Poetry Friday: Celebrating poetry with “A Hatful of Dragons”

Today we have an old friend joining us – and I’m so happy to celebrate his first traditionally-published book of poetry!

First, a brief history of Vikram Madan:  He grew up in India where he really wanted to be a cartoonist, but ended up an engineer. After many years of working in the tech industry, he finally came to his senses and followed his heart into the visual and literary arts. When not making whimsical paintings and public art, Vikram writes and illustrates humorous poetry collections, including the brand-new‘A HATFUL OF DRAGONS’ (Wordsong, 2020), which officially in April, and the Moonbeam Award winners ‘THE BUBBLE COLLECTOR’ and ‘LORD OF THE BUBBLES’.

Welcome back to the ol’ Triple-R, my friend! It’s been a long time since you’ve been here…7 years, to be exact, which was when your self-published “The Bubble Collector” came out. How do you feel you’ve progressed or changed in these past 7 years?

Thanks Matt! Wow those 7 years went by pretty quickly. I’m definitely older, but probably not much wiser! 🙂 Back in 2013 I was still enrolled in an art school. Since 2014 I’ve been working as a full-time visual artist focused on whimsical studio-painting and public-art. On the writing and illustration side, I feel I’ve grown more by going through the process of publishing A Hatful of Dragons than working on my own. Superb editors create many learning opportunities!

(click to enlarge)

What did you learn from “Bubble Collector” or its follow-up, “Lord of the Bubbles,” that helped you with this book?

Self-publishing the ‘The Bubble Collector’ gave me a healthy respect for traditional publishing. It is extremely difficult, uneconomical, and time-consuming (for an author) to also distribute and market a physical self-published book (e-books are much easier to self-distribute). My experiences with ‘The Bubble Collector’ convinced me that if I wanted my work to reach a broader audience, I really needed to try and get my poetry traditionally published.

One has to admit, “Hatful of Dragons” is a pretty fun title for a book. What were some of the other potential titles you considered? (feel free to make these up, if you’d like – it’s just for fun!)

My working title was ‘I Met a Man With Twenty Heads’. That poem never made it into this book! Other titles we considered and rejected over time included:

  • The Panda and the Pangolin: And Other Funny Poems
  • Duel with a Mosquito: And …
  • The Slobberly Slobs: And…
  • There’s a Dragon in my Wagon: And…

None of these felt right, unique, and/or marketable.

Ironically, I was putting together my sequel to ‘The Bubble Collector’ in the background and had planned to call it ‘A Hatful of Bubbles’. ‘Hatful’ felt like a strong title so I decided to sacrifice/repurpose it and offered it up as ‘A Hatful of Dragons’. Everyone liked this new title, but now I would have to write a new poem for the book, worthy of being a title poem – talk about pressure!  Thankfully this turned out to be a fun poem to write and illustrate. (And I retitled the sequel collection as ‘Lord of the Bubbles’).

This book is very different from most of the poetry collections out there these days, not just in the tone of your poems, but because you include a lot of visual cues – like a poem missing its all of its center words, or a poem that includes a one-page cartoon strip! Did you have a plan for how you wanted the book to look, or how you wanted the poems to be constructed?

As a kid, I loved treasuries and books with variety, so I like adding variety to my own collections. And as a visual person I am always pushing the words and images around to create interesting visual experiences. When Rebecca Davis, my editor, distilled my raw manuscript into a smaller collection, the visual variety became more ‘concentrated’ and turned into a distinctive feature of this book. I hope the variety will keep kids engaged and have them reading and re-reading.

© 2020 Boyds Mills & Kane, all rights reserved; reprinted with permission. (click to enlarge)

One of my favorite poems is THE BAND-AID AND THE CHEWING GUM. Where did the idea come from?

One day I felt something sticky under my shoe, looked down and said to myself, “Oh, it’s a band-aid and a chewing gum?!” And I really liked how that phrase rolled off the tongue and thought to myself, “Hey, that could be the title of a poem!” (The rhyme pattern pays tribute to an old favorite featuring another unlikely duo, “The Walrus and the Carpenter,” by Lewis Carroll.)

Well, I’ll have to re-examine that poem! What’s one of your favorites?

This one!

