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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Poetry Friday: Look at what’s in paperback!

Look at what my 6-year-old just brought home!

ng-nature-paperback

Imagine my surprise a few weeks ago, when my son brought home a stack of Scholastic order forms…and they were selling the paperback version of The National Geographic Book of Nature Poetry (National Geographic Kids, 2015)!

What may be old hat for some writers was an absolute thrill for me – seeing a book I contributed to there, in my son’s catalog! I had to buy a copy, which just arrived a couple of days ago. Here is my poem, along with the one I share the page with, from Charles “Father Goose®” Ghigna (click to enlarge):

© 2015 National Geographic Society, Charles Ghigna, and Matt Forrest Esenwine; all rights reserved.
The original hardcover is still available everywhere, of course, so be sure to pick up a copy if you haven’t yet! Also be sure to stop by Carol Varsalona’s Beyond LiteracyLink, for today’s complete Poetry Friday roundup!
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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!

The importance of avoiding luck

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

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

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

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

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

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

Talent can be learned, skill can be developed

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

I’m ok with that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You don’t need to be a genius…

…to understand the thread running through these three scenarios.

None of them had anything to do with luck!

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

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

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

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

No good without the bad

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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!

First book signing: that’s a wrap!

I’m sure many of my fellow writers who have had numerous books published view book signings as old hat, but it’s something pretty new to me…and I loved it!

Lullabye coverThis past Saturday, I spent two hours at the local Books-A-Million store (the folks who bought up most of the old Borders locations) signing copies of the book, Lullaby & Kisses Sweet (Abrams Appleseed, 2015). We had close to 25 folks stop by, and for a beautiful, hot, summer day, that was a decent turnout.

Lullaby, as you probably know if you’ve spent more than a few minutes on my blog, is the very first children’s book I have the pleasure of being a part of. It’s both a board book – designed for very young children – and it’s also a poetry anthology featuring 30 poems from such luminaries as Jane Yolen, J. Patrick Lewis, Charles Ghigna, David L. Harrison, Marilyn Singer, and many others.

My poem, “First Tooth,” is included in this amazing collection, which was recently selected as an ALSC Notable Children’s Book for Summer 2015. It’s an honor and a privilege to be part of something like this – and it is also a bit reassuring, as writing for children is a career path for me and not a mere hobby. In fact, I’ll have 9 poems in 7 different publications between this year and next, with my debut picture book, Flashlight Night (Boyd’s Mills Press) slated for Fall 2017.

Things seem to be heading in the right direction!

Signing one of the first books of the afternoon, with my manager (kidding!!), author Deb Bruss (“Book! Book! Book!”, “Big Box for Ben”)
The table looked so spiffy and professional, I almost didn’t realize it was for me!
One of the folks who stopped by was fellow former radio dude Mike Morin. Mike hosts a podcast series which can be found at http://manchesterinklink.com/40-is-the-new-happy-a-podcast-series-with-mike-morin/ (Yours Truly will be joining him in a couple weeks!)

I do have to admit I was surprised when I walked into the bookstore; I was going to look for my table toward the back of the store in the children’s section, but they had it all decked out right in front, about 20 feet from the registers. At least 3 staff members purchased copies, which was heartening.

I think one of the most satisfying moments of the event came when I overheard one of the female employees behind the checkout line chatting with a customer who had just purchased a copy. They were talking about the book and “the author” who had just signed it, and the clerk (whom I hadn’t met until that day) said, “He’s a really nice guy.”

Made me smile.

NG Book of Nature Poetry coverThe folks at Books-A-Million are thinking of doing another signing when The National Geographic Book of Nature Poetry (National Geographic Children’s Books, Oct. 13, 2015) hits stores this fall, and I can’t wait. In it, I have a poem about Rainbow Eucalyptus Trees – and if you don’t know what those are, wait til you see the photo!

I will have another poem in an educational book written by Laura Purdie Salas for Capstone, likely due out before the end of the year, and a poem in Kenn Nesbitt’s anthology, One Minute Til Bedtime (Little, Brown for Young Readers, 2016). I already have poems in two other books that are currently out: Dear Tomato (Carol-Ann Hoyte, 2015) and The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations (Pomelo Books, 2015).

Perhaps at some point in my career book signings will get old.

For now, though…bring ’em on!

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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!

Available TODAY! “Lullaby and Kisses Sweet”

I’ve been telling you about this for awhile, and the day has finally arrived…the very first children’s book I was selected to contribute to is on sale today!

