On Dream-Chasing and Mistake-Making: Nuggets of Wisdom from #NESCBWI19

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Well, another New England SCBWI Regional Conference has wrapped up, and once again, I’ve brought home impressive amounts of inspiration, enlightenment, and sleep deprivation. Remember when you used to pull all-nighters in college, and now you look back on those days wondering how you ever managed? That’s almost what a conference weekend is like; up at 7am, in bed at 1am, repeat.

In the past, I’ve shared the importance of casting wide nets, what it means to “swallow your heart,” and paying attention to the cost of scallops. This year’s conference was no less inspiring! So here, in no particular order, are a few of the highlights:

  1. Losing one of one’s senses heightens the others. We’ve all heard this, but author Patricia MacLaughlin shared her personal struggle with macular degeneration, which has caused her eyesight to deteriorate to the point where she is now nearly blind. In her estimation, blindness has made her a better writer because, in her words, “I see my childhood better now.
  2. “Value the process, not the product.” – Jane Yolen
  3. Characters are defined by their mistakes. Or, more specifically, says
    Yours Truly with Sudipta. I’m the one on the left.

    author Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen, they are defined by the kinds of mistakes they make. Just like us humans, we make foolish mistakes, rash decisions, and well-thought out plans that go awry. It’s important to think about this when developing your own characters.

  4. “Sometimes we chase the dream and sometimes the dream chases us.” Keynote speaker Ekua Holmes
  5. First drafts are supposed to be terrible. And often are! Saturday morning’s keynote speaker was novelist Lynda Mullaly Hunt, who spoke about honesty in one’s writing and how it doesn’t always come easy – and sometimes drastic measures are necessary to set things aright. She said that she had just completed the final version of her new novel, Shouting at the Rain when she realized she didn’t like it. What did she do? She deleted the entire manuscript, a mere two weeks before it was due! She said she needed to rewrite the entire thing, which she did – because although the deleted version was fine, “who wants a ‘fine’ book?” she said. The new, completely revamped version was what ended up getting published.
  6. “We are not made by our mistakes. We are made by what we do about them” – Lynda Mullaly Hunt (There are those darned mistakes again!)
  7. Seeing my books scroll along on the big screen never gets old. Next year: FOUR books on the ol’ PowerPoint!
  8. Strong picture book manuscripts have specific qualities that editors look for. This goes without saying, of course, but agent Rachel Orr of the Prospect Agency shared a few of the things she looks for in a picture book manuscript: unique voice, fresh story/approach, solid theme, strong marketability, and emotional resonance. I’m definitely keeping these things in mind as I move forward with my projects!
  9. From L: Alex Hinrichs, Heidi E.Y. Stemple, me, Miranda Levin

    “Childhood is the pattern from which the man and woman is built.” – Ekua Holmes

  10. Discussing the virtues of rhyming text with an editor is an enlightening experience. I had the opportunity to discuss rhyme with Ripple Grove Press editor Rob Broder, who goes to great lengths on the company’s website to dissuade people from writing bad rhyming text. He sees so much bad rhyme, he tends to stay away from all rhyme completely, and of course, I – as someone who writes primarily in rhyme and sees tons of bad rhymes – couldn’t fault him.
  11. “The things we are ashamed of make for very good writing” – Lynda Mullaly Hunt
  12. There were no Muffins of Deception this year. I know not everyone places as much weight on something like this as I do, but it was a nice change of pace, nonetheless. You see, every year during the continental breakfasts, there are always a few dark muffins waiting patiently for some poor, unsuspecting soul to grab them, thinking they are chocolate; it is only once that individual sits down at their table in the ballroom and takes a bite that they realize these are not delicious chocolate but are, in fact, evil bran. This year, we experienced the freedom that comes from not worrying about such a horrible surprise.
  13. “Making books is a joyful thing. Even the hard parts. Even then.” —Jane Yolen

If I was to share every little piece of wisdom gleaned from this year’s conference, it would take me a week to get this blog post put together, so I’ll wrap it up with my friend Jane’s quote. Making books is, indeed, joyful – the hard parts, and all the parts.

Thank you for following my journey, and get ready for some big announcements in the months ahead!

From L: Poppy Parfomak, me, Colleen Murphy, Maria Marshall, Vivian Kirkfield
From Lynda Mullaly Hunt’s keynote address.

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


  Coming July 2, 2019!

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

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

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

Thank you to everyone for your support!

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

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

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

“Don’t Ask a Dinosaur” turns one year old! (w/GIVEAWAY!)

It’s hard for me to believe, but my second picture book, Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (POW! Kids Books, 2018), turns one year old today!

From our national book launch at Porter Square Books in Cambridge, MA! (Cake courtesy of my step-daughter, Jess Corsetti)

Yes, it’s been 365 days since my co-author Deborah Bruss and I unleashed these wild and silly creatures on the world, and we’re so happy, we’re celebrating by offering YOU a gift! (More on that later.)

