Friday, April 3, 2015

7 Things I Betcha Don't Know about Paul B. Janeczko

Howdy, Campers!  Be sure to enter our Paul Janeczko BRAND NEW Poetry Book Give-Away (details below).

Happy Poetry Friday (today's host link is below)...and happy
In honor of USA's annual poetry jubilee, I've invited someone to climb into the TeachingAuthors' treehouse who looks a lot like my co-op roommates in the 1970's.

Who? Why Paul B. Janeczko, that's who--magnificent poet, poet herder, anthologist, author, speaker, teacher, compassionate human and all-round cool guy. (Does this sound a little too fan-girl-ish? Full disclosure: my poems appear in five of Paul's anthologies.) Here's a previous TeachingAuthors post about his beautiful, multi-star-reviewed collection illustrated by Melissa Sweet, FIREFLY JULY--a Year of Very Short Poems.  (And here are all the TA posts which include the tag "Janeczko".) 

Years ago, I was invited to shadow Paul when he visited schools in Southern California.  Paul's a masterful and charismatic teacher, and he spreads poetry like Johnny Appleseed spread his you-know-whats. Paul's collections of poetry and his anthologies make poetry enjoyable and do-able. 

Paul B. Janeczko and April Halprin Wayland 
ha ha ha

Howdy, Paul! How did you become interested in writing?
I got interested in writing when I was a 4th or 5th grader. Not by writing poems or stories, but by writing postcards and sending away for free stuff. I’d see these little ads in my mother’s Better Homes and Gardens: “Send a postcard for a free sample of tarnish remover.” I had to have it! I had nothing that was tarnished or would ever be tarnished, but I had to have it.  It was the first time that I really wrote for an audience. And I knew I had an audience: I’d send off a postcard and get a free packet of zucchini seeds.

From postcards to post did you officially become a TeachingAuthor? That is, tell us how you went from being an author to being a speaker/teacher in schools, etc, if this was your trajectory.
Actually, for me in was more of a coming back to where I started. I started out as a high school English teacher. Did that for 22 years. During that time, I published 8-10 books, but I decided that I’d like to have more time to write. So, when my daughter, Emma, was born in 1990, I became a mostly-stay-at-home parent. Emma was with me a couple of days week and in child care the other days, and that’s when I did my writing and started doing author visits. So, in a lot of ways, it was a very easy transition for me.

I've seen the map, Paul--you're been to a gazillion schools.  What have you noticed as you visit schools is a common problem students have these days? 
One of the main problems that I see is not so much a “student problem” as a “system problem,” and that is that most schools to not give writing the time it needs to have a chance to be good. The time pressure on teachers is enormous, notably when it comes to “teaching for the test.” So, teachers are, first of all, losing time to the actually testing, but they are also losing time prepping their kids for things that they do not necessarily believe in.

Can you hear our readers murmuring in agreement? But--how can you address this?
Because it is a systemic problem, there’s little I can do about as a visiting writer. However, I make it clear to the teachers and the students that our goal in the workshop is not to create a finished poem. That will take time. What I do, however, is usually get the kids going on a few different poems and get the teacher to agree that he/she will spend class time working on those drafts.

You say you get the kids writing poems.  Would you share one of your favorite writing exercises with our readers?
More an approach than an exercise: I like to use poetry models when I work with young readers. I try to show them poems by published poets, but also poems by their peers. When you’re in the 4th grade, Emily Dickinson or Robert Frost may not impress you, but reading a poem by another 4th grader may be just the motivation that you need. And before I turn the kids loose to write, we read the poem, and I give them the chance to talk about what they notice in it. Then we do something a group rough draft so they can begin to see the writing process in action. Then it’s time for them to write. (Readers, Paul has agreed to elaborate on this when he comes back here on Wednesday, 4/8/15 and gives us step-by-step instructions.)

You're so productive, Paul! What else is on the horizon for you?
I am finishing an anthology of how-to poems, which will be published in the spring of 2016, with the illustrator to be determined. And I have 3 non-fiction books lined up for the next three years. Little Lies: Deception in War will be a fall 2016 book. The two after that will be Phantom Army: The Ghost Soldiers of World War II and Heist: Art Thieves and the Detectives Who Tracked them Down. And I’m mulling a book of my own poems. Nothing definite on that project.

WOWEE Kazowee, Paul!  

Since it's Poetry Friday in the Kidlitosphere, would you share with our readers?

This is poem that I wrote for a book of poems and illustrations that marked the 200th anniversary of the White House.

Mary Todd Lincoln Speaks of Her Son’s Death, 1862
by Paul B. Janeczko

When Willie died of the fever
Abraham spoke the words
that I could not:
“My boy is gone.
He is actually gone.”

The word was a thunder clap
deafening me to my wails
as I folded over his body
already growing cold.

The word was a curtain
coming down on 11 years,
hiding toy soldiers,
circus animals,
and his beloved train.

The word was poison
but poison that would not kill
only gag me with its bitterness
as I choked on a prayer for my death.

Abraham spoke the words
that I could not:
“My boy is gone.
He is actually gone.”
And I am left 
with grief 
when spoken
shatters like my heart.

poem © Paul B. Janeczko 2015 ~ all rights reserved

Incredibly haunting, Paul. Thank you so much for climbing up to our treehouse today!
And readers: remember, we're in for TWO treats:
(1) Enter via the Rafflecopter widget below to win an autographed copy of Paul's newest anthology, his (gasp!) 50th book, Death of a Hat, illustrated by Chris Raschka.  You can enter between now and 4/22/15 (which just happens to be TeachingAuthors' 6th Blogiversary...woo-woo!)

a Rafflecopter giveaway (2) Paul is coming back this Wednesday to this very blog to explain how he teaches on his poetry writing exercise.  Thank you, Paul!

