Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme

Tying together poetry, parenting, and advertising in a neat little package

Archive for the tag “goals”

Too busy writing…to write

So, what does a writer do when he or she is too busy writing to find the time to write?

That is the unusual situation I have found myself in lately.

Edgar-Allan-Poe - WWPD

What Would Poe Do? On second thought, let’s not even go there…

As someone who has been working hard for several years to become published in the world of children’s literature, I have been able to balance my personal life (taking care of the house, taking care of the 2 kids, being a hubby to my beautiful wife, and trying to squeeze in some “me” time where I can) with my professional life (writing poetry and picture books while running my voiceover business).

Well, this year has proven to be my busiest year yet – primarily because my children’s writing is finally getting me somewhere!

In addition to having a poem included in Lee Bennett Hopkins’s upcoming board book anthology, Lullaby & Sweet Kisses (Abrams Appleseed, Spring 2015), I will have three children’s poems in Carol-Ann Hoyte’s anthology, Dear Tomato: An International Crop of Food & Agriculture Poems, due early next year; another in an upcoming edition of “Highlights” magazine; and yet another one in an upcoming anthology due next fall.

PLUS…I recently submitted several poems for consideration in another anthology, submitted a half-dozen or so to various magazines, and am in the process of writing more poems for submission to two other anthologies. Oh, and I have three picture book manuscripts I’m currently shopping, as well.

I’m pretty sure these are my children.

Did I mention I’m trying to run a voiceover business?

Or that I have a couple of kids and a wife?

(At least, I think I have two kids. I’ve been so busy lately, my wife might’ve given birth for a third time and just not had the opportunity to fill me in.)

I’m writing this now not to make myself appear any more special or important than anyone else…because I’m really not. Plenty of people around this world do far more than me, do far better work than me, or are much more important than me. My wife, in fact, is one of them. But I am sharing this with you just to give you an idea as to why I may or may not post as regularly (on Tuesdays) as I have been.

I have some really exciting, informative posts I plan on sharing at some point, too – a couple of book reviews, some children’s literature news, some voiceover info – but I just can’t get to any of that until I complete the projects I have before me. As I said, I’ve been working towards the goal of becoming published for years, and now that I’m getting busier and busier, that goal is starting to feel like it may, indeed, be within reach.

I want to try to be consistent with this blog – but ultimately, my children’s writing needs to be written before anything else gets written.

And I have to say, even though it’s a difficult position to be in, it’s one I really don’t mind!

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!

PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Poetry Friday: “Black Sheep”

poetryfridaybutton-fulllI didn’t plan on writing about animals for the 3rd week in a row; it just sort of happened that way. Perhaps I’ve had creatures on my mind because I just spent all of last weekend working at the local state fair…and as I mentioned a few days ago, it was once again a big learning experience!

Be that as it may, I present a short little ditty today that wasn’t even written about the fair – but with the animal references, I figured this time of year would be as good as any! It was originally just an exercise, me tossing around some ideas and seeing what I could create…and when it came together, I rather liked it. Hope you do, too!

For more of today’s Poetry Friday offerings, please be sure to visit Laura Shovan at Author Amok!

Black Sheep

Break from the herd.
Take that leap.
Play the dark horse.
Be the black sheep.

- © 2014, Matt Forrest Esenwine

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!

PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Matt Forrest, Dream-Killer

Sweet, loveable me…destroying dreams?

Alas, it appears so.

I am often asked how one starts a career doing voiceovers or writing children’s books. As someone who has been doing voice work and audio editing for 25+ years, I’m happy to share advice, tips, and some guidance.

As someone who has yet to accomplish the feat of getting a children’s book published, I can only offer a few suggestions – like practice, networking, and critiquing. I have had numerous adult poems published in collections over the years and will soon have about 6 or 7 children’s poems published in various anthologies within the next year or two…but that’s a far cry from getting a book deal.

Be that as it may, much of the advice I give can be applied to either industry – and many more.  The reaction I get after giving the advice is often the same, as well.

Notice I called it an industry

Voiceover work and writing children’s books and poetry are similar in that they are both creative pursuits; however, it’s important to not lose sight of the fact that they are, in fact, industries. Businesses. Professional careers that require all the time, effort, and skill that most other professional careers require.

ID-100232154 (water pipe)

Other than turning off the water, I wouldn’t have a clue as to what to do next.

You wouldn’t decide to become an astronaut on a whim. You wouldn’t think that by buying a socket wrench you can pass yourself off as a car mechanic.

You wouldn’t decide to open a plumbing business simply because you once unclogged a drain in the upstairs bathroom and it seemed like easy money.

Unfortunately, there is something about creative media that makes people think anyone can do it. And to be honest, many people can do it – but don’t really want to.

Or rather, they don’t want to hear about the reality of it.

This is where the dream-killing begins…

The first thing I tell folks who ask me how to get into voiceovers or break into children’s publishing is this: learn about the industry. Read blog posts, seek out professional web pages, and get a feel for what is truly involved. There is more to voiceovers than speaking into a microphone, and there’s more to writing children’s stories than “See Spot Run.”

When I tell these well-meaning people that the industry (either one!) is difficult to break into, they first look at me as if I’m trying to keep them out of a secret club or something. Then when I tell them a few of the things they are actually going to need to do, I get the feeling they think I’m trying to scare them away.

I have to implore them not to misunderstand me – that I’m just trying to be honest and blunt with them.

Blunt honesty, it appears, is not popular.

