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

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

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

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

Reposted it here!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s the poem.

The Bower Bird

No fancy feathers,

to attract a mate,

first  he builds

then decorates

his bower.

How carefully

he constructs

the walls.

(The halls

he fills

with flowers.)

And how anxiously 

he arranges

the bright  tokens

he collects.

O pity then

the bower bird.

Nature’s fussy,

lovesick architect.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I’m now a part of the BOOKROO family!

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Create an account to add books to wishlists and be notified of special deals and dates…create custom collections…and discover and follow your favorite authors & illustrators!

Find out more about BOOKROO here!

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Talkabook is setting out to inspire children by connecting them with authors and illustrators! Click here to view my profile and learn more!

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

I continue adding to my “Wit & Wordplay” videos ! These videos were created for parents and educators (along with their kids) to learn how to write poetry, appreciate it, and have fun with it. From alliteration and iambs to free verse and spine poetry, I’m pretty sure there’s something in these videos you’ll find surprising! You can view them all on my YouTube channel, and if you have young kids looking for something to keep busy with, I also have several downloadable activity sheets at my website.

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

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

You can purchase personally-signed copies of Flashlight Night, (Boyds Mills Press, 2017), Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (Pow! Kids Books, 2018)and nearly EVERY book or anthology I’ve been part of!

Click any of the following covers to order!

Just click the cover of whichever book you want and send a comment to the good folks at MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH requesting my signature and to whom I should make it out. (alternatively, you can log onto my website and do the same thing) They’ll contact me, I’ll stop by and sign it, and then they’ll ship it! (Plus, you’ll be supporting your local bookseller – and won’t that make you feel good?)

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Thank you to everyone for your support!

FLASHLIGHT NIGHT:

DON’T ASK A DINOSAUR:

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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!

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

Happy #BookBirthday, Elliot!

He’s a little froggy who’s been waiting to jump out of the pond!

All images @ 2021 Rainstorm Publishing / Kidsbooks Publishing, LLC, all rights reserved

Elliot the Heart-Shaped Frog (Rainstorm Publishing) has finally arrived and is in stores everywhere!

A color/shape primer disguised in a Goldilocks-like tale, Elliot features a little green hero who used to be a tadpole, but now no longer needs to live underwater – so he leaves his pond in search of a perfect new home! Anna Kubaszewska did a fantastic job of creating bright, bold illustrations that include lots of little details to keep little ones’ attentions. They’ll love counting all the bugs, butterflies, and other pond dwellers!

(click to enlarge)

Did you know that there are two other authors I have to thank for helping Elliot see the light of day?

A little backstory to Elliot: the story first came about after I had posted a photo on Facebook of a tiny spring peeper who had decided he wanted to hang out on our front door one April evening, way back in 2014.

Look closely at that bottom pane!

I was intrigued not only by his apparent disdain for a normal home in the pond, but also by the shape of his body. (and his nonchalance of being stared at by everyone in the house)

A number of folks commented on the photo, but one commenter in particular was my friend and Once Upon Another Time co-author, Charles Ghigna (aka, Father Goose®), who suggested I write a book about “the heart-shaped frog.”

So I did!

Now, keep in mind, this was 2014…SIX years ago! I began subbing it, but since it was a board book written by a guy with no agent, my options for finding a publishing home were limited. Eventually, though, after 8 rejections, the folks at Rainstorm Publishing contacted me to let me know they loved the story and wanted to purchase it!

See? Heart-shaped!

Oh, by the way…the second author to whom I’m grateful? My friend and neighbor, David Elliott, who is also my little green buddy’s namesake – although I dropped one of David’s “t”s because I felt it looked cleaner for a board book title. (no offense, David!)

We met about 10 years or so ago, and when it came time to give my main character a name, David’s last name popped into my head and I just loved the sound of it as a first name.

And as I mentioned this past Friday, the book contains two “firsts” for me: it’s a board book, which I’ve never published before, and it’s also the first and only book I’ve ever had published in prose. Eleven books to my name, either out or under contract – and they all rhyme, except for Elliot!