© 2020 Boyds Mills & Kane, all rights reserved; reprinted with permission. (click to enlarge)

So what surprises did you encounter as you worked with editor Rebecca Davis to put the book together?

My initial surprise came when Rebecca sculpted my 150-page manuscript into a chiseled 64-page book proposal! Even then I really wanted to cram as many poems into those 64 pages as I could, but she convinced me that ‘less is more’. Over the course of this book she has been a wonderful coach, holding me to a high standard, and gently (but firmly) prodding me to ‘do better’ and exceed my own limitations. This book would not be what it is without her vision and guidance.

Indeed, Rebecca is wonderful, isn’t she? You know, back in the day, the great Jack Prelutsky was told he should give up illustrating and focus on writing – and the rest, as they say, is history. Do you feel you’re a writer first or an illustrator first?

Jack Prelutsky’s first submission to an editor was a set of illustrations, with accompanying verses he had jotted down at the last minute just so his illustrations wouldn’t look bare. The editor loved his “natural gift for verse”, took the words, and rejected his drawings. I always thought of myself as an artist/illustrator first, but last year, when my agent, Rosemary Stimola, submitted an ‘early reader graphic novel’ project to an editor, they loved the stories and took the words, but rejected my art(!). I had my own ‘Jack Prelutsky moment’ there. 🙂  I’m still trying to figure out if I’m a writer or an illustrator first, or if that matters at all.

I ask that question because you are an artist, as well as an illustrator – and I do draw a distinction between the two. Art, though, is what got you into this business, and art plays a big role in your professional life. Where do you see these two halves of your life going?

When I paint, I use a variety of mediums: oils, acrylics, watercolor, ink. Popping up a level, I guess writing, drawing, painting, public art … are all mediums I use for expressing myself. At the end of the day I’m just trying to create some positivity in the world – if people/kids enjoy my work, and it gives them a sense of delight, a moment of levity they can share, a bit of inspiration, a rekindling of innocence… I think that’s more than I can ask for.

So what can we expect next from you?

I have an Early Reader Graphic Novel series, titled ‘Bobo & Pup-Pup’ releasing in 2021, illustrated by Nicola Slater and published by Penguin Random House. Books take a long time to cook up, land, and publish so I get my shorter-term ‘creative fix’ by making humorous and whimsical paintings. I invite readers to follow my work on social media: @ArtByVikram (instagram, facebook, twitter) or visit my website www.VikramMadan.com .

Well, thanks for visiting, Vikram, and good luck!

Thank you for featuring me Matt– it’s always a pleasure!

My pleasure, my friend!

And to my readers:  we have a GIVEAWAY!

Just leave a comment below and you’ll be entered in a drawing to win a free copy of A Hatful of Dragons, courtesy of publisher Boyds Mills & Kane. Good luck!

It’s Poetry Friday – so if you’re looking for more poetry links & fun, stop by Tabatha Yeatt’s little home on the web, The Opposite of Indifference, for the complete roundup and an entreaty for “Acceptance.”

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

For some time now I’ve been wanting to help my educator and parent friends with educational videos geared to understanding poetry, and now my “Wit & Wordplay” videos, as I call them, are available on my YouTube channel! These videos focus on poetry: how to write it, how to appreciate it, and tips on having fun with it. There are several ready for viewing, and more are on the way – so be sure to subscribe or check back often!

You can view them all on my YouTube channel, and I also have several downloadable activity sheets at my website. If you think any of this information might be useful for someone you know, I hope you’ll share.

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

Pre-orders are available now!

In stores Aug. 18, 2020!

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

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

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


     

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

Just click the cover of whichever book you want and send the good folks at MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH a note requesting the signature and to whom I should make it out to. (alternatively, you can log onto my website and do the same thing) They’ll contact me, I’ll stop by and sign it, and then they’ll ship it! (Plus, you’ll be supporting your local bookseller – and won’t that make you feel good?)

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

Thank you to everyone for your support!

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

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

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

Poetry Friday ROUNDUP: “Construction People” arrives…Madness Poetry Round 1 voting ends today…AND a “Night Wishes” Sneak Peek!

Wow, what a busy day today! It’s Poetry Friday and there’s so much going on, I can’t wait to tell you…

First of all, Round One voting in the nation’s largest bracketed children’s poetry competition, Madness! Poetry, is underway…and wraps up TODAY!

