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A Visit with Amy Sklansky, Children's Author and Poet


Amy Sklansky is an award winning author of children’s picture books and poetry.

Her picture book, OUT OF THIS WORLD (Alfred A. Knopf 2012), is a collection of poems and facts about space. Publishers Weekly calls it “an evocative mix of the whimsical and the scientific.” OUT OF THIS WORLD was selected as an "Outstanding Science Trade Book for 2013" by the National Science Teachers Association and the Children's Book Council, and as one of "Our Favorite Children's Books of 2012" by Smithsonian's Air & Space Magazine. It was #4 on the St. Louis Independent Bestsellers List.

Amy’s newest book, YOU ARE MY LITTLE PUMPKIN PIE, will be released from Little, Brown this fall. It is a follow-up to YOU ARE MY LITTLE CUPCAKE.

Welcome, Amy! Thank you for celebrating Poetry Month with us here on my blog.

Your picture book, OUT OF THIS WORLD: Poems and Facts About Space, was just nominated for the Utah State Beehive award. Congratulations, Amy! I enjoyed the different poetic forms and the interesting facts about space and space travel.

What was your inspiration for writing this book?
A: Space is one of our last true frontiers. I loved exploring what is known about space and learning what is still unknown. I think kids feel the same way. And there is so much to write about.

And your book makes learning about space a lot of fun! What kind of research went into working on this project?
A: My library card got some heavy use as I read both in the children’s and adult sections about any of the topics I was interested in writing about – the moon missions, what stars are, how astronauts prepare to live and work in space, etc. The NASA.gov website is a fantastic resource and one I made good use of as well. Ultimately, my editor showed the manuscript and sketches to an astronomy professor just to make sure all my scientific facts were correct. I refined what I knew with each research step.

The illustrations and placement of your words on the page add so much to this book. Did you include notes for the illustrator with your text?
A: A great illustrator knows her stuff, and Stacey Schuett is a great illustrator! There were some poems in which I had roughly laid out how I thought the text should be placed, where verses should be placed, etc. “Black Hole” is one example of this. But as far as illustrations go, that was all Stacey. I like the way she combined traditional and digital art.

Did you have any input regarding the illustrations or who the illustrator would be?
A: As is common practice, the publisher chooses the illustrator. Lucky me that Knopf chose so well. I looked at sketches and had some minor comments and occasionally rethought the placement of text on the page once I’d seen a sketch (because sometimes she had a better idea), but that’s it. I leave the art directing to the publisher and the illustrator.

You’ve written other poetry collections and rhyming picture books. When did you begin to write poetry?
A: I have a copy of a short poem I wrote back in 3rd grade, so I’ve been writing at least that long. I published my first book in 2002. It was a poetry collection called “From the Doghouse: Poems to Chew On.”

Do your poems come easy for you, or do you spend a lot of time writing a poem?
A: I probably revise each poem anywhere from 7 – 12 times before it is completely and forever finished. The same is true for prose. The thing I find most helpful is some distance, coming back to my writing a few days later and looking at it with fresh eyes.

Are there any books or authors that have influenced you as a children’s writer?
A: Some of my favorite children’s poets writing today are Joyce Sidman, Kristine O’Connell George, Naomi Shihab Nye, and Douglas Florian.

Your newest book, YOU ARE MY LITTLE PUMPKIN PIE, is a board book for toddlers. Can you tell us a little bit about this book?
A: This sweet (pun intended) book is a celebration of parents’ love for their child. I love the way Talitha Shipman illustrates a variety of parents in terms of race, setting, and sex. Everyone who loves their child should be able to see themselves and their child in this book.

Board books for toddlers are very short, and that can make them look easy to write. I know this can be deceiving. Is this a difficult genre to write for?
A: Being a parent of two wonderful children myself, I find it fairly easy to write for this genre. However, as in any poem, each word has to be carefully weighed and balanced. There are so few words in a board book, and each one is important. I also like to read board books aloud and make sure they are successful when enjoyed this way.