If you’re interested in picking up a copy, I encourage you to order through our independent bookstore here in town, MainStreet BookEnds. Not only will you be helping out a small, local business, but you can request that the book (or nearly ANY of my books) be personally-signed! Books are wonderful gifts in their own right – but a book signed by an author or illustrator directly to the recipient is a truly unique gift that will be treasured.

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Coming March 2, 2021!

Contrasting the past with the present, this picture book takes you through a lyrical exploration of the world as it was before humans made their mark.

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I’m now a part of the BOOKROO family!

Children's Book Subscription: Bookroo - Sincerely Stacie

You can create an account to add books to wishlists and be notified of special deals and dates…create custom collections…and discover and follow your favorite authors & illustrators!

Find out more about BOOKROO here!

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

Talkabook is setting out to inspire children by connecting them with authors and illustrators! Click here to view my profile and learn more!

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

I continue adding to my “Wit & Wordplay” videos ! These videos were created for parents and educators (along with their kids) to learn how to write poetry, appreciate it, and have fun with it. From alliteration and iambs to free verse and spine poetry, I’m pretty sure there’s something in these videos you’ll find surprising! You can view them all on my YouTube channel, and if you have young kids looking for something to keep busy with, I also have several downloadable activity sheets at my website.

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

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

You can purchase 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!

Click any of the following covers to order!

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!

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!

Halloween picture books and “Flashlight Night”

All images @ 2017 Boyds Mills & Kane, all rights reserved

When I first began writing the rough draft of Flashlight Night (Boyds Mills & Kane, 2017), I had no idea what it was. A poem? Picture book? Something else?

It was only once I was about halfway through that I realized I was writing a picture book, and at that point I started making specific decisions about the narrative and pacing. Flashlight, as it was tentatively titled, was going to be bedtime-adventure book told in the second person…a genre and point of view in which few children’s books are written.

I had no idea what to expect.

Much to my surprise, editor Rebecca Davis (at what was Boyds Mills Press at the time) loved what I wrote and offered me my first picture book contract! It was January 2015. Two and a half years later, Flashlight Night made its debut and continues to do well, with parents and bloggers still discovering the book and sharing their positive thoughts about it.

And while I never thought of it as a “Halloween” book, per se, apparently a lot of other folks do! Numerous bloggers and reviewers have been sharing lists of books they feel are perfect for Halloween reading – and I have to say, I’m both surprised and humbled to see my little book showing up beside books written by such authors as Neil Gaiman, Dr. Seuss, Aaron Reynolds, my good friends Charles Ghigna and Patricia Toht, and others.

So, if you’re looking for some Halloween/October-themed books for your little ones, here are a few suggestions:

Thank you so much to all these individuals and groups for sharing their love of reading with the world.

And many thanks to YOU, dear reader, for all your support!

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

I’m now a part of the BOOKROO family!

Children's Book Subscription: Bookroo - Sincerely Stacie

You can create an account to add books to wishlists and be notified of special deals and dates…create custom collections…and discover and follow your favorite authors & illustrators!

Find out more about BOOKROO here!

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

Talkabook is setting out to inspire children by connecting them with authors and illustrators! Click here to view my profile and learn more!

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

I’ve teamed up with several children’s authors to promote our upcoming books this year – and there are a LOT of them! Here’s what you can look forward to seeing this month.

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Coming March 2, 2021! Pre-orders are available!

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

I continue adding to my “Wit & Wordplay” videos ! These videos were created for parents and educators (along with their kids) to learn how to write poetry, appreciate it, and have fun with it. From alliteration and iambs to free verse and spine poetry, I’m pretty sure there’s something in these videos you’ll find surprising! You can view them all on my YouTube channel, and if you have young kids looking for something to keep busy with, I also have several downloadable activity sheets at my website.

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

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

You can purchase 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!

Click any of the following covers to order!

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 virtual poetry chat courtesy of CLiF!

Normally, I share a poem on Poetry Friday.

Today, I’m sharing several!

It’s been a busy month for me; lots of inspiration from this week’s #KidLitZombieWeek, a possible connection made via #PBPitch last week, significant progress on a project I signed a contract for last month, and then Father’s Day this past Sunday AND my birthday this week…whew! So when I was thinking about what to post for today, I remembered I had yet to share a special video I  had been meaning to post for the past few weeks.

