The life of a picture book: celebrating ONE YEAR for “Flashlight Night”! (Plus GIVEAWAY!)

I make a living using my imagination.

Whether it’s a poem, a picture book, or even a blog post, I love to stretch my mind and see what kinds of unusual, surprising, and creative stories and images I can come up with.

But I have to admit…it is very, very hard for me wrap my head around the fact that my debut picture book is ONE YEAR OLD today!

Flashlight Night (Boyds Mills Press) was officially published on Sept. 19, 2017 – and I could never have imagined the response it would receive nationally. I knew I liked it, of course; I knew illustrator Fred Koehler had done a phenomenal job on his end, and I knew our editor, Rebecca Davis, had performed an amazing juggling act between the two of us – balancing my story with the story Fred was telling via his illustrations.

I also had no idea, once I completed the final draft, that it would even get picked up by a publisher; nor could I possibly fathom how long it would take to produce, once the contract was signed. It might be the book’s one-year birthday, but the idea for the book is four years old now! So to give you a little perspective on the life of a picture book, I thought I’d present a timeline of the life of Flashlight Night:

  • August, 2014: Staring at my car’s headlights while driving home late at night from an SCBWI Meet-Up in Westford, MA, the words, “Flashlight opens up the night” pop into my head. As I toss this phrase around in my head I eventually come up with the opening and closing of…something. A poem? A book? Nothing??
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  • Sept. 9, 2014: After a couple of weeks of writing and revising, I complete the final draft of Flashlight. (That’s right, no “Night.” It looked a little different then…
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  • Oct. 7, 2014: With a hope and a prayer (and crossed fingers) I send the manuscript off to Rebecca Davis, the editor at Boyds Mills Press. Rebecca had seen some of my previous poetry but had not purchased anything up to this point. Before I email the manuscript to her, I change the title to Flashlight Night, so that there is no confusion with another book, Flashlight (Chronicle), which had just been published the week before I wrote my own flashlight book! How’s THAT for timing, huh?
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  • Dec. 2014: The Flashlight Night manuscript is awarded the New England SCBWI’s Peg Davol Scholarship for unpublished authors and receives a critique from an established, published author.
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  • Jan. 16, 2015: Five days after my critique, I receive a call from Rebecca, telling me she and her editorial board all love the manuscript. I am elated – not just because I had finally sold a full-length book manuscript, but because, had I followed the critiquer’s suggestions, the book would not be the book it is today. Indeed, it might not have even gotten published!
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    This is why critiques can be helpful, but only if an author takes the advice that makes sense to him/her. If you have read Flashlight Night, compare my notes with the book itself, and note how far it deviates from all the recommendations I was given:
  • May 18, 2015: I sign the contract for Flashlight Night!
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  • June, 2015: After seeing his concept
    Image © 2015 Fred Koehler, all rights reserved, reprinted with permission (click to enlarge)

    for the book’s sub-narrative, which includes the flashlight beam illuminating the children’s adventure, Rebecca signs Fred Koehler to illustrate our book. She shares with me Fred’s initial sketch of what he’d like to do with the book, and we agree it’s ingenious. (By the way, Rebecca and I have already gone through four text revisions at this point – and more are on the way!)
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  • Spring, 2016:
    (click to enlarge)

    Fred takes a 2-week trip to the United Kingdom to sketch and photograph the countryside, the shipyard, the ocean, and museum artifacts in preparation. Much of what he sees – including the trail into the woods, the clipper ship, and the rocky arch where the Kraken hides – ends up in the book. I tell Fred that I should have taken the trip first, THEN written the book – what a sweet tax-write off!
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  • July-Dec. 2016: Dummies of the book continue to be put together and taken apart, revised and edited. By early Dec., we realize that my original ending,“all is still within, without,” is simply not going to work with Fred’s illustrations, so I change the line to “adventure lingers, stirs about.” (It’s called “collaboration,” folks!) By Dec. 14, we have what we believe is the final dummy version of the entire book, text and illustrations.
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  • March 2017: And now we have a cover! The colors are a little bolder than they will eventually be, but it looks great:

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  • March 6, 2017: I am asked to fill out a questionnaire with social media contacts, bookstore info, and other folks I know who might be able to help in the promotional effort. (Wow, I thought. Things are gettin’ real…)
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  • April 12, 2017: F&G’s arrive.
    (click to enlarge)

    Short for “folded and gathered,” F&G’s are printed up following approval of a book’s final proofs. They look exactly the way the book will look once it’s bound, yet allow publishers’ marketing and sales teams to mail the books to buyers and trade journals without the heavy cover…shipping costs can get pretty hefty, as you can imagine!
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  • April-May 2017: Promotions get underway: full-page display ads in industry catalogs, inclusion in the Boyds Mills Press’ catalog…things are DEFINITELY getting real now. It feels like there is a new surprise everyday!
       
