Voicing a character, or giving a character a voice?

Sometimes, the characters you voice – or, for you authors, the ones you write about – aren’t who they seem at first.

Several years ago, I was watching a behind-the-scenes TV program about an animated kids’ show.  One of the lead characters, a young African-American boy, was voiced by a white woman, and the show’s creators were explaining why.  It had nothing to do with race, accent, or any other sterotypical ‘traits’ one might expect.

Quite the opposite.

When auditioning for the role, the voice actor simply read the lines as a young child; no ethnic accents, no unnatural changes in tone, just a normal child’s voice. And the casting director loved it. (It’s days like this that I wish I could remember the show, so I could give the voice actor credit!)  The producers agreed that having a neutral child’s voice was the best thing for the show, and it worked well – the show was very popular and ran for several seasons.

(Still can’t remember the show.  Stupid old age…)

The reason I bring this up is because I also recently voiced a character who wasn’t supposed to be quite the way the producers had intended…and it got me thinking about the trap of stereotyping.

“When did y’all develop that accent, anyway?”

Without divulging too much info about this project, here’s what happened:  I received an audition to voice an American soldier from the early 1700’s.  He was from the South Carolina area, and had three or four sentences to speak.  Because of the region of the U.S. in which the action was taking place, the audition stated he should have a slight Southern accent.

Problem was, in the early 1700’s, there was no such thing as a Southern accent!  We had barely settled this land, we were all still British citizens, and we were all still speaking the Queen’s English.

So what’s an obedient voice actor to do?

I dutifully recorded a take with the Southern accent, as requested. Then I recorded two additional takes with a British accent, explaining in my email to the producer why.

The producer ended up agreeing with me.  She asked me to record a couple more takes with the British accent, and we were done! She thanked me for bringing that to her attention, and I thanked her for being so open-minded.

Don’t try to find the character – let the character find you

Whether you are a voice actor or an author, once you know what the character is…you need to find out who he or she is.  Voicing characters is not always about funny voices. It’s about giving life to an entity, a creation.  Maybe it’s a funny character, maybe it’s not.  Maybe it’s a young, inner-city child, perhaps it’s a pre-Revolutionary War soldier from the Carolinas.

But just like a comedian rarely goes with his first thought when coming up with a joke, take some time to consider whether or not the voice you’re about to give your character really is his or her voice.  Granted, you have to work within the parameters of the description given by the producer or casting director.  But just because he’s a tough cop, doesn’t mean his voice has to be gravelly.   Just because she’s a lonely housewife, doesn’t mean she has to sound milquetoast.*

My CAD Equitek E-100s!
Click here for a sample of characters I have voiced. (The soldier is featured on the Voice Acting demo)

Voice actors, think about the character and who they are, their circumstances, their history/backstory.  Ask yourself if the voice you’re going to use is honest, or clichéd?

Writers…do the same thing! Often, the best characters are not the ones upon which you foist specific traits and quirks, but the ones you allow to grow and develop.

Just remember, when auditioning, follow the casting director’s rules – but know that sometimes it’s ok to step a little outside those bounds now and then.  There is a big difference between providing an original voice and completely disregarding your instructions. Know that difference, and the line will be easier to walk.

And even if the casting instructions do indicate a style or tone that may seem stereotypical, many times you can get away with voicing a ‘wild’ take, as many of us call them, after your first take.  That is, give the producer or director something they may not have been expecting, and explain why.  If it’s a good enough reason, you may have just set yourself apart from all the other gravelly-throated voice actors out there.

* (Is that not a great American word, or what? Don’t know what it means? Look it up!)

Poetry Friday: “The Ravens”

Here it is, Robbie Burns Day – the birthday of The Bard, Scottish poet Robert Burns – and what do I have? A parody of an Edgar Allan Poe classic.

I’m not being a very good Scot.

However, in keeping with tradition, I do offer a link to an appropriate Burns piece, “Address to a Haggis.”  If you’re holding a Burns Supper today, in addition to the pipes, toasts, and requisite singing of Burns’ “Auld Lang Syne,” you’d better plan on having a dramatic reading of the culinary classic that is “Address to a Haggis.”

And of course, the haggis, neeps, and tatties.

