A few weeks ago I learned that I'd won the Chicago Tribune Young Adult LIterary Prize. Of course, I was delighted, but it went deeper than that. I'm from Chicago and I'd worked at the Chicago Tribune many, many years ago in their classified advertising department. But the delight went deeper still, because my first published piece of writing was in the Chicago Tribune Magazine — on June 3, 1973 I won second prize in their fruit and vegetable poetry contest. A poem about lettuce won first prize, but mine, based on my most hated vegetable, a vegetable so vile and disturbing, that I refused to eat it (almost), causing my otherwise gentle mother to rise up in its defense and make me sit there until I cleaned my plate.
So here it is in all it's glory.
"Lima Bean Blues"
With fork in hand, with tongue in cheek, with eyes projecting hate,
I glower at the lima beans remaining on my plate.
Oh bilious lima, bean obscene, awash in salt and butter,
My stomach turns, my psyche churns with thoughts I dare not utter.
But there they sit, and I must eat, although I feel mistreated.
There's one thing worse than lima beans: that's lima beans reheated.
It makes sense that my first novel Squashed was also about a vegetable — a giant pumpkin named Max. I have not developed my career any further as a vegetable writer, but I'm grateful for those early years, and perhps there's something to say about, you know, broccoli, spinach, kale, etc.. Kale would be a good one since so much rhymes with it — stale, flail, jail, exhale, impale, hangnail, wholesale, pass-fail. So when people ask, what has being a writer taught you? One of the answers is, you just never know where a vegetable might take you.
If you're in the Chicago area on Saturday June 4th, please stop by the Printers Row Book Festival and say hi. My program is in the afternoon — time to be determined.