Lullabye coverLullaby and Kisses Sweet: Poems to Love with Your Baby is officially out now – in stores and everywhere. This book is unlike most others out there – it is a board book for young children 0-5, yet it is also a poetry anthology comprised of 30 poems by various writers such as Jane Yolen, J. Patrick Lewis, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Charles Ghigna, X.J. Kennedy, David L. Harrison, Marilyn Singer, Laura Purdie Salas, and many others including…little ol’ me.

It feels weird to say that.

I have to thank the wonderful and inimitable Lee Bennett Hopkins, who came up with the concept and compiled the poems for the book. He even contributes a couple of poems, too. And Alyssa Nassner’s cute baby- and toddler-friendly illustrations are the perfect complement to the text.

So today I wanted to share a couple of things: a short interview with Lee as well as the poem I contribute to the project. Before we get to Lee’s interview, though, congratulations are in order.

logo-scbwiLast week, The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) announced they had teamed up with Lee to create the SCBWI Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award which, according to the SCBWI, “recognizes and encourages the publication of an excellent book of poetry or anthology for children and/or young adults” and will be awarded every three years.

(for more information about the award click HERE or click the SCBWI logo)

A lifelong supporter and cheerleader for children’s poetry, Lee has already helped establish two other awards: the annual Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, presented by Penn State University, and the Lee Bennett Hopkins/International Reading Association Promising Poet Award, presented every three years by the International Reading Association (now the International Literacy Association).

LBH BEST PHOTO
Lee Bennett Hopkins

He’s also received his fair share of awards, including the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Excellence in Poetry for Children in 2009 and the SCBWI’s 1996 Golden Kite Award for his poetry collection, Been to Yesterdays. And with over 120 books under his belt, it was a matter of time before the 2011 Guinness Book of World Records named him “the most prolific anthologist of poetry for children.”

So now without any further ado…let’s get to our interview!

Lee, thank you so much for asking me to contribute a poem to this incredible project. Being a board book anthology makes this book a rather rare sort of species in the world of children’s literature; how did you come up with the concept of creating a poetry collection for very young children?

I have always maintained that poetry should become part of a child’s psyche as soon as they are born – if not before! Lullabies sung by mothers and fathers, kisses sweet given to newborns are as natural as breathing. Why not create a collection for the young that deals with topics they are becoming familiar with – Family, Food, Firsts, Play, Bedtime? A verse such as your “First Tooth” is not only right on for this age group, it is fun, filled with childlike surprise, wonderment.

Well, I’m glad you liked it enough to include it! For my readers, here is my poem from the book, along a sweet little gem from Heidi Stemple:

9781419710377_LullabyandKissesSweet_TX12
Reprinted with permission; all rights reserved. (Click to enlarge)

 

Having already edited so many anthologies before, you are intimately aware of what it takes to put a poetry collection together – but I wonder if there were any unusual steps you needed to take with this particular project? How did the creation of this book differ from others?

LULLABY AND KISSES SWEET began with a definite set of guidelines. Every poem in the collection was especially commissioned by a host of well-known poets as well as introducing new voices, giving many a chance to become published for the first time.  Each verse had to be eight lines or under, had to rhyme and had to have that “I” moment as children awaken to what is going on in their world around them. Realizing what it is to have a grandma take one’s hand, experiencing disappointment as one’s tower of blocks suddenly crash to the floor, a plea for the sound of words as a child asks to be read to again and again.

I have done about 120 collections for all ages. LULLABY… is the first, quite huge board book I’ve ever done.

Tell me about your collaborators – your editor and illustrator.

Working long and hard for several years with a wondrous editor, Tamar Brazis at Abrams, helped shape the book and its conceptual development from the very beginning to the final bound pages. A next important phase after the completion of the manuscript was that of illustration.

It was decided that Alyssa Nassner would do the book featuring anthropomorphic characters — bunnies, bears, tigers, kittens. And she pulled it all off in a most charming, child-friendly, loving way.

Following that line of thought, did you encounter any surprises – such obstacles or poetic perspectives – along the way?

I am always impressed with the hard work, the diligence, poets put into their writing. Many poems were written, edited by me, rewritten and oft time re-re-rewritten. Those who work with me know I have a definite philosophy about what I want to give to our youth. I detest ‘bathroom humor’, light verse that says nothing. Each poem in LULLABY… has been crafted to bring strong self-concept to a child.

A general question for you: What is perfect about children’s poetry these days, what is missing, and what is there too much of?

I wish there was more Poetry with a capital P. There is too much light verse that goes nowhere, straining to be silly. The sidewalk ended a long time ago and very well with the brilliance of Shel Silverstein. It will take giant steps to widen the pathway!

