Poetry Friday: How to Write a Poem, and why rejections aren’t bad (even though they suck)

Although I’d been planning on posting something else today, I thought it might be beneficial to share something I posted on Facebook earlier this past week; something that gained quite a bit of attention and created a healthy discussion.

Went through 25 rejections!

The past two weeks I’ve received more rejections than I received all of last year.

Perhaps it’s because I’ve sent more submissions out in the past 6 months than I did last year, perhaps it’s because I finally got around to following up with a number of editors I’d been waiting on.

Regardless the reason, rejections don’t feel good.

“No” doesn’t mean “Stop;” it means keep going.

I’m not going to act like rejection doesn’t bother me and that everything is sunshine and lollipops. Rejections aren’t fun, I won’t argue with that. But I don’t get depressed by them.

Went through 14 rejections!

Folks who are new to the publishing industry need to know that rejections are going to be a part of their life now. Personally, I went from acting to voice acting to writing – so rejection has been something I’ve had to live with nearly all my life (to say nothing of my nerdy high school years).

The particular rejection I had posted about was for a manuscript for a poetry collection I co-wrote with David L. Harrison, one of the most incredibly talented, successful children’s poets in the biz. Although I’m running out of potential options for publishers to submit to (I’m unagented and can only submit to a limited number of houses), I shared the news of this rejection not to seek pity but to remind my friends and followers that even the most highly-esteemed writers like my co-author hear the word “no” sometimes.

For example, my recent picture book Once Upon Another Time (Beaming Books, 2021) was co-authored with Father Goose himself, Charles Ghigna, and it went through 25 rejections before editor Naomi Krueger saw my pitch on the #PBPitch Twitter event back in October 2019 and asked me to send her the manuscript. 25 rejections – and that was with the gravitas of Father Goose’s name attached to the project!

A quick Google search of famous books that were initially rejected reveals myriad famous titles like Kathryn Stockett’s The Help, Steven King’s Carrie, and Chicken Soup for the Soul. Even my friend Laura Numeroff’s first If You Give a Mouse a Cookie book even went through 9 rejections, with one of the editors telling her there was no way they felt the book could possibly be profitable.

Went through at least 8 rejections!

Sometimes editors just don’t see your vision, that’s all. My picture books are published by several different publishers because not all of them believed in all my manuscripts – and that’s ok! The ones who DID believe in them produced gorgeous books I’m proud to call my own.

Maybe you submitted a dinosaur book to a company that already has too many dinosaur books; maybe you submitted a humourous meta-book to a company that prefers inclusive, cross-cultural themes; maybe you submitted a 1st-person POV book to someone who doesn’t like 1st-person POV (don’t laugh, I know of at least one!).

Fact is, there could be numerous reasons – many beyond your control – why your manuscript was rejected.

So if you’re hearing the word “No” a lot lately, remember that it doesn’t mean you should stop what you’re doing; it means you need to simply check that editor or agent off your list and move on. Or better yet, check them off the list for THAT manuscript, and send them another! After all, if it’s a numbers game, then you’re doing yourself a favor by eliminating all those unecessary numbers.

And if you remember nothing else, remember this: each “No” gets you closer to a “Yes.”

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How to Write a Poem

Open your eyes.
Open your ears.
Brace yourself
to face your fears.

Open your mind.
Open your heart.
Open your soul,
……….tear it apart.

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©2021 Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

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It’s Poetry Friday! If you’d like to check out all the poetry links and fun, be sure to head over to Rebecca Herzog’s little home on the web, Sloth Reads, for the complete roundup!

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I’m now a part of the BOOKROO family!

Create an account to add books to wishlists and be notified of special deals and dates…create custom collections…and discover and follow your favorite authors & illustrators!

Find out more about BOOKROO here!

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

Talkabook is setting out to inspire children by connecting them with authors and illustrators! Click here to view my profile and learn more!

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

I continue adding to my “Wit & Wordplay” videos ! These videos were created for parents and educators (along with their kids) to learn how to write poetry, appreciate it, and have fun with it. From alliteration and iambs to free verse and spine poetry, I’m pretty sure there’s something in these videos you’ll find surprising! You can view them all on my YouTube channel, and if you have young kids looking for something to keep busy with, I also have several downloadable activity sheets at my website.

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

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

You can purchase personally-signed copies of Flashlight Night, (Boyds Mills Press, 2017), Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (Pow! Kids Books, 2018)and nearly EVERY book or anthology I’ve been part of!

Click any of the following covers to order!

Just click the cover of whichever book you want and send a comment to the good folks at MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH requesting my signature and to whom I should make it out. (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!

FLASHLIGHT NIGHT:

DON’T ASK A DINOSAUR:

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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!

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 FacebookInstagramPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Poetry Friday: Celebrating a library re-opening with “The Dirt Book”

The children’s room in all its clean, reorganized glory!

Ah, what a joyous occasion it was…walking into our local library for the first time in a year and a half.

Like much of the country, our little town is slowly opening back up following the Covid-19 shutdown of 2020, and the fact that our library is finally accepting visitors was not something I just had to celebrate.

And the fact that my kids were just as eager to celebrate was a proud parenting win!

Another one of the many new books the children’s librarian was excited about was The Dirt Book: Poems About Animals That Live Beneath Our Feet (Holiday House, 2021), the latest poetry collection by my friend David L. Harrison.

From ants to worms to chipmunks, this book explores the lives of a variety of critters who live underneath our feet

Aside from David’s unique style of writing, which combines wit, insight, science, and ingenious wordplay, one of the things that makes this book unique is the fact that the reader needs to go dooowwwn to the bottom to read it…it opens from bottom-to-top, instead of right-to-left!

The book has received numerous positive reviews including raves from Kirkus, School Library Journal, and Shelf-Awareness, among others – so I knew I had to share some of the great news with those of you who follow this blog!

Told you – it opens from the bottom!

How cool is that?? Such a fun book – and for someone like me who just spent the past year learning unusual ways to teach kids while homeschooling – like combining poetry with science, math, and art – this book is perfect for getting your science lovers intrigued as much as the poetry lovers. Congratulations to David and illustrator Kate Cosgrove, who also provided visuals for David’s previous book with Holiday House, And the Bullfrogs Sing!

Speaking of science-lovers…Mr. Non-Fiction was thrilled that the library was finally open, and nearly cleared out half their shelves! This is what he considers bedtime reading.

For more poetry, be sure to check out today’s complete Poetry Friday roundup with Kat Apel at Kat’s Whiskers, where she is featuring Pet Pic Poems…sounds like fun, yes??

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I’m now a part of the BOOKROO family!

Create an account to add books to wishlists and be notified of special deals and dates…create custom collections…and discover and follow your favorite authors & illustrators!

Find out more about BOOKROO here!

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

Talkabook is setting out to inspire children by connecting them with authors and illustrators! Click here to view my profile and learn more!

