Joyce Sidman: ‘Collect luscious words.’

By Maryann Yin Comment

Joyce SidmanHappy National Poetry Month! All throughout April, we will interview poets about working in this digital age. Recently, we spoke with award-winning writer Joyce Sidman.

Q: How did you publish your first book?
A: My first book, Just Us Two, was published by Millbrook Press. I had been keeping an eye on the SCBWI newsletter Marketing section (back when it came on paper in the mail!) and noticed that Millbrook was looking for trade books with a curriculum tie-in. I’d been working on a book of poems about animal fathers, and it seem a good fit. Amy Shields, a Millbrook editor at the time, thought so, too!

Q: Has the Internet changed the way you interact with readers?
A: I interact nationally with teachers, librarians–even editors and agents–much more online than I would ever have had the opportunity to do in person. My Facebook page allows me to share upcoming publications, events, and ways my books have been used with young readers, as well as celebrate my colleagues’ work. Although it takes a great deal of time and is often a distraction, I see it as a positive thing.

Q: What type of research process do you undergo for when you’re writing poems?
A: I write frequently on science topics and research them thoroughly. My primary sources are books, and I supplement those with current journal articles. Sometimes I will contact scientists directly. Even for What the Heart Knows, which has nothing to do with science, I researched ways people have used invocation poems through history. I love research; it always adds to the depth of my work.

Q: Do you have any tips for people who want to read and perform poetry in front of an audience?
A: I believe poems need to be read aloud, to appreciate the music in them. Don’t rush your reading–make sure you speak clearly and slowly. Try to identify beforehand the most powerful language in the poem and linger over it in your reading. Practice until you really believe the words you are speaking.

Q: What advice can you share for aspiring poets?
A: Read lots of different kinds of poetry and see what inspires you. Avoid rhyme; until you can really master its use, it just ties up your meaning in knots. Collect luscious words. Notice sensory details and use them in your poems. Explore different ways of writing–like these poetry challenges on my website:

Q: What’s next for you?
A: My next book will be out in fall 2016; it’s a collaboration with Caldecott-Winner Beth Krommes called Before Morning. I wrote a poem about wishing for a snow day and she has spun it into a wonderful story set in an old-fashioned city. The art is breath-taking!