About a month ago, I spotlighted a poetry collection created by the Colebrook, NH Public Library’s Youth Librarian; Melissa Hall had worked with the teachers and students of Colebrook’s school district to pull together student’s poems about their town in celebration of Colebrook’s 250th anniversary this year.

The non-profit organization that helped Melissa was the Children’s Literacy Foundation (CLiF), which connected us; I visited the school and shared poetry with the students, then helped them create their poems which ended up in the book.

The reason I’m reminding you of this is because earlier this month CLiF invited me to take part in their Virtual Storytelling Series, a series of live videos that allowed local authors to visit with students and families throughout the Vermont/New Hampshire area. They wanted to conclude the series with some poetry as well as some insight on craft…and apparently, I was the man for the job!

I hope you enjoy the video! If you know a group of students or school district that might be interested in holding a virtual author visit like this, please let me know – and if you are in the NH-VT area and would like more info about the wonderful things CLiF does, be sure to check out their website and contact them. They have a  huge list of presenters, including my friends Deb Bruss (co-author of Don’t Ask a Dinosaur), Marty Kelly, Jo Knowles, Erin Moulton, and Kathy Brodsky, as well as other local folks like Steve Swinburne, Gina Perry, Jason Chin, Jim Arnosky, Sandra Neil Wallace, and many more!

Today’s Poetry Friday roundup is at Karen Eastlund’s blog, Karen’s Got a Blog! (creative title, yes?) so for all of today’s poetry links and fun, be sure to visit her and say hi!

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I continue adding to my “Wit & Wordplay” videos ! These videos were created for parents and educators (along with their kids) to learn how to write poetry, appreciate it, and have fun with it. From alliteration and iambs to free verse and spine poetry, I’m pretty sure there’s something in these videos you’ll find surprising! You can view them all on my YouTube channel, and if you have young kids looking for something to keep busy with, I also have several downloadable activity sheets at my website.

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What is Talkabook? Details coming soon!

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Looking for a complete list of all the poetry coming out this year for young people? Then visit Sylvia Vardell’s blog! Also, I’ve teamed up with several other children’s authors to promote our upcoming books this year – and there are a LOT of them!

 

Coming Spring 2021! Pre-orders are available:
.
=========================================================

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!

The power of Nature: a 10-year-old’s outdoor guided meditation

A few days ago, I decided to pack a picnic lunch for my two kids and head down to the back of our property to eat. With both of them in the middle of this new ‘remote learning’ thanks to the coronavirus, I pretty much spend the majority of my days now helping them with their work, so I needed the break as much as they did!

After enjoying the food and fresh air, my son asked to borrow my phone because he wanted to make a video. So I handed it to him and asked him to please, please, please not from it into the brook;  as a future filmmaker, he needs as much practice as he can, of course.

He did his thing while I kept an eye on his 6-year-old sister and never even saw what he filmed until the next day – and I was stunned. For someone his age speaking extemporaneously like this, I thought he did a fantastic job; I know I certainly felt better after watching it, so I thought it might do the same for you, too:

 

By the way, if you haven’t entered my drawing to win a copy of Vikram Madan’s new children’s poetry collection, A Hatful of Dragons (Wordsong), you only have a  few days left! I’ll be picking one name at random this Thursday evening, so check out the link and leave a comment to enter!

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My “Wit & Wordplay” videos, as I call them, are available on my YouTube channel – and more are on the way! Created to help educators and parents , these videos focus on how to write poetry, how to appreciate it, and how to have 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!

“Once Upon Another Time” cover reveal!!

Today’s the day!

Once Upon Another Time (Beaming Books, 2020) is my new picture book written with Charles Ghigna (aka, Father Goose®) – and the talented and inimitable Tara Lazar is hosting the official cover reveal on her blog! Tara’s been busy with Storystorm all January and will be announcing winners this week – so I’m extremely honored that she was willing to share our “baby pictures” (courtesy of illustrator Andrés F. Landazábal) with the world today.

Click HERE to visit Tara’s blog!