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

I continue adding to my “Wit & Wordplay” videos ! These videos were created for parents and educators (along with their kids) to learn how to write poetry, appreciate it, and have fun with it. From alliteration and iambs to free verse and spine poetry, I’m pretty sure there’s something in these videos you’ll find surprising! You can view them all on my YouTube channel, and if you have young kids looking for something to keep busy with, I also have several downloadable activity sheets at my website.

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

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

You can purchase personally-signed copies of Flashlight Night, (Boyds Mills Press, 2017), Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (Pow! Kids Books, 2018)and nearly EVERY book or anthology I’ve been part of!

Click any of the following covers to order!

Just click the cover of whichever book you want and send a comment to the good folks at MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH requesting my signature and to whom I should make it out. (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!

FLASHLIGHT NIGHT:

DON’T ASK A DINOSAUR:

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

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!

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 FacebookInstagramPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Poetry Friday: “Stone-Kicking,” from the Donald Hall tribute anthology

I don’t know if it’s because the pandemic has made us all nostalgic for our “pre-Covid” life or what, but I was looking through some of my previously-published poems when I realized I’d never shared this here on my blog.

Two years ago, in the summer of 2019, Encircle Publications of Maine published the poetry anthology Except for Love: New England Poets Inspired by Donald Hall, which included my original poem, “Stone-Kicking:”
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The actual road I was walking when I first began formulating the poem. Note Mt. Kearsarge, a mountain nearly synonymous with Hall, gazing down at me in the distance. I had no idea at the time that this poem would end up in such an appropriate – and important – book.

“Stone-Kicking”

I kick my dreams
like stones in the road
watching them bounce
happily ahead while I
dawdle behind.
Dirt road, still
damp from yesterday’s storm
smells of pine and mud. Gravel softly
sticks to slow feet while sunlight tries
through thick poplars
to warm a meandering path.
I kick another stone, watching it
quickly skip, kissing ground in its
own wayward curve…
The joy, of course, comes not
from picking it up, carrying it,
keeping it…
but from watching where it goes,
how far it rolls,
and, when it veers
to the slick road’s edge,
setting it aright
with my foot
and flicking it
back to the
center.

© 2019 Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

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This book pays tribute to former U.S. and New Hampshire Poet Laureate Donald Hall by featuring poems by 35 New England poets who have been influenced by Hall’s work. It includes poetry by such accomplished poets as Jane Yolen, L.R. Berger, David Giannini, and many others – and yet, somehow I managed to sneak in!

10% of proceeds will benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in honor of Hall’s late wife, poet Jane Kenyon, so click HERE or the cover, below, to order your copy. (and let us know if you’d like me to sign it!)

…I can finally spill the beans!

That’s right, ANOTHER new book, coming out next fall from Beaming Books, the folks who published Once Upon Another Time! And there’s a very cool behind-the-scenes story about how the book came to be – involving poetry, rejection, tenacity, more rejection, and a willingess to shift gears, rework, revise, and say “yes” whenever possible – which I’ll be sure to share as we get closer to publication date!

For now, though, it’s Poetry Friday – and Margaret Simon is hosting the complete roundup at her blog Reflections on the Teche with a spotlight on an unusual poetry anthology titled Bridge the Distance, Teacher-Poets Writing to Bridge the Distance: An Oral History of COVID-19 in Poems. The book is an ‘oral history’ of life during the pandemic written by teacher-poets, and margaret shares her contrib ution.

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I’m now a part of the BOOKROO family!

Create an account to add books to wishlists and be notified of special deals and dates…create custom collections…and discover and follow your favorite authors & illustrators!

Find out more about BOOKROO here!

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

Talkabook is setting out to inspire children by connecting them with authors and illustrators! Click here to view my profile and learn more!

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

I continue adding to my “Wit & Wordplay” videos ! These videos were created for parents and educators (along with their kids) to learn how to write poetry, appreciate it, and have fun with it. From alliteration and iambs to free verse and spine poetry, I’m pretty sure there’s something in these videos you’ll find surprising! You can view them all on my YouTube channel, and if you have young kids looking for something to keep busy with, I also have several downloadable activity sheets at my website.

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

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

You can purchase personally-signed copies of Flashlight Night, (Boyds Mills Press, 2017), Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (Pow! Kids Books, 2018)and nearly EVERY book or anthology I’ve been part of!

Click any of the following covers to order!

Just click the cover of whichever book you want and send a comment to the good folks at MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH requesting my signature and to whom I should make it out. (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!

FLASHLIGHT NIGHT:

DON’T ASK A DINOSAUR:

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

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!

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 FacebookInstagramPinterest, and SoundCloud!

NEW Picture Book Cover Reveal AND Summer Reading Lists!

If schools have not wrapped up where you are yet, they will be soon – and with summer, comes summer reading! I’m so proud that many of my books – and books with which I’m associated – are appearing on summer reading lists. I’ll share a few of them in just a minuet, but first…

Another picture book cover reveal!!

This will be the THIRD COVER REVEAL for a book of mine this year (wow, that’s never happened before!), and I am extra-excited because the reveal is taking place at agent/author Kaitlyn Leann Sanchez’ popular kidlit blog, Math Is Everywhere! Kaitlyn is a wonderful supporter of authors; she took some time to interview me about the book, titled I Am Today (POW! Kids Books), which comes out this Oct., and I’m thrilled that she gets to show it off to everyone.

(PS: there’s a giveaway that goes along with it, too – so be sure to check it out!)

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SUMMER READING LISTS

In other news, I’m very proud to see several of my books showing up on reading lists and blogs this time of year! A blog mention or review is always appreciated no matter the season, of course, but this time of year is special because more families are getting together, doing things, going places, and kids as well as adults are finding more time to read.

A few of the folks I’d like to thank:

Kansas NEA Reading Circle – Recommended Title (Flashlight Night)

Lighthouse Homeschool Solutions (Flashlight Night) *

Newton (MA) Free Library (Night Wishes)

Villa Duchesne and Oak Hill School (MO) (Flashlight Night)

We Are Teachers (Flashlight Night)

Denver Public Library’s “Adventure Picture Books” (Flashlight Night)

Fairfax County (VA) Public Library “Picture Walks” (Flashlight Night)

School Library Journal “NCTE 2021 Notable Poetry Books(Construction People)

South Orange & Maplewood (NJ) elementary & public librarians (Construction People)

Advent Lutheran Church (NYC) (Once Upon Another Time)

The Spencer Library (United Seminary) (Once Upon Another Time)

Crafty Moms Share (Once Upon Another Time)

Book No Further “Recreation/Outdoor activities (Once Upon Another Time)

Book Nerd Mommy “Not-to-be-missed Picture Books” (Night Wishes)

Hello, Wild Things “Flashlight Book Basket” (Flashlight Night) (This was posted in 2020, but I just came across it today!)

* Let me just say that showing up on a list that includes Charles Dickens and E.B. White is pretty mind-blowing!

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I have to add that it’s quite an honor to see so many of my books – seven, as a matter of fact – available in the library system where I was born! Thank you, Baltimore County Public Library, for your support!

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

I’m now a part of the BOOKROO family!

Create an account to add books to wishlists and be notified of special deals and dates…create custom collections…and discover and follow your favorite authors & illustrators!

