Donut Cones, Patriotism, and Girl (horse)Power: Observations from the State Fair, Part IX:

WOW…have I actually been sharing my thoughts and observations as the official PA announcer for the local state fair for NINE YEARS now? Time does, indeed, fly.

Sharing my yearly experience is something I have done every year, except for 2020 – which we don’t talk about. (the fair was cancelled due to Covid, natch) In the past, I’ve learned that I walk a minimum of 9 miles each day, that Whoppers are the most despised candy, and that sand used for sand sculptures is different from normal beach sand.

Yes, I have learned a great deal working at the Hopkinton State Fair – and as far as revelations go, this year’s fair did not disappoint!

A whole lot of guys seem to like the color pink these days. Everywhere I turned, I was seeing pink: shirts, shorts, pink, even socks. Not judging – just a bit surprised, that’s all. With my dark blue “fair official” polo shirt, I was feeling a bit left out!

No matter how old I get, a car that transforms into a robot will always be cool.

BIG BEE, The Transforming Robot Car™!

“Big Bee,” as he is known, was at the fair for the first time this year. If you’ve seen a particular movie or a particular TV show about “transforming” cars that turn into giant robot warriors, then you’ll recognize this bright yellow Chevrolet Camaro. He drew quite a crowd, I’ll tell you that.

Click the photo and you can see him in action!

The National Anthem is popular again. In past posts, I’ve bemoaned the loss of patriotism based on my observations of people wandering around during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” each day at noon, seemingly oblivious to what was happening. This year, for some reason, was different – very different. When we announced the playing the anthem and asked people to rise…they did! Nearly everyone I could see from the grandstand tower stopped, turned toward the nearest flag, and paid respect. What a difference a pandemic makes, eh?

Watching your son go nuts at a Monster Truck Show is one of the best experiences a dad can have.

Some people just don’t understand the culinary diversity of a country fair. I happened to overhear a man and woman talking as they walked past me. The guy was holding some sort of giant food item and his wife/girlfriend wore an increduous look on her face. “How can you EAT that s**t??” she exclaimed.

His reply? “Because it’s really good s**t!”

Hard to argue with a man who knows what he likes.

Cinnamon sugar and blueberries for your fried pickles? Hey, who am I to judge?
I need to go back now and try the other 5 varieties.

Donut ice cream cones are my new obsession. Speaking of food, I discovered a new innovation my first night working there. Wrap a piece of dough around a wooden cone, deep-fry it, spread the interior with Nutella, dust it with cinnamon sugar, fill it with ice cream – oh, and be sure to plug up the hole at the bottom of the cone first with a Lindt truffle.

Candy apples have been around for nearly 100 years. The first red candy apple was created in 1908 by a New Jersey candy maker who was experimenting with the red cinnamon candy he sold during the Christmas season. He dipped a few apples in the mixture, set them on his counter, and the rest, as they say, is history.

If someone had told me a year ago that I’d be ordering stir-fry at a country fair, I’d have told them they were crazy. Yet, here I was, ordering garlic chicken with pineapple fried rice…and loving it so much that I had to go back and try the sesame chicken and Pad Thai noodles. I’ve never eaten – or even seen – anything at any fair that was as restaurant-quality as what Indochine Pavilion was serving up – but I’ll definitely be keeping my eyes open for them again. (and yes, the guy was checking the internal temperature of each piece. Kudos to you, my good man)

Electricity may just be a boring old natural phenomenon that’s been around since the dawn of timebut when you put it inside little colored light bulbs, it sure is pretty.

Girls are doing a great job of competing with the boys! I’m not a huge fan of demolition derbies, but they are fun to watch; drivers smash each other’s cars to smithereens in the hopes that their own vehicle is the last standing (or crawling, as the case might be). The annual Demo Derby at the Hopkinton State Fair is always a sell-out, and this year, as something different, organizers instituted a new event: young drivers, ages 12-15, with an adult passenger.

All safety precautions were in place, and the track is so muddy the cars can’t really go as fast as one might fear – but the thing that impressed me most was the fact that, out of 10 cars participating, 5 were driven by boys and 5 were driven by girls! And when it was all said and done, the winner was a boy and the runner-up was a girl. Talk about your equal-smashing opportunities.

Y’know, my daughter might have zero interest in driving in a demo derby, but I’m glad I can tell her she can, if she wants to!

Remind me to never do this:

Finally, the best way to confront your fears is by tackling them head-on. Justin Spencer from the band Recycled Percussion is a local fellow (actually, they’re ALL local fellows!) who has struggled with panic attacks a good part of his life. Closed spaces really freak him out. So he decided to do the only logical thing that any of us would do to try to combat that fear.

He had himself buried underground.

Yep, he and his charity organization Chaos & Kindness arranged to have Justin buried inside a wooden box for 24 hours. He did this not only to kick his panic atacks in the a**, as he stated, but to help raise money for disadvantaged kids who need school supplies. So he and the group staged a huge event at the fair, he kissed his wife and daughter before heading down into the ground, and a ventilation system kept fresh air going through his living quarters until he was pulled out the next day.

And when he finally saw daylight again, he greeted his family and friends and did a quick impromptu performance with his bandmates. Panic attacks are going to have to go find someone else to bother now.

Thank you, and good night!

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Create an account to add books to wishlists and be notified of special deals and dates…create custom collections…and discover and follow your favorite authors & illustrators!

Find out more about BOOKROO here!

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Talkabook is setting out to inspire children by connecting them with authors and illustrators! Click here to view my profile and learn more!