The frightening facts

Some of the nuggets of advice I offer – while not particularly unique or even insightful – are certainly solid for either industry:

- It may be fun, but it’s work, and you need to treat it as such.
– It’s also enormously competitive. The good news is that most of the other folks in the industry are surprisingly supportive!

- If you want to be a professional, understand what that means and what is expected of you.
- It doesn’t matter if you have a “great voice”; what matters is if you can read well and bring a script to life.
- It doesn’t matter if you love kids; what matters is your ability to write and your willingness to revise, over and over.
- Understand that not everyone can do what you are attempting to do. If it was so easy anyone could do it, everyone would.
- Understand that this is a skill requiring training, perseverance, and talent (not necessarily in that order).
- Understand that rejection is a way of life. There is a very, very high likelihood that you will fail multiple times before you even begin to succeed. You might get passed over dozens of auditions before getting that first gig, and you might send out a hundred manuscripts before an agent or editor thinks you’ve got what it takes.
- Tenacity, perseverance, skill, communication abilities, a thick skin, and a sense of humor are your best friends.
- Egos will get you nowhere.

There are plenty of other industry-specific things I might share when chatting with folks about voiceovers or children’s publishing, but I usually lose them at “enormously competitive.”

I’m really not trying to kill dreams…it just sort of happens

Honestly, I’m not sure how many dreams I’ve killed. I know that many of the folks who have emailed me or spoken to me in person over the last few years are not currently pursuing the vocation they had asked me about in the first place.

SCBWII can only make some broad assumptions.

Either they a) got scared and decided to stick with what they were doing; b) thought I was trying to scare them and decided to do it their own way and failed; or c) are still trying to find the time to be able to engage in an industry as competitive as voiceovers (or children’s writing).

These days, I refer voiceover questions to fellow voice artists like Paul Strikwerda, whose book, Making Money in Your PJs, provides as much insight, advice, and blunt honesty as one can handle, or Dave Courvoisier, author of More Than Just a Voice, a book that details the nuts-and-bolts of the industry like marketing, coaching, and equipment. The professional organization World Voices is good place to learn what being a professional voice talent is all about.

For questions about children’s book publishing, writers like Katie Davis, Julie Hedlund, Tara Lazar, Dr. Patricia Stohr-Hunt, and many, many more are all willing to help teach, guide, and inspire. And of course, there’s always the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI), which is a great resource.

So if you happen to be wondering what it takes to get into these industries – or any of the creative arts – don’t let hard work and the fear of rejection stop you from realizing your dreams. Just do the work necessary and plan to stick with it for the long haul.

I’m not really a “Dream-Killer,” after all…just more of a reality-checker.

But hey, if Abe Lincoln can be a Vampire Hunter, why can’t I have an ominous-sounding moniker, as well?

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!

PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

On life, death, and all that stuff in-between

It’s interesting how some things come full-circle.

I attended the funeral for the father of my best friend in college this weekend. As I sat there in the very last church pew, I listened as the priest spoke about all the things this father, grandfather, husband, and friend would never do again: tend to his garden, prune his fruit trees, play with his grandchildren.

A sad occasion, obviously…so I surprised myself when this :15 TV commercial featuring The Most Interesting Man in the World popped into my head:

There really is no better time than now to start beefing up your obituary – and as this concept settled into my brain, I began thinking of all the things I’d like to accomplish before I pass.

Not a “bucket list” of what I want to do, necessarily, but what I want to accomplish. And to me, those are two different things.

How will I be remembered? Will I even be?

There are plenty of things I’d like to do: visit a foreign country, sing in a band, resume playing with my indoor soccer league. Things I’d like to accomplish are a bit more difficult, because they require more time and effort and are harder to define in concrete terms: be a good father and husband, make a positive difference to someone through my poetry, land a national animation voiceover gig my kids would be proud of.

These kinds of accomplishments are not the kinds of things you go out and just do, and check off your list. They require time, patience, and wisdom…and although I have plenty of the first two, that last one I have found to be the most elusive.

I try to be a good father and hubby – spending time with the kids, teaching them, supporting them, supporting and loving their mom. I keep working to make inroads to get my children’s writing published, not just because it’s my vocation and I’d like it to be a career, but because I genuinely feel that someone, somewhere might benefit from it. Perhaps that’s unrealistic, perhaps that’s egotistical…I don’t think it is, but it’s what I feel nonetheless.

Working hard and taking chances

My baby!As for that voiceover gig, I’ll keep plugging away with that, too. I’ve voiced enough commercials, corporate videos, and other random projects…so a national animated voiceover project – while still a longshot – is an attainable goal if I don’t give up.

And I don’t!

If I come across an audition for a project that is not right for me (deep movie-trailer voice guy is one of ‘em!), I skip it. But if I see something that I’m not sure if I’m right for – but could be – I’ll probably go for it and see how it sounds. How else does one grow and develop their skills if one doesn’t take chances?

How does one “beef up the obituary” – or the resume, for that matter – without a little extra perspiration?

Whatever you do in life, you’re not going to get any better or go any further if you don’t push yourself. Even if there are a hundred other voice actors competing for the gig, what have you got to lose? Even if your manuscript has received 50 rejection slips from agents and editors, the next one you send to might be the one who loves it! Whether I succeed or fail depends entirely on whether or not I give up, and believe me…I’ve failed so much that success just has to be around the corner!

(At least, that’s what I tell myself.)

TMIMITW took a chance!