Do you have any other projects that are currently in the works?
A: I’m attempting my first chapter book – a whole new challenge for me. I’m also researching a nonfiction project – a story I plan to tell with poetry.

Besides writing, you also do author visits to schools. How should someone contact you about doing an author visit?
A: I love visiting schools in person or virtually via Skype or videoconference. Information about some of my typical programs, photos of me at schools, a map of schools I’ve visited, etc can be found on my website: www.amysklansky.com. Anyone can email me from there for further information.

Thank you for sharing a bit of your writing life with us here, Amy!

Readers can find more information about Amy and her books on her website.

OUT OF THIS WORLD: (illustrated by Stacey Schuett)
ISBN-10: 0375864598
ISBN-13: 978-0375864599
YOU ARE MY LITTLE PUMPKIN PIE: (illustrated by Talitha Shipman)
ISBN-10: 0316207144
ISBN-13: 978-0316207140
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A Visit with Children's Author Heidi Bee Roemer!


Heidi Bee Roemer is an award winning author of children’s picture books, both fiction and non-fiction. Her work has appeared in many poetry anthologies, and she has sold nearly 400 poems, stories, and articles to various children’s magazines. Formerly an instructor for the Institute of Children’s Literature, Heidi also served SCBWI-Illinois in various capacities, most recently as Assistant Regional Advisor.

Heidi’s upcoming publications include several poems in Highlights Hello! and High Five magazines, some of which will appear under her pen name, Rikki B. Romerez. Her poems also appear in The Poetry Friday Anthology, Grades K-5 and The Poetry Friday Anthology, Grades 6-8, edited by Janet Wong and Sylvia Vardell.

Welcome, Heidi! Thank you for being a part of poetry month here on my blog. You are such an amazing poet, and an inspiration to me as a children’s poet.

Are there any authors that have helped or influenced you as a children’s poet?
Thanks for inviting me to be one of your guests, Peggy! My first encounter with a published poet was the 1998 Butler University Conference. Rebecca Kai Dotlich, one of the speakers, had recently published Lemonade Sun. Rebecca graciously critiqued several poems for me and patiently answered my newbie writer’s questions. At another conference Rebecca introduced me to master poet and anthologist, Lee Bennett Hopkins. I was overjoyed when Lee later accepted several poems for his anthologies. (BTW, Lee was recently honored by Guinness as “the world’s most prolific anthologist of children’s poetry, with 113 titles to his credit.” Way to go, Lee!)

There were others. Author Esther Hershenhorn nudged me toward my first works-for-hire poetry job, and Patricia Rae Wolf gave me one of the best tips ever when she encouraged me to write for magazines. And, Peggy, you and I have critiqued, commiserated, and celebrated together, too! Without Rebecca, Lee, Pat, Esther, Peggy, and other generous authors, I might not have stayed the course.

Are there any books that have influenced you as a children’s poet?
Early on, I fell in love with Kristen O’Connell George’s Old Elm Speaks—pure magic! From Verla Kay’s Orphan Train I learned about terse verse and succinct writing. School Supplies, edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins, taught me that even a poetry collection must have a beginning, middle, and end. For example, the opening poem describes the arrival of the morning bus. A lunchtime poem is positioned midway, and the final poem is about homework. Doodle Dandies by J. Patrick Lewis and Flicker Flash by Joan Bransfield Graham, inspired me to write my own “picture poems”. Come to My Party and Other Shape Poems, was a 2004 Monarch Award nominee.

Where do you get your ideas?
Ideas abound! But your mind has to be open to recognize them. An idea may land smack-dab on your nose, but if your thoughts are preoccupied elsewhere, that idea will flutter off to inspire someone who’s paying attention. To be a better writer, I must make a conscious, constant effort to be curious and observant.

