An interview with Amy VanDerwater - Forest Has a Song

Today debut author, Amy VanDerwater  has stopped by to chat and share her thoughts about her new book Forest Has a Song and a little bit about her writing life.  She has also shared some great ideas for celebrating National Poetry Month.  Thanks Amy for stopping by.

Amy, your book is beautifully illustrated and the poetry is very lovely. In Forest Has a Song, all of the poetry is focused on nature. Do you have other topics you like to write about? 

Thank you very much; I adore Robbin Gourley’s illustrations too! And yes…I often write about the small observations in my life such as hugging warm laundry fresh from the dryer or curling up with a dog. I love to write about play and questions and making things. Many of my poems explore the border of daily life and mystery – that in-between space. Many more are about connection; I am fascinated by how we are all connected to each other and to animals, to history and to plants, to art and to song.

I have recently had fun teaching children about writing cinquains. Is there a type of poetry that you most enjoy writing or teaching? 

I like to write just to see what happens. For me, a poem often grows from a snip of thought or wonder or joy or just good-sounding words. I’m a notebook keeper, and I enjoy discovering what arises from my entries. I do like reading others poems and studying their forms, experimenting with those forms on my own. I always think of it as like trying on dress up clothes and seeing what fits. When I teach, I most want children to understand that we write not to fit a template, but to illuminate what matters to us.

When did you decide you wanted to write poetry? Do you write a lot of poetry as a child?

I did write some poetry as a child. I kept diaries here and there (when I was really little, Mom took dictation for me), and I remember loving the play of words. In sixth grade I wrote a poem about mothers that ended like this:

Mothers always yell at you/ like make your bed or tie your shoe/or pick up that sock you left on the ground/but mothers make the world go round. 

I was very happy with that ending rhyme.

What is the question that you most frequently get asked by children who write to you?

I do not yet receive many letters from children…but maybe someday! - I (Alyson) suspect that will change now that your book is out. :-)

What suggestions would you give teachers for celebrating National Poetry Month? 

Just fall in love. Begin each day of April by reading a fantastic poem “just because”. Choose nature poems, funny poems, sad poems…poems that span human experience. Our currently-crazed testing culture is not supportive of reading poetry for poetry’s sake, but we are teaching children with great minds and souls, and these minds and souls need poems. Children are hungry for meaning, and there is meaning in poems. From this meaning-place, our students will want to write, and then revise, edit, and maybe share their own poetry. Don’t worry about making every poem fit an activity or a form; just fall in love with words, let poems wash over and through you.

I share some ideas for sharing and writing poems at my blog, The Poem Farm, and you can find links to many poetry-happenings in the Kidlitosphere this month at Jama Rattigan’s Alphabet Soup -  and at

I will also be the Author-in-Residence at ReaderKidZ for the month of April.

One thing I am always curious about is the writing habits and writing space of authors? Some work in their home or a writing space, and others in coffee shops. Some like music playing in the background and others have special snacks or beverages. Tell us a little bit about your writing space and habits.

I am not very organized, so alas, I have not made an organized or lovely writing space. I write anywhere: flopped in the grass, at a local bakery (background music is not good for me), stretched out on our living room floor, at my messy antique roll top desk. I do best when I’m in a rhythm, and this April, I’m getting back into writing rituals by drawing each day in my new sketchbook. I am hoping that poems will grow from these drawings which I will post daily at my blog.

If we were to get a peek at your “To-be-read” pile, what titles would be see in the stack of books?

Right now I am looking at Lewis Turco’s TURCO’S BOOK OF FORMS, a book that I’m not sure how I’ll attack. I’m finishing Ted Kooser’s THE POETRY HOME REPAIR MANUAL, am rereading THE TREE THAT TIME BUILT poems selected by Mary Ann Hoberman, and I am about to read MINDSET: THE NEW PSYCHOLOGY OF SUCCESS by Carol Dweck. I need a novel!

Cake by Luci Levere of Elm Street Bakery E. Aurora NY
Do you have any other future writing projects in the works? Anything you can share? 

READING TIME, a collection of reading poems, will be published by WordSong at some point in the future, and I do have my fingers crossed for a couple of other manuscripts too…but those are still secret.

Thank you very much for hosting me here at KidLitFrenzy, Alyson. It has been a pleasure. 

Some special links and resources from Amy...

The Poem Farm (my poem blog)

Sharing Our Notebooks (my notebooks blog) 

Information about FOREST HAS A SONG - click here

HMH's Spring Poetry Kit - Spring 2013 Poetry Kit on Scribd 

Illustrator of FOREST HAS A SONG - Robbin Gourley's website

Don't forget to enter to win a copy of A Forest Has a Song from Blueslip Media. a Rafflecopter giveaway