As of this writing, a mere 1/10th of a percent separates us, so it’s a nail-biter among nail-biters! 

Please vote for your favorites! Voting ends at various times this afternoon, but my matchup with Laurie Kaiser closes at 5:15pm EDST, which means there’s not much time left to cast your vote. BUT…if you do vote, please vote for your favorite, even if it’s not mine.

In case you don’t know, each pair of competitors (or ‘authletes’) is given a specific word; we then have 36 hours to write a children’s poem using that exact word. Voting then takes place, and whoever wins their round moves on to the next, much in No photo description available.the way that the NCAA’s March Madness works. Eventually, one winner will be crowned champion and receive “The Thinkier” trophy!

Laurie and I were given the word “submerged,” and came up with two very different poems – so please check out our matchup (and all of them), and thanks so much for supporting children’s poetry!

(AGAIN: Voting ends at 5:15pm EDST Today)

Feeding into this “poetry madness,” so to speak, is the fact that Construction People (Wordsong) arrives next Tuesday, March 17! It has always been an honor to be part of a Lee Bennett Hopkins anthology, and to be included in 3 of his final 4 books (Lee passed away last August), is truly a blessing.

(click to enlarge)

Construction People is a follow-up to 2018’s School People, which featured poems about all the grown-ups a child meets at school. In this new book, there are poems about all the folks involved in building a skyscraper, from the architect to the carpenters, from the elevator installers to the plumbers!

But I have to admit…when Lee asked me to write a poem about the construction project manager, I was a bit leery. Where was the fun, the pizzazz, the cool sounds and energy and imagery one would expect? But once I did some research and realized how stressful – and integral – the position is, I knew I could do it. As for the structure of the poem, I knew it needed to be a villanelle, with its tall, skyscraper-like shape and almost obsessively repetitive lines. I hope you like it!

One of my favorite poems is Lee’s…although I’m not sure if I like it because it’s a wonderful poem, or if it’s because it was one of my friend’s last published poems:

(click to enlarge)

Construction People arrives everywhere this coming Tuesday!

In other news…

Another of Lee’s last anthologies has a publishing date! In addition to Construction People (Wordsong), which comes out next week, have you heard about Night Wishes (Eerdmans), which arrives this fall? I just learned from the publisher that we can expect to see it in stores everywhere Sept. 15:

As a child falls asleep, all the inanimate objects in her room wish her “good night” in their own, special ways:  the mattress, bookshelf, rocking horse…all of them offer their words through 14 poets, myself included. (In fact, you’ll notice my “Pillow” is even included in the official description!)

Here’s just a little taste of what to expect…

I wish I could share the rest of the poem, but we’ll all have to wait until we get closer to the publication date, Sept. 15! It’s such a beautiful book, I can’t wait for you to see it. Pre-orders are available now, though, so don’t let me stop you from clicking the links, ha!

Thanks so much for visiting the ol’ Triple-R! Please leave your links and news in the comments below and I’ll round them up old school-style throughout the day…

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

Speaking of new books…have you pre-ordered yet??

In stores Aug. 18, 2020!

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

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

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


     

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

Just click the cover of whichever book you want and send the good folks at MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH a note requesting the signature and to whom I should make it out to. (alternatively, you can log onto my website and do the same thing) They’ll contact me, I’ll stop by and sign it, and then they’ll ship it! (Plus, you’ll be supporting your local bookseller – and won’t that make you feel good?)

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

Thank you to everyone for your support!

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

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

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

Poetry Friday: “Where You Find It”

Last week, the Windows OS on my computer decided to stop working – and I found myself suddenly dead in my tracks. Granted, I can write without a computer – but I can’t record my voiceover work, maintain my income & expenses, or do a myriad other things! After a week in the shop, I’m happy to say it’s back up & running, albeit without any of the programs, bookmarks, or 4,972 passwords that were stored. And with a month full of school visits and tax time coming up, I’m more behind than ever! So I thought I’d reach back exactly FIVE YEARS AGO and dust this little gem off and share it today.

Hope you like it!

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

Where You Find It - graphic
(click to enlarge; photo courtesy Katherine Esenwine)

For all of today’s Poetry Friday happenings, visit this week’s hostess, Cheriee, at Library Matters…she’s bragging about Vancouver poets and has a spotlight on Avis Harley today.

