The importance of avoiding luck

I have a confession: I hate the game of Monopoly.

Actually, I don’t hate the game itself – I just hate playing it. I used to like it, when I was a kid: all the property I got to amass, the colorful cards I got to collect, the buildings I could put up.

And truth be told, all that money-changing was pretty good math practice.

But here’s the problem: I rarely won. And it’s not that I’m a sore loser or anything. It’s just that no matter what I did or how I tried to play the game, a single roll of the dice would inevitably upend my entire game – and I became frustrated.

As an adult, I now realize that for all its real-life street references and corporate wheeling-dealing…Monopoly is ultimately a game of chance.

And when it comes to relying on luck, I suck.

Talent can be learned, skill can be developed

If it’s an endeavor that requires skill – whether it’s Trivial Pursuit, soccer, or writing – I have no problems. I can learn, I can develop, I can compete…and hopefully succeed a few times. Even card games like poker or rummy, which are based on the luck of the draw, require at least some skill in determining how to play each hand.

I’m ok with that.

My problem is having to rely on pure luck to help me win. If I have to do that, I lose, every time.

Let’s see if we can find a common theme, shall we?

1) When I first began doing voiceover work, I learned about the industry through attending workshops, corresponding via LinkedIn groups, and connecting with others already ID-10084724 (Mic)in the business. I paid attention to how I was delivering lines and would redo them if I felt they weren’t exactly right. I set up a website and began marketing myself.

I would audition and audition and audition, and continually try to get better and better. After a few years of doing small gigs, I eventually got to the point where I was providing voice work for places like HBO Comedy, Muzak, and Symantec.

2) When I decided to make a concerted effort to go beyond my adult poetry and become a published children’s writer, I looked around for information on how to make that happen.  A friend suggested joining an SCBWI (Society of Children’s Books Writers & Illustrators) writer’s group, which I did. I also went to SCBWI conferences, took tons of workshops, and went out of my way to meet as many established (and developing) writers and poets as I could, via Facebook and Twitter.

I wrote, wrote, and wrote…and strove to get better. Eventually, I connected with folks like Lin Oliver from SCBWI, poetry anthologist Lee Bennett Hopkins, editor Rebecca Davis of Boyd’s Mills Press, and Charles “Father Goose” Ghigna, who all encouraged me in their own ways. Between this year and next, I’ll have 9 poems in 7 boyds logodifferent publications (books/magazines), and my debut picture book, Flashlight Night (Boyd’s Mills Press), has a planned Fall 2017 release date.

3) As you may recall me mentioning a few times here, I tore my ACL (among other things) in my right knee a little over a year and a half ago. I had been playing soccer, and took a wrong turn and completely ripped the knee ligaments apart. Following my reconstruction surgery in March 2014, I spent the next 12 months doing rehabilitation – stretching, flexing, bending, turning – with plans of getting back on the field.

It wasn’t until earlier this summer I was able to play again (just some friendly rec games to start out), but I still took it easy, making sure I knew how my knee was going to handle the stress. Each week I played I could feel the knee and leg getting better, and now the last two games I’ve played I’ve had more confidence in running and cutting, better ball control, and have even scored 2 goals in 2 games.

You don’t need to be a genius…

…to understand the thread running through these three scenarios.

None of them had anything to do with luck!

I got the HBO Comedy gig because the producers liked my audition the best out of all the others.

I’m back on the soccer field because I spent over a year exercising and prepping.

And I signed my book deal with Boyd’s Mills Press because a) the editor thought my manuscript was well-written, b) I had developed a relationship with that editor over the previous three years, and c) I had initially met that editor courtesy of an introduction by Mr. Hopkins, whom I had met a year earlier and who became a mutual friend and confidante.

Luck…has been nowhere to be found in any of this.

No good without the bad

I read the audition script exactly the way the producers wanted it to be read. I took the time to rehabilitate my knee over the course of a year-plus. I made the effort to learn about the children’s literature world, and tenaciously kept writing and submitting manuscripts.

I don’t see where luck had any role whatsoever. Sure, one could say I’m lucky I didn’t tear my other knee, or that I’m lucky I came across Mr. Hopkins or Ms. Davis. But that’s not really true.

ID-10056952 (soccer ball)If I’m going to assume I was blessed with good luck, I need to recognize the existence of bad luck, as well. If my latest picture book manuscript doesn’t get picked up, is that bad luck? If I fail an audition, is that bad luck? If I succumb to some other injury of the soccer field, is that bad luck?

Of course not. These things happen. Manuscripts get rejected, auditions get passed over, and wives beat their husbands senseless if they injure themselves one more time.

Oops – sorry, that last one is just my personal situation.

Seriously, though – if we are going to recognize that good luck and bad luck have roles in our lives, what’s the point of trying to make things better? We’ll never know how much good luck or bad luck we’ll have, we’ll never know when one of them is going to strike, we’ll never know if what we succeeded at or failed at was our own fault or just “dumb luck.”