Deb, illustrator Louie Chin, and I all thought that it might be fun to share with you some of the questions we receive when doing school visits and book signings. We shared our most common questions with each other…then answered them all! So here we go:

What’s your favorite Dinosaur?
LOUIE:  My favorite dinosaur is the T-Rex! I even spent some time at KidLitTV in New York City and KidLit TVshared my process for drawing a T-Rex just like the one in the book – so if you’ve got kids who want to learn, I hope they’ll check out the ReadySetDraw! video.
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DEB:  Deinocheirus used to be my favorite (anyone with a talent like balancing a spoon on your nose has to be awesome!) but I have a new favorite now:  Zuul! Never heard of him? It’s a newly-discovered species! With a cool name, a shovel for a mouth, and a wrecking-ball tail, I can’t resist! (Besides, it’s easy to pronounce)

MATT:  I have two favorites; one is in the book, the other isn’t. I love Therezinosaurus because he’s so unusual – with the longest claws of any dinosaur (up to 3 feet!), a giant pelvis designed for prolonged sitting (you can’t make this up), a bird-like beak, his skeleton has been described as being “assembled by a drunken sailor who got quite confused.” My other favorite is Quetzalcoatlus, one of the largest flying creatures of all time. Approximately the same size as a small Cessna aircraft and named after the Aztec serpent god, Quetzalcoatlus is just too cool for words!

(click to enlarge)
How long does it take to write/illustrate a picture book or poem?
DEB:  I’ve never had a poem published, so that I don’t know. If I could write a poem worthy of being published, it would probably take me 50 years. For a picture book, anywhere from 6 months to many years. The original idea for Don’t Ask A Dinosaur sprouted in 1997, except the animals were current day creatures such as porcupine, moose and elephant.

MATT:  I always respond by saying, “as long as it takes” – which is honestly NOT a cop-out answer! Dinosaur went through 20 revisions before we started sending the manuscript out to potential publishers, yet a board book I have coming out next year was written in one evening, revised a few times, and was accepted. You just can’t ever tell!

LOUIE:  It takes a long time to illustrate a picture book. From the first sketches to the finished artwork, it can take almost half a year!

How did you decide which dinosaurs to include?
Some of Louie’s early sketches!

DEB:  When I exchanged contemporary animals for dinosaurs, I picked ones that were fairly common and had strange attributes. Matt, the dinosaur buff, dug around for the weirdest ones, some of which were recent discoveries.

MATT:  We wanted a good mix of dinos – some well-known favorites, some brand-new species – but they all needed exceptional, distinguishing characteristics. There were several dinosaurs and early reptiles we initially included that didn’t make the final cut, like Anchicertops, Spinosaurus, Microraptor, Archelon, and a few others.

Was it hard working together? Were there any problems?
LOUIE:  Working together was easy!
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DEB:  I also found it easy to work with someone – that someone being Matt – because feedback was fairly quick and to the point. The only problem was when Matt’s enthusiasm for the latest and coolest dinosaur bubbled over late at night and he had to wait until morning for my opinion. At least, I imagine that’s what happened.

MATT:  Actually, I think the only “problem” (if you can call it that) was that by the 17th or 18 revision, we both started over-thinking things and began adding in lines or rhymes that we’d previously taken out – ha! Once a writer gets to that point, you know it’s time to give it a rest.

How involved were you with the illustrations?
DEB:  I think our situation was fairly unusual. The editor sought our opinion on illustrative styles.
MATT:  We did have a bit of a say as to how things were going, but Louie pretty much did his own thing, and we were very happy with it!
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LOUIE:  There wasn’t a lot of communication directly. Most of it was relayed through the editor.
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No, Lioplurodon is not really a dinosaur, by definition – but he was just too fun to leave out! (click to enlarge)
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Why are there are no flying dinosaurs in the book?
DEB:  Good question! Matt, what do you have to say?

MATT: Technically, the flying reptiles known as pterosaurs (including my buddy, Quetzalcoatlus) were not true dinosaurs. Neither was Lioplurodon, either – but somehow he managed to stay. I’m guessing it’s because he was making cake, and everyone loves cake.

What’s the most memorable question you’ve been asked?
LOUIE:  I can’t recall a question that stood out, but it’s a lot of fun hearing all the dinosaur facts and stories from the children.
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DEB:  After reading to a bunch of four-year-olds, I asked, “Does anyone have a question for me?”
Child #1: “I have a crystal.”  
Child #2: “I do, too!”  
Child #3: “Me, too.”

MATT:  When I’m speaking at schools, I usually mention that being a kid is way more fun than being a grown-up because people ask kids questions like, “what’s your favorite dinosaur?” but no one ever asks ME that – it’s like they don’t even care! A student will invariably shout out, “Well, what’s YOUR favorite dinosaur??” To which I respond my thanking him/her and announcing Quetzalcoatlus. (and you know what? There’s always at least one student who goes, “YESSS!!”)

