Scott Rheuben: Ten Things About Poetry and Me

 

1.What is your earliest memory of poetry?

I didn’t particularly like poetry when I was younger, but I clearly remember studying ‘The Road not Taken’ by Robert Frost during High School and perhaps this was my first spark to ignite my imagination in trying poetic verse.

2.When and why did you begin to write poetry for children?

I began writing poetic verse as an outlet for my emotions and it all began when I was about 13. I liked Haiku’s and then writing poetic verse that rhymed became a fascination of mine, which has continued for more than twenty years. My original works were for teenagers with angst, or young adults and it wasn’t until my second book, Songs Without Sound II, Behind the Silence did I write for a wider audience.

Still, it wasn’t until a few years ago that I began writing children’s books and playing with rhyme in this genre. This was sparked by the response from some of the top Australian children’s authors who unanimously agreed that they just write for the sake of writing, rather than paying any attention to the book having a moral.  My recent publication Roses are Not Red is one of the few books that I have written that ironically does not rhyme.

3. Do you think writing for children is the same or different from writing for adults?

I think fundamentally there are some key elements within each, however the depth of language and complexity is completely different. Knowing your audience is extremely important in all forms of writing and the more you can write fearlessly, with child-like abandon, the better your work will be

4.If you could be any poet in history who would you choose to be and why?

Kahlil Kibran is the greatest poet I have ever read. To write with his insight such meaningful works would be the greatest joy. His views on life and his graceful expression of words is second to none.

5.Give five words to describe your poetry?

Deep, meaningful, emotional, positive, contemplative

6. Share a few lines from one of the poems you have written that you are most proud of?

‘We’re all looking for substance,

yet we treat it with abuse,

we’re all looking for an answer,

but simply finding an excuse’

7.What is your favourite form of poetry?

I have always loved writing and reading rhyming verse. The theoretical side of poetry never particularly interested me, but I have always had a fascination with constructing works that had good flow and rhyme. In that regard I have always loved writing song lyrics (hence the book titles Songs Without Sound I and II). Perhaps I should have learnt to sing or play guitar somewhere along the way, but now I am really enjoying producing creative works in the children’s genre.

8. Have any of your poems been illustrated? If so what did you think of the illustration? 

I did actually have a friend of mine, Lawson Royes do some illustrations for my first book, ‘Songs Without Sound’ and he did an amazing job with them. It was great to see his interpretation of the words and I was very lucky for his involvement.

For my recent children’s book, ‘Roses are Not Red’ I worked with another dear friend, Jo Cuskelly, who did an amazing job with illustrations and brought the book to life in helping it get shortlisted for the Speech Pathologists book of the year award in 2017.

 

9.Where is your best spot for writing poetry and why?

Inspiration can come anywhere, though usually when I am calm and I have made some time to just sit and think. In saying this, I have been able to produce whole poems in a flurry of inspiration, in-between appointments or various jobs.

10. What advice do you have for other poets wanting to write for children?

  • Be flexible in terms of which genre you want to write in. I was too rigid in just wanting to write song lyrics/poetic verse until I was inspired at a Writers Festival to give children’s books a go.
  • Be resilient. You’ve got to stick to it, even after hundreds of rejections from editors, family and friends who think that your writing is nothing special, and any other obstacles that stand in your way.
  • Lastly, you can only be resilient and keep going with it if you have a passion for writing. In your heart you must be willing to write for free (and also at a loss), be willing to make time outside of work and other commitments to simply keep your soul satisfied in the hope that you might be able to make a career out of writing (Inshallah, that I may be able to do this one day as well).

 

Scott Rheuben recently published Roses are Not Red  was just shortlisted for the Speech Pathology Book of the Year Awards 2017

The following brief biography of Scott, was published in the senior news and provides the context for the recent direction in his writing.

“Scott Rheuben, spent his school years at Goonellabah Public and Kadina High. After a few years away working and travelling, Scott resettled in Lismore.

