Poetry Friday: A Paint Swatch Poetry Prompt

If you’ve been paying any kind of attention to this blog the past couple of weeks, you know how inspiring my visit to the Highlights poetry workshop was. And you’ve probably seen a couple of the short “practice poems” I wrote while I was there, using writing prompts like #PopsiclePoetry and The Word Garden.

Well, I’m not through yet!

Today I’m sharing a little light verse I wrote as part of a writing prompt using paint swatches – you know, those colored cards you get from hardware stores that show the name of the paint and what it looks like when dry? In this case, attendees were handed a random card and asked to write a poem using either the name of the paint or the color itself as inspiration.

Always eager to tackle a challenge head-on, I opted for…both. The paint, named “Bamboo,” was a light, creamy-chocolate brown, with hints of gray. Keep in mind, these poems were for inspiration and practice, so I only had about 15 minutes or so to write them. These are not polished, perfect pieces of poetic preeminence; rather, they are quick, unpolished responses to writing prompts.

The first poem that came to mind was based on the name:

Bamboo

One day I brought the jungle home
and laid it on the  floor.
Smooth and firm beneath my feet,
I vowed to find some more:
a chair, a table, window blinds,
outside to the veranda.
I marvel at its beauty, but
feel sorry for the panda.

– © 2018 Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

I was running out of time, so my second poem, based on the color itself, was even shorter:

Life

Cappuccino, latte, chai,
tall or extra-venti –
I’m happy when my cup is full
but sad because it’s empty.

– 2018 Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

I have to say, this was really a fun prompt! So try some #PaintSwatchPoetry yourself sometime, and see what comes of it. You can find more poetry (much more polished, too, I might add) at Today’s Little Ditty, where Michelle H. Barnes is hosting today’s Poetry Friday roundup! But go easy on her, as it’s the Friday after the U.S. elections and she might still be a bit…umm…jittery. 😉

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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 Facebook, InstagramPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Poetry Friday: Found Poetry from The Word Garden

I told you I was going to share the little stone-poem I put together at the Highlights Foundation poetry workshop I attended a couple weeks ago…and today I’m keeping my word.

Now, first of all, if you have not had a chance to read my ‘review’ of the workshop that I posted on Tuesday, I hope you will take some time to read it. Not only will you better understand what the Highlights workshops are like and why I highly recommend them, but you will hopefully better understand how this poem came about.

As I mentioned in that post, there are hundreds of smooth stones in a small garden near the main building known as The Barn, and each stone has a different word carved on it. These stones are available for visitors to play with and create short phrases and “micro poems” (click to enlarge):

 

Aside from the fact that this is a really cool idea in and of itself, what makes it even more special is that each of these stones is a river rock taken from the creek that runs through the property…the very creek you see displayed in my blog’s header, above.

So while I was there with the other workshop attendees, I saw a few stones that caught my attention and began scouting around for others that I might be able to use. I would think of an idea, not find a stone with the word I needed, but then would find another stone with a word I hadn’t thought of, and then would need to figure out how to get those word stones to work with each other.

After 10 or 15 minutes, I had come up with something I liked:

As you can see, even when crafting poems with rocks, enjambment plays a crucial role in my process. In my mind, emphasis and pacing are just as important as the words themselves. (click to enlarge)

So there you go! Nothing too elaborate or earth-shaking, just a little wordplay to conjure up some imagery and exercise that imagination. If you’re looking for more substantive poetry, I encourage you to visit Jama Rattigan at Jama’s Alphabet Soup, where you’ll find a virtual pre-election rally underway – along with today’s complete Poetry Friday roundup!

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BOOK SIGNING THIS SUNDAY!

I’ll be 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 starting at 2pm signing books including DINOSAUR, FLASHLIGHT NIGHT, SCHOOL PEOPLE, and the new National Geographic book, THE POETRY OF US.

And to make the event even cooler, the town’s road agent will be on hand to chat with kids about snowplows…AND he’ll bring one of the town’s snowplows with him so the kids can climb inside! (Cool, right???)

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 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!