Well, actually it wasn’t The Most Interesting Man in the World who took a chance – it was Jonathan Goldsmith, the Jewish, Bronx-raised actor who portrays him.

As I mentioned early in this post, things have a way of coming full-circle sometimes, and this is one of them. As I searched for the commercial online, thinking about those 15 seconds of wisdom the Dos Equis’ copywriters had shared about beefing up one’s obituary, I stumbled upon a recent blog post about how Goldsmith was cast as the company’s Latino pitchman.

If you don’t think you have a chance of scoring a big sale, nailing a big gig, or even winning a lottery…think about the odds that Goldsmith faced as a new York City Jew auditioning against 499 Latinos!

That’s right – out of 500 actors, he was chosen. And if the casting director had picked anyone else, The Most Interesting Man in the World would not be the man we know today.

It pays to take chances. And you only have NOW to take them. Tomorrow might not get here.

Better get busy.

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!

PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

 

 

 

The Sunshine Blogger Award

Sunshine blogger logoA couple of weeks ago, Heidi Mordhorst nominated this blog for a Sunshine Blogger Award. I immediately thanked her…then went to her blog to find out what that meant! According to Heidi, the folks she nominated “are people whose blogs, whose work, and whose simple existence bring sunshine to my juicy little universe.” (In case you’re wondering, My Juicy Little Universe is the name of her blog)

Following the Rules

Far be it for me to break tradition here. This is what she said I needed to do:

• Acknowledge the nominating bloggers
• Share 11 random facts about yourself
• Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger creates for you
• List 11 bloggers
• Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer and let all the  bloggers know they’ve been nominated.  (You cannot nominate the blogger  who nominated you.)

chili!

Good stuff!

Well, I’ve thanked Heidi for nominating me, so I can check the first one off the list. Now then…eleven random facts? Listing eleven facts are easy enough, but these need to be random. Let’s see how random I can get:

1) If I wasn’t a voiceover talent and writer, I’d either be teaching English or cooking professionally.
2) I wrote my first Elizabethan sonnet in 9th grade; it wasn’t very good, but it scanned!
3) I make a vegan chili that’s so flippin’ good, even carnivores have been fooled.
4) My favourite author is Isaac Asimov.
5) I fell in love with voice acting at a very young age, after my father let me listen to some old-time radio shows. (I talk more about this HERE)
6) I share the same birthday (June 24) as rockers Jeff Beck and Mick Fleetwood. Not really anything significant about that – but it IS a random fact.
7) Even though I used to work in radio and hosted several morning shows, I hate noise in the morning! Please keep it quiet for a few hours while I wake up…
8) Def Leppard’s drummer, Rick Allen, once gave me his cellphone number. (I should call and see if it still works)
9) I gave my 5-year-old daughter, Katie, a metal plate that had been removed from my left arm, following surgery. Why? She wanted it!
10) I had never eaten avocado or tofu until I met my wife, Jen, 7 years ago.
11) 
My favourite band is Crowded House, yet the only time I’ve ever seen them live was two years ago in Boston (thanks to my wife!). In fact, anything that Neil Finn or his brother, Tim, have done – from Split Enz to their various collaborations – is ok by me.

Eleven questions, eleven answers

I now need to answer the 11 questions Heidi asked on her blog post, when she nominated this blog for the Sunshine Blogger Award. Keep in mind, I have not read any of the questions until this very moment- so the answers I’m giving here are my immediate responses. Something tells me this is going to be fun:

1) What’s the first poem you remember knowing?  (You get to define “knowing”.)
The first poem I recall reading and trying to memorize was from a book whose title I don’t recall, unfortunately! (I’ve tried tracking down the book, to no avail) The poem was about how much fun it would be if we could eat clouds, it was from a small, paperback collection of poetry, and most of the pen & ink illustrations were accented in blue and pink. If you have ANY idea what book this is, please let me know!

2) What’s the first poem you remember writing? (You get to define “writing”.)
When I was 6 or 7 I think, I “wrote” some horribly rhyming lines about a goat swallowing a boat down his throat – and asked my uncle, a musician, if he could write the music for it. (Sorry, Uncle Ron, I still feel bad for that) Now, I considered it a song rather than a poem – but looking back on it, it wasn’t much of either, so I guess it’ll have to do.

3) Can you summarize your typical composition process in three easy steps? Okay, then, do it!
(Technically, this is 4 steps!)
Step 1: Come up with an idea.
Step 2: Write it down.
Step 3: Send it out to a bunch of editors and agents who don’t like it.
Step 4: Repeat .

4) What classic or famous poem have you used as a model, on purpose?  Share if you care to.
Wow, what a great question I don’t think I can answer! I’ve used numerous poems to write parodies over the years (like this one), but as far as serious poems, I don’t think I have ever done this. I’ve borrowed styles and forms and themes and such – but I’m not sure I’ve ever used a particular poem as a model.

5) With whom would you like to write a collection of poems?  (Living candidates only, please.)
Charles Ghigna. While I love Douglas Florian’s wit, David L. Harrison’s insight, and Steven Withrow’s lyricism, Charles has a knack for taking little observances and making them big and beautiful while maintaining a simple language and style. A close runner-up would be David Elliott, who has a great sense of humour and an ability to distill his observations into their most important facets. (That’s not too high-brow a comment, is it?)

6) What’s the weirdest place or moment you’ve ever found yourself composing?
You know, I don’t think I ever pay attention to that sort of thing. I write about varied subjects, and my focus, as far as I can tell, is usually on that particular subject. Whatever else is going on around me is secondary – which I suppose is probably not always a good thing!