Now that the book is out, do you have any questions about it? 
DEB:  I want to know, how do all those dinosaurs fit inside a house?
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MATT:  I’m wondering if those dinosaurs that were outside, like Ankylosaurus and Argentinosaurus, ever got any cake.
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LOUIE: I’d like to know what other wild things other dinosaurs not in the book would do, if they were invited to a birthday!
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READY TO WIN A FREE COPY??

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Just leave a comment below, and you’ll be entered to win! I’ll announce the winner on Poetry Friday, April 26, so you’ve got a week and a half to tell your friends and ask them to enter, too. Good luck…and thank you for your support!

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The 2019 Kidlitosphere Progressive Poem continues! Each day during April (National Poetry Month), a different writer/ blogger adds a new line to the poem until it concludes April 30. You can follow along at the sites listed below.

2019 Progressive Poem schedule:

April

1 Matt @Radio, Rhythm and Rhyme
2 Kat @Kathryn Apel
3 Kimberly @KimberlyHutmacherWrites
4 Jone @DeoWriter
5 Linda @TeacherDance
6 Tara @Going to Walden
7 Ruth @thereisnosuchthingasagodforsakentown
8 Mary Lee @A Year of Reading
9 Rebecca @Rebecca Herzog
10 Janet F. @Live Your Poem
11 Dani @Doing the Work that Matters
12 Margaret @Reflections on the Teche
13 Doraine @Dori Reads
14 Christie @Wondering and Wandering
15 Robyn @Life on the Deckle Edge
16 Carol @Beyond LiteracyLink
17 Amy @The Poem Farm
18 Linda @A Word Edgewise
19 Heidi @my juicy little universe
20 Buffy @Buffy’s Blog
21 Michelle @Michelle Kogan
22 Catherine @Reading to the Core
23 Penny @a penny and her jots
24 Tabatha @The Opposite of Indifference
25 Jan @Bookseestudio
26 Linda @Write Time
27 Sheila @Sheila Renfro
28 Liz @Elizabeth Steinglass
29 Irene @Live Your Poem
30 Donna @Mainely Write

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


  Coming July 2, 2019!

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

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

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

Thank you to everyone for your support!

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

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

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

“What if…? Then We…” Blog Tour arrives! (with a GIVEAWAY!)

I’ve known children’s author/poet Rebecca Kai Dotlich for a number of years and have been a big fan of her writing for even longer; conversely, I’d never even heard of author/illustrator Fred Koehler until he signed on to illustrate my debut picture book, Flashlight Night (Boyds Mills Press, 2017), and we’ve since become internet friends and supporters of each others’ work. (One day, I plan to visit Florida and say hi in person!)

You can therefore probably understand why I’m so happy to be able to share in the celebration of the release of What If…Then We (Boyds Mills Press, 2019), the new picture book from the Dynamic Duo!

This imaginative book is a companion to their One Day, The End (Boyds Mills Press, 2015), a Boston Globe Horn Book honor book that presented a different premise, in text, on each spread – and then expanded the details of each story via Fred’s illustrations. In their new book, the pair wonder what might happen if they ran into various situations…and their solutions are simultaneously sweet and bold:

What if…every crayon in the world melted? What if…all the words in the universe disappeared? What if…we began to cry?

What if…the clocks stopped ticktocking?

It is in this spirit that I thought I’d ask our two friends, Rebecca and Fred, a few questions!

1) What if…you had not written / illustrated “One Day…The End?”
Rebecca:  Then I would have written something else.
Fred:  Then I probably wouldn’t have gone on to illustrate four other picture books and two novels for Boyds Mills! No illustrator will ever admit that a book was easy. To take an author’s manuscript and visually interpret it in a way that elevates the text to a new level is… Mind-bending. A feat of mental Olympics. A puzzle within a puzzle. But honestly, that wasn’t the case with ONE DAY, THE END. It was um, well, kind of easy.

I fell in love with ODTE for the same reason I later fell in love with FLASHLIGHT NIGHT. I read it, scratched my head, and asked out loud “How on earth am I gonna illustrate this???” If it hadn’t been a challenge, I wouldn’t have been intrigued enough to come up with an original concept. I loved it because it required a deeper level of ingenuity than suggested by a simple text.

Fortunately, Boyds Mills liked the idea I presented and it went through only a few revisions to the original concept. So I owe a lot to that book, as well as author Rebecca Kai Dotlich and editor Rebecca Davis.

2) What if…you got lost far, far, far away and couldn’t find your way home?
Rebecca:  I would panic for a nanosecond, then I would “look for the helpers.”
Fred:  Then I imagine I’d just keep walking in what I thought was the right direction and hope someone found me. I got off at the wrong stop from the school bus when I was 10 or 11. It was the first day of summer camp and a different bus route. Instead of telling the bus driver I thought he’d skipped my neighborhood, I just got off with the next group of kids and started walking the way I thought was right. My mom eventually found me a solid mile from home, going the wrong way.