Most of us, I’m sure, will say we owe whatever success we have to hard work, determination, and perseverance – and of course, a certain amount of skill. As our third U.S. President, Thomas Jefferson, once said, “I am a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.”

Personally, I find that the harder I work, the better I become and the more opportunities come my way, period.

Now who’s up for a little Apples to Apples?

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Interview with children’s poet Rebecca Kai Dotlich

I have been a fan of Rebecca Kai Dotlich’s work ever since I began striving in earnest toward my goal of becoming a published children’s writer, so I’m thrilled to present this post today!

Rebecca has a way of writing that simultaneously paints a familiar picture while touching the reader in a new way. We recently had an online chat about writing, inspiration, collaboration – and a similar start to our careers!

But before we begin, a little background:

REBECCA headRebecca grew up in the Midwest exploring trails, reading comic books, making paper dolls, and building snow forts. She was a good student in school…but by her own account, not a perfect one. Although she loved reading and writing, numbers (ie, math!) was a bit of a challenge.

She attended Indiana University where she studied creative writing, art history and anthropology while working in the student library. After college she held many jobs: working in a department store, for a real estate firm, a state representative, and in public relations. After her children were born she decided that writing for children would be her life’s work – although that took many years to achieve, as you’ll see from the interview.

RKD - CraneRebecca is the author of titles such as What Can A Crane Pick Up? (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2014), which received a *starred* review from Publishers Weekly; What is Science? (Henry Holt and Co., 2006), an AAAS Subaru SB&F prize finalist; Bella and Bean (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2009), an SCBWI Golden Kite Honor; and Grumbles From The Forest; Fairy Tale Voices with a Twist (WordSong, 2013), co-authored with Jane Yolen.

She speaks at conferences, retreats, libraries, and schools across the country to teachers, aspiring writers, poets, and students of all ages. Her books have received the Gold Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Award as well as a Bank Street College of Education Best Book of the year, and her work has been featured on television programs like Reading Rainbow and Between the Lions.

She lives in the Midwest with her husband and her four young grandchildren live nearby.

First of all, thanks so much for taking the time, Rebecca! There is so much to talk about, but I would be remiss if I neglected to share a little “mutual experience” of sorts that you and I  share…and that is that we both can say our very first books were published by the good folks at Boyd’s Mills Press!

REBECCA KAI DOTLICH - Sweet DreamsYours was Sweet Dreams of the Wild, a bedtime book of poems published in 1995…and since then, you’ve had approximately 30 books you’ve authored, co-authored, or have in the pipeline, and you’ve had poems selected to be in about 100 anthologies. So congratulations on all your successes!

I heard the good news Matt, and send you an abundance of congratulations! Each and every book is exciting in its own way every single time, yet that first book, that first sale, will always be something so very special.

Who – or what – inspires you? And how do you know when a piece of writing is complete? 

I’ve always been inspired by words noodled together like a puzzle; words that send my head into the clouds or my heart thumping or my dreams dreaming. Since I can remember, lyrical language and metaphor have been somewhat like a hobby for me. When I came across words or phrases or metaphors I loved, I collected them by writing them down in notebooks.  Sometimes I’d paste photos to go with them.

Rebecca’s newest! (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2014)

My grandparents and my parents inspired me in every way. My big brother had a sea of books on his shelves, on his bed, in front of his nose. He’d read me excerpts when I didn’t even understand what I was hearing. He’d throw words into conversation to stump me, and when I didn’t know what the word was, he’d tell me to look it up. So I did. Probably he nudged me to feel the wonder of books and what they held inside.

And I was initially inspired to write poetry for children when my own children were small and I was going through a hard time in my life, and pouring over poems about puddles and umbrellas, giants and mermaids, skies and stars and snowmen seemed to soothe my soul.

Two books that initially inspired me to write poetry for children were Poems and Rhymes, a book from the Childcraft library, and Side by Side compiled by Lee Bennett Hopkins. And by the way, LBH has always inspired me to dig deeper just when I think I can’t.

So at what point do you decide a poem is finally done?

Can you ever really know when the writing is complete? I don’t believe so. That’s the magic of creativity. It’s a feeling of finally letting go, of sensing you’ve wrapped up a moment or an idea or a package of words as tight and as telling as you can.  For the moment. It’s like saying how do you know when you’re done staring at the sky.  You don’t. You just feel it’s time to get up. To move on. Time stopped for that small bit of time, and held some form of magic or fascination or angst or play or joy in your soul, and hopefully will again.

Do you share your poems or manuscript texts with anyone before submitting?

For the most part I don’t; I am a pretty solitary writer and submitter. When I began years (and years) ago, I knew no one to share with and of course it was way before computers and internet, so I just happily read, studied and wrote. But having said that, there are times now that I do share poems and manuscripts back and forth with just a few poet and author friends who I respect and trust. I am also lucky enough to have an agent, and a few really special editors who are in my corner.

How did your career progress from writing poems and picture books to writing things like books for HarperCollins’ I Can Read and Growing Tree series, which – while creative – are more educational in nature? How does a poet make that leap?

