Ted Scheu

Ted Scheu Bio:
Ted Scheu is an award-winning children's poet, who is also an 8-year-old in a grown-up’s body. What awards? Great question! In 1953, the nurses at the Millard Fillmore Hospital in Buffalo NY awarded Ted the "New Baby with the Funniest Face and Most Original Scream" Award. And in 1958, he won the award for the "Best Original Costume for the Kindergarten Parade" in Old Greenwich, CT. He was a hot dog on a bun with extra mustard.  And just yesterday he was awarded the "Best Scratcher-Behind-My Ears Award" by his dog Fudge. It was a big wet lick.

Ted is a former elementary teacher in Vermont, who started writing funny poems seriously about 20 years ago. His poems are published in about 20 books in the US and in England, including the collection of his greatest hits, “Getting the Best of Me.” His other collections are called, "I Froze My Mother," "I Tickled My Teachers," and "I Threw My Brother Out,” and “Someday I’ll Be a Teacher." Recent anthologies include, “One Minute Till Bedtime,” (Little, Brown, 2016) and “National Geographic’s Book of Nature Poetry” (2015).

Ted spends about 100 days a year visiting schools around the country--sharing his poems, and helping young writers find their voices, and having the kind of fun with poems that he never had as a kid. He tries to write a poem every day, and when he's not writing, or visiting schools, he loves to eat cereal with lots of milk, and ride his bike--just like any kid his age.

Getting The Best Of Me

Description of Book:

Getting the Best of Me is a freshly-picked collection of 90 of Ted Scheu’s ‘funnest’ and most ‘heartful’ poems for kids. Brimming with honesty and humor, this super-size prize holds many of his favorite verses about school and home, and everywhere in between. Take a big bite, and enjoy! (Young Poets’ Press, 2013)

Scribblitt Interview With Ted Scheu

Q: Did you always enjoy writing, even as a child?

A: Nearly every children’s writer I’ve met had an early love for writing and reading. Sadly, hat was not me. I was not a confident writer as a kid. Unlike today, we didn’t have writer’s notebooks and did not do daily writing. I also was a disinterested reader, which seemed to impact my coolness towards writing. I didn’t read daily, like many kids do so well today. The few books that appealed to me were those that had playful word play, like those of Dr. Seuss. Now I make sure that I read daily—not just poetry, but also wonderful chapter and picture books. As for writing, if I’m not writing daily, I feel empty and adrift.

Q: How would you describe your “voice”? How did it develop?
A: I tell kids, when they ask my age, that I’m 64 years old on the outside and 8 on the inside. That clear-eyed, questioning 8-year old inside me is my true writer’s voice—looking really closely at the world of school and home life, and friend and family relationships, and all of their joys and contradictions. I try to channel that voice in all my poems. I think my writer’s voice has naturally evolved from a combination of childhood experiences, amazing song lyrics (I have always been wowed by songs in Broadway musicals especially), and my time as a parent and elementary teacher. I always want my words to be honest, with a little twist of humor and polite irreverence stirred in.

Q: Why did you focus on poetry and not short stories or novels?
A: I love to say that the main reason I write poems is that I never learned keyboarding well! I’m working on a chapter book right now and I have to dictate my rough drafts into my computer, (I always write my first drafts on yellow pads, longhand) then I begin the revising process from there. The real truth is that my brain seems to work naturally in rhythm and rhyme, and I love-love-love the challenge of writing something that is super-focused on a single idea, in a way that surprises me (and others), and shares an important heart-truth in my life and the lives of other kids, often with a little surprise. That’s what poems do best.

Q: When you were a teacher, did you teach Language Arts?
A: I did. After spending nearly 20 years doing many jobs (naval officer, carpenter, advertising executive and copywriter) I finally listened to a little voice calling me to be an elementary teacher. I taught in Shelburne VT for just 6 years, teaching all the grades K to 5 in that time. They have a lot of multi-age classrooms up here. My favorite part of teaching definitely was sharing my love for reading and writing, and encouraging my class to really dive in to writing to express their deepest interests and concerns. And I also loved being silly. Still do.

Q: How DO you pronounce your last name? Care to share the poem you wrote about that?
A: So many of the kids I teach in my school visits have names like mine that are mysteriously unpronounceable by eye. Why do our parents do that to us, we wonder? My name is has German roots, and is pronounced “shy”—which is great because it rhymes with Poetry Guy, a nickname a first grade girl gave me many years ago. She was a fan of Bill Nye the Science Guy. I have grown to really like the sound and rhyme-ability of my name. I even wrote a poem once to help people pronounce my last name correctly. Here it is:

One Scheu Guy
I’ve never known quite what to do,

For all my life I’ve been a Scheu.
It really didn’t matter who,
My teachers, or people from Kalamazoo,
I’d tell them one time, maybe two,
Sometimes I’d scream ‘til I was blue,
I’d threaten to have my lawyer sue,
But none of them seemed to have a clue,
(Well, some got the message, but only a few.)
Hey, just between us, (me and you),
I think their brains were full of glue.
Oh, yes, I agree, it looks like “shoe,”
It’s a name that one could misconstrue,
But I hope that you won’t do it too.
“So, how do you say it?” I hear you cry,

“Please tell us and we’ll all comply.”
“I thought you’d never ask,” say I.
Just listen, then just give it a try.
It’s short and sweet and smooth as pie,
As gentle and soft as a lullaby,
It’s as clear as a crystal, azure sky,
As quiet and quick as a butterfly.
(Hey, it’s true, I never lie.)
Can you guess? Hey, you got it your very first try!
I knew you were smart, but I didn’t know why.
Me? I can’t say it. I’m that kind of guy.
I thought that perhaps you’d identify–
When it comes to pronouncing my name
I’m Scheu.

Q: Who was your favorite author when you were a kid and why?

A: The books of Dr Seuss, with their marvelous wordplay, honesty and silliness, were my favorite picture books to read as a kid. I also loved the books of Robert McCloskey, especially his series about Homer Price and his adventures in his small town—like when he couldn’t stop the donut machine!

Q: What is your all time favorite quote and why?
A: I’m not sure who said this (I’ve tried to find the source on-line without success) but I love this quote:
The meaning of life is to find your gifts.
The purpose of life is to give them away.

I feel that we all arrive on earth with a very special skill, or gift. Some people have more than one. It could be as simple as being a great listener and caregiver to others, or an artist, or a teacher, or just about anything. We need to carefully listen to our hearts as we grow up to discover what our special gifts are. If we listen well and honestly, we may be lucky enough to discover what we are meant to do with our lives, and then to give those gifts away to others. It took me many years of searching and listening before I finally discovered my gifts and the perfect work for me—being a teacher and a writer, working with and for kids. Sadly, some people never discover their gifts.

Q: What is the best advice you have for aspiring young writers?
A: I strongly recommend reading and writing every day, even if it’s just a little. You listen a little better and write a little better each time you sit down. I also love to try to write and read different genres, to see what I like best, and to be inspired by other authors. Every good writer I know—kids and grown-ups—keeps a journal at home to store ideas and stories and poems and pictures in. I carry a small one in my pocket at all times. And of course, last but not least, write with your heart about things that are important to you. Oh, and have fun!
Thanks for asking!