Meet Darren Sardelli
Darren Sardelli is an award-winning poet and author with poems in over 25 children’s books, magazines, and textbooks. He travels globally and has visited over 800 schools, libraries, and camps, where he inspires students through poetry and writing workshops. Darren loves playing hockey, enjoys challenging hikes with his adventurous wife, and has a blast making up silly songs with his two sons.
When did you realize you wanted to be a children’s poet?
I started writing when I was a junior in college. At first, I was writing poetry, rap, song lyrics, jingles, short stories, and more. After a few years, I decided to focus on poetry for children. At one point, I wasn’t sure if I would make the cut. I just kept writing and writing and writing, getting better and better and better, until I finally got 2 of my poems published in a book called Rolling in the Aisles (Laugh Out Loud Poems for Children). It was a thrill to see my poems in a book with some of the top poets in the industry.
What inspires the ideas for your poems?
Inspiration is everywhere. When a good idea pops into my head, I write it down right away. I have over 100 Idea Books filled with ideas that inspire my poetry. As I’m writing, the best ideas come to me. I’m always playing with words, lines, stanzas… shifting words around until I get it right.
Can you briefly discuss your writing process?
I don’t really have a process. I just pick up one of my Idea Books and start writing. I might be writing at 2 am, 1 pm, or 9 pm. It doesn’t matter! I just write, write, write!!!
I love the title of your book Galaxy Pizza and Meteor Pie, how did you come up with the title and how long did it take you to write & publish this book?
The original title of Galaxy Pizza and Meteor Pie was Bubblegum Pizza and Lollipop Pie. After reading this particular poem over and over again, I decided to spice it up with space words – Jupitar, Mars, galaxy, orbiting, astronaut, clusters… I combined these words with other words and made the poem really fun. Pam Catapano, my illustrator, created an illustration that stood out so much, it instantly became the cover of the book. It took 2 years to publish with many, many edits to the poems and pictures.
Is there a theme among the poems in this book?
Galaxy Pizza and Meteor Pie is a collection of whimsical and humorous school poems that get students and teachers excited about poetry.
How many books have you written and how many books have your poems been featured in?
I’ve written many books that haven’t been published yet. The 2 books that are published are Galaxy Pizza and Meteor Pie and WHAT IF?. My poems are featured in 25 children’s books in the U.S. and UK. It’s an honor having poems in books with some of the all-time greats!
How did you find your illustrator?
During a school visit, I was introduced to Pam Catapano (the illustrator of Galaxy Pizza and Meteor Pie). She was an art teacher with a passion for making art fun and exciting for kids. I saw some of her drawings and instantly thought she’d be a great fit for a book I had in mind. I was right. She did an incredible job! Pam is not with us anymore, but her spirit and artwork live on. I promote her work wherever I go.
Is the same illustrator featured in all your books?
Before meeting Max Hergenrother (the illustrator of WHAT IF?), my friend, Donna Drake, gave me one of his drawings (as a gift). I felt so connected to his work, I had to reach out. It took a long time to make WHAT IF? happen, but it came out better than I could ever imagine. We’re working on a new book right now (untitled). Be sure to look out for it in 2022!
Tell us about your book What If?
WHAT IF? is a rhyming picture book (hardcover) where pencils open portals, pictures paint people, and basketballs are square. Imagination takes flight in this crazy, wacky, mixed-up book of questions.
Here’s a preview: What if gum grew on the sidewalk? What if grains of sand could talk? What if wheels were sharp and pointy and your hands were colored chalk? What if tortoises could teleport and dragons warmed your tea? What a crazy, wacky, mixed-up place this world would surely be!
How did you get involved in doing school assemblies and other presentations?
I used to have a fear of public speaking. I never thought I’d be able to stand in front of a group of people and talk to them. Now I do it for a living. It’s one of the most freeing feelings in the world. I started visiting schools in 2004 when my mom’s friend, Anne Schaefer, came across some of my poems. She was a principal of a school on Long Island. It took her a while to convince me to read my poems to her students. I spent 10 minutes in each classroom and had the kids laughing hysterically. It gave me confidence to visit other schools and build my program. I’ve been hired to speak at over 800 schools all across the country. I’ve even done assemblies for students in Germany and Vietnam. I absolutely love what I do and look forward to seeing where POETRY is going to take me next.
Can you tell us about your presentations and how you get the children to participate?
My assemblies and writing workshops are interactive, engaging, and fun. I have different programs for Pre-K, Elementary, Middle, and High School students. I even have presentations for adults. All of my poems are easy to understand, interesting, and relatable. I have various activities, exercises, and questions (associated with my poems) that make poetry exciting for everyone. My assemblies have changed people’s perspectives on poetry. It’s amazing how fast it happens.
When the pandemic hit, making in-person presentations impossible, how did you switch gears and tailor your program toward a virtual audience?
The pandemic allowed me to expand my business and find new ways to interact with students. I got creative and figured out how to keep everyone engaged without being able to hear and sometimes see my audience. I’ve performed over 100 virtual assemblies and continue to book more and more schools every week. I can visit schools anywhere in the world. It’s incredible!
Are you back to doing in-person assemblies?
I’m now available for virtual and in-person assemblies.
How would a school go about booking you for an engagement?
For bookings, please contact me at LaughAlotPoetry@gmail.com
Tell us about laughalotpoetry.com
If you’d like to purchase an autographed book, read my poetry, and learn more about me, please visit www.LaughAlotPoetry.com
Do you have any new books on the horizon and if so, can you share a tidbit?
Here’s a poem from one of my forthcoming books:
The Entrails of a Pumpkin
The entrails of a pumpkin filled the pockets of his pants.
The cream and eggs were dripping from his chin.
The nutmeg clogged his nostrils and the honey glazed his hair.
The flour from the piecrust paved his skin.
His mother almost lost it when she walked into the room.
She gently wiped the ginger from his eye.
She kissed his head and hugged him as she chuckled to herself,
"My toddler tried to make a pumpkin pie."
Poem Copyright © Darren Sardelli (All Rights Reserved)
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