Find out more about BOOKROO here!

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

Talkabook is setting out to inspire children by connecting them with authors and illustrators! Click here to view my profile and learn more!

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

I continue adding to my “Wit & Wordplay” videos ! These videos were created for parents and educators (along with their kids) to learn how to write poetry, appreciate it, and have fun with it. From alliteration and iambs to free verse and spine poetry, I’m pretty sure there’s something in these videos you’ll find surprising! You can view them all on my YouTube channel, and if you have young kids looking for something to keep busy with, I also have several downloadable activity sheets at my website.

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

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

You can purchase personally-signed copies of Flashlight Night, (Boyds Mills Press, 2017), Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (Pow! Kids Books, 2018)and nearly EVERY book or anthology I’ve been part of!

Click any of the following covers to order!

Just click the cover of whichever book you want and send a comment to the good folks at MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH requesting my signature and to whom I should make it out. (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!

FLASHLIGHT NIGHT:

DON’T ASK A DINOSAUR:

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

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!

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 FacebookInstagramPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Poetry Friday: The Return of David Elliott… from 9 years ago!

When I shared the news about my friend David Elliott’s newest book, The Seventh Raven (HMH, 2021), in last Friday’s post, I had no idea I was about to create a month-long Elliottfest…

…but apparently that is precisely what I’ve done.

You see, I had asked David if he’d mind joining me for an interview at the end of April – which he will – but it occurred to me that some, if not most, of my readers would be unaware of the conversation we had waaaaay back in 2013. Since that interview had been posted on the now-defunct Poetry at Play blog, I realized there was no way for anyone to be able to read or even reference that post. I therefore did the only thing that seemed to make sense.

Reposted it here!

So yes, I featured David Elliott’s latest book two weeks ago; I’m re-posting my original interview with him from 9 years ago here today; and at the end of the month, David and I will be back with a brand-new interview about craft and verse novels. (“It’s ALL David, ALL the time…!”)

(Keep in mind, this is the original transcript, so some comments may sound dated – for example, the YA novel he was working on became Bull – but I hope you enjoy!)

Although David Elliot was born and raised in a small town in Ohio, that didn’t prevent him from travelling the world and collecting myriad experiences.  Over the years, he worked as a singer in Mexico, an English teacher in Libya, a cucumber-washer in Greece, and a popsicle-stick-maker in Israel. David also studied classical voice at a conservatory, with dreams of becoming an opera singer. The problem, he says, is that he wasn’t very good.

Fortunately for the world of children’s literature, David became a New York Times bestselling children’s author. His many picture books and chapter books include: And Here’s to You! (Candlewick, 2009), The Transmogrification of Roscoe Wizzle (Walker Books Ltd., 2001), The Evangeline Mudd books (Candlewick), Finn Throws a Fit! (Candlewick, reprint, 2011), Jeremy Cabbage and the Living Museum (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2008), and most recently the picture book, In the Wild (Candlewick, 2010).

As of this writing, David has six new picture books under contract, due to be published within the next couple of years, and he is working on a YA novel and a new middle grade book. If you’d like to learn more about David and his books, visit www.davidelliottbooks.com.

First of all, thank you, David, for taking the time out of your busy schedule to chat with us!  Did you ever imagine yourself being this busy, back when you were washing cucumbers in Greece, or making popsicle sticks in Israel? And wouldn’t it have been easier to just wash cukes or make popsicle sticks here in the States??

Maybe. But think of all the fantastic food I would have missed out on.

Seriously, though, how did you come to finally discover your true calling and end up back home in the U.S.?

 Oh, dear. Do I have a true calling? But to answer your question, after many years of traveling and working abroad, making popsicle sticks, washing cucumbers (the most Freudian job ever!), teaching in Libya, singing in Mexico, I came back because as transformative as those years were, the truth is they were also very lonely, better suited to a comic novel, maybe, than to a real life. I have a big stack of journals from those years. One day, maybe, I’ll write that novel.

Anyone who uses the word “transmogrification” in the title of a children’s book must have fun while he’s writing!  Does it ‘feel’ like work, and do you ever wonder if you’ll ever end up having a ‘real job’ again?

When the paperback of The Transmogrification of Roscoe Wizzle (Candlewick, 2004) came out, the sales staff wanted to get rid of that word transmogrification and call the book Roscoe Wizzle. I try to be as collaborative as I can when it comes to these things – and they come much more frequently than one might think – but in this case I put my foot down. I didn’t want to dumb down the title because adults were scared that it was “too hard.” 

I felt vindicated a couple of months later during a school visit when an eight-year-old boy came running up to me after my presentation. “Transmogrification!” he said. “Transmogrification! When I hear that word, it just makes me want to read the book.” You know, I’ve heard adults mangle that word over and over again, but never, not once, has a child mispronounced it. Sometimes, I think it might be part of the writer’s job to protect children from what the adults in charge of their lives think about them.

For me, writing is a real job, and hard work, even, or perhaps more accurately, especially the funny stuff and the picture books.

Now, you write in a variety of styles, including poetry, picture books, and chapter books…do you prefer one style over another?  

Not really. Each has its challenges just as each as its pleasures.  There are so many books out there. That’s great, of course, but it can also be a bit discouraging. And do we really need another vampire book? Another adventure series? Another this or that?  In fact, we probably do. My problem is that I’m not interested in writing them. At the moment, I’m interested in experimenting with new structures, new ways of telling a story.

Books like In the Wild (Candlewick, 2010) and In the Sea (Candlewick, 2012) contain some great examples of children’s poetry that are written in simple language but are quite thoughtful and full of emotion.  Is it difficult to find that balance? And what is your process for determining how you want to present a poetry subject or idea?

First, thanks for the kind words. Each of the three books in the series (two more on the way) presented a different challenge. On the Farm was perhaps the most straightforward. We all know what a farm is and without ever opening the book could guess what animals we might find between the end pages. (I did try to include some of the undomesticated animals that are present on a farm, too: the turtle, bees, a garter snake). In the end, a farm is a kind of container. Additionally, if we hear the word cow, we share a set of emotional responses because, in one way or another, we have all grown up with cows, or at the very least, the idea of cows. 

But when it came to In the Wild, I was stumped. First there is no container. These animals are found all over the world and there are tens of thousands of them. How to choose just 14 or so? (My editor and I settled on the iconic.) Then, I discovered that I knew very little beyond the obvious when it came to the animals. Since it’s the writer’s job to say something new, I spent weeks, reading, looking at pictures, watching YouTube videos of the animals in the book, trying to get not just information about them but a feeling for them, too. 

Then there was the complicating factor that many of the animals in the book are endangered. On one hand, it felt, disrespectful to both the animals represented and to the children reading the poems to ignore this sad truth; on the other, I didn’t want to write a book that said Too bad kids, by the time you are adults, some these animals won’t exist.. I tried to solve the problem with last poem and its page turn. “The Polar Bear.”  By the way, we don’t talk or think enough about page turns in picture books. In the best ones, they carry as much meaning as the text.