I wish there were more anthologies being published for all ages. There are fewer and fewer. In 2014 we saw two; in 2015 we’ll be lucky to see four – and three of them are mine. We need more diversity, more voice within the genre.

I wish editors would publish books of poetry by a single author on a variety of themes rather than on one subject. Past collections by masters such as Myra Cohn Livingston, Eve Merriam, Lilian Moore, et. al., didn’t have to have one theme. They offered a smorgasbord of work and it was all delicious fare.

I have to agree. Books by folks like Silverstein and Dorothy Aldis, who greatly influenced me, were rarely one-theme books. Are you at liberty to let readers in on any news about future projects?

Forthcoming in Fall is JUMPING OFF LIBRARY SHELVES: A BOOK OF POEMS, illustrated by Jane Manning (Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press), my heartfelt tribute to libraries, librarians, storytellers and books. A stellar roster of poets are included such as X. J. Kennedy, Nikki Grimes, Jane Yolen, Alice Schertle, as well as never-before-published works.

Another major work will appear this Fall if the book stays on schedule.

Finally, I have to ask…what keeps Lee Bennett Hopkins going?

What doesn’t keep me going? I am interested in everything from idiotic politicians’ points-of views to hunting for purple clothing — from finding a good restaurant to searching for a thrilling theatrical experience.

Then there is that thing called ‘poetry’. Damn it sometimes. It envelopes me — my life, my heart. It is food, drink, manna, stuff that makes life worth living.  I live to pass the poetry…that stuff with the capital “P”.

Lullabye coverAnd we get to share in that love of poetry with you, Lee! Thanks so much for taking the time to chat.

Remember, Lullaby and Kisses Sweet: Poems to Love with Your Baby is on sale now at your favourite bookstore and online, so I do hope you’ll pick up a copy and enjoy it. For a young child’s birthday or even a baby shower – this makes a perfect gift! Thanks again to Lee for believing in me and giving me my first “big break,” and thank you to all of you who take time out of your busy days to read this blog…I appreciate your support, as well!

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

Review: “A Rock Can Be…”

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted any new blog entries – save for my Poetry Friday posts – and for that I apologize. My wife and I have been dealing with family problems (ailing, elderly parents), house problems (now that the new $8000 furnace/boiler and $2000 electrical panel are installed, there are ice dams on our roof), and vehicle problems (last Friday, the left rear tire flew off my truck while my wife was driving home – not good).

And of course, here in New England, we’ve been getting major snowstorms every week, which means snow blowing, shoveling, and school cancellations…and until 2 days ago, I was doing it without a snow blower, since ours was in the repair shop.

There has also been some good news, though:  I’ve written two new picture book manuscripts in the past month, which has taken quite a bit of my time, and I also received some FANTASTIC news a few weeks ago that I’m dying to share with you. I can’t say anything yet, but it’ll be a big announcement when I do!

rcb coverSo for today, I wanted to share some other big news…a new children’s book hitting stores this Sunday, March 1!

Wait – has it been a year already? Last April I reviewed author/poet Laura Purdie Salas’ book, Water Can Be… as part of my National Poetry Month celebration, and now here it is 11 months later and she has another book in her series!

Salas’ new book, A Rock Can Be… (Millbrook Press) follows the same concept as Water in that it takes a very simple subject and poetically expounds on it…but she does it with such aplomb you almost don’t realize how deceptively insightful her observations are.

Starting with the idea that every rock has a story to tell, Salas begins, “A rock can be… / tall mountain/ park fountain / dinosaur bone / stepping stone…” and goes on to include volcanoes, phosphorescence, architecture, skipping stones, and many more instances of rocks being more than just “rocks.”

For instance…

rcb_sparkling_ring

 

rcb_book_sheep
(click images to enlarge)

 

As I mentioned in my Water Can Be… review last April, it takes skill, patience, and a creative mind to write simply – and Salas has what it takes. It’s also nice to see illustrator Violeta Dabija, whose artistry can be seen on the previous two books in the series, is back to perfectly complement the text with vivid colour and textured illustrations.

In the back of the book readers can learn more about the rocks and images of which Salas makes note – such as stepping stones, flint, and even the moon. A glossary also helps younger readers to understand some of the imagery and concepts throughout the book.

A delightful read!

NEXT WEEK: Two days after A Rock Can Be… hits bookshelves, the first children’s book I have ever had the pleasure of being part of comes out! Lullaby & Kisses Sweet (Abrams Appleseed) is an unusual book – it’s a poetry anthology in board book form, designed for very young children up to the age of 5.