REBECCA KAI DOTLICH - RoundThe shape books for The Growing Tree series started out actually as a poem.  I wrote What is Round, a list poem, simply because I had always loved (and still do) things like marbles and beads and coins and all things round, and I had intended to send it to a magazine.  My agent decided to send it to Harper for the Growing Tree series.  They bought it right away and gave me an additional two book contract to write Square and Triangle.  If I remember right, Away We Go was bought then as an additional and different book for the series (again, a poem that I had written about transportation, with thoughts of sending it to a magazine.)

REBECCA KAI DOTLICH - P&PNow the I Can Read (Peanut & Pearl) is a different story.  I had always wanted to write an I Can Read book. I fell in love, years ago, with Frog and Toad.  Who didn’t?  I read them to my children when they were young. So I had studied the structure, word count, page breaks, etc., on and off for a long time.  They seem simple, but they really aren’t.  I’d like to write more.

Are there any genres of writing that intrigue you, but that you have yet to tackle?

Yes. I am working on a novel in verse and have ideas for a chapter book series.  But poetry is (as my granddaughter would say) my favorite and my best.

Do you have a process for figuring out what you’re going to write and how you’re going to write it? That is, if a subject is a poem or a picture book, and how you’ll construct it?

I wish I did have a process. I can’t say that I do. Things just kind of happen. A seed of an idea, a lyrical line, a phrase, and I let it spill onto the page and see where it takes me. Then when I get the bones of it down, I take a look and see if I want or need to mold it differently.

Over the years, what part of writing has gotten easier for you, and what has gotten more difficult?

Nothing has gotten easier.  Finding time has gotten more difficult.

REBECCA KAI DOTLICH - Grumbles

You collaborated with Jane Yolen to write Grumbles From the Forest, a collection of poems about the secret thoughts of fairy tale characters. How do you come up with fresh ideas for collections such as this, and what is it like to write a book with someone who is half a country away from you?

To be honest, I didn’t come up with the idea, Jane did. Sounded great to me; I’m always on board with anything that involves fairy tales.  I loved them as a young girl, and still do.  We both thought putting a twist on them by way of poems would bring new readers to the tales.  Working together was easy  because of the internet. Much easier than it would have been by letter writing before email. We had ideas and first drafts and revisions flying back and forth constantly.

REBECCA KAI DOTLICH - One DaySpeaking of collaborations, tell us about your upcoming new book, One Day, The End: Short, Very Short, Shorter-Than-Ever Stories (Boyd’s Mills Press, 2015). This must have required a great deal of collaborating with illustrator Fred Koehler, yes?

No collaborating at all! I didn’t know Fred. I wrote the (short) and spare picture book knowing an illustrator would add layers to it, and possibly even take over the book in his or her own way, which I expected and delighted in.

That’s fascinating to me, because it looks like the type of book that would have necessitated the author conspire with the illustrator.

Artists, and what they bring to the table, fascinate me.  It’s magical to see your words brought to life in a new, different, clever and colorful way.  My editor, Rebecca Davis, brought Fred Koehler on board and gave him full reign to add his own view of the stories.  He had a different vision that I had, but that is usually a very good thing!

Sometimes I’ll get an idea for a poem or book, but can’t flesh it out for weeks or months or even longer. Are there any subjects or ideas you’d like to tackle in a poem or book, but just haven’t yet?

Absolutely.  I have drawers and files with parts and pieces and beginnings. Some take months and some take years and some never do get fleshed out. I have a few ideas on the back burner but since they are just ideas, I probably will let them simmer awhile.

In some ways, it’s become harder for a new writer to break into children’s literature and get published; technology has allowed more and more people to share their work via blogs and self-publishing, so making a mark for oneself can be difficult with so much competition. Conversely, though, technology has also allowed more people to learn the craft and be able to connect with editors and agents – so in some ways, it’s easier. What are your thoughts on the changes in the industry, as you’ve witnessed them over the past 20 or so years?

The opportunity to publish is definitely easier.  My younger self can’t imagine *connecting* with, or *chatting* with an editor all the way in New York City. Goodness, one lived in Indiana or Montana or Texas and sent a manuscript with an SASE and hoped for a postcard months and months later.  There was no connecting until the connection. Hard to imagine now.

Finally, the obvious last question is…what’s next??

REBECCA KAI DOTLICH - Race CarOne Day, The End (Boyd’s Mills Press, 2015), will be out this fall along with Race Car Count (Henry Holt, 2015)illustrated by Michael Slack.  Then next year will be The Knowing Book (Boyd’s Mills Press, 2016), illustrated by Matthew Cordell – a picture book that is closest to my heart – and a poetry collection in the Grumbles series, Grumbles from the Town (Boyd’s Mills Press, 2016)illustrated by Angela Matteson. Soon after, What Is Math? (Henry Holt and Co.), will be added to the What Is Series (What Is Science?).

I’m also finishing up a new picture book to be published by Boyd’s Mills Press about a young boy who imagines himself a wizard at bedtime and another poetry collection, which I’m excited about. I bet I’ve forgotten something, but anyone who knows me won’t be surprised.

