Poetry Friday: “With her, at midnight”

This post was originally published way back in Dec. 2012, just 5 months after I had first started this blog. As our family gears up for our annual trip over to York Beach, Maine, I was contemplating my life, and my wife, and my kids, and Covid, and all the things we’ve gone through this past year…and I remembered this poem. With summer almost upon us, I felt like it was the perfect time to share it again, in case you hadn’t seen it the first time around!

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For my final Poetry Friday post of the year, I’m sharing a fairly new poem that I completed just a few weeks ago.  I wrote this for my wife, Jen, and since it describes a muggy, summer evening, I thought it might help to melt some of the heavy, wet snow that fell in this part of the country yesterday.

This is a tanka, pretty much the only surviving form of waka, a term that once encompassed many forms of Japanese poetry.  You may notice that the first three lines are similar to a haiku, with their 5-7-5 syllabic structure; however, haikus are a relatively new form of poetry, having been developed in the 19th century (haikus were borne of the original hokku form, which dates to the 1600s, but waka forms go back to the 6th century).

By the way, this week I learned that the Japanese word haijin means either a crippled person, or a haiku poet. Makes sense.

So now that your history and vocab lessons are over, on to the poetry! 

.

With her, at midnight

Within the warm, thick
soup of night clouds and orchids,
breaths heavy as air
silence jealous crickets; stars
glisten skin, damp and moonlit.

– © 2012 Matt Forrest Esenwine,
all rights reserved

.

How’s this for coincidence: Carol Wilcox is hosting today’s complete Poetry Friday roundup with a spotlight on poet Jeannette Encinias at her blog, Carol’s Corner – and would you believe it was Carol who was hosting Poetry Friday 9 years ago, when I first published this post! That’s right, I shared my post on her 2012 roundup! Crazy, isn’t it??

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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: “Night Roses”

(click to enlarge)

It’s Poetry Friday, so if you’re looking for more poems and links, head on over to Margaret Simon’s little home on the web, Reflections on the Teche, for today’s complete roundup – and not one but TWO responses to poetic challenges she undertook!

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

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: Saying goodbye to Eric Carle and Lois Ehlert

If you have not heard the news, the world of children’s literature has lost two amazing and irreplaceable talents in one week.

First came news of Ehlert’s passing on Tue., May 25 at the age of 86. The next day, Eric Carle’s family announced that he, too, had passed away on Sunday, May 23. He was 91.

It’s interesting to note that not only did these two create bold, timeless, illustrations, but they both did so with cut-paper collages. Yet although their choice of media was similar, their styles were all their own.

Ehlert was known for simple yet bright, color-saturated shapes such as what one would find in Bill Martin Jr.’s Chicka Chicka Boom Boom (Simon & Schuster) or Ehlert’s own Planting a Rainbow (HMH Books for Young Readers).

Carle’s hand-painted paper collages, on the other hand, brought texture and life to books like The Very Hungry Caterpillar and The Very Busy Spider (World of Eric Carle) or Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? (Henry Holt & Co.), also written by Bill Martin, Jr.

So for today, I wanted to share a poem from Carle’s beautiful Eric Carle’s Animals, Animals (World of Eric Carle), a poetry anthology compiled by Laura Whipple that blends poetry from around the world with poems from such diverse poetic icons as Valerie Worth, Shakespeare, and Ogden Nash. With more than 70 animals represented so beautifully in word and picture, it’s a poetry book no home should be without:
.

I throw myself to the left
I turn myself to the right.
I am the fish
Who glides in the water, who glides,
Who twists himself, who leaps.
Everything lives, everything dances, everything sings.
.
—African pygmy

Doesn’t that poem just seem to sing out joy and hope? When I read that, it felt it was describing Ehlert’s and Carle’s illustrations as much as it was describing life…all that leaping, gliding, dancing.

Singing.

And although this is my tribute, the best tribute one can offer to folks like Carle & Ehlert is to continue sharing and purchasing their work. I certainly plan to do so; I hope you will, too.

Last Friday, Christie Wyman celebrated her birthday while hosting the Poetry Friday festivities, and this week, it’s Michelle Kogan’s turn to blow out the candles! For today’s complete Roundup, head over to Michelle’s blog to read Ruth Whitman’s “Birth Day” along with Michelle’s poem “Birth Plant,” inspired by Whitman’s poem, and to check out all of today’s links!

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I’m now a part of the BOOKROO family!

Children's Book Subscription: Bookroo - Sincerely Stacie

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: The craft of verse novels, the value of randomness, and the perfection of “Tuck Everlasting”: an interview with David Elliott

As I mentioned here early last month, it’s been quite awhile since I’ve formally interviewed my friend and neighbor David Elliott – about 9 years, actually, in 2013.

I published our interview for the former “Poetry at Play” blog, which I reposted HERE. At the time, David’s poetry collection In the Sea (Candlewick, 2012) had just come out and On the Wing (Candlewick, 2014) was – well, on the wing – with a publishing date of 2014.

It’s funny…David and I bump into each other all the time at the local grocery store or coffeehouse, I have about 2 dozen garlic plants growing courtesy of some bulbs he’d pulled off his property last year, he even helped the previous owner of our house paint the interior before she sold it to my wife – yet for some reason I have yet to feature him here at the ol’ Triple-R.

So I decided that needed to be corrected!

Thanks so much for taking the time to chat, David! While you’ve authored several popular picture books and poetry collections, one of the things I wanted to do today is get into the nuts and bolts of writing verse novels, the popularity of which has really skyrocketed within the last 5 years or so.

Looking back at your first verse novel, Bull (HMH Books for Young Readers, 2017), how did you decide that a verse novel was the genre it required? I know you’ve said that Poseidon’s voice kept speaking to you (a wonderfully bizarre experience that only fellow writers can fully appreciate) before you realized what to do with it – but why verse rather than prose?

