The No-Resolution New Year

(This post was originally published in Jan. 2013 – a mere 5 months after I first began this blog. Since it has been 5 years since it had seen the light of day, I felt today might be an appropriate time to dust it off and share it again!)

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(The original title for this post was, “The No-Resolution New Year, or How the Portable People Meter Can Help You Not to Stress Over Your Resolutions.”  But that was a bit wordy.  Read along and it’ll all start to make sense.  Perhaps.)

For two weeks now, I’ve been reading and hearing about everyone’s new year’s resolutions.  Most folks want to lose weight.  Exercise more.  Eat healthy.

Some have very ambitious, specific resolutions, such as resolving to publish a book or to make a specific more amount of money each month.  Others are a bit more ambiguous, like trying to be a better person – which is nice, but what does that mean?  Are you only moderately tolerable now? Specifics, people!

Anyway, I appreciate why folks make new year’s resolutions…but if you ask me for mine, I’ll tell you I have none.  And it’s not because I don’t think I can’t make improvements in my life, or don’t see the value in setting goals.

I simply don’t see the point in setting a date to start on those goals.

Why wait?

A few years ago, I was talking to some friends about wanting to leave my place of employment and strike out on my own to work for myself as a voiceover artist.  It was autumn, and I recall explaining to them that there were a number of things I would need to do in order to make that change possible.  I would need to build up contacts and clients.  I would need to make sure my finances would be able to handle the initial reduction in pay.  Most importantly, I would need to have the physical tools available to work from home, such as a new computer and editing software, a better quality microphone, and sound dampening equipment to prevent ambient noise and echo in my recordings.

One of my friends suggested it would be a good new year’s resolution to work toward that goal.  I agreed – although I saw no need to wait until the new year to begin setting the plan in motion.  So I began auditioning more, prospecting for clients, and connecting with more people through social media.  I also started buying some new equipment.

I knew my finances were not going to allow me to leave work that following year, but at least I had begun moving forward.

Eventually, I got more gigs, built up a clientele, and this past summer was finally financially able to leave my position as production director for a 5-station radio group and work for myself.  A month later, I began this blog – another item on my to-do list.

And you know what?  The 2010 new year, 2011 new  year, and 2012 new year had nothing to do with any of it.  It was done through sheer determination, and determination is available 365 days a year.

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Image courtesy of Music Row

The Portable People Meter

The Portable People Meter (or PPM) is a small device developed by the company Arbitron to measure how often a person listens to different radio stations.  You may have heard of Nielsen ratings for TV?  Well, Arbitron is the radio equivalent of Nielsen, and ratings are very important because they show how many people are listening to different stations, how often they listen, what times they listen, and that sort of thing.  Radio and television stations then use this information to assist them in selling advertising and setting their rates. (UPDATE: 9 months after I published this post, Nielsen acquired Arbitron, so they are one company now.)

The way it works is, a random person is equipped with a PPM and it automatically keeps track of which stations he/she listens to throughout each day over several weeks.  (Back in the day, people were asked to keep written diaries, which can be fallible – so the PPM was a huge breakthrough in radio station monitoring)

Ratings are broken down into ‘Average Quarter-Hours,’ which simply means a minimum of 5 minutes for every 15-minute block, if you divide your clock at :00, :15, :30, and :45 minute increments.  For example, if a listener tuned in at 6:00am and tuned out at 6:07am, that would count as one quarter-hour, because he/she had listened for at least 5 minutes.  If that listener tuned in at 6:10am and tuned out at 6:20am, it would count for TWO quarter-hours (5 minutes in each quarter-hour block).  However, if he/she tuned in at 6:11am and tuned out at 6:19am, that radio station would receive NO quarter-hours, because the 5-minute minimum per quarter-hour had not been met.

“Your point, Matt??  Get to the point!”

Ok, ok.  You see, the PPM blew away a rock-solid radio programming axiom that nearly everyone in radio obeyed.

Before the PPM, radio stations believed that each hour’s first quarter-hour (from :00 – :15) was the most-listened to of all the quarter-hours.  This is because the hand-written radio diaries often had the first quarter-hour listed.  So if that’s what people are writing down, it must be the way it is, right?

Wrong.

With the advent of the PPM, the number-crunchers at Arbitron realized that each quarter-hour was more or less equally listened-to.  People were tuning in to radio stations not at the top of each hour…but whenever they darned well felt like it.

