The importance of avoiding luck

I have a confession: I hate the game of Monopoly.

Actually, I don’t hate the game itself – I just hate playing it. I used to like it, when I was a kid: all the property I got to amass, the colorful cards I got to collect, the buildings I could put up.

And truth be told, all that money-changing was pretty good math practice.

But here’s the problem: I rarely won. And it’s not that I’m a sore loser or anything. It’s just that no matter what I did or how I tried to play the game, a single roll of the dice would inevitably upend my entire game – and I became frustrated.

As an adult, I now realize that for all its real-life street references and corporate wheeling-dealing…Monopoly is ultimately a game of chance.

And when it comes to relying on luck, I suck.

Talent can be learned, skill can be developed

If it’s an endeavor that requires skill – whether it’s Trivial Pursuit, soccer, or writing – I have no problems. I can learn, I can develop, I can compete…and hopefully succeed a few times. Even card games like poker or rummy, which are based on the luck of the draw, require at least some skill in determining how to play each hand.

I’m ok with that.

My problem is having to rely on pure luck to help me win. If I have to do that, I lose, every time.

Let’s see if we can find a common theme, shall we?

1) When I first began doing voiceover work, I learned about the industry through attending workshops, corresponding via LinkedIn groups, and connecting with others already ID-10084724 (Mic)in the business. I paid attention to how I was delivering lines and would redo them if I felt they weren’t exactly right. I set up a website and began marketing myself.

I would audition and audition and audition, and continually try to get better and better. After a few years of doing small gigs, I eventually got to the point where I was providing voice work for places like HBO Comedy, Muzak, and Symantec.

2) When I decided to make a concerted effort to go beyond my adult poetry and become a published children’s writer, I looked around for information on how to make that happen.  A friend suggested joining an SCBWI (Society of Children’s Books Writers & Illustrators) writer’s group, which I did. I also went to SCBWI conferences, took tons of workshops, and went out of my way to meet as many established (and developing) writers and poets as I could, via Facebook and Twitter.

I wrote, wrote, and wrote…and strove to get better. Eventually, I connected with folks like Lin Oliver from SCBWI, poetry anthologist Lee Bennett Hopkins, editor Rebecca Davis of Boyd’s Mills Press, and Charles “Father Goose” Ghigna, who all encouraged me in their own ways. Between this year and next, I’ll have 9 poems in 7 boyds logodifferent publications (books/magazines), and my debut picture book, Flashlight Night (Boyd’s Mills Press), has a planned Fall 2017 release date.

3) As you may recall me mentioning a few times here, I tore my ACL (among other things) in my right knee a little over a year and a half ago. I had been playing soccer, and took a wrong turn and completely ripped the knee ligaments apart. Following my reconstruction surgery in March 2014, I spent the next 12 months doing rehabilitation – stretching, flexing, bending, turning – with plans of getting back on the field.

It wasn’t until earlier this summer I was able to play again (just some friendly rec games to start out), but I still took it easy, making sure I knew how my knee was going to handle the stress. Each week I played I could feel the knee and leg getting better, and now the last two games I’ve played I’ve had more confidence in running and cutting, better ball control, and have even scored 2 goals in 2 games.

You don’t need to be a genius…

…to understand the thread running through these three scenarios.

None of them had anything to do with luck!

I got the HBO Comedy gig because the producers liked my audition the best out of all the others.

I’m back on the soccer field because I spent over a year exercising and prepping.

And I signed my book deal with Boyd’s Mills Press because a) the editor thought my manuscript was well-written, b) I had developed a relationship with that editor over the previous three years, and c) I had initially met that editor courtesy of an introduction by Mr. Hopkins, whom I had met a year earlier and who became a mutual friend and confidante.

Luck…has been nowhere to be found in any of this.

No good without the bad

I read the audition script exactly the way the producers wanted it to be read. I took the time to rehabilitate my knee over the course of a year-plus. I made the effort to learn about the children’s literature world, and tenaciously kept writing and submitting manuscripts.

I don’t see where luck had any role whatsoever. Sure, one could say I’m lucky I didn’t tear my other knee, or that I’m lucky I came across Mr. Hopkins or Ms. Davis. But that’s not really true.