Years ago, long before I thought of becoming a writer, my very prescient wife gave me a copy of Richard Wilbur’s translation of Moliere’s Tartuffe and The Misanthrope. I am still amazed at what both Wilbur and Moliere were able to do, the fluency of those rhyming couplets, I mean, the way the metered language sounded so natural. Though I didn’t know it at the time, I think the seed was planted then for Bull and the other verse novels, too.

Of course, the myth of Theseus has its antecedents in Ovid, so verse seemed a natural, even appropriate way to tell the story. By the way, I’m not sure that I agree that it’s only writers who can appreciate the workings of the Unconscious, which is I think where Poseidon was speaking from. Dialogue between the deeper Self and the ego is available to everyone. It just requires a little practice.

Do you approach the structure/characterization/outlining process in a similar manner for both verse and prose novels, or do you use a different method of organization?

Oh dear. Organization? What’s that? While a book’s architecture is vital, I never know what it is until I’m in the middle of writing it. For me, it’s very analogous to Alice’s experience through the looking glass. Never linear, and often arriving frustratingly late in the process. Very messy. I worked on Voices at least six months before I began to understand even a little bit what I was doing. It turned out to be nothing like what I had proposed. I try as hard as I can to let the narrative tell me what it wants to be rather than forcing my own idea onto it. I try, I say, but I’m not always as successful as I would like to be.

You love experimenting with poetic forms, from classic formal verse to free verse to even concrete poems like the ones in Voices: The Final Hours of Joan of Arc (HMH Books for Young Readers, 2019). How do you decide which forms/styles to use? Is it strictly according to what you feel works best for a particular character, or is there more to it?

Once I understood that Bull was going to be in verse, I also understood that each of the characters in the story were going to have to speak differently. Poseidon, after all, is a very different entity from Ariadne. I was fortunate enough to have a copy of Miller Williams’ Patterns of Poetry on my shelf. I picked it up, closed my eyes, thought of the character, and then like a prankster with a phone book, thumbed through it, stopped randomly, pointed to a page, and whatever form was listed there is what I used for that character.

Idiotic, I know.

But I soon realized that the forms were shaping the characters in ways that I could never have imagined, so I’m not sure it was as idiotic as it sounds though I wouldn’t recommend it as a way of writing a book. Voices was a little more intentional, though it took me a very (very!) long time to find Joan’s voice. The Seventh Raven (HMH Books for Young Readers, 2019) was more intentional still.

(Matt’s note: You can read my post about The Seventh Raven HERE)

You’ve said you love the work of folks like Roald Dahl, Robert Louis Stevenson, Natalie Babbit, and several others. At this point in your career, can you share the influence they’ve had on your work?

I love Roald Dahl’s humor, his irreverence. But what I love most about him is the courage to bypass adults and speak directly to children. That subversive, almost conspiratorial element is in good part what makes him so appealing to so many kids. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of writing for the gatekeepers, all the adults who read children’s lit rather than writing for the kids themselves. Those are two very different audiences. I think Dahl understood that almost better than anyone else, and it is what I most admire about him and his work.

As for Stevenson, simply put? He knows how to tell a story. I read Kidnapped and Treasure Island almost every year, and each time I do, I get the same thrill I did when I read them first as an adolescent. There are very few books that do that for me now

Natalie Babbitt? There isn’t enough time. The only thing I can say is that to me Tuck Everlasting is a perfect book. Perfect. And I say that as a writer and a reader. I still get weepy at that prologue, and as for the book’s structure and sentence-level writing, don’t get me started. As I said recently in another interview, Lewis Carroll once wrote that fairy tales are “love gifts.” I never understood that until I read Tuck.

Here’s a question to make you think:  what would you love to write – genre, subject, anything – that you don’t feel you’re ready to write yet?

I spent my twenties traveling, living mostly by the seat of my pants. I washed cucumbers in Greece. I ate curried goat with sultans in the Sulu Archipelago. I made popsicle sticks in Israel. I sang at a bar in Mexico. I sat with Berbers at the edge of the Libyan Sahara.  Along the way, I met a German girl who carried a violin she couldn’t play, a woman who became the Pope’s webmaster, a guy who had been involved in the FLQ ‘s kidnapping of Quebec’s provincial Deputy Premier, and many more.  I hope someday to be able to write about those years and those people.

So what’s up next on the ol’ publication timeline?

Over the next few years, I’ll have three more picture books in the Candlewick poetry series: next year, At the Pond, with amazingly beautiful illustrations by Amy Schimler-Safford; the year following, At the Poles illustrated by the great Ellen Rooney; and finally In the Sands, illustrator TBD. Next spring, Little Brown is publishing Color the Sky, illustrated by none other than Evan Turk. (I’m speechless at what he has done with a very simple text). I’m currently writing a spooky and adventure-filled middle grade with my son, which we’ll have an announcement about soon.

Wow, it’s great to hear you have three more of those poetry collections on the way! (You know I’m still waiting to see one about microscopic animals titled “Under the Slide” – that needs to happen, ha!) And I can’t wait to see what Evan Turk did with your words – he’s an incredibly gifted and stylistically unique illustrator. Well, thanks so much for taking the time to chat, my friend – and best wishes with Raven and all these upcoming projects.

Thanks so much, Matt. Always a pleasure.

.

Speaking of poetry, I would be remiss to not congratulate my friend and longtime Poetry Friday family member Mary Lee Hahn on her FINAL MONTH OF TEACHING! Woo-HOO!!

Mary Lee is an incredible supporter, teacher, and writer of poetry who joined me, Liz Steinglass, Heidi Mordhorst, and Laura Purdie Salas two years ago in Baltimore at NCTE’s annual conference for our panel presentation on teaching poetry through “inquiry.” It was so nice to be able to meet these friends in person, having known them all for so many years through Facebook, blogs, and social media channels.