Lullabye coverI am extremely proud to have worked with the one and only Lee Bennett Hopkins, who edited the book, and to be included in a book that also features poems by such luminaries as Jane Yolen, J. Patrick Lewis, Charles Ghigna, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, David L. Harrison, X.J. Kennedy, Marilyn Singer, and many others. (Salas also contributed a poem, “Spaghetti,” to the collection)

As a first-ever publication, I couldn’t be more thrilled. To learn more about the book, check out this brief review from Publisher’s Weekly! (And once you read it, you’ll see why I’m more than happy to share the link!)

The day it goes on sale, Tue., March 3, I’ll be sharing a special interview with Lee Bennett Hopkins here on my blog. We’ll be talking about how the concept for the book came about, his thoughts on children’s poetry these days, and a couple of new projects he’s working on, so I hope you’ll stop back!

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

The Sunshine Blogger Award

Sunshine blogger logoA couple of weeks ago, Heidi Mordhorst nominated this blog for a Sunshine Blogger Award. I immediately thanked her…then went to her blog to find out what that meant! According to Heidi, the folks she nominated “are people whose blogs, whose work, and whose simple existence bring sunshine to my juicy little universe.” (In case you’re wondering, My Juicy Little Universe is the name of her blog)

Following the Rules

Far be it for me to break tradition here. This is what she said I needed to do:

• Acknowledge the nominating bloggers
• Share 11 random facts about yourself
• Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger creates for you
• List 11 bloggers
• Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer and let all the  bloggers know they’ve been nominated.  (You cannot nominate the blogger  who nominated you.)

chili!
Good stuff!

Well, I’ve thanked Heidi for nominating me, so I can check the first one off the list. Now then…eleven random facts? Listing eleven facts are easy enough, but these need to be random. Let’s see how random I can get:

1) If I wasn’t a voiceover talent and writer, I’d either be teaching English or cooking professionally.
2) I wrote my first Elizabethan sonnet in 9th grade; it wasn’t very good, but it scanned!
3) I make a vegan chili that’s so flippin’ good, even carnivores have been fooled.
4) My favourite author is Isaac Asimov.
5) I fell in love with voice acting at a very young age, after my father let me listen to some old-time radio shows. (I talk more about this HERE)
6) I share the same birthday (June 24) as rockers Jeff Beck and Mick Fleetwood. Not really anything significant about that – but it IS a random fact.
7) Even though I used to work in radio and hosted several morning shows, I hate noise in the morning! Please keep it quiet for a few hours while I wake up…
8) Def Leppard’s drummer, Rick Allen, once gave me his cellphone number. (I should call and see if it still works)
9) I gave my 5-year-old daughter, Katie, a metal plate that had been removed from my left arm, following surgery. Why? She wanted it!
10) I had never eaten avocado or tofu until I met my wife, Jen, 7 years ago.
11) 
My favourite band is Crowded House, yet the only time I’ve ever seen them live was two years ago in Boston (thanks to my wife!). In fact, anything that Neil Finn or his brother, Tim, have done – from Split Enz to their various collaborations – is ok by me.

Eleven questions, eleven answers

I now need to answer the 11 questions Heidi asked on her blog post, when she nominated this blog for the Sunshine Blogger Award. Keep in mind, I have not read any of the questions until this very moment- so the answers I’m giving here are my immediate responses. Something tells me this is going to be fun:

1) What’s the first poem you remember knowing?  (You get to define “knowing”.)
The first poem I recall reading and trying to memorize was from a book whose title I don’t recall, unfortunately! (I’ve tried tracking down the book, to no avail) The poem was about how much fun it would be if we could eat clouds, it was from a small, paperback collection of poetry, and most of the pen & ink illustrations were accented in blue and pink. If you have ANY idea what book this is, please let me know!

2) What’s the first poem you remember writing? (You get to define “writing”.)
When I was 6 or 7 I think, I “wrote” some horribly rhyming lines about a goat swallowing a boat down his throat – and asked my uncle, a musician, if he could write the music for it. (Sorry, Uncle Ron, I still feel bad for that) Now, I considered it a song rather than a poem – but looking back on it, it wasn’t much of either, so I guess it’ll have to do.

3) Can you summarize your typical composition process in three easy steps? Okay, then, do it!
(Technically, this is 4 steps!)
Step 1: Come up with an idea.
Step 2: Write it down.
Step 3: Send it out to a bunch of editors and agents who don’t like it.
Step 4: Repeat .