Can you share your favorite self-penned poem here?

Favorite is a hard concept to nail down.  It seems cliché to say I don’t have a favorite, but I don’t.  I have a few favorites though, and one would be a poem that conjures up the memory of my mom tucking me in all those years ago – published in Hopkins’ anthology, Song and Dance (Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, 1997):

TUCKING-IN SONG

Down the narrow hall she came,

a symphony of jingle bells

as tiny

shiny

silver charms

waltzed like wind-chimes

on her arm,

and haunting notes

of tinkling tin

played music on

her perfumed skin . . .

when mama came to tuck me in.

– © Rebecca Kai Dotlich, reprinted with permission; all rights reserved

(I still love and wear charm bracelets, not only for the clink, clang and jingle, but because they remind me of mom.)

I love those “waltzing wind-chimes” and the “tinkling tin!” Well, thank you so much, Rebecca, for taking the time to chat…it’s very much appreciated, and I wish you much success with all your new books!

And for anyone who is interested in learning more about Rebecca, visit her website HERE!

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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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Crayons, scallops, and truth: What I learned at ‪#‎NESCBWI15

NESCBWI15 logoAnother NE-SCBWI (New England Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators) Conference is in the history books, and as always, it was an exciting, fun, information-packed smorgasbord of opportunity!

One of the biggest benefits of the conference is the networking – agents, editors, and fellow writers all converge on this one location and get to meet, chat, and dine with each other, which is worth the price of admission in and of itself. The varied workshops and high-profile speakers are also huge draws, of course. And this year, I had an additional reason to attend: The Marguerite W. Davol Picture Book Critique Scholarship for pre-published authors!

As I explained in a previous post, I was awarded this honor based on a manuscript I submitted last year, and the judges felt it was strong enough to deserve some special recognition, which was very humbling. I’m so proud of that manuscript!

So as you can see, I had plenty of reasons to want to attend; by its very nature, the conference is immensely educational, but I wanted to share a few choice tidbits of wisdom gleaned from the experience. This list is by no means exhaustive, and even what you read here is a fraction of a fraction of what transpired:


1)
 Working on your craft is the only way to succeed. Beekle
And don’t do it for any other reason than because you’re passionate about it! 2015 Caldecott Award Winner Dan Santat was the Saturday morning Keynote Speaker, and his tremendous talent (and dry wit) kept the audience on the edge of their seats. The author/illustrator also revealed a revelation he had a few years ago, while watching the TV Show, “Mad Men:” one does not need to like a character to like a story; one simply needs to understand the character(s).

2) I have a good voice for middle grade. One editor in attendance mentioned this to me following a quick story synopsis I scribbled down during a workshop session. I’ve written poetry, poetry collections, short stories, and picture books…but never anything long enough to require more than one chapter! I’m going to need to think about that.

3) Scallops are expensive. Well, I kind of knew that already anyway, but that fact became abundantly clear to me Friday night, when a small group of us left the conference center and dined at a nearby Mediterranean restaurant. I order a $13 scallop appetizer and received…two scallops. Two. As in, one…and then just one more. Admittedly, they were quite good – but I’m not sure they were 13-dollars-good.

4) Be True. This was actually the title of author Jo Knowles’ Saturday evening Keynote Speech, and a very moving, inspirational speech it was. Jo related her own story of a young, shy girl who wanted to be a writer, lessons coverwho credited the SCBWI as well as (and even more so) one special teacher with helping her achieve success.

Regarding her first YA novel, Lessons from a Dead Girl, she learned that the book just wasn’t ready until it was true. Until her characters, the story line, everything felt true…the manuscript went nowhere. So one of the most important questions a writer should ask themselves is, “Is it true yet?”

5) Understanding Common Core Standards for English Language Arts is not as hard as it seems. My thanks to fellow NE-SCBWI member Michelle Cusolito for an informative workshop geared towards helping authors doing school visits. Learn more by joining her Facebook group!

6) If you don’t take the crayons out of the box…nothing happens. Australian children’s writer, animal expert, musician, and 2010 SCBWI Member of the Year Christopher Cheng was the Sunday morning Keynote Speaker, and shared this nugget. He’s right – if you want to create something, you have to take action!

That doesn’t just mean one needs to write; it means one needs to be aware. In his view, “everything has a purpose” and it is up to the writer to determine what that purpose is and the extent of its usefulness. He didn’t explicitly state that this mentality translates to the concept of “mindfulness”…but as a writer myself, I’d say it certainly does!

Poetry Panel, from left: Heidi EY Stemple. Leslie Bulion, Richard Michelson, Jane Yolen

7) Book marketing just took a new, creative turn for the better. While chatting with author and fellow New Englander Julie True Kingsley, she told me about a new start-up venture she is involved in: BizzieMe.com. If you are an author and want to bring your book into the digital age via interactive games and video, I encourage you to check it out! A reader scans your book cover into their smartphone or tablet, and can immediately start interacting. Very cool stuff.

