Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme

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Poetry Friday: Bantam, CT (July 1989)

National-Poetry-Month-Logo (2015)It’s Poetry Friday once again, and today I’m not actually here! I’m spending three days in Springfield, MA for the annual New England SCBWI conference. This is the conference for which I won the NE-SCBWI’s Marguerite W. Davol Scholarship, and will be getting a chance to talk about one of my manuscripts with an agent from a well-known house (the name of which I cannot divulge).

So as I was looking through some of my past writing to share tonight during Open Mic, I came across the very first poem I ever had published following college graduation. I make this distinction because I actually had a few poems published in local independent collections prior to and during college, but it was at this point I felt I finally had the education behind me and the knowledge inside me to know what I was doing.

Of course, I was wrong; none of us ever has ‘enough’ knowledge. But I was proud of the fact that this was a poetry anthology being published half a country away, in Texas, and that the editor felt it made the grade. Looking back on it, there are many things I’d do differently. I’d have used more internal rhyme, used less obvious word choices, and would have definitely been less…oh, what’s the word…histrionic, perhaps?

I hope you like it, though. It was inspired by a tornado touching down in a small Connecticut town in 1989 and was published in a collection entitled Visions by Metamorphosis Publishing.

Bantam, CT (July 1989)

How little you suspected
……….the cold, dispassionate rage of force
………………..Nature showed you.

Two days ago, a quiet small town;
……….yesterday, a furious maelstrom
………………..of rain and wind and stones from the sky;

today, quiet; too suddenly
……….silent, for a once-thriving village swallowed
………………..by an impassive, swirling vortex.

No lives lost, they say – yet
……….what do you see? A broken window lies
………………..beside a shattered rooftop;

overturned sportscar, once sleek and new,
……….wears the remains of a neighbor’s fireplace
………………..like a penniless child’s rags;

and the church – only as strong as the aged
……….bricks with which it was built – vanished
………………..like faith, replaced by its own dust.

This was once a soul,
……….your town; now it lay still as a corpse:
………………..cold, unmoving, conscious of nothing.

Here, amid the hills and trees
……….Nature took you by surprise…
………………..…and how little you suspected.

– © 1989, Matt Forrest Esenwine

My friend and fellow Poet’s Garage critique group member Renee LaTulippe is hosting Poetry Friday today at her blog, No Water River, so please be sure to stop by and check out all the links and fun!

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Poetry Cubed logoWant to win a free book? A couple of weeks ago, I shared a new poetry challenge!

If you missed it, it’s my take on the Food Network show, “Chopped!” But instead of using surprise ingredients from a basket to create a meal, you’ll use three photo prompts to create ONE fantastic poem!

(Don’t worry if you don’t think you’re good enough…it’s just to have fun and stretch some brain-muscle. Winners will be determined by a random drawing, so no pressure! Get all the details HERE.)

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2015ProgressivePoemIrene Latham’s annual Progressive Poem continues to grow! Each day, a different person adds a line to the poem – and today, that person is Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect. Then on April 30, it’ll be my turn to add the final line!

You can see how the 2015 Progressive Poem has been developing at the following blog spots:

1 Jone at Check it Out
2 Joy at Poetry for Kids Joy
3 Heidi at My Juicy Little Universe
4 Laura at Writing the World for Kids
5 Charles at Poetry Time Blog
6 Ramona at Pleasures from the Page
7 Catherine at Catherine Johnson
8 Irene at Live Your Poem
9 Mary Lee at Poetrepository
10 Michelle at Today’s Little Ditty
11 Kim at Flukeprints
12 Margaret at Reflections on the Teche
13 Doraine at DoriReads
14 Renee at No Water River
15 Robyn at Life on the Deckle Edge
16 Ruth at There is No Such Thing as a Godforsaken Town
17 Buffy at Buffy’s Blog
18 Sheila at Sheila Renfro
19 Linda at Teacher Dance
20 Penny at A Penny and her Jots
21 Tara at A Teaching Life
22 Pat at Writer on a Horse
23 Tamera at The Writer’s Whimsy
24 Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect
25 Tabatha at The Opposite of indifference
26 Brian at Walk the Walk
27 Jan at Bookseedstudio
28 Amy at The Poem Farm
29 Donna at Mainely Write
30 Matt at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme

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Poetry_Friday logoDid 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!
PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

If you don’t have anything nice to say…post it on the internet

ID-100107463 (man screaming)Republicans and Democrats. Conservatives and Liberals. Religious and non-religious.

Carnivores and vegetarians.

It seems like everywhere I look online these days, everyone is upset with everyone else. One person shares a political post on their Facebook page, and pretty soon everyone of their friends and even people they’ve never met are commenting with their own laser-accurate opinions.

Friendships have even been lost over these sorts of things, when rival ideologies lead to heated arguments.

Why?

1) The human condition

Throughout history, we as a species have always striven to make our lives better. Although this is a good thing, it also means we can often be very opinionated; we want our friends, our country, our world to know how we think things could be better.

And the internet, with its ease of use for sharing, spreading, and arguing about opinions, amplifies our desire – and ability – to do just that.

Too many of us, I think, feel that every news story we read, every photo that is shared, and every comment that is posted deserves or requires our 2-cents.

I fall into that narcissistic trap, as well. Often, I’ll see something that I begin to comment on, but then I stop and think, “Does anyone really care??” And very often, the answer is, “no.”