4) What classic or famous poem have you used as a model, on purpose?  Share if you care to.
Wow, what a great question I don’t think I can answer! I’ve used numerous poems to write parodies over the years (like this one), but as far as serious poems, I don’t think I have ever done this. I’ve borrowed styles and forms and themes and such – but I’m not sure I’ve ever used a particular poem as a model.

5) With whom would you like to write a collection of poems?  (Living candidates only, please.)
Charles Ghigna. While I love Douglas Florian’s wit, David L. Harrison’s insight, and Steven Withrow’s lyricism, Charles has a knack for taking little observances and making them big and beautiful while maintaining a simple language and style. A close runner-up would be David Elliott, who has a great sense of humour and an ability to distill his observations into their most important facets. (That’s not too high-brow a comment, is it?)

6) What’s the weirdest place or moment you’ve ever found yourself composing?
You know, I don’t think I ever pay attention to that sort of thing. I write about varied subjects, and my focus, as far as I can tell, is usually on that particular subject. Whatever else is going on around me is secondary – which I suppose is probably not always a good thing!

7) What’s the weirdest place or moment you’ve ever been in, period?
A few years ago, a female friend and I went to a birthday party for a friend of hers…at a gay bar. Now, it wasn’t the fact that I was one of only two straight guys in the building – neither of us had any problem with that. But watching a scantily-clad “shot-boy” dancing on a table and having my butt grabbed on more than one occasion was definitely an experience I’ll never forget!

8) Say you have an unexpected couple of hours to yourself at home.  What do you do?  Include details of food, drink, tools, rules, etc.
First, I’ll try to get a load of dishes and laundry going – those things ain’t gonna wash themselves. Then I’ll pour some Moxie, maybe grad some Doritos, and head upstairs to my studio to do some writing. Taking care of two young kids, I don’t have the time I used to – so I fit writing in whenever I can.

9)  Say you suddenly find yourself in my kindergarten classroom with an opportunity to relive the 5-year-old you.  What do you enjoy most?
Probably playing on the playground, kicking balls, and riding the see-saw. If it was raining, I’d be happy colouring and drawing inside. The 5-year-old me never went to kindergarten, so formal academics weren’t a part of my life!

10) Say Dr. Who shows up in his Tardis and invites you on a three-hour tour.  Where do you go?  Whom do you visit?  Do you bring anything back?
Where I go: I’d like to zip around the world and visit some of the places I doubt I’ll ever see: Scotland, Paris, New Zealand, the Bahamas, Machu Pichu.
Whom I visit: I’d like to get Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, and Vishnu together and see if we can come to an understanding.
What I bring back: Leela. I’ve had a thing for her ever since middle school, and I’m now old enough to be able to do something about it.

11) When’s your birthday?
Oh, that’s easy! Like I said above, it’s June 24.

Who I’m nominating

The following list of fellow bloggers is by no means a complete list of all the folks I am proud to call friends, peers, and mentors; it is, however, a good sampling of the types of folks with whom I like to hang around. They are, in no particular order:

Renee LaTulippe at No Water River
Steven Withrow at Poetry At Play and Crackles of Speech
Joy Acey at Poetry for Kids Joy
Josh Funk at Papa J. Funk
Laura Shovan at Author Amok
Linda Baie at Teacher Dance
Paul Czajak at Ramblings of a Writer
Laura Purdie Salas at Writing the World for Kids
David L. Harrison at his blog
Jama Kim Rattigan at Jama’s Alphabet Soup
Amy Ludwig VanDerwater at the Poem Farm

And finally, questions for my nominees:

I think it took me longer to come up with these questions than it did answering Heidi’s. Here are the questions I am asking of the 11 bloggers whom I’ve nominated.

1) How would you describe/define your particular writing niche? In other words, what makes you so special?
2) If you had to suddenly change careers, what would you do?
3) I had to answer this, so now I’d like to hear from you: Can you describe your writing process in 3 simple steps?
4) If you were given $1000 with the instructions that it all had to be given away, how would you do it?
5) What story, book, or poem do you recall being the first thing you ever read that really made an impression?
6) You’re going to appear on a reality show – real or imagined. What’s it called?
7) Who would you love to collaborate with, and why?
8) What is one of your favourite things that you’ve written?
9) What type of writing project scares you to death, and when do you plan to start working on it?
10) You’ve been sentenced to death; what will be your final meal?
11) And with whom would you share it?

And with that, I shall take my leave and get back to work. I hope some of my blogger friends will take this challenge because I’d love to read some of their answers! And if you haven’t visited their blogs before, check them out and see what you think…you just might learn something new!

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