Poetry Friday: Word economy, career changes, and why poetry is so much darned fun: A podcast interview with Dr. Anthony L. Manna

I had a wonderful time a few days ago being interviewed by Dr. Anthony L. Manna for his podcast, WRITERS on Writing: Conversations with Authors. We chatted WRITERS on Writing: Conversations with Authorsabout poetry, picture books, radio commercials, and all sorts of stuff dealing with the craft of writing and storytelling.

You can listen to the podcast HERE. Hopefully you’ll enjoy listening as much as I enjoyed answering his questions! If you think discussions about poetic minutiae like internal rhyme, perspective, and the benefits of classic forms like the villanelle are riveting…this is the podcast for you, my friend.

Dr. Manna asked me to share a number of poems I’ve written for various anthologies like Construction People (Wordsong, 2020) and Poems Are Teachers (Heinemann, 2017), and one of them was “A Visit to the Forest,” an alliterative assortment of alphabetical acrobatics and assonance I wrote for Kenn Nesbitt’s anthology, One Minute Till Bedtime (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2016). Since it’s been nearly four years since I’ve shared it here, I present it to you now, in case you hadn’t seen it when it came out:

Click to enlarge. (c) 2016 Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, all rights reserved

You can learn more about this unusual anthology in my original blog post from 2016 , and if you’re interested in picking up a copy of the book, just scroll down to the book cover graphic! Today’s Poetry Friday roundup is at Reading to the Core, where hostess Catherine Flynn is celebrating with a look at  Emily Winfield Martin’s new book, The Imaginaries (Random House, 2020) and an original poem inspired by the book!

Did you know that Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme is one of the TOP 20 children’s poetry blogs, according to FEEDSPOT? That’s right – I’m scratching my head, too! FEEDSPOT is an app that allows you to combine all your favorite news feeds, podcasts, YouTube channels, etc. into ONE newsletter. Be sure to check it out!

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

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

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

What is Talkabook? Details coming soon!

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

I’ve teamed up with several other children’s authors to promote our upcoming books this year – and there are a LOT of them!

Coming Spring 2021! Pre-orders are available:
.
=========================================================

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: An entire school + poetry + 250 years = a student anthology!

(click to enlarge)

It’s amazing what kids can do when given the chance.

Earlier this year – before Covid-19 wreaked havoc on our schedules, schools, and collective psyche – I had the pleasure of visiting Colebrook, New Hampshire to speak to the students of the Colebrook School District about poetry.

I had been invited by Melissa Hall, Youth Librarian at Colebrook Public Library. Melissa wanted to create a poetry collection written by Colebrook’s students as part of the town’s 250th Anniversary celebration, so she turned to a regional non-profit organization known as CLiF, the Children’s Literature Foundation, which provides author visits, free books, and other literacy programs to low-income, at-risk students throughout New Hampshire and Vermont.

I’ve only been involved with CLiF for about a year, but when they contacted me about Melissa’s plans, I jumped at the chance! I love talking to students about writing, especially poetry – but I had no idea what kind of surprise I was in for, once they completed the project.

My view that morning. This was taken in Franconia Notch, halfway to my destination.

I drove up the day after a big snowstorm, glad that it I missed the snow because Colebrook is in the northernmost part of the state commonly referred to as the Great North Woods, and even though I’ve grown up here, driving in the mountains in a snowstorm is not something I envy. (If you’ve ever seen the Animal Planet TV show North Woods Law, you have a good idea as to what this part of the state is like.)

Still not there…but getting closer.

The area is rural – with a population of barely 2300, Colebrook is the 3rd or 4th-largest town in the county – and the lack of industry means a lack of economic prosperity for most. But the folks who live there are good people, and having grown up in the woods (literally), it actually felt like home. I spent the day sharing my poetry with the students, teaching them how to focus their thoughts and phrase their words, and they taught me how proud they were of their little town.

Melissa’s plan, in conjunction with the school’s teachers, was for the students to start working on poems they would eventually submit for inclusion in a book of poetry that would function as a sort of time capsule; a peek into the hearts and minds of Colebrook’s young people as the town celebrated 250 years.

The surprise to which I alluded? The thought, insight, and emotion their poems contained…

“The rhythm was always / too bright”
“Rivers hold / memories more than pictures”
“Most times, I say / I would want to leave, / see the world, / find adventure in someone / else’s air”

Now, stop for a moment and re-read those lines:  “The rhythm was always too bright.” “Rivers hold memories more than pictures.” “Find adventure in someone else’s air.” What an absolutely fantastic use of words! I was blown away when I read those words.

