When did you start writing?
I started as a teenager. I used to play the guitar and write songs but it
all sounded pretty dreadful, so one day I put the guitar away and the songs turned into poems. Also a poet from Liverpool, Roger McGough, was a great inspiration.
Why do you write poetry?
I love words and the way that a poem is a snapshot, giving you a brief
glimpse, but a glimpse that is often so powerful that it can stay with you
What sort of books do you write?
A lot of poetry, picture books, books for teachers, and some information books. I also edit anthologies of poetry, choosing poems by other poets along with some of my own.
How long does it take to write a poem?
Anything from five minutes to a year. Some poems arrive very quickly, others demand more encouragement before they reveal themselves.
How long does it take to write a book?
When I put together a poetry book I’m collecting together poems that I’ve written over the past few years, so the hard work has been done at that stage. If I’m writing a picture book, this can take from an hour or two, to three or four days. A book for teachers can take a couple of months and the story book that I’ve just completed took me about six months.
Where do ideas come from?
Ideas come from anywhere and everywhere. An idea is like a knock on the door. Ignore the knocking and whoever it is goes away. When an idea comes knocking, I can’t afford to ignore it. I grab it quickly before it can escape.
How do you write your poems?
I write on scraps of paper or record them on a Dictaphone. First drafts are written up in my poetry notebook, then transferred to the word processor where I can cut and paste and jigsaw the poem until I think it’s right.
What books have you written?
My most recent book of poetry is Olympic Poems which I co-wrote with Roger Stevens(Macmillan). For younger children there’s The Budgie Likes to Boogie – My collected Animal poems (Caboodle Books) There is also my ‘Best of…’ book Behind the Staffroom Door ((Macmillan) There are also picture books such as Trouble at the Dinosaur Cafe(Puffin) and The Snake Hotel (Macmillan), a number of poetry anthologies includingThe Secret Lives of Teachers, Aliens Stole My Underpants and The Works 2 (edited with Pie Corbett). A Poetry CD and book Walking With My Iguana featuring 40 poems by a number of poets with music (HodderWayland.) My first children’s story book is published by Caboodle and called Python.
Are you writing anything at the moment?
Yes. My latest projects include Dragons’ Wood – a picture book from Anova to be published in early 2013, two new collections of my own poetry, A Cat Called Elvis to be published by Macmillan in August 2012, and The Monster Sale which will be published in 2013. I’m also writing my childhood autobiography – my life up to the age of 14.
How many schools have you visited?
I’ve made over 2,500 school visits in the last 24years.
Wow! You must travel around a lot!
I do. I visit schools and libraries throughout the UK, everywhere from Scotland to the Channel Islands. I also visit International Schools in Europe and have recently presented my poetry and percussion show in Munich, Frankfurt, Brussels, Milan, Geneva, Zurich, Madrid, Cordoba, Paris, Belfast and Dublin.
Which is the best school that you’ve visited?
The school that I’m working in when I’m asked that question !
Have you got a family?
My wife, Anne, and my two daughters, Karen, who is a professional singer working on cruise ships at the moment, and Linette, who is a student at the London College of Fashion.
Have you got any pets?
A fox red labrador called Honey, a lop-eared rabbit called Miffy and five chickens – Boadicea – Warrior Chicken, Kate Moss, Marie Antoinette, Brigitte Bardot and Bertha
What soccer team do you support?
Tottenham, ever since the great days of the early Sixties when they won 3-1 in the 1961 Cup Final.