8a) Reluctant readers aren’t really “reluctant” – they just haven’t been given books that interest them yet. CrossoverThis is something else that didn’t come as a surprise, really, but it was something important of which to take note. Boys and girls share many interests, and it’s important to not try to pigeonhole boys with our preconceptions of what they will like.

During Newbery Award-winning author Kwame Alexander‘s writing workshop – as well as his Saturday lunchtime speech – he reminded those in attendance to take advantage of opportunities that come your way. “Say YES!” was his takeaway message, and his words on authenticity echoed Chris Cheng’s and Jo Knowles’.

8b) What a difference a year makes! Those were the words uttered by poet and artist Richard Michelson while we were chatting during a book signing. Richard and I were admiring the long line that led to Kwame’s table, and Richard remarked that he had been with Kwame at a signing last year and no one knew who he was…but now thanks to The Crossover, he was the hit of the weekend!

Heidi & Me - spread-mates
Heidi EY Stemple and I, with her poem on the left and mine on the right!

9) If you’re going to a conference that fellow writers will also be attending, bring books with you! I couldn’t believe I left copies of Lullaby & Kisses Sweet, The Crossover, and others at home! After I had arrived, my absent-mindedness dawned on me. Heidi Stemple, with whom I share a spread in Lullaby, knows this.

After a poetry panel discussion with her, Jane Yolen (her mom), Leslie Bulion, and Richard Michelson, we chatted and I signed her copy. I’ll probably have to wait until next year’s conference to see her again and have her sign mine!

10) Monsters are a euphemism for disability. I had never considered this before, but author Tim Weed made an excellent point during his workshop on image systems in middle grade an YA fiction. The creature with the hunch, the creature with the strange face, the creature who can’t speak…all find their origins from the same place.

11) Networking is as important as attending the workshops.

Me, Deb, Janet, Craig (NESCBWI)
From left: Craig Munson, Janet Costa Bates, Yours Truly, and Deb Blake Dempsey

This is not something I learned – it’s something I preach! If you have ever considered attending an SCBWI conference, I highly encourage you to do so. I wouldn’t be at this stage of my career had it not been for networking, saying hi, chatting with people, striking up conversations, listening to what fellow attendees are talking about. Yes, I’ve learned a lot from the workshops – but it was one simple, short, casual conversation that started me on the way towards publication.

Will I see you there next year? The dates are already set for 2016: April 29 – May 1. If there’s another SCBWI conference closer to you, by all means, register! And for more info on where to find local SCBWI chapters or critique groups, log on to http://www.SCBWI.org. Hope to see you at one someday!

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!
PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

National Poetry Month: What is “Psychoetry?”

National-Poetry-Month-Logo (2015)April is fully underway, which means National Poetry Month is, too – and today I thought I’d share an interview with someone who has taken poetry into an area it hasn’t – officially – been before!

We all know that reading and writing poetry often can be therapeutic for folks who are going through tough times; but what if a licensed mental health professional was to incorporate poetry into his sessions and use it as a way to help people come to terms with the problems they’re dealing with?

Brian P. Wohlmuth is just such as person. He has written a book called Psychoetry: Lessons in Poetic Parenting and joins us today to chat about this intriguing concept.

Thanks for taking the time to be with us  today, Brian. First of all, what exactly is Psychoetry, and how did you come to develop it?

Brian-Psychoetry coverPsychoetry is the marriage of Psychology & Poetry.  As a clinician, I found myself regularly empathizing with children who had unceremoniously stumbled into one or more universal “potholes of childhood.” Although the provision of empathy is a common and essential therapeutic practice, I frequently encountered parents who were operating at a deficit.

Subsequently, the concept for a book that both enhances parental attunement and the ability to administer empathetic appreciation literally unfolded right in front of my face. My childhood exposure to Mother Goose/Dr. Seuss and The Beatle’s lyrics gave birth to the idea of using rhyme as a method of delivery.

What is the benefit of using poetry as that ‘method of delivery’ for your counseling lessons?

It seems to me that rhyme has a tendency to be internalized. Much like a song or lyric that can remain in your head forever, I believe a poem can generate an outcome of similar permanence. The introduction of poetry about psychology is intended to enliven those childhood experiences that reside within each and every adult. When accompanied by pictures and informative narratives, the illumination of forgotten  memories can help establish a common ground that allows parent and child to strive forward together.

Here’s an example”

EXCLUSION

Together with my classmates
against the school yard wall

Recess has just started
it’s time to “dodge the ball”

Scott and Jerry pick as captains
because they are the best

Team members must be chosen
First good players
then the rest . . .

Dave and Randy, they’re selected
Cindy, Greg, and Jenny

Another name that isn’t mine
Slow Todd and clumsy Benny

Large Freddie is a popular choice
cheered by a collective groan

Take me please,
the invisible man
I now stand all alone

What kind of reactions have you had to your Psychoetry? Have you been able to quantify any results?

The reaction to Psychoetry has been extremely positive. I have been a guest on three radio programs in 2015, and look forward to honoring invitations extended for April and May. As a general rule, each respective host has recognized Psychoetry’s content to be informative, and found the combination of Psychology & Poetry to make for an enjoyable read. I have also received feedback suggesting that after revisiting the “universal potholes of childhood” contained in Psychoetry, some parents have actually been the benefactors of a corrective emotional experience(s).

