Shining a light on my 400th post!

Trust me, NO ONE is more surprised that I’ve posted 400 times here than Yours Truly.

400? Really?? Have I actually had something worth sharing on 400 separate occasions?

Well, for better or worse, I have indeed, published 400 posts…and today of all days, I DEFINITELY have news worth sharing!


This little fellow arrived in my mailbox the other day…a special promotional item from the publisher of Flashlight Night, Boyd’s Mills Press. I don’t know the exact number of flashlights they ordered, but it’s enough to share with a whole bunch of book purchasers (librarians, stores, etc.) all over the country!

Speaking of promoting Flashlight Night, I was also honored to see this full-page ad in Ingram and Follett First Choice journal:

And as if the ad wasn’t enough, I’m thrilled to be sharing the page with my friend and fellow writer, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, whose book, Read! Read! Read! looks absolutely beautiful.  (Side note: I’ll have a poem featured in Amy’s other new book this fall, Poems are Teachers from Heinemann, so keep watching for details on that, too!)

I also just learned last week that Flashlight Night will be receiving a STARRED REVIEW from Kirkus…I’ll be sure to share the complete review once they publish i can’t thank Boyd’s Mills Press, my editor Rebecca Davis, our illustrator Fred Koehler, and of course, YOU for helping this all to be possible…so thank you!

Flashlight Night (Boyd’s Mills Press) hits bookshelves Sept. 5, 2017, and pre-orders are available now through Barnes & Noble and Amazon, or by clicking the image of the cover to the right. Of course, if you prefer, you can always wait til Sept. 5 and purchase it at your favorite local independent bookstore.

Oh, and if you happen to be in the Boston area Thur. night, Sept. 7, I hope you’ll join us for the book launch party at Porter Square Books in Cambridge, MA! (Again, more details will be forthcoming as we get closer to the date)

Thank you again for being a part of this journey…and for being willing to sit through 400 posts! When I started this little blog nearly 5 years ago with my very first post back on Aug. 1, 2012, I had no idea what lay in store – for the blog, or my career! It’s nice to know both have been chugging along quite nicely.

And the fact that there are 385 of you following this blog each week really, truly means a lot to me. I can’t wait to find out who will be my 500th follower – but there might be a prize involved, if it’s a friend of yours! (hint, hint!)

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Poetry Friday: Hard to believe it’s been two years!

After I shared the cover of my debut picture book, Flashlight Night (Boyds Mills Press, Sept. 2017) last week, I had a realization: it’s been a mere two years since my debut as a published children’s writer!

I have to thank Lee Bennett Hopkins first and foremost, as it was he who first asked me to be a contributor to his anthology, Lullaby and Kisses Sweet (Abrams, 2015). When I said “Yes!” I had no idea I’d be side-by-side with folks like Charles Ghigna, David L. Harrison, X.J. Kennedy, Jane Yolen, and Jane’s daughter, Heidi Stemple, with whom I share this spread:

(Reprinted with permission; all rights reserved. Click to enlarge)

And while Lullaby was released in March 2015, it wasn’t the only anthology I got to be a part of that month. I also had the pleasure of contributing this poem, in honor of National Cereal Day, to Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong’s Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations (Pomelo Books, 2015):

Picky Eater

I love my Fruit Loops,
love my Trix,
love Cheerios
and even Kix.
I really like
my Apple Jacks –
but please don’t give me
Sugar Smacks,
or stars or squares or flakes
you’ve found –
I only eat, you see,
what’s round.

– © 2015, Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

And as if that weren’t enough, I was fortunate to be able to contribute three poems to Carol-Ann Hoyte’s Dear Tomato: An International Crop of Food & Agriculture Poems, which also came out that same March! Here’s one of them:

Fair is Fair
(a lesson in Fair Trade)

Mother’s coffee,
Father’s tea,
Sister’s cocoa…
all might be
a farmer’s only
chance to give
his family
a chance to live.

– © 2015, Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

Five debuts in one month…not too shabby! Of course, it’s still a long, slow process in building one’s career, but since then, I’ve been in anthologies, journals, and Highlights for Kids magazine and at this very moment, I will have 24 children’s poems published – or under contract to be published – through 2018.