I don’t think I’ve changed much.

3) What if…you were not an author / illustrator?
Rebecca:  Then I would be feeling a tad empty, although then I might be a songwriter.
Fred:  Then I’d be a lot less happy. I’d have far fewer friends. My career wouldn’t be nearly as rewarding. This list could go on and on.

4) What if…your careers were switched?
Rebecca:  Then we would still be creative, and I would love being an artist!
Fred:  Then I’d write loads and loads of ideas that the industry calls “illustrator bait.” It’s those craftily worded concepts that present a wide open canvas for a clever artist. (Illustrators are helpless to say ‘no’ to ideas like that.) FLASHLIGHT NIGHT and ONE DAY, THE END are both great examples. So are books like DRAWN TOGETHER (Disney-Hyperion, 2018) and THE DAY THE CRAYONS QUIT (Philomel Books, 2013).

5) What if…you could create any book you wanted – no matter how unconventional, unpopular, or non-commercial it might be – and know that it would get published?
Rebecca:  Then I would get to work and write it. And also, it might involve magic!
Fred:  Then I’d be right where I am today, without the ‘knowing it’s going to get published’ part. I’m glad many of my ideas get turned down, because I come up with loads and loads of them. If they all got published, I’d have a hundred mediocre books on the shelf. Because of rejection, only the best stuff makes it through. (And I consciously try to avoid what’s popular. What I want most of all is to make honest art and help readers see themselves reflected in the heart of each story.)

6) What if…Boyds Mills Press wants a third book with this concept?
Rebecca:  Then we would not hesitate, because, as they say, the 3rd time’s a charm.
Fred:  Then we’d celebrate. Also, three is an odd number and every artist knows that odd numbers of things are visually more appealing than evens.

Thank you, Rebecca and Fred, and congratulations again! (And yes, Fred – we writers are also well aware of the classic “Rule of 3’s!”) I’ve always been a big proponent of the question “What if…” as a way of jump-starting creativity – I even wrote a blog post about it FIVE YEARS AGO – so seeing this concept in print makes me happy.

If you’d like a chance to win a free copy of What If…? Then We…”, just leave a comment below to enter! I’ll announce one name at random on Poetry Friday, March 1 – so you have until the end of this month, Feb. 28, to enter. Good luck!

What if…your cat photobombed your photo of the book?

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


  Coming July 2, 2019!

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

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

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

Thank you to everyone for your support!

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

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

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

A unique opportunity for a unique gift…

If you’ve been following this blog for awhile, you probably already know what I’m talking about in this video…but I recorded this recently for all the folks with who’ve I’ve just started connecting. (Details are below…)

I also want to give a quick shout-out to the folks at Parents Magazine, who shared a brief story of mine about how my son helped us proofread Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (Pow! Kids Books, 2018). You can check it out in the latest issue:

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


  Coming July 2, 2019!

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

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

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

Thank you to everyone for your support!

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

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

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

Poetry Friday: “I Am Someone Else” first peek!

As we approach the end of 2018 – and as those of us who celebrated Christmas attempt to get our lives back into their normal rhythm – I thought I’d share a wonderful surprise gift I received just a few days before Christmas. The proof of the spread of my poem in Lee Bennett Hopkins’ new upcoming children’s poetry anthology, I Am Someone Else: Poems About Pretending, arriving July 2, 2019 from Charlesbridge!

What would it be like to be a wizard, a dancer, a veterinarian, a pilot? The book contains 15 poems about not only “who” a child might like to pretend to be – but why. Here’s the proof of my poem’s page, so far…

(click to enlarge) ©2019 Charlesbridge, all rights reserved, reprinted with permission

Once again, I’m honored to be included in a collection that features so many talented, highly-esteemed writers as former U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis, Newbery winner Lois Lowry, and many others.

By the way, the annual CYBILS Awards‘ Poetry category shortlist has been officially nailed down, and we’ll be sharing the results soon (Shortlisted titles move on the 2nd Round judges, who will decide the winners in February). For more poetry, head on over to Mainely Write, where my friend Donna Smith has today’s complete Poetry Friday roundup!

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


  

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

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

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

Thank you to everyone for your support!

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

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

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

Poetry Friday: An Octo-poem for Agnes!

If you don’t know Agnes, allow me to introduce you…

Agnes, you see, is a giant Pacific octopus who corresponds with other deep-sea critters using postcards (imaginative concept, yes?). Her story, Love, Agnes (Millbrook Press, 2018), is told by Irene Latham (Dear Wandering Wildebeest, Can I Touch Your Hair?) and is available everywhere!

So to celebrate, Irene is featuring octopus poems at her blog all month long. Some are touching, some introspective, others full of imagery and emotion.

And then there’s mine.