(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…

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

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!

Popular vulgarity, treasure maps, and the invincibility of youth: Observations from the state fair , Vol. VIII

Ah, yes, it’s that time of year again: fair season!

As the official PA announcer for our local state fair, I learn a great deal about life, the world around us, and overly-fattening foods, and try to share these little nuggets of wisdom with you each year. In past blog posts, I’ve shared various enlightening aspects of the fair, from pet camels and poop hats to dinosaur costumes and battered savs. This year, a whole slate of new, surprising things:

  1.  Ice cream’s earliest beginnings date back to pre-Christianity.

    (click to enlarge)

    The fact that both Alexander the Great and Nero Caesar enjoyed a frozen treat now and then somehow imbues their histories with a tad more humanity, don’t you think? I can just imagine the two of them walking down the pathways at the fair, sharing a funnel cake, arguing over whether Hawaiian Ice is superior to a Sno-cone. (It is, in case you’re wondering)

  2. When you spend 4 days doing nothing but walking and talking, your legs will eventually start crying ‘Uncle.’ My wife checked my phone’s Health app at the end of my first day, Friday, and discovered I’d walked 25,000 steps – or, in other words, NINE MILES. In just the first day. Consequently, I ate as much fair food as I wanted and after four days, I had a net weight gain of zero. Score one for the Fried Oreos.
  3. No treasure map is worth this much trouble. The Pirates of the Colombian Caribbean Aerial High Wire Thrill Show balanced and battled atop the high wire, sword-fighting and jumping around, each trying to steal the map from the other. I would’ve said, “Oh, THAT map? The one 50 feet in the air? It’s all yours, my friend, I’m good.”
  4. Accept what is offered to you. This is doubly true when talking about fried dough.

    “All toppings are included in the price, sir.” “In that case, I will take all the toppings, thank you.”
  5. All teenagers believe they are invincible; some, apparently, are. A long-standing tradition here at the fair is the demolition derby, a two-day event that runs both Sat. and Sun. evenings. Contrary to what you may think, there is a great deal of strategy and skill required for driving, and a solid knowledge of how to put the cars together in such a way that they hold together as long as they can while getting smashed to pieces. (One also needs to know how to put them BACK together in time to run a second round!)
    .
    This past weekend, a young fellow who knew his way around cars decided to enter the derby for the very first time. He put his car together according

    You’ve got to admit, that front end looks pretty good, considering it went through TWO heats.

    to all the rules and regulations regarding weight, welds, tire specs, etc., and drove the thing himself. His family and friends teased him a little beforehand, knowing he’d never been in a derby before and knowing he was going up against veteran drivers and crews who had been doing this for 20+ years.

    He beat them all, and took home $2000 and a trophy the size of a small child. Oh, and did I mention he’s only 16 years old?

  6. I want to be a Transformer when I grow up. Or a tree. 
  7. Am I the only one who doesn’t understand why vulgarity is so popular? Everywhere I turned, it seemed, I was being bombarded with T-shirts containing words that start with “F.” I’m all for free speech and free expression, but what kind of thought process goes on inside the brain of someone who decides the very best thing they should wear out in public, in front of hundreds of little children, is a shirt emblazoned with ‘that’ word on it? I mean, I’m not a prude and I’m not trying to censor anyone…but seriously, can’t people censor themselves??
  8. It may be a fun, family-friendly event, but tension can sometimes run high. When I saw this scene up in the grandstand tower, all I could think of was that Willy Wonka quote…

    “The suspense is terrible. I hope it’ll last.”
  9. One can microwave an i-phone for 20 seconds without causing any adverse effects. This was something I inadvertently learned after I had come home from the fair on the third night. I was holding a freshly-made sausage sub, several papers, my sunglasses, and my cellphone all together and needed to set them down. I certainly didn’t want one of the dogs to eat my dinner off the kitchen counter, so I set the sub down in the microwave, since I was going to need to warm it up a bit, and put my papers and glasses aside for tomorrow.
    .
    I turned the microwave on for 20 seconds and when it beeped, I opened up the door – and stared in absolute horror. There, underneath the sub, was my cellphone! In my haste, I’d left it there…and had no idea what to expect. It was a bit hot, and I worried (I wouldn’t say I panicked, really, even though “panicked” is absolutely the most precise word to use) that it was a lost cause and had gone to that great Apple orchard in the sky. But I pressed the button, it turned on, and has been working fine since! Not only that, but the sub was just the right temperature, so it turned out to be a happy ending for all involved. And by “all,” I mean me.