ID-10056952 (soccer ball)If I’m going to assume I was blessed with good luck, I need to recognize the existence of bad luck, as well. If my latest picture book manuscript doesn’t get picked up, is that bad luck? If I fail an audition, is that bad luck? If I succumb to some other injury of the soccer field, is that bad luck?

Of course not. These things happen. Manuscripts get rejected, auditions get passed over, and wives beat their husbands senseless if they injure themselves one more time.

Oops – sorry, that last one is just my personal situation.

Seriously, though – if we are going to recognize that good luck and bad luck have roles in our lives, what’s the point of trying to make things better? We’ll never know how much good luck or bad luck we’ll have, we’ll never know when one of them is going to strike, we’ll never know if what we succeeded at or failed at was our own fault or just “dumb luck.”

Most of us, I’m sure, will say we owe whatever success we have to hard work, determination, and perseverance – and of course, a certain amount of skill. As our third U.S. President, Thomas Jefferson, once said, “I am a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.”

Personally, I find that the harder I work, the better I become and the more opportunities come my way, period.

Now who’s up for a little Apples to Apples?

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Poetry Friday: Constancy…and some inconsistency

Welcome to the newly waxed, buffed, and polished Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme!

poetryfridaybutton-fulllAfter 256 posts, 29,560 views and 3,953 comments over the past 3 years, I felt a little remodeling of “Triple-R” was in order. Hard to believe, but it was exactly 3 years ago in 2012 that I began this blog – something I’d wanted to do for quite awhile – and today it has grown from one follower (Jen, my wife!) to 383 followers!

Now granted, that may not seem like a huge number of people compared to some of the tremendous blogs out there, but I’m happy to see it getting close to the 500 mark…and when it does, I plan on having a little celebration! So if you know anyone who might appreciate this blog, please let them know about it.

I have a number of cool things planned for upcoming posts, including an interview with poet/author Rebecca Kai Dottlich, another edition of Poetry Cubed, and big news about my forthcoming debut picture book, Flashlight Night (2017, Boyd’s Mills Press), so be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss any of it!

So the blog has gone through a transformation – it’s clean, contemporary, and more professional-looking. There’s the inconsistency for you. As for the constancy…well, as you may know, I share the following poem every August around this time because my wedding anniversary is coming up this weekend, and it was part of my wedding vows.
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Matt&Jen - WeddingIt was actually my very first poetry post on this blog, and only my second post ever, following my introduction. This is a traditional Elizabethan sonnet and no, it doesn’t read as a contemporary poem; it was deliberately written in a sort of old-fashioned, classic sort of style. Looking back on it, there are things I would have changed, edited, or revised – but I was under a deadline – the wedding date wasn’t going to change!

Unlike my other poems, “Constancy” will never be put through revisions.  These were the words I spoke to my wife on August 10, 2008 as part of my vows, and are as unalterable as my love and gratitude for her.

Constancy
For Jennifer

How many have, before me, tried in vain
To capture beauty, constancy, and love
Through fluent phrase, in happiness and pain,
And simile of summer, star, or dove?
Their words so eloquent, imagery lush –
In perfect imperfection testify,
For seasons change, the steadfast heavens rush
To swirl about themselves, and doves will die.
How best to show the one whom I adore
The fullness of my amorosity?
I fail to find a finer metaphor
Than that true love which you have shown to me.
The poets fail! Their thoughts do not dismiss;
‘Tis better they compare their love to this.

© 2008, Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

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Tabatha is hosting Poetry Friday today at The Opposite of Indifference, so be sure to visit her blog for all of today’s links!

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Poetry Friday: “Goodbye”

Poetry_Friday logoI mentioned this past Tuesday I’ve been rather busy lately, but I couldn’t let Poetry Friday slip past without sharing something! This is my newest poem; I hope you like it.

Goodbye

The cupboards, bare.
The counters, clean.
The table…gone.
……….The floor
is worn from years
of paws and soles
that scuttled through the door.
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Boxes, packed.
……….Papers, tossed.
No food, no clothes;
……………no spouse.
With one small word
the home I loved
…..goes back
……………to just
…………………….a house.

© 2015, Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

My folks, who are both in their 80’s, are at a crossroads, trying to decide what to do with their home and property. Mom is in a nursing home, so dad needs to sell the home I grew up in so he’ll have the money to afford her care…but, as you might imagine, he’s having a difficult time making that decision. I wrote this last night, after visiting with each of them.