  • May 26, 2017: We receive our first review, and it’s a whopper. Kirkus calls Flashlight Night a “rousing read” and awards it a coveted Starred Review. As blown away as I am at this news…I am now eager to learn what others think of it!
  • May 26, 2017: Flashlight Night flashlights arrive, to be distributed to librarians and book buyers across the country! Yes, May 26 was a good day.
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  • June 2, 2017: Representatives of Boyds Mills Press attend Book Expo America, where just about every book publisher is showing off their upcoming catalog. I nearly fall over when I see the banner:
  • June 26, 2017: Two days after my birthday, my author copies arrive. It was the best non-birthday birthday gift ever, in the history of ever.
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  • July-August 2017: The industry reviews start coming in! One after another, they sing the praises of our little book:  Publisher’s Weekly states that my text and Fred’s illustrations “don’t just lobby for children to read—they show how readers play;” The Horn Book calls Flashlight Night “an old-fashioned, rip-roaring imaginary adventure; and Booklist describes it as “imaginative,” “surprising,” and “fantastical.”
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  • Sept. 1, 2017: The School Library Journal reviews the book, calling the verse “incantatory.” The reviewer’s final verdict is glowing: “A simple idea that’s engagingly executed and would be an excellent, atmospheric read for sleepovers or backyard campouts. A good choice for most collections.” I’m particularly proud that the text is referred to as a poem…which is how it first came to be and the genre that got me into children’s writing in the first place.
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  • Sept. 7, 2017: The National Book Launch takes place at Porter Square Books in Cambridge, MA – just
    Photo courtesy of Josh Funk (click to enlarge)

    outside of Boston. Although the book doesn’t officially come out until Sept. 19, this date had been arranged earlier in the year, when we thought the book was going to be released earlier. It is a dual book launch with my friend and fellow author Carol Gordon Ekster, who was also celebrating the release of her new book. The event is well-attended, we sell lots of books, and I breathe a sigh of relief! It is the fist of many signings, and I can’t wait to continue the book tour throughout southern NH and northeastern MA.
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  • Sept. 19, 2017: Flashlight Night makes it debut in the world!! (And on International Talk Like a Pirate Day, no less – how more perfect could that be?!?) A huge blog tour helps support the promotional effort with interviews, giveaways, and lots of great press – including an appearance by Fred Koehler on KidLitTV. (Book signings, readings, and school visits, oh my!) More than THREE YEARS after I first started tossing words around in my head to create my story, anyone and everyone who wants to have a copy, can buy one anywhere. It still feels surreal.
     
      
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  • Sept. 22, 2017: Three days after its release – yes, a mere THREE DAYS after its release, Flashlight Night shows up on Amazon’s “Best Books for Kids” list:

    (and “Flashlight Night” is ON SALE right now!)
  • Sept. 26, 2017: Unbeknownst to the publisher, we receive a tremendously positive review from Shelf-Awareness, in which the reviewer compares our book – favorably! – to Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are. Talk about compliments that can humble a person.
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  • Sept. 27, 2017: More publicity! This ad
    (click to enlarge)

    was for an email blast for the online book retailer Mackin. With so many positive reviews, our publisher wanted as many potential customers as possible to see them.
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  • Oct. 7, 2017: Illustrator Fred Koehler informs me that The Polk Museum of Art in Lakeland, FL is installing an exhibit featuring his original artwork for Flashlight Night. Each piece is to be framed and mounted on the wall, along with my text, in such as way as to allow a viewer to follow the story page-by-page:

    Photo courtesy Fred Koehler
  • Nov. 2017: I discover that Flashlight Night is one of Amazon’s best-selling children’s books about libraries and reading…and my head swells a wee bit more.
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  • Dec., 2017: Another review and another (major) list! The review is by the School Library Connection, which also favorably compares the book to Wild Things, praising its “poetic rhyme” and “creative illustrations.” The list is the New York Public Library’s “Best Books for Kids 2017,” which also includes titles like Dan Santat’s incredible After the Fall (Roaring Brook Press) and the Margaret Wise Brown Prize-winning Things to Do (Chronicle Books) by my friend Elaine Magliaro. Shortly thereafter, Flashlight Night shows up as a NY Public Library Staff Pick, as well!
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  • Jan. 2018: Boyds Mills Press learns that the Kansas chapter of the NEA has selected Flashlight Night to be included in its 2018 Reading Circle Catalog, an honor I do not take lightly. We also continue discovering positive reviews from random kidlit, parenting, and educational bloggers, and I make a point to leave a comment on each one of them, thanking them for their support.
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  • March 20, 2018: One of the aforementioned bloggers, author Jen Betton, uses Flashlight Night as mentor text for discussing the interplay of text and illustration. The fact that anyone would use something I wrote to teach others how to write is an indescribable honor.
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  • March 23, 2018: I deposit my very first royalty check!
    That’s right…makin’ bank, baby!

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    Well, ok…it wasn’t QUITE this much. But I was thrilled – not just because I had made some money, but because of what it meant…
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    You see, many picture books don’t even make back the advance a publisher pays the author. To explain, an advance is against royalties; it’s like getting an advance on your paycheck. The publisher pays you up-front, then once you have sold enough copies to cover the advance, you begin receiving royalties. So the fact that we not only made back the advance, but made it back and then some within 5 months was astonishing. Keep in mind, compared to highly-successful, well-established authors like Jane Yolen and Mo Willems, I’m a relative unknown – so the book’s success is significant. I was so grateful to editor Rebecca Davis and Boyds Mills Press for taking a chance on Flashlight Night.
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  • Summer 2018: Our little book starts popping up on Summer Reading Lists! You can learn more at my blog post HERE.
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  • What’s next: The book continues to be discovered by parents, children, librarians, and teachers. I am always delighted when I see a new review or hear about the book showing up on a reading list. While I continue to do book signings for Flashlight Night, Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (Pow! Kids Books, 2018), and the poetry anthologies I’ve been a part of (see below for all the covers), I also love visiting schools to talk about the writing process, poetry, and how writing & illustrating go hand-in-hand when creating picture books.
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    We tell our kids to read and write for 12+ years in school, yet rarely do we tell them they can actually do it for a living…that they could be an author when they grow up. Well, I’m here to tell them they CAN! So if you are interested in having me visit your school, please email me at matt (at) mattforrest (dot) com and we can chat! (You can get more info HERE)

Thank you for following this blog and for supporting Flashlight Night. I never knew how many people would see it, read it, love it…and its success has made an immense impact on my life. I’m genuinely grateful to every single person who has read it, purchased it, shared it, or somehow promoted it. From teachers and librarians, to parents and bloggers, to book sellers and reviewers – there are just too many people to thank individually for their support.

So please know that you are a part of this timeline I’ve shared – at every point along the way. And this goes beyond Flashlight and Dinosaur and all the other books yet to come. None of what I do can been accomplished without the help and encouragement of folks like you. And I hope you’ll remain a part of this author’s journey on which I embarked 8 years ago.

Because I have a feeling we’re only getting started!

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“Hang on there just a second, Matt –
where’s this GIVEAWAY you told us about??

Ah, yes – the giveaway! I have THREE personally-signed copies of Flashlight Night I’m going to give away, in three different ways:

  1. Leave a comment below and let me know you’d like to be entered in the drawing! I’ll pick one name at random on Thursday, Sept. 27 and announce the winner on my Poetry Friday blog post the next day.
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  2. Share this post on Facebook or Twitter! Just be sure to tag me, so I know…and I’ll pick another name at random on Thursday, Sept. 27.
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  3. Leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads! Now, before you start talking trash and calling me out for fishing for compliments, let me state this clearly: if you don’t like Flashlight Night…leave a review, anyway! I am by no means offended by negative criticism. Not everyone likes every book. While most reviews have been positive, there are some readers who have been completely underwhelmed by our effort. And that’s ok; we can still get along. (Why you would want to leave a negative review in the hopes of getting a free copy is beyond me, but to each his own.) Out of all the reviews posted from today through Sept. 27, 6pm EDST, I’ll pick one name at random – and will leave a comment on your review, so you’ll know you won. So be sure to check your review on Friday, Sept. 28!