Photo courtesy Ian Britton

And if you don’t know what haggis is, well – let me say, it’s not for everyone.  Neeps are turnips and tatties are potatoes; simple enough. Haggis, though, is a type of forcemeat consisting of most of the parts of a sheep non-Scots wouldn’t consider eating – along with oatmeal, onions, pepper, and other spices – stuffed inside the sheep’s stomach. And just because haggis is synonymous with Scotland, don’t assume everyone there loves it. There are a handful of Americans who don’t appreciate hot dogs, and there are plenty more Scots who won’t go near haggis with a 19-foot caber.

It should be noted that the flavour of haggis improves with time; specifically, time spent drinking Scotch.

Which explains a lot, actually.

But I digress…

I don’t know if it’s because I grew up listening to Stan Freberg and watching Carol Burnett on TV, if it’s due to my overdosing on Monty Python and The Goodies episodes as a kid, or because my family was just plain happy while I was growing up…but I am grateful to whoever or whatever gave me my sense of humour.

I’m not saying I’m the world’s quickest wit or funniest fellow, but I do tend to see the humour in many situations.   Just as I find poetry in everyday life, I also see the funny.

Case in point: this past Sunday night, when my poor New England Patriots fell in defeat to the powerful Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship game. (For the uninitiated, the Ravens will now meet the San Francisco 49’ers in the Super Bowl. It’s kind of a big deal here.) If you saw the game, you saw the Patriots do pretty much nothing except all the things a team should not do, if it wants to advance to the Super Bowl. Interception, fumble, offsides, you name it…they did it.

But, having been born in the city of Poe, I was not entirely disappointed. I was glad to see the Ravens move on – which is probably why I was able to see humour in the Patriots’ defeat. While most Pats fans went straight to bed after screaming at their TVs for at least 20 minutes – only to continue grousing about it at work the following day – I, on the other hand, took to my computer to re-write Poe’s classic, “The Raven.”

No, not the entire poem – I’m not that ambitious, even when it’s not 11pm on a Sunday night. I wrote one stanza, incorporating the rhyme scheme and meter of the original, as a reflection of my experience of the game as a Pats fan.

(Also, again for the uninitiated:  Flacco is Joe Flacco, Baltimore’s quarterback, and Beantown is a nickname for Boston…)

The Ravens

Once upon a Sunday dreary, as the Pats played, weak and weary,
Watching all of Flacco’s passes they seemed eager to ignore –
Wide receivers, nearly napping, with their flailing arms a-flapping,
They’re the ones I felt like slapping as they worn down time and score –
“Will victory be Beantown’s??”  I asked, closely watching time and score –
Quoth the Ravens, “Nevermore!”

– 2013, Matt Forrest Esenwine

For all of today’s Poetry Friday offerings, be sure to visit Tabatha Yeatts at The Opposite of Indifference!

Liebster Blog Award

I was recently notified by fellow writer/blogger Violet Nesdoly that this blog has been nominated for a Liebster Award!  Violet is a freelance writer, children’s poet, and book reviewer who I met online a few months ago, shortly after I began this blog – so I felt honoured that I made that much of an impression on her after only blogging since August!

But – what IS a Liebster Award?

Well, it’s a sort of cybernetic, blogger-to-blogger ‘high-five.’   Aside from the fact that the ‘award’ is given to blogs with under 3,000 followers (don’t remind me!), there are no special requirements, no panel of judges, no prize money, and no bikini models to present me with a gold trophy during some nationally-televised broadcast hosted by Tom Bergeron.  “Liebster” is a German word meaning ‘darling’ or ‘favourite,’ so this award is simply bestowed upon bloggers by fellow bloggers who have taken a particular liking to them (thanks, Violet!), and a virtual pat on the back ias perfectly fine with me!

I accept this award on behalf of–  oh, well, I’ll keep it short:

liebster-blog-award1To accept the award, Violet told me I needed to:
– Proudly display the Liebster button on my blog (check!)
– List five random facts about myself
– Pass the Liebster award on to other blogs (as many as five)

Hmm…5 random facts about Matt Forrest? Let’s see…

1) The great American patriot, Patrick Henry, is a great-uncle.
2) I wrote my first Elizabethan sonnet when I was in 9th grade; two years later, I had a poem published for the first time.
3) My favourite meal is barbecued baby-back ribs with fries, cold iceberg-tomato salad with bleu cheese or Russian dressing, and all the Moxie I can drink.
4) I used to teach contemporary country dance; from the Two-Step to the Tush-Push, if you wanted to learn it, I was the guy to call!
5) The dirt road I grew up on is still a dirt road, and my parents still live there. That’s not insignificant.