On a lighter note, Keri is hosting Poetry Friday today (in-between egg-gatherings and honeybee-swarms) at Keri Recommends – and shares a poem Irene Latham wrote about Keri’s “little” farm that is growing, growing, growing!

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

When it rains, it pours – and I’m drenched!

They say when it rains, it pours. And whoever “they” are…they know my life pretty well.

Freelancers often never know what their days are going to look like. Will I have several gigs, a few gigs, none?

Being a freelancer as well as a stay-at-home parent, this is doubly true. With the responsibilities of parenting compounded by the responsibilities of my work, I really never know how busy I’m going to be one day to the next. Some days are slower than others; it’s the way my world works. A few days ago, my world got very, very busy.

HS Fair logo - digital

I had no sooner started work on a new (and rather unusual) poetry-picture book when I found out brochures were ready for the upcoming 100th Hopkinton State Fair, taking place Labor Day weekend in Contoocook, New Hampshire. I’m not only the official announcer for the fair – I work all weekend, wandering the grounds with a microphone reminding people of what’s happening – but I also oversee all the radio broadcast purchases and production, and now that the events had been finalized, I needed to jump into high gear:

  • I have announcer notes I needed to update from the previous year (and with 4 days of agriculture events, live music, demonstrations, family entertainment, and grandstand shows, it took me over 4 hours just to do that)
  • I needed to write radio commercials – eight, to be exact – plus several short “live reads” for when the radio jocks talk about us on the air.
  • I needed to update all the telephone on-hold messages, which required that I write 3 pages of text before recording anything.
  • I needed to confirm with all the radio stations that they have everything they need to begin their promotions
  • I still need to voice and produce those eight radio commercials, and voice the audio for the TV commercial…that’s on tomorrow’s “to-do” list.

I mention all of this not because I want anyone to think I’m trying to show off what I do – but to understand that all of this was done in two days’ time! And now that that project is (almost) complete, I have a book manuscript co-authored by a client of mine I need to proofread! So far, I’ve gotten through Chapter 1. It’s a good book, but it takes longer to read it when one is scanning with an eye for grammar, syntax, and such.

What about that picture book?

I hate putting things on hold, but that’s what you have to do when you’re a stay-at-home parent with only a few hours of each day available to work. I’ve got the beginning of the picture book started, so reading it helps me get into the groove – but I probably won’t resume writing it until later this week, hopefully.

I still need to update my list of folks to whom I’ve submitted other manuscripts, and see if there’s someone out there who might be looking for a manuscript I have to offer.

Oh, and I have some short voiceover projects I need to attend to, as well. That’s the career that allowed me to stay home in the first place, so I really can’t neglect that!

First things first, though!

First, I have two kids who want to play with me, so that takes precedence. I don’t always have the luxury of playing with my 5-year-old son and nearly-2-year-old daughter (I do have dishes, laundry, and other chores to take care of!), but I try to make the time whenever I can.

My son isn’t into playing “games” like kicking a soccer ball or throwing a Frisbee per se – he’d much rather pretend we’re Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or wild lions or dogs or robots or whatnot – so playing with him is a much more physical activity than one might expect!

As for my daughter…well, she’s happy playing whatever her brother is playing.

And I can’t complain. A few years from now, he’ll probably grow tired of playing with me and spend all his time with friends, classmates, and girls. And of course, I can’t blame him. It’s way things go, right?

So as long as he and his sister want to play with me, I’ll do my best to keep up with them.

The laundry can wait.

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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!
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 twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)
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Don’t just “play” with your kids…

I think I’ve finally realized why I can identify with kids – why writing for children, being a stay-at-home parent, and cracking up at the same Spongebob episodes I’ve seen a million times all seem to suit me.

And it’s not just that I’m a “big kid” myself, as they say.

Sure, I enjoy playing with my kids – I always have – but I learned something at my book signing earlier this month that I don’t think ever occurred to me…

I play “like” my kids

When my 5-year-old wants to play “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” I don’t just say I’m Shredder or a robot or something and then half-heartedly chase the little dude.

Honestly, I’m not even sure which turtle he’s supposed to be – but I’d still watch out, nonetheless.

