Poetry Friday: Celebrating poetry with “A Hatful of Dragons”

Today we have an old friend joining us – and I’m so happy to celebrate his first traditionally-published book of poetry!

First, a brief history of Vikram Madan:  He grew up in India where he really wanted to be a cartoonist, but ended up an engineer. After many years of working in the tech industry, he finally came to his senses and followed his heart into the visual and literary arts. When not making whimsical paintings and public art, Vikram writes and illustrates humorous poetry collections, including the brand-new‘A HATFUL OF DRAGONS’ (Wordsong, 2020), which officially in April, and the Moonbeam Award winners ‘THE BUBBLE COLLECTOR’ and ‘LORD OF THE BUBBLES’.

Welcome back to the ol’ Triple-R, my friend! It’s been a long time since you’ve been here…7 years, to be exact, which was when your self-published “The Bubble Collector” came out. How do you feel you’ve progressed or changed in these past 7 years?

Thanks Matt! Wow those 7 years went by pretty quickly. I’m definitely older, but probably not much wiser! 🙂 Back in 2013 I was still enrolled in an art school. Since 2014 I’ve been working as a full-time visual artist focused on whimsical studio-painting and public-art. On the writing and illustration side, I feel I’ve grown more by going through the process of publishing A Hatful of Dragons than working on my own. Superb editors create many learning opportunities!

(click to enlarge)

What did you learn from “Bubble Collector” or its follow-up, “Lord of the Bubbles,” that helped you with this book?

Self-publishing the ‘The Bubble Collector’ gave me a healthy respect for traditional publishing. It is extremely difficult, uneconomical, and time-consuming (for an author) to also distribute and market a physical self-published book (e-books are much easier to self-distribute). My experiences with ‘The Bubble Collector’ convinced me that if I wanted my work to reach a broader audience, I really needed to try and get my poetry traditionally published.

One has to admit, “Hatful of Dragons” is a pretty fun title for a book. What were some of the other potential titles you considered? (feel free to make these up, if you’d like – it’s just for fun!)

My working title was ‘I Met a Man With Twenty Heads’. That poem never made it into this book! Other titles we considered and rejected over time included:

  • The Panda and the Pangolin: And Other Funny Poems
  • Duel with a Mosquito: And …
  • The Slobberly Slobs: And…
  • There’s a Dragon in my Wagon: And…

None of these felt right, unique, and/or marketable.

Ironically, I was putting together my sequel to ‘The Bubble Collector’ in the background and had planned to call it ‘A Hatful of Bubbles’. ‘Hatful’ felt like a strong title so I decided to sacrifice/repurpose it and offered it up as ‘A Hatful of Dragons’. Everyone liked this new title, but now I would have to write a new poem for the book, worthy of being a title poem – talk about pressure!  Thankfully this turned out to be a fun poem to write and illustrate. (And I retitled the sequel collection as ‘Lord of the Bubbles’).

This book is very different from most of the poetry collections out there these days, not just in the tone of your poems, but because you include a lot of visual cues – like a poem missing its all of its center words, or a poem that includes a one-page cartoon strip! Did you have a plan for how you wanted the book to look, or how you wanted the poems to be constructed?

As a kid, I loved treasuries and books with variety, so I like adding variety to my own collections. And as a visual person I am always pushing the words and images around to create interesting visual experiences. When Rebecca Davis, my editor, distilled my raw manuscript into a smaller collection, the visual variety became more ‘concentrated’ and turned into a distinctive feature of this book. I hope the variety will keep kids engaged and have them reading and re-reading.

© 2020 Boyds Mills & Kane, all rights reserved; reprinted with permission. (click to enlarge)

One of my favorite poems is THE BAND-AID AND THE CHEWING GUM. Where did the idea come from?

One day I felt something sticky under my shoe, looked down and said to myself, “Oh, it’s a band-aid and a chewing gum?!” And I really liked how that phrase rolled off the tongue and thought to myself, “Hey, that could be the title of a poem!” (The rhyme pattern pays tribute to an old favorite featuring another unlikely duo, “The Walrus and the Carpenter,” by Lewis Carroll.)

Well, I’ll have to re-examine that poem! What’s one of your favorites?

This one!

© 2020 Boyds Mills & Kane, all rights reserved; reprinted with permission. (click to enlarge)

So what surprises did you encounter as you worked with editor Rebecca Davis to put the book together?

My initial surprise came when Rebecca sculpted my 150-page manuscript into a chiseled 64-page book proposal! Even then I really wanted to cram as many poems into those 64 pages as I could, but she convinced me that ‘less is more’. Over the course of this book she has been a wonderful coach, holding me to a high standard, and gently (but firmly) prodding me to ‘do better’ and exceed my own limitations. This book would not be what it is without her vision and guidance.