7) What’s the weirdest place or moment you’ve ever been in, period?
A few years ago, a female friend and I went to a birthday party for a friend of hers…at a gay bar. Now, it wasn’t the fact that I was one of only two straight guys in the building – neither of us had any problem with that. But watching a scantily-clad “shot-boy” dancing on a table and having my butt grabbed on more than one occasion was definitely an experience I’ll never forget!

8) Say you have an unexpected couple of hours to yourself at home.  What do you do?  Include details of food, drink, tools, rules, etc.
First, I’ll try to get a load of dishes and laundry going – those things ain’t gonna wash themselves. Then I’ll pour some Moxie, maybe grad some Doritos, and head upstairs to my studio to do some writing. Taking care of two young kids, I don’t have the time I used to – so I fit writing in whenever I can.

9)  Say you suddenly find yourself in my kindergarten classroom with an opportunity to relive the 5-year-old you.  What do you enjoy most?
Probably playing on the playground, kicking balls, and riding the see-saw. If it was raining, I’d be happy colouring and drawing inside. The 5-year-old me never went to kindergarten, so formal academics weren’t a part of my life!

10) Say Dr. Who shows up in his Tardis and invites you on a three-hour tour.  Where do you go?  Whom do you visit?  Do you bring anything back?
Where I go: I’d like to zip around the world and visit some of the places I doubt I’ll ever see: Scotland, Paris, New Zealand, the Bahamas, Machu Pichu.
Whom I visit: I’d like to get Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, and Vishnu together and see if we can come to an understanding.
What I bring back: Leela. I’ve had a thing for her ever since middle school, and I’m now old enough to be able to do something about it.

11) When’s your birthday?
Oh, that’s easy! Like I said above, it’s June 24.

Who I’m nominating

The following list of fellow bloggers is by no means a complete list of all the folks I am proud to call friends, peers, and mentors; it is, however, a good sampling of the types of folks with whom I like to hang around. They are, in no particular order:

Renee LaTulippe at No Water River
Steven Withrow at Poetry At Play and Crackles of Speech
Joy Acey at Poetry for Kids Joy
Josh Funk at Papa J. Funk
Laura Shovan at Author Amok
Linda Baie at Teacher Dance
Paul Czajak at Ramblings of a Writer
Laura Purdie Salas at Writing the World for Kids
David L. Harrison at his blog
Jama Kim Rattigan at Jama’s Alphabet Soup
Amy Ludwig VanDerwater at the Poem Farm

And finally, questions for my nominees:

I think it took me longer to come up with these questions than it did answering Heidi’s. Here are the questions I am asking of the 11 bloggers whom I’ve nominated.

1) How would you describe/define your particular writing niche? In other words, what makes you so special?
2) If you had to suddenly change careers, what would you do?
3) I had to answer this, so now I’d like to hear from you: Can you describe your writing process in 3 simple steps?
4) If you were given $1000 with the instructions that it all had to be given away, how would you do it?
5) What story, book, or poem do you recall being the first thing you ever read that really made an impression?
6) You’re going to appear on a reality show – real or imagined. What’s it called?
7) Who would you love to collaborate with, and why?
8) What is one of your favourite things that you’ve written?
9) What type of writing project scares you to death, and when do you plan to start working on it?
10) You’ve been sentenced to death; what will be your final meal?
11) And with whom would you share it?

And with that, I shall take my leave and get back to work. I hope some of my blogger friends will take this challenge because I’d love to read some of their answers! And if you haven’t visited their blogs before, check them out and see what you think…you just might learn something new!

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!

PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Careers, hobbies, and knowing the difference

My baby!I know several people who record voiceovers from home. They don’t consider themselves professional voice actors and don’t have professional soundproof studios. They’re not bad at what they do, but will doubtful end up voicing the trailer for the next Transformers movie. They record local radio commercials here and there, perhaps a phone greeting now and then, and that’s it.

And they’re happy with that. To them, it’s not a career; it’s a hobby, a past-time, a side gig.

That’s fine.

Others I know love writing children’s stories. They write and write and write, but don’t spend much time revising, editing, or learning how to write.  They might send a manuscript out to a publisher once or twice; when the rejection note comes back, they don’t send anything else out for the rest of the year.

And they’re happy with that. To them, it’s a hobby, a diversion, a creative outlet.

That’s ok, too!

But what happens when you start treating your voice acting, writing, or other career as if it’s a leisurely pursuit?

Chances are, it won’t stay a career.

A lesson in health & beauty products

arbonne-logoMy wife recently became an independent consultant for Arbonne Skin and Body Care. As a health care professional, she tries to eat well, live sustainably, and be as healthy as possible. Since Arbonne products are all-natural, botanically-based, vegan, and gluten-free, she fell in love with them. In addition to skin care, hair care, bath & body, and cosmetic products, they also offer nutritional supplements and protein shakes (which I have to admit, are surprisingly good).

Consequently, when the woman she was buying them from suggested she sell them, too, my wife decided to take the plunge and go into business for herself.

The reason I mention all of this is because of the training the Arbonne folks give their consultants. They have conference calls, Skype sessions, and all kinds of one-on-one discussions. And in one of the very first training conference calls my wife participated in, the speaker shared this little nugget of wisdom:

“Don’t expect to make money if you treat this as a hobby.”

Now, she wasn’t trying to turn anyone away from selling the products. If someone wanted to simply sell some products on the side, maybe try some samples, and get a percentage off their orders, that was fine. She just didn’t want them to be disillusioned.

