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  • Charles Waters

POETRY TIME BLOG #52


Hello poetry peeps the world over!


Well, it's out in the world. Super hope you consider purchasing it. It's available on all outlets including the links embedded: Amazon, Bookshop and Indiebound, or super hope you consider ordering it from your library.




Super grateful NPR's Weekend Edition correspondent, Eyder Peralta, for interviewing myself and Irene Latham about AFRICAN TOWN. The NPR team couldn't have been nicer. Additional thanks to Olivia Russo, Senior Director, Publicity, Penguin Random House for setting it up. You can listen to the interview by clicking here.


Had a most excellent time at Alabama Booksmith where Irene and I had our first book signing for AFRICAN TOWN. We signed many copies, met most excellent humans, and it was so nice seeing my pal, the esteemed Mrs. Latham, face to face after an almost two year time period due to the pandemic. Hard to believe the last time we had seen each other was during a research trip to Mobile—two weeks before shutdown—which helped us tremendously in writing the book we're now promoting! Many thanks to Jake Reiss and his dedicated, kind staff for their professionalism and sweet spirits!


Many thanks to Booklist for their interview with myself and Irene which can be found here, as well as their book review of AFRICAN TOWN which can be found here.


Happily surprised to find out the Today Show for including a piece of my poem "Intention" from DICTIONARY FOR A BETTER WORLD from Lerner Publishing Group for their 50 Positive Affirmation Quotes article. You can find mine by going to #24 here.


Grateful to Publishers Weekly for a calling AFRICAN TOWN "an insightful, quickly paced telling that centers tradition and resilience."


Super appreciative of the Imagine Society and their up and coming writing dynamo, Katie Gaffigan, for reviewing AFRICAN TOWN. You can find the article on pg. 6 by clicking here.


Zoobean as part of their #WinterRead2022 "Read For A Better World" Spotlight series interviewed me, which was a pleasure! You can read the interview here.



Many thanks to School Library Journal for their starred review of AFRICAN TOWN saying, "This honest, heartrending, and inspiring story is an important and necessary contribution to historical fiction collections for young adult readers." You can read the full review by clicking here.


Spent time with Irene in Africatown for their Spirits of Our Ancestors Festival.

We met some most outstanding humans, some of whom you can read about below:



Joycelyn Davis, decendant of Oluale aka Charlie Lewis and Maggie Lewis, who kindly wrote the introduction to our book.

Altevese Rosario, decendant of Kossola, who also graciously wrote our Teacher's Guide.

Delisha Marshall, decendant of Gumpa.

Mr. James Patterson, Principal, Mobile County Training School, which was founded by the Clotilda Africans. Our publisher, Penguin Random House, kindly donated copies of the book to the school, which Irene and I signed and handed over to Mr. Patterson.


Speaking with students at Mobile County Training School.


Ben Raines, who founded the Clotilda — the last slave ship in our nation's history — where it has been burned and buried in Mobile Bay since 1860.



Penguin Random House sent this to alert us that book was received four different starred reviews! So grateful.



Traveled to Auburn, AL to do my first in-person author visit in two years, practically to the day, at the Plains Literacy Council in conjuction with Auburn City Schools. What a delightful time I had doing three poetic powerpoint presentations for educators from around East Alabama. Many thanks to Betty Weeden, Wes Gordon and Michelle Hopf for their kindness.


Had a extended Q & A and reading session with students and faculty at the International School of Phnom Penh in Cambodia. Thank you, Erica Victor, for the invite! Ms. Victor's blog post about the virtual visit and the response from her students can be found here.


Was thrilled to have a vitual author visit with the fine humans of The River School in NYC. Many thanks to Adeline Tafuri, PTA parent extraordinaire for the invitation, and to Erica Rand Silverman, literary agent extraordinaire at Stimola Literary Studio—which represents me in all things books—for making the e-introduction.


Many thanks to my college alma mater Fairleigh Dickinson University for highlighting me as part of their recruitment program.




When FDU told me they were going to use my picture on their socials, I was deeply touched, when they said it would also be on billboards, I was happily shocked. Wouldn't you know, my cousin, Kelle, was driving one day, saw me on a billboard, turned around, stopped, and took a picture.