It must be noted, that as of this writing, no evidenced based research quantifying the efficacy of the Psychoetry Method has been gathered.

What types of issues do parents most often discuss with you, and how has poetry helped you to help them?

In my presentations to parenting groups, as well as those who seek private consultation, I find that many parents have allowed their children to become “LARGE AND IN CHARGE.” There are many names assigned to such a phenomenon, such as Entitlement, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, or Omnipotent Grandiosity. The latter describes a child who has taken up residence in the center of the universe, and has not been adequately taught/informed that there is a world beyond his or her egocentric position. Subsequently, the poems “PA” and “Just Say No,” introduce OPTIMAL FRUSTRATION (frustration in manageable doses)  as the catalyst which gradually engenders a shift from “ME-NESS” to “WE-NESS.” To simplify, and as I write in the book, “A YES IS FOR FUN, but A NO IS WHAT YOU GROW FROM.”

You cover a number of parenting issues in your book – from familial ties and positive reinforcement to doctor visits and the first day of school – and you have a poem for each of these! Are there any poems that seem to have a greater impact than others?

Included in Psychoetry is a poem entitled E = MC2,  which acquaints the reader to the concept of parenting as energy. Basically, it encourages parents to understand that “SOME OF THEIR BEST LIVING WILL BE DONE BY THOSE THEY LEAVE BEHIND,” and invites them to impart energy (parenting practices) that will compliment rather than complicate the development of their child.

The counseling topics that appear in Psychoetry encompass the DROOL to SCHOOL age periods of development. Those issues which accompany the SCHOOL to NOBODY’S FOOL (young adulthood) transition, are awaiting to be poetically addressed.

How long have you been writing and have you written any other poetry besides Psychoetry?

I began writing poetry about 20 years ago, which is when I came up with the idea to combine Psychology and Poetry. I had never written before, but with cautious optimism, I gave it a try. After making a list of the various “potholes,” I began to imagine how they would occur, the circumstances behind their occurrence, and the feeling(s) which might accompany each occurrence. Without previous experience, I had no indication of whether or not I was capable of writing anything worthy of publication.

My uncertainty was replaced by a quiet sense of confidence when Fox Television approached me to do a therapeutic news segment on the effects of being the last one chosen. The poem, “Exclusion,” was used as the backbone for the story, and Psychoetry was put into motion!

Are all your poems geared towards therapy and human relations?

After finishing the essentials for Psychoetry, I attempted to expand upon my creative process. Although I remain dumbfounded to this day, I began to generate poems which were oriented toward Spirituality, and/or Higher Love. What follows are two of my initial post-Psychoetry creations. The first, “Vision,” had the good fortune to be published (in braille) by the John Milton Society For The Blind (Discovery, Oct. – Dec 2000, Volume 1) and appear around the world. The second, “Behold His Mighty Hand, percolated to consciousness as the first of its kind, and thusly, is my personal favorite.

VISION

I overheard the blind girl say,
“he guided me again today.”
Although she felt no form, nor face,
she recognized his warm embrace.
Her tiny voice rang crystal clear,
“It’s faith,” she said, “that brings him near.”
As if to see she turned around
and placed one hand upon the ground.
She told her mom, “he made all this,”
then lovingly blew God a kiss.

 

BEHOLD HIS MIGHTY HAND

Time had been canceled
My forever was death
As eternity dawned
I inhaled one last breath
Then matter of factly
she announced like I knew,
“It’s a quarter till Heaven
and 15 minutes from you”

Surrounded by warmth
I did not understand
In the brilliance of light
she extended her hand
And lifting me upward
she said, “Lord what a view . . .
It’s a quarter till Heaven
and 15 minutes from you.”

I thought to myself,
“these are magical things,
A halo cast sunshine
upon glorious wings”
She softly confided,
“we touch only a few . . .
It’s a quarter till Heaven
and 15 minutes from you.”

Beyond what she called
“The Celestial Whole”
She explained she had come
to enlighten my soul
And she echoed the words,
“what is written is true . . .
It’s a quarter till Heaven
and 15 minutes from you.”

Her message was clear
as she bid me farewell
From within we create
either Heaven or Hell
Now each moment on Earth
is HER work that I do . . .
“It’s a quarter to Heaven
and 15 minutes from you.”

(all poems © Brian P. Wohlmuth and used with permission)

If someone wants to find out more about Psychoetry, what should they do?

Please feel free to inquire about Psychoetry at parentingwithpoetry.com!

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2015ProgressivePoemI’m very happy to once again be part of Irene Latham’s annual Progressive Poem! Each day, a different person adds their line to a poem that grows and grows over the course of the month…until it culminates April 30 with the final, closing line.

I’m excited – and a bit anxious – about the fact that it will be up to me to write that last line!

