Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme

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Archive for the tag “Christmas”

My Christmas card to you…

Christmas-Luke_Matt Forrest

Merry Christmas to all, and to all…a good night.

“The Next Big Thing!”

Back at the beginning of the year, I talked about how excited I was to be wrapping up my first 5 months of this blog.  Then just a couple of weeks ago, I told you about the Liebster Award that had been passed along to me. Now, I’m excited to be part of something new:

Many thanks to my friend, children’s author and poet Joyce Ray, for inviting me to participate in the online literary blog called THE NEXT BIG THING!

the-next-big-thingIf you’ve not heard of THE NEXT BIG THING, it’s a sort of “chain blog” consisting of a series of questions about works-in-progress and not-yet-published titles. Many national and international writers have participated in it; Joyce did last week, and now it’s my turn!

The nice thing about THE NEXT BIG THING is that it not only provides some extra visibility for the bloggers taking part, but more importantly, it gives readers a glimpse into the working life of a writer. Part of the fun is tagging someone else, so stay tuned to learn who I’ll be tagging at the end of this post!  Some of these questions require some deep thought, so I’ll do my best to answer them…

What is the working title of your book?

“Anticipation: Poems for a Winter’s Night”

Where did the idea come from for the book?

As someone who writes a lot of children’s poetry, one day I noticed I had written 5 or 6 poems about winter…so it occurred to me they should probably be organized into their own collection.  This was in May 2012.  So I decided to try to get the manuscript completed (written, edited, revised, finalized) by September. As it turned out, I was done by Oct. – so I wasn’t too far off!

What genre does your book fall under?

Children’s poetry.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Ha! Not sure this question fits, since the book is comprised of 23 poems…but since many are written in first-person, I’d say we could get Sofia Vergara to portray the school bus driver, Adriana Lima to portray the teacher, and Miranda Lambert to portray the person I ask to keep me warm outside.  Of course, this is all assuming my wife won’t mind…so I’m really going out on a limb here.

But hey, it’s Hollywood!

What is a one-sentence synopsis of your book?

“A funny, touching, and magical look at the coldest – yet warmest – season of all.”

Y’know, I just thought that up this minute. I kinda like it!

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Hard to say, as I edit poems as I go along; I revisit them, revise them, place them in the manuscript, rearrange them in the manuscript, edit them again, rearrange them again, blah, blah.  The first draft was probably done by late September, then it was just a matter of tweaking a few things here and there.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

It’s very difficult – if not extremely egotistical – for me to compare a manuscript by an unpublished author to books written by some of the best children’s poets in America. So I do this hesitantly and with a great amount humility…but as it’s a winter-themed poetry collection, I’d say it’s similar in tone to Jack Prelutsky’s It’s Snowing! It’s Snowing (2006, Greenwillow) and Douglas Florian’s Winter Eyes (1999, Greenwillow), although the number of silly or funny poems in mine outnumbers theirs.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I wish I knew! I always tell people how much I hate winter – the shovelling, the snow-blowing, the slickness of roads, the ice on your driveway, the cold temperatures, etc., etc. – and yet, it was not a difficult manuscript to put together. I’ve already come up with another two or three winter poems since I finished it, and I haven’t even been trying!  Perhaps I like winter more than I realized. I absolutely love Christmas, so that might have something to do with it.

What else about your book might pique a reader’s interest?

I think the diversity of poems. Not only is there a good balance of funny-to-quiet poems, but I used a number of various forms: there’s a villanelle, cinquain, triolet, haiku, tanka, and a couple others, in addition to more conventional forms. One minute you’re laughing about my Valentine’s Day dilemma with Beulah Buford, and the next, you’re sitting quietly by yourself in a school bus on a winter morning, scratching at the frosty window.  I really like the fact that each poem sort of has its own ‘feel.’

When and how will it be published?

Funny, I ask m yself that same question all…the…time.  Being an as-yet-unpublished author (other than having various adult poems published in independent journals over the years), it’s been an uphill climb trying to get my other manuscripts accepted. I’ve only sent this manuscript to one editor so far, who I want to give first-refusal. If she decides to pass, then I’ll let all the other publishing houses and literary agencies fight over the rights and I’ll eventually sign a six-book deal and movie rights with the highest bidder.  At least, that’s how I imagine things will happen.