Plus, I have my two forthcoming picture books! So I truly feel grateful that I’ve been able to get this far; I know folks who’ve been slaving away at their computers and typewriters for 20+ years and have yet to get to this point, so I never take any of it for granted. I just keep trying to plug away at it, writing when I can, learning what I can, and hopefully build myself a little children’s author career.

Who knows what will happen – but thank you for being part of this ride with me! If you haven’t already, I’d love for you to follow me on Twitter and Facebook so we can keep in touch more easily (the links are below). And be sure to head over to Reading to the Core, where Catherine is hosting Poetry Friday today and celebrating poets and poetry with Kwame Alexander’s new book!

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

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!

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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!

Poetry Friday: “Ode to Lint,” a Throwback Summer lost classic

poetryfridaybutton-fulllYes, this poem had been lost for a long time…and had I not stumbled upon it in my parents’ attic, we all would have probably been better off.

If you have somehow not heard, I am sharing bits and pieces of my high school journals this summer, having come across a huge stash of old schoolwork while cleaning out my folks’ house, in preparation for its sale.

Back in June, I wrote about the initial discovery, and just this past Tuesday I explained why it was inevitable that I ended up in careers involving writing and advertising. Today, I’m sharing another one of the chestnuts I wrote in my English journal during senior year…and although it’s far from stellar-quality, it is probably the best-written poem I’ve shared from my journals so far.

You be the judge…

“Ode to Lint, II”

What is this, that I do see
floating past, in front of me?
Small dust speck, or puff of hair?
What is that thing flying there?
I reach out, it comes to me,
hardly larger than a flea;
I look close, I analyze.
Staring hard, I scrutinize
and attempt (as best I can)
to discern this work of Man.
Oh, too hard to contemplate!
Leaves my hand to impend fate.
What is that, that I do see
floating past, in front of me?
Small dust speck, or puff of hair?
What is that thing flying there??

– © 1985, Matt Forrest Esenwine, 4-4-85

Now, you have not known this until now, but I’ve done you the great service of not sharing most of the horrible poetry I wrote back then. Yes, yes…hard to believe, considering the subterranean level of quality of most of it. But true.

I had a penchant for trying to elevate the most mundane, ridiculous objects into flowery, verbose poems – so consider yourself fortunate that I have not shared my “Ode to a Stool,” “Ode to a Desk,” “Ode to Crust,” “Ode to Dropping Socks,” “Ode to Slippery Shoes,” “Ode to a Deep Thought,” or – what just might be the worst of all – my “Ode to Lint, I.” That’s right, I wasn’t happy with just one poem about lint; I apparently felt the subject was worthy of two, at least.

For today’s complete Poetry Friday roundup, head on over to Books 4 Learning. And be prepared…there’s a whole lot more mediocrity coming your way next week, right 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!
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!

Finally! Marketing postcards!

national-poetry-month 2016

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

(click to enlarge)

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

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!
SCVBWI_Member-badge (5 years)
To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)Cybils-Logo-2015-Web-Sm
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Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Exciting news! And more exciting news!

What’s it like to lead a writer’s conference workshop on writing? I’m about to find out!

nescbwi16_conf logoRegistration for the New England chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI) gets underway at noon EST today, and it is one of those things we writers look forward to all year. The third-biggest SCBWI conference – behind the two big ones in New York and LA – is three days of learning, networking, and enjoying life…but this year, I have some extra reasons to look forward to it:

  • I will be taking part in the #AskAMentor program on Friday afternoon, where conference faculty hang out and meet others who are just starting to write or who are looking for advice. It is described as ‘speed dating but without the cheesy pickup lines’…and as far as I know, Yours Truly will be the only person there who writes poetry. So I hope you’ll say hi, if you happen to attend!
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  • I also agreed to co-chair the Open Mic nights Fri. and Sat. evenings with fellow poetry writer Sharon Abra Hanen. This is an opportunity to share your children’s poetry or a manuscript with the crowd. This year, we’re adding a special feature we call “Whose Rhyme is it, Anyway?”- a quick, improvisational game where two writers (or teams) are given random words and subjects and need to create a minimum 2-line children’s poem within the allotted time!
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  • The hands-down MOST exciting part of this weekend for me will be on Sunday, when I host my first workshop for industry professionals, “Free yourself with Free Verse Poetry.” This is for all the poor folks who think children’s poetry needs to rhyme and be perfectly metrical. Attendees will be taught the basics of free verse (use of internal rhyme, enjambment, shape of text, etc.) and will be challenged with some on-the-spot writing exercises. This, I hope, will be a nice complement to Holly Thompson’s and Padma Venkatraman’s verse novel workshop taking place earlier the same day.

From plotting to illustrating to character development to marketing…there’s a workshop for just about everything kidlit-related at this conference. If you do attend, please be sure to find me and say hi! Registration begins at noon today, so don’t wait – workshops get filled up very quickly!

But wait…I said there’s MORE exciting news, didn’t I??

I can now finally (and proudly) announce that illustrator extraordinaire Fred Koehler has signed on to illustrate my debut picture book, Flashlight Night (Boyd’s Mills Press), which is due out in Fall 2017!

REBECCA KAI DOTLICH - One DayFred has illustrated numerous picture books including, most recently, Rebecca Kai Dotlich’s One Day…The End (Boyd’s Mills Press, 2015). His own book, Super Jumbo (Dial Books) comes out exactly one week from today, so be sure to check it out! He also illustrates Shelley Moore Thomas’ book, This Book is Not About Dragons (Boyd’s Mills Press), which is due to be released this September. Like I said, busy guy.

I’m especially thrilled about Fred’s decision to illustrate my book because mine will be his first using traditional media (i.e., pen and ink, pencil, etc.). These days, everything is digital – but Fred wanted to capture a classic sort of feeling with this particular project, and I have to admit I’m honored that he liked it enough to do that!

I’ll be sharing some more details about this book as we get closer to the release date. Until then, I’m continuing to send out other manuscripts in search of a publisher! I think I have 8 or 9 different manuscripts all searching for a home right now…fingers crossed, as they say!

I also have some news about two new anthologies that will be coming out (one next year; the other, the year after that!) but I need to keep quiet for now. Once I can make the news public, you’ll be the first to know!

Or maybe I’ll spill a bean or two at the conference…hope to see you there!

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!
SCVBWI_Member-badge (5 years)
To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)Cybils-Logo-2015-Web-Sm
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Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

A busy 2016 – and it’s barely begun!

If that old saying is true – that “idleness is the devil’s playground” – then I suspect Satan has probably left the building.

Although I had some enjoyable downtime with the family over the holidays, I can’t say I was relishing in any sort of ‘idleness’…and with the new year upon us, things are just getting busier!

Cybils-Logo-2015-Round-LgCYBILS Awards finalists

The 10th annual CYBILS Awards (aka, the Children’s and Young Adult Literary Bloggers Awards) are underway, and as a first-round panelist for the graphic novels category, I had my work cut out for me. My fellow panelists and I had to pore over 102 nominated books to nail down the 14 that we felt were the best!

The graphic novels category is an interesting one, because of a number of reasons. First, it’s divided into two sub-categories: Young Adult and Elementary/Middle Grade – which means we are reading for different age levels. Second, it’s not just fiction; there was non-fiction, historical fiction, even memoirs!

It was tough to sort through them all, but a lot of fun, and quite a learning NG Book of Nature Poetry coverexperience. In past years, I’ve been a judge for the Poetry category – but since I was a contributor to three of the nominated anthologies, I had to step aside. I am extremely proud of the fact that one of those anthologies, the National Geographic Book of Nature Poetry (National Geographic Kids, 2015) is a 2nd-round finalist, so my fingers are crossed!

You can see the list of all the finalists for all of the categories HERE.

Anthologies ahead!

