Poetry Friday: Looking back at 2019 and welcoming 2020 with CYBILS Awards finalists!

The last night these little babies will be lit. Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

While everyone seems to be thrilled with the promise of what lies ahead for us in 2020, I’m still reflecting on how incredible 2019 was for me.

“It was a very good year…”

Professionally speaking, it was probably the best year I’ve had so far since I began this journey in 2009, with FIVE manuscripts sold – including a picture book written with the incomparable Charles Ghigna (aka, Father Goose®). I had set a goal for myself of selling one manuscript per year – not unattainable, but certainly not a slam-dunk sort of thing for someone who is still in the early stages of his career. So 2019 really surprised me!

Elsewhere, I had a poem included in the late Lee Bennett Hopkins’ anthology, I Am Someone Else (Charlesbridge, 2019) and a couple of other poems found themselves in Michelle H. Barnes’ newest poetry anthology. I also was asked by Kristen Wixted and Heather Kelly at The Writer’s Loft in Massachusetts if my friend Kip Wilson (White Rose, Versify, 2019) and I would help judge poems for their new anthology, Friends and Anemones: Ocean Poems for Children. (How awesome a title is that??)

So proud to be part of this crew! NCTE presenters, L-R: Mary Lee Hahn, Liz Steinglass, Yours Truly, Heidi Mordhorst, Laura Purdie Salas

Other significant accomplishments included having a poem included in an important Donald Hall tribute anthology; another poem winning the Robert Frost Farm and Derry (NH) Public Library’s MacGregor Poetry Prize; seeing Flashlight Night (Boyds Mills and Kane, 2017) on the short list for two New Hampshire Literary Awards for Best Picture Book; and attending my first NCTE conference in Baltimore, where I co-presented a poetry workshop (“Wonder as a Way In: Teaching Reading and Writing Poetry through Inquiry”) with a number of fellow writer friends. The fact that I got to visit Edgar Allan Poe’s grave site – as well as family members I’ve not seen in years – was icing on the proverbial cake!

In-between all this, I also managed to sell my parents’ house, which had been a huge time-depleting and emotionally draining project. So yes, I’m looking forward to seeing what 2020 has waiting for me, but I’m pretty proud of everything I’ve accomplished in 2019.

What IS waiting in 2020? Well, aside from Friends and Anemones (which comes out in November), that picture book I wrote with Charles Ghigna is scheduled for an August 18 publication date from Beaming Books (keep watching here for a cover-reveal SOON!).

“But wait, there’s more!”

Two of those manuscripts I sold last year (board books from Rainstorm Publishing) are planned for release this summer and a third manuscript, a picture book, might also sneak in before the end of the year. On top of all this, the new poetry anthology Construction People (Wordsong, 2020), one of Lee Bennett Hopkins’ final anthologies, has a March 17 release date…and I just learned about two weeks ago that I will be part of another anthology coming out within the next year or so.

Oh, and did I mention I’m participating in Tara Lazar’s Storystorm 2020 this month? No? Well, I am – because, you know, no matter how many ideas a writer has, one can never have too many!

So yes, I have a lot to look forward to in 2020, much of it due to good fortune that occurred in 2019. One final thing we can all look forward to in 2020 are the CYBILS Awards! Out of all the books nominated last fall, finalists have now been officially announced, and I was proud to once again be part of the first-round panel of judges who determined the poetry finalists:

Dreams from Many Rivers: A Hispanic History of the United States Told in Poems (Henry Holt) (AmazonIndieBound)
by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Beatriz Gutierrez Hernandez

Ink Knows No Borders: Poems of the Immigrant and Refugee Experience (Triangle Square) (AmazonIndieBound)
Edited by Patrice Vecchione and Alyssa Raymond

Ordinary Hazards: A Memoir (Wordsong) (AmazonIndieBound)
by Nikki Grimes

Other Words for Home (Balzer + Bray) (AmazonIndieBound)
by Jasmine Warga

SHOUT (Viking Books for Young Readers) (Amazon,IndieBound)
by Laurie Halse Anderson

Soccerverse: Poems about Soccer (Wordsong) (AmazonIndieBound)
by Elizabeth Steinglass, illustrated by Edson Ike

The Proper Way to Meet a Hedgehog and Other How-To Poems (Candlewick Press) (Amazon,IndieBound)
by Paul B. Janeczko, illustrated by Richard Jones

You can read all about them HERE. There was a great deal of quality writing this year and it was very difficult for us to come to a decision about which seven books would move on to the second round, but congratulations to all, and I wish the judges good luck with a task that is decidedly not easy.