2) Ease of anonymity

It used to be that if you had a disagreement with someone, you told them face-to-face. Now, you can hide behind a screen name and an avatar and say whatever you want to people you’ve never even met.

You can do it wherever you are, whenever the urge hits you. Thanks to smartphones, tablets, and laptops, you don’t even need to stop and think about what you’re going to say before you say it.

It’s that narcissism thing again; that feeling of superiority over anyone who disagrees with you. Being opinionated isn’t necessarily bad, but when decency is thrown out the window in order to pummel readers with your ranting, four-letter-word-drenched tirade, it borders on cyber-bullying.

And no matter how poorly-written, it’s usually done with a condescending tone of super-intellect. We’ve all seen those.

3) Loss of manners

Not to turn this into a post about longing for the good-ol’-days, but there really is something to be said about the loss of decency and manners among our population.

Strangers call other strangers names, readers jump to conclusions without facts, random people make wild accusations without anything to support them. And when people who disagree then jump into the fray – the intensity level increases.

Part of this loss of respect (probably a good part) is attributable to the first two items on this list. The internet has amplified the human desire of opinion-making while exacerbating the ease with which to  do it.

THREE EXAMPLES

  • Over the weekend, a high schooler in the state was accused by his school of writing something threatening on a bathroom wall. His mother defended him, claiming there was no basis for the accusations. An audio recording of the meeting in the principal’s office was made public, and the preponderance of 4-letter-words uttered by the kid did nothing to sway the opinions of the readers who were commenting on the online article.
  • A mother and two daughters were found dead inside a home in an upscale residential community nearby. The husband, who owned a gun store, had been charged with assault once a few years ago, but the wife had dropped the charges. Now, readers of the online news story – who are all apparently either criminal psychologists or forensic specialists – are putting their own pieces together as to what happened.
  • A woman who runs a very successful food blog often shares vegan and vegetarian recipes, even though she has never claimed to be a vegan. She once shared a recipe and asked readers to chime in with their thoughts on the subject – and the hatred she received spewing forth from vegans who felt she was a “fraud” and was being hypocritical was absolutely stunning.

In each of these cases, people lost all sense of decency and reverted to their most spiteful, smug, and arrogant selves.

ID-10091147 (woman w-tablet)

No matter where you are…an opinion is waiting to be shared.

Readers who knew nothing at all about the teenager or his family were already convicting him – saying he deserves what he gets and that his mother could never admit “her baby” had done something wrong. Granted, the office recording was rather unflattering, but who are we to say who did what and what happened? I felt bad for him, in a way, when I read some of his comments telling people to stop talking trash about his mother. He told them they knew nothing about him or his family – and he was right.

In the second story, readers were commenting that because the husband owned a gun store, he obviously was dangerous; that even though his assault charge had been dropped, he obviously was a time bomb; that because he was the one who called police, he obviously was guilty. Again I ask, who are we to say such things?

And the third story is a prime example of people trying to be so self-righteous that they end up offending people who might actually agree with them! My wife, who showed me the post, is a vegan with vegetarian leanings (I say that because she does, on occasion, eat honey and locally-raised chicken eggs from a farm two miles down the road) and she was appalled at how many vegans were skewering the poor blogger – calling her names, insulting her, and being absolutely disagreeable.

If vegans refrain from animal products because they are trying to be kind, loving, and compassionate to other living beings – these folks were anything but kind, loving, and compassionate.

Just because you have a right to say something…

Here in the United States, our country’s Constitution states we have the freedom to speak, the freedom to write, and many other freedoms we enjoy.

But with freedom, comes limits. As the old saying goes, just because we have a right to free speech, doesn’t mean we have the right to yell, “FIRE!” in a crowded theatre. One of those commenting on the blogger’s site even claimed, “Hey, she told us she wanted our opinion!” An opinion is one thing; how it is expressed is something else entirely.

I can’t help but think of the other old saying, “Just because you have a right to say something, doesn’t mean you should say it.” However, I would take it one step further, and add, “Just because you have an opinion, doesn’t mean you need to share it.”

I’m not saying we shouldn’t share our opinion now and then – but it’s probably not a bad idea to stop and ask yourself if it’s an opinion worth sharing. Do you have enough facts? Do you have any facts? Can you make your point without resorting to name-calling and four-letter-words?

If so…then I’m all ears!

By the way, if you have an extra 7 minutes, check out THIS VIDEO and learn how a thought can replicate itself like a germ throughout the internet – it’s a very cool concept!

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mmpoetry2015-logo-mainI would be remiss if I did not mention that the #MMPoetry 2015 tournament FINALS are underway at Ed DeCaria’s Think, Kid, Think – only TWO authletes remain, and are tasked with coming up with a winning children’s poem based on the sort-of-random-but-not-really word they were given!  Learn more HERE!

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2015ProgressivePoemALSO: Irene Latham’s annual Progressive Poem gets underway tomorrow, April 1, in honor of National Poetry Month! Writers and bloggers from all over will be chiming in each day to add their line to a poem that grows and grows over the course of the month…until it culminates April 30 with the final, closing line.

(This year, that line will be written by Yours Truly – no pressure.)

