSICAL Music and Lyrics by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens. Book by Thomas Meehan. Adapted from a screenplay by Sylvester Stallone.

THE SEAGULL by Anton Chekhov.

JELLY'S LAST JAM by George C. Wolfe and Susan Birkenhead. Music by Jelly Roll Morton and Luther Henderson.

LA BETE by David Hirson.

BRING IN 'DA NOISE, BRING IN 'DA FUNK conceived by George C. Wolfe, music by Daryl Waters, Zane Mark and Ann Duquesnay; lyrics by Reg E. Gaines, George C. Wolfe and Ann Duquesnay; book by Reg E. Gaines. Choreography by Savion Glover.

Read-a-Poem or R.A.P. My rallying cry to bring children’s poetry to every human being in the world continues rolling along. Not every book I mention has to be about children’s poetry, but that’s the main thrust. I have read:

KEEP A POCKET IN YOUR POEM: Classic Poems & Playful Parodies by written and selected by J. Patrick Lewis. Illustrated by Johanna Wright.

OUT OF WONDER: Poems Celebrating Poets by Kwame Alexander with Chris Colderley and Marjory Wentworth. Illustrated Ekua Holmes.

THE LITTLE BUGGERS: Insect & Spider Poems by J. Patrick Lewis. Pictures by Victoria Chess.

GONE CAMPING : A Novel In Verse by Tamera Will Wissinger. Illustrated by Matthew Cordell.

PRINCE PUGLY OF SPUD AND THE KINGDOM OF SPIFF by Robert Paul Weston. Illustrations by Víctor Rivas Villa.

A TIME TO DANCE by Padma Venkatraman.

LIBERTAD by Alma Fullerton.

WHEN THE RAIN COMES by Alma Fullerton.

LITTLE DOG, LOST by Marion Dale Bauer. Illustrated by Jennifer A. Bell.

SACHIKO: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor's Story by Caren B. Stelson.

STAND UP AND SING! Pete Seeger, Folk Music and the Path To Justice by Susanna Reich. Illustrated by Adam Gustavson.

STOP PRETENDING: What Happened When My Big Sister Went Crazy by Sonya Sones.

WAITING TO WALTZ: A Childhood by Cynthia Rylant.

SPLIT IMAGE: A Story in Poems by Mel Glenn.

ROUND by Joyce Sidman. Illustrated by Taeeun Yoo.

MUNCHING: Poems About Eating selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins. Illustrated by Nelle Davis.

CIRCUS, CIRCUS selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins. Illustrated by John O'Brien.

TO THE ZOO: Animal Poems selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins. Illustrated by John Wallner.

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