After starting In the Sea, I completely understood the expression “a cold fish.”  They’re rather hard to feel warm and fuzzy about. In the end, I decided to think about the various forms in the ocean. Since many fish have the same basic shape, I wanted to give the late Holly Meade, the illustrator, something to work with. I feel incredibly lucky to have been paired with Holly. She brought so much to these books.  Some of you may not know that she left us in April of this year. A sad and terrible loss.

If I can, I’d like to give a plug for On the Wing, coming out fall 2014 with art by a wonderful new illustrator, Becca Stadtlander. As a whole, the poems in the book might be my favorite of the four volumes thus far. But they were very, very difficult. All birds have feathers, beaks and they fly – at least the ones we chose for the book do. What more was there to say? It was very challenging because most of us know very little about individual species of birds, so there was not a lot of common knowledge I could rely on.

The bower bird, for example, a very plain species native to Australia, builds a complicated structure on the ground. He then adorns it with flowers and shells, anything colorful he can find  in order to lure a paramour into what is literally his love nest. Who knew? 

Here’s the poem.

The Bower Bird

No fancy feathers,

to attract a mate,

first  he builds

then decorates

his bower.

How carefully

he constructs

the walls.

(The halls

he fills

with flowers.)

And how anxiously 

he arranges

the bright  tokens

he collects.

O pity then

the bower bird.

Nature’s fussy,

lovesick architect.

Beautiful, David – and so personal the reader can actually empathize with the bird. You know, it’s always an open-ended question to ask someone ‘where’ they get their inspiration; for most of us, it comes from everywhere. So let me ask, how do you deal with the inspiration you get? That is, how do you know if an idea is worth your attention, and what do you do with it?

This is something that plagues me. I’m never at a loss for ideas. But what I’m always afraid of is that I’m not up to executing them in the way they deserve. I’m rather slow on the uptake. I kept the first draft of Roscoe in my drawer for eight years before I really understood what the book wanted to be.

Recently, I’ve been reading and rereading Homer, Ovid, Virgil and along with them, some modern retellings. (David Malouf’s Ransom is one of the best things I’ve read in years. Now, I’m reading his An Imaginary Life. Equally as wonderful.) All this has me thinking about the relationship between the Greek and Roman gods and the mortals who worshipped them. Those gods required a lot: supplication, sacrifice, interpretation, belief.

This seems to me a wonderful metaphor for the relationship between artists and their inspiration. How much are we willing to humble ourselves before it? How much are we willing to sacrifice? How much are willing to listen to the oracular voice? How much are we willing to believe? This last is perhaps the most frightening question.

I so wish I had understood this earlier in my career. These questions will be very much at the forefront of my mind (and heart) as I continue to work on new and longer projects.

“Buffalo,” from In the Wild, © 2010 Candlewick, all rights reserved

Your chapter book, Jeremy Cabbage, is about a young orphan boy – a sort of cross between Oliver Twist and Lemony Snicket’s Beaudelaire siblings – who goes into the world on an adventure. Did you see your globe-trotting self in Jeremy, and how have you used your life experiences in other books?

In a way, all books are autobiographical since it is the life experience, sensibilities, instincts and education of the particular author that make the book.  In my case, it is perhaps not the external circumstances in which Jeremy finds himself, but the emotional content of the book that is closest to how I felt as a child and still sometimes feel as an adult.

Folks like J. Patrick Lewis and Jane Yolen say inspiration is over-rated – that success more often comes via the “BIC” rule (Butt In Chair). In other words, sit down and get to work! What are your thoughts on this approach?

Isn’t it the only approach? One of my favorite quotes about writing comes from the writer, Octavia Butler. (Kindred remains one of the most under-appreciated books in print. Everyone should read it.) Anyway, she put it very succinctly: “Habit is more important than inspiration.” As others have said, we write to find out what we don’t know.

How difficult is it to know what children will like or not like?  Who do you trust for feedback on your writing?

This question is more complicated than first it appears. Not all children like the same things. Then, we have to ask, what do you mean by children? A five-year-old is very different from a ten-year-old who is very, very different from a thirteen-year old. Children are the same in only one way: they are developing. This, to me, is one of the principal differences between writing for an adult audience and writing for children.

This, too, is one of the things that I find so difficult about writing for kids. I’m afraid that sometimes we don’t do the best job of honoring the sacred fact that children are still becoming. It’s a scientific fact. Research now tells us that the brain isn’t fully developed until our early twenties. This makes, or it should make, a difference in how we approach our work, or at least in understanding and respecting our audience..

Yes, there really was a Finn, and YES, he really did throw a fit!

But I sometimes worry that we too often fall prey to a kind of inferiority complex in which we feel we have to compete with adult publishing to be real writers. I wonder if this is why there are so many books for kids where a loved one dies, or is alcoholic or, well, you know what I mean. Why do we have this idea that tragedy is more serious, more valuable than comedy?  To me this seems very puritanical and old-fashioned. Also wrong.

Of course, I know that many young people do experience terrible things in their lives. But many children also experience happiness, — even those in the most wretched circumstances –and that happiness can bolster a young heart. I know this by the way from personal experience. There is so much to say on this topic.

Who are your favourite children’s authors or poets? What have you learned from them?

I love Roald Dahl. I love Robert Louis Stevenson. I love Louise Rennison. I love M.T. Anderson. (He’s a good friend, and though I don’t want to admit it to him, he is completely lovable!) I love Jack Prelutsky (because it’s clear he loves kids.) I love, love love Natalie Babbit. Too many to mention. And what I’ve learned from them is that is that I have a lot more to learn to be the writer I would like to be.

Is there a poem or book you’ve had published that you are particularly proud of?  Is there one secretly wish you could revise?

Good heavens! The answer to the first question is, “all of them.” The answer to the second question is, “all of them.”

What was the worst idea you ever had – for a poem, a book, a career, or anything – and what did you do with it?

Believe me, you don’t have enough time for me to talk about my bad ideas. I still get them. Every day.

We all do, David! By the way, considering all of your life experiences so far, do you think you’ll remain content with writing children’s lit, or do you see yourself branching out into other genres, or even doing something entirely different?

As my wonderful editor at Candlewick once said, “When I find adults as interesting as children, I’ll start working for them.” But I do have adult projects in mind. I’ve published one, The Tiger’s Back,  either a very short novella or a very long story, depending on how you look at it. I also have written some for the theater and plan to do more of that. But I’ll always write for kids.

What advice would you give to aspiring children’s poets and authors? And from your experience, what would you say is the biggest fallacy you’ve learned in trying to get published?

Currently, I teach in the Low Residency MFA in Creative Writing at Lesley University in Cambridge. One thing that I find myself repeating to my students is, “Get out of the way.”  By which I mean, the writer must be secondary to the work. Understandably, less experienced writers are anxious, eager to prove to the world and to themselves they have whatn it takes. (If I’m honest, most of us feel this way. In fact, I have to fight that feeling every day.) This can create a bit of a tendency to show-off on the page, to make a wrong decision about a particular word, or sentence structure, or well, almost anything, really from punctuation to plot. 