Shocker, I know.

Thing is, it was a shocker to a lot of radio stations, who for decades had deliberately played their hottest songs, or some other type of important, exciting, must-tune-in elements, at the top of each hour.  Turned out that that listeners were writing down the top of the hour on their hand-written diaries not because they were tuning in at the top of the hour, but because it was easier to write”11am” instead of 10:54am (which, you’ll notice, is an all-important quarter-hour!).

No time like the present

I’m explaining all of this to show that it’s irrelevant when to begin improving your life.  The important thing is that you have a vision for that improvement.  And if you don’t have the determination, that’s ok – take some time to find it!  It doesn’t matter if it’s the top of the hour or the beginning of the year – a radio station needs to have good programming every minute of the hour, and you make changes to your life every day of the year.

My wife and I met in September 2007, were engaged that following Christmas, and were married in August 2008, one month before we’d known each other for a year.  While some might say we rushed into things, I say we seized an opportunity.  We knew how we felt about each other, we knew our feelings would not change…so we figured, why wait?  One never knows what might happen tomorrow.  Carpe diem, and all of that!

Whether it’s the top of the hour or the beginning of the year…it’s just a spot on a clock or calendar.  You can make those resolutions whenever you feel like it:  losing weight, making more money, being more tolerable.

And if you do make a resolution that fails or for some reason doesn’t come to fruition…

Today is as good a day as any to start again.

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


  

You can purchase personalized signed copies of Flashlight Night, (Boyds Mills Press, 2017), Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (Pow! Kids Books, 2018), and nearly ALL of the books or anthologies I’ve been part of!

Just click the cover of whichever book you want and send the good folks at MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH a note requesting the signature and to whom I should make it out to. (alternatively, you can log onto my website and do the same thing) They’ll contact me, I’ll stop by and sign it 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!

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

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!

“Yes, my daughter has started kindergarten, and NO, I’m not completely happy about it.”

That right there is the basic response I want to give everyone who says, “Oh, your 5-year-old is in school now? That must be great!”

Excuse me, but why is it so great?

We don’t get as many of these opportunities as we should.

Of course, I’m proud of her being excited about school and I’m happy she’s enjoying it as much as she is. But more often than not, the insinuation in comments such as this post’s title is that parents are glad to get the kids out of the house. This is particularly evident when summer vacation comes to an end and people everywhere start talking about how they can’t wait for their children to be back in school.

Why is everyone in such a rush to not be around their kids?

You spend countless years, dollars, and headaches raising these little humans (some folks spend years just trying to conceive)…and now you’re counting down the hours until they’re out of the house?

When I left full-time employment in radio back in July 2012, my son was only 2 1/2 and my daughter hadn’t even been conceived. So right away, the kids and I have spent all kinds of time together: running errands around town, going to library story time, playing at the park, etc.

Unlike my son, my daughter never experienced a daycare whatsoever; the closest she came was when she began preschool last year, and that was only 3 hours a day, two days per week. From the moment she woke up until the moment she went to sleep, she was a part of my everyday existence. Except for the rare occasion – a weekend conference here or there or a 2-hour book signing now and then – she was by my side, constantly.

This is why being alone in the house was not something I was eagerly anticipating. Disclaimer: I would be lying if I said there were not any aspects of the new arrangement that were enticing. I could write, research publishers, market myself, and get more voiceover work done all in the same day – and not have to wait until the kids were in bed before I started. Yes, this promise of a new work schedule was captivating, to say the least.

I could go for one more day of this.

And so far, things have been working out well, even though I still haven’t quite nailed down a regular routine; I’ve sent out more manuscripts, I have a couple of editors interested in a couple of different manuscripts, I’ve been able to do more marketing, and I’m fleshing out some ideas for new stories. The writer’s life is good, right now!

But still, all this comes with a price: the loss of time with my 5-year-old.

I realize this is life. She’s getting taller, smarter, and more mature every day – and will continue to spend more and more time away from home until she eventually is no longer here at all. The same goes for my 8-year-old son. I figure we only have about 10 years before he’s graduating college and heading off to film school to produce the next Jurassic dinosaur movie. (yes, that’s his plan!)