Happy retirement, Mary Lee – I’m guessing you’re going to be even busier now that you’re no longer working, ha!

L-R: Mary Lee Hahn, Liz Steinglass, Yours Truly, Heidi Mordhorst, Laura Purdie Salas

For today’s complete Poetry Friday roundup, head over to Wondering and Wandering, where Christie Wyman is not only celebrating Mary Lee’s career with poetry – she’s celebrating the fact it’s her birthday! Happy birthday, Christie!

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I’m now a part of the BOOKROO family!

Children's Book Subscription: Bookroo - Sincerely Stacie

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: Looking back at my first paid poem – has it only been 6 years??

I was recently updating some of my marketing paperwork and was surprised to discover that it has only been 6 years since my very first paid children’s poem was published. Six years!

Now, this comes with a tiny disclaimer: the first paid poem for which I signed a contract was “First Tooth,” which appeared in Lee Bennett Hopkins’ Lullabye & Kisses Sweet (Abrams Appleseed), published in March 2015. My first published paid poem, however, actually appeared just one week earlier, in Carol-Ann Hoyte’s anthology Dear Tomato: An International Crop of Food & Agriculture Poems.

Even though I’m a few months behind, I thought I’d share one of my three poems that Carol-Ann included in her book – a poem that was one of the first children’s poems I ever wrote, waaaay back in 2010.

It came about when I was mowing the lawn one day and started contemplating what I was doing from a child’s perspective. I asked myself questions that a child might ask his or her dad: What are you doing? Why are you cutting the grass? Why don’t you grow flowers like mom?

And this is what happened when the child inside me tried to answer those questions!
.

Growing Greens

Mommy grows flowers
She thins them and feeds them.
She prunes them and pots them
and waters and weeds them.

Daddy grows grass.

Mommy grows ivy
and bushes and hedges
that grow by the garden
and over the ledges.

Daddy grows grass.

Mommy grows roses
of all shapes and sizes.
She takes them to fairs
and often wins prizes.

Daddy grows grass.

Well, actually…
sometimes Daddy grows flowers.
Pretty yellow dandelions, that cover the lawn.
.
But Daddy pulls them up

to grow more grass.

– © 2015, Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

.

It’s hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that since this poem came out, I’ve had about 35 children’s poems and 4 picture books published – and 8 more books on the way. I’m so grateful to the folks I’ve met along this journey, for befriending me, supporting me, and publishing me!

And speaking of publishing, this really is an anthology of incredible diversity, featuring established poets like former U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis and the award-winning Nikki Grimes as well as up-and-comers (at the time) like my friends Charles Waters and Michelle H. Barnes. If you’ve not had the opportunity to pick up a copy Dear Tomato, I hope you will! Where else are you going to find a collection of 34 different writers for just 10 bucks?? As far as bargains go, it’s definitely a heckuva one.

And as far as poetry goes, you can find today’s complete Poetry Friday roundup at Irene Latham’s little home on the web, Live Your Poem!

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

I’m now a part of the BOOKROO family!

Children's Book Subscription: Bookroo - Sincerely Stacie

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: Tricubes are taking over!

Sometimes you’ll share a post you feel is really important, and almost no one reads it. Other times, you’ll share a simple little writing prompt…and suddenly everyone is jumping in, trying their hand at it.

This post, for your information, is about the latter.

You see, I shared author/poet Phillip Larrea‘s tricube form a few weeks ago as an example of how one can stretch their brain muscles with exercises such writing in a specific form (i.e., haiku, sonnet, etc.).

(You can read that post HERE) The tricube form is based on the mathematical concept of “cubes”: the poem has 3 stanzas, with 3 lines per stanza, and 3 syllables per line.

I had no idea how inspirational that post would be! Folks were emailing me, sharing on Twitter, posting tricubes on their own blogs…and as I discovered yesterday, sharing them on Instagram!

Nethervoice Vo Client Pic
Paul Strikwerda

That’s right – my friend Paul Strikwerda, a fellow voiceover artist who hails from the Netherlands but calls the U.S his home these days (hence, his business name, Nethervoice), was so taken with the challenge that he wrote his own, which I shared last week, along with tricubes of many others.

Little did I know he would challenge his Instagram followers to write their own – and boy, did they! You can scan through them all HERE and read the many ways his followers responded – with subjects from tenacity and peace to music and reptiles. I loved reading through them all, and I’m sure you will, too.

After reading all these tricubes, there was only one thing I could do: write another! This was in response to Paul’s Instagram posts, as I thought about not just his kindness but also our similar backgrounds: two voiceover guys who both grew up recording stories onto our father’s old cassette decks (character voices, sound effects, and all), who both eventually worked in radio, who both left radio to work for ourselves doing voicework, and who both love writing – he as one of the top voiceover bloggers in the country and me as a children’s author.

.

Friendship’s voice
supportive,
true, rises

up, reaches
across miles
and months, so

readily
heard by those
who listen.
.

© 2021 Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

.

It’s been nice seeing so many others tackling this form, too, like Christie Wyman and her students. Christie shows how she used this form along with Amy Ludwig VanDerwater’s Every Day Birds (Orchard Books) as part of a science/poetry/art lesson…brilliant! Blogger Denise Krebs also tried her hand at one, using a rather “unusual” subject…check it out here!

As I’ve stated before, should you decide to try writing a tricube of your own, I hope you’ll share it with me so I can post here for all to see! (If you share it on Instagram, be sure to include the hastag #tricube) I’ll likely be doing something completely different next week, but for all of today’s poetry links, please visit Bridget at wee words for wee ones, where she’s hosting the complete Poetry Friday roundup!

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

I’m now a part of the BOOKROO family!

Children's Book Subscription: Bookroo - Sincerely Stacie

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: Have you “tried a Tricube?” The Roundup is here!

It’s been a long time since I’ve hosted the Poetry Friday roundup, so I’m very excited to see everyone’s posts today!