I act like Shredder, running around like a nut, throwing myself on the ground, and even slamming into our parked car or the fence and spinning ridiculously around and around until I collapse at his feet.

When the 23-month-old wants to dance, I don’t just stand there and shimmy back and forth – I bounce and run and shake myself to near-unconsciousness just as she does.

And when a friend’s 4-year-old tries to “zap” me with some sort of invisible instrument, I completely throw myself into the role of victim – which is what happened at the book signing.

Kids aren’t as easily embarrassed as stuffy grown-ups

Here’s what happened: a friend of mine who had stopped by the bookstore while I was signing brought his grandson, who was a typical, wired, fun-loving 4-year-old boy. As you might guess, he was very much excited to be in a place that had so many items not nailed down.

In typical 4-year-old boy fashion, he started pretending to “attack” me somehow – either with a magic stick or repulsor ray or live electrode or whatnot – so I briefly played along.

I stood up and started spinning around, jumping up & down madly while making some sort of crazy sound (seriously, I make this stuff up as I go, so don’t expect me to remember half of whatever I do). The little boy was quite amused, giggling loudly – but my friend just turned around and rolled his eyes away from me, jokingly noting that he couldn’t tell which of us was the kid.

I took that as a compliment.

She asked, so yes, I put it on my head, too. Unfortunately, there was no one else there to capture this moment in lunacy, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.

The take-away:

It was then that I realized he and I must have very different ways of playing with kids. If his grandson asked him to be Hulk or Iron Man or Queen Elsa (don’t laugh, it has happened), I don’t know how he’d respond. Personally, I know what I’d be doing: “Hulk-Smashing” things left and right, zapping my opponent with my repulsor rays, and trying to freeze my little pal in his tracks.

That’s why, for the past week and a half, I’ve been rolling around in my brain what it all might mean. Is there a wrong way to play with kids? Is there a right way?

Of course, the important thing is that you play with them, period. But I definitely learned there is a difference.

And I learned that it’s not enough simply to play with them.

Play like them!

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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!
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 twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)
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Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Vacation quotation summarization

I’m back!

The family enjoyed a nice, relaxing, and predictably short week in York Beach, Maine and returned the weekend before the 4th of July – which meant spending most of this past week catching up on work (voiceovers to be done), writing (another children’s book manuscript  complete and a new one begun), and prepping for the long weekend (aka, cleaning the house).

Once the weekend finally arrived, we managed to find time to pick strawberries, can 10 jars of strawberry-rhubarb preserves, make a big batch of strawberry sauce, bake two pies and a fruit tart, catch the fireworks display Sat. night, and spend Sunday with my folks.

Needless to say, fitting a blog post into all this mayhem was a challenge I simply was not ready to accept! I value my family time – and as important as my blog is, there are other things more important.

Anyway, now that I’m back, I can relate to you my Maine experience. We go up to York Beach each summer, and although it’s just over an hour away, it feels like it’s another world; we live, breathe, and eat the beach, and for someone like me who loves the ocean, it’s hard to not want to stay!

York
This is about mid-tide; The Longsands area has a very low grade, so high tide comes up to the dark line in the middle, but low tide extends beyond what you see here.

With kids, it’s always a new experience. I shared our exploits from our trip last year, but this year was completely different: our 5-year-old son is now old enough to climb up to the loft bed, splash in the water without fear, and walk the shoreline without having to hold my hand. For her part, our 22-month-old daughter can sleep in a regular bed, interact with her world more, and vocalize precisely what she wants – an ability at which she excelled superbly and excessively, as you’ll see.

Rather than just list some of the things we did, though, I thought it might be more fun if I recapped our vacation via quotes. So I made an effort to write down things I heard that I thought captured the essence of our vacation. Here are my top 10!

“At first, I thought he was my friend – but he wasn’t, so I smacked him.” We were barely 5 minutes into our sojourn to the Land of Moxie when my son uttered these words from the back seat. He was responding to a question from my wife about a spider he thought was crawling on his leg. Turned out it was actually a tick, which is why he smacked it. Had it been spider, it would have no doubt found a home on his knee and taken a little nap, to his joy. But ticks are no friends of ours, so I pulled over and removed it – and then resumed our trip.

