Poetry Friday: Halloween books, “Flashlight Night,” and a Halloween haiku!

All images @ 2017 Astra Young Readers, all rights reserved

I never planned on it being a Halloween book…but whaddaya know??

When Flashlight Night (Boyds Mills & Kane, 2017) debuted on Sept. 19, 2017 (National Talk Like a Pirate Day, no less!), little did I know how popular a Halloween book it would become!

(And no, I’m NOT talking about Elisabeth Hasselbeck’s foray into children’s publishing earlier this year, which she unfortunately titled “Flashlight Night”…sigh.

For the last few years, children’s lit bloggers and reviewers have been sharing lists of their favorite Halloween books – and I’m both shocked and humbled to see my little book showing up beside works by such esteemed notables as Neil Gaiman, Dr. Seuss, Aaron Reynolds, my good friends Charles Ghigna and Patricia Toht, among others.

So, if you’re looking for some Halloween or autumn-themed books for your little ones, here are a few suggestions:

Thank you so much to all these individuals and groups for sharing their love of reading with the world…and for including Flashlight Night!

And since we’re only a little over a week away from Halloween, I thought I’d re-share this little poem I wrote several years ago:

Looking for more poetry? Then be sure to visit Jama at Jama’s Alphabet Soup for today’s complete Poetry Friday roundup!

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I’m now a part of the BOOKROO family!

Create an account to add books to wishlists and be notified of special deals and dates…create custom collections…and discover and follow your favorite authors & illustrators!

Find out more about BOOKROO here!

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I’d love to visit with you or your child!
Learn more by clicking the graphic!

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I continue adding to my “Wit & Wordplay” videos ! These videos were created for parents and educators (along with their kids) to learn how to write poetry, appreciate it, and have fun with it. From alliteration and iambs to free verse and spine poetry, I’m pretty sure there’s something in these videos you’ll find surprising! You can view them all on my YouTube channel, and if you have young kids looking for something to keep busy with, I also have several downloadable activity sheets at my website.

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

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

You can purchase personally-signed copies of Flashlight Night, (Astra Young Readers, 2017), Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (Pow! Kids Books, 2018)and nearly EVERY book or anthology I’ve been part of!

Click any of the covers below to order!

rriving Nov. 30, 2021! Pre-order now!

Just click the cover of whichever book you want and send a comment to the good folks at MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH requesting my signature and to whom I should make it out. (alternatively, you can log onto my website and do the same thing) They’ll contact me, I’ll stop by and sign it, and then they’ll ship it! (Plus, you’ll be supporting your local bookseller – and won’t that make you feel good?)

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

Thank you to everyone for your support!

FLASHLIGHT NIGHT:

DON’T ASK A DINOSAUR:

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

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!

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 FacebookInstagramPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Poetry Friday: “The Child Who”

Today’s poem came about while I was putting together my newest picture book, I Am Today (POW! Kids Books), which officially arrives Nov. 30.

While it doesn’t show up anywhere in the book, the poem’s words helped me focus on what the book was about – namely, showing kids they have the ability to affect change now, rather than waiting to be “The Future,” as we grown-ups often tell them.

As it turns out, the poem is very fitting, as POW! Kids Books and I have put together a special opportunity for schools, libraries, and home school groups to get to learn more about the book on the day before World Children’s Day (Nov. 20):

Feel free to copy & share this graphic!

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The Child Who

…seeks the truth.
The child who lends a hand.
The child who shares concern.
The child who takes a stand.

The child who knows their strength.
The child who knows their worth.
These are the ones to forge
their paths upon the Earth.


© 2021 Matt F. Esenwine, all rights reserved

I hope you like the poem, and if you or someone you know wants to take advantage of this opportunity, please contact me as soon as possible! For today’s complete Poetry Friday roundup, head over to wee words for wee ones, where Bridget Magee is getting a lot of atTENtion with her very first poetry anthology, 10•10 Poetry Anthology: Celebrating 10 in 10 Different Ways!

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

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

I’m now a part of the BOOKROO family!

Create an account to add books to wishlists and be notified of special deals and dates…create custom collections…and discover and follow your favorite authors & illustrators!

Find out more about BOOKROO here!

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

I’d love to visit with you or your child!
Learn more by clicking the graphic!

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

I continue adding to my “Wit & Wordplay” videos ! These videos were created for parents and educators (along with their kids) to learn how to write poetry, appreciate it, and have fun with it. From alliteration and iambs to free verse and spine poetry, I’m pretty sure there’s something in these videos you’ll find surprising! You can view them all on my YouTube channel, and if you have young kids looking for something to keep busy with, I also have several downloadable activity sheets at my website.

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

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

You can purchase personally-signed copies of Flashlight Night, (Astra Young Readers, 2017), Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (Pow! Kids Books, 2018)and nearly EVERY book or anthology I’ve been part of!

Click any of the covers below to order!

rriving Nov. 30, 2021! Pre-order now!

Just click the cover of whichever book you want and send a comment to the good folks at MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH requesting my signature and to whom I should make it out. (alternatively, you can log onto my website and do the same thing) They’ll contact me, I’ll stop by and sign it, and then they’ll ship it! (Plus, you’ll be supporting your local bookseller – and won’t that make you feel good?)

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

Thank you to everyone for your support!

FLASHLIGHT NIGHT:

DON’T ASK A DINOSAUR:

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

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!

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 FacebookInstagramPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Poetry Friday: Book trailer debut for “I Am Today!”

You may be wondering why I’m featuring a trailer for a picture book for Poetry Friday…but if you know anything at all about my style of writing, you can probably take a good guess!

My upcoming new picture book, I Am Today (POW! Kids Books), started off as both a book AND a poem. How’s that? Well, back in 2020 I wanted to write something to empower kids during the pandemic; so many, including my own, felt they had no control over anything that was happening. School was at home, playdates were via computer, and vacations were halted. I wanted to be able to help them without writing something didactic and preachy.

I’ll share more details about the genesis for this story a later time (my first unusual step was creating a non-grammatical title), but suffice it to say that even though I was writing a book manuscript, I wanted it to be a poem, too.

There is no “One day Sally did this, then Billy said this, and together they…” sort of thing here. Much like my other books, it’s a loose narrative that sets up a framework for illustrator Patricia Pessoa, who creates a wonderful sub-narrative that shows the story of our young main character.

Here is how my poem – the book – begins:
.

I AM TODAY

Grown-ups say I am the Future.

But I’d rather be the Now.

Why wait to make a change for good?
I’m strong.
And I know how!

I’ve learned from those before me
what’s truthful,
……….decent,
………………..fair.

They’ve taught me how to be polite.

They’ve shown me how to share…

© 2022 Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

Hope you like it! And if you’re asking yourself, “Hmmm…I could’ve sworn that was supposed to come out earlier,” you are correct. The original publication date was Oct. 5, but due to pandemic-related delays, the publisher decided to push it out just a bit later. (But still in time for the holidays!) You can always pre-order a copy now, and it will arrive as soon as it’s officially published.

And by the way, POW! Kids Books is the same publisher who published my collaboration with Deborah Bruss, Don’t Ask a Dinosaur, in 2018 – so I have to thank them for all their support!

Oh, and if you missed my recap this past Tuesday of the local state fair, I hope you’ll check it out – I witness a lot working a 5-day weekend as the official PA announcer, and it’s always fun to see what I’ll discover each year! This year, we had a Recycled Percussion band member buried alive, ice cream cones made of donuts and filled with Nutella, a lobster-themed monster truck, and ‘transforming’ cars that turn into robots.

SHAMELESS PLUG: If you are interested in learning more about how to write picture books with loose narratives – i.e., books that don’t follow a standard structure/format – I hope you’ll consider attending Lit Youngstown’s Fall Literary Festival, Oct. 7-9. There will be workshops and presentations covering a wide array of genres, including my own presentation, “Loose Narratives, Tight Language: Crafting a Non-Traditional Picture Book.”
.

Using “Flashlight Night,” “Once Upon Another Time,” “I Am Today,” and the manuscript for a new, upcoming book due out next year – along with examples by other authors – I will offer advice for creating narratives without the typical, “First Sally did this, then Billy did this, then this other thing happened…”

We will look at how using seasonal narratives, chronologies, ‘story skeletons,’ and other devices along with poetic language can create a manuscript an illustrator will crave, and – more importantly – an editor will want to buy!

For more poetry, head to Denise Krebs’ little home on the web, Dare to Care – where you will find today’s complete Poetry Friday roundup along with Denise’s “In One Word” poem based on the word TESTUDINATE!

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

I’m now a part of the BOOKROO family!

Create an account to add books to wishlists and be notified of special deals and dates…create custom collections…and discover and follow your favorite authors & illustrators!

Find out more about BOOKROO here!

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

Talkabook is setting out to inspire children by connecting them with authors and illustrators! Click here to view my profile and learn more!

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

I continue adding to my “Wit & Wordplay” videos ! These videos were created for parents and educators (along with their kids) to learn how to write poetry, appreciate it, and have fun with it. From alliteration and iambs to free verse and spine poetry, I’m pretty sure there’s something in these videos you’ll find surprising! You can view them all on my YouTube channel, and if you have young kids looking for something to keep busy with, I also have several downloadable activity sheets at my website.

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

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

You can purchase personally-signed copies of Flashlight Night, (Boyds Mills Press, 2017), Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (Pow! Kids Books, 2018)and nearly EVERY book or anthology I’ve been part of!

Click any of the following covers to order!

Just click the cover of whichever book you want and send a comment to the good folks at MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH requesting my signature and to whom I should make it out. (alternatively, you can log onto my website and do the same thing) They’ll contact me, I’ll stop by and sign it, and then they’ll ship it! (Plus, you’ll be supporting your local bookseller – and won’t that make you feel good?)

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

Thank you to everyone for your support!

FLASHLIGHT NIGHT:

DON’T ASK A DINOSAUR:

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

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!

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 FacebookInstagramPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Poetry Friday: Heading back to school with “School People”

Hard to believe it’s time for our kids to head back to school again – although admittedly under different circumstances than past years.

But through all the changes we’ve dealt with this past year and a half, one thing that doesn’t change are our school people – the folks who teach, support, and care for our children while they are away from home.

So I thought I’d share a couple of selections from Lee Bennett Hopkins’ School People (Wordsong, 2018), a collection of 15 poems by various writers including Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Irene Latham, J. Patrick Lewis, and Yours Truly.

I’ve shared my contribution, the poem ‘Bus Driver,’ a couple of times here before, so today I wanted to re-share Lee’s poem, ‘Librarian.’ (You can view my original post and interview with him HERE)

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

It’s sad to think, Lee passed away almost exactly 2 years ago, and although he won’t be able to see his final few anthologies that were in various states of progress when he passed, his legacy of poetry and love of language will live on in the poems and books he wrote as well as in the words of those of us he befriended, supported, and guided.

No matter how many poets come along, there will never be another Lee.

For all of today’s poetry links and fun, please visit Unexpected Intersections where Elisabeth is hosting the Poetry Friday roundup with a spotlight on her response to a poetic challenge to write in a style similar to a Jane Yolen poem – Yikes, no pressure!

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

I’m now a part of the BOOKROO family!

Create an account to add books to wishlists and be notified of special deals and dates…create custom collections…and discover and follow your favorite authors & illustrators!

Find out more about BOOKROO here!

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

Talkabook is setting out to inspire children by connecting them with authors and illustrators! Click here to view my profile and learn more!

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

I continue adding to my “Wit & Wordplay” videos ! These videos were created for parents and educators (along with their kids) to learn how to write poetry, appreciate it, and have fun with it. From alliteration and iambs to free verse and spine poetry, I’m pretty sure there’s something in these videos you’ll find surprising! You can view them all on my YouTube channel, and if you have young kids looking for something to keep busy with, I also have several downloadable activity sheets at my website.

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

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

You can purchase personally-signed copies of Flashlight Night, (Boyds Mills Press, 2017), Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (Pow! Kids Books, 2018)and nearly EVERY book or anthology I’ve been part of!

Click any of the following covers to order!

Just click the cover of whichever book you want and send a comment to the good folks at MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH requesting my signature and to whom I should make it out. (alternatively, you can log onto my website and do the same thing) They’ll contact me, I’ll stop by and sign it, and then they’ll ship it! (Plus, you’ll be supporting your local bookseller – and won’t that make you feel good?)

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

Thank you to everyone for your support!

FLASHLIGHT NIGHT:

DON’T ASK A DINOSAUR:

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

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!

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 FacebookInstagramPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Poetry Friday: “I Am Smoke” interview & review with author Henry L. Herz

It’s not out until Sept. 7, but I had to share news about the latest picture book from my fellow 2021 Book Blast partner Henry L. Herz, I Am Smoke (Tilbury House, 2021). The book has already received some wonderful accolades, including a Kirkus star (“Spreads of smoke rising fluidly into a pinprick-starry sky, a ‘dark dance from every campfire,’ are veritable gems.” –Kirkus Reviews) and even showed up on the School Library Journal’s list of The Most Astonishingly Unconventional Books of 2021, which includes titles by such folks as Deborah Freedman, Jon Klassen, and Brian Selznick.

This is not Henry’s first picture book by any means, but it is unusual in its lyricism and gentleness – as well as its point of view, which is first-person, from the voice of the smoke itself. I don’t normally feature picture books here, but the text is so poetic and beautifully-worded I knew I had to share it. Who says a book like this isn’t poetry??

Henry L. Herz

Henry is the author of 11 traditionally-published children’s books, eight children’s short stories, and over 20 adult short stories. He is co-editor of two children’s anthologies: THE HITHERTO SECRET EXPERIMENTS OF MARIE CURIE (Blackstone Publishing, YA) and COMING OF AGE: 13 B’NAI MITZVAH STORIES (Albert Whitman & Co., MG).

Thanks for taking the time to join me here, Henry! Congratulations on the book – I’m very happy for you that it’s doing so well, and it’s not even out yet! One of the questions I ask everyone who visits here is the question that all authors need to ask ourselves: “Why did this book need to be written?” Can you tell me where you got the inspiration for the book, and how you began the process of writing it?

Thanks! I’m inspired by many things in the natural world. I love how much personality dogs possess. I’m amazed that you can cut a piece off of a succulent, stick it in the ground, and grow a brand new succulent. That’s like making a whole new person from just a finger! The range of defense mechanisms employed by animals is amazing— from camouflage to squirting ink to being poisonous to mimicking predators.

I find the use of fictional elements to convey facts a great way to engage with young readers and teach them without them realizing it. Fiction can be the melted cheese we pour on top of the broccoli of nonfiction. There are some picture books with anthropomorphic characters, but I’d never seen smoke treated as a character. And who better to explain the various ways in which people have employed smoke over the ages and across the world than smoke itself?

I researched wood smoke and discovered it’s primarily carbon dioxide, ash, and water vapor. That got me thinking about the water cycle. Then it hit me that trees sequester carbon they extract from breathing in carbon dioxide. Eureka! Smoke has a “cycle” too. Fire releases wood’s molecules. Water eventually rains down and trees extract the carbon from the air to grow more wood. The “smoke cycle” became the framework within which I shared some of the many ways smoke has been used to fumigate homes, communicate over distances, cover unpleasant smells, aid beekeepers, flavor and preserve foods, participate in religious ceremonies, and heal.

Fiction as the cheese on top of the nonfiction broccoli…great way to describe it, Henry! And I’m glad you show that smoke, while potentialy dangerous, can be a good thing. So what were some of the pitfalls you encountered while writing it? Anything surprising or unexpected?

It wasn’t a surprise, per se, but this was the first book I’ve written that I felt needed to be reviewed by sensitivity readers because it mentions Native Americans. Happily, both sensitivity readers found everything to be fine.

All images © 2021 Tilbury House Publishers, all rights reserved, used with permission

You have a number of picture books and short stories under your belt, but I Am Smoke is different in that it is a more lyrical, thought-provoking picture book than, say, your recent 2 Pirates + 1 Robot (Kane Miller, 2019) or the pun-filled Good Egg and Bad Apple (Schiffer Kids, 2018). Was this done intentionally, or did the subject matter lead you to this style of writing?

That’s true. I Am Smoke is also the first creative nonfiction picture book I’ve sold. I did write a creative nonfiction picture book narrated by a flea. But that was done for the sake of humor. In the case of I Am Smoke, since smoke has been harnessed by people for millennia, I thought letting it tell its own tale in riddles, like an ancient supernatural being, would grant gravitas to the narrator’s voice. Like smoke itself, the narrator is dark, spare, and mysterious.

I usually focus on poetry here at the ol’ Triple-R but wanted to share your book because it is, in fact, very poetic. Although it is a loose narrative it can be read as one long poem; again, was this deliberate, or did it come about organically? 

The lyrical prose developed organically. I threw in a little alliteration: Flickering flames work their mysterious magic on burning branches. Then I mixed in some metaphor: I am borne aloft in the heat’s embrace, soaring and spreading my wings.

Smoke, like fire, is destructive, but can also be put to useful purposes. This duality inspired the riddle-like phrasing: I lack a mouth, but I can speak. I irritate eyes, but I can soothe bees.

Just like the chemical cycle of smoke, the story returns to where it began, with smoke twirling in dark dance from a campfire, and the words, I am smoke.

And that’s what I love most, that you show all these nuances of smoke, from the smoke’s first-person point of view. So what do you hope readers will take away from this book, and what would you say to folks who are considering picking up a copy?

Aside from the STEM, cultural, and historical facts, I hope readers will see that common practices bind humanity across time and space.

To folks who are considering picking up a copy, I’d say “Do it.” These terrific authors can’t be wrong:

“Herz presents a provocative and unique look at the lifecycle and benefits of smoke throughout the millennia. Lopez’s multimedia artwork further illuminates the ethereal nature of smoke as it drifts and dances across the page.” – John Rocco, author/illustrator of the Caldecott Honor book BLACKOUT

“A fascinating, refreshing, and beautifully atmospheric take on something often taken for granted. I’ll never look at smoke the same way again!” – Matthew Cordell, author/illustrator of the Caldecott Medal-winning book WOLF IN SNOW

“I Am Smoke is an absolutely beautiful book, where smoke is both poetry and science. Readers will rest, float, and dance along with smoke’s quiet power across time and traditions. I have lingered over its pages more than once, and I’m sure young readers will, too.” – Doreen Cronin, author of the Caldecott Honor and NY Times bestselling book CLICK, CLACK, MOO: COWS THAT TYPE

“Wowwwwww” – Raina Telgemeier, #1 NY Times, #1 USA Today, #1 Publishers Weekly bestselling author/illustrator

What’s next??

I have a sci-fi/humor middle grade novel on submission and am revising a fantasy middle grade novel. I just joined as an editor the staff of small publisher Running Wild Press, so that should yield some interesting projects. I AM SMOKE launches September 7, 2021. My forthcoming books and stories include:

  • Denver Horror Collective’s adult horror anthology, THE JEWISH BOOK OF HORROR, will include my short story, Demon Hunter Vashti.
  • Launching in 2022 my contemporary magical realism early chapter book, THE MAGIC SPATULA from Month9 Books with co-author Sam “The Cooking Guy” Zien.
  • Launching in 2022 the middle-grade #ownvoices anthology from Albert Whitman & Co., COMING OF AGE, including my sci-fi/humor short story, Bar Mitzvah on Planet Latke.
  • Launching in 2022, the young adult horror anthology from Blackstone Publishing, THE HITHERTO SECRET EXPERIMENTS OF MARIE CURIE, including my short story, Cheating Death.
  • Highlights for Children” has purchased two more of my stories, but I don’t know when those will come out.

Thanks for having me!

Glad you could join me, Henry, thank you! And again, best luck with the book – it’s gaining some great traction with positive reviews all around, and as an author myself I know how good that must make you feel.

And by the way, to anyone who is in the trenches, submitting your first or second manuscript and trying to deal with all those rejection letters (or worse, NO letters at all), I hope you’ll take a peek at last week’s post about rejections – why they aren’t as bad as you think and why it’s important to keep going!

Since it’s Poetry Friday, I hope everyone will check out all the poetry links and fun with Mary Lee Hahn, who is hosting today’s complete poetry roundup at her newly-revised blog, A(nother) Year of Reading, with an original villanelle about flames and torches (or is that all just a metaphor??).

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

I’m now a part of the BOOKROO family!

Create an account to add books to wishlists and be notified of special deals and dates…create custom collections…and discover and follow your favorite authors & illustrators!

Find out more about BOOKROO here!

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

Talkabook is setting out to inspire children by connecting them with authors and illustrators! Click here to view my profile and learn more!

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

I continue adding to my “Wit & Wordplay” videos ! These videos were created for parents and educators (along with their kids) to learn how to write poetry, appreciate it, and have fun with it. From alliteration and iambs to free verse and spine poetry, I’m pretty sure there’s something in these videos you’ll find surprising! You can view them all on my YouTube channel, and if you have young kids looking for something to keep busy with, I also have several downloadable activity sheets at my website.

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

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

You can purchase personally-signed copies of Flashlight Night, (Boyds Mills Press, 2017), Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (Pow! Kids Books, 2018)and nearly EVERY book or anthology I’ve been part of!

Click any of the following covers to order!

Just click the cover of whichever book you want and send a comment to the good folks at MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH requesting my signature and to whom I should make it out. (alternatively, you can log onto my website and do the same thing) They’ll contact me, I’ll stop by and sign it, and then they’ll ship it! (Plus, you’ll be supporting your local bookseller – and won’t that make you feel good?)

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

Thank you to everyone for your support!

FLASHLIGHT NIGHT:

DON’T ASK A DINOSAUR:

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

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!

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 FacebookInstagramPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Poetry Friday: How to Write a Poem, and why rejections aren’t bad (even though they suck)

Although I’d been planning on posting something else today, I thought it might be beneficial to share something I posted on Facebook earlier this past week; something that gained quite a bit of attention and created a healthy discussion.

Went through 25 rejections!

The past two weeks I’ve received more rejections than I received all of last year.

Perhaps it’s because I’ve sent more submissions out in the past 6 months than I did last year, perhaps it’s because I finally got around to following up with a number of editors I’d been waiting on.

Regardless the reason, rejections don’t feel good.

“No” doesn’t mean “Stop;” it means keep going.

I’m not going to act like rejection doesn’t bother me and that everything is sunshine and lollipops. Rejections aren’t fun, I won’t argue with that. But I don’t get depressed by them.

Went through 14 rejections!

Folks who are new to the publishing industry need to know that rejections are going to be a part of their life now. Personally, I went from acting to voice acting to writing – so rejection has been something I’ve had to live with nearly all my life (to say nothing of my nerdy high school years).

The particular rejection I had posted about was for a manuscript for a poetry collection I co-wrote with David L. Harrison, one of the most incredibly talented, successful children’s poets in the biz. Although I’m running out of potential options for publishers to submit to (I’m unagented and can only submit to a limited number of houses), I shared the news of this rejection not to seek pity but to remind my friends and followers that even the most highly-esteemed writers like my co-author hear the word “no” sometimes.

For example, my recent picture book Once Upon Another Time (Beaming Books, 2021) was co-authored with Father Goose himself, Charles Ghigna, and it went through 25 rejections before editor Naomi Krueger saw my pitch on the #PBPitch Twitter event back in October 2019 and asked me to send her the manuscript. 25 rejections – and that was with the gravitas of Father Goose’s name attached to the project!

 A partial list of the 25+ rejections Charles Ghigna & I received for “Once Upon Another Time” before editor Naomi Krueger at Beaming Books bought it.

A quick Google search of famous books that were initially rejected reveals myriad famous titles like Kathryn Stockett’s The Help, Steven King’s Carrie, and Chicken Soup for the Soul. Even my friend Laura Numeroff’s first If You Give a Mouse a Cookie book went through 9 rejections, with one of the editors telling her there was no way they felt the book could possibly be profitable.

Let that sink in. Just about every person in the free world has at least heard of that book (it’s been a Jeopardy question at least 3 times!), yet the editor saw no way it could be profitable. The editor wasn’t mean, short-sighted, or ignorant; she was simply not a good fit for the book.

Went through at least 8 rejections!

Sometimes editors just don’t see your vision, that’s all. My picture books are published by several different publishers because not all of them believed in all my manuscripts – and that’s ok! The ones who DID believe in them produced gorgeous books I’m proud to call my own.

Maybe you submitted a dinosaur book to a company that already has too many dinosaur books; maybe you submitted a humourous meta-book to a company that prefers inclusive, cross-cultural themes; maybe you submitted a 1st-person POV book to someone who doesn’t like 1st-person POV (don’t laugh, I know of at least one!).

Fact is, there could be numerous reasons – many beyond your control – why your manuscript was rejected.

So if you’re hearing the word “No” a lot lately, remember that it doesn’t mean you should stop what you’re doing; it means you need to simply check that editor or agent off your list and move on. Or better yet, check them off the list for THAT manuscript, and send them another! After all, if it’s a numbers game, then you’re doing yourself a favor by eliminating all those unecessary numbers.

And if you remember nothing else, remember this: each “No” gets you closer to a “Yes.”

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How to Write a Poem

Open your eyes.
Open your ears.
Brace yourself
to face your fears.

Open your mind.
Open your heart.
Open your soul,
……….tear it apart.

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©2021 Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

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It’s Poetry Friday! If you’d like to check out all the poetry links and fun, be sure to head over to Rebecca Herzog’s little home on the web, Sloth Reads, for the complete roundup!

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I’m now a part of the BOOKROO family!

Create an account to add books to wishlists and be notified of special deals and dates…create custom collections…and discover and follow your favorite authors & illustrators!

Find out more about BOOKROO here!

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

Talkabook is setting out to inspire children by connecting them with authors and illustrators! Click here to view my profile and learn more!

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

I continue adding to my “Wit & Wordplay” videos ! These videos were created for parents and educators (along with their kids) to learn how to write poetry, appreciate it, and have fun with it. From alliteration and iambs to free verse and spine poetry, I’m pretty sure there’s something in these videos you’ll find surprising! You can view them all on my YouTube channel, and if you have young kids looking for something to keep busy with, I also have several downloadable activity sheets at my website.

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

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

You can purchase personally-signed copies of Flashlight Night, (Boyds Mills Press, 2017), Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (Pow! Kids Books, 2018)and nearly EVERY book or anthology I’ve been part of!

Click any of the following covers to order!

Just click the cover of whichever book you want and send a comment to the good folks at MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH requesting my signature and to whom I should make it out. (alternatively, you can log onto my website and do the same thing) They’ll contact me, I’ll stop by and sign it, and then they’ll ship it! (Plus, you’ll be supporting your local bookseller – and won’t that make you feel good?)

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

Thank you to everyone for your support!

FLASHLIGHT NIGHT:

DON’T ASK A DINOSAUR:

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

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!

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 FacebookInstagramPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Poetry Friday: Celebrating a library re-opening with “The Dirt Book”

The children’s room in all its clean, reorganized glory!

Ah, what a joyous occasion it was…walking into our local library for the first time in a year and a half.

Like much of the country, our little town is slowly opening back up following the Covid-19 shutdown of 2020, and the fact that our library is finally accepting visitors was not something I just had to celebrate.

And the fact that my kids were just as eager to celebrate was a proud parenting win!

Another one of the many new books the children’s librarian was excited about was The Dirt Book: Poems About Animals That Live Beneath Our Feet (Holiday House, 2021), the latest poetry collection by my friend David L. Harrison.

From ants to worms to chipmunks, this book explores the lives of a variety of critters who live underneath our feet

Aside from David’s unique style of writing, which combines wit, insight, science, and ingenious wordplay, one of the things that makes this book unique is the fact that the reader needs to go dooowwwn to the bottom to read it…it opens from bottom-to-top, instead of right-to-left!

The book has received numerous positive reviews including raves from Kirkus, School Library Journal, and Shelf-Awareness, among others – so I knew I had to share some of the great news with those of you who follow this blog!

Told you – it opens from the bottom!

How cool is that?? Such a fun book – and for someone like me who just spent the past year learning unusual ways to teach kids while homeschooling – like combining poetry with science, math, and art – this book is perfect for getting your science lovers intrigued as much as the poetry lovers. Congratulations to David and illustrator Kate Cosgrove, who also provided visuals for David’s previous book with Holiday House, And the Bullfrogs Sing!

Speaking of science-lovers…Mr. Non-Fiction was thrilled that the library was finally open, and nearly cleared out half their shelves! This is what he considers bedtime reading.

For more poetry, be sure to check out today’s complete Poetry Friday roundup with Kat Apel at Kat’s Whiskers, where she is featuring Pet Pic Poems…sounds like fun, yes??

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I’m now a part of the BOOKROO family!

Create an account to add books to wishlists and be notified of special deals and dates…create custom collections…and discover and follow your favorite authors & illustrators!

Find out more about BOOKROO here!

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

Talkabook is setting out to inspire children by connecting them with authors and illustrators! Click here to view my profile and learn more!

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

I continue adding to my “Wit & Wordplay” videos ! These videos were created for parents and educators (along with their kids) to learn how to write poetry, appreciate it, and have fun with it. From alliteration and iambs to free verse and spine poetry, I’m pretty sure there’s something in these videos you’ll find surprising! You can view them all on my YouTube channel, and if you have young kids looking for something to keep busy with, I also have several downloadable activity sheets at my website.

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

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

You can purchase personally-signed copies of Flashlight Night, (Boyds Mills Press, 2017), Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (Pow! Kids Books, 2018)and nearly EVERY book or anthology I’ve been part of!

Click any of the following covers to order!

Just click the cover of whichever book you want and send a comment to the good folks at MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH requesting my signature and to whom I should make it out. (alternatively, you can log onto my website and do the same thing) They’ll contact me, I’ll stop by and sign it, and then they’ll ship it! (Plus, you’ll be supporting your local bookseller – and won’t that make you feel good?)

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

Thank you to everyone for your support!

FLASHLIGHT NIGHT:

DON’T ASK A DINOSAUR:

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

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!

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 FacebookInstagramPinterest, and SoundCloud!

NEW Picture Book Cover Reveal AND Summer Reading Lists!

If schools have not wrapped up where you are yet, they will be soon – and with summer, comes summer reading! I’m so proud that many of my books – and books with which I’m associated – are appearing on summer reading lists. I’ll share a few of them in just a minuet, but first…

Another picture book cover reveal!!

This will be the THIRD COVER REVEAL for a book of mine this year (wow, that’s never happened before!), and I am extra-excited because the reveal is taking place at agent/author Kaitlyn Leann Sanchez’ popular kidlit blog, Math Is Everywhere! Kaitlyn is a wonderful supporter of authors; she took some time to interview me about the book, titled I Am Today (POW! Kids Books), which comes out this Oct., and I’m thrilled that she gets to show it off to everyone.

(PS: there’s a giveaway that goes along with it, too – so be sure to check it out!)

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SUMMER READING LISTS

In other news, I’m very proud to see several of my books showing up on reading lists and blogs this time of year! A blog mention or review is always appreciated no matter the season, of course, but this time of year is special because more families are getting together, doing things, going places, and kids as well as adults are finding more time to read.

A few of the folks I’d like to thank:

Kansas NEA Reading Circle – Recommended Title (Flashlight Night)

Lighthouse Homeschool Solutions (Flashlight Night) *

Newton (MA) Free Library (Night Wishes)

Villa Duchesne and Oak Hill School (MO) (Flashlight Night)

We Are Teachers (Flashlight Night)

Denver Public Library’s “Adventure Picture Books” (Flashlight Night)

Fairfax County (VA) Public Library “Picture Walks” (Flashlight Night)

School Library Journal “NCTE 2021 Notable Poetry Books(Construction People)

South Orange & Maplewood (NJ) elementary & public librarians (Construction People)

Advent Lutheran Church (NYC) (Once Upon Another Time)

The Spencer Library (United Seminary) (Once Upon Another Time)

Crafty Moms Share (Once Upon Another Time)

Book No Further “Recreation/Outdoor activities (Once Upon Another Time)

Book Nerd Mommy “Not-to-be-missed Picture Books” (Night Wishes)

Hello, Wild Things “Flashlight Book Basket” (Flashlight Night) (This was posted in 2020, but I just came across it today!)

* Let me just say that showing up on a list that includes Charles Dickens and E.B. White is pretty mind-blowing!

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I have to add that it’s quite an honor to see so many of my books – seven, as a matter of fact – available in the library system where I was born! Thank you, Baltimore County Public Library, for your support!

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

I’m now a part of the BOOKROO family!

Create an account to add books to wishlists and be notified of special deals and dates…create custom collections…and discover and follow your favorite authors & illustrators!

Find out more about BOOKROO here!

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

Talkabook is setting out to inspire children by connecting them with authors and illustrators! Click here to view my profile and learn more!

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

I continue adding to my “Wit & Wordplay” videos ! These videos were created for parents and educators (along with their kids) to learn how to write poetry, appreciate it, and have fun with it. From alliteration and iambs to free verse and spine poetry, I’m pretty sure there’s something in these videos you’ll find surprising! You can view them all on my YouTube channel, and if you have young kids looking for something to keep busy with, I also have several downloadable activity sheets at my website.

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

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

You can purchase personally-signed copies of Flashlight Night, (Boyds Mills Press, 2017), Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (Pow! Kids Books, 2018)and nearly EVERY book or anthology I’ve been part of!

Click any of the following covers to order!

Just click the cover of whichever book you want and send a comment to the good folks at MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH requesting my signature and to whom I should make it out. (alternatively, you can log onto my website and do the same thing) They’ll contact me, I’ll stop by and sign it, and then they’ll ship it! (Plus, you’ll be supporting your local bookseller – and won’t that make you feel good?)

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

Thank you to everyone for your support!

FLASHLIGHT NIGHT:

DON’T ASK A DINOSAUR:

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

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!

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 FacebookInstagramPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Poetry Friday: Looking back at my first paid poem – has it only been 6 years??

I was recently updating some of my marketing paperwork and was surprised to discover that it has only been 6 years since my very first paid children’s poem was published. Six years!

Now, this comes with a tiny disclaimer: the first paid poem for which I signed a contract was “First Tooth,” which appeared in Lee Bennett Hopkins’ Lullabye & Kisses Sweet (Abrams Appleseed), published in March 2015. My first published paid poem, however, actually appeared just one week earlier, in Carol-Ann Hoyte’s anthology Dear Tomato: An International Crop of Food & Agriculture Poems.

Even though I’m a few months behind, I thought I’d share one of my three poems that Carol-Ann included in her book – a poem that was one of the first children’s poems I ever wrote, waaaay back in 2010.

It came about when I was mowing the lawn one day and started contemplating what I was doing from a child’s perspective. I asked myself questions that a child might ask his or her dad: What are you doing? Why are you cutting the grass? Why don’t you grow flowers like mom?

And this is what happened when the child inside me tried to answer those questions!
.

Growing Greens

Mommy grows flowers
She thins them and feeds them.
She prunes them and pots them
and waters and weeds them.

Daddy grows grass.

Mommy grows ivy
and bushes and hedges
that grow by the garden
and over the ledges.

Daddy grows grass.

Mommy grows roses
of all shapes and sizes.
She takes them to fairs
and often wins prizes.

Daddy grows grass.

Well, actually…
sometimes Daddy grows flowers.
Pretty yellow dandelions, that cover the lawn.
.
But Daddy pulls them up

to grow more grass.

– © 2015, Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

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It’s hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that since this poem came out, I’ve had about 35 children’s poems and 4 picture books published – and 8 more books on the way. I’m so grateful to the folks I’ve met along this journey, for befriending me, supporting me, and publishing me!

And speaking of publishing, this really is an anthology of incredible diversity, featuring established poets like former U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis and the award-winning Nikki Grimes as well as up-and-comers (at the time) like my friends Charles Waters and Michelle H. Barnes. If you’ve not had the opportunity to pick up a copy Dear Tomato, I hope you will! Where else are you going to find a collection of 34 different writers for just 10 bucks?? As far as bargains go, it’s definitely a heckuva one.

And as far as poetry goes, you can find today’s complete Poetry Friday roundup at Irene Latham’s little home on the web, Live Your Poem!

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

I’m now a part of the BOOKROO family!

Children's Book Subscription: Bookroo - Sincerely Stacie

Create an account to add books to wishlists and be notified of special deals and dates…create custom collections…and discover and follow your favorite authors & illustrators!

Find out more about BOOKROO here!

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

Talkabook is setting out to inspire children by connecting them with authors and illustrators! Click here to view my profile and learn more!

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

I continue adding to my “Wit & Wordplay” videos ! These videos were created for parents and educators (along with their kids) to learn how to write poetry, appreciate it, and have fun with it. From alliteration and iambs to free verse and spine poetry, I’m pretty sure there’s something in these videos you’ll find surprising! You can view them all on my YouTube channel, and if you have young kids looking for something to keep busy with, I also have several downloadable activity sheets at my website.

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

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

You can purchase personally-signed copies of Flashlight Night, (Boyds Mills Press, 2017), Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (Pow! Kids Books, 2018)and nearly EVERY book or anthology I’ve been part of!

Click any of the following covers to order!

Just click the cover of whichever book you want and send a comment to the good folks at MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH requesting my signature and to whom I should make it out. (alternatively, you can log onto my website and do the same thing) They’ll contact me, I’ll stop by and sign it, and then they’ll ship it! (Plus, you’ll be supporting your local bookseller – and won’t that make you feel good?)

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

Thank you to everyone for your support!

FLASHLIGHT NIGHT:

DON’T ASK A DINOSAUR:

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

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!

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 FacebookInstagramPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Poetry Friday: The Return of David Elliott… from 9 years ago!

When I shared the news about my friend David Elliott’s newest book, The Seventh Raven (HMH, 2021), in last Friday’s post, I had no idea I was about to create a month-long Elliottfest…

…but apparently that is precisely what I’ve done.

You see, I had asked David if he’d mind joining me for an interview at the end of April – which he will – but it occurred to me that some, if not most, of my readers would be unaware of the conversation we had waaaaay back in 2013. Since that interview had been posted on the now-defunct Poetry at Play blog, I realized there was no way for anyone to be able to read or even reference that post. I therefore did the only thing that seemed to make sense.

Reposted it here!

So yes, I featured David Elliott’s latest book two weeks ago; I’m re-posting my original interview with him from 9 years ago here today; and at the end of the month, David and I will be back with a brand-new interview about craft and verse novels. (“It’s ALL David, ALL the time…!”)

(Keep in mind, this is the original transcript, so some comments may sound dated – for example, the YA novel he was working on became Bull – but I hope you enjoy!)

Although David Elliot was born and raised in a small town in Ohio, that didn’t prevent him from travelling the world and collecting myriad experiences.  Over the years, he worked as a singer in Mexico, an English teacher in Libya, a cucumber-washer in Greece, and a popsicle-stick-maker in Israel. David also studied classical voice at a conservatory, with dreams of becoming an opera singer. The problem, he says, is that he wasn’t very good.

Fortunately for the world of children’s literature, David became a New York Times bestselling children’s author. His many picture books and chapter books include: And Here’s to You! (Candlewick, 2009), The Transmogrification of Roscoe Wizzle (Walker Books Ltd., 2001), The Evangeline Mudd books (Candlewick), Finn Throws a Fit! (Candlewick, reprint, 2011), Jeremy Cabbage and the Living Museum (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2008), and most recently the picture book, In the Wild (Candlewick, 2010).

As of this writing, David has six new picture books under contract, due to be published within the next couple of years, and he is working on a YA novel and a new middle grade book. If you’d like to learn more about David and his books, visit www.davidelliottbooks.com.

First of all, thank you, David, for taking the time out of your busy schedule to chat with us!  Did you ever imagine yourself being this busy, back when you were washing cucumbers in Greece, or making popsicle sticks in Israel? And wouldn’t it have been easier to just wash cukes or make popsicle sticks here in the States??

Maybe. But think of all the fantastic food I would have missed out on.

Seriously, though, how did you come to finally discover your true calling and end up back home in the U.S.?

 Oh, dear. Do I have a true calling? But to answer your question, after many years of traveling and working abroad, making popsicle sticks, washing cucumbers (the most Freudian job ever!), teaching in Libya, singing in Mexico, I came back because as transformative as those years were, the truth is they were also very lonely, better suited to a comic novel, maybe, than to a real life. I have a big stack of journals from those years. One day, maybe, I’ll write that novel.

Anyone who uses the word “transmogrification” in the title of a children’s book must have fun while he’s writing!  Does it ‘feel’ like work, and do you ever wonder if you’ll ever end up having a ‘real job’ again?

When the paperback of The Transmogrification of Roscoe Wizzle (Candlewick, 2004) came out, the sales staff wanted to get rid of that word transmogrification and call the book Roscoe Wizzle. I try to be as collaborative as I can when it comes to these things – and they come much more frequently than one might think – but in this case I put my foot down. I didn’t want to dumb down the title because adults were scared that it was “too hard.” 

I felt vindicated a couple of months later during a school visit when an eight-year-old boy came running up to me after my presentation. “Transmogrification!” he said. “Transmogrification! When I hear that word, it just makes me want to read the book.” You know, I’ve heard adults mangle that word over and over again, but never, not once, has a child mispronounced it. Sometimes, I think it might be part of the writer’s job to protect children from what the adults in charge of their lives think about them.

For me, writing is a real job, and hard work, even, or perhaps more accurately, especially the funny stuff and the picture books.

Now, you write in a variety of styles, including poetry, picture books, and chapter books…do you prefer one style over another?  

Not really. Each has its challenges just as each as its pleasures.  There are so many books out there. That’s great, of course, but it can also be a bit discouraging. And do we really need another vampire book? Another adventure series? Another this or that?  In fact, we probably do. My problem is that I’m not interested in writing them. At the moment, I’m interested in experimenting with new structures, new ways of telling a story.

Books like In the Wild (Candlewick, 2010) and In the Sea (Candlewick, 2012) contain some great examples of children’s poetry that are written in simple language but are quite thoughtful and full of emotion.  Is it difficult to find that balance? And what is your process for determining how you want to present a poetry subject or idea?

First, thanks for the kind words. Each of the three books in the series (two more on the way) presented a different challenge. On the Farm was perhaps the most straightforward. We all know what a farm is and without ever opening the book could guess what animals we might find between the end pages. (I did try to include some of the undomesticated animals that are present on a farm, too: the turtle, bees, a garter snake). In the end, a farm is a kind of container. Additionally, if we hear the word cow, we share a set of emotional responses because, in one way or another, we have all grown up with cows, or at the very least, the idea of cows. 

But when it came to In the Wild, I was stumped. First there is no container. These animals are found all over the world and there are tens of thousands of them. How to choose just 14 or so? (My editor and I settled on the iconic.) Then, I discovered that I knew very little beyond the obvious when it came to the animals. Since it’s the writer’s job to say something new, I spent weeks, reading, looking at pictures, watching YouTube videos of the animals in the book, trying to get not just information about them but a feeling for them, too. 

Then there was the complicating factor that many of the animals in the book are endangered. On one hand, it felt, disrespectful to both the animals represented and to the children reading the poems to ignore this sad truth; on the other, I didn’t want to write a book that said Too bad kids, by the time you are adults, some these animals won’t exist.. I tried to solve the problem with last poem and its page turn. “The Polar Bear.”  By the way, we don’t talk or think enough about page turns in picture books. In the best ones, they carry as much meaning as the text.

After starting In the Sea, I completely understood the expression “a cold fish.”  They’re rather hard to feel warm and fuzzy about. In the end, I decided to think about the various forms in the ocean. Since many fish have the same basic shape, I wanted to give the late Holly Meade, the illustrator, something to work with. I feel incredibly lucky to have been paired with Holly. She brought so much to these books.  Some of you may not know that she left us in April of this year. A sad and terrible loss.

If I can, I’d like to give a plug for On the Wing, coming out fall 2014 with art by a wonderful new illustrator, Becca Stadtlander. As a whole, the poems in the book might be my favorite of the four volumes thus far. But they were very, very difficult. All birds have feathers, beaks and they fly – at least the ones we chose for the book do. What more was there to say? It was very challenging because most of us know very little about individual species of birds, so there was not a lot of common knowledge I could rely on.

The bower bird, for example, a very plain species native to Australia, builds a complicated structure on the ground. He then adorns it with flowers and shells, anything colorful he can find  in order to lure a paramour into what is literally his love nest. Who knew? 

Here’s the poem.

The Bower Bird

No fancy feathers,

to attract a mate,

first  he builds

then decorates

his bower.

How carefully

he constructs

the walls.

(The halls

he fills

with flowers.)

And how anxiously 

he arranges

the bright  tokens

he collects.

O pity then

the bower bird.

Nature’s fussy,

lovesick architect.

Beautiful, David – and so personal the reader can actually empathize with the bird. You know, it’s always an open-ended question to ask someone ‘where’ they get their inspiration; for most of us, it comes from everywhere. So let me ask, how do you deal with the inspiration you get? That is, how do you know if an idea is worth your attention, and what do you do with it?

This is something that plagues me. I’m never at a loss for ideas. But what I’m always afraid of is that I’m not up to executing them in the way they deserve. I’m rather slow on the uptake. I kept the first draft of Roscoe in my drawer for eight years before I really understood what the book wanted to be.

Recently, I’ve been reading and rereading Homer, Ovid, Virgil and along with them, some modern retellings. (David Malouf’s Ransom is one of the best things I’ve read in years. Now, I’m reading his An Imaginary Life. Equally as wonderful.) All this has me thinking about the relationship between the Greek and Roman gods and the mortals who worshipped them. Those gods required a lot: supplication, sacrifice, interpretation, belief.

This seems to me a wonderful metaphor for the relationship between artists and their inspiration. How much are we willing to humble ourselves before it? How much are we willing to sacrifice? How much are willing to listen to the oracular voice? How much are we willing to believe? This last is perhaps the most frightening question.