Ha! For more poetry, head over to my friend Laura Purdie Salas’ Writing the World for Kids, where she’s hosting today’s Poetry Friday roundup with one of my favorite poems from J. Patrick Lewis’ new anthology, The Poetry of US (National Geographic Children’s Books, 2018).

And if you didn’t hear about the big event I got to take part in this past weekend, I encourage you to check out Flashlight Night‘s flashlight night!

Going to be in the Concord, NH area tomorrow?

Please consider stopping by Books-A-Million on Fort Eddy Road for their special educator day, Sat., Oct. 13! I’ll be there from 1-3pm along with fellow New Hampshire authors Deborah Bruss, Marty Kelley, and Amy Makechnie, signing books and chatting about education, writing/illustrating, and school author visits!

By the way…there are only THREE DAYS LEFT to get your nominations in for the 2018 Cybils Awards! If there are some particularly awesome books you’ve read this past year, then help get them the recognition they deserve – click the logo and select the categories you need. (Those of us who write for a living appreciate it!)

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


  

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

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

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

Thank you to everyone for your support!

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

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

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

Poetry Friday: “The Poetry of US” book birthday!

In stores now…

Yes, it’s finally here! The latest in National Geographic’s series of coffee-table poetry anthologies edited by the inimitable J. Patrick Lewis, former U.S. Children’s Poetry Laureate. I’m incredibly proud to have a poem of mine included in this book, along with 200+ others written by incredibly talented, insightful, witty folks.

When Pat first started putting the book together, he asked me if I would write a poem about Las Vegas nightlife. I replied that I’d love to – because if there’s anything a country boy from New Hampshire like me knows all about, it’s Las Vegas nightlife. Ha!

Sue, the children’s librarian at our local library, holds up her copy – which arrived before MY copy!

So Pat, always the accommodating fellow, asked if I’d prefer a different topic, to which I said, emphatically, NO; I relished the opportunity to write a poem on a subject about which I knew nothing! Seriously, when I think of Las Vegas I think of gambling, showgirls, and cheap steaks…and that’s pretty much it. So I jumped into research mode, reading about the city, learning the demographics, using Google Maps to go for a “virtual drive” around the city, etc.

After much deliberation, I decided on a blank verse sonnet, to try to capture the sense of form and structure of the city – and also leave a tip of the hat to a much more famous poem in the ending line. This is what I came up…

– © 2018 Matt Forrest Esenwine and National Geographic Children’s Books, all rights reserved (click to enlarge)

If you’d like to learn more about the Stratosphere Hotel and see the crazy amusement rides (like the Sky Jump) they have at the top of one of the tallest free-standing observation towers in the country, click HERE. For more poetry, head on over to Deowriter, where Jone MacCulloch is hosting Poetry Friday by spotlighting a poem from another poetry anthology, Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong’s Great Morning (Pomelo Books, 2018).

Congratulations to the winners of a personally-signed copy of Flashlight Night (Boyds Mills Press, 2017)! 

Last week, we celebrated the first-year birthday of my debut picture book, and many thanks to everyone who entered the giveaway by commenting or sharing the post via social media. Chosen at random, the winners are: Michelle Kogan, Erin Mauger, and a friend who wishes to remain anonymous. (Ah, yes, there’s one in every crowd, ha!)

Thank you again so much, for all your support! And if you’d like to order a personally-signed copy of Flashlight or any of my books, just scroll down a wee bit…

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

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


  

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

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

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

Thank you to everyone for your support!

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

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

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

The life of a picture book: celebrating ONE YEAR for “Flashlight Night”! (Plus GIVEAWAY!)

I make a living using my imagination.

Whether it’s a poem, a picture book, or even a blog post, I love to stretch my mind and see what kinds of unusual, surprising, and creative stories and images I can come up with.

But I have to admit…it is very, very hard for me wrap my head around the fact that my debut picture book is ONE YEAR OLD today!

Flashlight Night (Boyds Mills Press) was officially published on Sept. 19, 2017 – and I could never have imagined the response it would receive nationally. I knew I liked it, of course; I knew illustrator Fred Koehler had done a phenomenal job on his end, and I knew our editor, Rebecca Davis, had performed an amazing juggling act between the two of us – balancing my story with the story Fred was telling via his illustrations.

I also had no idea, once I completed the final draft, that it would even get picked up by a publisher; nor could I possibly fathom how long it would take to produce, once the contract was signed. It might be the book’s one-year birthday, but the idea for the book is four years old now! So to give you a little perspective on the life of a picture book, I thought I’d present a timeline of the life of Flashlight Night:

  • August, 2014: Staring at my car’s headlights while driving home late at night from an SCBWI Meet-Up in Westford, MA, the words, “Flashlight opens up the night” pop into my head. As I toss this phrase around in my head I eventually come up with the opening and closing of…something. A poem? A book? Nothing??
    .
  • Sept. 9, 2014: After a couple of weeks of writing and revising, I complete the final draft of Flashlight. (That’s right, no “Night.” It looked a little different then…
    .
  • Oct. 7, 2014: With a hope and a prayer (and crossed fingers) I send the manuscript off to Rebecca Davis, the editor at Boyds Mills Press. Rebecca had seen some of my previous poetry but had not purchased anything up to this point. Before I email the manuscript to her, I change the title to Flashlight Night, so that there is no confusion with another book, Flashlight (Chronicle), which had just been published the week before I wrote my own flashlight book! How’s THAT for timing, huh?
    .
  • Dec. 2014: The Flashlight Night manuscript is awarded the New England SCBWI’s Peg Davol Scholarship for unpublished authors and receives a critique from an established, published author.
    .
  • Jan. 16, 2015: Five days after my critique, I receive a call from Rebecca, telling me she and her editorial board all love the manuscript. I am elated – not just because I had finally sold a full-length book manuscript, but because, had I followed the critiquer’s suggestions, the book would not be the book it is today. Indeed, it might not have even gotten published!
    .
    This is why critiques can be helpful, but only if an author takes the advice that makes sense to him/her. If you have read Flashlight Night, compare my notes with the book itself, and note how far it deviates from all the recommendations I was given:
  • May 18, 2015: I sign the contract for Flashlight Night!
    .
  • June, 2015: After seeing his concept
    Image © 2015 Fred Koehler, all rights reserved, reprinted with permission (click to enlarge)

    for the book’s sub-narrative, which includes the flashlight beam illuminating the children’s adventure, Rebecca signs Fred Koehler to illustrate our book. She shares with me Fred’s initial sketch of what he’d like to do with the book, and we agree it’s ingenious. (By the way, Rebecca and I have already gone through four text revisions at this point – and more are on the way!)
    .

  • Spring, 2016:
    (click to enlarge)

    Fred takes a 2-week trip to the United Kingdom to sketch and photograph the countryside, the shipyard, the ocean, and museum artifacts in preparation. Much of what he sees – including the trail into the woods, the clipper ship, and the rocky arch where the Kraken hides – ends up in the book. I tell Fred that I should have taken the trip first, THEN written the book – what a sweet tax-write off!
    .

  • July-Dec. 2016: Dummies of the book continue to be put together and taken apart, revised and edited. By early Dec., we realize that my original ending,“all is still within, without,” is simply not going to work with Fred’s illustrations, so I change the line to “adventure lingers, stirs about.” (It’s called “collaboration,” folks!) By Dec. 14, we have what we believe is the final dummy version of the entire book, text and illustrations.
    .
  • March 2017: And now we have a cover! The colors are a little bolder than they will eventually be, but it looks great:

    .
  • March 6, 2017: I am asked to fill out a questionnaire with social media contacts, bookstore info, and other folks I know who might be able to help in the promotional effort. (Wow, I thought. Things are gettin’ real…)
    .
  • April 12, 2017: F&G’s arrive.
    (click to enlarge)

    Short for “folded and gathered,” F&G’s are printed up following approval of a book’s final proofs. They look exactly the way the book will look once it’s bound, yet allow publishers’ marketing and sales teams to mail the books to buyers and trade journals without the heavy cover…shipping costs can get pretty hefty, as you can imagine!
    .

  • April-May 2017: Promotions get underway: full-page display ads in industry catalogs, inclusion in the Boyds Mills Press’ catalog…things are DEFINITELY getting real now. It feels like there is a new surprise everyday!
       
  • May 26, 2017: We receive our first review, and it’s a whopper. Kirkus calls Flashlight Night a “rousing read” and awards it a coveted Starred Review. As blown away as I am at this news…I am now eager to learn what others think of it!
  • May 26, 2017: Flashlight Night flashlights arrive, to be distributed to librarians and book buyers across the country! Yes, May 26 was a good day.
    .
  • June 2, 2017: Representatives of Boyds Mills Press attend Book Expo America, where just about every book publisher is showing off their upcoming catalog. I nearly fall over when I see the banner:
  • June 26, 2017: Two days after my birthday, my author copies arrive. It was the best non-birthday birthday gift ever, in the history of ever.
    .
  • July-August 2017: The industry reviews start coming in! One after another, they sing the praises of our little book:  Publisher’s Weekly states that my text and Fred’s illustrations “don’t just lobby for children to read—they show how readers play;” The Horn Book calls Flashlight Night “an old-fashioned, rip-roaring imaginary adventure; and Booklist describes it as “imaginative,” “surprising,” and “fantastical.”
    .
  • Sept. 1, 2017: The School Library Journal reviews the book, calling the verse “incantatory.” The reviewer’s final verdict is glowing: “A simple idea that’s engagingly executed and would be an excellent, atmospheric read for sleepovers or backyard campouts. A good choice for most collections.” I’m particularly proud that the text is referred to as a poem…which is how it first came to be and the genre that got me into children’s writing in the first place.
    .
  • Sept. 7, 2017: The National Book Launch takes place at Porter Square Books in Cambridge, MA – just
    Photo courtesy of Josh Funk (click to enlarge)

    outside of Boston. Although the book doesn’t officially come out until Sept. 19, this date had been arranged earlier in the year, when we thought the book was going to be released earlier. It is a dual book launch with my friend and fellow author Carol Gordon Ekster, who was also celebrating the release of her new book. The event is well-attended, we sell lots of books, and I breathe a sigh of relief! It is the fist of many signings, and I can’t wait to continue the book tour throughout southern NH and northeastern MA.
    .