“I want Anna!!!” While all the world is in love with Queen Elsa of Arendelle from Disney’s “Frozen,” our daughter is a fan of Princess Anna. Granted, she’s only 22 months, but she is already one of the movie’s biggest fans and already has somehow managed to learn that insidious “Let it Go” song. Consequently, everywhere she goes, if she sees Anna, she wants Anna – and tells us, loudly. This was a quote that resurfaced throughout our entire 7 days.

“Eva!” Speaking of Disney, I have to wonder if the person who repeatedly called out this name one day along the beach realized the scene they were re-creating (click the link and jump to 1:07 to hear what I mean). I’m sure whoever it was, was looking for a daughter or wife – but their voice sounded remarkably like Wall-E!

“I just saw a bikini top!” Now, here’s where you have to realize not everything you hear means what you think it means. At a place like the beach, one is bound to see bikini tops. When one is married, it’s probably not a good idea to mention said bikini tops. In this case, I was telling my wife about some of the images our son and I had seen in the clouds – and I did, in fact, see a pair of triangle-shaped clouds connected in such a way that they looked exactly like a bikini top, complete with straps. Clouds or not, however, blurting out this particular phrase to one’s wife is not something I’d suggest anyone do.

140
They love each other, for now.

“I want cweam. I want CWEAM!!!” On a short trek into downtown York (15 minutes walking distance), our Royal Highness Her Majesty overheard her mother and I talking about our plans: we’d stop by the park, then they could play at the little beach area, and maybe we’d get some ice cream before heading home for dinner. As soon as she heard the words “ice cream,” she announced her opinion of our plans in her sweetest yet LOUDEST voice possible.

“Is it dead?” This was the question a woman asked me after I waded into the shallow water to examine something floating like a log in the waves. It was dark brown with white blotches and at first I thought it might be a dog, until I realized it was a dead baby seal. Several people had seen it from the shore, but apparently no one had felt compelled to investigate until I came along. My reply to her question? “Well, it’s missing the upper third of its body, so I’m thinking that would be a “yes.” Don’t mess with sharks, folks.

“Curious George isn’t a monkey.” My son said this so matter-of-factly, I couldn’t help but be proud of him. We were at York’s Wild Kingdom, a zoo located right in downtown York, and were visiting some of the monkey cages when he told me his revelation. Monkeys, you see, have tails; apes do not. He and I both learned this fact courtesy of the folks at VeggieTales, and thanks to Bob & Larry, we’ll never forget it:
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“I want duck! I want duck! I want duck!” Once again, our daughter exhorting us to help her attain her goals. In this case, it was a seagull she saw along the shore – but telling her it was not a duck did not seem to matter. As far as she was concerned, it was a duck, and she wanted it.

“Is it 6:00 yet?” I can’t recall if it was me or my wife who said this, because we had been living at the cabin for four days already and had yet to get a good night’s sleep – not because of the accommodations, but because the 5-year-old would be in our room, jumping on us, every morning at 6am. On second thought, that’s not entirely true; one morning, it was almost 5:30. Oy…

“That was pretty awesome!” As we were walking along the main road that leads from our cabin to York Center, our son held up a wet, slimy little stone to a woman passing by. It surprised all of us – her, probably most of all – but we quickly learned what it was: his very first baby tooth! We had known his two front bottom teeth were loose, but didn’t realize how loose. We told him we were very proud of him for wiggling it around long enough to pop it out – and that must have given him the impetus to pop the other one out an hour and a half later! That evening at dinner, he sprung this quote on us…and we had to agree. It was pretty awesome.

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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!
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 twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)
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Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Poetry Friday: “On Her 17th Birthday”

poetryfridaybutton-fulllA little poem I wrote last night for a very, very special lady.
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On Her 17th Birthday

Her youth was spent aloof and free,
the queen of her own destiny.
Now frail and thin, she barely hears –
hasn’t caught a mouse in years.

– © 2015, Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

Jama Rattigan is hosting Poetry Friday today, and you know what that means:  snacks! Well, of course, plenty of poetry links, too – but you can always count on snacks when Jama is blogging, and today she has Blueberry Crumb Bars…so head on over before they’re all gone!

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SCVBWI_Member-badge (5 years)Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!
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To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)
Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!