When I do get stuck it’s time to “feed my brain,” so I head to the library or art museum. Sometimes a painting sparks a story. A scientific fact may jumpstart an idea for an article. (“Mature female aphids clone themselves up to 10 times a day!") I might find an unusual poetry form. (A palindrome! I wonder if could write one?) A single sentence from the newsletter once jumped out at me and resulted in a story that was published in Focus on the Family magazine. If you feel like there are no creative ideas to write about—go on a treasure hunt and goose your muse! There’s no excuse!

Do you have any advice that you can offer to aspiring poets who want to write for children?
• Read—no, study!—good children’s poetry. Stake out a corner at your local library or bookstore regularly.

• Type up poems you especially like. Observe language, imagery, wordplay, sounds, rhythm, rhyme, form, etc.

• Try new poetry forms. Most new poets never go beyond the standard couplet or quatrain. There are so many other forms to explore!

• Seek magazines that offer theme lists and chose a topic to write about. When your poem is finished, you already know where to send it!

• Study how-to-write poetry books such a Pass the Poetry, Please! by Lee Bennett Hopkins, Easy Poetry Lessons that Dazzle and Delight by Bernice Cullinan and David Harrison, and For the Good of the Earth and Sun: Teaching Poetry by Georgia Heard.

Many writers have been published as a result of your ABC’s of Poetry workshop. Are you still teaching your poetry correspondence course?
I accept students on a case-by-case basis. Most of my students live in the U.S., though a growing number hail from Canada. A former Canadian student, Carol-Ann Hoyte, and I recently produced an anthology called, And the Crowd Goes Wild!: A Global Gathering of Sports Poems.

Yes, I know! Your latest venture in children’s poetry has been as an editor for And the Crowd Goes Wild!,! Can you tell us what that was like?
Carol-Ann invited me to join her on an adventure—to create a children’s anthology of sports poems. I’m a fitness fan and a poetry freak, so I eagerly jumped on board. In July, 2011, Carol-Ann issued a world-wide call for poetry submissions. Though thousands of mile apart, thanks to the internet, we worked together to log in over 300 poems from around world, communicating through email, and—to this date—only twice by phone.

What were your responsibilities?
Selecting the poems was a shared labor of love, though the arduous task of contacting poets with rejection and acceptance notices fell to Carol-Ann. I worked with most of the poets on revisions. Once we made our final selection, I assembled the 50 poems in logical sequence. I thoroughly enjoyed the process of organizing the poems, creating the book’s “beginning, middle, and end,” and making the topics flow smoothly from one to the next.

I'm sure the hardest part was choosing just the right poems. How did you ultimately decide which poems would make the cut?
The poems fell into three groups. Group A was easy. These stellar poems yelled, “Pick me!” Group C was also easy. They moaned, “Not me!” Group B was the trickiest; many poems were in nose-to-nose competition. We scrutinized the writing quality, topic, age appropriateness, and emotional content. We also wanted to feature as many varied poetry forms as possible. In addition, we wanted a global perspective, so the poet’s residence became a factor.

Interestingly, sometimes Carol-Ann felt strongly about a poem I thought was so-so, and other times the reverse was true. Upon reviewing our own guidelines, it became easier to decide whether the poem in question was a keeper or not.

Who is your audience for this book?
Though targeted for ages 6-12, I believe the stellar poems in this collection will also appeal greatly to parents, grandparents, teachers, librarians, poetry lovers, ringside judges, umpires, referees, coaches, and—Rah! Rah! Rah!— sports enthusiasts and poets around the world!

What can readers look forward to if they buy your book?
Name a sport! Very likely it’s included in this grand-slam poetry anthology. Written by 50 poets from 10 countries, And the Crowd Goes Wild! A Global Gathering of Sports Poems, is jam-packed with sport and sport-related poems. Nearly 30 different poetry forms are presented as well as identified, making this collection a great resource for teachers.