Indeed, Rebecca is wonderful, isn’t she? You know, back in the day, the great Jack Prelutsky was told he should give up illustrating and focus on writing – and the rest, as they say, is history. Do you feel you’re a writer first or an illustrator first?

Jack Prelutsky’s first submission to an editor was a set of illustrations, with accompanying verses he had jotted down at the last minute just so his illustrations wouldn’t look bare. The editor loved his “natural gift for verse”, took the words, and rejected his drawings. I always thought of myself as an artist/illustrator first, but last year, when my agent, Rosemary Stimola, submitted an ‘early reader graphic novel’ project to an editor, they loved the stories and took the words, but rejected my art(!). I had my own ‘Jack Prelutsky moment’ there. 🙂  I’m still trying to figure out if I’m a writer or an illustrator first, or if that matters at all.

I ask that question because you are an artist, as well as an illustrator – and I do draw a distinction between the two. Art, though, is what got you into this business, and art plays a big role in your professional life. Where do you see these two halves of your life going?

When I paint, I use a variety of mediums: oils, acrylics, watercolor, ink. Popping up a level, I guess writing, drawing, painting, public art … are all mediums I use for expressing myself. At the end of the day I’m just trying to create some positivity in the world – if people/kids enjoy my work, and it gives them a sense of delight, a moment of levity they can share, a bit of inspiration, a rekindling of innocence… I think that’s more than I can ask for.

So what can we expect next from you?

I have an Early Reader Graphic Novel series, titled ‘Bobo & Pup-Pup’ releasing in 2021, illustrated by Nicola Slater and published by Penguin Random House. Books take a long time to cook up, land, and publish so I get my shorter-term ‘creative fix’ by making humorous and whimsical paintings. I invite readers to follow my work on social media: @ArtByVikram (instagram, facebook, twitter) or visit my website www.VikramMadan.com .

Well, thanks for visiting, Vikram, and good luck!

Thank you for featuring me Matt– it’s always a pleasure!

My pleasure, my friend!

And to my readers:  we have a GIVEAWAY!

Just leave a comment below and you’ll be entered in a drawing to win a free copy of A Hatful of Dragons, courtesy of publisher Boyds Mills & Kane. Good luck!

It’s Poetry Friday – so if you’re looking for more poetry links & fun, stop by Tabatha Yeatt’s little home on the web, The Opposite of Indifference, for the complete roundup and an entreaty for “Acceptance.”

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For some time now I’ve been wanting to help my educator and parent friends with educational videos geared to understanding poetry, and now my “Wit & Wordplay” videos, as I call them, are available on my YouTube channel! These videos focus on poetry: how to write it, how to appreciate it, and tips on having fun with it. There are several ready for viewing, and more are on the way – so be sure to subscribe or check back often!

You can view them all on my YouTube channel, and I also have several downloadable activity sheets at my website. If you think any of this information might be useful for someone you know, I hope you’ll share.

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

Pre-orders are available now!

In stores Aug. 18, 2020!

I’ve teamed up with several other children’s authors to promote our upcoming books this year! And there are a LOT of them, too – including SEVEN in March!

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

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!

Poetry Friday: Spine poetry as a fun activity kids won’t realize is educational!

As I mentioned in this past Tuesday’s post, several children’s authors and illustrators are offering readalouds, drawing lessons, activity sheets, and other educational resources for kids, parents, and teachers who now find themselves “remote learning.”

For my part, I’m producing a series of short videos on poetry: how to write it, how to appreciate it while reading, and some tips on poetry-related activities. Since so many of my peers are doing video chats with students, I thought I would focus my “Wit & Wordplay” videos, as I call them, on parents and educators.

For some time now I’ve been wanting to help my educator and parent friends with some educational videos…but I’ll admit these have been hastily put together, as I am trying to assist my kids with this “new normal” of home-schooling while attempting to write and do my voiceover work. Moreover, I’m working with a video editing program I’ve never used before, as I had to reinstall Windows about a month ago and lost the program I had been using (MS Movie Maker), which is apparently no longer available!

Lake, the newest member of the family!

Oh, and did I mention we have a 10-week-old Great Dane puppy?

So, yeah…I’ve been a bit busy.

The fact I was able to create six videos in two days is still surprising to me, but I have plenty more I plan on producing over the weekend. For today, I wanted to share a couple of simple spine poetry examples I use in my most recent video. Spine poetry is a form of “found poetry,” whereby you search through books’ spines to find titles you think might go together to create a phrase, scene or thought:

There’s a cow in the road!
Deadly animals
wild in the streets…
choose your path.