He said he always wanted to be an author, but never thought he would be penning children’s books. Scott wrote poetic verse for nearly 25 years, which resulted in two publications, and then a fantasy adventure e-book. But he had a pivotal moment at the Byron Writers Festival a few years ago when an audience member asked a panel of children’s authors: “Do you write a story to convey a message or moral, or do you just write whatever comes out?”

The panel took no time at all in unanimously replying that they all wrote just whatever they feel like.  For some reason this troubled Scott. “I really felt that as a children’s author you have some responsibility for providing a strong moralistic message,” he said. “It seems like an opportunity that should not be wasted.”  (Source:  Senior News)

Scott E Rheuben 

 You can find out more about Scott on his webpage.

Wishing Scott well for those speech pathology awards!

 

Meeting Fellow Poet

It was lovely to meet Andrea in person at the CYA conference on the weekend.

We discussed how sharing our books is going at the Brisbane libraries and in general how our journey is going.

Andrea just beams with optimism and support for her fellow creatives and it was such a joy to meet her. It felt like meeting an old friend.

I love the energy and vitality of conferences and connecting with people who share a love of literature and reading.

You can find Andrea’s facebook page HERE.

Ten Things About Poetry and Me: Teena Raffa-Mulligan

1.What is your earliest memory of poetry?

Sitting beside my tiny English grandmother on the sofa or my bed, listening to her recite poems to me. I particularly recall a sad poem called Papa’s Letter about a little boy who writes a letter to his father in Heaven and is trampled by a horse when he goes out to post it. I’ve since learnt it was written in the nineteenth century by an anonymous poet. Another that lingers in my memory from that time is William Allingham’s The Fairies, a favourite of both Nana’s and Mum’s and one I eventually shared with my own children.

 

2.When and why did you begin to write poetry for children?

I always thought of myself as a writer, not a poet, though I did produce a number of rather serious contemplative poems as a young adult. It never occurred to me to write poems specifically for children until years later when my children were in primary school. I was writing mainly short stories, picture books and chapter books but occasionally I’d have an idea for a poem. I discovered The School Magazine in 1998 and began to write poetry with these wonderful publications in mind. Some of my published poems were initially written as rhyming picture books that didn’t sell in that format. I believe in being open to possibilities so I looked at alternative markets for them and struck lucky.

 

3. Do you think writing for children is the same or different from writing for adults?

The same skills as a writer are required for both. It’s a matter of keeping your audience in mind when choosing what to write and how to write it. However, a well-written poem for children will be appreciated equally by adults. We’ve all been children and can remember how we felt in our younger lives. When poets can draw on this child aspect of themselves, the poetry they produce will have universal appeal.

I know how much I enjoy reading the wonderful poems being submitted to the Australian Children’s Poetry website for posting as Poem of the Day and how often I think, ‘Wish I’d written that!’

  

4. If you could be any poet in history who would you choose to be and why?

John Masefield. His poem ‘Sea Fever’ has been a favourite of mine since childhood for its rhythm and imagery. It gives me goosebumps even now when I say it aloud. Cargoes, too, has a wonderful sense of rhythm.

 

  

5. Give five words to describe your poetry?

Child-friendly, whimsical, playful, amusing, simple

   

6.Share a few lines from one of the poems you have written that you are most proud of?

‘ Leaf Lace’ was inspired by the discovery that caterpillars had been making a feast of my geraniums. One night when I couldn’t sleep, I mentally sifted and sorted the words until they felt right.

 

Lace maker

Toils secretly

Tucked out of sight;

Creates ornate

Patterns

Until they’re just right.

Delicate, intricate

Handiwork done

Designer departs

To start

The next one.

Serrates, decorates

All my plants in this way.

I confess

I’m impressed

At this leaf lace display.

 

 7.What is your favourite form of poetry?

Rhyme. I get a lot of pleasure from playing with different rhyming patterns, so I might focus on rhymes within lines, or an AAB, CCB end line rhyme pattern. Whatever pattern I choose, it’s always a challenge to make the rhyme feel natural rather than contrived. I also enjoy reading well-written rhyming poems.

 

8, Have any of your poems been illustrated? If so what did you think of the illustration? 