  • Sept. 19, 2017: Flashlight Night makes it debut in the world!! (And on International Talk Like a Pirate Day, no less – how more perfect could that be?!?) A huge blog tour helps support the promotional effort with interviews, giveaways, and lots of great press – including an appearance by Fred Koehler on KidLitTV. (Book signings, readings, and school visits, oh my!) More than THREE YEARS after I first started tossing words around in my head to create my story, anyone and everyone who wants to have a copy, can buy one anywhere. It still feels surreal.
     
      
    .
  • Sept. 22, 2017: Three days after its release – yes, a mere THREE DAYS after its release, Flashlight Night shows up on Amazon’s “Best Books for Kids” list:

    (and “Flashlight Night” is ON SALE right now!)
  • Sept. 26, 2017: Unbeknownst to the publisher, we receive a tremendously positive review from Shelf-Awareness, in which the reviewer compares our book – favorably! – to Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are. Talk about compliments that can humble a person.
    .
  • Sept. 27, 2017: More publicity! This ad
    (click to enlarge)

    was for an email blast for the online book retailer Mackin. With so many positive reviews, our publisher wanted as many potential customers as possible to see them.
    .

  • Oct. 7, 2017: Illustrator Fred Koehler informs me that The Polk Museum of Art in Lakeland, FL is installing an exhibit featuring his original artwork for Flashlight Night. Each piece is to be framed and mounted on the wall, along with my text, in such as way as to allow a viewer to follow the story page-by-page:

    Photo courtesy Fred Koehler
  • Nov. 2017: I discover that Flashlight Night is one of Amazon’s best-selling children’s books about libraries and reading…and my head swells a wee bit more.
    .
  • Dec., 2017: Another review and another (major) list! The review is by the School Library Connection, which also favorably compares the book to Wild Things, praising its “poetic rhyme” and “creative illustrations.” The list is the New York Public Library’s “Best Books for Kids 2017,” which also includes titles like Dan Santat’s incredible After the Fall (Roaring Brook Press) and the Margaret Wise Brown Prize-winning Things to Do (Chronicle Books) by my friend Elaine Magliaro. Shortly thereafter, Flashlight Night shows up as a NY Public Library Staff Pick, as well!
    .
  • Jan. 2018: Boyds Mills Press learns that the Kansas chapter of the NEA has selected Flashlight Night to be included in its 2018 Reading Circle Catalog, an honor I do not take lightly. We also continue discovering positive reviews from random kidlit, parenting, and educational bloggers, and I make a point to leave a comment on each one of them, thanking them for their support.
    .
  • March 20, 2018: One of the aforementioned bloggers, author Jen Betton, uses Flashlight Night as mentor text for discussing the interplay of text and illustration. The fact that anyone would use something I wrote to teach others how to write is an indescribable honor.
    .
  • March 23, 2018: I deposit my very first royalty check!
    That’s right…makin’ bank, baby!

    .
    Well, ok…it wasn’t QUITE this much. But I was thrilled – not just because I had made some money, but because of what it meant…
    .
    You see, many picture books don’t even make back the advance a publisher pays the author. To explain, an advance is against royalties; it’s like getting an advance on your paycheck. The publisher pays you up-front, then once you have sold enough copies to cover the advance, you begin receiving royalties. So the fact that we not only made back the advance, but made it back and then some within 5 months was astonishing. Keep in mind, compared to highly-successful, well-established authors like Jane Yolen and Mo Willems, I’m a relative unknown – so the book’s success is significant. I was so grateful to editor Rebecca Davis and Boyds Mills Press for taking a chance on Flashlight Night.
    .

  • Summer 2018: Our little book starts popping up on Summer Reading Lists! You can learn more at my blog post HERE.
    .
  • What’s next: The book continues to be discovered by parents, children, librarians, and teachers. I am always delighted when I see a new review or hear about the book showing up on a reading list. While I continue to do book signings for Flashlight Night, Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (Pow! Kids Books, 2018), and the poetry anthologies I’ve been a part of (see below for all the covers), I also love visiting schools to talk about the writing process, poetry, and how writing & illustrating go hand-in-hand when creating picture books.
    .
    We tell our kids to read and write for 12+ years in school, yet rarely do we tell them they can actually do it for a living…that they could be an author when they grow up. Well, I’m here to tell them they CAN! So if you are interested in having me visit your school, please email me at matt (at) mattforrest (dot) com and we can chat! (You can get more info HERE)

Thank you for following this blog and for supporting Flashlight Night. I never knew how many people would see it, read it, love it…and its success has made an immense impact on my life. I’m genuinely grateful to every single person who has read it, purchased it, shared it, or somehow promoted it. From teachers and librarians, to parents and bloggers, to book sellers and reviewers – there are just too many people to thank individually for their support.