I see no need to rejoice in the speed of life. As futile as it may be, I’d much rather do what I can to slow it down. Our kids will learn soon enough how hectic, crazy, and unforgiving the world can be.

Let them enjoy the solace of home a little longer.

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THREE DAYS LEFT
for the “Flashlight Night”
GIVEAWAY!

I have THREE personally-signed copies of Flashlight Night (Boyds Mills Press, 2017) I’m giving away! If you’d like to enter to win, check out last week’s post celebrating the book’s FIRST YEAR birthday…with three opportunities to win, why wouldn’t you want to enter??

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


  (coming Sept. 25, 2018!)

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 FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Learn to draw a T-Rex w/ “Don’t Ask a Dinosaur” illustrator Louie Chin!

Want to learn how to draw a T-Rex? Then I have just the thing for you!

Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (Pow! Kids Books, 2018) illustrator Louie Chin recently visited the studios of KidLitTV in New York City, where he showed viewers his step-by-step process of drawing dinosaurs, specifically the T-Rex from our picture book. Louie breaks down the method simply, so the 5-minute video is great for both adults AND kids. Whether it’s you who wants to learn – or your child! – you’ll both enjoy watching the dinosaur come to life on the page.

My thanks to Julie Gribble and Tracey Cox at KidLitTV for featuring Louie. If you spend some time searching around their website, you’ll find all sorts of other cool videos, too…like THIS ONE with Flashlight Night (Boyds Mills Press, 2017) illustrator Fred Koehler chatting about his process for creating the amazing illustrations in that book.

Well, today is the first day back to school for my kids, and I’m sure if yours haven’t started yet they will be soon…so enjoy your week!

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

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


  (coming Sept. 25, 2018!)

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 FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

On flashlights, horses, and finding inspiration: A podcast w/Jessie Haas & Yours Truly, PLUS #pb10for10!

Earlier this summer, I had the opportunity to visit Toadstool Bookshop in Keene, NH for a book signing with Vermont children’s author Jessie Haas. While we were there, we were interviewed by Eric Rendering Fisk for his podcast, “The Fedora Chronicles” – and yes, he does, indeed, wear a fedora!

Jessie Haas’ newest middle grade novel, edited by my “Flashlight Night” editor, Rebecca Davis!

It was a lot of fun; Jessie and I talked about how we each got into the children’s literature industry, our thoughts on finding – and more importantly, creating – inspiration, and the fact that we both happen to share an editor (Rebecca Davis, at Boyds Mills Press).

I learned last week that the podcast was finally edited and posted on Eric’s website, so I wanted to share the link here, in case you might be interested in listening. If you do listen, and enjoy it, I hope you’ll consider sharing it on Facebook, Twitter, or wherever your friends and acquaintances hang out!

Also:  I need to thank Catherine Flynn at Reading to the Core for including Flashlight Night in her Picture Book 10 for 10 List! If you’re unfamiliar with #pb10for10, as it is known, it’s a way for children’s lit bloggers, educators, and others to share their favorite picture books with others, usually done via a particular theme, such as books that inspire imagination, books that promote diversity, or whatever the list-maker chooses.

You can learn more about #pb10for10 HERE, and to find out more about Flashlight Night and my other books, just scroll down!

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

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


  (coming Sept. 25, 2018!)

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 FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Poetry Friday: Embracing the roughness of rough drafts

If you’ve followed this blog for more than a few months, you know I always like to promote the concept of #WriteLikeNoOneIsReading…in other words, if we’re supposed to dance like no one is watching, then we should write in exactly the same way:  with fervor, abandon, and intensity, without regards for perfection or polish.

One need not write for the purpose of publishing, after all. Writing can be cathartic, therapeutic, and often simply fun! So no matter what it is or what it looks like, write. And if, like me, you’re writing something you do intend to have published, you can always apply some spit and polish once it’s out and on paper.

When should I write? Now. Where should I write? Here. What should I write about? Anything!

Today I’m sharing a few very rough drafts. Why? To show that not every poem is perfect upon its initial creation…and even when it’s finished, might not ever see the light of day.

Some folks I know shudder at even the thought of sharing an imperfect work, so as not to sully their name or be connected to something beneath their ability. I, on the other hand, recognize that we’re all human, we all have to start somewhere, and we’re all capable of writing really bad crap; I’m just being a little more honest about it!

