I have a couple questions;Does the recipe in "Grandmother's Almond Cookies" really work, and have you tried them?And also, have you always been interested in poetry? When I write poems, it usually takes me a long time to even write one. Did it take you a while since you wrote a whole book of poems?
Yes, the recipe does work! Of course, how well it works depends on how big your handfuls are, etc...which is part of the point of the poem--the variability of unmeasured "old country" recipes and yet the certainty of the old-timers that these recipes will work.
That's cool that you turned a recipe into a poem!
How did you get interested in writing and specifically poetry in the first place? What was your biggest inspiration?
I need a few pages to answer this question! The short answer: I was a lawyer and wasn't happy with my work. I thought I was becoming "a mean person" and wanted to switch directions. I couldn't think of anything more important than working with kids, but knew I wouldn't survive as a teacher. One day, browsing in a children's bookstore (looking for a gift for my young cousin), I found myself with an armful of picture books (for 2-year-olds) that I loved. It hit me, "Why not me?" I decided to try to get published. Why poetry? That is an even longer story, but here is the extremely short version: I heard Myra Cohn Livingston speak and knew I could learn something from her. Look for her book POEM-MAKING in your public library!
What lead you to write these poems? Did you find that they were the best way to express your feelings? also, do you remember where you were when you wrote your first poem in this collection?
I started writing poems because of a great teacher, Myra Cohn Livingston, author of over 80 books of poetry for young people and also books on how to write poems. The first poem that I knew would be part of Good Luck Gold was not the title poem, but my poem "Waiting at the Railroad Cafe," a poem about waiting to be served in a restaurant (and being ignored by the waitresses). Please check Good Luck Gold out of your library and look for that poem on page 8! (It's also available as an e-book at Amazon.com, BN.com, and in the iTunes bookstore.)
I will!!! how many books of poetry have you written? If I combined all of my poems, it'd be about 3 Suitcase of Seaweed sized books
Isola: How many have I written? About 40. How many have I published? About 12...but more on the way--especially as e-books! (Please type my name in the search box at Amazon: Janet Wong in Books or Janet Wong in Kindle.)
When did you decide that you wanted to to become a writer of poetry? Was it always something of interest to you, writing? Maybe I'll try writing those sport poems you were talking about.I think they could be really interesting.
I didn't always know that I wanted to become a writer--and certainly didn't think that I'd write poetry until I actually started doing it. I quit my law job in order to write picture books--the next GOODNIGHT MOON! Thankfully I was pretty good about doing my writing homework in school and just happened to become a decent writer. As to your sports poems: read some of the sports poems in Lee Bennett Hopkins's book EXTRA INNINGS or OPENING DAYS for inspiration!
Another questionWhy were you interested in law? It seems like a really big switch to go from law to writing picture books.
Sage: I think I was interested in doing something that my parents would consider respectable...and my father suggested going to law school. When I applied for law school, I really didn't know anything about what lawyers do!
One question I have for you is: How long did it take for you to truly feel included and understand the culture of the U.S.?
Nick: I can understand why you might be confused about this since some of my poems are written using different voices (such as "Immigrant Boy" in Good Luck Gold, where the child-narrator is a new immigrant)...but I was born here! (Please see "Speak Up," also in Good Luck Gold.) If you read my post about Jeremy Lin (the current top post on this blog), I discuss this issue more completely.
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I have a couple of questions. Does it take a long time to think of the words that you use, or do you think of them immediately? Do you ever get writer's block? Do you only write poetry? Those are only a few of my many questions for you, I have never actually gotten to ask a professional writer about their writing so this is really cool for me.Posted By NoZo
My main problem is what the prolific award-winning author Jane Yolen calls lack of "butt in chair" time. More accurately, I suppose, I spend plenty of time in my chair but too much of that time is "wasted" answering emails, writing blog posts and comments, and on Facebook...but I need to spend more time actually doing projects. Real writer's block--the debilitating kind that usually comes from rejection and fear--hasn't been much of a problem, but sticking with a project is. I might write 3 drafts of something and it's lots of fun, but then I'll get distracted and the next thing I know, that project is history. Long forgotten. Buried deep in my computer files.Do I only write poetry? No! If you have a sibling or cousin who is in 3rd or 4th grade, please recommend my middle grade novel ME AND ROLLY MALOO. It's about peer pressure and cheating on a test and hopefully will start a lot of interesting conversations.