I can’t believe I’ve been announcing for 10 years now, and I still find new things that surprise and astound me. Have you ever been surprised at something you witnessed at the local fair? I’d love to hear about it – leave me a comment!

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

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 for you, and then they’ll ship it. Try doing that with those big online booksellers! (Plus, you’ll be helping to support local book-selling – and wouldn’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!

 

On Dream-Chasing and Mistake-Making: Nuggets of Wisdom from #NESCBWI19

Image may contain: text

Well, another New England SCBWI Regional Conference has wrapped up, and once again, I’ve brought home impressive amounts of inspiration, enlightenment, and sleep deprivation. Remember when you used to pull all-nighters in college, and now you look back on those days wondering how you ever managed? That’s almost what a conference weekend is like; up at 7am, in bed at 1am, repeat.

In the past, I’ve shared the importance of casting wide nets, what it means to “swallow your heart,” and paying attention to the cost of scallops. This year’s conference was no less inspiring! So here, in no particular order, are a few of the highlights:

  1. Losing one of one’s senses heightens the others. We’ve all heard this, but author Patricia MacLaughlin shared her personal struggle with macular degeneration, which has caused her eyesight to deteriorate to the point where she is now nearly blind. In her estimation, blindness has made her a better writer because, in her words, “I see my childhood better now.
  2. “Value the process, not the product.” – Jane Yolen
  3. Characters are defined by their mistakes. Or, more specifically, says

    Yours Truly with Sudipta. I’m the one on the left.

    author Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen, they are defined by the kinds of mistakes they make. Just like us humans, we make foolish mistakes, rash decisions, and well-thought out plans that go awry. It’s important to think about this when developing your own characters.

  4. “Sometimes we chase the dream and sometimes the dream chases us.” Keynote speaker Ekua Holmes
  5. First drafts are supposed to be terrible. And often are! Saturday morning’s keynote speaker was novelist Lynda Mullaly Hunt, who spoke about honesty in one’s writing and how it doesn’t always come easy – and sometimes drastic measures are necessary to set things aright. She said that she had just completed the final version of her new novel, Shouting at the Rain when she realized she didn’t like it. What did she do? She deleted the entire manuscript, a mere two weeks before it was due! She said she needed to rewrite the entire thing, which she did – because although the deleted version was fine, “who wants a ‘fine’ book?” she said. The new, completely revamped version was what ended up getting published.
  6. “We are not made by our mistakes. We are made by what we do about them” – Lynda Mullaly Hunt (There are those darned mistakes again!)
  7. Seeing my books scroll along on the big screen never gets old. Next year: FOUR books on the ol’ PowerPoint!
  8. Strong picture book manuscripts have specific qualities that editors look for. This goes without saying, of course, but agent Rachel Orr of the Prospect Agency shared a few of the things she looks for in a picture book manuscript: unique voice, fresh story/approach, solid theme, strong marketability, and emotional resonance. I’m definitely keeping these things in mind as I move forward with my projects!
  9. From L: Alex Hinrichs, Heidi E.Y. Stemple, me, Miranda Levin

    “Childhood is the pattern from which the man and woman is built.” – Ekua Holmes

  10. Discussing the virtues of rhyming text with an editor is an enlightening experience. I had the opportunity to discuss rhyme with Ripple Grove Press editor Rob Broder, who goes to great lengths on the company’s website to dissuade people from writing bad rhyming text. He sees so much bad rhyme, he tends to stay away from all rhyme completely, and of course, I – as someone who writes primarily in rhyme and sees tons of bad rhymes – couldn’t fault him.
  11. “The things we are ashamed of make for very good writing” – Lynda Mullaly Hunt
  12. There were no Muffins of Deception this year. I know not everyone places as much weight on something like this as I do, but it was a nice change of pace, nonetheless. You see, every year during the continental breakfasts, there are always a few dark muffins waiting patiently for some poor, unsuspecting soul to grab them, thinking they are chocolate; it is only once that individual sits down at their table in the ballroom and takes a bite that they realize these are not delicious chocolate but are, in fact, evil bran. This year, we experienced the freedom that comes from not worrying about such a horrible surprise.
  13. “Making books is a joyful thing. Even the hard parts. Even then.” —Jane Yolen