Up first: a rough draft from almost 6 years ago that took nearly a month to finish. Now, considering this poem is only 6 lines long, I should have known I was belaboring the idea – but I wanted to complete it, and complete it I did. Has it gone through any more revisions? Nope. Will I be revising it anytime soon? Nope. Was it a good exercise and a good use of writing time, even if it’s not a very good poem? Absolutely!

Up Too Late

My head is so heavy;
my eyes are so sore.
I really don’t mean to be boring.

I’m terribly tired
and wish I could sleep,
but what’s keeping me up…is my snoring.

– © 2012 Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

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I recall being extremely tired when I started this…and it certainly shows. Good for a chuckle, perhaps, but that’s about it. Oh well, at least I got my brain thinking poetically and rhythmically, and would be in a better position to work on the next poem. Because once the muscle has been stretched and used, it’ll be better prepared for more work.

Oh, and that “next” poem – “Wall in the Woods,” which I wrote just a few days later – went on to be selected by the NH Writer’s Project for display in downtown Concord, NH as part of their Poetry in Windows project!

The second poem I’m sharing – of a more adult nature – was another one that took far longer to write than it should have. And even after completing it, folks I shared it with still weren’t sure what was going on:

Envelope

Breaths
heavy as these letters
and as uneven
wait, never ceasing or easy,
as the deadline for disclosure
approaches

– © 2017, Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

To be perfectly honest, I don’t even know what I was getting at. But when it comes to rough drafts, the parts are much greater than the whole: my brain associated heavy and uneven breaths with heavy and uneven letters, it found internal rhyme with ceasing/easy and disclosure/approaches, and alliteration with deadline/disclosure. So although this poem will never go anywhere beyond this little blog, it allowed my brain to practice some poetic devices with an adult theme…and we all know what practice makes, right??

The final poem I’m sharing is one I just wrote yesterday, as a response to author/poet Laura Purdie Salas’ weekly 15-words-or-less poetry prompt on her blog, Writing the World for Kids.

Every Thursday, Laura posts a photo and a very short first draft of a poem inspired by that photo, and encourages her followers to write their own poems – which, as the blog states, need to be 15 words or less. This forces one to use word economy, but it also prevents one from feeling the intimidation of writing line after line after line. 15 words ain’t much, but they’re enough!

A round bale of hay, yesterday’s photo prompt

Hay…blankets…seasons…sustenance…these were the common themes in many of the poems that were shared by Laura’s followers. Nothing at all wrong with that, and many of them were quite good – but as you may know, I often try to find an avenue no one has gone down, so here’s my response (with a couple of extra words I added to smooth it out):

Love Goes ‘Round

You misunderstood,
I’m sorry to say –
this is not what I meant
by a “roll in the hay.”

– © 2018, Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

Not bad, not great, perhaps a bit clever – but not clever enough (or good enough!) to ever go beyond its intended role of flexing my brain. Which it did, for the 2 minutes it took me to write! But doing this sort of thing every day – writing for the sake of writing – is inherently beneficial. So please, when you have the opportunity to write, don’t worry if it’s going to be good or bad…just make sure it gets written. #WriteLikeNoOneIsReading, even if you never read it again.

For more poetry, head on over to Reading to the Core, where Catherine is hosting Poetry Friday today! Oh, and by the way…

…if you’re in the New Hampshire area and wondering how to break into the world of children’s lit, I’ll be at Bookery Manchester for a special evening discussion about writing, poetry, and the business of it all, plus a short reading and signing! It all starts at 7pm, so I hope you’ll join us!

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

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


  (coming Sept. 25, 2018!)

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 FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Poetry Friday: “More Than We Are”

poetryfridaybutton-fulllThis post was originally published 5 years ago, on June 14, 2013. Considering all the graduations taking place this past week, I thought it might be a good idea to re-post it. (You also may also be inclined to check out my message to graduates, which was posted that same week)

=========================================================Where does the time go? One minute your kids are starting kindergarten and the next thing you know, they’re heading off to prom and graduation and the rest of their life.

Whew, that was quick.

My youngest daughter, Katherine, is graduating high school this weekend, so there was no question for me as to what poem I should share today.  Katherine is a very talented young woman, whose photography has graced more than a few blog posts here. She was selected as a New Hampshire Scholar for her above-average course load while in high school, and I’m very proud of her.

