Tie your aprons on, people, because today we’re harvesting pasta and cooking up an Italian feast with a poet known for his boyish charm and devotion to carbohydrates!
Please give a saucy “Ciao!” to
A multitalented poet, novelist, and screenwriter, Greg has penned hundreds of poems for children, almost 200 of which you can find on his blog GottaBook. As a screenwriter with a focus on family fare, he has writing credits on films, TV movies, and animated scripts that include the feature film Little Big League, Disney Channel’s Alley Cats Strike, and ABC’s Picture Perfect (no relation to Kevin Bacon). And if that’s not enough, he’s working on a middle grade novel called The 14 Fabulous Fibs of Gregory K., to be published by Arthur A. Levine Books.
But there’s even more exciting news! Just in time for Poetry Month, Greg has published an e-book for Kindle of his children’s poems called The Late Bird. And just look at this wonderfully sunny cover with its quirky birdie, illustrated by Bonnie Adamson.
The collection features 54 poems — and if you’ve ever been to Greg’s blog to read his poetry, you know you’re in for an imaginative, silly, fun-filled adventure.
…and now, from sunny Los Angeles, here’s the man himself: Greg Pincus starring in…
“I Went to the Farm Where Spaghetti Is Grown”
I Went to the Farm Where Spaghetti Is Grown
I went to the farm where spaghetti is grown
In rows of long vines in a field of its own.
It grows in the shade of the great ziti trees,
Right next to the bushes that grow mac-and-cheese.
Lasagna plants bloom alongside manicotti,
And orchards of angel hair grow long and knotty.
I watched as a tractor plowed rows of linguini,
And cheered at the harvest of fresh tortellini.
I helped as the farmer cleared fields full of weeds
Then planted a crop using orzo as seeds.
We watered his land that was miles across
Then fertilized amply with meatballs and sauce.
When I left that farm where spaghetti is grown
In rows of long vines in a field of its own,
I thought it the greatest place under the sky…
‘Til I saw the farm where they only grow pie!
Greg: who are you, where are you, and how long have you been a rhyming fool? My name’s Greg Pincus, and I’m sitting at my desk. My desk is in Los Angeles, California, where I’ve been desking for the last 25 years or so. I’ve been rhyming for longer than that, though. In fact, I can’t remember when I didn’t love rhyming. My high school literary magazine has my first published rhymes, I believe – two comedic epitaphs! – so let’s say since at least 11th grade (though it was earlier, I tell ya!). I never really set out to write for kids specifically, but the stories I gravitate toward tend to be from a child’s perspective. So, when I broke into the movie biz, everything I did there was a “family film” in one way or another. Same is true for me with novels. Of course, that means that they should appeal to everyone, not just kids… and that’s kinda how I view my poetry, too. Some would argue that I’ve never entirely grown up, so I really can’t write for adults, and that might be true and be a better explanation. But I like to think it’s a choice!!
Now, I live in Italy, and so far these spaghetti farms have eluded me, though I have seen a couple of gnocchi shrubs. Are you Italian, or did the idea for this poem come to you while watching Lady and the Tramp?
Oh, Renée – it’s just down the road from you. Turn left at the place that looks like the thing in that picture that you barely remember, then follow the long and winding road past those buildings and the old trees. You can’t miss it! Truth be told, I’ve never actually been there. Instead, I was inspired to write the poem after a visit to the pie farm. I saw the rows of apple pie there, and I took poetic license to imagine what the spaghetti farm would be like.
This is actually how I get most of my inspiration – from things I see or phrases I hear. Then I enjoy pushing and twisting and molding those things until they become something else. I tend to see the world in a quirky way (actually, I think I see it in a normal way and the rest of the world is quirky), and I have always used poems as a way to share that. Or to get things out of my head, at least.
Your first poetry e-book, The Late Bird, just came out while the water was boiling. Are there more odes to pasta in that book? And how long did it take you to noodle your way to publication?