Please be sure to come back next Friday, when I share my interview with David L. Harrison about the process behind his brand-new children’s poetry anthology, After Dark: Poems About Nocturnal Animals (Wordsong, 2020). I’m very excited to be part of the official blog tour – which means I’ll have a FREE COPY to give away!

Speaking of new books… have you pre-ordered yet??

I’ve teamed up with several other children’s authors to promote our upcoming books this year! And there are a LOT of them – including six in February alone:

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

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


     

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

Just click the cover of whichever book you want and send the good folks at MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH a note requesting the signature and to whom I should make it out to. (alternatively, you can log onto my website and do the same thing) They’ll contact me, I’ll stop by and sign it, and then they’ll ship it! (Plus, you’ll be supporting your local bookseller – and won’t that make you feel good?)

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

Thank you to everyone for your support!

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

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

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

Poetry Friday: Winter morning haiku

(click to enlarge)

I took this photo yesterday morning as I was walking outside, across the street from our house. When I saw the sun glinting off the ice-touched trees, I knew I had to capture it – and of course, write something to go along with it!

In case you haven’t heard, we have a cover reveal coming for that picture book written with Charles Ghigna (aka, Father Goose®)! We were so thrilled when editor Naomi Krueger at Beaming Books contacted us last year to tell us she wanted to sign a contract! The book comes out August 18, and illustrator Andrés F. Landazábal’s soft, colorful imagery is beautiful. Tara Lazar, world-famous picture book wunderkind and children’s lit cheerleader, will be hosting the official cover reveal on her blog Feb. 10, as soon as she wraps up this year’s Storystorm – so don’t miss it!

What do school kids and possums have in common? Poetry Friday! My friend Kathryn Apel is hosting today’s Poetry Friday roundup at her blog, Kat’s Whiskers, and shares two poems about each of those subjects!

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

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


     

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

Just click the cover of whichever book you want and send the good folks at MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH a note requesting the signature and to whom I should make it out to. (alternatively, you can log onto my website and do the same thing) They’ll contact me, I’ll stop by and sign it, and then they’ll ship it! (Plus, you’ll be supporting your local bookseller – and won’t that make you feel good?)

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

Thank you to everyone for your support!

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

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

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

Poetry Friday: My very first poetry collection…from 40 years ago

Today’s the day.

After months and months and months of cleaning out my parents’ house – the house I grew up in – it is finally being sold.

By the time you read this, we may have already closed the sale, in fact. It’s bittersweet, as there are a lot of memories inside and out…but considering how long it has taken me and how much work it’s been, I’m glad to be able to put this chapter behind me.

Boxes of letters mom and dad exchanged while he was stationed in Germany in the early ’50’s.

Mom and dad are now both together in the local nursing home, and if you have frequented this blog at all during the past 16+ months, you know that cleaning out a house filled with 60+ years of married life has been a long, arduous process dotted with sporadic bursts of nostalgia, amazement, and melancholy. (See a few random posts HERE, HERE, and HERE) Being an only child has meant no sibling-squabbling about who gets what…the problem is, I’m the one who gets it all, and I have no idea where to put it!

Now, granted, I have found lots of things I had completely forgotten about.
Like my high school artwork…

…news clippings…

 

…and assorted mementos from my senior year…

So having found these lost relics, I’m glad I had the opportunity to peruse the museum warehouse home before it was sold. I’m also fortunate to have been able to revisit my “hideout,” a small area of woods just outside the boundaries of our lawn, where more than one adventure transpired:

(If you wonder where I got the idea for “Flashlight Night”…this is likely the spot)

But one of the most surprising things I discovered hidden away among the childhood drawings…

…the models…

…and the toys…

Boxes and boxes of original, late ’80’s-era McDonald’s Happy Meal toys!

…was a little book (if I may call it that) I didn’t even realize existed! I estimate I was probably around 10 years old when I produced this little poetry collection for my mother. Honestly, I don’t even remember writing poetry at this age, so this really took me by surprise:

That’s right…only 4 pages, and one of them is a full-page display ad promoting my next book. If I knew anything at that age, it was how to market. (By the way, speaking of marketing…)

Up until now, I thought my first “book” was a high school creative writing class project I also discovered while cleaning, but apparently I had been publishing years earlier and had completely forgotten. So as bittersweet as it is to say goodbye to my childhood home, I do have some memories, poetry and artwork – and a 50-year-old bottle of Mercurochrome – to hold onto.