I wrote this a little over a year ago – and although it’s not really ‘about’ her, the message was created with her, her two older sisters, and all young people in mind.

(Good grief, I just used the phrase “young people.” That makes me think I might not be one of them anymore.)

“More Than We Are (for Katherine)”

An astronaut’s an astronaut,
but might be someone’s dad
who takes his daughter fishing
when she feels a little sad.
A banker is a banker
but could be a mom, as well,
who shows her son the alphabet
and helps him learn to spell.

A teacher is a teacher
but might be a singer, too.
The janitor at school may wish
he ran the local zoo.
Half of KatieHis son might be a doctor
who is saving someone’s life;
the lady at the store today
might be the doctor’s wife.

Each homeless person on the street,
each writer of a song,
each boy or girl you chance to meet
has somewhere they belong.
There’s always more than what we see,
and as we learn and grow,
we’re all more than we seem to be –

and you’re more than you know.
.

– © 2012, Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

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For today’s complete Poetry Friday roundup, please visit illustrator & wordsmith Michelle Kogan’s blog – where you’ll also find her review of Margaret Simon’s brand-new poetry collection, Bayou Song (University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press, 2018)!

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DON’T ASK A DINOSAUR”
& “FLASHLIGHT NIGHT”
are available everywhere!

It’s another signing – this time, in New Hampshire’s beautiful Lakes Region! I won’t be able to be there, unfortunately, but Dinosaur‘s co-author, Deb Bruss will be – so I hope you’ll stop by if you’re in the area.

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Purchasing personalized signed copies ONLINE? Yes, it’s true!

You can now purchase personalized signed copies of Flashlight Night, Don’t Ask a Dinosaur, and ANY of the books or anthologies I’ve been part of!

Just log onto my website and click the cover of whichever book you want, and the good folks at MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH will let me know, 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 so much to all the librarians, bloggers, and parents who are still discovering “Flashlight Night!” 

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

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 FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Poetry Friday: “A Father’s Advice”

I was sifting through a number of my older children’s poems the other day, and I re-discovered this little thing. It’s a short poem I wrote at least 6 years ago, that I never poetryfridaybutton-fullldid anything with – possibly because I only wrote it for my kids (it’s based on a saying I used to tell them when they’d get hurt), but more likely because it’s probably not up to ‘publishable’-level quality.

Oh, well. I have so many projects I’m trying to find time to work on these days, I’m sure this poem will never be revised – so I figured I’d share it with you! Even though I wrote it before I found my children’s poetry voice, I still kind of like it…hope you do, too:

A Father’s Advice 

One day, you just might hurt yourself;
you may fall down and skin your knee
or bump your head, or need some help.
Well, please take this advice from me:

The first thing you should always do
is try your best to grin a grin;
‘cause if you find you’re still alive,
it’s not as bad
as it could’ve been.

– © 2011 Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

Violet Nesdoly is hosting Poetry Friday today, so be sure to stop by and check out all the links!

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

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

The most important thing you can do to understand your characters, your scripts, and your neighbors better – and why it’s becoming harder and harder

What would you say if I told you the things you enjoy the most are keeping you from understanding your world?

It may sound odd or far-fetched, but it’s true. Thanks to social media, we are becoming more and more close-minded, but this is not simply my opinion. This is actually the way social media works, and it’s preventing more and more of us from experiencing empathy, something we all need to be able to function as voice artists, writers…and human beings.

The fact that we are doing this to ourselves may surprise you.

Empathy: what it is and why it’s important

id-10044279-sep-coupleMost dictionaries define “empathy” as not just understanding, but identifying with the feelings or thoughts of others. Being able to relate to others’ concerns, experiences, and attitudes broadens our own understandings and helps us to respect those who do not share or own opinions.

Unfortunately, a quick look at the comments section on any random Facebook post often reveals how little respect there is for others. There may be many reasons for this lack of respect, but one reason is an inability among many to care to understand another point of view; a lack of empathy.

And unwittingly, you, yourself are exacerbating this.

Algorithms and the shrinking of your world

Before we get to how empathy can help in your writing or voiceover career, we need to address how it affects personal relationships – and that starts with social media.

In the pre-internet days, we relied on the real world for our information: not just newspapers or tv and radio, but actual interactions with fellow humans who may or may not have shared our beliefs. We would discuss, read, learn from a variety of sources.