There are five bloggers who come to mind, who I think deserve this award. Knowing this award is for smaller blogs, I’m not sure how many followers they have – but I’m surmising they have less than 3000 followers.  They certainly deserve more.  The nominees are:

Poetry At Play Steven Withrow and the folks at Poetry Advocates for Children and Young Adults (PACYA) keep readers on top of what’s happening in the world of childern’s poetry. Between articles and interviews with poets like J. Patrick Lewis, Joyce Sidman, Lee Bennett Hopkins, Nikki Grimes, Douglas Florian, and many others, you could find yourself spending a lot of spare time there!

For the Love of Reading – The Sarcasm Goddess writes about life, love, bacon, and the strange things that happen to all of us from time to time – that seem to happen to her on a regular basis.  If you’re looking for a blog that will put a smile on your face – even if it’s a wry smirk – this is your blog.

The Drawer of M.M. Socks – Alvaro Salinas, Jr., aka M.M. Socks, writes and illustrates children’s stories and poems that encourage kids to use their creativity and imagination.  Some of his poems are funny, others are more thought-provoking…but always enjoyable.

The Voice of Your Business – Derek Chappell not only keeps voice talent on top of industry news, he regularly posts links to the top voiceover blogs around the country (many of which I presume have well over 3000 followers and are therefore not included in my list!).

I.Droo.It – Like M.M. Socks (above), Samuel Kent, aka, The Lunchbox Doodler, writes and illustrates children’s poems and one-frame cartoons. (What is it about writer-illustrators that they need aliases??) You’ll enjoy his humourous drawings and tales, but once you read why he calls himself The Lunchbox Doodler, you’ll find yourself wanting to read more!

There are dozens of other folks I could have put on this list, but I’m guessing – and really, all I can do is guess – that they have over 3000 followers, because they are either so well-known, or so deeply entrenched in kid lit, poetry, writing, or voiceover/broadcasting.  To my friends with under 3000 followers whom I did not nominate…please do not send hate mail or leave flaming bags of dog poo on my porch.  I simply overestimated your influence – so take that as a compliment!

If you are interested in finding more great blogs to follow, check out the list to the right of the screen (“Blogs I Follow”) or take a glimpse at the 40+ bloggers who stopped by here a couple of weeks ago for Poetry Friday.  And remember, if you’ve read a few of my posts already and enjoyed them, please consider subscribing and sharing this blog with friends.

And thank you for your support!

Poetry Friday: “Francis and the Saint”

When I’m not writing children’s poetry, writing advertising copy, or writing my blog, I’m writing adult poetry.  Sorry, those two words together – “adult poetry” – just sound weird…but I just don’t know how else to differentiate it from all my children’s poetry.  In last Friday’s post, I made reference to poets being stereotypically sullen and depressed, and while this doesn’t really describe Yours Truly, I do like to put on my Serious Hat now and then and write poems for an older crowd.

This happens to be one of those poems.

It’s a very personal poem (of course, they all are, aren’t they?) – because I wrote it about my wife’s paternal grandfather, Francis.  She and I were very close to him, and we asked if he would be the Best Man at our wedding in August 2008.  He accepted, but unfortunately passed away that spring, before he was able to fulfill his duties.  A deeply religious man, a devout Catholic, he felt a strong connection to his patron saint, St. Francis of Assisi, and he always believed that my wife and I found each other because of his prayers.

Considering the crushing emotional difficulties she and I had gone through with our respective divorces, and the fact that we stumbled upon each other so quickly and strongly, we had every reason to believe it, as well.

Imagine the irony, then, that this poem – written two years after Francis’ death – would end up being published by St. Francis College’s Assisi: Online Journal of Arts & Letters.

Sometimes, things just have a way of working out.

Francis and the Saint

Grandfather loved his birds.
They weren’t really his, of course –
flying to him from the trees and bushes,
out of the sky above, from behind
lining the cobblestone,
and in-between
awnings and light posts.

Alighting upon his shoulder
or a finger or two
never outstretched
nor enticing,
they must have sensed
safety, security,
calmness of mind.

He attributed that to his namesake
the deacon,
the patron saint
the one who gave what he had
built what he could
and became rich in poverty.

