Hundred Dollar Rip-Off


It was advertised as a chance to have our poetry critiqued by a real live published children’s poet.

We were instructed to bring samples of our work.

So I paid $100 dollars to attend a half-day “poetry workshop” at a lovely private school located in lovely Pacific Palisades, California put on by the SCBWI (the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators).

Like the several women and one other man who showed up at eight AM that morning, I was percolating with the hope of discovery.  This would be my Dear Mr. Henshaw moment when an authentic published children’s author was going to tell me that I had what it takes to succeed.

But the real live children’s poet who ran this seminar had no intention of soiling her fine artistic temperament by actually reading any our work herself. Instead, we were put into groups and instructed to pass our poems around and leave comments on each other’s work. I got this gem of a comment on my poem My Funny Farm: “Why don’t you try rewriting it without using rhyme?”

In order to kill the last half hour of the seminar without having to engage in a direct one on one conversation with any of us, the Poetess in Charge instructed everyone to place one of her belongings on our respective tables and then each of us was to write a poem about something someone else had supplied.  We were given fifteen minutes to complete this task.

When the woman leading the seminar asked if anyone wanted to read, the women at my table insisted that I share mine. It got a raucous round of laughter, which did not please our instructor one bit. Here’s the poem I wrote that day:

Ode to a Homeopathic PMS Remedy

Cranky, puffy, angry days
Aren’t relieved too many ways
But a homeopathic remedy
Might be what it takes to see
That PMS won’t ruin my day
Now it’s time to go and play

Then I had a nice lunch on the beach in Malibu and went home.

by Richard W. Bray

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