Over the past couple of years, my children’s writing career has taken off (4 books out, and 8 more are under contract) – and with suddenly having to homeschool my two young kids due to Covid, I’ve not had nearly the amount of time I used to; hence, I’m unable to visit everyone’s posts as regularly as I used to. So my apologies!

It’s been an especially busy year so far, with two books already out. My first board book, Elliot, the Heart-Shaped Frog (Rainstorm Publishing), was published near the end of January. Once Upon Another Time (Beaming Books), co-authored with my friend Charles “Father Goose” Ghigna, which ALA’s Booklist has called “a necessary addition to picture book collections,” hit bookstores March 2.

(By the way, if you happen to have read any of my books and enjoyed them, I hope you’ll consider leaving a brief review on either Amazon or Goodreads – even just two simple sentences can be a HUGE help in increasing sales for authors and illustrators.)

But launching those was just the beginning! I’m working on revisions to another new PB from Beaming Books, scheduled for next year; I’m gearing up for a big poetry project also due out next year; I’m making plans for the launch of my next picture book, I Am Today (POW! Kids Books), which comes out this fall; AND I’ve been asked to present a writing workshop at Lit Youngstown’s 5th Annual Fall Literary Festival in Youngstown, Ohio, Oct. 7-9!

Did I mention I’m homeschooling two kids?

So you can see why time is at a premium for me these days. But I’m genuinely excited about hosting Poetry Friday today because I get to share a bunch of poetry from my readers and followers!

I first shared the Tricube form, created by author/poet Phillip Larrea, a couple of weeks ago in a post that apparently stirred a great deal of inspiration. (You can check out that post HERE) People from all over were trying out this poetic form – emailing me, posting on my Facebook page, sharing on Twitter, and even posting tricubes on their own blogs!

So I figured the logical thing to do for today’s post was to share their work here, for everyone to see!

The tricube is fairly simple in structure, as it is based on mathematics: there are 3 syllables per line, 3 lines per stanza, and 3 stanzas per poem. (multiply a number by itself three times = cubed!) Unlike math, however, a tricube is greater than the sum of its parts, as word economy is paramount, much like haiku, senryu, and tanka.

Hope you enjoy these!

.

Summer


Summer comes,
Blooms explode, 
Sunshine warms.

Summer’s here,
Days are hot,
Insects zoom.

Summer stays!
Sticky heat,
Humid time!

.
– Tonnye Fletcher

.

Writing Life

Writing days,
Reading nights,
Hopeful life.

Morning reads,
Coffee mugs
Start days right.

Journaling 
In my bed,
Day is done.
.

– Tonnye Fletcher

.

.

.

Question

On one hand
there is joy,
acceptance;

the other,
uncertain
consequence.

Do I, then,
lead myself –
or be led?
.

– F. E.

.

.

And yes…even I had to write another one!

Night Spring

moon shadows
touch lightly
tender earth

gauzy clouds
quick, supple
caress sky

pond dwellers
loud and shrill
sing their souls
.

– Matt Forrest Esenwine

.

Many other folks have shared the tricubes they’ve written on their own blogs, including Buffy Silverman’s poem, “Flotilla,” Alana DeVito’s “Sunrise,” Carol Varsalona’s two springtime tricubes, Carol Wilcox’s two poems about a service dog she’s raising, and Linda Baie’s poem about me teaching my kids poetry…wow, thank you, Linda! I’m quite honored.

I hope you like these, and I hope you’ll try one of your own! (If you do, please email it to me and I might share it here)

And since it’s Poetry Friday, leave your links below in the comments and I’ll round them up Old School-style throughout the day!