But almost always, this either bores us (deadly!) or distracts us from what John Gardner calls “the fictional dream.” In other words, we stop thinking about what we’re reading and start thinking about the person who wrote it. (and usually not in the kindest of terms). We end up feeling disappointed or cheated, tricked somehow.  The harsh truth is that no one really cares about you, the writer, I mean. And rightly so. The reader only cares about what is on the page. And rightly so. It’s a hard lesson to learn. But also liberating once you’ve got the hang of it.

Of course, that isn’t to say that we can’t be dazzled by what a writer has accomplished –that’s happening to me right now with David Malouf — but that’s because 1) the writer has complete control of her craft and 2) whatever the writer has done it’s been in service to the story or the poem and not to herself.

About publishing, I don’t know what to say, really. One thing we almost never hear is that you need a little luck. So my advice in this area is 1) learn you craft, and 2) once you’ve learned it stay open so that when that luck comes knocking, you recognize it and let it in. (This isn’t helpful, I know. Sorry.)

Ha, don’t be sorry, that’s absolutely the best advice one could give! By the way, there’s a children’s illustrator from New Zealand named David Elliot.  As far as anyone can tell, you’re not him…right?

I don’t think I am, but one never knows.

Well, thanks again for spending some time with us here at PACYA, David…and all the best for future success!

I hope you enjoyed the interview…and please remember to visit later this month when David and I chat about the craft of writing, specifically verse novels, on April 30 when I host the Poetry Friday roundup! It should be a lot of fun, and enlightening! You’ll find today’s roundup at Tabatha Yeatts’ The Opposite of Indifference, where she is celebrating National Poetry Month!

Also be sure to check out all the books coming out this month from my 2021 Book Blast partners:

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

I’m now a part of the BOOKROO family!

Children's Book Subscription: Bookroo - Sincerely Stacie

Create an account to add books to wishlists and be notified of special deals and dates…create custom collections…and discover and follow your favorite authors & illustrators!

Find out more about BOOKROO here!

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

Talkabook is setting out to inspire children by connecting them with authors and illustrators! Click here to view my profile and learn more!

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

I continue adding to my “Wit & Wordplay” videos ! These videos were created for parents and educators (along with their kids) to learn how to write poetry, appreciate it, and have fun with it. From alliteration and iambs to free verse and spine poetry, I’m pretty sure there’s something in these videos you’ll find surprising! You can view them all on my YouTube channel, and if you have young kids looking for something to keep busy with, I also have several downloadable activity sheets at my website.

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

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

You can purchase personally-signed copies of Flashlight Night, (Boyds Mills Press, 2017), Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (Pow! Kids Books, 2018)and nearly EVERY book or anthology I’ve been part of!

Click any of the following covers to order!

Just click the cover of whichever book you want and send a comment to the good folks at MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH requesting my signature and to whom I should make it out. (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!

FLASHLIGHT NIGHT:

DON’T ASK A DINOSAUR:

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

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!

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 FacebookInstagramPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Poetry Friday: Celebrating ANOTHER #BookBirthday with Lita Judge

In case you have somehow not heard, my new picture book that I co-authored with Charles Ghigna (aka, Father Goose®), ONCE UPON ANOTHER TIME (Beaming Books) officially arrived this past Tuesday, and the official blog tour contonues to roll on at the following wonderful blogs:

ONCE UPON ANOTHER TIMEBLOG TOUR:

2/25:      Ellen Leventhal:  https://www.ellenleventhal.com/#blog
3/1:        Maria Marshall: https://www.mariacmarshall.com/blog
3/2:        Matt Forrest Esenwine: https://mattforrest.wordpress.com 
3/3:        Bookseed Studio: https://bookseedstudio.wordpress.com/
3/4:        Celebrate Picture Books: https://celebratepicturebooks.com/
3/5:        Maria Marshall #PPBF (Perfect Picture Book Friday): https://www.mariacmarshall.com/blog
3/5:        KidLit411 – Charles Ghigna interview: http://www.kidlit411.com/
3/5:       Mrs. Knott’s Book Nook: http://mrsknottsbooknook.blogspot.com/
3/9:      Erin Dealey https://www.erindealey.com/blog/
3/10:     Melissa Stoller: https://www.melissastoller.com/blog
3/16:     Kellee Moye at Unleashing Readers: http://www.unleashingreaders.com/
5/5:       Andrew Hackett: https://www.andrewhacket.com/blog

That’s right, THREE bloggers are on tap today: Maria Marshall spotlights our book for Perfect Picture Book Friday, Elaine at KidLit411 features an interview with Charles, and Michelle Knott offers her review at Mrs. Knott’s Book Nook! (Most of these bloggers are giving away a free copy of the book, plus I have not one but TWO chances for you to win free copies that I’M giving away – so be sure to read about how to enter at the bottom of this post!)

But enough about me – let’s talk about my friend and fellow New Hampshirite, Lita Judge, whose brand-new book, The Wisdom of Trees (Roaring Brook Press) arrived in the world the exact same day as Once Upon Another Time!

Just about every industry trade, from Kirkus to Publisher’s Weekly to Booklist to School Library Journal, has been effusive in their praise for The Wisdom of Trees – and for good reason.

It’s a beautifully written, beautifully illustrated book that is both an important piece of nonfiction as well as a fine example of literary excellence. Every page is a perfect blend of image and text.

Lita’s soft, lovingly rendered illustrations will draw in young book lovers while her smart and thought-provoking poetry rewards older readers…and sidebars provide context and background information for each spread. Something for everyone – and every reader!

I asked Lita if she had a favorite spread, and her answer was the same as mine: “We Are the Ancient.” I’ll let her explain why she loves it so much:

It’s one of my favorites in the book because I have such fond memories of the research that went into its creation. We travelled to North Wales in 2019 with the specific goal of finding an ancient yew tree named the Llangernyw Yew. The tree was once thought to be between 4000 and 5000 years old but more recent estimates are more like 2500 years old.

When we found the tree, which was not easy, I sat within it, sketching. It sits in the old churchyard of Saint Digain’s Church, near 300 year old gravestones of long gone slate miners and their wives and children. Like other very old yews, the core of the tree has long decomposed, leaving only the exterior, which is literally so wide in circumference (over 36 feet) that you feel as if you’re sitting within the middle of many trees. It is one ancient tree that has witnessed thousands of years of our history.

I eventually included a different yew in the book, the Ankerwycke Yew, but the spread reminds me of the journey and the process.

Image ©2021 Roaring Brook Press, all rights reserved

Every page, every setting – whether it is quiet and tranquil or full of animal busy-ness – radiates with the tender attention to detail for which Lita is known. Couple the illustrations with her poetic text and it’s no wonder the trades are in love with this book.

And by the way, I confess that “We Are the Ancient” is actually one of two favorite spreads of mine; the other is a poem about the winter dormancy of trees, titled “Shhh…” Not only is it a serenly beautiful image of a forest in winter, but I get to hang the print she sent me in my office!