Keep in mind, these are kids, sharing their thoughts and emotions in ways they may not be used to – or in ways with which they may be familiar. Like this example of a poem fraught with angst, hope, insecurity, defiance, and strength:

Again, I just can’t believe these kids were able to get what was in their hearts and minds out onto the paper in such beautiful and arresting ways.

And not to leave the younger students out, here are a couple more:

I was particularly proud of Kaelyn’s poem because she utilized some of the guidance I provided her while I was there, and my suggestions can be used by anyone trying to improve their writing…

When she told me what she wanted to write about, she said, “my brother and I eat lunch at the Falls and then go play.” I told her that sounded like a good plan, but asked if she could be more specific:  what do you two like to eat for lunch? Where do you eat it? What type of things do you do when you play? The more specific one can be with details, the better – and Kaelyn knocked it out of the park.

To see more of these amazing students’ poetry, I invite you to check out the Google Slide Show that Melissa Hall created, featuring many of the students reciting their poems along with the text. This is something I hope the kids will come back to in later years, to see where they were in life and what was on their minds.

Again, my thanks to Melissa as well as the folks from CLiF who helped facilitate this – I’m so proud of these students! I hope the craziness of the world subsides soon, so I can resume visiting schools and helping spur young people’s creativity. I love writing, but I also love sharing what I know with others. (By the way, if you’d like to learn more about writing poetry, I hope you’ll check out my “Wit & Wordplay” videos  – details below!

Speaking of students, education, literacy, and poetry…Carol Varsalona is hosting today’s Poetry Friday roundup at her Beyond Literacy Link blog, with a celebration of Nature, Mary Oliver, and poetic “memos!”

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

Coming Aug. 18, 2020! Pre-orders are available!

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

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

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

What is Talkabook? Details coming soon!

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

I’ve teamed up with several other children’s authors to promote our upcoming books this year – and there are a LOT of them: books from folks like Diana Murray, Corey Rosen Schwartz, Lori Degman, Michelle Schaub, nancy Castaldo, and many others. I’m very proud to be part of this group of dedicated, talented writers.

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

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: “Inside Out” with Marjorie Maddox

When Marjorie Maddox first approached me about spotlighting her new book, Inside Out: Poems on Writing and Reading Poems with Insider Exercises (Kelsay Books), I told her I couldn’t possibly say no!

In fact, given that we already had so many interconnections, I had to yes:  we were both friends of the late Lee Bennett Hopkins and Paul Janeczko; she had recently been featured on the Poetry for Children blog of Sylvia Vardell, who along with Janet Wong have been publishing the Poetry Friday series of poetry anthologies; and she is also a friend of Charles Ghigna, with whom I co-authored Once Upon Another Time (Beaming Books), coming out this August.

Add to all this the fact that Marjorie is Professor of English and Creative Writing at Lock Haven University in PA (right near where my ancestors settled back in the mid-1800’s!) and I simply could not deny this alignment of stars.

Inside Out is a collection of original poems, but it’s much more than that; it’s a learning tool that shines a light on everything and anything a poet would ever want to know, from how to write a villanelle, sonnet, or acrostic to how to effectively use metaphor, alliteration, and just about every other poetic device out there.

Winner of America Magazine’s 2019 Foley Poetry Prize, Marjorie has published 11 books of poetry and knows the craft…well, inside and out! Because her book is so rich with guidance, ideas, and suggestions – a perfect book for anyone who wants to learn more about the craft and art of poetry – I thought I would ask her ONE question – the most important question a writer needs to ask when writing a book – and let her take it from there as a guest post.

That question, of course, is…

“Why did this book need to be written?” (The all-important question!) Take it away, Marjorie!

Thanks, Matt. Why was this book written? Because of YOU, Dear Reader!

This is a book about playing with words—fun, pure and simple! Welcome to Inside Out: Poems on Writing and Reading Poems with Insider Exercises! Just out from Kelsay Books, Inside Out is geared toward a YA and MG audience—plus their teachers and parents. But you’ll find no restrictions on age or experience here. If you gobble poems for breakfast or are a little hesitant about that first bite, this book is for you.

Inside Out grew out of my more than 30 years of teaching poetry at the college, high school, and elementary levels, of seeing kids of all ages fall in love with metaphors, puns, rhyme, and images. How? By actually stepping into the poem and playing around with metaphors, puns, rhyme, and images.

I begin by inviting readers to see, hear, smell, taste, touch, and befriend a poem. No social distancing here when it comes to poetry! Take a listen:

(click to enlarge)

.
And for those a little nervous about even the words “poem,” or “poetry,” this book defuses the fear and opens up a safe space to experiment with ideas—as in the following:
.

