“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.
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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!
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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 !

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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: “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!

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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!

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!

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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!

Poetry Friday: Popsicle poetry!

It has been quite the busy week for Yours Truly…

I got back home last Thursday night from the Highlights Foundation writer’s workshop I had attended in Pennsylvania; the following day I began revising a couple of manuscripts before sending them back out again in search of a home; I’ve since sent out 4 picture book submissions and one poetry anthology proposal; I finally created an Instagram account (so let’s follow each other!); yesterday I participated in #PBPitch on Twitter; and all week long I’ve been struggling with putting together a math-related poem for a new upcoming anthology.

Oh, and taking care of my two kids, which of course is a job in and of itself.

Two kids, that is, who both started taking karate lessons this week.

Oy.

The Highlights poetry crew!

So today, I’m sharing a short little ditty that I wrote while at the aforementioned Highlights workshop, which focused on children’s poetry. The workshop leaders, Rebecca Kai Dottlich and Georgia Heard, discussed a variety of topics – poetic form, voice, rhythm, etc. – and offered several writing prompts to help attendees practice not only writing, but thinking and observing, which is crucial to the writing process.

One of those writing prompts involved Popsicle sticks, which Rebecca passed out to us and suggested writing a poem using whatever phrase was written on the stick. My phrase had an ellipses at the end, which led me to think the obvious response would include the phrase somewhere in the middle or end of the poem; I, however, always on the lookout for the non-obvious angle, decided to use the phrase as the very first line (and title, too, for that matter):

(click to enlarge)

This was a quick, 10-minute exercise, so I couldn’t spend a lot of time on it. But once I had it written, I rather liked its brevity; plus, starting with “and” and making liberal use of ellipses tends to give it a stream-of-consciousness feel, almost as if they are separate, punchy little thoughts that tie together (similar to the way we process thought, actually).

For more poetry, please head over to A Journey Through the Pages, where Kay McGriff is holding down the Poetry Friday roundup with a “sunrise conversation” and all of today’s poetry links!

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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!

Pet camels, poop hats, and the high cost of potatoes: What I learned at the state fair, Vol. VII

hsflogo-lgAnother Labor Day Weekend is behind us, and another enlightening weekend, it was! Each year, I work at the local state fair as the PA announcer – and it’s always a lot of fun. One minute I’m heading to the Durgin Arena to double-check the time of the cattle pull; the next, I’m chowing down on a loaded baked potato.

(Alas, that last tradition might have come to an end…read on!)

As has been tradition here at the ol’ Triple R, I always share some of the things I’ve learned from the fair because it’s as much a learning experience as it is a work experience. At past fairs I’ve learned the most despised candies in the universe; the best time to “smell” the fair; and the benefits of chainmail socks.

This year was as eye-opening as ever…

  1. Farewell, old friend.

    All good things come to an end. And yes, I’m talking about my potato. In the past, I would order a giant baked potato loaded with chili, cheese, bacon, broccoli, sour cream, chives, jalapenos, and salsa. (I tell them to hold the butter, since it’s pretty much superfluous) It usually cost me around $12 for everything, but it was worth it. This year, however, the price of the potatoes went up to $9 for just 2 toppings – so I was looking at a near-$15 price tag, which I just couldn’t rationalize. Good news: The loaded BBQ fries were only $10! Sold.

  2. (click to enlarge. Or eat, to enlarge yourself)

    Speaking of food…my donut can eat your donut. This thing was the size of a small child’s head; and because I couldn’t decide on a glazed or a chocolate-frosted…I opted for both. If you ask, they’ll take a glazed and smear frosting on top.  Oh, yes! You only live once, as they say. (Then again, we only die once, too, and this donut may unfortunately encourage the process.)

  3. You don’t need to spend 2 hours putting on makeup to go to a fair. When it comes to people-watching, it’s hard to beat a fair. There are people from all walks of life here, mingling with each other. I’d pass by locals with their jeans and John Deere caps, followed by dolled-up ladies who look like they had just stepped off the catwalk, followed by young urbanites with their babies. In fact, I saw a group of 3 or 4 fellows who looked like they were straight outta Compton, gangsta-style…and they were talking about where the goat barn was. Just goes to show, you shouldn’t judge, folks.
  4. (click to enlarge)

    No matter how early we are into the weekend, it’s still a joy to be able to scratch events off my list. Don’t get me wrong – I love the fair and love what I do. But it’s not a cake walk – it’s work, and every time I have the opportunity to shave off a little piece of my list, I relish the opportunity.