Thank you so much to Lita and Roaring Brook Press for sending me the book and art print!

This isn’t just a perfect book for poetry lovers or creative nonfiction types, either. This is the kind of book homeschoolers like my wife and I will relish because it can be used in a cross-disciplinary role: poetry, nonfiction, natural history, earth sceince…am I missing any??

I hope you’ll pick up a copy and see for yourself!

And if you’d like to learn more about the process Lita went through in creating this book, be sure to check out her YouTube channel, where she offers some behind-the-scenes footage and commentary about how The Wisdom of Trees came to be.

Looking for more poetry? Our friend from Down Under, Kat Apel, is hosting today’s Poetry Friday Muster (that’s “round-up,” for you non-farming types) with a spotlight on her fun new picture book, The Bird in the Herd, along with a poem inspired by the patience and perseverance it took to bring the book to life!

~ ~ GIVEAWAY!! ~ ~

Would you like a personally-signed copy of ONCE UPON ANOTHER TIME? How about TWO?? I have two copies I’ll give away, with two ways to enter: check out my #BookBirthday post and leave a comment, and/or share that same post on Twitter and use the hashtags #giveaway and #2021BookBlast! Two drawings, two ways to win! I’ll announce a blog winner on Friday, March 19 and the Twitter winner at the end of the month. Good luck!

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

I’m now a part of the BOOKROO family!

Children's Book Subscription: Bookroo - Sincerely Stacie

Create an account to add books to wishlists and be notified of special deals and dates…create custom collections…and discover and follow your favorite authors & illustrators!

Find out more about BOOKROO here!

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

Talkabook is setting out to inspire children by connecting them with authors and illustrators! Click here to view my profile and learn more!

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

I continue adding to my “Wit & Wordplay” videos ! These videos were created for parents and educators (along with their kids) to learn how to write poetry, appreciate it, and have fun with it. From alliteration and iambs to free verse and spine poetry, I’m pretty sure there’s something in these videos you’ll find surprising! You can view them all on my YouTube channel, and if you have young kids looking for something to keep busy with, I also have several downloadable activity sheets at my website.

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

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

You can purchase personally-signed copies of Flashlight Night, (Boyds Mills Press, 2017), Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (Pow! Kids Books, 2018), and nearly EVERY book or anthology I’ve been part of!

Click any of the following covers to order!

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!

FLASHLIGHT NIGHT:

DON’T ASK A DINOSAUR:

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

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!

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: #PoetryOutLoud this week, a #BookBirthday next week!

This week has been, to say the least, insane – one of the busiest weeks I can remember, honestly. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, we’re homeschooling our kids this year (thank you, Covid), so time is at a premium to begin with…but with a book coming out next Tue., March 2, all my spare time has been spent prepping and organizing for the big day!

First of all, there’s the ONCE UPON ANOTHER TIME Blog Tour, featuring TEN awesome bloggers spotlighting the book, sharing their reviews, and interviewing my co-author, Charles Ghigna and me. And what’s REALLY cool? Most are offering a free copy of the book to give away – so be sure to check out as many of them as you can and increase your odds!

ONCE UPON ANOTHER TIMEBLOG TOUR:

2/25:      Ellen Leventhal:  https://www.ellenleventhal.com/#blog
2/26:      Michelle Knott: http://mrsknottsbooknook.blogspot.com/
3/1:        Maria Marshall: https://www.mariacmarshall.com/blog
3/2:        Matt Forrest Esenwine: https://mattforrest.wordpress.com 
3/3:        Jan Godown Annino at Bookseed Studio: https://bookseedstudio.wordpress.com/
3/4:        Celebrate Picture Books: https://celebratepicturebooks.com/ (will begin giveaway on 3/5)
3/5:        Maria Marshall #PPBF (Perfect Picture Book Friday): https://www.mariacmarshall.com/blog
3/5:        KidLit411 – Charles Ghigna interview http://www.kidlit411.com/
3/10:      Melissa Stoller: https://www.melissastoller.com/blog
3/16:      Kellee Moye at Unleashing Readers: http://www.unleashingreaders.com/
5/5:        Andrew Hackett https://www.andrewhacket.com/blog

Not only are Charles, illustrator Andres Landazabal, and I indebted to these fine folks for their support and kind words, we are also greatly appreciative of the American Library Association’s Booklist Online for their tremendously positive review, calling our book “a neccessary addition to picture book collections”– as well as all our fellow authors and illustrators who’ve shared their opinions of our book on both our Amazon page and the back cover:

I’m grateful to teachers, too! Specifically, the twelve schools across the country who’ve invited me to read the book to their students the day it comes out – which also happens to be the NEA’s Read Across America Day. I can’t imagine a better way to spend a picture book birthday than by reading to kids all day long!

The folks at New Hampshire radio station 105.5 JYY have also been extremely supportive, by inviting me to chat with my former radio partner, Nazzy, for a half-hour live podcast two days ago. We talked about all things involving writing, publishing, and the necessity of being willing to take a leap of faith:

Are you getting the feeling I’ve been just a little bit out straight?

Well, that’s just part of the story…because I am also once again one of the judges for our state’s Poetry Out Loud semi-finals! Poetry Out Loud is a national recitation contest that encourages the memorization and performance of poetry by our country’s high schools students.

I’ve been involved for nearly 5 years now, and it’s always amazing to watch these young people bringing life to the words of classic and contemporary poetry. This year, due to Covid, I’ll be judging performances virtually, as each student has recorded their performance and submitted it for review; it’s not exactly the live atmosphere we’ve been used to, but at least we’re able to do it!

For their performances, students are allowed to choose the poems they recite from a list of poems provided by the national Poetry Out Loud organization, so for today’s Poetry Friday post, I thought I’d share one of my favorites that one of our state’s students will be performing this year:

For today’s complete Poetry Friday roundup, head on over to Karen Edmisten’s blog, where she and Billy Collins contemplate their existence over a bowl of Cheerios!

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

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

I’m now a part of the BOOKROO family!

Children's Book Subscription: Bookroo - Sincerely Stacie

Create an account to add books to wishlists and be notified of special deals and dates…create custom collections…and discover and follow your favorite authors & illustrators!

Find out more about BOOKROO here!

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

Talkabook is setting out to inspire children by connecting them with authors and illustrators! Click here to view my profile and learn more!

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

I continue adding to my “Wit & Wordplay” videos ! These videos were created for parents and educators (along with their kids) to learn how to write poetry, appreciate it, and have fun with it. From alliteration and iambs to free verse and spine poetry, I’m pretty sure there’s something in these videos you’ll find surprising! You can view them all on my YouTube channel, and if you have young kids looking for something to keep busy with, I also have several downloadable activity sheets at my website.

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

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

You can purchase personally-signed copies of Flashlight Night, (Boyds Mills Press, 2017), Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (Pow! Kids Books, 2018), and nearly EVERY book or anthology I’ve been part of!

Click any of the following covers to order!

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!

FLASHLIGHT NIGHT:

DON’T ASK A DINOSAUR:

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

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!