Catch up with Irene at her blog HERE, and then begin following the 2015 Progressive Poem with Jone MacCulloch (who gets to start us off with the opening line!) at Check It Out!

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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!
PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

The necessity of splashing in puddles

My 5-year-old son and his 19-month-old sister couldn’t stand being inside the other day. (truth be told, I couldn’t stand them being inside, either) Temps have been getting a bit warmer lately – even though tonight’s overnight temp is expected to be in the single digits F – and I really can’t blame them for wanting to go outside.

The problem is, there’s not much to DO, this time of year. When we had tons of snow during the winter, it was usually so bitterly cold I didn’t dare bring them out for more than a few minutes. Now that temps have moderated, all we have is hard, frozen snow that will break your back if you fall on it and pathways of grassy mud.

Can’t play on the snow, can’t play in the mud.

Boring.

But I dressed them in their snow pants and coats and boots and such and let them go outside, anyway, figuring they’d at least get some fresh air for a little while. They ended up (once again) teaching me a valuable lesson.

It’s only a big deal if you make it a big deal

That’s a rule of thumb I learned back when I was first learning about promotions, particularly radio promotions. You can take the simplest, blandest concept and, with enough excitement and hype, turn it into a big deal.

In this case, the kids taught me that what I thought was a big deal…really wasn’t.

Kids being kids, they are adept at finding all sorts of things to play with that aren’t toys – sticks, stones, snow shovels – and the one thing little Babycakes discovered was a puddle on the edge of our dirt driveway.

To her, it was the most amazing, awesomest thing, ever.

And I almost killed her joy.

Letting go of “grown-up” mentality

Grey & Phoebe - puddleWe grown-ups really have a knack for putting the kibosh on our kids’ fun. It’s something I try to counter by using childlike perspective when I write…but actually putting it into practice isn’t always as easy as I’d like it to be.

You see, my first reaction was to tell her “no,” pick her up out of the puddle, and set her onto our gravel walkway. Which is what I did.

Grey & Phoebe - puddle 2Independent-minded little lady that she is, she immediately turned around and walked right back into the puddle, splashing her feet and flailing her arms in a chaotic, quasi-dance I can only describe as Fred-Astaire-meets-the-Ministry-of-Silly-Walks.

I was just about to tell her no again when I stopped myself. What was I doing? She had winter boots, snow pants, a coat, and mittens. Who cared if she splashed in the puddle???

It was fun, after all – there was no harm being done to anything or anyone – and I could think of no good reason to not let her have her fun.

If one gets to do it, they all have to do it

Her 5-year-old brother, upon seeing what was going on, had to jump in the fray. I watched the two of them, their faces lit up with smiles and love and streaks of wet earth – and couldn’t help but join in.

So there we were, on the edge of the driveway, splashing away…and I can only imagine what the folks driving past our house were thinking:

“Ridiculous waste of time.”

“Such silly, immature behaviour.”

“I wish I could do that.”

They soon tired of it, though, and moved on to other areas around the house – but I was glad I had the opportunity to splash in the mud with them. It got me thinking how often I, or even we as a society, make a big deal out of small things.

It’s only a big deal if you make it a big deal

My son likes to play with kitchen utensils like the spatulas, whisks, and ladles. I once started to get upset with him because he was just making more dirty dishes for me – but then it occurred to me, who cares? Is it that big a deal? No.

My daughter doesn’t eat sandwiches like normal human beings (granted, she’s not yet 2), and instead prefers to separate each piece of bread and then eat them face-forward, like eating a pizza top-down, starting with the toppings and working your way down to the crust. I’ve attempted to stop her – but again, who cares? Is it that big a deal? No! Heck, at least she’s eating it.

And how many times have we stopped what we were doing to leave a comment on a Facebook wall or online news story, when we really didn’t need to? I’ve come to the realization that my opinion about most things doesn’t matter to anyone, so I’m not going to waste my time sharing it.

I’ve mentioned before here that, when you’re an adult, it’s difficult to not be a grown-up. But I’m trying. So I have to throw a few extra clothes in the washing machine, or load a few extra utensils in the dishwasher. None of it is a big deal, unless I make it a big deal.

Oh, and it look like the kids are finally asleep now. I need to go.

There’s a puddle outside with my name on it.

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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!
PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Priorities, priorities…

The other day I was looking over my blog stats when I noticed something that surprised me. It had nothing to do with demographics or popular posts or click-through rates. It had to do with content.

DSCF2068 (Mic - Katie)I discovered that it has been quite awhile since I posted anything relating to voiceovers, audio production, or advertising – which, if you notice the little tagline below my blog’s name, is supposedly one-third of what this blog is supposed to be about.

How long has it been? Not since last OCTOBER.

What gives??

Aren’t I supposed to be sharing news, thoughts, tips, insights, and anecdotes about my three areas of interest? Well, yes – but lately I’ve only been able to really focus on two of those areas: the most productive areas, actually.

Understanding priorities

I have said it before in this blog and I’ll say it again…my family is always my priority. Now, some days, getting a piece of production done on time takes precedence over anything else I may need to do – but I’m not shirking my responsibilities towards my priority. Making money and paying my bills is a necessity to taking care of my family.

Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.

But balancing family with a voiceover career AND a writing career can be tricky – particularly when both careers are growing. In the past year or two I’ve been able to develop my voiceover business – recording my first audio book and connecting with a new ad agency. I have a small stable of regular clients, plus I have just learned I’ll be working on a special radio broadcasting project, the details of which I cannot divulge yet.

