A busy 2016 – and it’s barely begun!

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

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

Cybils-Logo-2015-Round-LgCYBILS Awards finalists

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

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

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

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

Anthologies ahead!

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

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

Children’s manuscripts, anyone? Anyone??

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

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

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

Three magic words: New. Voiceover. Studio!

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

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

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

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

nescbwi16 logo

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is that enough?

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

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

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!
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Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

What have I been up to, you ask? Let me explain…

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. So if you’re wondering why I haven’t posted anything new on Tuesdays for the past couple weeks…let me show you!

CYBILS - gr novels photo
Nominees for the CYBILS Awards’ two “Graphic Novel” categories (click to enlarge)

These are just SOME of the 102 graphic novels nominated for the Elementary-Middle Grade Graphic Novel and Young Adult Graphic Novel categories in the 2015 CYBILS Awards.

That’s a lot of reading, right there.

This is the first year I’ve been a first-round panelist; the past two years, I’ve been a second-round judge in the Poetry category and have only had to sort through 7 books. A proverbial walk in the park, compared to this! But I’m enjoying it.

One thing that has surprised me is how the definition of “graphic novel” has changed over the years. Graphic novels used to be, for all intents and purposes, highly-produced comic books in traditional book form.

Cybils-Logo-2015-Round-LgThese days, any book that utilizes illustrations to tell a significant portion of the story can qualify. Whether or not that definition holds true for each of these books is a question only those of us judging them can answer – and I’m slowly working my way through the pile, taking note of what I like and what doesn’t work.

The variety of styles, narratives, formatting, and age ranges is amazing, though, and it’s going to be difficult paring this massive list down to just a handful of titles to pass along to this year’s second round judges!

Oh yes, I write, too

I would have liked to have judged the Poetry category again this year, but at least two of the books nominated contain poems that I wrote – so I bowed out and moved to the graphic novel category. However, I’m still just as busy writing as I always have been…

Having wrapped up a revision of a poetry collection I’ve been working on for a couple years AND having completed another collection I started compiling this summer, I also just put the finishing touches on a new picture book manuscript.

You know what that means: time to write another!

That’s what I’m doing now, in addition to finding some appropriate publishers to send the completed manuscripts to. There are only so many hours in a day, as they say, and with our 2-year-old rarely taking naps anymore, the days’ hours are even more precious!

(Also, two new poems have been accepted for publication in two upcoming and as-yet-unannounced anthologies…I hope to be able to share more news on that early next year!)

She Blinded Me with Sais

I’ve also been a bit slower than normal, thanks to that 2-year-old daughter I made reference to earlier. Last week, as I was reaching over her car seat to find a necklace she lost, she suddenly grabbed her older brother’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle toy and jammed it as hard as she could into my left eyeball.

As you can see, the injury severely affected my eyesight as well as other facial features.

When I stopped screaming, I found enough composure to call the local Urgent Care facility to see if they could fit me in. It didn’t appear that my eyesight had been damaged, but infection was certainly a possibility and the pain would fluctuate between a 1 and a 5, so I needed something to get it to stop tearing.

When I told the nurse what happened, he asked, “Was it Raphael’s fork?”

sai
The offending item, a sai (pron. “say”) which my daughter wielded expertly. A little TOO expertly.

Good Lord, this man instinctively knew my plight! “Umm…yes, as a matter of fact, it was,” I replied. “You get these a lot?”

His smile came over the phone clearly. “More than you can imagine,” he said.

I now know why Popeye squinted his eye that way – Sweet Pee probably smacked him in the face with a can of spinach and the poor old sailor man never fully recovered.

Recovery in time for food prep

So now that I can see without pain and without the weird, scrunched-up eye thing I was doing for a few days, I can focus (pun intended) on Thanksgiving! There’s a turkey to brine, desserts to make, and bread dough to rise. My wife and I are also trying out a vegan butternut squash lasagna for the first time, so I’m looking forward to that, as well.

I hope you have an enjoyable week! If you celebrate Thanksgiving, I hope it’s wonderful for you…and if you don’t, perhaps you’ll find some time to reflect on all the positives in your life.

Personally, I’m thankful for my family, my health, my faith, my talents, and all the tremendous blessings I enjoy. Many of these blessings, like the books I’ve been able to be a part of, you are part of! For that, I thank you.

By the way, you only have about one week left to get your “Poetry…Cubed!” poems in – and if you don’t know what I’m talking about, click HERE to get caught up-to-date!

As for me…I have some reading to do!

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

A favour…

I have a quick favour to ask you. It won’t take long, unless you enjoy it.

Before we get to that, I need to explain why I haven’t been around much lately…

First, it’s been an another insanely busy week (I know, I’ve said that before, but I really mean it this time!) I recently wrapped up a marathon radio commercial production project for a good client of mine, American Cottage Rugs. I recorded the owner interview-style, sorted through the 45-55 minutes of her audio, and ended up producing 27 – yes, 27 – radio commercials. Whew!

Plus, I have been trying to finish up a picture book manuscript and get some new Cybils-Logo-2015-Round-Lgquery letters sent out to potential publishers – and I’ve got two other books AND a poetry collection I need to work on. I’m also in the process of tracking down at least five dozen young adult and middle-grade graphic novels (that’s right, I said five dozen!) as part of my responsibilities as a 1st-round panelist for the CYBILS Awards.

My wife and I are also attempting to get several rooms in our house moved and emptied in advance of a) winter and b) major construction work to repair ice dam damage we received last winter. The downstairs playroom will become our bedroom, our bedroom will become our 2-year-old’s room, and her room (the nursery) will become my long-awaited “real” studio. (My current studio is a side room near a common area upstairs – it’s ok, but not ideal)

Oh, and did I mention my wife and I have only been getting 2-3 hours of sleep each night for the past week? It seems our daughter is apparently suffering from something called “separation anxiety” – which means it takes us 2-3 hours to get her to fall asleep, and when she wakes up 3 or 4 times during the course of the night, it’s almost impossible to get her back to sleep. Oy.

Matt Tea 1Anyway, somehow in the midst of all this I managed to finally get my website updated – and this is where you come in! If you have the time and interest, I’d love for you to check it out and see what you think. The biggest change is the landing page, which allows the viewer the option of choosing my voiceover site or my children’s writer site.

If you’ve ever had the uncontrollable urge to learn more about me, your dreams have come true, right HERE! Thanks in advance, and I hope you’re enjoying these cool, colorful autumn days!

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

Poetry Friday: Halloween haiku

Is there such a thing as a Halloween haiku? Hmmm…not sure. But why not??

(click to enlarge)
I know, it’s still a bit early for Halloween – or is it? I was going to hold off on sharing this until later in the month, but then I realized there are only 3 weeks left until Halloween…so I’m not waiting any longer!
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By the way, there are only 6 days left to get your nominations in for the 10th annual CYBILS Awards! For more details on my role with the CYBILS, check out this past Tuesday’s post, and to nominate your favorite children’s book, click HERE.
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poetryfridaybutton-fulllAnd for all of today’s Poetry Friday fun, links, and hi-jinx, be sure to visit Laura Purdie Salas at Writing the World for Kids!
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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!
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To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)Cybils-Logo-2015-Web-Sm
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Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

The 10th Annual CYBILS Awards are back!

Hard to believe, but nominations for the TENTH annual CYBILS Awards are now open!

Cybils-Logo-2015-Round-LgEvery fall, the CYBILS – an acronym for Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers Literary Awards – begins accepting nominations of books that readers, authors, agents, and publishers feel are the best of the year.

And for the third year in a row, I’m very honored to be one of the judges!

Two years ago, I was a second-round judge in the Poetry category. As such, I worked with a handful of other judges to sort through 7 books that had been pared down from nearly two dozen that the first-round panelists had deliberated. Ultimately, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater’s Forest Has a Song (Clarion, 2013) nabbed the top spot.

Then last year, I returned to my role, and along with the other second-round judges managed to nail down a winner, Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming (Nancy Paulsen Books, 2014). This was a tough decision, because it was the first time verse novels were included in the Poetry category – up til then, collections and anthologies had a nearly exclusive lock on the category. This time around, we had three novels from which to choose!

From what I hear, there are even more verse novels this year – which should make the judging even more difficult. It’s my hope that eventually verse novels get their own category because it’s extremely difficult comparing a book of poems for  7- or 8-year-olds like Jon J. Muth’s Hi, Koo! A Year of Seasons (Scholastic, 2014) with Kwame Alexander’s The Crossover (HMH Books for Young Readers, 2014).

Oh, and the reason I say “from what I hear” is because I will not be involved with the Poetry category in any way this time around…this year, I am a first-round panelist for the Graphic Novel category! As someone who grew up with comic books – and their big, bold graphics – I’m looking forward to expanding my horizons. I’ve read a number of graphic novels but the genre is still fairly new to me, so I’m guessing I was chosen to provide a fresh perspective. I’ve already started reading a couple of nominees and am having a blast.

I will miss being a part of the Poetry category, but didn’t feel it would be appropriate to be a part of it, since I have poems in four different anthologies this year, and any one of them – or all of them! – might be nominated. I trust my poetry friends who will be judging will do an admirable job, though.

So before the nominations close on October 15, please log on the CYBILS website and nominate your favourite children’s books from this past year! From Middle Grade and YA Fiction to Non-Fiction, Picture Books and Book Apps, I’m sure there is a category you’ll want to nominate a book for. And stay tuned for updates, right here!