And now, as grandfather’s birds
return to him
this final time
from behind the clouds
and rain-soaked pillars,
sparrow, robin, wren
perch upon his bed
and grandfather
in quiet requiescence

© 2010 Matt Forrest Esenwine

If you’d like, you can view the entire issue which includes my poem here.  And Poetry Friday hostess Violet Nesdoly has today’s complete roundup!

Interview with children’s poet/artist Douglas Florian

Last year, I had the pleasure of interviewing children’s poet and anthologist Lee Bennett Hopkins and U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis for Poetry Advocates for Children and Young Adults (PACYA).  I’m thrilled to say this year is getting off to a great start, as I just completed my latest interview – with artist and children’s poet/illustrator Douglas Florian!

Florian has written and/or illustrated dozens of books for children and is also an accomplished artist whose works have been exhibited in over 30 solo and group shows.  He has a great sense of humour but takes his work seriously….I invite you to check it out!

Why does he consider himself an ‘authorstrator?’  Why is ‘closing your mouth’ such a good idea?  What does he try never to sit on??  Find the answers to these riveting questions and much more in my complete interview with Douglas Florian HERE…and be sure to search around PACYA’s blog for more interviews, info, and insight!

Poetry Friday: Poems about poetry, inspired by poets

A little something to set the mood. Poets are supposed to be dark and brooding, aren’t we?

No, that’s not as redundant as it sounds.

Today I’m sharing three short poems that were written in response to blog posts by other children’s poets.  All three are about poetry, and were inspired by different means.

My point in sharing these, aside from simply offering them up for your reading pleasure, is to show
how inspirational networking can be!  Before I read the blog posts that inspired these poems, I had no intention of writing anything…but then, BAM!  The poems came to me, and I couldn’t help but work them out and get them on paper.

The first one, “A Poem,” was written after reading a Poetry Advocates for Children & Young Adults blog post by Father Goose himself, Charles Ghigna.  He had asked readers to comment on the topic, “What is poetry?”  Now, this was back in Nov. or Dec. 2011 – so I forget if the responses had to be in verse, but of course that was the form I chose:

“A Poem”

A poem has a heartbeat,
A poem has a touch;
One minute it may let you go
Or hold you in its clutch.

A poem’s breath is subtle,
Each tooth a tapered knife.
It laughs and cries with open eyes;
In short, a poem’s…life!

– © 2011 Matt Forrest Esenwine

The second poem, “Poet’s Plight,” was also written as a response to something Charles wrote; this time, it was a poem he had posted on his own blog, titled “Write Walking.”  He wasn’t asking anyone to reply, but as soon as I read his poem, I felt like I had to ‘answer’ it.  I initially wrote it in only about 5 or 10 minutes, so I’ve tweaked it since then…but I kind of like it.

Charles’ original poem:

“Write Walking”

If you should pass me on the way
And wonder what I said,
Please forgive the mutters made—
I’m writing in my head.

–  © Charles Ghigna, reproduced with permission of the author

And my ‘response:’

“Poet’s Plight (Just the Right Word)”
Response to Charles Ghigna’s “Write Walking”)

And likewise, should you pass me by
And distant be my gaze,
Do not think me aloof or shy –
I haven’t slept in days!

– © 2012 Matt Forrest Esenwine

The third poem, “The Poet,” would never have been written had it not been for poets David L. Harrison and J. Patrick Lewis, who challenged readers of David’s blog to write their own Careerhymes, Pat’s original form of light verse in which a type of occupation appears in the first line.  Talk about rolling a pebble down a hill and watching it turn into an enormous, hurtling snowball!  There were so many responses, it was hard to keep track of everyone.  This is one of several I volunteered:

“The Poet”

A poet has but one desire;
Imagination feeds it.
He sets his sullen soul afire
And almost no one reads it.

– © 2013 Matt Forrest Esenwine

See that?  Three poems that demanded I call them into existence.  If I hadn’t read the blogs, these would have never seen the light of day.

So the next time you wonder if you should bother reading a blog, or commenting on a Facebook post, or posting a Tweet, don’t think of social networking as a tedious business necessity or a luxury you just don’t have time for – think of it as potential digital inspiration!

Ready for more poetry?  Then visit Renee LaTulippe at No Water River for today’s roundup, and have a great weekend!

Instant Art: A case for memorization

I originally posted this on Oct. 9, 2012, but since people are still discovering the post – and because poetry & memorization in schools have been in the news of late – I thought I’d repost, it in case you hadn’t seen it…

Wouldn’t it be cool if you could wave a magic wand, and somehow “Poof!” call into existence a classic work of art?

