Finally! Marketing postcards!

national-poetry-month 2016

I’m in the process of resubmitting a couple of manuscripts to new publishing houses, but I wanted to at least take a moment to celebrate National Poetry Month by sharing a project I’ve been working on this PAST month…
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It’s been a long time coming, but they’re finally here – with only a few weeks to spare, before I host a workshop at the New England SCBWI’s annual conference at the end of the month!

(click to enlarge)

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2016 Kidlit Progressive PoemDon’t forget: the 2016 Progressive Poem continues today at Penny Parker Klosterman’s little home on the web, so be sure to stop by for a few minutes and see how this year’s poem is…well, progressing!

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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 FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Poetry Friday: National Poetry Month begins!

national-poetry-month 2016

Yes, it’s National Poetry Month once again, and there’s so much going on, it’s hard to keep track of everything! There are poems and contests and interviews and all sorts of things…but first things first!

First, I’d like to share a new form I’ve been working on – which is actually an old form. A really old form…

You’ve very possibly heard of haiku, yes? If so, you probably know it consists of 3 lines with a 5-7-5 syllable count (although English-language syllables don’t exactly translate to the Japanese language, so many folks who write haiku in English eschew this rule).

Well, haiku is a relatively new Japanese form; what I’ve been practicing is a form that has been around since the 5th or 6th century AD: the sedoka.

poetryfridaybutton-fulllThe word sedoka means, roughly, “head-repeating,” and is made up of two tercets, or parts, known as katauta. Katauta – with a 5-7-7 syllable count – are rarely ever written by themselves; they are usually grouped in pairs, creating one sedoka.

The idea of “repeating” is not so much the words themselves, but the subject or feeling of the poem. In simple terms, each katauta describes the same subject, but from a different perspective; therefore, one sedoka presents two perspectives.

Here’s my example:
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West wind whips fiercely
thin strands of branches atop
lonesome beechnut’s balding dome.

In younger days, green
leaves embraced each limb – now sweet
Zephyrus betrays my age.

– © 2016 Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved
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A couple of weeks ago, I was getting my feet wet writing the Naani poetry form, and now I’m practicing ancient Japanese…you never know where, or how, inspiration will strike!

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2016 Kidlit Progressive PoemToday is also the first day of Irene Latham‘s annual progressive poem! A different writer adds a line each day, and on April 30 we’ll see how it culminates…and it all starts HERE, with Laura Purdie Salas!

You can follow the 2015 Progressive Poem at the following blog spots:

April

1 Laura at Writing the World for Kids

2 Joy at Joy Acey

3 Doraine at Dori Reads

4 Diane at Random Noodling

5 Penny at A Penny and Her Jots

6 Carol at Beyond LiteracyLink

7 Liz at Elizabeth Steinglass

8 Janet F. at Live Your Poem

9 Margaret at Reflections on the Teche

10 Pat at Writer on a Horse

11 Buffy at Buffy’s Blog

12 Michelle at Today’s Little Ditty

13 Linda at TeacherDance

14 Jone at Deo Writer

15 Matt at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme

16 Violet at Violet Nesdoly

17 Kim at Flukeprints

18 Irene at Live Your Poem

19 Charles at Charles Waters Poetry

20 Ruth at There is No Such Thing as a Godforsaken Town

21 Jan at Bookseedstudio

22 Robyn at Life on the Deckle Edge

23 Ramona at Pleasures from the Page

24 Amy at The Poem Farm

25 Mark at Jackett Writes

26 Renee at No Water River

27 Mary Lee at Poetrepository

28 Heidi at My Juicy Little Universe

29 Sheila at Sheila Renfro

30 Donna at Mainely Write

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I tend to share a lot of special posts during National Poetry Month, but this year I’m so busy, I’m keeping things lean. I’ll still have my Poetry Friday posts – and am planning to share some very special poetry by some very special young people – but other than that, I need to focus on three new picture book manuscripts I’m working on, a new poetry collection I’ve barely started, and a New England SCBWI Conference workshop I’m leading at the end of the month!

(Oh, yeah – and I have two kids I need to take care of, as well!)

If you’re wondering what other kidlit bloggers and writers are doing for this month, please check out Jama Rattigan’s list HERE, and for all of today’s Poetry Friday posts, be sure to visit Amy at The Poem Farm!