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I continue adding to my “Wit & Wordplay” videos ! These videos were created for parents and educators (along with their kids) to learn how to write poetry, appreciate it, and have fun with it. From alliteration and iambs to free verse and spine poetry, I’m pretty sure there’s something in these videos you’ll find surprising! You can view them all on my YouTube channel, and if you have young kids looking for something to keep busy with, I also have several downloadable activity sheets at my website.

===========================================================

Ordering personalized signed copies online? Oh, yes, you can!

You can purchase personally-signed copies of Flashlight Night, (Boyds Mills Press, 2017), Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (Pow! Kids Books, 2018)and nearly EVERY book or anthology I’ve been part of!

Click any of the following covers to order!

Just click the cover of whichever book you want and send a comment to the good folks at MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH requesting my signature and to whom I should make it out. (alternatively, you can log onto my website and do the same thing) They’ll contact me, I’ll stop by and sign it, and then they’ll ship it! (Plus, you’ll be supporting your local bookseller – and won’t that make you feel good?)

============================================================

Thank you to everyone for your support!

FLASHLIGHT NIGHT:

DON’T ASK A DINOSAUR:

============================================================

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!

To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post once or twice a week – usually 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 FacebookInstagramPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Poetry Friday: “…then again, maybe I should go back for some pizza”

I’m currently busy working at the 104th annual Hopkinton (NH) State Fair, where I have been the announcer for 10 years now! I let folks know what events are taking place, where facilities are, and assist with announcing the demolition derbies Sat. and Sun nights. It’s a long, 60+ hour weekend of talking, walking, and smiling…but I love it. So I thought I’d pull this little gem out of storage, originally published Sept. 7, 2012!

For all the Poetry Friday links, be sure to head on over to Kathryn Apel’s blog, Kat’s Whiskers, where she’s hosting today’s Poetry Friday roundup with some exciting picture book news (congrats, Kat!) and a review of two Aussie-published verse novels written by friends of hers.

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poetryfridaybutton-fulllYes, the title of the poem is a bit odd, but so is the person who wrote it.  Actually, there’s a reason why I titled it this way…you’ll understand once you get to the end of the poem. (the title is actually the REAL last line of the poem!)

This was written as I was preparing for my duties as the official live announcer for the annual Hopkinton State Fair here in New Hampshire.  It’s one of the largest fairs in the state and takes place during Labor Day Weekend.

I was the announcer for this year’s fair as well, and I’m still recuperating.  It’s not the 60-hours-on-my-feet-for-4-days schedule that gets me; it’s the food!  Between deep-fried pickles/Pop-Tarts,/Oreos/etc., barbecued bison burgers, and roast turkey legs that would give Fred Flintstone a hernia, it’s a fair-foodie’s dream-come-true.  My annual favourite?  A loaded baked potato with chili, bacon, cheese, broccoli, sour cream, chives, salsa, and jalapenos.

I tell them to hold the butter because I really don’t need the fat.

“…then again, maybe I should go back for some pizza”

I love the fair, but most of all, the food is hard to beat –
it’s barely 2pm, and yet I’ve had so much to eat!
I started with a burger, had a corn dog and some fries,
and then hot buttered popcorn in a box of massive size.

I feasted on the fried dough, ate a funnel cake or three,
and downed as many deep-fried foods as there could ever be.
Of course I needed ice cream, so I stopped to have a scoop;
I even scarfed a giant, cheesy bread bowl full of soup!

Ate cotton candy, caramel apples, schnitzel on a stick.
I polished off a pulled pork sub entirely too quick.
I’ve eaten all the sausage my poor stomach will allow;
so really…all I want…
is just a garden salad now…

© 2011, Matt Forrest Esenwine

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I continue adding to my “Wit & Wordplay” videos ! These videos were created for parents and educators (along with their kids) to learn how to write poetry, appreciate it, and have fun with it. From alliteration and iambs to free verse and spine poetry, I’m pretty sure there’s something in these videos you’ll find surprising! You can view them all on my YouTube channel, and if you have young kids looking for something to keep busy with, I also have several downloadable activity sheets at my website.

===========================================================

Ordering personalized signed copies online? Oh, yes, you can!

You can purchase personally-signed copies of Flashlight Night, (Boyds Mills Press, 2017), Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (Pow! Kids Books, 2018)and nearly EVERY book or anthology I’ve been part of!

Click any of the following covers to order!

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You can purchase personalized signed copies of Flashlight Night, (Boyds Mills Press, 2017), Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (Pow! Kids Books, 2018), and nearly ALL of the books or anthologies I’ve been part of!

Just click the cover of whichever book you want and send the good folks at MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH a note requesting the signature and to whom I should make it out to. (alternatively, you can log onto my website and do the same thing) They’ll contact me, I’ll stop by and sign it for you, and then they’ll ship it. Try doing that with those big online booksellers! (Plus, you’ll be helping to support local book-selling – and wouldn’t that make you feel good?)

=========================================================

Thank you to everyone for your support!

=========================================================

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!

SCVBWI_Member-badge (5 years)
To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post once or twice a week – usually 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, InstagramPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Poetry Friday: Heading back to school with “School People”

Hard to believe it’s time for our kids to head back to school again – although admittedly under different circumstances than past years.

But through all the changes we’ve dealt with this past year and a half, one thing that doesn’t change are our school people – the folks who teach, support, and care for our children while they are away from home.

So I thought I’d share a couple of selections from Lee Bennett Hopkins’ School People (Wordsong, 2018), a collection of 15 poems by various writers including Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Irene Latham, J. Patrick Lewis, and Yours Truly.

I’ve shared my contribution, the poem ‘Bus Driver,’ a couple of times here before, so today I wanted to re-share Lee’s poem, ‘Librarian.’ (You can view my original post and interview with him HERE)

©2018 Wordsong, all rights reserved, reprinted with permission (Click to enlarge)

It’s sad to think, Lee passed away almost exactly 2 years ago, and although he won’t be able to see his final few anthologies that were in various states of progress when he passed, his legacy of poetry and love of language will live on in the poems and books he wrote as well as in the words of those of us he befriended, supported, and guided.