Time for me to put all this memorabilia away for now. 2020 is looking like a banner year for Yours Truly, with as many as FOUR books coming out along with a poetry anthology, so I’ve got plenty to keep me busy. I’ve also got several other manuscript submissions to get to before I hunker down and begin this year’s cookie-baking marathon.

So enjoy your weekend, and please encourage your kids to pursue their interests and dreams…one never knows where those dreams will lead! If you’re looking for more poetry, my friend Liz Steinglass, with whom I presented at NCTE last month, is hosting Poetry Friday today with her “favorite word!”

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

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

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


     

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

Just click the cover of whichever book you want and send the good folks at MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH a note requesting the signature and to whom I should make it out to. (alternatively, you can log onto my website and do the same thing) They’ll contact me, I’ll stop by and sign it, and then they’ll ship it! (Plus, you’ll be supporting your local bookseller – and won’t that make you feel good?)

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

Thank you to everyone for your support!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   

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

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

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

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


     

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

Just click the cover of whichever book you want and send the good folks at MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH a note requesting the signature and to whom I should make it out to. (alternatively, you can log onto my website and do the same thing) They’ll contact me, I’ll stop by and sign it, and then they’ll ship it! (Plus, you’ll be supporting your local bookseller – and won’t that make you feel good?)

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

Thank you to everyone for your support!

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

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

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

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

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

And the latest edition is out now!

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

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

© 2018, Matt F. Esenwine, all rights reserved

.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


   

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

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

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

Thank you to everyone for your support!

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

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

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

Poetry Friday: We have a winner! Finding poetic treasures within “Finding Treasure”…

Before we get to all the found poetry that’s been pouring in – and before we announce our winner of a free book! – I have some exciting news to share…

Click the cover to vote!

Thursday afternoon I was astounded to learn that Flashlight Night (Boyds Mills & Kane, 2017) has been shortlisted as a finalist for the New Hampshire Literary Awards – and voting for the Reader’s Choice Awards ends in TWO DAYS, Sat. night Sept. 28, at midnight! So if you’re a NH resident and you feel my little book is worthy, I’d appreciate you clicking THIS LINK and voting. Thank you!

It really is an honor simply to be included on a list with other Granite State authors and poets like Eric Pinder, Jessica Purdy, former NH Poet Laureate Patricia Fargnoli, and fellow BM&K author Sandra Neil Wallace. So please vote for your favorites!

Now, then…

Two weeks ago, I spotlighted Michelle Schaub and her brand-new poetry collection, Finding Treasure: A Collection of Collections (Charlesbridge, 2019) – and offered a PERSONALLY-SIGNED COPY to one lucky winner.

And boy, oh boy, a lot of people are hoping to be that lucky winner!

All one needed to do to enter the giveaway was share a found poem based her poem, “Collecting Stars:”

A “found poem” is simply a poem that uses the words from one source – like a magazine, newspaper, book, etc. –  to create a poem. So in this case, readers took the words from Michelle’s poem and re-created them into new poems of their own. I shared several of the poems last Friday, so here are the newest ones:

Around the Yard

flashes in darkness
the dance of starlight
floats free

– Kathy Mazurowski

.

untitled

sparks dance
and beckon
embers glow
sparks float
free
good-bye

– Kathleen L. Armstrong

.

Embers

Specks of light
spark and dance
I watch them float free
when darkness deepens

– Michelle Heidenrich Barnes

.

untitled

darkness deepens
purple sky
sparks of starlight
way up high

sky festooned with
dancing light
colors pulsing
dazzling sight

– Cheriee Weichel

.

Star Collecting *

They come
When darkness deepens
A reminder to share

My own
Sparks of starlight
With tender care

Absorb, release them
to the night

Heart-carry
into morning’s light.

– Linda Trott Dickman

* (Matt’s note: while not a ‘found poem’ by definition, it still gets an “A” and an entry!)