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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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To 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)Cybils-Logo-2015-Web-Sm
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Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Poetry Friday: A really big post about very little things

Once again, fellow writer/blogger Michelle H. Barnes has had a massive response to a little challenge, and I’m happy to be included among those who participated!

poetryfridaybutton-fulllEarlier this month, Michelle interviewed children’s poet and blogger (yes, we’re all bloggers!) Amy Ludwig VanDerwater about writing, inspiration, and her brand-new book, Every Day Birds (Orchard/Scholastic, 2016). Amy challenged readers to write poems about “small things.” All March long, folks have been submitting their poems…and today Michelle is sharing all of them on her blog!

Click HERE to read my poem as well as all of the poems that Michelle has received, and for all of today’s Poetry Friday links and fun, please visit Heidi Mordhorst at My Juicy Little Universe!

(Oh, and if you’re wondering what it’s like to be a stay-at-home parent trying to raise two kids while running a business AND being a children’s writer, I share a little insight in this past Tuesday’s post!)

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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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To 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)Cybils-Logo-2015-Web-Sm
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Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Learning to be happy with disappointment

Well, now…that’s a cheery title for a blog post, isn’t it?

True, it’s not as exciting and peppy and others I’ve shared, but the good news for you is, this will be shorter than usual!

My little crazy-haired girl loves her brother’s Legos, trucks, and dinosaurs!

I have been trying and trying for months now to come to terms with a new lack of time available to work – either for my voiceover business or my writing – and having finally come to the conclusion of what I need to do, I’m finding it extremely difficult to put that conclusion into practice.

You see, my 2-year-old daughter has decided naps are no longer her ‘thing’…and it’s killing me that I have now lost 2 hours each afternoon in which I used to devote time to recording, writing or marketing myself. The only time I now have for my work is at night, once my daughter and 6-year-old son are asleep. And that doesn’t leave a lot of time for much of anything else.

The stress has been getting the better of me, I hate to say. I work late now, but still wake up at 5:30am when my wife gets up for work, at which time our son usually wakes up, as well. Consequently, I’m exhausted more and have less patience with the kids – and then add in the fact I have to drive nearly an hour away once or twice every week to help my parents who are in their 80’s and having a hard time getting around – and my time is no longer my own.

I’m racing here, racing there, forcing my son to hurry up and eat his breakfast and get dressed for school, then hurry my daughter so we can leave to run errands, then try to get her to be quiet for a little while in the afternoon so I can at least check emails, then hurry up and make dinner and hurry up and get them to bed so I can hurry up and try to write…it’s absolutely exhausting.

And not just for me; I’m sure it’s exhausting for the kids, as well.

Selfishness is hard to fight

I have to admit, I have selfish reasons for wanting to work: two-and-a-half years ago, I left full-time employment to develop my voiceover business, and had a hard time building it up because, as a stay-at-home dad, so much of my time was spent raising my son.

Fortunately, I was able to write quite a bit at night, and my children’s writing career took off even stronger than my voiceover business; I started selling poems as a Lullabye covercontributor to a number of different books, and even signed my very first contract for a full-length picture book just last year.

NG Book of Nature Poetry coverSo things were really growing for me, and I wanted to maintain that momentum. I wanted to be writing more, submitting more manuscripts to publishers, and hopefully sign another contract. But now, with almost no time left to myself, I feel I’ve hit a wall.

I squeeze my recording sessions in where I can and squeeze in my writing where I can, but feeling that heavy sense of urgency when trying to write poetry (or anything, really) is counter-productive. How does one “hurry up” and write anything that’s worth reading??

My conclusion

So, as I mentioned earlier in this post, I’ve come to a conclusion that I’m having a difficult time putting into practice. And that is…

To put it in God’s hands.

You see, what we expect of ourselves is not always what God expects of us. What we expect of others is not always what God expects, either. In fact, as my wife and I were reminded this past Sunday at church, even Jesus was not the king that people were expecting at the time.

So I’m trying to remind myself that my daughter’s and son’s well-being are the most important things I should be concentrating on right now. I’ll continue to work on my voice career as time allows, and will write as time allows, but if I can’t capitalize on my publishing “momentum,” so be it. Perhaps I can capitalize on it next year.