No matter how many poets come along, there will never be another Lee.

For all of today’s poetry links and fun, please visit Unexpected Intersections where Elisabeth is hosting the Poetry Friday roundup with a spotlight on her response to a poetic challenge to write in a style similar to a Jane Yolen poem – Yikes, no pressure!

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I’m now a part of the BOOKROO family!

Create an account to add books to wishlists and be notified of special deals and dates…create custom collections…and discover and follow your favorite authors & illustrators!

Find out more about BOOKROO here!

============================================================

Talkabook is setting out to inspire children by connecting them with authors and illustrators! Click here to view my profile and learn more!

============================================================

I continue adding to my “Wit & Wordplay” videos ! These videos were created for parents and educators (along with their kids) to learn how to write poetry, appreciate it, and have fun with it. From alliteration and iambs to free verse and spine poetry, I’m pretty sure there’s something in these videos you’ll find surprising! You can view them all on my YouTube channel, and if you have young kids looking for something to keep busy with, I also have several downloadable activity sheets at my website.

===========================================================

Ordering personalized signed copies online? Oh, yes, you can!

You can purchase personally-signed copies of Flashlight Night, (Boyds Mills Press, 2017), Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (Pow! Kids Books, 2018)and nearly EVERY book or anthology I’ve been part of!

Click any of the following covers to order!

Just click the cover of whichever book you want and send a comment to the good folks at MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH requesting my signature and to whom I should make it out. (alternatively, you can log onto my website and do the same thing) They’ll contact me, I’ll stop by and sign it, and then they’ll ship it! (Plus, you’ll be supporting your local bookseller – and won’t that make you feel good?)

============================================================

Thank you to everyone for your support!

FLASHLIGHT NIGHT:

DON’T ASK A DINOSAUR:

============================================================

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!

To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post once or twice a week – usually 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 FacebookInstagramPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Poetry Friday: “Work”-ing with a 2-year-old artist

Last week I shared a poem I wrote for my wife as part of our wedding vows 13 years ago – a post I traditionally re-share annually. So this week, I thought I’d let my daughter have the spotlight.

As a born artist, she has always been a creative soul, drawing, painting, sculpting and creating art in every possible manner everywhere she goes. Lunch crumbs, recyclables, anything she finds all have potential to become art in her hands.

Several years ago when she was barely 2 years old, she drew this picture:

I asked my daughter what it was and she replied, “A hand picking up stones.”

Given her age and cognitive abilities at the time (she was barely 2, remember), I assumed that was simply a random answer. But when her mom saw it and asked her what it was, she said the same thing: I asked my daughter what it was and she replied, “It’s a hand picking up stones.”

I thought it interesting that she said the same thing, so I decided to wait a week or so and ask again. This time, she actually sighed and said, “I told you, it’s a hand picking up stones!”

I guess she knew exactly what she was drawing.

So I thought it might be fun to write a poem to go along with her picture. (This is a form of “ekphrastic poetry”; that is, poetry written to accompany a picture. You can learn more about how much fun ekphrastic poetry is to write – and learn a little more about this poem – HERE.)

.

Work

One by one
I set the stones
neatly in a pile.
Though labor’s long
and aches my bones,
its beauty makes me smile.

© (2015) Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

.

This poem and picture were first featured together on Penny Parker Klostermann’s blog, as part of a series of posts she shared featuring collaborations between writers and child family members. For more poetry, head over to The Apples in My Orchard, where Carol is hosting today’s Poetry Friday roundup!

============================================================

I’m now a part of the BOOKROO family!

Create an account to add books to wishlists and be notified of special deals and dates…create custom collections…and discover and follow your favorite authors & illustrators!

Find out more about BOOKROO here!

============================================================

Talkabook is setting out to inspire children by connecting them with authors and illustrators! Click here to view my profile and learn more!

============================================================

I continue adding to my “Wit & Wordplay” videos ! These videos were created for parents and educators (along with their kids) to learn how to write poetry, appreciate it, and have fun with it. From alliteration and iambs to free verse and spine poetry, I’m pretty sure there’s something in these videos you’ll find surprising! You can view them all on my YouTube channel, and if you have young kids looking for something to keep busy with, I also have several downloadable activity sheets at my website.

===========================================================

Ordering personalized signed copies online? Oh, yes, you can!

You can purchase personally-signed copies of Flashlight Night, (Boyds Mills Press, 2017), Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (Pow! Kids Books, 2018)and nearly EVERY book or anthology I’ve been part of!

Click any of the following covers to order!

Just click the cover of whichever book you want and send a comment to the good folks at MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH requesting my signature and to whom I should make it out. (alternatively, you can log onto my website and do the same thing) They’ll contact me, I’ll stop by and sign it, and then they’ll ship it! (Plus, you’ll be supporting your local bookseller – and won’t that make you feel good?)

============================================================

Thank you to everyone for your support!

FLASHLIGHT NIGHT:

DON’T ASK A DINOSAUR:

============================================================

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!

To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post once or twice a week – usually 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 FacebookInstagramPinterest, and SoundCloud!

“Constancy”

This post was originally published August 3, 2012. It was my first poetry post on this blog, and only my second post ever, following my introduction. But I repost it every year at this time, as my wedding anniversary is August 10 and the poem was part of my wedding vows. Would I write this poem quite this way today? Probably not; the sentiment certainly hasn’t changed, but the word choice could be improved, as the poem feels too formal and overwrought. But I can’t really revise a poem titled “Constancy” now, can I?