Lullabye coverIf things in the voiceover world have been going well for me, my children’s writing world has been going gangbusters! I have poems in two brand-new anthologies, Lullaby and Kisses Sweet (Abrams/Appleseed) and Dear Tomato coverDear Tomato: An International Crop of Food and Agriculture Poems.
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I’ll also have poems in the Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations (Pomelo) due in April and The National Geographic Book of Nature Poetry (National Geographic Children’s Books), due this fall.

PFAC-front-cover-Nov-30-WEB-jpeg-705x1030AND I’ll have a poem in an upcoming issue of Highlights magazine!

There’s more going on behind the scenes, as well – I hope to share some news soon – but suffice it to say that my decision to jump into a children’s writing career five years ago is starting to bear some fruit.

So what’s a guy to do?

I find myself asking that question regularly. I have voiceover gigs to do, poems and picture book manuscripts to write, and as a stay-at-home dad, a family to take care of (and a load of laundry I need to get done). There is only so much time in the day – so what gets pushed to the back burner?

The blog.

I hate saying that, because this blog has been invaluable to me for networking purposes, audience-building, and as a source of (hopefully) useful information. I hate to say my blog is a low priority, but compared to the nuts and bolts of life, it is!

Earlier today, I completed another picture book manuscript. I also wrote a poem for this year’s #MMPoetry March Madness Poetry Competition, spent the morning running errands, took a walk with the kids, made homemade vegan chili (which is so good, it fools my fellow meat-eaters), and put the 18-month-old to bed. I’m writing a blog post right now, and as soon as I’m done I’ll be emailing one of my audio production clients about scheduling studio time, then reviewing the picture book manuscript to make revisions.

I’m kinda busy.

The fine line

There is one: the line between prioritizing and just letting things slide. I’ve been trying to be careful not to let the quality of my posts suffer (I suppose you’ll have to be the judge of that!), even if I have been posting fewer of them than I did last year.

I recognize that I cannot always do everything I want to do…but I do try to accomplish everything I need to. My family comes first, of course – but my writing has surpassed voicework for second place. It feels strange to say that; however, good things are happening right now in my writing career and I cannot slow down.

I don’t dare!

mmpoetry2015-logo-main

The madness is back! Click the logo to learn more about this fun, exciting, and interactive competition. (School classrooms can still sign up!)

If I put the brakes on my writing career just so that I can maintain my voiceover career, how will I know what might come of my writing? Likewise, if I completely dismiss my voiceover career, I’ll be giving up something I enjoy, that I’m good at, and that pays the bills.

I left radio in 2012 to build both careers, and I’m in the position of having to figure out how to grow them simultaneously. Right now, one is growing faster than the other, and it’s up to me to strike that balance we were talking about.

Hopefully I’m setting the right priorities!

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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!
PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

The day I almost became a grown-up

One of the many ways my wife – and many others – describe me is that I’m like a big kid. When I play with my kids outside, they roll on top of me – then I roll on top of them. When I rake leaves, I make extra-big piles to jump in. I love science fiction and comic book movies and dinosaur movies and – well, frankly, any movie that involves explosions, special effects, and machines and creatures not currently existing on our planet.

(Yes, I cried at the end of “The Notebook,” but everyone does that, so it doesn’t count.)

So imagine my shock when I realized I was acting like a grown-up today.

…and to think it happened at Chuck E. Cheese

Grey - Chuck E Cheese

Saving the world from undead pirate zombies is a team effort.

We had been invited to meet some friends at the local kid-centric pizza/arcade/house of adrenaline, and since our son had never been my wife and I decided to go.

Now, the last time I was there (at least 12 years ago), my older daughters were not even in their teens and half the place was a giant jungle gym, with big hanging tubes and all kinds of fun things to climb on. The other half was an arcade and food area, along with a small stage featuring an animatronic Chuck E. Cheese that, fortunately, has never been turned on when I’ve been there.

Today, though, it was about 75-percent arcade, 20-percent food, and maybe 5-percent (at best) involved any kind of physical activity. What had happened?

Times change, I suppose. So we bought some tokens and looked around for some games to play. Many were boring; the exciting ones, of course, involved driving cars as fast as possible or saving the world from Decepticons or dinosaurs or undead pirates. My son spent nearly the entire time learning to drive courtesy of the fine folks at the Fast & the Furious driving academy.

The Dodge Viper and the moment of truth

These racing games require far more skill that a 5-year-old possesses – or at least, more than MY 5-year-old possesses. We have no game system at the house, so he’s never played a video game before. Controlling a joystick was a totally new experience for him; trying to drive was – well, it was a wild ride, let’s say that.

I had to help him choose his location (Maui), his vehicle (Dodge Viper SRT-10), its color (cherry red), and an upgrade (nitrous oxide – yeah, baby!)…but I also had to push the gas pedal since he couldn’t reach it. And I had to help him steer.

That last part was where I went wrong.

As I stood there beside him, straining to reach the accelerator with my foot from a standing position, I found myself trying to keep him on the road. He’d steer wildly from left to right and right to left and left to right – then stay there on the far right and nail just about every tree, rock, guardrail, bridge abutment, and convenience store he could.