Or perhaps I’ll manage to sell one of the 5 or 6 manuscripts I’m currently submitting.

Regardless, I need to change my way of thinking, and it’s not easy. Not easy, at all. I’d like to be a successful voice actor, a successful children’s writer, and a successful father/husband. But if it’s not possible to be all three, I know which one I need to pick.

I need to make an effort to be the person my kids, my wife, and God need me to be…not the person I want to be.

But come to think of it, that’s not entirely correct.

The person I should want to be…is the person my kids, my wife, and God need me to be. And if I can strive for that goal, all other goals can be secondary.

With that frame of mind, there’s no disappointment.

And I’m happy with that.

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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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To 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)Cybils-Logo-2015-Web-Sm
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Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Poetry Friday: practicing the Naani form

I’ve been doing some practicing lately.

poetryfridaybutton-fulllA couple of weeks ago, I came upon a relatively new form of poetry called Naani, which was created by one of India’s foremost poets, Dr. N Gopi, who hails from the Teluga region in southern India.

It’s a short form, and shares some similarities with haiku/senryu. Like the Japanese forms, Naani poetry has a set line- and syllable-count. It is a 4-line poem that usually contains a total 20-25 syllables, although I’ve come across many that are a few syllables short.

Unlike haiku, subject matter is not confined to nature, but is fairly wide open. From what I’ve read, the term ‘naani’ refers to an expression of one and all; most Naani poems touch upon emotions, relationships, and the human condition.

Like haiku/senryu, it is deceptively difficult!

As I often say, writing haiku is easy; writing good haiku is anything but. The same is true for Naani poems. The following three are my first attempts at this form, so when you read them, please keep in mind I’m a newbie! I don’t often post poems that I lack confidence in – but this is a learning exercise, so I want you to be able to see what’s happening and perhaps join in, yourself.

Naani #1

Temper, undisciplined,
sparks the forest-consuming fire;
from self-control,
green springs

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Naani #2

Laugh when you can,
dance when you want to,
smile when you should, and everyday
swallow your heart

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Naani #3

Crimson-tinged sun drops,
life floods rimy ground; the grave
shines, as we
grieve the spectacle

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– © 2016, Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

Taking a critical eye toward these, I feel the first one reads too much like a fortune cookie; the second is a bit too trite; the third I’m fairly happy with, especially because I felt I was able to use enjambment to my advantage. (By the way, if you’re wondering what “swallow your heart” means, I share that HERE) Oh, and one other characteristic about the Naani form is that the first line usually – but not always – states the subject of the poem…you’l notice I strayed from this on the second one.

I would love to see what you come up with, if you’d care to take a “Naani challenge! As I always say, #WriteLikeNoOneIsReading!

Just leave your poems in the comments, or feel free to email them to my address in the upper right, and I’ll share them here over the next few weeks. (I’d also love to find out if you can discern what that 3rd poem is about…I deliberately kept it ambiguous to hopefully allow for more than one interpretation, so I hope it worked!)

Want  more poetry? Be sure to drop by Robyn Hood Black’s blog, Life on the Deckle Edge, for all of today’s Poetry Friday links!

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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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To 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)Cybils-Logo-2015-Web-Sm
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Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Poetry Friday: “Daylight Savings in March”

poetryfridaybutton-fulllTime to set those clocks ahead! If you live in the U.S., this is the weekend to set your clocks ahead one hour, before you go to sleep Sat. night.

If, on the other hand, you live in one of the other areas around the world who participate in Daylight Savings Time, you may or may not be doing that this weekend! Different countries have all sorts of opinions on when it starts, when it ends, and how long it lasts – which makes me think it would be easier for everyone if we just did away with the whole thing. Do you have an opinion on it?

Daylight Savings in March

A good night’s sleep,
my strength,
willpower…
I lose much more
than just an hour.

– © 2016 Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

My poet friend Irene Latham is hosting Poetry Friday today at Live Your Poem, so be sure to visit for all of the day’s poetry links and fun!

If you missed my interview with her and my review of her new book, you can find that HERE – and I also hope you’ll take some time to check out my blog post from this past Tuesday, on how poems, commercials, and novels are ultimately the same things…really!

