The fabulous Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference is hosting Poetry Friday today. She's has some fun memes and a call for the holiday poetry swap. Squee.
During National Poetry Month, I connected with Anne Irza-Leggat from Candlewick about interviewing poems. I interviewed Sally Walker and Helen Frost as they had books coming out. Two more authors have books this fall. Today I am interviewing the fabulous Betsy Franco about her latest poetry collection, Counting in Dog Years and Other Sassy Math Poems, illustrated by Priscilla Tey. It's books birthday is October 11, 2022. (In time for a CYBILS Poetry nomination.)
JRM: You have written many math poetry books. What draws you to writing poetry about math? Were you a good math student?
BF: I love to combine unexpected things, so why not poetry and math? Art, English, and math were my favorite subjects. To be honest, I had to ask a lot of questions to understand math, but I think that makes me better at presenting it in a playful way.
I always thought math was beautiful and surprising and funny in a way that most people didn’t
necessarily see. It started when my algebra teacher had us find all the math Lewis Carroll tucked into his Alice in Wonderland books. That opened my mind. I started seeing math everywhere. Obviously, my amazing illustrator, Priscilla Tey, feels the same way. She even
added hilarious “numbots” to the illustrations.
JRM: How did the idea of Counting in Dog Years and Other Sassy Math Poems come to you?
BF: Whenever I saw math in an unusual place— in my life, my sons’ lives, or in nature— I would
write a note about it on a scrap of paper and add it to a special folder. Finally the folder was
thick enough to create a collection. It actually took years.
JRM: What was the process in deciding the arc of the book and the sections?
BF: I wrote the poems first and then hoped I could make sense of them. Strangely, they fit pretty
evenly into categories. I wanted the book to follow a kid from home to inside the kid’s head to
school to summer—almost like the “seasons of a kid’s life.”
JRM: Were there poems that didn’t quite make the cut for the book?
BF: Yes, there were quite a few poems that didn’t make it in. My favorite was “Dividing Rivers and
Other Such Things.” Here’s the first verse.
A river’s divided by forks.
The country’s divided by states.
A poem is divided by verses,
A month is divided by dates.
We realized that this poem wasn’t as personal as some of the others, so it got bumped.
JRM: I feel like you have been a teacher or been in a lot of schools as some of these poems
are so relatable. “Lost and Found” really resonated as the school library I taught in had
“Lost and Found” week where all the clothes would be on the couther of the library for
students to look through.
BF: I’ve walked to the elementary school around the corner since my grown sons were little boys.
And I visit their high school regularly. I’m the constantly visiting author and everyone knows me.
I notice wild things, big and small, like the continuously growing lost and found. I was a teacher
in what seems like another life, too.
JRM: Would you have an early draft of a poem and then the final draft so readers can take a
peek at the process?
BF: Here is an early draft of one of the poems. I probably wrote 15 drafts to get to the final poem.
In this version, the rhythm is off and needed to be fixed—bigtime. I work on rhythm, rhyme,
humor, and language on my own, and my wonderful editor, Mary Lee Donovan, does a great job
of pointing out rough patches and giving me expansive ideas as well.
Washing Machine Magic
The washing machine';s a wizard.
I have scarcely any doubt.
I put in 16 dirty socks,
and 3/4 of them came out.
What happened to the other 4
in the midst of getting clean?
There must have been some magic trick
performed inside the machine.
If I change to wearing white socks,
I really won't have to care.
I won't be afraid to lose favorites,
and I'll always have a pair!
Below is the final poem. The second verse gives more possibilities for why the socks are
missing. And then, my extraordinarily-imaginative illustrator came up with another reason for
missing socks. The mice are dragging the socks into their hole! Her illustrations always
makes me laugh out loud.
Washing Machine Magic
The washing machine’s a trickster.
Or else it’s a hungry lout.
I put in sixteen dirty socks --
three-fourths of my socks came out.
What happened to the other four
that disappeared from sight?
A magic trick, a sleight of hand,
the washer’s appetite?
I think I’ll switch to all white socks.
Then I’ll never have a care.
If only half my socks come out,
I can always make a pair!
JRM: What is next for you?
BF: I write in many genres. One of my screenplays was just filmed, and I just completed
a graphic novel of the same story. I’m on to another screenplay/graphic novel combo
now, but I always have poetry collections in the back of my mind because poetry lets
me play around in a way that other genres don’t. So we’ll see what happens!
Thank you Betsy for sharing a peek into your process. If you want to get a really fun book to add to your collection, look no further than Counting in Dog Years and Other Sassy Math Poems.
ANNOUNCEMENT: The CYBILS Awards nomination period opens up on October 1, 2022. Show your favorite poetry book some love and nominate it. This year novels in verse will be in its own category separate from collections and anthologies. Whoo-hoo! For more info, look HERE.
All photos and poems in these blog posts are copyrighted to Jone Rush MacCulloch 2006- Present. Please do not copy, reprint or reproduce without written permission from me.
2022 Progressive Poem
1 April 1 Irene at Live Your Poem
2 Donna Smith at Mainly Write
3 Catherine Flynn at Reading to the Core
4 Mary Lee at A(nother) Year of Reading
5 Buffy at Buffy Silverman
6 Molly at Nix the Comfort Zone
7 Kim Johnson at Common Threads
8 Rose Cappelli at Imagine the Possibilities
9 Carol Varsalona at Beyond Literacy Link
10 Linda Baie at Teacher Dance
11 Janet Fagel at Reflections on the Teche
12 Jone at Jone Rush MacCulloch
13 Karin Fisher-Golton at Still in Awe
14 Denise Krebs at Dare to Care
15 Carol Labuzzetta @ The Apples in my Orchard
16 Heidi Mordhorst at My Juicy Little Universe
17 Ruth at There is no such thing as a God-forsaken Town
18 Patricia at Reverie
19 Christie at Wondering and Wandering
20 Robyn Hood Black at Life on the Deckle Edge
21 Kevin at Dog Trax
22 Margaret at Reflections on the Teche
23 Leigh Anne at A Day in the Life
24 Marcie Atkins
25 Marilyn Garcia
26 JoAnn Early Macken
27 Janice at Salt City Verse
28 Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference
29 Karen Eastlund at Karen’s Got a Blog
30 Michelle Kogan Painting, Illustration, & Writing