I’d pull him back onto the road only to watch him go ricocheting from one car to another, flipping over, doing 360s in the middle of tunnels and careening off mountainsides then winding up back on the side of the road, picking off telephone poles like he was mowing a lawn.

“Stop, Daddy! Let me do it!” he kept saying.

“But you keep hitting all these things on the side, bub!” I’d explain.

“You’re not letting me steer!”

“I’m trying to, but you keep hitting things and knocking things over!”

I was starting to get frustrated when he finally replied,

“I know!!”

Oh…you mean, you meant to do that…

Just like a few years ago, when he was nearly 3 and I was walking with him along the dirt road near our house, and he kept deliberately pushing his baby stroller into the ruts – I had completely misunderstood the objective.

Back then, he wasn’t trying to get the stroller from point A to point B in the smoothest, most effective way; he was having fun driving it through the ruts. Today, the point of the racing game wasn’t to pass all the other cars; it was to have fun, effectively driving through ruts again.

When I realized this, I immediately took my hand from the steering wheel and pushed the accelerator to the floor.

“You go ahead, buddy,” I said. “You’re doing a great job of knocking down everything in sight.”

He smiled, never taking his eyes off the screen. “Yes, I am!” he beamed.

I may be an adult, but fortunately, my son saved me once again from becoming an all-too-serious, no-fun grown-up. As I write this, it occurs to me he has also taught me a valuable life lesson: You don’t always need to pass all the other cars; sometimes you just need to drive through some ruts and mow down a few road signs.

And push the accelerator to the floor when you do it.

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Cybils-Logo-2014-Rnd2Did 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!
PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

2014: My blog in review!

Well, the folks at WordPress.com have done it again. They have compiled year-end stats for my blog, and have again totally surprised me:

– I have international appeal: There are folks from as far away as Russia, New Zealand, Argentina, and Japan reading my blog…who knew??

– October 21st was my busiest day: My post about hiring voiceover talent, “I can’t help you if you don’t help me,” attracted the most visitors all year. Interestingly, my most-commented post was a poem I originally posted in 2012, which I reposted this year in honour of my anniversary…so I’m rather touched that readers come from both the voiceover and writing communities, and everywhere in-between!

– A poem I shared two years ago remains my most-viewed post: I still cannot figure this one out. A poem that received mediocre response was the most-viewed post in 2012, the most-viewed post in 2013, and was the most popular post again this year. It also tends to be a popular hit via Google searches. Go figure!

Who else is viewing my posts? Which other posts are they viewing? And when is the most popular time to view them? These factoids and more can be found by clicking the graphic – it’s a short little presentation, but I hope you’ll enjoy it! After all, these stats wouldn’t even exist were it not for you, so thank you very much!

I also need to thank a couple of people personally. One is writer/poet/blogger Tabatha Yeats, whose blog, The Opposite of Indifference,  has referred more people to my site than any other. (I don’t know why that is, but I appreciate the support, Tabatha!)

The other is writer/poet/blogger Michelle Heidenrich Barnes, who wins the “Top Commenter” Award – she left more comments on my blog than anyone else, although I also have to give a shout-out to Linda Baie, who comes in a close-second! I appreciate you two, as well!

So click the graphic and take a quick gander at how this blog is doing, how it’s growing, and how you might fit into it…and thanks again for taking the time to stop by and visit. Have a great rest of the week, a Happy New Year, and I’ll look forward to chatting with you in 2015! (It’s going to be a stupendous year!)

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Cybils-Logo-2014-Rnd2Did 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!

PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Book Review: “Song for Papa Crow”

Song for Papa Crow coverThere are a lot of picture books out there. Light-hearted, fun, goofy ones. Serious, introspective ones. Crazy, wild, break-the-mold ones. But many – most, even – won’t stand the test of time.

Why?

Because it takes something special to connect with multiple readers, on multiple levels, for a multitude of years. That “something” doesn’t always come easily, and usually can’t even be anticipated; it just happens. And when it does happen…it’s a wonderful thing.

Song for Papa Crow (Schiffer, 2012) by Marit Menzin is such a book. I was introduced to it earlier this year and have been wanting to share my thoughts for months. Now, with Christmas upon us in just a few days, I’m glad I’m finally getting the chance.

The premise of the book teaches an age-old lesson of being true to oneself in an original way: Little Crow loves to sing, but the local songbirds very much dislike the sound of his “Caw! Caw!” When Little Crow learns from Mockingbird how to sing like the other birds, he thinks his troubles are over; however, when Hawk snatches him away, his father is unable to save him at first because Little Crow doesn’t sound like a crow. Ultimately, Little Crow is saved when he realizes the importance of singing his own song.

Papa Crow spread

Click to enlarge

 

Being true to oneself, as I said, is not a new concept for a picture book – but what’s important here is how it is told. I have no use for picture books that are overtly didactic or heavy-handed in their moralizing. What Menzin does so well in Song for Papa Crow is she tells a story that happens to have a moral to it – she doesn’t tell the moral in the form of a story.

The language is bright and full of all the activity one would expect from a forest filled with birds. When the Goldfinches sing, “per-CHIC-o-ree!” and Red Cardinal shouts, “what-CHEER!” it makes you feel the birds are right there with you. Menzin’s beautiful cut-paper collage illustrations add to the effect, with vibrant colors and intricate details.