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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!
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 twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)Cybils-Logo-2015-Web-Sm
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Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

“A story’s a story, no matter how small”

HortonWith apologies to Dr. Seuss, his book Horton Hears a Who gave me an idea for today’s blog post. In the book, we are reminded that “a person’s a person, no matter how small” – but as I was thinking about some of the questions people ask me about my two careers, I realized that writing can also be summed up in this way.

Believe it or not, whether it’s a radio commercial script, a poem, or a picture book (or even a novel, for those of you with longer attention spans than Yours Truly), there are many similarities between them…

Let’s start at the beginning

I’ve written about this before, but it bears repeating: the first line is possibly the most important line you will write.

At his seminars and workshops, radio advertising guru Dan O’Day has stated for years that the first line of a commercial is the “commercial for the commercial.” In other words, the first sentence of a commercial needs to garner enough attention and interest to compel the listener to continue listening and not zone out or – worse – change the channel.

The first line of a poem or book acts in much the same way. It sets up a story, it pulls the reader in, it connects on an emotional level. And not only does the opening draw the reader into the story, it is often the deciding factor on whether or not a consumer purchases said book.

There’s a reason we tend to remember the first lines of books (“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”) and poems (“Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary”) even if we don’t recall exactly what comes next.

If the first line isn’t compelling, you won’t get anyone past it. And guess what?

The rest of it needs to be compelling, as well!

And then something happened…

The next step is to develop the story by connecting with the reader (or listener) on that emotional level I mentioned. I don’t mean “emotional” as in tear-jerking, chest-clutching, drop-to-your-knees kind of emotion (although it could be)…I simply mean the story and character need to touch the reader or listener in such a way as to stir empathy.

This can be done through imagery, dialogue, word choice, and even humor. If I’m going to write a commercial for a florist, I may choose to set a scene with a husband who wants to surprise his wife for her birthday. If I’m writing a poem about a child playing at a park, I may decide to not let him/her have any playmates, which – while sad – is completely relatable to both kids and adults.

Whatever I do, I want the reader to not feel disappointed he/she continued listening past the first line!

“So, what’s the problem?”

There needs to be some tension, whether it’s through a problem that has been presented or simply through the imagery being described. Maybe your main character has tried fixing that leak in the bathroom and now it’s flooding. Perhaps two lovers are feeling unsure of the next step in their relationship.

Or maybe the old tree in the backyard needs to be taken down, but its bark still bears the scars of think rope once used for swinging.

And did you notice that any one of these scenarios could be used for any genre of writing? The bathroom leaking could be a plumbing commercial, but it might also be ID-100227497 (tree)a short story. The story of the lovers sounds like a poem, but it could be a commercial for a dating service, a jewelry store, or even a condom manufacturer!

That old tree could be the main character in a commercial for tree-cutting services, a metaphorical poem about old age and memory, or a novel about a family coming to terms with its members’ mortality. A story’s a story, after all.

The only place problems get solved

…is in commercials.

This is where the genres split. While a poem, novel, or picture book can conclude in all sorts of satisfying ways, commercials need a solution; it’s why they exist, isn’t it? The whole point of a commercial is to show how problems can be solved.

Other stories can veer off into strange paths: a problem may get solved, only to present another problem; a problem may get solved in such as way as to leave the reader wondering if it really was solved; or it may not get solved at all!

But commercials that don’t solve problems are few and far between.

Don’t take my word for it…

Test out my theory the next time you hear a radio commercial (TV commercials I find too visual for this exercise). Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is the first line or two compelling? Is it truly the “commercial for the commercial?” Do they draw me in and make me want to continue listening?
  • Is the premise/problem believable? Is the dialogue natural? Does this “feel” real?
  • Can I relate to the character, premise, or problem that has been presented? Do I feel empathetic to these folks’ plights?
  • If I can’t relate, it is reasonable to assume that there are people out there who can relate to it? (I may not smoke, but there are people who do; I may not own a pet snake, but there are people who do; I may not be a woman, but there are plenty out there.)
  • Is the conclusion satisfying? Was a problem solved – believably?
  • Is this compelling? If not, why?

And by the way…those are the same questions you can ask yourself, once you’ve finished writing your poem, picture book, short story, or novel!

A story’s a story, no matter how small.

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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!
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 twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)Cybils-Logo-2015-Web-Sm
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Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!