My friend Christie Wyman is hosting Poetry Friday today at her blog, Wondering and Wandering, so be sure to head over there for all of today’s poetry links and fun!

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poetryfridaybutton-fulllThis is only my second posting on this blog, and although I knew I wanted to do something for Poetry Friday, it took quite a bit of deliberation to decide which poem of mine I should spotlight.  Children’s poetry or adult poetry?  Published or unpublished?  Happy or sad?  Funny or serious???

After careful consideration, I decided I would post an unpublished poem I wrote a few years ago for the one person in the world who has done the most for me in my quest to become a published children’s author:   my wife, Jenny. Through her unwavering support (emotional, physical, AND financial), I’m able to pursue this dream along with all the other people who have been so helpful to me, like my kids, friends, and fellow writers.

This is a traditional Elizabethan sonnet (three quatrains with an a/b/a/b, c/d/c/d, e/f/e/f rhyme scheme followed by a rhyming g/g couplet) which I wrote as part of my wedding vows.  No, it doesn’t read as a contemporary poem; it was deliberately written in a sort of old-fashioned, classic sort of style. I wanted to express the thought that even though poets throughout history have written words of undying love and immutable steadfastness, my love for her surpassed all their metaphors, all their similes, all that they could ever have imagined.

Yes, I’m a romantic; I make no apologies.

I conclude my poem with a suggestion for them as to what they should compare their love to…but it’s not a rose or a star.

Looking back on it (indeed, even shortly after I’d written it), there are several things I would have changed, edited, or revised – but I was under a deadline, of course, and this was what I came up with.  Unlike my other poems, “Constancy” will never be put through revisions, however. These were the words I spoke to my wife on August 10, 2008 (in a voice loud enough that the entire state of Massachusetts could hear) and so they shall remain.  These words were part of my vows and are as unalterable as my love and gratitude for her.

I wouldn’t be able to do what I do were it not for Jenny.

Thanks again for saying “Yes,” Honey.

Constancy
For Jennifer

How many have, before me, tried in vain
To capture beauty, constancy, and love
Through fluent phrase, in happiness and pain,
And simile of summer, star, or dove?
Their words so eloquent, imagery lush –
In perfect imperfection testify,
For seasons change, the steadfast heavens rush
To swirl about themselves, and doves will die.
How best to show the one whom I adore
The fullness of my amorosity?
I fail to find a finer metaphor
Than that true love which you have shown to me.
The poets fail! Their thoughts do not dismiss;
‘Tis better they compare their love to this.

© 2008, Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

=========================================================

Ordering personalized signed copies online? Oh, yes, you can!


  (coming Sept. 25, 2018!)

You can purchase personalized signed copies of Flashlight Night, (Boyds Mills Press, 2017), Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (Pow! Kids Books, 2018), and nearly ALL of the books or anthologies I’ve been part of!

Just click the cover of whichever book you want and send the good folks at MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH a note requesting the signature and to whom I should make it out to. (alternatively, you can log onto my website and do the same thing) They’ll contact me, I’ll stop by and sign it for you, and then they’ll ship it. Try doing that with those big online booksellers! (Plus, you’ll be helping to support local book-selling – and wouldn’t that make you feel good?)

=========================================================

Thank you to everyone for your support!

=========================================================

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!

SCVBWI_Member-badge (5 years)
To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post once or twice a week – usually 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: “I Am Smoke” interview & review with author Henry L. Herz

It’s not out until Sept. 7, but I had to share news about the latest picture book from my fellow 2021 Book Blast partner Henry L. Herz, I Am Smoke (Tilbury House, 2021). The book has already received some wonderful accolades, including a Kirkus star (“Spreads of smoke rising fluidly into a pinprick-starry sky, a ‘dark dance from every campfire,’ are veritable gems.” –Kirkus Reviews) and even showed up on the School Library Journal’s list of The Most Astonishingly Unconventional Books of 2021, which includes titles by such folks as Deborah Freedman, Jon Klassen, and Brian Selznick.

This is not Henry’s first picture book by any means, but it is unusual in its lyricism and gentleness – as well as its point of view, which is first-person, from the voice of the smoke itself. I don’t normally feature picture books here, but the text is so poetic and beautifully-worded I knew I had to share it. Who says a book like this isn’t poetry??

Henry L. Herz

Henry is the author of 11 traditionally-published children’s books, eight children’s short stories, and over 20 adult short stories. He is co-editor of two children’s anthologies: THE HITHERTO SECRET EXPERIMENTS OF MARIE CURIE (Blackstone Publishing, YA) and COMING OF AGE: 13 B’NAI MITZVAH STORIES (Albert Whitman & Co., MG).

Thanks for taking the time to join me here, Henry! Congratulations on the book – I’m very happy for you that it’s doing so well, and it’s not even out yet! One of the questions I ask everyone who visits here is the question that all authors need to ask ourselves: “Why did this book need to be written?” Can you tell me where you got the inspiration for the book, and how you began the process of writing it?

Thanks! I’m inspired by many things in the natural world. I love how much personality dogs possess. I’m amazed that you can cut a piece off of a succulent, stick it in the ground, and grow a brand new succulent. That’s like making a whole new person from just a finger! The range of defense mechanisms employed by animals is amazing— from camouflage to squirting ink to being poisonous to mimicking predators.

I find the use of fictional elements to convey facts a great way to engage with young readers and teach them without them realizing it. Fiction can be the melted cheese we pour on top of the broccoli of nonfiction. There are some picture books with anthropomorphic characters, but I’d never seen smoke treated as a character. And who better to explain the various ways in which people have employed smoke over the ages and across the world than smoke itself?