To be honest, the book is not without its drawbacks. I wished the solution to the problem wasn’t quite as easy as Menzin makes it (Little Crow takes a seed and gives back a seed, but how he sings with a seed in his mouth is anyone’s guess) – but the story as a whole is a pleasure to read.

The publisher describes the book as appropriate for kids K-Grade 2, but I surmise that any children through grades 5 or 6 would find this book a joy to read. As a parent, I certainly did.

As you may know, I don’t review many books here – and I rarely, if ever, review non-poetry or non-rhyming picture books – but this one deserves your attention. If you missed it when it came out 2 years ago, track down a copy. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.

* You can learn more about this and Schiffer Publishing’s other books HERE, or view the trailer for Song for Papa Crow HERE.

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Cybils-Logo-2014-Rnd2Did 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!

PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

 

Searching for thanks to give

MH900422849 (Cornucopia)This has turned out to be the most difficult blog post I’ve ever written.

It’s about giving thanks.

Now, granted, that kind of subject shouldn’t be too hard to write about…but you haven’t had the month my wife and I have had.

One Sunday morning about four weeks ago, we started get brownouts and power surges whenever we ran electricity here at the house. I couldn’t turn on the microwave, flip a light switch, or even let the water pump come on without losing power and hearing sizzling downstairs. (My lovely wife described the sound as “Frankenstein’s lab” – and that was, unfortunately, a perfectly accurate description)

Being a Sunday, it was a herculean task contacting an electrician. Most were unavailable (including two who supposedly ‘specialized’ in 24-hour emergency service and have still yet to return my call) and the two or three I was able to reach were busy and wouldn’t be able to get here for a few days. Finally, by late Monday morning, we had an electrician here working on the problem…and what he discovered was not only surprising, it was confusing.

Water had gotten inside the main electrical panel and corroded most of the breakers. What was bizarre was the fact that the water had seeped in via the cable running from the meter box into the panel. It hadn’t seeped into the house, mind you, it inexplicably had gotten inside the cable itself.

But that was only the beginning of the problems.

Not only did we discover that we were living in a 100-amp house – it was built in 1905 – but we learned that to upgrade to a 200-amp breaker box (which we would need to do, since the entire thing has to be replaced, anyway) would run about $1400.

And then something worse happened.

boiler

That’s a 4″X8″ hole blown out of the side of the cast-iron. The entire house smelled of steam and antifreeze.

A mere ten minutes after we got our electricity back up & running…the water boiler blew. And by “blew,” I don’t mean it died and stopped working. I mean it blew apart.

So after going 2 days with no electricity or water, we got to spend a couple more days with no water – and no heat, since we use forced hot water via the boiler. Thank goodness for wood stoves. I had plenty of wood available, as we go through about 5 or 6 cords of wood each season…but unfortunately, although the house was warm, I didn’t get to shower until the following weekend.

In case you’re wondering, ice-cold sponge baths suck.

Of course, our home insurance won’t cover any of this – the adjustor told us the boiler isn’t covered for one reason and the electrical panel isn’t covered for the opposite reason. I’m guessing they have NO reasons to cover anything, which is why the insurance company is in better financial shape than we are.

Oh, and our plumber spent nearly an hour over the course of two days explaining to the adjustor how boilers even work. So to recap: a guy who doesn’t know how something works was the guy responsible for deciding how and why it stopped working.

A few days after all of this began, I received a call from my mother to let me know my father had been taken to the emergency room with a severe systemic infection. He spent a week in recovery and has been at a rehab facility for the past week and a half. Mom doesn’t drive, so it’s been up to me to drive 35 minutes to pick her up, drive another 40 minutes to visit dad, then bring her back home and bring myself back home on a near-daily basis.

I’m fitting all this in while trying to be a stay-at-home dad to my 4-year-old and 1-year-old, and doing my voiceover work.

Guess what I haven’t been doing?

Other than voicing some scripts for a couple of my regular clients, I have had no time to actually try to make money; no auditions, no emails, no phone calls. It is ironic that at the point where we need as much money as we can get ($1400 for the electrical panel, $7000 for the boiler system, and who knows how much for the leaking roof – oh, I forgot to tell you about that?), I’m making less than I ever have.

And…the first snowstorm of the season is on its way and will prevent me from bringing my folks to our house for Thanksgiving. The last thing I want is for dad to spend his day alone at a rehab center, but that’s exactly where he’s going to be.

And…the toe I smashed last year when I dropped a 6-foot log on it is still causing me problems and I will probably have to have minor surgery on it this Monday.

And…my wife just broke a tooth which now needs a crown.

And…I’m having cataract surgery on my right eye in 3 weeks.

The reason I’m explaining all of this is not to sound like I’m throwing a pity party or anything, but simply to give you an inkling as to why I haven’t been around on social media much lately and why I’ve been having a hard time being thankful this year.

The view from Hackleboro Orchard in Canterbury, where we often go apple-picking. One more thing to be thankful for.

I would love to be the person who remains chipper and positive throughout all adversity, shouting out profundities like, “God doesn’t give you more than what you can handle!” while smiling cheerfully as my house collapses – but honestly, I’m not that person. I am, however, a person who is capable of taking stock in his blessings when given the opportunity to just take a deep breath and survey his situation.