(P.S: Every April I post original poems. This year's theme is PPP--Previously Published Poems and you can find them here.) 

Thank you, Amy of the Poem Farm for Hosting Poetry Friday today!

posted poetically by April Halprin Wayland and Monkey--who offered lots of ideas today...


JoAnn Early Macken said...

Thank you for stopping by, Paul! We met back in 2002 or so when I was a graduate assistant during your Poetry Panel at Vermont College. Our co-Teaching Author Carmela Martino was also there. We're all happy to have you visit and looking forward to your Wednesday Writing Workout!

Patricia Toht said...

So nice to meet you, Paul. FIREFLY JULY was one of my favorite books of last year! I can't wait to hear more about how you work with students.

Linda B said...

I don't have them all, but I have quite a few of Paul's wonderful books. I've seen the reviews for this new one-sounds lovely. Thanks for the possibility of winning an autographed copy, April!

Unknown said...

Thanks for a very interesting post. I'm looking forward to seeing your process on April 8th. And thank you for the chance to win a copy of your book!

Unknown said...

Thanks for a very interesting post. I'm looking forward to seeing your process on April 8th. And thank you for the chance to win a copy of your book!

elsie said...

I love Paul's books. Looking forward to Wednesday.

Amy LV said...

What a great post - Paul is a wonder. Thank you for sharing this window into his mind - I love imagining little Paul sending off those postcards. And his words about schools - so true. Thank you, Paul, for speaking out. Happy Poetry Month, all! xo, a.

Carol said...

Last night I came across Paul's new book at the Tattered Cover. I almost bought it, but then I remembered I have a $300 auto repair bill to pay this month. Maybe next month! I've been a Janezcko fan for years. It's fun to read more about him here!

Rosi said...

Thanks for an interesting post. I love the Mary Todd Lincoln poem. It is amazing.

Sandra Stiles said...

Looking forward to reading more poetry since I start my Poetry unit this next week. Yay. The highlight of my year.

Renee LaTulippe said...

Marvelous interview! And I sent all those postcards too - because who doesn't like to get free stuff?

It was a pleasure to learn more about Paul, and I am really looking forward to his how-to post on Wednesday. Thank you, April!

GatheringBooks said...

Paul Janeczko is one of the poets I often recommend to my teacher students. I loved his Firefly July, A Kick in the Head, Foot in the Mouth and Requiem: Poems of the Terezin Ghetto - so powerful, that.
Thank you for sharing this interview. Made me admire him even more.

Damon Dean said...

Thanks for sharing your poetry Paul. I love Firefly July, and gave it as a prize during last year's March Madness competition. (It was hard to mail it away! I wanted to keep it for myself.)

Michelle Heidenrich Barnes said...

April, thank you for this interview with Paul Janeczko – a rare treat, indeed! Paul, thank you for sharing a bit of yourself with us and for the beautiful and heart wrenching "Mary Todd..." as well.

FIREFLY JULY is an all-time favorite of mine, and your collaborative collections with Chris Raschka are also go-tos for me. Damon mentioned donating FIREFLY JULY for March Madness last year; I donated A POKE IN THE I. :) So looking forward to DEATH OF A HAT!

April Halprin Wayland said...

Thank you all for coming by and commenting from me and from Paul, who is in the middle of a bazillion school visits in a record number of days and hasn't yet come up for air.

Always Be Dancing said...

I am a teaching artist. I bring my love of flamenco, yoga and mindfulness into classrooms and community settings. I love reading this blog. It is so full of insight and I have made great connections with my teachings.

Jane Heitman Healy said...

I've been a fan of Paul's forever, it seems, and share his books with anyone who will listen. Thanks for this interview!

Diane Mayr said...

Somewhere in a pile of important "stuff," I have a Paul Janeczko baseball card! One of these days, I'll unearth it, either that, or some college archeology class, 100 years in the future, will!

April Halprin Wayland said...

Dear Always Be Dancing,

Thank you for your kind comments--we're so glad you find value in our words and interviews!

Jane ~ thanks for stopping by!

And Diane--wowee--better frame that card when you find it!

Heidi Mordhorst said...

I'm just finding this post and glad to have a better sense of who Paul is--he has seemed (probably unreasonably) to be a mysterious character to me. And yet it was his collection "Stone Bench in an Empty Park" that I studied and studied in 2000 when I began to consider actually writing a poetry collection, and which inspired the illustration approach to "Squeeze."

Thanks, April, for this lively interview, and for the giveaway! Congratulations to Paul on his 50th book, too!

Buffy Silverman said...

Just got The Death of the Hat from my library--I'm thoroughly enjoying it. Thanks for this wonderful post!

Laura H said...

I would love to win this for my husband's high school English class!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for a great post Paul. And of course thank you for the chance to win your book.

michelle kogan said...

Thanks April for your post with Paul B. Janeczko! I enjoyed hearing that his focus when at schools is on getting the students to write the poetry and completing it later. A valuable lesson for us all! His poetry collection "The Death of the Hat, looks very intriguing, along with Chris Raschka's Art!