All of the poems I’ve had accepted by The School Magazine (about 20 in all, several also reprinted) have been accompanied by wonderful illustrations. It’s always a thrill to receive my copies of the magazine in the mail and see how an artist has interpreted my words.

 

9. Where is your best spot for writing poetry and why?

I don’t have a best spot. Once I have an idea, I will mull it around in my head as I go about my daily activities, jotting down fragments or lines in a notebook as they come to me. Often I’ll mentally work on a poem if I’m awake during the night. When I’m a passenger in the car also seems to trigger my poetic impulses. Of course, the real work of refining poetry happens in my office when I start keying my random bits and pieces into the computer.  

 

10. What advice do you have for other poets wanting to write for children?

Read the work of contemporary poets to get a sense of what is being written and published now. Today’s children are incredibly savvy and they’re exposed to very different influences than earlier generations through technology and social media. Keep in mind who it is you are writing for, and don’t forget there is still a child in you who knows what it is to be a child. Write from that place.

You can find out more about Tina here

Website: www.teenaraffamulligan.com

FB author page: https://www.facebook.com/TeenaRaffaMulligan/

Twitter: @TraffaM

Blog: https://intheirownwrite.wordpress.com

Ten Things About Poetry and Me: Virginia Lowe

In 2016 Virginia was awarded the Leila St John Award for services to children’s literature in Victoria. Here she is with the medal.

1. What is your earliest memory of poetry?

My mother was a pianist. She was always at the piano, and I could sing 80 nursery rhymes when I was two (so my baby book says). Then there were the Zoe McHenry songs as well. All of these are rhymes, of course, so my first introduction to poetry was via song. The piano was a player piano, and we had rolls of most of the Gilbert and Sullivan operas as well. As soon as I could read, I could sing these too – and loved them.

I think we also had to  AA Milne When We were Very Young and Now We are Six, as I vaguely remember ‘Jonathan Jo had a mouth like an O’, ‘Christopher Robin is saying his prayers’ (oh no, it’s called ‘Vespers’ isn’t it?) and ‘Buckingham Palace’ – but I read them so often to my own children later, that it’s hard to think back through that to my own childhood experiences.

We learned quite a lot at school, for which I am very grateful – they stay with you for ever. I remember some of Walter de la Mare’s, Wordsworth’s ‘Daffodils’, and Shelley’s ‘The Cloud’ from elocution  in secondary school).

 

 

2. When and why did you begin to write poetry for children?

I have written poetry for as long as I can remember (at least since adolescence) and I am interested in children’s literature.  I have been a children’s and school librarian and lectured on children’s literature at uni, the book from my thesis is Stories, Pictures and Reality: Two Children Tell, and for the last twenty years I have run a manuscript assessment agency Create a Kids’ Book. Some of my poetry naturally turns out to be for children.

Published by Routledge in 2006.

 

3. Do you think writing for children is the same or different as writing for adults (explain)

Pretty much the same – it’s all about playing with words, and settling on just the right words in just the right order, whether it’s for adults or children. I do think children like rhyming poetry better. At least the poems I remember from school – the ones of Walter de la Mare for instance, all rhyme. And the favourites of my own children – by Ogden Nash, Lewis Carroll and Doug McLeod for instance – also rhyme.

 

4. If you could be any poet in history who would you choose to be and why?

Emily Dickinson. I wouldn’t really want her isolated life, but in her few pithy words she can sum up a situation and an idea – it leaves me breathless sometimes! Such a philosopher.

 


5. Give five words to describe your poetry?

Narrative, socially aware. Take a simple idea and elevate it by cleverly twisting it and putting it in a poem. (Just needed some extra words for this one!)
6. Share a few lines from one of the poems you have written that you are most proud of?

From ‘Baby Walking’

a baby, much too small

stands stolidly erect

then deliberately

loses balance

to step forwards

into his future

as a biped

 

7. What is your favourite form of poetry?

The really short pithy ones telling a philosophical or social truth – but I can rarely manage it myself.

 

8. Tell me about how you like to perform your poems?

Other people’s poems: I used to take a poetry basket into schools, with about 30 little objects in, and everyone in the class would have a chance to feel in and take something out and hold it while I recited/read ‘its’ poem.