After a few moments of consideration, I can come up with quite a few things I am genuinely thankful and grateful for:

  1. My kids are safe.
  2. Dad is safe; if he had been even slightly worse when they brought him in, we very likely would have lost him.
  3. The boiler could have blown in mid-February (thank God for small favours).
  4. My wife was able to get a loan from the bank to cover the repairs; we have no idea how we’ll pay the loan off, but for now, we’re ok.
  5. There will be food on the Thanksgiving table.
  6. The roof might be leaking…but at least we have one.
  7. My wife will get a nearly-unheard-of 5 days off in a row, from Thursday through Monday. I can’t wait to spend time with her.
  8. My wife’s father, who underwent scheduled knee-replacement surgery 2 weeks ago, is doing well.
  9. I’ll have at least 7 children’s poems published in 2015. For a guy who didn’t have any children’s poems published this year (or ANY year), I’d say that’s a good start.
  10. Bacon exists.

I realize I have many things to be thankful for, and I kick myself for letting them take a back seat to my troubles. Of course, I have many more blessings than just the ones I’ve enumerated here…but being able to spend time considering them is not only cathartic, it’s absolutely essential.

For me, and for everyone.

Find the time. Make your list. And have a Happy Thanksgiving.

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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!

PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Determining the value of a wheel-barrow ride

I’ve been raking leaves for the past couple of weeks. Although we do have a fairly large lawn, it’s not nearly enormous enough to require weeks of raking. However, when one has two young children, giant piles of leaves are simply too tempting to leave alone. Hence, I find myself doing a lot of re-raking. But I don’t mind. One day, they’ll be too busy with sports or dancing or boyfriends or girlfriends or whatever to care about jumping in piles of leaves…so I’ll just keep raking until I don’t need to anymore.

The reason I bring this up is because I was going to write a post about my observations of my 4-year-old son and nearly 15-month-old daughter – but then I realized this post, from last year, aptly says it all. If you missed it when I originally shared it in November 2013, I hope you like it.

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As loving parents, we strive to provide our kids with not only their basic needs of food, shelter, clothing and such – but also intangibles such as love, happiness, and positive memories. Of course, the term “positive memories” is wide open to interpretation and can mean lots of different things to different people.

Often, those memories aren’t even what we, as parents, think are worth remembering.

Over the weekend, I got to wondering about what memories my 3-year-old son will end up with – and if they’ll be the ones I expect.

The joys of yard work

He’s a hard worker, that one.

He may only be 3, but that doesn’t stop my son from helping me outside. And it’s not just that he wants to help – he actually helps me.  When I’m cutting down branches from overgrown trees, he’ll pull the branches out of my way and toss them in a brush pile I’ve shown him. If I’m splitting firewood, he’ll gather up the small pieces of wood and set them aside for kindling.

This weekend, I was raking leaves (this time of year, it feels like that’s all I do!) and he wanted to help, so I gave him a small rake and let him do his thing. Once I had piled as many leaves  as I could into my wheel-barrow, I would pick him up, set him on top of them, and give him a ride all the way over to our compost pile near the edge of the woods.

To him, this was the most fun thing in the history of fun things…and so I had to do it all afternoon, every time the wheel-barrow was full.  He didn’t realize it, but he was helping me by keeping the leaves from blowing away. I didn’t realize it, but I just might have been giving him a lasting memory.

‘Quality time’ is relative

The reason I say it “might” be a lasting memory is because I have learned – through having two older daughters – that kids remember what they think is important, not you.  What a parent might feel is an earth-shatteringly colossal event may not even appear as a blip on their children’s recollective radar.

I have friends who have taken their one- and two-year-old kids to Disneyland, ice shows, and live children’s theatre performances…and I can’t help but wonder what the kids think. Now, don’t get me wrong – I have no problem with anyone doing any of these things. I just doubt that the kids will have any lasting memory of these experiences either because they’re a) too young to be able to remember them later in life, or b) the events simply won’t have as much impact on the kids as their parents think.

With my two girls (well, ok, technically they’re women now, but don’t remind me), many of the things they recall I barely remember. More than once, I’ve been part of a  conversation that went more or less like this: “Remember the time when mom said ‘blah-de-blah,’ and then you were like, ‘blah-de-blah-de-blah,’ and then she did ‘this’ and you did ‘that’ and then something happened and then something else happened and then you were all like ‘blah-de-blah-de-frickety-blah?!’  That was so funny!!”

And I’m sitting there, staring, wondering where I was when this hilarious incident supposedly occurred.

It may not have been the Ice Capades, but it was certainly memorable…whatever the heck it was.

A matter of perspective

Phil V

Country singer/songwriter Phil Vassar

A few years ago, country singer Phil Vassar and I were talking about kids (he has a couple of girls, too) and what it’s like being a parent trying to keep up with them while time flies by so quickly.  He related a story about how he and his family had an opportunity to meet President George W. Bush while he was still in office.

Phil told me that he was asking the girls a couple of years later what they enjoyed about their visit to the White House – and they didn’t remember any of the supposed ‘highlights.’

He asked if they recalled meeting the president. No.  He asked if they remembered what the White House looked like. Not really. Did they remember anything that happened while they were there?? Wait, one of them said…she thought she did remember something. That was the place that had the tall, fancy vase in the corner with the pink flowers that smelled so nice?