Poetry Friday: Celebrating summer…in October!

You’ll have to forgive me as I’m a wee bit exhausted, having just gotten back home from a 5-day workshop sponsored by the Highlights Foundation at Highlights’ location in Honesdale, PA. Rebecca Kai Dotlich and Georgia Heard led a group of children’s authors and poets, Yours Truly included, along a journey of inspiration and education, and my brain is still trying to digest it all! It’s been 5 years since I attended one of these workshops – which I highly recommend – and I’ll be sure to provide a review of the experience here, sometime in the next couple of weeks, once I’ve recuperated.

Fortunately for me, Carol Varsalona just unveiled her newest poetry/photo gallery last week, The Art of Summering, and I’m proud to have 4 poems included! So today I thought I’d share her gallery, as it’s been a lot of work for her and she has once again outdone herself. I do hope you’ll spend some time enjoying the photography, artwork, and poetry by many of our Poetry Friday family members.

Still need more poetry? For today’s entire Poetry Friday roundup, please visit my friend Brenda Davis Harsham at Friendly Fairy Tales!

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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: “Last Autumn”

This poem was first shared on Oct. 25, 2013 – about a week or so after I returned home from my very first Highlights Foundation workshop. If you have never attended one, I highly encourage you to do so; they are as inspiring as they are educational.

I’m re-posting this poem today not only because we are approaching fall (the first day of autumn is one week from today!), but because I just learned this week that I will be attending my SECOND workshop next month – with Rebecca Kai Dotlich and Georgia Heard. I’m so excited to see them, my Flashlight Night editor Rebecca Davis, and so many others who will be attending!

This poem was one of many inspired by my time there in Honesdale, PA. I hope you like it….

IMG_9185
photo courtesy of Pat Cooley

“Last Autumn”

Do you remember
when we almost got lost
down by the creek
near that old stone wall?
It all started with an apple.

One of us (I don’t recall)
had twisted the season’s last McIntosh
from a withered branch.  Sharing
small bites, we ate
all the way around
save for a dark blemish where something wild
and hungry
had gnawed its flesh.

Tossing the core deep into woods
we ran across the field
for no reason
other than to run
and laughed
for no reason
other than to laugh.

When we finally reached the creek
(were you first, or me?)
remember how we spent our time
dodging briars
walking the rocks
and making sure neither fell onto the slick
smooth stones beneath
the glassy current?
Table Rock, we called it, flat and mossy
under a beech tree rose
up to meet yellowing leaves
wind chimes
dancing
to a silent song.

I helped you onto the stone
or perhaps you helped me
and we sat there
talking of fish
and books
and apples
while the call of a lone wood thrush
made melody with the water.
For a time, we simply listened
because our ears wanted to
watched
because our eyes needed to
and before we knew, color had disappeared
from leaves,
the warm October breeze had cooled,
and Venus was peeking out
from behind pale sunglow.

Not sure how we had gotten there
but knowing enough to follow the creek
I helped you
or you helped me
down from the rock
and we wandered back
retracing steps
under trees, over stones
only this time
as friends
confidantes

conspirators.

And it all started with an apple.

Do you remember?

– © 2013, Matt Forrest Esenwine

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For all of today’s Poetry Friday happenings, please visit The Poem Farm, where my friend Amy Ludwig VanDerwater is hosting the roundup. I also hope you’ll check out my review of the local state fair, where I work each Labor Day Weekend…between death-defying motorcycles and poop-emoji plush hats, it’s always a learning experience!

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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!

The strange, surreal, and oddly exhilarating feeling of holding one’s own book

I just spent this past weekend in Springfield, MA, at the 2017 NESCBWI conference, chatting with fellow children’s writers and illustrators, learning from others in the business, and even getting to have a spur-of-the-moment dinner with former U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate Kenn Nesbitt, who happened to be in the area, Friday night.

So imagine my surprise and delight when I finally got back home after three exhaustively long days, and found this in my mailbox!

(click to enlarge)

I knew the poem was going to be published this spring, but had no idea which issue until I heard from a couple of friends they’d seen it last week…so I was thrilled to receive a couple of contributor copies so quickly!