WHO’S NEXT?

It is my honor to tag and introduce to you Catherine Johnson, who is also currently working on a manuscript…

Catherine is a British ex-pat living in Canada with her family. She writes picture books and poetry and has several poems published, and was a British champion twice in Tae Kwon-Do.  (How cool is that??)  She blogs at http://catherinemjohnson.wordpress.com…so be sure to stop by, and learn about herNEXT BIG THING!”

Poetry Friday: Christmas cookies – and “Christmas Cookies”

For today’s edition of Poetry Friday, I had first thought I would simply refer folks to the adult poem I posted this past Tuesday.  It then occurred to me that, although I’m proud of the poem and the reasons for its inspiration, it might be a bit too depressing to lead into the joyous Christmas weekend.  Nothing against depression, mind you – poets like me thrive on it, of course - but I’m not the kind of morose individual who is constantly in a state of perpetual melancholy, so I decided a swing in the opposite direction for today might be appropos.

Around here, I do most of the baking; doubly-so this time of year.  My wife is a great cook, but she knows that if I weren’t doing what I’m doing, I’d probably be a chef somewhere.  Or a sous-chef.  Or a line cook.  Or just prepping salads at Ho-Jo’s.  Fact is, I love to cook, so the holidays give me all the reasons in the world to go overboard in the kitchen.

In the past two weeks, I’ve made 3 gallons of chili, a batch of homemade ham and potato cream soup, 5 different types of muffins, 6 different types of cookies, and a pumpkin-rum swirled cheesecake with a gingersnap-pecan crust.

This is all in addition to normal day-to-day cooking.

Did I mention I love this time of year??

Anyway, I thought I’d share a recipe for a traditional Swedish spice cookie called pepparkakor…along with a poem about Christmas cookies.  First, the recipe…these are cookies I bake every year, and although the recipe should make about 4 dozen cookies (depending on how big your cookie cutters are), I usually have to make two batches because I give so many away!

If you like gingersnaps, you’ll love these.

In Sweden, animal shapes are often used, but I use whatever I’m in the mood for.  Pepparkakor are so simple to make, they’re a great cookie to bake with your kids; you almost can’t screw them up!  In fact, my 2-year-old loves to help me cook, and it takes a small army and an act of Congress to get him away from the batter long enough for me to cut them out.

Ingredients
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter (salted or unsalted), softened
1/2 cup packed brown sugar (dark or light)
1/4 cup molasses (dark corn syrup will do, but molasses is better)
1 T. each ground cinnamon and ground ginger
2 t. ground nutmeg
2 t. ground cloves
and heck – while you’re at it, throw in some allspice, if you’ve got it!
1 t. baking soda
1 T. orange zest (optional)
2 T. cream or milk
2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup white chocolate, for decorating

Directions
In a large bowl, beat all ingredients – except the cream and flour – together with an electric mixer.
On low speed, mix in the cream, then flour, just until well blended (dough should be slightly crumbly, but even-coloured).
Wrap dough and chill until firm enough to roll, at least 30 minutes, but can also be stored overnight.
Preheat oven to 375 F.
On a lightly-floured surface, roll dough out in small batches to about an 1/8-inch thickness and cut using cookie cutters.
Place at least an inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets (this is where I LOVE parchment paper) and bake 5-7 minutes, depending on their size, until firm.
Let rest for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.
To decorate, simply melt the white chocolate in the microwave or double-boiler and dip portions of the top of each cookie; top with sprinkles, if you’d like.
Let stand at room temp to harden, and enjoy!

So there’s my traditional Swedish Christmas cookie, direct from the old country.

(Full disclosure: like many Americans, I’m a mutt: Swedish, German, Scottish, and English – with a weeeeeee bit of French you’d have to travel back nearly 300 years to get to.  So although the ‘old country’ is Sweden today, it might be a different country tomorrow.)