Much obliged to author Caroline Starr Rose for interviewing myself and Irene for her blog. You can read the interview by clicking here.



Thanks to my former Highlights Foundation Novel In Verse pal, Kip Wilson, for highlighting myself and Irene by featuring us on her This

Week in YA newsletter.


Here's the interview:


1. Who: Who are your instabuy, go-to YA authors? And which new talent have you discovered recently? We can’t get enough of Nikki Grimes, Margarita Engle, and Naomi Shihab Nye! For new(ish) talent: Randi Pink. Irene’s a big fan of YA nonfiction by Candace Fleming and Deborah Heiligman—and was recently wow-ed by Laura Amy Schlitz’s Amber & Clay and Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley. Among the new YA talent Charles discovered recently is Safia Elhillo, the author of the verse novel Home Is Not a Country and Mahogany L. Browne, the author of the verse novel Chlorine Sky. He also deeply respects the talents of established YA authors, here’s a small sample—among many others—who he’s read and admired, Elizabeth Acevedo (The Poet X), Jason Reynolds (Long Way Down) and Guadalupe García McCall (Under the Mesquite). 2. What: What was the most powerful moment in preparing to bring African Town into the world? Hearing back from Joycelyn Davis, who wrote the introduction to our book and who is a direct descendant of Oluale who was also known as Charlie Lewis and his wife Maggie Lewis and also hearing from Altevese Rosario who is a direct descendant of Kossola and Abilè̩. Both Joycelyn and Altevese were deeply touched by our book which humbled us and brought on a lot of relief. We hope other descendants feel the same way. The opinion of them regarding the story of their ancestors mean a great deal to us. 3. Where: Where is the state of YA right now, from where you sit? Where do you hope to see it go next? We’re really loving YA memoirs, like Ordinary Hazards by Nikki Grimes, Gone to the Woods by Gary Paulsen, Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett Krosoczka, to name a few. We hope to see more like this in the future! 4. When: Looking ahead to next year (or beyond), what exciting things are next on the horizon for you? Our next collaboration arrives in August, 2022: Be a Bridge, a picture book coming from Carolrhoda, an imprint of Lerner Publishing Group, with illustrations by Nabila Adani. Per the Publishers Weekly announcement, it’s “a picture book about bridging differences and building an inclusive community with suggestions for how anyone and everyone can “be a bridge.” In the spring of 2024 we have our first anthology with the tentative title of If This Puddle Could Talk in which—per the Publishers Weekly announcement—“a diverse group of poets use the word “if” as the first word in the first line of each poem, inviting readers to take their own leaps into different worlds—from the Practical to the Fantastical.” It will be published by Candlewick Press with illustrations by Olivia Sua. 5. Why: Why YA? What draws you to writing for this age group? We kind of accidentally fell into YA (instead of MG) due to the subject matter of this book and ages of the characters. It’s the first time for both of us to write for this age group, and we’re grateful to be here! We’re also deeply grateful to all the YA authors who’ve touched our souls with their artistry. Thank you for inspiring us!


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:


CLAP WHEN YOU LAND by Elizabeth Acevedo


THANK YOU, SARAH: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving by Laurie Halse Anderson. Illustrated by Matt Faulkner


SWING by Kwame Alexander with Mary Rand Hess


IF YOU PLANT A SEED by Kadir Nelson


RUN Book One by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, L. Fury, and Nate Powell


SATURDAY by Oge Mora


I leave you with a poem about a day in the life of a student in haikus. Enjoy!


A DAY IN THE LIFE


Alarm Clock


Hummingbirds sing-song

wakes me from peaceful slumber

hope it's a good day.


Dad Speaks!


Consumption of fruit,

dad puts down morning paper,

good luck on your test.


Moment of Truth


Multiple choice, like

teacher warned, quickly scan sheet

I know the answers!


Pride at the Dinner Table


Devouring soup

I tell Dad that test-wise ... call

me unstoppable!


Night Music


Raindrops lightly tap

on leaves leaving me with an

evening lullaby.


© Charles Waters, 2022 all rights reserved.

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