I so wish I had understood this earlier in my career. These questions will be very much at the forefront of my mind (and heart) as I continue to work on new and longer projects.

“Buffalo,” from In the Wild, © 2010 Candlewick, all rights reserved

Your chapter book, Jeremy Cabbage, is about a young orphan boy – a sort of cross between Oliver Twist and Lemony Snicket’s Beaudelaire siblings – who goes into the world on an adventure. Did you see your globe-trotting self in Jeremy, and how have you used your life experiences in other books?

In a way, all books are autobiographical since it is the life experience, sensibilities, instincts and education of the particular author that make the book.  In my case, it is perhaps not the external circumstances in which Jeremy finds himself, but the emotional content of the book that is closest to how I felt as a child and still sometimes feel as an adult.

Folks like J. Patrick Lewis and Jane Yolen say inspiration is over-rated – that success more often comes via the “BIC” rule (Butt In Chair). In other words, sit down and get to work! What are your thoughts on this approach?

Isn’t it the only approach? One of my favorite quotes about writing comes from the writer, Octavia Butler. (Kindred remains one of the most under-appreciated books in print. Everyone should read it.) Anyway, she put it very succinctly: “Habit is more important than inspiration.” As others have said, we write to find out what we don’t know.

How difficult is it to know what children will like or not like?  Who do you trust for feedback on your writing?

This question is more complicated than first it appears. Not all children like the same things. Then, we have to ask, what do you mean by children? A five-year-old is very different from a ten-year-old who is very, very different from a thirteen-year old. Children are the same in only one way: they are developing. This, to me, is one of the principal differences between writing for an adult audience and writing for children.

This, too, is one of the things that I find so difficult about writing for kids. I’m afraid that sometimes we don’t do the best job of honoring the sacred fact that children are still becoming. It’s a scientific fact. Research now tells us that the brain isn’t fully developed until our early twenties. This makes, or it should make, a difference in how we approach our work, or at least in understanding and respecting our audience..

Yes, there really was a Finn, and YES, he really did throw a fit!

But I sometimes worry that we too often fall prey to a kind of inferiority complex in which we feel we have to compete with adult publishing to be real writers. I wonder if this is why there are so many books for kids where a loved one dies, or is alcoholic or, well, you know what I mean. Why do we have this idea that tragedy is more serious, more valuable than comedy?  To me this seems very puritanical and old-fashioned. Also wrong.

Of course, I know that many young people do experience terrible things in their lives. But many children also experience happiness, — even those in the most wretched circumstances –and that happiness can bolster a young heart. I know this by the way from personal experience. There is so much to say on this topic.

Who are your favourite children’s authors or poets? What have you learned from them?

I love Roald Dahl. I love Robert Louis Stevenson. I love Louise Rennison. I love M.T. Anderson. (He’s a good friend, and though I don’t want to admit it to him, he is completely lovable!) I love Jack Prelutsky (because it’s clear he loves kids.) I love, love love Natalie Babbit. Too many to mention. And what I’ve learned from them is that is that I have a lot more to learn to be the writer I would like to be.

Is there a poem or book you’ve had published that you are particularly proud of?  Is there one secretly wish you could revise?

Good heavens! The answer to the first question is, “all of them.” The answer to the second question is, “all of them.”

What was the worst idea you ever had – for a poem, a book, a career, or anything – and what did you do with it?

Believe me, you don’t have enough time for me to talk about my bad ideas. I still get them. Every day.

We all do, David! By the way, considering all of your life experiences so far, do you think you’ll remain content with writing children’s lit, or do you see yourself branching out into other genres, or even doing something entirely different?

As my wonderful editor at Candlewick once said, “When I find adults as interesting as children, I’ll start working for them.” But I do have adult projects in mind. I’ve published one, The Tiger’s Back,  either a very short novella or a very long story, depending on how you look at it. I also have written some for the theater and plan to do more of that. But I’ll always write for kids.

What advice would you give to aspiring children’s poets and authors? And from your experience, what would you say is the biggest fallacy you’ve learned in trying to get published?

Currently, I teach in the Low Residency MFA in Creative Writing at Lesley University in Cambridge. One thing that I find myself repeating to my students is, “Get out of the way.”  By which I mean, the writer must be secondary to the work. Understandably, less experienced writers are anxious, eager to prove to the world and to themselves they have whatn it takes. (If I’m honest, most of us feel this way. In fact, I have to fight that feeling every day.) This can create a bit of a tendency to show-off on the page, to make a wrong decision about a particular word, or sentence structure, or well, almost anything, really from punctuation to plot. 

But almost always, this either bores us (deadly!) or distracts us from what John Gardner calls “the fictional dream.” In other words, we stop thinking about what we’re reading and start thinking about the person who wrote it. (and usually not in the kindest of terms). We end up feeling disappointed or cheated, tricked somehow.  The harsh truth is that no one really cares about you, the writer, I mean. And rightly so. The reader only cares about what is on the page. And rightly so. It’s a hard lesson to learn. But also liberating once you’ve got the hang of it.

Of course, that isn’t to say that we can’t be dazzled by what a writer has accomplished –that’s happening to me right now with David Malouf — but that’s because 1) the writer has complete control of her craft and 2) whatever the writer has done it’s been in service to the story or the poem and not to herself.

About publishing, I don’t know what to say, really. One thing we almost never hear is that you need a little luck. So my advice in this area is 1) learn you craft, and 2) once you’ve learned it stay open so that when that luck comes knocking, you recognize it and let it in. (This isn’t helpful, I know. Sorry.)

Ha, don’t be sorry, that’s absolutely the best advice one could give! By the way, there’s a children’s illustrator from New Zealand named David Elliot.  As far as anyone can tell, you’re not him…right?

I don’t think I am, but one never knows.

Well, thanks again for spending some time with us here at PACYA, David…and all the best for future success!

I hope you enjoyed the interview…and please remember to visit later this month when David and I chat about the craft of writing, specifically verse novels, on April 30 when I host the Poetry Friday roundup! It should be a lot of fun, and enlightening! You’ll find today’s roundup at Tabatha Yeatts’ The Opposite of Indifference, where she is celebrating National Poetry Month!

Also be sure to check out all the books coming out this month from my 2021 Book Blast partners:

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I continue adding to my “Wit & Wordplay” videos ! These videos were created for parents and educators (along with their kids) to learn how to write poetry, appreciate it, and have fun with it. From alliteration and iambs to free verse and spine poetry, I’m pretty sure there’s something in these videos you’ll find surprising! You can view them all on my YouTube channel, and if you have young kids looking for something to keep busy with, I also have several downloadable activity sheets at my website.

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