In addition to the children’s poetry anthologies I contributed to this past year, I will also have a poem included in former U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate Kenn Nesbitt’s new anthology, One Minute Til Bedtime (Little, Brown Book for Young Readers, Spring 2016).

I’m also thrilled to announce that I will have two poems in two separate anthologies yet to be announced! I wish I could tell you more about them, but cannot…at least, not yet, anyway. In fact, one isn’t due to come out until 2018 (tentatively), so you’ll be hearing plenty more about it in the months (and years!) ahead!

Children’s manuscripts, anyone? Anyone??

I’ve been busy cranking out manuscripts this past year and am now sending them out in hopes of finding an editor or agent interested in acquiring them.

If my numbers are right, I wrote or revised 13 manuscripts over the course of 2015 – some brand-new, others revised – and they are all looking for homes. Most are picture books, but two are children’s poetry collections.

One was a rhyming picture book collaboration with one of the nicest and most talented and prolific children’s poets in the country, for which I’m honored. It’s my sincere hope that the manuscript gets picked up – not simply because I am a children’s writer looking for a contract, but more importantly because I want our collaborative effort to be validated as a worthwhile effort for my partner, who took a chance on me.

Three magic words: New. Voiceover. Studio!

We recently wrapped up $20,000 worth of construction work on our house (most of which insurance paid for, thankfully!), but one of the things that came out of this was a rearranging of our rooms.

My wife and my master bedroom had to be vacated and will soon become our 2-year-old daughter’s new room, while we had to move downstairs to what had been a playroom/storage room for the kids. The benefit of this is that the nursery in which our daughter sleeps now – a fairly small room, by any standard – will become my new studio!

I’m looking forward to treating the room for acoustics, sound-dampening, organizing, etc. – but first we need to get walls painted and beds situated before any of that can happen. Oh, 2016 is going to be a good year, indeed.

Last but not least, the 2016 NE-SCBWI Conference!

nescbwi16 logo

The New England chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) is hosting its annual spring conference at the end of April, and I’m already packing!

Why? Well, because it’s always packed with insightful panels, intriguing keynotes (Jane Yolen, Tomie dePaola, and Kwame Alexander, to name a few), educational workshops, and tremendous networking opportunities. But beyond all of that, this year is special to me because I’ll be involved in two new ways: as a volunteer and as faculty!

On Sunday, May 1, I’ll be hosting a workshop entitled “Free Yourself with Free Verse Poetry.” During this 55-minute session, I’ll teach the basics of free verse for children’s writers and poets who may want to learn more about poetry, but are afraid of rhyme schemes and scary terms like “iambic pentameter” and “dactylic hexameter.”

After a brief overview of what free verse is and how to utilize it, attendees will be able to practice with some on-the-spot writing and ask questions. My desire is that this workshop will be beneficial for writers who just want to be more creative as well as for those who wish to write in a more poetic or lyrical style…and it could be a great primer for writing verse novels, which are often written in free verse.

I’m also helping to coordinate our Open Mic programs Fri. and Sat. nights, together with fellow writer Sharon Abra Hanen. Attendees are encouraged to share what they’re working on – children’s poetry, a picture book manuscript, even a few sample pages from a book – with the crowd. And new this year, a special feature called “Whose Rhyme Is It, Anyway?”- a quick, improvisational flash-poetry game where two writers (or teams) will be given random words and subjects and will need to create a children’s poem within the allotted time.

Get more details about the conference HERE, and if you’re a member of NE-SCBWI, I hope to see you there!

Is that enough?

Well, for now, it is. I need to write two more poems, but they will have to wait. One is for Penny Parker Klosterman’s blog (my kids and I will be featured on January 29), and one is for my chiropractor, Dr. Stephanie Foisy Mills, D.C., C.C.W.P., who asked if I’d mind writing something for her blog.

I also have two more picture book manuscripts and three children’s poetry collections I need to work on…but one can only do so much. Please stay in touch – either through this blog or via any of my social media homes listed below – and I wish you health, happiness, and all wonderful things for this brand-new year!

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!
SCVBWI_Member-badge (5 years)
To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)Cybils-Logo-2015-Web-Sm
 .
Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!