Hello my poetic peeps. How goes it? Here's the latest from my end of the pond.
I got a literary agent! Rosemary Stimola of Stimola Literary Studio has agreed to represent me. When I got the great news from Rosemary, or Ro as she likes to be called, via e-mail, I yelled so loud that people's heads swiveled in my direction! Thank you, Irene Latham, for facilitating this connection and for your belief in me.
Saw a rough draft of the cover art for me and Irene Latham's book, CAN I TOUCH YOUR HAIR? Poems of Race, Mistakes and Friendship. To actually see my name on the cover of a book brought a smile to my face as wide as the Sahara Desert. The award-winning illustrators, Sean Qualls and Selina Alko, have outdone themselves, yet again. I can't wait to see more illustrations as the book comes together.
Sent another manuscript out there in the universe, it's gotten encouraging responses in critique groups and one-on-one sessions. My goal is that when I promote CAN I TOUCH YOUR HAIR? that I'll have another book ready to go in few years time. Yes, that's right, it takes years from a book to go from being accepted for publication to being released in the world. Revisions, contract talks, more revisions, editor finding the right illustrator(s), more revisions, editor working with the art director, more revisions, illustrator(s) working on the book, more revisions, and so it goes ...
People, trust me when I tell you, you have to take the long game in books, these bound pages take a tremendous amount of time to craft with a fleet of people working on making it the best it can be.
So excited my children's poem "Five Little Birds" appears in the book, ONE MINUTE TILL BEDTIME edited by Kenn Nesbitt and illustrated by Christoph Niemann. It's been getting great reviews from Kirkus and Publishers Weekly.
Here's what the School Library Journal said:
One Minute Till Bedtime
Edited by Kenn Nesbitt
Illustrated Christoph Niemann
November 2016 / Ages 4-8 / $19.99
This charming compendium holds a wide variety of poetic forms and emotions, from bits of “concrete” to slices of doggerel, from bursts of giggles to slathers of joy—and with a star-studded cast that includes the likes of Nikki Grimes, Marilyn Singer, Jon Scieszka, and more, it’s bound to be a lasting contribution to collections. All the pieces are rather short in length—perfect for those bedtime or read-aloud pleas of “just one more!” Poems where moon mice “know the moon is made of cheese,” seagulls throw parties “but never cook, ever,” and sleepy weeds “lean against each other” are sure to enchant adults and children alike.
VERDICT Exuberant for the most part (with some serious musings to lend ballast) and in perfect harmony with its cartoonish, color-washed illustrations, this sleepy-time volume is just the thing for the rhyme-loving child who has graduated from Mother Goose.
You can order the book from a myriad of places including: IndieBound, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon.
In other poetic news, I had the pleasure of attending THE CRAFT AND HEART OF WRITING POETRY FOR CHILDREN 2016 from September 11th – September 15, 2016 as part of the Highlights Foundation under the guidance of children's poets/authors/educators Rebecca Kai Dotlich and Georgia Heard. Guest speakers included:
Rebecca M. Davis, senior editor for Boyds Mills Press and for WordSong, the only imprint in the United States dedicated to children’s poetry.
Lee Bennett Hopkins, distinguished poet, writer, and anthologist whose poetry collections have earned him the Guinness Book of World Record for the most anthologies of poetry for children. I have had the pleasure of having my poem "Fenway Park" in Lee's anthology AMAZING PLACES, published by Lee & Low Books.
I learned a great deal about word choice, opening a poem in a non-cliched way, finding the right word choices in ending the poem or as I call it ... sticking the landing. And the critiques I got from Georgia, Rebecca and the eighteen other participants in a manuscript I'm working on were vital and oftentimes spot on. I've officially put on a few pounds eating so many lumberjack plant based meals that it will take the rest of the year to get my weight back, and it was ALL worth it.
What is this particular retreat dedicated to, you may ask? From the Foundation's website:
Would you love to work in an intimate setting with published poets, make new friends, and immerse yourself in writing poetry and working on the craft? Then this workshop is for you. Our goal is to bring poets together to delve into the heart, joy, and craft of poetry. We will be discussing, learning, writing, revising, and working on the craft of writing poetry for children. This workshop will offer plenty of interaction, direction, and free creative writing time. We’ll focus on all elements of poetry, from the importance of word choice to surprising metaphors. There will be plenty of writing exercises to inspire new poems followed by group discussions. As a group, we’ll brainstorm ideas, share our writing process, and generate original poems. You’ll be inspired to create new poems or bring works in progress to polish.
What is the Highlights Foundation? Also from the Foundation website:
For more than thirty years, the Highlights Foundation has been fulfilling its mission of improving the quality of children’s literature by helping authors and illustrators hone their craft.
Our campus consists of the Founders’ farmhouse, 21 cabins, a lodge, and a 5,200-square-foot Retreat Center known as the Barn at Boyds Mills, 10 miles from Honesdale, Pennsylvania.