Congratulations! I understand that And the Crowd Goes Wild! A Global Gathering of Sports Poems, is the winner of The Moonbeam Award, 2012, Children’s Poetry division. How has the book promotion been going?
Thanks, Peggy. We’re thrilled to have the Moonbeam Award seal on our book. Carol-Ann and I have done book launches in the U.S. and Canada. In addition, several Illinois contributors and I banded together to form the Olympic Poetry Team U.S.A. Our “Poetry + Sports = Fun” message has been enthusiastically received by packed-out crowds. The Olympic Poetry Team U.S.A. offers educational and inspirational poetry presentations in the Chicagoland area.

What other types of presentations do you offer for school and library visits?
As a writer-in-residence for several Chicago Public Schools, I share my passion for poetry with students on a weekly or monthly basis. I also offer presentations based on my nature books, What Kinds of Seeds are These? and Whose Nest is This? Volunteers roll a coconut like a bowling ball, toss maple seeds into the air, and compare the hummingbird’s walnut-size nest to the sea turtle’s 10-foot nest. Students interested in the publishing process are surprised when I display my towering stack of rejection letters; it weighs as much as a medium deep-dish pizza! Whatever age my audience is, I’m always happy to share poetry and a “never give up your dream” message.


Click here to see five poets (from Australia, Ireland, Africa, Canada, and the U.S.) read their poems from And the Crowd Goes Wild.

Click hereto watch Heidi read her poem, "Food Fest" from The Poetry Friday Anthology, Grades 6-8. (Both links will take you to Renee LaTulippe’s blogsite, No Water River.)

Click here to find out more about author/poet Heidi Bee Roemer.

And the Crowd Goes Wild: ISBN-10: 1770979530; ISBN-13: 978-1770979536

Many thanks, Heidi, for giving us a glimpse into your writing life!  Read More 
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Poetry Month—and Book Giveaways!

It’s April 1st and the official start of Poetry Month!

National Poetry Month was established in the United States in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets as a way to increase awareness and appreciation of poetry.

Here on my blog during the next four weeks I’ll be posting interviews with four terrific children’s poets. Check back this Wednesday to hear from my first guest, Heidi Bee Roemer, children’s author and poet, teacher, and editor!

I’ll be sharing some favorite websites featuring children’s poetry, and links to other ways to celebrate poetry.

I’ll also be giving away copies of my picture books, NAME THAT DOG! and FROM DAWN TO DREAMS, to two lucky blog readers in a drawing at the end of April. No fooling! To be entered in the drawing just leave your comment on any of my blog posts this month. Official rules are posted on the left on my blog page.

Here are some poetry books for children that I’ve recently read and recommend—

OUT ON THE PRAIRIE by Donna M. Bateman, illustrated by Susan Swan; Charlesbridge 2012, picture book/poetry/non-fiction

OUT OF THIS WORLD, Poems and Facts About Space, by Amy E Sklansky, illustrated by Stacey Schuett; Alfred A. Knopp, 2012, picture book/poetry/non-fiction

SERENDIPITY and ME by Judith L. Roth, Viking 2013, middle grade novel in verse

AND THE CROWD GOES WILD!, a Global Gathering of Sports Poems, compiled by Carol-Ann Hoyte and Heidi Bee Roemer, illustrated by Kevin Sylvester, Friesen Press 2012, middle grade anthology/poetry

THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN by Katherine Applegate, Harper 2012, middle grade novel in verse, 2013 Newberry Medal winner

Two other places that are giving away books during poetry month are:

To win an autographed copy of AND THE CROWD GOES WILD!, A Global Gathering of Sports Poems, on Story Patch go to Story Patch.

The Academy of American Poets: The Academy will edit and distribute 30,000 free copies of a special anthology of poetry for children ages 10 to 14, HOW TO EAT A POEM: a Smorgasbord of Tasty and Delicious Poems for Young Readers. With a foreword by U.S. Poet Laureate Ted Kooser, the anthology includes 70 poems by well-known poets such as W.S. Merwin, Rita Dove, Billy Collins, Kenneth Koch, Marianne Moore, Langston Hughes, and Thom Gunn. Find out more at The Academy of American Poets website.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you here during April!  Read More 
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