You can see how the poem looks so far at Catherine Johnson’s blog today…and then follow the 2015 Progressive Poem at the following locations:

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

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!
PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Priorities, priorities…

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

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

How long has it been? Not since last OCTOBER.

What gives??

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

Understanding priorities

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

Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.

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

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

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

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

So what’s a guy to do?

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

The blog.

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

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

I’m kinda busy.

The fine line

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

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

I don’t dare!

mmpoetry2015-logo-main
The madness is back! Click the logo to learn more about this fun, exciting, and interactive competition. (School classrooms can still sign up!)

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

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

Hopefully I’m setting the right priorities!

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!
PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

A peek inside the mind of a writer

Ever wonder what it’s like inside the mind of a writer? Here’s a glimpse into mine:

The Secret Place
The book that started me on the path of poetry back when I was 6 or 7 years old…I loved this book! (Still do!)

I write a random poem.

I like it, but soon realize there’s a serious error, so I rewrite it.

In the course of rewriting it, I write another.

Once these are done, it occurs to me I could send them to a magazine, although submitting a third poem to go with the first two would be ideal.

I write a third poem, but it’s not about the subject I thought it was going to be.

It occurs to me that these three poems, all of the same theme, might be more appropriate if collected together with some previously-written poems in a picture book collection. I wonder if I can write a fourth poem about the same theme.

I write a fourth poem.

Once I organize all the poems – these and the previously-written ones – into a thematic manuscript, I realize I need more poems to fill it out.

I write a fifth poem.

Upon adding it to the manuscript, I realize the theme is wrong and have to pull poems out and put new ones in, basically completely revising an previously-compiled, unpublished collection.

Satisfied with the theme, I decide to try writing a sixth poem about that theme.

I write the sixth poem.

At this moment in time, I only need to write three more poems to complete the manuscript. I’m working on one now.

Whew!

The amazing thing to me is that all of this has taken place over the past 4 weeks…so considering the volume of my output this month, either I’m getting much better at writing or I’ve completely lost my ability to self-criticize. I’m hoping it’s the former, as I still feel I’m my own worst critic!

But let this be a lesson: Never, ever, ever, lock yourself into the frame of mind that you can’t edit, revise, or rewrite something. Honestly, I’m not a fan of rewriting, as I like the happy, content feeling one gets from lifting up the pen; who doesn’t, right? However, if there is something about the poem or story I’ve written that just doesn’t feel right, I cannot live with myself until I’ve fixed the problem.

It might take walking away and coming back to it in a few minutes. Or hours. Or days.

Or even weeks.

One poem literally took me a year and a half to write – but it got written, and written the way it was supposed to be written. Unfortunately for me, it’s one of those types of poems that everyone seems to love but no one knows what to do with. But that’s my problem, not the poem’s. It needed to be written the way it needed to be written.

Exciting news in the year ahead

I have a number things I’m very excited to share with you – and all these things are bouncing around inside my head, as well. I’ll have poems in five different anthologies being published this year, and one will be in an upcoming edition of Highlights magazine. Three of the books are due out this spring and one is due this fall.

I also have high hopes for a picture book manuscript I wrote this past year. It’s one of those types of things that just came to me; I wrote it over the course of a week, revised the following week, and I do believe it might be the best manuscript I’ve written to date, so we’ll see if it gets picked up!

Speaking of said manuscript, it’s the same one that helped me receive the New England SCBWI’s inaugural Marguerite W. Davol Picture Book Critique Scholarship for pre-published authors! For details on what that is, feel free to check out this past Friday’s post, where I explain it in greater detail.

Cybils-Logo-2014I’m also excited to be a Second Round Judge in The annual CYBILS Awards, where the finalists have been announced! I’ll be working with fellow judges Renee LaTulippe, Linda Baie, Laura Shovan, and Diane Mayr to trim our list of seven fantastic children’s books of poetry down to one winner – and this year it’s going to be a tough one, there are so many great books!

Whatever your goals, stick to ’em!

I wish you great success for 2015, whether it’s professional or personal. Remember, the act of setting goals, while necessary, is not as important as following through with those goals. It’s the difference between saying you’re going to do something and actually doing it.

Whatever it is you want to accomplish, take action and do something each day to move you toward the end result. Some days I don’t get a chance to write, sad to say. I’m a stay-at-home dad with a voiceover business and my hours are precious and few. But there’s not a day that goes by that does not include me either emailing someone about writing, reviewing my own writing, reading an article about writing, or even simply reading a book to my kids.

I’ve been writing for what seems like forever, but did not get serious about becoming a children’s writer until 2009. Since then, I have slowly gained traction – improving my skills, networking, and learning the craft. I have met wonderful people, befriended nationally-acclaimed writers and editors, and developed a base of friends and supporters like you through this blog.

I appreciate you helping me attain my goal. I hope, by reading this, I can help you attain yours. Success requires both talent and tenacity – one of those in a much higher quantity than the other.

Have a Happy New Year, and thank you for being a part of mine!

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Cybils-Logo-2014-Rnd2Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!