The Barn has several relaxed classroom-like areas, a Great Hall, an outdoor fireplace and a giant kitchen. There is space for meetings, meals and just hanging out. The Lodge contains eight private rooms with private baths, and a great room for getting together with others, or just relaxing.
Explore the surrounding woods
This intimate and inspiring setting in the Pocono Mountains features serene walking trails; a 1,300-acre forest; a creek that runs to the nearby Delaware; crisp, clean days; and night skies blanketed with stars.
Retreat into your own intimate space
Cabins and lodge rooms have modern facilities and are writer-ready with desks, chairs, and filled bookshelves.
Nourish yourself with inspiring food
Farm-style meals are prepared by a top-notch chef and mealtimes are perfect for lively discussions. Snacks are always available for late-night or early morning writing sessions.
I couldn't be more thankful to Kent L. Brown, Jr. executive director of the Highlights Foundation, editor in chief emeritus of Highlights for Children and the former publisher of Boyds Mills Press, the trade division of Highlights, for his belief in me. It means a great deal. His program assistant, Jo L. Lloyd, has the work ethic of ten teamsters and is covered in vats of poetic awesome sauce as well. Big shout out to the new Director of Customer Experience, George K. Brown, for his kindness, hospitality and belief in the Foundation and all that it can do for writers, illustrators and editors all over this magnificent, complex planet of ours.
I continue to audition, as well as work as a stand-in on the CBS show KEVIN CAN WAIT starring Kevin James. Being a stand-in entails, among other bits of business, following the movements and placement of the actor in the scene, then replicating it for the camera people and the lighting technicians while the actor is getting their make-up applied, learning their lines, changing into their outfit for the scene, etc. I stand in for the fine character actor and gentleman, Leonard Earl Howze who plays the role of "Goody" on the show. I'm learning a lot about sitcoms and am thankful for the work.
When I came back from Highlights I saw the Off-Broadway show, THE LAYOVER at Second Stage Theatre. This darkly funny, heartbreaking and disturbing look at how humans treat each other stuck with me long after the show ended. The acting, especially from the two leads was top notch in its clarity and I was enthralled by the set. I loved how the director was able to keep parallel stories happening at the same time.
Saw an Off-Broadway version of RICHARD III by William Shakespeare performed by the Bride Production Group at the Fourth Street Theatre in New York City. My fellow Highlights Foundation attendee, Rosi Hollinbeck, invited me to the show to see her daughter, Maggie Hollinbeck, perform. Maggie is an actress/singer/songwriter of such depth and honesty that she practically stole the show. This production put a modern day twist on an old classic by adding dance numbers and modeling on the catwalk, among other bits of business. I called it here first, Maggie Hollinbeck is a name to watch out for!
I also spent some time utilizing TOFT. What is that, you ask?
From the New York Public Library website: 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. TOFT produces video recordings of Broadway, Off-Broadway, and regional theatre productions, as well as dialogues between notable theatre personalities.
In an effort to be a more complete actor I saw the following productions through TOFT:
MECHINAL by Sophie Treadwell.
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:
GARVEY'S CHOICE by Nikki Grimes.
SIDEWALK CHALK: Poems of the City by Carole Boston Weatherford. Illustrated by Dimitrea Tokunbo.
GRUMBLES FROM THE TOWN: Mother-Goose Voices with a Twist by Jane Yolen and Rebecca Kai Dotlich. Illustrated by Angela Matteson.
B IS FOR BROOKLYN by Selina Alko.
MARTA! BIG & SMALL by Jen Arena. Illustrated by Angela Dominguez.
YOU NEST HERE WITH ME by Jane Yolen and Heidi E.Y. Stemple. Illustrated by Melissa Sweet.
SKY SCRAPE, CITY SCAPE edited by Jane Yolen. Illustrated by Ken Condon.
ALL THE WORLD by Liz Garton Scanlon. Illustrated by Marla Frazee.
GOODNIGHT, GOODNIGHT CONSTRUCTION SITE by Sherri Duskey Rinker. Illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld.
TIME FOR BED by Mem Fox. Illustrated by Jane Dyer.
LLAMA LLAMA RED PAJAMA written and illustrated by Anna Dewdney.
WHAT'S A PAIR? WHAT'S A DOZEN? by Steven R. Swinburne.
WHAT COLOR IS NATURE? by Stephen R. Swinburne.
I close with two children's poems about loved ones and gratefulness. The first one I submitted to Michelle Heidenrich Barnes' blog Today's Little Ditty as part of her Kenn Nesbitt interview/ poetry writing challenge.
warm as a gust
of summer air
soaks up my fears
like a sponge
leaving me brave enough
to fling myself back again
into this glorious,
yet unkind world.
© Charles Waters 2016 all rights reserved.
I kiss Grandma’s soft, wrinkly, chocolate cheek
before I go to bed, then whisper
the four magic words we look forward
to saying everytime … Goodnight Sugar Bear.
© Charles Waters 2016 all rights reserved.