When my first children’s book was published in 1993, I was active in the local schools doing author visits. Since my book was a collection of children’s poetry, offering poetry workshops was a perfect fit. Not only did I enjoy working with students to inspire and teach them about poetry, it was also a great way to market my self-published book. It only took a year to sell my first printing of 5000 copies (those were the days before print-on-demand), and with the money recouped from my investment, I was able to go back to the printers for another batch of books.
Most teachers in elementary school—especially the middle grades—have a poetry unit during the year. It’s often in the spring since April is poetry month. But I have made author visits in almost every month of the school year.
Times have changed, but kids still love poetry. It’s much harder to get into the schools than it was 2 1/2 decades ago. Many public schools require background checks which must be issued annually. Many Christian schools do not have additional funds for author visits, but would love to have authors come for free. All that said, I do not do as many visits as I used to, but I still try to get into a few schools every year.
I’ve been going to an elementary school in Michigan for the past 15 years and recently made another visit. I am still using poems from my poetry book Cracks In the Sidewalk which has been reprinted and republished multiple times. And what I have learned is that when you write about everyday kinds of things that kids can relate to, the poems are timeless. I share poems about hiccups, bubble gum, and having butterflies in your stomach. Poems about friends and school and getting up on the wrong side of the bed do not go out of style.
But I now have a new group of students to share my poetry with—the home school groups! Last week I spent a couple of days working with eleven-year-old girls who were eager to create poems about their favorite topics. They wrote about horses and ice cream and beach days, and one girl wrote about her rooster and chickens she keep in the back yard.
Writing poetry is fun. Teach poetry is a joy. And seeing the smiles on the faces of children who worked hard to revise and polish their poems—priceless!
Here’s to putting the best words in the best order!