  5. Poop is now a fashion accessory. How far have we sunk as a society that poop-emoji plush hats have become popular? Or am I just too old to find the amusement in it? I was going to take a photo of the fellow who was wearing said hat – but I just couldn’t bear to be seen doing so.
  6. If a Ferris Wheel seat is turned backwards, it’s a show of respect for a loved one who has passed. Who knew??
  7. You can have a camel as a pet in New Hampshire. I had a chance to talk with a friend of mine who works for Charmingfare Farm in Candia, NH, one of the fair’s biggest supporters, and she told me camels are now a non-regulated species. I didn’t doubt her, but I had to check – and sure enough, camels are a non-controlled species, just like hamsters, canaries, and ostriches. (Yes, that’s true, too!) Think it’s time to surprise the wife with a new pet.
  8. (click to enlarge)

    I want to be a RoboCar when I grow up. This fellow named “John” (of course) and his pal, “Big Red,” meandered through the fairgrounds, greeting folks and mesmerizing children – especially when they knelt down on the ground and actually ROLLED AWAY. Yep, a living, motorized human Transformer; if this children’s writer thing doesn’t work out, you’ll know where to find me.
    .

  9. Riding a motorcycle inside a giant metal sphere can be hazardous to your health. OK, well, I already knew this – but watching the Flying Pages Thrill Show reinforced this little nugget of wisdom.
  10. People can still be kind to one another. Considering the current climate in this over-stimulated and hyper-isolated culture we’re living in, this was a nice revelation. I saw one gentleman watch a credit card fall to the ground, and offered it to its owner, who was unaware; later that day,  a wallet was brought to the lost & found with all the credit cards and money still inside; and as a parent and young child walked past a vendor we all heard a loud sneeze from somewhere inside – and the little boy (who couldn’t have been more than 3 or 4) shouted “Bless You!” I even had a hornet land on my temple – and then fly away, without so much as a light sting. We may be finally turning a corner.
    .
  11. Artists – and all creatives – should get paid what they are worth. #Truth

    (click to enlarge)

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Flashlight Night” celebrates its FIRST BIRTHDAY in a little more than one week! Stay tuned for a special celebration post, where you could win a personally-signed copy!

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

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


  (coming Sept. 25, 2018!)

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!

Learn to draw a T-Rex w/ “Don’t Ask a Dinosaur” illustrator Louie Chin!

Want to learn how to draw a T-Rex? Then I have just the thing for you!

Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (Pow! Kids Books, 2018) illustrator Louie Chin recently visited the studios of KidLitTV in New York City, where he showed viewers his step-by-step process of drawing dinosaurs, specifically the T-Rex from our picture book. Louie breaks down the method simply, so the 5-minute video is great for both adults AND kids. Whether it’s you who wants to learn – or your child! – you’ll both enjoy watching the dinosaur come to life on the page.

My thanks to Julie Gribble and Tracey Cox at KidLitTV for featuring Louie. If you spend some time searching around their website, you’ll find all sorts of other cool videos, too…like THIS ONE with Flashlight Night (Boyds Mills Press, 2017) illustrator Fred Koehler chatting about his process for creating the amazing illustrations in that book.

Well, today is the first day back to school for my kids, and I’m sure if yours haven’t started yet they will be soon…so enjoy your week!

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

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


  (coming Sept. 25, 2018!)

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!

Poetry Friday: “(Back to) School People!”

It’s hard to believe, but summer is coming to an end and kids are heading back to school. I know some folks whose kids have already started, but the first day for my two is next Tuesday…so I thought a little excerpt from Lee Bennett Hopkins’ School People (Wordsong, 2018) would be apropos!

