Do you have any advice on how to make the poem interesting or exciting
enough to hold the child's attention?
The "voice" of the poem is one of the
most important elements that is often overlooked. Instead of thinking about
the process as writing for children, think of it as writing from the child in
you. Let the child speak. If the child honestly and imaginatively speaks
the truth, other children will listen.
What is the most important thing, in your evaluation, that kids get from
your poems? Do you aim at certain goals, or do they "just happen" inherently
in your writing?
I hope my poems offer children the opportunity to explore
and celebrate the joys of childhood and nature, and to see some of the
wondrous ironies all around them. I also hope my humorous poems tickle the
funny bone of their imaginations. I usually do not sit down to write a poem
with a preconceived "goal." I like to enter each poem with a sense of
wonderment and discovery. My favorite poems are those that contain little
surprises that I did not know were there until I wrote them.
How did a serious poet like yourself decide to write for children? And,
was the transition a difficult one?
I first began writing poems for children
just before my son was born. It was an amazingly natural transition for me.
Most of my adult poems are written in free verse while most my poems for
children are written in traditional verse forms such as the ballad stanza and
rhymed couplets with set patterns of rhythm and meter throughout each poem.
I enjoy the lyrical lift those patterns provide my poems and the
challenge of using words my younger audiences enjoy. It is also a joy to
explore a subject through the eyes of a child, a technique inherent in poems
for any age.
What is your opinion on unpublished children's authors submitting
material to magazines that pay in copies only?
I do not know of any
children's magazines that do not pay their authors. However, I do know of a
number of adult magazines that pay only in contributors' copies. If you like
what you read in the magazine and would be proud to have your work appear in
it, that magazine may be just the right place to start.
How can I possibly stop writer's block from preventing me from writing?
I have been writing on a daily basis for more than 25 years and have yet to
experience writer's block. My guess is that it's more of an attitude than a
condition. I do know that it is difficult for me to write when I am
stressed. Take a walk, read, listen to music or soak in a bath for a while.
Perhaps that will get you going again. Till then, here's a little poem for
The path to inspiration starts
Beyond the trails we've known;
Each writer's block is not a rock,
But just a stepping stone.
I'm sure through your many writing achievements and numerous awards that
you certainly feel the acceptance and embrace of the public. When did you
first feel that embrace and acceptance, and how did it affect you?
felt that "embrace and acceptance" when a poem of mine was published in
Harper's magazine in September 1974. Before that poem was published, I knew
I would continue writing even if no one ever read my poems. I still believe
that today. The credibility and confidence that comes from publication are
frail and fleeting. The desire to get up and put words on the page or screen
every day comes not from what others say of your work, but from you and the
I've been scanning the Internet for advice for new children's writers. I
know that occasionally a publisher will have the author send a query letter
before submitting a manuscript, and that a cover letter should accompany the
manuscript when it is sent. But there is one item I cannot seem to locate
anywhere: where can one find a model for such query and cover letters?
After meticulously conforming to manuscript submission guidelines, I would
hate to have my work rejected for something as trivial as a bad cover letter.
Advice? Check THE WRITER'S DIGEST GUIDE TO MANUSCRIPT FORMATS published by
Writer's Digest Books. It contains models of query and cover letters, as
well as advice on how to prepare and present book manuscripts.
I have a question for you, well maybe two. I have heard it is very
difficult to break the barrier between writer and author, especially in
children's fiction books. What is the secret in becoming published? There
must be a way to cut the odds down a bit? Also what is so wrong with
multiple submissions? I am a first time writer with not much patience. I
have the urge to send my manuscript to as many publishers as I can afford to
buy stamps for. I don't want to be old and gray before my first book is
I'm not aware of any magic short-cuts to becoming a published author. Most
published authors have been writing for many years before their first
publication. My first published efforts
appeared in the children's magazines. I then used those tearsheets to
showcase my work to book publishers. Most publishers prefer that you do not
send out multiple submissions. Editors do not like to spend a good deal of
their time helping an author develop a manuscript, getting it approved by
their staff and their marketing department only to discover that the author
has already signed a contract with another publisher. "Patience is a virtue"
also applies to the writing profession. Have fun with your writing. Make it
the best you can. Send it out and begin working on your next manuscript.
Concentrate on your writing instead of the speed with which you may or may
not get a reply.
Of all the books you have written, which one is your favorite? Does your
son Chip enjoy your books and if so, which one is his favorite and what age
It has often been said that an author's books are like his/her
"children." It would be difficult for a parent to say which one of their
children they like the best. My eight-year-old son Chip tells me his
favorite book is TICKLE DAY: POEMS FROM FATHER GOOSE. I like that one too.
Which one is your favorite?
I like to write. I like to rhyme.
But it is hard to find the time.
I'd like to hear just what it took
For you to publish your first book.
My first children's book was published after writing every day for more than
twenty years. I used to be a full-time high school English teacher. Late in
the evening after I graded my students' essays and felt as though I couldn't
read another word, I would get out my journal and write -- every night. When
my first book was finally published my friends thought I had become an
overnight success. My family knew that was true. I was a twenty-year
What are you currently working on?
Besides writing Snickers every day for
my column (and building a treehouse for my son), I'm working on four new
books of verse for children, three Step-Into-Reading books, a collection of
poems for adults, and a novel/screenplay.
Is it harder to write rhymes than straight prose? Why or why not?
people tell me it's harder for them to write poetry than it is to write
prose. For me it's just the opposite. Working on my novel is one of the
most challenging, frustrating,
rewarding experiences I've had as a writer. Poetry, on the other hand, has
always been the more natural choice for me. From the time I first started
writing poems in school, poetry just seemed the perfect little package of
words I needed to express whatever I wanted to say. There's something about
the poem that lets us look a little closer at what we want to say, that
allows us to choose just the right words in just the right order, and to say
it all as succinctly as possible.
What is your writing routine?
I'm usually upstairs at my desk every
weekday from 9 am to 5 or 6 pm. Sometimes I also write late into the
evening. Of course I also take short breaks during the day to jog, eat
lunch, and play with my family. I also spend a lot of time looking out the
You can reach Father Goose at PaGoose@aol.com