April 12, 2016

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

30 Habits of Highly Effective Poets #17: Charles Waters on a Training Regimen

Children's poet Charles Waters and I have a lot in common. We are both from a small New Jersey town in the shadow of New York City -- Teaneck.

We also both believe in the importance of regular writing time. Two hours a day, no matter what. For me, it's 8 to 10 AM, as soon as my kids have left for school. That's when my brain is freshest. It's no surprise that Charles compares this routine to training as an athlete. Writing every day is like boot camp for your poems. The more often you drill, the stronger your work becomes.

Here's Charles:

Well I go about things in a pretty regimented way. Try to get at least two hours in a day. Maybe more, never less. Like an athlete, you need to practice to develop the skills or else you're weakening yourself. 

I also read children's poetry every single day. Anthologies especially rock! Get a taste of all the children's poets, living or not.
You'll find Charles' work in this anthology.
One of the most interesting things I find about writing is that after the two hours are up and you finish whatever the day’s work was, just play around for fun!  I’ve gotten some solid children’s poems out of that. The pump is already primed -- so see what else you have up your sleeve.  Most of what I come up with afterward are short children’s poems; tight, right and to the point.

Good writing is being at your most courageous. As I’ve said before, believe in yourself because your Uncle Charles believes in you! 

We can’t seem to get along
One’s too weak and one’s too strong,
We don’t know who is which –
It always seems to switch.

Grandma Betty
Showers me
With multi-colored
Gossamer streams
That looks like
   Paper spaghetti …

Now I'm in the mood for cake!

This bucket needs a hand
To fill it up with sand
Or if you flip it over
You’ve got a one man band.

© Charles Waters 2012 all rights reserved.

Charles Waters poems have appeared in THE ARROW FINDS ITS MARK: FOUND POEMS edited by Georgia Heard  and will appear in the upcoming anthologies AMAZING PLACES edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC BOOK OF ANIMAL POETRY edited by J. Patrick Lewis (Children’s Poet Laureate of the United States), and AND THE CROWD GOES WILD: A GLOBAL GATHERING OF SPORTS POEMS edited by Carol-Ann Hoyte and Heidi Bee Roemer.

He performs his one man show POETRY TIME WITH UNCLE CHARLES to elementary and middle school audiences.

Please check out his website at

Thanks for the reminder to be courageous, Charles. It's especially important in our poems for children. Kids connect with poems that describe the experience of childhood in an authentic way. It comforts them to know, even when I am a grown-up, I'm going to remember how it felt to be me -- a kid -- right now!

It's Tuesday, so let's do a writing prompt. Working from Charles' simile that poets are a kind of athlete, write about a word workout.

In this poem, think about: 
  • What are you lifting instead of weights? Maybe you could start by pressing a short line and work your way up to a line (can you see the barbell?) that's longer, heavier.
Olympic weightlifter Liana Lambert (Australia).
  • What are you doing to get the heart pumping?
  • How about the abs? Some crunchy onomatopoeia words will get that six-pack of syllables into shape.
  • What music do you listen to during your word workout?


Amy LV said...

Charles is such a positive force in this community. I really want him to be my uncle! Thank you for sharing this post - the reminder of consistency (and play!) is so important. a.

Renee LaTulippe said...

Thanks so much for this! Charles will be on my blog tomorrow, so I'll be linking to this interview as well.

I've only recently met Charles, but he has been such a joy to work with, and has brought me many smiles through the charming poetry video he did for No Water River and his generous spirit. I'm looking forward to getting to know him and his work much better! :)

Robyn Hood Black said...

Thanks for another great feature, Laura and Charles! A pep talk for writers' workouts.

Charles Waters said...

I can't thank you enough Laura for having me here at Author Amok. What a neat blog you have!!!!!