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: Poetry & picture books – an interview with Linda Brennan

First of all, let me say thank you to everyone who has sent me warm wishes and thoughts regarding the passing of my mom two weeks ago. Last Friday, I posted the poem I wrote for her and dad, and have had numerous folks asking if they could share it – and by all means, please feel free to do so! It’s a wonderful way to keep her spirit alive, connecting others with what I have to imagine is a universal theme.

And although it has been a sad, melancholy time, it turned quite jubilant two days ago when I saw this had been officially announced in Publisher’s Weekly:

You read that correctly – it’s scheduled for THIS FALL, which is lightning-fast in this business. Illustrations are already underway, and I can’t wait to tell you more as we get closer to launch date!

So between the highs and lows that 2021 has kicked off with, today I wanted to share a post from someone else’s blog! I recently enjoyed the privelege of being interviewed by Rhode Island author Linda Crotta Brennan, for her blog, Lupine Seeds, and am so happy to be able to share that interview with you here!

It was great fun sharing my thoughts on writing poetry, publishing poetry, and understanding poetry – and how I’ve managed to transfer my love and knowledge of the genre to picture books. She also asked me about my collaborations, like Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (POW! Kids Books, 2018), co-authored with Deborah Bruss, and my upcoming book with Charles Ghigna, Once Upon Another Time (Beaming Books, March, 2021), which were a lot of fun to write. I do hope you’ll check it out!

In the interview, I offer a few suggestions for poetry books you might consider reading, if you want to learn more about writing or reading poetry, particularly children’s poetry. So I thought I’d share one of the poems Laura Purdie Salas published a few years ago in her book, Catch Your Breath: Writing Poignant Poetry (Capstone, 2015), the perfect book for teens who are just starting to get their feet wet writing poetry:

Abandonment (haiku)

sparrow sweetly sings
melancholy melody;
her mate, on the ground.

© 2015 Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

Laura had wanted a poem that showcased alliteration, assonance, and consonance – so I gave her as short a poem as I could, ha! Today, Margaret Simon is hosting the Poetry Friday roundup at her blog, Reflections on the Teche, with some nestling poems (found poems created from within another poem) she crafted from Richard Blanco’s One Today.

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

I’m now a part of the BOOKROO family!

Children's Book Subscription: Bookroo - Sincerely Stacie

You can create an account to add books to wishlists and be notified of special deals and dates…create custom collections…and discover and follow your favorite authors & illustrators!

Find out more about BOOKROO here!

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

Coming January 26, 2021! Pre-orders are available!

Children will love to follow along on a Goldilocks-like journey as Elliot searches for the perfect place to rest in this new board book! 

Coming March 2, 2021! Pre-orders are available!

Contrasting the past with the present, this picture book takes you through a lyrical exploration of the world as it was before humans made their mark.

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

Talkabook is setting out to inspire children by connecting them with authors and illustrators! Click here to view my profile and learn more!

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

I continue adding to my “Wit & Wordplay” videos ! These videos were created for parents and educators (along with their kids) to learn how to write poetry, appreciate it, and have fun with it. From alliteration and iambs to free verse and spine poetry, I’m pretty sure there’s something in these videos you’ll find surprising! You can view them all on my YouTube channel, and if you have young kids looking for something to keep busy with, I also have several downloadable activity sheets at my website.

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

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!

Click any of the following covers to order!

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!

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!

Halloween picture books and “Flashlight Night”

All images @ 2017 Boyds Mills & Kane, all rights reserved

When I first began writing the rough draft of Flashlight Night (Boyds Mills & Kane, 2017), I had no idea what it was. A poem? Picture book? Something else?

It was only once I was about halfway through that I realized I was writing a picture book, and at that point I started making specific decisions about the narrative and pacing. Flashlight, as it was tentatively titled, was going to be bedtime-adventure book told in the second person…a genre and point of view in which few children’s books are written.

I had no idea what to expect.

Much to my surprise, editor Rebecca Davis (at what was Boyds Mills Press at the time) loved what I wrote and offered me my first picture book contract! It was January 2015. Two and a half years later, Flashlight Night made its debut and continues to do well, with parents and bloggers still discovering the book and sharing their positive thoughts about it.

And while I never thought of it as a “Halloween” book, per se, apparently a lot of other folks do! Numerous bloggers and reviewers have been sharing lists of books they feel are perfect for Halloween reading – and I have to say, I’m both surprised and humbled to see my little book showing up beside books written by such authors as Neil Gaiman, Dr. Seuss, Aaron Reynolds, my good friends Charles Ghigna and Patricia Toht, and others.

So, if you’re looking for some Halloween/October-themed books for your little ones, here are a few suggestions:

Thank you so much to all these individuals and groups for sharing their love of reading with the world.

And many thanks to YOU, dear reader, for all your support!

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

I’m now a part of the BOOKROO family!

Children's Book Subscription: Bookroo - Sincerely Stacie

You can create an account to add books to wishlists and be notified of special deals and dates…create custom collections…and discover and follow your favorite authors & illustrators!

Find out more about BOOKROO here!

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

Talkabook is setting out to inspire children by connecting them with authors and illustrators! Click here to view my profile and learn more!

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

I’ve teamed up with several children’s authors to promote our upcoming books this year – and there are a LOT of them! Here’s what you can look forward to seeing this month.

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Coming March 2, 2021! Pre-orders are available!

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I continue adding to my “Wit & Wordplay” videos ! These videos were created for parents and educators (along with their kids) to learn how to write poetry, appreciate it, and have fun with it. From alliteration and iambs to free verse and spine poetry, I’m pretty sure there’s something in these videos you’ll find surprising! You can view them all on my YouTube channel, and if you have young kids looking for something to keep busy with, I also have several downloadable activity sheets at my website.

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

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!

Click any of the following covers to order!

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: “I’m Feeling Blue, Too!” interview

Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of inviting Marjorie Maddox to the ol’ Triple-R as a guest blogger to promote her new book, Inside Out (Kelsay Books). Today, I’m very happy to welcome Marjorie back for a brief interview about her newest book, I’m Feeling Blue, Too! (Resource Publications) and the process behind the craft of putting it together.

Welcome back, Marjorie! It’s so nice to chat with you about a book that’s so different from the one we spotlighted in April. Unlike most picture books, the illustrations for Blue were done first…can you explain the genesis for the project and how you came to be a part of it?

My collaborator, illustrator Philip Huber, began the book I’m Feeling Blue, Too! while in college. (To give you a sense of time, he just retired from Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania, where I also teach.) Over the years, Philip kept returning to and revising this series that focuses on the color blue.

Now fast forward forty years. As university colleagues, Philip and I had already worked together to help produce the student literary and arts journal. We also had already published our children’s book on collective nouns A Crossing of Zebras: Animal Packs in Poetry (Boyds Mills Press, 2008; reprinted Wipf & Stock, 2019), which followed a similar process of illustrations first, poetry second.