.
untitled

Come fill a mason jar
Come so

To catch and watch
The darkness glow…

I know it’s hard
It’s free, though…

– © Karen Eastlund, 2019

.

and because this has been such a fun exercise, another one from Yours Truly…
.

Captured

Specks of light dance and glow;
beckon,
…..come!

The yard, a jar they fill.

Stars catch us…
and watch.

– © 2019, Matt F. Esenwine

.

According to the trusty Random.org website, our completely randomly-selected winner is…

LINDA BAIE!

Congratulations, Linda! Thanks so much for submitting your poem last week, and I’ll be sure to get your book in the mail asap. In the meantime, if anyone is still looking for more poetry (and who isn’t?) Carol Varsalona at Beyond Literacy Link has today’s complete Poetry Friday roundup!

The “Finding Treasure” Blog Tour concludes today at Jama’s Alphabet Soup!  ALSO: Be sure to check out Michelle’s brand-new poetry/literacy-focused blog!

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

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: Michelle Schaub’s “Finding Treasure” interview & GIVEAWAY!

Michelle Schaub, author of Fresh-Picked Poetry, A Day at the Farmers’ Market (Charlesbridge, 2017), has a brand-new collection of poems coming out this Tue., Sept. 17 – about collections!

Michelle and I first met way back in Oct. 2013 at a Highlights poetry workshop. We were both in the very-early stages of our careers at that point, so it’s been interesting to see how our experiences have differed up to this point. And now that she has another new book coming out, I thought it was about time I asked her to visit the ol’ Triple-R!

First of all, thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me, Michelle! I have to say, I’m so happy to see you with not one, but TWO poetry collections to your name. Knowing where both of us were six years ago, how would you say your writing – and career – have developed? Are you writing differently, approaching the craft differently?

Thrilled to be here, Matt! And thrilled to follow your writing successes also, especially the recent news about your upcoming book with Charles Ghigna, Once Upon Another Time (Beaming Books, 2020). Congratulations! Speaking of “another time,” I can’t believe that Highlights workshop was six years ago! When I headed off to the conference, I was just starting to tinker with a set of poems about farmers’ markets, but I really didn’t know how to put together a poetry collection. In the subsequent year it took me to write and revise Fresh-Picked Poetry, A Day at the Farmers’ Market, I learned a lot, not only about different poetry forms, but about stringing poems together to create a collection with an arc and flow.

What did you learn about children’s poetry early on – either at the workshop or elsewhere – that you feel has been most helpful?

Children’s author David Harrison, who was the guest teacher at the Highlights poetry workshop, was a superb mentor.  He taught me that less is more with children’s poetry. I came to David with these long, detailed poems about farmers’ markets. Brandishing his pen, David deftly slashed unnecessary descriptions but spared strong verbs and specific nouns. He taught me how to make my poems work in tandem with illustrations.

Now about this new book. It’s a poetry collection about collections! How did you come up with the idea, and how did you go about putting the poems and book together?

The idea first arose when I was participating in Tara Lazar’s Storystorm a few years ago.  In this challenge, writers come up with one new picture book idea a day for the entire month of January. Toward the end of the month, running low on ideas, I started looking around my office for any brainstorm sparks. My eyes landed on a row of seashells on my bookshelf. I’d saved them from my grandmother’s shell collection. Hmm, seashells. Collections. What else do people collect? Coins. Keys. Baseball cards. Could I write poems about those things? Would kids even be interested in collection poems?

Then I remembered that my town’s library has collection display windows in the children’s department. When my own children were younger, they signed up to showcase their own prized objects in those windows. The waiting list was two years! Those display windows are still filled each month, and the waiting list is still long. I started noticing that other libraries have collection displays also. This led me to believe that I’d have an audience for poems about the time-honored hobby of collecting.

Michelle also “collects a variety of styles and forms in her collection, as witnessed by this spread, one of my favorites!

I guess every idea has to come from somewhere! So once you knew the subject, how did you figure out how to connect the poems?

When I started writing the poems, I knew I needed something to hold the collection together and entice readers to turn the page. So, I came up with a narrative arc. A child is given a school assignment to bring in something she collects for show and tell. The only problem: she doesn’t collect anything!  The child searches for the perfect collection by consulting family, friends, and neighbors, who share their collections through poems. By the end of the book, the child has discovered the perfect collection. It isn’t “pebbles, shells, or twigs… or quirky whirlygigs,” but it is something that brings her joy. Can you guess? Read the final poem in Finding Treasure to see if you’re right!

