Following Your Writing Dreams

An interview with
Charles Ghigna
 
Charles Ghigna (a.k.a. “Father Goose”) is a poet, children’s author, and nationally syndicated feature writer who helps promote the love of children’s literature by speaking at schools, colleges, conferences, and libraries throughout the United States and overseas. He is the author of more than thirty award-winning books of poetry for children and adults from Random House, Simon & Schuster, Disney/Hyperion, and Abrams. His work also appears in Rolling in the Aisles.

Q: Where do you live?

CG: I live in a little old 1927 red brick English Tudor house in Homewood, Alabama, with my wife, Debra, and our son, Chip—and our golden retriever, Honey. My office is in an upstairs attic room. When I look out the back window I see the tops of trees: elms, pines, and a sweet gum tree. My writing desk faces out that window.

Q: When and where were you born?

CG: I was born August 25, 1946, in Bayside, Long Island, New York. My family moved to Fort Myers, Florida when I was five years old. I grew up in Fort Myers and moved to Alabama in 1974 when I was twenty-eight years old.

Q: What did you do before you became a children’s author?

CG: I taught high school English at Cypress Lake Senior High School in Fort Myers, Florida from 1967–1973 and I taught creative writing at the Alabama School of Fine Arts in Birmingham from 1974–1993.

Q: How did you become a children’s author?

CG: I began writing poems when I was a kid. Some of my poems began appearing in literary magazines when I was in college. My first books of poems were published by university presses and small presses. I began writing poems for children about five years before my son was born. Some of those poems began appearing in children’s magazines such as Cricket, Spider, Ladybug, Highlights for Children, Ranger Rick, Humpty Dumpty, Jack and Jill, Children’s Digest, and other magazines. I signed a four-book contract with the Walt Disney Company’s Hyperion Books for Children in 1992. The rest, as they say, is history!

Q: Where do you get your ideas for your poems and what subjects do you like to write about?

CG: I get ideas everywhere! I like to write about my family, friends, memories, holidays, animals, nature—and the trees outside my window.

Q: How did you become Father Goose?

CG: Many years ago when I first started visiting schools to read my poems and talk about poetry, students and teachers started calling me Father Goose. The name stuck! One of my first books of poems for children is titled Tickle Day: Poems from Father Goose. Fathers tell me they like to read poems from that book to their children. Children tell me they like the name Father Goose because it is easier to say than Mr. Ghigna. It is also easier to spell!

Q: How many poems have you written?

CG: I have been writing poems all my life. Besides writing books of poems for children and adults, I also wrote a syndicated poetry feature that appeared daily in newspapers for many years. I have written more than 5,000 poems. That number continues to grow each week.

Q: How many books have you written and which one is your favorite?

CG: I have written more than thirty books. One of my favorites is Tickle Day: Poems from Father Goose. Most of the poems in that book were inspired by my son. Another one of my favorites is Christmas Is Coming! I wrote that book with my wife. Mice Are Nice and See the Yak Yak are also my favorites. They help very young readers learn how to read. Animal Trunk: Silly Poems to Read Aloud and Animal Tracks: Wild Poems to Read Aloud are two more of my favorites. Animal Trunk was illustrated by a famous Belgian artist, and Animal Tracks was illustrated by a famous British artist. RiddleRhymes is also one of my favorite books. Children ask me to read those poems out loud to them so they can guess the answers to the riddles. Good Cats/Bad Cats and Good Dogs/Bad Dogs are more of my favorites. They have funny illustrations by one of my favorite artists. My books are like my children. They are all my favorites!

Q: Do you like to visit schools and read your poems?

CG: Yes! I visit many schools and libraries each year. It is always fun to share poems with young people—and have them share poems with me! I have visited schools as far away as Alaska and South America. I always arrive back home more inspired than ever.

Q: What are your hobbies?

CG: Besides writing, reading, and traveling, my wife and I enjoy attending baseball, basketball, and football games—especially when our son is playing in them! I also like collecting things. I collect old letter openers, old baseball cards, and kaleidoscopes. I have a growing collection of geese miniatures that people send me for good luck. Some of them look like Father Goose. They are all over my office, on my desk, shelves, filing cabinets, and all over the top of my Victrola. At night when I turn out the lights and go downstairs they sneak around the room and visit each other. Sometimes I find them in different places other than where I left them. Sometimes I find more than I had the day before! Most of the time they are well behaved.

Q: Tell us something that most people don’t know about you.

CG: My great grandfather (maternal) was a full-blooded American Indian.

Q: What tips do you have for aspiring writers?

CG: Buy a notebook and write in it every day. Write about something that happened that day or about your special thoughts. Write just a few sentences about anything you want to write about. Write as though you’re talking to your best friend. Do that for two weeks and then stop—if you can. If you can’t, you’re a writer! And no one no matter how hard they may try, they will never be able to stop you from following your writing dreams. Enjoy those dreams. Follow them. Make new ones. Share them. Write of your passions, your loves, your fears, your joys. Find your writer’s voice by listening deep inside. It’s that little voice that says in a low, soft whisper, “Listen to this …”

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