Again, it doesn’t need to be long – a few titles are all you need! Even two books would suffice:

You get the idea! Silly, thoughtful, scary…doesn’t matter! The important thing is that kids are learning how to put disparate thoughts together (a book about deadly animals together with Star Wars®? Whoulda thunk??)

You can see more spine poetry examples on my YouTube channel. And if you think any of this information might be useful for someone you know or a school near you, I hope you’ll share.

In addition to these videos, I also have several downloadable activity sheets at my website. The list of all the authors & illustrators who are participating in this national effort is a long one, so here are a few lists you can use to find out who’s doing what:

Let’s Keep Reading!

#AuthorsHelpingKids

#KidLitQuarantine

Laura Shovan’s #WriteAnAuthor

And since today is Poetry Friday, you might want to find more poetry posts…so just head on over to MoreArt4All, where Michelle Kogan is hosting Poetry Friday and welcoming Spring with a variety of poems written by her and several others in the PF community!

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

Pre-orders are available now!

In stores Aug. 18, 2020!

I’ve teamed up with several other children’s authors to promote our upcoming books this year! And there are a LOT of them, too – including SEVEN in March!

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

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!

A Book Birthday for “Construction People” – plus educational #kidlit resources

It’s official! Construction People is available everywhere!

Construction People (Wordsong) is one of the late Lee Bennett Hopkins’ last anthologies, a follow-up to 2018’s School People, which featured poems about all the grown-ups a child meets at school. In this new book, there are poems about all the folks involved in building a skyscraper, from the architect to the excavators, from the electricians to the person who oversees it all, the construction project manager (my poem)!

In case you missed it, I featured two of the poems from Construction People on this past Friday’s blog, which you can view HERE. Lee had a chance to see much of the final layout of the book before he passed away last August…but I do wish he could have held it in his hands.

Granted, many bookstores are closed due to COVID-19 concerns, but many are still functioning with online sales – so please support your local businesses, if you can!

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Speaking of the Corona Virus…

A number of children’s authors and illustrators are teaming up across the country to provide lessons, readalouds, and other educational videos for kids, parents, and teachers. With so many schools closed, options for “remote learning” are limited and fluid…so we’re just trying to do what we can to help lend our support.

Some folks are doing live videos, others are producing short vids on YouTube, still others are offering free activity sheets and coloring pages. Here are a couple of lists you can use to find out who’s doing what:

Let’s Keep Reading!

#StoryMarch

#KidLitQuarantine

Laura Shovan’s #WriteAnAuthor

For my part, I’m offering several downloadable activity sheets at my website, PLUS I’m producing a series of short videos on poetry – how to write it and how to appreciate it when reading – which I hope will be especially helpful for parents, educators, and anyone else for whom this type of literacy education might be beneficial.

To access these “Wit & Wordplay” videos, as I call them, just head on over to my YouTube channel! And if you think any of this information might be useful for someone you know or a school near you, please feel free to share…we’re all in this together. And please be safe, as we work through these unprecedented times.

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

Pre-orders are available now!

In stores Aug. 18, 2020!

I’ve teamed up with several other children’s authors to promote our upcoming books this year! And there are a LOT of them, too – including SEVEN in March!

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

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!

Poetry Friday ROUNDUP: “Construction People” arrives…Madness Poetry Round 1 voting ends today…AND a “Night Wishes” Sneak Peek!

Wow, what a busy day today! It’s Poetry Friday and there’s so much going on, I can’t wait to tell you…

First of all, Round One voting in the nation’s largest bracketed children’s poetry competition, Madness! Poetry, is underway…and wraps up TODAY!

As of this writing, a mere 1/10th of a percent separates us, so it’s a nail-biter among nail-biters! 

Please vote for your favorites! Voting ends at various times this afternoon, but my matchup with Laurie Kaiser closes at 5:15pm EDST, which means there’s not much time left to cast your vote. BUT…if you do vote, please vote for your favorite, even if it’s not mine.

In case you don’t know, each pair of competitors (or ‘authletes’) is given a specific word; we then have 36 hours to write a children’s poem using that exact word. Voting then takes place, and whoever wins their round moves on to the next, much in No photo description available.the way that the NCAA’s March Madness works. Eventually, one winner will be crowned champion and receive “The Thinkier” trophy!

Laurie and I were given the word “submerged,” and came up with two very different poems – so please check out our matchup (and all of them), and thanks so much for supporting children’s poetry!

