Poetry Friday: “My Book Report”

This was originally posted six years ago, on May 24, 2013 (where does the time go??)…but since the school year is winding down and graduations are ubiquitous these days, I thought a little school-themed poetry might be nice. Plus…I’ve been a little busy lately!

Hope you like it…

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I thought I’d go waaaaay back in time for today’s post – back to the fall of 2000!

This is one of the first few children’s poems I ever wrote (I started writing for children in ’99, I believe), but when I read it today, it doesn’t feel that old, if that makes sense.  Sometimes when you’re developing a skill – whether it’s writing, singing, painting, whatever – you can tell the older, unskilled work from the newer, ID-10052692 (books)more polished stuff.  Personally, I can tell it’s not new…but I’m not embarrassed by it, either (and yes, there are plenty of poems that will never see the light of day for that very reason).

“Book Report”

My teacher said I have to write
a book report for class –
at least one hundred-fifty words,
or else I will not pass.

So here I sit with pen in hand
and nothing in my mind;
if I don’t get this handed in
I’ll be in quite a bind.

There must be some creative way
I can begin the text:
I know my name, I know the date,
I don’t know what comes next.

Come on, now, brain, you’ve got to think
and help me get this done!
It’s due tomorrow morning, and
I’ve not even begun!

But wait – that’s it – I’ve got it now!
I know just what I need!
The first thing that I’ll have to do…
is find a book to read.

– © 2000, Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

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poetryfridaybutton-fulllLooking for more poetry? You’re in luck! Dani is hosting today’s Poetry Friday at Doing the Work That Matters. Head on over and check out all the links!

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

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


  Coming July 2, 2019!

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 Facebook, InstagramPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Madness! Poetry returns for 2019!

It’s that time of year again! While college basketball teams whittle down their brackets, 64 writers from across the country are taking part in their own competition: Madness! Poetry!

I am proud to once again be one of the “authletes” competing in the world’s largest bracketed children’s poetry competition (and quite possibly the world’s only bracketed children’s poetry competition)! Each of us is paired with another and given a specific word; we then have 36 hours to write a children’s poem using that exact word.

But it doesn’t stop there!

Once the poems have been submitted, the public (families, students, teachers) gets to vote for their favorites – and the winning “authlete” of each poem then moves to the next round. This continues until the field is narrowed down to just 2 writers…one of whom is crowned champion, and receives fame, glory, 10 million dollars, and the coveted “Thinkier” trophy!

Well, they get the trophy, at least.

The word that my opponent, Judy Valko, and I were given for this year’s first round was “bracing.” How did we do? You tell US! Voting begins at 10am EST TODAY – so please head over and check out all the poems and vote for your favorites. I’ve been doing this since its inception in 2012 and have never moved beyond the first round…but I’m feeling like this could be my year…so I’m “bracing” for success…!

Last year’s poem, “Catch,” which required the use of the word “pelt.” (click to enlarge)

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One more thing! If you’re unfamiliar with Poetry Out Loud, I do hope you’ll take some time to learn more about the program; it’s a great opportunity for students to not only learn about some of the world’s best poets, but to gain the benefits associated with memorization and comprehension.  As I have done for the past couple of years, I’ll be one of the performance judges for the New Hampshire State Semi-Finals taking place tonight at New England College in Henniker, NH…and I can’t wait to see high school students reciting poems such s Frost’s “Acquainted with the Night,” Dickinson’s “How many times these low feet staggered,” and one of my favorites, Alice Cary’s “To Solitude.”

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

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


  Coming July 2, 2019!

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 Facebook, InstagramPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Poetry Friday: Goodbye, Paul Janeczko

PBJ at PDS (1).jpgThis past Wednesday, the world of children’s literature lost a wonderful poet, teacher, cheerleader, ambassador…friend.

Paul B. Janeczko, author and anthologist of nearly 40 books of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction, passed away due to a terrible illness, and those of us who knew him are shocked and saddened. He wrote, he visited students in school, he traveled cross-country to educate educators on writing and teaching poetry – and shared his love of the poetic word with everyone with whom he came in contact.

A genuinely nice fellow, he also went out of his way to encourage newcomers like me to the field of children’s poetry. About 6 or 7 years ago, when I was first starting to learn my way around the business, Paul noticed a Facebook post I’d written about a poetry collection getting rejected. Out of the blue, he messaged me and asked if I’d share a few of my poems with him because he’d love to take a look at them.

