Debbie: Neal, please tell us a little about yourself.
Neal: I grew up in Michigan and have always enjoyed children's literature, with a special fondness for children's poems. Now I write my own poems for a variety of children's magazines and anthologies. I also write stories, draw pictures, and teach cartooning to kids.
Debbie: Please tell us about your poetry.
Neal: I usually write light, humorous poems, sometimes with a twist at the end. I'm big on word play. Some titles include "Baby Ate a Microchip," "Creepy Pizza," and "The Vampire's New Clothes." Although I don't have my own book yet, my poetry has been included in over a dozen collections including Caroline Kennedy's recent anthology Poems to Learn by Heart, published by Disney -- as well as magazines like Highlights, Spider, and MAD, and professional publications such as The Journal of Children's Literature. This year a poem of mine won the SCBWI Magazine Merit Award.
Debbie: Other books or projects on the horizon?
Neal: One of my poems will be included in the new anthology One Minute till Bedtime, edited by former U.S. Children's Poet Laureate Kenn Nesbitt, scheduled to be released in Fall 2016.
Debbie: Upcoming appearances?
Neal: My "appearances" are mainly at elementary schools where I teach my cartooning workshops. I run three or four afterschool classes a week -- each at a different school in the Metro Detroit area -- for any kids who want to sign up and draw pictures. I also run classes for libraries, scouting groups, and other interested organizations. (These are drawing classes, not poetry.) You can contact me through my website to set one up: www.neallevin.com
Debbie: Do you have a favorite Michigan library?
Neal: I visit the Bloomfield Township Library, which is a mile from my home, at least once a week. It has excellent collections of adult and children's books, magazines, CDs, and DVDs, as well as computers, printers, and scanners.
Debbie: How about a favorite place in Michigan?
Neal: I love the woods, lakes, and open spaces of northern Michigan, especially the northeast section, which is a lot less developed than the west side.
Debbie: Do you have a Michigan event or happening that you love to attend?
Neal: I spend my summers at Camp Walden, a summer camp for children outside of Cheboygan, where I get to combine my skills of writing and drawing by putting together a daily newspaper. Most of the kids are from Michigan or the Midwest, but a lot come from other states and countries, and many of the staff are British.
Debbie: A few fun Michigan people we should all know about?
Neal: Well, there's this guy in Mackinaw City who paints himself copper and pretends he's a statue. I don't know him personally, but I see him standing outside the fudge shops every summer. And then there are my friends Jean and Martin who are always fun when it comes to having cookouts.
Debbie: Something you'd like a non-Michigander to know about Michigan?
Neal: Mammoths and mastodons once roamed this state during prehistoric times, and the American mastodon is the official state fossil of Michigan.
Debbie: Last question. Some folks in Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders, others as Michiganians. For our ongoing vote tally: are you a Michigander or a Michiganian?
Neal: Michigander, for sure. That's what everybody answers, isn't it?
Debbie: Neal, we'll add you to the Michigander column! Thank you so much for joining us today!