Edited by my  Flashlight Night editor Rebecca Davis, the book includes 15 poems about all the grown-ups that children meet at school, like the Teachers, the Crossing Guard, the Librarian, the Nurse – and of course, the person who transports the kids from home to school and back again, the Bus Driver!

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

 

It’s a beautiful book, so I hope you’ll consider picking up a copy. In fact, the local Rotary Club recently purchased 15 copies to distribute to each of the kindergartens in our district, as part of their literacy program!

For more poetry, head on over to Reflections on the Teche, where Margaret is hosting the Poetry Friday roundup with a zeno!

(What’s a zeno? Here are a few!)

And by the way, if you’re a teacher, I hope your list includes a wide diversity of books featuring authors & illustrators from all walks of life. Because your students come from all walks of life! Whether it’s silly or serious, poetic or prosaic…whether the characters are white, black, male, female, straight or otherwise…no matter who it was written by…keep in mind that students not only see themselves in the stories, they often look for themselves in the creators. Please help them find what they are searching for!

Have a great school year!

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

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


  (coming Sept. 25, 2018!)

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!

 

Poetry Friday: Embracing the roughness of rough drafts

If you’ve followed this blog for more than a few months, you know I always like to promote the concept of #WriteLikeNoOneIsReading…in other words, if we’re supposed to dance like no one is watching, then we should write in exactly the same way:  with fervor, abandon, and intensity, without regards for perfection or polish.

One need not write for the purpose of publishing, after all. Writing can be cathartic, therapeutic, and often simply fun! So no matter what it is or what it looks like, write. And if, like me, you’re writing something you do intend to have published, you can always apply some spit and polish once it’s out and on paper.

When should I write? Now. Where should I write? Here. What should I write about? Anything!

Today I’m sharing a few very rough drafts. Why? To show that not every poem is perfect upon its initial creation…and even when it’s finished, might not ever see the light of day.

Some folks I know shudder at even the thought of sharing an imperfect work, so as not to sully their name or be connected to something beneath their ability. I, on the other hand, recognize that we’re all human, we all have to start somewhere, and we’re all capable of writing really bad crap; I’m just being a little more honest about it!

Up first: a rough draft from almost 6 years ago that took nearly a month to finish. Now, considering this poem is only 6 lines long, I should have known I was belaboring the idea – but I wanted to complete it, and complete it I did. Has it gone through any more revisions? Nope. Will I be revising it anytime soon? Nope. Was it a good exercise and a good use of writing time, even if it’s not a very good poem? Absolutely!

Up Too Late

My head is so heavy;
my eyes are so sore.
I really don’t mean to be boring.

I’m terribly tired
and wish I could sleep,
but what’s keeping me up…is my snoring.

– © 2012 Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

.
I recall being extremely tired when I started this…and it certainly shows. Good for a chuckle, perhaps, but that’s about it. Oh well, at least I got my brain thinking poetically and rhythmically, and would be in a better position to work on the next poem. Because once the muscle has been stretched and used, it’ll be better prepared for more work.

Oh, and that “next” poem – “Wall in the Woods,” which I wrote just a few days later – went on to be selected by the NH Writer’s Project for display in downtown Concord, NH as part of their Poetry in Windows project!

The second poem I’m sharing – of a more adult nature – was another one that took far longer to write than it should have. And even after completing it, folks I shared it with still weren’t sure what was going on:

Envelope

Breaths
heavy as these letters
and as uneven
wait, never ceasing or easy,
as the deadline for disclosure
approaches

– © 2017, Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

To be perfectly honest, I don’t even know what I was getting at. But when it comes to rough drafts, the parts are much greater than the whole: my brain associated heavy and uneven breaths with heavy and uneven letters, it found internal rhyme with ceasing/easy and disclosure/approaches, and alliteration with deadline/disclosure. So although this poem will never go anywhere beyond this little blog, it allowed my brain to practice some poetic devices with an adult theme…and we all know what practice makes, right??

The final poem I’m sharing is one I just wrote yesterday, as a response to author/poet Laura Purdie Salas’ weekly 15-words-or-less poetry prompt on her blog, Writing the World for Kids.