I researched wood smoke and discovered it’s primarily carbon dioxide, ash, and water vapor. That got me thinking about the water cycle. Then it hit me that trees sequester carbon they extract from breathing in carbon dioxide. Eureka! Smoke has a “cycle” too. Fire releases wood’s molecules. Water eventually rains down and trees extract the carbon from the air to grow more wood. The “smoke cycle” became the framework within which I shared some of the many ways smoke has been used to fumigate homes, communicate over distances, cover unpleasant smells, aid beekeepers, flavor and preserve foods, participate in religious ceremonies, and heal.

Fiction as the cheese on top of the nonfiction broccoli…great way to describe it, Henry! And I’m glad you show that smoke, while potentialy dangerous, can be a good thing. So what were some of the pitfalls you encountered while writing it? Anything surprising or unexpected?

It wasn’t a surprise, per se, but this was the first book I’ve written that I felt needed to be reviewed by sensitivity readers because it mentions Native Americans. Happily, both sensitivity readers found everything to be fine.

All images © 2021 Tilbury House Publishers, all rights reserved, used with permission

You have a number of picture books and short stories under your belt, but I Am Smoke is different in that it is a more lyrical, thought-provoking picture book than, say, your recent 2 Pirates + 1 Robot (Kane Miller, 2019) or the pun-filled Good Egg and Bad Apple (Schiffer Kids, 2018). Was this done intentionally, or did the subject matter lead you to this style of writing?

That’s true. I Am Smoke is also the first creative nonfiction picture book I’ve sold. I did write a creative nonfiction picture book narrated by a flea. But that was done for the sake of humor. In the case of I Am Smoke, since smoke has been harnessed by people for millennia, I thought letting it tell its own tale in riddles, like an ancient supernatural being, would grant gravitas to the narrator’s voice. Like smoke itself, the narrator is dark, spare, and mysterious.

I usually focus on poetry here at the ol’ Triple-R but wanted to share your book because it is, in fact, very poetic. Although it is a loose narrative it can be read as one long poem; again, was this deliberate, or did it come about organically? 

The lyrical prose developed organically. I threw in a little alliteration: Flickering flames work their mysterious magic on burning branches. Then I mixed in some metaphor: I am borne aloft in the heat’s embrace, soaring and spreading my wings.

Smoke, like fire, is destructive, but can also be put to useful purposes. This duality inspired the riddle-like phrasing: I lack a mouth, but I can speak. I irritate eyes, but I can soothe bees.

Just like the chemical cycle of smoke, the story returns to where it began, with smoke twirling in dark dance from a campfire, and the words, I am smoke.

And that’s what I love most, that you show all these nuances of smoke, from the smoke’s first-person point of view. So what do you hope readers will take away from this book, and what would you say to folks who are considering picking up a copy?

Aside from the STEM, cultural, and historical facts, I hope readers will see that common practices bind humanity across time and space.

To folks who are considering picking up a copy, I’d say “Do it.” These terrific authors can’t be wrong:

“Herz presents a provocative and unique look at the lifecycle and benefits of smoke throughout the millennia. Lopez’s multimedia artwork further illuminates the ethereal nature of smoke as it drifts and dances across the page.” – John Rocco, author/illustrator of the Caldecott Honor book BLACKOUT

“A fascinating, refreshing, and beautifully atmospheric take on something often taken for granted. I’ll never look at smoke the same way again!” – Matthew Cordell, author/illustrator of the Caldecott Medal-winning book WOLF IN SNOW

“I Am Smoke is an absolutely beautiful book, where smoke is both poetry and science. Readers will rest, float, and dance along with smoke’s quiet power across time and traditions. I have lingered over its pages more than once, and I’m sure young readers will, too.” – Doreen Cronin, author of the Caldecott Honor and NY Times bestselling book CLICK, CLACK, MOO: COWS THAT TYPE

“Wowwwwww” – Raina Telgemeier, #1 NY Times, #1 USA Today, #1 Publishers Weekly bestselling author/illustrator

What’s next??

I have a sci-fi/humor middle grade novel on submission and am revising a fantasy middle grade novel. I just joined as an editor the staff of small publisher Running Wild Press, so that should yield some interesting projects. I AM SMOKE launches September 7, 2021. My forthcoming books and stories include:

  • Denver Horror Collective’s adult horror anthology, THE JEWISH BOOK OF HORROR, will include my short story, Demon Hunter Vashti.
  • Launching in 2022 my contemporary magical realism early chapter book, THE MAGIC SPATULA from Month9 Books with co-author Sam “The Cooking Guy” Zien.
  • Launching in 2022 the middle-grade #ownvoices anthology from Albert Whitman & Co., COMING OF AGE, including my sci-fi/humor short story, Bar Mitzvah on Planet Latke.
  • Launching in 2022, the young adult horror anthology from Blackstone Publishing, THE HITHERTO SECRET EXPERIMENTS OF MARIE CURIE, including my short story, Cheating Death.
  • Highlights for Children” has purchased two more of my stories, but I don’t know when those will come out.

Thanks for having me!

Glad you could join me, Henry, thank you! And again, best luck with the book – it’s gaining some great traction with positive reviews all around, and as an author myself I know how good that must make you feel.

And by the way, to anyone who is in the trenches, submitting your first or second manuscript and trying to deal with all those rejection letters (or worse, NO letters at all), I hope you’ll take a peek at last week’s post about rejections – why they aren’t as bad as you think and why it’s important to keep going!

Since it’s Poetry Friday, I hope everyone will check out all the poetry links and fun with Mary Lee Hahn, who is hosting today’s complete poetry roundup at her newly-revised blog, A(nother) Year of Reading, with an original villanelle about flames and torches (or is that all just a metaphor??).

============================================================

I’m now a part of the BOOKROO family!