(AGAIN: Voting ends at 5:15pm EDST Today)

Feeding into this “poetry madness,” so to speak, is the fact that Construction People (Wordsong) arrives next Tuesday, March 17! It has always been an honor to be part of a Lee Bennett Hopkins anthology, and to be included in 3 of his final 4 books (Lee passed away last August), is truly a blessing.

(click to enlarge)

Construction People is a follow-up to 2018’s School People, which featured poems about all the grown-ups a child meets at school. In this new book, there are poems about all the folks involved in building a skyscraper, from the architect to the carpenters, from the elevator installers to the plumbers!

But I have to admit…when Lee asked me to write a poem about the construction project manager, I was a bit leery. Where was the fun, the pizzazz, the cool sounds and energy and imagery one would expect? But once I did some research and realized how stressful – and integral – the position is, I knew I could do it. As for the structure of the poem, I knew it needed to be a villanelle, with its tall, skyscraper-like shape and almost obsessively repetitive lines. I hope you like it!

One of my favorite poems is Lee’s…although I’m not sure if I like it because it’s a wonderful poem, or if it’s because it was one of my friend’s last published poems:

(click to enlarge)

Construction People arrives everywhere this coming Tuesday!

In other news…

Another of Lee’s last anthologies has a publishing date! In addition to Construction People (Wordsong), which comes out next week, have you heard about Night Wishes (Eerdmans), which arrives this fall? I just learned from the publisher that we can expect to see it in stores everywhere Sept. 15:

As a child falls asleep, all the inanimate objects in her room wish her “good night” in their own, special ways:  the mattress, bookshelf, rocking horse…all of them offer their words through 14 poets, myself included. (In fact, you’ll notice my “Pillow” is even included in the official description!)

Here’s just a little taste of what to expect…

I wish I could share the rest of the poem, but we’ll all have to wait until we get closer to the publication date, Sept. 15! It’s such a beautiful book, I can’t wait for you to see it. Pre-orders are available now, though, so don’t let me stop you from clicking the links, ha!

Thanks so much for visiting the ol’ Triple-R! Please leave your links and news in the comments below and I’ll round them up old school-style throughout the day…

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Speaking of new books…have you pre-ordered yet??

In stores Aug. 18, 2020!

I’ve teamed up with several other children’s authors to promote our upcoming books this year! And there are a LOT of them, too – including SEVEN in March, plus the new poetry anthology Construction People (Wordsong, March 17, 2020), of which I’m a contributor:

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

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!

Madness!Poetry returns – and Round One voting is underway!

It’s March, and that means Round One voting in the nation’s largest bracketed children’s poetry competition – Madness! Poetry – is now underway!

Please vote for your favorites! Voting runs until this Friday, March 13, at 5:15pm EDST, which means you’ve only got a couple of days.

Each participant (or ‘authlete,’ as we are called) is paired with another and given a specific word; we then have 36 hours to write a children’s poem using that exact word. Once the poems have all been submitted, the public, schools, and fellow authletes vote…and whoever wins their round moves on to the next round, much in No photo description available.the way that the NCAA’s March Madness works. Eventually, one winner will be crowned champion and receive the highly-coveted and oft-damaged “The Thinkier” trophy!

In Round One, my competitor, Laurie Kaiser, and I have been given the word “submerged.” Other authletes struggled with words like “exuberant,” “pigeonholed,”  “gamboling,” and “fecund.” So you can see, “submerged” isn’t the toughest word we could have been given!

So please click the logo above and vote for your favorites – not just my matchup, but all of them – and thanks so much for supporting children’s poetry!

Voting ends at 5:15pm EDST on March 13 (yes, Friday the 13th!)

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

Have you pre-ordered yet??

In stores Aug. 18, 2020!

I’ve teamed up with several other children’s authors to promote our upcoming books this year! And there are a LOT of them, too – including SEVEN in March, plus the new poetry anthology Construction People (Wordsong, March 17, 2020), of which I’m a contributor:

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

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!

Poetry Friday: #PoetryOutLoud with Eavan Boland – AND a contest winner!

Last week, my friend, David L. Harrison, stopped by to chat about his new children’s poetry anthology, After Dark: Poems About Nocturnal Animals (Wordsong, 2020). I told you I was going to give away a copy of the book – and I plan to do just that! But first…

I was honored to once again be asked to be one of several performance judges for the New Hampshire State Poetry Out Loud semi-finals at New England College in Henniker, NH this past Wed. night. High school students memorize and recite two poems each and are judged on accuracy, elocution, dramatic interpretation, and other criteria. Three move on to the state finals, next week, and that student will then go on to the nationals.