And poor Phil was the one who ended up scratching his head, trying to remember this completely random fact that was his daughter’s most captivating – and possibly only – memory of meeting the President of the United States.

Proof again that what we think is important and what our kids think is important are two totally different thinks.

Wheel-barrows, leaf piles, and fire trucks

When I rake leaves, I don’t just let my little dude ride in the wheel-barrow; I let him jump into the huge piles I create. Yes, it’s more work for me, having to re-rake and re-rake many times over…but it’s fun for him, and I hope it will be something that he remembers when he gets older. I have to admit it’s also fun for me, watching the little nut roll around in the leaves and toss them in the air, laughing hysterically as they fall down around him and on his face.

He also loves trucks – any kind of trucks. If it’s got a motor and wheels, he wants it. He may only be 3, but he knows the difference between a skid steer and a Bobcat, and the difference between a forage harvester and a combine. The day I brought him to the fire station to look at the engines close-up was a day I’ll never forget, mostly because I don’t think he blinked once, the whole time we were there.

Will it be a lasting memory? Who knows…but he enjoyed it, and that was good enough for me.

After all, ultimately it’s not about the memories, but about the experiences themselves.  And rather than second-guess myself, I’ll just enjoy my time with him and his siblings and provide them with as much happiness, support, and love as I can and let them decide what’s worth remembering.

You know, I here there’s a monster truck show coming to town…

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Cybils-Logo-2014-Rnd2Did 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!

PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

I appreciate the help…but you’re not really helping

ID-10084724 (Mic)I wasn’t planning on a follow-up to last week’s post about the need for information when doing voiceover auditions. I figured I’d covered just about everything – what to expect from voice talent, what not to expect, how to help them help you get better auditions.

But as I thought about it, it occurred to me I had so many great examples of what not to say or do…I had to share some of them. These auditions weren’t lacking direction, necessarily; however, they were lacking the right information!

If you read last week’s post, you’ll recognize many of the points I made. These are all 100% completely real, too…so don’t think I’m embellishing anything here!

If you want me to audition, a script is helpful

Earlier this year, I came across an audition I had to look over 3 or 4 times, just to make sure I was reading it correctly. The request was to take a swear word and “make it funny.” The voice seeker was creating a “funny product” and wanted to use sound bites that would eventually have music and sound effects added.

Fortunately, I wasn’t being asked to provide the post-production for the audition – which is something voice actors rarely, if ever, do- but I was being expected to spend my time trying to think of funny ways of saying a vulgarity, just for the possibility of getting the gig.

Yep, I’d say there was definitely something “funny” about this audition.

I passed.

If you expect me to audition without a script, make it worth my while

About the same time that previously-mentioned audition came through, I saw another one requesting “funny, true stories.” The recordings needed to be original, at least 3 minutes in length, and then as I read the request I noticed they said that they will pay for recordings they like, so to therefore not submit ‘audition’ recordings.

It took me a moment to realize this company, which features podcasts and videos of real-life stories online, was looking for freelance contributors – not voiceover artists. There is a difference folks.

You wouldn’t ask a certified ASE mechanic to wash your car. You wouldn’t ask a licensed plumber to pour you a drink of water.

Not trying to sound arrogant here or anything…but if you want to get people to submit something for use on your website, that’s great! I hope you get plenty of submissions you can use! But please – know your audience. Understand that what people like me do is a profession, not a pastime. Very few of us will record, edit, and mix down 3 minutes of audio for a mere $100.

Please give me voice direction that makes sense

I once saw an audition for what I could only imagine was a humorous project…but which still made no sense. The producers were looking for a colonial-era American voice who sounds like a Boston Red Sox fan.

Ummm…right. Well, as someone who IS a Boston Red Sox fan – and who grew up around Boston Red Sox fans – I’m not exactly sure how any of them would have ended up in colonial America. Conversely, I don’t know how anyone in colonial America would even have a Boston accent, since we were all still speaking the Queen’s English at the time.

Perhaps I was missing something.

Like better instructions.

If you want me to add music, give me an adjective I can work with

ID-10032444 (grandma)

“Excuse me, dear, is that the Slade version, or Quiet Riot?”

Years ago, I was producing a radio commercial for a restaurant. I was asked to use some “nice Mother’s Day-type” music underneath.

Uh-huh.

Well, I could have used “Mama” by Genesis, “Mama Told Me Not to Come” by Three Dog Night, or my favourite, “Mama Weer All Crazee Now” by Slade…but since I figured I’d run into intellectual copyright issues with all of those, I used a soft, sappy acoustic production music track and sent it off.
.

They approved it. Apparently, moms love soft, sappy acoustic production music.

Know what you want before you ask

It comes down to understanding what you’re asking for. Before you write up the audition request, stop and ask yourself a few questions: Is this request reasonable? Am I expecting too much from someone who hasn’t even been hired yet? Does what I’m asking even make sense? Are these instructions clear enough?

Trying to put yourself in the position of the voice actor will not only help the voice actor, but it will help you in preparing for what you’ll receive for auditions. If you receive an inordinate number of auditions that are not what you were looking for, it might not be the fault of the voice talent.

It could be a confusing, unclear, mixed-message audition request – and all that will get you is a bunch of recordings you probably can’t use.

And probably more than a couple of swear words that won’t be very funny.

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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!

PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

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