  • First up is Buffy Silverman, who has been enjoying watching the Canada geese that have returned to her lake – and which inspired her to “try” a tricube!
  • Linda Baie also “tries” her hand at a tricube at Teacher Dance, along with a spring haiku!
  • Kids & springtime inspired Carol Varsalona at Beyond Literacy Link to write several different poems using three different forms: a fibonacci, equation poem, and yes, TWO tricubes!
  • It’s autumn in Australia, and Sally Murphy is sharing a couple of beautiful poems about Autumn Rain.
  • My friend David Harrison is celebrating a little early good news about his next poetry collection, The Dirt Book (Holiday House, which comes out in early June.
  • Robyn Hood Black’s month-long series about dewdrop haiku by Issa comes to a close with poems on Buddhism and the impermanance of life.
  • At Salt City Verse, Janice Scully offers a couple of clerihews celebrating our president and vice president.
  • Since today is the last day of April, that means it’s the last day of the annual Progresssive Poem, which Michelle Kogan has the honor of concluding! She also shares an original poem in the style of poet Linda Hogan’s poem, “Innocence.”
  • We get two poems from Tricia Stohr-Hunt at The Miss Rumphius Effect: her final found poem for April (about seashells) as well as her own response to the challenge of writing in the style of Hogan’s “Innocence.”
  • Not to be outdone, Sara Lewis Holmes takes on her Poetry Sisters’ challenge with her own poem in the style of “Innocence” at Read Write Believe.
  • Andromeda Jazmon offers her response to the same challenge, a poem titled “Hope,” at A Wrung Sponge.
  • At Fiction, Instead of Lies, Tanita Davis decided to take a slightly different approach to her poem based on “Innocence.”
  • And Liz Garton Scanlon’s response to the challenge shows us a thoughtful, detailed assessment of “Bamboo.”
  • Catherine Flynn shares a cento (Latin, “collage”) poem she crafted from other poems she wrote this month as well as those of other poets at her blog, Reading to the Core.
  • At Poetry Pizzazz with Alan J. Wright, Alan tackles a serious issue in Australia: misogyny, violence, and other deplorable behaviors towards women. I had no idea things were that bad Down Under!
  • Linda Mitchell offers up a golden shovel poem based on a line from Ralph Waldo Emerson.
  • A rediscovered family video was the inspiration for Laura Purdie Salas‘ final equation poem of the month.
  • Bridget Magee shares several examples of spine poetry as she wraps up her month-long celebration of poetry at Wee Words for Wee Ones!
  • At Unexpected Intersections, Elisabeth Norton travels “full circle” with a shape poem about life and immigration.
  • Some absolutely incredible dual-laguage poems are awaiting at The Opposite of Indifference, where Tabatha Yeatts is wrapping up (Inter)National Poetry Month!
  • Ruth at There Is No Such Thing as a God-Forsaken town is celebrating “happiness” with select offerings from many of our Poetry Friday friends.
  • At Reflections on the Teche, Margaret Simon shares a student-made video using one of her poems as well as an original poem titled “Fifth Grade.”
  • Today is the final day of “Filling the Well” of inspiration at Today’s Little Ditty, and Michelle H. Barnes offers some Lucille Clifton poetry and a short (less than 4:00) film by Erik Wernquist, written and narrated by Carl Sagan.
  • Little Willow shares selected lines from the sensual – and sensory – poem “Sea Holly” by Elizabeth-Jane Burnett and Tony Lopez.
  • Christie Wyman wraps up #NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month) at Wondering and Wandering with an “Ode to Feathered Friends,” a collaboration between her and her remote kindergarteners!
  • This month Rose Capelli has been busy writing a wide variety of poems, and today she shares two free verse poems at Imagine the Possibilities.
  • At Jama’s Alphabet Soup, Jama Rattigan spotlights Nikki Giovanni’s book, Make Me Rain (William Morrow, 2020) with three powerful poems from the book.
  • Every day is a symphony in spring, according to Irene Latham, who shares her final Poetry Month poem at Live Your Poem.
  • At My Juicy Little Universe, Heidi Mordhorst shares a first draft of a poem about the five Fridays of April.
  • Carol Wilcox is sharing another poem about Rooney, a service dog she’s raising for a local canine organization, at Carol’s Corner.
  • Have you heard of the Haiku Oracle? Kortney Garrison can explain, at One Deep Drawer!
  • Since we’re enjoying springtime, Karen Edmisten decided to share “Spring Morning,” a poem by Marion Strobel.
  • Cathy L. Mere wraps up her month-long poetic tribute to “Joy” at Merely Day by Day!
  • Over at The Apples in My Orchard, Carol Labuzzetta explains how she is learning to step outside her comfort zone and also shares a school writing activity she devised while using a poem from one of Bruce Lansky’s books.
  • Speaking of apples, Meredith at The Write Apple has a poem based on a spring nature walk she took with her 2nd-grade students.
  • A conversation about a tree was what inpisred Tim Gels to write his poem, “How do you know it’s a black locust?”
  • JoAnn Early Macken has written a poem each day of Poetry Month, and today she has three gardening haiku for us!
  • And last but not least, Jone MacCulloch spotlights Lita Judge’s new book, “The Wisdom of Trees” (Roaring Brook Press)!

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

I’m now a part of the BOOKROO family!

Children's Book Subscription: Bookroo - Sincerely Stacie

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: “Winners, we have winners…!”

Happy Earth Day!

I’m sharing my Poetry Friday post a day early because Thursday has been Earth Day and Once Upon Another Time‘s publisher, Beaming Books, is giving away FREE COPIES of the book along with a digital ARC to various libraries, trail groups, and other organizations around the country that maintains StoryWalks™!

(What IS a StoryWalk™, you ask? It’s usually a series of kiosks set up along a trail that each feature a different spread of a book…which allows visitors to read as they walk. Here are a few photos from the inaugural installation of the Warner, NH StoryWalk™ which featured my Flashlight Night.)

.

We had several folks send in entries to win copies of Once Upon Another Time! The winners are:

  • The local reading council of Chadbourn, NC (Tonnye Fletcher)
  • New Franklin School of Portsmouth, NH (Tammi Truax)
  • Carson City Library, Carson City, NV (J Hodnett)
  • Dr. Leroy E. Mayo School & their PTA, Holden, MA (Andrew Hacket)
  • Pillsbury Free Library of Warner, NH (Sue Matott)
  • Friends of South Cumberland State Park, Tennessee (Sarah Marhevsky)

Congratulations to all! I hope you and everyone who visits your StoryWalk™ enjoys our book!

Photos of New Hampshire’s White Mountains in Franconia, NH taken by Yours Truly, August 2019

.

NOW, FOR TODAY’S “GUEST” POET…

As you may have heard from previous posts, my wife and I found ourselves homeschooling our two children in the wake of the pandemic. While it can be a trying situation sometimes with arguments, obstinence, and an utter disregard for personal space, overall they have both been doing excellent and I have no worries they won’t be prepared to return to their classrooms in the fall.

That said, my 7-year-old daughter surprised me a couple of weeks ago while finishing her English textbook (yes, we completed an entire year-long program in just 6 1/2 months!) with a poem that caught me off guard. She had learned some simple poems like “Twinkle, Twinkle” and was asked to write her own poem about a star. This is what she came up with:

From Master Books’ “Language Lessons for a Living Education

I will see the stars so bright.
So they can be my flashlight.
And as I watch I’ll see my God to light up the night as well.
.

Now granted, everyone thinks their child is a genius these days, but this are pretty thought-provoking lines for a 7-year-old who claims she doesn’t like poetry. We’ve been utilizing “Language Lessons for a Living Education” from Master Books for both kids, which teaches English while including some Christian lessons, and supplementing this with various grammar worksheets I print out as well as my own lessons. I don’t know if it was any of this, or simply my poetry genes showing up in her capable hands, but I couldn’t be more proud of her.

For the complete Poetry Friday roundup, visit Catherine at Reading to the Core where she has Padma Venkatraman in the spotlight along with a poem inspired by one of Padma’s recent poetry prompts. Also, be sure to check out all the new books this month from my 2021 Book Blast partners:

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

I’m now a part of the BOOKROO family!