Marjorie Maddox

Having returned to his Blue project, Philip again was on the lookout for text to complement his artwork. Whereas our earlier A Crossing of Zebras called for a narrative for each spread, I’m Feeling Blue, Too! necessitated not only a poem per illustration, but also an overarching story for the book. You guessed it—he called me, the poet-in-residence and a creative writing professor at the university!

And I’m so glad he did. It turns out, I’m Feeling Blue, Too! is the first in a colorful trilogy. In addition, Philip has rendered reflections on yellow and on red. As Philip sees it, the trilogy is focused on opposites: “Blue is sad, so [the character] is happy. Yellow [suggests being] frightened, so [the character] exhibits enormous bravery. Red is rage so that character will be calm.” So, yes, although Philip’s first sketches began decades ago, we both see the series continuing into the future!

How long did it take to figure out how you wanted to approach the manuscript, insofar as deciding on a loose narrative and how you wanted to organize the text?

The opening illustration is of a boy and his dog Blue, readying for the day. This was the first poem that I wrote (in fact the poems were written rather quickly in order of the illustrations), and it set the tone for everything to come. I interpreted the scene as a call to wake up, to get going, to get out into the world and explore all aspects of the color blue! I also took it as a play on the word blue (including the connotations of depression or feeling stuck inside—as in the current pandemic). Symbolically, I wanted to fit the poem into a ray of light. And, thus, these words broke through:

(All images © 2020 Resource Publications, all rights reserved, used with permission of the author)

In the last line, I set up the concept of riddles—ways to discover the color blue during one boy’s journey from morning to night.

Philip Huber’s scratchboard illustrations harken back to a more classic style of illustration than we often see today…was there a reason he chose that medium, and do you feel that made a difference in how you responded?

I love Philip’s illustrations, a scratchboard technique that he has developed and refined over the years. It’s a sophisticated, layered (and very time-intensive) version of the crayon-and-ink pictures many of us created in grade school. To me, it’s a bit nostalgic. In addition, the process of scratching off the ink to reveal the beautiful colors beneath— well, it’s perfect for the subject matter of I’m Feeling Blue, Too!

The Trampoline, Flower, and Building Blocks spreads are great examples of the simultaneous energy/action and thoughtfulness that this book offers. Can you tell me your process for writing these three spreads?

Yes. One of the traits that so attracted me to these illustrations is that the boy character is multidimensional. At times full of energy and exuberance, he also loves to contemplate the world around him, as well as create entirely new worlds through his imagination.

Through the artwork, you can certainly experience the joy of jumping on a trampoline, trying so desperately to grab a piece of blue sky. I wanted the poem to capture this sense of elation, of bouncing up and down, of taking off like a rocket ship into the deep blue of possibility. And so I included a poetic countdown with words that jump on the page, grow larger and larger, and eventually “blast off” into adventure.

A concrete/shaped poem emphasizes the boy’s love of flowers. For this spread, I created a poem within a poem, all shaped like a petal. The “outer” layer alphabetically lists the “official” names of blue flowers (a nod to the scientific). The “inner” layer—PETALS POLLINATE PERIWINKLE AND ASTORS OF AZURE, SO MANY FLOWERS, SO MANY BLUES!— highlights a deep appreciation for the natural world, as well as the discoveries that come through contemplation.

(click to enlarge)

One of my favorite poems in I’m Feeling Blue, Too! narrates our protagonist carefully building a tower of blocks, an action that takes precision, patience, choices, and—of course—imagination and dreams. To me, the power of the imagination—to observe, respond, create, paint, move, write, perform stories—is the crux of I’m Feeling Blue, Too! It’s the light that takes us from those “can’t do nothin’ blues” and brings us into a larger world of creation, a world full of (if we dream it!) colorful possibility.

(click to enlarge)

What surprised you most about doing this project?

How easily one ekphrastic response led to another adventure in color, with Philip’s illustrations as map and guide. That’s not to say that there weren’t plenty of revisions—there were—but the overall narrative came out in a rush of discovery.

Finally, the question that all writers need to ask themselves before (and while) they are working on a book: Why did this book need to be written?

Philip’s artwork called out for the story behind the illustrations, a narrative that would pull the images even more tightly together. That was the original catalyst. However, since this book was so long in the making, these days I believe it begs another question: Why does it need to be read now?

And I think the answer stems from these strange times in which we live: the need to escape the sometimes suffocating experience of being stuck inside with those “can’t do nothin’ blues,” but also the joy of freedom that creativity can bring: to encourage, to learn, to teach, to grow, to make something beautiful, and strong, and powerful even, or especially, in the midst of troubled times.

Thanks so much for visiting, Marjorie – what do you have coming up next?

Because I write poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, and children’s literature, I always have something on the burner! I’m currently co-editing a 20th anniversary edition of Common Wealth: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania, which will include all new poems and a teaching guide. In addition, my book of poems (for adults), Begin with a Question, is forthcoming in 2021 from Paraclete Press and addresses issues of faith, as well as a series of poems written during the pandemic.

My circulating poetry manuscript, Seeing Things, explores the ways that we distort or preserve memory, define or alter reality, and see or don’t see those around us on both a personal and national level. Woven throughout the collection is a series of odes.

And, of course, there’s always that trilogy of colors to continue with Philip!

Well, thank you so much for visiting again, Marjorie – and best wishes with Blue and all your upcoming projects!

A little bit about Marjorie Maddox: As Professor of English and Creative Writing at Lock Haven University, Marjorie has published 11 collections of poetry including Transplant, Transport, Transubstantiation (Yellowglen Prize); True, False, None of the Above (Illumination Book Award Medalist); Local News from Someplace Else;Perpendicular As I (Sandstone Book Award)—the story collection What She Was Saying (FomitePress); four children’s and YA books—including  Inside Out: Poems on Writing and Readiing Poems with Insider Exercises (Finalist Children’s Educational Category 2020 International Book Awards), A Crossing of Zebras: Animal Packs in Poetry ; Rules of the Game: Baseball Poems; and I’m Feeling Blue, Too!Common Wealth: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania (co-editor); Presence (assistant editor); and 600+ stories, essays, and poems in journals and anthologies. Her book Begin with a Question is forthcoming from Paraclete Press in 2021. She was the chair of the jury of judges for the 2020 Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Book Award. For more information visit www.marjoriemaddox.com.

Jama Rattigan, who recently also spotlighted Marjorie’s book, is celebrating autumn by hosting today’s Poetry Friday roundup at Jama’s Alphabet Soup – with with apples, blue jays, and donuts!

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I’ve teamed up with several children’s authors to promote our upcoming books this year – and there are a LOT of them! Here’s what you can look forward to seeing this month.

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

Coming March 2, 2021! Pre-orders are available!

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

I continue adding to my “Wit & Wordplay” videos ! These videos were created for parents and educators (along with their kids) to learn how to write poetry, appreciate it, and have fun with it. From alliteration and iambs to free verse and spine poetry, I’m pretty sure there’s something in these videos you’ll find surprising! You can view them all on my YouTube channel, and if you have young kids looking for something to keep busy with, I also have several downloadable activity sheets at my website.

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

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!

Click any of the following covers to order!

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!