Create an account to add books to wishlists and be notified of special deals and dates…create custom collections…and discover and follow your favorite authors & illustrators!

Find out more about BOOKROO here!

============================================================

Talkabook is setting out to inspire children by connecting them with authors and illustrators! Click here to view my profile and learn more!

============================================================

I continue adding to my “Wit & Wordplay” videos ! These videos were created for parents and educators (along with their kids) to learn how to write poetry, appreciate it, and have fun with it. From alliteration and iambs to free verse and spine poetry, I’m pretty sure there’s something in these videos you’ll find surprising! You can view them all on my YouTube channel, and if you have young kids looking for something to keep busy with, I also have several downloadable activity sheets at my website.

===========================================================

Ordering personalized signed copies online? Oh, yes, you can!

You can purchase personally-signed copies of Flashlight Night, (Boyds Mills Press, 2017), Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (Pow! Kids Books, 2018)and nearly EVERY book or anthology I’ve been part of!

Click any of the following covers to order!

Just click the cover of whichever book you want and send a comment to the good folks at MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH requesting my signature and to whom I should make it out. (alternatively, you can log onto my website and do the same thing) They’ll contact me, I’ll stop by and sign it, and then they’ll ship it! (Plus, you’ll be supporting your local bookseller – and won’t that make you feel good?)

============================================================

Thank you to everyone for your support!

FLASHLIGHT NIGHT:

DON’T ASK A DINOSAUR:

============================================================

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!

To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post once or twice a week – usually 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 FacebookInstagramPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Poetry Friday: How to Write a Poem, and why rejections aren’t bad (even though they suck)

Although I’d been planning on posting something else today, I thought it might be beneficial to share something I posted on Facebook earlier this past week; something that gained quite a bit of attention and created a healthy discussion.

Went through 25 rejections!

The past two weeks I’ve received more rejections than I received all of last year.

Perhaps it’s because I’ve sent more submissions out in the past 6 months than I did last year, perhaps it’s because I finally got around to following up with a number of editors I’d been waiting on.

Regardless the reason, rejections don’t feel good.

“No” doesn’t mean “Stop;” it means keep going.

I’m not going to act like rejection doesn’t bother me and that everything is sunshine and lollipops. Rejections aren’t fun, I won’t argue with that. But I don’t get depressed by them.

Went through 14 rejections!

Folks who are new to the publishing industry need to know that rejections are going to be a part of their life now. Personally, I went from acting to voice acting to writing – so rejection has been something I’ve had to live with nearly all my life (to say nothing of my nerdy high school years).

The particular rejection I had posted about was for a manuscript for a poetry collection I co-wrote with David L. Harrison, one of the most incredibly talented, successful children’s poets in the biz. Although I’m running out of potential options for publishers to submit to (I’m unagented and can only submit to a limited number of houses), I shared the news of this rejection not to seek pity but to remind my friends and followers that even the most highly-esteemed writers like my co-author hear the word “no” sometimes.

For example, my recent picture book Once Upon Another Time (Beaming Books, 2021) was co-authored with Father Goose himself, Charles Ghigna, and it went through 25 rejections before editor Naomi Krueger saw my pitch on the #PBPitch Twitter event back in October 2019 and asked me to send her the manuscript. 25 rejections – and that was with the gravitas of Father Goose’s name attached to the project!

 A partial list of the 25+ rejections Charles Ghigna & I received for “Once Upon Another Time” before editor Naomi Krueger at Beaming Books bought it.

A quick Google search of famous books that were initially rejected reveals myriad famous titles like Kathryn Stockett’s The Help, Steven King’s Carrie, and Chicken Soup for the Soul. Even my friend Laura Numeroff’s first If You Give a Mouse a Cookie book went through 9 rejections, with one of the editors telling her there was no way they felt the book could possibly be profitable.

Let that sink in. Just about every person in the free world has at least heard of that book (it’s been a Jeopardy question at least 3 times!), yet the editor saw no way it could be profitable. The editor wasn’t mean, short-sighted, or ignorant; she was simply not a good fit for the book.

Went through at least 8 rejections!

Sometimes editors just don’t see your vision, that’s all. My picture books are published by several different publishers because not all of them believed in all my manuscripts – and that’s ok! The ones who DID believe in them produced gorgeous books I’m proud to call my own.

Maybe you submitted a dinosaur book to a company that already has too many dinosaur books; maybe you submitted a humourous meta-book to a company that prefers inclusive, cross-cultural themes; maybe you submitted a 1st-person POV book to someone who doesn’t like 1st-person POV (don’t laugh, I know of at least one!).

Fact is, there could be numerous reasons – many beyond your control – why your manuscript was rejected.

So if you’re hearing the word “No” a lot lately, remember that it doesn’t mean you should stop what you’re doing; it means you need to simply check that editor or agent off your list and move on. Or better yet, check them off the list for THAT manuscript, and send them another! After all, if it’s a numbers game, then you’re doing yourself a favor by eliminating all those unecessary numbers.

And if you remember nothing else, remember this: each “No” gets you closer to a “Yes.”

.

How to Write a Poem

Open your eyes.
Open your ears.
Brace yourself
to face your fears.

Open your mind.
Open your heart.
Open your soul,
……….tear it apart.

.

©2021 Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

.

It’s Poetry Friday! If you’d like to check out all the poetry links and fun, be sure to head over to Rebecca Herzog’s little home on the web, Sloth Reads, for the complete roundup!

============================================================

I’m now a part of the BOOKROO family!

Create an account to add books to wishlists and be notified of special deals and dates…create custom collections…and discover and follow your favorite authors & illustrators!

Find out more about BOOKROO here!

============================================================

Talkabook is setting out to inspire children by connecting them with authors and illustrators! Click here to view my profile and learn more!