I just read mine, when I have a chance.

 

9. Where is your best spot for writing poetry and why?

In my study, at my computer. I rarely know what I think till I see what I say (as EM Foster had it…)

Sometimes I also think of a few lines, or solutions to lyrical problems, while I am swimming laps in the pool – there is pen and paper in the car for me to write them down as soon as I get out.

 

10. What advice do you have for other poets wanting to write for children?

Keep writing poems. Some of them will turn out to be suitable for children, some not. And read, read, read. Get a name for yourself by publishing to the weekly prompts on Australian Children’s Poetry https://australianchildrenspoetry.com.au/

 

To find out more about Virginia

https://silverbirchpress.wordpress.com/?s=virginia+lowe.

https://australianchildrenspoetry.com.au/?s=virginia+lowe.

www.createakidsbook.com

 

(Interview by June Perkins, This blog is part of a series on Poets for Children, Ten Things About Poetry and Me.)

 

Ten Things About Poetry and Me: Nadine Cranenburgh

 

1.  What is your earliest memory of poetry?
The earliest poems I remember hearing were ‘Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace’ by AA Milne, and  The Swing, ‘Bed in Summer’ by Robert Louis Stevenson. I enjoyed imagining myself as a soldier in a beefeater hat and hearing words about playing in the park and going to bed in daylight as they were things I actually did! I must have been very young (under five) when my mum read them to me, and they were early influences when I began writing poetry for children.

 

2. When and why did you begin to write poetry for children?
When I had kids! At first I didn’t write anything down, I made verses up and recited them aloud to entertain and occupy my sons when they were babies and toddlers. Not surprisingly, the first poems I thought up were about them. When I was studying children’s writing around that time, and was asked to write a children’s poem – I was lucky to have one in my head ready to go. My poetry has gotten older as they have, although I still sometimes write for very young children.

 

3. Do you think writing for children is the same or different as writing for adults?
That’s a good question. I often write for children in a child’s voice, but not always. A recent poem I wrote in my own (adult) voice was picked up by a literary journal for children aged 12 and up.
I suppose a good poem should appeal to all readers, whatever their age. The most important thing is a clear theme, and carefully chosen words that paint vivid images, and that is the same for children and adults. The themes and language need to resonate with the age you are writing for, and that means the experiences and feelings described must fall within those children know or can imagine. But extending experience and language is something that poetry can do as well – so it is good to push the limits a bit.

 

4. If you could be any poet in history who would you choose to be and why?
Can I choose more than one? That’s a doozy of a question! Julia Donaldson has the most fun of any poet I’ve come across recently, and she’s still alive – so I pick her. Seriously though, Donaldson is consistently an amazing read-out-loud rhyming poet, who becomes more enjoyable with every read. And that’s important when reading to young kids over, and over and over.

 

 

5. Give five words to describe your poetry?
Playful, curious, quirky, real, musical

 

6. Share a few lines from one of the poems you have written that you are most proud of?

Wind whistles past my eardrums
a cyclone raging near
My toes are rockets blasting off
the bedsprings creak in fear

 

7. What is your favourite form of poetry?
Up until a couple of years ago, I would have said rhyming poetry, but I’ve been enjoying trying out other forms of poetry, including free verse, and syllabic poems including haiku and cinkqu.
I still love a good rhyme, they are super-satisfying to read out loud.

 

8. Have any of your poems been illustrated? If so what did you think of the illustration
Yes! I’ve had two poems illustrated. Both were organised by publishers, without any input from me and I’ve loved both of the interpretations. The illustrators have brought their own layers to the poems and made them so much more than I could have imagined.

9. Where is your best spot for writing poetry and why?
In my head, wherever inspiration strikes. Sometimes I need to scrabble for a scrap of paper or notebook and pen, so I try to keep them handy.