They wouldn’t be making the money that a career offers.

Rather, the speaker suggested, treat your position as an Arbonne representative seriously: get your business cards made up and pass them out proudly, talk to local businesses and other groups who might be interested in the product, and approach your conversations about Arbonne with the same attitude you would if you were working for someone who wasn’t you!

Because when you are your own boss, as many of us have learned, it’s easy to cut yourself slack and not work as hard as you should. You can make up excuses for why you didn’t have time to do this or that. You can find all sorts of reasons why it was OK to do something you shouldn’t have – or not do something you needed to.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

photo courtesy Roman Milert, Dreamstime

Businesses grow; hobbies don’t

Last year, I shared a post about things worth doing, worth trying, and not worth your effort - in other words, knowing what you like, what you’re good at, and what you’d rather not do, and embracing that knowledge. Likewise, if you’re going to take up a hobby, do it for the enjoyment of it! Learn it, practice it, and have fun.

If you’re going to begin a career, then learning, practicing, and having fun are also important steps…but so is taking it seriously.

For example, I’m a voiceover professional; I audition every chance I get, I provide clients with quality service, and market myself to the best of my ability. I also write children’s literature, and although I have yet to get that elusive book deal, I do have a poem being included in an upcoming children’s anthology. I am constantly sending manuscripts and cover letters out, going to workshops and conferences, and trying to improve my writing.

I have a lot of fun, but I take what I do seriously.

A business grows; as you develop skills, contacts, and clients, you strive to get better, meet more people, and work with more clients. A hobby, on the other hand, exists for your enjoyment and nothing else. Sure, you hear about people who had a hobby that they built into a business – but the only reason that happened is because they started treating the hobby like a business.

They got serious.

Are you serious?

Are you auditioning for everything you’re qualified for? Are you making an effort to learn how to write better? No matter what your pursuit, are you putting everything into it?

If not, then what you’re doing is a hobby…and if that’s all you want it to be, that’s fine. We all need hobbies, and to each his own.

But if it’s not supposed to be a hobby, then ask yourself what you can do differently. What you can do more efficiently. What you can do better.

After all, if you don’t take your career seriously, you shouldn’t expect anyone else to.

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!

PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Are you doing your best – or everything else?

Yesterday, I read an article about McDonald’s Corp. that got me thinking about how I approach my voiceover business – and life in general.

ID-100188772 (burger)It appears that the burger chain is losing customers. Why? Because people aren’t eating burgers anymore? Nope. Because people are eating healthier these days? Not really.

The reason Mickey D’s is losing customers – particularly at lunch – is because they have been working aggressively at building up their beverage offerings to compete with Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks.  The article explains that while the fast food giant has been creating multiple beverage stations, hot and cold coffees, latte’s, frappés, milkshakes, and smoothies…beverages are not the reason McDonald’s core customers patronize them.  In other words…

Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks are not your competition, McDonald’s.

Know your competition

It should come as no surprise to anyone (other than the company’s execs, apparently) that McDonald’s’ competition is other burger joints:  Burger King, which is offering the Angry Whopper, BBQ Pulled Pork sandwich, and sweet potato fries; Wendy’s, which has a huge hit with their Pretzel Bun Burger; or even Taco Bell and their Doritos tacos. What new product is McDonald’s promoting right now?

Chicken wings.

News flash: KFC is not your competition, either, folks.

So what does this mean to the rest of us?

Know your strengths

Whether you’re a restaurateur, a salesperson, a voice artist, or a writer – whatever you do for a living – you have to know your strengths.  You need to know what it is you do best and who it is you need to do it for; otherwise, you’ll be trying to attract the wrong customers and giving the customers you do get a likely inferior product. (Did I mention McDonald’s is serving chicken wings?)

Personally, I would love to voice movie trailers. Unfortunately for me, my voice lacks the gritty, hard-edged quality that most movie trailer voice actors have. So I’m content to voice commercials, corporate narration, and on-hold messaging. Having started out acting, I have voiced a number of characters over the years – from a pre-Colonial American soldier to a lumbering, digital super-villain – so I’m happy to lend my talents to documentaries, museum recordings, and audio dramas.

But movie trailers…I’m just not seeing it happening.

DSCF2068 (Mic - Katie)That’s ok, though, because I’m not wasting my time auditioning for gigs I have no chance of winning. Being a voice actor, children’s writer, and stay-at-home dad to two kids under the age of 4, time is precious to me.

Trying to make myself appear to be something I’m not by offering something I’m not 100% capable of doing well does a disservice to the prospective client as well as to myself.

Know your limits

When I was younger, I auditioned for everything: trailers, audio books, TV commercials. I never sent in auditions I thought were sub-par, but looking back on it now I realize many of those auditions were probably tossed after 5 seconds of listening; I just wasn’t cut out for many of those gigs!

Likewise, as a children’s writer, I specialize in poetry. I like the compact, succinct little vignettes and stories that poetry allows me to create.  I’ve written about a half-dozen picture book manuscripts, but for now, I do not see myself writing any middle-grade novels or YA (Young Adult) fiction.

For one thing, I can’t imagine being able to sit still long enough to write that many pages just to get my story out. For another, I don’t think I’d be able to keep the plot, characters, or settings straight.  Some people have told me writing poetry is a lot harder than writing a chapter book. I have no idea if that is true.

I also have no intention of finding out!