Thank you my sister is actually ten years old and I will definitely recommend your book to her. The answers that you gave me are so very appreciated and it is nice to talk to you about your own work. All of the questions I have were answered and I can rest easy now. :)Post By NoZo
I have a few questions. What are some of your favorite genre's to write about? Do you remember how you felt when you moved to the United States? Where did you come up with the inspiration for writing suitcase of seaweed? Also thank you so much for this blog and everything it's really been fun! It's been great getting to be able to talk to you!
Maha: My favorite genre is poetry because anything goes. You can write with zero punctuation and made-up words if you want, and maybe you'll even become as famous as ee cummings or Edward Lear.Favorite subjects: "growing up," everyday experiences and memories, feelingsInspiration for A Suitcase of Seaweed: mainly childhood experiences and memories plus observations made as an adult (observing my everyday world while I wrote the poems in the book)
Re moving to the U.S.: I was born here. Please see my Jeremy Lin post.
Thanks! I really like writing poetry to because of those reasons too. I like how poetry flows and like you said "anything goes!" It has been so nice to be able to talk to you over this blog, thank you so much!
A few questions I have...I was also wondering about the recipe, but I seems to have been answered in several places.Are there any poems that felt particularly forced, or unlike you?Are there any poems that felt more natural, came to you easily, or that you connected too in particular?Do you have a favorite book of poetry by another author? A favorite book of prose?(Post Edit: I Just noticed the side bar with other favorite poetry books, but do you have a single favorite?)
Scott: One poem (of my own) that I have a special connection to is "GongGong and Susie." When I perform this poem, written in my grandfather's "voice" and retelling a story he told many times, I feel that he is alive again (for the 30 seconds it takes to perform the poem). Favorite books by other authors: as you noticed, I do have a list of my favorites in the side bar. A single favorite would have to be Myra Cohn Livingston's THERE WAS A PLACE (and particularly the title poem from that book), since hearing Myra perform that poem was a powerful moment for me, one where I said to myself, "I know I can learn a lot from that woman." Myra later became my mentor, sold my first book for me, and I will always be grateful to her. Unfortunately that book is out of print (books die--and quickly, nowadays); you can find it at a library, though, or request it through interlibrary loan.
Just a few questions :)Do you remember the first poem you ever wrote? And what was it about?What was the first poem you wrote in "Suitcase of Seaweed?"-Amy
Sorry--I don't remember!
In one of your poems, you mentioned how you wanted to be an artist when you grew up, only to have your grandfather reject the idea completely, wanting you to become an accountant or lawyer.I was wondering if when you wanted to be an artist, did that develop into wanting to be a poet, or did that come later?Jonah Weinbaum
I never considered being a poet until I actually became one. If you'd asked me in 8th grade how I felt about poetry, I would've said I hated it! (Really, though, in fairness to poetry, I didn't know enough about the subject to hate it; what I hated was poetry HOMEWORK.)But I loved drawing when I was a child, drawing and designing clothes. One day soon (now that my son is in college and I have slightly more time), I think I want to tackle an art project (for an illustrated book).
What specifically inspired you to write this book of poetry? Was is your relatives, your heritage, or where you have lived during your life.Also, do you have any tips on writing poetry? I like poetry but im not very good at writing it unless i take like 1 or 2 hours to write just one poem.By Riley Schmidt
All of the above inspired this book of poems.Writing tips: I might spend an hour on a poem, too--just an hour divided up into ten 6-minute drafts, spread out over 6 months! Most published poets write several drafts of a poem (with a handful of major revisions and then lots of tinkering). Sounds like you're a true poet to me!
I have a couple questions. Did the bond you had with your grandfather influence you to become a lawyer, or was it something you had in mind? Was the poem "When I Grow Up" a real talk you had with your grandfather? Did it influence you? And besides the fact that "anything goes in poetry" as you mentioned before, is there anything else that lead you to to be a poet. Do you prefer less words with big statements? Have you tried different styles of writing? And what last thing because my mom was a lawyer. Do you miss being a lawyer? Why do you think you said it made you "meaner"?
