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!