Know when to stretch yourself

When I say we need to play to our strengths, I’m not implying that we shouldn’t step outside our comfort zone(s) now and then. Otherwise, how would we grow?

There’s nothing wrong with testing the waters now and then.  If you’re a voice actor, try auditioning for a role that might be a stretch, if you think you can pull it off. If you’re a prose writer, see what happens if you try to write some poetry. Maybe it’ll be awful…maybe it won’t be half bad. But at least you’ve pushed yourself and can learn from the experience.

It’s when you start spending an inordinate amount of time outside your area of expertise that things may start to falter.  It’s great to develop new clients and new things to offer…but not at the expense of losing your old clients.

Unless you don’t mind losing your old clients.

Sometimes growth requires pruning

ID-10079994 (cellphone)Just like cutting the branches off a large tree helps it to grow and be healthy, the same might be said about your business.

Verizon, which started off as a landline telephone company, realized there were less headaches and more money in wireless communications. So they eventually sold all their landline services and became a strictly wireless provider. In this case, they expanded what they were doing, realized there was a more profitable way of doing it, and totally changed the focus of the company.

But you’ll notice, they didn’t start selling computers, TVs, and all sorts of other equipment. They continued offering phone service – just a different type of phone service.

They knew their strength was communications service, not communication devices – and they knew their competition was AT&T and Sprint, not Apple and Samsung.

Assessing my life

As previously mentioned, I’m a voice actor, children’s writer, and stay-at-home dad. I’m also a husband, neighbor, friend, indoor soccer player, and parishioner. How am doing with these? I’m not sure.

There’s more I could do to build up my business. I don’t write as much as I’d like. I never feel like I spend enough time with the family – even though I’m with the kids all day long. And those other responsibilities? I wish I could be better at those, too.

Sure, it’s a juggling act. But it’s also a juggling act I created myself. I do the best I can, and if the day comes when I find I’m just not fulfilling my obligations in one of those areas, something will have to go.  I can tell you, it certainly won’t be the family.

For now, I’m doing my best, playing to my strengths.  If I ever get to the point where I’m not doing my best, I’ll need to reassess my life.

Although, for the record, I still don’t see any movie trailers or chapter books in my future!

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PoetsGarage-badgeDid you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it!  To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

From torn tendons to tenderloin: a week’s worth of life lessons

This past week has been another crazy-busy one. I know everyone has more and more responsibilities weighing them down these days, but for me, sometimes it’s hard just keeping those responsibilities straight – much less actually accomplishing them.

As a stay-at-home dad to my 3-year-old son and 10-week-old daughter, it’s a constant struggle trying to take care of them while running my voiceover business, writing my children’s poetry and picture book manuscripts, being a supportive hubby to my lovely bride, and trying to find a few spare minutes for myself to be able to recharge.

Grey - baking 4

My sous chef, working on the pizza dough

Oh, but first, I need to get a load of laundry in.  Hang on…

Ok, now as I was saying, I — oh, dang, wait a sec – I forgot to load the dishwasher…

Anyway, my point is — ugh, I just realized I was supposed to vacuum the house today! Oh, well, it’ll have to wait…

Before I try to write anything else, let me just put the dogs outside in their kennel and give the baby some milk so she can nap. I’ll have to pay these bills later today.

Let’s stick with bullet points

Indeed, that may be the best way to put this post together, all things considered. You see, although it’s been a stressful and challenging week, there are always rays of sunshine peeking through here and there – little glimmers of inspiration or encouragement that you might miss if you’re too busy trying to just get through the day. Here’s what my past week has been like:

- My Men’s Over-30 Indoor Soccer team’s first game of the season was last Tuesday night, and although we lost, it was to a team that has been playing far longer than we have. We held our own and did an admirable job. Of course, I would have preferred not to have torn a tendon in my left middle finger, but it happens. My finger will be in a brace for the next 6 weeks, but I’m not letting the injury stop me. I won’t be goal-keeping for half the season, but I don’t need fingers to play defense, halfback, or forward!
Lesson learned: Don’t let adversity stop you!

finger

Like I would let THAT stop me!

- A good client of mine asked me to produce a new series of radio commercials for her. We met at a recording studio and, as we have in the past, talked about her business and the various points she wanted to focus on.  I then had the audio (about an hour, total) sent to me, and I’m in the process of cutting up all her good parts into testimonial- style commercials. It’s a major project, and I anticipate being able to produce about 14 or 15 commercials, which she’ll be able to use throughout the rest of this year and next. Why so many? Because there many angles to her business, and I don’t just ask her questions when we’re recording; I listen to her answers. We converse. And that sense of comfort comes through.
Lesson learned: Talk less, listen more!

- One day last week, the baby started crying and wouldn’t stop. She had been changed, fed, held, rocked, changed again, held again, and nothing I was doing was altering her decibel level. Knowing that babies cry because – well, that’s just what they do - I tried not to let it get to me. Eventually, after holding her for what seemed like 182 hours (I’m pretty sure it was less than that, but my arm felt like it had been 182 hours), I decided to try putting her in her baby swing. She immediately stopped crying, closed her eyes, and fell asleep for 2 hours, allowing daddy to finally get some work done. At that point, all I really wanted was a really quiet massage – but since that was out of the question, I decided to work on those commercials.
Lesson learned: Patience, patience, patience!