I have to say, it’s exciting to see so many young people with a zeal for poetry! From Tennyson to Dickinson, from Amy Lowell to William Butler Yeats, poets of all persuasions – and generations – were well-represented. So today, I thought I’d share one of the poems that was recited, which also happens to be one of the more contemporary poems of the night, by Irish poet Eavan Boland:

And Soul

My mother died one summer—
the wettest in the records of the state.
Crops rotted in the west.
Checked tablecloths dissolved in back gardens.
Empty deck chairs collected rain.
As I took my way to her
through traffic, through lilacs dripping blackly
behind houses
and on curbsides, to pay her
the last tribute of a daughter, I thought of something…

– ©2007 by Eavan Boland

(read the poem in its entirety HERE)

Speaking of poetry, I’m gearing up for another crazy month of rhymes, rhythm, and ridiculousness with Madness Poetry! It’s the nation’s largest (and possibly only) bracketed children’s poetry competition. 64 ‘authletes,” as we are called, are each given a random word and have 36 hours to write a poem using that word. Voting then takes place among authletes, public, and even schools – and whoever wins their round moves on to the next round, much in No photo description available.the way that the NCAA’s March Madness works. Eventually, one winner will be crowned champion and will walk away with cash, prizes, fame, fortune, and a small trophy! (Well, a trophy, at least) If you’d like to see who’s participating and who’s up against whom, click the logo, above. And to stay on top of all the action with updates and authlete interaction, be sure to follow the Madness Poetry Facebook page by clicking the picture of “The Thinkier” trophy!

NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAY…

I have a copy of After Dark to give away to one lucky blog follower, thanks to our good friends at Boyds Mills & Kane (my Flashlight Night publisher, by the way)! Of all the folks who commented on last week’s post, the random name chosen is…

Lynn Vieira!

Congratulations, Lynn – please email me your address so I can get the book mailed out to you pronto! Interesting side note: Lynn left her comment at 4:53pm EST – just SEVEN MINUTES before the deadline. That’s cutting it closer than anyone else who’s ever entered one of my giveaways – whew! For today’s complete Poetry Friday roundup, head over to Sloth Reads, where Rebecca Herzog is handling the hosting duties with a recap of Laura Shovan’s Daily Poem Project from last month.

Have you pre-ordered yet??

In stores Aug. 18, 2020!

I’ve teamed up with several other children’s authors to promote our upcoming books this year! And there are a LOT of them, too – including SEVEN in March, plus the new poetry anthology Construction People (Wordsong, March 17, 2020), of which I’m a contributor:

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

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!

Poetry Friday: Research, revision, and resilience: the “After Dark” blog tour arrives!

My friend David L. Harrison’s brand-new children’s poetry anthology, After Dark: Poems About Nocturnal Animals (Wordsong, 2020), just came out this past Tuesday, and today the official blog tour rolls into the ol’ Triple-R! David’s first book, The Boy with a Drum (Golden Press, 1969) came out a little more than 50 years ago, and since then he’s had more than 90 books and hundreds of poems published, received numerous awards and distinctions, and is the only fellow I know who has a school named after him: David Harrison Elementary School in Springfield, MO.

While lots of folks have been sharing reviews of his book – and it is, indeed, beautiful all the way around – I’m very excited to chat with David about the creative process behind his book (we’re both writers, after all, and I love learning how others approach the task).

Plus, I’ll have a FREE COPY to give away, so stay close for details on that!

First of all, congratulations, David – and thank you for joining me here! The book is beautiful, in both words and pictures. Stephanie Laberis does a fantastic job of maintaining the nocturnal mood you created while still keeping the subjects bright and intriguing.

Thank you, Matt, for hosting me today. I’m delighted to be here and I greatly appreciate your help as I introduce my 97th book, AFTER DARK.

Children’s poet / author David L. Harrison

Wow, 97!? That’s amazing, David. You know, people often ask me where my ideas come from and in many cases I don’t really know – I just sit there and brainstorm and try to come up with a concept I like, and occasionally something clicks! So my first question for you is the “ultimate question” when it comes to writing books: Why did you feel this book needed to be written?

As an old biologist, I’ve had a lifelong habit of watching animals around me. Through study and observation I’ve developed a deep interest in their comings and goings and how they and we impact on one another. Humans are essentially diurnal. Daytime is work and play time. But the rest of the animal kingdom is divided on the subject.

I saw a funny cartoon that showed a line of day creatures at dusk yawning past a line of night creatures punching in for work. I’m fascinated by the animals in that second line and always have been. In this book I share with young readers what I found out about some of them.