These days, the internet has opened a world of differing viewpoints, but is, ironically, closing us off to all viewpoints except our own.

ad-spaceHow?

Algorithms.

You see, every time you search Google, read a Facebook headline, or click an ad, you are telling someone what you like and what you don’t like. In return, the social media sites do their best to tailor your experience to the things they think interest you.

For example, if you see “chocolate chips” trending on Facebook and click to see the stories, Facebook deduces you are interested in chocolate chips. If you only scan the posts without clicking a story, your interest in chocolate chips may be dismissed, but if you click a story, Facebook now assumes you are even more interested in chocolate chips than it had thought.

So don’t be surprised if you see an ad for chocolate chips pop up in your newsfeed the next day!

Same with Google; if you check out a couple of recipes on Betty Crocker’s website, you might soon find cooking ads sprinkled throughout the sites you visit.

Now, while a chocolate chip addiction may not be cause for alarm, things get really problematic, really quickly…

Democrat, Republican, or Independent? Let’s ask Facebook!

Here’s a test: with which political affiliation do you most identify? If you’d like to find out what Facebook thinks, do this:

  • Open up Facebook, and on the far-right drop-down menu (to the right of the padlock icon), click “Settings.”
  • On the far left of the screen, click “Ads,”
  • Where it reads “Ads based on my preferences,” click “Edit” and then “Visit Ad Preferences.”
  • Under “Interests,” click on”Lifestyle and culture.” From there, you should see a box titled “US politics” – and if you have not already declared a political affiliation, Facebook has made a guess as to what it thinks you are!

How does it do this?? By using algorithms based on the sites you visit and other Facebook pages you like. For instance, if a person “Likes” the MoveOn.org Facebook page, Facebook will infer that you are a liberal; if you follow Glenn Beck, Facebook assumes you are conservative.

Obviously, there’s much more to it than that, but you get the idea. The more you tell social media what you like, the more of what you like social media will give you.

And therein lies the big, big  problem.

Where does all this lead?

What it boils down to is all of us living in our own little worlds of singular thought. The more we profess our disdain for Trump, the more pro-Hillary content we are fed; the more we dislike Obamacare, the more conservative content is provided.

The more we read about the Kardashians, the more news about the Kardashians we’re going to get. Oy.

id-100107463-man-screaming-2It is this narrowing and narrowing of our opinions and worldview that is not only harming our capacity for empathy, but our ability to be decent to each other and debate issues politely and respectfully. Being spoon-fed our daily news, we lose sight of all the other opinions out there and the fact that there are, indeed, living, breathing humans on the other end of those opinions.

How empathy comes into play

Empathy, as stated earlier, is not just understanding another’s feelings or opinions, but actually identifying with them, whether or not we agree with them.

Whether it’s the guy who cut you off in traffic, the woman who was too loud on her cellphone, or the person who holds opposing political views to yours, practicing empathy not only helps us interact with others civilly; it reminds us that we are all human and all imperfect.

For all the talk lately of ‘tolerance,’ a little empathy could go a long way…after all, tolerance without understanding has no foundation on which to stand.

A Trump supporter may not be able to understand how a person can vote for Hillary without making a concerted effort to put him/herself in a Hillary supporter’s shoes, looking past the political posturing to see the human being who is running and to understand why she is running.

Likewise, a Hillary supporter may not understand how a person can vote for a candidate like Trump until he or she takes the time to listen closely to a Trump supporter and puts him/herself where the Trump supporter is, recognizing and identifying with the Trump supporter’s experiences and values.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying that Trump supporters or Hillary supporters are right or wrong, I’m not saying one is better than the other. That’s a decision individuals have to make, and this blog is not a political forum.

What I am saying, however, is that when we have a steady stream of news content delivered to us based on the ideas, opinions, and beliefs we already hold, the less we are exposed to other viewpoints.

Then, when we do happen to come across an article, comment, or post that goes against our tightly-held opinions, we are so taken aback that we cannot (or will not) take the time to try to consider why that person with the different opinion ever dared form it in the first place.

What does all this mean for writers and voice artists?

If you are a voice artist narrating a script or performing a character, it is imperative that you understand who you are and why you are saying what you are saying.