Moreover, you could decide how that art would suit your mood – perhaps happy, or dark, or funny, or melancholy.

You already can.

“Poetry is the rhythmical creation of beauty in words.” – Edgar Allan Poe

Keeping those words in mind, consider this:

One may view a beautiful painting and later recall its basic image in their mind, but many of its details – the brushstrokes, the hues, etc. – will be lost.  One might be mesmerized by the taste and aroma of a magnificent meal, yet once it is eaten, only the memory of that meal remains.  However, when one reads a poem and then commits it to memory, the beautiful experience of reading and hearing those words can be immediately recalled and enjoyed in all its splendor at any time, anywhere, for as long as one can remember the words.

It’s like instant art!

If what Poe said is true, why would we not want to encourage more people, young and old, to develop their ability to bring forth this beauty, at will?

What has happened to memorization?

In high school, I had to memorize poetry from time to time in my various English classes.  My wife, who went to a private school, was required to memorize a different poem each week while in middle school.

Conversely, my daughters went through 12 years of schooling each and were rarely required to memorize anything by rote other than basic academics like multiplication tables, the Periodic Chart, and US history timeline.  Memorization of poetry was sadly deficient.  Fortunately, they loved reading, writing, and music – and had a father who obviously wrote a great deal of poetry – so they all ended up memorizing a few poems outside of their classes’ syllabi.

Now that I have a two-year-old, though, I wonder what he will be taught – or not taught.

It seems like memorization has been slowly disappearing in schools over the past half-century, and I’m not sure why.  Long before they enter school, children like my little dude learn the joy of putting sounds together, whether those sounds are from favourite songs, TV shows, or nursery rhymes.  Although a toddler may not know whether Black Sheep has any wool, or how much wool can fit inside three bags, or even how many ‘three’ is, he or she can fell the cadence and enjoy the sounds the words make when put together.  If you then read William Blake’s “Tyger! Tyger! burning bright…” to that same child, he or she might subconsciously notice both poems utilize the same rhythm, before you do.

(Although I just told you, so you might not be able to test that.  Dang.)

My point is, memorization has its benefits, and it’s a shame we don’t use this form of teaching more often.  Say what you will about learning things by rote, but if we’re going to place as much emphasis on language and visual arts as we do on social studies and mathematics, there should be a place for memorization…and not just memorizing the words but, when age-appropriate, what they mean and how to read them.

Learning leads to memorization.  Or is it the other way around?

I know many educators who feel that as a student learns something, he or she will remember what they learn.  That may be true, but the reciprocal is also true; memorize, and you will also learn.  Rhythm, rhyme, tense, order, and myriad other concepts are difficult to teach adults, much less kids…but the more one memorizes poetry, from “I am Sam / Sam I am” to “How shall I compare thee,” the more one starts to appreciate and understand these things.  This helps not just in writing poetry, but any type of creative writing.

Poetry is immensely diverse when it comes to subject matter, too; one can find dozens if not hundreds of poems on nearly any subject.  Given the opportunity, students can learn about poetic forms and devices on their own terms, to a degree.

For example, one of the few times my now 20-year-old was asked to memorize something was when she was in middle school, and was given the task of memorizing a favourite poem.  She loved cats, so she looked through a few books and decided upon the modern classic, “Fog,” by Carl Sandburg:


The fog comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

But in her search for a poem to memorize, she also fell in love with several other poems, including Thomas Gray’s “Ode on the Death of a Favourite Cat” (one of my favourites).  In this case, a memorization assignment served to teach her lessons before she even began memorizing anything.  Plus, she had now experienced two very different approaches to the same subject: one was a free verse poem about fog using the cat as a metaphor, while the other was structured rhyming verse about a human experience involving a member of the family.

What to do??

Kids love music, and when they hear something that catches their ear, their mind is like the proverbial steel trap.  It gets stuck in there, and they won’t let go of it.  Heck, my two-year-old sings a couple of Eric Church songs all the way through, without music!  There is a rhythm and repetition that he enjoys, and even though he doesn’t understand the lyrics, he is learning how to put words together in a rhythmic pattern.

Likewise, one of the great things about poetry – especially classic poetry, with its proper meter and structured rhyme schemes – is that it is structured and can be almost musical.  Tying together the musicality and lyricism of poetry with art, history, language, and social studies seems obvious.  The more connections we can help our children make between these things the more apt they are to remember what they learn.