People always ask me this question, and it’s impossible to answer…so I’ll ask you! (ha!) Do you have a favorite poem or spread in the book?

That is a tough question! Carmen Saldaña did such an amazing job with the illustrations in Finding Treasure that I’m in love with each spread. However, I think my favorite might be the one for the poem, “Collecting Stars.” In this poem, after searching for a collection all day, the child heads outside to try and collect fireflies. I love how Carmen captured the cozy glow of the fireflies against the starry sky.

That IS a beautiful spread – reminds me of my own yard! Now, I recall you mentioning to me that when doing final revisions for Fresh-Picked Poetry (also from Charlesbridge), a poem about heirloom tomatoes didn’t make the cut. Anything get axed for this book?

There is one poem that didn’t make the cut for Finding Treasure. It was called “Curious Collections,” about strange things people collect. While I was researching ideas for the book, I came across some pretty bizarre collections, like toenail clippings and dust bunnies, which I included in this poem. I thought the illustration for the poem could show the protagonist searching on the internet for collection ideas. Ultimately, my editor at Charlesbridge, Karen Boss, and I decided that we wanted to focus more on collections that were positive and unique, but not strange. So “Curious Collections” was replaced with “The ‘Gist of Collecting,” which is about items that scientists collect in the name of research.

By the way, I’m constantly being asked how to get into children’s publishing…and other than the standard, “practice the craft, learn the market, develop contacts” answer I usually give (which is a pretty concise, honest answer), do you have any words of wisdom you’ve gleaned from the past several years?

Since you started this interview by mentioning Highlights Workshops, I’ll end on that note. I think attending a Highlights Workshop is a phenomenal way to hone your craft and connect with other writers. After all, that’s how we met!

Well, thank you again for visiting, Michelle, I really appreciate it! Oh, and I was very humbled and honored to see you had dedicated the book “To Matt, my treasure.” I opened up the book and saw that and nearly started crying.

Ha, Ha. Yes, the book is dedicated to Matt Schaub. My husband. (Not the football player.) But you are a treasure, too, Matt!

Oh, ok! Well, thank you, anyway – I’ll try not to take it too hard. But I do appreciate you stopping by, and wish you the best! (And if you like Michelle’s book, I have a signed copy to give away…)

What have I been collecting? Well, lately…these.

Since Michelle’s book is about ‘collecting’ things, I thought it might be fun to ‘collect’ some poems from her “Collecting Stars” poem, above! If you want to enter the contest, just leave a found poem here in the comments, or email me your poem at matt(at)mattforrest(dot)com. In case you don’t know, a “found poem” is simply a poem one writes by taking the words from one source and rearranging them into something new. So your poem doesn’t need to be long – or even any good! – it just needs to include only words from Michelle’s poem, above.

You only have 2 weeks to enter, as I’ll announce the winner by a random drawing on Fri. morning, Sept. 27 when I share all the poems here on the blog. The winner receives a PERSONALLY-signed copy of Michelle’s book! How cool is that?? Good luck, and I’ll be looking forward to seeing your poems!

The “Finding Treasure” Blog Tour continues this month:

This Writing Life – Sept. 16
The Grog – Sept. 18
Picture Book Buzz – Sept. 20
Jama’s Alphabet Soup – Sept. 27

ALSO: Be sure to check out Michelle’s brand-new poetry/literacy-focused blog!

.

It’s Poetry Friday! Looking for more poetic posts? Then be sure to stop by Laura Purdie Salas’ blog, Writing the World for Kids, where she hosting today’s roundup with a celebration of the release of HER new poetry collection!

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

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!

 

Popular vulgarity, treasure maps, and the invincibility of youth: Observations from the state fair , Vol. VIII

Ah, yes, it’s that time of year again: fair season!