You don’t have to be a ‘character’ in the sense of a 19th-century British soldier or school lunch lady, either – even a narrator is, at heart, a character. To the listener, the narrator is the voice of reason, of reassurance, of solution. So take the time to think about this, wrap your head around the script, and try to identify with the speaker – as well as the person being spoken to.

Who are you? Why are you speaking these words? Who is hearing them? What might they think when they hear your words? And what is most important to the person to whom you are speaking?

If you are a writer, ask these same questions of your characters. And really, really, try to answer them honestly, from your character’s point of view.

I know of some authors who will stop themselves in the middle of a manuscript and throw one of their characters into a completely unrelated plot, then write a short story around that, for the sole purpose of getting to know their character better.

A lot of work, yes, but if it helps to create a better understanding, then it’s time well spent.

And come to think of it…asking yourself these questions each time an opposing opinion comes along might not be a bad idea, either. What do you think?

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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)
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Another big announcement: another book!

boyds logoIt was 4 years ago today that I began this little blog, to help promote my voiceover business and children’s writing career. And it was just a little over a year ago, one day when I was hosting Poetry Friday, that I announced I had just signed my very first book deal for a full-length picture book, Flashlight Night. Scheduled for release in Fall 2017, the book is to be published by Boyd’s Mills Press and illustrated by Fred Koehler.

Today, I’m proud to announce I’ve just signed my SECOND book deal!

Co-authored with children’s writer Deb Bruss, my friend and critique group partner, Don’t Ask a Dinosaur was just picked up by editor Jordan Nielsen and the Pow logogood folks at Pow! Kids Books, a subsidiary of Powerhouse Books of New York City.

Don’t Ask a Dinosaur is also scheduled for a Fall 2017 release – which means I’ll have TWO debut books coming out at the same time!

I have to admit, I’m as shocked as anyone to learn about this news. I’ve been writing all my life, but only decided to make a concerted effort to become published in the field of children’s literature about 7 years ago, in 2009.

One Minute cover
(click link to pre-order!)

Since then, I have had 8 children’s poems published in 5 different books, plus I’ll have another one in Kenn Nesbitt’s upcoming anthology, One Minute Till Bedtime (Little, Brown for Young Readers, Nov. 2016), two poems in “Highlights for Kids” magazine, and three others in a soon-to-be-published anthology coming out this fall, courtesy of poet/blogger Michelle H. Barnes.

And for more great news: I’ll also have another poem in an upcoming new Lee Bennett Hopkins anthology!

This comes out to a total of 15 poems and two full-length books in just 7 years…which is what is so shocking to me. I know people who have been trying to get published for 20 years or more and are still struggling, so I kind of feel bad! I don’t want to be”jumping ahead” in the line, you know??

But if there’s any lesson to be learned, I suppose it is that one needs to buckle down and get serious about the craft: write something everyday; try to learn something new about the craft everyday; surround yourself with people who are better than you (either via social media, the SCBWI, critique groups, or some other form of networking); and never, ever, ever let a negative comment, a criticism, or a rejection letter slow you down.

I’ve heard stories about how some writers hold onto their rejection slips as motivation. Some writers look at a rejection letter as a badge of honor. Me? I throw them out as soon as I read them – I figure I don’t need the negativity in my life!

Now, granted, some are actually quite nice as far as rejection letters go, and some can be quite positive and even helpful – so I may hold onto those now and then. But generally speaking, the rejection letters hit the circular file before the mailman has even pulled away from the curb.

So I just had to share the news about the new book…Deb and I are so excited to know that our little Don’t Ask a Dinosaur manuscript has finally found a home, after 18 revisions and almost as many rejections!

I’ll be sharing more news about both books as we get closer to publication date. Until then, I’ve got at least 10 other manuscripts I’m submitting around the publishing world – and I won’t take “no” for an answer!

Postcard_png
School will be starting in just a few weeks…if you’d like me to come to your school (or Skype!) and help students learn about creative writing, poetry, and using the imagination, just click the link for more info!

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

Using submission requests to spur inspiration

I’ve written previously about the value of writing prompts as well as the importance of creating your own inspiration. Today, I want to take just a few short minutes to share a little tip about submission requests, and how they tie into these two topics.

No matter what you write – poetry, novels, short stories, essays – there is a literary journal, website, or writing contest somewhere waiting for you to send in your best. And while many folks might not feel their work is up to the “publishable” level, or are concerned that they don’t have an appropriate piece of work to submit, I’m here to tell you it doesn’t matter.

