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.
9/29/2022 05:01:44 pm
Delightful interview! I’d love to read this book. I loved how she showed an evolution of a poem. You asked great questions. It’s so good to see a poet published!!
9/29/2022 09:20:48 pm
I was just working at my used bookstore today & we do carry some 'new' books. Grandparents came in to find books tor their grandchildren & asked for math-related ones. I would have loved to have had this one, with poetry, too, to offer. Thanks, Jone, for the interview, & Betsy for what looks like a special book! (That's great about the separate category for novels in verse!)
9/30/2022 02:54:22 am
Jone! I do so love your interviews. I'm clapping here and whispering Encore! Encore! (it's o'dark thirty and my house is sleeping except me). What a great final question! I love a peek at the process. For sure, that's my favorite part of the interview. My daughter is studying in London this semester...and losing socks in the laundry machine is one of her stories. LOL.
Tabatha A Yeatts
9/30/2022 04:05:03 am
Great interview! I love that Betsy collected math-in-unusual-places until she had enough for a collection. Also, seeing the draft and finished poem was illuminating. Thanks and congrats!
9/30/2022 05:47:00 am
Jone, thank you for this interview - I look forward to checking out these sassy math poems! Thanks also for the reminder to nominate for Cybils. Whee! xo
9/30/2022 09:28:50 am
Jone! I loved this interview and love how you introduce me to so many poets. And what a joy to journey with you at the Poet's Studio workshop!
9/30/2022 02:29:12 pm
Thank you for a great interview! I'll definitely be finding a copy of this to read-- it looks fabulous!
9/30/2022 02:34:26 pm
Great interview, Jone! I look forward to reading more of Betsy's poems.
10/1/2022 06:46:59 am
Wow! Jone, what a great score to be able to interview Betsy Franco! I have a book of math poems kicking around too, and it's so interesting to hear how different it is from Betsy's "sassy math" poems--where they came from and how the illustrations have contributed to their development. Most enjoyable!
10/2/2022 05:29:38 am
Jone, this interview post is so interesting. It deals with process, poetry, and humor all-in-one. I enjoyed reading about how a poem evolves. I think this book would make math so much more interesting to little children. My kindergarten granddaughter talks about math all the time and how much she loves it. By the way, my son and I were just talking about how socks seem to disappear in our machine also.
10/2/2022 05:40:08 am
Poetry and math--yes, please! I'll look for this new collection from Betsy, and I loved seeing her first/final draft! (I had a socks/dryer poem that didn't make it into my collection IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT. There's just something wondery about those socks, isn't there?)
10/3/2022 08:50:31 am
Thanks so much for this interview, Jone. I'm a big fan of Betsy Franco's work. I loved seeing the before/after of Washing Machine Magic. What a terrific question!
10/3/2022 07:43:29 pm
What a pleasure to sit in on this -- thank you!
10/5/2022 06:37:39 am
Oooh, I could have used this book back in my homeschooling days. :)
Comments are closed.
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.
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