Of course, I was thrilled that he wanted to see what I was writing, so I sent him 3 or 4 poems; a few days later he wrote back and told me how pleasantly surprised he was at what I had sent him! He said that often newcomers to children’s poetry feel they need to try to be the next Silverstein or Seuss, but that my writing was quite strong, unique, and I had a good sense about what I was doing. That email made my month!

And even though I regret never having the pleasure of being in a Paul Janeczko anthology, I’ll treasure our friendship, his “happy birthday” emails, and our mutual affinity for the Boston Red Sox. (Oh, and his insistence that I keep my beard. He was quite disappointed last April, when I shaved it off!)

  

There have been many folks sharing poems they’ve written for Paul, but I just wanted to share one of my favorite PBJ poems here. I love it not only because I have several daughters and the poem is very touching simply because of its subject matter, but because Paul had such a delicate, loving, way of describing this little girl:

How to Hug Your Three-Year-Old Daughter
(for Emma)

Be prepared
to be quick.

The hug may come
when you expect it least:
you’re carrying a cup of hot coffee
…..answering her call sleepy eyed
……….lifting bread from the oven.

The hug may come
around your knees…

(you can read the poem in its entirety here)

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Disappointing that Paul never had a chance to hold his final ‘baby’ in his arms before he passed…but I’m sure there will be plenty of children (and us grown-ups!) who will treasure it for years.

Thank you, Paul, for all you’ve given us. As poet/performer/novelist Allan Wolf said in his tribute poem for Paul, “Now stands a legacy / where a poet used to be.”

You can read Publisher’s Weekly’s obituary detailing his life here.

For today’s complete Poetry Friday roundup, be sure to visit Robyn Hood Black at Life on the Deckle Edge. Oh, and if you did not get a chance to check out my interview this past Tue. with Fred Koehler and Rebecca Kai Dotlich about their new collaboration (and enter the free giveaway!) I hope you’ll do so HERE !

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


  Coming July 2, 2019!

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 Facebook, InstagramPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Poetry Friday: “Imaginary Friend” video for #WorldReadAloudDay

It’s #WorldReadAloudDay, and I’m going to be busy all day long reading to students in schools all over the U.S. (including Alaska!) and Canada – and to say I’m excited is an understatement!

Reading to kids is important, not just to instill in them an appreciation for the written word, but to encourage them to use their imaginations in bringing the stories to life. I remember many years ago, when my father first suggested to me, as a child, that I listen to some of the old radio dramas he had on vinyl.

“Listen??” I said. “I’m just going to listen to people tell a story? With no pictures??”

“Trust me,” he replied…and I did.

And my life was changed.

It is in this spirit of imagination – and the spirit of #WRAD – that I produced this video. I hope you enjoy it…

Please feel free to share this video with anyone you know who might appreciate it. And for more poetry, Tabatha is hosting Poetry Friday today with a “Curtain of Bliss” at The Opposite of Indifference – and now that she mentioned it, I think I’m going to call my little studio/pillow fort “The Curtain of Bliss!

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


  Coming July 2, 2019!

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 Facebook, InstagramPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Poetry Friday: “I Am Someone Else” first peek!

As we approach the end of 2018 – and as those of us who celebrated Christmas attempt to get our lives back into their normal rhythm – I thought I’d share a wonderful surprise gift I received just a few days before Christmas. The proof of the spread of my poem in Lee Bennett Hopkins’ new upcoming children’s poetry anthology, I Am Someone Else: Poems About Pretending, arriving July 2, 2019 from Charlesbridge!

What would it be like to be a wizard, a dancer, a veterinarian, a pilot? The book contains 15 poems about not only “who” a child might like to pretend to be – but why. Here’s the proof of my poem’s page, so far…

(click to enlarge) ©2019 Charlesbridge, all rights reserved, reprinted with permission

Once again, I’m honored to be included in a collection that features so many talented, highly-esteemed writers as former U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis, Newbery winner Lois Lowry, and many others.

By the way, the annual CYBILS Awards‘ Poetry category shortlist has been officially nailed down, and we’ll be sharing the results soon (Shortlisted titles move on the 2nd Round judges, who will decide the winners in February). For more poetry, head on over to Mainely Write, where my friend Donna Smith has today’s complete Poetry Friday roundup!

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


  

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

Just click the cover of whichever book you want and send the good folks at MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH a note requesting the signature and to whom I should make it out to. (alternatively, you can log onto my website and do the same thing) They’ll contact me, I’ll stop by and sign it for you, and then they’ll ship it. Try doing that with those big online booksellers! (Plus, you’ll be helping to support local book-selling – and wouldn’t that make you feel good?)