Befriending a Poem

Invite him home for dinner,
but don’t insist on rhyme;

he may be as tired and as overworked
as his distant cousin Cliché.

Best to offer intriguing conversation
that’s light on analysis.

Allow for silences and spontaneity.
Most importantly, like any good friend,

be faithful and patient;
remember to listen.

Sometimes he’s shy
and just needs a little time and coaxing.

Much of what he has to say
lies between the lines.

In a series of poems on poetic techniques, I then welcome the reader to step inside a poem about that same technique. Similes, onomatopoeia, paradox, alliteration, eye rhymes. Get the picture? With such tools, you can become anyone from any place. During these times of restricted travel, here’s your free ticket to trekking through time or cruising new sites—right from your own room.

Dramatic Monologue

Step into the words and become
a prince, a pauper, a piece of popcorn,
a philosophical panda, a paranoid piano.
Slip forwards or backwards in time
as Cleopatra or the president of Mars.

No one will interrupt.
The podium is yours.
Go ahead and pontificate.

Inside Inside Out is also a great place to experiment with new forms of poetry. While you and your loved ones are staying home and safe, why not chat with personification, dance with iambic, fish for sestinas, and text with a triolet?

What’s more, there are poems here on penning villanelles (“How to Write a Villanelle”), on scribing English sonnets, (“How to Write an English Sonnet”), on drafting clerihews (“How to Write a Clerihew”), on impersonating personification (“The Frankenstein Poem”)—plus nine lively “magic trick” exercises (connected to the poems) to keep you thinking and creating. Here’s one to try:
.

How to Text a Triolet

If you all want to write a triolet,
it really is no secret what to do.
First concentrate on what you have to say
and if you want to write. A triolet,
says what you said before; it’s déjà vu
though you can always change a word or two
if you all want. To write a triolet,
it really is no secret what to do.
.

A great new way to communicate with friends, right?

Thanks, dear readers, for coming along on this poetic ride. I hope to see you again very soon, inside the poem!

.
Thanks so much, Marjorie! 

Wow, you can sense the enthusiasm, can’t you?? I hope you’ll check out Marjorie’s book – it really is a treasure trove of ideas and inspiration. I also hope you’ll check out Wondering and Wandering, where Christie Wyman is hosting today’s Poetry Friday roundup!

By the way, in addition to her 11 books of poetry, Marjorie Maddox has published 600+ stories, essays, and poems in journals and anthologies. She’s the great-grandniece of Branch Rickey, the general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers who helped break the color barrier by signing Jackie Robinson to Major League Baseball. The chair of the jury of judges for the 2020 Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Book Award, she gives readings and workshops around the country. For more information, visit www.marjoriemaddox.com.

Coming Soon!

  A Crossing of Zebras

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

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

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

The 2020 Progressive Poem continues…

The annual Progressive Poem, begun several years ago by poet/author/blogger Irene Latham, is a way for the Poetry Friday family and other kidlit bloggers to join together and create a crowd-sourced poem for National Poetry Month. One person writes one line, then another adds another line, until a completed poem appears on April 30. Here’s where you can follow along and find all the contributors:

.
1 Donna Smith at Mainely Write
2 Irene Latham at Live Your Poem
3 Jone MacCulloch, at deo writer
4 Liz Steinglass at Elizabeth Steinglass
6 Kay McGriff at A Journey Through The Pages
7 Catherine Flynn at Reading to the Core
8 Tara Smith at Going to Walden
9 Carol Varsalona at Beyond Literacy Link
10 Matt Forrest Esenwine at Radio, Rhythm, and Rhyme
11 Janet Fagel hosted at Reflections on the Teche
12 Linda Mitchell at A Word Edgewise
13 Kat Apel at Kat Whiskers
14 Margaret at Reflections on the Teche
15 Leigh Anne Eck at A Day in the Life
16 Linda Baie at Teacher Dance
17 Heidi Mordhorst at My Juicy Little Universe
18 Mary Lee Hahn at A Year of Reading
20 Rose Cappelli at Imagine the Possibilities
21 Janice Scully at Salt City Verse
22 Julieanne Harmatz at To Read, To Write, To Be
24 Christie Wyman at Wondering and Wandering
25 Amy at The Poem Farm
26 Dani Burtsfield at Doing the Work That Matters
27 Robyn Hood Black at Life on the Deckle Edge
28 Jessica Big at TBD
29 Fran Haley at lit bits and pieces
30 Michelle Kogan at Michelle Kogan

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

What is Talkabook? Details coming soon!

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

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! In addition to April’s two releases, there are new books out from folks like Diana Murray, Corey Rosen Schwartz, Lori Degman, Michelle Schaub, and many others. I’m very proud to be part of this group of dedicated, talented writers.