Those are not easy questions--would take me a week to answer them properly.Here are some short answers: "When I Grow Up" was similar to a real talk I had with my grandfather. The "eat one chicken, work all year" phrase was something that stuck with me because it was so visual. Not just "we were poor," but showing how poor they were. Re poetry: the greatest influence was hearing the poet Myra Cohn Livingston speak at a one-day workshop on writing for children. I'd wanted to write picture books before that, but never would've considered poetry but for Myra."Less words": I do love the shortness of poems.Different styles of writing: Even among my published poetry books there is quite a variety in writing styles, and this is something I'm proud of. ME AND ROLLY MALOO is quite different from THE DUMPSTER DIVER which is quite different from KNOCK ON WOOD which is quite different from GOOD LUCK GOLD. And there is even greater variety among my many unpublished pieces of writing--it's fun to experiment with voice.Lawyering: I miss the lunches, extravagant lunches on an expense account. For some reason, expensive food often tastes better when you know that someone else is paying!Meanness: There are many lawyers who do good pro-social work, who advocate for change. I wasn't one of them. I did a lot of labor and employment work where I had to fire or suspend people, and often felt like a hired gun. Also, most legal work involves conflict, even if it's just negotiating a contract. I really don't like arguing. Handling my own contracts is my least-favorite part of being an author (and I could farm this task out to an agent, but that's another long story).
I really enjoyed reading your answers, they were very interesting. I prefer less words with big meaning too, and "When I Grow Up" was something I could really relate too. It was also fun learning about lawyering from another perspective!
I have a question about the poem "Gong-Gong and Susie", after you gave him the dog, did you realize that he wanted to spend more time with you rather than with the dog or did it take a while to notice that? My second question is related to "Marathon"- did you ever run it as you said you would (in the poem)?By: Ilya Yudkovsky
Ilya: Susie (an American Eskimo dog) was his favorite--he loved spending almost all his time with her! About the marathon: no, turns out I haven't done that...I can barely run a mile!
Did you love Susie too or was it like when someone you love, loves someone else, who you dislike? I, personally, have never had a pet and often wonder what it is like. Did you have a pet as a child or was it a new experience having an animal in the house? About the poem "Marathon" I think that I definitely find myself rooting for Asians (being one) when I am watching a competition. I think this is because I just feel a cultural connection with them.By: Ilya Yudkovsky
I was lucky to have pets in the house from a young age. They can be maddening (and so much work) but a source of unconditional love and joy. A lot of people can't stand the responsibility (or mess) of pets, though, including one of my best friends. I tried to convince her again today to get a dog...but no luck!
What inspired you to write poetry about yourself? How did you decide to write about the different parts of yourself and your cultural backgrounds? Do you have any special things you do to prepare yourself to write, or do thoughts or poems just come to at random times?
I was reluctant to write about myself and my family when I first started writing; I thought I should write something more exciting, funny, and outlandish. My mentor Myra Cohn Livingston convinced me that my memories of family stories and everyday experiences were worthy subjects--and I'm glad I followed her advice! I'm sometimes "inspired" to write, but usually I just sit and get started. I force myself to tackle a task or explore a memory, much the same way that most of you probably approach homework. Getting going is the hard part; once I've been writing for a half-hour, though, it's easy to keep it flowing.
I agree. Sometimes finding the right topic to write a poem about is very hard to do, especially a poem that rhymes. I remember once in fifth grade, a classmate wrote a poem about how hard it is to write poems. I think when you write about something that really happened to you, then when someone else who has experienced the same thing reads your poem, they can really relate to the poem and the memory of the experience.
How did you incorporate deeper meanings in such simple and easy to understand poems? The poems themselves are simple, but when you look at them from a different viewpoint, they become much more complex. I also want to know how you decide which meanings to show in these poems. Are your poems always personal, or do you sometimes write about things of general interest?
Funny about "meanings": I think sometimes that my readers see things in poems (symbolism, etc.) that I never intended! A lot of my poems are incredibly simple retellings of memories and personal experiences. But not everything is autobiographical; some of my writing comes from things I've observed or heard in other people, and some of my writing is research-based.
I think that everyone definitely sees a poem in their own way. That's what I like about poetry, there is no specific meaning that is supposed to be perceived from reading. The meaning can be anything. One time in school our class all read a poem. After we were done we shared our ideas about the meaning of the poem. Everyone's ideas were completely different!