And as happy as I was about that…it didn’t take long for my friends at Highlights to make me even happier

I opened up a second, much larger and heavier, envelope, and discovered THIS inside:

(click to enlarge)

That’s right, my first copy of my first book – from Highlights’ book publishing division, Boyd’s Mills Press!

I had shared the F&Gs (folded & gathered pages) last week, but it was an entirely new experience actually holding the complete book in my hands and flipping through the bound pages.

(click to enlarge)

I am so honored by the work that illustrator Fred Koehler and the book designers at Boyd’s Mills Press have done…and so grateful to my editor, Rebecca Davis, for her support of my manuscript and the entire project!

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

Pre-orders are available now by clicking the image of the cover to the right, or if you prefer, you can wait til Sept. 5 and purchase it at your favorite local bookstore!

(Someone pinch me…)

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You still have a few days left to enter my month-long writing challenge, “Poetry…Cubed!” which is based on the premise of the TV show “Chopped!” on The Food Network. 

  • Use the 3 images below as inspiration to write a poem – any form, any genre, any number of lines, rhyming or not. Remember, it doesn’t have to be very good- the mantra around here is to #WriteLikeNoOneIsReading! This is all about having fun and spurring creativity.
  • The only hitch is that you need to include a reference to all three images in the poem – either via concrete imagery or something more abstract.
  • PFAC-front-cover-Nov-30-WEB-jpeg-705x1030Then email your poem to me at Matt (at) MattForrest (dot) com and I’ll share them here on Fri., April 28. Out of all the poems submitted, one lucky writer will be chosen at random to receive a copy of the Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations (Pomelo Books, 2015).

Ready? Here are your three images (click on any to enlarge):

                 

(All images courtesy of Katherine Esenwine

There are only a few days left, so send your poem in to Matt (at) MattForrest (dot) com by Thur., April 27!

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ALSO: Irene Latham‘s annual Progressive Poem continues! Each day throughout April a different person adds a line until we have a complete, 30-poet poem on April 30!

I’ll be adding mine in a couple of days, but you can follow along now and watch the progress; here’s the schedule:

1 Heidi at my juicy little universe
2 Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference
3 Doraine at Dori Reads
4 Michelle at Today’s Little Ditty
5 Diane at Random Noodling
6 Kat at Kat’s Whiskers
7 Irene at Live Your Poem
8 Mary Lee at A Year of Reading
9 Linda at TeacherDance
10 Penny at a penny and her jots
11 Ramona at Pleasures from the Page
12 Janet F. at Live Your Poem
13 Margaret at Reflections on the Teche
14 Jan at Bookseedstudio
15 Brenda at Friendly Fairy Tales
16 Joy at Poetry for Kids Joy
17 Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect
18 Buffy at Buffy’s Blog
19 Pat at Writer on a Horse
20 BJ at Blue Window
21 Donna at Mainely Write
22 Jone at Jone Ruch MacCulloch
23 Ruth at There is no such thing as a godforsaken town
24 Amy at The Poem Farm
25 Robyn at Life on the Deckle Edge
26 Renee at No Water River
27 Matt at Radio, Rhythm and Rhyme
28 Michelle at Michelle Kogan
29 Charles at Poetry Time
30 Laura Purdie Salas at Writing the World for Kids

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A peek inside the mind of a writer

Ever wonder what it’s like inside the mind of a writer? Here’s a glimpse into mine:

The Secret Place
The book that started me on the path of poetry back when I was 6 or 7 years old…I loved this book! (Still do!)

I write a random poem.

I like it, but soon realize there’s a serious error, so I rewrite it.

In the course of rewriting it, I write another.

Once these are done, it occurs to me I could send them to a magazine, although submitting a third poem to go with the first two would be ideal.

I write a third poem, but it’s not about the subject I thought it was going to be.

It occurs to me that these three poems, all of the same theme, might be more appropriate if collected together with some previously-written poems in a picture book collection. I wonder if I can write a fourth poem about the same theme.