Twenty years after Paul Revere made his famous ride in 1775, Samuel Taylor Coleridge met William Wordsworth, in 1795.  Five years later, in 1800, Napoleon conquered Italy.  At the same time, the Romantic period of visual art was just beginning in Europe.  And of course, how can one imagine England in the early 1800’s without Dickens or Austen?  Personally, I can’t imagine it without Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Ozymandias,” published in London in 1819.

And you know who was an 11-year-old schoolboy living in London at that very time?

Edgar Allan Poe.

The No-Resolution New Year

(The original title for this post was, “The No-Resolution New Year, or How the Portable People Meter Can Help You Not to Stress Over Your Resolutions.”  But that was a bit wordy.  Read along and it’ll all start to make sense.  Perhaps.)

For two weeks now, I’ve been reading and hearing about everyone’s new year’s resolutions.  Most folks want to lose weight.  Exercise more.  Eat healthy.

Some have very ambitious, specific resolutions, such as resolving to publish a book or to make a specific more amount of money each month.  Others are a bit more ambiguous, like trying to be a better person – which is nice, but what does that mean?  Are you only moderately tolerable now?

Believe me, I appreciate why folks make new year’s resolutions…but if you ask me for mine, I’ll tell you I have none.  And it’s not because I don’t think I can’t make improvements in my life, or don’t see the value in setting goals.

I simply don’t see the point in setting a date to start on those goals.

Why wait?

A few years ago, I was talking to some friends about wanting to leave my place of employment and strike out on my own to work for myself as a voiceover artist.  It was autumn, and I recall explaining to them that there were a number of things I would need to do in order to make that change possible.  I would need to build up contacts and clients.  I would need to make sure my finances would be able to handle the initial reduction in pay.  Most importantly, I would need to have the physical tools available to work from home, such as a new computer and editing software, a better quality microphone, and sound dampening equipment to prevent ambient noise and echo in my recordings.

One of my friends suggested it would be a good new year’s resolution to work toward that goal.  I agreed – although I saw no need to wait until the new year to begin setting the plan in motion.  So I began auditioning more, prospecting for clients, and connecting with more people through social media.  I also started buying some new equipment.

I knew my finances were not going to allow me to leave work that following year, but at least I had begun moving forward.

Eventually, I got more gigs, built up a clientele, and this past summer was finally financially able to leave my position as production director for a 5-station radio group and work for myself.  A month later, I began this blog – another item on my to-do list.

And you know what?  The 2010 new year, 2011 new  year, and 2012 new year had nothing to do with any of it.  It was done through sheer determination, and determination is available 365 days a year.

Image courtesy of Music Row

The Portable People Meter

The Portable People Meter (or PPM) is a small device developed by the company Arbitron to measure how often a person listens to different radio stations.  You may have heard of Nielsen ratings for TV?  Well, Arbitron is the radio equivalent of Nielsen, and ratings are very important , because they show how many people are listening to different stations, how often they listen, what times they listen, etc.  Radio and television stations then use this info to sell advertising and set rates.

The way it works is, a random person is equipped with a PPM and it automatically keeps track of which stations he/she listens to throughout each day over several weeks.  (Back in the day, people were asked to keep written diaries, which can obviously be fallible – although some still do use them – so the PPM was a huge breakthrough in radio station monitoring)

Ratings are broken down into ‘Average Quarter-Hours,’ which simply means a minimum of 5 minutes for every 15-minute block, if you divide your clock at :00, :15, :30, and :45 minute increments.  For example, if a listener tuned in at 6:00am and tuned out at 6:07am, that would count as one quarter-hour, because he/she had listened for at least 5 minutes.  If that listener tuned in at 6:10am and tuned out at 6:20am, it would count for TWO quarter-hours (5 minutes in each quarter-hour block).  However, if he/she tuned in at 6:11am and tuned out at 6:19am, that radio station would receive NO quarter-hours, because the 5-minute minimum per quarter-hour had not been met.

“Your point, Matt??  Get to the point!”

Ok, ok.  You see, the PPM blew away a rock-solid radio programming axiom that nearly everyone in radio obeyed.

Before the PPM, radio stations believed that each hour’s first quarter-hour (from :00 – :15) was the most-listened to of all the quarter-hours.  This is because the hand-written radio diaries often had the first quarter-hour listed.  So if that’s what people are writing down, it must be the way it is, right?