How did you begin the process? I mean, other than coming up with a list of possible subjects, how much effort was invested in thinking about the organization of the book, the poetic forms you wanted to use, etc.?

The book was a long time coming and went through four editors. In 2014 I mentioned my interest in writing it to Larry Rosler, my longtime editor at Boyds Mills Press. Larry liked the idea but retired before we could get anything started. Mary Colgan became my editor, liked the proposal, and we went forward. I went looking for subjects that represented a variety of animal orders: insects, mammals, fish, birds, and reptiles. With Mary’s help we settled on a suitable table of contents even as I was working on poems and back matter.

A couple of years into the project Mary left the company and Brittany Ryan took over. Each editor has a different set of skills and sensibilities so a certain amount of tweaking and re-tweaking became necessary. At the last, Kane Publishing bought Boyds Mills Press from Highlights and Rebecca Davis became my editor of record to boot the book across the publishing line.

That’s a long time for a manuscript to finally see the light of day – four editors! But that’s four times as much input as you would’ve had with just one editor, so that’s probably a good thing. And as I always tell aspiring authors, one needs patience, tenacity, and resilience as much as talent!

I’m sure AFTER DARK is a better book for having four sets of editorial eyes on it during its long incubation. For my part, I approached these poems the same as always – searching for ways to make each stand alone but still fit into the overall tone of the group. I never worry much if I mix verse and free verse poems in the same collection. Kids probably like rhyme better, but well-turned free verse can also have strong appeal and I believe it’s helpful to young readers to provide them with a rich menu of poems served up with and without rhyme.

Now this is rather unusual: a poem broken up into three panels! (details below; click to enlarge)

Research is a big part of the process for a book like this; what did you learn? And what surprised you the most about the book, either through the research or the writing?

Matt, I’ve always enjoyed researching for a new book. There’s a sense of beckoning adventure that keeps me looking for one more fact before I stop reading. In the book I wrote with Mary Jo Fresch, 7 KEYS TO RESEARCH FOR SUCCESSFUL WRITING (Scholastic, 2017), I stress the importance of three lists a researcher should make by borrowing from a Donald Rumsfeld speech when he was

United States Secretary of Defense: “There are things we know that we know . . . there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also . . . things we do not know we don’t know.” As a researcher I use those same three lists.

  • There are things I know.
  • There are things I know I don’t know.
  • But there are also things that I don’t know yet that I don’t know.

During the course of getting ready to write AFTER DARK, I learned that male porcupines scream at one another and fight, sometimes inflicting serious injury, for the right to approach a female during mating season. I hadn’t known before that an armadillo can hold its breath and walk along stream bottoms looking for something to eat and nor did I know that a flathead catfish can grow to weigh three times more than a coyote.

I was surprised at that armadillo revelation myself! That’s why I wondered how much of this was a surprise to you, as well.

Turning from research to writing, when I’m writing, a poem will often show me what form it needs to be – it just sort of develops, and I roll with it. But it’s those occasions when it doesn’t, that I wrestle with the poem and labor over every word and syllable and phrase, and after hours or days or weeks of wrangling and revising and rewriting and pummeling the poor thing into submission I’m not sure the poem even wanted to be written in the first place! So for you, which of these poems was the easiest to write, and which was the problem child?

I think about my subject. While re-reading my notes, I look for the scene I’ll hope to bring to life. By now I know a lot about this creature – where it lives, what it eats, when it mates, how long it lives – but I can’t put all I know into a single poem. I have to decide on my focus and try to see it as a picture in my head. What comes next is the magic part of creativity. Based on what it knows and intuits about the subject, the mind conjures up a tentative first line. And that line sets the tone and rhythm for everything that follows.

For the wolf poem I decided to focus on the pups. I visualized them playing roughhouse with one another, oblivious to the grown-up world around them. For them I needed to create a poem in quick, jerky lines that reflect the willy-nilly life of a pup:

 

            You wild thing.

            You bouncy pup…

            Play tag,

pretend grrr,

pounce ferociously

on your siblings.

 

But for the enormous flathead catfish quietly patrolling its territory through murky waters, I felt a slower, more methodical cadence so I chose words that slowed down the tempo.

 

…silent submarine,

solitary stalker,

… small eyes probe dark water.

 

For some reason I struggled most over the skunk poem, the last stanza in particular, even though the poem was patterned after a similar scene I witnessed one night driving home. I tried repeatedly to find a strong ending. At last it came out: “the street is/never empty.” By contrast, the cricket poem practically wrote itself. Thank goodness for the quick ones now and then!