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

Thank you to everyone for your support!

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

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

SCVBWI_Member-badge (5 years)
To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post once or twice a week – usually Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)
 .
Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter Facebook, InstagramPinterest, and SoundCloud!

More treasures from the attic

A couple of years ago, I discovered all sorts of ancient artifacts in my parents’ attic, dating back to my childhood years. These relics included things like my very first typewriter, my 1st-grade lunchbox, and journals I kept for my high school English classes.

Well, as it turned out, my folks did NOT sell the house as they were initially thinking they would – so I was back there today, sorting through the more than 40+ years of stuff they’ve accumulated. And what did I find this time?

Picture books from the ’50s and ’60s, which I don’t ever recall seeing before…which makes me wonder why they were in the attic in the first place! Many of these were published by Golden Press (home of Little Golden Books), Whitman Publishing (which is still around, although they no longer publish children’s books), and Platt & Munk, which is no longer in business. (If the name Platt & Munk sounds familiar, it’s probably because they published several of Tasha Tudor’s books)

I do remember loving The Drum Book and Little Red Riding Hood:

  

Little Red Riding Hood was particularly engaging, because it had moving character illustrations beneath cellophane pages; as you opened the spread, the characters would move, so the reader could make them move back-and-forth by opening and closing the spread. This was one of many of these types of books published by Child Guidance Books, and although there is no publication date on the book, my best guess is mid-’60s to early ’70s.

And then there were the classics…

I pray that Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever (Golden Books, 1963) never goes out of print…it was as fascinating for me as it has been for my kids, even though they never got to read one of the originals, like this one, which is unfortunately falling apart. Who doesn’t love watching Lowly Worm riding around in his apple car, or Gold Bug in his pencil car?

By the way, I hope you’ll join me this Friday here at the ol’ Triple-R for our annual Holiday Poetry Party! This is a virtual event that began at children’s poet David Harrison’s home on the web several years ago with me, David, and Joy Acey, and has since moved over here.

It’s an informal gathering, so feel free to show up in your sweats and jammies if you’re so inclined – and if you’d care to bring a bite to eat or beverage, please let us know!

I also plan to share the poem I received from Margaret Simon as part of Tabatha Yeatts‘ annual Winter Poetry Swap. Tabatha randomly gave Margaret my name, so Margaret had to write a poem for me and sent it with a small gift. There’s a cool story behind why Margaret wrote what she did, so I’ll share that here. And I hope to share the poem I wrote soon, once I know the person I sent it to has received it.

Oh, yes – and as a first-round judge of the annual CYBILS Awards‘ Poetry category, I’m racing against time to read as many of the 60 or so nominated books as possible, and narrow the list down to a shortlist of SEVEN! There are five I’m pretty sure are going to stay on my list…but that could change once I finish all my reading. The final list that all the judges decide upon will then be forwarded to the second-round panelists, who determine the winner early next year.

I hope you’ll stop by Friday for our party! I’ll be looking forward to learning your favorite children’s books from the past year, so start thinking about which ones caught your attention and stood out from the pack!

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

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


  

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

Just click the cover of whichever book you want and send the good folks at MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH a note requesting the signature and to whom I should make it out to. (alternatively, you can log onto my website and do the same thing) They’ll contact me, I’ll stop by and sign it for you, and then they’ll ship it. Try doing that with those big online booksellers! (Plus, you’ll be helping to support local book-selling – and wouldn’t that make you feel good?)

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

Thank you to everyone for your support!

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

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

SCVBWI_Member-badge (5 years)
To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post once or twice a week – usually Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)
 .
Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter Facebook, InstagramPinterest, and SoundCloud!

A flashlight night for “Flashlight Night!”

I have to apologize to my fellow Poetry Friday-family members…I read almost no one’s posts over the weekend because I was just so busy. And when I say “busy,” let me explain…

Here in our town we were celebrating our annual Fall Foliage Festival, which is a huge event. We may have barely 3000 residents, but downtown swells to thousands and thousands more each year on Columbus Day Weekend. Amusement rides, artists and craftspeople, oxen pulls, tons of delicious food, pancake breakfasts, and a road race are all part of the festivities, as well as a book signing I attended at the local indie bookstore Sunday afternoon, after I finished walking in the parade with my daughter. (We also helped our church celebrate its 200th birthday AND found time to go to a bonfire Sat. night…whew!) But the Friday afternoon event that kicked it all off this year was:

A story walk, featuring Flashlight Night (Boyds Mills Press, 2017)!