Children's Book Subscription: Bookroo - Sincerely Stacie

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: Tricube, a first attempt

If you don’t quite understand me, don’t worry – I’m not sure I totally understand myself.

You see, I’m not really a fan of new poetry forms – yet I can’t resist trying them out! Usually I’m unimpressed, but every now and then a form seems to take hold of my attention and forces me to do something.

This is one of those times.

I came across the Tricube form quite by accident – I was searching for poetry online and discovered this deceptively simple (e.g., nerve-wrackingly difficult) form created by author/poet Phillip Larrea. It’s simple in that it is based on the concept of mathematical cubes: there are 3 syllables per line, 3 lines per stanza, and 3 stanzas per poem.

What’s not so simple is being able to fit what you’re trying to say in that tiny space!

In this way, it’s similar to haiku, in that word economy is extremely important – and therein lies the reason I probably like it so much. One needs to pay very close attention to word choice if one wants to fit wordplay, imagery, and emotion into such a compact space.

So I looked around for a suitable subject and came upon this photograph taken by my daughter, Katherine, who is an amateur photographer:

Photo © 2010 Katie Bri Photography, all rights reserved

The rain came.
We welcomed
a green spring

full of hope
and flowers
and found ice;

cold, glassy,
suspending
brittle life.

– © 2021 Matt F. Esenwine, all rights reserved

As I said, I’m not a big fan of many newer poetic forms, primarily because they focus so much on syllable counts (cinquains, nonets) or because of ridiculous rules involved (I guarantee you I will never write a diamante, ever). But this, as I previously mentioned, forces one to think long and hard about word choice and placement – and although I like this little poem of mine, I’m still not sure it’s the best version of itself.

But will I tackle a tricube again? Absolutey!

For more poetry, please visit Jama’s Alphabet Soup, where Jama Rattigan is hosting the roundup with a poem from former UK Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy.

And by the way…do you know of a library, trail group, or other organization that maintains a StoryWalk™? Beaming Books, publisher of Once Upon Another Time, has a very cool opportunity! To celebrate Earth Day, we’ll give away TEN FREE COPIES of the book along with TEN digital ARCs (Advance Review Copies)! Just send an email to matt (at) mattforrest (dot) com and tell us why you’d like to feature our book on your StoryWalk™. Read the graphic, which has all the details, and get your entries in by 11:59pm EDST, April 21. Winners’ names to be drawn at random and announced April 22 – Earth Day!

Also be sure to check out all the books coming out this month from my 2021 Book Blast partners:

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

I’m now a part of the BOOKROO family!

Children's Book Subscription: Bookroo - Sincerely Stacie

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: The Return of David Elliott… from 9 years ago!

When I shared the news about my friend David Elliott’s newest book, The Seventh Raven (HMH, 2021), in last Friday’s post, I had no idea I was about to create a month-long Elliottfest…

…but apparently that is precisely what I’ve done.

You see, I had asked David if he’d mind joining me for an interview at the end of April – which he will – but it occurred to me that some, if not most, of my readers would be unaware of the conversation we had waaaaay back in 2013. Since that interview had been posted on the now-defunct Poetry at Play blog, I realized there was no way for anyone to be able to read or even reference that post. I therefore did the only thing that seemed to make sense.

Reposted it here!

So yes, I featured David Elliott’s latest book two weeks ago; I’m re-posting my original interview with him from 9 years ago here today; and at the end of the month, David and I will be back with a brand-new interview about craft and verse novels. (“It’s ALL David, ALL the time…!”)

(Keep in mind, this is the original transcript, so some comments may sound dated – for example, the YA novel he was working on became Bull – but I hope you enjoy!)

Although David Elliot was born and raised in a small town in Ohio, that didn’t prevent him from travelling the world and collecting myriad experiences.  Over the years, he worked as a singer in Mexico, an English teacher in Libya, a cucumber-washer in Greece, and a popsicle-stick-maker in Israel. David also studied classical voice at a conservatory, with dreams of becoming an opera singer. The problem, he says, is that he wasn’t very good.

Fortunately for the world of children’s literature, David became a New York Times bestselling children’s author. His many picture books and chapter books include: And Here’s to You! (Candlewick, 2009), The Transmogrification of Roscoe Wizzle (Walker Books Ltd., 2001), The Evangeline Mudd books (Candlewick), Finn Throws a Fit! (Candlewick, reprint, 2011), Jeremy Cabbage and the Living Museum (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2008), and most recently the picture book, In the Wild (Candlewick, 2010).

As of this writing, David has six new picture books under contract, due to be published within the next couple of years, and he is working on a YA novel and a new middle grade book. If you’d like to learn more about David and his books, visit www.davidelliottbooks.com.

First of all, thank you, David, for taking the time out of your busy schedule to chat with us!  Did you ever imagine yourself being this busy, back when you were washing cucumbers in Greece, or making popsicle sticks in Israel? And wouldn’t it have been easier to just wash cukes or make popsicle sticks here in the States??

Maybe. But think of all the fantastic food I would have missed out on.

Seriously, though, how did you come to finally discover your true calling and end up back home in the U.S.?

 Oh, dear. Do I have a true calling? But to answer your question, after many years of traveling and working abroad, making popsicle sticks, washing cucumbers (the most Freudian job ever!), teaching in Libya, singing in Mexico, I came back because as transformative as those years were, the truth is they were also very lonely, better suited to a comic novel, maybe, than to a real life. I have a big stack of journals from those years. One day, maybe, I’ll write that novel.

Anyone who uses the word “transmogrification” in the title of a children’s book must have fun while he’s writing!  Does it ‘feel’ like work, and do you ever wonder if you’ll ever end up having a ‘real job’ again?