All images © 2020 Boyds Mills & Kane, reprinted with permission; all rights reserved. (click to enlarge)

Ha, I know what you mean – those ones that write themselves are like little gems from Heaven! Speaking of struggling with poetic structure, some of the spreads are rather unusual in that Stephanie Laberis’ illustrations necessitate that a few particular poems be broken up into multiple panels. How much input did you have in working with her and editor Rebecca Davis to make sure the integrity of the poem was diminished by the layout?

True, sometimes the layout artist suggests breaking poems or moving a spread into a different order to accommodate needs that throw the poem itself into danger of being distorted and/or losing its impact. Such movements are never done without my agreement, which I normally can give without a problem, but now and then it becomes important to protect the integrity of the poem’s structure, and that takes precedence over layout issues.

As I mentioned earlier, the illustrations’ colors are quite bold even though it’s a nocturnal-themed book – which makes the subjects really come to life, so to speak. Do you happen to have a favorite spread?

I agree and I do. Stephanie did a superb job of keeping the night dark while somehow highlighting the actors in each poem. I was greatly impressed! My favorite spread is about the skunk. (see above) Mama is trying desperately to herd her playful kits out of the street. She knows the dangers that may lurk there. And even though she doesn’t actually see danger at the moment, WE do. Down the street a dog has become aware of the situation and is on alert. Steph’s painting sets up tension that hangs over the poem and adds drama.

(click to enlarge)

I also noticed that one of your poems is located where a poem is rarely ever seen:  on the back cover! And this isn’t a sample of a poem that’s inside the book, either, it’s a full-length poem, all its own. Whose idea was that?

Not my idea but I approve of it. I wrote the poem using slant rhymes and was pleased by how it turned out. Seeing it featured on the back cover was a pleasant surprise.

I know you have many other projects in the old proverbial oven; would you care to share what’s coming up next for you?

In the education field I’m working on two books set for publication this year, each with a highly respected educator.  Mary Jo Fresch (Professor Emeritus in Teaching and Learning, from The Ohio State University), and I are nearly finished with our eighth collaboration. This one will be published by National Council for Teachers of English and is about building vocabulary and understanding how language works for students in grades 3-5.

The second title, also nearly finished, is my first collaboration with Laura Robb. It’s for struggling readers in grades 4-8 and will be published by Corwin Press. My contributions are poems, texts, essays, professional development pieces, and simulated school visits with the target audiences.

In August I have a new picture book due out from Holiday House. It grew from something I posted on my blog one day. Jane Yolen responded; I responded; she responded; until we realized we were writing a book. I’m eager to see it in print so it won’t be long before I’ll need to turn my attention to promoting that title.

Other books are in the works, including one of poetry and one that’s nonfiction, but they don’t have pub dates set yet. Beyond that a number of projects are in the works and I work seven hours each week day to make sure my agent, James McGowan, doesn’t run out of Harrison manuscripts to submit.

Ha! We certainly don’t want James to be reduced to twindling his thumbs, hoping for some David Harrison magic to come his way, do we? You know, I remember that exchange you had with Jane – I’m looking forward to seeing the book! David, we’ve known each other for nearly 10 years now and I have to tell you what a joy it’s been learning from you and developing my career with your support and friendship. I’m grateful to know poets like you, Jane, Rebecca, Charles, our late friend Lee, and so many others. I wish you continued success!

Matt, thank you again for hosting me today and featuring AFTER DARK. I’m glad our paths crossed and am loving your successes since then. I wish you many years of future successes and have every confidence you’ll have them.

Thank you, David. And to all my readers:

WE HAVE A GIVEAWAY!!

Thanks to our good friends at Boyds Mills & Kane (my Flashlight Night publisher, by the way), I have a copy of After Dark I will give away to a lucky reader! Just leave a comment below and I’ll choose one name at random to receive the book. Comments must be received by 5pm EST on Thur., March 5, as the winner will be announced next Fri., March 6. Good luck!

For more poetry, be sure to stop by Karen Edmisten’s blog, where she’s hosting Poetry Friday today with Jane Hirschfield’s a perfectly-timed poem, “February 29!”

Speaking of new books… have you pre-ordered yet??

I’ve teamed up with several other children’s authors to promote our upcoming books this year! And there are a LOT of them, too – including SEVEN in March, plus the new poetry anthology Construction People (Wordsong, March 17, 2020), of which I’m a contributor:

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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!

Poetry Friday: “Where You Find It”

Last week, the Windows OS on my computer decided to stop working – and I found myself suddenly dead in my tracks. Granted, I can write without a computer – but I can’t record my voiceover work, maintain my income & expenses, or do a myriad other things! After a week in the shop, I’m happy to say it’s back up & running, albeit without any of the programs, bookmarks, or 4,972 passwords that were stored. And with a month full of school visits and tax time coming up, I’m more behind than ever! So I thought I’d reach back exactly FIVE YEARS AGO and dust this little gem off and share it today.