On to the poetry…

Unlike the other poems I post here, that have been revised, edited, revised, critiqued, revised, revised, revised, revised…this is only a second draft.  I don’t think it flows as well as it could, and I’m not sure if the last line has the punch of a typical poem of mine, so it probably has plenty of work ahead of itself – but considering the occasion, it was the obvious one to feature.  Hope you like it (such as it is), and be sure to pop over to My Juicy Little Universe for all the Poetry Friday offerings!

Christmas Cookies

When Christmastime is getting close,
We grab the cookie sheets
And dad and I start baking
My favourite kinds of treats!

We fill our bowls with flour and eggs,
We mix and stir and beat;
I try to hide the little bites
Of batter that I eat.

We cut out shapes of every kind
And cover them with sprinkles;
I make a tree of red and green
With one big star that twinkles.

Then put the cookies in the oven,
Let them slowly bake…
Before they’re done, I’m asking dad
What others we can make!

- © 2012 Matt Forrest Esenwine

Merry Christmas!

Poetry Friday: “Not So Easy”

Ornaments 2Before we get to today’s poem, I need to congratulate someone!  Last Friday, I offered two New Hampshire-made, handcrafted milkweed pod Christmas ornaments to anyone who wanted them, just for visiting my blog and reading the poem I was featuring, “Christmas Tree, Three.”  The poem is from my winter-themed children’s poetry collection, Anticipation: Poems for a Winter’s Night, and I appreciate all the comments and feedback I received – not just for that particular poem, but for all my postings.

So, as a little “Thank You,” I thought it might be nice to have a giveaway in time for Christmas.  And by a purely random drawing, the winner is…

Joy Frelinger!  Joy is a children’s poet and performance artist from Arizona, and the ornaments should add a little touch of New England to her southwest decor.  Congratulations, Joy, and thank you so much for visiting my blog!  (If anyone is interested in purchasing one of these ornaments, just send an email to Matt (at) MattForrest (dot) com and let me know!  They’re $8 each, plus $2 for shipping)

Now then…today’s poem is one of the first ones I wrote for my winter collection.  The last few poems I’ve featured here have been what many in the kid lit industry would call ‘quiet’ poems – that is, they’re more serious and introspective than silly or funny.  I’d like to think this sort of bridges that gap…but I’ll let you decide!  And be sure to check out all the Poetry Friday offerings at Jama Rattigan’s Alphabet Soup!

Not So Easy

A few have hit my forehead and a bunch have slammed my chin,
A couple dozen nailed my nose – and even gotten in.
I’ve had so many in my eyes I now can barely blink;
Catching snowflakes on your tongue is harder than you’d think.

- © 2012 Matt Forrest Esenwine

Poetry Friday: “Christmas Tree, Three”

Today, I’m doing something I’ve never done before:  offering a free gift!

A couple of weeks ago, I featured “Naked,” the first poem in my winter-themed poetry collection.  This week, I’m spotlighting another poem from the collection – and since it’s getting close to that “time of year,” this is one of two Christmas poems in it!  And let me just say right now, that anyone who thinks haikus are easy to write…has never written a really good haiku.  This is the only haiku in the collection, yet it went through more revisions than most of the other 22 poems.

I hope it’s one of those ‘really good haikus’ I was just talking about.  ;)

And oh, yes…the free gift I mentioned?  In the spirit of giving, I’m offering TWO New Hampshire-made, handcrafted milkweed pod Christmas ornaments – a $16 value – to one lucky person.  Just leave a note in the comments section below, letting me know if you’d like to be in the drawing, and I’ll draw one name at random on Wednesday, December 12!  I’ll announce the winner in my Friday, December 14, blog post.  (and if you’d like to purchase one for $8/ea., just drop me an email)

These really are quite beautiful, if I do say so myself…click on them, and you can see them enlarged:

 .

So here’s today’s three-part haiku; hope you like it.  And be sure to check out all the Poetry Friday happenings with Robyn Hood Black!

Christmas Tree, Three
(haiku)

Country Christmas tree
tall and green, tinseled in light,
welcomes us inside.

City Christmas tree
in store-bought white, warmly shines
a mother’s sweet smile.

Island Christmas tree
with outstretched leaves, holds seashells
like father’s soft palm.

- © 2012 Matt Forrest Esenwine

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