Poetry Friday: Poems are Teachers (plus a giveaway!)

Some people just can’t sit still. It was almost exactly one month ago that I featured my friend Amy Ludwig VanDerwater on the ol’ Triple-R blog here, as she celebrated the release of her newest children’s poetry collection, Read! Read! Read! (Boyds Mills Press). Well, guess what…she’s back!

Yesterday marked the book birthday of Amy’s newest baby, Poems are Teachers: How Studying Poetry Strengthens Writing in All Genres (Heinemann) – a tremendously useful and easy-to-understand resource designed to help educators not only teach poetry, but to teach them how poetic tools, forms, and devices strengthen (as the title suggests) writing in general.

The book is a wealth of information and includes poems from folks as diverse as Kwame Alexander, J. Patrick Lewis, Jack Prelutsy, Jane Yolen, Naomi Shihab Nye, Matt Forrest Esenwine, Margarita Engle, and – whoa! Wait a sec…how did I end up in this book?? Indeed, it’s true; many, many of our Poetry Friday family members are contributors, as well!

Amy Ludwig VanDerwater

The book also includes numerous poems written by children – students who are learning the particular lessons Amy writes about. But how, exactly, did this book come to be? Amy was kind enough to join us today to talk about it…

Thank you for taking the time to visit, Amy! There are plenty of books out there about poetry and how to teach it, so what made you first decide that this particular book needed to be written?

I have been rolling this book around in my head for a long time.  Reading wise poems has deepened my heart, and writing hundreds of poems has honed my prose. Watching poetry disappear from many classrooms in the name of “Standards” was making me cry, and this idea felt like a secret door in again.  

As Mary Lee Hahn wrote, so many of us are trying to “bring poetry back to writing workshop” and into children’s lives.  My hope is that Poems are Teachers will introduce children and teachers to many poets and that it will open doors between poetry, and narrative, poetry and information, poetry and opinion writing.  Poetry is friends with all!

How does one go about finding a publisher for a book like this before it’s written? Did you approach Heinemann with a proposal first?

Heinemann has a whole process for proposing  professional book which you can check out HERE.  I’ve had a long-standing relationship with Heinemann as an occasional consultant for the past 15+ years, and I am also co-author with Lucy Calkins and Stephanie Parsons of Poetry: Big Thoughts in Small Packages, part of the Grade Two Writing Units of Study.  

I couldn’t feel more grateful to be publishing this book at this time with this thoughtful company and with Katie Wood Ray, an author I’ve admired for years, and an incredible editor.

How did you approach the task of putting it together? That is, how did you determine the best format, the aspects of writing that you wanted to include, etc.?

I am a terribly disorganized person, but I have been teaching writing and about strong qualities of writing for twenty years, so organizing this book through the various layers of writing – from idea-finding through language play – made complete sense to me.  

The challenge was knowing when to stop and trying to juggle the over 150 poems by both adult and child poets.  Imagine piles of poems and permission forms and me….looking bewildered.  I struggled with confidence and with my own writing demons, but that’s where Katie saved the day.

There is plenty for people to learn inside this book…but what did YOU learn from writing it?

I learned that I can do something scary.  And I learned that poets, teachers, children, and families are very generous.  I learned, too, that I still have tons to learn.  This book is just a wee bit about poetry.  There are so many beautiful books, so much to explore.  My hope is that however long my life is…I’ll use each day to become a little bit better of a person and writer.  I know that poems will keep teaching and feeding me.

You also have a brand-new poetry collection that just came out a month ago, Read! Read! Read! (Boyds Mills Press), plus you have more books coming out next year! Considering you started The Poem Farm several years before you were published, how does it feel now, with so much going on??

It feels humbling.  I started The Poem Farm so as not to write alone.  I never imagined all of this goodness.  I hope to be of service and to keep writing in my notebooks, to make a little difference.

Thank you tons, Matt, for sharing your superfun poem, “Soccer Sides” in Poems Are Teachers, and thank you for inviting me here today!  

Well, thank YOU, Amy – for everything you’ve been doing to spread poetry to our kids. Congrats on both of your new books!

I am still smiling like crazy about your Flashlight Night and my Read! Read! Read! releasing together with Boyds Mills Press last month.

That was a great week, I have to agree! Thanks again, Amy.

By the way, folks – if you’d like to WIN A FREE COPY OF POEMS ARE TEACHERS courtesy of our good friends at Heinemann, just leave a comment below, or share this post on Twitter or Facebook (and be sure to tag me, so I’ll know!). I’ll pick a name at random next Thursday at noon and announce the winner in next Friday’s post.

As for my contribution to Poems are Teachers, Amy asked me to write a poem with two distinct halves. Not necessarily two stanzas, but two separate thoughts that combine to make a whole, such as a before-and-after scene, two people talking, or two perspectives of the same subject.

So I thought about it for awhile, and one night driving home from one of my indoor soccer league games, an idea hit me. This is what I came up with:

Soccer Sides

Offense means head down the field –
………..dribble,
………………….pass,
…………………………….try to score!

Goalie blocked your shot?
No sweat!
Follow up and shoot some more!

……………………………………………………………….Defense means hang out in back.
……………………………………………………………….Better keep a watchful eye!
……………………………………………………………….Their offense wants the winning goal –

……………………………………………………………………………….Ha! –
                                                                                                …..I’d like to see them try…
.

– © 2017, Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

(click to enlarge)

From the book, here’s a little background on how the poem came to be along with a few words from Amy about the structure:

Whether you teach poetry or write it, this book is an invaluable resource – so I hope you’ll consider picking up a copy. And speaking of poetry, Leigh Anne Eck is hosting Poetry Friday today at A Day in the Life, so be sure to head on over and check out all of this week’s poetry links and fun!

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More “Flashlight Night” news:

I just learned a couple of days ago that Flashlight Night has been selected as one of the Top 20 “Best in Rhyme” rhyming picture books by Angie Karcher’s Rhyme Revolution website!

I’m very happy to be in company with folks like Corey Rosen Schwartz, Lisa Wheeler, the late Anna Dewdney, and fellow former Poets’ Garage alum, Diana Murray, among others.

The final 2017 Best in Rhyme Award announcement will be Feb. 3, 2018 in New York City on KidLit TV – and I’ll be sure to keep you posted!

Oh, and the Flashlight Night road tour continues rolling along! Where will I be? When will I be there? Here’s my updated schedule:

  • Oct. 27, 6pm:  Barnes & Noble, Manchester, NH
  • Nov. 1, 12pm:  Concord Hospital Early Childhood Learning Center / Gift Shop, Concord, NH
  • Nov. 11: Barnes & Noble, Framingham, MA (“The Making of a Book” Children’s Author Day)
  • Dec. 2: Barnes & Noble, Peabody, MA
  • (soon-to-be-confirmed: Barnes & Noble, Nashua, NH
  • (soon-to-be-confirmed: Barnes & Noble, Newington, NH
  • (soon-to-be-confirmed: Toadstool Bookshop, Keene/Peterborough/Milford, NH

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

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

“Delicious language…ingenious metamorphoses” – Kirkus Reviews (starred)

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

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

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

“Imaginative…fantastical” – Booklist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Revelations from the state fair, Vol. V

hsflogo-lg

Every Labor Day Weekend, I spend Friday through Monday working at the local state fair as the PA announcer, a position that requires not just a lot of talking, but a lot of walking and a whole lot of preparation.

It’s one of the most fun jobs I’ve had in my life, and I look forward to it every year. One minute I’m heading over to one of the small stage areas to double-check times or check out an act I hadn’t seen before; the next, I’m inside the administration building chowing down on a loaded baked potato piled high with every ingredient known to mankind.

(Trust me, when it comes to fair food, one needs to pace oneself.)

As has been tradition here at Triple R, I always share some of the things I’ve learned from each fair, because it’s not just an enjoyable work experience – it’s a learning experience, to boot. In the past, I’ve learned the most despised candies in the universe;  why environmentalists hate truck pulls; and even the best time to “smell” the fair.

So what nuggets of wisdom did I glean this year?

  1. The threat of a hurricane drives up Friday attendance. There was a lot of talk about whether or not Hermine would make it to the New Hampshire coast, and when. We were anticipating getting hit Sunday and Monday, the latter half of the fair, which is why I think our Friday ticket numbers were off the charts. As it turned out, Hermine never even made it, and we had a stupendous weekend all four days!
    .
  2. sandtasticSand used for sand sculptures is not normal beach sand. As Sandtastic Sand Sculpture Company’s sculptor (pictured) explained to me, the sand they use is comprised of faceted grains, which help the sand to wedge together and stick to itself. Conversely, beach sand is worn smooth from being tossed in the water and therefore is much more difficult to work with.
    .
  3. Speaking of sculpting…chainsaw sculptors use specially-designed chainsaws. I was chatting with Ben Risney, whose chainsaw
    risney-1
    (Click to enlarge)

    carvings are masterful, when he told me that some of his smaller chainsaws are custom-designed, industrial-grade. His larger saws are standard chainsaws, but the smaller ones, like the one pictured, have an angled bar and run at twice the RPMs of a normal chainsaw. The primary benefit of using a saw with such high RPMs is that the cuts are so smooth, he rarely needs to sand the sculptures once they’re completed! You can see Ben in action and more of his handiwork HERE.
    .

  4. “Battered Savs??” Who knew? corn-dogs
    .
  5. Some folks take their fried foods way more seriously than others. I was walking along a pathway when I overheard two young women chatting behind me. The conversation went something like this:
    “So, so sad.”
    “Yes, it is.”
    “Such a sad situation.”
    “Things like that just shouldn’t happen.”
    It was at that moment I realized they were talking about a piece of fried dough that lay on the ground; perfectly elliptical, not one bite had been taken out of it. I shed a tear, as well.
    .
  6. Saw blades are high-tech pieces of equipment. One of the many attractions at the fair this year were the Axe Women: Loggers of Maine, featuring championship women loggers competing in axe throwing, log rolling, cross-cut sawing, and a number of other events. I learned that their crosscut saw (bottom photo) is made in New Zealand of a special metal alloy that is strong and smooth – but is extremely sensitive to moisture; in fact, if the blade is not kept properly oiled, under very humid conditions it will start rusting within 30 minutes.
    axe-2  axe-1
    axe-3
    .
  7. Deep-fried pickle chips are superior to deep-fried pickle spears. This is not a decision I came to haphazardly; I spent a number of years researching the merits of each. You’re welcome.
    .
  8. dino-2 Dinosaur costumes are a lot heavier than they look. Really high-quality costumes, I should say. I had an opportunity to chat with John and Chance Bloom and their family, who run (among other things) a business called Dinosaur Xperience – which brings a walking, talking T-Rex right to your event.
    Chance told me the lifelike suit is 80-100 pounds, and contains a metal cage around the  head and thorax, which allows for

    dino-1
    Yes, even dinos need ID.

    electronically-controlled motion and sound. She can tolerate about 30-40 minutes inside the outfit before she needs to get indoors to cool off and re-hydrate…so thank goodness her husband and their 4 kids are all part of the act, helping her!

.

Well, I hope you enjoyed this little review. It’s amazing the things one can learn at the fair – and spending so much time at this one allows me ample opportunity to discover things I might never notice otherwise. And for writers, learning and observing is crucial!

Until next time, have a good week! (and seriously, let me know your thoughts on the deep-fried pickles!)

risney-3
Some examples of Ben Risney’s work, which were featured around the fairgrounds.

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The Poetry of Mylee!

Who in the world is Mylee, you ask?

She’s a budding young poet who just sent me a poetry postcard!

You see, Mylee is a student at Silver Star Elementary School in Vancouver, Washington, where Jone MacCulloch (aka, Ms. Mac!) is a library media specialist,  in addition to being a great cheerleader of literacy and children’s poetry.

Each year, Jone’s students write poems that they illustrate and then place on postcards, to be mailed out to any and all in the kidlitosphere who wish to receive one. I’m very honored to have received Mylee’s this year:

(Click to enlarge)

Thank you, Jone and Mylee! I keep coming back to that line, “I am at all as a book”…very thought-provoking.

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I’m still trying to get caught up on emails, work, and sleep, following my long, 3-day weekend in Springfield, Mass. at the New England SCBWI’s huge spring conference, where I co-hosted the Open Mic nights Fri. & Sat. with Sharon Abra Hanen and also presented a workshop on free verse poetry Sun. afternoon.

2016 Kidlit Progressive PoemBecause of this, I missed seeing how Irene Latham‘s 2016 Progressive Poem ended on Sat.! A different writer added a line each day throughout the month of April, and it all concluded with Donna at Mainely Write…I finally had a chance to see how she wrapped it up and I thought she did so very nicely!

You can hear (and read) the Progressive Poem in its entirety right here this Friday, as I’ll be recording it and sharing it everyone for Poetry Friday. Meanwhile, you can see how the Progressive Poem progressed at the following blog spots:

April

1 Laura at Writing the World for Kids

2 Joy at Joy Acey

3 Doraine at Dori Reads

4 Diane at Random Noodling

5 Penny at A Penny and Her Jots

6 Carol at Beyond LiteracyLink

7 Liz at Elizabeth Steinglass

8 Janet F. at Live Your Poem

9 Margaret at Reflections on the Teche

10 Pat at Writer on a Horse

11 Buffy at Buffy’s Blog

12 Michelle at Today’s Little Ditty

13 Linda at TeacherDance

14 Jone at Deo Writer

15 Matt at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme

16 Violet at Violet Nesdoly

17 Kim at Flukeprints

18 Irene at Live Your Poem

19 Charles at Charles Waters Poetry

20 Ruth at There is No Such Thing as a Godforsaken Town

21 Jan at Bookseedstudio

22 Robyn at Life on the Deckle Edge

23 Ramona at Pleasures from the Page

24 Amy at The Poem Farm

25 Mark at Jackett Writes

26 Renee at No Water River

27 Mary Lee at Poetrepository

28 Heidi at My Juicy Little Universe

29 Sheila at Sheila Renfro

30 Donna at Mainely Write

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I’ve “Caught” my “Breath!”

Last week I told you about a new book coming out by Laura Purdie Salas, titled Catch Your Breath: Writing Poignant Poetry, and I said I couldn’t wait to see it, as I had a poem included in it.

Well, guess what just showed up in my mailbox!

Catch Your Breath arrived

Laura has done an outstanding job breaking down poetic theory and elements into easy-to-read language, dedicating a short chapter to each including rhyming, poetic forms, alliteration/internal rhyme, and even some help on getting published.

Throughout the book, sample poems help to elucidate the lessons. For instance, one of the two poems of mine Laura includes is a haiku I wrote a few years ago (originally published by the Young Adult Review Network) that Laura used as an example of alliteration:

Sparrow sweetly sings
melancholy melody;
her mate, on the ground.

– © 2011 Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

Another poem of mine can be found under the “Sharing Your Work” chapter, and is >ahem< a “found” poem! Culled from various voiceover websites, I originally shared this last spring during National Poetry Month:

Voice

Expressing unspoken thoughts
and burning desire,
a voice that is not part of the narrative
pauses for a breath;
the essential commands
and
extreme situations
still seem confusing.
Don’t get discouraged.
Slow down,
evaluate your work,
and take your time
through talent,
steely focus,
and faith
to change the world.

– © 2014 Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

Catch Your Breath coverWritten with young women and girls in mind, but suitable for anyone, Catch Your Breath: Writing Poignant Poetry is a handy reference tool for those learning the craft of poetry.

Poets whose work you’ll find inside this book include J. Patrick Lewis, Kate Coombs, David Harrison, Marilyn Singer, Nikki Grimes, Amy Ludwing VanDerwater, Diane Mayr, and even Emily Dickenson, among others. My thanks to Laura for allowing me to be part of this!

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New book for students on writing poetry – and honored to be a part of it!

This past Friday was a crazy kind of day. One of those roller-coaster-of-emotion days.

First, I learned that I was one of the featured writers on the popular children’s literature blog, Jama’s Alphabet Soup. Jama was celebrating The Poetry Friday Anthology of Celebrations (of which I’m a contributor) and she spotlighted my poem, “Picky Eater” along with a couple of recipes from me.

That was good.

I then spent most of the morning running errands while listening to the 5-year-old and 2-year-old crying, screaming, or fighting. We finally get home and my sweet, loveable 2-year-old proceeds to take off her dirty diaper and toss it on the FLIPPIN’ STOVE.

Not good.

Once she was in for her nap, I got the really good news: I received notice that the latest book in which I have a poem included is now available!

Catch Your Breath coverIt’s called Catch Your Breath: Writing Poignant Poetry (Capstone Press, Aug. 1, 2015) by author/poet Laura Purdie Salas and is designed to help students learn to write poetry. I’m very honored to be one of a select few children’s writers – like David Harrison, Marilyn Singer, J. Patrick Lewis, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, Diane Mayr, Kelly Fineman, and Kate Coombs – whose poetry has been included as examples.

The nice thing about this book is that it’s not a typical, stuffy “here’s how you write poetry” kind of textbook; it’s a contemporary explanation of what poetry is, how to get into it, and suggestions and mentor texts on how to go about writing it. At only 64 pages, it’s an easy read, yet indispensable for a young, blossoming poet-to-be.

So just to break it down – for my sake, honestly, more than yours – here’s the list of children’s books in which you’ll find my work:

Lullabye cover Dear Tomato cover PFAC-front-cover-Nov-30-WEB-jpeg-705x1030 Catch Your Breath cover
………….NG Book of Nature Poetry cover  One Minute & Flashlight - blank

I’ve thanked you before, but I’ll thank you again for your support…even if it’s simply subscribing to this blog or just reading it occasionally, you’re helping me develop my writing, grow as a children’s author, and – to be perfectly frank – build an audience.

You’re also reassuring me that there are folks out there willing to read what I crank out each week, and I cannot overstate the value in that alone. So thanks for coming this far with me, and I hope you stick around!

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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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Poetry Friday: Student poetry inspired by mine!

Poetry_Friday logoYou’ve got to love how inspiration breeds inspiration.

Back in February, my friend and fellow Poet’s Garage member Michelle H. Barnes interviewed children’s author/poet David Elliott and shared his poem, “Dear Orangutan” from his book, In the Wild (Candlewick, 2013). Following the interview, David challenged Michelle’s readers to write a “letter poem;” that is, a poem written like a letter to someone (or something).

Several such poems were submitted, including this one by Yours Truly:

Dear Dad,

I’m having trouble fitting in.
I feel unhappy in my skin.
The kids at school all call me names;
they carry torches bright with flames.
Teachers chase me through the rooms
with pitchforks, clubs, and wooden brooms.
When I say, “Hi,” the parents flee.
It’s almost like they’re scared of me.
Sorry, I don’t mean to whine.

Love,
your son,
Jack Frankenstein

– © 2015, Matt Forrest Esenwine

Well…imagine my surprise when I received an email from fellow writer/blogger Tabatha Yeatts, who informed me that students at her daughter’s middle school had a National Poetry Month project where kids could “respond” to poems that were posted in the halls (my poem being one of them). She shared with me two of the poems she thought were the best, and so – with parental permission – I’m sharing them here!

Dear Jack
by Emily Sologuren, 8th grade
.
Dear Jack,
You’re not the only one who knows that feeling
when everyone sees you as unappealing —
I too went through that, you know
Other kids pointing at me wherever I go
Because I was different with an outlandish plan
When they saw my experiment, they just snickered and ran
Yet I continued my experiment, while also being shunned
And created you, Jack, my wonderful son
So be who you are and don’t be so sad.
With all my love, your scientist Dad
 .
Dear Son
by Emily F., 8th grade
 .
Dear Son,
Don’t let those mean kids get you down,
Don’t let them chase you through the town.
The fact that you don’t look the same,
Serves them no right to call you names.
If you just embrace who you really are,
Then trust me kid, you will go far.
There will be someone who loves your persona,
After all, Shrek found his Fiona.
And if kids make fun, I recommend
That they don’t deserve to be your friend.
So if the times get real bad,
And you’re feeling real sad,
Just remember that you are beautiful no matter what they say,
Because baby, you were born that way.
After all, you are my son, and you are mine.
Your creator, your father, your friend,
Dr. Frankenstein
.

Pretty darned good, I’d say! Wow, these kids have some talent. I’m so honoured and humbled that something I wrote provided inspiration for someone. It is my sincere hope that someone reading these students’ poems will likewise be inspired, and keep the circle intact!

By the way, Poetry Friday is being hosted by Diane Mayr at Random Noodling this week, so make sure you head on over for all the poetry, links and…inspiration, of course!

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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!

Poetry Friday: “Thoughts of the Falconer”

poetryfridaybutton-fulllAs I was perusing some of my older writings, I stumbled upon a Creative Writing class assignment from back when I was a senior in college. I read it and couldn’t remember if it was the 2nd or 3rd Elizabethan sonnet I had ever written…but I knew it was definitely one of the first few.  I also knew I wanted to feature it here.

One can tell this was written by a person who was still learning – the language is extremely formal and there are many things that could probably be changed – but for what it is (or was), I like it.  It certainly helped me to learn and grow as a writer of poetry by helping me utilize imagery and metaphor and alliteration and such, so for that I owe the poem a debt of gratitude.  It was also an experiment with an original rhyme scheme; it strays from the standard a-b-a-b of a typical Elizabethan, but again, it was a learning process and a college class assignment, so try to cut me some slack. 😉

Today, Diane Mayr is hosting Poetry Friday at Random Noodling, and is also in a bit of a reflective mood – although her memory goes back 40 years! Visit her blog and find out more!

“Thoughts of the Falconer”

Away, young fearless guardian of sky;
Your graceful wings shall steal the summer blue
In search of perfect prey.  Yet, as you fly
The dignity you hold with peerless pride
Is carried full and strong, embodies you,
The falcon; strength and spirit strictly tied.
An open world is yours to claim anew
From rocky cliffs to meadows warm and green,
But for that honour, savage winds you ride
To breast – confront – your feral foe unseen;
The hood removed, you sense the urge inside
And with no hesitation you are gone.
Though years may pass and fainter be my sight
I shall fore’er admire the falcon’s flight.

– © Matt Forrest Esenwine, Dec. 15, 1988

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