As the official PA announcer for our local state fair, I learn a great deal about life, the world around us, and overly-fattening foods, and try to share these little nuggets of wisdom with you each year. In past blog posts, I’ve shared various enlightening aspects of the fair, from pet camels and poop hats to dinosaur costumes and battered savs. This year, a whole slate of new, surprising things:

  1.  Ice cream’s earliest beginnings date back to pre-Christianity.
    (click to enlarge)

    The fact that both Alexander the Great and Nero Caesar enjoyed a frozen treat now and then somehow imbues their histories with a tad more humanity, don’t you think? I can just imagine the two of them walking down the pathways at the fair, sharing a funnel cake, arguing over whether Hawaiian Ice is superior to a Sno-cone. (It is, in case you’re wondering)

  2. When you spend 4 days doing nothing but walking and talking, your legs will eventually start crying ‘Uncle.’ My wife checked my phone’s Health app at the end of my first day, Friday, and discovered I’d walked 25,000 steps – or, in other words, NINE MILES. In just the first day. Consequently, I ate as much fair food as I wanted and after four days, I had a net weight gain of zero. Score one for the Fried Oreos.
  3. No treasure map is worth this much trouble. The Pirates of the Colombian Caribbean Aerial High Wire Thrill Show balanced and battled atop the high wire, sword-fighting and jumping around, each trying to steal the map from the other. I would’ve said, “Oh, THAT map? The one 50 feet in the air? It’s all yours, my friend, I’m good.”
  4. Accept what is offered to you. This is doubly true when talking about fried dough.

    “All toppings are included in the price, sir.” “In that case, I will take all the toppings, thank you.”
  5. All teenagers believe they are invincible; some, apparently, are. A long-standing tradition here at the fair is the demolition derby, a two-day event that runs both Sat. and Sun. evenings. Contrary to what you may think, there is a great deal of strategy and skill required for driving, and a solid knowledge of how to put the cars together in such a way that they hold together as long as they can while getting smashed to pieces. (One also needs to know how to put them BACK together in time to run a second round!)
    .
    This past weekend, a young fellow who knew his way around cars decided to enter the derby for the very first time. He put his car together according

    You’ve got to admit, that front end looks pretty good, considering it went through TWO heats.

    to all the rules and regulations regarding weight, welds, tire specs, etc., and drove the thing himself. His family and friends teased him a little beforehand, knowing he’d never been in a derby before and knowing he was going up against veteran drivers and crews who had been doing this for 20+ years.

    He beat them all, and took home $2000 and a trophy the size of a small child. Oh, and did I mention he’s only 16 years old?

  6. I want to be a Transformer when I grow up. Or a tree. 
  7. Am I the only one who doesn’t understand why vulgarity is so popular? Everywhere I turned, it seemed, I was being bombarded with T-shirts containing words that start with “F.” I’m all for free speech and free expression, but what kind of thought process goes on inside the brain of someone who decides the very best thing they should wear out in public, in front of hundreds of little children, is a shirt emblazoned with ‘that’ word on it? I mean, I’m not a prude and I’m not trying to censor anyone…but seriously, can’t people censor themselves??
  8. It may be a fun, family-friendly event, but tension can sometimes run high. When I saw this scene up in the grandstand tower, all I could think of was that Willy Wonka quote…

    “The suspense is terrible. I hope it’ll last.”
  9. One can microwave an i-phone for 20 seconds without causing any adverse effects. This was something I inadvertently learned after I had come home from the fair on the third night. I was holding a freshly-made sausage sub, several papers, my sunglasses, and my cellphone all together and needed to set them down. I certainly didn’t want one of the dogs to eat my dinner off the kitchen counter, so I set the sub down in the microwave, since I was going to need to warm it up a bit, and put my papers and glasses aside for tomorrow.
    .
    I turned the microwave on for 20 seconds and when it beeped, I opened up the door – and stared in absolute horror. There, underneath the sub, was my cellphone! In my haste, I’d left it there…and had no idea what to expect. It was a bit hot, and I worried (I wouldn’t say I panicked, really, even though “panicked” is absolutely the most precise word to use) that it was a lost cause and had gone to that great Apple orchard in the sky. But I pressed the button, it turned on, and has been working fine since! Not only that, but the sub was just the right temperature, so it turned out to be a happy ending for all involved. And by “all,” I mean me.

I can’t believe I’ve been announcing for 10 years now, and I still find new things that surprise and astound me. Have you ever been surprised at something you witnessed at the local fair? I’d love to hear about it – leave me a comment!

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

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!