If I was to share every little piece of wisdom gleaned from this year’s conference, it would take me a week to get this blog post put together, so I’ll wrap it up with my friend Jane’s quote. Making books is, indeed, joyful – the hard parts, and all the parts.

Thank you for following my journey, and get ready for some big announcements in the months ahead!

From L: Poppy Parfomak, me, Colleen Murphy, Maria Marshall, Vivian Kirkfield

From Lynda Mullaly Hunt’s keynote address.

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

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


  Coming July 2, 2019!

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 for you, and then they’ll ship it. Try doing that with those big online booksellers! (Plus, you’ll be helping to support local book-selling – and wouldn’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: Practicing the Sedoka

I was doing research on haiku and other forms of Japanese poetry recently when I came upon the sedoka – a very, very early poetic form. Although the sedoka is rarely seen these days, it’s been around since Japan was still using Chinese characters in their written language! I had played around with the form a few years ago,but had forgotten about it until now – so I’m grateful for this ‘accidental’ inspiration.

Rather than getting into a long explanation of what a sedoka is, I invite you to visit THIS LINK to learn more. Simply put, a sedoka is made up of two tercets (3-line stanzas) which ‘converse’ with each other; that is, the first sets up a scene and the second responds to it by connecting the reader to an emotion. In this way, a sedoka is sort of a cross between a haiku and senryu – although both of those forms are much, much more recent creations than the sedoka.

The form intrigued me, not only because of this blending of nature with human emotion, but because it allows the writer a bit more room to work than a haiku or senryu. (The sedoka has a syllable count of 5-7-7, which is similar to these, but because Japanese “syllables” are not the same as those in the English language, one need not adhere strictly to this rule)

So after some thought, some scribbling, and more than a revision or two, I present my first sedoka:

(click to enlarge)

Probably not the best sedoka ever written – certainly not on par with Kakinomoto Hitomaro, the Master of the sedoka – but I’m happy with it as a first try!

Looking for more poetry? My friend Amy at The Poem Farm is hosting Poetry Friday today! And if you’ve not yet entered my drawing for a free copy of Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (POW! Kids Books, 2018), be sure to check out this past Tuesday’s post! I’m celebrating Dinosaur‘s one-year birthday with a look at the most common questions we get from kids and teachers, so I hope you’ll leave a comment to be entered!

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The 2019 Kidlitosphere Progressive Poem continues! Each day during April (National Poetry Month), a different writer/ blogger adds a new line to the poem until it concludes April 30. You can follow along at the sites listed below.

2019 Progressive Poem schedule:

April

1 Matt @Radio, Rhythm and Rhyme
2 Kat @Kathryn Apel
3 Kimberly @KimberlyHutmacherWrites
4 Jone @DeoWriter
5 Linda @TeacherDance
6 Tara @Going to Walden
7 Ruth @thereisnosuchthingasagodforsakentown
8 Mary Lee @A Year of Reading
9 Rebecca @Rebecca Herzog
10 Janet F. @Live Your Poem
11 Dani @Doing the Work that Matters
12 Margaret @Reflections on the Teche
13 Doraine @Dori Reads
14 Christie @Wondering and Wandering
15 Robyn @Life on the Deckle Edge
16 Carol @Beyond LiteracyLink
17 Amy @The Poem Farm
18 Linda @A Word Edgewise
19 Heidi @my juicy little universe
20 Buffy @Buffy’s Blog
21 Michelle @Michelle Kogan
22 Catherine @Reading to the Core
23 Penny @a penny and her jots
24 Tabatha @The Opposite of Indifference
25 Jan @Bookseestudio
26 Linda @Write Time
27 Sheila @Sheila Renfro
28 Liz @Elizabeth Steinglass
29 Irene @Live Your Poem
30 Donna @Mainely Write

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

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


  Coming July 2, 2019!