============================================================

I continue adding to my “Wit & Wordplay” videos ! These videos were created for parents and educators (along with their kids) to learn how to write poetry, appreciate it, and have fun with it. From alliteration and iambs to free verse and spine poetry, I’m pretty sure there’s something in these videos you’ll find surprising! You can view them all on my YouTube channel, and if you have young kids looking for something to keep busy with, I also have several downloadable activity sheets at my website.

===========================================================

Ordering personalized signed copies online? Oh, yes, you can!

You can purchase personally-signed copies of Flashlight Night, (Boyds Mills Press, 2017), Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (Pow! Kids Books, 2018)and nearly EVERY book or anthology I’ve been part of!

Click any of the following covers to order!

Just click the cover of whichever book you want and send a comment to the good folks at MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH requesting my signature and to whom I should make it out. (alternatively, you can log onto my website and do the same thing) They’ll contact me, I’ll stop by and sign it, and then they’ll ship it! (Plus, you’ll be supporting your local bookseller – and won’t that make you feel good?)

============================================================

Thank you to everyone for your support!

FLASHLIGHT NIGHT:

DON’T ASK A DINOSAUR:

============================================================

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!

To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post once or twice a week – usually 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 FacebookInstagramPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Poetry Friday: Celebrating a library re-opening with “The Dirt Book”

The children’s room in all its clean, reorganized glory!

Ah, what a joyous occasion it was…walking into our local library for the first time in a year and a half.

Like much of the country, our little town is slowly opening back up following the Covid-19 shutdown of 2020, and the fact that our library is finally accepting visitors was not something I just had to celebrate.

And the fact that my kids were just as eager to celebrate was a proud parenting win!

Another one of the many new books the children’s librarian was excited about was The Dirt Book: Poems About Animals That Live Beneath Our Feet (Holiday House, 2021), the latest poetry collection by my friend David L. Harrison.

From ants to worms to chipmunks, this book explores the lives of a variety of critters who live underneath our feet

Aside from David’s unique style of writing, which combines wit, insight, science, and ingenious wordplay, one of the things that makes this book unique is the fact that the reader needs to go dooowwwn to the bottom to read it…it opens from bottom-to-top, instead of right-to-left!

The book has received numerous positive reviews including raves from Kirkus, School Library Journal, and Shelf-Awareness, among others – so I knew I had to share some of the great news with those of you who follow this blog!

Told you – it opens from the bottom!

How cool is that?? Such a fun book – and for someone like me who just spent the past year learning unusual ways to teach kids while homeschooling – like combining poetry with science, math, and art – this book is perfect for getting your science lovers intrigued as much as the poetry lovers. Congratulations to David and illustrator Kate Cosgrove, who also provided visuals for David’s previous book with Holiday House, And the Bullfrogs Sing!

Speaking of science-lovers…Mr. Non-Fiction was thrilled that the library was finally open, and nearly cleared out half their shelves! This is what he considers bedtime reading.

For more poetry, be sure to check out today’s complete Poetry Friday roundup with Kat Apel at Kat’s Whiskers, where she is featuring Pet Pic Poems…sounds like fun, yes??

============================================================

I’m now a part of the BOOKROO family!

Create an account to add books to wishlists and be notified of special deals and dates…create custom collections…and discover and follow your favorite authors & illustrators!

Find out more about BOOKROO here!

============================================================

Talkabook is setting out to inspire children by connecting them with authors and illustrators! Click here to view my profile and learn more!

============================================================

I continue adding to my “Wit & Wordplay” videos ! These videos were created for parents and educators (along with their kids) to learn how to write poetry, appreciate it, and have fun with it. From alliteration and iambs to free verse and spine poetry, I’m pretty sure there’s something in these videos you’ll find surprising! You can view them all on my YouTube channel, and if you have young kids looking for something to keep busy with, I also have several downloadable activity sheets at my website.

===========================================================

Ordering personalized signed copies online? Oh, yes, you can!

You can purchase personally-signed copies of Flashlight Night, (Boyds Mills Press, 2017), Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (Pow! Kids Books, 2018)and nearly EVERY book or anthology I’ve been part of!

Click any of the following covers to order!

Just click the cover of whichever book you want and send a comment to the good folks at MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH requesting my signature and to whom I should make it out. (alternatively, you can log onto my website and do the same thing) They’ll contact me, I’ll stop by and sign it, and then they’ll ship it! (Plus, you’ll be supporting your local bookseller – and won’t that make you feel good?)

============================================================

Thank you to everyone for your support!

FLASHLIGHT NIGHT:

DON’T ASK A DINOSAUR:

============================================================

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!

To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post once or twice a week – usually 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 FacebookInstagramPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Poetry Friday: A pretty deep poem for a 7-year-old

As I’ve mentioned here before, we homeschooled our two young kids this past year due to the Covid shutdown, and although some days were better than others, it was, overall, a success. The kids learned everything they needed to learn – and more – and didn’t seem to loathe the process of homeschooling as much as they loathed not being around their friends.

I do have to say, there were extra-special days where they surprised me, either at how well they understood a lesson or how adroitly they completed it. One such day was back in March, when my daughter was tasked with a lesson from her English Language Arts program that required her to write a poem about light. Completely unbeknownst to me, she came up with this all on her own; I never saw it until she had finished it:

I know, I know, every parent thinks their kid is a genius or a protege or whatever…but seriously, this is pretty thoughtful for a 2nd-grader. I told her I was so proud of her that I’d make sure everyone I knew read it, if that was ok with her. “Sure!” she said. And so I present it to you here – better late than never.

Molly Hogan is celebrating summer while hosting today’s Poetry Friday roundup at Nix the Comfort Zone – so head on over for all of today’s poetry links and fun!

