Wednesday, March 28, 2018


by JG Annino 

After a lifetime in entertainment,
including acting at Disney World here in Florida,
the multi-talented artist Charles Waters
ramped it up on the road earlier this year 
to share his poetry in his first children's book. It is the
phenomenally talked about 


The co-author is well-known poet/author/children's lit. guru 
Irene Latham,
a Poetry Friday regular whose work in several genres I admire, 
especially the picture books, 
Dear Wandering Wildebeest, Fresh Delicious, When the Sun Shines on Antartica.
And now I am a fan of both of these authors, with  CAN I TOUCH YOUR HAIR?
The visual arts team members who add so many lovely layered nuances to                      
this story in verse
are Selina Alko and Sean Qualls, 
a well-known, accomplished couple,
who are also a multi-racial couple.

In what I think will become known as a landmark
new classic, in the poem story
a black student named Charles,
and a white student named Irene,
who don't know each other,
work back and forth in class on
their 5th grade project. 

A poem project. A telling-your-feelings & family story project.
The two partners decide their poem subjects, such as church, school, shoes & 
as promised by the title - hair.  Each writes their own poem
in class, on the topic. (The last poem is a surprise.)                                                                                                  
Thoughts & questions of race are front and center, in a way that 
make the poems not only stand outs with pitch-perfect
writing, but also as touchstones for  
family, class & community conversations on race,  for 
thinkers & doers of all ages. Classmates pop in, as does a
famous visiting author. The book feels like a real visit to school.
I can see afterschool club leaders, scout groups, dance programs,
music, art, sports programs, all kinds of communities who work
with young people, wanting to have this by their side.
I have never met Charles in person, but I feel know a lot about him
through Poetry Friday & now with 


So, hi there Traveling Author.
What do your feet say to you about all this
clear across the country fancy footwork,
presenting on CAN I TOUCH YOUR HAIR? 

Hi there, Jan. My feet, which are inside shoes with rainbow shoelaces, 
(shameless promotional book tie-in) are tired yet super grateful for how 
the book is being received and for the many school visits in Seattle, 
Mercer Island, Manhattan, Grand Rapids, Birmingham 
and Tuscaloosa, so far. 
Care to share a few potent/funny/poignant comments or questions from
the young readers.  

A kindergartner asked me today during a Q & A, 
"Why are you black?" 
"I've also been asked how many poems in the book actually happened to you and Irene? to How old are you?
A great comment was made at the same school I visited today 
when a student talked about how people stare at her and her 
Mom because they both wear hijabs.  
Surely a powerful moment for her, because of this book.
Please share some of your favorite ideas about writing poetry
& reading poetry.

As for writing: Don't be afraid of making mistakes in writing,
I'm a firm believer in getting it all down on the page in all its
messy glory, 
then you can work on revisions.  When it comes to reading, I try my best
to read each poem aloud, poetry should be read and said :-) 

What take- away can you share from the process in creating this
with Irene Latham?

I couldn't be more grateful to Irene for her patience, kindness,                                                                       good humor and fierce friendship. Much like the characters in
the book, we became    
better friends the more we       
rewrote our poems for the book.                                              
She's given me advice about writing, the book industry,
how to better my author presentations and so much more .
What a gem of a human!   

Irene Latham with Charles Waters

Beautifully said Charles, about your book partner.
You & Irene have received many significant bookings, such as at the 
unique Poets House in New York City, an entity created by 
Poet Laureate Stanley Kunitz. Can you share an unexpected
location where you or both of you presented the book?

There's been no unexpected locations I can think of so far. 
I will say when I performed for Poetry Alive! years ago,                                                                                 myself and my former touring partner performed in 
someone's living room. That was ... interesting. 

Why do you think this book has caught hold so quickly & deeply?

These topics in our book can be so sensitive to talk about that I
hope our book is helping people of different ages, genders and 
ethnicities feel comfortable in starting dialogue with one another. 

As a first time author, are there some steps you would have
changed along the way.
Are there practices you developed that helped.

I don't think I would change much. It's been vital to up my
social media presence to promote the book, as well as developing
a 56-slide Power Point Presentation to use at schools.
I have one; Irene and I created one together for our joint visits.  
I'm glad I didn't know how much work went into the power point presentations, 
booking flights and writing author contracts, among other bits of poetic business. 
Now, when my second book comes out, throwing that out to the universe, 
I'll be more prepared. 

What is your encouragement for authors who have experienced many
rejections, who are seeking hope on the horizon for publication?

Keep reading, keep writing, keep submitting, stay humble. 
It's the only way to go, in my opinion.
Oh, and if in fact opportunity comes knocking, 
be prepared to answer with every bit of gratefulness, talent and belief you 
have in your soul.   

What manuscript do you want to write next?

There are a few things I've got in the hopper that I'm excited about. 
It's too early to post what they are, however, they're in various forms of progress. 

Great - I will want those headlines when news can be shared.
Bravo! on this important book Charles. Appreciations for this visit. 

Thanks so much for inviting me to your poetic shindig, Jan! 
If everyone has some time, please check out me performing 
my poems from the book, 
as well as Seasons 3 and 4 of Poetry Time at my 
You Tube channel.

This visit is a pleasure, Charles. Comments are welcome here &
it's great we can continue the conversation: