Poetry Friday: Spine poetry as a fun activity kids won’t realize is educational!

As I mentioned in this past Tuesday’s post, several children’s authors and illustrators are offering readalouds, drawing lessons, activity sheets, and other educational resources for kids, parents, and teachers who now find themselves “remote learning.”

For my part, I’m producing a series of short videos on poetry: how to write it, how to appreciate it while reading, and some tips on poetry-related activities. Since so many of my peers are doing video chats with students, I thought I would focus my “Wit & Wordplay” videos, as I call them, on parents and educators.

For some time now I’ve been wanting to help my educator and parent friends with some educational videos…but I’ll admit these have been hastily put together, as I am trying to assist my kids with this “new normal” of home-schooling while attempting to write and do my voiceover work. Moreover, I’m working with a video editing program I’ve never used before, as I had to reinstall Windows about a month ago and lost the program I had been using (MS Movie Maker), which is apparently no longer available!

Lake, the newest member of the family!

Oh, and did I mention we have a 10-week-old Great Dane puppy?

So, yeah…I’ve been a bit busy.

The fact I was able to create six videos in two days is still surprising to me, but I have plenty more I plan on producing over the weekend. For today, I wanted to share a couple of simple spine poetry examples I use in my most recent video. Spine poetry is a form of “found poetry,” whereby you search through books’ spines to find titles you think might go together to create a phrase, scene or thought:

There’s a cow in the road!
Deadly animals
wild in the streets…
choose your path.

Again, it doesn’t need to be long – a few titles are all you need! Even two books would suffice:

You get the idea! Silly, thoughtful, scary…doesn’t matter! The important thing is that kids are learning how to put disparate thoughts together (a book about deadly animals together with Star Wars®? Whoulda thunk??)

You can see more spine poetry examples on my YouTube channel. And if you think any of this information might be useful for someone you know or a school near you, I hope you’ll share.

In addition to these videos, I also have several downloadable activity sheets at my website. The list of all the authors & illustrators who are participating in this national effort is a long one, so here are a few lists you can use to find out who’s doing what:

Let’s Keep Reading!

#AuthorsHelpingKids

#KidLitQuarantine

Laura Shovan’s #WriteAnAuthor

And since today is Poetry Friday, you might want to find more poetry posts…so just head on over to MoreArt4All, where Michelle Kogan is hosting Poetry Friday and welcoming Spring with a variety of poems written by her and several others in the PF community!

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Pre-orders are available now!

In stores Aug. 18, 2020!

I’ve teamed up with several other children’s authors to promote our upcoming books this year! And there are a LOT of them, too – including SEVEN in March!

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

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


     

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

Just click the cover of whichever book you want and send the good folks at MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH a note requesting the signature and to whom I should make it out to. (alternatively, you can log onto my website and do the same thing) They’ll contact me, I’ll stop by and sign it, 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!

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

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

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

A Book Birthday for “Construction People” – plus educational #kidlit resources

It’s official! Construction People is available everywhere!

Construction People (Wordsong) is one of the late Lee Bennett Hopkins’ last anthologies, a follow-up to 2018’s School People, which featured poems about all the grown-ups a child meets at school. In this new book, there are poems about all the folks involved in building a skyscraper, from the architect to the excavators, from the electricians to the person who oversees it all, the construction project manager (my poem)!

In case you missed it, I featured two of the poems from Construction People on this past Friday’s blog, which you can view HERE. Lee had a chance to see much of the final layout of the book before he passed away last August…but I do wish he could have held it in his hands.

Granted, many bookstores are closed due to COVID-19 concerns, but many are still functioning with online sales – so please support your local businesses, if you can!

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Speaking of the Corona Virus…

A number of children’s authors and illustrators are teaming up across the country to provide lessons, readalouds, and other educational videos for kids, parents, and teachers. With so many schools closed, options for “remote learning” are limited and fluid…so we’re just trying to do what we can to help lend our support.

Some folks are doing live videos, others are producing short vids on YouTube, still others are offering free activity sheets and coloring pages. Here are a couple of lists you can use to find out who’s doing what:

Let’s Keep Reading!

#StoryMarch

#KidLitQuarantine

Laura Shovan’s #WriteAnAuthor

For my part, I’m offering several downloadable activity sheets at my website, PLUS I’m producing a series of short videos on poetry – how to write it and how to appreciate it when reading – which I hope will be especially helpful for parents, educators, and anyone else for whom this type of literacy education might be beneficial.

To access these “Wit & Wordplay” videos, as I call them, just head on over to my YouTube channel! And if you think any of this information might be useful for someone you know or a school near you, please feel free to share…we’re all in this together. And please be safe, as we work through these unprecedented times.

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

Pre-orders are available now!

In stores Aug. 18, 2020!

I’ve teamed up with several other children’s authors to promote our upcoming books this year! And there are a LOT of them, too – including SEVEN in March!

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

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


     

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

Just click the cover of whichever book you want and send the good folks at MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH a note requesting the signature and to whom I should make it out to. (alternatively, you can log onto my website and do the same thing) They’ll contact me, I’ll stop by and sign it, 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!

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

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

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

Madness!Poetry returns – and Round One voting is underway!

It’s March, and that means Round One voting in the nation’s largest bracketed children’s poetry competition – Madness! Poetry – is now underway!

Please vote for your favorites! Voting runs until this Friday, March 13, at 5:15pm EDST, which means you’ve only got a couple of days.

Each participant (or ‘authlete,’ as we are called) is paired with another and given a specific word; we then have 36 hours to write a children’s poem using that exact word. Once the poems have all been submitted, the public, schools, and fellow authletes vote…and whoever wins their round moves on to the next round, much in No photo description available.the way that the NCAA’s March Madness works. Eventually, one winner will be crowned champion and receive the highly-coveted and oft-damaged “The Thinkier” trophy!

In Round One, my competitor, Laurie Kaiser, and I have been given the word “submerged.” Other authletes struggled with words like “exuberant,” “pigeonholed,”  “gamboling,” and “fecund.” So you can see, “submerged” isn’t the toughest word we could have been given!

So please click the logo above and vote for your favorites – not just my matchup, but all of them – and thanks so much for supporting children’s poetry!

Voting ends at 5:15pm EDST on March 13 (yes, Friday the 13th!)

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Have you pre-ordered yet??

In stores Aug. 18, 2020!

I’ve teamed up with several other children’s authors to promote our upcoming books this year! And there are a LOT of them, too – including SEVEN in March, plus the new poetry anthology Construction People (Wordsong, March 17, 2020), of which I’m a contributor:

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

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


     

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

Just click the cover of whichever book you want and send the good folks at MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH a note requesting the signature and to whom I should make it out to. (alternatively, you can log onto my website and do the same thing) They’ll contact me, I’ll stop by and sign it, 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!

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

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

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

Poetry Friday: “Construction People” preview! (and an NCTE review!)

One of the highlights of my 4-day visit to the National Council of Teachers of English annual convention in Baltimore (aka, #NCTE19) was getting to spend some time with my friends at Boyds Mills & Kane, the publisher of Flashlight Night and many of the poetry anthologies of which I’ve been a part.

In addition to poets Nikki Grimes, Georgia Heard, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Laura Purdie Salas, and many others, I finally had a chance to catch up with marketing manager Kerry McManus, who has been invaluable in helping promote my book for the past 3 years. I also got to say hello again to my Flashlight Night editor, Rebecca Davis, who surprised me with something…

I think my first words were, “We have a book! It’s a real book!!”

Construction People, the follow-up to 2018’s popular School People, is one of the late Lee Bennett Hopkins’ final poetry anthologies; Hopkins passed away in August and left about a half-dozen projects in various states of progress, including this one. I was told he had seen the F&Gs (folded & gathered) like the one above, but never had a chance to hold the bound, finished product in his hands. I know he would have been as proud of his book as we, the contributors, are of being part of it – it’s already received a starred review from Kirkus!

How I end up in books with luminaries like Pat Lewis and Charles Ghigna is still a mystery…but a happy mystery!
All pages © 2020 Wordsong/Boyds Mills & Kane, all rights reserved (click to enlarge)

I’ll be sharing more selections and news about the book a few months from now, along with my poem (a villanelle, for you poetry geeks out there) in its entirety when it is officially released on March 17. But you don’t need to wait – you can pre-order now!

At the Boyds Mills & Kane exhibit booth: a tribute to the inimitable Dear One, Lee Bennett Hopkins.
After all these years…I’m finally face-to-face with Nikki Grimes!
Laura Purdie Salas helped guide me through the ins and outs of the crazy-busy NCTE schedule. (And she helped keep me fed, too, which is always a plus)

Another highlight of my trip – indeed, the initial reason I decided to go – was a poetry workshop I presented together with Heidi Mordhorst, Mary Lee Hahn, Laura Purdie Salas, and Liz Steinglass, who organized the workshop. What a weekend! I’ve never presented a workshop at a conference I’d never attended before…but there’s a first time for everything, they say, and this was mine.

To backtrack just a bit, the night I arrived, author/poet/blogger Laura Shovan gathered a bunch of Poetry Friday folks together at a local restaurant and we filled up half the place:

Back row, L-R: Heidi Mordhorst, Christie Wyman, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, Kathryn Apel, Tabatha Yeatts, Janet Fagal, Yours Truly. Front row, L-R: Carol Varsalona, Irene Latham, Laura Purdie Salas, Laura Shovan (photo courtesy Laura Purdie Salas)

The next day, Friday, the day of our workshop, more of us got together at a local sandwich shop (because all we apparently live for is eating and writing. Not that there’s anything wrong with that):

L-R: Tim Kulp, Linda Kulp, Marcie Flinchum Atkins, David L. Harrison, Liz Steinglass, Yours Truly, Irene Latham, Kathryn Apel. (photo courtesy Laura Purdie Salas)

And of course, I couldn’t travel all the way to my original hometown of Baltimore without making a little side trip to visit a certain poet:

   

If you’re looking for more poetry, then be sure to head over to today’s Poetry Friday roundup, where Tanita S. Davis is hosting the festivities at her blog, [fiction, instead of lies]!

Very proud to be a first-round judge in the CYBILS Poetry category, once again!

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

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


     

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

Just click the cover of whichever book you want and send the good folks at MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH a note requesting the signature and to whom I should make it out to. (alternatively, you can log onto my website and do the same thing) They’ll contact me, I’ll stop by and sign it, 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!

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

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

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

Poetry Friday: “The Best of Today’s Little Ditty,” volume 3 – and gearing up for NCTE!

My friend and fellow writer/blogger Michelle H. Barnes not only loves to read and write children’s poetry…she devotes a significant amount of her time promoting it via her blog, Today’s Little Ditty. Each month, Michelle features different children’s authors and poets who challenge her readers with writing poetry in a variety of ways, and every couple of years she compiles the best poems into a poetry anthology.

And the latest edition is out now!

As Michelle explains in her own blog post, a “ditty committee” of 12 readers, writers, and bloggers (including Yours Truly) reviewed more than 500 poems written during 2017 and 2018. We whittled the list down to 96 poems by 57 different poets – and they’re all in here for you to read and enjoy.

I am pleased to learn I have three poems included in the book; one is my response to a challenge by Jane Yolen and J. Patrick Lewis to write an “epitaph poem” following their visit to Michelle’s blog

© 2018, Matt F. Esenwine, all rights reserved

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I was also pleased to learn from Michelle that she is including SEVEN poems that resulted from the challenge my Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (POW! Kids Books, 2018) co-author, Deborah Bruss, and I put forth to her readers! (You can learn more about that challenge HERE.)

So congratulations again to Michelle! I hope you’ll stop by her blog post today to check out more details on this brand-new book, and be sure to pick up a copy and show your support for children’s poetry. And since Michelle is hosting Poetry Friday today, you can check out all the links to all the children’s poetry posts out there in the kidlitosphere!

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If you’re planning to attend this year’s National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Conference in my original hometown of Baltimore, I hope you’ll say hi! This will be my first year at NCTE (and the first time I’ve back back in my birth city since 1996!), and I’m very excited to be an official representative for Flashlight Night‘s publisher, Boyds Mills & Kane. Here’s my schedule:

Friday, 7-7:45am, Grand Ballroom I & III:

FIRST-TIMERS’ WELCOME! Having never been to NCTE before, I suppose this is probably an important thing to attend, yes?

Friday, 3:30-4:45 pm, Room #315:

I’ll be co-presenting “Wonder as a Way In: Teaching Reading and Writing Poetry through Inquiry” – a poetry workshop with authors and educators Laura Purdie Salas, Liz Steinglass, Heidi Mordhorst, and Mary Lee Hahn. We’ll share activities designed to approach reading, writing, and appreciating poetry through the process of inquiry.

Saturday, 9:30-10:30 am, Hyatt Regency Inner Harbor, Atrium, Level 2, Nonfiction Children’s Book Salon:

An “unofficial” session, thisis an opportunity to grab a coffee and talk nonfiction (picture books, middle grade, and YA) with Lerner and Chronicle editors Carol Hinz, Melissa Manlove, and Shaina Olmanson.

Saturday, 12:30-2:30pm, Children’s Book Awards Luncheon:

I’ll be hosting one of Boyds Mills & Kane’s tables, so I’m very eager to meet and hang out with so many writer and teacher friends! (Plus, I’ll have copies of Flashlight Night on hand!)

Sunday, 7-8:45am, Children’s Literature Assembly (CLA) Breakfast:

Caldecott Honor author/illustrator Yuyi Morales will be discussing her work, including her newest book, Soñadores / Dreamers (Holiday House, 2018).

And of course, I’ll be popping in and out of sessions here and there and trying to spend as much time with my writer and educator friends as possible. If you do see me, please stop and say hello! (Hint: I’ll be sporting my winter beard, so if you come across a fellow who looks like The Most Interesting Man in the World’s balder, less-interesting brother…that’s probably me)

Very proud to be a first-round judge in the CYBILS Poetry category, once again!

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

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


   

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

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

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

Thank you to everyone for your support!

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

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

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

On Dream-Chasing and Mistake-Making: Nuggets of Wisdom from #NESCBWI19

Image may contain: text

Well, another New England SCBWI Regional Conference has wrapped up, and once again, I’ve brought home impressive amounts of inspiration, enlightenment, and sleep deprivation. Remember when you used to pull all-nighters in college, and now you look back on those days wondering how you ever managed? That’s almost what a conference weekend is like; up at 7am, in bed at 1am, repeat.

In the past, I’ve shared the importance of casting wide nets, what it means to “swallow your heart,” and paying attention to the cost of scallops. This year’s conference was no less inspiring! So here, in no particular order, are a few of the highlights:

  1. Losing one of one’s senses heightens the others. We’ve all heard this, but author Patricia MacLaughlin shared her personal struggle with macular degeneration, which has caused her eyesight to deteriorate to the point where she is now nearly blind. In her estimation, blindness has made her a better writer because, in her words, “I see my childhood better now.
  2. “Value the process, not the product.” – Jane Yolen
  3. Characters are defined by their mistakes. Or, more specifically, says
    Yours Truly with Sudipta. I’m the one on the left.

    author Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen, they are defined by the kinds of mistakes they make. Just like us humans, we make foolish mistakes, rash decisions, and well-thought out plans that go awry. It’s important to think about this when developing your own characters.

  4. “Sometimes we chase the dream and sometimes the dream chases us.” Keynote speaker Ekua Holmes
  5. First drafts are supposed to be terrible. And often are! Saturday morning’s keynote speaker was novelist Lynda Mullaly Hunt, who spoke about honesty in one’s writing and how it doesn’t always come easy – and sometimes drastic measures are necessary to set things aright. She said that she had just completed the final version of her new novel, Shouting at the Rain when she realized she didn’t like it. What did she do? She deleted the entire manuscript, a mere two weeks before it was due! She said she needed to rewrite the entire thing, which she did – because although the deleted version was fine, “who wants a ‘fine’ book?” she said. The new, completely revamped version was what ended up getting published.
  6. “We are not made by our mistakes. We are made by what we do about them” – Lynda Mullaly Hunt (There are those darned mistakes again!)
  7. Seeing my books scroll along on the big screen never gets old. Next year: FOUR books on the ol’ PowerPoint!
  8. Strong picture book manuscripts have specific qualities that editors look for. This goes without saying, of course, but agent Rachel Orr of the Prospect Agency shared a few of the things she looks for in a picture book manuscript: unique voice, fresh story/approach, solid theme, strong marketability, and emotional resonance. I’m definitely keeping these things in mind as I move forward with my projects!
  9. From L: Alex Hinrichs, Heidi E.Y. Stemple, me, Miranda Levin

    “Childhood is the pattern from which the man and woman is built.” – Ekua Holmes

  10. Discussing the virtues of rhyming text with an editor is an enlightening experience. I had the opportunity to discuss rhyme with Ripple Grove Press editor Rob Broder, who goes to great lengths on the company’s website to dissuade people from writing bad rhyming text. He sees so much bad rhyme, he tends to stay away from all rhyme completely, and of course, I – as someone who writes primarily in rhyme and sees tons of bad rhymes – couldn’t fault him.
  11. “The things we are ashamed of make for very good writing” – Lynda Mullaly Hunt
  12. There were no Muffins of Deception this year. I know not everyone places as much weight on something like this as I do, but it was a nice change of pace, nonetheless. You see, every year during the continental breakfasts, there are always a few dark muffins waiting patiently for some poor, unsuspecting soul to grab them, thinking they are chocolate; it is only once that individual sits down at their table in the ballroom and takes a bite that they realize these are not delicious chocolate but are, in fact, evil bran. This year, we experienced the freedom that comes from not worrying about such a horrible surprise.
  13. “Making books is a joyful thing. Even the hard parts. Even then.” —Jane Yolen

If I was to share every little piece of wisdom gleaned from this year’s conference, it would take me a week to get this blog post put together, so I’ll wrap it up with my friend Jane’s quote. Making books is, indeed, joyful – the hard parts, and all the parts.

Thank you for following my journey, and get ready for some big announcements in the months ahead!

From L: Poppy Parfomak, me, Colleen Murphy, Maria Marshall, Vivian Kirkfield
From Lynda Mullaly Hunt’s keynote address.

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


  Coming July 2, 2019!

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

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

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

Thank you to everyone for your support!

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

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

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

“Don’t Ask a Dinosaur” turns one year old! (w/GIVEAWAY!)

It’s hard for me to believe, but my second picture book, Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (POW! Kids Books, 2018), turns one year old today!

From our national book launch at Porter Square Books in Cambridge, MA! (Cake courtesy of my step-daughter, Jess Corsetti)

Yes, it’s been 365 days since my co-author Deborah Bruss and I unleashed these wild and silly creatures on the world, and we’re so happy, we’re celebrating by offering YOU a gift! (More on that later.)

Deb, illustrator Louie Chin, and I all thought that it might be fun to share with you some of the questions we receive when doing school visits and book signings. We shared our most common questions with each other…then answered them all! So here we go:

What’s your favorite Dinosaur?
LOUIE:  My favorite dinosaur is the T-Rex! I even spent some time at KidLitTV in New York City and KidLit TVshared my process for drawing a T-Rex just like the one in the book – so if you’ve got kids who want to learn, I hope they’ll check out the ReadySetDraw! video.
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DEB:  Deinocheirus used to be my favorite (anyone with a talent like balancing a spoon on your nose has to be awesome!) but I have a new favorite now:  Zuul! Never heard of him? It’s a newly-discovered species! With a cool name, a shovel for a mouth, and a wrecking-ball tail, I can’t resist! (Besides, it’s easy to pronounce)

MATT:  I have two favorites; one is in the book, the other isn’t. I love Therezinosaurus because he’s so unusual – with the longest claws of any dinosaur (up to 3 feet!), a giant pelvis designed for prolonged sitting (you can’t make this up), a bird-like beak, his skeleton has been described as being “assembled by a drunken sailor who got quite confused.” My other favorite is Quetzalcoatlus, one of the largest flying creatures of all time. Approximately the same size as a small Cessna aircraft and named after the Aztec serpent god, Quetzalcoatlus is just too cool for words!

(click to enlarge)
How long does it take to write/illustrate a picture book or poem?
DEB:  I’ve never had a poem published, so that I don’t know. If I could write a poem worthy of being published, it would probably take me 50 years. For a picture book, anywhere from 6 months to many years. The original idea for Don’t Ask A Dinosaur sprouted in 1997, except the animals were current day creatures such as porcupine, moose and elephant.

MATT:  I always respond by saying, “as long as it takes” – which is honestly NOT a cop-out answer! Dinosaur went through 20 revisions before we started sending the manuscript out to potential publishers, yet a board book I have coming out next year was written in one evening, revised a few times, and was accepted. You just can’t ever tell!

LOUIE:  It takes a long time to illustrate a picture book. From the first sketches to the finished artwork, it can take almost half a year!

How did you decide which dinosaurs to include?
Some of Louie’s early sketches!

DEB:  When I exchanged contemporary animals for dinosaurs, I picked ones that were fairly common and had strange attributes. Matt, the dinosaur buff, dug around for the weirdest ones, some of which were recent discoveries.

MATT:  We wanted a good mix of dinos – some well-known favorites, some brand-new species – but they all needed exceptional, distinguishing characteristics. There were several dinosaurs and early reptiles we initially included that didn’t make the final cut, like Anchicertops, Spinosaurus, Microraptor, Archelon, and a few others.

Was it hard working together? Were there any problems?
LOUIE:  Working together was easy!
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DEB:  I also found it easy to work with someone – that someone being Matt – because feedback was fairly quick and to the point. The only problem was when Matt’s enthusiasm for the latest and coolest dinosaur bubbled over late at night and he had to wait until morning for my opinion. At least, I imagine that’s what happened.

MATT:  Actually, I think the only “problem” (if you can call it that) was that by the 17th or 18 revision, we both started over-thinking things and began adding in lines or rhymes that we’d previously taken out – ha! Once a writer gets to that point, you know it’s time to give it a rest.

How involved were you with the illustrations?
DEB:  I think our situation was fairly unusual. The editor sought our opinion on illustrative styles.
MATT:  We did have a bit of a say as to how things were going, but Louie pretty much did his own thing, and we were very happy with it!
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LOUIE:  There wasn’t a lot of communication directly. Most of it was relayed through the editor.
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No, Lioplurodon is not really a dinosaur, by definition – but he was just too fun to leave out! (click to enlarge)
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Why are there are no flying dinosaurs in the book?
DEB:  Good question! Matt, what do you have to say?

MATT: Technically, the flying reptiles known as pterosaurs (including my buddy, Quetzalcoatlus) were not true dinosaurs. Neither was Lioplurodon, either – but somehow he managed to stay. I’m guessing it’s because he was making cake, and everyone loves cake.

What’s the most memorable question you’ve been asked?
LOUIE:  I can’t recall a question that stood out, but it’s a lot of fun hearing all the dinosaur facts and stories from the children.
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DEB:  After reading to a bunch of four-year-olds, I asked, “Does anyone have a question for me?”
Child #1: “I have a crystal.”  
Child #2: “I do, too!”  
Child #3: “Me, too.”

MATT:  When I’m speaking at schools, I usually mention that being a kid is way more fun than being a grown-up because people ask kids questions like, “what’s your favorite dinosaur?” but no one ever asks ME that – it’s like they don’t even care! A student will invariably shout out, “Well, what’s YOUR favorite dinosaur??” To which I respond my thanking him/her and announcing Quetzalcoatlus. (and you know what? There’s always at least one student who goes, “YESSS!!”)

Now that the book is out, do you have any questions about it? 
DEB:  I want to know, how do all those dinosaurs fit inside a house?
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MATT:  I’m wondering if those dinosaurs that were outside, like Ankylosaurus and Argentinosaurus, ever got any cake.
.
LOUIE: I’d like to know what other wild things other dinosaurs not in the book would do, if they were invited to a birthday!
.

READY TO WIN A FREE COPY??

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Just leave a comment below, and you’ll be entered to win! I’ll announce the winner on Poetry Friday, April 26, so you’ve got a week and a half to tell your friends and ask them to enter, too. Good luck…and thank you for your support!

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The 2019 Kidlitosphere Progressive Poem continues! Each day during April (National Poetry Month), a different writer/ blogger adds a new line to the poem until it concludes April 30. You can follow along at the sites listed below.

2019 Progressive Poem schedule:

April

1 Matt @Radio, Rhythm and Rhyme
2 Kat @Kathryn Apel
3 Kimberly @KimberlyHutmacherWrites
4 Jone @DeoWriter
5 Linda @TeacherDance
6 Tara @Going to Walden
7 Ruth @thereisnosuchthingasagodforsakentown
8 Mary Lee @A Year of Reading
9 Rebecca @Rebecca Herzog
10 Janet F. @Live Your Poem
11 Dani @Doing the Work that Matters
12 Margaret @Reflections on the Teche
13 Doraine @Dori Reads
14 Christie @Wondering and Wandering
15 Robyn @Life on the Deckle Edge
16 Carol @Beyond LiteracyLink
17 Amy @The Poem Farm
18 Linda @A Word Edgewise
19 Heidi @my juicy little universe
20 Buffy @Buffy’s Blog
21 Michelle @Michelle Kogan
22 Catherine @Reading to the Core
23 Penny @a penny and her jots
24 Tabatha @The Opposite of Indifference
25 Jan @Bookseestudio
26 Linda @Write Time
27 Sheila @Sheila Renfro
28 Liz @Elizabeth Steinglass
29 Irene @Live Your Poem
30 Donna @Mainely Write

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


  Coming July 2, 2019!

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

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

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

Thank you to everyone for your support!

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

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

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

Poetry Friday: Goodbye, Paul Janeczko

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

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

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

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

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

  

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

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

Be prepared
to be quick.

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

The hug may come
around your knees…

(you can read the poem in its entirety here)

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

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

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

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

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

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


  Coming July 2, 2019!

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

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

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

Thank you to everyone for your support!

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

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

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

Poetry Friday: “Imaginary Friend” video for #WorldReadAloudDay

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

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

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

“Trust me,” he replied…and I did.

And my life was changed.

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

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

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

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


  Coming July 2, 2019!

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

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

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

Thank you to everyone for your support!

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

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

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

Inspiration, observation, and the joy of grown-up marshmallows: a look back at a Highlights Foundation poetry workshop

Two weeks ago, I spent 5 days living, breathing, and eating children’s poetry (and writing it, too, for that matter) at the Highlights Foundation’s “The Craft and Heart of Children’s Poetry” workshop in the tiny little town of Milanville, PA. I had previously attended a similar workshop with David L. Harrison back in 2013, and had been wanting to attend another ever since.

It took me five years to return, but the wait was well worth it!

Georgia Heard, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Yours Truly, and Rebbeca Davis. (click to enlarge)

The workshop’s faculty were the highly-esteemed Rebecca Kai Dotlich and Georgia Heard, who discussed poetic devices like form, voice, and rhythm and offered critiques of our writing samples. They also used several writing prompts to encourage attendees to practice writing, thinking, and observing. (You can learn more about one of those writing prompts – and my response – HERE)

In addition to Rebecca and Georgia, we were joined by Boyds Mills Press/Wordsong editor Rebecca Davis, who was my editor for Flashlight Night. Rebecca spoke to our group about poetry publishing and even offered some critiques. Also on hand was poet/author Carole Boston Weatherford, who offered insight into writing poetry in different voices, and Lee Bennett Hopkins, who chatted via Skype about his poetry anthologies and the state of children’s poetry in today’s market.

A few other highlights:

(har, har – get it? Highlights?? Ok, I’ll stop.) 

My residence for 5 days. Couldn’t ask for anything coszier!

Everything is included in your tuition: the workshop, room, meals, snacks…everything. You might stay in one of the cabins, like I did, or they may put you up in the Lodge nearby. All of the workshops and meals are held inside The Barn, a large facility recently built when the old farmhouse next door, the former residence of Highlights for Children magazine’s creators Garry and Caroline Myers, became too small to handle all of the folks attending the plethora of workshops.

Heck, there were almost 20 of us there, and they have workshops running throughout the year!

 

Just a handful of some of the cabins. (photo courtesy of Jone MacCulloch)
Want to attend a session? Head to The Barn. Joining your friends for a meal? Head to The Barn. Need a computer or printer? Head to The Barn. Wake up at 2am and decide you’re in the mood for some ice cream, Doritos, and a cold beer? Yep…head to The Barn! They’ve got you covered.

The Word Garden: You may have visited a rock garden before, but you’ve never been to this kind of rock garden…where stones are waiting in piles for you to dream up poetry with them!

 

Thoughtful…creative…perhaps a tad unbalanced. These are a few of the “poems” we discovered when we arrived – but with hundreds of rocks available, we wasted no time creating our own. (I’ll share mine in an upcoming Poetry Friday post) And if you’d like to learn more about how you can support The Word Garden, click HERE.