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

More opportunities to lose customers (a sequel)

Earlier this year, I shared my thoughts on how a company (or individual) can disappoint customers in two easy steps. Those steps were, in a nutshell, “Don’t care enough about the customer to do anything” and “only care enough to do the bare minimum.” Well today, I’m going to make things even easier for you folks who are trying to find new ways to lose business.

It’s a ONE-STEP process that is so easy, anyone can do it. It’s called…

“Don’t be an idiot”

20130820_145129
Fortunately, this guy was down by the brook, nowhere near the house. You can’t tell from the picture, but he was about 4 inches wide – what I’d call mind-bogglingly-massive.

Shall we begin with an example? Yes, let’s. Last week, I had to search for an extermination business. We live in a 100-year-old house, and although I really don’t mind spiders, we’re getting overrun with them this year. Really, I like spiders; they eat all the bugs I hate. But when you hang up a denim jacket in the laundry room and within a week there’s a spider nest inside – well, that’s a problem.

So I went online to find a local exterminator. I found 3 or 4 who I called and talked with – but one website took me by surprise.  CLICK HERE to see what I found.

As far as I can tell, there isn’t any actual business called “Absolute Exterminator.” At least, not an actual exterminator. This website appears to be designed to list local exterminators, even though the average consumer wouldn’t know that at first glance. The thing that really annoys me about these folks is the way they use web-browsing cookies (I assume) to know where I live, so they cut-and-paste a tailor-made home page for me.

With ridiculous lines like, “New Hampshire insects can damage your Merrimack County home” and “The 3,005 people of Warner know there are some annoying bugs in New Hampshire,” it was pretty obvious to me that the website simply plugged my location information into their premade webpage and hoped I would be impressed enough to learn more.

On the contrary, I was utterly UNimpressed, and had learned enough just reading that one page.

“Don’t be an idiot” – while driving

A second example is something I see  – and you probably see – far too often.

Inconsiderate drivers cut you off. They run stop signs, merge into your lane with no warning, and honk their horns at you because they think they own the road. Happens all the time, right?

Well, if you’re driving a company vehicle, it should NEVER HAPPEN. I used to work for a number of radio stations, and whenever I drove one of the station vans, I always made sure my driving was impeccable. I always used my directional, never cut people off, always drove the speed limit. And if some moron did something stupid, I would never beep at him or make rude gestures…I just sucked it up and kept driving.

Yet, I am amazed at the number of rude, selfish drivers using company vehicles. Nary a week goes by where I don’t find myself being cut off by some dude from Rusty Rim Hole Plumbing, or being angrily honked at by a very impatient driver for Stubby’s Towing Service. What do they think happens when they tick someone like me off?

It certainly won’t be to patronize their business anytime soon. More likely, they’ll get written about in my blog – and NOT in a happy, gumdrops and lollipops kind of way.

Either people like this don’t care what other drivers think, because they’re just employees and don’t have any vested interest in doing what’s right…or they’re simply idiots.

“Don’t be an idiot” – so just don’t open your mouth

ID-100209955 (preg)
“Pardon me, but are you…?”

A third terrific way to get customers miffed at you is to say insulting things without even realizing it.

My wife and I were at a large department store earlier today (I won’t say which one because I wouldn’t want the store to be ‘targeted’), and as we were going through the checkout one of the employees stopped by and started talking to our very chatty 1-year-old baby girl, Phoebe. All was well and good, until the employee said…

“I see a sweet little girl who loves her grandpa!”

I bit my lip, because I knew that what was about to come out of my mouth was inappropriate in the check-out line. When we left the store, my wife tried to reassure me I really didn’t look that old…but this employee had just ruined my morning.

Seriously, who says that?? Isn’t that one of those things you never say to people? Isn’t that like going up to a woman with a belly and asking how the pregnancy’s going??

Now, I realize that plenty of people my age (47) have young grandkids, so it’s not like I was offended because of that. But the fact is, I was there WITH MY WIFE – who is not only 7 years younger than me, but looks like she’s at least 5 years younger than that. So this employee did one of two things:

She either a) thought my wife was a grandparent, as well (which, if you’ve ever seen my wife, you’d know is highly doubtful), or b) she thought I was there with my daughter and HER daughter! I’m sorry, but at 47, I’m pretty sure I don’t look like the father of a 35-year-old. And it’s not that I’m vain – but I already know that I look older than I am, so this employee underscoring that fact for me was totally unnecessary.

Making the world a happier place

let it go - B&RI try to let things like these examples go, I really do. It does no good to hold onto animosity or negative feelings. (That’s why blogging is so cathartic!)

But sneaky, rude, or stupid behavior is so rampant these days, it’s hard to leave it behind; chances are, something new and insulting will just pop up the next day.

I try to be understanding, though. Human beings are fallible, and we all make mistakes now and then. Often, the person doing the offending doesn’t realize it, or perhaps is having a bad day, or is preoccupied with their workload, or has stressful issues on their mind.

Then again, some people are just idiots.

Please don’t be one.

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Cybils-Logo-2014-Rnd2
Log on now and nominate your favourite children’s book from this past year!

Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!

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