Many, many kids have asked me many, many questions, far too many to answer in a letter or during a school or library appearance. I’ve kept all those questions in an impossibly long list, and now, a few at a time, I’ll try to answer them on this website. I’ll start out with just a few questions and answers, and then, once or twice a week, add to them . . . in no particular order. If you wait long enough, Maybe I’ll even answer YOUR question.
By the way, not all of my answers are serious, especially when the question is a bit silly. It’s up to you to decide when I’m being silly. Here goes:
Q What’s the question you get asked most often?
A That’s easy . . . it’s, WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR IDEAS?
Q Is that a hard question to answer?
A Actually, it’s a very easy question to answer. I get my ideas EVERYWHERE! Everything I see or hear can become a poem. For example, when I as a kid, there was a worm-eating contest in my neighborhood. I remembered that contest many years later, and wrote a poem based on it called, “Willie Ate a Worm,” which appears in my book, ROLLING HARVEY DOWN THE HILL.
I also remember eating in a diner that had absolutely awful food. The food was so bad that even though I was practically starving, I couldn’t bear to eat it. That diner became “Gussie’s Greasy Spoon” in THE NEW KID ON THE BLOCK.
I’ll talk more about this sort of thing in the section of this site called HOW JACK THINKS AND WORKS.
Q Is there anything you’ve always wished you could achieve and haven’t accomplished yet?
A I’d love to sing our national anthem at a major league ballpark, especially Safeco Field in Seattle. Even better, I wish that I could do it at the World Series.
Q If you had three wishes, what would they be?
A I’ve long wanted to sing like Pavarotti, paint like Picasso, and dance like Fred Astaire. Unfortunately, I dance like Pavarotti, sing like Picasso, and paint like Fred Astaire. I guess nobody’s perfect.
Q Have you ever had any other kind of job besides writing poetry?
A Sure. I’ve been a cab driver, furniture mover, piano mover, carpenter, folksinger, photographer, actor, and a few dozen other things.
Q What advice do you have for young writers?
A READ! READ! READ! And WRITE! WRITE! WRITE! Keep a notebook or journal, and write down things you see, hear, and think about. Practice writing stories and poems. Keep your eyes and ears open, and PRACTICE! PRACTICE! PRACTICE!
Q When and how did you know you would be a writer?
A For as long as I can remember, I’ve enjoyed playing with language. However, I had no idea that I would become a writer until it happened. When I was in my early twenties, I wrote a few poems for my own amusement. A friend happened to see them, and urged me to take them to an editor at a major publisher. I was astonished when she told me that I was a natural poet and strongly encouraged me to keep writing. She published my first book, A GOPHER IN THE GARDEN, in 1967
Q Do you have a typical writing day?
A Absolutely not! I know that many writers have a strict schedule and feel that they have to write a certain amount of hours or a certain amount of pages every day. I’m not like that at all. Sometimes I go for weeks or even longer without writing a single poem. On the other hand, sometimes I can’t stop writing. That usually happens when I unexpectedly come up with an idea that I think is an especially good one. Then, I practically live in my pajamas and write around the clock, stopping only to eat.
On the other hand, I always have a notebook and pen with me, and jot down ideas almost every day.
Q Do you ever have “writer’s block,” and do you have any tricks to overcome it?
A I could build a house out of my writer’s blocks. Sometimes my writer’s block lasts a day or two, sometimes a month or so, and I’ve had a couple that lasted over a year.
When I do have writer’s block and I can’t seem to finish a book, I either move on to another manuscript, or do something completely different . . . like take a long walk, fool around with computer graphics, or go to a movie.
Q Do you have a favorite candy?
A “Favorite” questions are hard for me to answer . . . I like so many different things. When I was a kid (a long time ago), three of my favorite candy bars were Chunky, Milky Way, and 3 Musketeers . . . in no particular order. At the movies, I usually had Raisinets and Good & Plenty . . . and sometimes Goobers. Now I don’t eat much candy . . . but . . . I do love dark chocolate (the darker the better, up to a point), and eat some just about every day. On the other hand, I don’t particularly care for milk chocolate, and only eat it when dark chocolate isn’t available.
Q Is there anything you had when you were a little kid that you still have?
A I had to think and think and think about this pretty hard before I came up with an answer. I still have the Mickey Mouse watch that my parents gave me for my fifth (I think) birthday . . . and it still works. It originally had a bright red patent leather watchband, but that disintegrated decades ago. I replaced it with a black leather band. I only wear the watch once a year, on my birthday . . . if I remember to wear it at all. I also have some of the children’s books from way back then.
Q How long have you had your beard?
A I thought about saying that I had it about a foot long, but I’m sure that’s not what you meant. I started my beard on my twenty-fifth birthday (in 1965) and have had it ever since. Of course it was much darker (almost black), when I first grew it, but over the years gray hairs started showing up. Now it’s practically all white.
Q How big is your frog collection?
A I’ve never actually counted, but I can make an educated estimate. I believe that I have about three thousand frog items. I’ve posted a few photographs of a small part of the collection elsewhere on this site, and I hope to post many more. Keep looking.