Photo courtesy of Georgia Heard. (Click to enlarge)

The Haiku Poet-tree: One of our exercises was to write a haiku on a small slip of paper. We then proceeded outside the Barn to read them and then hang each on the nearby tree, where we could peruse them throughout the week. (Or until the rain decided we had read enough)

S’Mores Night: Ah yes, it just wouldn’t be an October Foundation workshop without a campfire and s’mores. We gathered around a small outdoor fireplace adjacent to the Barn and roasted marshmallows – and I shared my “secret” for grown-up marshmallows: after you place yours on the roasting stick, dip it in a high-alcohol liqueur like Grand Marnier or a spiced rum for 10-15 seconds, then hold it over the flames. It will immediately flare up as the alcohol burns off, and you’re left with the essence of the liqueur on your marshmallow. You’re welcome!

You can’t tell the family members from the employees: I get the impression that everyone who works for Highlights approaches their job as if they are part of a large family – which, in actually, they are…kind of. Many of the grandkids and great-grandkids of the original founders continue their family’s legacy by working there, but even the non-familial employees behave as though they have as much at stake in their job as the owners. Friendly, professional, helpful; honestly, there are giant corporate function facilities that could learn a lot about customer service by watching the Highlights cook and waitstaff serve a meal.

A Visit to ‘Highlights’: This was definitely a highlight of the workshop (har, har – there I go again, “highlight!” I crack myself up.) One afternoon, we drove 20 minutes south of The Barn to Honesdale, PA, to visit with the folks who publish ‘Highlights for Children’ and its related publications, as well as book imprints Boyds Mills Press, Wordsong, and Calkins Creek.

How surreal is it to see one’s book on a bookcase that includes titles by Jane Yolen, Nikki Grimes, David Harrison, and J. Patrick Lewis, among others? Pretty darned, I’ll tell you that.

I had not been to the office since my previous workshop in 2013, so I had never before met in-person with people like Allison Kane, who has purchased poems of mine for the magazine, or Cherie Matthews, assistant editor for Boyds Mills Press, with whom I’ve corresponded for nearly 3 years via email.

I was deeply honored when one of my fellow attendees, Kerry Cramer, asked if he could get a photo of the two of us. I was so happy he liked my book so much, I didn’t know what else to say but, “sure!” Thanks for your support, Kerry!

One of the coolest things you’ll spy in the building is a genuine dinosaur skull that once belonged to T-Rex’s bigger cousin, Giganotosaurus. For some reason, I neglected to snap a picture of this incredible artifact…but trust me, it’s there. (And really, if you visit the office, it would be very difficult for you to miss it)

We were afforded the opportunity to meet with many of the folks who put the magazines together, and learned a little bit about ‘Highlights’ humble beginnings – from its inception in 1946 to its book imprints to its newest innovations, like teething-proof covers for ‘Hello,’ their newest magazine for the very youngest readers. One thing I learned from the tour is that the editors of ‘Highlights’ magazines respond to EVERY SINGLE letter or email they receive from children. How many are we talking? This many…

(click to enlarge)

And just before we left to head back to the Barn, I had to get one last pic:

Cheryl Matthews, who has done as much for ‘Flashlight Night”‘s success as anyone, took time for a quick photo op with one of her fans.

I have to tell you, the Highlights Foundation workshops are unlike any workshops you’ve ever been to. There is the educational component, of course; but what sets these workshops apart from all others is everything that goes along with the education: time allowed for relaxing, meandering, napping, writing, contemplating, snacking.

Learn more about the Foundation, their workshops (which range from poetry to novel writing to non-fiction to illustration and everything in-between), and what they do, please visit their website. The workshops are worth every penny, and they even offer scholarships to those who qualify! And if you have any questions about my experiences there, don’t hesitate to ask in the comments or email me!

Our poetry crew, each holding a stone we chose from the Word Garden. (photo courtesy of the Highlights Foundation; click to enlarge)

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BOOK SIGNING!

I’m looking forward to spending some time with my DON’T ASK A DINOSAUR co-author, Deborah Bruss, this Sunday afternoon in Warner, NH to celebrate the Book Birthday of her new book, GOOD MORNING, SNOWPLOW! We’ll both be there signing our books, including DINOSAUR, FLASHLIGHT NIGHT, SCHOOL PEOPLE, and the new National Geographic book, THE POETRY OF US.

Hope you’ll join us, if you’re in the area! Details here!

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

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


  

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

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

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

Thank you to everyone for your support!

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

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

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