What’s this, you want more poetry? Well, for all of today’s Poetry Friday links, please visit Carol’s Corner for the complete roundup, featuring a very appropriate poem from Maya Angelou. And thank you so much for all the support you’ve lent – it really means a lot, as I continue to move forward in this career I’ve found myself in. Best wishes for health, happiness, and success for you, as well, in the year ahead!


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


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, 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!


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!

27 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: Looking back at 2019 and welcoming 2020 with CYBILS Awards finalists!

  1. authoryvonafast

    Wow Matt – that is incredible – congratulations!
    How many submissions did you have in 2019? I tracked mine and i had just 50… still more than each of the 2 previous ears which were both around 30 and 40…


    1. Y’know what? I never keep track of the number of submissions, so I don’t know how many I sent out, ha! I’m thinking probably only about 20-30, as I was so busy with my folks’ house – plus I can only submit to publishers that take unagented mss. I do know that the PB w/Charles that’s coming out in August went through at least 25 places over the course of about 5 years before Beaming Books picked it up.


      1. authoryvonafast

        Yeah i don’t have an agent either – but some of the subbing is to agents, some to publishers… and some to magazines, with a story or poem… that’s interesting that you don’t keep track. That’s great you have so many books coming out, I’m a bit jealous! But very happy for you!


  2. Dear Matt, We have not, as yet, met. I am hoping that I can meet you this summer when we come to New Hampshire on vacation and frequent your favorite bookstore. I am so happy for you. Recounting the blessings of 2019 was such a lovely exercise. Your enthusiasm is contagious, your walk is inspirational and must build your confidence that you are walking the right path. Bless you in 2020! Thank you for sharing this journey with us.


    1. Thank you so much, Linda, that’s very nice of you to say. By all means, please let me know when you get here, and perhaps we can meet downtown at some point! And thank you again for the wonderful support of your words, I appreciate it.


  3. carwilc

    Matt- Congratulations on a really productive year! And best wishes for all of your projects in 2020. I judged nonfiction CYBILS this year (almost 140 books, including 40 that were novel length) and have missed poetry. Can’t wait to check out some of these titles!


    1. Good grief, 140?? I can’t even imagine trying to get through that many. We usually have anywhere from 60 to 80 titles, and that’s enough for me! Thanks so much for your kind comments, and definitely consider doing poetry next year!


  4. lindabaie

    Congratulations for all the wonder in 2019 & Happiest of wishes for 2020, too, Matt. I am looking forward to all that you will have coming, especially the book with Charles Ghigna, sure to be a delight!


  5. Deborah Bruss

    Fantastic! You are on a roll! I don’t have to remind you to take time to enjoy life because you’re enthusiasm pours out of you. Now what are you going to do with all your free time since your parents and their home are settled into their new lives?


    1. Thank you, Deb, for your support and encouragement – Of course, you have been a big part of my success. What am I doing with my time, you ask? Writing and subbing! Already had a busy and productive day yesterday, and I’m looking forward to maintaining this momentum.


  6. Linda Mitchell

    Wow! Enjoy every moment of success from a decade of invested time in writing, reading, networking and just being the writer that you are. Many congratulations. I’m looking forward to what the next bend in the journey brings. I hope you’ll share!


  7. Holy moley! What a year, Matt! So many congratulations–your passion for poetry and picture books always shines through, and you go on this journey with such integrity. Great to present with you, and here’s to fabulous 2020!


  8. Rebecca Herzog

    Wow! What a busy and amazing year! Congrats. I will have to check out the Cybils poetry finalists. I am a round 2 judge in the MG speculative fiction category so I am busy busy busy reading through those.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.