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March 22, 2024
A sponsored Q&A with the author of 'Pet Poems Plus'

In this BookLife Reviews Editor’s Pick, “Petrie leaves no stone unturned, offering endless prompts that will transform poetry writing into an entertaining and worthwhile pastime for younger readers.” We spoke with Petrie about the inspiration for the Pet Poems Plus workbook and the best way to turn any kid into a poet.

Can you talk about the role poetry has played in your life?

For the last decade, I’ve been part of a poetry troupe called Typewriter Rodeo, writing spontaneous poems for strangers at events across the country, from the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., to Willie Nelson’s ranch in Austin. Those moments of connection are magical— people often respond with hugs and high-fives, and many still have their poems framed years later. One of my favorite things is when people think poetry isn’t for them and then they end up being poetry “converts”! As a Typewriter Rodeo founder, I’ve written more than 20,000 of those poems and done hundreds of school workshops.

What made you decide to create a companion workbook for Pet Poems?

It originated with those school workshops. I really wanted to give kids something tangible they could keep using long after the workshops were over. So I collected my best poetry-writing tips and tricks—like eight different ways to end a poem, advice for creating metaphors, even how to make your own “Poetry Sword”—and combined those with the most popular workshop activities. Basically, I tried to create the poetry guidebook I would have wanted as a kid. It worked perfectly to make it a companion to Pet Poems, because kids get to use the artwork from that book as the basis for the workbook poems. I mean, what kid doesn’t like pets or animals? Using that art as a launching point makes the workbook so accessible. It also works great because Pet Poems has examples of the different poems kids create in Pet Poems Plus.

Can you describe what the process was like creating Pet Poems Plus with illustrator Amanda Hoxworth?

Amanda is the best! Her paintings are so dazzling and drenched with color. She brings those pets and other animals to vivid, full-color life! We created Pet Poems together when I wrote a series of poems based on her art. It was a natural extension to do the same with the workbook—to show kids how they could use Amanda’s art to create their own pet poems. Not to mention that Amanda’s personal artistic journey—overcoming a traumatic car crash that almost stopped her from ever painting again—is I think inspiring to anyone. I’ve been so lucky to work with her.

If you could pick anyone to give Pet Poems Plus to, who would it be and why?

Oh man, I’d give it to that kid who thinks they don’t really “get” poetry. Because everyone is a poet. And I’d also give it to that kid who loves poetry, whether they’re shouting it to the world or writing it secretly in private. And lastly, I’d give it to every teacher, because it’s designed to make their job easier—with video supplements, Common Core standards, and a detailed teacher’s guide. As one fifth grade teacher recently told me, “It was like pulling teeth getting them to put the workbooks away!” I’d love to give every classroom that poetry passion.

What is something you hope readers and aspiring poets take away from your book?

The pure joy that writing poetry can bring—whether it’s rekindling that joy or discovering it for the first time! Poetry has very few “rules,” and it lets every kid, every human, show their unique view of the world. In Pet Poems Plus, I hope readers find a comprehensive, playful guide—kind of like a fun, all-knowing aunt or uncle—to lead them on whatever poetry journey they want to take, both now and for years to come.