Every Thursday, Laura posts a photo and a very short first draft of a poem inspired by that photo, and encourages her followers to write their own poems – which, as the blog states, need to be 15 words or less. This forces one to use word economy, but it also prevents one from feeling the intimidation of writing line after line after line. 15 words ain’t much, but they’re enough!

A round bale of hay, yesterday’s photo prompt

Hay…blankets…seasons…sustenance…these were the common themes in many of the poems that were shared by Laura’s followers. Nothing at all wrong with that, and many of them were quite good – but as you may know, I often try to find an avenue no one has gone down, so here’s my response (with a couple of extra words I added to smooth it out):

Love Goes ‘Round

You misunderstood,
I’m sorry to say –
this is not what I meant
by a “roll in the hay.”

– © 2018, Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

Not bad, not great, perhaps a bit clever – but not clever enough (or good enough!) to ever go beyond its intended role of flexing my brain. Which it did, for the 2 minutes it took me to write! But doing this sort of thing every day – writing for the sake of writing – is inherently beneficial. So please, when you have the opportunity to write, don’t worry if it’s going to be good or bad…just make sure it gets written. #WriteLikeNoOneIsReading, even if you never read it again.

For more poetry, head on over to Reading to the Core, where Catherine is hosting Poetry Friday today! Oh, and by the way…

…if you’re in the New Hampshire area and wondering how to break into the world of children’s lit, I’ll be at Bookery Manchester for a special evening discussion about writing, poetry, and the business of it all, plus a short reading and signing! It all starts at 7pm, so I hope you’ll join us!

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

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


  (coming Sept. 25, 2018!)

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!

Poetry Friday: “Flashlight Night,” reading lists, and mentor text!

Well, at this point, I’m guessing all the kids are out of school.

I say “guess” because I know some who – because of the long, rough winter – didn’t get out until the last week of June! But the first day of summer is well behind us now and we’ve had temps in the 90s all this week, which means the season is in full effect…and I couldn’t be happier to discover that a little book you might have heard about is showing up on summer reading lists across the country:

Kansas NEA Reading Circle Recommended Books

We Are Teachers

Orange County (CA) Pubic Libraries

Contra Costa County Library (CA)

Cannon School (NH)

Newton Free Library (MA)

Lexington Public Library (KY)

Abington School District (PA)

These are just a few, of course, but I have to tell you how honored and thrilled I am to see Flashlight Night alongside titles from such talented and varied authors & illustrators as Dan Santat, Dr. Seuss, Brian Selznick, Lee Bennett Hopkins, Margarita Engle, Mo Willems, and my neighbor, David Elliott.

Both Flashlight Night and Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (Pow! Kids Books, 2018) are available everywhere books are sold…and if you’d like to order a personalized signed copy, just click the links and you’ll be taken to our local bookstore, which will let me know! I’ll run down and sign it, then they’ll ship it off to you – how cool is that?

And although I discovered this 3 months late, I have to thank Jen Betton at ReFoReMo for using the book as a mentor text back in March, to show how illustrators (in Flashlight‘s case, Fred Koehler) develop pacing and plot using sparse, lyrical text. I was humbled that Jen chose our book; doubly so, because the other book she used was Joyce Sidman’s poetic Before Morning (HMH Books for Young Readers, 2016), illustrated by fellow New Hampshire resident, Beth Krommes.

Speaking of poetry, a little something for my teacher friends…
.

Standing at the Door, Mid-Summer

Cries of laughter, shouts of glee,
letters sung and questions raised.
19 names hung from a tree.
Work displayed; efforts, praised.

Heartbeats echoed loud and strong –
now life has left this barren womb.
In its place, a silent song
and bitter scent of an empty room.

– © 2018 Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

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For more poetry, please visit Tricia Stohr-Hunt at The Miss Rumphius Effect for today’s complete Poetry Friday roundup!
.

COMING SEPT. 25, 2018!

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

Purchasing personalized signed copies ONLINE? Yes, you can!

You can now purchase personalized signed copies of Flashlight Night, Don’t Ask a Dinosaur, and ANY of the books or anthologies I’ve been part of!

Just log onto my website and 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. 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 so much to all the librarians, bloggers, and parents who are still discovering “Flashlight Night!” 

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

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!