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

 

Poetry Friday: A new poem, a new anthology, and a new CYBILS category for me

Poetry_Friday logoWow, it’s been quite a busy week! This past Saturday, Carol Varsalona published her “Summer Splashings Gallery” – a huge collection of poetry and photographs celebrating the season that is winding down. I’m very happy my poem, “Stonewall County Summer,” is included. Please check it out, along with all the others!

Then this past Tuesday, I shared some revelations and affirmations from the local state fair, where I wrapped up a live-announcing gig during Labor Day Weekend. 55 hours over 4 days…one can learn a lot during that time, and I did, as I do every year!

The next day, on  Wednesday, look what showed up at my doorstep:

My contributor copy arrived!

This beautiful book hits shelves about a month from now, and I couldn’t be happier to be a part of it. This is the fifth and final book of 2015 in which one can find my poetry, and what a great way to wrap up the year!

Cybils-Logo-2015-Web-SmI’m also very excited to be a CYBILS judge once again. This year, I’ll be a first-round judge for the Graphic Novel category, which is a change of pace for me, as I have judged poetry for the past 2 years. I would have loved to have judged poetry again, but was concerned that one or two of the anthologies to which I’ve contributed might get nominated – and I wouldn’t have wanted to create a conflict of interest. A number of quality poetry collections came out this past year, so I’ll be eager to see which ones make the cut!

By the way, friend and fellow poet Michelle H. Barnes is hosting Poetry Friday today at Today’s Little Ditty – so stop on by and check out all the poetry links!

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

Poetry Friday: So much poetry to go around!

(Warm up your pointer finger; there’s a lot of clicking ahead…!)

I usually share a different poem here each week, but I realized yesterday that I’ve been sharing so many poems on other folks’ blogs lately that perhaps I should share their links, instead!

Poetry_Friday logoSo that’s what I’m doing today.
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A question that children’s writers often discuss is the value of writing prompts; that is, suggestions or tidbits of inspiration offered to writers in order to help spur their creativity. Some people aren’t a big fan of prompts, and prefer to write based on their own personal inspiration.
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I, on the other hand, enjoy prompts, even if I don’t often have time for them. I don’t need the inspiration, really – I have 4 different book ideas I’m trying to juggle right now along with several poems I need to write – but prompts force me to try something new.
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Perhaps it’s writing in a poetic form with which I’m unfamiliar. Maybe it’s coming up with a poem about a subject about which I know very little. Sometimes it’s just a fun challenge.
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But ultimately, prompts make a writer think on his/her feet – sort of like Whose Line Is It, Anyway? for the literary crowd. I’ve learned that one of the things that sets amateur writers apart from professionals is that amateurs wait for inspiration to strike, while professionals make their own inspiration.
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While I used to be in the former category, I have enough publishing credits under my belt to feel comfortable placing myself in the newbie section of the latter. I also am growing adept at being able to write a solid, publishable poem within a day or so of being given a topic – which for me, was a huge leap. I’ve still got a long way to go, but I couldn’t have gotten to this point without prompts.
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That said, it’s been a busy week for me! Just this past Wednesday on her blog, Michelle H. Barnes shared a poem of mine based on a writing challenge from author/poet David Elliott. Based on his poem, “Dear Orangutan,” readers were challenged to write a poem based on the construct of a letter…and suffice it to say, I took an unusual path.
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Elsewhere around the interwebs…
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–  I found myself writing a short little poem on Laura Purdie Salas’ blog yesterday; she shared a photo with a poem she wrote about it and asked her readers to do the same, in 15 Words Or Less (a fun weekly feature on her blog).
–  Jane Yolen and I shared “candle” poems on David L. Harrison’s blog this past Monday, as part of his “Word of the Month” challenge. (You can read all of this month’s poems, written by some very talented folks, HERE)
–  Two days later on David’s blog, a number of us joined in a little poetry game and shared poems based on a single vowel sound.
–  And going back to last Poetry Friday, Feb. 6, educator/poet Laura Shovan shared one of my poems on her blog – a rather short one, I admit – as part of her month-long Sound Poem Project. Each day during February, she offers a different sound clip as inspiration, and since I had suggested the sound of a theremin, I felt writing a couple lines about one was the least I could do! You can read my poem along with many others HERE.
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Cybils-Logo-2014-Rnd2As I said, I’ve been kinda busy.
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But wait, there’s more! Cathy Mere is celebrating Poetry Friday by handling the hostess duties today – so please check out her blog, Merely Day by Day, for all of today’s pre-Valentine links and hi-jinx! Have a good weekend, and stay tuned for news about the CYBILS Awards winners…coming soon!
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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!
PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!