I grew up without a voice. I was shushed. “Don’t say that, it’s not nice.” “Don’t speak unless spoken to.” “Don’t rock the boat.” In my family, survival meant going underground.
When I first discovered my writing voice, years of unsaid things rushed up the pipe. Poems blew out of me. At first, the poems expressed things I had seen, heard and felt in my childhood. Things I had protected, waiting …
Lee Bennett Hopkins is one of my heroes. When I first discovered my voice, he heard it and encouraged me. He supported my voice by publishing my poems. I became one of his “takeout” poets.
Lee commissions poets to write original poems specifically for his collections. He sends out a theme to his “take out” poets. They, in turn, create poems and send them back. Lee chooses good work, and the ones which best fit his evolving collections.
One of the joyful-est assignments for me culminated in “The Tale of Fig Newton,” a poem published in Incredible Inventions ( Greenwillow Books, 2009 ). Lee asked me if I liked Fig Newtons? So happens, I love ’em. I had so much fun creating this poem. It starts: “Charles M. Roser/ an Ohio baker/back in 1891:/a mover, a shaker/a fine cookie maker—/whipped up a cookie/with cake and fig jam.”
Another assignment was to write about a “worst moment.” I sent him “My Brand New Bathing Suit,” which was published in Oh! No! Where Are My Pants? and other disasters (HarperCollins, 2005 )See “My Publications” on this blog to view the poem.
Lee Bennett Hopkins is a generous man, a kind man, and a friend. His contributions to the world have been huge—as a teacher, reading specialist and mentor, writer, anthologist–He has delivered gifts of poetry to countless children by publishing over 100 children’s poetry collections. He has changed lives. He did mine. http://www.leebennetthopkins.com/