Hope you like it!

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Where You Find It - graphic
(click to enlarge; photo courtesy Katherine Esenwine)

For all of today’s Poetry Friday happenings, visit this week’s hostess, Cheriee, at Library Matters…she’s bragging about Vancouver poets and has a spotlight on Avis Harley today.

Please be sure to come back next Friday, when I share my interview with David L. Harrison about the process behind his brand-new children’s poetry anthology, After Dark: Poems About Nocturnal Animals (Wordsong, 2020). I’m very excited to be part of the official blog tour – which means I’ll have a FREE COPY to give away!

Speaking of new books… have you pre-ordered yet??

I’ve teamed up with several other children’s authors to promote our upcoming books this year! And there are a LOT of them – including six in February alone:

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

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!

Poetry Friday: Winter morning poem AND “Once Upon…” news!

(click to enlarge)

Once again, we had another snowfall the other day, so once again I had to take some photos – and write another poem! I don’t know what it is about snow on trees that is so intriguing and calming and beautiful…but whatever it is, it’s magical.

I do need to take a moment and thank everyone who helped us celebrate Once Upon Another Time (Beaming Books, 2020), my new picture book written with Charles Ghigna (aka, Father Goose®)! This past Monday, Tara Lazar hosted the official cover reveal on her blog (check it out HERE!) and within two days Charles and I were stunned to learn our book was the #1 new children’s book release in exploration fiction!

Wow! That could never have happened without your support – so thank you!! Now, what say we check out that cover again…

(And then be sure to pre-order the book!)

Speaking of the new book, I’ve teamed up with several other children’s authors to promote our upcoming books this year. So be watching for news about Once Upon Another Time as well as blog posts and reviews of a whole bunch more – including six in February…

I’ll also be sharing an interview with David L. Harrison soon, about his process behind his new children’s poetry anthology, After Dark: Poems About Nocturnal Animals (Wordsong, 2020). It’s a beautifully-illustrated book filled with David’s trademark creative wordplay and surprising facts about all the animals who thrive at night.

I’m very honored to be part of the official blog tour for David’s book, and will be posting the interview in two weeks, on Feb. 28. I hope you’ll join me! I also hope you’ll check out all of today’s Poetry Friday links at Teacher Dance, where Linda Baie is hosting a special Valentine’s Day edition – and yes, I deliberately did NOT do a Valentine’s Day post because I figured you’re probably already inundated with enough of them! But be sure to celebrate with Linda, and enjoy your weekend!

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

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!

Poetry Friday: A picture book cover reveal is coming!

Managed to come up with 32 ideas, and at least 5 or 6 have solid potential! (The rest have liquid potential and at least a couple are gaseous)

I have a short, simple post today:  a reminder that we have a cover reveal coming up THIS MONDAY, Feb. 10., for Once Upon Another Time (Beaming Books, 2020), my new picture book written with Charles Ghigna (aka, Father Goose®)!

The book comes out Aug. 18, and author/kidlit blogger extraordinaire Tara Lazar will be hosting the official cover reveal on her blog! Tara’s been busy with Storystorm all January, so now that things are settling down, we get to have a  first-look at this book.

Illustrator Andrés F. Landazábal’s soft, pastoral imagery is both bright and serene, brilliant and calming. In a word, gorgeous – and I’m not just saying that because it’s my book! To whet your appetite, I’m sharing the first few lines of the book. Charles and I are both poets at heart (even though I never call myself a ‘poet’), and we wrote this book as a lyrical look at Nature before humans left their mark, contrasting past with present:
.

Once upon another time
in a land of long ago,
mountains peeked up through the clouds,
bright with fallen snow.

Rivers rushed through canyon walls.

Rainbows rose from waterfalls.

Wonder waited in the hush
of every new sunrise…

.
(text by Charles Ghigna & Matt Forrest Esenwine, © 2020 Beaming Books)
.

I can’t wait for you to see the cover – and we’ll even include one of the spreads, too! So be sure to join me at Tara’s place THIS MONDAY, Feb. 10.

Speaking of the new book, I’ve teamed up with several other children’s authors to promote our upcoming books this year. So be watching for news about Once Upon Another Time as well as blog posts and reviews of a whole bunch more – including six in February…

For more poetry, please visit my friend Laura Purdie Salas, who is hosting the complete Poetry Friday roundup at her blog, Writing the World for Kids!
.

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

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!