Publishable or not?

I’m my own worst critic, so I know how it feels when you’ve written something and don’t feel it’s worthy of a wider audience than your cat. You want to tweak it again, fix this line, change that word. I get it.

But, if you’re like me, there’s a point at which you finally think to yourself, “I’ve been working on this so long, I have no idea if this is good or not.”

So send it in! If you come across a submission for which you think your piece is appropriate, send it in! Maybe the editors will like it, maybe not. If they don’t like it, they won’t publish it and no one will see it.

If they do like it, however…you can rest assured that particular piece can be now considered “DONE.”

Nothing appropriate?

The flip side to having a piece that’s appropriate for the submission rules but not actually ready for submission, is not having anything appropriate at all, with regards to subject matter or genre. Here’s where it gets really fun.

Say you’re checking out some writing blogs and one of the bloggers has a writing prompt. Maybe he/she has posted a photo or some words and is asking for readers to share a piece of writing based on the prompt. You might not think twice about whipping up something based on that prompt…so treat the submission as a prompt!

What, there’s a journal looking for stories about windows and doors? That’s a writing prompt! A contest requesting poems about dreams? That’s another prompt! Every submission request is a prompt, so seize every opportunity you can! If you aren’t already doing this, you need to.

No inspiration is no excuse

A professional writer does not wait for inspiration to strike; you simply can’t afford to! Rather, a professional writer creates his or her own inspiration.

Many years ago, I wrote when I felt inspired. Now that I have been writing more and more – and have been published more and more – I have learned to create my own inspiration by working on ideas and words and lines until the poem or story starts coming together.

In the case of submission requests, though, the inspiration is handed to you!

You are told, “We need stories or essays about this” or “We’re looking for poets from this background writing about this subject.” So when you see the request, think about what you might be able to write about that fits the requirements.

Then WRITE!

Proof is in the poetry

Last week, I was thinking about some of the adult-oriented poems I’ve had published, and it occurred to me that most of them had not been written until after I had seen the submission request. In other words, I didn’t have completed poems lying around that just so happened to perfectly fit the rules and requirements of the submission.

Rather, I saw the submission request and decided to write a poem that fit the requirements. And honestly, this has been the case with almost every poem I’ve had published! A few examples:

  • I saw a submission request for poetry about nature, society, and change. So I thought about it and came up “In the Glen,” a poem about The Giving Tree, one hundred years later. It was published by the Tall Grass Writer’s Guild in their anthology, Seasons of Change (Outrider Press, 2010).
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  • I came across another request seeking poems and essays about how poetry trigger-warningsaved a life. My best friend from college, who struggled to accept himself as gay, immediately cam to mind. So I wrote “Coming to Terms,” which was eventually accepted and published in the anthology Trigger Warning: Poetry Saved My Life (Swimming with Elephants Publications, LLC, 2014). (I’m still waiting for my contributor copy to arrive, but that’s a whole other story.)
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  • In 2013, I interviewed Gerald So, editor of The 5-2: Crime Poetry Weekly for a National Poetry Month post here on my blog. When Gerald asked if I wanted to contribute to his blog journal, I said I’d love to – so I needed to come up with a poem! The result was “Flight;” another poem, “To the Accused,” was published the following year.

These are just three examples of many, so I hope you’ll take the opportunity to use submission requests as writing prompts. Many folks besides Yours Truly do this, with great success.

In fact, I just completed a new poem that was supposed to be for a writing prompt by a fellow blogger (sorry, Michelle, I’ll have to come up with something else!) – but then I stumbled upon an anthology submission request that was so similar, I had to use the poem for that, instead!

I have no idea if the poem will be accepted for publishing, but I’m not worried. I can: a) resubmit the poem elsewhere, if an opportunity presents itself; b) set it aside to be included in my own chapbook-in-progress; c) share it here! or d) let it languish in darkness, never to see the light of day.

I do know which option I won’t be taking. I’m happy to share just about anything I write, providing I’m pleased with it!

There are plenty of things I’ve written that probably won’t see the light of day, though…and that’s fine, too. Not everything is meant for publication, and not everything meant for publication is publishable. The important thing, though, is that we are writing – so #WriteLikeNoOneIsReading!

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