Best Green Bean Casserole

I could buy 2 pounds for $50, or make twice that for $6. Let me think about that…

- I received a mail-order food catalogue over the weekend from a company I’d never heard of, but which tried tempting me with photos of succulent tenderloin beef, sirloin steaks, and filet mignon. I really wasn’t interested in anything that cost $48 per pound – I kid you not! – but I figured I’d continue to peruse the catalogue and see what else they offered. Then I came across the Green Bean Casserole. Yes, that’s right…the dish your grandmother used to make for Thanksgiving was available by mail-order, for only $25 a pound! Green beans, cream of mushroom soup, and cheap fried onion-things on top, and I could have a 2-pound package sent directly to my door for only FIFTY DOLLARS.
Lesson learned: If I ever have so much money that a $50 Green Bean Casserole sounds like a deal…slap me.

Pay attention to Life!

We don’t always have to be hit with disaster or suffer a major traumatic experience to recognize when Life (or God) is trying to teach us something. Really, there’s something we can learn in everything we experience, if we’re willing to look.

Like you, I get busy, I get stressed, I get uplifted, I get shot down. But in each circumstance, there’s wisdom to be gleaned. I’ve lost out on voiceover gigs; perhaps that’s Life teaching me tenacity. I’ve had numerous children’s writers tell me how much they love some of my poetry; perhaps that’s Life encouraging me to keep writing.

I have four projects I need to work on right now; perhaps that’s Life’s way of teaching me time management.

Or, maybe Life is just telling me everything’s going to be OK.

Either way, I’m listening.

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PoetsGarage-badgeDid you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it!  To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest,

When soccer, voice-acting, and poetry collide

Well, maybe not “collide” – but perhaps “rub elbows”…

ID-10056952 (soccer ball)My Men’s Over-30 Indoor Soccer league plays its first game tonight, and as I’ve been getting ready the last few weeks, it has occurred to me how important preparation is – for anything you do.

Practicing things like ball control, passing, and, in my case, goal-keeping, helps one to not only become better at those particular skills, but to more easily focus on other things important to the game. If you don’t have to think about how to move the ball from one place to the next, you have more time to survey the field to determine your next move. If you’re not worrying about touching the ball with your hands, as many new players do, you’ll have more confidence when the ball comes your way.

Likewise, prepping for the other things you do in life can be helpful, as well. As a voice actor, preparation takes many forms for me. I prep scripts by reading them over first, correcting for spelling, punctuation, or syntax, and noting where to pause, where to add emphasis, and where to change inflection. I prep my voice by drinking lots of water all the time and making sure not to drink caffeinated beverages or eat salty foods or dairy if I know I’m going to be recording in a little while.

And of course, I constantly prep my abilities by auditioning, auditioning, auditioning.

Every gig I don’t get was practice for the gig I will get

Some folks complain about auditioning for gigs and not getting them.  The way I look at it, auditioning is the main part of my job (marketing is a close second) and actually recording the gigs – doing the “fun stuff,” so to speak – is a much smaller piece of my career pie. Yes, it’s the part that makes me money, but I still spend more time auditioning and marketing.

Do I like being passed over for gigs? Of course not.

However, I do try to find the good in everything. And believe me…for some high-profile, well-paying auditions I lose out on, it’s really hard to find the good.  But if I don’t, where does that leave me? Grumpy and disagreeable is no way to live your life.

We all know what practicing means and we all understand that “practice makes perfect” – but how often are we practicing something and not even realizing it?

ID-10068993 (sound mixer)

Poetic practice, practice, practice…

As you probably know, I do a lot of writing. For the past several years, I’ve been trying to become a published children’s writer, and it hasn’t been easy. Getting a book published these days through conventional means (agents, editors, contracts, etc.) is hard to do. Getting a children’s book published is even harder.

And getting a children’s book of poetry, which Is what I primarily write, is about the hardest thing there is.

Publishers and agents claim the market isn’t very big, even though every kid in school from kindergarten to 12th grade can recite nursery rhymes, favourite songs, and hip-hop lyrics. My 3-year-old already knows many of the poems in David Elliott’s book, In the Wild, fer cryin’ out loud. But “poetry doesn’t sell” is the mantra we’re repeatedly given.

That’s a whole other blog post, my friend.

My point in mentioning this is, I write and write and write…with no guarantees of success.  Some of my poems are pretty good (I think) and some not so good. The ones I like I either post here or submit to independent anthologies and the ones I don’t like never see the light of day. At least, that is, until I get them to the point where I do like them – through revising and rewriting.

Here again, every poem is practice for the next. If I want to learn to write a poem in a particular form, I’ll work at it and work at it until I get to the point where the form feels comfortable. At that point, I can focus on other elements of the poem like internal rhyme and such. If I’m not focused on the rules of the form because they come more naturally to me, my mind is free to create. (Remember what I was saying about soccer practice?)

If only we could practice life

How cool would that be? You get to go through puberty once, you figure it all out and learn what to do and what not to do and what to say and not to say…then once you’re ready, you get a do-over! That time when you talked back to your dad a little too much? You’d now know when to shut up. That girl you wanted to ask out in high school, but didn’t know if you could? You’d get to actually ask her out.

Alas, we only get one life. That doesn’t mean we still can’t keep practicing to improve ourselves – or at least recognize our failures as practice for success.  Personally speaking, I used to be the biggest introvert on the planet. But I wanted to be more gregarious, so I began acting as if I was. Seriously! I pretended to be outgoing, and although it was extremely difficult at first, over the years it became much easier.

