Poetry Friday: Birthday poem “Her Green World”

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This photo was taken a couple of weeks ago when my wife and I took our two kids to Quechee Gorge, Vermont – our local “Little Grand Canyon,” as they call it.

It’s a nice place to hike, explore, get wet, have a picnic, or just relax. At one end of the gorge rock ledges jut out of the earth as the Ottauquechee River smooths; folks can meander around carefully and take a dip in the water. At the other end is the dam that keeps all the river water under control, where you can see the waterfall (some days more exuberant than others) and take a stroll along the upper river – which is where this photo was taken.

I should mention that I wrote this poem with my youngest daughter in mind, not only because she’s in the photo, but because her birthday is coming up in just a couple weeks, so I thought it might be a nice early birthday gift for her.

I also need to wish the great Percy Bysshe Shelley a posthumous Happy Birthday, as he was born on this very date, Aug. 4, 1792; his poem, “Ozymandias,” is one of my favorites, and is one of the reasons why I started learning to write poetry – and specifically sonnets – in high school.

Donna Smith at Mainely Write is hosting Poetry Friday today, so head on over to check out all of the day’s links and fun!

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“Delicious language…ingenious metamorphoses” – Kirkus Reviews

“Balladic verse” – Publisher’s Weekly

“Imaginative…fantastical” – ALA Booklist

“Beautiful words and amazing illustrations” – Michelle Knott, Mrs. Knott’s Book Nook/Goodreads

Flashlight Night (Boyd’s Mills Press) hits bookshelves Sept. 19, 2017! Pre-orders are available now through Barnes & NobleAmazon, or Books-a-Million, or by clicking the image of the cover to the right. Of course, if you prefer, you can always wait til Sept. 19 and purchase it at your favorite local independent bookstore.

Thank you for your support – and stay tuned for details about the big September Blog Tour and book signings that are coming up!

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Poetry Friday: “Downtown at Taylor Park”

This post was originally published Aug. 9, 2012 and was the first children’s poem I ever shared here. I was going to do this last week, in honor of my 401st post, but I decided to share some major news instead! So this week, I’m reaching into the time capsule and re-sharing this; not just because it was one of my first blog posts, but because it was also one of my very first children’s poems I ever wrote. Hope you like it!

(By the way, Mary Lee is hosting Poetry Friday today – so be sure to visit her at A Year of Reading, as well!

Last Friday, I kicked off my participation in Poetry Friday with an Elizabethan sonnet I wrote for my wife as part of my wedding vows.  She has been so helpful and supportive to me in my quest for publication in the world of children’s literature, I felt it was the perfect poem to get things rolling.

Today (our anniversary, ironically), I’m spotlighting a poem I wrote for two other people to whom I owe the deepest gratitude for not only supporting me, but constantly inspiring me:  my two daughters.  Interestingly, it was actually written long before I even knew I wanted to be published in the world of children’s literature.

Now, it may be comprised of only two stanzas, but this poem was a long time coming.  I originally wrote it in the spring of 1999 while watching the girls (ages 7 and 4 at the time) playing at Taylor Park in St. Albans, Vermont.  Taylor Park is the quintessential New England town square, full of lush green grass, tall maple trees, and a big water fountain.  It so happened that, on this day, as I watched my daughters running around being kids, the first stanza just came to me.

I had already had a few adult poems published independently at this point, so writing poetry was nothing foreign to me; writing children’s poetry, though, was unfamiliar.  Not knowing what to do with these two little couplets, I wrote them down when I got home and read it to the girls and their mom.  They liked it, but I felt like I was giving Lauren, my eldest, the spotlight and leaving poor Katie out of it.  I wasn’t sure how to include her, but I kept thinking about it, figuring something would eventually hit me.

It did.

A little over a year later, we were at the park again and I was mulling lines and phrases over in my head…when it dawned on me that even though Katie was playing with her older sister nicely, she was playing differently and seemed to have a different frame of mind.  That was all it took to figure out the angle I needed and bang out the second stanza.

But because no poem is ever good enough, I went back to it a couple years ago and tweaked a couple words here and there.  That’s what writers are supposed to do, right?  Revise, revise, revise??

Well, I think it’s pretty well set now.  I hope you like it!  And if you ever find yourself in northwestern Vermont, take a drive through downtown St. Albans…and maybe you’ll find inspiration, too!


Downtown at Taylor Park

Lovely Lauren, little daughter,
fishing in the fountain water,
looking for a leafy fin –
leaned too far and tumbled in.

Katie-Bea was fishing, too,
doing what her sister do.
Closed her eyes and made a wish…
don’t know how, but caught a fish!

– © 1999 Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

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Flashlight Night (Boyd’s Mills Press) hits bookshelves Sept. 5, 2017!

Pre-orders are available now through Barnes & Noble and Amazon, or by clicking the image of the cover to the right. Of course, if you prefer, you can always wait til Sept. 5 and purchase it at your favorite local independent bookstore.

And thank you for your support!

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

Revelations from the state fair, Vol. V

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

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

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

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

So what nuggets of wisdom did I glean this year?

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

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

    dino-1
    Yes, even dinos need ID.

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

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

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

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

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!
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To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)
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Are you doing your best – or everything else?

Yesterday, I read an article about McDonald’s Corp. that got me thinking about how I approach my voiceover business – and life in general.

ID-100188772 (burger)It appears that the burger chain is losing customers. Why? Because people aren’t eating burgers anymore? Nope. Because people are eating healthier these days? Not really.

The reason Mickey D’s is losing customers – particularly at lunch – is because they have been working aggressively at building up their beverage offerings to compete with Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks.  The article explains that while the fast food giant has been creating multiple beverage stations, hot and cold coffees, latte’s, frappés, milkshakes, and smoothies…beverages are not the reason McDonald’s core customers patronize them.  In other words…

Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks are not your competition, McDonald’s.

Know your competition

It should come as no surprise to anyone (other than the company’s execs, apparently) that McDonald’s’ competition is other burger joints:  Burger King, which is offering the Angry Whopper, BBQ Pulled Pork sandwich, and sweet potato fries; Wendy’s, which has a huge hit with their Pretzel Bun Burger; or even Taco Bell and their Doritos tacos. What new product is McDonald’s promoting right now?

Chicken wings.

News flash: KFC is not your competition, either, folks.

So what does this mean to the rest of us?

Know your strengths

Whether you’re a restaurateur, a salesperson, a voice artist, or a writer – whatever you do for a living – you have to know your strengths.  You need to know what it is you do best and who it is you need to do it for; otherwise, you’ll be trying to attract the wrong customers and giving the customers you do get a likely inferior product. (Did I mention McDonald’s is serving chicken wings?)

Personally, I would love to voice movie trailers. Unfortunately for me, my voice lacks the gritty, hard-edged quality that most movie trailer voice actors have. So I’m content to voice commercials, corporate narration, and on-hold messaging. Having started out acting, I have voiced a number of characters over the years – from a pre-Colonial American soldier to a lumbering, digital super-villain – so I’m happy to lend my talents to documentaries, museum recordings, and audio dramas.

But movie trailers…I’m just not seeing it happening.

DSCF2068 (Mic - Katie)That’s ok, though, because I’m not wasting my time auditioning for gigs I have no chance of winning. Being a voice actor, children’s writer, and stay-at-home dad to two kids under the age of 4, time is precious to me.

Trying to make myself appear to be something I’m not by offering something I’m not 100% capable of doing well does a disservice to the prospective client as well as to myself.

Know your limits

When I was younger, I auditioned for everything: trailers, audio books, TV commercials. I never sent in auditions I thought were sub-par, but looking back on it now I realize many of those auditions were probably tossed after 5 seconds of listening; I just wasn’t cut out for many of those gigs!

Likewise, as a children’s writer, I specialize in poetry. I like the compact, succinct little vignettes and stories that poetry allows me to create.  I’ve written about a half-dozen picture book manuscripts, but for now, I do not see myself writing any middle-grade novels or YA (Young Adult) fiction.

For one thing, I can’t imagine being able to sit still long enough to write that many pages just to get my story out. For another, I don’t think I’d be able to keep the plot, characters, or settings straight.  Some people have told me writing poetry is a lot harder than writing a chapter book. I have no idea if that is true.

I also have no intention of finding out!

Know when to stretch yourself

When I say we need to play to our strengths, I’m not implying that we shouldn’t step outside our comfort zone(s) now and then. Otherwise, how would we grow?

There’s nothing wrong with testing the waters now and then.  If you’re a voice actor, try auditioning for a role that might be a stretch, if you think you can pull it off. If you’re a prose writer, see what happens if you try to write some poetry. Maybe it’ll be awful…maybe it won’t be half bad. But at least you’ve pushed yourself and can learn from the experience.

It’s when you start spending an inordinate amount of time outside your area of expertise that things may start to falter.  It’s great to develop new clients and new things to offer…but not at the expense of losing your old clients.

Unless you don’t mind losing your old clients.

Sometimes growth requires pruning

ID-10079994 (cellphone)Just like cutting the branches off a large tree helps it to grow and be healthy, the same might be said about your business.

Verizon, which started off as a landline telephone company, realized there were less headaches and more money in wireless communications. So they eventually sold all their landline services and became a strictly wireless provider. In this case, they expanded what they were doing, realized there was a more profitable way of doing it, and totally changed the focus of the company.

But you’ll notice, they didn’t start selling computers, TVs, and all sorts of other equipment. They continued offering phone service – just a different type of phone service.

They knew their strength was communications service, not communication devices – and they knew their competition was AT&T and Sprint, not Apple and Samsung.

Assessing my life

As previously mentioned, I’m a voice actor, children’s writer, and stay-at-home dad. I’m also a husband, neighbor, friend, indoor soccer player, and parishioner. How am doing with these? I’m not sure.

There’s more I could do to build up my business. I don’t write as much as I’d like. I never feel like I spend enough time with the family – even though I’m with the kids all day long. And those other responsibilities? I wish I could be better at those, too.

Sure, it’s a juggling act. But it’s also a juggling act I created myself. I do the best I can, and if the day comes when I find I’m just not fulfilling my obligations in one of those areas, something will have to go.  I can tell you, it certainly won’t be the family.

For now, I’m doing my best, playing to my strengths.  If I ever get to the point where I’m not doing my best, I’ll need to reassess my life.

Although, for the record, I still don’t see any movie trailers or chapter books in my future!

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

Slowing down and catching up

This past weekend, my wife, my son, and I attended my wife’s family’s annual 4th of July cookout.  It’s amazing the things you learn and discover when you’re not constantly up each other’s arses on Facebook and Twitter.

ID-10016558 (BBQ)Before I go any further, I should explain something. This is a BIG shindig. Family, extended family, and friends all get together to hang out, have fun, and eat tons of food. I’ve been to more than a few family functions in the past, but this has got to be the biggest one each year.

How big?

There aren’t just hot dogs and hamburgers. There’s also barbecued chicken, pulled pork, hot & sweet sausages, steak tips, chicken wings, and smoked ribs. And those are just the meats.  There’s a pool, a horseshoe pit, a bounce house for the kids, and requisite beer-pong tournament.

This year, they even rented a Porta-potty!

Like I said…it’s a big party. Which is why I found it so surprising – and refreshing, really – to be able to learn so much from my own family members.

Social media ≠ real socializing

While many of the folks in attendance keep up with each other via social media, several don’t. And the ones who do – Yours Truly, included – are not living every moment of our lives to find out what everyone else is doing everyday.

Now and then I’ll see a Facebook post from someone, and perhaps I’ll comment, perhaps not. Often I miss a good deal of what’s going on because, to be honest, I’ve got a lot going on in my own life.

facebookNot to sound selfish or anything, but I’m so preoccupied with my voiceover business, my writing, taking care of my 3-year-old son, taking care of the house/gardening/firewood/landscaping/etc., and trying to be a good husband to my pregnant, ready-to-pop-any-day-now wife…I honestly twitterdon’t have the time to notice that my step-cousin Susie has posted another duck-lip selfpic or that Uncle Fred finally had his bunions removed.

So being able to enjoy true socializing was like a gift. I was able to relax Pinterestand chat with one or two people, snack on some food, and have a drink, then start another conversation with someone else and have some more food.  (Food figures prominently at this soirée – and in my life, for that matter)

soundcloudAnd by engaging in real, old-fashioned human interaction, without the distractions that come with socializing online, I was not only more focused on what people were talking about, I was also able to enjoy it much more. I wasn’t being interrupted by pop-up ads, I wasn’t checking emails and bank accounts while trying to skim through my Facebook news feed, and I wasn’t finding intriguing news stories that pulled my attention away from my work.

I discovered quite a bit, too.

“You did what?  When?  Where?  Wow!”

I learned that my uncle-in-law (not sure if that’s a real designation, but we’ll go with it) purchased and rebuilt a classic motorcycle which he turned into a trike. However, he left the rear wheel of the motorcycle on – meaning the trike actually has three wheels in the back. Which, I suppose, makes it a quad. Kinda, sort of.

I had a chance to catch up with a second cousin who recently graduated college, who told me a 7-year-old boy she was babysitting tried to hit on her. Not hit her…hit on her.  At 7 years old, all I wanted was a new Tonka truck. Apparently they start young, these days.

I also learned that another relative has started a new job that has tremendous perks; that the rules of horseshoes need to be altered slightly if you want the game to end before sunrise; and that Jello shots pack significantly more punch when they’re made entirely with vodka and no water whatsoever.

Oh, and all that cutting, splitting, and stacking cordwood I’ve been doing is paying off, it seems. While standing in my swimming trunks chatting with my wife and her sisters, one of them asked if I had lost weight. I said I didn’t know; it was possible, with all the outdoor work I’ve been doing.

I thanked her, of course – then immediately began to wonder what type of home improvement project is best for one’s abs.

ID-100177455 (floating ring)
Somewhere…an inner tube is calling you.

Relax, recharge, refocus

Could I have learned these things via Facebook or Twitter? Sure – at least some of them. Although my uncle isn’t online, Jello shots are hard to do on Google+, and since I don’t post shirtless photos of myself on Facebook, I doubt anyone would have ever noticed my muscular, chiseled, near-godlike physique.

But having the opportunity to slow down and leave the electronic distractions behind was not only enjoyable, it was necessary. Hopefully you can find the time to slow down and catch up with the people close to you this summer.

Just like the batteries in our devices need to get turned off and recharged now and then, we need that, as well. That’s why, although I’ll be working through this week doing my voiceover work and writing my children’s poetry, I’ll be on a semi-hiatus, so to speak.

I’ll be spending more time readying the nursery for baby #2’s arrival in August and spending more time with my wife over the weekend – just the two of us, with no distractions. I also will not be posting a new blog entry next Monday.

I do have the urge to go out and cut down more trees, though.

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Did you like this post? Find anything interesting somewhere in this blog? Want to keep abreast of my posts?  Then please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right! (I usually only post twice a week – on Tue. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day!)  Feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter or Facebook.

Poetry Friday: “Francis and the Saint”

When I’m not writing children’s poetry, writing advertising copy, or writing my blog, I’m writing adult poetry.  Sorry, those two words together – “adult poetry” – just sound weird…but I just don’t know how else to differentiate it from all my children’s poetry.  In last Friday’s post, I made reference to poets being stereotypically sullen and depressed, and while this doesn’t really describe Yours Truly, I do like to put on my Serious Hat now and then and write poems for an older crowd.

This happens to be one of those poems.

It’s a very personal poem (of course, they all are, aren’t they?) – because I wrote it about my wife’s paternal grandfather, Francis.  She and I were very close to him, and we asked if he would be the Best Man at our wedding in August 2008.  He accepted, but unfortunately passed away that spring, before he was able to fulfill his duties.  A deeply religious man, a devout Catholic, he felt a strong connection to his patron saint, St. Francis of Assisi, and he always believed that my wife and I found each other because of his prayers.

Considering the crushing emotional difficulties she and I had gone through with our respective divorces, and the fact that we stumbled upon each other so quickly and strongly, we had every reason to believe it, as well.

Imagine the irony, then, that this poem – written two years after Francis’ death – would end up being published by St. Francis College’s Assisi: Online Journal of Arts & Letters.

Sometimes, things just have a way of working out.

Francis and the Saint

Grandfather loved his birds.
They weren’t really his, of course –
flying to him from the trees and bushes,
out of the sky above, from behind
houses
lining the cobblestone,
and in-between
awnings and light posts.

Alighting upon his shoulder
or a finger or two
never outstretched
nor enticing,
they must have sensed
safety, security,
calmness of mind.

He attributed that to his namesake
the deacon,
the patron saint
the one who gave what he had
built what he could
and became rich in poverty.

And now, as grandfather’s birds
return to him
this final time
from behind the clouds
and rain-soaked pillars,
sparrow, robin, wren
descend,
perch upon his bed
and grandfather
in quiet requiescence
smiles.

© 2010 Matt Forrest Esenwine

If you’d like, you can view the entire issue which includes my poem here.  And Poetry Friday hostess Violet Nesdoly has today’s complete roundup!