It wasn’t until early this year that I thought about putting together e-books of my poetry. Of course, I’ve been writing and posting poems at my blog since 2006. So you could either say it took a month or two, OR it took six years on the road to publication. I think both are accurate. For me with poems, publication wasn’t the goal: I write these poems because doing so makes me happy. Being able to publish my work (whether in an e-book or printed book) makes me happy, too. Mind you, I’d love the poems to find an audience, and to me, that’s the goal more than publication is or was. In the case of The Late Bird, I’m sorry to say there are no other pasta odes, but there are doughnuts, veggies, desserts of many ilks, and a totally edible brother among the fooderiffic poems.
Other than flinging meatballs into fields, what is your favorite part about being a children’s writer?
For me, the best thing of all is to be working and sharing with kids. I do Skype visits and in-school visits, too, and nothing beats the fun of the shared excitement that’s created. I always learn something myself, and I get the pleasure of seeing kids enjoying poetry — whether that’s writing it, listening to it, or reading it. I love going to conferences and hanging out (virtually or in person) with other poetry-loving compatriots, too, but the best part really is the classroom. Well, and not having to shave every day, but I think that goes without saying! I am hopeful that after the release of my novel (The 14 Fabulous Fibs of Gregory K.), I’ll still be able to avoid shaving… and also be able to get into even more classrooms for even more fun.
I’m not saying this is likely to happen, but what would you do if the moon hit your eye like a big pizza pie?
I’d go to the opthamologist pronto! That thing is BIG, ya know? Afterwards, I’d really analyze the experience to see if it was, in fact, like an eel. I’ve never understood why it would be like a moray, personally, but at least I’d get the chance to find out for sure.
Do you have formal training in writing poetry?
I actually have a creative writing degree and took poetry classes back in college. I don’t tend to draw on the formal training directly very often, but I’m very glad I have it.
What’s your best advice for kids who want to write poetry?
Write! Write some more! Read! Read some more! Write! Write! Write! Don’t spend your time in pursuit of perfection – you’ll learn and grow by writing, reading, and practicing. Oh, yeah… it’s supposed to be fun, too. Make sure it is!
What’s your best advice for poets who want to get their poetry published (other than “don’t bother”)?
If you want to be published, you have to submit your poetry, of course. I think starting with magazines is a good way to go. There are still a lot of places that will take individual poems, so you don’t have to have a whole manuscript ready, just excellent, polished pieces.
If you could recommend that children read one book of children’s poetry or one children’s poet in particular (besides your own/you), which or whom would it be? Why?
One??? Yikes. Well, I guess I’d recommend that they find a Lee Bennett Hopkins edited anthology on a subject that interests them. They’d read great poetry by different voices, and they’d be predisposed to liking it based on subject matter, too.
Finally, can we come visit you and peruse your wares? (Online, of course, not at your house! Oh, wait…you know where the pie farm is, too. Please provide your complete address and hire a limo.)
I am sorry to say that the pie farm is closed to visitors. I have gotten a lead about a cookie farm, however…. In the meantime, folks can always find me (and often other poets) at my blog, GottaBook. If I’m not there, I might be at my social media related blog, The Happy Accident, where I look at tools and ideas for writers and illustrators plying the social media waters. I’m also on Twitter a lot, particularly every Tuesday night for #kidlitchat. My e-book The Late Bird is up on Amazon, and it’ll be available elsewhere soon, too. And for all other inquiries – from school visits to random compliments or complaints to your tremendous desire to share winning lottery numbers in advance – folks can find my email address at any of my sites and get in touch directly. But not if they want directions to the pie farm. I’m just saying…
Every April for the past four years, Greg has hosted 30Poets/30Days featuring previously unpublished poems by some of the biggest names in children’s poetry. Poets from all four years are listed in his sidebar with links to the more than 100 poems they’ve collectively contributed to the event. What a great resource!