ID-10016199 (soccer mic)I didn’t realize I was practicing gregariousness (is that a word?) – but that’s exactly what I was doing. And I’m a much happier, more sociable fellow these days than I was 25 years ago. Which probably explains my mindset when it comes to failure. As former U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis said, “Nothing succeeds like failure.”

Each gig I don’t win or manuscript that is rejected gets me that much closer to a gig I will get or a book I will sell.  Maybe it’s determination. Maybe it’s delusion.

I’m good at both, you know.

I practice.

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PoetsGarage-badgeDid you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it!  To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter , Facebook, Pinterest, and SoundCloud!

Poetry Friday: The Mortimer Minute – with apples!

poetryfridaybutton-fulll

You may have seen a furry little critter bouncing around various kid lit blogs lately…well today, he’s visiting mine!  He’s Mortimer, a buck-toothed troubadour for children’s poetry, and he’s the mascot for a Poetry Blog Hop started by fellow writer/poet April Halprin Wayland.

Here’s how it works:
1) Answer one of the previous questions asked by the blogger who tagged you, and answer two other questions you’ve always wanted to be asked in an interview about children’s poetry;
2) Invite one, two or three other bloggers who write children’s poetry to answer three questions that they make up on their own blogs (again, using one of the pervious questions);
3) In the post, let readers know who your invitees are and when they’re are going to be posting their Mortimer Minute questions and answers.

Well, that sounds simple enough!

mortimer-final

1) What project(s) are you working on now?

Upon completing the manuscript for my winter-themed children’s poetry collection last year, I began working on an autumn-themed collection. (I figure, if an editor likes the first one, they’ll know there’s more where that came from!) I still need another 8 or so poems to complete that, but I also wrote and co-wrote two picture book manuscripts this  year and I have two other picture book ideas I’m trying to work on, too!  Is there any way to cram more than 24 hours into a standard ‘day?’

2) How do you come up with the ideas for your poetry?

Ideas are where you find them. I don’t have to look hard to come up with subject matter, but figuring out a unique angle in which to present it or twist it does require a fair amount of brain work. As I mentioned on this blog earlier this week, I try to find the angle that is least expected. For instance, at the Highlights poetry workshop I’ve been telling you about, one of the exercises David Harrison had us do was brainstorm words that had anything to do with a word he would give us. When he said the word was “jar,” everyone in the room was offering up words like “jelly,” “pickles,” and that sort of thing. One person said “sudden stopping movement,” as in the verb, “jar.”

Me? My first thought was Jar Jar Binks, that annoying character from Star Wars, Episode I: The Phantom Menace. I didn’t say anything, though. Even I thought it was a pretty far stretch. But my point is, dare to be different!

3) What poem do you wish you had written? 

None. There is not a single poem anywhere that I wish I’d written. There are some terrific ones out there, like Shelley’s “Ozymandias,” Silverstein’s “The Little Boy and the Old Man,” Thomas Gray’s “Ode on the death of a favorite cat,” Poe’s “To My Mother,” and just about anything Robert Frost ever wrote. But I write my own poetry, and am perfectly content with that – whether it’s any good or not.

I’ve invited two people to join the blog hop:

Violet mug-2Violet Nesdoly is a poet and regular contributor to Poetry Friday.  She’ll post her Mortimer Minute next Friday, Oct. 25.
.

papa j funk logoPapa-J Funk, meanwhile, never claimed to be a poet – although he is quite adept at creating fun and unusual rhymes in his picture book manuscripts. He’ll have his ‘Minute’ Friday, Oct. 25, as well!

Speaking of poetry…

Highlights - tree

…here’s another poem I wrote while at that Highlights poetry workshop.  Ironically, even though the workshop was geared to children’s poetry, this is definitely not a children’s poem! I was inspired to write it the first day I was there because a) it was situated in the field right across from all of our cabins and could not be missed, and b) fellow children’s writer/blogger Joy Acey prompted me to write a ‘nature’-themed poem, which is something I’ve had plenty of practice doing before!

“The Apple Tree”

An old tree
in the field across the road
stood in solitude amidst the sawgrass
and goldenrod
and a few errant wildflowers,
so full of precious fruit
I surmised it must be
in wont of a visitor
with whom to share
its treasures.

Desirous of the beauty
I beheld, I journeyed
through green-amber weeds
high to my waist, urgent
soft steps growing
quicker, quicker
and more deliberate.

The tree beckoned, lifting each coy leaf
to expose
sweet bounty beneath.
Soon, I saw boughs heavy
as the Milky Way, bearing
stars upon stars
that outnumbered
and outshone the very leaves
that held them
in the sky.

Faster and faster I trod, consumed
by a fervent lust
for sustenance;
such succulence I’d never seen!
Closer, closer, I came,
heart and eyes wide and longing
until
breaths away…

I stopped.

Under shade of canopy,
I saw clearly only now
blessed fruit blushed
with blight.

Mold-speckled faces frowned
through borers’ brown holes
while wind-wrinkled skin hung
criss-crossed with blemishes
of age and neglect.
I stared
for only a moment,
then sat close to its trunk,
where low-hanging corpses
mocked my desire…

yet,
I would not leave this spot,
for I knew my hunger
was insatiable, and my thirst
unquenched. Here
I would remain
yearning, never satisfied,
but content
with what could have been.

- © 2013, Matt Forrest Esenwine

For all of today’s Poetry Friday links and info, be sure to visit Cathy at Merely Day By Day!

Highlights - tree close-up

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PoetsGarage-badgeDid you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it!  To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter , Facebook, Pinterest, and SoundCloud!

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