When the paperback of The Transmogrification of Roscoe Wizzle (Candlewick, 2004) came out, the sales staff wanted to get rid of that word transmogrification and call the book Roscoe Wizzle. I try to be as collaborative as I can when it comes to these things – and they come much more frequently than one might think – but in this case I put my foot down. I didn’t want to dumb down the title because adults were scared that it was “too hard.” 

I felt vindicated a couple of months later during a school visit when an eight-year-old boy came running up to me after my presentation. “Transmogrification!” he said. “Transmogrification! When I hear that word, it just makes me want to read the book.” You know, I’ve heard adults mangle that word over and over again, but never, not once, has a child mispronounced it. Sometimes, I think it might be part of the writer’s job to protect children from what the adults in charge of their lives think about them.

For me, writing is a real job, and hard work, even, or perhaps more accurately, especially the funny stuff and the picture books.

Now, you write in a variety of styles, including poetry, picture books, and chapter books…do you prefer one style over another?  

Not really. Each has its challenges just as each as its pleasures.  There are so many books out there. That’s great, of course, but it can also be a bit discouraging. And do we really need another vampire book? Another adventure series? Another this or that?  In fact, we probably do. My problem is that I’m not interested in writing them. At the moment, I’m interested in experimenting with new structures, new ways of telling a story.

Books like In the Wild (Candlewick, 2010) and In the Sea (Candlewick, 2012) contain some great examples of children’s poetry that are written in simple language but are quite thoughtful and full of emotion.  Is it difficult to find that balance? And what is your process for determining how you want to present a poetry subject or idea?

First, thanks for the kind words. Each of the three books in the series (two more on the way) presented a different challenge. On the Farm was perhaps the most straightforward. We all know what a farm is and without ever opening the book could guess what animals we might find between the end pages. (I did try to include some of the undomesticated animals that are present on a farm, too: the turtle, bees, a garter snake). In the end, a farm is a kind of container. Additionally, if we hear the word cow, we share a set of emotional responses because, in one way or another, we have all grown up with cows, or at the very least, the idea of cows. 

But when it came to In the Wild, I was stumped. First there is no container. These animals are found all over the world and there are tens of thousands of them. How to choose just 14 or so? (My editor and I settled on the iconic.) Then, I discovered that I knew very little beyond the obvious when it came to the animals. Since it’s the writer’s job to say something new, I spent weeks, reading, looking at pictures, watching YouTube videos of the animals in the book, trying to get not just information about them but a feeling for them, too. 

Then there was the complicating factor that many of the animals in the book are endangered. On one hand, it felt, disrespectful to both the animals represented and to the children reading the poems to ignore this sad truth; on the other, I didn’t want to write a book that said Too bad kids, by the time you are adults, some these animals won’t exist.. I tried to solve the problem with last poem and its page turn. “The Polar Bear.”  By the way, we don’t talk or think enough about page turns in picture books. In the best ones, they carry as much meaning as the text.

After starting In the Sea, I completely understood the expression “a cold fish.”  They’re rather hard to feel warm and fuzzy about. In the end, I decided to think about the various forms in the ocean. Since many fish have the same basic shape, I wanted to give the late Holly Meade, the illustrator, something to work with. I feel incredibly lucky to have been paired with Holly. She brought so much to these books.  Some of you may not know that she left us in April of this year. A sad and terrible loss.

If I can, I’d like to give a plug for On the Wing, coming out fall 2014 with art by a wonderful new illustrator, Becca Stadtlander. As a whole, the poems in the book might be my favorite of the four volumes thus far. But they were very, very difficult. All birds have feathers, beaks and they fly – at least the ones we chose for the book do. What more was there to say? It was very challenging because most of us know very little about individual species of birds, so there was not a lot of common knowledge I could rely on.

The bower bird, for example, a very plain species native to Australia, builds a complicated structure on the ground. He then adorns it with flowers and shells, anything colorful he can find  in order to lure a paramour into what is literally his love nest. Who knew? 

Here’s the poem.

The Bower Bird

No fancy feathers,

to attract a mate,

first  he builds

then decorates

his bower.

How carefully

he constructs

the walls.

(The halls

he fills

with flowers.)

And how anxiously 

he arranges

the bright  tokens

he collects.

O pity then

the bower bird.

Nature’s fussy,

lovesick architect.

Beautiful, David – and so personal the reader can actually empathize with the bird. You know, it’s always an open-ended question to ask someone ‘where’ they get their inspiration; for most of us, it comes from everywhere. So let me ask, how do you deal with the inspiration you get? That is, how do you know if an idea is worth your attention, and what do you do with it?

This is something that plagues me. I’m never at a loss for ideas. But what I’m always afraid of is that I’m not up to executing them in the way they deserve. I’m rather slow on the uptake. I kept the first draft of Roscoe in my drawer for eight years before I really understood what the book wanted to be.

Recently, I’ve been reading and rereading Homer, Ovid, Virgil and along with them, some modern retellings. (David Malouf’s Ransom is one of the best things I’ve read in years. Now, I’m reading his An Imaginary Life. Equally as wonderful.) All this has me thinking about the relationship between the Greek and Roman gods and the mortals who worshipped them. Those gods required a lot: supplication, sacrifice, interpretation, belief.

This seems to me a wonderful metaphor for the relationship between artists and their inspiration. How much are we willing to humble ourselves before it? How much are we willing to sacrifice? How much are willing to listen to the oracular voice? How much are we willing to believe? This last is perhaps the most frightening question.

I so wish I had understood this earlier in my career. These questions will be very much at the forefront of my mind (and heart) as I continue to work on new and longer projects.

“Buffalo,” from In the Wild, © 2010 Candlewick, all rights reserved

Your chapter book, Jeremy Cabbage, is about a young orphan boy – a sort of cross between Oliver Twist and Lemony Snicket’s Beaudelaire siblings – who goes into the world on an adventure. Did you see your globe-trotting self in Jeremy, and how have you used your life experiences in other books?