Oh, and if you’d like to have TWO MORE CHANCES to score free stuff, Laura Sassi is featuring an interview with Fred Koehler and Yours Truly on her blog today – she’s giving away a free signed copy of Flashlight Night AND a package of cool swag from the fine folks at KidLitTV!

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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?)

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Thank you to everyone for your support!

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

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!

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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!

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.
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– © 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?)

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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: On Langston Hughes, School People, and Riotous Punctuation: an Interview (& Giveaway!) with Lee Bennett Hopkins

School People (Wordsong), Lee Bennett Hopkins’ new children’s poetry anthology, is officially in stores!

Edited by  Flashlight Night editor Rebecca Davis, this book includes 15 poems about the grown-ups that children meet at school – including my poem, “Bus Driver.” Today, Lee Bennett Hopkins joins me for a brief interview about the book and how he goes about creating these exceptional anthologies.

First of all, Lee, I want to thank you for asking me to contribute a poem to another one of your books! I know I speak for all of the contributors when I say that is always an honor when asked to write something for a Lee Bennett Hopkins anthology. What was your first anthology, and how did it come about?

After teaching for six years in an elementary school in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, and having completed my Master’s Degree at Bank Street College of Education (when Bank Street College was on Bank Street in Greenwich Village),  I was offered a job working with Bank Street to develop new programs in Harlem where I wrote numerous articles, many dealing with African American studies. My work was with junior high school students and teachers to bring African American literature and poetry to weave into curricula.

Born in Scranton, PA, Hopkins graduated Kean University, Bank Street College of Education, and holds a Professional Diploma in Educational Supervision and Administration from Hunter College. He received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Kean University, the University of Southern Mississippi Medallion for “outstanding contributions to the field of children’s literature,” and a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for his 120+ children’s poetry anthologies. He also received the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Excellence in Poetry for Children award and the Florida Libraries’ Lifetime Achievement Award.

On May 22, 1967, Langston Hughes died in Harlem; a few blocks away from where I was working. I wanted to share more of his work. The only book he had done for children was The Dream Keeper and Other Poems (Knopf) published in 1932. 1932! Although the words were as universal as ever, the artwork was stereotypically appalling. I could not share an Aunt Jemima-looking woman in her bandana nor a tap dancing-like dude with cap and cane with students or colleagues.

I brazenly called the Knopf office and asked to speak to their current editor. Imagine this! I was young, naïve – and truly didn’t know better! After asking why a new book of Hughes poems had not been published and angry over the artwork, the editor, Virginia Fowler, stopped me mid-ranting and asked me to meet her for lunch. She remained shocked I had the nerve to call her but told me how she loved my enthusiasm.

Voila, I was offered a contract to bring a new edition of Hughes work to life. The result Don’t You Turn Back, with exquisite woodcuts by Ann Grifalconi. The book was highly touted, won numerous awards including an ALA Notable Book. The Introduction was written by Arna Bontemps, noted author, historian, and friend of Hughes. I was truly on my way; the first of many books I published with Knopf!

These days, there are poetry collections about everything from food to bugs to historical events. How difficult is it to come up with thematic concepts that will not only be commercially successful, but of a high literary value, as well?

It isn’t so much a theme but how one executes it. There are many books of poems about school. In School People, for example, I begin with the building itself; it is “School’s Story.” I asked Rebecca Kai Dotlich to begin the book with the building… what it awaits, what it holds, what it is. “I am waiting—come on in!” Come on in to “A building full of soul and heart.”

The cast of personnel is then presented beginning with your poem “Bus Driver” showing the empathy of a smiling face that brings a child to school and home again. Various school workers are presented, each detailing their various roles. The book ends with “School’s Story Reprise” by Dotlich who brings the collection to a whole where the building tells of ‘all these parts; / hours of wonders, surprises, starts.”

The “high literary value” comes via the pens of today’s poets, established voices and well as newer ones. It is the culmination of hours, days, months, sometimes even years of back-and-forth-ing, editing, rewrites galore, the supreme delight of working with disciplined poets. How lucky I am to have them in my life.

Lee’s poem from “School People,” ©2018 Wordsong, all rights reserved, reprinted with permission (Click to enlarge)

Can you provide us with some insight as to how an anthology comes together? That is, once a subject is determined and the publishing contract is signed, what happens next?