10. What advice do you have for other poets wanting to write for children?
Tap into your inner child, and listen to the children in your life – whether they are kids, grandkids or classmates. Some of my best lines come from listening to children. And read out loud, to make sure the poem sounds the way you want it to. If you are just starting out – read and re-read the children’s poets you love, and practice writing in their style until you find your own voice, it’s a great way of building your skills.

Nadine has poems and stories for children published online at Australian Children’s Poetry, and in Cricket Media magazines (US), Balloons Lit. Journal (Hong Kong), Comet and Alphabet SoupShe has a Diploma of Professional Writing and Editing from RMIT and is currently working on a hybrid graphic novel for young adults (Dark Room: Do Not Enter). In 2016-17 she won an ASA mentorship to develop her work.

 

To find out more about Nadine Cranenburgh

http://nadinecranenburgh.blogspot.com.au/

(Interview by June Perkins, This blog is part of a series on Poets for Children, Ten Things About Poetry and Me.)

Ten Things About Poetry and Me: Stephen Whiteside

Stephen Whiteside

 

1.What is your earliest memory of poetry?

My father read me the poetry of Banjo Paterson when I was a young child. I loved the bouncy rhythms, the clever rhymes, the rollicking stories, the colourful characters, the rich settings. In short, I loved everything about it!

Banjo Paterson

2.When and why did you begin to write poetry for children?

I began writing poetry in a consistent way from the age of 21. However, it was not until I reached my mid 30s that I began to write for poetry for children. I think I needed that distance from my own childhood. It feels like a great privilege, but also a great responsibility, to write for children. Adult minds are largely formed, but the minds of children are still very fluid, and can be influenced for better or worse by a great range of stimuli.

3.Do you think writing for children is the same or different as writing for adults (explain)

I love the challenge of writing a poem that can be enjoyed by both adults and children, but there are differences. When I write for children, I try to locate within myself that sense of what it was like to be a child. I then try to entertain that version of myself. It is harder than writing for adults, because I have to make a conscious move to step out of my ‘adult self’.

 4. If you could be any poet in history who would you choose to be and why?

The Australian poet C. J. Dennis.  He lived in a fascinating time and place – Melbourne in the lead-up to and during the First World War. The decades that followed, with the return of the soldiers, followed by the Great Depression, were also amazing. He was also very involved with the beginnings of the Australian film industry. Dennis was friends with Henry Lawson, George Robertson (of Angus & Robertson), David Low, Hal Gye, Bob Croll, the English Poet Laureate John Masefield, and many other fascinating characters.

CJ Dennis

 

5.Give five words to describe your poetry?

Fun. Clever. Witty. Unusual. Rhyming.

 

6.Share a few lines from one of the poems you have written that you are most proud of?

A flying saucer came last night.

It landed in the drive.

I warned the crew, “My dad parks there.

He’ll eat you all alive!”

(from “Dad Meets the Martians”)

 

7.What is your favourite form of poetry?

I love poetry with rhyme and rhythm.

 

8.  Tell me about how you like to perform your poems.

My poems are written to be read aloud. They are inspired by the old tradition of telling stories ‘around the campfire’. Ideally, they should be performed in a social setting, with an audience as well as a performer. I love to believe they could serve as a ‘social glue’, helping to bring people together.

 

9.Where is your best spot for writing poetry and why?

I often write my best poetry while I am walking, and I love to walk in the bush. Lying in bed at night is also a good place to write poetry.

 

10.What advice do you have for other poets wanting to write for children?

Only do it if you enjoy it. There is very little remuneration, so don’t write for the money. On the other hand, if you do truly love it, and you stick at it, the rewards can be very great indeed. Also, write often, take risks, and don’t worry about making mistakes. My favourite quote (paraphrased): “The most mistakes are made by the most successful people.”

 

To find out more about Stephen and his work visit these links

http://www.stephenwhiteside.com.au

http://www.walkerbooks.com.au/Books/The-Billy-that-Died-with-its-Boots-On-and-Other-Australian-Verse-9781922077431

https://australianchildrenspoetry.com.au/australianpoets/u-z-2/stephen-whiteside/

 

(Interviewed by June Perkins, Part of a series of blogs on Poets for Children, Ten Things About Poetry and Me.)