Yours Truly w/Eagle Scout Alex Swanson (photo courtesy Kathy Carson, InterTown Record)

When Eagle Scout Alex Swanson decided to earn a badge for community service, he thought creating a story walk along the newly-opened rail trail in town was a good idea. So he contacted the local rail trail organization and our local library to see what could be done…and pretty soon, the project was off and running!

One of the attendees checks out the cover at the beginning of the story walk

This past Friday, Alex, rail trail reps, and library volunteers put the finishing touches on 21 podiums featuring chronological spreads of my picture book, positioned from the library lawn down the street to the rail trail, which then continue into the woods along the rail, ending just 20 feet away from one of the state’s few remaining wooden covered bridges.

Yes, this is New Hampshire at its finest!

I was so honored that they used Flashlight Night as the inaugural picture book; granted, I live in town, but they could have still chosen any book they wanted, yet they chose mine.

I was also stunned (as were the organizers) by how many folks showed up for the grand opening of the story walk at 5pm on Friday. We had advertised it around the area, yet had no idea what kind of crowd we should expect; we hoped for at least a few families.

As it turned out, over 50 individuals – kids, parents, grandparents, neighbors – attended the grand opening, and none of us could have been happier!

(l-r:) Rail Trail representative Tim Blagden, Pillsbury Free Library children’s librarian Sue Matott, Alex Swanson, and some bald dude who wandered into the frame.

After each of us said a few words, I led the group down the path to each station. I would read the appropriate passage from the book, then allow members of the group time to look over each spread.

Kraken v. Grizzly!

Some folks had never heard of a story walk, so we wanted everyone to understand what Alex and the rest of us were doing, and to enjoy it as much as possible.

Oh, and as a nice little added touch, the rail trail crew offered flashlights to each family, so they could see the book spreads in the darkness of the shade. (After all, by 5:30pm, the sun is starting to say so long)

By the way, Alex is still attempting to cover his costs of putting this together, so if you’re interested in helping him out by donating a few bucks to the cause, I’m sure he’d appreciate it. In fact, he has a GoFundMe page available for donations.

It was surreal, I’ll tell you that. I know of several “flashlight night” events around the country, but when an author gets to be a part of one in this way, it’s quite humbling. And by the way, if you’d like to either create a story walk or host a flashlight night in your area, please don’t hesitate to email me at the address at the above-right, and I can get you in touch with the folks who organized this!

My book will be available for viewing for about 3 months or so, and then another book will take its place. Here’s to many more flashlight nights…with many other stories!

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

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


  

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

Just click the cover of whichever book you want and send the good folks at MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH a note requesting the signature and to whom I should make it out to. (alternatively, you can log onto my website and do the same thing) They’ll contact me, I’ll stop by and sign it for you, and then they’ll ship it. Try doing that with those big online booksellers! (Plus, you’ll be helping to support local book-selling – and wouldn’t that make you feel good?)

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

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!

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

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

Excuse me, but why is it so great?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I could go for one more day of this.

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

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

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

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

Let them enjoy the solace of home a little longer.

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THREE DAYS LEFT
for the “Flashlight Night”
GIVEAWAY!

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

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

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!

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!

Poetry Friday: “(Back to) School People!”

It’s hard to believe, but summer is coming to an end and kids are heading back to school. I know some folks whose kids have already started, but the first day for my two is next Tuesday…so I thought a little excerpt from Lee Bennett Hopkins’ School People (Wordsong, 2018) would be apropos!

Edited by my  Flashlight Night editor Rebecca Davis, the book includes 15 poems about all the grown-ups that children meet at school, like the Teachers, the Crossing Guard, the Librarian, the Nurse – and of course, the person who transports the kids from home to school and back again, the Bus Driver!

– © 2018 Wordsong, all rights reserved, reprinted with permission (Click to enlarge)

 

It’s a beautiful book, so I hope you’ll consider picking up a copy. In fact, the local Rotary Club recently purchased 15 copies to distribute to each of the kindergartens in our district, as part of their literacy program!

For more poetry, head on over to Reflections on the Teche, where Margaret is hosting the Poetry Friday roundup with a zeno!

(What’s a zeno? Here are a few!)

And by the way, if you’re a teacher, I hope your list includes a wide diversity of books featuring authors & illustrators from all walks of life. Because your students come from all walks of life! Whether it’s silly or serious, poetic or prosaic…whether the characters are white, black, male, female, straight or otherwise…no matter who it was written by…keep in mind that students not only see themselves in the stories, they often look for themselves in the creators. Please help them find what they are searching for!

Have a great school year!

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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!