In a way, all books are autobiographical since it is the life experience, sensibilities, instincts and education of the particular author that make the book.  In my case, it is perhaps not the external circumstances in which Jeremy finds himself, but the emotional content of the book that is closest to how I felt as a child and still sometimes feel as an adult.

Folks like J. Patrick Lewis and Jane Yolen say inspiration is over-rated – that success more often comes via the “BIC” rule (Butt In Chair). In other words, sit down and get to work! What are your thoughts on this approach?

Isn’t it the only approach? One of my favorite quotes about writing comes from the writer, Octavia Butler. (Kindred remains one of the most under-appreciated books in print. Everyone should read it.) Anyway, she put it very succinctly: “Habit is more important than inspiration.” As others have said, we write to find out what we don’t know.

How difficult is it to know what children will like or not like?  Who do you trust for feedback on your writing?

This question is more complicated than first it appears. Not all children like the same things. Then, we have to ask, what do you mean by children? A five-year-old is very different from a ten-year-old who is very, very different from a thirteen-year old. Children are the same in only one way: they are developing. This, to me, is one of the principal differences between writing for an adult audience and writing for children.

This, too, is one of the things that I find so difficult about writing for kids. I’m afraid that sometimes we don’t do the best job of honoring the sacred fact that children are still becoming. It’s a scientific fact. Research now tells us that the brain isn’t fully developed until our early twenties. This makes, or it should make, a difference in how we approach our work, or at least in understanding and respecting our audience..

Yes, there really was a Finn, and YES, he really did throw a fit!

But I sometimes worry that we too often fall prey to a kind of inferiority complex in which we feel we have to compete with adult publishing to be real writers. I wonder if this is why there are so many books for kids where a loved one dies, or is alcoholic or, well, you know what I mean. Why do we have this idea that tragedy is more serious, more valuable than comedy?  To me this seems very puritanical and old-fashioned. Also wrong.

Of course, I know that many young people do experience terrible things in their lives. But many children also experience happiness, — even those in the most wretched circumstances –and that happiness can bolster a young heart. I know this by the way from personal experience. There is so much to say on this topic.

Who are your favourite children’s authors or poets? What have you learned from them?

I love Roald Dahl. I love Robert Louis Stevenson. I love Louise Rennison. I love M.T. Anderson. (He’s a good friend, and though I don’t want to admit it to him, he is completely lovable!) I love Jack Prelutsky (because it’s clear he loves kids.) I love, love love Natalie Babbit. Too many to mention. And what I’ve learned from them is that is that I have a lot more to learn to be the writer I would like to be.

Is there a poem or book you’ve had published that you are particularly proud of?  Is there one secretly wish you could revise?

Good heavens! The answer to the first question is, “all of them.” The answer to the second question is, “all of them.”

What was the worst idea you ever had – for a poem, a book, a career, or anything – and what did you do with it?

Believe me, you don’t have enough time for me to talk about my bad ideas. I still get them. Every day.

We all do, David! By the way, considering all of your life experiences so far, do you think you’ll remain content with writing children’s lit, or do you see yourself branching out into other genres, or even doing something entirely different?

As my wonderful editor at Candlewick once said, “When I find adults as interesting as children, I’ll start working for them.” But I do have adult projects in mind. I’ve published one, The Tiger’s Back,  either a very short novella or a very long story, depending on how you look at it. I also have written some for the theater and plan to do more of that. But I’ll always write for kids.

What advice would you give to aspiring children’s poets and authors? And from your experience, what would you say is the biggest fallacy you’ve learned in trying to get published?

Currently, I teach in the Low Residency MFA in Creative Writing at Lesley University in Cambridge. One thing that I find myself repeating to my students is, “Get out of the way.”  By which I mean, the writer must be secondary to the work. Understandably, less experienced writers are anxious, eager to prove to the world and to themselves they have whatn it takes. (If I’m honest, most of us feel this way. In fact, I have to fight that feeling every day.) This can create a bit of a tendency to show-off on the page, to make a wrong decision about a particular word, or sentence structure, or well, almost anything, really from punctuation to plot. 

But almost always, this either bores us (deadly!) or distracts us from what John Gardner calls “the fictional dream.” In other words, we stop thinking about what we’re reading and start thinking about the person who wrote it. (and usually not in the kindest of terms). We end up feeling disappointed or cheated, tricked somehow.  The harsh truth is that no one really cares about you, the writer, I mean. And rightly so. The reader only cares about what is on the page. And rightly so. It’s a hard lesson to learn. But also liberating once you’ve got the hang of it.

Of course, that isn’t to say that we can’t be dazzled by what a writer has accomplished –that’s happening to me right now with David Malouf — but that’s because 1) the writer has complete control of her craft and 2) whatever the writer has done it’s been in service to the story or the poem and not to herself.

About publishing, I don’t know what to say, really. One thing we almost never hear is that you need a little luck. So my advice in this area is 1) learn you craft, and 2) once you’ve learned it stay open so that when that luck comes knocking, you recognize it and let it in. (This isn’t helpful, I know. Sorry.)

Ha, don’t be sorry, that’s absolutely the best advice one could give! By the way, there’s a children’s illustrator from New Zealand named David Elliot.  As far as anyone can tell, you’re not him…right?

I don’t think I am, but one never knows.

Well, thanks again for spending some time with us here at PACYA, David…and all the best for future success!

I hope you enjoyed the interview…and please remember to visit later this month when David and I chat about the craft of writing, specifically verse novels, on April 30 when I host the Poetry Friday roundup! It should be a lot of fun, and enlightening! You’ll find today’s roundup at Tabatha Yeatts’ The Opposite of Indifference, where she is celebrating National Poetry Month!

Also be sure to check out all the books coming out this month from my 2021 Book Blast partners:

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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.

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