With the advent of the PPM, the number-crunchers at Arbitron realized that each quarter-hour was more or less equally listened-to.  People were tuning in to radio stations not at the top of each hour…but whenever they darned well felt like it.

Shocker, I know.

Thing is, it was a shocker to a lot of radio stations, who for decades had deliberately played their hottest songs, or some other type of important, exciting must-tune-in elements, at the top of each hour.  Turned out that that people were writing down the top of the hour on their hand-written diaries not because they were tuning in at the top of the hour, but because it was easier to say “11am” if they happened to tune in at 10:55am (which, you’ll notice, is an all-important quarter-hour!).

No time like the present

I’m explaining all of this to show that it’s irrelevant when to begin improving your life.  The important thing is that you have a vision for that improvement.  And if you don’t have the determination, that’s ok – take some time to find it!  It doesn’t matter if it’s the top of the hour or the beginning of the year – a radio station needs to have good programming every minute of the hour, and you make changes to your life every day of the year.

My wife and I met in September 2007, were engaged that following Christmas, and were married in August 2008, one month before we’d known each other for a year.  While some might say we rushed into things, I say we seized an opportunity.  We knew how we felt about each other, we knew our feelings would not change…so we figured, why wait?  One never knows what might happen tomorrow.  Carpe diem, and all of that!

Whether it’s the top of the hour or the beginning of the year…it’s just a spot on a clock or calendar.  You can make those resolutions whenever you feel like it:  losing weight, making more money, being more tolerable.

And if you do make a resolution that fails or for some reason doesn’t come to fruition…

Today is as good a day as any to start again.

Poetry Friday: First of the year!

Poetry_Friday logoWelcome to Poetry Friday!

I’m very excited to be hosting the festivities today.  Not only is this the first Poetry Friday roundup of 2013, but it’s also the first time I’ve ever hosted Poetry Friday.

(I only started this blog 5 months ago – so I hope I don’t screw things up!)

If you have something you’d like to share, just leave your link(s) in the Comments section below, and I’ll update the blog throughout the day.

For my part, I’m sharing my newest poem, which I wrote four nights ago.  As I mentioned in Tuesday’s post, I’m currently working on a follow-up to my winter-themed children’s poetry collection – an autumn-themed poetry collection – and this, I think, will most likely be the first poem of that book.  Seems to make sense, considering the subject!  Hope you like it…and be sure to check out all the other fantastic poetry at the links below…

First Day in the Cafeteria

They could have served us burgers.
They could have served us fries.
They could have served us mac ‘n cheese
or deep-fried chicken thighs.

They could have served cold pizza
or greasy beef pot pies,
so why oh why – our first day back –
do we get “Chef’s Surprise??”

– © 2013 Matt Forrest Esenwine

For more poetic ways to kick off your New Year, please visit these fine folks:

  • If you’d like like to get the year kicked off in good shape, David L. Harrison suggests you read Jane Heitman’s poem, “Counting Down the Hours.”
  • Catherine Johnson shares two original Month of Poetry poems.
  • For the new year, Steve Patterson offers a poem about a little turtle, huge determination, and a new life.
  • I’d like to welcome Lesley Fletcher to Poetry Friday!  Lesley is sharing a poem written at a car dealership, titled “The Flame.”
  • Another new visitor to Poetry Friday is San Lin Tun, who wishes everyone a “Happy New Year.”
  • Charles Ghigna shares his “New Year’s Resolutions” at The FATHER GOOSE Blog.
  • Laura Purdie Salas has a roundup of the CYBILS Finalists in the Poetry Category.
  • Gabrielle Pendergast also spotlights the CYBILS Poetry Finalists, and provides info on VerseDay, a year long blog fest celebrating all things verse! All the info is at her blog, Angelhorn.
  • Speaking of the CYBILS, Irene Latham is giving away some CYBILS poetry book packs!
  • Violet Nesdoly’s poem for this week is a tongue-in-cheek look at her own “Fiscal Crisis.”
  • At A Teaching Life, Tara has a very fitting poem about “Burning the Old Year” by Naomi Shihab Nye.
  • Jeff Barger has written a haiku titled “Killing Me With Kindness” at his blog, NC Teacher Stuff.
  • At Gathering Books, Myra shares a favourite poem of hers…Derek Walcott’s, “Love after Love.”
  • Laura Shovan is posting poem #4 in her poetry postcard/birthday project at Author Amok. This is one for American history buffs. Both the new poem, “Thick Skinned,” and the postcard refer to the Civil War battle between two ironclad ships, the Merrimack and the Monitor.
  • Tamera Will Wissinger is also joining us for the first time today!  She just recently began a new online journal called The Writer’s Whimsy, and her contribution is called “Put On Your (Fishing) Poetry Hat.
  • At Random Noodling, Diane has a poem by Edward Hirsch, which celebrates Georgia O’Keeffe, “Evening Star.”
  • Kurious Kitty finds connections in a poem by David Ferry.
  • KK’s Kwotes continues New Year’s celebrations with a song written by Peggy Seeger.
  • Margaret continues to work on writing poems to her father’s artwork at Reflections on the Teche.
  • They’re at the midpoint in THE POETRY FRIDAY ANTHOLOGY with a “toothless” poem by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater.
  • At Growing Wild, Liz Steinglass shares an original poem about a cat named Houdini who likes to escape from Grandma’s visitors.
  • They’re celebrating their 7th year of blogging at A Year of Reading with seven days of giveback-giveaway. The book they’re giving away today, to one lucky commenter, is FORGIVE ME, I MEANT TO DO IT.
  • Karen Edmiston is in this week with T.S. Eliot’s “Journey of the Magi.”
  • At Teacher Dance, Linda has a poem tribute for the Cybil’s finalists announced this week.
  • Carlie is sharing an original poem on her blog, Twinkling Along, all about adopting an orphaned flower in her hour of catastrophe.
  • Tabatha Yeats’ post today is about the Library of Congress’s Lyric Poetry Corridor, plus she shares a poem by Tennyson. (She also posted international HP book covers yesterday!)
  • At Read, Write, Howl, Robyn Hood Black has been busy this week:  shes in with a Joyce Sidman poem and a link to her interview with her for Poetry at Play, as well as a link to a post on verse novels, featuring some of our shining PF poets.
  • Susan Thomsen is featuring a photographed excerpt of a poem by Gwendolyn Brooks, from New York’s Library Way, at her blog, Chicken Spaghetti.
  • At Poetry for Kids Joy, Joy Acey has poem about nonverbal communication this week with “Pinkie Promise.”
  • Be sure to visit The Write Sisters for a short poem titled, “Dark Birds.”
  • Joyce Ray is sharing a winter haiku at Musings.
  • At Supratentorial, Alice is sharing the book poem, “If I Never Forever Endeavor” by Holly Meade.
  • Matt Goodfellow shares an original poem, “New Yah Prayer.”
  • At Wild Rose Reader, Elaine has a “forgotten” poem that she wrote years ago.  It’s a mask poem titled “Dinosaur Egg.”
  • Mother Reader offers another in her series of songs as poetry, “Little Talks.”
  • Ralph Fletcher has started blogging, and he joins us this week with a poem from one of his books, “Relatively Speaking: Poems About Family.”
  • At On Point, Lorie Ann Grover has an original haiku for the new year, “Celebrate.”
  • Carol Wilcox shares a dog poem by Mary Oliver at Carol’s Corner and also provides a link to the Warrior Canine Connection, an organization that raises service dogs for veterans and has a brand new litter of yellow lab puppies.
  • At Booktalking, Anastasia is sharing a CYBILS Poetry nominee: “The Year Comes Round: Haiku through the Seasons” by Sid Farrar (Author) and Ilse Plume (Illustrator).
  • Amy has a villanelle titled “I Understand” today at The Poem Farm.
  • Haiti Ruth is in with “The End and the Beginning,” by Wisława Szymborska.
  • At Writing and Ruminating, Kelly Ramsdell Fineman shares an original sonnet, “Lessons I Wish I Could Share With My Teenage Daughter.”
  • And Perogyo brings us a review of the book, “Noisy Poems for a Busy Day” at her blog Perogies and Gyoza!

Poetry Friday Eve!

Poetry_Friday logo‘Twas the day before Poetry Friday
And all through the kidlitosphere,
All the bloggers were stirring –
Hoping it would be here…

Welcome to Poetry Friday Eve!

I’m very excited to be hosting the festivities tomorrow, so I thought I’d do everyone a favour and start accepting links now in order to get a head start.  Makes sense, yes?

So if you have something you’d like to share, just leave your link(s) in the Comments section and I’ll update tomorrow’s blog throughout the day!

Thanks, Matt