Jason grew up reading Shel Silverstein books.
Norm: Good day Jason and thanks for participating in our interview.
Jason: Thank you Norm. It is a pleasure to be interviewed by you and I am honored to share my story with your readers.
Norm: Please tell our readers a little bit about your personal and professional background.
Jason: Even though I have been writing for most of my life, it wasn't until recently that I would have considered myself an actual writer. Perhaps it required me to physically have a copy of my book in my hands for me to consider writing to be more than just a hobby. However, I have always considered myself a story teller. For the past fifteen years, I have been in the television industry. Whether it is on television or in a book…A good story is a good story. I grew up reading Shel Silverstein, and I always connected to his style of poetry because they were fun, concise and had perspective. These are three of the most important qualities to me as both a writer and an editor.
Norm: How was it like to produce and edit such popular shows as Shark Tank, The X Factor, The Apprentice, and The Bachelor?
Jason: I feel very fortunate to have been part of so many successful reality shows. Again, a good story is a good story…you just have to craft it differently depending on what you are trying to achieve. Regardless of what I am editing or producing, I always try and find the heart of the story. I am drawn to finding something relatable from each scene and I do my best to humanize the moments and the characters. The one thing that really separates my experience as a writer versus a producer/editor is that it is a lot more of a collaborative process to make a television show. This has its pros and cons. I do enjoy the people I work with and the process of telling a good story, whether it is just a moment in a scene or the entire series as a whole. There are several talented people in the mix to make that happen. But my book has been all me…I have had total creative control and I have loved it.
Norm: What served as the primary inspiration for Expanzaramadingdong and could you tell our audience a little about the book?
Jason: I have always had a knack for writing in pros and poems, but once I had my daughters, I realized it was a lot easier for me to explain a delicate issue to them by making a poem about it. It not only captured their attention but it always opened up dialogue between us. This is why I try and make the stories fun and not preachy. I knew if I made them preachy or told them how to feel, that I would lose their attention. I try and craft each story with an objective perspective so that they can draw their own conclusions. My girls were my inspiration…Being a parent, I will never run out of ideas to write about. Each day is an adventure. This week, I wrote poems for them about bullying and about first impressions. Both poems will be in my next book. For example, in Expanzaramadingdong, there is a poem titled, Lost Potential (page 12)…I remember writing it one night after my oldest daughter was refusing to study. The poem had a huge impact on her. We talked for hours after she read it and I am confident that is changed the way she views what she is capable of. I will be a happy writer if Expanzaramadingdong has the impact to open up dialogue to other families as well. That is more valuable to me than sales.
Norm: How did you come up with the title and what does it mean?
Jason: Expanzaramadingdong comes from the title of one of the poems in the book. It is a made up expression that people should say when life just doesn't make sense. The ending of the poem reads like this:
So when you think you’ve got it all figured out
And you know what life’s all about.
Just to realize you’ve got it all wrong-
Simply throw up your hands and say,
Norm: What do you want your book to do? Amuse? Provoke thinking?
Jason: There is nothing I want more for Expanzaramadingdong than for it to be used the way I use it at my home. It was written for my children as a way to help teach them about many of life’s sensitive topics, while giving humor and perspective. After reading a poem to my girls, I always ask them what it means to them. I use it as a tool that has opened up many great conversations with them. Some of the topics discuss growing old, greed and why it is important to never leave the house angry.
Norm: What makes poetry come alive in a classroom? How can teachers foster a love of poetry, rather than a fear of it in their students?
Jason: I think the key to having young students appreciate poetry at an early age is how they are first introduced to it. Poetry should be made fun and entertaining in the beginning, otherwise, it can feel like hard work. I put a lot of the responsibility on the teachers to get the students excited about it. Poetry uses bending of the language, rhythmic qualities and a lot of creative licensing that often requires a trained brain to understand. This was my philosophy while I was writing Expanzaramadingdong. I wanted my book to be something that children would read for pleasure, even though it was poetry. Teachers should not start with Shakespeare but build towards him. If Tom Sawyer was able to convince kids that painting a fence could be fun…There should be no reason for young students to not love poetry because it actually IS fun. It just needs to put in a fun perspective and the love for it will naturally grow.
Norm: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Jason: The entire process was a giant learning experience, from the conception of the book all the way to the marketing of it. I could write a book about writing a book. However, the thing that I learned about my book and that I greatly underestimated, was how moved I would become by the response of the readers. It is so validating when I am told from a reader that the book or even just a specific poem had touched their heart or just helped shed some light on a delicate issue. The book was originally written for my own daughters and in a manner that I felt would help me be a better parent and communicator. But since most of life’s complications and our personal struggles are so universal, the book ended up being relatable to other families as well. So, in a nutshell, I learned the power of the pen.
Norm: What would you like to say to writers who are reading this interview and wondering if they can keep creating, if they are good enough, if their voices and visions matter enough to share?
Jason: The answer to any
question about being a writer or an artist of any kind is so
subjective, with the exception of this particular answer; You NEED to
have a vision and you need to own it. Most other people have an
opinion and will tell a writer all the changes he/she should make.
But, I have never heard of a good story or seen a great painting that
was done by committee. There may need to be some tweaks that you need
to do, but the spirit of what you are writing needs to remain intact.
You have a voice and it deserves to be heard. If you allow other
people the power to have you second guess your own talent and vision,
you need to stop and regroup.
Every word in your book should come from a place of confidence. You ARE good enough! I would suggest that you let some trusted friends or family members read your story just to make sure that you are successful getting your point across and that you story is clean and captivating. My daughters were my focus group. I always had them read each story and I would amend them if they were not fully getting the point or didn’t find the humor and perspective. Constructive criticism is important because we are often too close to what we are writing or it may only make sense in our own mind, but it has to always remain your vision. Here is a a poem from Expanzaramadingdong. It is titled, The Pen.
You write the words to your story
Every paragraph, sentence and phrase.
You write the days on your calendar
All the months, weekends and days.
You write the book of your journey
You choose what goes on each page
You write the play of your life
You decide who stands center stage
You write the plans in your schedule
You decide who, what and when
You write what your future will bring you
You’re the one controlling the pen.
Norm: Where can our readers find out more about you and Expanzaramadingdong?
Jason: There is an Expanzaramadingdong Facebook page that has several samples of the book. I am new to it BUT there is now Expanzaramadingdong on both Twitter and Instagram. It is a sign of getting old when I am having my ten year old daughter teach me how to use them….I just thought of an idea for my next poem as I wrote that last sentence;)
Norm; What is next for Jason Steinberg?
Jason: I had such a great experience writing Expanzaramadingdong that I am already working on my next book that is in the same spirit. I don’t think I will ever run out of things to write about. I learn new things everyday, especially when I try and see the world through the eyes of my daughters.
Norm: Thanks once again and good luck with all of your future endeavors
Jason: Thank you once again for taking the interest in my story. I hope to share the experience of my next book with you. All the best.
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