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 for you, and then they’ll ship it. Try doing that with those big online booksellers! (Plus, you’ll be helping to support local book-selling – and wouldn’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!

“Don’t Ask a Dinosaur” turns one year old! (w/GIVEAWAY!)

It’s hard for me to believe, but my second picture book, Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (POW! Kids Books, 2018), turns one year old today!

From our national book launch at Porter Square Books in Cambridge, MA! (Cake courtesy of my step-daughter, Jess Corsetti)

Yes, it’s been 365 days since my co-author Deborah Bruss and I unleashed these wild and silly creatures on the world, and we’re so happy, we’re celebrating by offering YOU a gift! (More on that later.)

Deb, illustrator Louie Chin, and I all thought that it might be fun to share with you some of the questions we receive when doing school visits and book signings. We shared our most common questions with each other…then answered them all! So here we go:

What’s your favorite Dinosaur?
LOUIE:  My favorite dinosaur is the T-Rex! I even spent some time at KidLitTV in New York City and KidLit TVshared my process for drawing a T-Rex just like the one in the book – so if you’ve got kids who want to learn, I hope they’ll check out the ReadySetDraw! video.
.
DEB:  Deinocheirus used to be my favorite (anyone with a talent like balancing a spoon on your nose has to be awesome!) but I have a new favorite now:  Zuul! Never heard of him? It’s a newly-discovered species! With a cool name, a shovel for a mouth, and a wrecking-ball tail, I can’t resist! (Besides, it’s easy to pronounce)

MATT:  I have two favorites; one is in the book, the other isn’t. I love Therezinosaurus because he’s so unusual – with the longest claws of any dinosaur (up to 3 feet!), a giant pelvis designed for prolonged sitting (you can’t make this up), a bird-like beak, his skeleton has been described as being “assembled by a drunken sailor who got quite confused.” My other favorite is Quetzalcoatlus, one of the largest flying creatures of all time. Approximately the same size as a small Cessna aircraft and named after the Aztec serpent god, Quetzalcoatlus is just too cool for words!

(click to enlarge)

How long does it take to write/illustrate a picture book or poem?
DEB:  I’ve never had a poem published, so that I don’t know. If I could write a poem worthy of being published, it would probably take me 50 years. For a picture book, anywhere from 6 months to many years. The original idea for Don’t Ask A Dinosaur sprouted in 1997, except the animals were current day creatures such as porcupine, moose and elephant.

MATT:  I always respond by saying, “as long as it takes” – which is honestly NOT a cop-out answer! Dinosaur went through 20 revisions before we started sending the manuscript out to potential publishers, yet a board book I have coming out next year was written in one evening, revised a few times, and was accepted. You just can’t ever tell!

LOUIE:  It takes a long time to illustrate a picture book. From the first sketches to the finished artwork, it can take almost half a year!

How did you decide which dinosaurs to include?

Some of Louie’s early sketches!

DEB:  When I exchanged contemporary animals for dinosaurs, I picked ones that were fairly common and had strange attributes. Matt, the dinosaur buff, dug around for the weirdest ones, some of which were recent discoveries.

MATT:  We wanted a good mix of dinos – some well-known favorites, some brand-new species – but they all needed exceptional, distinguishing characteristics. There were several dinosaurs and early reptiles we initially included that didn’t make the final cut, like Anchicertops, Spinosaurus, Microraptor, Archelon, and a few others.

Was it hard working together? Were there any problems?
LOUIE:  Working together was easy!
.
DEB:  I also found it easy to work with someone – that someone being Matt – because feedback was fairly quick and to the point. The only problem was when Matt’s enthusiasm for the latest and coolest dinosaur bubbled over late at night and he had to wait until morning for my opinion. At least, I imagine that’s what happened.

MATT:  Actually, I think the only “problem” (if you can call it that) was that by the 17th or 18 revision, we both started over-thinking things and began adding in lines or rhymes that we’d previously taken out – ha! Once a writer gets to that point, you know it’s time to give it a rest.