So please know that you are a part of this timeline I’ve shared – at every point along the way. And this goes beyond Flashlight and Dinosaur and all the other books yet to come. None of what I do can been accomplished without the help and encouragement of folks like you. And I hope you’ll remain a part of this author’s journey on which I embarked 8 years ago.

Because I have a feeling we’re only getting started!

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

“Hang on there just a second, Matt –
where’s this GIVEAWAY you told us about??

Ah, yes – the giveaway! I have THREE personally-signed copies of Flashlight Night I’m going to give away, in three different ways:

  1. Leave a comment below and let me know you’d like to be entered in the drawing! I’ll pick one name at random on Thursday, Sept. 27 and announce the winner on my Poetry Friday blog post the next day.
    .
  2. Share this post on Facebook or Twitter! Just be sure to tag me, so I know…and I’ll pick another name at random on Thursday, Sept. 27.
    .
  3. Leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads! Now, before you start talking trash and calling me out for fishing for compliments, let me state this clearly: if you don’t like Flashlight Night…leave a review, anyway! I am by no means offended by negative criticism. Not everyone likes every book. While most reviews have been positive, there are some readers who have been completely underwhelmed by our effort. And that’s ok; we can still get along. (Why you would want to leave a negative review in the hopes of getting a free copy is beyond me, but to each his own.) Out of all the reviews posted from today through Sept. 27, 6pm EDST, I’ll pick one name at random – and will leave a comment on your review, so you’ll know you won. So be sure to check your review on Friday, Sept. 28!

Oh, and if you’d like to have TWO MORE CHANCES to score free stuff, Laura Sassi is featuring an interview with Fred Koehler and Yours Truly on her blog today – she’s giving away a free signed copy of Flashlight Night AND a package of cool swag from the fine folks at KidLitTV!

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

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


  (coming Sept. 25, 2018!)

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

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

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

Thank you to everyone for your support!

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

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

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

Learn to draw a T-Rex w/ “Don’t Ask a Dinosaur” illustrator Louie Chin!

Want to learn how to draw a T-Rex? Then I have just the thing for you!

Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (Pow! Kids Books, 2018) illustrator Louie Chin recently visited the studios of KidLitTV in New York City, where he showed viewers his step-by-step process of drawing dinosaurs, specifically the T-Rex from our picture book. Louie breaks down the method simply, so the 5-minute video is great for both adults AND kids. Whether it’s you who wants to learn – or your child! – you’ll both enjoy watching the dinosaur come to life on the page.

My thanks to Julie Gribble and Tracey Cox at KidLitTV for featuring Louie. If you spend some time searching around their website, you’ll find all sorts of other cool videos, too…like THIS ONE with Flashlight Night (Boyds Mills Press, 2017) illustrator Fred Koehler chatting about his process for creating the amazing illustrations in that book.

Well, today is the first day back to school for my kids, and I’m sure if yours haven’t started yet they will be soon…so enjoy your week!

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

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


  (coming Sept. 25, 2018!)

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

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

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

Thank you to everyone for your support!

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

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

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

Poetry Friday: “(Back to) School People!”

It’s hard to believe, but summer is coming to an end and kids are heading back to school. I know some folks whose kids have already started, but the first day for my two is next Tuesday…so I thought a little excerpt from Lee Bennett Hopkins’ School People (Wordsong, 2018) would be apropos!

Edited by my  Flashlight Night editor Rebecca Davis, the book includes 15 poems about all the grown-ups that children meet at school, like the Teachers, the Crossing Guard, the Librarian, the Nurse – and of course, the person who transports the kids from home to school and back again, the Bus Driver!

– © 2018 Wordsong, all rights reserved, reprinted with permission (Click to enlarge)

 

It’s a beautiful book, so I hope you’ll consider picking up a copy. In fact, the local Rotary Club recently purchased 15 copies to distribute to each of the kindergartens in our district, as part of their literacy program!

For more poetry, head on over to Reflections on the Teche, where Margaret is hosting the Poetry Friday roundup with a zeno!

(What’s a zeno? Here are a few!)

And by the way, if you’re a teacher, I hope your list includes a wide diversity of books featuring authors & illustrators from all walks of life. Because your students come from all walks of life! Whether it’s silly or serious, poetic or prosaic…whether the characters are white, black, male, female, straight or otherwise…no matter who it was written by…keep in mind that students not only see themselves in the stories, they often look for themselves in the creators. Please help them find what they are searching for!

Have a great school year!

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

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


  (coming Sept. 25, 2018!)

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

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

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

Thank you to everyone for your support!

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

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

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