============================================================

I’m now a part of the BOOKROO family!

Create an account to add books to wishlists and be notified of special deals and dates…create custom collections…and discover and follow your favorite authors & illustrators!

Find out more about BOOKROO here!

============================================================

Talkabook is setting out to inspire children by connecting them with authors and illustrators! Click here to view my profile and learn more!

============================================================

I continue adding to my “Wit & Wordplay” videos ! These videos were created for parents and educators (along with their kids) to learn how to write poetry, appreciate it, and have fun with it. From alliteration and iambs to free verse and spine poetry, I’m pretty sure there’s something in these videos you’ll find surprising! You can view them all on my YouTube channel, and if you have young kids looking for something to keep busy with, I also have several downloadable activity sheets at my website.

===========================================================

Ordering personalized signed copies online? Oh, yes, you can!

You can purchase personally-signed copies of Flashlight Night, (Boyds Mills Press, 2017), Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (Pow! Kids Books, 2018)and nearly EVERY book or anthology I’ve been part of!

Click any of the following covers to order!

Just click the cover of whichever book you want and send a comment to the good folks at MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH requesting my signature and to whom I should make it out. (alternatively, you can log onto my website and do the same thing) They’ll contact me, I’ll stop by and sign it, and then they’ll ship it! (Plus, you’ll be supporting your local bookseller – and won’t that make you feel good?)

============================================================

Thank you to everyone for your support!

FLASHLIGHT NIGHT:

DON’T ASK A DINOSAUR:

============================================================

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!

To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post once or twice a week – usually 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 FacebookInstagramPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Poetry Friday: “Stone-Kicking,” from the Donald Hall tribute anthology

I don’t know if it’s because the pandemic has made us all nostalgic for our “pre-Covid” life or what, but I was looking through some of my previously-published poems when I realized I’d never shared this here on my blog.

Two years ago, in the summer of 2019, Encircle Publications of Maine published the poetry anthology Except for Love: New England Poets Inspired by Donald Hall, which included my original poem, “Stone-Kicking:”
.

The actual road I was walking when I first began formulating the poem. Note Mt. Kearsarge, a mountain nearly synonymous with Hall, gazing down at me in the distance. I had no idea at the time that this poem would end up in such an appropriate – and important – book.

“Stone-Kicking”

I kick my dreams
like stones in the road
watching them bounce
happily ahead while I
dawdle behind.
Dirt road, still
damp from yesterday’s storm
smells of pine and mud. Gravel softly
sticks to slow feet while sunlight tries
through thick poplars
to warm a meandering path.
I kick another stone, watching it
quickly skip, kissing ground in its
own wayward curve…
The joy, of course, comes not
from picking it up, carrying it,
keeping it…
but from watching where it goes,
how far it rolls,
and, when it veers
to the slick road’s edge,
setting it aright
with my foot
and flicking it
back to the
center.

© 2019 Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

.

This book pays tribute to former U.S. and New Hampshire Poet Laureate Donald Hall by featuring poems by 35 New England poets who have been influenced by Hall’s work. It includes poetry by such accomplished poets as Jane Yolen, L.R. Berger, David Giannini, and many others – and yet, somehow I managed to sneak in!

10% of proceeds will benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in honor of Hall’s late wife, poet Jane Kenyon, so click HERE or the cover, below, to order your copy. (and let us know if you’d like me to sign it!)

…I can finally spill the beans!

That’s right, ANOTHER new book, coming out next fall from Beaming Books, the folks who published Once Upon Another Time! And there’s a very cool behind-the-scenes story about how the book came to be – involving poetry, rejection, tenacity, more rejection, and a willingess to shift gears, rework, revise, and say “yes” whenever possible – which I’ll be sure to share as we get closer to publication date!

For now, though, it’s Poetry Friday – and Margaret Simon is hosting the complete roundup at her blog Reflections on the Teche with a spotlight on an unusual poetry anthology titled Bridge the Distance, Teacher-Poets Writing to Bridge the Distance: An Oral History of COVID-19 in Poems. The book is an ‘oral history’ of life during the pandemic written by teacher-poets, and margaret shares her contrib ution.

============================================================

I’m now a part of the BOOKROO family!

Create an account to add books to wishlists and be notified of special deals and dates…create custom collections…and discover and follow your favorite authors & illustrators!

Find out more about BOOKROO here!

============================================================

Talkabook is setting out to inspire children by connecting them with authors and illustrators! Click here to view my profile and learn more!

============================================================

I continue adding to my “Wit & Wordplay” videos ! These videos were created for parents and educators (along with their kids) to learn how to write poetry, appreciate it, and have fun with it. From alliteration and iambs to free verse and spine poetry, I’m pretty sure there’s something in these videos you’ll find surprising! You can view them all on my YouTube channel, and if you have young kids looking for something to keep busy with, I also have several downloadable activity sheets at my website.

===========================================================

Ordering personalized signed copies online? Oh, yes, you can!

You can purchase personally-signed copies of Flashlight Night, (Boyds Mills Press, 2017), Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (Pow! Kids Books, 2018)and nearly EVERY book or anthology I’ve been part of!

Click any of the following covers to order!

Just click the cover of whichever book you want and send a comment to the good folks at MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH requesting my signature and to whom I should make it out. (alternatively, you can log onto my website and do the same thing) They’ll contact me, I’ll stop by and sign it, and then they’ll ship it! (Plus, you’ll be supporting your local bookseller – and won’t that make you feel good?)

============================================================

Thank you to everyone for your support!

FLASHLIGHT NIGHT:

DON’T ASK A DINOSAUR:

============================================================

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!

To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post once or twice a week – usually 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 FacebookInstagramPinterest, and SoundCloud!