How involved were you with the illustrations?
DEB:  I think our situation was fairly unusual. The editor sought our opinion on illustrative styles.
MATT:  We did have a bit of a say as to how things were going, but Louie pretty much did his own thing, and we were very happy with it!
.
LOUIE:  There wasn’t a lot of communication directly. Most of it was relayed through the editor.
.

No, Lioplurodon is not really a dinosaur, by definition – but he was just too fun to leave out! (click to enlarge)

.
Why are there are no flying dinosaurs in the book?
DEB:  Good question! Matt, what do you have to say?

MATT: Technically, the flying reptiles known as pterosaurs (including my buddy, Quetzalcoatlus) were not true dinosaurs. Neither was Lioplurodon, either – but somehow he managed to stay. I’m guessing it’s because he was making cake, and everyone loves cake.

What’s the most memorable question you’ve been asked?
LOUIE:  I can’t recall a question that stood out, but it’s a lot of fun hearing all the dinosaur facts and stories from the children.
.
DEB:  After reading to a bunch of four-year-olds, I asked, “Does anyone have a question for me?”
Child #1: “I have a crystal.”  
Child #2: “I do, too!”  
Child #3: “Me, too.”

MATT:  When I’m speaking at schools, I usually mention that being a kid is way more fun than being a grown-up because people ask kids questions like, “what’s your favorite dinosaur?” but no one ever asks ME that – it’s like they don’t even care! A student will invariably shout out, “Well, what’s YOUR favorite dinosaur??” To which I respond my thanking him/her and announcing Quetzalcoatlus. (and you know what? There’s always at least one student who goes, “YESSS!!”)

Now that the book is out, do you have any questions about it? 
DEB:  I want to know, how do all those dinosaurs fit inside a house?
.
MATT:  I’m wondering if those dinosaurs that were outside, like Ankylosaurus and Argentinosaurus, ever got any cake.
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LOUIE: I’d like to know what other wild things other dinosaurs not in the book would do, if they were invited to a birthday!
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READY TO WIN A FREE COPY??

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Just leave a comment below, and you’ll be entered to win! I’ll announce the winner on Poetry Friday, April 26, so you’ve got a week and a half to tell your friends and ask them to enter, too. Good luck…and thank you for your support!

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The 2019 Kidlitosphere Progressive Poem continues! Each day during April (National Poetry Month), a different writer/ blogger adds a new line to the poem until it concludes April 30. You can follow along at the sites listed below.

2019 Progressive Poem schedule:

April

1 Matt @Radio, Rhythm and Rhyme
2 Kat @Kathryn Apel
3 Kimberly @KimberlyHutmacherWrites
4 Jone @DeoWriter
5 Linda @TeacherDance
6 Tara @Going to Walden
7 Ruth @thereisnosuchthingasagodforsakentown
8 Mary Lee @A Year of Reading
9 Rebecca @Rebecca Herzog
10 Janet F. @Live Your Poem
11 Dani @Doing the Work that Matters
12 Margaret @Reflections on the Teche
13 Doraine @Dori Reads
14 Christie @Wondering and Wandering
15 Robyn @Life on the Deckle Edge
16 Carol @Beyond LiteracyLink
17 Amy @The Poem Farm
18 Linda @A Word Edgewise
19 Heidi @my juicy little universe
20 Buffy @Buffy’s Blog
21 Michelle @Michelle Kogan
22 Catherine @Reading to the Core
23 Penny @a penny and her jots
24 Tabatha @The Opposite of Indifference
25 Jan @Bookseestudio
26 Linda @Write Time
27 Sheila @Sheila Renfro
28 Liz @Elizabeth Steinglass
29 Irene @Live Your Poem
30 Donna @Mainely Write

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


  Coming July 2, 2019!

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 for you, and then they’ll ship it. Try doing that with those big online booksellers! (Plus, you’ll be helping to support local book-selling – and wouldn’t that make you feel good?)

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Thank you to everyone for your support!

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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!

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Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter Facebook, InstagramPinterest, and SoundCloud!