I write a fourth poem.

Once I organize all the poems – these and the previously-written ones – into a thematic manuscript, I realize I need more poems to fill it out.

I write a fifth poem.

Upon adding it to the manuscript, I realize the theme is wrong and have to pull poems out and put new ones in, basically completely revising an previously-compiled, unpublished collection.

Satisfied with the theme, I decide to try writing a sixth poem about that theme.

I write the sixth poem.

At this moment in time, I only need to write three more poems to complete the manuscript. I’m working on one now.

Whew!

The amazing thing to me is that all of this has taken place over the past 4 weeks…so considering the volume of my output this month, either I’m getting much better at writing or I’ve completely lost my ability to self-criticize. I’m hoping it’s the former, as I still feel I’m my own worst critic!

But let this be a lesson: Never, ever, ever, lock yourself into the frame of mind that you can’t edit, revise, or rewrite something. Honestly, I’m not a fan of rewriting, as I like the happy, content feeling one gets from lifting up the pen; who doesn’t, right? However, if there is something about the poem or story I’ve written that just doesn’t feel right, I cannot live with myself until I’ve fixed the problem.

It might take walking away and coming back to it in a few minutes. Or hours. Or days.

Or even weeks.

One poem literally took me a year and a half to write – but it got written, and written the way it was supposed to be written. Unfortunately for me, it’s one of those types of poems that everyone seems to love but no one knows what to do with. But that’s my problem, not the poem’s. It needed to be written the way it needed to be written.

Exciting news in the year ahead

I have a number things I’m very excited to share with you – and all these things are bouncing around inside my head, as well. I’ll have poems in five different anthologies being published this year, and one will be in an upcoming edition of Highlights magazine. Three of the books are due out this spring and one is due this fall.

I also have high hopes for a picture book manuscript I wrote this past year. It’s one of those types of things that just came to me; I wrote it over the course of a week, revised the following week, and I do believe it might be the best manuscript I’ve written to date, so we’ll see if it gets picked up!

Speaking of said manuscript, it’s the same one that helped me receive the New England SCBWI’s inaugural Marguerite W. Davol Picture Book Critique Scholarship for pre-published authors! For details on what that is, feel free to check out this past Friday’s post, where I explain it in greater detail.

Cybils-Logo-2014I’m also excited to be a Second Round Judge in The annual CYBILS Awards, where the finalists have been announced! I’ll be working with fellow judges Renee LaTulippe, Linda Baie, Laura Shovan, and Diane Mayr to trim our list of seven fantastic children’s books of poetry down to one winner – and this year it’s going to be a tough one, there are so many great books!

Whatever your goals, stick to ’em!

I wish you great success for 2015, whether it’s professional or personal. Remember, the act of setting goals, while necessary, is not as important as following through with those goals. It’s the difference between saying you’re going to do something and actually doing it.

Whatever it is you want to accomplish, take action and do something each day to move you toward the end result. Some days I don’t get a chance to write, sad to say. I’m a stay-at-home dad with a voiceover business and my hours are precious and few. But there’s not a day that goes by that does not include me either emailing someone about writing, reviewing my own writing, reading an article about writing, or even simply reading a book to my kids.

I’ve been writing for what seems like forever, but did not get serious about becoming a children’s writer until 2009. Since then, I have slowly gained traction – improving my skills, networking, and learning the craft. I have met wonderful people, befriended nationally-acclaimed writers and editors, and developed a base of friends and supporters like you through this blog.

I appreciate you helping me attain my goal. I hope, by reading this, I can help you attain yours. Success requires both talent and tenacity – one of those in a much higher quantity than the other.

Have a Happy New Year, and thank you for being a part of mine!

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Cybils-Logo-2014-Rnd2Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!

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

Too busy writing…to write

So, what does a writer do when he or she is too busy writing to find the time to write?

That is the unusual situation I have found myself in lately.

Edgar-Allan-Poe - WWPD
What Would Poe Do? On second thought, let’s not even go there…

As someone who has been working hard for several years to become published in the world of children’s literature, I have been able to balance my personal life (taking care of the house, taking care of the 2 kids, being a hubby to my beautiful wife, and trying to squeeze in some “me” time where I can) with my professional life (writing poetry and picture books while running my voiceover business).

Well, this year has proven to be my busiest year yet – primarily because my children’s writing is finally getting me somewhere!

In addition to having a poem included in Lee Bennett Hopkins’s upcoming board book anthology, Lullaby & Sweet Kisses (Abrams Appleseed, Spring 2015), I will have three children’s poems in Carol-Ann Hoyte’s anthology, Dear Tomato: An International Crop of Food & Agriculture Poems, due early next year; another in an upcoming edition of “Highlights” magazine; and yet another one in an upcoming anthology due next fall.

PLUS…I recently submitted several poems for consideration in another anthology, submitted a half-dozen or so to various magazines, and am in the process of writing more poems for submission to two other anthologies. Oh, and I have three picture book manuscripts I’m currently shopping, as well.

I’m pretty sure these are my children.

Did I mention I’m trying to run a voiceover business?

Or that I have a couple of kids and a wife?

(At least, I think I have two kids. I’ve been so busy lately, my wife might’ve given birth for a third time and just not had the opportunity to fill me in.)

I’m writing this now not to make myself appear any more special or important than anyone else…because I’m really not. Plenty of people around this world do far more than me, do far better work than me, or are much more important than me. My wife, in fact, is one of them. But I am sharing this with you just to give you an idea as to why I may or may not post as regularly (on Tuesdays) as I have been.

I have some really exciting, informative posts I plan on sharing at some point, too – a couple of book reviews, some children’s literature news, some voiceover info – but I just can’t get to any of that until I complete the projects I have before me. As I said, I’ve been working towards the goal of becoming published for years, and now that I’m getting busier and busier, that goal is starting to feel like it may, indeed, be within reach.

I want to try to be consistent with this blog – but ultimately, my children’s writing needs to be written before anything else gets written.

And I have to say, even though it’s a difficult position to be in, it’s one I really don’t mind!

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

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

Interview with children’s poet David L. Harrison

Last October, I had the opportunity to spend a week with David Harrison and 14 other children’s writers at the Highlights Foundation’s children’s poetry workshop, “Poetry: For the Delight of It.” Although it’s taken several months to post, it’s my pleasure to finally be able to bring you this online conversation David and I had, following the workshop!

David headshotDavid Harrison’s first book for children, The Boy With a Drum, was released in 1969 and eventually sold over two million copies. In 1972, David won national recognition when he received the Christopher Award for The Book of Giant Stories.

Since then, David has published over 90 books that have sold more than 15 million copies and earned numerous honors!

He has been anthologized in more than 100 books and appeared in dozens of magazines and professional journals, and his work has been translated into twelve languages and presented on television, radio, cassette, and CD-ROM.

David’s SKY HIGH ON READING program was the International Reading Association’s nationwide winner in 2001. The Missouri Librarian Association presented him with its 2007 Literacy Award for the body of his work.

In the last 25 years, David has been a speaker, featured author, or presenter at nearly 300 state, regional, and national conferences in 30 states, and maintains a blog to let readers know what he’s up to and encourage them to write their own poetry.  David holds science degrees from Drury and Emory universities and honorary doctorate of letters degrees from Missouri State University and Drury University. He has an elementary school named for him and is poet laureate of Drury. He lives in Springfield, Missouri with his wife Sandy, a retired guidance counselor.

Learning through Poetry

Perfect home

First of all, I’d like to thank you, David, for finding the time to do this interview; you’re a busy man! Tell me about some of the highlights (no pun intended!) of what you’ve been up to this past year.

Pun accepted, Matt. It’s kind of you to interview me for your blog. Thanks for asking. In the spring, Shell Publication introduced a set of five books that I co-wrote with Mary Jo Fresch, a professor at OhioState. Collectively the books are called Learning through Poetry. I wrote 96 poems for the series and Mary Jo created classroom activities based on them.

A picture book called A Perfect Home for a Family came out with Holiday House and a kit called Let’s Write this Week with David Harrison was introduced by Phoenix Learning Resources. The kit contains twenty 5-minute DVD lessons, a teacher’s guide co-written with Drury University’s Laurie Edmondson, twenty copies of a student writing journal, and three of my books that were used as examples in the text. PiratesI was in Texas, Boston, and other places to present at conferences and enjoyed conducting another poetry workshop at the Highlights location in Pennsylvania.

A definite highlight was when my book of poems, Pirates, was selected by MissouriCenter for the Book to represent Missouri at The National Book Fair in Washington, D.C. this past fall. I didn’t make the trip but am told that about 200,000 others did.

Speaking of the Highlights workshop, it was a pleasure to finally meet you in person, after having spent so much time chatting on your blog and via Facebook.  What do you feel your role is, as a writer, mentor, blogger?

Mostly I’m a writer. On days without other obligations I work at being a writer from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. This involves numerous activities besides working on a manuscript. My blog takes some time. So does keeping up with correspondence, preparing for workshops, keynotes, and presentations. I also work with various literacy groups and my wife and I travel quite a bit. My rule of thumb is that I will respond to general queries from writers who ask for how-to information but stop short of reading their work. I do critiques as part of a workshop environment, and this year I agreed to be the Missouri mentor for SCBWI.

With so many people trying to break into the world of children’s publishing, and with so many posting their work online via Facebook, personal blogs, or other outlets (Yours Truly included!), do you think it’s difficult for the average reader to differentiate between ‘good’ material and just ‘average’ material? It seems like the less that poetry is being published traditionally, the more it’s popping non-traditionally, and it’s getting hard to keep track of it all!

It’s a good news bad news situation. Thanks to the Internet, many more books and poems are now available to a reading public. Some of the material is wonderful, some is horrid, and the vast majority – as usual – falls somewhere on the slope between the peak and valley. The freedom to publish one’s own work can bring enormous satisfaction. Finding readers is difficult without the traditional support of print publishers, but that’s the tradeoff.

Long term? More poets publishing more poetry for more readers seems like a good thing to me. My assumption is that the good stuff will eventually be recognized for its quality and most of the rest will remain fairly anonymous except for the happy poet and his/her immediate circle of family and friends. Not a bad thing!

Cows (David L)Dog (David L)Grubb (David L)Glaciers (David L)

What advice can you offer aspiring authors and poets? And what do you think aspiring writers need to do, that perhaps they may not be doing?

Beware of advice from duffers and codgers. Back in my day, we had to write our stories in the dirt with our fingers. We had to carry our manuscripts all the way to New York because we couldn’t afford stamps. Editors breathed fire and their breath smelled of coal. I’ve never had much useful advice to offer, Matt. Getting good at anything requires approximately the same approach be it volleyball or be it making it to Carnegie Hall: practice.

If Malcolm Gladwell is to be believed, it takes 10,000 hours of it. I think what makes the craft of writing more difficult than many realize is that it’s a highly competitive profession in which practitioners are often self-taught. It’s like completing a four-year college major on your own. So set up realistic goals. Celebrate small successes of any kind. And write! Write every chance you have. Try different genres. Experiment. But write. Practice, practice, practice.

And of course, read, read, read – it’s one of the best ways to learn! Which leads me to my next question. We all have favourite authors who somehow exert their influence on us, even if we don’t want them to; who are your favourite poets or authors, and how has their writing affected yours?

I like E. B. White’s beautifully written essays, his book on the elements of style and, of course, his books for children. He’s the master of the language. I love Frost’s musings and Elliot’s cats and Collins’s approachable eloquence. I began writing short stories back in the day so I read a lot of Hemingway, Steinbeck, Updike, Bruce Friedman, Kurt Vonnegut, and Terry Southern. I have loved the novels and stories of Joan Didion, Barbara Kingsolver, and Annie Proulx. Among the writers of children’s literature who inspire me, the list would be long and I would fear leaving out someone by oversight.

So who or what inspires you?  And who do you trust for feedback on your writing?

By training and by nature I love nature. I’m happy watching geese take off from the lake behind our house, as I did during this interview. Wild creatures inspire me. I love children but am rarely moved to write something that has been inspired by them. I find my ideas in unexpected places and believe it’s because some part of a writer’s brain is always receptive to the possibility of turning nothing into something. I work alone and don’t want anyone to see my manuscript until it’s ready. Then I take it to my wife Sandy. She has always been my first reader. She’s honest and I need her to be.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

By the way, you are the only person I know to have a school named after them! How did that come to be? 

The Superintendent of our school district called one day to tell me that 40+ names had been submitted by the public for an under-construction elementary school and I was among the final three candidates. He called back sometime later to congratulate me and invite me to a school board meeting to make it official. When the school opened, I was asked to give the opening talk to the student body (K-4), its teachers and staff, and various officials of the district. My family came as well as Kent and Jody Brown (of Highlights Foundation) who flew in from Pennsylvania to honor me with their presence. My speech was put into a time capsule. In the front hall on either side of the library entrance a collection of my work was placed on display for three years in two sixteen-foot long glassed cases.

David Harrison Elementary School cost $10 million to build in 2009 and rests on seventy-two acres. Click HERE to visit their website!

You are also the only one I know who has provided inspiration for a playwright; your poetry inspired Sandy Asher’s school plays, Somebody Catch My Homework and Jesse and Grace: A Best Friend’s Story.  How did these works compare with your originals – and is it even fair to compare them?

Somebody Catch My HomeworkSandy and I have been close friends and writing partners for a long time. For the play, Somebody Catch My Homework, she went through my published poetry and folders of poems-in-waiting and fished out a group of fourth grade characters to form the basis of a play. I love it, of course, and sit up straighter each time an actor in the play steps forward, as though to sing but, instead, recites one of my poems. The play has been a success both here and elsewhere.

Jesse and Grace was also Sandy’s brainstorm. In this case she and I became fourth graders, lifetime friends, who take turns presenting our thoughts in a series of poems. Jesse and Grace have a serious spat and we had to work through it all by expressing our feelings as if we had no idea what the other might be thinking. When it came time to turn the book manuscript into a play, I turned down Sandy’s kind offer to co-write it with her. She’s a wonderful playwright and I’m not. That was her department.

Jesse and Grace went on to receive one of the most prestigious awards in the world of children’s plays, the Distinguished Play of the Year presented by Alliance of American Theatre and Education.

I think it’s important for all of us to be willing to try new things, and that’s what you did two years ago when you published Goose Lake: A Year in the Life of a Lake, an eBook of poetry for adults.  What spurred you to publish this book, and what did you learn from the process?

Goose LakeGoose Lake was something I needed to write. I spend time every day I’m home gazing through the windows or sitting outside watching the comings and goings of an endless parade of birds and creatures. I showed the manuscript to a couple of editors and got some of the most enthusiastic replies about my work that I’ve ever received. But their answers were no. Too local. Too mature. Too eclectic.

I decided to try this e-book thing to see what it was all about. Thus, a collection that appeals to me greatly now lives its lonely life on Amazon and B&N. For a mere 99 cents you can be a proud owner! Is there anything about “lonely” that you need me to explain?

Ha, no…as a poet, we’re all supposed to be lonely and sullen, with dark, tortured souls, right??  Hey, before we wrap up, I need to ask you: what are you working on now?

I just finished the poetry for a new series of three grade level books. What remains are the final revisions to call it a wrap. I’m well into a new collection of poetry for a trade publisher. A recently completed collection of poems is now scheduled for publication although it won’t be until 2016. With Mary Jo Fresch I’m at work on a new proposal for another educational publisher. I have other ideas in various stages and expect this to be a busy year.

Boy w-Drum (David L)Well, thank you again, David, for sharing your time and thoughts…and best wishes for a wonderful 2014!

And thank you again, Matt. I’ve enjoyed it.

To learn more about David, log on to his website here or visit his blog!

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

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