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

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: Score one for Poetry: A school project becomes fun!

I always feel vindicated when my 4th-grader realizes I was right, all along. Not that I’m vain or egotistical or anything – it’s just that it happens so rarely, it’s kind of a nice change of pace! So imagine how proud I was of him last week, after he groaned about a poetry project he had to do for his remote-learning schoolwork…and then realized it was fun.

It was an online “magnet poetry” sort of thing. On the right side of the computer screen, there were dozens of words on multiple pages from which he could choose to make a poem; he simply needed to pick words and put them into some semblance of a poem. He started off whining and complaining about not knowing how to do it, and then (as anyone with kids could guess) started whining about not knowing what to say.

So of course, I jumped in to help provide him some direction and guidance – “All my years of writing poetry have prepared me for this moment!” – and show him it wasn’t as difficult or as boring as he was thinking. Once he got the first couple of lines down, I told him he’d done a good job and might want to add one more line and he could be done.

But he wasn’t going to stop there. Oh, no.

He wrote another few lines, and I told him I really liked what he’d done. He could finally turn it in! But no.

He continued for at least an hour, putting words together and fine-tuning it until he got to this:

(click to enlarge)

 

Through the water
blue wings show dark rain
dinosaur ghosts roar
in the monster moonglow
storms sail to sea
cool black tigers see red summers
wild adventures begin wonder.
.

Dinosaur ghosts? Monster moonglow? Who is this kid?? Yep, what could have been a short, 3-line haiku turned into a 7-line opus. I’ll be honest: this is far better than the first poem I ever wrote! Moreover, he was so happy and excited about it he almost didn’t want to stop. I had told him not to look at it as work (even though, as a writer, I know it is) but to look at it more as a word puzzle and to have fun. Sure enough, he did!

Vindication!!!

The 2020 Progressive Poem continues all month…

The annual Progressive Poem, begun several years ago by poet/author/blogger Irene Latham, is a way for the Poetry Friday family and other kidlit bloggers to join together and create a crowd-sourced poem for National Poetry Month. One person writes one line, then another adds another line, until a completed poem appears on April 30. This year, Irene handed off the organizational duties to Margaret Simon, who has pulled everyone together once again. I added my line last week, and it continues to grow! Here’s where you can follow along and find all the contributors:

.
1 Donna Smith at Mainely Write
2 Irene Latham at Live Your Poem
3 Jone MacCulloch, at deo writer
4 Liz Steinglass at Elizabeth Steinglass
6 Kay McGriff at A Journey Through The Pages
7 Catherine Flynn at Reading to the Core
8 Tara Smith at Going to Walden
9 Carol Varsalona at Beyond Literacy Link
10 Matt Forrest Esenwine at Radio, Rhythm, and Rhyme
11 Janet Fagel hosted at Reflections on the Teche
12 Linda Mitchell at A Word Edgewise
13 Kat Apel at Kat Whiskers
14 Margaret at Reflections on the Teche
15 Leigh Anne Eck at A Day in the Life
16 Linda Baie at Teacher Dance
17 Heidi Mordhorst at My Juicy Little Universe
18 Mary Lee Hahn at A Year of Reading
20 Rose Cappelli at Imagine the Possibilities
21 Janice Scully at Salt City Verse
22 Julieanne Harmatz at To Read, To Write, To Be
24 Christie Wyman at Wondering and Wandering
25 Amy at The Poem Farm
26 Dani Burtsfield at Doing the Work That Matters
27 Robyn Hood Black at Life on the Deckle Edge
28 Jessica Big at TBD
29 Fran Haley at lit bits and pieces
30 Michelle Kogan at Michelle Kogan

.
Molly is hosting Poetry Friday today, so head on over to Nix the Comfort Zone for all of today’s links and poetry fun – and…can you smell it? Fresh bread, too!

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

I hope you’ll check out my “Wit & Wordplay” videos on my YouTube channel! These videos were created for parents and educators (along with their kids) and focus on how to write poetry, how to appreciate it, and offer tips on having fun with it. Be sure to subscribe or check back often, as more videos continue to be created. You can view them all on my YouTube channel, and if you have young kids looking for something to keep busy with, I also have several downloadable activity sheets at my website.

What is Talkabook? Details coming soon!

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

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! In addition to April’s two releases, there are new books out from folks like Diana Murray, Corey Rosen Schwartz, Lori Degman, Michelle Schaub, and many others. I’m very proud to be part of this group of dedicated, talented writers.

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

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: 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!

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

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.

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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!

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

.

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.

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

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!