I make a list of poets I would like to invite. Knowing their work I have the gut feeling of what they will create. Many have appeared in past collections. I know, for example, that Joan Bransfield Graham writes with emotion which gives me goose bumps. I sigh after she is finished with a poem. It is remarkable the empathy she can bring to a few lines. I also want to take chances with ‘newer’ poets to help them advance their careers.

Once all the poems are in they are sent to an editor. In this case, Rebecca M. Davis at Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press. Rebecca and I have worked on countless collections. Not only is she my dearest friend, she is among the best editors in the industry. We sort of know where to go. If I go astray she’ll lead me right back on track. She is my Poetry Mistress! (Smile, Rebecca!) I can’t wait to begin a collection under her keen guidance.

Last year, you were inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame along with such highly esteemed folks as guitarist Don Felder of the Eagles and country signers Billy Dean and Jim Stafford. I know you were very surprised when it was first announced…but how did it feel to actually be there, accepting the award?

The Award Ceremony was held in Gainsville, Florida. It was a mind-boggling gala to be in a room filled with such creative people. A host of people were instrumental to my induction including the tireless, determined work of Jude Mandel and Stephanie Salkin. My greatest shock and delight was to appear on a roster of people such as Ernest Hemingway, Zora Neale Hurston and my all-time idol, Tennessee Williams. I shall forever be on A Streetcar Named Desire due to this honor!

The Contents page reads like a Who’s Who of children’s poets…and somehow, I ended up in there, too! ©2018 Wordsong, all rights reserved, reprinted with permission (Click to enlarge)

Finally, since this new book, School People, is all about the grown-ups that children meet when they go to school…who was your favorite “school person” when you were in elementary school?

There were many but one stands out – my eighth-grade teacher, Mrs. Ethel Kite MacLachlan, who saw something in the mixed-up child I was and turned my life around with her compassion and understanding. Like Joan Bransfield Graham’s poem, “Teacher”, she was the one to ‘stretch my world much wider” made me feel “I, too, can fly.”

Oh, and I would be remiss if I neglected to ask what is next on your publishing schedule! I know you have a couple of other anthologies coming out next year; any more books this year?

I am looking forward to the release next month of World Make Way: New Poems Inspired by Art from the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Abrams). World Make Way is visually stunning, highlighting masterpieces by artists as Mary Cassatt and Henri Rousseau to the contemporary Kerry James Marshall. The poetry is ekphrastic verse featuring all new works by such award-winning poets as Guadalupe Garcia McCall, Marilyn Nelson, Naomi Shihab Nye, and Carole Boston Weatherford.

In the fall, a romp of a collection, A Bunch of Punctuation (Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press) bringing punctuation marks to riotous adventures. O! what some of my wondrous poet friends have come up with including odes to a dash, a hyphen and parentheses!

French artist, Serge Bloch’s whimsical artwork is simply “!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Well, thank you again, Lee, for taking the time to chat – and thank you also for inviting me to be part of School People and some of your other upcoming books. Congratulations on this newest accomplishment!

Thank you, Matt, for all you do to promote poetry.

Speaking of poetry, folks…if you head on over to Ms. Mac’s place, Check It Out, you’ll find today’s complete Poetry Friday roundup! If you’d like to order a copy of “School People” personally signed by Yours Truly, just CLICK HERE!

AND IF YOU’D LIKE TO WIN A FREE COPY OF “SCHOOL PEOPLE,” SIMPLY LEAVE A COMMENT BELOW OR SHARE THIS POST VIA FACEBOOK, TWITTER, OR PINTEREST – AND BE SURE TO TAG ME, SO I’LL SEE IT. (EACH OF THESE ACTIONS EARNS AN ENTRY, SO YOU CAN POTENTIALLY HAVE AS MANY AS FOUR ENTRIES!)

I’LL PICK ONE NAME AT RANDOM NEXT THURSDAY NIGHT AT 8PM EST AND ANNOUNCE THE WINNER IN NEXT FRIDAY’S  BLOG! 

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SCHOOL PEOPLE are here…and the DINOSAURS are on their way!

“Don’t Ask a Dinosaur” hits bookshelves April 17!

New dates continue to be added to the Dinosaur Tour! Don’t Ask a Dinosaur co-author Deborah Bruss and I have quite a busy schedule planned, and more dates continue to be added:

  • Sat., April 14, 11am:  Toadstool Bookshop, Peterborough, NH, (Children’s Author Day with illustrator Ryan O’Rourke AND Local Book Launch for Don’t Ask a Dinosaur!)
  • Sat., April 14, 2pm:  Toadstool Bookshop, Keene, NH, (Children’s Author Day with illustrator Ryan O’Rourke AND Local Book Launch for Don’t Ask a Dinosaur!)
  • Tue., April 17, 7pm:  Porter Square Books, Cambridge, MADon’t Ask a Dinosaur National Launch Party!! 
  • Thur., April 26, 10:30am:  Pillsbury Free Library, Warner, NH, Dinosaur Storytime with Don’t Ask a Dinosaur!
  • Sat., April 28, 10:30am: Brookline Booksmith, Brookline, MA, Don’t Ask a Dinosaur reading/signing
  • Sat., April 28, 2pm: Barnes & Noble, Framingham, MA, Don’t Ask a Dinosaur reading/signing (with Sara Levine, Fossil by Fossil: Comparing Dinosaur Bones reading/signing)
  • Sun., April 29, 2pm:  MainStreet BookEnds, Warner, NHDon’t Ask a Dinosaur reading/signing and discussion
  • Sat., May 5, 10am: Barnes & Noble, Burlington, MADon’t Ask a Dinosaur reading/signing
  • Sat., May 5, 1pm:  Barnes & Noble, Nashua, NHDon’t Ask a Dinosaur reading/signing
  • Sat., May 12, 11am:  Gibson’s Bookstore, Concord, NHDon’t Ask a Dinosaur reading/signing

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Thank you so much to all the librarians, bloggers, and parents who are still discovering “Flashlight Night!” 

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

In case you haven’t heard, there’s a new way to purchase personalized signed copies of not only Flashlight Night, but ANY of my books or anthologies I’ve been part of!

I’ve teamed up with the good folks MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH to present an option for people who would love to have a signed copy of one of my books but don’t live anywhere near me. MainStreet BookEnds has ALL but one of my books available for ordering…and the best part is, you can get them personalized!

Just log onto my website and click the cover of whichever book you want, and they will get it to me to sign and send it off to you. 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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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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Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

A Flashlight Night at the Museum

Well, now…this was unexpected:

Photo courtesy Fred Koehler (click to enlarge)

This is a photo from a new display at the Polk Museum of Art in Florida – and is probably the coolest thing I’ve seen so far pertaining to Flashlight Night! Each original piece of artwork for the book is displayed with the text beneath it; viewers are guided along so they can “read” the book as they marvel at illustrator Fred Koehler‘s work.

If someone had told me 5 years ago that my words would end up on a museum wall, I’d have told them they were nuts. The bathroom wall, maybe – but not the actual museum’s wall. But what do you know.

By the way, if you’re wondering where to get a copy of Flashlight Night and when you might be able to get it signed, here’s my schedule so far:

  • Oct. 11, 6pm :  Barnes & Noble, Manchester, NH (TOMORROW  NIGHT!)
  • Oct. 14, 2pm:  Books-A-Million, Concord, NH (THIS SAT. AFTERNOON!)
  • Oct. 27, 6pm:  Barnes & Noble, Manchester, NH
  • Nov. 1, 12pm:  Concord Hospital Early Childhood Learning Center / Gift Shop, Concord, NH
  • (soon-to-be-confirmed: Toadstool Bookshop, Keene/Peterborough/Milford, NH

I’ll continue updating this as dates are added…and thank you again for your support!

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Thank you so much to all who have enjoyed “Flashlight Night” enough to write about it:

“Delicious language…ingenious metamorphoses” – Kirkus Reviews

“The verse is incantatory…a simple idea that’s engagingly executed” – School Library Journal

An old fashioned, rip-roaring imaginary adventure” – The Horn Book

“[Esenwine and Koehler] don’t just lobby for children to read—they show how readers play” – Publisher’s Weekly

“Imaginative…fantastical” – Booklist

“Favorably recalls Where the Wild Things Are” – Shelf Awareness

“Begs to be read over and over” – Michelle Knott, Mrs. Knott’s Book Nook/Goodreads

“A poetic and engaging journey” – Cynthia Alaniz, Librarian In Cute Shoes

“Illuminates the power of imagination” – Kellee Moye, Unleashing Readers

“Readers will be inspired to…create their own journey” – Alyson Beecher, Kidlit Frenzy

“Beautiful words and stunning illustrations” – Jason Lewis, 5th grade teacher at Tyngsboro Elementary School, Tyngsboro, MA

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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!

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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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!

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!
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!

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